Under the Mistletoe
"You know, that's a very provocative place to stand, Minerva," said Pomona Sprout with a smile.
Her friend frowned in confusion as the two women stood chatting in the doorway to the staff room.
"What on earth do you mean?" she asked. "We've stood here lots of times. How could it be provocative?"
With a grin on her genial face, Pomona simply lifted a hand and pointed up. Minerva raised her eyes and glanced at the door frame over her head. Suspended directly above her was a fat bunch of mistletoe.
"Oh," said Minerva softly. Then she looked down at her friend with an impish smile. "I see the house-elves have been busy. Does this mean that you're going to kiss me?"
Pomona laughed. "Well, I can if you wish, but here's Severus. Perhaps he'll do the honors instead."
Both witches turned as the Potions master strode up to them with a frown on his face. "Either go in or out. There's no need to stand there and block the doorway. Some of us would prefer to sit inside rather than stand about in the hallway," he stated abruptly as he stopped beside them.
The women exchanged glances, and as Minerva began to turn to go the room, Pomona stopped her with a light hand on her arm.
"Severus, before we go in, allow me to point out the new addition to the décor," Pomona said with a smile as she pointed to the mistletoe hanging over Minerva's head, winking at her friend as she did so.
Minerva's face reddened, and she admonished the shorter witch in a gruff tone. "Pomona, really…"
For his part, Snape merely glanced up at the mistletoe and raised an eyebrow. "Ah, yes… mistletoe. Albus has had the house-elves doing the holiday decorating again, I see. Amazing how many more witches linger in doorways this time of year. I should have known."
Now both witches' expressions darkened, but more in annoyance than embarrassment.
"Mistletoe is a harmless and enjoyable tradition…" Pomona began indignantly.
"Mistletoe is nothing but foolishness," Snape cut her off coldly. "It's simply an excuse for the unwanted to lure the unwary into intimate embraces to liven up their pitifully dull lives. It may be a tradition, but it's hardly a requirement."
Pomona opened her mouth to retort, but Minerva beat her to it. With narrowed eyes and an expressionless countenance, she said, "You're quite right, Severus. The obligation should rest entirely on the person who's standing beneath the mistletoe. If they're standing there, they're presumed to know what it means, so if someone chooses to kiss them, then they are obliged to kiss back. However, simply seeing someone standing there does not obligate anyone to initiate such a kiss. It merely provides an opportunity."
Snape inclined his head, an arrogant smirk on his face. "Quite right. An opportunity which I am well within my rights to decline. I'm so pleased that you're willing to be sensible about this, Minerva. Most women get rather disgustingly sentimental about it. In fact, it gets rather tedious to have to avoid passing through adorned doorways for most of the entire month of December if any of your sex are lurking nearby."
"Lurking!" exclaimed Pomona hotly.
"Do you feel preyed upon then?" asked Minerva calmly.
Ignoring the indignant Sprout, Snape addressed his response to the Deputy Headmistress. "Frankly, yes. Kissing beneath the mistletoe is a tradition that only seems to appeal to women. Ask any man in the castle, except possibly Albus, and they'll be quite ready to tell you that they try to avoid the stuff whenever possible. Yet, the way you women all seem to gravitate towards standing beneath every available sprig, you'd think you believed that all men are walking around simply looking for the opportunity to kiss you. I can promise you that isn't the case. I'd certainly get no pleasure out of such an experience, I assure you."
Sprout's face was so red by this point that Minerva was a bit afraid she'd explode at any minute, and she reached out to grasp her friend's arm in silent restraint as Pomona answered with a growl, "The feeling is quite mutual, Snape. I can assure you that the women around here aren't any more anxious to kiss you than you are to kiss them." Then with a dark angry scowl on her face, Sprout turned around and stalked off into the staff room.
Minerva turned without comment and followed the furious Herbology professor into the room. Snape's smirk broadened as he perceived himself to be the winner of the argument, and he took a step forward to enter the room himself. Before he could take more than that single step, which brought him into the middle of the doorway and directly beneath the dangling bunch of mistletoe, Minerva whirled back around and, grasping the surprised man firmly, she pulled him into a close embrace, pressing her mouth to his.
The kiss that Minerva initiated was bold, passionate and lingering. Once the watching Pomona got over her initial shock, she was quite amused to see Severus' arms begin to slide slowly up Minerva's back, pulling her closer as he quite obviously began to get more and more involved as the seconds ticked by and the kiss continued.
Finally, after what seemed like an inordinately long time, Minerva released Severus and stepped back, nodding thoughtfully.
"You know, you're quite right, Severus. Kissing beneath the mistletoe is all foolishness at that. I'll speak to Albus about removing those particular decorations. I wouldn't want half the staff to spend the entire month of December being uncomfortable. Morale would simply plummet."
Snape merely stood there and stared at her for a long moment with a rather disoriented look in his eyes before suddenly taking a deep breath and struggling to come up with an answer. "Uh… yes. Glad I was able to get you to see sense," he muttered in a dazed sounding voice. Then without another word, he whirled around and bolted from the staff room, retreating up the corridor beyond without a backward glance.
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The next morning at breakfast, Snape found himself turning a speculative gaze on Minerva McGonagall far more frequently than he wanted to, but he couldn't seem to help himself. That kiss that she'd forced on him had disrupted his sleep all night long. The most disturbing images haunted his dreams, most of which he found he couldn't quite remember with the light of day, but the whole experience had left him deeply unsettled. To his extreme annoyance, he hadn't been able to concentrate on anything else since it happened.
He told himself over and over to simply forget it, that it didn't mean a thing. But he realized with a twinge of vexation that as appealing as that thought was, it was far from the truth. If the kiss really meant nothing to him, then he'd have no trouble dismissing it from his mind, but that simply wasn't the case.
That kiss was a good one. In fact, it was astoundingly, pulse poundingly, heart stoppingly good. The fact that he couldn't stop thinking about it clearly meant that it had been far too long since he'd experienced a kiss anywhere near as good, and he wanted another one… as soon as possible.
The question was… how could he get one? His eyes narrowed thoughtfully as he watched Minerva smile at something that the Headmaster said to her. With all the mistletoe still strewn about the castle, it shouldn't be too hard to find her lurking under it again. At least he'd managed to stop Albus from removing the stuff.
Minerva hadn't wasted any time reporting to the Headmaster that he'd objected to the dangling menaces, because when they'd run into each other on the way in to breakfast, Albus had brought the subject up with a rather annoying smile on his face. Why did everything he objected to amuse the man, anyway?
For a brief moment, he'd wondered whether she might have mentioned their kiss in the same exchange, but he ultimately decided that if she had Albus' reaction wouldn't have been nearly as obliging and understated. It was one thing to hear that Snape had objected to the use of mistletoe in the Christmas décor, it would be something else again to hear that he'd been making use of it himself, even unwillingly.
When the Headmaster had offered to remove the mistletoe, Snape had hurried to assure him that it really wasn't necessary as far as he was concerned; exclaiming with what he hoped was the proper long suffering attitude that it was simply one of the trials of the season. And that he was willing to put up with the stuff if it made everyone else happy. He thought he'd earned himself a few points by appearing uncommonly magnanimous, but it was hard to be sure about that.
Not that it really mattered. The important thing was that Albus had been pleased to leave the wretched stuff in place, so it would still be available for him to use to obtain another stunning kiss from Minerva. He frowned as that thought ran through his mind. Who would have ever believed that Minerva was capable of such passion anyway? She certainly managed to hide it well the rest of the year.
Granted, it might be a bit difficult to get her back under a sprig of the annoying stuff after his little diatribe against it yesterday, but surely he was clever enough to manage it somehow. He could, of course, simply kiss a few other women. He'd been quite right to suggest that they seemed to love congregating under the stuff, even if they did get a bit huffy when that fact was pointed out to them. He might get unexpectedly lucky again, but then again, he might not. And who knows how many untalented fools he'd have to kiss while he searched for what he wanted? Sprout? Sinistra? Ugh… Trelawney?
No, Minerva was a proven quantity, and she was right here and available if he could just maneuver her into the right situation. If he wanted another kiss, the sensible thing to do was to pursue obtaining one from her, and he was nothing if not sensible… and quite sneaky enough to manage it.
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Since he didn't have any classes for the rest of the morning, Snape spent the time making a detailed survey of the castle and all its holiday decorations. By lunchtime, he knew exactly where every piece of mistletoe hung waiting for unwary victims, and there was an incredible amount of the stuff. He'd wondered at the placement of some of it. There were no fewer than three sprigs adorning the archway framing the entrance to Trelawney's tower, for example. Did that mean that the house-elves felt she was more in need of a kiss than anyone else or had the annoying woman borrowed some from other locations? He certainly wouldn't put it past her.
Many of the doorways that led to people's classrooms were heavily booby trapped with the nasty clumps of green and white, though he had noted with mild disappointment that Minerva's was not one of them. So much for lingering by her door with a trumped up question after her classes were over.
In fact, the house-elves had put some of it over the door that led to his own classroom a couple of days ago, but he'd removed it as soon as he'd noticed. Putting it back now would look rather odd, so he rejected that idea out of hand. Not that Minerva had any reason to come all the way down to his classroom in the first place, and it would probably look a bit obvious if he tried to lure her there now.
As he was prowling the corridors just after lunch, his hopes were mildly raised when he saw her standing beneath the dangling bunch that hung in the archway in front of the entrance to the library, but before he could get close enough to take advantage of it, she finished her conversation with Madam Pince, smiled pleasantly in his direction and headed off down the hall away from him.
Pince had stared at him pointedly and lingered in the archway under the mistletoe for a rather long moment after Minerva had walked away, but he'd scowled at her, changed his course immediately and stalked off down yet another corridor, finally hearing the sound of the library door opening and closing behind him with a mild sense of relief. He wasn't that desperate yet; in fact, he'd barely begun his quest and hadn't expected to be successful immediately.
He did know where to launch his opening salvo, though. Minerva always went to the staff room for a cup of tea after her last class of the day. If he timed things right, he might be able to make his move and obtain his goal quite quickly by revisiting the original scene of the crime.
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Snape lurked near the short corridor that led to the staff room for several long moments waiting for Minerva to show up. Fortunately, no one else had come anywhere near him. Timing would be crucial here, and having anyone interfere by trying to start an awkward conversation would probably ruin everything. So he was immensely relieved that no one had shown up by the time he finally saw Minerva heading his way.
The Potions master ducked back down the corridor and listened carefully, with his back to the entrance hall. When her footsteps sounded quite close, he began to walk down towards the staff room door. He moved along the corridor in what he hoped was a casual and completely normal manner.
When he came to the staff room, he reached out and opened the door and then nonchalantly paused in the doorway itself, directly under the innocent looking bunch of mistletoe. With what he hoped was a friendly but disinterested expression on his face, he turned back towards Minerva, who was quite close now and addressed her politely.
"Good afternoon, Minerva. How were your classes today?"
Minerva stopped a mere two paces away and smiled in an equally friendly manner.
"They were just fine, Severus. Thank you for asking. It always gets a bit uncertain as Christmas break approaches, as you know. The students do seem to find it difficult to concentrate on what they should be thinking about instead of dreaming about their upcoming freedom. But there were no major mishaps today, fortunately. How about you? Has your day been a pleasant one?"
"I'm not sure I'd call it pleasant, but classes were no worse than they ever are at this time of year. Of course, this is one of my lighter days."
He nodded agreeably and shifted his stance just a touch to be sure that he stood directly below the dangling bit of green and white. Why wasn't she doing anything? Was there more to this tradition than simply standing beneath the damned stuff? He hadn't thought so.
"Um… I wanted to ask you if I could borrow one of your books," he said, as he searched desperately for another topic of conversation so he didn't have to leave the doorway.
"Certainly, which book did you want?" she asked pleasantly, seemingly quite comfortable standing beside him with an innocent smile on her face.
Which book? How the hell should he know which book? All he really wanted right now was a kiss. What was taking her so damned long? She'd been quick enough yesterday. His confused mind cast about wildly for the title of a book she might have mentioned sometime in the dimly remembered past. Any book would do right now.
"Didn't you mention that you had one that touched on the uses of Transfiguration in potion making? I vaguely remember having such a conversation, and I thought that with the break coming up, I might finally have the time to read it." He raised an eyebrow and tried to look approachable.
"Oh, yes. I'd forgotten that you hadn't actually borrowed that book. I do think you'd enjoy it. I have it in my classroom. Stop by and pick it up anytime that's convenient for you."
Her classroom, great. No mistletoe there.
As he stood rooted in place trying to come up with something else to discuss, she suddenly flashed him a rather smug smile and stepped closer. His hopes leaped up, but they were soon dashed as she simply brushed past him and stepped on into the room beyond.
"Why do you insist on lurking in the doorway, Severus? I thought you disapproved of such behavior. I desperately want a cup of tea and a chance to sit down for awhile. Won't you join me?" she asked as she walked across the room heading for the shelf that contained the tea service.
Snape frowned as he reluctantly stepped into the room and watched her begin to make her tea. So that was it. Not only were his actions more transparent than he hoped, but she'd actually listened to his little lecture on tradition and obligation from yesterday. How inconvenient. She'd never bothered to take his opinions to heart before… at least, not if she disagreed with them. Well, if standing under the mistletoe wasn't going to get her to kiss him again, then he was simply going to have to try something else.
"Tea would be lovely, Minerva. Thank you," he stated blandly before crossing the room to take his usual chair in the corner and plot further. First gambits were rarely successful, anyway. There was still plenty of time to come up with something else. Though if she was really aware of what he was up to, he was going to have to be a bit more subtle about it. Since she agreed that the obligation rested on the part of the one who stood beneath the mistletoe, then somehow, he was going to have to find a way to get her to be that one.
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The next morning, Snape lurked beneath the main staircase waiting for Minerva to descend for breakfast. As it was a Saturday morning, she didn't appear at precisely the same time that she would during the week which made timing a bit more difficult. But he was determined to make this gambit more successful than yesterday's had been, so he ignored the few curious looks he received from sleepy staff and students as they made their way into the Great Hall and remained at his post, waiting.
Finally, his patience was rewarded as he heard the unmistakable sound of her heels tapping firmly against the marble of the stairs combined with the light sound of her voice in conversation with another. He'd certainly have preferred her to be alone, but he'd already decided that just catching her under the mistletoe was going to be difficult enough. There simply wasn't much likelihood of his managing it when no one else was around unless he waited until the students left for Christmas break. And since he wasn't willing to wait almost an entire week for that to happen, he was going to have to make do. If there was an audience for the kiss then there was. He could always deal with anyone who got truly annoying about it later.
Once he was certain that she was almost to the foot of the stairs, he moved out of his hiding place and made for the open doorway to the Great Hall with its small harbinger of bliss hanging tantalizingly in the very middle. He timed his steps so that just after he'd cleared the doorway, she should be right in its very center. Before she could possibly move out of the way, he whirled around to catch her by surprise just as he himself had been caught a couple of days before.
The surprise was on him, though. For when he turned around, he didn't find himself face to face with Minerva as he desired, but instead he found himself nose to nose with an amazed Sybill Trelawney. His instinctive reaction was to rear back and attempt to go around her, hoping that she'd just think that he'd suddenly remembered something important and would let him pass. Luck of that sort was determined to elude him, however.
Before he could even begin to offer excuses, she seized him in a firm grip and pulled him into an embrace much as Minerva had done previously. That was where the similarity of the experiences ended, though. Sybill's kiss couldn't hold a candle to Minerva's, being rather wet, insipid and far too unfocused, much like the woman herself.
As he struggled to pull free from her amazingly strong grip, he was almost certain that he heard a snicker and a whispered, "Nice try," in Minerva's voice as she passed close to the grappling couple on her way in to breakfast. Did that mean that Minerva definitely knew what he was up to?
His heart sank as he finally managed to pull free of the grasping Divinations mistress and glance up towards the sparsely populated Head table. Minerva had just taken her seat, and as their eyes met, she smiled, tilted her head knowingly and raised her cup to him. There was no doubt about it now. She was obviously well aware of his scheme to obtain another kiss like the one she'd bestowed on him a couple of days before, and as determined as he was to get one, she was apparently equally determined that he not succeed. That raised the stakes considerably. Oh, well, nothing really worth obtaining should be easy, he supposed.
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The tall wizard adjusted his gaily printed red robes and smoothed down his snowy beard before rounding the corner and heading towards the Trophy room entrance. He'd sent a note in the carefully copied loopy script of the Headmaster to McGonagall asking her to meet him here, and naturally she complied. She'd never refuse Albus, he thought smugly.
Even now, she stood patiently waiting beneath the huge bunch of mistletoe in front of the locked door to the room. This time he'd thought of everything. The Trophy room was the perfect spot for a kiss. It was a bit out of the way, so no watching students were likely to pop up at the wrong moment, a definite plus.
For some obscure reason the house-elves had neglected to put any mistletoe in this particular doorway, but that had been easy to remedy. He'd simply liberated a sprig from a less desirable spot and rehung it here where he could put it to good use. Then he'd carefully locked the door so that she'd have no choice but to wait for him outside, exactly where he needed her to be.
The Polyjuice was the final touch. She'd have no reason to avoid giving Albus a kiss under the mistletoe. Everyone knew he collected as many as possible as often as possible. It was one reason there was so damned much of the stuff all over the castle. This scheme was flawless, and the scent of success spurred him on.
With a gleeful smile, he glided up to the waiting witch and slipped an arm around her waist as she smiled a friendly greeting up at him.
"I hope I haven't kept you waiting long, my dear?" he asked pleasantly, eagerly anticipating the delights to come.
"Oh, not at all, Albus," Minerva responded with a smile. "I just arrived myself."
"Excellent. Thank you for meeting me here," he said happily as he bent to kiss her, savoring his victory with gleaming eyes. Already he was anticipating her expression of shock and surprise when his potion wore off at any moment, and she found that she'd lost her campaign to keep him from receiving another kiss.
Before their lips could meet, however, Snape found his full white beard seized firmly in an iron grip and his face was yanked to the side rather painfully as Minerva placed her lips to his ear and murmured in an amused tone, "Did you really think that I wouldn't suspect that you'd use Polyjuice eventually, Severus? You are the Potions master, and such a means of deception is always at your disposal. But you do need to choose your times a bit more carefully if you wish to be successful at impersonation. Albus happened to be standing directly in front of me when your note was delivered, having just told me that he had to go into London unexpectedly and would be away until tomorrow. Good try, but once again… not quite good enough."
Her soft laughter echoed in his ears as she patted his arm consolingly, and turned to walk off up the corridor, leaving him to stand beneath the bunch of mistletoe alone once again, still unkissed. This was getting annoying.
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His sole focus during that last week of classes before the holiday break was to kiss Minerva once more, and he made as valiant an effort to succeed as he could manage. He memorized her schedule and knew exactly where she was at any moment of the day, making careful note of all possible opportunities to encounter the ubiquitous clumps of mistletoe. Yet she remained one step ahead of him every time.
She saw through his Disillusionment Charm with frightening ease. It didn't matter what hiding place he chose, she was always ready when he sprang out, deftly moving aside at the last moment and sometimes managing to substitute someone less desirable in her place. He found that he'd definitely made the right choice not to pursue any of the other women in the castle. Thanks to Minerva's quick wits, he ended up getting a representative sample of their lack of talent anyway, and he certainly could have done without it.
He'd finally been reduced to following her around and conjuring bits of mistletoe over her head at random intervals, but being the Transfiguration teacher, she simply changed the stuff into pockets of pleasing scent as quickly as he could make it appear over her head. Certainly far too quickly for him to be able to make use of it anyway.
By week's end, as the students all got on the train and left the school to the few who had to remain, he was ready at last to accept defeat. He'd tried his best, used every trick he could think of, but after a week and a half of solid failure, it was very clear that no matter how he tried to maneuver her, he wasn't going to be able to deceive Minerva McGonagall into giving him another one of those earth shattering kisses of hers. He'd failed, and he was tired of providing the frustrating woman with such a ready source of amusement. Enough was bloody well enough.
Deciding that he might as well simply come out and tell her that she didn't need to constantly look over her shoulder any longer, he knocked on her classroom door just before dinner. When she called out for him to come in, he opened the door and entered. Closing it behind him, he approached her as she sat at her desk.
"You're working late," he offered as an opening. "I really didn't expect to find you here now that the students have finally all left for break."
Minerva shuffled some parchments into a neat pile and rose from her chair, coming around the corner of her desk to meet him.
"I was just finishing up a bit of grading. I thought I might as well avoid having it hanging over my head for the entire holiday." Then she smiled teasingly. "Especially since so many other things seem to be hanging over my head instead."
Heaving a reluctant sigh, he grimaced in mild disgust and raised an eyebrow. "Yes. Well, that's the main reason that I've come to see you, actually."
"Oh?" she asked with a merry twinkle in her eye.
"Yes. I wanted to assure you that you'll no longer find anything unwanted hanging over your head. I am conceding defeat in our unspoken contest."
"Were we engaged in an unspoken contest of some sort?" she asked innocently.
"You know darned well we were," he snapped huffily. Really, what sort of idiot did she think he was? The losing sort, probably. Good thing they hadn't wagered any money on the outcome.
"I suppose so," she said with a satisfied smile. "Does this mean that you no longer feel that mistletoe is nothing more than a foolish excuse for the unwanted to lure the unwary into intimate embraces to liven up their pitiful lives?"
He rolled his eyes at having his words tossed back at him. "I'm still not in favor of the damned stuff," he answered gruffly, "but I will concede that it might have its uses."
"Ah." She nodded thoughtfully and moved a step closer. "And do you still believe that all the obligation rests on the part of the person who stands beneath it?"
Casually, Minerva raised her hand and a small sprig of mistletoe suddenly appeared above her head lazily spinning in a small languid circle.
Snape glanced up at it in surprise and then lowered his gaze to meet her glittering eyes and broadly smiling face with a sudden smirk of understanding. Taking a step towards her, he reached out an arm and slid it slowly around her slender waist, pulling her close to his chest.
"Perhaps… though obligations can be so restrictive. Actually, I think I've come to believe that mistletoe provides some wonderful… opportunities… for those lucky enough to be able to grasp them. Wouldn't you agree?" he murmured softly as he lowered his lips to hers.
"I've always thought so myself," she murmured in return as she slid her arms around his body and finally gave him the kiss that he'd been seeking. One that was more than worth the wait.