Disclaimer: Hogwarts and all associated characters belong to J.K. Rowling. We're only borrowing them for a bit and will attempt to return them unharmed.
Chapter 1: We Gods and Goddesses
"It is with great honor that I introduce the future Headmaster of Hogwarts to all of you tonight, but first a few words about Professor Dumbledore are in order. No doubt many of you know of his famous victorious battle against Grindelwald. He single-handedly saved our world through his bravery, and intelligence…"
Albus Dumbledore fought the urge to roll his eyes at the Ministry official's last comment. Quietly withdrawing his wand, and making sure no one could see him, he sent a message to the woman sitting behind him.
Minerva McGonagall, future Deputy Headmistress, was ready to walk out of this ceremony. The only thing that kept her from snorting at some of the chosen phrases was Albus. Before she could mentally apparate away his note appeared in her lap.
I'm sorry, my dear. I could have sworn you were fighting with me at that battle, but alas it seems as if I did it all by myself. Your name shall not appear in the history books. Pity.
Minerva covered her mouth in a counterfeit cough as she laughed, and just as quietly withdrew her wand to send her friend a note in return.
Let me shed a tear over my lost fame, and your increase of it. Oh what did he just say? I could have sworn it was twelve uses of Dragon's blood, must be my poor peon's mistake…what were the last five your lordship? Should I curtsy when I enter your presence now?
"Professor Dumbledore has shown kindness and generosity of the greatest magnitude to those lesser than wizards and witches in his time, which many feel is to be commended and it certainly speaks to his inner character. Albus Dumbledore is a great man…not just of power mind you, but of strength, wisdom…"
Albus had to use his plethora of self-control not to laugh at the last comments, and Minerva's note. How he did love her humor. Minerva was waiting when the second note arrived.
You will not only have to curtsy, but kiss my hand when you enter a room and leave. I am a saint according to this man; do you think I could be made one? Or a god, perhaps. Would you celebrate my day, and bring me sherbet lemons as gifts?
Minerva lifted her eyes and cursed that she couldn't make eye contact with Albus, but in so raising her eyes she found a new target to tease him on. For in the crowd were a few overzealous women who were waving, winking, and smiling at Albus.
I'll try to remember that, why don't you hold your breath and see if your death or my kiss reaches your hand first. (Then I could be Headmistress…) As to virtually worshiping you…I believe there are a multitude of women here who would die for the chance. Perhaps we could start a competition, and watch them kill each other over you. The one to your right in the pink likes you a lot, not sure she is your type though. Looks a bit porky, but I am the mere Deputy, what do I know?
Minerva was disgusted at the way the women were trying to get Albus' attention, but she was quite happy to have new ammunition with which to tease him. She forced her mind to return to the official as she waited for Albus' third note.
"As a Hogwarts Professor, Dumbledore, has shown he can successfully juggle the demands of the school and that of our world. Why since he has been on staff he has earned: 152 awards, 58 honorary degrees from top Universities…"
Albus made the mistake of raising his eyes after reading Minerva's note, and almost groaned as he saw the women. This was why he hated the selection process so much. He could still recall the article in the Dailey Prophet, and how it had mentioned he was the most eligible bachelor close to one hundred times. The porky one was definitely not his type, and how many awards had he won? Albus was getting tired of this ceremony, and it had only just begun.
She is most definitely not for me. They have added many honorary degrees…are there even 58 wizarding Universities from which to receive them? Last time I counted I had eight, and they were collecting dust in a box in the attic with my old Hogwarts robes. The competition sounds promising; will my future Deputy be competing? And what shall it entail? Oh, any ideas for a speech. By the sounds of things I've got longer than I thought to come up with one.
Minerva had been counting the universities in the Wizarding world, and had only been able to come up with eight when Albus' note appeared on her lap. She quickly replied
I've only come up with eight myself, too bad. It seems you are not as loved as they think you are, whatever shall the world do? As to the competition I suggest: a duel, a test of knowledge, a time for all those competing to tell something negative about the other, and I'm not sure after that. I will most certainly not be competing! I will help you judge, you cannot survive a day without my advice…oh my it seems my point is well received on the topic of your speech. Just thank some people, speak fondly of Armando, and talk some about your plans. I might start charging for my services.
"Now it is my great honor to introduce a good friend of Professor Dumbledore's: Lillian Hedgecock. Madam Hedgecock attended Hogwarts with a young Professor Dumbledore, and has remained a close friend of his till this day. Please join me in welcoming…"
Albus was disappointed that Minerva would not compete, but her commentary would be most enjoyable. As to this woman…he couldn't remember her to save his life.
It grieves me greatly to find you shall not compete for my heart, but perhaps when I am made a god you will consider me. As to the person now speaking…I have no clue as to who this woman is. I mean none. When will my torture end? Promise me, Minerva, when I am dead that you and only you will speak over my grave! Keep it short and sweet. Let me help you: "Albus was a dear friend, a great man, and achieved his lifelong dream of having a candy named after him (I'm still hoping for this one). I will cry every night that he is not here, he was the best friend I ever had."
Minerva actually rolled her eyes, but smiled faintly as she read his latest note. She replied a little slower because she was listening to this woman proclaim about Albus' wilder moments at Hogwarts. She knew for a fact he had never been in the lake in the summer, much less the winter as she claimed.
You must have been a naughty boy, because someone is punishing you. However I fail to see why I must be punished too; by association I assume. I expect a raise! As to what to say over your grave, how about: "He was insane." That would be short, and I could say it sweetly. I'll even smile, just for you…of course you won't be here to see it.
Albus was not even paying attention to who was speaking now; his interest had been long lost.
You have been very naughty, that is why you are stuck here tonight with me. See it does not pay to work all the time, if you had goofed off you would not be the future Deputy and you would not be here. Of course, I could be dead from boredom by now so I am glad you are here. Misery loves company you know. Let's play a game: a Muggle one called I spy. I describe something and you guess what it is. I spy…a dark haired witch, wearing green, with rectangular spectacles, and her lips are pursed so tight you can't see them. Guess who?
Minerva narrowed her eyes at Albus' latest note, and zoned out on Mr. Zichum as he spoke of Albus' adult years.
The road to purgatory must be paved with good intentions…I'll slack off this year so you can do all the work! You can't see me, you old coot! I spy a crackpot old fool, who has too many pretend friends. Why do you have to be so old? This guy knew you when you were twenty. I will actually have a gray hair before I leave tonight. Guess who?
It's not my fault that I'm old. Why are you so young; and I resent the term crackpot old fool! To think my employees speak to me this way, it is a disgrace! Forget a raise, will you have your job once this ceremony is over?
I better have my job. As to your employee, not yet I'm not so I'll use what little time I have left wisely. It looks like you are up soon, good luck. Remember to smile, and speak clearly and loudly.
"Ladies and Gentleman it is my esteemed honor to introduce you to Headmaster Albus Dumbledore."
The applause was deafening as Albus stepped up to the podium. He looked fully around him, and was lucky to catch Minerva's eye. He winked at her, and then began his speech.
"My fellow colleagues, friends, and distinguished guests, thank you very much for all of your kind words. I fear many were too kind, but I thank you. I want to acknowledge my friend Armando Dippet, and the outstanding job he did as Head of Hogwarts. It was a pleasure to work with Headmaster Dippet, and I only hope I may be half as good as he was.
"I want to thank the Board of Governors, and all those in the community for their support during the past year. It was greatly appreciated. I, also, want to thank the staff for their support, and I would like at this time to announce that Minerva McGonagall will serve as my Deputy. Minerva will you please stand.
"Professor McGonagall has been an invaluable help to me in the past months during our transition. She is an extraordinarily excellent Professor, and no doubt she will be what keeps Hogwarts running. I am only too happy she accepted my offer for the post, and I will enjoy working closely with her as we shape our school. Thank you."
Minerva was only too grateful when the applause stopped, and she could sit down. She was going to hurt Albus for that, he should have warned her.
"I want to instill in Hogwarts a tradition of acceptance for all of our kind, and I look forward to working with Muggle parents who have magical children. I want Hogwarts to continue to shine as the greatest of the magical schools, and I can only do that with your help. I look forward to working with each of you in the future as we prepare our children for that wonderful ride of life.
"I hope we can instill in them the values of knowledge, bravery, loyalty, patience, and cunning that distinguishes the great founders of the school. Thank you once again; it is my honor to accept the position of Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry."
Albus stepped down from the stage and took his seat again, shaking hands with the Minster and the other officials gathered on the dias along the way. Before he sat, he caught Minerva's eye and smiled at her, but she was frowning at him. As soon as Albus was seated again, the Ministry official resumed the enchanted microphone.
"Thank you, Professor Dumbledore. Now, I'm sure you would all like the opportunity to congratulate the new Headmaster in person so if you would all adjourn to the next room refreshments will be served and we will all have a chance to mingle. Thank you." He stepped down from the dias and lead the way into the next room where house elves had been working diligently to set up the tables heaped with snacks and a bar in every corner.
The crowd surged forward as one many footed beast, talking loudly and excitedly. Queues formed at each table and every bar and for several minutes the chatter dimmed as they filled their plates and glasses. Albus was finally able to speak face to face with Minerva, an opportunity that made him happy for the first time all evening.
He smiled and caught her by the elbow, steering her out of the flow of hungry and thirsty guests. "Well, how did I do?" he asked.
She sniffed, "You should have warned me that you were going to make me stand up like that!"
Albus chuckled, "Ah, but we gods and goddesses must share the spotlight. Seriously, though, Minerva you have always been a great help to me and I know that without your assistance I could never run the school. These Ministry blowhards may not wish to give you the credit you deserve, but I always will."
Minerva blushed under his praise and tried to think of a witty reply, but her opportunity was stolen by a small pack of women who swooped in and whisked Albus away without so much as acknowledging her presence. She was forcefully reminded of a flock of predatory birds and her mood darkened immediately. For over an hour Minerva watched every single woman in the room fawn over Albus, flirting with him, getting him drinks and snacks, batting their eyelashes, hanging on his every word, in short simpering like fools. She was disgusted and not for the first time in her life embarrassed to be a woman, it was women like these who gave the entire sex a bad name and Minerva resented it.
Albus, for his part, felt intensely bored and, worse, harassed. All he wanted was for the function to end so he could go back to Hogwarts, to the peace and quiet of a school during the summer holidays. There, he could have a few sherbet lemons, talk to Fawkes, and hopefully have a game of chess with Minerva. Thinking of Minerva made him wonder where she had gone, he hadn't seen her since they entered the room over an hour ago and would have much preferred her company to that of the women currently throwing themselves at his feet. He had never appreciated the abundance of attention that was given him in the wizarding world, especially from the women who wanted only to be seen on his arm or to be famous by association.
As Minerva continued to watch Albus and his admirers discretely over the rim of her cocktail glass, she grew angry. She could see that her friend was uncomfortable and knew him well enough to know that he hated these Ministry affairs almost as much as he hated the attention afforded him for being "a hero." The combination of the two must be driving him crazy and Minerva wanted to rescue him, but she knew she would never get through the wall of women surrounding him. She sighed and ordered a second drink, moving to another corner of the room. By flitting from corner to corner she had managed to stay somewhat invisible and avoid all the small talk she despised. Everyone she talked to had only wanted to praise Albus or hear details of his private life from her, details she refused to give.
As the second hour, and thankfully the entire event, came to a close Minerva's annoyance had grown to a surprisingly high level that even she did not understand. The Ministry officials announced the end of the ceremony and most people began moving toward the exits, stopping to shake a few hands on the way out. She was accosted a few times by people wishing to congratulate her on the promotion to Deputy Headmistress and gave the required polite thanks, but she was looking for Albus. They had planned to travel back to Hogwarts together as both were spending the summer there. Looking around, Minerva realized that he was still trapped near the back of the hall with one very persistent woman. It was the large woman in pink she had noticed during the speeches and Minerva had to stifle a laugh when she thought about how much the lady in question resembled the portrait guarding the Gryffindor common room. She made her decision and crossed the room in a few quick strides.
"Excuse me, Professor Dumbledore? There is someone waiting outside who needs to speak with you." Minerva turned to the other woman, "If you would excuse us please." It was not a request and only marginally polite, made as she took Albus by the arm and began walking away. She was confused to realize that she had suddenly felt protective of her friend and oddly spiteful toward this stranger.
Albus was relieved to see Minerva and to get away from Miss Oates, but he was also dismayed to hear he had to suffer through yet another conversation. Leaning down, he spoke quietly into Minerva's ear, "Who is it that's waiting for me?"
She smiled slyly at him, "No one at all, I just wanted to take you back to the school where I could have you all to myself again. Or did you wish to finish your conversation with the fat lady?"
He laughed, "She does look extraordinarily like the Gryffindor guardian doesn't she? And no, I do not wish to speak with her any longer. I can never thank you enough for rescuing me, my dear. Let's hurry home before anyone else stops us."
"Oh, I'm sure you'll come up with a way to thank me," she countered. "In fact, I intend to be sure you do, but first let's get out of here."
"Right behind you," Albus agreed and they apparated together back to the gates of Hogwarts. "Ah, silence," he breathed as they walked up the hill toward the grand front doors of the castle. "The elves should be finished moving our things by now; can I interest you in a game of chess in my new office or do you have to go inspect their work in your new rooms?" he teased her with a grin.
Minerva swatted him playfully on the arm, "I'm sure they did a fine job and I have all day tomorrow to move anything they may have misplaced. A game of chess sounds lovely."
"Wonderful!" Albus exclaimed as he looped her arm through his and lead the way to the stone gargoyle that guarded the entrance to the headmaster's office. "Sugar quill," he said and it jumped aside, revealing a staircase spiraling upwards.
Minerva shook her head at the password. "You do realize that by only choosing the names of candies as passwords people will eventually catch on and be able to break into your rooms, don't you? Even I have been known to run through the gamut of both Wizarding and Muggle sweets when I couldn't remember your password. It always works eventually," she added.
"I have to pick something I can remember," he replied. "As you said, I'm an old coot and as such am likely to start losing my faculties soon."
"That will be the day," she answered as they entered the large circular office.
The elves had done a wonderful job of finding homes for Albus' many possessions. His spindly silver instruments were all whirring and clicking on the many tables and bookshelves lining the room. On said shelves rested his numerous books and journals covering any range of subjects both magical and non-magical, enough to keep a person reading for a lifetime and still not be finished. A cabinet behind and to the right of his desk held the ancient treasures that would forever live in the headmaster's office, remnants of the founders and previous heads, as well as some of Albus' more prized possessions. The chess set had been laid out on a small mahogany table between two deliciously overstuffed armchairs in front of the now cold hearth.
Albus ushered Minerva toward the chairs and summoned tea and biscuits from the kitchens before they began their game. As always, the game lasted for several hours and was complimented by periods of friendly, often teasing, conversation and comfortable silences if one or the other was concentrating on the next move. Just as the large clock hanging between the portraits of the old headmasters and mistresses chimed midnight, Albus called out "checkmate" and the game ended. He looked up smugly at his opponent, reveling in his rare win.
"Well played, Professor," she said crisply. Minerva hated losing no matter what she was doing, but she would never hold it against Albus, she couldn't.
He smiled, "You are a worthy opponent, my dear Professor, and I count myself lucky to have beaten you this time. Now I believe it is time for bed, we have a lot of work to do this summer and I can't have you collapsing from exhaustion now can I."
"I am rather tired," she agreed, stifling a yawn that did not go unnoticed by Albus, who chuckled.
"It appears you are. Allow me to walk you to your rooms?"
"Such a gallant gentleman," Minerva replied airily as she rose from her chair and stretched. "I might perhaps fear for my safety on such a perilous journey and accept your noble offer, but I am in need of some exercise after the torture of this evening and I think I'll make the journey on four legs and at a run. I'll see you at breakfast?"
"Of course," he inclined his head and walked her to the door. "Good night, Minerva."
"Good night, Albus," she smiled at him and slipped out the door.
Within half an hour both professors were snuggled into their large four-poster beds, feelings of happy contentment enveloping both, though neither knew to what they should attribute their pleasant mood.