Severus wrapped him in a tight hug, mindful of his injuries.
"Don't you dare so something like that again," he scolded. "You had me so worried – I'm not going to lose my godson just after finding him again!"
"Death Eaters?" rasped Harry, grimacing. His throat was painfully raw.
"Don't worry about that now. Albus is taking care of things. You've been out of it for almost a week!"
"What?!" exclaimed Harry, shooting upright in shock. He promptly groaned as a wave of nausea overcame him. Severus conjured a bucket just in time.
Feeling unbelievably weak and dizzy, Harry lay limply in his godfather's arms, barely having the strength to respond to his questions. Vomiting had only worsened his headache, which was throbbing unmercifully. Severus cast a breath freshening charm, banished the vomit and helped him sip from a glass of water. Harry drank thirstily, but winced as even the liquid irritated his enflamed throat.
"Dehydration," stated Severus. "Not to mention undernourishment, injuries, both old and new, an accelerated magical maturation…you'll be feeling dizzy for a while."
'Wonderful,' Harry thought sarcastically. 'Any chance of a pain killer?'
"Unfortunately no," replied Severus out loud. "You've already received a higher than recommended dosage of potion. Any more will kill you. For your throat however…"
The man produced a suspiciously muggle like syringe. It seemed to be filled with purple jelly.
'What is that?' Harry asked warily.
"Muggle pain medicine. Why bother making a potion when the muggles have something that works just as well?" Severus said in false cheeriness. "Open your mouth, don't worry…I think I've seen someone use it before."
Harry, who had begun to open his mouth, immediately snapped it shut again.
'You think you know what you're doing?'
"Now that you mention it, I may have added a few spells that medicates automatically…"
He waved his wand, and Harry suddenly felt a cool substance coating his throat. He glared at Severus, who simply laughed.
'You are too easy to tease,' Severus said mentally. 'Is it working?'
Harry smiled affirmatively, not daring to risk nodding his head. He had a sneaking suspicion that he would be vomiting again if he did.
Severus settled him back into the bed comfortably, fluffing up the pillows and spelling shut the curtains, the dim the light to a more tolerable level for his headache. All the while, Severus told him about the past week, but Harry was only half listening. Trying to concentrate through this headache was difficult. His godfather's voice was low and soothing, and he felt his eyelids slipping shut of their own accord. He didn't notice that Severus had stopped talking until he heard a chuckle in his mind.
'You aren't listening to a word I'm saying, are you?' his mind voice sounded distinctly amused.
'Sorry,' apologised Harry. 'I can't do anything with this bloody headache.'
Long deceptively strong fingers massaged his temples. A cool burst of magic emanated from Severus' fingertips, chasing away the headache that was plaguing him. Harry sighed gratefully, his neck and shoulder muscles relaxing in the absence of pain.
"What was that? I could feel your magic," Harry murmured, a hint of awe in his voice. He was pleased to hear his voice sounding smoother. The muggle stuff had actually worked.
"It's an obscure branch of mind magic that allows the transference of healing power through touch, between individuals sharing a mental link. I call it touch therapy…the real name is too long and unpronounceable."
"Ah…it's useful," remarked Harry. "I've never heard of anything like touch therapy."
"I did say it was an obscure branch of mind magic," reminded the man teasingly.
The two stayed in companionable silence for a time. Harry started to fidget in the bed slightly.
"She's dead. Bellatrix Lestrange is dead," stated Harry. He hadn't doubted his parents, but he somehow needed a confirmation. Needed Severus, needed his godfather to tell him the woman was dead.
"She's dead, Harry. It's a relief for the wizarding world in a way. She was insane."
"She…I…I'm not sad she's dead," Harry said confusedly. "Does that make me like Voldemort? She killed Sirius but still…shouldn't I be feeling…something?"
"Harry," sighed Severus, sitting down on the bed. "The Dark Lord enjoys the death of his victims. He revels in the power of killing. You did not kill Bellatrix, nor are you enjoying her death. You may, perhaps, be feeling a bit relieved, but given your past history with her, I would be amazed if you mourned her death as you would if it had been…Tonks for an example. Not feeling anything is a sign that you're in shock, or have suppressed any emotions. It does NOT make you a dark lord."
"That night…in the Department of Mysteries…I tried a cruciatus curse on her…" admitted Harry.
Severus looked at him sharply.
"Did it work?"
"No. She told me I needed to want to cause the pain. I just wanted her to hurt like I was hurting…I'd just lost Sirius…"
Harry's voice cracked slightly, and he turned his head away.
"The magic felt so…wrong. I was sick for days later, but everyone though I was just mourning Sirius. If a failed cruciatus curse didn't work…I don't think I can kill Voldemort, Papa. I just can't cast the curse! Everyone is waiting for me to kill him, but I'm dooming the whole wizarding world! I just…"
Harry was crying softly now, instinctively leaning towards Severus for comfort. Severus held him gently, letting him cry, sensing that Harry had kept this fear bottled for too long. Eventually Harry sniffed, looking younger than Severus could ever remember seeing him.
'Sorry Papa, I don't know what just happened,' apologised an embarrassed Harry.
'Crying is normal Harry, particularly after pain. There has been times when Albus would let me cry for hours after a meeting,' reassured Severus. He was pleased that Harry was calling him Papa again.
'Let's deal with those worries, Harry. I, for one, am extremely glad that you cannot cast the unforgivables. The avada kedavra curse is not the only way to kill someone, and I have a suspicion that it would not work on the Dark Lord anyway. We will find a way to help you, Harry, and we will go into this battle together. We are not 'waiting' for you to off that bastard, but helping you."
Privately, Severus was surprised that this problem hadn't come out earlier. Nobody seemed to realise that pinning their hopes on Harry meant making him a murderer, if the Dark Lord could be considered human. He was careful not to deny the fact that Harry was the only person who could possibly kill him.
"I…thanks, Papa," said Harry softly, feeling less burdened than he had in days.
He shifted in bed, rolling onto his side, with a faint wince as muscles pulled. The wince was not missed by Severus, who directed him to lie on his front. Severus resumed his 'touch therapy', healing damage from the cruciatus curses and the beating Vernon had given him.
"Severus?" Harry asked hesitantly. "Did the Order see…I mean…does everyone know about…what Uncle Vernon did?"
Severus paused for a moment, before resuming his healing.
"No one except for you knows exactly what happened in that house. The headmaster and I probably know the most, but you didn't go into great detail about your injuries. Poppy knows the extent of your injuries but not the causes…she was horrified at any rate. Harry, what did he do to you?"
"Actually, I don't really know. Like I told you, he knocked me unconscious within ten seconds. When I came to I contacted you straight away, and tried a few healing spells out, they worked pretty well but still…" he trailed off, thinking back to that night. "I remember thinking that he'd done a first rate job of beating me to a pulp. The broken ribs were probably caused by Bellatrix, but the bruises were Vernon's."
"And the lacerations on your back were also caused by him?" prompted Severus.
"Guess so…I don't really remember him whipping me before, I think it might have been the first time he'd tried that...Did they leave scars?" he asked, hoping for a negative response. More scars were the last thing he needed.
"Maybe, Poppy wasn't sure. I have some salve that might help."
"Ah," Harry said vaguely. There was a short pause.
"Severus, I need to go to the bathroom."
"Can you stand?" asked Severus, an amused lilt in his voice.
Harry sat up, swinging his legs over the edge. Only to promptly collapse.
"Never mind," mutter Severus as he picked the teen up, carrying him to the bathroom. After attending to his needs, Harry was placed back into the bed, much to his displeasure.
"Severus! I've spent long enough in bed. Can't I go downstairs for a bit?" pleaded Harry, giving the man his best puppy dog look. His stomach chose this moment to grumble loudly. "Even just for a bite to eat?"
Severus tried to remain stern, but Lily had always conquered him with that expression, and Harry was no different.
"Fine," he said, defeated. "But take an energy replenisher first."
Harry drank the potion without complaint, feeling new energy flood his body. He looked to his godfather for permission to get out of the bed.
"Only if you are strong enough," replied Severus to the unspoken question.
Harry carefully eased himself out of bed and took a few uncertain steps. When he didn't foresee any problems, he moved with more confidence. Just as he reached the door, he was halted by a hand on his shoulder. Severus offered a dressing gown for him, making him suddenly realise that he wore only sleep pants. Blushing faintly, he accepted the man's help in wrapping the material around him.
He continued to move into the corridor, only to look at the suddenly endless stairs that led to the kitchen in dismay. Before he could ask for help, Severus had swept him into his arms and carried him down the stairs. Just before they reached the kitchen, Severus set his godson down gently, correctly guessing that Harry didn't want to show weakness to anyone else.
Harry could hear arguing from within the room that was all too familiar to him
"Ron, honestly! If you had spent just a little more time studying with me you wouldn't be this worried!"
"But Hermione! Don't you see that life isn't all about studying? I have other important things in life…"
He looked at Severus in surprise.
"Miss Granger and her parents were brought after the attack for their safety. She has been rather worried about you," explained the man.
Harry nodded in understanding, pushing open the door slowly to find, as he expected, his two best friends in what looked like another study vs. Quidditch argument.
"Hi guys," he said softly.
"Hi Harry," they replied absently.
There was a short pause.
"HARRY!" shrieked Hermione excitedly.
She would have bowled him over had it not been for Severus' interruption.
"Miss Granger, please remember that Harry is still recovering. A little less enthusiasm would be appreciated."
Hermione stopped immediately, looking at her friend a little more critically.
"You should sit down Harry. My apologies, Professor Snape," she said deferentially in a manner more like what Severus was accustomed to.
Harry sat down with a soft sigh, feeling more tired than he had expected. From the concerned glance, he knew his friends, Hermione at least, had also noticed. A plate of scrambled eggs and a bowl of porridge were placed in front of him, and he started eating slowly. Severus was concocting something by the stove, listening to the teenagers' soft conversation.
"You don't look so good, mate," Ron said bluntly. Almost immediately, Hermione smacked him on the head.
"Teaspoon, Ronald," she reminded pointedly.
"Severus said I'll be feeling weak for a while," said Harry, looking at his friends closely for a reaction.
"Too bad, that's awful…hang on, did you call him Severus?! Since when are you on a first name basis?" Ron asked suspiciously.
Hermione huffed slightly.
"Don't you ever listen to what I say, Ron? They share a mental bond! And Professor Dumbledore said there were other secrets involved that he couldn't tell us about."
"Umm…about those secrets…" Harry said slowly, looking at his godfather for guidance.
"You may tell them, but realise that the information could be deadly," replied Severus.
Harry glanced at his friends' pale faces. The events at the ministry had matured them faster than most adolescents.
"I trust their judgement. They need to know," stated Harry, turning to face Ron and Hermione.