"Frankly, I think our backstory's a joke."
Dumbledore looked up from the map he'd been studying. Minerva was sitting on the bed, legs crossed at the ankles. A cigarette was dangling from the fingers of her left hand, and he winced.
"Do try not to burn a hole in the sheets or set the room on fire. We are trying to be inconspicuous."
"I still think it's crap." was her only comment as she swung her legs off the side of the bed to face him.
"Seriously, Mister, have you even - and we're not even in Nazi territory yet. I'd say thank God Paris fell in time, or we'd be…"
"It's not the Nazis we want to fight. Our Muggle colleagues seem to be taking care of those just fine, we need to - "
"Yeah," she replied sarcastically, leaning back against the wall again.
"You can tell them that when they're breaking your fingers one by one. They'll patch you right up and send you off with a pat on the back."
She took a sip from the half-empty glass on the bedside table.
"A real pro, aren't you?"
Her little chuckle didn't escape his ears, and he threw down the maps in irritation.
They'd been practically stuck in the hotel room since the previous evening – which, he kept reminding himself, was really not that long altogether – but already it'd become painfully clear that they were irrevocably incompatible.
Or, perhaps, too alike.
He shook off the thought as soon as he'd properly realized it was there. Despite what she had said on her first visit to his office – it felt like ages ago, really, but it wasn't – he didn't believe that, apart from a general feeling of being sick of the world, there was anything the two of them could possibly have in common.
And on top of all that, she annoyed him. He turned on his chair.
"Seriously, McGonagall, you really do believe you've seen and heard it all, don't you? I can just tell you - "
She appeared unperturbed and shrugged.
"I don't. Just don't believe you have, either. I've been here before, Dumbles. You haven't."
He ignored her blatant use of a nickname the birth of which he had certainly never encouraged.
"You were here as a Muggle."
Her eyebrows went up again in an expression of amusement he'd come to regard with exasperation.
"Now aren't we glad the Prophet doesn't exactly lurk 'round the corners here! Someone'd have a scoop on their hands, that's for sure."
He felt the blood rush to his cheeks and rose from his chair.
"I warn you…"
His voice was lower than usual, holding a clear tone of warning.. She merely laughed.
"Calm down already. I just meant, Mister, that you shouldn't talk of Muggles that way, and I'm not just talking about your, let's face it, crappy reputation in that respect. They're quite inventive – they must be, if you think about it – and those Nazi kids, I tell you, for all their warped ideas, they've got some bright crayons there. Ditto for our side of the conflict, really."
She shook her head, blowing some smoke in his direction.
"Muggles – not to be underestimated, that's for sure. Plus they've invented the cigarette. Got to count for something, that."
She raised hers to her eyes for a second and studied it, a small smile on her lips.
"These really are pretty amazing."
He rolled his eyes and turned away again, bowing over the parchment once more.
"You'll have us gassed if you keep it up like this. That, or you'll drink yourself to death."
He could almost feel her smile.
"Better death than most, some say."
"Wouldn't want to try it." was his only response.
He was trying to decide which way they would take to their final goal, and it wasn't easy. While he had, naturally, been doing the proper geographical research back in London, Albus realized, now, that most of that research had been completely useless. The Muggle war had almost come to an end, it was true – but it certainly wasn't over yet, and the borders still changed every day.
He checked his pocket watch.
"Still over an hour left, I'm betting you. You checked less than ten minutes ago. Plenty of time."
With a pang of irritation, Albus realized she was right. The radio broadcast that would give them the newest reports on the progress of the war was at seven – it was just ten to six.
"An hour and ten minutes, to be precise."
"Told you – and say, Mister…"
His tone of voice was not encouraging, he knew. He didn't care.
Neither, apparently, did she.
"So why're you so snappish when it comes to Muggles – come to think of it why d'you have this bad rep anyway? I've heard the gossip, of course, but you know what they say, never believe - "
"Could you just shut up for a second?"
She would never rest before she got the full story, he knew, and he loathed it. He also didn't plan to give her what she wanted.
"I don't like your manners."
It was the way she said it that drove him over the edge. He rose to his feet.
"Well, I'm not crazy about yours, either. I didn't ask you to come here."
She opened her mouth to reply, but he was faster.
"I don't mind if you don't like my manners, I don't like them myself, they're pretty bad and I grieve over them long winter evenings, and I don't mind you insulting me and I don't mind you drinking your lunch out of a bottle - but don't waste your time trying to cross-examine me!"
Minerva looked up at him, unsmiling now. She, too, jumped to her feet, putting down her half-empty glass with a clear thud.
"People don't talk to me like that!"