HP ficlet: The Headmaster Asks a Question [Neville, Snape, Dumbledore, general]
Title: The Headmaster Asks a Question Author: celandineb Fandom: HP Characters: Neville, Snape, Dumbledore's portrait Rating: general Length: 550 words Summary: Neville isn't sure why the new Headmaster has summoned him. Neither is Snape. Note: Written for juniperus for the 2010 3fan_holidays exchange.
Neville's cough was loud in the still air.
"You wanted to see me, sir?"
The summons to the Headmaster's office had come while he was in Charms class. Professor Flitwick had looked concerned and told Neville that he had better go at once. Neville had dreaded the Headmaster's office even when Dumbledore had occupied it; to walk in and face Snape was far more daunting, but there was no alternative.
"Longbottom." Snape's voice was as contemptuous, as filled with silky malevolence, as ever. "Do sit."
Neville would far rather have remained standing, but he sat in the indicated chair and waited. The room was as chilly as the rest of Hogwarts Castle these days, and there were no decorations to relieve the gloom. At last Snape spoke again.
"Do you expect to go home for the Christmas holidays?"
The question startled Neville. "Yes sir. My grandmother will be expecting me," he added.
"Ah." Snape's expression was unreadable, to Neville at least. "Yes, of course, you live with old Augusta. Very well, that will be all, Mr Longbottom. Dismissed."
Neville blinked. Surely that could not be all that Snape had summoned him here for? To enquire about his holiday plans?
"Dismissed," Snape repeated irritably.
"Yes sir. Thank you, sir." Neville grabbed his book bag and nearly fell down the stairs on his way out, so quickly did he move.
He returned to Charms where the class was reviewing the Reductor Curse, which luckily Neville knew well.
"What did Snape want?" whispered Dean to Neville at lunch time.
"He just asked me if I were going home for Christmas," said Neville. "If it had been one of the other teachers, I would think he was concerned that I had somewhere to go... but this was Snape. I don't know what he wanted."
"I ought not to have sent for Longbottom." Severus sipped at his now-cold tea. A simple charm would have heated it, and the house-elves would be delighted to bring a fresh cup, but Severus embraced the austerity as no more than he deserved.
Dumbledore's portrait raised its eyebrows. "Why not?"
"There was no purpose to it. He may wonder, even suspect my motives." Severus made a gesture of dismissal. "Perhaps not. This is Longbottom. He has Gryffindor courage, but no one would call him clever."
"Why did you bring him here?" inquired Dumbledore in mild tones.
The anger that had become part of Severus welled up. "Because, Albus," he spat, "whatever you may think, I have no taste for torture. Thanks to you I am aware of what those students are up to in the Room of Requirement, but I wished to see their leader for myself. He is the leader, now that Potter is gone," Snape added. That fact still astonished him.
"Yes, I know." Dumbledore settled himself more comfortably in the painted chair. "Neville is living up to my expectations in every way. I know you take no pleasure in what you have to do, Severus, but it is necessary. Now. There is another task that I must ask you to undertake, in the Forest of Dean."
Severus flinched. He had done everything Dumbledore required of him for so long, for so little reward. Would he never have done paying the price for the folly of his youth?