Severus gripped Harry’s hand tightly in his own. He let his forehead down to touch the warmth where their hands connected, to reassure himself that the pulse he felt was real.
He stayed like that for many moments, his thumb gently stroking. He could feel a scar that traveled across the back of Harry’s hand, interrupting the landscape of smooth skin. Snape opened his eyes, his fingers now trailing the scar. Surely, it could not be....he looked down and saw his suspicion confirmed. Marred into the boy’s soft skin, were the words: “I must not tell lies.” Snape stared at the words, his mind racing.
That depraved, loathsome woman!
He would destroy her.
He would obliterate her.
He would KILL her.
A deep fury welled up inside him. So fearsome was his rage that he began to shake. He could feel his face burning, his throat muscles tightening, and something hidden deep within him stirred. Tears he hadn’t realized he’d been holding escaped down his cheeks. Shaking fingers touched the wetness on his face, unable to recognize the sensation.
He looked at Harry, his hand unconsciously reaching to the boy’s forehead, where he brushed aside dark hair to reveal the fabled scar, now hardly visible against the pale skin upon which it rested. Snape traced the scar lightly with his fingertips, wishing it away, wishing it all away.
His boiling anger quickly overtook the calm he usually felt in Harry’s presence. He pressed his lips together, rising up so suddenly that his chair fell over, thumping heavily onto the floor.
Snape strode towards the door, his hand reaching for the handle when he heard a voice:
24 Hours Earlier
“What on Earth were you thinking!? What could you have possibly accomplished by coming here!? Do you know how many patients and mediwizards we’ve had to obliviate!?”
Snape felt as though he was recovering from a bad hangover, his eyes closed and his fingers massaging his temples, “I was trying to help him. I was trying to save him.”
Minerva towered over his bed, her shadow blocking much of the light pouring in from the small window, “I would never have expected this kind of irrational behaviour from you, Severus. It’s as though you leave all reasonable thought behind when it comes to Harry!”
Snape gave her a petulant look and snapped, “I’ve had to save that boy’s arse for seven years, so forgive me for making one error.”
Minerva glowered back, “Save me from your melodramatic excuses Severus Snape! We had an agreement! You promised me, you promised Harry-
“-Enough!” Snape sulked lower into the bed.
Minerva paused, lowering her voice when she continued, “Why is it that every time I even mention the boy’s name, you act like a petulant child? I know you’ve had it out for him ever since his first day at Hogwarts, but I expected better from you after all that’s happened these last few months. You’re above this kind of behaviour, Severus.”
Snape tried to think of a retort, something, anything he could say to make her think differently. But it was true. When it came to Harry, he couldn’t think straight. And besides, he had scolded the boy so often for his acts of idiotic heroism, but hadn’t Snape done just that? Albus had always trusted him, above anyone else, to help him with his most difficult tasks. When Albus had been on the brink of death after foolishly placing Marvolo Gaunt’s ring on his hand, he had depended on Snape to save him. Perhaps he was so used to saving Albus and looking out for Harry, that he couldn’t help but to run after the boy when he thought Harry’s life was in danger.
He looked up at Minerva, “When can I see him?”
Minerva’s lips thinned to a line, and her eyes narrowed, “What did you just say?”
“I’m asking you when I can visit Potter. You told me that he was able to recover from the worst of Yaxley’s curse, and he’s now spending much more time awake. So, when can I see him?”
Minerva let out a breath, and much to Snape’s surprise, she sat down at the end of his cot. Placing her hand gently over his blanketed leg, she spoke, “You really do care about him, don’t you Severus?”
Snape didn’t meet her eyes, “I’ve spent too long in this recovering state in these exceedingly uncomfortable beds, I need to stretch my legs and see if I can even walk. Besides, Potter apparently spent a great deal of time visiting me while I was under Poppy’s care, I would be doing him an injustice if I didn’t show the same level of courtesy.”
Minerva replied softly, “It wasn’t courtesy that brought Harry to your bedside every day, Severus.”
Snape said nothing.
Minerva sighed and stood up, “Miss Granger and Mr. Weasley are currently visiting him, but they’ve been here all day and are sure to leave soon. Stretch your legs, and see if you can walk. This is a private ward and you are free to walk around without worrying about being spotted by anyone unauthorized to be here. Potter is two doors down at number 417, and I’m sure he’ll be happy to see you when you’re ready.”
She walked towards the door, and was about to close it behind her when she poked her head back into the room, “Take it from someone who has also been hit by multiple stunning spells- I’m considerably older and in poorer shape than you, and I did just fine. I’m sure you will as well.”
Snape stared at the closed door for several moments, then got out of bed. He wobbled a bit as he stood up, his head pounding and his back aching. He stretched, cracking his back in the process, and saw that he was still fully robed in his regular attire. Snape took a walk around his room; even though he felt awful, he knew he had to see Potter as soon as possible for his own peace of mind.
He walked out into the narrow hallway, closing his door behind him, and nearly bumped into someone dressed hideously in maroon and orange. Ah well, the orange was actually hair, but all the same...
Ronald Weasley looked completely horrified when he realized who he had nearly walked into, but he quickly masked his features into a quiet ambivalence. Miss Granger was much more poised, and she smiled warmly at Snape, “Good evening Professor, I’m glad to see you recovered well.”
Severus merely nodded, at a loss for words.
Hermione continued, “Harry looked a bit peaky, so the nurse gave him a sleeping potion about an hour ago. He’s been sleeping for a while now, but I’m sure you could pop in and see him for yourself without waking him.”
She began to walk away, yanking Weasley behind her, who seemed in a dazed stupor. He stumbled after her, whispering urgently in her ear, “Did you see who that was, Hermione!?”
“Shush Ron!” she whispered back, “And of course I did.”
As soon as the pair left the private ward, Snape headed over to room 417 and slowly opened the door.
Severus’ eyes fell immediately to the form on the bed. The image of Harry, his glassy eyes seemingly devoid of life, came to him, and Snape felt his heart race as he approached the cot. He released a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding when he saw the boy’s face, his eyes closed in sleep, although he was still very pale. Suddenly dizzy, Snape moved a chair to the base of the cot and collapsed into it. Slouched in the chair, his eyes closed and his hand against his forehead, Snape pondered.
Only once before, had he ever felt so full of panic, so full of agony, at the thought of someone he knew, someone he cared for...dead. Nearly two decades had passed since her death, but the anguish he felt was present, and very real.
He could hardly remember how he actually came to be at St. Mungo’s. All Snape could recall was this deep feeling of dread and anguish, and a distinct ringing in his ears as all other noises were blotted out. Apparently, it had taken three stunning spells to take him down.
Without truly realizing it, he had grown to care about the boy much more than he ever thought he could. And, just as Harry was always compelled to play the hero, Snape felt just as strongly about protecting Harry. If Severus had failed to save the lives of the only two people he so deeply cared for, the only two people he had ever-
-A loud knock sounded on the door before it was opened, and Snape stood up in shock, forgetting where he was.
The proud figure of Kingsley Shacklebolt entered the room, and Snape stood paralyzed at the foot of Harry’s bed. The Minister for Magic extended his hand toward Severus, his deep voice speaking, “Minerva told me you’d be here, Severus. I’m so glad to finally see you now that the war has ended.”
Severus took Shacklebolt’s hand, his own voice taking a few moments to kick in, “Likewise, Minister.”
Kingsley glanced around the room before transfiguring the two available chairs into larger, more comfortable one’s, and floating them over to the window to face each other, “Why don’t we take a seat. There are some very important matters we must discuss now that we have a chance to speak.”
As they did, a small table, some biscuits, and a steaming pot of tea appeared beside the armchairs. Kingsley spoke again, “I’m sure you’ve been pestered about this many times already, but in light of recent events,” Kingsley nodded his head at Harry, “I’m afraid I need to ask you to make your decision as soon as possible. I can offer you my opinion on the matter if you so wish.”
Snape, his hands shaking slightly, poured himself a cup of much-needed caffeine, nodding at the Minister to continue.
“The way I see it, Severus, you have two options. The first is that you allow the Wizengamot to view your memories, as evidence of your loyalty to our side. As much influence as I may have over the Wizengamot, it is very likely that traditional rulings will apply, and the wizarding public will know details of the hearing and the final verdict. It is also likely that the verdict will be in your favour, as I believe Harry is speaking the truth about you. Both you and Harry would be present at all stages of the enquiry, along with any other witnesses willing to speak on your behalf. The problem with this option, Severus, is that you will have little anonymity during the process, and will be exposed to the press and the general public. What worries Minerva and myself, is that there are still a number of Death Eaters on the run, and we can be certain that you will be a target of their animosity when they hear of your deception. The Ministry cannot guarantee your safety, and although we have teams of Aurors searching for runaways, it is very possible that you could be attacked, just as we’ve seen with Harry and several others. This choice would allow you to integrate back into Britain’s wizarding society, but I believe it would not permit you the freedom you seek. Staying here, you would be the source of much controversy and the target of anyone seeking revenge for the dark side. Harry told me that you were integral to Voldemort’s downfall, that the war would most likely have been lost without you. If this knowledge was made known to the press, you can imagine the consequences.”
Kingsley leaned back in his chair, allowing Severus a moment.
Snape spoke, his voice quiet, “And what is my other option, Kingsley?” He looked up at the Minister, his eyes filled with doubt.
Kingsley sighed, “You leave, Severus. I would see to it that you be officially declared dead, and you would leave Britain forever, to make a new life for yourself.”
Snape swallowed thickly, placing his tea down on the table as his hands were shaking uncontrollably. “I would be free?”
Kingsley nodded, “You would be free.”