Harry stood outside Hermione's door in the dead of night, anxiously trying to decide what to do as his heart pounded in fear. He had wet the bed again, and he wanted nothing more than to crawl up in a closet and disappear. He had changed his pyjamas, and had yet to take them down to the laundry room, as well as the dirty bedding. The clean sheets were still on the top shelf, and Harry had a sneaking suspicion Snape had kept them there so he knew whether or not Harry was having accidents. So, a choice lay before Harry, which was precisely why he was standing stock still in the night and debating with himself. He could either ask Hermione to take down the sheets for him, or he could ask Snape, because he knew too well he would not be able to get to them himself. He had at first thought of Hermione, unable to bear the thought of Snape finding out yet again that he'd had an accident. Especially after Snape had mentioned telling Madam Pomfrey if the problem continued. It was not as though Snape was mad though, Harry just felt embarrassed. He felt trapped by the fact that he had to wake someone up like a little boy because he'd had an accident. It made his eyes sting, and it wasn't fair at all.
The sign on Hermione's door that he had made earlier in the day stared Harry in the face. He had been ready to open the door a moment ago, but now he was not sure. He loved Hermione like a sister, but the thought of her knowing what had happened made him cringe with shame almost more than the thought of Snape knowing, even if Madam Pomfrey would find out because of that. Harry turned around, and he walked to the stairs, sitting on the top step. He put his chin on his fist as he rested his elbows on his legs, thinking. Hermione was going through a rough time, and probably needed sleep. She still had not come out of her room yet either, but he knew that despite her misery, she was still worried about him, and he was sure she would help. Somehow though, Harry felt horribly ashamed at the thought of having to ask for help with something like this, even if she was forever telling him she would help him with anything, if he just asked. Hermione was nice that way, but for some reason Harry was more inclined to go to Snape's door. "Why?" he whispered to himself so quietly only he could hear.
For what reason was he more inclined to go to Snape? He pondered it for a minute or so, putting off the moment when he would have to face up for what happened. A few answers came to his mind. One was that Snape already knew Harry had had accidents before, and so it wasn't anything new to him. There was one answer that seemed to weigh the most in Harry's consciousness most, however, and it occurred to him that he felt like Snape understood. Harry was reminded how Snape had said some time ago that Harry was not the only one who felt trapped inside his own body. Snape knew what it was like to not be able to control everything. Sure, he didn't have all the same troubles as Harry, but Professor Snape was unable to do magic because of his paralysis, and dropped things more often than most awkward teenagers now. At least Harry knew that Snape would not blame him for what happened, because so far, the man had yet to do so. He was still better than the Dursleys.
Quietly, Harry stood up, wrapping his arms around himself and looking down the staircase. Now came the hard part. He would have to go and wake Snape up. Trembling slightly, Harry grabbed a hold of the staircase railing, and went down the steps, one by one. He tiptoed down the hallway, trying not to let the tears spill over. It was lighter in here, as the little lamp always had a flame burning in it at the end of the hall, near Snape's room door. Feeling small and ashamed, Harry stopped in front of the door, which was open just a crack. Using every ounce of Gryffindor courage he possessed, Harry gently pushed on the door, and it swung open on oiled hinges. He could see Snape's sleeping form, and hear soft snores. Feeling just a little curious, although mostly filled with dread, Harry padded across the room in his bare feet, and stopped at the edge of Snape's bed. Professor Snape was sleeping on his back, one hand resting on his chest and the other curled around the edge of the patchwork quilt, which was not completely covering him due to the heat of the night. He looked peaceful, and his mouth was open slightly.
Harry rubbed his eyes, which were starting to tear up a little.
"P-Professor?" he whispered. "Professor Snape?"
He gently prodded Snape's shoulder when he did not respond.
Harry wrapped his arms around himself, not recognizing the childish gesture as something he used to do when he was scared at the Dursleys'. He watched as Professor Snape moved slightly. Snape breathed in deeply, and then moaned slightly as he rubbed his eyes. He looked to the side of the bed, seeming a little surprised in his fatigued state.
"What is it, Harry?" he asked groggily, barely awake, his eyes slightly unfocused. "Something wrong?"
Harry's eyes widened with surprise. Had Snape really just said that?
"What do you need?" continued Snape, blinking.
"I - I need some sheets," Harry whispered, deciding to file away Snape's slip for later.
Snape dragged a hand through his hair, heaving himself into a sitting position, looking exhausted.
"You wet the bed again?" he asked quietly, his voice sounding scratchy from sleeping.
Harry tried to say yes, but choked, and he rubbed his eyes quickly to stop the tears.
"Nothing to worry about," said Snape gruffly, swinging his legs off the bed and reaching for his leg brace.
Harry watched as he lifted the leg of his pyjama trousers and fit the brace on his leg, beginning to do up the buckles. It was strange to see Snape in his pyjamas. His pyjama trousers were a blue plaid material, and he was wearing a white vest because of the heat, which made Snape look very thin. Harry never really realized just how, well, scrawny his Professor was. Clearly the man either had a great metabolism, was in excellent shape, or did not eat a lot. Harry was willing to bet that it was a combination of the three, and he reminded himself that in order to be a spy amongst the Death Eaters, Snape probably had had to be quite fit. He wondered if this made it even more difficult for Snape to accept such an injury, for Harry was willing to bet that he was probably very agile before this. Harry glanced at the brace again, thinking of how much it probably bothered Snape to have to rely on it. It was then that he caught sight of something on the plastic, a picture of some sort. Yet, Harry only saw a flash of colour near the ankle on the brace before Snape threw his pyjama trousers over it again.
"Come on, then," said Snape curtly, getting shakily to his feet.
Harry suddenly remembered the present, and his wonder of what had been on Professor Snape's leg brace was driven out of his mind as he hung his head and followed Snape.
Snape was really good about being woken up in the middle of the night, Harry thought. He took down a stack of clean sheets and gave them to Harry, and then waited at the bottom of the stairs for Harry to bring down the dirty bed clothes, and he put these in the wash.
"Thank you, sir," whispered Harry as he stood at the base of the steps.
"You can come to me any time," said Snape, much more awake now. "I would rather you let me know when something like this happens."
Harry twisted the hem of his pyjama shirt, feeling embarrassed as he asked, "You're ... you're not going to tell Madam Pomfrey like you said earlier, will you?"
"Not if you do not want me to," was the thoughtful reply.
Harry felt relief wash over him, as well as surprise.
"However," continued Professor Snape sternly, arms crossed as he leaned against the wall, "if you start having accidents more frequently, I think it would be good if you allowed me to talk to her."
"I'm sorry I had to wake you up," Harry said, his voice breaking a little bit.
"No, do not be sorry," said Severus. "I would rather know that you have had an accident than not hear a word of it. I do not mind getting up with you to give you a hand. I am just thinking that if it gets worse, Miss Granger may find out about the problem. If your accidents begin to occur more frequently, which is possible, eventually Miss Granger is going to be awake as well when you need help. Judging by the fact that you came to me, and not her, you would prefer that she did not know. She will not blame you for it, and I think that she can be trusted not to tell if she does happen to find out at some point. But if you really, really do not want her finding out, and you start having more accidents, then you should keep in mind that I am perfectly willing to talk to Poppy about it. Just say the word, and I will."
"You can talk to her if it gets worse," Harry whispered after a moment, his lip trembling. He knew that Snape was right, and however much he loved Hermione, he didn't want her to know about this. Besides, he knew that she'd worry more about him, and that was the last thing he needed.
"Alright," said Snape, "but you know what?"
"I do not think it will," said Snape pensively. "But a plan is always good to have."
"Why do you think it won't get worse?" Harry asked, surprised.
"You tend to have accidents when you are stressed, or have not slept well," said Severus thoughtfully. "As long as you do not become any more stressed, it should not get much worse. Has something been on your mind, or did you not sleep well last night?"
"I couldn't get to sleep for a long time, and then I kept waking up."
"Is there anything I can do to help you sleep better?" Snape asked thoughtfully, to Harry's surprise.
Harry frowned. He knew one thing had helped him sleep better. When Mrs. Weasley was here, he had slept quite well, but that was because she tucked him in at night and read him a story, but Harry would rather die than ask Snape if he could tuck him in at night.
"No, sir," he said, looking at his feet. He glanced up at Snape for a second, and he knew that the man had caught him lying, but strangely enough, Snape did not call him on it.
"Best get back to bed then," said Snape rather heavily. "Do you need anything else?"
"No, sir," Harry muttered, playing with the sleeve of his pyjama top. "Thanks for being so patient, and ... stuff."
Snape dismissed him with a wave of his hand and shuffled down the hallway to his room again, leaving Harry to tiptoe up the staircase.
Severus noticed that Potter was a lot quieter the next day. He barely spoke a word at breakfast, and he crept around the house as though he were afraid to awaken a monster. It was strange. At first Severus was sure that it was because Potter was still worried that he was going to tell Madam Pomfrey if the bed-wetting got worse, but after a while Severus was not so sure.
He pondered and puzzled over this as he carefully dipped the quill in the ink pot, then put it to the parchment, practising writing as Madam Pomfrey had recently suggested. She had told him to write letters to Dumbledore, which would be interesting enough, and motivate him to keep trying.
Severus really wasn't sure what to say to the man today. He would rather die than admit it, but Severus wanted to avoid talking about Potter in the letter as much as possible. Well, partly. He actually would not mind admitting that particular statement, but it was really the reason behind it that he very much wanted to keep a secret. He was concerned for Potter, and did not want to hurt the boy by sharing anything that he did not want shared. Severus scoffed slightly, and upon thinking of what Potter would not want shared, he stumbled across the answer to why Potter had been so nervous all day.
"Of course," mumbled Severus, setting down the quill mid-sentence, having momentarily forgot a rather significant event that took place during breakfast the previous day.
Potter had let something slip during casual conversation, and. Severus was sure that Potter was hiding something about his home life, for it sounded wrong to Severus in every way when Potter had said he was not allowed to do well in school. Even after he had claimed it was because he didn't want to be made fun of by his classmates, Severus had been doubtful.
"Freaks aren't allowed to go to normal schools," rang the voice of a fourteen year old Petunia Dursley as Severus recalled as he thought of this. Potter's Aunt had had a lot of stupid sayings just like that. Severus wracked his brains, and he was quite sure Petunia and her stupid husband had a boy about Potter's age. What if Petunia hadn't wanted Potter besting her own child?
It was then that Severus knew what to write. In fact, to his surprise, the words for this particular letter had been gathering in the back of his mind since yesterday. Even greater than his surprise however was the feeling that Dumbledore would be rather annoyed that Poppy had suggested him as Severus' new pen pal.
He smirked slightly at the thought of the old man's expression when he opened the letter.
Harry carefully poured himself a glass of milk in the kitchen as Professor Snape hastily worked at sealing a letter. As most of the day had gone without mention of it, Harry was beginning to think that Snape had forgotten his slip-up the previous day, and so he felt it safe to come and get something to drink.
"Who're you writing to?" he asked curiously.
"Dumbledore," said Snape shortly.
"Whatcha writing him for?" asked Harry, not noticing that he had slipped into slightly childish speech patterns. He did not clue in when Snape looked up, his lips quirked slightly in a way that might have indicated he was mildly entertained by the whole thing.
"None of your beeswax, Mr. Curious," said Snape with a note of amusement in his voice, tying the letter to a patient barn owl's leg. It was the resident post owl, as Dumbledore had thought Hedwig a little too conspicuous for their mail.
"Why not?" Harry asked, ploughing on despite Snape's previous statement.
"Because it is a matter between Dumbledore and I."
"Oh," Harry frowned, lifting his glass up to put it on the table. He grabbed a hold of the chair and got onto it, sitting on his knees as he always did. Harry took a gulp of milk, thirsty from being outside.
"How is the weather?" Snape asked amicably, beginning to roll up the spare parchment.
"Hot," said Harry, panting a little.
"Hmm. It feels humid. I wonder if it will storm."
"I hope not," said Harry, thinking of thunder and lightning with a grimace. For some reason it seemed a lot more frightening now that he was smaller.
"You do not like storms?" Snape asked, intrigued.
"Nah uh," Harry said, shaking his head vigorously.
"It's kinda scary when you're in bed and all alone," Harry said into his glass of milk.
"Yes, I tend to agree," said Snape thoughtfully.
Harry looked at him with surprise.
"You ... you do?"
"Yes," said Snape. "Is your cousin scared of storms too?"
"No," Harry scoffed. "He was never left out during them."
"Left out during a storm?" Snape said, eyes widening. "Have you been left outside during a storm before?"
"I ... I accidentally locked myself out once," Harry said quickly, breathing heavily. "See, my aunt and uncle didn't hear me over the rain. They thought I was in my cu - er, room."
"That must have been very frightening."
Harry nodded, eyes wide, afraid that Snape had seen more in that statement than he wanted him to.
Severus frowned slightly at Potter's frightened look. He picked up the roll of parchment, quill, and ink and then got up to return it to the appropriate drawer. He was sure Potter was not telling the complete truth about how he got locked out. He turned to ask the boy another question, having put the writing supplies away, but Potter was gone. Only the empty glass sat on the table, a drop of milk left in the bottom of it.
Severus looked out the kitchen window where the owl had left only minutes earlier, a strange, unsettled feeling deep inside him as he silently wished the owl to fly as quickly as it could.