I'm back to writing! It's been a long time, I know. I'm very sorry. I've had this idea in my head for a while now, just begging to be written. It didn't quite come out like I thought it would, but I'm reasonably pleased with it. I'd love to know what you think. :-)
There are multiple POVs, and the timeline jumps around a bit - we start off in PoA, and then skip ahead to OotP. Hopefully it's not too confusing. Obviously a bit AU, but I tried to keep to canon as much as possible. A working knowledge of OotP is probably going to help read this story. :P Hope you all enjoy! MtF
'Is there anything else anyone would like to add?' Dumbledore asked. Professor Lupin sincerely hoped there wasn't, because he was dog tired (if you will pardon the pun) and the staff meeting had already been going on for almost two hours.
Much to his despair, Professor McGonagall got to her feet. 'I would just like to remind everyone that Governors' Week begins in eight days. So, obviously, I will not be available after nine o'clock at night starting tomorrow, unless there is an emergency.'
The other teachers were nodding, some looking sympathetic, others smiling. Everyone, even Filch, who had sullenly attended the meeting, obviously knew what Minerva was talking about. There was just one tiny problem.
Remus had no idea what any of it meant.
He remained in his seat, even as everyone else packed up their things and began to leave. He watched stupidly as Minerva and Pomona murmured together and Dumbledore offered the two witches a cup of tea. Minerva declined, but Pomona accepted, as did Flitwick, who had yet to leave. Minerva slung her bag over her shoulder as she glanced back at Lupin.
'Mouth closed, Remus, you're catching pixies,' she said to him, before sweeping from the room. Remus snapped his jaw shut and flushed bright red. Dumbledore laughed kindly and set a cup of tea down in front of him.
'Confused, Remus?' he asked with a smile, the one that made Lupin automatically feel better. He eagerly grasped his tea and took a gulp.
'Yes, yes!' he answered. 'I'm sorry, I don't – I just – what's Governor's Week?' he finally settled on, still pink in the cheeks. Pomona giggled at him until Flitwick elbowed her in the side and patted Remus' arm comfortingly.
'Don't worry, Remus, we'll explain everything,' the tiny Charms master said. 'Poor Minerva goes through Governors' Week every year.'
'But what is Governors' Week?' asked Remus, even more confused than before. He clutched his tea as though it was a lifeline.
'It's…a series of meetings,' Dumbledore said thoughtfully, taking a seat across from Pomona. 'All about Hogwarts, terrifically boring stuff. Traditionally, all the Governors attend, as well as a ministry representative from relevant departments, and the Headmaster of Hogwarts. The Minister for Magic goes to the last meeting.'
'It's a very big deal,' piped up Flitwick. 'In fact, each meeting takes – how long would you say, Mona?'
'Probably at least a couple of hours,' Professor Sprout mused.
'A couple of hours?' repeated Remus, feeling dazed. 'How many a day?'
'Three or four, I think,' answered Dumbledore. 'They begin at three in the afternoon, and go until early the next morning.'
'But – but that's – how long does this last for?' Remus asked weakly, feeling ridiculously overwhelmed. After all, he wasn't the one attending the meetings.
'A week, of course,' replied Pomona promptly. 'Just as the name says.'
'A week?' repeated Lupin. 'But that's ridiculous – when does everyone sleep? And eat?'
'Well, the governors have all the next morning and early afternoon,' Dumbledore replied, stirring his tea. 'It's not a problem for them. Of course, for Minerva, she runs on about four hours of sleep a day for the week.'
'Why?' asked Remus, feeling stupid.
Pomona patted his hand. 'Because she teaches, Remus,' the Herbology teacher said deliberately slowly, as though explaining things to a young child.
'Hang on,' Remus said, trying to make his sluggish brain work. 'I thought you said that the Headmaster goes. Minerva's the deputy.'
'Ah, yes,' Dumbledore said. 'Technically, it is supposed to be the Headmaster. Logically, of course, because he or she doesn't have to teach the next day, and has time for such a thing.'
'So then…?' began Remus, bemused.
'I believe it was Headmaster Black that initiated the deputy-goes-instead tradition,' Dumbledore said, stroking his beard in thought. 'Phineas, of course, didn't wish to attend the meetings, and sent his poor deputy in his place. It's been that way ever since.'
'All the deputies pass on the secrets and strategies of getting through it to the next deputy-in-line,' Flitwick said. 'Minerva hasn't told me anything, so I suppose she's not planning on retiring any time soon. But I think she's got it all written down somewhere, just in case.'
'No way.' Remus looked at Dumbledore.
'It's true,' the old man said with a smile. 'I told my deputy everything I knew when I became Headmaster, and that deputy told Minerva everything they knew when she was promoted. It's been passed down for years.'
'But then…why is she unavailable after nine this week?' asked Remus with a frown. 'Doesn't it start next week?'
'Ah, yes,' Dumbledore answered. 'The strategies of surviving Governors' Week are very secret, but in this case, this one is fairly obvious. Minerva goes to bed early every night for a week before it starts, to get some extra sleep.'
'It's actually not fun at all to watch,' Pomona said with a frown. 'Minerva loses weight every year, Poppy says so. And her insomnia is usually a problem for a few weeks after.'
Remus blanched. This sounded terrible.
'Don't worry, Remus,' Flitwick said, draining his teacup. 'Poppy takes good care of Minerva. And we all pitch in to take over Minerva's duties next week so she has less to do. It'll be alright.'
'We've been doing this personally for forty years,' Pomona added. 'It's a flawless system.'
Later that evening, in his bedroom, Remus thought it all through. He decided he would be lucky to make it through this year intact – sanity and all.
'Now, I'm sure since things are all running smoothly since I became Headmistress, no one has anything else to say,' simpered Dolores Umbridge with a sickly-sweet smile, until Professor McGonagall stood up. Her smile dropped, before returning in full force. 'Yes, Minerva?'
'I'm terribly sorry to bother you, Dolores,' Minerva replied, with the tone of one not sorry at all. 'I just wish to announce that Governors' Week makes its debut in two days, and – '
'What?' interrupted Umbridge. 'What is this, what is Governors' Week?'
'It's not a very big deal,' Minerva answered, sitting down. 'It's just some meetings that a Hogwarts professor must attend on behalf of the school. Terribly boring.'
'Well, of course, all the governors are there,' Pomona reminded Minerva. 'And ministry representatives.'
'Oh, of course,' Minerva began, but Flitwick cut in.
'And the Minister will be there at the end,' he added. 'Goodness, Minerva it is sort of a big deal.'
Professor McGonagall shrugged and turned to Umbridge. 'I wouldn't worry about it,' she said to the Headmistress. 'I've always gone, I can handle it.'
'Why you?' demanded Umbridge. 'Why not the other staff?'
'Oh,' said Minerva, sounding convincingly surprised. 'Well, technically the Head of the school is supposed to attend, not the deputy, but Dumbledore always relinquished that bit of control and power to me.'
'Oh,' said Umbridge, clearly thinking hard. The staff held their breath.
'Well, Minerva,' simpered Umbridge, 'I'm sure Dumbledore was more than happy to dole out responsibilities if he couldn't handle it, but as I am more than capable – yes. I will resume the head's duties of Governors' Week.'
'It's really no trouble –' began Professor McGonagall, looking worried.
'I insist,' Umbridge cut in sharply, all traces of a smile gone from her face.
'Of course,' Minerva said heavily. 'Well, thank you, I suppose.'
'Oh, no, dear,' Umbridge replied. 'Thank you.' And she waddled out.
A quick sealing spell and an imperturbable charm ensured that no intruders could hear anything in the staff room. Then it exploded.
'That was genius, Minerva!' cried Professor Vector.
'Inspired!' laughed Professor Sinistra.
'Indeed,' said Snape quietly. Minerva glanced at him with a quick smile. She clapped her hands for attention.
'Everyone must stay absolutely quiet about this,' she ordered. 'Act normally, at least until I get the paperwork in to make it official. I am not doing Governors' Week with no sleep preparation.'
Everyone nodded, restraining laughs as they grinned at each other. Perfect.
'What is this?' Hawthorne Gibbons asked, staring at the roll of parchment the tawny owl had just brought.
'Hm?' asked Tiberius Ophelia said, glancing up from his desk. 'What's what?' Gibbons was reading the parchment so quickly his eyes appeared to blur, and when he reached the end, he went back to the beginning.
'Gibbs, what's what?' demanded Ophelia impatiently. Hawthorne looked up and laughed.
'Get a load of this, Governor Ophelia,' he said with a laugh, and handed over the parchment.
'What? It's just the normal registration papers for Governors' Week, McGonagall always…' the wizard trailed off, reading, and then broke off laughing. 'Well, well! They've certainly pulled one over her eyes, haven't they?'
'They have indeed,' replied Hawthorne. 'And the ministry, too. They won't be happy about this.' The two men guffawed together for a time, until Tiberius looked up, alarmed.
''Course, that means that we'll have to deal with her, Gibbs.' That sobered both men up for a moment. 'Bugger.'
'Still, anything to mess with the ministry!' justified Tiberius with a grin.
'Cheers,' answered Gibbs, and they smiled.
To: Governors of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Enclosed are the requisite papers for Governors' Week, accompanied by the following:
School Head: Professor Dolores Jane Umbridge
Head of School Governors: Mr. Hawthorne Gibbons
Department of Magical Games and Sports representative: Hamish MacFarlan
Department of Magical Law Enforcement representative: Mafalda Hopkirk
Department of Magical Transportation representative: Peeta Basil
Minister for Magic: Cornelius Fudge
Hogwarts representative: Dolores Jane Umbridge
Minerva McGonagall, Deputy Headmistress
Professor McGonagall watched the portly, pink-clad witch spin out of sight, green flames dying out behind her. She waved her wand to clean the ash from the carpet, and waved it again to lock the gate. Humming gently, she straightened her robes and set off for the staff room.
'Alright, crew,' she said when she arrived, snapping her fingers as the door swung shut behind her. 'Sit down, sit down. We want this to take as little time as possible.' The teachers hurriedly took a seat, looking at Professor McGonagall expectantly.
'Dolores has headed off to the Governors' meeting,' she said, standing at the head of the table. 'She will return, I'm sure, in the early hours of the morning. Any paperwork you need the Headmistress's signature for, I suggest you owl to her office before that time.' The staff grinned at each other.
'Also, in order for this week to run as smoothly as possible, may I suggest that we request the Headmistress's authority for many of our daily issues?' Professor McGonagall continued. 'I have an inkling that the Weasley twins' products will be here to stay for a while – particularly those fireworks – and I wouldn't want anyone in this room to be put on probation for acting without our Headmistress' approval. Clear?' When she had received multiple nods, Minerva continued, 'I would prefer to have these firework issues dealt with during the day, when our Headmistress is present, so that we may all enjoy a full night's sleep. Everyone understand? Good. You may go.'
As the others stood to leave, chattering excitedly amongst themselves, Minerva reached out and put a hand on the Potion master's arm. 'A moment, if you please, Severus.' The sallow-skinned man gave a tight nod and hung back.
When the last person had left (Pomona, giving Minerva a look, who nodded slightly in response), Minerva turned to Snape.
'I don't expect you need to hear this, Severus, but I will say it anyway because it's what Dumbledore would have done. And if it makes you more comfortable in any way, that's an additional benefit.' Snape nodded slightly.
'I understand,' he said, before she could speak again. 'I will stay in Umbridge's good graces. The illusion must be kept up.' He sounded tired.
Minerva looked at the younger man sympathetically. 'You shouldn't have too much trouble,' she said, as gently as she dared. 'There are no windows in the dungeons; the fireworks won't bother you as long as the door stays shut.' This was the only comfort she could give.
'Yes,' Snape replied, standing. He smoothed his robes and adopted a cold expression. It softened just a moment when he looked at the deputy. 'Thank you, Minerva.'
'Any time,' she replied curtly, ushering him out the door. 'Go, I have things to do.' She pretended not to see the ghost of a smile flickering on the potion master's face before it slid into a sneer. With that, he swept away.
'Wakey, wakey, Professor miss! You's will be late!'
Dolores rolled over in bed and flung out a hand to smack the annoying little house-elf, hopefully knocking the stupid thing out cold. But it only jumped out of the way and disapparated with a crack.
Groaning, Dolores glanced at the clock on her bedside. Seven-thirty, as always. That had seemed such a reasonable time up until now, especially when the rest of the staff awoke somewhere around six. But now, with the full benefit of just three and half hours of sleep, seven-thirty seemed almost ludicrously early.
Dolores clambered out of bed and pulled on her furry pink dressing gown and trudged over to the washroom. After using the loo, she stared at herself in the mirror. Merlin, but she was a sight in the mornings. Puffed up, wild brown hair streaked unbecomingly with grey, her skin dry and papery, and her skin marked with wrinkles. Today, however, deep bags under her eyes betrayed how little sleep she'd gotten.
It took five extra minutes on top of the usual ten to apply the magical make-up she wore every day to make her appear her actual age – she hadn't aged well. Some quick make-up charms would have been faster, but Dolores was rubbish at charms and she didn't trust herself with them on a good day, let alone a dragon of a day like this one.
She dressed in her most comfortable pink cardigan and shoes before trudging down to her office. There, on her desk, was a large pile of parchment, waiting to be filled out. Oh, and an owl had left her a gift. How nice.
'Kippy!' she called shrilly, wincing at the sound of her own voice. A house-elf appeared at her side at once. She'd initially refused to learn a house-elf's name, insisting that a snap of her fingers ought to be sufficient in called them, but she'd given in when her after-school snack took twenty-four snaps to arrive.
'Yes, Miss Professor?' asked the elf, bowing. 'How can Kippy serve?'
'Clean this up,' snapped Dolores, pointing to the owl's mess. 'And don't be all day about it.' She didn't wait to watch, but instead stepped out into the corridor and marched to Great Hall, avoiding a loud, squealing firework along the way. God, she hated those Weasley twins.
Arriving at breakfast, she was annoyed to find the rest of the staff in good moods, eating breakfast and chatting amicably. Dolores took her seat in the Headmaster's chair, noticing McGonagall's glare as she did so (ha!), and commandeered the pot of tea from Professor Burbage.
'Are you alright, Dolores?' asked Flitwick, looking concerned. 'You look tired.'
'Perfectly fine,' Dolores answered sweetly.
'Are you sure you can handle Governors' Week, Dolores?' Professor McGonagall asked from her other side. 'If you'd give me control over it, I could quite easily take your place.'
For a split second, Dolores considered it. But there was no way she was giving McGonagall power over anything, even if these stupid meetings bored her to tears and kept her from a full night's sleep. 'No, thank you, Minerva dear,' she answered with a giggle. 'I can manage just fine.'
Minerva did not bother with a reply, but returned to her eggs, looking smug. Dolores scowled to herself. She hated McGonagall more than anyone at Hogwarts, and would love nothing more than to get her fired. But McGonagall's reputation was airtight. There was nothing against her. Yet.
The bell came all too soon, and Dolores put on her perky-cheerful face as she walked to her first class, half-asleep on the inside. Checking her timetable, she noticed her fist class. Sixth year Ravenclaws. Just wonderful.
By the fifth day of Governors' Week, Pomona Sprout was delightfully well-rested. Umbridge was dead on her feet, that was plain to see – she'd be surprised if the High Inquisitor didn't visit the Hospital Wing soon. And all of the problems with Fred and George Weasley's pranks had kept her first week of being Headmistress the worst ever in Hogwarts' history.
Pomona hummed as she dismissed her last class of the day, absently pouring fertilizer over the mandrakes and patting it down. Due to the fluffy blue earmuffs (she'd burned all the pink ones upon noticing Umbridge's disturbing obsession with it), she didn't hear the rapidly approaching footsteps until Flitwick tugged her sleeve urgently.
'Filius? What's wrong?' she asked immediately, yanking the earmuffs off, noticing the heavy panting of the charms master. But Flitwick was beaming, grinning as he locked the greenhouse door.
'No, no, not wrong, Mona!' he squealed. His voice dropped to a whisper. 'It's Minerva. She got a message from Dumbledore.' Pomona froze for a moment.
'What did it say?' she hissed, dragging the charms master into a corner and sitting down on a bench. Flitwick glanced around.
'It was a Patronus charm, Minerva told me. Dumbledore said to 'stay safe, and get a good night's sleep'.' Pomona laughed out loud, her good mood almost tangible. After a moment, however, she sobered, deep in thought.
'I miss him,' she whispered.
'I do, too,' Flitwick said. 'I think…' he hesitated. 'I think he's worried about Minerva. We'll have to keep an eye on her, Pomona. She's taking Dumbledore's exile hard.'
'They're so close,' Pomona replied, sighing. 'I don't know what I'd do if you were on the run, Fil. Stay safe, alright?'
'I always do,' Flitwick said with a smile. 'Come, let's go find Minerva.'
Flitwick liked to think himself a generally nice person; he liked to see the good in people. But even he would admit that Dolores Umbridge was a nasty piece of work. That was why, after arriving at Minerva's office, when he heard Umbridge hollering at the deputy, he paused to listen, Pomona at his side.
'You knew it was impossible to handle! I've had less than twenty hours of sleep all week!' shrieked the High Inquisitor. 'Why didn't you tell me Governors' Week was impossible?'
'It's not impossible, Dolores,' came Minerva very calm voice. 'I do it every year. I offered to do it this year. I refuse to take the blame for something that is profoundly your fault.'
'This is an outrage!' screamed Umbridge. 'The minister will hear about this, Minerva, mark my words!'
'Gladly,' replied Minerva coldly. 'If you would like to inform the minister how you insisted on taking my responsibilities from me – breaking a Hogwarts tradition that has been in place for decades, I might add – and how you refused any help with the matter, then be my guest. It will save me the trouble.' Umbridge turned a nasty shade of purple.
'You've had it out for me right from the start!' shrieked Umbridge. 'You set this up! You're trying to kill me!'
'You are out of control,' Minerva replied coldly. 'Kindly leave my office. I am busy.'
Flitwick and Sprout jumped away from the door just as Umbridge came charging out, so angry she didn't even see them. Flitwick peeked into the office. Minerva sat at her desk, grinning impishly. She held up a bottle.
'Drink?' she offered. Flitwick looked at Pomona and smiled.
'Of course,' they replied, conjuring glasses. Minerva filled them to the brim. Pomona held hers aloft.
'To Dumbledore,' she toasted.
'To seven hours of sleep,' added Flitwick.
'To Governors' Week!' finished Minerva, and the three teachers clinked glasses and drank deeply.
There you have it! Let me know if it was terrible, or if I missed any major grammar mistakes or whatnot. Just a little something that was floating around in my head and got written in one sitting. Hope everyone enjoyed!
(Oh, P.S. For anyone reading The Journey, it is NOT abandonned, I swear. I've hit a mental roadblock with it and it's taking some time, but an update will come eventually!)