According to Rumour
K – Romance – ADMM – Complete
Summary: A scream, a mysterious stranger, and a rumour... Who says teachers' lives are boring?
Disclaimer: Not mine. Obviously.
A/N: If you don't like ADMM, don't read. You have been warned. This is really rather silly.
A long time ago when I was hanging around in the SSHG part of the fandom there was a WIKTT challenge, something to do with a scream in the night and a stranger... well, actually I don't know if I'm remembering the challenge or a response to the challenge, but the faded memory of that produced this. For no obvious reason.
And I really truly don't know where Amadeus came from.
(And before anyone nitpicks about the soundproofing comment, I assumed they use one-way sound-proofing. Yay for magic.)
Albus hummed quietly to himself as he braided his beard to keep it from tangling in the night, sitting beside the dying fire in his sitting room at the end of the day. Fawkes, drooping sleepily on his perch, crooned a soft harmony and blinked blearily at him.
"Go to sleep, my friend," Albus told him fondly. "Old birds such as ourselves need our rest."
Fawkes gave an indignant hiccup at being called old, but yawned widely and fluffed his feathers out, tucking his head under his wing and settling down to sleep. Albus tied off his braid and smiled at the sleeping phoenix. "Good night, Fawkes," he whispered, standing up.
A scream battered its way through the door and slammed into Albus's ears. He winced, looking around in alarm while Fawkes's head shot up, the phoenix looking at him with wide, worried eyes. They waited a moment, listening, but the woman didn't scream again.
Albus's wand dropped into his hand from his wrist holster and he nodded to Fawkes. "I'll call." He hastened to the door and out into the corridor. Minerva was already there, frowning around with her wand raised warily and wearing a black over-robe hastily flung over a tartan nightgown in lieu of a dressing gown.
"Minerva? What's wrong?"
She tilted an eyebrow at him. "You didn't truly believe that to be me, did you? I've never screamed in my life."
He held up his hands in surrender. "No, I merely hoped you knew the cause."
"Not I. Amadeus didn't wake."
Albus relaxed. "Then at least there is no danger. But who could it have been?"
"No one in one of the teachers' rooms, not if they are at all like mine. The soundproofing in my room is such that I could play the pipes – or a whole pipe band – and you would never hear it."
"Do you?" he asked, momentarily diverted.
"Do I what?" she said distractedly, watching the excited huddle of teachers which had just appeared down the hall and going to meet them.
"Play the pipes." He had to jog to catch up to her determined stride.
She threw him an enigmatic smile over her shoulder.
"Was it you, Minerva?" asked Pomona Sprout, glancing nervously over her shoulder.
Rolanda Hooch scoffed. "Minerva? Minerva doesn't know how to scream. Really, 'Mona, what are you thinking?"
"Thank you for your confidence, Rolanda," Minerva said dryly over top of Pomona's "Don't call me Mona!"
"Do I gather from this that none of you know the source of the scream?" Albus prodded, looking around the group. Severus gave him a blank look, Demeter Sinistra shrugged, and Auberon Vector shook his head. Pomona was too busy looking over her shoulder into the shadows to answer and Rolanda was carrying on a recriminatory conversation in an undertone with Minerva. Argus was most likely haunting the dungeons bemoaning the loss of his thumbscrews, Filius and Kettleburn were on patrol duty, and the rest had taken advantage of it being a Saturday to spend the night elsewhere. "Then might I suggest we make a search—"
"Oh, oh! You too have sensed the unbalance of the psychic forces!" Sybil Trelawney came fluttering down the hall, her hands shaping the air in violent agitation. "It has awakened you as well with its—"
"No," Rolanda said, ruthlessly cutting through the loquaciousness. "We just heard you scream."
"Did I scream?" she asked melodramatically, clutching her hands to her heart with a clatter of bangles. "I was so distraught I know not what I did. Oh, what it is to have such sensitivity to the—"
"What did you see, Sybil?" Minerva asked wearily. Albus smiled into his beard and waited for the answer.
"It was—It was—"
"Your death?" Rolanda suggested helpfully.
Minerva started coughing and Albus patted her on the back. Sybil gave them all a darkling look. "I am doomed to be misunderstood by—"
"Please, Sybil," Albus said gently. "We only wish to know what it is you saw."
("Believe you saw," he was almost certain he heard Minerva mutter.)
"It wasn't—Not... You Know Who?" Pomona asked in a fearful whisper. Calm and matter-of-fact by day, she tended to be easily spooked at night.
"I saw—I saw—" Sybil turned on Minerva, her eyes wide, and pointed a trembling finger. "I saw a man in the Deputy Headmistress's bed!"
Albus choked. Auberon and Severus snorted while Minerva's shoulders shook under Albus's hand and Rolanda howled with laughter. Pomona stared at Sybil in disbelief. "That made you scream?" she asked.
Sybil drew herself up tall. "It is not for me to explain to the ungifted the delicate nature of the Gift. You cannot understand the shock I have suffered—"
"Is it so hard to believe I might have a man in my bed?" Minerva asked dryly. "Why in Merlin's name would you be looking at my bed at all?"
"I wasn't, I was—That is quite beside the point," Sybil said stiffly. "I saw it. I did."
All eyes turned to Minerva to judge the effect of this statement.
"Only if you regard Amadeus as a man. Personally, I don't. Besides, he was on the bed, not in it."
She was greeted with blank faces. Apparently the rest of the staff were not as well acquainted with Amadeus as Albus was. He kept back, folded his arms, and watched with interest. Minerva huffed an exasperated sigh and stuck her fingers in her mouth to give a shrill whistle. Severus winced.
There was a pause, in which Albus and Minerva looked expectantly back at her door. Bewildered, the others followed their gaze. The door opened slightly to allow a crup to poke his nose out of it and blink at them. He yawned widely, shook himself awake, and sauntered down the corridor with his forked tail jauntily in the air, allowing the watching teachers to take stock. He had a heavy jaw for a terrier, which Albus had always thought suggested some bulldog ancestry, and with his tattered ear and collection of scars he looked like a ragamuffin – and not at all the sort of companion suitable for prim and proper Minerva.
Amadeus plonked himself down at Minerva's feet and looked up at her quizzically, his tongue hanging out. "I suppose I should thank you for waking up?" she demanded tartly and he gave her an insouciant doggy grin. "This," she said to the staring staff, "is Amadeus. Ugly creature," she added dispassionately. "I've never liked small dogs." Amadeus rolled on his back, grinning still, and she rubbed his stomach with her slippered foot. "But highly intelligent and apparently determined to stay with me."
The others looked stunned by the appearance of the crup. Amadeus grinned at them and rolled onto his front, trotting over to Albus who chuckled and bent down to scratch his ears while watching Minerva.
She rolled her eyes and demanded: "How can you not have realised I own – or am owned by – a crup? Every single one of you has been here for at least five years!" Their blank looks didn't fade and she turned to Albus, who now had Amadeus sprawled blissfully at his feet. "Could we please hire a new, more observant staff?" He smiled at her. "And stop spoiling him, will you? He only thinks he needs attention."
Demeter, at the back of the pack of teachers, said, "I've seen him before. I assumed it was Albus's animagus form. Especially when I saw him enter your room."
Albus chuckled to himself, especially when the guilty faces of the others (sans Severus, who simply looked sick) proved what he already knew: speculation about his and Minerva's relationship was rife. He knew far more of the day-to-day gossip than his staff realised and rumours that he and Minerva were romantically involved had been following them for almost as long as Minerva had been working at Hogwarts, after they had quickly become good friends.
Far more amusing than their guilty faces, though, was the look of collective fear as they waited for Minerva's legendary temper to explode.
Minerva tried not to laugh. Only Albus didn't look terrified and it was gratifying to know that some of the most skilled witches and wizards in England (and Sybil) could be reduced to errant schoolchildren just because of her. She could become angry, of course, at being the subject of their puerile gossip yet again, but a good revenge might be much more satisfying.
Since they obviously had far too much time on their hands she would feel no guilt at all in piling a great deal more work onto them (except for Severus, who already worked too hard and clearly was hoping to never have to think about a potential relationship between her and Albus again).
She thought all of this in the breath after Demeter's announcement. In the second breath she decided to surprise them all and then get revenge later when they weren't expecting it.
"Really, Demeter," she scolded mildly. "Were Albus sneaking into my rooms in any form you certainly wouldn't see him. He is far too skilled at hiding himself. He also has that flaming peacock he calls a phoenix." She paused to let this sink in. "Besides which, were we having a clandestine affair I can assure you we would meet in Albus's rooms. They're far more comfortable."
She surveyed the effect of this with satisfaction. Given her usual reaction to discovering herself to be the subject of gossip, this calm recitation of hypotheticals was clearly flabbergasting. Albus winked at her, his eyes twinkling madly.
"However, since we aren't, we don't. Now, if the sole reason I've been dragged out of my bed in the middle of the night is Sybil's inaccurate scrying, then I should like to return to it. Good night, all – for the second time."
"Good night, Minerva," Albus said cheerfully, the only one with a tongue.
Amadeus trotted at her heels as she swept away and she held the door open for him to precede her. As she glanced back at the group she'd just left, she saw Albus ushering them away. Sensing her gaze, he looked at her and lifted a hand in farewell.
Minerva smiled as she shut the door. "I work with lunatics," she informed Amadeus. He whuffed an agreement. "And you're one of them," she pointed out.
Amadeus gave the canine equivalent of a sarcastic laugh and followed her back to bed.
A week later, during which the staffroom had mysteriously been infested by pixies, the coffeepot had been charmed to produce only decaf, and the house elves had somehow been convinced to serve only haggis for dinner at the staff table for three nights in a row, Minerva felt sure her colleagues had gotten the point. Severus and Albus, who didn't use the staffroom, drank tea, and hadn't had haggis inflicted upon them, had watched on with amusement.
Perhaps in future the others would refrain from spreading odious gossip, she thought without any real hope as she arrived back at her rooms in the late evening. Amadeus appeared around the corner as she opened the door.
"Have you had an interesting day?" she asked, letting him into the room ahead of her.
He yipped excitedly and she laughed.
"I did hear that Rolanda lost her favourite broom and it wasn't until she used quite a complicated finding spell that she found it half-buried under a bush. I believe there may have been some teeth marks in it?"
Amadeus contrived to appear innocent and looked a question at her.
"Yes, I do think she believes you exist now. Did your patrol go well?"
He wagged his tail and jumped onto the couch, yawning widely and turning several times before choosing a comfortable spot.
"What an excellent plan," she agreed, yawning herself. "It's been quite a long day. I'd better deal with these essays first, though."
Amadeus grinned at her and flopped his head down pointedly on his paws.
"Some people have to work for a living," she pointed out. "We can't all of us cadge off of strangers."
She sat down at her desk and set out the scrolls, glancing through them. After about ten minutes she heard Amadeus thump down onto the floor, but she didn't pay him any attention as he padded around behind her. Not until he came to sit in front of her where he could grin at her did she look up suspiciously.
"What are you smirking about?" she demanded, fighting a grin of her own. "I know that look, Amadeus, and it means troubl-eyow!" She ended in a yelp when her vision disappeared.
"Guess who!" said a familiar voice in her ear as she realised that someone had put his hands over her eyes.
"Albus!" she shrieked indignantly, spinning around to direct a backhanded blow at him. He dodged adroitly out of the way in a swirl of purple robes. "Get back here!" she ordered, trying not to laugh. "I have to hit you."
"So violent, Minerva," he chided, ducking out of her way as she rose from her chair and stalked after him. "Whatever would your students think?"
"That it was a miracle I lasted so many years without becoming homicidal." She lunged for him but he danced out of the way with the grace befitting a practising dueller.
Not as willing to chase him as she might have been in her youth, Minerva settled for pulling out her wand and flicking it at the cushions on the couch. Albus managed to dodge the first missile, but when she sent three at him at once from three separate directions even he couldn't escape them all.
"Surely this is cheating!" he protested, raising his arm to ward off another cushion.
"Not when I'm doing it," she said as if it was perfectly reasonable, continuing to pelt him until he escaped into her bedroom. She followed him, keeping up the barrage, and he tripped on the rug and tumbled onto her bed, laughing too hard to protect himself from the next two cushions. Amadeus jumped around Minerva, barking madly and his tail wagging furiously. She smirked at him and fired another pair of cushions at Albus, who pulled the duvet cover over himself in a vain attempt at defence. Minerva buffeted him with another cushion as realisation dawned on her.
She gave as heartfelt a groan as she could manage. "Oh no!"
Albus's head popped up from beneath the duvet. "What is it?" he asked in concern. Amadeus gave a laughing whuff and Minerva was hard put not to laugh herself at the sight of Albus's dishevelled hair and askew beard.
She managed to maintain her despairing expression, though it was a close thing, and said, "She was right!"
"Who was right? Minerva, what's wrong?"
Now she just couldn't help the smile breaking across her face. "The old bat made a true prediction! There's a man in my bed!"
Albus stared at her a moment, then looked down at the corner of the duvet he had clutched in his hand. He looked back at her helpless expression and started laughing so hard that she couldn't help laughing too.
When he sobered, though, his face turned pensive. "You don't suppose, Minerva," he asked, a strange look in his eyes, "that if Sybil is correct then the others too might be correct?"
"We are not conducting an illicit affair, Albus. I feel sure I would have noticed. Now come, get out of my bed." She stepped forward, meaning to pull the covers off him, but tripped over Amadeus and fell onto the bed, sprawling over Albus's legs and beside him on the bed. Shifting her legs off his and ruefully rubbing at what was sure to be a fine bruise on her shin in the morning, Minerva sighed, leaning her head on her shoulder.
"Minerva? Are you all right?"
She looked up to see Albus's face very close. That strange look was still in his eyes and she opened her mouth to question him on it but he closed the gap between them. His whiskers were bristly and tickled her cheeks, but his lips were soft and warm on hers and she was filled with regret when he pulled away.
He looked at her, a light of wonder in his eyes, and she stared back at him. "Do you know," she said quietly, "in all these years of dismissing rumours, I never once stopped to wonder if there was a reason for them."
Albus smiled. "I didn't realise it was possible to be in love without being aware of it. We're a pair of old fools, aren't we?"
"A little less of the 'old', thank you." Amadeus barked derisively. "I'll deal with you later," she threatened without looking at him.
But right now, Albus was beside her, pulling her close.