I found this in the back halls of my computer and decided to post it, even though it had originally been intended to be a mini-series for Christmas last year. Maybe this year, but not right now – I've got too much to do in that damned 'Real World' which keeps intruding.
This is also a chance to let you all know, if you really care, that it'll be another week until the next chapter of Strange Relationships, and another after that for Guilty Consciences. This is by way of both an apology and, well, I suppose a bribe to keep you all interested.
So, I've called it Yule Ball, but that was only so that I knew which fic it referred to. It'll stay as that for the time being, though.
Hope you enjoy it, and remember it's only pre-slash. Maybe as a Christmas present later this year I'll finish it, but you'll all have to ask really nicely, and I warn you, it may not be so good if time continues to still only form 24 hours every day and 7 days a week.
He's at the door again, thought Severus with a sigh.
Without moving from his current position, bent over his student's latest pathetic offerings of 'knowledge' on the subject of potion making, he opened he door with magic, muttering an almost incoherent, "come in," as he continued to grade essays.
The heavy oaken door, almost black now with years of use in a damp, smoky dungeon, creaked open.
"Well, you certainly sound ever so pleased to see me. You look it too. One would think you didn't delight in my company!"
Using the hand not scraping the quill against the parchment, he massaged his temples.
"I thought I told you to go away," he said, tone not giving any sign of emotion.
The intruder laughed lightly as he deposited himself gracefully in one of the chairs at the opposite side of the desk to Severus and crossed his right leg over the other, leaning one elbow on the knee and resting his chin in the cupped hand.
"Severus, that was yesterday," he was told in a mirth-filled tone, as though his directions didn't count until further notice. As though the intruder didn't have seven years' experience of that.
He growled, exasperated and resigned all at the same time. He set his quill down precisely and delicately before looking up at the smiling young man opposite him.
"Mister Potter, -"
The young man laughed through his nose.
"Harry, fine," Severus said, having fought that argument a thousand and one times before, "Harry, just because the headmaster made you defence professor, or should I say official defence professor…"
Harry grinned at the reminder of 'Dumbledore's Army', the renegade defence class he had ran at the behest of his peers in fifth year, and which had changed to a legal club once that evil witch Umbridge was out of the picture. Severus sighed at the grin, knowing there was no way he could make Harry feel guilty about it, and continued on with his point.
"Just because you now have access to the staff room, restricted section and the school at large without having to sneak doesn't mean you have permission to harass other Professors in their private offices."
Harry just stared at him unrepentantly, face slightly tilted on his palm.
"I don't harass professors, plural," he said, smiling ever so slightly, "just you."
Severus leant his own elbows on his table, one either side of the stack of parchment, and steepled his fingers together, bringing the tip to his lips and tapping an un-rhythmic beat on the soft skin. He stared sternly over the top of his long, artist's hands.
"Why do you persist in the harassment?"
Harry laughed and pushed up his glasses, resting his hand back into his palm again before speaking.
"It's not harassment, Severus; it's enjoying your company. And if you were honest with yourself you'd admit you enjoy mine, too."
Severus stared at the defence teacher, incredulity building up in his veins.
"You have been teaching here – officially – for the past three months. In those three months, I've barely had one evening free where you didn't come down and annoy me with not only inane chatter but pointless chatter, too. It wouldn't be so bad if you insisted on talking on intellectual matters, however the standard of conversation has been anything but.
"You have asked me questions about the following topics: toothpaste; embalming charms; first year students; the headmaster' taste in robes and chocolate frog cards!"
Harry snickered as he sat back in his (when had Severus started to think of that particular chair as his?) chair and folded his arms.
"You must have been stimulated to have remembered them so well," he said; humour making his voice tremble, "Anyway, I'm not here to talk to you about toothpaste tonight."
Severus sighed and decided to give him the benefit of the doubt, or at least to humour a lesser mind.
"Fine. What are you here to talk to me about?"
Harry grinned, uncrossed his leg and used both to tilt his chair back in the fashion that he had often been yelled at for in the classroom as a teen. His eyes flashed with his good mood, and Severus couldn't help but feel more good-natured himself. Not that he would either show or admit it.
"The Yule Ball."
Severus figuratively kicked himself for believing in any chance Harry Potter would talk to him about something serious. He gave the other man a sardonic look, collapsing his steeple into a prayer and then clasping them together.
"The Yule Ball. Oh what an intelligent conversation this will be; call on the big brains: we'll never get our heads around this one!"
This was all said in a very dry and extremely sarcastic way, but Harry, it seemed, was not to be perturbed.
"Yes, the Yule Ball. Now, it's only two weeks away, so I was wondering what you'll be wearing."
Severus was now confused – why would he care…?
"Why would you care what I'm wearing to the ball?"
He didn't bother to hide the disbelief in his voice.
Harry was still tilted back in the chair, arms folded, legs rocking the chair ever so slightly, but enough to make Severus' heart jump in his chest ever time it jerked back a little further than usual. He unfolded his arms and pulled one around his torso, resting the other on it so that he could chew on a thumbnail.
"So that we can colour coordinate."
He had moved his thumb away only long enough to speak, and then brought it back up to his mouth, no longer chewing on the nail, but rather sucking on the tip of his thumb.
"Colour coordin-. What?"
Harry grinned behind his thumb.
"I'm a judge for the tournament – I have to be, as I'm the former champion. And as such I have to not only attend the ball, but to attend it with a date. And I'm asking you if you'd like to be that date."
While Severus brazenly stared, Harry continued.
"Of course, you'd have to dance the first dance with me, but I've improved enough that I'll not be standing on your feet. And you would have to sit at the high table with the headmaster and Hagrid and our champion and his date, and it might be strange, but it could be rather fun."
Harry stopped talking and looked at him expectantly.
"You want me to be your date?"
"To the Yule Ball?"
Harry nodded again and Severus sighed.
For the first time that evening, Harry looked uneasy. He tipped his chair back onto four legs and hugged his stomach.
"To tell the truth, I consider you to be a close friend. It's going to be hard, what with all the memories from the last tournament, and you, well, your presence would be comforting."
As Severus digested this, Harry threw in another comment, smiling again and tilting his chair back again as he did so.
"Of course the fact that I have a crush on you and would get to go on a date with you isn't entirely beside the point, but it's not the main reason."
Severus blinked at him, looking rather like a bewildered goldfish.
"You have a crush on me."
It was a question issued in a statement.
"Yes," Harry affirmed.
Severus blinked some more and Harry laughed.
"Oh, come on, Severus, it should have been evident. Why do you think you're the only one I've been harassing? I consider our friendship more important, but if a situation comes up where we can go out on a date and not jeopardise that friendship, like the Yule Ball, well, I'm going to take it. Will you come with me? Don't worry; I don't expect a kiss goodnight, or even civil conversation; just a dance and some company. Please?"
Severus closed his eyes and bowed his head behind his clasped fists, breathing deeply. When he opened them and Harry was still there, waiting silently and looking hopeful, he reluctantly conceded.
"Fine, okay. I'll go with you. But as a friend only, okay?"
"Fine by me!"
He turned serious again.
"And really, Severus, I mean it – your presence will be a great comfort to me. Thank you."
Severus sighed a put-upon sigh.
"You're welcome. I'll be wearing black, as usual, so wear whatever you will except navy blue."
"Even red and gold?" he teased.
"As long as I am not forced to wear it, I really couldn't care less. Now, get out; I have grading to do."
Harry sat his chair upright and jumped up energetically.
"So do I," he confided as he went to the door.
With it half closed, he looked back in and spoke in a solemn and gentle voice.
"Thank you, Severus; it means a lot to me. More than you know."
By the time Severus looked up, he was gone from sight; door shutting with a gentle thud.
Remember the 3 R's! Read, Review, and Remember I'm only human!