title: Killing the Messenger
author: Raven Dancer

disclaimer: All characters belong to Rowling except for the Drs. Barnes. I receive no monetary compensation for these works.

summary: Snape returns to Hogwarts after a less than successful meeting with Voldemort.

note: Apologies to Taran, Jazz and readers who are patiently waiting for my next chapter after Alternate Routes. Accept this as a peace offering!

He didn't really slink back into the castle. Actually wasn't really silent, either. No, Severus Snape dragged his body up the stairs through the front oak doors, his left leg mostly useless, his right arm definitely useless.

He looked up the flight of stairs towards the Headmaster's rooms. They stretched up and up into the darkness, very few torches were illuminating the halls at this hour, past 2 am. Then he glanced to his right, down the stairs into greater darkness and his own rooms.

He'd never make it up those bloody stairs, no matter what awaited him there. So he turned with a bitter sigh for the downwards path into the dungeons. *Never believes in an early night, does he?* Snape sighed to himself.

Yes, he could call out for Dobby or Beryl, even for any house elf that might be wandering at this hour. But it was late. Dumbledore was exhausted with running the school and the campaign against Voldemort. The information he took from this little gathering of death eaters was not important. Good news, but not necessary at the moment.

After managing ten steps he sat, electing to scoot down the rest of the stairs in an undignified fashion. Damn! That hurt almost as much as jarring his leg. He hummed to himself, singing an old song that helped him through just about any pain.

Plus it had great guitar rifts. He rolled his eyes, he must be insane. But he sang to himself none the less.

*Once I rose above the noise and confusion
Just to get a glimpse beyond this illusion
I was soaring ever higher
when I flew too high...*

*Definitely the wayward son tonight*. Another sigh. Of course, he had the guitar rifts coming up so he returned to the nearly silent song and continued down the dark stairs to his lair.

Somehow he made it to his door. He leaned against the jam and decided the bedroom was too far away. He further decided the scotch was his best option. Hands were too shaky to pour out the pain potions he had stored in his cupboard. A little too much and *poof* goodbye Severus. The muggle's potion would work nearly as well and it didn't have to be measured.

Snape's wand arm was useless for the moment, so he managed to open the bottle with his good' hand and poured some into a glass tumbler on the counter. Eyeing the level he continued pouring. It was going to take a lot more than two fingers' worth to relax him to sleep.

One thing for certain, he was not going to teach tomorrow, today, whatever. He managed to limp to his chair next to the dining table. A hard chair would feel better than the softness of the lounge or couch right now. Sinking down gingerly, he lifted the glass to his lips and sipped.

he groaned as the liquid burned down his throat and hit a very empty and sore stomach. Not going to work. He picked up the bell on the table and rang.

Professor Snape is back! the excited house elf bounced into his view.

Yes, Dobby, Professor Snape is back, he repeated with a grimace. Throat was pretty raw, too. Prolonged screaming did that. Dobby waited at his knee patiently.

Milk, please. As cold as possible, he asked, closing his eyes against the pain. *Mother's Milk, that's what the muggles called scotch and milk* he thought to himself. His mind wandered a bit as the elf blinked out of the room.

A second glass appeared on the table. He picked it up and slowly took a long drink. The cold soothed all the way down and coated his abused stomach. He managed a second swallow before reluctantly setting the glass down. His left arm wasn't working very well, either, if he were honest about it.

He sat at the table watching the glasses. The silence was nearly as deafening as the screaming. His leg began twitching as muscles cramped again. Well, at least those were still attached and working. Malfoy was going to require at least one set to be reattached.

Shuddering at the thought he picked up the scotch and tried another small mouthful. Good stuff, slid down very kindly. Especially when preceded and followed by the icy cold milk.

Silence was broken by a quiet snap; the lock was being opened to his rooms. That meant a human was coming in; the elves didn't bother with doors. He managed to pull himself up straighter. He knew who it would was without looking.

a quiet voice in the dark. It was dark, wasn't it? He hadn't bothered with candles or lights. Couldn't do the incantation right now, anyway.

At the table, Headmaster, he answered softly, trying to mask the horrible rasp.

I need a little light, the visitor said, candles beginning to glow. Snape just sighed again. He hoped he didn't look as bad as he felt. A fool's hope. Dumbledore was across the room and touching him as soon as he saw the wreckage.

he managed, need a bath. He was sure the smell wasn't pleasant. He couldn't do all the charms needed to clean himself properly. He was stained, tattered and he really, really wanted to clean himself.

Once his arm worked well enough. Oh, and his leg would bear him into the washroom and tub. Not too much to ask for, he thought grimly.

Severus, what happened? Dumbledore whispered as he gently ran a hand over the surprisingly clean face. The curses didn't cause any bruising on his face. The rest of his body would be a different story.

Voldemort was a little upset about that special meeting
he called the night before last. Seems some aurors got
wind of it and kind of captured or killed some of his new
recruits, he sneered slightly. He knew exactly how they wind blew. Straight from Hogwart's. Dumbledore moved his hands slightly, concern etched his face.

How many times did he curse you? How long? the cruciatus curse was easy to read, the damage pronounced.

I didn't count; although I got through several of my
favorite songs, he said cryptically. The Headmaster's eyebrow raised.

Songs? You sang to yourself? he asked incredulous. Snape smirked.

Better than paying attention to the pain, he shifted slightly and flinched as his arm flopped uselessly off his lap.

the older man hesitated.

No, don't like Wagner. Too close to screaming, Snape licked his lips and wondered if he could lift the scotch glass again. A warm flow began to pierce the incredible cold that had encased him hours before. He moaned.

Why didn't you call me, Severus? Dumbledore managed to keep the hurt out of his voice. He ran the healing energy into the damaged body before him.

Snape managed, you're stretched. Don't need
to exhaust yourself. He'd push the man away, but he could hardly stay in the chair at the moment, all his muscles were rebelling, spasming. He felt himself being levitated and caste one last longing look at the scotch sitting innocently on the table.

Flitwick and McGonagall were telling me, he struggled to continue speaking, his body nearing the washroom. He heard water running.

What were they telling you, Severus? again, a soothing voice with no anger. Yet.

You were overworked. I shouldn't bother you, he felt his robes slide off; He heard the soft gasp.

Kind of bounced off some headstones, Albus, he said very quietly.

Who else isn't suppose to bother me, Severus, he asked as he lowered the battered body into the warm water.

the man questioned groaned as the warmth surrounded him.

I don't know, they took me aside every time I came down
from your rooms the past couple weeks, he was overcome by a full-body tremor. Dumbledore soothed him through the spasm.

Remus didn't seem to know about it, Snape added as he gained control. Dumbledore bet no one else knew about it. Fury flashed in his eyes but Snape didn't see it.

I guess I'm up in your rooms often. I shouldn't be up
there bothering you, he was getting drowsy, although his stomach was now growling and cramping.

I'm hungry, Albus, he whispered. Dumbledore shook the anger back and called for Dobby. Soon a warm bowl of thick soup and a dish of sliced peaches made it into the washroom. Snape was drowsing in the warmth when a spoon came to his lips.

Open, child, and the spoon slipped in. And again. Snape chewed slightly and swallowed a good dozen spoonsful. Peaches came next then a glass of sunlast laced with a muscle relaxant.

Dumbledore finished cleaning the limp body. He levitated his friend and began to gently dry him.

he prodded.

not all there.

he sang softly. Snape responded to music more than anything else.

Yes, Albus? Snape replied.

Promise me something, Dumbledore's singsong continued.

Anything for you, Albus, the exhausted man murmured.

Promise you will come to me or call for me whenever
you return from one of these missions? I can't sleep
until you're back, you know, he began to rub a healing potion into the abused skin. For a moment he thought he'd waited too long to extract the promise.

Promise, Albus. I'll call you if I can't climb the stairs, he said very quietly.

I don't mind you up in my rooms, I like you around Severus, Dumbledore continued in a whisper, I love you, child.
He dressed the very relaxed body floating in front of him.

the Potions Master agreed.

*In fact, you're going to my rooms, now* he thought to himself, propelling the limp body out the door and up the stairs to his tower. He wanted to send a message over to Dr. Barnes in Hogsmeade to come see to Snape. He could care for most of the injuries, but it would be better for the Healer to see to him.

They made it all the way to Dumbledore's bedroom without seeing anyone. Dobby had zipped ahead of them and had the bed ready. Snape curled on the soft bedding without waking. The Headmaster joined him after he sent the message to the clinic.

Even with the warm bath Snape was still cold. Dumbledore rearranged the limp body over his and smiled a little as the man sighed and cuddled against him. He needed this closeness as much as Snape. More. It was a frightening time and it was hard to be alone.

He let his mind drift. They'd hurt Voldemort's little recruitment drive. The owl from the Ministry had been brief and to the point: 11 wizards picked up in the raid. Fudge might not want to believe the Dark Lord had risen, but he was more than willing to punish severely any death eater caught in an illegal meeting.

He wondered why Snape had been tortured. He'd been tapped to speak to each of the new recruits as Malfoy's second. Probably drew Voldemort's ire for not noting a potential spy. Dumbledore had to chuckle at the ludicrousness of the thought.
Potential Spies. He kissed Snape's hair.

When Snape woke the late afternoon sun was spilling across the bed. He drifted in the sunlight, sighing contentedly. There was movement above him, something shimmering in the light. He felt a gentle hand on his face and he finally blinked away the sleep.

It was Dumbledore. Snape just smiled and leaned into the touch.

Nice of you to join us Professor, a different voice, not the Headmaster. Working on his focus, Snape looked beyond his friend and found Dr. Barnes. Huh. Must be sick again. He didn't feel sick. He felt sleepy and happy.

Which meant he must have hurt himself because Dr. Barnes had given him the heavy duty pain potions. He moved slightly and felt his body sit up as he was levitated, pillows tucked around him. The Headmaster and the Healer traded places. Another set of gentle hands were on him again, a slight warmth, Snape hummed happily to himself.

You've drugged me, haven't you? he asked in a bemused tone.

Oh, yes, Severus. I've given you some of my very best
potions, Barnes murmured as he searched his patient's internal state. He had been able to put most things right, but the sheer magnitude of the trauma would keep Snape in bed for a few days.

A thorough healer, he pushed his energy into several nooks and crannies of his patient's body. He'd spend tonight wrapped around his patient to continue the healing. It was rare that he had to use his full powers, but Snape seemed to need them often enough the past year. The way he was now, with the internal injuries, Barnes felt he might have to call his father in to help.

Dumbledore moved around the bed to sit on the other side of the ill man.

You never told me why you were tortured, Severus, Dumbledore said quietly. Snape had closed his eyes enjoying the flow of energy from the Healer. Now he slit them open to look at the Headmaster.

Voldemort thought Malfoy or I was a spy at first. He
wanted a confession, Barnes shifted his hands down onto the bruised torso.

When that didn't happen he decided that one of the
recruits was a spy. He was even more angry that Malfoy
and I hadn't screened them better, he licked his dry lips and was immediately rewarded with a glass of cool juice. Snape suckled the straw happily. Barnes hit a ticklish spot and he sputtered a little juice. Someone wiped the dribble away.

Malfoy got it worse. He admitted he hadn't personally
looked at all the recruits backgrounds thoroughly. Since
I was not allowed to see the reports, I really couldn't be
blamed, another long sip of juice.

For someone who couldn't be blamed you certainly were
punished severely, Barnes noted.

Voldemort knows there's at least one spy high up in
his organization. I'm always suspect, being so close to
Albus. That's why I was only the messenger, his nose twitched. Something smelled very good. His stomach rumbled in anticipation.

I need to scan more, apologized Barnes, let me
hold him while he eats. Snape found himself moving through the room towards a lounge chair. He was carefully lowered on Dr. Barnes' lap, leaning against his torso. The smells got closer and he felt his mouth begin to salivate.

I feel like some poor mongrel, Snape commented, I
almost think I would start whining pathetically if it'd bring
the food faster.

Dumbledore chuckled.
Here, Severus, and he held a spoonful of warm soup to his lips. As he ate the healer continued his probe, repairing all the damage he found. Very quickly Snape grew drowsy, but the Headmaster continued to feed him. The hurt man would need a lot of energy to heal. Barnes smiled slightly when his patient slipped under.

He's out, the doctor said. Dumbledore set the soup down, then wiped clean his friend's face.

So, what's the prognosis? he asked quietly.

He'll live. The internal damage was significant, but not
impossible. I'm going to ask my father to come later and
look through him, Barnes said. His father was also a full healer who ran a clinic in Hogsmeade. Most wizard doctors were just doctors with wizard potions and magic to heal. Full healers had the ability to scan a patient's body simply by touch. They could look at each system, each internal organ, and search for any damage or abnormality. There were very few healers in the magical world; two lived in Hogsmeade, James Barnes and his son, Jeffrey, who looked after Snape for Dumbledore.

Levitating his patient, Jeffrey moved him back to the bed, tucking covers around him.

I can't believe he nearly killed him, Severus didn't
do a thing wrong! the young man was angry as he fussed around Snape.

Voldemort does not like his plans disturbed. He's
killed for far less a transgression, Dumbledore sighed as he sat down nearby, watching the proceedings.

But damaging and killing his own servants seems stupid!
He won't have anyone left to serve him, the physician grumbled.

One would think so, but there appears to be an
unlimited supply of power-hungry fools, the older man leaned backwards, resting his hands on his lap. Snape was curled around a pillow sleeping peacefully. Dumbledore hadn't rested since two nights ago, worrying about Snape. Then his fears had proved true and he'd stayed awake watching over him until Barnes had arrived, assisting Barnes until now. He watched dully as the young doctor turned his attention to him, bright green eyes looking deep into his blue ones.

the Headmaster asked as the piercing gaze assessed him. The doctor moved to him and placed a hand on his forehead. A cool touch, then a gentle warmth entered him and he moaned softly. He'd forgotten how incredibly good healer's energy felt as it moved further into his exhausted body. He felt his body relax, each major muscle group lax as his eyes closed.

Sleep, Albus, sleep, the young man whispered a gentle charm.

With a sigh Dumbledore gave in and slipped into the embrace of Morpheus.