Many people thought Minerva McGonagall to be a hard, unfeeling sort of woman but truth be told she was a lot softer than all but a few imagined and fiercely protective of her students. So when she heard Neville Longbottom protesting a certain Potions' Professors attitude towards him she slowed twenty feet from where he was sitting, her keen ears pricked to gather a few details.
Neville, bless his cotton socks, put his best foot forward in every endeavor – and yet Neville's best foot was usually several steps behind everyone else's. He also had an unfortunate tendency to get flustered. Minerva had learned to treat him with a gentler hand, partly for the sake of keeping class accidents to a minimum (as his clumsiness was tantamount to the pressure being put on him) but mainly because the boy would learn nothing if he was too terrified to concentrate. She had been known to lose patience with him on occasion but this was more through frustration – she knew that he could do it if he would only have a little more faith in his own abilities.
She felt a certain amount of sympathy for his family situation as well; she had taught his parents and been just as shocked and outraged as the rest of the wizarding community at their fate. She also knew that his Grandmother was no picnic, having shared a dorm with her in her own schooldays, and had a sneaking suspicion that she was largely to blame for Neville's poor self-esteem.
Unfortunately not every teacher had the same sensitivities as the Deputy Headmistress and Professor Snape was notorious for favouring his own House and being, not only abominably unfair to the rest but, downright cruel at times. They'd had words about his behaviour before but Severus preferred to think that McGonagall had a grudge against him rather than entertain the thought that he might possibly be too harsh on the students – she had, after all, tried to block his appointment to Hogwarts' Potion Master.
She wasn't surprised then to hear several of her third-year Gryffindors soundly abusing the overgrown bat at the dinner table, a sport she didn't discourage unless overtly caught listening; she didn't want the students thinking she'd gone soft.
It sounded as if Mr Longbottom had outdone himself this time: a report from Madame Pomfrey had crossed her desk that afternoon informing her that several students had required treatment after an accident in the dungeons. From what she was hearing now, they had Neville to thank…
Neville was staring miserably into his glass of pumpkin juice, 'Do you know if Parvati's okay?' he asked the group at large.
'Yeah, Madame Pomfrey managed to get rid of the extra ear, I heard Lavender telling her sister earlier,' answered Ron, helping himself to the chocolate pudding.
Neville nodded but didn't seem to be consoled by this news. 'Dean and Seamus, too?'
'Hey, Longbottom! Heard you gave Crabbe and Malfoy a makeover!' Fred Weasley grinned appreciatively, taking a seat on the bench opposite. 'Nice one.'
'Not that Crabbe looks any different with the extra chin mind,' added George, grabbing a chicken leg.
Longbottom seemed to pale at their words, a reminder that he was probably in for some payback from the Slytherins. He pushed his untouched food away from him. 'Why me? Snape's got it in for me: he spends half the lesson waiting for me to make a mistake and the rest bawling me out for it…' he shook his head and picked up his bag. 'I'd better go get started on that homework – I might actually finish it by Monday if I start now.'
Harry clapped him reassuringly on the shoulder, 'Don't worry about it, Neville. He's just a slimy, hook nosed, sour-faced son of a-' his diatribe was rudely interrupted by Hermione's elbow in his ribs as she caught sight of McGonagall passing their table.Minerva made her way up to the staff table determined to corner Severus later and remind him - again – that terrorizing the pupils was not acceptable behaviour.
It was ten o'clock and Minerva was marking O.W.L. test papers in her office. There was a knock at the door and Severus entered unbidden. 'You asked to see me?'
'Half an hour ago,' she reprimanded, making a note on the scroll before her. 'You're late.'
'Forgive me, I was delayed dealing with a matter in my House,' he said silkily, having little choice but to respect her authority if nothing else. They had very little in common except a love of rubbing a Quidditch defeat in the other's face.
'Problem?' she asked, dropping her quill into the inkwell and looking up.
'It's been dealt with,' he answered curtly.
'Very well. Shut the door, please, and take a seat.' She clasped her hands in front of her on the desk, waiting for him to occupy the chair opposite. 'It has come to my attention that you have been … less than genial, shall we say, when dealing with the students of late. I'm disappointed to be having this conversation with you again, Severus.'
She may be his work colleague now but there was a time Professor McGonagall had been his teacher and underneath his controlled exterior there was still a tiny part of him that quavered under her stern stare. 'Has there been a particular complaint?'
'I realise you are displeased with Professor Lupin's appointment,' she continued as though he had not spoken. 'But it is most unprofessional to let personal matters affect your teaching, not to mention detrimental to the children's education.'
A muscle in his cheek twitched irritably. 'I was not aware that my performance was unsatisfactory. Rest assured that I will strive to improve.' He looked as if he was in some pain as he said this but it was a pat answer and the Deputy Headmistress was not willing to let him off the hook so easily.
'I've heard that before.' She riffled through a pile of papers on her desk, pulling out two pieces of parchment. 'Take a look at this,' she said, handing him the data.
'I fail to see what Mr Longbottom's abysmal grades and a register have to do with anything.'
'Allow me to enlighten you.' She plucked the papers out of his hand, laying them on the desk between them. 'I realise that Mr Longbottom has a less than stellar record in Potions –' she shot him a knowing look '-but even you can't have failed to notice that they have worsened over the last few months.'
'It stands to reason that he would perform even more poorly as the lessons get progressively harder. Do you expect me to hold an entire class back in favour of a single pupil?'
'Looking over these records, it would appear that Mr Longbottoms grades have been dropping ever since his first class with Professor Lupin.' She paused for effect. 'I believe it was a lesson on Boggarts…'
News of Neville's Boggart Professor Snape had spread through the school like wildfire. Minerva herself had had a good chuckle upon hearing of the incident from Remus though he had also mentioned Snape's less than encouraging aside. It was no secret that Severus was not as amused as the rest of the Hogwarts population.
When he made no response she continued, 'With the proper encouragement and support there should not be a single student in your classes not receiving at least a pass.'
'It is not my job to mollycoddle them, it is my job to teach them.'
'Then teach, don't bully!' her glasses flashed angrily. 'If I didn't know better I'd think you took pleasure in destroying that boy's confidence.'
'Just because my teaching style differs from your own it does not make it any less valid.'
'While inspiring terror was a preferable trait in your previous career, it does not constitute a valid teaching style nor is it acceptable here at Hogwarts - as you have been warned on more than one occasion.'
'As I am sure you are aware, the Headmaster has complete confidence in my abilities.'
'The Headmaster is a trusting man. I, on the other hand, am of a different opinion as to your ability to shape young minds,' she confided tartly.
'Shaping would require a mind to begin with which,' he sneered, 'I assure you, Longbottom is lacking.'
Minerva pushed herself to her feet, 'That is exactly the type of counterproductive attitude I'm talking about! I suggest you make a real effort to buck up your ideas or seek employment elsewhere. I'll be seeing Dumbledore about this, mark my words.'
Snape stood too. 'I think we both know that the Head isn't going to evict me at your whim,' he looked her up and down with unabashed derision, 'No matter how you try to convince him.'
And that was when she lost her temper.
When the red haze lifted from her vision she found that Snape was back in his chair, staring insolently up at her. A slow smile spread across her face. 'Perfect.'
'Have you seen Trevor?'
Harry, Hermione and Ron looked up from their homework, the boys having been nagged into getting it out of the way at the beginning of the weekend as opposed to last thing Sunday night. Ron shook his head, 'No, sorry, mate,' he replied, his gaze falling on Crookshanks. He shot Hermione a scathing look, 'Do cats eat toads?'
'Oh shut up, Ron,' she snapped. 'Do you want us to help you look, Neville?'
'Ah no, that's alright.' He dropped to his knees to peer under their table. 'He always turns up in the end.'
'Mister Longbottom!' Neville cracked his head on the underside of the table and they all jumped as Professor McGonagall strode towards them. He cowered slightly, wondering what he had done now.
'Y-yes, Professor?' he asked, looking for all the world as though he expected her to belt him with a broomstick.
She suppressed a desire to roll her eyes. 'I believe this belongs to you?'
'Trevor!' He reached for the toad nestled in McGonagall's outstretched hand, looking extremely relieved. 'Thanks, Professor!'
'Be sure to keep a better eye on him in future,' she said sternly, pinning him with a dour look.
He swallowed. 'Yes, Professor McGonagall,' he promised earnestly.
Minerva nodded to the four of them, 'well, goodnight then.'
'Goodnight, Professor,' they chorused as she clambered back out through the portrait hole.
Minerva grinned to herself as she headed back to her office. Perhaps Severus would actually learn something from the experience. At the very least he would know never to infuriate Minerva McGonagall again if he knew what was good for him. She transferred the vase on her desk over to her filing cabinet and Transfigured it into a large glass tank, complete with a rock and a couple of water-plants before pulling Trevor the toad (who as luck would have it she had found on the stairs leading to Gryffindor tower) out of her pocket. 'You're staying with me for a little while,' she told him happily, placing him gently on the flat rock.
She was pleased to see that 'Trevor' was still firmly in Neville's possession at breakfast the next morning, though making frequent bids to hop towards the staff table. She snorted into her tea cup when he was pulled away from the porridge tureen and force-fed what she could only presume were dead flies.
'Care to share with the class?'
She turned, realising that the Headmaster had been talking to her. 'Hmm?'
'I was just wondering what you found so amusing.' His blue eyes sparkled as he looked at her expectantly.
'Oh, um, it's nothing,' she lied, shaking her head as she reached for a second slice of toast.
'Marmalade?' he asked, offering her the pot.
'Thank you,' she smiled, glancing unwillingly at Neville again.
'I know what you're thinking,' he said, following her gaze to the Gryffindor table. Her breath caught in her chest, the smile sliding off her face.
'Oh?' she questioned, trying to sound politely inquisitive.
'You're thinking about Severus in that green dress,' he said knowingly.
She breathed again, grinning. 'You caught me,' she nodded, slathering marmalade on her toast. Lupin smiled at her from several seats to Dumbledore's other side, waving a forkful of bacon. 'Morning, Remus,' she greeted.
'Professors,' he returned.
'I was just wondering if you could take a picture next time Mr Longbottom faces a Boggart,' she called, catching the Headmasters' expression of amused forbearance as she did so.
'I can't see Severus liking that very much,' Remus grinned. Minerva made a face as if to say, all the more reason to do it. And if said picture should somehow arrive in the hands of the Weasley twins…
She was shaken from that particularly pleasing daydream by Albus saying, 'Speaking of whom, I haven't seem him today.'
'Probably skulking around in the dungeons, as usual,' she said casually, taking a bite of her cold toast.
'Have you two had another falling out?' Albus inquired and she inhaled so sharply that she began to choke. He tried thumping her on the back but when this effected no relief, pulled his wand out. The obstruction vanished instantly. 'Are you alright, my dear?'
'Fine,' she gasped, rubbing her throat with one hand and coughing into the other. 'Water,' she requested, tears in her eyes.
He handed her his own glass, rubbing her back in concern as she took careful sips. 'Better?'
She nodded, hand on her chest. 'Just … went down … the wrong way,' she rasped, coughing again.
He smiled, commiseratively, tucking his wand back into his robes. He felt someone's eyes on his back and turned to see Lupin craning forward in his seat to check she hadn't keeled over into the cornflakes. 'She'll be fine in a minute,' he assured the young professor. Several of the students went back to their breakfast at these words too and Albus chuckled. Minerva shot him a questioning look. 'I think some of the students were hoping to be excused from their homework.'
She glanced at the House tables and the Slytherins did indeed look disappointed that she had recovered so quickly. 'Remind me to give them extra coursework,' she wheezed, throat still raw, and he laughed again as he poured her a fresh cup of tea.
'Perhaps you should settle for a scalding look; you do them so well,' he teased, squeezing her arm affectionately.
She 'settled' for giving him one instead.
'So wonderfully formidable,' he complimented, 'And on that note I must be going.'
'Ah yes, your meeting with Fudge,' she remembered suddenly.
'I should be back in time for lunch,' he informed her, rising from the table. 'I'll send word if I am delayed for any reason.' With the stringent security measures currently in place around the school with Sirius Black on the loose, staff members, as well as students, were required to make their absence known. 'Good day, Remus. Minerva,' he nodded.
In Dumbledore's absence, Lupin moved up to sit beside Minerva. 'So … what have you done?'
'I don't know what you mean,' she said innocently, sipping her tea.
'Come on, you're talking to a former Marauder – I know that look.'
She watched Neville dive under the Gryffindor table to retrieve Snape again and grinned. 'You don't want to know,' she assured him.
I'm going to kill her...
I'm going to wrap my fingers round her throat and wring her neck...
I'm going to gouge out her eyeballs and feed them to the Giant Squid …
I'm going shove splinters under her fingernails …
I'll dip her in a vat of Bobotuber Pus …
I'll wait until she transforms into a cat, petrify her and give her to Fluffy as a chew toy…
I'll slip some Veritaserum into her morning cup of tea and ask her how she really feels about Dumbledore… yes, in front of the whole school, that'd kill her alright…
Professor Snape was not in the best of moods. It wasn't the dead flies – Merlin knew he'd eaten worse – or even the sheer tedium of the teenage angst in the Gryffindor common room, no, what was really killing him was watching Longbottom going purple in the face trying to do the essay he'd set him and not being able to tell him just how mentally deficient he truly was.
Granger's cat was becoming a problem too. If he wasn't much mistaken the beast was part kneazle and it knew damn well that he was no toad – it just hadn't decided whether or not to kill him yet. This made escape a little more treacherous but by no means impossible … and when he did escape and regain his human body he was going to kill her.
'Trevor, get back here!'
Why don't toads have teeth? Wouldn't I love to sink some fangs into those pudgy little hands… preferably venomous ones…
Snape found himself being deposited once again on the table where Neville was working, his Potions textbook open in front of him. He picked up his quill, tongue between his teeth as he glanced at page sixty-six and began to scratch out a sentence. Snape peered at the parchment. No, no, no! You stupid boy! Grantock root, Grantock! Look! It says it right there! He hopped over to the book, slapping one webbed foot against the correct passage. GRANTOCK ROOT!
Neville looked up again, noticing 'Trevor's' peculiar behaviour. His eyes scanned the text and widened in surprise. Yes, that's right, you moron, a toad would do better at potions than you. The boy crossed out Salamander tail and replaced it with the correct ingredient before looking hopefully at the amphibian again. Snape wondered if his little toady hands would be any good at opening phials of poison – death was preferable…
Saturday evening found Minerva once again in her office marking papers, the lamps flickering brightly, reflected off the glass of Trevor's temporary home. She paused in her scratching at a knock on the door. 'One moment!' she called, hurriedly throwing her cloak over the tank and obscuring the toad from view. She opened the door to find Dumbledore on her doorstep. 'Headmaster,' she nodded, standing back to let him pass, closing the door behind him. 'Something I can do for you?' she asked, gesturing for him to take a seat as she resumed hers behind the desk.
'As a matter of fact there is a matter I was hoping you could shed some light on,' he said, smoothing down his beard as he took the chair Snape had occupied not twenty-four hours ago. He glanced curiously at the covered object on her filing cabinet and she felt her stomach contract uncomfortably.
'I'm always happy to help,' she said, clasping her hands in front of her on the table and forcing herself not to follow his gaze. 'Would you like a cup of tea?'
'Oh, no thank you,' he said, patting his stomach, 'I've just come from dinner.'
'Mind if I do?' she asked, rising again to fill her teapot.
'Not at all,' he answered amicably, watching as she tipped a jug of water over the black pot before giving it a tap with her wand. Steam began to float gently from the spout and she dropped a couple of teabags in before replacing the lid and taking a cup and saucer from a shelf.
'So,' she said, seating herself again. 'How can I be of service?'
'Well, it really is quite curious; Severus seems to have disappeared – whoops.' Minerva's hand had slipped, splashing milk over the fifth year essays still littering her desk. She tutted, siphoning it up with her wand.
'Disappeared?' she repeated, gathering the papers together and placing them out of harms way on the far corner of the table.
'Mmm, I've been trying to find him for several hours now but it appears that no one has seen him since last night.' He picked up a paperweight in the shape of a cat, turning it over in his hands. 'In fact I believe that you may have been the last person to see him.'
'Yes, I've had to speak with him - again – about his attitude towards the students. Ever since news of the Boggart incident got out he's been an absolute-' she pulled up short on what she'd been about to say, casting around for a more suitable replacement. 'Pig,' she finished. 'Poor Mister Longbottom seems to be bearing the brunt of it, of course, seeing as it was his doing but really,' she huffed angrily, 'the boy's already scared to death of Severus without him making it worse.'
'Your empathy does you credit, my dear, however-'
'This is the latest in a long line you realise, Albus? I don't know why you hired him in the first place – I don't know why he wants to teach when he obviously hates children!'
'Minerva,' he said a little more firmly, it was usually best to cut her off early when she was verbally abusing Snape. 'I seem to remember us having this conversation before.'
'Okay, I understand why you hired him but couldn't you have made him Hagrid's assistant instead?'
'Now that would hardly be fair on Hagrid,' he said before he could stop himself. He sent her an annoyed look; she'd managed to sidetrack him. 'Back to the matter in hand…'
She picked up the teapot, filling her cup. 'Maybe he took my advice and went job hunting,' she suggested coldly.
'I would know if he'd left the grounds. No, I'm inclined to think that he's still in the castle somewhere,' he confided, replacing the paper-weight on her desk.
'And you want me to help search?' she asked, sipping her tea.
'No. I'd like you to tell me where he is.'
For the second time that day she choked, coughing and spraying tea all over the Headmaster. She looked at him in wide-eyed horror as he removed his tea-splashed glasses. 'I'm so sorry!' she cried, pulling her handkerchief out of her pocket and hurrying round the desk to wipe his face and the front of his robes.
He leaned back in his chair, laughing. 'That's quite alright,' he chuckled, stopping her handkerchief in its quest to rub his face off.
'Oh,' she moaned, biting her lip. 'Oh, I've made a fine mess of you.'
'It's fine, Minerva,' he assured her, releasing her hand.
She slumped back against the table shaking her head. 'No. No, it's not.'
He dried his glasses on his robes. 'I have a feeling you're not referring to the tea anymore.'
Their eyes locked for several long seconds before she threw her hands up in defeat. 'Okay! It was me!' she admitted.
'What was you?' he asked, not sure he wanted to know the answer. He'd rather not have to interview for a new Potions Professor if she'd permanently put him out of action.
She sighed, looking down at the floor. 'I asked him to come here so we could talk about his behaviour and we kind of got into an argument… and I saw red, I just saw red… next thing you know…' she shrugged.
'I, um, turned him into a toad.'
He turned to look at the cloak-covered tank again before rising to uncover it. 'You turned him into a toad…' he repeated in exasperation, bending to examine Trevor. 'And when were you planning to change him back?'
'Oh, in time for classes on Monday,' she said in a falsely offhand sort of way.
'I think, perhaps, you would do well to change him back in time for breakfast tomorrow.' He slid his glasses back on and lifted the toad out of the tank. 'Although he does make rather a fine toad.'
She cringed inwardly. 'Um, actually, that's not … Snape,' she said delicately. 'Now before you say anything let me explain,' she said, edging around the table away from him.
'I'm listening,' he said and indeed looked as if he was listening with an unnerving intensity.
'Well, you know, he was already a toad and it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss. I thought that if he could spend a little time with Neville he might learn something,' she explained quickly, backing into the fireplace.
Albus shook his head, returning the toad to its tank with forced gentleness. 'Minerva!'
'You wouldn't hex a woman with glasses!' she cried, dragging her chair along with her as if to shield herself as she edged still farther around the desk.
'You turned a fellow professor into a toad and gave him to a student!' he returned with an angry incredulity that suggested her visual impairment would not spare her from his wrath.
'He'll be fine!' she assured him desperately.
'Tell me Mister Longbottom doesn't know what you've done,' he ordered in a low, seething voice.
'Mister Longbottom doesn't know what I've done,' she answered almost before he'd finished talking, abandoning her grasp on the chair to hold her hands out in front of her in case he should charge.
'Because this is a poor example to set the students.'
'He doesn't know,' she swore. 'I swapped Snape for Trevor.'
Dumbledore looked momentarily puzzled, 'Trevor?' Was this another man who'd fallen foul of his deputy?
She pointed at the glass tank. 'Trevor – Neville's pet toad.' She waited with bated breath. She could almost feel the axe hovering over her, knowing full well that if their roles were reversed heads would roll. It had seemed like a fantastic happenstance at the time, right up until the point Albus had confronted her in fact, but she hadn't really contemplated the consequences her actions might bring down upon her…
Dumbledore sat back down, pinching the bridge of his nose, and Minerva took a tentative step forward to grip the back of her chair again. 'You need to get him back, preferably in one piece.'
'I will,' she promised. 'He'll be fine, back to his usual acerbic self.'
'I hope so,' he warned, looking back up at her. 'Because otherwise…'
'I'm in big trouble?' she filled in meekly, biting her lip.
His expression softened, 'If you were anyone else, you already would be.'
Unfortunately keeping her promise to Professor Dumbledore was a little more difficult than she'd anticipated seeing as first she needed to find Neville. After an hour of fruitless searching she decided to go down to dinner for a bite to eat before taking up the hunt again. There was every chance Mister Longbottom had turned up there since the last time she'd checked. She was crossing the entrance hall, Trevor safely ensconced in her pocket, when she heard Neville's plaintive voice beyond one of the tapestries.
'Malfoy, don't! Stop it! Give him back!'
Minerva increased her pace, striding across the flagged floor and tearing back the tapestry. What she saw made her heart skip a beat. Her brilliant plan to teach Snape a lesson had not taken the Slytherins into account. Draco Malfoy was tossing what he thought was Neville's toad high in the air while his cronies laughed sycophantically and held Neville back. 'Goyle, unhand Mister Longbottom this instant! Mister Malfoy, what on Earth do you think you're doing! Hand over that toad at once!'
She winced when Malfoy, jumping a foot in the air at her sudden appearance, failed to catch Snape on the way down and he landed with a sickening splat on the stone floor. She bent, scooping him quickly into her pocket before turning back to Draco. 'Fifty points from Slytherin!' she deducted, slipping Trevor out of her other pocket and handing him over to a trembling Neville.
Draco, Crabbe and Goyle were glaring at her mutinously but she wasn't finished with them yet. 'And two weeks of detentions.'
'Two weeks!' Malfoy exclaimed furiously.
'I can make it three!' she threatened. 'And if I ever catch you doing anything of the sort again, rest assured you will not like the consequences. Now back to your common room.'
The three of them shuffled off, muttering between themselves. Minerva turned to Neville, 'Are you alright, Longbottom?'
'Yes, Professor,' he nodded, his face flushed pink.
She eyed him skeptically before patting his shoulder, 'Very well, off you go then.' She watched him retreat with a sigh. Had she not caught the third-year Slytherins red handed she would never have found out and it was not outside the realms of her imagination to believe that scenes the like of which she had just witnessed were a common occurrence.
Still, she hoped that getting caught this time might put them off, for a while at least, and not make them more vociferous. On that thought, she rather hoped the same about the situation with Snape…
Back in her office she placed the toad on the floor and pulled out her wand. She hesitated … he really was a better toad than he had ever been a man… but she'd promised the Headmaster…
With a wave of her wand and a pop, Severus appeared on the floor, his greasy hair all over his face which was contorted into an expression of utmost fury. 'You!'
'Now, now, Severus, I'd watch my tone if I were you unless you'd like to spend a few more days as an amphibian,' she warned.
'You turned me into a toad!' he shouted, getting to his feet. 'Do you have any idea how-' but whatever the experience had been for him he suddenly seemed not to want to share. 'You crossed the line.'
'I'd say you crossed it first,' she responded petulantly.
'You wait until I tell the Headmaster about this,' he threatened, pointing a long, bony finger at her.
She smiled, looking supremely unconcerned. 'Severus, I have been a teacher at this school longer than you've been alive and deputy Headmistress half that time; nothing you say could possibly affect my position here.'
'You may think so – the governors may be of another opinion,' he said, a malevolent glint in his eye.
She narrowed her eyes, 'Ha! I taught almost every one of them.'
He moved to stand a mere foot away, an ugly expression on his face. 'The depths some people will plumb … and you, the Head of the vaunted Gryffindors…' he whispered, menace in every word. Minerva refused to concede any ground, pulling herself up to her full height and fixing him with a glare that could have melted steel, hand poised over her wand.
'Is there a problem here?'
Severus and Minerva turned to find Professor Dumbledore standing in the doorway, wearing a look of polite curiosity.
'Oh I don't think so,' said McGonagall looking back at Snape, quiet triumph in her eyes. Dumbledore's trust in Severus Snape might not survive an attack on the Deputy Headmistress, as Snape seemed to have realised.
Snape looked as if he was about to burst a blood vessel but shook his head none-the-less. 'No, Headmaster, no problem at all,' he said through clenched teeth.
Minerva suppressed the urge to smile as Snape swept out of the office like an overgrown bat. Dumbledore closed the door behind him. 'He didn't look very happy.'
'That he didn't,' she agreed, opening the cabinet behind her desk and pouring herself a measure of fire-whisky. 'I get the feeling I should watch my back for a while. At least he didn't turn me in.'
'Lucky for you,' he noted, watching as she polished off her drink in one go.
'Trust me, it had more to do with his ego than saving my hide.'
'Which hardly deserved saving after your behaviour.'
Now that she was out of immediate danger, Minerva seemed completely unperturbed by his remonstration as she busied herself with changing the tank back into a vase and replacing it on her desk. 'You never said how you figured out it was me.'
'It wasn't difficult after your behaviour this morning.' He magicked a bunch of flowers out of thin air, arranging them in the empty vase. 'You think I don't know you after all these years?'
Minerva eyed the bouquet appreciatively, a sparkle in her eye as she opened her bottom drawer and began to rummage. 'I'll have to work on my poker face…' she mused, procuring a deck of playing cards. 'Care for a game?' she asked.
Albus pulled up a chair, mirroring her smile, 'Care to make a wager?'
She sat down opposite, eyeing him with a mixture of suspicion and anticipation, 'What did you have in mind?'
Minerva heard the distinct click of the lock on her office door and there was a thoroughly wicked look on the Headmaster's face as he answered, 'Oh, I'm sure we'll think of something…'