"He's doing it again, mate," said Fred, taking a seat at Harry's left, his twin beside him. Harry looked up from the dish he'd been deliberately focusing on.
"Snape, that is," clarified George, nodding towards the head table as he filled his plate. The younger boy stiffened, but didn't look.
"Staring," Fred elaborated.
"Wouldn't say he looks angry, though..."
"More like you're some sort of rare species – or a puzzle, perhaps."
"Or maybe, he's trying to figure out how many potion ingredients he can cut you into," George offered.
"Gee, thanks," muttered Harry, glancing towards the far end of the hall as the professor in question looked the other way. Just what he wanted to be thinking about before a Quidditch match. Harry couldn't imagine what had gotten into the man. The school year had been uneventful for once: classes were going fine, no house elves had found it necessary to endanger his life in a misdirected attempt to help him, and the Defense teacher was competent, for once.
Then, the Staring began. It wasn't all the time, or even every day (that he knew of), but Professor Snape – the one teacher he absolutely despised – had taken to staring at him. And not with his usual malice, either, though, that still presented itself. No, Snape had taken to gazing at him in apparent bemusement, as if – as the twins noted – trying to figure something out. Harry himself had first noticed it a week ago, but if Fred and George were to be believed, it had started as early as the previous Thursday.
With a sigh, Harry turned back to his meal as the rest of the Gryffindor team arrived, listening to Oliver Wood while he went over how important this Quidditch season was for the millionth time since school began. At the table behind him and at the far end of the Great Hall, the Hufflepuff team was having a similar session. Harry just wished the game would start already so he could clear his mind of all but one thing: catching the Golden Snitch.
Snape watched intently as Potter fixed his gaze on a dish of fruit in front of him. It was as though the boy had noticed the scrutiny directed upon him and was trying to ignore it. Of course he's noticed, a voice in the back of his head retorted. You keep staring at the child, for Merlin's sake. And you call yourself a Slytherin? Two identical redheads joined the dark-haired student and Severus knew that if Harry hadn't noticed his occasional glances before, he certainly would now. The Weasley twins missed nothing. Bloody Gryffindors...
About a half hour after the day's competing Quidditch teams had left the Great Hall, the rest of the school wended its way down to the Pitch. Snape took a seat in the staff box, frowning mildly at the excited chattering that filled the surrounding stands. The Potions Master enjoyed a good match as much as the next wizard, but he would never understand the obsessive fervor of some. It was entertaining, of course, but it was a game, after all – and a recklessly dangerous one, at that.
Snape settled back in his seat, expecting a relatively short game. Loathe though he was to admit it, the Gryffindor team was rather good, whereas the Hufflepuffs were marginal, at best. Furthermore, the Diggory boy was simply no match for Potter as a Seeker. Few people were, though Snape would never say so, and especially not to the boy in question.
Speaking of said boy...
Harry circled lazily above the Pitch, eyes methodically flicking about for a familiar glint of gold. It was a nice day, if a bit chill. The rest of the team played below while across the field, flying in a circle lower than his, was Cedric Diggory. The older boy caught his gaze and flashed a genial smile before returning to his own search for the snitch.
The score was 40-10, for Gryffindor, when Harry thought he saw light reflect off the elusive winged ball. He didn't react, not wishing to tip off the other Seeker. Just as he was about to feint in order to draw Cedric away before pursuing the Snitch himself, the Hufflepuff also spotted the object of their search and darted towards it. They raced forward to be the first to claim the little ball, but a bludger caused both boys to steer off course and the Snitch was lost again.
Hissing in frustration, Harry eventually went back to his search, allowing his mind to wander. Unbidden, his Potions professor's odd behavior floated to the surface of his thoughts. It didn't make sense, really. Snape had had his mind made up about him before his first class – what on earth would he have to figure out, now?
Maybe the man assumed he must be plotting some sort of mischief. If that were the case, he'd be sorely disappointed. Harry hadn't done anything worse than sneak to the kitchens after curfew a few times and, provided things continued as they had so far, he intended to keep it that way.
Harry turned to send the man a challenging look and was rather disconcerted to meet his fierce black gaze. Before he even had a chance to shudder, however, Cedric shot past him and a single glance confirmed that he was, in fact, following the Snitch. Pulling his broom about, Harry flew after him in hot pursuit.
Jerking like a six-year-old on a sugar high, the Snitch zipped back and forth ahead of the two boys, causing them to make a zigzag path through the air as they both moved to compensate. They were just flying over the center of the Pitch when the bludger Fred had sent skywards at one of the Hufflepuff chasers came tearing back down.
"CED!" one of the boy's teammates screamed out in warning as George hit the second bludger towards him. Seeing the danger coming from behind him, Cedric jerked up and to the side, colliding with Harry just as his fingers were about to close around the Snitch. The Gryffindor was knocked off-course... and right into the path of the descending bludger.
Pain tore through Harry's arm as the ball slammed against it before smashing through the front of his Nimbus. The boy was thrown down and forward with enough speed to catch the bludger Cedric had dodged in the chest, effectively tearing him completely away from his ruined broom. Unable to draw in a breath for the sudden pain, Harry had the distinct sensation of plummeting towards the earth before everything went blissfully black.
"The boy could have been killed, falling from such a height!" Madame Pomfrey scolded. "Headmaster, I've told you time and time again that if you must allow the children to continue playing such a dangerous sport, there ought to be better precautions to keep them safe!"
"Of course, my dear," Dumbledore responded, not even trying to hide the fact that he was humoring her, then repeated his original question. "How is Harry?"
The mediwitch frowned. "He's broken his arm again," she answered as though she thought it was his fault, "and cracked a few ribs. Fortunately, that pompous idiot Lockhart wasn't around to remove his bones again. He'll be back to school again by Monday.
"Ah. That's very good to hear," Dumbledore smiled.
"I'm serious, Albus," she told him reprovingly. "If the two of you hadn't intervened, that would not be the case." Her gaze softened minutely as it fell on the younger of the two men before she turned and disappeared into her office.
"That was some rather quick thinking on your part, my boy," the headmaster commended, directing his attention to Severus. "After all, if you hadn't acted to slow Harry's fall, I doubt my cushioning charm would have succeeded in keeping him from further harm."
"I merely provided my assistance when I realized the boy was in danger," Severus uttered dismissively.
"Yes, of course," Albus agreed, his eyes twinkling with great amusement. "Your intervention was uncannily prompt. Almost as though you'd been keeping a close eye on the boy."
"Nonsense," Snape denied. "It was mere coincidence."
"Ah." Damned smug, twinkly-eyed old fool. "I meant to ask, Severus, did you ever get a chance to read the book I loaned you?"
Severus glared at him.
Dumbledore beamed. "Thought you might have."
"I am convinced of nothing," he growled.
"I wouldn't expect anything else. One must not leap to conclusions, after all." The man's eyes declared otherwise as he clapped the younger wizard on the shoulder. "Well, I must be off. Do come join me for tea, sometime."
Severus watched him leave the hospital wing before his gaze was slowly drawn back to the one occupied bed in the ward. The bloody brat had nearly given him a heart-attack. Didn't he know to watch where he was going?
"Severus? Did you need anything?" Madame Pomfrey asked in concern. She'd had thought he'd be gone already.
"No, Poppy," the Potions Master replied. "I was just... thinking."
"Oh?" she prompted.
"Yes. I wonder... do you still keep samples for all the students?"
The woman's eyes narrowed shrewdly. "The ones I end up treating. Why?"
"No reason," Snape answered noncommittally as Potter's friends finally returned to visit (Pomfrey had shooed them out earlier). "Good day, Poppy."
"Good day." Poppy stared after his retreating back for a moment. Of all the odd things for the boy to ask about... The woman gazed speculatively over to her ward as he finally roused to consciousness. "Severus Snape," she murmured quietly to herself, "how decidedly un-Slytherin of you..."
"Harry, you're awake!" a voice exclaimed.
Well, that was quite apparent, now, wasn't it? That was what Harry thought as he slowly opened his eyes. What he actually said sounded more like, "Ngh." He squinted against the brightness of the sterile world surrounding him and groaned at the familiar setting.
"You alright, mate? You had everyone real worried."
"Wha' happened?" Harry mumbled. He fumbled on the bedside table for his glasses and pushed them onto his nose left-handed as it seemed his right arm was in some sort of sling.
"You were hit by a bludger," Hermione replied, her concern clear on her face.
"You were hit by both bludgers," Ron clarified.
Harry looked from one to the other. "Ouch," he said as the last few minutes before he blacked out filtered back into his mind.
"No kidding," Ron fervently agreed.
"Why was Professor Snape here?" Hermione wondered aloud as the man left the room.
"You don't think he was visiting Harry, do you?"
"Professor Snape is one of the teachers that prevented Mr. Potter from breaking his neck," Madame Pomfrey interjected before the three Gryffindors could further speculate. The two boys wore matching looks of incredulity while Hermione frowned. When his friends sent him questioning looks, Harry could only shrug. He didn't know the reason Snape had helped him, either.
"Sev?"A flash of red hair, of emerald eyes glittering with mischief. "Sev?"
"Severus Snape," came a melodic voice from a few meters away. He looked up from his book, closing it and turning in the large windowsill so his feet hung over the floor. A Gryffindor prefect gazed back at him, rich coppery locks caressing the girl's shoulders and falling over the fur collar of her winter cloak. She'd obviously just come from outside, for her cheeks were still flushed from the cold.
"Lily Evans," he spoke evenly – musical laughter, Lily twirling about girlishly, a crown of pink and yellow flowers clashing with her lovely, red hair.
Lily pointed to the place beside him. "Mind if I sit?"
A small, red-haired girl stood in the doorway to the compartment. "Mind if I join you? Everywhere else is full."
He tilted his head in invitation and the girl immediately closed the distance between them and hopped up to sit next to him. "Can you believe we're already halfway through our last year?" Lily asked. "Time really does fly."
"Some might feel that the time has passed slowly enough," he responded. She gave him an almost sympathetic look.
"Guess you're right," Lily spoke softly, then continued after a moment. "Y'know, when I first met you, I was so certain you'd be my best friend. Then we ended up in different houses. I'm sorry I didn't get to know you better."
I'm in love with a Death Eater!
"I'm sorry." Sorry...
She was walking away at Potter's side, her words still hanging in the air.. "I'm sorry, Sev." He hates me.
What do I do?
He was surprised. Beautiful, intelligent Lily Evans wanted to know him? "I'm sorry, too," he admitted. It had been hard to utter the words, but he was rewarded by a brilliant smile.
"It's not too late, y'know," she told him. "I'd love to get to know you."
… Love... "Love you."
"I love you, Sev." Sev?
"Sev!" Satin skin pressed against his, the taste of her lips on his... "Miss me?" Do you miss me..?
I am in love.
"...if I thought it mattered to you..."
"I told you to LEAVE. Leave. I don't have room in my life for a mudblood." Filth. Mudblood.
"Severus, I..." Pale hands pressed together, palms scraping frantically...
"Severus, there's something I want to tell you..." Lily wrapped her arms tightly around her middle protectively. Her gaze burned as it pierced through his left sleeve.
"I'm going to marry James Potter."
She was hiding something from him, her eyes so clearly gave her away... but then he was no longer looking into Lily's face, but that of her child, his expression momentarily hurt before going completely blank. I'll protect my – him at any cost.
He was at the Quidditch Pitch, again. I hope he looks like his father – Lily's child was struck by the bludgers, one after the other – just a bit. A small form tumbled from the sky...
Severus Snape jerked awake, fighting out of the bedclothes tangled from his tossing. It had been years since he'd dreamed of Lily – why couldn't it have been a pleasant one?
Swinging his legs over the side of the bed, he made his way out to his favorite chair in front of the fireplace. Pinching the bridge of his nose, the Potions Master again came to the conclusion that he had to know, and soon. Being uncertain of Harry Potter's relation to him was liable to drive him out of his mind. He just wasn't sure if it'd be best to try to get some of Madame Pomfrey's sample of the boy or to get something from him in class.
Blood would be the most accurate, of course, but the mediwitch's stores were all meticulously warded – as Severus himself knew quite well. On the other hand, he certainly didn't want the brat to know what he was up to. It was against the man's nature to do anything slipshod, however, thus, his dilemma.
Severus was slipping, he knew he was, but even still, had he known what his earlier flub had led a certain witch to investigate several floors above him, he would have been horrified.