What did we get today, Ms. Bred? Somehow by the cold light of day, back in the familiar confines of the castle, the more formal form of address seems... proper.
''Ginger', if you please, Severus.'
Thinking back - he's naturally testy and can't quite help himself - he feels compelled to ask, When precisely did I give you permission to call me by my given name?
'You haven't,' she laughs. 'But as you weren't likely to, I took the liberty.'
You enjoy that, do you? Taking liberties?
She simply smiles avariciously in answer, and the room suddenly strikes him as uncomfortably warm, improbable given the Great Hall's size, even with Albus' perfectly serviceable Heating Charms.
Severus has to clear his throat before he can continue. And yet you call Minerva 'Professor McGonagall'. The observation is very much a statement and not a question. She answers him anyway.
'Strangely, I can see any number of differences between you.
'And I also haven't invited her to dinner.'
He grows quiet, considering the possible nature of those differences and their ramifications, but in deference to their surroundings, she redirects his attention to the pieces before them. 'Would you care for a game?'
What is it? a small voice from the side asks, as if to irrefutably prove that the moment was less than ideal for their previous exchange.
Do you mean to imply, Miss Granger, that you do not know everything? Severus growls, annoyed at the girl's timing, presence, interference and unmanageable hair for that matter. Cauldron meet kettle, but then he's disinclined to do things in half measures.
With some irritation, the little witch turns to the Potions Master and replies, I should have thought that perfectly clear from the question. Sir. There's no implication about it.
The older woman manages not to chuckle. In addition to being likely to scotch any progress she's made with her taciturn Slytherin, it simply isn't done to expose colleagues to ridicule, and certainly not in front of students. Most unprofessional. Admittedly, that's not to say that stops a good many members of staff from doing so, but still.
Severus remains unaffected by the retort, far too accustomed to the largely unmitigated cheek of Moggies. Looking at the DADA apprentice, he merely drawls, I feel the pressing need for a new paradigm. She wrinkles her nose in reply, amused, before addressing the student.
'The colours don't suggest anything to you, Miss Granger? Or the preponderance of one by one plates?'
Well, it's all very checkerboard...
'Close, but try thinking less Muggle.'
Wizarding Chess! She exclaims with some satisfaction. The withering glance Severus casts over her shoulder would presumably put a bit of a dent in that gratification, but she's lucky enough to miss it entirely, a clear advantage to her height if ever there were one. He's not completely wrong, however, in suggesting she'd basically been led to the conclusion. (Now whether that leading needs to be described as 'by the nose' as he phrases it in the lounge when they speak of this later, is another matter altogether.)
'I take it you don't play?' The teaching assistant asks the younger witch not ungently, after casting her older a colleague a look suggesting he might behave. Severus remains patently unconvinced.
Did I hear someone say 'Wizarding Chess'? comes the next interruption, presumably even less welcome and not only because the mouth uttering it is all too clearly still full of barely chewed food.
Shockingly, Weasley, it would seem your ears function superbly. It could almost lead one to question why they fail to do so, routinely, in a classroom setting, although I'm tempted to ascribe that to cognitive failings.
Ron just throws him a dirty look, not expecting anything else from the greasy git... Actually, he's not nearly as greasy just now for some reason, although Ron fails to see any causal relationship to the current lack of classrooms brimming to the rafters with simmering cauldrons.
Fine, the stupid old dungeon bat then.
Hermione whispers to their DADA apprentice, I find the game sort of brutal, plus I never really learnt how to play. And, um, Ron isn't exactly a... um, gracious winner.
A certain ginger chuffs in amusement, 'Yes, I could picture that.' Turning to include the others, more loudly she enquires, 'Would either of you care to help us put this together?'
I don't think 'Mione knows how, Ron laughs a bit dismissively.
Hermione looks panicked for a moment, she'd only just explained this, her reticence, and she really has no desire to listen to Ronald crow about his very narrow and near irrelevant, highly specific superiority. If she boasted even a fraction as much about her academic and intellectual supremacy, why, they'd be here all night! Not, she suspects, that anyone would stand still to listen to it, but then that was hardly the point, now was it?
'Trust me,' the DADA instructor whispers.
Soon they've assembled the board, and she gently takes Severus' arm. 'Come, our job's finished here.' If she thought Miss Granger looked panicked before, well, she's flown well past that now.
But... comes the very faint objection, and a certain ginger winks before half dragging the Potions Master with her behind the nearest of Albus' many stands of trees.
Want to play then, 'Mione? Whaddaya say? It's easy. Ron seems to taunt her. They may not be of an opinion on that front, but then they so rarely are, and often it's in the ear of the listener.
Ms. Br... Ginger, may I ask what you're doing? Severus practically hisses as they draw to a stop. Oddly, he fails to demand she unhand him. The promise of watching Miss Granger being thoroughly trounced was quite probably the only redeeming aspect to their otherwise bothersome presences...
'Nonsense. It's the expected result. Where's the fun in that?'
With a finger to her lips to silence him and a subtle swish and flick of her wand, she casts a Perception Charm, making their voices lowly audible in a certain Gryffindor's ear, and only hers.
'Miss Granger, this is Ms. Bred. Can you hear me adequately?'
May I ask what... He doesn't get any further before a delicate finger is pressed to his lips to stop him, his surprise at the contact doing far more to silence him than that ghost of a touch.
Close by, the young witch nods faintly.
'Quiet, she can hear you, too.' And so their student thinks little of it, adds, 'One of us at a time, we wouldn't want to confuse her.'
Severus smirks, that sounds altogether too considerate for his reputation. No of course not. Never that. Confusing students! Heaven forfend. She playfully swats his arm until he's silent again.
'Very good, Miss Granger, now take a seat and accept Mr. Weasley's offer.'
Nervously, the young woman does as suggested.
Ron magnanimously, and perhaps a mite condescendingly, allows her to start, and a certain ginger chuckles before instructing, 'Move your left pawn forward one square.' When the witch hesitates, she adds, 'You're white.' Severus just pinches the bridge of his nose, but the girl finally does as told.
With the appropriate Finite, Ginger briefly lifts the Perception Charm to ask Severus, 'Would you care to continue?'
Grinning somewhat wolfishly, he replies, I believe I would, thank you. Care to cast the Charm again? She readily does so as Severus Summons refreshments and conjures them seating and the two spend a pleasant half an hour watching Weasley become increasingly frustrated with his complete inability to outmanoeuvre his Housemate.
When Hermione finally beats him, the outcome was never truly in doubt, she thanks the sputtering boy politely for the game as she rises. And you were right, Ronald. It was easy. I don't know why I haven't wanted to play before. Daring to push as she turns to go, but thinking she knows her best friend well enough to risk it, she adds, We should do this again sometime, certain it's the last thing he'll wish to do.
Just around the corner, out of sight, the two instructors take to their feet as well, ending the Perception Charm and Vanishing the conjured seating.
It seems Miss Granger was right once more. We should do this again sometime, Severus tells the witch.
'I was thinking we might start with a match of our own,' she answers, taking his arm (Severus finds himself not minding in the least) and leading him off to the staff lounge for just that very purpose.
You were right as well, you know. This was a decidedly more enjoyable result.
'I was quietly confident you'd see it my way in the end.'