The Wildcat and the Serpent
Minerva McGonagall marched into the Potions classrooms and headed directly for Severus Snape who was grading papers at his desk. She looked oddly tense, and was biting her lip, causing a trickle of blood to run down her face. As she reached Snape's desk he wordlessly handed her a handkerchief, which she took gratefully and began dabbing at her lips. Harry leant forward over his bubbling cauldron trying to eavesdrop on their conversation but the two were whispering quietly, their faces tense.
He watched as McGonagall kneaded her temples and closed her eyes briefly, her expression pained. Snape placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder and she graced him with a rare smile. Their behaviour was so out of character for the Heads of the opposing houses that the class stood still, their mouths open slightly, potions ingredients held in their hands poised over their simmering cauldrons.
The two Professors seemed not to notice the students surprise and Snape conjured an armchair for McGonagall which she sat down gratefully upon. Harry couldn't quite believe what he was seeing. These two had nearly killed each other a mere three days beforehand, after a particularly volatile quidditch match between Slytherin and Gryffindor, and yet here they were sitting together like the best-of-friends.
"This is weird," Ron whispered into Harry's ear.
Harry could only nod as McGonagall gesticulated wildly and ran a hand through her hair, dishevelling her bun so wisps of ebony hair stood on end. Snape replied by slamming his fist on his desk, looking livid though it was plain that his anger was not directed at McGonagall. His Transfiguration Mistress leant forward and took one of his hands with hers, forcing him to look her in the eye.
Snape looked away childishly, and McGonagall reached upward and took her chin in his hand, moving his face back toward her. Her voice rose slightly, and snippets of their conversation were heard by the eagerly awaiting students.
Severus, I know this is…unexpected, but Albus is adamant.
Is he now?
Don't take this out on me! I know that we pretend to hate each other, but please remember that it's me you tend to come to.
Tell the whole world, McGonagall
Oh snap out of it! The world doesn't revolve around everyone thinking you're untouchable.
I don't think you can really criticise me, Minerva. That is the pot calling the kettle black.
What are you on about?
'The Ice Queen?' 'Stern, ole McGonagall.' Ring any bells?
We're going off track. Albus wants you to meet him in his office after this class is finished.
Snape looked upward and found everyone try to look as if they hadn't been listening in. From the way his black eyes flashed Harry knew his wasn't fooled, but for once he didn't reprimand anyone and returned his attention to McGonagall who was leaning back in her chair, her eyes closed as she covered her mouth.
She sighed deeply and rose to her feet, straightening her back and shoulders. Instantly she looked like stern Professor he knew and respected, any traces of vulnerability vanished entirely. She rested her hand against Snape's shoulder briefly and gave it a quick squeeze. Snape grabbed her hand, and looked for a moment as if he was going to throw it off but instead disentangled his fingers gently.
"Thank you, Minerva," Snape said softly. "For the warning."
Again McGonagall smiled. "You'd do the same for me."
Snape conceded her point with a nod of the head, and she turned smartly on her heel and began to walk away.
"Minerva," he called after her.
McGonagall looked over her shoulder, her eyebrows raised quizzically.
"I'm maintaining that Slytherin should have won," he said, the flicker of a smile pulling at his lips.
McGonagall rolled her eyes. "Keep maintaining then, Severus."
She turned away but had barely put one foot in front of the other when a stream of red liquid shot out from Dean Thomas' cauldron. Her eyes widened dramatically and she pivoted away, though some of the liquid splashed onto her shoulder. The class watched in horror as the potion continued to travel through the air, hitting Snape bodily in the chest. Both Professors turned on Dean who was looking anywhere but toward them.
McGonagall looked back at Snape and her mouth fell open. "Good god," she said finally.
Snape wore a similar stricken expression. "Oh no."
All of the students looked at each other, wondering why the Professors were overreacting so much. McGonagall moved so fast she appeared blurred as she rushed over to Dean's cauldron and began stirring it rapidly, her eyes wide and her nostrils flared as she smelled the scent of the potion.
"Wattlebark," she said, looking over her shoulder at Snape. "Is this meant to be an antidote to Veritaserum?"
Snape nodded as he began to furiously look through a potions textbook he had summoned from his desk.
"Asphodel, powdered chameleon scales, salicylic acid, common mushrooms, cobra fang…" Snape muttered as he read.
"And wattlebark," McGonagall said faintly, leaning heavily against the desk.
They both looked up with identical looks of both horror and resignation.
"Makes a de-aging potion," they said simultaneously.
"How long before it takes effect?" McGonagall asked softly, now bending her fingers back so they cracked loudly.
"I'm not sure," Snape said grudgingly, "Not long. Maybe in the next few minutes."
"Erm, Professors," Hermione said, raising her hand timidly, "What's going on?"
McGonagall turned to face Hermione. "It means that within the next five minutes or so you will have, judging by the potency of this potion, seven-year-old Professors."
Hermione clapped a hand to her mouth at McGonagall's words. Their Transfiguration Professor suddenly let out a shrill shriek and fell to the ground, curling up with a look of pure agony on her face. Snape raced toward her and held her hand, talking reassuringly but McGonagall paid him no heed. As the class rushed forward Snape also started screaming and fell on the ground next to McGonagall, still holding tightly to her hand.
As Harry neared the two Professors gold light began to emerge from them, making them glow iridescent in the dim light of the dungeons. He leant over and tried to touch McGonagall's shoulder to comfort her, but leapt back as his hand burned.
There was a burst of white light that temporarily blinded everyone, and when their eyes finally re-adjusted they all gasped. Sitting on the ground, rubbing their eyes wearily, were two impossibly cute children. Snape it seemed had been bulkier when he was a child, whilst McGonagall was as slim as ever, with hair that reached the small of her back.
"Oh my," breathed Hermione, "This is not good."
McGonagall looked up at the class and backed away hurriedly. "Who are you?" she demanded, her voice as crisp as ever though there was a marked increase in the thickness of her Scottish accent. "Where's my father?" she continued, glaring at the class.
Harry stepped forward and crouched down. "Professor, do you recognise me?"
To his intense surprise McGonagall hissed threateningly and leapt to her feet in a fluid motion, her emerald eyes flashing. "Obviously not," she spat, her voice full of venom, "I wouldn't have asked who you were if I did."
Harry suppressed a grin. McGonagall would have to be the most precocious child he had ever met. He moved forward again and tried to place a hand on her shoulder, but drew back holding his hand which now bore a long, red scratch that ran the length of the back of his hand.
"Well now we know why she has a feline animagus form," Hermione said matter-of-factly, "She's a regular little wildcat." She moved forward past Harry, ignoring the hisses that McGonagall threw at her. Slowly the two circled each other as Hermione tried to speak reassuringly. "Professor," she said softly, "I'm not going to hurt you."
McGonagall faltered, which Hermione took as a cue to move forward more. She let out a cry of pain when McGonagall scratched her face, drawing blood. Her eyes glittered dangerously, and Harry made what he deemed to be a wise decision to turn his attention to Snape who was looking at the scene with wide eyes.
"Hello," he said crouching down in front of his potions master, "I'm Harry. What's your name?"
"Go away," Snape growled, inching away from him.
"I'm not going to hurt you," Harry said moving forward slightly. He reached for Snape's shoulder but was pushed backward by a magical barrier. He looked over to McGonagall who held her hand up, her expression livid.
"Leave him alone," she snarled.
Harry gaped. She even had the audacity to bear her teeth at him.
"Hermione," he said backing away from the two child Professors who both glared menacingly at him. "Is that a normal level of power for a child?"
Hermione shook her head, staring at the seven-year-old form of her favourite Professor. "No. I knew she was powerful, but this, this is nothing short of amazing."
McGonagall was helping Snape to his feet and the two folded their arms across their chests.
"Where's my father?" McGonagall demanded, "I want to see my father."
Harry looked beseechingly at Hermione who shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know what to do here," she said softly so McGonagall couldn't hear.
To Harry's surprise Ron moved forward. "What's your father's name?" he said quietly, not breaking contact with the petulant child. "I might be able to write a letter to him."
McGonagall eyed him warily. "Malcolm McGonagall," she said eventually, "Tell him he needs to pick up Cat."
Ron nodded solemnly. "What about your friend?"
McGonagall's pupils narrowed to slits. "He's not my friend. I've never seen him before in my life. Now take me to my father."
"Okay," said Ron slowly, "But you have to promise not to scratch me."
A raised eyebrow was his response. "How do I know your not lying?" McGonagall said, her voice lacking its former amount of causticity.
Ron shrugged his shoulders. "You'll just have to trust me."
"But I don't trust you," was McGonagall's sharp riposte.
"I would like to see my mother," Snape said quietly, "If that's all right."
Harry's jaw dropped. Snape was being civil! And McGonagall was acting like a feral cat. He shook his head roughly. This day was becoming very long indeed.
He moved forward, stepping around McGonagall who was eyeing him like a wrathful eagle, and gestured for his Potions master to follow him. Snape did so, treading carefully as if walking on glass. His robes were too big from him, and Harry muttered a shrinking charm. Once satisfied, he took Snape's hand and together they walked away from McGonagall who snarled as they passed.
"I'll take Snape to Dumbledore," Harry said softly, "You can deal with the minx."
Hermione touched her fingers to the wound McGonagall had inflicted and winced slightly. "Okay," she agreed, "I don't know how I'm going to do that though."
Harry nodded sympathetically, but faltered as Snape pulled gently on his robes. "Can I see my mother, please?" he asked.
The obsidian eyes were pleading and Harry nodded immediately. "Come with me."
Snape gave him a grateful smile and Harry squeezed his hand reassuringly. "Let's go. Good luck," he said to Hermione as he passed.
"I think I'll need it," was her muttered reply.
Hermione sighed deeply as she looked away from McGonagall's glare. Her Transfiguration Professor was nothing short of a brat. A stark contrast from the rule-abiding Professor she knew.
"Right," she said under her breath. "Try and gain her trust."
She turned back to face the girl to find her sitting on Snape's desk with her legs crossed and her hands folded in her lap. Her eyes roved around the dungeons, occasionally pausing to examine a particularly interesting artefact before moving on.
"My name is Hermione," she said finally once McGonagall was looking forward again. "What's yours?"
Her Professor had shrunk her robes, and had changed their colour to crimson. The red contrasted sharply with the emerald of her eyes, making them look all the more menacing. McGonagall hissed slightly when Hermione put one foot forward and she halted immediately. After several pregnant moments McGonagall spoke.
"Minerva Catriona McGonagall. But everyone calls me 'Cat.'
"I can see why," Hermione muttered under her breath. "Okay Cat. Would you like to follow me? I'll take you to your father."
McGonagall shook her head. "He said he would write to him," she said pointing at Ron, "He hasn't even written the letter yet. I want him to write the letter."
Hermione looked pleadingly at Ron who rolled his eyes and withdrew a piece of parchment from his pocket. She handed him a quill and looked over his shoulder as he wrote.
As Harry would have told you, Professor McGonagall was de-aged. She is a very difficult child and we are having considerable trouble speaking with her.
He thrust the parchment at Hermione who took it wordlessly. She tapped the parchment with her wand, sending it up to Dumbledore's office.
"There you go," she said, turning back to the Head of Gryffindor who was now flicking through the Potions textbook.
"Good," was her only response. McGonagall toyed with her hair absent-mindedly as she read, occasionally muttering under her breath.
"Do you want anything to eat or drink?"
McGonagall's head snapped upward. "A glass of milk."
Ron tried unsuccessfully to hide a smile. "Go figure," he said under his breath as McGonagall turned her attention back to the textbook.
Hermione snapped her fingers and Dobby appeared instantly before her with a crack. Most of the class jumped slightly as his sudden appearance but McGonagall merely turned the page lazily, not even bothering to look up.
"Can you get me a glass of milk?" Hermione asked the elf quietly, "And put a sleeping potion in it?"
Dobby's eyes widened. "But Miss…"
"It will help Harry," Ron interjected.
The house elf beamed. "Of course, Miss!"
With another crack he disappeared and Hermione leant against her desk, watching as McGonagall screwed her nose up and tutted under her breath. Dobby reappeared again bearing a glass of milk, and gave Hermione a conspiratorial wink before vanishing again. Hermione approached the desk timidly and placed the milk in front of the girl.
"You try it first," McGonagall said not looking up. "How do I know you haven't put something in it?"
What is this kid? Telepathic! Hermione thought bitterly, there goes that plan.
There was a sudden burst of flames from the fire and Dumbledore stepped out brushing soot carefully from his magnificent purple and silver robes. A smile spread over his face when he saw Minerva sitting on the desk. She looked up and hissed.
"I don't like you," she snarled. "Go away."
Dumbledore's smile didn't falter as he stepped toward her, coming to a halt two feet away.
Out of striking range
"Minerva, you should show some more respect," Dumbledore said gently.
"You called me a liar!" McGonagall hissed, backing away like a cat that was cornered. Hermione was sure that if she had been in her animagus form her hackles would have been raised.
Dumbledore nodded. "I did, but what you told me was very unlikely, Minerva. Most people, not just me, would have been sceptical."
"You were just jealous! Because you can't do it and I can!"
Dumbledore rolled his eyes and reached forward. There was a soft pop and a tabby kitten sat when McGonagall had been. As Dumbledore's fingers inched closer, the tabby leapt forward and latched onto his hand with its teeth. She let go and dropped to the floor, reappearing two metres away with a smirk on her face.
"You shouldn't have done that," she said, smiling as she wiped Dumbledore's blood from her mouth.
By now Hermione's mouth had fallen open. McGonagall had just attacked Dumbledore!
"I want to see my father!" she demanded for the umpteenth time.
Dumbledore looked sadly over his square-framed spectacles. "Minerva, I'm afraid I have some bad news."
A flicker of uncertainty crossed over McGonagall's face and her eyes widened slightly. "What?"
"It's your father, Minerva," Dumbledore continued, "He's dead."
McGonagall shook her head adamantly as tears began to fall down her cheeks. She wiped them away irritably. "YOU'RE LYING!" she screamed at Dumbledore.
He shook his head. "I'm not, Minerva," he said heavily.
McGonagall's bottom lip trembled, and a soft cry escaped from her lips. "Who killed him!?" she snarled, her voice at odds with her demeanour, "I'm going to kill them!"
Dumbledore moved toward her, and she didn't flinch as he placed a hand on her shoulder. "Maybe when you're older, Minerva," he said softly, taking her hand in his. "Come with me, Minerva. You need to get some rest."
He walked over to the fireplace, but turned as he held the floo powder above the flames. "Follow after me, Miss Granger," he said, "You too, Mr. Weasley. The rest of you may leave."
Hermione nodded mutely as Dumbledore and McGonagall disappeared in a flash of green flame. Ron moved forward and stood beside her.
"Let's go," he said pulling her forward.
Hermione reached for the floo power absent-mindedly. "Dumbledore's office," she said clearly. Immediately she felt herself spinning at an unnatural speed and she emerged in Dumbledore's office. Harry sat in a chair opposite Dumbledore, who was talking intently with the portrait of Armando Dippet.
"Professor?" Hermione said nervously, moving to the side to allow Ron to enter.
He gestured for her to sit down and she settled next to Harry who looked as bewildered as he felt. After a handful of minutes Dumbledore nodded curtly at Dippet who disappeared from his frame and turned his attention to the trio.
"Okay," he said interlacing his fingers together, "Harry told me what happened today in the lesson, and Hermione I can see that you have incurred the wrath of an extremely angry Minerva McGonagall."
Hermione smiled weakly as she remembered the scratch on her face.
"Professors McGonagall and Snape are both sleeping peacefully," Dumbledore continued, "But I'm afraid there are some rather distressing consequences of a number of de-aging potions."
Hermione raised her eyebrows.
Author's note:- And I start another one (whacks head on desk). This idea would not leave me alone. It was meant to be a one shot comedy, but then it evolved. I hope you enjoyed it nevertheless. Please review. Minniequill