Havoc of the Opera
Chapter 9 - A Proper Snog
Harry's goal for the day was set from the moment he woke up. Skipping Occlumency. What Snape, Hermione, or anybody else had to say about it mattered very little to him. There were things brewing in his mind that even he didn't want to be aware of.
'Rough night, Potter?' Pansy greeted, when he arrived at the Great Hall. Hermione and Malfoy, who had been pouring over their Ancient Runes volumes, looked up. 'You must tell Granger to let you rest every now and then.'
Harry yawned, reaching for an empty goblet. The Gryffindors within earshot tensed.
'Forgive me,' Pansy gasped theatrically. 'I'd forgot Granger had the sense to move on to a Slytherin. It's the Weasley girl now, isn't it? Can she live up to your, er, expectations?
Ginny, sitting far away with her fellow fifth years, was oblivious to the conversation. There were covert glances at wands.
'I might ask you to take her place, Pansy. You look like you need it more than she does,' Harry pointed out dismissivelly, reaching for toast.
Hermione muttered a scandalised 'Harry!'
Pansy didn't seem to know what to answer to that, but Malfoy did. He stood and seized her by the elbow, spitting venomously, 'Apologise. Now.'
'Dumbledore is watching,' he hissed in fury. 'And we haven't been going through this sacrifice just so that you can ruin it all by insulting a bloody prefect within the earshot of the staff. Apologise!'
'No,' she spat back.
He nodded. 'Ok, then. Good luck surviving Professor Snape. Because I'll make sure he knows none of us were with you on this.'
The prospect of facing Snape without support seemed to frighten her more than Malfoy's stance. Slowly, as though every movement hurt her, Pansy turned to Hermione with a mumbled, dismissive, 'I apologise, Granger. That was rude of me.'
Hermione gave her a curt nod and Pansy motioned to her place, but Malfoy caught her by her robes. After a moment of confusion, her eyes widened. 'You can't!'
He raised an eyebrow. 'I can't?'
'Draco, she didn't even hear me...!' Pansy pleaded. Harry finally realised what was happening now.
'She will,' was Malfoy's only reply.
This apparently humiliated Pansy more than the forced apology to Hermione. She remained rooted to the spot, the blood draining from her face, until Malfoy lost his patience and dragged her resolutely down the table.
They watched from a distance as Ginny looked surprised, then disgusted, and then shocked with Pansy's words. The silence on their end of the table was heavy when Pansy and Malfoy returned. He looked smug. 'So, Granger, is that vocabulary index ready?'
'Well, this was unexpected...' Ron mumbled, as the tinkling of goblets and forks on plates returned tentatively around them. Harry nodded mechanically. Pansy looked like the mask of death. He almost pitied the Slytherins who would have to deal with her today.
Many hours later, Harry made a long and torturous job of changing out of his uniform, so that everyone else left the showers before him.
'You run along with them. I'll meet you after Occlumency,' he discreetly told Ron, as everyone made their noisy way out of the changing room.
'You sure you'll be all right, mate?' Ron asked, sounding extremely tired and barely concealing his relief.
'Absolutely. Hermione should be looking for someone to go to the library with her. Why don't you go, before a Slytherin gets there?'
Ron gave him a half-smile. 'You don't...?'
After the longest shower of his life, Harry made his way to the greenhouses. Perhaps if he cleared some of his doubts with Professor Sprout and he didn't completely muck up in Potions, Snape wouldn't kill him for having skipped Occlumency. The fact that he didn't know what potion they would be brewing in their next class was a minor detail. Surely, Sprout had some idea about what Snape usually taught sixth years.
On his way, he met Hagrid, who warned him to steer clear of Sprout's greenhouses.
'Woman's out of 'er mind. Says the 'ouse-elves are misplacin' 'er plants an' whatnot. Rubbish. There're no workers like the elves. Must be tha' time o' the month.' Hagrid grimaced.
Harry grinned. 'Speaking of times of the month, Hagrid, how's Lupin? Haven't heard from him in a while...'
Hagrid looked uncomfortable. 'Look, 'Arry, ye 'no I can't...'
'I just want to know if he's all right!'
Hagrid sighed. ''E's...been busy... fancy a cup o'tea, 'Arry? We can talk 'bout tha' inside,' he invited.
Harry beamed. 'Sure!'
Hagrid's cup of tea kept Harry busy until well after dinner. He was five minutes early for the rehearsal, and as he entered the Great Hall, he peered around the moving furniture, mindful of potentially mad Heads of house. Snape wouldn't have told anyone other than Dumbledore, and perhaps McGonagall -- although she would have scolded him for skipping 'precious remedial classes' as soon as he arrived, and she hadn't. Dumbledore, too, had smiled kindly at Harry, looking just a bit more thoughtful than usual.
Harry was surprised. He had imagined Snape would have jumped at the chance to prove that 'the lazy, arrogant whelp' was unworthy of his time. And Harry himself couldn't wait to put an end their lessons.
Where is he? he asked himself, Late, again? He fleetingly wondered if Snape was ever late for the other years' projects for the sake of their performance. Ron brought him out of his embittered reverie. 'We were just about to form a search group to rescue you from the dungeons, mate.'
'I wasn't there.'
'Oh?' Ron sounded pleased.
'I took a walk,' Harry clarified simply. 'I met Hagrid.'
'About the...?' Ron now looked very serious. Harry shrugged.
'He didn't want to tell me much. We talked about Lupin, mostly. Your family is ok, though,' he added with a small smile.
He didn't think of his Potions master again until they were told to go to their places. Snape would be sure to go to Hermioone as soon as he arrived, a thought that made Harry fume. He might comment on Harry's absence from Occlumency just to see her mad at Harry. That wouldn't do. Harry spotted Hermione receiving instructions from Blaise and sprinted towards her.
'Hermione, want to work with me, today?'
'Oh, he noticed my existence!' she replied, not unkindly. 'But Christine and Firmin don't really--'
'I haven't played the Phantom with you, yet. I'm just worried that if we ever need to work together, we won't--'
'Oh, I hope not...' she sounded disheartened.
'Why, thanks,' he grumbled.
'You know what I meant. I hope nothing happens to him...'
'Didn't know you cared so much.' He eyed her carefully, rather displeased with the inflection in her voice.
'I just don't want him to-- you know. Would you want--?' she widened her eyes almost comically and lowered her voice. 'Harry, he's really not that bad...'
'But I'm better, I hope,' he joked. She put an arm over his shoulder with a laugh, and led him to a quieter spot, not before promising to work with Malfoy later on.
In spite of the general good work, the highlight of the night was Hermione's duet with Malfoy. Because she was still recovering from her recent illness, Blaise had instructed Malfoy to lower his voice to her level, just so that they could have an idea of what the end result would be. Malfoy ranted loudly about being asked to sing poorly, and raved that this was an insult. Blaise finally calmed him down by reminding him that he would have the chance to show off his vocal chords later.
Harry only left Hermione's side once he was sure that she would make a beeline for Malfoy. Snape still hadn't arrived. Harry sulked inwardly, hating the other years. Onstage, Hermione and Malfoy were already enacting the love scene. It was strangely amusing to see Malfoy being gentle and reassuring towards Hermione. She, by the way, looked much more embarrassed around Malfoy than Harry had ever seen her around Snape.
'We're trying to get some work done while these two get sappy,' Ron called. 'Want to join us?' Harry retrieved his script and gladly joined them.
'And if he has to kill a thousand men...' Hermione's voice reached them.
'Care to take over the Phantom's lines, Harry?' Blaise asked.
'Good. Start with his letter in Scene Eight, then.'
'The Phantom of the Opera will kill, and kill again!' Hermione's eyes widened madly.
'There is no Phantom of the Opera...' Malfoy countered in desperation.
Harry read out Firmin's part of the letter and then cleared his throat to read the Phantom's' bit in a different tone.
'In the new production of 'Il Muto', you will cast Carlotta as the Pageboy...' Harry sneered at Pansy, whose eyes were fixed on the stage, where Hermione was going on about the Phantom's voice filling her spirit 'with a strange sweet sound'. Harry froze at the words.
'Harry? Pansy? Do you mind?!' Blaise said loudly. They snapped back to reality, glaring at each other, and then at Blaise. Their director's unusual irritation brought a smile to Ron's lips.
'The role which Miss Daae plays calls for charm and appeal,' Harry smiled devilishly at Pansy, casting a delighted glance towards Hermione. 'The role of the Pageboy is silent -- which makes my casting, in a word, ideal.'
'Yet in his eyes, all the sadness of the world...' Hermione sang. Harry again had to be called to attention.
'I shall watch the performance from my normal seat in Box Five, which will be kept empty for me,' Harry looked firmly at Seamus.
Meanwhile, Malfoy had finally made the transition to a romantic mood. 'I'm here, nothing can harm you,' he promised.
'Should these commands be ignored...' Harry said smoothly, in a rather passable imitation of Snape's tone.
'Say you love me, every waking moment, turn my head...' Hermione pleaded.
'A disaster beyond your imagination will occur.' Harry continued, more pleasantly still, only then regaining Firmin's usual voice, 'I remain, gentlemen, your obedient servant...'
'The Vicomte - her lover!' Pansy pointed out angrily.
'Ron, would you take over Raoul's lines for a moment?' Blaise asked quietly, deeply concentrated. Ron picked up his own script, not bothering to answer him.
'Then say you share with me, one love, one lifetime...' Draco demanded.
'O traditori!' Pansy shouted.
'Miss Daaé will be playing the Pageboy - the silent role.' Harry assured her.
'Say you love me...' Hermione asked, breaking eye contact with Malfoy and being immediately told off for it.
'Love me - that's all I ask of you...' they sang in unison.
'Abbandonata! Desederata! O, sventurata!'
Ron stared at the stage, looking displeased. 'We'll, that's bollocks...' he mouthed the last word so that McGonagall wouldn't hear him.
Ginny followed his gaze. 'What's the matter?'
At her brisk words, all eyes turned to the romantic leads. Blaise looked from them to the script. 'Why didn't you kiss?'
Malfoy and Hermione moved as one to face him.
'Because we don't need to...?' Malfoy asked sardonically. Harry cast a glance at Hermione's crimson face and almost pitied her.
'Draco, that's the kissing scene,' Blaise retorted, beginning to lose his temper.
'Which we're rehearsing, not acting out for real,' Malfoy elaborated.
'Blaise, really, we'd really rather--'
'-- kiss Blast-Ended Skrewts.' Malfoy finished for her. She instinctively nodded.
Blaise had a long, harsh look at them. 'We don't have time for tantrums, nor elaborate gimmicks. The seamstresses need to have an idea about your movements, we need to figure out the lights, and you two need to be professional about this. Do it.'
'Just do it,' he repeated coldly. Harry was reminded, for the first time in weeks, that Blaise, too, was a Slytherin.
'Well, they're not teacher and student, at least,' Ginny muttered, as the rest of them waited with bated breaths. Ron glared at her, his mood matching Blaise's.
Malfoy and Hermione regained their positions, fighting bravely to hold each other's gaze. As the last line faded out of their lips, Hermione took a deep breath and stepped closer. Malfoy looked paler than usual, as his hand inched towards her chin and he leaned in ever so slightly. Harry hadn't noticed until then how much shorter she was than he. Even at a distance, he could see their eyes widening as their mouths moved closer. The kiss was the lightest, briefest of touches, dampened somewhat by their tense limbs. It was just enough for the room to explode in whistles and catcalls. Raising his voice above the others', Blaise called the rehearsal over for the night. The thought of asking for a reprise crossed Harry's mind rather suicidally.
In spite of the loud, giggling flurry around them, Malfoy and Hermione remained rooted to the spot, and to each other's gaze, attempting to string together a few muttered phrases that nobody really cared to hear.
'Your Phantom was excellent tonight, Harry,' Blaise approached him. 'Have you been working on the rest? How's the singing going?'
'You know I'm not much of a singer. I worked a bit with Hermione tonight, but that's it.'
'Don't fret, there's time,' Blaise said pensively.
'Blaise,' Harry replied firmly. Blaise did a doubletake. 'I'm not playing the Phantom.'
'I just want you to be ready, in case... Professor Snape didn't come today, and I need to be sure that we have a lead,' Blaise explained, just as firmly.
Harry hadn't given the man much thought during the duet, but he had thought, or hoped, that he would eventually come in, late as usual, perhaps for a quick word with Dumbledore. A glance at the chaos around him proved him wrong. Dumbledore and McGonagall were indeed talking, but one another.
'... and if he gives up at the last minute...' Blaise was saying. Harry nodded mechanically. 'You and Hermione should work together more often.' The flash of Hermione and Snape's kissing scene made Harry nod more fervently.
'Yeah, we should. Will you excuse me for a moment, Blaise?' He ran to Hermione, who was just stepping offstage.
'And how does the Classicals' Official Kisser feel about another unforgettable performance?'
She groaned. 'It was a lot easier with Professor Snape.'
Harry frowned. 'That's a bit of information that I really didn't need.'
Hermione made an indignant sound and changed the subject. 'How did Occlumency go, by the way? Where is he?'
'It went... fine. Fine. But he didn't show up for the rehearsal.'
'No? Why not?' Hermione looked around more attentively. 'Did he tell you?'
'No,' he answered honestly.
'I hope everything is all right,' she said thoughtfully. 'Let me go talk to Blaise...'
Only then, watching Hermione's retreating back, did it hit Harry. Heart pounding in his chest, he dashed towards Dumbledore and McGonagall, who were still talking gravely.
'Where's Snape?' he blurted out.
'Potter!' a shocked McGonagall scolded him. Harry simply turned to Dumbledore.
'He's not in the school, is he?'
McGonagall turned a very stern face to him. 'Professor Snape is tending to personal affairs, Mr Potter. His whereabouts are his concern alone.'
'He's with the Death Eaters, isn't he?' Harry said, lowering his voice at the last moment. 'He is, isn't he? He never skips the rehearsal, no matter how late he is, he always has to watch for his precious Slytherins, but he's not here tonight -- because he's not in Hogwarts, is he?' He paused for a quick breath. 'Is he all right? Where is he?'
McGonagall wanted to reply, but Dumbledore spoke first. 'No, Harry, he's not. He will hopefully be back soon enough. As for your other questions, well, I'm afraid I don't know the answer myself.'
A sudden dizziness washed over Harry. 'Should he be back by now?' Dumbledore nodded gravely.
McGonagall then addressed him. 'You should go to bed, Potter. If you're so worried, we'll let you know when Professor Snape arrives.'
'No...' Harry muttered. 'No need. I was just wondering...'
'Sleep well, Harry,' Dumbledore smiled faintly. 'It's very nice of you to take an interest in Professor Snape's safety. But I'm sure there are no reasons for concern.'
Harry nodded blankly and bade them goodnight. Feeling rather unwell, he rejoined Ron and Hermione, who were arguing up the stairs. She had found out that it had been his comment that had prompted the kiss.
'Of course the ever-unattentive Ronald Weasley had to pay attention at that exact time. Do you know how embarrassing it was?'
'It's my fault that you can't get over yourselves? I don't like to work with Parkinson either, but we still do it -- for the sake of the performance!'
'Yeah, you're really interested in the performance...!'
'You used to be!' Ron shouted, 'Before your boyfriend stopped going along with your every whim!'
Harry escaped to the dormitory as soon as he could. He sat by the window, observing the moonlit grounds in silence, half expecting to spot a dark figure slinking towards the castle. But he saw only Hagrid's massive shadow entering his hut, Mrs Norris catching a short break before going back to her patroll and the giant squid rushing up for a glimpse of the moon before another dive.
He now felt slightly guilty about skipping Occlumency. Had Snape been late for his own meeting because he had been waiting for Harry? Had he been waiting for Harry? Had he wanted to tell Harry that he would be gone for the night?
'No,' he admitted to himself. 'He'd have told Hermione. She's the only Gryffindor in his mind.'
He was still lost in thought when Ron entered the room, and there he remained, long after Ron's offended grumbling had faded in his deep sleep. He sat there, looking out for any movement outside, dangerously close to being sick with worry over someone unworthy of his concern.
'But his voice filled my spirit with a strange, sweet sound...' The walls seemed to echo. Perhaps Hermione was still working?
He rested his head on his arms and watched Fang running around Hagrid's hut. It reminded him of Sirius, Padfoot, jumping around and enjoying his last shreds of freedom when he had accompanied Harry and the others to the station over a year before. He sighed, as a different sort of guilt rose inside of him.
And yet, nothing came.
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