Author's Note: Revised and reedited as of July 2012, and dedicated entirely to my dear friend Izzie. That crazy bitch.
It was quite unfortunate, really, thought a certain stately, severe, and highly irritated Transfiguration professor - on one particularly fine day in the middle of October – that personal relationships amongst one or two students had disintegrated so severely that one would be forced to sacrifice one's lunch hour for the purpose of holding a laughable imitation of a couples' therapy session.
This was a lunch hour, mind, that should have been filled with ginger tea, well-deserved relaxation, and the sweet, sweet taste of freshly baked ginger biscuits, courtesy of the Hogwarts house elves. It was not to be, however, for adolescent schoolchildren, whilst not without their charms on occasion, could not keep their raging hormones in check long enough to allow their teachers time enough to choke back one measly cup of tea.
Life, Minerva McGonagall concluded, gloomily pessimistic as she considered what was shaping up to be a horrid afternoon, was most certainly not fair.
The same Minerva McGonagall swept regally into her office – though at that moment she certainly would have preferred to hop on a broomstick and take herself far, far away from this blasted school and all of the snot-nosed imbeciles who inhabited it - and strode with purpose towards her favourite chair, before which sat a mahogany desk and two hard, uncomfortable looking chairs - both of which were inhabited at present by adolescent bottoms. She lowered herself into her seat and took a long, hard look at both teenagers. One was quietly sulking, and sulking with all her might and main. The other was tilting backwards in his seat, smiling placidly, perfectly at ease. Professor Flitwick had abandoned her and left her to deal with the two of them by herself, of course. Just like a man. Only women suffered, Minerva reminded herself, and the mere thought of his lack of equilibrium between the sexes was enough to prompt her to fix a steely glare at the idiot swinging two and fro on his chair, and silently will him to fall over.
That wasn't a wish she could voice aloud, of course. She was his Head of House, after all.
"Sit up straight, Potter, and take that ridiculous grin off your face," she snapped, shooting daggers with her eyes. James Potter, a skinny, bespectacled, roguish looking youth with untidy black hair and moderately handsome features, righted his chair immediately and grinned widely at his self-proclaimed 'favourite teacher'. It was a grin that had, Minerva was sure, toyed with the hearts of many a young, impressionable lady, but had no likewise effect upon her. In part, because she was several years his senior, but mostly because she dearly wished to box the impertinent boy's ears.
"Afternoon, Professor!" he chirped, as if his summons to her office had been nothing more than an invitation to tea. "Smashing to see you, I must say. Isn't it smashing, Evans?"
Inches away, Lily Evans squeezed her eyes shut tight, and if Minerva's hunch was correct, silently willed the ground to open her up and swallow her whole. She did not answer Potter's moronic greeting, but fixed them both with a look that possessed the power, she knew from experience, to make young troublemakers feel very ashamed of themselves. Potter and his prized cohort, Sirius Black, were general exceptions to this rule, but perhaps the presence of Evans was what prompted Potter to bow his head and at least pretend to look embarrassed.
"Well, then," said Minerva to Evans, whose eyes were alert and upon her own immediately. "Would you care to explain what possessed you and Potter to stage an amateur duel in the Charms corridor?"
She elected to ask Evans to recount the tale of what had brought both of them to her office because Evans could be trusted to give her the simplest and most truthful version of the story. She and Potter both had something of a fondness for drama, for at least Lily Evans left hers at the door when the time came to talk to a teacher. James Potter could not and would not tell a story without adding fuss, feathers, embellishments, and minor explosions of his own making.
"I take offence," said the boy, with feigned affront. "It was hardly amateur."
"Shut up, Potter," Minerva responded. "Miss Evans?"
It was not to be assumed that Minerva McGonagall did not like the two students who sat before her, because she did like them. Minerva liked them exceedingly, in fact, and was far fonder of both than she would have cared to admit out loud. Of course, it was no secret that Evans was one of her acknowledged favourites, for Evans was a favourite of all of her teachers – and, for that matter, most of her fellow students. Lily Evans was an intelligent, sensible, cheerful sort of girl – good-natured, kind-hearted, and exceptionally witty and clever. Pretty, too, with her dark red hair and bright green eyes, it could not be denied, but possessing a rather refreshing ignorance of her own charms. She was one of the higher achievers at Hogwarts, and had an ability to influence those around her for good without really knowing she was doing it. There was nothing that could ruffle or floor her, and since being named prefect in her fifth year, and then Head Girl in her seventh, she had conducted herself in school affairs with a decorum and dignity that was truly a delight to behold in one so young.
Unfortunately, even the best of people have an Achilles' Heel, and in this case, Lily's biggest downfall was the strange influence that James Potter had over her emotions, her behaviour, and her ability to think rationally. Their arguments – at least, the ones that Minerva knew about - were infrequent, it was true, but they were also stormy and dramatic, and almost always conducted in a public arena; a great source of entertainment for their friends and classmates. Minerva despaired in it, but it had not prevented Professor Dumbledore from appointing James Potter as Lily's fellow Head student in what must have been a moment of insanity, nor had it stopped Potter from worshipping the ground the girl walked on, but nevertheless, their arguing was a large problem, and something needed to be done about it.
If Lily Evans, in her calmer moods, had ever wondered why on earth James Potter brought about such an odd and dramatic change in her behaviour, Minerva was certain to nobody else ever did, for it was painfully obvious why. To all except Potter, perhaps.
"I'm so sorry, Professor," said Evans, meeting Minerva's gaze with admirable frankness, and looking sincerely ashamed of herself. "I can't make any excuses. I lost my temper and reacted like a child, and although I was provoked by Potter, there are better ways to react to these situations and I hold myself fully responsible. And I apologize for the trouble I've caused. Again."
Minerva could have guessed how Potter had provoked the girl – it was usually some kind of hackneyed attempt at flirtation that set things going between the two of them. Lily's apology was quite sincere, but its foremost purpose was to evade, and Minerva didn't think there was much point in pressing the issue. She was rather glad, as all she would be required to do now was dole out punishments and get them both out of her office in quick enough time to leave her ten minutes to soak her weary feet in a hot basin.
Unfortunately for Minerva, this was not to be. James Potter chose that moment to give a loud, derisive snort.
"Yeah right," he declared. Many things that ought to have been said under one's breath were often declared proudly by James Potter. He was clearly irritated by what Evans had said. Perhaps she had failed to mention something stupid he had done and was inexplicably proud of. Potter had been known to boast about his more ridiculous exploits. Either way, it spelled disaster for Minerva's lunch hour. Emerald green eyes flashed angrily in Potter's direction, and in a marvellous display of just how easy Potter found it to work her into a tizzy, Lily took his bait with a venomous hiss.
"She didn't lose her temper at all, Professor," said Potter irritably, staring at Evans even though he was speaking to Minerva. Potter was always staring at Evans, so this was no surprise. "She provoked the whole thing. In fact, she attacked me first, because she's fully aware that she's got the entire staff wrapped around her little finger-"
"Spare us the italics, Potter!" Evans snapped in response, blushing hotly – with either embarrassment or rage, or both. "You sound like a chi-"
"Therefore," Potter continued, and loudly. "She'll happily pick a fight with me whenever it suits her because she knows you'll swallow any prettily worded apology she throws at you and you'll let her go with nothing but a rap on the wrist-"
"Your ten million detentions are nobody's fault but your own!"
"And your lack of detentions are a result of my stupidity in allowing you to constantly take advantage of me and-"
"Take advantage? When have I ever-"
"Oh, hi there, I'm Lily Evans and I'm feeling premenstrual today," Potter squeaked in what he must have felt was a passable imitation of a woman –sadly, he sounded more like Horace Slughorn than he did Lily Evans - drowning out the rest of her protest. "Oh, look, there's James Potter! Why don't I just trick him into a conversation, pick a fight and let him bear the brunt of the punishment because he's so stupidly in love with me that he'll toss aside whatever he's doing just to pay attention to me, hah-fucking-hah!"
"Language!" Minerva sharply interjected, while Lily babbled speechlessly at Potter's last display of amateur theatrics. Perhaps she had taken offence to being likened to her Potions teacher. Minerva would have, too.
"Sorry, Professor," said Potter sulkily, looking and sounding like a spoiled child.
This simply would not do. For two such estimable young people, and especially considering that Potter had progressed in leaps and bounds where maturity was concerned over the past two years, it was incomprehensible that they be reduced to the state of bickering babies whenever they were in the same room together. Minerva decided on the spot that she was going to keep them here and have them hash out their differences even if it killed all three of them to do so. After she dealt with Potter and his colourful language, that was.
"I will not hear such foul words used in my off-"
Minerva got no further in what she had intended to be a stern and inspirational speech about how Head students should set a better example to their younger and more impressionable schoolmates when speaking, and how well one could be served by a good vocabulary, as she was interrupted by a small, ginger explosion in the chair next to Potter's. Lily Evans had evidently recaptured her tongue, and was in no desire to hold off on using it any longer.
"You're such a liar!" she squeaked, her cheeks pink, eyes wide, in a display of magnificent rage. Really, Minerva thought, Evans was a beautiful girl. It was such a pity that she couldn't handle her temper in a more sensible manner. "You filthy, dirty, reprehensible, arrogant, idiotic-"
"Stop it, you're making me blush," said Potter tonelessly, enjoying Evans and her tantrum.
"- Disgusting liar! That's not how it happened at all! Professor!" Lily's eyes darted back to Minerva with the air of someone who was desperately hoping for an ally. "Potter was harassing me. All I did was ask him about patrol schedules for next week and he blew up about it!"
"You wanted to change our night to patrol because you had a date! How do you think that made me feel?"
"Writing an essay with another student could hardly be considered a date, and furthermore, your feelings about my personal life should be kept to yourself!" Lily retorted, although Minerva noted that she had lost a hint of her sharpness, and she was blushing harder than ever. "I shouldn't have to live the life of a nun to keep you happy!"
"Oh. Oh. Oh. Oh, I see, I see," said Potter, his tone now cold, glaring at the girl. Minerva might as well have been several hundred miles away "So you weren't trying to make me jealous, or anything. Oh, heavens no, why would you? It's not like-"
"Never in my life would I deign to-"
"It's not like you got into a massive sulk two weeks ago when Coraline Thripp tried to snog me after we won the match against Slytherin, or anything."
"People should not be sucking face in the middle of the common room!"
"Even though I didn't kiss her back, or anything. I wouldn't stoop to trying to make someone I was crazy about jealous -"
"I couldn't care less who you're snogging!"
"Unlike some redheads I could mention."
"ENOUGH!" Minerva cried, and both were quashed into a stunned, welcome silence.
She had heard all she could handle. It was evident that both Potter and Evans had murky views of the situation, but Minerva was not the Head of Gryffindor House, a celebrated Transfiguration Professor, and Deputy Headmistress of the school to boot, for no reason. She was far older and much wiser than either of the two idiots who sat before her. She had, over the years, inquired some insight into humanity, and the way people worked, and it was perfectly clear to her why Potter and Evans were finding it impossible to get along.
Besides, it wasn't as if she was a stranger to such a thing. The fretful stirrings of the heart were a painful symptom of living itself.
"You are both Head students," she reminded Potter and Evans, her tone dry, her eyes shifting periodically from one indignant face to the other. "Fully grown wizards. You are ten months away from leaving this school and starting your lives as qualified, sensible adults. I will see no more of this childish behaviour. You will learn to handle your ridiculous crushes on one another in a mature fashion or risk being stripped of your badges, and you, Potter, also stand to risk losing your captaincy. Do I make myself perfectly clear?"
It was as if she had hit them both with Full Body-Binds. Yes, she was aware of their feelings for one another. The entire school was aware of their feelings for one another. Potter and Evans and their hideous public courtship was as prominent a fact at Hogwarts as the enmity between Slytherin and Gryffindor. The only people who weren't sick of it – and only because they weren't fully aware of it – were Potter and Evans themselves, and the looks of disbelief on both of their faces stood as testament. Evans, in particular, appeared quite distressed. She looked as if Minerva had slapped her across the face.
The deathly eerie silence lasted for another second, and then…
"I knew you had a crush on me, Evans!"
"I bloody well don't, you pompous, arrogant-"
"Silence!" Merlin preserve her from another hormone-fuelled exchange of insults. "I'm going to speak, and you're both going to listen. Potter." Her eyes met the defiant hazel ones of the bespectacled nuisance with steely determination. "You are an idiot."
Lily Evans laughed and tried to hide it. She produced a cough that fooled nobody. Potter stared at his Head of House, ashen faced, mouth agape, looking much as she had painted him – idiotic.
"Pardon?" he said, sounding rather strangled.
"An idiot," Minerva repeated calmly, satisfied now that neither of them were about to start fighting again. "An idiot, if you believe that the best way to win the heart of a young lady is to torment her to within an inch of her sanity. Perhaps if you tried being polite and respectful, for a change, Evans would be more receptive to your dubious charms. Acting like a gentleman, Potter, will get you far further than pulling pigtails and showing off with ridiculous displays of arrogance. Particularly if the object of your affections is a nice girl." She nodded briefly towards Lily. "No self-respecting woman is going to respond favourably to a man, charming and intelligent as you may be, Potter, who comports himself like a baboon."
Evans didn't bother coughing to cover her laugh, this time.
"And as for you, Evans," Minerva continued, getting into her stride, fixing her gaze upon the redhead, whose smug smile had been replaced by an expression of fear and confusion. "You may be enjoying your position of power now, but here's the thing about men, Evans, they're all ruled by their own ego, and sooner or later, Potter's going to tire of chasing around you like a headless chicken." Potter gasped indignantly, whether at the suggestion that he could ever cease to care for Evans, or his likeness to decapitated poultry, Minerva would never know. She ignored him. "He'll transfer his affections to another girl and you will then be left miserable, and alone, and wishing that you had accepted him when you had the chance. You are far too old to be playing such foolish games with the boy. And quite frankly, Lily," she finished, her stern expression softening a little. "I expected better from you."
Poor Evans had, over the course of Minerva's monologue, turned a shade of red that made even her fiery hair seem dull in comparison. Minerva could practically feel the warmth radiating from the girl's cheeks. She was avoiding Potter's gaze most determinedly, and when she spoke, it was clear that all the fight had left her.
"It's quite understandable," Minerva interrupted, though not unkindly. "If my heart had set itself on an ape like Potter, I would be ashamed of myself, too. You needn't be." The corners of her mouth twitched upwards. "It's beyond your control, and I remain as firmly convinced of your intelligence as ever. Don't even think about it, Potter," she added, as the bespectacled fool looked as if he was about to say something. "You'll keep your mouth shut if you know what's good for you."
Lily Evans continued to look as if she would shortly be led to the gallows and hung. Minerva felt truly sorry for the girl, but it would have been against all of her principles as a teacher to allow such childishness to continue, and if putting a stop to the fighting meant making the girl admit to her infatuation with Potter, then by the sword of Gryffindor himself, she was going to get a confession from Evans before the hour was out.
"Evidently," Minerva went on, feeling far more in control of the situation than she had been when hormones were running rampant and both Potter and Evans had been shooting their mouths off. "You both believe that your relationship is so very special that the entire school must be desperate to witness every chapter of it as it plays out." That added, she was sure, further insult to injury. "This is acceptable for twelve year old children. I can't imagine what either of you are thinking. Nobody else is interested in your little romance. I am quite convinced that once you both shelve your ridiculous pride and do... whatever it is that teenagers do when courting, you will irritate the school and staff with your lovesick cooing and inability to separate, but good heavens, anything is better than this."
Silence followed. Evans was clearly terrified to respond. Potter, on the other hand, appeared to have been propelled so highly into the seventh heaven of delight that it seemed as if he had forgotten that he was now required to say something. He leaned back in his seat, tipping it backwards once again, with a vacant, dopey grin on his face. Meanwhile, Lily's eyes had not lifted from her feet. Minerva was in no hurry to rush them, it mattered not to her what punishments she was required to dole out. One of the two of them would have to say something to show that they had taken heed of her argument, or so help her, they would both be in detention for the rest of the year.
And so, the silence continued. Minutes and minutes of tense, unbroken quiet, as loud as it was not, stretching on and on into what Minerva began to suspect would be the wee hours of the next morning, until -
"So," said James Potter, and the front legs of his chair hit the floor with a bang. "Are you going to give us our detentions or not?"
Trust Potter to jump straight to the crucial topics of the day. Minerva gave him a reproving look.
"Do you really think the subject of your detentions is the matter at hand, Potter?"
"Not at all," he replied. "It's just that Evans seems a little upset, and I'm not sure now is the right time to discuss the real matter any further. I'm sure you think it's important, and you'd be right." Here he gave Evans a very significant look. "But I'm not having her embarrassment on my conscience, on top of everything else."
Rosy cheeked and white lipped, Lily Evans' eyes darted to meet Potter's for the swiftest of seconds and she gave him what could only be described as a momentary look of gratitude.
"So please," Potter carried on. "Just give us both the detentions we deserve, and I'm sure we'll talk about it ourselves, later on."
"Oh, will you?" said Minerva sceptically, and raised an eyebrow. It never boded well when Potter took it into his head to floor her with a sudden and unexpected display of sensitivity. It made for an awfully hard boy to dislike.
"Whenever Lily's ready."
"Who knows when that will be," Minerva interjected, with her usual sarcasm. "If you both leave this office and continue with your childish antics, I will be forced –"
"We'll talk about it," Evans piped up, albeit quietly. She twisted her fingers together and let out a heavy, resigned sigh. "Merlin knows we need to."
"We do?" Potter, looking hopefully to the girl. When she did not answer in words, but lifted her eyes to meet his and gave him the most imperceptible of nods, he grinned widely, and looked again to Minerva. "We do. And we will."
"Today," Evans added, looking now at Minerva also. "Our behaviour has been ridiculous, but you won't see any more of it, from either of us. I promise. We'll figure this out."
"In that case, I assume that neither of you would object to detention tonight?" It was an order, not a question. "I'll send word with Mr Filch after you have eaten your dinner. You must both be hungry from missing lunch." Merlin only knew she was. "Under the circumstances, I think a few hours polishing silverware by yourselves might be the best thing for both of you."
"Under the circumstances," said Potter, looking happier than Minerva had seen him in years, not since he had successfully triumphed in turning Peter Pettigrew into a goat in the middle of her class, when they were supposed to be turning hedgehogs into pincushions. "I think that's the best idea I've ever heard in my life."
"It's settled, then," Minerva concluded, rising to her feet and pointing to the door. "I wish you both every possible happiness. Now, for Merlin's sake, get out of my office immediately."
Behaving as she wished them to, for a change, Potter and Evans got to their feet at once and rushed to the door of the office as if an unimaginable paradise lay behind it. It amused Minerva somewhat to see Potter holding the door open for Evans with a rather bashful grin, and it amused her even more to see Evans blush and smile and give Potter an awkward pat on the arm as she passed him. Minerva waited a full five seconds before the two lovelorn teenagers had both shuffled demurely out of the room before she collapsed wearily into her seat, overcome by a sudden, but not wholly mysterious, desire to laugh.
"Spare me," she said to herself, reaching for her tin of beloved ginger biscuits. "From the tears and tantrums of lovesick children."
Weeks later, Minerva would be put off her breakfast by the beholding the sight of Lily Evans floating into the Great Hall, launching herself directly into Potter's lap, and planting an enthusiastic and never-ending kiss on the boy's mouth without any regard for the surrounding – and repulsed – students. Greater was the disgust when it became evident that Evans and Potter only seemed capable of breaking apart when the urge to giggle like babies overwhelmed them both. She could not honestly say that she was entirely proud of what she had done, or of the annoyance that the smitten couple's friends would now be forced to endure, but she consoled herself with the notion that she had succeeded where many others had failed and that she would likely, at the very least, receive an invitation to the wedding.
And Minerva did enjoy a good wedding.