Hogwarts's Got Talent
Albus Dumbledore cleared his throat and the chatting around the table stopped as everybody turned to him. About a dozen of witches and wizards looked at their superior expectantly.
"I have an idea."
Several of the aforementioned witches and wizards sighed. One of them rolled his eyes.
"We have more students remaining at Hogwarts this year than ever before. I decided we should use the opportunity, to have them here and with free time at hand, and start a project to promote wizard-muggle friendship."
"What project?" asked the wizard who had rolled his eyes, none other than Potions instructor Severus Snape.
"Does any of you know television?" asked the headmaster, seemingly ignoring the question. Snape rolled his eyes again.
"Of course," said Charity Burbage, the Muggle Studies teacher. "It's a box that works similar to a pensieve." Snape rolled his eyes again.
"Exactly!" cried Dumbledore. "When I last went to London I saw a show where muggles showed off their abilities. There was a jury who determines the winner and it was great fun. I want us to start a similar contest at Hogwarts."
"But Albus," deputy headmistress McGonagall edged in, "then the seventh years will win. They know more magic than the others."
"But you forget the muggle aspect of the project, Minerva! No magic will be allowed!" cried Dumbledore. Beside the man, Severus Snape mouthed the words silently, rolling his eyes.
"An excellent idea!" cried Charity. "My subject gets too little attention at this school anyway. If you need help, let me know."
"I trust each and every one of you will be ready to help," stated the headmaster. "We need a jury and people to help the children prepare for their performances. And of course we need the opinion leaders to join the fun early to get enough entries."
"Potter has detention with me this evening," said Snape. "I can offer to let him off the hook if he joins."
"Splendid!" rejoiced Dumbledore. "That will win the Gryffindors over! – Does anybody have blackmail material against Draco Malfoy?"
"I caught him brushing his hair behind the greenhouses the other day," said Pomona Sprout, the Herbology teacher. "Is that good enough?"
"Come on!" snorted Snape. "Nobody seriously thinks his hair is that shiny just by nature! Everybody knows he's vain."
Dumbledore nodded. "We need something better than that."
"I think I can help here!" cried Flitwick. "He got a T on his very first essay he wrote for me!"
"Excellent!" cried Dumbledore.
Snape was not so enthusiastic. "Can you prove it?" he asked.
"I made a copy," Flitwick said in a tone that implied he thought this was the obvious thing to do with a T essay.
"Excellent," confirmed Snape.
"We have the Gryffindors and the Slytherins. How do we get Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw?" Dumbledore looked at his staff expectantly.
"Ravenclaw is easy," said the small Charms teacher, "I'll tell them it's a scientific challenge."
"And we can tell Hufflepuff that it's bonus work." Sprout beamed.
"Splendid!" the headmaster rubbed his hands. "Next thing we need a jury. Who wants to be judge?" He looked around, waiting for volunteers. There were none but that didn't stop the old man. "Thank you, Severus and Charity! That's very kind of you. I think you will form a wonderful team with Argus."
"Argus?" echoed Charity Burbage. "You are going to let Argus judge?"
"Of course!" cried the headmaster. "He's the logical choice! Since he's the only one of us without any magic at all, he's predestined to judge the students' performances. You and Severus know enough about muggles to be fair judges, too."
"I don't want to be judge," growled Snape.
"This matter is not to be discussed," Albus Dumbledore said sternly. "It has been decided and if we second-guess every decision we make, we won't get anything done at all. I'll announce the good news to the students at dinner today."
"… The only stipulation is that you are not allowed to use magic in your performance," the headmaster ended his speech in front of about one hundred dumbfounded students.
The ensuing silence was broken by Harry Potter. "Can you specify 'no magic', Sir?"
It was Dumbledore's turn to be lost for words. A minute or so later, Snape came to his superior's aid. "Can you specify what you mean by specify?" He smirked down at Potter from the Head Table.
Potter was not silenced so easily however. "Does the 'no magic' rule extend to magical objects?"
"Yes, it does." Dumbledore had regained his composure. "You are not allowed to use magical objects in your performance."
"Are we allowed to use magic for our preparations, for example conjure items we need?"
"If one of us were a metamorphmagus, were they allowed to change during their performance?"
Snape, who had an inkling where this conversation was going, was just going to warn the headmaster, but Dumbledore spoke before the potions master could interfere. "Anything you can do without a wand is allowed, Mr. Potter."
"Excellent!" cried the young Gryffindor and leaned closer to Ginevra Weasley, who nodded vigorously after listening to him for a small while.
"I expect each and every one of you to join the fun! The winner will be awarded two hundred points for their house and a personal prize, which will be a little surprise." Dumbledore pointed at a big wooden box that had appeared in front of him at the mention of a prize.
The students had three evenings to prepare their performances before they had to step in front of the jury and show their abilities. Promising the winner a vast amount of house points had been a sly move. They had three dozen entries within the first twelve hours, which was to say something since most of that time was the night and the students were restricted to their dormitories.
On the evening of the first round, every student had three minutes for his or her performance. Dumbledore had removed the house tables and replaced them with rows of seats. Where usually the Head Table was, was now a stage and between the audience and the stage was a small table with three buzzers and seats for the jury.
Once the audience was seated, Dumbledore stepped on the stage and welcomed them all warmly. He explained the rules once again and then asked the students for a round of warm applause for the jury.
Argus Filch, wearing brown dress robes, walked to the judge's table, bowed to the audience curtly and sat. The applause was polite, but not enthusiastic.
The next to enter was Charity Burbage. She had forgone robes in favour of a tight red muggle dress with matching high heels. Her long blonde hair, which she normally wore in braids, fell in waves over her shoulder and bounced with her every step. The applause she got was much louder than Filch's and there were some wolf-whistles.
The last to enter was Severus Snape, who was wearing his black teaching robes and a forbidding scowl. The silence was deafening. Somebody asked whether they could withdraw their entry. Dumbledore shook his head. Snape ignored the students and sat.
The first to perform was Angelina Johnson from Gryffindor. She obviously planned to sing since she had brought several boys from her house, who were holding music instruments. She bowed to her audience before she started.
Before the first sound had left her lips, somebody hit his buzzer.
"Severus!" cried Dumbledore. "You have to let her start to sing!"
"Don't accuse me!" the potions master was clearly scandalized. "I didn't do anything!"
"That was me," snarled Argus Filch. "I will not listen to anything these troublemakers are doing!" He pointed at the Weasley twins, who were part of the Johnson girl's band, accusingly.
"This is not fair!" cried Johnson.
"Ha!" spat the caretaker, "As if anything those two are doing were fair!"
"Argus, this is not the place for petty revenge!" snarled Dumbledore from his seat beside the jury table.
"Who do you call petty?" Filch glared daggers at Dumbledore. "But if it makes you happy, let her sing." He crossed his arms in front of his chest.
Angelina Johnson signalled her band and they started to play. The song was a melancholy love song about a couple that lived on different sides of the ocean.
"That was wonderful, Ms. Johnson," cried Dumbledore. "Now, let's hear what the jury has to say!"
"I didn't like it; too sentimental," snarled Argus Filch.
Charity Burbage wiped her eyes with a tiny pink handkerchief. "That was so romantic!" she sobbed. "So full of emotion! I think you are very talented, Angelina. And the band! That was really good work, boys." She gave them all a teary smile.
"That was a wonderful performance," said Severus Snape, when it became clear that his co-judge had nothing more to say. "If one has a thing for foolish sentimental stories, scratchy voices and lack of musical talent."
Angelina Johnson dissolved in tears. The Slytherin side of the audience cheered. "That's it! I withdraw!" somebody cried.
Once the Gryffindors had vacated the stage, Susan Bones from Hufflepuff stepped up to face the audience and jury. She looked fragile in her school robes with her long blond braids. The girl bowed and then started to recite a poem.
This time it was Charity Burbage who hit the buzzer. Argus Filch followed her lead two seconds later.
"I wanted to hear that!" snarled Snape. He glared at his colleagues.
"But that's boring!" cried Charity in righteous indignation.
"That's Shakespeare, woman!" growled Snape. "Do go on, Ms. Bones, I'm enjoying your performance greatly."
"But you are the only one!" cried Filch. He stopped the girl with a raised hand. "The rest of us is bored!"
"Boring! Boring! Boring!" chanted the Slytherins.
The Hufflepuffs and Gryffindors answered with a chorus of "Susan! Susan! Susan!"
Snape pinched the bridge of his nose. "Let's spare Shakespeare the humiliation of having his pearls thrown to swine, Ms. Bones. I thought you were doing exceptionally well."
The girl thanked the potions master with a curtsey.
"We still need the assessment of the other two judges," cried Dumbledore.
"That was … boring." Charity Burbage shrugged apologetically. Argus Filch nodded vigorously.
Susan Bones vacated the stage with a small smile in Snape's direction.
The next student to show his abilities was none other than Draco Malfoy. The blond wore tight black trousers, a black silk shirt and a light cape of the same material with powdery blue lining. In his right hand he held a silver blade.
"Mr. Malfoy has asked me," announced the headmaster as the blond bowed to the audience, "to explain that he is going to show a traditional swordplay training routine which is traditionally taught to pureblood wizards from a young age."
"So much for muggle-wizard relations," muttered Charity.
"If you want the worlds to meet," snarled Snape, "you have to let the purebloods take part. They can bring in their traditions just like everybody else."
The Muggle Studies teacher blushed. "Let's see what he can do," she muttered.
Draco Malfoy moved with stunning elegance. He plied the blade fluently with firm, skilful movements. Within less than a minute he had the female part of the audience on his side. The girls oohed and aahed and when his time was up he got standing ovations not only from the Slytherins.
"I had no idea you were doing ballet, Malfoy!" cried somebody from the Gryffindor side of the audience.
"I'll show you ballet! Come up here, if you're man enough!" growled the blond, brandishing his sword.
The voice that had made the ballet remark cried out in pain as the boy was hit by several female housemates.
Draco smirked. He threw his hair back elegantly – which looked especially good because he had lengthened it for the occasion – and bowed with a flourish.
"Your performance was inspiring!" cried Charity and threw her wavy hair back unaware of imitating the young Slytherin's gesture. "Exceptionally manly!"
"Charity!" Snape was scandalized. "You're besmirching the dignity of our profession! A teacher doesn't lust after a student!"
"I can appreciate Mr. Malfoy's qualities without lusting after him, Severus," the witch said sternly. "But it tells a lot about you that you think I can't."
The potions master ignored the woman and turned to the young Slytherin on the stage. "Your performance was adequate, Mr. Malfoy. Your father would be proud."
"What are you talking about?" Filch chimed in. "All he did was fidget with his sword." Hisses and catcalls from the audience were the answer to that statement, which caused Filch to add "but that he did nicely" hastily.
The next two performances – one by a Hufflepuff second year called Grace Smith and one by none other than Pansy Parkinson, who both tried to sing – were dreadful. Even Snape, who was known for favouring his house shamelessly, had to admit that Parkinson had no musical talent whatsoever.
Both were stopped by the buzzers before their three minutes were up and not even their house mates in the audience complained about it. The most entertaining part of their performances was the shouting match between Parkinson and Draco Malfoy when the girl went back to her seat beside the blond.
"If we don't get a decent performance soon, I'm going to kill Dumbledore!" hissed Snape.
"Speaking of Dumbledore," muttered Charity. She pointed up at the stage where the headmaster had sat down, holding a violin.
Snape hit his buzzer immediately.
"Severus, you have to let me start play!" cried the headmaster. "You can't hit that buzzer before I even started."
"I can!" the potions master was on his feet instantly. "This is against the rules. You are not a student!"
"I can't remember putting anything about being a student into the rules." Dumbledore looked smug. "Anybody who wishes to can participate."
"And how are you going to prove you observed the 'no magic' rule? It's a well known fact that you are capable of wandless magic!" Snape stood his ground. "You cannot participate!"
"It's not against the rules!" insisted the old wizard.
Snape sat down, resigned, but Charity Burbage knew a great deal more about muggles and muggle contests than the potions master. She got up and turned to the audience. "Do you want to hear what the headmaster can do wandlessly? Do you want him to compete with your classmates?"
"NOOOO!" roared the students as one.
"Tell him!" cried the blonde witch. "Tell him what you think of wandless magic!"
"BOOOOOH!" the students made their opinion known. "BOOOOH!"
"This is not fair!" Dumbledore cried, but he left the stage. "Not fair at all!"
"I suggest we continue tomorrow," the deputy headmistress announced. "It wouldn't be fair to anybody to have to perform after this turmoil. Off to bed you go!"
"But if we continue tomorrow," cried Pansy Parkinson, "the others have more time to practice! That's not fair!"
"Pansy, you could have practiced for years and you would still have been crap!" cried Draco Malfoy. Most of the students laughed, but Pansy attacked immediately. She had her wand out in one smooth motion and while Draco Malfoy was undesputably more powerful than the witch, he stood no chance to a surprise attack.
Snape let the blond tap dance for a little while before he cancelled the girl's spell.
"You should have done that on stage, boy!" cried Argus Filch and clapped his hands in time with Draco's taps.
"Yes, you should, Malfoy!" cried Ronald Weasley and joined Filch clapping.
Snape cast Finite before things could get entirely out of hand. He glared at Parkinson angrily, but didn't take points, of course.
"Five points from Slytherin," McGonagall said from the stage. "For hexing a house mate."
The students hurried to leave the hall. They knew better than to stay around when the deputy headmistress was in point taking mood.
"I think that went rather well," said the headmaster, who was without a violin again. "Although I still think it was unfair to deny me entry of the competition."
Snape rolled his eyes, but said nothing.
"We have to see more performances tomorrow or we won't be able to finish the competition during the holidays," Charity Burbage pointed out.
"I thought we could have the final when the rest of the students are back," said Dumbledore. "That way, everybody could get a little taste of muggle life. – Why don't we go up to the staff room and go over the list of entries together?"
The other teachers and Filch agreed and they all did as the headmaster had suggested.
The next evening started interesting. Who would have guessed that Neville Longbottom of all people was a gifted juggler? Lavender Brown, wearing a tight lilac dress that accentuated her female qualities, assisted him by throwing in more balls at his signal.
"That was … astonishing, Mr. Longbottom," Snape assessed the performance when it was his turn. "How come that you are capable of juggling, when you seem so clumsy under any other circumstances?"
Longbottom dropped the seven balls he was holding. "I hate being watched. It makes me nervous," he stuttered. "When I juggle I forget the audience."
"I see," drawled Snape.
The next candidate was a choir of first year Hufflepuffs. They performed an a cappella version of a Weird Sisters song called "Hippogriff in Diagon Alley". They got a polite round of applause from the audience – with the exception of their Head of House who clapped and cheered as if the Weird Sisters themselves had just performed – and polite comments from the jury. Even Snape remained civil.
After the Hufflepuffs came Seamus Finnegan who performed as a knife thrower. He wore a muggle cowboy costume, hat and all, and threw large knives which resembled small machetes.
The first part of the show involved Finnegan throwing his knives at boards, but then the boy asked for a volunteer for the highlight of his show.
"Allow me!" cried the headmaster, who had gone for magenta robes and a matching wizard's hat for the evening.
"Sir, are you sure this is wise," Snape whispered when the old man passed the jury table on his way up to the stage.
"But I have to!" Dumbledore whispered back. "Wandless magic."
Finnegan threw five knives at the headmaster and Snape was fairly sure the old wizard diverted at least three of them. The Irish boy got enthusiastic applause from the students.
"That was interesting," admitted Filch. Charity Burbage agreed. Snape looked up at the stage sourly, where Dumbledore was still bowing and waving to the audience. "While I can understand why somebody would want to throw things at certain people, I'm not sure it should be part of a supposedly harmless show, Mr. Finnegan. I have to admit though, that we have seen worse."
The next performance was, although masterful in itself, boring. A Ravenclaw third year recited the recipe for Amortentia backwards. In spite of the fact that the performance was potions related, Snape yawned and hit the buzzer first. He rose and bowed to the audience when several Slytherins applauded him for doing so.
The hall fell completely silent, when none other than Harry Potter stepped on the stage next.
The young Gryffindor wore an Indian costume which left his chest bare – had the girls cheered for Draco Malfoy, they were beside themselves now; several items of underwear were thrown on the stage before Potter even started his performance – and a green turban which matched his eyes. Somebody must have cast a temporary eyesight correcting charm on the boy, because his horrid glasses were gone.
Snape rose to his feet while Potter bowed to his fans and summoned the underwear from the stage. "I will investigate personally who is responsible for this embarrassing display! Be prepared to lose lots of house points!"
"Severus!" cried Dumbledore. Several girls blushed.
Potter tapped his foot impatiently. "May I begin now?" he asked, sounding annoyed.
"Do proceed, Mr. Potter," nodded Charity Burbage.
The Gryffindor nodded his thanks to the witch and signalled somebody at the back of the stage. Ginevra Weasley, wearing a genie costume, carried a big basket to the front of the stage. Once she had put the container in front of Potter, the girl started to sing sweetly.
Potter removed the lid of the basket with a flourish and started to hiss at it. Several big snakes rose from the basket and swayed in time with the girl's song. The Gryffindor held his arm out and the snakes slithered it up to wrap themselves around his torso, forming patterns on the boy's body. When the song ended, the snakes slid to the floor and bowed to the audience.
"That was …" started Filch, but he was interrupted by Snape.
"Your disrespect for rules never ceases to amaze me, Potter. No magic!" the potions master spat.
"I asked Professor Dumbledore. He said we were allowed to use our innate magical talents."
"But this is completely unfair!" cried Snape, sounding a bit whiny.
"I didn't make the rules," Potter pointed out. "I follow them."
"That was boring!" Draco Malfoy cried from his seat in the first row. He cried out in pain when Pansy Parkinson slapped the back of his head. "Boring!" he insisted.
"Not more boring than a guy in tights brandishing a big knife," snapped Granger. "I think Harry was fantastic!" Several girls applauded. "And Ginny's a wonderful singer." The Weasley boys clapped and cheered for their little sister.
Snape was not distracted by the exchange. "You may have followed the rules, but that does not make your performance morally correct. You are betraying all those who had to work for their performance."
"I worked for this performance," shouted Potter. "I had to conjure the snakes and Ginny had to practice her song. We worked hard to synchronize the movement of the snakes with the song! – No, I don't want you to bite him!" The boy glared at the biggest snake.
"Severus, whether you like it or not, Harry was well within his rights with this wonderful performance," Dumbledore interfered.
The potions master threw his arms up in frustration. "Why am I not surprised that he gets away with his cheek?"
After several more performances, mostly attempts to sing, the headmaster called a halt again. The staff had agreed beforehand that they would need a third evening to view all entries.
"You owe me for this torture," Snape informed Dumbledore at breakfast the next day. "If I have to listen to one more moron sing I'll go nuts, I swear."
The older wizard looked at the potions master over the rim of his halfmoon spectacles. "Severus, you have endured worse, so stop behaving like a baby. Besides, I think you're doing a great job judging. Your honest feedback will help the students perfect their performances for the final. I can't even start to thank you for what you're doing on behalf of our students."
"I'm sure Minerva has the ability to replace me as a judge," Snape pointed out. He buttered a piece of toast.
"Do you want to trade tasks, Severus? I'm game," McGonagall interfered from Dumbledore's other side.
The potions master raised a brow at the witch. "Tasks?" he echoed.
"While you are enjoying your holidays," the deputy headmistress informed her colleague, "I spent the last five days listening to and watching what they planned to show at the show. What you are turning your nose up at is the refined version of what I have had to endure." The witch looked every year of her age. She called for a house elf and ordered extra strong coffee. Once she had it, she sighed with relief.
"Now I think of it, I'll stick with my assignment," sighed Snape. "At least I can brew the potions for the hospital wing which Poppy ordered." He emptied his cup and got up to retreat to his lab for the rest of the day.
The potions master nearly yelped when he turned around the last corner; only years as a spy enabled him to stay calm. None other than Harry Potter was waiting for him at his office door.
"Potter," Snape hissed through gritted teeth, "why are you here?"
"I need your help, Sir." The Gryffindor hero was uncharacteristically polite. He obviously needed the indicated service desperately.
"And why, Potter, would I help you?"
"Because you are the potions master of this school and Madame Pomfrey says there is a potion to help me."
"You need a potion for medical reasons?" Snape asked cautiously. Depending on how dangerous Potter's health problems were, this might be amusing. However, he had to find out what exactly this was about first.
"I …," Potter hesitated. "Can we talk about this in private?" He motioned at Snape's office door.
Snape considered forcing Potter to reveal his medical problems in the corridor, where every passing student could hear it, but then he decided otherwise since he didn't know about the nature of the problem. "Do come in." He held his hand out for Potter to precede him.
Once they were inside, he looked at the boy expectantly. "Well?"
"I got an allergic reaction."
"An allergic reaction? What kind of allergic reaction?" Snape wished the boy elaborated faster. He had better things to do.
Potter sighed and opened his robes. He was bare-chested underneath. His skin was covered in angry red streaks as if he had been whipped. It took Snape a minute to understand. "You are allergic to snakes?"
Potter nodded, blushing. "It seems so. Madame Pomfrey says there is a potion to help with the rash. Can you brew it for me, please, Sir?"
"How on earth can you be allergic to snakes? You said you practiced. Why didn't you get a rash then?"
Potter blushed even more. "I used the oil only for the show. It seems I didn't cope well with the mixture of hazelnut oil and snake skin."
"You oiled your torso to look better?" Snape thought he should have left the conversation in the corridor. "And you used hazelnut oil?"
"Don't you know anything, boy?" Snape glared at the Gryffindor. "Hazelnut oil will enhance all allergies! Stupid child!"
"Can you brew the potion for me?" Potter repeated his plea. He sounded like he was going to cry.
Snape decided he could get something out of the situation in spite of the mistake he had made in taking Potter into the office. "I don't have time for that, but you can brew it yourself. It's not that complicated."
"Since you desperately need the potion, maybe you will pay attention for once. You may even learn something." Snape smirked at Potter. "There is a ninety percent chance that you will get blue skin if you muck the brew up." He smiled nastily.
The boy swallowed hard. "Blue?" he piped.
"Blue. You will look like a smurf. You do know what a smurf is, don't you?"
"No, Sir." Potter looked frightened. This was too good to be true. The potions master went to his desk and rummaged in the topmost drawer. "I confiscated one. It must be here somewhere. Ah! I knew it!" With an outcry of triumph, Snape held up a muggle magazine. He handed it to Potter.
The boy paled. "A ninety percent chance?" he asked softly.
"If you don't brew it properly," Snape confirmed. "I don't know about you, but I don't have all day." With an evil grin, he led the way to his lab. "Don't touch anything without asking."
Once he had the boy in his lab, Snape rummaged in his little collection of recipes – he hadn't needed to look at that particular one in years – and put a sheet of parchment covered in spidery writing in front of the younger wizard.
"You may get the ingredients you need from this cupboard," he pointed at it. "I will give you the viper tongues and the phoenix ashes. Ask when you need them, but under no circumstances will you touch those containers."
Potter nodded absentmindedly. He was already reading the recipe. "This is pretty complicated, Sir," he admitted then. "I'm not sure I can brew it correctly."
"Nonsense; I brewed this when I was eight." Snape glared at the boy down his nose, daring him to complain more. He did not.
With a resigned sigh, Potter started to weigh out the ingredients. At least the boy had learned something in six years of potions training. Only when he had everything but the tongues and ashes ready, he asked for a cauldron.
Snape put aside his own ingredients – the hospital wing was nearly out of Pepper-Up – and fetched a small cauldron from one of the shelves. He assigned Potter a spot where to brew and then returned to his project. He watched the boy from under his lashes while he pretended to concentrate on grinding fox tail hairs.
"Don't stir so fast," the potions master hissed when Potter had blotched the potion enough to get rather spectacular side effects. Although he was going to enjoy smurf Potter, Snape was not willing to let the boy suffer from his rash longer than necessary. It had to be itching terribly.
When Potter's potion was ready, Snape lowered the flame under his own cauldrons – he had four different potions brewing by the time the boy had finished one – and lifted a spoonful of the brew out of the cauldron. He sniffed and let some drops fall from the spoon. "It smells right," he informed the boy, not mentioning that everything with celeriac in it would smell right no matter what you did with it, "but it's a little too fluid. That, however, should not pose much of a problem. You have to rub it on the skin while it's still warm." The potions master filled a large glass bottle with Potter's potion. "Better go and find somebody to assist you with your back quickly."
"Can't you…?" Potter blushed. "I mean, if there were side effects, it would be useful to have you nearby."
"It would be most inappropriate for me to rub a potion on you, Potter." Snape snapped forbiddingly. "I examined the potion and declared it safe enough. That will have to do. If there are any side effects, they will be harmless enough. Your skin may be a bit off colour, but you'll survive."
"I will be blue?" Potter looked horrified. For a moment Snape thought he was going to drop the bottle.
"There's still a chance for that." Actually close to one hundred percent, but of course Snape did not mention that. "If you want to get rid of your rash, you'll have to take it."
Potter nodded and then left with a quick word of thanks. Of course he was back twenty minutes later, blue as Papa Smurf himself. To make things even better, the Weasley girl stood behind the Golden – no! Blue! – Boy, as blue as he was.
"Miss Weasley, do you happen to be allergic to celeriac?" Snape asked. He thought the surprise he was showing was a splendid piece of acting. "Potter, that was really bad luck!"
"Is there an antidote?" asked the Gryffindor.
"I'm afraid not," Snape informed the two. He could barely stifle his laughter.
Potter glared at the potions master angrily. "You knew this would happen!"
"I did not," Snape lied. "I told you there was a chance, but it was small enough. Is at least the rash gone?"
"Yes," Potter snapped. "I still say this is your fault and you did it on purpose." Before Snape could say anything he had pulled the potion bottle from his pocket and sprinkled the potions master with the brew.
"Potter!" roared Snape. "What did you do?" He watched his skin take a blue hue first and then become outright blue.
"Is there an antidote?" Potter repeated his question.
"No!" roared Snape. "I told you there is not! We're going to look ridiculous for a week! 168 points from Gryffindor!"
"168?" Potter echoed.
"One for every hour of my suffering!" Snape roared. "The headmaster will hear of this!"
Potter shrugged. "There's no way to keep this from him for a whole week, is there?"
When Potter and the Weasley girl entered the Great Hall for dinner that day, the Slytherins roared with laughter. Potter glared at them angrily, but said nothing. Instead he smirked at the Slytherins when their head of house entered the room and made his way to the head table in a flourish of robes.
"Severus," the headmaster greeted his Potions instructor. "What happened to you?" The hall fell silent as every student present pricked their ears to hear what the reason for their teacher's strange complexion was.
"An allergy, Albus," Hogwarts's youngest teacher said earnestly.
"An allergy? It seems that Mr. Potter and Miss Weasley share the same allergy." Dumbledore sounded bewildered. "What a strange coincidence!"
"Indeed," snapped Snape. "A very strange coincidence." He glared at the Gryffindor table angrily and sat. Without sparing the students another look, the potions master started to ladle stew onto his plate.
Dumbledore sat and looked at the younger wizard, clearly worried. "Severus, what is this about?"
"Potter attacked me with a potion he mucked up," Snape whispered through gritted teeth. "Promise me you will kill the prat if I'm summoned while I look like this."
The headmaster gasped. "You can't go to a meeting in this state!"
"What else would I do if he calls?" Snape speared a carrot as if it had personally offended him. "I will try to make it look like I attacked Potter, but you stopped me. I'll have to make up a story."
Dumbledore shook his head. "He was one of the top students in potions. If you lie to him, he'll know."
"That's why I need a refined story with very rarely used potions and exotic ingredients students usually don't use. He didn't improve his potions skills since he left school. Unfortunately I'll have to look things up if I want to spin an adequate tale. – I need you to stick to the allergy version for the students."
"Don't you think Harry will give away what happened?"
"Not if he wants to live. I made that clear."
"You threatened a student?"
"I did." Snape smirked and went for another carrot.
"How long will the effect last?" Dumbledore asked, concerned.
"A week, give or take one day." The potions master groaned.
"What is it?" The headmaster put down his cutlery and reached for his wand.
"He calls. The man always had lousy timing." The potions master rose from his seat. "Kill Potter for me, will you?" He swept from the room and went down to the gates to apparate to his other master's side.
The meeting was, not surprisingly, at Malfoy Manor. Snape walked up to the house through the park, trying to prepare himself for what was to come.
"Snape," he was greeted by Bellatrix at the door. Whatever the witch had been going to say was never said in favour for roaring laughter. "What did you do?"
"I have no time for petty gossip," snapped the potions master. "Our master called for me." He swept past the woman with as much dignity as he could muster. Bellatrix's reaction did not bode well. Deatheaters were not known for their tactfulness when somebody stood out for other reasons than exceptional cruelty. Snape squared his shoulders before he entered the dining room.
"Snape!" Surprisingly enough, it was Wormtail who greeted him. "Shouldn't you wear white trousers and a white bobble hat?" He laughed.
"I'm surprised to hear that you are well informed about muggle literature," Snape sneered, jumping at a chance when it showed itself.
Wormtail's laughter died away and changed to nervous giggles.
"Muggle literature?" a cold voice asked from the front side of the table.
"Wormtail is referring to a muggle story about blue midgets. I'm surprised he knows about it. It's not that commonly known." Snape continued to dig the hated wizard's grave.
"How come you know about it?" Wormtail tried to bring the attention back to the potions master.
"I am a Hogwarts teacher. I confiscate vast amounts of rubbish from my students, some of which are muggle born. Since I need to convince Dumbledore that I'm a muggle loving fool like himself in order to serve my Lord, I look at the confiscated material when I find time. Therefore, I know what a smurf is; and what is your excuse?" Snape twiddled his blue thumbs while he watched the Dark Lord torture Wormtail for his unbecoming interest in muggles.
"Tell us now, Severus, why you are blue," ordered the Dark Lord when he was finished with the small wizard.
"A potions mishap," Snape said. He had not had time to come up with a reasonable story yet. He just hoped he could evade the Dark Lord's questions.
"A failed allergy potion, I guess?" Voldemort looked at his potions master expectantly.
The blue wizard barely avoided muttering swear words. "Yes, my Lord," he admitted since he had been cornered.
"Why would you fail to brew an allergy potion?" asked Lucius. Trust the blond to speak up at the most unsuitable moment. "A third year could brew an allergy potion."
Snape did some quick thinking before he answered. "I never said that I botched it up. My Lord knows how inapt Harry Potter is at Potions." He bowed to the evil wizard.
"Harry Potter tried to brew an allergy potion? What is he allergic to? Can we use it to our advantage?" The Dark Lord asked eagerly.
"I don't think it can be used. He's allergic to a combination of hazelnut oil and snake skin." Snape said it matter-of-factly. He might be a master planner, but not even he could think of a way to use those ingredients to harm Potter.
"We could anoint a snake with hazelnut oil and your lordship could order it to slither all over Potter," suggested Wormtail. He had barely uttered the last syllable when he screamed hoarsely.
"I never heard rubbish like that!" screamed the Dark Lord without lifting the spell. "You idiot!"
"Even if we could," said Snape, "all we'd accomplish is a bit of a rash. We can't itch Potter to death."
"I wonder," mused Lucius, "what Potter did to find out that he's allergic to that. Why would a teenage boy anoint a snake with hazelnut oil?"
Snape rolled his eyes. "He did not anoint the snake. He anointed his own chest."
"How does a snake fit into that picture?" asked Voldemort.
"It was all Dumbledore's idea," started the potions master. He told everything about Dumbledore's talent show. Lucius looked smug when his fellow deatheater mentioned Draco's dignified performance.
"Interesting," said the Dark Lord when the potions master had finished his story. "I think we can use the talent show. Severus, you will make sure that Potter wins."
"My Lord," interrupted Lucius, "do you think," he hesitated, "it's wise to boost the boy's ego?"
"It appears stupid, doesn't it?" said the Dark Lord. He giggled; it was the creepiest sound Snape had heard in years. "Its brilliance is not obvious on first sight." He paused. "Potter wins the little talent show. Somebody informs the Prophet. Dumbledore will have to arrange a public performance. I will be there and order the snakes to kill Potter. The simplicity of the plan is … elegant."
"Forgive me, my Lord," Snape said with a foreboding of doom. "But I simply don't see how a bright blue boy and his bright blue assistant could win that show." Silence ensued. The assembled deatheaters waited for their master to strike, but he didn't.
"This is where Lucius comes in," he said with a calm he normally didn't possess. "He will make sure that Draco uses his influence in Slytherin to help Potter win. If Potter has Gryffindor and Slytherin behind him, nobody can beat him."
Snape was quite sure that Draco would not be willing to forget his rivalry with Potter, even if his father ordered him to do it, but he was not foolish enough to tell Voldemort about it. Let Lucius take the blame when the plan did not work.
The rest of the meeting was routine. The deatheaters reported what they had done for the cause since their last meeting. Most was useless information. Bellatrix had tortured some people she considered blood traitors. Her husband and brother in law had helped her. Lucius had bribed some people at the ministry; Wormtail had killed several helpless muggles.
Snape managed to return to Hogwarts in time for the return of the students after the holidays and dinner. Of course he didn't care much about the returning students, but he would have hated to miss a return to the castle dinner, because the house elves usually outdid themselves on such occasions.
Snape had been right about the dinner. The house elves served a great variety of delicacies and Snape was sure that each and every student found their favourite dish on the table. Probably feeding the children their favourite food was supposed to prevent bouts of home sickness.
The potions master helped himself to roast chicken with a large variety of vegetables and a rich gravy sauce. Beside him, the headmaster had the same, only his sauce looked like chocolate. Snape decided to ignore the older wizard or the mere thought of combining chicken with chocolate would make him sick.
"What did he want?" asked the headmaster, making the ignoring plan impossible.
"Just a general report," Snape whispered back. Why had the old fool to bring up the topic in a hall full of people?
"Did you get in trouble for being blue?"
"Not really. It was a close call, but I managed. I'll give you a full report over a tumbler of fire whisky in your office." Snape smiled, smug. The headmaster's stock of fine liquors was legend.
Dumbledore informed the returning students about the talent show after dessert. He gave them a summary of what had happened so far, mentioning only those students who had been found worthy to perform in the final show by name. The respective houses cheered when one of their own were named finalists. Slytherin and Gryffindor booed and hissed when one of the other house was mentioned.
After the announcement, the headmaster sent the students off with the promise to hold one more session for people who wanted to partake although they had only one evening to practice. Snape muttered a curse under his breath when he realised that he had to sit another evening as judge.
Once the students had left, Dumbledore invited the potions master up to his office, where Snape gave a detailed account of the deatheater meeting over a tumbler of fire whisky.
"And he wants Potter to win," he ended his report. "I have no idea how I'm supposed to make that possible when the boy is blue all over."
"Isn't there a potion to correct the colour at least temporarily?" asked the headmaster. "Or maybe he could polyjuice into himself; would that work?"
"Probably it would, but I have no polyjuice potion ready and it takes far too long to brew. Can you try to postpone the finals for a week? What about more preliminary shows?"
"We'll have to see how many entries we get until tomorrow," said Dumbledore. "Maybe we could invent some kind of second chance round for those who failed the first time. We could say we need more finalists. Only I doubt that any of those you … gave feedback to would be ready to perform again. I heard that Hufflepuff girl you called an offence to the human intellect gets nervous fits whenever she has to go near the Great Hall."
"In that case we have to think of a way to make a blue Potter win."
"We have to," agreed Dumbledore. "It would be a splendid opportunity to face Voldemort on our own grounds."
The number of students who wished to enter the contest was surprisingly high, but there were not more than could be handled on one evening. That evening was worse than any before in several aspects.
First of all, Snape had to suffer through a whole day of teaching before the torture even started, but what was even worse, this time he had to make sure that nobody who would pose a serious threat to Potter's victory made it to the finals.
In the beginning it was easy, but then came Berenice Coma from Ravenclaw. The girl sang truly angelically. Snape hit the buzzer immediately and claimed that "the girl's yowling was giving him a migraine". Young Miss Coma dissolved in tears, fled the stage and returned to her friends. Snape made a mental note to – should he survive the Dark Lord – apologize to her.
"That was completely unfair!" Charity Burbage hissed at Snape. She got up and turned to the students. "It seems that Professor Snape is not a friend of song. I, on the other hand, love a nice piece of music when I hear it. I therefore use my joker to send Miss Coma to the final." She looked at Snape defyingly.
"What joker?" asked Snape. "I was not aware that we had any."
"Nor was I," agreed Filch.
"That you didn't understand the rules does not mean that they don't apply." The Muggle Studies teacher glared down at the two men. "We all have one joker to send a contestant to the final against the other judges' wishes. It's a pity you never used yours."
"This is not in the rules!" cried Snape.
"But it's a splendid idea," cried Dumbledore. "And I never stated explicitly that it was not in the rules."
"You were expected to tell us all the rules there were," hissed Snape.
Dumbledore shrugged. "You've always been a bit assuming, Severus. Congratulations, Miss Coma! Well done! Very well done, indeed!" He clapped his hands and the Ravenclaws cheered for their housemate.
When the evening was over, Potter had three rivals more in the final. In addition to Ms Coma, a group of Gryffindors under the command of Seamus Finnegan had qualified with an Irish step dance and Gemma Stevenson from Hufflepuff had turned out to be a gifted contortionist. Snape wondered whether it was a magical talent or the result of training.
The headmaster informed the students that the final would take place on Saturday. It was a clever move since it gave them another day to gain control over Potter's blue colour – and hopefully Snape's – but to be honest the potions master was quite sure that one day was not going to make much difference.
He had, however, forgotten to take the research abilities of one Hermione Granger into account. Harry Potter and Ginevra Weasley were both as rosy as ever when they came to breakfast the next day. Snape snarled angrily. What had the know-it-all found out that he hadn't?
Luckily the headmaster was not eager to have a blue potions instructor. He asked Granger to his office right after breakfast.
"How did you get rid of the blue colour, Miss Granger?" Dumbledore asked the girl while Snape lurked in the background.
"Why do you ask, Sir? Harry and Ginny are back to normal. That's all that counts, isn't it?" The girl looked much too smug for Snape's taste.
The headmaster looked at the Gryffindor calculatingly but his expression turned back to a brilliant smile within the fraction of a second. "Well, you can't have failed to notice that there is another victim of that potions accident."
"Professor Snape let Harry muck up the potion on purpose," Granger said with a coldness Snape had not thought her capable of. "It serves him right that he looks like a smurf."
"Professor Snape is a Hogwarts teacher. It's not desirable that he be blue."
"It's his own fault." Granger folded her arms in front of her chest.
"I was attacked by your friend Potter," Snape growled from his position by the fire. "He should have been expelled for it. If he wasn't the Golden Boy, he would have been!"
"He came to you for help and you made fun of him!"
"I gave him a free potions lesson! I would have been rid of him far quicker if I had brewed it!" Snape cried. How dare the girl suggest that he make fun of a student in need of help!
"As if Harry was in a condition for a potions lesson with him itching all over!" Granger stood her ground. "You are a potions master. If you want to correct your complexion, I suggest you brew an antidote."
"There is no antidote!"
The headmaster chose this moment to rejoin the exchange. "There must be! How else would Miss Granger cure Harry."
"She didn't ask me for any ingredients. If there is an antidote, it certainly is not simple enough to brew it with the standard student kit," Snape pointed out.
Dumbledore sighed. "Miss Granger, do you have any special ingredients other than those required for your lessons." Snape rolled his eyes. As if the girl was going to admit that she brewed illegal potions! Sometimes the old man was too naïf for his own good.
"My guess is that she used a spell," Snape interfered before Granger could answer the headmaster's question. "Which spell is it, Miss Granger?"
"That's for me to know and for you to find out." The girl had the cheek to smirk at him!
Snape strolled towards the girl and stood a little too close, invading her personal space. He glared at her down his nose. "I'm sure Potter shared his knowledge of my skills as a legilimens," he drawled.
"He did," the girl glared back. "But unlike Harry, my mind is very disciplined and occlumency is not as difficult for me as for him."
Snape drew his wand and pointed it at the girl's nose.
"Severus!" cried Dumbledore. "You can't practice legilimency on a student!"
"I can," snarled Snape. "She said she has mastered occlumency. I only intend to give her a chance to test her abilities." Without waiting for an answer he cast his spell. "Legilimens!" Snape had to admit that he was impressed. Granger had, indeed, managed to build an acceptable mental shield but she lacked practice and the potions master knew exactly where to prod to get through a beginner's defence.
"How dare you!" screamed the witch when Snape released her from the spell. She attacked him without another warning.
Snape cried out in pain when the girl's fist made contact with his nose. He raised his hands to protect his face in case she hit him again and therefore was caught practically wandless when the enraged Gryffindor hit him with a spell.
"Expulsion, Miss Granger!" the potions master roared when he tasted blood. He touched his nose carefully with the fingers of his right hand. It hurt and the fingers came back bloody.
"You were witness to the assault the professor committed against me, headmaster!" the girl cried with a hint of nerves in her voice. "He violated my mind against my will!"
"You are right, Miss Granger. Professor Snape should not have used that spell on you," the headmaster admitted. "You will not be punished, although I have to say you overreacted a bit."
"Overreacted?" screeched the girl. "Overreacted? I can't believe you!"
"You shouldn't have hit me if you expected me to keep your little secrets," Snape went all Slytherin. "But since I'm bleeding…" The potions master shook his head, sneering at the girl.
"Don't you dare breathe one syllable to anybody!" Now the girl sounded scared.
Snape enjoyed the effect his words had had for a little while. Being a Slytherin and deatheater, he knew that a victim's mind often produced more horrible images than he could ever put in there. "I suggest you watch out for Draco Malfoy carrying a whip." Snape smirked. He was sure the blond would give a lot to know about that particular little fantasy.
"One word and you will wear dresses for the rest of your life," Granger said threateningly. She stormed out of the office without further ado, which was as far as Snape was concerned a clever move. He was sure she would not have been able to hold back the tears for much longer.
"Did she just threaten to hex some of my body parts off?" he asked Dumbledore.
The old man smiled benignly. "I'd rather think she threatened to inflict a preference for cross-dressing, Severus. Speaking of hexes, what was it that she hit you with?"
"I don't know. I don't feel any different than usual." Snape looked down his robes and turned around to look for an effect the spell might have taken, but his robes seemed all right.
"Oh my," sighed Dumbledore.
The headmaster said only one word. "Tail."
Snape yelped and reached to his backside to feel what the old man had spotted. And really! There it was! Snape pulled it around his frame to see better. He had a naked, blue tail with a darker blue tuft of fur at the end.
"I'll kill her!"
In a flourish of robes, the still blue potions master left the office to go after Hermione Granger.
"Severus, I'm glad to see you all rosy and," Dumbledore leaned closer to his potions instructor and softened his voice to prevent the dining students from eavesdropping, "tailless. How did you convince her?"
"I had to guarantee to keep the information I got in your office secret."
Snape snorted. "I had to give her a memory in exchange for hers. That girl would have done well in Slytherin weren't it for her parentage."
"What did you give her?" Dumbledore looked at the younger wizard expectantly.
"As if I'd tell you!" Snape was scandalized. He huffed and bit into the chicken leg he was holding. He supposed he was blushing at the mere mention of the memory in question. The only excuse was that both, he and Lucius, had been drunk. Being only thirteen at the time, he had had no idea that a single glass of fire whisky would have such a strong effect on him.
Dumbledore was obviously disappointed but he nodded in understanding. "Will you at least tell me how you got rid of the blue colour?"
"Yes, Severus, do tell!" said Flitwick from the potions master's other side.
"It was a simple little charm. It blocks certain frequencies of light. So, technically, I'm still blue, but the blue light does not leave my skin. It has to do with muggle physics; I didn't understand the details."
"I'm not sure I understand the muggle part, but it sounds doable," nodded Flitwick. He started a lengthy lecture about appearance changing charms.
When Snape returned to his dungeons after dinner, a student was waiting for him in front of his office. This one, though, had been expected.
"Draco," Snape inclined his head in greeting.
"Professor," the blond boy hinted a bow and followed his head of house into the office. Once the door was closed, the boy dropped his overly polite attitude. "I was ordered to let Potter win!" he cried in righteous anger. Snape put up a stronger silencing charm. "How am I supposed to let Potter win? I look better, my performance is better, I have two judges on my side, I AM BETTER!" Draco threw his arms up in despair.
"You don't have two judges on your side," Snape corrected him with a calm he was not really feeling. "I was ordered to make sure Potter not only bests you but wins the whole contest, and how am I supposed to accomplish that when you are not the only one who is better than Potter."
"If we fail, we're lost! He'll kill us! He'll kill Mother and Father!" cried Draco.
"Then we'd better not fail," Snape motioned for Draco to sit. "Let's do some thinking." He put a tumbler of amber liquid in front of the blond. The boy beamed at him and picked the tumbler up. He breathed in carefully and then rose his glass to the potions master.
Snape sighed and sat beside the boy with his own tumbler. "Don't drink it too quickly," he advised.
"I won't," Draco reassured him. "So, what can we do?"
"You have to muck up your performance, nothing too obvious. Can you do that?"
"When I was five I had difficulties with the flèche. I'm confident I can fake that." The blond took a small sip. "What will you do about the other contestants?"
"I have to find a way to sabotage some and discourage the others. There are one or two who will easily yield to an acerbic remark. It would be easier if you and some of the others could help."
"We will," promised Draco. "Let's whip up a plan."
It took the two Slytherins until well after curfew to come up with ways to make sure that Harry Potter won. In spite of diligent scheming, they had to admit that there were still huge holes in their plan but they both counted on Potter's popularity to help them along.
"Fifty points to Slytherin for exceptional organisational skills, Mr Malfoy," Snape sighed at last. "I don't think we can do any more than what we have already planned."
"I agree, Sir," Draco replied politely. "May I ask for an hour of your time tomorrow? I have to practice that stumble or it will not look natural. We don't want to start rumours that we are helping Potter. The other houses would not appreciate manipulation and would most probably vote against Potter just to thwart our plan."
"I'll be honoured," Snape replied solemnly. "Would you care for another?" He raised the crystal carafe holding the fire whisky. He refilled Draco's glass when the boy nodded.
The next day, Friday, was one of the busiest Hogwarts had seen in its long history. In addition to normal lessons, the castle buzzed with activity for the talent show. The finalists used every free minute to practice; their friends and housemates had to help with feedback, hints how to make the performance even more spectacular and carrying utensils for them.
Some of the trainings didn't disturb the school routine very much, but singing and Irish tap dance were definitely not helping the discipline along.
"Finnegan!" roared Snape as he approached his classroom for the last lesson of the day. "Stop it or I'll personally make sure you can't even stand on your feet let alone dance tomorrow!" The potions master asked himself how anybody could attend Hogwarts for more than six years and not think of casting a silencing spell when they tap danced. Of course he didn't say anything; it wouldn't be wise to give the boy ideas how to improve his training.
In the evening, Snape watched Pansy Parkinson having ice cream with Berenice Coma. Normally, he would not have stayed in the Great Hall for that long, but he needed an excuse why he was overlooking a drinking contest between a bunch of Gryffindors – Finnegan's tap dancers – and a group of Slytherins led by Draco Malfoy. It was going to be difficult enough to explain how the Slytherins got a sobering potion when the Gryffindors didn't. The Head of Slytherin left for his quarters only when Vincent Crabbe entered to get a late snack and signalled him that there were no Gryffindors left in the dungeons.
Snape made sure to be not too early for breakfast the next morning. If his scheming with Draco had worked, several participants of the talent show were going to withdraw from the contest. The potions master did not plan to become the bearer of bad news for Dumbledore.
When he finally made his appearance, Dumbledore was already very subdued. "Severus!" he cried, "I need your help! Several of our most hopeful contestants have fallen ill! You have to brew healing potions for them!"
"Which potions do you need?" Snape asked with an air of professionalism. He transfigured an egg cup into a sheet of parchment and a spoon into a quill and looked at the headmaster expectantly.
"Something for a sore throat," Dumbledore ticked the required brews off on his fingers, "something for a hangover and a brew to heal acne."
"I have the acne potion ready," the potions master replied earnestly – he had personally hit Ishmael Cauliflower from Ravenclaw with the acne spell from behind to be able to appear helpful, "but the others may be problematic. The hangover potion takes two days to make and although I can make a potion for a sore throat within an hour, I doubt that it will be good enough to enable a singer to perform tonight. It will merely soothe the pain." He looked at Dumbledore questioningly as he mentioned singing.
"It's Miss Coma who has a sore throat," sighed Dumbledore. "It would be a pity if she couldn't perform tonight. Her voice is truly angelic. – Maybe we should postpone the contest."
"That would not be fair," Snape said sternly. "You can't punish the other contestants for Miss Coma's inability to look after herself."
"I agree with Severus," Minerva McGonagall interfered from Dumbledore's other side. "Besides, the whole thing disturbs the students' learning a lot. I'll be glad when it's over."
The old wizard stroked his beard. "You're right, Minerva. This is first and foremost a school. The final has to take place tonight."
Snape tugged on his sleeve nervously when he sat beside Charity Burbage in the evening. Not only was it absolutely necessary for him to see that Potter won the contest, his superior had made him wear bright blue robes for the occasion.
The potions master was painfully aware that the entire student body was staring at him when he sat down.
The show start was not very exciting. The first to perform were Seamus Finnegan and his friends. Thanks to Draco Malfoy and Snape's inability to brew a hangover potion within a few hours the whole group had trouble to concentrate. Their steps were insecure and they never really found their rhythm. Of course Snape made sure that even the most inept student was aware of their mistake by the time he had given his feedback. Amazingly, Finnegan was close to tears when the potions master was done with him.
Berenice Coma sang surprisingly well for somebody with a sore throat, but only in the beginning. The longer the song went on, the worse her voice got. This time Snape didn't need to say much since Filch was only too ready to take that duty on him.
"I've heard crows utter more dulcet tones," snarled the caretaker. "I wish you would have spared us the pain."
"I thought it was not that bad," interrupted Charity. "Although I have to admit that your performance was better last time."
Snape baited his breath when Potter stepped on the stage next.
The wizarding hero and his red-haired assistant seemingly had worked hard to improve their performance while Snape had attempted to sabotage their opponents. The dance with the snakes had an air of mystic and magic around it. Potter spoke softer to the snakes than last time which made it seem that the snakes moved of their own accord. The Weasley girl made smooth dancing moves around him while she sang; Snape thought she was one of the snakes turned into a girl.
When the two Gryffindors finished their performance and bowed, the audience remained silent for a moment before they erupted in cheers.
"That was marvellous! Truly enchanting!" cried Charity Burbage and for once Snape let her voice her enthusiasm without interrupting the witch. "Wonderful! I've never seen anything as magical!"
Personally, Snape thought that was a bit exaggerated, but since the praise served his purpose, he said nothing. He was roused from his self-satisfied musings when Argus Filch made himself heard.
"I have seen better," snarled the caretaker. "And what's special about making snakes dance when you can simply tell them what to do?" Silence fell in the great hall. Filch had a point.
"Well," Snape was on his feet in an instant. He snarled his comment into the silence after some quick thinking, "you can tell the students what to do, but do they listen?" He smirked at the man and then turned to show the students his expression of mock pity. Giggling was heard here and there.
The next to show his abilities after Potter was Draco Malfoy. The blond delivered a splendid show in more than one aspect. The first part showed how skilled he was in what he was doing and the last third was blotched up so masterfully that nobody would ever suspect it was done on purpose. The Slytherin even managed to look seething with anger when he bowed to the audience. He stomped off the stage without even waiting for the jury's assessment.
Snape and Draco's plan worked smoothly. Harry Potter stood head and shoulders above the rest. The student body cheered for their winner and Dumbledore congratulated him and his "exceedingly charming assistant" again and again.
When the students finally retired to their houses, Snape allowed Draco to firecall his father because of "an urgent family matter" from his office. He poured them a shot both while he waited for the boy to finish his interview with Rita Skeeter who happened to stay as a guest at Malfoy Manor that very evening.
The Hogwarts talent show was all over the front page the next morning. By lunchtime the other wizarding papers had caught up and by dinner Hogwarts was under a siege of reporters. The headmaster tried to sit it out, but after two days he gave in and opened the great hall for a press conference.
"Headmaster Dumbledore," Rita Skeeter, who had published the story first, opened the questioning, "what my readers want to know is why the public was not invited to view the talent show you held here at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The wizarding world has a right to be informed of what the young generation is capable of!" There was a murmur of consent from the other reporters.
"Miss Skeeter," said the headmaster, who looked uncommonly solemn in his dark blue robes with embroidered silver snowflakes. "The talent show you are talking about was planned as a little entertainment for those students who were not able to go home for the holidays. The echo it caused was surprising."
"Then we may hope to witness the talents of your students at some point?" Rita Skeeter asked hopeful. "A public performance, perhaps?"
"We are planning a public performance," confirmed the headmaster. "Although you will understand that 'public' has to be understood in a limited sense. We cannot risk our students' safety. Therefore only blood relatives and a limited number of reporters will be invited. There will be severe safety measures."
"A limited number of reporters?" cried a plump witch in too tight jeans and a flowery blouse. "Who will choose who will be granted access? We owe our readers a first hand account!"
Dumbledore smiled at the excited woman. "The ministry, or to be more exact, the auror department will choose who of you will be invited. I can't imagine that they would leave Witch Weekly out of the event though."
"You are hinting that reporters of the bigger papers will have a better chance than those from smaller ones. That is not fair!" cried a skinny wizard with a beard rivalling Dumbledore's.
"Please," the headmaster raised his hands to restore order. "As I said, this is not my responsibility, but the aurors'." He then answered some questions about the students' performances. There was a short commotion when he mentioned that Harry Potter was going to perform bare-chested (the Witch Weekly reporter fainted and needed a reviving spell), but apart from that the press conference was quite unspectacular.
"Albus," said Minerva McGonagall when she and the headmaster walked back up to his office to organize the public show, "do you really think it's wise to give the ministry control over who is allowed into the school for the show?"
The old wizard grinned slyly. "I talked Cornelius into putting Kingsley in charge. I feel safe with an order member in control."
The witch nodded in agreement. "Kingsley is very careful. He'd never jeopardize our students. He was in Gryffindor, wasn't he?"
"What has that to do with anything?" asked Severus Snape, who had joined the two from a quiet side corridor. "You're not saying that you believe in petty house rivalry!"
"Of course not," huffed the witch. "I was merely trying to polish up my memory about Kingsley. I was going to ask whether he was the one who helped sort out those problems we had in the 69 quidditch final. Nasty event, that; we had more than twenty injuries."
Dumbledore nodded. "That was him. His actions at the quidditch stands were the reason he was accepted into the auror programme although Horace didn't give him the required grade in his potions NEWT."
"He didn't get the required NEWT?" asked Snape. "I'd never have guessed. He knows a lot about potions."
"Knowing Kingsley, I'd guess he worked hard on his potions skills even after leaving Hogwarts. Every auror is required to meet certain standards in potions."
Snape nodded. For a moment it looked like he was going to say something, but they had reached the gargoyle which guarded the staircase to the headmaster's office. The stone creature hopped aside when its master approached but glared at his companions mistrustfully. At a signal of the old wizard, it let them pass.
"You are aware that the Dark Lord will try to make an appearance," Snape said as soon as the office door closed on them. "Do you really plan to risk that?"
The headmaster conjured tea and biscuits for three. "We'll be very careful."
"You have to warn Potter," the potions master insisted. "You can't let the boy face the Dark Lord unprepared if it comes to the worst." He looked at the head of Gryffindor for support.
Dumbledore nibbled a biscuit before he answered. "Do you volunteer to train him, Severus?"
"Headmaster, I spent more than a half year trying to knock some occlumency into the boy. Do you really think I can achieve anything before next Thursday?" Snape turned up his nose at the sweet biscuits. The headmaster rolled his eyes and conjured some dark, nearly black, chocolate biscuits. Snape accepted the offer with a gracious nod.
"I was not talking about occlumency, Severus. I was talking about duelling. Harry's quite quick on the uptake when it comes to defence."
Snape grinned. "I'd love to teach Potter defence."
"Severus!" cried McGonagall. "If you use those lessons as an excuse to hurt Harry you'll have me to answer!"
Snape mock pouted and reached for another chocolate biscuit.
Since there was only little time before the public performance, Dumbledore sent for Harry Potter as soon as the teachers had finished their tea. Snape sat in one of the plush armchairs by the fireplace with his empty tea cup still in front of him while the headmaster informed the teenage hero about the public show and the dangers that came with it.
"You will be relieved, Harry," the old man ended his explanation, "to hear that professor Snape volunteered to work on your defensive spells with you. Therefore you will serve detention with him every evening until the show."
"What?" cried the boy, "I need to do my homework! When am I supposed to do that?"
"I will speak to your professors," said Dumbledore soothingly. "I'm sure they will understand the delay."
"I expect your potions essay on time," Snape snarled from his position near the fireplace. "Punctuality is part of the assignment."
"There!" cried Harry Potter in response, "He hates me! Why would you think he'd help me with defensive spells? All he wants to do is torture me!"
"I will not be insulted!" Snape jumped to his feet. "You ungrateful brat! I offered to sacrifice my evenings to keep you alive!" He stalked towards Potter threateningly. The boy, however, wasn't a Gryffindor for nothing. He covered half of the distance and met the potions master in the middle of the room. "Your extra lessons never taught me anything but what a petty little man you are!" the boy hissed as he stood nose to nose with the older man.
Snape roared with rage. He had his hands wrapped around Potter's throat before the boy could move a single muscle.
"Severus!" cried Dumbledore.
"Aaaargh!" cried Potter.
"I will not be insulted in exchange for my goodness!" cried Snape. He closed his hands tighter around the boy's neck. "I could tell you how to get rid of an attacker who tries to throttle you. A pity you don't want to learn from me." He smirked at the boy.
"Severus!" roared the headmaster. The old man raised his wand.
The potions master loosened his grip on Potter and pushed the boy away. The Gryffindor gripped his own throat and coughed. "Show me!" he panted as soon as he had regained his breath.
Snape smirked at the headmaster. "I'll take Potter to the former voodoo classroom." He held the door open for the younger wizard to precede him.
The former voodoo classroom was just around the corner from the headmaster's office. Some hundred years ago, headmaster Aurelius Ragdoll had attempted to introduce the subject to the Hogwarts syllabus. His successor had cancelled the lessons when the reason for the increasing number of sick leaves among teachers became clear to her.
Snape closed and warded the door behind him and his charge and then turned to Potter. "I will attack you and you will try to fend me off." He had taken his first step towards Potter when the boy raised his wand.
"We both know how that teaching method works!" spat the boy. "You will not throttle me and then use teaching as an excuse. I insist you show me how it is done."
Snape lowered his hands and nodded his consent. The younger wizard put his wand back into his pocket and then attacked. He wrapped his fingers around Snape's thin neck and squeezed. First, he thought of holding back, but then the Gryffindor saw the beauty of the opportunity. He was throttling the bane of his existence with the man's consent!
The potions master was caught by surprise. He had not expected his student to attack so viciously! After some seconds, however, his reflexes kicked in. Snape wrapped his hands around Potter's wrists and squeezed with all his power. In addition he brought his left knee up with gusto.
Potter roared with pain, but did not let go. Instead, he increased his effort by kicking at Snape's shins!
The older wizard let go of Potter's arms and instead grabbed him by the lapel of his school uniform with one hand while he rammed his other fist into the pit of the boy's stomach repeatedly. When that didn't get Potter to let go, Snape reached for the boy's neck and instantly the two wizards were engaged in a throttling match.
It didn't last long. Barely a minute later both let go and sank to their knees, panting as if after running a marathon. Harry Potter leaned forward and grabbed the first thing he touched for support – Snape. The potions master was too weak to protest and returned the gesture.
"I'm glad I insisted on being shown," croaked the boy when he had regained some breath. He rested his forehead against Snape's shoulder.
"Not bad, Potter. Where did you learn to brawl like that?"
"What is going on here?" Dumbledore's voice invaded the exhaustion the two wizards were in. "I asked you to teach Harry defence and I find you two lying in each other's arms! What have you been doing!" The headmaster sounded disappointing and furious at the same time.
Snape brushed his hair aside with a tired move of his hand to show the strangulation marks Potter had left on his neck.
"Now is not the time to show off your love bites," snapped Dumbledore. "I am disgusted with you, Severus."
"Headmaster," the teenage hero interfered, "Professor Snape showed me how to fight off an attacker." He moved a little to give the old man a better view of his neck.
"Severus! You tried to strangle young Harry while he was creating these marks on your neck?" Dumbledore still didn't sound appeased.
"I did, though I'm sure you still have the wrong impression of what happened in here," croaked Snape. "Potter, knowing the headmaster, we'd better show him."
"I agree, but can we reverse roles? I feel I'm too young to forego the possibility of having children."
Snape rolled his eyes, but cast a quick protective charm before he nodded. The two wizards struggled to their feet.
"What was that for?" Potter asked mockingly. "You don't even have a girlfriend."
"At least none you know of," smirked Snape and attacked.
The fight was short; not, because Harry did such a splendid job defending himself, but because the teenage hero found himself in a full bodybind spell cast by the headmaster himself after he brought up his knee to Snape's most private body parts for the first time.
"Harry," Dumbledore glared down at the petrified boy over the rim of his glasses, "I will not tolerate this form of disrespect for a teacher! It hurts me to say so, but this will be ten points from Gryffindor."
"Albus," Snape released the boy he had been holding around the neck, "this is a technique I showed Potter earlier."
"You showed Potter how to … you know?" Dumbledore made a gesture towards his potions instructor's midsection.
"It was necessary. It's easy to learn, doesn't require skill or strength and is highly effective. It's ideal for Potter."
"Stop insulting me!" roared the boy, whom the headmaster must have released when Snape said the boy had behaved correctly. "I have skill and strength and power!"
"Oh yes, and you look good. We all know how eager you were to take off your shirt in public," Snape rolled his eyes.
"Well, who can, can."
"Are you smirking at me, impertinent brat?" Snape glared at the boy.
Dumbledore cleared his throat. "This is not the time for petty quarrels. We have to prepare Harry for the public show. Don't forget that there is a chance for a deatheater attack there."
"I was doing exactly that before you petrified Potter," growled Snape. "Can you now do something else and let us get back to work?"
"If you are sure that everything is going well," Dumbledore did not look happy to leave his golden boy and his potions master, but at a nod from both, he left. Snape wrapped his fingers around Potter's throat without further warning.
The headmaster informed the student body about the impending public performance at dinner. After the excited outcries from the students had ceased, the old wizard read out who was to perform in the show. He had taken the younger students off the list and instead added some older ones. There was uproar at the Hufflepuff table when two of their own were not allowed to perform.
"Since a public performance always holds a safety risk, we cannot allow students under the age of sixteen on the stage," Dumbledore said in a matter-of-factly voice.
Kingsley Shacklebolt fidgeted nervously in his seat. Snape smirked at the auror. The potions master found it amusing that an accomplished fighter like Kingsley felt uneasy sitting at a table with all his former teachers. The black wizard glared daggers at Snape in return.
"Well," Dumbledore opened the meeting, "now that everybody is here and has their cup of tea, we are ready to start. You all have the list of students who will perform on stage. Kingsley, you brought the guest list?"
The auror cleared his throat and started handing out sheets of parchment. "We chose ten reporters. Apart from them, only blood relatives of students are allowed in. There is a limit of two persons per student, four for those who perform."
"But you are talking about nearly two thousand people!" cried McGonagall. "The Great Hall can hold not nearly as many!"
"You forget that you have siblings among your students and not everybody who could get a ticket really wants it. We had a total of five hundred tickets and although we announced it on the Prophet last week, only three hundred were claimed." The auror made a pause. "On the parchment I gave you," he continued then, "you find the names of those we consider potentially problematic."
There was a silence as everybody went through the list they had received.
"Lucius Malfoy and wife, Vincent Crabbe senior and wife, Al Goyle and niece, I did not know he had a niece," Snape muttered under his breath.
"The niece is about 25 and when they came to get the ticket, they did not behave like uncle and niece at all," replied the auror. "We considered not giving her a ticket, but Alastor pointed out that it would be good for us if Mrs Goyle saw a picture of the couple in the prophet."
"Alastor?" asked McGonagall. "What has Alastor to do with it?"
"We hired him as a counsellor for the show," smiled Shacklebolt, feeling more secure among his former teachers now. "The minister doesn't want to take risks. Somebody must have scared him to death." He grinned when Dumbledore winked at him.
"Aren't you a bit too timid about the whole thing? Why is Xeno Lovegood on the list of potentially dangerous people?" asked Flitwick.
"Potentially problematic," Shacklebolt corrected him. "The quibbler didn't get permission to send a reporter. Mr Lovegood has to come as a parent. There may be trouble when he brings his equipment."
"I'm sure Xeno will respect the rules," said the small Charms teacher. "And he's good enough at charms to have any picture he wants drawn when he can't bring his camera. All he needs is a quill and his wand. He does it quite frequently."
"Don't tell me you read the Quibbler!" huffed McGonagall.
Sprout came to Flitwick's aid before the small wizard could react. "It's quite an entertaining paper, Minerva. And you're right, Filius, the pictures are sometimes amazing. Can you show me the charm he uses? It could be useful for the documentation of plant growth."
"Of course," cried Flitwick. "There are several spells which could turn out useful for your purpose. Why don't we discuss this after the meeting?"
"I have a bottle of wine I brought back from a study trip to Naples last summer," offered the herbology teacher. "If we discussed the matter in my quarters, I could take notes."
"It would be my pleasure."
Snape rolled his eyes when the small wizard blushed like a teenager.
The Great Hall was buzzing with people. The teachers as well as some Order members and the ministry aurors were patrolling along the walls and in the aisles between the seats. The front row seats were taken by the minister, the school governors – all with wives – and the press. Behind them sat the parents of the performing students.
The minister was deep in a conversation with Lucius Malfoy when the headmaster stepped onto the stage.
"Minister, governors, members of the press, parents and students, not to forget my colleagues, I'm honoured to welcome you all to Hogwarts' first talent show. Our students have many talents; it was time we set out to discover some of them. The rules of our little contest were simple. Everything was allowed as long as the actual performance didn't involve magic. The results we got were spectacular. We saw dance and martial arts, and discovered that quite a number of our students are talented singers. Today you will witness the best of the best. Please welcome our first artist, Mr Seamus Finnegan and his dancing Gryffindors!"
Dumbledore stepped aside as the announced students entered the stage.
The Gryffindor group got polite applause from most of the audience and some catcalls from a group seated where normally the Gryffindor table was.
The next on stage was Draco Malfoy. His father as well as his head of house watched proudly as the boy worked through a difficult swordplay routine without any mistake. When the young blond bowed to the audience, he looked still as neat as a new pin. This time it was the present Slytherins' turn to cheer for one of their own though Slytherins of course didn't do anything as common as catcall.
Snape, his colleagues and the aurors barely had time to watch any of the performances. They kept their eyes on the audience for most of the time. It was the potions master who spotted it.
Narcissa Malfoy was taking a swig from a small flask during a song.
The potions master signalled Shacklebolt and they met at the back of the hall. "Narcissa Malfoy is not Narcissa Malfoy," whispered Snape under his breath. "She's drinking something; polyjuice, I guess."
"Do you have proof?" asked the auror.
"I don't need proof. Narcissa is a Slytherin lady. She'd never drink from a flask. She'd rather die of thirst than do that in public. And since Narcissa is not Narcissa, she has to be somebody in disguise. The most effective way to disguise is polyjuice and it would explain the drinking."
Shacklebolt nodded. "I'll notify the others."
"Be careful," whispered Snape. "For all we know, she could be the Dark Lord himself."
The potions master watched the auror as he crept along the back wall towards one of his colleagues. The two aurors whispered and then cautiously approached the next guards. Content, Snape realised they informed also the Order and the teachers. It looked like everything was going to be well.
It was, however, not meant to be. Before even half of the guards were informed – and the message had started to travel from the back of the hall – the headmaster stepped on the stage and announced that the next to perform were the winners of the contest, Harry Potter and his charming assistant, Ginevra Weasley.
Throwing caution to the wind, Snape waved his arms to signal the headmaster to not let Potter on the stage.
"Yes, yes," cried the old wizard, "our young Harry has his audience wrapped around his little finger. Even the teachers are his fans. A little patience, Severus, he's coming!" He chuckled and left the stage to the left, clapping his hands for Harry Potter who was entering the stage with his redheaded assistant in tow.
Due to the headmaster's words, he was practically ignored for every person present turned around to look at the potions master at the back of the hall. Snape had the presence of mind to wave his hands enthusiastically and light the tip of his raised wand as if he was a groupie waiting for his star before the person disguised as Narcissa saw him.
"That's the spirit!" cried the reporter from Witch Weekly, who was wearing too short robes with too low a neckline for the occasion. She raised her hands and lit her wand, too. The people in the Gryffindor part of the hall were the first to copy her, but soon the whole hall had their wands out and their hands in the air.
Snape could have slapped himself. He had given the Narcissa-double an excuse to reach for her wand.
The cheers from the audience turned down when Ginevra Weasley started to sing and Harry Potter started his dance. The snakes rose from their basket and wrapped around the teenager's arms. They slid up his arms and then formed the by now well-known patterns on his bare chest.
Several witches fainted. Others shrieked excitedly. The reporters flashed their cameras.
Narcissa got up and stood in front of the stage.
The snakes stopped their dance. Snape was too far from the stage to hear what was going on, but judging by the snakes' behaviour he was sure that Narcissa spoke in parseltongue to them.
Crap! The Dark Lord had come to Hogwarts!
"Dance, my friends! Wrap around me and enjoy the warmth of my body! Impress those watching us with the elegance only snakes possess!" Harry Potter was whispering softly to his snakes while he swayed his hips in the rhythm Ginny dictated with her song. "Dance, my friends!"
The boy was lost in the sensation of snakes sliding across his skin. The dance was hypnotic for even himself. He raised his arms and drew his fingers through his hair while he rotated his pelvis seductively. Ginny's perfume filled the air around him and the snakes as the girl danced around him and her clear voice singing words of love and happiness filled his entire being.
The teenage hero was startled out of his dreamy state by a female voice speaking to his snakes.
"Don't follow this weakling!" the voice hissed. Harry spotted Narcissa Malfoy right in front of the stage. Her eyes stood out blood red against her elegant pale complexion. Since when was Narcissa a parselmouth?
The answer struck the teenager like lightening. The blond woman in front of him must be Lord Voldemort in disguise!
"Snakes are strong creatures! Snakes don't do petty things like dance! They are destined to serve only the strongest of wizards and bask in their glory!" Narcissa hissed. "Attack him who turned warriors into ballet dancers!"
"Don't listen to him!" cried Harry. "You are not brainless warriors without a sense for what is beautiful and pure! You deserve to play just as much as any other creature. Don't let him enslave you!"
"We followed a moron!" cried the largest snake. "He can't tell a male from a female!"
"She's a man in disguise!" cried Harry. "He used a potion to turn into a harmless woman!"
One of the snakes wiggled her tongue in Narcissa's direction. "I smell a potion," the snake confirmed. "It was made of boomslang skin if I'm not mistaken. Don't follow him who killed one of our kind to change his appearance!"
Meanwhile the Great Hall erupted in shrieks of fear and horror as several wizards and witches fired off spells. Some of them were deatheaters trying to divert the aurors' attention from their master, others were people feeling the need to defend themselves and their children.
"The boomslang was long dead when I used his body!" cried Narcissa/Voldemort in an attempt to win Harry's snakes over.
"Ha! You don't think they will believe that, old snakeface!" cried the teenage hero. He waved at Ginny to leave the stage, but the girl stood rooted to the spot.
"Snakeface?" asked the biggest snake, who was called Bertram by the way. "Is he one of us?"
"He's not!" protested Harry. "He's only so ugly we call him that!"
"So you consider us ugly?" Bertram started to squeeze with all his power without waiting for an answer.
"Yes, he does!" screamed Narcissa/Voldemort. "But I consider an honour what is meant as an insult."
"Really?" Bertram sounded pleased.
"Really!" confirmed the blonde.
"If you like him so much, why don't you leave me alone and go to him?" cried the wizarding hero. He could hardly breathe with Bertram wrapped around him so tightly.
"You have a point," admitted Bertram he stopped to squeeze and slithered to the floor. The smaller snakes followed immediately.
"Stay where you are!" cried the witch. "Kill him who insulted us!"
The snakes turned around to obey. "You can't kill me because of one wrong word!" shrieked Harry. "I conjured you! I'm as good as your father!"
"He's right, Bertram," said the greenish snake the big serpent had grown fond of over the past few days. "He's as close to a father as we'll ever get."
"Kill him!" shrieked Narcissa. "Kill him now!"
"We should do as our fellow snake says," said Bertram.
Daisy (the greenish snake) rose in front of him. Had she been a woman, she'd have rested her fists on her hips. "Now we kill Daddy, and what next? You can't be serious, Bertram. They will never leave us alone to start a family."
"A family?" Bertram blushed. He'd never have dared suggest it.
"Well, a handsome snake like yourself and I would certainly breed most charming little serpents." Daisy batted her lashes at the bigger snake. "Why don't we leave those humans to their quarrelling and look for a nice place to live?"
"If you say so!" Bertram couldn't help but grin like a fool. They slithered down from the stage with their friends in tow. The witches and wizards present panicked even more – if that was possible – and opened a path for them to leave the Great Hall.
"Do you know how long it took me to train those snakes, Tom?" cried Harry. "You bloody idiot!" His wand hand shook with anger.
"Remember who you are talking to," hissed Narcissa aka Voldemort. "If you beg prettily enough, I will grant you a quick death."
"Oh, come on. Not that nonsense again!" Harry sighed. "Let's get this over with." He rolled his eyes and raised his wand. Voldemort mirrored the movement.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you," Ginny Weasley stepped between her boyfriend and his opponent.
"Step aside, silly girl! Step aside!" Narcissa blinked and shook her head.
"Déjà vu?" smirked Harry.
"I won't!" growled Ginny dangerously. "And you should be grateful I stopped you."
"What?" Narcissa/Voldemort hissed.
"You don't want the public to think that Narcissa Malfoy could do what you couldn't, do you?" Ginny grinned maliciously.
"You didn't think of that, did you?" Harry wrapped an arm around Ginny's waist. "Well, your plans were never really thought through. I ask myself how you made it into Slytherin."
"Probably because he's a blood relative," mused Ginny. Harry nodded. "Probably," he agreed.
The Dark Lord turned on his heels. "Lucius!" he shrieked. "Take me home!"
The blond wizard hurried to his "wife's" side and held out an arm to her. "Whatever you wish, beloved!" he cried and patted the dark wizard's hand when he accepted the arm.
"Be careful, Mr Malfoy!" cried Harry Potter after them as they made their way through the mayhem towards the doors. "This is not your wife! It's a dark wizard!"
There were outcries of fear from several of the assembled witches and wizards.
Lucius Malfoy turned to face the teenage wizard. He was fuming with anger. He schooled his features when he realised that everybody's eyes were on him. "Of course not, Potter," he spat. "I would realise if an impostor impersonated my wife!"
"Really?" Harry asked with a smirk. "Are you sure?"
"Of course," snapped the blond wizard.
"Kiss her," demanded the golden Gryffindor.
Narcissa and Lucius both looked horrified for a moment. Lucius regained his wits first. "I will not be talked into an undignified public display," he sneered. Narcissa nodded.
"Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!" chanted Harry. He made encouraging gestures to the audience and they obediently fell into their hero's rhythm. "Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!"
Lucius gave in after less than two minutes. He looked like he wanted to vomit, but he bravely gathered his lor…ahem…wife close and pressed his lips to hers. The assembled witches and wizards applauded and some witches covered their children's eyes.
"I have to apologize for doubting your identity, Lady Narcissa!" Harry Potter bowed mockingly as Lucius Malfoy and his company fled the castle. A group of aurors went after them to make sure they really left.
The headmaster announced that the show was over and the teachers, order members and aurors ushered the guests out of the great hall and down to the gates.
The next few days were far from quiet. The event at Hogwarts was all over the newspapers. The Daily Prophet published three issues a day blaming the ministry and Dumbledore for mistakes of organization. Rita Skeeter – who had not even been allowed into the school – wrote a vivid account of the near mass panic in the great hall and blamed Dumbledore – whom she considered responsible of her not being allowed on Hogwarts grounds – for causing a near catastrophe.
Lessons went nearly as usual if the teachers managed to ignore the newspapers being read under the worktables, which every teacher did but Snape. The potions master took a total of 514 points from four – yes, four! Though only 5 from Slytherin – houses within three days which was a record.
Mealtimes were unusually quiet for the teachers. The students were all absorbed in reading the latest papers, there was barely talking at the house tables.
After a week, things went back to normal. Lady Narcissa's strange behaviour was forgotten and the reporters had used all their material about the panic. In addition, Cornelius Fudge had been discovered in a small seaside hotel with a witch who was not his wife. The papers had better things to write than their umpteenth commentary on the events of Hogwarts.
Secretly, Severus Snape was happy. The Dark Lord was hidden away somewhere – Snape liked to think at Malfoy Manor – and scheming his revenge, which meant there were no meetings to be expected for a while. The potions master and his superior agreed that it was going to take Lord Voldemort quite a while to recover from being kissed by his lieutenant in public.
Two weeks later nothing reminded of Hogwarts' talent show.
A month later, Draco Malfoy and Pansy Parkinson were deep in conversation over a magazine at breakfast. The girl was blushing from time to time and the blond certainly looked like he was teasing her.
At the Head Table, their head of house smiled. Snape was glad when his Slytherins were happy. Having the Dark Lord hover over their families, most of them had little enough happiness in their lives.
Nevertheless, the wizard watched suspiciously when Draco Malfoy said "Since you want it so much, dear," loud enough for the whole hall to hear and got up.
The blond walked over to the Gryffindor table, where Potter and his friends sat. This did not bide well.
"Potter," said Draco jovially, "congratulations! May I have your autograph for Pansy? She's too shy to ask." Back at the Slytherin table, Pansy was busy resizing stacks of magazines which seemed to have been shrunken in her pocket until then.
Snape tried to see what the magazine was, but the distance was too big. He huffed when Pansy handed one to Vincent Crabbe and the boy carried it over to his potions teacher. However, Snape's eyes lit up with glee when he saw what the magazine was. He pocketed it nonchalantly in order to not give McGonagall a warning.
"My autograph?" Potter echoed. The boy looked at Malfoy as if he had grown whiskers.
"I know it's childish," admitted Malfoy with a smirk, "but I can't deny her."
Granger once again proved that she had a sharper mind than Potter. "What are you congratulating him for, Malfoy?" she spat.
"Ah, I'm glad that you ask." The blond boy opened the magazine he was holding. A poster unfolded. "Congratulations, Potter. You made Mr February. I guess it was too short notice for Mr January. The way you brush through your hair drives Pansy wild. You really have to show me how you do it." The blond produced a quill. "Don't write on your stomach. Pansy likes to look at the waistband of your boxers."
Pansy meanwhile had started to hand out magazines. Since the cat had been let out of the bag, Snape reached for his own issue. Ah! It was the new edition of the Playwitch.
"Severus! Do something!" cried McGonagall as he unfolded the middle poster. It was a photo of Potter's performance. The boy was bare-chested, his jeans had ridden low, showing the waistband of green silk boxers. Snakes were slithering all over the boy and he was drawing his hands through his hair in an upward motion seductively. His eyes were closed and his lips were pouting deliciously.
"What do you say, Minerva? I think I'm going to put it up in my classroom." Snape smiled He raised the poster to cover the fight that was going on at the Gryffindor table from the witch's view.
"Don't you dare!" cried the head of the lion house. "Albus! You cannot allow this kind of photograph! It's immoral!"
"That's a bit hypocritical, after we let the boy dance half naked in front of the press, don't you think?" Snape asked softly. "And look, Albus, we were successful in our quest to connect to the muggle world. The photo does not move."
"Indeed!" cried the headmaster. "You are right, Severus. Next year, we shall repeat the contest! And then, the teachers will be allowed to perform. I must admit that I'm a bit jealous of young Harry. Excuse me now, I have to ask Miss Parkinson for one of these newspapers and Mr Potter to sign the poster for me."