This is a very long chapter, and I hope it doesn't come across as unnecessarily wordy...anyways, enjoy! And many thanks to everyone that reviewed the last chapter-always great to hear your opinions and thoughts :D

Chapter Twenty-One: Snape Would be There

Harry was self-consciously rubbing one of the black spots left by Hermione's ink, as he stood with everyone else—waiting to be allowed through the gates and escorted past the dementors.

It was also clear why Snape had gotten his permission form signed even though the professor was so concerned about Black murdering him. He was one of the chaperones and would be easily able to keep an eye on Harry.

Harry ducked his head as Snape swept by them, carefully counting each student to make sure that everyone came back at the end of the day.

"Feels like we're in prison," Harry muttered to Hermione, and Snape's head snapped over to glare at Harry.

"I know," Hermione murmured back. Snape's eyes remained glued to the two of them, and Harry had to remind himself that there was no way that Snape could hear anything they were saying.

"Have you figured out what he did when he made me look in his eyes?" Harry asked her, and realized with a jolt of fright that he was looking in Snape's eyes right now, and quickly averted his gaze.

"Not yet," Hermione replied, "I'm hoping that I'll figure it out soon."

"Hey look!" Ron interjected gleefully and he huffed out a huge gasp of warm breath, visible due to the cold. Instead turning into a soft cloud before disappearing, the breath swirled around in a circle. Using Ron as an excuse, Harry quickly ducked out of Snape's direct line of sight and turned his back to the man for good measure. Hermione sagely watched Harry for a moment but said nothing and didn't move from Snape's sight; instead she decided to explain why Ron's breath was doing what it was:

"There must be enough salvia in our breath to allow the circle spell to remain active," Hermione said with a smile and then she too breathed out a circular swirl of breath. "You try Harry!"

Harry did and his achieved the same result, "Hopefully Pavarti doesn't notice and ruin the whole thing."

"Oh, please, she's frightfully dense," Hermione huffed, "sometimes I think I'm the smartest person here."

"I would hope that's the case," Ron retorted, "since you're first in our class."

Hermione looked a little embarrassed at the praise and murmured something softly that Harry couldn't quite catch, so he decided to change the subject.

"So where are you guys going to take me first?"

"Zonko's," Ron replied at once, "it's pretty much the best place in town—"

"And we have to go to the Three Broomsticks so you can try butterbeer," Hermione added, "but first I want to stop by the bookstore, and I need to do a little Christmas shopping, if you two don't mind."

"I've got to get some gifts too," Harry said, feeling a bit excited, "I've never been Christmas shopping before."

"It's not nearly as fun as opening presents on Christmas," Ron replied, waving his hand, "you haven't missed anything."

"Now, that's not entirely true," Hermione chided, "I rather like buying gifts, you get to think about all your favorite people and how you can make them happy."

"Does that mean I'm not getting a gift from you this year?" Ron asked Hermione teasingly, "if you only buy things for your favorite people."

"Oh, hush you!" Hermione scolded, "I suppose I can return your gift if you really want me to."

Ron perked up a bit and grinned, pleased that Hermione had already bought him something.

"When are we going to be allowed through?" Harry asked impatiently, "I feel like we've been standing out here in the cold forever."

"Oh, and you said you wanted some gloves, right, Harry?" Hermione asked, "We should stop somewhere so you can get some."

"I've never had gloves before either," Harry said with a smile, this was turning out to be a rather good Christmas in spite of everything. Harry was going to enjoy his trip to Hogsmeade with his friends, and then they were all going to have Christmas together…Actually, now that Harry thought about it, maybe he should think of Ron and Hermione as his family. He did think of them almost as if they were his brother and sister, and they even fought and argued as often as siblings seemed to do. Yes, they were pretty much his family anyways; he spent all his time with them, and even saw them over the holidays. They shared everything and were always there when needed.

Finally the line moved and Harry, Ron and Hermione were part of the next group to be escorted into town…unfortunately, Snape was the one escorting them.

Harry kept his head down, and stuck very close to Ron and Hermione, Snape was taking his opportunity as chaperone to forcefully remind everyone of the rules: the strict boundaries where the students were to remain within, the time at which they were to return, and that they were to never leave a professor's sight or Snape would see to it that they would never be allowed in Hogsmeade ever again.

Harry knew that if he raised his head for one moment during this entire spiel that he'd see Snape's gaze firmly locked on him. This entire speech was simply to remind Harry that he'd best behave or he'd be locked in Snape's dungeon to never see the light of day again.

Harry glanced up at Ron and noticed that Ron was looking at Harry strangely, and Harry supposed that he was acting a bit strange. It wasn't like Harry to be cowed by Snape, no matter the circumstances, so Harry decided he'd best do something to lighten the mood before Ron became truly concerned.

"You'll notice that Snape's out in broad daylight," Harry hissed to Ron, "looks like your vampire theory is down the drain."

"It's cloudy," Ron whispered back, "and I'm telling you he has some kind of special sunblock."

"Snape can't be a vampire, because they're so overcome with bloodlust that their brain burns out and they become horrific killing machines," Hermione softly declared, "so just give it up Ron."

Her words coincided with their passage through a part of the forest which had become grey and darkened, the leaf-less trees dead and gnarled…Harry could feel in his bones that this was where the dementors lay in wait for Sirius Black. The chill in the air increased and Harry remembered Ron's words—that the dementors liked him.

Harry huddled down into his thick winter robes shivering, feeling uneasy—wondering if the dementors would be able to sense him.

But the dementors never came and before long they were safely in Hogsmeade where Snape dismissed with one last warning, pointedly directed at Harry if one knew what to listen for.

Ron and Hermione grabbed Harry and pulled him into town, talking excitedly about everything they had to do.

"I definitely want to go to the bookstore first," Hermione declared cheerfully.

"Then me and Harry will go to Zonko's!" Ron decided, "That way you don't have to go in with us."

Hermione really seemed like she wanted to lecture them, once more on all the reasons they shouldn't shop there, but decided not to.

"All right," She agreed with a sigh, "and then we can meet in Honeydukes!"

"Perfect!" Ron chirruped, and turned to grin at Harry, "well, what are we waiting for!"

Ron led Harry through town, pointing out all the shops that were best, and he paused to point down a long and winding street to say, "Down there is the shrieking shack, it's nothing special really…mostly just kind of boring."

They continued on their way to Zonko's when something caught Harry's eye, he paused and squinted as he thought saw a black shadow moving in an alley. It was a little too short to be a dementor, but that didn't mean it wasn't something else…like the big black dog.

"What are you doing, mate?" Ron demanded, grabbing Harry's arm, "we've only got a few hours, you know!"

Harry stuttered out a bit of nonsense as he was dragged away, he could now see that there was no dog in the alley and he was likely becoming paranoid…probably due to some genetic mental disorder.

"We have to leave like an hour before sundown," Ron continued further, "because," he cleared his throat and nodded towards a sign that was posted, "the dementors start patrolling at night."

Harry frowned and remembered seeing the dog had preceded the dementors' attack during the quidditch game and unbidden, his eyes drifted back to the alley where he'd seen a shadow, only to see a stumpy little orange creature slink out of the alley. Harry swallowed hard, the feeling almost painful, as he realized that it hadn't been a kneazle he'd seen with the big black dog:

"Crookshanks," Harry gasped and pointed to the cat. He couldn't believe that Crookshanks was the orange creature he'd been seeing with the big black dog…Harry wondered if he should tell Ron. Though Ron might be able to figure it out on his own.

Ron looked incredibly confused before he saw Crookshanks as well and his mouth gaped open. The stumpy cat didn't seem to notice them and continued on his way down the winding street Ron had pointed out earlier. The street led to the shrieking shack.

"Think we should try to catch him?" Harry asked, feeling a bit unsure.

Ron laughed a bit and replied, "Nah, besides, looks like this isn't the first time he's been here."

"Wait till Hermione hears about this," Harry said with a laugh, and Ron began snickering as well. "Wonder what she'll do…"

"No telling," Ron replied, "all I know is that we should get to Zonko's before all the good stuff is gone."

"Right," Harry agreed easily, and he dutifully followed behind Ron. Hermione met them there, and Harry figured that'd they would have a few hours free of her, knowing how she was with books.

"They had all the same stuff," Hermione replied with a shrug, "except this," she hoisted a bag, "it's a book of Christmas stories, thought you and I could read them on Christmas Eve, Harry."

"What, you don't think I'd want to hear them?" Ron demanded, looking hurt, "Mum and dad would always read us stories about Christmas before I started at Hogwarts!"

Hermione flushed, looking a bit embarrassed, admitting, "Sometimes it's hard to tell what you do and don't like…sometimes you think things are childish because you already know about them…"

Ron's ears turned pink and he ducked his head whining, "But it's Christmas! It's okay to be a little childish."

"We'll all read them, then," Hermione told Ron with a smile and she hooked her arm through his. Then after a second, did the same to Harry, "Next we need to get Harry some gloves!"

Neither Ron or Hermione knew where to find them, so they went from window to window—gazing inside shops to see if they had any winter gear.

"Here!" Ron exclaimed, and he entered a tiny shop. Harry and Hermione followed in after him, several fourth year girls were huddled together discussing scarves in one corner, but Ron was studiously looking over a table in the center of the store.

"These look nice," Ron said, without specifying which gloves "these" were. Harry looked them over…most were gaudy and had strange attachments and Harry was sure he would likely never understand magical fashion. After long minutes of looking, Harry managed to locate a pair of plain Gryffindor red gloves and bought them.

"I'm freezing!" Hermione declared while Harry wiggled his hands inside his new gloves, "Let's get to the Three Broomsticks for some butterbeer!"

That turned out to be a good plan, and one that apparently didn't require Hermione to figure out. The warm pub was packed with students and locals alike, along with more Christmas decorations than could probably fit without magic.

"Quickly!" Hermione gasped pointing to a table that some sixth years were clearing from, and Ron shoved his way through the crowd to claim the table. Harry looked around the crowded room a bit blankly until Hermione suggested, "You go help him keep people from stealing the table and I'll order!"

Harry nodded and went to join Ron.

"Hermione fetching butterbeer?" Ron asked and Harry nodded in agreement.

"Wonder what it's like when the students aren't here," Harry commented, "How many people live in Hogsmeade anyways?"

Ron shrugged and replied, "Dunno, does it matter?"

"Guess not," Harry said with a shrug before another thought occurred to him: "Couldn't family come to visit students here?"

Ron's eyes widened, he looked a bit scared as if Mrs. Weasley were likely to pop out from behind him any second and begin wiping the leftover ink from his face, and he replied "Yeah, guess they could."

Harry nodded and looked around the pub with renewed interest, trying to see if there were in fact any parents visiting their children…everyone would be leaving for the holidays tomorrow, perhaps some parents would come to retrieve their children from here, rather than wait for them to arrive in London on the train. If they could even do that…Harry wasn't likely to find out the answer until he had children in Hogwarts.

Hermione arrived. She slipped in to sit next to Harry and she smiled, saying, "They'll be along in just a second—so what do you think, Harry?"

"S'nice to get away from school," Harry replied, "I'm glad the Dursleys changed their mind—a bit like being in Diagon Alley again."

Hermione beamed and it was clear she was pleased that Harry was having fun, and then their drinks arrived.

Several minutes later, the door to the pub blew open and McGonagall strode in. She scanned the room for a moment, probably looking for a table, and then stood aside so that Professor Flitwick, Hagrid, and…Minister Fudge could walk inside.

They talked to each other for a few minutes before heading directly towards the table that Harry, Ron and Hermione inhabited. Harry was forced to remind himself that he did have a right to be here, and that the teachers also needed a break from time to time. But that didn't stop him from ducking a bit so that they couldn't see him. Fortunately, he needn't have hidden; they were engrossed in each other's company and didn't even glance over at their table.

Hermione's eyebrows rose a bit as she looked at Ron and Harry with uncertainty, when the professors and the minister settled in at the table next to theirs.

"Should we leave?" Harry mouthed, nodding to the door.

Ron looked incredulous and held up his tankard, mouthing, "Butterbeer!"

Harry obediently reached for his own beverage, but didn't drink right away, just held it and the warmth of it slowly reached through his new gloves to warm his fingers the rest of the way. Hermione also reached for her butterbeer, and held it up to her lips, drinking it slowly.

It remained a bit unnerving, though, having three of his professors sitting so near—ones who knew him quite well: his head of house, his first friend, and the professor giving him private lessons.

They chatted about nothing in particular for a while, but it didn't take long before discussions turned to the dementors and then to Sirius Black. As Fudge was the one who decreed that the dementors patrol, they naturally tried to wheedle as much information out of the man as they could.

It didn't appear to be too difficult; Fudge seemed more than willing to be the center of attention.

"There's more to the story than was published," Fudge told his rapt audience who gasped in surprise, "it all has to do with his parents," Fudge paused and then said, "Harry mustn't learn about all of this, it would destroy him of course," Fudge said with a put-upon sigh, and everyone else at the table murmured agreements.

Harry froze and wondered just exactly what Fudge was going to say. Harry sank down further into his seat wondering if learning about Snape would be this thing that would "destroy" him.

Then Harry remembered Lupin and how easily the man had accepted the truth—was it possible that more people knew? Was it possible that he could tell certain people that he'd dreamed of his mother and Snape and they'd react with: "Yes, it would only make sense that Snape would be there."

Harry quickly nodded toward the door again, but Ron and Hermione both shook their heads firmly. They were staring at him as if they couldn't believe that Harry didn't want to hear this.

"Oh certainly," McGonagall agreed easily, "and here lately, it's become difficult to judge just how the lad will react to surprising or distressing news."

"Yes, I've heard of these strange outbursts," Fudge murmured thoughtfully, and Harry felt his heart thud when he realized there was wariness in Fudge's tone. He was worried about the damage that Harry could do…with good reason.

"They're mostly harmless, I believe," Flitwick squeaked, happily, "I've been instructing the boy and he's made excellent progress—I believe he was under a large amount of stress and began acting out."

"Understandable, understandable," Fudge said, and the wariness was gone, and Harry felt relief. After second year, he wasn't keen to have people fear him because of his abilities.

"But you were saying, Minister?"

Fudge cleared his throat as if he were beginning a speech.

"All of you taught Sirius Black so you're aware that he and James Potter were friends," Fudge began, and Harry felt no small amount of relief.

"Quite the understatement," McGonagall scoffed, "try inseparable—why the Potters even took the boy in when his family disowned him."

"Makes it even more difficult to believe that he could have turned dark," Hagrid sighed, sniffling as if he were about to begin crying.

"The story only gets worse, I'm afraid," Fudge continued dramatically as if he were telling a ghost story and not discussing another person's reality. "You know that the Potters went into hiding."

Unbidden, Harry couldn't help but wonder, where exactly did Snape fit into all this?

"Well, they used the fidelius charm—"

"No," McGonagall gasped horrified, "surely not!"

"But it's true," Fudge sighed, "Sirius Black was their secret keeper, which meant that he single-handedly turned them over to the dark lord—signed his own best friends' death sentence! And more than that! Because Black and Potter were so close, Sirius was made Harry's godfather!"

Harry's ears rang, and he couldn't hear anything going on around him. It was becoming abundantly clear that he never should have wished to find out about his relatives, or anyone that could take him away from the Dursleys. Harry was definitely better off alone.

A murderer who killed his own parents for a godfather; a mostly-evil, former death eater for a father…There was no proof, Harry reminded himself, he had no proof that Snape was a death eater—it was just something that everyone said, because Snape was a god-awful human being.

Nonetheless, things were definitely not turning out how Harry had hoped they would three months ago.

But honestly, what exactly had been going on before and after Harry had been born?

And not only that, why was Harry not totally enraged by this information? Harry felt a bit ashamed to think that this was completely less distressing than many other things he'd found out this year. After all, Sirius Black wasn't nearly as real to him as Snape was, and Snape was a daily threat, unlike Black who seemed more like a character from one of Dudley's horror films than a real person. He'd been so worried that Fudge would talk about Snape that he'd completely forgotten about everything else that was going on.

Then there was Professor Lupin's voice echoing oddly in his head, reminding him that he'd lived twelve years without his parents, that he was his own person now. But there was also the fact that Harry had lived twelve years with the Dursleys, they had raised him—perhaps some of their nastiness had rubbed on him, subconsciously?

And then there was Snape.

Why had Snape not been there to die, but James Potter had been? A niggling voice in the back of Harry's head supplied, because he's a death eater, he and Black may have even been responsible for the attack.

Disgusted, Harry frowned and stared down into his warm butterbeer, the smell of it was beginning to make him feel sick. He was wrought with guilt for not being angry, guilt for not wanting to kill Black, guilt for wanting to kill Snape, guilt for not wanting to kill the Dursleys. This whole story of everything that happened before he was born was turning into a twisted convoluted story of death and betrayal and it was getting to the point where Harry was deeply exhausted by it.

Harry removed his glasses and rubbed his face, he remembered the way Ron and Hermione had looked at him when he'd mentioned the Dursleys a few days ago, and the thought that the pity and shame and confusion on their faces would be twice what it had been then made Harry's stomach churn…violently.

He was going to throw up.

Harry grabbed his glasses, stood up and stormed out of the Three Broomsticks. The street was full of cheerful students and lively—literally alive—Christmas decorations. Feeling even worse, Harry turned to face the brick wall and heaved up his lunch, the candy he'd eaten with Ron, and the butterbeer he'd just bought.

Harry jerked off his glasses once more and pressed his face against the freezing brick wall. He was clammy and his cheek became adhered to the wall for a short moment, before his feverish skin warmed the brick.

"Mr. Potter, do you need to go to hospital wing?" McGonagall's stern voice had somehow gone soft, and Harry blearily opened one eye and could make out the black of her robes, and next to her was a red blob and brown blob—Ron and Hermione.

"I'm fine," Harry gasped, wiping the tears that had fallen while he'd vomited, "I just ate too many sweets."

He spat to try and clear the taste from his mouth. It didn't help and Harry replaced his glasses, he'd attracted a small crowd, and not just Hogwarts students—which was a bit humiliating. McGonagall looked stricken and like she wanted to say more, it was clear that she knew that Harry had overheard the conversation she'd been having. Ron and Hermione looked just as Harry had imagined they would.

It made him want to throw up again.

But there was nothing left.

He brushed past McGonagall, Ron, and Hermione and re-entered the pub.

There was nothing left; Harry was too exhausted to feel anything anymore.

Harry hadn't remained in the Three Broomsticks much longer after that, Hagrid had come up to him crying, wanting to hug him and apologize and Harry had just stared at the half-giant and then ducked around him to grab his things. Harry didn't want to be around anyone anymore, he grabbed his bags and turned around to leave to find Ron and Hermione staring at him in deep concern.

Harry walked past them, quickly, and once he was back outside he broke into a full jog. Stopping when he arrived at the edge of town, where Snape and another teacher were waiting.

"Heading back, Potter?" the other teacher asked and Harry nodded quickly.

"Come along then," Snape growled and he swept of towards the castle, Harry ran to catch up to the man. Of course, Snape would end up escorting him back to Hogwarts. Fortunately, Snape didn't say anything the whole walk back, and Harry was deeply relieved, there was no telling what would come out of his mouth if Snape said something.

Probably fire, lots and lots of fire.

Once on the grounds, Snape turned and headed back to Hogsmeade and Harry made the long trek up to the castle alone, but once inside he didn't remain alone for long.

"Been to Hogsmeade then?" Fred…or George asked curiously.

"Yes, I got my form signed," Harry replied, "bit of good luck, really."

Probably the only good luck he'd had since school began.

"Well, actually it's a bit unfortunate," George…or Fred sighed, "You see, we have a present for you—"

"An early Christmas present."

"Seems we waited too long to give it to you though," they sighed together. Harry stopped walking and dropped his bags so that he could figure out what the twins were up to.

"And what's that?" Harry asked, crossing his arms and looking between the twins expectantly.

The twins grinned mischievously and they each grabbed one of Harry's arms and dragged him back into an alcove. Harry's bags followed obediently behind them.

Harry listened in amazement and awe as the twins showed him the map and explained its abilities.

"See, we'd been hoping to show you the passages into Hogsmeade, but it appears you won't need them for a while yet," George said with a sigh, "nonetheless, there's this one here under the statue of the one-eyed witch, and all the rest are collapsed or useless because Filch knows about them…all these right here, see. And then this one, the entrance is under the whomping willow—what a right waste!"

After the twins had left, Harry remained the alcove for a while longer, staring down at the map the twins had just given him, the amazement of the gift itself combined with the twins' generosity at even handing over such a thing was beginning to wear off subsiding now into a sort of…confusion.

First he wondered what he could even do with such a thing, a few things came to mind…but Harry had never been much of a trouble-maker, especially when compared to Fred and George. He could never do half the things they did, he lacked the dedication, and it wasn't as if that could have escaped their notice.

Then, slowly, a memory bubbled up in Harry's mind, of the conversation he'd overheard two months earlier.

This must have been what they'd been talking about.

They'd seen some names—one they'd thought…one they'd thought was a ghost, but really wasn't and that was troubling to them, but there was another they'd spotted near the forbidden forest? Or was it the willow? Or both? Harry supposed they were close enough together to count as the same entity.

The twins were seeing dangerous things in this map, and now that Harry had it he knew that some of the weird things he'd been seeing were not coincidental…it was clear that the twins hadn't wanted to get caught with the map, so they'd handed it over to him so that he could deal with everything for them. They were probably hoping that Harry would see this "ghost" and take it immediately to a professor.

Harry stared down at the map, scanning it closely, wondering if it was likely that what Fred and George had seen would pop out at him.

Unbidden, Harry remembered the twins' words about the passage under the whomping willow. Feeling a bit frozen, Harry's mind went back to having seen the knea—Crookshanks rubbing up against the tree and then disappearing. Crookshanks had been using that passage to get into Hogsmeade…which meant that Harry probably had seen the big black dog today in that alley.

Could it be that what the twins had seen was connected to the big black dog as well?

It would all bear some looking into for certain, and Harry rolled the map up and headed quickly back to the Gryffindor common room, but when he arrived at Sir Cadogan's portrait, he stopped upon seeing Neville dejectedly standing in the hallway.

"What is it, Neville?" Harry asked in confusion. "Did you forget the password?"

"No, lad!" Sir Cadogan declared cheerfully, "I changed the password two hours ago—security reasons you understand! Why there's a murderer loose!"

"So you're leaving us defenseless in the hallway?" Harry demanded.

Sir Cadogan seemed to be immune to logic and it was as if Harry hadn't said anything at all, Harry frowned and looked over to Neville asking, "Should we knock?"

"Already tried," Neville said with a sigh, "everyone else should be heading back from Hogsmeade soon, so I figure someone will be here soon…I tried McGonagall's office, but—"

"She's in Hogsmeade too," Harry finished. It appeared that they'd be stuck out here for a while yet. Harry sighed and tossed his bag to the floor next to Neville and leaned against the wall, his misery seemed to be gathering up into his forehead to form headache that Harry hoped would go away sometime soon.

"Your practice with Professor Flitwick seems to be helping," Neville commented several long seconds later.

Harry blinked and looked over at Neville in confusion, "How do you mean?"

"You haven't blown up anything recently," Neville replied, with an encouraging smile, "not since you started your lessons with him really."

Harry put his head back against the wall and considered what Neville had said, it did seem like it had been a while since he'd accidentally set something on fire…actually, he believed the last time had been when he'd set Malfoy's robes on fire.

He couldn't remember what happened when he'd gone to Snape's office that night, because everything was all jumbled together and nothing seemed to make any sense. But it worked out that this incident managed to coincide pretty closely with the start of Harry's practices with Flitwick.

"Yeah, that must be it," Harry agreed, though he wasn't sure what caused him to set fewer fires in the past few weeks…maybe Snape had done something to him in the office, drugged him? Maybe given him a potion that increased his magical control?

It didn't really matter. It was likely that Harry would never be able to remember that night.

Then Harry realized, that even though he'd been desperately upset in the Three Broomsticks, and thought that he'd have been able to breathe fire if Snape said something upsetting…he hadn't set fire to anything at all, actually. It seemed Neville and Flitwick were right.

But it made Harry worry that he wouldn't be able to make fire ever again.

Harry dreamed that rather than throw up in front of the Three Broomsticks, he'd set the entire town of Hogsmeade on fire and from the ashes an entire army of dementors had formed out of the pain and sorrow of all the people Harry had killed. And so Harry burned all the dementors, but then the fire turned green, like it had when Pomfrey had gone through the fire in Lupin's office, and spat him out in the Gryffindor common room.

Befuddled, Harry stood up in the empty common and looked around, before deciding to leave. Out in the hallway sat the big black dog; he stood up on his hind legs so he could shake Harry's hand and thanked Harry for destroying the dementors.

Harry asked him where the suns were, and the dog barked and barked—laughing—before telling Harry they weren't suns at all, they were eyeballs Harry had caught on fire.

Harry jerked awake and found himself in complete darkness…and complete cold. He opened the curtains around his bed, grabbed his glasses from his nightstand, and looked around the dormitory—it was even colder out here. Harry located his slippers and decided to go down to the common room. He was sure there was a fire down there.

He wanted to be around light and warmth. As quietly as possible, Harry slipped out of the dorm and down the stairs and sure enough there was a fire burning…it was low though, but that meant it wouldn't be too hot. Harry's fingers clenched, they felt a bit itchy…and the flames were low. Harry hadn't been burned in this dream either. Not that this dream was, by any means, realistic and he shouldn't really let it influence him in his real life.

Harry couldn't make dementors, he told himself as he approached the fireplace, and Harry probably couldn't even burn the dementors. Harry certainly wouldn't burn down an entire village and kill all its inhabitants, Harry reminded himself as he sat down directly in front of the fire. The only thing he could do was make fire.

And get burned by it.

But Harry remembered, well not really, but probably, gathering up the fire he'd set on Malfoy's robes. They hadn't burned him, they'd just gone away.

Harry held out one of his hands, fingers still nervously clenched, toward the fire. He leaned closer and closer to the flames, until he could feel the intense heat on his knuckles. It felt like he was already touching the flames, honestly…Harry closed his eyes as it began to feel like his flesh was boiling and then he straightened his fingers.

The fire was…

He could feel it…

He could feel it had gone out.

He'd extinguished the fire when he'd touched it.

Frowning, Harry opened his eyes, and silently assessed the burnt logs. It was chilly and Harry left his wand up in the room…He wanted the fire back and he wanted to touch it, and he didn't want the fire to go out when he did.

Concentrating, he tried to force the fire back into existence, only to find that it wouldn't work. It was clear that he still possessed some of the magic that allowed him to make fire or he wouldn't have extinguished the large fire by touching it. Fear jolted through him, and Harry desperately wondered if he could even make fire without a wand now—what had Snape done to him?

Harry closed his eyes and tried to remember what little he could about the tiny fire he'd set on Malfoy's robes. Tried to remember what it looked like and felt like. It was hard though, because he couldn't really remember anything that happened that night, it felt like an alien had reached inside his brain and told him what to think about, but hadn't told him what to remember.

Groaning, Harry snatched his glasses from his face, and pressed his palms against his eyes. He wanted to touch fire; he wanted to touch it now!

But it wasn't looking like it would happen tonight, Harry decided with a sigh and he reached for his glasses, before deciding it was far too cold to remain down in the common room. He'd be better off in his cold bed, with his cold blankets, than he would be without them.

Harry, shuddering from the cold, hurried back upstairs.