"All right, that one wasn't even my fault," Amanda shot back irritably.
"She told you to put mistletoe everywhere?" Poppy asked skeptically.
"Only you put it at the entrance to every classroom in the castle!" Poppy counted the most memorable on her fingers, "The Great Hall, the greenhouses, the gardens, the infirmary, the dungeons, the towers, and worst of all, right over their seats at the high table!"
~ * December 22 * ~
Minerva rubbed her eyes wearily as she trudged towards the Great Hall for supper. Though it was the end of the last day of classes before the Christmas holidays, it had been a long week. Of all the trivial matters that could have ruined her week, she had never imagined mistletoe would be the culprit. Mistletoe. And not just any type of mistletoe, oh no, this mistletoe was enchanted. All week long pairs of student and faculty alike had been captured by the enchanted sprigs and forced to kiss, or in the teacher's case blast the plant into oblivion, in order to free themselves. Minerva, along with the rest of the staff had spent the entire week ridding the school of the plant hung in nearly every available doorway, nook and cranny in the castle.
Needless to say, she was exhausted. Even overnight shifts scouring the halls yielded few results. They were a nuisance and she was determined to get rid of them before they spoiled her entire holiday. The staff was so worn out that they had given up trying to find the culprit and safely blamed it on Peeves, who had acknowledged the mistletoe as a brilliant idea.
"Do you think it's over?" a voice that sounded as tired as she felt inquired.
"Possibly," she answered with a wry smile, "but probably not."
"I was afraid of that," Albus muttered, and linked Minerva's arm through his own.
She grinned quietly at his ever-present gentlemanly ways as she settled her hand into the sturdy crook of his elbow. They made their way to the Great Hall in a companionable silence, the halls oddly quiet as the majority of the students were already starting their evening meal.
An evil grin to challenge all evil grins broke over Amanda's face as she watched the two professors enter the Great Hall. The students in the hall might have missed the subtle withdrawal of the deputy's hand and the reluctant lowering of the headmaster's arm, but Amanda missed nothing.
"Stop that," Marcus sternly commanded from her right.
"Stop what?" she asked innocently.
"Whatever you're plotting in that twisted mind of yours."
"Oh Amanda, please don't," young Professor Sinastra begged from Marcus' other side, clearly remembering the incident at Halloween. "At least wait until the castle is completely empty before you do anything."
Amanda quirked an eyebrow at the other woman and said, "Arini, what do you know of my evil plans? And why are you so worried? I'd never endanger the students."
The flying instructor grinned again as the proper young woman resisted the urge to roll her eyes and instead fixed Amanda with a reproachful look before turning back to her plate.
"I mean it - don't," Marcus said again.
With a spiteful look in her eye, Amanda folded her arms across her chest and testily frowned at his uncooperativeness. Little did he know, the evil plan was already in place. Glancing covertly up at the yawning sky, she spotted her tiny evil plan amidst the clouds dotting the enchanted ceiling of the Great Hall. Quickly averting her eyes and trying to plaster an innocent expression on her face, she concentrated on her supper.
The pair winked and waved at Harry, who was sitting with the Gryffindors, happily enjoying the meal with his friends. He had started sitting with the Gyrffindors only a few months before, having grown bored with eating with his elders at the staff table.
"I'm surprised Harry's made so many new friends," Albus commented as they rounded the corner of the high table and made their way to their seats, "He's always been rather quiet around strangers."
"He wasn't so quiet around you," Minerva pointed out, all but collapsing into her seat as Albus pulled it out for her. "You became 'Uncle Albus' almost immediately."
"And Severus became Uncle Severus fairly quickly," the headmaster pointed out with a teasing twinkle. The young Potions master shot him a glare and started to rise.
"Oh, Severus, he's only teasing," Minerva placated with an exasperated look at the headmaster, "Sit back down and finish your supper." The young man grunted in reply, but obeyed. "Really, Albus," she chastised as she passed him the potatoes and accepted the butter, "You are supposed to be a role model, you shouldn't provoke your employees."
"Of course, Minerva," he replied contritely, "It won't happen again." Shaking her head at his blatant lie, she began her meal.
Nearly an hour later, Minerva delicately wiped her mouth and rose to collect Harry from the Gryffindor table. As she took a step away from her chair, she felt herself pass through a paper thin, tickling wall of magic before she was jerked back towards her seat. Only her quick reflexes prevented her from falling right over her seat and into the table. With a sharp intake of breath, she flung out her arms and caught herself before she toppled over. Trying to reset her feet under herself, she balanced precariously for a moment before two strong hands helped her upright.
"Minerva, what happened?" Albus asked, a hint of worry in his voice, "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine, Albus," she replied, puzzled at the invisible wall apparently preventing her from leaving. Tentatively reaching a hand out before her, she felt a jolt go through her as her palm met the wall.
Four seats away, Amanda tried to stifle a smug grin as she noticed the position of the two entrapped professors. Albus' hand had drifted from Minerva's upper back to her waist as he solidly stood behind her. His other hand, having grasped her hand to help her stand, remained enclosing hers, the whole position making them look like dancers frozen in mid-movement. However, she wasn't fast enough covering up the look on her face as Marcus spun to stare at her.
"You - It - This is all your fault!" he accused in an incensed whisper. Flashing him a winning smile, she averted her gaze from his eyes and back to the action.
"Albus, what in the world. . . ," Minerva trailed off, then sucked in another breath as realization dawned.
"What is it?" he asked quietly, his breath tickling her ear. Her breath caught in her throat - she hadn't realized he was so close.
She didn't answer him right away, instead tilting her head back and squinting up at the enchanted ceiling. With a muttered "Oh no," Albus followed her gaze and groaned quietly as he caught sight of a small sprig of delicate-looking mistletoe hanging beside a star.
"Of all the immature, childish pranks," Minerva ranted under her breath. Removing her hand from Albus' hold, she fished her wand out of her pockets. "Stand back," she ordered quietly. He didn't need to be told twice and stepped back to sit back down in his chair, only now noticing the curious stares the remaining students were sending towards the staff table. Before he could think up an excuse and send them all to bed, Minerva muttered "Finite Incantatum" and flicked her wand up towards the offending mistletoe. She didn't even get a full step this time as she was lifted off her feet and yanked back to Albus' side. She fell back into her seat with a muffled curse and glared up at the innocent looking vegetation. Turning to Albus, she started as she found his face a mere foot away and her chair scant inches from his. Puzzled, she was sure their chairs hadn't been this close to begin with, she stuck a hand out again. This time, she wasn't even able to fully extend her arm as her hand collided with it barely a foot away from her body.
"I don't think that worked, Professor McGonagall," a drawling voice commented.
She glared at Severus. "This is the thanks I get for sticking up for you, is it?" His smirk only served to annoy her further.
Luckily, her tirade was cut off by Albus' quiet comment. "I'm impressed - this is a very complex spell. I didn't think our students learned chain-reaction charms until they study them in the seventh year N.E.W.T.s class."
"Well that narrows it down, doesn't it?" Minerva asked, immediately calling to mind every student in the N.E.W.T.s Charms class.
"Not exactly," Albus mused, "I don't think any of our N.E.W.T.s students would be so childish as this, seeing as how they've all been called into duty to rid the school of these."
"So who. . .?" she said quietly. Then comprehension dawned. "I'll kill her myself," she growled, "'I'm too tired to do rounds' my foot."
"Minerva, we mustn't jump to conclusions," he told her calmly.
"Jump to conclusions?" she repeated in disbelief, "Albus, who else could it be?"
Glancing down the staff table, he noticed that most of the staff, including their number one suspect, had fled - most probably from the infuriated look on Minerva's face. Severus remained, but clearly he was enjoying the display, and Filius Flitwick was standing up on his chair beside Albus glaring up at the plant and muttering counter-hexes under his breath.
"Amazing," Professor Flitwick marveled aloud, "Absolutely brilliant! I'll have to make certain I find the student that wove this together! Every spell you throw at it shrinks the area the enchanted two are in. It's brilliant! I'll make sure whoever did this is transferred to my N.E.W.T.s class immediately!"
Ignoring Minerva's "Dead. She'll be very dead once I'm through with her" Albus turned to the tiny professor and asked, "Is there any way to counter it?"
"The only way I see is if the two of you. . . you know," he said, trying to hide a blush, "If we keep throwing spells at it, it won't make much of a difference."
Minerva ceased her dark muttering to stare at Filius mutely, schooling her face to blankness rather than give in to the flush threatening her countenance. Albus stared as well, hiding his blush as well as the woman beside him as Severus' smirk doubled in malice.
"Professor McGonagall!" a panicked voice called. A young Gryffindor second year sprinted up to the high table as the remaining staff members jumped to their feet and followed his flight with concern, except Severus (of course). As the boy came to an unsteady halt before the teachers, he gasped, "Professor - come quick - common room."
As she made to dart around the table and up to Gryffindor tower, she again collided into the wall.
"Oh for heaven's sake!" she fumed. Then, quickly rounding on Albus, she pressed her lips to his quickly. Albus was taken aback by the abruptness of it, and the kiss had barely registered in his mind before Minerva stepped back, a pink flush creeping into her cheeks. Refusing to look anyone in the eye, she hurried out of the Great Hall, pointedly ignoring the way every head turned and followed her through the doors. The students' expressions were all the same - jaws hanging open with looks of pure disbelief on their faces. Albus, however, was preoccupied with the sharp, tingling sensation still filling his body, and the sweet, honey taste of perfection lingering on his lips. The headmaster missed the pale hand coming up to cover Severus' amused grin and the laugh-turned-cough from the same potions master. Filius chuckled lightly and brought down the mistletoe from the rafters and rose to retire.
"Good night, headmaster," the tiny professor said cheerfully.
Turning to him with a blank expression on his face, Albus distantly replied, "Good night, Filius."
Smirking as the little professor left, Severus commented dryly, "You seem a bit lost, headmaster."
The dry voice brought him back to reality and he blinked, trying to bring the Great Hall into focus once more. Most of the students had left after the curious display - no doubt the whole school would be talking about it by tomorrow - and the room was now nearly empty, save for himself, his potions master, and a few young Gryffindors. Albus blinked again, Harry. The boy had a strange expression on his face as he quickly scuttled after his friends to meet Minerva in their common room. The headmaster, if he had been in his right state of mind, would have recognized the expression as one of pent up laughter, and if he had been listening harder, he would have heard the thrilled laughter faintly echoing down the corridor. As it was, he stood rooted on the spot until Severus cleared his throat in order to regain his attention.
"I-," he began, he voice breaking ever-so-slightly. Gulping then clearing his throat, he opted instead for, "Good night, Severus." And left.
"Not bad, eh?" a lilting voice questioned as soon as the headmaster was gone.
"You'd better plan on removing every one of those infernal plants from the school before morning. I guarantee Minerva will kill you if she finds one more."
"She knows?" Amanda asked, coming out of the shadows, with a slight tremor in her voice.
"Oh yes, she deduced it rather quickly as soon as she had all the facts."
Staring at the younger man shrewdly, Amanda realized he wasn't joking and felt her jaw drop. "I'm doomed," she said, her hawk eyes widening, "Well, dear Sevvie, I'd best get to work! Cheers dear!"
As she dashed through the halls obliterating mistletoe as she went, Amanda had no notion of the kinds of thoughts running through Minerva's head as she banished the dung bomds in the common room and made her way back to her rooms.
Sending Harry off to bed, Minerva shrugged out of her robes and into a comfortable nightgown. She fell back onto her bed with a happy sigh, a shy smile playing on her lips as she recalled the incident after dinner. 'I never dreamed his lips would be so incredibly soft,' she mused, too tired reprimand her mind for such thoughts. Snuggling under her thick covers, she fell asleep almost immediately with a contented grin on her face.
"Well at least it wasn't a complete loss," Amanda pointed out, "They did kiss each other."
"You're just lucky it didn't cause too much of an uproar," Poppy snapped. The students, after their initial shock, credited the incident to the inspired placement of stubborn mistletoe and write it off as a brilliant finale to the mistletoe episode. Minerva, however, was not pacified, though Albus passively agreed with the majority of the student population. The next day Amanda received such an earful that her ears continued to ring hours after the telling-off.
"It didn't cause much of anything," she muttered crossly. After a week, the incident seemed to be forgotten and Amanda was again back to square one.
Amanda giggled insanely, "I suppose chucking them in the broom closet wasn't one of my better ideas." She immediately sobered at Poppy's glare. Having run out of ideas, energy and creativity, Amanda, in defiance of her imminent surrender to the inevitable, literally locked them in a closet. Needless to say, Minerva was not pleased when she blasted the door apart seconds later and punched Amanda right in the nose. The petit flying instructor was saved from further bodily harm by the headmaster, who quickly sent her to the hospital wing as he tried to pacify the irate transfigurations professor.
"You're lucky all she gave you was a bloodied nose," Poppy commented calmly, "But if it were up to me, you'd be incapacitated on one of these beds right now."