Nobody ever asked my birthday

Chapter 268

Harry was abruptly dragged back to reality by the sounds of a rather large and impending argument.

It wasn't actually all that bad, Harry discovered, as he looked around. It just had the potential to get that way.

Danger senses tingling, Harry started listening, before the pitchforks came out.

"What happened?" Someone asked - hopefully not Smith, though it sounded like him. "Why are you getting along?" And that sounded like Goyle, speaking slow as ever, and thumping harder than usual. Harry stood, jumping up to see above Goyle's shoulder. Ron, of course.

Thankfully, Ron wasn't bright red and punching. He actually managed to look somber, which was a relief.

"Down, boys, down," Draco Malfoy drawled in that annoyingly unconcerned tone Harry hated, "Or are you really just beasts? If you want an explanation, it's forthcoming." As Goyle turned around to force people to give the two young men some space, Harry saw the look of confusion on Goyle's face. Which it, shamefully, took him about five seconds to get. Oh, that's right, he's not supposed to understand English, just the small words please.

Harry fingered his wand, wanting to be sure that if fighting broke out, it wouldn't be two against twenty. Nearby, he saw Theo and Hermione both ready - Theo with his hand half up his sleeve, in a gesture that seemed purely Snape (Harry abruptly wondered if the man had taught it to his Slytherins. If so, Malfoy hadn't paid any attention whatsoever.), and Hermione's wand, well, from the way her hair was sparking, it might not matter where it was, so Harry stopped looking for it. He hoped Neville and Luna were ready too.

Ron was speaking, somehow first - had Draco really yielded the floor? It'd make Draco sound all the better, letting Ron's stuttering go first... "You don't think, when you're eleven, exactly why your parents say someone's bad. Evil. Scary. Whatever." Ron looked around the room, and then did the utterly unexpected, "Who here, at the tender age of eleven, actually knew why they were afraid of Lord V?" Feet shifted uneasily around the room. "See? Your parents told you, and that was that." Ron said, in an unexpected burst of humility, "I still don't know. But I know people who do." Ron's eyes sought out Neville, and then Harry. Ron's bold tone lowered, got a bit more somber, as he tilted his head up, deliberately looking above everyone's heads, "Maybe more than I think."

"It was stupid," Ron said, "That's all I can figure. Parents telling kids that someone's bound to be evil, just because of what House they were from." Ron nodded, "It wasn't just Malfoy. I heard it about everyone. Nasty slimy sneaky Slytherins."

Smirking, Draco Malfoy stood up, "We are sneaky. And sly. And if we don't know what you're going to do before you do it, then something's gone horribly wrong."

"I think you forgot smug!" Neville shouted out.

"And Arrogant!" Potter found his own voice adding.

"That too, although you're the one who catches the Snitch." Draco Malfoy bowed to the crowd, "See? I can admit that I'm not the best." He smiled as if this was some sort of personal victory, which Harry doubted, until he realized that wasn't why Draco was smiling. He liked the crowd... more specifically, the crowd's approval. "At age eleven, I'd heard nasty snide things my father said about the Weasleys. Didn't matter, I was going to school with him whether he was poor or not, wasn't I? But I didn't like it when my second cousin decided he'd rather be friends with Ron Weasley instead of me. No, it didn't take my parents wisdom to make eleven year old me certain WeaselKing was evil." Draco Malfoy smirked. "Seems silly now, doesn't it?" The crowd laughed - seemingly having forgotten the entire unpleasantness. "Now that Granger's been willing to cede the books, I've got a fascinating lesson in store for you..." The crowd groaned, as Malfoy had used the precise intonation Hermione would use for interesting.

Harry lost himself in the motions, hanging out towards the back and letting people's movements and the lesson wash over him completely. He'd have to catch up later, he thought without a trace of chagrin. He wouldn't have been there at all, except that his friends would hunt him out if he wasn't.

[a/n: Harry is actually very busy, isn't he?

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