Nobody ever asked my birthday

Chapter 172

Harry Potter woke the next morning bruised and a dash battered. And then promptly thought of fried chicken. With a skill that most Wizarding Children never learned, Harry dressed swiftly and silently, heading outside for a run to limber himself up. He liked the solitude, the burning feel in his muscles as he pushed himself, not to speed but to endurance - that ground-eating wolfish lope that was his father's father's father's ancestral gift to him. For millenia, man had been runners - bred not for speed, but to hunt and chase - the long, long run that made your prey's heart break from stress alone.

No prey to hunt today, but the joy of the run was not in the ending, but in the journey itself. Harry was not surprised when he saw in a bit of mud, three large footprints appearing - heading the other way. They looked big enough to be Snape's feet - though with wizarding footwear, it was hard to tell, as they lacked the distinctive traction of sneakers.

As the miles leapt on, Harry found himself relieved that it was morning, as false dawn faded into true. He wasn't in trouble, incredibly enough, for being outside on this fair morning. Deep inside himself, he reminded himself of all the horrors that had been about Hogwarts at night, and had to concede - deep in his heart where truth lurked on the best of days, and scalded like the sun on the worst - that the teachers had their reasons for wanting students safe abed.

Snape's class. For once, Harry'd managed to slip out of active duty, sitting on the sidelines, watching the melee. The Slytherins were surprisingly good at working together, though every move was slipshod at best. It was the look of people learning, actively learning, how to work together. The Gryffindors had more practice, and the ones on the field moved as one - like a large turtle, slow and steady, but with a snap that would take a finger off if you let it. The Slytherins, though - they were reacting less to other groups, and more to each other. Like each and every had a weather eye on the next person - and they were adjusting, accommodating each other. It was like watching a leaderless pack, where first one and then another would take over - and everyone else would bend around them. It was still forming, too, Harry could sense that. But there was a reason he'd work so well with Malfoy last class period, and it hadn't been him. That had been Malfoy, working as his second, ceding the lead and the control entirely. At some point, Harry thought, he was going to have to talk with Malfoy. Harry Potter wasn't looking forward to that, not the least of which was that Malfoy could be prickly, and it was difficult to get information out of him in the first place, let alone if he was trying to hide it. In the main, though, Harry Potter felt wary. Malfoy used words like weapons, and knew how to make them cut deep. Talking to the ice-blond was an invitation to bleed.

As Harry watched, he had a different thought than any that he saw on the field. He'd try it out next study session, hopefully.

[a/n: Well, apparently Harry doesn't just want to do shields in DA. Huh. Battle as stress relief. (not my idea, I assure you!)

Did you really expect Snape to have that type of endurance without working for it?

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