Nobody ever asked my birthday

Think Harder

Harry swallowed, "None that I know of, sir."

His eyes narrowing, Snape's dark gaze looked suddenly a lot more menacing. "Try harder."

Harry shook his head, and then calmed, "Reciprocity, sir. You gave me a gift, I returned the sentiment."

Snape barked a harsh laugh, "Say, rather, that the string you attach is the sentiment itself."

Harry stopped, looked at Snape, "Hang a jot, you're saying that you won't accept a simple 'Thank You' gift?"

Snape nodded, "I am your teacher. It is my duty to teach. I am not in need of tips."

Harry nearly bellowed, "It wasn't a Tip! Sir, you got me a gift, and I got you one in return."*

Snape knitted his hands together, giving Harry a moment to calm down - something Harry was increasingly sure was deliberate. "Ah, again with the string of reciprocity, something dangerously close to comity, which takes the first step - the very first, mind, towards friendship."

And would that be so bad? It was on the tip of Harry's tongue, but he didn't say a word, his eyes burning holes in Snape's dark robes.

"Or, allow me to advance an alternative explanation," Snape said, his low voice sweet as poisoned honey. "Perhaps you were under the mistaken impression that I did not receive gifts in the season? That surely anyone must want** presents, no matter how lonely they are?"

Harry's eyes darted down to Snape's hands, relieved somehow that they weren't balled into fists.

"Sounds suspiciously like pity, does it not?" Snape continued, as if Harry hadn't been inattentive. Harry knew better than to think Snape hadn't noticed.

"I believe you might receive a better reception for your gift from Professor McGonagall," Snape ground out.

Harry hadn't meant to cause Snape any trouble, he'd been... well, he'd gotten everyone a gift. "Perhaps, sir."

"Although I do reserve the right to accept gifts in the future, should you choose to give them."

Harry lifted his head, until he was looking straight into Snape's eyes, "Unfortunately for you, sir, ideas have a weird life that far exceeds the physical."

Snape said, "Wise words, indeed. Who taught you them?"

Harry shook his head, "No one, sir." No one's ever taught me anything.

*Yes, there are wards on Snape's office. Yes, he generally casts extra when Potter's around.

**want is used curiously here. both the standard meaning, and the "lack" meaning at the same time.

[a/n: I liked that last line as a place to stop.

Snape thinks that accepting a gift from Harry Potter, at this juncture, is a Bad Idea.

Can anyone think why?

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Harry's comment is a rephrasing of "It's the thought that counts," changed for the circumstances.

He's thinking less Snape directly, and more the Slytherins in general - ideas are a lot harder to kill than bookmarks]