Author's Note: Well, thanks so much to all of you who have come along for the ride! I have had enormous fun writing this story and indulging myself in all your delicious feedback.

I am strongly considering writing a sequel to The Guiltless, if anyone is interested-mostly because I found myself writing Harry's reply to Snape's letter, but not having room for it in this chapter. It seems like a good beginning for another story. So if you'd like to see it, do tell me.

As this is the last chapter, it is also a bit longer than the rest. I do hope it is not an unsatisfying conclusion for you.

Ta!

Branwyn

(PS-Some of you have asked me "why was Snape off to the Hufflepuff common room at the end of the last chapter?" I thought I'd made it plain, but in case I didn't, it's because that's where Madam Pomfrey went after leaving the infirmary, to tend an outbreak of dragonpox among the Hufflepuff third year girls. Snape had to visit Hufflepuff...Cellar, is it? to fetch her back.

Hope that clears it up.)

The first thing Harry Potter sees when he opens his eyes is an ample bosom in starched white robes hovering a few inches above his face, as the figure attached to it presses a hand to his forehead and mutters to itself in a low voice. It sounds so irritated that, if not for the anatomical discrepancy, he would immediately have suspected Snape. Only if it was Snape leaning over my bed, there'd probably be a pillow over my nose and mouth, he thinks, and is surprised by the stab of guilt that follows immediately on the heels of that thought.

That's not right, he realizes, closing his eyes again as the sleepy fog cushioning his brain begins to dissolve and a hundred sharp, bright, hurtful memories from the afternoon rush back into his consciousness, making him long for the restful darkness of sleep again. Snape's not...Snape anymore.

Tired and muzzy as he is, Harry can easily imagine what Snape would say in reply if he were to make the mistake of voicing a thought like that out loud. But how else to say it? For six years now, he'd thought he'd known a man called Snape: cruel, incapable of sympathy, or kindness—towards Harry, at least. Whereas now...

Of all the people Harry would have preferred to learn the truth of what had happened to him at the Dusleys, Snape was definitely last on the list. Not even Voldemort was as far down it as Snape. Voldemort, after all, didn't see him in class three times a week, and Harry didn't have to call Voldemort 'sir' and be respectful no matter what vicious things he said to him.

But then, if Harry had known yesterday that Snape would find out, he would have imagined a very different kind of reaction from him than the one he had got. He would have expected mockery and contempt, or at least a drawling observation in the style of Draco Malfoy: I do feel so sorry for those people whose home lives are as pathetic as their performance in my classroom...

But it hadn't gone like that at all. Far from dismissing him with a gibe or a sneer, Snape had dragged the whole story out of him in excruciating detail. Unwillingly, Harry remembers how Snape had looked as he listened to Harry talk about his life with the Dursleys—how the same eyes that had so often gazed at him with loathing or malice had widened in horror, then narrowed in fury, all in the space of a few seconds before their expression grew once more shuttered and impenetrable. The way Snape had looked during those first few unguarded moments had reminded Harry of nothing so much as how Sirius had looked that night two years ago, when he'd seen the gash Wormtail had cut into Harry's arm—not just angry, but outraged that someone had hurt him.

And he had healed him. Harry hadn't realized how much pain he was in until Snape's salves and balms began to do their work and he'd felt the muscles in his arms unclench for the first time in weeks. Snape actually touching him without recoiling in disgust was another thing Harry never thought he'd ever see, but Snape hadn't betrayed any distaste or hesitation; he'd been brisk, businesslike, but very careful not to cause him any more pain. He'd done such a good job, in fact, that Madam Pomfrey hadn't done more than raise an eyebrow at Harry when he arrived in the hospital wing—he'd told her he'd fallen off his broom, a story she never would have accepted if she'd seen what he looked like an hour before.

And then, afterwards...Snape had returned with Dumbledore to see him after visiting with Uncle Vernon—what Harry wouldn't give to have been a fly on the wall during that conversation—and Snape had stayed after Dumbledore left to talk to him. Harry remembers that much, but he'd gone more than a bit fuzzy towards the end of that conversation, and now he can't recall what they had been talking about. This bothers Harry—he has the dim notion that it had been important, whatever Snape had been saying to him, but somehow he doubts Snape would repeat it if he asked him.

I should really thank him, Harry thinks, feeling another odd stab of pain in his chest. If he's even still here. I guess I could go to his office, if he's left already—only he told me last year never to set foot there again. Maybe I should go anyway, give him an excuse to hex me good and proper—he'd probably enjoy that more than a thank-you note...

Harry opens his eyes again and blinks from behind his glasses, contemplating his position. The white-robed figure, which his now-fully-awake brain has identified as Madam Pomfrey, is still leaning over to him in such a way that if he moves at all, he'll be earning himself a slap. He opens his mouth to speak instead, finding his mouth dry and his tongue thick.

"Whuh—whuzz happening?" he manages, after swallowing a few times.

At the sound of his voice, Madam Pomfrey straightens immediately, much to Harry's relief. She takes a step back and begins to scowl down at him, tapping her finger against the rim of an empty potions vial as she does so.

"'What's happening', Mr Potter," she begins, in a lecturing tone, "is what is bound to happen when you ignore my instructions after ingesting several volatile and highly reactive potions." Her nostrils flare in irritation. "Exactly what part of 'drink this in half an hour' was too complicated for you to understand? As much time as you have spent in my care since you came to this school, I should have thought I could rely on your common sense by now."

Harry hasn't got the time to do more than blush in response to this—he doesn't remember Madam Pomfrey telling him to drink anything, but he's not about to admit he wasn't paying attention—when a second voice, speaking from the other side of the room, preempts him.

"You're mistaken, Poppy, if you believe Potter ever uses what sense he does possess for his own benefit," Snape drawls. "He is far too noble to waste that meager commodity on himself. He keeps it in reserve for when people need rescuing."

That's practically a compliment, for Snape, Harry thinks wonderingly to himself, even as Madam Pomfrey turns on her heel, hands flying to her hips. Now that she is no longer blocking the view, Harry can see Snape leaning against the opposite wall of the infirmary, slightly hunched, his arms crossed over his chest.

"That's enough of your cheek, Severus Snape," Madam Pomfrey tells him, and at her chastising tone Snape suddenly looks younger than Harry has ever thought of him as being. "I notice you didn't bother to remind him, and it's not as though you had just taken a full dose of my strongest pain-relieving draught."

Harry finds himself tensing automatically for the explosion that is sure to follow; but to his amazement, Snape does not lash out. Instead, he nods, and when he speaks his voice is quite calm.

"You are perfectly right, Madam," he says. "I apologize for my carelessness."

There is a tone of such weariness in Snape's voice that Harry immediately tries to prop himself up on his elbow for a better look at the man, but Madam Pomfrey rounds on him instantly.

"Oh no you don't," she says, placing her palm flat against his chest and pushing him back down again. "You will remain horizontal, or you will suffer my displeasure. I trust," she adds, addressing Snape again, "that you will see to it, this time."

"I cannot linger," Snape says, stepping away from the wall and squaring his shoulders. "But I spotted Miss Granger hovering outside the door a moment ago, and I'm certain she can be relied upon to enforce your edicts."

"Hermione?" Harry says, and, unthinkingly, attempts to sit up again, only to be thwarted a second time by the increasingly irritable matron.

"Lie still, or I'll send them packing," she says in a voice of low warning.

"Miss Granger, Mr Weasley, and Miss Lovegood are yet outside in any case, Potter," says Snape. "I'll send them in to you on my way out. If that is acceptable?" he adds, with a glance at Madam Pomfrey.

She nods. "But for no more than ten minutes."

"I will inform Miss Granger," Snape says, and without another word or backwards glance he sweeps out through the tall double doors. Harry cranes his neck from his pillow to watch him go, a strange, sinking feeling in his chest.

So that was it, then. Nothing more, no sign or indication from his teacher to indicate that anything that had happened in the last few hours had changed things between them. Harry knows it's stupid of him to feel bad about that, so he tells himself it's just the potions, making him sleepy, making him think and feel things he ordinarily wouldn't.

He lies there quietly a moment longer, before he hears whispering and muffled footsteps approaching his bed. He shuts his eyes—until Ron's voice, coming from a few feet away, startles them open again.

"Merlin's pants, Harry," he says, in a wondering voice. "What'd Snape do to you?"

Harry restrains a groan and keeps his eyes trained on the ceiling. He had forgotten how it would look to his friends, him disappearing into Snape's office for hours, only to turn up in the hospital wing afterwards. And now he'll have to set them straight, which will mean telling them what really happened. This is not a conversation he is looking forward to.

"Oh, don't be stupid," says Hermione immediately, for which Harry could have kissed her, as it saves him the trouble of saying it himself. "Of course it wasn't Snape—was it, Harry?" she adds, a bit uncertainly.

"But he was fine!" Ron says, rounding on her, before Harry has a chance to answer. "And now he's in the hospital wing! Who else could it have been?"

So far, they've been standing a few feet back, too far away for Harry to see them without sitting up or craning his neck uncomfortably. But then Luna walks away from them, up to the edge of Harry's bed. She angles a hip onto the mattress and perches there lightly. Harry meets her eyes.

"I don't think you were," she says quietly. "Fine before, that is. Were you?"

Harry blinks up at her, less in surprise than in recognition of her sad, knowing look. Of course, he thinks. Of course Luna would realize before anyone. She knows more, sees more clearly than anybody Harry has ever known—except for Snape, maybe.

"No," he admits, keeping his eyes on Luna, ignoring Ron and Hermione's gazes. "No, I wasn't fine."

A rustling noise, and then Ron and Hermione are standing over him as well. "What do you mean?" Ron demands. "Who blacked your eye then, if not Snape?"

Most of Harry's bruises are gone now, including the ones around his neck. But Snape hadn't healed the black eye, and neither had Madam Pomfrey—she had told him, when he asked, that it wasn't safe to use magic there when his eyes were already weak.

"I got it over the summer," he tells Ron. "I just kept it hidden."

"What," says Ron, sounding faintly scandalized, "with—makeup, or something?"

"A glamor," says Harry and Hermione at the same time. Harry looks inquiringly at her, and she blushes.

"I could tell it was there," she says, sounding apologetic. "I'm sorry, but it wasn't a very good glamor, Harry. I just thought you were—well, hiding a spot, or something."

"Right," says Harry, flushing. Ron, however, still looks incredulous, as though, in his opinion, glamors are barely a step up from makeup.

"Where'd you learn to do a glamor?" he demands.

"Those Defense books Sirius and Remus gave me last Christmas," says Harry. "There was a whole section on magical concealment and disguise."

As always, mention of Sirius' name automatically dampens the tension in the room. Nobody seems to want to be the first to speak afterwards. The four of them sit in silence for a moment, and Harry is grateful for it, though he knows that any second now the conversation is going to take a turn in the direction he least wants it to.

Predictably enough, it is Hermione who brings it up, a curious look of mingled resolution and hesitation on her face. Her voice, when she speaks, is quiet, tentative.

"Those bruises..." she says. "Was it—did your uncle do it, Harry? Did he—hit you?"

In a way, it is a relief to simply be able to reply to a question, instead of having to come up with a way of saying it on his own. "Yeah, he did," he says, in the least emotional, most matter-of-fact tone he can muster. Then he glances over at Luna again, who hasn't said anything for a minute or two. She meets his eyes and gives him a smile that is somehow both sad and encouraging.

A moment of silence follows—then Ron swears loudly, and kicks the empty chair where Snape had been sitting a few hours before. It topples over and skitters across the smooth stone floor.

"Keep it down, Ron," Hermione hisses. "Madam Pomfrey will have us out!"

But Ron doesn't seem to notice her. "So that's what all that 'I've got to do my Potions essays, I don't have time for Quidditch' rubbish was about this summer," he says, his face growing red. "You were too sore to sit a broom!"

"Pretty much," Harry admits stiffly. "And on that subject, when I came down here, I told Madam Pomfrey I got hurt falling off my broom, so if anyone asks you're to back me up, all right?"

Ron opens his mouth to answer, but Hermione, looking worried, breaks in first.

"Harry," she says, biting her lower lip. "I know it's not—not an easy thing to talk about. But I really don't think you ought to lie about this. You simply can't go back to the Dursleys anymore. People will have to know."

"They know already," Harry tells her, glad that they won't have to argue about this—one more thing to be grateful to Snape for. "Dumbledore does, at least. Snape...made me tell him."

"What d'you mean, Snape?" says Ron immediately, eyes bulging. "What does Snape know about it?" Harry has no difficulty in hearing the question Ron isn't asking: You mean you told Snape but not us?

"I had to tell him, Ron, I didn't have a choice," he says shortly.

There is a look of dawning comprehension in Hermione's eyes. "Of course," she says, looking from Harry, to Luna, and then to Ron. "That's why Snape made you stay after class today, isn't it? He figured it out?"

"Sort of," says Harry. "He saw the glamor too—apparently I'm pants at them," he adds, with a wry smile.

"What happened?" says Hermione, sounding strangely fascinated. Even Ron looks curious, if angry still. Luna alone merely looks attentive.

"He stripped the glamor off me, that's all," says Harry, shrugging. "He was—actually pretty decent about it. Insulted me a fair bit, but he healed a lot of the damage so I wouldn't have to go to Madam Pomfrey looking like I'd been run over by the Hogwarts Express."

Ron could not have looked any more stunned if Harry had just announced his intention to nominate Snape for an Order of Merlin, First Class.

"I imagine Professor Snape was very angry with your uncle," says Luna, into the silence that follows.

Harry looks at her curiously, but before he can say, "How did you know?" Ron's snort has cut him off.

"Why's that?" says Ron, looking at Luna as though she had been in the middle of telling a joke and left off before delivering the punch line. "Because someone stole his favorite punching bag?"

"No," says Luna, giving Ron a strangely cool look. "Because protecting Harry is Professor Snape's job."

At that, Harry, Ron, and Hermione all turn identical looks of consternation on Luna, who seems a bit surprised at their apparent incomprehension.

"He saved Harry from Voldemort in his first year," she begins to explain in a patient voice. "And he came to help him when he thought Sirius Black was going to kill him. He followed Harry everywhere during the Tri-Wizard Tournament. And I saw his face when Umbridge slapped you that time in her office last year," she says, turning again to Harry. "He looked quite furious, I expect he would have hexed her if all the Slytherins in the Inquisitorial Squad hadn't been watching."

Even more silence follows on the heels of this remark. Then Ron gives a sharp burst of laughter that sounds less amused than derisive.

"That git landed on Harry with both feet the first day he ever met him," Ron tells her. "And he's never missed a chance since then to run him down or make his life more difficult. Does that sound like the kind of thing you do to someone you care about?"

"No, perhaps not," says Luna, sounding rather unconcerned. "But Harry does end up in danger rather a lot, and I imagine Professor Snape is very often quite worried about him. It's no wonder he's a bit cranky."

Hermione is beginning to look as though she's 's just discovered a chapter she skipped by accident in her Arithmancy textbook, but Ron just stares at Luna for a moment, then shakes his head a little pityingly. "Look, Luna, no offense," he says. "But Snape being...nice to Harry—well, that's got as much chance of happening as someone spotting one of those Blibbering Humdingers you're always going on about."

"That's enough, Ron," says Harry at once, the words coming out a bit more snappishly than he meant them to. He doesn't like it when people twit Luna about her strange beliefs; and besides, what Luna's saying...well, it makes sense, actually. A dim recollection stirs in Harry's mind—of something Snape told him, something he can't quite remember clearly: I will protect you...I have my own reasons...

"Sorry," Ron mutters apologetically, addressing the comment generally to Harry and Luna, as well as Hermione, who is glaring at him.

A moment later, though, she leaves off glaring and turns her attention back to Harry. Her hand finds his lying on the bed beside him and tightens on his wrist.

"How are you, Harry?" she says, her voice quiet and serious. "Really, I mean, not just physically."

He catches her fingers and gives a squeeze back, as much in gratitude for the gesture as to assure her that yes, he really was all right.

"I'm fine, honestly," he says, trying to match her serious tone, knowing she will mistrust any display of false cheer. "Summers have always been miserable—this one wasn't really all that different. I'm here now, that's all I care about. And Dumbledore's fixed things so next summer will be better—so really, this is about the best thing that could have happened."

Hermione's expression softens slightly, though she still looks a little unconvinced. She has no time to question him further, however, as in the next moment Madam Pomfrey swoops down on them from her office, making shooing gestures with her hands.

"Ten minutes are up," she tells them. "Out, now, all of you. Potter's got bones to mend."

"What?" The tips of Ron's ears are glowing red with indignation as he whirls on Harry. "He—you broke bones?"

"Two ribs, and they won't heal with chattering. Off you go." Madam Pomfrey gives one final glare around the room, then returns to her office.

"It's fine, Ron, really," Harry tells him. "I'll be out of here in time for classes tomorrow."

Luna reaches out and presses her hand lightly against Harry's; he smiles at her, and she slides off the edge of his bed. Hermione bends down and kisses his cheek, then turns for the door, only giving him a brief glimpse of her rather watery smile. Harry looks at Ron, expecting him to follow—but after the girls are out of the room, Ron stands there for a moment, frowning fiercely.

"You should have told us," he says flatly. "If I'd have known—you know Dad would have sorted those Muggles out in about two seconds flat—"

"I do know," says Harry quietly, interrupting him. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you, I just—I was enjoying being away from there finally, I didn't want to think about the Dursleys while I was at the Burrow. And besides," he says, grinning a little, "I knew your mum would have a fit."

"No joke," says Ron fervently. "Mum would've gone ballistic. Forget Dad, she'd have sorted your uncle out in about half a second. Without a wand."

Harry can easily picture this. "There's no point telling her now, though, all right?" says Harry. "She'd just get upset for nothing."

Harry expects Ron to agree immediately—after all, he's never eager to provide his mother with fuel for her famous tirades—but instead, Ron frowns at him again, looking for a moment strangely like Hermione.

"You weren't just saying all that to get Hermione off your back, were you?" he asks. "About telling Dumbledore, I mean."

"No, he knows all about it," Harry assures him. "He's already been to Surrey and back to talk to my uncle. Snape went with him, too, which is a little weird, but I reckon if anyone deserves Snape in a temper it's my uncle."

"Blimey." Ron looks impressed by this, in spite of himself. "Would've liked to have seen that. From a safe distance, anyway."

"Me too," Harry grins.

Just then, they hear Madam Pomfrey's voice, trilling through her open office door.

"Mr Weasley," she calls, "I am not opposed to throwing you out of my infirmary by force."

"Right," says Ron, stepping back from the bed. "Well. I'll see you at breakfast, I guess?"

"Yeah, I'll be out of here by then," Harry assures him. "See you."

"Hope you feel better," Ron says, ducking through the double doors that lead to the corridor, just as Madam Pomfrey emerges from her office.

"This just came through the floo in my office," she says, approaching Harry's bed and extending an envelope towards him. Probably from Dumbledore, he said he'd be in touch later, he thinks, and waits until Madam Pomfrey leaves before examining it.

It is a plain parchment envelope, with his full name written across the front, and it feels bulky, as though it contains more than just paper. Harry rips the envelope open and turns it upside down. Two items fall out of it onto his bed: first, a toy soldier about three inches high, made of dark green plastic, with one arm broken off—and second, a folded letter covered on both sides in dense black writing.

Harry ignores the letter for a moment to snatch the soldier up and stare at it in bewilderment. He knows what it is, of course: you could buy about a hundred of them in a plastic bag for dirt cheap in Muggle groceries. Dudley had played with them he was little—and so had Harry, actually, having fished a handful of broken ones out of the rubbish and hidden them under his bed where he'd kept that odd torch that never seemed to need new batteries. Several of his soldiers had looked just like this one—Dudley always seemed to snap off the arm holding the tiny plastic gun, maybe because it stuck out at an angle and he was always mowing them down with his huge, heavy model tank. But none of that explains what a cheap, broken Muggle toy is doing in an envelope that must have been sent by a witch or wizard, having come through the floo. It is, quite possibly, the first thing Harry has ever seen at Hogwarts that was made from plastic.

Harry stares at the soldier a moment longer, then sets it aside and picks up the letter that accompanied it. As soon as he has unfolded it, he recognizes the cramped, spiky black writing that covers the parchment—though he has never before seen it outside the margins of his Potions essays. His heart begins to beat a little faster as he starts to read.

Potter, it begins.

With your usual efficiency, you managed to waste nearly an hour of my time in conversation this evening without ever once coming near the point of the exercise, which was to acquaint you with the new arrangements the Headmaster has made for your accommodations over the summer holiday. As you are presently unconscious, and, so Madam Pomfrey informs me, unlikely to wake for some time, I thought it expedient to put this information into writing. You can then show it to Miss Granger, who will no doubt be able to define all the words over three syllables for your benefit.

Bemused, Harry looks back over the paragraph. Exactly which word does Snape think he'll need help understanding, 'accomodations'? Honestly, what a wanker. Just because he doesn't drop big words into conversation all the time just to show how smart he is... I'll just have to write him back, Harry thinks. With a dictionary. The smug git...

He looks back down at the letter. The handwriting has grown, if possible, even less legible than before.

The Headmaster has decided, in accordance with the unfathomable wish you expressed this afternoon, that you will return to your relatives' home this summer as usual. You will, however, be accompanied by an adult member of the Order, whose presence, it is to be hoped, will deter your uncle from...further criminality. Vernon Dursley's cooperation in this venture has been secured.

Cooperation? Uncle Vernon? Harry reads that last sentence over again. I'd like to know how they managed that...

The Headmaster has yet to decide which person will accompany you to Surrey. I am not eligible for the task myself, and I can only guess who he does have in mind—your werewolf friend, perhaps, or one of the elder Weasley spawn. As it seems to me that your duenna is more likely to be chosen for bonhomie than for sheer efficacy as a bodyguard, I have instituted an additional precautionary measure in the hopes of keeping you a little longer in the land of the living.

The item I have enclosed with this letter is a device modified from a standard Portkey. To activate it, you must tap it three times with your wand, then say Porti , filling the blank with the name of your location. Do not trouble yourself by attempting to give the noun its proper Latin declension; I have made allowances for your deficiencies in that area, and the Portkey should respond to the English name just as well. If you manage the incantation properly, it will alert me, wherever I am at the time, and give me a means of reaching you more or less instantly. I need hardly tell you that the Portkey is only to be used in case of an absolute emergency, when or if your then-current guardian is utterly incapacitated and both or either of you is in mortal peril. Nonetheless, you are to use it if you have need—if I hear afterwards of an instance in which you ought to have called me and failed to do so, I will make you regret it. Assuming you are not dead.

Tell anyone about the Portkey, and you will become acquainted with regret earlier still. Burn this letter and scatter the ashes. Keep the Portkey with you at all times, and likewise your Invisibility Cloak.

S. Snape

Harry stares at the signature for a moment, half expecting the letters to rearrange themselves and spell out a taunt along the lines of something the Marauders' Map would say if the wrong person tried to read it: Mr Snivellus presents his compliments to Mr Potter and would beg to inquire whether he was really daft enough to fall for such an obvious trick... But the writing does not alter, at least not until his vision goes blurry from not blinking.

Harry is vaguely conscious that if he had received this letter two days ago, or at any point before the end of Potions today, he would have been furious. Snape has practically outdone himself, insulting him on average once per line—but all of that is overshadowed by the last paragraph, and the small green plastic figure he is clutching in his right hand.

He uncurls his fingers and takes a closer look at the toy soldier. Suddenly, his breath stills in his throat. Then, slowly, as though the soldier (or rather, the hope that is growing in Harry with each second) might break, he turns it over and looks at the underside of the soldier's left boot.

A small "H" is written there in permanent black ink, clear and unfaded even after more than five years.

So few things had ever really belonged to him before he came to Hogwarts that he had become rather attached to what he did have—and so, as though it would be enough to keep the Dursleys from taking it away from him if they had discovered it, Harry had written his name on every water stained book, every broken toy fished out of the rubbish he'd ever got his hands on. Of course, there wasn't room for his full name on any of the little soldiers in his collection, but Harry can still remember sitting on the bed in his cupboard, marking them all with his initial by the never-ending light of the torch.

It doesn't mean anything, really. Only that this is not merely like one of Harry's soldiers; it is one of Harry's soldiers. And somehow—it had ended up in Snape's hands.

Snape was at the Dursleys, Harry realizes suddenly, feeling a bit stunned. He must have seen my cupboard. No, not just seen it—if he found this, he must have been inside it. But why? Uncle Vernon never would have wanted to show him that, not when he was already so angry—unless Snape made him...

Harry lies back on his pillow for a long time, turning the broken toy soldier—now reborn as a Portkey—over and over in his hands. He lies there until the light under the door in Madam Pomfrey's office is extinguished and the lights in the ward automatically dim to three-quarters brightness.

He sets the soldier aside, then, and closes his eyes. Sleep, however, does not come, despite the many soporific potions he has ingested over the course of the evening. His head is simply too full of too many confusing thoughts to let go any of them just yet.

After about an hour of this he gives up, opens his eyes, takes a quick look round the infirmary to be certain Madam Pomfrey isn't going to swoop down on him the moment he sits up straight in bed. Satisfied that he is alone, Harry reaches for his school bag, lying on the floor beside his bed, and extracts his quill, parchment, and a bottle of ink.

Smoothing the parchment out on his Potions textbook, Harry dips the nib of his quill into the ink, and scratches out the first line.

Dear Professor Snape...

Harry grins to himself. He has several dozen words of four syllables or more to think up before he can write the letter properly. If that won't put him to sleep, he doesn't know what will.