Title: All Things Considered
Summary: Harry thought going to war would be better than staying with the Dursleys. Too young to enlist, he sneaks on board a ship departing for war. When he is discovered, Severus Snape, an officer, is told to take care of him until he can be sent back home. One-shot/AU/non-magic
All Things Considered
I never saw fireworks as a kid. I wonder if what I'm seeing right now counts?
"For fuck's sake, keep your head down, Potter!"
It really is beautiful. Bright oranges and reds all whizzing and spiraling through the icy air - I'm mesmerized. I push a bit closer against his warm body, and I ignore the blood that's filling my trousers, and I just watch all the lights flashing above my head. It's one of those moments where everything just seems to fade away, and all you're left with is fuzzy impressions of things.
I never thought I'd see fireworks.
"God DAMN it, Potter! Move!"
It's a bit harder to ignore the pain now. I don't think he realizes that I've been hit.
"Cooperate! Raise your goddamn gun and pull the fucking trigger before I do the enemy a favor and just shoot both our asses right here and now!"
Finally, his face turns to me, his features twisted in anger.
And then he realizes.
His fist slams down beside my head like a gavel against wood, and he's shouting something, and the fireworks keep going, and the icy air keeps slipping away from my mouth...
Not like this. I don't want to die like this.
I'm not sure if my arms are moving, but I beg them to do as I say. Trembling, caked in dirt and blood, they raise into my blurred vision. His pale, shadowy face pushes down closer to mine, and I lock my fingers into his sweaty hair. He's still saying something, and I think I start to scream from the pain, but then his lips are on mine to muffle my sound. I can't give away our position. Besides, his kiss takes me away from the pain.
He pulls away when he realizes I'm not screaming anymore. I close my eyes to rest, but I still hear the fireworks and his heavy breathing.
I hear him unsheathe his blade and start cutting at the material of my pants. It jostles my hips, and I have to bite my lips to keep from screaming again.
"Dear God..." I hear him exclaim weakly as he sees the full extent of the wound. Bullets shoot over our heads in a fresh barrage and he drops on top of me. One of his hands is pressed against my bare chest, and I feel it shaking. I force my eyes open and meet his inky black ones. All sound fades away, and it is just the two of us staring.
He breaks the contact, and raises his head and his gun. Six shots. A scream several feet away answers the third one. The sixth one hits another faceless enemy. Furiously, he's searching for where I dropped my gun. He's out of bullets, but whoever was shooting at us has gone still.
I take a moment to marvel that I'm still alive and coherent. My senses keep falling away and returning – one moment I can only see, the next I can only hear.
My entire bottom half is unresponsive. My hands still work. I wiggle my fingers in a futile attempt to prove there is still life in me. I tilt my head to the side, and a lone bullet whizzes right by where my head had just been. Severus spins wildly to see if I'm hit. He seems relieved that I moved. I'm relieved too.
Another wave of bullets wash over us, as if from a machine gun, and Severus drops heavily on top of me once again. I scream, but whoever it is knows damn well where we are already.
Severus has found my gun. He pulls my ammo off my belt and loads the weapon efficiently despite his shaking hands. Then he raises above the rock that is protecting us and fires the gun methodically.
Each bullet is met with a scream. Not one missed its mark. A miracle.
Lying as I am, I see the jungle we have already fought through. Severus continues to shoot at the enemy ahead of us, but doesn't know that one has worked around. I try to speak, but my mouth is full of blood. I should be dying, I know I should, but somehow I'm still moving, still thinking clearly. I keep a gun in my boot that only holds three bullets. I reach for it.
That's when I realize.
I don't have boots anymore. Or legs.
Severus glances backwards and sees that I have sat up. He sees that I'm looking at my own mutilated body and pushes me down roughly.
"Don't look at it! You're going to live!"
I'm hyperventilating. Severus sees the man I noticed earlier and shoots him at the same time the man fires at us. The other man falls dead. The bullet slices through Severus's shoulder, though he only lets out a single hiss of pain before he stands and lets out a loud whistle.
I close my eyes just as I hear the other British soldiers swarming around us. We have captured the enemy base. We were successful.
When I awake again, I'm am being gently swayed from side to side. I see white and gray and sky. I turn my head and see Severus's profile against the gray. He's not looking at me. His chest is bare, and his shoulder is wrapped tightly in white. I roll my head back and close my eyes again. They put me on the injured helicopter after all.
"Are you awake, Potter?" That is a voice I recognize. A surly voice that is rough with concern and smooth with apathy all at the same time.
I blink a few times and the off-white ceiling swims into view. My senses return slowly. Severus is sitting beside me on a metal chair. My cot is snowy white. I'm not bleeding anywhere. I can't feel any pain other than a dull throbbing in my hips.
My cot is not alone. For miles on either side of me there are other cots. Some of them are as red with blood as my cot is white. Nurses bustle from cot to cot, prodding and poking with shiny metal gizmos and gadgets. I am alive, and Severus is alive, and we're out of that cursed jungle. For a moment, I'm the happiest man alive.
And then I remember.
I let out a sound that is part wail and part scream. I pitch my torso forward violently, and my hands shoot out in front of me. Please let it have all been a bad dream!
But I just fall forward, and my hands touch cottony mattress where my legs should have been. Two nurses are suddenly around my cot and they none too gently haul me back against the pillow.
"Your legs are gone, but you're alive. And you've been discharged from this awful war. Calm down and breathe. It's all over. You're alive. You made it through alive."
The nurse's mantra calms me, but does nothing to stopper the tears that are falling over my gaunt cheeks like twin rivers.
The nurses leave. Good. I didn't want them looking at me with pity in their eyes.
Rough hands caress my cheeks, scraping the tears away. I am so afraid that I will see pity and disgust when I look at Severus. But I don't. His eyes are clear and tranquil. His hands are strong on my face.
"Potter, do you have anyone you can contact? Any family?"
I shake my head no.
Severus nods as if he expected that to be my answer and seems to get lost in his own thoughts.
Of course, Severus doesn't know anything about my family, or lack thereof. None of the other soldiers knew anything about me really. When we invaded the beach, and everyone was dropping like dead weights around me, I panicked. I dropped my gun and just started shaking. Young men were being blown up all around me and I just kept feeling their blood spray on my face and I couldn't move. I didn't know it was him at the time, but Severus came up behind me and threw me over his shoulder. He carried me to the first of many rocky holes we would be seeking shelter in over the next few days. Later, he and the other officers started asking me questions. How old was I? Why wasn't I properly equipped? Why didn't I have dog tags? Surely I was too small to have passed the physical.
Scared, I confessed. I was only fifteen. I'd run away from home and snuck onto the ship. My mismatched equipment was stolen from other soldiers that seemed to have extra. When we had invaded the beach, it was the first time I'd ever held a gun. I didn't even know how to shoot it.
They had all sighed heavily and a few had become extremely angry. The one that seemed to be in charge of everyone else pointed a meaty finger at Severus and told him I was his responsibility until they could get me out of there and back to my mother.
I didn't tell them I didn't have a mother to go back to.
Severus hadn't said anything positive or negative. He just took his jacket off and wrapped it around my soldiers because it was cold and I was shaking. He sat down beside me in the makeshift bunker and pulled his gun off his back. He proceeded to show me how to load and shoot it.
Our squads were supposed to reach an enemy base that was deep in the jungle. If we moved swiftly and didn't have too many casualties, we could make it there in three days. Once we reached the base, we would secure the area and have a few days of rest before we would continue on, hopefully with air protection and reinforcements. They decided I would be sent back on the first plane carrying the injured.
I wasn't put on that plane, or the one after that, or the one after that. I wasn't put on the injured plane until both my legs were blown off.
My first night sleeping in the jungle had been better than all the nights I'd spent with my abusive relatives. The rest of the men didn't have any blankets or tents, but the officers did. Severus and another officer shared a tent. I never figured out what Severus's exact rank was, but I knew he was sort of like a second in command, and that he was very important. That night it got even colder, and I felt bad for the men outside. I felt even guiltier when Severus let me share his cot with him. I was warm, and I felt safe with the older man pressed against me. I slept better than I ever had before. When he brusquely awoke me the next morning, he had found me proper fitting clothes (though they were still loose) and weapons he thought I could handle without as much trouble.
I became a real soldier after that. I crawled and swam and ducked just like all the others. I shot when Severus told me to shoot, and I moved when Severus told me to move. I became his shadow, and some of the men jokingly called me Severus's lost puppy. Still, they were told of my age and most of them went out of their way to keep me from making fatal blunders.
We didn't make it to the base in a few days. We made it there in three weeks. After the first couple of nights, only the top officer kept his tent. Severus and I slept hunkered down in the dugouts and the rocky alcoves. I didn't mind. Even when I was wakened by the sound of bullets firing around me, I felt safe as long as Severus was there.
And he was always there. Always protecting me. Always watching my back.
Until I got hit just a few feet away from the enemy base we were trying so hard to capture.
And that brought me here, to a hospital in an unknown location, probably miles away from anything I knew or recognized, with no legs and a wounded officer as my only companion and friend.
I looked to the other side of my cot and smiled despite my situation. There, draped over a shiny wheel chair, was the camouflaged jacket that Severus had wrapped around my shoulders that first night. It was torn, ripped, and freshly washed, but it was there. Just like me.
He's the saddest thing I've ever seen. I hope to god he doesn't have a loving mother somewhere back home, because not long after he was brought to the hospital, photographers came and took pictures of his tiny torso, his stubs clearly visible under the thin sheet. The headlines a few days later called him a child of the war. Since I refused to comment, or give them any information about who we were, they merely pasted his picture over all the papers and ranted about all the innocents that were being dragged into this mess. I agree with their anger. Despite the fact that the army has been my life, and this is the second war I have fought in, I am glad to be discharged. I have already resigned. I have made my fortune blowing up faceless men, and in an ironic twist, the wound I took to the shoulder will prevent me from ever shooting a rifle again.
I could have left the hospital two weeks ago. It's certainly not a pleasant place to stay. Each day I fear seeing another one of my men brought in with wounds that will leave him forever crippled. Each day I fear for the men I don't see brought in, because it makes me wonder if they are dead in the jungle rotting with malaria.
But I stayed, because I didn't want the boy to wake up in a strange place with only my jacket for company. No one would have been able to give him any information about my whereabouts or what was to be done with him. Since he was never officially signed with the army, his medical bills would need to be covered by someone, or else he would be put onto the street so that his cot could be cleared for yet another suffering soldier.
I refused to let that be his fate. He was my responsibility in the jungle. He is my responsibility now. I paid for his medical costs. He needed surgery from a physician that had to be flown in. Then there was the expense of a wheelchair. The bill for his medications alone would have surely bankrupted a less well off man, but money has never been in short supply for me.
Now the nurses say he is free to go, and he says he has no one expecting him and no way to get there even if there was someone that wanted him.
"Potter," I say, drawing his attention back to me. "I am taking you with me to my home in London. Unless, of course, you wish me to take you elsewhere."
For the first time since he's been in the hospital, he opens his mouth to speak.
And closes it quietly. He shakes his head once in the affirmative. I have heard about soldiers that suffer through severe trauma becoming mute. I hope that is not the case. He has suffered enough. Especially for one who is only fifteen.
"Well then, the nurses say you are ready to go, and I have been healed for quite some time. We will take an overnight train to my home." I trail off, thinking of all that needs to be done. "We will need certain necessities for the trip that I will need to purchase. I'm quite sick of wearing this uniform, and you can't get on the train wearing an open backed gown."
He flushes prettily, his green eyes light up, and I wonder what I have said that has made him blush so heatedly.
Dismissing it, I tell him I will leave to purchase what we need. I start to go, but then I see how his eyes cloud with worry, and I realize it is the first time I have left him since the beach invasion. Sighing at my own sentimentality, I pull my wallet from my uniform pocket and extract my dog tags. I put them in his hand. He looks down at the dull chain, his face uncomprehending.
"My dog tags. Hold on to them until I get back." I don't know how I knew that would help, but he visibly relaxes and clutches the battered chain like a life line. I suppose he just needed some kind of proof that I was coming back for him, and that he wouldn't be left in this hospital forever.
The general store across the street from the hospital has everything we'll need. I buy several button down shirts for myself and a few pairs of black and khaki pants. After living most of my life in uniform, I can't bring myself to purchase the soft jeans and cotton t-shirts. I do get several t- shirts for Potter though. I don't buy him any pants, because even the soft jeans will be too abrasive on what's left of his legs. Instead, I get him a full stock of pajama bottoms and a pair of pajamas for myself as well. I buy the other necessities and luxury items, and finally two sturdy leather backpacks, one in black and one in brown. Thinking of the long train ride, I also stock up on my favorite candy bar. I get an assortment of the others because I don't know what Potter will want. I am almost ready to check out when a small collection of journals and novels catches my eye. I purchase a book that interests me, and one I think will appeal to Potter, and also a small green journal. Satisfied with my purchases, I check out and head to the restroom to change.
Potter seems surprised to see me dressed in semi-casual clothing. He looks me up and down and gives me a small smile. He loosens the death grip on my dog tags.
"I've brought you a bag that should have everything you'll need." I proceed to place all his various medications in the large pocket of his backpack. After that, I pull out a pair of soft, solid green pajama pants and a white long sleeved t-shirt. With out giving him time to prepare or think too much about it, I pull the sheet back and help him sit up. He stares resolutely at the wall across from him, refusing to look at the heavily bandaged stumps that end about mid-thigh. He doesn't have any underpants on, so that's the first thing I tug on him. A soldier that doesn't look very wounded leers at him as I pull the underpants up awkwardly. While I do so, Potter wraps his arms around my shoulders so that he can pull himself up off the bed. The soldier snickers. I shoot him a glare and he hastily looks away. Potter blushes again.
After I have put the pajama pants on him in the same manner, I leave him to finish dressing himself. When I turn back around after rummaging in the bag, his blush has died down and he's pulled the snug t-shirt on. His green eyes search mine imploringly, as if questioning what happens next.
"It's in the middle of winter, Potter. If it was chilly in the jungle at night, it's freezing outside here." I hand him a pair of fleece lined gloves, a red scarf, and a thick green jumper that I didn't bother to pack into the bags. I bought a black one for myself. When I am satisfied that he won't die of a cold, I help him tug on my jacket and lift him into the chair. I was cautious about lifting him, but he made no indication that it caused any pain. A nurse that walked by informed me that he didn't have any feeling in his legs, and that they were mostly healed anyway, so I didn't have to be so careful.
I wheel him out of the hospital, into the yellowed elevator, and out through the front doors. We catch a taxi to take us to the train station. I load Harry in the back and place the chair in the trunk.
At the train station, Harry lowers his gaze and refuses to look at all the people that stare at him. I remind myself that I need to tell him about the newspaper article. I speak briefly with the conductor about what will be done with the chair. It is decided after a few moments of planning that I will carry Harry onto the train, and his chair will be folded up and placed in the luggage car. We're given a compartment near the restroom, and I'm glad they thought of it because I probably wouldn't have.
The compartment is nice – heaven compared to a dugout and that metal chair I've been sleeping in for the past few weeks. Again, we'll have to share a bed but I don't think Harry will mind overly much. There is a window and a storage unit to place our bags overhead. There's a bench, a large window, and the fluffy looking bed. We also have a built in trash bin and a tiny bit of closet space to hang up a few outfits. I realize I don't want to put Harry down. I can't explain why, but I like to hold him. Maybe it's just because I feel like when I'm holding him, he's not going to get hurt again.
I eventually set him onto the bed, and prop him up with pillows. He takes off the jacket and the jumper because the compartment is warm, and lets me tuck him in. Wordlessly, I offer him the book and journal I purchased for him, and one of the candy bars. I get comfortable on the padded bench and pull out my own novel. Finally, he speaks.
"Thank you. This...this is the first present I've ever gotten."
I'm surprised by that, but I don't let it show.
"I was happy to get it for you. A journal will help you work out what you're feeling." He gives me a smile, bigger than the one he gave me in the hospital, and idly runs his fingers over the small journal.
"Do you keep a journal?" He asks after a moment. I put my book down. It's obvious he wants to talk after being silent for so long.
"I did long ago. When I was in my first war, I was not much older than you. I had...trouble coping with what I saw every day. I didn't have a journal per say, but we were given paper to write letters home on, and I used that." I know what question that will inevitably spark.
"You didn't have anyone to write home to?"
How did I know he'd ask that?
"Only my father, and he did not wish to hear from me. He died before I came home from the first war."
He's silent, his eyebrows forked downwards in intense thought.
"May I ask another question?"
"You just did."
"Well, another one then."
"I can't guarantee I'll answer, but you may ask."
"Why didn't your father want to hear from you?"
What a loaded question. For the first real conversation the two of us have had, he certainly chose a hell of a topic.
"For a number of reasons, I suppose. He always favored my older brother who was eager to run for office. My father made his fortune in politics, and it was all the man ever talked about. I never had a passion for politics as they both did, so I entered the service without my father knowing. It wouldn't have been so bad, but my father didn't agree with the war and the leaders of the country at the time. He saw it as a rebellion, when I merely wanted to find my calling. I came home from that war a hero. I'd proved my mettle on the battlefield, and was given several promotions. When I finally made it back home, my father had died of leukemia, and my brother had moved out of the country. I was left with our old home in London and a large inheritance. I had no need or desire for either."
"Where is your brother now?"
"The last I heard, he had started a family and was doing quite well for himself. He did contact me before this war started to find out if I would be serving again. He wished me well, and we certainly didn't part on bad terms." I pause, wondering if I want to try and gain information from him. "But what about you? You said you ran away from home. Why?"
He looks out the window at the scenery lurching by and suddenly seems to be very small and vulnerable.
"Let's just say that if they knew I'd gone and blown off both my legs, they would have told me to have a nice walk to nearest street corner, because they never would have supported me as a cripple."
After that, he rearranges his pillows and turns away from me. It's not long before I hear his breathing even out and the soft snores I've come to recognize as his unique sleeping sound. I can't decide if our conversation went well or not.
But at least it was a start. I pick up the novel and continue to read. It's not as good as I'd hoped, but it will pass the time.
The train compartment is like a whole other world. It's wonderful, and I wish we never had to get off. I lie in the bed and watch the forests and cities slip by through the window. Severus reads his book, and sometimes he reads out loud because I told him his voice was nice.
We eat hot meals off little trays that are brought to us when we ask. We talk when we both feel like talking, though never about the war. Our first day is nearly over, and I realize that Severus will be sleeping with me again. I know I should feel disgusted that I like it, but I'm too tired to care about what I should be feeling. Right now I just want to thank whatever God is out there that there's someone who will still get in a bed with me, even though I'm so mutilated. I assume he's going to share the bed with me. He might sleep on the bench. I don't know what I'd do if he slept on the bench. Probably cry.
I've already written four pages in the journal. Mostly about what Severus and I have talked about on the train. I wrote a little about the Dursleys, and just a few lines about how thankful I am that Severus cares about me enough to take me to his home. I'm excited to see it, but I'm loathe to leave the train. The compartment is like a shell around us, cocooning us safely away from the world.
But I've gone most of the day putting off something that can't be put off much longer. This is going to be beyond embarrassing.
He glances up from his book, and I notice a bit of chocolate is smudged on the corner of his mouth. He ate another candy bar while I was napping. He must really miss chocolate when he's away at war. He's eaten it nearly none stop since we got on the train.
"I kind of...err...need to go."
"Go where?" He asks obliviously, putting his book down. I heave a mighty sigh of frustration.
"To the bathroom."
For the first time ever I see him blush faintly.
"Yes, oh." I reply a bit cheekily. I can't help it. It's funny to see him embarrassed for a change.
"Alright, well, I'll just have to..." He trails off, seems to think for a moment, and then comes to lift me. Happily, I wrap my arms around his neck and press my face into his broad shoulders. He's so much stronger than I am. This time he lifts me as if I were a child, holding me pressed against his chest, one strong arm under my rump and the other on the small of my back. It takes a bit of maneuvering, but we eventually make it into the bathroom. Thankfully, it's not overly cramped.
"I don't know how we're going to do this exactly. I suppose you'll just have to sit." Jesus this is going to be awkward. I'm blushing already at the thought of him seeing me without my pants on.
"You kissed me. When I was screaming because of my legs."
I can't believe I just said that. There we both are, standing awkwardly in a bathroom, and he's trying to figure out how to let me pee without making the experience too degrading, and I just bust out with that. Sometimes my mouth moves without me. I hope he pretends to not understand me, even though that would crush me. I hope he says that I was just imagining things because I'd lost so much blood. I hope he says he was just muffling my scream so we wouldn't be found out.
I don't really want him to say any of that. I can't bear to look at him.
He sits me onto the sink, but he doesn't move away. I still have my arms wrapped around his shoulders, and my face is still pressed into his neck. A few moments pass in unbearable silence before he finally says something.
"Yes, I did."
Well, I could have told him that much. And I did, in fact. I was hoping he'd elaborate a bit more. Nervously, I peek up at him.
"And?" I prompt, suddenly flushed with courage. A small smile slowly comes to his face, and then he makes a sound of amusement – not quite a laugh and not a snort. Slowly, ever so slowly, he brings our foreheads together until our lips are so close that we're breathing each other's air.
"And you were a good kisser, all things considered."
I tip my head back and our lips meet. I close my eyes and wrap my arms more tightly around him. When the kiss ends, he embraces me, his cheek pressed roughly against mine, his obsidian eyes closed tightly.
I want to kiss him again, so I start with little kisses up and down his jaw. He lets me map his face with tiny touches from my lips until he remembers where we are.
"Didn't you need to use the restroom?"
"Just lift me up a bit, will you?" He does as I ask, and I manage to get my pants down. He looks over my shoulder, giving me what little privacy can be found in such a situation. "Okay, to the toilet."
When I'm done with my business, we somehow manage to make it back to the cabin. It's dark outside, and I suddenly want to feel his warmth very much. He places me in the bed, and then goes about changing into his pajamas. I know I should avert my eyes, but I can't help but look. I got a few glimpses of him when we were in the jungle, but now I can see all of him without something in the way. His legs are long, and lightly tanned. I can clearly see the muscle lacing the bone. His waist is lean, and I absently think that it won't stay that way if he keeps eating so much chocolate. His stomach is like a washboard, and his chest is a man's chest. There is a thin scar on his muscular shoulder. I feel very puny in comparison. He pulls on his pajama pants, but leaves his shirt off.
"Do you mind if we go to sleep now?" he asks quietly, as if afraid to break the spell that has fallen over us.
"No, of course not." I scoot over as best I can, and he eventually leans over and lifts me to the far side of the bed. Once we're both under the covers, I nearly cry with delight when his strong arms wrap around me and pull me against his chest.
"Don't cry. Everything will work out in the end." I guess I really had started to cry. But for once in my admittedly pitiful life, I'm crying because I'm happy. I don't tell him though. I merely wrap my warms around him more tightly and revel in being held by someone that cares about me. The battered chain is wrapped around my neck, and his cool metallic dog tags are trapped between our chests. I am not so afraid of going to London anymore. I am not so horrified about what has happened to me.
As long as I continue to be Severus's responsibility, I think I will be very happy.
I hear his breathing even out, and I feel my own lids close. I don't know if he's awake or not, but I feel like I should tell him anyway.
"You were a good kisser too...all things considered."
I think he smiled, but I can't be sure.
A/N: Any feedback is appreciated. Thank you for reading my story, and I hope you enjoyed it. I intended this to be a one-shot, but I might later do an epilogue about the couple's life in London if people seem interested.