A/N: The second of the stories I posted to the HBP Challenge on LJ, this bit of silliness was inspired by that bizarre scene in the HBP film, in which Dumbledore, Slughorn, Snape, and McGonagall stand and watch, as silent and unmoving as if they'd been hit with a Body-Bind curse, while Lavender and Hermione fight interminably over Ron. I don' t know what Dumbles and Sluggie were thinking, but here's one explanation for the otherwise inexplicable passivity of Severus and Minerva.

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"Not Just Any"

by Kelly

"A pathetic display, even for Gryffindors!"

Severus Snape stood at the door of the Hogwarts hospital wing as he favoured Professor McGonagall with this observation. Glaring down the ward at Hermione Granger sitting beside the bed of a near-comatose Ron Weasley, he continued, "A love tiff in a sick room -- what could be more charming than two hapless females fighting over the Weasel?"

He waited, but McGonagall was silent, so he rolled on. "Really, Minerva, if we're going to be subjected to this sort of thing, you should at least instruct those girls in the fine art of verbal dueling. Mindless blather from Miss Brown I have come to expect. Miss Granger, however, is the cleverest witch in her year -- or so I am endlessly informed -- and yet the most telling riposte she could manage was 'daft bimbo.'"

Minerva sighed. "They're teenagers in love, Severus. You were expecting originality and deathless prose?"

"I was expecting their Head of House to put a stop to their foolishness," Snape replied, opening the ward doors and ushering Minerva out with an ironic bow. "They're silly schoolgirls, yes -- the fact they could be interested in Weasley is proof of that. But why should they be suffered to unleash that silliness upon the rest of us?" He eyed McGonagall balefully. "Your idiot children and their hormones. It's a wonder they didn't start firing off random hexes."

"Precisely why I thought it best to let them get their anger out of their systems in our presence," she retorted. "They would hardly lose complete control with the headmaster standing in front of them. To say nothing of Hogwarts' most desperately-feared professor." McGonagall cocked an eyebrow at Snape as he fell into step with her in the corridor.

"Good try, Minerva," he said, with something between a smirk and a scowl. "Nevertheless, the fact is that your young lions did lose control. Now, I contend that their unseemly exhibition has lost you our little wager on House behaviour. Don't you agree?"

There was a long pause. Minerva's lips thinned, but finally she gave a curt nod. "Yes, I'm afraid I do."

"Excellent. Then shall we say eight o'clock?"

Another nod, and they walked in silence for a few moments, the thin afternoon sunlight barely brightening their faces as they passed each narrow window. They didn't hurry; it had not been an easy day -- or year -- and both of them were weary with the strain of it. Yet when they reached the staircase that led to the dungeons and the peace of his quarters, Snape passed it without stopping, turning instead into the Gryffindor corridor with McGonagall.

She didn't seem surprised. "Why were you even at the hospital wing?" she was asking. "It wasn't likely that Mr Weasley could tell you anything about the poison he'd been given. I'm almost tempted to think you were actually concerned about him."

Snape snorted. "Precious Won-won has already been shown more concern than his general Weasley-ness warrants. He doesn't need mine. I was there to question Poppy, but I should have known better than to try to talk with her while she had the chance to fuss over someone."

"Horace doesn't know what it could have been?"

"At the moment, Horace is too busy trying to cover up the fact that he was, shall we say, less than effectual during Weasley's collapse. I'll talk to him later, when he's calmed down. If he knows anything, he'll tell me; he'll be eager to redeem himself."

Now it was Minerva's turn to snort. "I suspect Horace Slughorn is more interested in redeeming his reputation as an infallible judge of mead; otherwise, his sycophants might start trying to slip him an inferior brew." After a pause, she said, "Now that I think about it, I could make a strong case that Horace's behaviour should lose you our wager. He certainly reflects badly enough on Slytherin."

"Now, now, Professor, no sophistry. Our bet concerned students, as you well know. In any case, it would be unjust of you to deny me my chance at the game, especially since you had your turn last time. And were quite exacting, as I recall. You --"

McGonagall changed the subject. "About this poisoned mead, Severus. Do you have any ideas?"

"One always has ideas, Minerva."

She shot him a sharp glance. "Meaning that, having attended the Dumbledore School of Communication, you don't plan to share yours?"

Snape didn't deign to reply, and they didn't speak again until they reached McGonagall's door.

"You're off to meet with Albus?" she asked then. Her expression was unreadable as she added, "You needn't come back here afterward, if you find yourself too tired. You must be exhausted, what with that 'pathetic display' you were forced to witness in the hospital wing."

On anyone else, the tiny quivers at the sides of Snape's mouth might have indicated a hidden smile. "You're suggesting I forfeit?"

"For the sake of your health."

"Ah, of course. But I think not. Very considerate of you, but actually, I find myself quite grateful for the hysterics of Puce Brown, or whatever the wretched girl's name is. She's given me the chance to spend a relaxing evening doing my bit for inter-House unity. And admit it, Professor McGonagall -- you'll find our meeting quite. . .stress-relieving, won't you?"

Using the folds of their robes to hide his movement from any prying portrait eyes, he took her arm and stroked his thumb along the inside of her wrist. "Won't you?"

He heard McGonagall's breath catch as she glared at him. "All right, damn you. I will, yes."

"Yes, what?" Snape's voice changed oh-so-subtly, and Minerva dropped her eyes.

"Yes, Severus."

"Good girl." He released her arm and adjusted his robes. "I will return at eight o'clock."

"I'll be ready."

"Of course you will; I expect nothing less of you." With a twist of his lips that could have been either a smile or a rictus of pain, he bowed his head to her.

"After all, Minerva," he said as he turned to leave. "I don't top just any daft bimbo."