The Smiths' Weird Summer on the Continent
"You want me to do what?" Severus Snape gaped at his superior and then turned his head to glare at the boy beside him who had uttered the same words at the same time. "Shut up, Potter. The adults are speaking."
"This is about me, remember?" Potter stood his ground.
Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry, raised his hands in what he hoped to be understood as a soothing gesture.
"Boys," he repeated softly.
"This could be fun and a well deserved break for both of you if you found it in you to put your grudges aside."
It was Potter's turn to snort.
"The plan is quite simple," Dumbledore continued, ignoring the younger wizards' snorts. "After the dementor incident, Harry cannot be allowed to stay at Little Whinging. Since there is no truly safe place for him in Britain, he will spend the summer away, in Europe. Given his age, it is obvious that he needs an adult to travel with him. Severus, you really are the best choice. You will easily pass as his father."
"Definitely not!" shouted both younger wizards.
"I will not pass off James Potter's spawn as my own!" cried Snape.
Potter was equally upset. "I will not pose as the son of a man who hated my father!"
"It is necessary." Dumbledore leaned back in his chair and laid his hands on his stomach. "And I'm paying."
The teenage boy snorted. "My parents left me enough money. You won't tempt me with the promise of a free holiday."
"You are not expecting us to frequent youth hostels?" Snape looked at the old wizard suspiciously.
"Of course not! What makes you think I'm cheap? You may stay at any hotel you fancy." Dumbledore smiled broadly.
"I assume we'd have to travel the muggle way. What about first class tickets?" Snape watched the other man carefully as if looking for evidence that he was lying.
"Only the best for my favourite boys," the old wizard's smile broadened if that was possible.
"I'll do it." Snape nodded curtly.
"But you'll have to do it alone! I'd rather spend my summer locked in the dungeons than go on holiday with you!" Harry Potter insisted.
"Funnily enough that can be arranged," smirked Snape.
The boy paled visibly.
"I need an hour to get packed." Snape turned on his heel and stalked out of the office, robes billowing behind him dramatically.
"You have five minutes." Snape glared at the boy beside him before he knocked at the door of number four, Privet Drive.
"Why did you get an hour?" Harry Potter hissed back.
"Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi." Snape smirked self-satisfied at the bewildered expression of the boy. Obviously the teenager's Latin was not very good, which wasn't exactly a surprise since it was not taught at Hogwarts. "Hello, Mrs Dursley."
"Go away!" Petunia Dursley was even paler than usual.
"We will," Snape informed her indignantly, "as soon as the boy has packed his rucksack."
"I don't own a rucksack," the boy in question pointed out.
"You can borrow Dudley's," Mrs Dursley was obviously eager to get rid of the two wizards. "I'll help you pack."
They didn't make it in five minutes but thanks to Mrs Dursley's help in ten.
"Why do you get to carry a shrunken trunk in your pocket and I get only a rucksack?" The boy held up the small backpack accusingly. It was particularly shabby and one of the straps was torn.
"Because I can do magic and you can't."
"It would not hurt you to shrink my luggage."
"Of course, Prince Harry expects a lackey. Why am I not surprised?" Snape snorted.
"I don't expect a lackey!" protested the younger wizard. "All I expect is a bit of friendliness!"
"Well, maybe I do not wish to be friendly when I'm saddled with you." Snape sneered.
"For your information, if it wasn't for me, you wouldn't be here at all!"
"Ah, salt in my wounds. Of course I wouldn't want a quiet relaxing summer when I can spend it with your majesty. Don't potter about, Potter! We have to catch a plane!"
"Very funny," muttered the boy. "How can we leave the country anyway? I don't know about you, but I don't own a passport."
"Luckily brighter people than you worked on the problem." Snape showed two passports. "Ah, here is our bus to the airport."
"May I see it?" Potter asked eagerly once they were seated.
Snape looked sour, but opened the first passport and handed it to the boy.
"James Smith," the boy read out. "And what's your name?"
"That's none of your business."
"Okay, then I'll have to call you Dad, Dad." Potter smirked.
"What is mum called?"
"I need to know. What if people ask me? Tell me about Mum!"
"My mother is not called Terpsichore and she certainly did not leave me to learn to express herself in belly dance!" Potter was glaring again.
"How dare you abnegate the woman who put up with you in her belly for nine months!" cried Snape, drawing the other passengers' attention to them. "Who but the guy who lost the fight over who has to keep you when we divorced would know everything about her? Eh?"
"You did not fight over who had to keep me!" The boy cried. He looked ready to hit the older wizard.
"Of course we did! And we still would, had she not threatened to take my golf clubs if she had to take you." Snape crossed his arms. "I've been wondering recently whether those clubs were worth the trouble."
"You don't even know how to play golf! Liar!"
"I would play better if I had more time, but with a child like you," Snape shook his head. "I haven't played much since you drove away the last baby sitter."
"I don't need a baby sitter!"
"Says the boy who shaved the cat."
An elderly lady glared daggers at Potter. Snape looked smug.
Heathrow airport resembled the atrium at the Ministry of Magic. People were hurrying to and fro. Streams of newcomers added to the stream of travellers every ten minutes, when a train of the Heathrow express arrived.
Snape registered with glee that the boy was trying hard to stay near his hated potions master. He sped up a bit so that the teenager had to run to keep up.
"Are we late?" asked the boy while he jogged after Snape.
"Not at all."
"Then why do we run?"
"Pardon? I do not run! This is the natural pace for a person with purpose."
A group of youths who were babbling in a foreign language crossed their path and for a moment Potter was separated from Snape. The potions master craned his neck for the boy, but strode on as soon as he had spotted Potter shouldering the foreigners out of his way.
"Dumbledore will have your hide if you lose me," the boy pointed out when he had caught up with the older wizard.
Snape walked a bit slower.
"Be careful where you're walking, boy!" Snape huffed when Potter ran into him for the third time in a row before they were even through the first security control.
"Yes, Dad," muttered the teenager. He looked – sorry? Maybe the boy had manners after all.
Having been a spy for years, Snape slipped into the role of doting father without a problem. "You go first, Jimmy," he ushered the boy towards the muggle officer. No decent parent would risk going through the barrier first and having their child stay behind in case of trouble.
Potter glared daggers at him when the potions master used the diminutive but obeyed nevertheless.
"You have to take off anything made of metal. Earrings, belts, watches…" instructed the huge muggle who was keeping watch at the entrance of the gate.
"I don't own a watch," said Potter. The muggle looked at him pityingly. "And I'm not allowed an earring." He glared at Snape again.
"You will not disfigure your body with piercings." Snape nagged like he thought a father would.
"An earring is not a piercing," grumbled the boy, "and that you are unhappy with your tattoo does not mean I can't be happy with an earring." He put the rucksack on the conveyor like the muggle instructed him to do. Without difficulty, the boy walked through the metal detector and took his rucksack back on the other side of the barrier.
Snape put the muggle watch he was wearing for disguise reasons in the small plastic bowl the muggle guard held out. The muggle raised an eye brow when he spotted the tattoo on Snape's forearm. "It starts small and then it gets out of control," muttered the wizard as if in explanation. After removing his belt, he walked through the detector.
"Sir, please empty your pockets!" The muggle who guarded the metal detector was equally huge as the one at the conveyor belt and he was puffing his chest out to tower even more over Snape.
Snape stifled a sigh and rummaged in his pockets. Of course he did not take out his shrunken luggage. That had a notice-me-not charm on it. Something else must have caused the detector to play havoc.
Gooseflesh rose on the potions master's back when he slid his hand in his left back pocket – where he kept his wand – and his fingers encountered cool metal. A pocket knife! Somebody – Potter, who else – had slipped him a pocket knife. The wizard glared at the boy and, really, Potter was smirking at him!
Snape took the knife out of his pocket and handed it to the guard. "I'm sorry," he said politely. "I totally forgot about that." The guard threw the knife into a bin without taking his eyes off Snape.
"He has a stick in that pocket!" cried the guard from the conveyor belt.
With a sigh, Snape showed his wand. "It's only a wooden pointer."
"You're lucky they don't think you could take somebody's eye out with that thing," Potter chimed in.
Before Snape could react, the guard had taken his wand and thrown it into the bin.
First Snape did a quite accurate imitation of a stranded carp, and then he rushed to Potter's side. "Give me your wand!" he hissed. "I have to retrieve mine!"
"Certainly not!" the boy hissed back.
"Do you have any idea, imbecile," growled Snape, "what the punishment is for a wizard who causes another to lose his wand to muggles?" He made a kissing noise.
Potter paled. A bit shaky, the boy rummaged in his rucksack, but he didn't give the wand to Snape. He accioed the potions master's wand and slipped both into rucksack. "I will not travel with you when you can perform magic and I can't."
The boy had the cheek to look smug. "You're making a scene, Dad. Let's proceed, shall we?"
Snape decided to let the boy have his way for the moment. He could confiscate the rucksack later. The boy had to part from it when he put it into the luggage rack on the plane, hadn't he?
The flight attendant was a blonde, who Snape had to admit was charming in a muggle way. Her curly hair was gathered in a loose bun on top of her head, her lips were a little too red to look entirely businesslike and her skirt was definitely too short for somebody working during the day. The shortness of the skirt was, however, compensated by the height of her heels.
"Why don't you switch seats with your Dad," the blonde asked the boy. "Youngsters always like the window seat."
Snape gritted his teeth. He had never been on a plane before! He wanted to look out of the window!
"I'd love that!" Potter beamed at the woman.
Ready to strangle the muggle, Snape vacated his window seat. His only consolation was the fact that from the other seat the view of the woman's legs was definitely better. Her ankles looked… nice.
"Why don't you give me your rucksack?" the woman smiled at Potter. "I'll put it into the rack for you."
"I'd rather not." Where had the boy learned to look so innocent and shy? "I have chocolates in it that Mum gave me when we left." He swallowed hard as if trying to fight back tears.
"You have not!" snarled Snape. "Your mother left us when you were two because you were insufferable!"
Was Potter's bottom lip trembling? Who had known that the boy was a splendid actor?
"That was completely uncalled for!" cried the muggle. "Keep the rucksack, dearie. I'll bring you some pudding. Would you like that?"
The flight attended tottered away on her high heels. Later, Snape was the only adult passenger who was not offered a glass of champagne.
"Give me my wand now!"
It was incredibly hot in Southern France and Snape would give anything, well, a lot to be able to cast a cooling charm.
"I told you I won't have you do magic when I can't!" Potter sounded every ounce the insufferable brat he was.
"I need to unshrink my luggage!" Snape informed his younger companion through gritted teeth.
"I have hardly any luggage because you were pushing me. It's only just that you can't have yours."
"All our money is in my trunk!" Snape looked smug.
Potter bit his lip. "Promise that you won't use the wand for anything than unshrink the luggage."
"Certainly not! What if an emergency occurs?" The boy must have gone mental!
"Then promise that if I give you the wand, you will unshrink the luggage and then only use it in life threatening situations."
Snape made a dismissive gesture. "I can wait. You have to sleep at some point."
"I'm a teenager. I can go days without sleep." Potter stood his ground.
"No, you can't."
The boy rolled his eyes. "Have you never spent nights for some last minute studies before exams?"
"Only lazy morons do that. I could have sat my exams on any day." Snape informed the cheeky brat.
"Anyway," shrugged the boy, "lazy or not, I can stay awake longer than you can and when you fall asleep, I might wander off… What will Dumbledore do if you lose me?"
"I can stay awake as long as I want. There are potions for that."
"You brought that sort of potion with you?" Potter made a face. "Anyway; where are they?" He wiggled his brows.
Snape paled. His potions were, of course, in his trunk; in his shrunken trunk.
Snape knew when he had lost. "I promise to use the wand to unshrink the luggage and then put it away and only use it when necessary."
Potter tsked. "In life threatening situations," he insisted.
"In life threatening situations," Snape repeated with a growl. He could hardly wait to be subject to a situation where his life depended on killing Potter. Certainly he could arrange something. Maybe not the first day; Dumbledore would become suspicious.
The boy handed him the wand. They hid away behind some bushes and Snape unshrunk his trunk. That done, he put the wand into the trunk.
"Where do we go now?" Potter asked merrily.
"I suggest we find a hotel first." Snape replied sourly. The trunk was heavy; he could already tell that without having tried to lift it. "I think a taxi is in order."
They left their little hideout and Snape waved for a taxi. The taxi was an old Citroen. The French muggle driver muttered in rapid French when he opened the trunk for Snape to put his luggage into. Snape heaved the heavy trunk into the car and then sat beside Potter on the back seat.
"Take us to a hotel, please."
The driver looked at the wizards through the rear view mirror. "Eh?"
"Un hotel, s'il-vous-plait," Potter smiled.
"You speak French?"
"Ron and I looked some phrases up in our fourth year and you know Hermione when it comes to learning…" the boy shrugged.
"Ah, you thought you'd go hunting for some Beauxbaton skirts. They didn't care much about your fame, did they?" Snape leaned back comfortably.
"Actually it was Ron who needed a little French," the boy replied light-heartedly. "He liked Fleur Delacour."
"As if a girl like Ms Delacour would ever consider a Weasley!" Snape chuckled.
The boy chuckled. "You'd be surprised. Oh, she wouldn't consider Ron, but the way she looked at Bill…"
"Bill Weasley? Oh yes, he's quite the morsel, isn't he?"
"Should I be scared?"
"First of all, I meant from a woman's point of view and second, you are definitely not in Bill Weasley's league; so no need to worry."
"Aaww, you don't like me!" Potter batted his lashes. Snape could barely fight down the urge to hit him. "You will address me respectfully or not at all," he snarled.
Potter had the cheek to giggle. Snape would have liked to make another acid comment, but the taxi stopped in front of a shabby building. The neon sign was blinking at irregular intervals and spelled OT L.
"I refuse to stay here!" muttered Snape. He rummaged in his pocket and wriggled a bundle of banknotes so that the driver could see them in the mirror.
"Oh! Je suis desolé!" cried the man and drove on. A quarter hour he stopped again, this time in front of a big historical looking building. There was no neon sign, but an elegant metal writing which informed them that this was the Le Grimaldi.
Snape approved and when they had left the taxi, he handed the driver another note. The man carried the potions master's trunk up to the entrance.
The suite – yes, they had a suite not just rooms, courtesy of Albus Dumbledore – was large. It consisted of a comfortable living room with TV (Potter knew what that was) and a big balcony, two bedrooms on opposite sides of the central room, each with its own bathroom and the bigger bedroom (Snape's, of course) had a small office. Potter had tried to get the office, but Snape didn't fall for babbling about the internet.
Snape paid the room for a week in advance and was pleased that although Potter was gaping at the muggle who informed them of the price, the sum required barely made a dent into their purse. Dumbledore had been really generous.
"I'm really tired," Potter stood in the door of Snape's bedroom. The potions master wondered whether he felt threatened enough to use his wand. "Do you mind if we eat up here?"
"Dinner from the room service? Why not!" Snape decided to leave the wand where it was. "Why don't you order us a little something? I want to unpack my trunk since you won't let me press my shirts magically."
"They have an ironing service here."
"It says so," Potter waved a leaflet. "Did you know they have an indoor and an outdoor pool? I forgot my bathing clothes. Can we go shopping tomorrow?"
Normally Snape would have refused but since there was a chance that Potter would drown – which certainly counted as a life threatening situation – he agreed. "I haven't brought any either."
The boy didn't look as if he had expected the potions master to join him in the pool but he was wise enough not to say anything. "Unpack your things, I'll order dinner," the boy suggested before he retreated to the living room.
Snape was too busy with his underwear to listen to the boy making the phone call. Therefore he was quite surprised when he was presented with hamburgers and chips a little later. There were even two large glasses of dark brownish muggle lemonade he had never tried before.
"Potter!" he nagged as soon as the waiter had left the room, "Can't you do anything right? Hamburgers in a luxury hotel?"
The boy shrugged. "I wanted them and I got them. That's what I consider luxury." He dug into his food with relish. "Hey! They forgot the ketchup!"
"Why don't you call them and complain?" Snape asked acidly. He opened his burger to investigate what was in it. There was a sickly yellowish sauce on the meat. Was that supposed to be mustard? The slice of pickle looked slightly withered. "Where did they get this? The bin?"
"Hello? Suite 7. You forgot my ketchup. Yes. Hurry up, my burger gets cold. And my Dad would like fresh cucumbers instead of pickles. Can you do that?" Potter hung up.
"I'd like a decent piece of meat instead of this!" growled Snape.
The food seemed to put the boy in a good mood. "Tomorrow you may choose," he promised merrily.
The next day dawned bright and sunny. Snape was woken far too early by the clattering of tableware. He padded out of his bedroom in his gray nightshirt and made a point of yawning.
"When we buy swimming trunks, you should get some proper pyjamas," said Potter. He held out a cup of tea to the potions master.
"My nightwear is not of your concern, Potter," muttered Snape. He accepted the cup in spite of the acid remark. Although he had spent the night on the softest mattress he had ever seen, he was still not a morning person.
"True," conceded the boy, "but you have to admit that what you're wearing doesn't really fit into this hotel." He grinned lopsidedly. "Not that I have any better."
"Since the headmaster pays," smirked Snape and sniffed a croissant, "it may be wise to buy something nice for us both."
"Could be fun," grinned the younger wizard. He put a sinful amount of honey on his croissant.
After breakfast, Snape talked to the receptionist and got an address for a high quality clothes shop. They went to the old town of Nice in a taxi. It was so different from any British city either of the two had seen! There was a relaxed atmosphere to the whole area which put even Snape in a good mood.
They went for a walk with a bit of window shopping and sight seeing first and then enjoyed a light lunch in front of a small café before they went to Monsieur Alain's.
Monsieur Alain was an elderly muggle in a very elegant light summer suit who was bustling about his shop, supervising the assistants who were dealing with the customers. He had a friendly word for every shopper who came into the shop, no matter whether a rich gentleman came for a hand tailored suit or a tourist wanted a pair of socks to get one of Monsieur Alain's elegant paper shopping bags.
"Vous desirez?" a young girl asked when Snape and Potter entered the shop.
"Sorry," said the younger wizard and smiled winningly at the girl, "but we don't speak French. Do you speak English?"
The girl looked at her employer questioningly. Obviously foreign languages were not her forte. Monsieur Alain dismissed her with a wave of his hand. "I'm sorry," he said with only a little accent. "Genevieve is good with a measure tape, but her English is practically non-existent. What can I do for you?"
"We both need pyjamas and swimming trunks," said Snape. "although I'm not sure if this is the right shop for the latter."
"But it is!" cried the tailor. "The market for luxury swimwear is not very big, but we do make them."
A half hour later, Snape and Potter both had three pairs of silk pyjamas, Snape's black, Potter's green. They were just starting to look at the swimming trunks, when the boy paled. First, Snape was irritated when the younger wizard grabbed his wrist, but then he heard it, too.
"Mother! It's hot outside! Do I really need a tie?" The unmistakable whine of Draco Malfoy floated over to where Snape and his charge were looking at the swim wear.
"Yes, you do! A bit of heat is no valid reason to forget decorum!"
"But we are on holiday!"
Snape's spy instincts kicked finally in. He pulled Potter to one of the small stalls where muggles expected their customers to try on clothing. The potions master touched his index to his lips in a gesture of silence. Potter nodded.
They both perked their ears to hear whether Narcissa and Draco were alone and when they left.
Suddenly the curtain of their small hiding place was drawn back. Narcissa was even paler than usual.
"Severus!" she gasped. "What a pleasure to meet you. And – ," the witch paused, "you have company, I see."
That she didn't acknowledge Potter's identity, was a good sign. Probably Lucius was not around.
"Yes. I'm helping my son with his new clothes." It was lame, but if Narcissa saw an advantage in pretending she believed him, she certainly would. The woman was a Slytherin after all.
"I see. Your son," she looked at Potter pointedly, "needs help with his trunks."
"My, my, scar head!" Draco appeared beside his mother, holding a baby blue silk tie. "I had no idea your likings went that way."
Mr Alain, who had followed the exchange discretely from the side, looked scandalized. Snape could have throttled the blond. All they needed was a muggle trying to save a molested child. How far was Narcissa ready to go with their little game?
"Terpsichore," he snarled. "Did you have to come to Nice of all places? You know that I don't appreciate meeting my ex-wife on holiday."
"Since we have not spoken in years," Narcissa drawled lazily, "I had no idea you would take my other son here or John and I would have gone to Italy this summer."
"His name is James!" growled Snape. "Stop calling him your other son. Come, James, we'll get our trunks elsewhere."
"I haven't seen my brother in years!" protested Potter. "Can't we go for an ice-cream together or something? I'd like to hear about grandfather."
Snape had to admit, that Potter was cleverer than he had given him credit for. The boy was right. They could not afford to let Narcissa and Draco wander off and inform the Dark Lord of their whereabouts. Seemingly Narcissa thought something similar about them.
"We can stay peaceful for an hour, can't we?" she smiled winningly. "Let the boys talk a bit."
"So, Narcissa," Snape said after the witch had cast a silencing spell around their table in front of the small ice-cream parlour. He was going to throttle Potter later for withholding his wand. That was if he managed to hide his wandless status from the witch and thus survived long enough to get that chance. "What are you and Draco doing here?"
The witch looked uncomfortable. She looked at Potter. A muscle in her cheek twitched. Then she came to a decision. "The Dark Lord is scheming. Lucius thought it was wise to remove Draco from the manor for the time being. We are on holiday. And you?"
"Potter had to be removed from his home. We are on holiday." Perhaps this meeting would not turn out as catastrophic as it could. They could not afford, however, to let the Malfoys out of sight. "Why don't we join forces? Nobody would suspect any of us in a group of four."
Narcissa seemingly didn't plan to let them out of sight either. "That's a wonderful idea. I agree." Draco showed some true Slytherin spirit by nodding determinedly. Only Potter looked unhappy but was wise enough to keep his silence.
"We lodge at the Grimaldi," Narcissa informed them. "Why don't you move there?"
Snape crossed his legs. "Luckily we happen to have chosen the same hotel. That makes things easier."
"Not really. If we want to travel as a family, we have to share quarters."
"Potter and I have a suite. You could move in," Snape offered. Of course he knew that Narcissa would see right through his attempt of getting the advantage of having been in their shared quarters first. That way the witch couldn't put up any traps for him and Potter.
Narcissa must be more desperate than Snape could have guessed, because unlike any Slytherin she didn't put up a fight. "That will be acceptable."
On the way to their suite, Snape tried to prepare for the battle for his wand. Potter surprised him by making a beeline for Snape's trunk as soon as they had closed the door.
"Potter, what are you doing?" growled the potions master.
"Looking for your wand! You don't think that I will stay with two Malfoys wandless!" the boy rummaged in the trunk.
"Stop throwing my possessions about! I'll get it!" Snape reached into the secret pocket and retrieved the wand.
"There won't be any problems with your promise, will there?" the boy asked anxiously.
"Not if you release me from it."
"I do! I release you from your promise!" cried the boy. "Can I use my wand, too?"
"Since I have no doubt that Draco will be allowed his, you may use yours. But keep it to a minimum."
The boy nodded. Snape wanted to give him more advice, but there was a knock at the door and their new companions were there.
Narcissa Malfoy turned on the spot to take in every detail of the suite's main room. "Acceptable." The verdict came as a snap. "Is this the door to my room?" She pointed at the door to Snape's bedroom.
"No. That's my room." The potions master had no intention whatsoever to vacate his room for the witch. Seemingly Potter shared the sentiment. "And that's mine!" cried the boy and pointed at the other bedroom door.
"So," asked the witch icily, "where did you expect us to sleep? On the floor? On the balcony?"
Potter looked at Snape questioningly. The potions master returned the gaze unblinkingly.
"Draco could bunk in with me. My room is big enough," suggested Potter.
Draco's expression left no doubt what he thought about that. "You don't expect my mother to sleep with the professor, do you?"
Potter blushed at the ambiguity.
"Why don't you two share a room and I will share with Draco?" asked Narcissa.
"It would be highly inappropriate for me to share a room with a student," snarled Snape. "And we are talking about Potter."
"What are you suggesting then," growled the witch. She sounded impatient. "That you share with Draco? That would hardly be more appropriate than you sharing with Potter!"
"Since the professor can't share with any of us," drawled Draco, "why doesn't he take the couch here in the living room?"
"Certainly not! You forget that this is my suite!" cried the potions master. "I will keep my bedroom."
"Then Potter can take the couch and Draco and I can share the second bedroom." Narcissa smiled at Snape winningly.
"Since I am the reason we are here, I will not be the only one on a couch!" cried the boy.
Narcissa's smile broadened. "If that's the only problem, it can be solved easily. Draco will share the couch with you."
"As you wish, mother," Draco said meekly.
"Then it's settled." Snape forced a smile.
"Hey! Nothing is settled!" cried Potter.
"It is!" chorused the three Slytherins.
Potter knew when he had lost. "You will pay for that!" he growled at the potions master before he went to his room to retrieve his things.
Snape was up in an instant. He cursed under his breath when his toe caught on the seam of the bedside rug and he nearly toppled. A second curse left his lips when he reached for his wand to cast Lumos, but knocked it from the bedside table accidentally; a third, when he heard it roll under the bed.
If only it was a bit later, even the first light of morning would help in this situation! Snape knelt and reached under the bed. Luckily the hotel was in a high enough category to lack any dust under the bed. After some groping and tapping, Snape found the wand and lit it before he had pulled it entirely out from the bed. He got up and stomped to the bedroom door.
Pandemonium ruled in the main room. Potter was doing jumping jacks, accompanied by loud music and Draco's screams. Somebody had transfigured the couch into a real bed and the blond was tied to the bedposts with the silk tie Snape had seen him purchase the day before. Draco's face was crimson and he screamed at Potter to release him this instant.
Just when Snape was about to ask Potter explain himself, the other bedroom door opened and Narcissa burst into the main room. "Draco!" she cried and pointed her wand at Potter.
Snape could not let her curse his charge. "Expelliarmus!" The witch's wand flew from her hand and Snape caught it. "Forgive me!" he hurried to say, "But I can't let you do something you'll certainly regret later! – Potter, what is the meaning of this?"
"There's no better way to start a day than with a little gymnastic!" cried Potter. He had given up the jumping jacks in favour of pushups. "It keeps you in shape. – nineteen, twenty!" The boy got up from the floor and summoned a towel. "Ah! That was good! – Really Draco, you should stop screaming. Look what you've done! You woke your mother!"
"Release my son!" cried Narcissa. She sounded close to panic. "Severus, give my wand back."
"A little gymnastic?" Snape spat at the Gryffindor. "At," – he looked for a clock and found it on one of the muggle gadgets, VDV player or something – ,"three in the morning? Are you mental?"
"I do it every day!" huffed Potter. He strolled over to the telephone and ordered a glass of fresh orange juice from the room service. "Anybody want one, too?" He looked at the others expectantly. "It's possible you didn't hear it yesterday since I was in the other room." The boy had the cheek to smile apologetically.
"If you think you'll get one of the bedrooms this way, you are very much mistaken, Potter!" Snape stated icily. "I will cast a silencing spell on you."
Narcissa had meanwhile tiptoed past Potter and was working on the knot in Draco's tie. She had trouble undoing it with her long nails and without her wand. When she finally succeeded in freeing her son – Potter was distracted by his newly arrived glass of orange juice – the blond threw himself at Potter.
"You little piece of scum!" the blond cried as he punched the other boy as hard as he could. Potter dropped the glass. "How dare you creep up at me like this!" Draco sat on his capturer's chest and punched him on the nose once, twice, thrice before Snape reacted.
"Draco! Your behaviour is unworthy of a Slytherin!" hissed the potions master after he had cast a light freezing charm which kept Draco from moving fast enough to do any damage with his punches.
"I see why you felt compelled to act like you did," said Narcissa, "but I have to agree with Severus!"
Draco roared with frustration. "Release me! I want to knock his stupidity out of him!"
The potions master shook his head. "This won't work," he stated. "We're looking for a holiday house tomorrow. Prime condition: we need four bedrooms."
"I want access to the sea. A private beach would be nice." Narcissa held her hand out for her wand. When Snape handed it over, she turned the bed back into a couch and sat.
"I want a garden," said Potter.
"I want a pool," Draco pointed out.
"I'm sure we can find a house that suits us all," Snape grinned. Albus was not going to be happy about the amount of money they spent.
First the hotel manager was not thrilled when Snape asked for his assistance in finding a holiday home, but a simple spell made the muggle enthusiastic to help. A half hour later, an agent came to the suite to ask for the Smith family's wishes concerning their temporary home.
"Four bedrooms, a private beach, a pool, a garden and a bowling alley," the agent, a fat man with too much gel in his reddish hair, ticked them off on his fingers. "Anything else?"
"We need it by this evening," sneered Narcissa. The muggle opened his mouth, but closed it when she added "Money is not an issue."
Snape and the witch agreed with the muggle to meet him after tea to hear about the results of his search.
"Well," said Snape when the agent had left, "what shall we do today?"
"I want to go to the beach." Draco glared at Potter defiantly.
The boy shrugged. "Why not?"
Glad that the boys did not fight over how to spend the day, Snape and Narcissa agreed and not much later the Smiths arrived at a rather quiet, but still public bay. "No magic in front of the muggles," Snape ordered and the others nodded their agreement.
They changed into their swim wear behind a rock. Narcissa went first, Draco keeping watch for her. The witch looked breath-taking in her bikini, Snape decided. The powdery blue looked wonderful on her pale skin and went splendidly with her blond hair.
Snape went to change second and after a nasty glare and a minor threat, Potter watched out for approaching muggles for him. Snape's swim wear was, no surprise here, black. Personally, the potions master thought it was a bit too tight around his backside but Narcissa's approving smile convinced him the size was just right.
The boys both wore trunks that looked, as far as Snape was concerned, like boxers. Potter's were Gryffindor red and Draco's were pale blue. Was that silk?
Narcissa had spread a large blanket on the sand while the men changed. Snape helped Draco put up a sun shade.
"Shall we swim, scar head?" asked the blond boy when his mother signalled she was satisfied with the shade. Potter nodded and the two boys set out for the water.
"Don't drown each other," Snape said sternly.
Potter nodded and Draco smirked. Snape glared at the blond threateningly. First the potions master craned his neck to see what the boys were doing, but then Narcissa asked him to help her with her suntan lotion and the boys were forgotten.
After Narcissa was satisfyingly covered in suntan lotion, Snape reached under the waistband of his swimwear with his thumb and index finger and fished out a shrunken book. Making sure that no muggle looked in his direction, he unshrank the tome and settled down to read up on the use of ginseng roots. Chinese potions masters had been using them for over thousand years and Snape had wondered for years why the root was rarely used in potions commonly brewed in Britain.
"What else are you hiding in there?" Narcissa's smile was both, amused and teasing. Snape blushed. The blonde witch giggled. "What are you reading, Severus?" she asked.
The potions master handed her the book wordlessly as he feared his voice would give away his embarrassment.
"Ginseng? Isn't that a muggle vegetable? Lucius showed me an advertisement in a magazine.""
For a brief moment, Snape wondered which magazines his dark friend read that had ads for anything muggle in them. On second thought he didn't want to know. He spent the next hour explaining about the magical properties of ginseng and how some Chinese wizard had decided it was a good idea to make money by selling it to muggles.
"And the muggles are really brewing tea from it?" Narcissa laughed after Severus had explained the complicated process of protecting the root from losing its properties in the heat of a simmering potion. They both laughed.
"Speaking of heat," Narcissa said when she had calmed down, "I think we should head back to the hotel. I'm hungry and it's pretty hot here. Where are the boys?"
Snape put the book back into his swimwear and got up to see better. Draco and Potter were nowhere in sight.
"What have they done now?" the potions master muttered. A little louder he informed Narcissa. "I can't see them. I'll go looking for them over there, a little to the right. Can you take the left side of the beach?"
The witch agreed. Together they packed the blanket and the sunshade and then went looking for the boys. Snape was not sure whether he should hope to find those irresponsible youths or whether he'd prefer Narcissa to find them. The witch would certainly go softer on the teenagers.
He had no time to actually decide on the question, since he heard Draco's voice from behind some rocks. "Really, I'm telling you we are twins! What else can we be when we're brothers and both sixteen years old?"
"You must be kidding!" giggled a girl.
"Believe me, being related to HIM is not something I would joke about." – "Hey! Be nice!" – "What, are you going to tell Mum?" Snape could practically hear Draco's smirk. "No, I was thinking about telling Dad," Potter snarled back. "He's Daddy's little darling," Draco informed the girl.
"Boys!" growled Snape as he rounded the rock. "Be good! James, John, your mother wants to go back to the hotel!" He was stunned to find that the boys were surrounded by no less than 6 muggle girls in bikinis.
"Do we have to?" pouted Draco. "We're old enough to stay here on our own. We'll find our way back alone, won't we, Jimmy?"
"Please, Dad!" whined Potter. "Johnny is right! We will find our way back alone!"
Snape snorted and pointed in the direction of the hotel wordlessly. When neither of the boys reacted, he snarled "Now!" and gave them his best professional glare.
"We have to go anyway," said one of the girls. The others nodded and followed her in the opposite direction Snape was pointing.
"Did you have to do that?" asked Potter. He sounded disappointed.
Draco grinned broadly at the other boy. "Was that the first time you managed to talk to a girl?"
Snape was not fast enough to intervene when Potter hit the blond.
To make matters worse, there were muggles around every single step of the way back to Narcissa. All Snape could do was give Draco a handkerchief to press against his bleeding nose and glare daggers at Potter.
"What happened?" screeched the witch when she caught sight of her son. "Dr… John! Who did do this to you?"
The blond boy pointed at Potter wordlessly. "He started the fight!" Potter muttered defiantly. Narcissa's eyes narrowed dangerously and Snape made a mental notice to warn Potter not to accept food or drink from the witch for the rest of their holiday.
Once they had reached the privacy of their hotel room, Narcissa healed Draco's nose. As soon as the blond was painless, he lunged at his opponent who retaliated for all he was worth. Within a moment, the boys were rolling on the floor, kicking, hitting, biting and scratching.
The sight was eerie, decided Snape, since neither of the boy made a single sound.
"Severus, do something!" screeched Narcissa.
The witch's outcry woke Snape from his stupor and he pointed his wand at the still fighting boys.
"Don't hurt Draco!"
"I won't hurt either of them," growled Snape and cast a simple but effective spell to end the fight. The boys' movements became slow and their eyes wide with horror.
"What did you do?" asked the witch with interest.
"Weight-tripling charm." Snape smirked. Both boys lay on the floor, panting heavily. "You will cease fighting immediately and you will promise not to start again. As a punishment, your wounds will not be healed." Snape looked down at the bleeding boys sternly. Potter had got a black eye and Draco's nose was bleeding again. Both had scratches on their arms and legs. "Nod if you agree and I will lift the charm."
Both boys glared at up at the potions master stubbornly. Neither of them nodded. Snape shrugged. "Would you care for a drink while we wait, Narcissa?"
"Yes, please. A glass of champagne would be nice."
Snape ordered the champagne and poured them two glasses. The muggle who brought it looked bewildered at the two boys lying on the carpet, but said nothing when Snape handed him a generous tip.
"This is too stupid," said Narcissa when she was halfway through her second glass. "I know Draco. He will never give in."
"I'm afraid Potter is just as stubborn," sighed Snape.
Narcissa smiled. "Allow me." She pointed her wand at the boys and then took another sip of champagne.
"I give up!" cried Draco less than ten seconds later. "I'll behave!"
"I, too! I, too!" agreed Potter.
Narcissa pointed her wand again. "Go, take a shower and make yourselves presentable. The agent must be here soon. Draco, you take my bathroom, Potter takes Snape's." The boys obeyed without hesitation.
The witch and the potions master sipped their champagne in silence for a while until Snape broke it.
"What did you do?"
"Pant shrinking charm."
When the boys remerged from the bathrooms, the agent was already there. Snape and Narcissa were looking at pictures of two houses. Narcissa was holding pictures of a spacey villa in light blues and white.
"I prefer this one," the witch was saying when Draco sat beside her and Potter sat in the only unoccupied armchair. "It has everything we said the house should have."
"But my bowling alley," growled Snape. He was holding pictures of an obviously older house. It looked less airy and in need of a renovation.
"I wasn't aware you bowl," nagged Narcissa. "Anyway, we will not move into that gloomy place. This one," she shook the photo she was holding, "has a nice cellar. You could indulge in your other hobby."
"That's not my hobby, but my job! I want my bowling alley!"
"I agree with Mother," Draco made himself heard.
Snape looked at Potter for help. The boy grinned. "Can you teach me how to bowl?" he asked innocently. Snape didn't really wish to teach the boy anything but he was aware that he couldn't win against two Malfoys unassisted. "Of course, James." Snape forced a smile.
"In that case I want the house with the bowling alley." Potter smiled broadly.
"No!" Narcissa all but stomped her foot.
The agent followed the exchange silently.
Snape was thinking frantically. How in Merlin's name was he to outwit two Slytherins out of a long line of Slytherins? Narcissa and Draco had both imbibed Slytherin cunning with their mother's milk and Snape had the handicap of a Gryffindor as his ally.
Said Gryffindor turned to the agent. "We'll take the house Dad wants."
"How dare you!" Narcissa cried. "This discussion is not over!"
Potter crossed his legs. His nose was a bit red from a sun burn. Snape decided he'd have to heal it later, when he took care of Potter's black eye. "It is," smiled the boy. "Dad and I want the house. You want the other. Dad and I are moving into ours, you can move into the other. It won't be me who has to explain why we didn't stay together."
Snape made a mental note to never underestimate the boy again. Why hadn't he thought of it? If the Dark Lord ever learned that Narcissa had met Potter and not followed him, the witch was as good as dead.
"Where do I sign?" the potions master asked the agent.
A quarter hour later, Snape called for somebody to help them with their luggage.
The house was perfect as far as Snape was concerned. It was situated between two hills, with the sea barely fifty meters from the front. The back was guarded against curious passers-by by a vast garden which was surrounded by a fairly high brick wall and huge trees. The only access to the estate was a gate in the wall. Any visitor had to cross the parklike garden and follow the gravelled driveway around the house to the front. There was a pool which was covered by blooming bushes from anybody using the driveway.
The house itself wasn't half as gloomy as the pictures suggested. It had not four but six bedrooms on the upper floor and apart from the rooms one could expect from a house, it had a small library with surprisingly well chosen muggle literature and the bowling alley Snape had wanted.
Since there were so many bedrooms, the discussion over who would take which was only short. Narcissa and Draco took rooms with windows to the sea. Potter wanted the third front room. It turned out that their trip to the beach had been the first time Potter had seen the sea. Snape agreed easily to taking a bedroom with a garden window. That he was the only one with a room on that side of the house meant that his room had to be especially peaceful and quiet. The potions master chose the room farthest from the pool.
The next few days were more peaceful than Snape had dared hope. Narcissa and Draco spent most of the time at the pool. Potter preferred the sea for swimming. Snape spent his mornings at the beach to make sure the boy didn't drown. Part of him wanted to shoo him to the pool where Narcissa could keep an eye on him, but Potter was so enthusiastic about the sea that Snape couldn't begrudge him the simple pleasure.
In the afternoon, Snape taught Potter how to bowl. Although the potions master had to admit that the boy was not hopeless at it, the lessons were an ordeal. Potter had a way of trying to take aim that drove the potions master crazy. It looked like Potter was wriggling his bottom at him!
"Potter, how difficult can it be to stand still while you try to decide where to place your ball?" snapped Snape when the boy did it again. "You look ridiculous!"
"It's easier like that!" insisted the boy.
"Nonsense! I can't believe that I'm wasting my time trying to teach someone so slow!"
"I'm not slow!" cried Potter. He turned and glared daggers at Snape.
"You are! You're doing it again!" Snape pinched the bridge of his nose. "Ridiculous!"
"Don't call me that!"
"But he's right," drawled Draco from the door. The blond was wearing his swimming trunks and had a towel thrown over his shoulder lazily. "You look ridiculous."
"Go ahead if it's so easy!" cried Potter. He stomped over to the blond and shoved the ball at him. If Draco found it heavy, he didn't show it. "Why not?" he drawled lazily. "Hold that, Potter." He handed the Gryffindor his towel.
Snape had no idea whether Draco had ever bowled before, but seeing that he was a pureblood wizard, he probably hadn't. Nevertheless the blond looked as if he had been born for this activity. He went up to the alley gracefully, stroked the ball once before he took some steps back to give himself more room and then threw it in a smooth, elegant movement (and without wiggling any body parts unnecessarily).
All ten pins fell. Draco turned around, took his towel back from a speechless Potter and left with a small smile at his potions professor.
Snape spent the next couple of afternoons reading by the poolside.
Snape should have known that nothing good was meant to last forever. It started harmless enough; Potter had cooked five days in a row and Draco had cleaned away the dishes (at Narcissa's orders, of course). Potter cooked the muggle way and, surprisingly, he did a splendid job. Snape was astonished that somebody as inapt at potions as the boy could cook so well.
"I will not cook tonight," Potter said on the sixth evening and it seemed fair to agree to dining out after the boy had done most of the work for the best part of a week.
Snape took the group to a nice little restaurant in the city. They ordered French dishes, coq au vin, bouillabaisse, blanquette de veau and, for dessert, crème brulée. Narcissa was in a good mood since the waiter had suggested Snape was taking out his three children for dinner. She explained the dishes to the boys and entertained them with little stories about the history of some.
Snape enjoyed his fish stew and listened to Narcissa's story about how a French witch had developed the recipe in the Middle Ages. For once, Draco and Potter were behaving properly. There were no snide remarks or hidden stabs. The potions master let his eyes wander over the other patrons. That was when he saw them.
Narcissa realised at once that something was wrong. She looked in the direction Snape was looking and froze, too. There, at a small table in the corner, were Jonathan Jugson and his wife, both death eaters, close friends to the Carrows! Luckily they hadn't seen Snape and his group yet.
"Out of here, now!" whispered Snape. He put a generous number of banknotes on the table and led the way out of the restaurant. Narcissa and Draco followed immediately as it was to be expected of Slytherins, Potter came last, but luckily quick enough.
Snape signalled a taxi – they didn't know whether the Jugsons had spells up to alert them to magic – and went straight back to their house. On the way, Narcissa and Snape discussed in hushed voices what to do. There was, of course, only one way of action. They had to leave the area immediately.
Once back at they house, they told the driver to wait, packed their trunks hurriedly and went to the airport within the hour.
Narcissa bought tickets for the first plane they could catch and barely three hours after they had seen the Jugsons, was Snape's group on a plane to Vienna.
"Does anybody know how Vienna is in July?" asked the witch. "I've never been there."
Snape shook his head. "I don't even know anyone who has been there."
"That's good, isn't it?" asked Potter. "If any death eaters went there on vacation regularly, you'd know, wouldn't you?" Maybe the boy had a brain after all.
Once they were safely on their way, Snape's spy reflexes kicked in. He ordered a blanket, wrapped it around his frame and slept while he could.
It was still dark when they landed at Vienna airport. "What now?" yawned Draco as they left the customs area.
"A taxi, I think," muttered Narcissa. She pointed at a sign directing the way to the taxi area tiredly.
Snape led the way outside. He just hoped the driver knew a proper hotel. In spite of his nap, he was deadly tired.
The hotel they were brought to was smallish and didn't look particularly luxurious from the outside, but Snape was too tired to argue with the driver. Neither Narcissa nor the boys objected when he slouched inside after the driver and their luggage.
"Guten Abend!" an old man greeted them at the reception desk in a strange sing-song voice. "Was kann ich für Sie tun?"
"Do you speak English?" the potions master asked tiredly.
"Of course," the Austrian switched languages without batting a lash, but he never dropped the sing-song intonation. Snape assumed it was typical for the city of Vienna. "What can I do for you?"
"We need rooms. Four singles, preferably," explained Snape.
The receptionist consulted his computer. "We have two single rooms, and one double. I'm sorry." The man looked as if he was going to cry over being unable to fulfil Snape's wish.
"That will do," yawned Snape and the Austrian produced three keys, two with blue and one with a green key ring.
Narcissa was fastest. She seized one of the blue keys, but Snape came in second and snatched the other blue key just from under Potter's nose. Draco took the third key with a sigh while Potter was still pouting.
"I'm very sorry, but our carriers don't work at this hour. Can you help the lady with her luggage?" continued the Austrian.
Snape nodded that, yes, he was going to take care of Narcissa's bags and took the group to the lift.
Their rooms were all on the third floor and everybody's assumption that the key ring colour had something to do with which kind of room it was proved wrong. Snape had the key for the double room. Grudgingly, he allowed Potter inside.
There was only a double bed in the room, but Snape couldn't have cared less. He was deadly tired. Without much further ado, he slipped out of his shoes and collapsed onto the bed in his clothes. Let Potter decide whether he wanted to share a bed with his teacher. For all that Snape cared, the boy could have slept on the carpet.
Snape woke to uncomfortable warmth and a blinding light. It took him several moments to figure out where he was.
They had forgotten to close the curtains when they arrived and now the sun was shining Snape right into the eyes. That was the simple part. Figuring out where the warmth came from was more difficult. Snape only caught on when he identified an arm that was wrapped around his waist and a hand sprawled out on his chest.
"Potter! – ARGH!" Snape yelped with pain when the startled boy's knee collided with his behind.
"What?" Potter rolled away and returned with his wand in his hand at surprisingly speed.
"Remove your hand immediately! Thinking of it, remove yourself immediately!" snarled Snape. He wriggled his whole body to shake Potter off. The audacity of the brat! When he had returned with his wand – was that meant as a protective gesture? Snape decided to leave the idea for later examination – the boy's hand had landed on Snape a little more south.
"I'm sorry, Professor!" stammered Potter as he scrambled away from his enraged teacher. "I'm so sorry! Really! Terribly sorry!" The boy's face was crimson.
"You are not responsible for what you do in your sleep," Snape said with as much dignity as he could muster.
"Will you tell Professor Dumbledore?" asked Potter.
Dumbledore? Potter woke with his hands all over his potions professor and all he thought about was Dumbledore? Snape suppressed a snort.
"I won't tell if you don't."
The boy nodded and Snape sealed the pact. "Not a single word to anybody. Least of all the Malfoys."
Harry's eyes widened with horror. "Not a single word," he breathed.
Snape nodded. "Let's see where they serve breakfast in this house." He cast a refreshing charm on his clothes and then on the boy's. Thanks Merlin they had both slept in their day-wear! The potions master gestured at the door invitingly and let Harry precede him.
They were allies now.
"That driver took us to a hole!" Draco and Narcissa were already waiting in the lobby. "They don't even serve breakfast here!"
"Why don't we find a nice restaurant and later a better hotel?" suggested Snape. "Sharing with Harry was okay for one night, but I really don't wish to repeat the experience." He made a face and extended a hand towards the door. Narcissa smiled at him graciously and lead the way outside.
"It's Harry now? What did you do?" Draco whispered to Potter behind Snape's back. Only years as a spy enabled Snape to ignore him. Whatever the blond was thinking, if Snape reacted, Draco would only feel confirmed in his suspicion.
Although the hotel was very simple, the area it was in turned out to be quite nice. The houses were old, but in a good condition. Snape felt like lost in a different century. Narcissa seemed to like the area, too. The witch looked around in awe, pointing her companions at small details of houses again and again.
"I can hardly believe it's a muggle area! Look! Doesn't it look like Diagon Alley?"
Surprisingly, Draco seemed to share his mother's enthusiasm. Snape had never taken the boy for interested in architecture. "Did you see that decoration between the windows?" Draco pointed up a house. "Charming!"
Snape and Harry shared a smirk and a wink while the Malfoys discussed the statue of a woman. Luckily they found a small coffee house a quarter hour later. Strangely enough, the waiter was wearing a tuxedo in spite of the early morning hour.
"Sie wünschen?" the waiter greeted them. He was speaking in the same singsong voice as the man in the hotel. This time it was Narcissa who asked the man to speak English. The man nodded. "Just a moment," he hinted a bow and disappeared to return with an English menu a moment later.
The menu was not very helpful. It held over twenty different kinds of coffee! Narcissa read out what was in them, but it was Snape who found the solution. He signalled the waiter and ordered breakfast for four. "I'll leave it to you to choose the dishes for a typical Viennese breakfast," he informed the man.
The waiter returned a little later with a huge tray. "Scrambled eggs, sausage, cheese, jam; rolls and whole wheat bread; and I took the liberty of bringing you four different coffees. This one," he pointed at one cup, "has a little brandy in it. You may not want give this to the young gentlemen."
Snape seized the indicated cup at once. It wouldn't be good to let Harry get drunk and the boy was a Gryffindor after all, ally or not. While he took his first sip, the waiter explained about the small assortment of cakes on another plate.
Breakfast was delicious and very rich. Snape was sure he was not going to be able to eat lunch. Pleasantly full, the four set out for their hotel only to discover that they had no idea where it was.
"Great!" nagged Harry. "Has none of you geniuses thought to pay attention where we were going while you were discussing plaster?"
"Well, at least we were sightseeing. What were you doing? Ogling Snape?" snapped Draco.
"I did not!" cried Harry.
"Stop quarrelling! We need to ask somebody." Snape glared at the boys. Of course there was no muggle around when you needed one.
"Over there!" Narcissa pointed down the street. A blonde woman had come out of a house and was walking away from them.
Snape reacted at once. With as much dignity as possible he hurried after the woman. "Excuse me!" he cried when he had caught up to her. He touched the woman's arm gently. The collision of the woman's handbag with his solar plexus took the wind out of Snape's lungs. "Can you help me?" he groaned.
"I'm sorry!" cried the woman when she understood that Snape was not a robber. "Did I hurt you?"
Snape glared at her angrily. Hurt? That was an understatement! "You…!" He closed his mouth when their eyes met and he looked into the most brilliant green he had ever seen.
"Yes?" the woman had the audacity to ask mockingly. Her blond curls dangled merrily as she cocked her head.
"I'm not hurt." Snape had to use all his strength of will to not gape openly at her.
"What is it then that you need, if not medical aid?" the woman – or rather the girl – smiled warmly at Snape and not gaping became even more difficult.
"I can't find my hotel," Snape admitted, feeling unbelievably stupid. "It must be about ten minutes walk from here, but I can't remember where."
"Hm," said the girl with another small smile, "what is your hotel called?"
Snape blushed. "I don't remember."
The girl raised her brow. "That complicates things. Do you have your key? If we're lucky the name is on it."
It was not.
"Can you describe the hotel?"
By that time, Snape wished the ground would swallow him whole. "It was night when we arrived. The only thing I remember is that the carpet in the lobby is blue."
Surprisingly, the girl smiled brilliantly. "The man at the desk is about fifty, quite chubby and has grey hair? He wears square glasses?" Snape nodded. "That's Karl. He works at the Black Raven. I can show you where it is," the girl continued merrily. "It's on my way."
Snape turned and signalled the others to follow. The girl looked a bit – was that disappointment? – when she spotted Narcissa. "That's my ex-wife and our sons," Snape felt compelled to explain. "The blond boy lives with her, the black one with me, and they begged to be allowed a holiday together." Snape blushed. Why was he telling this to a complete stranger?
"That's very nice of you then, to spend a holiday with your ex for the boys." The blonde beamed at the potions master. "I'm Capella. Nice to meet you!"
"I'm Severus," the potions master couldn't but smile back. The girl's good mood was contagious. He was just glad that the others couldn't see his face. Potter would never let him live down the fact that he was beaming at the blonde.
The Black Raven was just twice around the corner. The girl greeted the man at the desk as she ushered Snape and his group inside. The boys and Narcissa hurried upstairs to pack their things. They really needed a better hotel. "Would you like to have lunch with me later?" asked the blonde when Snape didn't hurry after them immediately. "I could pick you up here."
"We're moving to a different hotel." And there it was again, that look of disappointment. Snape swallowed hard. "But what about we meet for dinner somewhere?"
"I know a nice restaurant that serves typical Austrian cuisine," suggested Capella. "I can give you the address."
Snape nodded. Merlin, what was it with this woman? He felt like a hormonal teenager! With a smile, he took the card she was holding out. "Waldviertler Hof," he read out. "Is it good?"
"Would I take you to a bad restaurant?" laughed the girl. "Bring your family."
It was Snape's turn to feel disappointed. It must have shown on his face, for the girl leaned closer and whispered "They can sit at another table. – I'll meet you there at seven."
"Snape has a girlfriend! Snape has a girlfriend!" Narcissa smirked at the potions master as the boys chanted at him in the hotel corridor in front of their rooms.
"She's not my girlfriend!" snarled Snape. "And since you seem to think you have a right to tease me, you won't be allowed to come along to dinner with her tonight."
The boys answered the threat with a new chant. "Snape has a da-ate! Snape has a da-ate!"
The potions master glared at them angrily and disappeared in his room. Since they had never really unpacked their things, he was finished with his packing within seconds. All he had to do was gather his bags and make sure he didn't forget any. He whirled around when the door to his room was opened and Potter came in.
"Did you come to tease me further?" the potions master growled.
Potter snickered. "Let us tease you a bit! She looks good." He winked and grabbed his bag.
Karl wrung his hands nervously when Snape asked him to check them out and call a taxi, but did as he was asked.
The taxi driver was a huge black, who didn't speak English. Snape waved a bundle of bank notes and snarled "Hotel!" The driver understood that and took them to a luxurious hotel behind the opera house.
The first thing Snape noticed about the Sacher was the fact that two servants took their luggage before they had even asked for rooms. "You are lucky," they were informed, "that a guest had to cancel his reservation; otherwise there wouldn't be the slightest chance to get a room here at short notice."
The suite they got was magnificent. There were not only four bedrooms, but also two drawing rooms and a luxurious central room. Breakfast, they were informed, could be served in the suite or at the hotel restaurant.
Snape withdrew into his rooms and let Narcissa deal with the hotel staff. Were the boys right? Was it a date he had with Capella? And, was it wise to start dating while he was trying to keep Potter away from the Dark Lord? He fell asleep while he was pondering what to do.
Snape woke abruptly when somebody touched his shoulder. His spy reflexes kicked in immediately and he nearly took out Harry's eye with his wand.
"Ho, Snape!" cried the boy. "Keep calm! I was just going to ask when you plan to have dinner."
"At seven," moaned the potions master. "What's the time?"
"Five to," drawled Draco from the door. "You'd better hurry."
"A taxi!" cried Snape. "I need a taxi!" He dashed at the door, past the blond and out of the door. The others caught up with him in front of the lift. "I said you are not coming!" snarled the potions master.
"You need us," Narcissa pointed out with an air of superiority, "to take the blame for your tardiness. – I suggest you do something with your clothes."
Snape applied a quick ironing charm to his shirt. Narcissa was right. It wouldn't do to turn up at the restaurant in slept in clothes.
Several taxis were waiting for customers in front of the hotel. Snape jumped in and showed the driver the card Capella had given him. "Fast!" he cried and waved his bundles of bank notes. The driver put his foot on the accelerator and took off immediately. Potter cried out in protest as he just managed to pull the door closed.
It was nearly half past seven when the taxi stopped in front of the restaurant. It looked neither luxurious nor special in any other way from outside. Narcissa turned up her nose as she led the boys inside after the potions master who had dashed inside without as much as a glance at the menu beside the door.
The small group caught up with him several steps inside where Snape had been stopped by a waiter wearing a long Slytherin green apron.
"Ah, you're Miss Capella's guest," said the waiter when he spotted Narcissa and the boys. He signalled a colleague who hurried to his side immediately. "Table 3 in the yard for the lady and the boys," he instructed the other man before he turned back to Snape. "I'm very sorry, Sir, that we were unable to provide a table for five on such short notice. Miss Capella hopes you don't mind."
"Not at all," Snape said with as much dignity as he could muster. The boys had been right. This was a date! He followed the first waiter through several small rooms, each equipped with a half dozen tables, only half of them occupied by patrons. In the last room, only one table was taken.
Capella wore a turquoise dress and looked positively stunning. She was taking a sip of red wine when Snape entered.
"I'm very sorry I'm late," apologized the potions master before he sat. "I fell asleep and the boys wouldn't wake me before it was too late."
"Never mind," smiled the blonde. "You're here. That's all that counts. I took the liberty to choose for us both in the meantime. You don't mind?"
"I wouldn't have known what to choose anyway," admitted Snape. "I have no idea of the Austrian cuisine. I will enjoy being introduced to it by an expert."
"Good," smiled the girl. "Thank you." She looked up at the waiter who had placed a big plate full of food between them and a smaller plate in front of each of them. "I thought you'd like to try a variety of starters first."
Snape looked over the food curiously. Most of it looked cold, but in the middle of the plate stood a bowl of steaming soup.
"The typical starter for an Austrian meal is soup," explained Capella. "The cold things are often enjoyed not as starters, but to make a small meal of their own."
The food was delicious. Capella served Snape titbit by titbit, explaining what it was. There was a jellylike mass with cooked meat in it. The girl advised the potions master to put a little vinegar and oil on it.
"Normally," she explained, "you'd add a little piece of raw onion. But I rather avoid that. The aftertaste doesn't go over well when you kiss."
"So you have some kissing planned for today?" asked Snape. He could tell that he was blushing like a fourteen year old.
The girl winked at him. "I don't know yet whether it fits in with the plans of the other party, but I wouldn't be opposed to the general idea."
Snape blushed even more if that was possible and pointed at a pinkish mush on their plate. "What is that?"
"Liptauer," explained the girl. Was she smirking? "A bread spread made of curd; absolutely kiss-safe."
"In that case…" Snape tried a bit on bread. "Excellent. Mmmh."
"I like it, too." The girl put some of the liptauer on her bread. After she had devoured the bite, she licked her fingers clean.
"It looks tasty," Snape swallowed hard.
Capella smiled at him and reached for two small bowls. "Let's have the soup now."
When they were done with their starters, the waiter appeared and took away the empty dishes to replace them five minutes later with new ones. The girl had ordered a plate of various main courses, too, and they happily continued their exploration of the Austrian cuisine.
There was roast pork, beef in a spicy onion sauce, noodles filled with potatoes and curd, Wiener Schnitzel (veal covered in bread crumbs, deep fried) and grilled chicken. The side dishes were potatoes with parsley and salad. The salad was covered in a greenish, nearly black liquid.
"Styrian pumpkin seed oil," smiled Capella. "You either love it or hate it. There's nothing in between." She speared a small leaf of green salad on her fork and devoured it without ever taking her eyes off Snape. A small drop of the oil remained on her lower lip and she licked it clean.
Snape averted his eyes before he blushed again and tried a small leaf of salad, too. "Mmmh," he purred. The oil was a bit bitter, but he decided he liked the taste. He had tasted worse as a potions master.
"So, what's for dessert?" he asked when the plate between them was as good as empty.
The girl smiled. "They make decent coffee here and they offer quite a variety of desserts, but I thought you'd perhaps like to try home-made cake instead."
"Home-made?" Snape swallowed hard.
The blonde batted her lashes. "Home-made," she confirmed. "And I make not decent but excellent coffee."
Capella lived in a small flat on the fifth floor of an old house. She ushered Snape to the living room and then disappeared to the kitchen to make the promised coffee. The potions master used the time to look around. There was a crammed book shelf and a small aquarium. There was also a small TV and a glass table which held several crystal bottles of golden liquid.
Since the room was not very big, it didn't take long to get a first impression. Capella was still rummaging in the kitchen. The potions master got up and walked to the book shelf. There were books about muggle science and, in complete contrast to those, some about werewolves and vampires. Snape chuckled and walked over to the aquarium.
There was a small swarm of tetras and two bigger fish Snape couldn't name. He leant closer to see them better. A moment later he reached for his wand. There, from behind a bushy plant, a tiny Grindylow was staring at Snape.
"Schani!" Capella had taken in Snape with his wand in hand at once when she entered the living room with a coffee tray. She shouldered past the potions master. "I do not mean to hurt you," she muttered at the man already focussed on the aquarium. "You sorry excuse for a pet! How often do I need to tell you to stay inside when I have guests!"
Snape looked over the shoulder of the blonde and spotted a tiny house hidden behind the floating plants. The Grindylow was hanging his head as he was scolded.
"Pet?" Snape echoed.
"For what else would I keep a Grindylow in my living room," snorted the girl. "Put away your wand. You won't need it as I mean no harm."
"Why didn't you tell me you're a witch?"
Capella snorted. "That would have gone over well, wouldn't it? Especially since I wasn't aware you're a wizard until right now. You have heard about the statute of secrecy, haven't you?"
Snape looked down at the blonde, mistrusting. What if the Dark Lord had sent her after him and Potter? He had been a fool to let her separate him from the boy!
"What about our coffee?" the girl seemed completely unaware of Snape's unease. She brushed past the potions master and returned to her tray which was hovering where she had let go of it. When had she used her wand? Snape didn't remember seeing it. Had she kept the tray in the air wandlessly? If so, she was extremely dangerous!
"Yes, I could use one now," he said carefully. He'd just have to make sure that the woman didn't poison him.
"Great!" The blonde put the tray on the coffee table and poured two cups. Then she handed Snape a small plate. It held a piece of chocolate cake and a small mountain of whipped cream.
The potions master eyed the woman suspiciously. She smiled at him (again) and with a roll of her eyes took a sip from his cup and a forkful of his cake. "Here, no poison, everything perfectly edible." She took her own cup and took a big sip to wash down the cake.
"There could be an antidote in your cup," Snape pointed out. He reached for the girl's cup which was wordlessly held out to him. The coffee was really good. Snape took his own cup. "Who are you really?"
The girl met the potions master's eyes openly. "I'm Capella, a Viennese witch. I live here," she gestured at the flat at large, "and I have a pet Grindylow." She pointed at the aquarium where the tiny creature was half hiding behind a water plant, looking very nervous. "And who are you?"
"S… Smith, Tobias," Severus caught his slip of tongue just in time. "I'm a British wizard and I have a son."
"Two," corrected the girl.
"Two," confirmed Snape with a sigh. "It's only that I rarely see the other one. He's less … real, if you understand what I mean."
The girl nodded understandingly and the potions master felt miserable for lying to her. His misery was forgotten, however, when the blonde moved a little closer and leant in for a kiss.
Snape woke with a start. Where was he? He looked around, close to panic, but calmed down when Schani, the Grindylow, stared at him from his aquarium. Ah, yes.
They had spent the evening kissing on the sofa and things had got quite heated, but neither of them felt like going further on their first date. At some point, the blonde had retired to her bedroom, leaving Snape to sleep on her living room sofa.
There was a sound from the kitchen and the potions master tiptoed there to see what it was. The kitchen was making breakfast. Capella was nowhere to be seen. When Snape turned to return to his sofa, he spotted the girl.
The blonde was wearing a short nightdress. Her curly hair looked more tousled than ever. Snape decided she looked cute as she fed the Grindylow with a yawn on her face. Schani was swimming around excitedly.
"What does he eat?" Snape asked for lack of a better topic.
"Anything he can lay his hands on," smiled the girl. She held up a small plastic dish. "His favourite is fish, and whenever I go to Waldviertler Hof, I get a little portion for him. One of the cooks is magical."
"A friend?" asked the potions master. It took him a moment to identify the emotion and was surprised that he was jealous.
"A childhood friend," elaborated the girl. "We're close enough for him to invite me to his wedding. I'm godmother to his youngest."
"Why don't you sit down? I'll get breakfast."
"It's almost ready. You can cast timed spells?" That was rather difficult and Snape knew only a half dozen of people who could, four of them Hogwarts teachers, and had never mastered it himself.
Capella beamed. "Spellcasting is my strong field. The timed ones took me a bit of work, but yes, I can. What is your area of expertise?" The question was asked casually over her shoulder as she went to the kitchen to get breakfast.
Snape was uncertain what to say. Could he risk telling her that he was a potions master? His experience as a spy told him that it would be extremely difficult to uphold a lie on his area of work. There was no other branch of magic he knew remotely as much about as potions.
"Potions," he admitted when the girl returned. "I'm a decent brewer. I'm not bad at spellcasting either, but potioneering is my forte."
"Really?" The girl poured coffee for them both. "I always had troubles with potions. I find them interesting since there's really a lot you can do with potions, but my teacher at school was not very good and I ended up a mediocre brewer." She shrugged. "Pity."
"That's no problem if there's a proper shop where you can get what you need," Snape pointed out.
"There is one, but they are rather expensive. And as I said, I find potions interesting. I try to brew myself what I need – not that it's much – as often as I can." She got up and fetched a book from the shelf. "This has saved my life over and over," grinned the girl.
Snape had to use all his experience as a spy to not give himself away as 'Brewing for the inept' by Severus Snape was handed to him. He had tried to write his own school book some years ago, but the governors had not approved of a book that held instructions like "stir anti-clockwise for five minutes and while you're staring at the clock compare the way you are stirring to the way the way the hands move". Surprisingly, the book had become a bestseller.
"You were in Britain?" he asked. The book had not been published abroad as far as he could tell.
"Yes," Capella buttered a slice of toast. "I was there on holiday with my parents. Mum bought the book for me. I wanted to go again, but our ministry warns of going to Britain. I understand there is some madman on the loose?"
Snape nodded. "He's the reason we chose to go on holiday on the continent, to give ourselves and the children a break."
"Is it really that bad?" The girl looked worried.
The potions master nodded. "Actually, it's even worse," he sighed.
"Then I'm glad I didn't go," said Capella. "The book is great though."
Snape smiled. "I like it, too. – I need to return to my hotel," he changed topic.
Capella accompanied the potions master to the hotel after breakfast. They agreed to meet for dinner again, this time at a small Indian restaurant. The blonde witch explained how to get there in detail.
Snape asked about the whereabouts of his 'family' at the hotel reception and was pointed to the hotel restaurant where he found Narcissa and the boys breakfasting. He sat down and a waiter placed a cup and plate in front of him immediately.
"How dare you stay away over night!" hissed Narcissa.
Snape buttered his toast. "Why wouldn't I? It's not that we're posing as a happy couple here."
"Have you ever heard of respect? It's a sentiment some people regard important." Narcissa looked less radiant than usual in her anger. Her eyes were narrowed dangerously. "You are not going to see this woman again."
The boys looked from the witch to Snape expectantly. "I'd want to see you try and stop me," muttered Snape. The hotel coffee was, surprisingly, better than Capella's; which could not be said about the company.
"What shall we do today?" Snape was grateful for the change of topic. Perhaps Potter was not as useless as he had thought.
"Did you have something in mind?" the potions master asked.
"I found an article about the Prater in my guide book. It sounds interesting." The boy looked hopefully at the older wizard.
"You can read, Potter?" Draco joined the conversation. "I'm impressed and surprised."
"What about a father and son day?" Potter addressed Snape.
"Why not?" Snape forced himself to smile. It would be nice to get away from Narcissa. The witch didn't seem to mind anyway. "If you want to indulge in frivolities, you'll have to go alone. Draco and I want to see the Opera house and Schönbrunn castle."
"Schönbrunn? Isn't that where the zoo is?" Potter beamed.
"We can go to the zoo tomorrow," suggested Snape. It was a place where Narcissa wasn't likely to come and he could ask Capella to meet him there. Getting rid of Potter couldn't be that hard, could it? Narcissa turned up her nose just as Snape had expected her.
"Great! So it is the Prater today?" Potter grinned at the potions master happily. The man nodded in agreement.
"Shall we meet for dinner?" asked Draco.
"I'll send you Potter," Snape said casually.
Narcissa narrowed her eyes even further. "You're not meeting this woman again!"
"I have to!" Snape replied with an air of superiority. "It turned out she is a witch. It would be foolish not to keep an eye on her."
"A witch?" hissed Narcissa. "Does she know who we are? We have to obliviate her and leave!"
"She's harmless enough and I'm sure as long as I keep her in a good mood she won't try to harm us."
The witch snorted. "Are you meaning to tell me that she would mind if you refused to see her? That she fell for your charms?"
"Leave him alone," growled Potter. The boy was full of surprises. "I'm sure the professor is charming enough in the right company."
Snape and Potter took a taxi to the Prater and left the Malfoys to their explorations of the opera house. The boy showed his older companion a leaflet about their goal. The Prater consisted of a huge park with its main artery, the Hauptallee, and an amusement area, the Wurstelprater, with various attractions such as the Riesenrad – a Ferris wheel – roller coasters, bumper cars and carousels. There were also a planetarium and a stadium.
"I'd like to ride the Liliputbahn," said the boy. He pointed at a picture of a small train. "We could get an overall impression of the whole thing that way."
The potions master agreed since this sounded like a reasonable plan. The taxi driver dropped them off near the station of the Liliputbahn and Snape bought tickets for himself and the boy.
There was already a small crowd waiting for the train to arrive, mostly elderly couples with small children, but also two or three young couples. The only single person waiting was a tall, black-haired man in his thirties.
When the train arrived, Potter headed for one of the small cars immediately. Snape couldn't but follow the boy. "This is nice!" beamed the younger wizard.
"It is," said the single man as he sat on the bench opposite the British wizards. "I come here every week." He smiled at them.
Snape hummed noncommittally. He found the small car rather ramshackle than nice. He held onto the paneless window frame. The impression of dottiness was confirmed when the vehicle started to move. Potter yelped when the train started to rattle along its rails. Their travel companion nearly fell from his bench.
Snape spent the rest of the journey keeping a close eye on the stranger. He definitely had never before ridden the Liliputbahn since he was clutching to his seat more desperate than Snape, who found the ride rather unpleasant although the scenery was undoubtedly nice.
The boy, on the other hand, was enjoying himself immensely. He squealed with delight when the train shook, just like the little children in the other cars.
By the time the Liliputbahn had completed its round through the park, Snape and the stranger were staring at each other in open mistrust.
"This was great!" cried Harry when they got off the train. "Let's have a closer look at the Wurstelprater, shall we?" He bounced up and down like an overexcited rubber ball.
Snape rolled his eyes. "Why not," he muttered. If he let the boy choose what they did during the day, he would hopefully agree to stay out of the potions master's hair in the evening.
They strolled towards the amusement area. Potter talked Snape into a round on the Riesenrad. The view from up there was amazing. The boy surprised his companion by producing a map and pointing out various sights during the ride. Snape paid only half attention to the breathtaking view. What worried him more was the fact that the stranger from the Liliputbahn was in the gondola behind theirs.
"Can we ride the bumper cars next?" the boy asked enthusiastically as soon as they had left the Riesenrad. "It's just over there!"
"Bumper cars?" sneered Snape. "Aren't you a bit old for that?"
"You're no older than you feel!" The boy made a beeline for the bumper cars and all Snape could do was follow or lose him in the crowd. Strangely enough several grown up men were riding the cars. Snape settled down on a bench to watch Potter, but was back up in an instant when he saw their strange shadow sit down in one of the cars. The stranger looked at Snape before he went after Potter.
Sitting in one of the small cars was awkward for a grown man, Snape found, but he had no time to worry about his personal comfort. He needed to protect Potter. The foolish boy was completely oblivious of the man who had been following them the whole morning.
The potions master didn't even get time to work out how the car worked before another car bumped into his. It was no surprise that the man behind the wheel was the mysterious stranger. Snape's eyes narrowed. Determined not to give the stranger the satisfaction of winning, the potions master hit the accelerator (or what he took for it, fortunately his guess was right) and broke lose. He turned the wheel frantically and then bumped into the side of the stranger's car.
It was a battle. The potions master and the stranger spared each other nothing. When it became clear that they were well matched and neither man was ready to give in, Snape cast nonverbal impedimenta. The stranger's car slowed down, but only for a second.
Thanks to years as a spy, Snape didn't give away his surprise. Instead, he cast a stronger spell before he stirred his car to the edge of the platform and got off. He snatched Potter's elbow – the boy had stopped to watch at some point – and directed him away from the strange wizard, past a carousel towards a tunnel of horror.
Snape paid and elbowed his way past a group of children. A quick spell took care of their protest. Potter was – in spite of his innate stupidity – clever enough not to argue. They took the front seats in one of the cars. As soon as they had entered the dark tunnel, Snape apparated to the very back bench.
"Who are you?" he hissed into the stranger's ear while he pressed the tip of his wand at the man's throat.
"Azrael," panted the man. "Azrael Schmitt. I'm Capella's fiancé."
"Stop that car, boy!" Snape cried towards the front of the car. Potter had the presence of mind to answer "Yes, Dad!" and cast a confundus charm on the muggles in the cars between the front and back.
Snape cast a quick Lumos to see the stranger better. "She never mentioned a fiancé," he growled.
"Isn't a tunnel of horror supposed to be dark?" asked a fat muggle in the second car.
Potter stood and shrugged at Snape, his expression helpless.
"How can it be scary when you can't see the scary things?" growled Snape. The boy started a lengthy explanation and the muggles hung to his every word. "Back to you," snarled the potions master. "Capella never mentioned a fiancé!"
"She loves to make me jealous," groaned the man. He looked scared, for which he had every reason with Snape's wand tip still pressed to his throat.
"I can't believe she would use me like that." Snape poked Azrael with his wand hard. The man gasped. "She does it all the time! She's a wicked little witch."
"What kind of fiancé are you, badmouthing your beloved this way?" asked an elderly lady with a tight grey bun. She had turned in her seat to follow the conversation in the back of the car rather than Potter's lecture on horror.
"Jimmy, spare me those people! I have to think!" Snape nagged at the boy.
"Are you a potions master or what?" The boy conjured a huge snake which slithered around the muggles at his orders. A girl screamed.
Snape smirked. The boy was right. Veritaserum was found in Snape's pocket and administered in an instant.
"Who are you?" Snape asked again.
"Azrael Schmitt." The stranger made a face in a useless attempt to fight the potion.
"What is your relationship to Capella?"
"I want to marry her."
"Does she want that?"
"No. She hates me!"
"Why did you say you were her fiancé?"
"She will marry me when everybody else backs off and I have a love potion. My chance to administer it will come!"
Snape wanted to rip the man's throat out, but they could not afford a confrontation with the Austrian ministry. He cast a memory charm instead. Potter took care of the muggles' memories. Then the potions master extinguished his Lumos and the cars went on. The tunnel was not very scary; nevertheless the muggles were very pale when they left the cars.
Snape would have liked to go and warn Capella of her unwanted suitor right away, but Potter wouldn't have it. "We came here to enjoy the Prater, so this is what we're going to do," insisted the boy. Snape wanted to strangle him.
"What would you like to do next? Look, over there is a pony ride." Snape smirked at the boy. Perhaps a good dose of sarcasm would make him see reason.
"I'm a bit old for pony rides, but I will wait for you while you take one," the younger wizard offered. "Oh! Or perhaps I'll ride that rollercoaster while you ride your pony." They had just turned around a corner.
The potions master paled. "You will do no such thing!" he cried. "This is too dangerous!"
"Dangerous?" Potter chuckled. "I'm a Gryffindor!"
Snape snorted. "A Gryffindor? Is that the same as a brainless idiot? Sorry, forget the question; it's obvious."
Potter glared at his chaperone. "You're just jealous because you don't have it in you to take a risk from time to time. I'm a wizard! I have a wand! A spell or two and that rollercoaster is as safe as Dumbledore's rocking chair."
"Since when does Dumbledore have a rocking chair?" asked Snape.
Potter threw his arms up in the air. "You are hopeless!" He wandered off towards the rollercoaster.
"You won't ride that thing!"
"I will! But you're welcome to join me."
Snape hesitated, but only for a moment. If he wanted the boy to stay out of his hair in the evening, he had to stay in his good books. "Why not," he sighed. Resigned to his fate, he watched Potter buy six tickets at once ('Buy five, get one free'). "Nobody said anything about riding this thing thrice!" he protested feebly, knowing that he would not be able to change the boy's mind.
Snape felt nauseous after the first ride.
He felt sick after the second.
After the third, he vomited on Potter's shoes, turning his squeal of joy into one of disgust.
"Are you a wizard or what?" Snape groaned as he slouched after the still cursing Potter. The person in charge of the rollercoaster was shouting after them that he wanted payment for having to clean the car, but they pretended they didn't understand him. To be honest, Snape wouldn't have cared had it been the Dark Lord himself shouting at him at that moment.
"I should have left you at the pony ride," grumbled Potter when they had found a bench for Snape to sit down and rest.
"Shut up!" Snape spat with less venom than he would have liked. "Bloody Gryffindor!"
Potter chuckled. "Stubborn Slytherin! You should have got off the rollercoaster after the first ride."
"Perseverance will prevail," muttered Snape.
"Your perseverance will kill you," grinned Potter.
Snape snorted. "Stop being cheeky!"
"Why don't you carry a potion against this kind of sickness?" asked Potter, now sounding a bit gentler. "You are a potions master."
"A potions master who didn't expect he was required to have his bowels shaken," growled Snape. "I have Sleeping Draught, Dreamless Sleep, Pepper Up, Fever Draught and Veritaserum."
"Whatever do you carry Veritaserum with you for? What did you expect to need it for?"
"It came in quite handy with that Azrael guy."
"It did," admitted Potter. "Nevertheless I don't understand why you would rather carry Veritaserum than a nausea potion."
"I'm much better," growled Snape. "I chose the next attraction we go on."
Potter shrugged. "As long as it has nothing to do with ponies."
"Let's go for a little walk first. I need some fresh air," Snape snarled. The boy grinned cheekily. "Of course, why not." Snape wanted to hit him but of course he didn't. Instead he led the way away from the rollercoaster.
Potter followed, still grinning. The potions master watched out for something to pay him back for the rollercoaster ride. Potter being a seeker, any ride with speed or abrupt movements would not pose a problem to the brat.
Snape saw his opportunity for revenge when they walked past a booth with stacks of cans. Potter was good at catching, but was he also good at throwing? The older wizard decided he had to try. There was no way he was going to ride another one of those instruments of torture! Here he could at least stay on safe ground.
"Shall we try the shooting galleries?" he asked.
Potter looked at the booth in front of him. "You want to throw balls at cans?"
"Without magic, of course. Afraid, Potter?"
"You wish!" The boy stepped up to the counter. "What are the rules?"
The red-haired youth behind the counter was about the same age as Potter. "You get three balls. If you manage to push all the cans off the board, you win a prize."
"Do you mind if I go first?" Potter grinned at Snape over his right shoulder. "You look like you can do with another minute rest."
The potions master nodded and waved the boy towards the booth. "Go ahead. I can beat you at any time."
"Ha, ha!" Potter handed over a coin and was given three balls. He weighed the first in his hand, aimed and threw.
The gallery had not been a good idea. All cans but one fell off the board.
"Well done," said the redhead. He applauded.
Potter smirked at Snape before he turned back to the problem at hand. He weighed the ball in his hand again and then struck out.
"Good luck." It was Snape's turn to smirk when Potter twitched and missed the can.
"What's unfair? That I wish you success?" Snape made a disapproving sound. "You have no manners, James."
The boy growled and prepared to throw his third ball. "Be quiet and don't interrupt me!" he hissed before he threw. The can fell.
The redhead produced a small basket from under the counter. "Congratulations! Choose one!"
Snape looked closer to see better. Potter hesitated for a moment and then chose a keyring with a picture of the giant wheel. "Your turn," he said, dangling the key ring.
The potions master paid for his set of balls. He hadn't moved in dangerous circles where he couldn't always risk using magic for nothing. He took aim and threw.
"Wow!" cried Potter.
"Congratulations," said the red-haired youth. He was obviously not thrilled to lose another prize. "I hope you don't mind that I can't offer you a choice." He turned and walked over to a shelf at the side of the booth.
Potter giggled all the way back to the hotel. He even had the cheek to ask Snape whether he wanted another ride on the rollercoaster and offered to pay the ride for the life-size plush Dalmatian. Snape carried the giant soft toy with as much dignity as he could muster, which was not easy given the fact that it had a huge red bow around its neck.
The potions master hoped two things: that Capella liked Dalmatians and that no Malfoy would see him carrying the monstrosity.
Back at the hotel, Snape and his young charge were awaited by the Malfoys in their suite of rooms. Draco switched off the TV the moment they entered, Narcissa placed a delicate white cup back on its saucer.
"You are late!" the witch said instead of a greeting. "We were thinking about starting a search for you."
"Thank you, Narcissa," sneered the potions master. He hoped his tone would make up for carrying a ridiculously huge plush toy. "I had no idea you cared."
"Of course I care!" hissed the witch. "If you manage to get caught, it might endanger Draco. I will not jeopardize his safety. Next time you come home that late, kindly let me know beforehand."
"We had so much fun!" Potter informed the Malfoy heir ignoring the adults' difference. "How was your day?"
"We saw the Opera and three castles! I was not aware Vienna had so many!" Draco's cheeks grew pink with excitement. "Look! Mother bought me a book!"
Snape rolled his eyes and stalked off to his room to get ready for his date – he was still amazed he had one – with Capella. When he came back to their common room, Narcissa was watching TV and the boys were looking at Draco's book. The blond explained what was in the pictures and elaborated on the grandness and beauty of the buildings he had seen. Surprisingly, Potter was all ears.
Snape told the others to not wait for him and took a taxi to the Indian restaurant Capella had suggested. The plush Dalmatian was shrunken in his pocket.
The Viennese witch was already waiting for him. Her eyes lit with joy when Severus joined her at the table. "I couldn't think of anything but meeting you again all day!" she smiled.
"Nor could I," Snape smiled, "although I was a bit distracted." He told Capella about the man that had followed him and Potter.
"A love potion?" cried the witch. She nodded her thanks at the waitress who put their starters on the table. "Oh God! I never thought he would go that far! Thank you for the warning, Tobias!"
"Do you know him?"
"We went to the same school," nodded the witch. "Try the chicken wings, they are great. – He claimed he was in love with me since we were 14 and never took no for an answer. I'm afraid I'll have to inform the aurors about his plan. Otherwise I won't be safe in this city any longer. – But enough of that. We are here for dinner and we won't let Azrael spoil it, will we?"
The food was delicious. They shared rice and bread and each tried the main course the other had chosen. Snape himself had gone for beef in a spicy sauce; Capella had chosen chicken in a rich sauce that tasted a bit of coconut. After dinner, they went back to the witch's flat for some coffee. Capella loved the plush Dalmatian and expressed her gratitude for the gift passionately.
The first rays of sunlight were showing when Snape returned to the hotel.
Narcissa looked rather dishevelled when the potions master entered the suite. Had she waited for him all night?
"How dare you!" she cried accusingly when she spotted Snape. The wizard couldn't help a feeling of déjà vu. "I will not have the servants think you cheat on me!"
"The staff thinks we are divorced. They don't expect me to be faithful to you," Snape pointed out through gritted teeth.
"Mother? Is everything all right?" Draco padded out of his bedroom, clad in grey silk pyjamas. Although the boy looked sleepy, his hair looked perfect, as if he had just come back from a hairdresser's.
"Nothing is in order!" cried the witch. "He came back at the crack of dawn again!" She pointed a well-manicured finger at Snape accusingly.
Draco pinched the bridge of his nose. "Snape! Don't mess with my mother! If you insult her, father will hear of it!"
Snape sneered at the boy. "And what is he going to do, stuck in Azkaban as he is? And I didn't mess with your mother. Not at all!"
"Of course you did!" Draco would have looked more impressing, had he donned a dressing gown over his pyjamas.
"I did not! I wasn't even here!"
"See! He has no respect!" shrieked Narcissa. She threw her long blond hair over her shoulder.
"Can you shout a bit lower?" Potter joined them in the common room. "Some people want to sleep here!" He ruffled up his hair.
"You're sleeping in your boxers?" asked Snape.
The Malfoy heir pointed his wand at Potter. "You will get properly dressed before you enter a room my mother is in!" Potter threw up his hands defensively, Snape stepped between the two boys and reached for his own wand.
"I'm sure your mother has seen men in their boxers," muttered Potter. "You weren't brought by the stork!"
"I don't know about your mother, but mine hasn't seen 'men in their boxers'! She's a happily married woman. So, show a bit of respect, Potter!" The blond boy drew himself up to his full height.
"I have difficulties to associate 'happily married' and your father," growled Potter. Being a Gryffindor, he was stupid enough to utter the insult and then turn his back on Draco to return to his room. Snape barely managed to conjure a shield to save the boy from Draco's curse. The spell dissolved in an explosion of acid orange sparks.
"Stop it!" ordered Snape.
Narcissa stepped beside Draco. "You have no right to order my son!" she pointed her own wand at Snape.
The quarrel was prevented from escalating further by a knock on the door. A bellboy entered at Snape's call and handed the potions master a note. The wizard read it and sighed. "Pack your things! Now!" he ordered without further ado.
"Why?" asked Narcissa. She started to summon her things even while she was talking.
"I told Capella about the man who followed Potter and me. She informed the Austrian ministry and this," he shook the note, "is a summons from their aurors. We can't afford to get in contact with the officials! We're all here under false names."
"Pack faster, Draco!" ordered Narcissa. "You and your conquest, Snape!"
When the small group came down to the reception, Snape froze in his tracks. Capella was standing by the entrance. Before the potions master could redirect his group, the curly blonde had spotted him.
"Tobias!" she cried. She stared at the bags the four were holding. "What is the meaning of this?"
Snape looked at Potter pleadingly. "Can you get us a taxi?" He pulled Capella to the side. "We have to leave. For reasons that have nothing to do with you, we can't answer the summons from your aurors."
"Tobias? I don't understand! You were going to leave without good-bye?" The girl's bottom lip started to tremble.
Snape felt like calling for help. She wasn't going to cry, was she? He had never known how to deal with crying females. "It has nothing to do with you!" he repeated lamely.
"Nothing to do with me?" hiccupped the witch. "Of course it has nothing to do with me! If it had, you'd not leave stealthily like a thief! – Oh my God! Are you a criminal, Tobias?"
"I'm not! How can you think that of me!"
"Well, what am I supposed to think? You don't want to talk to the aurors! What else can you be than a criminal?" Now Capella was really crying. "To think that I trusted you! I let you into my flat! Maybe even Azrael of all people saved my life! What would you have done if I hadn't informed the aurors!"
Snape reached for the girl's hand. "Capella…," he started helplessly. The witch withdrew her hand from his. "Don't!" she cried. "Don't say a word! I won't believe you anyway! You liar!" The girl turned on her heel and stalked out of the hotel.
The potions master glared at the receptionist who was staring at him. When the muggle looked away, Snape followed Capella outside with all the dignity he could muster. He stared after the enraged witch sadly, but only for a moment. Potter waved his hand in front of Snape's face and the potions master followed the boy into the taxi. On the way to the airport, he reasoned why nothing good in his life was lasting.
Once they had reached the airport, Snape hurried to the next airline counter and asked for four tickets.
"Where to?" The lady in her bright red uniform smiled at him expectantly.
"Surprise me," growled the potions master.
"What about Rome?" asked the muggle. She smiled again.
"Whatever!" Snape snapped impatiently.
"Ah, I see my collegue over there just sold two tickets. There are only three left. May I suggest Paris instead?"
The potions master wanted to throttle the woman. "I said surprise me! I want four tickets for a plane that leaves preferably now!" He slammed his fist on the counter impatiently.
"Dad," Potter tugged at Snape's sleeve. "Mum has a problem. Come quickly!"
"I'll be back in a minute," Snape hissed at the muggle. "Why don't you prepare my tickets while I solve the problem?" The woman nodded and started to type frantically. The potions master followed his 'son' around a corner.
"Here you are!" Narcissa looked around nervously. "I spotted some aurors! They are here for us!"
"Not necessarily," replied Snape, but he started scanning the crowd for ministry wizards. "They may be here for a routine control. I heard there are aurors at Heathrow at least trice a week. Anyway, better be safe than sorry. Where do you think you saw them?"
The witch pointed him at two men in their forties. One wore a bathing cap and the other had foregone shoes to wear with his business suit. The one with the bathing cap carried a red women's handbag.
"Definitely wizards," Snape agreed. "How do you know they are aurors?"
"There was a third wizard," reported Draco. "He disappeared into the crowd when he saw them."
"I see," Snape nodded, pensive. "We need to leave immediately. Do you think you can apparate onto a starting plane with Draco?" Narcissa nodded that, yes, she could. The potions master took his group up to the airport café which offered a nice view of the runways.
They found a table near the windows, hidden by some big pot plants. Narcissa pointed her wand at them and they grew to hide them completely. "Quick now!" she pressed. "If they are really aurors they have detected my spell."
"That one!" Snape pointed at a plane that was ready to take off. He grabbed Potter and apparated.
"Argh!" – "Ungh!" – "Take your elbow away from THERE!"
The potions master and Narcissa had had the same idea and all four Smiths had reappeared in the same tiny toilet cubicle. It was a miracle nobody had been seriously hurt.
"Can anybody reach the door? We need to get out of here!" It was Potter who finally managed to grip the door handle and free them. Snape confounded the flight attendant who had reached for her seat belt when the wizards and witch appeared. Narcissa conjured another row of seats for them.
"That was close," sighed the witch once they all were seated. Snape nodded and the boys agreed.
"There's only one thing left to do," Draco pointed out. "We need to find out where we are going."
Potter, who sat by the aisle, signalled the flight attendant. The red-haired woman looked still a bit dreamy after Snape's Confundus spell.
"Excuse me, Madam," the Boy Who Lived said politely. "Where is this plane going?"
It was easy to tell by her expression when the muggle realised that something was not in order with these passengers. Snape and Narcissa reacted simultaneously. Both pointed their wands at the woman and fired a non-verbal spell each. The muggle's eyes rolled back and she clutched at Potter's headrest to prevent herself from falling.
"What have you done to her?" hissed Potter.
"Confundus," said Snape. Narcissa rolled her eyes. "Imperius," she stated.
"Imperius?" squeaked the boy. "That is an unforgivable!"
Draco smirked at him. "Really, Potter? Well, it was necessary."
"Confundus would have done the trick," protested the champion of the Light.
"I'm afraid it wouldn't have," Snape interfered. "Confunded, she'd not be able to tell us where we're going."
"Well, she doesn't look to me as if she'd tell us anything in the foreseeable future," the boy pointed out.
"And that is entirely your fault, Snape!" Narcissa joined the conversation in a hissing tone. "What will we do now?"
"Why don't we ask somebody?" suggested Potter.
Draco snorted. "Oh yes. Why don't we ask somebody? 'Excuse me, Sir, I appeared on this plane out of the blue. Would you mind telling me where it's going?'" The last was said in a sing-song voice. He snorted again. Potter blushed.
"The boy has a point, Draco," said Narcissa. She pointed her wand at the muggle sitting on the other side of the aisle, a fat man in a grey business suit. "Tell me where this plane is going!" she ordered.
"Paris," said the muggle in a monotonous voice.
Narcissa smiled at her companions happily. "Paris," she stated.
"That's not true!" protested the man beside the imperiussed business man. "This is the plane to London!"
The business man shook his head. "No, no, no! It goes to Paris!"
"London!" insisted the other muggle. He looked at his other neighbour who nodded.
The Smiths looked at each other in shock. London? That was not good!
"Paris would be preferable," said Snape and the others agreed. The holidays were still far from over. They could not return home, where Potter was obviously in danger, as was Draco according to Narcissa.
"Paris," confirmed Narcissa. "I'll take care of it." She rose from her seat gracefully and marched off towards the front of the plane.
"What is she doing?" asked Potter.
Draco and Snape rolled their eyes in unison. "Imperius the pilot, what else!"
"You can't redirect a muggle airplane as you please!" Potter whispered urgently.
Draco sneered at the other boy. "And you know that how exactly, Potter?"
"I grew up with muggles, idiot!" hissed the saviour to be. "Planes have tight schedules. They are assigned corridors or something!"
"Corridors?" echoed the blond.
"Potter has a point," said Snape. He got up from his seat. "Excuse me for a moment and try not to get in trouble in my absence." He followed Narcissa to the front of the plane.
The boys waited in silence, exchanging nervous glances from time to time. They both dug their finger nails into their arm rests when the plane changed direction rather abruptly. Three rows of seat in front of them a muggle stumbled and fell onto a fellow passenger. There was a short fight, but the two young wizards were too anxious to enjoy it.
A little later Snape and Narcissa returned. The potions master glanced at the back of the plane pointedly and the boys followed. Narcissa opened the restroom door and ushered the three men in before joining them.
"Very cozy," growled Potter. "Leave your hand there if you want to lose it, Malfoy."
"You complain about my hand," the blond said with gritted teeth. "I wish it was Snape's hand digging into my hip."
"Stop complaining," snapped Narcissa. "This will be dangerous, but we have no choice. Draco you come with me, Snape will take Potter. If we don't get the coordinates right, we'll meet on the Eiffel tower for breakfast tomorrow."
Snape grabbed Potter's arm.
"Wait a minute!" the brave Gryffindor sounded not so brave. "What are we doing?"
"Apparate down to Paris. We can't risk to land."
"I'm not apparating with you from a flying plane!"
"You apparated with me on a flying plane. Shut up, Potter." Before the boy could protest, Snape twisted and they disappeared.
When they reappeared the blink of an eye later, the first thing the potions master got aware of was two people quarrelling in rapid French. There was no time to try and find out what they were saying though.
"Well done!" Potter snarled at his teacher. "Very well done indeed!"
"Stop complaining. You are alive and unsplinched. Not everybody could have done that." Snape waded out of the duck pond after the boy. A simple spell took care of his wet trousers and shoes. He smirked at the boy before he spelled him dry, too.
"Where are the others?" asked the boy. He shook his foot as if expecting residual water to fly away.
"I heard them over there, I think." Snape waved towards a nearby group of trees. Together, the two wizards approached the small wood. The voices, now unmistakably recognizable as Draco and Narcissa's, grew louder as they neared the first trees.
"What are they saying?" asked Harry. "Do you speak French?"
"I don't," muttered Snape, marching on without a break. "But I happen to be a wizard." He pointed his wand at the trees. "Translatio! – Remember that spell, it comes in handy at times."
The boy nodded and hurried to follow the potions master.
"You're not worthy of the Malfoy name! I'm ashamed to have brought you into the world! Your father would die of shame if he knew that you dropped your wand!"
"Forgive me, Mother, but may I point out that your wand is lying a mere foot away from mine? It would be much wiser to try and think of a way to get down unhurt."
"You expect me to move through the branches like an ape? Your ancestors must be rotating in their graves!"
"My ancestors are resting peacefully because I refuse to hang here like a sack and wait for help!"
"Like a sack? You will show respect for your mother! Wait until I have my wand back, you insult for the name of your fathers!"
"I respect you," growled Draco. "But you're making it difficult!"
"Terpsichore! Do you need my assistance?" Snape had stopped under a lime tree, he picked something up from the ground and then craned his neck to see better. Harry stood beside the potions master and looked up as well.
The Malfoys were hanging in the branches, Draco barely holding onto a thick branch. Narcissa's blouse had been caught by several twigs. Every movement could send her falling down.
"I was just conferring with Draco how to get down, but if you can lend us a hand we'll be quicker. It would be unwise to linger longer than necessary. So if you don't mind…" Narcissa smiled as sweetly as if she was sitting on a chaise and Snape had offered milk for her tea.
"I hadn't asked if I minded," the potions master smirked. He levitated first the witch and then her son down to the ground. The Malfoys hurried to retrieve their wands while Harry watched silently.
"I wouldn't be opposed to a meal on the Eiffel tower now," Draco pointed out when he had straightened his clothes.
Harry chuckled. "I'd think you'd prefer to avoid heights," he said teasingly.
"Why would I?" the blond tried to look superior, but he looked a bit shaken. "Ah, because of the tree? Really, scar head, that was not really a problem. We'd have solved the situation in a whim if you and Snape hadn't turned up."
"Of course," giggled the Gryffindor. "Did you know that your head of house knows some fascinating spells?"
"Enough!" Snape interrupted the conversation. "Stop bickering, boys."
"I don't feel like going all the way to the Eiffel tower," Narcissa made herself heard. "I'd rather go to a nearby restaurant." Snape agreed and since the adults were at one, it was decided. The group set out to find a restaurant.
They had landed in a big park at the outskirts of Paris. Once they had left it, it was not difficult to find a restaurant. The façade didn't look special but inside the restaurant was luxurious. Narcissa smiled happily as they followed a waiter to a table covered with heavy damask. The chairs were upholstered with ruby velvet and in a corner of the room a string quintet was playing softly.
The waiter brought leather covered menus. Narcissa took hers without acknowledging the man's presence beyond accepting the menu. Draco and Snape thanked him with a curt nod, which Harry tried to copy when he was handed his.
The potions master smirked when the Golden Boy realised the menu was written in French and paled. "Is there anything the matter?" he asked, raising a brow pointedly.
"No," the boy hurried to say. He looked at the Malfoys equally pointedly. The two blonds were immersed in the choice of food. "I need the bathroom. Why don't you order for me whatever you take?" Potter looked like a puppy begging for a treat.
"It would be my pleasure," Snape replied politely. He'd started to plan that meal the moment he had realised that Potter had no idea what to take.
"You are evil," purred Narcissa when the waiter had left with their order a little later. "Draco, there are a few matters where you should take a leaf out of Severus's book."
The Malfoy heir chuckled and sipped a little water from an elegant crystal glass. "Potter would never ask me to order his meal, but I see what you mean."
The starters were served moments after Potter had returned to the table. The Gryffindor stared at his plate and then glared at Snape. "What is that?" he hissed.
Snape made a show of picking up the first titbit from his identical plate. "Escargeaux." He lifted his fork and sniffed. With a purr, he allowed a beatific smile to show on his face for a second. "I love them and they're nowhere better than in France."
"Escar…?" Potter looked even more puzzled. He pushed at the food mistrustingly.
"Snails, Potter." Draco cut his chicken with pleasure.
"What?" cried Harry. He looked horrified.
"Mr Po… Smith, I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't behave like a baboon in here. The restaurant seems to be more than decent and I'd like to come back." Narcissa took another bite of her fish.
The Gryffindor blushed. "Snails?" he echoed in a soft voice.
"With herb butter," nodded Snape. He chewed on his second snail happily.
"I'm not as hungry as I thought." Potter pushed his plate away.
The main dish didn't go much differently. Snape had ordered steak tartare – with egg, onions and capers – which he devoured with gusto. Again, Potter pushed the plate away. This time he at least had tried the food, but it obviously wasn't to his taste.
"What did you order for dessert?" the boy growled at his summer guardian. "Rotten fruit?"
"Actually, chocolate cake," smiled the potions master. "Since I'm acting as your father, you don't seriously expect me to let you eat dessert when you didn't eat any of the other food, do you?"
Draco snickered. "He's a hero! Of course he does!"
"He's quite spoiled," agreed Narcissa.
"I'm not spoiled," growled Potter, "and I'm hungry!"
Snape pointed his fork at the barely touched steak tartare.
"I don't like that! It's gross!"
"You ordered it, you eat it." Snape piled the last of his own steak onto his fork.
"I didn't," Potter lowered his voice at Narcissa's angry glare, "I didn't order that!"
"But you did! You said you were going to have the same as I!"
"I didn't know then how bad your taste was!"
"You will not get any dessert. This is my last word!" Snape smiled pleasantly at the waiter who was taking his plate away. "You heard me, Sir. No dessert for the boy."
"But that's completely unfair!"
The chocolate cake was delicious. And Potter's furious glare made it even sweeter.
It was easy to find a hotel given the amount of money Snape carried with him. Since it was Dumbledore's, the potions master had no objections against spending plenty on a luxurious set of rooms. There was a short row between him and Potter about making use of the room service. The boy proved once again that he had a Slytherin side by pointing out that Dumbledore was going to hear about how Snape had treated him and that it was only just that Dumbledore lost a lot of money for making them spend the summer together.
Once they had all unpacked their things, Snape and Narcissa put their heads together over a couple of guide books and maps to work out a sight seeing schedule for their group. Although the Malfoys spent a lot of time in France, Draco hadn't been in Paris but for shopping.
Draco sat on an armchair sideways, dangling his legs over an armrest, and zapped through the fifty-something TV channels that were on offer. Potter ate his way up and down the list of meals available by room service.
"This is your third piece of cake," Draco pointed out just when Snape was trying to persuade Narcissa to go to the Musée d'Orsay although it was muggle. "You'll burst eventually."
"And that would make you sad," snapped the Gryffindor, but there was no real venom behind the words. "Would you like a bite?" He held out a forkful of chocolate cake.
"As if I'd put anything into my mouth that was in yours," snorted Draco, equally good-naturedly.
"I'm offering cake, not to snog you." Potter shoved the cake into his own mouth.
The blond boy made a face. "I hope not," interfered his mother, but returned to the pictures of the muggle museum Snape was pointing at immediately.
Since nobody felt like staying up late after their adventurous journey, all four went to bed early. After a luxurious breakfast – Potter giggled like a girl when the champagne bubbles tickled his nose – at Dumbledore's expense they went to the centre of the city to explore some of the museums, by taxi of course. Narcissa had agreed to going to the Musée d'Orsay. Snape was thrilled. He had been to Paris only once and had ever since regretted that he hadn't had more time to admire the works of Cézanne and Monet.
"Are you sure it's worth seeing?" Draco asked on the way from the taxi to the entrance. "It's muggle after all."
"There's an innate magic to art," Snape pointed out. "Even if it's muggle."
Narcissa agreed. "I never dug into muggle painting, but I'm aware of the magic in music. The idea that art holds a similar magic is not that devious. Let's see how much there is."
Potter sighed. "I never liked museums."
"And to how many museums exactly have you been?" Snape asked sourly.
The boy blushed. The potions master had touched a sore spot.
Snape smirked. "I thought so. You are a complete moron, James. It's quite obvious you've never had access to any centre of cultural life. I bet neither have you ever been to a theatre or a concert."
Potter blushed harder. Draco looked at the other boy pityingly. The Gryffindor's look of shame turned into one of anger. "It's not my fault my family is not as well educated as yours!" he cried.
"John," Narcissa reprimanded her son, "it's impolite to blame people for being discriminated by fate."
"I'm sorry, Mother," muttered Draco.
"No harm done," the witch smiled gracefully.
"Hey!" protested Potter. "Shouldn't it be me he apologizes to?"
"Certainly not," sneered Narcissa. "He won't stoop that low." She ushered Draco inside without waiting for Snape and his charge.
The potions master shook his head to signal the boy that he couldn't win this discussion. "Would you like to come with me or explore on your own?"
"I don't think I'd learn much on my own."
Snape nodded with dignity. "You may come with me if you listen and try not to be annoying."
Potter smiled and followed the potions master to the early Monets.
Snape stopped in front of a picture of a flowering garden first.
"This is not very detailed," Potter remarked when the potions master didn't say anything.
Snape turned so abruptly, he thought he may have torn something in his neck. "Not very detailed?" he roared. When several muggles stopped to look at them he reigned in his temper and repeated the question in a lower voice. "Not very detailed? Can't you see all those blossoms and leaves, you imbecile? What would he have had to paint to make it detailed enough for you, Potter? The ants on the ground?"
"I see there are plenty of blossoms," admitted the boy, "but they are only blots of paint! A five year old can do it."
"What?" Snape's face had started to redden at the beginning of the conversation, but now it was crimson. "Go away, you moron! You will not besmirch the atmosphere of art and genius with your imbecility."
"You said you were going to teach me!" Potter had the cheek to protest.
"You are too stupid to be taught. Just like magic, art is too subtle for you to take in its full beauty. You are only capable to see the crude basics. This museum is not the location for crude basics. Leave."
"Fine," spat the boy. "I'll leave."
Snape watched the boy stomp towards the exit. With a smirk and a happy sigh, he proceeded to the next painting, in which four women in white dresses were picking white roses.
It was only three hours later – he was standing in front of the picture of a street full of French flags – that Snape realised that he had no idea where the boy had gone. What if Potter was lost? The boy was certainly stupid enough not to find his way back to the hotel. Snape had their money; the boy couldn't even take a taxi!
Cursing under his breath, Snape hurried out of the museum. There was a crowd of tourists in front of the museum. The wizard scanned the mass of people for a dark haired boy, but it was useless. There were at least a dozen dark haired boys near the statue of a bull. It would take forever to find Potter. For a short moment, Snape considered using magic, but it was out of the question. The use of magic would jeopardize the safety of their whole group. Not that the Malfoys' safety was high up on Snape's priority list, but his own was.
"Excuse me, Madam," he addressed the closest muggle. "I have lost my son. Have you seen him? He's about that tall," Snape held up his hand to his nose, palm down, "and has black hair. His eyes are green."
The muggle stared at him and shrugged apologetically. She didn't understand.
"Excuse me, Sir," said another woman. "I heard what you said to that lady. If you keep looking for your son this way, it will take forever to find him. Why don't you ask them to call for him via the public address system?"
"That's a good idea," Snape was relieved. A public address system might actually work, if the boy was still at the museum. "Where do I have to ask?"
The woman pointed him to the information counter and five minutes later James Smith was asked to come to the information counter where his worried father was waiting. Snape wanted to strangle the muggle for adding he was worried, but what was done was done.
The first to arrive at the counter was Narcissa. "What did the boy do now?" she asked angrily. "I was just looking at a particularly fine statue!"
"I'm sorry your pleasure was interrupted," sighed Snape. "Go back to your statue. I'm in control here."
The witch snorted. "In control? Are you telling me you just wanted to try out the speakers? You lost the boy!"
"He's like a flock of sheep! All over the place all the time!" Snape knew he sounded whiny but he couldn't have cared less. Dumbledore was so going to pay for this!
The second to arrive was Draco. "You lost Po..James?" the boy asked with glee. Trust the spoiled Malfoy heir to enjoy Snape's trouble.
Before the potions master could answer, a third person arrived at the information counter. "You run away and where you go is a museum with your ex-wife?" Capella looked livid.
"I run away and where you go to get over me is a museum?" Snape growled. An instant later, he had his arms full of blonde. He allowed himself to enjoy the girl's form pressed against his body for a minute until Narcissa cleared her throat.
"We need to talk," said Capella.
Snape nodded, but he contradicted. "First, we have to find Jimmy."
"How difficult can that be?" asked the Austrian witch. She beamed at Snape, clearly expecting to spend some time with him and soon. "You are a wizard, aren't you?"
"You want to use magic in front of all those muggles?" Snape shook his head. It was just not possible!
Capella grinned. "Well, I'm not going to point out to the muggles what I'm doing."
"They're hardly going to overlook the sparks," Narcissa pointed out.
"What sparks?" Capella looked at Snape for an explanation.
"A locator spell causes sparks, doesn't it?" Draco joined the conversation. Anger showed on his face when the curly blonde giggled, but he said nothing.
"I was thinking of using a pictura spell," the witch said when she had calmed down. Without waiting for the others' opinion, she produced a map and her wand from her handbag. Insigno James Smith!" she tapped the map with the tip of her wand.
"Don't you know the first things about secrecy?" hissed Snape. "You can't use a wand that openly!"
Capella rolled her eyes. "It has a spell on it which makes it look like a pen to muggles." She searched the map for a sign of the missing boy. "That's bad," she muttered after a little while. "He's not in Paris."
"How can he have left the city that fast? And where would he go anyway?" asked Draco. "It's not as if he knew anyone in France."
"He hasn't left Paris. Not even the prat is that stupid," growled Snape.
"But I can't find him on the map!" Capella held the map out for Snape to see. The potions master turned a little to shield the map from the muggles before he drew his wand.
"He hasn't left Paris," he insisted. "The problem is that he's not James Smith. Insigno Harry Potter!" Capella gasped, but Snape ignored her. "Here!" He pointed at a bright green spot on the map. "He's on the bridge."
The group hurried to the nearby bridge where they found the young Gryffindor staring at a couple of locks attached to the banister.
"Merlin help you if I have to go looking for you again!" snarled Snape as soon as the boy was in hearing range.
"Did you know that those locks were left here as tokens of eternal love?" Potter asked, ignoring Snape's anger.
The potions master snorted. "How romantic!"
"Yes, isn't it?" Capella chimed in. "Can we leave a lock here, Tobias?"
The Malfoys snickered. Snape blushed. The witch looked at the British witch and wizards in turn. "Wait a minute," she then cried. "If his name is not James, is yours a lie, too? Who are you?"
The potions master swallowed hard. Why couldn't anything good in his life last? He closed his eyes for a moment and allowed himself to imagine that when he opened them again everything would be good.
Of course it wasn't.
When he opened his eyes, Capella was still looking at him questioningly.
"Severus Snape, at your service," Snape muttered and mock-bowed.
The blonde's eyes grew big as saucers. "THE Severus Snape? My potions saviour? – Wicked!" She squealed and fell on the wizard's neck.
Snape took another moment to thank whatever deity had influenced Capella's judgement and then wrapped his arms around the girl. "You're not angry with me?" he whispered into the cloud of blonde hair.
"Why would I?" Capella beamed. "Though I'd like to know why you lied about your name."
Snape ordered an assortment of cakes when they were back in their suite of rooms, and a large pot of hot chocolate. He poured a cup for everybody. Narcissa thanked him with a smirk, ignoring the fact that he'd have preferred to discuss things without her and Draco present.
The blond boy started a fight with Potter over the only piece of cake with a walnut on it. Snape glared at the boys; when they continued their fight he decided to ignore them and turned to Capella who had opted for a piece of puff pastry with a half apricot.
"I and Potter are in hiding," the potions master informed the girl without preamble. "My superior, Potter's mentor, thought it wise to remove Harry from Great Britain for the duration of the summer holidays. In order to hide from the deatheaters, we used aliases."
"Deatheaters?" echoed Capella. "You have to hide from Voldemort's minions?"
Narcissa chuckled. Draco laughed. "Of course Harry Potter," the blond boy looked at the Gryffindor pointedly, "has to hide from the deatheaters."
"You mean to tell me that he's THE Harry Potter?" cried Capella.
Potter grinned and raised his cup to her.
"Wicked!" Capella leaned back in her chair and sipped her chocolate.
"You are aware," Narcissa chimed in, mischief in her eyes, "that you can't afford to let her go now, Severus. She knows who you are. Even worse, she knows who the boy is."
"I won't let her out of sight," Severus promised. He hid his blush behind his cup.
"Come on, Snape," purred Draco, "You're just looking for an excuse to share a room with her." Potter's expression said he hadn't thought about that. The blush that followed a little later said he really really hadn't considered the possibilities before.
"I have no intention of leaving," Capella promised. "So, what are our plans for the rest of the day? It's too early for a reunion party." Draco chuckled. Snape glared at the blond.
"We could go to Montmartre," suggested Narcissa. "It's quite nice. I bought a nice painting there some years ago."
"Art shopping?" Harry made a face. "I think I've had enough art for a day."
Narcissa rolled her eyes. "Hasn't your family taught you anything? Montmartre is an area where you can not only shop art, but all kind of things. And they have very nice restaurants there."
Capella nodded. "It's rather romantic. I'd love to go there."
"Is that where you bought the dining room still life?" asked Draco. "I'd love to see the shop."
"Then it's agreed; we go to Montmartre." Severus got up from his seat and held out a hand to Capella. The witch allowed him to help her up.
"Great," muttered Harry as they left the room, the potions master arm in arm with his girl friend and Narcissa discussing picture frames with Draco. "First I'm not asked what I want to do and now I'm the odd man out."
Severus heard him and turned, holding his other arm out. "Care to join us?" he grinned evilly.
"Get over yourself!" hissed the boy. In the lift, everybody smirked at him.
Later, Snape saw that it hadn't been wise to anger the boy. Harry disappeared again at the first opportunity. Severus wanted to bang his head against the nearest wall. Here he was, in the city of love, and he even had a beautiful girl clinging to his arm. And what was he doing? Looking for Harry Bloody Potter!
What was most alarming was the fact that Capella's little location charm didn't work this time.
"Don't get nervous," said the witch. "There are plenty of harmless reasons why the spell can't find him." She looked nervous herself though.
"Such as?" Narcissa asked. She looked annoyed. She and Draco had discussed buying a painting for the boy's room in the taxi. Narcissa had been very excited about the idea. Severus remembered Lucius complaining about his wife getting carried away when it came to shopping for decoration repeatedly.
"He could be underground," said Capella.
"There's no metro nearby," Draco pointed out. He was holding the map for the curly witch.
"He could have changed his name," Capella tried.
"I'm confident he didn't get married within the past ten minutes," snarled Severus. This was ridiculous.
"He could have been adopted," the curly blonde pointed out.
"He wouldn't do that," said Snape. Potter might be foolhardy, but he wouldn't do that.
Capella shrugged. "Not voluntarily, I guess."
Draco looked at the woman, his eyes big as saucers. "Is there a crime like force-adoption on the continent?" He moved a step closer to his mother as if expecting somebody to jump at him and make him their son.
"I've never heard of it," admitted Capella. "I was just trying to come up with a harmless reason why the spell didn't work."
"Force-adoption is number two on the list of harmless reasons?" Severus gaped at the witch. "What worse could have happened to the boy?"
"He could be dead," Capella pointed out.
Severus felt the blood leave his cheeks. His skin went all clammy and cold. Dead? Albus would have his head if he managed to lose the golden boy!
Capella pecked his cheek. "I was just kidding. He has been gone for two minutes. What can have happened to him in that short time?"
The potions master could have named at least ten painful, deadly things that could have happened to a wizard in even less than two minutes. Narcissa's face told clearly that so could she.
"Maybe he went into one of those shops," Draco pointed to the other side of the street. "It looks like they sell in the basement, too." Severus looked in the direction the blond boy pointed. There was a sign in one of the shop windows saying that they had special offers on the lower floor.
"I'll kill him if he's gone shopping while I'm worrying about his whereabouts." That said, Severus stalked to the other side of the street. "I'll take this shop." He pointed at the one with the sign, Souvenirs de Paris chez Pierre. "Can you look into the others?"
The women and Draco nodded.
Pierre turned out to be an Arabian looking man in his late twenties. He was unwrapping small porcelain plates with pictures of various sights of the city. The man barely looked up when Severus entered the shop. There were numerous shelves with all kinds of knick-knacks; coasters, dolls, calendars and such. Between a shelf full of Eiffel tower shaped clocks and a rack full of cotton bags there was a staircase into the basement.
Severus walked down, not decided whether he hoped to find the boy there or not.
Potter was looking at the T-shirts.
"How dare you disappear without saying a word!" snarled the potions master.
Potter snorted. "I'm surprised you even noticed I was gone, with you mooning over that girl."
"I'm not mooning over Capella!" The potions master defended himself.
"Yes, you are," grinned the boy. "You are mooning over her."
"I don't do such a sappy thing as mooning!" cried Snape.
Harry chuckled. "Of course, you are a big bad dangerous wizard. But you are mooning. Definitely."
Snape felt himself blush.
"I'm only teasing you," giggled the boy. "I don't begrudge you your fun."
"Then why did you run away? I'm missing some of the fun because I have to go looking for you," Snape snarled.
"I didn't run away!" cried the boy. "I wanted to buy a souvenir and you looked busy. I thought I would catch up with you in a while."
"I didn't give you money," growled Snape. "How would you have bought your souvenir? There are huge holes in your story."
It was Potter's turn to blush. "I nicked a bit of money while we were in Vienna."
"You stole from me, boy?" Snape cried, enraged.
Potter took a couple of coins out of his pocket. "I took just a bit. I'm sure Dumbledore wanted me to have pocket money," he said defensively.
"And how were you going to pay here with sickles?" Snape raised a brow.
Potter bit his lip.
"You didn't think of that, did you?" Severus sneered.
The boy shook his head. He looked defeated. He put the T-shirt he was holding back onto the rack.
"Were you going to buy that?" Snape asked. He took the shirt. It was plain green with a smallish Eiffel tower on it.
Potter nodded. "Let's go," he said.
"It's nice," said Snape. He handed the boy some bank notes. Never having had any himself, he could understand Harry's wish for pocket money. He should have given him some to start with. "Why don't you get it?"
Harry beamed at the man.
Five minutes later, they met the others in front of the shop. Potter was carrying his plastic bag like a trophy. Draco rolled his eyes.
They returned to the hotel before dinner. The Malfoys had bought a total of seven paintings and Narcissa refused to risk damage by shrinking them. Draco, Severus and Harry were laden with parcels. Severus was carrying the biggest, mentally cursing the guy who had thought it was a good idea to paint a hippogriff life size. The boys were each carrying three small paintings.
"I still don't see why you would want a picture of a hippogriff in your room when you were hurt by one," said the Gryffindor.
"I want it as a reminder that you won't go unpunished if you attack me. The beast's sentence is one of my fondest memories," sneered the blond.
"The attack was entirely your fault! Had you listened to Hagrid you would have known that it was unwise to insult a hippogriff!"
"Who in their right mind would listen to anything that oaf said?"
"Take that back! Hagrid is my friend!"
Narcissa was wise enough to interfere before things got out of hand. "Draco, be nice!"
The blond muttered under his breath, but didn't say anything more about the gamekeeper.
"I didn't see all your paintings," Capella joined the conversation. "What else did you get?"
"There's only one more for my room," said the blond. "It's a picture of bathing nymphs."
"Really?" asked Potter. "May I see it?"
"Having dirty thoughts?" grinned Draco. Potter blushed. "We can look at it later," the blond added after he had given the other boy a little time to be embarrassed.
"And the rest?" asked the Viennese witch.
Narcissa smiled superiorly. "Just some still lives for the corridors."
Severus pitied Lucius. He knew the corridors of Malfoy Manor and there was definitely none that needed additional decoration.
On the way up to their room they discussed where to go for dinner. Narcissa wanted a French restaurant, the boys wanted a famous American fast food restaurant and Capella said she didn't care where they went as long as her company consisted of only one person. She batted her lashes at the potions master. Severus wisely said that he was going wherever Capella went.
"No Malfoy will be seen in a muggle fast food restaurant!" Narcissa hissed angrily.
Draco hung his head. "Yes, Mother!"
"Narcissa, would you mind taking Harry to the restaurant?" Severus asked. Normally he wouldn't have trusted the witch with his charge, but Capella smiled so sweetly. A bit of pleasure couldn't be wrong, could it?
The witch agreed with a sigh. She never had to be as good as her word though. When they entered their suite, an owl flew up from the back of an armchair and landed on Narcissa's shoulder, holding out a leg.
The woman took a scroll of parchment from the bird. The owl left while Narcissa was still reading.
"Who's writing?" asked Draco. He craned his neck to see, but his mother held the parchment at an angle which kept him from seeing properly.
Narcissa sighed. "Your aunt," she informed her son when she had finished reading.
Severus felt his stomach drop. Nothing that had come from Bellatrix Lestrange had ever done him good.
"What does she want?" the potions master asked.
"She misses her only nephew and is going to visit." Narcissa didn't sound thrilled to see her sister.
"What?" screeched Severus. "When?" He let go of Capella and pulled Potter close. The blonde nearly fell over. She glared at the wizard angrily.
Narcissa scanned the letter again. "Next Wednesday."
Severus sighed with relief. "That gives us time. We can discuss our course of action after dinner." With a happy smile he pushed Potter away and reached for Capella. The blonde rolled her eyes.
Draco chuckled mirthlessly. "Since when has auntie Bella ever been known to plan for more than three hours ahead? I wouldn't be surprised if she turned up within the next ten seconds."
This time Capella was prepared to be shoved away. "So what do we do?" she asked.
"We have to leave." Severus stated. "We have to separate. Harry is no longer safe in Narcissa and Draco's presence."
The Viennese witch eyed the two blonds mistrustingly. "Are you sure they won't send her right after us?"
"I can't exclude that," the potions master admitted.
Severus had never seen anybody that fast. Drawing her wand and throwing spells at Narcissa and Draco was one smooth movement. The Malfoys sank to the floor.
"What do you suggest?" Capella asked. "Obliviate or shall we change their memories?"
"Change their memories," Severus said without thinking. "Let them think we went to Greece."
"Why Greece?" asked the witch but she had her wand already pointed at the unconscious Malfoys.
"It will take them forever to search all those tiny islands," the potions master shrugged.
"And where will we really go?" The boy made himself heard at last.
"Dinner," Severus and Capella chorused.
"Oh great, I'll be the odd man out again!" the saviour to be gritted his teeth.
"As if taking you along would make us happy," snorted Severus.
"Severus," Capella reprimanded, "be nice!"
Potter smirked. Severus gave him his patented death glare.
"Boys!" the witch stepped between the two wizards. "Stop it! Why don't you pack our things while I take care of these two?"
The two wizards glared at each other for a few more seconds before they obeyed. When they returned from their bedrooms a little later, Capella had her wand pocketed and the Malfoys were starting to stir.
The three left without further ado. Capella and Severus negotiated where to eat on the way down. Harry couldn't contribute to the discussion since his experience with French food was very limited.
Severus led the way to the underground and they went to a different part of the city. Harry was surprised that the older wizard chose this means of transport but Capella didn't seem surprised at all. "More difficult to follow," she pointed out when she saw the boy's astonishment.
To say the underground was crowded would have been an understatement. The small group had difficulties not to be separated by the constant stream of people. Thrice Harry had to call for the potions master to wait. At last it was Capella who made an end to their struggle by gripping both wizards' hands.
They took the underground – the Parisians called it 'metro' – to the south part of the city where Severus pulled them into the first restaurant they found. It was small and cheap and looked like the French version of a fast food restaurant but they had different worries than cuisine at the moment.
After a short glance at the menu, the potions master nodded approvingly. "They have a decent choice of French dishes," he told Harry. "As you're not very experienced concerning French cuisine, try the pot au feu. It's a stew with beef and vegetables, not too different from what you're used to."
They all had pot au feu and the tarte tatin for dessert since the landlord pointed out that this was the offer of the day. For the first time since they had reached France, Harry enjoyed a meal.
After the dessert Severus had cognac and Capella went for a cup of coffee. Harry stuck with the grape juice he had had with the food.
"So, what shall we do now?" asked Capella when the waiter had left. "What you said about – what was her name? – Bellatrix didn't sound like I want to meet her."
"No, you don't," Harry agreed. "She's completely mental. She killed my godfather although he was her cousin."
"She's the Dark Lord's most loyal follower," Severus elaborated. "And I agree with Harry about her mental state. We have to avoid running into her at all cost."
"Then we should leave Paris," Capella pointed out.
The two wizards agreed, but where to go, they were not sure.
Capella stirred her coffee although she hadn't put any sugar in it. "Why don't we return to Britain?" she suggested. "They are looking for you in Greece and certainly won't look for you at home."
"That sounds reasonable," agreed Severus. "What do you say, Harry? Shall we spend the rest of the summer at Hogwarts?"
"Will the headmaster agree to that?" asked the boy.
Severus gave it some thought before he confirmed that, yes, the headmaster would probably approve of their return. The old man wished for the boy's safety after all.
"Can I come with you?" Capella asked doubtfully. "I have no business at Hogwarts."
"You have," Severus replied grimly, "if you are my new potions apprentice. The headmaster himself suggested that I get some help."
The witch beamed at the potions master. "You want me as your potions apprentice?" She clapped her hands excitedly. "That's wonderful!"
Harry snorted into his grape juice. "Potions apprentice! Ha!"
Severus glared at the boy angrily but didn't say anything when his new apprentice leaned over to peck him on the cheek.
Albus Dumbledore examined the Viennese witch over the rims of his glasses. "So, you found yourself an apprentice at last," he drawled, making the 'so' the longest syllable Severus had ever heard. The girl beamed at the old man and nodded eagerly.
"You have been telling me to get an assistant for years," Severus remarked with as much dignity as he could muster with the excited girl all but hopping up and down beside him.
"I meant one to help you with your potions," the old wizard pointed out.
Severus glared at Potter who looked too merry for his own good. "This is what I brought her for."
"I'm great with potions," Capella said boldly. "Severus made sure he got somebody qualified. I'm of vast reading when it comes to potions."
"Really?" The headmaster looked very doubtful.
"I read all the important ones." Capella looked at Severus for backup. The potions master nodded. "All the important ones," he echoed.
Dumbledore looked at the two calculatingly. "I suggest a probationary period until the end of summer," he said then.
"That won't be necessary," muttered Severus.
"I insist." The old man looked at his potions master sternly.
"Until the end of summer," Severus agreed. Capella beamed at him. "I'll show you your quarters," the potions master informed his new apprentice. "They are conveniently close to mine."
"Don't forget to take Harry with you," the headmaster smiled at the boy benignly.
"Why would I?" Severus sneered at the boy.
"Why would he?" the Gryffindor piped.
"I made you Harry's guardian for all summer and we have nobody to take these duties over from you. Therefore he will share your quarters for the rest of the summer."
"I can stay at Gryffindor Tower!" cried the boy.
"I'm sorry, Harry, but that is impossible. We're painting the walls. The whole tower is under construction."
"Albus," the potions master chimed in. "Painting the walls takes only one quick spell. I painted mine between two lessons last year."
"We're speaking about a whole tower," said Dumbledore. "not a mouldy dungeon room."
"The dungeons are not mouldy," Severus turned to Capella.
The blonde shrugged. "If they were, it would take only a couple of spells to change that. – You do have room for Schani, don't you?"
"Of course, but how did you bring him? I haven't seen him since we left Vienna?" Severus asked, curious.
Capella held out her hand to show a ring with a big azure blue stone. "Wizard space," she smiled.
"May I?" Dumbledore took the girl's hand and examined the ring. "Excellent spell work. If you don't want her for a potions apprentice, we might ask Filius whether he needs an assistant. A Grindylow?"
"European dwarf Grindylow," Capella specified. "They're easier to transport. Can I see the dungeons now?"
Severus nodded. "Of course." He opened the door for the blonde.
The blonde witch and the black-haired boy took in Snape's living room curiously.
"That looks cosy," beamed the girl. "Can I put Schani's tank into that corner?" She pointed at the empty space between a bookshelf and the door to the potions master's private lab.
"Of course you can," smiled the man in question. "We're faced with a little problem though, headmaster." His smile turned into a triumphant grin. "You want two people to move in with me, but my quarters have only one extra bedroom."
"It should be given to Harry," interrupted Capella before the headmaster could even think of answering. "He's a student. It would be very inappropriate if he was made share with an adult."
"You have a point," agree the potions master. "Potter, go in there!" He pointed at a small door at the far end of the room. "Now, where shall Capella reside?"
"I can take the sofa," the girl suggested slyly.
"Nonsense!" cried Snape. "What if Harry couldn't sleep and wanted to sit and read a bit before bed?"
"Oh, for Merlin's sake!" Dumbledore threw his hands up in a gesture of helplessness. "Take her to your bedroom already and stop the show! We're all adults here!"
The girl giggled. "That door?" she asked pointing at it. After a curt nod from the potions master she excused herself and went to unpack her luggage.
"I expect you to come to the Great Hall for meals," said the headmaster. "And don't neglect Harry over the girl."
"I won't," the potions master said earnestly. "If she's to be truly helpful when classes are in session I need to instruct her what is expected of her beforehand. Potter can attend the lessons. He can do with a few extra potions lessons anyway."
The headmaster nodded approvingly and left.
Severus took his new roommates to the lab after they had unpacked their luggage. It quickly turned out that Capella wasn't any better at potions than Potter.
"Were you trying to ruin these daisy roots, Potter? If so, you succeeded," the potions master snarled at his younger pupil. "Take a new portion and concentrate this time!" He turned to the girl. When he saw that she had made an equal mess of her roots, he stood behind her and laid his hands on hers from behind. "You have to make the motion of the dagger smoother, like this," he purred into her ear before pecking her neck.
The girl giggled and allowed the potions master to take control of her right hand and the knife. "Like this?" she purred back after a few cuts.
"Exactly," Snape purred back.
"Do you want me to leave?" Potter snapped from the side.
"I want you to do a proper job with these roots! Don't be clumsier than usually on purpose, Potter!"
"Why do you show her how to do it and just shout at me?" the boy growled.
"Jealous?" Snape raised a brow at the boy.
"You wish!" Potter reached for another portion of roots.
"If you ruin any more, you will pay for them!" Snape said threateningly.
"These are the holidays," protested the Gryffindor. "Why can't we do something more fun?"
"But we're having fun!" Snape's voice moved up a half octave when the witch pressed back against him.
"Why don't we go swimming in the lake?" asked Potter. "Or even better, why don't you do whatever and I go swimming?"
"That is impossible because you are my responsibility, even if I don't like it."
"Swimming?" whispered Capella. "That would be great. I brought my bikini!"
Snape swallowed hard. "Let's go swimming," he croaked.
Of course Fate would not allow Severus Snape unblemished joy for long.
The excursion to the lake started fine – oh, whom am I trying to fool, it was heavenly! Capella looked like an angel in her powdery blue bikini. She laughed and giggled and seemed completely unaware of the fact that Severus's swimming attire was completely out of fashion. On the contrary! She picked the hem of his trunks – which was slightly above his knee – playfully and informed him that she liked things being left to her imagination.
Potter was happy to be allowed outside and was leaving them alone after Severus had nearly torn his head off for his cheek. ("What happened to the thong you wore when you were showing off in front of Narcissa?")
Snape was startled from his applying suntan lotion to Capella's back by a cursing Albus Dumbledore. The old man was rushing past them, robes flying.
"Severus, come and help me this instant!" the old wizard cried as he waded into the water.
The potions master's blood froze when he looked past the enraged wizard. A little farther into the water, just where it must be becoming too deep to stand, Harry Potter was trashing and spluttering.
"It must be Grindylows!" cried Capella. The witch was after the headmaster in an instant. Severus woke from his stupor and followed suite.
Together, the three adults fended the attacking water demons off the teenager. Potter panted heavily when they finally managed to pull him back to the shore.
"Can't you look after yourself for a minute, boy?" snarled Severus angrily but Dumbledore stopped him immediately.
"I'm very disappointed," he growled at the younger wizard. "Harry could have died while you were ogling the girl! I'm sorry, Miss Capella, but I cannot allow you to remain here when my potions master forgets his duties due to your presence!"
The girl nodded sadly. "I will be allowed to say good-bye!" Snape stated boldly. He marched up to the castle after her. The headmaster took his golden boy back to the safety of the castle a little later.
Nobody saw Capella leave.
Severus spent the rest of the summer proctoring and tutoring his personal nemesis, Harry Potter. The boy was very grateful that there wasn't much left of the summer since the potions master didn't try to make a secret of whom he thought at fault for the loss of the blonde witch.
The next school year, Severus Snape was even more withdrawn than usual. He even started to spend his weekends in his quarters without even leaving them for meals. Instead he ordered food in.
Nobody can tell whether the house elves ever noticed he ordered more than in the past. If they did, they didn't comment.