Harry rose with the sun, his breath frosting the air into little white puffs of cotton-candy clouds. Time to stretch, and time to run.
One thing Harry could tell you, about running at Hogwarts. It was never boring. Snape always had a few new tricks up his sleeve.
Today, it was suspiciously quiet. Was Snape disillusioned, hiding about? Was he quietly stalking Harry, or up a tree, waiting for his prey to pass the blind?
Any way, Harry's shoulders itched, that peculiar feeling when someone is watching you.
Not that Harry intended to let it stop him from running.
What was a morning training routine without a little danger, anyway?
It wasn't all that bad, Harry thought, having a link in his mind to Old Voldie. It had driven him to near panic, when he'd realized that Voldemort could control his body, could leave him... worse that locked in that damned cupboard-under-the-stairs. Worse than Azkaban.
Harry would keep his word, would not go seeking trouble - or information. If it was needed... Harry shook his head, if it was necessary, someone more experienced would ask. He'd do well to remember that he was a pawn. Or maybe a rook. Too recognizable to be a knight, and certainly no higher than that - he wasn't that important.
In a way, it was relieving.
Harry Potter was normally, this year at least, one of the first people in the Great Hall for breakfast. Because he'd had a full workout, he automatically grabbed for the bacon. Grease and salt and protein. Best. Breakfast. Ever.
Before he'd gotten the first bite in his mouth, he'd belatedly registered that Draco Malfoy was seated across from him (This was normal). What is he doing here this early?
Malfoy was periodically glancing over at Harry Potter.
There weren't many other people in the Great Hall, though, and the ones that were happened to be first and second year Hufflepuffs, busy planning something that was undoubtedly very interesting to them.
Malfoy was still periodically glancing up at Potter. Harry didn't sense much urgency to the looks, however. It was more the look of is he still there? Harry was quite familiar with the concept of keeping an eye on someone. It had passed the time at school, when Harry hadn't been allowed to be friends with anyone. Dudley'd pushed his face in the dirt, and threatened that anyone playing with him would have the same happen. If my own blooded cousin doesn't like me...
More Slytherins had entered - they liked to be up earlier than the Gryffindors. Harry absently wondered if this meant they had earlier bedtimes (the Gryffindors were normally up well past curfew), or if they just subsisted on less sleep. Or took naps. The thought nearly made him spit out his pumpkin juice - asking Pansy Parkinson if the Slytherins took naps. Whoo-boy, she'd tear stripes out of him for even the asking! Nevermind if it was true or not - she wouldn't say.
Malfoy greeted them absently, his eyes periodically flicking up to where Sinistra and McGonagall were having a lively debate about something or another. Harry belatedly noted that Malfoy was a little tense - and that combined with the distraction... meant something was wrong. Harry Potter could feel that creeping feeling in his own gut.
Ron and Hermione and Neville joined Harry shortly, and he joshed around with them - but he kept one eye on Malfoy; same as Malfoy kept an eye on him.
Malfoy only relaxed when Snape walked in, which was odd. Whatever was wrong involved Snape, then. It was a bad business, normally, to go poking in Slytherin's schemes. Worse when it was their housemaster.
Still, Harry thought, as he polished his bacon. At least they make Hogwarts interesting. Without the twins, Hogwarts threatened to get dull and boring.
Snape strode into his classroom with his usual vim and vigor, jumped up onto the small box that he'd made into a stage, instead of a soapbox. "Pair off," Snape said, "Today we will practice defense. So prepare to duck."
He didn't pause at all, trusting people to find partners with their eyes rather than their mouths. "No absorbent shields today. Reflective and refractive only." Snape smirked, and then sneered, "As I said, remember to duck."
Harry frowned, as no one had ever taught those in the Hogwarts curriculum. Christmas reading, then. Harry thought with a scowl. He was looking at Seamus, who was willing to partner with him. "Who goes first?" the Irishman asked.
"You do," Harry said, and prepared to duck and roll.
The stunner Seamus threw at him did nearly hit Goldstein (his shield sent it ricocheting into a wall), but at least it hadn't hit Harry.
More importantly, Harry had kept a sharp eye on Hermione, and now knew at least one spell he could use!
Snape drawled from behind Harry Potter's balled up form on the ground, "Fancy footwork is not the assignment, Potter. 10 points from Gryffindor for inattention and laziness."
Harry fought back a wry smirk, and instead glared at Snape, "Laziness? Here I am on the ground, in a ball, and you're calling me lazy? I could have just let him stun me!"
Snape actually wasn't even facing Harry anymore, leaving Harry's performance more along the lines of "Everyone, remember this," rather than directed towards Snape himself.
"Strengthen your wits, Weasley. Assuming you haven't had them all knocked out of you by playing Quidditch, that is."
Snape had an insult for everyone that period, until he made it to his Slytherins. Unlike earlier years, when Harry would have assumed Snape was just playing favorites, he'd seen Goyle reflecting on Snape's words, and moulding his performance until it truly was better than Hermione's had started out as. Snape was truly being fair by giving the Slytherins a point apiece. and what was the point he was making? Adapt and improve.
[a/n: Potter and Malfoy, two sides of the same coin, here. Both too sharp for their own good, and prone to cutting themselves. Leave a review?]