Beta Reader: EvangelineFox
33. Let's have a party!
Time for parties and celebration
people dancing all night longtime for present
sand exchanging kisses
time for singing Christmas songs*
When Harry entered the Great Hall, he immediately noticed one thing - Snape wasn't here… again. He hadn't seen him either at breakfast or at lunch, or at this damned dinner.
There were only two days of school left before Christmas break. The students were talking excitedly about their plans, Hermione and Ron sat leaning towards each other, whispering something to each other.
The boy looked around and smiled to Luna, standing behind him.
"Oh, hey," he said.
"Are you going to the Christmas party?" the Ravenclaw asked, coming closer and sending a radiant smile his way. "I can't wait. You too?"
"Uh..." Harry blinked, surprised by the joyful zeal which he had heard in her voice. Since when has Luna started looking forward to some student event? Usually she shunned this type of thing, preferring instead to chase after Hogwarts' magical creatures that only she knew. On the other hand, even Neville had told him that he was going to come, so it seemed that about half the school was planning on attending. Originally, it was supposed to be only for a handful of people.
"Finally, we will be able to drink Butterbeer together," she smiled.
Oh yes! Butterbeer! Harry had totally forgot about it.
"Right. And considering what Tonks said, maybe even something stronger," he grinned.
Luna blushed slightly in response and looked away.
Harry looked at her with astonishment. Had he said something improper? He'd only mentioned some stronger drinks and...
He glanced at the teacher's table.
...Tonks. Tonks looked as if she had just turned her head in the opposite direction and hurriedly began to tell something to Professor Sprout who was sitting beside her.
He looked back at Luna, who had already walked a few steps towards the Ravenclaw table.
"Well... see you," she waved and disappeared from his view.
It was... odd, even for her.
Harry shrugged and headed for the Gryffindor table, quickly forgetting about the Butterbeer, about Luna, and began to wonder how to get Severus to eat his meals. He didn't like that the man didn't care about himself. He remembered how Severus had made him eat dinner when Harry'd spent the whole day locked in the Room of Requirement.
That's it! He would ask Dobby for help and then he'd bring the food to Severus! Anyway, he had to talk to him about his holiday plans and visit Hogsmeade. Yesterday he'd completely forgotten about it, too busy imagining that Snape betrayed him, and then getting fucked by him on the desk. Even though later they went into the bedroom, it was still hard to concentrate on anything because Harry wasn't wearing pants, and Snape seemed to have great fun tormenting him. "Hmm, your pants? It seems that they are not here, Potter. I'm afraid you'll have to return without them."
'Very funny,' he thought.
But Harry was very determined, so he began to circle through the room and look for his trousers until he found them in one of the lower cabinet shelves in the corner. When he angrily returned to the chair, the one thing he wanted was to get back at Snape, so he asked: "Do you really do the same thing as me at night? Tell me about it, I'm willing to listen." And til' now he had forgotten that horrible feeling of humiliation until he heard Snape's answer: "Yes, Potter. I sleep. I didn't know it fascinated you that much. "And then the bastard even had the audacity to sneer!
But all these events seemed to fade in the face of what had happened before, in the face of what he had done with Snape and what he had heard from him. So far, he couldn't believe it, and sometimes wondered if he hadn't misheard, if it wasn't simply his exuberant imagination.
There is only you, Potter.
At the mere thought of this, something shifted in his stomach. He felt as though something inside of him began pouring a wave of pure heat through him, and the heat sailed to his mouth, creating a decadent smile across his face.
He was the only one. Severus fucked only him. Only, exclusively him!
He felt so happy that he wanted to sing under his breath and jump like Luna.
When he sat at the table and greeted his friends, who, blushing slightly, broke off from each other and stared seriously at their plates, his hand immediately went to his pocket.
I need to talk to you about something urgent, Severus. May I come to you after dinner?
He recieved the answer only towards the end of the meal:
'If you must...'
Harry smiled to himself, but then sighed heavily.
Now he just had to wait long enough to deal with the stairs...
After dinner, he called Dobby and asked him to bring him another portion of food from the kitchen, because he was still hungry and wanted to eat in bed. He told his friends that he would return in the evening because he wanted to go and visit Hagrid, then threw the Invisibility cloak on himself and went to the dungeon with a plate and with the belief that he would succeed.
He took off his cloak in the office, put it into his pocket and, holding a steaming plate, knocked at Severus' chambers. When the door opened, he smiled broadly and said:
"Good evening, Severus."
The man blinked and narrowed his eyes, looking first at Harry's grinning face, and then at the plate.
"What is it?" he growled.
Without waiting for an invitation, Harry slipped past him and put food on the table.
"You haven't been in the Great Hall for a while, so I started to worry about you. You don't care about yourself at all, Severus. So I decided to bring you dinner. I hope that you like roast meat. " He smiled, straightening up and looking at Snape's door closing.
The man frowned and looked at the plate on the table, then at Harry, then again at the plate, and again at Harry. Surprise on his face slowly turned into something that the boy had never seen before and therefore he couldn't name.
Severus licked his lips and cleared his throat.
"I don't know what made you think that since I don't turn up for meals, I'm likely dying of hunger here, but I want to assure you that I eat on a regular basis thanks to the courtesy of the castle House elves, whose services, I can see, you use as well.
"I didn't think about it," he said softly, lowering his head.
"Well, I'm not surprised," Snape replied, walking over to his green chair.
Harry was angry with himself for having made such a fool of himself. It was obvious that if Severus wasn't eating, he would have started to look like one of those skeletons found in the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. Harry reached for the plate, to take it away, but Severus grabbed his hand.
"But since you've brought it, we shouldn't waste it," he waved his wand and one of the lockers flew open and a second plate landed on the table. Snape divided roast into two portions and gestured to Harry toward the second chair. The boy sat down hesitantly, feeling a strange heat in his stomach when he realized that he was about to eat dinner with Severus. He watched as the man brought two glasses and a bottle of red wine.
Harry leaned over his portion. For the first time, he ate a meal with Severus. It was... amazing. Almost as if they were a real... couple, he thought, blushing. He glanced at Severus who paid attention only to chewing his roast and sipping his wine. If he wanted to accomplish his goals, he had to take action now, while Snape was busy eating. With his mouth full he couldn't yell at him. That increased his chances.
"Um," he cleared his throat, straightening in his chair and taking a deep breath. "In fact... I came because I wanted to talk to you about something, Severus."
The man didn't look at him.
"I realized that the "urgent" issue you wished to discuss wasn't the frequency of my meals."
"No. I mean, that too, but... Oh, I just wanted to talk to you about the holidays."
Snape's hand froze halfway to his mouth. His fingers tightened around his fork. Piercing eyes narrowed and stared at Harry, as if wanting to break through Harry's thoughts, through his mind.
"From what I hear, you're going to the Weasleys. So I see no reason why you would want to talk to me about that unless you wanted to learn some effective way to stop them from breeding at such an alarming rate and pouring more red-haired incompetent imbeciles into the Wizarding World.
Harry rolled his eyes.
Oh, why did Severus have to make everything so complicated?
"Actually, Dumbledore suggested that I should stay at Hogwarts for holidays," Harry replied, glaring at him.
For a moment there was silence. Snape seemed to be unmoved by this news. He raised one eyebrow, looking at Harry expectantly.
Harry cleared his throat.
"I decided to stay."
The man narrowed his eyes and stared even more intently at Harry.
"And what does this have to do with me?"
"Well... ugh..." the boy squirmed under the influence of that gaze, feeling he was beginning to lose his courage. He had to say it until he lost all of it. "Well, I thought that I could spend holidays with... y-you."
Severus' eyes widened for a moment, then turned into black tunnels hurling bolts of lightning.
"No, you could not," Snape drawled, putting so much conviction into each word, as if his life depended on it.
Harry felt an unpleasant chill pierce his heart.
"Finally I have the opportunity to rest from irresponsible students who are unable to use their brains, and who derive pleasure from persecuting me, so I will not let some horny brat stutter under my feet and spoil my well deserved vacation."
Harry exhaled sharply.
"I will not stutter under your feet. I... and it's not the point! And I'm not a brat!" he growled, irritated with Snape's response. "I just... I want us to spend these few days together. I don't want to be somewhere else. I want to be with you."
Severus tightened his lips.
"Enough," he growled and went back to eating, as if he considered the subject closed.
Harry frowned. Plan A hadn't worked. Time to turn to Plan B, a plan which had been devised by the Slytherin part of him. Regardless of how much he hated and denied his Slytherin side, sometimes it was very useful.
He leaned back in his chair and sighed.
"Oh, too bad... It seems I will have to spend Christmas with the Weasleys, after all. I will go to the Headmaster immediately and tell him that I won't be staying at Hogwarts."
Severus suddenly jerked his head and looked at Harry with surprise in his eyes. But it was only a glimpse of it - and apparently he was able to quickly master himself, because his features sharpened, and his face contorted angrily. He glared back at the plate and began to eat, but Harry saw that the wrinkle between his brows deepened considerably.
It was a strange reaction. Snape looked... mad? But why? He should probably be glad. Or maybe he was just surprised that Harry had finally given up? After a moment of staring openly, Harry decided that it would be better to go on with his plan, because he had almost forgotten what he wanted to say.
He looked into the fire, shrugged his shoulders indifferently and, trying to sound careless, continued:
"Mrs. Weasley and Ginny will be happy if I come to them. I'll ask Ginny to bake these cookies that I love. I just hope that she won't want to feed them to me again..." out of the corner of his eye, he glanced at Severus, who stopped chewing and looked like he was wondering if it'd be better to finish the meal, in the process breaking his teeth which he clenched in attempt to control himself, or to spit out what he had in mouth and throw himself at Harry.
The boy smiled to himself at that thought. He had already created a small gap, but now he had to drill on, until Severus fell into his trap.
"The worst will be that damned mistletoe, which Mrs. Weasley just loves to put up in every possible doorway. I will have to be very careful not to stumble upon Ginny. And if I don't succeed, then... Well, it would be foolish to refuse... I wouldn't want to hurt her fee..."
His arguments were interrupted suddenly by a loud bang.
"Enough," Snape hissed, taking his hand off the table which he had just struck. "If this is the only way to silence you, Potter, then..."
"So I can stay?" Harry interrupted, unable to resist a cheerful smile.
Severus gave him a murderous look.
"For your information, I'm not going to..."
"Oh, thank you!" Harry beamed, not letting him finish. "I promise that I will be so quiet, you won't even notice me. I can even cast a Silencing spell on myself. I won't disturb you. I just... want to be with you," he finished, feeling a pleasant warmth in his stomach, warmth which moved through his whole body, penetrating his heart.
He succeeded! He was going to spend the holidays with Severus! He wanted to jump for joy, but he knew that if he tried to do it, Snape may very quickly change his mind. Anyway, this was only half the battle. There was one more thing.
"Um... I would also like to tell you that..." come on! Say it! "...I won't be able to come tomorrow for the detention." Seeing that the man's eyes changed from a murderous to completely lethal, he added quickly: "Tonks is orginising a Christmas party tomorrow in Hogsmeade. Everyone will be there and I also would like to go. I thought that... if I ask... I..." Harry was slowly becoming flustered under the influence of Snape's dark gaze. He gathered himself together and said: "Surely you've heard about it. Dumbledore said that you will be also putting the protective barriers with other teachers, so I know I'll be safe. I really want to go. I hope you're not angry."
Severus finally broke away from his eyes and snorted:
"Why should I be angry if you want to waste the whole evening on stupid dances and meaningless chatter in company of your pathetic friends and that pink-haired ignorant who can't distinguish Erumpent's shell from her own ass?"
Harry sighed in frustration.
"Oh, you are angry, after all."
The man snorted again and looked into the fire. Harry tried to ease the situation:
"I'll be fine. Don't worry."
Severus gave him another unpleasant look, but this time he didn't comment. Harry took that as permission, but didn't say anything else, knowing that Snape was still on the edge of explosion.
It was amazing. There were days when this man would do anything to not allow Harry to experience a pleasant evening, and possibly even add additional work, to destroy all his plans. But now...
Harry felt a pleasant warmth inside. His eyes smiled when he looked at the dark silhouette of the Potions Master, whose robes were casting quivering shadows by the flames in the fireplace.
He felt that he was getting closer. Getting closer to breaking through the light-absorbing, narrowed eyes, reaching through the collar of the buttoned up black coat; closer to stroking the soft hair surrounding the face and wrapping his hand around the beating heart. He wanted to grab it tightly, to press it to his chest like his greatest treasure, and then curl up around it and listen to its slow, soothing beats. And never, ever allow anyone to take it from him.
He sighed deeply and forced himself to tear his eyes from Severus and look into the fire.
Soon, he would win. He knew he was getting closer. He sensed it.
"Oh, look at this!" Strong as steel, interspersed with unicorn hair, ebony handle, twigs made of specially selected Trembling Poplar, closely related to Whomping Willow, which will ensure that no one will stop you. "Oh, my beauty..." Ron whispered, gazing as if bewitched at the exhibition before him; Quidditch brooms from the latest series of Nimbus, called 'Ray'.
Harry nodded, though he still preferred his 'Firebolt'. He began to feel tired of being in Hogsmeade with Ron and tried to think of something to get away from him. Hermione had already made it. She used the opportunity and settled in the first bookstore they encountered. But Harry couldn't do anything like that. He was still under observation by Professor Flitwick, who was walking behind him like a shadow with a mission to protect him during their Christmas shopping in the village of wizards.
Harry sighed in frustration and looked around at the streets filled with witches, wizards and Hogwarts students. The snow was falling so thickly and packing so tightly, as if it decided to fill up every available surface, making it difficult to go through snowdrifts. From time to time, Harry heard Christmas songs, but he couldn't make out the sources of them in the surrounding wall of snow.
"Let's go inside!" Ron screamed and ran to the store. Harry sighed in resignation and shuffled behind him. As they stepped inside, Professor Flitwick joined them, smiling in embarrassment at him. Apparently he also didn't like walking in lockstep with Potter, but he couldn't break the order of the Headmaster.
Harry turned his back on him and gritted his teeth in impotent rage. How the hell was he supposed to buy a gift for Snape in such circumstances? Especially since he didn't even know what he wanted to give him. He needed some time alone so he can choose something in peace and not be afraid that everyone would start to attack him with questions like "Who is it for?"
He looked longingly at the window and blinked, seeing a massive silhouette of Hagrid passing next to the store. A light flared up his mind. Not paying attention to Ron, who was snooping around Quidditch things, he quietly fell out of the shop, slipped on the snow and fell right at Hagrid's fur coat.
"Be careful, Harry, if you fall into the snow, there will be nothing left of you to collect," Hagrid grinned, putting him back on his feet and patting him on the back, which resulted in Harry having the impression that his lungs had been shifted.
"Can I come with you for a little bit? "Harry blurted out, hearing the patter of Professor of Enchantment running after him. "I have a few things to buy, and Ron can't be pulled away from all that," he explained, pointing at behind him.
"Oh, Potter," Flitwick wheezed, stopping at the Gryffindor. "You can't perform such violent uprisings. You're hindering this task. Oh, hello, Hagrid."
"Hello, Professor. Harry asked me to escort him a bit. It's probably not a problem?"
Flitwick looked at him and grimaced:
"Try not to lose him on the way. And lead him back to Hogwarts later. This snow is filling up my nose!" the teacher muttered, turning away and retreating in his characteristic duck step.
Harry grinned at his friend.
"You're welcome, Harry. I wouldn't be too thrilled either if someone was always on my heels. How are you?"
They moved slowly along the crowded street. Traveling with Hagrid was so much simpler, because everyone got out of the way. Harry wasn't worried about Ron. He was so preoccupied with Quidditch that by the time he even noticed his absence, Harry would probably have already managed to arrange everything and get back.
"It's fine, except that they all treat me like I am a goddamn golden egg. Fragile and precious."
"And you're wondering why, Harry? After this attack on you? Fortunately, you survived and can now talk with me here. After what has been going on lately in the Forbidden Forest, I'd lock you up at Hogwarts and wouldn't let you creep out or even show your nose outside its walls if I were the Headmaster!"
"And what is going on in the Forbidden Forest?"
Hagrid frowned, as if he was angry with himself.
"Again, I said too much..." he muttered.
"Hagrid," Harry said with emphasis. "What is going on in the Forbidden Forest? If this is something dangerous, I should probably know about it, so I can be prepared, right? Please, don't treat me like a child like the rest of them."
Hagrid stopped and sighed heavily.
"Well, okay... But you can't tell anyone about it. Not a word."
Harry raised his hand.
The half-giant nodded and looked at the trampled snow.
"Something's killing the animals. Something or someone. And in a terrible, cruel, horrible way."
The boy frowned.
"The animals? What animals? And for what? Vold... Sorry, You-Know-Who has gotten his body back, so he doesn't need the blood of unicorns."
Hagrid shook his head.
"It's not that. Professor Dumbledore thinks it is some sort of... training. On lots of different animals. Even the birds."
"Training?" it didn't sound too pleasant.
"Yeah... in killing."
Harry widened his eyes, feeling his heart speed up.
"H-how is that?"
"Some of them are killed by Avada Kedavra, but some..." Hagrid paused, as if what he was about to divulge was too scary.
"What?" Harry inquired, feeling an uncomfortable gripping in his throat.
"Some were stripped of skin, some burned, some frozen, smashed into pieces, and I even found one bird with... " seeing the horror on Harry's face, Hagrid finally decided to bite his tongue. "I'd better shut up..."
Harry couldn't believe what he'd just heard. He felt sick at the thought of all these horrors.
"It's... terrible," he finally managed to squeeze out.
And Dumbledore hid it from him! Damn it! After all, he often walked around the forest.
"No one knows who killed them?"
Hagrid sniffed and shook his head.
"The Professor says it looks like someone's teaching a student how to become a Death Eater. Apparently these bastards first exercise on animals, and then practice what they've learned on people. He thinks it might be some.." Hagrid stammered, as if the words didn't want to go escape his throat. "...one or several students of Hogwarts. Good Lord, Harry, I didn't suspect that I would live to see times when kids would be killing animals in my forest, practicing to become Death Eaters. If only I caught them..." Hagrid clenched his big fist, and his features became more acute. "They only hunt at night. They have good knowledge of the forest, because they choose the unknown paths."
Harry's brow furrowed. Somewhere in the depths of his mind there was a very unpleasant thought, but he quickly stifled it. It was too frightening.
"I hope that eventually, he will be caught. Or they. I could try to help if I..."
"No, Harry, don't meddle in it. Professor Dumbledore will be mad already if he learns I told you all this."
Harry frowned. Why did everyone have to treat him like a child? Why hide the truth from him? Why didn't anyone want to say anything, why did he need to pull out words almost by force? Was there anything else he didn't know? He didn't know the answers to these questions yet. But he hoped that soon...
His attention was distracted by a flash on his left. He turned his head and stopped so suddenly that people following him almost fell.
He stood before the exhibition of the gift shop. On one of the shelves there was a statue. Actually, two statues, combined with each other. A shiny gold lion was embraced by an iridescent, silvery snake. It was moving slowly between his feet, wrapping 'round his head with through a soft mane, around his chest, hugging him, and the lion repaid by licking snake's glittering scales.
Harry just stood and stared spellbound at what he'd seen.
Near them there was a series of similar figures, symbolizing the houses in various combinations, but he was only interested in one.
"Wait here, Hagrid. I'll be back," he murmured to his friend and went to the store.
The room was filled with students who were buying gifts for their loved ones. Harry noticed a fourth-year blushing Slytherin who was throwing embarrassed looks at everyone, as if afraid to be caught by his groupmates, buying a statue of a snake and a badger.
Harry smiled to himself. And people said something about likes and dislikes between the Houses. There was always someone who wouldn't pay any attention to stereotypes, and go their own way.
But the Slytherin had already left the shop, and Harry was still standing in the middle of the room, feeling very stupid and not daring to approach the counter. But he wouldn't have to wait too long...
"Oh, Mr. Potter!" chirped a saleswoman dressed in a pink apron, clapping her hands. "It's an honor to see you here. You came for a gift for a loved one?"
"Uh..." Harry grumbled, feeling the gaze of all the people gathered in the store. "I... um... I mean... A friend asked me to buy something for his g-girlfriend," he choked, feeling that his throat went dry. The saleswoman threw a long look his way and smiled.
"Oh, and does this "friend" want something specific?"
"Um...Yes. He really likes thats figure from the showcase. The lion and... and..." Oh, why did she have to smile in such a frustrating manner? "The snake," he finished, feeling like something was clutching his lungs. The girl raised her eyebrows and looked at Hagrid who was waiting behind the window.
Great, now everyone would know that his girlfriend was likely to be Slytherin. Just wonderful! Unless some miracle happened and someone would believe in this fable about the "friend", but seeing the face of the shop assistant, he might as well have told her that a flock of bloodthirsty Puches was chasing him, making him hide in the store, and now they were lurking outside the entrance, waiting to bite his feet off.
Fortunately, the girl didn't comment any further, just pulled the statue out from the counter and wrapped it. She explained to Harry that it was enchanted in such way that it can "repeat" any words or sounds the person spoke to it.
Harry quietly thanked the saleswoman, paid, and ran out of the store like a storm, still feeling her amused gaze.
But as soon as he found himself on the outside, it ceased to have meaning for him. The important thing was that he had finally found the right gift for Snape. He smiled to himself at the thought of Severus' reaction when he saw the statue. He just had to buy it! It was so... perfect.
Harry stopped in a few more shops and bought gifts for friends, and a red satin shirt and black tie for himself for Christmas dinner.
Hagrid was a very pleasant companion. He didn't ask him questions, he didn't try to find out what he'd bought. With Ron and Hermione, he couldn't hide anything, and they would have ended up fighting. It turned out that Hagrid had heard about the party organized by Tonks, and that yes, if Harry invited him, he would be happy to go with them, because these days they rarely had time to visit him.
At this point, Harry felt bad. Snape had filled his every moment, so he forgot about the rest of the world. In general he'd been planning to write a letter to Lupin for ages, but something always distracted him. Or rather, someone. Or rather, meeting with that person, and thinking about him all the time except at lessons or while sleeping.
He found Ron at the same store where he had left him. He was holed up in the section of the Guides on effective defense tactics and techniques, and Harry had to work hard to get him out of there. They met Hermione next to the Three Broomsticks. She had a bag full of books and her cheeks flushed with excitement. All the way to Hogwarts she was telling them about the newest series of books on numerology she had discovered in the bookstore which she couldn't let go of, even for a moment.
Hagrid walked them up to the very entrance of the castle, then waved and promised that they would meet in the evening at the party. Still talking, the three friends entered the main hall and went to the Gryffindor tower with other excited students who were returning from Hogsmeade.
When they entered the tavern, they had to stop to make sure that they came to the right place, but the presence of the bartender with silver beard and goats floating around behind the bar confirmed their suspicions. They were in a Hog's Head, but... this place had really changed.
Each part of the main room was adorned with colorful chains, baubles and trinkets. Tables were covered with tablecloths sparkling in the light of burning candles, with many dishes from the Honeydukes. In the center they'd created a special place for dancing, covered with a waxed parquet floor in a color of a glossy night sky.
"How beautiful..." Hermione whispered, looking around in awe. "You did this all alone?"
Tonks smiled radiantly.
"Professor Flitwick helped me a little with the floor, and Professor Sprout made the garlands of flowers."
The friends nodded with approval and went to choose a table for themselves.
"Damn it! "Ron hissed when he was seated, staring like a hawk at Ginny, who was holding the hand of a Ravenclaw. She was sitting with him in the corner of the room, throwing looks full of the superiority at her brother from time to time.
"How can she so brazenly... hold his hand? And with me watching! I'll just go over there..."
"Sit down!" Hermione, with the help of Harry, grabbed his shirt and pulled him back into place. "What are you doing? They are just sitting there! And Ginny can bring whomever she wants! Will you stop acting like a complete moron and finally give her some freedom?"
Ron threw her the most murderous look, but it didn't impress Hermione.
"Tell him, Harry," Hermione looked at him expectantly.
"Hey you!" suddenly, right next to their table, Luna appeared. She was wearing a green dress resembling a Christmas tree decorated with baubles. A large, gold star was on her head. "May I sit down next to you?"
"Sure!" Harry immediately moved, grateful for the opportunity to avoid getting into another quarrel between his friends. He'd already had enough of them, and the party had just started.
"Um..." they heard the voice coming from the centre of the room. It forced them to fall silent and to look at Tonks standing there. "I want to warmly welcome you and thank you for coming. I hope that we will have a great time and that this evening will bring us closer to each other..." Did Harry just imagine it, or did Tonks' look, for a split second, at Luna sitting next to him? "...Even more than we were... before. Um, I think I confused myself." She waved her hand and smiled sheepishly. "Never mind. Eat, drink and have fun as if I'm not here." She waved a wand in the direction of the gramophone which began to give off the lively sounds of Christmas songs by 'Fatal Witches', 'Meaningless Terror' and by many other magic bands. Harry didn't know most of them completely, but quickly got hooked on singing along with Ron, Hermione, Luna and Tonks, who had come to sit next to their table.
To the mandatory Butterbeer, Nymphadora had drawn a silver riveted bottle of something "special" from the pocket of her black coat. After taking an oath that they wouldn't say anything about this to any other teacher, she poured it into their beer.
Harry decided that it tasted like the martini he'd drunk at Snape's, but it burned much more on his tongue. And it was a little bitter, but good, thanks to perfect balance between it and the sweetness of the Butterbeer. Tonks poured herself a triple batch and smiled broadly.
Luna's cheeks turned dangerously red after the first quarter of beer. She began to tell them about the plot in which the Ministry tried to cover up its acts of terror and aggression towards the witches who were living alone, suspecting them of kidnapping and eating Muggle children. But her father discovered their ways and published them in "The Quibbler" for which, they were trying to put him in Azkaban, to silence him. They all listened to her with indulgent smiles on their lips. Even Neville, who also sat with them. Everyone, except Tonks, who stared at her as if she believed absolutely every word. After the third cup of beer, Luna fell silent and became strangely tight-lipped. Only swayed from side to side, thrusting blurred glances at the table and occasionally glancing at Tonks who was laughing to tears at Ron's jokes. And Harry just sipped his drink and looked at her with growing interest.
Several pairs found the courage to begin dancing on the dance floor. Tonks had to physically restrain Ron from jumping up and pulling a dancing Ginny away from her Ravenclaw. After some time, an unknown girl moved to their table. She introduced herself as Anastassy Lipswic and explained that she'd come along with Ginny and her boyfriend Gregory. She timidly asked if she could join them, and amused company agreed readily. She took a place in front of Harry and stared down in her Butterbeer.
When Tonks started to talk about Herbology with Neville, Ron and Hermione glanced at each other briefly and started whispering something. Luna was looking moodily at the half-empty pint, thoughts far away. Anastassy cleared her throat and gave Harry a timid look.
"Are you here alone, Harry?" she asked in a low, trembling voice.
A bolt of fire pierced the boy's head, as if warning: 'Attention, another "little Ginny"'!
"Uh... Well, not quite. This is Ron, Hermione, Neville, Luna, Ton..."
The girl giggled, blushing.
"You are so funny..." Harry looked at her blankly. "I mean, if... you know...if you are here with a girlfriend?"
Harry felt a blush creep on his cheeks.
"I have a girlfriend, but she's not here. She... couldn't come."
"She's from Hogwarts?" inquired the Ravenclaw. Harry grimly nodded, staring intensely at his beer. "Is she from... Slytherin?"
Harry jerked his head up.
The talks at the table suddenly stopped. Harry almost felt vibrations of interest coming off his friends.
"Where did you...? Who...?" Harry began to stutter.
The girl blushed.
"I heard it. Today in the afternoon. McMillan - the fourth year Gryffindor - was telling Pettersen and Ciddy about it. Later..."
"It's nonsense!" Harry muttered quickly, seeing Ron's incredulous eyes. Oh, he could just imagine his reaction if he believed Harry was dating a Slytherin.
"Oh, Harry!" Hermione smiled. She didn't look puzzled - she was rather drunk already. "But it is obvious. Otherwise you wouldn't hide her from us. I can tell. You're always absent, smiling to yourself, drifting somewhere in your thoughts. If these are not signs of falling in love, my name isn't..."
"You knew about this?" Ron exclaimed. "You knew and didn't tell me anything?"
"I presumed," Hermione corrected him. "Anyway, if you paid attention to something more than a dinner, you could have seen it as well."
"Why didn't you tell me?" Ron, it seemed, missed what the Gryffindor'd told him, and sent a resentful glance at Harry. "I'm your best friend! I should know if..."
"It's Harry's business," Luna suddenly interjected. Everyone looked at her with surprise. Over the last half hour she hadn't said a word. "It's up to Harry what he does and with whom he does it. He must have a valid reason for not telling you. If I were him, I wouldn't tell you anything, either. And you can't demand it of him. Harry doesn't want to talk about it. Right?" She looked at him with determination.
Harry, for a moment, looked at her with surprise, but when he came to his senses, he smiled and nodded gratefully.
"Right. Thanks, Luna."
Ron, who apparently also had finally come to his senses, only snorted, apparently showing that it was not worth listening to Luna, and opened his mouth to further torment Harry with questions, when Hermione stopped him, grabbing his arm and squeezing it tightly. The boy looked at her angrily, seeing her intense gaze, saying, "one more word and you will be in trouble!" He quickly gave up and lowered his eyes, staring at his beer.
"You are right, Luna," finally Hermione saide. "I'm sorry, Harry. I shouldn't have pushed you that much."
Harry shrugged and sipped his beer. He just wanted this topic closed. He knew he shouldn't have bought a gift for Severus when so many students were there. Rumors spread at Hogwarts faster than the stink of Dungbombs. He knew they were suspecting something already. As long as they didn't torment him with questions and demands, they could think whatever they wanted. Even better if they'd suspect someone from Slytherin. It at least would give him a good excuse as to why he didn't want to tell them and why they had never seen his beloved.
"Um..." Tonks cleared her throat, apparently wanting to stop this unpleasant silence that fell over them. "So what do you do with these hybrids of Snowlishes and Mandrakes, once you've transplanted them?" she turned to Neville, as if they hadn't interrupted their conversation. But Harry noticed that every now and then Tonks would glance at Luna, her eyes shining strangely. As if something troubled her.
Luna returned to staring in her mug, Hermione and Ron began to whisper something to each other again, and Anastassy, all red in the face, smiled at Harry's in repentance.
"Sorry..." she whispered. "I didn't mean..."
"It doesn't matter," the Gryffindor waved his hand. 'They would have found out anyway in the end,' he added inwardly.
The atmospheric sounds of a ballad began filling the room. The lights dimmed, and more pairs came onto the dance floor.
Anastassy cast a long look at Harry and licked her lips.
"So I was wondering... Do you... Would you like to dance?"
Harry nearly choked on beer.
"What?" he asked, confused.
Dance? Him? It's probably a joke. Hardly a funny joke.
"No thanks, I'm... my ankle hurts," he mumbled the first lie that came into his mind. The girl sighed and looked wistfully at the hugging couple. Harry heard the woman's voice singing the words:
No you don't know the one, who dreams of you at night
And longs to kiss your lips, longs to hold you tight
Oh, I am just a friend, that's all I've ever been
'Cause you don't know me **
"I like that song," Anastassy interjected, looking at Harry with a shy and hopeful smile on her rosy lips. Harry listened to the text.
I never knew the art of making love
No my heart aches with love for you
Afraid and shy I let my chance go by
The chance that you might love me too **
"Oh God," he groaned in his mind, at the last moment preventing the burning desire to hit his forehead against the table. He looked at the girl who was staring at him with gleaming eyes. He couldn't say that she was ugly. She had long, brown hair and Butterbeer-colored eyes, but... but she wasn't him. She didn't have those demonic eyes or smile that made Harry's knees go weak. If she wasn't sitting in front of him, trying so shamelessly to flirt, Harry wouldn't have noticed her.
"Maybe..." she said after a moment. "Maybe somehow you..."
"I'll be right back," Harry interrupted her, getting up quickly. He walked over to Ginny who was nuzzling her boyfriend's neck, and cleared his throat.
The girl turned quickly, and her eyes widened when she saw him.
"Oh, hello, Harry," she smiled.
"I need to talk to you," he hissed. "Now."
Ginny frowned, but nodded, then looked at her boyfriend.
"Be right back, Greg."
She stood up, kissed him on the cheek and allowed Harry to pull her to one of the corners of the room.
"Who is that girl that you brought, and what does she want from me?" he asked, looking at her with irritation.
Ginny looked over his shoulder and laughed.
"Anastassy? She's from the fourth year, and fatally in love with you. That is Greg's sister. She was nagging us, asking to come when she learned that you'd be here, so we took her with us. Don't be mean to her, Harry."
"What? In love with me?" Harry rolled his eyes and looked over his shoulder. Anastassy waved to him, smiling radiantly. "But she doesn't even know me. Anyway, I don't really care. She continuously asks me to dance with her," he hissed through clenched teeth.
"Well, do it. I don't see the problem. Do it and maybe she'll get over you."
"You don't understand. I don't dance. I can't dance. I don't like this... What are you doing?" he exclaimed, surprised, when Ginny pulled him onto the dance floor. He swayed and caught his balance at the last moment, because after three rounds of beer with extra cream from Tonks, his head was already spinning, and he began to have serious problems with motor coordination.
"Showing you how to dance," Ginny laughed, grabbing his hands and pulling him closer. She looked at the side and waved at Greg, sitting at the table, as if to give him a sign that everything was in order. She winked at him and turned back to Harry. "During the Christmas ball in the fourth year you weren't that bad, but you have to work on your technique." Ginny put his hands on her waist. "Now close your eyes and try to memorize the steps. Left. Right. Step back. Great. Now step to the side and turn around. " She let go of him, spun and pulled him back. A scent of her perfume enveloped him. He felt the soft brush of her curls on his face. "Bravo, just like that. And again. To the left..."
It's strange, but dancing with Ginny wasn't that difficult. This may be due to alcohol circulating in his veins. He didn't feel as tense as two years ago. He didn't feel that pressure on himself, which was caused by dozens of pairs of staring eyes. It was enough just to remember the steps. No, it wasn't that complicated. And if he were to think about it, he quite enjoyed it. And thanks to the fact that all the time his eyes were closed, he could imagine that he was dancing with Severus.
No, it was a stupid idea. They both hated to dance. But maybe... maybe one day...
He would then stand closer to him. Oh, that's right. And he would wrap his arms around his waist, feeling the rough robes rustling softly under his fingers. Just like now. And he would put his head on his shoulder...
... And then he heard Ginny's confused voice:
"What are you doing, Harry?"
Her words mingled with the sudden, unpleasant feeling of increased tension, which made all hair in his body rise. Harry opened his eyes and his gaze fell on the door. Doors, where Dumbledore stood... and Snape.
Harry stumbled, staggered, pulled the Gryffindor after him and landed on the floor. And Ginny on top of him. He needed time to shake her off and spit out her hair from his mouth. When he succeeded, he glanced toward the door, and almost choked on his own tongue, seeing the look that Severus was hammering him with.
Quickly, he pushed the surprised Ginny off of himself and sprang to his feet. Greg ran to the girl and helped her get up, but Harry didn't pay any attention. He tried not to tremble under the influence of glacial, Severus' glance burning with rage. He felt that if he were here alone, he wouldn't emerge from this confrontation unscathed.
Tonks almost spat in her beer when she saw the smiling Headmaster approaching her. She jumped to her feet to greet him, but Dumbledore gave her hand a sign not to get up. Through the veil of icy terror that seized him, Harry heard the reassuring voice of the Headmaster, explaining that he came up only briefly to see if everything was okay and to witness what a good time they'd been having. And Professor Snape was kind enough to agree to accompany him.
Harry swallowed and looked at the floor, trying to escape the murderous look that almost made a hole in his skull. Why did he have the impression that he was now in very, very serious trouble?
"Harry, are you okay?" Ginny asked in distressed voice. "You suddenly paled. Are you ill?"
Harry shook his head.
"No, just... this beer. Too much beer. Yes. I'd better sit down. Thanks," he mumbled incoherently, coming to the table and falling hard on the chair, because he felt his knees tremble.
Fuck! How it must have looked? What Severus might have thought? That he and Ginny...
With horror he looked again at the door, but both the Headmaster and the dark silhouette of the Potions Master had disappeared as quickly as they appeared. However, the airborne threat remained, and Harry felt that he needed something stronger to throw it out of his mind.
"I need a drink," he grunted, grabbing Tonks' beer and swallowing it in almost one gulp.
"So your ankle doesn't hurt anymore," Anastassy said quietly. Harry looked at her with astonishment. What's she saying? Now he was so shaken up that everything that wasn't associated with Snape, who had just nearly killed him with his eyes, had evaporated from his mind. "Well, I thought that since you danced with Ginny, we could dance together now..."
Harry grabbed the remains of his beer, then got up without saying a word, as though he had not heard the girl speak, and then surprised Luna by grabbing her hand and pulled her aside, to the nearest free table.
"Can we sit here a moment?" he asked with a sigh when he sank into the chair. "Maybe she'll finally get bored and leave," he whispered, pointing with his head at the table behind him.
"No problem," Luna muttered, watching Harry with a thoughtful gaze. She moved to look at the closed door, then stared back grimly at the tablecloth.
"Don't worry, Harry," she whispered after a moment's hesitation. "He'll calm down. It's not like it looked like you were dancing with her and groping her, and... as if she was laying on you. I mean... maybe a little."
"Thank you very much," Harry grumbled, dreaming only of the next batch of beer with the extra addition.
"It's probably good that he is so jealous, right? That means that he cares about you. If he didn't care, he wouldn't be so jealous," Luna explained, although she stuttered slightly.
"Yeah," Harry muttered, glancing back at his friends, who were laughing and chattering, and then moving gaze back to the Rawenclaw sitting next to him. He frowned when he saw sadness on her face. "Are you okay?" he asked. She smiled and looked away. She had flushed cheeks and watery eyes. It looked as though she struggled to control herself. She looked at Tonks who was telling her friends something with enthusiasm, then looked away.
"Yes, but... I wonder. How do you deal with that, Harry? I mean... doesn't he mind that you're so young?"
Harry blinked. Luna looked very serious. In fact, he had never seen her facial expression this... lost.
"N-no. I think probably not," he said uncertainly. "I mean..." He pondered. Severus had never really seemed to have this problem. It didn't bother him that Harry was only sixteen years old and was twice younger than him. It seemed that he even... liked that. "No, I don't think so." It was strange to talk about it with Luna. But she was the only person in the school who knew his secret. And seemed to fully accept it.
"Well," she said, frowning, "it shouldn't be a problem. Yes, he's your teacher, but true love doesn't count years. My mother used to say that." she smiled at him uncertainly. Why did he have the impression that she wasn't talking about Snape? "You love him, don't you?" she asked after a moment's hesitation.
"What?" Harry stared.
Love? Severus? What kind of question was that? How did... ? He couldn't... No, he didn't... He felt himself blush, and couldn't stop it.
"You like to be with him?" she asked directly, seeing that Harry apparently had lost his speech.
"What? Yeah," he muttered, staring at the table.
"Do you miss him every second when you don't see him?"
"Uh... I think so. Yes."
"You would do anything for him, including something that seems completely crazy?"
"I think so," he said gently, biting his lip.
"Do you want to spend every possible moment with him?"
Harry smiled to himself.
"And do you want it to be like that forever?"
Harry lifted his head and looked at Luna. Her dreamy eyes were fixed at laughing Tonks whose hair was changing colors like a kaleidoscope.
"Uhm," he muttered, feeling his cheeks burn even more.
"That means that you love him," Luna said quietly, taking her eyes off Tonks and looking back at Harry. She smiled sadly and looked away. But Harry had time to notice a crack in her big blue eyes.
This means that you love him.
Strange, but exactly the same crack appeared in his chest.
And it... hurt.
Later in the evening, they were joined by Hagrid. He walked a little unsteadily, and for a moment, he wavered in the doorway, looking at them with astonishment on his face.
"Here, Hagrid!" Tonks waved at him and invited him to the table. "What will you have to drink?" she asked when he sat between her and Harry.
"Oh, doesn't matter," Hagrid waved his great hand. "Old Aberforth knows."
And indeed, after a few moments, a bartender put a huge mug of something before him. It was giving off such a strong alcoholic aroma that Tonks and Harry were forced to back away slightly, because they had the impression that something was making holes in their noses.
"What happened to this place?" Hagrid asked when he took a big sip and wiped his beard with the satisfied smile. "Good Merlin, it looks like someone let saccharine gnomes in here!"
"What are saccharine gnomes? "Ron asked, frowning.
"They are small annoying creatures who decorate everything with bows, flowers and various junk. Looks like someone let the whole herd in here."
Hermione cleared her throat, Neville lowered his head, and Tonks blushed so much that her hair turned purple.
Hagrid looked at them with astonishment, and after a while, his eyes widened in understanding. He blushed and muttered in his beard:
"Oh, I should have kept my mouth..."
"No, don't worry," Tonks waved her hand. "I just wanted everything to be nice. But perhaps I've overdone it a little." She looked around the room, depressed.
"Well, maybe a little..." Ron began, but suddenly paused and groaned painfully. He looked reproachfully at Hermione and began to massage his ribs.
"Everything is very nicely decorated. We really like it. Right, Ron?" the Gryffindor asked, staring at him intensely.
"Yeah, very nice..." he muttered, still rubbing the left side.
"Really nice," Neville agreed, smiling encouragingly.
"Yes, very," added Anastassy.
Harry felt their expectant gazes. He took a sip of beer and frowned.
"What?" he asked. He'd been reliving the Ginny Incident, trying to think of good explanation for Snape, so he had no idea what his friends had been talking about. And now everyone was staring at him as if expecting something from him. "What is it?" He repeated, somewhat irritated. He was saved by the quiet, somewhat dreamy, voice of Luna:
"Very beautiful..." all eyes turned to her. The girl hands propped her chin and she stared at Tonks. "Everywhere I look is so beautiful..." she whispered, looking at Tonks in fascination.
Tonks blushed and lowered her head.
Harry saw Hermione who was frowning thoughtfully and decided it was time to take action.
"So... well... What's up, Hagrid? How are your Crackwats doing?"
"Oh, they've grown. If you only could see their teeth... sharp as a pin. Could pierce you like cheese, if you trapped them." Hagrid grinned, swollen with pride. "Would you like to see them?"
"There is no need."
"Oh, don't bother."
Choir of mumbling voices made Hagrid lower his head sadly.
"What are you going to do with them, Hagrid?" Hermione asked quickly, seeing the dejection on his face. "The Headmaster won't allow you to keep them, right?"
"Oh, Dumbledore is a kind man, but... the other teachers are not thrilled. Professor McGonagall says that they are too dangerous to show them to kids."
Hermione and Ron exchanged glances. Hagrid didn't think any animal to be dangerous, as long as someone wasn't hurt too badly. And even then, he was able to defend his weird creatures, saying "it's just a pet, it was hungry, you shouldn't have teased it, usually it's really quiet, only sometimes, when it's upset, it might attack, but only because it wants to play, you all fear it and it doesn't understand, it's afraid, and sometimes an accidents happen... but it's a good pet, really..."
"But I managed to convince Dumbledore to release them into the woods, so they can live there and protect us." Hagrid looked at Harry and the boy immediately understood who they were meant to protect.
Well, another flock of bloodthirsty monsters with sharp teeth and claws could really keep the unwanted guests away. But they would make any visit of curious students even more dangerous than ever - it would be like putting a hand into a pond full of starving piranhas.
He smiled wanly.
"It's... great," he muttered. "The Forbidden Forest has finally become even dange... safer."
Judging from faces of people who were sitting at the table, they were thinking exactly the same.
"And how are you?" Hagrid exclaimed loudly, grinning.
Tonks 'addition' to the drinks had a very intriguing effect. Ron and Hermione began to look strangely at each other and started to behave extremely kindly to one another. Ron, after some time, had completely forgotten about Ginny who was still in the corner with her boyfriend, and couldn't take his eyes off alternately blushing and bursting into drunken giggles at Hermione. Anastassy finally got tired of staring at Harry like a kicked puppy and agreed to dance with Neville.
Harry breathed a sigh of relief. He had more than enough of her. His head was spinning more and more, which, to be honest, was quite a nice feeling. Slowly, at last, he managed to forget about the terrible feeling of humiliation and fear that seized him when he saw Snape standing in the doorway. And with the painful grip on his chest he heard again Luna's words: "This means that you love him."
He shut his eyes, trying to banish these thoughts from his head, then opened his eyes and glanced at Ron, who for some time now was almost desperately glancing at the floor. And at Hermione. Back at the dance floor. And Hermione.
Well, it seemed that his friend needed a little help. And Harry was pleased to give it to him, just to forget about those echoing words and furious black eyes.
Hermione meanwhile was talking to Tonks, Luna and Hagrid who had already drunk two pints and started the third one. Harry shifted slightly to the side and kicked Ron slightly. His friend grimaced and looked at him reproachfully.
Harry pointed with his head to the floor and then to Hermione. Ron blushed and shook his head. Harry kicked him again. Ron stabbed him with an annoyed look and rolled his eyes. He glanced nervously at Hermione and swallowed hard. He sat for a moment, as if fighting with himself, and after a moment he looked at Harry again, as if looking for support or the next kick. But Harry just raised his thumb encouraging and smiled.
Ron took a deep breath and, alternately blushing and turning pale, leaned over Hermione's ear and whispered something to her. The girl blushed and broke away from the conversation. She looked at Ron, smiled shyly and nodded.
They both got up and walked toward the dance floor. Ron turned for a moment to send Harry a jubilant smile, and the boy quickly hid his mouth behind the bear, trying to stop smiling.
Oh, there really was a huge gap between them... The vast, immeasurable abyss...
He shook his head and looked at the others at the table - Tonks, Luna and... where was Hagrid?
Harry looked around and saw his friend sit at the bar, emptying another mug, talking lively to the bartender.
Luna put down the fourth, now empty, portion of beer and smiled uncertainly.
"I didn't know that it would be so good, Harry. I would love to dri... to drink some more," she said, looking with raptured, sparkling eyes around the room. "Everything is so... glowing. And wavy. It's really amazing." Harry, who found it difficult to focus, also looked around the hall packed mostly with couples. "Everybody seems to be having such a... good time," the Ravenclaw added, looking at the kissing couple at the next table. After a moment, she looked down, blushing, and stared at her sparkling dress. Then she glanced at Tonks sitting next to her and she smiled shyly. But Nymphadora didn't seem to notice, too busy looking around the room and smiling under her breath because of the unfolding view.
"Oh," she giggled, pointing discreetly at Ron who was trying, somewhat awkwardly and unsuccessfully, to kiss Hermione. "Is that not cute? Who would have thought that a little..."
"You have lovely hair," suddenly Luna said. For the last couple of minutes she'd been staring fixedly at Tonks. Harry choked on his beer and quickly glanced at Tonks. Her hair, light pink a little while ago, had now assumed a dark red color. Matching her face. "And now it is even nicer," added the Ravenclaw, smiling and extending her hand in the direction of the increasingly darkening hair. Nymphadora pushed her hand away rapidly.
"Stop," she hissed quietly, measuring the girl with a darkened, unpleasant look. She glanced nervously at Harry who was carefully watching Luna's tremulous eyes, but didn't dare to speak. "Your friend probably drank too much, Harry," Tonks chuckled nervously, but her hair didn't lighten.
"Don't talk as if I'm not here," Luna whispered, looking at her with a bit of a fuzzy look. "You know my name."
Harry gulped his beer and looked at Tonks, waiting for her reaction. For the first time he saw such a mosaic of emotions on Luna's always dreamy face. He was almost sure that all his suspicions were true, but he preferred not to interject and wait for further developments.
"Maybe you'll go dance a little? Have fun," it appeared that Nymphadora was trying to regain control of the situation. "After all, it's your party. You shouldn't sit here with your teacher I..."
Harry saw that Luna's face turned red and she opened her mouth to say something, but at the same time they saw Hagrid's powerful silhouette approach.
"I had to talk with an old friend," he grumbled. "I guess I didn't miss anything?"
Unaware of the awkward silence that hung in the air, he sat between Harry and Tonks, separating him and Luna. Harry cleared his throat, wanting to distract Hagrid and to let Luna and Tonks talk. Or just stare at the tablecloth or at the wall, if they needed it.
"I'm glad that you came," he mumbled.
"How could I miss such a party?" grumbled Hagrid. "Anyway, I've missed Ron and Hermione a little. They visit me even less than you." He looked at his mug and sighed. "No one remembers the old gamekeeper."
"Stop it, Hagrid. Of course I remember. I will visit you at Christmas, I promise. After all, I'm staying at Hogwarts. You know that, right?"
"Yeah. I'm sorry for that, Harry."
"Why are you sorry?" Harry frowned and looked with amazement at the depressed half-giant.
"I know you would rather spend Christmas with Ron and Hermione, rather than rot here with your old Professors," Hagrid mumbled, staring at his mug with such obstinacy, as if it was the only thing that still kept him upright. "You think I didn't try to stand up for you? As soon as I found out they intended to leave you here for Christmas, I went to the Headmaster and told him... I told him... that you are young and that Arthur and Molly are great magicians, and that you will be so sorry if you have to stay here... and Ron, and Hermione... And me too, because when you are sad, Harry, I'm also sad..." Harry tried to hide his embarrassment by getting another big sip of beer. "But the Headmaster didn't want to listen to me. He said that he completely trusts Snape, and if Snape says that you have to stay, then..."
Harry spat the beer right back. For a moment he was choking, unable to catch his breath. He managed to do it only when he felt a blow on the back from Hagrid's big hand. He hit his forehead against the counter, feeling dizzy.
"I'm sorry, Harry. Are you all right?"
Harry shook his head, suddenly gasping for breath and feeling the tears trembling in his eyes.
"P-Professor Snape told the Headmaster that I should stay at Hogwarts for Christmas?" he asked. He had to hear it again. He was afraid he'd misunderstood.
"Yes," said Hagrid, a little taken aback. "I'm sorry, Harry. I didn't know that you'd be so upset. I know you don't like Professor Snape, but I think it's just..."
But Harry wasn't listening any further. He stared at the beer sprayed table wide-eyed, unable to believe his ears.
Snape! That nasty, sneaky, slytherinish Snape! How could he? Harry had asked him, almost begged on his knees to allow him to spend Christmas with him, while Snape was the one who'd organized his stay at Hogwarts! He did it on purpose! But he made it look as if he agreed only because Harry begged and pleaded with him! And as usual, he lied! Why hadn't Harry thought about it? Only a complete moron would believe that Snape would be so easy to manipulate and agree with his oh-so-clever plan. It was Snape who was pulling the strings from the beginning. He could have guessed. Snape objected too much. Yes, Harry remembered now. He understood why Snape looked at him with such surprise when Harry pretended to give up, when he said he'd go tell Dumbledore he'd stay with Weasleys... He understood why he saw anger in his eyes. Snape was angry because he thought his plan had backfired. That Harry didn't want to spend holidays with him that much and that he had deprived himself of this possibility with his own stupid game. But when Harry began the "blackmail", he graciously agreed to his request.
What a... Snape!
Harry hit his forehead against the counter again.
Again, he'd let himself be played. Fuck it! Fuck...
He frowned, letting all the anger evaporate slowly.
So... if Snape told Dumbledore that Harry should be at Hogwarts, it meant that... that... he wanted to spend Christmas with him! He wanted to spend Christmas with him. Christmas. With him. To spend. He wanted to.
Harry felt heat in the stomach, and he smiled radiantly to himself.
Snape, such as he was... He couldn't let Harry know that he'd like them to be together for Christmas, so he'd come up with this whole plan. It was... it was...
Oh, damn it! Harry wanted to just jump up and run away - run to him. Run and tell him that yes, he would stay with him, that he also wanted to spend Christmas together, and, if Severus wanted, Harry would gladly spend his life with him... that he would do anything for him, that he wouldn't exist without him, that he... loved him...
He blushed involuntarily.
Loved... this word seemed so strange... so non-matching.
Harry heard it often. Couples in love which he saw in the hallways all the time, throwing that word around as if it were just... nothing. Something so ordinary and trivial that people shouldn't even bother thinking about it for longer than it took to say it.
But Severus... could he even use that word to describe his feelings? Still it seemed to him too much, too... serious. Maybe because no one had ever told him that? Throughout his life he hadn't heard that word once. And he never used it himself. Yet he knew subconsciously... knew that... that there were people who loved him. Hermione and Ron, his parents, Sirius, and even... maybe even Dumbledore and Hagrid - a little. And Mrs. Weasley.
But... but it was something else. None of these people made him feel so... so... as if his heart wanted to explode as soon as he looked at them. Sometimes he wanted to tear it from his chest to make it silent finally, to make it stop reacting so violently to every look, every word, every touch... so it wouldn't die and be reborn again for reasons he didn't fully understand.
Was it... was it love?
If so... then he was in very serious trouble.
"Always the same! You always have the same excuse!" quiet Luna's scream broke into Harry's mind and brought him back to the ground. The boy blinked a few times and looked around dizzily. Hagrid was snoring loudly, leaning against the wall behind him, and Tonks sat stunned, staring at the door behind which Luna had just disappeared.
The cool smell of snow and wind broke into the room. Harry looked at the dancing couples. It seemed that everyone was so busy with each other that no one even noticed this little incident. Even Hermione and Ron, who were still dancing.
Harry looked at Tonks. Nymphadora hammered the restless gaze at the table. Her hair was faded, taking almost a mousy color. Every now and then looked at the door behind which Luna had disappeared, and looked as though she was fighting with herself.
And in the end she lost. She licked her lips and tried to smile at Harry.
"It's dark outside, she shouldn't stay there for long. I'll go look for her. I... I'm supposed to look after you. She shouldn't have... you know what I mean. Be right back," she whispered, almost jumping up from her place. She ran to the door, opened it and disappeared into the darkness.
Harry looked around the room. Everyone was either dancing or kissing. It was likely that no one would notice if he also...
He looked at the door, then searched all his pockets and found a piece of parchment. He asked the bartender for a pen and wrote a short note:
I went for a walk with Tonks and Luna. Don't worry, we will come back soon. Harry
He left the parchment on the table, placing a heavy cup of something on it. He shook his head, trying to restore the world of straight lines, because everything he looked at was strangely spinning, and, trying not to draw attention to himself, he left.
It was really fucking cold outside. Snow at last ceased to fall, and the sky was clear. Harry threw his cloak on, put his hands in his pockets and looked around. He saw footsteps in the snow. The moon shone brightly enough to be able to see where they led. At the rear of the building.
He pulled the Invisibility Cloak from his pocket and threw it on himself. But after a while he stopped. He had the feeling that every step in creaking snow could be heard over several kilometers. He winced and pulled out his wand.
What was this spell that Tonks had taught them?
"Taci...Taco... No, something else." He frowned in effort. It was difficult - as if his thoughts were running away from him. "Tacitus Gressus!"
Yes! He did it! Now he walked silently, following two pairs of feet which led him to an inn standing at the back of a wooden, dilapidated shed. Even from a distance he heard two loud voices. He crept to the wall and peered through a crack. There, in the moonlight, were two colorful silhouettes.
"You can't behave like that! Not in front of the others! Don't you understand?" Tonks' voice was raised and nervous, and her hair shone almost red.
Luna was standing near the wall, with her head down, gnawing her lip. The room was so small, and the moonlight coming through the ceiling so bright that Harry didn't have any problems with seeing every detail.
"But you don't let me do that even when we are alone," Luna said, swallowing tears that ran down her face. "You can't always... push me away."
"I can!" Tonks stepped closer. "I'm your teacher, Luna. And this... this is wrong. We shouldn't... you just don't understand. Please don't cry."
"It means nothing," Luna said quietly, staring at the trampled snow. "It doesn't matter. I know someone who doesn't mind it. Who doesn't see the age difference or the..."
Harry felt his heart jump into his throat.
Tonks sighed in exasperation.
"Don't start again. I don't believe that one of the teachers at Hogwarts..."
"Don't treat me this way. With such superiority. Like you know everything better than me - because you don't. You don't know how it feels... to look at you every day and know that I will always be for you only... another meaningless student."
Tonks bit her lip, as if searching for words.
"Listen to me. It...This is wrong. Look for a nice boy who..."
"I don't want to," Luna whispered. "All the boys are idiots who behave as if their brains were stolen by Wrackspurts." Tonks smiled with amusement, but she mastered herself soon. "Only you understand me. Only you can see what I am. Only you..."
"Stop," Tonks hissed. "Don't make this harder than it has to be. You know that..." she stopped and turned away.
"I know what?" Luna pushed off the wall, looking at her with her large eyes full of hope. She took a step toward her. In her long blond hair moonlight flickered. Harry noticed that the star which had been decorating her head was now lying at the entrance.
Tonks stepped back.
"No, don't do that. You know that..." her voice faltered for the first time since the beginning of the entire conversation, and she looked at the girl standing before her without an angry mask. And Harry saw the pain. And wonder. And thirst.
"You don't want... this...?" the Ravenclaw asked quietly, turning her head and unwittingly letting a few bright strands of hair cover her face. Her trembling voice reflected sadness, but also a glimmer of hope. Timid question, the answer to which was vitally important.
Tonks closed her eyes and sighed heavily, then smiled to herself and shook her head. As if she knew the answer before the question had been posed. As if she knew she had lost.
When she lifted her eyelids, her eyes sparkled.
"I do" she whispered huskily, thrusting at the girl who was standing before her such a hungry gaze that Harry saw how Luna, dressed only in a light dress, began to tremble. But he doubted it was from the cold.
"So stop thinking," the Ravenclaw whispered, coming closer and hesitantly touching oddly sparkling Tonks' hair. Tonks was a little taller than Luna. The girl looked straight into her dilated eyes and smiled shyly.
"We should go back," Tonks croaked, trying to get away from her, but apparently not being able to move. Luna stood on tiptoes and pressed her face into flickering hair.
"Touch me," she whispered. "I want to... feel. This one time." Carefully, she took Tonks' hand and put it on her thigh, slowly beginning to slide it up under her dress. Higher and higher.
Harry clenched his hands. He could feel his heart beating faster and faster.
Tonks looked paralyzed. Her eyes were widening more and more as her hand was sliding up. And at some point, something inside her snapped. Harry saw thousand emotions explode on her face. Her eyes began to shine brightly, and her hair turned into gold when she bent down and closed her mouth to Luna's lips in a hungry, almost animalistic kiss. The girl moaned into her mouth and squeezed her arms while Tonks pushed her and pressed to the wall, kissing her mouth with such force, as if to crush and devour it. Harry saw them intertwine their tongues for a second when they detached from each other to draw breath. He knew he shouldn't watch them, that he shouldn't be here. But he couldn't break away, too wrapped up in a view which unfolded before his eyes.
But at the same time he felt an unpleasant twinge in his chest... grief, when he realized that he wouldn't experience something like that. Severus would never devour his mouth with such hunger and with such passion.
Why? Why could Tonks do it, and Snape couldn't? Why could Luna receive this without even having to ask and he didn't? It seemed so... unfair.
He stopped thinking about it when he saw how Tonks' hands began to wander across Luna's body. One hand slipped under her dress and soon Harry saw that with one abrupt movement, she pulled down her white panties.
Eyes widened when he saw the hand of Tonks again sliding up. Luna moaned into her mouth and almost slid down the wall. Tonks broke from her reddened lips and her hand began to move under the skirt.
Luna tilted her head back, and a quiet sigh came from her mouth, along with slight whimper.
Harry discovered, to his horror, he began to feel some discomfort in the lower part of his body. He shifted from foot to foot and winced, feeling his erection growing.
Damn it! It's probably a joke! He couldn't stand here, aroused, snooping on Luna and his teacher in a loving embrace. It... it was impossible.
He took a deep breath, clenched his eyes for a moment and moved even closer to the cracks between the boards.
On the other hand...
He saw that Tonks, without pulling away from Luna's smooth neck, awkwardly tried to pull out her wand from her robes. When at last she succeeded, she turned her head to one side and, breathing hard, she whispered a spell.
Harry felt sudden heat that made the snow almost completely melt on the ground. Tonks hid the wand back and returned to staring at a reddened Luna with blurry eyes. Then Tonks changed the position of her hand below Luna's dress and, smiling crookedly, pushed it. Luna let out a muffled squeal and convulsively entwined her hands around Tonks' neck, pressing her face to Tonks' shiny hair.
Nymphadora stopped for a moment, letting Luna slim body relax, and after a while she began to move her hand. At first slowly, after a while accelerating.
Harry stared wide-eyed at the hand disappearing under the material, and his imagination went wild when he tried to imagine what was going on. In his mind, he saw Tonks' finger push into Luna...
He bit his lip and clenched his hands on his pulsing crotch.
Tonks' second hand slipped under the upper part of her dress and began to fight with hidden buttons. After some time she managed to undo them, and Harry opened his mouth, seeing t Luna's small, protruding breasts emerging from the material. Tonks began kissing the trail from the neck up to the small brown nipples. With her free hand, she took one of the girl's breasts and squeezed it. She stopped her mouth millimeters from the other breast and gently touched the dark nipple with the tip of her tongue. Luna pulled up and hit her head against the wall, biting her lip in attempts to control herself. But Tonks didn't stop. She began to wash over the nipple with her tongue, time and time again, plucking it with her teeth, covering with her lips and gently sucking it, leading Luna to greedily gasp for air, continuously moaning with pleasure.
But what impressed Harry most was the light emanating from Tonks' hair. It shone brighter and brighter, harder and harder, as it was a reflection of all excitement, of all her emotions. Harry had never seen such a play of light like in her hair - like a sparkling rainbow.
He shut his eyes, his head spinning. He leaned his forehead against the wall and began to breathe heavily, trying to control the beating heart and hardening cock.
No, he had to do something about it! He didn't think that such scene could be so... stimulating.
He looked around. The moonlight descending from heaven reflected off the snow. It was very clear. And quiet.
He heard Tonks' whisper, Luna's moans. Although he couldn't distinguish the words - not anymore. Not in the state he was in right now. It was cold, but he only felt the heat.
He had to do it! He had to, because if not, he... he'd explode.
He unbuttoned his pants and touched his throbbing cock. His hand was cold. Almost as cold as the hand of Sev... Quickly he covered his mouth, stifling a groan. He leaned his forehead against the cool wood and wrapped his icy fingers around his hot cock, begging for fulfillment. The impact was so intense that he almost stopped breathing. For a moment, he was breathing heavily through his nose, trying to regain control of himself, but he wasn't able to. His body was begging, his mind screaming, and moans tried to escape his mouth. How easy it was to imagine that these cold hands belonged to Severus, that his hand began to move very slowly on his penis. Carefully, very carefully, because he was so excited that every violent movement would lead him to an immediate explosion.
And how easy it was to imagine Snape's mouth... kissing him with such hunger, with the desire... His slick tongue penetrating his throat, penetrating the warm inside of the mouth, his palate, inside of his cheeks. The thin, hard lips devouring his mouth, crushing it...
Harry's hand accelerated automatically. It moved over sensitive skin, a pulsating desire was almost squeezing the orgasm out of him.
He felt tears in his eyes. How easy it was to trick the mind... How easy it was to imagine now, this quiet, dark whisper in his ear:
I'm hungry for your lips, Potter.
How easy it was to imagine Harry reaching for that mouth, breathing in the quiet whisper...
He felt the explosion. Incredibly strong, blinding white explosion. All images accumulated, flowed into that one place and turned in a sticky, hot liquid pouring through his fingers. Through the noise and ringing in his ears he could hear his own muffled moan coming through his hand which was pressed to his mouth, mingling with quiet sounds from behind the wall. Harry almost slumped to the ground, trying to keep up on trembling legs, which, after a momentary tension, became suddenly very weak. He felt tears running down his cheeks, from the slowly disappearing wave of indescribable pleasure.
Oh yes, how easy it was to fool his mind... Severus was right.
He stood still for a moment, pressing his forehead against the wooden planks and trying to align the jerky, labored breathing. He felt like all his muscles melted. His hand trembled when he finally dared to tear it from his mouth. He raised his glowing eyes, feeling his head spin even more than before.
From behind the walls came rumblings and wheezing. Harry adjusted his clothes and after a moment's hesitation decided to look again - one last time.
Luna was lying on the wooden table, facing the wall. She was naked. Her incredibly pale skin glistened in the moonlight every time she threw her head back. Blond hair flowed down from the table and almost reached the floor. Nymphadora's black nails clenched Luna's raised thighs... then Tonks knelt between them... her hair, sparkling with all the colors of the rainbow, fell on the trembling girl's abdomen, and then Harry couldn't see anything but a slow, lazy rhythm in which Tonks' head was moving.
Harry pulled away from the slit and leaned against the wall, feeling his heart once again jump into his throat, trying to almost break away from his chest. He felt his cheeks burn.
No, enough of that! It was... too intimate. He couldn't stand here and... And what if someone would be watching him and Snape like that? No, he had to go. Leave them. Allow them to be... happy with each other.
Even if he now felt terribly torn. And so terribly lonely...
He pushed off the wall and staggered a bit, then went back to the inn, still failing to believe what he'd just seen. At the same he couldn't get rid of the images in his head. Luna, naked, Tonks, kneeling between her thighs...
Why did his strange mind immediately replaced those images with the picture of him and Severus? Merlin, as if Severus would ever... one day... kneel before him... and...
No! No more! He couldn't think about it! It would never happen...
He bit his lip and stopped, staring at the snow sparkling in the moonlight.
Luna and Tonks... of course he suspected it for a long time, since he'd seen Luna running around Hogwarts with letters for Tonks. What could be there? Love confessions? But he didn't expect that... it would prove to be true.
In fact, it was a comforting thought. Not only he had a problem... Not only he had something to hide.
But... That's right, "but". Despite the similarities, their situations were completely different. Even if by some miracle, their relationship were to become exposed... well, Tonks wasn't Snape. Sure it would have been unpleasant, but if someone found out that the former Death Eater, still suspected by the majority of the Wizards World of remaining a faithful servant to Voldemort, the most hated teacher in school was having an affair with the Golden Boy, the Chosen one, the greatest hope of their World...
No, it wasn't the same. No one would accept them. Everyone would have turned away from him. He knew it.
But... but he knew that in spite of it, he couldn't give Snape up. He'd sacrifice everything... to be with him.
Even though he'd probably never get *this*, the thing he wanted most. Yes, it was true that he was getting closer, but the one thing still seemed to him so far... and when he saw Tonks giving it away so casually, so easily, without any problem... giving it all...
He bit his lip and shook his head. He must forget about it. Forget sadness, longing, loneliness. Yes. Forget. It was a good plan.
When Harry returned to the tavern, Ron and Hermione were sitting at the table, leaning toward each other, while Hagrid was still asleep. He fell hard on the bench and sighed.
"Oh, Harry." Hermione broke away from Ron, very red in the face. "I didn't notice when you came back. And where are Luna and Tonks?"
"Oh, they... uhm... they decided to stay there for a little while, because it's too... too hot here. Yes, too hot," he mumbled quickly, looking for a bottle left by Tonks. He saw how she'd left it here before.
"Oh, that... well," Hermione muttered, looking at Ron who was pulling her by her sleeve. For a moment she looked as if struggling with herself, torn between something that apparently she wanted to continue and a sense of duty. But seeing that Harry was more interested in the floor, she turned to Ron, smiling shyly, and allowed him to pull her into another kiss.
Harry left the chair and began searching the floor. He tried not to pay attention to Ron's hand, persistently wandering under Hermione's skirt, which she also persistently tried to push back.
There it was! The dark, corked bottle stood behind the chair of Hagrid who was snoring loudly. Harry grabbed it, crawled out from under the table, pulled a pint with the rest of beer and filled it with transparent liquid. The smell that hit his nostrils when he moved the drink to his lips almost squeezed tears from his eyes. He closed them and took a sip.
At first he felt as if he drank the liquid lava. It stung his lips, tongue and esophagus, and he feared that he had burned them. He opened his tearful eyes and looked at Ron and Hermione kissing.
Everywhere. Everywhere, everyone was groping, kissing and doing all these things that he couldn't do.
He felt the increasing frustration. He focused his eyes on his pint and made the decision. He put it to his lips and took another sip. And another. And another one. After some time, he lost count, and noticed with surprise that the drink wasn't quite as awful as in the beginning. Maybe after a while it lost its power?
He remembered he'd drunk a whole pint. And poured himself another... no, not really. He had such an intention, but eventually realized that in the bottle there was nothing left. Or maybe it was after three mugs?
He thought he remembered Luna and Tonks. It seemed like that. And Tonks yelled something to him. And Hermione screamed as well. And they all were behaving too loudly, shaking him, while Harry just wanted to climb on the top of the tree. There was such a bright light there and it seemed to be very interesting... it was shimmering and all.
And then suddenly he found himself outside. Together with many other people. They looked like they were going somewhere, and Harry was glad he wasn't the only one who staggered. It was loud, everyone was laughing... but Harry didn't want to laugh.
He wanted to go to Severus.
Then he remembered the stairs. Everyone was ahead of him. How could they go so fast? He had to take two steps back before he managed to take one forward. It was getting quieter and quieter, until finally it became quite-quiet. Harry stopped and tried to look around, but quickly gave up, when everything suddenly whirled and he nearly fell.
He was alone. He wanted Severus.
He wanted to see him. Really wanted to. Wanted desperately. He missed him. He remembered how much he missed him. He missed him, right? Yeah, of course.
Harry thought there were others with him somewhere - he remembered he had been following them... at least it seemed so.
Again he looked at the corridors spreading in all directions.
Where was he going? Probably the dormitory. Yes, Harry was sure they all had been going there. And he had to go, too. But wait... which way? He guessed... to the right. Yes, probably so.
Harry turned left and stopped after a few uncertain steps. Maybe it would be better if he put the Invisibility Cloak, in case he stumbled upon Filch?
He threw a hood of his jumper on the head and, trying not to make noise, crept down the hallway. It wasn't easy at all, because while he was walking, the walls were dangerously stretching into a web. But eventually, sometimes bouncing, sometimes staggering because everything was spinning around him, Harry came to the portrait of...
He stopped, frowning. The Fat Lady wasn't on the portrait. There was no portrait. The only thing he could see was a strange, heavy wooden door. He blinked several times, as if expecting that if he closed his eyes, the portrait would reappear, but nothing happened. He shrugged his shoulders and said loudly and clearly:
The door didn't respond. He looked at it defiantly and repeated:
Nothing happened. Strange. He was sure that this was the right password. It worked in the morning.
"Open up, you stupid... ouch!" the boy hissed when he kicked the wooden surface and it turned out to be surprisingly and painfully hard. Seeing no other way, he started hitting it with his fists.
"Ron! Ron! Let me in! Ron!"
But nothing happened. The door remained closed. Harry sighed in resignation and slumped to the floor.
Okay, if no one wanted to let him in, he would sleep here! He leaned back against the door, rolled up his knees and bowed his head. Strange, but when he closed his eyes, everything was spinning even more. And it wasn't pleasant at all.
He shook his head, trying to get rid of colored spots under his eyelids, but then the door opened and Harry fell. He hit his head on the floor and squeezed his eyes shut, feeling a dull ache in his skull.
"Ouch!" he groaned. "It wasn't nice. You could have waited for me, Ron. And what happened to the Fat Lady? Did she leave?" Harry mumbled, trying to open his eyes.
Ron didn't answer. But Harry could hear heavy breathing, as if someone tried to breathe through clenched teeth. After several unsuccessful attempts, Harry finally managed to lift his eyelids.
And what he saw made him immediately close his eyes again.
Probably just an illusion.
Cautiously, he opened one eye, then another, but the figure which was leaning over him hadn't disappeared. It only looked even more furious.
Immediately, he realized something wasn't right here...
Harry frowned and looked straight into the upside-down, but still as deep as always black eyes, and asked:
"What are you doing in my room, Severus?"
* "Merry Christmas everyone!" by Shakin' Stevens
** "You don't know me" by Jann Arden