Nobody ever asked my birthday

Incipient Explosion

The next day seemed to fly by in a whirl of exultation. It was weird, just being happy about being paranoid. It was, in fact, one of the odder emotional highs that Harry had ever experienced.

Yet, he was sure it was his, and that factor alone gave him the ability to savor it.

After his morning run, he'd managed to open Snape's defense book, and read a few jottings. The book itself wasn't important, at all, really. But Snape and his mum had written to each other in it, sometimes about school, sometimes about not-school academics - and sometimes about people, too. There were even little jottings about dreams, like what they wanted to be when they were older. What the electives were like - Harry wasn't at all surprised that they were taking Ancient runes and Arithmancy. Had that made it more awkward, when they'd finally stopped being friends? Or had his mum merely dropped all the classes?

Hermione would have been furious at such a thing. She'd have forced Lily Evans to keep on in the classes (and if needed, gotten Snape to drop them). Harry did see Hermione and Lily, this Lily he was reading the thoughts of, being fast friends.

He wasn't so sure about himself... but he had to think that someone as nice as 'able to put up with Severus Snape' had to be... They might have been friends.

It was weird to think of his mum as a student, in a way that it had never been to think about James Potter. Harry felt like he knew James Potter better as a kid at Hogwarts than as his father. Maybe he always would - the man had only a year as his father, and seven long and full years at Hogwarts.

Nobody'd ever talked about his mum.

This was really the closest he was getting to know her.

Harry idly wondered why Snape would tell him nothing but lies.

Odd, that it didn't hurt. Not being told things often frustrated Harry, he knew this about himself.

For once, he could actually accept that Snape had some sort of reason.

Maybe this was maturity? Harry's mouth crinkled in a queer sort of smirk. If so, Harry thought maturity could bloody well go hang.

Moments before 'The Explosion' Harry was having quite a lovely day. Ron and he were at the Room first, and Harry was trying to figure out the pattern to Ron's spells. He was mindful of Snape's warning not to try to learn them, but surely this couldn't be bad, could it? And it was a puzzle, and Harry'd always been better at those than people realized. He knew he could have solved Snape's logic in his first year, but Hermione hadn't had a go yet, and she liked puzzles.

Harry hated man-crafted puzzles, snobby little things. Can you solve my riddle? Harry wanted to snarl back, Don't be so high-handed! As if only a Vaunted Riddle Solver should be able to...

Manmade puzzles were gates, designed to stop dummies.

Harry remembered what Dudley'd been like when he was frustrated, and he often was when there was a riddle on the screen.

Carrying books in her arms as usual, Hermione came in first, but Malfoy was on her heels - he only had a solitary roll of parchment. Harry didn't even have a moment to feel dread, before Malfoy strode straight up to him. "As requested," Malfoy said, pushing the parchment towards Harry's chest. Harry grabbed it and - too late - tried to hide it.

"What's that then, mate?" Ron asked.

Hermione was starting to glare at them, and Harry felt like that was the bigger problem. Still, Ron required an answer. "Payment for services rendered."

Malfoy, utter rotter bastard that he was, wouldn't leave it at that. In his most patented drawl, he said, "Potter asked me for some Potions help in return for Sunday flying lessons."

Harry didn't even see the flash of sparks in her hair, before Hermione exploded, "Harry James Potter! WHY are you asking HIM for Potions advice?" This screaming was accompanied by Hermione running straight at Harry, and starting to pummel him with the heels of her fists.

Behind her, of course, Malfoy just looked smug. Oh. Harry thought, they've had an academic 'rivalry' for years, haven't they? Is this the first time Malfoy can truly, decisively, say he's won? I'll say he's not going to pass up on that!

Still in the midst of being pounded on, Harry had the sudden urge to say something that Snape would say, just to take the wind out of Malfoy's ballooning ego. That was not a good idea, he told himself sternly.

"Why would you do that, Harry?" Hermione finally managed.

Harry shrugged, a bit uncomfortable, "You taught me that learning from different perspectives helps." For once, Harry knew he'd said something right, he could feel Hermione's face clearing of anger.

"How does Malfoy have a different perspective than me?" Hermione growled, her hands on her hips.

"You're perfection, Hermione," Harry said, only belatedly noting Ron's bewildered look at him. "Erm. In Potions class." Harry scratched his head, which he often did when he knew he was confusing everyone. "When you help Neville, you're always focused on him never getting things wrong." Harry straightened, "I've accepted that I'm likely to get things wrong in the class. It's an organizational headache, and I'm never the best at that." Harry's eyes found Draco Malfoy's, "When Malfoy works with Goyle and Crabbe, he works to their capabilities."

"He means I make sure they don't poison the classroom." Malfoy said, leaning casually against the wall. "I let them make their own mistakes."

Harry nodded, gently, "Figured I might be better at learning if I knew what NOT to do."

Ron grinned, "Anything's worth a shot, mate."

[a/n: Hermione is a bit touchy about her position as Homework Helper. Leave a review?]