Harry had paid strict attention in Potions class, At least in part to make certain Snape wasn't trying to destroy the entire classroom and everyone in it. That would be uncharacteristic of him, but Harry had learned that Snape was both made out of contradictions, and prone to projecting false images. Harry was dead certain that Snape was truly angry at him, and that meant that all previous bets were off. Particularly all assumptions made about the way Snape would behave while angry. He wasn't screaming, throwing things, or waving a strop.
In Harry's other classes he'd tried a different strategy. The Dursley's had never been much for Harry thinking at all, so he'd learned ways to let himself think, to be creative without them finding out about it. It was like he'd put a sentinel down, ready and able to respond ... dully. The Dursley's had never needed anything more complicated. Most teachers were the same way. All he needed to do was manage the incantations - no matter if he muffed the movement. Sixth Year Spells were hard, or at least Flitwick continued to think so. Questions could be answered by rote, or with a blank look of incomprehension.
All the while, Harry thought. He needed something foolproof. He could count on the twins, at least for this. Spun right, they'd do most anything for a prank. And Pranking Snape? That was like dangling succulent fruit in front of them. He'd have his cloying clods, and probably twice as many as needed.
That is, once he told them who he was pranking.
But that wasn't the tricky part. The tricky part was twofold:
First, get close enough to jam the candy into Snape's mouth. As Snape was inconveniently tall, this was remarkably short range.
Second, get Snape to open his mouth. The easy way to do that was to "rile him up" - he'd always shown a certain flair and consistency about yelling, and that would have to do. No, there was something that was harder... but perhaps more rewarding indeed... Stunning Snape with something oddly shocking. Yeah, that would do it, Harry thought, Leave Snape with his mouth open wide too - make an easier target than if his gums were flapping.
At dinner, Harry was flipping through his potions book, looking for a potion that could be corrupted easily. There needed to be some presumption of "I made a mistake..." Plausible deniability, even if Snape himself would shred the whole concept to pieces in his billowing wrath.
After dinner, he went to the Room, finding Hermione inside, trying to spell words in the air. At the last, her '"n" came out looking suspiciously like a "u"
Harry, leaning against the wall near the door, laughed, "What's a chickeu?"
Hermione turned around, half in the air, coming down on both feet - a solid stance, her 'wand' in her hand. She took three deep breaths before she answered his question. "Obviously a misshapen duck! With a wattle and spurs!"
Harry laughed at that, longer than it probably deserved. He was still laughing when Ron came inside. Ron smiled, one of those free smiles that Harry and Hermione never really seemed to have - Hermione could do glee, and unreserved delight, sure, but Ron had this level of nonchalance that neither Harry nor Hermione ever had.
Draco Malfoy entered on cat feet. No, not literally. Harry was watching the door, or he wouldn't have known. Malfoy flung a spell directly at Harry's scar (he was probably just aiming between the eyes - that had to be a coincidence, right?). Harry flicked out a Protego, shielding Ron and Hermione at the same time.
"Dangerous in a fight, that," Draco said, almost in a hiss.
"More dangerous to lose allies because you didn't do what you could." Harry said with a firmness that simply felt right.
"Let's go," Draco said. He didn't give the Gryffindors time to switch sides, so it was three against one. Draco was holding his own, if barely, seeming to slide between spells.
"How is he doing that?" Harry hissed.
"I don't know," Hermione said, "Ask him, not me."
It was good advice. "How are you doing that?" Harry called out.
"Later," Draco growled, fighting closer to them.
Harry had a sudden idea - Malfoy was using maneuverability...
Aquamenti would take care of that. Harry cast it behind Malfoy, and just a split second before Hermione got a spell off. Malfoy tried to sidestep, but stepped on a far slipperier surface than he was expecting. He slid down, nearly at their feet, his teeth bared as he hissed a stunner right up into Hermione's face. Harry tried to loom over him, using Accio to nick Malfoy's wand, but the impact of it slamming into his hand sent him down on one knee as well.
Ron was laughing at all of them, Hermione, with her hair for once pin straight, and Malfoy and Potter both dripping on the floor. Malfoy moved towards Granger first. He was halfway there when Ron rasped out, "Hermes Trimegistus." The three of them were suddenly tall and straight, standingupright, their hands clasped in each other's - including Hermione who was still unconscious. It was passing strange.
Ron danced a bloody jig. "I won! I won, for once!"
"Try doing that on a real battlefield, ya git." Malfoy growled, the silvery smile he sent after taking most of the sting out of it.
"Already have," Ron said, giving Malfoy of all people a goofy grin, "it works like a charm."
After Ron woke Hermione, she started in on them getting properly refueled after exercise. Eventually, Harry was able to get a word in edgewise, calling for Dobby to bring them some meats and sweets.
As the food was whisked away, Hermione and Ron started to bicker - again. It was perhaps a sign of how comfortable they were. Harry'd never be that comfortable, not with anyone. He was naturally more guarded than that. Showing weakness just... wasn't in him. He supposed that was why the Sorting Hat had wanted him for Slytherin. He wasn't a natural liar, far from it. But he did guard his secrets dearly.
Ron and Hermione walked out of the Room, still bickering. Harry was nearly on their heels, but - instead of leaving, shut the door neatly, turning around to look at Malfoy.
Malfoy's steel grey eyes looked back. He had his poker face on, but Harry was suddenly sure of Malfoy's curiosity. No one stared at someone else with that much intensity except if they were trying to riddle something out.
"A Poker face doesn't work if you're so obvious about it, you know..." Harry said, clipping his consonants deliberately, even as he said the words slow as honey.
"You wouldn't have said that two years ago." Draco Malfoy smirked.
"There were a great many things I wouldn't have said two years ago," Harry said, trying to turn facts into a threadbare fantasy. He didn't want to look like someone who'd... just recently woken up from a deep dream, even if that was the actual truth. He'd rather Malfoy think he was newly talkative, newly engaging. Harry knew a lot about watching silently - he wanted to keep Malfoy's image of him, prior, to be the person who watched you carefully enough to stab you in the back - not the affable gent who didn't bother even paying attention.
"What will you say today, I wonder?" Draco Malfoy's voice was casual, nearly light. It was a deliberate stance, deliberately masking his interest. Harry wasn't sure quite why he was doing so, of course - Harry knew Malfoy was interested. Maybe... habits were hard to break?
"I need your help," Harry said firmly.
"What are you offering for it?" Draco Malfoy smiled smugly.
"Bit greedy, aren't we?" Harry cut back, raising an eyebrow.
"Alright, what do you want me to do?" Draco Malfoy said.
"In three weeks time, we'll be creating a ..." Harry explained.
Draco's mouth nearly hit the floor. "You want to prank SNAPE? Have you lost your mind?"
Harry shook his head, and perhaps something about the intensity behind it leaves Malfoy speechless.
Draco looks at Harry, that sort of searching stare that Slytherins do so well and often. "This isn't just a prank is it?"
Harry shrugged, eloquently, his eyes steady.
Draco nodded, "For a favor of my choosing, I'll help."
Harry said, "A favor of roughly equivalent value, and not something that'll get me in major trouble."
Draco nodded back, respecting Harry's conditions, "Okay."
Harry let Draco leave the room first, summoning a sword and swinging it in a wild full-circle around himself. It was starting to seem like this might actually work.
[a/n: Reviews? Is hard to show negotiations when I don't want to spoil the whole scene.]