Nobody ever asked my birthday

Chapter 261

Disillusioned, Snape entered through the front door of Hogwarts, sparing not a moment to sooth Filch, who seethed with irritation at the interruption of his routine. His mask was safely stored in a pocket, and his robes were reverted to Ordinary School Robes (as he had a dozen, it would go without comment).

Snape headed towards the dungeon, first, hoping that the map he had would prove useful. A relic of his schooldays, it wasn't his originally - but he hardly doubted the owner would object to his very chary use of the dratted thing.*

Snape's office was off the beaten path, and deliberately so. The Slytherin and Hufflepuff common rooms were in easy to find areas - Snape never wanted people to be accidentally nearby his office. Too many things to go wrong with that, including seeing people who weren't supposed to be there. To aid in the gloomy, "This is not a fun place, do not come here" vibe, Snape had dimmed and diminished the lights, until there were only pools of light in between thick shadows. It had served tolerably well - the Weasley Twins proved more puissant and contrary than most, of course.

On the wellworn stone, smooth as water, Snape glided like a shadow of a shade. He was surprised, but carefully did not show it, when he saw the Bloody Baron in front of him. He passed beside the ghost, saying not a word. He trusted if it was important, the ghost would stop him in his tracks.

Quietly but swiftly, Snape strode towards his office. Time was of the essence, but - even before that, he had to know what happened.

Two and a third turns away from his office, Snape heard a soft and strangled whimpering. Cursing inside his head, he turned, navigating by sound in the dark hallways, finding a dark, small alcove. Snape knelt, carefully on the outside of the alcove, remaining mostly hidden. He muttered a soft Lumos, illuminating the area as if by candlelight through a smoked glass.**

Snape's eyes saw the glasses first, and then the dark hair, "Potter," he breathed, as softly as a falling leaf. No response. Harry Potter just sat there, curled up into a ball, rocking back and forth, eyes closed.

Snape shifted, moving into the alcove and slowly brightening the light to that of a full candle, "Potter!" Snape demanded, in a soft voice.

No response.

Snape's hand flashed out, cracking against Potter's face, as Snape demanded, "Potter!" his voice echoing unnaturally in the clammy quiet. Cursing inside his head, Snape cast a simple spell, enlarging Potter's head to three times the size.

Then, with a rather put upon sigh (one never knew who might be watching), Snape picked up the boy, tossing his head over Snape's back, and hauled the child towards his office. I'm getting too old for this... Snape thought, internally muffling a groan. Potter may be the lightest child in his year, but he's still near grown.

*James' map, in case that wasn't clear. And no, Snape didn't keep the "I solemnly swear I am up to no good" passphrase.

**Very, very dark. Just barely enough illumination to identify someone by. Like moonlight, except yellow not blue. Deliberately chosen to not startle someone clearly in some distress (or worse, blind them).

[a/n: Thoughts? Reviews? Snape's had a good deal of time to toy with the map, so he's made it suit his own will.

Snape, being a Slytherin, actually hasn't been using this to monitor much of anything. Him sneaking up on Potter after curfew is due to Snape's natural perceptiveness.

And, of course, Snape coming along when Potter has his wand out in the hallways is all Draco Malfoy's doing. Because he's canny enough to have studied patrol routes.

The Bloody Baron was standing guard.]