“Where are you going, sir?” Draco asked, watching as his mentor threw on a cloak and prepared to apparate to London.
“London. I have someone I need to speak to,” Severus said as he quickly fastened the buttons of the cloak, effectively obscuring his robes, and transfiguring a length of ribbon to tie his hair back.
“Really? Who?” Draco said, his curiosity piqued.
“I may be gone for several hours. Do not leave this house,” Severus said, ignoring Draco’s question. That was information he didn’t care to divulge at this time, especially as he did not know if the boy truly needed retrieval. Perhaps he was simply trying to avoid a punishment? But why then would he be in a neurology ward?
Had the potion’s dissipation affected the boy’s brain? Had the boy’s relatives damaged his brain? He had many questions.
Turning on his heel, he apparated to Diagon Alley as he didn’t know where exactly in London the hospital was. Diagon Alley was by far the easiest place for one to apparate to as there was no chance of a random muggle viewing your appearance out of thin air. Despite the sun beginning to set, the alley was still teeming with witches and wizards of various ages, vendors calling out to passersby in an effort to sell their wares, and the odd owl swooping overhead to deliver a message. It was certainly the most magical place in London, but this was not where he needed to be.
No, he needed to cross into the muggle world, a place he hadn’t ventured in many years and felt wholly uncomfortable going back into. Walking to a small kiosk near the exit to the alley, he sighed in frustration at the turn of events his evening had taken.
“I need a map of hospitals in London,” he stated abruptly, not allowing the vendor of the kiosk a chance to ask him what he needed.
“Five sickles,” the bored looking witch said, before looking him up and down. “You ought to transfigure your clothing into something more mundane if you’re planning on going into a hospital.”
“I shall take your advice into consideration,” Severus snapped, throwing the required money onto the counter and opening the charmed map to search for the hospital the boy had found himself at.
“Suit yourself,” the witch said, turning back to cleaning her nails and spelling them a variety of moving patterns. “But muggle healers tend to question those who are dressed ‘oddly.’”
Severus huffed in response, eyes skimming the map frantically before finally finding the hospital he needed in the south-west of London, quite far from all major magical venues. It was no wonder then that the boy had managed to evade detection. Had the hospital not reached out to him, Severus doubted anyone in the magical world would have found him for quite some time unless he had a rather significant bout of accidental magic.
Unfortunately, this particular hospital did seem to be in an area of the city which was not subject to the standard warding of medical facilities which had occurred following the last war. How in Merlin’s name had the boy ended up in quite likely the least safe place for a wizard in all of London? Had any Death Eater actually found him, it would have been child’s play for them to destroy the hospital and literally every muggle within it and make it look like a simple accident.
Provided the boy was actually well enough to move, he would need to be removed from this facility as soon as possible or wards would need to be placed around the building in short order. Depending on what sort of neurological problem he had, it wouldn’t necessarily be a Death Eater attack which could level the building. A fifteen year old wizard would have enough magical energy stored in them to easily blow out the side of an unwarded muggle building, particularly if under duress at the time. And from what little he knew of muggle medicine, duress was an understatement for the kind of stress they could cause.
Spinning on his heel once more, Severus apparated to a small alleyway near the hospital he had seen on the map. The buildings in this part of town were far newer in construction than those surrounding Diagon Alley giving the slightly disorienting feeling of having travelled through time and space. Construction vehicles were busy performing some sort of refurbishment on one of the many row houses which lined the streets and if he listened close enough he could hear the sounds of children playing in the nearby park.
This would be a perfect place for a Death Eater attack, if he were being honest.
A quick flick of his wand transformed his cloak and robes into a far more muggle set of trousers, button down shirt and pullover. If the witch at the kiosk was correct, there was no point in wearing proper clothing when going into a muggle establishment if one was trying to gain their trust. While it would be simple enough to sneak in and apparate with the boy, the amount of work required to cover such a trail was honestly not worth the effort. The boy had been there for nearly eight hours already and had come in contact with countless members of staff. Someone was bound to notice he had gone missing.
No, it would be easier to ‘blend in’ with the muggles.
Tucking his wand into the hidden holster on his right arm and straightening his much more uncomfortable muggle clothes, Severus strode out of the alley, down a short street, and to the entrance of the hospital, sneering at anyone who dared look in his direction for more than a moment. Without his robes, he felt extremely bare, as though he were standing naked in front of all of the muggles he passed. How could the muggles stand it?
The entrance to the hospital was garish. Brightly colored pillars stood in the lobby with multicolored plastic chairs and benches strewn about. One section of the entrance lobby was sectioned off and contained a rather large amount of children’s playthings. From the ceiling hung what he supposed were supposed to be large balloons, though he couldn’t say for certain.
“Sir? Sir?!” a voice called from a desk near the entrance as he walked in.
Looking over at the person calling, he realized he was being flagged over to the desk. Frowning in confusion, he walked over and stood awkwardly in front of the desk.
“May I see some ID?” the woman behind the counter asked in a falsely sweet voice. “We require all visitors to provide identification before they are allowed onto the wards.”
Casually looking around and pulling out a scrap of parchment from his pocket and handing it over while flicking his wand out of the holster and muttering “Confundus.”
“Thank you, sir,” the woman said after staring at the parchment for a moment and handing it back. “Who are you here to visit?”
“Harry Potter,” Severus said calmly, casually sliding his wand back into the holster and putting his hands into the pockets of his trousers.
“Potter... Potter…” the woman muttered as she typed something into her computer. “Sorry sir, there seems to be some sort of mistake, we don’t have anyone by that name here.”
Severus frowned and pulled out his map once more, making sure there were no other hospitals of the same name in the area. Blasted Potter, making this difficult! No other hospitals by the name existed, leaving him with the startling conclusion that Potter hadn’t decided to go by his birth name. Or they simply didn’t have his last name on record due to the state in which he came in. Either reason would certainly have some… interesting… repercussions.
“He may have also been registered under the last name of Snape,” Severus tried, hiding his wince at admitting the boy may be using his name.
“Snape… Sorry, nothing. Do you know what ward he was on?” the receptionist asked sickingly cordially. “I can contact the ward matron for you.”
“I was called by a nurse named Morgan stating he was in the Neurology Intensive Care Ward,” Severus said calmly, trying to hide his confusion. What name did they have the boy admitted under?
“One moment please,” the receptionist said, flicking her hair over her shoulder and picking up a phone and dialling a rather short number. “Yes, this is Ellen at the South Entrance I have a Mr…. what was your name again, dear?”
“Severus Snape here looking for someone named ‘Harry.’ He said that a nurse named ‘Morgan’... yes… yes… yes, I’ll send him up. Thank you!” she said before putting the phone down. “Take the elevators behind me up to the fourth floor and turn right. Stop by the front desk and they’ll direct you from there. Sorry for the confusion.”
Severus huffed by way of a response and strode to the aforementioned elevators. He stared at the sliding silver doors for a moment as he tried to remember how they worked. He hadn’t been on an elevator in …. since before he started Hogwarts at the very latest. There must be some way of summoning the elevator, but what was it?
“Button’s on the other wall, love,” the receptionist called.
Turning around, he saw there were indeed two buttons on the wall behind him, one pointing up and the other pointing down. Pressing the up button, he was surprised to feel a mild shock come from the button. Muggle technology was notorious for responding poorly to magic. Explosions were not uncommon, nor were shorts or electrocutions as the electricity responded adversely to the innate magic of a witch or wizard. It had only taken a handful of muggleborns attempting to bring various technologies to Hogwarts before such items were deemed contraband and forbidden.
A loud ding and a robotic announcement of “going up” shook him from his thoughts. If he got stuck on the elevator, he would apparate to the fourth floor and obliviate anyone who saw him. He had no desire to be trapped in such a muggle device. Where even were the stairs?
Pressing the number 4 and shaking out his hand as he once again got shocked, Severus watched as the doors slid shut and felt the sensation of movement as the elevator climbed through the building. Watching as the number slowly ticked up, he was suddenly struck by a strange feeling of unease. Why hadn’t Potter reached out to anyone that he had noticed some physical changes? Surely the boy had noticed something? And what about the letters, surely he had questions.
Had he even read the letter yet?
“Fourth Floor,” the mechanical voice said as the door slid open and Severus was hit with the overwhelming scent of antiseptic.
Turning right, he was immediately greeted with a large sign saying “Intensive Care” in large block letters. A large, circular desk sat under the sign with a large amount of staff milling around within it. Phones were ringing almost constantly as a rather harried secretary frantically answered and transferred the calls to their various destinations. Organized chaos was the only way to describe it.
“Excuse me,” Severus said once he had reached the desk. “May I speak with Morgan?”
“She’s down the hall,” the secretary said, pointing down one of the four large hallways which radiated away from the desk and picking up the phone. “Curly blond hair, can’t miss her. Children’s Hospital ICU, can I help you?”
Severus turned and walked down the hall in the direction the secretary had pointed, looking through each open door he passed and feeling his heart sink. This was not his realm. This was not his speciality. The amount of cords, wires, tubes, and muggle machinery attached to these children was frankly terrifying. But the one thing that he didn’t see was Potter.
“Excuse me sir, are you looking for someone?” a short, curly blonde haired nurse said, poking her head out of a room.
“Morgan?” he asked gruffly, his discomfort at being there clearly showing.
“Oh! Mr. Snape! One moment, I’ll be right out,” Morgan said, removing a rather flimsy looking plastic gown and washing her hands. “Let me call Jason, our social worker, and Dr. Challa. They’re here somewhere; I told them you were coming.”
She quickly dialed a few numbers on a small phone she carried and waved for him to follow her as she talked.
“Jason, it’s Morgan. Mr. Snape is here…. Room 433? Ok, I’ll see you in a minute,” she said, hanging up the phone and waving frantically at a rather tall, thin Indian man in a lab coat and pointing at Severus. The Indian man nodded and quickly closed the chart he was holding and followed them to the small meeting room Morgan was unlocking.
“After you,” she said, swinging the door open and flipping on a bright fluorescent light. “Sit anywhere, I’ll grab his chart.”
Harry sat transfixed by the telly. So much had changed during the few short years he had been away from Hogwarts. The shows that were on, the toys advertised, even the pricing of the toys. Had he really been away from the muggle world for that long?
True, he spent his summers with the Dursleys, but he could hardly consider them to be normal muggles. He was far more of an unpaid servant to them than a family member, and the television was for family members only. The only time he was allowed to touch it was when he was dusting it, and even then only with the feather duster could touch it. If his aunt caught him even grazing the buttons with his fingers, he was ripped away from it and thrown in his cupboard.
Unfortunately, the telly was awfully bright and the flashing lights were starting to give him a headache again. As much as he would have liked to continue watching it, his head was pounding far too fiercely to do so. Grabbing the remote, he turned off the machine with a click. He never thought he’d say this, but he would kill for one of his textbooks right now. Something mind-numbingly boring seemed like the way to go to calm his racing thoughts down.
Following the MRI, one of the doctors had come in and spoken with him briefly. Harry knew he had asked some questions, but the more he tried to recall what they were, the more the memory of the event seemed to slip from his grasp. It was oddly frustrating knowing he couldn’t recall a conversation that he had a feeling was important. Then after the doctor came and spoke with him, he…. what did he do? Did he eat lunch?
Had he eaten at all today? He didn’t feel very hungry, so he assumed he had, but why couldn’t he remember?
Maybe a bit of telly would soothe his nerves? How odd. He could have sworn the telly was just on. It felt like he was losing his mind. Or at least his memory.
Raising his hand to his head, he absent mindedly scratched at a rather itchy spot only to come in contact with a wire. When had…? Oh, right. After the MRI, a lady had come in and glued a bunch of wires to his head. An EEG, she had called it. She had said it wasn’t supposed to hurt, but as soon as she hooked up all of the wires he swore he could hear a low buzzing noise in his head. He had tried to tell her about it, but she just pushed a button on the machine and repeated what he was complaining about into a microphone and left.
Then he had lunch. Or tried to. His hands were shaking even worse now than they had been before and he blamed the wires on his head. He tried to tell the nurse’s aid who had come in to give him his lunch that the wires on his head were making his hands shake more and making his headache worse, but she just kept assuring him he was fine and helped him cut up his food.
Looking at the telly, Harry was annoyed when a sharp pain went through his head again. Hadn’t he turned the telly off? He was sure he had. Absolutely positive. Had he turned it back on again? Why would he do that?
Gingerly placing the remote on his bedside table, he rolled over and laid his head on the rather flat pillow. Maybe a nap would help his headache. And his back ache. At least lying in bed his legs weren’t hurting nearly as much. They still twitched from time to time, but the fiery feeling he got when he stood for too long wasn’t there.
The pillow would be much more comfortable if there weren’t wires on it. He tried to brush the wires off of the pillow to make the pillow more comfortable to lay on only to find the wires were right back as soon as he laid his head down. Where were they coming from?! Were there wires growing out of his head?
Reaching a hand up to his hairline, his eyes widened as he felt the wires which were running through his hair. His breath quickening, he tried to pull one off. He had to get them off of his head!
“Don’t touch those, Harry,” a voice said from the machine at the end of his bed. “Those are monitoring your brain activity.”
Oh. Right. EEG.
Rolling over the other direction, he realized the sun was setting. How long had he been here? It didn’t feel like he had been here for that long. He had been outside doing yard work at home, then he was here and … and what? They were doing testing on him. But why? What had happened? Was it because of his memory?
Suddenly, the lights and television flickered ominously before going off momentarily. A shock of what felt like pure magic shot through his head and down his arms, leaving the hairs standing on end. Alarms were heard from other rooms for a few seconds before the lights turned back on and the television ceased showing pure static. Frantic voices were heard in the hallway as nursing staff ran to check on their most critical patients.
What in Merlin’s name was that?
“Lizzy? What on earth was that?” Madeline asked, turning to her coworker and friend as all of the electronics in A&E went haywire for a moment before the fuse blew and the emergency generators kicked on.
“Power surge?” Lizzy said as they quickly went from room to room checking to make sure critical equipment was plugged into outlets connected to the generator. “Dunno what caused it though. They just upgraded all of the wiring in the building a few years ago.”
Madeline hummed in thought as she continued to go from room to room checking the electronics and plugging things into the proper outlets. At least there were no obvious injuries in A&E that she could see.
Such an odd thing to happen on such a beautiful day.
“Oi! Jack! Stop screwin’ around wif the MRI” Reggie called via the intercom system from the computer station outside of the heavily shielded room. “I fought we went over this, don’t turn off the machine! It took us almos' half an hour to get it warmed up again!”
“I didn’t do anything!” Jack called from inside the MRI room. “It’s still on! Why are you screwin’ around with the lights out there?”
“I’m not! I fink we jus’ had a power surge!” Reggie said, frantically slamming on keys on the keyboard trying to re-synch the computer and the MRI.
“Then why didn’t the MRI go down?” Jack yelled over the sound of the still whirring machine as he cleaned the gurney in preparation for the next patient.
“It’s on genny power!” Reggie said, sighing with relief when the computer finally rebooted and reconnected with the MRI. If it hadn’t, that would be a several thousand pound piece of equipment down for the count with them as the last two users. Generator or no, there would be hell to pay if they broke it.
“But before the genny kicked on, it should have gone down momentarily.”
“Dunno, didn’ they just upgrade the wiring?”
“Yeah, hospital wide though.”
“Oh well, at least the MRI’s still on!”
Severus quickly reigned in his fury when the lights began to flicker. It wouldn’t do for him to blow up the hospital in his anger at what he had just heard. This building was simply not made to withstand a wizard's ire.
Allegations of neglect and possible abuse at the hands of Petunia and Vernon Dursley. Severe malnutrition. Clothing which was stained and threadbare. Glasses out of a donation bin. Sleeping in a cupboard under the stairs until he was eleven. Possible financial exploitation from his trust fund.
“Now sir, you understand that we don’t know how much truth there is to any of these statements,” the social worker said, watching as the man in front of him reigned in his anger extremely efficiently. “Many of these were said while he was still post-ictal and not aware of what he was saying. He is continuing to have memory problems, however when questioned he is continuing to state that these statements are true.”
How had he missed the signs? Was he really so wrapped up in Potter’s fame that he was only seeing the version of Potter he wanted to see?
“I know Petunia Dursley from when I was a child,” Severus snapped. “If she is anything like what she was like back then, I can guarantee nothing about this is false. She was a vile person to be around as a teenager. I can only imagine what she is like now.”
“Would you like to pursue obtaining custody?” the social worker said, pulling a pen out of his shirt pocket and laying it on a clipboard he had been holding. “We won’t be able to complete the process immediately, however we can get it started and at the very least remove their ability to make decisions on behalf of Harry or have access to his money.”
Severus immediately nodded and reached for the clipboard. While he was still uncertain as to how the boy would react to him, he could not stand the idea of him going back to an abusive situation. If the boy had been in his house, he likely would have already petitioned Dumbledore for emergency custody. Why Minerva had never said anything to him about this case frustrated him greatly. This was Lily’s child, her only child.
This was his child, and he refused to stand by and watch such a situation unfold.
“I shall speak to my employer and ask for references and employment information required for the background check,” Severus said signing the proffered paper with the flourish of one used to writing with quills and now writing with a simple ballpoint pen.
“Thank you, sir,” the social worker said, shaking Severus’s hand. “It does my heart good to see someone stepping up to care for abused children. Would you like to go back and see him now?”
Severus nodded curtly. He and Dumbledore would have much to talk about, but first he needed to meet, truly meet, his son.