Havoc of the Opera
Chapter 23 - Intermission
Harry thought he might lose his balance. 'Are you trying to drive me mad?'
Severus shook his head negatively.
'I wished him dead more than once. I fantasised about it almost my whole life,' Severus deadpanned absolutely indifferently. ''But not when it happened.'
'Why not?' Harry murmured.
Severus had apparently thought that his previous answer would be enough for Harry, for he seemed to be searching for the right words.
'You were so thoroughly destroyed by what happened that I can only think of one person who might have taken any joy from it. I am not that person.'
'Suddenly my life doesn't seem such a waste...'
Harry actually felt faint, and there were no dementors around to serve as an excuse. He walked up to the wall and sat on the floor, looking up. The stone against his back vibrated with the music that blared beyond it.
'It all revolves around you.'
'Why are you telling me this now?'
'As I recall, you were very upset when we last talked about it, and I might not have a chance to clarify this later.'
'Perhaps now our conversation won't be such a painful memory to you.'
'It was a memory. Better than nothing,' Harry said halfheartedly. 'Are you leaving? Now?'
Harry gulped. 'Weren't you leaving tomorrow?'
'There's been a slight change of plans.'
'Will you be back soon?'
'Probably,' Severus countered dismissively. 'Why aren't you inside?'
'I'm not really in the mood for romance,' Harry confessed. A heavy silence followed.
'... I'll love you, until the end of time.'
'I have to go,' Severus eventually pointed out.
'Go back inside.'
'I don't like this ending,' Justin wheezed.
Severus glanced warily at him and turned to leave. Harry itched to jump up and stop him, he had to say something to make him want to stay, but nothing came to mind. The one word that could sum up how he felt slipped out of his lips before he knew they had formed it.
In the Great Hall, although the audience loathed Justin Finch-Fletchley's Duke, it loved his turn in Like a Virgin, a duet with Ernie McMillan's Harry Zidler. There was instant applause when the curtain fell on them and another rose from the sidewall, showing the romantic leads composing their love song, Come What May.
Malfoy furrowed his brow at them. 'This one might actually be sappier than ours.'
'I like this number already,' Ron grinned at Malfoy's pained expression.
'Seasons may change, winter to spring, but I'll love you until the end of time.'
Malfoy actually cringed. Hermione smiled at him.
'Aww, poor him...' Ginny cooed at Terry.
'Professor Dumbledore says Mr Luhrman really wants to make a film out of this script. I hope he casts Ewan McGregor as Christian,' Hermione mused.
'Who's that?' Malfoy snapped.
'Oh.' Hermione started, looking right ahead. 'No-one.'
'And there's no mountain too high, no river too wide...' The audience glided towards the main stage again, as more actors entered the scene and the couple, disappearing briefly, popped up in their midst, already in different costumes.
'Sing out this song and I'll be there by your side...'
'No, Dean, I won't,' Ginny said plainly, as Dean looked wistfully at her.
'But I'll love you until the end of time...'
'Wait...' Harry cursed himself instantly for letting his voice falter. It was just one word... others would have to follow.
Severus stopped in his tracks, but he didn't turn.
'Can't... can't you stay just another minute?'
'I don't have much time.'
'People will notice if you leave before the performance is over.'
'I hardly think I'll be missed.'
'I'll miss you,' Harry blurted out without thinking.
'You promised me you wouldn't be jealous...' Mandy whispered to a brokenhearted Christian.
Severus turned to face him. Harry braced himself on his knees.
'Love'll drive you mad!'
'I can't stay.'
'You don't care if it's wrong or if it's right!'
'Don't do that.'
Harry took a deep breath and sat up. Severus resumed his walk down the corridor.
'It's more than I can stand!' Terry bellowed inside.
'Why does my heart cry?'
Severus raised his eyes to the ceiling and back to Harry. 'It should never have come to this.'
'Feelings I can't fight!'
Harry gulped and said nothing.
'I shouldn't have come to you.'
'I'm happy you did,' Harry said quietly.
'...believe me when I say I love you!'
'You're not happy at all.'
'It gave me another minute with you.'
Severus stared at him. 'I should never have touched you.'
'But you did, and I liked it.'
'I really must go.'
'I'll wait for you.'
'But just don't deceive me...'
'You gave me your word.'
'I might have to break it,' Harry said boldly.
'I don't want to have to see you when I'm back,' Severus snapped.
Harry stood frozen, eyes set on the billowing robes that trailed away from him, out of his life.
'Wait,' he murmured as an afterthought, but Severus didn't stop walking. 'Be careful.'
'Believe me when I say I love you!'
It was useless to prolong the torment. He might actually lose his voice with the effort to keep it under control. Harry took a few, slow, steps up the corridor. He really didn't want to go back inside.
The hand that brushed the back of his neck stopped him in his tracks even before it pressed on his shoulder. The body behind his made him spin on his heels even before he knew it was there. Another hand hovered just under his ear, as though in doubt about whether to touch him or not.
Harry took the initiative in its stead. He grabbed the front of Severus' robes so forcefully that he was actually thrown backwards, slamming them both against the wall. He hardly felt it scraping against his aching back. He was being kissed. Or rather, crushed, smashed, smothered in an embrace that barely left him room to breathe. A loud meowl broke them apart. Mrs Norris sat on the steps to the Entrance Hall, watching them intently.
'It'll call Filch,' Harry heard himself say as though from a distance, but he didn't try to slip out of the embrace. Neither did Severus.
'It never tells on the teachers,' Severus informed him, casting the poor cat a venomous glance. Yet, he didn't resume the kiss. He appeared to have realised what they were doing. A ridiculously insane idea flitted into Harry's mind.
'Don't go,' he whispered against Severus' lips. He was pushed further against the wall in response. Everybody but them was in the Great Hall. Even the ghosts... would he dare?
He found that he would when Mrs Norris meowled again, reminding him of how preciously fleeting that moment was. Severus's hold was already beginning to slacken. Harry gripped him as fiercely as he could.
'Lead the way,' he requested, he ordered, in a tone that he had never used before. Severus gazed at him quizzically, but that was, apparently, all the invitation he needed, for he swiftly pushed Harry through a small door at the end of the corridor. Harry vaguely recognised the room as the one he had been sent to when he was chosen as Hogwarts' champion. Judging from the sheer amount of clothing neatly stacked everywhere, it had been turned into a dressing room for the Bohemians. The Great Hall was just beyond the wall...
'Tonight is the night when dreaming ends...' Mandy sobbed onstage.
Harry took a deep breath and pulled Severus into a searing, bruising kiss. Their last. He all but tried to pour his soul, his mind, into his mouth, he wished he could mingle them with Severus', somehow.
'Another hero, another mindless crime...'
Harry tugged at Severus' coat, untucking his shirt, making his cloak billow around them. Severus' fingertips brushed the corners of Harry's mouth, pressed them, were moistened by Harry's tongue, their lips no longer enough to sate the need that had erupted.
'On and on, does anybody know what we are living for...'
Belts were unfastened, trousers carelessly unbuttoned, fabric tugged and stretched just a bit, just enough for their skin to meet, just enough for the heat of both bodies to travel across that sliver.
'Another heartache, another failed romance...'
Harry tangled his fingers on Severus' hair, pulling it, grazing his throat with his teeth. He drew in a sharp breath upon finding himself spun to face the wall. The move was so brusque that he slammed against the stone, and this time, it didn't hurt more solely because he had been through worse in Quidditch. He braced his head on his arms and waited, in the fleeting, darkened silence that followed. His only connection with the world was the feeling of Severus' fingers digging into his hips.
'... does anybody know what we are living for...'
The seats moved so that they were almost level with the floor, and the divide creaked and squirmed, breaking them into two large groups. Ginny, who had been spoofing the songs with Neville, had to let go of his hand abruptly. She lost her balance and nearly toppled over. Malfoy stretched forward to grab the hood of her cloak, pulling her back into her place. She thanked him quietly and returned her attention to the stage.
'The show must go on...'
Hermione crossed her arms and scowled at Malfoy. He held her gaze.
'You might as well have fallen onto her lap.'
'Oh, jealous...!' He grinned, sliding an arm around her waist to tickle her sides.
'Yes.' Ron sighed. 'Please.'
'The show must go on...'
Malfoy leaned in to kiss her, but he reeled back into his place when the seats spun slowly, a long corridor forming between them, from the stage to the doors.
'Outside the dawn is breaking on the stage...'
'... that holds our final destiny!'
The keening sound that was wrenched from Harry's throat, echoing his vulnerability to the very edges of the room, was so helpless that Severus actually eased his hold on him. But Harry reached behind himself to pull him closer, gripping him as tightly as he could. No words were needed.
'The show must go on...'
Severus' hand reaching around his neck, his head dropping back against Severus' shoulder, lips whispering something nonsensical against his ear to help him calm down, his own hands grasping at the fabric of Severus' robes...
'The show must go on...'
Heavy breathing, gasps that couldn't be repressed escaping their mouths, hands sliding under clothing, running roughly across moist skin, muscles tightening, quivering...
'Inside my heart is breaking...
Dragging his teeth along Severus' neck, mouthing 'I love you,' against his skin, because even if he wasn't allowed to voice them, he didn't want the words to go unsaid...
'My make-up may be flaking...'
Laying guilty, feverish kisses on his skin, breathing out his thoughts against his mouth... 'I love you,' even if he couldn't hear it...
'But my smile still stays on...'
Lips closing eagerly against lips, hemlines chafing against tense skin, bodies pressing together, closing out the chilling air of the empty room, Severus craddling Harry's head to his neck to shield it from further harm...
'The show must go on...'
Letting out a drawn out wail, promptly smothered by a mouth as eager as his, pouring an assortment of undignified sounds into each others' mouths...
'I'll top the bill, I'll earn the kill...'
Feeling Severus' head droop against the nape of his neck as they slid down the wall, catching their breath, unwilling to let go...
'I have to find the will to carry on...'
Disentangling themselves from one another silently, eyes downcast, lips pursed...
'With the show...'
Locking eyes just once more before opening the door and stepping back into the corridor, leaving a stack of Ravenclaw uniforms in serious need of ironing as sole trace of their presence...
'...with the show!'
Sitting stubbornly on the floor and watching him leave.
Mandy walked tearfully along the corridor towards the doors, which opened smoothly for her.
'...with the show!' The doors slammed shut behind her, echoing ominously for a moment, and reopening to let her in, walking to the curtain on her left, which rose to reveal Terry staring thoughtfully out a window.
Justin wasn't even onstage, and still he was booed, as Satine clumsily tried to convince Christian that she no longer cared for him.
'Poor Christian...' Lavender muttered.
Draco rolled his eyes. 'What a pair of bleeding idiots!'
'You're very uppity, for someone who goes down a catacomb, alone, to play the hero.' Parvati glared at him.
'The truth is that I am the Hindu courtesan... and I choose the maharajah,' Satine said firmly, taking her leave with a stunned Christian gaping at her back.
Harry scanned the seats for his mates' location and climbed discreetly up the stairs, sitting beside Ginny just as the seats glided to the side, to show them an anguished Christian being comforted by his friends.
'Harry!' Hermione exclaimed.
'I was just going to say that you just lost--'
'I know what I lost,' he said somberly. She gazed at him, full of concern.
He couldn't bring himself to focus on the plot. Satine pushed her lover away and made up with him in a way that was just too offensively easy, and Harry couldn't be bothered to care for them. He had almost dozed off when Mandy stepped onstage in a lovely white dress that drew whistles from the boldest members of the audience.
He liked the final chorus with the leads and the bohemians, but he hated the death scene. Death tearing people apart had never been a remotely comfortable issue for him. Malfoy, too, disliked the scene, albeit for a different reason.
The curtain had fallen between them and the play-within-a-play, and the stage had drawn so close to the audience that the curtain flew over them, revealing the cast 'backstage'. Terry held Mandy's lifeless body to his chest, drawing out a hysterical cry that seemed to have been ripped from his deepest confines, and Malfoy actually laughed. Hermione elbowed him with a ferocious glare. He smothered his laughter behind his hand, apologising at last, when his speech returned. And then he snorted.
'But he cries in a funny way! It's not my fault!'
'What a charmer, Hermione,' Ron tossed over his shoulder.
Harry fidgeted and sighed, trying to will the curtains shut again. An eternity had elapsed when the play, a story about people, but above all, a story about love, a love that would live forever, finally ended, earning massive applause.
The chorus and the stand-ins came out first, then the supporting actors, and finally, one by one, the leads. There were swoons from the younger years when Mandy, the last to come out and bow, threw herself in Justin's arms, planting a kiss on his cheek. The duke had got his courtesan, at last. He hugged her tightly, twirled her around, and offered his hand to Terry, so that the three of them could thank the audience together. With a final collective bow, and a polite kiss on the hand from Terry to Mandy, and another from Ernie to Lisa Turpin, who had played Nini Legs-in-the-air, the curtain finally fell.
Moulin Rouge was the talk of the school during the next few days. Terry was their new hearthrob, and Mandy, the younger girls' new idol. Lisa got her fair share of highly inappropriate looks from her housemates, and there were even a few fans left for Justin. Ernie shrugged off the compliments on his turn as 'just the result of very hard work' and Luna walked around serenely, as if there weren't catcalls wherever she stepped. Well, she probably really didn't hear them, anyway. She acknowledged a compliment only once, when Ron reassured her that she had been great.
As their own performance approached, the Classicals began to feel the weight of the expectations. Quidditch practice was called off, Blaise worked almost exclusively with the younger years, who were going to provide the chorus. The cast worked frenziedly on their lines, as everybody seemed to have been suddenly obliviated. Ron and the twins owled each other back and forth to sort out a few snags with the special effects.
Hermione would have had a prompt heart failure at this if she wasn't so busy making up for lost time with Harry. They had a week to rehearse what she and Snape had worked on for three months. Harry didn't even have the time to be miserable.
Malfoy wasn't at all fond of their proximity, so he often joined them, under the pretext that he, too, had to work with Harry on the Phantom's scenes with Raoul. Even Pansy and Neville had made a truce for the rehearsals' sake, though that could have been due to Blaise's exemplary lecture when they bickered for the umpteenth time in one afternoon. No-one could lecture quite as a Slytherin. The last fireworks arrived at last, on Saturday. The twins brought them personally. They wanted to test them properly, as they were sure the prior problems had been due to Ron's lack of experience. That was all Ron needed to take it out on Nott, when they interacted as Lefèvre and Reyer. It was chaos.
When the day of the performance arrived, much too swiftly for their taste, they all gathered in the Great Hall, readying the stage, checking the costumes one last time, running their lines without glancing at the script, setting the effects and having fits every five minutes.
So much so that, taking advantage of the sunny Sunday peeking at them through the windows and the enchanted ceiling, Malfoy and Harry pestered Hermione until she allowed them an hour of Quidditch practice.
She still had to tell Blaise about it, and Malfoy went with her, complaining that if he knew she would instantly let them go upon seeing Harry pout, he needn't have bothered whinging for two hours. In the meantime, Harry, also eager to actually feel the sun on his skin, made his way to the pitch, valiantly ignoring Mrs Norris' impertinent gaze as he walked along the corridors.
Malfoy arrived just after he did, in a terribly bad mood. Hermione had probably voiced her opinions on their twisted priorities. Harry felt momentarily sorry for him, but they still hated each other, so, he focused on flying. He almost felt as though he couldn't even pick up the broom properly anymore.
They flew randomly for a bit, racing each other, attempting civilised conversation in the few moments when they weren't insulting each others' ancestors at the sight of the snitch. Both had a good time. The prospect of the dress rehearsal made them shudder in unison.
They were unwillingly starting to think about going back inside, when the snitch twisted out of their reach and sped across the pitch at such speed that they had trouble ascertaining where it had gone. In the blink of an eye, they ran after it at the speed of lightning.
Harry, squinting against the sunlight that hit his eyes, stretched as far as he could, Malfoy mimicking his moves on his right, both reaching for the little ball that winked playfully at them, just there...
...and then Harry froze midair, his hand trembling on the broom's handle. For the first time that year, his scar had flared to life. The sunny day dimmed, giving way to a vision, a dark vision of a tall, pale man, and another one reverently on his knees. The vision was gone in a flash, but not before Harry saw the outline of the kneeling man twisting in agony, a wand pointed at him. As the man squirmed, so Harry's scar seemed to do, burning, hurting, snapping as though trying to come out of his head. The vision was gone, but Harry couldn't see the pitch. There were black spots, red spots, and white ones, the pain on his forehead blinded him, spread down his face, and his neck, along his body, as if he were on fire.
A particularly harsh twinge of pain made his already fragile mind reel, and he relinquished his hold on the broom without thinking, clutching his forehead, trying to soothe the pain somehow, but it only worsened, until Harry saw only black. All he felt as he fell off his broom was the cold air against his blistering skin.
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