Title: Tremors in the Night
Disclaimer: Not. Mine.
Rating: Caution for...nothing
Book or TV verse: TV verse
Summary: First TV story...Hrothbert discovers something one night as his skull is taken by a very frightened boy.


Hrothbert felt the movement of the skull the moment it began and had a half-sense of arms pressing around him. Since he knew his dear master would never wrap him up in a hug, it had to be Harry.

What had the boy gotten into now?

He waited until he heard his voice to come out and he was surprised to hear it laced with tears and fear.

"I'm scared…"

At the sound of that, the ghost flowed out of his skull and blinked down at the boy as he saw him. Harry was huddled the corner of his room closest to the door, clutching the rune-engraved prison to his chest like a lifeline, and was staring at him now. Tears glistened across his cheeks and he sniffed.

The boy hadn't been with them that long – a year now, if he recalled correctly – and things had settled into a routine. Morningway went about on his usual business, barely checking in on his nephew, and Hrothbert taught him magic, earning the moniker 'Bob' as well.

Harry was a bright student, he found, and willing to learn once he had caught his attention. And he was actually quite fond of the boy's name for him now.

So…what had happened to turn his bright student into this frightened creature?

"Harry?" queried Hrothbert softly. He crouched down next to the boy, watching the dark eyes as they followed him. "Harry, what is it?"

"M-monster," breathed the boy. "In the c-closet."

The ghost frowned at that and said, "There are no monsters in this house, Harry." Which was a damn lie, he knew, since there were many who would call him such a thing. And Morningway…well, that was obvious.

At that the boy's shoulders slumped and he mumbled, "I know. But…"

"But what?"

Harry hugged his skull tighter and Hrothbert, no, he was Bob with the boy, felt the phantom press of arms around himself. The grip was frantic and he knew that this was nothing so simple as imagined monsters in the closet.

"I miss Dad," mumbled the boy. He ducked his head, dark hair falling over his face, and sniffed. "He'd scare the monsters away, even though we both knew they weren't really there."

Bob frowned at that then said, "Well since he isn't here…why don't I scare them away?"

Harry looked up at him and frowned. "Bob…you can't."

Now that was true but the boy didn't need truth right now. Bob straightened up indignantly and scoffed, "Humph, I should think my very presence would frighten away any monster."

He earned a small smile at that and nodded.

"Even you think so. Now come, get up."

"Wha?"

Bob leaned forward slightly and said, "I need my very brave student to accompany me."

"Brave?" queried Harry. "Me?"

"Yes, you."

They stared at each other for a moment then the boy nodded and scrambled to his feet, arms still wrapped tightly around the skull. Bob smiled down at him then slowly walked towards the closet, making sure Harry was beside him. As they approached, the arms around his skull tightened, and the ghost leaned down.

"Open the door, Harry."

The boy blinked, biting his lip, then closed his eyes tightly and gripped the doorknob. As he jerked the door open, he jumped back and Bob stared grimly into the dark of the closet, as if daring any monsters within to come out. After a moment, he heard the boy laugh and say, "Thanks, Bob."

"You are very welcome, Harry," murmured the ghost. "Now, I think its time for someone to be in bed."

Harry frowned at that then asked, "Um…can…can you stay here?"

"The monsters are gone."

"But…"

"Harry."

The boy ducked his head again and mumbled, "Today's the day my Dad…the day he died. I…I don't want to be alone."

Bob frowned, glancing aside towards the timepiece on the boy's dresser. Indeed it was past midnight and he had no doubt that it was the very day Malcolm Dresden had died. If there were any day Harry remembered, it would be that one.

"Very well," he said softly. "But only for tonight, you understand?"

Harry nodded and Bob smiled.

"Good. Now…to bed with you."

The boy's grin could have lit up the whole manor and the ghost found himself surprised. Here he was, a former sorcerer feared by everyone, giving comfort to this boy. This boy that trusted him – him!

Someone in the universe had a very strange sense of humor, he thought.

In silence, Bob watched as Harry eased the closet door shut then climbed into his bed, carefully sitting the skull down on the bedside table. As he huddled under the covers and stared at the rune-covered bone, the ghost murmured, "Go ahead."

Dark eyes flicked towards him in question then Harry's arm darted out, grabbing the skull and hugging it to his chest. If holding it gave him comfort, so be it. Besides, the thing was protected against any sort of pressure so there was no fear of him rolling over and crushing it. The wizards that had bound him to it had done well in making sure that he would be attached to his own skull forever.

As he 'sat' down at the end of the bed, Harry queried, "Bob?"

"Yes, Harry?"

"Thanks."

"You are welcome."

The boy smiled at him then ducked under the covers, one arm wrapped around his skull. After a few moments, Bob heard his breath even out and leaned over to look down at him. And, for a moment, he wished every day could be as simple as this.

That he did not have to be Hrothbert, the damned sorcerer bound to serve a master who deserved damnation as much as he had.

If only he could simply be Bob, Harry's – dare he think it? – friend and teacher.

That, he thought, would be rather nice.