Harry peeked around the curtain.
"Do they need us yet?" Luna asked.
"I think it'll be a minute," Harry told her.
Snape strode onto the runway as if he owned it. The students in the Great Hall clapped dutifully, if not enthusiastically. He ignored this. "Welcome designers, though do I use the term loosely," he intoned. "We have thankfully reached the final challenge in this crime against education and good taste that your Headmaster arranged."
All the tables in the hall were arranged into one long table, on which the Potions Master stood. Like a buzzard, he glared down from his perch at Blaise Zabini, Ron Weasely, and Hermione Granger, who all sat looking up at him with, if not respect, then something close to interest.
After a disdainful sniff, Snape continued. "Tonight, I shall give you your last assignment in Hogwarts Runway, a contest devised ostensibly to raise money for various charities, though more likely put in place with the sole purpose of exasperating me."
Dumbledore heaved an audible sigh. "Severus, in the last week you've claimed that floral-print trousers, the Harlem Shake and sriracha sauce were all invented solely to exasperate you."
Giving a delicate shudder, Snape shot a dangerous look at the man. "You're mistaken, Albus. I claimed they were all three invented solely to exasperate any person who had the slightest shred of dignity and good taste. I do not claim to be the only person, yet how little surprise I would feel were it true. And sriracha sauce does not belong in sweets, whatever you say. Back to the matter at hand," he added, turning back to the contestants. "First, of course, we'll bring out your models, though I also use that term quite loosely. I suppose I could call them students, but that would be even further off the mark."
"That's our cue," Harry muttered. He, Luna Lovegood, and Draco Malfoy lined up on the makeshift runway. As Harry passed Snape, he couldn't help but gawk, his head twisted round, his eyes wide.
"Potter, why are you ogling me like a misbegotten owl?" the man snapped.
"You're wearing jeans," Harry breathed. "I've never seen you in anything, um, you know . . ."
"Fashionable?" Draco suggested.
"That fits?" Luna put in.
"Less than totally foul?" Ron offered.
"That made you look like sex on a stick instead of a great flapping bat," Harry blurted. He blushed brightly, realizing he'd said it in front of the whole school, but it was true. The Headmaster had forced Snape into a variety of bizarre and generally unflattering costumes during the competition, but they had all been proper robes. Snape's slender black jeans and tall leather boots were different from anything he'd ever worn.
"While I admire your ability to backhand a compliment, I should prefer we keep to the task at hand," Snape said.
Harry shrugged. He'd rather not have his libido whipped into a froth due to Snape in tight trousers anyway. The sooner he stopped thinking about it, the better off he'd be.
"At any rate, there are three designers left, and due to the unfortunate incident with Miss Abbott last week . . ." Snape paused significantly and studied Blaise Zabini through narrowed eyes as Blaise examined his fingernails, seemingly unaware of the scrutiny. "As you know, your model may make or break your outfit. Why Potter is still among them, I'm sure I can't say."
Harry's blood boiled. He hadn't wanted to be part of this embarrassing farce, but Snape had no right to say he didn't deserve it, not when he'd made the final three. "I am here because I am the most dedicated, the hardest worker, the sexiest walker . . . and the fittest bitch on this runway," he said, planting a fist on his hip. He glowered at Snape. "I know you think I got here on popularity . . . but even you've voted for me once or twice. Snape, I'm here because I'm fucking hot. And I'll prove it."
Snape's dark eyes slowly appraised Harry, taking in every inch of him, from his unruly hair to his blazing eyes and his defiant stance. Harry shivered. The Potions Master turned away. "We shall see . . . you each may choose from Potter, Malfoy and Lovegood."
Zabini looked up at this, raking his eyes over Harry and earning a glare from Draco.
Snape heaved a sigh and shook his head. "I have been informed that I must remind you that this is also a competition for your models. The model for the winning designer will receive a spread on the cover of Witch Weekly, a prize sure to make Potter even more insufferably vainglorious."
Harry and Snape glared at one another. "I'm not vainglorious," Harry asserted. "And yeah, I do know what it means." Then Harry realized that Snape believed he was going to win. He couldn't help but feel sort of smug.
"I have been told I cannot give you the vocabulary lessons you so desperately need during the competition hours, so I'll let that pass without comment for now," Snape told him. But even as he said it, he conjured a bit of parchment and scribbled the word down before banishing the paper. "But later, boy—"
Albus Dumbledore cleared his throat.
Snape recovered quickly. "Later, boy, you will suffer for my indignity with a pop quiz the likes of which the world has never seen," he finished.
Harry rolled his eyes.
"As you know, last week Longbottom was sent home due to the fact that his dress made Miss Abbott swell up like a pufferfish." Snape smiled. "It has not yet been determined whether this was an 'innocent' mistake or some sort of sabotage, but if sabotage is discovered, there will be a penalty to pay. And I will have the delightful task of punishing the perpetrator. Depending which one of you did it, there may be a paddle involved." Snape steepled his fingers and smiled thinly. The man's eyes bored into Harry.
Harry swallowed. Snape had threatened a lot of things before, but spanking hadn't been on the list. For some reason, the idea of being spanked made Harry see detention in a whole new light. Harry had long been attracted to blokes, but had never told anyone. Funny Snape threatening violence was making him reconsider his silence.
"Choose," Snape ordered. He held up the Sorting Hat. Ron reached in and pulled out a black sock. There were red sequins up the leg which read, 1st. He quickly chose Harry. Blaise chose Draco again and, of course, Hermione got Luna.
Snape looked indifferent. "And now it is time for your final challenge. The charm challenge. This challenge is about creating a glamorous outfit for evening . . . and you must incorporate charmwork of some sort. Be unconventional, but know the judges will be setting the bar high. Your materials will be in the work room."
The designers chattered excitedly at the news of the final challenge.
"Go on," Snape told them. "Be innovative. Work hard. And by all means, if you wish for death, go ahead and try cheating. I'll be watching you," he murmured as they left the room.
"Um, so why are you using the, er, what is this?" Remus asked hopelessly.
Blaise scowled. "It's sheep skin. And it has sex appeal. Why are you here, again? You're terrible at this."
Remus threw his hands in the air. "I don't know! Why do I have to be Tim Gunn?" he complained. "I don't know anything about fashion."
"You do look a bit like Tim Gunn," Harry told him earnestly. "You've got that studious, sexy-mentor thing going on."
"I don't! I'm not fashionable. I'm not sexy. I can't say words like 'egads' and retain a bit of gravitas! I'm not sassy. And I have a wife, you know. It's canon!"
Sirius poked his head around the door and waved wildly. "I can be Tim Gunn!" he shouted. "I'm fabulous! And I don't care at all about canon!"
"You're a judge. And we're almost to the end of the competition; you can't switch roles now. And you're not supposed to see us before we're dressed!" Harry yelled. "Out!"
Sirius went, hanging his head. Remus sighed heavily and turned back to Blaise. "So, sheep skin. I notice that, once again, you're going with darker colours."
Blaise shrugged, cutting his fabric. "I'm going for classic colours and a very sleek silhouette."
Remus tried to look like he knew what he was doing as he watched Blaise measure Draco's waist. "This outfit concerns me. It seems to me that it's not terribly different from your last few garments. Do you have any worries that tight trousers might seem a bit stale to the judges?"
Blaise gave the man a disgusted look. "Tight trousers never go out of style," he declared.
"Are you worried about the rumours and allegations swirling around that you sabotaged Neville's creation last week?" Remus asked.
Blaise looked furious. "I did not poison Longbottom's begonia baby doll dress. That woman had allergies." He chopped at his fabric murderously, sending bits of cloth everywhere.
Remus raised his eyebrows, but turned to Ron instead of pursuing the subject. Ron wasn't working on his outfit. Ron wasn't doing anything. "What did you think of the judges' decision to show one final outfit a piece, rather than a collection of twelve?" Remus asked.
"I thought, 'Thank God,'" Ron replied. He was sort of hunched over, arms crossed over his chest. "This whole thing is utter bollocks, and Fred and George keep winding me up about it."
"I see. You're aware that some people have said that you don't deserve to be here, that your model is 'carrying you,' so to speak?"
"WHAT? WHO SAID HARRY IS CARRYING ME? WHO SAID IT? I'M AS GOOD A DESIGNER AS ANYONE! I MADE THE FINAL THREE, DIDN'T I?" Ron roared.
"Ron, keep it down," Hermione snapped. She was busily making adjustments to her outfit. Luna toyed with a lock of her hair and daydreamed while Hermione tried to decide what length of dress she wanted.
"Ron, talk to me. Why don't you tell me about your final outfit?" Remus asked.
Ron looked huffy. "It's going to be a surprise," he said curtly.
"Doing something classy like velour, I expect?" Draco drawled, brow arched.
Ron steamed and Harry patted him on the shoulder. "Ignore him."
Remus gave up and continued to Hermione. "So, let me see what you're working on." She showed him a length of azure silk. "The judges have said your work is technically perfect, but somewhat conservative. They quite enjoyed the outfit you made from feathered quills—but you do have a tendency to play it a bit safe. What about this outfit is risky?"
"You know, there is something to be said for people who would rather be cautious than take wild chances," Hermione replied, peeved.
"Don't get upset; I'm rooting for you," Ron said.
Hermione smiled and Remus looked surprised. "You're rooting for the competition?"
"Well, if she doesn't win, Slytherin does, or even worse, I do." Ron shuddered at the thought. "I'm definitely behind Hermione one hundred percent."
This earned another smile from Hermione, but she didn't stop draping her dress. "I really think it could go either way," she said with a sigh. "I'm lucky because I have Luna as a model, and she'll wear absolutely anything, and as long as she doesn't stop to pick daisies on the runway, she does very well."
"But she did stop to pick daisies on the runway," Remus pointed out.
"Yes," Hermione said, heaving another great sigh and working on the skirt's hem. "Invisible daisies, so she said. But it only happened the one time."
"It concerns me a bit that Luna is so easily distracted," Remus said.
Hermione suddenly looked up with a bright smile. "I don't see it that way at all. In fact, she's the perfect foil for me; she's airy, she's relaxed, she's whimsical . . . she brings all that to the outfit she wears," Hermione said earnestly. "So this week, I'm playing to Luna's strengths."
"And what are you doing?"
"A goddess gown," Hermione said. "Sort of. Oh, damn. I need to rethink the trim. This doesn't look right at all."
"Well, I'll leave you to it, then. Work hard," Remus exhorted.
"Mmm," Hermione replied, comparing strips of lace and not really listening.
Harry grinned. "Make me pretty, too," he instructed Ron, who ignored him. He was scowling at his fabric as he held it up against Harry's body.
"What do you reckon?" Ron asked Remus. "I think it looks good."
"That red is fantastic," Remus told him. "You picked the perfect colour to play up his skin tone." Harry preened. "I think it will all come down to styling," Remus told Ron. "If you can get his hair under control, you just might have a win."
Harry stopped smiling and scowled, patting his hair. Across the room, Draco smirked. Harry stuck a tongue out at him, but Blaise was busily turning Draco's head this way and that, trying to get an idea about how to fix his collar, so Draco didn't see.
"Really? A win?" Ron said. "I'll have to sabotage it somehow. Thanks for the advice."
Remus put his hands on his hips. "You don't want to sabotage it!" he lectured. "I know we're doing this for charity, but the winning designer does get a small amount of money."
Ron perked up. "I didn't know that."
"It was in the contract!" Hermione said. "Don't you ever read anything? Why would you sign something you hadn't read?" she asked around the pin in her mouth.
Ron threw his hands in the air. "You bullied me into entering!" he said. "I didn't have a choice! How much money do we get?" he asked Remus.
"Fifty galleons," Remus replied, and Ron whooped and ran to find his scissors. "Hermione, did you really bully him into signing the contract?" Remus asked, giving her a disappointed look.
"Not really. I just said I wanted him to."
"Five hundred times," Harry muttered.
"Why?" Remus asked.
"It was for charity. And anyway, Harry wanted to do it."
"It sounded fun." Harry sighed. "But it's nothing like I hoped. Snape's not much like Heidi Klum."
"I should think not!"
Harry grinned. "I asked him, 'Snape, if I get kicked off, are you going "auf" me and kiss me goodbye?' and he said no, but he might actually off me, or at least give me a swift kick out the door. He wouldn't even fake a German accent for me."
Remus put his hands on Harry's shoulders and looked at him sternly. "Harry, I know you enjoy putting your head in the lion's mouth, but really, it's foolhardy to keep testing Snape like this."
Harry shrugged. Maybe Snape would take him more seriously if he won. He certainly seemed to have no aversion to looking Harry up and down, at any rate.
"Gather round, designers," Remus said, and they all obediently came over. "I just wanted to tell you how proud I am of you. You've made it to the final three, and that's nothing to sniff at! Now, you have until midnight tonight and two hours before the runway tomorrow. Good luck everybody. Don't forget; each of you needs to work a charm into your outfit this week. The judges will be looking for that, and they'll be judging you as much on your wand work as on your outfit! And don't forget to use the Madam Malkin's Accessory Wall very thoughtfully. All right?"
The designers chorused a 'Yes, Professor Lupin,' in response.
"Good," he said. "Carry on."
"You look great, Harry," Ron said. "Even if I say so myself."
"You think Snape'll like it?" Harry asked, admiring his red velvet cloak in the mirror.
"He'd better, the old grump. I want my fifty galleons," Ron said.
"What's your charm going to be?" Hermione asked.
"We're using a potion, actually," Ron told her. "I soaked the fabric in it last night. As Harry walks down the runway, the cloak will slowly disappear, leaving Harry in sexy low-cut trousers and a tight shirt. He's really going to sell it."
Harry would sell it. And maybe Snape would buy it. Harry hid a smile, eyeing his bum in the mirror.
"We're supposed to use charms," Blaise said from across the room. "That's cheating. You'll be disqualified."
Ron was disgusted. "Look who knows so much about cheating. Anyway, it's not. I clarified with Remus last night and he spoke with the judges, and it's allowed."
"I shouldn't worry too much," Draco told Blaise in a breezy way. "He's crap at potions and will probably balls it up anyway. Besides, they're going for provocative, and he's not going to out-sexy me."
Harry rolled his eyes. "Oh, please," he said.
"You're finished," Blaise told Draco. "You can get styled."
"Wait, I'm supposed to see Lavender first," Harry objected.
Draco wrinkled his nose. "I'm doing my own styling. You can't trust a Gryffindor to have good taste." He sauntered out of the room, his trousers showing everything, including, Harry would have bet, an extra pair of socks.
"I can't believe you painted leather trousers on him," he told Blaise.
Blaise smirked. "It's part of my charm. Quite literally. And anyway, Snape is going to like it," he promised.
Harry did not curse him. But he really wanted to.
"Ron. We have a problem!" Harry whispered. He poked his head out of the cloak and Ron nearly jumped a foot.
"Harry, why are you wearing the Invisibility Cloak?" Ron demanded. "It's three minutes until runway!"
Harry groaned. "There's something wrong."
"My red cloak wasn't the only thing that disappeared," Harry explained. "I was sitting there and Lavender was trying spell after spell on my hair, and suddenly she shrieked and told me to get out."
"What? Why?" Ron said, aghast.
"My entire outfit disappeared! I was sitting there in the altogether! She told me I was a pervert," Harry added, distraught.
"But I never put the rest of the outfit in the potion!"
"Well—well—I don't know what happened!" Harry said.
"This is Blaise's fault!" Ron snarled. He turned on his competitor. "You sodding cheat!"
Blaise looked at him coldly. "I'm hardly to blame for the fact that you couldn't brew a potion properly to save your life."
Ron's face went red with anger. He looked like he was about to pop. "You little—"
"How did you brew the potion? Are you sure you did it correctly?" Hermione interrupted, pushing herself between the two of them to prevent an actual fight. She winced when Ron glared at her. "It's only that you do rather have trouble with potions," she added in a small voice. "If we figure out where you went wrong, maybe I'll be able to help."
Ron let out a long breath, like a balloon deflating. "I reckon I didn't let it rest long enough. You're supposed to wait two days, but I didn't have two days. But . . . I really don't remember putting the rest of the outfit in."
Hermione looked sympathetic. "I don't think there's anything we can do now. Oh, Ron. I am sorry."
"What are you pitying him for?" Harry groaned. "I'm the one about to be starkers in front of the whole school!"
Before Hermione could respond, Draco swanned in, smoothing his hair, a wild-looking Luna trailing behind.
"Luna!" Hermione gasped. "What happened to your hair? It looks like you used treacle instead of mousse!"
Luna looked serene. "I had a bit of trouble with a swarm of doxies," she said. "But don't worry, they're all fine."
"Didn't Lavender style you at all?"
Luna shrugged. "Well, no. I was on my way when a cloud of doxies fell from the second floor, and when I finally got free and went to see her, she took one look at me and screamed and ran off sobbing. She's really quite silly, you know."
Hermione was absolutely panicked. Luna's hair was a tangle of wild curls with inexplicable bits of tree branches sticking out. Hermione tried to pick one or two of the leaves out, but the tangles were impossible. "I can't send her out there like that!" she wailed.
Ron patted her arm. "Maybe the judges won't notice," he said.
Harry hugged her. "They're judging on the dress, not her hair, and her dress is beautiful," he assured her. It really was. It was a lovely shade of blue and had been charmed to move, fluttering and rippling around Luna's frame. It looked like Luna was wearing a dress made out of sky. "I mean, they can't say you made an ugly dress."
"But styling counts," Hermione said.
Blaise sniffed, but didn't say a thing. Draco offered a sweet smile. "I think the best man will win." Everyone tried to ignore him.
"Anyway, at least she has an outfit. One the judges can see. I don't know what I'm going to do," Ron said. "It's not like I can send him out there naked."
Harry smiled. "I think I have a plan," he announced.
"Designers, welcome to the runway," Snape said in silky voice. "It's my duty, though not my pleasure, to introduce you to the judges. First we have the man who is known for doing bugger-all save being killed by a curtain; repulsive bully and all-around idiot, Sirius Black."
Sirius looked at Snape murderously. The students gathered to watch clapped anyway.
"Next we have a man known for his distinct lack of any kind of fashion sense whatsoever, your Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore."
Dumbledore waved merrily at the designers.
"And for our guest judge, we have the very . . . French Fleur Dela—er, Weasley. I expect that qualifies her for something, though I'm not entirely certain what. And of course you'll also have to please me, your stylish and decorative Potions Master. As always, I look forward to the opportunity to mock you, destroy your confidence, crush your dreams, and ogle attractive young men in improbably tight trousers." Snape smiled a wicked little smile.
"I still say that's unfair and he's biased," muttered Hermione.
Harry could not have cared less. His entire body felt flushed. Snape liked blokes! He'd just come right out and said so! There was absolutely no evidence that Snape was attracted to him, but at least it was in the realm of possibilities.
"Let's start the show," Snape said.
Draco was the first out, slinking down the runway like a cat. Harry thought he did look good, but the outfit was so like the others Blaise had designed that it probably no longer had an impact on the judges. If only Ron hadn't bollixed the potion, Harry might have stood a chance. Oh, well. He wasn't really there for the contest, anyway. In fact, the whole thing might work out in his favour.
Luna was next, gliding down the runway with her robes shimmering around her, drawing a few oohs and ahhs from the students. She reminded Harry a bit of a mermaid with her languid movements and the way her goddess gown seemed to float. Her eyes were big and spacey, but for once that only worked in her favour. Harry thought she looked quite ethereal. Of course, the twigs in her hair were odd, but Hermione had still done a damn good job of it.
"Your turn, mate," Ron said glumly. "I won't blame you if you back out now."
"I'm no coward." Harry lifted his chin. "We won't win, but I'm not backing out on you now."
Ron grinned. "Thanks, mate."
Harry threw off his Invisibility Cloak and strutted down the runway. His face was hot, but he didn't care.
"That's indecent!" Sirius yelped, covering his eyes. "It's child pornography!"
"He's eighteen," Dumbledore replied. Sirius responded by trying to clap his free hand over Dumbledore's eyes, but the man leaned away. "It's all in the name of fashion. Do try to lighten up."
"Exciting and risqué," opined Fleur.
"Entirely predictable given Potter's exhibitionist tendencies and constant need for attention and yet . . . unexpectedly appealing," Snape murmured.
"But he's not wearing any socks," Dumbledore complained.
Snape eyed Harry's nude body as the boy shifted his hips, then turned, flaunting his round, silky bum. "Well, I can see you managed to pick out some impressive accessories," Snape he said dryly.
"They're quite daring," Fleur said, "but a little, how do you say? Jiggly for my tastes."
Harry managed a wobbly smile at Snape, even though he was pretty sure he was blushing from head to toe. The entire Great Hall was filled with gasps and whispers, and, from the twins, wolf-whistles. Harry just did his best to make it to the end of the catwalk and back without dying of embarrassment.
Ron was waiting with the Invisibility Cloak backstage. "Here," he said, throwing it around Harry's shoulders.
"Thanks." Harry realized he was shaking a little. "I might just end up wearing this for the rest of my life." Well, desperate times called for desperate measures. At least Snape had noticed him.
"Here," Hermione said; she cast a Calming Charm on him. Harry let out a long breath and let the warmth and comfort of the charm wash over him.
"Thanks," he said.
"You're welcome. And Harry?"
"That was incredibly stupid."
Harry grinned broadly. "Yeah."
Remus popped his head in. "We're ready to announce the winner."
The six students stood nervously in front of the judges, painfully aware that all eyes were on them. At least, Harry was painfully aware. He could hear the Weasley twins catcalling him, and he tried to decide whether this was flattering or embarrassing. Eventually he decided it was definitely both. Draco, on the other hand, looked smug. Well, why wouldn't he be? Blaise had played it safe and it had paid off in spades. Luna looked like she ran headfirst into a bush, and Harry had gone out with literally nothing to show for Ron's efforts. Harry hadn't cared about winning, but he hated to lose to Malfoy.
Snape cleared his throat. "Miss Granger, your work was, as always, meticulously tailored. The judges also agreed that your styling was the best of the lot. It was a smart choice to go with something a bit wild, yet natural. It showed us that you could let your hair down, as well."
Hermione and the other contestants looked a bit flummoxed by this, but Hermione recovered quickly and let out a quavery, 'thank you.'
"Mr Weasley, I'm not sure whether your look was fashion-forward in the extreme, or merely a joke at the expense of an industry which takes itself much too seriously. I have my doubts because Gryffindors have such a feeble grasp of irony. But despite accentuating all your model's best assets, what he wore was not technically an outfit. And I'm not about to reward rule breakers with exhibitionist streaks." Harry looked disappointed, but Ron was obviously relieved. "I'm much more likely to punish them," Snape went on. There was a certain purr in his voice that made Harry look up. The corner of Snape's mouth curled up in a promise, and Harry felt much better.
"And Mr Zabini, your work was also technically flawless. Unfortunately, it was also uninspired. You didn't give us anything we haven't seen before," Snape continued. "This means you're out, Mr Zabini. As much as it pains me to say this, Miss Granger, you are the winner of Hogwarts Runway, and your charity, S.P.E.W., will receive one hundred Galleons, courtesy of Madam Malkin's."
The Great Hall burst into applause. Hermione looked stunned. Ron hugged her hard. "Well done!"
Draco looked outraged. "What do you mean Blaise is out?! He can't be out! I can't be out!" he said.
Blaise rounded on his model. "I told you wearing leather pants again was a mistake!" he shouted. "You can only do it so many times before it's no longer considered innovative or fashion-forward!"
"I can't believe I sabotaged all the competition for nothing!" Draco yelled.
"What? You bastard!" Blaise snarled. "Everyone thought I was doing it!"
"What the hell do you care? You wouldn't be here without me," Draco drawled. "I was trying to help you win."
"You could have got me imprisoned, you ass!" Blaise drew his wand and attacked, and Draco made a hasty retreat back down the catwalk, ducking curses the entire way.
"Well, good on you for giving it your, um, everything," Ron told Harry. He grinned at Hermione. "Better you than me, anyway."
Hermione laughed. "Are you sure you don't mind losing the fifty galleons?"
"Nah. Besides, it wouldn't be worth Fred and George following me about asking me to sew them pretty princess costumes," Ron told her. "Are you going to be all right?" he asked Harry.
Harry looked at Snape.
"Fifty points from Gryffindor and . . . detention, Mr. Potter," Snape growled. "In my chambers. Tonight." His eyes narrowed. "Perhaps some time on the rack would be a suitable punishment for your misdeeds."
Harry shuffled from one foot to the other. "I'd prefer to start with the spanking, it's all the same to you."
Snape blinked. "I . . . see."
"I'll bring a bottle of wine if you'll bring the paddle," Harry added cheekily.
After an interminable moment, Snape inclined his head ever so slightly. "Eight o'clock," he agreed.
"Did you just get a detention, or adate?" Ron asked.
"But—but—" Ron literally flailed a little, as though he was trying use his hands to shape his thoughts into words. "But you're not—I didn't know you even liked—that you were—you know—are you?"
Harry looked around. Snape might have been onto something with his complaints of Harry's exhibitionist streak and need for attention. He actually felt better than he had in years. There was something to be said for letting it all hang out. "Um . . ." he said. The room broke out into whispers. So they'd gossip about it. Let them. They did all the time anyway.
"You don't have to tell everyone if you don't want to, you know," Hermione said gently. "We can talk about it later, in private."
Harry shrugged. He was tired of pretending to be something he wasn't. "It's okay."
To his surprise, the audience began to applaud. Well, most of them, anyway. The Slytherins looked sour and a few of the girls looked rather devastated. Oh, well. If he was going to come out of the closet, at least he'd done it with style. "What can I say?" he added with a grin. "One day you're in, the next day you're out."