Disclaimer: Harry Potter and his world belong to J.K. Rowling. This story belongs to me.

A/N – Hello, my wonderful readers! Only a short chapter tonight, which I apologise for that in advance. In my defense though, my laptop has gone away for repairs, and I wrote this in little fits and starts on my mum and dad's computer whenever they weren't using it, which unfortunately wasn't often. I could have made this chapter longer, but it would have taken another week or so to finish. I felt guilty after the last little cliff-hanger, however, so hence this little chapter to keep you going until I get my laptop back. There's probably hundreds of mistakes in this, but I don't even have time to properly edit it. Forgive me, and as always…enjoy!

~Strength in Weakness~

The Concern

"I can't believe you punched my Uncle."

It was a sentence that Harry had never thought he would ever say in his lifetime, let alone to Snape of all people. The situation was so surreal, so unbelievably unbelievable, that Harry was having a hard time believing it had happened at all. And yet here he was, locked in his bedroom with Snape, trying desperately to work out if it had all been a dream, or he had finally snapped and gone mad. The scene flashed before his eyes again in beautiful Technicolor; Snape pulling his arm back, his uninjured shoulder swinging forwards, his fist connecting with Uncle Vernon's nose…

Oddly, Harry felt the urge to laugh. He knew that this was going to cause a hell of a lot of problems, that this had only made their situation worse, not better, but he couldn't help it.

Merlin, Snape had punched his Uncle.

Harry had been dreaming of punching Uncle Vernon for years, and now Snape of all people had been the one to do it. And he'd been defending Harry as well, just like Harry had somehow known he would; though, Harry admitted to himself, not quite like this. After everything that had gone on in the last few weeks, and particularly in the last few days, something had fundamentally altered between them. They were allies in every sense of the word now, and even though he still didn't particularly like the man, Harry knew that he could truly trust Snape.

But for Snape to actually punch his Uncle…well, Harry still couldn't quite believe that…

When Snape didn't answer him immediately, however, Harry knew better than to push the matter. In truth, as in shock as he was, Harry knew that Snape was probably ten times worse. They were both tired, hungry and stressed, and although Harry needed answers about what the hell had just happened, he supposed he owed it to Snape to wait until the man was ready to talk. He could wait…

They were safe from his Uncle's wrath for the moment, Harry told himself, trying to ignore the little voice in the back of his mind that told him this wasn't the last they'd heard of the matter.

Almost as if mind was rebelling against his own desire for ignorance however, Harry found that he was unable to ignore the doubts and fears that had started to pound at his mind. If Harry had to guess, Aunt Petunia was probably already fixing Uncle Vernon a large brandy in an attempt to calm him down. When that inevitably didn't work, Uncle Vernon would head straight up the stairs, ready to take his frustrations out on his nephew…

Harry tried to steady his heart rate, reminding himself more forcibly this time that Snape was still here with him, though Snape's continued silence was hardly reassuring. Almost all amusement from the situation had gone now, and only dread replaced it. Harry glanced over at his Professor, who seemed to be stubbornly refusing to comment on what had happened. In fact, Snape was sat on Harry's bed, looking for all the world as if he was about to collapse backwards onto it, but Harry needed some sort of reassurance, some sort of sign from the Professor that they really were safe now, even in spite of recent developments.

Harry had always been able to rely on himself, but the last couple of days had taught him that didn't always need to rely only on himself, that he didn't always need to be the one who worried; who always had to find a solution, a way of saving himself. Snape's presence lifted some of the weight from his shoulders, letting him breathe a little easier for the first time in his life, and had given Harry a freedom he had never felt before. The freedom of someone else doing the worrying for him.

Now…well, he could wait for answers, but he needed to know that he was safe. As pathetic as he knew it was – and he would certainly never admit the fact aloud – he needed Snape to tell him one more time that he was safe. It was stupid – he knew it was – but if Snape had taught him anything, it was that talking about issues usually helped. And this – Snape punching Vernon – was a fairly big issue…

Snape grunted heavily before Harry could even begin to think about questioning the man though, grimacing as flexed the hand he'd used to punch Vernon. He was clearly in pain, and his face was paler than usual, which for Snape was really saying something, and Harry could feel his dread lesson slightly as another emotion took over for the moment; concern.

So, pushing his pathetic thoughts away for the moment, Harry walked straight over to his desk, allowing Snape free reign of the bed, and took a seat at his desk chair before his shaky legs failed him. Now that the surge of adrenaline was slowly down, Harry felt suddenly bone tired, and another look at Snape, with his pale face and newly bruised knuckles, and Harry knew for certain that his concerns had merit, and that the Professor was in no better condition than he was. Oh, answers, for once, could definitely wait…

Therefore, Harry made another herculean effort to push away his worries and his need for reassurance as best he could as he turned to Snape. "So…er…."

"Be silent, Potter," Snape snapped, though the fire was gone from his voice.

Harry closed his mouth, but didn't look away. A myriad of emotions flittered across the man's face, ranging from anger to regret to exhaustion, and a number of others that Harry couldn't even begin to decipher. Snape looked as if he was choosing his next words carefully however, so Harry simply stayed quiet for once and waited patiently.

"And to think," Snape began eventually, talking slowly, as if every word was a struggle. "I used to believe that you were the most insufferable human being imaginable, Potter…"

Harry didn't smile. The Professor grimaced again, and Harry, not for the first time, found that he was unnerved by how obvious Snape's current state was to him. It was clear to Harry that Snape was exhausted and in pain, though his sarcasm and dry wit were still undoubtedly in sharp form, but for the usually stoic man to show much of his feelings on the surface…

This was more than simple exhaustion, Harry realised, his dread growing rapidly, adding to the fear and concern that was already there. Something was wrong…

"It was the very least of what that Muggle deserves," Snape continued darkly, almost talking as if Harry wasn't even there, and Harry shook himself slightly.

They were safe now, he reminded himself once again, though he knew it was going to be a struggle to force himself to believe that lie for much longer, especially with Snape in the state he was in. He didn't need Snape to tell him that they were safe, Harry told himself forcefully; though again Harry forced himself to ignore the doubts that were clouding the back of his mind.

Harry glanced at Snape again, a crease of worry forming at his forehead when he assessed the professor's condition, but Harry forced himself to shrug away his concern, knowing that it would be neither appreciated nor accepted. He was probably imagining it anyway…

"I still can't believe you punched him," Harry muttered instead, still unable to get the image out of his head. Snape – the unflappable bat of the dungeon, spy, teacher and death eater all at once – engaging in a Muggle brawl. Well, Harry allowed, not quite a brawl. In fact, Snape's punch had both begun and ended the confrontation. Uncle Vernon had been knocked for six…

Once again, Harry didn't feel any amusement this time from the thought. Now that it was sinking in, Harry couldn't help but feel that they were in a lot of trouble now. In fact, it felt almost like they had jumped out of a frying pan, only to land in the fire…

"Surely it is not that hard to believe," Snape replied slowly, each word an effort to get out. "Did you not blow up your Aunt on one occasion, Potter?"

"That was...different," Harry replied, pushing away his concerns again, for the moment at least. Harry glanced down to the floor, not particularly wanting to be reminded of that day. Of course, Snape was never one to let things go…

"How?" challenged Snape.

Harry sighed. "I was…angry."

"As was I, Potter."

Harry's head jerked up in surprise, though he wasn't sure why. It was obvious that Snape had been angry, but the truth was, despite his earlier thoughts, Harry still found it hard to believe that Snape would be angry on his behalf…

"But I never meant to blow her up," Harry argued. "I just….it just happened."

"Do you honestly believe punching your uncle was something I planned?"

"No," Harry mumbled.

"I…lost control," Snape replied. "I…am not entirely sure why."

It had obviously taken a lot for Snape to admit that much, so Harry tried to hide his surprise at Snape's openness as best he could. He couldn't quite ignore the niggling sense of unease that was growing more and more with each passing second. Something was wrong with Snape…

"I'm glad you did it," Harry mumbled, almost involuntarily. "I've been wanting to do that for years."

"Oh, I have no doubt about that, Potter," Snape replied, closing his eyes for a moment before opening them again. "It amazes me how well you managed to turn out with those muggles raising you."

"Was that a compliment, sir?" Harry asked, eyebrows raised.

"I'm tired, Potter," Snape replied, straight-faced, though Harry caught a glimmer of something in his eyes. "My goodwill will no doubt end as soon as I have managed to get some rest. Don't get used to it."

"Oh, I won't," Harry replied, unable to hide his small grin.

"See that you don't," Snape replied, grimacing again as he shifted slightly on the bed. Clearly, Snape's shoulder was bothering more than he'd been letting on…

"Thanks, you know…for grabbing him," Harry began quietly, well aware of how much he owed his life to the Professor in the last few days. "I mean, I would have been fine…but thanks."

"You're welcome, Potter," Snape replied tiredly. "We will save the discussion of whether you really would be fine for another day. For now, since your ridiculous relatives have seen fit to lock us in here, I suggest we get some rest."

Harry simply nodded, once again choosing to stay quiet. He had learnt how to pick the lock from Fred and George, but he wasn't about to tell Snape that. Honestly, Harry was worried that if he told Snape he could get them out of there, Snape would forgo rest and concentrate on contacting the order. Or he would attack Vernon again…

No, it would be better to hide out up here for a while and give Vernon the chance to calm down, whilst also giving Snape the chance to rest. It had taken every ounce of begging Harry had been able to stand to get them up in his room alone, and unharmed, and Harry wasn't about to throw that all away.

"I think I'm okay for now," Harry told Snape finally, trying to look like he wasn't about to collapse. "You sleep. I'll keep watch. You know…in case my uncle…"

Harry trailed off, but Snape was clearly too tired to pick that up or even argue with his student, which only made Harry even more worried about the man.

"Fine, Potter," Snape sighed, turning round until he was lying on the bed. He stayed on top of the covers, clearly too exhausted to pull himself under them. "Wake me up when you need to rest."

Without waiting for another reply, Snape closed his eyes, and Harry silently turned away, concern bubbling in his chest as he prepared himself, ready to keep watch. Something was definitely not right with Snape. There was no way, even with the way things had changed between them, that Snape would allow himself to fall asleep so easily, especially when they were still in somewhat of a precarious position.

Sighing deeply, feeling powerless and trapped once again - but well aware that there was nothing that he could do about it now - Harry turned his attention to the door, just in case Vernon made a surprise and very unwelcome visit. As the minutes passed, Harry kept his gaze fixed on the door, trying to ignore the shallow and uneven breathing of his Professor, and doing his best to push away his unease and worry as he focused instead on staying awake. Snape was tough, Harry told himself, over and over and over again, almost forcing that thought to the forefront of his mind. Snape would be okay.

Looking back on it later, Harry should have known his thoughts would jinx it.

A/N – So, it's guessing time again. What's wrong with Snape? What's going to happen next? What it Vernon going to do once he's recovered from Snape's right hook? When am I going to let Snape and Harry get safely back to Hogwarts? All will be revealed soon, I promise, but for now, please let me know what you think, and lastly, as always, thanks for reading!