A/N: It seems that every time I try to write something serious I automatically drift off into the decidedly not-so-serious. The first paragraphs of this came - again - from yet another old backup from 2003. All characters are J.K. Rowling's, but I lay claim on Hooch's boots and Minerva's tablecloth.
It was one of those Monday mornings.
Minerva McGonagall woke up, stretched her limbs with a stifled yawn, untangled herself from her tartan quilt, heaved her legs out of her four-poster bed, and from then on everything went downhill.
Six o'clock said her alarm clock, and she was nowhere near rested. Through a light mist of near-sightedness and mind-numbing fatigue that was the result of yet another night when sleep had come late, she found her way into the tiny bathroom and stepped into the shower, hoping for a hard jet of cold water to wake her up. And indeed, the mist cleared as water as icy as a Highland creek in the spring ran down her body and cranked up her circulation. She began to wash her hair, working the heavy pile on top of her head into a rich and luxurious lather with a more than generous helping out of a fuchsia-coloured bottle, and inhaled deeply in gleeful anticipation of the invigourating scent of rosemary.
An acetic stench that dried up her throat and sent tears to her eyes made even the last remnants of fog disappear in an instant.
Breathing as shallowly as she could, she squinted at the small tray that held her rosemary shampoo, a bottle of Madam Roddick's Eternal Raven conditioner, a bar of plain soap, a unicorn hair glove she swore by for keeping that connective tissue (rather well-preserved if she might say so herself) tight and upright – and another pinkish bottle. Squinting even harder, she read: Master Prim's Vinegar-Based Detergent – For Spotless Sparkle Where Magic Can't Reach. Oh, yes. As requested from the house elves. So that was where they had put it.
She reached through the tartan shower curtain and patted the bathroom shelf, hoping to find the glasses she had deposited there the evening before. Before starting on her second attempt at washing her hair, she wanted to make dead sure that she got the right bottle.
There they were. Or would have been, rather, had she not just wiped them off the shelf and onto the stone floor.
Professor McGonagall sighed. She took the large towel that matched the shower curtain as perfectly as the bath rug and the toothbrush holder, stepped out of the shower—"Ouch!"—and into the debris of her glasses. Muttering one of the words she only used on select occasions, and even then only in Gaelic, she sat down on the wooden bathroom stool.
"Accio wand! Reparo spectacles. Accio spectacles."
Her glasses now on the bridge of her nose where they belonged, she examined the damage to her foot. There was a nasty cut and a fair bit of blood, but with some do-it-yourself healing magic and a modicum of countenance, she should be fine until after lessons. Or should she see Poppy right away? A glance at the wall clock told her that she would either have time to go to the hospital wing or to try to get the acidic smell out of her hair.
Being Minerva McGonagall facilitated the choice. She dropped the towel onto the wooden stool and reached for the other pink bottle.
Half an hour later, Professor McGonagall walked down the corridor in a slightly less-brisk-than-usual way, her face a trifle tense because her bun had turned out extremely tight that morning. The smaller the volume, the less conspicuous the smell, she had told herself. Hopefully.
As she turned around the corner on her way to the Great Hall, she perceived the sound of rather short-winded huffing and puffing, accompanied by the clic-clac of considerable mass weighing down on too-dainty shoes, pastel-coloured ones by the sound of them.
Just whom I need on a morning like this. "Good morning, Dolores."
"Good morning, Minerva." Professor Umbridge sniffed into various directions. "My, seems the house-elves made fresh pickles for breakfast."
Professor McGonagall flinched.
"I believe we shall have a splendid day today, don't you think, Minerva?" Professor Umbridge continued in her gooiest Chocolate Frog voice, unnerving even after two cups of Earl Grey, and positively unbearable before.
"I wouldn't know, Dolores, meteorology used to be Professor Trelawney's department," Professor McGonagall answered icily.
Just at that moment, two stocky figures in Gryffindor colours darted past them.
"Weasley! Weasley! Manners!" Professor McGonagall called out after them but bit her lip that very instant. As much as she frowned upon running in the corridors, it was not an excuse for telling off her students in front of that woman.
"Ah, Minerva, we can do better than that," Professor Umbridge lilted. She took out her wand.
But Professor Umbridge had already performed her spell. A low, growling sound emanated from her wand, then a sudden smell of wet dog, and a heartbeat later, Fred and George Weasley, a rare expression of perplexion on their faces, had pink leather leashes studded with enormous fake diamonds growing out of their necks. Professor Umbridge took their looped ends and handed them over to Professor McGonagall with a sugary smile.
"I believe these are your pups, professor."
Professor McGonagall turned livid. With some effort on the part of the listener, words like "spells", "punishment", "what this school" and "coming to" could have been distinguished between her clenched teeth. As she grabbed her wand out of her pocket to perform the counter-spell, Professor Umbridge raised her own in response.
"Minerva, I thank you not to undermine my authority."
"Dolores, I thank you not to physically restrain my students."
A loud BANG resonated through the corridors of the Main Building, amplified and echoed a hundredfold by the vaulted ceiling dozens of feet above them. A firework of bright sparks in all the colours of the rainbow flew from Professor McGonagall's wand to Professor Umbridge's and back, causing the occupants of the nearby portraits to flee in a hurry and leaving the two women enveloped in a cloud of yellowish smoke.
Within seconds, the corridor was full or people. Some came out of the Great Hall, some from the dormitories. Madam Pomfrey appeared from the Great Staircase, already in her starched, white apron and bonnet despite the early hour, and edged her way through the crowd, removing the smoke with a wave of her wand. There was Professor McGonagall sitting on the floor, and next to her, Professor Umbridge was struggling to keep herself upright, moving her hands to her face as if to adjust a pair of non-existent spectacles.
The chubby hands clasped only thin air. As she looked down at herself, her eyes widened in shock. "No!" She looked at the other woman. "NO! Poppy, do something!"
"I believe I am Madam Pomfrey to you, professor." The voice, otherwise known for its gentleness, stung like one of the much-feared jabs she administered after doxy bites.
"Poppy, for Merlin's sake, it's me! Minerva!"
The woman sitting on the floor examined her hands and feet. "How…?" She looked up, her expression of furious disbelief with bulging eyes and narrow lips giving even Professor McGonagall's naturally crisp features a somewhat amphibious look. "Minerva, I will hold you personally responsible for this. Now will someone help me up, please?" Crabbe and Goyle staggered forward. "Thank you," she snapped. "And just how is one supposed to stand on legs this long?"
"Make sure both legs have contact with the floor at the lower end and your hips at the upper end," Professor McGonagall answered drily. "It always worked for me."
"Excuse me...excuse me...oh, so sorry, Mr. Creevey..." Professor Flitwick was struggling his way through the crowd. "May I ask the ladies what charms you have used?"
"Expelliarmus," said Professor Umbridge, and "Invertor," Professor McGonagall.
"Goodness gracious me." Professor Flitwick shook his head.
"Why? What happened?" Professor McGonagall sounded exasperated. "And, more importantly, how can we fix it?"
"Most peculiar...there are very few cases on record of this happening...It takes perfect opposites in many respects for the charm to work, even more so if spoken inadvertently. Of course, given the...obvious differences...I can see how..."
"Sorry, sorry. I'm afraid you may have confounded your wands. They must have understood Inversiamus."
A murmur ran through the crowd that surrounded them. "The Body Switch Spell," someone whispered.
Everybody fell silent. Madam Pomfrey bit her lip. Professor Flitwick resumed the shaking of his head. Everyone else resorted to gaping.
Finally, Professor Flitwick spoke. "I trust you all know that the Body Switch Spell is one of the more…complicated spells. It is one of the few that cannot be reversed by another spell but only through—"
He looked at Professor Snape, who resumed the thread with a nod that may have been grave or annoyed, or just a Severus Snape nod. "A Corpocambio Potion. I'll see to it. However," he added, his eyebrows taking a decidedly late gothic shape, "due to my obligation to undertake yet another vain attempt at enlightening a few dozen woefully inept adolescents this day and a need for several hours of light simmering, of the potion, not the adolescents, regrettably, it will take me until this evening."
Professor McGonagall closed her eyes. "Thank you, Severus."
"Not. Yet," he answered, waving his robes as he turned around and left for the Dungeons.
Meanwhile, Professor Umbridge had found out how to keep herself upright in Professor McGonagall's body. The task was not made easier by the fact that she felt a sharp pain in her left foot every time she placed some weight on it. She awkwardly adjusted the lopsided spectacles, obviously unaccustomed to working with hands that long and nimble, and patted her hair.
"This hurts, Minerva. How do you bear it? Loosen it up for me, will you?"
"I'm afraid I can't, Dolores," Professor McGonagall said with an acerbic smile. "I fixed it with an All-Day-All-Weathers-All-Calamities Charm. You will have to wait until it wears off. Which reminds me… would you mind giving me back my wand?"
The exchanged wands, and no one save Professor Flitwick, who had the best angle, noticed the tiny and well-aimed flick in Professor McGonagall's wrist, at which, almost imperceptibly, the skin on Professor Umbridge's face tightened yet another bit.
Professor Umbridge tugged violently at the pins in her hair.
"I would thank you not to do that," advised Professor McGonagall. "I quite like having hair."
"Well," said Professor Umbridge, who had now taken to pulling at the tight collar and writhing uncomfortably in Professor McGonagall's robes, "Obviously I can't work like this. Professor Sprout, please inform Professor Sinistra to cover my lessons this morning. I'll be in my office if you need me. "
She moved to make her way through the crowd, but Professor McGonagall stepped into her way.
"Oh no, Dolores. Wearing a sensible hairdo and a decently cut set of robes is no obstacle to fulfilling your contractual duties." She raised an eyebrow. "In fact, you may find it rather helpful."
With an energetic wave of her hand, Professor McGonagall sent the students off into the Great Hall to have their breakfasts. She herself decided to forego the crowd, finding the prospect of bacon and eggs less than appealing after the shock. Besides, going a little easy on the food might do Professor Umbridge's stomach and hips good. She looked down at herself and decided to check her wardrobe for something that would push the unusual amount of body into some kind of shape before going to her office to mark prep.
Professor Umbridge was rather late for her first lesson that morning. The Fifth-year Hufflepuffs had already become tired of standing around in the corridor and begun to make themselves as comfortable as possible. Justin Finch-Fletchley and Megan Jones were playing Exploding Snap, while Susan Bones, Hannah Abbott and Ernie Macmillan were adamantly discussing the lastest Quibbler music reviews. None of them had been in the corridor in front of the Great Hall that morning and were therefore rather surprised to see not Professor Umbridge but Professor McGonagall stalk around the corner at a quarter past eight.
Those who had been sitting jumped up.
"G-good morning, Professor McGonagall," some of them stammered.
Yet this was by far not the Professor McGonagall they were used to. For one, the Deputy Headmistress was not generally known to wear pink, fuzzy ribbons around her bun, or the top buttons of her robes open, and they had most certainly never seen her sport bright pink lipstick or ineptly applied reddish smudges on her prominent cheekbones. A good half-dozen heavy golden rings with large semi-precious stones in different colours were dangling loosely around her slender fingers, and her gait was somehow awkward, as if she were walking on stilts.
She unlocked the classroom door and walked over to her desk, her attempt at a brisk and confident pace resulting in a fair bit of unsteadiness. The students followed, giving each other puzzled looks. "Got a makeover from Trelawney, you s'pose?" Ernie asked Susan.
"Dunno," Susan whispered back. "But I swear she didn't even remotely walk like that at five in the morning after my auntie's sixty-fifth birthday bash at McDwaggin's distillery."
When they had all taken their seats and said their good-mornings, Professor Umbridge adressed the class.
"Hem, hem. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I have temporarily switched appearances with Professor McGonagall. There will be no need for you to ask questions. Please open your books on page 342 and read Chapter Twenty-Eight."
Susan's hand shot up. "But Professor, we're on Chapter Twenty-Seven, Incompatible Curses and How to Avoid Them!"
"I can't remember calling on you, Miss Bones. Detention!"
Professor McGonagall made an effort. She straightened Professor Umbridge's poodle curls with generous quantities of Sleekeasy's Hair Potion, and Transfigured some of her own robes to accommodate her newly arranged body mass. When her eyes fell on the new set of quills on her desk, she flicked her wand once more, and half a dozen of perfectly shaped whalebones wove themselves into the laced tablecloth on the sideboard. Turning a handful of parchment clips into hooks and pulling a piece of silky tartan ribbon out of a drawer full of gift wrap, cards and assorted flotsam, she nodded approvingly. Yes, that would do.
She chose a set of robes in deep burgundy. Initially, she had wanted to stay true to her taste and go with the usual green, but her mirror had begged to differ when it saw her. She had a habit of asking its opinion before going out, as it had excellent taste and a knack for subtle yet succinct criticism.
Today, it had said one word: "Ribbit."
Two hours and a large pile of prep later, Professor McGonagall unlocked the door of her Transfiguration classroom. She was having trouble handling the fine silver key with those chubby fingers, and she was glad that no student was around yet.
She wiped the blackboard clean with a flick of her wand and sat down behind her desk. Not one to sit idly waiting for her students to come, she took out her quill and began to draw up a lesson plan for her second-year Slytherins.
Fred and George Weasley were the first ones to arrive. Though they were rather adept at charms and spells, and sometimes even reversing the same, they were still sporting their leather leashes. Rather proudly, in fact, judging by the nonchalance with which they had slung them around their necks.
Professor McGonagall managed an attempt at what she hoped would be a stern look even on the face of a toad whose mouth wanted to twitch. 'McGonagall's Pups' was embroidered on the leashes in fine, silky thread.
"Good morning, Messieurs Weasley. Please come forward."
She took out her wand, and a flick later, the leashes read 'Professor McGonagall's Pups.'
"There, that's more like it. Sit."
Professor Sprout was standing by the window in the Staff Room, holding a tea mug in both hands and looking very amused at what she was seeing. Professor Vector joined her, sipping on her favourite ginger-flavoured espresso.
"What's so funny?"
She followed Professor Sprout's glance over the premises and clasped a hand over her mouth to stop herself spraying coffee all over the windowpane.
Down in the Quidditch pitch, Professor Umbridge was inspecting a flying lesson. Or rather, she was trying to inspect a flying lesson. Professor McGonagall had been known as a top-notch amateur Chaser in her time, and rumour had it that she was still able to ride a wicked broomstick when she had a mind to it. However, the skills apparently had not come with the body. Pomona Sprout and Septima Vector were glad that their colleague and Deputy Headmistress was spared the sight of her own likeness struggling to hold herself sidesaddle on a broom with a comfortable seat and a pink cushion magicked onto it, legs dangling unelegantly in the air.
Madam Hooch had obviously decided that it was a good day for teaching her class to hit their first Baby Bludgers. Twenty eleven-year-olds were having a great time racing each other all over the premises, lashing out at the bouncy, brown balls with their small bats, ducking and dodging, rolling in the sand and scrambling to their feet. Madam Hooch was in her element, zooming back and forth between them, praising here and correcting there, joining them in wild slalom rides around the flags, hitting the soft but incredibly fast Baby Bludgers with the heels of her brown overknee boots and making a shy Hufflepuff glow with pride when she deliberately zoomed into his trajectory and ended up dangling from her broomstick by no more than three fingers of a gloved hand. Someone less familiar with Madam Hooch's past as one of the savviest Beaters in her days might even have assumed the deflection of the Bludger into the direction of the High Inquisitor by a swift jerk of the hip to be an inadvertent collateral effect.
No, it was not a good day for unsuspecting byhoverers with limited broom skills.
"Why Hooch?" Professor Vector asked. "Flying isn't even a full subject, and her students haven't broken any limbs in days! Why would she inspect her?"
Professor Sprout resumed her giggling. "Haven't you heard?"
"Haven't I heard what?"
"Well, you know that the Holyhead Harpies played the Quiberon Quafflepunchers in the European Champions League Finals this weekend."
"Yes, it was quite impossible not to hear Rolanda and Minerva obsessing over this match during the last three weeks. Minerva was so sad she couldn't go, what with all her duties here."
"Well, Rolanda went. The Harpies defeated the Quafflepunchers 470:30."
"My numbers, they must've celebrated harder than they played. Isn't it the Harpies who do this strange hugging and jumping and smooching thing whenever they score? What do they call it again?"
"The 'Big O'. O for the shape of the hoops, I am told. Oh yes, that's the Harpies all right. Anyway, Rolanda only came back from the after-match party this morning at half past seven and went right up to the third floor to seek out her sportspal. I got it straight from Griselda the Grumpy Groceress."
Griselda was the portrait who guarded the entrance to Professor Sprout's private quarters.
"And someone tall in emerald green came around the corner."
"Are you saying—" Professor Vector raised her cup to finish it.
"I am saying that this morning just before eight a very startled Senior Undersecretary to the Minister for Magic and Hogwarts High Inquisitor received her first and probably last ever Big O from our jolly Quidditch mistress."
Septima Vector wiped the remains of her espresso from the windowpane.
Professor Snape's robes were billowing harder than ever when he entered the Staff Room that evening. Most of the teachers had gathered there for a nightcap – a habit that had become increasingly frequent since the installation of the High Inquisitor. He was carrying a small phial with an incandescent pink liquid that smelled strongly of rumen and marzipan.
"Here it is."
"Looks delicious," Professor McGonagall commented. "I wonder if I can dilute it with a drop or two of Firewhisky."
"I wouldn't recommend it," Professor Snape said, spacing his words with the liberty that he usually reserved for Gryffindor students and staff conferences. "When mixed with alcohol, Corpocambio Potions have effects most people would consider undesirable. If, however, you feel that life as a woman has its inconveniences—"
"Thank you, Severus." Professor McGonagall took the phial out of his hands. "Pure will be quite fine."
She downed the pungent contents of the phial, pressed her lips together tightly and closed her eyes, hoping her stomach would not send the precious potion right back to where it came from. It did not. Instead, a strange but curiously satisfying pulling sensation rushed through Professor McGonagall's body. It hurt, but it felt...oh, so right. So very, very right. She opened her eyes to look at her limbs. Her arms and legs were slimming down and growing longer, the whalebones clunked to the floor around her feet, her clothes fell into large folds, and when she moved her hands to her neck she was overjoyed to find that she had one again.
It was when she sat down after everything was over that she felt the desire welling up within herself. Faint at first, it grew stronger and stranger, deeper and darker as she beheld her colleagues standing around her with eager expressions on their faces, verging on the unbearable until at last she opened her mouth and spoke.
"Hem, hem," she began. "Distinguished faculty members. Educational Decree Number Twenty-Seven..."
The air in the staff room stood still for a moment. No one breathed, no one moved, except for Madam Hooch, who collapsed into a squashy armchair.
A twitch. A brogue.
"Pass the Firewhisky. NOW!"