1. Chapter 1 by LaileeJane
2. Chapter 2 by LaileeJane
3. Chapter 3 by LaileeJane
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?
“You need to tell someone.” Hermione said for the thousandth time as Harry walked in from detention to the nearly empty common room cradling his hand carefully to protect it from further damage, “She needs to be stopped.”
“She can’t be stopped.” Harry snapped irritably, though his anger deflated rapidly once he noticed Hermione’s hurt expression. He sighed, offering his friend a small smile, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to be a jerk about it - I just know it won’t make a difference. McGonagall just tells me to keep my head down and not provoke her, but just existing provokes her.”
“She only told you to keep your head down because she thinks these are regular detentions. If she knew what that cow was doing to you--”
“It still wouldn’t matter.” Ron piped up from the other side of Harry, “He’s right, she can’t be stopped. If it were possible, someone would have stopped it by now. Harry may not be telling anyone about the quill and those awful detentions, but he’s not the only one who’s had detention with her. I’d expect someone has told someone - a teacher, a parent, anyone - something about what’s happened and nothing has changed. She can’t be stopped.”
“Please, Hermione.” Harry interrupted, his voice thick with the exhaustion he felt, “It’s been an awful day and I can’t have this conversation right now.”
Hermione looked like she wanted to argue, but didn’t try to continue that particular line of conversation. Instead, she asked, “So how did it go when you went to see Professor Snape earlier? Ron and I looked for you, but couldn’t find you anywhere.”
Harry leaned his head back against the cozy sofa, closing his eyes as he tried to ignore the throbbing of his hand - even the murtlap wasn’t making much of a difference anymore, “It went alright.”
“It did?” Hermione asked, “Was he angry about what had happened?”
“Of course he was.” Ron answered before Harry could even think of how to respond to her inquiry, “It’s a good thing Harry’s his kid now or Harry’d be cut up into little jars in the potions cupboard.”
“He would never--”
“He would!” Ron insisted, “Can you imagine if this accident had happened last year, before the adoption? Snape would have murdered him for sure.”
“Actually, he was pretty upset. I’m still alive, obviously.”
Apparently Harry’s voice betrayed some of the emotion he’d been struggling to bury since his outburst on the grounds earlier that day, because Hermione descended on him like a vulture to their prey, “What did he do to you?”
“Nothing, he’s confined to a bed in the hospital wing.” Harry replied, refusing to meet Hermione’s gaze.
“That doesn’t mean he didn’t do anything.” Hermione countered, “You’re upset.”
“No, I’m not.”
“Yeah, you are, mate.” Ron countered, eyes narrowing as he studied his best friend, “You’re hiding it pretty well, I guess, but you’re definitely upset.”
“It was nothing.” Harry insisted, placing the bowl of murtlap on the table and attempting to rise.
Both friends pulled him back down to his seat, and Hermione asked worriedly, “No, don’t do this. Don’t walk away from us. We’re your friends, you can talk to us.”
“There’s nothing to talk about!” Harry snapped, though his voice didn’t quite carry the anger he was hoping for. Even to his own ears he sounded like a kid who had gotten their feelings hurt and was trying to pretend it never happened.
Ron patted Harry on the leg in a friendly-yet-awkward way, “If there was nothing to talk about, you wouldn’t be shouting at us. What did the git do?”
“Nothing, he’s just mad that I hurt him.” Harry replied tiredly, “I can’t say I blame him - it was my fault after all - but I was hoping he wouldn’t be too cheesed off.”
“Did he tell you off?” Ron asked, glancing towards Hermione with an expression that clearly stated there was more to the story. Her eyes held an equal amount of concern as she put her hand on Harry’s shoulder in a sympathetic gesture.
Harry shook his head, squeezing his eyes together tightly as his chest started to feel tight again. He knew he needed to calm down, but just the memory of that conversation with his dad was enough to send him into a panic. He couldn’t go back to the Dursleys, not after he’d learned what a real family felt like.
Just the idea of going back to the Dursleys sent his brain into a tailspin again, chest aching as he struggled to properly inhale, his breath coming in loud, wheezing gaps and his tie feeling like it was tightening on its own, threatening to choke the life out of him like a polyester blend version of his beefy uncle.
He couldn’t fall apart like this, not right now, not in front of his friends who didn’t know his secret and how his adoptive dad wanted to get rid of him. He tried to force himself to breathe normally, but the harder he fought to calm down, the harder it became to focus on doing just that.
The room spun around him sickeningly and for a moment Harry wasn’t sure where he was or what was happening. Slowly sounds began to filter in through the sound of his heart beating wildly in his ears and the world stopped feeling like it was closing in on him. He could hear Hermione talking, but it took a few moments to work out what she was saying.
“Should I go get someone? What’s happening?”
That was the last thing Harry wanted, and he reached out to grab Ron’s shirt so he couldn’t make good on that idea. Listening to Hermione’s quiet commands to breathe, Harry became more aware of his surroundings and shame and embarrassment flooded through him.
“Don’t get anyone.”
Harry’s voice sounded scratchy and his throat was sore. Why? He didn’t remember screaming or anything, and wondered if he was coming down with something or if Umbridge had done something to him.
He finally opened his eyes and was surprised to see that both of his friends looked nearly as anxious and panicked as he currently felt. Maybe it was contagious, that panicky feeling that seemed to take over sometimes.
“Mate…” Ron began, but then seemed to lose track of what he was going to say. They sat in silence for a few moments, then the ginger boy tried once more, “What was that? You….it was scary.”
“I’m going to bed.” Harry stated, not wanting to have this particular conversation with anyone, especially his friends and especially not at this very moment. He went to stand, but the moment he was vertical the room spun around him and he sank back into his seat, feeling the concerned looks his friends were giving him even without looking in their direction.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to get someone? You don’t look very well.” Ron commented as Hermione disappeared to get their friend a glass of water, “You don’t have to hide things from us, Harry.”
“There’s nothing to say.” Harry replied back, his voice flat and sounding unnatural to his own ears, “I made a mistake and now I’m paying the price for it. I should have known it was too good to last.”
“That what was too good to last?” Hermione asked gently, having rejoined the boys with a glass of water, “What exactly happened?”
He’d said too much, there would be no convincing them now that it was no big deal. Harry rubbed his face tiredly, his eyes burning with unshed emotion and his entire body feeling like it were made of lead and too heavy to support any longer. He wanted to go to bed...to go to bed in his bed in his dad’s quarters and wake up a few weeks ago, before the accident, back when everything was still okay. Conversely, he’d also be happy with going to bed and never waking up again if it meant he wasn’t going to get shipped back to his aunt and uncle just after learning what it was like to be part of a real family.
“Mate?” Ron asked hesitantly, waving his hand in front of Harry’s glazed over eyes, “You’re starting to scare us.”
Harry sighed heavily, “He blames me for the whole accident, naturally, and told me he never wants to see me again. He wanted to have me expelled.”
“I’ll kill him.” Ron declared, moving to stand only to be pulled back into his seat by Hermione.
“Sit down, Ronald.” Hermione snapped, “You aren’t going to kill anyone.” she turned to Harry, brow furled in confusion, “Are you sure he said that? Was he, you know, coherent and aware of what was going on?”
“Yes I’m sure.” Harry snapped, his anxiety and fear morphing rapidly into anger - which he welcomed, as it was a much easier emotion to be subjected to, “I’m not completely daft, Hermione. I can hear perfectly well.” Harry lowered his voice to impersonate his adoptive father, then recited, “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.”
Both of his friends were silent for a moment before Ron jumped to his feet, “Yeah, I’m still gonna kill him.”
He disappeared through the portrait hole before his words had a chance to register with his friends. Harry’s anger deflated at the memory of those terrible words being flung in his direction, the gaping hole of sorrow he’d initially felt rapidly replacing his flare of temper.
“I’m sorry, Harry.” Hermione whispered, putting her hand on his leg hesitantly, “That must have been awful.”
A sob caught in Harry’s throat - funny, as he hadn’t even realized he had started crying, and within moments Hermione had wrapped her arms around him, pulling him close for a tight hug, “It’s going to be okay, Harry. I’m sure he didn’t really mean it.”
“He was so angry. He’s going to give me back.” Harry confessed brokenly to his best friend, “I can’t go back there, Hermione.”
“You won’t.” Hermione replied firmly, “Harry, you won’t. He’s going to come around, he loves you. He wanted you - he promised nothing would ever change that. He’s probably just confused and hurting. He probably regretted it as soon as he said it.”
“What’s wrong with me?” Harry asked quietly, his face buried in her bushy brown hair, “Why does everyone end up hating me? Why can’t I just have this one thing?”
“You have Ron and I. We won’t hate you, we won’t leave you. We’ll be your family - you don’t need anyone else, you have us.”
They sat together on the sofa for several minutes while Harry regained his composure, then he pulled away, embarrassment tinting his cheeks pink, “I’m sorry.”
“You’ve nothing to be sorry for.” Hermione responded kindly, “That’s what I’m here for. I want to know when you’re upset, when you’re hurting. Burying it never solves anything...you know that, Harry.”
He wasn’t going to admit she was right, not now, not after his pride and self-esteem had already been hurt enough. Instead, he sighed heavily and rose to his feet. His body felt heavy and sluggish, as if he’d spent the day facing actual demons and not just the ones in his head, and he told his friend tiredly, “Thanks for...well, everything. I’m beat, I just want to go to sleep and forget about this whole day.”
“Don’t forget to try and clear your mind first, Harry.” Hermione reminded utterly unhelpfully - it was common knowledge between the three friends that he was rubbish at clearing his mind from anything.
He nodded, waving her off as he trudged up the stairwell. Panic attacks, at least that’s what he thought they were called when his brain moved too fast and it felt impossible to breathe - he’d never sought out an official diagnosis from anyone because he hadn’t wanted to admit to anyone that he was feeling this way - always left him feeling weak and exhausted, as if just the act of existing would be too much to possibly be expected to do. Arms and legs feeling like lead, Harry dropped his school robes at the foot of his bed and kicked his shoes off, not even bothering to change into pyjamas or situate himself under his blanket before succumbing to the pull of sleep.
“I won’t change my mind.”
“Yes, you will.”
Between his talent for brewing effective sleeping potions and his natural talent in occlumency, Severus Snape rarely experienced actual dreams. These skills also left him aware of what happened in his subconscious mind, although he didn’t always have the ability to manipulate or control what was occurring.
When he slowly returned to consciousness, those two sentences on his mind, Severus Snape was acutely aware that it was a memory and the general haziness of the words indicated that it was a memory from the time he had lost long before he had verified it by trying to recall when those words had been spoken, and to whom he had been conversing with.
The memory itself was foreign and odd - it contained emotion that he wasn’t sure he even still possessed and that he certainly hadn’t shared with another person in many years. In the short exchange he could feel the protectiveness, the loyalty, the compassion and understanding...dare he say it, even love in his declaration that his mind would not be changed. Yet the person he had been speaking to didn’t believe it...how could they not, when he had felt such conviction in the utterance?
There was, of course, also the issue of the recipient of those words being hidden in his mind. Who could he have been speaking to? Certainly not a lover or a partner of any sort - if so, that person would have been by his side…of course, there had been no romantic partnerships in many years, not since the day Lily Evans took his heart and then departed this world still unknowingly holding on to it. But then who could he have been speaking to? He had no family, no close relationships that would summon up those protective and, dare he say - paternal! - feelings. Surely if something monumental had taken place over the year, someone would have brought him up to speed on the issue. And just as a partner would have been by his side, so would a distraught piece of his family, even if they were not family in the traditional sense.
He needed to make sense of this memory, but he couldn’t hold onto it long enough to make sense of it.The voice was garbled and muffled, he knew he recognized the voice but he couldn’t place a name or a face to it.
“I won’t change my mind.”
“Yes, you will.”
“Yes, you will.”
“Yes, you will.”
He could not place the voice despite his attempt to visualize its owner in his mind. When he really focused on that fleeting piece of memory, all he could recall was a parchment, a quill, and a pair of new black trainers squeaking against the floor as the other person shifted their weight, clearly antsy.
“Yes, you will.”
The voice was familiar. It was on the tip of his tongue, a memory nearly ready to be accessed but just slightly out of reach. A boy. A boy with squeaky new black trainers and the weight of the world on his shoulders.
What in Merlin’s name had gone on this year?
“Go away.” Harry mumbled tiredly, barely lifting his head up off of the mattress to look at his best friend, “Not hungry.”
“Come on, Harry, you’ve got to eat. We have a busy day today - you’ll be starved by lunch. Besides, you know Hermione’s going to wait to lay eyes on you to make sure you’re alright.”
“Go away.” Harry insisted, ignoring his best friend’s attempt at coercion, “I’m tired.”
“Some pumpkin juice and some warm breakfast will wake you right up.”
“I’ll curse your lips shut if you don’t let me go back to sleep.” Harry mumbled, reaching for his pillow to pull it over his head. He wasn’t typically this moody right off in the mornings, but today he felt exhausted, as if he hadn’t slept at all despite the fact that he knew he’d slept deeply.
He waited, but did not hear retreating footsteps. A few moments passed, then the pillow was being pulled from his head.
“Seriously, Ron?” Harry snapped, grabbing at the fluffy pillow in an attempt to return to unconsciousness. It wasn’t fair - he was tired, he was irate, and all he wanted to do was to get some more sleep before he said or did something to his friends that he’d later have to apologize for. Why wouldn’t his mate just leave him alone?
Ron, whose expression clearly showed he felt awkward and out of his element, stood his ground and refused to back down, holding the pillow out of Harry’s reach (which was easy, as Harry had neglected to even sit up yet - though it would have been just as easy if they were both standing, as Ron had several inches of height to his advantage). “You can threaten me all you want, but you don’t want Hermione to come up here and start mothering you, do you?”
“Honestly, Ron, I just want to sleep.” Harry replied defeatedly, throwing his arm over his face in an attempt to block out not only the sun, but the conversation as well, now that his feathery barrier had been stolen.
“We have classes.” Ron pointed out, “I don’t think Flitwick will care that you’re tired. Then he’ll talk to McGonagall and she’ll come up here and she’ll see the state our dorm is in and we’ll have to spend our free time cleaning and then Dean and Seamus will be mad at you...is that really what you want?”
Harry groaned in response, feeling like everything his friend said was hyperbole, though he did sit up, head in his hands as the room faded out slightly when he became vertical.
“You good, mate?”
Harry nodded, his head feeling like it was filled with cotton swabs and his body feeling oddly detached. He supposed this was a byproduct of crying the previous night although a voice that sounded remarkably like Pomfrey echoed in his head, reminding him that he needed to eat. He’d spent the larger part of time since the accident with no appetite, and this morning was no different.
“Go on without me, I’ll be down in a few minutes.” Harry told his best mate, rising to his feet as a show of good faith.
Ron studied his pale, tired friend for a brief moment, then countered, “Hermione and I will wait in the common room. Don’t be too long.”
Harry sighed, but waved Ron off anyway in silent agreement. They knew him too well - if they went down to the Great Hall, Harry would inevitably wait a few minutes and then return to his soft, cozy bed - or worse, he’d get dressed and head down to the hospital wing to see Snape and torture himself a little more. If they waited in the common room, they’d be able to prevent both of those scenarios.
They were good friends. Meddlesome, but good. Harry didn’t feel like he deserved them.
“I just don’t think it’s a good idea, Severus.” Poppy explained, arms crossed and a stern expression on her face.
Snape buttoned the top button of his shirt, then reached down for his shoes, “You said it yourself that I’m fully healed. What’s the point of keeping me here if I’m fully healed?”
“You still don’t have your memories.” Poppy started, “A few days of resting is not out of order after such an ordeal! And then there’s --”
“Nonsense. I don’t need memories from this year to teach potions. I follow the same curriculum year after year; I could brew these in my sleep.”
“I’m not going to lounge in bed when there’s work to be done. It’s nearly the end of term, 5th and 7th years have their OWLs and NEWTs coming up, they need as much instruction as they can get.” Snape replied dismissively. His mind was already made up and the matron of the hospital wing could not possibly say anything that would change it.
He carefully stood, wanting to make sure that being upright agreed with him despite all reassurances that he was fully healed. As expected, all parts were in working order and walked to the foot of the bed, conceding to the clearly upset mediwitch, “I will take it easy, of course, as I don’t want to wind up being your patient once more.”
“There’s just so much you don’t remember…”
“It will return to me. I’ve already seen snippets of memories in my dreams, I have no doubt the rest will force their way to the surface.”
Their quasi-argument was halted by a quiet buzz that indicated someone had opened the door to the hospital wing. Both looked towards the entrance and Snape felt his certainty about his decision to return to his post deflate slightly as the Headmaster walked in. If anyone could override his escape, it would be their boss and leader.
“Ah, Severus! It’s wonderful to see you on your feet again!”
Maybe the Headmaster’s arrival wouldn’t impede his exit after all.
“Poppy has determined I am fully healed.” Snape replied graciously, “I was just on my way to the Great Hall for breakfast.”
“You could have breakfast here--” the mediwitch began, though she didn’t bother to finish her thought at the scathing look Snape sent her way. “You can be stubborn all you want, but don’t you look at me like that. I’m not one of your students, you don’t intimidate me.”
Albus held up a hand, “I see that tensions are running high this morning. Perhaps some fresh air and a change of scenery would be beneficial, Severus.”
“Are you sure it’s wise for him to mingle with the rest of the school’s population with zero memories from this year?” Poppy asked the headmaster pointedly.
Dumbledore gave a slight shrug of his shoulders, “It is what it is, Poppy. We can’t keep him sequestered until those memories return.”
With a triumphant smirk, Snape tilted his head slightly towards both Poppy and Albus, “I couldn’t agree with you more. If that is all, I will take my leave.”
As soon as the door closed behind the sour potions master, Poppy turned to Albus with a deep frown, “I can’t believe you encouraged him to leave!”
“If he’s healed, there’s no good reason to keep him here.”
“I can think of one fifteen year old boy who may disagree.” she said, exasperation heavy in her voice, “Severus has no recollection of the relationship between himself and Harry, and Harry doesn’t know about Severus’s memory loss. That boy is going to get hurt when they cross paths.”
“I’ll invite Harry to my office to discuss the situation with him at lunch. I doubt the two will cross paths before then.” Dumbledore placated, “Even so, Harry is a resilient and understanding boy - even if they do cross paths, Harry knows how sharp-tongued Severus can be and will forgive him.”
“I don’t care how resilient you think the boy is - the child is already suffering and putting him in a position where he might suffer even more is inhumane.” Poppy said firmly, “You need to talk to him sooner rather than later, before more damage is done.”
“If you feel that strongly about it, I will ask Filius to send Harry to me as soon as he is through with his lesson this morning. I would hate for young Harry to miss valuable instructional time with OWLs rapidly approaching.”
“Thank you. We should have spoken with him sooner... “ she sighed, shaking her head sadly, “I just hoped the memories would return quickly and we could avoid it.”
“Have faith, Poppy. His memories will return and both of them will be fine. They’re both strong and resilient. Things will be back to normal in no time.”
Snape entered the Great Hall, robes billowing behind him. Ever observant, he noticed the moment each group of students spotted his return. His Slytherins looked relieved - had they been worried or had the headmaster temporarily replaced him with someone atrocious? The Ravenclaws also looked relieved - probably because it meant a return to normal classes with exams approaching. The Hufflepuffs were involved in a table-wide animated discussion and his entrance was barely noted. He’d expected nothing less - they were inclined to ignore him as much as he was inclined to ignore them unless forced to interact in a classroom setting. And the Gryffindors - dread and misery all around. They’d probably hoped he was dead or permanently incapacited. Even the insufferable Granger was glaring at him, which he found odd since he’d thought she’d have taken the Ravenclaw approach to his return knowing how soon she’d have to prove herself to the examination board.
Potter, that insufferable brat who had caused this whole fiasco, was refusing to even look in his direction. Snape could only wish that it was because the boy was contrite and ashamed of his atrocious behavior and recklessness, though his gut instinct told him the boy was pouting and looking for sympathy from his housemates against the evil bat of the dungeons.
With a sneer, he strode towards the Gryffindor table, stopping behind the boy and clearing his throat, “Detention tonight at 7pm. Wear something you don’t mind getting dirty or possibly ruining.”
He was disappointed not to get a rise from the boy; he was in the mood for a good argument and loss of points. Just when he’d written off riling up the young lion as a lost cause, Potter spoke up quietly, “I already have detention at 7 with Professor Umbridge, sir.”
“It seems as if she will have to wait her turn. Whatever you’ve done to earn disciplinary action with her cannot possibly be as serious as assaulting me in the corridor and causing internal damage.”
“It wasn’t like that!” Potter exclaimed, whipping around to face Severus with an alarmed expression. “It was an accident!”
“It was an attempted murder. You’re lucky you’re not in Azkaban.” Severus spat out, disappointed that he didn’t feel the same rush of energy he usually did when verbally sparring with his enemy’s son, “Not to say that you won’t wind up there anyway, once the investigation is done.”
This was, of course, a lie. There was no investigation and not even a hint that the accident had been malicious in nature. From all accounts that had been relayed to him, it had been an unfortunate accident and Potter was horrified about what had happened. The stack of ‘get well’ cards and treats the boy had left by his bedside were a testament to that, if nothing else. He’d barely spared the items a second glance after recognizing the messy scrawl of his least tolerated student.
He watched as Potter’s face paled to resemble the color of the porridge being served for breakfast and tried to feel satisfied for getting under the brat’s skin, though it still didn’t feel quite right. Maybe Poppy had been right, maybe it was too soon for him to be released back to his post.
Severus was disappointed as the boy did not verbally respond to him - though he hated the boy’s quick wit and disrespect, he had grown accustomed to being on the receiving end of it during moments like this. Instead, the boy silently rose and bolted from the Great Hall, the Weasley boy following quickly after him and Granger looking furious, clearly wanting to say something but holding back.
Ignoring the particularly loquacious girl, he turned and stalked to the head of the room, taking a seat beside the deputy headmistress.
“Good morning, Severus.” Minerva greeted, “I didn’t expect to see you back so soon.”
“Aside from a few gaps in my memory, I’m in perfect health. Sitting around and wasting time has never been my strong suit.”
“No, your time is better spent dripping venom over my lions, is it not?” Minerva questioned pointedly, glancing back towards the Gryffindor table, where Hermione Granger had just shoved a few pieces of fruit into her robes and had taken off after her friends.
Severus’s expression hardened and he retorted in an equally irate tone, “Your golden child nearly killed me, Minerva. I think assigning him to detention is the very least that should be done.”
“Potter meant no harm, and you know it.” Minerva reprimanded, “I know you’re having difficulty remembering what happened, but once your memories return, you’ll see that you are being unnecessarily harsh on someone who had zero ill will towards you.”
Severus ignored her and turned to his breakfast, cutting a piece of sausage as her words reverberated in his skull. Deep down, he knew she was right. He wasn’t sure why - the memories that typically guide his reactions were missing - but somehow he knew he was being unreasonable and felt a twinge of guilt over it.
As he slowly worked his way through the items on his plate, he thought back to the conversation he’d just had with Potter. The boy had not reacted the way he should have. The boy had seemed genuinely distraught by the harsh words - distraught in a way he’d never seen the boy behave during previous large-scale offenses where he’d thrown around the most dramatic and harshest punishments as an option. There had been no defiance, no spark of anger. There had just been resignation and sadness, though Severus thought he must have read the boy wrong as those emotions didn’t make sense.
He was pulled from his thoughts as Minerva changed the topic and began to speak once more, “While you were unavailable, I filled in as your head of house. Things were pretty uneventful, but it’s worth noting that Mr. Goyle was found with banned contraband. I spoke with his mother and disposed of it, as well as assigned detention for him. Miss Perkins has been removed temporarily by her parents due to a family emergency; we are expecting her back next week. Mr. Malfoy, Miss Parkinson, and Mr. Nott have joined Delores’s inquisitorial squad and have extended curfew privileges as a reward for volunteering their…service.”
It took a few moments for Severus to place the Defence’s teacher’s face with the name Delores, but once he made the connection the conversation at hand made much more sense.
“The inquisitorial squad?”
“A student volunteer group formed to enforce Delores’s rules and ministry orders.” Minerva supplemented, “I wish we had been able to keep any students from signing up to help that old--” she paused, spotting the pink abomination approaching the table, “We can discuss it later.”
Severus raised an eyebrow at the abrupt end of the conversation. Minerva was never one to mince words, nor was she one to keep quiet and talk about coworkers behind their backs. If anything, sometimes she was too honest and upfront - her redeeming qualities also being her downfall at times like a true Gryffindor.
“Ah, Severus, it’s lovely to see you back at work.” Delores Umbridge cooed as she sat on his other side, “Your recovery has gone well then, I suppose?”
“It’s refreshing to be back.” Severus replied cordially, his subconscious sending off warning bells that this woman could not be trusted, even though he couldn’t remember why. Something about her sickeningly sweet voice made his skin crawl, and he knew he had to tread lightly, “Hogwarts is blessed by Merlin himself to have such a talented mediwitch on staff.”
He glanced over the Slytherin table, remembering what Minerva had said about the Inquisitorial Squad, “I trust my students have been doing an exemplary job on your Inquisitorial Squad? If they are ever anything less than exemplary, please do not hesitate to come to me so I can discipline them to the full extent of my authority.”
He wasn’t sure why he felt compelled to tell her that, but she seemed to be happy that he was willing to discipline with a firm hand and she asked no further questions about his accident or recovery.
As he finished his breakfast, he remembered Potter’s words about detention. It really was the brat’s place to sort out his conflicting detention schedules, but since they were both seated here and the blasted boy was on his mind, he decided to lay the groundwork for the insufferable child.
“I assigned Mr. Potter detention tonight for his role in my accident, but he informed me that he was already serving detention with you.” Severus mentioned to Delores, “How long do you expect to keep him? I was hoping he could serve my detention after, though I am under strict orders to take it easy for a few days to make sure nothing interrupts my healing process.”
Lies, he was told no such thing. He just didn’t want to have to be in Potter’s presence until midnight.
“Of course, Severus.” Delores gushed in the most sugary-sweet and obviously fake tone he’d ever heard, “I can allow him to serve detention with you first so you don’t have to be overly taxed with his company. When you’re finished with him, you can send him to me and I will take over disciplining him from there.”
On his other side, Minerva made a disapproving noise, but said nothing. Severus had no choice but to agree, still feeling like something was very, very wrong here. He needed his memories back, and he needed them back immediately.
“Come on, mate, you know how Snape can be when he’s angry. I’m sure he’d never let them chuck you into Azkaban.” Ron told his friend, trying to be supportive and helpful, but knowing he’d failed miserably when his friend began to retch again from the other side of the closed bathroom stall.
The awful retching noises came to an end and the only sounds left in the bathroom were the dripping sink and Harry’s loud, harsh gasps of air as he tried to calm down his body and mind.
“Alright, mate?” Ron asked after a minute or so of awkward silence, “Do you need anything?”
“A time turner?” Harry asked wryly, coughing a few times as his lungs refused to cooperate and give him an adequate supply of air, “So maybe I could go back to that day and fix all of this?”
“Wish I could.” Ron said heavily, leaning against the stall door frame, “Honestly, though, I think he was just trying to get a rise out of you. He looked a bit, I dunno, disappointed or something when you didn’t argue with him. If they’d thought you’d done something criminal, aurors would be here by now - they’d have come to question you at the start.”
There was a quiet knock on the door, followed by Hermione’s voice, “Harry? Ron?”
Ron quickly crossed the room to the door and let her in, then charmed the door shut and locked so no one else could enter. He nodded his head towards the closed toilet stall and Hermione frowned worriedly.
“Is that Hermione?” Harry asked tiredly, having heard the door and then Ron’s spellwork. He felt overly warm and the room felt as if it had gotten smaller since he’d been in it. He hurriedly unfastened his tie and unbuttoned the top button of his shirt, hoping that it would alleviate the feeling like the walls were closing in on him and threatening to suffocate him. It didn’t help at all.
Feeling like he probably done choking back up the breakfast he’d forced down, he leaned against the wall of the bathroom stall and lowered his head to his knees. If there had been any doubt that his adoptive father absolutely hated him now, it was gone now. Investigations, aurors, Azkaban...could he really go to Azkaban for what had happened? It had been an accident, he hadn’t meant for anyone to be hurt.
His chest felt even tighter at the thought of the bleak prison and he fumbled to unfasten another button on his shirt as his mind drifted to the dementors that guard it and what would happen if he had to stay there without his wand and Patronus to protect him from the debilitating memories that they brought up every time he was in their presence.
“Harry, can I come in?” Hermione asked quietly from the other side of the stall door. Worry was practically dripping from her words and Harry was torn between telling both of them to get lost so they didn’t see him completely fall apart and letting them in so he didn’t feel so alone and jittery.
When he opened his mouth to speak, no words came out and he once again found himself struggling to get enough air in to make sense of the situation. What was wrong with him? Why was he falling apart like this? The adults in his life had always hated his existence, so why was this bothering him so much?
He ran his fingers through his hair, fighting the urge to flee and forcing down the black hole of loneliness that he knew would consume him if he gave it half a chance. He pulled his hair slightly, using the twinge of pain to ground him to the moment, to channel his energy in a way that would keep the broken pieces of him together. One deep breath, then two, then three…
His stomach lurched again and he moved back to the toilet just in case there was anything left in his body to eject. He wasn’t sure what was more terrifying to him - the idea of rotting away in Azkaban with dementors and Death Eaters for company or the idea of detention with Snape where inevitably he was going to be told that Snape wanted to end the adoption and that he was on his own….again.
Harry heaved once more, so caught up in the endless flood of worry and negativity flowing through his veins that he didn’t realize Hermione had entered the stall until she put a hand on his shaking shoulder, startling him out of his panicked string of thoughts.
“It’s going to be alright, Harry.” she soothed.
He wanted to believe her, but knew he couldn’t. How could things be alright when his whole life was crashing in on him?
“Here, sit back.” Hermione said gently once it seemed as if Harry’s bout of sickness had passed. With careful hands she maneuvered him into a sitting position, taking his wrist into her hand and pressing down on the vein for a few seconds, “Your pulse is racing. Ron, can you wet us some paper towels?”
The third member of their trio appeared in the stall doorway moments later, water dripping slowly to the floor as he brought her what she requested, “Should I get someone--?”
“No.” Hermione and Harry said in unison, her voice strong and confident and his subdued and strained. “I’ve got this.” Hermione continued, taking a wet towel and carefully placing it on the back of Harry’s neck while she took the rest and dabbed at his sweaty face.
The relief was instant and Harry couldn’t be sure if it was an effect of the cool water or the feeling of being cared for that helped ease the tightness in his chest and slow the thoughts racing through his mind. He leaned his head back against the wall, eyes closed as he finally was able to take a deep breath.
Harry’s murmured response was unintelligible, though both Ron and Hermione understood it completely. The crisis was passing. Things would be okay. Maybe not great, but solidly okay. Hermione sat beside her friend, squeezing his shaky hand tightly when he let his head drop to her shoulder in a sign of trust and camaraderie.
Why had he been so scared to confide in them? To trust them with this? They’d just seen the worst side of him and they were still here, supportive and caring. Hermione had been right - they were his family. They weren’t going to leave him like everyone else inevitably did. Maybe he didn’t need Snape after all. The flutter that flared in his chest at the thought was a sign that perhaps he did still need Snape, but he was also confident that with his friends by his side, he’d survive even without his new father.
Ron sat on Harry’s other side, knee touching Harry’s knee. Harry knew it was a way to show he was there for him, as it wasn’t natural for the ginger to be as tactile and direct as Hermione. The gesture was as comforting as the ministrations Hermione had given him, and Harry exhaled slowly, feeling like his life was coming back together, piece by piece.
“We’re going to be late for class.” Ron commented, checking the time and surprised to see how much time had passed.
“We’re not going.” Hermione said after a brief pause, “Harry’s in no condition for class and I’m not leaving him alone.”
“I’m right here.” Harry muttered, “Don’t talk about me like I’m not.”
“She’s right, though, mate.” Ron countered, “You look like you’ve been run over by a herd of Hippogriffs. Flitwick would probably send you straight to Pomfrey if you walked into class like this.”
“Besides that, you’ve been sick.” Hermione reasoned, “If there’s any reason to skive off a class, it’s that. If we tell Professor Flitwick that we missed class because you were sick and we were helping you, he’ll understand.”
“Out of any of the professors, he’d probably be the most likely to understand.” Ron agreed, “Let’s just go back to the common room. You can lie down for a bit and we’ll go to our afternoon classes.”
“Oh.” Hermione said softly, glancing worriedly towards Harry. At the boys’ questioning gazes, she clarified, “We have double potions this afternoon.”
Ron looked expectantly at his best friend as if he expected Harry to be sick again, but Harry remained still, letting his eyes shut for a few seconds before banging his head lightly against the wall a few times in a show of frustration.
“Then we’ll skive off that class, too.” Ron retorted, “If I have to go sit in that greasy bastard’s class I’m going to have to tell him what I think about him. Whatever trouble we get into for skiving has to be less than what we’d get into for telling off a professor.”
“We can’t just skive off his class.” Harry muttered, “He’ll take it out on me, and I already have enough detentions between both him and Umbridge finding fault in every single move I make.”
“You certainly can’t go to his class.” Hermione countered, “Look at you. I love you, Harry, but you’re a mess. Do you think you’ll be able to sit in his classroom, having him criticize your potions and call you names and all of that other stuff he does in class without having a panic attack? Because I don’t think you’re ready for that, yet.”
“No, you’re not.” Hermione argued, “And that’s okay. It’s okay to not be okay. Honestly, with all that’s happening, I don’t think anyone would blame you for not being okay. But you can’t just walk around and pretend like nothing’s happening. It’s not healthy.”
Harry groaned, hating feeling exposed in front of his friends, even though he knew they were unlikely to judge him or think any less of him for this bout of weakness. He wasn’t sure what to say to her, and he wasn’t about to agree with her and tell her that she was right, even if she was. He didn’t want to admit that he wasn’t fine, he wasn’t even okay. Admitting it would make it real, and it was a lot easier to pretend like he was fine than to deal with all of the chaos swirling constantly in his brain.
“Can we just stay here a minute? I’m not ready to go back out there yet.” Harry admitted quietly.
“Of course.” Ron said quietly, looking over Harry’s bowed head to meet Hermione’s worried gaze. They stared at each other for a few seconds, silently communicating their worry over their friend.
Hermione put her arm around Harry, giving him a slight squeeze as a show of affection and support, and Ron stood, “I’m going to wet some more paper towels.”
Harry wasn’t sure if needed more wet paper towels, but he understood Ron’s need to do something to show he cared. Hermione was gentle and affectionate at times, as well as their voice of reason most of the time. Ron was different, he needed to do things to show that he cared and wasn’t great at sharing his thoughts and emotions through words or touch. He shivered slightly as a new overly wet and cold paper towel was placed on his neck, slightly uncomfortable as the excess water trickled down his back. Was the paper towel needed? Not particularly, not anymore. Was it uncomfortable? A bit. Even then, Harry didn’t make a move to touch it. Just the fact that his friends cared enough to take care of him when he was like this was enough to remind him that even though everything else was falling apart some things in his life were still solid and would remain solid.
“You’re my son. Of course I want to know when someone’s bothering you!”
The memory came out of nowhere, the intensity of its arrival nearly bringing Snape to his knees in the corridor.
“Not this, this is just stupid stuff. I can handle it on my own.”
“I have no doubt that you can handle it on your own, you’re more adept at handling situations on your own than most your age, but my point is that you don’t have to handle it on your own anymore. I want you to come to me when something is bothering you, even if it’s not a matter of life and death. I shouldn’t have to find out through the school gossip mill that my son is having issues with another student!”
There was a pause, before the child responded, “But why? You’ve got papers to grade and lessons to plan, you have to watch your back so Umbridge doesn’t can you like she’s trying to can everyone else, you have to keep up appearances with the Slytherins and Vol--you know, him...then there’s Order stuff...you put everything on the line for this adoption to happen. How could I possibly come to you with stupid petty school stuff when you have so much else you have to do?”
“I want you to. We’re a family now and families talk about their days and their experiences, even if they’re trivial. I don’t want you to wait until you’re coming to blows with another student to tell me you’re being targeted. I don’t want you to wait until you’re failing a class before you come to me for help--”
“I’m not failing any of my classes!”
“I didn’t say you were. You’re missing the big picture here, son. My point is that I don’t care if all you did for the day was waste time down at the lake skipping rocks and talking about quidditch with your friends, I still want to hear about it. I don’t want you to reserve our conversations for when you’re in over your head. I don’t want to be your last resort option. I’m your father, and I want to be your father. That includes all of the mundane, day to day bits like hearing about what you’ve done in classes, making sure you’ve eaten all three meals, checking your homework, taking care of you when you’re ill or injured, making sure you go to bed at a reasonable hour instead of skulking around the castle…”
“You really want to do all of that? For me?”
“I wouldn’t have signed the papers if there was any doubt in my mind.”
“But what if I start talking to you about just regular stuff and you change your mind? I don’t want to go back there.”
“I won’t change my mind.”
“Yes, you will....eventually everyone gets tired of me. I’m not that special. I’m not a good kid, a good son. I don’t know how to be. I’ve never been someone’s son before, not really.”
“I won’t change my mind.”
“But what if you do?”
“Do you promise?”
“I swear it on my life, there is nothing you could do or say that would make me regret my decision or change my mind.”
The memory ended as suddenly as it began, and Snape found himself holding on to the wall for support as his legs trembled and threatened to give way. He had no doubts that it was a memory, that it was real. He could feel the emotions, the memory was as sharp and clear as if it had just transpired in this very space, at this very time. He still couldn’t put a face to the boy, but he knew it was just within his grasp.
Had he really adopted a son? He had a child walking around this school and he had no idea who it was? Why had the child not approached him? Why had no one told him? The poor boy, he was probably beside himself thinking that he’d been forgotten, lonely for the person who promised not to leave him. Had they already crossed paths? Would it be someone in his classes today, someone looking for a sign or a signal of recognition and heartbroken when it didn’t appear?
He needed time to think on this, to process this. But first, he needed to splash some water on his face and strengthen his occlumency shields so he could compartmentalize this new development and unpack it after he’d gotten through his work day. Brewing when distracted was a recipe for disaster, and he wasn’t going to allow a student to be injured as a result of his personal crisis.
The door to the loo was locked, though the charmwork was substandard, at best, and he easily dismantled the poorly constructed wards. He’d come across locked doors many times, and usually the culprit was a student trying to compose themselves or perhaps two students thinking they were being clever about hiding away to snog.
He opened the door, stealthily entering to see who he was going to catch being up to no good. He didn’t expect to see the Golden Trio sitting huddled together on the floor. The scent of sickness was thick in the air and it didn’t take long to determine which one was ill. Potter sat between the other two, his face ashen and utterly miserable. If he wasn’t so furious with the boy over the accident and his missing memories - memories of his son, at that! - he may have been inclined to intervene and do something to help. After all, it was his duty as a teacher to be helpful when a student was in distress, even when the student was the single most arrogant and annoying student in the school. Instead, he carried about his business, pretending he hadn’t seen the three students.
Snape could feel Granger and Weasley’s eyes on him as he splashed water on his face and he found it a bit unnerving, though he wasn’t sure why. It wasn’t the first time students had stared at him with disdain and it certainly wouldn’t be the last.
A glance in their direction showed him Potter’s eyes were closed and he had no idea they weren’t alone. Without a doubt, if Potter had been more coherent there would have been three sets of eyes following his every move.
His voice startled Harry, the boy’s eyes flying open almost comically as he jumped several centimeters, jolted back to full consciousness. It would have been funny if the boy hadn’t immediately turned a delicate shade of green.
“No.” Hermione said sternly as Harry moved towards the toilet, “You’re not going to be sick again. You’re going to breathe through it and calm down.”
Snape didn’t even notice that the incredulous look Harry was giving the girl matched his own expression perfectly.
“No, Ron.” She turned to Harry with a pleading, worried expression, “You need to just stay calm. I know it’s hard, and I know you feel absolutely rotten, but you honestly can’t afford to lose any more weight and you can’t go back to square one just because we aren’t alone in the room anymore.”
Snape felt like he’d walked into something bigger than just a student with a mundane childhood illness, and he wished he’d gone to any other lavatory in the school. He didn’t want to deal with theatrics and drama, especially with these three students.
Hermione’s impassioned speech did little for her friend, and Harry was soon retching painfully over the toilet, leaving Ron to step out of the stall with a slightly disgusted expression and Hermione to follow, absolutely livid in a way that the professor had never seen her before.
“This is all your fault. Do you see what you’ve done!? Was it worth it - making him think you were going to have him expelled, or sent to Azkaban? Does it make you happy to torment your students and absolutely crush their spirits? Do you get your kicks from bullying students who more than half your age?” Hermione asked angrily, tears in her eyes on behalf of her suffering friend.
Snape’s scathing retort was cut off by Ron’s frantic gasp, “Hermione, look--”
Both teens had turned their attention back to Harry, who had torn off a few pieces of roll to wipe his mouth, only to have the paper stained red with blood.
If possible, Potter had gone even more pale at the sight of blood and if his two friends hadn’t stepped forward to grab ahold of him, Snape would have had no choice but to do it himself. What was wrong with the brat, anyway? Certainly all of these theatrics couldn’t be due to one measly threat of an auror investigation into the accident.
“Come on, mate, you’ve got to see Pomfrey now. I think we’ve crossed over into this being something too big for us to ignore.” Ron was saying kindly to his friend, worry evident in his face and tone though Harry seemed to have completely checked out of the conversation, his eyes glazed over as he allowed himself to be maneuvered by his friends.
It took both students to get Harry to his feet, and once standing he swayed alarmingly, his eyes fluttering with a low moan.
“Honestly, you won’t get him anywhere like this.” Snape sighed, conjuring a stretcher and guiding Harry to it. ”Weasley, get him to the hospital wing. Granger, we’re not finished.”
“Actually, I’d prefer to go with my friend.” Hermione stated, bold and brave in a way that screamed ‘Gryffindor’ but was usually reserved for some of the more outspoken and reckless students in their house and not for the studious and reserved girl.
Even Potter lifted his head slightly to watch the scene unfold.
Snape was surprised to see her standing up to him like this, with such disrespect and unabashed hatred, but he couldn’t dwell on her uncharacteristic behavior for long, lest he lose the little control he had over the situation at hand. “One hundred points from Gryffindor, and we will continue this in the Headmaster’s Office.”
Granger opened her mouth to argue, but he silenced her with one of his most fierce glares and pointed towards the doorway, “When will you students learn that being disrespectful brats is never the answer?”
“When will you learn to keep your promises?” Ron muttered under his breath, though everyone heard it.
Hermione sighed anger deflating at the prospect of her behavior being detailed for the Headmaster. It really hadn’t made a difference, after all - she’d yelled at the professor and it didn’t miraculously solve any of their problems, just as she knew would be the outcome. Ron silently accompanied his friend to the hospital wing after giving Hermione a sympathetic smile. Harry had began to doze off as soon as he realized Snape and Hermione weren’t going to continue verbally sparring, exhausted from the eventful morning.
As for Snape, confusion over the events that had just unfolded as well as confusion over his reemerging memories had given him a headache and he wanted nothing more than to retreat to his quarters. Perhaps Poppy had been right and it was too soon to jump back into his daily routines. Of course, it was too late now to change his mind and retreating to the privacy and comfort of his quarters would have to wait - he had a student to discipline and another to check up on. Potter may be his least favorite person, but he wasn’t completely heartless. He’d have to make sure Potter and Weasley made it to the hospital wing and ask for an update on the boy; he wasn’t sure why, but he felt oddly compelled to know what was wrong.
He watched the boys retreat down the hallway, his gaze landing on Potter’s black trainers. They looked new, which was strange for this point of the school term; it was actually strange for Potter at all, since his clothing usually resembled something rescued from a trash bin. He couldn’t pinpoint why, but for some reason those trainers seemed important. He’d have to examine this later, when he had more time to think and less discipline to dole out. He filed that memory away with the one from earlier, determined to sort out this puzzle once he’d dealt with Granger.
“The blatant disrespect and outright atrocious behavior is nothing new for these three. I will not put up with it any longer!” Snape seethed, hands placed firmly down on the edge of the Headmaster’s desk, “You should have heard her - actually, wait, I can show you the memory if you’d like to see it for yourself!”
“That will be unnecessary, Severus.” Dumbledore replied calmly before turning his attention to Hermione, “I can imagine you were feeling very protective of Harry, were you not?”
“Yes, sir.” Hermione replied, subdued and beginning to regret her angry tirade now that she was in the presence of the headmaster. “It’s just, Harry has been so upset by--”
Dumbledore held up a hand to quiet the girl, “No need to explain, Miss Granger. I quite understand the situation at hand and how difficult this must be for Harry. I actually have plans to talk to him this morning about everything that has been happening in hopes to alleviate some of the distress this whole ordeal has caused.”
“I do believe you are due to be in Charms class right now, Miss Granger?” At the girl’s affirmative nod he continued calmly and kindly, “I’d suggest you hurry along there - you have very little time left before exams and I know you want to be fully prepared for the examination board.”
Hermione recognized the dismissal for what it was, but she was reluctant to leave without having fully advocated for her friend. She opened her mouth to protest, but was quickly cut off by the sharp voice of the potions professor.
“Do I need to take another hundred points for disobedience?”
“No, sir.” Hermione replied, standing and fidgeting nervously with the hem of her skirt. She still didn’t feel comfortable walking away when she hadn’t been able to fully explain herself.
She had slowly made her way to the door when the headmaster spoke again, “Miss Granger? You’ve been a good friend to Harry. Not many people would have the courage to stand up for another, especially to someone they knew would not appreciate the strength it took to do so. I award 70 points to Gryffindor for not only understanding the value of friendship and family, but for your unwavering support of those dear to you.”
“What?!” Snape roared, “Albus, you cannot--”
“Furthermore, please relay the message to Mr. Potter that I wish to speak with him and after our conversation he will fully understand everything that may be causing him difficulty right now. Warn him not to do anything rash until that conversation has occurred.”
“Yes, sir.” Hermione replied, confused by the entire conversation. She hadn’t been reprimanded - in fact, she’d been given points! She had wanted to tell Dumbledore everything - the jabs Snape had made since awakening from the accident, Harry’s anxiety and the effect it was having on his health, Umbridge and the barbaric detentions, the concern she had for her friend’s mental state. If she’d been given half a chance, she would have unloaded all of that information and let him sort it out; after all, he was an adult and that’s what adults were there for. Not to mention the fact that he was an adult who cared about Harry. That had to mean he’d make an effort to fix things, right? A voice in her head, sounding much like Harry himself, made a sound of disbelief in response to her racing thoughts.
It wasn’t until she had descended the stairs and reached the end of the corridor that she realized they’d had an entire conversation without once mentioning the fact that Snape was supposed to be acting fatherly towards Harry. They hadn’t referenced the adoption at all, which happened to be the major crux of the situation unfolding. That had to mean something...she just needed to precisely decode what the Headmaster had said and read between the lines. Something felt wrong, and she was going to figure out what it was.
Back in the Headmaster’s office, Snape was beyond furious.
“70 points?! No real consequences? Why can’t you see these brats for what they are? Disobedient, disrespectful....you’re practically rewarding her for the way she spoke to me. You didn’t even bother correcting her, you just praised her and sent her on her way!”
“Severus, please calm down and listen to me.” Dumbledore said with a heavy sigh, “There’s a lot you don’t recall from this year, and I think once those memories return you will be looking at this entire situation from a different perspective.”
“There is absolutely nothing you can say to me that could possibly justify the way that presumptuous little brat spoke to me.” Severus retorted angrily, growing more and more furious as time passed on. Was it not bad enough that a student dared to yell at him and accuse him of bullying another student? Did the Headmaster really need to try and justify that sort of behavior? No wonder no one could keep the trio in check, they were never subjected to the consequences of their actions.
Their conversation was interrupted by Poppy’s head in the floo, “Albus? I have a situation here - do you have a moment?”
“Of course, I'll be right through.” Albus responded, looking weary and every bit his age as he stood, “Severus, my boy, if we could continue this later…?”
“Duty calls.” Severus replied dryly, “I shall meet you there shortly anyhow, as I have some matters to check up on.”
He wasn’t about to admit to the old man that he was going to check in on Potter. That would just give Dumbledore false hope that one day he’d be able to coexist with the Potter spawn in harmony. No, some things were better kept private.
Albus disappeared in the fire with a flash leaving Snape to talk the longer way through the corridors, hoping to stumble across Granger disobeying orders so he could recoup those points the headmaster had underhandedly returned.
“Malnourishment. Chronic malnourishment - mind you; we still hadn’t rectified all of the damages those muggles inflicted upon him through all of those years of neglect. It’s clear he hasn’t been eating properly since the accident - he’s lost more than a stone since then!” Poppy informed the headmaster, walking him towards Harry’s bed. She pulled back the curtain to reveal Harry, who was sleeping anything but peacefully, his face ashen and tight with discomfort.
“I trust malnourishment is not why you’ve summoned me?” Albus asked quietly, urging the mediwitch to continue without actually saying so.
Poppy shook her head worriedly, “He’s a very ill boy, Albus. Mr. Weasley said he’d been sick several times, and the last time there was blood involved. A diagnostic pinpointed that issue as an untreated ulcer. It’s easy enough to heal, but it is a treatment we need a parental medical consent for, as it doesn’t fall under routine medical care.”
“Ah, yes, that will be difficult to come by, all things considered.”
The boy moaned on the bed, turning his head to the side and bringing a hand to rest on his aching stomach. His eyes blinked open tiredly, but before either adult could address him he’d gone back to sleep.
“He’s in a great deal of pain, but I’ve refrained from giving him any potions, as they would interfere with the ulcer treatment. Do you think you’ll be able to get the signature?”
Dumbledore was quiet for a moment, running through possible solutions in his mind. He sighed heavily, “We’re going to have to tell him. It’s really our only option.”
“Do you think it’s wise?”
“It’s not ideal, I’d rather see his memories return on their own, but what other choice do we have? We need him here to perform his parental duties.”
“You’ve seen the way Severus has reacted to young Harry since waking from the ordeal. Do you think he’ll be able to see past all of that anger to help a boy that, by all memories he currently holds, he can’t stand?”
“For something this serious, I believe he will be willing to overlook the details and focus on the big picture.”
Harry moaned again, eyes fluttering in a way that indicated he was trying to force his way back to consciousness. Poppy placed a hand gently on his arm, shushing him slightly as if he were much younger than his 15 years. After a few moments, he went limp once more, small movements ceasing as he was once again under.
“I’ll look for Severus and let him know I need to meet with him. It’s best to get this over with as quickly as possible, so Harry can begin recovering from this setback.”
“How are you planning on doing it?” Poppy asked, “You need to be careful not to cause Severus any distress that might hinder his own recovery process. You can’t just sit him down and tell him ‘I hate to be the one to tell you this, but Harry Potter is your son. By the way, he’s bleeding internally and we need you to sign a waiver.’. He’d think you’d gone mad.”
The door to the infirmary opened, the subject of discussion appearing moments later at the entrance.
“Ah, Severus…” Albus said kindly, glancing back towards Harry with a concerned gaze. He hadn’t had enough time to fully prepare for this conversation, and was worried it would not go well, despite his reassurances to Poppy.
“I trust Weasley and Potter were able to follow directions, for once?” Snape asked, crossing the room to join his colleagues, “Made it with no further incidents?”
“I had to threaten to call his mother to get Mr. Weasley to return to class.” Poppy commented lightly, covering Harry with a blanket as he shivered slightly, “Though as you can see, Mr. Potter is resting.”
Severus studied his most-loathed student for a moment, a frown on his sallow face, “He seems to be in pain. Have you given him anything?”
“Not yet.” Poppy retorted, glancing towards the headmaster for support, “We need a parental consent form signed to treat him, and we don’t have one on record for him.”
“Surely you have a consent on file from previous years.” Snape questioned, picturing some of the more serious occasions that Potter has needed medical attention - the stone, the basilisk, quidditch accidents, a few potions mishaps, the Triwizard tournament...some of those fell under the category of typical childhood injury and illness, but most would have required consent from a guardian.
Dumbledore and Pomfrey exchanged a glance that, for some reason, had Snape’s blood boiling. He wasn’t even sure why, other than it felt condescending to be part of a conversation where his questions were meant with sideways glances that clearly indicated that he was missing a vital piece of the puzzle.
“I was able to sign his paperwork in previous years in loco parentis.” Dumbledore said after a moment of hesitation, “Recent developments this year will not allow me to continue doing so, unfortunately.”
“Recent developments?” Snape asked, “Certainly no one will expect you to go all the way to Surrey to get documentation for his medical treatment!”
There was a gasp from the bed and Harry bolted upright, leaping from the bed in a panic, breathless while his shoes squeaked on the floor as he backed away from the bed. His eyes were glazed over, breath coming in short gasps as he clawed at his shirt, trying to pull it away from his chest.
“What on Earth--” Pomfrey breathed, “Mr. Potter, back in bed at once!”
“He’s not awake, Poppy, not really.” Dumbledore said gently, “Look at him. He probably had a bad dream.”
Sure enough, it took very little effort to get the boy back into bed, and within moments he was back asleep, as if nothing had happened.
“He’s never been one to sleepwalk.” Poppy said with concern, forehead wrinkled with worry as she fretted over the student, “He’s spent ample time in my care, and not once have I ever seen him do anything like this.”
“This has been a rather unusual year,” Dumbledore began, giving the mediwitch a knowing look before subtly turning to look at the potions master. He hadn’t expected to find the younger man as pale as the boy in the bed, wavering slightly on his feet though clearly lost in thought, “Oh dear, Severus, are you alright?”
“I told him it was too soon to be wandering around the castle.” Poppy Pomfrey fretted, conjuring a chair and all but forcing the professor into it, “Severus? Can you hear me?”
“I swear it on my life, there is nothing you could do or say that would make me regret my decision or change my mind.”
The child was still for a moment, the tension in the room so thick it was nearly palpable. Then with a squeak of his new trainers against the castle floor, he’d flung himself into his adoptive father’s arms.
The forcefulness of the memory hit Snape like a rogue bludger, and while he was vaguely aware of the ministrations taking place around them the memory was so vivid that he expected to be able to reach out and touch the boy. Moments later, the memory shifted and a new one was put in its place.
“Why would you want me?” the boy questioned, his voice quiet but firm. There was no hesitation, no hope, no curiosity in the words, only cynicism and disbelief.
“I believe we’ve been over this.”
“I’m serious, though. There are tons of kids out there who need a new family. Kids you actually like and want to be around. Kids who aren’t messed up and broken.”
“I find it amusing that after knowing me for nearly 5 years you still think there are kids I like and want to be around.”
“Touche. I don't know what you’re expecting from me. I’ve told you what I have to offer you, I’ve told you my motivations and intentions, and I’ve answered all of these questions before.” Severus sighed, reaching out to tousle the boy’s hair, “I know you don’t feel like you’re worth it, but I’m going to make it my life’s goal to prove you wrong.”
“It’s always been your life’s goal to prove me wrong.” the boy responded wryly, though Severus could hear the smile in his voice.
“I don’t want you to refer to yourself as messed up or broken ever again.” Severus said firmly, bringing the lighthearted banter to an end with the seriousness of his voice, “There is nothing broken about you - we all have flaws, we all have skeletons in our closet, and we all deserve the chance to love and be loved.”
The boy’s shoes squeaked on the floor again as he shifted his weight anxiously. Severus rolled his eyes, putting his hands on the boy’s shoulders, “Stop moving before I have to throw your new shoes in the lake.”
“It’s not my fault they squeak.” the boy replied glumly, clearly feeling like he was being scolded.
“It’s your fault that you keep squirming like there are pixies in your trousers.” Severus countered with a raised eyebrow, “You’re letting your anxiety get the best of you and you need to channel this nervous energy towards something else instead of self-flagellating yourself with it.”
“I’m not self-flag…” the boy trailed off, “Whatever that is. I’m not anxious.” the boy’s voice took a whiny tone at the word, “You’re making me sound like a girl.”
“Anxiety is not reserved for ladies, and I’m sure your female classmates would be offended if they heard you make that declaration.”
“I don’t like you calling it anxiety.” the boy countered, “It feels…clinical, like something’s wrong with me.”
“Yet I’ve said numerous times that there is nothing wrong with you.” Severus retorted, taking the boy by the chin and tilting his head back to look into the boy’s piercing green eyes, “Have you ever known me to coddle you or tell you what you want to hear, Mr. Potter?”
“Then believe me when I say that not only is there nothing wrong with you nor are you broken, but I would like more than anything to be your legal guardian.”
The blasted trainers gave a particularly loud squeak as the boy flung himself into the stern professor’s arms, shoulders hitching though he’d later deny he’d been nearly as emotional as Snape claimed him to be. Not more than a second later he pulled away, looking at the floor as if to pretend he hadn’t just exhibited such a large display of affection.
“So I take it you are agreeable to my offer?”
“Will this help my potions grade at all?”
Harry sighed dramatically, although he couldn’t quite conceal the smile threatening to break through on his face, “Oh, alright then, I guess.”
“You guess?” Severus played along, “I mean, if you aren’t absolutely sure I can go back to the ministry and withdraw my petition--”
“I’m absolutely sure.” All traces of playfulness were gone and Severus was, not for the first time, reminded that beyond the cheekiness of the boy standing before him was a child who had been through a lot and had a lot of past trauma to work through.
“Then it’s settled.”
There was a pause, then Harry added quietly, “I’m not going to have to change my name to Harry Snape, am I? I’ll never hear the end of it in my common room or in the halls.”
“That choice belongs to you, and you alone, Harry.”
“Well maybe it wouldn’t be too bad…” Harry paused, clearly thinking about it and imagining hearing ‘Mr. Snape’ in within his classes and in the hallways, “We can think about this and decide that part later, can’t we?”
“Indeed. There is no rush to make decisions on the smaller details - we can proceed at a pace comfortable to you.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“There’s no need to thank me, I’m just as pleased with the arrangement as you are, Harry.”
Severus slowly returned to his surroundings, his face nearly as ashen as Harry’s as the implications of his memory began to fully sink in, “Those blasted shoes...I should have made good on my threat to toss them into the lake for the giant squid to play with.”
He stood on shaky legs and walked to the child’s bed, looking down at Harry as if he’d never properly looked at him before. Adopting Harry Potter? That couldn’t be true...though it had to be, his memories were clear and vivid with no indication that they’d been planted or tampered with. What else was he forgetting? How had this even happened? What had possessed him to offer to adopt Potter? What had possessed Potter to accept?
“You do?” Pomfrey asked in surprise, “Everything?”
“No, not everything, but evidently the most important thing.” Severus said quietly, studying the boy and trying to connect the withdrawn and unsure child from his memories with the rude, arrogant boy he’d known for the last several years. What had happened to change the way they felt about each other? What other major pieces of this puzzle was he missing?
“Poppy, the consent form, if you would.” Dumbledore spoke urgently, interrupting Snape from his musing. That’s right, the consent. The child - his son! - was in need of medical assistance and he was standing over him trying to summon up lost memories like a bumbling idiot.
“Tell me what’s wrong with him.” Snape demanded, glancing towards the headmaster with a frown. This information, while new to his conscious memory and thoughts, did explain why he felt uncharacteristically concerned about the boy.
Dumbledore joined Snape at Harry’s bedside, frowning down at the sleeping boy, “Poppy has diagnosed him with an ulcer - she thinks there may be a small possibility of internal bleeding, but we won't know that for sure until she begins healing him. He’s malnourished; he hasn’t been eating properly.” the headmaster studied the child carefully, then added, “I’d guess he’s not been sleeping properly, either. Look at the marks beneath his eyes.”
“Mr. Weasley indicated he may be suffering from panic attacks.” Poppy added, thrusting a quill and parchment towards the potions professor, “He’s never come to me during or after one, but Mr. Weasley described several circumstances that sound like anxiety. He’d never admit to me if he were having attacks, of course, but I’m going to be watching for signs of them. I’ve told Mr. Weasley that the next time Mr. Potter is suffering one to waste no time bringing him here so I can monitor him and give him the potions that he needs.”
“Miss Granger hinted at that, as well.” Snape murmured, signing the document and moving out of the way so the mediwitch could work, “She seems to think I’m the cause of all of this.”
“The accident has not been easy on either of you.” Dumbledore replied, refusing to place blame on anyone, though it did nothing to help dispel some of the guilt Snape was feeling as he recalled the harsh words he’d spoken to the boy.
Snape watched the boy with curiosity as Poppy gently worked on healing him. What had caused the change in their relationship? How did they go from hating each other to father and son? It just didn’t make sense.
“I’m sure you have a lot of questions.” Dumbledore commented lightly, ever observant, “I feel it’s a promising sign that you have been able to recall Mr. Potter’s relationship to you.”
Severus did not respond. Of course he had a lot of questions, too many to even begin to sort through in his mind. Instead, he watched Poppy attend to his son, still trying to come to terms with his latest development. It felt right - caring for and worrying for the boy in a manner he would have not succumbed to in the past. He felt like he was where he was meant to be, standing by the child’s bed and providing silent support. Perhaps his subconscious knew all along that their relationship was different; he’d certainly struggled with strange and unnatural emotions regarding the boy since their first interaction upon his return to consciousness. It was all starting to fit together in his brain, starting to make sense. He had felt bad about ridiculing and harassing the child because Harry was his son, and they no longer verbally sparred in the same manner.
All of those things he had told the boy - his dismissal, the threats, the snide jabs at the child weighed heavily on his heart. Now that he remembered seeing Harry - current Harry, contrite and uncertain and oh so hopeful - it was hard to remember the annoying, belligerent, arrogant Potter of years past. The child must have been so distraught by his harsh words. He felt a pang of guilt, and moved closer to the boy to take his hand.
“I do believe the blood was due to strain and tears within his esophagus from his illness and not internal damage.” Pomfrey said with relief, checking labels on the various potions she’d assembled at the child’s bedside, “A few potions, some rest and nourishment, and he will be well on his way to recovery.”
“Are you going to wake him?” Dumbledore asked from Snape’s side, “I’m sure he will be relieved to find that his father’s by his side.”
“I’m sure he will.” Pomfrey agreed, “I will be ready to wake him shortly, I’m just waiting for the rest of my diagnostic spells to finish. I rarely have the opportunity to fully assess Potter without complaint, and considering he keeps so much bottled up, I’d like to know if he’s hiding anything else.”
Snape squeezed the boy’s hand lightly, trying to summon another memory, any memory, of how Potter came to be his boy. Unfortunately, his memory was being rather uncooperative. He frowned at the child before him - the boy’s hands were cool and clammy, a jarring reminder that the boy was not well and there were more important issues at hand besides how they got to this point. There would be plenty of time for that later.
A rough patch of skin on the child’s hand caught Snape’s attention and he lifted the boy’s hand closer to his face to investigate. Scarring. Not just any scarring, but a phrase. “I must not tell lies.”
“What is this?” Snape asked, blood boiling in a rage of protectiveness that he wasn’t even aware he possessed, “Albus, Poppy, look at his hand.”
Poppy gently took Harry’s hand, nearly dropping it once she realized what was wrong, “Merlin’s beard! What’s happened here? Do you think he did this to himself?”
Snape realized she was probably thinking his mental health crisis was much too far gone for her to handle, and quickly corrected her line of thoughts, “This looks to be the work of a blood quill.”
“Those are illegal! Who would use a blood quill on a student?”
The room felt as if the temperature had dropped ten degrees, and Severus looked towards the source of the burst of cold energy in surprise. The headmaster often looked intimidating when angry, but the expression on his face was downright scary as he took in this new bit of information.
“It seems our defence professor has a lot to answer for.”
“How do you know--”
Dumbledore cut the mediwitch off with a growl, “For the scar to be this visible on his hand he would have had to have been subjected to the quill a great number of times. There is only one professor in this school, aside from Severus here, who has had access to Mr. Potter alone for that length of time.”
The fierce protectiveness that simmered beneath Snape’s skin was surprising, to say the least. This was certainly not the first professor to grossly abuse their power with or in some way target Potter, and never before had he wanted blood in the way he felt now. Fists clenched, it was only the desire to make sure the child was properly cared for in his current crisis that kept him from seeking out the professor to get vengeance for his son.
“We’re certainly going to get some answers.” Pomfrey said firmly, carefully watching the two men struggle to remain calm. It would do no good for anyone to confront Umbridge without all of the relevant and necessary information and without a backup plan for when she inevitably went to cry about her woes to the Minister.
Pomfrey carefully laid down Harry’s hand, as if afraid to cause even more damage. With a flick of her wand, Harry’s eyes fluttered open and he looked around the room, clearly disoriented.
“Have you ever considered a career in healing, Mr. Potter?” Pomfrey asked once his eyes had landed on her. At his apparent confusion, she continued with a wry smile, “You spend so much time here that I worry what you’re going to do with yourself when you’re grown and no longer one of my patients.”
“Sorry?” Harry mumbled, not really sure if he was apologizing or asking for clarification. He looked around the room wearily, trying to figure out what was wrong this time. Dumbledore looked pleased about something, Pomfrey looked a bit stressed, like it had taken some effort to put him back together again, and his dad looked like a solid mixture of rage and concern, which would have been funny if the events of the last 24 hours hadn’t descended from his subconscious to the forefront of his mind like a freshly launched bludger.
“Um...uh...what are you doing here?” Harry asked Snape hesitantly, bracing himself for what would certainly be another devastating blow to his self-worth, if the last few encounters were any indication of what was to come.
Severus raised an eyebrow, taking a moment to respond in an attempt to refrain from saying anything that would be upsetting to the recovering boy. He didn’t have enough memories for his response to flow naturally, but he did have enough insight from what he did remember to know he needed to tread carefully.
“My son is in the hospital wing, where else would I be?”
Harry stared blankly at the man, refusing to let himself get his hopes up again, refusing to believe there was even a chance that he was, that he could be, forgiven for the nasty fall his dad had taken.
“I dunno, talking to aurors to have me arrested or something.” Harry murmured, breaking eye contact to look down at his hands, the misery and guilt he’d been dwelling on for weeks rearing its ugly head once more.
Snape glanced towards the headmaster, wishing they’d been able to have a conversation without bringing up some of the threats he’d made. The headmaster said nothing, giving the professor a stern look that only made him feel worse about having vented his spleen towards the boy.
He took a seat at the foot of Harry’s bed, suddenly exhausted and reminded that he, too, was recovering. “I’m only going to tell you this once, so listen carefully.”
Once Harry had stopped fidgeting with hands and met his gaze again, still unreadable and strangely closed off and empty, Severus continued to speak, “It was erroneous and unethical of me to make such...sensationalistic...accusations and threats in my moment of temper, but rest assured that it will not happen again.”
Harry opened his mouth to respond, then closed it as he tried to absorb what had just been said. After a few moments of trying to wrap his mind around the statement, he could only ask, “What?” in response.
Snape rolled his eyes impatiently, then stated plainly, “I apologize for our interactions yesterday and this morning, I should not have been as cruel as I was. I regret any distress you felt as a result of those conversations.”
“Oh.” Harry replied quietly, “It’s okay. Really. I deserved a lot of that.”
The other two adults looked like they wanted to step in and coddle the boy some more, but Severus wasn’t going to allow them to do what was his role to fulfill, “Po--Harry, that’s not true. You did not deserve to be treated like I treated you. I let my anger override my logical thinking and acted rashly. Even if the blame for what happened to me could only be attributed to your behavior, which it was not, you wouldn’t deserve to hear those words come from a person you trust to provide your wellbeing.”
Harry looked away and Snape had to push back a surge of annoyance. Couldn’t the boy see he was trying here?
“If I didn’t deserve it, why did you say it?” Harry asked after a few beats of silence, “You promised me you wouldn’t fly off the handle anymore if I promised to believe you when you said stuff like this. But you still flew off the handle, so wouldn’t that mean that you’re not being truthful?”
Snape opened his mouth to reply, then stopped, eyes narrowing at the boy before him, “That is the most twisted and incomprehensible logic I’ve ever heard.”
“I get that a lot.” Harry replied dryly, implying that this wasn’t the first time they’d had this talk, “But like you said before--”
“There’s some details about everything that’s happened that we need to talk about.” Snape interrupted, unable to let the boy keep referencing conversations he had no recollection of, “Are you up to a discussion or would you rather wait?”
“That depends, is this when you send me back to the Dursleys?” Harry replied bitterly, refusing to meet anyone’s eye and instead focusing on the crisp linens beneath him.
It was Dumbledore who responded to the inquiry first, “Harry, my boy, that will never happen. Even if something were to happen to Professor Snape and he were unable to fulfill his parental role, you will not be going back there. We would find other arrangements to keep you safe and cared for.”
“And before you can read any further into what the headmaster has said,” Snape continued, watching a variety of emotions play across Harry’s face and using that information to fuel his response, “It would be only death that would prevent me from fulfilling my role and promise to you. You’re not going back there, and unless you have a change of heart and wish to sever our arrangement, you’re not going anywhere else.”
Another beat of silence passed before Harry stole a glance in Snape’s direction, “But I nearly killed you.”
“And if that jar I’d thrown at you in my office had hit you, I might have nearly killed you as well.” Snape responded much more patiently than he actually felt, the fact that he was beginning to remember some details of the accident on his own not even registering in thought, “We both have temper issues we need to work on, but we can’t dwell in regret and what could have been, we need to focus on what is and what is to become.”
“There are a few details about Professor Snape’s injury that you need to be made aware of, Harry.” Pomfrey spoke kindly, “Once you understand the full situation, I think you’ll be able to understand what has transpired in the aftermath of his return to us.”
Harry looked up at his dad in alarm, “You’re alright, aren’t you? They said you’d be fine!”
“Harry, calm down, please.”
Harry briefly glanced at the mediwitch before turning his attention back to Snape and reaching out to touch his arm, “What’s wrong, Dad?”
Instead of the rational conversation Severus had been rehearsing in his mind for the last few moments, as soon as Harry’s hand touched his skin, all the professor knew was pain; burning, intense, unbearable pain.