Nobody ever asked my birthday

Chapter 61

[a/n: Snape's turn to act, so it's Harry's POV. Obviously. ]

Harry Potter was torn between running down to class, hanging back and showing up at the last minute, and trying to see what everyone else was doing. As it turns out, there was a lot of Everyone Elses, so Harry Potter wound up arriving around the middle of the pack (quite literally, as he'd been swept away by the herd heading to DADA, or whatever Snape wanted to call it when the Ministry wasn't looking).

To no one's surprise, Snape hadn't arrived beforetimes. Harry Potter wondered if Snape's habit of precision timeliness was simply because he didn't want to teach the dunderheads for a minute longer than was strictly required. Not the sort of question one ought to ask a Potions Master, not if one valued limiting his consumption of potions to those strictly required for good health.

Everyone stood around (there were no seats in class, which Harry considered a good sign - this was a class that ought to have a heavy practical emphasis, so lecturing was really mostly unnecessary) in groups of friends, which were by and large by House affiliation. Seamus and Dean were joking around with Neville, Ron and Hermione were talking together (it looked like Ron was still trying to sneak glances at Hermione's paper, possibly to steal a few more answers). The Slytherins were gathered in two knots, one male, one female - except that Pansy Parkinson was hanging on Malfoy's arm. Malfoy didn't precisely look happy about this, either, and Harry Potter swore he saw the young man's ears go flat when Pansy called him "Drakey-poo." Harry didn't blame him, that nickname was emvile/em (worse than Won-Won, which Harry'd had the misfortune to overhear Lavender nicknaming Ron in a conversation with Parvati).

Snape slid through the closing door like a silk scarf, sliding between groups of children until he had hopped up on a dais barely large enough for his two big feet. "Class," He began, his soft purr of a voice bringing a seventh of the Hogwarts student body to mirror-smooth silence. "In the main, spellcasting is a solo art. Anyone with a bit of skill can transfigure a parchment into a pen, or vice versa. Charms are even more a lone talent, as sharing your magic with another is a most delicate and intimate act. Far easier, safer, and more reliable to simply cast Aguamenti oneself, assuming even basic capability." Snape's eyes found Goyle and Crabbe at this, who eventually nodded slowly.

This class is different. In a war, one must relie on one's comrades as if they were part of your own body. A shield can cover you, while you conjure birds to attack, or turn the enemies' legs to mush." Harry Potter tried not to take that line too literally, but he was certain his gaze was tinged a little green with nausea. That's what you get when you picture a darkhaired man, torso arms and head, vainly reaching up, trying to stand on legs that were nothing more than puddles. Snape turned and pinned Neville Longbottom with his black gaze. Neville straighened in response, as Snape continued, "As such, we will pair you off to evaluate each other's homework assignments." Snape cast his dire glare around the room, as he solemnly intoned, "I will say this only the once: Teams are not yet fixed. There will be no complaints about the pairings, today or any day. You should consider yourself fortunate to avail yourself of my expertise, when it is available." Professor Snape gave a smug smirk, and began from the top of the list.

As this wasn't Sprout, who would have started by last name, Snape, true to form, started by overall grades. "Malfoy, Granger." He said, and the pair's eyes met in a sudden clash from across the room. Harry's hand tightened slightly on his wand (he hadn't let it out of his hand since the class had started.), as he silently resolved to watch them. Harry found himself paired with Goyle of all people, and his eyes had flicked up to Snape's, wondering what exactly was going on. Was this just an insult? Was there more to it than that? Harry began to read Goyle's responses, and saw that - despite the misspellings - there were glints of real promise on the page. Goyle'd mentioned anaphylactic shock - and that wasn't something on the usual curriculum. Nor was it what he'd expected from the brute of a boy. That was a death subtle and devious... worthy of a true Slytherin. Harry shook his head, embarrassed at himself, for having truly thought that Goyle had been mis-sorted. He was quiet, it was true, and never seemed to be the first at anything. Then again, Harry thought, Snape had truly seemed to hate the Order of the Phoenix, nearly to a one. It was only on rewatch, on watching the entire group falling into petty scraps and scrabbles, that Harry'd figured out what Snape was doing. Harry thought, with a pang in his heart, that he really ought to apologize to Goyle - and yet, instead of an apology, what came out of his mouth was a simple, and genuine, "Nice work." Goyle nodded, still reading Harry Potter's page. When he slowly looked up, he said ponderously, "I don't think our lists had one identical thing on them." Harry thought back, and nodded firmly and reluctantly, "You're right." Slowly, after a minute of looking over his thoughts, Harry continued, "I think that's part of the point."

Meanwhile, while Harry had been reading, Snape had sauntered with barely feline grace over to Malfoy and Granger. As Harry got a look at them, he noticed that Malfoy had turned a color that Harry'd never seen on his face before - a clear, watery blue, pale as ice. His hands, they almost looked like they were trembling. With suddenly sharpening eyes, Harry looked at Hermione - whose face nearly blazed. Shite, Harry thought uncomfortably, she looks worse than when she learned about house elves. This could be really bad. Why did it have to be Snape's class? (Obvious answer: it was Snape's assignment.)

"Miss Granger," Snape drawled, "Are you trying to threaten Mister Malfoy with a homework assignment?"

"No, sir," Hermione said, her ire cooling as she stared at the Slytherin's nearly expressionless face.

"Pity," he started, "You seem to be doing such an impeccable job, unintentional or no." Snape purred, before wheeling and walking on.

That left Harry with just one question - what the hell had those two emput/em on their lists?
[a/n: Feel free to leave suggestions in the reviews. I'm about halfway done with this class (bearing in mind that the whole part with Goyle got added last minute). I encourage everyone to consider what Snape is playing at.]/p