A/N At long last here is chapter 6! Sorry it took me so long, I've many many reasons but they're way too boring to mention. I usually do another few read throughs before submitting a story but if I was to do that you'd be left waiting another week. This I'm afraid is more of a short filler chapter than anything but I can promise that the next chapter has much more interesting going ons and is absolutely massive. Thank you so much for all the lovely reviews I've been recieving I'm still amazed at how well this story has gone down! I have to apologise though to any reviewers that I didn't reply to. I recently found a bunch of reviews for this and other stories that I'd marked as replied to but hadn't, so sorry about that.
To Nibs, you get your wish in this chapter, thank you for reminding me of one of my favourite scenes in pride and prejudice!
A fairly large chunk of this was written with pride and prejudice open beside me so quite a few sentences will seem familiar, I not only dont own this story or the characters let alone the plot but I've had to resort to outright copying when it comes to the dance scene, everything here belongs to Jane Austen (who is a genius) and J K Rowling (who is brilliant).
Finally thank you to my beta sadeyedladyofthelowlife, for harassing me and providing tea and innuendo on a near daily basis =)
A week after the dance saw the Dursleys readying themselves to return to their home, much to the Weasleys barely contained delight. Vernon Dursley was in foul humour having failed to pin Sirius Black down to any promises of business. Having apparently decided to blame his host family for his failure, Vernon had spent the week barking one word answers to every polite enquiry and had retreated to the chaise the moment it had pulled up, leaving the packing of their belongings and all polite parting conversation to his wife. His son joined him, hoping to return home as soon as possible. Dudley's 'popularity' at home did not seem to travel well. He had been spurned by each and every lady he had met during his visit and was determined to believe the women of Ottery St. Catchpole were all horribly plain and below his notice (now that he had noticed them and not been noticed in return, of course).
Petunia supervised the loading of her family's baggage onto the chaise while promising Mrs. Weasley that she would write soon once she had asked Lady Umbridge what advice she could give her, seeing as she was obviously too busy with her many children to decorate her house. Molly's disingenuous reply of "I shall wait impatiently for your letter my dear Petunia" was ignored.
When the last of the baggage was loaded and Petunia began to make her way to boarding the chaise, Harry gathered his courage and gently took his aunt aside. Seeing the impatience in her expression Harry rushed to explain himself.
"Aunt Petunia I know you do not care for me and my kind but you are the only one left who knew my parents intimately. Mr. Weasley has told me all he remembers but they were only ever acquaintances, not friends. Do you have anything of my mothers that you might bear to be parted with? I'm afraid I have nothing left of either of my parents, only their names. Might I please write to you occasionally? I do not wish to lose the only member of my mother's family left."
Perhaps it was the fact that Harry had called her Aunt, igniting the tiny portion of familial love for her sister left in Petunia, maybe it was the desperation in Harry's voice or the fact that he was obviously expecting rejection, either way, for the first time Petunia Dursley softened towards her nephew.
Laying her hand on Harry's arm Petunia replied "you must come visit, until you do however, I shall expect regular correspondence" and with an attempt at a kind smile Petunia joined her husband and son in the chaise and left.
Life at the Burrow soon settled down again. Having fretted and pestered Remus over what would be the appropriate amount of time to wait before writing, Harry found himself writing to his aunt every week without fail. While their letters were filled mainly with pleasantries and what little news either had, it left Harry with a warm feeling to see how promptly Petunia responded to his letters and how much effort she made to make them entertaining.
Draco continued to be a regular visitor to the Burrow, his excuse being that Harry was simply the only one he could have a proper conversation with, this was always said with good humour and in company, and was regularly replied to by all in company with feigned expressions of offence and broken hearts.
Sirius too continued to call upon Remus, though Snape no longer joined him in his visits. Remus would visit Netherfield but never in the week leading up to the full moon. The idiom 'once bitten twice shy' was never more apt. Remus could no longer deny that he was irrevocably smitten with Sirius, though he kept this between Harry and himself.
When Snape left Netherfield to return to London Harry found himself to be both relieved and oddly bereft. The man may have been disagreeable and overly proud, but he had served as a great distraction for Narcissa and Bellatrix, keeping their attention from being solely fixed on Remus.
Unfortunately for Remus the two women were able to hurt the werewolf where it hurt the most. With a short missive, explaining everything and nothing, Bella informed Remus that their party were departing for London and would most likely not return. The reason given was some business venture of Sirius's. No letter nor visit from Sirius came, not even a forwarding address in London. To say that Remus was heartbroken was an understatement. While he may have kept his feelings for Sirius private, Remus had truly believed that Sirius felt something for him in return, if only as a close friendship on Sirius's part.
The two weeks following Sirius's departure saw Remus become even more quiet and withdrawn. He continued in his duties as tutor to the Weasley children and did not let his friendship with Harry suffer, however all could see that Remus was not the man he was but a fortnight ago. Harry's attempts to lighten the sandy haired man's mood all met with failure, and Remus now avoided any conversation revolving around the missing Mr. Black. Thankfully a possible cure for Remus's morose mood came in the form of Bill Weasley. During a quick visit (via floo and therefore not to be mentioned to their muggle neighbours) the eldest Weasley son invited both Harry and Remus to visit him in London for a week, longer if they wished. The promise of fresh young minds to teach (Bill and Fleur's two daughters were too young to attend Hogwarts) and the change of scenery was enough to interest Remus, which was reason enough for Harry to accompany him.
Harry wandered nervously through the crowd of unfamiliar witches and wizards, politely nodding in acknowledgement to those who looked his way. He and Remus had been in London nearly a week when they were invited to a purely wizarding gathering. Harry had jumped at the chance to attend a second of these rare events, after all it could be years before he would see another one. The fact that he knew no one in London but his own party never truly came into Harry's mind until he was separated from his group. Looking around for a familiar face, Harry was taken by surprise by very familiar rich and resonant voice. There, conversing with a small group of rather distinguished looking gentlemen was Severus Snape. Deciding he would rather keep his own company rather than face the coldness of Mr. Snape, Harry turned his attention to another part of the room, only for his escape to be halted when his name was called out.
"Mr. Potter, what an unexpected surprise. To what do we owe the pleasure of your company."
Harry turned with a smile on his face. "Mr. Flammell! When did you return to England? My brother Bill, his wife and our friend Remus are all here tonight, I'm sure they would be delighted to see you."
Nicholas Flammell had passed through Ottery St. Catchpole some years previous and was prevailed upon by Arthur Weasley and a very young Harry (who's childish arguments as to why Mr. Flammell should stay consisted of "you can look at my books if you like?" and offers to share Harry's dinner) to stay at the Burrow. Since the beginning of their friendship Mr. Flammell would send letters to the Weasley a few times a year, usually full of information on his travels around the globe and little gifts for each of the Weasley children, his visits were rare. As a famous alchemist his visits were rare and he found himself away from England for long stretches of time, sometimes years.
"Before we go hunt for your companions Harry, let me introduce to my godson, Mr. Severus Snape."
The discomfort visible on Snape's face matched that felt by Harry. Thankfully it was Snape who broke the news to Nicholas that Harry and Severus had met previously. Harry seriously doubted that Mr. Flammell was as innocent as he appeared when he began to exclaim his joy at finding his "two favourite young men" were now friends, before insisting that Severus should show Harry around. In fact the little grin spreading across Nicholas's face as Snape led Harry away attested to that.
The stilted pleasantries between himself and Mr. Potter were beginning to grate on Severus. Harry had responded to each of his enquiries with polite but short answers, each followed by uncomfortable silences until Severus could think of some point of interest to show to Harry. His one enquiry as to the health of Harry's family was answered that all were well, except Remus who seemed to be suffering some malady of the spirit. The silence following the unvoiced reason behind Remus's dispirited apathy almost convinced Severus to simply leave his companion thereby ending this awkward torment for them both. Deciding to attempt one last time to get some pleasant or at least interesting reaction from Harry, Severus asked a question he genuinely wanted the answer to.
"I was not aware that you attended the social scene in London Mr. Potter."
"This is my first time."
When Harry added no more to his reply Severus huffed in frustration. "Well Mr. Potter, it seems that we have run out of interesting ornaments and stucco work to admire." Glancing at the dancing couples Severus tried one more tactic. "However seeing as this is your first London event it would be a shame should you leave without first having a turn on the floor." Bowing low Severus continued "would you do me the honour of granting me your first dance Mr. Potter?"
Harry's first reaction was to refuse Snape in no uncertain terms, but they seemed to have caught the attention of a number of guests, including Nicholas. Not wanting to disappoint his friend, Harry inclined his head in acceptance.
They stood for some time without speaking a word, Harry began to imagine that their silence was to last through the two dances, and at first was resolved not to break it; till suddenly fancying that it would be the greater punishment on his partner to oblige him to talk, he made some slight observation on the dance. Snape replied, and was again silent. After a pause of some minutes Harry made a small noise of interest. Snape kept silent for a short while longer before conceding his curiosity and asking what it was that Harry had found interesting.
"Simply wondering if you do not talk as a custom while you are dancing Mr. Snape, when earlier you sought every opportunity to converse."
Snape couldn't help but quirk his lips in a smile, finally it seems he had stirred some interest in the messy haired young man.
"Sometimes one must speak little, however I grant that it would look odd to be entirely silent when it was I who requested this dance. So tell me Mr. Potter what do you wish to discuss?"
At this point the dance forced them to separate and switch partners for a short turn. When they returned to each other Harry, feeling no need to ingratiate himself to Severus continued the conversation in an almost blasé manner.
"Perhaps you ought to make some kind of remark on the size of the room or the number of couples, it is however your turn to say something Mr. Snape, whatever subject you choose I shall endeavour to make an appropriate reply."
Severus smiled again while remarking on the large variety of couples involved in the dance.
"Very well" Harry replied "That reply will do for now, perhaps I may observe that private balls are much pleasanter than public ones later on, but for now we may be silent."
"Do you talk by rule then when dancing Mr. Potter?"
This time it was Harry's turn to smile. They continued their back and forth repartee through a second dance before Harry excused himself to continue his search for his family. Harry had genuinely enjoyed the banter between Snape and himself however he could not forget his suspicions that Snape along with Sirius's two cousins had been the driving force behind Mr. Black's sudden departure from Netherfield and Remus's broken heart. His resolve was strengthened further when, upon returning to Ottery St. Catchpole, Remus confided in Harry that he believed Sirius never viewed him as anything more than a passing acquaintance and anything further was a figment of Remus's mind. As sensible and brave as Remus's words were as he declared that he was moving on, Harry could still see how much hurt was in his friends eyes.