"Minerva," he said, tight-lipped. The red-marked potions essays he held crumpled in his grip.
"Love the shirt. Where'd-"
"Oh, for Merlin's sake! Malfoy! Ask the little Malfoy swot! Now begone!" He went to slam the door, but my foot had already prevented that.
"Poppy's on holiday, so I was wondering if you had any Hair-of-the-Dog Potion. And don't yell. Please."
He sighed. "And I was so hoping to avoid you until next year. All right; I'll go check." He jerked his head in invitation and I stepped into his quarters. I stood waiting in his sitting room while he opened the door that led directly to the potions storeroom from his flat. I watched him discreetly as he opened cubboards and drawers and slammed them shut.
He returned looking quite disgusted. "I don't stock that potion, and it seems my stores have been raided of mistletoe -no doubt for twee usages- so I can not brew you any. My supplies for next term won't arrive for another few days," he said and then with great reluctance added, "We could check Poppy's stores up at the infirmary. The students have less access to her inventory."
I'd planned to delay Severus from his usual routine of tromping around the school looking for trouble-makers so that Hermione could get on with her delightful Christmas idea without him noticing her suspicious lateness to the Feast. An hours delay in the dungeon would have been perfect, but an hour in the infirmary was a close second. I nodded my agreement and immediately wished I'd just voiced it. Ow. My head really did want that hangover cure. When will I learn that no one can outparty Albus?
Severus threw his hands up in defeat, which made him look even more like a big flappy bat than usual. "Let me just go get dressed," he said and disappeared into his rooms. He returned in short order looking like a much tidier flappy bat, showed me out, warded his door and preceded me out of the dungeons.
"Miss Granger informed me of her adventure last night," I said.
"I assumed as much." Severus put his hands into his sleeves and favored me with an icy glare.
"She seemed quite taken with you," I said and bit my lip over an unladylike guffaw.
Severus registered faint surprise and then rolled his eyes. "Tell her to queue up behind all the Slytherin girls. And Voldemort."
"Rather. Last time I was at a meeting he was all over me."
"He was not."
There was a glint of something that looked suspiciously like humour in his eye. "He was. Hey, I'll take Veritaserum and tell you the same story."
I raised my eyebrow at him. "Didn't I hear that you'd worked up a tolerance to Veritaserum by taking it every day? Tell me a story, indeed."
Severus shot me a swift piercing look. "Albus told you? Just brilliant. Hmmm. You don't trust me as far as you can throw me, do you?"
This is not true. I do trust him. Albus told me that when endangered Severus can lie under Veritaserum well enough to fool both Voldemort and Fudge, but when he's not in danger the words that spill out of his mouth are mostly the unvarnished truth, unlovely and unappetizing. Well, mostly. If he really wants to, he can lie about anything.
I tucked my arm into his. "Oh, I don't know. If I turned you into a toad, I bet I could throw you pretty far."
"Ooooh. Threaten me again. You know I love that." And he does. Severus is usually reserved to the point of shyness, he deals badly with both compliments and criticism, talking about his past makes him angry, talking about his future makes him depressed and he has no interest in small talk. Which pretty much just leaves teasing him mercilessly, which done carefully, he really does seem to like.
And of course Severus can give as good as he can get. We entered the castle only to see Draco grinning as Hermione shrugged into a very familiar-looking shirt. Severus almost laughed aloud. "Why look, Minerva, young Malfoy has transfigured your brightest little star into a Slytherin cheerleader. What a wizard!"
Annoying as that was, Hagrid, who can't keep a secret even if he promises, was coming around the corner. I'd promised Hermione to help her with her surprise and it wasn't going to be a surprise if we waited around. I seized Severus by the arm and dragged him away from the group and towards the infirmary.
Once we were out of sight I looked up to see him still smiling slightly. "Having a nice Christmas?" I asked him.
"Adequate," he said.
"What would make it perfect? Tell me, what do you REALLY want for Christmas?"
"Voldemort's head on a plate," he said and looked at me hopefully as if I might pull just such a vile object out from under my robes and hand it to him.
I laughed and fished in my pocket. "How about a chocolate frog, instead?"
"Hmm," he said noncommitally, but he took the frog.
We entered the infirmary and Severus went directly to Poppy's stores. He sorted through her supplies, said "Ha!" when he found the mistletoe and started preparing the potion.
He's the youngest teacher here, and except for our eternally renewing DADA teachers, the newest. I still remember him as a student. And I forget sometimes that time has gone by and he's been here for years, but he has and it shows. I watched him put the potion together with the ease of the master that I am sometimes still surprised he is. I risked small talk again. "Do you like teaching?" I asked him.
"Yes." He looked up at me, startled. Ha! Caught you off guard.
"Why?" I asked. Merlin, how much did I drink last night? I think I'm still drunk.
"I like being in the lab every day and I like terrorizing children. Teaching combines my two favorite hobbies."
I giggled at that, which made him sneer with derision. "Why do you think I'm joking? Albus told you I am on Veritaserum all the time, you wretched woman. Stop asking me daft questions!" He pulled the simmering potion off the flame, ladled some into a teacup, garnished it with something labelled essence of slug and handed it to me.