Nobody ever asked my birthday

Chapter 55

Harry's eyes felt like they were sharper than normal, as he watched Minister Fudge stroll down the long way towards the high table. Harry hadn't the highest opinion of the man, and he felt certain that most of the students shared his thoughts on the very officious, if congenial man. Harry Potter could feel, crawling within his belly, the feeling that Minister Fudge was walking into a trap.

Harry didn't feel compelled to warn him.

Minister Fudge continued to stroll nearer the high table, as a motionless Severus Snape silently studied him. Minister Fudge approached to three paces away from the dais, and looked upward (Harry mentally docked him a few status points for not having stopped significantly farther away. Who wants to look up at the person they're talking to? Just going to get a crick in your neck...).

"Master Snape," Minister Fudge started, and Harry docked him another point - Master was a formal title, and it looked like the Minister was trying to be here to do something informal. Besides, it had awful connotations - he really ought to have used Professor. Harry blinked. Had he just thought that the Minister was significantly bad at his job? Yes, yes he had. The Minister continued seamlessly, "What a pleasure to see you again." He said this with a broad, and completely insincere grin.

"Likewise," Snape said in a level, colorless voice - he's really making sarcasm sing.

"Now, I say, my good man, were you trying to cause a panick in your Defense against the Dark Arts classroom?" Minister Fudge said genially, and Harry admired how unruffled he managed to seem, when Snape was giving him that piercing-eye look that never failed to reduce Harry to eye-dropping, toe shuffling shame (no matter that he'd often done nothing wrong).

"No," Snape said, his purring voice pulling that syllable out into three, "I was merely wondering why they weren't panicking already." Harry caught at what Snape was doing - he's playing to the crowd. This isn't really about Fudge at all.

"Now, now," Minister Fudge said, "We can't have you panicking the classroom. And giving students advice to leave the country?" The tone was of disapproval, although Minister Fudge still seemed to be saying it with a smile.

"I'd give you the same advice, if I thought you had the brains to take it." Snape drawled, and a few first year Slytherins tittered (to be shushed by their elders). "This war will end ... poorly... for those who tend to sit on the fence."

Minister Fudge finished his thought, still disapproving, as if Snape had said nothing of consequence, "My word, you're supposed to be a teacher, not a coward!"

"Minister," Snape said, letting the silence reign until the Minister of Magic was actually looking into his dark eyes - that suddenly seemed to Harry not as unctuous as an oil slick, but sticky as tar, and as mesmerising as his house's mascot.

Snape continued, "I take my vows seriously, and I have vowed to help these children to the best of my ability." Snape gave a strange expression - one that showed simply one of his teeth poking out over his lower lip - something that wasn't a smile, not nearly, but just the merest glimpse of fangs.* No wonder people thought him a vampire! Harry thought with a mental chortle.

Snape leaned back, saying casually, "It's hardly my fault if the best move for a neutral party is to leave Britain, now is it?"

"My good man, think about what you're doing! Britain can hardly stand if her best and brightest leave!" Minister Fudge said frantically.

"Potter, Malfoy, stand up." Snape's voice cracked commandingly across the Great Hall. Harry Potter stood quietly, at some reasonable facsimile of parade rest. Draco Malfoy, as usual, managed to look significantly more dignified and elegant.** Harry Potter was just relieved that his own face probably didn't look like he thought he was in trouble.

*no, not literal fangs. Metaphorical fangs.

**Poor Harry. Draco's had training on all this.

[a/n: Well, what did you think was going to happen? Of course everyone wrote to the Minister about Snape's New Class. It was - alarming (more particularly to parents from the hinterlands)! Well, will you write me a review? This, obviously, isn't the end of the scene.]