Not Like Harold Expected

Author's Note: This is written after having attended a live performance of Music Man in which the two leads created the perfect chemistry that rolled into the audience, completely absorbing one int the nuances of their characters. Some of the sequences might be slightly out of sync ; )

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters (except for his Irish Aunt and Uncle Paul)

Enjoy! Reviews/PMs welcome : )

It wasn't turning out like he'd planned, so many times before.

Hit the town, get everyone excited about 'the band', uniforms and instruments arrive, and poof! He hits the road, his pockets well-laden.

Sure, there had been other women who garnered his attention for a few days. Nothing a passing smile, mischevious wink, or quick pat on the cheek wouldn't fix, allowing him to escape, unscathed by pesky female attentions.

All that had changed when he met Marian.

Marian, the town Librarian. Marian, the Music Teacher. Marian, the strong, calm, confident woman, not a tittering, too-young lady with shining eyes and obvious (he shuddered) long term intentions. Marian refused him and it allured him. Caught between two worlds. At war with himself.

Harold would never admit it to another living soul. He barely admitted it to himself; he was falling in love with Marian Paroo.

At first it was his usual surface charms, trying to win over the lady with personality alone. No reciprocation. Dropped hankie? A curt no. Charming smile? A baleful look. Mischevious twinkle and compliment? An icy response.

This required a change in tactics. Stepping into the library, he prepared to meet her on her own turf. Charm on full, or so he thought. At least he got in a quick peck before narrowly avoiding the slap aimed at him. Hasty exit!

He pondered what to do next. Ah, the mother! The young boy who was her brother. That may be the way to reach her.

Mama was charmed, easily enough. A sweet, kind, Irish woman, she reminded him of a favorite aunt he remembered, too long ago it seemed. Something stirred within him, a deep-down feeling of . . . shame? Pull yourself together man, he thought irritably after he left. IÕm Professor Harold Hill, Music Man extraordinaire! Yet the words sounded strangely hollow, even to himself.

Winthrop, he came to learn the boy's name, and his evident speech deficiency, which prevented him from talking much. Until he took the boy fishing. Wait, fishing? He wasn't that fond of it, but taking another boy with him? Was he truly doing this just to get at Marian, or was it something deeper? Ack, such nonsense. Keep focused on the goal here, have to keep Marian off her feet.

Yet when he saw the pure happiness in Marian and her Mama at Winthrop's sudden, seemingly outspoken nature, he couldn't help but smile genuinely as well.

He pushed it all aside. This was no time for reminiscing! The instruments were already here, and the uniforms would soon follow. If he could just keep Marian off-balance. . . .the Ice Cream Sociable! That's it! He would invite her to come, then skip quickly on the evening train before anyone was the wiser.

Now he was able to call on Marian. Marian. Her name rolled off his tongue like the song of a brook in the meadow. Marian. He hummed lightly to himself as he walked along.

Marian was rather. . . . excitable this evening. She was thinking out loud, peppering him with questions about. . . traveling salesmen? Other women? Where he'd been? Panic gripped at his chest. What had she heard? A mental slap; snap out of it, Mister. Keep focused on the task at hand.

With charm on full and close in her personal space, Harold saw Marian (lovely name, lovely woman) practially melt before him. Ah! He'd found a way in. The Ice Cream Sociable. Yes she would meet him at the footbridge. 15 minutes.

Victory! He could smell it! Yet standing on the bridge, conducting the nonexistent orchestra to Minuet in G, he suddenly stopped. Snapping the twig in half, he sighed. What was he doing anyway, ruining yet another town? Why couldn't he just stop? It wouldn't be that hard. Just adopt another name and live out his days doing honest work for a change.

How did he get mixed up in all this? Uncle Paul always said he'd come to no good. Yet it had seemed so easy at the time. Just a little extra cash. Then a little more. Then another town and another. It all blurred together. He doubted he could remember his real name.

When she approached the footbridge, his breath caught in his throat. Momentarily speechless, he couldn't believe the stunning transformation. What once was a stern, proudly independent, spinster, had morphed into an utterly beautiful woman. Soft, flowing, delicate like a flower. He was almost afraid to touch her, afraid she'd vanish. For she looked exactly like the woman he had dreamed of as a young, foolish lad, but never hoped of finding. . . . until now.

She stepped closer, he spoke smoothly, hoping she missed the spark in his eye. She almost didn't come. What a tragedy that would have been. She was so close, her light perfume intoxicating. He could no longer deny his feelings for her. Gently, he took her in his arms, and kissed her. She leaned into his embrace, hardly daring to believe it was real.

Damn, Marcellus, what do you want now? Why do you have to interrupt?

Oh, the carriage. The townspeople. Yes, yes, go.

Back to my beautiful, graceful flower. I will be along shortly. A scent of perfume, a swish of the skirt and she's gone. He's suddenly sad.

He hated to let her go, hated to run out. Like a coward, he thought bitterly. There was still time. He could change this.

The townspeople are coming? A mob is something he fears the most. Mobs are angry, uncaring, unyielding. He must quickly escape with himself intact, then come back later when he can speak to Marian alone.

Marian, pleading with him to go. She knows? She's known all along and still let him keep up his charade? Shame, deep burning shame, that this wonderful woman knew and let him continue with his deception. Winthrop, he must be made to understand! It's startlingly clear what his course of action should be. He must tell them the truth, no more lies!

Go Marcellus! Save yourself. Winthrop runs with his suitcase. Marian, pleading with him to go. One last kiss, one last goodbye. But too late! Handcuffs, cold, impersonal, final. His shoulders slump, weariness and defeat evident in every line of his body, he allows himself to be led away. He can't look at Marian. His love. The fear on her face. He can't even muster the old flame to jauntily explain his way through this, to escape by his wits, only to laugh later at his recklessness.

The accusing boom of the Mayor's voice mingled with the muttered betrayal of the townspeople pierces his heart. He has no defense; they are right on all accounts. A swindler, indeed. That spiteful, back-stabbing anvil salesman is there too, his recriminations reverberating throughout the room. An almost mob! He sways slightly on the spot as the tirade continues. Numb all over, he's almost shaking. A soft touch on his arm. . .wait, Marian's here? He can't even look at her, he's so mortified that it has to be like this. Out there for everyone to see. Tar and feathers? Stark terror momentarily robs him of all his senses. If he makes it out alive, it will be a miracle.

Marian steps forward, in his defense. He still cannot look at her, but finds himself listening all the same. What was the town like before he arrived? Slightly depressed, some headed for trouble, no hope of anything better. Then he arrived. Fine mess he made of things. But Marian continues, saying how he brought hope to the town, raised people's spirits, and gave them a better sense of community.

It all sounds so compelling, so passionate, that a small bubble of hope begins to build in his chest.

Until the Mayor asks, where's the band?

Where indeed. His hope bubble burst, bringing in darkness, despair.

A shrill whistle. Whistle? Everyone jumps in surprise as the young boys band marches smartly into the room, to the beat of a timely drum. They halt in unison as the Mayor's mouth opens and closes several times. A soft hand on Harold's sleeve, and a conductor's wand is placed in his hand. He turns to Marian at his side again. At her small nod of encouragement he steps forward, recovering his voice imploring them to think. Preparing to be completely made a fool of, he raises his bound hands to conduct.

Blats, odd notes, an offbeat base drum. Minuet in G was barely discernable among the flats, sharps, akin to the sounds of dying crows. Yet the crowd begins to get excited. Parents exclaim over their sons; grandparents are misty-eyed; siblings swell with pride.

As the boys continue to . . . play, the sheriff quietly approaches and removes the cold metal handcuffs that had spelled doom for Harold Hill. He saw the anvil salesman stride out the side door, knowing he could not stop what was happening. People congratulated him. The Mayor shook his hand. But most of all, Marian, sweet, wonderful Marian, was there at his side.

Perhaps he had finally come home after all.