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A Perfectly Innocent Conversation, of Course

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“May I?”

Minerva looked up over the rim of her reading glasses to find the new Quidditch instructor gesturing at the armchair beside her. A quick glance around the staffroom showed many a free chair or sofa, as the room was otherwise vacant. The question was for more than sitting, clearly.

“By all means,” she said, turning her attention back to the treatise Albus had written about the latest bills to pass the Wizengamot, and all the things wrong with them, hoping her lack of interest would ward off whatever conversation was coming.

It wasn’t that she didn’t like this Rolanda Hooch, she seemed personable enough, but that she just didn’t know what to do with her. Having been educated on the continent, even though she was from a British family, she had never been sorted. Albus had dismissed Minerva’s suggestion that she should stick the sorting hat on Rolanda to see what was what. She still thought it would be informative enough, even if meaningless in the grand scheme of things.

“I see Albus is still peddling that about,” Rolanda said, ignoring social etiquette and talking to her anyway. “I told him he should just submit it for publication already. There’s no point delaying, he’s very firm in his positions and unlikely to change anything.”

Minerva sighed and put the treatise to the side to give Rolanda her reluctant attention.

Once again, she was momentarily startled by her appearance. The shock of her short white hair had still not worn off, nor the way she dressed. Her robes fell open to reveal the slacks she was wearing, along with the loose blouse that really could have been a man’s shirt. Maybe it was, Minerva didn’t allow herself to look closely, she too often found herself focusing on where the billowy shit tucked into the tight, high waist of her slacks when she did.

It was a style she herself admired the look of, but it was still far too uncommon to shake the tradition of long skirts within the castle. Besides, she was wordly enough to understand the message Rolanda put out with her clothing and hair. It could have been just an attempt to stand out amongst the other female staff, or to follow those new trends, but the expression she sometimes got while looking at the female staff nailed the coffin shut on those possibilities. It was a message, and she read it crystal clear.

“It doesn’t do to rush these things,” Minerva said dryly. “British politics are very different from what you must be used to on the continent.”

Rolanda released a sharp bark of laughter, tossing her head back. She rattled off something in French, then held a hand to her chest and sighed. Minerva didn’t waste time telling her she didn’t understand French. She found the entire display unnecessary, like much about the woman.

“Perhaps you should spend some time on the continent,” Rolanda finally said, reaching over and nudging Minerva’s arm in a display of over-familiarity. “You might find yourself with a new appreciation of your British politics.”

“I find that hard to believe,” Minerva said, looking around for an escape.

She couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but something about the woman unnerved her. She lost her centre around her and never quite knew what to say, or how Rolanda would react. If Albus continued to refuse, she might just sneak into his office and abduct the sorting hat to shove on Rolanda’s head to get to the bottom of things anyway. It belonged to the school, not Albus, so she wasn’t entirely sure it was even his decision to make.

A house didn’t reveal everything serious about a person, but it still said a great deal. It would provide a basis of how to approach conversation with her, at least.

“Ah, enough about politics,” Rolanda said, slapping the arm of her chair. “I was perusing the Quidditch trophies today when I spied a familiar name!”

Minerva audibly groaned before she could stop herself.

“When were you going to tell me you played? This certainly explains your passion for the house cup!” Rolanda’s eyes fairly twinkled from excitement. “You must come flying with me!”

“Must I?” Minerva commented dryly.

“Yes! I insist,” Rolanda said, slapping the arm of her chair again. “You don’t know how I long to fly with a fellow adult, and fine woman at that.” Minerva was not blind to the sly look Rolanda sent her after those words, but studiously did not react. “Teaching the children is my passion, of course, but they afford no challenge! I played keeper for a time you know, and you a chaser? A fine match for some good-natured competition, don’t you say?”

Minerva could hear Albus agreeing in her ear. He’d often tried to talk her into joining the Gryffindor team for training, though he’d at least had the good sense to give up after a few months.

Even though she didn’t know Rolanda well, Minerva had a feeling she didn’t back down easily, from anything.

Many signs pointed to Gryffindor, but she had a bit of a cunning feel to her.

Minerva really itched to shove the sorting hat over her head.

Still, she couldn’t deny she did miss flying. It was all well and good to live vicariously through her little lions, but watching them wasn’t the same as flying herself.

“Oh, go on,” Rolanda urged, as if sensing her longing. “Where’s the harm in a little friendly match? Unless you think you can’t get past my defences. You might surprise yourself, you know.”

It took a generous helping of self-control not to roll her eyes at that blatant phrasing.

“I don’t fly anymore,” she said instead. “You would have an unfair advantage as I am no longer practised in the role of chaser.”

Rolanda grinned wickedly. “I’ll go easy on you. Let you slip a few in to warm up.”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” Minerva huffed, her cheeks heating despite herself.

Rolanda threw her head back and laughed again. She slapped the arm of her chair and got to her feet.

“Oh, I see through that prim and proper attitude, Minerva,” she said. “You understand me better than you like to pretend.”

Minerva pursed her lips and didn’t deign to respond.

“Crass jokes aside, do let me know if you change your mind and would like to fly sometime,” Rolanda said. “It would be nice to be up there with someone closer to my calibre, and it’s a shame to let that talent go to waste!”

“I have many more important things to do,” Minerva said stiffly, annoyed with herself for not being as opposed to the idea as she should have been.

“But not many more enjoyable things, I’ll warrant.”

“Back to the crass jokes already?” Minerva said disapprovingly.

Rolanda put a hand to her chest. “Why, Minerva, what ever could you mean? I was speaking of Quidditch.” She shot Minerva a sly look. “What were you thinking of?”

“Oh, off with you!” Minerva huffed.

With another loud laugh, Rolanda did retreat, letting the door close loudly behind her on her way out. Minerva found herself staring at that door for an inordinate amount of time.

She shook her head at herself and picked up Albus’ treatise again, banishing thoughts of flying, as well as certain other things.