The theory was in the textbook, Harry knew, though he wanted to consult it rather than just try to remember. However, this was a practical session, and he worried that just looking at the textbook might rouse Snape's ire. So, naturally, he asked Hermione, who had the textbook memorized, as usual.
Harry wouldn't have caught it last year, but he noticed now - several other groups nearby were listening, and Nott had his "I'm listening" face on, from halfway across the room. Snape might have bit anyone who dared to get out the book, but - even if the Slytherins sneered at the "Resident Know-It-All," they weren't above taking notes. Malfoy, interestingly enough, wasn't listening. Instead, he was talking quietly to his team, taking charge. Harry wrested his attention back to Hermione, who had only just now gotten to the part he'd not understood (or so he hoped).
It was a tough assignment, trying to meld magic together. Hermione said that people of the same element generally had the easiest time melding, and that the circle's function depended on the mindset and magic. Earth was generally the most controllable, followed by Life, with Air and Fire the most quixotic - they had a tendency to be wayward, even if you melded them properly.
Had Snape just decided to let Hermione lecture? Harry thought.
It didn't really matter, as around people pulled themselves into circles. "Who's in the center?" Harry asked, and Hermione said, "I'll have a go first, and if that doesn't work, well, we can try everyone else."
Harry'd pictured the magic flowing, in an endless circle, drawing upon his wandless magic. But he couldn't feel it passing to Morag or Mandy. Slowly - for Harry's mind was busy with the magic, not just thinking, he closed his eyes. "Picture our hands like a great glowing circle. The magic flows around the circle, endlessly. Let the circle roll on."
Mandy and Morag apparently liked that last sentence, as they started repeating it. Harry hurriedly started synchronizing his voice with theirs. Continuously they said that for two whole minutes, before Morag broke off, "It isn't working."
"Try something else then," Hermione said impatiently.
"Picture the circle as a flow, then," Morag said, in her implacably reasonable tone. "It moves from me to Mandy to Harry and so on..."
"Feel yourself as part of the river, neverending, flowing around and around." Morag said.
Harry found this picture hard to keep in his head, even with his eyes closed. Let alone picture it actually working. "I can't do that one." Harry snapped, sounding more frustrated with himself than with her.
"Try this then," Mandy said, "We are three gems on a circle, all glowing, evenly, distributing bright white light."
Harry knew how to glow, but didn't have the ability to sense the other two. So he glowed - until Hermione started giggling.
Startled, Harry opened his eyes, discovering that he was literally glowing. His face flushed red with embarassment, as he said, "Sorry."
Further efforts yield no more positive results, though at least Harry hadn't started glowing like a lightning bug again.
"Your turn in the middle, Harry," Hermione said, and Harry hoped that she'd do better.
"Morag, take blue, Mandy take green, and I'll take red." Hermione instructed, "Picture us glowing, until Harry is illuminated in bright white light."
Harry soon learned where Hermione's impatience had come from - standing in the center watching zero results, not even a whisper, was damned frustrating. Particularly when you couldn't do anything until the others had their part solved.
Harry's sole consolation was that nobody, nobody else was actually solving this one. Harry's eyes tightened into slits. That wasn't like Snape, to have something that no one could solve. Look deeper.
[a/n: I know I told a reviewer that we'd get "What did Snape Do?!" this chapter, but I couldn't resist giving an exercise to the reader. First correct review gets a free chapter!]