Disclaimer: No infringement is intended. Only using for personal amusement.
Summary: Minerva has begun to suffer from a side effect of her animagi form. Unfortunately, the one man whose help she desperately desires is avoiding her. What to do? With Headmaster Dippet's timely intervention, Minerva and Albus discover that the direct approach is usually the best and only solution. Complete
The empty seat at the high table drew at least one concerned glance. Headmaster Dippet narrowed his eyes at it willing the chair to reveal the whereabouts of its usual occupant.
"That chair has sat vacant at far too many meals lately." The remark was made to no one in particular, but because he was sitting to Dippet's left side, Albus Dumbledore heard both the remark and the reproving way it was spoken.
"Minerva informed me last week that she had started working on her lesson plans for next year and -"
"Albus, I know how dedicated she is but no one, I repeat no one, needs to do lesson plans this early. The Christmas holiday has only begun. She has the entirety of summer to complete it." Dippet poked at his lamb chops.
"She has meals delivered to her quarters. She is not starving herself of that I am sure."
"Be that as it may, after our meal, go see to her well being personally."
"Perhaps, one of the female professors would be a better choice."
"You are my deputy and I order you to seek her out."
"I ... I should not ... I mean, what if it were some female affliction, Armando?" Dumbledore's voice took on a light airiness that did not fool Dippet at all. "I, a lifetime bachelor, would know nothing of such things."
"You evade badly. If you are to be headmaster, that is a skill you need to cultivate." Dippet took a roll and began to butter it. "You might as well confess now, Albus. I will ferret it out of you eventually."
"There is nothing to confess to." Dumbledore protested.
"Ever since the start of this year I have noticed that you limit your interactions with Minerva to the barest minimum required of you as both my deputy and as a fellow teacher." Dippet poured himself some pumpkin juice. "Quite the departure from your behavior when first she began here a year ago. As I recall, you were then the model of solicitousness and courtesy."
"You are accusing me of dereliction in my duties?"
"No, never" Dippet turned in his seat to face his deputy. "I am, however, curious to know why your hackles are raised at the very mention of Minerva. Do not waste breath, energy or time denying it."
Dumbledore did not reply for a time. Dippet patiently waited him out. The high table slowly emptied as the other teachers went about their day. Soon, the headmaster and deputy were left sitting alone in the massive hall. Dumbledore looked around once verifying that there was no one around.
"It is not my hackles that are raised. When I see her, my ... my body comes alive. It is nigh near uncontrollable." Albus brooded over his goblet of juice. "The longer I am in her company, the more violent my need becomes."
Despite the shock that Dumbledore's words evoked, Dippet found voice enough to encourage him further. "Go on."
"Albus of the Light that's what people call me. Little do they realize I am not so pure of thought where Minerva is concerned." Albus looked at his friend and superior. "I am afraid that I will do something rash - compel her to be with me, force her to lie with me. I could have her do anything I wished leaving her with no memories or scars to endure thereafter. It would be so very easy."
"These uncontrollable urges started just this year?"
"Yes." Dumbledore's voice lowered to a whisper, wistful and soft. "When first I met her, I thought her very attractive. She is an impressive woman by all convention. The more we worked together the more I admired her. I had even thought to speak to her of a more formal acquaintance. I wanted to court her properly."
"And what did she say to that?"
"I did not have a chance to ask her. If you recall, I was called away before the end of last term." Dumbledore slammed his goblet down. "What choice did I have but to go!"
"Yes, the bothersome gnat called Grindelwald."
"When I returned at the end of summer, she was gone from here. I heard through mutual friends that while visiting her family, Minerva admitted to having a suitor. A suitor significant enough to warrant a serious courtship."
"I recall now that I did hear some gossip about that."
"It is not gossip. It is quite serious. The word in her family is that a wedding is being planned for this summer."
"According to one of her cousins, who my brother Aberforth knows of, Minerva said repeatedly that her mind was finally settled. Her mother is said to dote on her eldest daughter. It is she who has spread the news of this suitor to anyone who would listen."
"An engagement has not been announced. Minerva does not behave as one affianced and -"
"Armando, when first she discussed her lesson plans with me, she said that she wanted to prepare her plans in the event that another teacher had to take her classes." Dumbledore shook his head. "That can only mean that she intends to accept the marriage offer, if she has not already done so. I expect this term to be her last here."
The two men sat silently each one lost in their own thoughts. The headmaster stood up and put a reassuring hand on Dumbledore's shoulder. "I understand, Albus. I will see to Minerva myself."
"Thank you, Armando." Dumbledore slowly rose to his feet.
The two left the hall. They parted later as Dumbledore went to his rooms to brood while the headmaster went off to find Minerva. As they parted, Dippet's mind pondered his deputy's situation. He had known Dumbledore as first his student, then as his fellow teacher and now as a trusted friend. Dippet had often wished that the younger man had the reward of a woman's love as compensation for all that the wizarding world asked of him. It seems that was not to be.
He found Minerva in her office. He knocked once then twice but heard no answer. He knew she was within as the portrait hanging by her door had said she was inside. He tried the doorknob and found it unlocked. He opened the door and stepped inside. The sight that greeted him was one he would remember all his days.
A hellacious fire roared in the fireplace. The room was stiflingly hot. On a rocking chair, legs under her, sat Minerva McGonagall wrapped in a thick woolen plaid blanket. She was surrounded by stacks upon stacks of ancient books. Her dark hair hung in a loose plait down her back. A tray of food lay undisturbed on her desk. So intent was she on the thick book in front of her that Dippet's entrance went unnoticed until Dippet cleared his throat loudly.
"Headmaster!" Minerva exclaimed. "I didn't hear you come in."
"You were rather engrossed in that book." Dippet narrowed his eyes and read the title of the book Animagi Connections : Studies and Theories. On the spine of the book he spied the author's name - Keirana McGonagall. "Something you want to tell me, Minerva?"
"Despite the inferno raging in that hearth, your cheeks are red and, even from here, I can hear your teeth chattering."
Minerva closed the book. She frowned in concentration trying to decide on a course of action.
"You have not dined with us and no one has seen much of you this holiday. I grew concerned." Dippet gestured widely at the fireplace and the books. "Then I find this."
"It isn't what it looks like."
"You are not at death's door?"
"Hardly. I am poised on the gates of paradise." Seeing the headmaster's curious regard she motioned for him to take a chair and sit down. "Let me explain."
"Before we start, please lower the fire. I can barely breathe for the heat." Dippet summoned a house elf for a large pitcher of water.
Minerva doused the fire. The elf returned shortly. Dippet settled into his chair expectantly. Minerva wrapped the blanket tighter about her. "As you know transfiguration skills run strongly in my family. But even stronger is the potential for animagi transformation, more so among the females. We are predisposed to becoming animagi almost from birth. Those of us who pursue that path become highly attuned with our animagi selves. As we age, the influence extends even to our human bodies."
"Preternatural senses and the like?" Dippet asked.
Minerva nodded. "For males the changes are beneficial - faster reflexes, heightened instincts. But for females, the influence is rather more personal." Minerva stopped and took a long breath. "Human beings have control over their more basic drives. Animals less so. Nature rules them in all things especially when it comes to ... to reproduction and the instinct to survive."
Minerva paused letting her words impart their implied meaning to the headmaster. It took less than a minute for the message to be understood. Armando's head swivelled left to right from Minerva, to the fire and then to the books. The pieces of the puzzle were fitting together far too neatly now. Cats reproduce when ... when the females experience the heat. Merlin! She's in heat. That is why she's getting married. He could not quite meet her eyes. He was the headmaster and for him to think of his staff in any sexual connotation was bad form. "Minerva, you should be in bed, I mean, in your rooms to ... to -"
Minerva smiled. "According to my mother, I am close but the condition is not upon me yet. I'm having alternating periods of chill and heat which is a precursor to the full heat. I expect the worse later tonight."
His voice came out an octave higher than usual. His face was red with embarassment. "Should not your fiance be here to uh, ah, give you his attentions? Is he expected later today?"
"Fiance?" Minerva asked blankly.
"The rumors said that you were getting married."
"That is rather premature seeing that I don't even know if the man I do want will have me." Minerva said ruefully. "Let me set your mind at ease, Armando. This condition will pass. It is not fatal merely uncomfortable and embarassing. I will simply confine myself to my quarters for a day or two. I will be fine, you'll see."
"You are not to be married then?"
"For what reason would your mother spread the news about your impending nuptials?"
Minerva clasped her hands on her lap seemingly nervous. "This past summer I began to have strange symptoms. I consulted with my mother. She informed me that, in the females of my family at least, when the female meets the man who is in all ways her equal or match, the heat cycle is triggered. The cycle slowly builds over a few months. It's all instinctive you see. The person is hardly conscious of it until the heat truly begins to be felt. Once I told her my symptoms, my mother was ecstatic. You have no notion of how long she has despaired of seeing me wed. She would not listen when I insisted that there was no man who had expressed any interest in me. No one at all but I had wished ..." Her voice trailed off into silence.
The wheels inside Dippet's head were whirling madly though his face showed only impassive calm. "Were the man whom you desire to express his interest, would you allow ... like to have his, ah, erm, help?"
A delicate blush filled her cheeks. "I could not turn him away. I would need him too much."
"Tell me true, is Albus the man you desire?"
"Am I so transparent?" Minerva stood up suddenly. She turned to stare at the fire. "To my regret, I want him. By his actions of late, he has made clear to me that he does not return my interest. He avoids me and, when we do meet, his gaze is indifferent, his words without warmth."
Dippet rested his head in his hands. "Children, my children, what am I to do with you two?"
"Pardon?" asked Minerva perplexed.
"Return to your rooms, please." Dippet stood up and walked towards the door. " I will send Albus to you shortly. I ask only that you hear him out."
"I will not BEG for his ... his affections just to ease my condition!"
"Minerva, place your trust in my hands, you will not be the one doing the begging. His feelings for you are far from what you perceive them to be. On my word, I will not mention your condition to him. That is for you to tell, if you so choose." With that the headmaster swept down the long corridor humming a happy tune. This will have a happy endings one way or another. Sometimes a person has to be shoved off the tower before he can learn to fly.
A few minutes later, Dumbledore opened the door to let the headmaster in. Dippet rushed in chattering as he went. "Albus, put on your best robes. Be quick about it. We will have to pass by the gardens and get some flowers first."
"Robes, flowers, what are you on about?"
Dippet looked him up and down critically. "When was the last time you trimmed your beard? The dark blue robes you had on at the opening feast should do."
"Armando! What are you doing?" Dippet grabbed Dumbledore by the arm and led him into the bedroom.
"I am making you presentable! That is what I am doing." Dippet threw open the wardrobe and began to rummage inside.
"I don't remember any Ministry functions scheduled for today." Dumbledore murmured. "The calendar is clear I'm sure of it."
"If you speak your words favorably then you may find yourself quite occupied." Dippet pulled out the dark blue robes and matching inside shirt. "Go change into this and quickly. Go!"
Ummoved by Dippet's urgency, Albus crossed his arms defiantly. "What is all this about?"
Dippet looked at his friend, exasperation won out over any other expression on his face. "In a few minutes you are scheduled to pay court to a fair lady."
"I cannot replace Minerva with some other woman as easily as I can snap my fingers! What kind of man do you think I am?"
"A wise man who will not let another opportunity slip through his fingers." Dippet replied. "Listen to me. Minerva is not engaged and never has been."
"But ... but Aberforth said -"
"She is anticipating a very specific suitor. That suitor is you and none other. In truth, you have been in her thoughts most of the summer." Dippet grinned. "Get dressed and go to her. You two have much to discuss."
In record time, Albus had bathed, trimmed his beard and put on fresh robes. His long strides were quick as he covered the distance to Minerva's quarters. He paused in front of the door to gather himself. He clutched a bouquet of flowers in one hand.
Armando gave his shoulder a squeeze. "Good favor smile upon you, Albus."
"You are certain about her feelings for me?" Quickly, Dumbledore wiped the perspiration from his brow. Never in all the perilous situations he had ever encountered, could he remember being this nervous. "If you are not, tell me now before I make a fool of myself entirely."
"Talk to her, Albus, go on."
Albus knocked once. A smiling Minerva opened the door dressed in flattering robes of pale lilac and cream. She presented an altogether fetching vision. "Hello, Albus, headmaster."
Dippet cleared his throat and said in a formal tone, "This young man has come to make his intentions plain. Will you welcome his suit?"
"I would be honored." Minerva held out her hand. Albus took her hand and kissed it. "Come in."
Albus advanced and was through the door when he noticed that Dippet was remaining outside the door. "Er, Armando, the rules say that the first visit must be chaperoned."
"True that is the first rule but I am afraid I have other matters to attend to at this time."
Albus spared a quick glance at Minerva then turned beseechingly eyes to the headmaster. "I ... we really ought not to be left alone. Something untoward may happen. I would have nothing mar Minerva's reputation."
"I thrust my reputation into your hands with complete confidence, Albus." Minerva looked innocently at him. "Do we truly need a chaperone? We are after all both adults."
Minerva did not wait for an answer. Instead, Dippet found her door closing shut. The last thing he heard before the lock clicked into place was Albus saying, "It's a bit hot in here, Minerva."