Nobody ever asked my birthday

Chapter 54

Harry knew something was up when he strode into the Great Hall. For one, Dumbledore wasn't eating. The Headmaster almost always ate supper at the Great Hall...

In fact, none of the other teachers were eating, except the Potions Professor, whose long, pale nose gleamed pallidly beneath his dark, lanky hair. Poor man looked like a moonlit shadow under these lights... really creepy. He certainly didn't look half so bad in the sunshine, even if he had a complexion that was completely resistant to tanning.

Wanting to know what was going on, Harry Potter sat down quickly - also, unlike other years, not particularly wanting to interfere. Harry didn't give that idea much thought, however, as a lot of other students were pouring into the Great Hall, and he wanted to keep an eye on them, to see what was going on, and to figure out what they'd got planned. Besides, he wanted to hear if Smith was already boasting about the DA.

Harry could see the Slytherins with their easy cameraderie (that he rather suspected masked a relentless level of suspicion between the house members). But that wasn't so interesting. What was interesting was the Ravenclaws, who seemed jarred out of their normal circles. Indeed, the claws that had left (or at least tried to), were grouped together, uneasily eyeing both the door and Snape, as if they were expecting something.

And perhaps they were.

There was a palpable air of tension across the entire Great Hall, words were muffled and laughter was light if not silenced entirely. Professor Snape, of course, ate as though nothing was wrong. Perhaps, in his estimation, things had merely marked improved now that he wasn't forced to make small talk with Professor Sprout or Flitwick. Harry thought that sounded like the perpetually grumpy teacher, anyway.

Harry Potter forced himself to eat slower than usual, grabbing three slabs of roast beef, and some mashed potatoes. He was almost finished with the first slab (which really was more than he used to eat, but Harry supposed he was growing, now, and that meant that he was likely to get taller and not wind up like Dudley), when the Staff Door opened lightly - more a creak, as the door opened just marginally more than a crack.

Professor McGonagall's feline form emerged. Nearly half the room stopped their eating, and the rest weren't far behind, as they picked up on the mood. She danced across the floor, in that languid "I am perfectly where I want to be" mode that Harry had learned from the neighborhood catlady's cats... And then she paused, hopped onto the dais on which the High Table rested, and then executed a perfect jump... straight into Snape's lap, and then onto the table, directly in front of him (unwatched, Snape's plate had been pushed over a foot away from him). She looked him over once, and then curled into what Harry liked to think of as a cat's natural Warm Ball Mode. Snape gently laid one of his longfingered hands on her, and began to stroke.

Harry Potter figured he was the only one not surprised when the Transfiguration Professor began to purr.

It was about a minute of stunned silence (Ron was still eating, but quietly, and Hermione had merely glanced up before returning to her reading, absently leading food into her mouth as was her custom).

The main door to the Great Hall opened - and Ron dropped his food. Hermione dropped hers as well - onto the book, and cursed loudly.

The Minister of Magic had arrived, looking dapper as ever in purple robes, although his usual genial smile had been replaced by a troubled frown. The entire room was silent, and Harry belatedly realized that there weren't any other chairs at the High Table.

[a/n: Da-duh! As I might have mentioned, an expected visitor. No, the rest of the staff isn't throwing Snape to the wolves, this is by request. Minerva's serving as early warning (and as evil villain's cat, I might add). Reviews would be appreciated!]