Nobody ever asked my birthday

New Habits

The day seemed to fly by. Before Harry knew it, he was plunging into the DA room. He looked around, and saw that Susan and Justin were setting up for some "games". Hufflepuffs knew the best ways to get people to learn, without really thinking they were learning.

Harry darted toward them. He nearly bowled Justin over (sliding to a stop just beforehand). "Need a favor."

Justin looked the slightest bit cross at Harry, "Is it important?"

"I need this class. It's time-critical but non-urgent." Harry said.

"Fine," Susan said, and at Justin's cross look, she put her hands on her hips, "You know we could get a better Stratego board for next week."

Justin just grinned at her, and said to Harry, "Alright, you win."

"You guys are the best." Harry said firmly, grinning that grin that Hermione had once shook her fist at, and declared, "Mister harry james potter, you do not get to use smiling to win all your arguments. Particularly not the ones on paper." She had been perfectly serious, alright, but it was hilarious at the same time.

"And who are we, chopped liver?" Neville said, coming in with Ron.

"Oh, no," harry said, struggling to keep a straight face. "You're pate."

No one except Justin got the joke, and it wasn't worth explaining, so Harry stood in reasonably awkward silence until the rest of the class had poured in.

Of course, Harry couldn't even walk to the front of the room (the Lecturer Zone) without Zach asking, "Why's he teaching today, wasn't it our turn?"

And, why yes, it was. Harry wanted to snarl that at the Supposed Leader of the DA. He restrained himself, gently cooling his heels. "Yes. So you can answer the question first, if you want."

"What question?" Hermione asked, her brown eyes sparkling.

"Why did Professor Snape lie to our class today?" Harry sent a steely gaze at the Hufflepuffs.

It was sweet, doughty Hannah who responded, sounding nearly timid (she wasn't. just softspoken. But the type who really could wrestle a tiger and win.) "He... he lied?" She sounded... disappointed.

And the thing of it was, Hufflepuffs turned heads and made people cry when they were disappointed.

Harry just really didn't want to answer that one.

"Of course he lied, you sweet little cherub you." Pansy Parkinson piped up, "That's one of the fundeamental principles of Slythinerin. Keep lying and no one will know what you're really up to."

Out of the tome he'd been reading, Theo's nearly-black eyes looked sharply up at Pansy, "Pretty sure that's just you, Pansy." Harry, from his vantage point, could see Goyle smirking, though Crabbe looked mostly clueless. "Besides, he's a teacher. Here to teach. If he told you he was actually a wardbreaker, would you believe him?"

Harry ignored the last part of Theo's argument, and asked, in a soft voice that carried, "What teaching is he doing when he lies to us about the efficacy of spells?"

"The expedient kind," Theo Nott said, managing, somehow to sound arrogant in a completely different way than Malfoy ever did. And it was more irritating. "If he's got a full class to teach, and the Ravenclaws and the Hufflepuffs can't learn the cruciatus curse... why teach it?" With Malfoy, you got the 'I'm better than you and I know it' treatment. With Nott, it was more 'I am the smartest person in the country' - there was no thought for you at all.

This might have made a good point if Ron hadn't gotten in the way out of sheer bloody habit. "Are you saying that Gryffindors can cast the Cruciatus?"

Theo Nott just nodded.

Neville, ever the peacemaker, spoke up - neatly throwing a grenade into the knifefight. "Maybe he just doesn't want a second Bellatrix Lestrange?"

From the other side of the room, Draco Malfoy laughed a wintry laugh without any humor, "Even the thought will bring me nightmares, Longbottom."

Hermione spoke up, speaking quietly, "Habits, once forged, shift rarely. And if you get in the mode of fighting with those particular emotional spells, you can't downshift. You can't fight someone you don't want to break."

Goyle scratched his head, saying, "Really, what have you lost? If you really wanted to torture someone, just use Tantalegra like a normal firstie."

The room laughed, and people eased up. Harry figured Hermione had the right of it, as usual.

[a/n: Every review gets you more story! Malfoy may be willing to do a lot for his family, but that does not extend to Bella Black.]