Havoc of the Opera

Chapter 10 - Heartache

By Roman


'Harry, wake up.'

He responded by holding the pillow more tightly. Somebody squeezed his shoulder and rocked him softly. 'Wake up, mate!'

'Go away,' he snapped sleepily. In return, Ron shouted in his ear.

'There are two Quidditch teams downstairs planning your painful murder. Wake up!'

Harry groggily hoisted himself up on his elbows. 'I have a headache.'

'... and your clothes on. Half the work's done,' Ron smirked.

Harry had a bleary look at himself. He was all rumpled school robes and fierce yawns. 'Couldn't sleep.' He ground his head down on the mattress.

'There's no time to make up for that now,' Ron informed him, just as he took hold of one of Harry's arms and heaved. Harry pushed himself back down.

'Breakfast,' he grumbled.

'You missed it. Come on.'

That woke him up completely. He sprang to his knees and looked at Ron. 'Missed breakfast?'

Mistaking his reaction for hunger, Ron smirked again, reaching for a tray. 'I brought you this. I thought you might be hungry after skipping dinner, too -- be quick.'

Harry looked at the tray with a moan. 'I'm not really hungry--' he began, his mind on Snape and on whether he had shown up for breakfast.

'Tough. You'll have to drink the milk, at least.' Ron looked rather like his mother when he was cross.

'Harry heaved a deep sigh. 'I really--'

'You won't be falling off of that broom as long as I'm here,' Ron snapped. 'I won't have you fainting half the time like the other one, ok?'

Harry's eyes widened. 'Has anything happened to Hermione?'

'She's downstairs, feeling dizzy,' Ron grumbled. 'Nearly toppled over Malfoy after breakfast.'

'Is she ok?!'

'Yeah. The teachers are fawning over her,' Ron hopped off the bed. 'Now... you'll need underwear. And... you're already dressed... another pair of shoes?' He looked at Harry questioningly. 'Drink that milk!'

Harry grinned from behind the briefs that had landed squarely on his face.

'I just need another minute. You can go back downstairs.'

Ron waited to make sure he picked up the glass and then made his way across the room. He was halfway out when Harry finally asked, 'Did you see Snape at breakfast?'

'Couldn't miss him. He was the first teacher to reach Hermione,' he shouted. 'Hurry up!'

Not for the first time, Harry was grateful that his love of Quidditch had the knack to take his mind off everything else, at least whilst sitting on his broom. He circled his team mates gleefully while they waited for those who were late.

'Where's Ginny?' Ron asked, his head turning in every direction.

'I thought she was here,' Harry answered from behind Crabbe, who nodded negatively as well.

'She's late,' Malfoy commented, playing with the Quaffle.

'Oh, really?' Ron replied sardonically.

Malfoy's sigh could be heard even in the windy pitch. 'She's sorting something out and she doesn't know how long she'll be. I suggest we start without her.'

'And you know that because...?'

'... she told me,' was the curt answer.

'Why you instead of us?!'

Harry, pressenting danger, and lacking better options, signalled for Crabbe to be at the ready, in case one of them got thrown off his broom. Crabbe eyed him suspiciously, but finally nodded, gesturing for Goyle to be attentive.

'I think it was because when she tried to tell you, you were too busy looking at Granger to listen to her.' Malfoy's face had turned stony.

Madam Hooch's whistle drilled into their eardrums. She was across the pitch, discussing tactics with the Hufflepuffs and the Ravenclaws while they practised, but her eyesight could apparently overcome the distance. 'Don't make me go over there!'

Familiar with her temper, Ron and Malfoy calmed down somewhat. Ginny arrived shortly later, accompanied by Hermione and Blaise, who sat together in one of the Slytherin stands.

'Everything all right, Ginny?' Harry shouted when she hopped on a broom and spiralled around without so much as a 'Hi.'

'Fine!' She lost her balance and nearly fell on a Hufflepuff who had wandered their way.

Harry shrugged.

When she finally approached them for some proper practice, Ron pulled her aside. 'Where the hell were you?'

'Leave me alone.'

'Why didn't you tell us you were going to be late?'

'I told Draco! Didn't he tell you?' She glowered at Malfoy, who gestured as though to say 'Keep me out of this...'

Ron blinked. 'He's "Draco", now?'

Ginny pursed her lips, only then realising she had slipped.

'I've been "Draco" for a few years now, actually. Since before I was born, I think,' Malfoy said dismissively.

Ron stared at Ginny, who snapped at him, 'We're working together Ron. Why shouldn't we be civil?'

Ron, to whom the concept of being civil to a Malfoy was clearly alien, opened and closed his mouth like a fish, regaining his place by the hoops.

'By the way,' Ginny raised her voice sarcastically, 'You'll want to know that I won't be rehearsing tomorrow.'

'Why not?'

'Because Snape thinks Sunday afternoons are great for detentions!'

Harry froze mid-sommersault. 'Snape?'

She breathed in deeply. 'I had an essay due yesterday, but I couldn't deliver it because the dear professor was nowhere to be found. And, apparently, everybody except him knows that he only accepts homework that is delivered in person, because he said I should have left it in his office anyway -- and he took twenty points from both our houses, so this really is a great day for me. I wish he were dead.'

By now, most Slytherins were used to see the Gryffindors lose them points, so the customary groans were discreet. Harry smiled in spite of himself. Snape was apparently in good shape.

'Potter, are you ok?' Malfoy's voice reached him through his relieved reverie.

Harry grinned. 'Never better. Now, about that snitch...!'

It was Ginny's turn to look at him. "Harry, did you hear me?'

'Sure! Which part?'

'You have Remedial Potions on Monday, Snape said you'd know why.'

'Did he?' Harry said distractedly.'Thanks!' He sprinted after the snitch.

'He's been kind of random, lately,' Ron commented. The others nodded. Malfoy was readying to go after Harry when Ginny pulled at his hood. 'We need to talk.'

'Malfoy, are you coming?!'


By the time they had gathered again in the Great Hall for the afternon's rehearsal, Harry's joy had dimmed somewhat. He had stood up Snape, and the man wasn't likely to be in a good mood. He was musing over what he could do to convince Snape not to murder him over lunch when Ron snapped, 'Would you stop that?'

'What?' he mumbled through his mouthful of mashed potato.

'You've been humming Music of the Night all day long,' Hermione clarified.

Harry blinked, turning on Ron. 'What?! if you can wake me up every day with your squeaks about proper Italian pronounciation, I can hum a song.'

'I don't squeak, I ennounciate,' Ron retorted with a scowl. 'And that song's driving me insane.'

'I think it's lovely,' Hermione commented dreamily.


'Sorry...' Harry stuffed his mouth again. Hermione picked up his humming where he had left off.


'What?' she asked innocently. 'We're rehearsing, M. Lefèvre...'

To their right, Ginny and Dean were picking at their food sullenly, Seamus losing hope of improving their mood. A short distance to their left, Malfoy and Pansy bickered loudly. Snape's malevolent glare enveloped them all. In stark contrast, upon catching Harry's eye, Hagrid waved friendly from the staff table. Harry attacked the pudding with gusto. Hogwarts was back to normal.


Harry and Hermione had hoped for a free hour to work together, Snape called Hermone to him so swiftly that Harry followed her before he even realised what he was doing. Snarking about Miss Granger's varied group of bodyguards and about Harry's sudden dedication to his part ('Your part,' Harry corrected him), Snape finally agreed to have a look at their progress.

'Potter,' he eventually interrupted them, mid-Music of the Night. 'I'm sure you think of me every time words like "darkness" and "open up your mind" are uttered, but you really should be looking at Miss Granger here.'

Considering the man's eyes barely left Hermione at all, Harry was surprised Snape even noticed where he was looking. When he embraced Hermione tenderly for the last bars, she was quivering with suppressed laughter and Snape's scowl had deepened.

'Don't embrace,' he wearily recommended, as they grinned involuntarily. 'You're not singing about physical contact.'

They were left alone for longer than they had expected. On the one occasion where Hermione considered going to Malfoy, he was rowing loudly with Pansy. According to Neville, they had been serenely working on a sequence when she went up to Malfoy and snapped at him for no apparent reason. McGonagall eventually sent them out the room with strict instructions to only come back once ready to behave properly. When they returned, a quick look at their faces told everyone that they were best left alone.

'Everything going smoothly over here?' Blaise asked with a deep sigh. Hermione smiled at him. 'These two...' he grumbled, in an unusual show of temper. 'The next diva in training will be drowned before questioning.'

'How about the others? How are they doing?'

'Fine, if we forget about the fact that we've lost our prima donna and the romantic lead.'

Hermione pinched his cheek and Snape cleared his throat. Blaise immediately regained his composure.

'Anyway, we need you back, Harry. Are you done?'

'Of course he is,' Snape replied before Harry could get a word in. 'Miss Granger and I, too, need to work.'

Rather unwillingly, Harry found himself following Blaise towards Seamus, Hermione's reassuring smile lost behind his back.


When they arrived at the pitch, Malfoy was already there, hammering a bludger against the stands as though his life depended on it. Only Ginny went up to him while the teams retrieved the other balls and their brooms from the sheds. Harry spotted Hermione and Blaise, sitting on the grass and going through rolls of parchment. She waved.

Ginny had somehow convinced Malfoy to join them for practice.

'You know, it's all your fault that she's acting like this,' they heard her say. As a retort, he swore creatively.

Ron, who was late due to an earlier arguement with Hermione, peered in confusion over Harry's shoulder, his jumper still over his nose. 'Ah,' he said, answering his own unspoken question.

Although he was looking in the same direction as his team mates, Harry was completely lost in contemplation of his most recent dream. Apparently, his subconscious didn't particularly care that Snape's tongue was vicious, as long as his mouth was otherwise occupied. Just the thought of a particular sequence made him blush selfconsciously. He didn't know what was going on with him.

'Don't you lot have anything to do?" Malfoy snapped at the on-lookers. Ron glared at him and shot a warning look at Ginny, who lifted up her chin defiantly.

Harry didn't live up to his abilities that morning. His mind kept drifting. He was vaguely aware that Ron and Ginny had argued all the way back to the castle, but he couldn't bring himself to care, as the nature of his recent obsession with Snape began to truly sink in. The selfconscious flushing slowly developed into an acid, cold unease.

'I'm doomed,' he confided to the Bloody Baron, when they passed him on their way to lunch.


Monday arrived, and with it, Harry's rescheduled Occlumency lesson -- which he again chose to skip. In light of his recent epiphany, it wasn't so much a whim, rather a matter of personal survival.

Having engaged Ron and Neville's aid in keeping Hermione away from Snape during the rehearsal, he scanned their usual spot for signs of her. It was Ron's groan that signalled her presence. She and Blaise stood against the wall, so deep in conversation that they didn't hear the headmaster calling for everyone's attention.

'I would like to remind the sixth years that their performances are due in less than two months and that any casting for extras should take place as soon as possible. Again, I beg of you not to approach seventh years, as thay should have their hands full with their NEWT levels.' The seventh years nodded fervently.

Malfoy shifted in his seat to poke Blaise's back with his wand. Blaise looked down with a scowl. 'What the hell...?' He caught himself when Malfoy's head tilted towards the headmaster. Hermione put on an attentive air.

'Forgive this intrusive old man, but I'm rather curious about your special effects,' Dumbledore addressed Ron, who cleared his throat and answered firmly.

'According to my brothers, our effects are almost ready. They might need to come in to have a look at the Phantom's lair, though.' Snape scowled, and Ron turned to him, whilst Harry trained his eyes on his own lap. 'They would like to adapt their work to yours, professor, considering all the cues will come from you, after all.'

'Let me know when they intend to come. A bit of preparation might be in order before we deal with the Knights of Apocalypse again,' Snape deadpanned. Ron glowered at him.

'I already intended to, sir.'

'They also need a meeting with the Bohemians. They found your material a bit vague, and they say they need clearer direction on some sequences.' There were scattered manifestation of offense from the Bohemians, who thought they had submitted an exemplary synopsis and script for examination. 'And they need a really quick answer about the colours you want for your explosions.'

'Explosions?!' Professor Sprout interrupted, slightly alarmed.

Flitwick swiftly let her know that Ron was just talking about a set of fireworks, loud, but harmless. 'We tried it yesterday with a few charms, and the effect was lovely,' He beamed proudly at his house. 'Such a pity you couldn't be there to see it.'

Harry repressed a snort, recalling that the closest thing to one such compliment that Snape had ever paid the Classicals had been his offhanded praise of Hermione's rendition of Think of Me, the night before.

Sprout grumbled something about reorganising the greenhouses in response to Flitwick. Unseen by Harry, Malfoy craned his neck to glare at Blaise and Hermione, who had once again focused on one another. Ron caught this and cast him a glance heavy with suspictions, before turning his attention back to the Bohemians' upcoming meeting with his brothers.

'Just show up whenever you have the time, and we can talk this over.' Lisa Turpin winked at him. Blushing furiously, Ron sank back on the bench amidst a sea of catcalls.

'Let's take Hermione out of here.' Harry suggested, eyes narrowed at the ferocious gaze Snape had fastened on her and Blaise. Ron immediately sat up, grateful for a suggestion that both allowed him to escape the scrutiny and break up the pair. Unexpectedly, Hermione didn't resist them in the least. Ron fumed quietly at the light kiss Blaise laid on her chek when she told him she would see him for lunch. Snape's glare, Harry noted, didn't leave them until they were out of the room.

Ron ranted all morning about Hermione and Blaise's 'ridiculous' relationship. Harry, who hoped fervently that they never broke up, nodded mechanically every now and then.

'Parkinson should have been Christine,' he muttered to himself, when they were back in the Great Hall for lunch.

'Exactly,' Ron exclaimed. 'Hermione's only confused because she has to work so closely with Zabini. Take Ginny, for example. If Hermione had been Meg--'

'... she might have fallen for Malfoy?' Ron shuddered.

'Has it occurred to you that Hermione might actually like Blaise?' Harry mumbled absently. This was usually the bit where Ron tuned out of the conversation.

'Where's the ferret, by the way?' Ron enquired, predictably changing the subject.

'Out. But Ginny's over there,' Harry pointed at her. She and Dean were apparently having a serious conversation. Ron looked at them with a sigh. 'So...' Harry began, in a lighter tone. 'Is there anything you need to tell me about the Ravenclaws?'

Ron choked on his pumpkin juice. 'What're you talking about?'

'Nothing,' Harry shrugged. 'I'm just surpised to see the Ravenclaws swooning at the sight of you. Turpin looked like you'd transfigured her into a puddle of drool.' Ron turned scarlett. Harry put on a very serious face. 'Luna'll be jealous.'


'Girl's been nursing a crush for over a year and you haven't noticed?' Ron seemed to be hoping that the floor opened up under him. It was Neville's arrival that saved him.

'Have you seen Pansy? She has my script...'

'Neville, please tell me that you've memorised your lines,' Blaise groaned from their right. Neville's flush could have competed with Ron's.

'I... I just need to have another look at this one sequence...' he said tentatively. With a disdainful look that the Slytherins probably learned from birth, Blaise lent him his own script, and Harry again turned to Ron.

'That Ravenclaw beater's been staring,' he murmured. Ron stuffed an entire croissant in Harry's mouth to shut him up. He was coughing up the last crumbles when Malfoy arrived, in his customary bad mood. One of his yearmates asked him something and earned himself a glower that could curdle milk.

Hermione arrived shortly after, with another rose securely tucked in a book. She was quiet, only sighing at the neverending chatter around her. Their din died down abruptly when the food arrived. Or perhaps it only looked like that to Harry, who had lost track of what everyone was saying as soon as Snape arrived, seconds after Hermione, and he, too, deep in thought. Just as Harry considered asking Hermione if Snape had delayed her, she rose to sit beside Blaise.

'Why, that was polite...' Ron grumbled, stabbing his steak.

As the end of the afternoon approached, Harry began to worry about Occlumency. Both Quidditch teams had overheard Ginny giving him Snape's message, and his biggest quibble with his mates had always been that they all seemed much more observant when it came to his private life than their own. Inviting Ron for a surprise visit to Hagrid was no use. Hermione would never have it.

'I can have Malfoy give me a beating -- he won't mind me missing an appointment,' he mused, climbing the stairs that led to the common room.

'I don't think that is very sensible,' one of the portraits wisely pointed out.

Ironically, help came from Hermione. Just as he reached the Fat Lady, it flung sideways to let her pass, clutching an abnormally large pile of books. Harry gaped at her. 'Are you trying to kill yourself?'

She craned her neck around the pile, which shook alarmingly. '... help?'

'To the library, I presume?' he asked, helping himself to an armful of volumes. They walked quietly. After considering several ways of addressing her melancholy face, he opted for a direct approach. 'Do you want to talk?'

'Why can't I do anything right?' she blurted out shakily. Harry immediately put down his set of books, earning an immediate reproach form Madam Pince ('I hope you don't intend to leave them there!') and led Hermione to one of the windows, thanking Merlin for the almost empty premises.

'What's wrong? Is it your schoolwork?'

She heaved the deepest sigh, her hands clasped around her nose. 'It will be, eventually.'

Harry furrowed his brow. 'But right now...? Hermione, talk to me...!'

She took a deep breath, as though readying herself for a big confession. 'Malfoy and Parkinson broke up, you know? That's why they're both in such a foul mood.'

Harry blinked in confusion. 'How'd you know?'

'They weren't very discreet,' she pointed out. 'When Ron finds out and links this to Ginny...'

'She'll be in trouble,' Harry finished for her. 'But we were talking about you.'

'... Blaise and I... everything is going so badly... we argue all the time, now, and I really don't think this is worth it, but Blaise always wants to give it another try, and I don't have the heart to tell him not to... and then there's Malfoy...'

'What about him?'

'He and Blaise argue all the time, too. All the time! Most of the time, I don't even know what they're rowing about, but... Blaise sounds like he's jealous of him, and I think Ginny...'

That confused Harry even further. 'What does Ginny have to do with it?'

'She... she gives me these strange looks, every time I speak to Malfoy, and she didn't do this before, she didn't!' she insisted frantically.

'She's been spending loads of time with us, and I haven't noticed her treating you differently at all,' Harry said firmly.

'She's looking at me differently, and that's enough!' Hermione snapped.

'And is that why you're so teary?!'

Hermione quieted down somewhat. 'Not exactly... she'll eventually see that... shes wrong about me. It's just... I can't stand this. Everyone around me... it looks like everyone is suddenly mad at me, and I can't... I don't think I deserve this, and I don't know how to change it...!'

'I'm not mad at you,' Harry lied, ignoring his murderous inner voice.

'I know,' she conceded with a sad smile. 'But Ron is, and Ginny, and Blaise, and Malfoy... well, he's always hated me, anyway, but it's going to ruin our work, and then the teachers will be mad at me, and... it's lonely...'

Harry was genuinely uneasy with the look on her face, now. He knew only too well what it was to feel that way. 'You know Ron. He adores you. He's just... he's just scared that you're going to get hurt.' Hermione silenced a sniffle. 'And the rest... just talk to our teachers and forget about the group work. It was an experiement gone wrong, is all. Then you won't have to deal with him, and neither Blaise nor Ginny will be mad at you -- if she's mad at all.

'I don't think that'll be enough to sort things out with Blaise...'

'It's worth a try.'

'I... have a crush,' she muttered almost inaudibly. 'On someone who is not Blaise.'

A bitter coldness crept inside of Harry. 'S-Sorry?'

'I think I... it's the wrongest person imaginable, and I can't tell anyone about it and I have to see him every day, and it kills me -- it kills me...!'

'Why can't you...?'

'I can't,' She shook her head vigorously. 'I just can't.'

They sat in silence for a long moment. Then she whispered, glancing around, 'Shouldn't you be going to Snape?'

'I'd rather stay here with you,' he admitted with a small smile. She looked, for a second, like she was considering telling him off. 'I'll reschedule it with Snape,' he finally added. 'It won't kill him. And you need me more than he does,' he pointed out in all honesty.

Her serious, quiet, 'Thank you,' was scarier than any scolding.

After another short pause, he raised his eyes to hers. 'If it makes you feel better, I can see perfectly well why Blaise is so in love with you.'

She gulped and said nothing. They sat in silence for a long time, until Madam Pince came to berate them loudly for their disrespect towards the number of unique, old books that they had scattered around themselves, as well as for their lack of interest in the library's closing time. They had to find themselves another quiet spot, this time in order to brace themselves for the rehearsal that loomed ahead. So absorbed were they that they didn't realise that two Slytherins had left just before they did: one of them had listened to every word from between two bookrows. The other, Pansy, watching from further away, had caught very little of the conversation, but had observed their closeness with a calculistic mindset.


The unusually sunny morning found both Harry and Hermione in a much better mood. According to her, Snape had made no reference to Harry's absence during the rehearsal, and Harry's time with Seamus and 'the Opera's crew' had been much more fun than he had anticipated. It took their impending Potions class to lower Harry's spirits. He was halfway down the stairs when he actually considered dashing back upstairs. He could almost feel fear gripping his insides.

'You can't skip Potions forever just to avoid a confrontation, Harry,' Hermione said sensibly, urging him on. Rather against his will, Harry took his place, fear subtly giving way to an unease of a different sort as his eyes adapted to the shadowy room and spotted Snape rising from his chair to address them.

Even under Harry's constant scrutiny, Snape somehow managed to slip behind him sometime during the class, so silently that Harry only noticed it when the man's hands were clasped on either side of his cauldron and his mouth was inches from Harry's ear.

'That has to be the most interesting shade of green I've ever happened upon. Did you add the dragon claw after the powdered moonstone?' he asked loudly, following the question with a whispered one meant for Harry's ears alone, 'Do you by any chance believe that exist solely to wait on you hand and foot, Potter?'

Clearing his throat to make sure his voice didn't waver, Harry answered both questions at the same time, 'No, sir.'

Snape leaned in, and his hand slipped over Harry's, momentarily blocking his capacity of thought. 'It's the second time I wait in vain, Potter. Believe me, a third try is not advisable.' All that his classmates heard was an audible, 'And why, may I ask, since the rules clearly specified that you should?'

'I'm sorry... sir. I had a--' Harry struggled to answer, through the growing awareness of the heat that Snape's presence brought on his back.

'I. Don't Care,' Snape clipped out almost soundlessly. 'Tonight, in my office. The alternative is to go to the headmaster and explain clearly why you can't be bothered with a lesson that only you need.' Loudly, he added, 'This can't happen again, Potter. Mistakes of this sort have no place in a NEWT class.'

'No, sir.'

'Detention. Tonight, at seven.'

'Yes, sir.' Snape moved on to the neighbouring cauldron. Harry didn't quite know whose it was. He felt rather groggy. He needed fresh air. And water. And the loo. Urgently.

That night, at seven, having explained to a raging Ron that it was an Occlumency lesson, not detention, he stood outside Snape's office, looking more cool and collected than he had been in months.

'Wand out,' was the greeting he received. Snape, leaning on the desk with a stony expression, didn't bother move more than his wand arm. Harry had a fleeting sense of impending doom. He took a deep breath and held his wand at the ready.


The word seemed to glide towards him like the tide, making the room swim as the spell approached Harry, crashing in his ears and hurling a thousand memories to the forefont of his mind. They fought for supremacy, but Harry instinctively knew that Snape was looking for something in particular. He had never flipped through his memories so swiftly. The gaudy whirlpool almost made Harry lose his balance.

But one memory came that Snape didn't dismiss. Harry already knew what it was, but as the image steadied in front of his eyes, he couldn't prevent every cell in his body from going cold. The Ministry. The door. The rooms. The room. Snape's mind beckoned it closer with such speed that Harry could feel himself staggering in the distance.

The room. The people. Neville. Lupin. Moody. Harry's lips were dry. He wanted to move them, to protect himself from that memory, but his throat disobeyed him. His vocal cords had gone numb. Tonks. Hurt -- very hurt. Lucius Malfoy -- attacking him. Kingsley. Bellatrix. Sirius... Harry's arm was limp. What was the spell again? Tears were crawling up to his eyes -- he needed to drag them down. The duel. He had to drag them down. A corner of his mind recalled Snape's advice about using his mind's will. Why wasn't his will working? Bellatrix had raised her wand and Sirius... Sirius had staggered... Sirius was falling... and so was Harry.

Defenseless, unable to recall a spell, any spell, to fend off this memory, incapable of forcing Harry's mouth to beg Snape to stop, Harry's mind fought the invasion in the only way it had left. It shut down. The world darkened, and Harry could hardly breathe, but he was conscious when he felt himself crashing against one of Snape's shelves. He heard the faint noises of glass smashing on the floor, he knew that he, too, had fallen limply against the stone -- a sticky substance was soaking the left side of his robes, but he had prevented the tears from falling, he had escaped that memory, and the room, Snape's room was slowly coming back to life around him, and it was all that mattered.

Snape loomed above him, his wand now lowered, beckoning him up. Harry tried. And failed. A shelf had fallen on him, all its contents anchoring him to the stone floor. Harry groaned. Something sharp dug against his back, more deeply with every attempt to hoist himself up.

'Potter, stand up!'

Harry groaned again, earnestly trying to obey him, but he had to crouch back down, because it hurt, surely there was blood on his back already? Snape kneeled beside him -- even his breath seemed angry at Harry. The shelf was removed, and there were hissed Reparos in every direction. But Harry was still soaked, and now that he could move, he sat on his knees, wiping his jumper and twisting the end of his soggy cloak.

On the floor, between them, glinted the shard of glass that had paralysed him. Snape had removed it from his back. Snape, who was so very, very close, had prevented him from getting hurt. Snape, who was inches from him, was tending to his safety. The memory of that terrible night, the terror that still filled him months later, paled in face of the warmth that spread inside him at the realisation that he could... just once...

Harry rose slightly, gaze fastened on Snape's suddenly reachable face. He took just one breath, one quivering breath... and kissed him.

For some reason, his eyes were still open. It felt a bit like moving in a dream. Harry wanted to press his lips more firmly against Snape's, yet he didn't dare move a single millimetre. It could break the spell. But the touch was lighter now, and Snape moved as though he meant to stand. In a jolt of panic, Harry gripped Snape's shoulders with an energy that had somehow survived the onslaught on his mind, bringing him closer and refusing to accept the possibility that he would have to let go.

... and then, softly, gracefully, and truly as it might go in a dream, the tension under Harry's hands eased, and lips brushed his, pressed against them, coached them to part. Snape's tongue was moist againt his. Snape's hands ghosted over his hands, up his arms, they reached his back. Just for that moment, Harry closed his eyes and allowed himself to relax. Snape's lips no longer brushed his timidly. They pressed against his mouth, teasing it, awakening it, his fingertips burned trails wherever they passed, there was a faint scent of something that he couldn't quite identify, but he knew he liked it, because how could he not? The mouth over his was possessive now, insistent. The arms held him closer, the outline of a lower body crept dangerousy close to his own. Snape's whole body crawled over him, pushed him over the toppled shelf, pressing him up and against the wall. Harry was vaguely aware of his own enthusiastic response, but it seemed to come by proxy, as though his mind was watching his body's reactions from a distance. The wall was cold, he had trouble breathing -- in fact, he even had trouble keeping himself up, and still he pulled Snape closer. still he yearned for more. The body so delightfully propped against his shifted, the pressure eased again, and Harry, gripped by the sudden fear that this might end, moved faster than lightning to pin Snape against the wall. It must have been the element of surprise that allowed him to dig into one of Snape's shoulders and hook his arm around the other, and press one leg against Snape's. One of his hands, he wasn't sure which one, came up to play with the collar of Snape's shirt and tease the skin inside it. His other hand moved to Snape's lower back, and he really wasn't sure he knew what Snape's hands were doing now, but they were certainly skillful.

The inexorable need to breathe broke them apart, and yet Harry's mouth moved of its own volition down the side of Snape's face, taking in the breath that Snape's mouth let out against his neck.

A moment... an hour?... later, there was a definite change in their rhythm, as Snape's hands grasped his arms brusquely to wrench him away. A reluctant sigh leaving him, Harry's eyelids fluttered open and he raised his eyes to his teacher's. Thanks to their awkwards position against that blessed wall, they were at eye level, and even so, it took a moment for Harry to register that Snape clearly didn't want to kiss him any more.

Snape spoke so lowly as he voiced that thought that Harry, rather than hear the words, felt the hot breath forming them. 'Leave,' the breath said. 'Leave -- now.'

'Why?' he asked quietly, his body beginning to lean on Snape's as he refused to face the current situation. Snape grasped him more forcefully and held him at arm's length.

'Get out. Now.' There was a shadow of his usual, authoritative tone in his voice. Still, it wasn't enough for Harry, whose mind was entirely focused on a spot on Snape's neck that danced between light and obscurity with every word Snape said. He brushed it with his fingertips and Snape hissed. 'Look at me.' Nice, smooth, warm skin... 'Look at me. Properly. Look at me,' Snape said more audibly. Harry obeyed. 'I want you -- to leave this room -- right now,' Each word was marked clearly. Harry cocked his head at him, as though the message were obscure.

'You're still holding me,' he pointed out, his only justification before laying his lips, ever so softly, on the spot that his fingers had just vacated. Snape pushed him away and held him at a distance, looking him in the eye. Harry observed the muscle throbbing in his temple, the heaving breath rumbling under Snape's robes, the arms that had held him just a moment ago, and slowly, reluctantly, his conscience returned. There was a hint of fear in his eyes as he raised them to Snape's again. Snape. He had kissed Snape. Snape was telling him to leave. And his arms still hadn't let go of Harry...

'Get away from me -- now. Get away... from me,' Snape breathed out.

I kissed Snape and he kissed me back, was all that Harry's mind could rationalise at the moment. Snape's arms finally left his, and the next 'Get away from me,' held a distinct note of menace. Reality finished its slow, but inexorable descent. Harry shifted from mild unease to scared realisation, to actual fright, as he took a step back, and another, crouching to pick up his wand, his eyes still trained on Snape.

Snape's own gaze didn't waver until Harry's very fingertips reached the doorknob and Harry scanned the empty corridor, his eyes widening with panic. Snape was still leaning against the wall, his arms apparently limp by his sides, but Harry knew that he was shaking, because a strand of his hair was randomly brushing the spot Harry's mouth had kissed. Under normal circumstances, the very thought of Snape shaking would have been absurd. But a graet deal of things had been absurd until just a second ago, Harry thought, pursing his lips and closing the door softly behind himself. Turning on his heels, he took a deep breath and ran.

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