Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Rating: PG for now; probably NC17 eventually, if Snape and Harry have their way.
Notes: This is *extremely* AU. It's set in Harry and Company's seventh year, and it assumes that Voldemort has been defeated entirely at this point. An "Oh, brilliant, it only took half a year to kill him for good, so we've got the rest of the year off from Battling Utter Evil" sort of thing. Sirius has been exonerated, and he's the DADA teacher for the year.
Text appearing in single quotes ' ' within double quotes " " indicates dialogue quoted directly from the orignal play. Lines have been cut and/or edited for clarity or brevity in places, but otherwise, all dialogue is verbatim.
Too Wise To Woo Peaceably
WHAT: AUDITIONS FOR THE HOGWARTS PRODUCTION OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE'S MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
(A Muggle play)
WHEN: 18-19 FEBRUARY, 6:00-9:00 PM
WHERE: THE LITTLE THEATRE
(second storey, west wing, just past the Greek statues)
Auditions for this production are open to all students and faculty alike. Tech crew volunteers are also needed. The performance will be on April 23.
As soon as Hermione finished tacking the announcement on the Gryffindor message board, she was swamped by a hoard of curious students, all peering at the parchment and full of questions.
"What's this, then?" Ron asked, tapping the announcement, and she batted his hand away.
"Don't, Ron, I've only just finished writing them up, and the ink's still wet." Hermione held up a handful of fliers as evidence. "And it's a call sheet," she said. "We're putting on a show!"
"'We'? Who's 'we'?" Harry wanted to know, and a few heads in the crowd nodded agreement.
"It was actually Professor Dumbledore's idea," she explained. "He thought it would be a good idea to help lift everyone's spirits after... Well, you know."
A collective shiver ran through the crowd as memories of the awful events of the fall and early winter rose up in everyone's minds. But those dark times were behind them now -- for good this time, thanks to Harry, Dumbledore, and their compatriots.
"And he's just seen a Muggle film version of Hamlet, so he's rather keen on Shakespeare right now," Hermione continued.
"Oh, God, not that four hour monster, with the Victorian costuming," someone in the back groaned.
"Well, what about that awful Mel Gibson version, then?" Dean Thomas exclaimed. "The scenes were chopped up and all out of order, and Glenn Close just isn't old enough to be Mel's mother!"
"Yes, but Mel's so dreamy..." Mary-Sue Brown, a fourth year, sighed, making Dean and a few others pretend to gag.
"All right, all right!" Hermione raised both hands and gestured for quiet. "You can have your film criticism session later. Suffice to say, our Headmaster wants to celebrate April 23rd this year, and he wants us to put on a nice romantic comedy."
"What's so special about April 23rd?" Ron asked, earning a sniff from Hermione.
"Really. Some people have no sense of culture or history," she said, but she was smiling to show she was teasing, and he just rolled his eyes. It was, after all, an old routine between them at this point, and neither took it seriously anymore. "April 23rd is the day Shakespeare died. It also may be his birthday as well, as best as anyone can figure from what few records we have."
Harry stepped back, letting others get closer so they could read the announcement for themselves, and he pondered the idea. His first reaction had been to dismiss the idea of auditioning out of hand, but the more he thought about it, the more he thought he might give it a go after all. He'd never tried acting before, nor had he read any of Shakespeare's plays since they weren't required reading at Hogwarts. It would be a new experience, perhaps a bit of a lark, and it certainly would help him forget the events of the recent past.
Besides, he was winding up his last year at Hogwarts, a thought that made his heart constrict, and this sounded like it might be a good way to end the year on a happy, fun note.
"Professor Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall are the consulting faculty," Hermione was saying, and Harry let his attention drift back to her, in case she was saying something important. "They've appointed me the director, and I've already done some research--"
An assortment of groans and laughter rose from the Gryffindors gathered around her, but she ignored all of it.
"--and I learned that in Shakespeare's day, women weren't allowed to perform on stage."
"What?" Parvati exclaimed, bracing her hands on her hips. "That's not fair!"
"I know," Hermione agreed darkly, and those who remembered her fervent S.P.E.W. campaign a few years prior took a cautious step back from her. "But they weren't. Young men performed all the female roles, and I've decided we're going to make this production as historically accurate as possible. That means the cast will be entirely male, but," she added, raising her voice above the protests of the girls in the room, "to make things fair, the entire tech crew will be female. We'll be running the show, ladies," she concluded with a fierce grin, and there were cheers from the girls in response.
"What do you think, Harry?" Ron sidled up close to his friend and whispered the question. "Are you going to audition?"
"I'm not sure... Maybe I'll have a look at the play first. It seems like it might be fun, though," Harry said.
"I don't know if I dare," Ron admitted. "With Hermione running the show, I'll probably get cast as a girl."
"You will?" Harry exclaimed, looking up at his friend, who had shot up in the last couple of years and now had several inches in height advantage over Harry, who hadn't grown nearly as much. He was still short and slight for his age, and at this point, he doubted he would ever be tall and broad, like Bill and Charlie were, and like Ron looked as if he would be one day. "What about me?"
"I think you could stand to get tarted up a bit," Ron replied, grinning wickedly at his friend, who punched his shoulder in response.
"But it's supposed to be a romantic comedy, What if I have to perform some sappy love scene with another guy?"
"Oh, as if you'd really mind!"
Harry stuck his tongue out at Ron, feeling a rush of heat in his face at the teasing, but he wasn't insulted. It had been two years since he'd come to terms with the fact that while he liked girls just fine, he liked boys even better. He had eventually confessed to both Hermione and Ron, who accepted his flexible preferences with the same ease as they'd accepted his notoriety when they first met. There had been only one moment of concern from Ron.
"Ehm... You're not going to hit on me now, are you? Because I like you and all, Harry, but not in that way," Ron had said, looking as if he felt awkward about even asking.
Harry had assured him that he wasn't interested in Ron in That Way either, and life had gone on as normal. Ron had even helped cover for him a number of times when he had a brief fling with Fred before the twins graduated and went on to open their joke shop in London.
Harry had also dated Cho Chang for a while, but not Ginny; something in his heart warned him that she would want more than he could give her. He chose partners who weren't any more interested in committing to him than he was in committing to them, thus avoiding romantic entanglements that might end badly for anyone involved. Which was ironic, because he wanted a steady relationship, had wanted it for quite some time now, but there was no one with whom he could picture himself in a long term relationship. Sometimes, he felt as if he was waiting for something... or someone... and he had only to be patient and wait for the answers to be revealed.
If that were the case, he thought crossly, he wished they would hurry along. He would be graduating soon, and his chances for meeting single witches or wizards would drop once he was out in the world, away from Hogwarts and Hogsmeade, which had the largest concentration of magic-using folk around.
But no sooner had the impatient thought arisen when another followed on its heels, this time from the still, small voice that lived in the back of his head: patience, you'll find what you seek in due time.
Harry sighed, and glanced once more at Hermione's call sheet. Perhaps he would audition, even if he did get cast as a girl. At least it would give him something to do in the lack of a decent love life.
"You cast me opposite who?!"
"Don't you 'now, Harry' me, Hermione Granger! What the bloody hell were you thinking?" Harry pinwheeled his arms, his voice rising to a shout.
He could scarcely believe what he had just heard about the results of the play auditions. He had decided to try out, and he had showed up at the appointed time, to find out the auditions were being kept as private as possible, without any of the hopeful would-be thespians knowing who else was auditioning. Hermione and Professor McGonagall had conducted the auditions, and Harry had been a little surprised Professor Dumbledore hadn't participated in the selection process as well.
Afterward, Hermione had promised to let him know right away if he'd gotten a part, even before she posted the results in the common rooms of all the Houses, as she had the audition announcement. He wasn't quite surprised to learn he had indeed been cast in a female part; actually, he was pleased and flattered that he had been chosen for one of the female leads, Beatrice.
What had shocked him was learning who would be playing the part of Benedick, and thus would essentially be Harry's leading man.
"I'm thinking of the play!" Hermione shot back. "Considering the dynamic between Benedick and Beatrice, you two will be perfect for the parts. Besides." She gave a dismissive sniff. "It's time you both learned to work together in peace as well as in war. You fought side by side to defeat You-Know-Who -- sorry, Voldemort -- so surely you can manage this."
"I can't believe he auditioned in the first place..." Harry raked his hands through his hair, rumpling it even more than it was naturally. "Did Dumbledore blackmail him into it or something?"
"Not as far as I know," she replied. "Far from it, as a matter of fact. From what I gather, he's rather fond of Shakespeare, and was quite keen on the idea of getting a part in the play."
"Oh, lovely." Harry grimaced. "So I'm to spend the next few weeks pretending to be all swoony and romantic over Snape."
"Have you even read the play yet?" She fixed him with a steely gaze that he couldn't quite meet.
"Ehm... Not as such, no..."
"If you had, then you'd know that having you and Professor Snape in the roles is practically type-casting, since Beatrice and Benedick spend most of the play squabbling."
"Really?" He perked up at that -- then the implications of her words sank in, and his eyes narrowed with suspicion. "What do you mean 'most' of the play?"
"Oh, nothing," she replied breezily, waving one hand in a dismissive gesture. "Hero and Claudio are the two swoony, love-sick teens in this play. Benedick and Beatrice are older, and decidedly not swoony. I promise, you won't have any problems."
"All right, fine." He folded his arms and grumbled. "What about the rest of the cast, then?"
"As to that," Hermione said with a lofty smile, "you'll just have to wait and see. First read-through is Thursday night. See you there, sweet Beatrice!"
Harry's reply was neither polite nor appropriate to be heard by younger students, but Hermione only laughed as she strolled away.
Two masks adorned the double doors leading into the little theater on the second floor of the castle, one black and one white. Harry liked them both, and they seemed to like him as well. The comedy mask giggled at him as he pulled on the door handle, and the tragedy mask stopped sobbing long enough to mutter a despairing, "h'lo."
Stepping inside the theater itself, Harry had decided on his first visit, was like stepping into a 1930s cinema. The seats were all upholstered in crushed velvet the color of a rich red wine, and there was a balcony that Harry could imagine first years hanging over and spilling popcorn into the rows beneath. The proscenium stage was framed by a deep blood red curtain edged with gold tassels, and the floor of the stage itself was wood, and looked old and worn, as if many feet had tramped its boards.
When he walked in for the first read-through, he noticed the house lights were dimmed, but the stage was brightly lit, and a large table surrounded by plenty of chairs had been set up in the middle of it. There were also people whom he presumed to be his fellow cast members milling around, and to his relief, Sirius was among the group, as was Ron.
Hurrying up the narrow steps leading on-stage, Harry greeted them with a wide smile. "Good to see I won't be making a fool of myself alone," he teased.
"Yeah, well..." Ron ducked his head shyly. "It sounded like fun."
"So did you get cast as a girl?"
"No!" Ron's sigh of relief drew laughter from both Sirius and Harry. "I'm Claudio, whoever that is."
Harry smirked at him, remembering what Hermione had said. "He's the swoony teen lover of the play."
"No!" His friend looked aghast. "You're joking, right?" Ron's voice contained a hopeful note, but Harry shook his head solemnly.
"What about you?" Harry turned to Sirius. "Who are you supposed to be?"
"Don Pedro," the older man replied. "I'm the prince who tells everyone what to do," he added, smiling.
Harry nodded, glad they would be doing a read-through that night. With all his classwork and preparations for graduation, he hadn't had a chance to read the play yet, and the character names still meant little to him. He had the fleeting wish that Sirius had gotten cast as Benedick. It would have been a little odd, playing a romantic lead opposite the man he had come to think of as a surrogate father, but it would have been far more comfortable than playing opposite Snape.
Speaking of whom... Harry glanced around the stage, trying to appear casual as he checked to see if Snape had arrived yet, but the Potions Master was nowhere in sight. 'Probably handling last minute detentions,' he thought snidely.
Just then, Professor McGonagall bustled in, followed closely by Hermione; stopping on the edge of the stage near the orchestra pit, she scanned the crowd, then consulted her notes.
"I see we're missing a few of our cast," she said disapprovingly. "Leonato, Benedick and Don John haven't yet arrived." She tutted under her breath. "Well, they'll have to catch up." Clapping her hands briskly, she addressed everyone in a ringing voice. "Those of you who are serving on the technical crew, including props, wardrobe, make-up, lighting, and all the rest, come with me! We shall begin designing our sets and costumes, etcetera, tonight. I leave the cast of our troupe in Miss Granger's capable hands."
With that, she trooped off-stage again, all the females in the group following along behind, except Hermione, who stood near the wings, holding her clipboard and looking important.
"If everyone would be seated round the table?" She gestured to the round wood table in the middle of the stage, and the group, now consisting entirely of males except for Hermione, claimed chairs; there were exactly enough for everyone, Harry noted, since four were left over, and he assumed one of those was for Hermione.
Sure enough, she took one of the empty seats and ran her finger down the top scroll she had unfurled and pinned on her clipboard, then glanced around the table as if taking inventory. "Perhaps we could introduce ourselves in character, while we wait for the others. Colin, we'll start with you," she said, indicating the small, thin young man sitting on her right.
Harry watched him, regret welling up from his heart and surging into his throat; once he had found Colin Creevey to be little more than a nuisance, an enthusiastic, excitable boy who dogged his heels and seemed to have an exceptionally strong case of hero worship for Harry, which had always been embarrassing and annoying. Now, however, he'd relive every irritating moment just to see Colin behave like his old self, but after all Colin had witnessed, even though he had been kept from participating in the battles with Voldemort himself, his inner light had been dimmed by the pain of experience and loss.
Colin summoned up a smile that wasn't nearly as bright as those Harry remembered, but it was a valient effort, and he waved to everyone around the table.
"I'm Colin," he said, wiggling a little in his seat, as if he was nervous but excited. "I'm to play Hero."
"Ah, then you'll be working most with Ron," Hermione said, not quite smirking in Ron's direction. Indeed, her voice was remarkably cool and professional as she continued, "Ron is playing Claudio, you see, and Hero and Claudio are the young lovers."
Ron's face turned as red as his hair, but Colin appeared unabashed.
"We'll be brilliant, Ron!" he exclaimed, his smile widening.
Beside him, Harry elbowed Ron sharply.
"Ow! I mean... Yeah, Colin, I'm sure we'll do fine."
In the back of the auditorium, the double doors creaked open, and everyone at the table turned to look at the shadowy figures gliding up the center aisle. They were nearly to the stage before the light was bright enough to identify them as Albus Dumbledore, Severus Snape, and Draco Malfoy.
Harry regarded Malfoy dispassionately, surprised at his interest and obvious inclusion in the play as he was by Snape's. Still, he supposed it was Malfoy's way of showing that he was, indeed, on the team, and after all he'd been through, Harry wasn't inclined to harbor unkind thoughts. Malfoy had lost both his parents, and he had learned the bitter truth of what it meant to be a Dark Wizard. That he learned it at the hands of Voldemort himself made Harry even more charitable towards his old rival.
Malfoy was still arrogant and condescending, but he no longer blathered about his father, or the Dark Arts. The haunted look in his eyes, so old for such a young face, told more than any words could about the lessons he had learned in the hardest possible way.
"Oh, good, you're here." Hermione's smile was warm and welcoming to all three of the new arrivals; as fussy and judgmental as she could be at times, Harry thought, she had a forgiving heart, even for the boy who had tormented her, and the professor who had tried to quash her. "Everyone, I should like to introduce our Leonato, the governor of Messina, father to Hero, and uncle to Beatrice."
Professor Dumbledore, his blue eyes sparkling behind his glasses, bowed low, then took one of the vacant seats.
"Our villain, Don John."
Draco stepped forward and, his lips twisting in a mocking smile, also bowed before taking a seat.
"Don John is the bastard brother of Don Pedro," she explained, indicating Sirius, who nodded. "And finally, Benedick, a lord of Padua, friend to both Claudio and Don Pedro--"
Snape and Sirius exchanged sneers, but there wasn't nearly as much venom in them as once there had been. Too much had happened for either of them to cling to old grudges, and while Harry knew Sirius would never consider Snape anything like a friend -- and he suspected it was entirely mutual -- they were at least able to remain in the same room for long periods of time without lunging for each other's throats, which was a vast improvement, to be sure.
"--and eventual suitor to Beatrice," she concluded, looking directly at Harry, who managed a weak smile as all heads, including Snape's, turned to him.
The look of stunned surprise in Snape's dark eyes gave Harry some small satisfaction; he had known about the casting, but Snape hadn't.
But Snape recovered his composure quickly, and his mouth curved in one of those nasty, patronizing smiles Harry knew all too well. "So Potter is to be Beatrice to my Benedick? Well, well, well. In that case, perhaps Taming of the Shrew would have been a more apt choice of play."
"Get stuffed, Snape," Sirius growled. "If you don't want to do it, you can leave now. We'll find someone else."
Snape arched one elegant eyebrow. "On the contrary, Black, I believe I shall find pretending to be enamoured of Potter in any way quite a challenge for my acting skills."
Harry watched from beneath his lashes as the Potions Master sank gracefully into the last remaining chair and folded his thin, pale hands in his lap, turning his entire attention on Hermione. He was wishing more and more that he'd read the play, so he could have known what he was getting into. Snape's words sounded ominous, and despite Hermione's assurances that the two characters bickered constantly, he had the uneasy feeling that bickering wasn't quite all they did.
And if that were the case, he really didn't know what he was going to do. The idea of being romantic, even if it was only acting, with Snape felt far beyond his abilities to pretend in a believable fashion. Perhaps he had best withdraw now, before it was too late...
But no. He had made a committment, and besides, Ron would kill him if he abandoned him now.
And so he was stuck.
Playing romantic leading lady to Snape.
Well, he had wanted something to liven things up. Now he just needed to make a mental note to be careful what he wished for in future, on the chance that he actually got it.
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