Disclaimer: Everything in the Harry Potter universe belongs to JK Rowling, her publishers, and Warner Brothers. The plot of this work of fanfiction belongs to me, and I alone am responsible for its content. No galleons are being made from this work.
"Should we cut his hair?" Professor McGonagall asked as Harry stroked his hand repeatedly over the long, silky locks that framed the pale, still face. It had been nearly three months since the battle… nearly three months since Snape had been attacked by Nagini, since Voldemort tried to kill him, in the ignorant, vain hope that by doing so, he would attain mastery over the Elder Wand.
"It would be like cutting Sampson's hair, don't you think?" Harry answered softly, his eyes on the sleeping man's face.
"You should get some sleep."
"I want to stay a while longer – read to him."
He looked up, an apologetic smile on his face. "Don't, Professor. I know what you're going to say, but…"
"You need to move on, Harry. We don't know when he –"
"I want to be here when he does," he interrupted with quiet determination. "I won't leave him, Professor. I owe him so much."
McGonagall studied him a moment, but he didn't notice, already turned back to the sleeping man, a fond look on his face. She finally reached across the bed to pat the young man's hand. "We all do, Potter. We all do."
Harry barely noted the click of the door to the infirmary closing as she left him alone with Snape. Over the weeks and months, the once-crowded infirmary had slowly emptied of the injured, until now, nearly three months after the battle, just this one casualty remained. Snape hadn't been taken to St. Mungo's because the magic of the castle aided his recovery, tied as he had been to her survival as well.
Harry contemplated the face, so well-known, and yet so unfamiliar. He knew it was because he was seeing Snape through different eyes. Finally, sighing, he gave the man's shoulder a gentle pat, careful of his wounds, and moved to the other side of the bed, where he took a book off the top of a stack on the nightstand. He waved over a chair and let it settle quietly to the floor, settled himself in it for the night, opened the book and began to read to the silent man at his side.
"Harry Potter," a voice said in his ear, and a hand shook him gently. "It is time to wake up, Master." Harry struggled to a sitting position and groaned. He'd once again forgotten to transfigure the chair into something more comfortable for the night. He'd pay for that with a stiff neck and sore back all day, and as he would not admit to having spent the night here – yet again – he could not ask Madam Pomfrey for a healing potion or spell.
"Thank you, Kreacher. You can go back," he said quietly.
"Yes, Master." The house elf hesitated. "There will be a hot bath in Master's rooms," he said.
"Professor Snape's rooms," Harry corrected automatically, his eyes already on the man in front of him, searching hopefully, as they did every morning, for some sign that Snape's condition had improved. Finding none, he sighed and turned back to the elf. "Thank you, Kreacher. I'll be down in a few minutes."
The elf bowed and snapped his fingers, disapparating back to the kitchens. Harry turned back to the bed. He smoothed Snape's hair away from his face, and tangled his fingers in it. What are you doing, Harry? He didn't answer that. "I'll be back, Professor. I just need to shower and change and show my face in the Great Hall – but I'll be back." He watched the slack face, the only sign of life the rhythmic rise and fall of the man's chest and the reassuring green glow of the spell that monitored his condition. Ironic that the color that indicated he still lived was the same as that of the killing curse and the venom that threatened to kill him, working its inexorable way through his system in the hours between the attack and when his body was retrieved from the Shrieking Shack.
Harry leaned over him until his face was mere inches from Snape's, until he could feel the soft exhalations of the man's breath on his cheek.
"You have to come back, Professor. I'm not done with you yet." Please come back, he thought, and smoothed his fingers across the man's forehead daringly, secure in the knowledge that Snape would never know. After whispering once more, "I'll be back," he turned, banished the chair, and made his way through the lightening corridors to the dungeons, whispering a password at a door guarded by entwined snakes, and entered Severus Snape's old quarters.