TITLE: Snape And The Tie That Binds
DISCLAIMER: Belongs to J.K. Rowling.
BETAS: Loupgarou1750, Ook, and the glorious Gemsbok!
NOTES: For Loupgarou1750, this was written in Wodehouse style, with Harry as Bertie Wooster, Snape as Jeeves, and numerous other friends in Wodehouse-esque roles.
SUMMARY: AU, Non-magic, HP on Jeeves and Wooster. Harry has decided it's time to settle down with a good woman. Snape counteracts this dastardly idea with a plan of great shrewdness…
Snape And The Tie That Binds
"You ought to get married," my very good pal Ron suggested to me. "There's nothing like."
"But Ron, you haven't even been married yet," I pointed out. "It's a bit much, giving me advice on marriage when you haven't even got the girl up to the altar."
"That won't be a problem, I'm sure of it," he responded, somewhat smugly for a man in his position, I thought.
He was probably right, though. Getting a girl to marry you seemed such an easy thing to do. I've had several close calls with it myself, and I wasn't even trying.
"In any case, no, thank you," I informed him. "Marriage, peachy as it no doubt is, is not for the likes of Harry Potter."
If you're looking for a best man, then I say look no further than Harry Potter. I was made for such things. I rise to these occasions like a fish rising to what's-it-called. That is to say, it brings out the best in me. I'd been working on my speech, you see, for Ron's impending nuptials, and he was giving me pointers, such as 'Don't call me a cove—Hermione doesn't like that. Says it sounds undignified or something. No, use 'gentleman,' or something more of that nature.'
It was a lovely day to be planning a wedding; spring was in the air, the birds were singing quite chipper little songs, and all was right with the world, as Snape might have said. The day was, of course, made all the better by the whisky and soda I was currently consuming as I endeavoured to drum up just the right remarks to make on the eve of the big show.
"You know," I remarked after a length of time, "you might well be right."
Ron, who had been busy scrutinizing the guest list and wondering whether he could get away with leaving off some of the birds he didn't get on with, looked up. "Of course I am," he replied indignantly. "Who in their right mind would invite Draco Malfoy? But do you honestly think Hermione'll let it pass? She's still rather sore because I said the fabric she liked for the bridesmaids made them look like overgrown antimacassars, but it did. I don't really want to start another fight, though, and not over that dratted Malfoy."
"Not that, Ron," I responded. "The time for Draco Malfoy has passed. I was speaking of marriage."
"Well, then don't talk of Draco Malfoy at all," Ron said. "You'll put me off my lunch."
"I think perhaps it is time I settled down and whatnot. I don't suppose it would be too difficult to find a girl willing to have me."
"What, an ass like you? I suppose if you're really hard up, there's always Ginny. She's crazy about you."
Glancing up, I saw the girl herself passing by, and she gave me something of a friendly smile. "Hullo, Harry," she greeted before disappearing again. Quite the dish she'd grown into, with thick red hair and lovely gams to boot. One could do worse than Ginny Weasley.
I gave this some thought. Ginny was Ron's younger sister, full of vim and vigour, and—unfortunately—sharp words as well. But she did like me quite a bit, so perhaps she'd be less inclined to use them on yours truly. "Yes, that is an idea," I agreed. "One gets tired of the trials of bachelorhood. Ginny would have me, and such a sporting gal she is! Why, not only could I play cricket as much as I liked, she'd probably play it right alongside me. Our children would cut their teeth on cricket bats!"
Ron smiled broadly at my enthusiasm. "Absolutely!" he replied. "And you'd see ever such a lot of me, as well! Why, we could nip down to the pub or the club practically anytime we wanted; you'd just say, 'I'm giving Ron and Hermione a visit, won't be long,' and I'd tell Hermione I was with you and Ginny! It's brilliant!"
I was fairly certain there was some flaw in his logic, but it would take my man Snape to figure out what it was, so I merely nodded heartily.
"Good," he said. "Now that's settled, d'you think I could get back to this? There has to be some way of keeping Draco Malfoy away from my wedding…"
I couldn't blame him for not wanting the bloke around—Malfoy is famous for his wandering eye, and deep pockets as well, and Ron, not being nearly so well off, was more than a little paranoid Hermione's eye might do some last minute wandering of its own.
"Perhaps you could put it to Snape? He always knows what to do. I'd ask you, of course, only your ideas are all crap. No offence meant."
"No offence taken," I assured him, putting my glasses back up my nose and trying to focus on my speech. "I'll put it to Snape this evening. I'm sure he'll be pleased to help."
So it was that evening after dinner that I passed on my troubles and cares, for a worry shared is a worry halved and all that, if worry is the word I want. Snape was clearing off the table when I presented my problem. "Snape," I said, "how quickly can you fire up the old bean, and can you manage to make it juggle several problems at the same time? I hate to drop the dilemmas in your lap, but I can't seem to sort them out myself."
Snape, used, as he was, to having such things set before him, merely gave me that slight smile that said he was all ears. "Perhaps it would help if you would expound on the matters, sir."
So that's just what I did. I mentioned Ron's issue with Draco, though of course I didn't find it that pressing, lamented on the slow-goings with my toast to the bridegroom, and finally came to the crux of the thing—the weightier issue that was, at the moment, setting heavily on my mind.
"Speaking of Miss Granger and her bridegroom," he interrupted, "she placed a call today and—"
"Dash Hermione and all that!" I told him, "I've got too many other problems. I've got a really thorny issue of my own that I shall need your assistance with."
"Would that I were surprised, sir," he replied, pouring me a brandy.
"I've decided to shackle myself to Ginny Weasley, and I'd like to do it in season. I mean, I don't want to take too long about it; cold feet will be more likely with a longer engagement, don't you think?"
Snape dropped the decanter, which quite—what's the word, starts with an a? Not atrophied, nor asphyxiated… means to surprise greatly, shock, as it were. Astounded me. I'd never known Snape to drop things before, even if we were on such a daunting subject as the end of my bachelorhood.
"I say! Are you quite all right?"
"Yes, sir," he replied, making to clean the mess. "I do apologize."
"Are you feeling ill?" I pressed, for the possibility of Snape's demise seemed to be imminent, if he had grown so shaky as to be dropping decanters of perfectly good brandy. "You should go and have a lie down," I advised him.
"Thank you, sir, but that won't be necessary," he replied, just a shade coolly.
I supposed it might have been because Ginny Weasley had been trying to get herself hitched to me for nigh on ten years now, and it was only through my sheer willpower and his peerless mental power that I was kept out of her clutches. It must have rankled just a little that all his efforts had gone to naught, seeing I was about to marry the girl anyway, but that's the way the what d'you call it crumbles. I was dead set on marrying Ginny Weasley, and not even Snape's towering intellect could stop me.
"Come on, old chap," I wheedled, and let it be said that no one can wheedle more movingly nor effectively than Harry Potter. "Don't let me down. You must have some thoughts on the subject. There's got to be a way of making me seem an attractive bloke—an intelligent, valiant, likely sort of lad."
Snape gave me that look he's got—I'm not quite sure I can explain it, other than to say one eyebrow flicks up and his lip gets this odd little curl in it, and he said shortly, "Some things are beyond even my powers, I'm afraid."
"Well…dash it all, do think on it, would you?" I pleaded. "It's a pickle and no mistake. Perhaps you'll have one of your brainwaves while you sleep. Oh, and I'll be wearing the green suit tomorrow, I think. Could you get it ready for me?"
He scowled. "I have heard, on good authority, that that suit makes you look like a stray leprechaun with unfortunate facial features."
I gaped, outraged. "Whose authority?" I demanded.
"Mine. It accents none of your better features—it is an unsightly shade of green which does nothing for the brilliance of your eyes, and in fact looks like rather brackish marsh water, and washes out your normally creamy complexion. Its cut is wrong, and makes you look even more stunted and deformed than you really are. If you're trying to impress, I should choose the charcoal suit, sir. It complements the darkness of your hair, contrasts nicely with your eyes, and its cut is clever enough to persuade the unobservant that you are merely compact and lithe, rather than hideously misshapen."
"When I want your ruddy advice, I'll ask for it!" I roared.
His eyes flashed. "Oh, but sir, you did ask for it. You want to convince a certain lady that you are not a colour-blind imbecile, do you not?"
I subsided, still feeling resentful. "It's going to take more than clothing, in any case," I told him. "And I like that suit, and I'm wearing that suit tomorrow, so it had better be ready!"
He straightened to his full height and looked down his nose at me. No one can look down his nose like Snape, believe me. He puts the fear of God in lesser men with that look, but it takes a bit more than that to intimidate Harry James Potter.
"Very well, sir," he said icily.
"And…and try to think up something better, would you? A real corker to end all my problems."
"I shall see what might be done to remedy the situation, sir," he replied, and popped off to do the dishes.
Unfortunately, the next day was Snape's day off, and I didn't like to press upon him for answers while he was supposed to be biffing off and taking it easy—especially after the scare he'd given me the night before.
So it was that I decided to go it alone, ankle round to The Burrow and pay Miss Weasley a visit, hoping to catch her ear for a few moments, and perhaps get her used to the idea of having me underfoot, for undoubtedly, if we tied the knot, I'd be around and about as often as not.
It was a pity I'd have to do without Snape's stratagems, but after all, I was a Potter, and well up to doing some hard cogitation, when and if it was called for. It was another splendid spring morn, and there was a bounce in my step and a gleam in my eye. And of course a pretty girl at the end of the road did something for the b and g as well, I'm sure.
Thus it was that, after my cab had dropped me off, I cheerfully ambled up the driveway, carefully avoiding the many puddles Mother Nature had thoughtlessly placed in my path, and directly into Miss Weasley herself. I can assure you that it wasn't entirely my fault—I had heard voices coming from the back of the house, and was just rounding the corner when she happened to do the same, coming from the opposite direction, d'you see, and we collided as two ships passing in the night that never really got to the passing part.
"Oh, Harry," she said, sounding somewhat less pleased to see me than I'd hoped, although it's really only to be expected of someone who's just been knocked in the mud, even if the chap didn't do it on purpose.
"Ah, Ginny. Just the girl I wanted to see. What ho and how d'you do and all that. Can I give you a hand up?" A Potter is a gentleman at all times, and I offered my hand with a debonair flair that surely made her swoon, or would have done, if she wasn't already off her feet.
She gave a groan—possibly merely an exclamation of pleasure at my chivalry, but I'm sad to say I doubt it—and allowed me to haul her to her feet.
"Nothing broken?" I asked attentively.
"Just my best hat," she replied, her voice full of remorse.
I apologized abjectly for flattening her so, and her hat as well, secretly wishing I hadn't come at all, for things had started out so badly that it didn't seem they'd soon be improving. "I just wanted to invite you out for a spot of tea, or a walk round the woods, or something or other else enchanting and wonderful."
"Don't be a twit, Harry," she retorted hotly. "I can't go out covered in mud."
"So change, then," I urged her, for my manly ardour demanded I get this over and done as soon as possible.
"Oh, all right," she responded with a great sigh.
As she went indoors to change, I was met by her ghastly stinker of an older brother, the straight-laced and dull-as-dishwater Percy. I what ho-ed him as thoroughly and merrily as I was able, and got little but a firm handshake for my troubles.
"Hello, young Harry," he said to me. "I just passed Ginny on the stairs. She told me what happened." He eyed my suit. "Did you fall in the mud, too?" I shook my head, and he promptly launched into the most boring dissertation on bank notes that you've ever heard in your life. I stood there under the onslaught, marvelling that someone such as Snape could have every bit as much a nogginfull of knowledge on a subject, and yet be able to impart it in such a way that the listener is never overwhelmed nor uninterested. I am sorry to say that Percy Weasley does not share this skill.
I had, after the first couple of sentences, tuned him out to the extent that my eyes had completely unfocussed, and my mouth was hanging open in a most unattractive manner, which my Aunt Minerva would have severely upbraided me for. It was drawn to my attention by Percy himself, who asked, "Am I boring you?" I shook my head vigorously. "Only you're drooling," he pointed out.
I assured him that I only did so when extremely captivated, and that's when he pulled a really nasty underhanded trick, and asked me, if I had been listening so closely, what he had just been speaking of.
"What about them?"
"Well…dash it all, Percy, I didn't come here for a lecture on common currency; I just wanted to take Ginny out! Can I help it if you'd like to talk the leg off a burro, or whatever animal it is that one talks legs off of?"
Percy gave me a wounded look and retreated to the house, saying he'd call his sister. I did feel somewhat bad, but you have to deal with such people firmly, or they'll never learn. How can an utter boob change his ways, if no one is brave enough to tell him that he is an utter boob?
Ginny joined me a short while later, her brow still clouded, though otherwise once again her spotless, dishy self. "What ho and hallo, dovey!" I said with gusto. "Ready to get the old feed-sack on?"
"Oh, shut up. Don't what ho at me after bashing me into the dirt. Come on, let's get a move on."
I'd forgotten quite how insistent she could be, but at least she wasn't pure out shredding me, the way she often did Ron, so I gamely led her back to the taxi and had him head back into London. It was quite the drive, but I knew that I was in the pot, and I'd better think up somewhere nice if I didn't want the water boiling in said pot. Better boiled lobster than boiled Harry, I always say.
I did my best to keep her entertained the whole way, but the dashed girl was absolutely ungrateful and un-please-able. I rendered every good joke or pun I could think of—the ones that were fit for mixed company, at any rate—I regaled her with amusing anecdotes from the Drone's club, and blast it all, I even sang to the girl.
"Harry, please stop," she eventually begged. "You're giving me a frightful headache."
Upon reaching Claridge's, I popped out of the cab and offered Ginny my hand. "Hang on a minute," I said, pausing, for there was a reflective surface not far from the curb, which I took a moment to examine.
"What's keeping you?" she asked peevishly.
She was getting to be a bit of a trial, but never let it be said that Harry Potter couldn't stand fast, and brave the storm with firm endeavour! I think it's Shakespeare said that, but Snape would know. At any rate, I merely waved her silent. "Now just keep your hair on; looks like it's a bit damp out, what? Here, let me make sure we don't get your lovely little tootsies wet." So saying, I whipped of my jacket—I wasn't wearing a cloak, more's the pity—and spread it over the moist pavement in fine gentlemanly fashion. Well. You would have expected her to fall right into my arms, yes? With a coo and a tinkling laugh, perhaps?
Ginny rolled her eyes. "You can be such a feather-brain," she sighed, but deigned to take my hand and step out of the taxi.
I led her toward the entrance, feeling a bit mixed up and badly in need of a stiff drink, something more comforting than the chit currently hanging off my arm. Only suddenly, and much to my surprise, she really was hanging off my arm, a good bit of her leg having disappeared into a large-ish, wet-ish hole. She was also yowling like an alley cat, which I found most undignified.
By the time I'd hauled her out, she'd whacked me with her handbag a good dozen times, and I managed to get a close enough look at the ground to realize that beneath my coat there was a decent-sized pothole. Well, that is to say, a rather indecent-sized, horrible pothole, especially when you come to realize that it was just outside of Claridge's, where such things oughtn't occur.
Ginny said several words that no lady should ever be subjected to, let alone know the correct and proper usage of, and sent me scrambling away while she commandeered the taxi for her own use. I did try very hard to explain, but how does one explain away a great damned cavern in the street, especially when one has guided one's beloved directly into it?
I ended up going inside and having a drink, as well as a sharpish talk with the manager. He assured me that the city had assured him it was being taken care of, and set a gentleman off to guard it, lest other unwary victims be claimed by its sodden depths.
It was a rather pathetic and defeated Harry Potter who returned home to his accommodating and clever Snape that evening. If one is being honest, and one is rarely anything but, it was a somewhat inebriated Harry Potter as well.
"Snape," I said mournfully as I entered, tossing my jacket to the wind and trusting my trusty valet to recover it, "I have failed utterly. The damned and blasted one time I actually set out to get the girl, I bollocks it up so badly that she'll never want me. How could I be such a fool?"
I thought I heard Snape mutter, "It's a dilemma that keeps me up nights," but I must have been hearing things, for upon being questioned, he merely went on about all lovers being foolish, the nature of love being a sort of dashed foolish thing in and of itself, and how it makes fools of all men, or some rot.
"Speaking of the Weasleys, the soon-to-be Mrs. Weasley, Miss Granger stopped by today about her cat. I told her you would gladly—"
"Yes, yes, yes," I waved him to a halt. "Don't get into issues of Hermione; I've got my plate full with Ginny! But what do I do to fix it? That is…how can I get the blasted girl to see me in a new light?"
I could tell I'd hit some sort of jackpot with this tack, as Snape's eyes positively gleamed. "I may have an idea," he offered diffidently.
"Well, go on then," I urged. Before he could trot out his inspiration, the dashed phone rang, and he tottered off to answer it.
"It is Mrs. McGonagall, sir," he informed me, and I writhed in my seat unhappily. There is no better way to end a really rotten day than with a phone call from my aunt.
Still, I rallied as well I could—if I put her off, it would only mean I'd have to deal with her to-morrow, and likely in person, as well. Girding my loins until they were as well girded as loins could ever be, I took the phone from him. I cleared my throat apprehensively before giving her a hearty "Hallo! Hallo! Ha—"
"Do be quiet, boy! My ears do not need such abuse. What's this I hear about you assaulting the Weasley girl?" Aunty Minerva cut straight to the heart of things, as she always did.
"It was hardly an assault! I merely—"
"Stop drivelling and pay attention. That girl comes from good stock, and you ought to be planning your nuptials and offspring with her, not pouncing upon her to push her into lakes and leaving her shoes four fathoms deep!"
"I say! It was rather a deepish puddle, but it certainly wasn't—"
"Be serious, Harry! That girl would be very good for you!"
"I agree, oh female relation of mine, and—"
"Don't argue with me, Harry. I have your own best interests at heart."
"Well, so do I, and it so happens that I'm not arguing, I'm—"
"I can't take any further nonsense tonight." And with those mystifying words, the old relative rang off. It was one of the more puzzling conversations I'd had with her, and I'd had not a few. It also left me with that shaky, woozy sort of feeling that I always get just after leaving her company—like I've just avoided being run down by a largish train with a piercing voice and a desire to marry me off. As always, I turned to Snape for comfort and understanding, which he provided, along with advice and a spiffing snifter of cognac.
"My word, Snape. The woman will not rest until she marries me off. It's become her most dearly held ambition in life. Why can't she get some other hobby? I'm sure she'd be an excellent snooker player, or she could even try philately. Stamps don't yell back."
"This is true," Snape replied, replacing the phone on its hook.
"She's quite keen for me to marry Miss Weasley, mind you. Makes me wonder if I'm on the wrong side of the fence, here."
"Indeed?" Snape was giving me a piercing look.
"Yes…but, well, see here; this is a chance to get Aunt Minerva off my back once and for all! What a sweet thing that would be. You were saying you had a plan for me, Snape?"
He hesitated. "The inklings of an idea, sir, that might speed things toward an agreeable end for all involved."
"Well, lay it out, man!"
"You see, Miss Weasley comes from a large family," he began.
"Don't I know it! Ron's always on about how the twins had to share a bed until they were almost twelve. Mind you, that explains a lot about the twins."
"Yes, sir. But as I was saying, it is a large family, as the Weasley men and women are notoriously fertile, and—"
"As the Nile," I agreed with a wheeze of laughter.
"Yes, sir," he replied in his steely, stop interrupting me before I accidentally sew you into your favourite trousers again sort of voice, and I knew when to say when, after all, those were my favourite trousers, and I know he didn't do it on purpose—he apologized, after all, though it was partially my fault for distracting him, but—where was I going with this? Oh, yes. Obviously Snape felt I was babbling, so I took his message and buttoned the lip. "And they are, naturally, very close. You may find that, should some of her other relations be persuaded to take your part, she would be more inclined to give you another opportunity."
"Well, Ron's already crazy about me, and her mother and father quite like me. Percy doesn't, but I say dash what Percy thinks, anyhow."
"Well, when one marries into a family, he marries into a family, if you take my meaning, sir."
"Not really. What else would I be marrying into? A bestiary?"
"I simply meant, sir, that having unanimous approval from her other kin would be bound to assist you in gaining her esteem."
"Huh. Woo the girl by wooing her family? That's a sort of rummy idea, but I'm game. Where should I start?"
"It so happens that Messieurs Weasley are in need of someone to mind their shop this Saturday, as they are eager to attend the Wimbourne Wasps match. Should you offer to do so, they would be indebted to you, and likely to put a good word in with their younger sibling." Fred and George Weasley owned a novelty shop for which I put up a good portion of the start up money, making me a sort of partner, though I was wise enough never to go near the place if I could help it.
"Work? Well…sounds rather laborious, don't you know. Still, I suppose sacrifices must be made, and if it's only for the day…very well, Snape. Sign me up! Good show, Snape, you're—what's the word? Impenetrable?"
He smiled rather thinly, but then doesn't he always? "I do hope you'll keep that in mind for the future," he murmured, before straightening to respond, "As you say, sir. I'm sure it will be an enlightening experience all around."
TITLE: Snape And The Tie That Binds, Part II
DISCLAIMER: Belongs to J.K. Rowling.
BETAS: Loupgarou1750, Ook, and the glorious Gemsbok!
NOTES: For Loupgarou1750, this was written in Wodehouse style, with Harry as Bertie Wooster, Snape as Jeeves, and numerous other friends in Wodehouse-esque roles.
SUMMARY: AU, Non-magic, HP on Jeeves and Wooster. Harry has decided it's time to settle down with a good woman. Snape counteracts this dastardly idea with a plan of great shrewdness…
Snape And The Tie That Binds, Part II
"Harry!" Fred popped up, grabbing me by the hand. "Where've you been hiding yourself these days?"
"Up our sister's skirts, from what rumours I've heard," George interjected rather crudely, but then they always were just the sort of blokes to put things bluntly, never happier than when the atmosphere was full of the off-colour, the twins. "We haven't seen enough of you lately!"
"Heard Ginny has," Fred added. "We heard you shoved her in the mud and then threw her into a wet pothole all in the same day."
"Serves her right, the little squirt," George said, aggrieved. "She wouldn't hear of minding the store for us. We were surprised to hear from Snape that you'd agree to do it. Shouldn't have thought working was your cuppa."
"I didn't—and I don't—" I started, but was interrupted by Fred.
"Yes, and seeing as how we never hear from you at all anymore—"
"You've become the silent silent partner!" George chimed in, and they both glared at me accusingly.
"Well, I keep meaning to pop my head in, but last time I did that you got me with a bucket of whitewash. Not that it wasn't a good one, mind you, but one does get wary of having his best suits splashed by mischievous twins and unexpected liquids, you see. Anyhow, I see Ron just about every other day, surely he tells you about me. You needn't see me yourselves," I explained feebly.
"Oh, and why is it Ron has a monopoly on you?" Fred queried crossly.
I spluttered a bit at this, but finally pulled myself together enough to explain. "Well, same year at school and all, one of my oldest friends, grew up together, I can't tell you how many jams he's got me out of—or into, but that's neither here nor there—can I help it? Since we were at Hogwarts together we were closer than brothers—begging your pardon—just like those two Greek chappies that were such bosom friends."
"Achilles and Patroclus?" George asked with an arch look.
I adjusted my glasses nervously. Something didn't seem quite right about that, but my Greek history was a bit rusty, and they did sound as though they knew what they were talking about. "The very same! We were like this," I said, crossing my fingers. "So naturally we're still close."
Fred and George were giving each other an odd look above my head. "And to think we never knew," lamented Fred, shaking his head.
There was a lull in the conversation as both twins eyed me.
"You know, I don't reckon Harry should have to mind the store all alone," George rushed out. "I mean, think of all the dangerous items we have. You go on to the concert alone, say hello to Angelina for me, and I think while Harry minds the store, I'll just stay here and mind Harry."
"Oh, no you don't," retorted Fred. "If either of us is getting Harry for the night, it's me. I mean, obviously the poor lad couldn't handle the whole store himself; he's got no experience at all, and someone should show him the ropes, but Angelina specifically wanted to see you, and—"
Well, I'll admit that it's nice when one's company is so desirable, but it was getting to be a bit much. I opened my mouth to interject, but found it hard finding a place to lever open into the conversation—that is, when Fred and George get going, they don't let you get a word in edgewise.
"Happily, both of you will be able to attend today's match, as I will be here, assisting Mister Potter," Snape said, suddenly at my elbow and giving the twins a strangely dark sort of look—almost a glare, one might say, which is silly, because he was being so devilishly nice, offering to stay and help me so that they could see the game.
"Oh, hallo, Snape!" I said cheerfully. "Are you really staying? Splendid of you, old chap!"
Both Fred and George looked distinctly put out. "Just corking," Fred said sourly.
"Yes, aren't you a dear to offer?" George added. "But nothing less than one would expect of the Junior Ganymede Club." Snape arched a brow at that, but didn't reply. George heaved a great sigh, and both twins turned to look at me in what could only be described as a longing sort of fashion. I gathered that they were quite reluctant to leave their posts, even in my capable hands, but I did my best to reassure them.
"Now, lads, I'll be just fine. Why, I bet you six to one Snape and I will outdo every sales record you've ever set while you're gone! You run along and lay a fiver on Wimbourne for me, and I'll see you both when the match is finished, eh?"
George gave me a crooked smile. "Sure, Harry," he replied in a wistfully resigned voice.
"Whatever you say, Harry. But you've got to let us make this up to you! We're taking you to dinner next week, like it or not!" Fred put in, whacking me on the back. Er. At least, I'm sure he was aiming for my back, but his hand landed rather lower. Terrible aim, that Fred.
"You ought to be running along," Snape said, steering Fred out the door with a good grip on his arm. "You don't want to end up late, gentleman."
"As in deceased, I think he means," George noted. "We're going already."
"There's a new shipment of pens just arrived," Fred informed us. "You can put those out if you've got the time."
"Yes, but be careful not to—" George halted.
"Not to what?" I asked.
"Never mind. It's not important."
They biffed off, and I beamed at Snape. "Well, we've got the place all to ourselves. Now. What exactly does this 'working' business entail?"
It was rather easier than I supposed. There were customers popping in and out all the time, and all I had to do was chat them up a bit, which I'm good at. I did accidentally trip over a display of false peanut brittle, but once again, Snape came to my rescue, and then set me up behind the counter with a cup of tea and a magazine. The pens sat unopened nearby, because Snape wouldn't go near them and they seemed a bit fishy to me, too.
So, really, I was having a surprisingly enjoyable time. I had heard of this 'work' thing before, and it had always rather intimidated me—sounded a bit dirty and strenuous, something that would cause calluses and heat up the brain. But then we Potters are pretty sturdy stuff, so it was hardly a wonder that I was managing so well.
"Managing, Snape," I added aloud at this thought. "That's the job for me—managing. Direction, guidance, the hand at the helm—I was born for it. I mean, who'd have guessed that running a store required nothing more than a magazine and tea? I think I'm doing a sensational job without doing any actual work. That is to say, heavy lifting and so forth. No, leave that to the unwashed masses, I say. We Potters are born to rise above such things."
"They do tend to float to the top," Snape acknowledged, stacking the last of the cans.
It was getting rather late, and I quite looked forward to the twins getting back and seeing what a jolly good job I'd done minding the place. Thanks to my poor footwork and Snape's determination to go through life cleaning up my messes, the place had never looked so spic and span. "Are you just about ready to call it a night, Snape? It's getting to be near closing time," I observed.
"Great heavens, is it really? Time flies when you're restacking tins of false peanut brittle," he added in his quiet, dry sort of voice. He straightened. "If you would be so kind as to man the register should anyone come in, I shall return to you when I've communed with nature," he told me, heading for the restroom. "You could start putting the pens out while I'm gone, if you would be so good."
"Oh, right-o," I replied cheerfully. After all, the twins did say they'd like it done, and they were due back any moment. Snape left me to my own devices, and I glanced the pens over with some trepidation before attempting to tackle them. Each was unwrapped and unboxed, all that needed be done was to stick them in their display holder on the counter.
I picked one up and quickly tucked it into its place. Well. So far, so good. I did another. It, too, slid easily into the cup. By this time, I was feeling pretty keen on the whole business. Look, Mum, no hands and such, you know. It wasn't until the third pen that I encountered any resistance. As soon as I laid hands on it, it sort of—well, how does one put it? Squirted at me, not unlike some creature of the deep. Now, you might think that I in some way instigated this—that is, there was some previously unseen lever I pushed or something of that nature—but I assure you, I was entirely innocent.
I quickly dropped it into the canister, but it had got my sleeve rather good. Being attacked by writing instruments is rather unnerving, I must stay, but I could just picture Fred and George coming back, flush from their fun and stuffed with their winnings, mocking me for taking such sass from a lowly pen, and I could not stomach it! And after all, it was only one pen. The first two were perfectly well behaved.
Snape showed no signs of rejoining me, and I took a moment to worry about his health before steeling myself to do battle once again. The fourth pen was perfectly meek—the absolute picture of an obedient pen. Ah, but then I got cocky. I lifted the fifth straight up, eyed it closely, and gave it a good shake to show it who was master. Such may have been the downfall of Napoleon, I think, for this pen let me know how it felt about such treatment in no uncertain terms.
It was quite awful, really, and the only thing that could have made it worse would be to have the situation witnessed, and thus recorded in the annals of history. Wouldn't you know my luck? The door tinkled cheerfully, and Fred and George picked that very moment to come trooping through.
"Harry!" George exclaimed. "I see you've found our pens to be a bit naughty."
"They've quite ruined your jacket," Fred chimed in. The twins grinned broadly at each other. "Let's get you out of it."
"Well, yes, but—"
George yanked my jacket off and began unbuttoning my shirt. "Might be able to clean the shirt, though," he said. "You've only got a bit on the cuff."
"I hardly touched the dratted thing," I complained. "I just held it up and gave it a bit of a shake—"
"Like this?" Fred queried innocently, holding up the brother of the pen that did me in and waving it about before me. "Whoops! There go the trousers, too. Well, you're going to make out well from just one night's work—not only shall we owe you for minding the shop, we'll just have to buy you a whole new outfit as well."
"But this was one of a kind," I protested sadly, looking down at the ruins of my outfit.
Fred smiled sweetly. "Maybe we can still save the trousers."
"Off with them," George instructed, and bless those boys, their fingers fairly flew, divesting me of outer raiment with no trouble at all.
I had hardly had such speedy service at my usual tailor, and was just contemplating the fact when the bell over the door rang again, and I looked up to see a rather horrified Ginny looking on. "Harry Potter!" she gasped. "There were rumours about you, but I didn't want to believe them! And you two—you just wait until I tell Mum!" she flew back out, and I made every attempt to stop her.
If my trousers hadn't been around my ankles at this point, I might have succeeded.
"Snape!" I cried, relying on the one person who could be counted on to do whatever it takes to assist me in my hour of need. "Help! For heaven's sake, man!"
Snape shimmered in, looking dashed serene. "Yes?"
"Look—Ginny's run off and I've got ink on my suit and let go of my smalls, George, there's no ink on them, I assure you—"
Snape was holding up my stained trousers with a smirk of satisfaction. "What a pity."
I sighed. "Sometimes I think you're evil, you know that? And then I wonder what the world would be like if you were really evil, and it gives me chills. Is there no way to save the suit?"
He glanced up at Fred, who gave his pen another shake, liberally coating my favourite green duds. "None," he confirmed firmly.
"Let's get you home. A good stiff drink will right the world again."
"Will a good stiff drink mend a broken heart? Will a good stiff drink cleanse my tainted trousers?"
"Will a good stiff drink make you less melodramatic and apt to whinge at me about things I cannot change? I doubt it, sir, but one must hope," Snape replied. "Mister Weasley, if you touch Mister Potter there again I shall put you through the front window face first. Now. We ought to be going."
So we biffed off, soiled and sorry, or at least I was, as Snape seemed perfectly content for some reason, and I'll have to admit that the drink really did help. So did being tucked into bed. The kiss afterward was a bit odd, though, I admit. Still, you have to hand it to Snape for always knowing how to supplement—no, that's not it. Subsist? Succour, dash it. He's just the man for the job, when you need a bit of that, and he's always a balm to my frayed nerves, to boot. I slept like an innocent babe.
"You know, Snape, I reckon I don't want to marry Ginny Weasley after all."
"She's such a dashed lot of trouble, that girl—always misunderstanding things and taking me to task for accidents which were not my fault. What kind of a wife is that?"
"An average one, I should say, sir."
"I mean, if I want someone to cook and clean for me, I've already got you, haven't I? And you're a far stretch better at it than most women I know."
"Thank you for that. There's nothing quite like having one's abilities summed up in such a way, sir."
"You're very welcome, old boy. And if I want more than that, I can…I can jolly well…" I ran into a bit of difficulty at this point, because I still wasn't entirely certain what a gentleman did do in this situation. I knew what one did at boarding school, but that was only because there were nothing but other boys around anyway. It was times like this that I really regretted my own father passing so young and leaving me to be raised by a veritable brigade of daunting old aunts.
"You can ask, sir," Snape suggested.
"But ask who?" I replied, bewildered. It was not a subject which had arisen in any earlier conversation, and reluctant though I was to bring it up, it was a deuced pickle and no mistake, and surely Snape of all people could shed some light on things.
"Do you ever have the urge to strangle someone for being a complete and total dunce?" he queried.
"What's that got to do with anything?"
Snape whirled on me, lifting my cup of tea from my hands and quite slamming it on the table. Before I could get in a word of protest, his lips had taken over mine like the Greeks taking Troy.
He eventually pulled back, leaving me without breath or an extra tongue in my mouth. I couldn't quite decide whether to be offended or if a polite request for more would be in order. Not that it mattered—I wasn't capable of speaking lucidly in any case. "Great Scott!" was all I managed.
He gave me a dry smile. "I am a gentleman's gentleman, sir," he informed me.
"Well. Yes. That is to say—duly noted." I looked him over, cerebrating as I've never cerebrated before. I shouldn't have been surprised if smoke had started pouring forth from my ears. In front of me stood the man who had taken care of me at every turn from the first moment we met, a man who was a wonder in the kitchen and a marvel with a needle, a master at reasoning and a whiz at whatever he did. In short, before me stood a miracle.
And then I wondered what he was like in bed.
"Very well, Snape. How do we get rid of Ginny Weasley once and for all?"
He sighed slightly, only then drawing attention to the subtle tension that had filled the room. "Leave it to me, sir. We really oughtn't tax your mind anymore this morning."
"But Harry, you're not listening to me," Draco Malfoy complained, grabbing me by the lapel. "She has these eyes, you know? And these lips…"
"Yes, Draco, all girls have them," I told him, exasperated. Draco is held in some esteem by Snape, which is the only reason I put up with the blighter. I never met anyone more flighty nor foolish in my entire life—he falls in love with a new girl every week, I swear. "What's her name?"
"Cho Chang. Isn't it a beautiful name? Lovely and exotic? Ringing of foreign places, distant lands, far off—"
"Yes, definitely Asian," I said, cutting him off. "Or is that Portuguese? I always get the two confused. She's pretty?"
"An angel," he replied reverentially.
"Oh, good. Not one of your usual dogs, then?" I couldn't help blurting out.
"Harry!" he exclaimed, outraged. "She is the most darling, delicate creature I've ever laid eyes on!"
"All right," I said agreeably, quaffing my bubbly perhaps a little more enthusiastically than necessary. It still rankled that Snape had suggested putting Draco next to me so that I might keep an eye on him. What the devil was I supposed to do if he started making eyes at the bride? Throw my champagne in his face? And…dash it, it was very irritating hearing a man expound on his paramour's assets without being able to go on at length on one's own, even though Snape had told me in no uncertain terms to keep my mouth shut. Still, I couldn't help baiting Draco just a bit.
"You know, I've got a corker, myself," I said.
"Piff," he responded dismissively. "Doubt yours is as pretty as Cho."
"Well, that's true," I admitted. Snape had many fine qualities, but one could open a tin with his nose, for starters.
"No, my girl is above and beyond all others," he went on, detailing every damned virtue she possessed. I sighed wearily.
"Are you two enjoying yourselves?" Hermione asked in passing, Ron at her elbow. She was beaming broadly, every overly large tooth showing. Ron, on the other hand, was giving Malfoy a nasty look, obviously still displeased he'd had to invite the chap, and worried Draco might try some well woven words on Ron's new bride. Draco and I wished them well and Ginny Weasley popped up, telling Hermione they were about to serve the first course and that it was almost time for me to take the stage. "Oh, thank you, Ginny. You do know Mister Potter and Mister Malfoy, don't you?"
Ginny gave me a cool look. "Mister Potter I know, and I've had far more of his company than I'd desire. Mister Malfoy I've not had the pleasure of meeting."
I tried to work up a reasonable protest to this—preferably one that didn't make comparisons between her shrill complaining and Snape's far more enjoyable expertise with his mouth—but stopped when I saw Draco out of the corner of my eye.
His mouth was hanging open, and his eyes were fairly bugging out. I whacked him on the back, thinking a bite of something had gone down wrong, but he merely shooed me off. Ginny had walked away by this point, and he was gazing after her in blatant worship. "Did you see her, Harry? Tell me I'm not dreaming! A vision in lace and love! That girl is a goddess!"
Ron craned his neck to peer after his sister. "What, Ginny? But she looks like an overgrown antimacassar!"
"Ron!" Hermione grabbed his ear, hauling him off, and Draco turned to me, eyes pleading.
"She hardly looked at me. D'you think I've even the slightest chance with her?"
I gestured expansively, sloshing a bit of drink over my nice charcoal suit. "I'm sure the two of you were made for each other," I assured him. He left me to trail after her, and I pulled out my notes, going over my speech.
"Harry!" a cold and cruel voice punctured my pleasantly warm aura. Leave it to Aunt Minerva to ruin a perfectly June day with a wayward exclamation or two. "What is the matter with you? Have you seen Miss Weasley? Another young gentleman was asking her to save him a dance!"
I looked for a way out of the ordeal, but none readily presented itself. There was nothing for it. "And he's welcome to her," I replied. "I hope they have many a jolly dance together and leave Harry Potter altogether out of their rhythmic encounters. I've enough on my plate—oh, thank you, Snape, fish, I see, looks delish—and…dash it all, where was I?"
"You go right over to Ginny Weasley right now and apologize for not asking her to dance sooner."
"Aunt Minerva, in the first place, it's almost time for the toast, and the dancing doesn't come until later. In the second—"
"Yes, Aunt Minerva, piff if you must, but in the second place, I've decided that I have no amorous interest in Miss Weasley."
"Piff—and piff again! Stop this unseemly behaviour at once, and go and speak with her!"
As you might imagine, by this point I was rather a-quiver from the showdown at high noon at the wedding bruncheon, but I manfully stood my ground. It helped that Snape stood at my back, helping out by buttling the wedding, and bolstering me by giving me that look he's so good at that threatens dire consequences if I cross him. It was rather an uncomfortable moment, I must admit. Being caught between Aunt Minerva and Snape was on par with being placed neatly between two battling titans, a position which no man would envy. But between the two, I'd place my bets on Snape, who was quieter and cannier, and seemed more often to come out on top, all dirty jokes aside.
Thus it was that I put Aunt Minerva in her place, earning my own place in history as one of those sorts of chaps that is, when it counts, brave beyond all reckoning. "Aunt Minerva," I replied coldly, "I have been piffed at enough for one day. A man can only take being piffed at so much. Will you take your seat? There are people staring—you are embarrassing me. I've got to make the toast now, so we'll just have to talk about this later."
I strode off with a purposeful air, leaving her with mouth agape. Snape gave me a little smirk, and I beamed at him.
I also tripped over my feet as I went to the head of the table, but that's neither here nor there.
Clinking my glass with my fork until I'd got everyone's attention, I gave the room my riveting intro: "What ho, what ho, what ho! We are here today to see two of my best mates, good old Ron and steady, sturdy Hermione, joined forever. That's an awfully long time, you know. There's this bird, pecking apart this mountain, and he's doing it really slowly, and by the time he's finished, they'll still be married, what? Hard to imagine."
"Harry, get on with it!" Hermione instructed, and I gave her a merry wave and a nod.
"But forever isn't really all that long a time—not when you've got someone who's a real corker, like Hermione is. If you really take a shine to someone, I reckon that ten years can seem to pass in a day. The good times sort of have wings, and every day flies by. And in the bad times, well, you always have someone to bail you out. Sure, sometimes they'll let you suffer, but most of the time it's for your own good—so you can learn a lesson, type of thing. You're really lucky if you find that person that will always pull your chestnuts out of the fire. Or your trousers out from under the ink pen, unless they don't really like said trousers, and prefer the dark charcoal ones instead, and you'll have to eat the cost, Ron, but mind you, it's well worth it, because if you're really lucky you won't be wearing them much anyway."
I tilted my glass to Ginny and Draco, who were gazing at each other over their brims like lovesick cows—or maybe pigeons, or some kind of budgerigar. Something that cooed. They looked like cooing, anyway. Warmed the heart, especially since I knew no one would be cooing at me that way, or expecting me to coo back. Snape would probably hit me over the head if I cooed at him.
"So, here's to young love, and all that it entails, and to old, crotchety love, which is in many ways even better than young love, because old, crotchety love will never call you 'Won Won' or….um, where was I going with this? Right. Ron, Hermione, you already bicker like an old married couple, so it's a great relief that you're making it official, and I say long may you continue to do so. Cheers!"
I swigged my drink, and everyone followed dutifully. Ginny was rolling her eyes, and Draco missed his mouth because he was too busy ogling her. God was in his heaven, and all was right with the world.
Hermione cornered me just afterwards, saying, "Harry Potter, that was the worst wedding toast I've ever had the misfortune of hearing! Oh, and I meant to ask if you would watch Crookshanks while we were away on honeymoon. Ron's mum wanted to, but it seems she's become allergic. You wouldn't mind, would you?"
I harkened back to the lessons learned from Aunt Minerva, and replied in the only manner I knew how.
It was time Snape and I took a little trip of our own. He was always after me to take a trip abroad, and between an evil-minded devil-cat and the French Riviera, I knew what I'd be choosing. I wondered if Snape had arranged it that way, but dismissed the idea.
Even he wasn't that clever.