Harry was walking between classes when he heard the quick clicking of a woman's high heels overtaking him. When it reached him, it slowed to his pace, and for a while, he didn't look around.
'You're not even going to look at me? I thought we got over this in August.'
'Sorry. It's not you, it's –'
'I've heard that line before – aren't you supposed to use it to break up with someone?'
Harry grinned reluctantly and glanced over, and saw Elizabeth smile cheekily back. 'Well, I'm not breaking up with you, I promise.'
'Well, I would hope so – I didn't even know we were going out. I pretty sure that's not even legal.' He laughed, and she linked her arm through his. 'But really. What's wrong?'
'He doesn't believe me.'
'Well, I believe you, if that counts for anything.'
Harry laughed again. 'Yeah. Of course it does.'
'Well, thank goodness for that, I thought I'd been disregarded.'
'But, Elizabeth, you know well as anyone how many people don't believe me – us.'
She sighed. 'Yes, I know. It sucks.'
'Why would I lie about this?'
'Because you're looking for a little more attention.' She spoke this almost as a question, but he heard the irony in her voice.
'And that's an appropriate attention seeking tool.'
'Yup. Most certainly.'
'Yes, Harry. Yes it is.'
'You're being particularly helpful today,' he muttered sarcastically, as they descended into the cold of the dungeon.
'I know,' she sighed, giving his arm a quick squeeze as they reached the bottom of the stairwell. 'There's nothing, really, that I can do for you, except to remind you that the truth will come out – it's only a matter of time.'
'Now,' she quipped, looking up the stairs behind him, 'don't give Severus too much grief, and I'll see you in Defence, hmm?'
'Don't give him – ?'
Laughing, she patted his arm. 'I know, Harry. You're a perfect angel in his class. I'll talk to you soon.'
With that, she shrunk into a Mrs Norris-looking cat, and slunk away into the darkness of the dungeon.
'Severus, what the hell was that for?'
A tight-lipped smirk ascended his lips as he replied, 'Elizabeth, I have no idea what in the world you're talking about.'
'Oh, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Why in the world did you do that to Harry? Scourgify his cauldron and give him no marks – and for what? Off colourdness? I mean, did you see the state of Gregory Goyle's cauldron? Seamus Finnigan? Hell, even Ron Weasley did worse than Harry, and you don't like him, either.'
'It is not your place, Elizabeth, to – '
'Like hell is isn't.' She plopped down gracefully into the chair opposite his desk and glared at him with a reproachful gaze. 'I mean, come now. You may pretend to hate the boy, but why make his life such a living hell? Please tell me this isn't some petty game by Voldemort, because really, if it is, I've lost faith in the evil masterminds of the universe.'
'What! It's true!'
'Sometimes I wonder about you. You are the single most contradictory girl I've ever known.'
'Well, thank you,' she replied, grinning. 'I do love being unpredictable.'
'This is no laughing matter, Elizabeth.'
'Oh, I know, Severus, but truly, what more can one do but try to find laughter in the darkness?'
They allowed a silence to stretch before them, until –
'You're missing the entire point, though, Severus. Was is your pettiness, or Voldemort's that prompted that little show?'
He rolled his eyes dryly, and refused to respond.
'You're being stubborn.'
'Elizabeth, do you not have a class to go to?'
'In an hour or so. Why?'
'Because,' he sighed, 'I thought I might be able to be rid of you for at least a moment.'
She grinned in response. 'You realize that you're only saying that because you can't stand having such a stringent moral compass.'
'Hardly. And you are hardly a moral compass, Elizabeth, you simply do not want to have to hear Potter's complaining about me.'
'That might be some of it. It might be that every time you do something so clearly and painfully biased, I have to hear him question, yet again, why I care about you so much.' She paused. 'It might also be that you are a teacher, and therefore should be above such petty biases. Unless, of course, you have an alternative motive. But really, Severus. Throwing out the boy's potion? Really?'
Frustrated, he replied, 'Fine. I am doing this to curry favour with Draco. Is that quite enough?'
'It could be. Except that it's utterly ridiculous. There are many other ways, I'm sure, to curry favour with Draco, other than humiliating Harry.'
'But this way,' drawled Severus, 'I'm also torturing Potter's son. It is a win-win situation.'
'You're utterly impossible, Sev.'
He tensed, and then smirked. 'I do so love being – ''Oh, shut up.'