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~*~

All he knew was darkness. It pressed in around him, smothered him, choked him. He tried to shift, to move from under it, but it was everywhere. When he opened his mouth to scream, the darkness flowed into his lungs and heart, draining him of breath and life.

~*~

Slowly the darkness receded, and he could feel a bed beneath him and crisp sheets above him. Sometimes hands would touch him, turning his body or lifting his head. No matter how he tried, though, as soon as he opened his mouth to speak, the remaining darkness would fill him and pull him away.

The hands began to win the battle against the ensnaring dark, and he came to understand that the hands were touching him to heal him.

With that understanding, many other things took shape. He was in a bed, probably in a hospital or infirmary of some sort. The people touching him were healers or mediwitches. He paid attention to the hands and found a pattern.

The hands that came just after he woke up were quick and brusque. Just after those came a cold pair of hands that touched him once or twice, always in the same places. His eyes, then his ears, then his chest. Then came a period of time where he was left alone; this was when the darkness would claim him.

Next came the brusque hands again, touching his face and mouth. Feeding him, that's what they were doing. He relaxed a little when he realised that. The cold hands returned, then he was alone again. The feeding was repeated, but by a different set of hands, this pair much gentler. They returned one final time, moving him and shifting him around on the bed.

This routine was repeated several times. Just as he became accustomed to it, there was a change.

After the cold hands came and went, he felt a pair of hands on him. They didn't feel like the healer's hands; they stroked his face, gently brushed his hair away from his eyes, held his hand. They never stayed long, but they returned several times each day. He began to look forward to those touches; thinking about the gentle fingers touching his cheek gave him strength when the darkness tried to absorb him.

~*~

One morning he woke up to the sound of someone muttering under her breath. She was saying something as she moved him about, but he couldn't hear what. Entranced, he listened to her voice, then the sounds of her shoes squeaking as she left the room.

Her voice came back, this time with the voice belonging to the cold hands. This was his mediwizard, it must be. He tried to listen closely, but the voices were barely more than sound. After a few moments, they left, bringing their voices with them. He waited anxiously for the gentle hands; would they have a voice as well?

He hadn't heard any shoes coming into his room, but the hands had come. He waited impatiently to see what they sounded like. They did have a voice, he could hear it. He couldn't quite make out more than the sound, but the voice was as gentle as the hands. Gentle and furry; soft. He wanted to pet the voice, or at least touch the hands in return. Show how much he enjoyed the contact.

The voice didn't stop flowing. It rose and fell, never cresting into loudness or falling into silence. There was a sound, outside the room, the squeaking of the healer's shoes. His gentle hands pulled back, the voice stopped. He wanted to cry out, to reach out...

He endured the feeding, wondering where the gentle hands had gone and why they were never touching him when someone else was in the room. The mediwizard's visit was short, as usual, but it felt longer than it ever had before. Finally, they were gone and he could try to think.

The gentle hands came back, and their voice began again. He listened as hard as he could, trying to make the sounds into something he could recognize, something he knew. With one convulsive movement, he turned his head towards the voice. It stuttered to silence, then re-started, higher pitched and tighter sounding. The hands had clenched, pulling slightly in his hair.

The voice and hands stayed longer this time than they ever had before, but at the first approaching sound, the hands disappeared and the voice cut off. He nearly cried at the loss.

That night, when the darkness came to him, trying to pull him down into death and emptiness, he resisted. He was beginning to understand that there was something he was missing. Some information, some thought, some thing. He strained outward, trying to find the missing pieces. What was there? What was he doing in hospital? Why couldn't he ... think of what... The effort he expended, the first true effort he'd given, exhausted him and he could no longer fight the darkness.

~*~

The previous day's sounds were still there when he awoke. He could hear words today, words that made no sense to him. It was as if he were hearing words in a language he'd not quite learned well enough to follow when spoken at full speed. Each word he understood was followed by bursts of unintelligible babble.

"... drained ... why can't we ... death ..."

"You know ... said he ... saved him. Now, do your ... and stop ..."

Every sentence was clearer than the previous one, but with each small piece of information he sank further and deeper into a morass of confusion. Maybe the lovely gentle voice would say something he could understand.

The hands came, with their gentle voice. They came and stroked his hands, pushed his hair back away from his face. The voice was murmuring soft words, words almost without thought.

"Oh, I wish you'd wake up. I know there's so much more you could tell us, if you were just awake." He felt his shoulder petted, then the hands moved to his chest, stroking softly. "I know what you did, I know what you lived through. I want to see who you are when you don't belong to anyone. I remember, oh Merlin, I remember all those years ago, when we were at school. I was never strong enough. Never ..." The voice had become softer and lower, filled with a pain he couldn't understand.

"I know you're beginning to recover. You moved yesterday, I was so happy to see that. I want you to recover, to come back to us." The hands paused in their unceasing movement. "I want you to recover, even though I know you'll not want to see me when you do. But, oh, Severus, I do so want to know what happened to you."

At the sound of the name, his name, Severus felt himself break open.

Severus. I am Severus Snape. Once Professor of Potions at Hogwarts. Murderer. Death Eater. Fugitive. Traitor. Spy. Why am I alive?

The voice continued. "Things are so confused right now, Severus, but I know you'd be happier already. It's as if the sun has come back out after a terrible storm. Harry's alive, we don't know how, but he's alive."

Severus could barely hear. He could see images, quickly flashing by. Most didn't make any sense to him. Images of dark rooms, full of smoke. Of people, dressed in bright colours, swirling around him. Faces, leering into his. Dark shapes with bone white masks, taunting him. Young faces, children's faces, laughing. One face, with astonishingly brilliant eyes, looking up at him, the green of the eyes nearly lost in the fearful black pupils. Another face, older than the first, with sparkling tawny eyes, which changed suddenly to fierce glowing yellow.

What happened to me?

He strained against the images, and the darkness, seeing an opportunity, rushed in to smother him.

~*~

The next time Severus knew himself, he was again listening to the gentle voice. It was discussing the day's news. He could hear the sounds of papers rustling and there was only one hand on him, fingers curled around his.

With an effort, he turned his head towards the sounds. I want to see.

The light was almost too bright for him to see anything at all. His visitor sat in a chair, with the window behind him pouring light past him. It struck sparks off the silver streaking his hair, giving him a shimmering halo and making his body a hazy silhouette. Severus' eyes pooled with tears against the sudden pain of sunlight, but he refused to allow them to close. I won't give in to darkness anymore. I've lived too long there.

"And it says here that the Ministry will be setting aside monies for the care of children orphaned in the war. Oh, that's good. I wonder who they'll be putting in charge of that..."

Gradually, Severus' eyes became accustomed to the light. The room around him came further into focus, showing him a small, single person room, with several large windows looking out into sunlit space. His eyes moved carefully past his own body under the blinding white sheets, and back to the owner of the voice and hands. The hand had moved, and was now stroking his wrist, squeezing and rubbing alternately.

He must have made some small movement of his own, besides the first, because the lovely voice stopped suddenly; cut off in the middle of a word.

The shape shifted, and the light silhouetting it coruscated around, shivering and gleaming.

"Severus?" As the person drew closer, it's face became clearer. Eyes a soft tawny colour. Hair of a rich sepia brown, shot with silver. A mouth, moving from wonder to joy; the joy lighting the eyes, making them glow deeper and brighter.

"Severus? Can you hear me?" The voice wasn't quite gentle any more; there were signs of strain, of stress. "Oh, Merlin. You're looking at me. You're awake. Oh, Severus..." The papers the person had held dropped to the floor, and he brought both hands up to cup Severus' face.

The eyes he saw were growing brighter and, oddly, began to sparkle. Wetness pooled in them, and spilled down the cheeks, past the brilliant smile. "You're here with us again. Severus?" As the face of his gentle visitor drew closer, Severus allowed his eyes to fall closed. He could still see the joy and light in those eyes. He felt the visitor's breath on his cheek, his lips, then they both heard the relentless squeaking of the healer's shoes as they approached his room.

The visitor froze for a heartbeat, his hands caressed Severus' cheeks one last time, then disappeared. By the time Severus opened his eyes again, there was no sign anyone had been there at all.

~*~

The next several days were spent struggling against the healers. Everyone was amazed at his recovery, but no one would speak to him of anything other than the mundanities of his daily needs. Every day he felt more himself, remembered more of himself, and every day he was more frustrated. He still couldn't move very easily; his body tired quickly and it seemed he'd no sooner gain control of one thing, than he'd lose another.

He spent an angry day wrestling his upper body higher on the bed, just to lose control of his sight. The long dark afternoon he spent reduced him to misery.

The healers didn't know when he'd regain his ability to speak. Or, in point of excruciating fact, if he'd regain it at all. He managed to express himself clumsily with gestures but it wasn't enough. He couldn't get any of the information he wanted or needed. His mind, his memory, was erratic, showing him pictures with no connecting information, or suddenly giving him years of memories, all at once.

There were still parts of his memory that eluded him, although from bits and pieces he'd overheard late one afternoon, he was healing more quickly than expected. Not knowing the things locked in his own mind brought him to abject fury. He felt shredded, pulled apart, with no idea what to do, or where was safe for him to rest.

What hurt him the most, however, and what he couldn't seem to express in any way to his healers, was that his visitor hadn't come back. He couldn't forget the look of joy on his face, and in fact, the face itself seemed hauntingly familiar, but the name, the connection behind the face was lost in one of the dark places in his mind.

When he tried to convey to the healer, and then the mediwizard, that he had a visitor, they all said the same thing. No one knew where he was. No one was allowed in his room, for his own safety. When he insisted that there had been someone, he caught disbelief on the edges of their glances at each other.

He quickly learned not to insist. The day he learned that, he lay down, turned his face away from the windows and reached for the darkness that still hovered at his side.

~*~

He woke up to a cheerful voice.

"You've a package!" A new healer poked her head into the room, her face bright with curiosity. "Here. It came this morning, early. Would you like to open it?" She plunked the box down on his legs, then snatched it back quickly. "Oh. You'd probably prefer to freshen up, first, wouldn't you?"

Morning ablutions and emissions performed, new sheets and blankets tucked over his legs, he sat up in the bed with the brightly wrapped package in his lap. His hands were still unsteady, and he waited for the healer to take over. She didn't appear to know what he was waiting for, as she dragged up the visitor's chair and dropped into it without reaching towards him.

"Well? Aren't you going to open it?" Her face was full of curiosity, pointed at him and the package. He looked carefully and saw nothing but friendly care on her face. I wonder - does she not know who I am? Has she not heard what the other staff are saying about me?

Slowly, painstakingly, he peeled away the ribbon and shiny paper to reveal a box. The top was dark green, the bottom a lighter one. Breathing carefully, he lifted away the top to see books, paper and quills filling the box. His hands froze, numb, as he read the titles on the cracked leather spines of the books.

Instead of a hospital room, he saw stone walls lined with books, a crackling fire, comfortable chairs and quiet contentment. Something he hadn't realised at the time was contentment. His eyes closed for a long moment. My old books. I thought ... I'd never see them again.

The Book of Pheryllt.

His old copy of Virgil's magical works. He'd got this in Diagon Alley in his third year, from the second hand store.

Consolatio Philosophiae.

Albus had given him this, in his first year of teaching. He'd read it every year, sometimes more than once. It's discussions of philosophy and purity were one of the few things that soothed him when he found it too painful to still be living in the school where he'd been so unhappy.

Peter Pan.

His breath left him. This was the only book he still had from his childhood. His father's mother had read it to him, night after night, chapter after chapter. He still missed the old crone.

"So, it's books, then? And something to write with?" The healer's voice was bright. "Will you be writing?"

Severus turned to look at her. What does she think I'd do with it?

Shakily, he pulled out a sheet of parchment, a quill and the ink. He looked around for something to write on, a hard surface, but the only thing available was the top of the box. With an irritated huff, he put the supplies down and tried to balance the box on his lap. After several moments, when nothing worked, he shot an angry look at the healer. She smiled at him.

"Maybe if you take everything out of the box. It looks pretty full. There might be something in there to help." Still she made no move to take over and Severus felt a glimmer of relief mixed with surprise.

Emptying the box was exciting but tiring. The books were heavy, for one thing, and there were more at the bottom of the box, under the writing supplies and a small folding table. He ended up, half an hour later, surrounded by books, with the table over his lap, writing notes to the healer.

Her name was Joan Witherspot. She did know him, she'd been through his classes. In his NEWT class, as well, several years before. She'd decided early on to be a healer; she was Muggle-born and her mum had died of cancer while she, Joan, was at Hogwarts. She'd gone into healing to try to help other people as she'd not been able to help her mum.

Severus found himself interested in her. She didn't appear to hate him, as his other attendants did, and she wasn't intimidated by his reputation. He knew there were things he didn't remember, but he thought he remembered enough to know that most people despised him, and with good reason. He covered several sheets of parchment, conversing with her before they were interrupted by the mediwizard.

"Healer Joan! What do you think you are doing? You've been neglecting your duties. Go to the other wards at once." The mediwizard's voice was sharp and unhappy.

Joan stood easily, then turned back to Severus. "I'll be here tomorrow, sir, if that's alright with you." At his nod, she nodded at the mediwizard and left the room. He huffed in annoyance for a moment, then turned on Severus.

"And you aren't to be over-extending yourself like this. You need to rest." He reached for the piles of books. "Let me take these from you and then you can -"

Severus' hand shot out. He shook his head, emphatically. No, you shall not take my books. No. He scrabbled for a new sheet of parchment and scrawled, in an uncoordinated hand, nothing like the neat one he saw in his memories, "They are my books and I want them. You will leave them where they are."

He thrust the note at the mediwizard, who humphed unhappily and nodded. "Fine. But it's time to eat and take your potions."

Severus was already scrawling another note. "What is wrong with me? What happened?"

When the mediwizard turned away from the note, Severus clutched his robes. Angrily, he shoved the note at him again.

The mediwizard sighed and moved to sit in the chair Joan had left by the bed. His face was grave, and unusually open.

"You've suffered a nearly catastrophic and total loss of magic. You were fully comatose for a week, and have been recuperating at an oddly quick rate of speed since then. We don't know how much of your previous ability you will regain, if any."

Severus shoved another hasty note forward.

"You have no magical abilities right now. Please don't try to test that; anything you do now might cause your magic to leave you entirely. Yours is the most advanced case of magical overextension I've ever seen in my career. I believe it's the most advanced case in over a hundred years." He stood. "Now, it is time for you to eat. I suggest you concentrate on healing your body and allow us to concentrate on healing your magic."

Severus ate his lunch in a shocked stupor.

Lost my magic completely? What did I do? Why? What happened?

After lunch, he shifted his body carefully down further under the blankets. He'd learned, over the past few days, that a nap after lunch meant he could stay awake longer in the evening. One of the best things about his continued recovery was that he could move about on his own a little without the darkness threatening him. Fitting himself around the stacks of books, of gifts, on the bed required that he lie down in a slightly awkward position, but he didn't want to let go of the reminders of his past.

He dozed off with his hand wrapped around the tattered cover of Peter Pan.

~*~

A touch woke him. His visitor was back, sitting in the chair, carefully stroking his hair back. He forced his eyes to remain shut, his body to remain still.

Maybe I can learn who this person is.

Slowly he opened his eyes, peering through his lashes at the visitor's face. The eyes weren't as brilliant today, the face was shadowed. He gazed into his visitor's face, staring without realizing he was; it wasn't until the lovely amber lights were obscured by a slow blink that he realized they'd locked gazes. He jerked back, then forward as he knocked against the stack of books behind him.

"Hey there, Severus, slow down. I know I should have woken you when I came in, but the healer said you don't get much sleep, so ..." He smiled and Severus' eyes widened. He struggled to sit up and the stranger's hands came to help him.

"You're looking much better." He glanced up and down the bed. "I see you've decided the blankets aren't warm enough. Are the books new?"

Severus glared at him. Grabbing another sheet of parchment from the rapidly shrinking stack, he scratched a quick note, barely able to take his eyes from his visitor. His hand shook slightly as he held the note out.

"Who -" his visitor, his friend, looked up at him, eyes wide. "You don't -. Oh." His eyes fell back to the note, and he politely handed it back to Severus so he could use the rest of the sheet. "I - my name is Remus. I knew you at school, then ..." his voice trailed off, and his eyes rested firmly on his tightly knotted hands.

Remus. Remus Lupin, werewolf. Severus surged backwards, leaning on the now jumbled stack of books by his pillow.

Remus didn't miss the movement. He stood, staggered slightly, then deliberately steadied himself on the back of the chair. He remained still for one short moment, after which he raised his head and, not quite meeting Severus' eyes, said, "I'll leave you then. I'm very - we're all pleased at your recovery."

He was out the door before Severus had a chance to move, to try to hold him back.

Severus lay still, not seeing anything but the retreating back. The approaching sound of shoes, tapping on the hall floor, made him sit up straight. He had more questions...

"Why ever are you sitting like that? You wouldn't allow us to remove the books, and now you're lying on them. They'll crumple." It was the other healer, the unhappy one. She moved about the room, settling things into place with short sharp movements; twitching blankets, tugging chairs, tapping papers. She glanced down at the top sheet and chuckled.

"Who am I? Well, I'm Healer Furghuson. I've evening duty here on this ward." She handed him the stack of notes. "I'll be along with your dinner, then the mediwizard will have something for you."

~*~

Severus spent that night tossing and turning. Nightmares twisted in his mind.

Masses of jeering faces surrounding him, with Remus' face behind them, turning away, endlessly turning away.

Darkness, like night, shot with heavy silver beams and a tilting lawn decorated with whippy branches.

Arms, long and pale, with dark shapes crawling over them, leaving tracks like burns marring the skin.

Faces over him, changing, melting into each other. A handsome man, with dark hair and gleaming red eyes melted, leaving another man with long, white blond hair and a supercilious twist to his lips. He glanced away and became an ancient man, his white hair shimmering in the light; blue eyes alternately loving and flashing hate. His pale blue eyes melted into green, brilliantly green eyes flashing with hatred which changed somehow to deepest pity. The pity stayed, but the face changed again, changed to Remus' face, full of compassion, and soon lit with joy.

Severus sighed, turned over and slipped deeper into sleep. The nightmares fled, pursued by a laughing wolf.

~*~

Healer Joan bounced in again, next morning. She grinned to see him still sleeping with his blanket of books, and cheerfully pulled them all off the bed, despite his grasping hands.

"You've got to exercise and you can't do that in that bed." She pulled on his arms. "Now, swing your legs over to me and we'll get you moving."

Severus was irritable, unwilling and grouchy, but Joan was unstoppable. She laughed under his most acid notes, and stood stronger than he when he tried to wrench himself away. He found himself walking back and forth across the room, first leaning on her arm, then, less confidently, on his own without any support.

He ate lunch that day sitting at a small table, newly brought into the room. At his request, it was placed near the window. He was told that no one would be able to see him through it, although his view out was entirely unobstructed. The window looked over one of the courtyards for recovering patients and Severus found himself watching idly as people wandered about, resting on benches or looking at plants. Many of the patients had visitors, and he paid little attention to any of them until his eye was caught by a flash of silvering hair.

He looked closer, leaning against the glass, trying to see if the face was the one he .... He pulled away from the window and glared at his hands.

I'm not looking for him. He's weak, he's always been weak. His hands clenched slowly in his lap.

"Why Severus, you're not in bed." The voice coming from the door startled him so deeply he jumped, spinning around and holding out a hand defensively. "I'm so sorry," continued Remus, not coming any closer. "I didn't mean to disturb you at all. I'm just pleased to see such progress." He remained just inside the door, carefully keeping his hands in view.

Severus dropped his hand, feeling foolish. It's daylight and the wrong time of the month anyway. There's no reason to fear him. His eyes fell, following his hand. It had fallen on the table, near the book he'd been pretending to read while he ate. Breathing deeply, he looked up again, trying not to be caught in the warm gaze facing him.

Remus shifted on his feet. He smiled tightly, then twitched. "I nearly forgot. This was outside; I think it's for you." He held out a smallish package, wrapped in bright paper. He pulled it back towards himself to read something off it, "It says it's from Honeyduke's, so it should be good."

He came slowly into the room, clearly allowing Severus to see any move he was going to make before he made it. He started to drop the gift on the bed, but Severus shook his head slightly. He could see Remus' face and wanted to see more. I am not afraid. Remus carefully approached the table, holding the gift out in front of himself. When he came within arm's length of Severus he held it out again, but Severus refused to take it. He gestured, instead, to the second seat at the table.

Remus looked startled, but seated himself and placed the gift gently on the table, halfway around on the edge. "Here, then. I'm sure you'd like to see what's in there. It's sure to be something tasty."

Severus reached out quickly, before Remus had time to pull his hand back and grasped the package, just catching Remus' fingertips under his. He looked up quickly when he thought he heard a sharp breath from Remus, but Remus' face was calm as he pulled his hand back.

"Your lunch looks appealing. I'm sure I've never got such tasty food here." Remus tilted his head and Severus watched as the mixed silver and brown strands fell across his eyes. Remus shoved it back and laughed under his breath. "I've got to get that cut. I keep forgetting."

Severus felt himself start to shake his head, then fiercely looked down again. I will not care how he wears his hair. He's not here to give me anything I want.

"Severus?" Remus' voice was soft. "Don't you want to open your gift?" He'd shifted in the chair so he was leaning back in it, his legs crossed comfortably and his hands resting quietly on the table.

Hands that will never touch me again. Severus reached for his gift, then changed his mind. He pulled the sheet of parchment to himself, looked around for the quill and saw that it was with the ink on his bedside table. Before he could lever himself up to get it, Remus had followed his gaze, and sprung up.

"Oh. Of course, you'll have more questions." He retrieved the supplies, and placed them carefully near the gift.

Severus watched him, wondering if he'd mistaken the expression on Remus' face as joy instead of relief that he'd not have to baby sit him any more. With such thoughts in mind, he wrote out his question.

Remus took the parchment, being careful not to touch him. He read it, then sighed deeply.

"I was wondering when you'd ask that. I don't know if I'm the best person to tell you. I don't know all of it."

Severus irritably shoved the paper back at him. For the first time, Remus seemed unsure, hesitant. He looked at Severus' hands, still shaking slightly, then up into his eyes. Severus found himself watching as Remus' eyes shifted colour from light amber to dark, brooding bronze. He felt as if he'd been shoved hard when Remus closed his eyes for a moment.

"We don't actually know what happened. We - you were found on the battlefield, draped over Harry's body. When the people doing the searching found you, they tipped you over. I think they thought you were dead. I know they thought Harry was, but when they touched him, he woke up." Remus sucked in a deep breath, clenched his jaw for a moment, then continued. "He saw that the Auror who'd tipped you over was about to cast Avada Kadavra on you, just to be safe, and he exploded into a frenzy. He said you'd saved him, he told us to let you go, then he lost consciousness again."

Remus stood, and moved across the room to the second window. He leaned up against the wall and rested his hand on the glass. It was dark against the brilliant sunlight streaming in through the window; the light shimmered around his hand and face, making them shift in and out of focus.

"He's been in and out of consciousness ever since then. We've asked him about what happened, but he won't say. He's recovering quickly, and everyone hopes he'll be out and about soon. I'm hoping he'll tell us more when he's feeling better."

He turned, and the light flashed on his eyes. "He said, the first time he woke, that you were to be protected. You're here, under guard." He returned to the table, still moving slowly and carefully. "We - I was hoping you would be able to tell us more." Remus shrugged, his shoulders moving easily under his cream cotton shirt. "I guess we'll have to wait a bit more."

Severus kept his eyes locked on the edge of his plate, idly tapping it with the tip of his index finger. I don't remember anything of that day. I don't even remember anything leading up to that day.

The silence extended, becoming increasingly tense. Remus sat preternaturally still, his wolf's nature allowing him to be able to keep still for much longer than a normal human could. Severus found himself wishing for him to move, or for something to interrupt. I will not stare at him like an overgrown puppy. I am not going to attach myself, not now, not to someone in love with someone else, even if that someone else was just an unworthy mutt.

Remus sighed, and Severus' head pulled up, involuntarily. Remus was looking down at the gift, and Severus realised he was waiting for him to open it. Probably doesn't get very many gifts of his own. He'll have to live vicariously through mine. The thought, contrarily enough, made him feel melancholy and he resolved to open the gift in a way that would allow Remus to share in the experience.

He took it up slowly, turning it in his hands. The light streaming through the window hit sparks off the bits of mirror on the paper and ribbon, scattering rainbows over Severus' dark hospital robe and Remus' lighter one. Severus glanced up, following one of the larger rainbows and surprised a look of ... was it envy? Sorrow? It faded quickly, however, and Remus smiled.

"Gifts are worth taking one's time over, aren't they? I do hope you like what's in it." His smile turned wry. "Of course, if you don't, I'm sure there would be someone you could share it with. Candy is ever popular." He wriggled slightly in his seat, then tucked one leg under himself.

Severus pulled his attention back to the gift. With one convulsive movement, he pulled the paper and ribbon off.

It was chocolate. Every flavour of chocolate that Honeyduke's carried, ranging from purest white, light and almost too sweet to eat, to the deepest, bitterest dark, sweetened only with enough sugar to make the chocolate not quite inedible.

"Oh," Remus breathed. "That's lovely. I didn't know Honeydukes was making those sets yet. Much of their inventory was destroyed, you know, during the last few battles."

Severus shook his head. He hadn't known. Or, at least, he didn't know anymore.

He shoved his lunch aside and fanned out the bricks of chocolate. He'd never got anything this complete before - he could indulge in any taste he wanted this way. In the frustrating way his memory worked now, he could remember receiving gifts of candy before, but they'd always been the bargain kind, never the finest. His hands continued to stroke the chocolates, shifting the corners and rubbing the differently coloured foils into the shapes pressed into the centres of each square.

He looked up to see Remus smiling softly at him. "Someone likes you, eh? I'm glad." He stood, groaning a little, then twisted his back. He glanced up at the door, then said, "I'd better get going. I just saw that and thought you should have it as soon as possible. Enjoy it." He nodded easily at Severus and turned to leave.

Severus tried to stand, but his still weak legs protested at the quick movement. He fell against the table, and winced at the loud clash of dishware. Remus had spun around at the sound, and was next to him, supporting him, before he had fully realised he needed it. Remus' hand were warm on his arm and back, and he nearly melted into the familiar and missed sensation.

"Are you alright, Severus?" Remus peered anxiously into his face, glancing back and forth between his eyes. "You look okay, but you're a bit flushed. Here," he twisted slightly and somehow lifted Severus into his arms, "let's get you back into bed."

Severus tensed at the sudden proximity, but once Remus set him down gently on the bed, Severus found that the places where Remus' hands had touched him ached at the loss of contact. He sat, stiff with conflicting impulses, watching Remus gather up the book and chocolates on the table.

"Here, you'll be wanting these. At the very least," he chuckled, "you'll want the chocolates out of the sun. They'd be wasted melted on the table." He piled everything neatly on the bedside table, grinning at the other piles of stuff, then swung around to look at Severus. His brows pulled together. "Is there something wrong? You look so tense - are you hurting somewhere?"

He turned, looking about the room. Severus, afraid he was going to call a healer, tried to say something, anything, to make him turn back around. He managed to make a croaking sound, which had Remus spinning around and staring.

"Did you say something?" His voice was excited and breathy.

Severus tried again, but all he could make was noise. None of the words that were dammed up behind his open lips and sealed throat would come further. Remus seemed to find the sound encouraging, though and lit up.

"You're not to over extend yourself. No, don't try to speak. It'll come back on it's own." He glanced at the door again. "Maybe soon you'll be able to tell me to get out, but for now I'll go on my own." He grinned and ducked out the door.

Never. I'll never tell you to get out.

~*~

Healer Joan was impressed by the chocolates. She said, in one of her chattery comments, that Honeydukes wasn't fully open yet, and that for them to have sold something of that high a calibre, it must have been to a very important customer. Severus looked at the chocolate bricks with curious eyes, wondering who would be both important enough to get Honeyduke's to sell something before they'd recovered from the damages and at the same time someone who'd want to give that candy to him.

He fell asleep that night with the taste of creamy milk chocolate on his tongue.

~*~

The next few days were filled to overflowing with physical therapy of the most humiliating sort. He was walked across his room and back, he was inspected by all and sundry, he was forced to walk up and down the hall outside, incidentally confirming Remus' statement that he was under guard. The guard today appeared to be a Weasley, as the flash of bright red from the small window in the hall door was unmistakeable. Severus, however, was pleased with his progress. He was beginning to feel trapped in his tiny room, and wondered if he'd be entombed in it forever. He thought that living trapped in that room, with a window out onto people who were allowed to wander freely would be horrific - a punishment more insidious than anything The Dark Lord could have come up with.

One afternoon, after he'd eaten his lunch, and had it cleared away, he was sitting in the chair, looking out the window, struggling to believe that maybe, just maybe if he could dredge up some memories of what had put him here, he'd be able to go outside. The sound of a clearing throat in the door brought him twisting around sharply, looking for Remus.

The face he saw was much less welcome.

"I'm sorry to bother you, Professor, but I wanted to speak to you." Harry Potter stood just outside the door, looking more like the underfed child he had been at the beginning of his first school year than he had in the following seven years. "May I come in?" Well, something beat some manners into his wooden head.

Severus nodded, sharply, but turned back to the window. He could feel Potter come up behind him and lean over.

"Nice view." Severus turned, a snarl on his face, at the sarcastic comment. His anger faded into confusion as he saw that Potter was looking out the window also, and was wearing an expression of longing similar to the one he could feel on his own face when he watched the lucky patients down below. "My room doesn't have any windows. They said it was so that I could be 'well protected'." He sighed and looked over at his old teacher.

"I came here to tell you what's been going on. I know that I'd want to know, if I were in your position." Potter sat down in the other chair, Remus' chair, and leaned forward on his elbows. "I don't know how much you remember of what happened." He didn't need to say when he was talking about. "I know that I didn't remember much of it until a couple days ago. I've been trying to find a way to get to you ever since."

Severus shifted in his chair, wondering why the Hero of the Wizarding World couldn't just go anywhere he wanted. He'd assumed that once The Dark - Voldemort was killed, no one would be able to deny Potter anything.

"They told me that I couldn't see you, for my own safety, but holy Merlin, you've been saving my life since before I was born, what more do they need?" He sucked in a breath, held it, then blew it out sharply. "Anyway, I needed to see you.

"What do you remember about that last day?" After a moment of silence, he blinked and grinned. "Right. Not speaking yet. I forgot. Ah. I'll start over." He leaned back, unconsciously mimicking Remus.

"I wanted to kill you, you know. I was all ready to kill you the next time I saw you, but Headmaster Dumbledore's portrait got to me first." He slanted a grin at Severus, as if nearly killing him was now amusing. "He told me where he'd put his Pensieve, his private Pensieve. Everything was in there. Everything." He blanched slightly, and raised his eyes to meet Severus'.

"Before I go any farther, I want to apologise. I know it means nothing, but I am sorry. I could have acted better. Of course," he grimaced, "I wasn't who you thought I was - am. I really am not like my father." His voice twisted on the last word and Severus grimaced. I suppose I have to acknowledge that, at least.

"So, anyway, I knew what you were doing, out there, and I knew what I had to do. The rest of the year I spent searching for and destroying the Horcruxes and doing my best to shield your position while continuing to act as if I wanted to kill you." He wrinkled his nose. "I am impressed with your ability to hide your feelings and thoughts, sir. It was very difficult for me. Ron and Hermione found out, of course, as well as one other person. I wouldn't have been able to make it without them."

Severus found himself caught up in a wave of memories. Potter's information was jogging bits and pieces of his own mind into focus, and he could barely see the boy at the table through the images pouring through his mind. He saw nights full of terror, with odd flashes of red or green lighting up strange shapes in the darkness; he saw Voldemort's face, pale and bloodless, stark against his black robes, appearing to float above the broken bodies of Muggles he'd killed; he felt again the endless hopelessness surrounding the Dark Lord's chosen guards, the Dementors; and he remembered... oh.

He remembered the last day.

He felt dizzy and he swayed in his chair. He could hear, from a long distance away, a voice, "Are you all right? Professor?" but there was nothing in it to bring him back from the welcoming darkness. It swirled around him, seductive fingers tugging on his thoughts, pulling them to shreds, draining his eyes of light.

He fought against the dark's ravishment, frantically trying to remember the reason he'd had for not slipping away again. There was something... but it was lost in sharp phantasms of the friends he'd tried not to kill, the curses flying from his wand, the death mounting around him, all given a frantic, delirious overtone by the laughter, the terrifyingly joyful laughter from the figure of death personified standing at his side.

That laughter had only cut off when Potter materialised in front of them. He stood there, glowing with intensity and fury, and everything paused. With curiously graceful slowness, he cast the final charm, the one that Voldemort saw as a curse, but that the rest of the world would see as a blessing. It hit Voldemort like an iron hammer; Severus thought he'd never be able to forget the way Voldemort's body appeared to simply shatter. As he watched from his exalted position on Voldemort's right hand, he saw how the Dark Lord held himself together for one last moment, his blasted heart answering to the destructive blessing of Potter's. Severus watched, helplessly, hopelessly, as Potter, overextended already from his final spell, began falling under the concerted hatred the Dark Lord was pouring into him.

Severus remembered roaring and throwing himself over the younger wizard, images of Albus - beloved hated mentor - filling his head, desperately casting a shielding spell over Potter, not caring, not caring about his own safety, let him save someone just this once, please just once let him save...

~*~

Severus woke up with the hands, the gentle hands he remembered, stroking his hair again. He lay still under them, trying to allow the newly recalled memories to settle into place. He felt his body relaxing under Remus' soft fingers, his shoulders slumping further down into the pillows and a tight place deep in his chest twingeing once hard before relaxing suddenly enough to make him gasp.

Remus pulled his hands back, which made Severus open his eyes. I'm sure he doesn't want to touch me; the filth might rub off. I'm surprised he is willing to be in the same room as me. I wish Potter hadn't - when those Aurors found us - I wish he'd let them... Severus slowly let his gaze travel up from Remus' knees, next to the bed, up his chest, idly noticing the bright colour of the unpatched robe, then carefully over Remus' chin, past his smiling smiling? lips, to flick quickly to his eyes.

Eyes which were also smiling down at him.

"You had a hard time, didn't you?" Remus' voice was very quiet, and Severus realised that the room was dark except for a single fat candle burning on the bedside table under a hurricane lampshade. "You've been under for almost a day and a half. Everyone was very worried."

Severus looked away, into the dark corners of the room. They no longer pulsed with darkness, luring him deeper. They were just corners, in shadow.

He looked back up at Remus. What now?

He didn't realise he'd made a sound until Remus leaned forward and said, "What was that, Severus? What did you say?"

He glared up at the seated wizard and opened his mouth to make that hateful grating noise that was all he'd been able to emit. What came out was, "Don't you think I'd speak if I could, you annoying man?" His mouth hung open for a shocked second before he snapped it shut and contented himself with another glare.

Remus simply chuckled. "You've been speaking in your sleep since you keeled over. Well," he temporised, "sometimes more like howling, but it was certainly an improvement over the silence. Wouldn't you say?"

"No, I wouldn't say. Now that I'm no longer silent, I'm sure the whole blasted Auror Corps will be here to interrogate me." Severus realised in horror that he hadn't meant to speak aloud. He'd got so used to not being able to speak that he hadn't remembered to keep his thoughts firmly locked behind his teeth.

Remus' smile tilted. "Oh, you'll see the Aurors, that's true. There'll be no interrogation, though. Harry's seen to that. He was frantic when you faded away like that. He wasn't supposed to be in here, did he tell you that?"

Severus nodded, trying to remain as silent as before.

"They'd all told him that you weren't to be trusted, that it was safer to wait for you to slip up and speak. He finally found a guard of yours who was willing to let him in," Remus shifted on the chair, glanced away from Severus, and closed his eyes. After a moment, he opened them and resumed, "... and came to meet you. His recovery took less time than yours; you nearly killed yourself trying to save him. He's joked about a Life Debt, but I don't think he's really joking. He's placed all his memories of your actions on the field in a Pensieve, along with selected memories from Albus' private one and made them available to the Auror Head."

Severus struggled with the blankets strangling his legs. "Oh Merlin, he did what?"

Remus tugged on the blankets to release his legs, and laughed. "I think I like this new you; it's fascinating to hear what you've been thinking instead of having to try to figure it out from a slight head tilt and eyebrow flick." He subsided, then continued, "You've been granted a special dispensation from the Ministry. Harry wanted to get you the Order of Merlin, First Class, but the Ministry wouldn't go that far."

"For Albus' murderer? Of course not!" Severus snapped his teeth together hard enough to make a loud clack, and thought fiercely of tying his jaw shut.

Remus' sigh brought his eyes back up. Remus' face was drawn, with shadows under his eyes that hadn't been there before and slight hollows under his cheekbones. His robe was new, but the wrinkles made it look slept in. Severus' brows drew together. What's going on?

"You've been pardoned for everything. I think Harry's working on a stipend for you. I don't think he'll be able to get your job back at Hogwarts, though." Remus shifted in his chair. "There's another option - another place you'd be welcome. If you would want to go there."

Severus' voice was careful and low. "Where would that be?"

"With me." Remus looked at him, his eyes shadowed in the flickering candlelight. "I, well, the Ministry has repealed the anti-Werewolf laws and granted me a little house. It's in north Kent, near the sea. It's not large, but there's room for us both, and there's a little garden for herbs and such... I've a job waiting for me there."

Severus stared at him blankly for several minutes. He can't be serious. He can't honestly mean what I want him to mean. He must be doing this, saying this, as a favour to Potter. He took a deep breath, shoved any insane hopes back down, and lifted his chin. I will not take charity. "No, thank you."

Remus nodded, as if he hadn't expected any other response. "Yes. Of course." He shifted in the chair, slowly pulling himself upright. For a long quiet moment, the two men sat together, looking anywhere but at each other. Then, Remus stood, passed a hand over his face, and produced a smile. "I'll let you get back to sleep. Rest. You still need it."

He walked to the door, leaning heavily against the jamb of before he closed the door behind himself.

Severus startled himself by being unable to stop the cry he felt rising in his chest.

~*~

Now that it was known that he could speak, and that he would be allowed to leave, his healers treated him more carefully. He did appear to still be guarded, but Potter said, in one of his now frequent visits, that the Ministry was running a series of articles aimed at changing public perception of him. Severus declined to say how likely he thought that would be.

Potter wouldn't leave him alone. He visited every day, and often spent several hours in Severus' room. He found that Potter wasn't quite as annoying as he had been expecting. The boy couldn't stop talking, but he was quick about the place, and having him in the room certainly did make any other guests more respectful.

One afternoon, Potter came banging into the room, storming over to the table. He threw himself into a chair; Severus had insisted on having a third one brought in. He refused to think about why he was leaving a permanently empty chair for Remus.

Potter clutched his hair, tugging hard at huge handfuls of the unruly mess. "Good gods, why won't they ever learn that I'm not six?"

Severus startled them both by laughing softly. "When you stop acting that way. Look at yourself."

Potter glared at him, then guiltily tried to flatten the hairs he'd mussed. "I know I'm never going to be totally safe out there; there will always be someone angry at me for something, some Death Eater cousin or lost sibling who'll blame me, but I can't live in a bubble, can I?" He didn't see Severus wince at the carefree way he dismissed the Death Eaters, and continued. "I'm going to be an Auror and that's just it. I will not be Scrimgeour's public figure. I refuse."

Severus stared at him. "What are they saying to stop you?"

Harry spun away towards the window and continued ranting, not seeing Severus' slight smile at the younger wizard's temper. He isn't his father. His father would have loved the chance to be the public figure.

~*~

The next afternoon, Joan bounced in carrying another brightly wrapped box. Severus tried to disguise his eagerness, but she grinned at him and plopped down into the third chair and laughingly waited for him to tear into the paper.

It was a beautiful chess set. The board was inlaid with two colours of mother of pearl and the pieces were models of magical creatures and historical figures. The pawns were merpeople, the knights rode thestrals, the kings were Merlin and the queens Boudicca. They were all intricately carved from black and white opal; the merpeople's tails were inlaid with matching mother of pearl on the tail fins. Severus drew in his breath, tentatively extending a finger to stroke the shape of a dragon's neck as it curled around it's castle.

"Ohhh, that's lovely," Joan breathed. "I wonder who's sending you these things." She watched as he rummaged through the wrapping, not finding any notes or identifying papers. "Whoever it is, he really likes you."

She stood, then said, "You'll know this soon enough, but there's some sign your magic is returning. Mediwizard Dunham didn't want to tell you yet. He thought that if you knew you'd try to use it and overextend again." She smiled at him, "I thought you'd rather know. As soon as it comes back, you'll be free to go where you want. You're only here now until we know that you'll recover."

Severus nodded at her, his emotions a jumble. Two gifts. This wonderful set and hope for my magic. He deliberately pushed away any thoughts or worries about what he'd do or where he'd go when he left the hospital.

Joan left the room, already laughing at a joke someone in the hall made. He turned back to the chess set sitting in the centre of the table, it's pearl surface gleaming in the afternoon light. I wish I could play chess with ... He ordered himself to stop daydreaming, and began clearing up the torn paper.

He moved across the room to the dustbin, balancing carefully on his still unsteady legs. At the sound of a soft footfall, he glanced up and saw Remus in the door. Remus' eyes were locked onto the front of Severus' robes, which had fallen slightly away from his chest. Severus stood, abruptly, and turned to face the other man.

"I see you got something new," said Remus, startling Severus. He glanced down at his front, then saw that Remus was now looking at the chess set. Severus felt an unexpected surge of happiness. I did want to try a game with it.

He cocked at eyebrow at Remus. "Do you think you could give me a decent match?" He watched carefully as Remus' eyes lit with competitive fire. His feral grin was not exactly comforting.

They seated themselves, Severus noting that Remus automatically sat in the chair that had stood empty since the last time he'd sat at the table. Remus took black, and at Severus' questioning brow, he said, "Well, it's your gift and your first time playing with it. Shouldn't you get to go first?"

Severus reached out to make his first move and felt something in his mind shift. He set his pawn down carefully in the centre of its new square. How did Remus know I got it today and that I hadn't played with it yet? Remus was chattering on, and Severus' ear was caught by something else he said. And, more importantly, how does he know that my magic is coming back?

The game was tightly played, even though they'd been forced to play it without magic. At the last minute, Severus won, mating Remus with only three pieces left. Remus tipped over his king and grinned at Severus. "That was fun. Shall we go again?"

Half an hour later, Severus was surprised to see Remus' expression shift. He'd been smiling, seemingly happy to play the game. Suddenly his face fell, and he reached out to stroke the long swirling cloak of the bishop Circe. He sucked in a deep breath and turned to look Severus full in the face.

"Have you thought about who might be giving you these gifts?" His tone was pensive.

"I have. I have not been able to come to any conclusions. The first gift was ..." Severus trailed off, his eyes falling. The first gift was beyond anything I'd could have hoped for. Pieces of my past, things memorialising the good parts of my past, were returned to me, along with the ability to communicate with those surrounding me. He felt his brows begin to knot and he looked back up at Remus. "Who knew I - who would have known which of my old books to return to me? Who would have gone into my rooms and salvaged anything?"

Remus' eyes fell to the chess pieces and he cupped Circe in his palm. "The books were important to you? Getting them back pleased you?" His voice was low and tight.

Severus felt as if there was some thing, some information he was missing. "Very much so. And the second gift was something virtually unobtainable, something no one else would be able to have for quite a while, given just to please me." He groped his way through the puzzle, sure that there was something just beyond his mind's eye, some small part of the puzzle that would make everything make sense, if only he could reach it.

He watched Remus, and crossed his arms over his chest. "You know something, don't you?" he demanded.

Remus winced and set Circe in her square. "Ah, I'm not sure I know what you mean." He didn't seem to want to continue, but Severus was willing to sit quietly and wait him out. I've been blind this whole time, not questioning anything. Who would care enough to send me anything? Potter made it clear that most people still see me as the murderer of the Headmaster. So who?

Remus shifted in his chair, uncomfortable under Severus' silent stare. "Yes, I know who's sending the gifts. In fact I -"

Potter burst into the room just then, laughing over his shoulder at something Joan had said as he passed her in the hall. Before Severus could stop him, Remus was halfway across the room. He grinned and said something under his breath to Potter, then waved a hand in Severus' direction as he left.

Severus glared at Potter. The irritating boy strode to the table and started to drop down into a seat. Halfway down, he jerked back up and shot an apologetic look at Severus. "Sorry," he said, "didn't realise I was about to sit in Remus' chair." He reached across the table and tapped one of the pawns. "Nice set. Did you just get it?"

~*~

Severus left the chess set on the table, in the hopes that, the next time Remus came to visit, he'd want to play again. However, a week passed and he didn't see hide nor hair of Remus. He was on the verge of asking after him several times, but every time he gathered the fortitude to humiliate himself his courage failed him and he subsided.

Potter came in, after a few days absence, and threw himself down in the third chair. "Gods I'm tired. I've been moving Remus in and, for someone who hasn't had a permanent home in years, the man can collect things." He held out his arms, turning them from side to side. "See? I'm all wasted away. I'll have to eat for days just to make up the muscle loss." He dropped his hands, knocking against the chess set.

Severus irritably straightened up the piece Potter'd knocked over. So he's moved into his house. I wonder if he'll be living there alone. He felt his brows draw together, and turned to glare out the window.

"Hey, don't you want to know anything about the house?" Potter's voice was bright. "It's cute, although a bit big for one man, I'd think. He's been removed from guard duty here, you know. I think he was waiting until then, I mean, now, before he moved his things in.

"The Ministry has granted all the Order members a stipend, I've been trying to get yours granted to you. Have they come to talk to you about that? I don't know where Remus has been spending the money he's been given." Potter scratched his ear. "He certainly didn't buy any new furniture - all the stuff I carried was old." Potter idly tipped his chair back and stretched his legs out under the table. "He'd said something last month about thinking he might have a housemate, but he was only moving his own things in." He cocked his head. "I wonder who he'd be moving in with."

Severus looked down at his hands, clenched tightly in his lap. I'm sure he'll find someone cheerful and worthy to live with and ... love. The sudden thought of Remus looking at someone else, of Remus loving someone else, made Severus suck his breath in. Forcing his voice to remain even, he said, "I'm certain there will be someone who will be foolish enough to want to live with a fully grown werewolf."

Potter's head snapped up and Severus could see that his eyes were blazing. "I don't know why I come see you, sometimes. You're so hateful. That man -" He stopped, his mouth open, then deliberately closed his lips. He stood up and walked out of the room, only pausing to say, "You are the most insanely cruel person I have ever met. Don't you ever get lonely?"

Slowly, Severus' head drooped forward until it hit the table. He let it rest there, feeling the smooth polished surface against his forehead. You have no idea how lonely I have been all my life.

He ignored the drops of liquid that splashed down onto the table.

~*~

He slept badly the next few nights, and was irritable enough to effect even Joan, who went so far as to glare at him in their daily physical exercises.

"If you're just going to be snotty, I'll go elsewhere and help someone who will be grateful for it." She flounced out of his room without even looking back. Severus sank down onto the edge of his bed and stared out the window.

Where am I to go? I know where I want to go, but that isn't possible any more. My own venom destroyed any chance of that. He lay down on the bed, facing the wall, and closed his eyes.

He didn't see, in the doorway, the inquisitive faces of Harry and Joan, as they peered in.

Late that night, he was awoken by someone moving in his room. Before he could sit up, his caught the sound of a voice he'd thought he would never hear again. He opened his eyes a slit, to find that Remus wasn't sitting in his usual place by the bed, so Severus tilted his face carefully on the pillow, trying to see if he could see where Remus was.

He was standing at the window, the one which looked down over the courtyard. The moonlight that filtered in was thin, a far cry from the brilliance of the full moon, something that Severus reminded himself Remus had never seen. It barely illuminated Remus' face, leaving deep shadows where his eyes were, and staining his body with the flickering shadows of trees from outside the window.

Remus was talking, more to himself from the tone, than to Severus.

"I don't know why I'm even here, why I've come back. You have made it clear, to me as well as to everyone else, that you have no wish to be anywhere near me. I know that, I have always known that; why do I keep tormenting myself with the hope that one day you'll see past my curse -" He broke off and leaned his head against the glass. "I would so like to talk to you, the way I imagined we could, when you were still sleeping. I miss this, did you know? I miss being near you, in the dark, watching you sleep."

He stayed silent for a few minutes, and Severus wondered if he should let the other man know he was awake, but then Remus began speaking again and Severus knew he couldn't give up this opportunity to get the information he'd been missing all this time.

"I worry about the others, the children. They seem so happy, now that everything is over. I want to tell them to be careful, that they can be just as hurt by the good things as they were by the terrible things they saw and did." He chuckled softly. "Harry is so angry at you right now. I think he's angrier at you because he is beginning to be friends with you than he would have been if he still hated you. I wish you'd let him in, let him be a friend. He can be a good friend, Severus, and I know you need friends." He paused again.

"I was so stupid, stupid, to think that you'd want to be anything with me, anything but enemies." He'd clenched his fist and was banging it against the wall next to the window, making slight thudding sounds. "I will leave you alone, Severus, I promise. I will respect your desire to have the wolf," and his voice was bitter misery, "the wolf far away from you."

~*~

Severus spent the next few days practicing the few magical exercises Mediwizard Dunham allowed him. What time he had to himself after that was spent thinking about the gifts he'd received and the different times Remus had visited him. He'd had one, very surprising idea, while lying in bed in the middle of the night and he found himself returning to it often, looking at it from different perspectives, trying to see if it made sense.

He didn't know how to test his new theory, though.

~*~

He didn't see anyone but St Mungo's staff for almost a week and a half, and was beginning to think that his theory was false, when he was blindsided by something else. He'd been sitting at the table, making notes on an interesting article about possible changes to the Wolfsbane potion, when he'd accidentally knocked the full ink jar off the table with his elbow. Without thinking, he snapped out the incantation for a Hover charm and the ink jar stopped its fall in midair. Severus stared at it, then carefully reached out and plucked it from the air. He turned it round in his fingers, then set it down slowly on the table.

It's returned. I'm healed. At these thoughts, instead of feeling happy, as he expected, he found himself feeling irritable and morose. I have no where to go, nothing to do. He heard a noise at the door and turned to see that the entire healing staff was collected there, staring at him.

"What?" he snapped.

Joan shoved her way through the crowd. "There was a monitoring charm on the room. We've been waiting for you to be healed." Her face was working, alternately beaming and then tearing up. "Oh, we're so glad."

Dunham came into the room as well, his hand out to shake Severus'. "We didn't think, you see, that you'd ever get your magic back all the way. We weren't sure what to do for you. It's been an honour, sir, to treat the Man Who Saved Harry Potter." Severus heard a snort from the back of the crowd and caught a glimpse of Potter's amused face.

"What will you do now?" Dunham queried. "Do you have plans?"

Severus searched the crowd. "I am not sure. I haven't -" He saw a flash of brown and silver and knew that this was the time to test his theory. If he was wrong, then, he'd just have to figure something else out. He stood and turned to face the entire group. "I am planning on going home to a small house in Kent, to see about growing exotic herbs and researching new potions."

The look of rising joy on Remus' face was like the light breaking in on the dark, like dawn forever banishing night's cold darkness.

fin