Actions

Work Header

A Strong Heart

Chapter Text

The first thing Severus Snape knew was numbness. He couldn’t feel his limbs, his body, even his own head. Could he possibly be in some sort of strange limbo or afterlife- perhaps as a floating, unseeing, unfeeling entity of sorts? His thoughts were surprisingly succinct considering what he had been through, and were he probably was. Ah, but then, he must have a head, considering his mind still seemed intact.

With this new awareness came the growing feeling of intense pressure. It pushed into his skull, out of his ears, behind his eyes, into the very depths of his mind, and all coherent thought was immediately replaced with the knowledge of this strange, pressing ache. A dull ringing that had made itself known only moments before, began to morph into unintelligible sounds that seemed to surround him and add to the mounting pressure. His head felt like it was being squished into a space far too small to contain it. Snape wanted to move, to see, or at least find a way to return to the blissful numbness he had experienced shortly before.

An itch made itself known. It wasn’t on his head, but it was certainly on him. It felt far away but also within reach. Severus Snape’s hand twitched, and with it, the pressure morphed horribly into pain and the obscure sounds became anxious voices. He felt a soothing wash of magic cover him like a soft blanket, and something warm and inexplicably reassuring covered his hand.

---------------------------

He awoke several hours, perhaps even days later. He could feel his eyes moving against their lids, aware of a light on the other side, and his dry lips parted to let out a stuttering breath. Snape’s eyes gradually opened and immediately focused on something that was hairy, and very much alive. He could have looked to see that he was lying in a bed by a large window that was letting in streams of clear moonlight, and that his neck and upper torso were enveloped in thick white bandages, but his eyes were glued to the hairy thing that was intruding into his personal space. The thing, he realized, was a lot bigger than he originally perceived, and seemed to be subtly moving, up and down, in a steady, slow rhythm. With each small movement, a bit of hair would tickle Snape’s wrist and irritate him further. He was irritated because the hairy thing looked very much like a head, and that head looked horribly familiar. Like a pig raised for slaughter, Harry Potter had to die for the Dark Lord’s end to be realized. Snape knew that he himself had died. He had felt the life leave him, feel his heart slow to a stop, and his lips pass their final breath.

But, wasn’t he breathing right now? No, what mattered was the fate of the boy, whose head was now resting by Snape’s arm. He must have succeeded in vanquishing the Dark Lord, sacrificing himself after living only eighteen years, much of this time with such a terrible burden on his shoulders. Or else, he had died in the effort. Snape could more than understand the living hell it was to have the Dark Lord hovering over your every move, knowing your life was always in jeopardy, that your secrets could be revealed in a moment of weakness. Snape had chosen that life, the boy had not, yet they both had paid the ultimate price.

The realization that he may be stuck in the afterlife with the last person he would ever want to be stuck with came to him, and he almost choked at the thought. Except that Snape did begin choke, his breath catching, his throat muscles working to no avail. The boy at his side almost immediately woke, stumbling out of his seat in his haste, “Poppy!”

Here he was, choking and the boy was shouting gibberish and leaving him! The brat would be the cause of his death, even in the afterlife. Before Potter could get more than a few feet from the bed, he was brushed aside by Madam Pompfrey, who immediately waved her wand to relax Snape’s throat muscles. “It’s about time for your next medicine anyways Severus, so glad to see you’re back with us,” she said, pouring a potion down his throat and gently massaging the muscles there. “Harry, could you fetch Minerva for me?”

The boy left without a word, and Snape wondered what the hell was going on. “Severus,” Poppy’s voice interrupted his confusion, “I’m sure you must have many questions, most of which I’ll let Minerva and Mr. Potter detail, however I must explain your condition as soon as you feel ready.” Snape’s heart was thumping hard and true in his chest, air leaving and entering his lungs, and he knew, by some miracle, that he must still be alive.

He attempted to relax into the bed a bit more, and nodded stiffly at Poppy to continue.

“As you know, your neck was attacked by that horrible creature, and, as I’m sure you have guessed, the powerful venom the snake released poisoned your blood and assaulted your vitals. You lost a lot of blood Severus, and any that was left in your body was destroying you from the inside. If the house elf had brought you five minutes later, you might not have made it.” As she spoke, Poppy checked the intravenous drip that was feeding into his arm. “The blood was already clotting at your throat, but I was able to take a sample of the snake’s venom from your blood and apply it to the anti-venom formula you made for my stores all those years ago. You have a strong heart Severus. Only one in a million could have made it.” She gently patted his shoulder and gave him a warm look before continuing, “With the use of a magically assisted breathing charm and many vials of blood-replenishing potion, I knew I was able to keep you alive for a short while longer, but it was only with Mr. Potter’s help that you’re here today.”

Before she could finish, Potter returned with Minerva just behind him. “Ah, Minerva. Severus, we’ll just be a moment, and then we’ll finish up here.”

Snape felt dizzy. He was alive? And the boy...

But...but, the Dark Lord! How-

“Severus,” Minerva and the rest had returned, “you must know that Voldemort is dead, and all of his horcruxes, destroyed.” Thank Merlin the woman had the sense to fill him in properly, but all the same...

“You must also know that, for the time being, your existence is being kept private by a select few. Harry has made his belief in your innocence clear, and we are inclined to share this belief, however we can’t make this known to the public without substantial evidence. Harry has agreed to share your memories with Minister Shacklebolt, on the condition that he may only do so with your full approval.” Snape’s eyes snapped to the boy, but he was looking at the floor, his arms wrapped around himself. Snape knew he had shared his memories of everything Potter could possibly need to know, but he hadn’t been able to control the emotions coursing through him during his dying moments- how many of his memories had Potter seen?

“We would all like you to take your time in making this decision Severus, and we will support whatever you decide, the minister included.” Behind Minerva, Potter was laying himself down on a cot. Poppy blocked his view for a moment, but when she bustled away, Snape could see that Potter had been connected to an IV, which was now feeding blood into the drip that led to Snape’s arm. He looked at the boy’s face, startled to see those green eyes staring directly back into his. After a dizzying moment, Snape closed his eyes, feeling an overwhelming swell of thoughts and emotions coursing through him. He was suddenly exhausted, and within moments, Severus Snape was fast asleep, glowing green pools the last image in his mind.

Chapter Text

“Harry, dear, you must rest. What good are you to the wizarding world if you’re collapsing from exhaustion?” The creak of a mattress, “there’s a good lad. Now are you still feeling up for today’s blood transfusion?”

When Severus managed to open his eyes, Poppy had vanished, but the boy was lying in his cot once again. Potter looked as though the war had aged him fifteen years, his eyelids were dark from exhaustion and his face looked drawn and tense despite being at rest.

“Potter,” Snape attempted to get the boy’s attention but his voice sounded like creaking branches in the wind. He tried once more, and he saw those green eyes open in response.

“P-professor! I-

“How?” Snape’s voice croaked.

Potter’s eyebrows were drawn together, a strange, pained look on his face that Severus didn’t quite understand. He took a long moment before he began to speak.

“After you...died, Voldemort gave an ultimatum, giving me an hour to turn myself in to him, or else he would kill everyone. I knew I had to see your memories, that somehow, they would help respond to the crucial questions that I needed answered. I watched your memories, and I knew I had no choice but to go to Voldemort. I was going to go die, but I needed something done before I left. I called Kreacher, I told him where your body was and I gave him your memories. I told him to bring you to Madam Pomfrey, to tell her that you were innocent, and give the memories as proof to professor McGonagall.” Potter took a deep breath before continuing, “I wanted to make sure someone knew before I died. I couldn’t just leave your body there...I,” he swallowed, and the pained look on his face intensified. “It wasn’t much, but at least you could then be remembered for the hero you are.” He trained his eyes on Snape.

“The Dark Lord-?”

Harry looked back to the ceiling, “I let him kill me in the forest. I don’t quite understand what happened when I died. I spoke to Dumbledore in my mind. I could see the part of Voldemort that he himself had destroyed. Dumbledore made it clear that I could choose to pass on, or I could go back, and finish Voldemort once and for all. I bluffed death, and witnessed Voldemort’s extreme vulnerability after having so many of his Horcruxes destroyed. Neville killed the snake with Gryffindor’s sword. I duelled Voldemort, knowing he was now mortal. I realized that the elder wand, though it was in Voldemort’s possession, was loyal to me.” Snape stared at the boy, and was startled to see him crack a grin. He looked back at Snape, “Who would’ve thought that the spell you taught me in my second year would be Voldemort’s downfall? His own killing curse rebounded onto himself.”

Snape let all this information seep in. Against all odds, he and the boy had managed to survive. And, in a twist of fate, Potter had saved his life.

-----------------------------------

Snape learned something very disturbing. The snake’s venom was still in his system, and without Potter’s regular blood transfusions, the poison would saturate too much of Snape’s blood and shutdown his vitals. After the war, Britain’s wizarding population was in dire need of medical care, and the demand on mediwizards was too great for the system to handle. Considering his unique situation, and the fact that his existence was being kept secret, he had to rely on Madam Pompfrey for his care. Despite her proficiency with ailing students, Snape would eventually require a specialist if there was any hope of him recovering.

What was even more disturbing, however, was that Potter had not left his side since the end of the war more than four weeks ago. Minerva had told him, with a certain glint in her eye that could easily have outdone Dumbledore himself, that Potter felt it his responsibility to help Snape to the absolute best of his abilities. Snape knew this would not bode well for either of them.

He had asked Minerva about who had perished in the war, worried that perhaps all of Potters friends had died, causing the now emotionally deluded boy to latch onto Snape with the remains of his sanity. He knew this was a stretch, but alas, Minerva had said that all of Potter’s close friends were alive and well, with a few tragic exceptions. Granger and Weasley made regular visits to the castle to check on their friend, but all things considered, Potter was doing quite well, even more so now that Snape had woken.

Currently, the boy was helping Hagrid rebuild his hut, leaving Snape to ponder about Potter’s intentions. It seemed that he felt obligated to help Snape, maybe to earn his forgiveness - perhaps Potter felt guilty for so fervently believing Snape to be a traitor to Dumbledore. He didn’t really know what to think. He was still very weak, and his whole body ached.

 Snape found himself to be quite forgetful, his mind going in tangents. Perhaps the upside to this was that he had to be more honest with himself, though Snape was loathe to admit it. He could no longer validate being outwardly malicious to Potter now that he didn’t have a cover to maintain.

A few years before Potter began his schooling at Hogwarts, Snape thought about him. He had been working for Dumbledore because of Lily, but now her young boy would have to factor into his actions. Snape was no fool, and like Dumbledore, he was certain the prophecy would come to fruition. He was well aware that he would have to resume his Death Eater activity and stay close to the Dark Lord, and he had been terrified by this prospect. Snape realized now that much of his treatment and biases towards Potter had been a defence mechanism for himself. He was not a positive person, and he let his first negative thoughts about the boy cultivate in his mind. By the time Potter entered Hogwarts for the first time, Snape had convinced himself that the boy was James Potter reincarnated, there to make his life even more of a living hell than it already was. 

His dark mark tingled that year, for the first time in ten years. Before he realized Quirrell’s deception, he believed the Dark Lord’s resurrection to be much nearer than he had previously thought, and he grew more fearsome. The boy’s survival was the only chance at defeating the Dark Lord, therefore he must distance himself from Potter, to convince those loyal to the dark side of his intentions. He did this the only way he knew how- being outwardly cruel to make the boy believe, without a single doubt, that Snape was truly evil. The boy’s hatred of him made it easy for him to dislike the boy in return. Despite his colleagues reminding him of Potter’s decentness and Dumbledore insisting he be kinder to the boy, Snape felt he deserved one thing in his life to be easy. And It was very easy indeed, to be cruel to a boy who so greatly resembled a man he so terribly despised.

No, Snape did not blame Potter for believing him to be a traitor. He had encouraged those beliefs, and they had played an integral role in destroying the Dark Lord. But, now that both their roles in the war were over, he felt lost. He no longer needed to convince himself that Potter was the boy his vindictive mind had so earnestly created. And, in what he thought were his dying moments, he had seen Potter’s eyes. Lying within those green pools that were so similar to Lily’s, he was overcome with empathy and understanding, and he had felt his heart soar before he lost consciousness.

Chapter Text

The following day, Potter practically burst into Snape’s rooms, and Madam Pomfrey, who had been giving Snape his daily dose of anti-venom, shrieked and spilled half the serum on Snape’s bandages.

“Mr. Potter!” shouted Pomfrey.

“I’m sorry Poppy, I’m just so excited, I was able to find him- Augustus Pye!”

Forgetting her anger, Poppy clapped her hands and said, “oh, well that’s just wonderful news! And I’m assuming, by the look on your face, that he’s agreed-”

“-Yes! He said he’d be delighted to help me and he’ll be here tomorrow after breakfast!” As he spoke, he sat down on his cot and inserted the IV himself.

“No, not yet Harry, I’ve just been summoned to the student’s ward, and we need to do something about Severus’ bandages.” She uncorked another vile of the potion, gave half to Snape, and continued, “no cleaning charm will get this mess out, besides, he’s due for a change. I’ll let you handle this, shall I?” Before the boy could answer, she had already closed the door behind her.

Potter scratched the back of his head, “I’m sorry professor, it looks like she’s left you with no choice. I’ll have to do your bandages this time.”

“So be it,” replied Snape.

Harry looked momentarily shocked by Snape’s quick acquiescence, his hand pausing its motion in his mess of hair, but then he hurried over to the cupboard and got a fresh set of bindings.

“Madam Pomfrey showed me how to do this already, so you’re in...relatively good hands.” He poured a small amount of clear liquid in a dish and let the bandages soak in them. “I’m just letting them absorb some of this serum that allows the blood to clot on contact-”  

“-I know Potter,” Snape practically growled.

“Right. Er-,” Potter paused and looked momentarily at a loss for what to do. He took a deep breath, then carried the dish over to Snape’s bedside table. “Can you sit up on your own yet Professor?”

“I believe I am able to.” Snape didn’t actually know this, but he hated appearing so weak and helpless. With more effort than he would ever admit, he sat up and leaned forward so Potter could properly wrap the bandages around him.

“I’m going to take the dirty bandages off by hand, alright? I’ve magicked the fresh ones to apply themselves directly where the last one’s were.”

Poppy usually did both by magic, but Potter probably felt more confident that he wouldn’t unintentionally harm Snape this way. Snape closed his eyes as he felt shaking fingers begin to loosen the bandage covering his neck. Potter took his time, surprising Snape in his care. He could feel Potter’s breath by his ear, could almost hear the concentration the boy exuded while he made sure not to hurt Snape. By the time Harry began on the second binding covering Snape’s upper torso, he felt strangely relaxed and light, as though his body weighed nothing. The boy’s ministrations were much gentler than Poppy’s, and much more soothing. As though answering his thoughts, the boy said, “We’re running short, but I’ve added a bit of Murtlap Essence to the new bandages.”

Snape was almost disappointed when Potter finished. Though it was partially the drowsiness induced by the anti-venom he had consumed, and the soothing properties of Murtlap Essence, he couldn’t remember the last time he had felt so at peace.

He didn’t open his eyes until he heard the creak of the cot next to him and Potter’s yawn interrupt what he was about to say. He looked over to see Potter settling on his side, the IV already attached to his arm. Potter began again, “Augustus Pye was one of Arthur Weasley’s healers after he was attacked by Nagini. Unfortunately, his trainer was killed during the war, and Augustus has been very busy, but he’s agreed to help me. I haven’t told him who he’s healing, but Minerva told me she’ll deal with that tomorrow morning.” The boy gave a content smile and yawned again. “I think I might fall asleep here Professor, I hope you don’t’ mind too much.”

He watched the boy, his breath growing slow and steady in a matter of minutes. No, Snape thought, he didn’t mind. Not too much anyway, he grinned to himself.

-------------------------------------------

It was decided that they would disguise Snape for Augustus Pye’s visit. Minerva transfigured his face so that his hair became temporarily brown, a scar marred his cheek, and she added a small moustache and goatee, not unlike Karkaroff’s. Pompfrey charmed his medical records so that his name appeared as Ambrosius Ashdown to an unwary eye.

Pye seemed fairly adept. He was particularly intrigued by the intravenous drip (“such an ingenious muggle contraption!), which irked Snape, but he also came prepared. Potter had apparently told him that Arthur and Snape were attacked by the same snake, however it had been imbued with powerful dark magic while attacking the latter (for obvious reasons, they could not tell Pye that the snake had been a horcrux for the Dark Lord). Pye provided them with the same antidote used on Arthur that, if they were lucky, would eventually rid all traces of the poison from Snape’s bloodstream. Then came the difficult part:

“Mr. Ashdown, do you have any knowledge of this dark magic the snake possessed at the time of your attack? I’m afraid you won’t be able to recover properly unless we can identify it and use the appropriate counter-magic.” Pye regarded Snape for an answer.  

Snape coughed and looked at Minerva, who looked at Poppy, who looked at Potter. The boy stared Pye directly in the eye and said, “it was a horcrux.”

Pye gaped at Potter, and then gave a terrible wobble. Minerva transfigured a chair behind him just in time, and Poppy rushed forward to make sure he was okay. Snape didn’t know whether the situation was morbidly hilarious, or downright mad. The boy had backbone, of that he was certain.

Potter continued, “I’m very sorry for the bluntness Mr. Pye, but Ambrosius means a great deal to me, to all of us, and I think it best you know the entirety of what’s afflicting him.”

Yes, thought Snape. The situation was mad. Utterly and completely mad.

After several long moments and many deep breaths, Pye finally spoke, “Yes... no sense beating around the broomstick...,” he pressed his fingers into his eyes, removed them, and blinked, as though the whole thing had been a silly dream. He looked at Potter “I’m afraid I know very little about...about that kind of terrible magic Mr. Potter. I understand what it entails, but for a living creature to be a carrier...”

“The snake is dead. The horcrux is destroyed, as well as its creator,” said Potter.

“Ah, well, I suppose that does make things a bit less complicated....” A look of horrible apprehension dawned on Pye’s face, “you mean to tell me- that was....that was you know who’s Snake that....oh dear.” Pye sagged down further in the chair

Potter spoke again, “Yes, it was Voldemort’s snake that attempted to kill Ambrosius, but you musn’t be afraid Mr. Pye. Voldemort is dead. I saw him die. He’s no longer any threat to you.”

Pye looked up at him. “You’ve been so brave Mr. Potter, I can’t see any reason in failing to show a fraction of your bravery myself.” He swallowed audibly, but stood up and faced the group. “As I said, I know very little about that kind of dark magic, I’ve only heard whispers and rumours. Considering everything now connected to Mr. Ashdown’s bite is either dead or destroyed, I strongly feel that we can treat this like a case of level five dark magic.”

“Ah yes,” cut in Poppy, “similar to the hazard rating we give to magical creatures, injuries or illnesses that were inflicted with dark magic fall under a certain rank. Depending on what level of mediwizard you are, you’re trained to know how to deal with most levels of dark magic.”

Pye continued, “Considering Mr. Weasley’s case was similar and resulted in success, the best way to approach this is by deciphering any differences between the effects Mr. Weasley and Mr. Ashdown experienced from the attack.

Potter answered this time. “Both Arthur and Ambrosius began to receive treatment about one hour after the attack.  Arthur needed to take blood-replenishing potions every hour for about five days following the attack, the same for Ambrosius. Unlike Arthur, Ambrosius must undergo daily blood transfusions, because for some reason, the poison becomes too concentrated in his bloodstream without it.  Blood-replenishers only duplicate the cells already in your body right? I suppose that’s why he needs the fresh stuff.” Potter paused briefly before continuing, “I guess he’s also needed to wear the medicated bandages for a longer period of time, because the wounds aren’t healing nearly as fast.”

Pye thought about this for a moment before replying, “What we need then, is a more concentrated dose of this special anti-venom. The problem is, this is the most concentrated and powerful poison antidote I know of.”

Potter suddenly hit his palm to his forehead, “I’ve been so stupid! What about a bezoar?” What a surprise, thought Snape, the boy could retain information.

“I’m afraid that is already a key ingredient in this antidote, Mr. Potter.” The boy looked completely crestfallen.

“No,” continued Pye, “unless any of you have any ideas, I’ll have to research this matter. Continue everything you’ve been doing so far, but replace the standard anti-venom with the special formula I’ve brought- there should be enough to last you about a week, and I’ll get back to you by owl as fast as I can. Maybe we’ll get lucky and the new formula will be enough.”

Chapter Text

The next couple of days were extraordinarily dull. The boy had been debating taking a break from his duties at Hogwarts to visit his friends, but he seemed reluctant to leave. Poppy had finally convinced him to do so, informing him that she had enough of his blood stored to last four more days before he would need to return.

Before Potter left, he bought Snape a few of the newest potions-related texts from Hogsmead to keep him occupied. Granted, Snape spent most of his time sleeping, but Poppy was hoping he would have more energy now that he was taking the proper anti-venom. The truth of the matter was that, contrary to his former existence, the boy actually helped him feel calm. Potter was a constant, reassuring presence in the room, and Snape actually felt it difficult to rest without him there. It had been nearly two days since Pye’s visit, he didn’t feel like he had any more energy or strength yet, and he felt irritated and surprisingly lonesome.

His hands clenched around the latest issue of the Daily Prophet and the paper gave a satisfying crinkle. Despite the Dark Lord’s defeat, the Prophet held the position that the war was not yet over. The Ministry had been left with the insurmountable task of rehabilitating Britain’s wizarding population along with covering up all that the war had caused in the muggle world. As if that weren’t enough, random Ministry workers were disappearing, and despite the Ministry’s position of no-crime tolerance, no one had any idea as to why these disappearances were taking place. The Ministry was encouraging everyone to return to their normal lives to help rebuild the broken system, and the Prophet was filled with angry editorials that rebuked “such nonsense.” Wizarding families were still frightened by the ever-present threat of Death Eaters on the run and the Auror Department was overrun with complaints and calls on Death Eater sightings.

Snape sighed, tossing the paper aside, and thought about his future. Prior to and during the war, he lived day-by-day. There could only be so much planning and strategy where the Dark Lord had been involved. His sole purpose had been to make sure the only person he loved had not died in vain. In his darkest moments, this meaning he gave to his life had allowed him to persevere.

But what purpose did he have now? What was left for him in a world that admonished his very existence?

 By the third day, Snape felt awful. He had come to terms long ago that he would most likely die in his efforts against the Dark Lord. He would finally be at peace, and perhaps he would be able to see Lily once more...

But he felt more lost now than he ever had before. He had no home to return to, no future prospects...he felt like his time on this planet played out as it was meant to, and that was that.

He hated that he was now wallowing in self-pity, that he needed someone to help him with even the smallest, most basic tasks. Even if he grew healthier over time, what could he possibly do? What was the point of living, if you had nothing to live for?

He closed his eyes, suddenly overcome with a powerful wave of pain and exhaustion.

---------------------------------

 

Snape was freezing. He could see nothing but ice above him, and his body was quickly losing its ability to move. He looked below him and saw something glinting just beyond his reach. He knew he had to get to it, that it was his only hope. He swam downwards, reaching with all of his might. The sword of Gryffindor gleamed right before his eyes but his body was now so cold he couldn’t grasp the handle of the blade. Try as he might, his stiff fingers refused to do what he asked of them.

He had run out of air many moments before, and could already feel the dizzying sensation that precluded the fall into oblivion. He looked upwards and saw nothing but darkness. In only seconds, he would lose consciousness and that would be it. In one last desperate attempt, he reached for the sword with unseeing eyes, and an incredible heat met his hand. He grabbed at the warmth, holding to it with every fibre of his being, and felt himself floating miraculously upward. He breached the surface of the ice, burning sword in hand, as he took deep painful breaths of life-sustaining oxygen.

Snape awoke, gasping from air, shaking all over, holding tightly to a warm hand. He looked up desperately, to see who had saved him from his watery grave, and saw frightened green eyes looking back. Snape coughed, blood splattering his blankets, and felt Potters arms wrap around his body and lift him so he was sitting up. He sensed, more than heard, someone else in the room, and felt the burn of magic relax his throat muscles. He couldn’t stop shaking, nor could he let go of the boy who held him tightly in return. They stayed like that for what could have been hours, until even the smallest tremors left Snape’s body. He felt the hand in his tighten its grasp as the boy slowly set him back down into the soft bed, and lent back enough so he could look directly into Snape’s eyes.  “I’m going to find Fawkes. I’m going to make you better.”

Chapter Text

When he woke up once more, it was to the same sight. Green orbs filled his vision, and Snape relaxed. A warm voice he now only heard in his dreams had him opening his eyes again: “Severus.” He tried to answer to her, to his beautiful Lily, but his mind could not seem for form any words.

He gradually focused on the bespectacled boy whose face seemed so close to his. Those lips moved again, “Professor?”

Snape opened his parched mouth, “Harry,” was all that came out.

The boys head dropped to Snape’s chest, his hands clenching around the bed sheets. Without thinking, Snape placed one of his larger hands over the boy’s clamped fist, the other moving to cradle the boys head to his chest.  

Snape looked down at the mess of black hair, spotting flecks of gold and brown strewn randomly throughout; how his pale hand, which contrasted so greatly against Potter’s hair, had now sunk into the soft tresses. Snape looked towards his other hand, at how white the knuckles stood out against his already pale skin. He felt the warmth of Potter’s hand beneath his, saw how soft and young his skin looked compared to Snape’s. He closed his eyes until he felt Potter relax, until his quaking had finally subsided. The boy, whose voice was muffled by Snape’s blankets, spoke, “We thought you were gone. I thought I....we were going to lose you again.”

Snape suddenly and horribly came to the realization that he was not dreaming. His hand slid from the boy’s head and dropped heavily to his side, “What day is it?” He was surprised how clear his voice sounded, how it didn’t cause him any pain to speak.

Potter sat up and looked at him with tired, red eyes, “you’ve been out for nearly five days. Your body just began rejecting everything we tried, for no apparent reason, Pye was completely baffled. It was as though you didn’t want to fight for your life anymore, you’re body just gave up.” Potter looked away, wiping his face before continuing, “by the third day in, you were ice cold. Poppy said your body stopped fighting the poison, and it was causing your blood to slow and thicken. She said...you would be lucky if you had more than a day left, that you probably wouldn’t wake.”

The boy stared at his hands, “I had been gone, and I meant to stay at the Weasley’s, not knowing that they were staying at Shell Cottage for a few days. I decided to visit my Godson instead, and since I had told Poppy that I would be at the Weasley’s in case of an emergency, she wasn’t able to contact me through floo. I didn’t know until I got her owl and I came here immediately.”

The boy studied Snape’s face for a moment, “I don’t know if you remember, but I stayed here that night. I dreamt about Dumbledore. He spoke only in riddles, sometimes in entirely different tongues. But when I woke up, I suddenly realized that if I could find Fawkes, maybe his tears would be able to cure you.

Though it should have been impossible, you woke up only seconds after I did. You were so cold....you looked like you were on the verge of death. I told you that I was leaving to find Fawkes, and I did. He found me, really.” Potter gave a small smile and looked over to the window.

Snape blinked, and noticed that a small, somewhat paler phoenix than he remembered was perched on the windowsill, seemingly intrigued by the events Potter was relaying. Snape watched the boy get up to stroke the creature’s feathers, and thought about his dream. It had certainly been a dream, but the sensations he had experienced were real, Snape had no doubt about that. The feeling of being suffocated by a freezing, unyielding darkness must have been his body dying from the snake’s venom. But why had the sword of Gryffindor appeared for him? It had pulled him to safety, yes, but it had also burned him. He looked down at his hands and closed his eyes. The heat that had felt so unbearable in his dream was the reason he woke from his state of unconsciousness. He concentrated, remembering that feeling. He had tried to grasp the sword but his body resisted, too weak, too cold. No, the sword had come to him, had rescued him. The heat in his hands had not been painful, yet it had been overwhelming and undeniably present. He had woken holding the boy’s hands in his...

Snape spoke, “why go through all the effort? Why not let me die in peace?”

Clearly that had been the wrong thing to say. Potter took two strides to the bed and he leaned down until he was eye-to-eye with Snape. “You know damn well why,” he practically growled.

Snape held his glare, lending his own back to the boy, “didn’t you ever think that maybe I wanted to die? I have nothing left to live for. My purpose in life has been accomplished. I no longer need to suffer this miserable excuse of a life.”

Potter stood up to his full height, staring fiercely at Snape, “You are one of the bravest men I will ever know. But I pity you if you truly believe what you say.”

The boy strode to the end of the bed and looked back. “The Snape I saw in those memories, the real Snape, would have wanted his life back. He would have given anything to make that possible. You’ve survived through situations where others would have died more times than you can count on your fingers! Your life was not a mistake. You’ve had a miserable time of it caused by the choices you made. But you also made choices where stronger men would have failed to. You chose to make amends for your actions, to do the unimaginable to help end the nightmare! I would never have been able to defeat Voldemort if it hadn’t been for you! You saved my life more than I can count! You asked for nothing in return, and you gave your life to fight for what you believed in, for what was right.” Potter folded his arms over his chest, as though that settled things.  

Snape turned away from that green, penetrating gaze that had grown all too familiar, “I’m tired Potter. I’ve done what I set out to do and I can’t do anymore. Your sentimentalities can’t change that.”

The boy ran his hands through his hair in a frustrated manner, “You can’t mean that! You’re lying to yourself, making excuses to be unhappy, and you know it. You’ve suffered enough, Snape, don’t make things more difficult for yourself.”

Snape voice was very quiet, “are you so arrogant, Potter, to believe that what you saw, what I showed you, gave you such a deep insight into my life that you now know me as though we were bosom friends?”

Potter answered immediately, “No Snape. I understand why you think me presumptuous, but you showed me things that only you knew. You revealed what makes you vulnerable, passionate, and hopeful. I saw what you feared most, saw how you had it in you to deeply care for another, and the lengths you would go to in order to protect them. You showed me the darkest moments of your life, and some of the most joyful. I can’t help but to see the good in you, now that I know the truth behind your actions. I used to believe that some people could never change. But I’ve grown to realize that nearly everyone has the capability to be good, as long as they are able to love.”

Snape exhaled loudly, as though suppressing a snort, “You sound like that crazy fool. Where did love get him, Potter? Dead parents, sister murdered, a brother who despised him. Those who wear their hearts on their sleeve suffer the most, and they are fools for it.”

Potter raised his voice, “Yes, Dumbledore believed in the power of love, but it was my mother, Lily, who inspired in me how to see the good in people, like what she saw in you!”

Snape’s voice was deadly when he spoke: “Out.”

“What?”

“Out! GET OUT, NOW!”

A gust of wandless magic hit the boy so hard that it carried him across the room. He heard Potter’s head smack loudly against the door before it burst open and the wind carried him out. The door slammed shut, and Snape didn’t even care if the boy was conscious on the other side. A sad ethereal note filled the air, and he looked over to see Fawkes taking off into the evening sky.

Chapter Text

Professor Snape,

I’m sorry.

I was so overwhelmed and glad that you were healthy again, I lost sight of what you needed. Instead I argued with you. I acted as though I knew what was best for you and used your own memories against you.

So we’re clear, I truly did mean everything I said. I just wish it had come out differently and at a better time.

You’re still a mystery to me, Snape, and I don’t profess to deeply know you after having seen your memories. But when I reflect on my years of observing you and the way your colleagues interacted with you, it’s apparent that you shelter yourself from truths that have a great emotional bearing. Being a spy, this kept you safe. But don’t you feel like, now that Voldemort is dead, you can stop hiding? I know these things take time; that you’re not going to simply blossom overnight into a compassionate, sentimental wizard. But at the same time, I don’t understand why you wish yourself a death you don’t deserve. The reason I argued with you is because I couldn’t understand your low sense of self-worth, and I believe that these ideas are simply a protective barrier that you no longer know how to remove. You are exceptionally clever, and I think that you are quite aware of this. But it was wrong of me to throw my mother’s ideas in your face like that, and to overwhelm you so shortly after your recovery.

After Kreacher rescued you from the shack, and I found out you were still alive, I can’t describe to you the emotions I felt. I wanted nothing more than to see you, to tell you everything...but at the same moment, I was terrified of seeing you for the first time, and what it would be like. I know you’re a private person, that sharing those memories with me was incredibly personal, and that you believed yourself to be dying when you gave them to me.

Regardless of the outcome, I’m honoured that you shared a part of yourself with me. I want you to know how much your memories mean to me. I wish I could describe to you in words how grateful and humble I feel.

 That night in the shack was surreal. I don’t know why I came to you, I didn’t even think about it before I was rushing to your side. You were still a greasy git in my mind, but in that moment, our history didn’t matter. It was like a force came over me and drew me to you. There was something larger at play that night. Despite our past, and what I thought you were, I was shocked and inexplicably saddened to have you die in my arms like that. It felt all wrong; it felt like a horrible dream. When I watched your memories, it was like I already knew that something indefinable was taking place, it was like I wasn’t shocked or surprised when the truth revealed itself, but at the same time I was overwhelmed and it felt like a figurative train had hit me.

Before, I blamed you for so many things that were, in my mind, unforgiveable. You told Voldemort about the prophecy. You caused my parents death, and I blamed you for Sirius’ death. You killed Dumbledore. You made Hogwarts into a school for the dark arts. I thought you to be a coward.

You had to live your life with all this and so, so much more on your shoulders. You knew you were innocent, or had made amends, but nearly everyone around you believed the opposite, with one exception: Dumbledore. I can’t even remember how many times I suspected you of something and went to Dumbledore about it. I always left infuriated that he seemed to trust you so unconditionally despite such obvious proof that you were evil. He seemed to care about you as though you were his own son. He would always make excuses for you, and I thought him blind for it. I thought it would get him killed, and I was proven right, though I didn’t want to be.

Knowing the truth, but thinking you dead, was unbearable. Not only did I forgive you, but I finally understood your actions. You did things I would never be able to, and I would always just spit in your face for it. It’s no wonder you thought me to be like my father.

When I knew you survived, and when you woke, I was practically bursting with things I wanted to say every time I was around you, but I didn’t want to overwhelm you. I wanted you to have the choice of whether to listen to me or not. I didn’t give you that choice after Fawkes healed you, which is why I’ve decided to write this letter. You can choose not to continue, you might already have thrown this letter in the fire and I don’t blame you, but if you’re willing to give me a chance, there are more things I need to share with you and that you deserve to know. You shared with me your most important memories, and I was able to understand you so much more because of them. Perhaps you can understand me a little better if I do the same.

To be quite honest, I have no idea where to begin. I guess I’ll write as it comes to mind...

Snape looked up from the boy’s letter and stared intently at the fire now cracking merrily in its hearth, inviting him to throw the thick roll of parchment into its blazing depths. He was just as furious with himself as he was with Potter. The boy hadn’t lost an ounce of that audacity he so regularly displayed to his superiors. At the same time, almost everything Potter had said to him after he had been cured was spot on. Snape despised admitting that the boy was right, but he found that he no longer had the capability to hide from such important truths. Maybe he could lie to others, but it was too difficult to continue to lie to himself. He was so sick of the deceit that had become such an overbearing part of his life; he certainly didn’t need to continue this toxic behaviour now that the worst was over.

Snape looked down at the messy scribe on the parchment that had changed so little in the last seven years even though its owner had grown so much. If Potter could admit his mistakes and take responsibility for them, Snape would be tremendously petty if he could not do the same. And, since he was being honest with himself, he was curious. Everything he knew about Potter was tarnished with the image of James; it was only when he believed himself to be dying that he saw past this illusion. He had seen the true face of Harry Potter staring down at him, empathy written over his features, and he had finally seen those eyes he had missed so terribly.

During those days in Poppy’s care, Snape had seen Potter in a new light- probably in the light that his colleagues had gushed about in the staff room. He had grown to rather like Potter, though the boy was quite annoying and stubborn, not to mention he seemed to feel it his duty to take on far too much with too little time or knowledge working against him. Yet, the boy’s strong will was also the reason Snape was alive. And, although he found it strange, Potter had very much given him the impression that he had grown to care about Snape, and he had certainly shown great kindness to him.

These feelings about this “new” Potter conflicted astoundingly with his old ones. Despite sharing so much of himself with the boy, he still hated that Potter had seen that particular memory in his fifth year. And how could he forgive Potter for using his old potions text, taking credit for his brilliant corrections in potions class, and using that horrible spell on Draco despite not knowing what it did.

Severus sighed to himself, and placed his hands over his face. He heard Albus’ voice in his mind: “Give the boy a chance, Severus.”

Well, he had spent that last two decades of his life listening to the old fruitcake, why stop now? Snape sat down in his favourite armchair, intent on reading what the boy had to say.

Chapter Text

I need you to know that I’m not like my father. I might resemble him, and I might have a knack for quidditch, but he’s not someone I would ever want to emulate. He may have grown up, why else would mum have married him... but he was a bully during his years at Hogwarts. He went out of his way to be one simply to make himself look bigger. I grew up in a house with a cousin who treated me much like my father treated you. I still remember the first wizard my age I ever met- it was Draco Malfoy. He reminded me so much of my cousin (though about 150 pounds lighter), I wondered if perhaps I was the strange one.

When I saw your memory during our Occlumency lesson nearly three years ago, I was horrified. Everyone always told me how wonderful my dad was, but all I saw was a monster. I saw someone who resembled my cousin or Malfoy, more than he resembled me, someone who I had constantly defended without even knowing who I was defending. Of all the people in that memory, I was shocked to realize that I could relate to you the most. I still thought you petty for taking out your hatred of my father on me but I never told anyone of what I saw, nor could I ever think of my father in the same way again.

There was another father figure in my life, Sirius, who was probably just as bad as my father when it came to being cruel to you, maybe he was even worse. I don’t want to tarnish his memory, but when I reflect on my time with him, it seemed like he never grew up after Hogwarts. I remember how uncomfortable it was when you two were in a room together at Grimmauld Place. I tried to validate his behaviour, telling myself that he had been in Azkaban for twelve years, that the world still thought him guilty of a crime he was innocent of, that he had had a troubled upbringing. I realize now that he enjoyed the drama, he liked having a target for his frustrations, and he never gave himself the opportunity to grow.

He was a man of many faults, but he taught me valuable lessons and loved me unconditionally. He told me that if you want to see someone’s true colours, you should watch how he treats his inferiors, not his equals. He told me that was what made me such a good person. I didn’t think about too much about this at the time, but when I look back to how horribly he treated Kreacher, it seems kind of ironic. And, as Ron, Hermione and I found out, even old vindictive house elves can be kind and loving as long as you treat them the same in return.

I went to Sirius in my fifth year after Arthur Weasley was attacked by Nagini. I don’t know if Dumbledore ever told you, or if you figured this out during our Occlumency lessons, but I dreamt that I was the snake. I remember, after speaking with Dumbledore, feeling a spike of rage and hatred towards him that came out of nowhere. I know now that it was the connection between Voldemort and myself - that being one of his horcruxes did effect me in such a way. But at the time, I was so terrified that I was becoming evil. Sirius told me that we all have light and dark in us. What matters is the part we choose to act on.

I can’t speak for the dead, but I’m sorry for how they treated you. I’m sorry that I defended them unconditionally, without knowing the truth.

Remus was perhaps the only one who saw things most clearly in their group. He was the first person I met who told me so many things about my parents that I had never heard before. He spoke to me about my mother, how she managed to see the beauty in everything. Everyone told me how much I resembled James and how I had my mother’s eyes, but he was the first one to tell me that he saw both of them inside me .

After Sirius died, I think I needed someone or something to latch on to, a confidant of sorts, and as you know, during my last year at Hogwarts I used your old potions text. I was terribly fascinated with the Half Blood Prince, and I grew quite attached to him. Of course, Hermione hated that book right away. It reminded her of Riddle’s diary (and it was more talented than her at potions). I believed it just to be an old harmless potions text, owned by someone particularly intriguing. I would spend my evenings carefully reading the pages. Sometimes Ron would even call me out for reading it when my dorm mates were trying to sleep, but I would just look at it under the covers by wandlight.

That whole year was strange. I became obsessed with spying on Malfoy. I was sure he had become a death eater and was behind all the attacks. When Ron was poisoned by one of Malfoy’s attempts and he nearly died, I was even more devoted to catching Malfoy. I followed him to a bathroom one day, and he tried to use an unforgiveable curse on me when I caught him by surprise. Without even thinking, I shot the first offensive spell at him that came to mind to protect myself. When I saw what I had done, I was completely horrified. I never wanted to hurt Malfoy so severely. I was ashamed with myself for being so careless and I still feel that way. I had been following the Prince’s potions instructions because I believed it to be my only chance at becoming an Auror, but an Auror would never have used an experimental or unknown curse on a fellow wizard. I am so thankful that you were watching Malfoy as well that year. He would have died if it weren’t for you, and I would have been a murderer.

Malfoy had every right to despise me after that incident, but he ended up doing something that may very well have saved my life. During our hunt for Voldemort’s horcruxes, snatchers caught Ron Hermione and I. Hermione, the brilliant witch that she is, used a stinging jinx on my face the moment she knew we were cornered. Despite the disfigurement, the snatchers could still see the scar on my forehead and brought us right to Malfoy Manor. Draco was asked to identify me, to make absolutely sure it was me before calling Voldemort. I remember seeing the recognition in his eyes; he had to have known it was me, especially considering I was brought in with Ron and Hermione. But he lied right to his parents face; he said that he couldn’t be sure of who I was. Because of this, the death eaters hesitated in calling Voldemort, and placed Ron and I in the basement cell while Bellatrix interrogated Hermione. Another person showed his humanity that night: Peter Pettigrew. He showed us a moment of mercy that aided our escape, but cost him his life.

I won’t relay the whole complicated series of events that transpired, but we were able to escape, along with the other prisoners that were being kept at the manor. I don’t know why Malfoy covered for me. I know he was scared, but I would have thought him eager to hand me over to Voldemort. I suppose, at that point, he wanted to end the nightmare just as much as I did, and I was the one hope at doing so.  

The past year has been filled with strange experiences. The war showed the true colours of those suffering it. Desperation had many unable to control their actions, but I saw acts of bravery everywhere I turned, much of them selfless.

But you, Snape, you were one of the bravest, and the only man who knew of the truth behind your actions was dead.

I’ve always cared about what you thought of me, even when I believed I despised you. At first it was because, well, I just couldn’t understand why you were so malicious, why you were allowed to be so malicious. I also hated that you could only see my father when you looked at me, and I would often find myself trying to act like him in our classes together just to goad you further.

 In my first year, I was convinced that you were up to something. I remember believing that you had jinxed my broom during my first quidditch match, and that you decided to referee the next because you hadn’t finished me off in the first match. I also began sneaking into the castle during the night that year. The first night I left Gryffindor tower, I ran into you confronting Quirrel. As I was already suspicious, I believed you to be threatening Quirrel into aiding you with your treacherous activities. I tried to put as much space between us that night, and I found myself in a room that contained the Mirror of Erised. That was the first time I saw my parents in ten years.

 I returned to the mirror nearly every night, just so I could see myself with them, imagining that they were still alive. Dumbledore was the one who found me. He told me that the mirror was being taken to a new home...

 I still think it’s sort of funny, really, that I went after you when I thought you were trying to steal the stone. Three first years up against the staff’s best defences? I must have been hit over the head by a bludger too many times. After the stone was destroyed, and Dumbledore told me that all along you had been trying to protect me, I was gobsmacked. Dumbledore said you did it because my dad saved your life once, and you wanted to even the score. I obviously had a different opinion of you after my first year, but then of course, that awful flying-car-whomping-willow incident occurred, and I knew things hadn’t changed between us. I certainly wasn’t proud of what Ron and I did that day, in fact, I had been downright disgusted with myself after I realized the repercussions of our actions, especially on Ron’s family.

 Over the next few years, I think I developed this childish need to prove myself to you. I wanted to show you that I was capable, maybe then you would treat me differently. I remember the day of the duelling club as if it were yesterday. That disarming spell you showed us quickly became my favourite spell, and like I told you, it was the spell that led to Voldemort’s death.

I won’t ever forget the look on your face when I spoke Parseltongue without knowing it- I knew there was something seriously wrong when even you looked shocked. That year was definitely one of the worst at Hogwarts. With everyone believing me to be Slytherin’s heir, I started to believe it myself, though I didn’t want it to be true of course. I never told anyone this, but the sorting hat actually tried to put me in Slytherin. I had to argue my way out of being placed there, and the hat reluctantly put me in Gryffindor instead. I’m not sure if the sorting hat wanted me in Slytherin at that time because of the part of Voldemort that rested in me, or if it would say the same thing now that Voldemort and his horcruxes are destroyed. I guess you can be thankful you weren’t my head of house for six years.

In my third year, I thought you had it out for Lupin. I suppose, in sense, I was right, just not the way I thought. I always wondered what reasons you had for coming after us that night in the Shrieking Shack, especially without telling Dumbledore. I’m sorry I jinxed you that night as well. Sirius had been pleading his innocence when you came in, and I needed to hear him out. Despite this, as soon as you came to, your first instinct was to shield Ron, Hermione and I from Lupin who had transformed into a werewolf.

And you were right about me that year. I had been sneaking out of the castle to Hogsmead, despite the threat of Sirius on the loose. Remus set me straight after several of these escapades. He told me that my parents hadn’t died simply to have me venture secretly out into harm’s way. I was so upset about being the odd one out once again, I completely disregarded my moral grounding, and sought to satisfy my childish needs. But after Remus spoke with me, I was disgusted with myself, once again, for being so senseless. 

My fourth year at Hogwarts was a blur of panic. It was the year I truly began to have dreams of Voldemort, except that they weren’t dreams at all, they were actually happening. Sometimes I would even dream that I was Voldemort. On top of this new development, I was essentially forced into the Triwizard Tournament. What I remember most from that year is witnessing Cedric’s death and Voldemort’s resurrection. If my wand and Voldemort’s hadn’t been connected, I wouldn’t have survived that night. I never told anyone this except Dumbledore, but the connection between our wands caused images of the people Voldemort had murdered to appear. I saw my parents again that awful night, and they helped to protect me as I escaped with Cedric’s body.

As you know, that was the same night that Barty Crouch Jr. was revealed to be masquerading as Mad-eye Moody. I still remember when he trapped me in his office, and I looked behind him into the Foe Glass. I saw your face looking back at me, along with Minerva’s and Dumbledore’s, before the three of you burst into the room and rescued me.

There were small clues like that, scattered throughout my years at Hogwarts, clues that showed your true nature and where your loyalties lied. Yet, just like how you could only see my father when you looked at me, I could only see someone suspicious and hateful when I looked at you.

I think we could both agree that the next year was a strange one. Like it wasn’t enough, Dumbledore forced you to deal with me outside of school at the Order’s headquarters, as well as at our Occlumency lessons. I think you elicit too many emotions in me, for me to learn Occlumency from you. That year in particular, I was filled with so much rage all the time. I know now why that was, but having Umbridge around and O.W.L.S on the horizon didn’t help either.  

It’s funny; my years at Hogwarts hold my fondest and most precious memories even though the threat of Voldemort constantly hung over my shoulders. I fought Voldemort or his Death Eaters at the end of every school year except my third, but I still feel like Hogwarts is my home, it’s where I felt safest and where I can be my happiest. Despite having had a rough time of it, I’m so thankful for my years there. Even though some lessons took quite a few mishaps to sink in, they helped shape me into the person I am today. And even though it was both heart-breaking and wonderful at the same time, I got to see my parents. In the mirror of Erised, once in the graveyard, in your memories, and most importantly, when I called them using the Resurrection Stone four months ago. They may have left this Earth, but they still helped me through my time at Hogwarts and my battle with Voldemort.

But now, you deserve to hear some things.

I’m so sorry, Snape. I’m sorry for the countless worries I’ve added to your already difficult life. I’m sorry for the blame I’ve set on your shoulders. I’m sorry for intruding into such personal matters, and for calling you a coward. I’m sorry I never had any faith in you until it was too late.

The truth, Snape, is that after I learnt the truth about you, but thought you dead, I was devastated. It felt like the war hadn’t been won. You deserved to live and to be recognized by those closest to you.

When you were given a second chance at life, I wanted you to know how I felt, but I wasn’t brave enough to tell you. I’ve grown to care about you a great deal. It’s actually a little bit scary (Snape couldn’t read the next few words as they had been unceremoniously scribbled over)

I hope we can move past the barriers that set us apart in the past. I hope you can forgive me, and that you can forgive yourself as well. I hope you can realize how much life is worth living now that you can actually do just that. And, I hope you know that I will always be here for you, just like you always were for me.

Thank you,

Harry

P.S. If you would like to contact me, I’ll be at the Order’s headquarters, as I’m doing some work with the Ministry. Now that Kingsley is Minister, many drastic changes must be made and I’d like to help the Auror department with all the disappearances if I can. Oh, and I’ve kept my promise regarding your memories. I want you to take your time in making your decision, but the sooner you decide what’s best for you, the sooner we can make that happen. Augustus Pye also wants to meet with me to discuss your health, so I’ll send any important information along to Poppy.

Chapter Text

Severus couldn’t sleep.

He liked to think it was because he had spent an inordinate amount of time sleeping during the last few months, but he knew this was not the case. Simply put, he could not stop thinking about Harry Potter.  He would sit down to read his favourite potion’s theory text, and Potter’s name would pop up all over the pages. He would try to relax and re-focus his mind into making a complex potion, but that damned boy would enter his mind and he would turn around to see a smouldering mess of what had been a promising batch of Wolfsbane. He tried to sleep at night, even taking excessive amounts of sleep-inducing potions, but his thoughts of Potter were immune even to the strongest of these sleep-aids.

He was beginning to suspect that Potter had placed a jinx on his letter- that the reader would not be able to take so much as a piss without thinking of the damned thing.

After less than two days of this torture, Severus had had enough. He sat down to write back to Potter:

Potter,

I received your letter.

Snape stared at the parchment for approximately twenty-three minutes before he realized that he had absolutely no idea what to write. How could he put his thoughts and feelings into writing? Not only that, but he was still terribly confused about said thoughts and feelings.

Snape groaned and massaged his temples. He missed the damned boy. He missed him!

Well, he had felt restless and lonely when the boy had left for the Weasley’s, perhaps he just needed a little dose of Potter to get some rest.

What the bloody hell-

-yes, there was no denying it now! He was going mad! Why else would he be seeing things? Why else would he keep suffering from these delusions? Maybe the Snake’s venom had damaged his brain, maybe all those strong potions had finally caught up with him, maybe the boy really HAD jinxed the letter, maybe-

Snape rested his forehead on his desk.

-maybe going 42 hours without sleep was the most reasonable answer.  

Severus stood up, went to his room and collapsed onto his bed. With or without Potter, he was going to get some rest.

---------------------------

 

“Severus! SEVERUS!”

The panicked voice of Minerva woke him from his troubled sleep. In a very un-Snape-like manner, he stumbled out of bed and hurried into his living quarters, spotting her anxious face in the fire. He knelt down in front of her, and she began, without preamble, “It’s Harry. There was an attack.  He’s just been admitted to St. Mungo’s.”

Snape summoned his cloak and boots, “Where is he?”

“Spell Damage. Yaxley and Rowle cornered him Severus, it doesn’t look good, but don’t you even think about leaving your quarters!  I decided to inform you against my better judgement, but I can assure you that-”

Severus was out the door before Minerva could finish. He heard her shouting his name from down the dungeon hall, but Snape knew there was no time to lose.

He ran across the entrance hall, piles of rubble moving out of his path carried by wandless magic. The moment Snape reached the gates, he apparated to the visitor’s entrance of St. Mungo’s, bursting through the barrier without even waiting for an entry. He ran across the reception area to the elevators, oblivious to the stares and shouts that followed him there. He jabbed at the button, pushing faceless people out of the way so he could board the elevator alone. When it stopped at the next floor, he cursed loudly, and used his magic to slam the doors shut and boost the car directly to the fourth floor.

Snape dashed through the hallway. He could hear racing footsteps behind him, or maybe it was the pounding of his own heart. Just ahead, he could see light pouring out from an opened doorway, saw mediwizards and aurors darting in and out of the room that he knew must contain Potter-

WHAM!

A spell hit his back and he lurched into the wall. Before he could even register what hit him, Snape began to run again, as fast as he could to the light at the end of the hallway. He could see in, and through the mass of wizards, a horrifying sight met his eyes. He could see the white face of Harry Potter, blank, lifeless eyes staring into the void.

 Severus’ heart plummeted and he fell to his knees. Two more stunning spells hit his back, but he felt no pain. He could hear voices yelling, and a woman shouting louder than the rest. His vision swam, and then he knew nothing but darkness.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

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.

Umbridge.

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:

“Wait.” 

--

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.”

Chapter Text

Severus heard a knock on his door, and Minerva entered his room without waiting for a response. A single candle was flickering by the open window where Snape sat, his eyes staring into space. She flicked her wand, filling the room with warm light and transfigured a chair beside her colleague.

Severus spoke, his voice hoarse, “What do you think I should do, Minerva?”

She pursed her lips and began, “You deserve a new life, Severus, one unsullied by your past and those who may wish you harm. If there is any hope of you recovering from the war, it is far away from here. Living this life, you will be constantly reminded of your many sufferings.” She paused before continuing, “We both know you have no desire for the fame or attention that will be brought to you if your memories are revealed. You have no strong ties here, nothing to keep you here.  Both your safety and privacy would be compromised. It’s difficult for me to see any reason why you would wish to stay.” She looked at him closely, but he would not meet her eyes.

“There is another reason why I’m here, Severus,” she placed her hand on his knee, “Harry hasn’t woken.”

----------------------------

 

 Severus was furious.

If only he had been able to see Harry directly after the attack. Anyone with the least bit of sense or foresight would have known that two Death Eaters would not have risked exposure for anything less than murder, especially when the saviour of the wizarding world was involved!

Yaxley’s curse, which had paralyzed Harry, was thought to have been warded off by the mediwizards. Harry had also shown signs of being hit multiple times with the Cruciatus Curse while he was paralyzed. He had been treated accordingly, yet it was now revealed that the ambush had been premeditated to a much greater extent.

Augustus Pye’s body had been found when a team of Aurors raided an abandoned building that was thought to house several fugitive Death Eaters. The Aurors concluded that Pye had either witnessed or heard something that had jeopardized the whereabouts of said Death Eaters, and he had been murdered accordingly.  

Not a single Auror working on the case had any knowledge of Pye’s association with Potter, until five hours ago, when a sobbing Mrs. Pye came forward with a note she had just found, left by her deceased husband:

 

My Dearest Abigail,

Only you could be the one to find this, and you must not share this with anyone outside of the Auror Department when you do.

I’m afraid I’ve done something terrible.

I was apprehended by two masked Death Eaters when I left work three days ago. They told me they would kill you and our darling little girl if I didn’t do exactly as I was told.

Somehow, they discovered that I was helping a one, Mr. Harry Potter, and they wanted to use me to get to him. I’m sorry to say that I did as they told, because I just couldn’t bear the thought of anything happening to the two most important people in my life.

First, as you probably now realize, I had to tell you that I was taking a small business trip out of town for a few days, so that my absence wouldn’t attract suspicion. They told me not to worry about work, but it only made me worry further- could the Ministry still be corrupt?

Under their orders, I wrote a letter to Mr. Potter, asking to meet him to follow up on the health of his friend, whom I’ve been caring for in secret. I was asked to tell Mr. Potter to meet me in an industrial district in London so as not to attract too much attention, but I suspect these terrible Death Eaters will ambush him there.  I think they plan to murder him.

I’m not sure where I am, but they’ve kept me here with no food and little water since they captured me. It sounds like I’m still in London, but the traffic is distant and it smells of ash and coal. There is another man in the room with me, and I recognize him from the Ministry. He was asleep when they first locked me in this room, but he hasn’t woken since. He was also very quiet at first, but after a few hours, he began to speak in his sleep. Now he screams and thrashes around, and he’s been scratching his face until it’s bloody, as though he’s in terrible pain. I’m afraid to tell you the horrible details, but it looks like he’s been cursed by one of my kidnappers, and it may be my fate as well.

By the time you find this note, I may already be dead. They may keep me alive a little longer-perhaps they’ll even take me to the ambush they’re planning, and I can warn Mr. Potter somehow. But this might be my last chance of contacting you. I am sending this letter now, in the hopes that you may find it before it is too late.

I love you, my beautiful, wonderful wife, and I love our daughter just as dearly. I hope she can forgive me for not being there for her, and I hope you can as well, my love.

-Augustus

 


Severus had accosted Kingsley after he had read the note, demanding he be informed of any and all details pertaining to Harry’s case.

“Severus,” the Minister’s deep voice boomed, “I have already told you why I cannot share the details of this investigation! You have already defied me by reading this confidential letter! The Wizarding World believes you to be dead! How could I possibly include you in this investigation, without raising suspicion? Only a handful of the most trusted witches and wizards know of your existence, and even that is a huge risk! Do you not appreciate the delicacy of this situation?

Severus replied, his voice steady, “With all due respect, Minister, I spent the better half of my life spying on those Death Eaters. I know more about them than even your finest Aurors. I’ve dealt personally with each person in this case, and quite frankly, it is very much my business!”

Kingsley took a deep breath, and peered at Severus, his brow creasing, “You are keeping something from me, Severus. Don’t even try to deny it. I can’t be sure what that is, but until I know, I’m afraid you can’t have my full trust.”

Severus glared at the Minister, weighing his odds. What would be the price of his honesty? But then, would his honesty be the key to saving Harry?

His throat bobbed, and he began to speak, “Let me view the case files. Let me examine the clues, by myself, and see if I can make any worthwhile conclusions. You don’t need to inform the head of the Auror department about my involvement if I do a separate investigation. And if I’m correct, let someone else take the credit. I just want to save the boy, Kingsley.” His voice faltered, “He may not have much time, and it will destroy me if I can’t do anything about it.”

He could hear the blood pounding in his ears as he waited for the Minister’s reply, waiting minutes, hours, days....

Kingsley spoke, “So be it.”

Chapter Text

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. Severus opened his eyes, his fingers now tracing the scar. Surely, it could not be....he looked down and saw his suspicion confirmed. Cut into the boy’s soft skin were the words: “I must not tell lies.” Severus stared at the words, his mind racing.

Umbridge.

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. Severus tailed 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.

Severus strode towards the door, his hand reaching for the handle when he heard a voice:

“Wait.” 

It couldn’t be....

He turned around to look at Harry, walking slowly back toward his bed. Unless those stunning spells had rattled his mind, he was positive it was Harry’s voice he heard. And sure enough...

“Don’t leave!”

It was Harry all right, but his eyes were closed, eyeballs moving around underneath his eyelids.

Severus knelt by the bed, placing his hand over one of Harry’s, which twitched in response, “I’m here. I’m not going anywhere.”

Before he could even begin to figure out what was going on, the head mediwizard bustled through the door, followed closely by Ronald and Hermione.

Severus didn’t move from his spot, but he immediately took his hand off of Harry’s, hiding it in his robe.

The mediwizard was the first to address him, “We heard a loud noise, is everything all right?”

He replied quickly, “I was startled because I heard a voice in the room, but that voice actually belonged to Potter. He seems to be talking in his sleep.”

It was Weasley who responded, “That actually happened a lot while we were dorm mates, though it was usually when he was having a nightmare or dreaming about Voldemort...” his face paled considerably and he looked quickly at Hermione.

“Oh, for goodness’ sake Ronald, Voldemort’s dead!” She gave him a reprimanding glare that even Severus admired.

The mediwizard spoke up, “I’m afraid it’s not simply a dream. According to my reading, the dark magic we detected is building in strength and I would bet my career that it’s causing Mr. Potter to have hallucinations of sorts.” He busied himself, examining Harry’s records, while Ron peered over his shoulder.

Hermione looked at Harry, her brow furrowed, “If only I could get a peak at those case files,” she murmured.

Severus cleared his throat, walking slowly towards the girl. He stopped behind her, whispering, “Miss Granger, might I have a word with you in private?”

She looked startled, but nodded and quietly followed him out the door into the hallway. He took the copy of Pye’s letter out of his breast pocket and gave it to Hermione to read. Her eyes widened as she read, and he saw her read it over twice for good measure. She looked up at Severus, her hands shaking slightly, “It sounds like Harry might be suffering from the same curse as this unidentified Ministry worker Pye mentions.”

“My thoughts exactly,” Severus replied.

“Professor...” Hermione looked at him questioningly, “You don’t have any other evidence pertaining to Harry’s case do you?”

He gave her a small grin, “As a matter of fact, I do.”

 

----------------------------

 

Severus pondered as he watched Hermione. Her brow had been furrowed in concentration for the last three hours as she made note of anything telling in Harry’s case file, and she had hardly blinked during the last fifteen minutes he had been observing her.

They were sitting in the dreary kitchen at Grimmauld place, which had since been reclaimed by the Order of the Phoenix. Severus had asked Hermione to examine everything Kingsley had given him regarding the investigation of Harry’s attack, and make note of any details she found suspicious or important. They would then share their findings and go from there. In the meantime, he was going through the alarmingly large collection of dark magic texts in the Black family library to see if anything looked similar to Yaxley’s curse.

Yet a nagging sensation had overcome Severus during the last fifteen minutes, a feeling he soon identified to be guilt. He cleared his throat, hoping to receive the girl’s attention. She was so engrossed in her reading, she didn’t even blink at the noise.

He sighed, and cleared his throat once more, “Miss Granger?”

She finished scribbling a note and looked up at him, “Yes, Professor?”

“I...” he hesitated, “I must thank you for being willing to work with me on this investigation. I know I haven’t been very pleasant to you or....well, you must think it unusual...” he felt his mouth go dry.

She put down her quill and gave him a small smile. “Professor, I can hardly bear grudges from school after the events of this past year. So many things have changed, my perspective included. Besides, I would have gone mad waiting for the Aurors to figure everything out, none of whom have even met Harry. I should be thanking you, for trusting me.”

Severus bowed his head, feeling ashamed, “Even so...”

“I don’t mean to sound overly familiar, Professor, but Harry told me that you’re different now. He said that the man we remember from potions class was nothing more than a facade. Ron still finds it hard to believe, but I can see what Harry’s talking about. He does have a tendency to ignore anything negative about the people he ardently admires, but I think you deserve the faith he has in you.”   

    Snape swallowed thickly, “Admires?”

    Hermione nodded, “Well, I remember trying to persuade him that Sirius saw him more as James than himself. From what I can gather, Harry and his father weren’t remotely similar in personality with the exception of the trouble they were always able to get into.” She smiled fondly and continued, “I mean, Sirius used to encourage Harry to be devious. He was also quite hypocritical considering he regularly acted against his so-called ‘beliefs;’ the way he treated Kreacher.” She shook her head and frowned, “Harry would have none of it. He would get so angry with me.”

    Severus interrupted, “I can assure you that he understands your position now; even if he couldn’t see it then.”

    Hermione’s eyebrows rose to an alarming place on her forehead, “He never talks about Sirius to Ron and me, though I thought it was because he missed him so much.”

    She peered at her old potions professor for several moments then shrugged, “It was the same with Dumbledore. When all those stories came out about his dark past, Harry refused to believe it. Even though it got him into trouble sometimes, the level of loyalty he has for those he cares for makes him who he is. And after all that we’ve been through, I think he truly understands that people can change dramatically from who they once were given the circumstances.”

    “As long as they have the ability to love,” Snape murmured to himself.  

    “Pardon me, Professor?”

    “What?” Snape hadn’t realized he’d spoken aloud, “Oh, I was just saying that Grodric Gryffindor would be proud.”

    Hermione giggled, “Harry would pay ten Galleons to hear you say that without sarcasm.” As soon as the words left her lips, her eyes widened and her face became redder by several shades, “I’m sorry, Professor, that was going too far.”

    Severus thought quite the opposite, and couldn’t help but to give a small chuckle, “Not at all, you speak the truth.”

    Hermione beamed, her face still red, “I guess I spent so long cooped up in a tent with Ron and Harry, I’ve forgotten what intelligent conversation felt like.”

    Severus snorted, grinning, “I can’t even begin to imagine.”

    “Believe me, you DON’T want to,” she wiped a tear from her eye and sighed, “They’re intelligent, just selectively so.” That brought about another fit of giggles from her. “Oh, I’m sorry, Professor, it’s just been a while since I’ve laughed like that.” She looked down at the files in front of her.

    Severus wanted to ask her what else Harry had said about him, but instead enquired: “How far are you?”

    “Well, I’ve gone over everything three times, so I’m nearly finished,” a yawn interrupted what she was about to say, “What about you?”

    Severus, impressed by her efficient nature, took a moment to reply, “I know of several potions that can have similar effects as the curse, but the Black’s collection of potions texts is terribly lacking. I’ll have to examine my own anthology to find anything worth noting.   As for actual dark spells, the closest I’ve found is “Nox Noctis Formidonis,” which causes the victim to experience a vivid or realistic night terror. The problem is, there’s a fairly complicated set of wand movements which must be repeated, or else the victim will wake before the curse is completed. The castor must maintain a close distance to the victim for the entire duration of the curse lest the spell be broken. After waking, the victim will experience hallucinations of his nightmare, but these appear to weaken over time. No other spell I’ve viewed so far is remotely similar, so perhaps I’m correct in suspecting Yaxley to have created the curse himself.”

    “Maybe,” Hermione replied, “He certainly seems cunning enough to do something like that, but I still think we’re missing something, one important detail.”

    At that moment, the door opened, but no one entered the room.

    Severus immediately whipped out his wand, but Hermione was getting up from her seat and then kneeling on the ground, “McGonagall told me you’d be arriving here today, Kreacher, it’s lovely to see you.”

    Severus stood, walking around the table to see a peculiar sight. The girl was attempting to hug the elf, who in return, was looking simultaneously delighted and disgusted by the gesture, his arms twitching at his sides. When she let go, he mumbled something, then bowed to her, before looking up at Severus. The elf brushed past Hermione, dressed now in traditional Hogwarts House-Elf attire. He looked up at Severus with huge, bloodshot eyes, then bowed once more, “Kreacher is glad to see that Mr. Snape is alive and well. Kreacher wonders were Master Harry is? Kreacher has not seen Master for nearly fourteen days.”

    Severus glanced at Hermione, who looked back at him with sad eyes.