It was a sunny, hot August day, and the faculty of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry were a bit restless as they had their high tea. It was far too lovely of a day to be trapped in an all-day staff meeting, but that was precisely what had happened that day. So the mood in the faculty commons was a bit on the edgy side. Of course, the fact that they were trapped in a stuffy, crowded, hot room wearing thick, heavy robes and drinking tea instead of being outside on a terrace and enjoying the evening with cool drinks, ice cream, and cucumber sandwiches was enough to make anyone edgy. It certainly had that effect on Emmy Vector, Minerva McGonagall, and Severus Snape.
Minerva McGonagall and Severus Snape were having one of their usual sniping fests. She finished with, "And Severus, do try to be a little bit easier on Longbottom, Potter, and the rest of the Gryffindors this year, will you?"
" I merely give them what they deserve, Minerva."
The rest of the faculty within earshot emitted soft snorts and hmpfs of disbelief at this. The perception of the entire faculty of Hogwarts was that Snape blatantly favored his Slytherins over every other house.
Severus shot a challenging look at Professor Emmy Vector, who had thought she had muttered "Hogwash!" too quietly for anyone to hear. "What did I hear you say, Emmy?" he murmured softly.
Emmy glared back at him. My Ravenclaws never get a fair shake from you, either, as well as Hermione Granger, my best student by far, even though she is a Gryffindor. I've had enough of this. She set her cup and saucer down on a nearby table with a menacing clink.
"I said 'Hogwash,' Severus." His glare focused on her, and turned from the I'm-Merely-Annoyed setting to the I'm-Going-To-Make-You-Miserable setting. "The unanimous perception among the faculty and the student body is that you blatantly favor your Slytherins over every other house, no matter what. I personally don't think that you even know the meaning of the word fair, let alone can practice it."
"Professor Vector of Ravenclaw House thinks that I can't be fair? This from the woman who frightened almost all of Slytherin, three-quarters of Gryffindor, and half of Hufflepuff into dropping Arithmancy after fourth year?"
"One. That was the subject, not me. Two. They decided to take something where they didn't have to do any real work." Vector looked as if she would have said more, but Sybil Trelawney looked sharply at her. Vector decided not to start two fights at once. Severus almost protested at Vector's comment, but she continued on. "And furthermore, you're trying to change the subject. I still think that you can't be fair to any of the students. You coddle the bloody Slytherins and give the back of your hand to the rest. Your precious Slytherins can do no wrong, and the rest of the Houses can do no right in your eyes, and we're all damned sick and tired of putting up with it!" The rest of the faculty had fallen silent as Emmy drew herself up to her full five feet, five inches and shouted at Severus Snape.
Snape stared back at Emmy Vector, the small woman with the long straight brown hair. Merlin, but she was furious. Her brown eyes burned with rage. Her slender hands were clutched into fists at her sides. Snape decided that he had to calm her down.
"One. I am always fair. Two. Why should I bother behaving in the way you think is fair? Why do I want the good opinion of idiots anyway?"
"Perception is reality, Severus," Vector replied.
"I know what fairness means, Vector, and furthermore, I know what you think it means."
"So you say."
"Are you accusing me of lying?"
"Merely of making a virtue of necessity."
Severus drew in his breath. "Do please explain yourself," he drawled.
Vector gave him a tight smile. "Severus, you're no more capable of basic fairness than a snake is of tap-dancing. It's not your fault, and I shouldn't have gotten angry. I do apologize."
Snape found a Ravenclaw making allowances to be as infuriating as most people found his Slytherin sneering. "While I hate to deprive you of the pleasures of smugness," he replied, "I assure you that I could meet your standards of fairness if I had any reason to do so."
McGonagall snorted. "And of course, you'll never, ever have a reason." Vector chuckled, and she and McGonagall nodded at each other. Snape realized that he was in danger of losing smirking rights in this argument.
"Make me an offer."
Vector got a little grin on her face, and spoke in a light tone. "Hah. Severus, if you can act fairly towards all the students for one month this year, I swear I will do a belly dance at the Halloween Feast out in the Great Hall. In Slytherin colors."
Snape grew furious at Vector's light, airy tone. How dare she make light of me, he thought. He stepped closer to her, close enough to touch if she had wanted to, close enough to rattle her. He loomed over her, all six foot two of him, and said, "I'm serious," in the quiet Obedience-or-Death tones that intimidated even the Weasley twins.
Emmy tilted her neck and head back to look up at him, and took a step back. He moved to maintain that same, too-close distance. How dare he treat me like I'm still a naughty first-year, she thought. She narrowed her eyes, put her hands on her hips, and sneered back at him. "So am I. If you can act fairly towards all the students for one full month before Halloween, I swear that I will do a belly dance at the Halloween Feast out in the Great Hall. In Slytherin colors."
Severus felt himself smirk. The thought of prim, proper Ravenclaw, Professor Emmy Vector doing an exotic dance in public was highly amusing. And she probably can't even dance worth a tinker's damn, either. She'll make a total idiot out of herself. Even more amusing.
"Oh, I don't think the Slytherin colors will be necessary, Emmy. You are a Ravenclaw down to the bone, after all."
"Then it's a bet. You act fairly towards the students for one full month this year before Halloween, handing out punishments and praise equally and with total disregard of House, and I will do a belly dance at the Halloween Feast out in the Great Hall. And I will wear whatever colors and costume I please."
"And if he doesn't perform, Emmy, what then?" Flitwick asked. Vector got a wicked grin on her face. "If he can't act fairly toward the students for one full month, I will wash his hair for him at the Halloween Feast in the Great Hall. With my own shampoo."
"What, in front of the students?" Severus protested.
"Exactly, in front of the students." Emmy had a wicked little gleam in her eyes, and all the rest of the teachers in the staff commons had fallen totally silent to watch the two of them now. Even the house-elves had fallen still as they watched Vector and Snape.
"You wouldn't dare -- I never agreed to any such thing --"
"Fair is fair, Severus. I've got to give you some incentive besides watching me dance to perform on the bet."
Snape changed his mind on the costume colors in that instant. If I'm running the risk of public humiliation, she has to as well. "All right, then. Fine. When I act fairly toward the students for one month before Halloween, you will do a belly dance for us in the Great Hall at the Halloween feast. In Slytherin colors."
Vector's eyebrow shot up, but then the look on her face changed to a pondering one, and finally a considering one. She smirked and replied, "Agreed. And if you cannot act fairly toward the students for one month before Halloween, I get to wash your hair for you in the Great Hall at the Halloween Feast. With my own shampoo. In front of the students."
"Done, then!" the two professors said together, and shook hands on it.
McGonagall raised her eyebrows, and Dumbledore nodded at her. The two of them drifted over into a secluded corner. "Two pecks of lemon drops says that Severus will be able to manage it," Dumbledore whispered, with a gleam in his eye.
McGonagall snorted. "A bottle of Glenfiddich says that he can't, Albus," she retorted.
Around the rest of the Common Room, other little knots were coming together and parting. Sinistra put three to two on Snape, Flitwick put ten to one on Vector. Hootch, Sprout, Trelawney, and Hagrid were muttering together for a while as well.