A/N: this is strictly a one-shot. Christmas fuzziness. College has winded me this semester. And it's only going to get worse. But I do have a plot bunny for another chapter fic… we'll have to see
Disclaimer: As much as I wish they were going to be my Christmas presents this year, the character and world depicted herein are NOT MINE.
James was scared out of his mind. Really, how DID he get himself into these kinds of situations?? He was simply continuing his term-long quest for the Hogwarts kitchens, when he stumbled upon an open portrait. Without thinking (honestly, did he ever think these things through?) he had dove in just as the portrait was swinging shut. Now he found himself here. In Minerva McGonagall's sitting room. But that was not the most strange or scary part.
Minerva was smiling. Not simply grinning, or straining her usually straight lips to turn at the corners. Professor McGonagall was smiling, and it spread to her whole body. Even from where he was hiding, James could see the gleam in her eyes that reminded him of the Headmaster. Just as he was absorbing this, McGonagall shocked him even further. She let her ebony hair cascade from the tight knot at the top of her head. She continued the show by removing her starched outer teaching robes to reveal a soft, form-fitting dress underneath. The stowaway under the couch had surely gone without breathing for a full minute now, so great was his shock. The professor picked up a stack of ungraded term exams and snuggled into a chair.
The portrait admitted another to the apartment. Now the cowering first year trembled in earnest. If anyone in the school could snoop out a delinquent student it was the man who had just entered the room. To his further astonishment, Albus Dumbledore walked right past his hiding place and embraced and … and… KISSED the eagerly waitingProfessor McGonagall. ON THE LIPS!!!! James had to keep himself from gagging. As Albus broke away from the kiss, he discreetly raised an eyebrow and threw his gaze directly at the cache of out young voyageur. James flinched, but then Dumbledore turned his attention back to his coworker.
"Exams, Minerva?" He sighed and took them from her hand, "My dear, it's the winter holidays! Enough work for now!" Minerva resisted for a moment, "Besides, you promised you would play me tonight!" he nearly pouted.
"Oh, all right!" McGonagall sighed, in mock exasperation as the papers were discarded onto a nearby table. They walked hand in hand over to the chess table by the fire. The Headmaster conjured one of his ridiculous chintz chairs, and the game began. By this time, James was watching open mouthed. His professors were… MARRIED? It didn't seem possible that they would have a life outside the classroom, let alone romantic interests!! He stared involuntarily at the cheery chess scene. There was an intimate, comfortable banter flying back and forth between the two combatants. The light of the fire and the friendly murmur of voices began to lull the voyeur into a dreamy daze.
Suddenly the perfect scene was shattered by a forlorn cry. Professor McGonagall was on her feet instantly. She dashed into one of the adjoining doors and returned shortly with a gurgling baby. As she walked back to the chess board, the baby peered over her shoulder. James looked as though his eyes were going to dangle from his head. The baby had black hair like McGonagall's, but her eyes were unmistakably Dumbledore blue. Harry rubbed his eyes again. The baby was sitting on her father's lap pulling on his beard.
"Now now, Margaret" he chided, pulling the auburn strands from her pudgy fingers, "No playing with daddy's beard." He handed her one of the chess pieces that was out of play "There you go, little princes." And the baby stuck the piece straight into her mouth, much to the consternation of the piece.
"Margaret!" McGonagall reached as if to take the piece away from her, "Do not put the piece in your mouth, bairn!!!"
But Albus only laughed, "Oh, it's completely harmless, darling! I dare say that piece was getting a bit too cheeky. Besides, it can't hurt her." Minerva grudgingly consented, and the game continued.
James was stunned. If he closed his eyes, ignoring the fact that he was watching the two most powerful people at Hogwarts, and, arguably, the Wizarding World, it was plausible that this was simply an ordinary wizarding family enjoying a lovely Christmastide evening. The room felt warm, and brimming with… James struggled to find the idea… with love. Even in secret this family seemed content to be hidden from the world.
The game ended, and Professor McGonagall stood up. "Can you take care of Margaret while I grade these exams in the teacher's lounge?" Dumbledore began to protest, "I will be able to get them done much more quickly without you too distracting me!" She gathered up the essays.
"I suppose we'll survive," the Headmaster sighed, he bounced the baby on his knee, "Isn't that right Margaret?" the baby giggled in response. Minerva gave a wistful smile and was gone.
As soon as the door shut, Margaret began to tire of her father's lap. "You want down?" Albus queried the squirming baby. He gently set her down on the burgundy and gold rug. Instantly, the baby was off, scooting across the room. To James' horror, he saw that HE was her destination. Frantically, he began to look around for another hiding place. But the baby was too fleet. She dove under the couch with him, and began to chatter nonsense to him.
"Have you found a friend, Margaret?" The Headmaster chuckled, retrieving his daughter from under the couch, allowing James to follow.
Instantly, the first-year began spewing excuses, "I'm sorry, sir! It's just that this portrait was open, and I thought it was a shortcut back to my dormitories, Professor Dumbledore, sir. And then by the time I got here, I…" Dumbledore was laughing. To his face. James became more flustered.
"Always the adventurer, eh, Mr. Potter?" The Headmaster grinned, "What were you looking for this time? Perhaps the materials for a stink bomb? I heard that Mr. Filch confiscated your supply."
"I was looking for the kitchens, sir" James replied, "I've heard stories from the older students about how eager the house elves are to give you sweets…"
"Ah, yes, I'm afraid they do tend to share my sweet tooth." Dumbledore grew grave. "James, what you have seen tonight, only a handful of people in this world have witnessed. And I must ask you never to reveal to anyone what you have seen here." James nodded enthusiastically, "Yes, Professor McGonagall is my wife, and little Margaret is our daughter."
"Why do you hide them sir?" James asked.
"Because I have many enemies, Mr. Potter," Dumbledore looked genuinely sad for a moment. "Dark Wizards do terrible things to the loved ones of their enemies. I have seen it happen before. Stronger wizards than I have lost their minds when they say the broken bodies of those most precious to them. I must hide my marriage and my beautiful daughter to protect them. This way, they are safer from my enemies."
"Surely a powerful wizard like you…!!" James began to protest.
"Even the greatest wizards are weak when the ones they love are taken away." Dumbledore chided, "I could never let anything happen to either of my beautiful girls." He gathered Margaret closer to his heart, and she responded by snuggling into his purple robes. "Now, Mr. Potter, I believe you are out well past your curfew. I will escort you to your tower this once. Next time I will not be so lenient!" He thundered with mock sternness.
"Yes, sir," James was sufficiently cowed. Dumbledore set the baby in a crib filled with toys he conjured for her and a house elf appeared to guard her.
"Oh, and incidentally, Mr. Potter," Dumbledore cast as they stepped through the portrait hole. "If you ever happen to find a portrait of a bowl of fruit, I happen to know that the pear dearly loves to be scratched just below the stem…"
A/N: there you go. SUPER fluffiness. Reviews always loved.