“She’s horrible!” Harry raged, pacing the room with mirror in hand. “Honestly, why aren’t you tearing down the doors to the Daily Prophet right now?” he demanded of Severus.
“It would only serve to distract from the more important issues at hand,” Severus replied calmly.
“But she blatantly twisted your words!” Harry said angrily. He hesitated. “Didn’t she?”
“Every word,” Severus replied. “I told her none of that. Despite the fact that I do agree with some of it, I would certainly never pronounce it.”
Harry’s eyebrow lifted. “I sure hope not. So now what?”
“It will fade,” Severus stated. “Let it go.”
Harry scoffed. “Right.” If circumstances had been different, he could imagine Severus reacting in the complete opposite way.
Severus pursed his lips and seemed to decide that a change in subject was in order. “How are things on the Yule Ball front?”
Harry shrugged. He had not admitted to his guardian that he had someone in mind that he wanted to go with. Harry was unsure of what his reaction would be. He could easily see Severus being one of the parents who used intimidation tactics and Harry could see them working easily. “Nothing’s changed.”
“It is when?”
“December twenty first. I should be heading home on the twenty second then,” Harry replied, thinking that Snape was trying to make plans.
“Hm, so that gives you what, two weeks? Less?” Severus asked, a hint of something unidentifiable in his eyes.
“For what?” Harry asked suspiciously.
“Why, to find a date, of course,” Severus replied, obviously finding humor in the situation.
Harry groaned. “Don’t you start. I already had to listen to a nice long lecture from Sirius about how to pick up girls.”
Severus’s lip curled. “DId he make any good points?” he asked with a hint of snide. “He certainly had enough experience, if I remember correctly.”
Harry couldn’t help but grin. “He said that prison kind of killed his charm for a while,” he told Severus. “He told me that I should just casually flip my hair, just so,” he said, demonstrating, “so that my scar would be revealed. He seemed to think that would be all it would take.”
Severus actually laughed lightly. “He might be correct on that one. However, the ‘hair flip’ is a little...”
“Among other things,” Severus said.
Harry nodded vehemently. “I thought so too.”
“It trust that you can find a date for a single evening simply by being yourself,” Severus offered casually.
“Thanks,” Harry replied, glad to close that portion of the conversation.
A knock sounded and it took Harry to realize that it was in Severus’s office rather than the dorm room in which he sat. Severus looked up, then back down at Harry.
“I have to go, Sirius is here for his performance evaluations. I will talk to you tomorrow,” Severus said in parting.
“Okay, tell him I said ‘hi’. See you,” Harry said before Severus’s face disappeared.
Harry set the mirror down and was immediately bored. He had no idea what to do with himself. Harry had begin avoiding the library after Rhea’s “rejection” a few days ago and he had no desire to brave the awkwardness. She had said she would let him know and Harry figured that was her responsibility to do so. At this point, he honestly didn’t expect a positive answer, if he got one at all. Harry idly dug in his pockets and pulled out a small ball with the Zonko’s logo on it. Laying flat on his back on the bed, Harry repeatedly tossed the ball in the air and caught it, merely passing the time. He started to count as the ball rose and fell, rose and fell.
“Twenty one,” he said to himself when the door opened. Harry turned his head and as a result missed the ball. It whacked him in the ear and rolled onto the floor. “Ow,” he complained lightly, rubbing his ear. “Oh, hey Draco.”
“Hi, Harry. What are you doing?” he asked as Harry struggled to sit up.
“Nothing,” Harry replied honestly. “What were you doing?”
“Spying for you,” Draco said with a grin.
Harry groaned. “I told you that you didn’t have to. I’ll just hand over the galleons.”
“No, listen to this,” Draco said eagerly, sitting next to Harry on the space he had just vacated. “Gregor doesn’t have a date yet,” Draco began.
“But I thought you said he already had someone in mind right after we left the class?” Harry interrupted.
“That’s what he said but apparently she didn’t say ‘yes’, exactly,” Draco explained. “Now he’s in a holding pattern, waiting for her decision.”
Harry’s brows shot up. “Really? That’s great, I might still have a chance if Rhea gets back to me in time. Who’d he ask? Why doesn’t he just ask someone else?”
“I don’t know,” Draco admitted. “But from what I can figure, it seems like he’s had his eye on her for a while. I don’t think he wants to go with anyone else.”
Harry shrugged. “Works for me. Thanks. Now if I could only find a date...”
“What, you don’t think she’ll say ‘yes’?”
“At this point, it’s doubtful. I don’t want to ask someone else though, just in case she says ‘yes’.”
“Good point,” Draco replied.
“Who would I ask anyway?” Harry inquired, half to himself. He thought for a moment then turned to Draco suddenly. “Who are you going to ask?”
Draco grinned slyly. “As if that’s a problem,” he said cockily.
Harry looked at him. “Isn’t it?”
“Then who are you going with?” Harry asked, talking with an ease reminiscent of the old times, before Draco had grown distant.
“Kerry VanHorn,” he replied without hesitation.
Harry grinned. “The girl from Potions?” he asked, confirming that he was thinking of the same pretty brunette that Draco was.
“Yeah,” Draco said, matching Harry’s grin.
“Good for you,” Harry said, clapping his friend on the shoulder. “Hopefully I’ll be able to find someone,” he muttered darkly. At the moment, things weren’t looking too bright.
“First of all,” Severus said, clasping his hands on the desk in front of him, “you mustn't call students by their first names, even if you know them.”
“But Harry’s friends-” Sirius began to protest.
Severus cut him off with a sharp shake of the head. “It is unprofessional and it crosses a line somewhere. Even I, in the context of school, do not address Mr. Weasley or Ms. Granger by anything other than that which I have just demonstrated.”
Sirius twisted his lips. “Alright, I’ll stop that then. What’s next?”
“Well, organization for sure,” Severus said, looking alarmed. “Your order is horrific. A student could easily have gotten away with not doing the essay you assigned when you do not collect in a way that ensures you know who turned it in. I suggest perhaps having them bring it to you. But that is your issue.”
“Yeah,” Sirius breathed, appearing to think that over. “Okay. Next?”
“I noticed that when you asked who had experience with a spell, you then told people who did not want to demonstrate to put their hands down,” Severus said, shaking his head. “Demonstrations should be your choice. You choose people and force them to attempt the spell. Should they fail, have them repeat it until they have it down. This is the best way for them to learn, in my opinion.”
“Public embarrassment?” Sirius asked skeptically.
Severus gave a light shrug. “If necessary.”
“Anything else then?” Sirius asked, seeming tired.
“I can think of nothing...” Severus trailed off.
“Really?” Sirius asked in surprise. “Gosh, I expected a foot long list.”
“Would you like me to write one up?” Severus asked snidely.
Sirius shook his head and backpedaled quickly. “No, no, it’s alright. Well, uh, thanks, Severus.”
“It is my job,” Severus replied simply.
“Yeah, I guess it is,” Sirius said, again sounding tired.
Severus studied him for a moment and, feeling as if he were tossing everything to which he held fast out the window, said, “I have a desire for tea. Would you like some?”
Sirius’s eyes snapped up, shock evident. He smiled slowly. “I’d love some.”
Severus stood and gestured to the door to his quarters. Still grinning, Sirius followed him into this unprecedented, voluntary event. Severus got the feeling that they were both in shock, and for good reason.
Harry groped for the wall with his hands. He touched the cold stone and pressed his back to it. Blackness surrounded him as something hit him hard in the gut.
“Dodge, Harry!” Riker urged, throwing another ball. Harry listened closely and could hear it coming but couldn’t tell from which direction. By a lucky guess, he moved out of the way. “Great job! How ‘bout you quit with that for the day and we’ll do some sparring.”
Harry gratefully tore off the blindfold and blinked a few times to allow his eyes to adjust to the light. He breathed out in relief. “I hate agility.”
“You’ll thank me later,” Riker promised, moving closer. “Come on, no breaks here. Ready position.”
With a halfhearted groan, Harry took up his position and proceeded to get knocked flat on his back by Riker.
“Again,” Riker said.
Pushing himself up, Harry gathered the will to repeat the process far too many times. At the end of the lesson, Harry found himself flat on his chest and pushed up with his arms with an unexpected ease. Surprised to find so much strength within him, even at the end of the lesson, Harry stood up and went to retrieve his robes.
“I kind of like Defense,” he told Draco conversationally as they walked.
“It’s not so bad,” Draco replied, and Harry noticed that he too had grown from the scrawny boy who had arrived moths earlier.
They wandered to the door with everyone else and were the last ones out. Stepping into the hallway, Harry noticed Lane standing, arms crossed, near the door. She looked peeved.
“Alright there?” Aris asked as they passed.
“My idiot boyfriend is late again,” she complained, seeming ready to rant and glad to have someone to let it out to. Not wanting to go on without Aris, Harry and Draco waited to listen too. “He’s always late, says he is with Professor Durus. Extra lessons or whatever. Anyway, the point is, he’s late again. Maybe I’ll just break up with him.”
“That seems advisable,” Aris said in a calm voice. Harry stifled a laugh. He had never heard Aris be that... dismissive. Lane’s jaw dropped as Harry and Draco stepped forward to drag Aris down the corridor before his Defense skills could be put to the test.
Once they were out of earshot, Harry and Draco laughed. “Did you mean to be that flippant?” Draco asked.
Aris frowned. “The person whom Lane is dating is not someone with whom I get along well.”
“Who is it?” Harry asked.
“Viktor Krum,” he replied stiffly.
“The Quidditch player?” Draco asked, glancing behind him as if he were considering going back to apologize to Lane.
“The very same.”
“Wow,” Harry said, rounding the corner and almost running into the person on the other side. “Oh, sorry,” he said automatically before he realized it was Rhea. “Oh,” he repeated.
She looked alarmed and glanced from him to Aris and then to Draco. “Uh, hi.”
They all stood and looked at each other for a moment. Rhea did not make eye contact with anyone. “Er, well, we’ll be seeing you, I guess,” Harry said awkwardly.
“Bye,” she said, quickly stepping around them and continuing on her way.
Harry let out a breath. “Well, that was awkward.”
“Yeah,” Draco agreed.
“Have I missed something?” Aris asked, tilting his head.
“Er,” Harry hedged.
“Harry asked her to the ball and she hasn’t exactly said ‘yes’ yet,” Draco informed him brusquely.
“What did she say?” Aris asked, some foreign look leaping to his eye.
“She would let him know.”
“She hasn’t,” Harry provided.
Aris didn’t respond, simply continued walking. Harry followed, shuffling his feat more than he had been.
“Girls,” he said, as if it were a curse word.
At the moment, that about summed up his life. It was mildly amazing that despite the fact that someone was trying to kill him, he had a screaming golden egg in his trunk and he was at some foreign school, a date to the Yule Ball was the thing weighing most heavily on his mind. Perhaps that was the way it should be and so Harry grasped onto the small degree of normalcy that it provided and bemoaned his life for struggles of being a teenager.
AN: By the way, this chapter goes to ShazDirection, though I'm a day late: Happy Birthday!