Havoc of the Opera
Chapter 24 - A Night at the Opéra
'Don't be so loud!' Someone admonished in a whisper.
'He'll wake up!'
'Won't he have to, eventually?'
There was a rustle, and then silence. Harry stirred.
'See?' The admonishing voice began again.
''Twas about time,' came the retort.
Harry cracked his eyes open and blinked blurrily around. The sudden sunlight hit him squarely and he groaned in discomfort.
'Harry?' The voice asked timidly. 'Are you awake?'
Harry groaned again.
'Charming,' the other person countered.
'Sorry, should I leave you alone?'
'If you want to...!'
Harry opened his eyes tentatively and met Hermione's concerned gaze.
'Hello,' she ventured. Harry curled around himself under the blanket before focusing properly on her and answering.
'Where are we?' He asked with a yawn.
'In the hospital wing,' she answered softly. Much too softly.
'Oh?' He looked at the ceiling.'Why?'
She looked taken aback. 'Er... well, you... you were unwell.'
Harry grumbled against the sheet, cocked his head, realisation slowly dawning.
Hermione sighed at the change in his expression. She sat on the edge of the bed, just as he squirmed and tried to sit up.
'Harry, lie down.'
'No! He... need to go!'
'Go where, Harry? Lie down!'
'No! I saw! He did... he-- tortured, I need, he was being tortured--'
Hermione looked worriedly around and pushed Harry firmly back onto the bed. Harry followed her gaze towards the window, where Malfoy was eyeing them distastefully. Harry stopped squirming.
'He brought you here. You collapsed in the pitch, he... he warned us.'
Harry thanked him awkwardly, his eyes trained on Hermione's embarrassed face.
'Don't,' Malfoy countered, walking to the door. 'She'd have killed me if I'd left you there.'
As soon as he was out the door, Harry fidgeted again.
'Let go, I need to go, need to help...' he babbled.
'Professor Snape?' Hermione finished gravely for him.
Harry froze, looking at her in horror.
'He's all right,' she reassured him, answering the unspoken question. 'He's just got back. Came to see you,' she added in a hushed tone, eyeing the door.
'All right?' Harry echoed, sinking bonelessly onto the matress. 'Came...?'
'Well, everyone knew you were here... everyone saw Draco arriving with you...'
'Does he know?' Harry cut her off. Hermione pursed her lips.
Harry's glower nearly scorched her house badge. She pinched the bridge of her nose.
'I had to tell him, Harry!' She justified herself in despair. 'He heard you... you were feverish when you got here, and you said... things... I just had to tell him. It-- it'd have been worse if I hadn't. Sorry...'
Harry snorted absently in response, too overwhelmed with the idea that Malfoy knew. So much concern, so much fear, and Malfoy, of all people, had found out...
'He promised he wouldn't tell,' she said reassuringly. Harry snorted again, covering his face. Hermione pushed his arm away slowly. 'He won't tell. Don't worry about it.'
Harry couldn't be bothered to answer that. He focused instead on what she had said earlier.
'He came to see me?' he asked, unable to prevent a smile from pulling at his lips. 'And he was all right? Not ... injured?'
Hermione shrugged. 'He looked normal to me... but be quiet, no-one knows he came...'
Just as she said that, Malfoy returned, frowning at the sight of Hermione's hand on Harry's chest. The headmaster accompanied him.
'How do you feel, Harry?' he asked softly.
Harry looked severely up at him. 'How does he feel?'
Dumbledore sighed quietly. 'Miss Granger, Mr Malfoy, would you be so kind as to leave us alone for a moment? I believe you are expected in the Great Hall.'
'Is he still performing?' Malfoy asked, his chin pointing at Harry, who looked momentarily blank.
Hermione looked doubtful. 'I'm not sure he can...'
'Of course I can,' Harry snapped.
Hermione didn't look convinced at all. Malfoy scowled at her. 'He said he can do it, didn't he? Let's go.'
'Let's go,' he repeated, dragging her out of the room.
Harry, looking sternly at Dumbledore, crossed his arms to indicate that he wasn't at all pleased with the company. Dumbledore heaved a sigh and sat slowly on the bed, facing him. Harry slid sideways to avoid touching him, but he didn't seem to have noticed it.
'Worried about you,' Dumbledore answered sadly.
'That's not what I meant.'
'Than what is it that you meant?'
'Is he injured?' Harry ground out.
'He appears to be quite fine. Why wouldn't he be?'
Harry breathed in deeply. 'I saw him-- someone being tortured today. In my mind. I thought it was him. It looked like him.'
'We gathered as much,' Dumbledore replied gravely. 'You were... somewhat vocal during your fever. As far as I know, though, Professor Snape wasn't attacked. Though he hasn't really confided in me, these last few days...'
Harry crossed his arms and waited. Finally they were getting to the actual point of the visit.
'I can't allow it, Harry. You do understand my reasons, don't you?'
'Yes. But I don't agree with them. I don't support them, and I don't see a point in them. I hope you understand my feelings as I understand yours.'
'I do. And I'm honestly sorry that I'm causing you pain. But I won't change my course of action,' Dumbledore said firmly.
'And how exactly will you keep us apart, headmaster?' Harry snapped sarcastically.
'Didn't you promise to stay away?'
'Aren't you well informed?' Harry grimaced. 'When term starts, perhaps I'll delude myself into thinking that this was all a dream, but during the holidays? With just an empty castle between us? Have you ever known me to behave?'
'Yes, when the situation demands it,' Dumbledore replied very seriously. 'What will you do, sit outside his office in the vain hope that he casts you a glance?'
'Why, are you sending me to the Dursleys for Christmas -- just so that I don't embarrass you both with my teenage angst?'
'If I must,' Dumbledore countered, more stony than Harry had ever seen him. 'But not because of your teenage angst.'
Harry raised an irate, enquiring eyebrow.
'You haven't understood my reasons at all,' Dumbledore continued, melancholy. 'Yours would be a delicate, controversial story at the best of times. A teacher, a student, with your backstories... no, Harry, I cannot allow it because you pose a danger to each other.'
'I pose a danger to everybody I meet.'
'Not quite in this manner. You, your feelings, may prove to be more dangerous than every peril you have faced yet. Should it ever become public that you harbour such, erm, feelings for Professor Snape, who treads a very fine line as it is, have you any idea of how that might be used to get to you-- either of you?
'I can't control my feelings, headmaster.'
'But you can control your actions, and I expect you to do just that,' Dumbledore said firmly. His unusully stern voice echoed in the tense air between them. 'Neither you nor Professor Snape have had much happiness in your lives. I fear that I've played a part in that... and I want to prevent you, both of you, from going through unnecessary pain in the future. You still recall last year's events, of course. Distress, suffering, and grief already lie ahead of us. Don't hasten them, Harry.'
Harry simply retorted that the headmaster was doing that, and that he, Harry, wasn't going to sit about waiting for time to pass. He had done too much of that already.
'I'm afraid you will have to,' Dumbledore said serenely. 'Professor Snape won't be here during the holidays.'
'He's leaving again after tonight's performance.'
'Where?' Harry uttered in panic.
'Out of Hogwarts.'
Harry's eyes shot daggers at him. 'If you're doing that to keep me away from him, it's easier if you expel me.'
Dumbledore eyed Harry with something akin to pity. 'It was he who requested that I let him go.'
Harry froze mid-rant. 'Oh.'
'You don't think he's made the right decision?'
Harry grimaced up at him. 'Not really.'
After this, there wasn't much Dumbledore could say to change Harry's mind. He was on his way out when Harry addressed him again. 'Professor?'
Professor Dumbledore looked around as though expecting Ron to apparate between them. 'He, too, came to see you earlier today... I imagine he's rehearsing.'
'Ok,' Harry replied dismissively.
'Are you quite sure you are in a condition to perform?'
'If he is, so am I.”
'Mr Weasley could also be attempting to murder the young man who poisoned Miss Granger's food,' Dumbledore added flatly from the door.
'Probably,' Harry agreed without listening, his mind in other things.
Dumbledore shook his head and left.
Early in the evening, Harry and Ron still hadn't exchanged a single word. The cast and crew had all gathered backstage, and Ron steadfastly refused to look at him. He stood across the stage, spoke only to Seamus, and sulked in a manner reminiscent of his behaviour during Harry's first task in the Triwizard Tournament.
Harry didn't notice it at first, focused as he was on Parvati's final touches in the spectacularly over-the-top cloak he had bullied her into sewing for Firmin. Then, Blaise had announced that the audience seats were working properly and their young chorus squeaked excitedly that people were already coming in. Ron slipped to the back of Harry's mind. To his left, Lavender was wrestling Hermione's bushy hair into a tight bun similar to Ginny's. Hermione herself couldn't stop tugging at her ballerina outfit, trying to uncrease non-existent wrinkles.
Their Phantom was nowhere to be seen. He had skipped their dress rehearsal, giving way to rumours that he had dropped out. Parvati promptly denied them, informing them all that she had handed him his costume earlier in the afternoon. The avalanche of catcalls that met her words made Harry's blood boil.
Professor McGonagall, who was aging Malfoy, stepped back and recast the charm, for his hair wasn't quite right. The actors for the opening scene, the auction, fidgeted. Next to Ginny, Pansy sat, very pale, quieter than she had ever been, gazing at the curtain. Neville squeezed her hand reassuringly. For once, she didn't push him away, but she instead groaned that this was going to be a disaster. Malfoy tried to look supercilious, but he, too, was visibly tense. Beside him, Dean and Ron went through a dialogue one last time.
Ron's eyes and Harry's met fleetingly. For a moment, Harry had a plain view of the glare that Ron was directing at him.
'Why's Ron acting so strange?' he whispered to Hermione.
Hermione looked frantically from side to side. 'Harry, we can't talk now! It's about to begin!'
'I just want to know why he's doing this. Is he mad at me?'
Hermione tried to wriggle out of his grasp, unsuccessfully. 'It's because of Professor Snape,' she finally said. 'He heard you speaking, and... well, he's not stupid. He was there when I told Draco.'
Harry gripped her arm so viciously he almost broke it. 'Just so I know, did you owl the Prophet about it, too?'
Hermione glowered at him. 'Did you expect me to toss him out of the room after what he'd heard? That would have been even worse than just clarifying it!'
'Why didn't you tell, me, at least? I knew he'd react this way, I knew it...'
Hermione climbed up a flight of scenic wooden stairs. 'Actually, I think he was most upset because you hadn't trusted him. '
He didn't have time to answer. The wooden floor beneath them moved, and they rose high above the stage. Their plot would unfold in two stages, one level with the Great Hall's floor, one high above it, so as to give the audience a bigger sense of the difference between the Opéra's stage and the Opéra's catacombs, the Phantom's territory.
Harry wanted to leave the wings and talk to Ron, but he couldn't, for Ron had already taken his place centre stage for the opening scene. Harry swore under his breath, pledging to talk to him as soon as the performance was over. Now, he had to concentrate. Shortly, it would be his turn on stage.
'Sold!' Crabbe, the auctioneer, bellowed. 'Your number, sir? Thank you.'
Ginny was there, too, a black cloak thrown over her ballerina clothes to hide them from the audience, and there was Malfoy, irrecognisable as an old Raoul. Ginny held his arm and Harry assumed she was playing his daughter, or perhaps his granddaughter.
'Lot 665, ladies and gentlemen: a papier-mâché musical box, in the shape of a barrel organ...' As Crabbe described the musical box, an enormous chandelier was pushed along the wing. 'Sold for thirty francs to the Vicomte de Chagny. Thank you, sir.'
Draco took his time studying the box, so that there were gasps from the audience upon realising who that really was.
'A collector's piece indeed... every detail exactly as she said...' he commented in a deep rumble that couldn't possibly come from Malfoy's metallic vocal cords, turning the small box between his aged fingers. 'Will you still play, when all the rest of us are dead...?'
'Lot 666, then,' Crabbe continued. 'A chandelier in pieces. Some of you may recall the strange affair of the Phantom of the Opera: a mystery never fully explained.' Harry wondered for a moment how hard Blaise and Hermione's work must have been, trying to make Crabbe sound even remotely credible. 'We are told, ladies and gentlemen, that this is the very chandelier which figures in the famous disaster.'
He mentally scolded himself. It was almost time. He had to focus. He also had to move as far back into the wing as he could, before the first of the twins' special effects came into play.
'Perhaps we may frighten away the ghost of so many years ago with a little illumination,' Crabbe went on sardonically. 'Gentlemen?'
The reassembled chandelier was switched on, and Harry ran to catch up with Seamus, who had already taken his place across the stage. There was an earthshaking snap and a flash, and the monumental Overture blared so loudly that Harry could almost feel the blood in his veins pounding to the rhythm.
The chandelier rose gracefully to the stage's ceiling, all the auction's furniture transfigured into props for a rehearsal of Chalumeau's Hannibal, and actors slid in and out of the wings, Ginny's cloak landing on top of Goyle and McGonagall restoring Malfoy's face to its youthful looks in the blink of an eye. Harry exchanged glances with Ron again, and this time, exceptionally, there was no hostility there. Mr Reyer and Mr Firmin had to join forces. There was a loony in their Opera house.
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