"What time am I leaving tomorrow?"
Snape looked at his young charge. The boy was reaching across the table for his second chocolate biscuit.
"That is your last one," Snape instructed. "You will be going to bed not long from now and the last thing you need is more sugar in your system."
Harry nodded his agreement. He wanted to tell his guardian that sugar wouldn't keep him awake. At Hogwarts sometimes he and Ron ate several chocolate frogs before bed and he still slept just fine. But he didn't want to start an argument nor did he want to admit to his late night snacking during the school year. He was sure that Snape wouldn't approve at all.
"I will be delivering you to the Leaky Cauldron after lunch," Snape continued answering the question at hand.
"And then you'll leave?" Harry asked despite knowing the answer.
Snape gave a silent nod before sipping his tea.
"You're sure you don't want to stay?" Harry asked. "It'll be loads of fun."
He absolutely hated leaving his guardian alone. It didn't matter how many times Snape reassured him that he liked being alone or that he was busy with other things. Harry was sure that the man was completely lost and lonely when he was gone.
"We have very different definitions of the word fun," Snape mused. "Aside from that I have already explained to you that I need to go to Hogwarts and begin preparations for the new school year. Even if I wanted to go with you I would not have the time to do so." Snape paused for a moment as he fixed his son with a stern look. "My absence however will not affect your ability to behave correct?"
"Correct," Harry nodded before biting into his biscuit. His thoughts wandered without his permission. He was sure that Snape would not approve of shopping for Polyjuice Potion ingredients. He was actually pretty sure that if the man found out he would be in loads of trouble.
Harry eyed his guardian carefully. The past few days Snape had been in a pretty good mood. He had worked with him on a few defensive spells and let him help with a potion. He had barely even scolded him when he and Bane had tracked mud all over the kitchen floor.
Harry couldn't help but think that he could use that good mood to avoid the whole Polyjuice plan altogether.
Snape raised an eyebrow at the boy. He refrained from reprimanding him about how he had just been addressed.
"Remember what you told me about Mr. Malfoy?" Harry asked. He was careful to keep his tone light. He didn't want his guardian to think that he was up to anything.
Harry took note that although his voice was serious, it wasn't cross.
"Do you think he knew what was going to happen at the Quidditch World Cup? I mean he was there. We didn't talk to him but I saw him there with Malfoy."
"If Lucius had any knowledge of what was to take place he certainly did not make me aware," Snape replied.
Once again Harry noted that his voice was not angry in the least.
"If he knew do you think that Malfoy knew too?" Harry asked nonchalantly before taking another bite of his biscuit.
Snape digested this question before swallowing. "As I have told you in the past I am not privy to what information Lucius shares with Draco. I believe if memory serves me correctly, I believe I also told you that I personally think that Lucius has always shared too much with his son. A child should not take on the worries of an adult."
Harry resisted the urge to sigh in frustration. He had been hoping that his guardian would give him some piece of useful information that would get him out of the whole idea of making Polyjuice Potion. He knew that if he just explained to Ron and Hermione that he didn't want to disappoint his guardian that they would understand. He didn't them to think he was a baby though. He didn't want them to know that he cared so much about what Snape thought or felt.
He skidded around the corner to face another long empty hallway. He could hear his heart beating loudly in his ears. The sweat was dripping from his forehead. His stomach was churning in fear.
He ran as quickly as he could. He could hear the snake behind him, picking up speed. He could hear the horrible screeching noise getting louder and louder.
He didn't know where every else was. He had never seen Hogwarts quite as empty as it was now. Even the paintings on the wall where missing all of their normal characters. They were just normal paintings of landscapes and grand empty rooms.
"Snape," he yelled. He was sure that his voice was barely audible. He was nearly out of breath from running. He didn't have the stamina to scream any louder than he had. He ran faster, nearly falling as he turned another corner. "Snape," he hollered once more despite the fact that he was sure that he was the only person in the castle.
He could feel the tears building up in his throat. Hot, angry tears.
"Harry," he heard Snape yell back.
"Snape," he screamed his voice now hoarse. His throat burning like he had swallowed fire.
"Harry," Snape hollered back once more. "Wake up!"
Harry could feel hands on him now, shaking him. He wanted to slap them away but he couldn't find the energy.
"Harry you are dreaming," Snape's voice said once more. Harry could hear the concern in his guardian's tone. "You need to wake up."
Hogwarts started to vanish around him, the sounds of the snake disappearing with the castle.
Suddenly he was in his bed, the sweat still pouring from his body.
"You are burning up," Snape said in a worried voice. His right hand was now pressed firmly but gently against Harry's forehead. "Don't move. I will be right back."
Harry watched as his guardian stood up straight and turned to walk away.
"Don't leave me," Harry whimpered before he could stop himself. He instantly felt like a complete and total prat but he didn't care. He was sure that if Snape walked away he would fall apart completely.
He expected his guardian to scold him for acting so childish. Instead Snape turned back to face him before snapping his fingers once.
In less than a second Minka appeared at his feet.
"Master Snape," she bowed at his feet.
"Minka please go to my supply closet and fetch the vile marked for fevers," Snape said. To anyone else he would have come across as calm but Harry could hear the underlying worry. He could see the deep lines next to the man's eyes. He had obviously been very deeply asleep, woken in sheer panic at hearing his name being screamed. Harry could only imagine how anxious he was even if the rest of the world wouldn't have been able to.
Minka gave Harry a distressed yet sympathetic glance before vanishing once more with a small puff of smoke.
Snape took the one step to Harry's bed and then sat gingerly on the edge.
Harry immediately moved himself over giving his guardian more room. He swallowed hard, willing the tears that had formed during his nightmare to go back to where they had come from. He couldn't bear the thought of crying now.
Once more Snape's right hand reached out, this time gently resting against Harry's cheek.
An anguished expression took over Harry's face causing the worry on Snape's to deepen.
"What is it?" Snape asked in a voice that was full of concern and yet left very little room for argument.
"My scar hurts," Harry answered honestly as his fingers moved up to his forehead without his consent.
If possible, the concern on Snape's face grew ten-fold. "When did this start?"
"Just now," Harry answered honestly. "Or maybe while I was asleep. Not before then though." Harry was silent for a moment. He could feel the sweat pouring off of his body under his thick quilt. His feet started to kick the blanket down, not stopping until all that was covering him was his thin sheet. "What do you think it means?"
The words had hardly left Harry's mouth when Minka appeared once more. She handed the small bottle to Snape before bowing deeply.
"Thank you Minka," Snape said kindly. "That will do for now."
She bowed once more before vanishing.
"Snape," Harry said in a whine.
"I will flavor it," Snape replied as he waved a hand over the vial. "However in return you will not argue with me about taking it," he continued in a no-nonsense voice.
Harry shook his head. "It's not that," he quickly replied not wanting his guardian to think that he was refusing or disagreeing. "My scar just hurts."
"Are you sure it isn't your head that hurts from your fever?" Snape asked as he handed Harry the potion.
Harry sat up and shook his head with a frown. "No, it burns. It feels like it's on fire." Without waiting for his guardian to prompt him he brought the phial to his lips and quickly drank the contents.
Snape took the empty bottle from the boy's hand and placed it on the bedside table. His hand instantly went back to Harry's cheek, pressing gently against it. He knew it was a pointless task, although the potion worked well, it would still take at least thirty minutes for the fever to vanish completely.
"Does your scar still burn?" Snape asked in a gentle voice. If his son's scar was truly prickling with heat he was not sure what it meant but he was positive that it could not be a good sign.
"A little," Harry replied. "Not as bad as it was."
"Was it the same dream that you were having before?"
Harry shook his head before lying back down. His pillow felt cold against his skin and he was appreciative for it.
"For the life of me I will never understand why you can't just answer a question appropriately the first time," Snape replied. Although his words were of annoyance, his voice was gentle. "If it wasn't the same Harry than what was it about?"
"I was at Hogwarts," Harry answered. "But no one else was there, not even the people in the paintings. The Basilisk was chasing me through the castle and no one was there to help me."
"You were calling me for help?"
"Mmhmm," Harry hummed softly.
"How is your scar?" Snape asked as his hand reached out and once more rested on Harry's cheek. He seemed a bit cooler than he had only moments ago.
"It doesn't hurt anymore," Harry replied through a yawn. He hoped that Snape believed him that it had. He didn't want to seem like some lunatic that woke up screaming and complaining about a pain he didn't really have.
"I will have to do some research," Snape said softly. "Discover what it means."
"How can you research it when no one else has a scar like mine?" Harry asked with another yawn.
"A valid point."
"We will discuss it more tomorrow," Snape promised as his hand reached out and checked his son's forehead once more. He was convinced now that Harry's fever was breaking at a rapid pace. "It is nearly three in the morning. You need to go back to sleep."
Harry wanted to ask his guardian to stay with him until he fell asleep but he suddenly felt like doing so was far too immature.
"Go on then. Close your eyes and try to sleep. I will stay here until you do."
Harry gave the man a soft smile before doing as he was told and shutting his eyes. Sometimes his guardian being able to read his feelings so clearly wasn't such a bad thing after all.
"Burning you say?"
Snape nodded. The sun was just coming up outside and he had already been awake for hours. "He said it felt as though it was burning, yes."
"Interesting," Albus mused.
"Indeed though with the Dark Lord gone I can't help but wonder what it could mean."
"Well as you said, Harry did have a fever. It could have simply been a side effect from that."
"And if it wasn't?" Snape questioned in a low voice. He had a horrible gut feeling that the two were not related in any way.
"Did you consider taking him to St. Mungo's?" Albus asked causing Snape to snort in response.
"Oh they would love to get their hands on him wouldn't they? Especially if I brought him in for something pertaining to his famous scar. Outside help will be the last resort."
"A reasonable response," Albus agreed. "Forgive me but I did not think of it from that point of view. You are absolutely right. He would likely be kept for weeks for various testing."
Snape raised an eyebrow. It was uncommon for Albus to agree so easily when it came to Harry's care.
"I would keep a close eye on Harry. Make sure that the nightmare is not a reoccurrence," Albus suggested.
Snape resisted the urge to answer rudely. Of course he intended to keep a careful watch over his son. He would have liked to remind the Headmaster that he had done a better job of keeping a close watch than anyone else had.
"Unfortunately I must be getting back to Hogwarts," Albus continued as he stood. "I have a meeting later this morning with the Headmasters from the schools which Hogwarts will be welcoming for the Triwizard Tournament that I must prepare for."
Again Snape bit his tongue. He had made his own feelings about the blasted tournament well known several times now. He didn't see how doing so one more would make any difference at all.
"Give Harry my best," Albus smiled warmly before showing himself to the front door.
"You said that I could!" Harry exclaimed in a frustrated voice.
"That was before last night," Snape tried to explain calmly. "I think it is best that you stay home until tomorrow. Your body needs time to rest after fighting off such a high temperature."
"I feel fine," Harry argued loudly causing Bane to jump up from his spot under the table. The dog vacated the room without looking back.
"Not only did you have a fever but you said that you scar hurt. You should be thankful that I am letting you go at all."
"Why should I be punished because it hurt?" Harry practically whined. "It's not my fault that it did."
"It is hardly punishment. As I just said and have been saying you will meet up with your friends tomorrow granted that you are still well." Snape was trying hard to keep his patience. He knew that Harry hadn't had the best night's sleep. He also knew that his disappointment about missing out on a day with his friends was very real. Still, he was having a hard time ignoring the whining and cheekiness.
"You aren't being fair!" Harry declared.
Snape raised a stern eyebrow. "Given the circumstances I happen to think that I am being more than reasonable."
Harry rolled his eyes. It took every ounce of self-control he had to restrain from telling his guardian to sod off.
Snape gave his child an exceptionally stern glare. "If you cannot behave appropriately you do not have to go with your friends tomorrow either."
"I didn't say anything," Harry scowled. He could not believe how unfair Snape was being. The man had cured his fever almost instantly and he had been fine ever since.
"Your actions are speaking much louder than your words young man."
It was a warning.
One that Harry heard loud and clear. Unfortunately he did not care.
"But I feel fine," Harry tried once more. "Better than fine actually. Like I never even had a fever last night."
Snape pinched the bridge of his nose and silence enveloped the room.
A moment later his hand dropped before he answered in a low, serious voice. "I will not continue to argue with you about this. Either you will stop pestering me or you will go to your room. Either way you will not be joining your friends until tomorrow at the earliest."
"Fine," Harry replied haughtily as he stood up. He had hardly touched his breakfast and the smell of it was causing his stomach to grumble. "I'm going to my room."
Snape resisted the urge to stand up himself and deliver a well-deserved smack to the child's jean clad backside.
"Suit yourself," Snape forced himself to remain stern yet calm.
Harry slammed his bedroom door and then quickly came to his senses and grabbed ahold of the door before it actually made contact with the doorframe. Instead he gently shut the door and opted for kicking his bedframe angrily.
Harry was sure that he had never felt quite so mixed up in his whole life. Half of him wanted to take his cloak and join his friends whether Snape liked it or not and the other half of him wanted to apologize to his guardian for being such an enormous prat.
He knew that Snape was only trying to protect him. He also knew that he had woken the man up in the middle of the night and likely worried him a great deal.
Still, he couldn't help but feel annoyed at the idea of being made to miss the first day with his friends. He was sure that Ron and Hermione would have some sort of incredible adventure that he would completely miss out on.
He tried to force himself to focus on the idea that Snape was the one in the wrong.
Harry held his breath as his plate from breakfast appeared on his bedside table, steam still rising from it.
His two front teeth bit down on his bottom lip. The verdict was in, he was an enormous prat.