An upsurge of solar activity leads to most unexpected consequences...
A Mad Day
It was a hot August day and Hagrid was returning to Hogwarts from Hogsmeade where he'd had a drink (or two...or three...). The sun blazed at him pitilessly as he made his way up the steep path, and he felt slightly dizzy. He was really looking forward to being in his cabin again, where he could talk to Fang and make a closer acquaintance with the bottle of Firevodka he had taken along. Fang usually started talking back to him after the fourth glass or so, and very funny things he said sometimes, too.
It was not until Professor Snape drew level with him that Hagrid noticed him; due to his muted awareness he hadn't heard him approach. Snape was wearing black robes and a sour expression as usual, and he was carrying a small suitcase in his hand. Apparently he had just Apparated to Hogsmeade and was now heading for Hogwarts to prepare for the new school year.
"Oh, hello there, Prfessor Snape," slurred Hagrid.
Snape merely nodded, an expression of slight distaste on his face, and walked on past Hagrid. Hagrid gazed after him and was suddenly overcome by a desire so strong he couldn't withstand it. He flung himself at Snape, and they both fell to the ground in a heap, Snape's suitcase flying out of his hand. Hagrid began groping Snape, making animal sounds, as Snape, who had been knocked out of breath, stirred weakly beneath him, pinned to the ground by Hagrid's bulk.
"Gerroff...me..." he panted finally, getting over his initial shock that was not so much physical as it was mental. But Hagrid merely resumed his groping and grunting, so Snape tried to twist free but it was impossible, as was retrieving his wand (Snape strongly hoped it hadn't broken when he fell). Hagrid was already pulling up his robes when there was a loud pop, and the next thing he knew, Hagrid was groping thin air. Snape reappeared further up the path (Harry Potter would give a lot to see the look on his face at that moment), whipped out his wand and shouted, "Accio suitcase!"
The suitcase flew into Snape's waiting hand, but Hagrid was already getting up with a most lustful expression on what was visible of his face.
"Wait!" he roared. "I ain't finished with yeh!"
"Stupefy!" yelled Snape, pointing his wand at Hagrid. A jet of red light hit Hagrid as he ran towards the Potions master, but didn't seem to slow him down at all.
"Oh, shit," muttered Snape and sprinted up the path, firing hexes at Hagrid over his shoulder with no noticeable effect; Hagrid's giant blood, combined with a considerable amount of alcohol in it, seemed to make him pretty much immune to magic. He was already gaining on Snape due to his gigantic strides, a fact the Potions master found deeply disturbing. He couldn't Disapparate while running and he couldn't help running. His only hope was to reach the Hogwarts grounds and shut the gate behind him. Mercifully, the gate was already in sight. Snape put on a spurt of speed, practically flew through the gate and, wheeling around, he wheezed, "Colloportus!"
The gate swung shut no sooner than Hagrid hit it at full speed. The force of the impact was such that Hagrid was thrown back and the whole gate rattled. Snape doubled up, panting and clutching a stitch in his side, but he felt rather relieved. His relief wavered, however, when Hagrid got to his feet again, grasped the bars of the gate and began to shake it with all his might, bellowing, "Open up, my luv!!! Come ter me!!"
Snape didn't think Hagrid could bring down the gate, but all the same, the sight was profoundly disturbing, so he picked up his dropped suitcase and headed for the castle as quickly as his hurting side allowed him. The front doors stood open, and when Snape entered the Entrance Hall he saw Dumbledore walking towards him.
"Ah, Severus!" said the Headmaster, his eyes twinkling as usual. "Welcome back! I was just going to take a stroll in the grounds, but seeing as you have arrived...what's happened?" he asked, frowning, as he noticed Snape's ruffled appearance.
"Hagrid," panted Snape. "He...he attacked me."
"Attacked you?" repeated Dumbledore, raising his eyebrows. Then his smile reappeared, and his eyes twinkled again. "Now, now, Severus, it can't be that bad."
"I assure you it is," said Snape, still out of breath but with a touch of anger. "I passed him on my way to the castle, and he attacked me from behind, throwing me to the ground and, uh...well, he was obviously drunk, so I tried to fend him off with hexes but it didn't work and I had to run for my life, with Hagrid hot in pursuit. I managed to shut the gate in his face and he is currently trying to wrench it from its hinges."
"I see," said Dumbledore, still looking slightly disbelieving. He threw his arm around Snape's shoulders. "Well, then, let's go and see what we can do!"
"I'M not going there," Snape said irritably, throwing off Dumbledore's arm. "Hagrid is YOUR pet, Headmaster, so kindly deal with him yourself. If you ask me, it is inadvisable to let such a man teach at Hogwarts any longer."
And he stomped off to the dungeons.
"Ah, but what about former Death Eaters, Severus?" thought Dumbledore with a chuckle as he headed for the grounds.
"Why does Hagrid keep glancing at Snape?" said Ron, frowning, as he poured himself pumpkin juice.
Harry, Ron and Hermione were at the start-of-term feast, and they had been very glad to see Hagrid, as usual. Hagrid, however, had returned their waves and smiles rather halfheartedly. He seemed distracted and worried, was hardly touching the drinks and indeed kept glancing at Professor Snape, who glared back at him when he caught his eye.
Hagrid had every reason to feel uncomfortable. Professor Dumbledore had given him a talking-to the day before and said that he couldn't possibly keep him at Hogwarts if he attacked someone again.
"You've got to quit drinking, Hagrid," Dumbledore had said. "I've been turning a blind eye to that long enough, and I won't any longer. You've got to get a grip. If I ever spot you drunk again, I'm afraid I'll have to relieve you of your post of Care of Magical Creatures teacher."
"Yes, sir, Professor Dumbledore," Hagrid had mumbled, looking at his feet.
"I also want you to apologize to Professor Snape."
Hagrid's face had reddened even more at those words. He didn't know what on earth had gotten into him earlier that day. He had been drunk many times, certainly, but it had never made him horny, let alone at the sight of rather unattractive men. Hagrid had thought that maybe Dumbledore had a point.
"Yes, sir," he'd said obediently.
He hadn't gotten his chance, however. Snape had slammed his office door in Hagrid's face when he saw who was knocking, and Hagrid's yells of "Wait, I on'y wanted ter apologize!" had had no effect.
But the worst thing was that the madness had decided to stay. Certainly, Hagrid didn't attack Professor Snape when he saw him again at the start-of-term feast, but the sight of him still aroused rather...tender feelings. That's why Hagrid couldn't help stealing glances at Snape, and the glares he got back hurt him like daggers. He knew it was madness, but he couldn't help it.
"Dunno," said Harry, also frowning. "Let's ask him when the feast is over."
He glanced at Snape and was startled to see that the Potions master was looking directly at him. He seemed somehow transfixed; Harry saw him blink, shake his head slightly and look away. "I hope he's not up to something," thought Harry. "Better watch my ass around him."
Finally, the feast was over, and the three friends cornered Hagrid as they had intended.
"Hi, Hagrid!" said Harry, walking up to him. "You all right?"
"Oh, I'm...I'm fine," said Hagrid with a weak smile. "An' you three? Had a good summer?"
"Yeah...listen, Hagrid, we see something's wrong with you. You look worried, and you kept glancing at Snape during the whole feast for some reason. Did he do something mean to you? Maybe we can help?"
"I...I haven' bin glancing at Snape!" said Hagrid, his face reddening. "Dunno wha' gave yeh the idea. An' I'm perfectly fine, thank you very much. Now, you three better be off to yer beds. See you in my class - got summat special in store fer yeh this year."
"He's got something special in store for us? Now that's cheered me up," said Ron as Hagrid stomped away. Harry and Hermione, however, looked thoughtful.
"There is definitely something wrong with him," said Hermione. "And again he's taking that stupid attitude of not sharing it with us. Well, never mind, we'll go down to his cabin as soon as we can and fish everything out of him."
"Good evening, Professor Dumbledore," said Harry, as Dumbledore was passing them.
"Good evening, Harry," smiled Dumbledore. "And you, Ms.Granger, Mr.Weasley. Now, it's time for you to go to bed. Everyone else has already left."
"Professor?" said Harry. "Hagrid seems worried about something, and he won't tell us anything. Would you happen to know -"
"Ah, yes," said Dumbledore, his smile fading. "Hagrid had an unfortunate...accident yesterday. As it was of a rather delicate nature, I will not tell you what it was, and I would ask you not to question him about it. He'll be perfectly all right soon, I'm sure. Now, off you go."
And so they left, speculating on what Hagrid's "accident" might have been. As they were exiting the Great Hall they were passed by Snape in the doorway, and again he gave Harry a weird look.
"But where does Snape come into it?" said Harry, looking after Snape, as Ron was unfolding his theory about an escaped chimaera that had massacred half of Hogsmeade before Hagrid was able to catch it.
"Look," interjected Hermione, "whatever it was, it's apparently been fixed. And as for Snape, I know you have this thing about him, but we know he is in the Order of the Phoenix, so he can't possibly have done anything bad to Hagrid."
Ron and Hermione bickered all the way to the common room. Harry didn't take part in their debate; he was lost in thought. Hermione certainly had a point, yet he was sure that Snape had done something unpleasant to Hagrid (a reverse situation simply didn't occur to him). But why? And why had Snape looked at him like that? These two questions followed Harry all the way into his four-poster bed. Finally he fell asleep and dreamed about Snape riding a chimaera that was chasing Hagrid through the Hogwarts grounds. Harry was trying to hex him, but Snape was merely laughing and shooting him that strange look now and again while Hagrid was yelling, "Leave 'im alone, 'Arry! He isn't chasin' me, dunno who gave yeh the idea!" Then the dream dissolved into nothingness, and when Harry woke up next morning, he didn't remember it.
The fifth-year Gryffindors had double Potions on their very first day, a fact none of them was happy about, especially Harry. Remembering the way Snape had looked at him at the start-of-term feast, Harry feared an extra portion of bullying from him and, as he would soon find out, his fears were not unfounded.
Snape entered the dungeon looking as though he hadn't slept all night and apparently in a very foul mood. He slammed the door with such force that some people jumped, stormed to the front of the classroom and turned to face the class, black cloak swishing.
"Before we start today's lesson," he said in a harsh voice, "I'd like to remind you all that next June you'll be sitting an important examination, during which you will prove how much you have - or, rather, haven't - learned in terms of potionmaking. Most of you will undoubtedly be saying goodbye, as I only take the best into my NEWT class. However, we still have a year to go before that happy moment of farewell, so I suggest you put some effort into your work, unless you want to suffer my displeasure," - and here he shot Harry a baleful look.
"Today we will be mixing a potion that often comes up at Ordinary Wizarding Level: the Draught of Peace, a potion to calm anxiety and soothe agitation -"
"Good idea; you certainly look like you could do with some," muttered Ron. Harry smirked.
"- and Mr.Potter, judging by his knowing smile, can tell us about the ingredients and method of its preparation," finished Snape, raising his voice.
"Er -" said Harry.
"Something got your tongue, Potter?" inquired Snape. "We are waiting."
"I - I don't know, sir," mumbled Harry. Malfoy sniggered.
"I don't know, sir," mocked Snape. "Goddammit, Potter! Will I ever hear anything else from you?" Snape's voice rose to a shriek. "You brat! I'm sick and tired of your coming to this class and doing nothing, I'm sick of your making fun of me behind my back, I'm sick of your bloody stupid FACE!" Snape advanced at Harry, his eyes glinting with such fury that Harry shrunk back in his seat. Everyone was looking shocked; they had never seen Snape lose control like this. Apparently, the shocked faces of his students brought Snape to his senses; he took a deep breath, then said in a calmer, but still malicious voice, "Twenty points from Gryffindor, Potter. Maybe that will teach you a lesson."
An indignant murmur broke out among the Gryffindors, but it died almost instantly under Snape's murderous stare.
"The ingredients," he snarled, "are on the blackboard." He waved his wand, and they appeared there. "Everything you need is in the store cupboard. You have an hour and a half. Start."
Snape went to sit at his desk, massaging his temples as though he had a headache. The students queued at the cupboard trying to make as little noise as possible, lest Snape flare up again.
"What d'you reckon is the matter with him?" Ron whispered to Harry.
"Dunno," said Harry, glancing up at Snape's desk. His eyes met Snape's, and again Harry saw that peculiar expression in them; then Snape looked away with a grimace.
Harry didn't have much time to look at Snape after that, because the Draught of Peace proved to be an extremely difficult potion and required all of his attention. He did notice, however, that Snape wasn't walking up and down the aisles and making snide remarks about the work of his students as he usually did; he stayed at his desk and appeared to be reading a book.
"A light silver vapour should now be rising from your potion," Snape called finally, with ten minutes left to go.
What was rising from Harry's cauldron could hardly be called light, and it certainly wasn't silver; still, many people had made an even poorer job of their potion than he had. So Harry was very surprised by Snape's reaction, even though he had long gotten used to receiving "preferential" treatment in his class.
Snape had passed everyone's table without comment. At Harry's table, however, he stopped; his cheek started to twitch.
"What's this supposed to be, Potter?" he asked, pointing at Harry's potion.
"The Draught of Peace," Harry said tensely. Snape sniffed.
"Are you mocking me, Potter?"
"No?" Snape's cheek was twitching downright violently now. "You are telling me this is the Draught of Peace, although it doesn't look like one in the slightest. If this isn't mocking, then what is it?"
Harry said nothing, staring determindely at his cauldron.
"You answer me when I ask you a question!" Snape shrieked suddenly, seizing Harry by his hair and forcing the boy to face him.
"Professor Snape, what are you doing?!" exclaimed Hermione. Harry wrenched his head from Snape's grasp, pointing his wand at him at the same time. Snape raised his own wand; a girl screamed.
"Come on, then, Potter," hissed Snape. "Attack me. Give me a reason, and I'll send you to the hospital wing for the rest of this year."
For a moment it seemed that Harry really would attack Snape, despite his threats; then he lowered his wand, breathing heavily and staring at Snape with pure loathing - an expression mirrored by Snape's eyes, although with a generous mix of madness.
"That's better, Potter," breathed Snape. "Like father, like son, I see: never attacks those who are stronger than himself" - at these words Harry made to raise his wand again, but Ron grabbed his arm - "Wise move, too; as you didn't actually attack me, you won't be expelled. I'll have to content myself by taking fifty points from Gryffindor -"
"What?!" cried the Gryffindors, but Snape roared, "SILENCE!" and everyone shut up at once.
"- and also by putting you in detention," he finished, speaking to Harry again. Strangely, he seemed to regret his words the moment they were out of his mouth; as he couldn't take them back, however, he added, "Wednesday night. Nine'o'clock. My office. Do you understand, Potter?".
"Fuck you," spat Harry. Everyone gasped. Harry grabbed his bag and stormed out of the dungeon, as Snape called after him, "That's another fifty points from Gryffindor, Potter!".
Snape wasn't the only one at Hogwarts who had problems with his sleep. Hagrid had slept badly that night, too. The reason was simple: he was in love with Snape. There was no better way of putting it. He didn't know how on earth it had happened, he just knew it had. All his thoughts were about Snape, and to Snape they invariably returned if Hagrid tried to think of something else. Hagrid was in physical need of the Potions master; he wanted to run his hands through his hair, he wanted to caress his body, to kiss him. It was utter madness, and Hagrid could only think of one way of fighting it: he drank. As a result he entered a semiconscious state punctuated with incoherent thoughts of Snape and pervaded by a dulled longing for him; he slept fitfully, and once he talked to Fang.
"Y'know, Fang," he slurred, "I'm in luv with Professor Snape."
"Really?" said Fang. "Well, what are you going to do about it?"
"If you want him to love you in return, you've got to court him," Fang said wisely. "He isn't going to fall into your arms just like that; you've got to make an effort to win his heart."
Having said that, Fang started to lick his balls, and Hagrid, astounded by the wisdom of Fang's words, fell asleep again.
He was woken by voices outside his cabin. His awakening was slow, as if he was rising from the depths of the Black Lake. First he saw light. Then the light cleared, and he registered that he was in a room. Then he recognized the room as his cabin. Then he became aware of hearing sounds. Then he identified the sounds as human voices. Then it came to him that the voices must belong to students who had come to their Care of Magical Creatures class. Then came the logical conclusion that it was time for the lesson to begin, and he was still lying in his bed.
"Oh, no," moaned Hagrid and tried to get up. Immediately, pain pierced his head, and he moaned even louder, recognizing the symptoms of a hangover. And then it hit him: "Dumbledore has forbidden me to drink! He said he'd sack me if he saw me drunk again!" Something had to be done, and quickly. Hagrid had a certain potion that could help him; if he could only get to it...
The third years waiting outside Hagrid's cabin were becoming increasingly bewildered. The bell had rung ten minutes before, and still Hagrid didn't show up. Then a mighty thud came from inside the cabin, accompanied by moaning and barking. It was soon followed by another thud, sounds of something breaking and Hagrid's loud cursing (the students had fallen silent, watching the cabin as though it was a riveting performance). Finally, they heard loud vomiting; many of them made sounds of disgust. When the door of the cabin opened and Hagrid emerged, everyone drew back in alarm and some girls even shrieked. Given Hagrid's appearance, it was quite understandable: his hair stood up in zany clumps, his eyes were swollen and bloodshot, his face was a delicate shade of green and he was swaying slightly on the spot.
"Hello, third years," he said in such a scary hoarse voice that the students took another step backward. "Erm...sorry to 'ave kept yeh waitin', I - uh - had to sort somethin' out".
His words were met by utter silence. The students were still eyeing him in fear, although some of them were smirking and whispering to each other.
"Erm...righ', then," said Hagrid, whose face had reddened again - this time with embarassment. "To our lesson..."
Hagrid more or less managed to conduct the lesson - the potion he'd taken was very effective at clearing one's head - but he felt awful, both physically and mentally. He was in mortal fear that the students would tattle about his hangover and the rumour would finally reach Dumbledore's ears. And, which was even worse, his longing for Professor Snape had returned. What with that, and the thoughts about the prospect of losing his job, it was a miracle that Hagrid had managed to tell the third-years some relatively coherent information about flobberworms and had even given some answers that more or less fit the questions. It was a great relief to both parties when the bell finally rang. Hagrid was doubly relieved because his next hour was free and he could try and get a grip on himself.
When he returned to the privacy of his cabin, however, Hagrid was so overwhelmed with desire for Professor Snape that he only got a grip on a certain part of himself - admittedly, it was a very strong grip. Soon he came, dousing half the cabin, and sunk to the floor, moaning. And, as he sat there, reclining against the door and catching his breath, he remembered Fang's words: If you want him to love you in return, you've got to court him. "Tha's it!" he thought, his spirits rising. "A little courtin' on my part, an' Snapey will be mine in no time!" Already he saw in his mind's eye himself and Snape kissing with the moon in the background...but the image faded as a question occurred to him: how exactly did one go about courting a middle-aged, reclusive Potions master? He posed the question to Fang and got a blank look in reply. Hagrid supposed that if he got drunk again, it would loosen Fang's tongue, but he just couldn't risk it. It seemed that he'd have to figure everything out on his own.
Hagrid sighed and started to think.
An Unfortunate Visit
Ron and Hermione were sitting in the Gryffindor common room doing homework. When the portrait hole opened and Harry climbed inside, they looked at him with some apprehension (as did everyone else, because he'd had quite a fit earlier that day). Harry approached them and said, avoiding their eyes, "Listen, I'm sorry to have freaked out at you like that. I really shouldn't have. It's just -"
"It's all right, Harry," said Hermione (Ron nodded). "We know how you must be feeling."
"Know?! What d'you -" Harry started, his temper rising; then he took a deep breath, rubbed his forehead and exhaled in an exhausted sort of way. "Sorry," he said, "here I go again. Another day like this, and I might just go mad." He flopped into a chair with a weak smile. Ron and Hermione looked compassionately at him.
"No one's blaming you, Harry," said Hermione. "Everyone knows it wasn't your fault, the way Snape treated you -"
"Don't mention that cocksucker," snapped Harry. He had never hated Snape more than he did now. What was he playing at, treating students like that? And McGonagall ("that old bitch", Harry thought bitterly) certainly didn't help. Instead of offering Harry words of consolation and taking some action against Snape, as she should have done, she had shouted at Harry and taken another 50 points from him! She wouldn't even listen when he tried to describe Snape's behaviour. "A grown-up conspiracy, that's what it is," Harry thought grimly. "A fucking grown-up conspiracy."
"Tell you what," said Ron, trying to distract Harry from those miserable thoughts, "let's go visit Hagrid. We can ask him how his mission went and everything."
"Yeah, that's a good idea," said Harry, his spirits rising slightly. "Let's go".
When they approached Hagrid's hut, they saw Hagrid's silhouette dancing in the window, and heard him humming a tune. "Looks like he's in a good mood," said Hermione.
"Hope it's not because there's a dragon hatching or something," muttered Ron.
But Ron's fears were unfounded. Dragons were the last thing on Hagrid's mind as pranced in front of the mirror in his horrible brown suit, imagining how he would enter Snape's office and say, "Good evenin', Professor Snape! Sorry if I disturbed ya, but would yeh happen to have some Sober-Up Potion? On'y I seem to have run out of it." And Snape would smile and say, "Of course I have Sober-Up Potion, Hagrid. Let me get it for you." And while Snape retrieved the potion, Hagrid would say, looking at Snape's desk piled with reams of parchment, "I see yeh've got a lot of homework to grade, Professor." "Yes," Snape would sigh. "I'm snowed under with it, to tell you the truth." "Tell yeh what," Hagrid would suggest, "let's have us a walk on the grounds! The night is jus' beau'iful!" "You know, that's a good idea!" Snape would say, his eyes lighting up. "A little walk is just what I need". They would leave Snape's office and head for the grounds together. They would walk under the moon, talking about things, and then Hagrid would take Snape's hand...
There was a knock on the door. Hagrid jumped, making the hut tremble.
"Who's there?" he called. For a split second, insane hope flared up inside him ("Maybe it's Him!"), but it was quenched as Harry's voice answered, "It's us, Hagrid."
"Oh," said Hagrid. "Shit," he muttered under his breath. He took a step toward the front door, but halted. If they saw him in the suit, it would lead to uncomfortable questions, and Hagrid had never been good at answering uncomfortable questions. He had to change, quickly. "Uh...jus' a sec!" he called as he fumbled feverishly with the buttons of his jacket.
"What on earth is he doing there?" said Harry in bewilderment, as sounds of evidence being hidden in a hurry (I trust that you know what I'm talking about) came from the hut.
"Probably hiding a dragon egg," Ron said darkly.
Finally, the door opened, revealing a rather dishevelled-looking Hagrid. Harry noticed that he had bits of comb in his hair, and Hermione saw that his fly was unbuttoned (what she glimpsed there nearly caused her to faint).
"Um...bad time, Hagrid?" Harry asked.
"Oh, no, not at all," said Hagrid, although he was looking half-embarassed, half-annoyed. "Come on in."
They entered the hut (Hermione desperately trying not to let her eyes wander anywhere near Hagrid's fly) and took seats at the table as Hagrid busied himself with the kettle.
"So, how'd yer firs' day go?" he asked.
"Not bad," said Harry, "if you don't count the fact that I lost Gryffindor one hundred and seventy points."
"You're kiddin'!" said Hagrid, taken aback.
"I wish I was," said Harry and then exploded. "It's all that git, Snape! I swear I'll kill him someday!"
A crazy urge to strangle Harry on the spot for such words washed over Hagrid. Fighting it down with an enormous effort, he said gruffly, "Tha's no way to talk about a teacher, Harry. He must've had a reason -"
"Reason!" shrieked Harry. "As if he ever needs one! You weren't there! He grabbed me by the hair, Hagrid! And he said foul things about my father! All because I didn't get the damn potion right, as did half the class! He fucking threatened me!" Harry banged his fist on the table. "I'm telling you, Dumbledore is a fool to trust him, and I don't care what everyone says, the bastard is still on Voldemort's side -"
"Tha's enough!" Hagrid said angrily, the plate of rock cakes shaking in his hands. "What d'yeh think yer doin', callin' Dumbledore stupid? He has his reasons ter trust Professor Snape, even if he don' share it with us, an' I'm sure that lesson wasn' as bad as yer saying -"
"WHAT?" Harry leapt to his feet, pointing a shaking finger at Hagrid. "So you're on his side, too, eh? I knew it, it's a conspiracy! Y'know what, you guys are no better than Voldemort's lot, only with them it's blood, and with you it's age!"
"AAARGH!" roared Hagrid and threw the plate he was holding at Harry. Harry ducked it, and then the three friends ran for it, Hagrid shouting after them, "Don' never come back here! An' if I ever hear yeh insult Professor Snape again, I swear I'll beat yeh inter a pulp!!!"
Hagrid was seething long after Harry, Ron and Hermione had fled. He was pacing the cabin, muttering under his breath, "Damn kids...How dare he insult Snapey..." His plans for the evening were ruined; he couldn't go to Snape in his present huffed state. All his preparations had gone down the drain (he'd taken a bath, for crying out loud, something he hadn't done probably since the Chamber of Secrets was first opened). Well, there was nothing that could be done now. He'd have to do it the next day. "And tomorrow," Hagrid thought as he finally lay down on his bed, "nothin' will prevent me. Tomorrow, with luck, I won' be sleepin' alone".
And on that optimistic note, Hagrid fell asleep.
A Failed First Date
By morning Hagrid's anger had subsided, and he wrote a note to Harry, Ron and Hermione:
"Dear Harry, Ron and Hermione,
I'm sorry I treated you like that yesterday. I don't know what got into me. You're welcome to visit my house at any time.
Harry received the note at breakfast and was at first reluctant to accept Hagrid's apology, but under Ron and Hermione's pressure he admitted that what had happened last evening was partly his fault and sent Hagrid an answer containing his own apology, and the diplomatic relations were thus restored.
Hagrid spent the day in anticipation. When darkness finally descended upon the grounds, he dressed into his horrible suit, combed his hair, leaving more pieces of comb in it, poured some cologne under his collar (he had thought of taking a bath again, but decided that two baths in a row would be too much) and left his cabin. The evening was beautiful and romantic: the smell of grass and the music of crickets filled the cool air, the grounds were suffused with moonlight, and at the foot of the Astronomy tower two boys from Gryffindor were cornering a Ravenclaw girl with unclear intentions. Hagrid was feeling elated: in just twenty minutes or so he and Snapey would be strolling through these grounds together! Hagrid's heart pounded madly in his chest as he approached Snape's office. He halted in front of the door, took a deep breath and knocked.
"Enter," said Snape's annoyed voice.
Hagrid did. Snape, who was standing beside one of the shelves, frowned at the sight of him and drew back ever so slightly.
"Good evening, Professor Snape," said Hagrid, blushing. "Sorry to disturb yeh, but, uh, would yeh happen to have - er - some Sober-Up Potion? On'y I seem to have run out of it."
"No, I don't have Sober-Up Potion," said Snape in an even more annoyed voice. "I suggest you see Madam Pomfrey about that."
"Oh - right," said Hagrid, red as a beetroot now. Glancing at Snape's desk, he said, "Er - I see yeh've got a lot of homework to grade, Professor."
"Not really," said Snape. "It's only the second day of the term, after all. Is there anything else you need, Hagrid?"
"Er -" the suggestion to take a walk in the grounds died on Hagrid's tongue as he observed the Potions master's angry countenance. "Er, no," he croaked. "Ah - sorry if I disturbed yeh. I'll - I'll jus' go, then."
His face burning, Hagrid turned and left. Snape looked after him for a few seconds with a frown, then went back to what he had been doing when Hagrid interrupted him - namely, pacing his office like a caged tiger.
Hagrid got back to his cabin, barely taking in his surroundings, slumped onto his bed and covered his face with his hands. The way Snapey had looked at him! "He's still angry at me," thought Hagrid in dismay. "Maybe...maybe he'll never love me!" The thought was so unbearable that Hagrid got drunk again.
"Fang," he moaned as he lay on the floor, "I've failed ter ask Snapey out. The way he looked at me...I jus' couldn't...he's still angry at me, Fang!" sobbed Hagrid. "What if never falls in luv wiv me?"
"Nonsense," said Fang's voice. "You just have to go about it the right way. If he's still angry at you, do something pleasant for him. Did you bring him a present?"
"No, I didn'..."
"See? No wonder your first attempt was a failure. Honestly, I don't know what you'd do without me, Hagrid. Before seeking his love, you must win his forgiveness."
"Yeh didn' mention it the firs' time..."
"I thought it was self-evident," said Fang in a haughty voice. "Just do as I say, Hagrid, and soon Professor Snape will not be able to imagine his life without you. It is as certain as the fact that you are drunk as a lord right now."
"Say, Fang," croaked Hagrid, "why is it that yeh only ever talk ter me when I'm drunk?"
"It's hard to explain," said Fang. "Perhaps being drunk relocates your Assemblage Point, allowing you to perceive things the way a dog does. Or maybe I don't even talk at all. Maybe what you perceive as my voice really comes from your own head, if you prefer a psychoanalytical explanation."
"Never mind," Fang sounded annoyed. "It's best not to delve too deeply into such things, Hagrid. Does it really matter, as long as I help you win the favour of your beloved Potions master?"
"No...no, 'course it doesn't," muttered Hagrid, relieved. "S long as yeh help me -"
And he fell asleep again.
Detention With Snape
Wednesday arrived, and with it Harry's first detention of that year. It was in a state of deepest gloom that he came down to Snape's office at 9 PM, rightfully expecting Snape to come up with something nasty.
"Enter," said Snape's voice when Harry had knocked on the door.
Harry sighed and came in. Snape was seated at his desk; as Harry entered, he fixed him for a fleeting instant with that enigmatic look Harry had seen in his eyes before, and then the Potions master's face broke into a sneer, although it seemed somewhat forced.
"Potter," he hissed. "How nice of you to drop by. I've got some work for you, if you don't mind." He stared at Harry for a moment, as if daring him to mind, then continued, "First, as you can see, my office floor is a bit dusty. I want you to make it shine, Potter. Everything you need is right there in the corner." And he pointed, with a nasty smile, to a bucket of water and a rag lying on the floor beside it. "You may begin."
Harry glared at Snape for a moment, murder clearly on his mind, then went slowly toward the bucket, dipped the rag in the water (it was ice-cold, apparently on purpose) and started to rub the floor.
"How do you like being my servant, Potter?" asked Snape after a couple of minutes. Harry's fists clenched on the rag, but he gritted his teeth and said nothing.
"You know, I think your father would be very proud if he could see you now," Snape continued. Harry, shaking with fury, started to rub the floor with all his might, to vent at least some of his rage.
"He made me polish his shoes in our second year, did you know that?" Snape pressed on; he was trying to sound mocking, but there was pain in his voice, too. "Made me kneel and polish his shoes while he and his friends were laughing at me - "
"You lie!!!" shouted Harry, leaping to his feet.
"On your knees, Potter, and back to work," snapped Snape, his face contorted as though he was in pain. "Do it, Potter, or I'll take another fifty points from Gryffindor and give you ten more detentions."
And Harry complied, but as he did, he made a mental vow to kill Snape, and he really meant it at the moment. He might do it in a year, or in ten years, or in twenty years, but he would do it. The thought brought him some relief.
"You're not rubbing hard enough, Potter," Snape's voice stung Harry like a wasp. "You've got to put more effort into it." Harry rubbed harder, although it seemed impossible. "Faster, Potter! Faster, I say!" Harry rubbed faster and faster, grazing his palms; he was in a frenzy. "FASTER!" shrieked Snape, and Harry leapt to his feet again with a roar of rage, throwing the rag against the floor.
"YOU!" he bellowed, advancing at Snape. "WHAT HAVE I DONE TO YOU? EXPLAIN TO ME! MY DAD MIGHT'VE BEEN MEAN TO YOU, BUT WHAT DID I DO TO DESERVE THIS? ANSWER ME, DAMMIT! WHY DO YOU TREAT ME LIKE THIS?"
"BECAUSE I LOVE YOU, HARRY!" cried Snape.
There was a ringing silence. Harry's expression resembled that of a carp as he stared at Snape. Snape seemed at first frightened beyond his wits, then he looked as though he was timidly contemplating the idea, and, finally, an expression of rapture spread across his face. He got to his feet, walked around his desk, came up to Harry and embraced him.
"Yes," he said calmly, "I love you, Harry."
And the next thing Harry knew, he was being kissed by Snape, the first real kiss in his life. The shock was so great that it was only after a few seconds that Harry broke the kiss and tried to wrench himself from Snape's embrace, but Snape pressed him against the wall, holding him tightly.
"I loved your father, Harry," he said baldly. "I've been afraid to acknowledge this until now, but it's true. I hated him, but at the same time, I coveted him...and even when he was bullying me, it gave me some twisted pleasure..." Snape was stroking Harry's hair as he talked. "I liked the feeling of being overpowered by him...I relished his touch...I wanted him inside me." Snape was talking faster and faster; he looked feverish. "But I would never admit it; I feared those feelings, thought them to be unnatural...I hid them deep in the attic of my mind, where light does not penetrate..."
"And then - years later - you came to Hogwarts, and you looked just like him, of course, so I couldn't help feeling the same way toward you, and to repress those feelings I made myself hate you...but as you grew older, as you looked more and more like the icon of my desire, it was becoming increasingly difficult...and now I no longer have to hide my feelings, and I'm happy!"
"You're sick!" exclaimed Harry.
"Yes, Harry," Snape said tenderly, "I'm /love/sick." Tracing Harry's chin with his finger, he whispered, a manic gleam in his eye, "I want you to be with me, Harry...I want to make love to you..."
"WHAT?" cried Harry, trying to twist free, but Snape pressed him even harder against the wall, whispering frantically, "No, no, Harry, please, listen to me...I'll give you everything you want...from now on you'll receive nothing but O's in Potions, even if you don't do any work...I'll buy you the best brooms there are, the best...everything...I'll kneel and lick your shoes in front of the whole school if you want me to, Harry, just...just..."
"Let go of me, you sick man!" screamed Harry, finally breaking free. He backed away from Snape, breathing heavily, his eyes wide with shock.
"Harry...please..." bleated Snape, extending his arms toward him.
"Don't you come near me!" shouted Harry. "Don't you come near me, or I - or I - "
Lost for words, Harry turned and fled from Snape's office. Snape sunk to the floor with a moan.
Neither of them knew that the rather intimate scene that had just taken place had been witnessed by none other than Hagrid. Following Fang's advice, Hagrid had come to give "Snapey" a present, and as he approached the office, he heard Snape cry, "I LOVE YOU, HARRY!" For a few seconds he stood rooted to the spot, and then dashed to the door and peered inside to see Snape kissing Harry Potter.
"So tha's why Snapey don' luv me!" he thought, gripped by wild jealousy. "He's bin seduced by Harry!"
Hagrid would have burst into the office and killed Harry on the spot, had it not occurred to him that killing Snape's lover was hardly the best way to win his heart (not to mention the fact that he would be sent to Azkaban for the rest of his life). So Hagrid returned to his cabin to devise a new plan. And soon the plan was ready.
All Is Well That Ends Well
Harry didn't tell Ron and Hermione what had really happened during his detention, describing it simply as "nasty". He would gladly have preferred it if Snape had just been abusive; now, he didn't know what to expect of Snape or how to behave towards him. His feelings for Snape were a mixture of shame, revulsion and pity; at the same time, he feared that Snape might resume his advances. If he did, Harry would have to go to Dumbledore, but he didn't want to go to Dumbledore if he could help it because the Headmaster apparently had more important business than Harry that year.
When Harry came down to the Great Hall for breakfast next morning, he hoped that Snape wouldn't be there, but he was, and his eyes didn't leave Harry from the moment he had entered the Hall. Every time Harry glanced up at the staff table, he saw Snape staring at him. To make things even worse, the Potions master started simpering and batting his eyelashes at Harry every time he caught his eye. Harry shuddered to think what his next Potions lesson was going to be like. He fled from the Great Hall after five minutes (already he saw a life of half-starvation stretching out before him) and left the castle to wait for Ron and Hermione outside (their first class of that day was Care of Magical Creatures, but Harry didn't feel like going down to Hagrid's hut alone, even though they were formally reconciled).
Finally, people started trailing out of the front doors; Harry waited for Ron and Hermione to come out, and they started toward Hagrid's hut together.
"Why'd you run away from breakfast?" asked Ron.
"I, uh, didn't feel hungry," lied Harry. Ron raised his eyebrows, but didn't press the subject.
Hagrid was waiting for the fifth years outside his cabin, half a dead cow slung over his shoulder.
"We're workin' in here today!" Hagrid called to the approaching students, jerking his head back at the dark trees behind him. "Bit more sheltered! Anyway, they prefer the dark."
"What prefers the dark?" Harry heard Malfoy say sharply; he smirked.
Hagrid seemed a bit uncomfortable when he saw Harry, but then he smiled and called, "All righ', Harry?"
Harry nodded with a smile.
"Everyone here?" said Hagrid. "Righ' then, I've bin savin' a trip inter the Forest fer yer fifth year. Thought we'd go an' see these creatures in their natural habitat. Now, what we're studyin' today is pretty rare, I reckon I'm probably the on'y person in Britain who's managed ter train 'em, so yer privileged, is what yeh are. Now, follow me, everyone."
He turned and strode into the forest. The students followed, if rather reluctantly. They walked for about ten minutes until they reached a place where the trees stood so closely together that it was as dark as twilight.
"Gather roun', gather roun'," Hagrid said loudly, depositing his half a cow on the ground. "Now, they'll be attracted by the smell o' the meat but I'm goin' ter give 'em a call anyway, 'cause they'll like ter know it's me."
Hagrid shook the hair out of his face and gave and odd, shrieking cry. For a few moments, there was silence. Then, suddenly, a monstrous creature emerged from the shadows, crushing tree branches in its way. Harry and Ron recognized it instantly.
"An Acromantula!" Hagrid yelled. "Run fer yer lives!"
The students didn't need to be told twice; actually, they were already running in all directions, screaming in horror. To Harry and Ron's consternation, the Acromantula decided to pursue them; they ran like they'd never run in their lives, but the giant spider was gaining on them. Hagrid was running after it - or, rather, jogging after it - yelling, "NO! NO!" in a tone that clearly suggested, "YES! YES!" The Acromantula was now feet from Harry and Ron - it swung its huge hairy leg, and Harry was thrown into the air, landing at the foot of a tree trunk with a cry of pain. Brushing Ron aside with another leg, the giant spider bore down on Harry. Its jaws were already inches from his face when a voice cried, "Avada Kedavra!" There was a flash of green light, and the Acromantula swayed on the spot for a couple of seconds before collapsing on the ground in front of Harry. It was dead.
Before Harry could regain conscious thought, someone was already kneeling beside him - Professor Snape.
"Harry! Harry, are you all right?" Snape asked in an alarmed voice, surveying Harry's face.
"Um...yeah...I think my arm's broken," panted Harry, wincing as he tried to shift.
Snape pointed his wand at Harry's left arm and muttered an incantation. The pain disappeared. Harry flexed the arm cautiously; it was as good as new.
"Thanks," he said.
"Goodness, Harry," Snape was caressing Harry's face, "you could've been killed! If I hadn't come - I came to look at you again, I couldn't help it - but are you sure you're all right - ?"
"Is he alive?" asked Ron, limping toward them.
"Yeah, what about you?" called Harry, pushing Snape's hands away from his face.
"I'm okay," said Ron. "A few bruises, that's all."
Harry got to his feet, stepping away from Snape, and his eyes fell on Hagrid, who for some reason seemed very angry. Meeting Harry's eye, he forced his face into a smile.
"Well," he said in a hearty voice, "as they say, all's well that ends -"
"YOU!" screeched Snape, advancing at Hagrid and pointing his wand at him. "WHAT DID YOU THINK YOU WERE DOING, TAKING STUDENTS INTO THE FOREST? HARRY COULD HAVE BEEN KILLED!"
"Uh, Professor Snape -" Hagrid was backing away, eyeing Snape's wand in apprehension.
"You're going to pay for this, Hagrid," hissed Snape. "Cruc -" But before he could finish saying the curse, his wand flew out of his hand and landed, drawing a high arc in the air, in the open palm of -
"Dumbledore?" Snape said incredulously. "What are you doing here?"
"A question I might ask you, Severus," Dumbledore said calmly, pocketing Snape's wand.
"What - I - I came here to look for some herbs, which was very lucky, wasn't it, because otherwise Harry would've been killed because of this moron's incompetence!" snarled Snape, pointing at Hagrid, who was looking very hurt.
"You didn't come here to look for herbs, Severus," Dumbledore said in the same calm voice. "You came here to look at Harry, because you are in love with him. And Hagrid wasn't being incompetent; he deliberately set that Acromantula at Harry, hoping that once Harry was dead, he might have a chance to win Severus's heart, right, Hagrid?"
"WHAT?" Snape, Harry and Ron exclaimed together. Snape turned to Hagrid again, apparently set on strangling him, but Dumbledore waved his wand, and an invisible force pulled Snape back.
"Don't - let me get at him - I'll kill him -" gasped Snape.
"You will do no such thing, Severus," said Dumbledore. "What has happened is not Hagrid's fault, because Hagrid is not in his right mind at the moment - and nor are you, Severus."
"What are you talking about?" asked Snape, staring incredulously at Dumbledore.
"I'm talking about the magnetic storm that has been raging these past few days," said Dumbledore. "I read about it in a Muggle newspaper (unlike some, I read the Muggle press); the article said that this anomalous upsurge of solar activity might cause the subconscious desires of some people to manifest. In the light of that article Hagrid's attack on you, Severus, and the way you looked at Harry at the start-of-term feast and all subsequent meals" - Snape blushed, and Harry covered his face with his hands, Ron staring from one to the other, - "made perfect sense. I knew it would culminate into something like this, but I decided not to intervene prematurely, in case things should resolve themselves."
"You mean you knew Hagrid was going to kill me - and did nothing?" asked Harry, staring at Dumbledore in disbelief.
"Yes," Dumbledore said simply. "Does that still surprise you, Harry?"
"Uhhh...no, I guess not," mumbled Harry.
"Anyway," Dumbledore said cheerfully, "according to my watch - and if the Muggle scientists are correct in their calculations - the storm is about to end in five minutes. So all we have to do is wait."
And they waited - Hagrid, red as a rhubarb, staring at his feet; Snape looking longingly at Harry; Harry, like Hagrid, examining his feet; Dumbledore humming a tune and surveing the surroundings benignly; and Ron staring at everyone with a stunned expression on his face.
"Well, five minutes have passed!" Dumbledore said finally, glancing at his watch. "So, tell me, Severus - how do you feel about Harry now?"
Snape looked at Harry, frowning.
"I feel sorry for not letting this Acromantula finish him off," he declared.
"Good!" said Dumbledore as Snape turned and strode away, black cloak billowing. "And you, Hagrid, how do you feel about Professor Snape?"
"I - I don' feel like nuthin' about him," Hagrid said uncertainly.
"Excellent!" exclaimed Dumbledore. "The subconscious desires have been successfully repressed again and will hopefully remain that way until the next anomalous magnetic storm. Well, Harry, Ron - if you are all right, I suggest you return to the castle - your friends will no doubt be worried about you, and your enemies hopeful, so go bring the former relief, and the latter disappointment. Hagrid - you might as well return to your cabin and have a pick-me-up - now that the storm has passed, there is no danger in that. Well, have a nice day, everyone."
Whistling, Dumbledore turned and walked away, Harry, Ron and Hagrid gaping after him.