Minerva sighed as she heard the clock in the tower chime six o'clock. Only one more hour until the Halloween feast, and it felt like the stack of ungraded parchment on her desk had not gotten any smaller since she'd begun marking them just after lunch. If anything, the pile felt bigger—could Peeves have snuck in and cast a quiet Gemino Curse during her last break for tea?
She shook her head to herself as she pushed back her chair and stretched. Quiet wasn't exactly Peeves's style. Was he the type of poltergeist to multiply a pile of ungraded fifth-year essays on Vanishing? Absolutely. He'd find the irony of it irresistible. Could he do it quietly? Absolutely not.
Her quiet chuckle was interrupted by the sound of a knock at her office door.
She stood up at once, hoping she wasn't about to have to discipline a certain Gryffindor troublemaker for sneaking into Hogsmeade without a signed permission form. She'd been heartbroken to deny Potter's request at the end of yesterday's lesson, but she'd known it had been for the best. And while she certainly shared the headmaster's distaste for the horrid creatures currently stationed at the school's front entrance, she had hoped that it would be enough to keep Potter safely ensconced in the castle. Though if anyone could find a way past the Dementors into Hogsmeade, it would most likely be Potter. Or perhaps the Weasley twins.
But she opened her office door to find not Potter or the twins, but a different Weasley, with one Miss Lovegood in tow. Or, given Miss Weasley's slouched stance slightly behind Miss Lovegood, perhaps it was the other way around.
"Trick or treat!" cried the girls, Miss Lovegood with a bright exuberance, Miss Weasley with a bit more caution.
Minerva crooked an eyebrow at them and tried not to smile. They made quite the sight for essay-wearied eyes. Miss Lovegood was clad head to toe in purple and sported a headband with matching purple ears and an enormous, curved, golden horn protruding from the top. Her face was painted purple as well, except for her nose, which was painted gold to match the horn. What in the wide Wizarding World…?
Miss Weasley, on the other hand, was wearing dark green robes with a golden talon and the number five emblazoned on the chest. She had a bright golden smear of paint across each cheek as well.
"Ah," said Minerva, addressing Miss Weasley. "Miss Wilda Griffiths, of the Holyhead Harpies," she said, and the girl beamed and stood up a little straighter. "And… Miss Lovegood?"
"She's a crumple-horned snorkack," explained Miss Weasley quickly, when Miss Lovegood just gazed dreamily into the ether, declining to elaborate.
"I see," said Minerva, though she didn't. She was reminded suddenly and forcibly that Miss Lovegood was the daughter of the editor of The Quibbler.
"It's a loose interpretation," added Miss Lovegood, misreading Minerva's skepticism for ignorance, "as photographic evidence of the crumple-horned snorkack is rare, and eyewitness accounts are few."
"I see," said Minerva again, this time with more finality. "Well, you both look absolutely magnificent. To what do I owe the pleasure of seeing your excellent handiwork?"
"We're trick-or-treating," explained Miss Weasley tentatively, holding up a scarlet pillowcase trimmed in gold, while Miss Lovegood proffered a blue case trimmed in bronze. "It's a Muggle tradition where—"
"Ah, yes," interrupted Minerva. "I am familiar with Muggle trick-or-treating." She paused, looking expectantly at the two girls. They looked expectantly back. Miss Weasley's pillowcase lowered a few inches. "Well?" asked Minerva, pursing her lips to suppress a grin. "Let's see, then."
The two girls exchanged a look in confusion.
"Don't I get a trick?" Minerva said.
"Er—" began Miss Weasley, but Miss Lovegood interrupted.
"What kind of trick would you like? I can give myself antlers if you want." She was already pulling her wand out of her pillowcase.
"Pardon me, you can do what?" asked Minerva. She knew this wasn't the way Muggle trick-or-treating worked, but she should have known better than to request a trick of Luna Pandora Lovegood.
"I can give myself antlers," she said, pointing her wand at her own head, but Miss Weasley reached out and pulled her hand down.
"Maybe not now," she said to her friend. "I have a trick I can do for you, Professor. Do you have a coin on you?"
Minerva was still trying to work through I can give myself antlers if you like. She faintly recalled a story Poppy had told her at the end of last term about a pair of antlers that Miss Lovegood had supposedly given herself. She and Poppy had agreed that the girl was more likely covering up for an older student, though since they'd both thought the girl to be generally friendless, neither of them had been certain why. Miss Lovegood had always performed well in her classes, but as students didn't begin human transfiguration until N.E.W.T level, Minerva had sincerely doubted the girl had cast the antlers upon herself. Yet here she seemed prepared—no, eager—to make the attempt.
"Professor?" asked Miss Weasley.
"Pardon?" Minerva blinked away her reverie.
"Do you have a coin I could borrow for the trick?" Miss Weasley was looking up at her shyly but expectantly.
Minerva patted down the pockets of her robe and was disappointed to find them empty.
"Not immediately to hand, but why don't you come in," she said, stepping back and motioning her students into her office.
As she walked toward her desk, she waved her wand and Vanished the stack of parchment and student records that lay there, and then pulled out her wooden chair and sat.
"Have a seat," she said, pulling out a desk drawer and searching for her coin purse. She withdrew a small copper Knut and held it out to Miss Weasley, who took it in her left hand.
"Watch carefully," said Miss Weasley, a bit of drama in her voice. "I'm going to Vanish this coin without using my wand." Minerva watched as the girl closed her right hand around the coin and squeezed it. She blew on her fist a couple of times, and then opened her fingers wide to reveal… an empty palm.
Miss Lovegood gasped, and even Minerva couldn't help but grin wide. Miss Weasley beamed with pride.
"I can conjure it back without a wand, too," she said. She held out both her palms to them, demonstrating that they were empty. Then, she closed both her fists, blew on her right palm, and opened it to reveal Minerva's small copper Knut.
Miss Lovegood clapped, and Minerva joined in.
"Well done, Miss Weasley," she said, grinning. "And nonverbal spellcasting at that! I think that warrants a ginger newt apiece," she said, opening her desk drawer again and pulling out a tin of biscuits. "Two if you'll show us how you did it."
They each took a Newt, including Minerva, and watched while Miss Weasley explained to them the Muggle art of misdirection. "They call it magic," she said, giggling through a bit of ginger newt.
"Where'd you learn to do it?" asked Miss Lovegood. She'd seemed a bit disappointed that her friend could not, in actual fact, Vanish and Conjure a coin without a wand or an incantation, but she'd watched the explanation with rapt attention and was now attempting the trick herself.
"Fred and George showed me a few years ago," said Miss Weasley. "They had to. I started crying because I thought they were going to get expelled for doing magic outside Hogwarts. They can do all kinds of tricks with coins, and cards, too." She giggled. "They like to try to impress the Muggle girls down in Ottery St. Catchpole."
Minerva pursed her lips and raised her eyebrows to hide her smile. "And do they?"
"Do they what?"
"Impress the girls?"
Miss Weasley and Miss Lovegood collapsed into a fit of giggles. Minerva thought perhaps she couldn't encourage them, but after all, it was Halloween. Seeing Miss Weasley laughing uncontrollably after the girl's trauma of the previous year—that was her treat.
"You know, I think they do," said Miss Weasley, who was now hiccoughing through her mirth. "I heard one of them say their tricks were just like magic."
And just like that, they were giggling again, and this time, Minerva even joined in.
Once the girls' laughter finally died down, Minerva shooed them out of her office, insisting they finish up their trick-or-treating in time to change for the Halloween feast.
After they were gone, she conjured the Vanishing essays back onto her desk, but not before picking up the Knut that Miss Weasley had left behind. She sat back in her chair and tried to tuck the Knut into the soft flesh between her thumb and forefinger like Miss Weasley had shown her. Then she made a loose fist, allowing the coin to fall into her fingers.
She chuckled to herself, and the sound of the girls' laughter rang in her head, warming her from the inside out.
Just like magic.
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