In distress, Harry took another sip, and this time it wasn't the alcohol that made him want to cough, "Is this cinnamon?" he asked, in a semblance of Proper British Manners (by way of the BBC).
Harry would swear he saw the merest hint of a smirk on Snape's face, before Snape, ever poker-faced (when he wanted to be), said, "Yes. Cinnamon Schnapps."
Harry shot Snape a look that said, without using a word, 'is that okay?'
The fact that Harry's eyes were bulging out, probably prompted Snape's response. "It would be entirely improper for me to render you inebriated. Minerva McGonagall would have my hide - and then as many points from Slytherin as she could possibly take. A bit petty for a revenge, but you have met the Weasley Twins, haven't you?"
Harry had never really considered the teachers' role in the House Cup, other than Giver of Points. As onlookers patently cheering and coaching their teams, well, it put an entirely new perspective on it.
"Likewise," Snape continued, "It would be most unwise of me to send you up to the tower bouncing off the walls from too much black brew." Snape waved his hand at the mug, then took a generous sip of his own.
"And so I've chosen a beverage whose most prized characteristic is balance." Snape says, "It doesn't hurt that coffee and cinnamon pair nicely, either." Snape never smiled, not really, but there were times, when it was almost like a ghost of a smile passed over his face. Maybe my mum's- Stop that, it's creepy.
"Balance is a Hufflepuff virtue, far more than it is of any of the other houses." Snape said offhandedly, his voice serious. "Can you tell me why?"
Harry thought for a moment, "Ravenclaws get caught up in thought, and can sometimes forget about... everything. They obsess."
Harry shrugged, continuing, "Gryffindors can get that way, too, sometimes. Us versus Them is a good, solid metaphor used often in the House of Courage. I feel less comfortable speaking of Slytherin."
Snape said, slowly, "Ambition can be quite powerful, but it is easy for Slytherins to get lost in their own schemes, and in particular, ignore those they are hurting."
Harry nodded, "The lure of 'I can fix this' can be a powerful one."
Snape said, in a low, firm snarl, "Nothing should have led to two second year students knowingly confronting a bloody basilisk."Snape paused for a moment, his fingers clenching and unclenching on his mug, "Without fortune, fate and luck on your side, you'd both be dead."
Harry nodded, "I know."
Returning to more of his standard lecturing voice, Snape said, "House Hufflepuff is a house that people ignore to their detriment. I have had occasion to speak to several of my Slytherin students on their own intellectual deficit."
Harry smothered a smile. Snape's use of long words didn't make up for his insults, but it did make them significantly more funny when they weren't pointed at you.
Snape continued, "Wizarding Britain stands on the Hufflepuffs - if Hogwarts were a body, they would be our feet, keeping us standing."
Harry nodded, "Ravenclaw?" Harry was thinking eyes.
Snape responded, "Head, for thought, or eyes, for vision. Gryffindor is the sword, as Godric Gryffindor once wielded."
Harry smiled at that, "Fitting for the house of courage." Frowning, he gave himself a moment to think - Slytherin seemed like it was another house like Ravenclaw, far more mental. Was Slytherin like Dudley's vicious elbow?
Better to ask, "What's Slytherin, sir?"
Snape said, again with that wisp of a smile, "Slytherin is the shield. Where Gryffindor epitomizes boldness, Slytherins are naturally wary and cautious. Traits that you in particular would be wise to cultivate."
Harry looked down, blushing up to his ears, "Yes, sir." It really was a fitting metaphor, the type that just seemed to fit - even if it felt odd to hear Snape the head of Slytherin house praising the others.
They finished the spiked tea together, analyzing more of the day's fight - Harry in particular looking for where he was checking himself, and Snape analyzing his more general thought-patterns and actions.
[a/n: Reviews please?]