Harry glared sullenly at the floor, idly kicking the metal legs of the hospital bed he was sitting on.
I don’t want to be here, I don’t want to be here, I don’t want to be here…
But he didn’t have much choice.
As soon as Snape had announced that Harry would be visiting Madame Pomfrey promptly for a long overdue check-up and had given him that look, Harry knew there was no getting out of it.
That didn’t mean he had to be happy about it.
And to make matters worse, Snape and Pomfrey had sequestered themselves in a corner of the room and were muttering to each other, the nurse stealing glances at Harry every few moments.
If they’re going to talk about me, they should at least have the decency to do it to my face.
Harry kicked the bed again, grinding his teeth in frustration.
I swear, if they don’t stop muttering, I’ll-
Harry straightened. It appeared that his demand had been answered, and Madame Pomfrey was walking toward him quickly while Snape hovered near the wall. Harry had scowled a bit when Snape had mentioned he would be staying, muttering that he didn’t need his check-up supervised like a five-year-old. But evidently, none of Harry’s preferences were being taken into consideration just now.
When Madame Pomfrey reached him, she handed him a neatly folded hospital gown.
“Please change into this, I’ll draw up the curtains if you’d like,” she said briskly.
Harry tensed, clenching his jaw.
Pomphrey motioned for him to stand, and he did so while she conjured a set of curtains around his bed.
“Come on now,” she said, as Harry made no move to get behind the curtain.
Harry huffed a breath.
“Can’t you just do… whatever you need to do with my regular clothes on? You have a wand.” Harry hated the pleading tone of his voice, but he really, really didn’t feel like changing out of his clothes.
Madame Pomfrey’s face softened slightly. “I’m afraid not.”
“Why?” Harry asked tersely, utilizing what felt like every last vestige of his self-control not to snap at the woman.
Pomfrey raised an eyebrow at him.
“The scans I’ll be performing will not be entirely effective through clothing of standard thickness.”
Harry couldn’t think of a way around that, but he didn’t move.
“The quicker you get changed, the sooner we’ll be done here.”
Harry knew then that he wasn’t going to win. Biting down on his lower lip, he slid behind the curtain and changed, though he was thankful that, at the very least, this gown didn’t open at the back.
“Thank you, Mr. Potter,” she said calmly when he emerged. She vanished the curtains with a quick wave of her wand.
“Now, lie back on the bed for me, arms at your side, legs straight out.”
Harry did his best to do as she asked, but he couldn’t prevent the faint trembling of his limbs, and the involuntary clenching of his fists as he lay tensely on the narrow hospital bed.
Madam Pomfrey sighed again.
“Please do try to relax, Mr. Potter, I will only be using my wand; I will not be touching you.”
Harry tried, but when she stepped forward, wand in hand, Harry jerked back and rose to a sitting position, his arms folded across his chest.
When she stepped forward again, Harry couldn’t help himself; he darted out of the bed and pressed himself into the wall behind it.
I can’t do this. I can’t. Why won’t they just leave it alone?
Harry quickly turned his face away when Snape began walking towards him.
I don’t need a lecture right now. Leave me the hell alone.
Harry’s head turned towards Snape almost against his will. Forcing his face into blankness, he looked at the man impassively, only the tightness in his shoulders giving any indication of his anxiety.
“Harry,” said Snape in a low voice. “I would not be insisting on this visit were it not in your best interests.”
Harry bit down on the inside of his cheek, averting his eyes.
It’s in my best interests to be left. alone.
“Harry," Snape said again.
Harry met the man’s eyes again, his eyes narrowed, and his stance rigid in stubborn defiance.
Snape sighed, then, unexpectedly, knelt down onto his knees so that his face was level with Harry’s.
“Step a bit closer,” Snape said, not taking his eyes off Harry.
Harry did so hesitantly, his eyebrows furrowing slightly when the man lifted a hand to brush his hair away from his own neck, revealing an unsightly mass of scar tissue. Harry’s eyes widened involuntarily at the sight. The scarring was a deep, painful-looking red, and the skin was puckered and distorted. The disfiguration stretched from the side of Snape’s neck and continued towards the back. Snape then pulled on his collar slightly, so Harry could see where the scarring extended towards his shoulder.
Harry forced his gaze away from the sight and met Snape’s eyes.
“I obtained it when I was a child, and, much like yourself, I preferred not to seek help.”
Snape paused for a moment, his dark eyes shadowed.
“As a result of my refusal of medical attention, I no longer have full mobility in the area of the injury. That could have easily been avoided had I received the care I required.”
There was a few moments of silence. The man’s eyes continued to bore into Harry’s, his face stern. But his eyes showed so much more. They spoke of past pain and anguish, yes, but more than anything, they showed the desire to protect Harry from suffering any more than he already had.
The man then rose to his feet, pulling Harry towards the hospital bed with gentle pressure.
Harry allowed it.
He lay back in the bed once more, squeezing his eyes shut as Madame Pomphrey leaned over him, more to avoid seeing the pitying look in her eyes than anything else.
Madame Pomphrey began the scans of his bones, during which he felt little other than a slight tingling. When the feeling faded, Harry opened his eyes to see her jotting down something on a piece of parchment that hovered in the air before her. He darted his eyes quickly to the side to see that Snape was still standing there silently.
“Well,” Madame Pomphrey began. “Though you’ve had quite a myriad of broken bones in the past, most of them seem to have set and healed correctly, other than a rib and two knuckles in your right hand.”
Really? I never noticed that…
“How did you come by the injuries in your hand?” she asked, rolling up the parchment she had been writing on.
Harry bit down on the inside of his cheek.
“Why does it matter?” he asked in what he hoped what a calm, indifferent manner.
“It is important than I’m am aware of the nature of the injury if I am to properly reset the bones.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Harry all but snapped.
“Harry,” Snape said in a warning tone.
Harry bit back a groan.
It’s none of their stupid business.
“I rammed my fist into someone’s face,” Harry said through gritted teeth.
Madame Pomphrey pursed her lips.
“And the rib?”
Harry drew in a shuddering breath.
She’s not going to let this go.
“I- someone stepped on me,” Harry answered, almost inaudibly.
Neither adult spoke. Harry kept his eyes firmly trained on his lap.
After a moment, Madame Pomfrey cleared her throat. Harry looked up.
“Just a quick eye exam, Potter, and you’ll be free to go,” she said briskly.
Harry expected her to pull out an eye chart like the ones he had seen in preschool, but instead, she simply told him to open his eyes as widely as possible while performed several spells. Harry watched her wave her wand in complex motions with vague interest, until he noticed her frown.
“Have you ever experienced difficulty with your vision, Mr. Potter?”
Harry thought back.
“Er… maybe when I was really young. But I stopped having problems when I was around seven.”
Harry felt his anxiety rise when she frowned again.
“What?” he asked urgently, gripping the bedclothes.
Pomphrey seemed to notice his fear.
“Not to worry, Potter, I was simply…” she trailed off, but Harry thought he heard her mutter something about ‘those despicable muggles’.
“The issue here is,” she began, “you are very near-sighted; however, your vision went untreated for so long that your magic began to compensate for it, which is why you eventually noticed an improvement.”
“However,” she continued, when Harry made to cut in, “that is not a healthy long-term solution; indeed, it should not have gone on nearly as long as it did.”
“What’s the problem, exactly?”
“What is happening to your vision is similar to that of a drug dependence,” Snape’s deep voice cut in. “As time passes, your vision will require increasingly more magic to function, draining you of much needed magical reserves.”
Harry drew in a sharp breath.
“This is nothing that cannot be fixed,” Pomphrey soothed. “You will simply need to be fitted for corrective lenses, and, overtime, your magic will cease to compensate for your poor vision as the lenses do their work.”
Harry glanced around interestedly, jogging a bit to keep up with Snape’s long-legged stride. Hogsmeade was calmer and quieter than Diagon Alley had been, but the placed seeped with magic just as intensely.
“You’ll be allowed occasional outings here once you reach your third year,” Snape said when he noticed Harry’s interest.
Harry tore his gaze away from the nearest shop, which seemed to sell nothing but a wide variety of multicolored quills, and hurried to catch up with his guardian.
“Here we are.”
They had stopped at a small shop, several pairs of glasses on display behind the dusty front window.
A faint ring echoed throughout the room when Snape pushed open the door. Harry managed a quick glance around the room, which appeared remarkably similar to any muggle optometrist’s office, when a kind-faced woman entered the room.
“Severus,” she greeted with a smile. “How nice to see you again.”
“Ms. Renshaw,” Snape nodded back.
The woman looked down at Harry, her pale blue eyes crinkling in a smile. “What’s your name, dear?”
“Harry,” he muttered.
“I’m Bea,” the woman said. “Though no matter how many times I’ve asked Severus to call me that, he insists on maintaining formalities.”
Snape cleared his throat, and the woman turned back to him. Snape briefly explained the situation.
“I suppose Desmond will have to look him over first,” Bea said, her brow furrowing. “I’ll have my daughter fetch him. Please, do sit down in the meantime.”
She pointed to several chairs lined against the wall. Harry followed Snape and settled in a seat, picking at his fingernails.
“Jade, darling,” the woman called.
Harry felt a sudden jolt in his chest.
It can’t be…
Harry’s eyes widened in shock as a familiar figure with long brown hair stepped into the room.
She met his eyes, and the two stared at one another for a moment, then shot towards each other with nearly supernatural speed.
Harry clutched her like a lifeline as he breathed her in. His hands shook, and he could feel her body trembling against his. He was utterly incognizant of the other occupants in the room; he was scarcely aware of any other aspect of his life other than that he had found Jade.
His shoulder felt slightly damp, and he realized that Jade was crying. He soon felt tears prickling at his own eyes and forced them back. But when they finally broke apart, and Harry looked her full in the face, the face that had been his only source of comfort for so long, he broke down. His chest heaved with sobs, and he covered his face, embarrassed.
Jade drew her arms around him again.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” she whispered, her voice soothing him like soft cotton.
Harry pulled back at that.
“You left,” he said hoarsely. “You didn’t even say goodbye, I couldn’t-” Harry broke off, digging the heels of his hands into his eyes.
Jade pulled Harry’s hands away from his face.
“I tried, I swear,” she said earnestly, her hands clutching his. “But I didn’t know where you lived, and I even came back to Surrey with mum once, but no one there had ever heard of you. I wanted to find you, I really needed to see you, I-” Jade started breathing hard, her lower lip quivering.
Harry squeezed her hand.
The two looked at each other for another long moment, too overcome to speak.
She’s here. She’s actually here. Am I dreaming? I must be, things this good never happen in real life.
Harry looked down at their intertwined hands as if to confirm that she was there in the flesh.
Then he raised his head, breaking the silence.
“So, what happened?”
Jade drew in a shuddering breath, her blue eyes still shiny with tears
“Well, long story short,” she began hoarsely, “Ed got busted for drug dealing, so I went back to live with mum.”
Harry’s eyes widened slightly at the news, though his expression still darkened at the mention of that man.
“Why didn’t she have custody in the first place?” Harry asked.
Jade bit her lip.
“She… well, she was sick,” she said evasively.
Harry tilted his head.
Jade averted his eyes at the unasked question, and he let it go.
“But how did you end up here- wait- are you a witch?”
Jade chuckled, shaking her head.
“No, but apparently, you are.”
“Well, technically, I’m a wizard. But why are you here if you’re not magical?”
“Basically, mum’s a squib, I think it’s called,” she began, “and before she got… sick…, she studied optometry. Desmond, the wizard who works here, offered her a job because he’s some sort of medical researcher, and he wanted to work with non-magical doctors to help with his research, so mum says this is an experimental shop, sort of, and that man you were with-”
“Snape,” Harry supplied.
“Yeah, him, he works with Desmond and supplies a lot of potions.”
Harry took a moment to digest that.
“So where do you live?” he continued. “Where do you go to school? How are you- what-?”
Jade laughed. Harry was startled to see how genuine the joy in her laughter was. They were quiet again for another long moment. Then, without warning, Jade burst into tears. Harry did not hesitate to grab onto her again, clinging to the one person that had given him the will to live.
“That must be the Harry Jade’s talked about,” Bea said softly, as she and Severus moved discreetly to the other end of the room to give the children some privacy.
Severus watched the two children clinging to each other desperately, as though they had been given their first sip of water in days and could not stop drinking it in.
“Harry’s never mentioned her to me,” Severus said slowly.
I might have found her for him sooner.
“Jade didn’t mention him until she had been with me for nearly a year,” said Bea, in far too understanding a voice.
Severus looked at Bea more fully as her face twisted with what looked like guilt.
“She didn’t trust me” Bea said heavily. “Not after I had essentially abandoned her to my bastard of an ex-husband.”
Snape gave her an inquiring look.
“I let the drugs take me over. I blame no one but myself, though Ed did have me right where he wanted me.”
Once Bea had begun speaking, it seemed she was unable to stop, as though she had been holding back her words for years.
“My first husband had passed, and Jade was only a year old. I was vulnerable and alone, and Ed used that. I became an addict, and I was in no way a fit parent, I readily admit.”
She drew in a sharp breath.
“But they took my baby away from me and gave Ed custody, and it was only when his crimes came to light that I got her back.”
“I’m certain your daughter knows you did not give her up willingly,” Severus said carefully.
Bea smiled sadly.
“Perhaps, but it took her so very long to trust me again.”
Bea closed her eyes.
“I don’t know if she will ever fully forgive me. The horrors she has suffered-” She stopped speaking, unable to vocalize just what those horrors were.
“She does trust you now, you say?” Severus asked.
“Yes, I think I have proven to her that I am worthy of her trust, if not deserving of it.”
How did she do it? How does one gain the complete trust of a child so damaged? I fear I may never achieve that with Harry.
Somehow, Bea seemed to read his thoughts; it was apparent that she had worked out Harry’s situation, and Severus’ role in it.
“It takes time,” she said softly. “When Jade first came to me, she was in so much pain. She lashed out at me almost daily, got herself suspended from school for fighting with other children, and, several times, was physically aggressive toward a teacher.”
Well, it seems I have had it quite easy with Harry, in comparison.
Bea went on.
“With, time, she began to feel safer. I pulled her out of school and I now have her homeschooled. She studies mostly on her own; she’s quite motivated when she wants to be. I also have a tutor come in several times a week to supervise her progress.”
Bea gave a self-deprecating smile.
“The lord knows this old brain wouldn’t be much help in that area.”
Bea paused for a moment, rubbing a hand against her lined forehead.
“I have found that she trusts me more when I act as a parent to her and do not burden her with my guilt.”
Severus gave a slow nod, then turned back to focus upon Harry.
As he watched the way Harry clung to his friend, his face glowing, and his stance more relaxed than Severus had ever seen it, he knew all was not lost.