Author's Note: Just a bit of a scribble that I couldn't seem to get out of my head, and didn't want to fit into any other story. Not earth-shatteringly brilliant, but mildly amusing and tolerably inoffensive. Enjoy. :-)
The sun beamed cheerily across the Hogwarts grounds, smiling to the accompaniment of industrious bees. Through the open staffroom windows drifted the heady perfume of Pomona Sprout's new flutterby bushes, and the joyous screams and splashes of the children at the lake's edge. Truly a day of innocent and pastoral beauty...
As on so many such days, an argument was raging in the Hogwart's staffroom. Professor Charity Burbage was glaring over her patchwork-cosied teapot at Professor Filius Flitwick, a high pink tinge in her cheeks, and a silver-studded eyebrow raised in mockery.
"Well, go on then," she smirked, "What's your familiar?"
The diminutive Professor Flitwick merely beamed over the top of his hot chocolate, his purple boots propped upon a tottering pile of cushions.
"Athena," he answered promptly, referring to the beautiful tawny owl, almost as large as himself, who sat perched upon the wardrobe in the corner regurgitating bits of dead mouse onto the floor in a meditative fashion. Filius waved a vague hand in her general direction.
"Yes, Goddess of wisdom." He chuckled. "Very fitting, I like to think."
"Of course you do," Irma Pince snorted. She was seated, straight-backed and efficient in the chair closest to the door, a sinuous grey cat upon her knee, glaring unblinkingly at the tiny charms professor.
"Greymalkin would eat you and your budgie for breakfast in a heartbeat!" She proclaimed, to Charity's accompanying nods.
"Which is also very fitting," said Minerva McGonagall, contemptuously, having entered the staffroom just in time to overhear the exchange. She conjured a mug of tea for herself and summoned a chair towards the fireplace. Professor Snape, who had in fact been aiming for the same chair, shot her his most malicious glare and drew a second armchair closer to the fire, cutting off her warmth. Minerva battered him over the head with a cushion, and they tussled for a several seconds before seeming to recall the conversation.
"The whole concept of a familiar is ridiculous anyway." Minerva snapped. It's simply another way of letting your enemies get to you."
There was a moment of slightly uncomfortable silence. Severus shot her a calculating glance. Minerva's owl familiar had, they all knew, recently met an unpleasantly grisly death at the overenthusiastic hands of the High Inquisitor's censoring process. The Transfiguration mistress had been famously inconsolable, even going so far as to curse the old toad with a skin-stripping hex.
Septima Vector tried to smooth over the moment. "Why don't you get yourself a new familiar, Minerva?" She asked, lightly. "You must be the only person on the staff without one." She gave a sweeping gesture of her hand which encompassed her own raven Roac, Mrs. Norris, Charity's iguana and Sinistra's nightingale.
"I still think they're an unnecessary liability," snapped Minerva. "It's dependence, that's what it is."
"Oh, come now!" cried Poppy. "You're always so pessimistic! Besides, I don't know what I'd do without Hippocrates." She stroked the slender brown snake twined about her upper arm. "They're more than just a channel for magic, you know. They're friends. Kindred spirits."
"In that case," came Severus's voice, dryly from his corner, "Minerva's is undoubtedly a dragon."
There was a ripple of appreciative laughter. Minerva leant over to swipe at him with her Transfiguration journal.
"I would prefer you to have made the connection between myself and an awe-inspiring golden griffin," she scowled. "But in absence of such a beast, I suppose a dragon will do. I dare say Rubeus has one I could borrow."
Filius chuckled squeakily. "Well what's your familiar then, Severus?"
"A thestral," said Pomona swiftly, to another ripple of laughter. "They're ugly, bad-tempered, and thoroughly gloomy."
"Ugly is a matter of opinion!" snapped Minerva. "I like them!"
Snape gave a mock bow. "And it has not escaped your notice, of course, that they're also powerful, imposing, dangerous, and highly intelligent."
The others laughed.
"Quite true," came Dumbledore's voice from behind them, so quietly that only Minerva and Severus heard. "And Thestrals, also, have a surprising ability to find their way home in the dark."