Havoc of the Opera

Chapter 22 - Paris, 1900

By Roman

       

Harry woke up alone, sprawled under the sheet that covered him up to his hair. He didn't even need to extend his arm to know it, but he did it anyway, curling around himself, craving the warmth of the night for just another moment.

Yet his overactive mind refused to delay dawn, so he cracked his eyes open, with a sigh at the emptiness beside him. Stretching, he pushed the bedclothes down to his knees, taking a deep breath before sitting up.

There he was, looking at Harry from the foot of the bed, his arms drawn up to his chest. He was in full teaching attire. He looked more forbidding, and forbidden, than ever. Harry mechanically reached for the linen, which he pulled up to his waist, suddenly very aware of his own nudity. Severus' expression didn't change. Was he still 'Severus' this morning? A drawn out silence followed.

'Good morning,' Harry eventually tried.

'Good morning,' Severus deadpanned after a moment.

'Is this the moment you tell me that it all meant nothing?' Harry asked, his voice bravely even. 'And that I must forget it happened?'

'Would you?'

'No,' Harry said honestly.

Severus nodded, unsurprised. There was a rather uncomfortable silence, which he broke with, 'I hurt you.'

Harry followed his gaze to his own wrists, red marks standing out proudly against his pale skin. 'Oh, huh... it doesn't hurt,' he said lamely.

'Hmm.'

'What time is it?'

'Very early. If you go now, you'll be in your bed before your friends wake up.'

Oh, he was being thrown out. Harry's grip on the sheets tightened as he otherwise ignored the words.

'So, er, why are you up so early? Am I such bad sleeping company that you'd rather brave the weather?'

He had meant to say it as a joke, but his mood didn't quite allow it to come out as such. Harry mentally cursed himself. 'Sorry. I mean... are you usually up so early?'

Severus shook his head negatively.

'Oh. Huh...'

'I went to see Professor Dumbledore.'

'Oh.'

'I couldn't keep this from him.'

'Of course.' Harry gulped. 'And he...?'

'He's very disappointed.'

'Oh.'

'With me.'

'Oh?'

'He seems to think I should have prevented this, knowing beforehand about your... feelings. He feels that I took advantage of the situation.'

'He doesn't think...?'

'... that I forced you? No. I told him what happened in rather broad strokes, but I didn't lie. Yet, he thinks that I could have stopped you, and, because I didn't... I believe the words were "unashamedly took advantadge of the boy's vulnerability". Can't blame him.'

'I can talk to him. I can explain that... I'm not vulnerable, I... I can tell him how it happened!'

Severus cut him off with a gesture. 'He knows how it happened, possibly better than you. Your behaviour was expected. Mine wasn't. He expected better from me, is all.'

'Oh,' Harry uttered, only just becoming aware of the chilling air biting at his skin.

'You should get dressed before you fall ill,' Severus pointed out. Harry ignored him.

'Do you regret it?' he enquired, determined not to make a scene, yet unable to stop the question from surfacing.

'I regretted it long before it happened.'

A dull, grinding ache crept inside of Harry. 'Why did you do it, then?' Pity?, he added silently.

Severus actually looked embarrassed. 'I... truly... couldn't stop myself.'

'I see,' Harry mouthed, unable to drag his voice out of his heavy chest. Severus' supremely uncomfortable stance was almost as painful as his words.

'I think you should go back to your dormitory. People will wonder where you are.'

'May I stay?' Harry muttered, cutting Severus off before he could say anything. 'I'm not going to make a scene. I'd just like to stay a moment longer.'

'Food will be sent up, if you tap your wand on the bedside table,' Severus relented, casting him a weary glance.

'Thanks,' Harry said in a low voice, not hungry in the least, watching as though hypnotised as Severus reached for the doorknob, opened the door, and prepared to leave. 'Will I see you today? In Occlumency, or something?'

'The headmaster suspended your Occlumency lessons half an hour ago.'

'Of course.' Harry pursed his lips. 'At lunch, then?'

'In fact, lunch and dinner will be served in your respective common rooms, today. The Great Hall is being prepared for tonight's performance.'

'Oh...'

'I might see you in the audience, though.'

Harry's face lit up.

'But I doubt that we'll have a chance to talk.'

Harry's face fell. He suppressed a gulp and looked up. 'Will I see you in class tomorrow, then... before you leave?'

Severus blinked slowly. 'There will be no classes this week. You have the same privilege the other houses were granted.'

'The privilege, of course...' Harry echoed.

'The prefects should be announcing it during breakfast.'

'Hmm,' Harry hummed absently. So, this is goodbye.'

Severus nodded. Harry tugged at the half-untucked sheet, wrapped it around himself, and slid off the bed, wincing when his feet touched the cold floor.

'Kiss me goodbye,' he said as firmly as possible through quivering lips, his shoulders hunched to bring some warmth to his neck.

Severus, whose back was already turned to him, replied wearily, 'I really don't think I should.'

'I didn't kiss you good night. And you weren't here to kiss me good morning.' Harry's last shreds of dignity crumbled around him as he heard himself say, 'But I think I deserve a parting kiss. Am I not worth even that?'

Severus closed the door, turning to face Harry with an unreadable expression. Harry took a step forward, and another, coaching Severus' back against the wall, feeling the faintest glimmer of hope as Severus' legs parted, albeit reluctantly, to give room to Harry's body.

The sheet slipped off of Harry's shoulders and pooled around his waist, where their hips met. He honestly hadn't planned this, and he was about to say as much when Severus' fingers reached for the hem of the sheet, twirling it absently.

Harry heart sank as Severus repositioned the sheet around Harry's shoulders, tucking it around his neck and holding it securely in his grasp. He sighed quietly, his eyes set on the hands that rested on his chest. So absorbed was he in his humiliation that he didn't notice that the hands were pulling gently at the sheet, pulling it, and him, against Severus. Only when they touched did he realise that the grasp had tightened to the point where Severus' knuckles were white, and that Severus was leaning in to brush his neck, his cheek, his mouth, in the lightest, most fugitive of kisses. Harry looked up and him, and Severus hesitated, inspecting his wide, hollowed eyes.

'A dementor's kiss might actually leave more of your soul behind.'

A sad, guilty smile spread on Harry's lips. He leaned in to silence Severus with a kiss of his own and grant them another moment, just another one, before they stepped into the harsh reality outside.

       

Harry was dragging himself distractedly up to the common room when a bushy head clambered around the corner in his direction.

'I really can't handle a lecture right now, Hermione,' Harry said quietly, but firmly.

'Did anything happen? Did anything go wrong?' she asked worriedly.

'Saying goodbye was a bit harder than I'd thought.'

She looked at him doubtfully for a second, and then she nearly smothered him in an overtight hug. 'Oh, I was so worried, you might have been caught, something might--'

'I wasn't caught. Nothing happened. Don't worry.' Harry said absently.

'I... I told Ron that you were checking the Quidditch pitch's conditions for tomorrow's match. Just in case he asks about it.'

'Thanks. Is he up?'

Hermione responded via a nod and a gigantic yawn. 'I've been sitting in the common room since four in the morning,' she clarified.

Harry stared at her. 'Because of me, mum?!'

She yawned again. 'Someone had to have a ready excuse for when Ron woke up. I didn't think you'd take so long.'

Harry cringed. 'Sorry.'

'It's all right. I busied myself. I had to post an announcement on the message board, and I finished my part on a gr-- we won't be having any classes this week, by the way.'

'Yeah, Se... he told me.'

'Don't let that name slip around the others. They're all up, already.'

'How'd you get out of there?'

Hermione smirked. 'I told them I was coming downstairs to see Draco. Ron went cross-eyed with the glare he shot me, but that was the only way I could be sure nobody would want to come with me. And I had to talk to you before they saw you.'

'Thanks...' Harry repeated. 'I can't tell Ron. Not yet, at least. He'd-- anyway. I should go have a look at the pitch, then, shouldn't I? They'll bombard me with questions when I come back, and I don't even know what the weather's like. Does milady need an escort? he offered her his arm flamboyantly. She accepted it with a smile and they made their way down quietly.

'It's sunny, by the way,' Hermione let him know, halfway down the stairs.

       

It was seven-thirty in the evening, and the Gryffindor common room buzzed with activity. The younger years had exceptionally been allowed to stay up after curfew for the performance, and they were understandably the most excited of the chattering groups that crowded the place.

Harry, who had sleep-walked through the day, sat by the window with Ron, waiting for Hermione. It was amazing to him that nobody had guessed what he had done the previous night just by looking at him.

She arrived at last, looking very prim in a long, light grey, skirt and a black jumper, her school cloak folded on her arm. She had wrestled her hair into a bun, with a few loose strands framing her face. She really looked quite pretty.

Ron, who was casually dressed, as usual, stared at her. Harry shrugged. He hadn't even changed out of the high collared jumper and trousers that he had worn to the dungeons.

'I just thought that I could dress up a bit-- we never really get a chance to--'

'Gift from the boyfriend?' Ron grumbled, tilting his chin towards the mother-of-pearl necklace that glistened on her neck.

'I wouldn't take jewels from him,' she said dignifiedly. 'My parents gave me this for my birthday.' Ron sneered doubtfully.

'You look very nice,' Harry commented pointedly before they started squabbling again.

She smiled at him, unfolding the school cloak and settling it neatly on her shoulders, before suggesting that they went downstairs.

'It only starts at eight...'

'But they specifically told us that they were opening the doors at a quarter to eight,' Hermione scowled. 'Weren't you wearing that yesterday, Harry? Couldn't you have changed?'

'I changed my shirt!' he said brightly, tugging at the jumper's collar and neglecting to inform her that the shirt she had fitted for him was irreparably damaged. 'Why, do I look bad?'

'You might smell a bit,' she commented offhandedly. 'But you look quite fetching.'

'You should think so, you picked it...'

'Oh, so that's it...' She slapped her forehead playfully.

'Is there anything I should know about, children?' Ron intervened, looking from one to the other.

'No!' they said in unison, poking his stomach mockingly to lighten the tone.

'Wait!' Ginny ran to them, grasping Harry's arm. 'Are you going with someone?'

'I am now, apparently,' he retorted, staring at her. 'What happened?'

Ginny rolled her eyes. 'Dean won't leave me alone. Now he wants to make up! I need a break from him. Help me...!'

'Want me to have a talk with him?' Ron offered.

Ginny smiled. 'No, thanks. He'll eventually have to understand that it should be enough that I talked to him.'

'Well, then, if that's it...' Harry and Ginny led the way out of the common room.

Half the school had already crowded by the doors to the Entrance Hall, where the Fat Friar and the Grey Lady stood side by side, talking to the students while they waited.

'There he is...' Hermione announced, spotting Malfoy.

'Good evening,' he greeted politely, placing an arm around Hermione's shoulders with an expression that Harry had never seen him wearing. 'Will anybody bother look at the stage?'

'Pathetic,' Ron muttered under his breath, excusing himself. 'I want to wish Luna good luck.'

'She's in it?' Ginny asked.

'Yeah, playing a fairy of sorts, I think,' he said over his shoulder, and disappearing beyond the oak doors, as a few second years shouted, 'Not fair!'

The four of them faced each other uncomfortably.

'So, Draco, are you curious?' Ginny asked, trying to ease the tension.

'I can't wait,' he deadpanned.

Hermione crossed her arms and tapped her foot, pouting at him.

'But Hermione says it's good, and she's got great taste, so, we'll see.' He hugged her from behind. 'Muggles do occasionally get it right.'

Ginny made a gagging sound to indicate that he should end the display. Harry, who was paying them no attention whatsoever, was snapped out of his inner world by Malfoy.

'By the way, Potter, we need extra practice this week, remember?'

'Yeah... we've got a match tomorrow, and another right after the holidays--'

'--and we've got one on the eve of Phantom,' Malfoy added pointedly.

'Boys,' Hermione piped in warningly, 'not during our last week of rehearsals.'

'Hermione!'

'We've been good, Professor,' Malfoy pointed out punctuating his argument with a kiss on her neck. 'We know our lines, our blockings, we've worked hard, and I'll go mad if I'm not allowed to see the sky just once the whole week,' he finished with another peck.

'That's blackmail...' She virtually melted.

'Is it working?' He nuzzled her neck. How far he had come from the boy who just wouldn't commit.

Harry and Ginny smirked at each other in mock disgust. 'Maybe we should just go and leave them to it,' Harry jokingly suggested.

'Good evening,' rumbled a cold voice that made him freeze mid-chuckle and pale considerably. 'I don't have to remind you that, in spite of the... irregular conditions, this is still a school assignment for your colleagues, and as representatives of your houses, you are expected to behave accordingly,' their Potions master informed them sullenly.

Malfoy and Hermione broke apart, holding each other's hand discreetly. Their teacher raised an eyebrow towards Harry and Ginny, who disentangled their arms awkwardly, and he swept past them brusquely, nearly bumping on Ron.

He walked in their direction, glowering over his shoulder. 'That one's in a bad mood...'

'How does it look-- inside?' Hermione enquired.

'Great!' Ron said cheerily. Malfoy snorted doubtfully. Ron sneered upon seeing his hand holding Hermione's. 'As I was saying, it looks great. Dad'd love it. I don't even know what half of that stuff is.' He grinned at Harry and Ginny. Malfoy gulped down another snort and Hermione elbowed him.

'Anyway, the doors are opening, and we should get going.'

Just as Ron said the last word, the oak doors creaked open and the crowd poured in, the Friar and the Lady leading the way. Malfoy and Hermione moved along, Malfoy looking contemptuously at Harry and Ron, as he muttered something along the lines of, 'I hope they don't breed.'

Ginny let out a low whistle when they entered. They were facing an enormous audience, rows and rows of empty seats that gradually ascended, flights of stairs on either side of them. The staff was led to a square of golden seats in the middle of the block. The first and second rows were reserved for a few Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws from different years, who had been asked for cooperation. The section above the staff's was reserved for the Classicals, and the remaining seats were unclaimed.

'We won't be able to see properly,' Seamus commented.

'Actually,' Ron grinned, ' they gave us the best seats. Most of the action takes lace on a mezzanine, so, we'll actually be at eye level with the actors. They say it was a nicety for their fellow thespians.'

'That was nice,' Harry commented, paying close attention to the staff's seats.

'And there's more to those seats than it seems,' Ron went on. 'They--'

'Will we have this sort of flourish, too, or are they going to beat us just with their seats?' Malfoy complained to Hermione.

'This isn't a competition, Draco!' she retorted, taking him to the row directly behind Harry's. Harry sat with Ginny, and Ron sat beside them, with Seamus. When the room appeared to be full, there was the clearing of a throat, and Lisa Turpin's magnified voice greeted them.

'Good evening.' She giggled. 'And welcome. We must request that you mind your seating arrangements. The audience is comprised of two blocks that have been momentarily brought together. There is a small gap between the middle seats of every row that should be kept empty.

People looked around themselves. Harry noted that there was indeed more room between his seat and the one to his right than between him and Ginny. The wooden pattern of the floor, too, was different there.

'I repeat, please mind that small gap, don't sit there, and don't place any personal belongings on it. It will play a part tonight. That said, we hope you enjoy our show, and welcome to the Moulin Rouge!'

'I think my skin just crawled,' Malfoy said matter-of-factly.

'I didn't know you liked the sensitive type, Hermione.' Ron snorted. 'You could have tricked us, with Krum.'

Hermione glared daggers in his direction. Malfoy furrowed his brow. 'Krum? Victor Krum?'

'Will you behave?!' Ginny snapped. Harry was focused on a certain someone sitting beside Dumbledore.

Proving Lisa right, as soon as everybody had quieted down, the gap creaked and rose, breaking the rows in two halves with a divide that went up to Harry's elbow. He exchanged an amused glance with Neville, who sat to his right.

'I suppose this is where we go our separate ways,' Neville shrugged nonchalantly.

'Oh, but won't you fight for me?!' Harry sighed dramatically.

'Shh!'

The candles above them were dimming. A few giggles and whispers later, the audience was finally quiet and wrapped in darkness. A few irregular knocks on wood signalled the beginning this was explained by Hermione in a nearly inaudible murmur and another voice, a male one, spoke up, 'This story is about a love. The woman I loved... is...' There was a deep breath. 'dead.'

'This was a comedy, they'd said?' Malfoy whispered.

A few scattered spots of light glimmered faintly in the dark and a stronger voice took over, 'There was a boy, a very strange, enchanted boy...'

The glimmering lights were brighter. They were candles, emerging around them.

'...a little shy, and sad of eye...'

Ginny grinned at Harry. 'Did the muggles write a musical about you?'

'But very wise was he...'

Ginny smirked. 'Forget what I said.'

'And then one day, one magic day he passed my way...'

The candles descended to the floor and circled them. The audience seats moved, so that rather than face the doors to the Entrance Hall, they now faced the stage, hidden from their sight by an auburn curtain, where the staff table used to be. The seats approached it, and, as they did, Harry saw that the walls, too, were covered in curtains, giving off the illusion that the Great Hall was much smaller than its actual size.

'This he said to me...'

The candles glided slowly to the front of the audience, some of them sliding by Harry's elbow, which rested on the wooden divide, and adjourned on the edge of the stage.

'The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love, and be loved,' The voice rose to a bellow. 'in return!' A musical crescendo accompanied these words, and flames rose up from a few candles, twirling against the red background to form the words,

'Paris
1900'

The candles dimmed again, until only these two words burned midair, and then even they vanished as the curtain rose and the first act began.

For an hour or so, they were treated to what was surely the most colourful experience of their lives. The Bohemians seemed to have exhausted the twins' stock of fireworks. Harry missed most of it, melancholy as he was, but some of the effects were were so nicely done that even he paid attention once in a while.

Terry Boot and Mandy Brocklehurst had been cast as Christian and Satine, the romantic leads. Terry, who, according to Hermione, would look handsome in a bin liner, looked incredibly fetching no matter the costume. Mandy was clearly having a ball with her sumptuous wardrobe, oblivious to the contempt some elderly members of the staff felt for the sparse fabric in it. Jaws went slack when she made her entrance swinging above them in a sequined top and the shortest skirt Harry had ever seen. Parvati informed them that the skirt had been a last minute addition demanded by the staff. Either way, it was a joy to behold the pair.

There were swoons from all corners when Terry sang Your Song, along with coos and whistles from the boys, at the sight of Mandy's see-through nightgown. Hermione, who knew almost every song by heart, sang along with Christian. Beside her, Malfoy huffed.

Surprisingly, the biggest ovation so far went to Professor Flitwick, who barged in irrecognisably, with curly black hair and the oddest wardrobe, introducing himself as 'Henri Marie Raymond Toulouse-Lautrec-Mooooontfa.'

Harry was incredibly bored during the Spectacular, Spectacular sequence.

'You're just too impatient tonight, Harry,' Hermione reproached him.

'Hermione, this number is just too long.'

'Well, it didn't focus on the scantily clad Mandy, so I can see why you don't like it.' Ginny grinned.

Draco pulled Hermione back onto her seat with a scowl. 'Will the lot of you shut up? They're going at it again,' he snapped. Onstage, the Elephant Love Medley started.

'It's a musical, Malfoy, it's meant to have lots of songs,' Ron snarked.

'Good grief, is that an elephant?!'

'Shush!' Ginny glared at them.

'... you're going to be bad for business. I can tell,' Satine predicted, before kissing Christian. The curtain fell, and Lisa spoke up again.

'There will be a short intermission now. If you leave the room, please be back within six minutes.'

Most people chose to stay and comment on the first part. A scattered few walked around to talk with their mates, and just a few left the Hall. Among them was Harry.

'Don't be long, Harry, it's a short intermission,' Hermione reminded him.

'Yeah, if... I'm a little late, don't worry. I need to stretch my legs.'

'Harry...' she whispered warningly.

'I'm not really in the mood for this, Hermione. Don't worry about me. I'll be right back.'

Malfoy put an arm on Hermione's shoulder and tapped his foot impatiently, glaring at her.

Harry squeezed himself along the row, with Ron, who wanted to go backstage again.

'Won't that bother them?' Hermione shouted after them.

'They're just resting for a moment,' he told her, apparently very well informed about the Bohemians' activities.

'Tell Luna she was great!' Ginny requested. 'Is the Green Fairy showing up again?'

'Don't think so,' Ron climbed down the stairs as Harry slipped out of the Hall.

Hermione eyed him warily. Malfoy tapped her cheek with his index finger. 'You must be Miss Granger. Nice to meet you. I'm The Neglected Boyfriend.'

Just outside the Entrance Hall, Harry met with two Quidditch players, with whom he chatted for a bit. Eventually, the corridor emptied and Harry paced about, pensive and alone, recognising the last bars of Like a Virgin blaring beyond the wall. Aunt Petunia listened to that song quite a lot, when Uncle Vernon was out of earshot.

He sighed, crestfallen, wondering if he could just skip the second half without being noticed, when someone else came out of the Entrance Hall and walked up to him. It was he. Harry gazed at him, not quite knowing what to say. Severus' gaze was so stern that Harry had the instant urge to defend himself, even before an accusation was made.

'Never knew I could feel like this...' Mandy was singing.

'You shouldn't be wandering alone at this time of the night,' Severus said bluntly.

'What do you care, either way?' Harry mumbled. He regretted his words instantly.

'I need a word with you,' Severus went on, unfazed.

'About what?

'Your godfather.'

Sweet Merlin, not again. 'Leave me alone. I left you. I kept my word,' Harry mumbled thickly.

'I didn't.'

Harry blinked. 'You didn't what?'

'... enjoy what happened to your godfather.'

'Every day I love you more and more.'


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