A/N This is actually a middle chapter of another story I am writing, Predictions, Misconceptions, and Transfigurations. I thought I would polish it up a bit and post it separately as a teaser for the longer story.

Albus stirred as the woman beside him rose from the bed. "Minerva? Something wrong?"

"Nothing. Go back to sleep." She replied kissing his cheek.

Partially opening his eyes he noticed her don his extra dressing gown. "Are you leaving?" he asked.

Just a glance out the window at the moonlit night told him it wasn't the usual time she returned to her own rooms to get ready for the day. As head of Gryffindor House, he needed to spend nights in the tower. Since they had become lovers, it had become their custom to share his bed even on nights, like this one, when they hadn't actually made love.

"I will be back." She graced his cheek with yet another kiss before gently commanding him, "Go back to sleep."

"Where are you going?" Her reticence was intriguing the sleep from his mind.

"I will be back shortly. Now really, must you make a production of this?" The edge of sharpness in her voice betrayed her nervousness.

"Yes, my dear. I fear I must." Albus sat up against the headboard to better fight the waves of sleepiness. "When you refuse to answer such seemingly simple questions and wear that expression, I cannot possibly contain my curiosity. So again I ask, where are you going at this time of night?"

"What expression is it that I am allegedly wearing?" shot back Minerva furrowing her brow.

"Ah, yet again you evade my question, my dear. If you don't wish to tell me where it is you are off to, you need only tell me to mind my own business." While attempting to keep his tone as light as possible, he could not help an inward sigh. Much as he adored the young woman before him, he could not help feeling exasperated by her at times like these.

He vaguely recalled her getting up like this earlier in the week. Another man might have suspected her of being on her way to meet another lover, but Albus knew better than to have such doubts about her devotion even if they never spoke of it openly.

There was likely a very innocent explanation for why Minerva was planning to head out at this ungodly hour. Perhaps she suddenly recalled leaving exams out on her desk where passing students might see them in the morning or neglected to feed the grindylow she was planning to use in next week's classes.

It wasn't so much that he doubted her intentions, as it was that he wished with all his heart that she would open up to him more. He longed to know the events in her past that had transpired to make her so uncommunicative even about the simplest things.

He had tried many times over the years to gently broach the subject, but she always seemed to shut down towards him when he did. He had some suspicions from encounters with her parents years ago and the little interaction he had had with her in her very brief stint as a Hogwarts student. Alastor Moody was more than willing to supply what he had learned of her in the line of duty, however, given Alastor's firm conviction that Minerva had been sent by Grindelwald to destroy Dumbledore and Moody's theory on Fawkes' immense dislike of Minerva...

Not to mention, he shuddered to think of Minerva's reaction were she to find out he had gone behind her back. No, he would never violate her trust in him that way. He would content himself waiting for more of the rare occasions when she opened up on her own.

"Have the combined years of sitting in on Binns' classes and staff meetings granted you the ability to sleep with your eyes open or are you going to answer my question?" asked Minerva in the particular sarcastic tone Albus had decided long ago meant she was nervous or being evasive or both. Truly astounding the number of variations on a sarcastic tone the woman could produce -

"Albus? My expression?" she prompted.

With twinkling eyes he replied, "Well.." after clearing his throat he continued, "as near as I can describe it...you had the proverbial look of the child caught with her hand in the cookie jar."

After giving him a rather piercing look, which he didn't quite understand, she spoke. "I wasn't particularly hungry at dinner," Minerva began. The tentativeness of her voice did not at all match her expression.

Knowing it would not bode well for him, he resisted the urge to point out that she was never very hungry at dinner. Indeed, the house elves had brought the matter to the attention of both Headmaster Dippet and himself several times and prevailed upon the two to find out if their were alternative dishes that might better suit her.

On one occasion, they had even gone to the trouble of bringing Minerva's finished dinner plate to the Headmaster's office. When the quiche was reassembled and the various side dishes hidden under it were returned to their proper piles not a bite was missing.

Of course the elves never brought the matter up directly with Minerva. Indeed, if she even suspected that they were observing her that closely, she would have - how had she put it? 'Hex them into next week.'

Even before that Albus had noticed Minerva's nightly habit of filling her plate with a respectable amount of food, slicing it into bite size morsels, loading it onto her fork and managing to never actually maneuver it anywhere close to her mouth. Had he not intimate knowledge that her form was trim, but not unhealthily so, he would have been concerned. Instead, he deemed it Minerva's way of following the letter of Armando's request she attend dinners, if not the spirit.

"Now, I feel like searching for something to eat." She finished just as hesitantly.

"Ah, I see." said Albus. "A trip to the kitchens for a midnight snack as it were."

"Something of that nature." She agreed still in that unusual tone.

Happy in the knowledge that she had deemed to confide in him, he rested his head back down on the pillow. In doing so, he missed the pink hue gathering in her cheeks.

"I noticed you didn't care to sample much at dinner this evening. Might I recommend the goose liver or -" Stifling a yawn, he mumbled a suggestion for chocolate cake into his pillowcase.

After a moment of no response, he heard the click of the door. He closed his eyes, but try as he might sleep eluded him. Whether it was the lack of the soft, warm form resting against his chest that he had become so accustomed to in the past few months or that his own suggestion of chocolate cake was too powerful, he couldn't be sure. After many long minutes trying to fight the urge, he decided to yield to defeat.

He summoned his dressing gown and headed out the door.

Arriving in the kitchen a short time later, he was surprised to find it deserted. Looking around it was impossible to tell Minerva had ever been there. No dirty plate or glass, nothing out of place. Not too surprising he supposed. Given how Minerva had steadfastly refused to allow house elves into her chambers perhaps she did not want to leave traces of her presence in their domain.

Of course he hadn't realized that he had taken so long to decide on a trip that she would already be finished with hers. And odd that they hadn't crossed paths in the halls, though there were many different routes one could take to get here he supposed. In his haste to see her again, he had taken the quickest one.

Still not really wanting to be apart from Minerva any longer than necessary, he carried a slice of the marvelous chocolate cake and a glass of milk back to his rooms. He couldn't help but grin, already anticipating the arching eyebrow and the twitching corners of her mouth as she struggled to hide a smile at the sight of him eating cake in bed.

Opening the door as quietly as possible while attempting to juggle the plate and glass in one hand, he was again surprised to walk into a deserted room. Setting his things down on a side table, he began to consider another reason why it was impossible to tell Minerva had been in the kitchens - because she hadn't been to the kitchens.

With growing concern, he began to consider the possibilities. What force or forces could have kept Minerva from her destination? Surely no harm had befallen the young lady within the confines of the castle. He knew by virtue of her lineage she had innumerable enemies, but Hogwarts had many enchantments in place to protect its inhabitants. Besides, Minerva was hardly defenseless herself.

A powerful young witch, upon her appointment as a professor, she displayed a mastery of curses, jinxes, and hexes that surpassed Grindelwald himself - a fact not surprising given Grindelwald had taught her all he knew. Indeed times and prejudices not being what they were, she would have been training aurors at the Ministry of Magic. But as it was the usually placid Headmaster Dippet had needed to plead, demand, lie, bribe, and even threaten the Board of Governors before they had agreed to offer her a position at the school.

Pressed by his astounded Deputy to explain his actions afterwards, Dippet's cryptic response was "When I am but a portrait upon a wall in your office, I should greatly like to be able to say I did all I could to ensure in our coming time of need Minerva will have cause to fight valor unbending against the forces of darkness from whence she came." A powerful Seer, Dippet often spoke of times to come.

So much to Albus's consternation, her knowledge was most often displayed upon the students in her classes. Oddly enough, this seemed only to endear her to them. Even stranger, the enjoyment the other members of the faculty seemed to take from it. Certainly Professor Janus' pleasure could be taken as his usual hatred towards everyone not himself. As a former dueling champion, Professor Flitwick enjoyed the challenge in attempting to determine exactly which archaic old spell, intriguing combination of everyday hexes, or newly invented spell she used.

Surprisingly Madame Pomfrey didn't mind it either as the students never ended up in her wards. When requested to Minerva always countered the spell, but took points from the student. Since points were taken from the whole house, the students had quickly learned to suffer through the hexes without complaint and work together to reverse them.

Given none of the students were willing to complain, as Deputy Headmaster Albus had felt the need for action. With a chuckle, he recalled his unsuccessful confrontations several years earlier with an unyielding Professor McGonagall. Eventually he had felt it his duty to bring the behavior to the Headmaster's attention.

After Armando had performed the counter spell to the jaw binding jinx, Dumbledore had been greatly annoyed to discover Dippet was already aware of the young Professor's actions. Indeed with something akin to mirth, he reminded Dumbledore that it was after all Defense against the Dark Arts class and what better way to learn than practical application. Besides Dumbledore had to agree in an attempt to save house points, it was providing an invaluable lesson in cooperation between the different year students.

As for the jaw binding jinx being used on a fellow professor...well as Dippet so graciously reminded him, it was an improvement on her student days. Dumbledore had blushed remembering.

After allowing the young girl to sleep through her first day of Transfiguration class, the second day Dumbledore had insisted on waking her from a very sound slumber at her desk so she could just 'try the beetle transformation.' Being as she was asleep when he handed out the buttons, perhaps he should have either been more clear with the directions or more sure she was awake before asking.

Unfortunately she never noticed the button in front of her and so Dumbledore spent several hours in a glass jar eating leaves. Not an entirely unpleasant experience really, except the Riddle boy kept tapping the glass. Minerva had simply curled back up in her seat and returned to her cat nap. Repeated doses of mandrake potion often have a drowsiness effect on the recipient, but at the time it had been the only way they could keep her from reverting to her animagus form.

Once she had woken up on her own, Dippet had convinced her to return the Transfiguration teacher to his proper form. Dumbledore readily attempted to take the blame for the incident, but Dippet insisted that the girl's Transfiguration time slot would be better filled with a class she hadn't already mastered. To this day Albus was left with a lingering fondness for salads and the knowledge it truly is best to let sleeping lions lay.

So after gaining assurances that Dippet would at least suggest to Professor McGonagall that she save jinxes that would interfere with a student's ability to learn in other classes for the end of the day, Dumbledore had left the Headmaster's office feeling if not victorious, at least like he could move his jaw again.

No, Minerva was certainly anything but helpless. Likely her delay was something much more mundane. Students out of bed or some damage caused by Peeves. With that thought he summoned his chocolate cake and sat down to properly enjoy it.