The days passed and Snape's worries grew. Harry did not seem to be improving. In fact, he looked like a skeleton, lying on a bed, always gazing wistfully at the ceiling.
It was like torment to Snape. Several countless nights were encountered where Snape let Harry sleep in his cot in his room. Many a time Snape felt like crying but he didn't. His eyes remained dry as he stared at Harry, but his throat always hurt and he always felt like the world was ending.
He had no support whatsoever. Dumbledore had turned a new leaf and was seemingly against him for caring so much about Harry instead of caring for the war. Charity despised him. Sometimes Minerva would try to console him but Snape always shrugged her off. She stopped.
Then one day, after brewing the medicine and leaving it to simmer, Snape went to change Harry's clothes which hadn't been changed in days.
"Nape!" Harry said eagerly. He was leaning against a pillow, looking very little and cute as he played with a toy aeroplane.
He looked cheerier than usual and waved his hand, sitting more upright. "Play wiv Hawwy, Nape!"
"Don't get over-excited," Snape chided as Harry bounced his legs. He quickly changed the boy into a red t-shirt and blue shorts. Harry looked displeased. "Nnn...No!" He said angrily. "Nape!"
"What's wrong with you now?"
Harry jabbed his fist at Snape's robes, looking as if he may cry. "Be Napey! Pwease!"
Snape hunted the tiny black robes sullenly. He had not dressed Harry in them once, and had hoped that he could throw them out sometime. He didn't know why, but they made him feel uncomfortable.
He re-dressed Harry in them however, as he was an invalid, and watched the baby croon at himself.
In time, Harry grew tired with pretending to be like his guardian. He snuggled up against the pillow, told Snape he loved him for the umpteenth time, and then fell asleep, mouth open.
Snape watched him sleep and the more he did, the more he realised that he could not bear to lose Harry. When he went to take a nap, he had a horrific dream...
Harry was being carried off in a little coffin towards the river to be thrown away. Minerva was crying and Dumbledore was saying that war had losses. Snape was staring at the coffin until his breathing was hitched and the tears were spurting down his cheeks...
Snape awoke with a start, swore under his breath and hurried to check Harry, who was lying next to him.
Harry was slumbering peacefully, his chest rising up and down.
Snape looked greatly relieved. He breathed out and got up. He didn't feel like sleeping anymore.
"Ga ga ga," Harry cooed as Snape put a wet cloth on his forehead. "Love my Nape."
When Snape just rearranged the medicine bottles on the side table and ignored him, Harry continued, "La la la la!"
"Ssh. Go to sleep," Snape said sternly.
"Play?" Harry asked.
"You are ill."
Harry sighed and stared up at the ceiling again. Snape sat down on the bed next to him and thought about things. What if Harry actually got consumed by the fever? How would he be able to teach classes? And would Dumbledore have no use for him and send him packing to Azkaban if the saviour of the Wizarding World was dead?
Snape breathed deeply, in and out. He was acting paranoid now.
"Come on Nape!" Harry cheered. He suddenly patted Snape's face, his expression sobering. Harry climbed onto the black-robed lap and snuggled against the man's chest... "No be 'set," he said. "Nape play-no be 'set!" He patted the sallow cheeks again and then tried to stand up on the lap and hug Snape's neck...
Snape supported him and helped him do it, his lips twitching at the affection. But when Harry's chubby cheeks met his, he jerked. They were aflame with fever and heat and he hurriedly used multiple cooling charms until Harry was looking bewildered and shivering slightly.
"Rest at once, Harry. No more sitting up and playing." Snape said sternly.
"Napey!" Harry started to cry. But Snape couldn't relent. Not when the situation was so serious.
Minerva visited Snape once. She came alone and forced him to listen. She said quite a lot of things.
"You need to be brave for Harry. You can't keep wallowing in depression," she said harshly. "Harry will survive and you need to help him."
The words were etched in Snape's mind for a long time. He had to be brave for Harry...
The poor baby coughed and spluttered and moaned most of the time and it hurt Snape to see him in such a state. He felt like strangling Lucius most of the time.
Charity did not visit him again. There were rumours that she even wanted to quit her job at Hogwarts because of Snape. Snape stubbornly kept himself from apologising to her. It was all the woman's fault anyway. Who jumped people like that in the first place?
After thinking about all the depressing going-ons, Snape remembered Lily. He left Harry asleep in the room and walked out of the house, dressed head-to-toe in black, his head bent.
He didn't say anything on the way to the graveyard and when he reached the specific spot, he stopped abruptly. He knelt in front of the grave.
It was a long time until he remembered about the things around him. Wiping stray tears from his face, Snape turned around and saw the broken-down remains of the Potter house.
He didn't know what made him to do it.
He walked over to it...
He walked into the rubble and walked gingerly over the crackly, half-broken stairs. He saw Potter and Lily's bedroom and walked over to it. There was a crib in a corner and a dresser with it's drawers lying askew. Snape saw a tiny chest upon it. It seemed mostly unharmed.
He didn't know what he was doing, but, as if in a dream, his hands wandered to the wood, stroked it and opened the lock. There was a letter inside, and a quill.
He was bemused and hesitant. He knew it was thoroughly indecent, but he picked up the scroll of paper and unrolled it. There was blue, curly writing on the page, with dried-up tear blotches dotted everywhere. He suddenly saw his name and his heart seemed to stop:
I am very frightened. James has reassured me that we will be fine but there are rumours that they know where we are...What will happen to us? And Harry? We need your help. Can you please reply to my letter and tell me what we can do besides staying in hiding? Maybe we should move?
If something really does happen, Albus, can you please urgently contact Severus? He used to be my friend very long ago. I have something very important to tell him. Anyway, please give me your reply as soon as possible. James should not know, he thinks I am being paranoid.
Snape blinked, unable to take the words in. He read the letter again, crumpled it up and stowed it away into his pocket, sudden tears rolling down his cheeks. What had Lily been trying to say to him? He would never find out...
He sat down on the floor and cried. He didn't get up for hours.
Snape staggered back home and found Harry lying on the bed, playing with his collar. The baby grinned at him when he saw him coming and raised his arms.
Snape obliged, extremely subdued and depressed. He sat on the bed, holding Harry close.
Harry spoke his gibberish softly in Snape's ear. Snape listened to it silently, still thinking. Then Harry looked up at him with wide, guileless eyes.
"Love Nape," he said softly.
And all the barriers broke. Snape's limits had been stretched. Things had changed. Everything had changed. It was no use hiding now, cowering.
Severus Snape held Harry close and said earnestly to him, "I love you too,"