1Title: Hush, Sweet Harry
Chapter Six: I Learn
Harry arrived at the top of the steps and turned back, nervously waiting for Severus to reach his side. They stood there, at the top of the steps, not quite inside the large entrance hall.
It was the start of Christmas break and, as promised, Severus had arranged for he and Harry to make a trip to the center where Herz worked. It was a large, private facility, for which Severus was grateful. He had not been eager to deal with people in various state of illness. Severus had enough trouble with Harry, and he did appreciate his holidays for the quiet they provided him. He had had horrific images of being in a crowded, sterile hell, having to manage shuffling Harry between various tests without a moment to breathe. Now, observing the grounds as he was, Severus realized he couldn't have been further from reality.
Heilkraft Grove was a large facility located in Germany. The grounds were expansive, as Severus could plainly see, and extremely well kept. A large stretch of green grass, and a small forest with a well-kept garden just beyond. Severus was startled by the greenery, but recalled that Herz had always insisted that vegetation was key in aiding a healthy mental state. He deduced that the grounds must be covered, not only in strong wards, since Herz had been able to unflinchingly guarantee both Severus' and Harry's security, but also with a Summer-Life spell, which ensured that the temperature was always pleasant and ideal for vegetation, though it did not block storms of rain.
The building itself was large, but Roman. There were no doors dividing the front steps from the entrance hall. As they stood there, surveying their surroundings, Severus holding both his own and Harry's bags, Herz came bustling up from a hallways and grinning.
"You've made it! Come, come!" he said, ushering them further inside. "I insist that I show you around myself!" he said enthusiastically. He paused a moment and looked at Harry. "You look a sight better than when we last met," Herz said. "First, I should show you your rooms. It's a quiet section I placed you in."
They walked through hallways. It was quite a distance and Severus kept an eye on Harry, looking for signs of fatigue, or any hint that he was about to collapse. He noted, with a familiar sense of respect and gratitude which he remembered from his own dealings with Herz years ago, that the man kept their pace relatively slow. Herz claimed, of course, that he could not walk quite so fast as his taller companions (though Severus had seen him move quite quickly when required). Herz also paused often to point out a painting or a mural or sculpture, or describe some piece of the building's history. Strangely, ot perhaps not so strangely at all, these pauses seemed to occur when Harry's breathing went a bit ragged, or he seemed a bit unsteady on his feet. Severus wondered how much of the history they were hearing was accurate, and how much was a fictitious account made on the spur of the moment to draw attention away from Harry's weakness.
"Ah, these are your rooms," Herz announced, opening a door and ushering them inside. The rooms were small, but very airy. The walls were a pale grey, almost a bluish-silver color, with white trim. The widows were large, with thin white curtains, and there were two beds, both with dark purple covers. They looked quite comfortable. There were two dressers, and a fair-sized worktable, and a night table between the two beds. "This is suitable, yes?"
"Quite, thank-you," Severus said, as he placed his bag on one bed, and Harry's on the other.
"I will have your schedule brought. I imagine you might like a bit of a break to settle, but if you could stop by my office later, Severus," Herz said. Severus wondered what Harry was expected to be doing while he met with Herz but decided to trust his old acquaintance and nodded. "Then I will let you get acquainted with the rooms. Bathroom is over there," he pointed to a small white door. Severus nodded and Herz bowed a little and shut the door behind him.
"Is that bed suitable?" Severus asked. He had placed Harry's bag on the bed closest to the window and Harry had settled himself into a cross-legged position on it, and was rifling through his bag. Harry glanced up momentarily, but besides a slow blink and a vague look of appreciation, he did not clearly answer Severus' question. Severus took the response, however, to be an affirmation. I am going to take a shower," Severus stated as he rifled through his own bag to find a change of clothes.
By the time Severus emerged from the bathroom, showered and feeling refreshed, clad in more relaxed and lighter robes, Harry had fallen asleep. Harry's head propped on his bag, his shoes still on his feet, his right hand clutching a quill and his left stuffed inside the bag.
With a quirked eyebrow at the position that could only be far from comfortable, Severus approached the bed. Moving as slowly and carefully as he could, Severus first slipped the quill from between the fingers, setting it on the night table. He turned next to the shoes, which he unlaced and placed by the side of the bed. He paused to briefly assess his next task. Harry was a light sleeper, and Severus had learned it was better to disturb him as little as possible. He was surprised, as it was that Harry had not yet woken when either his quill or his shoes had been removed. Turning him so that he was appropriately lying in bed would likely be an impossible task.
Reaching across the sprawled legs, Severus removed one of the pillows from where it was tightly tucked beneath the blankets, and then he took the throw from the foot of the bed. He draped the throw across Harry and set about removing both the teen's hand, and his head from their position on the bag, replacing the bag with the pillow. Satisfied, Severus turned to the desk where he set the essays and quizzes he had taken with him, and settled in to begin marking.
The schedule arrived just after dinner and outlined the examinations and tests which Herz had planned for Harry, as well as the times and locations for each. In a small note attached to the schedule were directions to Herz's office with a repeated request that Severus meet him there.
Herz proceeded to explain that Harry should be given one tablet of the small pink pill in the container that Severus would find on his desk. Severus stopped reading the note and looked for the container, finding it by the small oil lamp. A close inspection revealed it to be a soporific. Clearly, Herz's intention was to knock Harry out for the duration of Severus' meeting.
He picked the note back up and continued to read it. Herz explained that Harry needed to be rested, as the journey would have been tiring (they had traveled by portkey, but it was quite a distance, and Harry loathed the method of transportation). Herz continued to say that each room was fixed with a monitoring charm so that the staff would be notified if Harry was in need of help.
Satisfied, Severus woke Harry enough to administer the pill and watch as the youth promptly returned to sleep (he had never left it completely anyhow). Feeling oddly guilty, Severus penned a short note and left it on the night stand along with the schedule and a book should Harry awaken before he himself returned, before he left the rooms and headed towards Dr. Herz' office.
"Ah, I was waiting," Herz said as he pushed the door wider and grinned. "Come, come," he said gesturing Severus further into the rooms. "Have a seat. I wanted to speak with you about Harry. I can call him Harry, yes?" Herz asked.
"I think that, if he were capable, he would insist on it," Severus drawled.
"Ah, good. I wanted to speak about any concerns or precautions you have concerning Harry."
"Precautions?" Severus questioned.
"Does he have certain phobias. Does he irritate easily, such things."
"Ah. You will find that he is quite determined and stubborn. He is wary of strangers but I think you should be able to sway him. Besides that, you should be aware of his wandless magic."
"Yes, you spoke to me of this episode with it," Herz said, resting back in his chair. "It strikes me," he said, after a moment of silence. "That his case is quite peculiar." Severus raised a sardonic eyebrow and Herz chuckled. "I must run tests, of course. He does not speak?"
"No," Severus confirmed.
"Hm," Herz said. "And he is still untrustworthy on his feet … He writes?"
"No." At this, Herz seemed surprised so Severus elaborated. "His hands shake too much to record anything legibly."
"Hm. Perhaps recuperation in this area is taking longer than I had thought," Herz said, almost to himself. "Or perhaps this is a permanent thing. Still, as I said, tests must be done. I know it must irritate you, but it would be better if you were present." Severus almost smirked, he had been about to insist exactly that. He had been feeling oddly protective lately, and though he did not stop to analyze this, he also did not deny it. After all, Harry was in no condition to fend for himself should something happen. And if another bout of rogue magic occurred, Severus was certain that Harry would not calm just by Herz's encouragement.
"Very well," he said, and tried to sound put-out.
"Good. Excellent. Then get some sleep. Make sure the boy eats some dinner. I will see you tomorrow. Yes?"
"Good-night," Severus offered, and Herz nodded and smiled.
Harry opened his eyes and blinked several times in an attempt to focus. After a moment, the nurse's smiling face was above him, and she shifted him forward and up, settling him into a sitting position though he did not quite feel strong enough to maintain it. "You're doing very well," she assured him, as she passed him some chocolate that he proceeded to nibble.
He had been at the clinic for almost a week. His days were oddly pleasant, despite the tiring tests he had to endure. Sometimes they were physical, testing his muscles, sometimes they required nothing of him but that he lie very still for long periods of time. Oddly, it was the tests that required no movement that tired him more. Dr. Herz had explained that it was because the magic used on him during these examinations resonated with his own internal magic. He had gone on to explain some technical things but Harry hadn't been fully able to follow.
When he wasn't being tested he was able to relax, usually outdoors, because it had been a long time since he had been allowed outside and he had never realized how much he had missed the sun. He spent his time wondering if he would be allowed to fly soon, but he didn't think it very likely.
Severus was always with him, unless he was called away to speak with Dr. Herz. Harry felt grateful for the familiar face. Severus always had a way of sensing what Harry needed as well. Sometimes it irritated Harry that he was never told what Herz spoke about, after all, it concerned him, didn't it? But then Harry wondered if sometimes Herz didn't call Severus simply to speak about old times, after all, Remus had mentioned that Severus and the stout doctor had known each other.
"Here you go," the nurse said, offering him another chip of chocolate from a large bar. Harry wondered if chocolate were not the cure for every malady in the wizarding world, still, he accepted it and nibbled on it happily. When he was done, the nurse helped him stand. "We'll get you back to your rooms, then." She smiled brightly, but Harry just felt so tired. He wasn't sure if he could make it back to his rooms.
They made slow progress, the nurse supporting most of his weight, though Harry was desperately trying to make his legs move. His vision had begun tunneling, but he tried to remain focused, sometimes he could concentrate on simply moving and no one would notice that he was on the brink of a dead faint. It was good that Severus wasn't there because the last time Harry had tried it, Severus had figured it out and had been angry.
A few more steps, and Harry was walking blind, fighting a strange rushing sound that was pounding in his ears and echoing in his head. He tried to trust the nurse who was supporting him, but he didn't like being so dependent, especially when he didn't know the person, and though he had seen the woman often, as she was part of the crew that had been assigned to do his testing, Harry still felt uncomfortable around her.
He was incredibly tired. A few more steps and his tenuous grip on the world slipped from his fingers. He was aware only that he seemed to become incredibly relaxed very quickly.
Severus was interrupted midway through lunch by a message from Herz informing him that Harry had collapsed after a test. He was out of the rooms and making his way to the room where Harry was being treated in a moment.
"Ah, here, good, good, come," Dr. Herz said as Severus entered the private room in the hospital portion of the large building. Harry was asleep on the bed, and a nurse was looking both guilty and frantic as she fussed.
"What happened?" Severus demanded as quietly as he could manage.
"The test was tiring, and he is strained. It was too much and he was moved too soon." Severus did not miss the accusing look which Dr. Herz threw at the nurse, nor the pained expression she had on her face, even before she noticed the look. "He will be fine, just let him rest."
Severus followed Dr. Herz out of the room so they could continue to speak without disturbing Harry. "How long will he continue to be prone to these fits?" Severus asked.
"It depends on the rate of his recovery. And then, on whether he even makes a full recovery. The way things have been progressing, I can say that likely it will take a year, but that they will begin to steadily decrease. But if he does not make a full recovery then it is possible that they will continue indefinitely. It is very hard to judge."
"How is his recovery rate?" Severus asked, curious.
"It is very interesting," Herz replied. "Slow progress, but sometimes a break through." Herz rocked back-and-forth on his feet for a moment, pursing his lips before gesturing Severus into a small office just beside the private room Harry was resting in and shutting the door. "It strikes me that there are several things hindering the progress. One being that head wounds are very tricky and there is no set rate of recovery. There are no rules with head wounds. A wound like the one Harry sustained might have killed someone else, maybe not. It's always hard to judge. The second thing is the abuse. There are very many things which he is working to heal."
When Herz trailed off, Severus frowned, impatient with the silence. "What are you implying?"
"There is much to heal, Severus, you see? He has the one wound, but he endured abuse. Do you know how long his relatives have been that way? No? Hm. Well, it does things to the way a person thinks. There's healing on the inside as well as to the body, yes? And did he ever speak with someone about the fight with You-Know-Who?"
Severus was amused with the reference to the final battle with the Dark Lord. Most people were afraid to even speak about, still there was a lingering fear of Voldemort, but if they ever did mention the battle, it was with glowing terms and hyperbole. To hear Herz address it as if it were a schoolboy fight between Harry and Riddle, that was something new and amusing. "Besides having to give a brief recount to the Minister he has spoken very little of it." The way Harry had spoken about it to the Minister there had seemed very little to say. They fought, Harry won, the Dark Lord was killed. There was no possibility of a return for Riddle, and Harry seemed quite certain of this. The battle itself. Though Harry clearly downplayed much of it, had been quite difficult, and Harry had fought using both his mind and his magic, and he had ended up in the hospital wing under Pomfrey's strict care for five days after it. But Harry had seemed unaffected by his success, perhaps a bit more light-hearted about things but still there was the threat of Death Eaters, it was not as if the death of Voldemort solved every problem with every dark witch and wizard.
"The mind is very very tricky," Herz said, almost to himself. He seemed about to go on but there was a light knock on the door. "Enter."
"I apologize for the disruption, but Mr. Potter is awake and I thought it best if Mr. Snape was with him" There was a strained look to the nurse who had entered, and Severus knew that she was most likely having difficulties in calming Harry.
Severus rose from his seat and followed the nurse back into Harry's room to find the youth sitting up in bed, absolutely still a look of panic lingering around his eyes which quieted when the dark green eyes fell upon Severus. "Awake, I see," Severus said blandly and walked to the windows where he opened the shutters to let in the evening light.
"Hello, Harry," Herz greeted with a warm smile. "Are you feeling better? Do you require anything?" The question, of course, was greeted by silence, but Herz simply ignored this. "You will spend the night in this room, it's already getting quite late. Should I prepare another room in this wing, Severus?" he asked turning his attention to the tall man who was standing at the foot of the bed.
"I will transfigure that chair into a suitable bed," Severus dismissed as if this sort of thing happened all the time. He did not dare glance toward the bed to see Harry's reaction. He imagined it would be anywhere from relief, since he knew Harry had no wish to be left along in this room, to horror at having to spend the night in the same room as Severus, to shock that 'Evil Potions' Master' would willing subject himself to a transfigured bed (no matter how satisfactory a transfiguration it was) and spending the night keeping someone company. It was simply too nice.
"Wonderful," Herz said with a grin. "Well, gentlemen, if you don't mind I have your latest tests to analyze. I will have your results ready by tomorrow to speak with you about, but I don't advise departing until the day following to make sure you are better rested. I will have some dinner sent over. Good-night." And Herz exited the room with a wave.
Harry and Severus sat in silence, Harry gazing out the window, Severus staring at a particularly captivating clump of white paint that had been left on one of the bars at the foot of Harry's missionary-style bed. When dinner came, they ate in silence, though it was companiable. Severus wondered if he shouldn't be talking and trying to persuade Harry into saying something, but he imagined that the tactic might prove unsuccessful if it were overused. It wasn't as if the silence were straigned, anyway, and Harry had just fainted from exhaustion several hours earlier.
They went to bed early, as had become their habit. Severus transfigured his bed, and then transfigured his nightclothes from the robes he had been wearing. With a flick of his wand, the lights were put out, and with another flick, a small candle was lit and placed on the night table by Harry's bed. It had become second nature to Severus, so much so that he observed any completely dark room with concern, immediately seeking out the dark head of messy hair to assess whether a light source was required.
Severus settled into his bed and tried to ignore the flickering light. He listened as Harry's breaths slowly evened out. And then he stared at the ceiling as the orangy glow cast dancing shadows. A part of him wanted to snuff the damn light out, but he knew that he couldn't. He contemplated what Herz had mentioned to him that day, and wondered what the results would be to all the tests that had been performed over the course of the week. Mostly, Severus wondered about that damn candle and all those other small things that had become second-nature to him due to his 'over-exposure' to the boy. Mind, he hadn't really considered Harry in such a way since he had recovered him from his relatives. Still, he was prone to entertaining his old thoughts when he was frustrated, and he certainly was frustrated now. What exactly was happening to him? He was becoming steadily more protective and more preoccupied with Harry's welfare and he could not help but wonder when it had really started and what, exactly, 'it' was.
Severus finally fell asleep with Remus' words running through his head, listening to Harry's deep and even breaths.
"Things are unclear," Dr. Herz concluded with helpless shrug. They had run-through the results from the tests, Harry taking short cat-naps in his chair, and Severus doing his best to assimilate all of this new information into his head and sort out any and all implications it had and find any possible things that could be done to help or hinder those implications.
In the end, it was decided that Harry's body was still healing, which meant that it was impossible to tell how much his current state would remain the same and how much would change. It was clear that his magic was still there, and accessible, but that his body was masking the ability as his magic was being re-rooted to help with the healing. One astonishing discovery had been that Harry's magic was natural healer magic, which would be very helpful to him as he recovered, in the healing of his body, but this was also why he tired more easily and his magic was difficult to consciously access, since it was being completely focused on healing Harry's wounded body, and there was nothing left for superfluous things like Lumos and Wingardium Leviosa. Dr. Herz was confident that this would change as Harry recovered.
Beyond that, whether Harry would recover his voice or anything of the such was unclear, and Herz could only insist that Harry was healing and progressing well, and that Herz would keep track of the process and give firmer results as time progressed. At this rate, Herz hypothesized that it might take a year and a half to completely heal, but this was a tentative approximation.
"I suggest you both learn to use Sign Language so that Harry can communicate with you, Severus. It's relatively easy to learn if you are persistent, especially given that, besides Harry's inability to speak, you are both relatively healthy." Severus assumed he meant that they both had good hearing and full use of their eye-sight. "I'll arrange for you to learn immediately. How does that sound, Harry?" Herz asked. Harry smiled a small tentative smile, which was as much as he ever smiled anymore, and Severus vowed to learn to bloody Sign no matter what it took.
"I also say that you may practice writing, Harry, but only for a limited time each day. At this point, it's more important to do those hand exercises that I showed you, along with your usual exercises, in addition to those that Healer Marcus showed you so that you regain your strength. Understand that you won't likely be able to write clearly for quite some time, and if you persist in taxing yourself, you will only delay the healing. Beyond that, we'll see how it goes, yes?"
Severus thought that seemed woefully inadequate for the amount of time and effort that had gone into those tests. But most had been checking to see that Harry had healed well internally, and that there were no problems with any of the healing that had occurred, such as bones mending improperly and the like. And then to assess his magic. This conversation seemed like the medical equivalent of a glass of warm milk and a pat on the head. Nice, but hardly useful.
Still, Severus and Herz spoke happily over lunch, including Harry as much as they could without him responding, and afterwards, Herz walked them to the front entrance and smiled as Severus withdrew a rather large piece of candy that was wrapped in obnoxious orange paper. He held it out with distaste and Harry accepted the other end. Herz chuckled and waved. "Good 'ol Albus," Herz said with a smile, which was greeted by a sneer from Severus before both he and Harry disappeared with a POP.
Thank-you so much, everyone, for the reviews! I know it's been ages, but I took a break over the break (Ironic, right?) If anyone is reading this and is concerned about the progress of Absolute Pitch, I assure you I'm writing the 2nd chapter but I've been forced to use my sister's laptop which refuses to open the damn file!!! I have no clue why!! Which means it's going to be a while yet. SO SO SO sorry. Anyway, please be patient and I'll update all my work as soon as I can! Thanks again for the reviews, everyone's been really good about this fic! Luv you all!