Disclaimer: I don't own anything of Harry Potter.
Note: Thanks for the reviews. I thought it would be fun to focus a bit more on the first meeting between the two that I have hinted at in the last chapter. Let's begin. So this really is the prologue.
The door opened and Severus groaned to himself. Couldn't he just have one day without the insufferable brat? He put the book away and scowled at the teenager who entered. The messy haired, bespectacled green eyed teen called out. "Hello, Professor Snape."
"No longer a Professor, Potter. Surely you should know that by now. It has been all over in the papers." Severus found that his voice still sounded hoarse from the snake bite more then a month ago. He rubbed at his neck and slowly breathed out through clenched teeth. Ever since his trial, three weeks ago, Potter had been visiting him every day.
Wasn't it bad enough that Severus had to deal with the fact that Potter had saved him but did the insufferable whelp have to visit him every day to keep him company? Severus didn't need company, he needed to get well so he could get on with his life after the Dark Lord's fall and whatever was left of his life.
"Then obviously, sir, you haven't been reading the papers very well. It was on the front page this morning. The Wizengamot has declared you innocent. Professor McGonagall has offered you a job again…." The brat had the audacity to smile at him and Severus growled.
"Oh and why are you still here then? To make your heart a little bit less heavy with guilt for leaving me behind…"
Severus could see the green eyes darken and then Potter said, forcing himself to be civil and to keep his voice even. "I came back…."
"But you left in the first place!" Severus snapped at the brat and he could see how Potter struggled to try and remain friendly to his former teacher. The younger wizard walked to the bedside table and left the paper there, besides the vase of fresh flowers that the healers of St Mungo's insisted upon.
Severus noticed that the teen was limping slightly, it was only visible every step or so and he frowned. By his knowledge Potter had not been wounded, through the younger man was suffering from severe magical shock and depletion, his magic slowly returning to him, and of course his mind was another matter.
But to his very day Potter had been as annoying as always, through he had been careful not to breech any heavy subjects, such as asking about his mother or even showing that he wanted to talk. Sometimes Potter sat in silence but mostly Severus had managed to push Potter away within a few moments.
"Potter, what happened to you?" He asked bluntly, enjoying the wide startling green eyes as Potter turned to him.
"What do you mean, sir?"
"You are limping. You weren't limping three days ago when last you visit…."
Potter's eyes darkened again and he turned away from Severus before he said. "I was surprised by a hex that went wrong. Ginny and I…Ginny Weasley, we got into a fight and she used a hex on me and I fell down the stairs."
"Can't even take a beating from your girlfriend, Potter?" Severus sneered. He didn't really know why he was saying these things but truly why would he possible want Potter at his bedside? So he could feel sorry for the brat.
Potter had paled and had taken a step backwards before releasing a bitter laugh that Severus didn't like hearing at all on such a young person. "Not my girlfriend any longer, Professor. Do you really think that I would stay with somebody who hexed me down a flight of stairs when I said that I was going to visit you?"
Severus shifted a bit in the bed. He frowned at that. Potter had chosen his girlfriend over him? That seemed like something Lily had done in the past. The choice had been between James Potter and Severus but Lily had of course chosen James and yet it seemed Harry Potter had made a different choice. It seemed that Harry had made the choice that Lily couldn't make and had chosen Severus instead of Lily, getting hexed straight down a flight of stairs.
Yet he found himself angered as well. Who did Potter think he was that he could make such a choice? "Go back then, child. There is no need to quarrel over the likes of me."
"Then you are wrong, sir. I am not going back to Ginny simply because you told me so. Besides, that wasn't the only thing she did to me….I…feel like I am at a different stage in my life then she is….the nightmares that I suffered from before are coming back and they…"
"Cease it, Potter! I am not interested in hearing it…" Severus snapped uncomfortable and sharply. He looked up at Potter to see the younger man gapping at him. Potter looked a bit tired, paler then Severus would have liked in a boy in the prime of his life and he looked thin, the bones in his face standing out amongst gaunt cheeks.
"Oh, I am sorry, sir…I had thought that somebody would have been interested but I am…."
"Then you thought wrong, Potter. Now go away….don't you have any of your friends that want to hear about your whining?" Severus crossed his arms over his chest.
Potter had paled and then said in a strangely strangled voice. "They don't want to hear about it. Ron doesn't even acknowledge Fred or doesn't want to talk about it and Hermione, she is so busy that she basically told me to get a grip and move on…"
"Then you should take a lesson from that and do as your friends suggest, Potter!" Severus' dark eyes were trained upon Potter's face and he could see the darkening of the green eyes with obvious pain. Potter swallowed and Severus recognized just how wound up Potter was.
It occurred to him that Potter needed to talk about it, to anybody and nobody was listening. Nobody saw the suffering of the Boy Who Lived. For a moment Severus considered asking Potter to spill it all out but then the next moment as he opened his mouth, Potter beat him to it and said. "I am sorry for bothering you, sir. I just thought that you of all people would understand. I guess I was wrong…I am sorry…I will leave..."
With those words Potter walked out of the door even before Severus could utter a word to call the brat back.
Weeks passed by and the weather outside changed to sunny weather. Nothing changed much for Severus except that his bandages had been changed and he was allowed to take small trips to the reading room and back again, Potter didn't visit.
For some strange reason Severus had begun to miss the brat's presence. Usually Potter had been silent, reading the paper beside him or offering small news on what the wizarding world was doing.
He had considered sending a letter to Potter but what did he have to apologize for? If the brat would only return, Severus would say them in person but so far, Potter had yet to show up.
He had heard the occasional whispers from Minerva McGonagall when she had come to officially offer him the Potions Master's job again. Potter had been absent from the Weasley house and his former girlfriend, Ginny Weasley, had out of spite taking it up with Lee Jordan, one of the friends of her brothers.
Nobody had seen Potter for a whole week but then the younger wizard had returned paler and thinner then usual. Minerva had expressed her concern for Potter and had asked what had transpired between him and Severus. After a reluctant gaze Severus had told her.
To this day his ears still rang with the shouts that she had shouted at him. The healer had come to make sure that nobody had been murdered when she had been lecturing him about Harry's fragile state.
Potter had never appeared fragile to him. But then Severus had never seen so much of Potter as in the past few weeks. The brat had sometimes seemed lost in thoughts, his eyes slightly red when he had gazed out of the window. Whenever Severus had called his name Potter had put on smile and had answered him in a false cheery voice.
But truth be told, Severus hadn't wanted to know. He had thought that Potter had come to gloat, to see him like a small and weak child, unable to perform magic but he had been wrong obviously. It had never occurred to him that Potter had needed to speak to somebody about what had happened in the last year.
It was unlike the brat's friends to ignore Potter but Severus suspected that they had their own wounds to deal with and Potter's wound had always been too big for ordinary people to handle. Only somebody who had been through the same could understand the depths of Potter's hurt.
The days passed and everyday when Potter failed to show up, Severus got more concerned.
He was reading the paper on the 31 of July, the brat's birthday as it said in big bold letters in the papers, when a loud crack sounded. Severus immediately picked up his wand. He knew that people could apparate in St Mungo's in the direst of circumstances but who would come here, in front of his private room.
No running footsteps so obviously it was somebody who the wards recognized and who had been to visit before. The next moment a hasty knock came and even before Severus could answer, the door had banged opened and Potter stood before him.
The younger male was trembling, swallowing thickly to keep the tears at bay but to no avail and Severus could see the fear in the gorgeous green eyes. Potter hesitated in the doorway but then Severus raised his wand, worry colouring his voice as he asked. "What, Potter? What is it? Are you being attacked, followed?"
Potter shook his head and took a few hesitant steps into the room. Potter looked on the verge of a total breakdown but Severus had never before seen the brat so riffled up. Potter looked like a lost child and Severus nodded quickly when Potter gestured for a chair.
The door closed itself at the flick of his wrist and Potter settled himself in the chair, hunched over like a small bird and shaking like a leaf. "They…Kingsley Shacklebolt….he said that for my birthday…that if I wanted to be an auror I would need to do a special assignment….He blindfolded me and apparated with me…"
Severus conjured a glass of water and worthlessly handed it to the brat, folding up the paper and leaning over so he could focus upon the words that spilled from Potter's lips in gasps.
"…when I took the blindfold off I noticed that we were in front of the Dursleys' door. They wanted me to apologize for all the damage caused to them….I freaked out….I thought they wanted me to return but they wanted me to go in alone…I couldn't do it…I flipped, my mind was spinning and I felt so fearful….it was like my worst nightmares except for Voldemort's return….I fled…."
Severus wordlessly finished the sentence….I wanted and needed somebody safe…
He was at a loss for word at how foolish the former Head Auror had been. Potter had proven himself enough when he had defeated the Dark Lord. To ask of a wounded child to perform by allowing him to go to his relatives who abused him was mad.
Potter was looking at him and Severus realized the younger wizard had asked him a question. He glanced at Potter and the younger male stood up, wiping an arm over his eyes before he said. "I should go. You don't want this…I am sorry…I had just hoped that…." Potter was swaying and Severus said, probably cursing himself for not being sane.
"What had you hoped, Potter?"
"That you would be…I am sorry…I was just looking for a safe place and this was the first thing that came to mind. I am so tired…I must be losing my focus…" He laughed that bitter laugh again and then made a move to leave but Severus could see the tired steps, the hunched shoulders and he immediately said.
"You foolish child, come here! I am not going to allow you to walk back down. You will trip and I will be blamed for it. You are too tired."
Potter tensed and he turned, giving his Professor a tired grin as he forced past trembling lips. "Yeah, I know. Need to take a potion, right? So I won't trip and fall."
"Actually no. You can stay for as long as you need to; Harry…let them come in search for you…"
"You called me, Harry…you never called me that before…" Potter was stuttering and Severus could see another wave of grief coming on. He beckoned Potter and the youth fled to him before managing to composure himself as he stood before Severus.
The wounded older man glanced up at the youth. Potter's eyes were red rimmed and washed with tears, pain and mistrust were easily read in the green eyes and Severus swallowed thickly. Potter's cheeks were gaunt and he was pale, dark circles underneath his eyes.
The once proud set of shoulders had sagged when the weight of responsibility had disappeared. Severus pressed the cup of water in Potter's hands. Much to his amazement the younger male sipped it before Severus slowly gestured for the younger male to sit.
"Go on and talk….the gods know you need it, boy." Much his amazement again, Harry sat down on the edge of the bed, kicking off his shoes. Severus was about to snap at the boy for taking such liberties when it suddenly seemed like a dam was breeched as the words spilled from Potter's lips as the boy leaned forward, hiding his eyes from view.
"I can't stop the nightmares from coming on. I tried to take Dreamless Sleep for a while but I didn't want to rely on it too much but the nightmares just came back. They continue to come….every night….and I had hoped that with the war now ended people would leave me alone but they still want me to testify. They want me to come to funerals and they don't understand that I want to be alone…"
"Yet nearly every day you came to seek me out, to sit by my bedside. I thought you wanted to be alone…" Severus was careful to keep the accusations out of his voice.
"Because you are the only one who doesn't make expectations of me. You will allow me to sit here, even thought I know that at first you didn't like it. You were waiting for me to ask questions about my mum. I don't want to know about her. I don't want to hear the painful truth about her and my father. I don't want to hear how she betrayed you and destroyed your friendship. It is too painful and I don't think I can handle it. Do you know how hard it is to show a smile everyday even when you think that when somebody says something to you, that you will start crying."
Harry was sniffling, trying to hide the tears and Severus reached out with one hand, placing it against a soft cheek. The brat looked up, startled and then Severus found his arms full of Potter in an instance, knowing him backwards against the pillows.
Severus held Harry against his chest, feeling the younger wizard soaking his vest with his tears but he doubted that anybody had ever allowed Harry to cry himself until he was done crying. Amidst the sobs he could hear words. "I can't forget the people who have died and I thought that the pain would leave me but it doesn't….it only grows worse…"
Potter was taking deep breath, gulping in air as he forced out. "All those people died because of me…If I had…"
"They didn't die because of you, Mister Potter. You need to get that ridiculous notion out of your head…." Severus made sure his voice was firm but gentle at the same time. Potter was hiccupping by this time and Severus wrapped an arm around the narrow waist of his former student.
It didn't take long for Potter to cry himself to sleep, still murmuring coherently.
Severus wondered how it had really happened. Potter, no Harry was still sleeping peacefully against or actually on his chest and his fingers were playing with the messy hair of the birthday boy. He signed and shifted a bit.
Night had fallen not so long ago; long hours spend listening to Harry's breathing as the younger male slept a long overdue nap. He still wondered what had propelled the younger male to him when loud commotion was heard outside.
He glanced up at the door when it opened and the healer's voice drifted in. "Make it quick then. It is already past visiting hours."
"Yes, yes, don't worry. I just have to ask Professor Snape a question..." Minerva McGonagall entered with her back to the bed. She appeared stiff and Severus wondered what had happened.
She turned to him, pinching the bridge of her nose as she asked. "Severus, something terrible has happened. Harry Potter has disappeared. This afternoon he has been send on a special mission together with Kinsley Shacklebolt and he has fled from it. Nobody has seen him since…"
Severus found himself shaking with anger suddenly as he said. "Do you happen to know what kind of mission it was or where it was to?"
"No, it was a secret but Kinsley wanted to see if Harry was ready…but Severus…oh…." She fell silent when she no doubt saw the brat that was draped over his chest.
"This is enexpectant, Severus. Since when has this happy development taken place?" The insufferable woman crossed her arms over her chest before she sat down in a chair near the bed, smiling at him.
"When I found the brat fleeing to my bedside when that big fool had taken him to his family to apologize. The brat is in need of a good night's rest and somebody needs to go and hex some sense into that dark head of our Minister for Magic. I had finally thought that we had managed to find a good one but it doesn't seem so if he manages to make Harry Potter flee, not even the Dark Lord has ever managed that."
Only Severus Snape might sound terribly annoyed at the thought of Harry Potter draped across his chest while his hand was lazily toying with the messy hair of the weaker teen. "Ah, so I won't let Harry return to the Burrows then so Kinsley can make his apologies and our hero can enjoy his birthday." She carefully said, aware of the green eyes that opened as Harry had gone extremely still.
"No, you will not. You can however go to the healers and request another bed in this chamber or to allow me to go home. Either way it will do…."
Minerva suddenly rose and she was towering above him as she said. "You will promise not to harm Harry, Severus?"
Severus waved his hand in annoyance. "Of course, have I ever wounded Potter?"
"No, you have only ever insulted him and gone out of your way to be mean to the boy…"
"Besides that, woman…." Severus was scowling. "…I have never harmed Potter intentionally. He has always known that I bring some normality to his life and that I always tolerated no other then Potter's best."
"That is true, Severus but I must ask. Will you allow Harry to be himself for the moment because I fear that is what he needs to be most at the moment? Not his best but otherwise can be good enough." Her voice is strict and for a moment Severus felt like he was being watches as a first year. If this had been Albus he would have known that he was being manipulated but he wasn't sure, unless…
He allowed one of his hands to splay all over Potter's back and said. "Harry will be safe with me. I won't let any harm come to him, Minerva and he is free to stay for as long as he wants."
It seemed that the headmistress was satisfied as she nodded at him and said. "I will tell Kinsley that I haven't found Harry and I think he has left the country. That should buy you about five days. I do hope that you will use the time well."
Severus gave an annoyed nod and then waved her out of the room. He sighed heavily and closed his eyes before he said. "Well, Potter, are you agreeable to this?"
"I should think so, Professor." The soft voice answered him and Potter glanced up. The shy happiness in the green eyes caught Severus off guard and the older wizard found a smile pulling at his lips as Potter raised his face to meet his lips as he said.
"Happy birthday, Harry…" And as the deliciously soft lips met his, Severus realized that saving certainly had it's rewards and he properly began to thank Harry for the time he had saved him and five days times wasn't nearly enough in Severus' opinion but luckily Harry was in full agreement with him even while Severus didn't need to say how happy it made him.
I hope you liked it. There won't be another instalment just so that you are sure.