Nobody ever asked my birthday

Chapter 36

Almost instantly after, Harry was swept up in congratulations by the twins - and practically all the Hogwarts students. He was, actually, rather a bit surprised that Lupin wasn't there to congratulate him too. Harry tried to keep an ear cocked to what the Order members were saying to Snape - he had a distinct feeling that Snape's retorts were a lot more incisive than these bland congratulations. Well, almost all of them were bland, at any rate. Hermione's was babbled at the speed of light, a sense of wonder completely infusing her words. And the twins were, as usual, the twins. Gin swept him up in a "victory hug" and he had to stop himself from lowering his head to rest against her shoulder and inhaling the scent of her hair - that would be creepy, he thought chidingly.

Still, the hug seemed to have quieted his celebrants, at least for the moment. Professor Dumbledore, with his eyes sparkling kindly, spoke rather grandly to Professor Snape, "It's good to see you're finally learning to appreciate Harry for his talents." Harry Potter wanted to duck at hearing those words. Wasn't Dumbledore aware that Snape was unlikely to want to discuss any "changes of heart" that he'd had? And particularly, that he wouldn't want Dumbledore taking credit for manipulating them together? Although, Harry thought suddenly, it didn't look like this training was anything of Dumbledore's idea... Now, why do you suppose Professor Snape would voluntarily choose to train Harry Potter?

Snape's eyes held a fury that made even Dumbledore take a hesitant step backwards, as his melodious voice growled, "Gryffindors' only talent is dying well. With honor." Snape said the last part mockingly, his dark eyes raking across the primarily Gryffindor students. His eyes took on a determined coldness, settling into resolution as his eyes caught Granger's (filled with a brown fury that she'd never voice), and Snape said, quietly, "Prove me wrong."

Harry thought about what Snape had just said, even as Dumbledore arranged people for the Order Oathswearing. He always seems to be throwing down a gauntlet at the Gryffindors. I think that actually works, with Hermione at least. Even more quietly, Harry thought to himself, How well was that approach working with me, come to think...? Harry thought back to a few destroyed classrooms, when he had let loose his rage on things rather than Snape himself. And yet... Harry thought sharply, That was fourth year, wasn't it? If nothing... nothing else, Snape snapped me back to reality. Not once, not after his class, was I berating myself, too fisted up with mourning to pay attention to anything around me.

Finally, the whole setup was fixed, the Order members in a circle in the now destroyed living room. McGonagall intoned name after name, and Harry was gladdened to hear that they were being done in alphabetical order, so he'd go neither first nor last. When it was his time, he stood in the center, feeling the gentle wisps of fire twine around him as he said the words, "I swear to do all within my power to defeat Voldemort. I will stand with my fellows, and I may fall with them. Yet, as the Phoenix always rises, we will triumph, for our cause is just." Harry felt the power winding around his core, the oath etching itself into his being.

When the last Weasley was sworn in, the group dispersed - most of the Order members leaving for prearranged tasks. As was their custom, the Hogwarts crew stumbled into the kitchen - undoubtedly hungering for Molly's cooking. Harry was one of the last people through the door, and he was mildly surprised to see that Molly wasn't there. He was just about to ask who wanted some eggs (his trials at the Dursley's had taught him eggs to perfection, thank you very much), when Snape stepped out of the shadows, sprawling himself sideways on the chair at the head of the table. Harry forcibly suppressed the urge to jump - even with his invisibility cloak, he wasn't half as sneaky as Snape.

Snape flourished a half-full firewhiskey glass. "Allow me to toast your victory." Snape said in a sardonic voice dark as a death knell. "Today you join the Order, after all."

"Lest you grow complacent in your winning, let us reckon the cost of what you've just lost." Snape's smirk was pitchdark, his humor as malevolent as the unquiet dead - and as spine-chilling, come to think...

"You have, by now, or will shortly lose your innocence. You will come to see friends as pieces on the playing field, and you may need to move them without consideration for anything except their abilities." Snape said quietly, almost as if he was talking to himself, though sheer force of habit kept the rest of the room effortlessly quiet.

"In a sense, you have lost friendship as well, and gained in its place a sort of battlefield cameraderie." Snape's eyes glinted knowingly, darting to and fro across the crowded room.

"Sir?" Harry asked quietly, confident that Snape's keen ears would pick his comment out of the hushed room.

"Alastor Moody and I are battlefield companions. We are hardly bosom buddies." Snape said coldly, his mocking words sharp and spiky with icy laughter.

"Have you ever wondered why you've been recruited to the Order? Untested children?" Snape asked, his sharp eyes catching the question dawning in Hermione's face, and the absolute bafflement on Ron's beside her. "I thought not." Snape said with a timetested, weary sigh.

"Children-" Snape said, his eyes catching the warning in Harry's own, as he briefly checked himself, "Adolescents, rather, have a distinct propensity for risk-taking, often to the point of recklessness." Snape's cold eyes raked the room, as if he expected someone not to be listening - or, rather, perhaps he was just hoping for the excuse to call someone out. "It takes a certain recklessness to enter the field of battle, you realize?" Snape's voice had dropped to a purr.

"The Order is composed of children, and people who have nothing left to lose." Snape said coldly, as Harry's gaze shot to Gin, thinking of her mother. "Oh, I suppose you are thinking of Arthur and Molly? They have irresponsible children, you see, and therefore they're in this to be the responsible ones. If you have any say in it at all, don't let them near positions of command. They aren't objective or rational, and can't be counted on to do the right thing for everyone."

Snape smiled a thin smile without teeth, "You have enough votes, collectively, to stop that from happening, should the need arise."

"I shan't tell you which one of you I have picked as the one who will first perish, but I do urge you to gird yourself against the possibility that any one of you may die." Snape said. "I'll tell you an old soldier's curse: 'may you outlive your comrades, their ashes falling through your fingers,' " Snape's eyes were filled, for once instant, with an emotion Harry didn't recognize. People who have nothing left to lose... Harry thought, as Snape continued, "You have months, perhaps a year or two, to continue your training. I will not go easy on you if I find you slacking."

No one quite managed to say a word as Snape rose, his thin frame standing tall above all of them, as he sardonically bowed, "Good luck, comrades. I pray you do not need it." Harry somehow got the feeling that Snape meant that last bit, truly.

Snape exited the room, and Harry caught Hermione hurrying after him. Harry dodged George's arm to slip out after her. They met Snape near the fireplace, his hand cradling a book as he opened the pig* of floo powder. "Ah, you two." Snape said in entirely unsurprised tones, "What have you come to bother me with this time?" he deadpanned.

"Sir, can I learn wandless magic, like Harry did?" Hermione asked, her body nearly vibrating with the strength of her curiosity.

Snape nodded quietly, "You may. In fact, you may also teach Potter the spells that you have learned. I have only one word of caution for both of you - Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to learn the spells Ron Weasley has been taught this summer." Hermione rather visibly bit back the question, and Harry suppressed a grin about the questions she was sure to pepper Ron with.

"Good Day," Snape said, stepping into the floo without waiting for a response.

*like salt pig.

[a/n: and... Snape decided he wanted to speak. Fifteen, twenty chapters later, we're finally done with the Order Swearing In Day! Huzzah! On to Hogwarts!

Leave a review, sorry if I've bored you...]