Havoc of the Opera
Chapter 8 - An Aborted Kiss
The early sun was ghosting over him when he woke up. He shut his eyes firmly against it and tried to ignore it by rolling over, but he couldn't - there was something on him. Opening his right eye just enough to make out shapes through his lashes, he recognised a sheet and a duvet. With a grumble, he buried his head in his pillow and ignored the unexpected weight. He was too comfortable to move. Yet his bed seemed to have grown harder overnight. And unless the dormitory window that been engorgioed... where was he? He cracked his bleary eyes open and blinked against the sun. He kicked the linen instinctively and whatever sat on top of him slid unceremoniously to the floor.
'You're awake!' The familiar voice reminded him of where he was, but it also made him crouch under the bedclothes. 'Harry!' With a protesting moan, he buried his head more deeply in the pillow, realising, only then, that it was... peculiar. It was warm. He rubbed his nose against it and it tapped his cheek. It could not be a good sign. With a tremendous effort, he turned his head towards the source of the voice, and opened his eyes. Beyond his very white, very regular pillow, was another bed, from where Hermione smiled at him, propped up on a scandalous amount of pillows.
He moaned a reply and had a quick look downwards. He was covered in paper. There were rolls of parchment precariously perched on his legs, on his thighs, scattered sheets beside him that must have slid from his torso. How odd. Tilting his head to the other side, he saw only darkness. He blinked at the size of his dark, moving, pillow, and woke up completely.
It was Snape, reclined on the bed, with his hand under Harry's head. Harry's eyes widened. He had slept on Snape? An inconvenient inner voice quipped that things seemed to be looking up, but he didn't have the time to argue with himself. He felt a bit ill. Flashes of the previous night came to his mind. His faint recollection of being picked up hadn't been a dream? The dawning comprehension made him look up with a shyness that he had never shown this particular teacher. His cheek was tapped again.
'Potter, if I could have my hand back?'
Harry's head jerked in response and Snape withdrew his hand, flexing the fingers to get some feeling back in them. They must have been still for hours, if Harry had... he sat bolt upright. Random pieces of parchment fell to the floor and he focused on them rather than on the affair unfolding on the bed. Hermione, equally immersed in parchment, answered his doubts, pointing at one roll after another. 'Those are my homework, those are notes on my, er, condition...'
'What is it, after all?'
She shrugged, pointing to her own bed. 'Not sure, yet. That is a transcript of my lines... there must be some on the floor, as well... and those on top of you are Professor Snape's,' she finished brightly. For a dying girl, she had a great deal of energy.
'Miss Granger has just been informed that she has to remain here for the day, so she wanted to make up for lost time,' Snape said plainly, turning to her. 'You'll leave tonight, if all goes well.' Harry didn't like his appraising look. 'I'll tell Madam Pomfrey that you're both up and ready for breakfast,' he added, sitting up and throwing Harry off-balance.
'But...' Hermione waved a roll of parchment significantly.
'You've been up since five in the morning, Miss Granger. You need to eat -- particularly in your condition.' Snape said firmly, going after Madam Pomfrey.
Trying to ignore the loss of heat brought on by Snape's sudden departure, Harry turned to Hermione. 'You look so much better today.'
She smiled. 'It was really nice of you to stay with me. This can be really lonely.'
He nodded. 'That's why I wanted to stay. I didn't really mean to stay for the night, though,' he had to confess.
'I know. You fell asleep against the edge of my bed.' Judging by her face, his attitude was all the more worthy because of it. 'Professor Snape moved you to that one.'
Harry froze. 'He what?'
'I was sort of drifting in and out of sleep and I saw him pick you up. It was nice of him.' Harry's face must have expressed a different opinion altogether, because she swiftly added, 'Don't make a storm in a teacup. He must have thought you were going to be sore.'
'Hermione, when has he cared?!'
She shrugged. 'Up until recently, I wouldn't have guessed he'd take such good care of me, either. Maybe he's trying to change?'
'Was he here all night?'
She picked up the tray that had appeared on her bedside table and looked pensive for a moment. 'Now that you mention it, he must have. It was pretty late when you came in last night, and... well, you heard him, I woke up at five. He was already here. Or... there,' she added hesitantly, looking at his bed.
'Hmm.' He must be much more expressive than he thought, because, again, she promptly added, with great care, 'Has he... done anything to you?'
'What would he have done?' he replied dismissively.
'I don't know, you just look so... anyway. I have to say that when I woke up and asked if we could work for a bit, I thought he'd... move over here... seeing as you're not on the best of terms, and all. But he didn't,' she went on, more hesitantly still.
'His arm was under my head,' Harry replied slowly, eyes on his own lap. 'He couldn't really move it.'
Hermione's eyes widened. 'And he didn't... he really is changing...!'
Harry picked up his own tray silently. Hermione giggled. 'He could be in love. Can you imagine?'
'Not really.' Harry stared at the large breakfast that he was somehow expected to be eating after one such awakening.
Shortly afterwards, Harry had to go upstairs to change for Quidditch practice. He promised to come back to have lunch with her, but Hermione was already deeply engrossed in the scroll of parchment in front of her nose.
After practice, where Harry was surrounded by people wanting to know about Hermione, he took the usual group to visit her. They found her yawning over an essay, and Snape sitting beside her. He stood and left as soon as the group entered. Ron and Blaise took their positions on either side of her.
'Nice flowers,' Ginny commented, looking at a rather large bouquet sitting on the bedside table. Harry really didn't know much about wizarding flowers, and he couldn't tell if they were all peculiar, or if this particular set had been charmed, but these were beautiful, unusual pearly roses, with large, wavy petals sprawling around the cup. They had dabs of orange around the cup, which spanned out slowly, giving the creamy petals a golden tint and giving the edges a rosy glow. The continuous process was so slow that the effect became rather nice.
'Are they magical?' he asked.
Hermione considered them for a moment. 'I think they've been charmed. I've never seen roses with moving colours. These are my favourites, though. They're a bit hard to find around here.'
'Can I have one?' Ginny asked. 'I've never seen roses this colour.'
Hermione carefully picked one of the largest ones and handed it to Ginny. 'You haven't? I thought I'd shown you...'
'... a picture. It was you in... what that your parents' garden? ... next to a bush of them. But I couldn't really see them properly.'
'Oh, no, that was at the garden of an old schoolmate of mine... when I was little. That's where I first saw them.'
Ginny snapped her fingers. 'That was it. They're really nice. Who sent them?'
Hermione shrugged. 'The note came without a name.'
'Note?' said Ron.
Hermione nodded once, pulling a pearly note from under the vase. 'I'm sorry I can't visit you today. Get well soon.'
Harry tuned out. He had a faint suspiction that he knew who the sender was. 'Charming petals must be child's play for him...' he thought, sighing at the sight of the two huge pillows on the other bed.
'Nonsense, he wouldn't,' he told himself silently, petting the creases on the pillow Snape had slept on.
They were sent out of the room soon after, by Ginny, who wanted a private conversation with Hermione. Blaise followed them out, to Ron's immense delight. Harry, who had scanned the hospital wing for other presences as they left, thought that Ron wouldn't be so cheery if he had spotted Malfoy's Slytherin badge slipping into the room, as Harry had.
Back in the common room, waiting aimlessly for the rehearsal, they considered catching up on their homework. Harry's pile was scarily high - he was sure that if the illness hadn't killed Hermione, the sight of this would. Taking out quills, ink, parchment and books, he settled on an armchair by the window, away from the others. He honestly meant to work. But his first piece of homework was Potions, and soon, his mind drifted from the cauldrons to their wielder.
He sighed. This could not be happening. I shouldn't have told Hermione anything, he thought bitterly, looking out the window at the school grounds. Snape was everywhere he glanced. Over there, he had caught Harry and Ron arriving in the flying Ford Anglia. On that other spot, Snape had listened to Karkaroff's concerns. The pitch, where Snape had once refereed a match... Harry wondered if it had been only his presence that had made Snape favour the Slytherins so unashamedly. And over there, the sixteen-year-old Snape had been publicly humiliated because Sirius was bored... Sirius... Sirius, who, so many years later, had risked his freedom and his life to attend a match and watch Harry play. Sirius, who would be beside himself with disappointment if he knew about his godson's inner conflict.... if he were still here to see it...
His quill had punched a hole in the parchment, but Harry didn't notice.
They were working on a rather chaotic scene of Act Eight when Snape and Hermione arrived. They were so late they almost needn't have bothered to go.
'Harry, please. Don't lose your concentration now,' Blaise called. He was the only Slytherin who addressed Harry by his first name. He imagined Blaise did it to please Hermione, but he personally thought he would do himself a better service if he spent more time with his girlfriend. He was brought back to reality by a shove from Pansy.
'You have reviled me!'
'The Angel sees, the Angel knows...' McGonagall said gravely, as Malfoy leaned sadly against a wall.
'You have rebuked me!' Pansy now shoved Seamus. Blaise asked her for a little more restraint. She tried to argue that Carlotta was a very physical character, to no avail. 'You have replaced me!'
'Please, Signora, we beseech you...' Harry pleaded, eyes trained on the other end of the room. Snape had only one line in this sequence, and he had chosen to work with Hermione instead of sitting around with them.
'This hour shall see your darkest fears...' McGonagall said darkly.
'Flattering child, you shall know me...' Harry heard.
Pansy heaved a sob. 'Abbandonata! Desiderata! O, sventurata!'
Seamus sighed in exasperation at Harry's fixed gaze. 'Look at your face in the mirror - I am there inside!'
'The Angel knows, the Angel hears...' Hermione looked very tired, Snape was leading her to a chair...
Harry and Seamus approached Pansy adoringly and the others surrounded them.
'No vo cantar!' She pouted hugely, drawing a smile from Neville, who had joined a different group.
'The world wants you!' Seamus flashed her a smile, and Harry bowed as though to kiss her hand. With some coaching from Blaise and a great deal of laughter, they all managed to sing about their Prima Donna.
Harry's ears rang with the loud, rambunctious ending. 'Sing, prima donna, once more!'
They were still in a circle, Pansy beaming in the middle, when a voice came, sending shivers down Harry's back. 'So, it's to be war between us!'
'Once more!' They boomed in return.
They finally seemed to be getting somewhere. It had been their first attempt at a sequence with a large group, and although Blaise tried to be cautious about their enthusiasm, they couldn't wait to rub in in the Bohemians' faces that they, too, were doing well.
'This isn't so bad, after all, is it?' Ron grinned. 'At least, it's a laugh.'
Hermione, followed by Snape, joined him. 'I hope I can sing it with you, next time.' Casting a glance at Snape, she immediately added, 'I mean, working with you is very enriching, professor--' He didn't even seem to have heard her. He had turned to Harry.
'What's the schedule for your Quidditch practice, Potter?'
This was unexpected. 'We don't have one, sir.'
'Very well, then, your next lesson will take place on Wednesday. And if you bring your friends along, make sure they don't faint in my corridor.' He turned back to Hermione, without waiting for an answer. Harry nearly had a heart stop. He couldn't deal with another Occlumency lesson so soon -- but Snape wasn't even aware of his presence any more.
'And tonight, there was no problem. You feel well, don't you?'
'It could just be a coincidence...'
'Three and four coincidences in a row, Miss Granger?'
She looked miserable. 'I can't believe I...'
'I can,' Snape said calmly.
Malfoy and Ginny were approching. She joined Dean, who hadn't noticed her absence because Seamus was fiercely trying to distract him. Malfoy addressed Hermione, to ask about their group work. 'Quidditch season's starting and we won't have much time then.'
'But have the teachers authorised us to...?'
He nodded. 'The headmaster told us today. You were still in the hospital wing.'
Hermione sighed. 'I knew I'd miss something important.'
Malfoy smirked. 'Do you feel better, by the way? You can't go on fainting on us when we have deadlines.'
Blaise joined them to discuss their work and Ginny looked away. That night, Ron and Pansy supervised the Slytherins. Malfoy and Ginny ignored each other all the way up to the tower.
The next few days couldn't have been more hectic. The Quidditch teams had whinged until the staff agreed to give them extra practice time - to be scheduled when necessary - which provided them with freshly burdened timetables every day. Blaise, too, had apparently decided that two and a half months was too little time for teenagers to put on an end-of-year performance. And the teachers had found a new past-time -- showering them with homework.
But their nightly schedule was unfortunately lighter, and the enveloping silence invited Harry to linger over all those thoughts he dodged so vehemently during the day. Snape seemed to have become sufficiently familiar with the roads of his mind to take up residence inside it. Wednesday morning came, and Harry picked at his food absently, wondering how he could possibly keep it from Snape that in that night's dream, Harry hadn't been alone in bed. The scene had been a wee bit too vivid for Harry's overworked hormones.
'Let's never discuss strategies after the rehearsals again.' Ron yawned.
'And no more... where's Ginny?'
Harry glanced blearily around. 'Not with Malfoy,'
Ron returned to his toast with a muttered 'Ok.'
'Hermione's with him, though.'
'Good. Less time alone with Zabini.'
'I'd prefer Blaise to Malfoy any time you asked me.'
'That fellow is not good enough for her,' Ron's tone held finality. Harry smiled into his pumpkin juice, wondering if Ron would ever find it in himself to be honest with Hermione.
That afternoon, they had class. Again and again. And then Quidditch practice. And only then did Harry sprint to Occlumency, not even bothering to change out of his Quidditch robes.
'You're late, Potter.'
Harry, who had left an hour early and missed the snitch in order to be there on time, gritted out an 'I'm sorry,' drawing out his wand and bracing himself without waiting for Snape's command.
'How is Miss Granger?'
Harry's concentration vanished. 'I'm sorry?'
'You came alone today.' Snape smirked disagreeably. 'Is she all right?'
'She's... fine. Huh, thanks. She just... I've just had Quidditch practice -- she didn't go.'
Harry swore silently. Snape had caught him off guard, and memories, recent and old, swirled around him. There was he, meeting Ron for the first time, fighting the dragon in the Tournament, being locked in the cupboard by Uncle Vernon; singing during rehearsal, the night before, dreaming of Snape the night before...
Snape's office came back into view. Snape was gazing at him fixedly, wand lowered. Harry stuck his chin out defiantly, knowing that a wave of heat had rushed to his face. Perhaps the memory had been too fuzzy for Snape to understand, he dared hope, as no scathing reproach came.
Finally, Snape spoke, calmly -- perhaps too calmly. 'You must defend your mind through its own will, not with a spell. Legilimens.'
They were working on the Masquerade Ball, spurred on by the good results in Prima Donna, and Harry was still sore from all the times he had hit the floor in Snape's office.
'Hide your face so the world will never find you!'
Harry looked around self-consciously. Snape sat by himself, waiting for his line. Malfoy and Hermione, holding hands, stood centre stage. Everyone else chorused so loudly around them that the absence of music went unnoticed. After a while, Blaise bellowed, 'Break, everyone! Draco, Ginny, Professor McGonagall, could you come with me, please?'
'We really need a choir, don't we? This isn't nearly as impressive with just us,' Ron commented with Harry and Neville, as people disbanded in small groups.
'Come again?' Harry joked, tapping his ringing ears. He waved at Hermione, who was walking their way, but Snape chose that moment to peer over a parchment and call her to him.
Harry soon found that bespoiling the dignity of Snape's entire family during their break was an effective source of comfort. Ron, on the other hand, found a succint way to voice Harry's feelings. 'Git.'
They regained their positions and Harry did his best to stand directly in front of Snape, looking him in the eye.
'Masquerade! Stop and stare at the sea of smiles around you!'
Snape had smiled in his dream, but he wasn't smiling now, and Harry loathed himself for feeling so affected by that simple fact. Snape approached the noisy group majestically. He walked stiffly, almost in a wooden way, but with the expression of one who owned not only the place, but also the people therein. Transfixed, Harry stopped singing.
'Why so silent, good messieurs? Did you think I'd left you for good?' He leered. Harry, grasping at straws to retain his sanity, wondered if Snape had drawn his inspiration for those gestures from Lord Voldemort.
Beckoning Hermione closer just as he elegantly threatened the group, Snape finished with just a whiff of amusement, 'Remember, there are worse things than a shattered chandelier...'
Reaching for the neckline of Hermione's schoolrobes without quite touching her, Snape made a brisk, whipping movement, as though ripping something from her.
'Your chains are still mine,' he hissed commandingly, and Harry lost track of everything that happened from then on. He had a vague idea of a romantic moment between Malfoy and Hermione, but his one solid thought what that he was so glad there would be no Occlumency for a few days.
'Hmm-mm,' he groaned.
'Harry!' Ron elbowed him.
'What?' he looked up from his scribbled parchment unwillingly.
'Don't you think there's something odd with Hermione and Malfoy?'
'Apart from the fact that they're working together and they're somehow both still alive?'
Ron shrugged. Harry stared at him for a moment. 'You're not jealous of him, now, are you?'
'I'm not jealous!' Ron hissed, blushing madly, as McGonagall told them sharply to shut up. 'It just... doesn't sound right. I'm worried.'
'Firstly, Hermione knows how to defend herself. Secondly, Malfoy won't get a toe out of line and risk offending Ginny. Relax.'
The mention of Ginny took Ron's mind off Hermione for a moment. 'Wish I knew what's going on between them. Even Dean's getting upset.'
'We'll find out. Hermione's working on it, isn't she?' Harry reminded him. 'If you so much as suggest she's not hating every second of it, she'll--'
'But she isn't!'
'Did you want her to cry? Of course she's making the best of it, Blaise is there, with her!'
'And you think that makes it better?!'
He and Ron spent the next class insulting McGonagall and their extra load of homework.
Dumbledore had announced that he would be joining them for the night's rehearsal. They wanted to show him their progress in the Masquerade sequence, but Blaise thought it more prudent to warm up with easier scenes beforehand. The headmaster, smiling lightly, went from one group to the other, nodding in appreciation. Most people liked to see him there. He had the gift of calming them down.
'Don't take me back there,' Hermione pleaded with Malfoy, as Snape observed them with an unreadable face. 'He'll kill me!'
A short distance from them, 'Firmin' and 'André' congratulated each other on 'a splendid party'. Meanwhile, Ron, as M. Reyer, attempted to instruct Neville on how to sing an aria. Nott interrupted him, showing the premises to an imaginary Firmin and André.
Ron exchanged displeased glances with him. 'M. Lefèvre, we are rehearsing.'
'My apologies, M. Reyer. Proceed, proceed...'
'Thank you, Monsieur.' Ron replied, a tad sardonically. Then, waving hugely at Neville, 'Sad to return...'
'M. Reyer, our chief repetiteur. Rather a tyrant, I'm afraid.' Nott waggled his eyebrows at those around him.
Harry and Seamus tried to assure McGonagall and Ginny that La Carlotta would be back.
In response, McGonagall waved a letter in their faces. 'From the Opera Ghost..'
'Madame, who is the understudy for this role?' Seamus asked.
'There's no understudy, Monsieur - the production is new,' Ron shouted, from a distance.
'Christine Daaé could sing it, sir.' Ginny suggested timidly.
'A chorus girl?' Harry sneered.
Shortly afterwards, both he and Seamus were taskless, and they turned to see that Snape and Hermione were talking to Dumbledore. Or... arguing with him. Hermione was red to her eyelashes. Snape was livid. Dumbledore seemed to be holding back laughter. Harry and Seamus exchanged glances and drew closer.
'No. No. No.'
'But it's only...'
'No!' Snape rounded on him.
'Severus, it has to be done!'
'Here's a novel idea -- let's pretend!' Snape barked.
'You could at least try...'
Utterly confused, Harry and Seamus approached the arguing trio, who were now the centre of attentions.
'What's going on?' Harry whispered. Hermione, pink cheeks constrasting with the pale face, jumped at the sound of his voice.
'Professor Snape isn't keen on our next sequence,' she explained carefully.
'Because I'm not about to kiss a child, Potter, that's why,' Snape loudly replied. Seamus made a gagging sound behind him, but Harry didn't hear it.
'The Phantom and Christine have to kiss,' Hermione elaborated, 'And Professor Snape... doesn't want to do it.'
'Because you're so very comfortable with the thought, aren't you, Miss Granger?' Snape bit out, sounding amusingly childlike.
'Very well, Severus, do what you think is best,' Dumbledore relented. 'But I still think you could just try it once to see how it goes... perhaps in private?'
Harry's chin dropped and he glowered at Dumbledore with a ferocity he had never used with the headmaster.
Snape seemed to be addressing a madman. 'Headmaster. She's sixteen.'
'She's more mature than most people I know. Surely you don't think she would be scarred?'
'Perhaps not, but I might.'
'What's going on?' Ron had arrived. 'Everyone's staring.'
'Professor Snape won't kiss Hermione,' Seamus informed him, enjoying the scene immensely.
Ron blinked twice. 'I... may I take Professor Snape's side on this?'
'And even a Weasley sees sense before you do.' Snape gritted out at the Headmaster, who cleared his throat loudly.
'There's no need to argue over this. It is up to Professor Snape and Miss Granger to decide how they want to do this, and if--'
Hermione addressed Snape very softly. 'Professor, it is rather awkward, but if it's the best for the project...'
'Miss Granger.' Snape calmly cut her off.
'Ahem,' Dumbledore continued, as she blushed crimson and Snape earned himself a mass glare from her friends, 'I confess I would have liked to see the effect, particularly as done by two of the most mature people in this room, who would be sure to tell reality from fiction. Alas, they won't do it, and the matter is closed. Professor Snape is right. Our goal is to create an illusion, not a reality. Back to work, everyone. You were doing beautifully, and I'm sorry I interrupted you with the ravings of an old man,' he smiled good-naturedly around him and turned to address Snape and Hermione in private.
'You must do your very best for the feint kiss to work, though,' he was saying. Harry was so relieved with the resolution that he almost missed Dumbledore's dismissive '... and the Bohemians haven't been as particular as you when it comes to key scenes.'
'You try my patience - make your choice!' Snape barked once they were alone again, marking the end of the matter. Hermione concentrated on her lines.
Watching from a distance, Harry saw Snape bending slightly so that Hermione could reach his neck more easily.
'Pitiful creature of darkness... What kind of life had you known?'
The heavy silence that suddenly filled the Hall told Harry that everyone was following the scene as attentively as he. He wondered if they, too, had trouble breathing.
Just as 'The Phantom' and 'Christine' were about to kiss, Snape slipped behind Hermione, her bushy hair hiding him partially from their sight. His arms were draped around her waist so tenderly, her hand on his neck and their faces so close that no-one could have doubted they were kissing. However, a moment later, they moved at an angle, and Harry could clearly see that only their temples were brushing together.
He wasn't quite ready for the cold, embiterred feeling that invaded him once they broke apart. Around him, no-one commented on the scene -- perhaps the shock of Snape and Hermione embracing had been too much -- and Harry didn't notice that Ron was counting on him to say something funny and ease the tension. Blaise announced that they were done for the day, and even that wasn't enough to tear his gaze from the pair onstage, who seemed to be having a proper look at one another for the first time. Harry couldn't really understand why his ribs weren't cracking with the effort of breathing, but he eventually managed to turn to Ron with something resembling a neutral face, and they began to gather their affairs. Just a few feet away from them, another young man stared at Snape and Hermione with a thoroughly displeased expression.
Return to Archive | next | previous