Harry's eyes fluttered open and fixed on a point on the wall opposite.
"Again with the hospital wing!" he muttered dryly, or at least he tried. His tongue felt thick in his mouth and his lips were cracked and sore. He cleared his throat and shifted in the bed, pulling the covers down from his hot skin.
He rolled his head to look out of the window on his left; the sky was the kind of dark where the very last light of the sun was visible on the horizon.
He blinked a few times and scrunched his eyes up, yawning widely as he kicked the blanket down. He rubbed a hand across his face as he swung his legs over the side of the bed. Oh God did he ache!
His toes curled at the touch of the cold floor as he pattered his way along the familiar route to the bathroom, he trod quietly in order not to disturb Pomfrey, that woman had a thing about bedpans that Harry thought was unhealthy. He pulled the door open only a few inches, having learnt from previous stays that any further and the door would screech like filch's cat. Harry slipped through the narrow gap and closed the door behind him.
The room remained dark, Harry looked around himself and spied in the half light the little elf like creature sitting high up on a shelf, a small pull switch dangling by the side of it. The creature was clearly asleep. Harry coughed loudly. There was a sharp, startled movement and light flooded the room, Harry raised an eyebrow and smirked at the creature. He assumed the door creaked so much so that it alerted the elf to someone's presence.
After fighting with his night shirt and relieving himself, Harry stood at the sink, hands going back and forth from his face to the tap, cooling his skin with the frigid water. He sighed again and braced himself against the edge of the sink before moodily looking up and glaring at his reflection. Which lasted only for a second before his face contorted into a frown.
There was something different…not obvious, but different.
He was the same, but there was something about his face that seemed a little … unfamiliar.
He turned his head from side to side, running his hands over his cheeks and forehead, he combed his fingers through his hair and got them tangled just like every other time he had tried to do so. He was confused… and in pain, he noticed, as his fingers carelessly probed what felt like a bruise. There was no marking but the sensation remained. He poked it again, just to make sure.
The idea sprang unbidden into his mind and settled for him all the unsolved answers. For all his skill as a seeker he really was crap at not noticing when he was about to get the shit knocked out of him. He rather fancied that he could remember it this time, he had the definite vision in his mind of seeing the floor rushing up to meet him.
He dried his hands and damned himself, nodding to the elf as he pulled open the door, the light turned itself out and Harry fumbled with the door as his eyes adjusted. He heard a thud.
"Jesus Christ Harry! You scared the hell out of me!"
Harry himself jumped and whirled round to stare into the face of Severus Snape. Stare was the operative word, what else could he do. Even though doubtful about the apparent change that happened to him, there was no escaping the fact that Snape had.
He sounded the same, he even looked the same, but it was the fact that Snape hadn't just torn his limbs apart that alerted him. Harry watched as the other man stooped to pick up his fallen item, a book apparently, and frowned at the sight of Snape's, considerably longer, hair slithering over his shoulder to hang across his face.
Tension began to gnaw at his gut. Things weren't sitting right in his mind and his frown continued to grow. Snape straightened up and looked at Harry, not sneered in a condescending manner, but looked, which alarmed him all the more.
"I was just coming to see you." He said softly, "I imagined you might be waking up around now."
Harry Stared. And Snape stared back. There was an uncomfortable silence in which it seemed that Snape became uncomfortable under Harry's scrutiny.
"Are you okay?" he finally asked. "Does Poppy know you're up?"
Harry just didn't know how to handle this; his brain was running at a thousand miles a minute. 'What the fuck was going on!' seemed to be the favourite at the moment. He glanced around, eyes fixing on a hundred and one different yet familiar objects so he concluded that yes, he was definitely still at Hogwarts.
"I… er." He failed to understand just where he should start.
"You look pale." He heard Snape mutter. Harry flinched and recoiled as Snape reached out to touch him, leaving the other man looking just as confused as he felt. For a moment Snape's expression seemed locked before it slipped to something a little more wary.
"Harry?" he eyed Harry cautiously, lowering his hand.
The informal use of his name shocked Harry beyond recall, and scared the hell out of him. He could almost feel himself begin to panic, it seemed as though he had missed something immense, something so intrinsically blatant and obvious. He felt bewildered and it reflected in his eyes. Snape spoke his name again, a little more concerned this time as he became aware that all was not right with the man before him. Harry felt as tough he needed to sit down, but he wanted answers first.
"What's going on?" he asked, although it came out as more of a demand. There was a flicker of something unrecognizable on Snape's face and Harry once again felt the nervous jolt he had whenever he felt the snark muse present, and added, rather too late, he thought, a meek "Sir."
Harry winced as Madame Pomfrey examined the bruise that he himself had prodded not too long before.
"I'm not really sure…" She muttered quietly to herself, pressing a little harder and causing Harry to hiss through his teeth. Pomfrey uttered a quick apology and stood up, frowning at Harry in a way that made it clear that she thought this whole situation was entirely his own fault and that somehow he deserved this. Harry frowned back at her, and then looked over to the corner where Snape was speaking in hushed tones to the headmaster. Every now and then they would cast quick glances in his direction, they quieted their conversation when Pomfrey joined them, adding her own little worried looks.
Harry was getting pissed off. He had always hated it when people talked about you in front of you, especially in this situation where he thought he was damned within his rights to know just what the hell was going on. He sighed blatantly, hoping to convey his annoyance and pulled a little on the neck of his night shirt.
The conversation in the corner resumed at a normal level and then finished with Dumbledore walking over and standing a little awkwardly in front of Harry, who looked up at him expectantly. Dumbledore paused, as though contemplating what to say. A thought which struck Harry as a little odd, because he had never known the headmaster to be without words.
He coughed a little. "Harry…" he said frankly, looking at Harry's shoulder. "Tell me how it was you came to be in the hospital wing this fine evening."
"Playing Quidditch," he answered, "I think."
Dumbledore nodded, tracing a finger along his lip. He turned and looked at Snape, who had remained behind in the corner, but within earshot. Snape gave a minute nod. Dumbledore turned back to Harry.
"So you remember being hit by the bludger?" He asked.
"Not really," Harry replied, "But I remember playing, I think I was knocked from my broom. I remember nearly having the snitch and then I was falling."
Once again, Dumbledore turned to Snape who merely gave him a look this time.
"So you were trying to catch the snitch?" the headmaster asked.
Harry didn't know whether to look at the headmaster as though he were stupid. "Yes."
"Tell me Harry… who were you playing?"
The headmasters questioning didn't sit right with Harry at all, but he answered none the less. "Ravenclaw."
"And this is the last thing you remember, nothing after the game?"
Adrenaline poured itself into Harry's blood, making his heart beat faster. Had he missed something? He shook his head, trying to remember anything about being taken to the hospital wing, being made to drink some potion. He had missed something, he knew it. He could tell by the way that the headmaster kept looking back round to the man in the corner, the man whose fingers toyed unconsciously with his shoulder length hair.
"Harry…" Dumbledore sat down on the edge of Harry's bed, his expression grave. "Harry, can you tell me what year it is."
There it was, the full alarm bell, ringing loud and clear in his head. He had fucked up royally this time, hadn't he! He searched around in his head for the relevant information, all the time dreading what the headmaster would say in response.
"Nineteen ninety eight?" he provided, his voice shaky.
Harry gripped the hem of his shirt while Dumbledore looked at him. Several times the old man opened his mouth as if to say something, but couldn't quite bring himself to come out with it.
Snape spoke quietly from his corner. "It's two thousand and five."
Harry stared at him in shock. Could he be lying? It was certainly something that Snape would do. But this Snape… This snape was different. He just leant against the wall, arms folded and looked at him with an expression that Harry couldn't read, unused as it was to seeing something other than complete hatred on the man's face.
"Two thousand and five?" he repeated, his voice barely above a whisper, but the incredulity showed through. Surely that bludger hadn't knocked him out for…
"Seven years?" he asked, "I've been unconscious… for seven years!"
He contemplated this. It would definitely explain his slightly unfamiliar appearance. Even though he had been unconscious for all that time, his body would still have grown, ageing another seven years.
"No." Dumbledore's voice interrupted his thoughts. Harry looked up at the man as he shook his head. "You were only struck this afternoon."
Harry frowned, "I don't understand."
"You were refereeing a game." Snape spoke again, his voice a little louder, "Hufflepuff versus Gryffindor, you got in the path of a bludger."
This information only served to confuse Harry all the more.
"But if it happened this afternoon…then why don't I remember anything."
"That's what we hope to find out." Madame Pomfrey spoke at last, "We'll have to run some tests, get you over to St. Mungo's." she bustled round him, pressing her hand to his head once again which annoyed Harry. He suddenly felt very claustrophobic and overwhelmed.
He'd lost seven years of memories. He tried to imagine the things he had done in those years. Did he pass his newts? What job did he have? Christ! Was he married? He'd have to have a long talk with Ron and Hermione. His stomach felt as though it had fallen out of his body. Ron and Hermione. What would they be like now, how would they take this news.
"Harry, I understand that this is a bit of a shock, but I really think we get you sorted out as soon as possible." Madame Pomfrey was speaking to him. "I'll contact St. Mungo's now and tell them we're on our way. Hopefully they'll be able to shed some light on the matter." She placed her hand fondly on his shoulder and gave it a light squeeze in sympathy. Harry watched her as she went into her office.
Silence ensued in her wake. It seemed as though no one quite knew what to say in light of events.
"What date is it?" Harry asked quietly. Dumbledore looked up.
"The sixteenth of July."
Harry nodded in understanding. "So that would make me…?" he frowned a little as he tried to work it out.
"Twenty four." Harry looked up at Snape as he said it. He had moved closer as was sat on the edge of the bed opposite.
"Twenty four." Harry confirmed. Oh God, he was twenty four! It felt like just yesterday that he was seventeen, it was yesterday! What the hell was he going to do! Could he carry on living his life without his memories, could he still work at his job with no recollection of qualifications? If he was married could he go on with the relationship, not knowing who and how he fell in love? Would his friends still see him, he was no longer the grown up Harry they knew. He had essentially de-aged; his mentality was back to that of a seventeen year old. Although that was a bit of an injustice towards himself as he had always thought he'd been very mature for his age. Could he have changed that much in seven years? He felt sick, almost homesick. He wanted this to go away, to wake up in his dorm, to look up at the familiar drapes. He pressed his eyes closed and held his breath. Could you apparate back in time? No.
"Harry?" The headmaster laid a hand gently on his arm, "Are you feeling okay?"
Harry pressed against his eyes with his hands and shook his head. Suddenly he was on his feet and running. The little elf in the corner didn't even have time to pull the switch before Harry was being sick, his knees connecting with the stone floor with such force that the resounding crack echoed off the walls. There was a knock at the door and Harry could hear the headmaster asking if he were okay.
"Fine." He called back. "Just give me a minute."
He stood on shaky legs and held onto the sink as he pulled himself from the floor. He came face to face with himself again. This time he could notice it. The definition of his cheeks and jaw, the finer set of his lips and eyes. All subtle differences that you wouldn't notice over time were all plain to see. He raised his hand to run them over his face once more, but stopped. It was almost as though he were afraid to. It was one thing to see it in a mirror, and here in Hogwarts mirrors couldn't always be trusted. But to actually feel it would be confirmation. He had felt it last time, the slightly rougher feel of his skin, the thicker stubble on his jaw.
He turned the tap and filled the bowl as he stared at himself. Only when it was full did he look away. He leaned forward and dunked his head in the sink, the freezing water achingly cold against his eyelids. It was a much needed wake up. He slung his head back, water arcing through the air and splashing against the back wall as Harry stood there panting.
"See the specialist." He told himself. "They'll sort it out."
Magic was a wonderful thing, he thought, grabbing the door handle and heaving the door open. Dumbledore and Snape stood on the other side, obviously talking about him because they shut up as soon as he reappeared. He brushed his soaking wet hair from his face and gave them a false smile. All three turned to look as madam Pomfrey walked out of her office clutching a piece of paper.
"Dr Makoare." She said, "He'll see us just as soon as we can get there. Here you go," She handed him his clothes, "Get dressed and we'll be on our way."
Harry felt his body flood with relief.
Harry rubbed the bridge of his nose. He could feel a serious headache coming on. But then, he was not surprised, what with the amount of head scans that he'd undergone. And now he couldn't seem to shift the slight colour of violet that was affecting his vision in his left eye.
"So" Dr Makoare slid round the side of his desk and settled himself into his chair, sifting through the notes that he had taken. He looked up at Harry. "What you have to understand Mister Potter is that the brain is a very complicated organ, and even with the advances made within the magical community, cases such as this are often a mystery."
Harry looked down at his hands in his lap.
"It could be that this is a very temporary situation and that when you wake up next morning you'll be fine. On the other hand…" the doctor paused.
"I may never remember." Harry supplied, feeling a little bitter.
"Like I said Mister Potter, it's a complicated matter." He regarded Harry with a kind of professional pity. "But in the mean time, I'll put you in touch with a counsellor; she's specialised in cases such as these and may be able to help you recover some memories."
Harry almost resented those words, he felt as though he were some troublesome child that needed a therapist to help him over his 'problems'.
"Also." Said the doctor, getting up and sliding a piece of paper across the desk. "I advise you nip down to our pharmacy and get your hands on some of this." He left the paper on the table for Harry to ignore. "It will help to rebuild synaptic pathways in the brain. Scans indicated that when you received the blow to your temple it shook some loose. This could be some of the cause of your predicament. Also I think you try drinking isotonic drinks to build up electrolytes. Sometimes it's the little things that help."
He sat back in his chair looking immensely smug with himself. Madame Pomfrey moved forward in her seat beside Harry and picked the paper from the table, she scanned the notes and smiled to herself.
"No need to go all the way down to the pharmacy Harry, we can get Severus to make this. That way we can get you home quicker."
But was it home.
Dr Makoare shifted in his seat, lacing his fingers together. "I really recommend getting it from our pharmacy, our potion makers are fully qualifie…"
"But ours is the best in the land." Said Madame Pomfrey, a little too firmly Harry noticed.
"Of course." The doctor replied, but it was painfully obvious he didn't mean it.
"Come on then Harry," Pomfrey stood up and gathered her things, she had gone a little red in the face. "Lets get you home and resting." She all but dragged him from the office, and Harry did her best to keep up as she paced down the hallway to the exit. "I don't know", she muttered, "Some people."
Harry wasn't aware what the hell she was talking about, but at the moment he wasn't sure he could care less.
He stood facing his door. The words 'Harry Potter' blazoned from the gilded plaque. He wasn't a Professor, that was what Dumbledore – sorry, Albus – had said. He just taught quidditch. Which wasn't that bad, quite nice really when he thought about it, just nice, quiet simple job. No running around or pressure from big bosses, just the genial atmosphere of the school. Albus had filled him in somewhat, of his life these past years. He worked at the school, no he wasn't married, didn't even have a girlfriend. He still saw most of his old friends, they liked to come back to the school every now and then, probably for nostalgia. Ron and Hermione still came by, they were both married, but not to each other and neither had children. Ron worked at the ministry with his dad and Hermione taught at the university, advanced arithmancy. Harry enjoyed his life, or so Albus had told him, he got on well with everyone and the children loved him.
The bit that had shocked Harry had been the end of the war. He remembered all the sleepless night's he'd had worrying over the outcome, and in the end, after all the preparation and studying and theories and planning. Harry had just gone and shot him. It was a novel approach. Thought up by Neville of all people. He had commented one day that they should just shoot the bugger and be done with it. Apparently the whole table had fallen silent. It was just something that had never occurred to them before. So when it came down to it, it was just Harry, voldemort and a Beretta.
Harry rubbed the back of his neck and yawned again, he let his hand come to rest on the handle. He had to go in some time, these were his rooms. But the thought of what he would find in there unnerved him, so many little reminders that he would not recognize, memories forgotten.
He sighed again and pushed the door forward.
The room was dark, and Harry felt around near the door for a switch. The light turned itself on. Harry looked at where his hand was and failed to notice any switch. He waved his hand back and forth over the wall, the lights flickered on and off. Two bricks in from the door frame, chest height, he noted.
He cast a surveilant gaze over his sitting room, it was a modest affair, not too large, but not small either. It was laid out predictably, with a sofa facing the fire and a chair either side, a coffee table in front so he could place his feet on it and warm his toes. There was a table against the far wall scattered with papers that Harry assumed he used to work on. There was also a bookshelf, although not many books lined it. Which Harry was almost glad to see, he'd never been a big book reader and had been secretly horrified at the thought of turning out like Hermione. Instead other things took up the shelves. He moved over towards it, placing his jacket across the back of the couch. There were photos, there were ones of Ron and Hermione on their respective wedding days, Harry was glad to see that they still looked exactly the same. There were pictures from family gatherings and days and nights out with friends. There was a picture of Harry in his referee uniform striking a very camp pose and grinning madly. Harry smiled at this. There was also a school picture, which surprised Harry as they had never had them when he'd been at school. There they all were, all the years stood in tiers in the great hall with the teachers lined up behind them. Harry took his time looking at all the faces and noting any new or absent ones. There was Albus in the middle, smiling away to himself, and ever present on his right was McGonagal, her frown a little less stern. Most of them were still here, Hagrid took up a good portion of the photo, hooch was still here, making Harry believe that maybe she had applied for an actual teaching position, she was getting a little old to be teaching a rough game like quidditch. And there was Harry, between Snape and Flitwick, who was stood on a stack of books, he laughed a little at the image of the diminutive professor teetering away as though about to fall at any moment. But he couldn't help the way his eyes were drawn to the man on his right.
Could it possibly be that over the years they had stopped their constant bickering and actually become friends? The idea was laughable to Harry, in his mind he was seventeen, and the man still hated him. But Snape had been there, in the hospital wing. He'd even said he'd come to see him, he spoke to him like an adult, like a friend. But what possible reason could there be for the pair of them to overcome their animosity. Harry hated Snape, he'd made his life hell, and he almost felt a little betrayed by himself, as though his best friend had gone of and become friends with the great bat. He let out a sharp laugh at the very idea.
But still he looked at the picture, at Snape. There was something about him, something very…un-Snape like. The cold heartless look had gone from his eye. He still looked exactly the same, just as Harry remembered, but maybe a little less…evil.
Severus sat alone in his workroom, leaning against the bench as he kept a watchful eye on the potion as it neared the final stages. He sighed heavily.
He'd been forgotten.
"Such a big sigh Severus?"
Normally Snape would have been annoyed at the intrusion of the headmaster at a time like this, but right now he didn't seem able to work up the energy. "It will be finished in a couple of minutes albus. But you'll have to wait for it to cool a little before you can take it up." He sat up straighter and dragged a large glass rod towards him with which he stirred the potion, peering into it.
"Are you not taking it up yourself?" Albus enquired genuinely, he wasn't always a manipulating fool.
"I don't think so." Snape replied, setting the rod down again and turning off the flame. He picked the cauldron up using a cloth and set it down on the side. "I don't think I'm the best person for Harry to see right now."
"Oh come now Severus." The headmaster said admonishingly, "You two are good friends, he'll remember that in time."
"Will he?" Severus asked, "He's seventeen again Albus, you remember what he was like then. He hated me."
"Then. He hated you then, but this is now."
"But that is no difference to him," Snape answered, his voice getting a little hard, "he's just a scared schoolboy now." He turned back to pour the liquid into a glass jar put aside.
A heavy silence ensued, broken only by the sound he made as he sealed the jar and labelled it, clearly, he remembered what Harry was like at that age. He set the jar down and stared at it, defeated. He felt an aching emptiness in his chest and he felt desperate for something to fill it. He swallowed thickly. Harry had been his first real friend, someone who had willingly come to him, to talk, to drink, without any prior motive. And in time others befriended him. Harry had effectually brought him out of his dark forboding world, filled with mistrust and lies. Harry had been good to him, had done favours without wanting anything in return, the very idea of this was new to Severus. He had grown up in a circle where nothing was done for free, and often prices came high. But to have this man, the most popular man in the world actually leave a conversation to sit with him. Well, it was unheard of. And Severus had treasured every single moment of it, had come to depend on Harry's kindness like a drug, and over time he had come to see the need to please Harry, he felt as though he would do or say anything just to see that brilliant smile. He felt privileged as they walked down the corridor together, people turning to look as Harry laughed. Then in his mind he became terrified, yet equally excited as he felt himself falling, just looking at Harry would make him feel so safe. And often Albus or Minerva would comment that if he stared any harder then his eyes would fall out. He relished the evenings they had together, when Harry brought them all to his rooms and they sat around drinking and talking and laughing until the early hours, when one by one they would leave until it was just the two of them, and they would play chess, or sometimes just sit and talk a while longer.
It was because of Harry that he wasn't hated anymore. He could remember those dark years when Voldemort ran free, of the inescapable lies he had to weave, even then he longed to join the others, maybe just have someone to talk to. But now…now Harry had made him what he was today, he was no longer the most hated teacher at Hogwarts, in fact most of the students actually liked him. His class was finally a success.
But now, he had been forgotten, by the very person that had made him live.
"He'll remember Severus." The headmaster's voice was quite and comforting in the cold stone room.
Snape nodded and sighed again. He picked up the jar and handed it to the old man. "Will you take this up, please, just tonight."
Albus sensed the pain in his voice and took hold of the jar, he smiled grimly and nodded, heading towards the door, pausing for a moment. "Just remember Severus, you still have us." It was meant to comfort but it made the ache in his chest all the sharper. Severus didn't want them, he wanted Harry.