This is a Snape/Harry(NOT SLASH, not severitus) story primarily, but will feature other characters as well. I do have a plot for this and a plan to take it into the school year, but no guarantees...I am trying to keep the characters' personalities as canon as possible(though how they relate to each other will change through events in the story, after all, that's why you're reading this, yes?), and this story is heavily influenced by the Battered Snape challenge and Kirby Lane's "O Mine Enemy", which is well worth reading (though still incomplete) if you haven't found it yet.

Warnings/Story-line notes: In my version of the HP world, Harry was at least mildly(is there such a thing?) abused by the Dursley's, Snape definitely had an abusive and neglected past. Events up through OOTP are left in place. This story will be AU starting after OOTP, but will respect nearly all canon past history covered in HBP/DH. i.e Snape/Lily, Spinner's end, Tobias/Eileen, Horcruxes(though I might change some of things used as a Horcrux), Riddle's past, Dumbledore's past. Only thing I might ignore is the whole Deathly Hallows thing, especially the elder wand. It's basically kind of like a fresh twist on book 6, except this time it might better be called The Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter :)

Also of note, for the purposes of this story, underage magic is only a ministry reportable/detectable offense when an underage wizard either has an episode of accidental magic or uses their wand to perform a spell at a location that is not considered part of the "wizarding" world. So Harry using his wand to stun Vernon at number four, Privet Drive would be reportable, but Harry casting a spell at Grimmauld place, or Hogwarts, would not "trip" the ministry "sensors". This is probably AU, but the subject in canon is riddled with contradictions, and IFs (As in, if they could detect/trace that, then why not _). Also, my take on occlumency/legillimency, I think, may be more in line with how Snape describes it in the movie - i.e., in the hands of expert, such as Voldemort, it can be used to twist/influence the thoughts of others, not just sense emotion/images/"mind-reading".

So, with that said, enjoy...

(1) – Knock, knock, it's Snape!

[Sunday, early afternoon, several weeks after the tragic events that occurred in the ministry of magic during the last days of Harry Potter's fifth year at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry]

Harry scowled at the bacon, pushing it around the pan with a fork, causing grease to splatter. He hated cooking bacon. Hated bacon, in fact, and would never be cooking it all - except that he was hungry and it was the least likely thing to be missed by the Dursleys, seeing as how they kept a near inexhaustible supply of the stuff. At least he'd been spared cooking the bacon for the Dursleys though, as they'd headed out shopping first thing this morning, despite the nearly pouring down rain.

A few days ago, Dudley had spilled soda on the keyboard of his computer, with the result that the 'Q' and 'W' keys no longer worked, and ever since then he'd been whining about a new computer. Bloody ridiculous, Harry thought as he narrowly avoided another spatter of grease. After all, how much did Dudley really need those two keys? Did he even know any words that used those letters? Did he even know how to read? Did it even matter to Harry one way or the other?

Sighing, Harry's scowl faded, a familiar feeling of emptiness settling over him in its place. He supposed he'd end up with Dudley's old computer, though what good it would do him, he didn't know. Flipping the bacon over, he imagined handing in his potions homework, neatly typed, (and minus any words containing a 'Q' or 'W') to Snape. "Really sir, each page is about the same as a foot of scroll, wouldn't you agree? And so much easier to read, no ink blots or anything. . ." With a snort of derision, Harry tried to picture the exact expression that would be on Snape's face – would it be the white hot anger with that little vein throbbing as jars exploded all around? Or perhaps the smug smirk and a hundred points from Gryffindor?

With a jab that almost sent the bacon flying from the pan, Harry wrenched his thoughts away from Snape. There was no point in it, he wouldn't be having any more classes with the man in any case, as there was no way he'd gotten an O on his potions O.W.L., which Harry knew was a requirement for NEWT level potions. Good. He didn't want to take potions. Didn't want anything to do with Snape. Didn't want to take more tests. Didn't want to be an-

CRACK! Harry jumped, his angry train of thought broken by the sudden sound from outside. A moment later thunder rumbled and the rain picked up its tempo, hammering out a steady cadence to make the very walls vibrate. Just a summer storm, Harry thought darkly. He was perfectly safe here, after all, that's why Dumbledore made him keep coming back. This was the safest place in the whole wide world. Right. Safe from Voldemort. Safe from Death Eaters. Safe from wizards, magic, wands, friends, news… was that the door knob turning, there, on the front door?

Harry was quite sure the door knob should NOT be turning, not now, but yes, it unmistakably was doing just that. The bacon spattered, but Harry ignored it, eyes glued to the front door. He hadn't heard(or rather, felt) Dudley's pounding music that should have announced the Dursleys' return from their shopping trip. And now the door was easing open. Maybe the rain was drowning out the pounding music. Yes, that was it, definitely the rain. Look, some of it was even inside now, driven through the widening crack as the door opened.

Unable to look away, Harry didn't even realize he was reaching for his wand until his fingers grasped empty air where there should have been a familiar stick of Holly secure in his back pocket. Damn Uncle Vernon! After the events of last summer, his Uncle had taken no chances this time around. From the instant of Harry's return, anything even remotely magical had been locked away. The only concession his uncle had made was Hedwig, and that only to ensure Harry wrote often enough that no wizards came calling. Harry hadn't felt so much like a Muggle since before he'd turned eleven. And a Muggle was no match for any one of the things Harry was imagining might be on the other side of the Dursleys front door just now.

But imagination proved unnecessary when a gust of wind edged around the door, throwing it wide open with a bang. Heart pounding and hands empty, Harry stood, watching, as time stood still and nightmare became reality. There was a Death Eater on the Dursleys' doorstep.

Dark robes billowing as the fury of the summer storm poured in around him, the Dark Wizard took a silent step forward, entering the house. The wards - what was wrong with the wards? Dumbledore made him come back here every summer because of those wards -what was going on?

The frying bacon forgotten, Harry slowly backed across the kitchen. His wand, he needed his wand – no, he needed a weapon. In a mad fit of inspiration, the Boy-Who-Lived leapt forward and grabbed the frying pan, and before he could even think of the futility of attacking a Death Eater with bacon, Harry flung the sizzling contents of the pan toward the cloaked figure at the door. But the attack came too late. The Death Eater staggered, falling to his knees as the bacon sailed high over his head.

"Potter. . ." Came a whisper, barely audible, as the cloaked figure continued his slow fall, one arm wrapped tightly about his stomach while the other reached to catch the door frame. But the man hadn't the strength to hold on, and his fingers left a dark smear down the wall as he fell to the floor. Then, seeming to curl in on himself, the Death Eater stilled, resembling nothing so much as a dying spider to Harry's mind. Or rather, a dying bat, Harry amended as recognition belatedly set in. Snape. It was Snape.

The frying pan, forgotten, slipped from Harry's fingers and fell to the floor with a clatter. Snape – Snape of all people, was here. In perfectly ordinary Little Whinging. Lying in a crumpled heap across the perfectly ordinary entranceway of the Dursleys' perfectly ordinary home. And all the while the summer storm raged on, completely oblivious to total wrongness of the situation, filling the entranceway with enough rain that the Dursleys' living room was in danger of becoming waterfront property.

Moving in a daze, Harry gingerly stepped over the crumpled form of his potions professor and shut the door, sending the summer storm back outside where it belonged. But the sudden silence that swept through the house in its wake seemed equally deafening to Harry's ears, despite the fact the he could clearly hear Snape's shallow breathing.

Turning back to stare at the man he had last seen trying to take points from Gryffindor, Harry found he couldn't take his eyes off the slowly darkening puddle of water that surrounded the fallen figure. Darkening because there was something that looked suspiciously like blood steadily oozing from underneath his professor's still form. Suddenly, Harry felt like he had just swallowed a dozen snitches and they were all now zooming around in his stomach. What was Uncle Vernon going to do if he walked through the door right now? How long would they be out shopping? They could be back any minute. What was he going to do about this mess? What was he going to do with Snape? Snape. Here. Like this. Bloody Hell!

Crouching down, Harry sucked in a deep breath, willing those snitches in his stomach to settle themselves, at least for a moment, before he began, "Sna- uh, Sir, Professor, are you all right?"

Oh, brilliant start there, mate. Of course he's not all right, he's half dead and bleeding all over the floor –Aunt Petunia's new wood floor, at that. Wishing he could shut off that inner voice, Harry tried to think of something better to say, but before he got much farther than "Fifty points from Slytherin for getting blood on the floor!", Snape's eyelids flicked open briefly, and his mouth began opening and closing like some pale fish that found itself stranded on a rock.

"Potter. . .tonight. . .don't. . .Dark Lord. . .coming. . .Stay. In. House. " the man managed before his black eyes lost their focus as small fit of coughing rocked through him.

What was that supposed to be? Some kind of warning? Harry was well aware he was supposed to be staying here, in the Dursleys' house; that was the whole point of him coming back to this miserable place each summer, wasn't it? This home- it was the only safe place for the Boy-Who-Lived; the Chosen One. Of course, safe was a relative term, and if Uncle Vernon walked through that door right now. . . Harry shuddered. Uncle Vernon would go completely mental if he walked through that door right now. Snape had to go.

"Sna- Sir. . .I. . . you- you've got to get up – you can't be here when Uncle Vernon gets home. . . errr. . . not-not like this. . ." Harry tried, but Snape's eyes had shut tight and he gave no sign that Harry's words had penetrated his greasy head. In fact, he could have been taken for dead, except for the tiny tremors that shook his body, visible even through the heavy Death Eater robes.

Reaching out, fingers poised the merest fraction of an inch above Snape's shoulder, Harry hesitated. It was as if at any instant he expected Snape to leap to life and. . .what? Bite his hand off? Curse him? Harry didn't even see that Snape was holding a wand. Not to mention that this was hardly potions class and he wasn't Neville Longbottom. With a scowl at his squeamishness, Harry dropped his hand to Snape's shoulder and gave the soaked form a light shake.

"Sir, Snape, come on. . . you've got to wake up. . ." But it was useless. If anything, he just curled up even tighter.

This isn't going well, Harry thought, a cold feeling settling in the pit of his stomach. He had to get Snape out of here. But how? And where? His room? Dragging Snape up the stairs to his room wasn't going to be easy, and it was going to make a brilliantly big mess as well, Harry saw, taking a closer look at the mud and blood smeared all over the heavy black robes. But it was the only thing he could think to do that would avert a disaster with the Dursleys. And it certainly didn't look like Snape was going to get up and go himself. Shoving aside all thoughts of what would happen if he were to try this under any sort of even remotely normal circumstance, Harry wrapped his fingers in Snape's soaked robes and gave an experimental tug.

The sudden motion effective where Harry's pleas were not, Snape's eyes snapped open and he twisted wildly, almost causing Harry to drop him and dive for the nearest cover. But it was a short-lived struggle, Snape going limp an instant later as Harry instead shifted his grip to hook his hands under the potions master's arms. With heart pounding and the snitches in his stomach threatening fly out his mouth any moment, Harry wasted not a second more as he began to drag the dead weight of his unconscious professor toward the stairs.

Panting heavily by the time he made it to the first floor landing, Harry paused, stomach sinking at the sight of the dark trail that ran all the way back down to the front door. A trickle of sweat crept down his forehead. Almost there. And thank Merlin that Snape was still out cold, Harry thought as he resumed dragging the unprotesting potions professor the last few steps down the hall and into the small bedroom.

Leaving Snape unceremoniously deposited in a pile on the floor, the Boy-Who-Lived took not even a second to catch his breath before rushing back downstairs, grabbing an armload of towels from the bathroom along the way, and praying that Dudley would take his time picking out that new computer. He tossed the towels down on the largest puddle by the door and then headed to the linen closet for more.

Fifteen minutes and nearly all of the Dursleys' towels later, Harry had managed to erase all but the smallest traces of the muddy trail that dragging Snape through the house had created. Then, stuffing as many of the filthy towels as would fit into the washer, he got the laundry going, hardly daring to hope that they might be clean before his Aunt or Uncle noticed the sudden dearth of towels about the house. And lastly, though his desire for lunch had evaporated, the mess made creating it had not, and he found himself attacking the dirty dishes with a zeal unlike anything he would have normally felt. And then that chore complete left. . .nothing.

Harry glanced around wearily. All looked in order, more or less. The emergency cleaning left him feeling drained, and he took refuge on the couch with a flop, absently rubbing at his scar and wandering what on earth he was going to do next. It wasn't fair. Why did Snape have to show up on his doorstep, why couldn't Sirius have miraculously re-appeared there instead? After all, had anyone asked him this morning, he would have told them that his godfather showing up was the more likely scenario.

And Snape. As in utterly unfair, point taking, Harry hating, head-of-Slytherin, Professor Snape. Upstairs, this very second, in Harry's room. What was he going to do about that? He hated Snape. It was Snape's fault that Sirius was dead. If the git hadn't goaded his Godfather all year about being locked up in headquarters, then Sirius might not have felt the need to rush out after Harry. Definitely the greasy git's fault. A wave of anger rushed over him, and Harry leapt from the couch, stomping up the stairs to throw open the door to his room with a loud(and satisfying) bang. He fully intended to give the hated head of Slytherin a good, solid kick. Or two. The man deserved it.

Snape was exactly as Harry had left him, resembling nothing so much as some leftover pile of dirty black rags. He lay on his back, eyes shut and face tilted to the side, partially obscured by a screen of greasy black hair. Harry stood in the doorway, seething. He really should do it. A few good kicks for five years of snide remarks. For all the points taken, for the unfair Occlumency lessons. For Sirius. Sirius would have done it, Harry thought, would have cheered him on, just like he did for James after the O.W.L. exams.

His father's O.W.L. exams- the details of the stolen memory returned to Harry's mind sudden and sharp as the day he'd first dared venture into Snape's pensieve. Watching as his father and Godfather, surrounded by a circle of cheering onlookers, attacked and humiliated another person for no better reason than that he existed. . .Harry's anger rushed away like a wave back to the sea, and seeing clearly for the first time since this crazy day had dawned, he looked at the man lying on his floor.

Snape looked terrible. Wet black hair was plastered to his face, which appeared even paler than usual. A thin trickle of blood stood out in sharp contrast as it traced a bright red line across Snape's forehead to collect in a little pool under his cheek. His breathing was shallow and the heavy robes he wore were soaked and shredded, as if some great beast had clawed them to pieces.

Harry found himself slowly approaching the man, both fascinated and repulsed at the same time. He didn't think he could ever recall seeing Snape's face so devoid of some emotion. But lying there, deathly still and with eyes lightly shut, there was no trace of the familiar loathing or anger that should have accompanied any expression to be found on the head of Slytherin's face while in the presence of one Harry Potter. It finally occurred to Harry that Snape might be dying. Bloody hell. What could he do?

The snitches in his stomach threatening to return to life, Harry clamped down on the feeling, determined to be smart about this. First – First he needed to see if Snape was really as bad off as he looked. No, wait, first was call for help. That made more sense – There was no doubt Harry was out of his depth here. . .but who to get? And how? Hedwig had just left the night before with letters to Ron and Hermione. She'd likely not be back for at least a week. And his wand was locked in his trunk, which was locked in the cupboard under the stairs, so a Patronus message was out, even he wanted to take a chance with breaking the law against underage magic. And Mrs. Figg was out too – literally. She was visiting family in London.

So, that left. . . what? Harry almost choked at the idea of calling for a Muggle ambulance, but then he seriously considered the thought. Muggle medicine was pretty good; they might be able to save him. But then again, whatever had happened to Snape had probably been magically inflicted, and might not react well to Muggle treatment. Not to mention what would happen when Snape woke up, or when the Dursleys found out. And then there would be forms, and police, and Harry groaned – it was too much to think about.

Back to option number one then. Perhaps Snape wasn't hurt all that bad; before getting Muggles involved, he should investigate. But how to do that? He needed to see the injuries. . . and that meant. . . NO. No way. Absolutley not. It didn't matter how many times he'd seen the ER doctors on any number of Aunt Petunia's favorite daytime dramas do it, there was no way Harry Potter was going to be removing Professor Snape's clothing. This wasn't some show on the telly, this was. . . this was real. Frighteningly real.

Harry gulped. He had no doubt that Snape would rather die than have Harry Potter help him across the street, much less remove his clothes to examine him, even if Harry was only trying to help. But. . .what else to do? What would Sirius do? No, wait, not Sirius, bad choice. What would Remus, or even better, Dumbledore do? Dumbledore - Dumbledore would be calm and reasonable. He'd offer them both a lemon drop and then tell Snape that Harry was only trying to help, and to let him. And then Snape would sneer and reply that Harry was an arrogant, spoiled boy who thought far too much of himself and would probably do more harm than good, and. . . This isn't helping, Harry thought, wrenching his mind back to the task at hand. He was going to have to do it. It was either that or let Snape ooze blood until he had no more left to lose.

Harry rocked back on his heels, thinking. Snape was wearing Death Eater robes, how did one get those on and off? Buttons? Zippers? Magic? Reaching out, not fully believing what he was about to do, Harry carefully tugged and pulled at the heavy black material, searching for any buttons while trying to avoid actually touching his professor. Snape unconscious was something he absolutely wanted to have right now; there was no way this would work if he woke up.

Finally finding a sort of clasp at the throat, Harry undid it, gingerly peeling back the soaked robes from Snape's shoulders. Underneath was the same black button-up coat that Harry was familiar with from Hogwarts, except that it was now marred by three large gashes that stretched across Snape's front, oozing blood. Carefully, and with no small amount of trepidation, Harry began undoing the line of buttons. Positive that Snape was going to wake up any second to find Harry Potter kneeling over him, undressing him, Harry couldn't keep from stealing a quick glance at his professor's face with each undone button. But a moment later the coat was open, and without so much as a twitch from Snape.

Underneath, the potions master wore a white linen shirt that was now plastered to his chest and not even close to white anymore, dark blood having soaked through most of it. And it was a pullover, so there was no easy getting it open for a better look the source of the blood, which appeared to be three long cuts that wrapped across Snape's stomach. Harry would have to wrestle both the shirt and the coat off the Potions master.

Still dreading the possibility of Snape waking up, Harry was reaching for the Snape's coat sleeve when he almost cursed out loud. Of course! How could he be so stupid – scissors. Why hadn't he thought of that before? After all, on the medical shows, they cut the clothes off.

With an anxious glance at the clock, Harry ran from his room. It was a quarter past one. He didn't know how much longer the Dursleys' would be out - hopefully Dudley would be very selective with his new computer. Maybe grab some games and CDs too. Anything to keep them gone a bit longer.

Downstairs, Harry headed for the garden shed, a set of pruning shears his goal. Pruning shears that he recalled he was supposed to be using to weed the garden with today, despite the rain. Something he'd forgotten all about- along with laundry and dusting Dudley's trophies. It was not going to be a good night, even though he might be able to pass off the towels as having done laundry. But it would be worse if Uncle Vernon found out about Snape.

Soaked from his trip to the shed, but with shears in hand, Harry checked on the laundry, scooping up a few of the least dirty towels before heading back upstairs. Stops by the bathroom and Dudley's room saw a pair of scissors, an old sleeping bag, some sports tape (last used to fix a sprained wrist Dudley had from boxing) and some disinfectant added to the collection. Harry then returned to his room, dumping everything on the floor in a pile next to Snape, who was thankfully still oblivious.

Setting back to work, Harry swiftly cut the linen shirt down the middle with the scissors. The shears he used on the heavier material of the coat, gingerly cutting along the arms. Then, not realizing he was holding his breath, Harry tugged on the coat and shirt, pulling the mangled clothes from under Snape. Ready to dive for cover at the slightest sign of wakefulness, Harry breathed deep in relief as the Potions master remained still.

Snape, stripped to the waist on the floor of Harry's room – the sheer absurdity of the situation had Harry suppressing a nervous giggle. Ron was never going to believe this. He stared, not wanting to look, but unable to tear his eyes away from the man's pale skin, the Dark Mark tattooed on his left arm, and the crisscrossing of more than a few old scars. Or the barely visible ribs that were a sign of someone far too thin to be healthy. Not to mention three parallel gashes stretching from just under his ribcage on the right to just above his left hip. Thankfully above, thought Harry, as he didn't have any desire to remove his professor's trousers. He didn't think either one of them could survive that.

Leaning closer, Harry studied the gashes. They were bad, but didn't appear to be life-threatening. At least, he couldn't see any guts or anything. . .just sticky blood and maybe some muscle. But farther up, Snape's right shoulder looked a bit. . . off – slightly swollen, and beginning to bruise. In fact, Harry realized that the man's whole right side, at least as far as he could see, was beginning to bruise – as if Snape had turned to block some crushing force from that direction. And his trousers on that same side were shredded from the knee down, oozing blood, just like cuts across his middle.

Resigning himself to his fate, Harry carefully pulled the muddy boots and soaked socks from his professor, followed by cutting the trousers off just above Snape's right knee. Underneath, another set of bloody gashes wrapped around his leg, stretching from knee to ankle. What kind of creature made a slash that wrapped all the way around? It had to have been spell-caused.

Harry sat back, thinking. Snape was obviously hurt, but maybe not as bad as he had first thought. At least, not visibly. Harry really had no idea what kind of non-visible damage there was, or if Snape had been Crucio'd. Or rather, for how long he'd been Crucio'd, given that it seemed he'd just come from a Death Eater gathering.

Harry hadn't had many dreams this summer, and those he did were mild, all things considered. They usually left him with only the vaguest prickling in his scar. Clearly, Voldemort was trying to keep out of his head since the incident at the Ministry. But anytime Harry did see clearly, he usually saw somebody getting Crucio'd. So he had little doubt that Snape had received a good dose of the Unforgivable curse. And there was nothing Harry could do about if he had.

So, what next? Harry thought, still finding it hard to believe that the pale figure lying half-stripped before him was one and the same as the man who liked nothing better than to prowl the halls of Hogwarts, cloak billowing, taking points from any student careless enough to caught. But it was, and he was hurt, though it no longer appeared as if he was like to die in the next few minutes. . . unfortunately, Harry mentally amended. After all, dealing with a dead Snape might be a whole lot better than dealing with a live and very, very angry Snape. Which is what he'd get if Snape woke up to find himself here, like this. The man would likely kill him.

Harry stood up and grabbed the sleeping bag. Unrolling the lumpy orange sack, he shook it out, grimacing a bit at the musty smell – it looked like Dudley had not bothered to wash it after the one time he'd used it. Bugger that - it was the best Harry, and now Snape, was going to get. Taking it to the other side of the small room, Harry laid it out on the floor so that it was sandwiched between his bed and the wall, and out of direct line of sight if anyone opened the door. Two towels crumpled together became a pillow (after all, no way was Harry going to let Snape's greasy hair touch his pillow) and then Harry stood back, surveying the makeshift bed. Hardly ideal, but it would serve.

Turning his attention back to his unwanted guest, Harry decided to start with the worst – the larger set of gashes across Snape's stomach. Picking up the disinfectant and a washcloth, he stalled, trying not to think of how much this was probably going to sting and wake up Snape. But in the end, with a courage he most definitely did not feel, Harry took a deep breath and proceeded to tilt the disinfectant, watching as the clear fluid ran out the bottle and into Snape's wounds. The effect was instantaneous.

Snape hissed and curled in on himself reflexively. His black eyes snapped open, filled with pain and confusion. Harry scrambled back, dropping the bottle in the process. It rolled on the floor and spilled at least half of its contents before Harry managed to catch it and put it upright. Snape hadn't seen him yet, but unfortunately the reprieve did not last long as the potions master twisted around, supporting himself with his left arm and struggling to sit up.

"Potter!" he spat, eyes locking on Harry as he pushed himself up to sit with his back against Harry's desk. If looks could kill, Harry would be dead. "What in bloody hell - What are you doing to me?" Snape had shifted his gaze to himself, staring at his bare chest and mutilated trousers.

Harry was sure he was about to get blasted into a gazillion pieces. "Sir, I… uh… you-were-bleeding-and-I-thought-maybe-dying-and..." He faltered as Snape's eyes snapped back to meet his. "I didn't know what else to do…" he finished in a whisper.

"Not drenching me with a Muggle burning potion might have been a better start," Snape hissed, his black eyes shooting daggers at Harry.

"It's not a potion, it's a disinfec-" Harry started.

"I know what it is, Potter!" Snape cut him off, then glanced back at his stomach, before taking a closer look at his surroundings. "What is this place?"

"Uh, this is my relatives' house, the Dursleys. . .You, uh, came in the door and. . . passed out. . . and I brought you up here. . . my room's the only place they'll pretty much never come in. . ." Harry trailed off, not wanting to say any more about the Dursleys to Snape.

Snape just looked at him in disbelief, seeming to be on the verge of saying something nasty, but then he apparently reconsidered, reaching out for his Death Eater cloak instead. Catching the edge of it, he pulled it to him, searching for something. After a moment, he extracted three small bottles from a hidden pocket, two of which had cracked and leaked the majority of their contents away. Snape stared at them dismally, before swiftly popping the cork out of the third and draining the contents.

It didn't have much effect as far as Harry could see, and his professor's next question was not one he wanted to answer, or explain to anyone, especially Snape.

"Where is your wand?"

"In my trunk. Locked up," Harry replied reluctantly. "Uncle Vernon has the key," he added, before Snape told him to go get it. But the head of Slytherin just stared at him, as if he didn't believe a word of it, but was too tired to argue.

"Pass me the rag, Potter, and the disinfectant."

Harry obediently handed over the washcloth and bottle, then backed away to watch, fascinated, as Snape gingerly dabbed at the ugly wounds. By the time he was done with the first long gash his hand was shaking slightly. By the time he had finished with the third, he could barely hold the rag steady. Finishing with the mess of his stomach, Snape finally seemed to recall that Harry was still there. He gestured at the wad of Dudley's sports tape. Harry moved to hand it over while the potions master critically eyed the small mound of towels Harry had pilfered from the laundry.

"Are any of those clean?"

Harry flushed, and Snape snorted his disgust muttering under his breath something about idiots and disinfectant.

"Find something clean. A shirt, perhaps. You do have at least one of those, don't you?"

Harry turned, not trusting himself with any replies, and jerked open the topmost drawer in his chest of drawers. He should toss the git a set of underwear, serve him right. But instead he chose a clean, though worn, t-shirt. Another Dudley hand-me-down, so no great loss.

Snape took it, pressing it against the gashes and then proceeding to wrap the sports tape around himself to hold the makeshift Muggle bandage tight. Harry almost moved to help, but a glare from his professor kept him at bay. Tight-lipped, Harry watched as Snape started in on his leg next. After using another t-shirt and the last of the sports tape on it, Snape looked up again. This time exhaustion clearly showed on the Potions master's face, and the very slight tremors that Harry had first noticed downstairs were again shaking him.

"Sir… uh, I made a place for you. . . over here. . . so Uncle Vernon won't notice right away if he looks in. . . " Harry stammered, desperately trying to figure out how he was going to get the head of Slytherin to do what he wanted him to do. But to Harry's great surprise and intense relief, Snape didn't argue, or make any comment at all. Just shut his eyes and took a deep breath, steeling himself. Then, half pushing, half pulling on Harry's desk and bed, he managed to drag himself up and stagger over to where Harry had laid out the sleeping bag. He collapsed onto it without as much as a comment about the towel-pillow, wrapping the sleeping bag around himself and over his head, effectively shutting out the world.

Harry sighed, turning away to face the soggy mess left in his room, but before he could even think of the best way to take care of it, he heard a door shut, and his uncle yelling at him to get down and help unload Dudley's new computer. Heart pounding, Harry quickly shoved everything incriminating under his bed as far as it could go, then turned and practically hurtled down the stairs before Uncle Vernon came hunting for him.

September 2011