Summary: Nine months after the final battle, Harry discovers Snape in St. Mungo's, still suffering from a curse. The healers are doing anything but their jobs, so Harry takes it on himself to rehabilitate the man he's learning to respect.
Warnings: SS/HP slash, mentions of past unpleasantness (rape, attempted suicide, child abuse)
Disclaimer: I'm making zero dollars off this story.
Author's note: All of canon is canon, except for certain (ahem) aspects of the final battle which should become apparent, and of course that scary epilogue.
"Oh Hermione, she's beautiful," Harry cooed, gazing at the newborn cradled in Molly Weasley's arms.
"Isn't she?" Hermione beamed. Harry was frankly amazed at her ability to be completely exhausted, moderately drugged, red-faced and sweaty with exertion, and swollen and still have the ability to beam. He supposed childbirth did that to a person. He felt a momentary pang at the thought that he would never really have a family of his own, but quashed it quickly. This was no time to be feeling sorry for himself.
Suddenly tears starting streaming down Hermione's cheeks, but Harry suspected it had little to do with childbirth. When he thought of Ron and how he'd never get to meet his daughter—had never even known he was going to have one—it made him get a bit teary-eyed too.
"Life's not fair," he pointed out to no one in particular.
Soon, Hermione's parents came back from getting tea and the rest of the Weasley family—or what was left of it—arrived at last.
"Wonderful gums," Mr. Granger observed while his wife nodded approvingly.
Harry decided it was his turn to take a break, and what with the noise level and whirlwind of people he figured now was the time. He loved them all dearly, but the room was small and he was starting to feel claustrophobic so he excused himself.
He wasn't hungry or thirsty, so he roamed the halls. He wasn't paying any particular attention to where he was going, and after a while he realized he had no idea which ward he was in anymore. The sound of babies screaming had long since faded, so it certainly wasn't maternity. He looked around for a sign to tell him where he was, and the first one he saw was next to a door, handwritten on parchment.
It read, "SNAPE, S."
Now he really wished he knew what ward this was. What was Snape doing here? What was wrong with him? He knew he'd been hexed in the final battle—really, who hadn't?—but that was nine months ago now. Harry couldn't remember what the curse was, but surely Snape should have recovered by now.
As Harry's head appeared in his friend's fireplace, he could hear chimes announcing the connection. He called out anyway.
"Hermione, you home? It's Harry!"
Just when he was beginning to suspect that she had either been devoured by a rabid household pest or she really wasn't home, his vision was filled with bushy-haired girl kneeling on the hearth.
"Harry! I was wondering how long it would take you to call. Come on through," she said all in one breath.
A few seconds and a rather graceless stumble later, Harry was being hugged for all he was worth.
"It's good to see you too," Harry said with what little air he felt he could spare. Finally, he was released and held by his shoulders at arm's length.
"I'm so glad you stopped by. But if I hear one word out of you about my eating habits or proper swaddling technique or how I should really just move in with you, I'll hex you into next week. Understand?"
Harry grinned. "Not a peep. I take it they've been 'round quite a bit then?"
"Oh, you have no idea," Hermione groaned. "Between Mum and Molly, I think I may actually suffocate. I mean, I really appreciate all their help and honestly I'd probably be lost without them, but there has got to be a better way."
"Well, I promise not to mother you, all right? I can tell from the tirade that you're recovering just fine, so I won't even ask. Now, how about this goddaughter of mine? Do I get to see? I promise not to fawn—too much."
She smiled gratefully, said, "She's sleeping right now, but we can look in on her," and took his hand to lead him to the nursery.
It was fairly dark, but Harry could see the tiny, purple-clad baby asleep in her cot well enough. Her fuzzy hair was red, but not shockingly so like her father's had been. He whispered, "Sleep well, little Rosie," and they tiptoed out of the room. Once they were back in the sitting room comfortably folded into chairs, Harry said, "I like her better this way."
"What, sleeping? Me too."
Harry laughed. "No, I mean not all red and squished and blotchy."
"Yes well, there's that too. It's a wonder the difference two weeks makes."
"Yeah. So, I'm going to assume you're sick and tired of talking about nothing but babies and baby-related things, right?"
"What's on your mind, Harry?" Trust Hermione to get right down to business.
"It's about Snape, believe it or not."
"Professor Snape," she corrected automatically.
"Actually, it's not anymore. After Rose was born, I took a walk around St. Mungo's and I found his room. He's been there ever since the final battle. Did you know he'd been cursed?"
"Well, everyone was cursed a couple of times," she said and Harry hoped she wasn't thinking of Ron. She seemed just fine, though. "I didn't know his was so severe. How is he doing? Did you talk to him?"
"That's the thing—I couldn't talk to him because he's in a magically induced coma and has been since he was admitted. Apparently someone cursed his tongue out of existence. None of the healers knew the countercurse, and he wasn't able to feed himself or even swallow at all, so they put him in a coma to make him less of an inconvenience."
He dropped his head into his hand and continued. "It was awful. His lips were so dry they were cracked and bleeding, and his skin was all grayish and practically see-through, and he was so thin. And the smell! It's obvious they just dumped him in that room nine months ago and haven't bathed him or changed his gown or changed his sheets or even done a goddamn cleaning charm since! The healers couldn't even tell me who was in charge of his case—none of them wants anything to do with him."
He lifted his head to look her in the eye and felt the sting of threatening tears.
Hermione spoke softly, cautiously. "You're right, Harry, it sounds awful. And you're right to be angry and upset. But I thought—I mean you've never particularly…don't you hate him?"
"I did. I really did. When I saw his name beside the door I thought, 'Good, he deserves whatever it is he's here for.' But then I saw him and I couldn't hate him anymore. I really looked at him for the first time, and I could see that he's a good man, an honorable man. I could see how much he's sacrificed for the Order. And no one deserves that kind of treatment—least of all him! He's a goddamn hero, for fuck's sake!"
"I agree, Harry, but there's no need to raise your voice," she said, glancing meaningfully toward the hall that led to the nursery. "The question is, what are we going to do about it?"
"Ah, well. I went through a lot of the books I kept from Grimmauld Place. I couldn't find the countercurse—I couldn't even find the curse, actually—but I did find a healing spell that will grow him a new tongue."
"Well, that's wonderful!"
Harry nodded. "Yes, but he's still going to have a long, hard recovery ahead of him, and I can't leave him there. You didn't see him, Hermione. I can't leave him there."
"Maybe you could try to have him transferred to another hospital," she said thoughtfully. "I don't know. Did you have something in mind?"
He squirmed a bit. "Well, I've got a guestroom, you know. And Alfonso can work full-time for a few weeks until I have more time for the shop. I've been reading all the caregivers manuals and stuff that I can get my hands on, and I think I can help him."
He braced himself for the rant he expected was coming. How he couldn't possibly, and what could he be thinking, and he was taking on too much responsibility. So he was shocked when Hermione nodded.
"Yes. I'd wager you can help him." There was a moment of silence before she took a breath to say something else, and he thought here it comes, here's the 'but'.
"So how is the shop doing?"
He could have kissed her.
He drifted to consciousness as if through several feet of water. His mind was fuzzy and his body seemed totally non-responsive. Eventually, he got his eyelids to open.
His eyes darted frantically around the room—he did not recognize it at all. It did not look much like a torture chamber, but one could never be sure about such things. He was starting to really panic when a voice broke through his awareness. He couldn't quite make out the words, but he was able to turn his head a bit in the direction of the voice.
The owner of the voice was seated in a chair beside his bed, hunched over a book. He must have been reading aloud.
He had familiar hair, but his face was hidden.
He tried to open his mouth and ask something along the lines of, 'What in seven hells is going on?' or 'Who in blazes are you and why can't I move?' but his mouth, which felt several sizes too large, refused to cooperate and all that came out was a low moan.
The voice stopped reading and the head with the familiar hair snapped up to reveal a familiar face. He wondered what exactly he had done to deserve this kind of torture.
And what precisely was that brat's name?
Severus wanted to roll his eyes and make a remark about stating the obvious, or perhaps just ask him a thousand questions—Where am I? What happened to me? Where is my wand? What time is it?
Again, he tried to open his mouth and nothing happened.
"You probably shouldn't try to talk. It's not going to work, in any case. It's Harry. Potter. You remember me, right?"
Of course, Harry sodding Potter.
"I know you have lots of questions, so I'll do my best to answer without you having to ask. First of all, you're safe here. I know it's hard, but please try to believe me. I mean you no harm. Oh, and 'here' is my guestroom. It's not much, but it's better than…anyway. Um, it's March seventeenth, 1999, if you want to know. The final battle was ten months ago, which we won, by the way. Voldemort's dead."
Severus tried to take in all this information—ten months gone? The Dark Lord dead?—assuming it was even true, but apparently there was still more.
"It seems you were hexed during the battle—someone cursed out your tongue. Somehow, you got to St. Mungo's…not that it did you much good. They didn't know how to fix you, and, well. They were sorry excuses for Healers. I'm so sorry about the way they treated you, and I'm sorry I didn't find you sooner. I found you about a month ago, by the way. I was able to find the right spell and grow you a new tongue, and then I brought you here."
Parts of it made sense. He remembered being hexed with something he didn't recognize. But how did losing his tongue translate to not remembering the last ten months? What exactly had happened at St. Mungo's?
Potter started speaking again, almost as if to himself, and unwittingly answered his question. "They had you in a magically induced coma. For nine months they made you sleep, all so they wouldn't have to take proper care of you. I couldn't believe what they were doing to you—it was barbaric. Like you were some kind of animal."
His voice was low, but he sounded outraged. Severus couldn't imagine why.
Potter looked up. "But you're safe now, and I'm going to do everything I can to make sure you make a full recovery."
He was still confused and there were still questions floating around in his head, but he couldn't even think what they were. At the moment all he could do was fall back asleep.
The next time Snape woke up, Harry was reading to him again. He stopped when he noticed Snape's eyes scanning the room in terror, and was grateful that after a moment he must have remembered their conversation because the terror faded.
"Good afternoon," Harry said, trying to sound cheerful, but not too annoying. "I know your tongue is still swollen and probably feels totally foreign, but hopefully you'll get used to it soon. Can you do me a favor and swallow for me?"
He was concerned that Snape was just going to lay there and ignore him—really, when had Snape ever done anything Harry wanted?—but he needed to know if he had any control over his new tongue at all. Finally, he saw Snape's Adam's apple dip in a deliberate swallow without any choking or coughing or apparent discomfort.
"That's wonderful. You haven't been able to do that for almost a year, you know. Would you like a glass of water?"
Snape couldn't answer, of course, but Harry thought he was trying to move his left arm, probably to take the glass from Harry's hand. And the look on his face was saying 'yes'.
"You probably can't move much. Sorry about that, but you were in a coma for quite a while. We'll get your strength back as soon as we can, but for now I'll have to hold the glass, okay?"
He carefully lifted Snape's head and supported it with his right hand and guided the glass to his lips with the left. He thought Snape looked refreshed, or at least relieved once he'd drained the entire glass, but it might have been wishful thinking.
"That's better, isn't it? Um, are you hungry at all? I know you probably can't chew that well, but you've demonstrated that you can swallow quite admirably, so I could get you something soft."
Snape seemed interested in the prospect, and Harry watched his face carefully while he named all the soft foods he could think of. "Let's see, there's mashed potatoes, tomato soup, porridge, Jell-O, ice cream, oatmeal, yoghurt, and…that's all I can really think of. Let's get you sitting up, and I'll bring you something, okay?"
Harry moved to sit on the edge of the bed and lifted Snape to a sitting position. He wasn't really strong enough to hold himself upright, so Harry braced Snape's upper body against his own and quickly arrange pillows behind him. Snape was able to hold his head up for a moment, but it soon dropped onto Harry's shoulder.
Harry made certain that nothing like pity was showing in his face and leaned Snape back against the pillows. He ignored the embarrassment evident in Snape's face and left for the kitchen.
He came back in a few minutes later with a tray. One bowl he transferred to the bedside table, careful to place it where Snape couldn't see what was inside, and charmed the tray to hover over Snape's lap.
"I've brought tea and soup," and plenty of napkins, he added mentally. "Would you like some tea first?"
Snape was looking steadily at the teacup like it was the answer to all his problems, so Harry took that as a yes. Once about half the tea was gone, he put the cup back on the tray and focused on the soup.
He brought a spoonful—not too full—to Snape's parted lips and fed it to him. As Snape tried to swallow it, a bit escaped from the corner of his mouth and dribbled down to his chin. He looked mortified.
"Oh, sorry about that," Harry said, quickly wiping it away with a napkin. "You know how clumsy I am—I'm trying, I swear." He looked right into Snape's eyes so his meaning could not be mistaken. "I'll get better at it, but you'll just have to bear with me for now, okay?"
He saw something like gratitude flash across Snape's face, and set about feeding him the rest of the soup. Once it was gone and a few more napkins had been put to good use, he retrieved the second bowl and removed the chilling charm.
"Ice cream?" he asked. "It's vanilla, with chocolate sauce…can't say no to that, right?"
Snape's eyes were full of astonishment and confusion and excitement, along with a healthy dose of suspicion and, there it was, the gratitude again.
Really, it was amazing how much more expressive his face was now that he couldn't talk. Or maybe Harry was just paying better attention.