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Harry had nightmares, but she did not scream.

After that first night in Severus' suite when he had demanded that Harry and Draco leave open their doors, Harry had never closed hers when she went to sleep. She drew her bed curtains, of course, but the heavy red fabric was not sufficient to absorb the occasional terrified whimper from her. The first time that Snape had heard the girl have her bad dream, he had thought she was under attack, and had rushed to her aid. Now that he realized the "assault" was a nightly tradition, he was no less concerned.

It was on the girl's seventh night in his care that Severus decided to actually look at Harry while she dreamt. He pushed back her bed curtains and examined his charge through the gloomy darkness of the room, pleased that his curse-enhanced sight allowed him to see her clearly. She was not, as he had imagined, curled in a fetal position, but lying stretched out in a backward half-moon, arms over her head. It seemed as if she could not move her feet to carry herself away from her attacker, but was trying to deflect a blow nevertheless. A shudder ran through her not-so-frangible form, and she abruptly sat up.


Severus froze. Harry scrambled about as if looking for her glasses and her wand at the same time, and then appeared to realize that she was awake and out of danger. She stifled a dismayed cry.

"I will not have this dream anymore. I will not have this dream anymore. I will not have this dream anymore," Harry repeated softly in what sounded like a worn personal mantra.

Gingerly, she wrapped herself up into a sitting ball.

"You've got to stop being so stupid, you idiot. Only think how he would mock you if he knew!"

She means me, doesn't she? Severus wondered, remaining motionless.

Inexplicably, Harry laughed.

"Funny," she said through a rueful yawn, "how the least safe place in the whole world is your head sometimes." She stretched her arms and legs out in front of herself, inhaled and exhaled slowly a few times, and then said, "I'm sorry, Cedric. I don't suppose you'd mind having any kind of dream, would you? . . . Right. I'm a ridiculous git. You go to sleep, Harry, and don't have this dream again!"

With that, she settled herself under the covers and pulled them up to her shoulder. After a moment, she pulled the covers over her head. A moment more, and her audible breathing caused her chest to rise and fall in a pattern that indicated regular sleep.

Severus allowed himself to relax without making a sound. He could just imagine the unpleasant scene that would follow if Harry discovered him "lurking" next to her bed and told Black about it. The Potions master was certain no one would believe he was there out of concern. He let the drapery in his hand fall to meet the other curtain, and crept from the room.

Pouring himself a glass of Remus' Lagavulin, he returned to his chair by the fire in the sitting room. He looked at his glass, and then abruptly toasted the air.

"To Cedric Diggory," he said, bitterly. How many other children will die before . . . . And she blames herself, does she?

The wizard felt sad--sad, impressed, nostalgic, and unsettled. He was sad because he was certain that Harry was afraid of him, and he now found that he did not wish her to be so any longer.

Perverse bastard--and you put in so much effort there, too.

But after what had happened to the brat, he was being forced by his own observational abilities to reevaluate what he knew of young Potter.

Rubbing a fingertip over the rim of his glass, Severus considered Harry's self-control; it was impressive. He was beginning to accept that she did possess the potential to become a strong legilimans; although, he wasn't particularly interested in teaching her to hone her skill--especially after the events of last year.

The brat did have to violate my privacy, didn't he? Didn't she? he corrected himself.

It was still difficult keeping the pronouns straight. He sighed.

His nostalgia prompted anger, but guilt, as well. No matter how much he had hated James, he could not deny that the man had been . . . brave, and Harry shared this characteristic. Severus had always envied how easily courage had seemed to come to James, but perhaps he had been mistaken about that, as he had been about so many other things.

Perhaps James' courage had more to do with his arrogance than anything else. "To hating James," Severus said, toasting the air again.

He snorted into his Scotch. No matter what he saw in the man's child, it was difficult to find anything to like about his old tormentor.

My old tormentor.

No little boy should have to experience his father as a bully, as well Severus knew; although, it had been mortification more than any real consideration of Harry's feelings that had led to his having placed his worst memory in the pensieve. At the time, he had thought Harry viewing his father's cruelty would be good for him.

I am a fool.

Finding himself in an honest, if unsettled, mood, Severus tried to consider his own fear. He found that he was not yet drunk enough for that kind of navel-gazing, and chose not to pour himself another drink. Instead, he made a space for his empty glass on the little fireside table near his chair--the chipped clay tea service, two cups, and the copy of Quidditch Weekly taking up more space than he was used to sharing--and came to a decision: he would try not to be scared anymore, too.

"Dark masters, evil compatriots, incompetent students, and teenage girls be damned!"

Teenage girls. Teenage girl. Teenage girl living in close quarters.

Perhaps just one more Scotch, Severus thought. "After all, it was a gift."


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