Probably my favorite chapter thus far! Thank you all for your wonderful reviews and please enjoy this next chapter! I dedicate this update to all my wonderful followers and reviewers! It might be a while until I update again because of a school, but I just had to put up another chapter for this story. By the way, My Little Runaway is now published on Wattpad. If you have an account there, you can read this story there as well. I go by the name BlueRowley, which I will be changing other accounts too, just so it does not come as a surprise. Thank you all once more!
Severus's eyes flew open and the vivid images of Lily's dead body faded away, his heart still pounding in his chest. In his dreams, he always tried to save her, always tried to make it to Godric's Hollow before Voldemort, but alas, he always failed. Severus sat up on his bed and rubbed his eyes. There was no point fretting over an unrealistic nightmare. Lily was dead. He had been responsible for that. The enormous guilt weighed down upon his shoulders heavier than the world itself. There could never be forgiveness for what he did to Lily – and her family. If not for him, Harry might still be in his caring mother's company instead of suffering under the cruel guardianship of his relatives.
Severus swung his legs over the side of the bed, running a hand through his hair. A nightcap sounded nice. Waving his wand to perform a time check, red numbers appeared in the air: 1:21am. Severus lowered his wand, the numbers vanishing. His eyes lingered over to Harry's bed in the corner of the room . . . except the boy wasn't in the bed.
He jumped up, ignoring the dizziness from doing so, and rushed over to Harry's bed. He threw the blanket to the floor, then scanned the room for the child.
"Lumos!" Severus flicked his wand, lighting the room. He turned on his feet, glancing back at his own bed. He could hear the steady thump of blood passing through his ears, his wand trembling in his shaky hand's grasp, his eyes becoming blurry as he kept spinning on his feet to check every corner in his room. He panted through his mouth, pausing as an idea struck him.
Dropping to the floor, Severus looked under Harry's bed, and instantly, he felt his heart slow and his body stopped shaking. He sighed and rested his head on his hands as he stared at the sleeping figure under the bed. It had been a long time since he had been on the verge of a panic attack. He did not miss the feeling. He studied the boy's features. Harry had a thin face, a body too small and skinny for his age, and a black, messy mop he passed off as hair. He was the mirror image of James Potter, albeit an unhealthy image. Yet, the longer Severus stared, the more of Lily he could see in Harry. The boy's face wasn't all James – not the nose, or the long eyelashes, or those green eyes suddenly staring back at him.
Severus blinked. Harry was awake and staring back at him, indeed.
"What are you doing under here?" Severus asked.
"The bed's uncomfortable," Harry said softly, yawning and rubbing an eye.
"What do you mean it's uncomfortable? Is it too hard? Too soft?"
"No, it's just weird. It's making my back hurt."
Severus thought back to when Harry explained that he had slept in a cupboard, probably for most of his life. Severus was sure no comfortable mattress would fit in a cupboard, so Harry had never really slept on any kind of good mattress for such a length of time. The boy had been with him for two and a half days and three nights now. After sleeping on a terrible excuse for a bed for so long, Harry was sure to be feeling the aches of sleeping on proper mattresses.
"Did you have a mattress in your cupboard?"
"Was it big and comfy?"
"Mm-mm. It was really small and not that fluffy."
"I see. And you slept on it every night for years." Severus concluded that his guess of Harry's sleeping situation was accurate.
"Sometimes during the day, too. When they would lock me in my cupboard and not let me out."
"Not let you out? For how long?"
"I don't know. Sometimes for the weekend until school. And if they go on vacation but Old Mrs. Figg wasn't around."
Severus had forgotten that Arabella Figg lived near the Dursleys. He wondered if she might be able to supply more information on Harry's home life for evidence when he did have to get the Ministry involved. But hearing that Harry would be oftentimes locked in his cupboard for days on end was frightening and saddening to hear. He sighed, deciding not to think much on it for now.
"Your body will adjust to sleeping on a new surface in time," Severus said. "Perhaps I can adjust the firmness of your mattress for you."
Harry shrugged and said, "Okay." He snuggled into the pillow he had with him, closing his eyes.
Severus stared at the boy a moment longer before finding the floor to be an uncomfortable resting spot. He propped himself on his elbows.
"Harry," Severus began, waiting for the child to open his eyes again, "you must be cold under there without a blanket. The castle isn't exactly warm this time of year."
"I'm okay," Harry said. "I don't mind the cold."
Severus closed his own eyes as a memory of the boy sitting in the alleyway in the middle of a blizzard struck him hard. That memory would haunt him for a long time to come. He wondered if this cupboard Harry had slept in had any blankets for him.
"I'd rather you sleep with a blanket. Minerva would have my head if I let you catch a cold down here."
Severus sighed, adjusting himself on his arms. Harry didn't seem all awake and would probably fall right back to sleep where he was. But the cold of the night would surely disrupt his sleep through the night. Perhaps a snack with the right food would help him stay asleep – and in his bed.
"Why don't you come out from under there and we'll go get a little midnight snack?"
"A midnight snack?" Harry frowned. "Sneaking food at night is bad."
"Well, it's not exactly sneaking if I'm the one insisting on it, now, is it?"
"But it's dark."
"That's nothing to be afraid of."
"I know. But monsters like to hide in the dark. Or maybe . . ."
Harry fell silent.
"Maybe what?" Severus encouraged.
"Maybe . . . Uncle Vernon."
Harry had whispered the name so softly, Severus nearly missed what the boy said. But he understood why Harry was hesitant to wonder around in the dark, even though the boy displayed true bravery each time he ran away from home. Severus sighed.
"I can assure you that your uncle is nowhere near here, Harry."
"And monsters? And ghosts? And bad criminals?"
Severus wondered if Harry was remembering scary stories he may have seen on TV, heard from school, or if his wonderful relatives filled the boy's head with scary fantasies just to torment him. Severus hoped that Harry didn't have an encounter with any of the Hogwarts's ghosts for a long time. Peeves would terrorize Harry just by materializing in front of him.
"How about this?" Severus suggested, picking up his wand. "I keep my wand lit at all times, so you can see everything around you. We'll go to the kitchen and have warm milk with bananas and peanut butter."
Harry smiled and nodded. Severus stood as Harry crawled out and followed him out to the kitchen, staying close to Severus's side and within the bright light. Severus set his wand down on the counter, so it continued to light up the kitchen while he sliced a banana and put a glob of peanut butter on a plate for Harry. Eve brought a warm glass of milk for Harry and Severus poured himself a nightcap. Severus knew the snack he was providing would all act as a sleep aid for Harry. The boy needed it with all the disturbed sleep he was having.
Severus sipped at his drink as he watched Harry yawn and rub his eyes. His banana and peanut butter was gone, and he was gulping down the last of his milk. Harry set the glass down and yawned again.
"What are we doing tomorrow?" Harry asked.
"I have classes to teach, as I've told you countless times. You will remain here and . . . amuse yourself."
"Okay," Harry said, though Severus detected a bit of disappointment.
"Surely being here is better than being at your relatives. I'll see if I can look into family hunting sooner. Then you'll have a more structured home life."
"But I like it here."
"You do not. You are obviously disappointed that I will not be around tomorrow. You must be bored with no one else here and little to do."
"I don't mind it. I didn't do much at my relatives except my chores and stuff."
"Regardless, you need a place where there's more social interaction and where you can make new friends and –"
"I don't have friends. I can make friends here. Eve is my friend."
"Eve is a house elf and that's not the point. We go over this same situation, you know you can't stay here. What you need is . . . we're not discussing this right now. It's late, you're tired, go get in bed."
"I need the light. You said I'd always be able to see. Please."
Severus sighed, but finished his nightcap and picked up his wand. He led Harry back to his bed, waiting until the boy was under the covers. Harry fell sleep quickly, and Severus returned to the kitchen for a second nightcap, downing it quickly. He was not a kid person. The sooner he had his quarters back to himself, the less stress he was sure he would feel. Children were too much to deal with. Severus returned to his own bed and laid down, his eyes straying over to Harry's bed. Despite how he felt about children, he secretly hoped that by helping Lily's son, Lily herself would forgive him for everything. One could dream . . .
Harry sat at the dining table alone. This was his third day living with Mr. Snape. Well, third full day. And the days were getting repetitive faster than he thought they would. Tomorrow was Saturday, and he would start his lessons with Minny. At least that would give him something more to do. He liked school – well, the learning part of it. He never made friends thanks to Dudley's interference. And school had always been an escape from his relatives' home when he wasn't trying to run away to who knows where.
Harry sighed and fiddled with the colorful toy robot. He was beyond bored. Mr. Snape was right. Yes, it was better living here than with his relatives, but he was bored. And upset that he didn't spend more time with Mr. Snape like at the hotel. But what upset him even more was that Mr. Snape seemed insistent in getting rid of him. Didn't Mr. Snape like him? Maybe if he proved to Mr. Snape that he wasn't bored living with him, then Mr. Snape would definitely want to keep him around.
Harry was doing his best to obey all the rules. He stayed away from the doors to the potions lab and study, so he wasn't tempted to enter them. He tried playing with his Lego stuff, but he wasn't in the mood to build his other models. He did a lot of building yesterday. But playing with his toys wasn't going to convince Mr. Snape to let him stay longer. He should do something useful, like when he had helped chop the ginger.
An idea struck Harry and he looked around the rooms. The place was clean enough already, but Harry knew he could make the place shine with the right equipment. But where to find that equipment? Mr. Snape said that Eve did all the cleaning, so maybe she could give him a few things.
"Eve!" Harry called out. He always felt silly just shouting out in the air, but it always seemed to work. He wondered how Eve always heard him.
"Yes, Ma-err, Harry?" Eve greeted as she popped into view.
"Where are the cleaning supplies?"
"Harry does not need to clean. Eve will clean messes."
"I know. But I would like to do some cleaning, too. It's fun."
"Cleaning not fun for you. Playing with toys fun for kids. And learning new things. And exploring. And playing with friends. Eve will take care of cleaning."
"But . . ." Harry pouted, trying to think of a way to convince the house elf to let him do some cleaning. "I really like cleaning. That's fun for me. And I want to impress Mr. Snape. Just for today I can clean? Please?"
Eve tapped her foot and pulled at her ears. "Master Snape might not be happy for letting little master clean. Eve must obey Master Snape."
"I don't think he would be mad for letting me clean," Harry said, though he honestly wasn't sure how Mr. Snape would feel about him cleaning. He hoped it made Mr. Snape happy. What if him cleaning made Mr. Snape mad? Like saying the word "freak?" Maybe it was a bad idea. But he had to try something to convince Mr. Snape he was good to keep around.
"Eve can . . ." Eve tapped her foot again, "Eve will let little master clean just for today. Eve will bring cleaning supplies. What would Harry like to clean?"
Harry beamed at the elf and frowned in thought.
"I think I should start with the bedroom. Mr. Snape already made his bed, so I'll make mine. I can dust and vacuum."
"Vacuum?" Eve frowned.
"Yeah, you have a vacuum cleaner, right?"
Eve's frown deepened, "Eve thinks . . . there is vacuum thingy in Muggle Studies room. Eve will fetch it for Harry. Eve will also fetch feather duster."
"Thanks!" Harry said. "And then I'll clean the bathroom. Maybe I'll mop, too. You have a mop, right? I'll do the bathroom and kitchen floor. And then I'll clean all the countertops and vacuum the living room and dining room. And then I'll clean the dining table with dishwasher liquid and vinegar. Aunt Petunia taught me that."
"Eve will collect everything little master needs."
Eve popped away and cleaning supplies appeared in her place, along with a vacuum, which took a moment longer to appear. Harry happily set to work, starting in the bedroom. He quickly made his bed, making sure it was neat and perfect like Mr. Snape's. Then, he organized his toy shelf, staking books on one half, and arranging his toys on the other half. Then, he dusted the room with the feather duster, cleaning every wall crevice and surface top in the bedroom. Once that was complete, he vacuumed the entire room.
He moved on to the bathroom, using the broom to sweep, then scrubbing the floor with a wet rag. He poured cleaner in the toilet and allowed that to sit while he sprinkled baking soda all over the bathtub then sprayed it down with a vinegar and water solution mix. He let that sit while he scrubbed the toilet, then he went back to the bathtub and scrubbed that. He ran the shower briefly to rinse away the solution, then used a cloth to dry it. He scrubbed the counter top and the sink and cleaned the mirror. Then he began mopping the tile floor with a disinfectant. It took him a long time and when he was finished, it was lunch time.
After eating, Harry immediately started on the living room, dusting and vacuuming. He scrubbed the glass top of the coffee table, making sure it was shining when he was finished. He vacuumed around the dining table, moving the four chairs to get underneath them. Then, he wiped down the dining table with that solution Aunt Petunia had shown him how to do. Then, he waxed the table to give it a nice shine.
It was time for the kitchen, Harry's favorite place to clean. Harry started by dusting, then wiping down the countertops, cabinets, and fridge. He scrubbed the stove top and even cleaned the inside of the stove. He made sure to soak the stove pans in the sink while he moved on to sweeping the floor. The kitchen was his favorite place to clean because he loved cooking – and cooking on what he knew were clean countertops and a clean stove made it all the better. Once he was done sweeping, he scrubbed the stove pans, rinsed them, and set them off to the side to dry. He cleaned the sink and then mopped the floor. He ran a cloth over the pans and put them back in their respective places. The cloths he used to dry all vanished as soon as he set them down, so he figured Eve was taking care of them, though he would have been glad to do that as well.
Harry smiled at his beautiful work when he heard the door to the quarters open. He ran out of the kitchen to see a surprised Mr. Snape staring at the clean and fresh smelling living room.
"Do you like it, Mr. Snape?" Harry asked, stopping in front of the man. "I asked Eve if I could clean and she said I could just today. Doesn't it smell nice? Lemony fresh?"
"You did all this?" Mr. Snape frowned.
"Yeah," Harry said, wondering why Mr. Snape looked so concerned. "It was fun."
"It was?" Mr. Snape moved further into the rooms, glancing into the bedroom. "You did in here, too?"
"And the bathroom."
Mr. Snape glanced at Harry before walking to the bathroom. Harry couldn't tell if Mr. Snape liked his work or not? Was it too much? Or was it a bad job? Or was Mr. Snape upset that he had actually done cleaning. Harry felt his stomach knot up and he chewed his nails nervously, watching Mr. Snape come back to the living room with a frown on his face.
"The table looks polished," the man stated.
"I waxed it."
"You waxed it? How do you even know how to do that?"
"Aunt Petunia taught me."
Mr. Snape sighed, running a hand through his hair as he ran another hand along the table, pausing to look into the kitchen. The man shook his head and rubbed his chin as he stared. Harry felt his lower lip tremble slightly as he waited for Mr. Snape to say something. Mr. Snape glanced his way and must have noticed Harry's despondent face.
"It's . . ." Mr. Snape began, looking around the place and back at Harry. "It's very well done. And you had fun doing all this?"
"I like cleaning," Harry said.
But Harry knew it was somewhat of a lie. If he had still been at his relatives, cleaning was his least favorite thing to do. But it had been an escape from his relatives, as they would oftentimes just leave him to his work. Here, it was honestly just to escape the boredom, and to hopefully impress Mr. Snape – which he wasn't quite sure if he had succeeded in. He didn't mind cleaning.
"Harry, you didn't have to do this, though. Why did you?"
"I wanted to. For you."
"For me? Why?"
"I thought you might like it. I'm good at cleaning. I just wanted to make you happy."
Mr. Snape stared at Harry intensely for a long moment, and Harry felt a tear escape his eye. He sniffed and rubbed at his face. His work wasn't appreciated. He couldn't do anything right. Mr. Snape would never like him and would get rid of him forever because he was such a bother and a nuisance. He sniffed again and felt more tears leave his eyes.
"No, please don't cry," Mr. Snape finally spoke. "I like it, Harry, I do. It's a job well done."
"You hate it," Harry said, sniffing more.
"No, I don't. I just want to make sure that this was something you really enjoyed doing, not something you felt you had to do out of obligation. It's nice, it really is. I'm . . . happy."
Harry peered through his lashes at Mr. Snape. The man offered a small smile and Harry wondered if the man really was happy. Mr. Snape never looked happy. But he said he was happy now. Maybe he just didn't know how to make himself look happy. Even at the hotel, Harry had never really seen the man look happy. Harry would have to learn the secrets of Mr. Snape's facial expressions.
"Yes. If doing all this made you happy, then I'm happy."
Harry smiled at Mr. Snape, feeling his tears subside. Maybe the man was really happy. Mr. Snape insisted that Harry had done a good job several times.
"Well . . . I'm sure after all this cleaning, you must be hungry," Mr. Snape suggested. "How about a little treat before dinner?"
Harry felt the last bit of sadness in him disappear. Mr. Snape was rewarding him for his work? He had never been given a reward! Or praise, even. He looked at Mr. Snape hopefully.
"Really? Like dessert?"
"Well, a small snack, not really dessert. I think you've deserved it. There's biscuits in the pantry, or err, yogurt and applesauce in the fridge. Your choice."
"Can I have biscuits?"
"Of course. They're in the back of the pantry. Why don't you grab those while I pour some milk?"
Harry opened the walk-in pantry in the kitchen, opening the door the slightest bit, and searched the back shelf for the cookies, light from the kitchen flooding the otherwise dark space. He had just found a box of chocolate chip cookies when a soft click startled him, the box falling to the floor. The door to the pantry had shut itself. Feeling his heart rate pick up, Harry felt his way to the pantry door and gave it a push. The door didn't budge. He realized that there was no knob on this side of the door, so it could only be opened from the outside.
"Mr. Snape?" Harry whispered, knocking at the door slightly.
Harry felt a wave of dizziness wash over him. His breathing started coming in sharp and shallow.
He was trapped. The darkness was overwhelming him, morphing the pantry into his old cupboard. He felt the space closing in on him. He started seeing spots amid the darkness, and his blood felt cold as his body started tingling. He couldn't breathe anymore.
They had him locked in there again. They were denying him food, water, light, and they weren't going to let him out for days. He choked on air, his heartbeat loud in his ears, and he pounded on the door furiously.
"Let me out!" He screamed, his face hot as tears streaming down his face. "Please! I'm sorry! I won't do it again! I'll be good! Let me out, let me out!"
A deep voice cut through the air, but Harry wasn't sure what it said. The door opened, light blinding him, but he bolted out of his cupboard, collapsing on the floor against the opposite wall. He wrapped his arms around his legs and cried.
Severus wasn't sure what to do. One minute, he was pouring milk, the next, he was hearing Harry pounding on the pantry door frantically, pleading and apologizing. Severus hadn't realized the door had shut itself on Harry, who probably hadn't opened it far enough to prevent it from doing so. He had called out to Harry when he opened the door, but the child ran right past him and huddled up on the opposite wall, crying.
"Harry, what's wrong?" Severus asked. Was it the dark that had scared the boy? Or was it the fact that he had been locked in, trapped, inside a pantry?
Severus's thoughts made him realize that Harry had most likely suffered a flashback when the door closed and locked him in – just like how the boy's relatives would lock him in and leave him for days. Severus stared down at the sobbing child.
Harry was shaking, then he suddenly leaned forward and vomited for a long minute. Severus made a disgusted face, but simply flicked his wand to clean the mess. Harry wiped a hand over his mouth before curling in on himself. Severus took a step closer to the boy.
"Harry," Severus began, reaching a hand towards him. "Err, it's okay. There, there."
Severus's fingers brushed Harry's shoulder when the boy jerked away from him, whining in protest. Severus pulled back, not sure how to proceed anymore. What was he supposed to do? How could he snap Harry out of this state? Should he even do that or just let Harry go through the motions till he comes out of it himself? Feeling useless as he watched the terrified child, Severus retreated to the dining table and sat down. He watched Harry from there, deciding to wait it out. The state the boy was in pulled at something in Severus's chest, and it frustrated him that he could do nothing. That he didn't know how to help Harry, didn't know how to approach the situation, and certainly didn't know how to deal with the emotions the boy was suffering.
Severus sighed and rubbed wearily at his face. Sitting there was torture. All he could do was hope and pray Harry pulled out of it. He really didn't want to take a visit to St. Mungo's if the boy did not.
An hour passed of neither moving or making a sound. Harry had long stopped crying, but he remained in the corner, his eyes blank and distant as he stared off to a corner of the kitchen. Severus rested his head in his arms, watching the boy, wondering when and how he should intervene, or if he even should.
A loud knock on the door cut through the silence. Severus's breath caught in his throat as he stood up and went to the door. He didn't open it.
"Who's there?" he called out.
"It is I, Severus," Albus's voice said. "Albus."
Shit, Severus thought, a knot tightening in his chest. "One second."
Severus ran back to the kitchen and reached for Harry, but before he could touch him, he froze. What if he startled the boy? Or scared him so terribly, he started screaming? He kneeled in front of Harry a good few inches back.
"Harry," he said softly. The boy made no indication that he heard him or was listening. Severus snapped his fingers in the boy's face, a risky move. Harry blinked, and his eyes seemed to focus on him, but he didn't move. "Harry, I need you to go to my room and get in your bed."
Harry didn't move.
"Harry, please." Severus felt his heart speed up as another knock sounded through the rooms.
"Severus?" Albus called. "I must say, we have important matters to discuss."
Severus rubbed the back of his neck, fighting his lungs to breathe nice and slow. What the hell was he supposed to do? He couldn't let Albus in, not with Harry in the state he was in. He couldn't risk forcing the boy to the bedroom. It might cause another attack. And a closed, locked door was the last thing Harry needed right now. He would have to get rid of Albus, somehow. He couldn't let the headmaster find Harry.
Standing, Severus went back to the door, willing his hands to stop shaking as he grasped the door knob. He swallowed dryly and opened the door just enough to look out.
"This really isn't a good time, Headmaster."
"I'm sorry, Severus. But I really must talk to you. You are the only person I can speak to about this matter." There were bags under Albus's eyes and the elder man's face seemed more wrinkled than usual.
Severus fought to gather the right thoughts in his head. What was he supposed to say? He couldn't risk looking or acting suspicious.
"Yes, but . . . I have so many cauldrons boiling right now, and I really should get back to finishing them. I'm in for a long night, can this meeting wait until tomorrow?"
"Please, Severus," Albus insisted, his weary eyes peering into the man's soul (or so Severus felt), "don't send me away. I really need to talk to you and I'd rather not push this topic off."
Severus tensed, He wanted to slam the door shut. He wanted to let the man in. He wanted to insist that the man come back tomorrow. He wanted to throw up. But his body just would not move.
"Are you all right, dear boy?" Albus questioned.
Finding his voice, Severus choked out, "I'm fine. It's just been some long few days." Willing his body to move, Severus held the door open for Albus, "Please, come in."
"Thank you, Severus."
Albus entered and paused inside the living room, taking a deep breath.
"Your house elf is a splendid cleaner. I might insist on borrowing her."
"Whenever you wish," Severus said, pushing the door shut, still trying to fight the stiffness of his body.
Albus sighed, "I could really use a soothing tea. Do you have any calming draughts, Severus? I'm sure that will help me sleep tonight. And honey sounds delightful."
The man began walking for the kitchen and Severus's heart jumped to his throat. His body found the ability to move and he ran after the headmaster, stopping the man with a hand to the chest.
"Please, Headmaster, you look exhausted. Allow me to serve the tea, you are a guest in my quarters, after all."
"If you insist, Severus. But I could also use a bit of water . . ."
"Done! I'll gather everything, really, it's no problem. Take a seat, rest your legs."
"You make sound like a feeble, old man, Severus. Surely, I can be of some help in the kitchen."
Albus moved around Severus and walked for the kitchen.
"No, really, Headmaster, it's fine, I don't need your help."
But it was too late. Albus entered the kitchen, Severus right behind him.
"Honestly, you always insist on doing everything yourself," Albus said, as he pulled a few teacups out of a cabinet and set a filled teapot on the stove. "It will not harm you or your reputation to have a little help every now and then. I could use a drop or two of a calming draught. You do have some in stock, do you not?"
Severus didn't hear a word Albus said. His eyes were fixated on the spot where Harry had been. The boy was no longer there. Had the child managed to snap out of it? But if not here, then where had he gone? Did he make a run for the room when he had been speaking to Albus through the door? But his bedroom door wasn't shut. Harry surely would have shut the door if he had run there to hide. Wouldn't he?
Severus blinked, and his eyes looked in Albus's direction.
"Are you all right?"
There was that question again. No, he was not all right. He was far from all right. And until he could resolve this Harry Potter situation, he would never be all right. Severus just nodded his head, his eyes straying to the wall once more before he looked up at Albus.
"I'm fine," he said. "It's just . . . my nightmares are reoccurring."
"As are mine," Albus nodded. "And I've had some new ones recently. I can't help but fear that something terrible has happened to little Harry. And it's all my fault. I should have done more for the boy. I should have persuaded Mr. and Mrs. Dursley to treat him better, more like family. I should have visited the boy myself, just to show the child that someone did care for him. And now looks what's happened. Harry could be anywhere. He could have been kidnapped. Tortured. Murdered."
"Don't give up so quickly," Severus said softly. "Potter could also be somewhere safe and warm, without the slightest knowledge that his selfish actions will have the wizarding world in an uproar. He was probably taken in by an overindulgent family who's mistaken him for an orphan with no living relatives. Who knows? We have to keep searching. I'm sure the brat is still very much alive."
"Perhaps, Severus," Albus said, pouring hot water into the teacups, adding spices and honey. "Did you happen to find that calming draught?"
Severus raised a hand, summoning a vial of the potion in question. He walked over to the headmaster, opened the vial, and allowed two drops to fall into each teacup. He needed the calming draught just as much as Albus did. His hands were still a bit shaky.
"I hope your faith in Harry's status reigns true," Albus said, taking a long, grateful sip.
"As do I," Severus agreed.
The two stood in comfortable silence, drinking the tea. Severus couldn't stop his eyes from occasionally straying to the spot Harry had been. Albus did not seem to notice, however, lost in his own thoughts.
"Might I borrow some Dreamless Sleep?" Albus asked when he finished his tea. "I'd rather not face my fears in dreams tonight."
"Of course." Severus summoned the potion and games it to Albus. "Though as the brewer, I am obligated to warn you that taking the potion more than three times a week has a high potential for addiction and abuse."
"Of course, Severus. Just for tonight. It is healthy for one to admit to and face their fears. It is how we overcome them. I should let you get back to your work. Thank you, Severus."
"Anytime," Severus said, watching the headmaster leave the kitchen. He heard the soft click of the door.
As soon as Albus had left, Eve and Harry appeared in the kitchen, in the same spot Harry had been originally. Severus sighed in relief.
"Eve made sure Harry could not be seen by Headmaster Dumbledore," Eve informed him. Harry was still hugging his knees, though his eyes seemed more alert and less red now. "Eve stayed with Harry till Headmaster left."
"Thank you, Eve," Severus said, setting down his own teacup and walking over to Harry. Eve vanished. He squatted in front of the boy, an overwhelming relief flooding his body at seeing Harry safe. Today had been an extremely close call. And he did not like the feeling it had left him in. He stared at Harry, and the boy stared right back. It was Harry who spoke first.
"I was scared," he said, as if that summed up the entire afternoon.
Severus would later blame his actions on the calming draught he had taken, claiming he was not in the right state of mind. He reached out a hand and cupped Harry's cheek, stroking the soft skin with his thumb. Harry smiled and leaned into the caress. Severus frowned thoughtfully.
"Me too," he said.
I loved writing this!