Rating: PG-13, for a bit o' the old innuendo
Pairing: Harry/Snape (implied)
Warning: I think Harry's about thirteen at the time of this fic, so I want to stress that he is not having sex with anybody!! There are, however, channish overtones.
Disclaimer: Snape, Dumbledore, Harry and all the rest belong to J.K. Rowling. I'm making no money off of this, nor do I ever intend to.
Spoilers for all four books
"Good of you to come."
"Don't mention it."
"Now, Severus." Albus Dumbledore chuckled indulgently as he led the way into his private study. "No need to be unpleasant; after all, I've gone to all this trouble to get your favourite." He picked up his silver teapot and waved it around a bit in the air so the aroma of Madame Minster's Mint Madness wafted across the room. As if against his will, Snape's nostrils twitched.
"'Gone to all this trouble?'" he inquired archly, seating himself rigidly in a highbacked chair while Dumbledore settled into an overstuffed armchair that began to snuffle a bit as he uncovered a tin of biscuits.
"Down, Toby," the headmaster said absently, patting the chair's arm. "Be plenty left over, I'm sure ... Severus hardly eats enough to keep a garden gnome alive ... Yes, well, I had to owl all the way to Hogsmeade for the stuff, we seem to be all out in school stores. Here, try one of these with the currants in."
Snape took the biscuit and placed it on a plate, evidently with no intention of eating it then or ever. He did, however, accept a steaming cup of tea. Sipped at it a few times, his eyelids drooping involuntarily in pleasure, and then set it back down. "So."
Dumbledore's pleasant expression did not change, but it was possible his eyes sparkled a little more. "So."
"Here we are."
"Damn it all, Albus, what do you want?"
One bushy silver eyebrow arched a bit. "This is hardly the first time I've invited you in to tea, Severus."
"No, it isn't, is it?" Snape asked bitterly. "When was the last time? Ah, yes. When you told me, in that singularly so-kind fashion of yours that the werewolf was getting the Dark Arts position - "
"Severus - "
" - and not me. And before that? Dear me, let me think. Oh, yes. That was the time you introduced me to that unique aberration of Nature, Gilderoy Lockhart, surely the stupidest creature alive - if such can be said to exist whilst Neville Longbottom is also in the world - and why was that? So you could tell me that he - "
"Severus, do please - "
" - would be our resident Defender. Nice joke, that, I thought. And I think there was only the one time before then - "
"You know, you're being quite - "
" - when you told me about Quirrell's appointment," Snape finished with a deadly whisper.
Dumbledore merely looked at him, obviously expecting more.
Snape leaned back, or at least as much as was possible in his ramrod-straight chair. "And on that subject I think I need say no more."
"Surely you're not going to let me off that easily?" Dumbledore asked, rather easily himself.
Snape's eyes flashed. "Have you ever heard of a Muggle potion called Valium? They put it in little pills?"
"Can't say that I have," the headmaster replied in some surprise.
"You amaze me. It's as if you're humming with the stuff."
Dumbledore frowned for the first time since the start of their tea. "Severus, are you sure you're quite well?"
"No, I am not," Snape exploded, "and that you should have the sheer gall to ask me such a question - after what happened this term - "
"Careful sloshing that cup around, you'll burn yourself ... "
Snape took a deep breath, and then a deeper gulp of tea. "You might have done me the courtesy of getting something I hated," he muttered. "Now I'm going to have all these negative associations. Madame Minster's is ruined forever now ... "
"And what has happened during our little interview that is so unpleasant, may I ask?" Dumbledore asked mildly, helping himself to his third biscuit.
"Nothing yet. But something will, I'm sure."
"It's that positive outlook that makes you so endearing to so many, Severus."
The look in Snape's eyes could have cut glass. "I'm not interested in being endearing, Headmaster."
"How fortunate," Dumbledore said dryly. Then, "Severus, we are friends, are we not?"
Snape sat there, stone-faced, without a word.
"I'll take that as a yes," Dumbledore sighed, "though I should know better by now ... at any rate, I consider you a friend, whether you like it or not, and it has always been my belief that friendship carries certain duties."
"Naturally. There are all the requisite ones: loyalty, honor, kindness, a willing ear - "
"How quaint," Snape sneered.
" - and, of course, the ability to tell someone when he's being a complete git."
Snape's mouth, which had already opened to deliver a scathing retort of some kind, shut with a snap that might have cut his tongue in two. He took a moment or two to recover before saying, in an extremely calm voice, "I do beg your pardon, Albus."
"I think you heard, Severus. You. Are being. A git."
"Oh. I see." Snape set his teacup down very carefully on the table, and began to rise. "You know, terribly kind of you to make the time, Headmaster, but we're both busy men, and I had better go. Do you have any other insults to deliver before I return to the dungeon?"
"Yes. You're a blind fool as well," Dumbledore said, quite cheerfully.
"Is that so," Snape spat, and rose all the way out of the chair. "How very nice. I am not going to sit here and take this, Albus. If this is about that confounded bastard Sirius Black - "
"Oh, partly, to be sure. Mostly, however, it is about young Harry."
"Potter!" Snape hissed, his eyes flashing sparks. "I might have known he'd have something to do with this! Why did you ask me in here? To thank me for not failing him in Potions, even though he assuredly deserved it? Or maybe to thank me for saving his life yet again? Oh, no, it was to insult me, after practically calling me a crazy liar in front of Cornelius Fudge!"
"You may be a fool, Severus, but you are no liar, nor are you yet a lunatic," Dumbledore said calmly, before adding, "I really must insist that you sit," and Snape found himself plunked back into his chair before he could say a word about it. Toby seemed to snicker, and Dumbledore patted the armrest again.
"You and your bloody wordless spells. Can't be bothered to spit out a few syllables like the rest of us?"
"You seem to be the authority on spitting today, Severus. I'll leave it to you. But for later." Dumbledore chewed absentmindedly on another biscuit, his eyes never leaving Snape's. "Tell me," he murmured eventually, "tell me ... what is it you've hated about every single one of our Dark Arts teachers? So far? Besides the fact that they got the job and you did not?"
"With your usual brilliance, Albus, you've hit upon precisely the point. What other reason did I need to hate them? Except for Lupin," Snape added, his face twisting at the memory. "With Lupin it was personal, I'll grant you, the wretched beast ... "
"I think it was personal with all of them," Dumbledore said. And added, "Lupin was a good friend to Harry, did you know that?"
"I'm not surprised," Snape sneered.
"Oh, yes. Taught him how to repel the dementors - something I certainly should have thought to do myself, but once he started, it seemed quite the best thing to let him finish ... and that kindly ear I told you about, Severus. He provided that as well."
Snape had subsided into silence, gnawing his bottom lip furiously. When Dumbledore said nothing else, he burst out, "What is your point?"
"Patience. Now, Lockhart," Dumbledore continued on amiably, "Lockhart was no friend of Harry's - nor of you, if I remember correctly - but he tried to be ... "
"Gilderoy Lockhart was the friend of no one but himself," Snape said bitterly.
"No, you're quite right," Dumbledore agreed, "which is why he wanted to be seen with the most famous boy in the world. Not exactly admirable, was it? But there you are. And in the end I'm afraid he was rather the bad egg ... "
"Ought to start screening the résumés a bit more carefully, shouldn't you?"
For the first time, Albus Dumbledore appeared stern, and looked Snape straight in the eye. "Including yours, Severus?"
Snape went pale, and looked away. Dumbledore's face relapsed into kindness, and he reached over and patted the other professor's hand. "Well, well, that wasn't entirely fair. I'm sorry, Severus. But as I was saying, Lockhart almost did serious damage to both Mr. Potter and Mr. Weasley with a Memory Charm. And before that, Quirrell."
"Nasty little thing," Snape muttered, with even more venom than when speaking of Lockhart.
"Yes. He was, wasn't he?" Dumbledore sighed. "And you knew him for exactly what he was all along. We owe you for that, Severus."
"Spare me," Snape said, rolling his eyes. "Two years since and you've yet to pay up."
"Well, give me time. Quirrell ... ah, the worst of all. He tried to kill Harry." Dumbledore's eyes slid to half-mast. "Seeing a pattern here, Severus?"
"No. One of them was a murderer, the other was an idiot, and the third was just a little angel from heaven I evilly turned on," Snape snarled. "Have I got it right? What the hell are you trying to - "
"All three of them threatened Harry, Severus," Dumbledore said gently. "And you hated them."
Snape's mouth worked itself open and shut for a minute.
"Even Lupin," the old Headmaster continued. "Why on earth did you throw yourself inside that Whomping Willow, if you didn't think Lupin was in with Sirius Black - to murder Harry Potter?"
"That's absurd," Snape snapped. "If I ever owed any debt to Potter, I repaid it long ago. That is, I." He paused as if struggling. "Look, Lupin was - "
"Liked by Harry, when you were not," Dumbledore said quietly. "Yes, I know."
Snape's lips drew back into something very like a snarl. "So? Everybody always liked Lupin. They didn't know what he really - "
"Just as everybody likes Harry, without really understanding him, or the purpose he serves. Well, almost everybody; young Draco Malfoy is proving quite tenacious ... Harry's a likeable young boy, Severus, stop scowling. It's only natural."
"The only likeable thing about Potter is his tendency to break his bones on the Quidditch field!"
"I must disagree with you there," Dumbledore laughed. "But he does show an alarming ability for that, doesn't he? Oh, Severus. I'm sorry. But these blinders you're wearing are seriously damaging your teacher-student relations with more people than poor Harry alone, and I felt it was time to call your attention to them." His twinkling eyes stopped twinkling, and narrowed slightly. "Contrary to the evidence, Severus, I am a great believer in professionalism."
"All right, all right," Snape muttered. "You think I've been too nasty to the little cretin and you want me to stop and fawn all over him like everybody else. Do I have it right?"
"No," Dumbledore snapped, his eyes flashing, and Snape blinked in surprise. "You've got it utterly wrong. And until you stop and think about what I'm saying, you will continue to get it wrong."
"What am I getting wrong?! I fail to see how this is anything but straightforward. I don't like Harry Potter. Now could I please g - "
"Wrong again, Severus," Dumbledore said softly. "Very wrong indeed."
Snape paused, and his eyes narrowed, his cheeks going a bit paler.
"It's no use," the headmaster continued in his gentlest voice, as if speaking to a frightened first-year student. "You can't stay in this business for long and not learn a few things about human hearts. And I know yours, Severus."
Snape, if possible, went even paler, and then his cheeks suffused with red.
"And Harry - "
"Damn you, Albus," Snape rasped, his voice sounding as if it had crawled hands and knees over broken glass, "if you ever, ever, ever tell ANYone - "
"I wouldn't dream of it," Dumbledore said mildly, and took the teacup out of Snape's shaking hand, filling it up with more steaming Mint Madness. After a quick glance at his colleague's face, he added a judicious dollop of brandy as well. "Don't take it so hard," he continued. "You've done nothing wrong."
"He's a child," Snape said, his face twisting again, showing not contempt this time, but torment.
"He hates me."
"GodDAMMIT - "
"Language," tutted Dumbledore. "Drink your tea."
Snape drained his cup. Dumbledore filled it up again, with rather more brandy than tea this time. "He does look like James, doesn't he?" the headmaster inquired.
The Potions master looked balefully at him. "Don't look for connections that aren't there, Albus. I am quite prepared to swear up, down, sideways and on a disemboweled toad that I loathed James Potter with all my heart."
This time, Dumbledore laughed out loud. "I'm quite aware of that, my friend. And why not? James was something of a golden boy, as I recall; everything came so easily to him, while you had to work for all you had. I know that. James never suffered until the day he died." A long look. "The same is not true of his son. Harry has known - and will know - more hardship than either of us. He never asked for his destiny, any more than you asked for yours, or I for mine."
Snape seemed to have nothing to say to that for a few moments. Then, as Dumbledore waited patiently, he said in a soft, defeated voice, "What do you want me to do? Resign?"
The eyebrows shot up again. "Resign? Certainly not! Why ever should you do that? You don't have designs on Harry, do you?"
"No!" Almost in a panic. Then, softly, "No. I don't."
Dumbledore settled back, and Toby snuffled again. "Well then. And you simply can't leave now, Severus. Not with all we have coming up this year. You may have heard the rumours about Moody ... "
"Oh, God," Snape groaned.
" ... All true," Dumbledore finished quietly. "I need him where I can see him, Severus. Where we can see him. I'm sorry."
"That damn job is cursed," Snape muttered. "I should stop wanting it."
Those blue eyes twinkled again. "Well, perhaps. Don't worry. Things can't go on this way indefinitely."
"I couldn't stand it if they did."
Now the eyes filled with compassion. "What will you do?"
"What can I do? If I did start fawning all over him, that'd be subtle, wouldn't it? And I couldn't make nice to him, not with Draco Malfoy around - "
"Not if you didn't want to arouse Lucius's suspicions," Dumbledore added, nodding slightly as his eyes widened with comprehension. "And we really can't do that now. I'm sorry," he said again.
Snape just looked hopelessly at him.
"If it's any consolation, you're not as blind as I thought."
"Well, thanks very much, I'm sure."
"He won't be thirteen forever."
"Are you seriously suggesting - "
"No. I wanted this interview, neither to impel you to nor to impair you from action - but to open your eyes. I see they were already opened. Forgive me." Dumbledore looked a little sad, and Snape stared fixedly into his teacup, as if seeking a sign á la Professor Trelawney. "I do wish you felt you could talk to me when you are in need, Severus."
"Friends with willing ears," Snape said, but the sneer lacked its usual energy.
"I have two."
"Right, then. Let's sound it out. 'Headmaster, just thought you should know I'm infatuated with one of my underage students who loathes me' - no, on the whole, I think not." Snape rose from his chair, a bit unsteadily; perhaps it was the brandy. "I think we have established that I am not yet a monster, so Harry Potter will continue to be quite safe from me." He blinked slowly. "Dear me, sir, I'm a little tired. Thank you for the tea, and the trouble you went to for it; the school stores will be full again tomorrow."
Dumbledore blinked. "I beg your pardon?"
"I'll put it all back."
"You had all the - "
"I was fond of it, as I said," Snape replied, smiling bleakly, "but I don't think I'll have the stomach for it for a while ... good afternoon, Albus."
Now Dumbledore was the one who couldn't meet Snape's eyes - for perhaps the first time in their long association. "Good afternoon, Severus," he murmured, refilling his teacup.
The door closed with a quiet thump.
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