A/N: Many of my regular readers know my pairings can get a little bit… strange. This is one such piece. I checked the archives and it seems to be one of a kind. Reviews would be handy, I need to know if this is anything close to good.
It was always inevitable we would see too much of each other once her children were being educated at the school.
In the days of Charlie and Bill her visits were few, the odd parental meeting for a brief commentary on their progress during which I resolutely kept up the stern façade. Certainly, Arthur never saw through it but as I had always suspected, Molly knew there was more to it than the Transfiguration teacher being as tough as house-elf skin. Of course, the way I refused to meet her gaze in any circumstance was probably more telling than I intended it to be.
Percy, naturally, was an excellent student. Then Fred and George came along.
I have never had to discipline two pupils to such an extent. It irritated me that they had brains hidden on their shoulders if they would just deign to use them yet I spent a good percentage of my time hosting detentions for the pair of them. And, of course, at some point I had to have a serious talk with Molly about her sons' progress.
As it happened, the meeting was scheduled for a Thursday afternoon, one of my delightfully free periods. At breakfast, however, I received an owl telling me that Arthur was on an urgent call- something to do with barking teacups if memory serves- and though he couldn't attend Molly would be grateful for our discussion to go ahead.
If I had an ounce of the self-restraint I'm celebrated for displaying I would've sent a return stating it was best to see them both together. The idea was irresistible though, a chance to make eye-contact without blushing in sight of her husband. I thought she would freeze or explode at the very notion of my innermost feelings so I resolved that, as ever, it was going to be a gazing-from-afar exercise, something I had become rather good at.
She arrived in my office by Floo Powder at precisely two-thirty. Though uplifted by the sound of her arrival and the small noise that followed, I barely glanced up from my parchment. 'Your timekeeping's improved, Molly.'
'Has it? I thought I was late again!'
Unable to resist a small smile, I put down my quill and finally looked at her properly for the first time since she had become Mrs Weasley.
Her hair was older, the sparkle was almost dead but gleaming faintly, hoping to escape, no doubt; the lines around her eyes were more pronounced than I'd ever though possible yet, I told myself sternly, I looked much the same, if not a hundred times worse. Time… It was a great stealer, we wizards notice it more than Muggles because, manipulate it as we do, it always catches up with us in the end.
Molly glanced pointedly at the chair opposite my desk and though I was a little slow on the uptake, I eventually said, 'Oh, sit down, please.' As she did, I took the opportunity to rearrange my parchment and my face. 'I'm sorry Arthur couldn't be here.'
'No matter,' she said darkly. 'I'm sure he'd want to congratulate them rather than punish. So, what have they done this time? It isn't the dancing cat again, is it?'
Reminded of Mr Filch's glare when Mrs Norris had tap-danced into the Great Hall one morning, I yet again smiled slightly. Apart from being completely against every rule in the school it was a fine piece of spellwork. 'Their behaviour has got worse I'm afraid. They seem immune to the effects of detention, even the, erm, discouragement given by Professor Snape seems to have little impact. I'm at my wits end with them.'
'Are you expelling them?' Molly asked quietly, looking up and meeting my eye in a pleading manner.
'Heavens, no!' My reaction shocked even me so I hastily amended it with, 'That is, not at the moment. Fred and George are as capable as Percy, I've seen Transfiguration from them that I would be hard pressed to find in a third-year, it is the attitude. They don't seem to think they need an education. Now, I realise this isn't coming from home…'
Molly, whose head had been sinking, glanced back up immediately. 'What?'
For the first time I understood where she felt I was placing blame. 'Molly, you don't seriously believe I hold you responsible?'
'As their mo…'
'Poppycock!' I interrupted scornfully. 'If I remember correctly, my mother had as little control over me as Severus does over the Giant Squid. Not that it mattered in my case…' Realising the beaten path was being strayed from, I cleared my throat and returned to the matter at hand. 'I cannot, nor do I want to, keep shielding them from higher power. At some point their ways are going to catch up with them and I'd like to think I'd done my best to prevent that happening.'
'What do you want Arthur and me to do?'
'Permit me to exercise some of my own methods of control.'
Molly smiled, the lopsided grin I pictured whenever my thoughts wandered to the Weasleys. 'Minerva, you have my blessing and more.'
For a few seconds I maintained the unexpected eye-contact then I sank back into my seat, determined that I should at least delve into her life since she was in my office. Her shoulders visibly relaxed as she saw the official part of proceedings was over. 'How are the rest of the family?'
'Oh, you wouldn't believe it!' answered Molly with much of the gusto I recalled from her own Hogwarts days. Being a trainee teacher while she was in school had certainly left me with a memory or two. 'Ginny's finally persuaded Arthur she's old enough to ride a broom, heaven knows why he agreed! He's too soft, that's his trouble. And Ron! All he wants is to get here, he's missing Fred and George, though he'd never adm…' Slowly, she trailed off. 'I'm sorry, you were being polite.'
The look that had spread over my face as she rambled had obviously been misinterpreted. Hastily, I replied, 'I assure you, I wasn't.'
Instead of continuing though, a frown I couldn't decipher- even with my decades of experience- adorned her features and suddenly she got to her feet. 'I should be getting back. I wasn't sure who to leave in charge of who!'
The laugh was strangled yet my mind froze against any form of reassurance; that was out of my region of expertise. I sat silently as she took a handful of Floo Powder from my tin on the mantle. She stepped into the fireplace and held up her fist, knowing I should at least finish the conversation with an air of cordiality. 'It was good to see you. I only hope that next time it is under better circumstances.'
'Well, I'm sure…' Again, the voice faded and the flame-haired woman simply nodded and threw the Floo Powder at her feet. The green engulfed the figure and I sank back into my seat.
I felt like a fool.
For nigh on thirty-five years I had kept my ridiculous emotions in check and there I'd gone and scared her off in an instant. If I'd only waited until Arthur could attend…
Three weeks later I cursed my own mind for thinking I could control Fred and George with a few unseen hexes and charms. It was forbidden, naturally, and yet it was the only possible way I could think of to keep Molly from putting blame on her own head. My logic was that if the boys began to be targeted by some mysterious practical joker then they might see the error of their ways. While it is apparently brilliant fun to suspend someone by their ankles it possibly is not to have it done to you. Though it didn't work I did find the experience liberating, something I shan't ever reveal to anybody.
The inevitable had happened. I had owled the Weasley residence for an urgent meeting and Arthur could not attend yet again. This actually suited my purpose- I needed to persuade Molly to join me in a little experiment and she was more likely to agree without Arthur nearby- though my old heart fluttered at the idea.
When she arrived this time I was waiting for her on the hearth, with the thought that all my desk had done before was create a boundary between us. However, when Molly barrelled out of the fire (I didn't dare to ask why she'd obviously jumped in at the other end) she staggered into my arms, meaning an unprecedented reflex action on my part as I caught her. 'Molly!'
'Whoops!' Catching her balance she stood upright, not letting go of me completely. 'Sorry about that.'
Faintly, I shook my head. 'No matter. Are you alright?'
'Oh, fine, fine.' Her bright hair was floating around her face, perhaps still suffering from the journey, while her clothes showed obvious stains. 'I had a bit of trouble getting away, that's all.'
'If you couldn't make the meeting, you could've owled…' I offered, quite weakly as a matter of fact. I would've been sincerely disappointed had she done that.
She looked up, allowing me to see a dash of grime on her nose, probably due to the fire. 'Well, it sounded important. You said Fred and George…'
'Yes,' I said, glancing away from the smudge which was just begging to be wiped off. 'I'm afraid my plans didn't work as well as I hoped.'
'And you're expelling them?'
'You always jump to the worst conclusion, don't you, Molly?' Losing my battle, I wet my finger slightly and rubbed away the black dash on her nose. 'Sorry, you had a spot of ash…'
She seemed startled by the touch and finally appeared to realise the bodily contact between us. Pulling back onto her own two feet, she smoothed down her unruly green robes. 'You better tell me what you what.'
A few minutes later I had explained my plan. 'It isn't strictly in accordance with the rules, you know.'
'You're the last person I expected to try something like this,' she answered with a renewed look of wonderment. I suppose I was behaving very unprofessional, it was reckless even. I'd be in great trouble with the Ministry if they ever discovered what I'd done to get the twins back on the straight and narrow. 'But how did you…'
'I'm an Animagus, Molly. Use your imagination.'
Her lip trembled ever so slightly, making me aware of her nervousness- as though I hadn't been before! She was the unwilling accomplice; Arthur would've enjoyed the farce but Molly was far too upright. Rather like myself. Perhaps that suddenly struck her because a smile found its way onto her face. 'When do we do this?'
'There's no time like the present, I always say,' I replied, taking up my quill and jotting a swift note onto a piece of parchment. 'Fifteen minutes should be enough preparation time. I warn you, it won't be pleasant, Molly.'
'Don't worry, I know.'
Raising an eyebrow, I looked at her. 'You do?'
She went pink. 'I took some for a dare once.'
'I'll have to ask you about that sometime.'
Ten minutes later, in the privacy of my private bathroom, we raised our vials in a toast and swallowed their contents whole. Immediately, my stomach protested, forcing me to drop the glass and hang my head over the sink in an ungainly fashion. Molly went for the lavatory.
A few seconds later I had recovered enough to step back and observe the latter parts of my change, namely the puffing out of my face that occurred as I glanced into my wall mirror. A vision I had never wanted to see, especially not in this context. Turning to look at Molly I found she had at least turned into what passes for a pleasant Minister. She too was examining herself over my shoulder. 'Now I remember why I hated this the first time.'
Thankful her voice was still Molly's I smiled. 'All in a good cause. We've only got an hour though, we should get back to my office.'
'They won't suspect with the meeting being there?' she asked anxiously.
'I'm the head of their house, it's not unusual for Ministerial meetings to take place there.'
'You do this a lot then?' Molly questioned, the traditional twinkle evident in her voice.
Declining to answer that, I led her along the dim corridors back to my office. Fred and George were waiting outside with, I was happy to note, matching worried frowns on their faces. Remembering to alter my accent I said, 'Nice of you to be punctual, boys. With your record it's rather a surprise.'
One of them replied, 'Well, we didn't want you talking to our mum did we?'
Beside me, Molly sniffed haughtily- luckily it matched her Ministerial personality. Opening the door, I indicated for the boys to take the seats I'd set up by the fire. 'I'm assuming you know who we both are?'
'Ministry personnel was all we heard,' the other twin said as they sat down.
Once Molly was seated beside me I said, 'I'm Dolores Umbridge, this is my fellow Minister, Amelia Bones. Can you please tell me which of you is Fred and which of you is George?'
'I'm Fred,' the boy on the left said quietly.
I looked to Molly for confirmation and she nodded ever-so-slightly. Getting back to business, aware of the time restriction, I entwined my fingers in a way I'd seen the delightful Umbridge do on several occasions. 'Were you aware your behaviour had come to the attention of the Ministry?'
'What behaviour?' George asked innocently.
'I advise you to be truthful. It'll bode much better for you in the long run.'
'Okay,' said George.
'Alright,' said Fred. 'We've been a little bit…'
'… Unruly lately,' George continued. 'But it's not like we put charms on Professor McGonagall's chair or anything…'
'…It's not as if she sat down onto a croaking chair. That would be terrible.'
Sensing the questioning gaze directed towards me I glanced at Molly and nodded once. 'That would be a terrible thing to do to your head of house.'
'Old McGonagall won't mind, she likes us…'
'Does she really, Mr Weasley? I've always found 'old McGonagall' rather annoying personally.'
'Oi, we won't have a word said against her, we won't,' Fred said sharply, causing my mouth to battle with a smile. 'Best Transfiguration teacher Hogwarts has ever had…'
'…Or will have. And if you're wanting inside information on how to take over the school…'
'…We're not going to tell you, however much better off you'd be with our knowledge of this place.'
The last statement startled me slightly but apart from that I was glowing with the sense of pride that only Hogwarts students could instil. To my left Molly was obviously struggling with the pretence of being Amelia Bones, I distinctly saw her wipe something out of her eye- no doubt she'd later try to pass it off as a smidgen of fairy dust. Recalling who I was supposed to be I cleared my throat. 'Mr Weasley, I have never heard such ridiculous accusations in all my life.' They were far from ridiculous with Fudge at the helm and Dolores Umbridge as his power-hungry colleague. In a few years they would try to interfere, of that Albus and I were in no doubt of, though, of course, the Weasley twins did not need to know that. 'We are here to unofficially warn you about your behaviour. It will not be tolerated.'
'This school belongs to Dumbledore, not you,' said George. 'You can't do anything.'
Beside me, Molly leaned forward. 'Boys, I wonder if your father mentioned we're friends.'
'Friends?' Fred repeated dubiously. 'No, he never mentioned that.' Unless I was completely mistaken they were rattled.
'I'd hate for this to get back to your parents. I know how hard they work to afford your education, there's not a day when your father isn't in his office. I sometimes think he sleeps there.'
'Sometimes he does,' said George quietly.
'Here's the deal, boys,' she continued. 'You modify your behaviour to reasonable and your parents won't be informed of any incidents. Is that understood?'
They both nodded and I smiled triumphantly. 'Right, you may return to your lessons.'
Without a word they left. Looking at Molly in the guise of Amelia I held out a hand to help her up. 'Well done.'
She took my offer, sending an electric shock through my fingers, so much so I refused to let the hands part when she was on her feet. Again I was being a fool but with the cover of Dolores Umbridge I didn't feel so vulnerable. 'It was a team effort.'
'Yes,' I admitted with a cursory nod. 'I must say, I never thought of them as territorial, not about the school at any rate.'
'They're a breed apart! And the things they said! Was it true about the croaking chair?'
'Oh, yes,' I said, wincing slightly at the recollection. 'I'll never be able to transfigure them again after that experience.'
'I'm sorry, Minerva,' she said, half-laughing and half-seriously. 'I don't see why you've done this for them really. It would've been easier to break their wands and have done with it.'
'Well, I didn't do it for them.' Watching her gaze turn from apologetic to questioning, I added, 'It was more because of you.'
'Me?' she repeated nervously. 'What do you mean?'
'Molly, do you remember when you were at school?' I plunged ahead, regardless of the consequences. 'When you were in your final few years I was training for the post of Transfiguration teacher. I spent a lot of time with the N.E.W.T classes.'
'Of course I remember,' she answered quietly. 'Where are you going with this?'
Despite her tone, I carried on. Too many years of withdrawing had led to a recklessness I hadn't been aware of before. 'I spent hours watching you, admiring you from a distance. I mean, what I'm trying to say is… I'm in love with you, Molly. I have been ever since I first laid eyes on you. I could tell you the exact moment.'
She stared at me and as the effects of the Polyjuice Potion began to slide away from my body I saw them mirrored in her face. Gradually she turned back into Molly Weasley, the one and only.
We were still touching. With one pull backwards I attempted to break the connection but she wouldn't allow it. 'I'm sorry, I shouldn't have told you.'
'What was I doing?' she finally asked, her eyes meeting mine. 'When you first saw me?'
Unsure where this was leading I answered, 'You were in the Great Hall, watching the Sorting Hat. I could hardly miss you with your flaming hair but there was something else… I wish I could explain it.'
'All this time?' she asked. 'And you didn't think to tell me?'
'How could I? You met Arthur, you were happy.'
'Happy? I was married with children before I could contemplate the word.'
Slowly, my mind picked up on what she was saying. 'What did you see when you contemplated the word?'
'You,' she said simply.
Looking into her eyes I saw the old Molly, the one I had fallen in love with all those years ago. It wasn't the downtrodden housewife and mother, it was the vivacious woman who could knock anyone, man or beast, out of her path. 'I've been a fool.'
'Yes, Minerva,' Molly answered, cupping my cheek and miraculously drawing me closer. 'You have.'