Havoc of the Opera
Chapter 6 - Ginny's Answer
Madam Pomfrey sulked at the number of people in the hospital wing when Harry, Ron and Ginny went there early the following morning. 'She is having breakfast early -- she doesn't want to skip her first class. Don't be long.'
'Is she all right, now, then?' Ginny asked.
'In a manner of speaking,' Madam Pomfrey said dismissively. 'She's feeling much better.'
They had to cross the large room to reach Hermione's bed. Malfoy was leaning against the wall, looking supremely bored.
'What are you doing here?!'
'Good morning to you too.' Malfoy tilted his head towards the bed, where Blaise sat, listening to a talkative Hermione and, they guessed, holding her hand under the blanket.
'Good morning!' her pale visage beamed upon seeing them. 'Luna's just left -- she asked about you, Ron.'
Somewhere to their right, Madam Pomfrey grumbled.
'I thought it would be best to bring company,' Blaise clarified, because Ron's scowl had deepened. 'We came out of the dormitory so early, and with this curfew...'
'Without a prefect, he couldn't come,' Malfoy summed up.
'You're doing better!' Ron grinned at Hermione, ignoring the Slytherins.
'What happened, after all?' Harry asked. Hermione shrugged.
'Madam Pomfrey has made a few tests, I don't know the results yet. It was probably food intoxication, though.'
'When will you know for sure?'
'In a week or so,' Malfoy spoke from behind their backs.
'He was still here when Madam Pomfrey drew the samples,' Hermione clarified.
'I turned my back, Weasley,' Malfoy added, in response to Ron's glower, and addressed Ginny, 'I've never had to impose my presence on a woman.'
As Ginny looked at him sharply, he turned to Hermione, 'I'll go have breakfast while you say your goodbyes. I'll be right back.'
'Why?' Ron snapped.
'Granger and I have Arithmancy together and Madam Pomfrey doesn't want her to walk around alone. She, er, politely asked me to escort your friend upstairs. Blaise, I'll be in the Great Hall.' Malfoy turned to leave. As he approached the door, he shouted over his shoulder, 'I'll deliver her to you before DADA!'
'Mister Malfoy! We don't shout here!'
'I'll give you some privacy, then,' Ginny said, patting Hermione's hand and sprinting out after him. The argument that soon erupted in the corridor was audible even through the drawn curtains.
Hermione turned to them. 'Well, did anything interesting happen after I left?'
'Nothing,' Blaise assured her, 'You weren't there.'
Ron made a gagging sound, which Harry disguised with a cough. 'And how did Malfoy treat you? Took him ages to go back.'
Hermione shrugged. 'He didn't really talk to me, just to Madam Pomfrey. He asked her a load of questions. The... tests made me feel a bit groggy, so he stayed until I felt better. I have to say I wasn't expecting that.'
'Snape told him to stay until you were stable,' Harry said quietly.
'Really? I'll have to thank him. It was nice to have someone here -- even if it was Malfoy.'
Ron whistled. 'Who knew Malfoy was so scared of Snape?'
'Yes, but we're running late and I need to get dressed. Out!'
'Well, you're welcome, Hermione...! We missed you, too.' Harry joked. She threw him a scathing look, kicking her feet under the duvet.
'See you later?' Blaise asked softly, feeling her temperature. Hermione looked expectantly at Harry and Ron.
'Oh.' Harry poked Ron on the ribs and made him turn around. They waited until Blaise's shadow crossed the room behind them to turn back to her.
'I was just waiting for him to leave, because I have to talk to you, and... well, I didn't want him to hear it.'
That lifted Ron's mood significantly. Harry, however, was startled. 'Anything serious?'
Hermione looked embarrassed. 'It's just that... well, it's about Professor Snape.'
'What about him?' Harry instantly snapped.
Hermione seemed to be choosing her words. 'Well, I... I had a really bad night. Madam Pomfrey says it's normal,' she quickly added, seeing their alarmed faces. 'When... there's an infection, or something. Anyway, she says Professor Snape came to see me. Apparently, it was he that told her that I was convulsing.'
'Convulsing?' Ron was now very pale.
'It doesn't matter! I'm fine, now. He came back with her, they medicated me, and then he stayed so that she could have some sleep, poor thing. It must have been about three in the morning, and she says he only left at about six.'
There was silence.
'It was really nice of him to do that, wasn't it?' she finally said, as though they were missing the point entirely.
They agreed halfheartedly. They were more concerned about her than Snape's late-night activities. Harry wondered about Snape's newfound kindliness. Had Dumbledore ordered him to act more like a human?
Hermione spotted his smirk and misunderstood his silence. 'You're not going to rub it in his face, or mock him in the corridors! We can't afford to lose more house points!'
There was such panic on her face that Harry and Ron almost burst out laughing.
'Yes, ma'am!' Ron joked, turning to leave.
In the Great Hall, Pansy gazed sympathetically at Malfoy, as he glumly readied to escort Hermione to class. Much to Ron's fury, Blaise intended to go with them. Ron and he battled for the right to fuss over Hermione all afternoon. She, who had felt slightly faint after lunch, really couldn't complain, though she did feel rather overwhelmed.
In the meantime, Harry dwelt on her words about Snape. It was one thing to make sure a student was properly treated. Visiting said student and staying until dawn was quite another. What's more, Harry was the hospital wing's most frequent guest, and he couldn't recall Snape doing that for anyone in there -- namely, him.
'But I'm an infantile attention seeker, and Hermione is perfect. Even her illnesses are exemplary,' he thought, bitterly. He felt ashamed of himself even before the thought was complete.
Your priorities, don't they need to be sorted out?, an insistent voice nagged on. Harry determinedly did not think of Snape for the rest of the day.
'Attractive, isn't it?' Harry jumped at the sound of Ginny's voice. Apparently, they were back in the Great Hall for dinner. He had been so focused on not thinking of Snape that he hadn't noticed it.
She nodded grimly towards Malfoy, who was talking with Pansy. 'His self-entitlement. Who the hell would like that?'
Harry had no answer for that, so he resorted to telling her about Hermione's latest news. She laughed when Harry mentioned that Hermione had already begun to snap at Ron and Blaise to leave her alone.
'Look, Ginny...' Harry began, carefully, as Malfoy laughed and she looked grim again, 'You know that we're here to help you in everything you need, don't you? Like you've been here for us.'
She stared incomprehendingly at him. 'Right... right. I know that, Harry. Hmm... thanks?' She spotted Dean and quickly added, 'Haven't spoken to him all day, I should go. See you, Harry.'
Harry nodded absently. People were filing in for dinner, and he had just noticed Snape's empty seat at the staff table. It remained empty throughout the meal. Harry munched worriedly on his dessert. An absent Snape was never a good sign. He didn't even know why he was so relieved when Snape finally arrived, mid-rehearsal, entering so swiftly, so one with the wall, that one might mistake him for a shadow.
Hermione, still disquietingly pale, had been working quietly with Malfoy all evening. Snape approached them, to work on the finale, Harry supposed. It was strangely irritating to see that he hadn't even been granted the customary glare.
'What a blessed release!' Seamus shouted in his ear. Harry winced and whirled to face a large group that was glaring at him. They were all waiting for his cue to continue the Masquerade sequence.
Harry fought the urge to look back at the trio and tried to concentrate. That night, Hermione again turned into Voldemort and took Snape away. Harry woke up in a bad mood.
An uneventful week followed. Quidditch season was about to begin, and between practice, rehearsals and massive amounts of schoolwork, it was hard to find the time or the energy for anything other.
Hermione had felt ill on Tuesday, and, by Wednesday, she was still fragile and grumpy. The best that could be said about Harry's occlumency lesson of the day was that it had versed only his concern with her.
Snape, Malfoy and Hermione worked apart from the rest of the group, that evening, and, as a result, Harry did a very poor job of his own work. Strangely, considering he didn't even know what he had done, he could list every gesture Snape had made. Afterwards, both Blaise and Malfoy accompanied them to the Gryffindor tower. Harry thought he could still hear Pansy's furious rant from his dormitory.
The next day, Snape demanded that Harry joined him before the end of the rehearsal for a quick read-through of a scene. Harry was falling scarily behind on his work with Seamus, but, somehow, falling a bit further behind for an hour alone with Snape wasn't as daunting a prospect as it had been just two weeks prior. Before that, though, there was actual work going on, and Snape retreated to a quiet corner with a pensive Hermione, who was fiddling with a rose that someone that placed inside her script. Harry had never seen Snape behave so delicately around a student. He knew that it was due to Hermione's vulnerable condition, and part of him screamed that it must be serious. Another, rather vocal, bit of him resented the fact that he had never been on the receiving end of such treatment, even when in life danger.
'Well, what are we doing?' he turned to Seamus with a sigh.
'Scene eight, Raoul's entrance, and I've told you this a dozen times. Concentrate!'
Harry easily put on an irritable expression for the scene in which Firmin pointed out to Raoul that they weren't his lover's childminders.
'She's not with you, then?' Malfoy asked with a concern they had never heard from him before. Harry had the sudden urge to wave frantically at Hermione and Snape, engrossed in conversation. Couldn't he see where she was? Hermione was now sliding to the floor, and Snape circled her. Harry imagined they were entering the Phantom's lair.
'What?' he barked.
'Your cue,' Malfoy barked back.
Harry blinked. They were still working... and he was staring at Snape. Even that good-for-nothing Malfoy had noticed! He mentally shook his head, focusing again.
It was a joy, listening to Pansy as she ranted at 'Raoul'. They were still trying to hold back laughter when McGonagall and Ginny approached to inform them that 'Miss Daaé' had returned.
'She needed rest,' Ginny added.
'May I see her?' Malfoy eargerly demanded.
'No, Monsieur, she will see no-one,' McGonagall replied dignifiedly.
Harry picked up a random piece of parchment and pretended to read the Phantom's letter. '... one last chance, blablabla, this bit is Snape's, I remain, gentlemen, your obedient servant, O.G.'
Pansy squealed her offense, stretching her arm hugely so that they all could see her pointing at Hermione. Neville barely dodged her accusing finger. 'I know who sent this. The Vicomte - her lover!'
Everybody paused to have a proper look at Malfoy's irate response, and in the second of silence that ensued, Snape's low voice reached Harry's ears. 'In all your fantasies, you always knew, that man and mystery...'
'Were both in you...'Hermione replied meekly.
'Can you believe this?' Malfoy sounded outraged.
'Sing, my Angel of Music...' Snape instructed.
'O traditori!' Pansy shrieked, ignoring Seamus' frantic attempts to calm her down.
'Let your mind start a journey through a strange, new world...' Harry heard. There was a jab on his ribs, and a whispered reproach from Neville. Harry racked his brains for his line.
'This is a joke,' he said absently. Hermione and Snape were so very close to each other...
'O mentitori!' Pansy accused.
'Harry, just a second more...!' Seamus pleaded.
Harry forcibly tore his gaze from the pair. 'Signora!'
He and Seamus were mid-persuasive speech when Hermione came to warn Harry that Snape was expecting him. Harry fleetingly wondered how Blaise, as the director, didn't pair Hermione with Malfoy, her romantic interest, more often, instead of with Snape.
'Potter, is it possible that covering ten feet in a straight line takes you more than an hour?' Snape snarked. Harry wisely ignored him.
'Which scene, sir?'
'The final confrontation. If that face means to imply that you haven't studied it yet...'
'I have.' Harry had flipped through it once, as it had seemed so easy, but he didn't think it was worth bothering Snape with that sort of detail.
'Well, how would you approach it?'
'I... I think I'd...'
'Don't think. Do it.'
Harry obeyed, glancing at the script every now and then.
'Terrible,' Snape deadpanned. 'No wonder she chose Raoul. Sit down.'
They spent the remaining hour trying to work out ways for both of them to make the Phantom's change of heart believable. When Snape's mouth twitched for the fifth time, Harry made a mental note to work harder on the Phantom's lines, so that he could at least have a chance in an arguement with the man.
'Hello! I'm so sorry to interrupt you,' Hermione bounced in. 'We're leaving. Will you be long?'
'No, we're quite done,' Snape replied, before Harry had a chance to say anything. 'Don't forget what I told you, Miss Granger.'
She nodded emphatically and turned a pleading face to Harry. 'They're driving me mad. I don't need them fussing over me all the time, they're neglecting everybody else! Professor McGonagall has just told us off for not paying enough attention to our duties as prefects.'
Harry knew whom she was referring to, but he honestly didn't know how he could help her.
'You could come upstairs with us - Malfoy's agreed to come, too - so that they can take the Slytherins downstairs and leave me alone for a second. Will you?' she said, in one breath.
'Make sure there's someone to watch over Longbottom,' Snape suggested, scowling briefly at Hermione's request. 'I see he's going downstairs, and Miss Parkinson doesn't seem to be in a good mood.'
Hermione still called out a 'Thank you,' and Harry instinctively mouthed 'Good night,' against the back of her head, but Snape's robes were already trailing behind him as he went out the door. Harry sighed. 'Malfoy's coming, you say? What a great ending to a great evening.'
'I think he's only coming because of Ginny,' Hermione confided. He's been trying to get a bit closer to her, hasn't he?'
Harry recalled that Hermione's own problems had kept her from hearing all the news on the peculiar situation developing between the two.
'I hope she's not getting into trouble,' Hermione murmured, echoing Harry's concerns. Still, he couldn't shake the feeling that Dean might want to start worrying.
The walk to the tower went smoothly. Ginny paired with Dean, Harry with Hermione, and Malfoy, at the back, pretended to supervise the group. Ron, under loud protest, had been dragged to the Slytherin dungeons.
They were almost at the portrait when Ginny began to trail behind them, nearing Malfoy. Harry and Hermione did the same, warning Seamus to take Dean upstairs before a different sort of drama ensued. In a turn of the stairs, Malfoy seized Ginny's elbow in a manner than Ron would never have permitted, and they disappeared out of sight. Harry and Hermione stepped closer and listened intently, grateful that their housemates had developed the habit of breaking curfew to meet them at the stairs looking for gossip. This way, they went unnoticed.
'You nearly broke my arm!' Ginny snapped. 'Get--off--me!'
Harry and Hermione exchanged worried glances, but Ginny didn't insist, which they took to mean that Malfoy had obeyed.
'Well?' was the only word they could hear from him.
'It was a simple question for a simple answer. Yes or no. Will you answer me before my grandchildren are grown?'
'I thought your grandchildren's birth depended on me.'
'And the verdict is?!' he wheezed irritably.
They couldn't make out Ginny's answer, but it soon became clear it was the one Malfoy wanted.
'Really?' they heard. He sounded like he almost couldn't believe it himself.
'Really,' Ginny confimed. 'Reluctantly -- and conditionally.'
'And grammatically, too, it seems.' he joked. 'Come on, I'm not that repulsive. I rather think I'm not repulsive at all.'
'For your sake, I hope not. If you don't behave--'
'You'll unleash hell on me and all that, I know. Are we settled? Do I have your word?'
'Yes.' She relented after a moment. 'But we'll talk tomorrow. They'll notice us missing, Malf--'
'Draco. I think the first-name basis applies, now, doesn't it?
Ginny snorted, but she didn't sound terribly exasperated upon obediently repeating, 'Draco. Draco -- this is going to be hard. How do you do, Draco? I'm Ginny.'
'Hello, Ginny,' he replied warmly.
'Now, let's go!'
Harry and Hermione scrambled upstairs just in time, as the pair were turning the corner already. Ginny's eyes looked apprehensive upon meeting Hermione's, but Malfoy might as well have just won the House Cup. Harry's own concerned gaze was plainly mirrored on Hermione's.
'Dean's just lost his girlfriend, hasn't he?'
Harry walked Hermione to the bottom of the stairs to the girls' dormitories, waiting until she disappeared behind the door. Then he, too, went to bed, from where he stared out the window, considering the events of the day. He thought of that night's rehearsal. He liked big, fancy rehearsals. He liked the sense of need and belonging they gave him, and he felt guilty that he had worked so little. He thought of Dean, and of the bomb that was surely about to explode on their hands. And then he thought of Hermione, who had somehow outwitted them all and struck Snape's attention in a way that an entire generation of students, at least, had failed to do.
Harry went to sleep dwelling on the unsettling feeling that he didn't like to see them together at all.
Return to Archive | next | previous