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Chapter 1: Two Sides
This story, first begun in 2007, follows the "old canon" of McGonagall's history, so I've made her birthday October 4th, 1924. All Pottermore material is disregarded. The characters and events first emerged out of my earlier novel "The Fires Within". The rest of Grimm and MicGonagall's story can be found in "Ghosts of You", "ad memoriam", and "Good Night, Dr. Jekyll".
"It has been said ... that a love-interest is only an intrusion upon a detective story.
But to the characters involved, the detective-interest might well seem an
irritating intrusion upon their love-story."
- Dorothy L. Sayers
The train lurched forward like a drunken sailor, throwing everything within towards the front. Trunks went flying from their shelves, owls screeched within their cages, and students fell into one another, mostly by accident. Among the fray that was the student body of Hogwarts passed the Head Girl, admonishing the boys who had fallen upon the girls and the girls who had fallen upon the boys, quieting the owls, and pulling trunks from the wailing forms of first year students. It would not be a surprise if anyone bowed when she turned her back upon them – her presence alone was enough to maintain some semblance of fortitude in the chaos both inside, and outside, of the train.
Her new robes fitted her form to perfection and dared not show any creases. Her hair, severely pinned back to avoid any flyaway, was comparable to the colour of a raven if any boy happened to be courageous enough to admit it. She kept her glasses sealed in a pocket, unscathed and unseen. She would be damned if the Head Boy – if the rumours of his identity were true – saw her wearing spectacles.
By the time that the train was running at full speed – five minutes later than it ought – Minerva McGonagall made her appearance at the very first compartment. The display within was scandalous, with the Head Boy showing Muggle magic tricks to a crowd of excited prefects. Dolores Umbridge, still wearing that hateful pink bow, clapped with increasing volume. She was bound to make a fool of herself before long, with the way she clung onto each word that escaped the Head Boy’s lips. Only Tom Riddle stood aloof from the others, his eyes reflecting on the window glass, his mouth in a determined sneer.
She stood just out of sight behind the door, observing how Tiberius Grimm – for that is the noble name awarded such an ignoble young wizard – would grin at his audience with full knowledge of the power he held over them. He drew coins from behind ears, could always guess the card a volunteer chose, and made bouquets of flowers appear from empty scarves. It was the simplest of magic – mere slight of hand – but he did it in a way that made it seem real.
Grimm turned and saw her lurking just to the side of the compartment door. For a moment, they stared at each other through the opening – he with a smile and her with a heavily beating heart.
“Ah, Minerva! How delightful you’ve made it.”
The compartment door snapped shut behind her. “There was some trouble among the lower years. I am surprised you were not there to witness it.” Her gaze landed on the deck of cards still in his hand.
A flush grew up his throat. “Quite.” His hesitation lasted only a moment. “Now I suppose we can get started. Would you like to start, Minerva?”
Their eyes met. It was impossible to say which of them looked away first.
“Of course,” Minerva said, brushing back an invisible strand of hair from her eyes. “Thank you, Tiberius.”
No one called him by his first name, except perhaps his mother, who disapproved of him, and Dumbledore, whom he outright disliked. Grimm winced and stepped aside, the deck of cards disappearing into his robes. The prefects watched with semi-open mouths. Umbridge glared at Minerva, who stood at attention before them, hands neatly folded in front of her. She told them of the rules and regulations of prefect-hood in a level, but not monotone, voice. Grimm leaned against the door, his assessing gaze balancing between Minerva and the prefects as though it had difficulty determining which was the better to observe. As she finished, he closed his eyes, resting his head on the door frame.
“Am I boring you, Tiberius?”
She seemed to take great pleasure in saying his name. Perhaps that was a good thing. He allowed a smile to creep over his face.
“Not at all, my dear.” Now it was her turn to shudder. “When you’ve heard these things for the third time, it does get a trifle tiring.”
Minerva sniffed, lifting her head so that she look down her nose at him.
“Hearing them again will hardly tarnish your reputation. If you have one, that is.”
One of the prefects ill-hid his laughter in a fit of coughing. Both Head Boy and Girl turned to impart a shared glower upon him. The laughter ended on a flat note. The subsequent smirk the Head Boy and Girl also shared was enough to scandalise Umbridge and bring a scowl onto the face of Riddle. Since neither was anything new, Minerva waved her hand and the prefects left the compartment in a silent crowd. They would only begin to speak when they could not be heard by the very strange pair of Heads.
Minerva took a seat by the window. “This year is going to be a disaster.”
“What makes you think that?” He remained by the door.
“Us working together. It’s never going to work.”
Grimm looked at her, crossing his arms. “Why not? I think we work together well.”
She had not realised just how tightly her hands were clenched. “We work in completely different ways. Opposites, even....”
“Really? I never noticed.” He gazed at her from under lowered eyelids.
It was impossible to determine how serious his statement was. Minerva gave up and turned to the window. It alone offered a logical point of view.
“Dippet wouldn’t have put us together without good reason, Min.” His voice had softened.
Surely Dumbledore would have spoken in her good favour, would have made sure that she would be paired with someone intelligent, responsible, fair, and trustworthy. A small part of her said that Grimm was all these things, but she shoved the thought away with distaste. Anyone who played magic tricks and insisted on being called “Tibbs” could be none of those things. It was easy to forget her surprise at seeing his OWL score tied with hers, or that he was never late for class, or that he treated everyone with the same sardonic manner, be they first year or Slytherin. No, Grimm was the worst possible candidate for Head Boy.
The sigh that escaped Grimm’s lips held such power that it made her look towards him.
“We will just have to make this work,” she said, rubbing her temple with a limp hand.
One corner of his lips rose. “Indeed we will.”
He left the compartment before she had the chance to read his expression.
Minerva leaned her head back against the seat cushion. It had been a while since she had last relaxed. The journey from home to King’s Cross, and then back up to Hogwarts was exhausting and needless. Not once could she step out of line. Not once could she let the mask slip. She had almost let it go in front of Grimm, or had he tried to tear it away? She could never be sure.
She closed her eyes, the rhythmic motion of the train lulling her towards slumber. It was the last thing she ought to have been doing. There were prefects to oversee, students to set in line... duties to divide between her and Grimm... figuring out a way to make it through all this....
“This would be a far nicer picture if you weren’t drooling.”
Her eyes opened under duress.
“I’d rather not have you drawing me.”
He set aside his pencil and turned the book he held towards her. It was covered in spider webs of ink – his peculiar handwriting was scrawled across the pages.
“I don’t draw in my commonplace book.” His voice had taken on the drawling tone of the over-educated, under-stimulated aristocrat.
“It’d be too much of a waste?” To say she was peeved was an understatement.
“Most definitely. I am not an artist.”
The pencil once more came into his hands to be spun on the tips of his fingers.
“I doubt my father would be pleased if I took up portraiture.”
Minerva swallowed her laugh. Everyone in the school knew that Grimm’s Muggle father –Sir Percival Grimm, baronet – approved of nothing his son did. The letters arrived once a month during the school year, each one chiding Grimm for the same things over and over again. Minerva remembered the one he had read to her.
... If you have to be a scholar, and a wizard at that, you might as well make a name for yourself in those fields rather than playing around with petty magic tricks. Why not pursue that game your mother told me of, or work harder at chemistry? Your mother and I are proud of your grades, but not of the behaviour we hear of....
“You might be surprised. Haven’t there been many famous Muggle painters?”
He looked down at his book, as if wondering why he hadn’t taken up drawing. “Quite right. But with you as my only muse, my work wouldn’t sell too nicely.” He managed to say the words without smiling, without even glancing up to observe her expression. It was always the same with him, first the joker, last the person that everyone expected him to become.
“I see that I can’t surprise you anymore, Minerva. I’ll have to find another victim, it seems.”
She felt her lip curl upwards. “Bastard.”
He smiled in the way that made it hard for her to breathe. “Thank you, my dear.”
All sleep gone from her, Minerva stood up, trying to maintain some haughtiness. “I am going to do my rounds, Tiberius.”
While he was clever, the best she could be was petty. Why did he persist in being such a prig? They could have been friends – they liked the same books, had similar tastes in music, enjoyed going to the pictures – but at the same time that she thought he was humorous, even charming, he was too skilled at disarming her. She was always on the defensive with him, always the brunt of his jokes, and the one always paired with him in rumour. He did everything with a smile, while she kept a stern expression on her face at almost every moment. Where he would suggest, she would order. They were so different, yet there were moments when she wondered....
She looked back toward the front compartment. No. There was nothing there for her.
~ * * * ~
During the Headmaster’s speech, Minerva paid not a whit of attention to squeaky-voiced little Dippet, who rattled off the rules with more bounciness and less tact than was required. She picked at the food, already missing the cooking at home. However great the Hogwarts kitchens were, they never provided the food she liked best. Of course, everyone else seemed to be eating as though they hadn’t been able to for the entire summer hols. The others at Gryffindor table weren’t at all interesting. The boys spoke of Quidditch while the girls chatted about the boys. A couple of times they tried to include Minerva, but she just smiled and remained silent, even at the questions about the coming Quidditch year and whether she would keep her position as Chaser. All the presence she showed while playing at Head Girl had vanished – to the other seventh years that night, she appeared quiet, even shy. When Dippet chirped out a congratulations to her and Grimm, she rose with a contained smile, not even looking at Grimm, who made a theatrical bow amidst great applause.
But he looked at her, a slight crease forming upon his brow as he retook his seat.
He waited for her at the end of dinner, as the prefects led the other students away to their Common Rooms. There was a weariness to her form, even when she went off to speak with Dumbledore. Some animation came her to face as Dumbledore’s voice proved to be the anodyne she needed. The dark eyes brightened. The chest rose and fell with deep, healthy breaths. The hint of a smile came upon her lips.
And none of those things were for him.
Shoving his hands into his pockets, Grimm stalked off down the Great Hall, hearing her laughter echoing in her ears. How could she do that? How could she act that way when in the company of a professor? It wasn’t right, not when she could have been friends with anyone in their year. She was one of the best Quidditch players, always the top student, yet she kept herself aloof from it all, as though she was the aristocratic one, not he. Then her friendship with Dumbledore.... She should have been friends with him, not some ancient, however genius, professor.
He felt the growl rise in his throat before he could stop it. Blasted Dumbledore of course heard it. The old man – he was a century old, these days – heard everything, knew everything.
“Tiberius? This pertains to you as well, I think.”
Grimm turned, the crease still prominent upon his brow. “I didn’t realise you were speaking of our duties, sir.”
Minerva watched him with a puzzled expression on her face. He would have to be careful not to act outright hostile towards Dumbledore. Taking his place beside Minerva, he stuffed his hands further into his pockets and purposely hunched his shoulders, looking incredibly bored.
“Either one or both of you will have to do rounds of the castle before you retire,” Dumbledore was saying. “The schedule can be set up between the two of you, so that any extracurricular activities you may do can be included without issue.”
“What should we be checking for, Professor?”
If she looked at Dumbledore one more time with that softness in her eyes, Grimm would have to take serious action.
“That the students are in their beds, preferably their own. The students are your primary responsibility, of course. Keeping the castle secure will be handled by the gatekeeper and professors.” Dumbledore paused for breath, keeping an eye on Grimm’s flushed cheeks. “If you see anything amiss, do not hesitate to come to the Headmaster or myself.”
Minerva was nodding. It was likely that she already knew the location of Dumbledore’s quarters, which in itself was a scandal. Didn’t the girl know anything of propriety?
“Of course, Professor,” she said.
Grimm echoed her words and straightened his posture once Dumbledore was out of sight. Now they were alone in the Great Hall, devoid even of the bountiful meal that neither had eaten much of. Minerva still had that far-off expression on her face. Perhaps she hadn’t noticed that Dumbledore had left?
“So how do you want to divide things up?” he asked.
She blinked. “Sorry, divide what up?”
“Our nightly rounds of the castle, in case you weren’t listening.” He bit his lip before he could say anything about her mooning over Dumbledore.
A frown stole away the life from her expression. “Of course. You weren’t being specific enough with your question.”
Grimm wanted to knock his head against a wall. The House Elves had the right idea in that respect. “My apologies, darling. Now would you like to do rounds together, or separately?”
She scowled. “Don’t call me ‘darling’, for Merlin’s sake. It’s disgusting.”
“As disgusting as you staring at Dumbledore like you’re ready to pounce upon him?”
There. It was out. He had said it.
Her hand hit his cheek with a loud snap. With a fist, she could have broken his nose.
“Bloody hell!” His yelp echoed through the room, bouncing back to them in lessening degrees of volume.
“Do not ever say that again, got it Grimm?” All the fury of a woman’s scorn blazed from her eyes. Just that look alone could have levelled him – she hadn’t really needed to hit him. She’d probably go scrub her hand all night to remove all essence of his face.
“There is absolutely nothing between Professor Dumbledore and myself. I admire his abilities, nothing more, and far more than what I’ll ever think of you, Tiberius Grimm.” She started to walk away, her back ramrod straight and her shoulders set like a military general’s. “We’ll be doing our rounds separately. You will start tonight.”
He watched her go, his mind screaming at him to say something, anything, but all he could do was stand amazed at everything she could do. What she had been depressed about, he’d never know, but now she was just brilliant. Yes, brilliant.
Grimm went out into the entrance hall, his eyes moving upwards to see where she had gone, hoping to catch a sight of her robes above him, or hear her feet upon the stair, but she had already vanished, or had gone up a stair that had already moved to hide her from sight. He leaned against the balustrade, hand reaching toward the deck of cards in his pocket. There was time yet to get in some practise before he began his rounds.
~ * * * ~
She slammed into her chamber – one separated from the other seventh year girls’ so that she would not bother them with her late nights and early risings – stepping around the trunk someone had left too near the doorway. It was a small room at the very top of Gryffindor tower, but at least it was a place where she could be alone.
Alone and away from that prat. She wouldn’t even think his name. How could he say such a thing? How long had he been bursting to say it? Every time she got near Dumbledore he would scowl and slouch about like an imbecile. Why for Merlin’s sake couldn’t he just act normally? Why did he have to be the bane of her existence?
Falling onto the bed, Minerva put her head into her hands. Her left palm still tingled from the slap – she regretted it already. He would think her reaction meant that he had hit a nerve, that his suspicions were right. She would have to go placate him, apologise, anything to stop him from thinking, from telling, from letting the world think that she was in love with her favourite professor, which was of course untrue, wasn’t it? Dumbledore would smile and twinkle his eyes, but she was only a gifted and loyal student to him, not even a friend. She loved hearing his voice, nothing more. He was like a father, a kindly uncle.
What made Grimm so jealous? Was it even jealousy?
Her left hand felt strange. It was the first time she had ever touched Grimm, ever made physical contact with him. She pulled her hands away from her face and stared down at them. The left was still reddened from hitting him. Oh Merlin, why? And she had thought his name again, thought of him. She couldn’t hate him. She had gone too far for that. But what was there to do? She couldn’t see him in the morning and pretend nothing had happened, because something had. Even on the train, he had been different, more pressing upon her than ever, calling her dear and darling as though he meant them.
She lay there until the moon had traversed the whole of her tiny window. Her thoughts could keep her awake for only so long. By the time that the occupant of the facing tower had completed his duties and was readying himself for bed, Minerva had fallen asleep for the second time that day, still wearing her robes.