A/N: A fairly silly, poorly executed, and way late story dedicated to/requested by Anna McNarin, because she's such a little smarty. Here's to hoping you get over the pond someday -- and enjoy this in the meantime.
"I found the," Severus paused, running his tongue over his chapped lips as he sought the proper term, "whelp wandering the halls well past curfew… and as he belongs to you, I am here to return him." He peered at Professor McGonagall witheringly, that dark gaze that sent every first year cowering into the furthest corners of Hogwarts. Minerva, however, simply rolled her eyes brusquely, her glance darting to the clock on the wall of her office behind Snape and Harry.
"He was due to his dormitory not twenty minutes ago, unless I'm mistaken." She paused, and her meaning was clear: which I am most assuredly not. Harry's esteem for his head of house was on a steady incline.
"Nevertheless it's a wee premature for a lynching if that's what you have in mind." Minerva continued sharply, standing straight, her green eyes narrowing in a catlike manner. Snape quailed subtly, his hand jerkily releasing its grip on Harry's arm. He back away slightly. "Anyway, the headmaster and I missed dinner this evening. We had intended to have a bite to eat in a few moments…" she trailed off, and Harry raised his brows slightly. The implication of an invitation was evident. Not that he saw McGonagall to be a troll or anything, but he it seemed so very motherly -- "…sit." She ordered suddenly, and two additional chairs were summoned near the table in the center of McGonagall's office. So much for mother McGonagall.
Snape obeyed, Harry noted with significant pleasure, as a scolded child, folding himself into a chair and hunching a bit so that he appeared to be an overgrown crow, his protruding nose the only feature peeking through the curtain of dark hair that covered his face. Harry awkwardly seated himself beside Snape, sitting as far from his potions professor as possible as he watched McGonagall fuss around the office, stacking papers and pulling a fourth chair to her desk manually. When everything had been organized, she gave a wordless flick of her want, and what once had been a stack of term papers became four place-settings and two plates of heartily piled food. Apparently satisfied, Minerva straightened her bun and the fell gracefully into the chair opposite Snape.
"So," she said abruptly, her lips pressed tightly together, "Potter. Pray tell what was so important that it exempts you from a simple rule every student in the school happily abides."
"Erm," Harry stalled, shifting in his seat. He looked down, his dark hair flopping over his faces as he muttered, "I left my… humblemumblehemhum…"
"Enunciate, if you please, Mr. Potter. I have first years who can persuade their mouths to form letters." She paused, and Harry remembered suddenly why his fondness for Professor McGonagall had its bounds. "Come to think of it, I have a year old nephew who can put together an entire sentence, if you can imagine." Harry looked up to find that her expression was softer than her voice -- it immediately hardened, however, when she noticed Snape's superior smirk.
"I'm sorry Professor," Harry murmured, shifting his weight, "I left my transfiguration text in the boy's bathroom on the third floor. But I couldn't get the staircases to… uh, cooperate."
"Staircases can be rather clever. I can see how you were outwitted." Snape interjected. Harry grimaced, and opened his mouth to respond when the door to the office opened a crack. A pair of half-moon spectacles appeared, covering two brightly glinting blue eyes as he peered into the room.
"Why Professor McGonagall!" Albus exclaimed as he stepped fully into the room and closed the door behind him. "A surprise party? For me? How quaint."
"Don't be absurd," Minerva responded in her usual wry fashion, rising to greet him. Harry felt distinctly uncomfortable as she pecked him on the cheek, and Dumbledore returned the favor. They exchanged a few words that ended with Dumbledore letting out a quick bark of laughter, his hand resting softly on her back as he led her to the table. Once seated, Dumbledore leaned back, running a hand through his beard as he eyed Harry.
"I too suffer for leaving my reading materials in the loo," he said sagely. And Harry smiled, resisting the inclination to laugh only in consideration of McGonagall's disapproving glare. "How are you this evening, hm?"
"Fine, sir. I heard you missed dinner."
"I did," responded the headmaster, raising his silvery brows.
"Nothing's wrong, I hope, sir." Harry replied, explaining his concern, leaning forward slightly, curious to know if there was anything Dumbledore wished to tell him.
"Not at all, Harry. Everything is well as a tortoise in Albania."
Having no idea what that was supposed to mean, Harry just smiled and nodded, and gratefully accepted the reprieve the plate Snape was grudgingly trying to pass him.
"Don't overdo it there, Severus." Minerva commented, eying his empty plate as he passed another tray to Harry without touching the food on it.
"Unlike yourself and the headmaster, I have a sense of time and am familiar with the concept of punctuality," he drawled in return.
"Something must be done about that, don't you agree, Professor?" Albus queried blithely, winking at Harry as he glanced at his deputy.
"Whatever are you insinuating, headmaster?"
"I insinuate nothing," Dumbledore responded, and when he extended a hand across the table, it bore a bottle of dark wine. "I'm feeling very frank tonight." Minerva smirked, and Severus rolled his eyes as the bottle was uncorked and poured into the three glasses. Dumbledore hesitated over Harry's own, peering at the boy's face in silent askance. It was the holidays, after all. But the idea of drinking wine with his headmaster, head of house, and least favorite teacher was all too disconcerting, so Harry shook his head, and his glass instead filled with water.
An entire bottle of wine later, Harry felt like so very uncomfortable that he would have happily disapparated and risked splinching to remove himself from the room. Snape had laughed twice. McGonagall was being downright girlish. Dumbledore's eyes grew brighter and brighter with every sip. Harry shrunk further and further into his chair.
"The last time you tried that, Severus," Albus said lightly, "you were in the hospital wing for nearly two weeks."
"I was marginally younger then, and if I may be so bold, Minerva cheated."
"Poppycock!" Minerva exclaimed with a smile. "You couldn't best me in any circumstance. Certainly not when it comes to muggle board games."
Minerva and Albus tittered, and Snape grimaced, sipping at his wine and rubbing his shoulder absently -- Harry assumed that somehow he had managed to injure himself.
"How are Ron and Hermionie, Harry?" Dumbledore asked abruptly, drawing his eyes from Minerva and smiling a little too merrily at the boy.
"All right, sir. They both went home for the holidays."
"What have you been doing to occupy your time, if you don't mind me asking? They seem to be your primary source of entertainment when class is in session."
"I would attest to that," Minerva interjected, raising a stern brow, no doubt recalling the other day when she had deducted twenty points from Gryffindor for the trio's disruptive conversation.
"Not a whole lot. Um. Homework." Harry said, hoping to gain some brownie points with Professor McGonagall. He was rewarded with a small smile that flitted across her features as she removed her glasses and placed them on the table. "What do you do when the students are out, Professors?" Harry asked curiously after a moment. All three looked suddenly thoughtful.
"Celebrate," answered Severus succinctly and, Harry was sure, truthfully.
"Usually I am coerced into aiding the Ministry with this and that," Dumbledore admitted.
"I finish grading papers," Minerva said, mulling obviously, "and play a great deal of chess." Her words were met by a quiet chuckle from Dumbledore who grinned at her over his glass.
"More specifically she wins a great deal of chess games," Albus elucidated, smirking at Harry.
"Against you, sir?" He couldn't imagine anyone beating the notoriously brilliant Albus Dumbledore.
"Oh yes. I believe our running tally is four-hundred and twenty-nine to three-hundred and… what was it?"
"Four-hundred and three. Don't be modest, Albus."
"Either way, Professor McGonagall is uncommonly good. I look forward to our games every time we plan them."
"I do find the conversation rather stimulating, too, Albus," Minerva commented lightly, lifting her cup to her lips and sipping gingerly, her green eyes bright as ever as she peered at him. He started ever so slightly, but not so much that Harry or Snape noticed. The only outward display of ill ease was the way his hands quickly went to the napkin in his lap, smoothing out the corners so as to avoid meeting her gaze.
"Do you, Minerva?" He queried abstractly, his eyes flitting to hers for a brief beat before he smiled placidly and began to push his food around with his fork. Harry and Snape still hadn't noticed the shift in the air that made Albus feel as though he would soon be sweating, nor were they able to pick up on the subtle change of tone Minerva's voice underwent.
"Yes. Especially your thoughts on Transfiguration," continued the professor with a raise of her brows as she lifted her napkin to blot at her vaguely grinning lips. "Your perspective is so broad. I have trouble wrapping my," she paused to lift a forkful of food to her mouth. As she chewed, Albus stared a little dumbly at her, his mouth slightly agape before he caught Severus staring with a furrowed brow at him. Instantly he reddened slightly, and resumed staring at his plate, as he waited anxiously for her to finish her sentence, though he well enough knew what she meant, "mind around it." Minerva completed with a smile in the headmaster's direction, and he swallowed.
She was an evil, evil woman. He, however, was a quick study.
"I do enjoy our discourse as well," Albus responded, sitting up straighter and resuming a nonchalant appearance, smiling with the same ambivalently pleasant expression on his face that Minerva displayed to him. "You have a remarkable ability to take my input, process it, and then release these… delightfully insightful comments." He paused, delighting in the way her skin took on a rosy cast. For once it was she who looked demurely away as he continued, "I daresay you have helped me to several mind-blowing conclusions in a single evening, over the years…"
By this point, Severus' dark eyes had narrowed to slits, and he peered between the two of them suspiciously. It was nauseating, the glances thrust between them, little pointed looks and that twist to their mouths that just screamed about some private subtext. Harry was a little confused by the conversation, but the meaning behind it had not yet dawned on him.
"I have a term paper comin' up, Professor," Harry interjected, filling the silence. Minerva looked at him as though woken from a daze. "Would you mind lending me some of these 'mind-blowing conclusions'?" At this, Dumbledore nearly choked on the wine he was sipping, and Minerva just barely resisted spluttering like a fool, instead declining verbal response and laughing airily, though Snape's sharp gaze strayed disbelievingly to Harry, as though he couldn't fathom the thickness of the boy's skull -- or, as it appeared, the sheer density of his unruly hair.
"I'm afraid, my boy, that I must insist upon exclusive rights to Professor McGonagall's thoughts. She is, after all, my deputy." He paused, considering as he tore off a bit of a role and placed it on his tongue. Minerva followed the motion mistily, much to Snape's increasingly thinly veiled disgust. "However, I have it under good authority that Miss Weasley may be inclined to help, as her writing tends to be --"
"Enough!" Snape exclaimed suddenly, his expression aghast as he stared open-mouthed at Albus. The headmaster looked startled, as though he hadn't just implied Harry seek Ginny Weasley's assistance in a questionably dirty matter.
"Perhaps I have had too much wine after all," Dumbledore commented, mostly to himself, before sipping once more at the glass anyway.
"Is something wrong, Severus?" Asked Minerva with a small tilt of her head. Snape seemed to be subdued by her stern gaze, and sunk lower into his chair, folding his arms across his chest like a sullen boy.
"Immeasurably so, Professor McGonagall. However, a set of tender ears forces me to refrain from explaining what a tender mind cannot process alone." Snape replied, his right eye flickering slightly as he peered at Harry, who responded with a slight sneer. His Professor's lack of respect for him always grated on his nerves, of course, but in the company of Dumbledore, whom he revered, and McGonagall, whom he feared, Harry didn't want to seem confrontational, so he rolled his eyes, blew a few tresses of hair from his face, and resumed picking at what was left on his plate, though made a mental note to pay more attention to what was going on around him.
"Christmas spirit, Severus. Locate it." Minerva ordered succinctly, though she too shot an alarmed glance at the man to her right. He shrugged a little, as if to confirm that he was just fine, perhaps a little tipsy, but nothing too serious. Anyway, Harry was still ostensibly oblivious to the double entendres flying around his young head like doxies. Pouring herself a glass of wine and drinking deeply, Minerva turned to Albus with glinting eyes once more. "As I was saying, Albus, I am glad that we concur. Pondering on one's own isn't nearly as… enlightening, wouldn't you say?"
"Oh, I don't know, Minerva. I would bet that your thoughts, even when carried on in private, are equally thrilling."
"I could hardly agree, Headmaster," Minerva responded with a chuckle and a blush, seemingly at his flattery. She dropped her goblet and silverware in their proper places on the table, her hands folding neatly on her lap. Albus shifted uneasily. "There are so many more options when speaking with another, so many different ways to juxtapose thoughts and ideas against each other. To reposition them, if you will, and seek gratification through fresh perspectives."
Albus just nodded. Her lips curled as if she could read his thoughts.
"I'm afraid it's high past time I vomited," Snape intoned levelly, pushing his chair back and standing up. "Thank you for a wonderful evening." He added with a sarcastic bow of his head and flourish of his arms, pivoting on his heel and departing the room without giving anybody a chance to comment. Harry felt suddenly uncomfortable. Understanding was just beginning to dawn on him. Everything fell quiet for a few moments, and Albus resumed pick at his food, though his focus was hardly on his mostly eaten meal. Instead, he wondered at how suddenly warm the room had become, and how swiftly his Deputy had managed to sully his thoughts.
"Well now we might have a chance at a pleasant evening, hm?" McGonagall commented a little wryly, smiling at Harry, her fingers encircling the base of her glass as he eyes slid from the boy before him to the headmaster beside her, who was tenaciously trying to cut through some unidentifiable food item. Without missing a beat, Minerva asked, "is it hard, Albus?"
At this point, Harry nearly choked on his tongue, peering at his professor with slightly wide eyes. For once, he wished he had sided with Snape. Though the majority of the conversation had gone over his head, he had a creeping feeling that Professor McGonagall's comment was intentionally pointed, and meant exactly what it sounded as though it did. He swallowed, placing his hands on the edge of the table and pushing his chair back. "Actually, Professor, I'm awfully tired. I think I should, erm, go to bed…" Harry explained, standing, his green eyes skittishly avoiding the gaze of either Minerva or Albus. "Thanks for everything, though, really…" Harry added, sincerely, though as soon as he had ascertained both professors had given him permission to leave, he halfway bolted out of the door.
When he was sure that Harry was out of earshot, Albus fixed Minerva with a stern expression, though it was watered down due to both his current blood-alcohol level and how very strongly he itched to reach out and touch her -- making Minerva angry was never the way to make her in any way complaisant. "That was unexpectedly foolhardy of you, Professor." Albus said finally, though his lips quirked slightly.
"I admit, inviting Severus to stay for dinner is never an entirely risk-free task," Minerva responded, much to Dumbledore's thinly veiled confusion.
"That is not exactly what I meant, my dear…" Albus returned, following her with his shining eyes as she stood and began to stack plates on the table. She looked confused.
"Whatever do you mean, then, Albus?" She asked with a tilt of her head. She paused, hand on hip, brows furrowed as she looked at him.
How was he supposed to respond to that?
"Well, I, uh, that is…" he trailed off, looking distinctly unnerved. Had he really just made that up? Had she been speaking as innocently as it had seemed? Was he really that enamored of her, that he could make a simple conversation into a complex innuendo?
"Calm down." Minerva said after a few moments with a smile and a bright laugh, pleased that she had been able to throw the great Albus Dumbledore off of his game. She approached him and bent to kiss his lips softly, her hand resting on the side of his face. "No need to get all bent out of shape."
"I don't altogether agree," Albus responded, standing to meeting her and drawing her close. He lifted her hand and pointedly bent her arm at the elbow so that he could kiss each knuckle on her hand softly. "See?" He asked, his fingers dancing along her arm to the juncture between bicep and forearm. She smiled and kissed him, lacing her fingers through his hair and pulling him as close as she could. Gingerly, saccharinely their lips moved against each other. When he pried his mouth from hers she gasped slightly in protest, and his smile moved against her neck as he placed a slow series of kisses along her jaw line. She grinned, and altogether appeared more than willing to allow him to continue until she felt his hands clasp around the top button of her robe.
"Albus…" she murmured, drawing back so that she could kiss him quickly on the lips, "you don't want to have a repeat of November, do you?"
"November, darling?" He asked, his brows knitting together even as he resumed placing a stream of kisses over every inch of her that he could find.
"The staff room…"
"No, no," he said, his shoulders shaking with quiet laughter as he peered at her with a wink, "that is precisely what I plan to incur."
"Isn't it a mite inappropriate?"
"I'm the headmaster. I certainly don't think so."
"Filius would beg to differ."
At this point he had managed to reach his hand into her robes between its fastenings, and his hand rested on the small of her back with nothing between them. Still, he paused, lips pursing as he stood completely to face her with a quizzical expression. "What in the name of Merlin has Filius to do with anything?"
"Nothing, usually, however in November, if you recall, he did catch us in a rather compromising position."
"He what?" Albus exclaimed suddenly, stepping back, startled, confused, but mostly wishing Minerva would explain herself so that he could kiss her again.
"I suppose you didn't notice…"
"Notice what, Minerva?"
"You were quite occupied…"
"What on earth are you speaking of?"
"When we were," she paused before continuing, "conversing in the staff room back in November. Filius walked in."
"And by conversing you mean to say…"
"Yes. I daresay the man hasn't looked me in the eye since."
"I do hope you're having a good laugh, Minerva, because I'm certainly not amused."
"I'm not joking, Albus. If I recall you were hardly in a frame of mind to form a coherent sentence, let alone be aware of your surroundings… both things for which I cheerfully take credit," she added with a small smile. By now, the headmaster's face was sufficiently red. "But either way, I would rather not provide every member of the staff with a free show."
"You're not jesting?" He inquired stupidly, still trying to process.
"Cross my heart. Ask Filius if you would like confirmation. I'm sure he can fill you in on all of the details."
"I'm hardly being crass, especially considering your behavior that night…"
Outside, Harry lingered with Snape not far from the door as they heard Dumbledore's voice raise slightly. Then there was silence. A beat later, Albus Dumbledore exited the room, looking sufficiently flustered, his face red, his brow furrowed, muttering incoherently under his breath about that woman and something that sounded like death of me. Harry looked awkwardly at Snape.
"What." Snapped Severus, his eyes narrow as he looked at Harry.
"What was that?" Truly, he felt as though he had been on a merry-go-round for the past eight hours. The night had been a whirlwind, one he was sure had consisted of many more things than Harry had immediately been aware of. He held a hand to his head.
"That, Potter," Snape spat as he brushed past the boy, "was the equivalent of walking in on one's parents."