Third week dawned darkly, the sky consumed in clouds that reeked of gloom - the threat of rain everpresent; the air stank of plants opening for their morning drink. Potter was up early, bending and stretching - hard-earned lessons for the keen of eye (he had caught Snape stretching before a run, and decided that it was better to Not waste his time.).
Snape seemed to stand up like an umbrella unfolding - one moment coiled in a ball under his cloak, the next - on his feet. Potter straightened into a rough semblance of parade rest, and watched his teacher carefully. "I think it's about time we dispensed with the preliminaries, don't you, Potter?"
Potter eyed Snape warily - the bastard had a way with words, making even the simplest of request sound dire and dangerous... - and this was far from just a simple request. Luckily, Snape didn't seem to mind Potter considering his words for a moment. "I do not know, sir. You're the teacher, I'll follow your lead." To tell the truth, after weeks of grueling physical activity, Harry was rather looking forward to anything else.
"James Potter was a fool from the moment I met him, to the moment I last laid eyes on him - and I hardly think he changed in the few weeks before he died. He was a brave fool, surely. See that you don't follow in his footsteps, or they'll be calling you martyr, not hero." Snape's voice was bloody hypnotic, Harry thought, listening to it like a cat on the prowl, brushing against him, and then slashing with sharp claws. His voice had turned cruel at the word martyr, and it was positively scathing at the word hero. Harry found his fists, for the first time in ages, curling into balls. Not because of the assessment, but because he was sick and tired of hearing about his father. Harry got it - his father had been a right nasty piece of work towards Snape, who undoubtedly had been just as unpleasant as he was now back then. A subtle thought threaded through his anger, If he truly thought you were arrogant, he wouldn't be warning you at all.
Snape's voice turned firm, almost hinting at demanding, "Your mother, on the other hand... She was a talented witch, deft with a wand. Not even the Dark Lord would dare to say that she wasn't competent. I'll certainly not be the first." Potter's hands had gone flat against his sides, the shock neatly squelching the anger. Nobody ever talks about my mother... Potter thought.
Snape's next words broke Harry's train of thought, "If you have half her talent - and Lupin says you're decent enough - you might make it through a battle or two." Right, back to business then. Harry thought contemplatively.
"Tell me the difference between a battle and a duel, Potter."
"Yes, sir. A duel is an organized sport between two wizards, a competition if you will. A battle is a disorganized mess best dealt with by killing as many opponents as you can."
"Well done. How many ways can you kill a person, Potter?"
Harry began to list spell after spell, at last running dry, his answers coming in drips and drabs. Snape whipped out his wand, casting the tickling curse at Harry, whose serious face broke out in the first smile he'd had in weeks (other than the fake ones for Dumbledore - not that this one wasn't faked as well). As Potter struggled to stay upright, Snape leaped into action, punching him in the gut, and then on the shoulder, and then aiming one for the groin - that Potter managed to whirl slightly away from (the blow landing on his leg). Snape stepped back abruptly, and Potter swayed on his feet at the loss of the hail of blows (it had been helping keep him upright). "Have I made my point?"
"Yes sir." Harry said, relaxing into parade rest stance, which he shortly discovered made it very difficult to get to your wand.
"No mercy, Potter" Snape said, with a grin three shades too menacing to be properly gleeful.
"Same to you sir." Potter sent back, his grin quite a bit more genuine, as hexes filled the air.
[a/n: no, snape doesn't fight fair. battles aren't fair in the first place, he's not going to coddle Harry Potter, of all people.
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