Nobody ever asked my birthday

Chapter 52

"Hermione..." Harry said, and trailed off, leaving her looking at him quietly. He absentmindedly began to fidget, as he tried to work out exactly what he had to say. "I... kinda need your help."

"Is it about Ginny?" Hermione asked proddingly, assuming that would be the only way Harry would be this out of sorts.

"No," Harry said, taking a deep breath, "IwantyoutohelpmefigureouthowtogetMalfoyintotheHomeworkGroup."

Hermione blinked, and then blinked again. "What?" She said, stepping back, as she finally parsed what he'd been saying. "But... why?"

"Because..." Harry said, and realized that he didn't really have a decent answer. Certainly not Hermione worthy, at any rate. She liked to examine anything. "The sorting hat said we should try to unite the houses, right?"

"Yeah..." Hermione said, "... but, Malfoy?" Hermione herself squirmed a bit, "You know I wouldn't say this, normally, but ... his father's a Death Eater! Do you really think this is a good idea?"

"Umm..." Harry said, thinking that if he thought it was a bad idea, he probably wouldn't have suggested it.

"Weren't you the one saying that I shouldn't do something just because a teacher told me to? And the sorting hat is just a hat!" Hermione said.

"A magic hat." Harry weakly offered.

"Nope, not going to help you with this one. Not until you come up with some compelling reasons." Hermione said, and Harry could hear her mind closing like the steel trap it was.

He was on his own. After all, it wasn't like he could ask Ron for help, now was it? Ron wouldn't ask. Ron would simply blow up, and Harry really didn't want to have to deal with that. Again.

"I... guess i'll try to figure this out on my own, then?" Harry offered weakly, his mind certain, but his heart unusually weary. He liked his friends, really he did, but they could be so blasted difficult sometimes.

Harry left first, leaving Hermione still trying without any success at all, to lift a feather. He wanted to have a walk around Hogwarts. Walking always helped him think, it always had.

Harry'd had time to go down two sets of stairs, and come back up one, winding and wending his way around the castle as he thought on his plan.

"Well, look if it isn't the Magic Mudblood..." Harry heard, recognizing Draco Malfoy's arrogant drawl. Thoughtfully, he slipped behind a pillar, freeing his wand without - explicitly - aiming it at Malfoy's back.

Hermione was dead silent, and Harry thought that was probably a bad thing.

"What'sa matter, muddie? Lost your magic? Having problems with your wand?" Malfoy's drawl rolled across the hallway.

"I hardly think it's any of your business." Hermione said.

Harry, right behind Malfoy, heard him whisper a spell that Harry didn't immediately recognize. The spell flew, night-green, and Hermione Granger managed to summon an impressively glowing Protego.

From behind her, Severus Snape emerged, and Harry grinned - for once it looked likely that Malfoy would be the one getting into trouble. Surely he couldn't be mad at Hermione for casting a shield spell. "Mister Malfoy," Snape purred, "It would appear that Miss Granger has entered a new, but not novel, phase of magical development. You would be well advised to not press her limits, particularly in stressful situations." He paused for a moment, then said, in a purring tone that dripped menace, "You are, I trust, aware of the rules about waving wands at other students in the hallways? If that had been anything more dangerous than a haircolor-changing cantrip..."

Draco Malfoy's voice had lost all of his arrogance when he next spoke, sounding as colorless as his face, "Yes, sir." He left the scene without running, but it was a close thing, his swift steps very reminiscent of Snape himself.

Naturally, in his hurry, he didn't see Harry Potter.

Harry, however, knew better than to expect that Snape would not notice him. He wondered what Snape would have to say about his conduct, and idly scraped the floor with the toe of one shoe. Harry felt the rush of a silencing spell over his head, his eyes brightening as he looked toward Snape.

Snape said to Hermione, "He'll have that round the whole Slytherin Common Room by nightfall. Expect stares, not questions."

Harry felt the silencing spell fall, and heard Snape's retreating footsteps. Indecisive, he stood there, as Hermione first steadied herself with a few deep, calming breaths, and then followed Snape.

Harry spent the rest of the time towards dinner trying to figure out if Hermione would have been proud of him for his reticence, or disgusted at his lack of bravery. He found he really didn't know. Still, a good part of him was glad that she hadn't seen him standing there.

[a/n: up next, dinnertime, and an expected visitor. Write me a review if you want, or guess who the expected visitor will be!

And yes, of course, Malfoy was using that cantrip deliberately. It's a twopronged attack. One, if she isn't able to fix it immediately, he gets to laugh with all his Slytherin buddies about how basic a spell she can't counter, and two, if she does counter it with an attack, she's likely to get in trouble.]