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For Hogwarts: A Regency Gamble by Subversa [Reviews - 9]

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For Hogwarts: A Regency Gamble

Chapter 7

Friday, August 2, 2002
Before Breakfast

Hermione ran lightly down the main staircase to the Entry Hall. Her helpers had done a good job, placing era-appropriate paintings, occasional tables, and flowers as if this were the foyer to the country seat of a Regency gentleman. Beside one ornately scrolled occasional table there hung an enormous full-length mirror, framed in gilt. The mirror had been Parkinson’s idea, and Hermione had to admit it had been a good one. Their guests would be dressed in Regency costumes, completely unaccustomed garments, and they would be curious about how they looked—particularly the witches, of course, but even wizards were possessed of some vanity—Lucius Malfoy had been known to pass as much as a quarter hour examining his look from every possible angle. Now, she paused before it to inspect herself.

She had practiced several Regency hairstyles collected from books she had studied at the Muggle and wizarding libraries. It was amusing to her how much the fashions of each group had resembled the other in the early eighteen hundreds. When had they diverged? Why had the wizards chosen to maintain their old fashioned way of dressing?

She had finally settled on two hairstyles, one for day wear and another for evening wear. Now she had her hair coiled into a bun set high, just beneath the crown of her head, wrapped with a braid that was just long enough to circle the bun once. The hair too short to cooperate had been curled into corkscrews which graced her nape, her cheeks, and her forehead with wispy brown curls. Her makeup was minimal, for the ladies of the day had worn little of it; glossy colour on her lips and mascara on her lashes was all she permitted herself. About her throat she wore a simple locket upon a velvet ribbon. Her walking dress, suitable for receiving guests or strolling about the grounds, was figured muslin, pale pink flowers upon a white field. The skirt was embellished with three rows of pink ruffles near the hem, and the scoop neckline was augmented by a filmy white fichu to modestly cover her cleavage. She had a lovely pale pink pelisse to wear over her dress when she ventured out of doors, and she couldn’t wait to try it out with the modest poke bonnet that matched it.

Satisfied with her appearance, she looked over at the registration tables, where Parkinson sat with Lavender and Parvati, waiting to assist the guests in registering for the event. Each of the young women was dressed in the proper styles of the times. They would hand out to the guests the packets containing their personalised schedules, the detailed lists of their costumes, and the location of their rooms.

The guests would be directed to the Great Hall for breakfast, after which they would spend much of the morning with Madam Malkin and her tailors, having their costumes fitted. In the afternoon, there would be a picnic by the lake, followed by lawn games and wandering about the maze.

Hermione felt a pang of sorrow. Ron was supposed to have been at her side for all the festivities, and she had often daydreamed about how much fun—how romantic!—it would be. But Ron had proved once and for all how little she meant to him—for if he loved her, he’d love her projects as well, wouldn’t he?—and so she would be alone for the event. She didn’t expect Snape to actually follow Ron’s schedule—he had made it quite clear from the beginning that he would do the bare minimum required of him to make the event work—but she was determined to present a happy face to the guests. They were paying for the Regency experience, and she was dogged in her determination to deliver it to them.

After all, the point of it all was to support Hogwarts, and she would do anything for her school—she had spent some of her happiest times there. Hadn’t she met Harry and Ron at Hogwarts? And been menaced by a three-headed dog, Petrified by a Basilisk, chased by a werewolf, pawed by a Durmstrang Quidditch player, threatened by angry centaurs, cared for Professor Flitwick when he had been Stunned by Professor Snape on his way to kill Dumbledore, and fought for her life against Voldemort’s invading Death Eaters?

Wait … had she ever been happy at Hogwarts?

‘Good morning, Hermione!’

She turned from her reminiscences to see Penny Clearwater approaching, golden and lovely in celestial blue. ‘How pretty you look!’ Hermione exclaimed.

Penny laughed, but she looked pleased. ‘You look pretty too!’ she declared, but Hermione knew better. She couldn’t hold a candle to Penny or Lavender or the Patil sisters when it came to physical beauty.

Penny consulted the small pocket watch pinned to her bodice like a brooch. ‘It’s seven o’clock!’ she said excitedly. ‘They’ll begin arriving any minute!’

With their arms linked like Regency era friends, the girls went out the front castle doors to await the horse-drawn carriages that would deliver their guests from Hogsmeade. A special run of the Hogwarts Express would deliver some of them, and others could Floo or Apparate to the Three Broomsticks to ride up in one of the carriages. Hermione was determined they would begin their Regency experience from the moment they arrived in Hogsmeade, which is why she had insisted upon horses rather than Thestrals to draw the carriages.

Hagrid had frowned at her. ‘A course I can teach the horses the way to the castle from the village—but ’Ermione, wizards and witches from those times knew all about Thestrals too! It’d be just as authentic fer you to use them as horses!’

Hermione had been adamant. ‘No one in a Jane Austen novel ever rode in a Thestral-drawn carriage!’ she declared.

Hagrid had accepted his defeat gracefully. ‘If you say so,’ he agreed.

Now the first carriage rumbled up from the winged-boar gates, containing two middle-aged couples Hermione did not know. Excitedly, Penny squeezed her hand; then the couples were exiting the carriage, and Penny and Hermione dropped simultaneous curtsies, causing the strangers to stare, agog.

‘Welcome to Hogwarts Manor,’ Hermione said, smiling in welcome. ‘Please come in—the servants will bring your bags. We’re so glad you’ve come!’

And she led the way inside, leaving Penny to greet the next carriage.

Harry tugged at the cravat, a monstrous white scarf a foot wide, which had to be folded and wrapped about his throat—a tortuous process for which Hermione had, thankfully, created a spell. The ‘points’ on his shirt collar stood stiffly up about his chin; his waistcoat was cream with baby blue stripes; his dark blue coat fit so snugly that it had taken him five minutes to wriggle into it; and the pale buff pantaloons were more like tights than trousers—if he had any unplanned reactions south of the beltline, he would have no secrets from any observers.

He loved Hermione like a sister, and Hogwarts was the first home he had ever known, but if he had realised what an ordeal Regency Week would be, he never would have agreed to participate in it. And today, the guests would begin to arrive, and he had to endure the next ten days of being surrounded by people who admired him and wanted to know him. Ten days! Why did she call it a week, which even a troll knew was seven days, if she was going to allow ‘early registration’ which prolonged the thing into ten days?

He added the pocket watch on its fob to his waistcoat, but damned if he was going to hang the quizzing glass about his neck—it looked like the ugly old jewellery Dudley’s Aunt Marge used to wear.

By the time he was fully outfitted, he felt as if he needed another bath. How in hell could those Regency blokes stand to wear all these clothes in the summer? They were stifling! He glanced at the clock on the mantelpiece. He didn’t have any more time to fuss about with it; breakfast was being served in the Great Hall, and Hermione wanted him to be there to greet the early arrivals. Apparently, the promise of his presence had been one of the selling points for the rather outrageous price Hermione was charging people to participate in the event.

He stared at his reflection one last time, dreading the idea of being ‘Public Harry’ every minute of every day until this thing was ended. Why couldn’t Ginny have come to be his date just one last time—for old time’s sake? Without his ‘girlfriend’ on his arm, he would be stalked and flirted with by girls he had no interest in. He knew that Ginny was in love with the Keeper of the Kenmare Kestrels—a decent bloke by the name of Kevin Kerwin—but Ginny knew very well what his proclivities were. Not that he was precisely out. Bugger it all, he wasn’t out at all. His liaisons had been furtive and short-lived, and he just did not relish the notion of his preferences becoming grist for the mills of the Prophet and Rita Skeeter’s weekly rag, Probe! Magazine.

It made him tired just thinking about it.

Resolutely, he went to the room next door and knocked. ‘Ron! Are you dressed?’

The only sound coming from Ron’s room was stertorous snoring.

He pounded harder. ‘Ron! Wake up!’

No answer. Harry eyed the door and considered Alohomora.

‘Thinking about adding housebreaking to your repertoire?’

Harry turned his head to glare down the corridor, his lips pressed together in annoyance. Draco Malfoy leant against the mouth of the corridor, one booted foot crossed negligently over the other, twirling a quizzing glass on its ribbon as if he’d been wearing one all his life. Far from looking uncomfortable or out of place, both feelings Harry had experienced about the Regency costume, Malfoy looked perfectly at ease.

And fine. The annoying git was born to wear skin-tight clothing and look good doing it.

‘Did you get lost, Ferret?’ Harry demanded. ‘This isn’t the part of the castle for paying guests.’

Malfoy shrugged. ‘I was coming to see if Hermione might need me for anything.’

Harry turned away from the door, Ron forgotten, and walked up to Malfoy, wishing he were tall enough to loom over him, the way Severus did with people. For some reason, Harry wanted to see the Ferret cower.

‘Hermione has been downstairs practically since daybreak,’ he said. ‘Besides, I’m sure Ron wouldn’t appreciate you coming down to his girlfriend’s bedroom.’

Malfoy laughed, his grey eyes as pale as winter ice. ‘Oh, I don’t think the Weasel is worried about me, Scar Head—any more than he’d be worried about you, eh?’

Harry bristled at Malfoy’s implication. The erstwhile Slytherin had always been a puzzle to him. But Malfoy was nearly as careful as Harry was about keeping the wizarding press out of his personal relationships. The only person Harry had seen Draco’s name linked with in the last year or so had been Blaise Zabini, and Malfoy had been friends with Zabini since they were at school, like Harry and Ron had been. Hanging around with your schoolmates didn’t mean a thing, relationship-wise … but that didn’t mean he couldn’t get up Malfoy’s nose about it.

‘Where is your boyfriend, anyway?’ Harry asked with wide-eyed innocence, already knowing that Zabini had cancelled his plans to attend Regency Week.

The laughter died out of Malfoy’s face, and his eyes grew darker, like storm clouds gathering on the horizon. ‘You should mind your own business, Potter.’ Malfoy pushed himself from the wall, and his mouth puckered into a petulant sneer. ‘I’m going down for breakfast. And don’t watch my arse as I walk away!’

Harry forced a smile. ‘Don’t twitch it like a girl,’ he advised.

The Ferret might not have twitched his bum like a girl, but he flounced like one, Harry reflected as he watched Malfoy go.

Hermione stood near the door to the Great Hall, waiting for the last guests to arrive. Fifteen people were now arranged about two large round tables, partaking of breakfast. The guests (amongst whom were Molly and Arthur Weasley, whose holiday had been paid for by George, and Fortescue and Amaryllis Parkinson, parents of Pansy) were still dressed in their own clothing, but Hermione’s helpers were in costume and scattered amongst the breakfasters, providing colour and context to the Regency theme. Harry laughed with Molly and Arthur and riveted the other diners at his table, most of whom had met him for the first time that morning, whilst Luna Lovegood, authentically clothed in simple jonquil muslin, conversed with the diners at the second table. The Parkinsons had seemed somewhat dismayed at first by Luna, but once Draco had joined the table, resplendent in his Regency garb, they had appeared to be quite content.

Penny Clearwater still waited outside the castle for the final carriage—they were expecting seventeen people for the early registration group, now that Zabini had cancelled—and the girls at the registration table were becoming restless. Hermione consulted the clock. It was now an hour past the time the guests were supposed to arrive; something must have delayed the arrival of Finbar Quigley and his partner, whose name had not been provided to them. Hermione made a mental note to obtain the second person’s name for inclusion on the personalised schedule she had prepared.

Thought of the schedule made her bite her lip. No, she would not start feeling sad and sorry for herself about Ron—not now, when she needed to be welcoming and inviting to the guests. Snape would never actually wish to use Ron’s schedule—to step into Ron’s shoes, as it were—he could barely tolerate her, and he had no interest in joining in all the activities. To hear him talk, you would think he had loads of work to do, even through the summer hols, though any time Hermione had been in Snape’s office, his desk had been curiously bare.

Determinedly, she dragged her mind back to the problem at hand. Since Ginny had declined to continue pretending to be Harry’s girlfriend any longer, Harry was without a partner, too. He could step in and take Ron’s place as her escort. That would work out well for both of them.

With a decisive nod, she signalled Parkinson and company to join the breakfasters. There was no point in keeping them at the registration table; when the stragglers showed up, Hermione or Penney could take care of them.

Parkinson, Lavender, and Parvati were pleased to be released, and Hermione admired the lovely picture they made in their costumes as they hurried to the Great Hall. The she went out the front doors to fetch Penney inside.

Severus stood on the second floor landing, looking over the stone balustrade at Granger, standing by the door to the Great Hall like a Regency hostess waiting to greet a late guest. She was precise in every detail, from the taming of her bushy mane into a careful hairstyle to the pink kid slippers upon her feet. It was a shame, he reflected, that she had to tuck the wisp of linen down the front of her dress and obscure her bosom, but it would undoubtedly be on display when she dressed for dinner in the evenings. She might think him indifferent to this entire affair, but the truth was that he had carefully studied all the materials she had left for him, as well as doing a bit of research of his own.

He felt ridiculous in the period clothing, but he had spied Potter and Draco having words down an eighth floor corridor that morning, and he looked no worse than they did in costume. He was unaccustomed to wearing blue coats and yellow trousers—the Regency men must have been a set of poncy gits!—but he knew from his reading that Granger had the clothes right, so he would grit his teeth and wear it … for Hogwarts.

As he watched her, she glanced over her shoulder, providing him a fine view of her profile, and for a moment her eyes closed, and she bit her lip. Not that he could blame her for it; he would bite that full, rather pouty lower lip too, given half a chance.

No! No, he would not think of her that way, as if she were a stranger with whom he would never speak. He had fallen into the habit, because the first time he had seen her bottom and her swaying hips he had been unaware of her identity, and his attraction to her body predated his knowledge of her name. But it had to stop; his unwilling fascination with her allure led him to say things to her that were totally improper. He had no business teasing her, much less taunting—and it didn’t matter how deliciously she coloured up when he flustered her. Regency Week was serious business, and he would treat it—and her—accordingly.

For if this farce—no, this project—was a success, then the shortfall in the school budget would be made up, and the girl would go away from Hogwarts. He wouldn’t have to see her or deal with her again—not on a regular basis.

And that would be best for everyone.

She flitted to the end of the Entrance Hall, motioning the girls there into the Great Hall; then she went through the front door, returning shortly with Miss Clearwater. Severus stepped back quickly, not wishing to be seen. Penelope Clearwater had always been a good student, an outstanding Prefect, and a pupil of good sense, as demonstrated by her interest in Percy Weasley, another serious student. But her sudden, unprovoked attraction to him, Severus, was appalling.

What he needed was a decoy—someone in whom he could evince interest, who would forestall Clearwater’s pursuit of him.

He peered over the balustrade again, and Clearwater was gone, but Granger still stood in the doorway of the Great Hall, as if hesitant to go in. The piece of parchment bearing Ronald Weasley’s name—the boy’s personalised Regency Week schedule—nestled in the inner pocket of the ridiculously tight coat Severus wore, and he remembered it with a pang. If he hadn’t goaded Weasley the night before, the ginger-haired whelp would be at Granger’s side even now, escorting her in to breakfast. Severus had thought, when he accepted the schedule as a wager, that he would take Weasley’s place and keep Granger on an even keel. But what had seemed a simple matter at the poker game loomed as an impossible task in the bright light of morning. He couldn’t see himself dancing attendance on her—dancing with her!—taking responsibility for the girl’s day-to-day functionality. It would be far too taxing … not to mention dangerous.

She bit her lip again, and he gritted his teeth. As things stood, Granger was alone—single—a woman at a ‘romantic’ event without a partner. In short, she would be a target for every single male who chanced to attend Regency Week—and Merlin knew any single men with a particle of sense would be buzzing around her like bees about a honey pot.

He considered that. Granger, pursued by handsome, fit young men. Granger, courted and flattered. Granger, in the throes of a fresh, new romance.

It would be an unmitigated disaster! How could she possibly concentrate on her job, which was to manage Regency Week to a successful conclusion, if her head were turned by some twit in knee breeches and stockings?

And why the fuck had he permitted her to include a ‘money-back guarantee’ in her Regency Week advertising? If she fell apart, and the whole event went to hell, the paying guests could demand their Galleons be returned to them!

It all became clear to him in an instant: It was his duty as Headmaster to partner Granger, keep single men away from her, and support her spirits, for Hogwarts! That his attentions to Granger would dissuade Clearwater was merely an added incentive to make the bitter pill sweeter.

He would have to suck it up and take it like a man.

Hermione smiled to see Penney, Parvati, Lavender … yes, and even Parkinson, seated with the guests and partaking of breakfast. There was nothing holding her at her station by the door except for her own unrealistic expectations. It had been silly of her to dream of having a Regency holiday with Ron. He had been against it from the start. But going into the room by herself and sitting down with everyone else would put a seal on the reality of her solitary state. It made her feel sad to even consider it.

Motion from the corner of her eye made her turn, and coming down the staircase she saw the Headmaster, the picture of Regency elegance. The close-fitting coat displayed the breadth of his shoulders as contrasted with his narrow waist, and the knitted pantaloons showcased long, slender, well-formed legs. Good God, who could have possibly known the fit body Snape had been hiding behind those billowing cloaks for all these years?

He stopped before her, and Hermione dropped a tiny curtsy, as was the custom of the day. ‘Good morning, Headmaster,’ she said.

Snape responded with the proper inclination of his upper body, slight but noticeable: a gentleman’s bow. ‘I hope the morning finds you well, Miss Granger?’

She smiled, pleased that he was conforming to the social niceties. ‘Quite well, sir. And many of our guests have arrived—will you join them for breakfast?’ She motioned him in with her hand, the excellent hostess situating a late-coming guest.

He offered his arm. ‘If you will accompany me, and show me how I must go on.’ One side of his mouth quirked upwards. ‘I fear I am not as well prepared as your helpers in all the appertaining … customs.’

Hermione’s felt an odd fluttering in her tummy. Snape was charming her! On purpose! And what an odd reaction she was having to him, as well, just as she had done the day before, when their hands had touched. But now he was offering deliberate contact …

‘And we must make haste to break our fast,’ he continued, his midnight eyes daring her to disagree, ‘because whilst the guests meet with Madam Malkin, you must instruct me in the niceties of playing at bowls—for that is next on our schedule, is it not?’

She felt the force of his will—of his personality—in a way she had never done before, and though it made it difficult for her to breathe properly, she was unable to break eye contact with him. Without a further thought for Ron, or expectations, or anything save the man before her, she tucked her hand into his arm and walked with him into the Great Hall.

A/N: You may see how to tie a Regency cravat and a portrait of a Regency gentleman here, as well as pictures of a ladies muslin dress and spencer:

For Hogwarts: A Regency Gamble by Subversa [Reviews - 9]

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