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Ariel & Gobuss
| Chapter 33 - "Let's have a party!" Part 1 |
Beta Reader: EvangelineFox
Thank you girls!
33. Let's have a party!
Time for parties and celebration
people dancing all night longtime for present
sand exchanging kisses
time for singing Christmas songs*
When Harry entered the Great Hall, he immediately noticed one thing - Snape wasn't here… again. He hadn't seen him either at breakfast or at lunch, or at this damned dinner.
There were only two days of school left before Christmas break. The students were talking excitedly about their plans, Hermione and Ron sat leaning towards each other, whispering something to each other.
The boy looked around and smiled to Luna, standing behind him.
"Oh, hey," he said.
"Are you going to the Christmas party?" the Ravenclaw asked, coming closer and sending a radiant smile his way. "I can't wait. You too?"
"Uh..." Harry blinked, surprised by the joyful zeal which he had heard in her voice. Since when has Luna started looking forward to some student event? Usually she shunned this type of thing, preferring instead to chase after Hogwarts' magical creatures that only she knew. On the other hand, even Neville had told him that he was going to come, so it seemed that about half the school was planning on attending. Originally, it was supposed to be only for a handful of people.
"Finally, we will be able to drink Butterbeer together," she smiled.
Oh yes! Butterbeer! Harry had totally forgot about it.
"Right. And considering what Tonks said, maybe even something stronger," he grinned.
Luna blushed slightly in response and looked away.
Harry looked at her with astonishment. Had he said something improper? He'd only mentioned some stronger drinks and...
He glanced at the teacher's table.
...Tonks. Tonks looked as if she had just turned her head in the opposite direction and hurriedly began to tell something to Professor Sprout who was sitting beside her.
He looked back at Luna, who had already walked a few steps towards the Ravenclaw table.
"Well... see you," she waved and disappeared from his view.
It was... odd, even for her.
Harry shrugged and headed for the Gryffindor table, quickly forgetting about the Butterbeer, about Luna, and began to wonder how to get Severus to eat his meals. He didn't like that the man didn't care about himself. He remembered how Severus had made him eat dinner when Harry'd spent the whole day locked in the Room of Requirement.
That's it! He would ask Dobby for help and then he’d bring the food to Severus! Anyway, he had to talk to him about his holiday plans and visit Hogsmeade. Yesterday he'd completely forgotten about it, too busy imagining that Snape betrayed him, and then getting fucked by him on the desk. Even though later they went into the bedroom, it was still hard to concentrate on anything because Harry wasn't wearing pants, and Snape seemed to have great fun tormenting him. "Hmm, your pants? It seems that they are not here, Potter. I'm afraid you'll have to return without them."
'Very funny,' he thought.
But Harry was very determined, so he began to circle through the room and look for his trousers until he found them in one of the lower cabinet shelves in the corner. When he angrily returned to the chair, the one thing he wanted was to get back at Snape, so he asked: "Do you really do the same thing as me at night? Tell me about it, I'm willing to listen." And til' now he had forgotten that horrible feeling of humiliation until he heard Snape's answer: "Yes, Potter. I sleep. I didn't know it fascinated you that much. "And then the bastard even had the audacity to sneer!
But all these events seemed to fade in the face of what had happened before, in the face of what he had done with Snape and what he had heard from him. So far, he couldn't believe it, and sometimes wondered if he hadn't misheard, if it wasn't simply his exuberant imagination.
There is only you, Potter.
At the mere thought of this, something shifted in his stomach. He felt as though something inside of him began pouring a wave of pure heat through him, and the heat sailed to his mouth, creating a decadent smile across his face.
He was the only one. Severus fucked only him. Only, exclusively him!
He felt so happy that he wanted to sing under his breath and jump like Luna.
When he sat at the table and greeted his friends, who, blushing slightly, broke off from each other and stared seriously at their plates, his hand immediately went to his pocket.
I need to talk to you about something urgent, Severus. May I come to you after dinner?
He recieved the answer only towards the end of the meal:
‘If you must...’
Harry smiled to himself, but then sighed heavily.
Now he just had to wait long enough to deal with the stairs...
After dinner, he called Dobby and asked him to bring him another portion of food from the kitchen, because he was still hungry and wanted to eat in bed. He told his friends that he would return in the evening because he wanted to go and visit Hagrid, then threw the Invisibility cloak on himself and went to the dungeon with a plate and with the belief that he would succeed.
He took off his cloak in the office, put it into his pocket and, holding a steaming plate, knocked at Severus' chambers. When the door opened, he smiled broadly and said:
"Good evening, Severus."
The man blinked and narrowed his eyes, looking first at Harry's grinning face, and then at the plate.
"What is it?" he growled.
Without waiting for an invitation, Harry slipped past him and put food on the table.
"You haven't been in the Great Hall for a while, so I started to worry about you. You don't care about yourself at all, Severus. So I decided to bring you dinner. I hope that you like roast meat. " He smiled, straightening up and looking at Snape's door closing.
The man frowned and looked at the plate on the table, then at Harry, then again at the plate, and again at Harry. Surprise on his face slowly turned into something that the boy had never seen before and therefore he couldn't name.
Severus licked his lips and cleared his throat.
"I don't know what made you think that since I don't turn up for meals, I'm likely dying of hunger here, but I want to assure you that I eat on a regular basis thanks to the courtesy of the castle House elves, whose services, I can see, you use as well.
"I didn't think about it," he said softly, lowering his head.
"Well, I'm not surprised," Snape replied, walking over to his green chair.
Harry was angry with himself for having made such a fool of himself. It was obvious that if Severus wasn't eating, he would have started to look like one of those skeletons found in the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. Harry reached for the plate, to take it away, but Severus grabbed his hand.
"But since you've brought it, we shouldn't waste it," he waved his wand and one of the lockers flew open and a second plate landed on the table. Snape divided roast into two portions and gestured to Harry toward the second chair. The boy sat down hesitantly, feeling a strange heat in his stomach when he realized that he was about to eat dinner with Severus. He watched as the man brought two glasses and a bottle of red wine.
Harry leaned over his portion. For the first time, he ate a meal with Severus. It was... amazing. Almost as if they were a real... couple, he thought, blushing. He glanced at Severus who paid attention only to chewing his roast and sipping his wine. If he wanted to accomplish his goals, he had to take action now, while Snape was busy eating. With his mouth full he couldn't yell at him. That increased his chances.
"Um," he cleared his throat, straightening in his chair and taking a deep breath. "In fact... I came because I wanted to talk to you about something, Severus."
The man didn't look at him.
"I realized that the "urgent" issue you wished to discuss wasn't the frequency of my meals."
"No. I mean, that too, but... Oh, I just wanted to talk to you about the holidays."
Snape's hand froze halfway to his mouth. His fingers tightened around his fork. Piercing eyes narrowed and stared at Harry, as if wanting to break through Harry's thoughts, through his mind.
"From what I hear, you're going to the Weasleys. So I see no reason why you would want to talk to me about that unless you wanted to learn some effective way to stop them from breeding at such an alarming rate and pouring more red-haired incompetent imbeciles into the Wizarding World.
Harry rolled his eyes.
Oh, why did Severus have to make everything so complicated?
"Actually, Dumbledore suggested that I should stay at Hogwarts for holidays," Harry replied, glaring at him.
For a moment there was silence. Snape seemed to be unmoved by this news. He raised one eyebrow, looking at Harry expectantly.
Harry cleared his throat.
"I decided to stay."
The man narrowed his eyes and stared even more intently at Harry.
"And what does this have to do with me?"
"Well... ugh..." the boy squirmed under the influence of that gaze, feeling he was beginning to lose his courage. He had to say it until he lost all of it. "Well, I thought that I could spend holidays with... y-you."
Severus' eyes widened for a moment, then turned into black tunnels hurling bolts of lightning.
"No, you could not," Snape drawled, putting so much conviction into each word, as if his life depended on it.
Harry felt an unpleasant chill pierce his heart.
"Finally I have the opportunity to rest from irresponsible students who are unable to use their brains, and who derive pleasure from persecuting me, so I will not let some horny brat stutter under my feet and spoil my well deserved vacation."
Harry exhaled sharply.
"I will not stutter under your feet. I... and it's not the point! And I'm not a brat!" he growled, irritated with Snape's response. "I just... I want us to spend these few days together. I don't want to be somewhere else. I want to be with you."
Severus tightened his lips.
"Enough," he growled and went back to eating, as if he considered the subject closed.
Harry frowned. Plan A hadn't worked. Time to turn to Plan B, a plan which had been devised by the Slytherin part of him. Regardless of how much he hated and denied his Slytherin side, sometimes it was very useful.
He leaned back in his chair and sighed.
"Oh, too bad... It seems I will have to spend Christmas with the Weasleys, after all. I will go to the Headmaster immediately and tell him that I won't be staying at Hogwarts."
Severus suddenly jerked his head and looked at Harry with surprise in his eyes. But it was only a glimpse of it - and apparently he was able to quickly master himself, because his features sharpened, and his face contorted angrily. He glared back at the plate and began to eat, but Harry saw that the wrinkle between his brows deepened considerably.
It was a strange reaction. Snape looked... mad? But why? He should probably be glad. Or maybe he was just surprised that Harry had finally given up? After a moment of staring openly, Harry decided that it would be better to go on with his plan, because he had almost forgotten what he wanted to say.
He looked into the fire, shrugged his shoulders indifferently and, trying to sound careless, continued:
"Mrs. Weasley and Ginny will be happy if I come to them. I'll ask Ginny to bake these cookies that I love. I just hope that she won't want to feed them to me again..." out of the corner of his eye, he glanced at Severus, who stopped chewing and looked like he was wondering if it'd be better to finish the meal, in the process breaking his teeth which he clenched in attempt to control himself, or to spit out what he had in mouth and throw himself at Harry.
The boy smiled to himself at that thought. He had already created a small gap, but now he had to drill on, until Severus fell into his trap.
"The worst will be that damned mistletoe, which Mrs. Weasley just loves to put up in every possible doorway. I will have to be very careful not to stumble upon Ginny. And if I don't succeed, then... Well, it would be foolish to refuse... I wouldn't want to hurt her fee..."
His arguments were interrupted suddenly by a loud bang.
"Enough," Snape hissed, taking his hand off the table which he had just struck. "If this is the only way to silence you, Potter, then..."
"So I can stay?" Harry interrupted, unable to resist a cheerful smile.
Severus gave him a murderous look.
"For your information, I'm not going to..."
"Oh, thank you!" Harry beamed, not letting him finish. "I promise that I will be so quiet, you won't even notice me. I can even cast a Silencing spell on myself. I won't disturb you. I just... want to be with you," he finished, feeling a pleasant warmth in his stomach, warmth which moved through his whole body, penetrating his heart.
He succeeded! He was going to spend the holidays with Severus! He wanted to jump for joy, but he knew that if he tried to do it, Snape may very quickly change his mind. Anyway, this was only half the battle. There was one more thing.
"Um... I would also like to tell you that..." come on! Say it! "...I won't be able to come tomorrow for the detention." Seeing that the man's eyes changed from a murderous to completely lethal, he added quickly: "Tonks is orginising a Christmas party tomorrow in Hogsmeade. Everyone will be there and I also would like to go. I thought that... if I ask... I..." Harry was slowly becoming flustered under the influence of Snape's dark gaze. He gathered himself together and said: "Surely you've heard about it. Dumbledore said that you will be also putting the protective barriers with other teachers, so I know I'll be safe. I really want to go. I hope you're not angry."
Severus finally broke away from his eyes and snorted:
"Why should I be angry if you want to waste the whole evening on stupid dances and meaningless chatter in company of your pathetic friends and that pink-haired ignorant who can't distinguish Erumpent's shell from her own ass?"
Harry sighed in frustration.
"Oh, you are angry, after all."
The man snorted again and looked into the fire. Harry tried to ease the situation:
"I'll be fine. Don't worry."
Severus gave him another unpleasant look, but this time he didn't comment. Harry took that as permission, but didn't say anything else, knowing that Snape was still on the edge of explosion.
It was amazing. There were days when this man would do anything to not allow Harry to experience a pleasant evening, and possibly even add additional work, to destroy all his plans. But now...
Harry felt a pleasant warmth inside. His eyes smiled when he looked at the dark silhouette of the Potions Master, whose robes were casting quivering shadows by the flames in the fireplace.
He felt that he was getting closer. Getting closer to breaking through the light-absorbing, narrowed eyes, reaching through the collar of the buttoned up black coat; closer to stroking the soft hair surrounding the face and wrapping his hand around the beating heart. He wanted to grab it tightly, to press it to his chest like his greatest treasure, and then curl up around it and listen to its slow, soothing beats. And never, ever allow anyone to take it from him.
He sighed deeply and forced himself to tear his eyes from Severus and look into the fire.
Soon, he would win. He knew he was getting closer. He sensed it.
"Oh, look at this!" Strong as steel, interspersed with unicorn hair, ebony handle, twigs made of specially selected Trembling Poplar, closely related to Whomping Willow, which will ensure that no one will stop you. "Oh, my beauty..." Ron whispered, gazing as if bewitched at the exhibition before him; Quidditch brooms from the latest series of Nimbus, called 'Ray'.
Harry nodded, though he still preferred his 'Firebolt'. He began to feel tired of being in Hogsmeade with Ron and tried to think of something to get away from him. Hermione had already made it. She used the opportunity and settled in the first bookstore they encountered. But Harry couldn't do anything like that. He was still under observation by Professor Flitwick, who was walking behind him like a shadow with a mission to protect him during their Christmas shopping in the village of wizards.
Harry sighed in frustration and looked around at the streets filled with witches, wizards and Hogwarts students. The snow was falling so thickly and packing so tightly, as if it decided to fill up every available surface, making it difficult to go through snowdrifts. From time to time, Harry heard Christmas songs, but he couldn't make out the sources of them in the surrounding wall of snow.
"Let's go inside!" Ron screamed and ran to the store. Harry sighed in resignation and shuffled behind him. As they stepped inside, Professor Flitwick joined them, smiling in embarrassment at him. Apparently he also didn't like walking in lockstep with Potter, but he couldn't break the order of the Headmaster.
Harry turned his back on him and gritted his teeth in impotent rage. How the hell was he supposed to buy a gift for Snape in such circumstances? Especially since he didn't even know what he wanted to give him. He needed some time alone so he can choose something in peace and not be afraid that everyone would start to attack him with questions like "Who is it for?"
He looked longingly at the window and blinked, seeing a massive silhouette of Hagrid passing next to the store. A light flared up his mind. Not paying attention to Ron, who was snooping around Quidditch things, he quietly fell out of the shop, slipped on the snow and fell right at Hagrid's fur coat.
"Be careful, Harry, if you fall into the snow, there will be nothing left of you to collect," Hagrid grinned, putting him back on his feet and patting him on the back, which resulted in Harry having the impression that his lungs had been shifted.
"Can I come with you for a little bit? "Harry blurted out, hearing the patter of Professor of Enchantment running after him. "I have a few things to buy, and Ron can't be pulled away from all that," he explained, pointing at behind him.
"Oh, Potter," Flitwick wheezed, stopping at the Gryffindor. "You can't perform such violent uprisings. You're hindering this task. Oh, hello, Hagrid."
"Hello, Professor. Harry asked me to escort him a bit. It's probably not a problem?"
Flitwick looked at him and grimaced:
"Try not to lose him on the way. And lead him back to Hogwarts later. This snow is filling up my nose!" the teacher muttered, turning away and retreating in his characteristic duck step.
Harry grinned at his friend.
"You're welcome, Harry. I wouldn't be too thrilled either if someone was always on my heels. How are you?"
They moved slowly along the crowded street. Traveling with Hagrid was so much simpler, because everyone got out of the way. Harry wasn't worried about Ron. He was so preoccupied with Quidditch that by the time he even noticed his absence, Harry would probably have already managed to arrange everything and get back.
"It's fine, except that they all treat me like I am a goddamn golden egg. Fragile and precious."
"And you're wondering why, Harry? After this attack on you? Fortunately, you survived and can now talk with me here. After what has been going on lately in the Forbidden Forest, I'd lock you up at Hogwarts and wouldn't let you creep out or even show your nose outside its walls if I were the Headmaster!"
"And what is going on in the Forbidden Forest?"
Hagrid frowned, as if he was angry with himself.
"Again, I said too much..." he muttered.
"Hagrid," Harry said with emphasis. "What is going on in the Forbidden Forest? If this is something dangerous, I should probably know about it, so I can be prepared, right? Please, don't treat me like a child like the rest of them."
Hagrid stopped and sighed heavily.
"Well, okay... But you can't tell anyone about it. Not a word."
Harry raised his hand.
The half-giant nodded and looked at the trampled snow.
"Something's killing the animals. Something or someone. And in a terrible, cruel, horrible way."
The boy frowned.
"The animals? What animals? And for what? Vold... Sorry, You-Know-Who has gotten his body back, so he doesn't need the blood of unicorns."
Hagrid shook his head.
"It's not that. Professor Dumbledore thinks it is some sort of... training. On lots of different animals. Even the birds."
"Training?" it didn't sound too pleasant.
"Yeah... in killing."
Harry widened his eyes, feeling his heart speed up.
"H-how is that?"
"Some of them are killed by Avada Kedavra, but some..." Hagrid paused, as if what he was about to divulge was too scary.
"What?" Harry inquired, feeling an uncomfortable gripping in his throat.
"Some were stripped of skin, some burned, some frozen, smashed into pieces, and I even found one bird with... " seeing the horror on Harry's face, Hagrid finally decided to bite his tongue. "I'd better shut up..."
Harry couldn't believe what he'd just heard. He felt sick at the thought of all these horrors.
"It's... terrible," he finally managed to squeeze out.
And Dumbledore hid it from him! Damn it! After all, he often walked around the forest.
"No one knows who killed them?"
Hagrid sniffed and shook his head.
"The Professor says it looks like someone's teaching a student how to become a Death Eater. Apparently these bastards first exercise on animals, and then practice what they’ve learned on people. He thinks it might be some.." Hagrid stammered, as if the words didn't want to go escape his throat. "...one or several students of Hogwarts. Good Lord, Harry, I didn't suspect that I would live to see times when kids would be killing animals in my forest, practicing to become Death Eaters. If only I caught them..." Hagrid clenched his big fist, and his features became more acute. "They only hunt at night. They have good knowledge of the forest, because they choose the unknown paths."
Harry's brow furrowed. Somewhere in the depths of his mind there was a very unpleasant thought, but he quickly stifled it. It was too frightening.
"I hope that eventually, he will be caught. Or they. I could try to help if I..."
"No, Harry, don't meddle in it. Professor Dumbledore will be mad already if he learns I told you all this."
Harry frowned. Why did everyone have to treat him like a child? Why hide the truth from him? Why didn't anyone want to say anything, why did he need to pull out words almost by force? Was there anything else he didn't know? He didn't know the answers to these questions yet. But he hoped that soon...
His attention was distracted by a flash on his left. He turned his head and stopped so suddenly that people following him almost fell.
He stood before the exhibition of the gift shop. On one of the shelves there was a statue. Actually, two statues, combined with each other. A shiny gold lion was embraced by an iridescent, silvery snake. It was moving slowly between his feet, wrapping ‘round his head with through a soft mane, around his chest, hugging him, and the lion repaid by licking snake's glittering scales.
Harry just stood and stared spellbound at what he'd seen.
Near them there was a series of similar figures, symbolizing the houses in various combinations, but he was only interested in one.
"Wait here, Hagrid. I'll be back," he murmured to his friend and went to the store.
The room was filled with students who were buying gifts for their loved ones. Harry noticed a fourth-year blushing Slytherin who was throwing embarrassed looks at everyone, as if afraid to be caught by his groupmates, buying a statue of a snake and a badger.
Harry smiled to himself. And people said something about likes and dislikes between the Houses. There was always someone who wouldn't pay any attention to stereotypes, and go their own way.
But the Slytherin had already left the shop, and Harry was still standing in the middle of the room, feeling very stupid and not daring to approach the counter. But he wouldn't have to wait too long...
"Oh, Mr. Potter!" chirped a saleswoman dressed in a pink apron, clapping her hands. "It's an honor to see you here. You came for a gift for a loved one?"
"Uh..." Harry grumbled, feeling the gaze of all the people gathered in the store. "I... um... I mean... A friend asked me to buy something for his g-girlfriend," he choked, feeling that his throat went dry. The saleswoman threw a long look his way and smiled.
"Oh, and does this "friend" want something specific?"
"Um...Yes. He really likes thats figure from the showcase. The lion and... and..." Oh, why did she have to smile in such a frustrating manner? "The snake," he finished, feeling like something was clutching his lungs. The girl raised her eyebrows and looked at Hagrid who was waiting behind the window.
Great, now everyone would know that his girlfriend was likely to be Slytherin. Just wonderful! Unless some miracle happened and someone would believe in this fable about the "friend", but seeing the face of the shop assistant, he might as well have told her that a flock of bloodthirsty Puches was chasing him, making him hide in the store, and now they were lurking outside the entrance, waiting to bite his feet off.
Fortunately, the girl didn't comment any further, just pulled the statue out from the counter and wrapped it. She explained to Harry that it was enchanted in such way that it can "repeat" any words or sounds the person spoke to it.
Harry quietly thanked the saleswoman, paid, and ran out of the store like a storm, still feeling her amused gaze.
But as soon as he found himself on the outside, it ceased to have meaning for him. The important thing was that he had finally found the right gift for Snape. He smiled to himself at the thought of Severus' reaction when he saw the statue. He just had to buy it! It was so... perfect.
Harry stopped in a few more shops and bought gifts for friends, and a red satin shirt and black tie for himself for Christmas dinner.
Hagrid was a very pleasant companion. He didn't ask him questions, he didn't try to find out what he'd bought. With Ron and Hermione, he couldn't hide anything, and they would have ended up fighting. It turned out that Hagrid had heard about the party organized by Tonks, and that yes, if Harry invited him, he would be happy to go with them, because these days they rarely had time to visit him.
At this point, Harry felt bad. Snape had filled his every moment, so he forgot about the rest of the world. In general he'd been planning to write a letter to Lupin for ages, but something always distracted him. Or rather, someone. Or rather, meeting with that person, and thinking about him all the time except at lessons or while sleeping.
He found Ron at the same store where he had left him. He was holed up in the section of the Guides on effective defense tactics and techniques, and Harry had to work hard to get him out of there. They met Hermione next to the Three Broomsticks. She had a bag full of books and her cheeks flushed with excitement. All the way to Hogwarts she was telling them about the newest series of books on numerology she had discovered in the bookstore which she couldn't let go of, even for a moment.
Hagrid walked them up to the very entrance of the castle, then waved and promised that they would meet in the evening at the party. Still talking, the three friends entered the main hall and went to the Gryffindor tower with other excited students who were returning from Hogsmeade.
When they entered the tavern, they had to stop to make sure that they came to the right place, but the presence of the bartender with silver beard and goats floating around behind the bar confirmed their suspicions. They were in a Hog's Head, but... this place had really changed.
Each part of the main room was adorned with colorful chains, baubles and trinkets. Tables were covered with tablecloths sparkling in the light of burning candles, with many dishes from the Honeydukes. In the center they'd created a special place for dancing, covered with a waxed parquet floor in a color of a glossy night sky.
"How beautiful..." Hermione whispered, looking around in awe. "You did this all alone?"
Tonks smiled radiantly.
"Professor Flitwick helped me a little with the floor, and Professor Sprout made the garlands of flowers."
The friends nodded with approval and went to choose a table for themselves.
"Damn it! "Ron hissed when he was seated, staring like a hawk at Ginny, who was holding the hand of a Ravenclaw. She was sitting with him in the corner of the room, throwing looks full of the superiority at her brother from time to time.
"How can she so brazenly... hold his hand? And with me watching! I'll just go over there..."
"Sit down!" Hermione, with the help of Harry, grabbed his shirt and pulled him back into place. "What are you doing? They are just sitting there! And Ginny can bring whomever she wants! Will you stop acting like a complete moron and finally give her some freedom?"
Ron threw her the most murderous look, but it didn't impress Hermione.
"Tell him, Harry," Hermione looked at him expectantly.
"Hey you!" suddenly, right next to their table, Luna appeared. She was wearing a green dress resembling a Christmas tree decorated with baubles. A large, gold star was on her head. "May I sit down next to you?"
"Sure!" Harry immediately moved, grateful for the opportunity to avoid getting into another quarrel between his friends. He'd already had enough of them, and the party had just started.
"Um..." they heard the voice coming from the centre of the room. It forced them to fall silent and to look at Tonks standing there. "I want to warmly welcome you and thank you for coming. I hope that we will have a great time and that this evening will bring us closer to each other..." Did Harry just imagine it, or did Tonks' look, for a split second, at Luna sitting next to him? "...Even more than we were... before. Um, I think I confused myself." She waved her hand and smiled sheepishly. "Never mind. Eat, drink and have fun as if I'm not here." She waved a wand in the direction of the gramophone which began to give off the lively sounds of Christmas songs by 'Fatal Witches', 'Meaningless Terror' and by many other magic bands. Harry didn't know most of them completely, but quickly got hooked on singing along with Ron, Hermione, Luna and Tonks, who had come to sit next to their table.
To the mandatory Butterbeer, Nymphadora had drawn a silver riveted bottle of something "special" from the pocket of her black coat. After taking an oath that they wouldn't say anything about this to any other teacher, she poured it into their beer.
Harry decided that it tasted like the martini he'd drunk at Snape's, but it burned much more on his tongue. And it was a little bitter, but good, thanks to perfect balance between it and the sweetness of the Butterbeer. Tonks poured herself a triple batch and smiled broadly.
Luna's cheeks turned dangerously red after the first quarter of beer. She began to tell them about the plot in which the Ministry tried to cover up its acts of terror and aggression towards the witches who were living alone, suspecting them of kidnapping and eating Muggle children. But her father discovered their ways and published them in "The Quibbler" for which, they were trying to put him in Azkaban, to silence him. They all listened to her with indulgent smiles on their lips. Even Neville, who also sat with them. Everyone, except Tonks, who stared at her as if she believed absolutely every word. After the third cup of beer, Luna fell silent and became strangely tight-lipped. Only swayed from side to side, thrusting blurred glances at the table and occasionally glancing at Tonks who was laughing to tears at Ron's jokes. And Harry just sipped his drink and looked at her with growing interest.
Several pairs found the courage to begin dancing on the dance floor. Tonks had to physically restrain Ron from jumping up and pulling a dancing Ginny away from her Ravenclaw. After some time, an unknown girl moved to their table. She introduced herself as Anastassy Lipswic and explained that she'd come along with Ginny and her boyfriend Gregory. She timidly asked if she could join them, and amused company agreed readily. She took a place in front of Harry and stared down in her Butterbeer.
When Tonks started to talk about Herbology with Neville, Ron and Hermione glanced at each other briefly and started whispering something. Luna was looking moodily at the half-empty pint, thoughts far away. Anastassy cleared her throat and gave Harry a timid look.
"Are you here alone, Harry?" she asked in a low, trembling voice.
A bolt of fire pierced the boy's head, as if warning: 'Attention, another "little Ginny"'!
"Uh... Well, not quite. This is Ron, Hermione, Neville, Luna, Ton..."
The girl giggled, blushing.
"You are so funny..." Harry looked at her blankly. "I mean, if... you know...if you are here with a girlfriend?"
Harry felt a blush creep on his cheeks.
"I have a girlfriend, but she's not here. She... couldn't come."
"She's from Hogwarts?" inquired the Ravenclaw. Harry grimly nodded, staring intensely at his beer. "Is she from... Slytherin?"
Harry jerked his head up.
The talks at the table suddenly stopped. Harry almost felt vibrations of interest coming off his friends.
"Where did you...? Who...?" Harry began to stutter.
The girl blushed.
"I heard it. Today in the afternoon. McMillan - the fourth year Gryffindor - was telling Pettersen and Ciddy about it. Later..."
"It's nonsense!" Harry muttered quickly, seeing Ron's incredulous eyes. Oh, he could just imagine his reaction if he believed Harry was dating a Slytherin.
"Oh, Harry!" Hermione smiled. She didn't look puzzled - she was rather drunk already. "But it is obvious. Otherwise you wouldn't hide her from us. I can tell. You're always absent, smiling to yourself, drifting somewhere in your thoughts. If these are not signs of falling in love, my name isn't..."
"You knew about this?" Ron exclaimed. "You knew and didn't tell me anything?"
"I presumed," Hermione corrected him. "Anyway, if you paid attention to something more than a dinner, you could have seen it as well."
"Why didn't you tell me?" Ron, it seemed, missed what the Gryffindor'd told him, and sent a resentful glance at Harry. "I'm your best friend! I should know if..."
"It's Harry's business," Luna suddenly interjected. Everyone looked at her with surprise. Over the last half hour she hadn't said a word. "It's up to Harry what he does and with whom he does it. He must have a valid reason for not telling you. If I were him, I wouldn't tell you anything, either. And you can't demand it of him. Harry doesn't want to talk about it. Right?" She looked at him with determination.
Harry, for a moment, looked at her with surprise, but when he came to his senses, he smiled and nodded gratefully.
"Right. Thanks, Luna."
Ron, who apparently also had finally come to his senses, only snorted, apparently showing that it was not worth listening to Luna, and opened his mouth to further torment Harry with questions, when Hermione stopped him, grabbing his arm and squeezing it tightly. The boy looked at her angrily, seeing her intense gaze, saying, "one more word and you will be in trouble!" He quickly gave up and lowered his eyes, staring at his beer.
"You are right, Luna," finally Hermione saide. "I'm sorry, Harry. I shouldn't have pushed you that much."
Harry shrugged and sipped his beer. He just wanted this topic closed. He knew he shouldn't have bought a gift for Severus when so many students were there. Rumors spread at Hogwarts faster than the stink of Dungbombs. He knew they were suspecting something already. As long as they didn't torment him with questions and demands, they could think whatever they wanted. Even better if they'd suspect someone from Slytherin. It at least would give him a good excuse as to why he didn't want to tell them and why they had never seen his beloved.
"Um..." Tonks cleared her throat, apparently wanting to stop this unpleasant silence that fell over them. "So what do you do with these hybrids of Snowlishes and Mandrakes, once you’ve transplanted them?" she turned to Neville, as if they hadn't interrupted their conversation. But Harry noticed that every now and then Tonks would glance at Luna, her eyes shining strangely. As if something troubled her.
Luna returned to staring in her mug, Hermione and Ron began to whisper something to each other again, and Anastassy, all red in the face, smiled at Harry's in repentance.
"Sorry..." she whispered. "I didn't mean..."
"It doesn't matter," the Gryffindor waved his hand. 'They would have found out anyway in the end,' he added inwardly.
The atmospheric sounds of a ballad began filling the room. The lights dimmed, and more pairs came onto the dance floor.
Anastassy cast a long look at Harry and licked her lips.
"So I was wondering... Do you... Would you like to dance?"
Harry nearly choked on beer.
"What?" he asked, confused.
Dance? Him? It's probably a joke. Hardly a funny joke.
"No thanks, I'm... my ankle hurts," he mumbled the first lie that came into his mind. The girl sighed and looked wistfully at the hugging couple. Harry heard the woman's voice singing the words:
No you don't know the one, who dreams of you at night
And longs to kiss your lips, longs to hold you tight
Oh, I am just a friend, that's all I've ever been
'Cause you don't know me **
"I like that song," Anastassy interjected, looking at Harry with a shy and hopeful smile on her rosy lips. Harry listened to the text.
I never knew the art of making love
No my heart aches with love for you
Afraid and shy I let my chance go by
The chance that you might love me too **
"Oh God," he groaned in his mind, at the last moment preventing the burning desire to hit his forehead against the table. He looked at the girl who was staring at him with gleaming eyes. He couldn't say that she was ugly. She had long, brown hair and Butterbeer-colored eyes, but... but she wasn't him. She didn't have those demonic eyes or smile that made Harry's knees go weak. If she wasn't sitting in front of him, trying so shamelessly to flirt, Harry wouldn't have noticed her.
"Maybe..." she said after a moment. "Maybe somehow you..."
"I'll be right back," Harry interrupted her, getting up quickly. He walked over to Ginny who was nuzzling her boyfriend's neck, and cleared his throat.
The girl turned quickly, and her eyes widened when she saw him.
"Oh, hello, Harry," she smiled.
"I need to talk to you," he hissed. "Now."
Ginny frowned, but nodded, then looked at her boyfriend.
"Be right back, Greg."
She stood up, kissed him on the cheek and allowed Harry to pull her to one of the corners of the room.
"Who is that girl that you brought, and what does she want from me?" he asked, looking at her with irritation.
Ginny looked over his shoulder and laughed.
"Anastassy? She's from the fourth year, and fatally in love with you. That is Greg's sister. She was nagging us, asking to come when she learned that you'd be here, so we took her with us. Don't be mean to her, Harry."
"What? In love with me?" Harry rolled his eyes and looked over his shoulder. Anastassy waved to him, smiling radiantly. "But she doesn't even know me. Anyway, I don't really care. She continuously asks me to dance with her," he hissed through clenched teeth.
"Well, do it. I don't see the problem. Do it and maybe she'll get over you."
"You don't understand. I don't dance. I can't dance. I don't like this... What are you doing?" he exclaimed, surprised, when Ginny pulled him onto the dance floor. He swayed and caught his balance at the last moment, because after three rounds of beer with extra cream from Tonks, his head was already spinning, and he began to have serious problems with motor coordination.
"Showing you how to dance," Ginny laughed, grabbing his hands and pulling him closer. She looked at the side and waved at Greg, sitting at the table, as if to give him a sign that everything was in order. She winked at him and turned back to Harry. "During the Christmas ball in the fourth year you weren't that bad, but you have to work on your technique." Ginny put his hands on her waist. "Now close your eyes and try to memorize the steps. Left. Right. Step back. Great. Now step to the side and turn around. " She let go of him, spun and pulled him back. A scent of her perfume enveloped him. He felt the soft brush of her curls on his face. "Bravo, just like that. And again. To the left..."
It's strange, but dancing with Ginny wasn't that difficult. This may be due to alcohol circulating in his veins. He didn't feel as tense as two years ago. He didn't feel that pressure on himself, which was caused by dozens of pairs of staring eyes. It was enough just to remember the steps. No, it wasn't that complicated. And if he were to think about it, he quite enjoyed it. And thanks to the fact that all the time his eyes were closed, he could imagine that he was dancing with Severus.
No, it was a stupid idea. They both hated to dance. But maybe... maybe one day...
He would then stand closer to him. Oh, that's right. And he would wrap his arms around his waist, feeling the rough robes rustling softly under his fingers. Just like now. And he would put his head on his shoulder...
... And then he heard Ginny's confused voice:
"What are you doing, Harry?"
Her words mingled with the sudden, unpleasant feeling of increased tension, which made all hair in his body rise. Harry opened his eyes and his gaze fell on the door. Doors, where Dumbledore stood... and Snape.
Harry stumbled, staggered, pulled the Gryffindor after him and landed on the floor. And Ginny on top of him. He needed time to shake her off and spit out her hair from his mouth. When he succeeded, he glanced toward the door, and almost choked on his own tongue, seeing the look that Severus was hammering him with.
Quickly, he pushed the surprised Ginny off of himself and sprang to his feet. Greg ran to the girl and helped her get up, but Harry didn't pay any attention. He tried not to tremble under the influence of glacial, Severus' glance burning with rage. He felt that if he were here alone, he wouldn't emerge from this confrontation unscathed.
Tonks almost spat in her beer when she saw the smiling Headmaster approaching her. She jumped to her feet to greet him, but Dumbledore gave her hand a sign not to get up. Through the veil of icy terror that seized him, Harry heard the reassuring voice of the Headmaster, explaining that he came up only briefly to see if everything was okay and to witness what a good time they'd been having. And Professor Snape was kind enough to agree to accompany him.
Harry swallowed and looked at the floor, trying to escape the murderous look that almost made a hole in his skull. Why did he have the impression that he was now in very, very serious trouble?
"Harry, are you okay?" Ginny asked in distressed voice. "You suddenly paled. Are you ill?"
Harry shook his head.
"No, just... this beer. Too much beer. Yes. I'd better sit down. Thanks," he mumbled incoherently, coming to the table and falling hard on the chair, because he felt his knees tremble.
Fuck! How it must have looked? What Severus might have thought? That he and Ginny...
With horror he looked again at the door, but both the Headmaster and the dark silhouette of the Potions Master had disappeared as quickly as they appeared. However, the airborne threat remained, and Harry felt that he needed something stronger to throw it out of his mind.
"I need a drink," he grunted, grabbing Tonks' beer and swallowing it in almost one gulp.
"So your ankle doesn't hurt anymore," Anastassy said quietly. Harry looked at her with astonishment. What's she saying? Now he was so shaken up that everything that wasn't associated with Snape, who had just nearly killed him with his eyes, had evaporated from his mind. "Well, I thought that since you danced with Ginny, we could dance together now..."
Harry grabbed the remains of his beer, then got up without saying a word, as though he had not heard the girl speak, and then surprised Luna by grabbing her hand and pulled her aside, to the nearest free table.
"Can we sit here a moment?" he asked with a sigh when he sank into the chair. "Maybe she'll finally get bored and leave," he whispered, pointing with his head at the table behind him.
"No problem," Luna muttered, watching Harry with a thoughtful gaze. She moved to look at the closed door, then stared back grimly at the tablecloth.
"Don't worry, Harry," she whispered after a moment's hesitation. "He'll calm down. It's not like it looked like you were dancing with her and groping her, and... as if she was laying on you. I mean... maybe a little."
"Thank you very much," Harry grumbled, dreaming only of the next batch of beer with the extra addition.
"It's probably good that he is so jealous, right? That means that he cares about you. If he didn't care, he wouldn't be so jealous," Luna explained, although she stuttered slightly.
"Yeah," Harry muttered, glancing back at his friends, who were laughing and chattering, and then moving gaze back to the Rawenclaw sitting next to him. He frowned when he saw sadness on her face. "Are you okay?" he asked. She smiled and looked away. She had flushed cheeks and watery eyes. It looked as though she struggled to control herself. She looked at Tonks who was telling her friends something with enthusiasm, then looked away.
"Yes, but... I wonder. How do you deal with that, Harry? I mean... doesn't he mind that you're so young?"
Harry blinked. Luna looked very serious. In fact, he had never seen her facial expression this... lost.
"N-no. I think probably not," he said uncertainly. "I mean..." He pondered. Severus had never really seemed to have this problem. It didn't bother him that Harry was only sixteen years old and was twice younger than him. It seemed that he even... liked that. "No, I don't think so." It was strange to talk about it with Luna. But she was the only person in the school who knew his secret. And seemed to fully accept it.
"Well," she said, frowning, "it shouldn't be a problem. Yes, he's your teacher, but true love doesn't count years. My mother used to say that." she smiled at him uncertainly. Why did he have the impression that she wasn't talking about Snape? "You love him, don't you?" she asked after a moment's hesitation.
"What?" Harry stared.
Love? Severus? What kind of question was that? How did... ? He couldn't... No, he didn't... He felt himself blush, and couldn't stop it.
"You like to be with him?" she asked directly, seeing that Harry apparently had lost his speech.
"What? Yeah," he muttered, staring at the table.
"Do you miss him every second when you don't see him?"
"Uh... I think so. Yes."
"You would do anything for him, including something that seems completely crazy?"
"I think so," he said gently, biting his lip.
"Do you want to spend every possible moment with him?"
Harry smiled to himself.
"And do you want it to be like that forever?"
Harry lifted his head and looked at Luna. Her dreamy eyes were fixed at laughing Tonks whose hair was changing colors like a kaleidoscope.
"Uhm," he muttered, feeling his cheeks burn even more.
"That means that you love him," Luna said quietly, taking her eyes off Tonks and looking back at Harry. She smiled sadly and looked away. But Harry had time to notice a crack in her big blue eyes.
This means that you love him.
Strange, but exactly the same crack appeared in his chest.
And it... hurt.
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