Nobody ever asked my birthday

Chapter 29

"It's a quite a good demonstration, Severus." Moody began, his eyes bright with a peculiar sharpness that said that he was well pleased. "I'm persuaded that the Twins might be of use to the Order - if not in battle, then in product development." Snape merely shook his head at the words, his smirk firmly embedded on his face. "And I'll stand for Granger as well - there hasn't been a spell she hasn't managed, and quicker than quite a few Aurors, I'll note." Harry's eyes flicked to Hermione's face, seeing the quiet pride there - and that was a change too. Earlier years would have seen Hermione positively glowing at the grizzled Auror's praise. "However, I can't say the same for the rest of these young fools. And it's all too easy to turn a young fool into a dead one. Severus, you say that these children can handle their own. Prove it with your own charge, at least."

Remus spoke up next, his tone challenging, even if his soft eyes said otherwise. "You've expounded at length on the character flaws of one Mr. Harry Potter. I'd like to see how he's stood up to your tutelage. Prove it indeed."

Molly looked irate, ready to float off like Aunt Marge had done - but Arthur put a hand on her arm, as he said quietly. "Show us, Severus. I must confess you've piqued my interest."

"Well, then, we're all decided," Albus Dumbledore said jovially. "Mr. Potter, do you have any objections to meeting Severus in a duel?"

Harry Potter stood, as much to be seen as to see the people around him. "Objections? No. Conditions, always. First, we'll duel back at Grimmauld Place." Home turf advantage, or at least so it would seem. In reality, the Room of Requirement made Harry a bit uncomfortable - he'd never pushed the room to its limits, and he rather suspected that Prof. Snape had. Which meant it gave his opponent an edge, and he was not going to let that happen without trying to avoid it. "Second, it's a fight. Usual rules - until either party yields, or until one is unable to continue. No real Avada Kedavras, simulated only." There was a muttering from the crowd; unusually, it was Neville Longbottom.

"Are you sure about this, Harry?" Neville asked, his doughty form reflecting his doubt.

"We're asking to join a paramilitary organization embroiled in a no-holds-barred fight. Either we're worthy, or we're not. And the old fool's right, I'd better prove it." Harry said, catching the frown that Snape sent him for letting his mouth run off like that.

"If you lose, you'll stay out of the Order?" Molly asked hopefully, her eyes pleading with him to say yes.

"Absolutely not. The Order will judge my skills regardless, and I'll of course abide by the vote." Harry Potter said calmly, his mind wending through a few of the strategies Snape had recommended, if the Order was daft enough to not let the younger warriors in. Abiding by the vote wasn't a promise not to fight... merely not to eavesdrop, or do other childish things to "grown wizards who thought they knew what they were doing" - Harry schooled his face to a more practiced taciturnness - no need to smile and confuse everyone.

Harry was the first one through the door to Grimmauld Place. They'd still need to cover the other rules - the ones about bystanders. The order had asked for a fight, and Harry and Snape intended to give them one. Harry gave one thought to how fatigued Snape had looked - but looking at him stepping through the Floo, Harry was reassured. Not that Snape was not fatigued, but that whatever he was concealing wouldn't interfere with the current scheme.

[a/n: Out of one fight, and into the next. I may go back and put in more analysis (if so I'll let you know), but Snape says he's getting impatient. Are you? Write a review!]