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Return to Prince Manor by Snapegirl
Chapter 27 : The Poison Pen
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 10


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March slid into April, and aside from Harry's brief encounter with a leprechaun on St. Patrick's Day and his subsequent misadventures with a lucky clover* and the punishment that had followed his foolish imbibing of heather ale**, Harry had managed to keep his nose clean. He concentrated upon his studies and in trying to figure out what the next task would be. He was glad that Hermione seemed so relaxed and was spending more time with Draco instead of burning herself out studying. He wished he had more time to spend with Katie, but she was also burning the midnight oil, studying for her OWLS.

As a result, Harry started spending a bit more time with Ron and the twins and Ginny. He thought nothing of it, they had always been friends, and that hadn't changed, even when they had learned he was Severus' son. Little did he know that innocent friendship was about to undergo a radical makeover at the hands of Rita Skeeter and her poison pen.

It all started upon a Monday evening, right after Harry had finished class for the day and was heading back to the Gryffindor common room to finish up an essay for Transfiguration before going to dinner with his father and Draco in Severus' quarters.

He had been lingering outside the portrait hole, trying to remember what the password was, for a moment he had drawn a blank, when Ginny came by. She seemed upset, her eyes looked puffy, as though she had been crying, and when she looked up and saw Harry, she nearly burst into tears. "Ginny? Is something wrong?" Harry asked, concerned. He had always felt sort of protective towards the youngest Weasley, like he would have towards a younger sister.

Slowly, she nodded. "I'm a mess, Harry. I . . .I've been going out with Teddy Norton, a Hufflepuff in my year and we just . . .he just told me we can't see each other anymore because . . .because he's in love with . . .with prissy Hannah Abbott!" She practically wailed that last.

Harry didn't know what to say, he was absolute pants when it came to comforting girls, so he did what he would have done if it were Hermione or Katie crying, he hugged her. It was a purely platonic brotherly hug, nothing romantic about it whatsoever.

Ginny clung to him, crying into his robe for a few moments. Harry patted her on the back and said, "Look, I know it seems like the end of the world, but it isn't. You'll find someone else, someone who really cares about you, and then you'll forget him."

"You—you really think so?" Ginny asked, gazing up at him with a curious combination of adulation and wretchedness.

"I do. I think you've got a lot of potential, Ginny, and one day some guy's going to realize that and snatch you up like a—a Chocolate Cauldron Cake."

"A Chocolate Cauldron Cake?" Ginny giggled.

"Sorry. That was a really bad comparison."

"I think it's cute," she said. "Thanks, Harry. You always make me feel better." Then she tilted her head up and kissed him gently on the mouth. It was a bit more than a sisterly kiss, she had had a secret crush on him for years. It lasted barely a second, hardly long enough for Harry to even register he'd been kissed. Then Ginny drew away and wiped her eyes on her sleeve. She turned to the portrait hole, and spoke the password, "Midnight candle."

The portrait swung aside and she stepped into the common room. Harry joined her a moment later.

"Do I look all right?" Ginny asked worriedly. "I mean, can you tell if I've been crying? Because if you can tell, so can my brothers, and if they ever find out that Norton dumped me, they'll kill him."

Harry looked her over. "No. You look tired but not all that upset anymore."

"Oh, good. Thanks again, Harry." She headed upstairs to her dorm room, leaving Harry with a bemused look on his face.

Little did they know that a certain someone had been a hidden witness to their innocent meeting outside the portrait hole, and before they knew it, some nasty rumors would be circulating.

* * * * * *

The next morning:

Harry sat down in his usual spot between Ron and Katie, and waited for Dumbledore to appear at the head table and announce that breakfast could commence. Hedwig, Athena, Frost, and Zephyr all flew to their respective witch or wizard with the morning post. Today Hedwig carried the newspaper and Frost had Harry's monthly Quidditch catalog.

Harry decided to look at Quidditch Monthly first, and so missed the shocked and horrified glances the Gryffindors, including his friends, were giving him.

"I don't believe it!" Ron blurted. "It's just not possible." He was stll staring at the article with glazed eyes. "There's got to be a mistake!"

"I most certainly hope so!" Hermione exclaimed.

"Care to explain this, Harry?" demanded an irate Katie. She poked him hard in the ribs.

"Ouch! Hey, what was that for?" he asked, astonished, looking up from his magazine.

Katie glared at him. "What was that for? Why don't you take a look at this and then ask me again?" She waved the paper in his face.

Harry took his copy of the Prophet and stared at the front page, dumbstruck.

BOY-WHO-LIVED TWO-TIMING GIRLFRIEND!

Caught in the act kissing third-year Ginny Weasley, who says that she has been nursing a crush upon Harry Snape for years.

A reputable inside source has wrote to my column revealing that Harry Snape, Hogwarts Champion, had been secretly seeing Ginny Weasley for months. The source says they would meet at the library after hours, or behind the greenhouse, or even just outside the portrait hole. "Ginny was always mad for him," a friend says. "Always wanted him and she finally convinced him to dump that tomboy Bell chick and go out with a real girl. One who knows how to shop and how to flirt and doesn't look like she just jumped off a broom."

It appears that friend was correct, for last evening I observed Snape and Weasley in an intimate embrace and clandestine kiss outside the Gryffindor portrait hole. They seemed very much in love, as you can see by the accompanying photo. Looks like Harry prefers redheads, seeing as his best mate is Ron Weasley, Ginny Weasley's older brother. Or maybe he just wants to keep it all in the family. I recall that his father had a thing for redheads too, his only girlfriend at Hogwarts was fiery-haired Lily Evans.

Friends of Ginny Weasley wonder if she's "the one" for Harry? It would certainly seem so, looking at how they were kissing! It's so lovely to see first love bloom at school. I'm sure many of you recall your first kiss, how it made you all weak in the knees and feeling like you were going to start walking on air.

Former Hufflepuff boyfriend of Ginny's has this to say about this startling revelation. "I used to date her, and I always felt she was holding back, that something was missing. I broke up with her because of that, and now I'm with my true love, Hannah Abbott, and she's free to make out with Harry Snape, who I suspect she's wanted all along. So we're both happy."

That may be true, but one wonders how the jilted Katie Bell will take the news that her beau has been unfaithful with a younger woman. My guess is it won't be pretty, especially if Katie thought she was going to hear wedding bells in her future. Poor girl, suckered in by a handsome face and former squeaky clean reputation, only to discover her boyfriend has been seeing another on the sly.

Who will Harry choose? Tune in next week to see (hopefully) the conclusion of this tragic love triangle. Me, myself, and I want to know!

Rita Skeeter

Harry's face went white then red and then settled for a somewhat mottled cross between the two. "That . . .that miserable, lying, backstabbing bitch!" he snarled, his green eyes blazing. "Where does she get off, printing such garbage!"

"Is it? Or are you angry because it's the truth?" Katie demanded, her voice a mixture of hurt and anger.

"The truth?" Harry gaped at her. "Katie, you can't really believe this stuff . . .it's all lies and rumors . . ."

"What about the picture? Is that a lie too?"

Harry looked at the picture, which showed him kissing Ginny, it was a bit grainy, but definitely recognizable as he and Ron's sister. "Not . . .not exactly."

"What's that supposed to mean? Did you kiss her or didn't you?"

"It wasn't a real kiss. She was upset, I gave her a hug, like I would Hermione, and then she thanked me and kissed me goodbye. That was it. I'm not secretly going out with her, Katie! Ron, tell her! If anyone would know who Ginny dates, it's Ron."

Ron looked up from his plate of eggs and sausage. "Uh . . right, mate. Harry's not dating Ginny, Katie. He thinks of her like a little sister and you don't date them. Honest."

Katie eyed him suspiciously. "Maybe you don't know your sister as well as you think. She had a crush on him for years!" Katie stabbed her finger down at the article. "I know some of the stuff printed in here isn't the whole truth, but there has to be some substance behind the rumors. I know I've never kissed my brother on the lips. And all of us girls know that Norton just broke up with her yesterday. Guess she didn't want to let the grass grow under her feet."

Just then, Ginny arrived, panting and out of breath, she had overslept. She went to sit in her usual spot, across the table from Harry, and then froze at the sight of all the looks she was getting. Some were hostile, others admiring. "Did I miss something?"

"Nothing but me leaving. I lose my appetite when I have to sit next to liars and cheaters," Katie said frostily, then she picked up her bookbag and went to leave the hall. She gave Harry a fierce look, despite the tears in her eyes. "If you didn't want to go out with me anymore, Snape, why didn't you just say so? Maybe I never knew you either!"

As she strode from the hall, students' heads turned and whispers began starting up.

"Katie! Wait!" Harry called, then he scrambled over the bench and ran after her.

He caught up with her just outside the Charms classroom. "Katie, at least give me a chance to explain—"

"I did. You said you kissed her. And the picture proves it! What else do you want to explain, Snape? How you dream about her at night? How when you kiss me, you imagine it's her?"

"No, dammit! I'm not in love with Ginny! I never was or ever will be." Harry shouted in frustration. "I've only ever loved you! Why won't you trust me? Katie, please! Skeeter's a yellow journalist, she prints gossip that barely has a grain of truth to it just to sensationalize and get people to read her column."

"Then how did she know about you last night?"

"I don't know! I was stuck outside the portrait hole and Ginny came along and unlocked it. She did break up with Norton last night and she was upset, so I hugged her for maybe ten seconds and she kissed me. I didn't kiss her. And somehow that skulking rat Skeeter saw us and took a picture of it. But it means nothing!"

"Maybe not to you." Katie sniffed. "Just go away, Harry."

"No. Not till you listen to me. I am not in love with Ginny Weasley!"

"Pictures don't lie," she snapped.

"But they only show the surface of things," Harry argued. "Katie, I've known Ginny since first year, if I wanted to go out with her I would have asked her long before. But I didn't, because I think of her as a sister."

"But she's not and you're not and I'm fed up with being your left heel! Leave me alone!" and with that, Katie slammed the door to the Charms classroom in his face and locked it as well.

The room was empty and she made her way to the first desk she saw and sat down and cried.

* * * * * *

All that day, Harry was distracted, he couldn't concentrate upon anything because he kept seeing Katie's face in front of him. He tried to find her to speak with her again, but she was absent from the Great Hall for lunch and dinner, and she even missed their evening study session. When he tried to ask Angelina and some of her other friends about her, they all gave him the cold shoulder.

"She doesn't want to see you, Snape," said Angelina coldly.

"Yeah. Haven't you hurt her enough?" demanded Tamara Archer.

"Why don't you back to your little Weasley tart and leave her alone?" snapped Alicia Spinnet.

Harry threw up his hands. "Bloody hell! I can't believe you're willing and ready to believe that lying double-tongued Skeeter instead of me! If I really was happy with Ginny, why would I be looking for Katie? Huh?"

"Maybe you're into more than one at a time," sneered Angelina.

"I . . .that's just . . ." Harry shook his head. "Look, just tell her I was looking for her, okay?"

Then he stalked off, furious at Skeeter. He couldn't believe how one tiny peck on the mouth could have led to all of this melodrama. It was so bloody ridiculous it was funny. He would have laughed like hell if he hadn't wanted to cry instead.

"She won't see me or talk to me," he reported mournfully to Draco and Ron that evening in the library.

"Tough break, mate," said Ron sympathetically. "I've been trying to tell people it's all a bunch of bull, but so far nobody believed me. Ginny too. They all think we're covering your arse."

"Have you tried writing her a letter?" Draco suggested. "Don't address the envelope, just send it to her."

"She'd probably tear it into bits once she realized it was from me," Harry sighed. "Besides, I have nothing to apologize for! I didn't do a damn thing wrong. She's acting like I . . .I slept with Ginny for Merlin's sake!"

Draco made a face. "No offense, Ron, but that's like robbing the cradle. Best thing you could do, Harry, is just wait for her too cool down."

"Guess so. I really hate Rita Skeeter!"

* * * * * *

Three days later:

Harry wondered if he were under some kind of curse, for his luck had gone from bad to worse. He had forgotten to hand in his potions essay, and now his father was mad at him and requested he stay after class—actually it hadn't been a request, but a command—Harry was certain he was in for a long lecture and maybe even an unofficial detention. Severus only gave those out to his sons when he didn't wish to take points from their Houses and make detention public. But they were as bad as any detention on the logs and sometimes worse.

On top of that, Katie still wasn't talking to him, she had missed the Dueling Club, telling Draco she was sick and couldn't practice, and every time Harry went to find her, she was nowhere in the castle. Or in Hogsmeade. Rumors were still flying about him and Ginny, not quelled in the slightest by his and her insistence that nothing was going on. If anything, it seemed to add fuel to fire. Harry despaired of ever mending their relationship.

He fidgeted in his seat under his father's disapproving glare at the end of the period, though at least he had managed to brew his potion—an Allergic Relief Draft—correctly. Severus gave him full marks for it, but did not relent otherwise. Ron and Hermione shot him commiserating glances, as did Draco, before they left.

"Good luck, phoenix," Draco mouthed before Severus shooed him out of the classroom and turned to his wayward son.

"Mr. Snape, my office."

Harry rose and followed his parent silently into the office through a connecting door at the back of the classroom. Since the incident with the exploding potion, Severus had gotten permission from Dumbledore to have three exits from his classroom. One was the usual one leading to the corridor, and the other was an emergency one leading to an empty unused classroom. The third led to his office.

"Sit."

Harry obeyed, sitting upon the hard wooden ladder-back chair that Snape kept especially for this purpose. No comfortable recliners for those who misbehaved in Snape's classroom.

Severus turned to face him. "Well?" he drawled, in a soft voice that nevertheless contained volumes of disappointment. "Would you care to explain why you didn't turn in your potions essay?"

"I . . .I forgot it, sir," Harry admitted, hanging his head.

"You forgot to put it in your bag, or forgot to do it?"

"I . . .forgot to do it. Dad-I mean Professor—I'm sorry. I knew it was due today, I had it written down and all, but somehow I just forgot." He knew it sounded lame and that his father would never go for it. He rummaged in his bag. "See, here's the outline I made two nights ago."

Severus took the parchment Harry handed him. "This doesn't excuse your memory lapse."

"I know. But I didn't do it on purpose, sir."

"Deliberately or not, the end result is the same. No essay means a zero."

"Couldn't I just . . . make it up?"

"On what grounds? If you were ill, then yes, I would allow it. But you aren't sick, just suffering from a momentary lapse of memory." Severus said tartly. "One which I hope will be cured after this. I told you in the beginning of the year that I wouldn't show you any favors, Mr. Snape."

"I know, but . . .I've been under a lot of pressure," Harry protested. "From the tournament and these stupid rumors, not that you'd care, since you never bother to read Skeeter's gossip column."

"While I don't normally read such trash, I am aware of what she wrote about you and Katie and Ginny Weasley," Severus said, his voice a shade less harsh. "I can understand you being upset, but even so, Harry, that isn't an excuse for forgetting to do your homework."

"Isn't it? I'd bet that if it were you having problems with Mum like me, you would have forgotten your essay too!"

"Do not raise your voice to me, young man," Severus warned, his eyes flashing. "You are probably right, but that is neither here nor there. If I had done so, you can be sure I would take my reprimand as deserved and not attempted to wriggle my way out of it."

"Fine!" Harry huffed, knowing the professor was right, but hating to admit it. "But now you've ruined my average."

"I have? Say rather, you have, by being so absent-minded," Severus corrected. "One zero should not affect your average that much. Not if you do some extra credit work for me."

"Like what?"

"I shall come up with something sufficiently challenging," Severus promised. Then he came around his desk and laid a hand upon his son's shoulder. "Harry, I do know what you're going through, believe it or not. Your mother and I quarreled this same way in our fifth year. James Potter fancied her, I came upon them kissing down by the lake, and wouldn't listen to her when she told me he had started it and she was trying to end it. I blew up at her, we had an awful row, called each other some terrible names, and we didn't talk to each other for weeks."

"Sounds like me and Katie. How did you fix it?" Harry asked.

Severus' mouth quirked. "I didn't. My best friend Regulus Black, yes, he was your godfather's younger brother, he tricked me into going into the Room of Requirement and Lily also, and once we were inside, he locked the door and refused to let us out until we'd talked to each other and ironed out our differences. At first we wanted to kill him, but looking back on it, that was exactly what we needed—time and privacy to work things out. And his tactic was successful—we forgave each other and agreed that we had both been acting like arseholes and somebody should have kicked us hard and we made up."

"That's it? That sounds too easy."

"Sometimes, Harry, simple and direct works best in a relationship. I know that both of you are hurting due to the poison pen of that harridan," Severus said, and he scowled. "I can lock both of you in my potions classroom and take away your wands if you'd like."

Harry sighed. "That might work, but only if you got a signed testimonial from that wench Skeeter that everything she printed was a lie. Katie won't believe me else."

Severus' lip twitched. "I could go one better than that and have Phil hypnotize her and make her write another article retracting the one she wrote previously."

"Really? You'd do that for me?"

"I want you to be happy, son. I also don't want Skeeter to ruin what could be a decent relationship with her infernal gossip-mongering. I don't enjoy seeing you miserable. Besides, when you're miserable, your homework suffers for it."

Harry made a face. "Don't remind me. Will you ask Uncle Phil tonight then?"

"I shall. I am sure he would not mind, he detests Skeeter as much as we do."

"Where is he, anyhow?"

"I believe he is spying upon Karkaroff. There is something going on between him and Professor Moody that has made him suspicious," Severus whispered.

"Like what?"

"I do not know. Philip will tell me when he's ready. In the meantime, I would suggest that you focus on your schoolwork and ignore both Miss Bell and Miss Weasley. If people see that you aren't reacting to the rumors and are . . .playing it cool, as you teenagers say nowadays, that will also dampen Katie's anger."

"What if it doesn't work?"

"Then there is always my classroom, though I will warn you now, you are not allowed to throw or break anything in it, or else you will have detention through the summer with me."

Harry managed a small smile at that. "Thanks, Dad."

Severus snorted, looking embarrassed. "You had best be going, or else you'll be late for Herbology."

"I will?" Harry glanced at the clock on the wall.

"You used up your free half-an-hour period with this discussion," his father pointed out.

"Oh. Well, it was worth it. Excepting the beginning where you chewed my arse out," he added with a rueful smirk.

"Unless you'd like a repeat performance, Harry Snape, I would suggest you move your backside down to the greenhouse. Because I won't write you a note excusing your from your tardiness if you are late for Professor Sprout."

"Tardiness? Who uses that word anymore?" Harry teased. "You're starting to sound like the Oxford dictionary, Dad."

"Enough of your cheek, boy. Go, get to class and quit dawdling! I mean it."

"Okay, okay. I'm going, keep your robe on," his son muttered cheekily.

"Five points from Gryffindor for your disrespect."

"Dad! Come on!"

Severus raised an eyebrow, crossed his arms, and gave him a stern look.

Harry got the message and slung his bag over his shoulder and started to leave the office. He still had ten minutes to get to the greenhouse. That might have troubled him a few minutes before, but now he ran as if his feet had wings, for his father had given him hope that all might not be lost, and there might be a way to get his stubborn girlfriend to listen to reason.

* for the full story of Harry and the leprechaun see Wizard's Luck, posted here

**to find out exactly what happened after that, I will be posting a short sequel to Wizard's Luck called "Unlucky" soon. Look for it! I will place an alert on WL to let those of you who have alerted it know. Thanks!

I know it's been forever since I updated this, but I've been compelled to work on Two Hawks Hunting and also been waylaid by holidays and sickness. Hope you enjoy this.

Next chapter: The return of Philip and Snape's revenge on Skeeter. Will it cause Katie to forgive/believe Harry? Or should Severus lock them both in his classroom? Feel free to answer this, since I'm undecided as to how the next part should play out.


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