Envision any ending you like to this conversation. I know I don't normally put notes first, but I really like the effect of the last line of this one. Call me vain. I am. :)


21 November 1995

Minerva swept down the corridor, emerald robes billowing behind her, and stopped before a door. She took a deep, steadying breath, attempting to get a handle on the anger that had been rising in her since her second-years had left her classroom that morning. The last time she could remember being anywhere near this angry, Alastor—no, Barty Crouch, she told herself—had been abusing Draco Malfoy.

Even that didn't quite compare—the Malfoy boy was insolent, rude, and spiteful, and if Minerva hadn't been half the woman she was, she might have considered bestowing him with a rodent form once or twice. Nonetheless, he was a student, and she was Minerva McGonagall, and she had not forgotten that when she defended the boy.

She stared at the door for a moment, then extended her hand and knocked sharply.

"Come in," called a simpering voice. Minerva repressed a shudder of revulsion and pushed open the door.

Minerva had seen this office change décor on a yearly basis for—well, her entire career at Hogwarts. The general favorite setup among the staff to…er…reminisce about was that of Gilderoy Lockhart, with his endless rows of toothy grins. But this—this was just nauseating.

Minerva stared at the little china plates hung on the walls, seriously debating whether or not she wanted to cancel her Animagus license. She was so transfixed by one plate near her left elbow, its vilely fluffy subject rolling about on a pink satin throw pillow, that she nearly forgot her anger. Until—

"Hem, hem."

Minerva turned to see Dolores Umbridge seated behind her desk, fat hands clasped neatly atop a stack of parchment. She was wearing that same horrible cardigan she'd had at the start-of-term feast. There was a wide smile on her toadlike face.

"Minerva, to what do I owe the pleasure?" she asked in a breathy voice. She gestured for Minerva to come closer. "Do sit down, my dear, please."

Minerva clenched her teeth. "I am quite well, thank you, Dolores, I prefer to stand," she said firmly. Dolores did not blink, but smiled even more widely.

"Well," she said softly. "Was there something I could help you with, then?"

"I de—" Minerva broke off and took a breath. "I would like very much to know what it is you have had my students doing in your detentions."

Dolores raised her eyebrows, looking very surprised indeed. "To whom might you be referring, Minerva?" she asked in a fluttery tone.

"P—" Minerva broke off again, but this time Dolores saw it. Her eyes bulged unpleasantly, anticipatorily. "One of my seventh-years. Lee Jordan," Minerva said. "A second-year called Dennis Creevey, and a fifth-year, Dean Thomas."

"Has something upset you regarding their punishments? I believe I was quite clear when I filed the reports," Dolores said airily, starting to shuffle through the papers on her desk. She pulled out two pieces of parchment and held them before her. "Mr. Lee Jordan—why, I personally caught him carrying contraband items. As for Mr. Creevey and Mr. Thomas, both were exceptionally disruptive and disrespectful during my class." She laid the papers down and folded her hands again, leaning across the desk with narrowed eyes. "I believe I am quite within my—well, my duty as a teacher to put a stop to such behavior."

Minerva was almost shaking with anger. She could see the lies in Dolores' ugly, doughy face and resisted the urge to reach for her wand. When she finally spoke, even Minerva was surprised at how well she controlled her voice.

"Of course you are, Dolores," Minerva said. "I do not question your authority." If that were any larger of a lie, she would set off Albus's Sneakoscope. "I am only curious to know how each of these boys, within a week of serving detention with you, has managed to injure their hands? All three have appeared in my classroom, bandaged."

"Oh, Minerva, come now," Dolores said. "Do you expect me to know how rambunctious boys get themselves hurt? As a matter of fact, if anyone should know, I should think it would be you. Their safety, after all, is your responsibility as Head of House, is it not?"

A hint of the white-hot fury Minerva felt explode in her heart must have glimmered in her eyes, because Dolores, though she did not flinch, sat back rather suddenly, going a little pale.

"That is precisely my goal, Dolores," Minerva said, putting every ounce of her anger into the name. She pulled herself up to her full height. "I will ask you again. What have you been doing to my students?"

Dolores's eyes narrowed maliciously, having spotted Minerva's weakness—they were not "the" students—they were "her" students. She sat forward again, and this time the simpering voice and demeanor were gone, replaced by pure venom.

"I should think you would know by now, Minerva," Dolores answered, "unless someone hasn't warned you, that curiosity killed the cat."