"And what is your fourth and final question, Severus," the blonde host asked with a sly grin.
Severus Snape rolled his eyes and wondered for the hundredth time how he had gotten himself into this situation. He had always prided himself on his superior knowledge, but perhaps there was something mentally wrong with him. That was the only reason that could explain how he continually found himself in these situations. At first, he thought it was because he still felt in debt to the old, senile man who had helped him in high school. Dumbledore had been the only teacher who hadn't turned a blind eye to the imbeciles that bullied him everyday. And so when Dumbledore approached him after his college graduation about his plan to start his own boarding school and asked Snape to teach chemistry, he reluctantly agreed. But they both knew that Dumbledore had only been doing him a favor. Severus had spent his last penny paying off his college loans and had been rejected by all the public schools he had interviewed with because they had worried that his "unconventional demeanor" would frighten the children. So Severus owed more than he'd like to admit. Which was how he had ended up in this exact position.
In reality, Severus wanted to ask why a seventy-year-old principal would decide to invest half of his retirement funds into an utterly ridiculous dating show. No, that was not true. What he really wanted to know was why the man thought that he should be the show's first participant. Severus wasn't in his twenties anymore. Neither was he handsome or rich, as he expected the three men faced away from him were. In fact, an opaque screen separated Severus and Lucius from the three, so he had no way to truly judge much about their physical appearances aside from their height, never mind their income or age. He shrugged. He might as well ask.
"How old are you," he grumbled.
Lucius Malfoy, who used to work at Hogwarts with Severus as a political science teacher, seemed unimpressed with the question, but as the new host of "A Chance at Love," he had no choice but to accept it. "Contestant number one, please tell us your age," he said.
There was a pause as contestant number one fidgeted, and Severus couldn't help rolling his eyes. The squeamish man had been uncomfortable the entire time, making the chemistry teacher wonder why he'd even bothered signing up to participate in the show in the first place.
"T-twenty-four, sir," came the timid response.
Though Severus was instructed to keep his eyes on Lucius or the contestants, he slowly turned to his right to glare at Dumbledore who stood, undeterred, in the back by the cameramen. Twenty-four? There was no way that he was going out with a twenty-four-year-old. And, from what he could remember from his earlier answers, the man was an unemployed botanist who admired Al Gore's study of global warming and knew as much chemistry as his sophomore students. Not that any of that really mattered. Severus was not going on any date with any twenty-four year-old. The fact that Dumbledore thought it was even a possibility was laughable.
"How exciting," Lucius said dryly before smiling again at the next contestant. "Now, dear contestant number two, do you mind telling us your age?"
"Twenty-four," came the proud answer.
Severus frowned and turned yet again to glare at the greying man. What kind of game was Dumbledore trying to play? What would posses the man to believe that Severus wanted a twenty-four year old model who had no favorite author but thought Channing Tatum and Jude Law were "overrated"? Sure, the boy seemed to have a respectable chemistry background, but Severus could not think of any critically acclaimed works by neither Mr. Tatum nor Mr. Law. The boy was suspicious to say the least.
"Twenty-four? That's the perfect age, isn't it?" Lucius questioned rhetorically with a wink at the camera. "And you?" The blonde sneered at the remaining contestant.
Severus raised his eyebrow at the blatant distaste Lucius had for the third contestant that seemed to surpass the level of disinterest he held for the botanist. Though, in all honesty, Severus couldn't blame him. Contestant number three was the shortest and the most annoying. He claimed to be some hotshot lawyer who loved Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment and thought Gibb's free energy was a caffeinated drink. In short, contestant number three was a lying idiot.
"Twenty-four," came the calm reply.
Closing his eyes, the chemistry teacher hoped Dumbledore was grateful for the rolling cameras, the only things stopping Severus from marching over to the batty old man and showing him what he thought about this whole dating show. At the moment all he could do was struggle to stop his hands from twitching with his thinly concealed rage and only managed to control himself after reminding himself that once this was over, he would be cleared of any debt he ever owed Dumbledore.
Once his eyes were opened, Lucius walked over to Severus and placed a hand on Severus's left arm, not flinching when Severus immediately swatted it aside. "So, Severus, you have three men dying to have a date with you. First, you have the flustered botanist who wants to save the world from global warming. Next, you have the sophisticated and handsome model who has made several appearances in GQ and Vogue and plans on starting his own clothing line this winter. Finally, you have the 'lawyer' who may or may not have passed his high school chemistry classes."
A laugh track played briefly, and Lucius grinned as he stepped away from Severus and moved closer to the screen. "So, tell us, Severus. Which do you want to take on a romantic date? Number one?" Lucius stopped briefly in front of the first black figure. "Number two?" He then walked backwards a bit to show the second figure. "Or number three?" He waved his hand flippantly at the third.
"None of the above," Severus answered with brutal honestly.
The host chuckled with a different laugh track and returned to Severus's side. "You're too nice, Severus."
The chemist raised an eyebrow. "Yes, well, I do try," he commented sarcastically.
"I know you don't want to crush any of this young men's hearts," the blonde continued, ignoring the comment. "But there is no need for you to worry. The contestants you don't choose today will have a chance at love again next week, so there is no need for you to feel guilty about choosing one over the other."
"What a relief. Cradle robber I can handle, but heaven forbid someone called me a heartbreaker. I'd never be able to forgive myself," he muttered to himself.
"Severus, today is your chance at love. So who is your lucky date?"
From the glint in Lucius's eyes, Severus knew that the persistent man would get an answer out of him even if it took the next 24 hours. And if Lucius failed, he'd only have to face Dumbledore. So he sighed and contemplated his options.
He didn't think he'd be able to survive any lengthy conversation with contestant number one who stumbled over words like a drunk over his own feet. Severus imagined that it would be no better thank taking one of his own incompetent students out on a date, and that thought made him shudder. On the other hand, he was liable to poison the model before the day was over if he was forced to listen to the boy go on an on about the faults of Channing Tatum for another minute. Then there was the fact that he'd be playing right into Lucius's hand – the man clearly expected the second contestant to be chosen. Severus wasn't sure why, but he had no intentions of granting any of the blonde's wishes. That left the third contestant. Though he flaunted a strong literary background, Severus doubted the boy could find a book in a library. And Severus knew with this day in age anyone could get a "law degree" online.
But as Severus thought about it, contestant number three was looking better and better. The first reward would be seeing Lucius's face fall when he realized that his prized contestant hadn't won. The second reward would come later. Severus had already been warned that part of their date would be taped for the "Happily Ever After?" portion of the show, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to embarrass the boy and show the world what a fraud he actually was on national television. He'd sift through every lie the boy had told and expose him for who he truly was – a lowly, deceitful, and arrogant brat. Severus quietly snorted. If Lucius and the brat thought he was one easily duped, they were sorely mistaken.
Severus sniffed. "Well, if I must choose, I supposed I will go with contestant number three," he declared, keeping his eyed glued to the host.
Lucius beamed, throwing Severus completely off balance. Why was that idiot smiling?
His question was answered as the screen was raised to reveal all three contestants. Immediately, his eyes went to the blonde man standing in the center who wore a smirk that identically matched that of his pompous.
Severus gritted his teeth. It all made sense now. Severus had despised his coworker, Lucius, the moment they first met in the teacher's lounge when the arrogant man had walked in wearing a $800 suit and $500 shoes, leftovers from his days working as Britain's number one political campaign manager. And now he despised him a little bit more because he'd just fallen for another one of Lucius's tricks.
If Lucius wasn't catapulting his own career through large donations to the school or private luncheons with Dumbledore, he was working on that of his son's who was reportedly an aspiring actor. Every staff member had heard about how Steven Spielberg had flown to Lucius's house to have dinner with his "buddy" and meet his son. Then there were the TVs generously donated by Mr. Malfoy and placed in every classroom that played his son's ads every thirty minutes. So it made perfect sense that Lucius would find some way to sneak his son into Dumbledore's newest venture. And of course Lucius would endorse his son heavily, adding in things about his magazine features and whatnot. The elder blonde was well aware of the fact that Severus wouldn't pick contestant number two if it seemed like Lucius was supporting him. And if his son wasn't chosen, he'd get more airtime since he'd be a guaranteed contestant in next week's episode. It was a twisted plan that Severus should have expected. Instead, he had just given them exactly what they wanted.
"Neville and Draco, I'm sorry, but fate has decided that you and Severus were not meant to be together," Lucius said, shaking his head sadly. "We look forward to seeing the both of you next week."
This was apparently the signal for the boys to leave the stage since the two waved and started to move away. Contestant number one, Neville, turned out to be a fairly tall brunette wearing a white collared shirt underneath a black and white vest and black trousers. Severus could grudgingly admit that Neville wasn't entirely repulsive. On his way off stage, Severus watched as the botanist managed to trip over some invisible object on the ground and barely catch himself. With a mumbled apology, Neville found his way over to Dumbledore, who patted the boy on the shoulder.
Severus rolled his eyes before turning to Draco who was snorted at the clumsy botanist and brushed off some lint from the left pocket of his grey suit. Severus watched the spitting image of Lucius Malfoy strut off stage and silently promised to one day get his revenge. When he heard Lucius cough, he reluctantly returned his attention to the host and purposely kept his eyes away from the third boy who Lucius was motioning forward.
"Congratulations, Harry Potter and Severus Snape, you've just been given 'A Chance at Love,'" Lucius announced cheerily.
Thanks so much for reading my first chapter! If you liked it, please let me know! I'm not entirely sure whether or not I want to continue, but if I see that people are interested in more, I will. :)
To those who read "Flirting With Guard Number Three":
I want to apologize for replying to my reviewers at the top of every chapter. I realize now that it was probably annoying for readers who just wanted to read the chapter, and I will not be doing so this time around. (I'll just recognize the usernames in the chapter and reply to the reviews privately.) I appreciate all of you who hung in there and finished the story despite the distraction and am happy to see you read another one of my stories. You're the best! :D