Prolouge - The Healer

by Slightly Sinister Sinestra

Disclaimer: If I owned HP, Snape would get more recognition, but I don't!

Summary: Post HBP, true stories of Severus Snape, Poppy Pomfrey and Alastor Moody.

Rating: M for assorted nastiness

Severus came to slowly, far more slowly than usual. He could feel softness around him, a bed. Light shone through his eyelids, and the room was warm. That could only mean one thing, as his master did not permit him to sleep in a bed. He was in the hospital wing. Usually this meant that Lucius had hurt him so badly that he had been forced to bring him here if he wanted to get any more use out of him. However, although he most definitely hurt, it wasn't nearly as bad as it should be if Lucius had brought him here.

Panic surged through him. Had something happened that led to some good samaritan bringing him here? If so, then he was a dead man walking. Lucius would be furious. Never mind that it had most likely been the other boys fault to start with. As if that would ever stop him. Oh God. Lucius was going to hurt him so badly...

'Severus, my boy! You're awake. Oh, you had me worried this time! You've been under for two days. I had no idea a Dreamless Sleep potion would affect you so strongly!' Nurse Pomfrey bustled around the bed and came up beside him. 'James has been so worried. He and his friends didn't leave until I ordered them to bed two nights ago. Either Remus or James runs up here every spare hour to check on you.'

James? Why the hell would James Potter and his cronies be worried about him? What the hell had happened? He shook his head. A ... a fight? Had he fought them? No. No, Lucius had. Lucius and his cronies. But then, why was he here, apparently with an attendant Potter? Oh, wait. He ... oh, gods no! He couldn't have been so stupid! So bloody Gryffindor-ish as to take one of Lucius' curses for Potter! Lucius ... Furious wasn't going to cover it!

He struggled to sit up, amazed at how tired he still was. Dreamless Sleep or no, he should have been up long before this. What had Lucius hit him with? Why was his memory so sluggish? Was it that ... that his mind had simply reached its limit of endurance? Would he lose more and more until nothing was left? No! He couldn't endure that. His mind was all he had left.

'Oh Severus, lie still! You shouldn't be moving just yet!' She laid a hand gently on his shoulder to lay him back down, and blinked when he reached up to clasp her arm. He didn't use physical contact, clinging fiercely to what privacy he had left.

He looked up at her, and the ache in her heart intensified at the haunted look in his eyes. 'I can't remember. I can't remember what he did to me. My mind won't work. What happened? What has he done to me? What has he done?' A tear slid silently down his cheek, unheeded as he gazed at her, the blank face he built in the face of pain shattered in the face of this fear for his mind. He didn't want to be insane, to lose his reason. His memory.

She couldn't help what she did next. It was instinctive, the healer's urge to ease pain, the mother's urge to comfort her child.She leaned forward and pulled the frail form into an embrace, cradling the shaking boy against her. She hugged him as, after so many years of hiding his pain,he wept. Her tears wet his hair as his wet her front. And through her sorrow she felt a strange joy, that this abused, mistrustful soul should allow her close enough to see his pain, and comfort him.

'Oh, Severus,' she whispered, through a throat clogged with tears. 'Severus, don't fear. It wasn't that. He hasn't taken your mind. He couldn't. You're too strong, too deep for him ever to touch. It's only the dreamless sleep. It's only natural confusion. Don't fear. Oh, my boy, don't fear. I'm sorry. I didn't think. I'm so sorry. So sorry.'

He pulled back a little, and looked at her. He sat there and looked at her for a long moment without moving, without saying anything. Then, slowly and uncertainly, he smiled. A tiny smile, hesitant amid the tears still running down his cheeks, but it was one of the most beautiful things she had ever seen. A thin hand reached up to gently wipe away the tears from her face. 'I'm sorry too,' he whispered. 'I didn't mean to hurt you.'

Poppy stared at him, at the thin child in her lap who gazed at her with such sad, wise eyes. At the trust and love in that fathomless stare. At the thin, bandaged hand that clasped her own. She looked at this world-weary, yet curiously innocent creature that had chosen to grant her his trust, and knew she could never lose it. Whatever the future held for them, whatever shadow cast a pall over their lives, she would always have his trust, and he hers.

She pulled him back into her embrace. 'I know, Severus. I know.'