Nobody ever asked my birthday

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Harry Potter left Snape's room, shaking his head. He hadn't even known Snape had reason to be frustrated with him.

Snape's list of secrets seemed longer than the world's girth. Some good, some bad, some truly terrible.

Harry had a hard time getting to sleep that night, and instead read conversations between his mother and Snape, long into the night.

There was a certain lightness to Snape's writing, that Harry'd never really seen in the man.

Was it dead?

Squelched?

Pressed down deep into a hole, ready to be dug out when he wanted?

And Harry's mum? Remus and Sirius' stories had made her sound... beautiful. And fierce, but that generally came with a laugh, the kind you'd get when you always got away with it anyway.

Here? She had a sharp sense of humor - anger, yes, but it was justified.

Harry'd not wanted to face his father's bullying. His world would have been more pleasant without ever knowing about that. With Snape around, though... Snape was never going to forget it. And Harry at least appreciated the 'forewarned is forearmed' principle.

Harry drifted off to an uneasy sleep.

Snape was with him, when Harry ran the next morning.

They didn't speak - but the traps moved. Some lived, wrapping around a treetrunk like they might have around Harry's leg.

Harry couldn't see Snape, but that also was expected.

Harry's run saw him home with mud all over the place (including under his robes), so he made quick tracks up to shower and change.

Snape stood at the front of the class, everyone having assembled remarkably quietly. No one wanted to draw his undue attention. "By House," Snape said. It was only then that Harry noticed that everyone hadn't been standing by house.

"Duels are between two people." Snape snapped. "I haven't the time for duels, and you don't either."

"En-garde." Snape said, his wand working a complicated s-like shape, and a dome sprang up around him.

Harry didn't need to be told twice - and neither did Malfoy. Other people took longer, Neville got his hands twisted in his robes (but at least he, wisely, fell to the floor - and looked a right doofus while doing it.). Ron was on the floor too, but looked more like he meant it, Lavender had gone down - and was that?

Someone was using Snape's dome to shoot people! Harry stared, astonished, watching the shield sway the spells, deflecting them into scattered rebounds.

Harry shot more stunners. It was a simple spell, basic. He did it with a lightly muttered Stupefy. This was a battle, not a duel. No one was trying to outwit other people.

Lavender fell onto his feet. Harry stepped back, nearly bumping Neville off-balance.

Pansy and Malfoy were the only two Slytherins standing... There! Harry saw Goyle fire off a stealthy jinx.

Harry quickly fired a stunner at Hannah Abbott - but her shield held.

And then there was nothing but blackness.

Harry came to, as Sue Bones smiled, a ready beam of Hufflepuff gold, "Sorry about that, Harry."

Harry sat up, putting his hands on his hips, and said, "How am I to learn if you don't?" It was only a second later when he realized he'd said something that might have come out of his mum's mouth. Harry resisted the urge to check to see if Snape had heard. Even if he had, Snape wouldn't show it, so what did it matter?

Harry scanned the room - it was an old instinct, from back when he'd been Muggle. Everyone seemed warm, happy, even Vince Crabbe, whom Harry knew had more than a bit of a mean streak. Draco Malfoy was looking pompous and arrogant as ever. Harry had a hard time telling when that was real. Years back, he'd have insisted it was always so, but...

"Your assignment, should you choose to accept it or not, is to write a summary of everything you can remember happening during Defense today. Points will be given for completeness, and you will be graded by others' perception of you." Snape sent an unamused glare at everyone. Does that mean that Goyle's going to be penalized for possuming? Somehow I doubt it.

Hermione hustled Harry out of DADA, babbling about what Flitwick had given her to read. Harry suppressed a groan. McGonagall had given him so much to read, it was crazy. Where there's a will, Harry thought, there's a gravestone.

Harry skipped the RoR session with Hermione and Malfoy and Ron, missing his friends, but knowing he had piles of books to read. He could just hear Ron telling him how crazy he was for reading - and couldn't he just ask Remus or something?

Harry wanted to ask Rita Skeeter - after all, they had blackmail on her. And maybe he could call in a nice article in the papers to boot.

No, he was stuck here reading about the study of Kipling, one of those few people who'd misjudged the Animagus transformation. How he had a monkey's tail, and paws, and how they were utterly useless on account of everyone thinking him a freak.

It went on, and on. Three hundred pages of moping?

Harry fell asleep on his bed, drooling on the priceless book.

[a/n: See? Harry can be fun to write! Leave a review, willya?]