A/N: I'm not fully satisfied with this chapter but it is going in the right direction plot-wise so... please forgive it if you aren't happy. Also: beginning sentence fragments with a conjunction is not a grammatical error in this case, I do it for effect (yes, readers have called me up on this before – and if you don't like the effect I don't care). PLEASE enjoy this, if I get positive feedback I will continue to write along these lines, hopefully pumping out longer chapters if I can unclog my blocked writing neurons. PS. I do believe Harry's behaviour has precedent in the books (just in case).

Brief Synopsis: Harry and Snape reluctantly get closer until Harry kidnapped and brought to Voldemort by Bellatrix. Tortured/saved and in magical exhaustion (eg. plot device) ends up in a coma from which he can only be saved by gallavanting around in a magical mind world with Snape where life sucks but their relationship is strangely improved. Now they've been whisked away from this magical world, what will happen to their relationship?

Stubborn: Firmly resolved or determined; resolute.

9 days after April 15th (April 24th 1997)

When Harry woke he was alone. The sun shone brightly into the room, enough to make him turn away and shade his eyes. He hadn't expected the bed to be so cold on the other side. It was as if he had slept alone the whole night. It wasn't until a moment later that he realised where and when he was. This wasn't his fantasy world any more, a safe place for both him and Severus, despite the hidden horrors that world harboured. This was reality and it was cold and apparently lonely. It was Hogwarts, the sun from the dungeon window was manufactured, and he was in Severus' quarters, in Severus' bed. And if Severus wasn't sleeping there, it meant he was avoiding Harry... again...

The week since he had woken had been hard. Every day in the Hospital Wing had been a battle, trying to convince Madam Pomfrey he was fine, after all, there was absolutely nothing wrong with him physically. But Severus didn't visit, he saw Harry a total of two times in the nine days since he'd opened his eyes and groggily taken in the whitewashed surroundings to see Dumbledore. Dumbledore grinning like he'd just consumed twenty lemon sherbets and was suffering from a record sugar high. If only he knew what he'd interrupted, spoiled, ruined, broken – Harry could find a million perfect verbs that could accurately describe what the Headmaster had done.

That mind world, or whatever Severus had called it, was a world where everything was sorted. Severus could be his Hero, waltzing into the Dursley's and freeing him from that hellhole, to take him somewhere where they could be close, where this could be real. Instead, Harry was rudely 'saved' by Dumbledore and brought back to a reality where Severus was Snape again, only rather than call him a hopeless dunderhead, he avoided Harry like the plague. Ron and Hermione told him that he was wrong, that the man had fought desperately to bring him back from the coma. None of that mattered if he couldn't be bothered being civil to Harry once he was lucid.

It was made ten times worse by what they had shared. It was one thing to never have had the intimacy, it was quite another to have it snatched away just when Harry hoped he might be happy. And it was all haunted by Bellatrix Lestrange. Now Harry had to actually sleep, attend classes (finally) and follow a routine that didn't exist in that other world, he also had to face all that had happened. He had nightmares, constant and unceasing dreams about pain and terror. He was ashamed of how he had whimpered and even begged at times to Lestrange. How she had tucked a finger down his pants and crooned "Oh how little Harry Potter has grown up" into his ear, her breath hot against his neck. She'd whispered a burning spell he didn't recognise. The scars still remained, un-healable by magic. They danced across his right side, dipping to his hip and upper thigh. They were red and inflamed even now.

He was released from the Hospital Wing three days after waking up, Pomfrey concluding that there was nothing wrong with him and that he had done his physical healing while sleeping. Harry had lived down in Snape's quarters the following six days. The dungeons seemed twice as scary without the older man. He spared a moment to wonder where Snape was sleeping, if not here, but couldn't bring himself to care about the man's sleeping arrangements. Why should he?

Worse yet, he was pathetically behind in anything school related. He had missed a fair number of days with the whole bonding fiasco and then he was whisked away by his night stalker, Lestrange, killing another month in the process. Having missed some of April and all of March, he threw himself angrily into his studies. Hermione seemed to appreciate his enthusiasm with a little confusion and Malfoy tagged along so Harry could unsuccessfully try to ignore him trying to molest his girlfriend. Then there was Ron, who had become painfully serious in his absence, who didn't need to study because he was already ahead and prepared for exams. He just played chess with his unfortunate challengers in the Common Room, joining his friends in the library only when his opponent's egos forced them to turn him down for a game.

Six days had been enough to convince Harry that Snape wasn't just busy, but actively shutting him out. Potions was a waking nightmare in itself, Harry quickly deciding that if Snape didn't want to talk to him, neither did he want any contact with the professor. So Potions classes were spent with his head down, coming as late as he could without calling attention to himself and making sure he was first out the door. Limited contact and a limited possible damage zone.

"What about what Dumbledore said, before this all happened? You know, about what you and Snape had to do." Ron asked him, shutting Harry's book for him. He gave Ron an exacerbated glare and reopened the book to search for the right page. He was still two chapters behind, didn't Ron realise that?

Harry shrugged. "It's all null and void now, isn't it? Voldemort's already made his move, there's no point. Besides, it's obvious Snape isn't interested."

"If it means anything mate, I'm sorry he's acting like such an ass." Ron offered, sounding sincere but watching something over Harry's shoulder. He didn't bother turning around, he knew it was Hermione and Malfoy doing something they shouldn't in a library.

"It's probably for the best, I can see things more clearly now we're apart." Like that it would never work out, he thought darkly, he might as well top himself now. "Ron, are you jealous of them?"

"Huh?" His friend was startled out of his preoccupation with the couple.

"Hermione and Malfoy. Do you like her?"

"What? No. Not anymore, anyway." Ron sat, his face twisted in what Harry thought was indecision. "It's just – well, you've been busy with Snape and Voldemort and everything, and Hermione has Malfoy now. It's stupid but I feel a bit, well, alone. And it's not your fault, really, I do have other friends. Is it horrible to wish my best friends were single again?" He winced.

"No, it's not. If it helps, for all intents and purposes, I am single."

16 days after April 15th (1st May 1997)

On the sixteenth day he encountered Snape, colliding accidently after classes in the hallway. The area had, as if by magic, been vacated just a millisecond after the collision. Harry briefly thought of simply picking up his things and leaving without a word. He had just decided it was the way to go when Snape broke the silence.

"Harry, I think we need to-"

"Talk?" He interrupted nastily before Snape could finish. "Hardly. I don't think words are required. You're not man enough to fuck me in real life, I get it. Can't get it up, understandable for a wizard your age."

"A wizard my age?" Snape said incredulously, eyes dark with anger. "How dare you?"

"Limited contact, limited damage." He recited. "I think that's what we need right now. I have potions three times a week, that will do." In a imitation of Malfoy, he smirked, hoping it came out right. Harry had gathered his things by this time and brushed past the still stunned professor. It was time he stopped playing by these people's rules. He wasn't going to let himself be hurt anymore, not by Lestrange, not by Snape.

He went to Sirius and Professor Lupin's chambers before dinner. Sirius looked glad to see him, grinning widely as he let him in. He'd agreed to knock and wait after walking in on a scene four days ago that was now burned into his retinas for all eternity. They sat on the couch in front of the fire as Lupin marked DADA essays at his desk.

"Hey, Sirius, I just wanted to apologise for how I've treated you over the past few months. I've been ungrateful and I'm really sorry." He finally broached a topic he'd been worried about for a few days now.

"Whoa, what brought this on? What's past is past, and I'm to understand that the bonding period is an emotional rollercoaster. Trust me, I know." He winked at Harry, who was just confused.

"Really? Because I understand you were just trying to protect me from Snape, I just didn't understand why at the time, but I do now. Wait, what do you mean, I know?"

"Remus and I, well..." He tailed off suggestively.

"You're-? Seriously?"

"Oh yeah. We didn't do anything about it until after, Azkaban, thank Merlin. That could have been a disaster. But yes, we're lifebonded. Soulmates, whatever you call it these days. Remus tactfully reminded me that you'd be confused and you'd need our support. So here I am, supporting you."

The bombshell really took the wind from Harry's sail and he felt a bit deflated. "You never told me."

"We-" Sirius quickly glanced up at Remus in a way that made Harry think it wasn't their idea at all. "-thought it best to wait until the worst was over. No fear, Harry, now I am an open book on the ins and outs of lifelong relationships."

"Well, you can stay closed. I'm not going to need advice on that at all." Harry frowned as Sirius' face formed an expression half-way between dismayed and quizzical. "You were right about Snape, we're not going to work."

"What? I don't think it works that way, Harry. Is this-"

"It's going to work whatever way I tell it to. I'm not going to have a relationship with that man. I'll stay near him if I have to, but I'm living my own life, regardless of the stupid soul bond."

There was a silence in the room and Remus had looked up from his desk to exchange a worried look with his partner.

"Anyway," Harry broke the awkward silence and changed the topic. "Professor Lupin told me you're good at Transfiguration and I desperately need help."

"Something's wrong with Harry." Sirius confided in Remus after dinner in their rooms. "Very wrong."

"You don't need to tell me that, I was there. He has been different since he woke up, but I didn't anticipate this. Where is it coming from?" Remus mused, his brow scrunched in a way that made him look angry rather than pensive, Sirius thought.

"Hermione told me Snape hadn't seen Harry since it happened. I thought maybe she was exaggerating, told her they lived together, it was private. Moony, what if Snape hurt him?" Sirius held his head in his hands, torn between running down to set Snape straight and letting Remus work it out with him, the way they normally worked things out.

"I doubt he could, not physically. They could have had an argument. Harry has changed, you know. His experiences with Lestrange and Voldemort, we can hardly expect them not to change him. He isn't an innocent little thirteen year old. We knew that when Dumbledore asked me back to teach. You knew it when you came to spend more time getting to know him. That was the deal you made in February, you stay in these rooms, you get away from Grimmauld Place. You already broke it once going down to wage some war against Snape. You have this chance to be here for Harry. Don't go off half-cocked to beat Snape to a pulp when we don't even know what's happened. Harry needs you here. I need you here."

"I know. I just can't get why these things have to happen to Harry. He's like a magnet for bad luck. Why can't he have a bond with someone like the one you and me have? It's not fair." He felt useless, whining about how it wasn't fair. Life wasn't fair, Azkaban had taught him that in the very least.

"You and me, we're polar opposites, Sirius, we complete one another, balance each other out. Harry and Snape, they're the same. Bad pasts, stubborn, pig-headed and they hold grudges. I guarantee you Snape is running scared. From what, I can't tell. But now he's got Harry reacting by running in the opposite direction." Remus watched as Sirius ran his hands through his hair and leaned back. The light outside waned and on the edge of the boundaries of the Forbidden Forest, he could barely make out two birds of prey fighting over food. "They're going to meet at some point and all that stubborn tension that's been bottled since the beginning is going to be destructive."

"I just don't want Harry to get hurt. I'm meant to be looking after him." Sirius was the boy's godfather, his father in James' place. He only wished his best friend were there, James would know what to do. After he'd killed Snivellus, that was.

"Which is why you have to look after him from here, you'll be no good if you're spotted by some poor second year. Dumbledore can't protect you forever. Just like you can't protect Harry forever, he's got to make his own mistakes. Even the big ones."

Harry studied Charms and Transfiguration for two hours and then destroyed Snape's couches before bed. Obliterated them with his bare hands. He ripped out the stitching, destroyed the cushions, pulled out the padding and twisted the springs maliciously. It made a horrible mess of fluff and fabric. The dull satisfaction that Snape would find out one day was only slightly overwhelmed by the fact that these were essentially his rooms too and now he had no couches. That they were Snape's couches was what mattered. He went to bed physically exhausted and mildly sated. It didn't stop the nightmares.

"Little Harry, precious thing, show me what a big boy you are." Lestrange cut his chest, eliciting a breathless gasp of pain from him.

"Now scream." She demanded as she cast yet another Crucio, leaving him writhing and hardly able to make a noise, much less scream. He had been screaming too long, he had no air left in his lungs and they burned. He couldn't breathe.

He woke sweating and with the urgent need to escape. The sheets were tangled around him in a chokehold. Alone. Again.

He started the day with a tantrum in which he destroyed several pieces of landscape art, finding himself unable to destroy portraits. They spoke after all, which was a bit too alive for Harry. They did look on with bewilderment though, as Snape's things were ripped to pieces. Harry coldly examined the destruction before breakfast. He needed to stop this, it just proved that Snape had control over him.

He walked to breakfast amongst curious Slytherins. The dungeons were too full of them to be pleasant. Apparently the gossip mill had him placed down there in secret rooms for protection. How any reasonable person could believe that he would be more protected right next to the Slytherin lair was beyond him. That they didn't already know about him and Snape was also incredible, it turned out that Hogwarts could keep a secret after all. However, with Snape's behaviour of late, one could be fooled into thinking it was last year, Harry thought bitterly. But then, nothing had ever changed. That world was an exception, Harry knew that now. Whatever progress they had made before was coerced and then ruined by becoming too close, too fast.

"What are you looking at?" He growled at a small, staring Slytherin.

She squeaked, glared and hurried away. Malfoy chose that moment to catch up with him. "Taunting first years, Potter? Didn't think it was your style."

"Yeah, well, you don't know me."

"Someone's in a bad mood." The thing was, they were so close to friendly now, it was hard to be venomous when talking to the other boy. Harry sighed and shifted his book bag to the other shoulder.

"Maybe it's better than being falsely optimistic." He said through gritted teeth.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Malfoy asked.

Harry was saved from having to respond by Hermione, who took her boyfriend by the arm. She muttered something about a book, Harry rather thought that talking about studying was like whispering sweet nothings for the two of them. They deserved each other. He never thought Malfoy an academic until he saw him turn down some between-aisle library trysting with Hermione for more Charms study with her. That kind of attitude puzzled him. He thought they must talk each other to orgasm using nine syllable words from the Oxford dictionary.

He scowled at the topic. Now that he'd had sex (well, some form of warped mind-sex, he still couldn't wrap his head around it), he couldn't stop thinking about it. It somehow infiltrated every bit of conversation, insinuated itself into every innuendo, and invaded every thought. As a sixteen, almost seventeen, year old boy he hadn't thought he could become more obsessed with sex. Until now.

The meal was uncomfortable. People still thought him a bit mental for everything that had happened before Lestrange took him and there were terrible rumours about what had happened to him during the raid so that he couldn't return to school for many weeks afterward. Some of them were even true. He sat with Ron, Hermione and Neville at the end of the Gryffindor table. The end that put the most distance between him and the High Table. Harry did not want to put himself anywhere near Dumbledore, who would no doubt encourage him to make up with Snape, like it was his fault in the first place, Snape, who Harry knew was glaring, and Lupin, who had been shooting concerned glances his way all morning.

The sky shone bright in the imitation sky above the Great Hall. Harry was determined to hold practice as Captain that evening. There was one game left of Quidditch before the years end and as Captain, a role he'd been forced to neglect for some time, thankfully only between their Hufflepuff and Slytherin games. Ginny had been playing in as Seeker in the meantime and Katie Bell had acted as Captain, organising practices and so forth. Harry thought it was time he dug his heels in. He would not give up Quidditch, not for Dumbledore, not for Snape and especially not for Voldemort. On that, he would take a stand. Now, all he had to do was rethink strategy for the upcoming game against Slytherin. Hufflepuff had just played Ravenclaw, having accumulated enough points to win if Gryffindor lost the upcoming match. Wayne Hopkins was on his game as captain this year and Harry had been absent for too long. With Hufflepuff and Slytherin both serious contenders, he had better be on his toes. Harry refused to give up the cup his first year as Captain.

Snape stalked out early, interrupting Harry's thoughts and forcing him to reluctantly look up and check that the man was really gone. It felt like his whole body breathed a sigh of relief now he was out of Snape's presence. Harry sidled out of his chair to speak to Katie Bell. He'd need her help with this. On the way he told Coote and Peakes about the time of the practice. They both groaned but said they were glad he was back.

"Hey Harry," Katie greeted him brightly. "Back in the saddle yet?"

"I'm fine, thanks." He blushed, at least she was pleased he was back. He'd been worried she'd be upset to give the team up. "Do you have the pitch booked for tonight?"

"I booked it when I heard you were coming back as Captain." She confirmed. Harry briefly wondered how she had heard that. Probably through Ron, he had been talking to him about captaining the team again.

"Great, can you add another two hours. I have some tactics I want to try with the Beaters." Coote and Peake were inexperienced, true, but they had been best friends since they were six and made a phenomenal team. Almost as good as Fred and George really.

She laughed. "You're as bad as Wood, Harry, he'd be proud."

Harry nodded, thanked her and left her to her friends. When he told Ron about the practice times the boy complained bitterly about two essays he had due the next day (which Hermione said served him right for leaving them to the last second) but admitted he needed the extra practice. Harry thought it funny that Ron was fully prepared for exams but still too lazy to write his essays.

"I've been rubbish." Ron moaned to him. "Haven't caught a thing in practice since the last game."

"You've been distracted." Harry reassured the redhead. "We understand."

He'd be better though, Harry promised to himself, the whole team would. Neither Hufflepuff nor Slytherin would get the cup this year. Especially not Slytherin. And if that put Snape out, all the better.

It rained. Harry made them practice anyway, told the team it would be good for their endurance. Bell muttered something about how it would be good for catching pneumonia, which Harry ignored gracefully. He cast an anti-fog spell on his glasses after he missed the snitch five times in a drill. Ron looked like a drowned rat guarding the goals as all three chasers bombarded him. Harry ran through technique with the beaters, who looked equally miserable. They were both pretty sturdy guys but Coote was left-handed, which caused a number of completely unnecessary problems.

After finding out that Peakes had trouble telling left from right and yelling at Coote for coming at the bludger from the wrong direction (consequently missing completely), Harry flew a lap to calm down and told the other two to do the same. He saw Hermione and Professor Lupin sitting in the stands watching the practice under an umbrella spell. He waved and they both smiled.

"Hey, why can't they cast a big umbrella over the pitch?" Ron yelled out to him, capturing the attention of the entire team.

"There won't be an umbrella spell during the game, will there?" He replied. The players all groaned at him and reluctantly returned to their drills.

Having cooled off, he turned to the beaters. They both looked at him darkly, but paid attention nonetheless when he explained how he wanted them to work. First swapping the side Coote was coming from, which straightened up his aim, he used his wand to write the letters R and L on Peakes' hands. He looked confused and embarrassed. Harry held one up, "R for right," and the other, "L for left. " He dropped the hands. "They're going to stay there until it comes naturally."

The expression on Peakes' face was classic and he wondered why the boy's parents hadn't sorted this out earlier. Never mind, the marks would stay there until Harry removed them. This wouldn't get in the way of the game.

"Now, I want both of you to go for the keeper in the game." They both immediately spoke up but he held up a hand. "Their chasers are average," They were also huge, he added to himself silently. "Bletchley is good, he's really good. So for the first half, aim to disable the keeper. If he's dodging you, he won't be able to catch the quaffle. I've got the chasers working on Crabbe and Goyle. They're all faster than the two of them and the Falcons used that in their last four games. Now for the second half..." The practice went on.

When they all eventually retreated into the warmth of the changing rooms, the team was too exhausted to resent him. Harry felt about the same, which was exactly how he wanted it. They were all soaked through and felt beaten up by the pouring rain. No wonder the extra two hours had been free on the pitch, someone must have known the forecast. Nevermind, all the better for his team. In fact, it was giving him some choice ideas for next year's games.

Snape's chambers were still empty when he arrived back, slightly damp but warm. He was dismayed to see that the house elves had cleaned the mess up. They had left the ruined couch, but the room had been tidied. He snapped his fingers twice as he had been taught. An elf appeared, looking eager to please.

"What's your name?" He asked the creature.

"I is Quincy, sir."

"Okay, Quincy, the mess that was in here before, I want it back."

"Yous are wanting it back?" The creature confirmed uncertainly.

"All of it." It eyed him like he was off his rocker but there was a faint crack and a neat pile of destroyed furniture stuffing and torn painting appeared. Harry frowned. "Like it was before."

"Are yous sure, sir? This be quite unusual."

"I'm very sure." When the room was returned to a state of havoc, he sent the elf away, thanking him. The whole process left him a bit empty though. It wasn't the same and he felt vaguely stupid and childish. He pushed the feelings away and knocked a vase over before going into his room, ignoring how petty (and hazardous to bare feet) it was.

He dreamt of Lestrange.