Harry woke up feeling more rested than ever. It was strange how relaxed he felt in days. Shifting slightly, he realized he was on something soft and warm.
Freezing, his breath caught in his throat as he regained his bearings. It wasn't his uncle's house. No, this room was far more ornate, far more luxurious than he would be given at the Dursley's.
Hogwarts. He was at Hogwarts. Snape. Yes, it all came back to him now. He was in Snape's chambers, which meant, he was lying on…
The realization startled him, as he shifted, tilting his head up, up, and met amused onyx eyes.
"P – Professor!" Came the startled whisper. "I'm sorry, how – how did you…"
"Good that you have finally realized where you are," Came the wry reply. Harry cringed slightly, afraid of the snide man.
"You were having a nightmare last night, Potter. Shaking and crying out. I had no choice but to stay here, or you would more likely than not wake up the whole castle with your crying." Severus said brusquely.
"Oh. I – I'm sorry." Harry looked down at his covers, cheeks burning with mortification. How could he have shown his darkest, weakest side to his more hated professor?
Not wanting to hurt the boy, but yet not wanting to appear soft in front of his student, Harry Potter, much less, Severus stood up, moving the boy gently.
Harry was lost in his thoughts, startled when a cool hand was placed on his forehead before moving down to his neck.
"You're still a little warm," Severus observed.
Harry leaned slightly into the touch, enjoying the gentleness the touch brought, much unlike the violent and cruel ones of his uncle.
Surprised, Severus said nothing, but conjured up a damp cloth, charming it to stay wet, and tried to bring down Harry's temperature.
Harry let himself be cared for by Snape, but was slightly alarmed when he felt his eyes go wet. He blinked furiously, refusing to let his feelings show. He'd never been cared for by someone before, much less Snape, and that feeling was … nice.
He furrowed his brow as tears threatened to spill out. Why was Snape doing this to him? His most hated student? No one should ever treat him that well. He didn't deserve it, his uncle had drilled that into his head well.
Severus noticed his student's reaction, puzzled.
"Are you feeling uncomfortable, Potter?"
Harry shook his head furiously, not wanting to speak for fear it would give his emotions away.
"Are you in pain?" Unlike his usual tone, this tone was gentle, caressing.
Harry didn't respond, his eyes filling with more tears as he tried desperately to blink them away.
"Harry?" Severus decided not to antagonize the boy further. He knelt down by the bed. "Has anyone taken care of you when you were sick before?"
Harry averted his eyes, giving an imperceptible shake of his head.
Severus waited for the elaboration that would come. It wasn't in vain.
"They thought I should be able to heal them all by myself. I wasn't worth it, anyway. A waste of money."
The lack of bitterness in the boy's tone was alarming. It was almost as though he believed it. He seemed almost… resigned to his fate.
Severus kept silent, unsure of how to respond to him. He had no experience talking to abused kids, for goodness sake. He was a Potions Master, cold and unfeeling, someone who never showed any outward emotion. He could not afford to bring down that mask now, not for any student, not even if he was Harry Potter. He continued touching Harry's forehead and neck with the towel. It would help in bringing down his fever.
"Thank you," Harry rasped, his throat dry from talking. He was still weak, after all.
A bout of hacking coughs took him by surprise. His chest heaved as he struggled to regain control of his breathing. It was painful, as his airways constricted, only serving to alarming the struggling boy more.
He swallowed, hard, but the cough didn't subside. He was running short of breath now, and he floundered on the bed, tossing and turning, trying to get up, but his arms too weak to support even his light weight.
Severus had tried to help, but the moment he had touched the boy, Harry had immediately jerked away from him.
In his distress, Harry was left unaware of his surroundings, focusing only on the pain and discomfort he was in, returning him to his past, back to where all his life consisted of was pain and tears.
The touch had startled him, and he had interpreted it as wanting to cause more pain and more harm on his already abused body.
Severus had no choice but to leave the room, obtaining an ointment from his private stores.
When he returned, the boy was tossing and turning violently on the bed. Ignoring the flinch his touch made on the boy, he unbuttoned the boy's shirt and gently rubbed the salve on Harry's chest.
"Harry, stop struggling. This will help. Come on, relax." Severus' deep baritone rung out in the room.
Harry seemed to register his words, as his struggling ceased quickly.
The salve soothed the coughing, aided by Severus rubbing Harry's chest gently.
His breathing soon returned to normal, save for the occasional coughs now and then.
"Rest awhile, Harry, I'll get the house elves to prepare some food for you."
For the first time, Harry registered the use of his first name. Looking up in surprise, he saw a flicker of concern pass over the features of Snape's usually distant demeanor. However, it was replaced almost immediately with a mask of aloofness.
Drained from his coughing fit, Harry lay there quietly, as his teacher pulled the covers over him.
It was certainly unusual to see the softer, more caring side of the Potions Master. A refreshing change, Harry thought.
"Thank you." Came the cautious whisper.
He received a curt nod in response. "I'll return in ten minutes."
Severus left the room, his insides twisted in a knot. He wasn't sure how he felt towards the boy.
He had let the boy hear him call him Harry. He had let his defences down.
Harry Potter, that arrogant little boy had seen his mask down. How could that have happened? Severus kicked himself mentally.
But he knew Harry wasn't arrogant. Behind that usual confident façade was a scared little boy, very much insecure and wary of the world around him. In fact, he was nothing like his father, and Severus knew that.
But to let Harry see the other side of him, it was something Severus never should have done.
Severus Snape never let others close to him. He, all of all people should know that.
Ignoring his misgivings, Severus knew that Harry had serious problems. He had seen the way Harry had flinched and reacted this morning and the night before. His childhood had indeed left him with many uncertainties, many obstacles to be overcome.
Instinctively, Severus felt this desire to protect this scared boy, to shield him from any more harm.
A sudden realization struck him.
Severus Snape was going soft.
The thought made him shudder inwardly.
Shrugging off the thought, summoned a houseelf. It wouldn't do for the boy to lack his necessary nutrition in his already weakened state after all.
The boy had fallen into a light doze when Severus next entered the room, carrying the tray of food.
Setting the tray down carefully, he reached out a hand to shake the boy awake.
Harry awoke with a gasp as he felt his shoulder being grasped. His eyes darted around the room nervously before he noticed his teacher standing there patiently.
"Sorry, I thought – I thought I was…" he murmured apologetically, a light blush immediately spreading across his cheeks.
"Your relatives' house?" The tone was neutral, betraying no emotion.
Harry nodded quickly, shivering slightly at his memories. Seeing the tray of food, he quickly tried to push himself up into a sitting position. However, he was still too weak, and his upper body trembled with the exertion.
He felt strong arms grasp his middle and pull him up gently, until he was resting against the headboard, a pillow on his back.
"Thank you," he said softly, still unused to such treatment. He was beginning to like this new Snape, actually.
A spoon came up to his mouth, and he looked at it skeptically.
"It's soup, Potter. I'm not poisoning you."
Harry looked up at the older man. Was there just that hint of a smile playing on his lips? It was quickly replaced by the usual mask of non-emotion.
"Open your mouth, Potter, or do you want me to force feed you?" Came the sarcastic comeback.
Harry blushed, knowing it was not malicious, and swallowed the mouthful. The soup was pretty good, and it soothed his sore throat as it went down. It was strange how he felt comfortable with Snape.
He managed half the bowl of soup before shaking his head.
Understanding, Severus removed the tray, but not before settling Harry back under the covers.
It was evident how exhausted Harry really was, as he was out even before Severus had left the room.
Why was he even thinking of Potter as Harry? Severus clenched his fist around the tray he was holding. He knew he was absolutely clear how he felt towards the boy. He was, wasn't he?
After all, calling him Harry didn't mean anything.
"No, it doesn't. He's still Potter to me. I just don't want to scare him further, that's all." He muttered darkly to himself as he strode out of the bedroom.
"Ah. Severus! How is young Harry there?"
A familiar voice startled Severus out of his musings. He looked up, straight into the twinkling blue eyes of Albus Dumbledore.
"He's fine, Albus," he replied gruffly.
Dumbledore didn't reply, just continued to smile blindingly at his younger colleague.
"He's better now, still weak though." Severus gave in. He never could stand that gaze. "But he had a nightmare last night. His uncle did some serious damage to him. He's still afraid of touch." He reluctantly added, thinking back to Harry jerking at unexpected touches. A slight tinge of anger had gotten into his voice as he thought about the abuse Harry had suffered at the hands of his uncle.
This anger, though, had not gone unnoticed by the Headmaster, and if possible, his eyes twinkled even more blindingly.
"Good to see that you have taken great care of Harry, Severus."
Severus did not reply, simply turning away.
"Sometimes it's good for you to learn to care."
"Cryptic, as always, Headmaster." Severus said snidely. But the statement had hit him hard. It left in him this unexplainable knot, a strange reluctance to accept it. It was odd, really, that he should be so affected by the boy.
"Have a seat, Albus." He said abruptly, wanting to get off the subject.
Nodding, Dumbledore sat down on the couch, Severus taking a seat opposite him.
"He's fine. I spoke to him the other day. He had noticed the change in Potter too."
"Get him to help Harry. They are good for each other."
Severus did not reply. It was an interesting thought, really, if the two could become friends, there was no doubt that they would be good for each other. After all, they had been through similar experiences, though maybe slightly worse in the case of Potter.
He had had personal experience too, Severus thought of his childhood bitterly. His eyes clouded over.
A hand on his shoulder startled him out of his thoughts.
"I know what you are thinking of, Severus. Don't let your own childhood disillusion you. There are ways, after all, to put him out of that dark place. And maybe you, too, will find some solace."
Severus snorted in derision, choosing not to respond.
Harry was sleeping quite soundly, Albus observed as he stood beside the bed. At his side was the younger Potions Master, arms folded, eyes expressionless, betraying no hint of his true thoughts.
Severus was good for young Harry, and it was clear that Harry was recovering fast, although his emotional wounds would take longer to heal.
A small whimper distracted the two men, and they looked immediately to the bed.
Harry's brow was slightly furrowed, his fists curled tightly on the comforter. His body was tense, his jaw clenched tightly. His leg jerked out suddenly, as though in self-defense.
"No…" came the scared whisper.
The boy curled up into a foetal position, one hand travelling quickly down to the waistband of his pants and clutching tightly.
"No." The whisper came slightly louder, more panicked.
"Please…" The tone was pleading now. A thin sheen of sweat dotted his forehead.
The two men stood transfixed, half-horrified by the sight of this boy trapped in his nightmares, trapped in the shadow of his past, pained by his emotional wounds.
Albus reached out a hand, touching Harry's cheek briefly, but was unprepared for the flinch that came.
"No, no no no. Please no. Not again." Came the hurried hoarse mutter.
The boy curled up even tighter.
Severus instinctively reached out a hand uncurl Harry's fingers. To his surprise, the boy latched immediately onto his hand, clutching it desperately as though it were a lifeline.
Almost immediately, all the tension on Harry's face dissipated, and his breathing slowed.
Unable to move, Severus simply stood there.
"It looks like you are really good for him, Severus." Came the quiet statement.
A/N: I know it's been a really long break. I'm sorry, but I really had no time. I just renewed my interest in this story, so I'm going to try completing it. Hope you'll continue reading and leave a review! Thanks