The blackness of unconscious slumber faded to dark gray haze. Somewhere to his right, the boy could hear the crackling of a fire, and to his left was a cushioned vertical surface. Upon opening his eyes, he identified it as the back of a sofa. But whose?
Sitting up, he soon located his glasses. Someone – likely the same person who had covered him with a blanket – had left them on the coffee table for him to find. He looked about him curiously, his mind still a bit fuzzy from sleep.
The room was sparsely decorated. Apart from the sofa he woke up on, there was the coffee table and two armchairs: one green to match the couch and the other tan. A large rug was spread out beneath the furniture, a green and blue pattern set on its beige background. Several frames stood on the mantel, but only two of them appeared to be pictures. One corner of the room was taken up by a small, open kitchenette, and a bookshelf stood against one wall.
As he took in his surroundings, his mind finally came back to the question regarding his current location. Now that he was more awake, a plausible response presented itself by means of a rather embarrassing recollection in which he threw himself at Snape and bawled like a baby.
These must be his quarters, Harry thought. He wondered which of the six doors would lead to the corridor, but decided that snooping was probably a bad idea. The Potions Master was nowhere in sight, however, and only one of the doors – the one to the right of the floo – was open. Rising to his feet, he slowly made his was towards it, hesitating before looking into the room.
Movement at the edge of his vision caused Severus to look up from the texts he was cross-referencing. Harry, who'd been peeking around the door frame, stepped fully into the room, but remained near the door. The boy's hair was messier than he'd even seen it and his clothes were slightly rumpled. He shifted nervously under the Potions Master's gaze.
"You're up early," Snape noted, then winced internally. He should have said "Good morning."
"I'm used to it," Harry responded. He couldn't remember a time he'd felt so awkward. Images of him clinging to his professor kept replaying in his mind. He didn't know how long he cried, and he certainly didn't recall falling asleep. A slight flush crept up his neck as he realized the man probably carried him.
Snape narrowed his eyes a bit at the boy's reply. "I don't doubt that you are," he uttered in a soft tone that boded ill for the Dursleys.
Harry bit his lip for a moment before taking a hesitant step forward. "Sir, yesterday, when you were asking about th-the Dursleys and you read my mind... how did you do that?" he queried, his curiosity overcoming his discomfiture.
The Potions Master leaned back in his chair, resting his elbows on the arms of it, his hands steepled in front of him. "I wondered when you might ask about that," he stated. He sighed, then ran a hand through his hair. "It's a bit of mind magic called Legilimency. With it, one can delve into the mind of another, though, I was only skimming the thoughts brought to the surface of your mind by my questions. I was surprised that you were able to sense my probing, actually. That may be indicative of a latent talent for Occlumency – the art of defending your mind against external penetration. It's an ability you well might have inherited from me.
"Even so," he continued, "I... should not have intruded in such a way without your permission. Nor should you have lied to me." He allowed a reproving frown to overtake his features at this last statement.
"I know," Harry said meekly, pushing aside the twinge of anger he felt at having had his privacy invaded. He had lied, after all, and his embarrassment at being caught at it was currently greater than his irritation.
"I will not tolerate you lying to me, Harry," Snape sternly told him. "I will not use Legilimency to ensure you are telling the truth, but if I catch you lying to me again, there will be consequences. Have I made myself clear?"
"Yes, sir," the boy answered, squirming uncomfortably at the thought of the promised 'consequences' and what they might be.
After addressing his own use of Legilimency – which he would use should he feel the situation warranted it – and Harry's apparent penchant for lying, Severus didn't know what to say next. Patently, neither did Harry as they both fell into an awkward silence. Was there something else he ought to say to the boy? Should he bring up last night again?
Looking at the clock, the man decided that Harry should probably go get ready for class, especially since he undoubtedly had homework he hadn't finished before crying himself to sleep the previous day. Rising to his feet, he moved around his desk and out the door, motioning Harry to follow. He walked until they were near the center of the room, behind the sofa.
"My study is off-limits unless I am in there," he said, indicating the room they had just exited, before pointing to the door to the left of the floo. "What is in my bedroom is strictly none of your business," he pointed to the first two doors in the wall adjacent to that, "the lavatory and the library – both of which you are free to enter. If you damage any of my books, however, you will be sorry." Snape waved a hand at the third door in that wall, "That is my private lab. You are not to go in there unless I specifically tell you otherwise."
Harry nodded towards the last door, which was adjacent to the one leading to the lab. "Does that door lead to the corridor?" he guessed.
"Yes," Snape confirmed. They fell quiet again, so he said, "You are welcome to visit me here, or in my office, whenever you like. For now, you'd best return to your dormitory and get ready for the day, make sure all your assignments are done."
"Okay," Harry replied, then quickly amended, "I mean, yes, sir." He scurried to the door, wondering how the man knew he hadn't finished his homework. It was still early, though, so he should be able to get it finished before the end of breakfast. He opened the door.
"Harry." Harry jumped, surprised to find that his professor had followed him to the door. "Have a... good day."
Harry couldn't help it. He stared at the man for a good two or three minutes. Finally, he offered an uncertain smile. "You, too, sir."
Severus watched until the boy rounded the corner up the hall before closing the door behind him, allowing himself a faint smile of his own.
Up the corridor perpendicular to the one Harry had just taken, another leaned back into the alcove behind a suit of armor. The boy let his head fall back against the wall, then intentionally knocked his skull against it several more times. His eyes were scrunched shut, fists clenched tightly, and he was completely overridden with jealousy.
"It's not fair!" Draco hissed, pounding both fists against the stone on either side of him. "It's not fair..."
Harry had just cleared the portrait hole when he was tackled by his best friend. Caught off-guard, he was unable to keep them both upright and they tumbled unceremoniously to the floor.
Hermione gripped him firmly by the collar. "Harry, where were you? You never came back yesterday and nobody was even sure where you went. At first, I thought you were skiving off our study session for our test in Charms today, but then it got time for curfew and you still weren't here. You didn't say anything to Ron or me. I even went to tell McGonagall that you weren't here and that I was afraid something might have happened to you, even though Ron thought we oughtn't say anything. She said that you wouldn't be coming back to the dorm last night, but she wouldn't tell us what happened to you. So, I spent half the night awake, wondering if you were okay. Are you okay? Did something happen? What were you doing all this time?"
The girl had spoken so quickly that Harry could only really make out the last question, so he answered that one. "Sleeping," he said.
Her hands immediately released his collar as her jaw dropped open in an expression of utter incredulity. "What?" she exclaimed. She pushed herself up as Ron came to help them both to their feet. "Ron and I have been worried sick about you all night, and you were sleeping?" She made it sound like some sort of heinous crime.
"I wouldn't say I was worried sick, really," Ron said. Hermione sent him a scathing look. "But, I was a bit concerned, mate. I mean, you usually tell us when you're going somewhere by yourself."
"Sorry about that," Harry told them. "But I really was sleeping. Well, mostly... I, uh, went to ask Snape if he'd sign my permission slip to go into Hogsmeade and ended up sleeping on his couch."
"Snape let you sleep on his couch?" Ron asked in disbelief.
Harry blushed, then mumbled something incoherent.
"I said, 'I sorta cried myself to sleep,'" he admitted miserably.
"Why?" Hermione questioned in alarm.
"Did that git say something awful to you?" Ron demanded.
"No!" Harry exclaimed. "He didn't, alright? But I don't wanna talk about it."
"But, Harry -"
"Just drop it, Hermione. Please!"
Frowning unhappily, the girl complied. Ron scratched his head, feigning disinterest in the abandoned topic. Finally, Harry heaved a sigh.
"I gotta go get ready," he said.