He had looked like nothing so much as a blond angel on the day he had sat on her desk and told her she was beautiful, and tempted her.
She had gaped at him, for once completely out of answers. She had been the Transfiguration Professor at Hogwarts for five years, and thought she'd seen everything there was to see of student behaviour. Until that moment when everything changed.
Until then it had been just an ordinary day. Young Mister Malfoy – well, not so young, in his Seventh year and supposedly beyond such foolishness – had landed himself in detention by a remarkable display of insolence in his Transfiguration class. She bore with it as long as she could, the display was so out of character for the usually charming Slytherin, but after a particularly vicious crack at the young witch next to him she snapped.
"Ten points from Slytherin. And detention this evening, Mr. Malfoy!" Her voice sliced the very air in its sharpness.
A completely composed Lucius Malfoy inclined his head toward her and simply murmured, "Delighted, Professor McGonagall."
Even a few years ago Minerva McGonagall would have had his head off his shoulders for that; but the years of teaching had taught her that a slanging match with a student did nothing to increase her dignity. She ignored his comment and turned her attention to the rest of the class. Therefore she did not see the baffled looks shot at Lucius from several other Slytherins; nor did she see his contented smile.
She armed herself with some first year marking after dinner and made her way down to the Transfigurations classroom. Lucius Malfoy was there, waiting for her as she swept in.
She placed the marking on the desk and turned to him. "Well, Mr. Malfoy," she began. "Do I need to tell you that your display this afternoon does no credit to either yourself or your House?"
A slight shake of his head was her only answer. But on his lips there played the slightest shadow of a smile.
She knew immediately that a lecture would do him no good; all she could hope for was that the tedium of detention would bore him sufficiently to ensure that his inexplicably bad behaviour would not recur. "I keep my classroom neat enough already; and Filch is currently out of tasks for students to carry out. Therefore your punishment is to be something I usually reserve for recalcitrant first years; lines, Mr. Malfoy. For the next hour you will write 'My behaviour today was inexcusable, and I regret it deeply.' Hopefully the message will sink in. Take a seat; you may begin."
She sat herself behind her desk and pulled the stack of marking towards her. Glancing up she realised he had not moved. "Well, Mr. Malfoy? Are you lost?"
He smiled at her. She blinked, disconcerted. What was the boy smiling about?
Then he coolly moved toward her, sat on her desk, and said, "Are you aware, Professor McGonagall, that you are beautiful?"
She gaped up at him, completely nonplussed. His hand reached out toward her face, but did not make contact.
"Yes," he mused. "Something about your face; strength and courage, defined in your jawline," she could feel the increase of warmth in the air as his hand lingered near her chin, "and in your eyes, there too. But there is something else in your eyes, a remoteness that says you've been hurt and a vulnerability… a vulnerability in your mouth…" and his fingertips gently brushed feather light against her lips.
She stood up so fast her chair fell backward. "How dare you!"
"Why shouldn't I dare is perhaps a better question." He had not moved from her desk, sitting comfortably on its edge.
"Mr. Malfoy, you are completely out of order." Her voice was low and dangerous. "This sort of behaviour is intolerable."
"Probably," he admitted, that soft smile still on his face. "But when was the last time someone told you the truth of yourself?"
"It's no concern of yours! You are a student here at Hogwarts, Mr. Malfoy – at least, you are at the moment, though that might soon change! And I am your Professor, and such things are no concern of yours!"
"Yes, you are a Professor here at Hogwarts, my Professor, and a gifted one. Extremely talented, highly intelligent… and completely wasted."
Her eyes narrowed. "To be a teacher at Hogwarts has always been my highest ambition, Mr. Malfoy. I will not allow you to denigrate it."
"Then it was a foolish ambition." The boy moved almost lazily from the desk and came gracefully towards her. Too close; she took an involuntary step backwards and hated herself for showing the weakness. His smile grew slightly wider.
"You spend your days surrounded by children and doddering fools. No one to see you for who you are; no one to remind you of your beauty, no one to truly respect you for the power you wield." She had moved so far that her back now touched the wall. "Your days are spent trying to put wisdom in place of ignorance; and in all but a few you are doomed to failure, since only a few prefer the harder path of wisdom to the ease of uncaring."
"Those few are what make it worthwhile," she said through gritted teeth. She was furious; she did not have her wand; and he was so close she could almost taste his breath. His hands rested lightly on her wrists, and his long body was only inches from her own.
He voice was a low murmur. "But are they enough? Only a few to understand what you can do – yet you are strong enough, wise enough, to deserve that acknowledgement from all."
"I've never sought that kind of acknowledgement. I don't want it."
"Are you so sure of that, Minerva?" His eyes held a comprehension that a student should not have. "To be the greatest witch of your generation; to have power and knowledge more than most of our kindred could dream of; and yet never to have the respect which should come with it, to be deemed fit only to pound knowledge into uncaring skulls… It is a waste."
He lifted his hand to her face; she flinched back. His fingers gently toyed with a strand of hair that had escaped her bun. "And you are beautiful, Minerva McGonagall; beautiful in the way you move, beautiful in your voice, beautiful in your strength, your intelligence, and in your power. Beauty which will be wasted here in Hogwarts, where you hide it among children and men too wrapped up in their own petty pursuits to notice it. Beauty which you will take with you, night after night, to a narrow spinster's bed, until one day even your beauty will fade, and you will wonder in anguish why you spent it so poorly."
She could not move. The words he spoke… She had never thought… but…
His eyes half closed as he brought the strand of hair to lie against her cheek. Slowly his thumb stroked its softness. The trailing warmth lingered on her face like a brand.
"It is not enough, Minerva. For you, for everything you should have, you cannot tell me it is enough. To beauty and to power true homage must be paid."
He moved even closer. A tiny gap to reach across, and their lips would meet; she would kiss the angel and be lost in the light…
She surprised herself with the strength with which she slapped him. He staggered across the room, his grace lost for a moment. He clasped his hand to his suddenly aching jaw and stared at her in amazement.
"Beauty and power?" Her outrage rang clear in the three words. "Is that all you believe in, Lucius Malfoy? Then I have failed as a teacher indeed."
"What?" He was obviously as stunned as she had been only a few moments previously.
"You have your priorities all wrong, Mr. Malfoy. Beauty and power are nothing. As you so helpfully pointed out, beauty fades – and power can always be taken away.
"I am not beautiful." She said it simply. "And I have never sought power. All I have ever wanted from life I have here at Hogwarts. Friendship and understanding."
"Puerile nonsense!" he spat. "Can 'friendship' and 'understanding' equal the heights you could scale? You deserve -"
"No, I do not. And I do not want it. All I want I already have here." Minerva looked at him calmly. 'And the heights are cold places, Lucius Malfoy. I prefer the warmth."
She gestured with her hand towards the door. 'Your detention is over. You may leave."
He strode to the door, and then turned. "You do yourself wrong, Minerva McGonagall. You have beauty; you have power; and you will spend your life here in this self-inflicted prison, wasting both. At the very end, you will remember this moment – and wish your answer had been different."
He stared at her, waiting; but the only response he received was from her hand, pointing again at the door.
Now as she stood in the Wizengamot's Circle she watched him sitting in the chained chair and remembered how he had looked on the day he told her she was beautiful, and tempted her with power - and she understood how Lucifer could be painted with the face of an angel.