Take Me Out to a Quidditch Match
G – Humour, Romance – ADMM – Oneshot
Summary: Dragging Albus to a Quidditch match turns out to be the best idea Aberforth ever had.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Which is probably lucky for them.
A/N: Help me, I've gone insane. Seriously. Help.
I'm not sure how well this story qualifies for either the humour or romance genres, but that was the best I could figure. Also, this is not DH compliant. It may still seem out of character even taking that into account, but all we've seen in canon is filtered through Harry's viewpoint so we've only seen them in their official roles. Also also, this is set about 1950. Also also also, the science is probably rubbish, I made it up as I went along – although the idea of a magical science does intrigue me, I admit. Also-times-4, New Worlds is apparently a British science fiction magazine of the period.
Take Me Out to a Quidditch Match
"Oh!" Aberforth jumped to his feet as if someone had lit a fire under his seat. "There's Gertie! I must ask her if that spray got rid of the lice."
Albus made no protest (not that one would have been heeded) and idly watched him go, sinking down in his seat and enjoying the anonymity of being just one in a crowd of Quidditch fans. The seats immediately around him were empty and no one was looking in his direction, which was a pleasant change. Admittedly the stadium wasn't very full, since no one expected this to be much of a match – but nor were they expecting to see the famous Albus Dumbledore wearing horrendous orange robes emblazoned with Chudley Cannons insignia and lounging in a most undignified manner on a hard bench in a Quidditch stadium. People were usually surprised to find that he even liked Quidditch, apparently believing that he must spend his days wrestling with esoteric problems of magical theory incomprehensible to the layman, not doing mundane things like laundry, dishes, and watching Quidditch.
He idly shared his attention between Aberforth, who was gamely competing for space in his conversation with a garrulous old woman with a goat-skin rug over her knees, and the groundsmen who were zipping around on their brooms on the pitch below, making the final preparations for the match. Subsequently he didn't notice the woman making her way between the seats until she tripped over his feet. She caught herself on the back of the row of seats in front as he hastily rose to his feet, apologising profusely.
As his apology petered out, they stared at each other for a moment. Albus saw a woman who might have been thirty, a couple of decades younger than him, with sharp, intelligent eyes behind her square-rimmed glasses, an athletic figure, and a determined chin. She in turn saw a tall, lean man with merry eyes, a short auburn beard, and a Muggle baseball cap over his hair. He wore his years so lightly they might nearly have been the same age.
"Orange doesn't suit you," she informed him. "Especially not with that beard."
"Blood red and silver can't be said to be your ideal colours," he retorted. "They make you look washed out."
"I know," she agreed amicably. Relations having thus been cordially established, she sat down beside him. "My friend is supporting the Wanderers today and forced me to wear this ridiculous outfit."
"My brother," he admitted. "He prefers to support the underdog, which would be more acceptable if he didn't also delight in betting on them."
She laughed. "Well, he's certainly not going to be cheered by today's result. I love Quidditch, but Nissa had to drag me along today. The only interesting thing about this match will be seeing whether the Cannons can lose by less than 300 points."
Albus chuckled in agreement, but mused, "If they were to win, Aberforth would most likely be upset rather than pleased."
"Oh?" She looked at him enquiringly, her eyes crinkling at the corners with expectant amusement.
"If they start winning," he pointed out, "then they will no longer be the underdog."
She laughed again. "Very true."
"So what was it that was so intriguing and important you had to be dragged away from it to attend a Quidditch match?"
Leaning back in her seat, she turned a little so she could see him better. "I had intended to spend the afternoon working out what Thompson did wrong." At his quizzical look, she elaborated, "He published an article in the latest Transfiguration Today which completely contradicts the evidence of all previous work. I'm surprised the referees let it through. I'd love to take a look at his actual experimental setup but he'll probably take out a restraining order if I try to inspect any more of his work."
Albus chuckled appreciatively. "Apollo Thompson? No, he's not entirely reliable. What was his article about? I haven't had a chance to read the latest issue."
That made her look at him with interest. "You read Transfiguration Today?"
"Among other things. Why the surprise?"
"I wasn't expecting it from a random stranger. My friends stick their fingers in their ears when I try to discuss any of the articles with them."
He smiled. "Aberforth – that's my brother – turns himself into a goat. He claims that when he's a goat none of my words have any meaning, so he isn't troubled by them."
"A goat? How does he turn back?"
"It's a timed spell. If he's not human again in ten minutes, I have been informed, then it is my sacred duty as his brother to cart him off to Magic Reversal."
"Long may it work properly, then. We have enough work to do without adding goats to the list."
"If it comes to that I won't need to bring him in; my mastery was in Transfiguration. You work in Magic Reversal, I take it?"
"I do indeed. You wouldn't believe the things we see." She shook her head in disbelief.
"I might," he said. "I teach Transfiguration at Hogwarts."
She winced. "You very well might," she agreed. "Who apprenticed you?"
"I hate you," she said calmly.
"Why thank you. Usually I have to meet a person two or three times before she comes to that conclusion."
Her eyes reflected his twinkle back at him. "I've always been very direct. I would have loved to work with Flamel, some of the work he's produced over the years—"
"Centuries," Albus corrected, sotto voce, which earned him a laughing glare.
"—has been incredible." She studied him. "Can I have your luck, please?"
He laughed. "I'm not sure—"
A huge cheer went up around the stadium, the crowd making up for its lack of numbers with its enthusiasm. The umpire entered the pitch, quickly followed by both teams while someone with his Sonorus turned up uncomfortably loud screamed their names. The Chudley Cannons' fans, while smaller in numbers, were louder than their opposition, the fanaticism that led them to follow a dying cause making them highly vocal. Albus could see Aberforth below him, jumping up and down with excitement, and laughed as he added his voice to the cheers.
The woman beside him cheered too, almost as excited as Aberforth. He smiled at her as the players took up their places and the crowd sank back into its seats. "And you didn't even want to come."
"Quidditch is Quidditch," she said firmly, her face alive with enthusiasm.
"Well it's certainly not cricket," he chuckled, making her roll her eyes.
"You are a sad, sad man," she informed him.
"It's true," he admitted mournfully.
They chatted together as if they were long-lost friends, not complete strangers, and watched the game in between arguing about arithmancy formulae and trading notes on gaining their masteries. It wasn't a very entertaining game, the two sides being so unevenly matched, but the Wanderers were taking the chance to try out some difficult moves which his companion enjoyed. Albus enjoyed her enjoyment more than the actual moves since he'd only ever played seeker and the moves of the other players didn't interest him 'professionally'. The woman at his side could however, if knowledge was enough to make one a star player, have played any position in the field.
"Nissa's in the Harpies," she confessed when he prodded. "She lives and breathes the stuff. She'd have a Quidditch-themed wedding if she could ever drag herself away from practice long enough to meet someone. It's amazing how much one can learn just through osmosis."
He laughed. "My students certainly can't," he said wryly, "they merely think they can. Some of them believe that sleeping on a textbook allows its information to percolate into the brain." This made her chuckle, but she soon fell silent and contemplative, not even smiling when two of the Wanderers' chasers pulled off a spectacular double-team. "What is the matter?"
"Hmm? Oh nothing. I was just thinking."
"That much was self-evident. May I ask what it is that consumes your concentration so thoroughly?"
"Please do," she smiled. "I like your wording so much better than Nissa's 'stop thinking and start talking!'"
"I endeavour to please," he said, sketching a little bow. "Shall I repeat the question for your listening pleasure?"
"No, that's all right. I was thinking about Thompson's article."
"Are you always this determined?"
She didn't even have to think about it. "Yes. But I have a horrifying feeling he may be right."
"Yes. Isn't it absurd?"
"The laws of statistics do suggest that everyone must be right once in a while," he said mildly.
"Not Thompson," she said firmly. "He was discussing the effects of electrical fields on transfigured objects."
"There is none, surely," Albus protested. "Magic disrupts electrical flows completely, that's why no electrical equipment can be brought into places like Hogwarts."
"Yes, but not all electrical systems are affected," she said reasonably. "If they were, our bodies would encounter problems the moment we entered a magical field because our nervous systems would be disrupted."
"But—" He hesitated. "Oh."
She wrinkled her nose. "Exactly." It seemed to Albus that he could see the cogs whirring in her brain. "I'm going to have to think about this when I get home."
"A paper?" he suggested.
"If you need a guinea pig..." he offered, slightly hesitant. Even as he made the offer he realised that she didn't know him, didn't know his capabilities, and had no reason to trust him or want his help.
But she smiled at him without a single qualm. "I'll know who to call," she assured him.
Her sudden stiffening cut him off. "I don't believe it!" He followed her gaze onto the pitch. "I don't believe it! They're going to get a goal! The Cannons are going to score!" She jumped to her feet, shouting encouragement, joined by almost the entire stadium. Albus leant forward in his seat, watching intently as the chasers sped down the field, grinning madly at the hullabaloo going on around him and willing the fliers on.
When the goal went in, the entire crowd was on its feet to give the Cannons a standing ovation, all cheering and clapping like mad no matter which side they were supporting. The team sped around the pitch in a victory lap, their vivid orange robes making them look like a circle of very kitsch fire.
Albus and his friend collapsed into their seats, grinning like idiots, as the game continued.
"Well," she said firmly. "If that can happen then I am convinced: Thompson is right." She sighed happily, her hat askew. "It was worth coming just to see that."
He chuckled. "And here I thought that meeting me might have been some consolation."
She looked at him sideways. "Searching for flattery? You'd better go and find some other random stranger."
"No, thank you. I'm quite content with this one."
That made her laugh. "Flattery does not earn you flattery, I'll have you know."
"It's the truth," he said simply.
She smiled at him. "I know. It's the same for me." Their smiling gazes held a moment. "So, do you get to do any research around your teaching?"
"Occasionally. I don't recommend it as a job if your preference is for pure research, but I find the summer holidays are usually productive."
"Aren't you supposed to use those for holidays?"
"What's a holiday?" he joked and she grinned.
"Don't let Nissa hear you say that or she'll never let me see you again. What are you working on at the moment?"
"It's not truly Transfiguration. I'm interested in the effects of gravity upon magical flows."
"Really? That could be interesting. What have you come up with?"
"A lot of ideas and not a lot of proof."
"I'm not surprised. I wouldn't have thought there would be an effect, to be honest."
"Magic is also bound by the laws of physics in its own way," he pointed out. "You know of Relativity Theory?"
"Yes, though I'm surprised you do. Not too many wizards are interested in Muggle research."
"Muggle theories can provide fascinating insights into old magical questions. But the implication that gravity is due to a warping of space-time – that could have a significant effect on magic that we don't even know about."
"Assuming that magic is dependent on those dimensions."
"Yes, but even magic is dependent on the speed of light, which implies that some other boundaries may also apply."
She frowned thoughtfully. "Maybe..." A cheer made her look at the game again, but she chewed her lip thoughtfully as she watched the quaffle being passed around. She turned back. "But if—Oh, I'm Minerva, by the way. Minerva McGonagall." She held out her hand.
Albus winced, anticipating the squeals of 'Not the Albus Dumbledore' and demands for autographs. "Albus Dumbledore."
He should have known better. "Really? You don't look much like your photograph. Now look, if gravity really has an effect on magical flows there should be a measurable effect at different heights above sea level. Someone would have noticed something."
"Unless the difference is too slight for us to currently measure."
"But if it's that small its effect is negligible and completely irrelevant."
"While you're in an Earth-gravity environment. Even the difference in gravity between sea level and the top of Everest is only zero-point-two percent. In a non-Earth gravity environment the effect may be important."
"You've been reading far too much science fiction," she accused merrily.
"No," he protested unconvincingly, "I—Wait, how do you know?"
She froze, then sighed. "Bother," she said unconcernedly, "you've caught me."
"Oh yes! Did you read Clarke's latest?"
"Yes, but wait a moment, going back to gravity. What if you're accelerating? That has the same effect as gravity, gravity being in essence a form of acceleration. If gravity affects magic then acceleration might affect magic."
"True. Though I never said it wasn't an interesting idea, I was just wondering about the practical applications. And if the difference is too slight for you to measure, how are you going to measure it?"
"I'll just have to invent some new measuring devices, won't I?"
"That could be fun," she said, genuinely interested.
"I believe so," he agreed.
She laughed. "I had better not introduce you to Nissa ever. She would hate to think I'd found someone who might encourage me to do all those boring things she wants to wean me from."
"They're not boring," he protested
"I know that. You'll never convince Nissa, though." She sighed happily. "It's so nice to talk about some real research for a change and not just about Quidditch and the latest botch-up come in at Reversal. Although the latter can be interesting, I must admit. Just last week we had a man who managed to accidentally turn himself into a frog. With a spell, mind, not a potion."
"How do you accidentally cast a complicated spell like that upon yourself?"
"I have no idea, but he checked out under truth spell. He was just lucky his landlady paid enough attention to the frog to realise it was trying to tell her something."
"And that she wasn't scared of frogs."
"She brought both him and his notes down to us, but we couldn't work out how to break down the enchantment without causing him permanent damage – actually, that was quite interesting, it was a well-crafted spell. He was just lucky he devised it with a counter."
Albus grinned. "Not..."
"Yes." She gave a long-suffering sigh and grinned at him. "The perils of reading children bed-time stories. A kiss from a maiden would break the spell. He was just lucky he hadn't specified princess, or we might still be looking." She pulled a face. "I could almost wish we were."
His grin widened. "So you've kissed a frog."
Grimacing at him, she said, "All part of the glamorous life at Magic Reversal."
"It could have been worse," he reassured her.
"Well... he could have been a goat."
Her eyebrows rose. "That sounds like it has a story behind it."
It was his turn to grimace. "I should never have brought it up."
"Yes you should have, and now you have to tell all. I told you my embarrassing story, now it's your turn."
"Fine." He watched the fliers for a moment, collecting his thoughts. "Aberforth likes goats. Some people like horses or dogs, Aberforth likes goats. He's been up on charges twice for casting inappropriate charms on them. The first time was because of Charlie. Aberforth gave him human hands and charmed him to say random phrases. The Muggle postman got such a fright at having a goat shake his hand and say 'Pleased to meet you' that even with his memory obliviated he resigned from our route."
Minerva laughed. "And the second time?"
"Boris. He lived on the front lawn, keeping the grass – and the trees – down, but whenever someone wanted to get to the front door he had to get past Boris."
"How?" she asked, drawing the word out, and clearly scenting a catch.
"You had to waltz around the garden with him before he'd let you pass. It confused the Muggles no end."
"I bet you enjoyed it, though," she accused, her voice shaking with mirth.
"Not when it was pouring with rain," he hedged. She kept smiling at him, a knowing twinkle in her eye. "Yes, all right, I suppose I did."
"Thought so," she said with satisfaction. "But none of this involves kissing a goat."
"No," he agreed mournfully. "I was hoping to distract you."
"You failed," she informed him cheerfully.
"So I noticed. Very well. Alice is Aberforth's current favourite. He's finally learnt his lesson and doesn't put charms on them any more, so Alice is a perfectly normal goat – who has been brought up to believe she's a human."
"Precisely. She wears a jacket and eats at the table and has a little bed in which she sleeps. If I am foolish enough to allow myself to be inveigled into staying the night it is my treat to be allowed to tuck her in, read her a bedtime story, and give her a kiss goodnight."
"You are very lucky man," she agreed with mock solemnity.
"Did I mention that she has a pigtail behind each ear?"
It was too much for her self control and she collapsed with laughter. "Oh dear," she said when she could speak again, "aren't people funny? My mother has the ugliest little cat – it looks like a rat, with not a scrap of fur on it – and she dotes upon the creature. But then I fear I too have foibles for which others may laugh at me, so I suppose I shouldn't laugh too much."
"Name one," he challenged.
"Aside from systematically tearing apart half the articles in each edition of Transfiguration Today?"
"That is merely putting your intelligence to work."
"How chivalrous of you to say so. Very well. I... talk to plants and cats as if they can understand me."
"Only plants and cats?" He gave her a look of mock surprise and she laughed, a look of challenge in her eyes.
"The snitch!" the commentator bellowed as the people several rows ahead jumped out of their seats with excitement. The seekers dove towards the tiny ball and Albus had to resort to his omnoculars to be able to spot it. Beside him Minerva was cheering both seekers on indiscriminately, heedless of the colours she wore, but it was the Wanderers' seeker which caught the snitch in the end.
Cheers and applause rang around the stadium, though the Chudley Cannon supporters looked downcast. Except for Albus, who was only an honorary one, and Aberforth, who was coming back to his seat looking perfectly cheerful. Aberforth, his head full of goats, didn't notice there was someone else sitting in his seat until he was almost on top of her and looked at her with surprise.
Albus smiled as he and Minerva stood. "Minerva McGonagall, this is Aberforth Dumbledore."
The pair shook hands and then the group headed along the seats for the aisle. "I hear you're fond of goats," Minerva said. "Any particular reason?"
Albus smiled as Aberforth stopped to think about this as if it was a previously unconsidered question. Perhaps it was.
"No," he decided eventually. "I just like them. Do you like them?"
"Better than sheep, but not as much as cats."
"Oh." This made her far less interesting than Gertie and Aberforth immediately started in on a monologue about Gertie's goats and the potion that had apparently rid them of lice. Nodding occasionally but aware that all his brother really wanted was an audience, Albus offered Minerva his arm as they walked towards the exit. She took it absently, listening to Aberforth's speech with the bewildered fascination people use for enthusiasts in a field they don't understand the appeal of.
A short bluff woman with cropped, spiky hair and yellow eyes swooped down on them but failed to disrupt Aberforth's monologue. "Minerva, where have you been? I was worried," she added unconvincingly.
"You never noticed I was gone," Minerva accused, letting go of Albus's arm.
"I did notice there seemed to be a little less sulking going on beside me, but... no, I didn't."
Minerva shot Albus a look, inviting him to join in her laughter, and opened her mouth. Before she could speak, though, a large woman bustled between Minerva and her friend, took Albus by the arm, and scrutinised his face intently. Then she sighed with disappointment and walked away. "No," they heard her call to her friends, "it's not him."
Albus's jaw sagged involuntarily. Minerva laughed at him. "I told you it was a bad photo."
Her friend frowned. "Are you someone famous? Wait, you're not Hadrian Hrun, are you?"
Minerva rolled her eyes. "Not every famous person is a Quidditch star, Nissa."
Albus ignored Minerva's snickering. "Albus Dumbledore, at your service."
"Not the Albus Dumbledore!" Nissa pumped his hand enthusiastically while he tried not to mind. "You were the youngest seeker at Hogwarts in a hundred and fifty years!"
He gaped at her.
"He also defeated Grindelwald," Minerva interjected amusedly.
Nissa dismissed this as trivial. "Why didn't you go pro?" she demanded. "I've heard all about you and you could have been great!"
"Circumstances didn't permit it," he said delicately.
"Let it go, Nissa," Minerva ordered. "Not everyone is as obsessed with you." She gave Aberforth, still holding forth to his unresponsive audience, a perplexed look. "At least, not about Quidditch. Albus, this is Dionysia Hooch."
"Definitely a pleasure," she said, smiling.
"Most assuredly," he responded gallantly.
"But we've got to go, Min, we've got Ingrid—"
"Oh horrors! Yes, we have to go. Albus – owl me that theorem we were talking about and I'll send you the proof it doesn't work. And keep me updated about the gravity thing."
"If you'll do the same with Thompson's idea."
He smiled and watched her walking away. "Minerva!" he called after her and she turned back, eyebrows raised enquiringly. "Marry me?"
She looked him up and down dispassionately, though the crinkles in the corners of her eyes betrayed her hidden smile. "Yes, all right." She beamed at him, then took Nissa's arm and led her away.
Albus grinned. It had been a great day.