Nobody ever asked my birthday

Chapter 266

Harry Potter had waited, but he wasn't very good at waiting. So he'd been picking at something that he'd just realized was going on - Quiddich. Or, more properly, was not going on when it shoulda been. He'd forgotten, really, been quite distracted by... well, the rest of his life. But it was nearing the end of October, and he hadn't heard a peep about Quiddich from Ron Weasley. Well, not Hogwarts Quiddich at least. Chudley Cannons were a whole different story, but they were also the most losingest (is that a word?) team ever, so the general amusement was in "how did they lose this time?" Apart from Ron, everyone had nearly universally concluded that the Cannons could have Viktor Krum as Seeker, and the Irish Chasers, and STILL lose, somehow.

Harry hadn't questioned why he was up in the air, could just grab a broomstick and go. The pitch was generally reserved, and Harry knew that. But when he'd been out for a flight, it hadn't been about practice at all... just therapy. It was a queer thing, the ability to go up in the air and just let all his problems go away... Snape said he felt like that during a fight too, didn't he? Well, then it was the press of problems, NOW things to deal with. With Flight? It was all about not having any problems at all - flying came effortlessly to him, it always had. Oh, sure he could work up a sweat, but that was physical. Dancers would understand, he was sure of it - the physical demands came, but there was nearly no thought involved. Just motion.

Snape returned, and Harry's body moved to shoot to his feet. He suppressed that impulse, turning around to see Snape closing the door gently. Probably doesn't want to wake up the whole dungeon, Harry thought wryly, Though it is odd that he didn't come back through the floo. He hasn't barred Dumbledore from entering...?

Harry's eyes (and head) followed Snape as Snape moved towards his desk. Turning to face Harry, Snape said softly, "Take your time sorting through your own mind. But don't take too long,"

Snape's tone had turned grave at the last, and Harry looked questioningly at him. "The Dark Lord wants to know what was running through your head. I shall endeavor to prevent him from assigning that task to Bella," Snape chuckled mirthlessly, "When he wants craft and stealth, he assigns me the task, as he has done today. When he desires charm and deceit, he assigns Lu Malfoy. But when he wants blood and answers, he assigns Bella Black." Nevermind that she was actually a Lestrange, huh? Somehow everyone insisted on using her maiden name.

Snape swallowed and continued, "Bella's idea of extracting information from you would be finding some of your friends to torture. And she hasn't been quite the same since Azkaban. She makes mistakes, now. Her use of torture is nowhere near as exact or precise as it used to be."

"Like the Longbottoms?" Harry asked.

Snape's piercing eyes seemed to look straight through Harry, "That was intentional. Bella despises being thwarted, and she had been given a task by Her Lord. She intended to make an example out of them."

"She really did, didn't she?" Harry said somberly.

"Perhaps. Perhaps not the example she thought." Snape said, leaving the words to percolate through Harry's head.

Harry thought back to a question he'd meant to ask Snape - and then promptly tried to talk himself out of asking (because he didn't want to spend more time with Snape). And then promptly decided to talk himself into asking, because 'acting normal' was the easiest way to convince Snape that nothing was truly wrong. And Potter wanted Snape looking at anyone but Harry at this point. Harry had a lot on his mind, after all. More people staring at him was not likely to help fix things. "Is that why you sprang that lesson on us today?"

"What makes you think I 'sprang' it on you?" Snape said softly, in that subtle suede tone he occasionally used.

"It would have made a great introduction, sir. You're quite notorious for yours, you realize?" Harry said dryly. The corners of Snape's mouth curled for a second at the compliment.

"And?" Snape prompted.

"If you had this on your mind at the beginning of the year, you'd have used it then." Harry said promptly.

Snape nodded, "I would have. Bella's taken to giving 'presents' to the Order, recently." Snape's tone told Harry that he'd better not ask how bad it was. "She's also taken to using the Cruciatus on new recruits who can't handle the gory parts." Snape's tone turned grimmer, as he said, "And, as I said, she's not as precise as she once was." That sounded melancholy, tinged with a bit of nostalgia. The sound of someone who'd cared for her, once... "They deserve at least a chance to acclimate, wouldn't you say?" Snape's dark humor danced over his tongue.

"You'd know better than I would, sir." Harry said, mentally cursing his tongue. Why did I have to say that?

Snape nodded curtly, his hair falling into his face again, and he said, "We'd best be taking you to Gryffindor's Tower, shouldn't we? The time grows late." And Harry couldn't for the life of him figure out if Snape just meant the late hour, or if he was hinting at the larger picture. They walked in silence the many flights up, and Harry was still pondering that as the portrait swung shut behind him.

Snape turned, and headed downstairs, but not towards his own chambers. Instead, he turned towards the Headmaster's office, laying a subtle tripwire in a way that Dumbledore would probably not notice. It took a subtle mind to see a spell tuned to someone else's essence, after all. And this one would only tug at Snape if Potter passed the Gargoyle.

As Snape headed downstairs, he swiftly constructed a plausible reason for urgent discussions with Albus - the state of Zambini, Nott and Malfoy would always work. Dumbledore had no idea how closely he monitored his own House, so he'd think that Snape had newly acquired information on the three amigos. Nothing would be further from the case, but Snape needn't admit that...

[a/n: Unless someone else brings it up, Harry's starting the Great Quiddich Debate after the Halloween Party. Too much on his plate as is. Did you guys miss Quiddich?

Snape wouldn't have nearly as much stuff on his plate if he trusted other people to do their jobs.

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