~Thunk-shhh…thunk-shhh~

Harry limped down the dark and silent corridor, doing his best to hide his grimace of pain every time he dragged his abused leg. The muscle was still too damaged to afford long intervals of use, and he'd been walking for at least two, possibly three, hours. He sat in a window alcove to give the battered limb a rest.

"Stupid moving staircases," He muttered, rubbing his linen-wrapped calf. He leaned against the wall of the alcove, dragging his leg up to rest properly, and put his forehead to the cool glass of the window. "I'm so tired…" He felt himself start to doze and decided to let it happen. His leg hurt too much to let him really sleep, and usually gave him a smart wake-up every few hours anyway.

The leg was a temporary souvenir of the final fight against Voldemort. Albus had instructed Harry to stay back, but Harry had other ideas when Snakeface started in with the glass. This was his fight, literally, and he knew that with every fiber of his being. In his darker moments he could even admit to having known it before, deep down, without even knowing about the prophecy. So he'd finally managed to do what Snape had tried so hard to teach him. It happened by accident, or at least that's what he told himself. Just all of a sudden, his mind was utterly devoid of thought. He stepped in-between the Headmaster and the shards of glass, then cast the most powerful Protego he could. The sharp instruments had bounced off of it, some of the larger pieces shattering further. That was what had damaged his leg. One of the last pieces hit just as he let his shield fall and had shattered, a piece bouncing off the ministry flagstone and tearing a gash in the side of his calf.

When he hit his knees, the Headmaster had done the only thing he could and cast a basic healing charm on his leg to stem the flow of blood. Voldemort was in Harry's head by that point, being shown all the love Harry could pull from his memories. Apparently, his cleared mind had allowed for a sort of reverse Legilimency, because after the memories of his friends, and Sirius, and everything else, he was pulling forth images of James and Lily staring down at him as a baby. Dumbledore thought the flood of contradicting emotions associated with the memories, namely anger at James, sorrow for the loss of them both, and the unadulterated love of a child was what broke Voldemort's mind. The Dark Lord had been a vegetable by the time the Minister and his entourage had shown up. After some debate, they had used a long-since forgotten curse to block the evil creature's magic entirely, in case he recovered before they found out how to destroy him. All of this was just story to Harry, though. After Voldemort had fallen dumb, Harry had fallen comatose from the blood loss and shock. In his months out of commission Dumbledore had finished off the Wizarding World's big baddy, and they'd discovered that the old coots healing charm had cauterized his muscles while they were still ripped. Harry had awoken when they gave him a potion Snape invented specifically for re-growing muscles. It had hurt like a bastard.

Harry had managed to come out of his coma in time to start his Sixth Year, but the first month of it had been spent in the Hospital Wing doing the theoretical work for his classes while his leg regenerated. He'd taken Snape up on the oddly generous offer to continue Potions, though he wasn't sure why. He definitely didn't want to be an Auror anymore, not since he no longer needed the extra training. Hermione had brought him a spare Potions book from the classroom until he had time to order a new one. That was how he'd discovered the Half-Blood Prince. Hermione had been angry at first, saying it was a form of cheating, and a number of other paranoid things, but Harry had shown the book to McGonagall during one of her visits to the Hospital Wing. The professor had been surprised to see it, said she didn't think the previous owner would've left it lying around, but that in her professional opinion there was nothing wrong with using the notes in the book. That had cooled Hermione down, but McGonagall's warning against some of the spells the Prince invented ("Some of those even the Prince was afraid of after he tested them. I don't think he was always sure what the non-specific Latin would do.") had made Harry rethink his smug look at finally being right. McGonagall had, of course, refused to reveal the original owner of the book, though, and Hermione's research had turned up nothing of use, as there hadn't been anyone named Prince at the school since before the books publishing date. The closest was an Eileen Prince, but she had graduated some 20 years before the book came out brand new.

"Harry," A soft voice whispered, rousing the boy. Harry opened his eyes and winced, unable to see anything behind the spots created by the severe pain in his leg, which had cramped up. "What're you doing in this corridor? It's been in disuse for years." The voice said. Harry thought it sounded familiar, but the whisper made it hard to tell.

"I got lost…the moving staircases…" Harry muttered through clenched teeth.

"I should get you to Madame Pomfrey," The voice said. Harry felt arms start to pick him up.

"No," He said sharply. The arms stopped. "She just released me, if she knew I had pushed myself like this, accident or not, she'd put me back in a bed until my physical therapy is done in six weeks. Please, don't take me back."

A hand rubbed his shoulder in sympathy. Obviously, the voice belonged to someone who had suffered the over-bearing Matron's wrath. After a minute, whoever it was grabbed his hand and put a potion vial in it. "Drink this."

Harry pushed the vial back towards the hand. "I can't take pain relievers, Madame Pomfrey said pain relievers and sleep potions might set back my recovery because of the muscle relaxant in them."

"This one is different, it doesn't relieve the pain, only tricks your mind into thinking it isn't there so the pain can recede naturally. Take it, Harry, I can't carry you when you're tensed-up," The voice instructed.

Giving in, Harry swallowed down the potion, tasting the unmistakable bitterness of aspirin fresh from the bark of a willow tree. He felt suddenly very woozy as the potion started to kick in sooner than most did. "W-what's in that besides aspirin? I feel drowsy, but the pain is gone. How'd it kick in so fast?"

The Voice chuckled. "That's the leaves from a special breed of sentient fern. It allows the potion to work almost immediately, but is only useful in a very small amount of Potions because of the drowsiness it causes. Can you sit up?"

Harry shuddered as his body tried to make sense of the sudden lack of conscious pain, then sat up. His spinning head made him lean back against the glass of the window, and he felt that if he opened his eyes he'd vomit from all the spinning. "You kinda remind me of the Half-Blood Prince," He mumbled. He felt a sudden presence between his splayed legs as the voice grabbed his arms. "S'best I can do, my head's spinning too much to stay upright."

"It'll do, Harry. Lean forward against my back and wrap your arms around my shoulders as best you can." Harry did as he was told and leaned forward, raising his arms to wrap around the Voice's slim but broad shoulders. He gripped his wrist firmly as the Voice wrapped his arms around Harry's thighs. "Hold tight. I can't levitate you without jostling your leg, so I have to carry you."

Harry nodded against the bony shoulder blades of his rescuer and felt his backside leave the stone of the windowsill. He was shifted slightly as the Voice leaned forward. "Are you my Prince?" He asked, half-delirious. He hugged the man's shoulders, gripping his own elbows so he was sure he wouldn't slip. He drifted off before he heard any answer beyond a soft, baritone chuckle that rumbled against his chest.