Harry threw himself back on his bed, smiling with the bed gave a satisfying creak. He could not be ignored forever. He had been here four days now, a total of 96 hours, and they refused to notice him. Well, except when they were shouting orders at him.

He had barely entered the house and set his trunk down when Uncle Vernon told him to put his stuff away and quickly so he could help clean up dinner (that Harry had not eaten).

The next morning Aunt Petunia had woken him up at the crack of dawn to get busy on the garden. June was unseasonably cold, and Harry's hands had felt numb trying to the weed the garden that had been neglected for months. After that, there was breakfast to fix, and then the dusting and washing of windows. The house had to be repainted in the next two days, and Harry had hurried around the house with a ladder, carefully not to get paint on the woodwork or the windows while Aunt Petunia had walked by every so often and criticized.

And today he had started the painting inside. After supper, which they allowed him to eat a bowl of soup, a slice of bread, and half a cup of tea, Aunt Petunia had looked towards the wooden floor in the hall and mentioned something about waxing. Harry had excused himself, saying he was going to bed. His arms ached, and his throat felt a little sore from staying out in the cold too long without a jumper this morning.

But now at barely eight o'clock at night, he was trapped in his bedroom with nothing to do but stare out the window and watch the sunset across the wide sky. He was bored, and angry and hurt about Sirius, and he hated the idea of being trapped here for two months with nothing to distract him but chores and the occasional owl with a letter.

He reached for his school book - the past year's charms textbook with the cover singed for the many times Neville had blown up a particular object the class was supposed to be charming. Though professor Flitwick was a good professor, Harry could not help feeling that Charms was on of the lesser subjects taught at Hogwarts. It had its usefulness to be sure, but levitating objects and casting first year spells seemed weak compared to the edgier subjects like Defence against the Dark Arts and Transfiguration. Those classes had some bite to them; they made him sit up and pay attention because knowledge of their skills could be the very thing that saved his life. He could just imagine meeting Voldemort armed with some dingy charms - watch it, you dark scum lord, see if you like lifting off the ground!

And then there was always potions - Harry looked away from his potion's book with an uneasy feeling. How was he ever going to become an Auror with grades he had received? Nothing less than an O to enter the Auror training, and Snape had given him an E. An E! An A or even a T would have made Harry feel better. One more way that Snape used his power to torture his least favourite student. But an E suggested that Harry was not motivated enough; if he had applied himself a bit more, he might have received the coveted O.

Harry shrugged off his remorse. It was over and done with. If he could not become an Auror, at least he would never have Snape as a teacher again. There was something to say for never having to see the man except at meals and the odd run-in after curfew.

He opened the right pocket of his dress robes. Something he had stolen from Hogwarts when no one else was looking: a small bag full of Floo power. Not much, probably only enough to get him somewhere and back. But he would take his chances. The Dursleys' fireplace was boarded up, but it was still connected to the Floo Network. Two years ago, the Weasleys had tried to come through and fetch him. Harry grinned as he remembered Mr. Weasley shouting at his children to 'go back, go back!', before they all got crammed in the fireplace.

Then Harry's smile disappeared as he remembered that summer. The Quidditch World cup, all excited and ready for adventure. Then the Tri-Wizard Tournament. Then Cedric –

Harry deliberately opened his potions back and stared at the pages, his eyes wide open and intense. If he just kept reading long enough, he would forget. Yes, the Sleeping Draught is a very old and complicated potion. Used to prolong life for those dying of serious illnesses, or to heal those by rest and quiet, the Sleeping draught can be administered three times a day in small quantities, no larger than a teaspoon. It is not recommended for longer than two years.

Two years, Two years? Who would want to sleep for two years? Harry leaned back on his small, lumpy pillow. What if he had been the given the draught at the beginning of the Tri-Wizard Cup and taken it for the next two years. He would be waking up this Fall, and Cedric would be sitting with his friends in Hufflepuff. Harry would be waking up, rubbing his eyes, and Sirius might be sitting by his bed. "Come on, Sleeping Beauty, two years, and you've snored enough to bring the house down. Get up and do something for a change!"

But no, he had been awake for those years, and they were both gone forever.

Unless… Harry snatched up his History of Magic book and flipped through it hastily. What had he done to save Sirius in his third year? Gone back in time three hours. What if he went back in time a month? Or better yet a year and a month? Flip that little hour glass over... let's see – make it 400 days to be safe – times 24, 6 carry the 1... 9600 times? That was a lot of time to turn back. But he could do it. He would find some quiet corner to hide, and start flipping that tiny hourglass over and over, until the morning of the third task. Then he would find some way to explain to everyone what had happened. Of course, the other him might not believe him at first, but he could always knock the younger Harry out and stash him in some corner. He wondered how it might feel to punch himself in the face, and would he feel it later or not?

There was no mention of how to buy time-turners in the History of Magic, Grade 6. Harry reached for a copy of advertisement from Diagon Alley. Hour glasses filled with diamond sand, watches that could predicate the future for the day but were not guaranteed against loss of limb, love, or life; a fake wand that made the clocks turn backwards but did not make time stop, a gold dial that did make time stop, but only for fifteen minute increments, and a pair of watches that you and your sweetheart could where that would tell where the other person was, very reliable for girls with cheating boyfriends.

Harry flung the magazine into a corner. He picked up his last book, a reference to Dark Arts objects and other harmful thing, half of which had been found in the Malfoy's' home at one time or another. Harry flipped to the Ts.

Teeth-sharper – a file that ground one's teeth to points that could pierce through a sword, Tied Nooses – ropes that would straggle anyone once you put the noose around their head – Time-turners…

Harry sat up and brought the book closer to his faceTime-turners – originated in the day of Merlin, possible roots reaching back to the third Egyptian dynasty. Able to turn back increments of time by rotation. Only five known and regulated in the Wizarding ward. Under strict supervision. Of the five, the strongest was found a Snapdragon Manor by Thaddeus Snarpley who was arrested for committing crimes against Muggles then using the time-turner to turn back time to escape. When captured, Snarpley hinted at having more time-turners, even ones capable of turning back months or years at a single turn, hidden in Snapdragon Manor, but none were ever found. The next strongest time-turner...

Harry scanned down the page to the end. As of the publishing of this book, the five time-turners are under regulation of the Ministry of magic and only released under supervision and deeds of requirement. To request one, please contact...

Harry closed the book and stood up. Snapdragon Manor, that was where he was going. He would take his invisibility cloak, his wand, and Floo himself to the Manor. He could search through the house for days until he found the strongest time-turner. If anyone discovered him, he could make a run for it or even pretend to have a nervous breakdown. After this spring, no one expected him to act normal, and now the whole Wizarding world was on his side, ready to support and believe him.

Not a very logical plan, certainly not well thought out, Hermione would stand in horror at his foolhardy, rash...

Harry flung his cape over one arm and took his wand in the other. Then he marched out of the tiny bedroom and downstairs. The Dursleys were sitting on the sofa, watching some inane sitcom that could barely be heard from the laugh track that was roaring as some guy tripped over a chair and fell into a table full of desserts. The Dursleys looked at Harry, mostly annoyed.

"Whatter you doing out here?" Uncle Vernon asked crossly. "You're supposed to be upstairs. If you're too tired to scrub the kitchen floor, then you might as well. Blimey, what are you doing with that hammer?"

Harry held up the hammer he had taken from his room to ply up the floorboards with and wrenched out the front board hammered to the fireplace.

Aunt Petunia leapt to her feet. "You little brat, you'll ruin it. The fireplace doesn't need repair."

"I'm not repairing it," Harry grunted, working on the second board. "I'm leaving, and I'm not coming back."

Petunia looked at her husband, jerking her head towards Harry as if to suggest that he stop their crazy nephew. Vernon took a step forward and then caught sight of the wand sticking out of Harry's back pocket. Turning pale under his normal pasty colour, Vernon shook his head. "After all," he whispered to his wife, "if he gets lost, it won't be our fault, and maybe they'll lock him up for good."

Throwing the hammer aside, Harry shook up and whirled to face them. "I heard that," he said, feeling the old familiar rage sweep over, lighting his nerves of fire. "Well, I'm leaving, and good luck when my parents' murderer comes looking for you, and I'm not here to save you. I hate it here, I hate all of you, and I'm never coming back because I'm going to save my godfather."

"The one who died?" Vernon managed to ask.

Harry didn't reply. He grabbed a handful of Floo powder and threw it down. Petunia shrieked like a banshee when she saw the green flames.

"Snapdragon Manor!" Harry shouted, and the living room of the Dursleys disappeared. Two thoughts flashed through Harry's mind as he was whisked away. The first was that Dudley had not given looked up from the TV as Harry was destroying the fireplace and yelling about leaving. The second was that he had forgotten to put on his invisibility cloak before he left the Dursleys, and now wherever he landed, he would be seen. Well, that was just fine. He would put it on, the moment he landed.

He saw the outline of the room, and then something bright and warm. There was a bloody fire in the fireplace, he was going to catch fire, he was going to burn, where was he?

The fireplace shot Harry out over the fire and onto the stone hearth with an explosion of wind and soot, and he rolled over in a tangle of limbs and cape, barely managing to stop in time from cracking his wand.

The room seemed quiet and still for a moment, and Harry pushed himself up to a sitting position, straightening his glasses. Then everything stopped, time stood still as if he had one of those gadgets from Diagon Alley.

In a tall armchair, not ten feet away, in long black robes and holding a book as thick as Harry's arm, was Snape.

Frozen to the spot, Harry could only gulp and try to remember to breath. Maybe if he stayed very still Snape wouldn't see him. After all, the cape was over Harry's legs, maybe Snape would blink, and Harry could wrap the cape over himself real quick, and Snape would just think he was having a hallucination from teaching dunderheads for so many years.

Eyes not wavering, Snape looked straight at Harry. "Mr. Potter, how unexpected."

The cold, slow voice made Harry's skin crawl. He had to pick himself up off the floor. This was exactly like the Occlumency lessons where Snape kept knocking him down over and over, and Harry had to pick himself up and present his mind again as if he were some book for Snape to flip through at random.

Snape slammed his own book shut, making Harry jump and snap back to the present. Harry pushed off his cloak and stood up, squaring his shoulder, determined not to be intimidated. This wasn't Hogwarts, there were no points to lose for Gryffindor. "I was trying to get to Snapdragron Manor."

"This is Snapdragon Manor," Snape said in the same cold voice.

"Oh," Harry felt his nerve ebbing away, "well, I thought a Thaddeus Something lived here."

"Thaddeus Snarpley lived here three hundred years ago," Snape placed his book to the small table beside the chair, never taking his eyes off Harry.

"Oh, right, well, I didn't know that."

"Mr. Potter, to catalogue what you don't know would take a lifetime, and I for one would like to spend my years free from such drivel. I suggest you return from where you came from, and stop butting into other people's homes and personal lives."

"No," Harry tried to forget why Snape had hated him so much their last Occlumency's lesson, "I can't go home, now."

"Mr. Potter," Snape stood, and Harry stepped back, having forgotten how much taller Snape was. "This is my home, and though you may run wild over Hogwarts, you will not enter this house without my permission. Though you may think it's your right to come and go wherever you please, as your father did –"

"You leave my dad out of this!" Harry yelled. He was not going through Snape's taunting and baiting again, not after what Snape did to Sirius, not after the way Snape had let Sirius go to his death. "I admit he was a prat to you, but I'm not like that. You don't know anything about me."

"I suppose we're at a disadvantage considering that you make it your business to pry into everyone else's."

"I said I was sorry," Harry protested, balling his hands into fists.

"Yes, you're always sorry after you cause catastrophe, but that never stops you from thinking before you act," Snape snarled, showing his sharp teeth. "The daring Boy-Who-Lived, our hero, rushing to save everyone from certain death, taking as his right to disregard rules, arrogant, conceited –"

"I'm not!" Harry nearly stomped his foot in frustration. "If everyone would listen to me and believe me, I wouldn't have to save them! I could follow rules and pay attention in class instead of worrying that I might meet my fate tomorrow and give it all up. Well, I don't care about rules. I don't care about what Dumbledore says. I'm not going back to the Durleys to rot in their tiny room. I'm going to find a time-turner or fate changer, or something to bring them back, and you can't stop me, no one can stop me. You think my father was conceited and headstrong, you haven't seen anything yet, you slimy git!"

Harry reached in his pocket for more Floo powder when a strong hand and grabbed his arm. Harry felt himself whirled around, and then Snape marched him over to the leather sofa.

"I'm not sitting down," Harry growled, trying to squirm away. But Snape had a very strong hand on him and wasn't about to yield an inch.

"No, you're not sitting, I am," Snape sat on the sofa and yank Harry towards him.

Suddenly, everything was wrong and horrible for Harry felt himself falling forward over Snape's knees, his nose nearly touching the carpet. The man's knees felt hard and strong beneath him, and Harry felt a powerful hand pull his torso tight into Snape.

"What are you doing?" Harry gasped, the blood rushing into his face.

"What I should have done years ago," Snape said, his voice tight and stern. "The day you went looking for a troll in the girls' bathroom instead of telling a teacher or at least an older student, you insufferable brat!"

The first smack landed hard on Harry's bottom. Harry gasped, the pain and shock of his position rendering him powerless to do anything but lie there like a little child. Like a little child over his father's knee getting spanked. Snape was – no, this was not real.

The second blow erased all doubt, and Snape delivered and third and fourth wallop before speaking.

"This is for looking for that blasted stone your first year, for endangering the lives of your little friends, annoying as they are. You could have died in Devil's Snare, or the chess game, or the potion's test, or against that traitor Quirrell."

"Ow! But we didn't! Uh, stop!" Harry yelped. The smacks were coming down harder and moving up and down, though concentrated mainly around his sit spot. His left arm was caught between his side and Snape, but Harry flung back his right arm to try to cover his bottom from the onset of sharp smacks. Snape paused long enough to pin Harry's wrist in the small of his back before retorting,

"No, you scrapped though by mere luck, the likes of which I have never seen," Snape shifted his legs a bit, raising Harry's bottom higher for better aim and leverage. Then with nothing to hinder him – Harry's arms tucked out of the way and his bottom a perfect target - Snape started spanking again. "And the second year, looking for the Slytherin's monster? Risking your life and Mr. Weasley's with that idiot Lockhart? Running around the chamber of secrets with a basilisk? Foolish and stupid."

"You can't do this!" Harry protested. "It's – it's wrong."

"Wrong?" Snape bellowed, landing two smacks right in the same place and making Harry yelp. "It's wrong to discipline an intruder, an unruly student, and a scheming brat? Let me convince you just how wrong you are to argue with me at this moment."

Harry was having trouble keeping quiet. His eyes were burning as was his rear-end, and he didn't think Snape was about to stop any time soon, not with the energy he was putting behind his spanks and the enthusiasm he had for his lecture.

"As for the third year, an escaped killer on the loose, and you run wild not only through the school but to Hogsmeade and the Shrieking Shack."

"But Black was ow! innocent," Harry, to his horror, found himself starting to sniff pitifully. He tried squirming, but Snape continued to land his smacks exactly where he wanted: on the tender spots that Harry hadn't even know were vulnerable.

"You didn't know that, and Peter Pettigrew wasn't! Then you had the audacity, the gall to stun me in the midst of those hoodlums, and then you ran off to chase a werewolf after I risked my life to protect you and those friends, again!"

The spanking was nearly unbearable now; Harry felt like blowtorch was being applied to his bottom, searing it with fire, and Snape was not letting up a bit. But Harry didn't care anymore – somehow it was a relief to be punished for transgressions, to get all his anger and frustration to the top and not to fear yelling at Snape because the man couldn't punish him any worse than he was doing right now.

"As for your fourth year –"

"Ow! No, I didn't put my n-name in the g-goblet," Harry choked out, realizing with dismay that tears were welling up in his eyes.

"No, but you were just as arrogant and careless. Everyone had to help get you to the end, because you wouldn't admit that you had no idea of what you were doing. And as for this past year . ."

Harry finally gave in and started crying for real. Tears sprung up unchecked, and he began sobbing. He stopped squirming, stopped fighting, and just lay there, getting spanked like a naughty little boy.

"You threw that lovely temper tantrum in the summer, wouldn't shut up around Umbridge so she kept punishing you, and you ran off to the ministry without thinking about the consequences of your actions."

Harry couldn't stop crying; he knew that Snape would bring up Sirius, and Harry would crack into a thousand pieces. He would break, they might as well send him to St. Mungo's right now for all the good he would be. It was his fault that Sirius had died – he deserved every bit of this punishment.

"And as for snooping around my office," Snape pulled his hand back as far as it would go, "you will never SMACK ever SMACK snoop SMACK around my personal SMACK memories SMACK or my office SMACK again!"

"Yes, I mean no!" Harry bawled, praying it was almost all over. "I won't snoop, and I'll obey the rules."

"And be content being a good little boy?" Snape sneered.

"Yes, I'll be g-good," Harry cried.

"Good," Snape gave him one last awful, almighty slap, then pulled him up to his feet. Harry's face was streaked with tears and sweat, but he couldn't stop crying, and all he wanted was to curl up in a corner and sob himself into oblivion and despair.

But Snape plopped him down on the sofa, causing Harry to hiss sharply as his sore bottom hit the leather seat. He couldn't look at Snape, couldn't look anywhere but at his shaking hands because he would never live this down, and Snape would let everyone know that he had spanked the Boy-Who-Lived. Really, if the famous saviour couldn't defend himself against a punishment from an irate potions master, what chance did he stand against the most evil wizard to have ever lived and died and come back, and now it was as good as over because –

"Potter, stop it. You're only working yourself up," Snape snapped. Then he sighed heavily and pulled out a folded white handkerchief and held it out to Harry. "Wipe your eyes, and calm down. Yes, I spanked you, but you deserved it, and I don't think anyone would have disagreed with me, having witnessed your behaviour."

"But I'm almost sixteen," Harry tried to hide behind the handkerchief which felt gentle and soft against his swollen eyes.

"I don't care if you're almost twenty-six, you will learn to follow the rules. Now, hush."

"But I couldn't save them," Harry tried to wipe away his tears, but they just kept coming. "I tried, I did, but I have to do something to –"

"I said hush," Snape stood. "The only thing you're doing tonight is going to bed."

He pulled Harry up off the sofa, his hand around Harry's upper arm. Harry expected him to throw a handful of Floo powder in fireplace and shove Harry back into it. Instead, Snape dragged him into the hallway, then up a large flight of stairs and down another hall lined with portraits that peered eagerly out from their frames and discussed the new arrival to Snapdragon Manor in hushed whispers. Snape's grip was not painful around Harry's arm, but tight and commanding as he steered the boy into a dark room.

Snape pointed his wand to the fireplace and a blazing fire sprung upon the longs, warming the cold room. Snape lit the chandelier and a large candelabrum before turning to Harry who was still sniffling.

"Mr. Potter, please go into the bathroom and brush your teeth and attend to your other needs. You will find something to change into in there, and then come back here. Though I'm sorely tempted to have you take a bath and give you another licking to remind you of your atrocious behaviour... "

Harry fled to the bathroom before his fearsome potions master could change his mind. The lights on the wall flared up as soon as he opened the door. The bathroom was lofty with marble floor and a huge iron bathtub, but Harry hurried to the mirror to look at his face. He barely recognized himself - his face was pale, his eyes red-rimmed, and tears had streaked with soot down his cheeks. Harry pulled off his dirty clothes and reached for the pair of white pyjamas that had suddenly materialized before realizing that he had left his cloak downstairs. What if Snape destroyed it? Harry thought about rushing back in the bedroom and demanding the cloak, but suddenly he felt exhausted. He just wanted to curl up in some dark corner and hide, not start another fight that would probably get his throbbing buttocks coated a deeper shade of red.

Really, who would have ever guessed that Snape had such a firm hand? Harry imagined that the potions master would be in for longer, more tortuous punishments such as disembowelling toads or scrubbing caldrons for hours, not something so old-fashion and personal. His bottom was still stinging; Harry hissed as he pulled up the pyjama pants and shifted from foot to foot, trying to ease the heat.

Scared Snape might come in if he didn't hurry, Harry brushed his teeth with the little silver toothbrush and mint toothpaste on the sink and washed his face and hands. Then he carried his dirty clothes back in the bedroom.

Snape frowned at him. "Put the clothes on the chair there, and get in bed."

Harry looked at the large bed where Snape was pulling the covers back. Harry's bed at Hogwarts was not that big, and this one looked so deep and inviting. But what he doing – sleeping at Snape's home? Was he suicidal?

"Now, Potter!"

Harry climbed in the big bed and sat back apprehensively against the pillow. What if the bed was some sort of trap? Like an invisible cage that would crash down from the ceiling, holding him prisoner. Or manacles that would spring out of the headboard and restrain him while Snape produced torture instruments. Well, he wasn't going to sleep, that was for certain.

"Here, drink this," Snape handed him a pale white mug.

Years of scary potions lessons had taught Harry to be wary of drinking anything Snape gave him. Tilting the mug around, Harry gently sloshed the dark liquid inside for some clue as to its contents.

"Potter," Snape warned, his frown back, "do not test my patience tonight. There is no Dumbledore for you to run to and whine."

Throwing caution to the wind, Harry braced himself and took a deep sip of the drink. He nearly choked when he realized that it was not a nasty potion, but steaming hot chocolate, creamy and rich. He drank all of it, not realizing how thirsty he was, and then waited. He expected a bitter aftertaste or change in his body – he might fall unconscious or become immobilized on the bed, helpless for whatever experiments Snape would perform. But nothing happened, and Snape took back the mug with a roll of his eyes at Harry's expectant expression.

Harry let out a long, shuttering breath, suddenly too tired to care if Snape had poisoned him or not.

"What's the matter now?" Snape ground on. "You're always sighing or complaining about over something."

The emotions flooded back, but Harry could not stop them from sweeping over him.

"It was my fault," he whispered, and a single tear rolled down his face. "Sirius died because he came to save me."

"Yes, Potter," sarcasm laced Snape's voice, "you forced Black to go to the Ministry, you made the Death Eaters come fight, and then you made Bellatrix fire that curse that knocked him into that portal. I see why you are taking responsibility for your actions. What could you have done differently?"

"You said I rush into things without thinking," Harry protested. "You said I was impulsive and conceited, and when I feel bad about it, you tell me it's not my fault."

"You know what I mean," Snape was very stern, crossing his arms over his chest as he towered over Harry. "You are only responsible for your own actions, not everyone else's. You may think you're some almighty saviour, but you are only a boy with faults and feelings just like the next person, and I will not allow you to act so foolishly."

Harry could think of nothing to say to argue with Snape on that point so he simply let his breath out with a huff.

"Stop fussing," Snape ordered. "And unless you would like to sleep sitting up, lay down like a normal person, or on your stomach if that's more comfortable."

Trying not to huff again, Harry eased on his stomach. And then he knew the battle was lost and over as the soft bed held his tired, sore body in its gentle form. He pulled the pillow, smooth and stuffed with feathers, under his head and clutched it to him. He was about to reach back and pull the covers up when he felt the sheet and blankets moved up over his body to his shoulders. Had Snape just tucked him in? Harry tried to keep his eyes open, but he was fading fast.

"Thank you for following an instruction without complaint for the first time in your life. Glasses?" Snape held out his hand, and Harry handed him his glasses. The room grew even blurrier and more distorted.

"Now, Potter," Snape's voice cut through Harry's sleepiness, "though you may feel disinclined, I expect you to stay in bed or at least in this room until morning. You have a lavatory, and I will know if you leave this room. So I suggest you relax and sleep. I will not have a repeat of this evening or our last Occlumency lesson."

"No, sir," Harry whispered, fighting to keep his eyes open. He should care about what Snape was saying, but Harry wanted only to curl up tighter and give way to his exhaustion. His bottom still throbbed, but not a sharp pain, just a dull ache to remind him that Snape was quite capable of playing the role of disciplinarian as he was the evil potions master.

"We will deal with where you go from here tomorrow morning, so don't bother trying to write letters or sent owls in attempts of pleading for help from your adoring fans. Your one concern tonight is sleeping. In fact, I'm coming back in five minutes, and if you aren't sound asleep then, I'll make your punishment earlier feel like a few love pats."

Harry was trying to listen, but all he could only nod listlessly as his stern teacher lectured.

"Good night, Mr. Potter," Snape extinguished the candles with a flick of his wand, and the only light now came from the bathroom.

"Night," Harry whispered as his heavy-lidded eyes closed shut. He couldn't remember if he heard Snape leave, the man sounded like he was tidying up the room, but it didn't really mattered because Harry thought... he thought maybe... just perhaps...

Four minutes later, Snape emerged from the bathroom where he had straightened up towels. He looked over at his unexpected guest who had intruded into his life completely uninvited. The boy was on his side, breathing long and deep, dark lashes against pale cheeks. The cursed mop of dark hair was sticking up in all angles, and Snape vowed that the first thing the boy would get tomorrow would be a haircut. And a bath. And some new clothes and healthy breakfast before Snape had to get rid of him.

Lost within sleep, Harry sighed and snuggled deeper into the bed, holding his pillow even tighter. Snape wanted to roll his eyes again. Really, the boy looked so little and innocent, belying the trouble-making, the insolence, the know-it attitude that Snape found so repulsive.

But he had spanked the brat. Really, what had he been thinking? What would Dumbledore say once he heard that his ugly spy had hit the precious saviour of the Wizarding world? Well, it couldn't be worse than anything Snape had endured as a Death Eater.

The fire had died down, and Snape turned to it, accioing some new logs to help stoke the heat. Sighing, he unfolded the blanket at the end of the bed and pulled it up over the slumbering boy. Well, it wouldn't do anyone any good if the brat got sick from cold or woke up shivering and decided to explore the manor. No, Mr. Potter was staying in bed tonight even if Snape had to tie him down.

However, Snape resisted the urge to place a binding spell on the bed – people under the spell tended to wake up panicked and hysterical. Snape did not want hear any screaming in his house, even if it was Harry Bloody Potter hollering. Besides the boy had cried enough already tonight – completely over-reacting in Snape's opinion. The spanking had not even been that hard – Potter had endured worse injuries without making a sound. Snape remembered numerous Quidditch accidents when the boy had swallowed the pain, the whiteness of his lips the only indication that he felt anything. And a few smacks from his potions master opened a dam of tears and sobs?

Snape sighed again. The boy must be stifling the grief over the death of that mangy godfather. Really, Snape would never get a moment's peace at this rate.

Potter moved a little again, this time drawing into a tighter ball. He made a little sobbing noise in his throat as if not completely through with his grief yet, but his eyes stayed closed, and he didn't wake.

The next few moments Snape blamed for loss of mental capabilities or subjection to the Imperious Curse for he actually leaned over the bed and tucked the covers tightly around the boy's shoulders. He felt the boy's forehead, just to check that he had no fever – there was no telling whether or not Potter took care of himself during the summer, and Snape refused to think of tending a sick Potter. At least that was the excuse he gave as he felt the boy's cheeks as well. Potter's forehead was cool, but his cheeks were warm, almost hot to Snape's cold fingers. Well, he would check the boy out further in the morning. Waking him for an inspection would only turn him into a grumpy, cranky Potter, and Snape wanted no reason to punish him again.

Then, oh horrors, he brushed Potter's dark hair from his forehead, very softly. He even ran his finger over the famous scar, tracing its rough edge with his finger. Potter did not stir, but Snape straightened and jerked back. Had he just gently touched the brat, the curse of his existence?

Well, the boy would suffer for that tomorrow. Snape stalked from the room. The only sound was Harry's rhythmic breathing as Snape closed the door.