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Title: A Feather in One’s Cap
Rating:NC-17
Word Count: 13,000
Characters and/or Pairings: Minerva McGonagall/Rolanda Hooch/Rita Skeeter
Summary: Rita Skeeter finds sports reporting to be just about the dullest job ever. After a Quidditch game, she goes in search of a story that is actually entertaining, and finds herself part of a narrative more salacious than anything even she could come up with.
Warnings: Pottermore-what-Pottermore. And a little bit of Quidditch-bashing? The author is sorry, but Rita Skeeter just doesn't like sport. The shoes are nowhere near cute enough.
Author's Notes: Written for [livejournal.com profile] queen_of_snapes for [livejournal.com profile] hoggywartyxmas. A great big thank you to my betas, [livejournal.com profile] an_fhanai and [livejournal.com profile] cranky__crocus for their editing, cheerleading and idea-sharing skills. This fic wouldn't be half the story it is without them. Please see the end of the fic for a further note about Kiwi's input in the process of this story.




The crowd was wild, the air filled with cheering and team-coloured scarves. Banners waved, sparks were shooting from the ends of wands. The Harpies and the Prides were head to head, barely ten points apart, and the atmosphere in the stadium grew tense and electric.

Merlin’s hairy bollocks, it was the most boring afternoon Rita Skeeter had spent in a long time.

The Harpies scored another goal and the bloke beside Rita surged to his feet with a roar, once again jostling her shoulder, once again spilling the ale from his cup and forcing Rita to cast an Impervious charm or have her shoes ruined. Gods, how was she going to deal with six months of this? Damn Blakney and his long-service leave. Damn him to hell.

Rita Skeeter wrote politics and gossip and scandal. She went to glamorous parties and seemingly boring functions that had all sorts of interesting currents simmering just below the surface. She drank champagne and martinis and drifted around listening to conversations. She flirted and teased and spied. Like any good Slytherin, she had subtlety and finesse, damn it, and this sports beat was beneath her.

Rita sighed. Neanderthals with sticks, every last one of them. How was she supposed to write stories about this? The most interesting thing she’d seen all afternoon had been during one of the game breaks, when two laughing, drunken men a few rows down had pulled the feather from the hat of the witch in the seat in front of them, who, it turned out, Rita recognised as Minerva McGonagall. She’d turned, directing a withering glare their way, but it had already been too late for the feather, which sailed out over the crowd for a time, then burst into flames.

“Did I do it right, Professor?” Rita had heard one of the men ask, while his friend guffawed beside him.

“Your charm work is admirable,” she had replied, “though your failure to complete the transfiguration from child to adult renders it rather lacklustre.”

They hadn’t responded, probably hadn’t even understood the insult, and she hadn’t paid them any more attention, though she had pulled her hat into her lap so they couldn’t do it any more damage.

Now the game was back in play, and Rita was once again bored out of her mind. She could not understand the appeal of Quidditch. Of course, she knew the rules well enough—anyone who’d been to Hogwarts knew Quidditch—but she just didn’t find people on brooms chasing balls particularly exciting. Oh, Quidditch players were nice to look at, toned and muscular, and Rita knew from experience that they had admirable stamina, but they were just as nice to look at off the pitch, which she greatly preferred. Rita had shared her bed with a few Quidditch players, and though, given her disdain for the game, she could never quite fathom their attraction—perhaps it was her utter lack of groupie fanaticism that drew them—she wasn’t above taking advantage of it.

Disinterested in the game and feeling her neck beginning to stiffen from looking up at it, Rita dropped her gaze once again to Minerva McGonagall, watching the woman watch the game. Without her hat on her head, the wind had pulled several strands of McGonagall's hair from its trademark bun, and Rita could see them, long and dark, whipping in the breeze like streamers. Interestingly, McGonagall seemed to be here alone, and Rita quickly realised that McGonagall wasn’t looking at the quaffle at all, but something else. The seeker, maybe? Rita followed her line of vision to see what the woman was so interested in, but it wasn’t the seeker. It seemed to be the referee. Odd. Rita watched McGonagall more closely, following her head as it turned, and yes, it did appear to be the referee she had her eye on. Digging her hand into her bag, Rita retrieved a pair of jewel-green binoculars that she had deemed a prudent investment for her stint as a sports reporter, and lifted them to her eyes to get a better view of the referee.

She was a tall woman—Rita could tell from the length of her legs, even tucked up under her broomstick—perhaps mid-forties, with a shock of close-cropped grey hair and her eyes hidden behind flying goggles. She had the athletic look of a Quidditch player, probably a former professional, since she was refereeing, and her black referees robes were accented with Harpies colours. That made sense. This was an away game for the Harpies, and as disdainful as Rita was of this new job and Quidditch in general, she had done some research, so she knew that it was the away team who provided the referee. Not a bad looking woman, all told. And Minerva McGonagall was watching her, rather than the game. Interesting. Very interesting indeed.

Perhaps Rita could make this job entertaining after all. ‘The Harpies Heartbreaker.’ She could see the headline already.

*


Rolanda slipped the cord holding the whistle around her neck over her head as she headed for the changing rooms, and smiled. A victory for the Harpies was a victory indeed. She loved it when her old team won, and won fairly, as they always did when she refereed. What was the point in winning if you couldn’t do it fairly? Not to mention that Rolanda loved to rub the victory of an all-witch team in the face of that misogynist dinosaur the Prides called a coach.

By the time Rolanda reached the away team changing rooms, the players had long since departed. She liked it that way. She knew all the girls, of course—whenever she could, she attended their team practices and helped them strategise and train, and former team members were always invited to the club Christmas party—but avoiding them before and after a game she’d refereed was important. Minimised the chances of anyone claiming she was biased or accepting bribes, which could open up an enquiry into every victory she’d ever called for them.

Rolanda slipped the robes off her shoulders and tossed them down onto a nearby bench, setting the whistle and her flying goggles on top, then set to work unstrapping the heavy wrist and arm guards. Once they were off, she reached over her shoulder and tugged the cord to loosen the straps of the breastplate, then shimmied out of it. As she was unclipping the shin pads, seated on the bench beside her discarded things, Rolanda heard the click of heels against the tiled floor of the changing room, and smiled. Only Minerva was so concerned with her schoolmarm image that she wore heeled boots to Quidditch games.

But when the woman appeared, she was certainly not Minerva. Instead of the Victorian boots and long skirt that Rolanda was expecting, the clicking heels were a pair of green pumps, attached to feet encased in sheer stockings that flowed over toned calves and up to the knees, upon which they met the hem of a dark green skirt. The skirt was one half of a suit that looked both businesslike and frivolous, helped in the latter by the vibrant green satin blouse poking out from beneath its ruffle-detailed trim. The woman wearing the whole outfit was blonde, hair in ringlet curls and made up in an understated but careful way that was probably far more work than it looked. Her blue eyes were bright behind her glasses. Rolanda had never seen her before. She was wearing a close approximation of Harpies green, but she didn’t look like any Quidditch groupie Rolanda had ever encountered.

“Hello,” Rolanda said. “Can I ask what you’re doing here?”

“I’m Rita Skeeter,” the woman replied. “I write for the Prophet.”

A journalist. That explained the on-the-job look, then. The name pinged in her memory, too, but Rolanda couldn’t place it; if it wasn’t in the sports pages, Rolanda gave most news a cursory look-over at best. What it didn’t explain was why the hell this woman was in the changing room.

“You must be new,” Rolanda said, unclipping her remaining shin pad and setting it aside with the rest of her sweaty things, then pushing herself to her feet. “Reporters don’t come into the changing rooms.”

“Don’t they?” Rita Skeeter asked, all smile and false innocence. “Seems to me the most interesting place to be.”

Rolanda rolled her eyes. Not another one. She knew where this was going. “Why?” she demanded. “Because we’re a women’s only team, so we must all be dykes, soaping each other up in the showers after the game?” Not that some of them weren’t dykes, including—quite proudly—Rolanda, but please.

“That sounds a bit unoriginal,” Skeeter replied, taking a step closer. “I’m far more interested in why Minerva McGonagall was watching you instead of the game.”

Rolanda, who was gathering up her things, paused for a moment with her hand on her goggles. Then, forcing herself to remain casual, she scooped them up. She glanced at Skeeter.

“Why do you think?”

It wasn’t that Rolanda and Minerva hid their relationship. They didn’t. At all. Their colleagues and friends probably thought of them in the same breath. But Minerva was quite a private woman, a woman very concerned with her professional image. Too concerned, Rolanda often thought, but then she didn’t have to fend off questions from nosy, giggling teenagers every day of the week, so she tried not to judge. Minerva didn’t want to hide their relationship, but neither would she want it plastered all over the Prophet.

Rolanda, though, had been a professional Quidditch player for years before a shoulder injury to her beater’s arm had forced her to retire. She’d dealt with journalists many times, and it was clear that this one was trying to bait her into saying something newsworthy. This one was clearly green, too, despite the fact that she looked about thirty. Rolanda decided to take her chances. Wasn’t above a bit of baiting, herself.

“Are you going to write an article about it? About Minerva watching me referee a Quidditch match? That sounds exciting. ‘Deputy Headmistress Goes To Quidditch Game But Doesn’t Watch Quaffle’? Riveting news piece, that.”

With an arm full of Quidditch things, Rolanda used her teeth to tug open the button clasp on the cuff of her sleeve, then flicked her wrist so her wand slid out of the holster on her arm. She waved it at the locker she’d sealed with a personal spell, then, setting the wand down when the locker popped open, tugged her rucksack from inside and stuffed the dirty things into it.

She glanced at Rita Skeeter and found the woman wearing a small smile.

“That was a fairly awkward way of doing all that,” Rita said, nodding at the bag that now sat on the bench. “If you’re trying to be casual, doing things in their usual order makes it a bit more convincing.”

Rolanda scowled, frustrated that her unease had shown through despite her best efforts.

“What do you want?” she snapped, tugging the drawstrings of her pack closed with unnecessary force. She only glanced down for a moment, but when she lifted her head again, Skeeter was right beside her, having somehow moved without making a sound despite her heels. Rolanda startled, but Skeeter extended her hand.

“You dropped these,” she said, holding Rolanda’s goggles.

Rolanda was careful not to snatch them and let Skeeter know just how discomfited she was. She took the goggles carefully. “Thank you,” she said, though it came out rather stiffly.

Skeeter smiled. “They hid the remarkable colour of your eyes, during the game. Yellow. How does that come about?”

Now she was just fishing. Or flirting. Rolanda couldn’t quite tell which. Would there be a difference, with a journalist?

What do you want?” Rolanda asked again, and her voice was low and dangerous now. It surprised her, the sound of it.

Skeeter’s smile didn’t falter. It was small and amused, irritating as all hell. This close, Rolanda could smell the heady musk of her perfume. Skeeter rolled a shoulder. “A story. Or to be entertained. I don’t mind which, really.”

There was something animal in that musk, in the way it smothered and conquered Rolanda’s own sweat and sea-air smell, and something in that smile, that triggered her competitive instincts. Sneering opponents had always made her rage, and that smile was far too close to one. Rolanda wanted to wipe it off. She took a step forward, crowding into Skeeter’s space, lifting an arm to lean against the locker and pin her there; not touching, just close.

“Wasn’t the game enough for you?” she asked, enjoying the difference in their heights that meant she could loom over the other woman.

Skeeter’s expression didn't change, but her pupils dilated ever so slightly. “Not even close,” she breathed.

Rolanda didn’t move, and neither did Skeeter. They just stood there staring at each other, Rolanda full of something tight and warm that was somewhere between irritation and arousal. Merlin, this woman had balls, and that was...

Fucking hot was what it was. Now, Rolanda wasn’t going to do anything, and the knowledge of Minerva—the woman she loved, the woman she wanted to spend her life with—gave her a feel of control she would otherwise have lacked, but this... Well. Rolanda would never have fallen for Minerva if she didn’t have a thing for women who were challenging, fierce and occasionally infuriating, and this one was all of those things and more.

“Ro? Are you nearly-?”

The brisk sound of a second pair of heels on the tile, then a sharp stop. Rolanda dropped her hand and stepped away, but the widening of Minerva’s eyes told Rolanda that she had seen it all. Minerva stood still, a stray strand of her hair still catching up with her sudden stop, falling against her check and curling itself at her throat when it landed on her collar. Rolanda shifted again, putting more distance between herself and Skeeter. Merlin, this would look...

Skeeter recovered quickly. Slipping away from the locker door, she smiled once again. “It was lovely talking to you. Maybe next time I’ll get the story I was after.” Then, moving quickly past Minerva before either of them could speak a word, she departed.

It took Rolanda a few more moments. Nothing happened, she thought. And nothing was going to, either.

“Bloody journalists,” she said, though she did not meet Minerva’s eyes. Reaching into her still-open locker, she pulled out the clean change of clothes she’d set aside before the game. “Sorry I took so long, Min. I need to take a shower. I’ll be out in a minute.”

Still not looking at Minerva, she fled to the washrooms.

*


Minerva did not ask Rolanda about Rita Skeeter when she emerged from the shower, nor after they Floo’d home to their cottage. She greeted Rolanda as usual, with a kiss against her freshly clean cheek, but she seemed rather quiet that evening.

Rolanda didn’t know what to say. She didn’t want to launch into an explanation about why Skeeter had been there—mainly because she didn’t really know—and explain that nothing had happened, nor did she think that she could pass it off as just another moment in her day, given what Minerva had seen and what it must have looked like. Rolanda also couldn’t fathom quite why she felt guilty. Nothing had been going to happen. They’d agreed a long time ago that their relationship would be monogamous, and although Rolanda had found Rita Skeeter dangerously attractive, that wasn’t a sin in itself. She found a lot of women attractive, perhaps even flirted with some of them, and she never felt guilty about any of those. Damn it, what was different?

They’d been standing awfully close, though, hadn’t they? And Rolanda had been an unfaithful lover in the past. Never to Minerva, though. Their relationship was different, not worth throwing away no matter how dangerous and attractive other women could seem.

Minerva remained quiet, almost preoccupied, for most of the evening. She declined Rolanda’s help in preparing dinner, though that alone wouldn’t have been enough to cause concern, since ‘preparing dinner’ was only the slicing and buttering of crusty bread and ladling into bowls the stew Rolanda had thrown into the slow-cook cauldron that morning. But Minerva was quiet all through the meal, too, and when the last morsels of bread had been used to scrape up the remnants of stew from their bowls, and they both had a glass of wine in them, Rolanda decided that she couldn’t stand it anymore.

Draining what was left in her glass to fortify herself, Rolanda spoke. “I wasn’t going to cheat on you, Min.”

Minerva’s eyes met hers, startled. “What?” she asked.

“I know you saw me...talking to the reporter today. And I know it must have looked like we were... But nothing happened, and nothing was going to. She just got under my skin is all, and I wanted to shake her up a little bit.”

Minerva regarded her steadily. “Did it work?”

Rolanda snorted. “Not really.”

Strangely enough, Minerva’s lips quirked into a small smile. “I’m not surprised. Marguerite Skeeter never was a girl lacking in brazenness.”

Rolanda was used to the fact that Minerva knew most of the population of wizarding Britain. “One of yours?” she asked.

It was Minerva’s turn to snort. “No. She was one of Horace’s. She was one of my better transfiguration students, though. A shame. She could have done so much more with her life than peddle scandal and gossip.”

“I suppose she didn’t want to.” That came out a little cooler than Rolanda had intended, but it was a sore spot for her, and Minerva knew it. All her adult life, people had expressed surprise that a Ravenclaw should seek a career in Quidditch, as if being passionate about one’s profession was less important than fulfilling some misguided notion of ‘potential.’ Even after her injury and retirement from play she had endured ‘So what will you do now?’, as though Quidditch had never been anything but a temporary fancy. Sometimes she thought she had started her private trainer business just to spite them.

Minerva didn’t respond. It was a topic on which their opinions differed greatly. Minerva had always been a little bit the snobbish academic, and Rolanda was equally as hard-nosed about her passion for sport. She was glad when, instead of starting a circular argument, Minerva took the moment to refill their wine glasses.

“I never thought you were going to cheat on me, Ro.”

“Then why...?” Rolanda was confused. “You’ve been quiet all night.”

Minerva’s expression was somewhere between amusement and outrage. “If I thought you were cheating on me, do you think I’d be quiet about it? I trust you.”

Inexplicably, Rolanda felt guilty again, though she had meant what she’d said. Although...perhaps the guilt wasn’t entirely inexplicable. If Minerva hadn’t walked in, would Rolanda have told Minerva about the encounter she’d had with Rita Skeeter? She didn’t think so. Perhaps the reason she felt guilty was because the moment had been charged and intimate in a strange way, and Rolanda had not had any intention of mentioning it to her partner. Perhaps that was the reason for the guilt. Non-disclosure could be a deception of its own, even when it led no further.

“No,” Minerva continued in a quiet, careful voice, staring at the wine in her glass. “I didn’t think you were cheating on me. But I knew I was seeing something, and for that moment before my mind caught up with my senses, I felt... I’ve been trying to work out all night exactly what it was I felt, and what it meant. Heat, like anger or fear, but it certainly wasn’t either of those, because I’ve never been aroused by anger or fear before.”

Aroused? Sometimes, Rolanda made fun of Minerva for overanalysing things, but on this occasion she was fascinated by what conclusions Minerva might be coming to.

“It turned me on. Seeing you with her, like that. I nearly fell over. And thinking about it, I don’t think today was the first time I’ve felt something like that. When I was in seventh year, I remember one night two of the girls in my dormitory went to bed together and didn’t close the curtains properly. I’m not ashamed now to say that I watched, though of course I was at the time. I remember that seeing them touching each other, enjoying each other, it made me crazy. I had my first orgasm that night. I thought... Well, I’ve always put it down to being eighteen and extremely hormonal, and that at the time I was just beginning to understand that I was as attracted to women as I was to men. But there have been other instances, moments only, when I’ve seen people in overly intimate embraces in public and had to look away, not because I was disgusted by such a public display, as I always told myself, but because I was flustered by it.”

She paused, then, to look at Rolanda, something searching in her eyes. Looking for what? Unease or judgement that said she was a pervert, perhaps? Or acceptance? Rolanda said nothing, since she could tell Minerva wasn’t finished, but she tried to look open, accepting, and not overly eager, because if this was going where she thought it was going... No. She would wait for Minerva’s conclusion.

“So that’s why I’ve been quiet. I had a lot of thoughts to sort through. I think maybe I do like to watch, and it might help me let go. If you want to, I think I’d like to watch you with another woman.”

“I...” Rolanda didn’t know quite what to say. Didn’t know quite how to express what this meant, that Minerva would consider this. Would want this.

They’d talked before, early on in their relationship, about sex and monogamy and their feelings on it. Rolanda had been open about her difficulties with monogamy, about her transgressions in past relationships, and her need to have an open dialogue on the issue. But Minerva had always been adamantly opposed to a non-monogamous relationship. That was partly because of what sex was to her—an expression of the closeness and love between two people, whereas for Rolanda it was more of a celebration of life and the enjoyment of pleasure for its own sake—and partly because of her difficulty achieving orgasm. It was something, she’d said, that she’d always had trouble with, the letting go of her mind and the giving herself away to the pleasure of her body. She wasn’t sure why it was an issue; perhaps it was just her nature, perhaps also to do with the necessity of keeping a hold on one’s mind during the animagus transformation. Whatever the cause, it was something she struggled with, and also something she struggled not to be ashamed of. Even now, achieving climax wasn't a common occurrence for Minerva, and it was important for her to know, and feel, that her partner understood and accepted that. And no matter how many conversations were had on the topic, she could not feel secure in that if her partner also sought out sex with others.

Rolanda had accepted that. It had been difficult at times. As she’d told past lovers on whom she’d cheated, it was genetically inbuilt; Rolanda’s ancestors were not a monogamous people, although as all those exes had pointed out, quite rightly, that wasn’t really an excuse, was it? Still, she had never been unfaithful to Minerva.

So to have Minerva come to this conclusion meant more to her than she could find the words for. And the fact that Minerva thought it would help her to achieve climax, the fact that she had found a way to involve both of them, meant even more.

“I think...” she said eventually, “I think I’d like that.”

Minerva smiled, and how wonderful it was to have a partner who understood that just because Rolanda desired others, whether or not she acted on it, it did not make the love between them, or her desire for Minerva, any less. There had been other lovers in Rolanda’s past that had been affronted at the very idea. It was probably for the best that none of those relationships had lasted very long.

“Who, though?” Rolanda asked, because whatever her dalliances in the past, she had never invited another into her and her partner’s bed before. Indeed, she had no idea how such a conversation would go.

“I’d like that to be up to you, I think,” Minerva said. “No ex-girlfriends, though.”

“No,” Rolanda agreed. Even if any of them would consent, that had the potential to be the kind of messy that wasn’t fun at all. “Gwenog Jones is bisexual, and quite adventurous.” And how ridiculous she felt, suggesting names as though they were discussing job candidates.

Minerva grimaced. “She was my student.”

Rolanda made a face. “Min, everyone was your student. You can’t rule out half of the witch population if you want it to be my choice.”

Minerva looked thoughtful. “I suppose not. But it takes some time not to see them as students.”

“How long?” Rolanda asked. “Give me a minimum.”

Minerva considered for a moment. “Ten years, or thereabouts. No one under thirty, say. I am older than you, after all, and I don’t think I could be comfortable with some perfect-bodied twenty year-old I taught incantations to only a few years ago.”

“Thirty,” Rolanda said, nodding.

“And no Gryffindors,” Minerva added as an afterthought.

“No...?” Rolanda chuckled. ‘Her choice’ seemed to be getting more limited by the second, but she supposed that was fair. This was to be Minerva’s experience as much as hers, and she could see where watching one of her Gryffindors in the bedroom might be odd for her. “All right. I can live with that.”

She thought again, and this time it was a pair of blue eyes every bit as difficult as Minerva’s that came to mind. Musky perfume overlaying her own scent, creating something sweet and animal, and fucking hell, that woman had been hot.

“What about the reporter?” she asked. “After all, you did see, and that was what made you think about this. And she is...” Rolanda trailed off.

Minerva bit her lip. “Can we trust her, do you think? ‘Hogwarts Schoolmarm and Retired Quidditch Champion Proposition Witches for Threesome’ would be one hell of a headline.”

Rolanda considered. “I don’t know. She was after something, but I don’t really think she knew what. She wanted to know why you were watching me instead of the game, but I’m not sure she truly wanted to write an article about us at all.”

“What is there to write about? Unless you consider two women in a relationship a scandal in itself,” Minerva said.

“I don’t think so. There was certainly enough heat in her eyes that I think writing a salacious article about women loving women would, for her, be hypocritical.”

“That still doesn’t mean we can trust her. She’s known for gossip and scandal.”

“Well,” said Rolanda, “I didn’t give her anything today, but if she wants gossip I’m sure she’ll be able to make something of the moment that passed between us. Certainly she will if she sniffs around and gets in touch with a few of my old girlfriends. Maybe we should wait and see what appears in tomorrow’s paper. See if she was after a bit of scandal, or something else.”

“I certainly wasn’t proposing we invite someone over tonight,” Minerva quipped.

*


When Rita arrived at the pub, a Muggle venue in London, it was with a great deal of curiosity. There had been a letter from Rolanda Hooch waiting for her when she’d arrived home yesterday, inviting her for a drink at this anonymous place. It was a curious thing, because the woman was clearly in a relationship with Minerva McGonagall, and from the look on Hooch’s face when Minerva had walked in on the scene in the locker room, Rita would have thought herself strictly off-limits for Hooch in the near future. Most people didn’t like to share, after all, and from what Rita had known of Minerva McGonagall as a teacher, she certainly wasn’t the type to tolerate any nonsense.

But that wasn’t Rita’s business. She’d been invited for a drink and the meeting sounded interesting. Any fallout for other people was their problem. She’d dressed well—violet satin blouse, charcoal-grey pencil skirt, sheer stockings, a pair of violet pumps with wickedly pointy heels—and arrived just a little bit late. Rita did like to make people wait for her.

She found the woman quickly—that head of white hair was easy to spot—and took a moment to observe before she herself was spotted. Hooch was seated on a bar stool, one arm resting on the bar, tapping a paper coaster against the wood and peering at the display of liquors on show. She was wearing a simple pair of black trousers and a short-sleeved, pale blue blouse. No heels, just a comfortable pair of black dress-shoes, one of which was rocking back and forth on the footrest of the stool. Restless. A Quidditch player through and through, or nervous about their meeting?

Rita approached the bar. “Sorry I’m late,” she purred insincerely to draw the woman’s attention, “You know how it is.”

Those startling yellow eyes—today emphasized by a lick of mascara and a light application of gold eyeliner that brought out flecks of the same in them—turned toward her.

“Not really,” Rolanda Hooch said. “You turn up late to referee a Quidditch match and your team has to forfeit.” There was no reproach in her voice, just a simple statement. “I don’t think I introduced myself last time we met. Rolanda Hooch.” She offered a hand.

“I know,” Rita replied, taking it. Rolanda's grip was firm and Rita felt calluses on her palm, as she would expect from a person used to holding a broomstick. “I wouldn’t be very good at my job if I didn’t know how to ask around.”

“I didn’t see anything in the Prophet, bar the report on the game,” Rolanda said. “Didn’t find anything else newsworthy?”

Rita smiled. “Oh, I found a few things I could have made a story out of, but sometimes it’s more interesting to let people tell their own.”

Rita had found out some interesting facts about Rolanda Hooch. She was a Ravenclaw, and she’d played beater for the Harpies until a few years before the war, when a bludger to the shoulder had forced her to retire. She’d been with Minerva McGonagall for years, but before that she’d had a string of short, unsuccessful relationships that had ended, as people put it, badly. Rita had thought she sounded like a kindred spirit, and after thinking on it for a time, had decided to discard the ‘Harpies Heartbreaker’ story idea. Writing a story about Minerva McGonagall’s partner would put her at odds with the entire staff of Hogwarts, for a start, and a woman who had played professional Quidditch for so long no doubt had many friends among the higher-ups. That hardly seemed the way to begin her stint as a sports reporter, not least because her boss was a stubborn old bastard, and deliberately sabotaging her chances at success would not make him remove her from the assignment any faster. Besides, sometimes one just got a feeling about a person, and Rita had one about Rolanda Hooch. She would be far more interesting if Rita could get her off her guard.

Rolanda nodded. “Shall we find a table?”

They ordered drinks, Rolanda buying a margarita for Rita because the barman had no olives to make a martini, and a glass of merlot for herself.

“So...” said Rita, when they were seated at a table in a corner, just far enough from a group of loud young men that they would be able to hear each other, but close enough that they would not be heard above them. It had been Rolanda’s choice of table, which intrigued Rita; she was well used to exchanges of information and the best possible locations to conduct them, but she hadn’t expected Rolanda to know the tricks. “Is this business or pleasure?”

“It’s off the record,” Hooch said, gazing steadily at Rita. “If you can’t promise me that, this conversation ends right now.”

“All right,” Rita said, and it was clever of the other woman to insist upon that straight up, because Rita was honour-bound to keep to her word. If she didn’t, word would get around and she would be trusted even less than journalists already were. Thinking she was about to get some highly sensitive information about match-fixing in Quidditch or similar, Rita nodded. “Off the record, then.”

Rolanda’s shoulders relaxed and her lips twitched into a faint smile. “And it’s the latter. At least, I hope so.”

Curiouser and curiouser. Rita took a sip of her drink, enjoying the savoury lick of salt and the sharp bite of tequila. “Oh?” She arched a brow.

There was a stack of coasters on the table. Rolanda picked one up, spun it between her fingers. She lifted her wine glass and took a hearty sip. “This is...” she faltered. “I’ve never... I feel like I should be flirting or something, but this isn’t...”

Rita, bemused, said nothing. Silence was as useful a tool for journalists as words were.

Rolanda started, then, on an occasionally halting but mostly articulate story that began with the fact that although she found monogamy difficult, Minerva had always regarded it as essential; continued on through their encounter in the locker room; and ended with Minerva's epiphany about voyeurism.

“So she’s decided that she would like to watch me with another woman, and, well, I thought— correct me if I’m wrong—that there was something reciprocated a few days ago. And I wanted to know if you would be interested in...such an arrangement.”

That sentence, this entire conversation, was surreal. Awkward. Strangely businesslike. Rita couldn’t help it; she laughed. It wasn’t a derisive sound, more a surprised one. She’d just been propositioned, but it was devoid of the flirtation that usually went along with such a thing. No talking in circles, no slow seduction, just an up-front offer. Rita couldn’t decide whether she liked that or not.

“Arrangement,” she repeated Rolanda’s last word. “Sex while your partner watches. That’s...not a question I’ve ever been asked before.”

Rolanda had looked slightly affronted at the laugh, but she relaxed again when she heard Rita’s words. “It’s not a question I ever pictured myself asking someone,” she said with a wry smile.

“When I was fifteen years old, I wondered what Minerva McGonagall would look like with her clothes off,” Rita said.

Rolanda grinned. “It’s not disappointing. But I wouldn’t mention that to her, the fifteen thing. She had enough trouble with the idea of ex-students as it was.”

“I suppose she would.”

“And that’s another...” Rolanda began, then hesitated, as if debating whether to finish the sentence. A moment later, she continued. “Minerva often has trouble reaching climax. She thinks that watching might help with that, but if it doesn’t, well. That doesn’t mean she won’t have enjoyed herself.”

Rita wondered if Rolanda realised that she hadn’t said yes yet. Not explicitly, at least. Still, she supposed it was good to know these things, good to make an informed decision. It seemed like the adult thing to do, though it felt strange to talk about it like this. Rita was a hedonist, often a predator. She acted on instinct most of the time, like she had in the locker room. Get under people’s skin, see what happened. She liked that, the unplanned, the unguarded moment, that instant when people snapped. It told her so much about them, and Rita was not afraid of exploring those stories, whatever was hidden beneath the surface. Indeed, the more dangerous, the better. This discussion, this arrangement, it took some of the thrill away for her, but as long as they weren’t talking about feelings, it didn’t scare her away. Perhaps this was just a different sort of story, carefully plotted but no less enjoyable.

“That’s not a terribly uncommon thing,” Rita said. “I’ve never had an issue with it myself.” No, it was never the body that was the problem for Rita, it was the emotional side of things that she consistently fucked up. “But some years ago, I wrote an article for Witch Weekly about some of the myths surrounding women’s sexuality and the lies we all tell each other, and I got so many letters about it, mostly anonymous, saying yes, and thank you, and that some of them had been faking it their whole lives.” She snorted. “Perhaps that’s why I ended up writing gossip. Never could stomach all that gratitude.”

Rolanda chuckled, watching her. Took a sip of her wine. “I’ll be sure not to thank you, then.”

Rita arched a brow, smirked. “You’re being rather presumptuous, aren’t you?”

“You’re still here.”

“So I am.” Rita took another swallow from her cocktail, blinked slowly, eyeing the other woman. Damn. The martini would have been so much better. Rita could do creative things with an olive on the end of a stick. Rolanda was eyeing her right back, and yes, this was more like it. Sizing each other up, testing the chemistry. There was most definitely something here, something warm in the air and the blood.

“I find Quidditch boring, you know,” Rita murmured, leaning back in her chair and crossing her legs beneath the table.

Rolanda’s eyebrow quirked up. “You must be very entertaining, then.”

“I am.” Rita cradled her cocktail glass in one hand, slid her finger up the stem.

“I find newspapers boring,” Rolanda countered. She sat perfectly still now, palms flat on the table. Restrained. It was a telling contrast, given her earlier fidgeting.

“You prefer more physical forms of entertainment, then.” Rita tossed her hair, bared her throat, watched a thumb twitch.

“I do,” Rolanda answered.

They sat, then, just sat and sipped their drinks, looking each other over and enjoying the tension. There wasn’t much else to do, really. They were well-matched, found each other attractive—Rita loved those athletic arms peeking out from under the short blouse sleeves, loved the mascara and eyeliner and the fact that it was Rolanda’s only makeup, loved those eyes that there had to be a story behind, because no one had eyes that colour—but this wasn’t a date. They weren’t trying to learn about one another, weren’t interested in how each other's days had gone or what hobbies each of them had. They were going to have sex and they both knew it, with no romantic attachment and no danger of one forming. Rita liked that.

“When?” she asked, eventually, draining her glass.

“I’ll speak to Minerva and owl you.”

“Lovely.” Rita picked up her bag, pushed her chair out. Didn’t want to just leave, though, not without doing something. So she leaned over, caught Rolanda’s jaw in her hand, making sure that she would feel the tips of Rita’s fingernails against her cheeks, and kissed her. It wasn’t soft or domineering but warm, lingering just a moment too long. A promise.

“I’ll see you soon, then,” she murmured, and was gone.

*


It was a strange afternoon for Minerva. She'd spent her day like any other during the summer break: morning coffee on the back patio reading the Prophet, then breakfast with Rolanda and a chapter or two of the novel she was currently reading. There'd been a trip into Inverness to pick up supplies and a few letters to other Hogwarts staff because work never really went away, but all the time she carried with her the knowledge that that evening, she and Rolanda had invited Rita Skeeter into their bed. Minerva wasn’t quite certain how to proceed. She could not predict how this night would go. Which was part of the point, obviously, but that didn’t mean she didn’t want to prepare herself.

Minerva liked to be prepared. Only, she knew that it was partly that desire, that need for control over herself and her environment that lead to her issues with orgasm. She knew that on the nights when she had, when she could, it was because something, something she had never quite been able to get a hold of, snapped, and she was able to let go of her mind and her rationality. Now, Minerva had slowly, with varying degrees of back and forth depending on the day, come to accept that that was not always a place she could reach. She knew that she could enjoy sex and enjoy intimacy without it. Orgasm was not the be-all and end-all it was made out to be, and accepting herself as she was was important to her. But Minerva McGonagall was also a perfectionist in all things, and the knowledge that she could do a thing some of the time meant that it was theoretically possible to do it all the time, so Minerva wanted to encourage that frustratingly intangible something whenever she could.

Hence tonight, and her uncertainty about what to do about it. On the one hand, she did not want to be overly prepared—that seemed detrimental to her goal of being able to let her mind go and simply enjoy the experience, especially considering that the arrangement was not for her to control the proceedings, merely to watch them—but neither did she want to be so unprepared that she could not be calm. This was to be a strange and new experience for them both (for them all, if Rolanda had interpreted Rita’s words correctly), and Minerva took comfort in certain rituals and routines. She did not want to forgo those completely, because doing so may render her completely unable to relax.

It was a question of balance, she supposed.

In the end, Minerva took a shower. She washed her hair and had Rolanda comb it out until it hung smooth and damp down her back. She would not pin it up that night, wanted to move as far from her school teacher image as possible. She dressed in her favourite underwear and a simple summer robe of light fabric, gathered at the waist with a wide band that accentuated her slim height. She tidied the cottage, put fresh sheets on the bed. She selected a bottle of single-malt Scotch Firewhiskey to offer up as a lubricant for awkwardness.

It was enough. When finally the knock came on the door, she was ready. Rolanda, who had been casually leafing through a sports magazine with her bare feet up on the settee while Minerva fussed with glasses, straightened. Minerva went to answer the door. She paused for a moment before she opened it. They had owled Rita their Floo number along with their address, but she had responded to say that she disliked Floo travel, and had assured them that Apparition to Scotland, provided she made a stop or two along the way, would not drain her energy overmuch. Minerva wondered if she had appeared on their doorstep and taken a few moments to collect herself, or had simply knocked boldly.

Minerva opened the door.

“Hello,” Rita Skeeter said, a smile on her face, eyes blue and confident behind her glasses.

“Come in,” Minerva replied, stepping out of the doorway to allow the woman to pass, which she did in a swish of scarlet satin and a puff of musky perfume. Minerva closed the door behind her, taking a steadying breath before following her into the sitting room.

Rolanda rose as they entered, greeting Rita with a warm, lingering kiss on the cheek. Minerva offered drinks and Rita accepted, giving Minerva something to do with her hands, pouring out three generous helpings before handing one to each of them and settling into the armchair with her own. Rita chose the seat beside Rolanda on the settee, and this was, it was...

“How’s your hat?” Rita asked, dragging Minerva from her thoughts.

“My...what?” Minerva hated to sound so insensible, but the question had taken her completely by surprise.

“Your hat,” Rita repeated. “The one you were wearing at the game. I saw two drunken idiots relieve it of its feather.”

Ah, now Minerva remembered. “It survived,” she said. “Though I haven’t yet had it repaired. There’s no wizarding milliner in Inverness, so it will have to wait until I’m next in London.”

Rita nodded. “Quidditch fans,” she said, with an eyeroll and a small, cheeky smile.

“Prides fans,” Rolanda corrected, though her tone was light. “No Harpies fan would ever behave that way.”

Minerva snorted. “No?” She glanced at Rolanda. “I seem to recall an incident during a Harpies match a few years ago that involved a fan of the rival team being relieved of his trousers and undershorts.”

Rolanda narrowed her eyes, expression halfway between a scowl and a pout. “He deserved it,” she muttered.

Rita laughed. “Now I know how to enjoy Quidditch. Watch the spectators rather than the game.”

“You don’t enjoy Quidditch?” Minerva asked, unable to fathom how anyone could not find the game exciting. But then, Minerva couldn’t fathom how anyone didn’t find Transfiguration exciting either, and that, Rolanda told her, was weird. So perhaps Minerva was a little too passionate about her interests for any sort of objective distance.

“Not particularly,” Rita answered. “The players are quite pleasing to look at,” and here she glanced at Rolanda, “but I’ve never been especially interested in sports.”

Minerva smiled, took a sip of her drink. “Ro, are you absolutely certain you can sleep with a woman who doesn’t like Quidditch?” She was surprised at how easily the words came, at how easy the thought was. It slipped from her mouth without catching on her tongue, though it did come with a little possessive streak of fire that shot through her and warmed her right to her fingertips in the most delicious, contrary way.

Rolanda’s eyes met Minerva’s, and Minerva could read understanding in them, and gratitude, as if she had been waiting for some kind of final permission. “I think I’ll find a way to cope,” she said, lifting her elbow onto the back of the settee and trailing her fingers up Rita’s shoulder to toy with the collar of her blouse. Rita responded by slipping her hand onto Rolanda’s knee, but they were both looking at Minerva.

Minerva could see a triangle of pale skin bared where Rolanda had tugged Rita’s collar down and was playing her fingers over collarbone; she could see the pucker in the fabric of Rolanda’s trousers where Rita’s scarlet nails pressed in as she squeezed her hand around Rolanda’s thigh, and what was this? What were they waiting for? Even this, tame as it was, had Minerva’s blood beating warm in her veins, and she wanted more.

“Please,” she whispered, fingers tightening around her glass.

Rolanda smiled, leaned closer to Rita to whisper, sotto voce, “She did ask nicely.”

“Mm,” Rita murmured in reply, shifting in her seat and finally turning her eyes away from Minerva. Lifting a hand, she caught Rolanda’s cheek and pulled her eyes away from Minerva as well. Assertive, it was, as Rita took a moment to wordlessly insist that Rolanda look at her now, and then eyes fell closed as Rita kissed her. It was soft at first, tentative, and it thrilled Minerva to watch Rolanda deepen it, hand sliding into Rita’s blonde curls as their mouths opened into each other. Minerva realised that she had one hand wrapped tightly around the arm of her chair, and the other was gripping her glass so tightly that it was in danger of cracking. Taking a hasty gulp, she set the glass aside, returning at once to the scene unfolding on the settee, because she didn’t want to miss a moment of it.

Rita had shifted further in the moment Minerva hadn’t been looking, her stocking-clad knee now draped over Rolanda’s trouser-encased one, the black, spiky-heeled pump she wore dangling from the ends of her toes. The movement had caused her skirt to bunch up around her thigh, and Minerva watched as she flexed her leg and pulled Rolanda’s already comfortably spread legs further apart.

They were kissing still, and little more than that, hands trailing over arms and shoulders, up into hair and back again. But then Rolanda’s mouth was sliding away, smearing Rita’s lipstick across her cheek as she moved her kisses from mouth to jaw, hand fisting in Rita’s hair and tugging her head back. Her lips moved down over the taut throat, suckling there for a moment before she pushed the collar of Rita’s blouse aside to explore bare skin as far as the stretched fabric would allow. When her hand came up to work the first button of Rita’s blouse undone, the woman made a low, guttural noise that sent fire shooting right through Minerva and down to coalesce at her core. She realised belatedly that this was the first time either of them had made a sound.

First one button, then another, and Rolanda’s hand slipping inside Rita’s blouse as her lips trailed along collarbone. Rita’s own hand had found its way onto Rolanda’s thigh again, and it inched higher and higher until Rolanda was giving a growl of her own, canting her hips to push herself into the fingers that first ghosted over her crotch, then began to rub in small circles.

Rolanda lifted her head. “I think,” she said, and there was no hint of teasing in her whispered words now, her voice catching on the way out in the same way that her palm caught against the black lace of Rita’s bra, “I think we should move. To the bedroom. What do you think?”

Rita’s reply was a throaty laugh and an affirmative murmur, and then they were untangling themselves from each other and climbing to their feet. Rolanda was first up, and she held out a hand to Rita, who was ever so slightly wobbly on her heels when she rose. Slipping her fingers through Rita's, she tugged her close and whispered, “Come.”

When she turned, Rolanda’s eyes found Minerva again. Her pupils were dilated with arousal but still full of awareness and care for her partner. “You still with us?” she asked, voice gentle.

“I... Yes,” Minerva breathed, for it took a moment for her mind and voice to come back, and she realised just how blissfully absent and silent both had been while she sat in the position of voyeur.

“Come,” Rolanda said. “Come and watch.” Then she moved up the short hallway with Rita in tow, leaving Minerva, who discovered that her own legs were every bit as shaky as Rita’s had been, to follow.

When Minerva entered the bedroom, they were kissing again. Standing this time, and with hands roaming freely, but no more. Waiting for their audience, perhaps, and it felt nice to be included, that even though they were very clearly enjoying one another, they hadn’t forgotten that she was a part of this, too. Without a word, Minerva slipped into the chair she had set up for herself. It had a nice view of the bed and the full-length mirror angled toward it, and she had transfigured herself a cushioned footstool so that she would be comfortable when she wanted to prop a leg up. Leaning back, she settled in and tried to let her mind drift away once more in the pleasure of watching.

By now, Rita’s blouse was open to the waist, and Rolanda tugged it out of her skirt with both hands, catching the corners as it came free and sliding her hands, satin-covered, up over Rita’s sides. She dropped them a moment later, slipping beneath the fabric, up over Rita’s breasts to push the blouse off her shoulders. Rita relaxed her arms, letting it fall to the floor in a shimmer of colour, leaving her in monochrome, black lace against pale skin. Rolanda divested herself of her own top just as quickly, a collared t-shirt that she tugged up and over her head. Rolanda’s bra was simple cotton, though contoured and pale blue; it stood out just as beautifully against her tanned skin as Rita’s did against her porcelain.

Rita lifted her hands, laying them on Rolanda’s hips and sliding them up over her Quidditch-toned flanks; more toned than Rita’s own body, Minerva noticed. Rita was not a tall woman and was essentially petite, but she carried a little weight around her middle that also lent her a voluptuousness not possessed by Rolanda or, indeed, Minerva herself. They made a lovely contrasting pair, athletic soft-butch and pale, rounded femme.

Scarlet fingernails trailed over skin, around to Rolanda’s muscular back and up to tug the clasp of her bra undone. Straps slipped down over shoulders and then the bra was falling to the floor, Rita’s hands moving to cover Rolanda’s small breasts, thumbs dragging over nipples as Rita lowered her head to flick one with her tongue, a smile curling at her lips when Rolanda’s head fell back and she growled. Minerva empathised. She felt a little breathless herself, maybe heard a noise coming from her own throat. The sight of Rita touching Rolanda, desiring her, running ardent hands over her body, it gave Minerva a renewed appreciation of just how sexy her lover was, and that, well... The way Minerva's blood heated told her all she needed to know about how that affected her.

Movement, then: Rolanda spinning Rita around to get to the zipper on her skirt, tugging it down and shoving the skirt off over her hips, catching her before she could turn around again and manoeuvring them so they were in front of the mirror. When Rolanda’s arms curled around Rita’s middle and one rose to tug the cup of her bra down and pinch her nipple, Minerva felt her hand move to her own breast, rolling her fingers over it before catching the nipple between her middle and forefingers. When Rolanda’s other hand moved down, tugging the lacy wisp of Rita’s knickers aside to slide a finger between the folds of her sex, Minerva’s hands moved to unclasp her robe right down to the waist. Rita, for her part, arched herself back against Rolanda’s chest, pushing both her breast and her sex harder against those roving hands. Minerva’s hand tugged her robe aside and slid beneath the fabric of her bra, watching as Rita’s head pressed back against Rolanda’s shoulder and her hips writhed against fingers. Her red-smeared lips parted as her head pushed back, her hand coming up to curl around Rolanda’s bicep, but her eyes, Minerva noticed, twisting her own nipple to send a bolt of electricity through her body, were looking directly into the mirror, not at Rolanda but Minerva. With a shudder, Minerva twisted her nipple even harder.

When they moved to the bed, Minerva unfastened the rest of her robe. It was Rita that initiated it, turning in Rolanda’s arms to break her hold, not pulling away but instead stepping forward, so close that Rolanda was forced to step back to keep her balance. Rita smiled, stalking her back across the room, and Minerva marvelled at the predatory presence of the woman. She was a head shorter than Rolanda even in her heels, which, bar her underwear and the stockings that ended with lacy tops at her thighs, were all she was wearing, and she was small enough to be easily overpowered by Rolanda, but there they were, traversing the room with Rolanda backing up, pinned by no more than a gaze.

And where did she learn that? Minerva wondered, assaulted for a moment by an image of Rita Skeeter as a thirteen year-old, deep in conversation with a certain dark-haired Slytherin girl who had learned to stalk well before she should have known how. But no, no, Minerva would not have those thoughts here, not now. The woman in front of her was not a thirteen year-old girl, and if, in her adolescence, she had indeed learned things from a charismatic person with a dark soul, then that made her no more foolish than Minerva, did it?

They were well-matched, Rita and Rolanda. Both gave as good as they got, and watching them push and test each other was every bit as exciting as the things they were doing. The backs of Rolanda’s knees hit the bed and she fell back, landing with a bounce and a smile. Rita was over her in an instant, pressing her back, Rolanda pulling herself further up the covers until Rita pinned her down, a knee either side of her and a hand above her shoulder. They spoke in whispers, then, in husky breaths barely loud enough for Minerva to hear, but the tone was cheeky, challenging. Rita’s free hand slid down over Rolanda’s stomach to tug open the buttons of her fly, and Minerva felt her own hand slipping down to trace the outline of her knickers in response. Fly undone, Rita shifted again, slithering down to hook her fingers into the waistband of Rolanda’s trousers, tugging them down when Rolanda lifted her hips, then pulling them off in a complicated tangle of limbs.

Now Rolanda was far less clothed than Rita, clad only in her boy-leg knickers. Minerva could see the dampness seeping through the pale blue cotton, and obviously Rita did too, because she smirked as she slipped between Rolanda’s legs. Hands slid up over ankle, cupping strong calves and gripping below the knee to spread legs wider, and then Rita was burrowing in, lips against thighs and then tongue moving to cover the wet spot, mouth open and jaw moving, working against Rolanda through the flimsy fabric.

Rolanda’s hands fisted in the covers as Minerva wriggled in her chair, struggling out of her knickers even as Rolanda was still in hers.

Rolanda hissed at the ceiling. “Fuck. Get them off me, please.

Rita’s laugh was a hum against Rolanda’s sex, but she complied. A moment later, Rita was looking down at Rolanda’s damp and bare sex, her open cunt, as Rolanda liked to call it. ("I'm reclaiming the word, Minerva, there’s power in it and I won’t let men have that word to degrade us with.")

Now,” Rolanda whispered, and Rita obeyed.

It was hard to see, then, impossible to make out exactly what was going on, but what Minerva could see was more than enough: a head of blonde curls between her lover’s thighs, Rolanda’s hands fisted in them and one of Rita’s sliding under to join her tongue. The sounds, the wonderful sounds of suck and plop mingled with gasps and moans of appreciation, and Merlin, the look on Rolanda’s face. Minerva’s own hand was between her legs now, her foot propped up on the stool to give herself all the access she needed, but she almost forgot to stroke, forgot to even breathe when she watched Rolanda’s face. Her eyes fluttered open and closed, her lips parted, then twisted in a grimace, and was that the expression she wore when Minerva’s head was in Rita’s place? Did she always look so overcome? It was glorious.

Rita’s head bobbed, her elbow twitched as her hand moved. In and out, Minerva imagined, letting her eyes fall closed for a moment as she listened to the sounds they were making and let her own hand mirror her imagination, first one finger, then a second, careful and calculated so as not to hurt with those long fingernails, tongue curling around clit and lips closing over it, teasing and suckling. Then, and Minerva’s eyes flew open again as she realised it was happening in earnest and not just in her mind, the low moans that rose from Rolanda as she climbed higher, hissing and cursing and begging Rita not to stop, don’t you dare fucking stop, fuck, and then her eyes rolled back and her face contorted and every muscle in her body clenched and shook as she shattered.

Minerva was every bit as breathless as the two of them in the aftermath of that. But not orgasmic. Not yet.

She took a moment to breathe, to pause when they did, stroking herself slowly and watching Rolanda slump back against the pillows, breathing hard, while Rita crawled over her leg to fall beside her, also gasping. While Rolanda’s breaths were deep and sated, though, Rita’s were ragged and shallow, and it didn’t take Rolanda long to notice that Rita was shaking with need as well as exertion. Hauling herself up, Rolanda rolled over, urging Rita to do the same so that she could unclasp her bra, lay kisses down her spine, and this was a side of Rolanda that Minerva was well familiar with, but that Rita would never have seen. Not while she was guarded with the journalist or flirtatious with the conquest. This was the caring, devoted side of Rolanda, the side that would do anything for you when you had given her something of yourself that was primal, when, in giving it to her, you had handed her something transcendental. No, Rita would not be prepared for this.

Rolanda’s hands slipped up over Rita’s shoulders, palms flat against her skin, and pushed the straps of her bra down. Then she urged Rita over onto her back, removing the bra with gentle care. The knickers were next, peeled away, eased down over the tops of stockings and off the ends of toes. Minerva didn’t know quite when it was that Rita had lost her shoes, but they were certainly gone now, lying on their sides by the foot of the bed. Thus stripped, Rita fell back against the covers, as Rolanda wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her close, her fingers in Rita’s hair again, fisting in it as she kissed her, long and passionate. Fingers trailing down throat, Rolanda’s palm curving around the swell of Rita’s breast, cupping it and dropping her head to tongue a nipple as her thigh slid between Rita’s legs. Rita’s eyes were closed, her mouth was open, and she made a little whimpering sound as she arched into Rolanda’s hands, her thighs clamping down on Rolanda’s to hold her tight and pull her closer.

Rolanda wouldn’t make Rita wait long, and Rita wouldn’t last a minute under her ministrations, Minerva knew, her consciousness intruding, telling her that if she didn’t bring herself to climax soon, the show would be over. It was not a helpful thought. Pushing it away, she began to touch herself again in earnest, watching and trying to silence her mind by imagining the things she couldn’t quite see: Rita, thighs grasping, her wetness slicking up Rolanda’s leg and glistening on sparse hairs, the pebble of an erect pink nipple slipping out from between Rolanda’s lips.

Rolanda’s lips covered Rita, throat to shoulders to breasts, her fingers sliding over skin and revelling in curves in a way that was almost reverential, yet, strangely, not inspiring even the smallest feeling of jealousy in Minerva. Seeing her like this, overcome and giving, was beautiful, and watching it from afar rather than being on the receiving end of that intensity made her appreciate it in an entirely new way. And the way Rita was responding was magnificent: whimpering and moaning and writhing, almost struggling away from it even as she pushed and ground herself into it, eager for more.

More kisses, more touching, and when finally Rita was begging with broken breath, Rolanda rolled on top of her, replacing the knee between Rita’s thighs with her hand, covering Rita’s sex with her palm and massaging, then pulling away and bringing it down in a slap that made Rita cry out and sent her hand flying up to clutch at Rolanda’s arm. Fingernails dug into bicep and Rita whispered, Please, and then Rolanda was pressing two fingers into Rita and pumping in and out, leaning forward so the heel of her hand ground into Rita’s clit.

Rita’s cries became more urgent and both of Minerva’s hands moved between her legs, working a finger into herself and using the other hand to rub circles around her clit, arching her hips and watching, watching as a bead of sweat rolled down Rolanda’s back and Rita bit her lip, as her nails clutched at Rolanda’s arm and her stockinged toes curled. Minerva felt like she’d been on the edge for an age, burning up with it, but now she needed to come, and she watched as Rita’s head went back and her breath reached a crescendo, as she shook and writhed and broke apart. But it wouldn’t come for Minerva, and when they collapsed onto the bed, sweaty and breathless and sated, Minerva let out a little cry of her own that was more like a sob. She was so hot and out of breath, frustrated and needy, and suddenly, looking at their tangle of limbs and the hair falling across Rita’s eyes, so desperately, powerfully lonely, because what happened now?

And then Rita Skeeter pushed the hair from her eyes and turned them to look at Minerva. They were still dilated and her eyelids were heavy after her climax, but even now they saw more than they let on, more than a person wanted them to see. She touched Rolanda’s elbow, raising herself on shaky arms and pushing herself up to sit, and reached out a beseeching hand to Minerva.

“Join us,” she said.

*


Join us, Rita said, and Rolanda turned. It was an effort to sit, an effort to move, and when she saw Minerva’s face, the first emotion that she felt was shame. Because truth be told, she’d almost forgotten Minerva was there, and her first thought after Rita had come had been one of satisfied exhaustion, a similar exultant relief to the one that came when one dismounted from one’s broom after winning a Quidditch match—that was fun, I played hard and we won, and thank Merlin I can rest now. She’d been there, wallowing in it rather than wondering if they’d brought Minerva along with them, and the fact that Rita had thought of it and Rolanda hadn’t... Yeah, that was a nice bit of guilt right there.

But now she looked at Minerva’s stricken face and everything else went away. There was still a little bit of guilt—there always was, when Rolanda climaxed but Minerva couldn’t—but that was a guilt she was used to and had learned to push away, because Minerva had never wanted Rolanda to feel guilty for coming any more than she wanted to feel ashamed for not managing to. The disparity didn’t matter. What mattered was that Rolanda was not holding Minerva, that there was no intimate moment to soothe the frustration of it, and there needed to be.

Rita, though, was reaching out in invitation, and Rolanda was grateful for her understanding, grateful for her willingness and openness because although this was not something they’d discussed, it was certainly something that Minerva needed. Minerva seemed to know it, too, because she didn’t even hesitate. Standing, she shed her robe and her bra (and Merlin’s balls, if she wasn’t a magnificent sight, all long legs and sharp angles and wild hair, shrugging off her insecurities in a fierce display of Gryffindor courage) and came to join them.

They greeted her with warm hands and sweat-damp bodies, with fingers over skin and threading through long hair, with kisses against wrists and shoulders. When Minerva shook and echoed Rita's earlier Please, Rolanda understood with some surprise that she didn’t just want to be held, she wanted to try again, wanted them both to try. It was as thrilling as it was unexpected, though Rita didn’t seem surprised at all, and were those two communicating in some wordless way, to understand each other so well when Rolanda was only just keeping up? Rolanda supposed, as the caresses became heavier, more intent, that Rita’s impression of Minerva was free of assumption based on prior knowledge, and having her in the bed with them brought with it a fresh dynamic.

They manoeuvred Minerva between them, kissing and caressing, drawing little moans and very distinctive purrs from her, and when finally they had her positioned in a way they liked—with Rolanda between her legs in deference to her knowledge of what to do and how to touch, and Rita moving around behind to support Minerva’s weight against her chest, one arm wrapped around her middle to caress breasts and abdomen and the other threading through her hair, pulling it away from her throat to give her lips access—Rita spoke.

“Close your eyes,” she whispered.

Minerva did, and as Rolanda slipped fingers into her, Rita pressed her lips against Minerva’s ear and began to whisper a colourful commentary, describing the way she looked as Rolanda’s fingers curled and twisted in her cunt, the way Rolanda looked as she gave Minerva her full attention, and what it felt like to Rita to have Minerva’s back pressed against her breasts and feel everything Rolanda was doing to her in the way her body shook. It was hot and dirty, spoken in hisses and punctuated by the movements of Rita’s fingers over Minerva’s breasts and abdomen, and Rolanda heard herself joining in as her own fingers pumped and rubbed and scissored, describing the look of Rita’s scarlet nails and pale skin contrasting against Minerva’s dark nipples, the way Minerva’s dark hair cascaded over her shoulder and the press of Rita’s blonde curls against her cheek, the sight of her own fingers disappearing into Minerva and the rich red flush of her sex.

And then there she was: primal Minerva. She convulsed and a cry ripped from her throat that was so raw and desperate it was almost a scream, and Rolanda and Rita rode her through it with fingers and words until she collapsed back against Rita, twitching and boneless, eyes closed and breath heavy, so far from her mind that she couldn’t utter a sound.

They manoeuvred her carefully, Rita slipping out from behind her and lowering her gently down onto the bed, where they also collapsed, hands draped where they fell and all three utterly exhausted.

*


They lay there for a long time, not speaking, barely even moving. Rolanda thought Minerva might even have been dozing and couldn’t blame her.

But they were recovering slowly. Rolanda felt the weight in her limbs begin to lessen, and Rita stirred with a muffled, contented sound. Minerva was between them, but eventually they found themselves looking at each other. They’d both wriggled back to claim the pillows for their heads, and their eyes met as they settled.

They didn’t say anything for a while, though. Rita toyed idly with a strand of Minerva’s hair. When she spoke, it wasn’t of anything that had just happened.

“Why are your eyes yellow?” she asked.

Rolanda smiled crookedly. Rita wasn’t the first person to ask her that question, but would she be one of the few to whom Rolanda gave an honest answer? She snorted. Merlin, she’d just had sex with this woman, and together they’d brought Minerva McGonagall to what Rolanda estimated as one of the most powerful orgasms of her life. She’d been truthful with this woman in far more compromising ways than explaining why her eyes were an unusual colour.

“My great-grandmother was a Harpy,” she replied. “It’s passed down through the male line.”

Rita’s eyes widened in surprise. “But I thought... I thought Harpies only gave birth to full-blooded daughters. I thought they mated with wizards for their seed, but that the Harpy genes were always dominant.”

“That’s true most of the time,” Rolanda said, “but not always. Occasionally, the human blood wins out and a boy is born. I think maybe in the past the boy children were left exposed and died, but my grandfather was born not long after Harpies were finally granted Being status, so instead of letting him die they sent him to the mainland to live with his father. I’m the first girl in my family since, and I’m the only one with yellow eyes.” The prematurely grey hair was a part of it, too, but Rolanda didn't mention that.

Rita smiled. “That’s fascinating,” she said. “They’re beautiful.”

“That’s off the record,” Rolanda added, and Rita laughed.

*


Rita woke with the dawn. It was normal for her, to be up early and at the office in time for the morning edition, and even though sports reporting had a rather more relaxed schedule, waking early was not a habit Rita’s body had been able to break. In truth, she thought it had as much to do with the birds as with work. The sound of dawn, of life humming to wakefulness, it signalled the onset of industry for so many insects, and ever since Rita had become an animagus, she had become very aware of these things.

When she slipped out of the bed, the other two in it didn’t even stir.

Stay, they’d said, the previous night, and Rita had. She’d been too exhausted, too well-fucked to even move, and she’d liked how easy it was, how comfortable they’d been, how the conversation had been about things unrelated to the closeness and intensity of what they’d done together.

Mostly, anyway. At one point, Rolanda had made a comment about how skilled Rita was with her fingernails, at making them felt in some moments but not in those others where long, pointy objects were less welcome. Rita had remarked, in an uncharacteristically open way, if she thought about it now, that she had started to grow her fingernails at around age thirteen, which was about the time she lost her innocence, so to speak, so they had never not been a factor in intimate encounters. At that point, Minerva, whom they had both thought asleep, had shot up, exclaiming Thirteen?! in a way that most definitely made her sound like a protective Hogwarts teacher. Rita had laughed and said yes, that Hogwarts might provide some measures to keep boys and girls away from each other, but they couldn’t do much about girls who liked to experiment with, or on, though Rita had not said that, other girls. That had devolved into a discussion about the different Houses and their approach to opposite gender relations: Gryffindor’s restriction of boys in girls’ dorms because its founder had been the father of daughters; Ravenclaw’s restriction of the same, but more about giving women agency than restricting anyone; Slytherin’s pureblood, not-before-your-arranged-marriage puritanism in segregating both sexes; and Hufflepuff’s earthy approach that let anyone do anything, anywhere. It had been a fascinating conversation, and the fact that they were naked while they had it made it even more interesting.

So Rita had been quite content to stay, with an extra pillow transfigured, the duvet for warmth and hands that roamed easy and lazy beneath the covers. But she did not want to stay and encroach on Minerva and Rolanda’s morning after. She didn’t want the memory infused with the awkwardness of daylight, nor to deprive them of their lazy morning in bed, waking to enjoy the pleasant soreness of their bodies. And if they wanted to discuss the night and what it had meant to them and what it meant for the future of their sex life, Rita certainly didn’t want to be around for that.

No, she would make her exit quietly, and she would let them have the morning.

She dressed in the half-light, padding around the room to retrieve her clothing and pick up her shoes by their heels. Making her way down the hall, she found her handbag on the settee, and slipped into her shoes when she was standing by the door. Before she left, she took a last look around the cottage, at what it told her about the women who inhabited it and their relationship. In truth, she could see much more of Rolanda, who lived here year-round, in the surroundings than she could Minerva, but there were touches of the other woman here and there. A tartan throw over the armchair, a copy of Transfiguration Today on a side-table, that bottle of single-malt Scotch Firewhiskey they’d barely touched. And, hanging on the rack just inside the door, a pointed velvet hat missing its feather.

It did look rather forlorn like that, didn’t it? It was a proud piece of millinery, and it was missing its crowning glory. After a moment, Rita smiled. She opened her handbag and pulled from it the quill that she always carried inside, a green pheasant feather, long and patrician. Taking a careful step forward on her toes, she took the hat down, sliding the quill into the spot where the previous feather had been so callously removed. Retrieving her wand, she cast a charm to set it firmly in place, then laid the hat down on the side-table where it would be clearly visible.

Something to remember her by, she thought. Also, a promise: This was your story. I will not repeat it.

Smiling again, she opened the door and slipped away into the dawn.






Further Notes:

While this fic was still in the planning stages, I had an unrelated, late-night conversation with [livejournal.com profile] cranky__crocus, in which she expressed her disappointment about the way female orgasm is often depicted in explicit fanfiction as something that just happens during sex, every time, without fail or difficulty. We discussed the fact that this is often not the case for many women, but that because of similar depictions in film, TV, romance novels etc, inability or difficulty having an orgasm is often something women feel ashamed of. Kiwi said that, as a pre-orgasmic woman, she had read a lot about this and had conversations with a number of women who felt this way, and that she wished that there were more stories everywhere—but especially in the subversive, female-dominated world of fandom—that dealt with this. I encouraged her to try writing one sometime, since this was clearly a topic she was passionate about and the best way to start people talking about something is to start talking about it yourself.

But then, a few days later, as I was trying to work out how my fledgling femslash threesome idea might become an actual story, my mind returned to our conversation, and I decided to put this exploration into my fic, which turned my idea from something that was probably quite shallow into something far more in-depth and character-based. I hope that the end result is something that people will find both hot and realistic. And I would like to thank Kiwi for it. Thank you, my dear, for sharing your thoughts with me. Thank you for not minding when I poached ideas from you, and wrote about a subject that is very personal to you, and that you have thought and talked about far more than I ever have. Thank you for reading the end result and offering your thoughts on how my depiction of Minerva worked and how it didn't, and helping me to make this as honest and real as I could. This story would not be what it is without you, and I do hope that you take your ideas back sometime and write a story about this subject yourself. And they were your ideas. I just borrowed them.

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January 2012

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