Havoc of the Opera
Chapter 16 - Uncontrollable
Harry's mind was blank as he observed Hermione's sleepy sigh and the limp hand she ran across her eyes. He was numb as she stiffened with the realisation that there was somebody else in the room -- as her eyes widened upon settling on him, her hands wrapping the cloak more tightly around her body.
He turned to Snape, looking for who knows what reaction, before she had the chance to say anything. Snape's arms were crossed, his back straight, and from under a supercilious brow, he looked at Harry directly, defiantly, daring him to make a scene.
'Harry...' Hermione began.
'Don't,' Harry ordered almost inaudibly. The betrayal patent in his face was sure to be more effective than any words. She took a step in his direction and he watched, as though it were another's body, as his hand, his tight fist, slid towards her, uncurling into a spread, forbidding hand. Hermione looked pleadingly at him.
The feeling was somewhat similar to being unexpectedly bludgeoned. His head was light for a moment, but as it returned to normalcy, the rest of his body prepared to scream its agony. Turning to Snape again, Harry rasped out through dry lips, 'I'm sorry. I should have waited.'
'I didn't know this was such a bad time,' he spat venomously towards Hermione. She looked crushed.
Making it to the door with as much dignity as he could muster, he made only a short pause when he walked by his impassive teacher. Looking up with an expression that spoke louder than any rant, he opened his mouth, but ultimately decided against saying anything.
He was rather proud that he managed to close the door with a polite click rather than with the resounding slam that briefly occurred to him. There was no point.
He had no idea if the corridors he crossed on his way out of the castle were empty or full. He knew that they were cold. Or perhaps he was. It was all the same, really. Reaching the grounds, he wandered aimlessly under the pouring rain, barely aware that it was drenching him to the bones. He had a vague notion that his chest might snap if he breathed in too deeply, but that was all.
The garden where Ginny and Malfoy had conspired was right there, half its charm gone now that there were no lovers within it. For a moment, he looked at the rain that pounded against the carefully groomed plants, recalling the day, when he and Ron had come here to pick some flowers for Hermione. She had been so pleased with their thoughtfulness. He wondered if she was pleased now, now that they both knew the truth and Harry had walked out of her way by his own foot.
Hermione, sweet Hermione, whose conscience had been so heavy at the thought that her wandering eye might hurt Blaise, who had spurred Harry on so selflessly, who had had no qualms about spending the night in Snape's quarters at the first opportunity.
Perhaps this hadn't been the first time? She had been spending most of her time with Snape, after all, rehearsing with him, dining with him, having breakfast with him... had she really been walking obediently downstairs for breakfast, or had she simply taken to sneaking to the dungeons in the middle of the night, protected by her prefect status, safeguarding her reputation, her dignity, in a way that Harry had completely failed to do?
The feeling of betrayal was overwhelming. Harry paused for a moment beside the ticklish bush, which was remarkably quiet. He had to catch his breath. He would eventually have to go back inside and face her, face Snape, face everyone who had been quicker to grasp the circumstances than he had. He would eventually need to calm down.
A dull ache unfurled smoothly in his chest, coating his insides with a frosty, biting sheen not unlike a dementor's. She hadn't really betrayed him. Harry had told her that he would do nothing. He had... he had wished her luck. Hermione had every right to sleep wherever she wanted, to come out dressed in whosever cloak she desired -- well, not quite. Dumbledore would have something to say about ethics, and trust, and teacher-student relationships. For one vicious, deranged moment, Harry considered treating them with the same indifference that they had paid him and going to Dumbledore, telling him all about their-- he sent a branch flying off a tree. Of course he wouldn't. He couldn't. What good would that possibly do them all?
Stopping in his tracks again, he had a sudden, insane urge to laugh. Here was the proof he needed that he wasn't looking for a father. He wouldn't have minded sharing a father. He shared Mr Weasley with seven other people. He shared Dumbledore with the entire school. Yet just the thought of sharing Snape was too bitter to consider. To think that he had doubted himself. But it didn't matter, did it? His potential need for a father had never been part of Snape's concerns, after all.
Snape could have told him. Snape should have told him before Harry found out on his own, Harry thought furiously, hyperventilating his way to the wall. Harry had been candid with him. Snape should have told him.
His rage against Snape receeded into rage against Hermione before he could stop himself. His perfect friend, his friend of all times, whom he hated, now, for taking away the one thing he really wanted, the one thing that mattered... whom he wanted to break into tiny pieces, above all, for being the one Snape had chosen.
What does that say about me?, Harry thought, hyperventilating noisily, while he stared at the garden without really seeing it.
'I hope you don't intend to slide down the wall crying dramatically.'
Harry looked around for the source of the voice. Snape approached, glowering at him as though Harry had done something reproachful. Harry's ire reached a whole new level.
'Worse things than you have come into my life and I didn't cry over them,' he snarled, amazed at the man's cheek.
'So, your plan is to sit there and soak to death.'
'Leave me alone.'
'Don't be ridiculous. Come back inside.'
'Leave me alone.'
'Come back inside, or I'll drag you by your feet,' Snape ordered, in a tone that, in any other occasion, would have been too serious to be disobeyed.
Harry pointed his wand at him with an ease that should have been beyond his fidgety state. 'If you touch me, I'll hex you. Go away.'
Snape's glance at Harry's wand suggested that he was considering breaking it with his mind's will.
'You don't honestly expect me to leave you here after the poignant show you put on inside.'
Even under the biting, cold rain, Harry's face burned with the humiliating memory. 'I'm serious. Go away. Even breathing the same air as you makes me ill. Go away.'
'Don't be absurd,' Snape retorted, an edge of irritation lacing his voice. 'You're drenched. Come inside-- Miss Granger is terribly--'
Harry cut him off with a harsh, cold laugh that was eerily reminiscent of a certain dark wizard's.
'Miss Granger? Is that what you call her? Does she call you Professor, too? Is that your kink?'
Snape seemed to be genuinely startled at this, but Harry paid him no attention. He laughed again, a jerky, uncontrollable laughter that barely gave him room to breathe.
'Or perhaps she's allowed to call you by your given name,' Harry suggested, when he found his voice again. 'Is that how you do it?'
Had Harry been less focused on the rant that spilled out of lips before his mind even strung the words together, he would have noticed that Snape's hand had disappeared under his cloak to close around his wand. As it was, even his teacher's stony face was indifferent to him.
'Is that how you charm the Slytherins into revering you? Was that how you charmed Dumbledore? Some of us are allowed the privilege of a first-name basis, some of us you kiss, some of us you grant a proper shag?!' he shouted.
A millisecond later, a wand was prodding his throat. 'I don't know what you think gives you the right to make such accusations--'
'I saw you together!' Harry barked.
'The pressure against his throat increased, as Snape hissed, 'You saw nothing!'
'Sure, you were just playing chess.' Harry snorted. 'Did she get your rook?'
Snape's wand lodged painfully against the nape of his neck.
'I hardly think you're the best person to lecture me on good behaviour, Potter--'
'-- and you are?' Harry snipped. 'You and your high horse. Hermione and hers. And in the end, you're nothing but--' Snape's free hand joined his wand against Harry's throat. 'Does the truth hurt?' Harry continued indifferently.
'She and I did absolutely nothing unbecoming. But if we had,' Snape barked cruelly, 'I don't see how it would be any of your business.'
Harry bravely ignored the wholly different pain that climbed up his throat at this. 'Perhaps not mine, but surely Dumbledore's. Isn't Hermione a child in his eyes?'
Snape narrowed his eyes at him. His hand slid up Harry's throat to wedge just under his jaw.
'Or doesn't Dumbledore care?' Harry went on blindly. 'She's a girl, so he doesn't mind?'
There was a pause of a second, in which both seemed to realise that Harry's speech was too unnatural to be brought on simply by a bruised ego. But Harry was too angry, too stung to consider a civilised conversation now. 'Is that why Dumbledore allows her in your quarters? She's your reward for stomaching me?!'
He had crossed the line. Snape's wand dropped reluctantly from his neck, but his free hand tightened around Harry's throat, finger by finger, bringing tears to Harry's eyes that had very little to do with his mood. Inexplicably, he didn't even consider groping about for his own wand, and the one sentence he managed to rasp out was, 'Is this Hermione's kink?'
Snape leaned in, looming over him with an aversion that only enraged Harry further. 'If anything, Potter,' he growled cuttingly, 'and following your logic, I should be the one demanding to know why it is that you waste my time with these ridiculous scenes only to go upstairs and declare your love to the shy Miss Granger.'
'What?' Harry grunted. Did everybody think he had a thing for Hermione?
'For future notice, the library isn't the best place to make heartfelt confessions, particularly if you haven't checked that you really are alone,' Snape went on, getting so close to him that the ends of his lank hair brushed Harry's cheek with every breath.
Harry's oxygen-deprived brain needed a few seconds to understand what the man was going on about.
'You got it wrong,' he finally wheezed, his neck slipping out of Snape's grasp just a bit.
'Did I get it wrong when you kissed merrily away during a rehearsal for the lack of better things to do?
'We were just--'
'I -- don't -- care,' Snape bit out. 'She's ill. And I'm merely doing what I can, what I am told, to help her recover. If you really must play the offended beau, I suggest you look elsewhere for an escape goat. Or perhaps ask her to dole out her affections less liberally. I won't be involved in this sort of teenage powerplay. Am I clear?'
Snape's face hovered so close that Harry no longer felt any rain falling on him. The fact that they were both drenched to the skin, however, became clearer with every second.
'She came out of your room,' Harry pointed out in a flat voice.
'That doesn't concern you.'
'She was wearing your cloak,' Harry added caustically. 'Had it been laying about for her to wear? Or had she just taken it off you?' he suggested with a bitter grimace.
The glower Snape shot him should have been enough to scorch him, but Harry didn't have more than a moment to see it, the split second during which Snape's hand moved up from Harry's neck to grip his jaw tightly. The very next time he blinked, Snape was kissing him -- if one could call that a kiss.
The thought of biting him occurred to Harry, but it was hard, so hard to fight against it when that small, yet vocal part of his mind was screaming that this was what he had wanted, what he had fantasised about, for so long, it was here, it was literally in his hands...
He clutched Snape's head with both hands before he realised what he was doing, bringing him as close as he could, binding their mouths together as much as the laws of physics would allow. It hurt, it had to hurt, but this wasn't quite the moment for tenderness. Harry didn't complain when Snape's hand gripped the front of his robes so tightly that the collar of Harry's shirt bit into the back of his neck. Snape didn't complain when Harry clawed at his cloak with such energy that its edges, held by a frail clasp, began to tear.
No, instead he slid both hands down Harry's sides, slipping them under his clothes, just grazing the skin underneath, before closing them viciously on the underside of the fabric, nearly ripping it apart in his haste to touch all of Harry at once.
The frenzy couldn't have been more welcome. Harry breathed out his approval, a strangled groan that got lost in Snape's mouth before either had a chance to hear it. Crushed as he was against the wall, he didn't quite have the leverage to do most of what he thought he should, but he could at least touch Snape, and he did just that, sliding his own hands up Snape's legs, pulling him closer still. His hands moved of their own accord across the fabric, settling nonchalantly upwards when they ran out of thigh. Snape broke the kiss to gaze dangerously at Harry, who shot him a mischievous look as his hands slithered around Snape's waist, cupping his backside and making him slump against Harry.
They did eventually slide down the wall, perhaps even more dramatically than Snape had feared. They landed on the muddy grass with a muffled thud and twin groans, Snape straddling Harry in what was surely the most awkward position Harry had seen his Potions master. His large, billowy teaching robes were a welcome barrier between them and whoever happened to look their way from afar, but they were heavy with the rain, and they puddled around them soggily, providing very little protection if anybody decided to come closer. Harry grabbed him by the neck to kiss him again, without waiting for a reaction, and Snape's hand somehow worked through the sliver of space between them to pull at Harry's collar. Harry slid further down the wall, half-lying against the stone, his wet legs bent up, keeping Snape ensconced in his lap.
Harry would later wonder what they would have done if loud, disturbingly clear sounds hadn't forced them to break apart, but he had been toying with the buckle of Snape's belt, and Snape had made no move to stop him. Harry didn't quite move as the sounds came nearer still, shouts from beyond the wall, disembodied steps, the bark of a dog when the door to Hagrid's hut opened to let him out, the clattering on branches and dry leaves of two thestrals that approached the hut for food... it was time for breakfast. Hogwarts was waking up.
They broke apart somewhat reluctantly, their scalding breaths still mingled in the rain that kept pouring down on them. Snape inched back, and Harry extended his legs just enough to give him room to manoeuver, yet not quite ready to see him walk away so soon. Snape's hands were fists, now, set on the wet grass on either side of them, and his eyes were downcast, his back hunched forward. It appeared he was hating himself already for his loss of control -- or perhaps he hated Harry, who refused to move and let a long moment pass before speaking.
'I need to know.'
Snape's fists were tighter, he noticed. The veins in them were beginning to protrude. Snape took a deep breath and looked up from under his scowl, just enough to meet Harry's eyes.
'I don't feel the same way as you, Potter.'
Again, the calm tone of one who really has nothing to hide, no need to search for words. And yet, here they were, still tangled in one another, risking more than either was ready to lose.
'No,' Harry clarified, sliding from under him with some difficulty and standing against the wall, trying to look indifferent to the fact that Snape's eyes were level with his crotch. 'About what Hermione was doing in your rooms. I want to hear it from you.'
Snape too, stood, taking his time before answering. 'Waiting for the curfew to be lifted. That's all.'
Harry quirked his eyebrows.
'I believe she had been with Mr Malfoy.'
Snape turned on his heel and left immediately after these words. Harry stayed, watching him walk away without looking back, without giving him the smallest hint that... was this what awaited him? A stolen kiss in the dungeons, a furtive moment against the castle's wall, a random moment of frenzy elsewhere, as though this was shameful, wrong?
But this had happened. Maybe there was nothing else, but there was desire. It was real, it was raw, and clearly out of their control. And Harry had no interest in living a guilty, clandestine life, simply because Snape just wouldn't admit that things had changed. He wasn't about to skulk about in the corridors, looking over his shoulder in fright that somebody might find them. That wasn't enough for him, it would never be enough.
He would have to find some way to convince Snape that it would never be enough for him, either.
But before, he owed his best friend a very heartfelt apology.
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