Nobody ever asked my birthday

Chapter 206

"Repeat back everything you didn't understand. Precisely." Snape said, and the look in his eyes would brook no defiance.

Harry tried, he really did, but is there ever a time when you actually remember what you didn't understand? Harry had been too caught up in don't get caught...He hadn't been, as he'd done often at the Dursleys, just the mouse with very big ears. And so, with every painstaking, often mangled word, he knew he'd done wrong, and his heart twisted deep in his belly.

And Snape watched him like a hawk - or, more precisely, an owl. Silent, and unforgiving.

"Whenever you do not understand something, that is precisely the point where you must pay the most attention. Particularly when you are around Slytherins, but everyone uses code some of the time. And, if you are very lucky, the code might be one that someone else understands." Snape said gravely, and Harry could do nothing other than hang his head.

"And what if no one knows the code?" Harry asked, in a voice softer than a whisper.

Snape replied likewise, "Then look to your friend Miss Granger, for logic can unravel many a puzzle set to ensnare unwary minds."

Harry nodded, and Snape said, "Continue, then."

"You said that Malfoy's superior - Tom, I think, would not approve of Minister Fudge-?" Harry asked, his voice both tentative and strong, like a darting silverfish.

"I did." Snape said, nodding as his hair fell into his eyes.

"Mister Malfoy was quick to say that he didn't owe you anything- " Harry said, breaking off, "Why would he even think he'd - he didn't ask you for anything-"

"Actions taken on behalf of another often imply that the helped should show gratitude." Snape said gravely.

"And he was trying to say that he didn't believe that you were acting on his behalf!" Harry said, nodding, "You gain much from Fudge's inattention, do you not?"

"So I wish him to believe, at any rate." Snape said, his velveteen voice echoing softly through the room.

"And... and you also want him to believe that Tom does as well!" Harry shook his head, "How does Tom win? I thought Fudge would be good for him, for suppressing news of his return?"

"No one at the helm of government means that no one is watching for subversion." Snape said, flashing his teeth in that wolfish mockery of a smile, "And that's my specialty." Something cold wrapped around Harry's heart at that, leaving him wondering if he'd been subverted by Snape. If that was even possible, and if he'd realize it if he was...

Harry shook his head, to leave off pointless thinking and pay attention, "You told him that you didn't think he was good company!" Harry said with a mirthless chuckle.

"And he was probing you about us, maybe even about me." Harry said, his hands fiddling idly with his robe. "That says he finds us still of some interest, even without..."

"His son does, certainly," Snape said, "Although that may be as much for lack of anything better to focus on." Snape said with a snippy sniff. "Still he'd hardly be the first parent to want an unbiased report on his child's wild fantasies."

Harry's eyes bulged at that, wondering all of a sudden what Malfoy had been telling his father about the Gryffindor escapades. Malfoy had a silver tongue at the best of times - but his exaggeration could potentially sell them far above their actual strengths. Assuming he was exaggerating, at least.

"Or," Snape said, "He might just be interested in those lion-breasted brats who defeated him." Snape said with a sneer. "He's hardly had the sort of daily runnings-in that I do, you know."

Harry found himself wanting to squint at that, wondering, suddenly, why those words in particular sounded both strange, and fitting, on Snape's tongue. Something wasn't quite right...

Harry found his chin tilting up, all without his consent, as he bullied on, "You called me boy! I heard you!" His eyes flashed Avada-green, "You wanted to see if I'd crack-" Harry said, his hands fisting by his sides, "You never call me that!" Harry's face lit up with a wide grin.

Snape's eyes merely widened a fraction, and he nodded slightly, "Where better to test you than in a school, I wonder?"

Harry shook his head, continuing as if a bull in a china shop, "But that just begs the question - what are you testing me for?"

"Capabilities, in the main, although the training is that of a spy." Snape said blandly, as if he wasn't letting a bull loose in Harry's china shop of a brain.

"A... spy? Why?" Harry asked, unsure, suddenly that he wanted to know the answer and yet pell mell asking it anyway.

"Because whatever we do, whatever we say, it seems you are hell bent and determined to do it anyway." Snape said, his voice hard as steel. "Might as well do it right, eh?" Snape managed that last while leaning down until his face was almost pressed against Harry's.

"Yes, sir." Harry said, meeting him eye to eye.

"I doubt you'd ever prove decent at infiltration, so don't worry about needing to lie your way into the Dark Lord's residence." Snape said offhandedly, "But that's hardly the only skill a spy uses."

[a/n: mostly done here. Anyone want to guess what Snape would have done if Harry had revealed himself in that hallway?

Apparently Harry isn't going to blow a gasket at "spy training" - Snape could just have easily spun it as being an investigator, or a detective, you realize?

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