Minerva looked around the classroom in dismay. There were more furry teacups in the room than at a surrealist sculpture exhibition. What was that young woman's name again? Meret Oppenheim? Not the best student she'd ever taught, certainly, but at least her magical mistakes got her into the art history books. A lovely young woman, but a much better sculptor than witch. Or perhaps that was her magical calling. Minerva would have to consider that.
"Well?" a young Hufflepuff named Rhiannon asked her. "What do you think?" She pointed down at her teacup.
Minerva looked down at Rhiannon's teacup--extremely furry, with rabbit ears on the handle swaying back and forth and a wiggly cotton tail opposite--and bit back a sarcastic response. She didn't want to sound like Professor Snape, after all. "I suppose that will do for a first try." Rhiannon beamed up at her, grateful for the faint praise, and she smiled back.
Next year she would be doing waterfowl instead of rabbits. The furry teacups put her off her tea. "Class dismissed."
The first years grabbed their books and rushed to the door, only to skid to a stop as Albus came in. "Minerva, my dear, I'd like to have a conference with you later tonight, if your schedule permits." How odd, he seemed to have combed and plaited his beard and tied it up with purple ribbons.
"Yes, of course, Headmaster," she said.
The students shuffled out shyly, and Albus gave her one of his twinkly little winks and left. Incorrigible. He was a terrible flirt, and it was a wonder the students hadn't realized they were an item yet. Then again, she supposed she was discreet enough for the both of them.
"Restoro," Minerva said, and all the teacups turned back into rabbits and hopped around the room. She couldn't help but laugh at them. Then she imagined ducks instead and laughed even harder. Yes, definitely waterfowl next year.
She had the urge to turn into a cat and chase them, but restrained herself. One of the rabbits gave her a disapproving look, as if it knew. She gave the rabbit her best disapproving look back, and it hopped away, sheepish.
The Weasley twins came in, with Filch behind them holding them by the scruffs of their necks. "Caught 'em red-handed, Professor. Turned Professor Snape's office into a swamp."
It was a good thing she'd been practicing her best disapproving look, because Fred and George clearly needed it. "Is this true?"
"He gave Harry detention! And all Harry did was knock over Malfoy's cauldron," George said.
"Yeah, it was clearly an accident," Fred said.
"I am bitterly disappointed in both of you," Minerva said. "First of all, it's up to Professor Snape to discipline his class as he sees fit." She certainly wouldn't want Snape questioning how she ran her classes, after all. "And second of all, Potions is a very dangerous class and Mr. Potter needs to be more careful. He could have injured someone."
"Detention, Mr. Weasley." Better her than Snape or Filch, not that they'd realize that. Silly boys.
"Oh, but Professor!" Filch said. "I got the chains all polished in the basement, just waiting for these two."
"Thank you for bringing this to my attention, Mr. Filch, but I'll be handling things from here."
Filch scowled, and wandered out muttering to himself.
"It's not fair," George said. "Snape deserved it!"
"You keep up that attitude, Mr. Weasley, and I'll do worse than give you lines." Minerva crossed her arms and glared at the twins until they started shuffling their feet and mumbling. "Tonight, during dinner. You can help me care for all of these rabbits. They're needed for class tomorrow, you know. And then lines."
The twins grumbled.
Minerva leaned closer. "And next time, if you really think Professor Snape is being unfair, bring it to me and I'll see what I can do before you go off playing pranks on him." They looked up, hopeful. "Not this time, of course, you've seen to that. And no promises. Now off with you."
The twins shuffled out, and Minerva sighed and looked at the rabbits. Albus hadn't said when he wanted to conference with her, after all.
The rabbits were fed and watered and tucked away in their hutches, and Fred and George were sitting at their desks writing, "I will not play pranks on Professors," one hundred times. Minerva pretended not to notice them sneaking carrots and celery, and ignored her own growling stomach.
Albus stuck his head into her classroom. "Our conference?" He was wearing her favorite socks, the ones with the little glittery stars and moons on them, and had stuck an enormous sunflower into his lapel. He always knew how to make her smile.
"As soon as I've finished detention," Minerva said.
Albus raised an eyebrow at Fred and George. The corner of his mouth quirked up, but he didn't say anything. "My office, after detention, if you please."
"I'll be there," Minerva said, and wondered Albus wanted to talk to her about. She hoped it wasn't anything serious. Perhaps they'd found Sirius Black. Perhaps the Ministry had passed some boneheaded new regulation they needed to follow. She looked back down at Fred and George, who were sulking over their lines, and smiled. They were really quite bright, and would do very well in school if only they'd apply themselves.
A resounding crash echoed in from the hall, causing the rabbits to kick in their cages in a panic. Then there was a dreadful smell, ugh, like a sewer. Minerva stood up and walked over to the door and opened it.
Peeves, of course. He was circling in the air, cackling wildly over a floor strewn with nasty brown puddles. Minerva hastily cast a bubble charm over the room. No sense in the poor rabbits suffering from that stench, after all.
"I think that's enough lines for tonight," Minerva said. "Apparently, I'm going to need your assistance with Peeves."
By the time Minerva made it up to the Headmaster's study, she was sweaty, dirty, exhausted, grouchy, and famished. She stomped up the stairs and threw open the door.
In the center of the office, Albus had set up a dinner table with flowers and candles and a bottle of wine. "Happy birthday, my dear Minerva."
She'd completely forgotten, of course. Nonsense, to keep track of birthdays at her age. Utter nonsense. She imagined all the candles that would be on the cake to represent her age. Then she noticed a cake covered with candles on Albus' desk, not even a bit of frosting showing on top between the candles, and started to laugh. "You're going to set your office on fire."
He stepped forward and kissed her on the cheek. "You look lovely."
"I do not!" Minerva said, even though it was sweet of him to say so. "You should have told me what you had planned. I'd have cleaned up a bit first."
"And spoil the surprise?" Albus asked. "Never, my dearest. Never." He pulled a flower out of the vase in the center of the table--a daisy--and tucked it behind Minerva's ear. "Do have a seat." He led her over to the table, and pressed his lips to her wrist. He knew she loved that.
"What else do you have planned tonight?" Minerva asked, and was surprised by how flirtatious her voice sounded.
"Whatever you wish, my dear Minerva." He smiled, twinkle-eyed, but his twinkling had a lascivious tone to it. "Perhaps I could help you get ready for bed."
"Perhaps," Minerva said, taking a bite of dinner. Asparagus and chicken. And it was still warm, but not as warm as the promise of the evening to come.