Title: In Love and War
Rating: PG for harmless flirtation.
Summary: All's fair.
The voice calling her rose above the animated shouts drifting from the throng of Hogwarts students excitedly making their way down to Hogsmeade.
“Yes, Professor Lupin?” Minerva McGonagall answered, making a final count before vanishing her student checklist.
“I was wondering if I might accompany you down to the village. Seems a waste of an afternoon being cooped up inside on as nice as day as this,” Remus Lupin replied, adjusting the Gryffindor scarf around his neck that matched her own.
She glanced up at the snow falling steadily from the flat, gray sky and back to her colleague.
“Marking homework has tried your patience enough for one day?”
“Worse, actually: grading Ravenclaw exams.”
“I’m not sure I take much comfort in being preferable to a pile of essays on Dark Creature defense.”
He grinned suggestively at her.
“Please take my word for it Professor McGonagall, when I say that your company is infinitely better than a stack of essays on any subject.”
She gave him a good-natured roll of the eyes and a half smile.
“Academic flattery will get you nowhere with a Gryffindor, Remus.”
“But it might help me earn points with a professor.”
“May I join you then?” He offered his arm, which she accepted graciously.
The air was cold, though not frigid, and the absence of wind despite the falling snow gave the lawns and path to the village a hushed, pristine quality.
“I love days like these. Reminds me of…” he trailed off, searching for the right words.
“The reckless waste of your misspent youth?”
He laughed aloud at that.
“More or less, though I’d have phrased it a bit differently. On the first good snow like this we’d have a great big snowball fight and usually end up seeing who could come the closest to hitting Gryffindor Tower
“Every year it got a bit harder for me, as my target was slightly different than the others.”
“Oh, and what were you aiming for? Unwitting Slytherins on the Astronomy Tower?”
“Nothing so scandalous. Only the Seventh Year girls' rooms.”
She smiled, her eyes never straying from the bobbing heads of the children far ahead of them.
“Pity you were never successful.”
“Who says I was never successful?” Remus cried in offense.
“I remember watching you practice with James Potter once or twice. You had a terrible shot. You should have stuck to Keeper.”
“Fine. I never earned a plaque in the Trophy Room for my extraordinary talents with the Quaffle but I could hold my own with a snowball.”
“Oh, I’m sure.”
“Still skeptical, are you? Well, how about a competition of our own then.” He pointed beyond the smaller birches lining the path to Hogsmeade to a grouping of oak trees, situated a good distance from where they now stood. “The bigger one, in the middle. Bet you can’t hit it.”
“Probably not,” she shrugged.
“You played Quidditch, Chaser, even. Don’t tell me you haven’t got a good arm.”
“When I was sixteen maybe, but that was hardly yesterday, Remus.”
“Come on, winner gets the warm beverage of their choice at the Three Broomsticks.”
“I’d rather not, if it’s all the same.”
He looked at her in mock disapproval, balling a fistful of snow and tossing idly from palm to palm to give it shape.
“You know, Minerva, some people, and I’m not naming names, but some people might think you just didn’t want to lose.”
She arched an eyebrow at him, looking at him pointedly.
“Oh, would they?”
“They would, in fact.”
With a swift reach of her hand she snatched the snowball from its trajectory. Appraising the distance between them and the tree, she aimed slightly high and launched the snowball toward her target. It struck just to the left of the knot, leaving a splattering of white on the black-brown bark.
“Alright, I concede,” he said, hanging his head and clasping his hands behind is back in defeat. “Best of three?”
“Come on, Remus. You can drown your sorrows in Butterbeer.”
She turned back to the path and began heading to the village. A second later, something flew past her ear, whizzing as it went and crashing to the ground a few meters ahead.
She whirled to face her attacker, but he quickly took cover behind a leaning birch to his right. He reached for another handful of snow, rearming himself quickly.
“Remus! Stop acting like twelve year old and come along!” Her patience was wearing thin.
He took another shot at her, which she ducked, then another which knocked the hat clear off her head sending it sailing to the ground.
“Ha!” Remus called in triumph. “How’s that for aim?!”
She reached inside her thick winter robes for her wand.
Narrowing her eyes in fury, but not to be outdone, she stepped lightly behind a tree of her own opposite him and grabbed clump of snow at her feet.
“How’s this, the moment you hit me the game’s over and we go on our way.”
“It won’t be a very long game, then.”
“And if I hit you…“
“…Which you won’t.”
“So sure of that, are you? What about the hat I just knocked off your head?”
“I expect you were aiming elsewhere.” With that she took aim and hurled her snowball at him. He ducked behind the trunk and it sailed.
“You’re going to have to try harder than that, Minerva!” He threw his own in her direction and missed low.
They traded a pair of throws each from opposite sides of the path, each of which missed high or struck their impromptu defences. Growing bold, he ran for a tree on her side, tossing a snowball at her as he went. Out in the open, she thought she had him but was surprised when he managed to just barely miss her shot.
“Close one. I think your game might be improving!”
“Come a little close and let’s find out,” she called back as she glanced around at the ground by her feet. She’d used up most of the snow on her side already. She’d have to be quick about getting more. Remus, on the other hand, looked as though he’d prepared a small arsenal of his own, setting four or five lumpy handfuls on a low branch within arms reach.
He threw two in rapid succession, causing her to pull back behind her tree very fast. Close. Crouching down, she managed to procure a few quick handfuls, narrowly avoiding two more snowy missiles sailing by. Venturing a quick look, she saw he had his back slightly turned, making up another snowball of his own. She could just make it, maybe…
Jumping to her feet she stepped out and let hers fly, just as Remus turned and tossed his own. Watching the arc her own was headed in, she moved aside too late and his snowball hit her square on the shoulder. She frowned in consternation but as she looked over at her enemy her expression changed quite quickly.
Eyes closed, Remus brushed the slushy snow from his face in a cool attempt to maintain his dignity. The laughter escaped her lips before she could put a hand to her mouth and suppress it.
“Looks like I lose again.”
“No, it’s a draw. We’ve gotten each other,” Minerva replied.
He stepped forward with arm outstretched to shake her hand. She followed suit, brushing the watery residue from her cloak.
“Well played, Minerva,” he said, reaching out.
“Likewise—“she started to say as she grasped his hand, but was interrupted as he pulled her towards him and smashed a quantity of snow directly on top of her head.”
“Agh! You tricked me!” Minerva cried, in outrage. Niceties forgotten, she reached inside her cloak for her wand and prompted uttered a quick spell. The branches above them trembled, sending a cascade of white on top of her grinning colleague.
“No magic! You’re cheating!” He yelled in indignation as the snow continued to pour down on him. After a long moment it stopped, and he stood there unmoving, eyes bright and shaking his head at her.
“All’s fair in love and war, Remus,” she said smugly.
“Which are we playing at, Professor McGonagall,” he asked taking a step closer to her, sweeping the snow from his arms and shoulders.
She bent down and reclaimed the hat that had fallen early in their battle.
“I believe you owe me a drink, Remus,” she said, repining the hair that had fallen and setting her hat in place again.
Stepping back on the path,
“You didn’t answer my question.”
She smirked as she watched him shake the snow from his now soaking hair.
“You didn’t play fair. Suffer the consequences, Lupin.”
With swish of her robes, Minerva turned and headed down the path to the village and leaving a very confused Remus Lupin in her wake.