Nobody ever asked my birthday

Owlcall

Harry swallowed, as Hedwig alighted on his arm. He stood on top of the Astronomy tower, and stared out over all of Hogwarts. It was nearly dinnertime, and it was growing dark. Hedwig had a letter of course, but he petted her more for the comfort she brought than because she was such a clever owl. Harry smiled down at Hedwig, and pretended to be surprised at the parchment. "What's this?" Harry asked. Hedwig looked back at him, saying nothing. He carefully unwrapped the parchment:

Report to Dumbledore's office for an Investigation into the conduct of a member of the Hogwarts body.

Very odd wording, Harry thought, swallowing. For the first time, he realized he'd have to explain himself to Dumbledore. With a swallow, Harry looked out intently over the Hogwarts grounds, his eyes seeking the Forbidden Forest. It was incredibly dangerous, there, but at least he'd be able to be quiet. He didn't want to explain what had happened - and he really, really didn't want to lie (that never went well). Maybe he could just let Snape talk? Like hell, Harry thought with a wild grin. There wasn't a frozen chance in hell that he'd be able to make that work. They'd make him write the answers if necessary.

"Mister Potter, I believe you have an appointment, if you will accompany me." Prof. McGonagall had appeared - not near him, as Snape might well have, but at the top of the stair. Only the pale Slytherin really liked surprising people - with cat-like silence, Minerva McGonagall could have done it as often as she pleased. Less to prove, I suppose.

Harry sighed, then followed with a slink that reminded him of a kicked puppy. Well, he kind of felt like one, really. Why did everyone have to care? They never seemed to mind when the rest of the school was ready to crucify him (granted, that was more Malfoy's fault, more than once).

Prof. McGonagall led him down the stairs, showing no sign that they hurt her back or knees. Her pace was quick and unvarying, and Harry had to move to keep up. He was aware of watchful, gossipy eyes from classrooms or hallways. Just leave me alone, he thought. Prof. McGonagall held her silence, and it was a restrictive, oppressive thing - bordering on reproachful.

They reached the gargoyle, finally. "Riesens," the Professor said smartly. At Harry's odd look, she said, "Snape found them in Germany, and has been trying to 'improve Headmaster Dumbledore's palate.' She took two steps up the staircase (as Harry moved inside and the door shut behind him), then she turned around.

Her eyes really did look reproachfully at him. "Mister Potter, you seem to have some trouble understanding when you should ask for help."

Harry's back stiffened, "Ask for help when you cannot complete the job at hand. To do otherwise would be dereliction of duty."

Prof. McGonagall said, "You should also ask for help when you are being treated unfairly."

Harry nodded, "This was Order business, ma'am." He gave her what he hoped was a steely gaze.

Professor McGonagall's hands went slack - had she been holding something, she'd have dropped it all down the stairs - papers falling like snow.

"Why dinna you tell anyone, laddie? This changes matters, surely so." Professor McGonagall said, looking down at him. "Still! I've never been late for a meeting with the Headmaster, and you won't make this my first, willye?"

"No, ma'am." Harry said, glad at least that someone was on his side.

[a/n: The wartime valkyrie has different standards for "appropriate training" than the peacetime teacher. Leave a review!]