His lungs were burning, and he was beginning to pant from the effort, but Harry kept running. So intent was he on reaching his destination that when he opened the door to the infirmary he almost ran into Hermione, who had come out to meet him.
“Harry. Harry, wait!”
“Where is he?”
“Hold on, take a breath for a second.”
“Where is he, Hermione?”
She put her hands on his shoulders, trying to calm him down.
“He's here. It's all right, Madam Pomfrey is taking care of him.”
“In the emergency area.” She said, pointing to the back of the infirmary. “But wait, Harry, you can't go in there.”
Hermione had to pick up her pace to get to him.
“Madam Pomfrey specifically told us not to disturb her until she's finished. He's in critical condition, okay? And whatever she's doing to save him needs her full attention. If you distract her, you could kill him.”
Those words stopped Harry, who looked at her in fear.
“What can we do?”
“Nothing, for the moment. But come on, Ron is in there.”
Harry followed her to the back of the room. They left the beds with the less serious patients behind them and, after passing through a door, they reached the emergency area. In the waiting room stood Ron, crestfallen and with signs of fatigue on his face. He looked up when he heard them enter and it was then that Harry saw the bloodstains on his friend's clothes.
“Ron, are you alright?”
“Yeah, just a bit tired.” He said, forcing a smile. Then, he followed Harry's gaze down to his own shirt. “Oh, I hadn't noticed. Don't worry, it's not mine. It's Snape's.”
As he said that last sentence, the smile disappeared.
“Okay, that sounded really bad. I did not mean it like that.”
“Don't worry” Hermione said, sitting down next to him. “We got it.”
Harry followed her lead and took his place on the other side of Ron. A few seconds passed in silence, and Harry couldn't help but think that at any moment Madam Pomfrey was going to come out of the door and tell them that she was sorry, but that there was nothing else she could do. He remembered seeing similar scenes in the medical soap operas his aunt loved so much. They always ended with the patient's relatives crying, while sad music played in the background. Harry wondered who would be crying for Snape, if it came to that. Professor McGonagall, perhaps. Or maybe Draco Malfoy. And Harry himself? Even he didn't know. He'd lost so many people that he wasn't sure if he had any tears left to shed.
“Ron?” Harry asked, breaking the silence.
“Tell me what happened. How did you realize that he was alive?”
Ron and Hermione exchanged a glance. It was obvious that Harry was simply looking for a distraction, but the two friends decided to give him one. They told him all but the grimmest and most unpleasant details, such as how much blood was on the floor, how faint Snape's pulse sounded, and how long the journey felt from the Shrieking House to Hogwarts.
“...then Madam Pomfrey told us not to disturb her under any circumstances, and that's when Hermione alerted you. He hasn't been in there for more than twenty minutes.”
Harry, who had been listening intently, nodded. Silence fell over the room again, but it didn't last long.
“Harry, listen to me.” Ron said seriously. “If anyone can survive this, it's Snape. We all know what he's like, there isn't a more stubborn, obstinate person on earth. And if he thinks that by surviving, he can annoy us a bit more, he will.”
Hermione gave him a shocked look, but Harry smiled and, in doing so, found it a little less difficult to breathe.
“You're right. It would be just like him.”
“Exactly. We just have to give him time. You'll see, he'll turn up with his bat cloak and his ‘ten points less for Gryffindor’ as soon as you least expect him to.”
Harry's grin widened, imagining the scene.
“Thank you, Ron.”
His friend gave him a squeeze on the shoulder.
“Don't worry,” he continued with a small smile, “it will be fine. My father was bitten by that bloody snake too, and he recovered, remember?”
Harry nodded more calmly, but a thought filled him with anxiety again.
“But Ron, your father started to be treated right after the attack and he still was in a very bad shape, how could Snape have survived for almost a whole day?”
Ron and Hermione looked at each other, not knowing the answer.
“I should have gone to look for him earlier. I should have checked to see if he was still alive before I left him lying there for hours on end.”
“Harry,” Hermione began, “it's not your fault. We had things to do, like defeating Voldemort, for example! Besides, we didn't even know he was on our side!”
“I did. I knew after I saw his memories. I knew, and instead of going after him or telling anyone, I went straight for Voldemort. If I had died... If had died no one would have known everything he did. Whose side he was really on.”
“You had other things on your mind! You were going to sacrifice yourself to give us a chance. Anyone in your situation would have forgotten.”
“But nothing.” Hermione said firmly. “If Snape gave you those memories, it was so that you would do what you did. So that you could take down Voldemort. And if in the end...” Hermione took a deep breath, but the air came shakily into her lungs. “If in the end the worst happens, and Snape doesn't make it... I don't think he'll regret it, Harry.”
Hermione's eyes were red, but her gaze was determined.
“Okay?” She asked.
From then on, the conversation went relatively normally, until Hermione explained that she was planning to go to Australia to look for her parents as soon as things calmed down.
“Obviously, I miss them. But I'd rather not see them for a few more weeks than have them come back and be in danger. We have become known faces, and there are still Death Eaters out there. I don't want some bastard to use them for his absurd revenge. If they were smart, they'd hide and try to keep a low profile or flee the country, but…”
“If they were smart, they would not be Death Eaters.” Ron said.
Harry listened to them without really participating in the conversation, except for a few nods. He didn't feel much like talking, and though he tried not to think about it, his mind kept wandering back to the possibility of Snape's death. The uncertainty was strange to him. He had lost many people in his life, but always quickly and brutally. One moment they were there and the next they were gone. This state of waiting and not knowing was different. He didn't know how to deal with it.
Half an hour had passed since Harry had entered the infirmary when the door opened. Madam Pomfrey emerged from it, sweat on her brow and exhaustion on her face. All three got on their feet in an instant and Harry braced himself for the worst.
“How is he? Is he...?”
“He's stable.” Said the healer, smiling slightly. “I won’t lie to you, there's still some risk. But the worst is over. And without any complications, he is more than likely to recover.”
Harry was so relieved that he had to sit down. He exhaled, and in doing so let out all the fear that he had accumulated. As he inhaled again, the air felt more pure and fresh.
He wanted to get up and go into the room, to check that Snape was really there. That he was alive and breathing. But he could only bury his face in his hands and close his eyes. Was he going to cry? He wasn't sure. If someone had told him he would be crying for Snape less than a week ago, he wouldn't have believed it. After hating Dumbledore's murderer with all his being, that would have seemed impossible. But here he was. In the waiting room of the infirmary, his hands over his eyes, silently weeping for the Potions Master. They were tears of relief and joy, but they also carried sadness at the thought of all those people who had not made it.
“Harry.” Hermione said softly.
Her friend was crying too, but there was happiness on her face. And next to her was Ron, one arm around her, and on his lips was the first sincere smile Harry had seen in a long time.
He got up from his seat and starting walking towards the room when Madam Pomfrey offered him something as he passed her.
“Here.” she said.
It was a handkerchief.
“He's asleep. It will take him some time to wake up, but you can see him if you like.”
“Thank you. Thank you very much, Madam Pomfrey.”
“Don't just give them to me. He has done his part, too.”
The three friends stared at her blankly.
“I will explain. Come along.”
She opened the door she had just left and gestured for them to enter.
Harry's mind had prepared him for the worst. He had imagined Snape lying in a pool of blood, grimacing in pain and with a sickening hole in his neck. But what he saw was the exact opposite of that scene, and perhaps that was why it shocked him so much.
Snape lay with his eyes closed on the infirmary bed; sheets pulled up to his chest. Madam Pomfrey had exchanged his usual black clothes for a pair of white pajamas that looked strangely out of place. His face had been cleaned of blood and his neck was bandaged. Nothing seemed to indicate that he had been at death's door only a couple of hours before. Only the extreme paleness of his face betrayed the amount of blood he had lost.
Harry approached him slowly, expecting Snape to snap his eyes open and start yelling at him. He knew he wouldn't want anyone to see him in such a vulnerable state. Especially if that someone was Harry.
But he walked to the foot of the bed and nothing happened.
Then Harry looked up and met Ron's gaze, who nodded.
“He looks much better than he did before.” He assured him.
“Looking worse would be difficult.” Madam Pomfrey whispered. “Anyone else would have been dead in a matter of minutes, but Severus is no ordinary man. For all his faults... He's a brilliant man, always has been. And that is exactly what saved his life. He must have taken some potions I don't know about before the attack. Probably his own invention.”
Harry could see out of the corner of his eye that Hermione had raised her eyebrows with interest.
“From the tests I have done and the simple fact that he is alive now, I have certain theories about what kind of potions they are. An anti-poison, no doubt about it. Otherwise, it would have spread throughout his body and I only found traces of it in the area of the bite.”
“He must have started taking it when he saw how Voldemort used Nagini.” Said Hermione, remembering her encounter with the snake. If she'd had to spend time around the thing like Snape had, she'd probably want to have the antidote at her disposal as well.
Madam Pomfrey nodded.
“What I don't understand is where he got the samples from in order to create the potion.”
“Voldemort extracted poison from it sometimes.” Harry said, remembering. “He ordered Wormtail to do it. I think he drank it to make himself stronger or something like that.”
The grimaces of disgust on the faces of the others were a reflection of Harry’s own feelings on the matter.
“So gross…” Ron whispered.
“Yes, but that explains how Snape got the venom.” Said Hermione. “It mustn’t have been hard to keep some of it.”
“Did you say he took other potions, Madam Pomfrey?” Harry asked, trying not to think about the huge snake attacking the Professor's neck over and over again.
“Yes, I did.” She nodded. “Even without the effect of the poison, the blood loss caused by the wounds should have killed him.”
Harry flinched visibly at that sentence.
“I suspect he must also have taken something that regenerates the blood at a faster rate than normal.” Continued the healer. “I suppose it must still have been in the experimental stage and that's why he never mentioned it. He always brought me any new potions he created that he thought might be useful. If he took this one without being sure whether it would work or not, he must have been very desperate.”
Madam Pomfrey's voice trailed off and her eyes fell on Snape's face. Even if she didn't show it, it was clear that she was worried too.
“So, you're saying that Snape knew that V-Voldemort was going to attack him?” Ron asked.
“I can't say for sure. But why else would he take that second potion?”
“Oh man...” sighed Ron, admiring the professor's bravery despite himself.
Harry felt sick all of a sudden. He remembered how Snape had asked Voldemort to let him go and get him. ‘Let me go get the boy’, he had said. But now Harry knew the truth. Snape had wanted to find him so he could tell him what he needed to know. That he was a Horcrux and that he had to sacrifice himself to bring Voldemort down. Or all would be lost.
Snape had taken those potions and gone to meet his master, even though he knew he would most likely try to kill him. All to avoid arousing suspicion and to keep Voldemort from distrusting him. And all so that Dumbledore's plan would run its course.
Harry had forgiven the Headmaster; he had understood the reason of everything. Of all the manipulations, sacrifices, and hidden truths. But at the thought of what Snape had given for the cause without anyone knowing, the anger returned. The Potions Professor had lived for and to bring Voldemort down. The eternal spy, always between two sides. Unable to trust anyone. It was unfair, Harry decided. Snape had made many mistakes as a young man, but as far as Harry was concerned, he had more than made up for them.
“That's my theory, at least.” Madam Pomfrey continued. “I hope I can ask him about it when he wakes up.”
Harry liked the sound of that ‘when’.
“Anyway, I'll leave you guys alone now. I have set up charms that will alert me in case there are any changes, so there's no need for someone to be with him all the time. I will be back in a few hours to change his bandages, but there are other patients who need me and there is really nothing more I can do. We'll just have to wait.”
“All right.” Said Hermione. “Thank you, Madam Pomfrey.”
She nodded and headed for the door.
“Oh, and one last thing. I think it would be wise not to proclaim to everyone that Severus is alive and here. There are still people who will want to make sure he doesn't wake up. On both sides.”
The three friends nodded gravely, and with that, the healer left the room.
“Harry” said Hermione after a while.
“I think you should go and get ready, and also get something to eat. We can stay with Snape in the meantime.”
“Thank you, but I'm fine.”
“I don’t mean to contradict you,” Ron said, ”but you're not even wearing shoes, mate.”
Harry looked down at his feet in surprise. He had completely forgotten that detail.
“And even if Snape is on our side now... He's still Snape. I don't think he'll be too thrilled to see you in your pajamas and barefoot when he wakes up.”
Hermione smiled, agreeing with Ron.
“He'll think it's disrespectful or something” she said.
Harry looked down at the black soles of his bare feet, uncertain.
“Look, you don't even have to leave the infirmary.” Hermione explained. “There are showers around here that I'm sure Madam Pomfrey will let you use. And Ron can get you some clothes from your dormitory.”
The boy nodded, but Harry still didn't look convinced.
“I don't know, Hermione…”
“Let's do one thing. I'll get us something to eat and Ron can get you some clothes. You stay here in the meantime, okay? And when we get back, you go have a shower and we'll stay with him.”
“That's a good plan.” Ron supported her.
Harry sighed, knowing, despite himself, that his friends were right.
“Perfect.” Hermione smiled, getting to her feet. “You'll see, after you eat something and get cleaned up, you'll feel better.”
Harry doubted that the uneasy feeling he had inside his stomach would fade away, but he said nothing. Ron and Hermione moved towards the door and, after a last glance in their friend's direction, they left the room.
Once he was alone, Harry was aware of the silence in the room. He could hear Snape's slow breathing and, suddenly, he felt out of place. What was he doing there? He should be with the Weasleys, mourning Fred. Or with Andromeda Tonks, who had come to Hogwarts to make funeral arrangements for her daughter and Remus. They had been his friends and had died for him, to defeat Voldemort. Harry should be standing next to their families, supporting them. What was he doing sitting by Snape's bed, suffering for the man? He had always treated him with contempt and hatred. He didn't deserve Harry to cry for him.
‘But he also saved your life many times’, a voice in his head reminded him. ‘He put himself in danger, he spied and fought for Dumbledore. But also, for you, to keep you safe’. That much was true, but Harry had not yet had time to assimilate it. And there was also another thing. The fact that his own mother had seen something in Snape. Something good that had made her his friend for five years. It was all strange and confusing, and Harry didn't have the energy to deal with it at the moment. The only thing he knew for sure was that he didn't want Snape to die. That should be enough. At least until the professor woke up.
The minutes ticked by, as Harry sat quietly and deep in thought. After a while, the door opened, and Ron came in again.
“Hello,” he greeted him, “I have brought your clothes.”
He placed them on his lap and Harry looked at them for a moment. They were Muggle clothes, simple and comfortable. One of the outfits Hermione had kept in her beaded bag in case of emergency, along with pajamas for the three of them. When the battle was over, she had left them in their rooms in the Common Room and, upon seeing them, Harry was thankful for his friend's planful nature. It would not have been very nice to still be wearing the clothes he was wearing during the battle, full of sweat, blood and dirt. It might have seemed like a small thing, given the circumstances, but it wasn't.
“Hermione's not here yet, is she? Well, there must be a long queue. Everyone's hungry and the house elves have only been back in the kitchens for a little while.” He explained. “I suppose it must feel strange for them too, returning to normal after everything that's happened.” He sighed, and his gaze lingered on the floor for a few seconds longer than usual.
Harry noticed but didn't say anything. He wanted to tell Ron how sorry he was about Fred’s loss, but he couldn't find the words.
“Well, while we are waiting, you can go take a shower if you want. Don't worry, I'll keep an eye on Snape.”
Seeing that Harry didn't move, he insisted.
“I mean it, I don't care. I've almost grown fond of the bat.” He joked.
But Harry still wouldn't get up, so Ron said:
“Harry, listen to me.”
His voice had suddenly deepened, and when he looked up, Harry could see him giving him a serious look.
“You heard Madam Pomfrey, he's stable. We just need to wait. You don't need to be with him permanently.”
“I know.” Harry said slowly, gathering his thoughts. “I really do. But... I'm afraid to leave him alone. What if something changes while I'm gone and... and he dies?” He whispered the last word, afraid that it might come true if he said it out loud.
“It won't happen, I promise. And if it does... It will happen even if you're here.”
“I just don't know why I suddenly care so much about what happens to him.” He admitted, embarrassed. “I guess... I don't want to lose anyone else.”
At that, Ron closed his eyes tightly.
“I understand.” He said, his voice heavy with pain. “But that's not up to us anymore.”
He sat down next to him and squeezed his knee, giving him his support.
“And now, come on, go and get changed. We will be here.” He said, pointing to Snape and himself.
Harry looked down and was silent for a few seconds, thinking about everything Ron had said. When he looked up again, he seemed convinced. He nodded to himself and gave a small smile.
“Thank you, Ron.” he said with warmth in his voice. He gathered up his clothes, took one last look at Snape, and stood up.
“You're welcome.” He replied as he was opening the door to leave. “And don't worry. If Hermione comes in and you're still not here, I promise not to eat your food.”
Harry couldn't help but chuckle softly.
“Oh, I will hurry up,” he said, teasingly, “I'm not going to take any chances with your appetite.” And closed the door before Ron had time to reply.
Once out of the room he found the showers easily, he just had to follow the signs that indicated each of the different areas of the infirmary. Grabbing one of the clean towels at the entrance, he noticed that the place was empty, something Harry was grateful for. After leaving his clothes in a cupboard, he stepped into the first shower he could find. He had told Ron that he would go as quickly as possible, but once he was under the hot water, he began to relax and changed his mind. The heat made him feel clean and caused his muscles to stop being stiff. He was there, enjoying the warmth on his skin when suddenly something broke inside of him and he started crying so hard that he didn't know where his tears ended and the water began.
He didn't know how long he spent like that, sitting on the floor, crying like a baby as the water washed him clean, but there came a point when it was over. He felt better, as if he had let go of what had been pressing on his chest. He realized that he had. Amazed by this new sensation, he got out of the shower and wrapped himself in the towel. Evidently, what had happened at the battle at Hogwarts still hurt. But at least now, for a moment, he could look at the facts, face them. It was liberating in a way.
After drying off, he began to get dressed. As soon as he reached his shoes, he smiled to himself. Ron was right. If Snape had seen him in his pajamas and barefoot, as soon as he woke up, he probably would have killed him. It was nice to know that some things had not changed.
He walked back to the room, enjoying the silence, and realized how hungry he was. He hoped Ron had kept his promise to save him some food.
Luckily, he had. Opening the door, he was greeted by Hermione, who placed a plate in his hands. Harry thanked her for it and then sat down next to her.
“I ran into Ginny when I was in the Dining Hall.” He explained as Harry chewed. “She had gone to get food as well. She said she would take a plate to Mrs. Weasley and then she would come here.”
Harry nodded, not quite sure what to think. He still hadn't really spoken to Ginny after the Battle. She had been supporting her parents after Fred and helping Neville with the wounded. Harry had wanted to lend a hand too, but every time he appeared in public a crowd came up to thank him. The last thing the injured needed was noise and people pilling up around them. And the Weasleys had to deal with their loss as a family. For that reason, Harry had preferred to retreat to more discreet places. There would be time to talk later.
“Well, if she comes, I'll go and keep my parents’ company.” Ron said, suddenly very serious. “I wanted to go earlier, but I wasn’t ready yet. And besides, with everything that has happened…” He gestured vaguely in Snape's direction.
“Of course, Ron. You don't have to explain yourself.” Harry said sincerely. “You belong with your family.”
“I know. That is why I've been here all this time.”
He said it so naturally that Harry didn't know how to react. He looked at his best friend and saw in his eyes what must have been in his own. Sadness for what was lost, yes, but infinite love and affection for those who were still there. For his family. And that included Harry and Hermione too. They had been through so much together that something as insignificant as blood did not matter.
“Thank you.” Harry murmured.
Ron smiled at him, while Hermione watched them with unshed tears, moved.
“Okay, you are making it really hard for me not to cry.” She said, her voice trembling but still smiling.
Ron opened his mouth to reply but before he could, the door opened, and Ginny walked in. Seeing the sight, she stood still and watched them, undecided.
“Hey... Am I interrupting something? I can come back later if you want.
“No, that’s all right.” Ron said quickly. “It’s okay. We were just... eh...”
“Don't worry, Ginny.” Hermione reassured her, wiping her eyes discretely. “It was a bit of a sappy conversation, but it was coming to an end.”
Ginny bit her lip.
“Oh, I'm sorry...”
“It's all right.” Ron said, making a nonchalant gesture. “I was just leaving anyway. I wanted to go and see Mum and Dad.”
“I left them with George in the Great Hall. I suppose they'll still be there for a while.”
Ron got up from his seat and looked around. He saw Ginny watching Harry intently and realized that Harry hadn't said anything yet.
“Hey... Hermione, do you want to come with me?” He shared a glance with the girl, and then pointed with his head to the other two.
Hermione understood instantly.
“Oh, yeah, sure.” She nodded. “I am actually a bit hungry still. I'll come with you and get some more food.”
She stood up and opened the door, Ron at her side.
“We'll see you guys in a bit, okay?” She said as a goodbye.
Harry and Ginny looked at them in surprise but nodded. It was lucky Hermione turned to leave at that moment, or they would have seen the satisfied smile on her face.
As soon as the door had closed, Ginny sat down on the chair next to Harry.
“I'm sorry for interrupting the moment.” She said, filling the silence.
“Oh, don't worry about it.” Harry replied. “In fact, I appreciate it.”
“Well, you know how much Hermione likes it when Ron behaves in a mature and sensitive way. If you hadn't come along, they would probably have started making out.”
He made an exaggerated grimace and got what he was looking for, a smile on Ginny's face. The truth was, he had been dreading being alone with her, that it would be awkward or uncomfortable. But now that he was in the situation, everything was so much simpler. He had forgotten how easy it was to talk to her.
“You're right, she does like it... So, they really are together, aren't they?” Ginny sighed. “I never thought I'd see the day. It had to take a war to get those two to confess their feelings.” She shook her head.
“We never had that problem.” Harry said, more bravely than he felt.
“No, we did not...” She whispered; her eyes fixed in some point of the white wall. “Rather, it was the war that drove us apart.”
“Ginny, I... I don't...” He took a deep breath. “Look, I don't want screw it up, okay?”
“Screw it up? What are you talking about?”
“I'm talking about this, about us.” He pointed at himself and then at her. “I... the time we spent together I was very happy. Happier than I've ever been.” He admitted. “But now... I never thought I would have a future. And now it's here and I don't know what to do!”
He realized he had raised his voice and looked at Snape, suddenly remembering that he was there.
“We didn't pick the best place to talk about this, did we?” Said Ginny sarcastically, as she waited for Harry to collect his thoughts.
Harry sighed and then said what he really wanted to say.
“Listen, you... You've had a really hard time. You have spent a whole year fighting from Hogwarts, holding on. You've... you've lost your brother and a lot of other friends.” His voice trembled, and Ginny winced at the reminder. “That changes you as a person. You need time to come to terms with everything that's happened. And then to decide if you want to keep going with it, with us, or not.”
“I don't want you to feel some kind of... obligation to be with me. Or that you do it just so you don't have to think about everything that's happened. It's not fair to you.”
“And it wouldn't be fair to you either, Harry.” She said firmly. “Listen to me: I'm aware of all this. I have also been thinking about us. And everything you've said about me applies to you too. You've changed too, you've suffered too. That is a fact. We are not the same people we were a year ago. We will never be again.” For an instant, the reality of those words silenced her. “But, despite all this, I still have feelings for you. You're my friend, you're my family. And... and you're probably something else. I'm not telling you to... ‘get married tomorrow.’” She snorted, shaking her head. “I just want to take it slow. Get to know each other again and see what we want. There's no rush. We have all the time in the world.”
“Get to know each other again.” Repeated Harry. “Yes, I would like that. I would like that very much.”
Without intending to, a smile spread across his face. He looked at Ginny, his eyes bright with relief and hope. She looked back at him, and Harry lost himself in her brown eyes. He had missed them so much; he had missed her so much! When he realized that, he was no longer afraid to say or do the wrong thing. Now he knew what he wanted.
Instinctively, he found Ginny's right hand and took it in his left. For a moment, he waited for her reaction, fearing he had crossed a line. It was merely the length of a heartbeat. The next, she ran her thumb over the back of his hand, where the words ‘I must not tell lies’ were marked on his skin, and gave him a firm squeeze.
“I've missed you.” Ginny admitted.
“I've missed you too.”
She brought their joined hands to her lips and placed a kiss on Harry's, before letting him go.
“I have a confession to make.” She said after doing so, causing Harry to listen carefully.
“If Snape wasn't in front of us, this kiss would have probably been on your lips.” Her eyes twinkled with mischief. “But being in the same room as him is a complete turn-off.”
Harry couldn't help but laugh softly.
“Bloody Snape.” He said, amused. “Very like him to screw me over even when he’s unconscious.”
Ginny's laughter did not take long, and Harry soaked in it. He realized he wouldn't mind spending the rest of his days listening to it. Being the cause of that sound.
“I'm glad we're okay.” He confessed.
A few moments passed in silence, until Ginny stood up. She slowly approached Snape and looked at him curiously.
“Hermione explained everything.” She said. “How Nagini attacked him and how she and Ron found him. And I also remember what you said while you were fighting Voldemort. About his loyalties. I suppose it must be true or else you wouldn't be here, worried about him.”
“It is true.”
“At least now it makes sense of all the things he did last year.”
“Sending Neville and me to Hagrid as punishment, for example. Instead of with the Carrows. I didn't understand how he could be so stupid as to think Hagrid would treat us badly. Turns out he was smarter than I thought... It was his way of protecting us.” She said, quietly. “I never liked him much, but if he wakes up, I'd want to thank him. Not only that, but all the things he must have done as a spy that we didn't even realize. All of the times his information kept us safe.”
“That's one of the reasons why I'm here. I feel like I owe him, in a way. I wish... I wish that when he wakes up, he can have a second chance. A better life than before.”
“We will make sure he does, Harry.” She said, sitting down next to him. “No one will ever suffer because of that monster again. You made sure of that.”
“Not just me.” He told her, with seriousness in his eyes. “We all did.”
Ginny nodded and then they stayed together in silence, enjoying each other's presence. Minutes passed and Harry's tiredness began to take its toll. He slowly closed his eyes, resting his head on Ginny’s shoulder. Just when he was about to fall asleep, the door opened for the umpteenth time that day.
“Are you still here, Mr. Potter?” It was Madam Pomfrey. “I told you there was no need for you to stay. If there are any changes, the enchantments I've placed around him should let me know.”
“Yes, I remember. But I didn't want to leave him alone.”
Madam Pomfrey's gaze softened.
“It's all right. If you want to stay, you can stay, of course. But now I've come to change his bandages.”
Seeing that neither Harry nor Ginny made any sign of moving, the nurse stared at them.
“Professor Snape's wounds are not very pleasant to look at.” She explained. “I recommend that you both leave the room in the meantime.”
The two exchanged a glance. After all he had been through, Harry doubted that anything could impress him, but he knew that Snape would not like to be seen in an even more vulnerable position, so, he decided to leave.
“All right.” he said, standing up. Next to him, Ginny did the same. “We'll be outside.”
“I'll let you know when I'm done.” Madam Pomfrey promised, though her attention was completely focused on Snape. She had his back to them and was making complicated wand movements as the clean bandages floated around her.
Harry hurried out the door.
“It's been a long time since Ron and Hermione left.” Ginny commented as they entered the waiting room.
Harry checked his wristwatch.
“I don't think they'll be back.” She smiled. “I guess they wanted to give us some privacy.”
“Oh, totally. I saw Ron nodding his head in our direction. I'm grateful he did it, but it was quite noticeable.”
Ginny laughed softly.
“Typical Ron.” Harry repeated, smiling warmly.
Ginny returned the smile but then a thought crossed her mind, making it disappear.
“I don't know if he told you. But we'll probably be going home for a couple of days.”
“Oh... No, I didn't know that.”
“Yeah, Weasleys are coming from all over the country, for the... for Fred's funeral,” Ginny swallowed and continued. “Mum wants to host them all at home and feed them... You know how she is. And I want to be there to help her and Dad too. I know they are the adults, but someone should look after them too. Make sure they don't work themselves to exhaustion.
Harry nodded, slowly.
“I wish I could do something to help you.”
“Your place is here, for the moment. Professor McGonagall told me you still have a lot to do. Explanations to give and hands to shake.”
“You know how much I like to be the center of attention...”
Ginny gave a small smile and looked up at him, the affection evident in her eyes.
“I know. But besides, Snape's here.” She reminded him. “At some point he'll wake up and he'll need someone to fill him in on everything. And there will probably be a trial. You'll have to testify on his behalf.”
Harry's eyes widened in surprise.
“I hadn't thought of that.”
“Don't worry. You're Harry Potter.” Said Ginny, as if that explained everything. “They'll listen to you.”
“I hope...” Sighed Harry. “But no matter what responsibilities I have here. If you need me, let me know.” He said seriously.
Ginny reached up and stroked his cheek gently.
“Thank you, I'll keep that in mind.”
Harry brought his hand up to hers and left it there. They spent a few seconds like that, looking at each other and giving each other affection.
“I should go check on my parents.” Ginny finally said, releasing his hand. “And George.”
“Is he still so quiet?”
“Yeah...” he sighed, looking away. “It's like... It's like a part of him has been ripped out of him. I can't even imagine how he must be feeling. If it's hard enough for the rest of us...” She breathed shakily, trying not to cry. “It must be awful for him.”
“I'm so sorry, Ginny.”
Harry wrapped his arms around her, and she felt safe against his chest. There, she was able to let go and cry quietly. They stayed like that for a few minutes, just holding and supporting each other. When she was a little calmer, she pulled away and looked into his eyes.
“Don't be sorry. It's not your fault.”
She ran the back of her hand over her cheeks, wiping away the tears.
“And we'll be fine. Someday. We just need time to learn to deal with it.” She cleared her throat, trying to compose herself. “Tell me something.”
“Anything you want.”
“Do you still miss Sirius?”
Harry felt a lump in his throat. He wanted to hide the reality and tell her that he didn't, that it had gotten easier with time. But it was Ginny who had asked him, and he would never lie to her.
“Every day.” He admitted. “I miss him every day.”
Ginny looked down at the floor and, after a few seconds, nodded.
“Wow, that's great.” She said sarcastically, with a sad smile. “But thanks... for telling me the truth.”
“I still miss him.” Harry said again. “But there comes a time when you are at peace with it. Some days it hurts more and some days it hurts less.” He shrugged, not quite knowing what to say. “I'm sorry, I don't have a formula for dealing with it. You just... do it. Because there is no other way. And because the people who are still here make it worth it.”
Ginny's lips trembled, but she nodded decisively.
“I'm glad to know that I'll never stop missing him, because I don't want to. I don't want to forget him. But the other thing you said about being able to bear it... It gives me hope, in a way. To know that together we'll be able to move forward.”
“That's what I wanted to achieve. I'm glad I've cheered you up, if only a little.”
Ginny smiled at him, still with traces of moisture on her cheeks.
“You always do. Thank you, Harry.”
‘Thank you,’ Harry wanted to say, ‘for so many things’. But instead, he remained silent and simply nodded.
“Well, I'm sorry to leave you in such a bad mood.” She said. “But I really do have to go.”
“It's okay, I understand.”
“I'll come by and say goodbye before I go home, okay? And I'll see you again at the funeral.”
The word still sounded strange to Harry, unreal.
“Do you want me say something to Ron and Hermione, so they can come and keep you company?”
Harry shook his head.
“Don't worry, I've got the coin from the D.A. I'll let them know.”
“Alright, then. See you later.”
She walked over to say goodbye and Harry raised his arms, thinking she was going to hug him. To his surprise, Ginny stood on her tiptoes and brushed her lips against his, before pulling away.
“Snape is no longer here.” She said as an explanation.
Harry couldn't help but smile, a little flushed, as Ginny winked at him and turned to leave the room. He wanted to say something but could only stare at her with an idiotic look on his face and his lips burning where Ginny's had touched him.
He stood there for a few seconds, staring at the door that had just closed, when he realized that Madam Pomfrey was still in Snape's room. It had been a long time and Harry feared that something had gone wrong.
He went in without a second thought and saw the nurse sitting in a chair, staring at the Potions professor, who was still asleep on his bed.
“Madam Pomfrey? Is everything all right?”
“Oh, yes, don't worry. I was just taking a little break. It has been a tiring few days. Besides, I assumed you and Miss Weasley had things to talk about.”
Harry could feel his cheeks burning.
Madam Pomfrey's smile was not long in coming.
“Don't be embarrassed, Potter. You are young! It's the right time for the dramas of the heart. And especially considering everything you have been through.” She shook her head and the smile disappeared. “Poor kids.”
Harry didn't quite know what to say, so he kept silent.
“Anyway,” sighed the nurse, “I should get back to work.”
“Is there anything I can do...?”
“Thank you, Potter, but I'm afraid not.” lowly, she got up on her feet, and Harry could see the fatigue in her movements. “I only have to hold on for a couple more days. Kingsley has promised me that when things are a little calmer at the Ministry, he will send staff to Hogwarts. Medical, mostly, but also people to rebuild the school.”
Harry remembered the havoc caused by the battle and nodded.
“As well as politicians and judges,” continued the healer, “who will have to deal with the Death Eaters who didn't manage to get away. Judge them for their crimes…” Madam Pomfrey shook her head and Harry could see the anger in her usually calm features. “Judge them! They would only have to spend five minutes in the infirmary to reach a verdict. The horrors committed by these... these people. Beasts, more like. They should spend the rest of their lives locked up. Now that would be justice. Anyone connected with V-Voldemort would deserve it.”
Harry said nothing, but he thought of Draco and Narcissa, even Snape, and realized that things were not so simple. He used to think the world was black and white, but he had learned that it was not.
“Oh... Merlin. I'm sorry, Potter. I shouldn't lose my temper like this.” She cleared her throat and smoothed down the white skirt of her uniform.
“It's all right. I understand.”
“Anyway… I'd better get back to work.”
“Okay, Madam Pomfrey. I hope it gets easier.”
“Me too, Potter, thank you” she said. And without another word she left the room.
As soon as the door closed, Harry took a deep breath. He had told Ginny that he would say something to Ron and Hermione, but the truth was that he wanted to be alone. He took the coin from the D.A. and, after fiddling with it for a while, decided to put it in his pocket.
His two friends deserved to spend some time together, without Harry hanging around. Besides, after all he'd been through that day, he was grateful to have some time to himself. To think about everything that had happened since he'd arrived at the infirmary. He reminisced about his conversations with Ron and Hermione, but also with Ginny and Madam Pomfrey. As he did so, he could feel his eyelids getting heavier and before he knew it, he fell asleep.
When he woke up again, his mouth was dry, and his neck was numb from the back of the chair. It took him a while to remember where he was. When he did, he realized two things. One, Snape was still asleep. And two, he was not alone in the room. He whipped out his wand and pointed it at the intruder, before realizing it was Professor McGonagall.
“I didn't mean to wake you.” She said apologetically. “It was clear you needed your sleep.”
Harry lowered his wand, still a little sleepy.
“Good morning, Potter.” She reached into the pocket of her robes and checked her watch. “Afternoon, rather.”
“What? Have I slept that long?”
“Yes, but don't worry.” She said, seeing the look on the boy's face. “Madam Pomfrey has already informed your friends that you were here. They have also decided that it would be best to let you rest.”
Harry ran a hand over his face, trying to shake off the sleep.
“Thank you... It’s true that I was tired.”
Professor McGonagall smiled, but then looked at Snape and that caused it to disappeared.
“Madam Pomfrey has explained everything to me... I couldn't come earlier, there's still a lot of work to be done. But I had to see it for myself.”
She moved to the edge of Snape's bed, her back to Harry. Then, she brought a hand to the man’s and gave it a gentle squeeze. Although he could not see her face, the shaking of her shoulders indicated to Harry that she was crying.
A few minutes passed in silence. Harry not knowing what to say and Professor McGonagall standing beside Snape, sobbing quietly. Finally, she turned away from the bed. Harry could see the remnants of tears on her face, but otherwise she had almost completely regained her composure.
“Merlin... I'm sorry, Harry.”
“Don't worry, Professor. It's quite normal. You were friends for years.”
“Friends.” She repeated. “That is a word Severus would never use. Workmates, colleagues... That was as far as one could go with Severus Snape. And now I understand why. He couldn't allow himself to form bonds with people. His role as a spy was too important.” She smiled humorlessly, sitting down on a chair. “And yet... I like to think we had something akin to friendship. All these years have got to be worth something, haven't they?”
Harry didn't know if she was talking to him or just out loud, though he didn't want to interrupt her. It wasn't like Professor McGonagall to open up like that. But he supposed that what had happened over the last few days and seeing Snape alive again would affect anyone.
“I hated him so much this year.” The teacher confessed. “I thought I wouldn’t be able to take it, that at some point I would explode and finish him off. Dumbledore's murderer, the traitor. The one who had betrayed our trust... But I held on. And then, to know that he was on our side all this time, only to find out that he was dead... It was quite painful.” Her face clearly said that word didn't begin to describe it. “And now, after all that, he's alive?”
Harry couldn't quite believe it either, even if he had known it all day.
“Yes, this is Severus’ style.” Professor McGonagall's sarcastic smile was full of affection, despite everything. “Dramatic to the end.”
Silence fell in the room after that sentence, but it wasn't uncomfortable. Harry was happy to share that moment with Professor McGonagall. The two of them sitting in front of Snape's bed, while the professor laid there, breathing slowly. He liked knowing that McGonagall's feelings for Snape were as complicated as his own for the man.
“He'll wake up, Professor.” He said, finally. “I'm sure of it. I am now.”
She smiled at him. It was a sad smile, but Harry could see a glimmer of hope in her eyes.
“I really hope you are right, Potter.”