Author: Debbie
Rating: PG at most
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended
Summary: Is Albus Dumbledore's keen interest in Minerva a reflection of what he suspects about her? Or is it ... personal? Albus/Minerva UST, set during Marauder-school era. Warning: Evil!McGonagall
Author's Note: Written for Ewacat as part of a fic challenge. After specifying what she did want, Ewacat indicated "I don't mind if there's character death, redemption or dancing purple monkeys." So, of course, I had to oblige at least one of those. ;-) Also, as a self-disclaimer: this characterisation/pairing/request was unlike anything I've ever attempted before. I did my best. :-)

It is my understanding that Sibyll Trelawney did not join Hogwarts until after the Prophecy was made; hence I have appointed another teacher for Divination in this era.

Many thanks to Liss and Merin for their mad beta skillz.

"Minerva, might I see you in my office before your first lesson?"

So had spoken Albus Dumbledore at breakfast that morning, with a light hand on her shoulder and a lighter word in her ear. She'd turned in her place at the Head Table, twisting to look at him, but his face was as mild and as unreadable as it ever was; there was no telling what he wanted her for.

So here she was now, standing outside his office door, reminding herself that there was nothing to worry about. Or, at least, that she should pretend there was nothing to worry about; her Lord would not appreciate it if she gave herself away over something so trivial. She knocked once, then entered. "You wished to speak with me, Headmaster?"

Albus turned from his position at the window and smiled when he saw her. "Ah yes. Please, do come in, Minerva. I won't keep you long."

"As you wish." She closed the door behind her and stepped into the large circular room. "What is this about?"

"I simply desired to address a matter of some import," he replied, crossing over to where she stood.

"Which is?"

He pulled a small green box from one of the pockets in his robes. "Your birthday."

"Oh!" She'd nearly forgotten; her mind had been focused on some other ... things she planned to set in motion that evening. "You didn't have to-"

He held up a hand. "Of course. But seeing as I did so, the wisest course is usually to accept." He smiled at her, but she wondered if she were seeing something else behind the half-moon glasses. Then again, it always seemed Albus had something else whirring away in his mind at all times; perhaps she was just being paranoid.

"Very well." She opened the box to find a silver bracelet studded with several stones of different shades. "Really, Headmaster, I can't accept..."

"Ah, but I chose it especially for you," he replied. "Jade, black agate, turquoise and jasper – I thought the combination went rather well with the green cloaks you favour." He looked at her over the rim of his glasses. "They are purported to have some rather intriguing protective properties as well."

He suddenly seemed to be standing too close, those blue eyes looking at her too intently. "Really, now," she murmured in her best starchy voice, taking a small step back. Her mind began racing, despite her cool veneer. The way he was speaking, the way he was holding her gaze, the protective claims ... did he know something? No, she told herself. He couldn't. "You know I don't hold by fanciful theories," she went on. "Give it to Apolla up in the Divination tower; I'm sure she'd be pleased."

But Albus only shook his head, genial as ever. "It's for you," he persisted, lifting the bracelet from the box and took her left hand in his. "Now, please, if you'll allow me...?"

Minerva's fear suddenly soared like a racing broom as he lifted her left hand; only her years of training and service under the Dark Lord kept her outwardly cool. "Very well."

Cool fingers pushed her left sleeve up an inch or so – surely he would have pushed it higher if he were really seeking something? - and deftly fastened the silver clasps around her wrist. He held her wrist up as if to admire it, drawing her closer to him as he did so; her plain black robe brushed against his blue and silver one, and she was now near enough to pick out a few remaining auburn strands in his hair and beard. "As I thought – just perfect for you," he murmured, stroking the soft skin of her forearm with a thumb.

She shivered before she could stop herself, shifting her stance to cover it up. "This is all terribly kind," she said, clearing her suddenly dry throat, "but I really must be going – my students are waiting."

"Of course." His thumb slid over her wrist again as he let her go.

She was still feeling the warmth of his fingers as she entered her classroom ten minutes later. Damn the man.


However, it was only damp cold stone she was feeling against her skin that evening – or rather, against her paws. She slipped quietly from the Slytherin common room when a student entered, padding down the dank corridors in her cat form. It was a risk, even under this guise; she demonstrated her feline shape to each class of first-year students at the beginning of the school term, but it was still safer than going into Slytherin in her human form when she had no explainable business there. She had used a Disillusionment charm for further protection, but there was no need to keep it on out here in the corridors; the shadows hid her distinctive spectacle markings, and she was tired and not in the mood to maintain unnecessary spells.

But she was pleased; the book had been left in the corner of the common room where she knew Severus Snape often studied – alone. He was quite clearly the brightest of his year-mates, and some of the things he'd said, together with his rather solitary status, meant he was likely a prime candidate to join the Dark Lord's ranks when he came of age; he would relish being welcomed and made part of a group, rather than being shunned as he often was at school, and he was already exhibiting signs of encouraging thought processes. He just needed a bit more information, a little push – all of which she was achieving without his even being aware that he was being groomed.

She heard soft footsteps up ahead, but did not change her stride; she trusted that whoever it was would go on his or her way and think nothing of someone's pet strolling the corridors.

"Good evening, Minerva."

She paused only a moment, then sighed. There was no mistaking that voice, and no point in trying to pretend she was an ordinary housecat – he clearly had recognised her already. In moments she was back on her feet and face to face with Albus Dumbledore. "Good evening, Headmaster," she said coolly.

"I see I am not the only lover of nocturnal strolls; yet somehow, we have never managed to run into each other before."

She shook her robes out and straightened her hat. "I often find an evening constitutional clears my head when there is much going on." It wasn't a lie – although it was not why she was out tonight.

"I'm sure you find such walks as productive as I do." He reached out and grasped her hand as she lowered it. "Ah, I see you still have it on. I was afraid you'd find it got in the way of your admirable teaching."

"What? Oh—" She glanced down at the bracelet. The truth was, she hadn't been able to make up her mind whether she suspected Dumbledore of tracking her or otherwise spying on her with the trinket, whether he was honestly trying to protect her from something with the choice of stones, or whether it was simply a gift - nothing more - and in the end she had left it on and eventually forgotten about it. How very unlike her; she was usually more attentive than that to things which might jeopardise her position – or her Lord's. And she didn't even normally wear any jewelry; in typical Scottish fashion, she saw no need to waste Galleons on such frivolities for herself – and there had never been anyone before who had wanted to give her any. "Yes, well, it would have been unkind to remove your gift straightaway, don't you think?" she replied.

"The greatest unkindness is to lie, I think," he answered, looking at her steadily. She felt her heartbeat speed up, and hoped he could not feel it where he was touching her. "We may hide the truth for many reasons, but to lie is unconscionable."

She returned his gaze, although a cold spike of fear slid through her belly as it often did when she wondered exactly what he knew – or suspected – of her other activities. "I speak the truth," she said simply.

He nodded his head briefly; then, as if they had said nothing of consequence, he shifted his attention back to the bracelet. "It glows even more interestingly in torchlight, don't you think? Much like your eyes."

"I – suppose." She glanced down at the glittering stones, then back to Albus' equally glittering blue gaze. "Although I can't say I've made a habit of looking at my own eyes."

A touch of a smile crossed his face. "Well, you'll just have to trust me, then."

"Of course," she managed. A disconcerting warmth had joined the cold fear and was now swirling through her; she was becoming more and more aware of his touch and was wishing very much that he'd let her go. She was getting out of her element here. She didn't need – or want – complications; her life was complicated enough already.

There was a pause, and she was just about to claim a need to finish grading essays in order to get away from that intense gaze when a wild chattering and howling abruptly broke the silence. She whipped her head around just in time to see six purple monkeys come barreling down the corridor, dancing, running, and generally making as much noise as possible.

"Oh dear," said the Headmaster; if he was anything other than amused by the interruption, she couldn't hear it in his voice. "It would seem Peeves has unlatched the second-floor storeroom again."

She took his distraction as an opportunity to pull her hand back and hide it in the sleeve of her robes. "Why are you keeping--?"

He gave her another look. "We all have our reasons for doing things," he said. "I regret I must leave you before something serious happens."

And with that, he hastened off down the dark corridor, leaving her free to walk back to her quarters, her heart pounding in relief.

Yes, she thought. Relief.


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