The Bake Sale

Set in the Summer before Harry's Sixth Year

Disclaimer: I am a writer. However, where these characters are concerned, I am not THE writer. Harry Potter and all his friends, enemies, sidekicks and situations belong to JK Rowling, she of the genius that everyone wishes was hiding in their mental cupboard under the stairs as well. And, if she wants THIS situation, it's hers as a gift. The rest of you must ask.

Chapter 1: Morning Meeting

Albus Dumbledore was a gentle soul, with kindly blue eyes that sparkled and twinkled and laughed with an ease so practiced it usually looked like the only expression he had. His voice was soft and patient, his smile the very image of helpful forgiveness. He dressed like a party, with half-moon spectacles for decoration. Though his long nose was extremely crooked, a legacy of his misspent youth, he moved with a calm serenity that could restore peace to any situation.

So it was perfectly understandable, when Dumbledore stalked into the staffroom looking as though he had swallowed a thundercloud and was about to spit lightning, that everyone in the room jumped up from their accustomed places and huddled together as far from him as they could get. As he paced back and forth at the front of the room, inanimate objects within his reach cringed, and the portraits of former professors muttered to one another. So powerful a wizard was Albus Dumbledore that a faintly pulsing white nimbus was fully visible surrounding him as he muttered quietly to himself and things that he brushed past jerked and fizzed and turned into other things.

The staff strained to hear what he was muttering. Had Lord Voldemort finally found a way to reach Harry Potter? Had another traitor emerged in the secret anti-Voldemort movement? Had someone stolen his teddy bear? "I'll bake sale him. Arrogant, pompus, self-aggrandizing, over-inflated TWIT," they heard.

Oh. Cornelius Fudge. The lame-duck Minister of Magic was obviously on his way out and he was straining to make his last few weeks or months in office as uncomfortable for everyone as possible. His offensive public questioning of Dumbledore's methods, his threats, his loaded suggestions, were at best offensively prying and at worst offensive. The Hogwarts staff wondered what he had done to the Headmaster this week. As Dumbledore's muttering and stalking continued, they nudged each other and tried to coax one another into asking.

"He likes you," Madam Hooch suggested to Minerva McGonagall.

"Not THAT much," Dumbledore's Deputy denied. "Severus, you do it - he NEEDS you."

"He might forget that, under the circumstances," Snape decided finally.

The whispering continued until finally they had managed to bully the half-giant Care of Magical Creatures professor into stepping forward.

"Oh, go on Hagrid, he wouldn't hurt you," snapped McGonagall.

"He couldn't hurt you," said Filius Flitwick, and everyone nodded although they secretly doubted it. If anyone could, it would be Albus Dumbledore.

Finally, with a resigned sigh, Hagrid stepped forward and cleared his throat. "Professor Dumbledore, sir?" he said. The ancient wizard ignored him. "Erm... Headmaster? Sir?" The stalking and muttering continued. "Professor!" Hagrid bellowed, seeking Dumbledore's attention in the same way he might call a frazzled hippogriff.

The Headmaster stopped pacing, turned, and rounded on Hagrid, his eyes wide and his long white beard wild. Everyone gulped and fought the urge to duck.