Harry awoke the next day, cranky from not sleeping well. He had stayed up for a long time last night, trying to reconcile the image of Snape crying with the one who had shouted him down at dinner, mocking him for being attached to a stuffed toy. It had bothered him for a very long time, but at around four in the morning he had remembered what Mrs. Weasley had said to him about Snape the day that he had first come to Bell Point.
"We are all foolish when it comes to our enemies," she had said, "and while I know he did awful things to Sirius, have you ever considered that he did such things because he has known little but cruelty all his life?"
The last statement really stuck with Harry, and he thought that she had hit the nail on the head about something, but he was not entirely sure what sort of cruelty had made Snape such a conflicted man. Snape did have the capacity to be kind, and a fair bit of the time, he seemed to mean well with things. Harry found, however, that Snape was prone to outbursts. Even the slightest thing could make Snape snap in class, and he wasn't any different now. Snape, of course, was not exactly the only one to snap at people. Harry knew all too well that he had a tendency to snap at his own friends. He often wondered if this was because living with the Dursleys had rubbed off on him. Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon were very unstable around Harry, and having grown up with that, Harry felt that it was normal sometimes. In fact, it was only after he had gone to the Burrow for the summer that he realized that most families weren't like that. Maybe Snape too had grown up like this too, and once thought that kind of reaction was normal. Was Snape cruel because that was all he knew?
Whatever the answer was, Harry had fallen asleep shortly after that, and had risen at his usual time, feeling like he had sandpaper in his eyes. He got dressed and stumbled down the staircase. Harry did not see Snape anywhere, but was rather glad not to. Usually they only saw or conversed with each other at meals, and right now he hoped Snape wouldn't show to breakfast. The problem was that one part of him was furious at how Snape had made fun of him over the stuffed toy, and another part was terrified to see Snape lest he find out that he had been hiding in the pantry last night, and seen him break down like that. So, it was with much relief that the kitchen was empty when Harry entered it. There was a bowl of cereal on the table for him, as well as a little plate with strawberries. Harry retrieved the milk from the magical ice box and poured it over the corn flakes. He added a little bit of sugar, and threw in a few strawberries, and began to eat. It was difficult to keep his eyes open, but somehow he did. Perhaps he was able to do so because he was afraid to fall asleep again. The little amount of sleep he had gotten last night had brought more nightmares of Sirius, wasted and dead, spitting angry remarks at Harry. Only this time they had been complicated by Snape shouting at him, saying to grow up or he'd be sorry.
Harry frowned as his breakfast turned to ash in his mouth, and he let his spoon fall with a clatter. He could barely stomach the thought of eating any more. Just then Snape came in. He did not spare a glance at Harry as he went to go pour himself a cup of coffee.
He took a sip, and for a moment, he surveyed Harry.
Harry stared down at his barely touched breakfast, and he frowned, resting his face on his fists.
"Eat, Potter," Snape said sharply.
"I'm not hungry," Harry said, his voice muffled slightly by his fists on either side of his face.
"Of course you are," said Snape, rolling his eyes. "You may not want to eat, but you need to. The last thing we need around here is you fainting from hunger."
"I don't faint from hunger," Harry said with a scowl, dropping hands to the table, hating the thought of Snape thinking he was weak. "I can last days without food, and not even get dizzy."
Snape looked at him like he had sprouted three heads.
"When have you lasted days without food?" Snape said slowly, eyes narrowed.
If Harry felt queasy before, it was nothing to how he felt now. Why did he have to say that? He prodded his imagination, dying for a reason besides the truth.
"When I've been sick, obviously," Harry scoffed at Snape as though he was an idiot. Harry knew he was pushing his luck, but it was the only way to deflect Snape's suspicion. "You try eating something when you're puking your guts out."
Harry's plan worked perfectly, and the tone of his voice made Snape scowl furiously.
"That hardly constitutes a reason for you not eating breakfast," Snape spat. "Eat, or I'll make Poppy give you a check-up."
"Fine," Harry said, still staring at Snape angrily.
Snape just rolled his eyes and limped out of the room to go drink his coffee elsewhere, leaving Harry to poke at his cornflakes until they got soggy.
That was close, thought Harry. Too close.
Luckily, Harry was fairly confident that Snape had been too annoyed at him to really take the comment to heart. The last thing he wanted was the git of the dungeons to know what went on in the Dursley household. The less Snape knew about him, the better.
Come afternoon Severus was shuffling things around in the sitting room for something to do. Despite the fact that he had never caught the elf doing it, Dobby did clean the cottage a few times a week during the night. Right now, however Severus had something on his mind, and would have cleaned even if he had to walk right behind the elf to do it. Potter was nowhere to be seen, thankfully, for Severus still wanted to throw up at the thought of what he had said last night. He just did not understand why he had been so cruel. He had promised Dumbledore he would make fun of Potter. But he had, and for something as petty as sleeping with a stuffed animal - something he had done at that age as well. To make it worse, Potter had only brought it up because he had lost it. The boy had to have been really desperate for it if he had worked up the courage to ask for help in finding it.
Then what did I do? Severus thought. I shot him down, just like that.
With a heavy sigh, Severus straightened the sofa cushions. One was particularly lumpy, and so he gave it a thump with his good hand, trying to flatten out the cushion. Severus straightened up, intrigued, and pulled the cushion away. Something was lodged behind it. When he saw what it was he backed up and sunk down in the armchair nearby, closing his eyes.
It was Potter's stuffed lion, sitting there, staring at him with its black button eyes, looking mournfully up at him and just daring him to apologize.
Severus swore under his breath. He knew he had to give it back to Potter. But he did not know what he would say. Of course he would have to apologize. It was something he had known since the moment he insulted Potter, and Severus had been working himself up to it all day, but he knew it would not be easy. How much would he tell Potter? This would require some thought, and Severus felt that the last thing he wanted to do was give the true reason behind why that particular insult had come to mind.
Harry was sitting at the kitchen table, flipping through a story book for lack of something better to do. It was about a rabbit, but it barely held his interest. He tried reading the words, but after a while got bored and was instead looking at the pictures. He sighed and dragged his glass of milk toward him. He didn't really feel like lifting the glass, and the milk was still close to the top, so he lowered his face to the glass and stuck his tongue into the milk, purely because he could. This was how Professor Snape found him.
Harry pushed away his glass forcefully, feeling himself turn red as he hastily went back to the storybook.
"'Lo Professor," he mumbled, feeling sheepish.
"Afternoon, Potter," said Snape, sounding hesitant.
Harry looked up, wondering why Snape seemed different. He looked a little ill to Harry, and he had his left hand behind his back. Harry craned his neck to see what it was.
"I was cleaning, and I found this," said Snape gruffly, pulling from behind his back a ratty stuffed toy.
"My lion!" Harry said enthusiastically, reaching out for it. Suddenly, he dropped his hands. Where was the catch?
Snape took a step forward and put the toy on the table, right in front of Harry.
"What did you do to him?" Harry accused, staring warily at the lion.
"Nothing," said Snape, sounding gloomy.
"But ... but before ..."
"Look, Potter," said Snape tiredly, leaning against the kitchen wall, "I did not mean what I said earlier. It was a stupid thing for me to say, anyway."
"Then why did you say it?" Harry asked, hating the pleading tone in his voice.
"Because ..." began Snape, looking anywhere but Harry, "because I ..."
Harry waited expectantly, but Snape's words simply fell away. He changed his train of thought after a moment and continued, his words sounding a little broken, like he was assembling his sentences with difficulty.
"The reason for why I said that has nothing to do with you, Potter," Snape settled for. "You have no reason to be ashamed of having a favourite toy. It was a cheap shot, and ... and you were right. It was unhappiness that made me say it, not you."
Snape scowled, although Harry didn't think it had much heart in it. Then, he turned on his heel and left.
"Wait!" Harry cried, leaping off his chair and running to the kitchen door. Snape was already halfway down the hall. He did not turn around, but he stopped. "Thank you, Professor."
There was no reply, but Harry thought that Snape's shoulders relaxed a little as he continued down the hall again, and went into his room. Harry was left standing in the kitchen. He looked up at the table where the lion was looking down at him. It seemed to be smiling.
Harry thought that he would have slept better again with his stuffed lion, but he was wrong. The next morning he awoke even more exhausted. That day passed, and it would have been uneventful had dread not pierced Harry's heart every other minute at the thought of going to bed. This anxiety only increased, and by the time night came again he almost didn't sleep at all. Yet, his time spent asleep was still too much, in his opinion, for despite the fact that it had now been four nights since Harry had seen Sirius' boggart, his Godfather's wasted face continued to plague his dreams, trying to pull Harry into the veil as well. He would wake in a cold sweat, terrified, nearly paralysed with fear. The scream would come rising in his throat, fighting against the haze of tiredness, but Harry always clamped his hand over his mouth to stop the sound from leaving him.
While Harry could deny having nightmares, he could not deny the presence of the deep shadows beneath his eyes. Snape noticed them at breakfast, as usual. In fact, he had been eyeing Harry warily for the past few days, but only when Harry was almost falling asleep in his porridge did Snape speak.
"Potter, have you been sleeping alright?"
Harry jerked awake. The question had been hesitant, but it snapped him to attention anyway.
"You do not look fine to me," scoffed Snape before taking a bite of his own porridge, fumbling slightly with his spoon. "Have you been having nightmares?"
"No," said Harry peevishly. Snape made to argue, but Harry filled his mouth so full of porridge he would not be speaking for a long time. Snape seemed to feel it was not worth the battle at this time in the morning.
Knowing it was only a matter of time before he was interrogated again, Harry avoided Snape the rest of the day, and went out to sit by the sea, watching the ebb and flow of the tide. He spent as much time as possible out of the house, and this seemed to irritate Snape. Snape appeared to have figured out that Harry's reason for staying on the sandy beach was because he could not walk easily on it. While he was improving in his walking, sand still proved difficulties.
Harry made sure to eat lunch at a different time than Snape, and at dinner he kept his mouth as full as possible, despite the fact that he had little appetite. Snape's reaction to the whole charade made Harry nervous. While acting a little bit more polite than usual, Snape showed no other sign that he was going to interrogate Harry, for his behaviour or otherwise. He did however seem to be watching him closely, for when Harry looked up from his food Snape had a peculiar expression on his face, like he was surveying him. Still, Snape was silent, and nor did he look up from his book when Harry stomped upstairs to go to bed sometime later, still in a wretched mood from lack of sleep. His mood only worsened at the thought of more nightmares.
"Who says I have to sleep, anyway?" Harry complained childishly to himself as he lay face down under the covers, his face burrowed in his lion's mane. Buttons, he had finally decided to name him. Sure, he knew the name was babyish, but the lion's personality seemed to come from his button eyes. Harry had caught himself calling the lion Buttons a few times in his head, and after a while, he stopped trying to force himself not to. And after the row in the kitchen a few days ago, it wasn't as though he would dare say anything to Snape about Buttons, anyway. Just as he would not talk about his nightmares ... about Sirius' dead eyes staring into his soul.
Despite the growing darkness outside the window, Harry fought to stay awake. He pinched himself, twisted into uncomfortable positions in his bed, picked at the sleeves of his pyjamas for something to do, and talked quietly to Buttons. He heard the sounds of Snape getting ready for bed downstairs, and he rolled around a few times to wake himself up a bit more. His eyes itched with tiredness, and he yawned widely. He got up and stretched, and then lay back down, head resting on Buttons' soft chest.
He didn't even remember closing his eyes before he was plunged into dreams. They barely lasted, surprisingly - only few quick glimpses of a cupboard and Sirius' face, wasted and torn, and then he fell into such a deep sleep that he surpassed dreams. He slept deeply all the way until morning, and when he opened his eyes, the sunlight was streaming into his room, much to his amazement. Besides the fact that he was left wondering if he had slept at all due to how quickly the night had passed, and how dreamless it had been, Harry realized he felt well rested. Somewhere downstairs he heard Snape walking around. He was already up, which surprised Harry. Normally Harry was up before him.
It took Harry a moment to properly wake enough to realize that he was lying in his bed in a cold sweat. He shivered a little, extracting his head from Buttons' mane, having awoken in the same position he had fallen asleep in. Four almost sleepless nights will do that, he supposed. Sitting up, Harry suddenly felt that everything wasn't as it should have been. He was cold in all the wrong places. Hot shame washed over him. He didn't do that. This didn't happen. But, his wet pyjamas and damp sheets beneath him said otherwise. He moaned quietly with embarrassment. And then an even worse thought occurred to him. How was he going to get the sheets and his pyjamas down to the laundry room without Snape seeing?
He would have to be immensely careful, but with Snape in the kitchen hopefully eating breakfast, he might be able to sneak everything to the laundry room before Snape could notice. Practically dying of embarrassment, Harry tore off his wet pyjamas and threw on a t-shirt and a pair of patched overalls, ramming his glasses onto his face. He bunched his wet pyjamas up, and then got started on the bed. He would take the sheet first. It would be the easiest to carry. He rolled it up, and piled his pyjamas on top. The smell made his eyes water, but it was more the shame from the reminder of what he had done than anything. He tiptoed over to his door, peered around the corner. He peered from the top of the railing of the stairs where he could see diagonally into the open kitchen door, which was right next to the sitting room. He could just see Snape sitting at the table. Noting Snape's back facing the door, Harry crept downstairs. One by one he went down, but, being so careful not to trip on the end of the sheet, he forgot to jump the stair that squeaked. He froze as Snape looked around.
"Morning, Potter," he said, looking almost cheerful.
Harry felt his breath turn to ice in his chest as Snape spied the sheet and pyjamas in his arms.
He closed his eyes, which were tearing up behind his glasses, waiting for Snape to start making fun of him.
Quite suddenly, a pair of hands grabbed the sheet from Harry's small arms, which were struggling to keep a hold on them. Harry opened his eyes to see Snape looking down at him.
"If you had not been so sleep deprived, this would not have happened," was the slightly irritated and gruff reply, but it did not bite like Harry expected it to.
"It's n-not gonna happen again," Harry said quickly. "It's just one time, I promise."
"Alright," said Snape, neither contradicting Harry nor agreeing with him as he strode down the hall to the laundry room, his ungainly steps echoing on the wood floor. "Go get the rest of the blankets and bring them downstairs. I will put them in the wash."
Harry bit his lip, and did as he was told.
Snape did not say another word as he brought down a clean set of bedding from the tall shelf, which he gave to Harry to put on the bed. When Harry returned from doing this, Snape motioned for Harry to come and sit down at the kitchen table, where breakfast was waiting.
"I know you wish not to talk about this," Snape began slowly, soundly as though he definitely didn't want to talk about it either, "but I think it would be wise for you to share with me now if bed-wetting has been a problem for you in the past. Poppy is coming today, and if you need, she can figure something out for you. I promise I will tell nobody but her."
Harry stared at him furiously, jabbing his egg with his fork until it was an unrecognizable mush.
"Potter," said Snape impatiently, massaging his temple. "I am just trying to help ..."
"No!" Harry said suddenly, much louder than he intended. "I never wet my bed when I was little before! Happy?"
"Thank you," said Snape coolly, taking a sip of his coffee. "There is no need to be so embarrassed about it. It is clear to me that you have not been getting enough sleep as of late - do not give me that look - which means that when you finally do sleep, you have trouble waking up. Considering the amount of stress you have been under, and your current physical state, it is perfectly understandable." Harry scowled. "None of that now. It is not something to be ashamed of. I have known students at Hogwarts - all far older than you are physically - that still had accidents at night. They could not help it, and neither can you."
"Nothing to be ashamed of?" Harry said, furious.
"I know that you feel embarrassed about this, but you should not get so worked up about it given the circumstances. If the problem persists -"
"It won't!" spat Harry.
"You may be confident that it will not, but if it does, I am talking to Poppy."
"No, you won't!"
"Yes, Potter. I will. But only beca-"
"I hate you!" Harry interrupted, abandoning his breakfast and running back up the stairs. He snatched Buttons up and buried his face in his mane, scrunched into a ball in the corner, wondering how Snape dared to discuss such private things with Madam Pomfrey. Her fussing would be worse than ever. He wished with all his heart that Snape would not say anything.
Down in the kitchen, Severus pinched the bridge of his nose, thinking that either he was tactless, or the boy was too sensitive. At the moment, Severus was inclined to say it was a combination of the two.
"What does he expect me to do? I couldn't have gone to talk to Poppy without even mentioning it him," he muttered to his empty cup of coffee, which stared at him blankly. He hoped desperately that Potter was right, and that he would not have another accident. Snape scowled at the thought of yet another thing to complicate his life, but deep down he felt a little sorry for Potter, even if he was an overly emotional little boy. Snape wondered wryly if between the two of them they would ever have a day that was not dramatic.
"I am not cut out for dealing with little children," moaned Severus, staring into the depths of his porridge, which up until recently he was enjoying. "I diffuse one disaster of my own making, only to create another. Lily, you were right. I am hopeless."
Severus pushed his porridge away and let his forehead rest on the table, thinking that this was one of those days that he should have just stayed in bed.