The next evening I am slightly more irritable; not only does my hand hurt worse than ever before, the scheduling of my detention means that I missed most of dinner. In an attempt to keep my mind off things like pumpkin juice, warm rolls, or chocolate desserts, I think back to this morning's close encounter of the Snape kind. While the rest of my class ran out the door as soon as we were dismissed, I gathered my things more slowly then cautiously made my way towards Professor Snape who was standing near his desk watching me.
"Miss Grey," he sneered.
"Sir," I replied, trying with all my might not to be nervous. Had he changed his mind since last night, I wondered. Was he going to tell me it was my own fault? I tried to look him in the eye. I was less successful than I would have liked, but more successful than many. He was scrutinizing me very closely; I couldn't help wondering what he was looking for.
"Come," he said suddenly, startling me. I followed him to what I guessed was his office. Jars full of strange preserved objects were on the shelves. It reminded me of the mad scientist in a muggle movie I had once seen. "Wait here," he ordered as he continued on through another door. I looked around a little more. Some of the objects appeared to be body parts of various creatures. Eew, I thought, less disgusted than I would have expected. I had just turned around to examine the jars behind me more closely when I suddenly heard his voice just behind my shoulder. "Miss Grey," he intoned. I won't disguise the fact that I jumped slightly. "Some essence of murtlap," he said handing me a phial. It was rather larger than I would have thought necessary for one hand, especially since mine are a little on the small side, but I took it anyway.
"Thank you, Professor Snape," I said. I meant it too. At that moment I felt that none of us gave this man as much credit as he perhaps deserved. I stood there a moment looking at him. Perhaps he wasn't as much a git as we all believed.
"I will not write a note excusing your tardiness for the next class, Miss Grey." He smirked at my sudden look of panic. Perhaps he was a git after all.
Why do I allow that man to intimidate me so? I wonder. Am I not a Gryffindor? Is not bravery one of my defining characteristics? Then again, he intimidates just about everyone, Gryffindor or no. And why did Professor Snape give me so much essence of murtlap? Unless he expects me to have more detentions? I hope not. At this moment I would rather be scrubbing out cauldrons for Snape then I would be writing here again. Unless, I think slowly, unless it wasn't all for me. I might not get any more detentions, but someone else in Gryffindor could. Does Professor Snape want me to distribute the essence to others? Is that why there is so much? I can't really ask him about it; I will just have to assume yes.
At this point I glance up at the clock. It is only seven o'clock. My hand hurts; really, really hurts. I wonder how long I will have to stay here for Umbridge to be happy. Far too long, I am sure. By 7:45 I have tears in my eyes. I can't help it. But I won't say anything. I will not draw her attention to this sign of weakness. Though I can't help wondering if she would let me go after seeing me cry. I am not prepared to giver her that, though. My pride, hubris really, will not allow it. Why else would she have this detention if she didn't like seeing pain? Maybe, I think somewhat feverishly, she wants me to hurt as much as my comment hurt her. A reasonable guess, but I seriously doubt she was hurt this badly.
At 8:15 Umbridge looks up from her needlepoint.
"Would you like a cup of tea?" she asks me. I am only too ready to agree to her offer. After all, time drinking tea is time spent not writing. She offers me a delicate china cup full of steaming brew. "Milk and sugar?" She asks.
"No, thank you," I say shaking my head. I know what plain tea tastes like, and I don't want to give her the chance to add anything to my cup. Not that I know anything she would consider worthwhile, but somewhere in the back of my head I remember Professor Moody, from last year, and his incessant roar, "CONSTANT VIGILANCE!" Indeed, Professor, I think with a smile.
"Biscuit, dear?" Umbridge offers me a fragile looking plate that matches the cup in my hand. I am very suspicious, but my stomach growls loudly before I can refuse. She smiles falsely at me, "shall I take that as a yes, dear?" she asks innocently. Nothing to do but try to recover now, I nod and say "Please," in my most polite voice.
We sit in near silence, sipping our tea and nibbling delicately on the hard biscuits. What was there to say? So, do you torture students often? I think not. Still, I sip as slowly as I can. She drinks rather faster. Stall! My head screams at me. Make her slow down! "So," I begin cautiously. "How long have you been doing needlepoint?"
She looks at me a moment before replying. I try my best to look sincere. "Several years," she says at last.
"My grandmother used to embroider," I try again. She looks at me some more. I wonder nervously what she is thinking. "It is a very enjoyable pastime," she says.
"How do you get them to look so lifelike?" I ask, hoping against hope that this second question will do the trick.
"I use a special spell my mother found," she replies, finally beginning to warm to the subject. "Finish your tea, and I'll tell you about it while you write." I nod, trying outwardly to look excited. Inwardly I am cursing a blue streak. I have no choice, however, but to finish my biscuit, swallow the last of my tea, and reseat myself at the small writing desk. By this time Umbridge is bubbling merrily. I use the sound to try to help block the pain. She goes on and on. Finally she stops. "Oh dear," she exclaims, "ten forty-five already! I had intended to let you go earlier," she smirks. "I suppose I shall just have to call Severus again," she says with a gleam in her eyes that belies the shrug of her shoulders.
"Severus," she calls after tossing a handful of floo powder into the fire and kneeling.
"Yes," he says as his head appears in the fireplace. "Ahh, Madame Headmistress. A pleasure to hear from you."
That is a dangerous game you play, Professor, I think to myself.
"I wonder if you would mind escorting Miss Grey again this evening?"
"Certainly, Madame," he says. "I shall arrive momentarily."
"Just come through the floo, Severus, it'll be alright this once."
"Thank you," he says inclining his head towards her. A moment later he has stepped through and stands before us.
"Tea, Severus?" she asks sweetly.
"No, thank you. I was brewing a potion when you called; I have only enough time to return Miss Grey to Gryffindor."
"Ah, I see." She doesn't bother to hider her disappointment.
"My apologies, Dolores," he murmurs looking at her.
"Ah, Severus," she sighs. They both stand there looking at each other and I stand a little off to the side watching them both. For a moment, I stand there considering the tableau we must make to an outside observer, with the fire in the background, just visible between the tall, rail like and short, squat bodies. It is both homey and disturbing. Then, as the silence between them begins to stretch to what must be an uncomfortable length, I decide to take action. Thus I very deliberately sneeze. It's a rather odd talent, I admit, being able to sneeze on demand, but I think it's at least as useful as crying is. In any event, it has the desired effect; the unlikely couple turned to me. "Excuse me," I say in what I hope is a contrite voice.
"Come, Miss Grey," Snape says, snapping out of his reverie.
"Yes, sir," I say, turning to follow him as he heads out the door. At the last moment, however I hesitate. Madame Umbridge hadn't mentioned whether I had any further detentions. I decide to keep walking in the hopes that I will get off this time. After we have turned a corner away from Umbridge's office I slow down a bit to look at my hand. It is worse than ever before, and as I see it, all the pain that I had blocked out listening to Umbridge returns to me. I give a little gasp and nearly fall over as tears spring to my eyes.
This catches the Professor's attention and he turns to look at me. "Let me see your hand," he says. I am surprised, but hold my hand out for his inspection. With a sigh he takes my handkerchief and ties it tightly around the offending body part. "Soak that tonight," he scowls. "Hurry along; I wasn't lying when I said I was brewing a potion."
"Nope, just when you were emphasizing how time sensitive that potion was." Did I just say that?! To Professor Snape?! What was I thinking?! Did the pain dull my thinking that much? Didn't I know better than to be smart to professors? Hadn't I learned anything from Umbridge?
"I should think," Snape says silkily "that you would have more respect for your elders. However if you really want another detention." he trails off looking at me.
"No, thank you," I cut in quickly, darting a glance at his face. He looks as threatening as ever, but, did I just see something, a spark of amusement, perhaps?
Finally we make it to Gryffindor Tower and the Fat Lady's portrait. "Thank you, sir," I say just before I mutter the password and climb in through the portrait hole.
"You're welcome," comes the response, just as I am leaving. Did I really hear that? By the time I have turned back Professor Snape has swept off. Probably it was my imagination, but still.Ah, who knows. I go to soak my hand before going to bed.

A/N: Thank You's to everyone who reads this and, dare I hope, reviews. It's sort of an unusual story and perspective, not what I usually write, but I thought a little variety might be good. I also want to mention that I highly doubt the romantic tension between Snape and Umbridge ever could happen, especially since in Cannon they appear to detest each other. In this story Snape still hates Dolores, but she has decided that he is attractive. I also felt that since Snape doesn't like Dolores he just might feel the tiniest spark of sympathy for anyone who caused her misery, but only the tiniest spark, this is still Snape and the protagonist is, after all, a Gryffindor, even if she is a bit irreverent and sarcastic. At any rate, I hope you all enjoy reading this as much as I liked writing it.

Miriam Q. Webster