Harry shifted in his seat, flinching as his bitten fingernail snagged against the seat cover. He'd been passed from pillar to post this summer. In his second week he had left the Dursley's in favour of the burrow after it became apparent that Harry's laziness may have been something else, and so fearing for their ever precious son his aunt and uncle had packed him off to the only people who would be willing to take him.
There at the Burrow, Harry grew more listless, preferring to sit in front of the fire and read than play with the guys. Sometimes he didn't even manage to work up a smile in response to the twin's miscreant activities. Molly fussed over him to no end, plying him with sweets whilst declaring that all he needed was a good sugar rush and then he'd be as right as rain.
He wasn't. Arthur pulled a few strings at the ministry and managed to get a specialist appointment at St. Mungo's, fearing that with all the recent events catching up on him, Harry might be suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome.
They had talked to him. Persuaded him to see a counsellor, which he did. It wasn't that he wasn't right in himself., he wanted to go out and fly, he wanted to stay up all night playing hide and seek, he wanted to set up an elaborate trap for when Charlie came home. It's just that he...couldn't.
The counsellor, lovely girl by the name of Lucy, had passed her notes onto his next doctor, who had frowned and then (because he was the boy who lived) had Harry undergo just about every medical test in existence.
And that was how he came to be sitting here, in this uncomfortable chair whose stretched wool cover itched at the bare skin on his arms, in this clinically sterile office with nothing on the walls, nor any ornaments, not even a plant. Trying to digest the information that he was dying. He had cancer, complicated by the fact he was a wizard. A form of Non Hodgkin's lymphoma, it certainly explained his lethargy. It wasn't enough that he had this disease flowing in his veins, he couldn't go through normal procedure due to his prevalent magic. Turns out that many a good witch or wizard had been turned into squibs by muggle intervention. The treatment of cancer in the muggle world would in essence suck the magic out of him, the harsh chemicals binding with and destroying anything foreign in his blood stream.
Harry snapped out of his reverie so hard that he was sure something in his neck cracked. He lifted his eyes from where they had been fixed unseeing on the corner of the black wooden desk, the suns reflection blurred again on its polished surface before righting itself into white slashes against the pitch of wood.
"Mr. Potter. I can understand your shock but we need to discuss where we go from here."
Dr. Andrews. A nice enough man. Quite pleasant in both voice and appearance, looked at him with genuine concern. Obviously learning long ago that people very rarely wanted pity.
"There is a course of treatment that can be undergone," he said, shuffling through a folder for several sheets, sliding them across the desk to be left unseen in front of Harry. "But there are difficulties concerning it. Its complex and dangerous in its nature so therefore must be administered by a health professional, that in itself will require you to remain here during the treatment. There are of course" he looked up, a quick glance to take in the pallid face, "side effects. But they're nothing major, nothing that can't be fixed in one way or another. The length of the treatment depends on the person, as your condition was caught fairly early, and taking into account your age and relative fitness, it may only take a year to push you into remission. But there is of course the chance of relapse."
Dr. Andrews placed the folder on his desk and looked at harry. "Mr Potter?"
Harry pulled his arms across his chest, feeling suddenly cold, and so very aware of the shaking in his hands. He cleared his throat, fearing that maybe his voice wouldn't work.
"I'd have to stay at St Mungo's?"
Dr. Andrews nodded slowly, reaffirming it with a yes when realising he was out of Harry's peripheral vision. "We will of course need to speak to your guardians, they'll need to sign some of the paper work regarding your stay."
At this Harry looked up and shook his head. "I have no legal guardians."
And it was true. It was one thing that Vernon Dursley had made clear as they waited at the end of the drive for Mr Weasley to pick Harry up (By car this time). He had been told that as he would be turning eighteen next summer he could very well find his own place to live. Harry had tried to remind him that there were several weeks of summer next year before his birthday. His uncle just snorted, caught sight of the familiar blue Anglia turning the corner into his street and left.
Dr. Andrews looked at the topmost sheet in his folder. "Who are you staying with?"
"Mr and Mrs Weasley. Then I'll be returning to Hogwarts." Hogwarts. The realisation hit him and forced a gasp through his gritted teeth. He wouldn't be returning.
"Ah. I see. So you will be under the guardianship of Albus Dumbledore." He made a note in the margin with what Harry noted in a brief moment of clarity, a biro. The only biro he had ever seen in the wizarding world.
He felt slightly calmed at the mentioning of Dumbledore.
The headmaster's office was exactly the same as it had been every other time he had been in it. Except maybe for the streaks of hot summer rays pouring through the high windows. Harry had never stepped foot in this office in mid summer.
He ran his hand along the soft leather arm of the chair he was happily ensconced in, tracing obscure patterns on its worn surface. The headmaster himself was currently escorting Dr. Andrews to the front gate after a long and frankly tiring meeting that had held a lot of tears, promises and arguments. Professor Dumbledore had gone through the entire situation with Harry's doctor but as his guardian, refused to sign the papers releasing harry into the care of St. Mungo's. He had insisted that Harry would stay at Hogwarts and floo back and forth to St. Mungo's if necessary. This didn't bother Harry one bit, although they had been reminded in one of Dr. Andrews' rare fits of temper that any side effects would be accecerbated by the frequency of travel.
His thoughts were interrupted by movements on the stairs. He turned in his seat as the door opened, allowing a large tartan bag to pass through, followed closely by Harry's head of house. She caught sight of him and lowered the bag. There was no doubt that she had been told. It was just to cliché for someone to turn up uncalled on the day that one of their students arrives with news this bad.
Harry stood to greet her; only too aware of the ever-present tears in his reddened eyes. He tried to smile.
"Oh, Harry." It was a pained whisper that escaped her lips as she spread her arms. Without hesitation he went to her, burrowing his face in the soft velvet robe at her shoulder and crying so hard that he scared himself. Never before had he felt so desperate, so alone, so... everything. And yet nothing. And so aware was he that things shouldn't be like this. That it wasn't fair. Hadn't he done all he was supposed to, all that was asked of him? He felt the sun on his back, the sheer heat of the room he was in and thought that he should be outside, running about with Ron, de gnoming the garden. Or at the very least, lying in the flowerbeds at number four Privet Drive. But he wasn't. He was here, crying as though his heart had been ripped out in the arms of his head of house. He wasn't even aware of her stroking the unruly mop of hair as he pulled taught the rich fabric bunched in his fists.
It was to this scene that the others walked in. Dumbledore had returned, with company. Harry looked up with tear streaked eyes to see madam Pomfrey close the door quietly behind her, her sympathetic eyes roving his form as he extracted himself from McGonagals embrace. He acknowledged her with a nod, then turned his eyes on Snape. He stood unmoving at Dumbledores side with an unreadable expression on his face.
"Now we are all here, I just want to say something quickly. Please everybody, sit." He motioned to the chairs in front of his desk. Harry sat back down in the one he was previously occupying, McGonagal sitting beside him and resting a hand on his arm. He looked over as a black robe was draped across the arm of the chair on his left. Snape sat down; eyes intent on the picture of his colleagues hand on his student's arm. His gaze shifted to Harry's, and for the first time in six years, they held no rancour, just a weird kind of non emotion.
"I've explained to you the situation," Dumbledore looked to each of them, who nodded in return. "Mr.Potter will be staying with us for the rest of the holidays in order to start his treatment. I have arranged for hi s things to be taken to the guest suite on the south corridor. That way you'll be more centrally located" He added to harry. "The necessary documents are being sent over by hospital governors that outline the overseeing of Harry's medical care and that it will be undertaken by Madam Pomfrey and Professor Snape."
Harry looked over at Pomfrey who smiled at him indulgently, then at Snape who was staring resolutely at a point on the far wall, apparently in a world of his own. All eyes turned to Dumbledore as he stood and walked around his desk. "Now. If that is all, I believe we all have things to be getting on with.
They all stood to leave, McGonagal holding the door open for Pomfrey as they left.
"Mr. Potter," Snape spoke quietly, "I will require you in my office at eight tonight."
It was strange, Harry thought, what it took for some people to be nice to you. Well, nicer.
Harry spent the remaining afternoon with the headmaster, moving his things into his room, talking about the arrangements, generally talking, crying some more and drinking a ridiculous amount of tea.
Dinner was in the great hall, though it seems that in the summer the staff sat at a smaller table due to the lack of numbers. Harry took a seat at the end of the table, opposite Dumbledore who was already handing out buttered carrots to Professor Flitwick who was teetering precariously on a stack of cushions. They ate mostly in silence, keeping their heads down and offering quick glances towards Harry's end.
The silence was interrupted by Professor Snape, who took the empty seat to Harry's right. He spared Harry a quick glance, but it was without the avoiding nature of the others, and commented softly, "I hope you don't have a fear of needles, Potter"
Harry looked up from his barely eaten meal and outright stared at the man who, Harry saw, wasn't actually eating either. He thought about pulling together a questioning frown, but knew better than to aggravate Snape, he settled for a simple "No Sir."
Snape nodded, seemingly to himself, whilst carving patterns into the small mound of potato on his untouched plate.
It seemed that during their little exchange the headmaster had taken it upon himself to ask how the others were, were they getting along in their chosen research, visiting any family soon and the like. The staff indulged him in their knowledge whilst Harry and Snape sat in their quiet little bubble at the end of the table, both, seemingly, wishing they were anywhere else but here.
At seven thirty he watched as Snape checked his watch for what must have been the tenth time in the last five minutes. The watch, Harry noted, was worn on the mans left arm, one of those with a wide leather strap. Most likely strategically placed to hide what was left of the dark mark. The man gave a short sigh in what could only be irritation and stood up, drawing his attention to the others.
"I'm leaving." No asking for permission, "And I'm taking Potter with me."
Dumbledore nodded and smiled in a genial way that no doubt got under Snapes skin before resuming his conversation with Professor Sprout. Snape motioned for Harry to follow him. He followed his Professor out of the hall and along the corridors that lead to the dungeons.
"Thank you sir." Harry kept his voice quiet as though giving Snape the option as to whether he had heard him or not. As it turned out, the man did.
"Don't mention it. You looked as bored as I did." No inflection in the otherwise curt reply. Harry cleared his throat a little.
"Thanks anyway. And for...everything. I know your not enamoured with the idea of doing this for me, or...Dumbledore" He shrugged in a way that made it quite obvious that he thought Snape was probably being ordered to help him by their ever delightful headmaster, "but I appreciate it all the same."
He was waiting for a scathing reply along the lines of the world bowing at his feet, how all other mortals shall cease their actions in deference to their saviour's pain. Snape was silent. Which upon reflection worried him.