Pushing all her weight onto the heavy wooden door buried in the castle wall, Minerva McGonagall crept quietly into the school with all the stealth of a particularly talented cat. Her broomstick was in one hand and her softly glowing wand was held in the other, cautiously pointed ahead of her, lighting her way. She was desperate not to attract any attention. It was late, almost midnight, and she didn't want to think about what she'd do if she got caught out of bed at this hour. This near forgotten passageway of the castle was icy cold, and Minerva shivered as she leant back on the door to send it slowly swinging back into its frame.
Holding her Comet 140 to her chest protectively Minerva started up the steps, dust blooming up from the steps as she went. Pushing open a second, lighter door, the eleven year old witch emerged onto a considerably warmer corridor-more-travelled. As the door dissolved into masonry behind her, she stole quietly in the direction of the Gryffindor dormitories, not letting herself relax. She had, so far, an entirely clean record at Hogwarts and she didn't want to spoil it by being caught sneaking about after hours for something so silly. Berating herself for the three thousandth time since she'd realised it was two hours after lights out, she sped up as much as she could without making any noise. She could get expelled, or lose points, which would be even worse because then everyone in her house would hate her, or…
Opening another door, Minerva looked around to find the right flight of stairs as she put out her wand. The Grand Staircase quietly shifted all about her, most of the portraits sleeping. One that was not, a drowsy looking witch, smiled slightly and gave her a wink before closing her eyes. Stepping forward, Minerva started to climb the staircase leading her up to the fourth floor when she froze. On the flight above was not one but three teachers, two of them engaged in a friendly sounding, if largely undertone, conversation. Her heart sank straight through her boots and then down two more floors.
"No, no, that sounds perfectly lovely," one of them was saying cheerfully. The man in question was wearing blue robes that she could see were tartan, even from the floor below, and a rather dramatic matching hat.
"Well, I'm glad you think so," the one he was addressing replied, voice booming in a satisfied sort of way, an impressing feat when the conversation was taking place in a tone just above a whisper. This voice Minerva could identify as her Potions teacher, Professor Slughorn. "I remember you from my own school days, you know, and I wouldn't want to be a stranger!"
"Oh yes, and you don't seem to have aged at all."
The hitherto silent wizard let out a sound suspiciously like a snigger; the first aughed politely, if slightly too loud, to cover it.
"If only," he replied jovially, smiling pleasantly. "We'll see you tomorrow, then?" His quiet companion, robes pitch black, made a choking noise that the two others ignored.
"Certainly, my dear fellow."
After bidding his companions a well-mannered good night, Minerva watched as Slughorn disappeared down a flight of steps she was thankfully not on, in the direction of the dungeons. Now she just had to wait for the other two to leave, and she could be upstairs and in bed with nobody the wiser.
"He's just after that mead you brought from London, you know," the darkly-garbed wizard commented as soon as the echoing thud of a door closing below them sounded.
"Oh shush, Crowley. It's still a nice thing to do," the other replied mildly.
"It most certainly is not," Crowley replied, imitating Slughorn's pompous tones. "He's insufferable."
"Don't you usually like that in a person?"
"Only when it's me, angel. Or incited by me," Crowley said, sounding exasperated. "It actually is insufferable in everybody else."
The second man made a non-committal humming noise as he started up the stairs. "You do remember, I hope, that you practically invited yourself?"
"I didn't expect him to say yes though, did I? I thought it would put him off inviting you if I came." Crowley retorted as he followed.
"Why didn't you want him inviting me?"
There was a few beats pause. "Aziraphale, you remember how the point of us both coming to Hogwarts is that we don't have to worry about the other doing their job to well? How you thought I'd be too far away for my wiles to be sufficiently thwarted?"
"Mm. Though I do remember it being more your concerns, my dear. Didn't you think I'd have too much positive influence here if you left me 'unchecked'?" Aziraphale remarked mildly.
Crowley made an exasperated noise. "It's a moot point, angel. Anyway, you don't see a problem with me letting you go somewhere on your own with that in mind? You might undo all that greed, pride and bone-idle sloth I planted in him when he was still a student."
The tartan-dressed teacher was pushing open the door that would take them off the Grand Staircase, which was a combination of good and rather unfortunate. Unfortunate, because Minerva didn't understand half of what they were talking about and she wasn't used the sensation of not knowing something. Minerva McGonagall was a very intelligent child, and what she did not know from her own not inconsiderable wealth of knowledge for an eleven year old, she could usually decipher a conversation simply on her wits. The fact that she only understood half of the two teacher's discussion was enough to pique her curiosity, a sometimes regrettable trait in clever children, and she was anxious to know more. However, she prioritised, and focussed on the good as she tried to carry on up the stairs.
Tried, because unbeknownst to her until that moment her feet had been steadily sinking into the trick step she was standing on. Unable to stop her top half moving forward, Minerva over balanced and fell into the steps in front of her with a surprised yelp. To her horror, there was a loud crack as she landed on her broomstick.
"Oh G- Damn," said a voice above her. The next second there was somebody next to her, making worried noises.
"Are you quite all right, my dear? Nothing broken?"
"My broom," Minerva whispered, clinging to the two halves of her Comet as she was gently pulled to her feet. She'd been fairly sure she'd registered her wrist twisting as it caught her fall as well, but that wasn't nearly so important. Besides, she couldn't feel anything now.
"That is a very dead broomstick," Crowley observed, gaze flicking between the two bits of wood and Minerva's crushed expression. At his words, she felt her face fall further.
"Oh dear," Aziraphale said, sounding mournful. He paused, a realisation dawning over his face.
"Wait, aren't you supposed to be in your dorm? What are you doing out of bed?"
Minerva felt herself go very white, and felt simultaneously hot and cold.
"I'm so sorry, I didn't mean too, I was flying, and my broom, and I-," she said desperately, garbling all the words together in a mix of excuses and apologies.
"You're going to make her cry, Aziraphale," Crowley said, sounding quite gleeful.
"Crowley," the wizard reprimanded, sharply, tone softening as he addressed Minerva again.
"Now, now, my dear, take a deep breath and start again," he said soothingly. Quite unbidden, Minerva felt herself steadily dragging in a gulp of air, holding it for a moment, and then exhaling slowly. She felt much better for it, but tears began to well in her eyes anyway as she looked down at her broken broomstick.
There were a few beats pause, and then Crowley offered Aziraphale a handkerchief, who smiled at him before passing it to Minerva.
"Thank you?" she said, looking uncertainly between the two teachers before burying her face in the cloth. It smelt like campfire smoke and apples; it wasn't an unpleasant combination.
"You're welcome," Crowley said, voice evenly dismissive.
"Am… Am I in a lot of trouble?" Minerva asked quietly, lifting her gaze out of the hanky.
The two professors looked at each other.
"No," both said at the same time. Then, "Yes."
Minerva waited as they both gave each other annoyed looks.
"Really, angel, endorsing rule breaking?" Crowley said, folding his arms.
"Not jumping at the chance to plant bitterness in someone's heart?" the other replied, raising an eyebrow.
"Um…" Minerva said uncertainly. They both visibly started, apparently having forgotten her presence in the few seconds they hadn't been looking at her.
"Sorry. You're… You're not in trouble." The blonde teacher's clever blue eyes met hers, and Minerva had the strange sensation of being visually taken apart and put together again in the barest of seconds*.
"Though… I think it might be appropriate to confiscate your broom for the next week. You are out of bed after hours, dear, and this broom seems to be the root of the problem."
Minerva clutched the two pieces of wood in her hands tightly, eyes widening in horror.
"Sir, please, I'm not going to be able to fly it anyway, it's broken and the charms will be broken as well, it can't be fixed, please-"
"Minnie," Aziraphale said gently. The only other person who had ever called her that was her father. "One week. You know you've broken the rules, and I know you didn't mean too, but I am your teacher and it is my responsibility to make sure you know there are consequences when you do wrong. Okay?"
Behind him, Crowley pulled a face at Minerva, who was appropriately surprised. The teacher grinned at her, and Minerva felt the urge to look directly into his eyes at the same time as a shuddering compulsion to look anywhere but. She met Aziraphale's eyes again.
"Okay," she said softly, offering the two bits of broom.
"Thank you," Aziraphale said sincerely. "Now, why don't you go to bed. You have Transfiguration first thing, don't you? You're doing wonderfully so far, it wouldn't do too fall behind over lack of sleep."
Minerva nodded and started up the stairs, hands feeling empty without her broom. She knew it was out of the question to fix it; asides from the fact the charms alone would be impossible for an untrained eleven year old, there were special spells to stop the broom being fixed by anyone but a qualified wizard, to stop them from just being passed down eternally and putting the broom makers out of business . But she was not going to be able to get another till at least her birthday. It would have been nice to be able to try, or too at least have the pieces.
Reminding herself it was only a week, Minerva stopped at the floor of the Gryffindor common room, and resisted the urge to look back down to check if the two professors were still there. She took another deep breath, exhaled, and to her faint surprise felt a sense of total calm wash over her. Smiling slightly, with no real idea why, she padded across the corridor, whispered the password to the sleepy portrait of the Fat Lady, and went to bed, to have a lovely dream of the things she liked best.
A few floors down, Aziraphale and Crowley were in fact still on the stairs. Aziraphale was leaning on one of the golden banisters, watching the stair cases move below as he listened dutifully to Crowley 'berate' him.
"You stole her broom," Crowley said, in a tone that would have been suitably reprimanding, if it wasn't for the fact that he had no business reprimanding anybody.
"She gave me her broom," Aziraphale responded, looking put out. "It was the right thing to do, anyway."
"Well, really you should have upheld school rules," Crowley said with a sly grin, poking Aziraphale in the side. "You should have taken the broom off her, informed her that first years aren't allowed them anyway, sent it back to her parents, and then given her a detention for being out two hours later than she should be."
Aziraphale blinked at him.
"You know the school rules!" Aziraphale beamed.
"Oh, for something's sake, angel, that's not the-"
"After all these years!" the other wittered obliviously.
"Aziraphale, shut up, the point stands."
"She's going to be an excellent Quidditch player, it'll make her very happy, and she'll share that with the people around her. It was the right thing to do," Aziraphale said, with perfectly balanced inner-conviction and righteousness.
"Well, it's what I would have done."
"Really?" Aziraphale looked alarmed, conviction gone.
"No, angel," Crowley replied, rolling his eyes. The charm on them was making them itch, so he waved a hand in front of his face and his irises changed from a golden brown to piercing yellow, pupils stretching out into their naturally serpentine shape.
Aziraphale didn't so much as blink as he met Crowley's transformed gaze. "Well, I don't know about you, but I'm going to bed. We have to teach that transfiguration lesson tomorrow."
"Oh G- Urf. Double transfiguration with a bunch of first years? I'm sitting this one out."
"You can't skip a lesson you're teaching, Crowley."
"Well, they hired both of us, didn't they?"
"That's not the point, we have to set a good example-"
"Are you going to bed or not, angel?"
Exactly a week later, at fifty four minutes past eleven, Minerva almost fell out of bed from where she'd been reading her potions text book under the covers when her broom stick materialised from nowhere, tied up neatly in silvery paper, at the end of her bed. Stunned, she reached out to pick it up and pull of the wrapping; the broom was seamlessly repaired and in fact looking better than ever she'd seen it. There was a piece of paper tied to the handle.
"Goodnight," it warned in curling blue writing. Minerva stared at it, then in a flurry of movement shoved her wand and textbook beneath her pillow, and leaned down to put the broom underneath her bed. She closed her eyes and, unbeknownst to her, the piece of note paper under her bed quietly folded itself back up again and disappeared.
*These were, in fact, the same blue eyes that would teach Albus Dumbledore's how to twinkle.