Nobody ever asked my birthday

Chapter 220

The rest of the day sped by, as if on great eagle wings, until it was time for Practice in the Room. Harry found it odd to be fighting against three, and worse when he was deliberately handicapping himself by not using area spells. Not even ones that they'd learned in class. Cut, pierce, stun. All direct action, all, well, Gryffindor spells.

Not that Ron was using anything like those spells. He was using that odd, perplexing list of spells that he'd learned over the summer. Harry could see Hermione's eyes sparkling with interest, and the banked frustration that was Snape's demand that they not try to learn Ron's spells. Even Draco looked interested, his gray eyes glinting silver like the greedy dragon he was named for.

Somehow, practice was different than with Snape. Here, it felt almost like they were goofing off. Snape always had a purpose for whatever spell he was casting. Often more than one.

Practice, however, was like throwing pasta at the wall until it stuck. If you got upset with a shield spell not working, you fired off a stunner in someone else's direction - rarely actually hitting, but good for the mind.

By the end of practice, Harry felt wrung out, like Aunt Petunia's faded dishrags that used to be sunshine yellow, but were now just a drab yellow-dunny color. They all sprawled on the floor, panting to catch their breaths (Harry vaguely recalled that you shouldn't pant to catch your breath, but he was far too tired to pay attention).

As usual, carping seemed like a good idea when you were stuck in a room with people you'd just cursed from East to West. "We've got Snape's essay to write... That's going to be a bear." Harry groaned.

"Did you even catch a cat?" Malfoy responded.

"Loads. Just - Did you know Goyle caught McGonagall?" Harry said.

Draco Malfoy responded to that with a louder groan, "Full points to him, then. And guess who's got to help him with his essay?"

"How did he manage that, I wonder?" Hermione began to bubble - even her normally hyperactive speech slowed down by being out of breath.

"You could ask him tomorrow." Ron said sensibly, and Harry actually began to wonder - because that wasn't something Ron would have said last year.

The complaining continued, moving on to McGonagall herself, and then to the Arithmancy teacher, who was apparently stricter than Snape. If that was possible. At least, according to Hermione, the Arithmancy teacher knew how to smile on the regular. Snape showing a true smile, rather than flashes of wolfish teeth and unadulterated malic, was as unlikely as a July snowfall. Finally, Ron said, "I'm gonna get a shower," wearily climbing to his feet.

"Maybe you can tell me how that bludger nearly hit Snowflake?" Hermione said, standing slowly and arching her back until it popped. Leave it to Hermione to not understand what that particular position showed off. All the boys averted their gazes - belatedly.

The door closed after Ron and Hermione. Harry, so tired that his thoughts kept trying to leak away from his head, like trying to carry water in a sieve, startled, when he realized that Malfoy had already sat up.

"Hang on a tic," Harry said, as Malfoy - ever blankfaced, turned towards him. Harry loathed how the Slytherins were so good at concealing their emotions. He hated it.

[a/n: second post of the day. Am actually leading up to something, I swear. Plot is coming, like a freight train up a mountain...

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