Minerva McGonagall sat alone in the corner of the staffroom, writing out reports and grading papers. All the other members of the Hogwarts faculty were at lunch, so Minerva found this was the best time of the day to get her work finished without being interrupted. She checked over an essay, wrote the grade on the corner, adjusted her glasses, tightened her bun and went on to the next one. It was a monotonous routine, but it was one that Minerva had become used to with nearly thirty-six years of teaching. She had just written an 'E' when she heard somebody calling her. Minerva sighed, with a fond smile, and called out, "I'm in here, Rolanda."
Although this was the best time to avoid most of her colleagues, there was one person whose movements could not be predicted and, indeed, it was advised by many that no one attempted to do so. Rolanda Hooch, whilst a friendly, well liked individual, had the energy of several lightning bolts and just as much potential for danger. Her ideas to counter boredom were not encouraged and her antics at various christmas parties brought either smiles or shudders. Minerva braced herself as her friend entered the staffroom.
"Minerva, thank goodness!" Rolanda said, running towards her.
She looked pale and shaken, her eyes wide and sad. Minerva sat up a little straighter, feeling worried.
"If I die," Rolanda said, her voice desperate, "I want you to have my broom, my Chocolate Frog card collection and my Blinky, the magic unicorn duvet and pillow case set."
"Yes, of course." Minerva said with concern. "Rolanda, what on Earth has brought this on?"
"I'm going to die!" Rolanda wailed. "I'm going to die soon!"
"What?" Minerva said, "That's ridiculous!"
"No, it's not!" Rolanda cried. "It has been foretold!"
"Look," Minerva said sternly, "I know Sybill has a certain knack for the game I-Spy, but that doesn't mean her powers and predictions are genuine."
"No, no. It wasn't Sybill." said Rolanda. "It was this."
She held out her hands. In them was a black ball, about the size of a large orange. On it was painted a white circle and in the middle of that was a clear glass screen. Floating inside the ball, was a white, twenty sided die with writing on each face.
MInerva stared at it incredulously.
"A Magic 8 Ball?" she said finally. "You're joking?"
"You've heard about the great and all powerful 8 Ball?" Rolanda asked.
"Sure." Minerva nodded, a little perplexed. "You can find them in most Muggle novelty stores."
"Obviously, there are two types of 8 Ball." Rolanda said. "This one is an extremely powerful magical object."
"Of course." Minerva nodded. "And where did you get this "great and all powerful 8 ball"?"
"I bought it in a high class magical emporium." Rolanda said with dignity.
"No you didn't." Minerva said sternly.
"I ordered it from the Important Magical Discoveries magazine?"
"I got it in the Department of Mysteries?"
"I got it in the corridor from one of the Weasley twins."
"Now that's more feasible." Minerva said.
"But they assured me it was very reliable and powerful!" Rolanda said, nodding seriously.
"And you believed them!" Minerva exclaimed.
"Well, no." Rolanda admitted. "But I asked it a question to test it and it got it right! I asked if my favourite colour was blue and it said yes!"
"Rolanda," Minerva said slowly. "You're favourite colour isn't blue."
"That's what I thought!" Rolanda said. "But then I looked in my wardrobe and I realized that one-eighth of my clothing is blue! I mean, that can't be a coincidence!"
"Yes it can!" Minerva scoffed. "One-eighth of your clothing blue. That means seven-eighths of your clothing isn't blue."
"But I am going to die!" Rolanda said, her eyes going wide again. "I asked it five times and it always said yes!"
"We're all going to die someday." Minerva said exasperatedly. "You'll die, I'll die. But that doesn't mean we're going to kick the bucket tomorrow."
"Oh." Rolanda said, looking relieved. "But that means the Magic 8 Ball was right! OhmyGodMinervaitwasright!"
"Calm down." Minerva sighed, rolling her eyes. "That doesn't prove anything."
At that moment, Septima Vector walked into the room, looking flustered.
"Gilderoy Lockhart is on the prowl." she said. "Minerva, can I hide in your office?"
"Sure," Minerva shrugged, turning back to her work. "Just don't touch my biscuits."
"Ginger Newts?" Septima said, making a face. "Don't you worry, I can restrain myself."
Just as she turned to leave, Rolanda said, "Septima, have you heard of the Magic 8 Ball?"
"Yep, I think so." Septima replied.
"Then you'll know that it is ancient and all knowing?" Rolanda asked hopefully.
Septima looked up at Minerva, who rolled her eyes and gave what was recognized as the Rolanda-Is-On-A-Tangent look. Septima smirked.
"Sure, Ro."she said, trying not to laugh.
"See, Minerva?" Rolanda said, looking pleased. "Septima believes in the 8 Ball! Why don't you ask it a question."
Septima sighed and took the black ball out of Rolanda's hand. She shook it a few times and turned it to face her. The die read: It is certain.
"My God, that's uncanny." Septima said flatly.
"What did you ask it?" Rolanda squealed excitedly.
"I asked, "is Rolanda being utterly ridiculous?""
The Quidditch Mistress snatched back the ball, an angry pout on her face.
"So you don't believe then?" she muttered.
Septima put a hand on her hip.
"Seriously?" she drawled. "You can get them everywhere in the Muggle world. I got one on a keychain from Brighton."
"It's not true!" Rolanda moaned. "I'll prove it to you!"
And she stormed out of the room.
It was late afternoon and Minerva was back in the staffroom, this time sitting by the window in her favourite chair. The day had gone well for her and she had quite forgotten about the Magic 8 Ball, until Rolanda ran in, practically skipping.
"Minerva, Minerva, Minerva." she sang. "Guess what? I asked the 8 Ball if the next person to come around the corner was called Steve and, you know what, THEY WERE!"
"Joyous." Minerva said sarcastically. "And how many other people weren't called Steve when you asked them?"
"Six." Rolanda murmured. "But that isn't the point!"
"Then was is the point?" Minerva groaned. "So far, all you've done is prove that that thing is rubbish!"
"Still standing by the 8 Ball, are we Rolanda?" Septima called from her seat.
"Oh, those are fun!" Pomona Sprout smiled. "A bit silly, but fun!"
"You shouldn't say that!" Rolanda warned. "The Magic 8 Ball knows all, sees all and hears all!"
"She's right you know." Gilderoy Lockhart said. "I relied on one heavily when I spent a year in France dragon hunting."
"Oh please," Severus Snape moaned, "don't tell me you believe in that insanity!"
"It is insanity!" Minerva agreed. "The Magic 8 Ball is cheap and plastic with no magical abilities what so ever."
"A fitting description of you, Gilderoy." Septima quipped. "You should have told me you were a twin."
"Obviously not identical though." Severus sniggered. "Unfortunately, Lockhart, you'll never be as pretty as the 8 Ball."
"You're offending him!" Rolanda screamed. "His magical aura is very sensitive."
Gilderoy looked pleased, until Septima leaned over and whispered, "she's talking about the toy."
Later that night, Minerva was sitting alone in her bedroom. She sat at her desk, quill in hand, attempting to finish a Muggle cross-word. Most of her friends believed them silly, but Minerva found them a good way to unwind and actually thought them one of the cleverest Muggle inventions. Unlike that blasted Magic 8 Ball. Currently she was stuck on nine down: Annoying or frustrating someone with trivial matters. She had been stuck on it for five minutes. The answer was vexing and Minerva got it straight away when she heard an all too familiar voice coming from behind her.
"Oh great and powerful Magic 8 Ball, will Minerva ever believe in your greatness? No, how interesting."
"Rolanda," Minerva sighed, "if you want to visit, could you please leave your little, plastic pet outside?"
"Oh great and powerful Magic 8 Ball, is it because she is afraid of accepting things she can't explain? Yes. Why, Magic 8 Ball, this just gets better and better."
"I believe in plenty of things that I can't explain." Minerva protested.
"Oh yeah, like what?" Rolanda asked.
"Like, um..., like-" Minerva thought.
"Take all the time you like." Rolanda said, settling herself down on the edge of bed. "I've got nowhere to be."
"I believe in... love." Minerva said. "God knows you can't explain that. And... Albus Dumbledore. You can't explain him half the time."
"Ohhhhhh, Albus and love in the same sentence." Rolanda sang. "Oh Magic 8 Ball, is Minerva in love with Albus? No. Damn."
"Ha." Minerva teased. "Finally it got something right."
"Are you absolutely sure? Yes. Well, as I'm on that train of thought, is she in love with... Severus? My reply is no. Oh well, worth a shot." Rolanda said. "Is she in love with anyone? Better not tell you now."
Minerva looked up, reddening slightly. Rolanda looked thrilled.
"The plot thickens. Can you tell me who?" she trilled.
"What, do you expect it to just come up with a name?" Minerva snorted. "It only does yes and no."
"So, you admit there is a name?" Rolanda said slyly.
Minerva reddened further.
"Really?" Rolanda exclaimed. "Really, really?"
"Why is that such a surprise?" Minerva asked, slightly offended.
"You just don't seem like the type to fall in love." Rolanda said. "I mean, I fall in love with random men on the street. I'm one of life's romantics. But you're just so tough."
"I've been in love once, maybe twice in my life. I don't give in to those feelings easily." Minerva said shyly.
"Will you tell me who?"
"Look in the mirror and answer that question for yourself."
"Oh Magic 8 Ball, will she ever tell me who her heart belongs to? No."
"What are you doing?"
"I'm guessing. Gilderoy Lockhart?"
"Don't be disgusting."
"That guy who owns that place?"
"Oh Magic 8 Ball, will you make a massive dent in Rolanda's skull if I should throw you at her?"
"Okay, okay. I'm leaving. Sheesh!... Nearly Headless Nick?"
"JUST GET OUT!"