Chapter Eleven: The Dancing Begins
A group of admiring witches appeared next to Harry and made several unsubtle hints about the dancing as soon as the presentation portion of the evening ended.
"Excuse me," he said, colouring as he took the arm of the youngest-looking witch and led her to the dance floor.
Her friends followed, giggling.
"You'd think they'd understand he was not for them," Ollivander commented.
"That would be asking too much," Severus replied, feeling a sharp nudge to one foot. Yes, Blaise, he thought, in annoyance.
"Mr Ollivander, would you care to dance?"
"Oh! Well, I hadn't thought to da—yes, of course," he said, as if remembering the true purpose of the gathering.
Severus followed Harry onto the dance floor, overhearing as he did Blaise ask Mary to dance and wishing that he had thought of it first because at least she was capable of holding a conversation.
"Oh, no, young man. I'm not one for dancing."
"Ah, well then, Hermione?"
"Are you one for dancing?"
"I might be, but I suppose that all depends on whether or not I'm looking too 'formidable' to tempt a partner."
"You do look formidable—and quite lovely—and I am not at all daunted," Blaise told her, rising and offering Hermione his hand.
She smiled and took it.
"Do excuse us, Ms Millblossom," Blaise said.
"Oh, don't mind me, dears. Go and enjoy yourselves."
"Poor Harry," Blaise said to Hermione, swinging her onto the floor and around so that she could see him, too. "He looks miserable."
"He's never liked dancing."
"And how do you like it?"
Blaise grinned. "Severus is behaving much better than I thought he would, and I'm sure I've you to thank for that."
"Severus isn't one for ceremony and small talk, but I think he's been a perfect gentleman."
Do you. "Oh, I wouldn't go that far," Blaise said, annoyed by Hermione's praise of Severus.
"Wouldn't you? He didn't hex that heckler, you know."
"Someone yelled 'traitor' when we arrived," Hermione said, frowning. "I know that there are plenty of on-duty Aurors present, but I didn't like it."
"I don't blame you." Neither do I. "I imagine Harry didn't, either."
"No. We had to practically drag him into the building. I think Mr Weasley made him forget about it, though."
"His Father Christmas was amusing, though I did hear a few complaints—most of them from Marazelle." Shite. Well done, Blaise, he thought, inadvertently holding Hermione more closely.
"Are you sure you're one for dancing?"
"Of course," she replied, resting her head against his shoulder.
His heart pounding, Blaise forgot everything but the scent of Hermione's perfume.
Severus wrinkled his nose against the nephelosphere of Ollivander's cologne and repressed the desire to shove him across the floor the second time St John trod on his foot. I'm going to need new boots, he thought, wondering if it would be possible to bewitch his current, abused ones with some sort of cushioning charm and then deciding against it. I hate dancing.
Good evening. I'm Harry, and these are my feet—not the dance floor, Harry was thinking, as yet another silly girl scuffed his shoes with the soles of her own. He almost laughed when he saw Severus having the same problem. "Pardon me, Miss Pendleton, but I think I'm going to have to go rescue Supplicant Snape. His dance partner isn't nearly as graceful as you are."
"If you must."
Harry led the young woman to the side of the floor and then strode purposefully towards Severus, clearing his throat as he tapped Ollivander's shoulder. "Mind if I cut in?"
"Not at all!" Ollivander exclaimed, yielding his place at once.
Harry was surprised at how well he fit into Severus' arms as he allowed him to lead. There. That wasn't so hard.
Severus found himself grateful for his robes, however fitted they were, as he swayed across the floor with Harry and looked into his wide green eyes. "You're"—so beautiful—"a surprisingly elegant dancer."
Harry laughed. "Anyone might be surprising with a decent partner—although I have to say that I'm surprised, as well. I've never seen you dance before."
"True. It's not something I usually . . . enjoy."
Harry swallowed, visibly, and Severus was pleased. "Did you wish to finish our dinner conversation?"
"Our what? Oh. That."
Perhaps I shouldn't have pressed. "Yes. 'That'."
"You were saying that you wanted more than a . . . a bearing wizard," Harry almost whispered.
"It may not be possible, of course, but I've always thought that, should I marry, it would be to a friend."
"Well, a year's a long time. I'm certain you'll be able to . . . befriend several of the Eligibles in that time, won't you?"
"I hope to," Severus replied sadly. You don't want to be one of those Eligibles, do you? "Tell me, what did you discuss with the Malfoys?"
Harry blushed and leant into Severus' chest.
"Oh," Severus murmured into Harry's hair, realising too late he'd spoken aloud. "Oh, I don't mean to intrude, of course."
Harry shifted back a little and looked up at him. "I don't suppose it really matters."
"Still, if they bothered you . . . ."
"You'd be happy to look out for me," Harry said smiling, "as always."
"Perhaps you think . . . I'm being impertinent." Or that I'm treating you like a child, Severus thought, suddenly concerned that Harry might view him in light of a mentor rather than a man.
Harry laughed. "No, I'd never think that of you, Severus. I don't mind, honestly. Like I said, I would never have made it without your help. I meant that. I did."
"Our early . . . relationship notwithstanding, I have always been happy to do it, Harry," Severus replied, allowing some heat to colour his tone.
Harry drew in a breath and said, as if in abstraction, "Just looking."
I said that out loud! "Oh," Harry said, thinking quickly. "Um, at Blaise and Hermione. They're a . . . a handsome couple, aren't they?"
"Indeed. Exceedingly well matched, too, if only they'd realise it," Severus replied.
I wish he were talking about us, Harry suddenly and fervently thought, because I don't think I want to just look any longer. "We should help them," he said decisively. "We should lock them in a room or something until they figure it out."
Severus laughed. "I was thinking the same thing earlier this evening."
"Were you?" Harry asked, thinking, He laughs! Severus lau—
The vehemence of Severus' "yes" made Harry shiver. Put that voice away before you hurt someone. "Well," he said, feeling a bit heady, "that might be a tricky undertaking. They are both Aurors."
"Between the two of us," Severus said, his eyes glittering with some unfathomable emotion as that voice of his dropped impossibly lower, "I'm certain we could manage something."
At once, Harry found himself imagining several things.
Several naked things. With chocolate.
He shook his head to clear it of the sensation that he'd been eavesdropping on Severus' own thoughts, which he knew wasn't at all likely.
I'm never been the best Legilimens, and Severus isn't interested in me like that, is he? The music ended then, and Harry stepped out of Severus' arms, feeling more than a little disappointed. "Well, I don't want to monopolise you, and I think," he said, glancing at several witches and wizards by the refreshments, "that some of your other Eligibles would like their chance with you."
"They don't have—they shouldn't be kept waiting, then," Severus replied. Thank you for 'rescuing' me."
Any time. "You're welcome. Oh, and here," Harry said, pointing at Severus' shoes and then at his own. "That should save your feet the rest of the evening."
"What did you just do?"
"After Hermione's first dance with Ron, she adapted the Impervious Charm for use with footwear. If anyone steps on yours again, you won't notice now."
"You're a gentleman, Mr Potter."
Oh. Oh, I really need some alone time. He's going to kill me with that voice of his! Harry thought, turning to Nymphadora Tonks, who was standing at the refreshment table as they approached it. "Hey, Tonks."
"Wotcher, Harry, Professor! Having fun?"
"I am, but I think I need a break."
"Well, Professor? Fancy a dance?"
"Of course. How are you, this evening?"
Harry watched the others watch Severus and Tonks leave and realised how jealous some of them were. That didn't seem surprising at all to him, now.
I wonder how Blaise is going on? he thought, in an attempt to distract himself from his own jealousy—and outward manifestation of interest in Severus.
One look at the dance floor gave him his answer. His friend was looking quite put upon by an elderly witch as she seemingly importuned him on the dance floor.
It seems like Severus isn't the only one in need of rescuing.
Before Harry could go to it, however, a gruff voice stopped him. "Potter."
"Master Moody! This is a surprise. I thought you hated social gatherings."
"I do, boy. I do, but I think you know why I'm here."
Your grandson. Harry feigned surprise and asked, "Do I?"
"Don't play the innocent with me, Potter. What the hell can you be thinking, participating in all this," he spat, "and what the hell is he thinking putting my grandson on that Scroll of his?"
"Blaise is responsible for the names on the Scroll of Eligibles. You know that better than I do."
"Master Moody . . . ."
"Auror Potter," the man rejoined, "I keep hoping you'll come to your senses about Snape, but I suppose that's a lost cause—doesn't mean I'm going to stand by and watch him romance Morgan."
"Isn't that Morgan's decision?"
"No, it isn't," Moody retorted, pushing into the crowd on the dance floor.
Shite. I wouldn't want to be Morgan Moody right now.
"Is he gone, now?" a muffled voice asked.
"Gone? Is he gone?"
Harry lifted the cloth covering the table and peered under it. "Hello. You must be Morgan Moody. Yes, he's gone," he said, as Moody scuttled out from under the table.
A flash popped.
"Shite!" Moody exclaimed, Disapparating at once.
Harry started. He shouldn't have been able to do that! he thought, as he turned towards the cameraman. Oh, great. "Hi, Colin."
"Hullo, Harry! That was a grand picture! Can I get a quote to go with it?"
And this is why you never would have made an Auror—looking for the story when someone just Disapparated in spite of the standard Ministry anti-Apparation wards! "No, Colin, and is that any way to greet an old friend?"
"You think we're friends?" Colin asked, his eyes widening.
"Of course we are, but I don't think ambushing people is particularly friendly."
"Oh, well, I'm sorry about that. It's just that my editor is determined that I—"
"Colin, if I promise to dance with you, would you forget you just took that picture of Morgan Moody?" Harry asked, instantly protective of him, for he had decided to seek him out and try to recruit Moody into the DMLE. With natural talent like that, I have to try.
"Is that who that was?"
"Well, all right. I'll forget about that one."
"Give me the camera, Colin." I wonder why he's not already an Auror? Probably his grandfather's doing. Oh, great idea, Harry—getting Master Moody angry with you instead of at Severus.
"But Harry, I need that picture!"
I've had worse ideas, Harry told himself, holding out his hand expectantly.
"Do you even know how to discard a picture properly?"
"Well, I suppose I could just wipe the entire roll," Harry mock-threatened.
"No! Look, I'll show you."
Colin wiped the picture, and then Harry led him onto the floor. There was no sign of Morgan Moody anywhere.
I guess Severus' list just got smaller, he thought, feeling rather pleased. Of course, Moody's fleeing in the face of his grandfather might not speak well of his becoming an Auror. I'll have to give asking him further thought.
"Was that Draco Malfoy you were talking to earlier?"
"Um, I doubt it," Harry replied, not so deeply involved in his thoughts to fail to notice that his dance partner was speaking to him. He tried to pay attention. It's just so difficult to follow Colin, sometimes.
"It looked like him. He was blond and skinny and mean-looking. You know how the Malfoys look, like angry, skinny, mythical birds of some sort . . . ."
Harry tuned out Colin's Luna-like rambling and dipped him so that he could fiddle with his camera. "I'm sure you're mistaken. Did you take a picture of me with the man?" he asked, straightening them both up again.
"Yep! It'll all come out on the film, I expect."
No, it won't. "That's great, Colin."
Colin took Harry's words as encouragement and continued to prattle on about his job, his camera, and his experiences thus far that evening, and Harry smiled and nodded, not really needing to respond. When the music stopped, Harry fled the floor before anyone could claim his next dance, and Colin launched himself after someone he thought might be Morgan Moody.
"Don't think I didn't see you messing with that camera, Harry Potter."
"Ginny. Hi," he greeted her, leaning down to kiss her.
She kissed him back and replied, "I'll have you know that Colin's not the only one here with a camera."
"Look, I think it might be a bad thing for Morgan Moody's picture to appear in Witch Weekly. Could you please just leave out any of him?"
Ginny laughed. "That's very nice of you, trying to edge out the competition."
"I wasn't thinking that way at all!"
"Of course you weren't. You looked good together, you know."
"Who? Me and Colin?"
"No, you prat. You and Professor Snape—or is that 'Supplicant' Snape as far as you're concerned, now?"
"It was just a dance, Ginny."
"Uh, huh. Well, you'd best dance with me if you want to avoid your 'fan club'," she suggested, indicating a group of approaching witches with an inclination of her head.
Harry swept Ginny onto the floor at once.