IN THE WAY

Disclaimer: Alas, very little of this is unique. The characters and the world they inhabit are the creations of J.K. Rowling, as I'm sure you all know. The "theme song" quoted at the beginning of the chapter is owned (and performed) by Jars of Clay. Finally, many pieces of the plot were subconsciously (or consciously) influenced by the many "Snape rescues Harry" "Harry is abused" and other fics of this general type. If there is at any point something in particular I can cite, I will do so.

Summary: Snape is acting strangely toward Harry after he retrieves him from Privet Drive. Why is he suddenly visiting Harry in the hospital wing constantly?

Rating: PG-13, mostly for forced treatment issues, and also for some references to child abuse.

Warnings: Spoilers up to and including OOTP.

Author's Notes: STOP! Don't die of shock! Yes, I'm really updating. Not only that, but I actually finished an entire chapter, not just the half of one that I've had up on my Yahoo! group for a while. As I said at the beginning, this will be updated less often than Lies, since I feel that Lies is my "serious" project and this is less so. In fact, I am quite aware that characters are at least mildly OOC, even considering the unusual circumstances depicted in this story. However, I will do my best to keep them consistent in character if not exactly like their canon counterparts, so if you like them here you'll probably continue to do so. And now, on with the chapter!

I'M IN THE WAY

you sit and stare out at the sky
and think of ways to fake a smile
but life is never what it seems
sometimes it only takes a while

Chorus:
i'm in the way of fallin' down
i won't let you go that far now
i'm in the way of fallin' down
i won't let you go that far now

i won't let you go

you think that hope was left behind
i picked it up a mile ago
i am running close behind
so don't give up and don't let go

-- Jars of Clay

CHAPTER 2

"…the second time he's reinjured himself. Not to mention the time he gave me a black eye during one of his panic attacks. We'll just have to find a way to calm him without undoing the spell." The affected tone of indifference in the voice that Harry heard as he woke sounded familiar, but his groggy mind found it hard to place.

"You have taken all of this so well, Severus. I'm so proud of you." This time Harry recognized the dulcet tones of the headmaster.

"Merlin knows that one of us will need to be strong, and it obviously won't be him."

"Don't underestimate your own strength, Severus… or his." There was a pause, and Harry resisted opening his eyes to see what was going on. "He's proven it to me on too many occasions to count… more occasions than he should have had the opportunity."

"Well, if the boy wouldn't go running after trouble…"

"Ah, but you know that it's not that easy, Severus. Trouble seems to follow him regardless."

Finally Harry opened his eyes, and saw that it was indeed Snape talking with the headmaster, a few feet away from his bed. The hospital ward was bright again, and he wondered what day it was. He realized suddenly that his birthday must have come and gone—the last day he could remember at Privet Drive had been the day before he was to turn sixteen. That he had not had a chance to "celebrate" his birthday wasn't a horrible loss, though, as the extent of his celebration was usually opening his presents at midnight and having something to eat for the next week or so.

"Professor?" he called out softly.

Both men turned to face him. "You're awake," Dumbledore said with a smile. Professor Snape confined himself to nodding in acknowledgement, but it was better than a snide remark. Once again Harry wondered at this change in behavior, and then pushed it away in favor of that question that he had just been considering.

"What day is it, sir?"

"August 9th, Harry." When he saw the look of shock on the boy's face, he continued. "Yes, it has been a week and a half since Severus rescued you from your uncle." He shook his head sadly, his eyes losing their twinkle in an instant. "I must apologize again, Harry, for forcing you to return there when it was clearly unsafe."

Harry felt something clench up inside of him. Why did the exact conversation that he least wanted to have seem to continue to repeat itself? He looked toward the ceiling instead of making eye contact with either of the wizards, and gave the answer that would absolve the headmaster of the guilt that Harry had never placed on him. "It wasn't your fault."

"Thank you, Harry, though unfortunately I don't think it is quite that simple." The boy turned his head back to look at the headmaster—and jerked his head back when he suddenly saw the form of the potions master looming over him. The man had halved the former distance between him and the hospital bed, and was gazing at Harry with some unfathomable expression in his eyes.

Harry felt his breathing speed up as every danger signal in his head went off, and suddenly all he could hear was his heart pounding in his ears. "No—don't--" he choked out. Professor's Snape's whole posture changed and he moved back to give Harry room. Unfortunately, the fear wasn't ready to dissipate so easily. "Let me go!" The terror of being unable to struggle flooded him, a terror that seemed almost to equal what he experienced in Voldemort's presence.

He barely registered that the potions master had drawn his wand before he felt a strange sensation: his lungs were no longer under his control. Instead of drawing air in and out as quickly as the muscles could, he was suddenly breathing slowly and steadily. At first he tried to regain control, sure he was going to suffocate if he couldn't. Slowly, though, his ears cleared of his pounding heart rate as it returned to a reasonable rate, and his head began to clear as well. He realized then that Professor Snape was speaking in calm, even tones.

"That's right, Harry, breathe deeply. We're not going to hurt you… Good, very good… Can you hear me now?" Harry opened his mouth to respond, but realized that he couldn't as long as he didn't have control of his own lungs. "Just nod, that's fine," Snape said calmly, apparently understanding his struggle, and looked Harry in the eyes. Harry tried to understand the expression he could see lurking under the calm façade, but he couldn't. Then he realized that the professor was beginning to speak again. "Are you alright now?" Harry nodded again. "Okay, I'm going to let you go, now… Just breathe deeply, and don't talk yet." He waited until Harry nodded again, and then did as he had said. Harry focused all his attention on his breathing, marveling at the control he had back and feeling a bit of relief at having control of something at least.

"I'm sorry I startled you," Snape apologized softly, and Harry looked at him, trying to decide if this was a joke. Professor Snape, the potions master who despised him above all other students, was apologizing to him? "Is there anything we can do to make you feel more comfortable or safe?"

Harry opened his mouth to ask what was going on, but instead found a request coming out. "Can you let me go? I just want to be able to move a little…" He was surprised at how small his voice sounded as he pleaded with the man.

The man sighed. "I'm sorry, but we really can't do that… You've already re-injured yourself twice unintentionally, and the idea is to let you out of the hospital wing eventually."

"But…" There was the panic again. He could feel his breathing speed up as he tried to catch his breath after the rush of pure fear.

"Breathe, Harry!" The potions master's urgent tone cut through his panic. He struggled to remember that he was safe, that nothing was going to happen here, but all he could think that he was trapped. His breathing continued raggedly. He had to get out of here! The world blurred and slipped sideways.

He woke up with a headache. "…another panic attack," he heard the end of whatever was being said.

"Oh dear… It sounds as though the calming draught will continue to be necessary."

"Indeed. I will replenish your supplies when I have the opportunity."

He blinked his eyes open slowly. When he heard his heartbeat speeding up again already, he focused on taking slow, deep breaths. He tuned out everything going on around him in favor of staying conscious and in control. Thus it was several minutes before he realized that Professor Snape was calling his name.

"Harry, can you hear me?"

"Why are you calling me Harry?" he blurted out, surprising even himself. His curiosity appeared to have overcome his panic for the moment.

"Does it bother you?" Snape seemed to have a strangely guarded expression on his face. Harry almost could have guessed that the potions professor cared what his answer was.

"I guess not…" he responded hesitantly. It was beyond strange to be carrying on a civil conversation with the professor who usually couldn't wait to get in a barb or three.

"I would love to continue this conversation," Snape interjected, his face passive and his voice emotionless, "but first I believe it may be a good idea to give you the calming draught while you're not in the midst of a panic attack."

The mere mention of panic caused a million thoughts to flit through Harry's mind. Meanwhile, though, Professor Snape was already lifting his head. "Okay, deep breath... Now get ready to swallow," he instructed, and then the potion was pouring into Harry's mouth. He focused on swallowing it the best he could, trying not to gag this time, and was mostly successful. Almost immediately he felt the influence of the potion and relaxed perceptibly.

For a moment the medi-witch busied herself looking over her patient, and then she seemed to deem his condition satisfactory and backed off to allow the professor some time with his student. Harry, for his part, found himself vaguely curious once again about why his professor was acting so differently from what was normal for him.

He watched intently as the man pulled a chair closer to his bed and sat, cleared his throat, then looked around as if for a distraction. Snape's eyes lit on the bedside table, which Harry couldn't quite see because of his limited range of movement.

"Do you need your glasses?" Harry frowned when he saw that his glasses were indeed in Snape's hand.

"What..?" He looked past Snape, across the hospital wing, and saw that he could see Madam Pomfrey clearly—something that would usually be unlikely with his glasses. "I don't—I can see just fine," he finally replied, shocked.

"Hmm," was Snape's mild response. He didn't seem very surprised.

"Sir? Is it normal for a wizard's eyesight to correct itself?"

Snape sighed. "No, P—Harry, it's not." Harry frowned, wondering once again why Snape was suddenly insisting on calling him by his given name.

Then what Snape had said registered, and he sighed. "Well, far be it from me to be normal in any way whatsoever," he muttered, and Snape raised an eyebrow. This brought his attention back to the matter at hand. "I get the feeling that you expected this."

Snape nodded slowly. "It has recently been brought to my attention that you had a charm cast on you at birth, one of the effects of which was to make you severely near-sighted like P-James was."

Harry frowned. "Why would someone do that? Were they trying to handicap me?"

Snape looked surprised and shook his head quickly. "No, Harry… the person who cast the charm was your mother, and she meant you no harm. In fact, I daresay that if Lily had lived longer, she might have corrected your eyesight."

"Correct it…?" Snape nodded. "You mean I grew up desperately trying to keep my glasses with me and intact my entire life because I'm nearly blind without them, and now you tell me that someone could have fixed it??"

"No, P-Harry, that is not what I said," he snapped. "I said that Lily would have fixed it, if she had been living. No one else knew that you had this charm on you."

"Oh," Harry replied, his anger deflating quickly. Which was not to say that he wanted Snape around. He had just remembered why he disliked the man so much. He looked away for several minutes, expecting Snape to take the hint and leave. Finally, he turned back. "What do you want?"

Snape sneered in anger at Harry's attitude. "Well, I was going to tell you the truth, but clearly I was mistaken in thinking that a rash Gryffindor could care about that." He stood up with a flourish of his robes and stalked from the room.

Almost immediately a feeling of contrition filled Harry. He hated Snape, Snape hated him… and yet Snape was not acting like Snape, and he wanted to know why. Not to mention that there was little else to do while he was trapped in the hospital wing. With a sigh he turned his eyes to the ceiling and began to count pockmarks in the stone.

After a while, Madam Pomfrey reappeared from her office or wherever she had gone. She bustled out, but appeared to be surprised at something. Harry turned to look at her. "Harry? Where did Severus go?"

"Left…" Harry replied listlessly.

"I see…" she responded hesitantly, in a tone that made it clear that she did not. "And what did you speak about, before he left?"

Harry frowned. "Nothing, really… Do you know what the big secret is?" Madam Pomfrey opened her mouth to respond but Harry was continuing to speak already. "Whatever it is, I'm not sure I want to hear it, if he thinks it means he has to pretend like he's not the git he is."

Madam Pomfrey choked a bit at this; one would think she had heard something horrifying, rather than a rather common epithet against Snape's oft-insulted person. "Harry," she finally managed in a reproving tone, "you shouldn't speak that way about your… professor." Strange… he wondered if he had only imagined that pause before she had said professor.

"Why?" Harry sneered. "Is he going to take points from Gryffindor?"

The nurse frowned but changed the subject. "Perhaps you should take a bit of a nap, dear, you're looking a bit peaky."

"No thanks…" Harry replied. He started to look away, and then thought to ask a question. "How much longer am I going to have to be in the Hospital Wing?"

The nurse looked apologetic. "You were very injured when you got here, Harry, and you've re-injured yourself several times. Probably another week."

"A week?!" he yelped in surprise. He shook his head hard enough to make himself slightly dizzy. "I'm not staying like this for a week!"

Madam Pomfrey drew herself up to her full height. "You, Mr. Potter, have little say in the matter. As I said, you have re-injured yourself repeatedly, and I will not be releasing you until I am certain that you will not undo my hard work!"

Harry shrank back against the bed. "Y-yes, Au—M-Madam Pomfrey," he managed to stutter out. That irrational fear and need to make himself disappear and hide that had only strengthened this summer was reasserting itself.

"Oh dear," murmured the woman, as she brought her hand up to rest on his immobile shoulder. Harry flinched slightly at her touch, and closed his eyes tightly. "It's alright, Harry, you're safe here…"

Harry tried to believe her but began to shake nonetheless, at least as much as he could within the restraints. "P-please…" he stuttered.

"What is it, Harry?" Madam Pomfrey asked worriedly. "What do you need?"

"S-stop…"

"Stop what?"

"Let me go!" he pleaded with the little air that he could gather. He was hyperventilating again, and Snape wasn't here to save him this time. Since when was Snape his savior, anyway?

"Breathe, Harry!" cried Madam Pomfrey. Harry gave a choking sob but continued to breathe frantically. "Deep breaths!"

Harry shook his head; continuing the shallow breaths seemed to be the only way that he would get the air he needed, even though he wasn't getting it. Finally, Madam Pomfrey said, "I'm so sorry, Harry, but… Stupefy!"


Harry awoke with a gasp and an awful headache. If the pounding in his head was not enough to remind him, his complete failure after at sitting up jogged his memory quite efficiently. His breath caught in his throat and he clenched his teeth and tried not to panic—again.

"Easy," murmured a silky voice from somewhere beside him, and a hand entwined itself in his hair, rubbing his scalp in soothing motion. The headache began to subside slightly, and he sighed in relief, relaxing into the bed and nearly forgetting that he couldn't move if he had wanted to. "That's right," praised the voice. "Does your head ache?" it questioned next.

He groaned slightly, hoping that the voice would understand, as he didn't seem capable of putting his thoughts together coherently at the moment. The hand paused for a moment in its motions. "Stupefy can do that. Would you like a potion for the pain?"

Not if it means you're going to stop rubbing my head, was Harry's silent reply. He lifted his chin to push his head back against the hand with a small sound of discontent, and was rewarded by the hand resuming its massaging motion. He thought he might have heard a small chuckle, but he couldn't find it in himself to care at the moment.

"Why did that woman have to cast that damnable charm, anyway? Maybe if you hadn't looked like him, I could have gotten to know you back when you were this young. Now, though…" the voice trailed off, still continuing to rub his head. He hoped what it was saying wasn't important, because he wasn't putting much effort into deciphering it. Just relaxing…

The hand disentangled itself from his hair once again, and this time when he leaned his head back in protest it was not within reach. He made another noise of protest, but the hand did not return. The voice, did, however. "No more, Harry. It's time to either wake up, or go completely back to sleep." The voice sounded sterner now, and he began to try to blink his heavy eyelids open in response.

Opening his eyelids let light in, though, and the light seemed to cause his headache to bloom where it had withered under the gentle massage before. "Wha..?" he moaned incoherently, squinting against the light and trying to see something—anything. What he saw, a moment later, was a dark figure looming over him. This brought his eyes further open, but resolving the figure into that of Snape did not comfort him much. In fact, he gasped slightly in reflexive panic at seeing the man so close to him.

Almost immediately the hand returned to soothe him once again. It belonged to Professor Snape, it seemed, though he found it hard to reconcile with the black eyes watching him from an apparently emotionless face. His eyelids relaxed down to a half-closed position, though, as he instinctively relaxed against the hand.

The hand stopped its massaging, but did not leave his head. Instead, it moved down toward the base of his skull and then his head was being lifted. "Open your mouth, Harry," ordered his Professor in a strangely gentle tone. Harry hesitated for a moment before obeying with a weary sigh. He swallowed quickly as the thick and sickly sweet calming potion filled his mouth. He made a disgusted sound when his mouth was mostly empty.

Snape chuckled lightly. "That's one thing we're agreed on. Still, it's better than a panic attack, don't you think?" Harry made a non-commital noise, his head still held up off the bed slightly. "The next one's not quite so sweet—something for the headache," he explained at the teen's questioning expression. Not so sweet was an understatement, Harry found, as the bitter and truly disgusting potion was poured in. He swallowed quickly and grimaced as his head was let down gently.

"Better?" Harry nodded with a sigh, the headache already beginning to wither into nothing. The edges of panic that still surged through him whenever he tried to move were also being covered over with a pleasant emptiness. "Alright. I let you run me off earlier, but this conversation cannot be postponed any longer," Snape began, backing off from his bed and taking a seat in the chair next to it. Harry blinked. That sounded… ominous. "You see, P—Harry, I recently received a… missive… from your mother. She had magically delayed it to appear two days before your sixteenth birthday.

"In it, she informed me that…" Snape sighed, making Harry that much more nervous. "There is no easy way to say this. She informed me that James Potter is not—was not—your father." Harry might have boggled at hearing the usually-controlled man stutter, but he was too busy trying to pull himself out of shock at what Snape was saying.

Beyond the shock that the man who had always hated him for looking like his father was now saying that that man was not, in fact, his father, he was also wondering why his mother would have sent a letter to Snape and not to him. There was only one reason that he could think of… He began to shake his head stubbornly, slowly at first and then more quickly as Snape began to speak again.

"Yes, Harry, I think you've figured it out. She also told me that I—I am—I am your biological father," Snape finally managed.

"No," Harry responded aloud finally, quietly at first, then more loudly. "No, no, no, no, NO!" The blanket of calmness that had felt so comforting at first now felt as though it was smothering him. He hated Snape—hated him for lying, hated him for believing the letter (if there even was one), hated him for daring to come and tell Harry this, and hated him most of all for making Harry drink a calming potion before having this conversation. He shoved it aside as though it were nothing more than a paper thin barrier, without a second thought. "You're lying, I hate you, it's not true!" he screamed, and Snape looked taken aback at the energy and emotion behind his scream.

Snape leaned forward but didn't stand. "It is extremely unexpected news, I admit, but I am not lying." Harry glared furiously at him, wishing he could do something more. "Would you like to see the letter?"

"No!" he exclaimed. "I don't want to see the letter, because there is no letter—and if there is, then it's a filthy stinking lie and I don't want it near me, you—you—" Harry tried to fight the onset of memories as things fell into place—Snape rescuing, Snape being gentle with him, Snape cutting himself off whenever he began to call him Potter—his adrenaline began to drain from him as fast as it had come. "It can't be true, can it?" he asked pleadingly. "I mean, how—why—"

"I can't say it comes as any less of a shock to me," Snape sighed. "Even with nearly two weeks to consider, it still hardly makes sense." He chuckled bitterly. "And it's not as though I'm likely to be a good 'father figure'. However, this was clearly not something that could—or should—be kept from you."

"Why not?" protested Harry immediately. "You hate me—why not just pretend you had never read the letter? Why tell me?" This was not good news, no matter how much it might have seemed to be to an outsider. It was a bit like knowing that Petunia Dursley was related to him—what good was a blood relation if they hated you and mistreated you any chance they got? As far as he knew, it only made things worse; Potions could not be any better knowing that it was his father humiliating him at every turn.

Snape sighed. "I do not hate you, Harry. I hate your—well, the man I supposed was your father. I hated his features on your face. It is much easier to see you as your own person now that you do not resemble Potter," he spat the name in his usual manner, "any longer. I… I would like to get chance to know you, if you will let me."

The request almost distracted him from the content of what Snape had said before it. When Snape's words registered, however, he tried to sit up in shock, but only managed to widen his eyes and lift his head slightly. "What do you mean, now that I don't look like James??" It hadn't occurred to him that the charm they had mentioned must have worn off, for his vision to be better. "What do I look like??" he asked, panic re-entering his voice as though it had never left.

Snape stood suddenly and his dark figure looming over Harry as he lay panicked and helpless caused his breath to catch in his throat and then begin coming faster. Snape's idea, it seemed, was to attempt to calm him by once again massaging his scalp. Harry, however, was not in the mood.

Moving his head away, he snarled, "Bugger off! I don't need to be petted like a dog or a small child!" Even as he said it, though, he knew something would need to be done, as he was hardly moving in the right direction at the moment. Only his anger overwhelmed the panic long enough for him to get such a coherent complaint out.

"Then what do you need, P—boy?" Snape replied, irritation clear in his voice.

"Just—let me go..!" he repeated for what seemed like the millionth time since he had woken in the Hospital Wing. "I won't—I can't—don't do this!!"

"Shhh, just calm down. You're going to be fine; you're completely safe." Now his professor—his father, supposedly—seemed to be trying the rational approach. Harry was not feeling particularly rational, himself.

"Let—me—go!" Harry pleaded as loudly as he could, pushing with every bit of physical and mental and magical strength that it felt he possessed at the cursed restraints that were holding him still. To his great surprise, he felt what seemed like a magical snap, and then he could move.

For half a second he froze, unsure if Snape had realized what had happened or not. Should he wait to move until he was alone, or take advantage now? When he saw the wary and suspicious expression on Snape's face, though, he knew that the observant man had seen his muscles tense. Before he could be stopped, he rolled onto his side and curled into as tight a ball as he could form. It was amazing how much safer he felt, and his breathing was slowing already despite the pain that it had caused (and was causing, if he admitted it to himself) to remain in this position. His ribs in particular were screaming in pain.

"Harry, I know you disabled the restraining field, but you need to lay back flat. That is not good for your injuries. Now just lay back…" Harry felt hands, trying to pry him out of the ball he had formed, but he hugged his knees all the harder to his chest and whimpered slightly. After a moment, though, he felt his legs being pulled away from his chest despite his best efforts, his weak efforts simply not up to the effort it seemed.

Tears streamed down his face as he tried even harder to protect himself. He was no longer aware of where he was, only that he was safest this way and allowing himself to be moved would only promise more pain. "Stop it, stop it, please," he begged, words flowing from his mouth without thought. "It hurts, it hurts, please, not that, please!!"

His screams had drawn the missing school nurse, who made her presence known by an exclamation of "Oh, dear Merlin!" and then hustled over. "What on earth happened, Severus?!"

"What does it look like happened??" Snape growled, still trying to get his panicking son to relax and lay back. "He broke the restraining field while he was having a panic attack."

"How did he—Merlin, listen to him, Severus," she breathed, interrupting herself.

Snape did as she asked and promptly released Harry's limbs in shock. "Please no, it hurts, don't… Please, Dudley, please, it hurts, no, stop, Uncle Vernon, please, you're going to kill me, stop it, please!"

A moment later he near the head of the bed, massaging Harry's scalp again in hopes of calming him. At first the teen tried to move away from him, but slowly he began to relax slightly, his murmuring becoming less frantic and quite a bit quieter.

"I should get a Calming Potion," Pomfrey said, turning to do as she said, but Snape stopped her.

"I gave him one before we started the conversation," he explained grimly. "He can't have another for at least an hour."

The mediwitch stared at the boy in shock. "But—he's not calm at all! It can't have worn off so quickly!"

"Poppy, think about it. Do you remember when you gave me the Calming Draught after—after that night? The—the Whomping Willow?"

Her mouth formed into an 'O' of surprise. After a moment, she put her head in her hands and moaned as the implications hit her. "Of all the things for him to inherit, it had to be that…"

"I can conjure physical restraints that won't hurt him but will keep him still, if we can get him to lay back. And if we can get him calm, I can teach him how not to push the magic away, so that the Calming Draughts will last, at least a little longer."

"Harry, can you hear me?" Poppy asked gently after nodding to what Snape had said.

The teen in question moaned and murmured, "Hurts," but didn't otherwise show any signs of having heard what she had said.

"Laying curled up like that is hurting your ribs, Harry," Snape responded, still massaging the boy's scalp skillfully. His fingers knew where every pressure point was, and he manipulated them to relax Harry as far as was possible. "Don't you want it to stop hurting?"

"Have to be able to move—have to be safe," Harry responded. He curled up even more tighter in a relexive response to the suggestion he knew was coming, and gasped at the pain that blossomed even further in his ribs.

"How about we see how you can do just laying still on your back? We won't cast anymore restraining spells on you," Snape promised blithely. Poppy looked at him in surprise and a little anger, but he hushed any vocal response with a dark glare. "What do you say about that?"

"Can't… Hurts…"

"It will feel better, I promise," Snape replied evenly. "Start by relaxing as much as you can… that's right, now let go of your knees… Don't worry, Harry, we're not going to force you. Good, very good," he guided the boy in a smooth and remarkably gentle and encouraging tone. Pomfrey stared at him, unaware that he had it in him.

Slowly, ever so slowly, Harry was letting his curled up position go and moving back outwards. Unfortunately, it hurt almost as much as getting into and staying in the position had hurt, and several times he almost stopped if not for Snape's oddly motivating tone. He truly jerked in startlement, though, when Snape removed one hand from his head and asked for his wand from Poppy.

"Don't worry, I just need it because you look like you need a pain-relieving spell." He nodded at Poppy to cast the spell, and quietly muttered the words to conjure the restraints that he needed. The medi-witch glared at him again but followed his lead and cast the pain-relieving spell.

"You're doing great, Harry, just great. You're almost there, just a little further. That's right, just let yourself relax and let your knees stretch out." He paused for a moment, then carefully injected concern into his voice. "You're shaking, Harry, are you cold? Here, I've got a blanket for you, right here. Poppy, will you help me with this?" Snape didn't dare stop massaging with both hands, as he feared Harry would begin to panic when he came out of the trance he seemed to have fallen into. Instead, he allowed the mediwitch to drag the other end of the "blanket" down to the end of the bed, and let her arrange it carefully over Harry's body, then tapped it gently with his wand. Both of them watched as the edges seemed to meld into the bed around Harry, and while Snape looked relieved, Poppy looked torn between satisfaction and anger at the Potions Master.

"How are you feeling, Harry?" Snape asked carefully as he returned to Harry's head, now massaging his temples carefully.

"Can't I lay on my side?" the teen asked plaintively. "I can't lay like this; I can't—I can't—" Snape fought to keep his hands from tightening against the boy's head as he tried to roll back onto his side and the "blanket" tightened around him, holding him still. "What…?! No!" Harry shrieked, having discovered that he had once again lost his freedom to move. "No, let me go, no, no!" He was already beginning to hyperventilate, and Snape eyed his wand but tried to calm him first.

"Harry, listen to me," he said sternly. "Breathe—In, and out… in, and out. Come on, Harry, breathe!" But it was no use. The blanket had tightened further as Harry had struggled so that now he could not move at all, and he was in a full-blown panic attack.

"Respiro," he incanted, and then he focused all his mental energy on the movement of his lungs, moving the air in and out as efficiently and methodically as he could. He stepped around to where he could see the boy's face, and saw it going through the same expressions as last time—further panic, confusion, and finally, relief. When he saw relief starting to spread, he asked, "That's right… Deep breaths," he reminded Harry, preparing to release the spell. "Can you manage on your own?"

It was going to be a very long hour until they could give Harry the next Calming Potion.

- - - - - -

Author's Notes: So, what did you think? Please read and review! And thank you SO much to everyone who reviewed during the LONG time that it has been since the last chapter—I hope it was worth it!