Havoc of the Opera
Chapter 3 - First Rehearsals
When they arrived for breakfast, the Great Hall had resumed its usual decoration – but a change sat next to the staff table. The glass clocks that measured each House's points had been brought in from the Entrance Hall, and now, there were only two of them. One held scattered rubies and emeralds, for the Gryffindors and the Slytherins, and in the other glowed blue and gold. They slowly filled their seats, gaping at the clocks.
Dumbledore stood. 'I see you have noticed our new system for house points. Good! As you can see, during this term, the points you gain or lose will affect not only your own house, but also the house with whom you're working.'
Ron was crestfallen. 'We're going to work for the Slytherins?'
Across the table from him, Malfoy reacted similarly. 'We lose points when they do? Out of ... what, sympathy?'
There were several displeased faces. Meanwhile, Hermione had ignored Harry's invitation to their bench and had sat with Blaise in a Slytherin group that included Malfoy; the two tried to think up ways to improve their partnership beyond the performance, so as to make the most of the new system.
Ron was sulking. To divert his attention from them, Harry asked, 'How did it go, last night?'
Ron turned to him, aghast. 'As soon as we left the dungeons, she started whacking me for having no tact, for intruding in her private life, and acting like a baby, and whatnot. I don't understand! She called me-- What did I do?!'
'You went to the dungeons with her even though she'd told you to stay?" Harry said tentatively.
'But I just went with her so she wouldn't be alone with them! Who knows what they'd do?'
'Neville went down there the other day and nothing happened...'
'Yeah, but Neville is, well, Neville, and Hermione--'
'...is Hermione, yeah. I've met them,' Harry grinned widely. He had woken up in an excellent mood. A dreamless night was a welcome change from the nightmares that usually plagued him. Tonight, at least, there had been no graveyards, no silent rooms... no dead people. It was a good morning. And Ron was whining about Hermione! Why didn't he just stamp 'Property of Ron Weasley, please return to owner' on her forehead?
Half their year was too tired to pay any attention in DADA – now a joint class with the Slytherins, of course – and Ron spent half his time glowering at Hermione, who seemed to have put up tent with the Slytherins. Out of respect for Blaise, Harry imagined, there were no scathing remarks about the purity of her blood. Pansy still threw her the odd glare, but even she had quieted down. Could be worse -- Malfoy's glare was permanently on her.
That evening, the Great Hall had once more become a rehearsal room, and they were alone, as the Bohemians didn't rehearse at night. They were almost done when McGonagall and Snape arrived. Thankfully, the supporting roles had been easier to cast. So far, they had cast Harry as Monsieur Firmin, and Seamus as Monsieur André, the Opera's directors. Harry had hissed to Hermione that he was the understudy for the lead already, and that he couldn't be in two places at the same time, and how was he expected to do it, and--
'Harry,' Hermione seized her chance when he drew breath, 'you're just the understudy. It's highly unlikely that you'll have to take Professor Snape's place. And it'd be a shame to waste your talent, you did so well in your audition...'
'And because of that, I'm saddled with two parts, is it?'
'Firmin is such a small part when compared to the leads...'
'Why, then, it's a great thing that I don't have to understudy any of the leads, isn't it?!'
'...and he's not a complex character at all. Besides, you won't have to... pour your heart into the Phantom or anything, all you have to do is learn the lines!'
Harry snorted loudly. Hermione scowled. 'It would be a lot worse if you actually had to play him. Or work with Malfoy. Look, just... just wait for Snape and run your lines with him, ok?' She turned her back on his glare and focused on the stage.
Neville, who was a natural talent, but was a bit too nervous, was cast as one of the members of the company, Ubaldo Piangi, who seemed to live for Carlotta. That meant that a lot of time with Pansy was in store for him. Pansy was ecstatic with the chance to mistreat the life out of him.
'And I have to put on an Italian accent, too,' he moaned, looking grimly at his script. He was just stepping offstage when the teachers entered. The Slytherins beckoned for Snape to join them; meanwhile, McGonagall received the latest updates from Hermione and Blaise, their new director.
Everybody else was cast very quickly. McGonagall agrred to play Madame Giry, Meg's mother and the ballet mistress. Hermione almost had a fit. 'Ballet! We need ballerinas! How are we going to get them?!' she looked around in a panic, as though expecting to see a group of girls in tutus breeze in en pointe.
Nott, a remarkably quiet Slytherin, who didn't seem keen on talking to Hermione, turned to Blaise. They talked quietly for a moment, and then Blaise addressed their Heads of house: 'Could we possibly ask a few first and second years to join us?'
'Why, I don't know, Mr Zabini,' McGonagall sounded displeased, 'you would need the Headmaster's approval, and it would be very unfair to impose yet another project on the younger students solely for the sake of your sense of aesthetics.'
'We understand, Professor,' Blaise retorted, 'But we really can't do without extras. Could we possibly procure them?'
She cocked an eyebrow at the formal request. 'Well, can't you use a few multiplying spells? Theatre is illusion, you could work with that notion.'
'We will, of course, do that for the chorus, but the Masquerade Ball, the performance of Il Muto, the ballet, will require real people. Without enough people onstage, the strongest scenes will lose their impact...'
Hermione's mouth was half-open for a tirade in support of Blaise when Snape spoke loudly, 'How many people?'
'The more the better, Professor, but around twenty...?' Hermione pleaded. Blaise nodded.
Snape turned to McGonagall. 'The first and second years are crowded. Taking ten people from each group every now and then will make no difference.' He raised his voice to address the room at large, 'Don't overwork them. They are not at your beck and call.'
'They will not be allowed to attend the nightly rehearsals. And they must only be called in when strictly necessary,' McGonagall added sternly.
'Of course, Professor. I imagine we'll only need them about a month before the performance. They'll be done with their own projects by December. This will be a hobby rather than an imposition.' Blaise smiled politely. Hermione beamed at him.
'Don't get too excited. We still need the headmaster's approval,' McGonagall reminded them.
'... because he would skip a chance to bend the rules?' Snape muttered under his breath, picking up a stray script and sitting alone.
'Very well, children, if this is quite sorted out...'
'There are other concerns.' Blaise cut her off. 'Any ideas on who'll be responsible for the special effects, clothes, etc., etc., etc?'
'My brothers can get us the special effects,' said Ron, eager to have some of Hermione's attention. 'They're running a store in Diagon Alley, and their material is pretty good.'
'The famous "Weasley Wheezes", eh?' Blaise smirked. 'Can we trust them to not blow us up mid-song?'
Ron's glare was so ferocious that the very air got warmer. 'They don't risk their clients' health. Contrary to what you might be used to, they actually care about the important stuff.'
Blaise raised an appeasing hand. 'I meant no offence. I was just wondering if they have any normal, workable spells...'
'Of course they have!' said Ron, ears glowing red.
'Good. So, if the Headmaster approves of them,' Blaise glanced at the teachers, 'Will you ask them to cooperate with us?'
'Sure.' Ron growled. Hermione looked from one to the other.
'Thanks, Ron.' She smiled weakly.
Meanwhile, Blaise scribbled on a clipboard. 'Right... volunteers for clothing and make-up?'
Lavender and Parvati gestured towards themselves. 'You don't need any help?' Blaise asked.
Pansy snorted. 'I don't think I want to wear anything those two cook up.'
Hermione glared at her.'"If you don't like it, you can sew your own, it'll do you some good.'
'I'm sorry for having notions of style, mudblood,' Pansy hissed, after making sure that none of the teachers was listening. Malfoy turned towards them.
'With a bit of luck, the needle might accidentally burst your swollen head,' Ginny piped in, also glaring, 'and send you backwards into a vanishing cupboard, ridding us of you.'
'If I was as incapable in... uh...everything... as you are, maybe, you blood traitor little pile of--'
'If she's not happy she can sew her own clothes, Granger said. May I suggest she sews up her own mouth as well?' Malfoy interrupted.
Pansy looked shocked. 'Draco!'
'This is bad enough without your inane babbling. I say she sews everyone's clothes instead of delaying us further.'
Hermione smirked. 'I'm loathe to say it, but Malfoy's had a good idea. Pansy handles the clothes, and we'll be free to work, at last.'
Pansy swiftly quieted down; Parvati and Lavender, beaming, got the job.
'Are you done?' McGonagall approached. Malfoy was already staring at his script in boredom.
Blaise looked at the clipboard, with Hermione peering over his arm. 'There's a minor glitch or two, but nothing we can't sort out as we go.'
'Shall we begin, then?' she asked pointedly.
They regrouped, looking at their texts properly for the first time.
'Harry, after you're done with Seamus, will you have a word with Professor Snape? You know... developing the character...?' Harry glared at Hermione. He had been looking forward to working with Seamus. He knew they could make the directors memorable. Was it really so important that he talked to Snape about a character he wasn't going to play?
'I believe, Miss Granger, that Mr Potter is a much too concerned with his own comfort to worry about the character.' Harry glared at the source of the voice. Snape, who hadn't moved from his seat, had balanced the script on his knee, and was writing down on it, his eyes downcast.
'Bloody fantastic...' Harry grumbled.
'I surmise he doesn't want to be alone with the big bad teacher...' Snape droned on.
Hermione looked alarmed. 'Harry, whatever you're thinking, don't.'
'It's almost over for the night. Do you mind if we rehearse properly tomorrow?' Harry addressed Seamus, who nodded, glancing sideways at Hermione.
Harry stalked over to Snape, script in hand, dragging a chair along as noisily as possible. He dropped it with a loud bang right next to the professor – who didn't even blink – and sank down on it, sulking heavily, his bottom almost sliding off the edge, his back hunched, his arms crossed.
'You do realise that I can deduct points from Gryffindor for your disrespect and lack of decorum.'
Harry glared at him. 'You'll have to deduct points from Slytherin as well. Sir. And you won't do that.'
Snape raised an eyebrow, still looking at his own handwriting. 'Won't I?'
Harry straightened up, sulking more heavily still.
'That wasn't bad as a first attempt at independent thought,' Snape said smugly from behind his script. Harry was visited by a desire to make him swallow the script. This was going to be a long hour.
Harry looked at Ginny and McGonagall, chatting happily away. Hermione had finally turned from them and approached Malfoy, who looked every bit as receptive as Snape. Neville and Pansy were trying to let out a sentence that didn't sound offensive to either. Snape peered at Harry from above the script.
'Well, Potter? Are you going to put yourself to use?'
A day had passed, and Harry still grumbled over dinner, just as Dumbledore allowed them to recruit younger housemates and to enlist the twins' help ('I shall reccomend them to the... Bohemians, is it...? I hear they will be in great need of fireworks.').
'The hypocritical twerp went on and on about how unprofessional I am, but did he even try to work? No!' Harry vented to Ron.
'And you looked so welcoming, too, I'm sure.' Ron smirked around a mouthful of chocolate cake.
Harry tossed bits of his own cake at him. 'Should I have danced of joy?! It's Snape. And he even mentioned resuming those... extra lessons,' he added quietly.
'Well, that's good, isn't it? Maybe this time they'll work,' Hermione retorted in the same tone.
'Speaking of that...' Ron started.
'Actually, let's not,' Harry cut him off, well aware of what Ron wanted to discuss. The memory hurt. The summer holidays had washed away the shock, leaving the pain behind...and he didn't want to deal with it. Didn't want to feel it, couldn't feel it. Not yet. "I was just thinking about how much time I'll have to spend with Snape. Classes, occlumency, rehearsals... why don't I just move to the dungeons?'
'Shut up, Dumbledore might like the idea,' Ron joked, as dinner ended and half the crowd left for the common rooms.
'Harry...' Hermione began.
'Snape. Go to Snape. I know.'
'You're a bit obsessed with him, aren't you? I was going to suggest that you worked with Seamus for a bit. Maybe if you get something done, you'll feel more motivated to--'
'Don't you have to work with him, too? Why don't you just tell him to behave as an adult?' he snapped.
She ignored his outburst completely. 'We'll only be working together later on. He needs to keep to himself for now. The Phantom is a very lonely man...'
'...and besides, I need to go through Christine's scenes with Raoul.'
'How's Malfoy behaving, by the way?' Ron asked. He had landed two smaller parts and wasn't sure about which rehearsal group he should join. He hadn't yet stopped complaining about his boatload of work, which was, of course, his way of letting them know that he would never admit to be having fun.
'Terribly.' Hermione rolled her eyes. 'Mrs Norris cares more about this than he does. We've only managed to skim a few sequences, so far. But if he makes me waste another night...' she said somberly.
'We can make him...' Ron began.
Hermione smiled tenderly at him. 'I don't think beating Raoul to a pulp is quite the approach we are looking for. Thanks, though,' she added over her shoulder, already on her way to McGonagall, next to whom Malfoy wouldn't dare put a toe out of line.
'Harry, you're not supposed to be smiling, come on!'
Harry forced himself to look neutral. He and Seamus were rehearsing the first 'Notes' sequence, and their characters were quite upset, but Harry couldn't stop laughing at Seamus' heavily accented, over-the-top André. He cleared his throat and sing-sang the end of Firmin's first rant, '...It's a scandal that'll pack them in the aisles!'
Seamus whirled petulantly, robes flapping, arms waving frantically above his head, and roared, 'Damnable! Will they all walk out? This is damna... Harry!'
Harry was stifling chuckles behind his hand. He looked up, with a sigh. 'André, please don't shout... It's publicity! And the take is vast! Free publicity!'
'But we have no cast...'
Harry grinned. 'You know, that really could become a problem!'
Harry burst out laughing.
'Harry!' Seamus smiled in spite of himself. He hadn't seen Harry laugh in months.
'Sorry! But you look like you're swatting flies...!'
Seamus scowled. 'This is generally known as an elegantly offended posture.' Harry snorted.
From his seat, Snape observed Harry's laughter with an unusual amount of interest.
Hermione had retreated to a quiet corner with Blaise, having somehow bullied Malfoy into doing some actual work with Ginny – it was a very small scene, but anything to get that cretin moving. At least, he didn't look so apathetic now that she was gone -- the reality of working with Hermione had seemingly only begun to sink in.
'He lives across the lake, Monsieur. This is as far as I dare go,' McGonagall informed him.
'Madame Giry, thank you,' he answered solemnly, turning to Ginny, who was watching them, 'And now he goes down there to save the girl on his own?'
Ginny nodded. 'There's the confrontation and a long sequence with the Phantom. And there'll be a rope around your neck. The price of heroism,' she added brightly. Draco murmured something unbecoming.
'I'm sure you'd like him better if he were an egotistical sneak like yourself. Tough,' she snapped.
'At least he wouldn't be entering a murderer's lair alone and unarmed.'
McGonagall harrumphed. 'If you're quite done, Mr Malfoy, perhaps it's time you and Miss Granger finally shared some space?' Hermione's head shot up and she stood, Ron's glare and Malfoy's scorching her as one.
'Yeah, there's only you left,' Dean shouted, over Pansy's ringing voice. She was strolling around, snapping, 'Andiamo, Ubaldo, andiamo!' at poor Neville, who stooped to follow her obediently. Hermione dodged the wand she was using to poke Neville and dragged herself over to Harry's group, gazing at Blaise melancholically.
'Seamus!' Dean called, "You free? Come over here! Ron, why are you still standing there?!' Seamus and Ron gestured in mock servitude and joined him in a set of miscellaneous scenes with a group of Slytherins. McGonagall and Ginny moved away, discussing their own characters, and Harry found himself alone.
'Potter. Come here.'
Harry turned around. No, not alone. He had a personal poltergeist.
'Yes. Where I am. As opposed to where you are. Come here.'
Harry stared, without an ounce of desire to obey him. Last night was still a vivid memory.
'Potter, do you need instructions on how to walk?'
'Why do you need me there? Sir?'
"Because distance is an obstacle when one needs to work with another. Or do you intend to laze about while everybody else works?' Snape raised an eyebrow. 'How predictable.'
Harry walked so fast that he almost collided with his teacher. 'Which scene are we working on?'
'None where you're allowed to employ that tone.'
Harry directed his glare at the windows.
'Have you even read the script?'
'Mostly,' Harry grumbled.
'Mostly?' Snape scorned.
'You told us our Potions homework took precedence over everything else, sir.' Three different essays on as many potion ingredients were due for their next class. Harry hadn't even started on his yet, but he wasn't about to mention that.
'Your tone, Potter. Open that script on the underground lake sequence. Let's see how you approach the "Morning after".'
'Aren't you supposed to be the one to do it, sir?' said Harry, flipping slowly to scene five.
Snape eyed him coldly. Harry glared back. 'I'm just saying... shouldn't you be doing some work as well? I only see you sulkin-- staring around.'
'That will be twenty points from Gryffindor. And Slytherin.'
Harry looked up and blinked. "You took points from Slytherin?'
'Good perception, Potter. Apply it to the character.'
Harry was staring at him. 'You took points from Slytherin?'
'Is that a new mantra?'
Harry furrowed his brow. 'Are you feeling all right?'
Snape took a deep breath. 'The lines, if you don't mind?'
Harry focused on his script. A moment later, he looked up again. 'I don't understand.'
'Well, I can always go back to my--'
'Out with it!'
'It makes no sense! Why does he take her there?'
'Beg your pardon?'
'Why does he take her to his lair, or whatever it is, knowing that she'll be missed?'
'She's having lessons with him. There's nothing in the script saying she doesn't go there routinely.'
'She's acting like it's the first time she sees the place.'
'... are you really a wizard? She's been hypnotised. She's not even sure she's been there this time.'
'But surely he could have found a better place than his very secret home...?
Snape's eyes rolled. 'Unsurprisingly, you're missing the point. He's an outcast, he's incredibly lonely and he loves her. Taking her to the one place where he could both be safe and exercise his genius was very probably his only way of bringing her into his world, of impressing her.'
'She doesn't want to be a part of his world, though,' Harry completed slowly.
'But he was in love, wasn't he?' Snape's voice clipped the words as though they burned him. 'He had to try. Furthermore, her beau had just fetched the horses for a night out, and he might have felt that she was straying.'
'I get it, now. She's his property.'
Snape's eyes rolled. 'I demand a new understudy. You're doing this on purpose, one can't naturally be so dense.'
'It's love, Potter. Obsessive love. Jealousy. Insecurity. Not possession. Twit.'
'He hypnotised her, kidnapped her, blackmailed her, and let her return under the condition that she remained forever his servant. I'm not saying he should have stood back and watched, but you call this love?!'
'He just wanted a chance to show her that he, too, was worthy of her.'
Harry opened his mouth and snapped it shut again. 'Ok,' he said, finally. 'He's beyond deluded,' he added between his teeth.
'But she did have feelings for him.'
Harry snorted. 'It took her childhood sweetheart five minutes to make her forget them.'
'And it took him five seconds to remind her of them, Potter. Is this how you intend to portray his tragic situation?'
Harry looked up. 'Who, me? You've obviously got a better grasp of the character than I do. I'll just be in the background, being extorted by your tragic hero.'
Snape appeared to be on the verge of hitting him. 'Very well. Let's keep this simple for you. Everything about him is deeply connected to music. He has a fascination with Christine, both because he wants her for himself and because he sees an immeasurable talent in her. Raoul's presence takes her focus away both from him and their music. We can never be sure if his driving force is Christine or his music. Keep that in mind and you might be passable.'
Harry shrugged. 'You're the one who's playing him.'
A glower slowly sank into Harry's eyes. 'Don't you dare weasel out of this.'
'Don't you dare weasel out of this, sir. I... already have a part. I don't even have an understudy – and you've made a commitment to Dumbledore!'
'I've made a great deal of commitments to Dumbledore. Both him and you would do well to remember that they do sometimes overlap.' On that note, Snape buried his nose in his script, leaving Harry alone to deal with the dawning comprehension.
'For Merlin's sake! It's not possible!' Harry looked up to see what was infuriating McGonagall. Hermione and Malfoy, keeping a respectable distance from one another, looked mutinous.
'I think Fudge dating You-know-who is more likely than this', Dean commented, to fervent nods everywhere.
'Miss Granger, Mr Malfoy, are you quite serious about this project? Because if this is an accurate sample of what you intend to do before the other houses, you may feel free to formally quit!'
Harry eyed Ron questioningly. Ron approached, shrugging as though it was nothing new. 'Can't say I blame her,' he said simply. Snape cocked an eyebrow without raising his eyes. Ron lowered his voice. 'Malfoy actually sounds a bit psycho, spouting all that poetry.'
Sighing heavily, Hermione took a hesitant step towards Malfoy. He glided a few inches forward. Shortly later, they were within an acceptable foot of each other.
'Don't glare,' Ginny advised quietly, watching them from beside Dumbledore. Their put on somewhat neutral expressions and suddenly resembled marble statues. Everybody else was now visibly fidgety. Even Pansy's rants to Neville were now intertwined with exasperated looks at the disruptive pair in the centre of the room.
Snape's acid voice dragging across the room made half of them jump out of their skin. 'Mr Malfoy, Miss Granger, I am going to count to five and you will raise your arms, embrace and look passionate.'
Hermione looked incredulous, but Malfoy didn't seem interested in challenging his Head of house. In the blink of an eye, his arms were around her waist and their faces were so close that she had to bend slightly backwards in order to see him properly. She gingerly placed her hands on his forearms, matching his nauseated expression perfectly.
'If you make me reach "six", I will personally go there and lock you together. Is that clear?'
Malfoy held Hermione with a little more conviction. She narrowed her eyes. Snape, whose definition of "passionate" seemed to differ slightly from the group's, retreated to his seat, and the rehearsal finally continued.
Later on, having given Ron a very vivid description of what she would do to him if he dogged her again, Hermione again went downstairs with Blaise, but Malfoy didn't go up the Gryffindor tower.
Already in bed, Harry was still so bewildered that he had had a semi-civil conversation with Snape that he barely heard Ron's rant.
'Hmm?' Ron said, sleepily.
'I think Snape's ill.'
'Hope so.' Ron rolled over and fell asleep.
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