Nobody ever asked my birthday

Chapter 72

Harry followed after Hermione Granger, whose smaller form was somehow capable of going at warp one, while still walking. Harry studied her gait absentmindedly, stretching his own to compensate. "No Running in the Halls" - if people had actually meant the speed, Minerva McGonagall herself would have assigned Hermione Granger detention, nevermind that she had a foot on the ground at all times. Hermione Granger wasn't graceful about it, even when she was walking on a mission - her stride was that of a boar, or a bull, or a cow - something too big to have to worry about what it stepped on. Not something to get in the way of. Harry'd been walking alongside Snape enough to know that he had the reflexes of a cat, and something of it's quiet, deadly grace. Snape could, and would, if it suited him, stop on a dime.

Harry really didn't want to be heading downstairs, into the dark dungeons. It wasn't, truly, that the walls of Hogwarts were scary... but the people there had no good feelings for him, and weren't really the type to stay neutral. Worse, he knew he shouldn't be doing this. Knew that it was going to upset Snape, who was pretty clearly telling Harry that they weren't chums. Harry let out a soft snort at the very thought.

But he couldn't just not go, even though he could hear Snape suggesting it in his mind. Hermione was his friend, and if any harm, any ill-intent, was likely to happen to her, Harry wanted to be there to stop it. That was just what friends did. Problem was, Harry wasn't certain Snape would consider that valid, let alone passable as an explanation. He might not even understand the thought, as anything more than pure, groundless emotion. And... that thought was scary. Scarier than Snape at his maddest, which had still never meant Harry had to fear for a belt, after all (and, seeing as he never had been expelled, perhaps, just perhaps, he had misread some of that. Scratch that, he was twelve, of course he'd misread it. Maybe... maybe that'd been the point. Better not to ask that question, Harry reassured himself doubtfully.)

His mind returned to Snape not understanding the concept of wanting to look out for someone else. Of watching someone else's back, with the expectation that they'd be there to watch yours, in turn. Harry nodded, slowly, thinking, hoping, that Snape would at least understand that. Sometimes, Harry reflected bleakly, the man seemed inhuman.

His mind turned back to something that Snape had said - something about having a friend from Gryffindor. Snape sometimes seemed so Slytherin that Harry wondered how often his friend had wound up being throttled for something completely impulsive and irrational. Maybe a lot.

And then they were there, Harry swallowing on a suddenly dry throat, and Hermione looking her cheerful self - so much so that Harry wanted to hiss at her to look at least a little bit scared - it was Snape they were speaking to, after all. Snape-who-hates-Gryffindors, and doesn't see them at office hours. Harry wanted to wince, he knew this was going to be awful. Pretend, but he hadn't told Hermione that. Wasn't sure he should, either. Wasn't his secret.

"Enter." Snape's melodious voice said, and Hermione Granger opened the door. Snape looked up at them, and Harry blinked. Snape wasn't, as was his custom, in his normal teacher's robes - or even in his shirt-sleeves. No, he was wearing the ones he'd worn to the Yule Ball (at the time, Harry'd not noticed anything was different. They were black, after all. But this was a black that had darkly shiny stripes across the arms, cut just a bit more formally, tighter in places and loser in others).

Hermione came in first, and Harry followed, both of them standing nearly at the door.

Snape said quickly, "Shut the door." and Hermione complied.

The floo in the side of his office roared into life, smoke piling out, and Dumbledore's voice rang out, "Severus, if you have a moment, I believe we should talk."

"Always, Albus." Snape said, in put upon tones that ended with a long sigh. "Bear with me a moment while I finish sorting the students. It is office hours, you know."

Albus Dumbledore's voice rang out, in cheery tones, "Is this the first time you've had students in your office this year? Don't they generally wait until after?"

Snape sighed, stood, and, facing the floo, said flatly, "Your mirth is entirely unwarranted, and unsuccessful to boot. I shall be a moment." Snape's hand landed on the floo's mantle with a crack, and the audio opening closed with a flash.

Smugly smirking, Snape turned and faced the two Gryffindors, "And that would be the Ravenclaws. Right. On. Time." Snape nodded curtly at both of them, "Touch nothing, remain until I return."

Snape took a pinch of the floo powder, and said "Dumbledore's Office," before he stepped into the floo.

"Ah, there you are. Everything's sorted I trust?" Dumbledore said.

Harry and Hermione exchanged a glance at this. The floo was still open, somehow. Harry could hear Hermione's thought: Snape had said they were to stay here... but he couldn't have wanted them to eavesdrop, could he? We should tell someone, or somehow not listen. Harry, however, was freed of such elementary thoughts, though they sounded suspiciously like what he'd have said last year. Now, Harry realized that Snape indeed wanted them to eavesdrop. And so Harry gave an impish grin to Hermione, and walked forward, careful to keep far enough away from the floo to not get trampled, should there be some sort of unexpected mass exodus.

Hermione started to say, "Oh, we shouldn't-" as she approached and grabbed Harry by the shoulder. Her words were cut off as Professor Flitwick began to speak.

[a/n: Well, did you guess that would happen? What is Snape up to? Why is he letting them eavesdrop, of all things?

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