Title: To Dream These Dreams

Author: DragonLight

Rating: PG-13

Genre: Pre-slash, Drama

Pairings: HP/HG, HP/SS (Pre-slash)

Summary: Harry comes to terms with what he has learned about his father and Snape - MAJOR OotP Spoilers

Author's Notes: Part of the Post OotP FQF -- After Class Mailing List -- GROUPS YAHOO COM / GROUP / AFTER _ CLASS Challenges: A3- Harry goes to Snape to talk about his father(James) B2- Snape finally becomes the new DADA professor C2- Snape notices the scar on Harry's hand from his detentions with Umbridge and confronts him about it

Special Thanks to my Beta, Isis.

---

"You're dating Hermione, right?'

Harry opened his eyes at the rush of light. He had had his curtains closed for a reason. So much for getting to sleep at the same time as the rest of his roommates, his mind clearing meditations took at least an hour.

"Shut off the light, Ron!"

More than an hour today if Ron had woken up people when he turned on the lights. A minute later the lights were out again and Ron was sitting on the edge of his bed, obviously still expecting an answer.

"Didn't we go over this already?"

"Just checking that things didn't change overnight again." Harry heard the reprimand in Ron's voice.

"No, Ron, nothing's changed."

"Good." Ron lowered his voice. "Then will you kiss me?"

Harry shot into a sitting position. "What?! I don't think I heard you right, Ron."

"I doubt that Hermione would mind. She understands the gay thing."

"You do realize that you aren't making any sense."

Ron dragged his feet up onto the bed and closed the curtains. "I've been thinking over the last couple of weeks since we had that talk. Maybe I just don't get why two blokes would want to kiss each other. So I figured I'd ask another straight guy to kiss me. And since you're dating Hermione I figure I wouldn't have to worry about you thinking that I'm bent." Ron paused to take a deep breath. "So would you?"

Harry sighed and drew his knees up. He'd do it now. And if he was lucky Ron wouldn't go nutters. "I'm not straight."

Ron drew his eyebrows together. "But you're dating Hermione."

"Yeah. I'm bisexual, Ron. Hermione is a very attractive girl. She's got curves in all the right places and her-"

Ron held up a hand stopping him. "I don't want to know about Hermione's 'curves'." Ron dropped his hand. "So you like blokes too?"

Harry nodded.

"All right. Kiss me."

"For the love of-" Harry stopped and looked at Ron. He looked serious. "Will it get you out of my bed?"

Ron looked like he was about to tell a joke, but thought better of it. He just nodded.

"Fine." Harry leaned forward, pressing his hands down into the duvet. So, here he was, kissing a guy for the first time -- and it was his best friend. Who he didn't like, like that. His life was never normal. He pressed his lips against Ron's, only for a moment before pulling away.

Ron just sat there. And all Harry could think about was that his best friend was going to bolt.

"That was..."

"What?"

"Normal." Ron seemed surprised. "You just don't have tits. And you have a little stubble."

"We told you it was nothing strange."

"So can I tell Hermione I kissed her boyfriend?"

"Get out of my bed, Ron."

---

Harry looked up from the list of questions their professor suggested they go over. "List the twenty main potions that asphodel is an ingredient in." He pushed his eggs around his plate as he waited for Neville to answer. He was never hungry this early in the morning.

After a minute, Neville started to rattle off each potion, pausing periodically to think. Harry was trying to pay attention, but got distracted when Hermione slid her arm around him. There was something about being sixteen with hormones going crazy that made Potions a lot less attention-grabbing.

"I talked to Ron, and he told me a rather interesting tidbit." Her chin was resting on his shoulder and her chest was pressed up against his back.

"Are you mad?" She didn't seem it, but he could never tell. Girls were strange like that.

"No. The prat finally admitted he was wrong."

Harry nodded. He rested one hand on top of Hermione's and returned to listening to Neville.

"You forgot a potion, Longbottom."

Harry could see Neville's Adam's apple bob. "The Travarictim potion?"

"Correct. Ms Granger, do undrape yourself from Mr Potter. That position cannot be conducive to eating."

Hermione's arms slid off of him. "Yes, Professor."

He could feel Snape's eyes on his back for a minute before the sound of shoes moving toward the head table signaled his leaving. Another reason that he never ate too early in the morning. If he hadn't promised Neville that he would help him then he wouldn't have had to deal with the git.

"Morning."

Harry slid closer to Hermione to make room for Ron.

Ron piled some kippers on his plate. "Talked to Charlie last night."

Harry looked at him. "When?"

"After the... you know. Firecalled him. He's always been tolerant of the alternative. Told him about you and about how I finally got what he had been saying for the last few years; that there isn't anything wrong with it and so on. Said he was glad that I didn't turn out to be a prig like Percy." He studiously cut up the food on his plate before reaching for the pumpkin juice. "Is there any tea?"

Harry slid the pot over to him.

"Told me to tell you that if you ever needed to talk to someone that he'd listen. He understands. He's the only one who can."

Harry nodded. "Thanks."

Ron looked up at him. "Don't tell mum though. She doesn't know. I just found out, last night. Said he was glad he felt like he could finally confide in a member of the family."

"I won't. Not my place to tell her." Harry stood up. "I'm going to head to the library, look over this Potions work. Neville, do you want to join me?"

Neville nodded and grabbed his bag. Ron grabbed onto Harry's sleeve, stopping him. "Go ahead, Neville, I'll be right there. What is it, Ron?"

"You woke up screaming last night, mate. No one wanted to say anything."

Harry had nothing to say to that.

"Is it... You-Know-Who?"

Harry shook his head. "No. Just a bad dream."

"Involving your dad?"

Harry narrowed his eyes. "How did you-"

"You were screaming at him not to do something."

Harry repositioned his bag on his shoulder. "Sorry for waking you." He turned, but Ron stopped him again.

"It was the third time this week, Harry. Are you sure you're all right?"

"I'm fine." He headed for the door.

---

"Just one dose."

"No, Potter."

"Why not?"

"Does the word narcotic have any meaning to you?"

Harry ran his fingers through his hair, setting it into further disarray; he sank into the closest chair. He knew it had been a mistake to ask Snape after class. He should have waited until their next Legilimency lesson. "I would just like to sleep without dreaming."

Snape sat up straight in his chair and glared. That had not been the right thing to say. "What dreams?"

"They aren't from Voldemort."

Snape stiffened. "Tell me what they are about, then."

"I told you they aren't from him. Why do I have to tell you?"

"Because I am responsible for your safety, Potter. Because you may not think that these dreams are anything, but they could be."

Harry rubbed at his scar. "You've seen them. At least glimpses of them."

"I've seen a lot of things in your head. What are they about?"

"I can't explain them, it's complicated."

Snape stood. "Tonight, Potter. Nine p.m. in my office. If I find your explanation satisfactory then I will give you a small vial of Dreamless sleep."

Harry nodded before getting up and heading toward the door. Snape's voice stopped him. "Your pass, Potter."

---

"Eat something." Hermione pushed a plate laden with food at him.

He pushed it away. "Not hungry."

"Try to eat anyway." The plate slid back in front of him.

"Lay off, Hermione!"

She just stared at him. Not now. He didn't want to deal with this now. "Fine. Fine. I'll just leave you be then." She turned her back to him.

"Hermione?"

No answer. That wasn't a good sign. "I'm sorry, Hermione. I didn't mean to snap at you. It's just that-"

"You haven't been sleeping." She didn't turn around to face him. "Ron told me." She turned her head slightly and he saw her glaring at him.

Harry bit his lip. "Would you believe that I didn't want to worry you?"

She turned to face him, and Harry wished that she hadn't. Her eyes were flashing in anger, and her hands were fisted at her sides. "We've been friends for over five years, Harry James Potter. I *want* you to worry me!" She stood and left the table.

Ron slid over to take her place. "That, right there, is the problem with girls. They don't make any bloody sense."

Harry looked at him. "I suppose that explains the turnover rate for your relationships."

"Oh yes, how could I have forgotten, you and Hermione had a long lasting love affair that appears to have ended within a month."

"Shut up."

"Will do, mate. Will do."

---

"They're just normal dreams. No long hallways where the door at the end doesn't open. No being stuck in a possessed and deranged snake's mind. Just a common, normal everyday dream, that's slightly disturbing, but not dangerous. You know the type, you're looking at one thing and then suddenly it changes into something else." Harry turned his head away. "Or someone else," he muttered under his breath.

"There's more. You would have told me this much earlier."

Snape wasn't looking at him. That in and of itself was odd; Snape always watched him while he was in his office. Like he didn't trust him not to touch or break something. "Nothing more that should concern you, Professor." Harry wandered around the office; he couldn't sit still. He just wanted Snape to give him that potion so he could leave. He reached out to pick up a box sitting on the table.

"Don't even think about it, Potter." Harry turned. Snape was looking at him, a strange expression on his face. So much for not being watched.

"Will you give me the potion now?"

"I believe that our agreement was the potion for a satisfactory explanation. What you've told me is far from acceptable."

"Damnit, Professor!"

He didn't flinch or twitch or even move. Just stood there with an unreadable, blank expression. "Do you think that such infantile behavior will get you what you want, Potter? Think again."

Harry clenched his fists. He didn't say anything; there was nothing to say. He knew it had been futile to try to get the potion from Snape without telling him about his dreams. And he wouldn't tell him about them. He refused. But he couldn't continue to wake up his roommates either. "Since you won't give me the potion, will you teach me a localized silencing spell, something that will keep sound from escaping a certain area?"

Snape looked at him curiously for a moment before his standard sneer fell into place. "Don't want them to know when you have dreams of your girlfriend?"

"That's not it!"

"Then what is?"

They stared at each other. Neither blinking nor moving. It always seemed to come down to this, as if they were caught in an interminable battle of wills. A battle that Harry knew he was going to lose. "I don't want them to know what my father did to you. Because that's what I dream about, it's what I've dreamt about for most of the year." The words just started tumbling out. "And I could handle it when I would just wake up, when the dreams changed and I was only faced with my cousin. But now, now I have to stand in your place, and be a victim to my father's idea of a prank, and it's everyone that I know surrounding me and laughing at me. And it's everything that I always hated, but I can handle it because it's just a dream." Harry leaned against the wall, his chest heaving as he dragged in lungful after lungful of air.

"Protecting your father's pristine image, Potter?" To Harry's ears, the comeback was half-hearted at best.

"Not bloody likely. He has enough people doing that. People that knew him better than me."

"Then what? Don't tell me that you pity me."

"I don't. If anything, I understand you. And I had hoped that you would help me. The last thing I want is for people to start asking me questions about my dreams. And Ron is, and soon it will be the rest of the boys in the dorm. I have enough problems to deal with without their stupid questions." Harry paused. "Sir." There really was no point. He turned to leave.

"Potter."

"Yes, sir?"

"The charm you're looking for isn't that difficult. It will only take a few minutes to explain it to you." Harry turned. "Whether or not you are actually capable of casting it is still in doubt, however."

---

"That's a bad habit, Harry. I wish you'd stop."

Harry looked up from where he was tracing the scar on the back of his hand. He was becoming rather proficient at it; his left hand was becoming steadier with his quill each time that he did it. "I take it that you're talking to me again?"

Hermione sat down across from him and nodded. "I decided that I missed my friend too much."

Harry set down his quill. "So did I. In fact, I think that I've been missing my friend for over a month."

"Then it's settled. Friends it is. And as your friend I think you need to get that ink off of your hand." She tossed a handkerchief from her pocket.

---

"Another headache, Harry?"

Harry shook his head. He pulled the pumpkin juice towards him. "Just some weird dreams, that's all."

"About your father again?"

He wished. His dreams starring the scene between his father and Snape had finally started to diminish. At least he knew what to expect with those. Now his dreams had taken on a more erotic tone. Last night hadn't been the first time Harry had woken up in the middle of the night with sticky pajamas. It wouldn't be so bad if he knew what he wanted. One night it would be a female, all soft curves and skin that gave into his touch. The next would be sinewy muscle and a flat chest. A larger body wrapped around his. He liked this one better; it made him feel safer.

An odd thought. He had never really felt safe with a person. He felt protected at Hogwarts in general, but associating safety with a person wasn't something that he was used to.

Now if he could only find the person that fit with his dream image. Most of the boys his age weren't tall enough, except for Ron, and he knew Ron wasn't it.

Harry yawned. Maybe he should ask for the Dreamless Sleep Potion from Snape. He doubted that the man wanted him to fall asleep during his Legilimency lessons.

Another odd thing. It hadn't taken him nearly as long to become proficient at casting the Legilimency spell as it had for him to learn to defend against it. Dumbledore still insisted that he go to lessons with Snape, though, he said that that they would help him. Not that he spent much time casting the actual spell; most of the time he would sit and do homework. It was Snape's job to catch him unawares, make sure that he could protect his mind from invasion when he wasn't expecting it. The only fun he had during these lessons was looking for the opportune moment to cast the spell back. It wasn't the flashes of Snape's memories he enjoyed, but the challenge of beating him at his own game.

"Harry?"

He'd think about it later. And he'd add 'get a decent night's sleep' to his list of things to do. "No, Ron. Not about my father."

---

"I do hope that you meditated before passing out on my couch, Potter."

Harry stretched before sitting up and opening his eyes. "No. I was waiting for you to get here. I didn't get much sleep last night, so I thought I would just rest my eyes while I waited. I must have dozed off."

"Not sleeping? That's right. I believe McGonagall was wondering where her boy wonder had disappeared to last night."

"Stop calling me that!"

"*Legilimens!*"

It was second nature to block these attacks. He had gotten used to the feel of Snape in his head, so used to it he could classify his mood by the way he flipped through his memories. It usually felt like fingers flipping through a page of a book, which to Harry seemed highly appropriate. He forced Snape out without a spell or incantation, just his will. He was becoming better.

"That wasn't a girl."

Snape's wand was still pointed at him, and Harry slid to the other side of the couch. "What?"

"Your memory."

Harry closed his eyes and tried to recall what snippet of memory had gotten through. He must have seen when he kissed that fifth year Hufflepuff. It could have been worse. He could have seen the time with Ron.

"Is there a reason it should have been?"

Snape sat at his desk. "Experimenting, Potter?"

"No. I leave that to the confused straight boys that ask me really stupid things. I know what I'm getting myself into." Payback. "*Legilimens!*"

A much younger Lucius Malfoy yelling, a young man dressed in muggle clothing leaning forward as if for a kiss-- The image jerked away.

Snape was glaring at him, without even looking at him, Harry knew that much. The silence pressed in on him and he knew that he had to say something, anything to get those eyes off of him.

"There are never any girls." Maybe that hadn't been the brightest thing he ever said.

"What?"

"Weren't you ever with a girl? I know this spell draws out negative memories, but doesn't everyone have a bungled first kiss that they'd rather not remember. That last was a kiss; at least, it was going to be." Harry paused, pieces started to fall into place. "Are you...?"

"I don't see how that is any of your business." Snape opened a drawer of his desk and pulled out a stack of parchment.

This was too good of an opportunity to pass up. Here was someone that he could ask, that he didn't have to write letters to and wait for a response. That he trusted not to tell anyone, not just because Snape was a trustworthy person -- Harry still had his doubts about that -- but because he wouldn't have any desire to tell anyone. What Harry did was generally beneath the man's notice, unless of course it had to do with getting in trouble. Though he had been quite nasty to Hermione during their ill-begotten relationship. Coincidence.

"Was it hard for you to accept?"

Snape didn't look up from where he was scratching comments down with his quill. "We are not going to talk about this, Potter."

Fine. He would talk and Snape could grade. "I still feel uncomfortable sometimes, looking at someone who's been a friend - or an enemy - and suddenly finding them attractive. I talked to Remus about it, he says it's normal, but I don't know."

"Do be quiet, Potter. Do your schoolwork. I assume that you brought it with you."

Harry sighed and hoisted the bag up next to him and pulled out his potions book, idly flipping through the pages. "Was it weird the first time you thought about a bloke that way, Professor? The first time I realized what I was thinking I had to leave the room."

"I thought I made it clear that we aren't talking about this. I am not your counselor or a friendly ear. I teach you at the Headmaster's order. Now shut your mouth."

Harry looked down at his book. "Sorry. I just wanted to know. There aren't that many people around that share my preference that I can talk to."

"Write Lupin."

"I have, but it takes forever to get a reply, and by then I've either muddled through and bollixed it up, or just plain made a disaster. I guess I'm just trying to say that it's awkward."

Snape put down his quill and finally looked at him. "And this isn't."

Harry shook his head. "This is different. I've been in your head, Professor. So in a way I guess that I'm a lot closer to you than to Remus." Snape raised his eyebrow, and Harry continued. "I understand you better. I did even before we started the Legilimency lessons."

Snape's face returned to his normal impassive stare. "I don't want your understanding or pity," he spat.

"Good, because I'm not offering it. And I don't pity you, but the fact that I understand you is there. I didn't set out to, I just do." He paused. "I'll give you a choice. We can talk about our preference in the same sex or we can discuss just why I understand you."

"Schoolwork."

"Not an option, Professor."

"You will do what I tell you, Potter, or else."

Why wouldn't anyone talk to him? They set him these tasks, things he had to learn, and he did. He worked on it whether or not he wanted to, and he learned to like a Professor that he absolutely detested. Three days a week he came down to these dungeons and did homework and had his mind assaulted without complaint. He was coming to terms with the fact that he had an insane megalomaniac wanting him dead, and that he would eventually have to face him because he - a sixteen year old boy - was the only one who could. All he wanted was to talk to someone who he knew could relate to him, on some marginal level. "Or else what, Professor? You'll deduct House points? You'll have me serve detention with Filch? It's worth it." And to Harry it was.

"And if Gryffindor doesn't win the House Cup?"

"It's just a stupid trophy. It won't be the end of the world."

Snape stood and moved around his desk, closing some of the distance between them. He leaned against the front of it and folded his arms across his chest. Harry braced himself for the set-down he knew was coming.

"Your cousin, has he always been such an unpleasant spawn?"

Harry's jaw dropped, and he stared at Snape curiously. It took him a moment to finally process and answer the question that Snape had set him. "I tend to think so, though my aunt thinks that her little 'Duddikins' is absolutely perfect. She knows nothing about his new hobby of beating up the younger kids in the neighborhood. As for 'Harry hunting', he can't play that since we don't go to the same school. Not that he would try it now, anyways."

"'Harry hunting'?"

"He and his friends used to chase me around the school, if they caught me they'd show how hard they could hit with their fists."

Snape didn't say anything to that. "And the dogs? Did he sic those on you when you'd get away?"

Ripper. He had lots of bad memories of that canine. "No, that's my aunt's dog; she thought that Ripper needed some exercise and sent him to chase me. She used to laugh when I'd have to scramble up the trees to get away."

"And that scar? How did you get it?"

He couldn't be talking about the one on his forehead. Everyone knew about that, especially Snape. He looked at him curiously.

"On your hand."

Maybe Hermione was right and he shouldn't trace it. He doubted that Snape would notice if it hadn't been brought into relief by the green ink he had used today. "I must not tell lies. Umbridge made me write that during detention. She said that I never went to the graveyard and that I made it all up." Harry looked down at the ground. "That Cedric's death was just an accident."

"That does not explain how it ended up on the back of your hand."

Harry thought that school work would have been a much better thing to do. Too late now. "The quill she gave me, when I wrote with it, it cut the words into the back of my hand and used my blood for ink. I had to write it everyday for a week during the first week of classes."

Snape was staring at him; his lips were slack, and Harry had the distinct impression that if Snape had less control of his emotions his mouth would be slightly parted. "And you trace the scar. Why?"

"To remind me that there will always be people who don't believe me, who think that I'm crazy, that Lord Voldemort isn't back. That those people are wrong, and yet can have much more power than me. To remind me that I'm just a kid." Harry turned to his book. "I think that you were right, Professor. Schoolwork is much better than this conversation." He bent his head and looked studiously at the passage he was supposed to read.

Harry could swear that he felt the brush of air as a hand was brought close to his shoulder, as if it was going to rest there, or give it a slight squeeze. When he looked up a minute later, Snape wasn't anywhere near him; he was sitting at his desk writing comments with his quill again.

---

This dream was new. He was sitting in the Common Room talking to Hermione, but it didn't feel like the common room, it felt like a memory of the common room. He grabbed her hand and pulled her up out of her seat, telling her he had to show her something.

They were walking down the corridors, toward Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. Was he brewing more Polyjuice Potion? He couldn't remember, and Hermione kept asking where they were going, and why Ron wasn't with them, and why was he being so quiet. Harry tried to answer her, he did, but his mouth was not cooperating. Instead of answering the questions, he responded that they were almost there.

And then he was opening the Chamber of Secrets, the sibilant sounds slipped off his tongue, causing a shiver to run trough his body. He had a desire to push Hermione away, to tell her to run, but his body wasn't doing what he wanted it to. He held Hermione around the waist and jumped into the pipe. She buried her face in his chest as they skidded down, and Harry thought he should try to comfort her but didn't.

They made it to where all the rocks had fallen blocking their path. For a moment he didn't understand where all of the boulders had come from, but then the memory clicked into place and he started casting Levitating Charms to get them out of the way, goading Hermione into helping him. There was no sense of time for how long it took them to clear a small path, but they made it through and walked into the chamber.

Everything was hazy to Harry, the green light still permeated the area, but the edges of his vision were fuzzy, and the large snake-wrapped pillars faded out. He kept a tight grip on Hermione's arm as they approached the statue of Slytherin. Hermione tried to jerk loose, but Harry would tighten his grip even though he was trying to loosen it. He couldn't understand why his body wasn't listening to him.

And then Harry heard Hermione's voice ringing through his head, demanding that he let her go, that he stop, because he was hurting and scaring her.

But he would never hurt Hermione. He wouldn't. And then he realized what was happening. Voldemort had him, was making him do this. He tried to concentrate, tried to force Voldemort out of his head, like he had done during lessons so many times. He squeezed his eyes shut, knowing that it wouldn't do any good, but maybe if he couldn't see what was going on then he had a chance.

Everything went black.

---

He groaned and rolled over. Someone was lying next to him. He had never gone to bed with anyone before, and the feel of that body was strange, not right. Too cold. Everything was cold, and damp. He opened his eyes, staring up, he couldn't even see the ceiling, but he recognized where he was. The Chamber of Secrets.

His dream.

He shook his head. No. It was a dream, he hadn't brought Hermione down here last night; he couldn't have. But he turned, and when he saw Hermione lying next to him, her face pale, a bruise around her neck he knew that it hadn't just been a dream.

He reached out and touched her arm, it was too cold, and he jerked his hand away. "Come on, Hermione. Wake up! You've got to." His vision was blurring and he could feel the tears stinging his eyes. He blinked them away. He wouldn't cry there was no reason to. Hermione was fine. She had to be. "WAKE UP!" He grabbed her by the shoulder and hauled her up into a sitting position, but her head lolled back.

Harry breathed heavily for a moment before pulling her into his arms, he felt the tears slide down his cheek, but he ignored them and the strands of Hermione's hair that were sticking to his cheek. He rocked her back and forth, hoping that he was wrong. Praying that he hadn't killed her. He wouldn't be able to live with himself if he had killed her. He couldn't.

And then there was a hand resting on his shoulder.

"Mr Potter?"

He squeezed his eyes shut. Blocking out the sound. Someone was trying to pull Hermione away from him, he tightened his grip.

"Mr Potter, let go! We need to get the girl to the hospital wing."

McGonagall, it was McGonagall. Harry's grip loosened and he felt two slightly wrinkled hands prying his loose. He looked up into the concerned eyes of the Transfiguration professor for only a moment before looking away, drawing his legs up to fill the place where Hermione had been.

And then he was alone, because he knew that McGonagall had left with Hermione; that she couldn't bear to look at him. He had almost killed his best friend, he was-

"POTTER!"

A hand was still clasping his shoulder. He shivered, his whole body convulsing before he was pulled into a tight embrace, two strong arms wrapping around him from behind.

"Stop this nonsense immediately. I will not deal with your histrionics."

He dragged in a deep breath, letting go of his legs, and settling his hands on top of the arms wrapped around him. No one had ever held him that tightly, that securely. And he knew only one person that could possibly understand him enough to do so. Well, two. One he had just sent to the hospital wing. Another shiver passed through his body and the arms tightened. He took a deep breath before pushing his way out of the embrace and turned to face Snape.

Because Snape was the only one it could be.

The arms that had been around him fell away, and Harry still on his knees looked at the face of his Defense professor. He couldn't say anything, couldn't think of anything to say. Snape draped a robe around his shoulders and tugged him to his feet. With a slight push he started Harry moving toward the exit of the chamber.

---

A warm cup of tea was pressed into his hands.

"She'll wake up eventually."

Harry held the cup, letting its heat warm him up. "I could have killed her."

"But you didn't. You were able to grasp control at the end."

Harry looked away, he could have done better. It hadn't been enough. He lifted the cup, the sloshing of the liquid onto his hand betraying how deeply he was affected.

"You did well. I'm proud of you."

He couldn't have heard that right. Snape would never say something like that. He didn't deserve it. "How can you be? I failed. I failed in what you've been teaching me."

"If you had failed then you wouldn't have gotten out of that dream, you wouldn't have forced the Dark Lord out of your mind. And Ms Granger would be dead."

"But all that training. I should have done more." He set the cup down and buried his head in his hands. He was not crying. He wasn't.

Then those arms from earlier were wrapped around him again, giving him a strength he didn't feel, a comfort he didn't think he deserved. "Hush. You did all you could, to the best of your abilities. You are a strong wizard, Harry Potter. You'd do well to remember that."

He nodded and buried his head in Snape's chest. Not even Hogwarts was safe anymore. No where was safe, and it felt as if he was falling and there was no place for him to land. And then he felt Snape's lips press a kiss onto the top of his head, and he realized that here he was safe. Within these arms he was protected.

~Fin