Disclaimer: I do not, nor ever will, own Harry Potter, its characters, or its ideas. That happy power belongs to J.K. Rowling.

PLEASE READ THE AUTHOR'S NOTE, IT'S IMPORTANT!!

A/N: Hey, all! Yes, long time no hear (or see). I have finally been able to complete a fic---finally, at long last! General information about this fic to keep in mind includes the following: (a) Minerva McGonagall, Remus Lupin, and Severus Snape are thirty-four years of age in this particular story (b) Minerva, Remus, and Lily Evans (Potter) befriended Severus during their time as students at Hogwarts---they were in the same year c Severus started spying for Dumbledore at the age of fifteen and (d) Severus, Sirius Black, and James Potter did not get along well, not until after Graduation when they discovered that Severus was part of the Order of the Phoenix, and even then, they never really could be considered "friends"; they were civil and respected one another, but that was the extent of their friendship. I hope that clears things up---please R&R!

"Speaking"

/Personal Thoughts/




AU Prisoner of Azkaban. Third Year. One-shot.



.:In A Heartbeat: Upon the Wings of Eve:.

By Sentimental Star

The Daily Prophet: Twelve years ago, Sirius Black was murdered by Peter Pettigrew the day Lily and James Potter were killed by Voldemort. Then a spy for Headmaster Albus Dumbledore in Voldemort's ranks was Severus Snape. Upon discovering that Black was murdered by Pettigrew, who, up until that point, had never been discovered a Death Eater, and upon further finding out that Pettigrew intended to betray the Potters, Snape raced against time to warn both the Potters and Dumbledore of his plans. Having warned the Headmaster and discovering the Potters could not be reached by the Floo Network, Muggle mail, or any other means of communication, the young Snape set out for Goldric's Hollow on the Eve of Halloween, 1981. A block from the Potters' home, nearly all protection wards and glamour charms concealing the family, disappeared.

Snape entered the house, just in time to witness a then-infant Harry Potter rebound the "Avada Kedavra" Unforgivable Curse at Voldemort, ultimately causing his body to crumble and his dark soul to flee. He was barely able to rescue the child and get out of the house before the final ward, the last resort, caused the house to collapse in a pile of debris and dust.

Upon handing over the child to Reubeus Hagrid, Keeper of Grounds and Keys at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Snape went after Pettigrew. He cornered Pettigrew in Diagon Alley two days after the Potters' demise and had nearly captured Pettigrew when several Aurors arrived. Pettigrew had not yet been convicted of Black's murder or the betrayal of the Potters, indeed, he was not even known as a Death Eater, yet. Snape, however, was, and few knew of the true nature of his involvement. Pettigrew used that ignorance to his advantage and framed Snape, even going so far as to allow himself to be taken into custody along with Snape.

Snape was brought to trial along with countless other Death Eaters and almost convicted, but Dumbledore revealed him to be a spy and his innocence was validated via Veritaserum, made stronger for the fact that both Remus Lupin and Minerva McGonagall vouched for him. Pettigrew was then brought in, tried, and convicted---also through use of Veritaserum. He was sentenced to life in Azkaban Prison.

Some five or six years later, Pettigrew escaped. Not much is known of how he slipped pass Azkaban's Dementors, sources say that, to all appearances, he went mad and took his own life. But it was later discovered that the entire scenario had been staged. No one knows where he was, all traces of him have disappeared. . .

(Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry)

The Great Hall was dark that evening. Silent. But for the even sleep- breathing of all the students and soft music of a lullaby being played by. . . something. Above the young wizards and witches of Hogwarts, the ceiling was enchanted to take on the likeness of a universe---what with its various galaxies and star clusters.

On either side of the room slept students, girls to one side and boys to another. In-between the rows of students ran an open space, rather like a path.

And it was down this 'path,' that Headmaster Albus Dumbledore glided now, checking on the students. One door to the Great Hall opened with the faintest of creaks and in slipped Professor Severus Snape, closing the door just as quietly behind him.

Harry Potter, from where he lay---still awake---carefully and surreptitiously lifted his head from his pillow, half-asleep but nonetheless listening intently to the two Professors.

"All well here?" Snape murmured, coming up even with his older friend.

"Everything is fine for now," Dumbledore answered quietly. Both kept their voices low in deference to the sleeping children. Harry though Snape would not have cared . . . "Well?"

"The whole of the third floor has been searched by Filch, Headmaster. He's not there. And I have done the dungeons. Nothing there, either."

"What about the Astronomy Tower? Professor Trelawny's room? The Owlery?"

"All searched. . ."

"The gardens? Hospital Wing?"

"Remus and Minnie are searching them now. But I do no think they will find anything. I hope they do not. I am not sure how well they would restrain themselves. Especially Remus."

A sigh. "Very well, Severus. I did not really expect Pettigrew to linger."

"Have you any theory as to how he got in, Professor?" this asked by Snape. As the conversation became more interesting, Harry started to wake up a little more and listened all the more intently.

"Child, how many times have I told you to call me 'Albus?' As for a theory. . . there are many, Severus, each of them as unlikely as the next," the Headmaster advised softly.

By this point they had come up even with Harry. Quickly, trying not to be noticed, he lay back down, but kept listening. They had stopped.

Snape sighed this time. "I know, Albus, it's just. . ." A slight ruffling sound suggested that he was rubbing his arms, as if to stave off chill.

Dumbledore's voice gentled. "You, Remus, and Minerva have been through more than enough with Pettigrew. I do not blame you for wanting an end to this."

"Oughtn't we let Potter know? It is his right. . ." Snape began.

Harry blinked in the darkness, undeniably stunned. Snape wanted to tell him more about this entire mess? He knew the man was not as much of a git as Ronald Weasley made him out to be, he had known that since First Year, but he was not exactly nice, either. And rather distant and cold. This conversation, however, was forcing Harry to revise his view of the man yet again. He sounded so tired. . .

"Not yet," the Headmaster responded. "Let him sleep. For in dreams everyday worries and troubles slip away." He changed topic: "At any rate, Severus, why don't you head to bed? As soon as Remus and Minerva report back, I'll send them off, too."

Harry blinked again and tried to cover up a yawn, suddenly realizing exactly how tired he really was. He started to drift off, now giving only one ear to the conversation going on above him.

"If it is not too much trouble, Albus, I would like to stay here," Snape was saying.

/Good,/ Harry thought sleepily to himself. He would never admit it, of course, but strangely, he felt comfortable in the Potions Master's presence. Safe.

Silence a moment, then: "All right, child. I would prefer you slept, but somehow I do not think I can convince you otherwise."

"No, Albus." Was that a smile he heard in Snape's voice? He could not be sure.

A rustle of robes as Snape settled down beside him. Then a callused hand suddenly, hesitantly, stroked through his hair.

/Wha---?/ the boy thought in confusion, his sluggish mind trying to process what the gesture meant. And from Snape of all people! Never in his life had he been touched like this and it struck a chord somewhere deep within him.

Harry found himself leaning into the gesture.

Startled when the boy whom he had quite firmly believed to be asleep shifted closer to him, Severus quickly snatched his hand away. A soft sound of protest, however, stilled him in place.

"Potter? You awake?" he tried to infuse some of his usual indifference into that question, but fell just short.

No answer from the young Gryffindor.

Severus sighed. Much as he knew he should probably be silent and still until the boy fell fully asleep, he could no longer sit idly and watch. Not this time, at least. He could only hope the boy thought this part of some whacked out dream.

That much, at least, settled, the Head of Slytherin gently drew the boy's tousled head onto his lap. Luck was with him in that Harry was almost fully asleep by this point. As he was moved, the thirteen-year-old mumbled a complaint and shifted restlessly.

Immediately, Severus leaned close. "Shh, Potter, shh. It's all right. It's just me."

The teen's movements subsided and, hearing the Professor's voice, he turned and curled up closer to him, unconsciously seeking the warmth and comfort the older wizard provided.

"Shh," the Potions Master continued to soothe his charge, lightly rubbing the thirteen-year-old wizard's back. "Shh." Not knowing what else to do, Severus began to sing softly:

"What child is this, who, laid to rest, on Mary's lap is sleeping?

"Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping?

"This, this is Christ the King, who shepherds guard and angels sing;

"Haste, haste to bring him laud, the babe, the son of Mary. . ."

He continued to sing the last two verses, and it was on the wings of this old Muggle hymn that Harry was at last sent into a blissfully dreamless slumber.

The young Gryffindor would not clearly remember who it was that sang him to sleep that night when he woke the next morning.

Once Severus finished his singing, he happened to glance up. . . and immediately blushed. Albus, Minerva, and Remus stood where he and the Headmaster had some minutes beforehand, all grinning slightly and the Headmaster with his trademark twinkling eyes.

"And just how long have you been there?" Growled.

"Long enough," Albus replied, unperturbed. He shook his head, now serious. "You are something else, Severus."

Unsure what to answer, the Potions Master wordlessly nodded his head.

"You do not have to act like a git forever, Sev," Minerva added softly. "You hardly enjoy it and Harry is not much better."

"That boy is lonely," Remus interjected quietly. "Perhaps if you could soften your attitude towards him during the day. . ."

Severus shook his head firmly. "No. I cannot risk that. If activity picks up again I will be needed, and if Nott, Crabbe, Goyle, or Malfoy find out how much I care about Harry. . . well, I do not even want to think about the consequences." His obsidian eyes bore into his three friends, pleading with them to understand. "Let me do this my own way."

(The Next Day)

The early morning sunlight slanting into the Great Hall the next day fell across Severus's face, waking him. Once he was more or less alert, he discovered that at some point during the night---after he had drifted off--- someone had entered and laid him down beside Harry, covering the two of them with a warm blanket.

The Potions Master blinked and glanced down at his student, smiling slightly when he noticed the boy's face pressed gently against his chest. Harry himself was quite peacefully asleep.

Carefully, so as not to jar the young Gryffindor, he extricated himself from the fleece blanket and sat up. Tucking the covers more snugly around the thirteen-year-old, he leaned down and brushed a light kiss against his forehead.

Standing, he straightened his robes as best he could and glided between the students, making his way soundlessly toward Albus who had fallen asleep and currently snored lightly, in a chair by the doors.

The End!