Severus Snape was late to the Staff Meeting. He considered it a mark of extreme disrespect to abstain from punctuality, which says quite a lot about the disdain in which he holds these... meetings. More likely gossip sessions. Snape thought, as he entered the room, three minutes late as usual. Far be it for anyone to notice that Snape was late - they were all caught up in listening to Filius talk about his nephew's daughter-in-law, and her child's precocious use of letters at the ripe age of three.
"Ah, there you are, Severus! Now, we can start the meeting." Albus Dumbledore said cheerfully, and Snape quelched the urge to roll his eyes. Dumbledore said the same thing every time, and it was always irritating. Snape would have preferred a lecture - when he'd started showing up late, over a dozen years ago. By this point, his rudeness had become mere habit, and no one ever noticed a habit. Perhaps next staff meeting he should show up five minutes early? Hm, the idea had merit. Perhaps if he offered everyone some ripe Durian, the room might clear out in less than half the usual time. Hm, he thought, I should see if I can stomach the fruit, first.
Snape's eyes grazed the rest of the table as he found his seat - stiff, high-backed, and brutally uncomfortable. But it was in a corner, and so it was just how Snape liked it. Besides, the height of the chair made his malproportioned body look a little more natural. Everyone else sat more comfortably elsewhere, and Snape's eyes lingered just a touch on the other Heads of House.
The meeting began, as they usually did, with a few scattered announcements. Mostly Filch going on about who had stopped the toilets up, and which ones were not to be used under any circumstances.* Then Poppy stood up, and proffered a list of healing potions, which Severus accepted with ill grace. He'd been making the infirmary's potions for ages, of course, but he still resented the waste of his time. If only he dared to take on an apprentice. It was a futile dream - so long as his two masters stood, he couldn't, wouldn't, put someone else between them, for them to scrabble over like dogs worrying a shared bone.
Snape had hardly a word that he wanted to say about the students under his tutelage. He wasn't prone to gossip under the best of circumstances (Slytherins generally weren't), but he honestly found the daily trials and tribulations of your garden variety adolescent to be boring beyond belief. Still, when one kept ones mouth closed and ears open, one tended to figure out problems that would otherwise pass unnoticed.
Snape kept a weather eye on Tonks, because he wasn't teaching any of the younger students. In his experience, the most hapless students tended to show their deficiencies in Defense or Potions (only Malfoy could fail Care of Magical Creatures - Hagrid was a notoriously soft mark, and he delighted in extra credit). He noticed that she was doing a better job spotting the failures than any new teacher he'd encountered, excluding himself of course.
As the meeting droned on, Snape tuned out more and more, content to think about the optimal way to arrange his lab to finish the medicinal potions in the least amount of time.
Filius, of course, chimed in, "There's something strange going on with Miss Granger, I fear." Flitwick nearly twittered his unease, Snape saw with an inwardly turned, toothy grin.
"I just don't know what's wrong with Miss Granger!" Minerva McGonagall chimed in, "She hasn't performed a transfiguration all term!"
Albus Dumbledore smiled, and said, "Perhaps she's been distracted, recently?"
"No, Albus, you don't understand!" Minerva said crossly, her Scottish brogue starting to surface in her aggravated state, "I didn't say that she mangled them, she hasn't done one!"
"She hasn't even started a transfiguration?" Professor Sprout said, leaning forward.
"No!" Minerva nearly shrieked.
"I haven't noticed any problems in my class." Sinestra put in.
"Severus, nothing at all to say? How odd." Minerva bit out, her eyes sharp as lion's claws as they tried to pierce Snape's uncharacteristic lethargy.
"I assure you, I have volumes to say about the knowitall." Snape bit back, his words as sharp as Minerva's eyes. "However, in this rare moment, you have caught me all speechless with surprise."
Severus was gratified to see the other teachers stirring around him. Finally, Hooch said bluntly, "You haven't noticed?"
"Miss Granger is performing nearly adequately in both my subjects, yes." Snape drawled, "I would certainly have mentioned it otherwise."
"Severus Snape!" Minerva said, trying for 'you're my student and you'll do as I say', but instead getting 'I'm an old woman and will tan your britches if you don't tell.' "What do you know about Miss Granger's condition?"
"Minerva, I fail to see why you would even think that I'd have any knowledge of a condition that I have failed to observe in my own classes." Snape drawled. Minerva eyed him skeptically, which was to her credit. "I do think that it is the duty of all teachers to bring magical conditions to the attention of our resident healer, just as much as physical ones - rather than saving them as juicy bits to fill up our admittedly dull staff meeting."
Abruptly, everyone in the room was glaring at him. Fine, Snape thought, before continuing, "If I had to hazard a guess, the issue is magical discipline, rather than a sudden magical void. It seems most likely that Miss Granger is merely going through a magical growth spurt, where her magic has outgrown her control, temporarily speaking of course."
"How long would this be likely to last?" Professor Burbage asked, looking quite horrified, "Albus, you can't possibly..."
Albus' eyes twinkled, indicating that yes, he probably could - whatever Burbage was thinking, which was probably bend the rules until the Gryffindor Golden Child could perform her magic proficiently again.
"I certainly have no adequate basis for this guess, but I'd venture to say by Christmas." Snape drawled, a grimace briefly surfacing at the mention of Christmas. Minerva's eyes were still sharp upon him, and they moved on to... Draco Malfoy, by way of Minerva complaining about his 'relentless' bullying of Granger.
The news was all over school by Thursday Morning.
Unfortunately, the subject of the gossip hadn't heard about it, yet.
So, Harry Potter was rather perplexed to see the entire school of children staring at him as he walked into the Great Hall. Suppressing the urge to yell WHAT at the top of his lungs, he sat down.
Marlena asked, from down the Gryffindor table, "What I don't get is why a Slytherin, of all people? Gryffindor girls are plenty better than those tramps!"
"Maybe he wants a tramp," another voice said, trying to sound knowledgeable.
Harry simply concentrated on not setting the entire table on fire. After a bit of time, he said, coldly and clearly, "That is despicable. I doubt you've even talked to the Slytherins in your own grade, let alone the ones in mine."
The girl down the table turned hurt brown eyes on him. He blinked, and continued - his anger overcoming his 'let's be nice' side. "As for why not a Gryffindor girl? Have you looked around? The Gryffindor girls are all bombshells - well, except for Hermione, who's just pretty." The whole table was staring at him by this point. "Bit intimidating, don't you think?" he said.
"Harry, you don't have a crush on me, do you?" Hermione asked, her eyes wide - and for once, Harry'd absolutely no clue what she was thinking.
"'Course not, Hermione - if I did, I'd tell you. Otherwise it'd get weird." Harry said, and he watched Hermione subside into her seat. He hoped that'd been the right thing to say - he certainly didn't want to give his best friend a complex or something. Harry was thankful that at least he'd managed to sound normal... I always was shite at lying.
[a/n: And the whole 'Harry and Pansy" plot continues...
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Snape is so relaxing to write, in comparison to Harry, where I have to tweak any three syllable word I want to use.
Um. Harry doesn't have a crush on Hermione... at this time.]
*Rowling says that's Cho for you.