A/N: Alright, you convinced me… by popular demand, here's the sequel to "Goldilocks and the Four Heads of Houses." If you don't know it, go read (and review) "Goldilocks" first, it's short and IMHO funny.
"Goldilocks" could be a missing moment from CoS. Here we're definitely going AU.
Since so many of you asked for it – how could I decline writing another Severus/Minerva love-story? They are the best pairing ever! This fic will resemble "Goldilocks" in serious silliness, and will also be told from different POVs. Updates will be sporadic (I recommend you put this on your alert list), as I'm working mostly on the "Wisdom and War Trilogy" and, you know, I do have a real life, too.
Have fun. Leave lots of reviews ;-)
Chapter 1 – The Morning After
(Albus Dumbledore POV)
Late in the morning of Saturday, 15 February 1992, Albus Dumbledore sat down at the staff table, gently humming to himself. He was in a good mood. Yesterday's Valentine Day celebrations had been a smashing success – not, of course, in the way of creating a romantic mood.
He smiled when he remembered the events of the day before.
Most of the school-girls had liked the day. That shy little first-year, Ginny Weasley, had for once forgotten to look mournful and scared. Even Pansy Parkinson from Slytherin had blushed when she had seen young Mr Malfoy in the morning, and then hastily written a card for him. Albus was glad that the cold-hearted girl had displayed emotion for once.
The boys, of course, had not been too happy about the day – although Albus had spotted one third-year Hufflepuff, Cedric Diggory, present a rose to second-year Cho Chang with perfect gallantry.
The surly dwarfs hired by Lockhart had flat-out declared they would only wear their cupid costumes if they were to receive a bonus payment, but Albus had happily obliged to that.
Poor Mr Filch had been in a cranky mood all day, knowing that he would have to clean up the confetti later.
And the teachers… well, Albus had expected them not to like the surprise.
Minerva McGonagall had in the morning positively tried to kill Albus with vindictive glares. Filius had not talked to him all day, and even Septima Vector had refused to return his "A good Valentine's Day to you, my dear Professor!"
Sybill Trelawney had declared during breakfast that she would lock herself in her tower, claiming that "the Inner Eye is easily disturbed by the powerful emotions of bystanders" – which had caused Minerva to re-direct her killing stares at the Divination Professor.
Pomona Sprout had at a first good-naturedly tried to play along, but had changed out of her cherry-pink robes immediately after spotting Gilderoy Lockhart in similar ones. Albus had been polite enough not to mention it.
Severus had, of course, spent the day taking one hundred and sixty-nine points from students, which even included two points taken from Slytherin House – possibly a new 24-hour-record.
Yes, the day had indeed been a pandemonium of bad poetry and broken hearts, glittering decorations and scowling teachers, good intentions and irksome actions.
It had been perfect. Everybody had forgotten to fear Slytherin's monster. Truly a smashing success.
Albus now helped himself to some hot tea and looked around at the staff table. Minerva had declined to greet him, but now granted him an almost-invisible smile when he jinxed a toast with her favourite bitter orange marmalade to fly to her plate. Severus next to her refused to look at anyone, although Albus thought he heard him wince when Lockhart sat down at the table.
Pomona's face lit up. She smiled sweetly and leaned forward to greet the Defence teacher, who today was sporting robes of light blue velvet.
"Good morning, Gilderoy," she beamed. "I need to thank you again for that lovely surprise yesterday. It was such a fun day."
Lockhart bowed his head elegantly, although the movement seemed a bit mechanical to Albus. Also it was news to the Headmaster that Pomona had enjoyed the previous day.
"I am glad you enjoyed it, my dearest Pomona. It was, of course, meant merely to help the students cheer up, but all the better if some of the staff members enjoyed it as well."
"Oh, I did absolutely. And I am so certain I'm not the only one who, ahem, entered into the spirit of the occasion."
Albus noticed that Minerva had stopped eating. She looked sternly at the Hufflepuff Head, who had now helped herself to a large quantity of porridge.
Lockhart nodded again. For some reason he did look rather annoyed.
"Always glad to help. Always considered it my job to take serious matters off other people's minds," he replied. "But unfortunately I may have to leave for a while…"
"You do?" Filius Flitwick piped up.
To Albus, the old Charms teacher sounded a little too hopeful to be polite.
"Leave for a while?" Albus asked. "Gilderoy, what is this all about?"
"I was going to tell you in a minute, Headmaster. You see, yesterday evening I received a letter from my publisher, at a most unfortunate time of course, but it seems he requires my presence in London for a new photo-shooting. 'Gadding with Ghouls' is to be published in France, and they want new pictures for the advertisements…"
"But we are right in the middle of a school-year, Gilderoy. I cannot just give you leave like that – surely you could do this on a weekend?" Albus replied.
"What a shame," Minerva said at almost the same time, but really one second later than Albus. "But we do understand about such urgent matters, Gilderoy. We will certainly miss having you around for a while."
Albus looked at the Gryffindor Head in disbelief. Something he did not know about was going on here. True, Minerva was his Deputy Head, but she had never before made a staff decision before asking for his opinion. And there was something odd in her voice, almost a trace of… malice?
"Really, so sorry to see you go," Pomona hurriedly agreed with Minerva. "When you get to London, could you drop by in Diagon Alley and remind Mr Collins of the 'Flower Shoppe' that I really need that fertilizer? I am growing tired of sending Howlers twice a week."
Five seconds of stunned silence followed her words. Then, it was as though Albus had never said anything at all. Most of the professors spoke up at the same time.
"Maybe we other teachers could share taking over your classes," Filius suggested seriously. "Then the students won't miss too much during the few days you are gone."
"If you go to Diagon Alley for Pomona, there is a little something I need from 'Future Revelations' – I was going to order a new pack of Tarot cards, but an Inner Voice told me that I would get around paying extra for the owl order…"
"Of course, I would not mind teaching Defence once or twice a week," Septima pondered. "I was rather good at it in school."
"Me too," Aurora Sinistra grinned. "And I don't have classes during the day-time at all. No problem, Gilderoy, do enjoy a few days in London. Merlin knows we've… er, you have earned it."
Even Charity Burbage, who hardly ever said anything at all, claimed that the whole staff would "dearly miss the most handsome teacher around, but understood the necessity of a photo-shooting."
Rolanda Hooch went as far as offering one of the stronger school brooms so Lockhart would not have to apparate with all his luggage. Only Severus seemed to think that his well-know sneer was a sufficient answer.
Albus looked at Minerva again and found that her sharp eyes were already focused on him. He had no idea why Minerva wanted the Defence teacher gone for a while – other than for the obvious reason that she had never liked him – but Albus had the impression that she was serious about this.
She did not ask Albus to let Gilderoy Lockhart go for a while. The look on her face told him that he would be in grim trouble if she had to endure Lockhart's presence one minute longer than necessary.
"Well, then it is settled, Gilderoy," he said slowly. "I did not want to cause the rest of the staff extra work, but since they are so willing to take over your tasks… I should think a one-week leave will do."
"Thank you, Headmaster. – And thank you, my esteemed colleagues. I shall return to my rooms and do my packing immediately. See you all again next weekend."
The blond wizard positively jumped up from his seat and turned to leave his place at the table. The rest of the staff watched him in silence, most of them smiling cheerfully.
Severus had barely whispered the word, but his voice carried well and he looked directly at Lockhart. Gilderoy Lockhart spun around again.
"What did you just say?"
"I called you a coward," Snape said, baring his teeth.
"How dare you! The Minister himself has awarded me the Order of Merlin, Third Class, and – "
"The Minister was a fool when he did that. You are a coward, Lockhart. There was no letter from your publisher, and I bet you were planning to send an owl from London that you cannot return here because of other urgent matters. You merely run from this school because you cannot face the fact that you embarrassed yourself."
"Severus –" Albus tried to warn the younger wizard. Whatever this discussion was about, he was not sure if it was fit for the public.
"You set me up," Lockhart bawled. "You knew she'd come looking for you, hell, if you had really wanted me gone you'd have duelled me properly."
"He wasn't carrying his wand, you idiot," Pomona hissed. "And you could have known for yourself that Minerva would come to the library, she talked about it at lunch."
"Nonsense! I never heard her say that!"
"She did say it," Filius confirmed quietly. "I heard her."
"Silence, everyone," Albus said decidedly.
He was glad to notice that this time his authority was not undermined. Most of the teachers looked just as confused as he was, but the four Heads of Houses and Lockhart seemed to know exactly what they were talking about.
Lockhart's face was flushed with anger. He stared at Severus, who returned the look with equal contempt. Minerva had pressed her lips into a thin line. Pomona and Filius both looked as though they were suppressing a smile.
"What happened in the library yesterday?" Albus asked.
"Nothing!" Lockhart said hurriedly.
Severus sneered again, but then he turned to Albus.
"Nothing of importance, Headmaster. I apologise for mentioning it."
"If you say so, Severus," Albus replied. "Gilderoy, if you can show me that letter from your publisher, you are free to go for one week. Otherwise I am afraid I shall have to insist you stay here and do your job."
Lockhart nodded irritably, then he turned around and swept out of the Great Hall – no doubt he would first thing fake a letter from his publisher and present it to Albus later. The Headmaster sighed.
"You know," Sybill said haughtily. "I did tell you all at New Year's Eve that strange things would happen at the beginning of this year. Everyone laughed at me, as usual, but this morning my tea leaves show that something important happened last night – look!"
She held her tea cup so that Albus could see it, thereby spilling the last sip of her tea on the tablecloth. Albus did not need to take a closer look to know that he would see nothing but, in fact, used tea leaves and a lump of sugar.
"What, so now you're unfogging the past?" Severus muttered.
"Severus, what happened in the library yesterday?" Albus repeated his words sternly.
The young wizard looked annoyed, but Albus knew he would answer.
"It truly was nothing of importance. Lockhart and I… discussed a misunderstanding in the library last night. Things almost got a little out of hand, but Minerva attempted to help us."
"What do you mean, attempted? You got out of it without any harm done," Minerva indignantly spoke up.
"But your exquisitely brilliant idea will of course not work in the long run. Have you ever considered that this, ahem, statement you made last night will have consequences?"
"I did not make a statement, I merely suggested something to divert Lockhart a bit. You had to go and exaggerate things."
"I did not exaggerate, I only made this believable."
"Oh no, not the least bit," Pomona said, her voice dripping with irony.
"What was this discussion about, Severus?" Albus cut in.
He was not in the mood for one of the famous Slytherin/Gryffindor arguments today.
Severus had been busy scowling at Minerva. Pomona laughed once more.
"This discussion you had with Lockhart. What was it about?"
Albus grew increasingly impatient. If something serious happened in the school, he did consider it his duty to know about it and interfere.
"I would rather not say that, Headmaster."
Albus was on the verge of telling the younger wizard what he thought of this disrespectful demeanour when he caught Pomona's eye. The Head of Hufflepuff had tears of laughter in her eyes and was winking at him.
'Tell you later,' she mouthed, her eyes darting to Severus and Minerva again.
The Heads of Gryffindor and Slytherin were glaring at each other, ready to resume their argument.
"Then," Albus said hurriedly, "let us change the subject."
"Good idea, Headmaster," Filius agreed.
They looked at each other in uncomfortable silence. No one had an idea what to talk about.
"What's in the 'Daily Prophet' this morning?" Aurora finally asked.
Rolanda handed her the paper.
"Nothing big. Fudge's going to see the Australian Minister for Magic today, and they will attend a League Cup Quidditch game together. It's Puddlemere United against Appleby Arrows… that will be a fine game. The Arrows have played a series of strong wins this year. They usually do better in winter games."
"Speaking of Quidditch –" Severus said.
"You will not take that back!" Minerva interrupted him.
"We had a deal, Severus. You will not take that back. Slytherin will not use the pitch during the next two weeks."
"Which is just what I was going to tell our Quidditch Instructor. I believe Rolanda would like to know that Gryffindor has taken over our training hours."
"You have given Slytherin training hours to the Gryffindor team? Really?" Rolanda inquired.
"Really," Minerva said. "I apologise, Severus, it would just have been so very like you to try wriggling out of this again."
"So now you are saying that it is my habit to break my word? We did make a deal."
"What kind of deal?" Albus wanted to know.
"Severus offered to give us some extra training time in return for the little favour I did him last night."
"I am not so sure anymore that this actually was a favour," Severus scowled.
"I cannot believe you would say this!"
"I cannot believe you would think I'd break my word."
Both Severus and Minerva jumped from their seats, intending to storm out of the Great Hall.
Albus chuckled softly. The irony of the situation was perfect. Since both teachers had had the idea at the same time, one of them would now have to give in and remain at the staff table, or they would have to leave the hall together – which would most certainly spoil the effect of a dramatic exit.
Several students in the Great Hall had spotted the quarrelling teachers and started giggling and pointing.
"Minerva," Albus leaned forward, "I was going to ask you about your opinion concerning this new study in 'Transfiguration Today'. Would you care to discuss this now over another up of tea?"
Minerva looked at him. She had recognised that certain edge in his voice which only showed on the few occasions when he did remind her that he was her superior.
She sat down again. Severus seized the chance to turn on the spot and sweep out of the Great Hall. Both students and teachers watched him take his leave.
"Now, Minerva," Albus said. "What happened in the library yesterday?"
His deputy closed her eyes for a moment.
"Albus… I really, really do not want to talk about it," she all but pleaded. "Not here. Not now."
He understood. This was, indeed, about something personal. He still did not understand how Lockhart figured into the equation, but decided to let the matter drop – for now.
"Then you may go," he said. "If you wish, that is."
Minerva nodded and got up from her seat. She slowly left the Great Hall and managed to attract less attention than her Slytherin colleague.
"A bit touchy this morning, are we?" Septima pondered.
Albus turned to the two remaining Heads of Houses.
"Gifted with this extraordinary power of observation, I do have the impression that you two know what this was all about?"
"We do," Pomona said.
Albus had not forgotten that she had had the cheek to goad the other teachers into agreeing with Minerva about dismissing Lockhart.
"I am waiting for you to enlighten me."
Pomona looked at her hands for a second.
"I am not sure if it is – well, alright to tell everyone."
Filius and Pomona exchanged one last look, then Pomona finally decided to get this over with.
"Lockhart tried to, ahem, seduce Severus. They almost started a serious fight, and Minerva prevented it. Lockhart now thinks that they are an item because she confirmed that Severus is not interested in men."
"Ahem, one thing must have led to another and they had to pretend to – welltheykissed," Filius muttered hurriedly. "Of course it was only acting."
A moment of stunned silence followed his words. Sybill was the first one to recover.
"See! The Inner Eye never lies!"
Charity dropped her glass of pumpkin juice. Pomona grinned again. One by one, the teachers started laughing.
"Oh dear," Albus said.
Now the exceptionally hostile behaviour of the Heads of Slytherin and Gryffindor made sense. Naturally, they now had to prove desperately that they did not mean anything to each other.