Hermione Granger didn’t know what possessed her to do it, maybe a desire for normality to return or in an effort to plan for the future, but whatever the case was she found herself catching the train for the fourth time that week to the nearest Children’s Hospital. Volunteering with children had been a desire of hers for a long time, though she hadn’t been able to do much prior to starting Hogwarts because of her age. Now, however, she was fifteen, going on sixteen, and she wanted something to do over the summer that was unrelated to school.
This past year had been a struggle for them all. The Triwizard Tournament had nearly destroyed the few friendships she had and very nearly led to the death of one of her closest friends. She had tried to talk to her parents about it, but couldn’t think of a way to word it so they didn’t refuse to send her back to school. She could talk to Ron about everything, but he was a terrible listener, and Harry wasn’t much better. For some reason he was even refusing to accept any letters anymore.
Honestly she was worried about him. He had been through so much these past few years, it worried her when he didn’t respond. Even Sirius hadn’t had any luck getting a letter to him, and that was even more odd. Sirius had sent her a letter mentioning ‘the Order’ was looking for him, but no one had found anything. Even Dumbledore was getting frantic in his search from what Sirius said.
It was as if Harry had dropped off the face of the planet.
Badging into the volunteer’s locker room, she quickly stored her lunch in the refrigerator and looked to see where she was going to be stationed that day. She had been on the oncology ward the last few times she had come and was hopeful for a change of scenery. She had been hoping to take her mind off of death and misery and that was not the place to be for that. That’s not to say she hadn’t enjoyed her time there, she had learned a lot and the staff had been so nice and helpful to her, but it wasn’t what she wanted.
Sixth floor: Medical/Surgical.
Nodding her head happily and pulling her constantly bushy hair into a ponytail, she strode to the elevators and rode them to the sixth floor, ignoring the ever present zap of electricity she felt whenever she pressed the button. This was her first time on this floor, so she wasn’t quite sure what the staff would be like or what they would want her to do. Some units would just have her bring coffee to the families and be a listening ear, others would have her filing paperwork, and still others would have her bringing around newspapers. Small tasks to fill her two hour volunteer timeslot, but it was better than lounging around the house all day.
“Hello?” she said, gingerly approaching the unit secretary who was on the phone.
The secretary held up one finger before transferring whoever it was on the phone to the nurse they were wanting to speak to. She then turned to Hermione and in a rather raspy voice said, “Whatcha need, love?”
“My name is Hermione. I’m a volunteer and…”
“One moment, dear,” the secretary said, picking up the ringing phone. “No, darling. You’ll have to call back later. If she isn’t picking up right now, you’ll have to give her some time. She may be in the middle of a procedure…. Yes, I’ll let her know… Yes…. bye now.” She then rolled her eyes and hung up the phone with a click. “Go talk to Victoria, she’s the matron today. She’ll be over by 626.”
Hermione nodded her thanks as the secretary picked up the phone once more. That was a job she was extremely glad she would never have to take. Even if she did end up with a similar job, it would be in the magical world and she could spell the phone to do whatever was needed so she didn’t spend so much time transferring calls around. She hoped to work for the Ministry one day, maybe working in magical law or perhaps even expanding on her Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare.
Walking up to a small gathering of nurses, she couldn’t help but eavesdrop on what they were saying before butting in and asking what they wanted her to do.
“....his dad? Terrifying bloke.”
“Obviously cares about him though.”
“Yeah, but something about them seems so … bizarre. Almost Addams family like.”
“I don’t know about that, but I’d hate to get on the wrong side of him for sure!”
“They are so bloody strange! Have you seen the books he has? All bound in leather and written on some sort of strange paper!
“Do any of you get weird vibes from them? Like ‘I could kill you instantly but I choose not to’?”
“Oh yeah, don’t make the dad mad. I swear, all of the lights flicker every time that man gets angry about something.”
‘That sounds like a wizard!’ Hermione thought, leaning in slightly.
“Can I help you?” One of the nurses said rather rudely.
“Sorry,” Hermione said, turning bright red. “I-I’m a volunteer and I was assigned to this floor for the next two hours. Is there anything I can do to help you out?”
The nurses turned to each other and laughed. “You gonna pay us more?” One of them said.
“Look, if you want to do something, help get the kid in 654 dressed and ready to go. He’s discharging as soon as his dad gets here, which could either be now or in five hours,” another nurse said, pointing rather flippantly in the direction of the room.
“Anything I need to know about him?” Hermione asked, wanting to make sure she wasn’t walking blindly into an isolation room which she wasn’t allowed in.
“No, but be prepared for weird. Kid’s weird. His Da’s really weird,” one of the nurse‘s aids chimed in. “I saw some of his clothes and I don’t think I’ve ever seen quite so many buttons on a pair of shoes before. Shoes! Who has buttons on shoes? Even physical therapy didn’t want to try getting them on him!”
Hermione nodded and walked away, muttering about how rude they were. Surely they had seen stranger things than a wizard before? It was odd that, if she was right, a wizarding child had ended up in a muggle hospital. Maybe he was a squib? Could squibs even go to St. Mungo’s? It didn’t matter in the end, but she was still curious. All she had to do was help get him dressed.
Knocking politely on the door before entering, she was surprised at how utterly normal the room seemed. Unlike other rooms she had seen while volunteering, this one was well organized and relatively well packed already. The few pieces of clothing the boy had in the room were neatly folded on a chair with a rucksack full of books sitting beside it.
The biggest shock to her was how old the boy in the room was. Most of the children she had seen since she had started volunteering were younger children, but this boy was certainly on the upper limit of what could be considered paediatrics. He looked as though he may even be her same age or possibly older! His short, dark brown hair was brushed back away from his forehead and still slightly moist from the shower he had taken not long before and revealing a large and heavily bruised wound on his forehead which was sutured closed. His dark, sage green eyes flicked across the pages of an arithmancy book as he took notes on standard line ruled notebook paper.
Definitely magical then.
“Hello?” she said softly, not wanting to disturb him if he was in the middle of a thought.
“MERLIN’S BEARD!” the boy said, jumping almost comically when he saw her, sending his pen flying across the room.
“I’m so sorry for scaring you!” Hermione said, quickly running over and picking up the boy’s pen off the floor. It was a standard ballpoint pen, odd enough for a wizard to be using, but even more odd was the addition of a rather bulky grip which was added around the pen in effort to make grasping it easier.
“Y-y-y-y-you c-c-c-could have w-w-warned m-me!” the boy stuttered out, quickly closing his book and notebook with shaking hands.
He was quivering, constantly quivering, Hermione noticed. Almost as if he couldn’t keep his muscles from twitching and moving on their own. Even his eyes would occasionally jump sideways. The muscles in his legs twitched involuntarily, leading to him nearly slamming his knee into the underside of the bedside table. Apparently that had happened before, however, as he had placed a pillow between his knees and the table, giving them some cushion into which they could spasm harmlessly.
“I did knock!” Hermione said indignantly, watching as he tried to better cover himself with the gown he was wearing.
“N-not very loud-d!” the boy said, blushing at his own response. “Wh-what d-do you w-want?”
“Sorry, my name is Hermione. I’m a volunteer here,” Hermione said, handing the pen back and watching as he hastily shoved it as best he could into the rings of the notebook. “I was told you were going to be discharging today and was wondering if you needed any help getting dressed or packed?”
Of all the people he did not expect to see walk into his hospital room, Hermione Granger was very much near the top of that list. He knew her parents were muggles, but the odds of her volunteering at the very muggle hospital where he found himself were so slim, they were almost laughable. Yet here she was, reading his very basic arithmancy notes over his shoulder.
Divination was a joke and he knew it. It had simply been an easy class for him and Ron to take together and over the last two years he hadn’t learned a single useful thing from that class. He wasn’t planning to be an Unspeakable, so knowing even basic Divination was rather worthless. No, Arithmancy was far more useful for spell creation and understanding the interactions between different spells and potions. If he were going to be working towards becoming a healer, researcher, or anything of the like, he would need a good background in Arithmancy.
‘Better to take a leaf out of Hermione’s book and start studying now,’ he had thought when he had asked Sn- his father for the book.
It turned out to be a rather fascinating topic, one which he wished he had started back in third year. The only difficulty he had was in taking notes so he could review later. He didn’t even want to think about trying to use a quill and ink right now, not with how shaky his hands were. When he mentioned his struggles to the physical therapist, they had kindly supplied him with a large, bulky pencil grip to allow him to at least hang onto the pen or pencil better. But they were only made for pens and pencils, not for feather quills.
The physical therapist had also given him a notebook with regular lined paper when he saw how poorly the ballpoint pen responded to writing on parchment. It felt oddly out of place to be doing Arithmancy work with such mundane materials, but it was so much easier to write on this kind of paper with this kind of pen when his fingers were only just cooperating with him.
He was nearly done with the examples in the second chapter when a voice suddenly spoke to him from over his shoulder. A familiar voice. A very familiar voice.
Thanking the stars that he accidentally threw his pen across the room, he took a moment to compose himself. He knew her, but Elias most certainly didn’t. Elias didn’t know a lot of people actually. Just a few relatives, a few neighborhood kids (which he decided didn’t like him very much), and a few tutors (who his father was speaking to to confirm his existence and education). The rest of the wizarding world was a mystery. And here he was, sitting half naked, in front of one.
“Sorry, my name is Hermione. I’m a volunteer here,” Hermione said, handing him back his pen and staring at him as he tried to shove it in the rings of the notebook without much luck due to the thickness of the grip on it. “I was told you were going to be discharging today and was wondering if you needed any help getting dressed or packed?”
Did he need help getting dressed? Probably. His father had gotten him a set of quite nice robes to go over a comfortable pair of what he assumed were night clothes by the softness of their fabric. He had hoped the man would bring him some simple house shoes to wear, but apparently those were much more of a trip hazard when apparating. The last thing he needed was to land and immediately fall following apparating anywhere. So he had to wear regular shoes for going ‘home’ in, and apparently the Snape version of ‘regular shoes’ were ankle high boots popular in the late Victorian which had about two dozen tiny buttons to do up.
He could barely manage to hold a pen, let alone do up the miniscule buttons on a pair of old fashioned boots.
“I-if you w-w-wouldn’t m-mind help-p-p-ping me w-with the b-boots, I-i can m-manage the rest,” he said, blushing slightly as he pushed himself into a standing position and tried to cover his buttocks with the open backed gown as best he could.
Standing always seemed to be a bit of a hit or miss adventure. Sometimes his knees would try to buckle, sometimes he would get light-headed and have to sit back down, but he quickly learned to give it a moment before trying to move. Apparently this was a side effect of the muggle tablets he was on, made worse by his own screwed up nervous system. Severus said he likely wouldn’t have the dizziness once he was switched to the potions.
“Are you ok?” Hermione asked, immediately standing at his side. “Do you need me to call a nurse?”
“I’m f-fine,” Harry responded as the dizziness slowly passed and he was able to limp over to the chair where the folded clothing was. “B-bloody m-muggle t-tablets.”
“So you are a wizard!” Hermione said rather loudly before immediately clasping her hands over her mouth. “Sorry!”
“Wh-what are y-you then-n?” He asked quietly, sitting back into the chair with a loud thunk and pulling his trousers on. He couldn’t help but notice Hermione wince at how hard he sat. He hadn’t fallen into the chair per say, but he could see how it would look that way. His legs just didn’t want to sit him down in a dignified manner. “M-m-muggleb-b-born?”
Hermione nodded, looking at him oddly. Something about him seemed oddly familiar, especially in the face. Yes, he obviously hadn’t shaved in several days, but there was something more. Something about him that made her immediately think ‘Slytherin.’
“W-wait, what’s y-your last n-n-name?” Harry said, feigning ignorance. There was no way a pure blood would ever be caught dead in a muggle hospital, so there was no point in acting like a pompous prick. Sn-His father had even said as much, though he did say it wouldn’t be uncommon for someone in his position to have more ‘pureblood preferences’ simply because he had been educated solely by tutors. And tutors were not commonly used outside of pureblood communities.
“Granger,” Hermione said instantly, still trying to place if she had seen this boy around school before. “What’s your name? I feel like I’ve seen you around school before.”
Harry grinned a rather lopsided yet sinister looking grin. One that made Hermione immediately feel like she was going to be getting detention or have points deducted. Who was this kid?
“Y-you d-definitely haven’t s-s-seen m-me,” Harry said with a chuckle. “I-i can’t g-g-go t-t-to Hogw-warts. B-but I-i have h-h-heard ab-bout y-y-you.”
Hermione’s eyes widened in shock. He couldn’t go to Hogwarts? Even Professor Lupin got to go, and he was a werewolf the entire time he had been attending the school! Was he a squib? That was the only reason she could think that he would say he ‘couldn’t’ go to Hogwarts. But if that were the case, why would he be studying Arithmancy? Why was he even in the hospital in the first place.
“M-my father t-t-teaches there,” Harry said quietly, sadness showing in his eyes as slowly buttoning his shirt, frowning in concentration as his fingers twitched and made threading the buttons into their respective holes difficult. What child wouldn’t want to attend Hogwarts?
Hermione’s jaw dropped as she stared at the boy in front of her. There were very few male professors at Hogwarts, fewer still who were young enough to have a son his age, and only one who could make a tall, rather sallow skinned child. Of all of the things about Snape that people talked about, his having a son was not one of them. Being the greasy bat of the dungeons who was likely a vampire, sure, but not that he had a bloody child!
“What’s your name?” she asked, grabbing one of the boots and the button hook which sat with the clothing pile as the boy put his socks on.
“El-l-lias Snap-p-pe,” he said, adjusting the sock on his foot so the seam wouldn’t rub his toes strangely. He had noticed before the seizure that his feet seemed to be more sensitive to touch and he was glad his father had listened to him when he said to try to find softer socks.
“Professor Snape is your father?!” Hermione said, feeling as though she was going to fall over. Her guess had been right, but that didn’t stop the pure shock which flooded her thoughts. Professor Snape hated children and made that perfectly clear at all times. Which nearly begged the question: why had he been made head of Slytherin house? No one who truly hated children would willingly take a position teaching at a school and allow themselves to be placed in charge of several dozen teenagers for years on end.
Maybe he was so angry all of the time because he had to watch adolescents the same age as his own son doing the things his son wasn’t allowed to do for whatever reason and his heart hurt because of it?
“Why can’t you go to Hogwarts?” Hermione asked, sliding the boot onto his foot as quickly as she could so she wasn’t fighting the muscle twitches he was having. “If you don’t mind me asking.”
“S-same reason-n that-t I-i’m h-h-here,” Harry grumbled, his back was beginning to hurt from sitting in the hard backed chair and his legs were twitching fiercely as they tried to get used to the sensation of wearing trousers for the first time in days.
“Why are you here, anyways? Why not St. Mungo’s?” Hermione asked, genuinely curious. Could he not go to St. Mungo’s for the same reason he couldn’t go to Hogwarts?
Harry blushed and leaned back in the chair, crossing his arms over his chest and repressing a wince as the movement set off a muscle spasm through his back. “H-had another s-seizure. At w-w-work this t-time. A-and m-muggles will s-send you t-t-to a m-muggle hosp-p-pital.”
A seizure. That certainly explained it, especially if he was prone to getting them. Hogwarts was incredibly complex with massive winding staircases, secret passages, maze-like hallways turning the entire thing into a labyrinth on a good day. For normal students this wouldn’t be an issue, but if Elias had a seizure somewhere, it could take a long time for him to be found. It was a massive safety issue, one which even Dumbledore wouldn’t be able to correct.
“Where were you working?” Hermione asked, finding the boy in front of her a more and more fascinating enigma at every turn.
“I-i was w-working for a g-g-g-garden-ning comp-p-p-p-pany,” Harry said, sliding his other foot into its awaiting boot. He really hoped his father had a spell to do up the buttons on the boots because he doubted he would be able to get them done up or undone without aid. “I-i w-w-was at a job-b site a-a-a-nd had-d a seizure. H-hit m-m-m-my head-d on a wh-wheelb-b-b-b-barrow. Th-they c-called for an a-amb-b-bulance a-a-and it-t t-t-t-took them a-a while t-t-to m-m-make it s-stop-p-p-p-p.”
Harry was getting worried. He and Snape hadn’t managed to make a full backstory for him yet, just some of the more pressing details, so Hermione pressing him for information was getting him flustered. If she kept pressing, he was liable to mess up on a detail which she would certainly bring up later. Even more frustratingly, he was struggling with keeping his stutter under control. And the more he stuttered, the more frustrated he got which led to worse stuttering.
And he knew Hermione wouldn’t drop a topic that fascinated her, even if that topic was him.
Hermione had now finished buttoning the buttons on the boots and was watching him with rapt attention as though he were an animal in a zoo. Blushing fiercely, he pulled his knees up to his chest, waiting for the muscle spasms to die down. He had asked Snape to sneak him in a muscle relaxer potion, but the man had looked at him the same way he looked at Neville when he blew up yet another cauldron. Asking the muggle doctors for something for the spasms was also shut down immediately, though they did offer him some cream to rub on his skin which was apparently supposed to help. He had tried some on a spot on his leg just to see what it did only to find that, after a few minutes of a nice cooling sensation, his nerves became extremely irritated and spent the next few hours making him feel as though his leg were on fire.
“How long have you been having seizures?” Hermione asked, standing from where she had been kneeling and tucking her hands in her uniform pockets. “Are they related to the twitches you have? And the stutter?”
Harry frowned. Hermione was starting to venture into dangerous territory, and he knew she wouldn’t stop asking questions until she got every answer she wanted or someone shut her down. “I-i-i d-d-don’t-t-t w-w-w-want-t-t....”
“You don’t want to talk about it? That’s fine,” Hermione said, interrupting him. “What’s it like living with Professor Snape?”
“None of my business? Sorry, I’m just curious. He’s not the most open of our professors, so it’s hard to get a read on what he’s like when he’s not teaching,” Hermione said, cutting him off once again with her rant. “I imagine you must know a lot about potions, living with a potions master and all!”
Harry’s nostrils flared. How could he possibly answer her if she wouldn’t even let him finish a sentence? He and his father had discussed his backstory of how he had been living with his mother’s brother and his wife since his mother passed away a few years ago, so there was no real reason for him to know what Snape was like at home. It wouldn’t be expected of him to have potions knowledge consistent with most children who had been brought up with a potion’s master.
“I-i-i-i-i d-d-d-don’t-t-t-t…..” Harry started to say, only to be cut off once more.
“You don’t like potions?” Hermione said, shocked. Her eyebrows raised to nearly her hairline. “Why not?”
“Sh-sh-sh-shut-t-t-t up-p-p!” Harry finally snapped. Answering questions was hard enough, but having her interrupt and assume she knew what he was trying to say was damn near insulting. “G-g-g-go aw-w-w-way!”
Hermione looked shocked and confused. She wasn’t used to listening to someone struggle to speak and it seemed like the more they spoke, the worse it got. She could only imagine how frustrating it must be to not be able to get your thoughts out right away, so she thought it would be helpful for her to finish the sentences. She had only been nice to him, why was he wanting her to leave?
“What’s wrong? Do you need the nurse?” she asked worriedly. “Do you think you’re going to have a seizure?”
“N-n-n-no, g-g-g-get-t-t-t out-t-t!” Harry said, his frustration growing. He hadn’t been this annoyed with Hermione since first year before he would really consider themselves friends. He knew she had a tendency to be overbearing, a tendency which had only gotten worse over the last few years, but he had managed to avoid being the primary target of her attention as she tended to focus more on Ron.
“Was it something I said?” Hermione continued to ask, looking somewhat put out.
“L-LEAVE!” Harry shouted, launching himself to his feet and feeling his magic begin to well up in his chest. The lights in the room began to flicker slightly as his anger and frustration continued to rise.
“Will you at least tell me why?” Hermione pushed, feeling the light crackle of magic rush over her skin.
“OUT!” Harry yelled, stumbling sideways and catching himself on the wall with his hand, his left leg resting against the metal leg of the chair. “OUT!!”
The lights in the room abruptly went out as Hermione was thrown from the room, the door slamming behind her as she was thrown into the wall opposite the door and pinned there momentarily, her breath knocked out of her. Looking around, she saw all of the lights within twenty five meters of his room had gone out as well. She was still confused by why she had just been bodily thrown from the room, but knew not to push her luck with going back in there. She had done something to make him mad enough to wandlessly and wordlessly evict her from the room, going back in there with him in such a state would have been madness.
Several of the nurses came running over to her as she gasped for breath, one of them stopping to call security and another checking on the patients in the rooms in the dark area. The cries of confused children and their parents filled the hallway as the lights began to flicker back on slowly.
“Oh my goodness!” one of the nurses exclaimed. “Are you ok? What happened?”
Hermione nodded and held up a hand as she slowly caught her breath enough to be able to talk. “I’m fine, just got the wind knocked out of me.”
“Do you hurt anywhere? Do you need to go to A&E?” the nurse said, helping Hermione into an office chair and quickly pulling her out of the area which had gone dark.
“No, no,” Hermione said as the nurse began taking a set of vital signs on her. “I’m fine. No damage done.”
“Your pulse is racing right now, are you sure you’re ok? You ought to go get checked out at the very least!” the nurse said, motioning for one of the aids to grab a vitals sign machine.
Harry stood where he was in shock, head spinning. What in Merlin’s name had just happened?
He had had outbursts of accidental magic before, but not since he was thirteen and nothing of this caliber. Was his magic rechannelling itself too? That would make sense, but at the same time how had he managed to blow all of the lights? It had felt as though his magic had increased tenfold just before he blasted his friend across the room, out into the hallway and slammed the door behind her. How had he managed to do any of that?
A wave of sudden fatigue hit him as he stumbled over to his bed. He felt as though he had just been punched in the chest. He hadn’t meant to do that. He hadn’t meant to do any of that. If Hermione had just listened and not tried to finish his sentences, none of this would have happened. If only she had let him talk and not made assumptions about what he was trying to say. If only she wasn’t so exuberant about meeting new people and wanting to get to know them. If only, if only, if only.
He was going to be in so much trouble when his father came to get him, he could already feel it in his soul.
Suddenly, it felt as though an ice cube had dropped in his stomach as a realization came to him: would he be getting a notification from the ministry for using magic around muggles? They had already threatened him with expulsion from school and having his wand snapped after the whole Aunt Marge incident the summer before his third year. Would those warnings have reset or would he be expelled now.
They couldn’t technically expel him as he was not a ‘student’ at Hogwarts this year, but breaking his wand was still a viable threat. Would they do that?
He didn’t think he could manage to live as a muggle now, he was so used to having magic that not having it would be detrimental. Especially now. Trying to learn how to do everything and take care of himself in a body that, from what he was experiencing now, was not the most reliable in its ability to listen to instruction from his brain. Using magic would certainly make that more easy, but if he were not allowed to finish getting trained, what would he do?
Laying on the bed and facing towards the window, he pulled the blanket over his body and waited, blinking as his eyes filled with tears and wrapped his arms around himself in an effort to stave off the building anxiety in his chest.
An owl would be coming for him soon, he was sure of it.