Poppy weaned Harry off of the healing magic later that morning. He began breathing on his own. Despite that progress, Severus knew that it could still be a while until Harry woke up. His magical core, the life force of a wizard, was still very weak. Magical beings with diminished cores have been known to be unconscious for months. It could take years for a core to be fully healed.
Severus was sitting in a chair next to his hospital wing bed, parchment and books were littering the bed. He had made a quick stop by the library to grab a few books on his way back to the hospital wing this morning. He had a hypothesis brewing in his mind, but he needed to make sure it was plausible. He had been doing his best to focus for the last few hours. This was a challenge given the interruptions by Poppy encouraging Severus to stand up and walk around. He heard a heavy oak door open. Severus looked up, about to tell Poppy that he was about to get up and walk around. To his surprise, Dumbledore was standing in the doorway.
“Headmaster.” Severus acknowledged.
Dumbledore walked over without answer. He found a spot on the bed without parchment and perched lightly.
“When did you know that Harry was your’s?” The headmaster inquired
“About six months after he was born. I was in a store in Godric’s Hollow getting supplies. I turned around and caught a glimpse of Lily. She was with Potter and Harry. I didn’t approach her but just observed. I saw Harry, could see the lack of similarities between him and James. I knew right away that Harry wasn’t Potter’s.”
“I know you don’t need affirmation on the situation, but you are correct that Harry is yours. So as Harry’s father, what is happening moving forward?”
“I don’t want his life drastically altered more than it has been. I won’t tell Harry that he’s mine for now. When the time is right, he will know. I want him to still be at Hogwarts for his fourth year.”
“Even with the triwizard taking place?”
“It won’t be a distraction for him. Harry will be aware that he isn’t allowed to enter the tournament. He won’t be able to do magic. His studies will all be theoretical. While he is unconscious, I don’t want Black anywhere near him. Harry can make his own decision after he regains consciousness.”
“Severus, you know there is a possibility…”
“Yes, I’m aware that he might not wake up. But he will. The boy is much stronger than that.” Severus argued, motioning towards Harry.
There was a moment of silence between the two men. Dumbledore's eyes wandered down to the books on the bed. He picked up a book with a quiet chirp.
“Legilimency? What could a wizard of your great ability be inquiring?”
“A hypothesis I am working through.” Severus replied sharply.
“You think you will be able to pull Harry out of his unconsciousness?”
“If not pull him out, at least see how he is progressing through it.”
“But his core is already very unstable.” Dumbledore countered
“Yes it is, but we have seen that it responds to medical magic. Medical magic is a non-invasive magic. Legilimency on an unconscious subject is also non-invasive, so it should not have any effect on his core. If anything, it might be something that he could feed off of.”
“Use your core to replenish his?”
Dumbledore mulled the possibility over in silence. He hummed momentarily, tilting his head back and forth before responding
“It is a very uncharted territory.”
“It is.” Severus agreed
“It has some probability. Tread lightly when you bring this up to Poppy. You know how protective she is of her patients.”
Severus nodded as Dumbledore stood up and silently excused himself. The potions master sighed before standing up slowly to take a walking break. He paced back and forth in the hospital wing, attempting to mull over the legilimency theory in his head. His thoughts occasionally strayed where he would not allow them for the longest time: Lily.
This morning was the first time that Severus had consciously thought about Lily. It hurt too much to willingly think about her. Sure, she would come to him in his dreams every once in a while. When she did, Severus found himself distraught. On that halloween night, when Severus had first learned about her death, he could not believe it was Voldemort who killed her. He thought it was James. That abusive bastard. It was only when The Dark Lord could not be found that Severus knew that his fantasy was a fallacy. After her death, he was able to shove his emotions away. He was already well trained to do it with Occlumency, so doing it for this situation was no different.
Now, Severus could feel his emotions starting to boil. Anger, helplessness and sadness all vyed for his attention. Helpless because she still went back to Potter. Helpless because he couldn’t protect Lily. Sad because, after everything, she still picked Potter over him. Sad because she was dead.
The emotions threatened to overwhelm Severus. He shook his head as he paced, as if he was shaking the feelings out of it. He paused, turning to look at Harry. Severus could see his hooked nose, Lily’s cheek bones in the face of the boy. He knew that Harry shared Lily’s eyes. They seemed to haunt Severus during Harry’s first year.
Severus sighed, stood up straighter and shook out his left arm. This reflexive routine quickly cleared his mind. He marched back to his seat and got back to work. He needed a little bit more information before bringing this idea to Poppy.
The sound of doors slamming shut woke Severus. There was the shuffling of feet and a sound that he couldn’t place. Severus noticed that it was dark as he straightened his stiff joints. He did not remember falling asleep in the middle of his work. His body was not a fan of that decision.
Poppy flicked through Severus’ vision as she rushed towards Harry. The wizard turned to look at the boy. Harry was twitching in his sleep, arms and legs bouncing occasionally. Severus could hear him whimpering softly. He could also hear the sounds of a muffled alarm blaring behind the doors to Poppy’s personal quarters.
“What’s wrong?” Severus questioned, standing up quickly.
“I don’t know. The observation alarm went off in my quarters.” Poppy commented, looking over Harry.
Severus felt his breath catching in his chest as the moments of silence ticked by. He watched as Harry kept twitching, his whimpering getting louder. He noticed the boy’s eyes dancing underneath his closed eyelids.
“Whatever is wrong isn’t medical.” Severus stated, breaking the silence.
“What do you mean by that?” Poppy asked
“Have you found anything that would suggest that Harry is suffering a medical emergency?”
“No, but his vitals are way out of appropriate range.”
“He is suffering a nightmare.”
Poppy picked her head up, looking for Severus to explain.
“He is in REM sleep. His eyes are moving, which is the first time that has happened since he has been here. His muscles twitching are seen in regular sleep patterns. His vitals are out of range because he is in a state of fear.”
“That may be true. But we need to keep him stable.”
Severus noticed wisps of smoke rising off of Harry.
“His core is still too unstable to handle it, hence the smoke.” Poppy informed
“I can get him stable, if you will let me.”
“And how do you propose that?”
“Let me use Legilimency to either stop the dream or guide him through it.”
“You want to….” Poppy began incredulously
“I want to use a non-invasive magic on this boy, who has already responded well to non-invasive magic, to keep him from dying. Unless, you have another solution” Severus interrupted, spitting his thoughts out quickly, as Harry started to smoke more.
“But your core?”
“Should be stable enough, at this point, to handle it. If not, I know that I will be in excellent hands.”
Poppy threw her hands up in excatberation, unwillingly giving permission to Snape to implement his idea.
“Legilimens.” Severus mumbled under his breath and slipped into Harry’s mind.
Severus was standing back in the dining hall of Malfoy Manor. Actually, hanging was a better descriptor. Severus was in the same place as Harry was on that night. Harry was there as well. Severus knew that everything he was seeing was from the perspective Harry was dreaming in. So Severus was hanging by his wrists in the empty room. There was no crowd of death eaters. Severus could feel the hair stand up on the back of his neck. Despite seeing an empty room, he knew there was someone else with him. That person was dangerous.
A figure stalked out from behind Severus, entering his field of vision. This person was dressed like The Dark Lord, dark green robes billowing as he walked. This person did not speak while his back was turned. Severus felt panic rising in his chest at the uncertainty. This stranger, finally in front of Severus, turned around. The sight only stood to confuse Severus. This person had similarities to Voldemort: opaque veiny skin and red eyes. The shape of this man’s face was wrong though: round and fat. This person was also in the process of balding. This second person was a mystery to Severus, but Harry knew him. Severus could feel his anxiety increase tenfold. He noticed a belt in the predator’s hand. Severus could feel his body beginning to heat up. He needed to separate himself from this perspective and end this dream.
“Potter.” Severus called as he began moving his body, which instantly cooled
He stood up and walked next to the grotesque man. Now that the perspective had changed, Severus could see Harry dangling. His body was cut in various places and he was smoking.
“Professor?” Harry questioned weakly.
“Potter, this isn’t real. It’s time to wake up.”
“Professor, I don’t know…”
“Potter, quit groveling. You are having a nightmare. Your body is safe at Hogwarts but your own mind is threatening to overload your core and kill you.”
The creature next to Snape brought its arm above his head. He swung down quickly. The sound of leather against flesh punctuated the air. Harry let out a groan through clenched teeth. His body seized in pain. The smoke began coming off of him more ferociously.
“Potter, you have control over this dream. Find a way to change the dream now.”
“I’ve never been able to do that!” Potter yelled back.
Severus needed to find a way to get the boy to take control and he had to do it fast. Severus felt himself start to heat up again. He could feel the field of vision in the dream narrow. He was losing the Legilimency connection.
“I’m sorry to do this, Potter.”
Severus strode towards Harry, rolling up his sleeves. He felt the boy’s chin crack as Severus upper cutted him.
Severus stumbled into the chair, unstable from the force of being expelled from the dream. Unable to gain control, he fell onto the ground in a tangle of limbs. He could hear yelling. There was a commotion above him. He attempted to get up, his vision clouding from the smoke rolling off his body. Collapsing onto his back, he squeezed his eyes tight trying to get the room to stop spinning. His vision started coming across as flash images as he picked his head up. He was beginning to black out.
A flash of white and purple fought near the bed. A deep breath. The smell of smoke. The sounds of someone shouting orders. The room spun. The feel of cold stone against his body. The sounds of someone being comforted. A deep breath. A sense of calm and panic intermingling in his mind. A flash of purple coming near him. The sound of his head finally hitting the ground. Black.