Disclaimer: Only JKR is as lucky to own HP.

Dislocation's Game

By. Howl

This is the way the world ends,

Hunched over in a way that could trigger a feeling of plausible concern in a passerby—unfortunately all passersby were muggles and they were molded with a misplaced impression—the young boy dug himself farther into the ground. His teeth were gnashing together, bitten with an extremity of force that seemed to literally clench his skull together, and his fingers, stubby and dirty, were knuckle-white upon the crease of his elbow.

Face washed with silent tears, there by the invitation of un-want, his lungs inhaled air timidly only to expel it brazenly. Washing over him, bathing him gently, as if trying to wrap him in a warm blanket, nestle him into protection, the sun's rays were dying as the horizon lifted up, covering her. Fighting back the temptation to whimper, his nose sniffing weakly, the boy shook his ragged hair from his eyes, still clutched to Pain's hand.

Behind him, uncaring in its blatant blandness, the Dursley's household rested quietly, seemingly with its back turned toward him though he squandered in the front yard. The heat of the summer blazed down onto his young neck, scorching it, and still he could hear his Uncle's orders for the front garden to be perfectly weeded and the wheelbarrow full of flowers to be neatly plotted or 'No dinner!'

Grimacing at the memory, his hand curling up tighter, spiraling more and more miserable pain into his clutched arm, Harry Potter leaned farther forward, until his forehead was pressing into the dirt.

He couldn't do anything. He was in trouble. More than trouble. He was in that sort of trouble that even the most evil people of history feared themselves. He was in dead trouble. Aunt Petunia's garden wouldn't be finished, thereby the flowers wouldn't have time to flourish before the contest next week, and she would loose.

Petunia Dursley never lost the Gardening Contest of Surrey Lane. N-E-V-E-R. And if she lost this year, because of her 'freak' nephew having failed to plant the wheelbarrow full of flowers on the perfect date, he could be dead and buried before reaching the two digit genre of his life.

Stomach tumbling and flying into a flailing furrow of butterflies, feared and pained at the same time, Harry bit his bottom lip harshly, pleading desperately with himself to not cry. Not to cry. Especially over that. It didn't matter, really. None of it did.

But it did. He didn't want to die, nor did he want to suffer a hungry stomach. All he wanted was something else. Something preferably with people that cared for him and something that would make him worth a future. That way he could prove the Dursleys wrong.

Prove. Them. Wrong.

As if drawn by his bitter thoughts—yet pleading ones too—the door of the said house banged open and a large walrus of a man stepped out, mustache bristling. With one sweeping glance of his beady eyes, he settled on the scrawny eight-year-old, whole body seemingly to fluster up. "You, boy," he ground out, voice steeled on an edgy calm. "You better hurry up," he hissed the words dangerously. "If you mess this up, it'll be the last thing you do!"

Gulping coyly, Harry nodded sheepishly, doing his best to hide the fact he was injured. Wouldn't do. No, no, wouldn't do. Mustn't show weakness to his Uncle, the man never helps him—never. "Don't even dream of coming back inside boy – if there's so much as a flower left in that wheelbarrow…"

He trailed off, his threat still lingering in the air darkly. And though he had turned away, to storm back inside while ranting to himself, Harry still nodded, out of pure habit. Wincing against the slamming of the front door, he boy huddled farther forward, fingers rising up from his elbow and locking about his forearm.

Tenderly, he straightened up, watery eyes staring forward. The sun was near to being completely set. He didn't like being out after dark. It was scary. Not that he was afraid of the dark. Oh no, not after living under that cupboard for so long, but this darkness was different. In his small room, he was safe. Outside, open from all sides, he felt vulnerable.

Shaking his head free, wondering just what exactly was wrong with his shoulder, he tightened his grip, as if to hoist it up—Crack!

His eyes flew about wildly, from the strange cracking noise in his backyard. "Wha…" he trailed off, his large green eyes widening like a sickly puppy.

Something…something was in the backyard?

It was hard to tell. The Dursleys sure hadn't reacted to that noise, nor had any of the neighbors, but it'd been there. A sharp, cracking whip-like noise. It echoed too. He was sure of it. Maybe a broken tree branch? But—were tree branches that loud?

No, no, of course not.

Licking his dry lips, wondering what it might've been, he hesitantly crawled to his feet. He should check it out, right? Yes, he should. Of course. He'd been the only one to hear it, so it could be nothing. It was simple really, anyway. Had it been something bad, then Uncle Vernon would've come shooting out, with some sort of weapon in hand. To protect his son and wife. Duh!

Awkward in his overlarge shoes—worn through to the sole by Dudley's large feet—Harry stumbled around to the back, his stubby fingers still hoisting up his shoulder, pain spiraling through it relentlessly. Drawing up to the edge of the monotonous house, he peered cautiously around the corner.


Sighing in relief, he dropped against the side of the house. The backyard was empty—purely made up of its fresh green grass and nothing else. Halleluiah! Licking his lips again, reassured more this time, he cast a feverishly look at the sky before looking back at the garden that was only weeded.

Far from done he was.

Slumping forward tiredly, he stared at his supplies from the corner of his eye before trudging into the once ominous backyard. Need more soil. Trekking toward the shed, fighting to not cry from the pain of his shoulder—which he felt he had merely yanked strangely when working with the heavy and twice, if not triple, his size wheelbarrow—he smiled in inward relief at the sight of the slightly ajar shed-door.


That meant he didn't have to relinquish his grip on his arm just yet.

Pulling it open with the toe of his foot, he hopped backwards somewhat, before regaining his balance and stalking forward. Scanning the cluttered shed swiftly, eyes landing and jumping upon all the objects, he spotted the soil in the far corner. Fighting back a groan at the sheer distance the soil was, the boy stubbornly walked forward, determined.

He would do this. He would get in before it was dark.

Reaching the soil easily, he hesitated with the grip of his arm. He had to do this. He would do this. Suck it up, Potter! Licking his lips again, he took a steadying breath, and letting go his grip somewhat, he fought the whimper of a gasp from his lips as his shoulder dropped down, heavier than anything else.

Shutting up one eye in pain, he latched a hand forward, coiling his fingers about the fraying plastic wrap, before tensing as something creaked behind him. That wasn't normal. The shed didn't creak like that. It settled with a huffing moan and it squeaked with the door, but it didn't creak.

Harry had spent many years in and out of the shed, almost so many that they could be equal to his years spent in the cupboard, and he knew its ends and outs like he was familiar with all the spiders in the under-creases of his stairs. This brought up only one thing, however.

What was behind him?

Fighting the urge to move his neck—in a machine-gun like style—to peer over his shoulder, he attempted to play it smooth. Grab the back of soil, pray that whatever it was was hiding and then get out of the shed and run like hell.

Always the best bet.

Gulping somewhat, he tightened his grip and straightened up—a hand abruptly grasped him shoulder. Crying out, torn between pain and fear, he whirled around, his other fist bundled up and flying. To his surprise, the fist connected, melding into the flesh of a hunched over figure, knocking him sideways.

Released for the briefest of moments, Harry faltered in his surprised terror, before kicking back into gear. Knocking his legs forward, his right arm firing up to grab his hurt one methodically, he made beeline for the door, ignoring the grunting swear of the figure behind him.

Legs short, however, weak from the lack of food that day, Harry didn't get too far before the hands snatched him again, tackling him around, pinning his squirming body, ceasing his escape. Pain showering his shoulder, nose sniveling stupidly, he jerked and twitched like a fish out of water until the hands increased their pressure.

"Cease, Mr. Potter, now!" Dumbstruck by the use of his last name, Harry opened up his eyes, widely, pouring them straight into the onyx eyes above him. Cold, impassive onyx eyes. "Good," the silky voice growled. "Can I trust to let you go now?"

Dumbly Harry nodded. "Without running or screaming?" the man pressed. Again another dumb nod in affirmation. "Good." Instantly the man let him go, through a little tensely, and settled backwards, breathing raggedly.

Grimacing in his own pain, Harry set up, peering warily at the shadowed man, seeing that, even through the black set of—robes? No, nonsense!—clothing, even his thin, long coat, that there were tears and gashes, revealing his white undershirt. From the last remaining rays of light of the day, he could see that the white had red pooling on it.

"You're hurt," he murmured weakly, hand clenching on his arm.

"Nice observation, Potter," the shadowy man growled. "Now, be a good little boy, and go fetch your neighbor, Figg, and avoid alerting those infernal muggles of yours."

"Wha?" Harry blinked stupidly. "Muggles? What's a mug—" he broke off, catching the man's look. "Ms. Figg isn't here!" he blurted. "She won't be back until morning…" he trailed off meekly, as if her late return was a fault of his own.

Sighing stiffly, the man shifted. "Very well," he settled back. "I can't go much farther tonight—"

"You want me to get my Aunt? She can help—"

"I said leave your infernal relatives out of this Potter!" the man flared before watching in blatant intrigue was the boy flinched away. "But seeing how I had no choice but to get you involved," he carried on, voice laced with distaste, "then make yourself useful."

"How?" Harry looked around nervously.

"Get me some bandages," he said with a pointed glare.

"But I can't," Harry rubbed the underside of his nose, briefly letting loose his arm.

"Why ever not Potter? Were you not taught manners in helping the injured?" Befuddled for a moment, the boy blinked his overlarge emerald eyes.

"I, I, I," he stuttered, confused.

"Spit it out Potter!"

"I can't go inside," he spilt out. "Notsupposedtogoinuntilgardenisdone."

There was a thick, undaunted moment where the man merely stared at him, his eyes cold and penetrating, making Harry squirm and fret self-consciously. "I'm not too sure I caught that Potter," the man drawled slowly. "Care to repeat it?"

Shaking his head vigorously, Harry turned and, before the man could say anything, scrammed from the shed. Looking around wildly, for any sign of his relatives, or namely his Uncle, he darted into the house and through the kitchen with a nervous twitch.

Never failing in letting loose his shoulder, he hunched down somewhat.

From the living room, he could hear the blaring of the telly, spilling all the news that there was of the current area, only mingled by the occasional comment from his Uncle and huff from his Aunt. He wasn't to get them involved. The man said not to get them involved.

Who was the man though? Should he trust him? He knew his name. No one knew his name. Not even the neighbors. He was just a juvenile delinquent that the Dursleys had the misfortune to care for. Or so that was the belief. (A foul misconception by far.)

Squeezing his hand tightly, he hunched forward somewhat, bending down low so that he blended in beautifully with the shadows of the kitchen. Creeping forward, mind set on helping the injured man—for that was the right thing to do—he quickly made way to the bathroom.

Gingerly releasing his arm to collect items, he fetched out an old shirt of his from the hamper and collected them all up, piling them neatly and tidily into the shirt's creases, before wrapping them up. Quietly, making sure not to make any noise, he curled his fingers around the shirts edges, and re-gripping his arm with the bag in hand crept from the bathroom.

Reaching the kitchen without falter, he tensed somewhat, hearing his Uncle's booming voice roaring about some lawsuit, before relaxing. He was safe. Moving forward swiftly, he hesitated at the sound of the fridge.

The man was probably hungry.

Dudley was always hungry when he got hurt.

Chewing his bottom lip, knowing it was risky business, taking food, he made an impulse decision, and darted forward. Releasing his arm once again, he opened the fridge door a crack, and peered in. What could he take that was safest? Something Aunt Petunia had forgotten about, Dudley wouldn't miss, and Uncle Vernon knew less about what was in the fridge than Petunia knew about drills.

Glancing around, feverishly, he finally landed on some old Chinese. Of course! Dudley hated Chinese, Petunia wouldn't notice because it'd already aged a few days—brought home by Vernon—and well, Vernon had forgotten its existence.

It had actually been the food he'd been planning to nick later. Didn't matter. The injured man needed it more than him.

Snatching it, he coiled a finger about it, grabbed the shirt again, hoisted up his arm, and ran out of the kitchen carelessly. Reaching the now darkened backyard, he darted straight toward the shed, and slipping in, he looked around wildly, startled to find the man missing.

It hadn't been a dream had it?

No, no, of course not. No one just imagined that sort of stuff. Though it was a bit like magic. True. No, stupid, of course not. There was no such thing as magic.

"Sir?" he squeaked nervously. "Sir?" there was a movement and the man emerged from the shadows, eyes narrowed suspiciously. "I got you some things," he stepped forward, timidly, and placed them in the middle of the shed. "And food," he added in afterthought.

The man remained mute as he stepped forward, crouched down painfully—judging from the sucking of his breath—and opened the shirt. Riffling through the items, he settled, rather disgruntled, on the fact that they would do. Dropping down, ungracefully, the man set to fixing himself up.

Shifting, uneasy, Harry finally turned to leave. "Stay," the man ordered sharply.

"But—but, I've got to finish the garden."

"It's dark outside, Potter, or are you that dimwitted?"

Bristling somewhat from the accusation, hating being called stupid, Harry straightened up somewhat. "No," he spat back, edgy. "I have to finish it or Uncle will be mad. He says I can't come inside until I finish it anyway," Harry dropped a look at the supplies he'd gotten. Had he been caught…he suppressed a shudder.

"Truly?" the man didn't seem to care.

"Yes," he muttered, watching the man's skilled hands working to wrap himself up before shaking his head. "Anyway, doesn't matter—I got to finish it up. Have to eat."


"Oh, that's right, that food's for you," Harry pointed out, almost happily. "It's old, though. Old Chinese food. All they had that they wouldn't notice had been swiped."

"Swiped? Can't take food without getting into trouble Potter?" he sounded amused, as if by some inner joke.

"Um," he fretted somewhat. "No…" he looked around the shed, taking in the shadowy darkness. "Why should I be able to?"

The man lifted his eyes up momentarily before looking away, clearly not finding that question worthy enough of a response. "Sit," he instructed. "You're annoying standing."

Tinting red, he dropped down, grasping his shoulder painfully. He watched carefully as the man patched himself up, memorizing the movements, hoping that something of what the man was doing would come in handy for his shoulder.

"Who are you, sir?" he finally asked.

"Took you a bit to ask that," the man commented distantly. "And that's none of your concern," he retorted, eyes lifting up sharply. "Is that clear?" Harry complied with a nod instantly.

"How do you know me?"

"Everyone knows you, Potter—now be silent!" Falling mute instantly, Harry fidgeted on the ground. Everyone knew him? That wasn't possible. Not everyone knew him. That wasn't so. He was invisible. He basically shouldn't exist with all the acknowledgement that he gets from the Dursleys.

Eventually the man finished tending to himself and set to the food without a word. Harry watched him, almost hungrily, before looking away. The injured man needed it more than he did. Milking his fingers across his arm, he stared up at the shed's roof before sighing. "Sir," he began, unsurely. There was merely a grunt in response. "May I please leave? I need to get to the garden."

"Do what you like Potter—I no longer care," the man snarled, waving him off. Jumping up instantly, Harry moved forward, skirting a birth around the scary man, and tenderly he let go of his arm. "What's wrong with your arm?" the man asked, eyes having watched him the whole time.

"N-nothing," he gulped. "I just pulled it too roughly—that's all."


"Moving a wheelbarrow—I sorta tripped and yanked it," he lifted up his good shoulder. "Doesn't matter," he cut the man off completely by turning back to the soil.

"Are you quite serious Potter?" the man continued snidely as he watched the boy struggle. "Its near to being pitch black outside."

"I know," Harry panted. "But I have to. I have to finish. I don't want to get into trouble. I don't want to be locked up again. I want to eat." He tugged on the heavy bag ruthlessly, paining his arm even more.

"Eat? Potter?" the man asked slowly, deadly.

"I do what I'm told, do all my chores, finish on time, and I eat," he rolled his eyes in exasperation. That's how it was! Didn't the man know that? Stupid. "Can you help me a bit, sir? Not much, mind." He added hurriedly, remembering the man was hurt.

"Use both arms, Potter," the man said carefully, his voice shielded.

Chewing his tongue, Harry frowned somewhat. OK…And with as much might as he could muster, he attempted to raise his arm, only to cry out in pain. Instantly the man moved, locking his arms about the boy's torso carefully, and pulled him backwards.

Gasping somewhat, struggling, Harry attempted to escape but the man held on tightly. "Stop moving, Potter!" the man flared. "It's tiresome, annoying, and useless. I'm merely looking at your shoulder." Ceasing warily he found himself being seated, carefully, onto the ground before the man.


There was a pause, a movement, and then something was pressed into his hands. "Finish this off while I look at your shoulder, Potter—clear?"


"Surely I don't need to break it down farther than that, Mr. Potter." The voice was low, dangerous, and exasperated.

"No," Harry said quickly. "But this is your food…"

"I'm quite full," was the only response. Taking stock in those words and incredibly hungry, he set to wolfing down the noodles, uncaring that his dirty fingers were now grabbing and tainting the food he was shoveling into his mouth. Only vaguely was he aware of the man trailing his fingers across his shoulder, tutting his tongue, before falling free.

Once Harry polished off the noodles, quite content, he started as the man's voice drawled into his ear. "Finished, Potter?" Nodding meekly, he scooted around somewhat. "Don't move!" halting instantly, the boy ducked his head. "You're going to be a hassle at Hogwarts, aren't you?" the man grumbled sourly to himself.

"Wha?" Harry blinked, confused. "Hog—"

"If you're going to question me, you will finish the word, Potter, is that clear? I do not accept 'wha' as a question." Nodding numbly, Harry set forward somewhat.

"Can I go, sir?" he muttered. "I need to finish the garden."

"Potter," the man's hand gripped his shoulder. Looking over a bit, somewhat confused and wary, the boy let his large green eyes ask his question. The man, shadowed over still in the darkness, leaned forward, lips brushing close to his ear. "I'm sorry."

There was a sharp, almost violent shove of his shoulder up and back, earning a pained scream from the boy, who broke into a fresh batch of tears. The man gathered him backwards. Slumping into the body, his shoulder seemingly shuddering, he barely registered the man's arm pulling up his arm, pressing it close to the skinny chest, lessening the pain.

Wheezing, eyes blurring in and out, Harry gulped hungrily for air while his nose pitifully sniffed continuously. "Potter, bid me one more action in your life where I'm trusted by you, and open your mouth."

Uncomprehending of the statement the boy automatically opened his mouth, having only understood that. The small rim of something slick and cold pressed onto his lips and a smooth, blackberry tasting liquid coiled down his throat, soothing it. Drinking it down tiredly Harry's world faded in and out as a clean warmness swept through him, snuggling him, nesting him.

"Garden…" he slurred.

"Where do you sleep, Potter?"

"Cupboard…under…stairs…" his head lolled to the side and darkness blanketed him. Sighing tersely, the man shifted, moving the boy carefully. Laying him flat on his back, taking in his contently set face, the man undid his belt and with the best skill he could manage in his state, he wrapped the belt about the boy's neck and arm, keeping it hoisted up.

Hoping the boy was keen enough to grasp that he needed to keep it levitated, the man set back. "If you're this much trouble here, Potter, I dare not dream of school," shaking his head, he bent forward, picked the boy up, and with a grimace of pain—luckily the boy was light—he trooped out of the Shed and to the household, that was now black.

Slipping in easily, the kitchen door foolishly unlocked, he located the cupboard under the stairs—and even though he was warned of the boy's room in advance, anger filled him darkly at the sight of the room—and settled the boy down in the bed. Lifting up a tattered sheet over the boy, he stepped back.

"I fear, Mr. Potter," the man drawled quietly. "That this will be the last time the two of us will be together in a room without absolute loathing. For that I am sorry," he turned away. "I am Severus Snape, Potions Master of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Mr. Potter." he stalked off, his 'coat' billowing. "Farewell—'wait and hope.'"

Stirring somewhat in his slumber, only coming coherent long enough to catch the last whispered words, Harry rolled over, once again asleep soundly.

Before making his pained way to Ms. Figg's abandoned house, planning on waiting her out, Severus Snape hesitated by the garden only long enough to lift his broken wand, murmur a spell—simple enough to not be flawed by the broken magic—and instantly the flowers leapt up and buried themselves into the garden.

This is the way the world ends,

Stalking down the halls of Hogwarts, his robes billowing, Severus Snape made his way down to the dungeons in a foul distemper. Not because anything particularly bad had happened—actually, if one counted the company of Harry Potter down his dungeons a bad thing…—but just it was something of his constant demeanor now.

Glaring daggers at a few hushed Hufflepuffs, who scattered at the sight of him, he finally reached the sanctuary of his dungeons, and set a path for the dungeon classroom, hoping beyond hope that Harry Potter hadn't destroyed his classroom as of yet.

Banging into the room, Snape swept a glance about the room, eyes hard, before falling onto a hunched over Harry Potter, who seemed to be taking his own Potter-made break. "What do you think you're doing Potter?" he growled dangerously. "These desks look far from spec-less for taking a breaking."

Watching the boy visibly tense—rather from anger or something else he did not know—he lifted his crafted, well-known eyebrow as the sharp green eyes rose to meet his. Ooh, how they had changed over the years. How they had changed before he had even set foot in Hogwarts.

Snape's mind was still scarred with the vivid image of those large, innocent, timid emerald eyes in the shed, looking up at him fearfully but longingly, wanting to know the reason that someone knew who he was but not wanting to disobey the man's snappish orders. The innocence. The naivety. Before even Hogwarts, they'd changed.

He'd seen it the first time he laid eyes on the boy since that night in the shed. The moment he stepped through the Great Hall doors, a small, petite eleven-year-old first year. They were drawn more then too. Probably lost of their innocence from the truth of his heritage. Yes, Snape knew that the boy hadn't known who and what he was while growing up.

Then Quriell's tore them farther down. Lockheart made them colder and Tom Riddle made them less innocent. Sirius Black made them sharper, more piercing, while Moody made them more guarded. But it was Voldemort that really did it. Voldemort stripped him of all innocence. Cedric's death raped him. Sirius's death kindled an angry temper of nothing other, while at the same time killed a bit of him off.

Yes, Harry Potter's eyes were far from the sight they had been when he was a naïve eight-year-old. And the loathing they had creased in them, staring at him, glaring at him, daring him—yes, yes, Snape's own predicted words were more than prophetic from that night.

"Well?" he snarled, arms crossed—a maneuver that was merely trained now, nothing else.

"Sorry. Sir," he spat out the respect. So unlike his younger self. "I merely yanked my shoulder—I was just easing it somewhat."

"Yanked?" Snape repeated, a foreign flutter in his stomach. His voice doubled in coldness to ignore that flutter. "Truly Mr. Potter? Yanked? How does one yank their shoulder while cleaning desktops, hmm? Most remarkable you are, Mr. Potter, in achieving the impossible."

The boy's eyes darkened.

Ah, yes, and then there was me too. Snape had been the worse for thrashing that innocence. Truly. For only he was the steady nemesis in the boy's life that had continuous access to ripping the gleaming threads out of those eyes. Only him. Now, however, he did have Voldemort—but there was still Snape.

Always true to his word, he must be.

Refusing to respond to the declaration, the boy grabbed a cloth with his good arm, and set to cleaning the table, eyes hard and cursing. Yes, cursing him to the deepest bowels of Hell. Snape wasn't a fool.

Instead of walking back to his desk however, Snape walked toward the boy, who—almost imperceptibly—clenched. "If you feel you're injured Potter," he drawled maliciously. "Than you claim 'invalid' and go to see the nurse."

"I'm. Fine." He ground out tediously.

Making a 'hmm' noise in the back of his throat, the man considered the boy's shoulder carefully. Judging from the way it was hanging, the way he was moving, the strange position it was in, it would seem like…

Snape's mind flashed back, dangerously, to the shed. To the tear-stained boy, gripping his shoulder, sniffing reluctantly, fighting to control what he couldn't, and finish what he couldn't, to feed his mouth. Sacrificing his food because he foolishly thought that all those injured were hungry. Tempting a thrashing to get him medical supplies.

All the while gripping his shoulder.

"You dislocated your shoulder," Snape said, voice foreign to even him. Had he said that in present or past tense?

"Sir?" the boy looked up, confused.

"You," Snape shook his head, clearing his dazed thoughts. "Have dislocated your shoulder—you need to go to the nurse."

"I'm fine, sir, honestly," Harry protested, the desperation to avoid the nurse written in his eyes. "I've had worse." Too true.

"Stop being dimwitted Potter!" the man flared. "You can't operate with a dislocated shoulder. Now, either you go to Pomfrey's care, or I shove it back in for you. And I assure you, Mr. Potter, my method is not fun."

Watching the boy's inner battle, the struggle to avoid the nurse while at the same time to not tempt fate with Snape—Snape!—with the care of his shoulder, the man frowned somewhat. And for the first time in years, the man wondered if Harry remembered that night in the shed.

Yes, Harry didn't know it was him, but did he remember it at all?

"I," the boy frowned, confused. Mentally rolling his eyes, fearing he'd gone and brought out of the stuttering Potter boy, Snape moved somewhat, ignoring the boy's still pondering look. Coming behind the boy before anything could be said or done he grabbed the boy's arm and shoved it back into place.

There was only a strangle gasp of pain this time and Snape let loose instantly. "If this is how quickly you're going to make decisions, Potter, I fear for our future," he said silkily. "Now, do you have a belt? I recently ran out of slings with my last two dislocated shoulders."

Growling, tiredly, at the sarcasm, the boy fetched the belt from his pants, and turning, he passed it to the man. Startled, for a moment, the man stared at the belt. His belt. The one that he'd used on the boy all those years ago last time he dislocated his shoulder.

He kept it? Truly? Did he realize what it was? Or was it just another item he owned and just wasn't sure of its origin?

"Sir?" Harry prompted, curious but tired.

Snapping out of his rumination, he pulled on his most perfected sneer and stepped forward, tying up the belt. "After detention, Mr. Potter, you're to go to Pomfrey, until then you can tough it out." His only response was a snarling sneer.

Snape wondered if he learned that from him.

Free from the boy, he turned around with a whirl, and made to leave the classroom. He needed out now. No use watching the boy at the moment. Couldn't think straight.

"Sir," Harry called him back somewhat. Halting with an audible growl, he felt his eye twitch.

"What, Potter?"

"You fear for the future?"

"With it in your hands, yes." That wasn't true. But who was to know that? He knew the eight-year-old boy still and he knew the changed one too. He probably knew more than anyone else. "Get to work, Potter, I've no patience to talk divination with you."

There was a snort behind him and satisfied he walked forward.

"'Wait and Hope,' Professor," the boy's tired voice said softly from behind him. Freezing instantly, the man caught his breath. But he didn't look over his shoulder; he wasn't foolish enough to do that. No. Instead he walked off, noting for the first time just how tired the boy's voice always was.

He shouldn't have been foolish enough to think that it just the detention.

It was everything.

And in his wake, green eyes stared. Deepened, wise, masked, clever, witty, sharp, scarred, old, far from innocence, tainted with death, and worst of all, burdened.

"Yes, Mr. Potter," Snape breathed quietly. "'Wait and Hope'—in this dislocated world of ours. Maybe something can be made of it—with old Chinese food and stolen bandages, hmm?"

This is the way the world ends,

Not with a bang but a whimper.

The End.

--Hollow Men by T.S. Eliot

--Count of Monte Cristo