Tea with the Headmaster - 01

Albus Dumbledore took far too much sugar in his tea. First year Slytherin Severus Snape watched in horrified fascination as the old man stirred into his orange pekoe sugar cube after sugar cube, until what remained must surely have the consistency of syrup. Still, the movement of his stirring was steady and even; and Snape it back a touch of jealousy. After hours labouring over his own potions, he could still not match this man's grace over the simplicity of tea.

Snape cupped his steaming mug with too-cold hands. The heat hurt, bit at his flesh; but it was a good kind of pain, one he surreptitiously welcomed. He let the scent waft up to his over-large nostrils and relaxed ever so slightly. "You wished to see me," he reminded Dumbledore.

"Ah yes," the headmaster replied. "It was my intention to see how you were settling in. You are the only one of your year in your house to have stayed for Christmas."

Snape stiffened. He hated it when others trod on his own private affairs. What business of Dumbledore's gave him permission to pry? A childhood of rigid control prevented Snape from snapping, however, and instead he said, "I am finding the situation quite comfortable, thank you."

Dumbledore motioned to the cauldron cakes set out for Snape to indulge. He took a quick sip of his sugar-thickened tea, and peered over the cup's rim to look at Snape with knowing eyes. "I am, of course, pleased that you felt comfortable enough to stay here. I am sure you will find the castle itself has a tendency to attempt to entertain what few children left within its walls at this time. Don't worry, I assure you that all entertainments are – safe."

Snape flushed at the not-so-subtle hint: 'You're content here, let us protect you; You're safe here, let us save you.' But he hadn't needed saving for a very long time, and it would take more than a meaningless gesture of tea to sway him to Albus Dumbledore's side. He blew across the top of his cup and drank quickly. Standing, he said, "Thank you for you consideration," in a voice as cool as he could make it.

"You are most welcome," Dumbledore twinkled at him, then waved Snape from his office. "We must speak again sometime soon."

Snape inclined his head stiffly. Stalking to the door, he thought, 'Not bloody likely.'

Yet long after he had made his way back to his curtained and shadowed bed, he had to wonder why, if he felt so annoyed, there was a warmth growing in his chest. "The tea," he decided. "Must have been the tea." It couldn't have been anything else.