Author's Notes: Hi, everyone. I'd really planned to post another chapter of "Potions Professor" before Christmas (and it's still not an impossibility, I suppose, maybe), but this little plot bunny bit and wouldn't leave me alone til I wrote it out. If I don't update "Potions Professor" before Christmas, then I will later on next week. In the meantime, I really hope you'll enjoy this little fic, too, because I had lots of fun writing it.
I haven't decided if "Recovery" will fit in with my other stories or not. If it does, then it will fit at the end of the second part of the trilogy I'm planning, the Deathly Hallows AU. It may also just be a short stand—alone fic.
Warnings: Some DH spoilers. Lots of Harry and Severus angst and mush (don't read if you don't like), and some people may consider Severus OOC. He is a bit, actually, but at this point he and Harry have become close and been through a lot together. Also, the events in this story force Severus to realize how much Harry has come to mean to him.
I really hope you'll enjoy it, and yummy chocolate cookies with sprinkles and gum drops to all who leave a review (as long it's not a flame, of course).
Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns Harry Potter, etc. I just have fun playing in her universe.
Severus saw it happen from across the Great Hall.
He was dueling Dolohov when out of the corner of his eye, he caught a glimpse of a slight dark-haired boy darting through a side door. That glimpse was enough to make him spin away from Dolohov, avoiding a jet of murderous green light by a hair, and take off towards the boy.
He learned later that it was Neville Longbottom who had subdued Dolohov. Neville Longbottom, the last person in the world Severus would have expected to be able to defeat even another Hogwarts' student, let alone one of the most powerful Death Eaters. But Neville, who had just helped Ron Weasley bring down another set of Death Eaters, had looked up in time to see Dolohov aim his wand at Severus' back and had somehow managed to Stupify him in time.
Of course, Severus should have known better…he did know better, in fact, than to turn away from an enemy. Looking back, he couldn't believe that he had been so utterly stupid, but then, that was what love could do to a person. And he did love Harry.
Two years ago, if anyone had told him that he would come to love James Potter's son as if the boy were his own child, Severus wouldn't have known whether to collapse in hysterical laughter or curse the idiot into oblivion.
But it had happened.
From the moment he had rescued Harry from the band of Death Eaters that had been torturing him, through the days of nursing him back to health, to the past months of protecting and guiding him as they destroyed the Dark Lord's Horcruxes, the child had steadily wormed his way into Severus' heart.
So when he saw Harry rushing headlong towards the snake-faced figure in a dark cloak up near the Staff Table, Severus had to take off after him. He had no choice, really. He didn't even think about it.
He didn't know why he did. He'd known Harry would have to face Voldemort again one day. Even after he'd grown fond of the boy, even when he'd grown to hate the fact that he couldn't shield Harry from his destiny, Severus had known that the final confrontation was inevitable.
But still, it came too soon. Harry wasn't ready yet. It didn't matter that the last Horcrux had been destroyed. It didn't even matter that they were in the midst of a battle. When he saw Harry and Voldemort facing one another, the only thought emblazoned in Severus' mind was "Not yet!!! Please, please, not yet!!!"
And then everything around him seemed to freeze. Severus himself felt as if he were turned to stone. He watched helplessly as Harry and Voldemort screamed spells at each other. The roaring in his ears kept him from hearing, but he knew what Voldemort would have cast. Sure enough, the deadly green Avada Kedavra light shot from the Dark Lord's wand.
At the same instant red light streamed from Harry's wand, and the two spells intercepted with a bang that seemed to shake the whole castle. A bright golden light blinded them all for a full minute. When it faded, both Voldemort and Harry were lying on the ground.
And then he was able to move again. Severus sprinted forwards and fell to his knees at Harry's side. Around him, other things were happening. Someone tentatively crept to examine the cloaked figure nearby, and then shouted joyfully, "He's dead! Voldemort's dead!"
The remaining Death Eaters were either being captured or fleeing the scene; people were hugging, crying, searching frantically for loved ones. Shouts of both rejoicing and grief filled the air.
Severus wasn't aware of any of it. His attention was focused completely on the small, still form lying in a crumpled heap on the floor beside him. Severus waved his wand in a diagnostic spell, but his fingers shook so that the spell didn't work and he had to repeat it.
Ron and Hermione fought their way through the crowd to join him, their faces pale and taut.
"Harry?" Ron demanded. Hermione couldn't even bring herself to speak.
"He's alive, but just barely," Severus answered grimly. He looked around frantically. Harry needed medical attention, immediately, but he didn't know exactly where Poppy was, probably off tending the wounded somewhere. In any case, skilled as she was, she was a nurse, not a fully trained Healer, and Harry needed the very best of care.
But was St. Mungo's safe for him yet? Harry Potter had been number one on the Most Wanted list while Voldemort had been in power, and while news of his defeat would undoubtedly be spreading like wildfire, Severus wasn't sure if the wizarding hospital was safe enough to take Harry there yet.
But what choice was there, really? He scooped Harry up in his arms and raced for a side chamber off the Hall, where there was a fireplace connected to the Floo Network. At least it had been connected before the Death Eaters had taken over Hogwarts. Severus prayed it still was.
As he rushed into the chamber, he realized that Minerva McGonagall was following.
"St. Mungo's, Severus," she told him. "Ask for Healer Bushby, Veronica Bushby. I'm coming right behind you."
She snatched the jar of Floo powder from the mantel and tossed some powder in the grate as Severus practically leaped into the fireplace and called, "St. Mungo's Hospital!"
Green flames flared up, and an instant later Severus was hurrying into the reception area of St. Mungo's, carrying Harry cradled against his chest. Fortunately, it wasn't very crowded and the witch idly thumbing through a magazine at the desk looked up in amazement when Severus shouted, "Emergency! I need Healer Bushby!"
A tall blonde woman in Healer's robes happened to be coming down the hallway and heard him.
"I'm Healer Bushby." She took the scene in quickly and motioned for Severus to follow. "This way."
Severus hurried after her into the nearest empty room and as he carefully laid Harry on the bed, he realized that Minerva was coming in the door behind them. Healer Bushby was already performing some diagnostic spells and didn't look up, but she was obviously aware of what was going on for she said, "Minerva?"
Minerva shut the door behind her and warded it before she began speaking in quick, hushed tones, as if even now she worried about being overheard. Or perhaps she just didn't want to disturb Harry. But Harry didn't look as if anything would disturb him. His thin face was deathly pale, and his closed eyes looked as if they might never open again. But Severus couldn't bear to think like that. He lifted one trembling hand and lightly ran his fingers through Harry's dark hair.
Healer Bushby listened to Minerva's tale in silence; never pausing even at the news of Voldemort's death or at her patient's identity. She ran through complicated Healing Spells; then Summoned potions and held them to Harry's lips, working with rapid, efficient movements, before finally standing back and regarding them solemnly.
"Well, that's certainly historic news," she said finally. "I only hope young Mr. Potter will survive."
"What's wrong with him?" Severus demanded, his throat so tight that it hurt to force the words out.
"His magical core is almost completely burned out."
"So Harry's lost his magical abilities?" Minerva whispered.
"It's much more critical than that, I'm afraid," Healer Bushby replied softly. "Our cores do more than give us our magic. At the deepest level, a wizard's magical core is connected to all the body's vital systems. Circulatory, respiratory, the nervous system…." She shook her head. "Right now, we have to worry that his body will simply shut down."
"And if that happens?" Minerva sounded as if she were about to cry.
The Healer sighed. "Then he will die."
"No!" Severus felt the cry torn from him. For an instant, he wasn't in St. Mungo's Hospital by Harry's side. He was in the distant past, standing in the kitchen at Spinner's End, staring in horrified disbelief at the morning's edition of the Daily Prophet. It's huge headlines screaming the news of Voldemort's disappearance, at the cost of Lily and James Potter's lives. He remembered the agony of Lily's death, the fierce pain, the emptiness and despair.
But somehow, losing Harry would be even worse. Severus did not think he could survive if Harry died.
He dimly realized that Minerva had come to lay a hand on his arm; that she was still speaking.
"But surely you can do something, Veronica?"
"I've done all I can," Healer Bushby replied quietly. "I've tried to heal his magical core, and given him potions to strengthen his heart and lungs. Hopefully, his core will start to regenerate, but magical cores heal and regenerate at a very slow pace. The next few days will be critical."
She hesitated; then said. "I can't do anything else for now. You may stay with him if you like."
As if wild hippogriffs could have dragged him away. Severus immediately dragged a chair over and sat down right beside the bed. He reached for Harry's hand, holding it gently. Harry's own fingers felt as brittle as twigs.
Minerva and the Healer spoke at the doorway for another minute before they undid Minerva's wards and Healer Bushby left. Minerva came back to Severus and said softly, "Veronica assures me that we'll be safe here. Severus, she and I were dorm mates when we were in school. I've known her for many years and she's one of the very best Healers. She'll do everything possible for Harry."
Severus jerked his head in a nod. A huge lump had appeared in his throat, making it impossible to speak.
"I know Ron and Hermione were coming behind me," Minerva murmured. "I'd better go make sure they're all right."
She reached over to tenderly brush Harry's hair back from his forehead and then laid her hand against his cheek. "Thank you, Harry."
And then she was gone.
Severus just watched Harry, a million memories crowding into his mind. Some of them pleasant; others painful. He saw Harry laughing, his face lit with joy, as he zoomed across the Quidditch pitch chasing a golden Snitch. He saw Harry and Draco Malfoy, glaring as they baited one another in the Hogwarts' corridors, and then later, tentatively clasping hands as they realized they needed to work together to defeat the Dark Lord who threatened them all.
He saw Harry gazing at him from his desk in the Potions classroom, his face a mask of stoicism to hide the hurt as Severus taunted him. He saw himself, in a towering rage after catching Harry in his Pensieve, grabbing the boy and throwing him to the floor. That one hurt so much that Severus' breath rasped in his throat and tears blurred his vision.
But then he saw Harry grinning at him over a chessboard, and the two of them exploring the ruins of Prince Hall together. He saw Harry sobbing in his arms the terrible night that Dumbledore had died, and again months later as they stood by his parents' graves in Godric's Hollow.
He remembered holding Harry close, and how the child had always burrowed against him, pressing his face so tightly to Severus' chest that Severus had wondered sometimes how he could still breathe. He remembered Harry clinging to him fiercely, as if he would never let go.
He remembered Harry's desolate childhood, surrounded by people who despised him, starved him, worked him to exhaustion, and kept him locked in a small, cramped cupboard for hours at a time.
And Severus wondered why, even after learning all that, he had been so stingy with his gestures of affection? He'd known how much it meant to Harry, and yet there were so many opportunities he'd missed.
How many times could Severus have given him a hug, but didn't? How many times could he have told Harry how he felt, but didn't? Any reason he could tell himself…that he wasn't comfortable with showing emotion, that Harry had known how Severus felt anyway…seemed like a feeble excuse for not giving the child what he desperately needed.
"But no more," he whispered, giving Harry's hand a light squeeze. "Come back to me, Harry. Come back, and I promise I'll change. I want to change, for you. I love you, Harry. I love you so much."
Severus moved to the bed, propping pillows against the headboard so he could recline in a half-sitting position, and then tenderly gathered Harry into his arms. He cradled the boy's head against his chest and held him close, running his fingers through Harry's hair and hoping that somehow, it would be enough to bring the child…his son…back to him.
He didn't know how much time had passed when the door slowly opened,
and Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger tiptoed in. They, too, were pale and solemn. They looked at Severus with frightened, searching eyes, but Severus didn't know what to say to them. After a minute, they turned their attention to Harry and crept close to the bed, crawling on it from the other side so that Harry could be surrounded by the people who loved him most.
They bowed their heads close to Harry, and as Severus watched them, he could see the trio of tiny eleven-year-olds who had worked their way through the tasks set by the professors and saved the Philosopher's Stone six years ago. He supposed he must be getting old; they didn't seem much different now.
Hermione began talking to Harry, her voice as soft as a whisper, telling him to get well, that they all loved him and needed him. Ron joined in, explaining how the entire lobby of St. Mungo's was filled with people who were concerned for him…all the Hogwarts' professors, tons of students, Hagrid, Aberforth Dumbledore, the members of Harry's old Quidditch team, and of course, the Weasley clan.
"You're one of us, Harry," Ron said earnestly. "You always have been. You're just as much my brother as Fred and George, or Bill, or any of the others. You can't leave us now. Harry, we…"
He swallowed hard, looking faintly embarrassed, but then he gripped his friend's hand and said firmly, "We love you, Harry."
"Me, most of all." Severus studied Harry's wan face, anxiously hoping to see some sign of returning strength, but Harry was as still and limp as before. On the verge of slipping away from them, forever.
Severus' eyes filled with tears again, and he turned his face away to hide them, but then a small hand touched his arm and he looked back to see Hermione watching him, her brown eyes warm and concerned.
"Severus? Harry's tough. He's very strong," she tried to reassure him.
For their sakes' as much as his own, Severus nodded. "Yes," he agreed. "He's had to be. I'm glad he's always had the two of you to be there for him. You've always been good friends."
"Not me. Not always," Ron muttered, his face filled with guilt and pain.
"You always came back to Harry when he needed you most," Severus said. "You've been a good friend, Ron."
Ron's lips twisted in some sort of acknowledgement of Severus' words, but whether it was a sign of acceptance or denial, Severus wasn't sure. It struck him again how bizarre it would have been to him once, that he and Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley would try to comfort one another.
But ever since he'd let Harry into his heart, he'd been thrown together with the other two children as well, and they had gradually come to accept each other. He and Hermione had made amends when he'd saved the Grangers from Death Eaters, and over the past months of working together to find and destroy the Horcruxes, Severus and Ron had even finally managed to get along.
Severus didn't feel the same intense emotion for them that he felt for Harry, but he was fond of them, even if sometimes he felt as if he'd fallen into some strange parallel universe where everything was different from the established reality.
He was brought back to the current reality by the door opening and Healer Bushby coming back in. She frowned slightly at them.
"I'm afraid only immediate family is allowed in," she began.
But Ron and Hermione were already speaking up.
"That's us!" Ron said forcefully
"But we are…" Hermione explained.
Healer Bushby gave them a tired smile. "Perhaps I should have said that it's not good for a critically injured patient to be surrounded by people."
"I'm not leaving," Severus said flatly, leaving no room for argument.
She nodded. "I could tell you wouldn't. All right, you stay, Mr….?"
"Snape," Severus told her.
"And you two need to leave now," She over-rode Ron and Hermione by adding firmly, "And you may come back in for short visits every few hours."
Ron and Hermione didn't look pleased, but they slowly stood.
"At least tell us how Harry's doing before we go," Hermione pleaded.
Healer Bushby went through the diagnostic spells again. "No change," she said quietly. "But at this point, no change is good news."
"When…" Ron's voice faltered. "When will we know?"
"It will be a minimum of 24 hours before I'll be able to tell if his magical core is going to regenerate itself. Until then, well, anything could happen."
She left, ushering the other two teenagers in her wake, and once again Severus was alone with Harry.
He kept holding the child close, and began rubbing circles on his back. At some point, he started talking again, speaking so softly and gently he almost didn't recognize his own voice.
He spoke of their past…telling Harry again how sorry he was, how he wished he had been a friend instead of an enemy during Harry's first years at Hogwarts, how he wished he had been there to offer comfort and support during all the trials Harry had faced. Even more, that he wished he could have been Harry's guardian and spared him all the miserable years with the Dursleys.
He told Harry things he'd never told anyone…about his own abusive parents, how they had mistreated him for years, and how his only other relative—his grandmother—had been such a comfort to him. He told Harry about the fairy tales she had once told a very young Severus, and he tried his best to remember them well enough to tell Harry a few. He didn't think anyone had ever told Harry a fairy tale.
He told Harry about how his grandmother had died when Severus was only eight, and how alone and frightened he'd been. And then, how he'd met and become friends with a kind and beautiful little girl he'd met at the neighborhood playground. A little girl with long red hair, bright emerald eyes, and a laugh that had made Severus believe there was some good in the world, after all.
"I want to tell you all about her, Harry," Severus murmured. "I've told you a bit, but there's so much more you need to know. I should have already told you, I know, but at first it was so hard, and then we were always so busy with other things. But I want to tell you everything about her. She was warm and compassionate and generous, like you, Harry. And she was clever and funny and loyal. She was the best friend I've ever had."
Severus realized suddenly that tears were sliding down his cheeks and he bowed his head to rest his lips on the top of Harry's head.
"Except for you," he said in a choked whisper. "Except for you, Harry."
He swallowed hard and kept talking, with his lips moving against Harry's hair. "You've got to come back, child. You're free. You have everything to live for now. I want to give you everything. Everything that you were denied before. Please give me that chance, Harry. Don't leave me. Because I can't live without you."
His voice trailed off and Severus grew silent, his tears running into Harry's hair. He cradled Harry close, as if he could give the boy some of his own strength.
Then the miracle happened. He felt Harry stirring in his arms, and he looked down to see the boy staring up at him with those brilliant green eyes, so much like his mother's.
Severus tried to speak, but words wouldn't come. He could only stare back, still silently weeping. Harry reached up and brushed the tears away, as Severus had done for him in the past.
"It's all right, Sev'rus," he whispered.
Severus took Harry's face between his hands, and then kissed his forehead. "You foolish child. Don't you ever do anything like this to me again!"
Despite the words, his tone was gentle and he brushed his fingers across Harry's face as lightly as if the child were made of spun glass. Then he tenderly wrapped his arms around Harry again, settling him back against his chest. Harry just lay against him, his head resting above Severus' heart, as weak as a newborn kneazle, but Severus breathed a prayer of thanks as he leaned back against the pillows and held Harry close.
Severus knew Harry still had a long way to go. Magical cores were notoriously slow to heal, but somehow, he also knew that Harry was out of danger.
Everything was going to be all right, after all.