Chapter 17: St. Mungo's
A/N: I'm writing this much slower than I would like to. )-: For those of you who have been with me from the start of this story (or longer than a couple of months anyway), and haven't read the previous chapters recently, this chapter (in its middle part) is directly connected to the memories Voldemort sees in Snape's mind in the final part of chapter 5 of "1981."
Please, enjoy and review!
Not beta read (I've just published a fic in GWTW universe and didn't want you to think I forgot about you (-:). Please, bear with my non-native speaker's mistakes.
Director Bottomley's office
"Let me get this straight, Damocles," the grey-haired head of St. Mungo's Research and Study Department spoke slowly, the usually kind voice strict – as if Damocles were still his student and not one of the most promising and best paid researchers the hospital currently disposed with. "You ask me to open a new examination date for this wonder-student of yours so that the boy could join your werewolves' project despite he – for whatever reason – didn't appear by his original examination and more importantly didn't excuse himself until a couple of weeks ago. Is that right?"
Damocles Belby swallowed. This was not running as he had intended. A week ago, he had assured Horace Slughorn that arranging a new examination date for Mr. Snape so that the boy could join his project already during the upcoming summer months would be fairly easy. The werewolves' research was after all greatly supported by the Ministry. Yet, as Damocles now understood from his superior's reaction, the Ministry might be interested in his success and finance his efforts all they liked but St. Mungo's Research and Study Department obviously hadn't taken the project for theirs.
"I would appreciate your help very much, Director Bottomley," Belby carefully confirmed his request, hoping that the older man would aid him in the end.
Bottomley looked at him and nodded – sadly in understanding rather than agreement. "You know, Damocles," he said, "I realize that this project is very important to you. Many years ago, I too was thirty-five, you see, and wanted to impress the whole world with my accomplishments. But, my dear Damocles, as important as this project might be to you and as much as it might help the werewolves one day, the Ministry currently wants us to create a weapon for them, not a cure. Keep that on mind! I have to admit that this little fact troubles me a lot – we are a hospital and are supposed to heal people, not make them more easily manageable for the Ministry. And no, I don't see a big difference between "normal people" and werewolves here." Bottomley was satisfied to see the uneasy expression forming on Belby's face. Perhaps Damocles would help him after all.
"I will give you the boy if you and Horace Slughorn -" Bottomley had to smile at Belby's shocked reaction,"- oh yes, I am aware the spider is behind this, Damocles. I know you wouldn't have approached me otherwise – in a couple of years, perhaps, but not yet. Anyway, you may have the boy if both you and Slughorn think him so capable – if he passes the examination, certainly – but I have a request in return." Bottomley stopped here, one last time weighting his employee's trustfulness.
The risk seemed tolerable and so he went softly on: "Despite the Ministry contract doesn't foresee that and quite likely even forbids such thing, I want you to bring me all your results before you hand them over to the Ministry, Damocles – as you would do if your research were St. Mungo's own project. We cannot afford to hand over a weapon that might harm innocent people, werewolves or not." Since he foresaw argument, Bottomley quickly added: "Quite honestly, Damocles, I wouldn't trust my own judgment if I were in your place. What do you say? Are we agreed?" He eyed Belby expectantly.
Damocles wanted to say that he was mature enough not to give the Ministry anything too dangerous, but finally swallowed his protest. Bottomley was almost ninety and likely knew what he spoke about – Belby had thankfully been brought up to respect his elders and their longer experience. He thought about the offered exchange. If he complied with Bottomley's request, he would risk wrath of some Ministry official, true – but wouldn't be sacked if his results were good. He would also remain on good terms with both his superior and Horace Slughorn and would get Snape's assistance. Put like that there wasn't much to think about. "I shall do it," Belby nodded in affirmation and was rewarded with a fatherly smile from the other man.
"Excellent," Bottomley said and leaned back in his chair, relaxing. As an afterthought, he asked: "Just out of curiosity, Damocles, what is the name of that wonder-boy you want so badly? Do I know him?"
"Severus Snape, Director Bottomley. He worked for Vanishing Sickness ward during his time here. His mother underwent one of the late experimental cures in 60s – and despite she had died some two or three years ago, he worked on improving the formula. Had he passed his examination, his paper would have been published as appendix of my own study on Vanishing Sickness. Like this, we sadly had to leave his results out..."
"Yes, the rules forbidding the undergraduates to publish," Bottomley nodded in understanding, successfully covering his shock over knowing the boy's name and his mother's case. "They too are meant to protect the hospital, although this rule should probably not be applied when the results of the student are part of his Master's project. I am sorry that I wasn't able to look at any of your students' papers in the past year, Damocles, or finance a students' results' publication but the war and the many old and unknown curses used these days are sadly taking almost all my time as you know well."
The old man gazed at the clock. "Even our half hour is almost over. Send me that boy's paper up and I shall look at it in the evening. Margaret won't like it if I bring my work home again, but the dinner is the only free time I have these days. If the paper is good, I will arrange the examination for next Friday late afternoon. That's likely the only time I would be able to get the committee together."
Next week? Belby wondered about the swiftness but nodded. Snape was prepared and he wanted him already for the start of the project in early July. He thanked the old man and left the office to return to his laboratory. Snape's paper was prepared on his table there and gazing at it, Damocles was once more astonished at the boy's competency. He packed the paper in an envelope and send it upstairs. It wasn't normal that the head of the department wanted to see a student's paper before the examination, the results of the student's research being usually introduced during the exam itself. Damocles thought that Bottomley might probably not be present by the whole examination in the current situation and wanted to get familiar with the examined student's work so that he too could grade him.
Upstairs, Director Bottomley impatiently packed out the delivered paper and searched for the dedication. He indeed intended to learn more about this particular student's research, although his true motivation would probably startle his young employee. Then Bottomley found it: To my mother, Eileen Snape, née Prince, so that nobody has to suffer your pain again. Bottomley caressed the name of the deceased woman and nodded. Her son had earned the special attention he was getting.
Late August – Early September 1967
It had been ten days since father left and mum locked herself up in the bedroom, coming out only at the meal times to mechanically prepare food for him, her eyes permanently puffy from the endless crying. Once the meal was over and the dishes were cleaned up, mum would immediately shut herself upstairs again, once more leaving Severus to himself.
Despite he was only seven, Severus soon understood that father was not coming back – and mother was upset with both the man and him. Him sadly undoubtedly more because if it were not for his stupid shattering the windows, father would still be there – and mum still happy.
Even now, Severus didn't understand what had happened that day. He recalled only that the thief who had broken into the house had made him very scared and upset. Then Severus had suddenly felt too hot and everything became gloomy. Very vaguely Severus evoked a loud shattering noise followed by a flood of glass pieces that had covered all the floor – but it all was very unclear.
Father had said later that it had been him who had made the glass shatter – but Severus didn't know how that would be possible. Unless – unless, he was indeed the monster father had accused him of being. Huddled in the corner of the kitchen, the small boy shuddered at the thought, pulling his knees tightly to the chest in a feeble attempt to soothe himself. With father gone and mum so sad, there was nobody to aid him out of his misery. Hours later, the little boy climbed up the stairs to cry himself to sleep in his cold and dark bedroom – wishing to be dead.
When he woke up rather alive the next morning, Severus decided that he hated the world, loathed it with all his small being. He turned to the side, burying himself leastways beneath the warm heap of blankets and attempted to fall asleep again. There was no point in staying awake for him anyway. Drifting off, Severus distantly heard mum's tired voice calling him to breakfast but he couldn't care less.
Downstairs, Eileen was growing increasingly worried, finally mounting up the stairs and entering her son's messy room. "Severus?" she asked and watched how the heap of blankets moved to the farer end of the bed. "Severus," Eileen sighed quietly and sat down on the edge of the mattress, reaching her hand to gently pull the sheets off her young son. "Come, the breakfast is ready."
"I am not hungry," Severus mumbled from his hideout and tried to pry his covers back from her grip.
"Still, you have to eat," Eileen lectured quietly, better forgetting that she hadn't been giving her boy any good example in the last few days. "Come," she repeated patiently and after a while was rewarded with Severus sitting up on the bed, shaking the sheets of himself. She smiled for the first time in what felt like ages and caressed her son's sallow cheek with tenderness and care. "We have pancakes today," she tempted and Severus looked up, face already less troubled than just seconds ago. "I like pancakes," he admitted quietly, a shy smile appearing on his face and Eileen nodded. "I know you do." She smiled too and stood, the sudden movement unbalancing her.
"Mum!" Severus cried in alarm as she fell, jumping to his feet. "Are you alright?" The boy was kneeling by her side now, taking her right hand in his both small ones and staring at it in fear.
"Severus?" Eileen asked for explanation, not yet feeling strong enough to stand. There was nothing wrong with her arm, she thought. She simply hadn't slept or eaten for days and this was the result. She would take some pancakes with Severus and it would be all alright again.
But her small son looked very worried. "It disappeared for a moment," he stammered bewildered and frightened, "Your hand – disappeared – as you fell." Severus looked at her with fear written in his eyes. "It keeps disappearing, mum… It is in my hand, I feel it. But look – it's invisible!" The boy brought his hands up so that she could see them – and her hand was indeed missing between his fingers although she knew it was there, well feeling her son's tight grip around it. "It is invisible, mum," Severus repeated fearfully, his dark eyes unnaturally wide.
It could be Vanishing Sickness, Eileen thought worriedly, relieved now that her mother's harsh words, when she had visited Spinner's End the one and only time short after Severus's birth, had brought her to secretly take Severus to St. Mungo's for the wizarding vaccination that had since some 15 years now included also immunization against this particular illness.
With great sadness, Eileen recalled how she had literally smuggled Severus out of the house back then and Apparated them both to their appointment at the hospital, somehow managing to get back to Spinner's End just 3 minutes before Tobias had returned from work. Tobias had been overprotective of them at that time and she didn't want him to ask her where they had been – knowing that she would be not able to lie to him when directly asked… Eileen had never told her husband that she and very possibly their son too were magical – a decision she should deeply regret for the rest of her life, but nevertheless a decision she had thought very right at the time.
The present Eileen sighed and looked once again at Severus's small hands. Her hand was now again visible between them and she felt stronger as well. Maybe she was mistaken after all and the episode was only some residue of her sudden use of magic those sad ten days ago. She remembered to have once read in a book on magical theory that people who had abandoned their magic might face all kinds of side effects when returning to it – hopefully, this was just one of those cases.
Not yet willing to let go of Severus's hold, Eileen slowly stood, their hands still entwined, and smiled down at her little boy who kept stubbornly sitting on the floor. "It's alright now, see," she said and to prove it, squeezed his hand a little. "Come now! If I am not mistaken, there is a pile of pancakes waiting for us downstairs. Come – or they will get cold!" Eileen pulled the boy gently up, tickling him a little as she did so. After a moment, Severus started laughing and Eileen watched with relief how his almost adult expression became one of a small boy again and how his face brightened with a small smile. Hand in hand, mother and son headed downstairs to really enjoy their first breakfast in eleven days…
For another five days, Eileen kept feeling weak but didn't care much since the Saturday vanishing didn't reoccur – or at least so she thought. School started again and so Severus, who was until the episode 14 days ago brought up as a Muggle and thus was enrolled to the local Primary, wasn't much around to tell her. And frankly, who would notice if one of his cheeks or part of his back suddenly became translucent when not standing in front of a mirror and clothed on the top of it?
The sixth morning, Severus didn't find his mother in the kitchen. He thought that she had merely overslept and as he was big enough to make breakfast for himself, he ate and then grabbed his bag and ran to school, quite proud to have helped mum at least a tiny bit. He knew that mother had it hard right then – and still thought it was mostly his fault.
The bad thing was that when Severus returned home in the afternoon, mum still wasn't around. She was neither in the kitchen, nor in their small back garden; there was no note left for him on the table saying that she went shopping or to the post and would be right back. Severus dropped his bag and suddenly very worried, raced up the stairs. He launched the bedroom door open and froze on the spot. Mum's long black hair was spread on her pillow and he could make out her features between their frame – but there were parts of her face that he couldn't see. As last Saturday, her hands were invisible in her sleeves.
"Mum!" Severus cried out when the first shock washed over him and he ran to the bed, reaching for the invisible hands. Luckily, they were still there, but ice-cold and so skeletal that he gasped. "Mum," the little boy repeated, crushed, tears running down his shallow cheeks, "Mum, wake up! … Please, wake up…" Desperately, Severus lay his head on Eileen's chest and let himself cry.
Many long minutes later when his tears ebbed a little, Severus noticed that mum's chest moved up and down, surprisingly quite steadily. An enormous stone fell of his heart and he started to cry anew, incredibly relieved that she lived. Severus understood that he was to get help – only didn't know how to do it. He didn't think the neighbours would help him, the deaf old couple with bunch of ginger, gaunt cats or the man who according to parents had beaten his wife so badly last summer that she had spent two weeks in the hospital.
The phone! Severus jumped, feeling absolutely stupid, and ran the stairs down so fast that he stumbled and almost fell already on the second step. Somehow, he both managed to remain on his feet and make it down the stairs without any further accident – and there he froze. The telephone cable was cut in two – most probably owing to the thief.
Severus's eyes stank with tears and he slid down to the floor in despair when his eyes fell on the strange wooden stick mum had used the fortnight ago to get rid of the thief and save them – it lay right next to the now useless phone. Tentatively, Severus stood and, raising his hand, touched the wood. Greatly startled, the boy felt how it immediately warmed beneath his touch. Hopeful again, he encircled his fingers tightly around the warm wood and picking the miraculous stick up, he run out of the house, flicking with the stick in the air as he had seen mum doing, and shouting: "Help!"
St. Mungo's Hospital
Guest Room of Vanishing Sickness Ward
Early September 1967
"Here, Mrs. Prince." A young nurse in St. Mungo's green opened the door to the guest room of the Vanishing Sickness Ward to reveal a small boy in Muggle clothes, his eyes red and cheeks wet from crying, sitting, knees pulled to his chest, in a large armchair in the middle of the room. "Call for me if you need anything," the girl said and was away.
An aristocratic looking lady in her late fifties the nurse had accompanied previously, entered the room, looking the crying boy up and down. "Hello Severus," she greeted in a rich voice when she had enjoyed the sight enough, "so we are meeting at last."
The boy stopped crying, startled by her sudden presence in the room. "You are no doctor," he said matter-of-factly, staring at her civil if strange looking clothing. "What are you doing here? You are not taking me away! I have to stay with my mother! I don't mind she is sleeping, I can be really quiet, I promise! I won't wake her."
The woman gently smiled at him, proud of his protectiveness of his mother. "Your mother needs to stay here for a couple of days, Severus, and we will visit her as soon as she gets a little better. But yes, I will take you with me now. Hospital guest room is no place for a seven-year-old boy, my dear."
The lady was nice and Severus found out that he rather liked her, unlike the eternally busy staff of the hospital who had locked him in this room when he wanted to see his mother. But no matter that he was resolved not to let anyone remove him from his mother's proximity. "I am not going anywhere," he repeated and stubbornly stared in front of himself, the tiny arms crossed over his chest.
The lady quite unpredictably laughed. "All your mother and grandfather! The elves will adore you."
Severus looked up carefully. He didn't know what any elves were doing with it but he wanted to know about his grandfather. Mum and dad had never spoken about him and he had visited his grandmother only a couple of times. "Did you know my grandfather Snape?" he asked timidly. "He died before I was born."
"No, not your grandfather Snape, Severus. I spoke about your grandfather Prince, your mother's father," she corrected and was saddened when the ancient, proud name was obviously foreign to him. "Before your mother married your father she was Eileen Prince and lived in the wizarding world. This hospital is part of it. There is also a Ministry of Magic, wizarding school called Hogwarts or the Knight Bus you summoned so cleverly earlier today. You saved my daughter's life with that and even if you would not be my grandson, I would be indebted to you for it and should like you very much. As my grandson, I have loved you since you were born and I am only very sorry that we couldn't meet more frequently in the past. We shall make up for it now, I promise."
Severus was staring at her, her words slowly making sense to him. "You are my grandmother, my mum's mother?" he stuttered.
The lady smiled once more and lowered herself in front of him. Looking him straight in the dark eyes, she confirmed: "Yes, Severus, I am your grandmother. If you allow me to take you home with me now, I will introduce you to your grandfather Prince as well."
Wide eyed, Severus nodded, longing to meet his grandfather and let her take his hand. "But we are coming back to see mum when she wakes up?" he asked one last time and only when she assured him with a soft "I promise." he followed her outside.
A/N: I actually don't like original characters much – but I really needed Bottomley and Severus's grandmother here. And well, Severus's grandmother isn't even exactly an original character, so hopefully you didn't mind (much). (-: Does anyone know her first name? Was it mentioned anywhere? If not, would Cecilia or Clementine Prince suit you?
Oh, and sure, a review would be nice. They keep me writing after all.