Minerva sat in her favourite chair in the Gryffindor common room by the fire. The day had been bitingly cold and she had had a pressing need to thaw out her skin. That had been several hours ago. It was now passed midnight and Minerva was sitting with her feet curled up under her, leaning on the arm of her chair towards the roaring fire, engrossed in the novel in her hand (Brothers of the Wand), her new glasses perched on the end of her nose, her head girl badge glinting in the firelight.
The scrambling through the portrait hole went completely unnoticed by Minerva, but the two shadows that loomed over her moments later did not.
"You're in my light," Minerva said, not looking up from her book.
"Well you won't mind when you find out what we're holding." The excited voice belonged to Minerva's friend, Isadore.
Minerva finished reading the paragraph that she was in the middle of and finally glanced up at her friend. Standing next to Isadore was Minerva's other friend and Isadore's twin brother, Theodoric, Theo for short. Their light brown hair was windswept, their blue eyes were shining brightly and their skin was pink from the cold outdoor air. They were both wearing the exact same smile – a smile of eager anticipation.
"What?" Minerva asked them suspiciously, noticing that their hands were hidden from view.
"Ready?" Isadore said.
"Ready," Theodoric replied.
From behind their backs came an enormous and very heavy looking green bottle. They held it steadily between them and shouted, "Happy Birthday!" in unison.
Minerva read the silver Old English style writing on the violet label of the bottle in surprise: Gesticulating Gin. She had never had it before but she had seen her father drink it. The liquid is poured out and it waves at whoever is holding the glass at the time, or otherwise it waves at the table it is set upon. Sometimes it takes the form of a tiny man from the waist upward, sometimes it is just an excited little arm that extends from the liquid. Minerva's face must have shown her astonishment.
"I think she likes it," Theo said happily, watching Minerva's face.
"Where did you get it?" Minerva asked astounded.
"We asked Emeret to get it for us a few weeks ago," Isadore responded. "We just met him in Hogsmeade."
Emeret was the twins much older brother who had left Hogwarts over a decade ago. He had been the one who had told them about a hidden passageway that lead into Hogsmeade from Hogwarts.
"So how about a little birthday tipple, Minerva?" Theo asked, grinning at her once again. Minerva was about to protest, but instead she smiled hesitantly back. It was her final year after all.
"SHHH!" "SH!" "SHHH!" "SHH!" "SHHHHHHH!"
Minerva, Isadore and Theo were in fits of giggles as they attempted to scramble out of the portrait hole after one o'clock in the morning. The mandrake leaf that Theo had been smoking had made him hungry so Isadore's marvellous idea was to sneak into the Hogwarts kitchens for some food.
Minerva was the first out of the portrait hole, but Theo's hand had been in front of her foot, so when she moved her leg to take the final step she had tripped and fell out of the hole. Theo, being in the state that he was in, had burst into laughter and couldn't move.
"Theo, just bloody get out of the way! Oh!" Isadore pushed him a little harder than she had intended and he flew out of the portrait hole and landed on top of Minerva.
"Oooff," Minerva said before exploding into laughter once again. "Hello, Theo."
Theo still could not move for laughing. He was sprawled over Minerva crossways, his head and feet level with her stomach.
"Oh, shit," Isadore said, giggling as she climbed out of the portrait hole. "Are you ok, Minerva?" She leant down and pulled Theo up so Minerva could breathe properly.
"What about me?" Theo said, still giggling uncontrollably.
"Your fall was cushioned, Theodoric. Minerva had to endure you landing on top of her!"
Sitting up and breathing heavily but still smiling, Minerva said, "Come on then," and attempted to get up. It took a while, what with the laughing and the spinning corridor and each of them clinging to the others for support.
Strangely, the three friends managed to get in and out of the kitchens without any trouble. Theo had stacks of food piled high in his arms as he led the way down the corridor and away from the portrait of the basket of fruit. Minerva and Isadore had been given a tin of biscuits each from the night shift house elves.
"Let's do it now, Theo," Minerva heard Isadore whisper a few minutes later. "Alohamora.This one's unlocked."
Minerva turned and saw Isadore and Theo looking into the Transfiguration classroom.
"What are you doing?" she whispered loudly. "I thought we were going back."
"Come in here, Minerva," Theo said. "We want to give you your other present."
Too drunk to care too much that she was breaking into her favourite professor's classroom, Minerva stumbled back towards the open door and followed the twins inside.
While Theo cleared the desks and chairs with his wand so that they leant against the walls, Isadore poured Minerva another drink. Gesticulating Gin never likes to leave the bottle, and when its drinker is already somewhat inebriated it is rather harder, but ten times funnier, to attempt to pour it into a glass. Minerva and Isadore were, once again, in fits of giggles by the time Theo had created a space in the centre of the classroom.
Minerva was watching the clear liquid form the shape of a tiny man half immersed in the drink. As he waved at her, Minerva heard Isadore say, "Pour it yourself, Theo."
Theo had evidently had this drink before because the gin was in his glass after only a few seconds.
"Right, Miner-erva," Isadore slurred. "Are you ready?"
"Probably not," Minerva replied, smiling.
"Okay, stand in the middle of the room."
Minerva chuckled, wobbling slightly before she walked a wonky little line to the centre of the classroom. The floor was seesawing. It felt as though she was walking on the deck of a ship in a turbulent sea. With the Gin waving at her from the glass in her left hand, she turned back to face her friends.
"Okay," said Theo. "Catch!"
Minerva vaguely saw something scarlet streak through the air towards her and by the time she realised what it was, it was too late. Her hand had reached out and she made a very awkward catch, attempting to keep the gin from spilling and trying not to drop the object at the same time.
The twins shouted out before Minerva could say a word: "Phoenix Eyes!"
It was a bizarre feeling. Lyrics and a tune barely known to Minerva filled her head. She held in her hand a Musyric, a Magical Microphone, the number one best selling game at Zonko's Joke Shop. She had heard a lot about the Musyric in the last few weeks, but no one she knew owned one. Whomever the microphone is thrown to, that person has to sing the first song shouted out by the other players. The catch is that you cannot release the microphone until the whole song is sung and there is no way out of singing it, even if you do not know the words, because the Musyric is bewitched to fill the singer's head with the knowledge of and a passion for any and every song ever written.
So before she knew what she was doing, Minerva had gripped the Musyric tightly and was singing the cheery, upbeat love song in to it with a passion she certainly did not hold for the ghastly tune. Isadore and Theo were crumbling with laughter in front of her, and Minerva had her eyes closed and was singing ardently into the Musyric.
"…what they say about you and your Phoenix eyes…"
The only part of Minerva that betrayed her horror of the performance she was undertaking was the blush to her cheeks that was steadily creeping upon her as the song went on. She knew she had a terrible singing voice but the Musyric made it sound wonderful to her ears. To Isadore and Theodoric, however, the sounds coming from Minerva were something close to a screeching cat.
Then Minerva became so caught up in the song that she made the mistake of attempting an extravagant twirl. This, mixed the gin in her bloodstream was a terrible combination and it looked as though the room was spinning the wrong way. Confused, Minerva did a strange half pirouette in mid-air and her feet became tangled up in her dressing gown with the result that the last, carrying note of the song was sung rather overzealously from the floor.
As soon as the song finished Minerva came immediately back to her own senses, or what was left of them after the gin. She threw the Musyric out of her hands and spun round on the floor to face her friends.
She froze. To the right of Isadore and Theo, who had collapsed onto the floor in hysterics, stood Professor Dumbledore half hidden in shadow, out of focus but very definitely present. Minerva felt her blush deepen as she recalled what she had just done. How long had he been standing there? She had had her eyes closed for most of the song as she sang it with fervour. Her friends had evidently neither seen nor heard him enter the room.
"Oh, come – come on Mi – Minerva, don't be like – that," Theo said, misinterpreting her distress. He spoke with difficulty, for his garbled words were hard to say through his laughter. "That was won – derful! Happy – Happy birthday!"
"Or perhaps not so happy."
Theo and Isadore ceased their laughter immediately and attempted to get to their feet. In their scrambling, Minerva who had remained on the floor chanced a glance at Dumbledore as he moved out of the shadows and further into the classroom. She could have sworn she saw the corners of his mouth twitch.
Attempting to overcome her enormous embarrassment at passionately singing a love song in front of her transfiguration professor, Minerva got to her feet also, but stumbled slightly because the room was still spinning and would not remain still. A flash of green on the floor caught her eye as she rose and she realised that the bottle of gin was within Dumbledore's eyeline. With a rush of panic and a hasty flick of her wand, Minerva moved the bottle so that it stood behind one of the desks that leant against the wall and took on the shape of a church candle. The room fell to silence.
Dumbledore did not speak for several seconds, during which Theo's giggles had returned. He stood next to Isadore and was shaking with silent laughter. This set Isadore off and consequently Minerva. All three stood before their professor, quivering in silence, trying with all their might to stem their giggles. None of them could look Dumbledore in the face, especially not Minerva who, for some reason, felt a huge amount guilt, which would probably have stopped her laughter had it not been for the copious amounts of alcohol she had consumed that night.
Dumbledore's silence was hilariously agonising to the three friends, and so when he finally spoke it was to enormous relief as well as shame.
"Back to your dormitories, all of you," he said. His words immediately silenced Minerva. They sounded harsh and cold, so very unlike the Dumbledore she knew and respected. "I will let you know the time and place of your detentions."
The next morning, Minerva, Isadore and Theo sat at the breakfast tables with pounding heads and wobbly stomachs. Theo was much better off than his sister and Minerva though, and was wolfing down a large fried English breakfast. Minerva had had a slice of dry toast and was feeling worse for it.
"Enjoying your birthday so far, Minerva?" Theo asked after swallowing a huge mouthful of scrambled egg and beans.
Minerva simply glared sharply at him but kept her mouth firmly shut.
"Ah, come on, Minerva, it's not the end of the world. So we're getting detention on your birthday. What better way to show your independence as you come of age, hm?"
Against her better judgement, Minerva smiled at this. Theo often spoke nonsense, but sometimes it was rather comforting nonsense. Then the mail arrived.
Six owls came whooshing down to settle between Minerva, Isadore and Theo. Of the four deliveries that were for Minerva, three were welcoming looking packages and one was an ominous looking envelope with the familiar handwriting of Professor Dumbledore written in the centre. Isadore and Theo had identical envelopes.
Minerva left the birthday parcels and opened the envelope first.
Your detention will take place in my classroom at seven o'clock tomorrow night. Please arrive promptly.
"Oh no, not on your birthday!"
Minerva looked across the table at Isadore, surprised.
"No, it's tomorrow night," Minerva said.
"What?" Theo and Isadore replied together.
"Ours are both tonight," Isadore told her. "And look, Theo's is an hour and a half after mine."
They all swapped their letters from Dumbledore and Minerva read that the twins' detentions were, without a doubt, scheduled for that very evening, whereas hers definitely said tomorrow at seven.
"Why are they separate?" Minerva asked, her stomach churning at the thought of spending detention alone with Dumbledore. Their punishments must indeed be severe.
"Come in, Miss McGonagall."
Minerva's nervous hand moved slowly to the brass doorknob. She had been thinking about nothing but her detention for the entire day. Last night Theo scrambled through the portrait hole just after ten. He had told her, as Isadore had, that his detention had been awful. He said that it started off normally enough – he had had to clear up some of the mess that Peeves the poltergeist had caused in the corridor outside Dumbledore's classroom, without a wand of course.
"Then it got so much worse!" he had said. "He made me s –" he paused with a frown on his face. "He made me s – I can't say it!"
"No, Isadore couldn't either," Minerva informed him. "He's made sure we don't tell each other."
"You can't go, Minerva," Theo said. "It was horrible."
"You're not making me feel any better, you know," Minerva said sharply. She was angry; partly because she was becoming nervous already and partly because Theo was indeed making her feel so much worse.
That was why, the next evening, Minerva's hand trembled as she opened the door to the transfiguration classroom.
"Close the door, Minerva," Dumbledore said.
Minerva did as she was asked.
"Sit down, please," he continued, indicating the chair in front of his desk. Minerva sat down opposite him.
He was silent for a few minutes, just looking at her intently over his half-moon spectacles. Was she supposed to say something?
"Sir, I –"
He held up a hand to silence her. Her words die away immediately.
"Do you have your wand with you, Miss McGonagall?"
"Yes, sir," Minerva responded, confused. Usually detentions were carried out without magic, just as Theo's and Isadore's had been.
"Give it to me, please," Dumbledore said. Minerva reached into her pocket and handed over her wand. She felt strangely naked and vulnerable without it. Dumbledore rolled the wand between his fingers and continued. "Now, I have some jobs to be getting on with and I often put on the wireless whilst I work. Today, however, I am going to choose a different medium." He stopped to smile playfully at her. "You."
"Me, sir?" Minerva replied, swallowing. Her throat had gone dry. Surely he did not meant what she thought he meant. He couldn't.
"Yes you," he replied, "and your very good friend - Musyric."
"You're joking, sir!" she said before she could stop herself.
"Need I remind you, Minerva, that you, the head girl, were out of bounds in the early hours of the morning? That you were louder than I have ever heard you be, even when you become frustrated with yourself in my lessons, and that you had food from the kitchens in your possession?"
Minerva was waiting for him to make some comment about the gin, but it did not come.
"I think, therefore, that the punishment is justified," he continued. "And I need some amusement. It has been a tiring day." His eyes sparkled in the candlelight.
Minerva was looking at him incredulously but could not find the words to argue. She had, after all, broken the rules as he said.
"So," Dumbledore said cheerfully, "You may sit or stand, I have no preference."
"Thank you, sir," Minerva responded through gritted teeth. "I think I'll remain seated."
"As you wish; though you may get a sudden urge to leap up and dance around the room."
With a flick of his wand, Dumbledore sent a flash of scarlet across his desk for Minerva to catch.
"Splinter From My Wand," he called out.
x x x
"Splinter From My Wand? Good lord, Dumbledore, you could've chosen something a little more tasteful," Snape said, straining to keep himself from breaking into a huge grin at the idea of his severe, composed colleague bursting into song and dancing around the room in front of her professor.
Mr and Mrs. Weasley were uncontrollable as they fell about laughing once again. Professor McGonagall sat with a small smile on her face and her eyes on Dumbledore who was beaming around the room.
"Oh Minerva, you must have been so embarrassed. How horrible to humiliate a student like that, Dumbledore," Mrs. Weasley attempted to say through her bursts of laughter and slurred words.
"Three students actually, Molly," Dumbledore said. "You mustn't forget the twins. It was they who caused the trouble in the first place. And humiliation is a good deal more affective than pain or hard work. It is far harder to forget. As you can see, Minerva believes it to be her worst ever punishment, and I happen to know that she has had much more painful ones."
"But wait – wait," Mr Weasley said, struggling slightly with the fluidity of his words. "What happened about the gin? You don't pretend that you didn't know it was there, Dumbledore?"
"Of course not," replied Dumbledore, smiling at Professor McGonagall. "But, irresponsible as it was, I knew that if I ever caught Minerva drinking in school again, as a student of course, it would be the day I become Minister for Magic. I found the candle and transfigured it back. Quite a lot had gone but I daresay I got a couple of glasses out of it."
"Oh, you didn't, Albus. I always wondered what happened to it," Minerva said, barely concealing her grin. "That was a birthday present. I believe you owe me a trip to The Three Broomsticks."
"I'm not sure I can imagine you so intoxicated, Minerva," said Snape filling the goblets on the table that once again found themselves empty. "Though I may get a glimpse of it tonight if we carry on this way," he added, indicating the refilled goblets.
Minerva giggled; the wine was definitely working its magic.
"Is your tongue feeling a little lose, Severus?" McGonagall asked. "Albus and I both remember your worst ever punishment of course. Do elaborate for the benefit of Molly and Arthur. They would be hard done by to miss out on such a tale."
For the first time since he had known her, Snape saw a glimmer of mischief in McGonagall's eyes.
"I have no recollection of such a punishment, Minerva," he said with an attempt at the ice cold tone he usually uses with his more loathsome students, but not achieving it because the wine had made him loud and theatrical.
"Really?" Minerva questioned sceptically, still with a smile playing at the corners of her mouth.
"Would you rather Minerva and I told the story?" Dumbledore asked teasingly. "Would you like to see how we remember it?"
Snape sat stiffly, battling between his denial at the memory and the idea that Dumbledore and McGonagall could, and doubtless would, elaborately embroider the truth.
"I would rather stick firmly to the true story, Dumbledore," Snape said. "Therefore, I will tell the tale, but I want you to know that I will always defend my actions and state very plainly that–"
"Oh for heaven sake, Severus, do you want to put us all in a stupor? Get on with it," McGonagall said impatiently.
Snape was silent for a moment, then picked up the nearly full goblet before him and downed the lot…
NOTE: For the record, I don't condone underage drinking or drinking in school - this is a simple and fun piece of fiction where Minerva probably should but will not be expelled from Hogwarts.