A/N: Thank you to everyone who has followed or favourited this story. Sorry it has taken a while to update but sudden plans to go to university/politics have kind of taken over my life

Chapter 6

Severus woke the following morning, having had a peaceful night's sleep thanks to a vial of dreamless sleep. His first action on waking was to attempt to get out of bed. This resulted in alerting Madam Pomphrey who came bustling into the ward.

"Now Severus, what are you trying to do?" She said, placing her hand on his shoulder in an attempt to make him lie down again. "You have to rest while your magical core – and your body continues to heal itself."

He growled under his breath. "Madam, I have no desire to lay here like a bloody invalid!"

"Merlin, you are worse than a group of first years. Where do you need to go with such urgency? If it is of a personal nature, I can use the relieving spell again."

"Thank you that would be – appreciated," he muttered. The media-witch waved her wand and the pressure on his bladder disappeared. However, it did little to appease his frustration at being bed-bound. His expression was sour enough to turn milk off.

"Would you like some breakfast Severus?"

He considered the request. He didn't particularly feel hungry, but knew the importance of eating to regain both his own and magical strength. "As long as it isn't porridge – I can't abide the stuff!"

"Very well, what about an egg – and some toast?"

He nodded once, "Thank you. That would be acceptable."

Poppy summoned a house elf who appeared with a pop. The little creature listened eagerly to her instructions then dissaparated and re-apparated a few seconds later with another pop, carrying a tray that contained a boiled egg and 2 slices of toast cut into halves, diagonally. There was also a cup of coffee for which Severus was most happy to see.

"I is bringing sirs toasts and eggs, Miss," the elf informed Poppy.

"Thank you Dilly," Poppy said as she took hold of the tray and carried it over to the prone man. The elf disappeared with a pop.

It took Severus a while to eat his breakfast. His throat felt dry and scratchy and his stomach appeared to have shrunk to the size of a pea, but the coffee helped to wash the meal down. He left the edges of the toast on the plate – knowing full well that he would have berated any students who did the same. He discovered, to his pleasant surprise, that he seemed to have a little more energy and using the heel of his hands as leverage, he pushed himself up into a vague sitting position. He had just got himself arranged comfortably when Poppy re-entered the room and fed him several potions.

"What is this one?" He enquired, scowling at the red liquid he didn't recognise.

"It's the antidote to that particular snake's venom." She explained. "It was developed for Mr Weasley Senior, when he was bit two years ago and we managed to obtain the formula from St Mungo's."

She uncorked the vial and handed it to him. He took it from her and sniffed at the contents." Dittany, murtlap and yarrow, if I'm not mistaken. Plus something else – Alfalfa. Yes – excellent at blood clotting I believe."

When all the vials were empty, Poppy took them from him and announced. "You have a visitor, Severus."

He felt his pulse quicken. Harry Potter? He didn't know if he could cope with a visit from the foolhardy Gryffindor so soon. He trained his eyes on the door with some trepidation but his soon discovered his fears to be unfounded as a familiar figure popped her head round the door.

"Oh, Minerva – it's you!"

She smirked, "Why Severus, just who were you expecting – the new Minister of Magic – which is Kingsley Shacklebolt now, in case you were interested." She announced with the soft Scottish lilt as she strolled into the room and took the seat by his bed.

"Not particularly," he retorted dryly, "unless I wished to know who was going to order my extradition to Azkaban."

She pursed her lips. "You appeared to be expecting someone else."

He breathed in deeply and exhaled. "Yes, I did wonder if I might receive a visit from Mr Potter."

His colleague's mouth quirked at the corner. "Well if you were Mr Potter, Severus, would you?"

He considered this carefully before answering. "Yes, I think I would take advantage of the teacher who made my life a misery, whilst he was at a distinct disadvantage and unable to do magic."

"Well that is where you and Mr Potter are very different, Severus. Harry would never think like that and if you had ever taken the time to get to know him, you would have realised this."

"And compromised my position as spy!" he hissed, then winced and closed his eyes as a sudden pain throbbed in his temple."

"Severus are you alright?" Minerva leaned over his bed, concern etched into the lines on her face.

He nodded, then opened his eyes, reaching out a hand. His long, thin fingers looked like a pale spider protruding from the pyjama sleeve. "Water."

She passed him the glass and whispered, "Aguamenti." He closed trembling fingers around the glass and sipped at the contents. Minerva silently added a stabilizing charm to stop the water from spilling over the side.

"Would you like to me to call Poppy? She can give you a pain relieving potion."

He shook his head. "I'll be…OK."

Minerva relived him of the glass, replacing it back on the bedside table and settled back into the chair. "Tell me Severus. Did you really despise the boy so much – or was it part of the subterfuge."

He turned his head and stared out of the window, unsure of the answer. He had loathed the black haired child who reminded him so much of James Potter, and deep down no matter how much he had justified this to himself, a part of him had known that this was wrong. He had refused to acknowledge this, dampening down any guilt. Refusing to see how much the boy was, in fact, like Lily.

"Severus…?"

He sighed and rolled his head slightly on the pillow, so that his eyes met Minerva's. What she saw reflected in them surprised her. Instead of the usual sneer that accompanied any mention of her former house resident, Severus looked somewhat ashamed.

"I – always assumed that Mr Potter had grown up a pampered prince, spoilt and indulged by his relatives – I was wrong."

"And yet Severus, the one child who was like that, you allowed to get away with…" she stopped herself just short of saying the word, "Murder!"

Severus' eyes flickered down to the bedsheet. "I'm sorry Severus, I didn't mean…"

For a moment, there was an awkward silence. Then he slowly shifted his gaze from the bed to his friend. "What happened to Draco?"

"Oh don't worry, he survived. His parents actually turned their backs on Voldemort and they walked away before the end of the battle. They are currently under house arrest, I have been informed."

He raised an eyebrow. "Lucius turned his back on the Dark Lord?"

"Yes, apparently so. Although I was only made aware of this later as the rest of us were more concerned about the fact that they had just announced the death of Harry Potter. I guess you weren't the only one who was good at acting, Severus."

He smirked. "So Potter led the Dark Lord to believe he had perished?"

"Aye. Hagrid brought his 'body' back from the Forbidden Forest and for a moment, we thought all was lost then Neville Longbottom sliced the head of Voldemort's snake and Harry leaped up, back from the dead. I'm sure the moment will be recorded in history as truly spectacular. It's a shame you missed it Severus."

He smirked. "I shall no doubt read all about the heroic Gryffindors in every publication known to this world." The words were uttered with none of his usual malice. A sudden thought occurred to him. "Minerva, were you aware of the treatment Mr Potter received at the hands of his…relatives!" he spat the last word out, his lips curling into a sneer.

Minerva sighed, her eyes flickered to her hands before answering. "I was suspicious that all might not be well. I told Albus right from the very beginning that they were the worst kind of muggles, but he was adamant that Harry had to live with Lily's sister to keep the blood ward protection." She stared hard at her colleague. "What treatment, exactly did he receive, Severus?"

"He was repeatedly denied food and basic comfort. He was repeatedly subjected to mental and sometimes physical, abuse. He was never shown any kindness or…love." The last word seemed a little alien coming from his lips. "I should have realised. I knew Petunia as a child. She was spiteful and selfish. She was so jealous of Lily for her ability to do magic. She would call her a freak."

"That poor boy. It is an amazing testimony to his character that he turned out so well adjusted. How did you find out all this Severus? You and Harry were hardly on terms for him to confide in you? Occlumency, I presume."

Severus gazed into the distance, his dark eyes glazed over. "Something like that."