Havoc of the Opera
Chapter 20 - Something About Hermione
That had certainly been unexpected. For the briefest moment, Snape's eyes widened and he said nothing. Harry took the chance to slip, or hobble, into the room.
'Coffee?!' Snape repeated, looking at him quizzically.
'Yes,' Harry panted, setting the tray down on Snape's desk. 'It's fresh.'
'Potter, what in the name of all the gods are you doing here?'
'We need to talk.'
'You're leaving. And you weren't going to tell me. Yeah, we need to talk,' Harry said bitterly.
'I see,' Snape replied in a low tone. 'I should have imagined Miss Granger's notion of discretion would differ from mine.'
'She was just worried about me.'
'Then she should have kept her mouth shut.'
'Why weren't you going to tell me?'
'I didn't know I should,' Snape said in mock perplexity.
'You'll note that I'm not keen on advertising my departure. Will that be all?'
'You told her,' Harry mumbled bitterly. 'And you only released her from your private meals on the eve of your departure. Why was that?
'Do you want us to resume the meals once I'm back? That can be arranged,' Snape snarked.
'Why do you keep doing with her all the things that you should be doing with me?'
'That's too pathetic, even for you. I should be doing nothing with you. And what I do with her is strictly professional. I believe we've already broached this matter.'
'Then why did you release her from the private meals?'
'She doesn't need them any more.'
'Did you find out what was wrong with her?'
'Oh, she didn't tell you? I thought she might have, considering her cavalier treatment of other people's business.'
'No. She didn't tell me. Is there any reason for this? Something inappropriate, perhaps?'
Snape walked up to the open door. 'I have no patience for this sort of behaviour. If you really must discuss Miss Granger's health, do it with her.'
'Did you find out anything at all?' Harry bit out. 'Or was all that just an excuse to grope her?'
Snape crossed the room to face him with a fixed gaze that could shatter glass. 'I'll have you know that I correctly identified every last one of her symptoms within five minutes of setting eyes on her. And if you really must know, she was being poisoned. Slowly, but steadily. Now that we have found the culprit, she no longer needs special treatment. Will that be all?'
For the first time that evening, Harry forgot about his own interests. An abnormal chill crawled under his skin.
'Poisoned...? But... how? When? By whom?'
'By placing toxic concoctions in her food, during her meals -- and by one of your year mates,' Snape deadpanned. 'Now, if you'll excuse me...'
'And why didn't anybody do anything about it?' Harry snapped in outrage.
'Because we didn't know who was doing it,' Snape replied in the same tone.
Harry sat down, absorbing the information. 'Who was it?'
'That's none of your concern.'
'She's my friend!'
'If I tell you, tomorrow the person will be dead and you'll be in Azkaban, Boy-who-lived or not.'
Harry sighed heavily. 'Why would anyone--'
'There is speculation among the staff that the culprit was displeased to see that a muggleborn had granted the lead in your performance.'
'The-- this was all about--' Harry couldn't even calm down enough to speak.
'This is mere speculation. I personally believe that the culprit didn't enjoy Miss Granger's recent intimacy with my Slytherins. As it turns out,' Snape smirked. 'she's become rather, sall we say, popular among them. Interhouse companionship isn't appreciated by all.'
Harry's head spun. 'And I suppose the poison, or whatever it was, came from your personal stores?'
'From Professor Sprout's greenhouses, which have been attacked again and again this year. In fact, had it not been for Miss Granger's impromptu dinner upstairs on that night that you surely recall, we wouldn't have connected the two. It's a sadly reccurrent plague, that of students raiding the staff's personal property.
'Right.' Harry cleared his throat. 'And Parkinson? Is she going to be expelled?'
'Miss Parkinson? She had nothing to do with it.'
'No. It was somebody else.'
'And you aren't going to tell me who it is?'
'No. He's going to be properly punished in due time.'
'But not expelled? He tried to kill Hermione!'
'He just wanted her out of the play,' Snape said tiredly. 'And he's part of a number of work groups. We're not going to jeopardise his colleagues' work. Miss Granger knows this, and she understands. Now, if that will be all...' He held the door wide open, making a significant gesture.
Harry walked slowly to the door, where he stood calmly, facing Snape.
'You might want to close the door.'
Snape raised an enquiring eyebrow.
'I have no intention of leaving this room before dawn,' Harry said flatly. The words reverberated between them.
'Get out of my sight, Potter.'
'Are you out of your mind?!'
'I must be. Just the thought that I love someone who still toasts Sirius' death makes me queasy -- but I think it says more about me than it does about you. Shut up,' Harry snapped, because Snape's lips had moved, and he had to say this before his nerve deserted him again. 'I know exactly how he'd feel. He'd want to ship me to St Mungo's. But he's not here, and it's not your fault,' he ground out through gritted teeth, a familiar lump forming in his throat. 'I know it's not. Dumbledore was right, he was an adult, he knew what he was doing. I can't blame others for the fact that Sirius wasn't perfect.'
'You could be my son,' Snape's eyes were narrowed, his voice much lower than his usual tone.
Harry's very blood boiled. He took a step forward, almost brushing the front of Snape's robes, almost, to push the door, which slammed shut. Before Snape could move, Harry reached out and gripped his face with both hands, leaning so further in that he was almost speaking directly into Snape's mouth.
'But I'm not. And I'm not him. Look at me. I'm not my dad. I'm nothing like him, nothing. Even Sirius said so, and he wished I was like him. I'm not my dad. I shouldn't be paying for what he did to you.'
'I can't look at you without seeing him,' Snape said coolly, rigidly, leaning back to distance his mouth from Harry's.
'You can,' Harry gritted out, grasping Snape's stiff wrists, running Snape's hands over himself. 'You want me. You want me. Did you want my dad, too?'
He had the disquieting feeling that if the situation weren't so tense, Snape might have laughed. 'I must say that this particular feeling never crossed my mind whenever I met with your father.'
'Well...' Harry added gravely. 'That's one problem solved.'
'There are so many more,' Snape mused, trying to twist his hands out of Harry's vice-like grip. 'And you're so young to understand them all--'
'Enough about that,' Harry snapped. 'We've been through this. You're the first to disregard my age when it matters. No-one would even remember how old I am if there weren't celebrations of Voldemort's demise every year. Enough.'
'This isn't what you're looking for.'
'This is precisely what I'm looking for,' Harry corrected him in desperation, pinning their hands together between their bodies. 'Something to remember. Something other than a kiss that I stole and another that you just used as punishment.'
'You want a memory of me,' Snape droned sarcastically. 'A nice memory. You don't know what you're asking for.'
Harry gripped his wrists more tightly and gulped, blinking away the tears that had absurdly risen to his eyes. A short silence followed.
'I'm asking for anything that you might want to give me,' Harry finally said. Something in his tone must have awakened an untapped portion of Snape's mind, for the tension in the room reached an intimidating new level. Snape no longer fought his grip.
'I'm not a gentle lover,' Snape pointed out, after an eternity had elapsed.
'I didn't expect you to be.'
Snape's eyes roamed Harry's face at these words, settling on his eyes. 'And once you have your precious memory, will you stop haunting me?'
Harry nodded with his lips pursed, moving closer still. 'I promise.'
'He promises...' Snape echoed absentmindedly. The very tip of his wand tilted towards the wall, and the hidden door ground open to let them in.
Harry took a deep breath, and they walked silently towards it, and into Snape's private chambers.
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