Dumbledore smiled, his eyes twinkling brightly, as he saw Snape waiting for him in his office. "Ah, Severus! Lemon drop?" he offered, as he walked over to his desk and sat down.
Snape scowled. "I need to talk to you, Headmaster."
"Of course, of course! Do sit down, Severus. Now, what is so important? I would have thought you would be busy packing for the summer holiday."
Snape didn't bother to sit down. Instead, he strode forward to stand right in front of Dumbledore's desk, his hands clenched tightly at his sides. "I'd like an explanation for why you felt it necessary to humiliate Slytherin House at the Leavetaking Feast."
"Humiliate Slytherin? My dear boy, I intended nothing of the sort," Dumbledore replied calmly. He didn't seem to be at all fazed by the fact that Snape was looming over him, scowling - but then again, he never was.
"It certainly appeared that way to my students," Snape replied curtly.
Dumbledore frowned. "Sit down, Severus." It wasn't a request this time. Snape reluctantly obeyed. "You cannot deny that the points awarded to Gryffindor at the Feast were all well-deserved."
Snape's mouth tightened. He was well aware of the truth of that; no matter how much he despised Potter, the boy had definitely shown a great deal of courage in facing down Quirrell and Voldemort's spirit, and Granger and Weasley had done an admirable job helping him. However... "According to Poppy, Potter woke up the day before the Feast. You could easily have given them the points then. There was no need for that little performance in the Great Hall."
"Yes, I could have," Dumbledore admitted. "However, despite what you appear to think, Severus, the 'performance' at the Feast was not for the benefit of Mr. Potter, Mr. Weasley, and Miss Granger. You may have noticed that I was very careful in the amount of points I awarded each of them."
Snape leaned back in his chair and rubbed the bridge of his nose, finding himself relaxing - slightly - as comprehension dawned. "All right, I think I understand what you were trying to do. And if we have any luck at all, the fact that he was the one to actually win the House Cup for Gryffindor will give Longbottom enough self-confidence that he might actually start to show some signs of competence." He shook his head. "I would definitely prefer not to have to spend the next six years cleaning up after his 'accidents'.
"Nonetheless," he continued, straightening back up and meeting Dumbledore's eyes, "I do think you went about it the wrong way."
Dumbledore gave him a questioning look. "Do tell, Severus."
"First of all, ten points for Longbottom while Granger and Weasley get fifty each, and Potter gets sixty? The rest of the school will forget that Longbottom was the one who was awarded the final points, and see it as being a victory for Potter. Which will, in turn," Snape continued, his tone suddenly sombre, "mean that they will forget - if they even heard in the first place - what those ten points were awarded for. That was, I assume, the greater part of the reason they were awarded in front of the entire school."
"Yes..." Dumbledore said slowly, studying him.
Snape shook his head. "It won't work, Albus. All you've done is made the rivalry between Gryffindor and Slytherin even worse. Before the Feast, Gryffindor was in last place. The fact that you brought them into first place will be seen as having been favouritism toward Potter. It didn't help that you had the Hall decorated for a Slytherin victory when it became obvious that you intended to award those points to Gryffindor all along. My students - Malfoy and his associates in particular - will see that as having been a deliberate slight.
"If you really wanted to get your point across, you should have awarded Potter and his friends the points yesterday, and then Longbottom's today at the Feast. It wouldn't have been a huge improvement, but it would have meant that at least the students would have been prepared for a Gryffindor victory, as opposed to having it a complete upset. It would also have been seen as being more a victory for Longbottom and the entire House, rather than as just Potter's victory."
Dumbledore frowned again. "Do you really believe that, Severus?"
"Yes." Snape nodded in affirmation. "I can understand that you wanted the shock value to emphasize what you were saying about standing up to one's friends, but it really was the wrong way to do it. The Slytherins, even if they did listen to what you were saying, will have seen it as being only an excuse. I wouldn't be surprised if there are members of the other Houses who feel the same way." He shook his head.
"They will pay too much attention to the humiliation they feel, at having been defeated so ignominiously by the Gryffindors, to realize that you may also have meant to teach them something. And because of my position, it isn't exactly something I can point out to them."
"I see..." Dumbledore said thoughtfully. "I hadn't thought about that. Perhaps I've grown just a bit too accustomed to the Slytherin talent for seeing multiple motives behind any action."
Snape rolled his eyes. "Really, Albus... It isn't that they won't be able to see that you had more than one motive; it's that the motives they will think of will fit in with their prejudices. Namely, that you favour Potter - which you do, and don't try to deny it - and Gryffindor. I can think of a few who may look beyond that; however, they are very definitely not in the majority." He sighed. "Now I simply have to decide how to deal with it."
"I honestly did not mean for anyone to see it that way, Severus," Dumbledore assured him.
Snape nodded. "I understand - now," he replied. "Just remember, Albus - sometimes, you have a bit too much Gryffindor optimism." He met the headmaster's eyes as he stood up. "This isn't going to be easy to fix, Albus. There's going to be a great deal of resentment from the Slytherins, and most of it will be directed toward Potter." He grimaced. "I suspect that next year will not be a pleasant one."
"I'll see what I can do," Dumbledore promised. "But for now, I suggest that you concentrate on preparing for your summer vacation." He paused for a moment. "Are you sure you wouldn't like a lemon drop?"
"No thanks," Snape replied, turning to leave. As he headed out the door, he couldn't help but wonder just how Dumbledore managed to do that. He'd been absolutely furious with the headmaster after the Feast, but it hadn't lasted for more time than it took for Dumbledore to let him know why he'd done what he had. If I could bottle that...
Shaking his head, he turned toward the dungeons. Now that he'd brought the matter up with Dumbledore, Snape knew the headmaster would work on finding a solution - hopefully one that would work for everyone, and that would keep Lucius off his back. Concentrate instead on what's coming up. Two months with no incompetent students, no need for masks, plenty of time for research... and no Potter. The thought was almost enough to cheer him up.