A/N - In answer to a challenge by chrmisha - Somewhere in the story, Severus Snape hugs/holds Harry Potter (NOT slash). You decide what events lead to this and why he's holding Harry (out of compassion? a bomb's exploded? they are apparating together? etc.). Snape MUST remain true to canon in personality (or, if he changes, the change and cause for it must be clearly shown in the story, and still he can't change into another person entirely). Also, the phrase "unto thou a virgin is borne" must appear somewhere in the story in whatever guise you choose. Lastly, another character from the HP world must make an appearance, preferably in a humorous sort of way.
"Beware! Dark forces are gathering. Your doom is upon you! The end is nigh!"
Harry Potter barely resisted the urge to snort as the Divination fraud – uh, Divination Professor – gripped him tightly by the shoulders, her magnified eyes blinking myopically at him through her thick glasses. Of course the dark forces were gathering – even ignoring Voldemort's return, he was currently late for a, ah, meeting with Snape.
"Really, Professor, that's nice, but I really have to go now—" he started, but Sybil Trelawney ignored him, pressing her face even closer to his. Harry moved his head back as much as he could. The fumes from the sherry she'd been drinking were overwhelming enough to get him drunk, never mind her!
"The sky will fall," she said, shakily, her voice gone raspy and deep as it had at the end of Harry's third year. Blimey, she thinks she's Chicken Little, Harry thought, wildly. "The sky will fall due to the half-breed's brother. The hidden protector will hide in the light."
"Really, Sybil, what nonsense are you spouting now?" a voice interrupted her.
Trelawney looked around, her mouth opening and closing soundlessly. Obviously she wasn't used to being interrupted when she was prophesising.
Harry, on the other hand, was delighted, even if it was Snape who'd rescued him. He managed to pull one shoulder away from Trelawney's grip, but her other hand tightened even more until he was afraid she'd draw blood.
"Professor Snape, I was just on my way . . ." he started, and gestured at Trelawney to explain why he'd been delayed.
"Trying to get your fortune told, Potter?" Snape sneered at him. "Worried your little fan club will disappear?"
Harry changed his mind. He'd rather be trapped here listening to Trelawney than get rescued by Snape.
"Oh, Severus, Mr Potter is in such danger," Trelawney warbled, reaching out with her other hand towards Snape, who took a step backwards to evade her clutch.
"Oh, yes, he's definitely in danger," the Potions Master purred, glaring at Harry. "He's late for our . . . meeting."
Harry opened his mouth, about to protest again, then realised just how futile that would be and closed his mouth again, resigned that he was going to lose points somehow for this.
"No, the dark forces are gathering!" Trelawney shrieked. "They are coming for him! We must protect him!" And with that, she shoved Harry towards Snape. Yelping, Harry frantically wind-milled his arms, trying to stay upright and not land on Snape. Not only would that not be comfortable – after all, Snape didn't have much padding – but even if he was saved, Snape would kill him immediately afterwards for daring to land on him.
"Sybil!" Snape barked at her. "Get ahold of yourself, woman! Just how much of that sherry did you have?"
Trelawney wasn't listening to him. Wailing, she covered her face with her hands. If she was actually saying something, Harry couldn't tell what it was. With an exasperated oath, and looking as though he was rapidly losing whatever scrap of patience he may have had, Snape strode forward and attempted to steer Trelawney towards her chambers. As soon as his hands touched her, however, Trelawney let out a high, keening screech and began batting wildly at him.
"Merlin scorch it, Sybil, stop that!" Snape growled. Harry wondered just how long it would take before Snape gave up and hexed her.
With an abruptness that was breath-taking, all the light in the tower disappeared. The three of them froze. Something appeared to be blocking the windows dotted up and down the tower stairwell. Snape was slowly removing one hand from Trelawney's arm and was reaching for his wand. Trelawney's eyes were wide with fear, and her mouth trembled. Harry dearly hoped she wouldn't start screaming again. If there was something out there, he did not want to draw its attention.
There was a muffled thud from outside, and the whole tower shook. Even Harry couldn't keep quiet this time, as he stumbled. Snape had thrown his arms out for balance, while Trelawney hugged the closest wall, her eyes screwed tightly shut. "—going to die. All going to die. We're all going to die!" Her voice rose from a barely-there whisper to a full-out scream.
As the tower slowly settled, dust falling around them in a choking cloud, there was a sharp smack! Snape had evidently had enough of Trelawney's hysterics – the red palm-print on her ashen cheek showed where Snape had slapped her.
"P-p-professor?" Harry stammered, looking at Snape.
Snape cast a sharp glance at him. "Any injuries, Potter?"
"No, sir." Harry shook his head, then peered at the nearest window, although he could still see nothing out of it. "What was that?"
"Nothing good," Snape muttered, but before he could say anything more, there was an ominous grinding noise from above them, and the tower started to shake again.
This time, though, it didn't stop.
The dust cloud that hadn't had a chance to settle rapidly thickened, until Harry could barely see his own hand in front of him. When something painfully bounced off the top of his head, he realised it wasn't just dust that was falling. Small pebbles were coming down like hail. Trelawney gave a squawk of pain as an even bigger rock landed on her foot.
"Sybil, move!" Snape shouted, suddenly appearing beside Harry. "The tower's collapsing!"
Snape had just placed his hand on Harry's shoulder to hurry him along when there was a loud creaking, which rapidly rose to a crescendo of screeching rock as it shifted and finally tore apart. With an almighty crash, everything suddenly seemed to get simultaneously brighter and darker as several tons of castle wall came hurtling down the stairwell towards them.
Harry found himself huddled on the floor, surrounded by black cloth and hardly able to breathe due to the sudden weight on top of him. The world was full of a rushing sound that reminded Harry of the waterfalls he'd seen on TV whenever the Dursleys had flicked past a nature programme.
Abruptly, everything went black, and still, and quiet.
It seemed to take forever before everything stopped shifting. Harry wriggled a bit, trying to move the weight from atop him. The weight briefly stirred on its own, then there was a hacking cough. "Potter," Snape wheezed, his voice muffled through the ringing in Harry's ears. "Are you injured?"
"No, Professor," Harry said.
"Sybil?" Snape called. There was no response. "Sybil! Are you hurt?" After a while, there came a faint groan. Trelawney was at the very least alive.
"Professor, what happened?" Harry asked.
"I have no idea," Snape informed him, sounding pained by the very thought. "Unfortunately, Potter, we appear to be covered by several tonnes of castle wall, and I'm unable to move. We shall have to wait until someone comes along and digs us out. When will someone be expecting you?"
"Not for several hours," said Harry unhappily. "Ron and Hermione knew I was supposed to be, ah, meeting with you."
"And likewise no one will be looking for me for the same reason," Snape sighed. He shifted infinitesimally, and let out a loud, pained gasp before going still again. "We'd better hope that someone notices a tower has collapsed fairly quickly, Potter, otherwise we could be here for a very long time."
Considering the fact that everyone had scattered after their Divination lesson – the last class of the day – and no one went near Trelawney's tower outside of classes if they could help it, then Harry imagined they could be there for quite some time before anyone realised that Harry hadn't returned to the dorms, or that Snape was missing. And then they'd have to start a search . . .
So basically, if I'm not comfortable then I'm stuffed for the next few hours, Harry thought, gloomily.
Five seconds later, he really wished he hadn't thought that. He hadn't fully realised, but he was hunched over with Snape's weight draped over him like a lead blanket. His leg muscles were already beginning to let him know they didn't appreciate it. He couldn't stretch out, or shift position much to get the blood flowing again.
His only consolation was that Snape had it worse – not only was he in the same predicament, he was covered with rocks and injured as well.
"This might be a good time to discuss how much you've been practising as I told you to," Snape commented. He sounded slightly breathless. Harry hoped he hadn't punctured a lung or anything.
"Uhhh . . ." he said in response.
Snape sighed, and muttered something that Harry didn't try too hard to overhear. "Fine," he grumbled, finally. "We'll start from the beginning again. Merlin knows we have time. The first step is clearing your mind. I know that may be a stretch for you, Potter, but—"
"Well, if you'd just tell me how," Harry interrupted, heatedly.
"You clear. Your. Mind, Potter," Snape tutted, and Harry had the impression that he was rolling his eyes. "That means any excessive emotions should be placed somewhere where they can't affect you at that moment. Whatever is necessary to shut them out."
"Like this space?" asked Harry, finally beginning to see what Snape was on about. "All the anger and stuff is left outside?"
"One point to Gryffindor," said Snape, his tone snide. "Yes, that is precisely what I mean."
With a bit – oh, who was he kidding? A LOT – of practise and effort, Harry finally managed to imagine himself in his own little rocky cocoon. He found he could make the space bigger or smaller if he needed to, and he actually managed to keep Snape out for a whole five seconds, before Snape just casually 'walked' through the wall. It was a bit depressing that Snape had defeated his barrier so easily, but Harry cheered himself with the thought that it was only his first attempt. He would get better.
What could have been seconds or minutes or hours later, the mental Snape, having just walked through Harry's barrier for the thirtieth time, suddenly stopped moving and tilted his head, listening to something that Harry couldn't hear.
"Well, it's about time, Albus!" he said, and then abruptly vanished.
Startled, Harry looked wildly around his sanctuary, before realising that Snape must have heard something out in the real world. Blinking his eyes open, for a moment, Harry felt horribly claustrophobic. His inner "cave" was much bigger than their real prison.
Concentrating, Harry could hear about hear faint voices yelling. They sounded like they were miles away. How on earth had Snape heard them?
If he'd been able, Harry would have kicked himself. Professor Dumbledore used Legilimency – duh!
"Not much longer, Potter," Snape managed to get out through wheezes. Faint tremors were running through his body. Harry seriously hoped that Snape wasn't going to die on top of him.
"Are you alright, Professor?" he asked, then cringed. He really should have thought to ask that sooner, not that he could have done anything about it.
"Never better," Snape gasped, before descending into a coughing fit.
"Severus!" The Headmaster's voice was suddenly much louder. "Harry? Are you there, my boys?"
"We're here, sir!" Harry called. "I think Professor Snape's really hurt!"
"Just a few more moments, my boy, and we'll have you out of there," Dumbledore promised.
"Sybil," Snape got out. When Dumbledore didn't appear to have heard him, Snape coughed and tried again. "Did you find Sybil?"
"Yes, we have her," he was assured. "Just a few cuts and bruises, nothing too serious." If she hadn't been injured, Harry thought ungraciously, then why didn't she try to dig US out?
The rocks around them suddenly trembled, and then shot into the air. Harry blinked at the sudden influx of blinding light, and squinted at the crowd standing around them. The Headmaster smiled down at them, and waved his wand again, removing more of the rocks. Madam Pomfrey was busy conjuring a stretcher, and it wasn't long before Snape was gently levitated away from Harry.
"Professor, what happened?" Harry asked, as Dumbledore gave him a hand getting to his feet.
"Ah, I'm afraid that it was Hagrid's brother's fault," the elderly wizard said. His eyes twinkled at Harry. "He got an itch in the middle of his back, and couldn't reach it any other way."
Harry blinked rapidly as he processed this, while Snape made outraged spluttering noises from where Madam Pomfrey was securing him to the stretcher.
"At least everyone is safe and sound," Dumbledore continued as the crowd made their slow way across the remaining rubble of the tower. He smiled down at Snape. "And I'm glad to see that you protected Harry."
"Nonsense," Snape sniffed, glaring up at the Headmaster. "Potter was just more comfy to land on than the stone floor." And, to the accompaniment of laughter from Dumbledore, he closed his eyes and refused to say another word all the way to the infirmary.
They reached the hospital wing just in time to hear Trelawney's raspy voice.
"Oh, not again," groaned Harry.
"The smart and cunning Lion shall join with the ambitious Snake, and lo, unto them a virgin shall be bourne—"
"Well, really, Sybil," Snape snapped at her, completely exasperated. "I should hope so! I'd be very worried if it wasn't." He gestured imperiously for Pomfrey to move his stretcher, leaving a gaping Sybil Trelawney behind them.
Harry stifled his snickers as he and Snape were directed into neighbouring beds by the hovering medi-witch. He couldn't wait to tell Ron and Hermione about this!