Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters featured in this story. Since life is not fair, I do not own any of the castles either. They all belong to a very rich lady, by name of Joanne Rowling. Unfortunately, I do not earn any money from this story.
Chapter one – Sleeping Beauty
I strode down the corridor, intent on finding any miscreants out after curfew. I rounded a corner, ascended a staircase two steps at a time, and continued in the same brisk pace. After leaving my chambers; which smelled of sweat, uneasy sleep and fear; I always found that some exercise was the best distraction from the lingering fear.
My eyes were stinging, I knew that they –just like the rest of my exhausted body – craved sleep, but I refused to indulge it. Since Dreamless Sleep was both addictive and dangerous when used regularly for extended periods of time, I could no longer rely on the potion for sleep. The fear of going to bed, of falling asleep, of both re-living my worst memories and living those my imagination concocted, was enough to make me discard the notion. I had already tried sleeping once tonight. Less than two hours after I had completed my nightly ablutions, gone to bed, and pulled the comforter up to my chin, I had awoken. Screaming, sobbing, gasping for breath.
My mind was getting more sluggish by the minute, the otherwise simple process of thought now almost impossible. I cursed – I needed rest. I refused to sleep, but I would not be averse to sitting down for a moment. Simply to rest my tired limbs.
I debated going back to my chambers and sitting in my favourite armchair in front of the hearth. Maybe I would conjure some merrily dancing flames to keep the darkness at bay and me some company. I groaned at the thought of all those stairs and went to lean against the wall. Forcing my tired arms to obey, I rubbed my eyes. My muscles, only minutes ago working as well as ever, were now protesting heavily. I had walked into a proverbial wall.
Resignedly, I slid down, my back pressed against the smooth wall, until I was sitting on the floor.
"I'll just close my eyes for a minute," I mumbled to myself.
Harry swung his legs over the bedside. In the dusky dormitory, which was only illuminated by the moon outside the large window, he heard only the sounds of his sleeping friends. He quietly stood up and padded over to his trunk. The Silencing Charm he had put around his bed had kept the others from hearing his screams, but it would not keep them from waking up if he accidentally bumped into something now.
He undid the fastenings on his trunk – fortunately without much noise – and opened it.. Inside lay an assorted pile of things – quills, ink, clothes, books, some candy wrappers, and other mundane things. But also his invisibility cloak and the Marauders Map. He grabbed both, quickly hid himself beneath the fabric of the cloak, and sneaked out of the dormitory.
In the abandoned common room, he halted and extricated his wand from the pocket of his pajama bottoms. He gently tapped the tip of the wand against the Map and mumbled:
"I solemnly swear that I am up to no good."
The previously empty parchment was now filled with lines and dots. In the Gryffindor Tower, everyone but the dot labeled Harry Potter were in their beds. The corridor outside the tower was empty, and the next was... currently occupied by Severus Snape. I'd better wait a little while, until he goes away, he thought. That is one person I do not want to encounter when I'm out after curfew.
He waited five minutes, all the while watching Snape's dot intently. But it didn't move! It just remained there, completely still, up against the wall. He frowned, then narrowed his eyes. Of course he was standing there, hoping that some Gryffindor would walk by. Then he could pounce and take points from said Gryffindor, maybe even dole out a detention. He grimaced, he knew that Snape often patrolled the corridors at night, hunting for students breaking the rules, but laying in ambush sounded a bit extreme – even for him.
After ten minutes, the dot had still not moved. Harry sighed, if he wanted to get to the library at all tonight; which he did since it supplied excellent distraction from the memories and guilt his nightmares evoked; he would have to sneak past the Potions Master. With a grimace and a muttered curse, he left the common room through the portrait of the Fat Lady.
He walked as quietly as he possibly could, looking at the map every few seconds. The Severus Snape dot had still not moved.
"I know the man is stubborn, but this is taking it a bit too far," he muttered. Stupid Snape with his stupid animosity towards Gryffindors. When he came to the end of the first corridor, he gingerly looked around the corner. The Professor was there, just like the map said, but something was odd. He was sitting, propped up against the wall, but with his chin resting on his chest. Harry carefully crept closer, and then closer still. Suddenly, he stopped – the professor was sleeping. Light, almost inaudible snores, came from his direction. Harry, intrigued despite his better sense, knelt beside the sleeping form. He bent forward, until he could see the man's face. He had to suppress a gasp, the man looked completely different. Without his infamous sneer, he looked almost kind. There was something strangely vulnerable, almost childish, over his features.
Harry bit his lip in contemplation. I can't leave the man here, unguarded and alone. I should just wake him up. But then he looked at his face again, and couldn't bring himself to do it. From the dark shadows beneath his eyes, Harry knew that the man did not sleep well or often. He obviously needed the rest if he fell asleep in the corridor. Harry looked around, musing. He can't spend the night here, nor can I. He studied the Map, saw that a classroom lay down the next corridor, and decided to bring the professor there.
He pulled out his wand again, and said:
Carefully levitating the sleeping form of Severus Snape in front of him, he walked towards his decided destination.
The door to the classroom was thankfully unlocked, since he doubted he would have been able to levitate Snape and unlock the door simultaneously. Using his full concentration, he managed to transport the man through the doorway without damaging him. Quite proud of himself, Harry smiled.
After carefully putting the older man down on the floor, Harry transformed a desk into a bed. Since transformation was not his best subject, he was rather proud with the result. It looked like a bed, and was even adequately soft. He smiled, before levitating the Potions Master onto the bed. He pulled off one of his socks, which were luckily clean, and transformed it into a comforter. After transforming his other sock into a pillow, he approached the sleeping man with both items. He carefully lifted the man's head, holding his breath the whole time, and put the pillow beneath it. Then he spread the comforter over the professor.
I'm tucking Snape in, he thought, and could not suppress a small giggle. He sat down on a chair and combed a hand through his hair. He was rather surprised that he had managed to get the professor into bed without waking him up. He must have been very tired.
After a while the man started whimpering, his hands clenched and unclenched, small tremors went through his body. Harry bit the inside of his cheek, it was obvious that the man's dreams had taken an uncomfortable turn.
When the whimpers grew louder, Harry cast a silencing charm on the door of the classroom. When they turned to outright screams, Harry could not stand it anymore. He shot up from his seat, and ran over to the bed. The man was flailing, all the while begging someone.
"No, please. No, please, don't!"
For the first time he could remember, Harry felt sympathy for the nasty Potions Master. Thankfully he had stopped screaming, but the gasped begging and his expression, filled with pain, were almost worse. Harry desperately reached out and shook the man, trying to wrench him from his nightmare.
"Wake up, professor!" His voice sounded frightened. "Come on, please wake up."
Snape was shaking now, strangled sobs escaping his throat. Suddenly he screamed, his body convulsing in pain. Harry shook him again, wishing with all his heart that he would just wake up.
He put his hands on the man's cheeks, cupping them roughly. "Severus," he said. "Severus, it's just a dream."
The man stopped screaming, stopped twitching, stopped begging. Now he merely lay there, sobbing quietly. Harry stroked his surprisingly soft chin with his knuckles, then put an errant strand of hair behind his ear. Gradually, the man relaxed. Harry kept stroking his hair, somewhere knowing that it felt odd but also that it was the right thing to do, until Snape was once again slumbering peacefully. Harry removed his hand from the older man's hair – which, he was surprised to find, was not greasy at all, only very soft – and made to move away. The man moaned pitifully at the loss of contact, and Harry quickly grabbed his hand, afraid that the professor would succumb to nightmares again. Summoning his chair, he sat down next to the bed, still holding the professor's hand in his own.
I awoke – awoke, had I been asleep? - by a gentle shaking of my shoulder. I was lying on something soft; a bed. Had I gone back to my chambers? No, in my chambers I would be alone. Alone – I was not alone.
I was instantly fully awake and sitting up. My hand went into my pocket and pulled out my wand, aiming it at the only other person in the room.
"Potter," I spat, pleased to see him flinch. I looked around myself, concluded that I was most likely in one of the abandoned classrooms in Hogwarts, and relaxed slightly. But only slightly. "Why am I here, what have you done with me?" I demanded furiously. The boy visibly – and audibly – swallowed, before making a reply.
"You were in the corridor, sleeping." He looked pleadingly at me, as if willing me to believe him. Of course I did not. Why would I be sleeping in the corridor? That was a ludicrous notion. Obviously the brat had done something and was now trying to cover his tracks. "I thought you'd be better off sleeping somewhere more," he hesitated, "safe."
I snorted. "So I am to believe that you saved me. From sleeping." I sneered, glad to discover that whatever the miscreant had done, it had not diluted the power of my sneers. I continued, in a mocking voice. "Out of the goodness of your heart, I assume."
The brat actually looked relieved. How dared he? "Yes," he said, "I may not particularly like you," that was the understatement of the year,"but I'm Gryffindor. Ridiculously so, even." I took it back, thatwas the understatement of the year. "So, it really doesn't matter that I don't like you or that you hate me, you are still on the list of people I save when I deem it necessary." There's a list? An actual list, or a metaphorical one? "Honestly, you shouldn't be so surprised, I saved Pettigrew, and he killed my parents."
"And why, if I may inquire, did you 'deem it necessary' to save me? I was within the walls of Hogwarts, which are well protected, and am also quite capable of taking care of myself."
"Well, I know you were hardly in mortal peril, and am also quite aware of that you are capable of defending yourself. Normally." Normally? "But you were sleeping quite heavily," I snorted again, I never slept heavily, "heavily enough for me to levitate you here and put you to bed." He levitated me here? And 'put me to bed'? As in tucking me in? My traitorous face must have shown my distress, because he gave me a reassuring half smile. Absolutely disgusting. "Look, I know how cruel children can be, and I figured that the last thing you needed was for some vindictive student to pull a prank on you and make you the laughing stock of the entire school." He held up a hand, just as I was about to protest. How rude. "It's okay, I know that you don't believe me. And that's fine – I was hardly expecting your eternal gratitude." Wise. "I know that you'll keep treating me like something nasty and ridiculing me every chance you get. And that's fine," he smiled mischievously and winked, "we wouldn't want everyone to die of a shock-induced heart attack, now would we?" Was that a joke? Did he just joke? More importantly, was it on my expense?
"Why did you not just wake me?"
He looked at his feet, which I noted; were bare. Unsophisticated brat. He raised his head again, and looked into my eyes. "You looked peaceful." That shut me up.
He yawned and stretched, then gathered his hated invisibility cloak and a piece of parchment. Lifting his wand and pointing it at the door, he said:
"Finite Incantantem." Turning around, he gave me an apologetic look. "Silencing Charm," he said by way of explanation, then shrugged. I blanched, had I been making noises in my sleep? "Don't worry, I have one around my bed. I put it there so I don't wake the others up in the middle of the night." He gave me a weak smile. Potter had nightmares? Well, it was hardly my problem if he did. And besides, it was just as likely that he dreamed loudly for other, more pleasant, reasons. "I'm going now, the bed was a desk if you need to transform it back."
"And the comforter, the pillow?"
"Just," he hesitated slightly, looking vaguely embarrassed, "just banish those." Then he turned on his heel, and left the room.