Harry felt like he must have spent half of his life waking up in a hospital bed, and it took him a minute or two to remember what he had done to land himself in the hospital wing this time. He’d been packing his trunk, ready to return home with his family for the summer holidays; that much he remembered. Ron had been there, and they had discussed where Harry would be staying. Hadn’t Ron suggested Harry return to 12 Grimmauld Place? What a stupid idea! Saturnine had said the four could return to Cove Cottage; why would he go to London instead? Really, what had Ron been thinking?
“Harry, you awake?” his brother asked, and Harry forced his tired eyes open. His head pounded, and everything was blurry and dark. He surmised it must be the evening already.
“Glasses?” he asked, frowning when he realised his voice sounded hoarse. Draco pushed them into his hand an instant later, and he put them on before gingerly sitting up.
The world came into focus again, and he found his brother sitting on a chair by the side of his bed, looking miserable and like he wanted to find a rock to crawl under or something. Shite, Harry thought. What happened now? He’d thought that with the threat of Voldemort behind them, there wouldn’t be any more nasty surprises in store for them. Their family wasn’t the lucky type.
Try as he might, Harry couldn’t think past packing up in his dorm with Ron. Had he been attacked? Looking down at himself, he couldn’t find any visible injury, and nothing hurt. Well, he had a killer headache, but that seemed to be the worst of it.
“What happened?” he asked. “I can’t remember?”
“You were packing, and then you started screaming. As far as we can tell, you were alone,” Draco said hesitantly. “When Ron and Hermione came in, they found you passed out next to your trunk. No one knows why.”
That jolted a memory loose; Harry vaguely remembered rereading his goodbye letters. It had hurt to do it—hadn’t it? Like it had hurt to write them. But he wouldn’t have wanted to die without letting his parents know how much he loved them or Draco. How thankful he was for their presence in his life, how they made everything better. Well, he had told Draco in the end, hadn’t he? In the hallway, before they split up. But he’d never gotten around to telling Saturnine or Severus—not properly. Why hadn’t he told them afterwards? There’d been time for that, hadn’t there?
“Where are Mom and Dad?” he asked, suddenly wondering why they weren’t here. Someone would have told them that the hero of the Wizarding World had landed himself in the infirmary yet again. He’d half-expected waking up to Saturnine holding his hand and Severus hovering nearby with a disapproving frown a mile long. It was the first time he’d used the M-word and D-word aloud, but the time felt right for it.
“What?” Draco said, sitting up straight as if he’d just been hit by a Stunning Spell. “What did you say?”
“I asked you where Mom and Dad are,” Harry repeated. “Aren’t they coming? Wait—has something happened to them?”
Adrenaline surged through him at the mere thought that something may have happened to the siblings. He was halfway out of bed when his brother rose twin placating hands to halt him.
“They’re with Madam Pomfrey, discussing what happened to you,” Draco assured him, and Harry relaxed a little. “Never mind that; are you okay?” his brother demanded as he leaned forward in his chair. “Are you back?”
Harry had no idea what he meant by that. Back from where? He hadn’t left, had he?
“Harry, do you know who I am?” Draco asked hesitantly before sitting up and coming closer to his bed.
Why his brother was acting so strangely, Harry had no idea; so many emotions cascaded on the blond’s pointy face that he couldn’t read them all. “What kind of stupid question is that, you prat?” he said. “Are you okay? You’re acting kinda weird.”
Draco said nothing and just stared at him with wide silvery eyes for a full minute—and then some. In other circumstances, the look on his face would have been comical. Then he started blinking furiously as if he held back tears, and a feeble “Wanker,” passed his lips.
Harry doubted that it was the time and place for another round of their verbal jousts, but Draco looked like he needed it. So, he indulged him with a shrug. “Jerk,” he said.
Draco’s only reply was to lunge at Harry like an enraged octopus, and Harry almost toppled backwards under his weight. He was about to call him out on it when he realised that the blond was crying. Well, not just crying—his brother’s back was wracked by huge, heavy sobs. Harry had never seen him so broken before, not even when Narcissa died. He had no idea what had prompted this outburst, but he was quick to wrap his arms around Draco’s shaking shoulders to draw him closer. He could wait to find out what had happened, he figured; this was more important.
“You’re here,” Draco muttered through his tears. “You’re really here?”
“Why do you keep asking me that?” Harry asked as he held him close. “Did I go somewhere?”
He felt his brother nod against his shoulder. “Kinda—for a little while.”
“Sorry,” Harry said, even though he had no idea why he was apologising. Still, it felt like the safest thing to say now. “Shhh—I’m okay,” he added. “I’m here now.”
What had happened to Harry was one more mystery to add to the pile. Looking at the numerous parchments Poppy Pomfrey had given them, Severus felt like bunching her notes into a tight ball before setting them on fire. Or perhaps he could find some glass phials and bottles to toss against a wall. That had calmed him the last time.
“Useless,” he drawled out, dropping the documents on her desk before turning to look out the nearest window. “Fucking useless.”
He heard Saturnine sigh and the sound of papers moving about, and he surmised she must be stacking the reports into a neat little pile again. “Thanks for going to the trouble of double-checking everything, Poppy,” she said, and Severus had half a mind to part with a scathing comment. Fat load of good her diagnostic spells had done.
Madam Pomfrey hadn’t been able to explain why their son had passed out in his dorm after crying his heart out any more than the doctors at St. Mungo’s had been able to explain why Harry had lost parts of his memory. No one knew what was going on—not even the newly-resuscitated Albus Dumbledore.
Useless, the whole lot of them, he thought. Inadequate, like I am, and—
“Sev, don’t do this to me now,” Saturnine pleaded, drawing him out of his bleak thoughts. She moved to stand next to him and snaked an arm around his shoulder. “I’m as worried as you are. But you’ve seen the results; Harry will be fine once he wakes up. Maybe it was the nerves, the stress of the exams catching up with him.”
“It wasn’t, and you know it as well as I do,” he said through clenched teeth. “Something’s wrong with our son, and I want to know what. I want him back.”
Saturnine tried to move in for a hug, but he stepped back and out of her reach. The need for violence had passed, and now he only felt like throwing up. Already he could feel the bile rise in his throat, and it took a real effort of will to push it back down. It wasn’t the only thing he had to hold back—the pressure of tears behind his eyes was almost too inviting.
In his mind, the Dark Lord’s last words were like cold echoes in the wind, cutting him through the many layers of his clothes like an unstoppable wintery draught. “Harry and Draco will leave you the moment they finish school, never to look back… Saturnine will leave again, as she has before…” it seethed in his ear, “…and where will you be then, my dear Potions Master? Alone once more—a forgotten child that no one ever wanted. No one but me.”
He saw Madam Pomfrey standing up awkwardly from behind her desk. “Maybe I should give you two a minute,” she said. “I’ll go check on the boys while you…” She waved a hand about and left the room without finishing her sentence.
Saturnine seized the opportunity to draw close to him again. She seemed intent on keeping her arms to herself for now, though, and Severus turned his head to the side to look out the window again. Or at least he tried; he had a hard time getting past his own snarling reflection. He could feel himself falling apart, and he longed for the quiet of his rooms in the dungeons, where he could fall to pieces on his own. But his personal space in the bowels of Hogwarts wasn’t his alone anymore; it hadn’t been for some time. And faced with that realisation, Severus found that another part of himself yearned for company. His heart ached for some comfort and support—a helping hand to get through this debacle.
“Don’t push me away, Sev,” Saturnine pleaded. “Don’t close yourself off. Not now, please.”
“Alone once more…” the Dark Lord whispered in his ear. “Alone.”
Severus shivered as cold fear gripped his heart. “Please don’t leave me,” he blurted out. Then, because he wasn’t sure if he had said it aloud, he asked again. “Please, ’Nine. Promise me that you won’t leave me again.”
Saturnine never got a chance to answer, for Madam Pomfrey burst into the room with nervous excitement. “Harry’s awake,” she said, panting. “And he feels like his old self again.”
They both whirled on her and were out of the door before you can say Quidditch.
It was the look on Draco’s face that assured Saturnine that everything would be all right. Though there were visible tear tracks on his pointy face, her blond boy was smiling. She hadn’t seen Draco smile in weeks—not since the day of the battle. Then there was the way both her children were sitting on the infirmary bed, huddled close together. It was a good indicator that things were back to how they should be. But still, she had to make sure.
“Harry?” she asked cautiously, almost fearfully.
Her son turned a beaming smile of his own towards her at the sound of his name. But it was the word that tumbled from his mouth next that cemented it: “Mom!” There was no holding back the tears after that—for either of them.
Severus beat her to their child’s hospital bed, and he received an equally enthused “Dad” for his effort.
“Draco was telling me—” Harry started to say, but he never got any further. Whatever explanation he had for them was swallowed by the many layers of black robes and frock coat that smothered him in a bone-crushing hug. Saturnine wasn’t far behind, grabbing hold of whatever limb she could reach, catching a handful of blond Slytherin in the process and dragging both of them close.
Time seemed to stop around them as she treasured the knowledge, the utter certainty, that her family was now complete. They weren’t blood—except in every way that counted.
“I love you,” Saturnine said to no one in particular. She wasn’t sure why she said it at all; it seemed the words had a will of their own. “I love you all so much,” she added. And then it occurred to her. At that moment, in this room, with these people, she had never been happier in her life.