Nobody ever asked my birthday

Chapter 13

"I have to do this by myself?" Harry Potter found himself asking, "Sir?", his question just as much for himself as for Snape - the tone more musing. "Hermione - Ron -"

Snape shook his head, saying, "They'll have other things to do. Wager that Granger finds herself a sniper, with Moody teaching her."

Potter nodded, carefully turning over what Snape had said. "It sounds dangerous, sir"

"Since when is a Gryffindor afraid of dangers, no matter how big or small?" Snape's voice was sharp and wry, his black eyes glancing briefly at Potter before turning towards the horizon.

"Since always, sir. It's not that we aren't scared, sir. We're just more afraid of what happens if we don't than if we do." Harry's face quirked into a ghost of a grin.

Snape's hard eyes raked over Potter, in a sharp glance. "Fear is wisdom bred deeper than bone. If you pay attention, it may save your life."

"Yes, sir." Harry Potter responded, and the conversation lapsed into a lull.

After a while, Snape said quietly, "I wouldn't have given you this assignment if I didn't think there was a significant possibility you'd live to tell the tale."

Potter suddenly snorted, "A significant possibility!"

Snape said, "I'm no optimist, you may have noticed. What training I've given you - and any more you pick up along the way, may allow you to survive your first three battles or so." Snape paused, looking briefly out at the woods nearby, the leaves rustling. "Should you live through those, your life expectancy would rise significantly."

[a/n: this isn't vietnam, where most all the greenhorns died. Snape's accordingly not nearly as closed off against "bonding" with the new recruits].

In the silence, Harry puzzled out that he'd have been much more anxious even a few months ago, sitting quietly with Professor Snape like this.

"Slytherins seem to have a hard time trusting other people, sir..." Harry said musingly, "It seems like something we might exploit against Him."

"Indeed, were that the case. Turn the thought a little differently - Slytherins like to know the limits of trust. 'Every man has his price.' No Slytherin would work with someone without knowing his price." Snape's half-smile was cold as ice, thinlipped and without a trace of teeth.

"My friends wouldn't betray me!" Harry Potter burst out, his mind wanting to call back the exclamation just as soon as he had said it. That was not the way to get Snape to... well, anything.

"Granger's price isn't gold, nor friendship. Hers lies in the simple maxim "Do Good." As with most simple things, it's generally wrong." Snape looked down at Harry Potter. "Do you think if you were about to kill Bellatrix Black, in cold blood, that Hermione would not simply stop you?"

"Of course she would! Sir! I trust her to do what's right!" Harry Potter said, his emotions seething and making him sound more unbalanced than his mind actually was.

"Everyone is wrong sometime, Potter." Snape said, in a cold, sure voice that somehow had the barest trace of gentleness to it, like the flat of a blade. "Granger won't reckon the gain of betraying you - she counts being Good so highly. She will feel that she will count the cost, the pain of betraying you. It won't stop her, though."

"So, what do I do, sir?" Harry Potter said, his tone frustrated.

"First, understand that Hermione Granger prides herself on being intelligent and logical. If there's time, she's likely to give you ample warning if she thinks a course of action is wrong. You needn't guard yourself against her except when time is short, and decisions are critical. Second, use wisdom if you must argue against her - and if wisdom fails, then use logic. And if not logic, then sheer numbers and that Gryffindor stubbornness you seem so unwontedly proud of." Snape rolled his eyes, before continuing, "Third, hope that she learns that Good is a costly choice, and occasionally a mere mirage. That is, after all, what you have teachers for. She has seen some of that, as she has worked with the house elves. The good of freeing them is not balanced well by the emotional suffering of doing so, and may in fact be outweighed by the 'you make yourself feel better at someone else's expense' benefit."

[a/n: Um, yes, so we're apparently doing philosophy now. I blame the characters. It's not my fault!

Write a review and tell me if you want to hear more about this, or if you want to get back to the battle that I'm studiously ignoring.]