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For Hogwarts: A Regency Gamble by Subversa [Reviews - 7]

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For Hogwarts: A Regency Gamble

Chapter 10

Saturday, August 3, 2002

Breakfast the next morning was a volatile affair, yet Severus endured it with commendable aplomb, in his estimation. Krum, whom he remembered as a gruff, dour individual, was full of a holiday spirit, and with the encouragement of the young people, he and Quigley were the life and soul of the party. Miss Granger appeared perfectly ready to partake of their raillery, but Severus was pleased to see that she did not lose her sense of decorum, for all that. She was still very much focused on the job, and Severus could not but be glad to see it. He did not sit beside her at table, for Krum had appropriated that seat, but he had a fine view of her from his place amongst his teachers, and he was gratified to see that she looked well-rested, her eyes bright with purpose.

He could, therefore, consume his own meal without concern for his partner in this enterprise; she was well and could manage on her own whilst he ingested caffeine and plain porridge. He allowed a house-elf to refresh his coffee and pulled his schedule from his pocket to peruse his agenda for the day. At the motion, Ronald Weasley’s eyes rose from his plate, and he tracked the trajectory of the personalised schedule from Severus’ pocket to the table, then raised accusing eyes to Severus’ face. Severus arched an insolent eyebrow and waited for the boy to speak, wondering if they were to mar the relative peace of the morning with a brawl. But Weasley apparently thought better of his impulse and returned his gaze to his plate of eggs and sausages.

Severus studied the timetable. They had both dancing and riding this morning, more’s the pity. He didn’t see why the guests couldn’t simply choose one of those and be content with their choice, but Miss Granger had been scandalised by the suggestion.

‘Do you realise how much we’re paying per lesson per head?’ he’d demanded of her early on in the planning. ‘It’s outrageous.’

She had not looked up from the binder of printed material which had been her bible during the development stages of the Regency Week project. ‘Both riding and dancing were an integral part of life in those times and two of the chief avenues of socialisation and enjoyment,’ she had replied firmly. ‘Furthermore, the Muggle organisations that stage these sorts of events never stint on those areas.’ She had shoved a parchment in his general direction, her eyes still never lifting from her work. ‘Have you forgotten that we charge a premium for each of those activities, over and above the base event price? It is well worth the added expense, I promise you.’

His lip curled at the memory of her calm assumption of authority. Insufferable girl! But an efficient one, whose vision was well on the way to saving the school from an embarrassing shortfall. One had to give her credit—and he would make sure she received it, when all was said and done.

Miss Granger looked about at the young people. ‘Have you finished eating?’ she inquired. ‘I must take Viktor and Fin up to Madam Malkin before we meet with our dance instructor. Penny, will you be sure everyone finds their way to the appropriate room?’

Miss Clearwater acquiesced, and Miss Granger rose from her carved wooden chair, one of many which had replaced the benches at the long tables in the Great Hall. Right she had been that the ladies would never manage the benches in their long period dresses! As Miss Granger stood, Krum bounded to his feet and put his arm about her waist.

‘Have I told you how pretty you look today?’ he asked her, his accent far less noticeable now than it had been when he first came to Hogwarts, eight years before.

Severus blinked. Had it only been eight years? It seemed like an eternity since the return of the Dark Lord.

Miss Granger flushed, seemingly pleased with the compliment. She gave only a tiny shake of her head in response to Krum’s question, and she disentangled herself from him to lead him and his friend, Quigley, upstairs to Madam Malkin’s workroom.

‘Fin, wait up!’ Ronald Weasley called.

Quigley turned in response to the hail and quickly fell into conversation with Weasley as they left the Great Hall, trailing Granger and Krum.

Draco smirked to Pansy Parkinson, who sat at his side. ‘Perhaps the Weasel has finally found someone more to his taste than Granger.’

Parkinson snorted but did not respond, her glance darting quickly to and away from Severus’ face—as if they were school pupils and worried what the Headmaster would say. Would the silly children never grow up?

The thump of a metal goblet hitting the table was heard, and Severus frowned to see Potter’s face so red and angry.

‘Why don’t you try to keep your filthy tongue off my mate, Malfoy?’

Draco blinked once. ‘But Potter, I assure you that I would never touch your filthy mate with my tongue,’ he said in dulcet tones.

The other young people laughed, but Severus could only wish the two would desist the constant bickering. None of them were schoolchildren anymore, and it was past time for them to put aside their youthful aversion to one another.

Just as you did with your old schoolmates? his inner voice inquired maliciously, but he pushed the thought away. It was not to the point. The important thing, here and now, was that this entire affair was for Hogwarts, and Potter and Draco needed to remember that and behave accordingly.

Potter was jumping from his chair, throwing his cloth napkin at Draco. It had not the weight to make the journey from Potter’s seat to Draco’s, but his intent had been clear.

‘If you had your gloves, you could slap me in the face with them, and then we’d have to duel,’ Draco mocked, flicking the serviette with one disdainful finger.

‘Don’t think I couldn’t take you,’ Potter shot back at him.

Draco shrugged and stood as well, dusting non-existent crumbs from his sleeve. ‘But I wasn’t speaking of wands, Potter—I was speaking of a true Regency duel—with pistols.’ He looked up and locked eyes with Potter. ‘My father has just such a set of duelling pistols in his collection, an old family heirloom—oh, and a house-elf trained to load them.’

Severus chose that moment to stand, as well. ‘If you are quite finished providing entertainment for us over the breakfast cups, Potter, I would like to see you in my office before we begin our day’s activities.’ He stared at the boy’s face until Potter finally tore his eyes from Draco and looked at Severus. ‘Immediately,’ he added in a menacing tone.

Potter tilted his head slightly, as if to stretch a kinked muscle in his neck, and Severus could see him pulling himself together. ‘I’ll be along directly, Headmaster,’ he said. Then he turned without another word and stalked out of the Great Hall.

Draco watched Potter walk away, and Severus was puzzled by the expression on the boy’s face. Rather than the dislike or disdain he would have expected, Draco seemed rather sorrowful—wistful, even. Did he think such sniping was the way to go about endearing himself to Potter and Weasley? And was he so bereft of friends that he was driven to hankering after the company of the Gryffindors? It was true that the only one of the boys from his House with whom Draco still associated was Blaise Zabini, as Vincent Crabbe had died in the war, and Gregory Goyle seemed unable to remain out of gaol long enough to sustain a meaningful existence in the social circles where Draco moved.

Then Draco tossed a droll comment to those sitting near him and sauntered out of the room, the picture of Regency insouciance.

Severus securely tucked the schedule bearing Ronald Weasley’s name back into his pocket and murmured his excuses to the members of his staff amongst whom he was sitting.

McGonagall laid a claw-like hand upon his sleeve. ‘You’ll be at the dancing class?’ she stated, as if she would brook no argument from him.

He allowed himself one eye-roll, an exercise which relieved some of his building inner irritation. ‘Yes, Professor, I will be at the dancing class.’

He attempted to pull out of her grasp, but she just tightened her grip, much as a cat will dig in its claws if prompted to relinquish a prize with which it is not yet finished toying. ‘And you’ll do the reading I assigned you?’ she persisted.

Severus peeled her hand from his arm and took a full step back, out of her reach. ‘I will … consider it,’ he said.

She scowled. ‘Don’t make me compel you, Severus!’ she called after his retreating form, but he feigned deafness and made good his escape.

Hermione sat upon a chair in Madam Malkin’s rooms, waiting for Viktor and Fin to be finished with the tailors assisting them in their costume fittings. She took out her clipboard from her reticule and enlarged it. So far, the morning was proceeding along on schedule. Dancing class would begin at 9:30, followed by a riding lesson at 10:30, and lunch at 12:30. The afternoon was given over to working on the group theatrical and lawn games. Other activities could be provided for those interested, such as a drawing expedition to one of the local sites of interest (Hermione could understand the desire to draw pictures of pretty flowers, but why would anyone want to draw a picture of the Shrieking Shack?) or a quiet afternoon of sewing whilst being read to from a novel—by Jane Austen, of course.

She shifted her attention to a large mirror across the room, where Viktor stood whilst Madam Malkin magically adjusted the hem of his coat. She hadn’t seen Viktor in at least two years, when he had been in London for a week and they had gone to dinner a time or two. That had been before she and Ron were officially a couple—before he’d given her the silver ring to hold a place for a diamond that never materialised—and Hermione had enjoyed Viktor’s admiration, though she had declined his repeated offers to share her bed. She liked Viktor, and always had done, and there was no denying that his attentions to her had always given her some status amongst her peers. However, the previous evening in the drawing room, when Viktor had been paying her such ceaseless compliments—and, if she wasn’t mistaken, staring far too frequently at her chest—the Headmaster had seemed quite annoyed. His black eyes had tracked her every movement, it seemed, and he had radiated disapproval. Did he dislike Viktor? It was puzzling, and she had lain awake for some time attempting to work out what objection the Headmaster might have to Viktor Krum. She had been unsuccessful in her attempts to make sense of it, but she would continue to monitor the situation, and if necessary, she would speak to Snape about it. After all, Viktor was a paying guest, who had bought a bespoke wardrobe, as well, and it was important for him to feel welcome and at ease during his stay at Hogwarts.

Laughter from behind her drew her attention, and she turned to see Fin standing before the other large mirror whilst a tailor pinned up his sleeves. Ron leant against the wall, his face animated and happy, chatting with the older wizard. Ron had always been Quidditch mad, ever since Hermione had first known him. His worship of Viktor Krum, star Seeker, had been ever at war with his jealousy over Viktor’s attentions to Hermione. Naturally, he would relish the opportunity to rub shoulders with another professional Quidditch player. He had found his work as an Auror to be rather boring, she knew. Being a Dark wizard catcher didn’t mean it was all intrigue and duels; he did a good deal of paperwork and skulking about in surveillance details, work for which he had little patience.

She sighed as she watched her boyfriend—former boyfriend, she reminded herself—in unselfconscious interaction with someone other than herself. Why did he have to be so scornful of the things that were important to her? And why didn’t he see her more as a person—as much of a person as a Quidditch player, for instance—and less as a fixture he pinned to his lapel and wore as a … a fashion accessory, or something?

Viktor came to her then, followed by two house-elves laden with clothing and accoutrements. He was dressed in a gentleman’s country attire, complete with elegant black boots, fawn fall-front trousers, and a dark blue coat. He smiled at Hermione and bowed. ‘You see, already I am learning!’ he boasted. ‘Now we can go to the dancing, and we can practice together.’

Hermione put her work away in her reticule, which she had treated with an Undetectable Extension Charm, and stood to walk with Viktor. ‘Yes, we can go down together, and I will find a partner for you, but I may be too busy with other things to dance this morning.’ She smiled, hoping to soften the blow. ‘All the rest of the guests are arriving tomorrow, you know, and I have many details to check on.’

They stepped into the corridor, which was empty, and Viktor seemed rather too encouraged by her smile, for he pulled her into his arms and bent his head to kiss her.

Hermione recoiled—who wanted to be mauled about at this time of the morning?—and she planted the palms of her hands against his chest, trying to hold him off.

‘Viktor!’ she said in a strained whisper. ‘Stop it!’

‘This is a public corridor, is it not?’ an icy voice inquired.

Hermione wrenched herself out of Viktor’s grasp and turned to face the Headmaster.

‘Good morning, sir,’ Viktor said, offering a handshake, but Snape seemed curiously blind to the hand, for he answered with a stiff bow. Viktor, only slightly discomposed, bowed as well.

Snape fixed Hermione with a fulminating eye. ‘May I speak with you?’ he inquired.

Hermione smoothed the skirt of her simple white morning dress, reflecting that being around Viktor meant she was constantly having to straighten her clothes. ‘Certainly, Headmaster,’ she replied calmly.

Snape sent Viktor an icy stare, though he addressed Hermione. ‘Alone, Miss Granger?’

Viktor nodded in understanding. ‘Ah, you are discussing business matters for Regency Week!’ he said wisely. ‘I will see you at dancing, Herm-own-ninny!’

He clicked his heels together and bowed—not precisely the way of an English Regency gentleman, but who knew how Bulgarians had behaved in those days?—and it was such an endearing attempt to play by the rules that she didn’t have the heart to correct him. Then he went inside the room again, calling for Fin.

‘If it’s not too difficult for you to cease mooning after Mr Krum, I should like to walk with you,’ Snape snapped, indicating to Hermione that he wished to proceed along the hallway.

Hermione felt her face flush, but she began to walk with him, hissing from the corner of her mouth, ‘I do notmoon after anyone!’

‘You must pardon my mistake, then, for it appeared that you could scarcely bear to part with him!’

Hermione finally looked into his face, her brow furrowed. What in the world ailed the man? ‘Are you feeling unwell, sir?’ she asked in a different tone of voice.

‘Of course I’m not unwell!’ His thin lips curled to show his scorn of the very notion.

They had reached the staircase landing, and Hermione leant against the marble balustrade. ‘Well, you’re behaving oddly, so I thought I’d ask,’ she excused herself.

He scowled, his dark eyebrows meeting above the bridge of his considerable nose. ‘Tell me this,’ he said abruptly. ‘Shall I hand over Weasley’s schedule to Krum? Would you prefer his company?’

Hermione tilted her head to one side as she studied him. ‘Why on earth would you think that?’ she asked. Truly, the last thing she needed was to be wrestling with Viktor every minute of the day.

Snape’s nostrils dilated as he drew breath. ‘Because contrary to Regency decorum, you can’t seem to keep your hands off one another!’ he retorted.

Hermione shook her head resolutely. ‘You’re wrong,’ she informed him. ‘I have no trouble keeping my hands to myself, and Viktor will get the message … eventually.’

Snape’s scowl seemed to lessen a bit. ‘Shall I communicate the message for you?’ he asked.

Hermione gave a definite shake of her head. ‘Absolutely not. I will take care of it.’ She straightened and consulted the watch pinned to her bodice, a trick she had learnt from Penny. ‘I have to speak with the kitchen elves about lunch for Mrs Parkinson—she’s got an allergy to nuts, and the menu needs to be adjusted—and then I’ll meet you in the Trophy Room for dancing class.’

Snape put a hand on her arm to halt her. ‘Are you sure you would not prefer to have Krum as your partner?’ he asked again, and there was something in his voice that made her stop.

Gazing up into his face, containing the whirl of thoughts pounding through her mind—so much to do!—she actually looked at him. She saw the tightness of his lips, the strain about his dark eyes, the vertical line between his brows, and felt the impulse to smooth it away—but she didn’t. He stared at her hard, intensity radiating from him, and for a moment, she was afraid he had read her thoughts. She was frozen, and it seemed as if it was harder for her to catch her breath. Her lips parted as she drew breath, and surely she was imagining the way his gaze drifted to her mouth …

‘N-no,’ she babbled, desperate to the end the silence between them. ‘No, I wouldn’t prefer to have Viktor as my partner!’ She began to back away. ‘But I must hurry, now—goodbye!’

And she left him alone on the landing, feeling his eyes burning into her back even as she fled.

Harry took a turn around the Headmaster’s office, nudging one of Dumbledore’s old Dark Detectors with the tip of a finger as he waited for Severus to show up. Severus always told him not to touch things when he was here, but there was nothing Dark to be detected, so how could it hurt anything? He glanced over his shoulder at Dumbledore’s portrait, but the old wizard appeared to be sleeping—and he was still wearing George’s stupid poker hat.

He smiled to himself for a moment, but the good mood couldn’t hold. He hated being called to the Headmaster’s office like—well, like a schoolboy in trouble with the Headmaster—but he owed Severus the respect of coming here, as asked. Harry had to put up with a lot from Severus now, because of how guilty he felt about how he had treated Severus when he was at school. Sometimes it really got on his wick to give in, but Harry would remind himself then of the years of being loathed and reviled that Severus had suffered in the service of the Order of the Phoenix, and his resistance would crumple. How had Severus been able to keep it up, year after year, with his life at constant risk, when everyone he knew was against him, and when he was expecting to die in the end?

Harry doubted he could have done what Severus did, and the knowledge humbled him.

But it didn’t mean Severus didn’t act like a git sometimes, because he did.

The door to the office opened, and Severus erupted into the room, a forbidding expression on his face.

Harry didn’t know what to say—Severus was never receptive to so-called supportive talk—so Harry sat down before the Headmaster’s desk and waited.

Severus strode to the window, where he stood looking out at the bright summer morning for a moment before he whirled back to face Harry.

‘Do you know that your behaviour all too frequently leads me to wonder why the Death Eaters were the only group who were held to need re-education?’

Harry blanched as the words struck home. The worst part about it was that Severus was not shouting or blustering but quiet and very serious. ‘What do you mean?’ he asked, dreading the answer.

Severus came forward and half-seated himself on the edge of his desk, leaning slightly towards Harry. ‘I mean that your expressions of intolerance are insupportable. You get away with it because you’re the Boy Who Lived and Died and Lived Again—but that doesn’t make it acceptable, Harry.’

Harry swallowed. Severus almost never used his proper name, so it was an indication that he was in dead earnest. ‘Malfoy is such a bastard!’ Harry blurted.

Severus’ expression did not change. ‘He made some tasteless jest about Weasley’s interest in Quigley—you lot make offensive jokes about one another’s manliness and prowess on an hourly basis. Why would you object so completely to one comment out of a thousand?’

Harry crossed his arms defensively over his chest. ‘He was implying Ron’s gay—making fun of gay people!’

Severus closed his eyes for a moment, as if summoning up inner fortitude. ‘Draco is gay, you twit! He can make jokes about it if he wants.’

Harry’s mouth dropped open. ‘He is not!’

Severus frowned. ‘I was his Head of House,’ he pointed out. ‘I assure you it is true—but it is not information for you to spread about. That’s not the point of our discussion. You’re making a fool of yourself with your displays of pig-headed ignorance, and you’re welcome to continue doing so, if you desire—but not here. Not during this event, with all the time and energy put forth to make a success of it by Miss Granger and her team—of which you are a member, I might remind you!’ He stood, looking cold and stern. ‘I will not have her work brought to naught! And some of these people have paid to be here to socialise with you, and I am going to make sure they get what they want: the opportunity to socialise with the national wizarding hero. If I have to put a Gagging Jinx on you, Potter, you will behave yourself in the presence of the guests at this event!’

Harry felt like an idiot. Malfoy (he was gay?) always got under his skin, and had done ever since the first time they’d met in Madam Malkin’s shop, when they were eleven years old. (Had he known he was gay then?) How in the hell was Harry supposed to stop doing something he’d done for more than half his life—namely, bicker with Malfoy? (Did other people know Malfoy was gay? How could Harry not have known?)

Harry realised Severus had said something to him—something requiring an answer—and he had to respond.

‘Sorry?’ he said, dragging his attention back to the Headmaster’s office.

‘Do I have your word that you’ll behave yourself?’ Severus demanded, sounding as if he were hanging onto his patience by the tips of his fingers.

Harry stood. ‘All right, Severus,’ he said. ‘Anything you want.’

He offered his hand, looking straight into Severus’ eyes. Maybe he’ll look in my mind, he thought. He’d be welcome to, because Harry had every intention of keeping his promise. It was only going to be for eight more days, after all. And this wasn’t about Malfoy—it was about the school—and for Hogwarts, Harry could do anything.

For Hogwarts: A Regency Gamble by Subversa [Reviews - 7]

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