Kissing Severus had given him the perfect idea for a Christmas present.
For the next two days, Harry distanced himself from Severus as much as possible. He wanted his present to not only be a surprise, but to mean something. By keeping the man in suspense, he hoped to achieve both.
Grinning to himself as he transfigured a match into a needle and back again, Harry went over his plan for the hundredth time.
"Harry, what on earth is making you grin like that?" Hermione whispered. "McGonagall is looking a bit worried," she elbowed him in the ribs, making him slip and singe Seamus' collar in front of them.
"Sorry, mate!" He glared at Hermione. "Nothing! Can't a man be happy?" He poked his match, turning it back into a needle. "Damn; I still can't make it shiny," he muttered, looking at his textbook for guidance.
"You're flicking your wand too fast," Hermione corrected, and demonstrated her own movements. "Like this," she smirked and demonstrated again.
"Thanks," he deadpanned.
"So… why are you so cheerful?" He sighed, resigning himself to the fact that he would forever have his friend's emotional support.
"I'll tell you later," he said, mimicking her wand movements.
Beside them, Ron's match let out a squeak before bursting into flames, barely missing his sleeve.
"Agh! Shit!" he cried, jolting back.
"Mr Weasley! Ten points from Gryffindor! If I hear language like that again, you will have detention with Mr Filch for a week!" McGonagall reprimanded angrily. "Mr Potter, help your friend before the classroom goes up in flames," she ordered, crossing the room to monitor the Ravenclaws' progress.
Harry nearly snorted at the look on his friend's face; Ron looked incredulous and embarrassed at the same time, making his face turn a lovely shade of scarlet.
"Oh, Ronald," Hermione sighed, swapping seats with Harry, who was trying very hard not to laugh.
"Shut up, Harry," the redhead muttered.
"I didn't say a word!"
"Your face says it all."
"Boys," Hermione intoned, sending a warning look towards the teacher. They both pulled faces and got on with their work.
Severus massaged his temples as he stood at the rear of the classroom, glaring at the backs of his Seventh Years' Advanced Potions class.
"Mr Price," he drawled, stalking the rows to stand right behind the poor boy. "Your potion should have been brought down to a simmer ten seconds ago. It is now useless slop. Congratulations; you receive zero marks and a complementary detention for your efforts. See me at lunch," he vanished the boy's potion and returned to his spot at the back of the room. "As for the rest of you," he folded his arms, "I am hoping to see more positive results by the end of the lesson. You have six minutes." In any other class, he would have expected a groan of protest, but, amazingly, this particular group of Seventh Years had learned when to keep their mouths shut.
Just as he was making his way to the head of the class, however, a loud cry of pain followed by a particular expletive, made him curse his optimistic thoughts.
"Miss Finn!" he barked, whirling around to glare at the girl in question. "Where do you think you are? That kind of language is absolutely unacceptable. Remove yourself from my classroom and report to your Head of House." He vanished the second cauldronful of potion that lesson and made sure to glare at the girl until she'd scurried out of sight. "The rest of you have one minute. I suggest you bottle whatever sludge you've concocted and hand it in before you all receive zero marks for the day."
Later, at the staff table, he heard Filius and Minerva discussing the foul language they'd had in their classroom that day.
"Yes," Pomona added, nodding, "I had one too! She tripped on a Snakevine root and let slip a little curse. I was surprised to say the least; Charlotte isn't usually one to curse," she shook her head. Severus frowned; something wasn't right.
"Minerva," he set down his cup of tea. "I also had a student spouting filth in my classroom today. I daresay this is the work of one of the school's resident pranksters. As there were no letters from the Prank Monsters –"
"Masters, Severus," she corrected.
"I surmise it is the work of either the Weasley twins of another student – or group of students – whom are… joining the band wagon, as they say." He picked up his tea, smirking behind the cup, hiding his smug superiority. How did they not realise? He held in a sigh, wondering at others' powers of perception when –
"FUCK!" The Great Hall erupted with a thousand voices at once, echoing profanity. The staff table was silent with shock.
Then, almost as one, the Hall erupted once more.
"SHIT!" This time, some of the professors, including the Headmaster, joined in.
"Pomona!" Filius gasped.
"I apologise! I had no intention –"
"BOLLOCKS!" This time, even Severus and Filius called out amongst the rest of the cacophony.
"Albus! What on earth!" Minerva looked as though she were about to spit chips.
"Really, Minerva…" the old coot sounded nearly gleeful at the current events, earning himself a glare.
"BOOBS!" The Hall was filled with laughter and red faces – from both embarrassment and humour.
"Really, that one wasn't even a proper –"
"Good grief, Albus! Do something before we all say –"
"TWAT!" The laughter was nearly bringing the castle down around their ears. As Severus looked around, he could see varying expressions on the staff, students and portraits. Most looked to be at least amused.
"CUNT!" many gasps were heard after this last vulgarity. Severus thought it really was too far.
"Am I interrupting something?" a smooth, silky voice intoned over the hushed whispers.
At the Entrance, Lucius Malfoy stood with his want to his throat, an expression of amusement on his handsome face. Severus could have killed whomever was responsible.
"Oh, dear," Albus muttered, before graciously greeting the governor. "Ah, Mr Malfoy! What a pleasant surprise! You're just in time to witness our monthly behaviour management project. Every month, we allow the students to choose one way to misbehave as they see fit – it's still in the trial period, I'm afraid," he explained, making his way down to the man. Then, suddenly, a large banner appeared over the staff table. It read: "You have been Wheezed!"
Severus could have shat himself; Dumbledore had been caught out! The look on the old man's face was priceless. Lucius merely raised an elegant brow and smirked.
If he weren't in public, Severus would have laughed until his lungs burst.
"I'm beginning to have the impression you weren't expecting me, Headmaster," Lucius drawled, making himself comfortable, next to Severus.
"I'm afraid we thought you were visiting after the Christmas holidays," Dumbledore replied, not a hint of annoyance in his tone.
"Oh, how unfortunate. I did send an owl – ah. Here it is now. Such unreliable creatures," he breezed, helping himself to a cup of tea.
"Indeed," Severus drawled, narrowing his eyes at his old friend. "How long will you be here?" He saw no reason to beat around the bush.
"Oh, I'm not here for the audit yet. That comes in January. I have other matters to discuss before the holidays. I'll be here until Friday, when the students go home," he smirked.
"How lovely!" Albus sounded absolutely delighted. "You'll have to forgive me, Lucius," he sounded regretful now, "I hadn't expected you, so I'm afraid your rooms aren't ready yet. But Severus has some room in his quarters… they will have to do for the night."
Severus was livid. Why can't the House Elves prepare the rooms now! He seethed in his mind, making every effort not to frown… or hex… or bludgeon his boss to death with a teapot.
"The House Elves have the night off, you see. Dobby has been such a wonderful influence –" and Severus tuned out. The old bastard was lying through his dentures! The Elves received no such reprieve!
"Severus," Lucius suddenly interrupted his train of thought. He grunted in reply. "It was such a long journey; I'd like to retire for the evening, if you don't mind?"
"Fine," he growled, pushing up from the table. "Excuse me, Headmaster; everyone," he pseudo-graciously excused himself and swept from the Hall, Lucius following regally.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione convened in an old classroom on the seventh floor, not daring to go to the dungeons when Lucius Malfoy was roaming around.
"Those brothers of yours!" Hermione laughed, sitting at a desk.
"Actually," Ron went pink. "It wasn't them. They should be getting a letter from The Prank Masters soon…" he grinned, looking proud.
"Oh, Ron," Hermione grinned back. "You're a devious little thing."
"Good going, mate," Harry agreed, sitting at the old teacher's desk.
"I propose we play a prank on Malfoy Senior," Hermione said, pulling out her 'Plan Book'.
"I second that emotion," Harry smiled.
"Thirded," Ron laughed.
"Motion passed," Hermione giggled, and inked her quill. "Now… what do we know about the git?"
"He's rich, pureblood, egotistical, pretty, bigoted, and evil," said Ron, peering over his girlfriend's shoulder.
"Ronald, be realistic. Something with substance; what does he value? How can we prank him in a way that will really get him? In a way that could be anyone with general information?"
"Well… he has long, shiny hair," Harry began; an evil little grin crept onto his face.
"Yes, and he must love Draco… the idiot's always threatening to tell Daddy when someone looks at him the wrong way," Ron agreed.
"And we know Dobby's a sore spot for him," Hermione added, making notes in her large book.
"I know that he has a brandy after dinner every night," Ron said, rubbing his chin in thought. "Dad's department had to deal with him for funding a few times; he made a big show of buying dinner at some hoity-toity restaurant so they could go over figures," he scowled.
"Interesting," Hermione muttered as she scribbled away. "We just need to come up with something from all this…"
Severus led the way to his chambers as graciously as he could. Lucius was being an arse and he knew it.
"Goodness, Severus; do slow down. I'm not as fit as I used to be!" The blond sounded a little breathless as he tried to keep up with Severus' long strides.
"Letting yourself go in your old age, Lucius?" he jibed, not at all slowing his pace.
"Bloody hell, man! Stop for a moment! And there's no need for the attitude! Just because I live a life of comfort –"
"You're lazy, Malfoy. Don't even try to deny it. You forget, I know you better than most." He gave his nastiest smirk and let them both into his quarters, ignoring his insufferable portrait guardian. "Your room is through there. I don't care if you don't like it, so don't bother telling me. Good night." He made to turn back to his door, but a hand on his arm stopped him in his tracks.
"Severus, I know you aren't pleased to see me, but –"
"Pleased? Not pleased! That is the understatement of the year, Lucius. Unhand me!" He shrugged the man's hand off and made for the door again, but this time, the soft, beseeching tone in the pureblood's voice stopped him.
"It's Draco, Severus," his voice was so soft, so desperate… he couldn't ignore the man he'd once considered a friend.
"What about him?" He hadn't noticed anything out of the ordinary, other than the period of time he'd been as bald as a bowling ball.
"He's being bullied, Severus. These people – The Prank Masters – have been harassing my son and I won't stand for it!" he became angry, nearly vicious-sounding. "He's asking to come home, Severus. He wants to finish his education through home schooling! My own son has been harassed to the point of running away!" He was seething now. Severus could see the indignant fury in Lucius' eyes, as well as grief.
"All right, but calm down, you fool. Draco should have said something to me…" Why didn't he tell me? What could be so terrible that he couldn't ask me to – shit. He had gone to Severus, and he'd practically blown Draco off. "I'll speak to him tomorrow, Lucius. Just… leave it to me."
He left the man to get an early night and returned to the Great Hall, intent on getting to the bottom of that day's cursing epidemic.
"All right, so… we've got… absolutely nothing." Hermione sighed and snapped her prank book closed. "We're running out of original ideas already." She sounded disappointed.
"We'll find something. We have until Friday, remember?"
"And, failing that, he's coming back after Christmas," Harry reminded his friends.
They'd been brainstorming for about an hour, and still had no idea of how to prank Lucius Malfoy. Harry was a little glad, though; the thought of Lucius Malfoy finding out who had pranked not only his son, but himself was a little daunting. He didn't want to face those consequences.
"Okay, so, I guess that's all for tonight, gentlemen," Hermione packed away her book and stood from the desk she'd claimed. "Let us go forth and… sleep," she finished lamely. "I'm too tired to study." The boys shared a disbelieving, yet ecstatic, look as they followed her from the room.
Later, Harry found that he suddenly had some extra energy. While Ron snored, he lay awake, thinking about the next time he could see Severus… which would be in a few days, after everyone had gone home for the holidays.
Bloody Malfoy. He turned up early… but I guess that helps me keep my present from being a waste… shit. I need to get him something else to go with it, just in case.
After a while, he retrieved the Marauders' Map and searched for Severus' little dot.
He found the man skulking around the fourth floor, obviously having patrol duty.
For about… one minute, Harry debated hiding under his cloak and accosting his lover. But, of course, reason won-out and he jumped out of bed and grabbed his prized possession, and headed for the fourth floor. I won't jump his bones… I'll just walk with him for a while.
The night carried on quietly. Thank goodness.
After discussing what would be done about the heinous outbreak of pranks and practical jokes, Severus had to report for duty. Oh, joy of joys, he thought.
As he stalked the corridors, though, he found himself contemplating Draco's predicament and Harry's obvious involvement.
He understood how Draco felt, he really did, but he also knew that the little brat would be giving as good as he got if he knew just whom was behind his humiliation. Yet, that was just the problem: he couldn't fight back.
As much as he could see Draco's faults, at the same time, seeing Harry and his friends pulling pranks on his godson to this extent made him angry. As much as he loved Harry, all he could see was James. This was something he'd been afraid of; Harry was showing a side that Severus found he didn't like.
As his thoughts circled around his head, he was startled by something warm wrapping itself around his left hand. Then, something else circled his waist in a brief hug.
"Potte," he murmured as quietly as possible. "What do you think you're doing?" He pulled his hand away. "Go to bed, you idiot!" he slunk into an alcove, away from prying portraits, knowing the boy would follow suit.
"I couldn't sleep… so I thought I'd walk with you for a while." Severus' heart skipped a beat; he still couldn't believe Harry held that much affection for him – even after hearing it so many times.
"As flattered as I am," he kept his voice as disdainful and sarcastic as he could, "you should be in bed. It is past your curfew, and I have only another hour of duty left."
"Aw, c'mon, Sev," the boy slid a hand up his chest, over his shoulder and to his neck, caressing his throat. "It's not like I'll get caught. I just want to spend some time with you."
Harry's voice sounded as though he was pouting in a way that meant "we both know how this ends". He sighed.
"Fine. But don't… do anything," he warned.
"Cross my heart." Severus just knew the brat was grinning.
They walked along the corridor in silence, holding hands loosely, hidden in Severus' voluminous robes. Each was lost in his own thoughts.
Harry wanted to figure out just what to get Severus as a 'backup' gift. He'd been planning to simply put a ribbon in his hair and present himself naked somehow, but then he'd realised Severus might feel a bit cheated if he didn't get a real present. So, Harry pondered his lover's preferences and tried to think of something that wasn't cliché or stupid.
Severus was mulling over how he should approach Harry about Draco. His godson must have been more upset than he'd realised over the pranks Harry and his friends had pulled. Lucius would usually tell the boy to man-up and take care of it himself, but his presence at the school spoke volumes. Not to mention him actually asking for help!
Sighing, he removed his hand from Harry's and directed them into another little alcove.
"Harry," he began sombrely, only to be cut off by the sound of approaching feet. "Stay here," he whispered, before going out to investigate.
It turned out to be Filch. Severus mentally cursed his luck as the caretaker bestowed his awful little grin on him.
"Pr'fessor Snape," the greasy-looking squib greeted.
"Filch," he nodded his head. "Is everything well?"
"Oh, yes; I'm just looking for Mrs Norris. Have you seen her?"
"Unfortunately not." If I did, I'd probably kick the wretched thing, he thought nastily.
"Oh. Well, good night, Pr'fessor." Filch loped away, looking around for his precious cat.
"Ugh. If we see her, can we give her a kick?"
"Absolutely not, you thug," he sniffed, covering an amused smile.
"You're absolutely no fun, Severus," Harry huffed a playful sigh.
"I need to ask you something, Harry," he turned serious once more. He wanted to choose his words carefully, but didn't want to beat around the bush. He knew Harry and his friends were pranking the school, but the brat kept denying his involvement – even when it was obvious.
"Severus?" His student's voice broke him out of his thoughts. The look of concern revealed on the boy's face, as he drew down the hood on his cloak, surprised him. He'd forgotten how serious his lover could be.
"Lucius is here because of his son. The boy is at his limit, Harry," he began as softly as he could. "These pranks need to stop. Draco has gone to his father –"
"Of course he has! He's always spouting about how 'when my father hears about this,'" he mimicked Draco's voice, "and whining about how horrible this school is! If it's so terrible, why doesn't he just leave?" Harry's voice was a frantic, angry whisper; nearly a hiss. The anger and annoyance screwed his face into something Severus never wanted to see again.
"That's the issue, you fool!" he grasped Potter's shoulders, trying to make him see reason. "Draco has asked his father to take him home and complete his education there. Your little pranks aren't just pranks if they're predominantly directed on one person! That is bullying, Harry. You're bullying Draco and he cannot fight back because he doesn't know who you are!" He became angry; this idiot boy who'd raged against being seen as his father was acting precisely as James Potter had.
"Harry," he reigned in his temper, knowing where angry words would get them. "You told me you weren't your father. You yelled at me, and pursued me until I gave in… yet now, with Draco, you're proving me wrong in believing you.
"Your father… he," Severus paused; a sudden lump in his throat choked his words. The anger and humiliation were, apparently, still raw enough to affect his composure. "He and his friends targeted me in school. You know this, yet here you are, doing the same to Draco.
"At least I knew at whom to aim my anger. Draco cannot trust anyone because, in his mind, anyone could be the ones targeting him. He's alone and angry and humiliated." Severus pulled away, watching Harry's reaction.
In the dim lighting, he could tell the boy's face was flushed; he glared down at his shoes, obviously thinking about Severus' words.
"Harry," he tilted the boy's chin so their eyes met. Tears spilled over Harry's eyelashes and rolled down his cheeks.
"I… I didn't even think, Severus." His voice was low and raw; he was more upset than Severus had seen him in a long time. "I'm sorry… I … we never meant to…" he cut off and looked down at his shoes once more.
Severus pulled his lover close, running a soothing hand along his back. They remained in the embrace for a long moment before Harry pulled away, still not meeting Severus' gaze.
"When I was in school – Muggle school – Dudley and his friends would make sure no one liked me. I didn't have anyone… I was so lonely.
"I promised myself I'd never make anyone feel that way… and here I am, being a colossal twat.
"I'm sorry, Severus. I'll make sure it all stops." Severus huffed a breath of amused relief, though he ached for the boy's past he'd known nothing about.
"Potter, I never said everything should be ceased… just leave Draco for a while. Perhaps wait until he's done something truly terrible before you decide to punish him.
"That being said; there are plenty of other worthy targets. Should we say… there are 'bigger fish to fry'?" He smirked down at the boy, secretly glad to see the smile slowly creeping back onto his face.
"Malfoy Senior?" He laughed, stepping closer.
"Are you offering to… assist us?"
"Are you asking for my assistance?"
They eyed each other for a while before smirking in mutual agreement. Severus replaced the hood of the invisibility cloak over Harry's head and led him out of the alcove, into the corridor; together, they completed his patrol, before parting ways. Each had devious thoughts swimming around their minds.
The bait was set.
A/N: Hello… I humbly offer this chapter as a placatory gift. I'm sorry!