Harry Potter closed his eyes, picturing the Great Hall, as Fred told them all what he was hearing. But, mostly, he was picturing one Severus Snape, looming in a corner, with a pink string coming out of his pocket. A pink string that Art and his wife Molly Weasley surely knew what it was about.
Harry could easily imagine Dumbledore's eyes twinkling- though he wasn't sure they were. He was sure that Art and Molly would be joining forces, paired together in such a way that they could royally tell off Snape.
In the newly found silence of the room - Snape, as usual, was the last to arrive - Remus Lupin asked tentatively, "Err... Severus, is there something stuck to your robe?"
"I would think you, of all people, would not twit me about sartorial choice." Snape's voice slid out in a purr, the serpentine danger of his glare apparent even in his tone.
Harry could see Remus looking down, momentarily abashed at his own poor attire, and then more embarrassed at having possibly thought that he could head this off.
"Shall we get this meeting started?" Dumbledore smiled, saying "So glad you could join us, Severus. I have a few matters that will require your particular insight."
Harry Potter imagined Snape's... not smile, but a lifting of the eyebrows, a lightening of his expression, that rather than giving gladness, merely sent the impression of alertness. (Around Harry, the look generally implied some sort of malevolent glee, here he suspected it was raw curiosity).
Ginny asked, "You don't think... Snape meant to... bring it in, do you?" her voice self-editing the incrimination...
"Merlin no!" Ron responded, and George cracked a grin. Potter knew otherwise, though, "that canny bastard!" he whispered too low to be heard by anyone else. He was neatly sidestepping the entire argument about bringing us in, counting on his own intimidating presence to stop the whinging.
Sounds of a struggle were heard, unidentifiable until Fred heard Molly's chuffy tone. "Well, I Never!" A snort from Molly's nose, and then "My own husband!" Perhaps I spoke too soon, Potter thought, bemusedly. Only Molly would take it so hard, anyhow.
"Art, Molly" Severus Snape's voice slid like a razor on a man's jugular, and they froze - seemingly understanding, suddenly, that a meeting was no time for overt, physical reactions. "You have said, time and again, that the Order of the Phoenix ought not to admit those under their majority. Accordingly, I do not suggest that. What I will suggest, for the time being, is that the children require training, if they're to be properly productive when they do join the Order." Potter could just see Snape's steepled, sallow hands, and his half-shadowed face, looming out from the dark corner.
"Why Severus! What a wonderful idea!" Dumbledore cried cheerily, his mood entirely inappropriate for a room that contained Severus Snape, let alone two Weasleys just turned off fisticuffs.
"I think this will go better if we assign mentors, rather than trying to train everyone in the same mold. I'm certain you can all see that the ... talents ... of the Weasley twins are far different from the ... intelligence ... of Miss Granger." Potter heard the soft smile in Snape's voice, the smile that was really seen as a smirk, "I have some training techniques that I've been meaning to experiment with, and I can't really push a group nearly as effectively as I can accelerate a single soul." Heaven help the person who Snape winds up training! There were murmurs of assent all round, muted by the natural caution of Gryffindors to a Slytherin suggesting... well, anything. Merlin knows, I'd have been suspicious if Malfoy suggested we wear white socks instead of black. And that's perfectly harmless!
"Who do you have in mind?" Dumbledore asked curiously, his tone considerably more somber and befitting a grand wizard.
"Remus-" Snape continued on, not pausing for comment, "Take the twins. If you can't have them shipshape within a month, I'll show you some pranks you won't soon forget." Potter knew Snape's smile had turned into an evil, malevolent grin. Snape knows how to prank? Snape thinks he can prank those three? And ... get away with it? These were odd thoughts for Potter to have, and they didn't terribly seem to fit the man. Still, one could say one thing about such comments - they were a hell of a motivator.
"We accept your bet." Lupin said smoothly, his generally weak voice sounding certain for once. Fred whispered, "I'm almost tempted to throw it just to see what pranks Snape would do."
"Moody, take Granger. If she's half the brain she is in class, you'll have her up to your standards before the start of school." Snape fired off, ignoring the old Auror when he exclaimed, "Nobody's up to my standards!"
Around the room they went, distributing people - Art, rather predictably, got Ron. Molly got Percy - more, Potter suspected, because she had a hope of bringing him home, rather than she'd be the most effective teacher for him.
Everyone, even Neville Longbottom, had been apportioned (Mrs. Figg had taken Neville, which seemed charmingly appropriate. They were both more, and less, than they seemed)... except Harry Potter.
So, it came as absolutely no surprise to Harry, when Snape finally said, "And I'll take Harry Potter." Snape's voice was iron, but without a trace of scorn, mockery or indecision. Harry Potter was not surprised - when you stared into the abyss, sometimes the abyss stares back at you.
[a/n: next chapter, reaction shots!
Read along, and write a review if you like it.]