A/N: this was inspired by a piece by a talented artist named laerry on called "back in the day". It can be found at the following address: http://laerry . deviantart . com/art/back-in-the-day- 41541883 (without spaces). The image and the description by the artist gave me the idea of Dolores as a pretty, popular student at Hogwarts circa 1940. I also borrowed the title and part of the line laerry gave in her description, with permission. Hope you enjoy the fic!
Back in the Day
"On your way to Quidditch practice? My, my, Minerva, don't you look... fetching."
Minerva gritted her teeth, left hand curling into a tight fist around the handle of her Cleansweep One. She breathed slowly in and out three times - control, Minerva, control - and turned slowly on one heel to face the girl behind her.
Silently eyeing the blonde, Minerva's lip curled. Oh, yes. There was a reason for every Gryffindor to hate Slytherins, and this was Minerva McGonagall's. Minerva was as tall and thin as the other girl was petite and curvy, and similarly, her hair was as dark as the other girl's was fair. Of course, Minerva noted with some relish, the blonde seemed to be missing a step in her magical hair-lightening routine, as mousy-brown roots were showing through at the top of her shoulder-length coiffure of curls.
Dolores Jane Umbridge, however, had more to her than a sleek head of hair. She was cold, catty, incredibly discriminatory against anybody whose bloodline was any more diluted than hers, and, to Minerva's disappointment, unfathomably popular. For all the features she had that Minerva loathed, she seemed to have assets that ensured she was liked by the other students, or at least those in the fifth year. Somehow, her saccharine speech and rapid eyelash batting attracted the boys like (rather misguided) flies to (incredibly noxious) honey, and the ease with which she wore her distinctly shorter-than-regulation school skirt, as well as her successfully lovely waves of hair, had girls whispering how does she do it? around every corner.
All this did not change the fact that Minerva hated her with every fibre of her being. They were both prefects, both fifth-years, and both had the utmost hatred for the other, but they couldn't be more different. Although Minerva did have friends (thank you very much), she preferred her books and Quidditch skills to chasing boys and giggling over beauty tips. Her dark, straight hair was always drawn up in a severe bun at the back of her head, rather than floating about her face like some sort of horde of... insects, and she was one of the very few female Quidditch players at the school. Although this might, to the unlearned soul, suggest she had a greater connection to good-looking boys than other girls, it in fact meant she had a much greater idea of how disgusting and sweaty they could be, and certainly did not want to be anywhere near one for - allow her to throw up - love.
Her train of thought snapped back to the fact that Dolores seemed to want to talk to her. Minerva's dark eyes regarded the blonde sharply as she answered coldly, "Good morning, Dolores."
Dolores smirked, sashaying up to where Minerva stood, evidently wishing to walk with her. Minerva set off at a stiff stride towards the Great Hall, her long-legged gait causing the shorter girl to hurry up slightly. Oh, how she looked forward to sitting down at the Gryffindor table to eat a quick breakfast before practice, if only for the reason that she would be rid of Dolores Umbridge.
"Now, Minerva dear, I was thinking," Dolores said, looking up at Minerva with what apparently was an eager sort of interest. She paused for dramatic effect, and Minerva looked down at her with disgust. Dolores always sugarcoated her words, her voice high and cutesy, and it all made Minerva feel incredibly sick.
"Really?" the dark-haired girl said instead, feigning interest. Dolores nodded, smiling her fake little dimpled smile, and Minerva looked back up ahead. "I wasn't aware that was possible," Minerva continued sarcastically.
Dolores gave a sickening giggle, voice laden with honey, but her eyes were cold with fury. "Oh, you're so witty, darling. Now, I was thinking that I know what might make you a little more popular."
"I'm not interested," Minerva answered coolly as they rounded a corner. She gave an unnecessarily irate glare to two second-years running down the corridor, and they slowed, all the while looking back at her with disdain. Good Merlin, she hated Dolores Umbridge with every single cell of her body.
"Of course you are," Dolores replied sweetly. "You may act like you own the school, Minerva, but I know what you're missing. Perhaps if we did something to your hair, fixed up your clothes a little... people might actually give you the time of day!" She eyed Minerva's tightly drawn-up tresses with distaste, and her eyes snapped back up to Minerva, to whom she gave a predatory smile.
Minerva was now glaring at the girl at her side, lips set in a thin line. "It would do you well to notice that your appearance doesn't make the world revolve around you, Dolores," she spat, long-legged steps even quicker than before. Oh, how she yearned for the Gryffindor table now.
"Well, of course that's your decision," Dolores said, smirking and looking rather like she'd just won a battle. "But while you jockey for attention from your precious Dumbledore, I'll be around with boys our own age who might actually like talking to me. And oh - isn't it a pity that you've never once been invited to one of Slughorn's meetings?"
She didn't know what caused her to lose control - the fact that Dolores was insulting their incredibly skilled but often laughed-at Transfiguration professor, or that she had brought up the painful barb that was Minerva's exclusion from the Slug Club - but Minerva drew her wand, pointing it with a trembling hand to the blonde. Dolores looked at her with some measure of fear, before that expression change to one of smug triumph.
Slughorn had just came around the corner behind Minerva, and was shaking his head as he approached them. "Miss McGonagall, Miss Umbridge!" he exclaimed, looking appropriately scandalised. She gave herself a mental slap. "Fighting in the corridors?"
"Oh, she's just been threatening me, Professor," Dolores simpered. Her eyes were set on Minerva as the dark-haired girl lowered her wand, lips pressed together in anger.
Slughorn shook his head once again. "A terrible example to set, Miss McGonagall!" he scolded her. "Using your Prefect status to intimidate - it will do you well to remember that there are other Prefects, like Miss Umbridge here, that won't stand for that kind of thing! Ten - no, twenty points from Gryffindor, and detention with me on Monday. Simply unacceptable, Miss McGonagall."
He strode off down the hallway, leaving Minerva shaking with repressed ire and Dolores smiling at her. "I'll see you later, Minerva darling," the blonde said with a giggle, and turned on her heel, taking small, hip-swinging steps away down the staircase.
Minerva's fist tightened on her broom and away she marched to the Great Hall. Ooh, the things she would do to Dolores Umbridge if she had the chance...
Minerva looked up from her spot at a desk in the Common Room, from where she was absent-mindedly doodling in her Potions textbook. Irma glared back at her, looking very cross indeed. "Yes, Irma?"
Irma pointed at the book in Minerva's hands, and she looked back down with a measure of surprise. Scrawled over the margins were sketches of brooms and Quidditch posts. Minerva sighed. Irma Pince was so very much like her in that she disliked the prospect of flouncing around the school purposely attracting the attention of good-looking boys, but sometimes Minerva's friend took things rather seriously - like, as she called it, "the desecration of priceless books". Minerva had always attempted to argue that books of which there were this many copies couldn't exactly be priceless, but that argument always failed her.
She sighed again, flicking her wand with a quick scourgify so that the ink vanished cleanly off the page. "Happy?"
"Very," Irma replied, snapping her own (squeaky clean) Potions book closed. "But you've been distracted for hours now. What happened?"
Minerva frowned. "Dolores Umbridge."
Irma raised her eyebrows. "Ah. Would I be correct in assuming that she has, again, ticked you off?"
Raking a hand through her long dark hair, which was now for once down around her face, Minerva nodded. "Landed me in detention with Professor Slughorn, no less." She shook her head regretfully. "I don't know how she manages to get me so riled up."
Her thin, dark-eyed friend gave a snort. "Please. She prances around the school like everyone ought to deem her automatically superior because she wears short skirts and is part of Slughorn's little circle. Truth be told, I believe he only invites her because he thinks she'll be able to get her ambitious little claws high up into the Ministry of Magic once we graduate."
Minerva's lip curled. She'd never approved entirely of the Ministry; judging by some of the choices it seemed to make in the face of the Muggle world war going on as well as the broiling Wizarding war against Grindelwald, it was considerably less reliable than a regular person's common sense.
"Of course, that's one thing I don't understand," Irma continued, eyes glittering with some amusement. "How you also manage to be jealous of the fact Dolores is favoured by Slughorn."
Minerva shot a glare at her friend. "I am not jealous of Dolores Umbridge."
"Yes you are - well, at least because of Slughorn. You feel that your talents should be recognized by him, at least somehow, and the fact she's in the club irritates you."
Minerva continued glaring at the other girl, who simply laughed. "You're a fair hand at Transfiguration and you think he ought to acknowledge that fact."
Gathering her dark hair, Minerva looked away from Irma and began to tightly fasten her locks into one of her severe buns. "I believe I have Prefect duty," she said, drawing up primly into her tall, rather impressive figure. "And I hope you know I do not wish to be part of his club, thank you."
Irma gave another laugh. "Goodbye, Minerva. I'll see you at dinner?"
Minerva managed a haughty hmph, but smiled nonetheless. Irma always managed to ground her, something she was very grateful to the other girl for. "Yes, I suppose you will."
Before-dinner Prefect rounds were, Minerva thought, a waste of time. Unlike after-curfew rounds, nobody was sneaking around suspiciously, and nor were there usually an abnormal number of people congregating in the Astronomy tower to kiss. She shook her head at this thought. Kissing, indeed.
With a flick of her wrist, Minerva brought up the tapestry against the wall she was passing, revealing two confused fourth-years who were forced to neaten their robes and hair and scurry away, all the while glaring at her for ruining their romantic moment. She raised her head high, continuing to stride down the hallway. Kissing! If people wished to do it, they ought to resign themselves to more private places than around every corner, or not do it at all.
Nose in the air, Minerva continued to stroll down the hallway looking for any miscreants, or at least students who hung about looking as if they were about to break the rules. She slowed to a stop, however, when she heard voices coming from what looked to be an empty Transfiguration classroom. Two voices, she deduced, as she tilted a ear close to the door. One voice in particular that was threatening the other - one voice in particular that she was very familiar with. Her eyes narrowed into dark slits. Dolores Umbridge.
"Would you like me to take fifty house points off Ravenclaw? I suppose you would like that, having all your little friends hate you just because you haven't done my Potions homework."
"You can't make me -"
"Fifty points, Ackerly."
"I'll tell a teacher, I will -"
"You're nothing but a little fourth-year who had detention yesterday for being out after curfew with a Gryffindor boy. I'm a Prefect, I'll have you remember, and if you don't do it, there might be some... horrifying consequences."
Minerva opened the door then, pushing it forcefully inwards so that it banged loudly against the wall. Victory Ackerly looked up with alarm, an expression which quickly changed to delight as the fourth-year realised the fuming Gryffindor prefect in the doorway didn't expect her to complete fifth-year Potions homework. Dolores sneered. "Minerva, kindly do not interrupt my personal meetings."
The Gryffindor glared at Dolores. "Victory, go," she said tersely. The fourth-year quickly obliged, hurrying out the door and thanking her lucky stars another Prefect had intervened. Dolores hopped off the desk she had been sitting on, an ugly look on her face and her beady eyes fixed on Minerva.
"And why exactly do you think you can threaten other students with the prospect of losing house points?" Minerva hissed frostily. There was a good eight or nine feet between them, but the tension between the two Prefects was perfectly tangible.
Dolores' sneer grew, and she reached up to push her blonde tresses away from her face. They were both leaning forward slightly, and looked almost like fighters in a ring. "How I enforce justice is nothing to do with you, McGonagall," she spat back. "As long as teachers know I'm a good student, I have the upper hand here."
Minerva let out an incredulous laugh. "Justice!" she said, shaking her head. "And what is justice to you, Dolores, blackmail and bribery? It would do you well to remember that your job is to enforce what is right, not use your power to gain what you don't deserve!"
Utter loathing was now displayed cruelly on the blonde's face. "Power, McGonagall - it's something obviously you're never going to understand! You think your high and mighty ways are going to get you anywhere? What will they say, then, what will your favourite professor Dumbledore say when you end up scrubbing the floors of the Ministry? Will you still be enforcing what is right, then, when your pathetic skills and justice land you nowhere? No!"
All Minerva could see was blood red as she plunged her hand into her robes to retrieve her wand, and Dolores did the same; but when she drew it out faster than the other girl and shouted an incantation and heard a cry of "No!" from the doorway all she could think was that the pretty girl she was facing deserved exactly what she was going to get -
and with an almighty BANG of multicoloured light and fiery sparks and dark smoke the blonde vanished, or to be precise, seemed nowhere to be seen, at least until Minerva looked down with mixed disgust and pride to view the terrified-looking toad croaking pathetically amid a pile of robes.
"Miss McGonagall!" came a cry from the door, and she looked around to see Slughorn standing in the doorway, trembling slightly. "Miss Umbridge - oh dear, I've never been proficient in Transfiguration, I'll have to take her to Professor Dumbledore - oh!"
He hurried in and gathered the slimy toad in his hands, grimacing for a moment. Minerva stood, shaking, as she watched him conjure up a jar and deposit the toad - or Dolores Umbridge - inside.
"Miss McGonagall!" Slughorn rumbled, staring at her in disbelief. "I cannot express how disappointed I am of you - fighting in the corridors, first, and now - now this!"
Reality suddenly came crashing down on to Minerva, and she realised what she'd just done. Human transfiguration! Of Dolores Umbridge! It would take complicated spellwork to undo the spell and even so she still might not be completely normal. Why, Minerva could get her Prefect status taken away, or suspended, or even expelled-!
Slughorn was now pacing, staring at the amphibian in the jar, and Minerva awaited her punishment. Something horrifying, no doubt - maybe she would be taken to see Professor Dumbledore, Head of her House - and what a humiliating experience that would be! The older man, always having been what Minerva could consider a friend of hers and not just a teacher, would no doubt be severely upset that she had done such a thing... oh!
Finally, Slughorn stopped, and looked at her intensely. "Miss McGonagall, what you have done has just so many implications - you have broken so many rules, for one - and a Prefect! You are in fifth year, are you not?"
Minerva realised this was a question, and nodded silently.
"Well! I shall have to see... Fifty house points from Gryffindor, Miss McGonagall, and detention twice a week for the next month. I hope you realise what you have done wrong!"
Minerva opened her mouth to protest, then closed it as she realised what he had just done - practically let her off, scot-free! Why, if he had done what most teachers probably would have done, she would almost certainly be expelled, or worse.
She then realised he was smiling at her, and blinked. "Professor-?" Minerva started, rather confused.
Slughorn's smiled widened, and he let out a bit of a chuckle. "Human transfiguration at a fifth-year level!" he said, sounding astounded. "Your talent, Miss McGonagall - incredible! Grown wizards have trouble even mastering human Transfiguration of the smallest degree, and this - why, you're very, very talented indeed! Why... yes, I do believe - would you like to come to my next meeting, Miss McGonagall? I've a rather important guest coming and I should like to showcase a talent like you... human Transfiguration, indeed!"
Minerva could do nothing but nod dumbfoundedly, and he gave another smile of delight as he turned to leave. "Wonderful! I shall notify you when I want to see you. Thank you very much, Miss McGonagall. I should be going along to Dumbledore's now," he said, walking out the door. As he went out of her sight, she heard him exclaim, "human Transfiguration!"
She shook her head, staring at the robes on the floor, and a smile came across her face. She'd just given Dolores Umbridge exactly what she deserved, and Slughorn had invited her to the Slug Club.
It was, quite possibly, the happiest day of her life.