Nobody ever asked my birthday

Chapter 75

Harry Potter calmly finished his marmalade toast, blocking out everyone as he chewed. Around him, whispers, bets and other noise faded into black. He didn't really care, after all. And this? This was an excuse to fly. Harry Potter frowned, slightly, as he realized that he wasn't sure if he was still banned from Quiddich, now that Umbridge was gone.

Well, surely this didn't count, did it? Hoops, and two people flying - more of an obstacle course, really. Harry suddenly hoped Snape didn't show up to rain on everyone's parade, that black scowl of his radiating anger. Harry leaned back, a smirk on his face - nah, Snape wouldn't do that, not with Draco playing around. Harry could almost hear Snape's voice in his head, saying "goofing off", but that had to be his imagination, because the idea of Snape using that word was patently ridiculous.

When Harry Potter stood, most of the hall did as well (including a few of the Professors - luckily, Snape wasn't included in that contingent.)

Arriving at the pitch, and stepping towards the shed to grab his broom, Harry wasn't at all surprised to see Draco Malfoy already there, every hair perfect (as always), and waiting for him. Gin Weasley was also there, idly twirling the hoops. Instead of the three he had expected, she had to have grabbed every single hoop that they had. They were just big enough for a skilled flyer to fly through, if one was small and agile.

Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter stood beside their brooms, as Gin announced the rules, "You each get one chance per ring. I'll throw each one up twice. Potter's first, as challenged - for the first ring. After that, you alternate. Winner is the person who doesn't miss one." Gin looked a little more uncertain, "What are the stakes?"

"Honor." Draco Malfoy said crisply, his eyes gleaming a challenge at Harry. Harry idly wondered what it meant that Malfoy had abandoned his characteristic drawl.

They took off, the wind biting and crisp in the autumn air. The first three ringtosses were easy, as if Gin Weasley was getting the feel of both participants. Or maybe she just didn't want either of them to look ridiculous failing on the first try. People cheered, and Harry counted - it seemed as if the Gryffindors were cheering for him, en masse - and the Slytherins were... doing their equivalent of cheering, which sounded more like jeers to Harry's ears. Apparently they wanted Malfoy to finish Harry off quickly, and stop playing with him.

How Malfoy was supposed to do this, when there was absolutely no interaction between them in the challenges... Harry shook his head, and dove for the next ring. This one came up with a bit of a wobble, and he hit one shoulder into the ring, which shivered as he flew through.

Draco Malfoy had watched with his characteristic sharp expression (congenital, that), and had caught that ring quickly, sliding through without a trace. "Do I win yet, Weaselette?"

Gin looked up, hollering, "No, you prat, Harry made it through fair and square."

"Not so fair, when he hit the edge." Draco Malfoy said.

"Leave off, I'm the referee, and I say he's good." Gin said, and Harry was glad that she was playing her part perfectly. Not that that was hard, she couldn't stand the blond ferret.

It was two more rings, each of increasing difficulty, before Gin sent up a ring spinning like a sphere. Harry dove for it, closing his eyes, and managed to hit the damn thing with his head - him and the ring diving towards the ground. He pulled up with difficulty, but the ring was already on the ground. Harry closed his eyes. It had been a fair challenge. He didn't mind losing, but he did find some annoyance at losing to Malfoy, who undoubtedly wouldn't just let it go.

Now Draco Malfoy just had to catch the ring, which was looking tricky. Harry, on the ground, looked up along with Gin, as she let the spinning sphere of a ring go. Malfoy waited until the ring was at its apex before diving, catching it just as it slowed. He was dead on center, but it was still spinning too fast, and Malfoy was stunned by the impact of the ring into his neck. Looking like he must be seeing double, Draco Malfoy slid lower in the sky, and then dropped to the ground, clearly thinking the ground was about a foot higher than it actually was.

Malfoy scrambled to his feet before Harry Potter could reach him, looking daggers at him.

"Draw!" Gin hollered out. "Good game, boys."

Simultaneously, two infuriated boys were glaring at her. "What do you mean?" they both demanded. As the fracas looked to turn into some hairpulling, or something, most of the bystanders were leaning forward in excitement.

Hermione leapt onto the field, projecting her voice, "Alright, aerial show's over. Clear out."

With a lot of grumbling, the stands began to empty (the teachers keeping a discrete eye on the participants, who still looked outraged.)

Malfoy and Potter kept up a line of accusations, invoking past history, each claiming the other had somehow cheated. Making a lot of smoke, and little fire, as the stands emptied out.

"Shake on it, sports. Tell each other good game." Gin's still amplified voice boomed out. Hermione stood opposite Gin, with her hands on her hips, and an itchy wand in her hand.

Malfoy held out his hand, and Harry gripped it - by his forearm, which Malfoy returned with enough strength to bruise. "Good Game." they both growled at each other, making it into more a statement of "I'm going to get you" than anything peaceful.

"Time for a shower," Harry said, as he headed towards one of the locker rooms under the Quiddich grounds. Malfoy did likewise, facing directly away from him as he did so. Harry dimly noticed his friends following him, as he was trying to act upset - and was desperately hoping he was doing a decent job. He didn't even know if Malfoy was coming, he thought wryly. Still, if he wasn't, they had still managed a damnable fine distraction. The teachers stood to leave, as Potter and his friends ducked under the bleachers.

Well over a hundred students waited for them, reds and golds, yellows, a scattering of blues - and greens. Harry Potter deliberately put on a scowl, looking at the Slytherins suspiciously. "What're they doing here?" Harry Potter growled, giving Hermione a raised-eyebrow, slightly bulging eye look when she eyed him sharply - it said 'go along with it.'

[a/n: I'll probably post another chapter later today. I really want to finish the setup soon! This whole month writing and they're still in the first week of school. I am Impatient.

Snape has taken the weekend off from being in the story. He does get 'time away from brats', occasionally (He's actually brewing).

Responses to guest commenters (everyone else gets a PM):

NeverendingFire: "Ummm... Snape is an ass... GOod job for spinning Dumbledore's job to make sure Harry who was treated like a effing slave at the Dursleys now be trained as a special soldier just because Harry trusts him... Sick and twisted..."

Of course Snape's an ass. That's just who he is. Harry's being trained to be a human bomb, that may or may not survive any given battle. Snape would say, "Use the pieces you have, as best you can. That's the only way to win a war."

NeverendingFire: "So. now Snape is able to make an angel out of the murderer of Sirie... Fml"

Avenging Angel, maybe. Snape's always had a thing for strong women. Snape admired her... years ago. He'd be the first to tell anyone, that she's completely around the bend crazy now.

WTF: "You do realize that Harry still hated Snape up until he found out Snape begged for forgiveness and loved his mother... Ugh this is giving me a headache now that Harry sees Snape as a replacement for Sirius... Ugh"

Yes, in the books. This is an Alternate Universe, and certain people are very different than you'd expect (not so much Harry, who's our narrator). Harry Potter in the books didn't understand Snape, and that was a large part of why he couldn't trust him. Here - he's seen enough to be... cautiously fascinated.

I'm not sure anyone, anywhere, could see Snape as a replacement for Sirius. Sirius acted like Potter's big brother, there with a laugh and a joke most of the time. Snape's... not anywhere near brotherly. Snape may be someone that Potter can rely on, to a point. But Snape's been clear about his aims, and they aren't "Take care of Potter."

Tara: "[...]Kind of annoying that the title is so melodramatic and harry is such a pushover trying to please Snape so hard... Even more so when he thinks Snape is leaving him clues... Also why is this Hermione /weasley bashing... Ughhhh include some warning next time if if Harry is going to feel like a guilty Sissy even after Snape makes him do all the work (crap) without opening up. In reality, if Harry's friend weren't being trained and he was identified as a lesser target than squib Neville then he'd be happy being normal..."

The title is meant to be read in Eeyore's voice. Sad, and 'this is the way it is.' Not melodramatic shouting, please.

Snape asks a lot, but Harry's pushing himself mostly for his own sake, and not so much 'to please Snape' (although Snape's approval counts a lot, as it's given so infrequently).

Harry Potter thinks Snape is leaving him clues, because Snape is leaving him clues.

Hermione is acting the way I might have, at her age. She's a bit impulsive and rambuctious, and doesn't particularly want to have her secret project invaded by the likes of Malfoy (and, I might add, Potter hasn't given her any of his reasoning, so there's things We As Audience know that she doesn't.)

As for Weasley? He hasn't even been in the story most of the time...

Snape is opening up. A bit. Glints and glimmers peeking through his mask (though, to be fair, most of this is Harry Potter learning to be More Perceptive - Snape's always been a bonfire hiding behind a shield of dry ice.)

Harry's friends are being trained. Moody took Hermione, and we'll be seeing some of her spells at some point. Snape deliberately picked up Harry as a special project, that's not to say that other Order Members didn't do similar (and Snape shoved the Twins at Lupin - another special project).

There's another aspect to Harry doing what Snape suggests - Harry wants to be treated like an adult, and being given 'missions' by Snape lets him feel like he's doing something. I'm leaving up in the air right now, whether or not Snape is giving Harry 'missions' just to keep him from getting in the way. Harry certainly hasn't thought of that idea, and when he does... he's going to be upset.

The eating of chalk is a tribute to a geology prof, who used to do that a lot.

I'll probably get another chapter out on this story today, I am desperate to get this situated. So many plotthreads, so little time!

Leave a review? It'll help keep me focused on this one, so I don't decide to, say, do an entire month of The Floating World instead...]