Nobody ever asked my birthday

Chapter 171

Was there ever a time, Harry Potter thought with some chagrin, that he'd actually managed a full semester without wandering Hogwarts' halls at night?

And so it was today as well, walking up and down the halls, up the staircases that were never the same on the way down. It had been something Neville had said, just a hint of truth - a pulling back of lies; of what Snape pretended to be. For the cheerless disciplinarian didn't understand the concept of fun. Was that what he'd been like? Enjoying riling, getting a rise out of his... Gryffindor friend? It was almost hard to credit - and yet, Harry'd seen the evidence himself. For hadn't all of his training been a cruel trick, if a brutal and necessary one? That wasn't the action of someone uncaring... that was certainly not the action of dour, dreary Snape. Who was this man, who had been his teacher, once?

And then another thought came to his mind. Malfoy - was he, as Snape, the type who enjoyed riling people up? Was that his idea of fun? A game?!

Harry'd felt real hatred. Or at least it had been the closest a preteen could come to it, or so he'd believed at the time. Now, though... Harry couldn't imagine what Neville felt towards Bellatrix Black, had always felt. Rage internalized, rage restrained, rage bound. No, for all the hatred? he'd felt towards the Malfoy brat, it wasn't nearly the rich poison green of Neville's hatred. Wasn't even the fury he held towards Pettigrew, or towards Tom Riddle, even.

He'd been young then, and hadn't looked back, not once. It was easy to carry on a hate, to pull it beyond where it would naturally have extended. Perhaps that was what Malfoy had been doing as well - or perhaps, it had never been hatred at all for him. Harry solidly hoped that Malfoy hadn't meant to be friendly. Both because it had hurt, badly, and because... because Harry didn't want to pity the blond. He'd rather punch him than apologize, and figured Malfoy was that way too.

-It was just a flicker-

Out of the corner of his eye.

flat on the floor, harry looked up, his magic coiling around his hands.

Snape, skeletal still, his wand already casting - his movements ossified to the point of sharpness - bones clattering, instead of muscles tugging and bending.

A figure out of nightmare.

A figure out of the deepest night.

Harry's magic lept alive, as he rolled, the shield wrapped around him like a bivouac, a bivvy sack shimmering white as it took the spells.

"Stupefy" Harry hissed, his left hand sketching the picture-rune.

Snape shielded, and, with his wand and his right hand, Harry sent back a petrify.

"Expelliarmus." Snape hissed, and Harry realized that this entire battle was being conducted at a whisper.

On and on they went, whirling up and down stairwells, into and out of classrooms, leaving a trail of unintentional destruction in their wake.

Finally, Harry called, "Hold" his body straining for more air.

"The Sandman will have his due." Snape said, stretching to the point where Harry could hear a few joints pop, "After, that is, you finish repairing the damages." Snape's eyes, ever sharp, rested on Harry - somehow softly, like a blade turned flat against skin. Dangerous, but, momentarily, not a threat.

With a slight sigh, Harry Potter got to work, trying not to let himself wonder about the points.

[a/n: Snape has rather different rules for Order Members who wander where they shouldn't. Namely, expect flashing teeth.

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