He awoke with a gasp, pain flaring through every nerve within his body. The lights were too bright, the noises were too loud, the sheets were too rough, his skin was too hot, his throat was too dry. He had no idea where he was or what had happened, but he could only assume that it had been terrible judging by the way his body felt like he’d been attacked by sixteen bludgers at once.
“There, there.” a voice soothed, “Drink this, it will help.”
Merlin, how he hoped it was poison that would put him out of his misery.
“It’s not poison, it’s water.” the voice replied gently, leaving Snape to realize his thoughts were being spoken out loud and not saying in his brain where they belonged.
Clamping his mouth shut tightly, less he say something he would later regret while in his delirious state, the potions professor worked to determine where he was and how he got here. The voice was familiar and the situation was within reach in his memory, he could sense it. Struggling to clear the fog in his mind, he took a few deep breaths, attempting again to blink his eyes open. The light was still too bright, though, and it caused a stabbing pain in his already throbbing head.
“Severus, do you remember what happened?”
It hurt to think, and he wasn’t sure he remembered how to form and speak words, so he left the question unanswered. It was easier, much easier, to leave the questions unanswered than it was to try and formulate a response.
Besides, he didn’t know what had happened. He didn’t even know where he was. All he knew was that his brain felt like it was being stirred in a cauldron, dizzy and disorientating, and his body felt like it were on fire. Maybe he was actually in a cauldron, that would explain the fiery pain.
“You’re not in a cauldron, you’re in the hospital wing. Severus, can you hear me?”
Again, he didn’t bother to respond. At least he wasn’t burning in a cauldron. The hospital wing did make sense, though. Feeling as terrible as he currently felt, it was the logical location to be. Voices whispered around them, but the noise sounded like shouts to his sensitive head. One voice, in particular, stood out among the rest, but he wasn’t able to clearly make out the rapid speech, though the person’s shallow and rapid breathing made him want to roll out of bed and grab a calming draught, if not just so he didn’t have to hear the annoying sound any longer.
“It will take some time for him to fully arouse after such a terrible injury. Don’t panic.”
Snape struggled to blink open his eyes against the harsh light, wondering who the mediwitch was speaking to. There were very few people who would “panic” at the idea of Severus Snape being injured. The stabbing pain in his head returned, and he quickly abandoned the effort to demonstrate his full consciousness.
“He’s talking nonsense, though. What if his brain’s completely addled? Professor Dumbledore said there was no way to know if he would have brain damage or not. What if--”
“Enough! Panicking will not help the situation, nor will it provide any answers. It’s time for you to be off to class.”
“No, I can’t, he--”
“No arguments! You can come by later, but for now I need to tend to my patient, which is nearly impossible when I’m having to focus my attention on keeping you from having a panic attack.”
The voice sounded completely offended when it replied, “I am not having a panic attack. What--”
“Shut up.” Snape growled, “Just shut up, both of you!”
“See, there, his brain seems just fine to me.” Poppy said lightly, and he could hear her practically dragging the other person away, “Off to class, now. Professor McGonagall will be wondering where you are. You’ve missed too many classes as it is.” There was a pause, and then Poppy added, “And don’t even think about trying one of those Weasley products to skive off class and come back here, or I’ll completely banish you from visiting at all.”
Snape was highly confused why a student was not only fighting to be in the hospital wing and by his side, but why they’d even allowed a student to see him in such a condition. Staff privacy was typically held as an utmost priority when they were taken under Pomfrey’s care.
“Alright, dear, now that he’s gone and it’s just you and I, let’s see what we’re dealing with.” The mediwitch declared, “Can you hear me? Squeeze my hand.”
Snape squeezed, wincing as the small movement sent shockwaves of pain throughout his limbs, “P-p-potion, please.”
“I know it hurts, just try to be patient a little longer and then I can give you something that will dull the pain.”
“Far from it, Severus.” the tone of her voice told Snape that he’d been close to death. While Poppy Pomfrey remained professional during even the most trying circumstances, he could hear the slight cracking in her voice that indicated that she’d been worried. “If anything, you’re on the mend now.”
“What’s the last thing you remember?”
“Why are you answering my questions with more questions?”
“Why aren’t you--” Poppy sighed with exasperation, “Honestly, enough. I need to know what the last thing you remember is. Can you please try to cooperate with me?”
“I remember brewing potions. Delores kept pulling me off of my work for the most ridiculous requests.” Snape murmured, trying to push through the fog in his brain to remember what he was last doing, “I was making start of year potions for you. But that can’t be right - there was a student here. School hadn’t started yet.”
He forced his eyes open, despite the blinding light and excruciating pain, “I can’t remember.”
“Oh dear…” Poppy murmured, “You have lost some time. Don’t panic, though - this happens sometimes. Usually memories come back on their own relatively quickly as you complete the healing process.”
“Don’t panic?” Snape questioned, dread and anxiety bubbling within him despite his attempts to squash them down, “Some time? What’s the date? How much time can’t I recall?”
“It’s April.” Poppy said gently, “You were brewing our hospital stock potions the last week of August, so you’ve lost quite a bit of time. That’s it? That’s the absolute last thing you remember?”
August to April. Snape tried to wrap his mind around such a lengthy period where he could recall absolutely nothing. After a few moments of searching his brain but finding nothing from that time, he shook his head, “That’s all I’ve got, Poppy.”
“Your memories will return. Nearly all documented cases of amnesia among Wizards, when not created through spells in the Obliviate family, end with memories returning on their own. Sometimes it just takes time.”
He wanted to snap back at her and tell her that he didn’t have the luxury of time and that they needed to come up with a solution immediately, but he was too weak and exhausted to bother. Instead, he asked, “How did I end up here?”
“I’m not sure how much I should say.” Poppy admitted, “I don’t want to tell you too much, I don’t want to cause too much stress for you and I want your memory to return on its own volition.”
“Please, just tell me what my injuries are.”
“You and Harry were having some sort of private lesson.”
“Harry? Harry Potter? A private lesson? You’re having me on.”
“You’ve missed a lot.” Poppy reiterated sadly, “Anyway, the two of you got into a dispute in your office, and it spilled out into the hallway. He said something to you that you didn’t want to hear and ran off, but you went after him. You reached to grab him but misjudged the stairwell and fell. You hit your head pretty hard, you’ve been unconscious for nearly a week.”
“I am missing 8 months of memories because I fell down the stairs?” Snape asked in disbelief. What a ridiculous way to sustain such an injury. “That’s all?”
Poppy gave him a half smile as she recognized his indignation, “Sorry that it wasn’t more dramatic, but you’ve never really been one for drama.”
She made a fair point, he had to admit.
“So when will I be discharged?”
“You’ve just woken up!”
Exasperated, Poppy shook her head and refused to give an answer, leaving Snape not only still feeling miserable, but also quite disgruntled by the entire situation. Why had he been giving Potter private lessons? What had they been fighting over? Why did he feel like was still missing a huge piece of the puzzle?
“And then she kicked me out!” Harry complained angrily, his whispers not as quiet now as they were when he began his tirade, “After all of those hours, those days, waiting for him to wake up and when he finally starts to, she makes me come to class and I can’t even talk to him!”
“I’d be upset too, Mate.” Ron sympathized, “I mean, not to see Snape - I get why you’d want to see him but I certainly don’t - but if it were my dad up there…”
Hermione’s foot came in contact with Harry’s shin and he scowled, “Hermione--”
“Mr. Potter.” McGonagall said sharply, giving both boys a stern glare, “Is it not bad enough that you arrive at class fifteen minutes after class has started? Must you talk over my lecture as well?”
“Perhaps you feel like you’d be a better instructor for this lesson?”
“If I see either of your mouths moving again during this class, you will be scrubbing toilets in detention for Mr. Filch.”
“Yes, Professor.” Harry replied glumly, giving up completely on his defensive responses. He knew she’d follow through with that threat, and while mindless cleaning frequently tended to soothe his nerves, cleaning toilets was not the way he wanted to spend the evening. Not when he could finally see his father and apologize for the huge fight they’d had just before the accident.
It had all been his fault and he was still a bit nervous about what Snape’s reaction would be now that he was awake. The fight had been awful - Snape had caught Harry looking into his pensieve, they’d gotten into a shouting match, and Snape had thrown a jar of cockroaches at Harry’s head as he’d fled the room. Harry had used some very colorful profanity towards Snape during his exit, and Snape had followed him into the hall, chased him up the stairs, and had almost reached him when Harry abruptly stopped. Snape hadn’t been prepared for Harry to go still, and had bumped into Harry, losing his footing and going down several staircases, his head bouncing off of each as it made impact.
Harry had thought his newly adopted father was dead. There was blood everywhere. Snape’s face was pale, his body motionless. Harry had alerted his head of house in a panic, sure that they’d go back and verify that Snape was gone. The rest of the week, up until just now, had been a blur. He had hovered over his father’s bed in the hospital wing until he was forcibly removed, and then as soon as no one was standing guard he’d returned again. He’d barely eaten and barely slept, and he was pretty sure he was going to fail his upcoming OWLs since he’d spent zero time studying and had missed a week’s worth of classes.
He glanced towards the front of the room, realizing that he had no idea what the lesson they were covering even was, though the rest of the class had moved on to the practical. He leaned towards Ron, whispering, “What are we doing?”
Damn. McGonagall had seen them. She approached the two boys, annoyance visible in her posture and facial expression, “Did I not just tell you--?”
He had to think fast. Not only did he need to get out of serving a detention, but he really needed to get back to the hospital wing to see his father and make sure he was alright.
“Sorry Professor, I was just telling Ron that I wasn’t feeling that great. I think I may be sick.”
Harry wasn’t even aware that he was going to use that excuse until he’d already said it, then he tried to make his facial expression look pathetic so she’d believe him. Off to his side, Hermione dramatically rolled her eyes. To his other side, Ron subtly shifted his robes to show Harry he was carrying a Skiving Snackbox on him.
McGonagall didn’t look like she was buying his excuse, and Harry glanced at Ron, then the package of sweets. This was a problem - he needed the twins’ product to prove he needed to be excused, but there was no way of obtaining said product and certainly no way of consuming said product with her standing directly in front of them.
Fate spared him a lecture when a group of Ravenclaws at the front of the room jumped up from their desks and squealed. Apparently they’d gotten a little too overzealous with their practicals and things had gotten out of control.
“Do not move a muscle, Mr. Potter.” McGonagall warned, eyes narrow as she gave Harry one last inquiring look before rushing towards the Ravenclaw group.
“Hurry, take it.” Ron said quietly, passing Harry some fever fudge. Harry quickly ate the sweet, the effects almost immediate. He didn’t dare look at Hermione, knowing she would disapprove.
“Thanks, Ron.” Harry whispered, feeling the heat rising to the surface of his skin. There would be no denying it now that Harry needed to be out of the classroom and in the infirmary. If his father just so happened to be there, it would be a lovely coincidence and not a scheme at all. Sure. Right.
McGonagall returned to the boys, “You’re unwell, Potter?”
“Quite unwell.” Harry replied, once again making an attempt to appear miserable, though he was pretty sure he had failed in that aspect.
The stern professor reached forward and placed her cool hand on Harry’s burning forehead, surprised to find that the child did indeed feel feverish. “Very well, off to the hospital wing with you, Mr. Potter.”
Harry grabbed his bag and made a feeble attempt at looking miserable as he exited class, but as soon as the door closed behind him he popped the antidote into his mouth and wasted no time barreling towards the hospital wing. By now, Snape should be fully coherent and he’d finally get to apologize for the accident and try to earn his guardian’s forgiveness.
It wasn’t until he’d reached the staircase that he remembered he had been expressly forbidden to use Weasley products to get out of class, and he had been instructed to go straight to McGonagall’s class. What would he tell Madam Pomfrey to get back in? He could feign an injury - claim to have twisted an ankle on the stairs...but that wouldn’t work, should McGonagall and Pomfrey ever discuss the circumstances of his visit.
He looked at the staircase, remembering in vivid detail what it looked like when Snape had been sprawled at the bottom, unconscious and bloody, and tried to push down the panic and guilt that the memory always brought. His stomach ached slightly, his breath hitching as that night replayed in his mind. Harry had been so sure that his impulsive and disrespectful behavior had caused him to lose one of the few adults in the world who cared for him. He wiped his sweaty palms on his robes, mentally berating himself for allow himself to become emotional yet again over the incident. His guardian had nearly died, and here Harry was feeling sorry for himself. Pathetic.
Harry went to descend the staircase, only to freeze when he heard footsteps and the sound of someone clearing their throat. Not just someone, but the one person he always hoped he wouldn’t come across in the hallway. Not trusting Umbridge to be behind him on a flight of stairs with no witnesses around, he turned to face his most-hated professor.
“Are you or are you not supposed to be in class right now, Mr. Potter?”
“Professor McGonagall sent me to the hospital wing. I’m just on my way there now.”
Umbridge took a few steps closer, and Harry tensed, the scar on the back of his hand aching just at the close proximity of the wretched ministry appointee.
“Oh, are you ill?” Umbridge asked in a falsely sweet voice, tilting her head ever so slightly, “You look fine to me.”
“Dreadfully ill.” Harry replied automatically, “In fact, I wouldn’t get too close if I were you, I’d hate for you to catch whatever it is I’ve got.”
“Is that so?”
Harry wouldn’t have believed his lie either, in her position. With the antidote to the fever fudge taken and without having had time to school a miserable expression for the professor, there certainly was no indicator that he was anything other than a skiving student - because, indeed, he was.
“Professor McGonagall thought so.” Harry retorted, “If you’d like to verify, we can go back to her classroom and ask.” he paused, then added, “Professor.” as an afterthought. His only hope was that if McGonagall noticed he no longer looked flushed and feverish, her dislike for Umbridge would be enough to at least cover for him and dole out her own punishment later.
Umbridge thought on it for a moment, and then to Harry’s surprise she waved him off with her hand, “Nonsense, we don’t need you tracking more germs around the school. I will be verifying with Madame Pomfrey that you arrived at your destination, though.”
“Yes, Professor, of course.” Harry said, relieved but trying not to show it. He wanted to race down the steps and towards the hospital wing - after all, he couldn’t be told off for disobeying Madame Pomfrey when two professors sent him there, right? Before his legs got the message to run, though, his rational brain took over and reminded him that he was supposed to be ill and needed to act as such.
Needless to say, once Umbridge was out of sight, he barrelled towards the hospital wing at top speed, anxious and excited to see his guardian awake after such a terrifying accident.
He’d barely crossed through the threshold when Madame Pomfrey scolded, “Mr. Potter! What did I tell you?”
“I went to class, Madame Pomfrey,” Harry replied quickly, “Professor McGonagall sent me back here. She thinks I may be ill.”
“And what led her to that conclusion, Mr. Potter?” The mediwitch asked, her voice and stern gaze indicating she knew good and well that he’d disobeyed her, “You appeared to be in good health when you left.”
Harry hesitated, not wanting to be subjected to potions and tests as if he were actually ill, but also not wanting to be called out on his dishonesty, “It’s just a headache. It’ll probably go away on its own.”
In all actuality, it was not a lie. He’d had a persistent headache, though very mild in nature, since the accident. He could just assume it was a mixture of stress and a lack of sleep and nutrition, as he’d spent as much time as possible waiting for his adoptive father to wake. It wasn’t even bad enough to warrant a potion, but at least he was being somewhat honest with the matron.
“Hop on a bed, then.” she instructed, and Harry sighed and did what he was told. If this is what it took to get to see Snape, then he’d suffer through her ministrations. A few flicks of the wand later, and she was frowning at him, “Mr. Potter, have you been missing meals?”
“Uhh…” Harry stammered, his eyes trailing away from her to land somewhere over her shoulder, “Maybe a few?”
“That would certainly cause a headache, then. I’ll have lunch brought up to you. Don’t you dare move from that bed until you’ve been fed, I don’t care how badly you want to see Professor Snape.”
Harry scowled, but didn’t comment and instead focused on the positives of the situation. Sure, he was now being held hostage in a bed, but at least he was in the same room as his adoptive father instead of at the other end of the school. A few bites of whatever was brought to him and then he could see for himself that Snape was fine.
Severus Snape was irate.
Poppy had been less than helpful in filling in his memory gaps and when he’d been proactive and summoned a house elf to bring him some potions books to look for a solution to regain those lost moments, she’d confiscated them. The audacity!
Soon after, she’d left to deal with a student and when she returned she looked sad and exhausted. If he had been a more caring man or approachable colleague, he would have asked her what was wrong since she was clearly upset. Instead, he pretended he didn’t notice and hoped she wouldn’t mention whatever it was and make them both uncomfortable.
Thankfully, she only lingered for a moment before moving on to another task on her list of things to do, and he was left alone with his thoughts.
How could months and months of his life just vanish? And from something as minor as a fall? How he’d like to throttle Potter - of course it had been an altercation with Potter. Anyone with the misfortune to possess that surname was destined to do their part to ruin his life. James with his pranks and his band of miscreant followers, Harry with his arrogance and penchant for getting into life-threatening situations. And now, this.
He was lost in the daydream of how he’d make the brat pay for what he’d done and didn’t notice that he had company until the headmaster reached over and shook his arm lightly. Thank Merlin no students were around, as he was startled greatly and reacted as such.
“Oh, Albus, I didn’t see you arrive.”
“Indeed, you looked like you were searching your soul from within.”
“I take it Poppy has informed you?”
“She has told me of your predicament, yes. So you remember nothing at all?”
“Not since summer.” Snape replied bitterly, still having a hard time coming to terms with this news, “8 months, gone in an instant.”
“I assure you that you will regain your memories - if not naturally or through magical means, then through those closest to you sharing memories until you’ve reconstructed this year.”
“Forgive me if that doesn’t soothe my concerns, Albus.” Snape retorted, a scowl on his face. “Here we are at the end of a term, I have students I don’t remember, courses that I’m unaware of the pacing of, conflicts within my house and throughout the school that I’m unaware of...not to mention there is always a fiasco at the end of the school year due to that brat and his minions, and inevitably I will have to deal with the fall out from that situation without being privy to the details and history involved. It’s hard to protect the boy from enemies I’ve forgotten.”
“Are you worried about young Harry?”
“Hardly, though my feelings on the matter mean very little when I’m thrust into watching over him. I worry about what Lily might think if I let her son be killed because I happened to forget three quarters of the year.”
A rustling from the curtains caught his attention, and who should sheepishly appear than the bane of his existence. Perfect.
Snape’s eyes locked with Harry’s, and his gaze narrowed. Part of his brain was telling him to calm down and remain in control of his emotions, but the larger part that was consumed with confusion, regret, and pain won out and he hissed, “Leave, Potter. Haven’t you done enough already?”
“I--It was an accident.” Harry argued, his face paling quite a bit at the potion master’s declaration of blame, “Honestly, I never meant to--”
“Yes, well, for someone who doesn’t mean to get himself into trouble, you sure do leave a path of destruction in your wake. Leave. I don’t want to see you again.” He turned to the headmaster, icily adding, “He should be expelled for his role in this disaster.”
“Expelled?” Harry echoed, his voice strained. “Sir, I--”
“Enough!” Snape roared, the only thing keeping him from throwing the pitcher of water by his side at the argumentative brat being the headmaster’s presence, “Leave!”
“Okay. Okay, sir. I’m sorry, sir.”
Snape rolled his eyes as the headmaster tried to stop the boy, but it was too late, Harry had quickly fled the hospital wing.
“You must learn to control your temper, Severus.” Albus said quietly, suddenly sounding all 100+ years of his age.
A flicker of guilt twinged in Snape’s gut, though it was quickly extinguished and replaced by righteous anger, “Control my temper? If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t even be here! And nothing will be done, I’m sure of it - precious Potter never has to deal with the consequences of his actions and his blazing disrespect.”
The exchange had Poppy descending on his bed rapidly and she asked, “What is the meaning of this racket? Severus, I believe it’s time for you to get some rest. Albus, you may come back later once he’s had a chance to work on his recovery.”
“Of course.” Dumbledore replied, patting Severus on the leg, “Just remember what I’ve said, you need to control your temper before you hurt those that you care about and who care about you.”
Snape looked away sullenly, wanting the conversation to be over. It was natural to be angry with Potter, as far as he was concerned this was all Potter’s fault. After all, that was what he was told,and he couldn’t possibly know any difference - he had no memories, after all.
Harry ran until it felt like his lungs were on the verge of splitting open and his ribs ached from the strain of his heavy breathing.
Snape wanted nothing to do with him. Snape blamed him - and he knew he fully deserved that blame. But for his adoptive father to say he didn’t want to see him again, knowing how harmful those words would be and still using them...maybe the damage he’d done was irreparable. Maybe the whole adoption would be over and he’d be getting shipped back to the Dursleys in a few months. If he got sent back to his aunt and uncle, it would certainly be the worst of summer of their lives, he could just imagine how thrilled they were to be done with him.
No, he couldn’t go back there under any circumstances.
He could run away, try to make it on his own for the summer. It wasn’t like he hadn’t been practically raising himself for his entire life anyway.
In the distance, he could hear his friends calling his name. They’d either seen him by the lake and wanted to catch up with him or they were looking for him. Either way, he didn’t want to see them or talk to them right now. He didn’t want to see or talk to anyone, not when his newly constructed world was falling down around him.
He’d expected Snape to be angry and to lash out, but Snape had insisted from the start that this arrangement was permanent and that he’d never change his mind under any circumstances. How quickly that had changed.
Tears stung his eyes but he refused to let them fall and held back the sob that was trying to burst free. To give in to the tears now would make this real, make this official, and Harry was not ready to face that reality just yet.
Instead, he ran again, ignoring the ache of protest from his chest at the burst of movement. He couldn’t let Ron and Hermione find him. If they found him, they’d know something was wrong. He could just imagine the looks on their faces when they found out Snape was disowning him and sending him back to the Dursleys. Neither had been pleased at first about Harry’s new living arrangements and it had taken ages for them to come around to the idea that Snape was anything but vile. He’d have to admit that they were right and he was wrong, and he’d already been dealt enough blows for the day without adding on to it.
He was so consumed in his thoughts and panic that he didn’t realize he wasn’t alone until he ran straight into someone else, sending them both sprawling onto the ground.
Slightly dazed, he took a moment to realize what had happened, though the reality of the situation quickly sank in.
“Mr. Potter,” Umbridge said in the sickeningly sweet voice she used when about to deploy her most vile methods of punishment, “Running around, terrorizing the staff? I do believe you’ve earned yourself a spot in detention this evening.”
As if the day wasn’t bad enough already.
“Yes, Professor.” Harry replied glumly.
She cleared her throat and added, “Aren’t you forgetting something?”
“I’m sorry for running into you, Professor.”
“And?” Harry echoed, confusion clear in his voice.
“And I’m so grateful that you are taking time out of your busy schedule to teach me my proper place in society.”
“What? Grateful for you slicing my hand open?” Harry gaped indignantly, “Are you mad?”
“Ah, not quite then...I suppose a week’s worth of detentions may help you learn some respect.” Umbridge sniffed, “7:00 sharp.”
It took all of Harry’s self-restraint not to pull his wand on the professor once she’d turned her back on him, but he could only imagine what sort of creative punishments she could think of to torture him with and while he was reckless, he was not stupid.
Could this day get any worse?