Title: Hush, Sweet Harry

Author: Gold-Snitcher

Chapter Title: I Fear

Pairing: SS/HP

Summary: After an attack, Harry is believed to be beyond help. The damage has apparently left him the equivalent of a vegetable. The decision is almost unanimous, send the boy back to his relatives, even though it will mean his system will slowly shut down, and in the next six years, he will be dead. Protest against the plan comes from a most unexpected source and a startling discovery restores hope where there once was none.

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

It had been shocking and horrific, and most everyone was still unable to process what it was they had seen -- or the implications -- or anything at all.

Hogwarts was the safest place in the Wizarding World, bar Gringotts.

Albus Dumbledore was the most powerful wizard since Merlin.

And Voldemort was dead.

This kind of thing was supposed to be impossible.

As impossible as it supposedly was, that didn't change the fact that it had happened.

"Shh. It will be alright, child," Madame Pomfrey cooed as she carefully maneuvered the boy down the hall with a spell. He was alive and conscious -- something that seemed unbelievable -- and she was doing her best not to let her tears fall at the incredible sight. She had always been so fond of this child. Between his frequent visits and his innocent and stubborn nature, it would have been difficult to not feel fond. "It will be just fine," she assured once more, trying to focus on the boy's eyes, which were opened wide and looked shocked and pleading and scared. "Shhh," she crooned.

"Poppy, I will be in the hospital wing shortly, there are certain potions which I must collect," Severus said, hurrying up to her, and then passed her as soon as he had said this. She nodded as she continued on her way, aware of Albus coming up beside her now.

"What will be done, Albus?" she asked, frightened and wanting guidance, wanting some form of grounding.

"The only thing that can be done at this moment is to see if Mr. Potter can be salvaged," he said. His tone was shocking in it's simplicity. Was the man daft? Did he not see what she saw? Six inches. Six entire inches, and there was so much blood!

"Salvaged, Albus?" she asked, stunned by his phrasing. "I will need help with this. I am a fully trained medi-witch, and with Severus' aid we will be able to work fast. But perhaps someone more experienced! Someone who specializes in this sort of thing?" Six inches! "Albus, I have never worked with this sort of extensive damage before! She was pleading and she knew it. It seemed impossible that the boy should live and she couldn't bear to have his death on her hands.

"Poppy, we simply haven't time to contact St. Mungo's," Albus dismissed, without turning to look at her. He was also carefully avoiding having to look at the boy, who still watched with wide and pleading eyes. The statement seemed ridiculous. It was a simple matter of a floo call, someone would arrive straightaway, especially if they dropped the child's name. It occurred to her that it was not that someone could not be contacted; it was that Albus simply would not. The thing that kept Hogwarts open and populated was the idea of its complete security. Everyone knew that Hogwarts was impenetrable. Everyone knew that Albus was the strongest wizard. But if news of this were to get out? Chaos would ensue. Doubts would arise.

"Albus," she breathed. Shocked and horrified that he would sacrifice this boy who had already lost so much in order to maintain appearances.

"I must go, Poppy. I must deal with Mr. Malfoy, and there are things to arrange. I trust you will do what you can." He left her at the door to the medical wing, holding it open for her as she levitated Harry inside.

She heard the doors closed and spared a glance towards them. That was it. She was left to somehow save the boy; a seemingly impossible feat. Quickly, she placed the boy on a bed and then cancelled the spell. Blood seeped onto the crisp white sheets, and despite all her training, her mind froze. It tried and tried again to process the sight before her. The frightened eyes, wide and pleading, the blood. Six inches. And that was where her mind always stuck. She could think of nothing else that she could do.

"For Salazar's sake, Poppy, have you not given the child a sleeping draught? Put him out of his misery," Severus ordered as he swooped into the room, the doors slamming shut behind him. He walked towards the bed in a black swirl of robes, snatched a potion, presumably a sleeping draught, from the box that he was holding, and, setting the box on the desk, bent over the bed to look into Harry Potter's frightened green eyes. "You will have to swallow this, Mr. Potter. Every drop, and I will not take a 'no' for an answer."

It seemed such a silly thing to say; so completely normal when this situation was anything but. It had the effect of shocking her out of her daze. She sprang into action as Severus massaged the boy's pale throat, helping him to swallow the draught. She collected a bowl of water and some clothes and readied her wand, mentally running through the spells she knew which she would need to use now. She watched as the green eyes unfocussed, and then the eyelids began to droop before finally falling closed.

Somehow, with the eyes closed, it became easier to draw in breath and she focused her attention on the wound. "We will need to remove the knife," she said with conviction.

"Obviously," Severus retorted. She expected a further retort. Something about the wound being an awkward one. But apparently the sight of Harry Potter, lying so still and silent, with blood poring from his wound, coating his face and neck and coloring his robes, and six inches of vicious steel sunk into his skull just behind his temple, was enough to unnerve the man (1).

"We must make haste," she said, needlessly. "I will need your help in casting the spells."

"Of course," he answered, and produced his wand.

......................

"He is alive," Poppy announced.

"Wonderful," Albus said with a smile, clapping his hands together as if the matter were closed.

"I am not finished," Poppy snapped out. She and Severus had been up the entire night and part of the morning operating on the boy, trying to remove the blade and then stabilize the boy. "He is sleeping now, but I am not sure of the extent of the damage. There is a possibility that, though he is alive, he may have severe brain damage."

"How so?" Minerva asked, shifting in her chair and looking nervous.

"I'm not sure. I've not dealt with a wound this severe, I will have to do some research. As far as I can deduce, the best scenario would be that he simply has trouble moving, he will probably suffer from sporadic black-outs, perhaps difficulty with memory and concentration."

"At worst?" Remus Lupin asked, speaking for the first time since the meeting had begun.

"He may never wake up." Poppy looked at the solemn faces and spared a particularly long glance for Remus. He looked worn, more so than usual, and it was not even nearing the night of the full moon. "We must prepare ourselves, whatever the outcome," she cautioned, before taking her seat.

"Quite right," Albus said, shifting in his seat and looking at everyone shrewdly from over the rims of his half-moon spectacles. "It is clear, from this incident, that there are still supporters of the Dark Lord, even if Voldemort has been killed. This attack on Harry came as a direct order from Lucius Malfoy who is, according to his son, making an attempt to assume the role of Dark Lord now that it is free." Dumbledore waited while everyone flinched, and then waited a second more to let the news sink-in. "Now, young Mr. Malfoy has offered to spy for us in exchange for being allowed to remain at the school."

The news was followed by startled gasps and whispers. "Albus, you cannot be serious! The boy attempted to kill another student!" Minerva cried out.

"Yes, that might be so, Minerva, but Harry will recover. And we must understand things from Mr. Malfoy's point of view; his father is a Death Eater. It has been a goal of Lucius Malfoy's, that Draco continue this latest of Malfoy traditions. Now, we have had a discussion, and I have arranged for young Draco to spend two weeks in detention." The headmaster paused when he noticed the disbelief and anger on the faces of his coworkers. "You all know that we must prevent Lucius Malfoy from rising to power as quickly as possible. We no long have Severus as a spy since he was forced to reveal himself. Draco will be punished."

"Two weeks of detention, Albus?" Severus asked. Even he seemed disgusted with this latest news.

"Gentleman," Poppy interrupted as she stood up, smoothing out her skirt with short movements that were the only sign that she was very angry. "I have a patient who is in need of my care. If this is the only thing we will be discussing. I think I should return to him."

"Yes, of course, Poppy," Albus said, and had the audacity to smile as if all were right with the world. "Please notify me as soon as Harry shows signs of waking." She nodded brusquely and left the room hastily.

............................

Albus stood quietly in the dark.

He could not bring himself to turn on the light, to confront the sight he knew he would see. He preferred to stand still and be with his thoughts, allow his mind to supply it's own image, rather than face the reality.

Somehow it was easier to process.

The boy would be pale, and still. He would look small and fragile, because Albus had seen him enough times to remember that this was always how the boy looked when he was in the hospital wing. It was such a contradiction. That this boy, of all boys, should look so frail.

Albus knew better, though. He had learned his lesson well. This child was not to be underestimated. How many times had Albus written him off as a child? Kept information from him? Patted him on he head and sent off to bed? And how many times had Harry turned right around and ended up confronting the problem, alone, and solving it, in one way or another?

It had taken the rather shocking death of the Dark Lord to make Albus realize that Harry Potter was one of the strongest wizards since Merlin. Stronger than even Albus himself. And it was with the pride of a grandfather that Albus had watched the boy in those months that followed the defeat.

But it seemed that difficult times were still with them. Albus had known, of course, that the void that Voldemort's death would leave would have to be filled. He had been prepared for it, but when it came, he was still surprised. That the new Dark Lord, in the form of Lucius Malfoy, could be so perfectly situated, on the board of director's at the school, working for the Ministry, and smart enough to know better than to play with dark marks and binding magic. Albus had no way to monitor the man. And it frustrated him that he could not set the proper punishment that Draco Malfoy deserved for the attempted murder of another student, but there were greater things at stake.

He sighed and stepped forward, gently touching a hand that rested, limp and cool on top of the white sheets. The fight was not over. Lucius would have to be taken care of, brought down, defeated in one way or another. And amidst it all, Harry would have to recuperate. Amidst the chaos of frantic adults and lost children.

Of course, it was something that Harry had seen before; anyone who survived the second war against Voldemort knew this. But it seemed too much to ask the boy to get well amidst that chaos. There would be an implied pressure as well. People would think that, since Harry had saved them all once before, he could do so again. Albus suddenly felt the urge to secret the boy away to some distant place where no one would ever find him. To keep him safe and innocent, as he could not have done before, when the prophecy demanded that the boy fight.

"What will we do with you?" Albus asked the sleeping child. He smiled sadly, patted the hand once more, and then retreated from the hospital wing before Poppy came round for her midnight checks.

...............................

Poppy was outraged, but she held her tongue. Instead, she focused on smoothing out the boy's sheets, and fixing the pain-killing potion that he would need to take as soon as he became fully awake.

Out of the corner of her eye, she watched as Albus adjusted his robes. He and Minerva and Remus Lupin were standing at the foot of Harry Potter's bed. Poppy had made it clear that too many visitors at once could prove to be too much for the child. She had asked that they all leave, or at least only Albus remain, but Albus had insisted. Behind them, on-hand lest his help was needed, Severus perched on a chair like a ruffled crow.

There was no sound as Harry slowly regained consciousness, even though he was likely suffering from intense pain. Poppy watched him carefully as his head shifted slightly and then, slowly, his eyes blinked open.

"Ah, Mr. Potter," Albus greeted. "Welcome back." This was answered by silence.

"Harry?" Remus tried, stepping closer to the side of the bed and placing a hand gently on the boy's arm, which was resting at his side.

"He may not have recovered the use of his voice," Poppy offered helpfully.

"Harry, if you can hear me, blink twice," Remus said, and smiled reassuringly. Harry simply looked back at him. "I don't understand," Remus said impatiently, moving away from the bed. "What's wrong?"

"Remus, there was the great chance of extensive brain damage. With damage as severe as that which Mr. Potter suffered, it was impossible for him to simply walk away," Poppy explained.

"What will it take for him to get better? Will he, even? Will he get better?"

"I will need to run some tests. If you will excuse me," she said, and, taking the hint, the room's occupants left. "What shall we do with you, Mr. Potter?" she asked. Harry simply looked back at her, his face expressionless.

...............................

"Poppy, would you care to explain the results?" Albus asked.

Poppy looked around at the expectant faces. Her eyes settled on the blond haired boy. "No, Albus. I will not share the results unless Draco Malfoy is dismissed from this room."

"Poppy ..." Albus began but on this, at least, she was adamant and he nodded reluctantly. "Mr. Malfoy. If you would excuse us." Draco Malfoy smirked, but stood and left the room. She waited until a few moments after the door had closed.

"It is most severe," she admitted. "He is completely unresponsive. The brain damage is extensive. He cannot ... he cannot respond or communicate. He cannot, as Remus discovered, comprehend what we say. I'm not certain if he can even hear us. I'm not even certain if rehabilitation will be possible in this case."

This news was greeted by silence. "I think it will be best if Harry were returned to his home to recover," Albus commented.

"Albus, I don't think it is that simple. I don't know much about this kind of injury, but from the studies I have read, if the patient is not kept in a place where they can get personal and proper care then the patient's system begins to shut down. They deteriorate. At most, they last about six years before they die."

"Nonsense, Poppy. I'm certain that the Dursleys will be more than happy to look after the boy."

"Albus. Regardless of whether or not they would be willing to look after the boy. The type of care he needs is extensive and can only be offered at a hospital. He needs to be transferred to St. Mungo's."

"I think, Poppy, that you are underestimating young Harry. No, I firmly believe that he will make a full and complete recovery. His relatives will take proper care of him." Poppy was too surprised to think, but this was Albus Dumbledore. Hadn't he always had some surprising premonitory sense? Was it possible that Albus knew that if the boy were only returned to the care of his aunt and uncle, then he would be able to recover?

"Albus, what you are suggesting is moving a victim of a stab wound to the head away from the care of trained staff and into the care of untrustworthy muggles," Severus snapped.

"Poppy has already stated that there is nothing she can do for our Harry. He needs rest and familiar territory. And he will be carefully monitored."

"Harry never liked the hospital wing," Remus said, a sad smile on his face.

"The boy is still alive. There is no need for the past tense," Severus snarled.

"I think that Albus is right," Remus offered. "It's the best of both options. Harry will be with people who can look after him, and he will have a trained medi-witch dropping in to make sure he is still maintaining."

"Albus, I cannot condone this decision," Severus added.

"Remus does make a point," Poppy offered.

"Will you stop and think about what it is you're suggesting?" When everyone avoided his eye, Severus shook his head, rose from his chair, and left the room in a swirl of robes.

"It is for the best," Albus assured those in the room.

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

TBC

I hope you enjoyed this chapter! Albus is going to be a bit of a bastard in this fic. Sorry 'bout that. Had to be done.

Please be patient! And please review, they will help me update faster!!

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

1) Some of you might think that it is impossible to survive a wound like this. Earlier today I might have been one of you! But I assure you, completely, 100 that this is possible and has happened, many times. A six in blade to the head, and he person can be awake. Later, I tamper a bit with the effects. But it is also possible to make a near full recovery from it. Please do not flame me, it's based on true events! Thank-you.