Watching and Waiting

Runaway

The next morning Severus found himself sitting beside Potter's bedside. Something was still bothering him about the boy. His earlier mantra was slowly fading away every new injury the nurse had found.

That morning Poppy had sat there and examined him again for other injuries. With the glamours down, she was sure she would find more. Unfortunately, she was right and she had found many old broken bones and injuries. Not to mention that awful scar on his face.

Now Severus was sitting there studying the sleeping figure trying to figure out just how he had gained all those injuries. Earlier he had thought it must have been the boy getting into fights, but that was seeming less and less likely. This was not one of his little snakes so why did this seem so familiar?

Normally, in the beginning of the year he ended up here quite a bit with one or two of his snakes recovering from their vacation. It was a little known fact that Slytherins were so close because the only family that truly cared for them was here at school. It was his duty to make sure that they were safe and when they went back home, to a new home, that they were safe. Why was he sitting here again? That's right. He was no watching after Lily's boy.

Sighing, Severus looked down at the now scared face and was prepared to stand up and leave when the boy began to stir. For a moment Severus considered leaving and letting Poppy deal with the boy, but he thought back to Albus asking him to try to talk with the boy and he sat back in his chair hoping to get this over with. He didn't really fancy talking with the child, but if he could get it over with now then maybe he could escape to his dungeons with some answers.

Harry rolled over so that he was facing Severus and slowly opened his eyes. Not having his glasses on, all he saw was the black blur sitting down in a brown blob and sighed. He assumed from the lack of crazy colors Dumbledore had found someone else to try to talk with him. He just wanted to hide somewhere safe so he didn't hurt anyone else, couldn't they all see that? Couldn't they see that if he was around then he would be responsible for killing everyone close to him?

Harry watched the black blur reach over to the bedside table and grab his glasses and then hand them to him. When the boy didn't grab the glasses the figure just placed them on the bed beside him. Tentatively, he picked his glasses up and placed them on the edge of his nose to see his potions professor looking at him like an interesting potion ingredient.

Upon seeing him, Harry couldn't help but flinch. He knew the man hated him, but he still didn't want to get the man hurt. After all this man had a reason to hate him. He was an awful person and deserved every one of his teacher's harsh words.

Looking down at his bed, Harry was flinched back surprised when he heard the man beside him sigh.

"Potter" Severus winced slightly, there was that flinch again. What had happened to this boy to make him so jumpy. He knew losing someone was hard, but it certainly didn't make you jump at every sound.

"Potter, can you look at me?"

The dratted boy rolled over so that his back was facing him and drew his knees to his chest. Closing his eyes and letting out a deep breath Severus realized that this was going to be harder than he thought. Already the boy was trying to push him away.

Getting up Severus moved around to the other side of the bed and then gently sat down on the edge so that the boy was facing him again. Gently, as if Harry was one of his snakes, Severus uncurled him by moving Harry's arms from around his face and his knees down to where they should be.

"Look at me Potter. I will not hurt you."

Harry continued to look down, but with the intense glare on him Harry felt he had no choice, but to look up into the deep obsidian eyes. To his shame, tears began to form in his eyes and he closed him tightly.

Sighing Severus pulled a potion stained handkerchief from his pocket and gently stuffed it in the boy's hands. "It's alright to let it out Potter. Take some deep breaths, I'm right here."

Harry gripped the handkerchief and remembered the last one that was handed to him. Sirius had given him one after a bad nightmare before school started. That was the last time anyone had shown him any care and he knew he hadn't deserved it. Just as he did not deserve it now.

Severus frowned as he saw the boy before him just grip the soft fabric in his hand tighter and close his squeeze his eyes closed, but no more tears came. Unsure of what to do next Severus sat there and watched the boy for a moment. Normally, his snakes would start crying now and then they would be alright after a while.

Uncomfortably, Severus did the only thing he could think of. He reached forward and placed a gentle hand on the boy's shoulder to show some comfort and didn't remove it when the boy flinched back.

"I know you are hurting Potter, it's alright to cry. Your Godfather meant a lot to you."

Harry violently shook his head and tried to pull his knees up to his chest again, but Severus stopped him with a soothing, but firm hand. He didn't want the boy closing himself off from the world again.

Harry was obviously upset at Severus's actions though. "No! Stop being nice to me! You're supposed to hate me. It's supposed to be easy watching you give up on me too! "

Severus didn't show it, but he was startled by the boy's statement. Did he really come off so strong that the boy thought he hated him?

"I don't hate you."

Harry opened his eyes in shock and searched the man's face for lies. When he didn't see any, he rolled over and turned his back to the man. Feelings he didn't want to feel were bubbling up in his chest and he didn't know how to manage them. Snape didn't hate him? How was that possible?

Severus let the boy roll over and moved his hand from Harry's shoulder to his back, but removed his hand completely when Harry filched more like he was hurt this time.

"Are you hurt? Do you want me to get Madam Pomfrey?"

Harry shook his head. He didn't want to speak with the nurse right now. In fact, he didn't want to talk with anyone. He just wanted everyone to leave him alone so that he could escape into the dark night. Maybe Voldemort would find him and finally finish him off.

Severus took a deep breath. "Professor Dumbledore has made arrangements for you to return home early so that you can heal from your loss. You need to tell me if this is a bad idea Potter, I'll fight for you if it is."

Harry stilled and stopped breathing, his heart was beating like mad. Was Snape implying that he knew? Was he really saying that his professor would fight for him to not go home? What was the man playing at? Was he looking for more ammunition to throw at him? Probably.

The potions professor saw his student stop breathing and then watched as his breaths started coming at a rapid pace. Remembering what his mother used to do when he was caught up in his panic Severus moved quickly to place an arm beneath Harry's knees and then another under his back. Carefully, he maneuvered the boy so that he was cradled in his arms and gently pressed the boy's head to his chest.

"Feel how I'm breathing child, and try to match it. Come on now, calm yourself down. Everything is alright."

As soon as the boy could no longer see black spots in his vision and he was able to calm down he looked around and saw exactly where he was. Embarrassed, Harry tried to struggle out of Severus's arms, but the man wasn't having it. He had the boy where he could see him and maybe talk with him and he wasn't going to let go until he had answers...even if he was uncomfortable in this unfamiliar position.

"No Potter, you are not going anywhere. I need you to answer my question. Is it safe for you to return home?"

Severus was now having serious doubts that going home was what Harry needed. A panic attack was not how you should respond to being asked if you would like to go home.

Harry brought his arms up to cover his face. He knew his face would betray him and he didn't want that. He wanted to lie and say he was fine to go back to the Dusrley's. That way as soon as he got there he could run away, he could be free.

Quickly Harry nodded his head and hoped that he was convincing, but had a feeling that it was otherwise.

Gently Severus removed the arms from the boy's face and looked him dead in the eyes. "I need a verbal answer Harry. Are you safe at home? "

"Y...ye...no"

He didn't know what came over him, but Harry couldn't lie. He just couldn't lie to those dark obsidian eyes. There was something there that prevented him.

Severus gave a quick nod and let go of the boy's arms. "Then you won't be going home. I'll find somewhere else for you to go. Maybe you would like to stay with the wolf? "

Harry froze and then shook his head.

Curiously Severus glanced down at the boy. "Why not?"

"H...he hates me."

Severus let out a small sigh, glad that Harry...Potter was opening up to him at least a little bit. This was far better than the boy rolling over and ignoring him with every question he asked. "That is not true Ha..Potter, I know for a fact the wolf cares for you very much."

Harry looked up at him with dull, tear filled eyes and shook his head. "I killed his best friend. How could be care for me after that?"

With that Harry took Severus by surprise and jumped out of his lap and was out the door a moment later in only his hospital issued pajamas. Stunned that the boy had run so fast, Severus sat there for a moment before he jumped up and sent a patronous to all the teachers letting them know that a student was on the loose.

When the message was sent out, Severus started running in the direction Harry was had headed at full force. He had a feeling the boy was going to hurt himself again and he didn't want that to happen.

Racing through the halls in his notice-me-not spell Severus searched for the boy high and low, but after an hour Severus slumped down against the wall not knowing where else to look. By now, the whole school was on alert and all the teachers were searching, but no one had even seen a clue of where the boy had gone and Severus had a sinking feeling in his chest.

With one last ounce of hope Severus pulled out his wand and cast a simple point me spell. He doubted it would work because of all the magic in the castle, but it was worth a shot. Much to his surprise his wand pointed outside to the dark forbidden forest.

His breath hitched in his chest as he thought of all the wild animals and dangerous creatures in that forest. Not to mention that if the boy was in there he was no longer in the wards that would protect him from death eaters.

"Potter, why do you do this to me?"

Severus jumped up and sent a message telling Albus where he was headed. He knew the man was worried and he wanted to prevent any further worrying when he couldn't find him. With that done, Severus rushed out the front doors and to the woods, hoping beyond all hope he would find the distraught boy before he did something stupid or someone or something else found him.

Running past Hagrid's Hut Severus bounded for the forest with his ward out and pointing to where he hoped the boy was. If his wand was wrong, then he didn't know what he was going to do. ...and since when did he care so much for this boy?

Shaking all those thoughts from his mind, Severus continued on through the forest and searched for the small boy. After a long while his wand stopped and spun in circles indicating he was just in front of his desired target, but he couldn't see the boy anywhere.

Closing his eyes, he cursed at himself, he knew the magic at Hogwarts messed with point me spells. So why had he even tried? He could have still been searching the castle and had found him by now. Sighing Severus started to turn, but out of the corner of his eye, he saw a flash of blue... the color of the boy's pajamas.

Causality, he called out to the boy. "Harry? "

A small figure popped his head up from an abandoned tree trunk nearby, but then hid itself again when he saw just who had called him. He wanted to be left alone in peace so he could cry...or wait for something to come and finish him off.

Relief filled through Severus's chest as he stepped forward and saw that the boy was unharmed. Looking at him closer he saw the tear tracks and slight shivering in the thin frame. It may be near summer, but the boy had gone out in only his thin pajamas and bare feet. He would have to check his feet to make sure he hadn't cut himself.

Striding forward Severus knelt down before the boy and gently placed a hand on the boy's shoulder making him flinch back.

"Let's go back inside Harry. Everyone's very worried about you."

Harry closed his eyes and buried his face in his knees. "I don't want them to worry about me, I want them to forget I exist."

Severus sat back on his bottom, resigned that he would be here for a while. He didn't want to take the boy back like this or else he was sure he would run again and he doubted he would be able to find him a second time...he was lucky he had found him this time.

"Why is that Harry? "

The boy let out a deep sob and shakily answered. "I hurt anyone I'm near. I kill people by just knowing them."

"Your Godfather's death was not your fault Harry. If anyone's, it was the Headmaster's and mine for not letting you know everything was under control. You were worried and went to save someone you loved."

Harry looked up from his knees. "Why are you calling me Harry?"

Taken by surprise, all Severus did was stare at the tear stained face for a moment. He hadn't even realized he had started calling the boy by his first name. Composing himself, Severus let out a small sigh. "I suppose it's because you are hurt and I don't want to frighten you."

The boy nodded and rested his head back on his knees. "Why are you the one chasing after me if everybody else cares so much? "

"They are still searching the castle for you. I believe Professor McGonagall almost had a heart attack when she heard you had run."

Surprised the boy looked up. "Really? "

Severus gave a soft nod. "Yes. Will you come back now? We can talk some place more comfortable...where we don't have to sit on hard rocks."

The boy let out a small smile and nodded, but was still wary of the man. He was only really agreeing because he was cold and tired...not that he trusted the man. That was surely not the warm gushy feeling in the bottom of his chest. That was not trust!

Slowly Severus reached forward and picked the boy up into his arms and hugged him close to his body. Feeling the coldness of the boy's body Severus took his robe off his shoulders and wrapped it around Harry as he stood up.

"Are you comfortable?"

Harry turned his head to bury his face in the man's ribs. He was fifteen for Merlin's sake! Way too old to be carried like this...but for some strange reason...it felt nice being cared like a little kid.

Looking down at the boy Severus sighed, knowing that it was going to take a lot of work to get the boy to actually open up. He pitied the poor soul who was stuck with that job. It was not going to be a fun task.

Pulling out his wand a little awkwardly Severus cast another notice-me-not spell around them so that no one would see him caring for the boy and then he started walking back to the castle.

When he reached the edge of the forest Severus stealthy made his way back up to the castle and then to the hospital wing. He did not however, bring Harry to the room he had last resided in. Instead, he walked into a room closer to Poppy's office.

Gently he sat Harry down on the bed placed inside and then turned to shut the door behind them. When he was sure that the door was shut tightly and the spells were activated he turned and sat down next to the boy on the bed and then gently began to explain his reasoning for the change of rooms.

"This is a safe room. You will be unable to walk out of here without someone accompanying you or hurt yourself in any way. We did not think this room was necessary before, but with that little stunt you just pulled I can see it is."

Harry looked down and wrapped his Professor's soft cloak around himself even tighter. He had not thought of what would happen if he had been forced to come back. In fact all he had thought as he was running was that he had to get away as fast as possable so they wouldn't catch him. Now that he was back though, he just didn't know what to think...or do.

Sighing, Severus moved off the bed and walked to the door. Before he left though, he turned and looked gentily at the boy. "I will be back Potter, but let me assure you, you will not be returning to your relatives again."

Looking up at the man with mixed emotions on his face the boy nodded. He was just so confused on what to feel. On one hand it was a relief to hear that he would never go back to that hell hole he had tried to call home all those years, but on the other hand he wanted to go there so he could suffer...he deserved it afterall.

Seeing the small nod Severus left the room and then sent a message to the other staff members so they would know Harry was back safe and sound. He then walked over to the nurse's office and knocked on the door. He wanted to make sure she knew Harry was here and he was in her capable hands again.

Poppy immediately came to the door and sighed the man in relief. "How is he? Did he injure himself any more?"

"He's cold and tired, but otherwise unharmed. I have to go speak with Albus about his summer arrangements."

The nurse's face softened. "So that's why he ran."

"Yes, so it seems. I put him in the warded room so he cannot run again. "

Severus then turned to go. He had shown too much emotion today, especially in front of the nurse. He was not about to show anymore.

Sadly Poppy watched him leave shaking her head. That man was always a mystery, but not to her. She knew that he cared more than he showed and the fact that he no longer had his cloak on showed that.

As soon as he left the hospital wing, she walked over to the closed door and entered quietly. Seeing the boy on the bed, clutching Severus's cloak around him Poppy smiled and walked over to sit where Severus had not long ago.

"Hi Harry. You gave us quite a scare there. We were all very worried about you."

The boy just held the soft material closer over his body and looked away. He hated this. He hated being in the hospital wing. Why had he ever agreed to come back here?

"Ok Harry, can you give me the cloak? You need to get changed out of those pajamas and then get warmed up."

Harry shook his head and looked away. He didn't want to give up the one thing someone had given him willingly.

"You can have it right back after we get you cleaned up. I'm not taking it away from you Harry."

Gently, and without the boy's consent Poppy cast a feather light charm on him and then picked him up in her arms. It was now time to take charge and stop pussy footing around. Harry had to warm up and she was going to make sure he did.

Mortified Harry hid his face in the cloak and tried to squirm away. It was no use, though. The nurse had a strong grip on him and he was weary. Somehow, when his professor had carried him it had felt comforting, a little mortifying, but mostly comforting. The nurse caring him like a little child, though, this was just plain embarrassing.

Carrying Harry to the bathroom Poppy set the boy down on the closed toilet lid and started running the bath water. "Don't worry dear. I won't give you a bath. If you have trouble, I will call Albus to help you."

The nurse then came over and gently unwrapped the cloak that was still around the boy. Harry protested, but was beginning to get tired and eventually gave up knowing he would never win. When the nurse wanted something done there was no stopping her.

When Poppy had placed the cloak on the counter and gathered a towel for Harry she came and knelt down of the boy. "There is some potion on the side of the tub there. I want you to pour it all into the bath once you are in and then try to relax. That potion will help you relax and hopefully start to fade some of your scars. Albus will be in, in a half hour to help you to bed. I want you to stay in the tub until then alright? "

Harry gave a tiny nod, knowing that somehow Poppy would know if he didn't follow her instructions. He didn't know how, but she always knew exactly what happened in her domain and always caught patients who didn't follow her instruction. She must have spells around letting her know what was going on at very moment.

Searching Harry's face Poppy eventually nodded. "Alright Harry, I'll leave you to it. Call if you need any help."

The boy nodded as he watched the nurse stood up and first turned off the faucet in the tub and then grab Severus's robe before leaving the room and shutting the door.

Sighing Harry looked over at the steaming water and then down at his hands. He knew if he didn't get in soon someone would come and check on him, he didn't want that, but at the same time his rebellious streak was telling him to defy his orders and just sit there.

The choice was taken from him a few minutes later though when Albus walked in the bathroom and shut the door softly behind him.

Harry looked down clearly embarrassed and wishing he had not waited so long to do as the nurse had asked.

Albus just smiled though and came to kneel before Harry. "Need some help son? I know this is embarrassing, but you need to hop in that bath. If you want, you can keep your shorts on."

Harry gave a small nod and let the man take his shirt off for him and then gently his pajama bottoms. He didn't know why he was so helpless right now. He just felt so tired and weak.

Here he was though. Fifteen years old and his Headmaster was helping in the tub and pouring a potion over his body. A thought hit him then. It shouldn't be Dumbledore helping him in the tub. This should be Sirius's job. Sirius should be here taking care of him...but he couldn't...because he had killed him. He had killed his own Godfather.

Tears filled Harry's eyes and he looked away from Albus as the man found a bath pillow for his head to rest on. When Harry's Headmaster came back though, and looked at the boy he let out a small sigh seeing the tears.

Gently he took the pillow and placed it behind the boy's head, but instead of retreating like Harry had expected, the man pulled up a stool near his head and sat on it. Tenderly the man stroked his fingers through the wet hair.

"Child." Albus sighed again and moved his hand down to wipe away some of the tears that had fallen. "I know you are grieving as we all are, but Sirius's death is not your fault."

Harry started to turn even further away, but with a quickly placed hand Albus stopped him. "No Harry, you need to hear me and hear me well. Sirius was ordered to stay at Grimmauld no matter what happened. He was an adult and made the decision to go to the Ministry. Despite what you might think, you are still just a child Harry and you could not have made that decision for him."

The boy looked up with anger in his eyes at Albus, but the man could see it was not aimed at himself, but inward. "But he was protecting me! He came to rescue me!" Then Harry looked down and began to speak more quietly, almost whispering. "The Dursley's were right all along, if I just hadn't been born...then everything would have been fine. I am a burden and I should just die. The world would be a better place without me."

Looking down at the boy in shock at what the boy believed Albus couldn't help it any longer, he would deal with Poppy's wrath later. Gently he reached down and scooped the underweight boy into his arms and hugged him close. He could have cared less that he was soaking his robes. He just wanted to hold his child that was so hurt, both outside and inside.

"Oh Merlin, Harry, never say that. You are not a burden to anyone, and so many people's lives would be so much worse without you. I know I don't show it the right way all the time, but I love and care for you so much my boy and have always tried to do the best for you. I am so sorry I left you with those people. I promise you I will figure out somewhere else for you to go for the summer. Just Harry, please don't give up. Don't lose your will to live, too many people love you...including me."

The last part of Albus's speech hit Harry hard and he now had his arms wrapped around Albus's neck and was crying hard into the man's soft robes. No one had ever told him that they loved him before. Sure Sirius had hinted at it, but he had never admitted it to him.

Albus stepped over a bit and then sat down on the closed toilet with the boy still in his arms. Gently he started to rub soothing circles on the boy's back and closed his eyes. He had never imagined his boy would be this hurt...and what exactly had those people done to him? Severus had told him that he should never go back there and had said that the scars Poppy had found were attributed to them...but it hadn't really hit him until now what that had meant.

"Shhh. It's alright Harry, just calm down. I'm right here and I have you, I will never leave you again. I will always be here for you."

Harry continued crying though, and didn't stop when the door opened to admit a worried looking nurse. She had placed a charm on the tub to let her know if Harry soaked long enough and was worried when the buzzer had gone off letting her know that Harry had gotten out. She knew Albus was in there, but still she worried when the alarm had gone off.

Seeing Harry in Albus's arms, she shared a look with the man and then left to retrieve something to help Harry calm down. When she returned, she gently stroked back Harry's hair and put the vial up to the boy's mouth.

"Can you drink this for me Harry? If you don't calm down you're going to make yourself sick."

Harry hiccuped and looked with tears flowing down his face at the nurse. Through blurry eyes, he saw the potion and opened his mouth when it was pressed against his lips to let the potion flow in.

"That's it Harry."

Just a few seconds after Harry gulped down the potion his crying changed drastically. Tears were still flowing freely, but the desperation behind them was gone. And then after a few minutes more Harry was just down to hiccuping every so often.

Albus just held him and tried to soothe the poor boy as much as he could. Severus had been right, as he always was.

Sighing Albus gently pulled Harry away from his shoulder so he could look at him in the eyes. Gently he took a washcloth and wiped the rest of the tears away, ignoring the flinch that came with the touch.

"Obviously, we need to talk." Albus gave the boy a slight smile and Harry returned it tentatively. "But, let's get you back in the bath and then into warm clothes first. Alright? "

Harry gave a small shaky nod, but then rested his head back on Albus's shoulder. Smiling Albus reached up and stroked back Harry's hair. "Or we can sit here for a few minutes first."

Poppy smiled and brought a towel over to drape over Harry's back.

The two sat there for a while. Thoughts flowing through both their minds, but the thoughts couldn't be any more different. Albus couldn't help looking down at his child and thinking of just how hurt he was. And Harry, his emotions were a mess. A large part of him was enjoying the closeness his Headmaster was giving him, but a small part of his brain was telling he wasn't worthy of this comfort, that a freak like him didn't deserve any kindness.

Eventually Harry calmed down and Albus pulled him back and gently wiped the tears from his face. "Are you ready to hop back in the bath tub? "

Harry gave a tiny nod, making Albus show him a smile. "Alright then, Poppy could you give us some privacy? "

The nurse nodded and then ducked out of the room, but not before leaving a small jar of cream on the counter and a nod to Albus. As soon as she left Harry visibly relaxed. He knew he had nothing to fear of the nurse, but he still didn't like her seeing him like this. In fact, he didn't like anyone seeing him like this, but he knew Dumbledore wasn't going to leave him alone.

Gently Albus removed the towel from Harry's back and then stood him up on unsteady feet. The man was very careful to keep a strong hand on the boy's arm so he wouldn't fall over as he led him over to the bathtub and then helped him inside.

When Harry laid down and the pillow was sitting comfortably behind his head Albus sat on the side of the tub and smiled gently down at the boy. When he had walked over to the tub he had snatched the jar of cream from the counter so now he opened the jar and took a liberal amount out. Smiling he nodded at Harry as if asking for permission and the boy slowly looked down nodding as well.

Tenderly Albus reached down and smeared the cream over the scar that ran from the top of Harry's ear all the way down to the bottom of his chin. Albus smiled at the boy as he smoothed the cream into his skin. "This should fade the scar so it is barely visible, it may take another application though. Madam Pomfrey was very nice giving this to you, I believe it is quite expensive."

Harry looked up at his Headmaster. "Expensive?"

Albus nodded. "I believe it is because it takes a very experienced potion master to create it, and there are only a handful who know how to make it."

The boy looked down ashamed and wondered in his head how to pay the kind nurse back. He had his vault at Gringotts, but he only had enough to cover his school fees for the rest of his schooling...he didn't have anything after that. He didn't even have enough for pocket money.

The old wizard saw Harry's internal struggle and frowned. "It is very fortunate that our Professor Snape is one of these skilled potion masters."

Harry loped up and Albus removed his hand and smiled at the boy. "You see, he makes this for Poppy every few weeks so she has a fresh supply for students like you."

Harry looked down again still resolved to try and pay the woman back somehow and now Professor Snape as well. He kept thinking about it too until Albus spoke up shaking him from his pensive state.

"I have a question for you Harry. I know this is soon for me to ask this, but have you given any thought to who you would like to stay with this summer? If you haven't that's fine, I'm just a curious old man."

Harry looked down at the freshly warmed water and shook his head. Who would want him after all?

"May I throw some options out there for you Harry? "

The boy looked up curiously and nodded. Was his Headmaster really serious about him not having to go back to the Dursley's? He thought he would never se the day he didn't have to go back to that place.

"I would have normally suggested Remus, because he loves you like his own, but his wolf has been a little unstable lately. So right now, I would recommend that you would consider either staying with Kingsley, Professor McGonagall, or Professor Snape."

Harry looked down again and considered his options. He had met Kingsley a few times and quite liked being around the man, but he still didn't know him that well. Then Professor McGonagall, he didn't think he would want to live with a woman...no offense to her...its just he didn't think he would be comfortable. Snape, was the only other option...but didn't the man hate him? ….his thoughts then drifted back to the short time he had just spent with the man. Strangely, he had felt comfortable in the man's arms and comforted... even when he had picked him up and scolded him in the forest. Would the man mind him around? Harry mentally shook his head, though, of course he wouldn't.

Even with those thoughts, Harry looked up hopefully at the man before him. He could at least try, right? "Professor Snape?"

Gently Albus smiled down at the boy. "Is that a question or answer Harry? "

Harry looked down and made a move to turn over to look at the wall, but Albus stopped him with a gentle hand on the shoulder. "I'm just teasing you Harry. I think Severus would make an excellent guardian for you."

Harry blushed and nodded.

Smiling Albus took a clean washcloth from the shelf beside him and handed it to the boy. "Make sure you wash up nice and good Harry and don't forget to use soap!"

Harry quickly washed up under the watchful eye of his Headmaster and while he would never admit it, he kind of liked being taken care of like this. He had never had an adult make sure he was clean before. His Aunt had just stuck up her nose at him and let him smell when he was young. It wasn't until he was at least six before he had a proper bath and that was at school when the nurse said she couldn't stand him smelling like that anymore, but she had just filled the tub and left him alone in the bathroom not really sure what to do. Eventually, he had figured it out, but still he wished she had stayed behind and helped him...maybe then she would have seen the scars.

When the half an hour of soaking was over Albus gently helped a tired Harry out of the bath and into a warm fluffy towel. The man then took the pajamas and shorts the nurse had left on the counter and placed them on the closed toilet seat so Harry could reach them easier.

"I'll give you some privacy now Harry, but I want you to call me if you need any help. I"ll be right outside the door."

Harry gave a small nod and then watched as the man left the room and closed the door behind him. Sighing the boy dried off as best as he could and then grabbed the shorts that were on top of the pile.

Tiredly he replaced the new shorts with the wet ones and then leaned against the counter and closed his eyes. Why was he so tired?

Gaining his footing again, Harry slipped on the pajama pants and then the shirt, but he had to sit down on the closed toilet seat before he could button up the top because he didn't want to fall down. Leaning back Harry rested his head on the wall behind him and closed his eyes.

A moment later, Harry felt gentle hands buttoning up his top and then picking him up and carrying him somewhere. He didn't care though. All he knew was that he wanted to sleep.

Gently Albus placed the boy down underneath the sheets on the bed. Taking the boy's glasses and setting them on the bedside table Albus pulled the sheets up and then took a place on the edge of the bed.

"You're such a good boy Harry. Sleep well Child."

Reaching up Albus brushed back Harry's hair from his forehead gently and then got up. He had things to do, and one of those was making sure Severus would take the boy in. He was really the only safe option for the boy after the Dursley's, but that option was out of the picture.

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