Disclaimer: Anything you recognize belongs to J. K. Rowling. I'm merely imagining things.
Author's Note: This story is the result of a challenge issued by minervafan over at Live Journal in reaction to an absurd poll on Fiction Alley (http/ It was also inspired by "Calendar Girls", and a little slip of the robe in "My House in Umbria".
It was Friday night at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and Professor Minerva McGonagall was enjoying a little piece of heaven in the form of Sidney Scathach's Salacious Single Malt Scotch (despite the name), after a long hot bath. Sitting in front of the fire in only her dressing gown, she let the remaining tension of a day filled with accident prone students, harried staff, and Headmaster who would put her copy of the school budget in his candy drawer, ebb from her body. She was just about to reach for her book when she heard a knock at the door. Sighing, she rose and crossed the room swiftly, expecting some sort of student crisis, real or imagined. However, when she opened the door she was instead confronted with the smiling countenance of Professor Pomona Sprout, and the glowering one of Madam Rolanda Hooch.
"Good evening Minerva," Pomona began. "Sorry to barge in here without notice, but…"
"Read this," Rolanda handed Minerva a piece of paper as she strode across the room and collapsed unceremoniously onto the sofa. Pomona plunked herself down as well, opening then rummaging through the rather large bag she had brought.
Minerva read, "Which Professor should stay clothed?" Under that sentence was a list of names, hers and Pomona's included. "Where did you get this?" Minerva asked quietly – too quietly.
"In the locker room," Rolanda growled, "and when I find out who is responsible, I'll hex his or her broom personally!"
"I don't see your name here," Minerva pointed out, as she returned to her seat in the armchair.
"No, but my friends' are," Rolanda responded with warmth.
"This is obviously nothing more than a prank dreamed up by a few students who are unhappy with their latest exams," Minerva asserted, though she continued to look rather balefully at the offending parchment.
Rolanda shook her head. "I don't think so. If you read between the lines you'll see a definite prejudice against anyone of a certain age or body shape." Minerva looked skeptical. "I mean look at this – 'old lady boobs'! First of all, a 70-something witch is middle-aged, not old. But even if you were, what's wrong with 'old lady boobs'? My grandmother has a great rack!"
"Perhaps these particular students have never met your grandmother," Minerva suggested with a grin.
"That's not the point and you know it," Rolanda was exasperated. "What's obvious here is that we need to do something about the influence of certain Muggle publications in this school!"
"Minerva," Pomona chimed in, "have you ever seen Muggle women's magazines?"
Minerva snorted. "A Muggle magazine article was the reason Miss Thomkins was in the Hospital Wing yesterday," she reported. "The child was trying to move her eyebrows up half an inch!" She picked up her glass, then continued, "Last month Miss Wilson had to be brought there because she nearly blinded herself trying to remove the natural creases around her eyes!"
Pomona nodded. "Miss Harrison made a so-called 'Weight Loss Elixir' from a recipe in one of those ridiculous publications," she told them. "She thought that using the magical versions of the ingredients listed would make it that much more effective," her voice shook as she spoke the next sentence. "If I had arrived ten minutes later than I did, the girl would have died."
All three women stared into the fire for a few moments, lost in thought, before Minerva ventured, "I have been teaching for nearly forty years, and even with the grain of salt one must always take with teenagers, it seems to me that there is a significant portion of Muggle culture devoted to a sort of subliminal subjugation of women." She took a long drink before continuing, "Are Muggle men really that narrow-minded? Or are there a few very powerful ones who are imposing their tastes on all the rest? And why on earth do Muggle women put up with such nonsense?"
"It's not just the men," replied Rolanda darkly. "Many of these magazines are headed up by women."
"You're joking," Minerva was appalled, "You cannot possibly tell me that any woman, Muggle or Witch, would willingly participate in her own enslavement!"
Pomona sighed. "It's true, I'm afraid. Just as we have a small group of Witches and Wizards trying to impose their twisted ideas and ludicrous prejudices on the rest of us by any means necessary, there appears to be a small group of Muggle men and women who are quite successfully imposing their rather two-dimensional ideals of beauty and desirablility upon innocent young people."
"It doesn't stop with the youngsters, though," Rolanda reminded her. "I've heard of grown Muggle women who inject horrible substances into their blood, or have doctors put jelly balloons in their breasts. There's even some sort of operation that stretches the wrinkles out of their faces, but leaves them looking like different people."
"All in an effort to look like the women in the magazines?" Minerva was quite shocked.
"The thing is," Pomona informed them, "the women in the magazines don't even look like that." She leaned forward for emphasis. "Mr. Creevey, whom I'm sure you've noticed is very keen on photography, told me that these magazine people do something called 'air brushing', where they simply remove things like wrinkles, freckles, stretch marks, moles, or what-have-you from the photographs."
"In other words," Rolanda concluded, "they're shoving an ideal that doesn't even exist down the throats of impressionable young people, who then grow up to perpetuate it."
"Well, it will not be perpetrated here," Minerva announced, "not while I have any say in the matter."
"What do you propose we do, ban Muggle publications altogether?" Rolanda wanted to know.
Minerva shook her head, "Of course not," she replied with a snort. "We'd be no better than Dolores Umbridge."
"You know, I've always thought that Muggle Studies should be required rather than elective," Pomona offered thoughtfully.
"I agree," Minerva responded, "only we should expand the course to include all non-wizard cultures." She shuddered. "In the last year I have seen more bad decisions made as the result of sheer ignorance than I have seen in fifty years."
"Well, what are we going to do while we wait for the curriculum to be re-vamped?" Rolanda demanded.
"What do you suggest?" countered Minerva.
"Photographic evidence!" Rolanda's eyes were shining. Minerva looked puzzled. "These young pranksters," Rolanda retrieved the parchment from Minerva and brandished it, "have obviously never seen an attractive woman over the age of twenty-five or over the weight of one hundred twenty-five scantily clad, much less naked in all her glory. So," she tossed the parchment onto the side table. "I suggest we show them what they've been missing."
"And how do you propose 'we' do that?" Minerva's voice had become very quiet again.
As if on cue, Pomona took from her handbag the largest and most complex-looking camera Minerva had ever seen. "With this," she beamed. "State of the art and hexproof!"
"Surely you're not suggesting that we…expose ourselves?" Minerva gasped.
"Certainly," Pomona began fiddling with a knob on one side of the camera. "I'll take a picture of you tonight, and my husband will photograph me when he returns next Friday."
"It's not like we're asking you to stretch out on your bed and pose…" Rolanda began.
"That's what I'll be doing," interjected Pomona, who was now fiddling with a knob on the back end of the camera.
"We thought maybe you could sit at your dressing table or something and comb your hair while wearing just your dressing gown – only leave it untied, you see," Rolanda was speaking very quickly now, in an effort to get it all out before the impending explosion. "Pomona here will merely snap away while you do it. Something interesting is bound to pop out, so to speak, and that's the one we'll drop."
"Drop?" was all Minerva could manage.
"That's right," Pomona took up the narrative. "I'll develop the film and drop one, and only one, print in the Hufflepuff common room. Don't worry," she held up her hand as Minerva opened her mouth to protest, "I will track it and put an anti-duplication charm on it, and if the photograph leaves the building it will burst into flames. After about eight hours it will disintegrate of its own accord. By that time the H.R.C.C.S. will be in full force anyway."
"H.R.C.C.S.?" now it was Rolanda's turn to look puzzled.
"The Hogwarts Rumor and Contraband Circulation System," Pomona explained with a grin. "Miss Bones came up with the name last year. Such a clever girl!"
"And what if the Headmaster sees it? Or the rest of the staff? What if one of the school Governors stops by for a visit?" demanded an incredulous Minerva.
"I imagine it will give their libidos a welcome jump start," Rolanda surmised.
"You could say that you had no idea that your lover had actually printed that picture," offered Pomona.
"I don't have a lover," Minerva retorted through gritted teeth.
"You might, after this," Rolanda observed with a grin.
"Then I'll say that someone was obviously using one of these lenses," Pomona pulled what looked like a small club from her bag, "from the fir tree outside your window."
Perhaps it was the scotch, or the slight sting of the personal insult in the poll, or perhaps it was the all-too-recent memory of yet another girl injuring herself while attempting cosmetic "improvement". It might even have been a combination of all these things. Whatever the reason, after more camera-fiddling on the part of Pomona, and some scene setting from Rolanda ("Well we need to have you angled toward the window if the fir tree story is going to fly") Minerva found herself seated in front of her dressing table, gown unfastened, and hairbrush in hand. "Now what?" she asked, feeling a bit nervous.
"Have a healthy swig of that stuff and start brushing," Rolanda answered encouragingly.
Minerva felt quite awkward at first, even after the suggested swig. However, the rhythmic motion of this nightly ritual soon began to relax her, as it always did, and her mind began to wander a bit, flitting easily from one subject to the next, away from the busily clicking Pomona, until she was almost in a light trance. It was at that moment that Rolanda's voice interrupted her thoughts, "Honestly Minerva, you're either going to have to lower your necklines or tighten your robes," Minerva looked up, confused. "Tracts of land like you have should be displayed, not hidden behind high collars and loose fabric," Rolanda finished appreciatively.
"She's right you know," Pomona observed as she began packing the camera away. "And if I had legs like yours all of my robes would have slits up the side."
Minerva blushed. "Well, if I don't get called on the carpet for this," she decided, closing and tying her dressing gown again, "I'll let you two take me wardrobe shopping."
Rolanda grinned. "You might end up on the carpet…" she began.
"Rug burns are nasty though," Pomona grimaced, "unless it's bearskin, of course."
Blushing again, Minerva shooed them both towards the door. "I think you had both better leave before I change my mind," she warned them, though she was still smiling.
"We'll keep you posted," were Pomona's last words as the two conspirators merrily exited Minerva's chambers.
Minerva's final thought as she shut the door was, What on earth have I gotten myself into?
To be continued…