INSULTS

Disclaimer:  I own none of the characters/brands/places referred to here forth in. *grin*

            It was the end of the first week of the Summer term and as had become their custom the four Heads of Houses were congregated together to celebrate the close of Careers Advice week.  Usually they would go out and meet in the Three Broomsticks, or perhaps if they were feeling particularly adventurous, somewhere further a field, but this year they had been told in no uncertain terms that as senior members of the faculty it was required that they stay on at the castle during term time.  Minerva had gotten around this quite nicely however, by discovering quite by chance the previous night, that the Headmaster's rooms were far more willing to open to her than to Umbridge.  Thus being so, that was where the four of them were sequestered now, sitting in front of the fire and drinking.  Heavily.  Well at least three of them were. Serverus Snape looked across the grate to where the Gryffindor was still sitting bolt upright in her chair nursing a glass of gillywater.  The woman was usually tense but seemed to be reaching new levels in recent weeks.  The Slytherin was just contemplating refilling his fire whiskey again when the depressing silence was broken by Emily Sprout. 

"I think I reached an all time record this year."

"Really?"  Asked Flitwick swaying on his stool.  She nodded in reply, her glass at her mouth.

"Let me guess - only half the students you spoke to this week want to work at St Mungo's?"  Serverus cut in as he poured another thumb's worth of whisky into the glass.

"Actually, it was closer to a third."  Replied the Hufflepuff as she leaned over and took the bottle from his hand, replenishing her own drink.

"Well I can assure you that if I have one more conversation where the job description everyone is skirting around includes 'unyielding, unquestioning faith to our Lord, a complete belief in the supremacy of pure blood, and no hesitation to use all force necessary to remove those against the true order', I swear I may just kill the pupil in question myself.  Right there and then.  With my bare hands."  Severus downed the remainder of his drink.

"I suppose you really do win the worst off.  Though I had at least two floods of tears because I suggested to them that it might be an idea to have plans as to what they might like to do if they don't get the record number NEWTS ever."  There was a quiet mumbling most unlike the Deputy Headmistress from where Minerva was sitting.

"Pardon, my dear?"  Emily asked leaning forward.

"I think I've got you all outdone."  She said it much louder this time, but in something of a rush.  "I may have promised to do whatever it takes to ensure that Mr. Potter becomes an Auror.  In front of Umbridge."  As she was speaking, she leaned over and snatched the newly refilled glass from Severus' hands and as she finished, downed its rather hefty contents in one.  They all sat there in silence.  Severus couldn't decide whether he was more shocked by her actions earlier or her having the tenacity to thieve his drink.

"Damn.  Now I remember why I don't drink this stuff."  She said making a face and standing up immediately, heading towards Dumbledore's desk.

"Ummm, Minerva."  Filius asked now leaning heavily on the arm of Emily's chair.  "Why?"

"Damn, come on Albus, where in Merlin's name did you put it?"

"Minerva? What exactly are you looking for?"  Severus asked turning to look where the somewhat unusual cussing and general 'searching' type racket was coming from. 

"Talisker.  I gave him a really nice bottle of Talisker for his birthday and he was saving it for a special occasion.  I know it's here somewhere."    She opened and shut several drawers and cupboards barely taking the time to glance in them.

"Accio Talisker."  Severus said after locating his wand.  The bottle had apparently been stored on the top of one of the hundreds of bookcases as that's from where it sailed down from and straight into his hand.

"Thank you.  Severus?"   She said returning quickly to the fireplace, but as she reached for the bottle he shifted it out of her reach.

"I think not."  He said trying not to smirk too hard.  "I want to know what happened during our esteemed Mr. Potter's interview and somehow I think you won't be in any fit state to elaborate if you have any more."

"What makes you think that I'm not just going to have the one?"

"You've already had one."  Pointed out Fillius.

"Fire whisky doesn't count.  It's not whisky it's acid."  The Ravenclaw just mumbled into his glass.  Severus stood as Minerva made another grab for the bottle.

"For Merlin's sake Severus there's nothing to tell!  Harry arrived late when our Headmistress," she almost spat it out,  "had already made herself comfortable.  Mr. Potter suggested that he thought he might like to become an Auror.  Umbridge obviously didn't approve.  We tussled.  I assured her that if I had to tutor him every night from now until he graduates, I would, if only to show her…." He had been pouring her a drink as she spoke and didn't object when she took it forcefully from his hand.  Again she downed the liquid in one.  The glass was immediately held back out for a refill. 

"Why," he began pouring another thumb of amber liquid into the glass,  " is it that I get the feeling that it didn't just end there?"

"Apparently I'm jealous of her.  When she came out with that one I sent Harry away."

"And…." Severus moved the arm with the glass just out of her reach again.  A well placed levitation charm only just ensured that the bottle itself remained out of her grasp. 

"Come now – it can't have been that bad, now can it?"  Reassured Emily.  Minerva simply arched an eyebrow but the Slytherin could plainly see the way her cheeks flushed.  Whether this was due to the totally unfamiliar quantity of alcohol she had undoubtedly just consumed, and in a fairly short time span too, or whatever petty insults Umbridge had thrown her way, he couldn't say.

"Come on my dear," Fillius encouraged, having woken somewhat from his stupor at the rather comic display the Deputy Headmistress was putting on.  "You'll feel much better if you tell us."  The Gryffindor looked unconvinced.

"Well if she's too intimidated by…" Severus knew that would do the trick.  He could see her stiffen at this.

"You'll give me the Talisker and leave me alone if I tell you the best she could come up with?"

"Perhaps."

"Definitely."  The other two cut in, leaning forward.  They all watched as she took a deep breath and then, pulling her shoulders back said-

"She elaborated."  Another deep breath, eyes darting downward this time though. "Apparently my jealousy is rooted in the fact that theHeadmasterisn'tevencompetentenoughtospankmeproperly."  Severus who had been taking a drink snorted into the alcohol.  He could see realisation of what Minerva had said dawning on the faces of the other two as the Gryffindor blushed even deeper.

"You could almost pass for a Weasley now."  He pointed out.

"Whisky."  Was all she said holding her hand out; he handed her the bottle and conjured a glass before realising how unnecessary it was as she was drinking straight from the neck.  She obviously had more experience with spirits than he had expected of her.  Severus clamped down on his mental imaging before he could get properly disturbed but apparently the Charms instructor wasn't quite so quick off the mark as he pulled a rather disconcerting face before burying his head in his hands.  Emily was just muttering to her self about never being able to look the Minister in the eye again.  Realising that having lost possession of the decent alcohol to the obviously traumatised Scot he was unlikely to get it back, he let Fillius pour him another Fire whiskey.  They all sat like that for a good quarter of an hour staring listlessly into the fire, or in the Gryffindor's case as she was now lying on the floor, the ceiling. 

"What happened after she said that?"  The Hufflepuff asked curiously when she broke the silence.

"Hmmm?"  Min asked her head rolling to the side so that she was facing them.

"Well did you try to hex her?  Or just ask her to leave?"  Fillius supplied.  Severus sat up a little in his chair; he suspected that Minerva's original reaction would have been quite as amusing as this one had been.

"Oh.  Not quite."  She said languidly.  " I told her that though Albus is not half bad, I've discovered both Professor Snape and Mr. Filch better equipped for the task."  The mouthful of whisky Severus had just taken shot out and into the flames in the grate, which consequentially leapt momentarily high enough to lick the mantel.  He was totally convinced he had just misheard what she had said.  The other two seemed to be trying to stifle giggles and after a moment lost their composure completely.  What perhaps irked him most was that the thought of the scene brought a smile to his face and he chuckled deeply, as raising his glass he toasted their Deputy Head.

"Here's to you Min, let us hope that you haven't given Umbridge any ideas."  Though now that he thought about it, anything that allowed him to chain up the woman was bound to have its advantages.  Even as the others quieted he felt a smirk spread across his face as he let his imagination take flight.

A/N:  Thanks for reading – please review and huge big thankies to M, the bestest beta around *grin* xxx