Disclaimer: I don't own any of the people, places or things in this story. That privilege belongs exclusively to the lovely J. K. Rowling, as I'm sure you're all aware.

The staff room was completely silent except for the sound of a quill

scratching its way along a two-foot piece of parchment. Minerva

McGonagall sat in front of the fire, balancing the pile of essays on her knee.

She hated desks; they were too rigid, and she loved to curl up on a sofa when

she marked papers. It was a welcome respite from the uncompromising

chair and square desk in the classroom. She smiled quietly to herself. The

students were truly learning. She loved giving good marks, and this batch of

papers was a noticeable improvement on the last. A shadow fell on the rug

in front of her, and she sighed as a stiff form seated itself delicately in the

farthest corner of the couch. "Snape," she acknowledged stiffly.

"Professor," he responded icily, and the silence fell again. She turned back

to the papers, but after a while the cold voice began again: "The Slytherins

will need the Quidditch pitch tomorrow afternoon to prepare for the next

match." Minerva looked up furiously. "I see," she ground out, "then would

you mind informing me when the Gryffindors are supposed to practice?

Should they conjure a second pitch out of thin air, perhaps?" "That's no

concern of mine," he shot back loftily, "just like everything else a

Gryffindor sees fit to do or not do." "Yes, well, if you need the practice so

desperately, I'm sure I could oblige you," she said bitingly. An offended

glare met this remark, and she allowed herself a small inward smile of

victory. "You may keep your Quidditch reservation. Heaven knows I am

not so cruel as to deny idiots the chance to save their sorry hides," he spat

out, and she remained calm, telling herself that she was too close to victory

to blow it now with a childish outburst. She merely smiled serenely at him,

at which he turned smoothly on his heel and stalked off in an angry swirl of

black robes. "I believe the score now is Minerva: 25, Severus: 12. I must

say, my dear, I believe this time must be some sort of record." Minerva's

cat-like smirk lengthened into a cheeky grin as she turned to face the

twinkling half-moon glasses. "That's as close to running away as he's ever

gotten," she remarked happily. A gleeful chuckle met her ears at this, and

she jerked her head toward the sofa, moving stacks of papers to make room

for him on the cushion next to her. "I would chide you for unprofessional

conduct, Minerva, if I didn't enjoy these scenes so much. As long as the two

of you show a united front before the students, you are welcome to scrap in

private." "Thank you, sir," she laughed, drawing her hand to her forehead in

a mock salute. As she lowered her hand, his gaze became more penetrating,

and she felt nervousness flood her every pore. He couldn't tell, could he?

She sometimes believed he could read minds, more often that he knew all

that transpired within the Hogwarts grounds. But she wouldn't let him find

out what was different about her, not if she had to curse him in the process.

"What is it, Albus?" she asked shakily. Damn, why couldn't she keep the

fear out of her voice? "Is there anything you wish to tell me, Minerva?" he

asked suddenly, and her mouth went dry. No, she couldn't, but she might

have no choice..... "No, there isn't," she said determinedly. She cringed as

it came out rather loudly and defiantly; in her haste to defend her secret, she

had become overenthusiastic. She wished desperately that she were a better

liar. For the first time in her life, she wished Snape were around to help her.

He was the best liar she had ever met in her life, and it served him extremely

well. Not that that was a sparkling recommendation of his personality, but

he came in useful every once in a while, as much as she despised him. But

this was not about Snape. Albus was staring past her eyes, into her mind,

and it was only a matter of time before he..... "I'm sorry, Albus, I'd love to

stay and chat, but I'm meeting a student in my office in five minutes. I'll

see you at dinner." She practically sprinted out of the room, missing the sad

blue gaze as it followed her retreating form with a mixture of curiosity and

deadly fear.