'Well the colours are suspicious.'
As are the shapes.
'Really? Do you think so?'
Give it a try and see.
It doesn't take her long.
And here you thought we'd have to wait for the gifts.
Only two doors left. He sounds contemplative.
And a bit morose.
What do you imagine the chances are that Albus won't be cast as Father Christmas?
'Severus,' her tone is gentle, but it doesn't quite reach him. She places her hand on his arm, and now he turns her way, eyes still downcast. 'You knew he was going to be in there from the outset. He's on the cover.'
His expression doesn't soften, and she tries again. 'Is it really so bad? Not being in the box?' Nothing.
'It doesn't begin to change who you are.' More of the same.
'Or how I feel about you,' she adds the last more quietly, a last ditch effort she regrets trying almost as soon as she has, but his eyes finally shift to meet hers and she can tell he heard.
Which isn't terrifying in the least.
Which probably means she'll now need to pretend she didn't say it. Hopeless case. Still, she gives him an encouraging smile before she completely loses her bottle, and although he doesn't return it - he can't, not yet, still far too annoyed - his hand reaches for hers and gives it a squeeze.
If a squeeze can possibly be grumpy, this one is.
He won't say he's been silly - that's a bridge too far - but she's probably not altogether wrong.
He makes an effort to pull himself together, to shake it off. He's wallowing, he knows it. All that's missing now is for Minerva to come along and tell him so.
Knowing her, it's probably only a question of time, too, before she does.
A certain ginger tries to make conversation, to distract him from his thoughts. 'So, made any progress tracking down your missing ingredients yet? Have you found the culprits?'
I don't think there's any question. It was Potter, beyond a doubt.
'But to be so certain...' There's a gently chiding note to it he means to address.
If it wasn't the boy himself - improbable, but supposing - then it was one of his friends at his behest, which amounts to the same. Ultimately he's always the root of the problem. And there's the small matter of a firecracker in Goyle's cauldron, which I believe served as the distraction. The timing fits and it's inconceivable that lot bested my wards to gain entry outside of when the class had access.
Now why he'd want the ingredients...
She gives him a quizzical look, she certainly knows what the ingredients could be used for, and he expands on that, Of course I know what they're for, but there's not the remotest chance he's brewing Polyjuice. None. I guarantee it. She smirks at his conviction, but wouldn't disagree with him either. It borders on a wonder he can walk and breathe simultaneously; advanced brewing? From him? The least of our concerns, I'd say.
He warms to the topic and begins to take her through his reasoning, So the question remains, what was the theft for? Is he selling them on? If so, why? He can't need the money. If the rumours are to be believed, the gormless halfwit is simply swimming in Galleons. Heir to the Sleekeazy fortune.
Trying to impress someone? Weasley wouldn't know what they're for... He glares over in the direction where Potter stands with his two cohorts, apparently attacking the recently assembled gifts although it's far from time to do so. And from the wrapping, it's unlikely the majority were even for them, come to think of it.
Evidently these facts are insufficient to stop them.
Entitled little tosspots.
He may be doing them an injustice, none of the boxes are actually being opened at present, but from a distance that distinction is harder to make.
He's about to launch into a tirade about the spoilt lackwits when a cry interrupts him, Ronald, give it back!
They turn as one to see Miss Granger, hopping rather futilely, trying to snatch a prettily wrapped red and gold package from the taller Weasley's outstretched arm. MMM mmm, is the only reply, typically eloquent, and he lifts the package up higher.
It's mine! The girl grows a touch shrill, and Ms. Bred winces minutely.
I don't think so.
It's probably books! It's not like you'd want them anyway... Secretly Severus couldn't agree with her more, but the boy still doesn't budge, and Potter, the little rotter, just stands there, looking on.
Disapprovingly, Severus continues his previous analysis of the theft, And if he were looking for an 'in' with Miss Granger, he'd be helping her now instead of standing idly by.
'Although I very much doubt Potter is, not in a million years, I also would never lay odds against the questionable decisions males have been known to make in courtship.' A loaded statement if ever he's heard one, but again the woman probably has a point that he has no intention of openly acknowledging.
Miss Granger's arm is raised and waving in her fruitless attempt to regain her present. Severus can't help thinking it's practically the girl's trademark; he'd know that flailing hand anywhere.
For goodness sake, it has my name on it! She shrieks to no avail.
Hardly a winning argument as success is predicated on Weasley's ability to read, Severus remarks quietly. It's not that he wouldn't agree that Miss Granger can be too... excitable, or that her earnestness can't be trying, Merlin knows it is, but it doesn't change the fact the boys can be unnecessarily... cruel from time to time. Certainly to hear Hagrid tell of it anyway, and heavens know, the half giant is incredibly partial to the Boy-Who-Lived-to-Irk-Severus-No-End.
Minerva, summoned by her cub's cries, joins them where they stand watching the display.
Don't you mean to see to that? Severus drawls, injecting as much disinterest into the enquiry as possible, which begs the question from more acute minds as to why he bothered asking it at all. Neither of the witches present overlook that, although one is perhaps inclined to give him some credit, the sight clearly isn't entirely to his liking. The other just takes him for deliberately difficult, assuming it's a bit of a poke at how she does her job. As the quintessential Slytherin, from Severus it's some of both. Anything else would be wasteful and unambiguous, and where's the fun in that?
She's a perfectly capable witch, and no blood has flown, Minerva answers somewhat tersely. He shoots his colleague a look - that attitude explains so much of his own school years - and Minerva feels compelled to justify her (in-)actions. Interference is rarely the answer, Severus. Surely you of all people know that. If I intervene, they merely continue the disagreement at a later point, out of my sight and reach, and generally with interest.
Letting these things play themselves out goes a long way towards keeping them from escalating.
It's not that there isn't some truth to it, but his face sours at the thought. And yet making limits absolutely clear also has its benefits, he mutters, but the witch still doesn't move.
It's from my parents... Comes Miss Granger's next complaint, and the litany goes on, but the young woman next to him suddenly takes a queer turn. He's just trying to formulate the best way to ask about it - witches, far from simple - when Minerva, not nearly as indifferent as he'd currently paint her, does just that.
Ms. Bred, is everything quite alright?
Hmm. It would seem there are advantages, some days, to being a Gryffindor and not having to weigh one's options prior to acting.
'I was just thinking about my parents. I...' She trails off and he notices her eyes have gone misty. Surreptitiously - cloaks hide a multitude of sins and the occasional good deed - he reaches for her hand and gives it another squeeze, less grumpy this time. 'It's been quite a while since I last saw them. I guess the holidays make me realise how much I miss them.' She sniffs, and he hands her his handkerchief, which earns him a watery smile.
Minerva has enough experience to pause before asking her next question, which is just as well. Severus looks over the young DADA apprentice's shoulder and just shakes his head ever so slightly in the Gryffindor's direction. She takes his cue. She won't ask the woman about visiting her parents now. Ms. Bred is an adult witch, perfectly capable of Apparating anywhere she wishes to go. If she doesn't do so, there are presumably reasons for that choice, the most probable being it isn't an option. If there's anything I can do, please just let me know.
In the near distance, Miss Granger appears to have lost her rag once and for all, Ronald Weasley, let go of it this instant! I told you it's mine.
Well it can't be that serious then. She hasn't used his middle name, Severus remarks dryly, keeping a gimlet eye on the young witch beside him to see if his approach works. It's not too different to her own earlier attempt to distract him.
'I'm not sure she knows it,' the woman answers. Her colleagues look at her and she explains, 'I think she's angry enough she would have done otherwise.'
Severus chuckles darkly, Ginger, the whole school knows his middle name. Weren't you there start of term when he received his mother's Howler? For thieving the family's car? He tries to jog her memory, although really it should have been memorable enough on its own...
'Oh, I'd forgotten all about that. It was widely discussed, of course, but I'm afraid I missed it. We were probably still working out the details of my contract for my practical with Gilderoy.' Severus eye twitches ever so faintly as it tends to of late at her mention of the man.
'He hadn't been pleased at the outset, more work for him, you see.' As all present know that glorified Puffskein has had her grading any and all assignments, they fail utterly to see how she represents a heavier workload, but then that's Lockhart for you. 'Professor Dumbledore eventually succeeded in making it clear how much he had to offer...' Minerva makes a soft 'tsk'ing noise; Severus is silently inclined to agree, and there goes his eye again, how annoying. The only consolation is he is quite sure the witch hasn't been taken in by that poncey charlatan. '... And what a gift it would be to our society were he to participate in properly training the next generation...'
Ronald Bilius Weasley!
Ah, it seems she was capable of becoming angrier. Who knew?
For goodness sake, what does a girl need to do to get through to you? She's passed exasperated and sounds near tears, and her wand is now firmly in hand. Severus doesn't fancy the boy's chances, but he'd brought this one on himself. Were the faculty less certain of the outcome, at this point more than one would be inclined to step in. But as things stand... It remains to hope the clean up won't prove too taxing.
And then in a fit of equal parts inspiration and desperation the harried little witch cries, Bagsy! which works like a charm inasmuch as Weasley finally relinquishes the gift, possibly only because he's startled she resorted to such measures or even knew the word.
A certain ginger just bursts out laughing.
Well there you go, Severus. Minerva quips, You're in excellent company. He seems less than pleased at the thought. You and the second years, how fitting. It's more teasing than biting, in keeping with their decade long rivalry as Heads of opposing Houses.
'Or do you still feel that was appropriate behaviour when you snaffled the crest the other day?' the DADA apprentice needles with a mischievous grin.
He gives her a look, it earns him a smile, and just like that, she's feeling more herself again.
He's not feeling too bad either.
Those two, I swear. Minerva sighs, shaking her head as she watches her little lions. At this rate, they'll end up married one day.
'Oh I don't think so, Professor. Not for a moment,' the DADA apprentice disagrees immediately. 'She'll outgrow him, I'm sure of it.'
I have to agree with her. Not that Miss Granger isn't an insufferable know-it-all, but she does actually know a fair bit and regularly apply herself, in glaringly stark contrast to Weasley. There's no conceivable way he satisfies her in the longer term. For the shorter term, however, Severus has learnt over the years that there's nearly no end to witches' idiocy, either, at least not where wizards are concerned. No, he shouldn't like to hazard a guess there.
Fortunately no one is asking him to.
Time will tell, Minerva replies as she leaves to see to her charges.
'We're right, I know it,' the DADA apprentice assures him quietly.
I should hope so. I'd hate for Minerva to have bested both of us. That gets him some side-eye, and he smirks and then continues, I would also be sorely disappointed in the young woman in question if we're mistaken. And just like that, he's on the receiving end of a brilliant smile.
It's rather nice.
She applies a Cleaning Charm to his handkerchief and returns it to him with thanks. He wavers a moment and then asks, If you require any assistance with your parents...
'I won't hesitate to ask.'
Somehow he thinks he can take her at her word.