Daylight came, and Severus was still lying awake. The sun was up, so he supposed it was morning, although he had long lost track of the hours. What had happened in the night seemed like a bad dream to him. Everything he had said to Potter rang through his head like the death knell, filling him with a sick, hot feeling. Imagine what the other students would say if they knew that their Professor could barely dress himself? In addition to this horrible thought, every time he closed his eyes, he saw again the look on Potter's face when he came running out of the wardrobe. He had never seen a child look so hysterical, so downright terrified. He hadn't known what to think at first, until the wardrobe started to move on its own, announcing the presence of the boggart. At first he had been under the impression Potter was seriously overreacting to having an accident, but it did not take him long to realize otherwise, and after hearing what the boy said he had seen, it was no wonder he had been in such a state.
Severus couldn't help but feel amazed at how quickly the boy had responded to the change in his tone of voice when he had stopped shouting at him to calm down, and instead tried to comfort him. Much to his chagrin, he had figured out quickly that that would be the only way for Potter to calm down, because his shouting approach had not been working. Besides, the boy could have blown apart the entire room with the magic he had been accidentally creating. There had been no choice but to try something besides a stern command. Yet, to softer words, Potter responded far quicker than he could have imagined. It was as though Potter had been shocked at him trying to comfort him. Severus found this unsurprising, considering what Potter had known him as for so many years. But it had been more than just surprise directed at who it was trying to comfort him; it was surprise that someone would be willing to do so in the first place. He knew that wide eyed look of shock. That look he had seen far too many times on the faces of some of the more unfortunate Slytherins. He could not count the number that had come from broken homes. It was Slytherin's largest problem, and best kept secret. How else could the Dark Lord gather so many followers from one house alone? He promised safety, protection ... family.
The whole world knew that Slytherins had a thirst to prove themselves, but what they did not know was that the thing so many Slytherins were trying to prove was that they were worthy of love. The other Heads of Houses had no idea that Severus was willing to bet every Galleon, Sickle, and Knut he had that his house was the most emotionally demanding to manage. Potter was definitely not the first student to cry on Severus Snape, and never in a million years would Severus admit just how many had done so over the years.
It scared him how much Potter had reminded him of those students. Potter had looked far too Slytherin last night as he stood there, shaking and crying. He had looked so desperate that for a moment, Severus almost hadn't recognized him. This was the Potter he had never seen before, and the way the boy had held onto him despite knowing just who he was clinging to made him feel sick; not the fact that it was Potter, but the knowledge that only someone who was absolutely desperate would cry in an enemy's arms. This made Severus realize just how right Dumbledore had been that Potter was in danger mentally. He now knew exactly why Survival Magic had been invoked. The boy was a ticking time bomb of emotions, and he clearly still believed that it was his fault, and his alone that Black was dead. This belief was clearly creating a dam of emotions just waiting to explode. Severus knew full well the power of survivor's guilt, and just as well how easy it is for it to destroy you. The only thing that had saved him was the knowledge that there was some small way to pay in part his debt, by looking out for Lily's son. But Potter was innocent of the crime he thought he had committed, and there would be no way for him to find redemption for something he never did. He would always blame himself if he did not wake up from this nightmare soon. It would consume him if he kept internalizing the hate.
Severus moaned very quietly, despising himself for it, but feeling suddenly sorry for Potter. The boy was an idiot to think it was his fault, but Severus was starting to think he did not deserve his lot. Sure, Potter was infuriating, especially with his insistence that Severus did not understand how he felt, but then again, wasn't the boy still mostly a teenager in his mind? They were always convinced they were the centre of the world. It was something that had to be grown out of, hopefully.
"You were just as self-centred and stupid at that age, Snape," he spat at himself angrily. "If you had only told Lily why you felt there was no way out for you ... no future but to join the Dark Lord ... maybe then, she would have been able to make you see sense."
Severus swung his legs out of bed, scowling, and snatched up his leg brace. He fumbled with it, and dropped it with a clatter.
"Maybe then, you would not be a damned cripple!" he hissed under his breath, lunging once more for the brace.
Poppy showed up at three o clock in the afternoon, as she had been doing so for the past few days. She arrived in a swirl of robes on the rocks by Bell Point, and Severus watched her approach from the rocking chair on the porch, which was quickly becoming his favourite spot. Potter had been wandering around aimlessly for a little while, watching butterflies flutter in and out of the bushes by the cottage. Severus had been observing him for some time, unconsciously paying more attention when Potter neared the seashore. Right now Potter was digging aimlessly with the little tin shovel, off in the distance. He didn't appear to be enjoying it particularly, but instead dug with the air of someone who didn't know what else to do.
"Severus, how are you?" greeted Poppy, coming up the two steps on the porch.
"The same as yesterday," Severus said, rolling his eyes. "You've been asking me that question since I woke up in the hospital wing, and my answer always remains the same."
"I know," said Poppy with a light chuckle. "You took your potions this morning?"
"No, I gave them to Potter."
"Alright, so you took them."
"Lovely," she said, putting a check mark in a tiny leather bound book and stowing it in her pocket. "Shall we get started on your physiotherapy for today?"
Severus stood up as she opened the screen door into the house. He glanced over at Potter, still playing half-heartedly in the sand.
"You'll be able to see him through the window," said Poppy casually, "no need to worry."
"I do not trust him to stay out of trouble," he explained scathingly. "The boy was bad enough at fifteen, but at four? I think not. And with Molly gone I'm on the chopping block if he blows himself up."
"And I am not criticizing you for your concern," Poppy said. "I quite agree he should be watched. He is lucky to have you around."
Poppy went to stand behind Severus as he sat down, and wordlessly she began to massage his shoulders, as they had been doing the past few days.
"Do you have any more feeling in your hands and leg than you have the past few days?"
"Not really," said Severus as her hands moved down his right arm and worked various muscles. "Maybe a little, but I am not sure."
"That is to be expected," she said in response to his discouraged face. "It will likely be a few weeks before you do feel much improvement in feeling."
Severus' muscles tensed slightly at this statement.
"Take a deep breath; I need you as relaxed as possible for this," said Poppy calmly.
Severus looked mutinous, but after she looked at him pointedly, he did so.
"When we are done today I am going to give you a few activities to do while I am gone," she said. "They will help with your dexterity, and I expect you to work on them in your spare time."
Severus merely grunted, and he continued doing as she said in silence, attempting to grab certain objects with his hands, letting her pull his arms into strange positions and move his bad leg through its range of motion. All of this irked him to no end, just as it had when they first began the treatment in the hospital wing.
Two weeks of this, he thought to himself, and what is there to show for it?
"How has Mr. Potter been coping?" she asked softly as she gave Severus a break for a moment or so.
"Not well, exactly, but he is doing alright," he muttered in reply, glancing out at Potter, sitting a ways away on the beach where he was examining a bug or something on the end of his shovel. "He is still figuring all of this out."
"I see," she said with a small sigh. "Albus has been worried about him lately. Although, I believe that he worries more for you."
Her remark was met with a scowl.
"Can I take the brace off now?" Severus hissed.
"Yes, yes, go ahead," said Poppy, looking tired. She watched as Severus struggled to undo the fastenings on his leg brace, but did not make a move to help him. He would get it eventually. He was stubborn, and this she knew, and strong because of it. This resilience was perhaps why she respected him so much, despite their differences.
"Ready?" she asked, holding out her hand.
Severus nodded, and grudgingly let her grab his arm. With a little bit of help from Poppy he was on his feet, shakily, but standing without the brace.
"Alright, left first," she said patiently, and Severus dragged his left leg forward, his right leg wobbling beneath him, trying to give out at the knee. Poppy braced herself, supporting much of his weight. "Now the right."
It took far more effort for him to drag his right leg forward, his left staying slightly more stable. He planted his right foot to the ground again, trying to conceal his shaking breaths,
"Very good," said Poppy with an encouraging smile on her face.
Severus scowled, but the colour in his face was draining steadily. After two more strides, he was even paler, but Poppy sensed to keep going.
"Left again ... right ..." Poppy muttered, paying close attention to the beads of sweat on Severus' brow. "Just four more to go. Left, Right ... Left, Right ... Left ... Keep going Severus, keep going. Right ... last one .... Left, right."
She let him collapse in the armchair again, panting.
"Well done. You are improving, you know," she said quietly as he buckled the brace back on his leg with shaking fingers. "That was two more than yesterday. You are regaining some strength, from the looks of it. I think the potions have helped a lot."
"I cannot wait to get rid of this thing," he said with a scowl, staring down at the pale plastic brace. Despite magical materials being abundant, plastic was found to be the best, and Severus was mildly annoyed that wizards had yet to improve upon a muggle design. "It feels foreign."
"I know," said Poppy, eyes crinkled with concern. "I hate to tell you this, but you may always need it, Severus, to some degree. There may be times when you are strong enough to go short distances without the brace, once you have regained enough movement in it, but you will probably need to wear it for some of the time still."
His look was mutinous.
"If you want," began Poppy hesitantly under his glare, "I could ... well ... I wasn't going to ask because I was sure you would probably threaten to hex me for it ... but there are charms to make braces more appealing."
"What on earth does that mean?" asked Snape, bewildered.
"I ... I could change the colour ... if you wanted?" she said, flushing slightly as she prepared for him storming at her. "I can do patterns, and pictures too."
She held her breath, trying to decide what he was thinking. It baffled her the longer he was silent, for she had been sure he could be angry at her for such a silly suggestion.
Severus merely sat, looking pensive. He felt like a bit of an idiot asking, but she was right. If he was stuck with this thing for a while, he might as well like it. Something did come to mind, and however much he was afraid to speak it, he felt this was worth swallowing his pride.
"Can you do ... lilies? Just one, really. A tiger lily."
Poppy looked shocked, and for a moment, confused. There was a strangely innocent look in his eyes, sad, and yet, wistful.
She cleared her throat, blinking rapidly, suddenly remembering him as a young boy, throwing snowballs with Lily Evans on the grounds as a first year. Of course, why else would he ask for a lily?
"Yes, I think so," she said. "Where?"
He leaned over a little, pointing at the piece of plastic that covered his ankle. It was a nice open space, free of buckles.
Carefully, she lifted his leg up, brace and all. He did not protest, for once. With a smooth, twirling motion she dragged her wand over the plastic. On the surface bloomed a host of colours: a soft spray of green, bits of black and orange, blooming into a small, but elegant lily. The plastic around it was tinged a soft, pastel green, fading into the neutral colour of the brace.
Severus looked down at his leg to admire the design on the brace, and for a moment, Poppy thought he almost smiled.
"Thank you," he muttered. "It ... it might pose as inspiration."
"I miss her still," said Poppy in a whisper, wiping her eyes.
For a moment, Severus' brow crinkled, though not in anger or annoyance.
"You said you had some things I had to do while you were away?" he asked with the tone of someone changing the conversation.
"Yes, that is correct."
Knowing it was better to simply consent to his change of topic, Poppy rummaged in a bag at her feet, pulling from it a flat green square of plastic with holes punched around the edge, as well as a shoelace.
"This is the first activity I want you to try for me," she said, holding up the plastic and shoelace.
"What the hell is it?" asked Severus, wondering what on earth it was for.
"It's a muggle sewing card," she said, and Severus was quite sure he detected a hint of enthusiasm. "It's an activity to teach coordination. A friend of mine suggested it when we were reviewing your case. Of course, she did not know whom we were discussing."
"And what do I do?" drawled Severus, rather irritated.
"You thread the plastic end of the shoelace through the holes, over and under, like you would sew," Poppy told him, demonstrating on the card a few times. She pulled the shoelace tight to reveal the stitches. She undid them quickly and separated the shoelace and plastic once more. "Here, you try it."
Severus reluctantly took the card, and took the shoelace in his left hand, the card in his right. Carefully, he began to thread the plastic end through the holes as she had said. It was harder than she had made it look, but with much irritation, he decided this was because she was more coordinated.
"That's enough for the moment," she said, and Severus pulled the shoelace out clumsily. "I would like you to attempt it with both of your hands, doing as much as you physically can, including taking the lace out again. "I know it is not overly interesting, but I am sure that it will help your coordination. You still have some movement in both of your hands, although very little in the right. Could you try holding the tip of the shoelace with your right hand?"
Severus used his left hand to position the shoelace for his right hand, and carefully, he attempted to pull his thumb and forefinger close enough together to hold the tip of the shoelace. It was difficult, and required quite a lot of effort, but he could do it.
"Wonderful. Will you promise to do the sewing card daily?"
"Alright, if you think it will help," muttered Severus with little enthusiasm.
Poppy smiled with relief.
"There is one more thing that I have brought you," said Poppy. "I have been thinking, and I believe that it would be good for you to learn to write with your left hand. You seem to have enough movement to be able to write. I realize that you still have some weakness in your hand, but with writing practise, that may improve. Therefore I have brought you a quill and ink."
"There are writing materials here too," said Severus, rolling his eyes.
"This quill is special."
Sure enough, the quill that Poppy extracted and showed to Severus was indeed a little bit different than those he had seen. There was a thick rubber grip around the middle, larger than most quills would have. Clearly it was designed to be easy to hold. He took the quill from Poppy and held it in his left hand. It felt awkward, and strange. Severus wondered if he would ever get used to writing with his left hand.
"The inkwell is charmed to stay sitting upright, so it is simply not possible to be knocked over," Poppy further explained. "Hopefully that should make it a little easier. And you do not have to fear young Mr. Potter's antics while you are writing."
Severus chuckled slightly at her comment, but stopped quickly. She looked pleased, however. Her expression didn't last as she glanced out the window.
"Although, right now it does not look as though he has much for energy," she muttered, looking outside to see Harry sitting in the same position on the beach, this time not digging at all. Severus glanced out the window too, although he knew what she was seeing. Severus had been keeping an eye on Potter, who he had been sitting motionless for some time.
"He is like that a lot," said Severus slowly. "I think it will be a long time before he finally realizes it isn't his fault, and properly expresses his emotions."
"Well, I hope for his sake that it is sooner than later. He cannot return to his former self until he does grieve properly. Even then, I fear he will never be the same mentally."
Severus scoffed. "Of course not. Who is when they lose someone? Those scars always remain. One just has to hope that in cases such as Potter's they are not too deep to allow growth."
"Some of the things you say can be quite profound. Did you know that?"
"Oh, I know. Unfortunately the profound constitutes only about one percent of what comes out of my mouth, and the rest of what I say has to go around my foot," he replied darkly.
"And that's the Severus I have grown to love," said Poppy with a laugh as she got up from the sofa and straightened her robes. "Well, it is high time I should be going. Take care of yourself, and please practise what we discussed."
"I know. I have always admired your determination."
"And I've always admired your extremely irritating determination to boost my self-confidence every time you come," he said, smirking. "Bloody annoying, you know."
"Well, sometimes I think that you need a little bit more confidence," she said softly. "You are far too hard on yourself."
Before he could retort, Poppy said a short goodbye and swept out of the door, leaving Severus sitting in the armchair. He sighed, then glanced down at the lily on his brace. He dropped the leg of his jeans over it when he heard Potter's small steps on the porch. Potter came in, walking slowly and deliberately. He did not glance at Severus, and continued to go upstairs.
Severus watched Potter go, contemplating the boy. How long would he remain this way? To be completely honest, it scared him a little bit to see how languid the boy was. He shook his head. There was no sense in worrying about something he did not know how to fix. Once he heard the sound of Potter's door closing, he started to get up. Severus was tired, and aching all over from the physical therapy session, as he always did. For the moment, he caught himself feeling glad he had a leg brace as he limped toward the bathroom to examine his reflection. He was sure he was as pale as a ghost. Once there Severus grimaced in the mirror. He was indeed pale, but most of all, he needed to shave again, something he had been avoiding for a little while. He knew it quite well, and he also knew that he did not have any essence of dittany left, in case he cut himself like last time. Why had he not thought to ask Poppy for some?
He scowled at himself, his right hand unconsciously reaching up to feel his chin. He could not get the hand high up enough. Muttering swears under his breath, Severus instead used his left to feel his stubble. Yes, it was too long. He was starting to look more and more like his father, and the resemblance would only increase the longer he remained unshaven. Frowning, he reached into the drawer beneath the sink. There were three, and the one that was highest was Severus'. Potter's was on the bottom, and the middle held clean flannels. Severus pulled his drawer open and rummaged around in it. He found the little case that he kept his razor in. He pulled it out carefully with his left hand, and set it on the counter that the sink was set into. He sighed slightly. Why did shaving seem so difficult now? He had enjoyed the task before all this. He had always enjoyed it. It was a good thing he did, for his facial hair grew as though there was no tomorrow (something he blamed on his father). Despite this, he had never grown a moustache, or a beard, or goatee. Especially not a moustache. His father had always had one, and the resemblance would have been terrifying if he had one too. The last thing he needed was to see his father in the mirror every morning. Unfortunately, he was looking like him more and more as he grew older. Every new wrinkle screamed Tobias at him. His only consolation was that at least he still held the fine frame he had gotten from his mother. He could not stand the thought of having a beer gut like his father.
An eyebrow raised, Severus began to spread shaving cream on his face, noting how strange it felt to be doing so with his left hand. He was glad to see it had gotten a little easier from the last time he had shaved, although it had really only been a day or two, he thought. Perhaps his left hand was improving after all. He did recall Poppy saying at first that it would definitely regain its full strength with time. Only his right side seemed to be the one that would give trouble. He filled the sink with water, and with more care than he used to use, he wet the razor and got started, very cautious so as not to let his slightly weak left hand slip on him. Each stroke took him far too long for his tastes, but the action was still a little bit calming. For a moment, he almost forgot that things had changed.
After the house being so silent, the crash that shook the floor was especially alarming, and made Severus jump very badly.
"Shit," he swore, dropping his bloodied razor and snatching up a bit of toilet paper to staunch the blood flowing from the nick he had made on his jawline, furious. He never used to cut himself shaving, even when startled. Not since he was a teenager!
Pushing those thoughts aside, he removed his hand from the cut for a second to wrench open the door, fearing the worst after such a loud noise. Livid, he stepped out of the bathroom and into the hall, looking for the source of the noise. Trying not to bleed everywhere and very aware that his face was still half covered in shaving cream, he went to the mouth of the hall and stared down at the base of the stairs where Potter was getting to his feet, looking unhurt, but startled.
"What in Merlin's name was that about?"
Potter looked up at him and cowered away.
"I - I fell down the stairs ..." he muttered, wincing and rubbing his arm unconsciously.
"I dunno, I just slipped."
Severus suppressed the urge to swear, still pressing the cut on his jawline to keep from bleeding.
"He slipped ... slipped!" he spat indignantly to nobody in particular, furious. He looked down at Potter once more and continued. "Well do not do it again. Especially when I am shaving!" He growled slightly, not waiting for Potter's response. "Do you want me to cut my jugular?"
"Er, no sir. I don't."
Severus paused, suddenly aware how ridiculous he probably looked.
"Good," he said haughtily before stalking down the hall and back into the bathroom, slamming the door behind him. The boy was probably laughing right now. Severus gritted his teeth in anger. After a moment, however, a grim sort of satisfaction came over him, for it occurred to him that like with Potions, the four year old Potter did not understand the subtle art of shaving, and that it was a ritual sacred to any man. As he wiped the blood off his cheek and assessed the damage, he thought wryly that even the teen-aged Potter probably knew nothing about this, like his father before him. James Potter hadn't been able to grow a damned thing on his ugly face, at least as long as Severus had known him. His gloom lifting somewhat because of this thought, Severus continued with his ritual, keeping his ears trained on the movements of Potter upstairs, lest he wander too close to the stairs and cause another disaster. But he did not, and Severus finished shaving, his shoulders hunched and brows furrowed.
Harry did well to avoid Professor Snape ever since he chewed him out for falling down the stairs and disrupting him while shaving. It had been a little bit terrifying, in Harry's opinion, for Snape had looked utterly mad, covered in blood and shaving cream and waving his razor like a lunatic. Of course, Harry may have found some humour in the situation later had Snape not been in a horrible mood for the rest of the day. Naturally, Harry stayed outside for much of the afternoon, but occasionally could hear a rather potent swear drifting out of one of the open windows of the cottage. Even during dinner Snape was scowling at his broccoli like it had committed an offence worthy of death. He stabbed at it mutinously, muttering under his breath each time that he missed, oblivious to Harry's unease.
"Professor?" he said meekly after some time of trying to work up the courage to ask a question that had been on his mind all day. He'd searched the house from top to bottom, but he still had not found what he was looking for.
"What?" Snape said stiffly, his jaw clenched.
"You ... you haven't seen a ... well, a stuffed lion around, have you?" Harry asked meekly.
"A stuffed lion?" Snape drawled, looking annoyed as he struggled with his fork and knife. "No. Why?"
"I ... well, I lost it," Harry said quietly. "It's nothing ... I just thought maybe you'd seen it."
"Why would I know where your silly lion was anyway?" was the cold reply.
"I had him downstairs earlier," muttered Harry under his breath, feeling his cheeks grow hot. He had come down in the morning to get his jar of marbles, but got distracted by a flock of birds outside and had gone onto the porch to watch them. After that he could not remember where he had put his lion down. He had looked all over the place.
"Why are you asking me?" Snape sneered suddenly, setting down his knife and jabbing at his chicken with the fork. "Can't sleep without it?"
Harry flushed, clenching his fists under the table.
"Oh, this is precious," Snape continued in a low voice. "Did wee little Potter get attached to his precious baby toy?"
"Stop it!" Harry cried, furious.
"Did I strike a nerve?" Snape asked cruelly.
Harry stood up on his chair so that his face was level with Snape's, angrier than he could remember being in a long time. How could Snape do this to him? Last night, Harry had thought that maybe he could trust Snape, especially after he had straight out lied to make him feel better by saying that it was not his fault that Sirius died. For one night, Harry felt like the summer wouldn't be a total disaster, but the illusion was shattered, and Harry was furious at both himself for being so trusting, and at Snape for stabbing him in the back like this.
"JUST BECAUSE YOU'RE MAD THAT YOU'RE STUCK LIKE THIS DOESN'T MEAN YOU CAN TAKE IT OUT ON ME!" he bellowed, trying not to cry as he glared at Snape.
Snape's sneer turned into a mask of fury, and his breathing sharpened as the fork slid from his grasp. Suddenly, Harry's cup full of milk shattered spectacularly, spraying the table with milk and glass. Harry stumbled away from it with a short gasp, jumping down from his chair and backing away to the door, because he knew all too well that he had not done that. Though he had not been cut, Harry felt his eyes welling up with tears before he could stop them, and then he ran out of the room. He knew that Snape had seen the fear on his face, but strangely enough, Harry thought that the look on Snape's face hadn't been too different.
Harry ran all the way up into his room, but he did not hear Snape pursuing him. He looked around for some place to hide, and he dove for the cupboard. He wrenched it open and pushed aside a small box of his clothes, closing the door behind him. He knew that Snape couldn't come up the stairs to get him. He could only go up a few steps. His heart hammered erratically, and Harry lowered his face onto his knees, halfway expecting Uncle Vernon to wrench open the door.
A floor below, Severus lowered his head onto the table, his hands on his head.
"What is wrong with me?" he whispered to himself hoarsely, feeling sick, his anger replaced with dread. How could he have lost control of his magic again? Better yet, how could he have rubbed salt in Potter's wounds like that? The boy was right. He was mad at himself, not Potter. Yet it had taken a four year old to point it out.
"Why? Why did I have to say that?" Severus said, barely able to speak past the lump in his throat. "I ... I didn't even mean it. Why?"
Suddenly, Severus clenched his eyes shut tightly, hearing words echo in his head from long ago, powerless to stop them.
"No ..." he muttered, his voice hoarse from the sudden sharp pain in his chest. "I am him! I'm him!"
"What is wrong with you, you little shit? What kind of boy sleeps with a stuffed pony?"
"Daddy, give Bailey back!" the little boy cried to his father, tears streaming down his dirty cheeks as he lunged for the battered toy being waved before him.
"Oh, little baby wants his horsie back?"
"P-Please, Daddy!" the child sobbed, reaching his hands up to his father.
"Get it for yourself," growled the drunken man, his speech slurring as he threw the toy onto the coals in the fireplace. "That will teach you to be a man!"
The little boy cried as his father dragged him roughly upstairs. He was forced into a chair in the corner of his tiny bedroom, and the door was shut with a crash that that shook the rickety walls of the house on Spinner's End.
"How did I become him?" he whispered to himself hoarsely, trying to forget the smell of old whisky and the taste of tears. "How could I have done this?"
He pushed his plate away, suddenly feeling sick to his stomach. He lowered his head to the table once more, eyes tightly shut.
Harry stayed in the cupboard for some time, but eventually, as darkness fell he left it and crawled into his bed. He heard Snape go to bed around nine-thirty. As he lay still under the covers Harry wanted desperately to go look for his lion again, but Snape's words stuck in his head, and he heard over and over in his mind Professor Snape taunting him about not being able to sleep without a toy. Unfortunately, this was all too true by now. Harry had gotten used to the comfort of something soft to hold at night, and now, listening to the sound of the wind whipping through the trees, he felt his stomach clench with fear. The house creaked with every gust, and no matter how Harry tried he could not sleep. So, at last, he decided to forsake his dignity, and go down the stairs. The clock had struck midnight a little while ago, and Harry tiptoed in his socks, walking as quietly out of his room as he could, then went down the stairs.
The trouble was, it was very dark. He searched through the sitting room, trying to think of where his toy might have gone, but his efforts were fruitless. After about ten minutes of this, it occurred to Harry that he had made a brief stop in the kitchen for some water before going to get his marble jar earlier during the day. Thinking that perhaps he might have left his lion in there, he crept into the kitchen.
There was only a small amount of moonlight shining through the kitchen window, and Harry shuffled around the table, noticing that all traces of the broken glass were gone. Harry wondered how long Snape had taken to clear it up. Frowning, Harry looked around. He peered up at the counters, and over to the pantry. The pane of glass in the pantry door reflected the moonlight, and the white pattern of painted flowers glinted softly. Harry knew he had not gone in there earlier with his lion, so he turned away from the pantry, choosing instead to slowly rotate on the spot, squinting in the semi-darkness. It was then that he heard a soft thumping noise. Harry turned in horror and glanced out the kitchen door, which had a direct view of the hallway that went past the staircase and to Snape's room. He saw Snape's door open. Hardly daring to breathe, Harry crept out of view of the entrance to the kitchen, then toward the pantry and opened the door. He shut it behind him and backed up into the darkness, the fragrant smell of dried herbs filling his nostrils as he fought to control his breathing. He heard the footsteps, hoping desperately that Snape would not come in here. He was fairly confident he could not be seen in the darkness of the pantry, but he could see out of the glass, for it was lighter in the kitchen.
To Harry's horror, the sounds of Snape walking grew closer, and then he saw his Professor through the glass, wearing his pyjamas. The moonlight only just illuminated his figure, and Harry froze. Snape looked exhausted, and his eyebrows were furrowed. Harry noticed that there was sweat on his brow. He seemed slightly shaky. Snape looked around as though he expected something to jump out and grab him.
Harry frowned. Had Snape had a nightmare?
Harry watched as Snape shook his head slightly, his eyes clenched shut as though he was trying to forget something. He opened his eyes, and reached up for an empty glass. Snape took it off the shelf with his left hand and then started to move over the sink to fill it. He fumbled with the glass suddenly, and Harry could not stop himself from jumping slightly when the glass fell to the ground and shattered. Snape's shoulders tensed, and he froze, his fingers still extended as though they were still holding the cup. Harry could see Snape's expression from the side. It was a peculiar look, perhaps part shock, the other part fury. He stood still for second as he stared down at the glass, which had cracked cleanly into three pieces. Snape trembled on the spot, and then without warning, he sunk down to the ground, resting his back against the cupboard beneath the sink. Then, to Harry's amazement, Snape's face crumpled, and his shoulders began to shake. Harry was started to see tears dripping off the end of Snape's nose as he bowed his head. His Professor was silent but for the occasional ragged breath.
More than anything, Harry wished that he could turn away and not watch this, but he found himself frozen to the spot. He knew Snape would skin him alive if he knew that Harry was here, but it was clear that Snape suspected nobody in the room. Harry felt a strange, unsettled feeling in his gut as he watched, hardly daring to breathe. Snape was cold and emotionless much of the time. He did not cry. He never cried. If anyone had even suggested the idea to Harry before this, he would have laughed at the thought. It was absurd to think of someone so callous breaking down, but as he stared through the glass at Snape shaking, tears streaking his cheeks because of a broken cup, he did not quite understand how he could have thought the man did not show sadness before this. It made Harry want to cry as well, strangely enough, because before this he never properly thought about just how difficult this new situation was for Professor Snape. The shattered glass was clearly the last straw.
At last, Snape sniffed quietly and he reached down for his baggy white t-shirt, pulling the hem up to his face and wiping his eyes, his chest still shaking slightly. He looked around, his face blotchy, his eyes wide, as though he feared someone had been watching. Harry was not seen, and a few moments later Snape stared blankly forward, looking utterly exhausted. He made to get to his feet, but then sat back against the cupboard again, looking suddenly hopeless.
Harry felt his stomach drop, because he often did the same thing, especially these days. He'd try to move, only to lose heart a moment later, feeling as though his arms and legs were of lead. It was depression ... hopelessness, and Harry never thought he'd see it in Professor Snape, a man so resilient and determined.
Then again, thought Harry, wasn't I once so determined?
Across the kitchen, Snape closed his eyes, unaware that there was a little boy in the pantry, holding back tears, knowing exactly how he felt. Snape wiped his face again on his shirt and slowly - looking as though it took all the strength he possessed - he got to his feet. He reached down carefully and picked up the three pieces of the glass one by one, putting them in the rubbish bin that was in the cupboard under the sink. Snape seemed to deflate suddenly as he looked at the shelf where the glasses were kept. He then stared over to the kitchen faucet. After a moment, his shoulders slumped slightly and he shuffled over to the sink. He turned on the faucet, and lowered his head to take a drink from the stream of water. He wiped his mouth on the back of his hand and turned the tap off, then slowly walked out of the kitchen.