Note: Written for juniperus.


The last thing that Severus remembered was green: mold-green, serpent-green, poison-green.

He came back to consciousness almost with disappointment. The unmistakable odors told him he was in St. Mungo's, and he sighed without opening his eyes. Presumably it was safe to assume that his efforts had succeeded and the Dark Lord had been destroyed, since it seemed unlikely that Voldemort's tender mercies would have extended to permitting his even being checked for survival after Nagini's bite. That was something, at least.

Caution, however, dictated that he listen before making any movement or noise beyond that single sigh. He could tell that there was someone else in the room with him, but the evenness of the breathing suggested that it was likely to be another patient asleep. Severus cracked an eyelid open. The light was dim; it must be nighttime. He tested each limb experimentally, moving it only an inch or two under the sheet to see if it would respond to his will, and was pleased to find that he did have some control, although he could also feel the tremors caused by the lingering traces of venom in his blood and flesh.

He ventured to try to roll onto one side, and immediately heard a gasp and a blurred voice saying, "Professor Snape?" Then oblivion overtook him again.

The next time he awoke he remembered who it was who had spoken to him, to his infinite surprise. There was no comprehensible reason why Harry Potter should have been sitting with him in hospital, yet Severus knew that voice far better than he cared to admit, and he knew he was not mistaken as to its owner. This time, though, he was prepared, and when he stirred and opened his eyes, he felt disappointment that Potter was nowhere in sight.

There was evidently a monitoring charm on his bed, for within moments a nurse had bustled in to take his pulse and temperature and perform various tasks on his unresisting body, muttering to herself and making notes on his chart all the while.

"Madam..." he began, but she ignored him. "Madam," he said more firmly, feeling his face grow warm, although he knew she must be used to such requests. "Is there a way for me to," he paused and coughed, "attend to certain necessities?"

"Oh dear, I'm sorry." She hurried out and was back shortly with a bedpan, helping him to use it, to his great relief. "You're doing much better than expected, Mr. Snape," she said conversationally as she removed the bedpan end rearranged the sheets. "A difficult case."

Severus rolled his eyes at her broad back. Of course he was a difficult case. He had only estimated his own chance of survival at perhaps one in seven, under the best of circumstances, even with all the anti-venom and other antidotes he had been dosing himself with for months.

"You'll be having a visitor shortly," she told him, oblivious to his reaction.

He supposed it might be a representative of the Ministry, coming to tell him that he was to be tried for his crimes, but he couldn't bring himself to care very much if it were. He dozed again briefly, awaking when the door closed behind his visitor.

"Potter."

Potter should have looked jubilant, triumphant, ecstatic. He did not. Tired and confused, Snape decided, were the words that best described Potter at this moment.

"Sir." Potter stood very still next to the closed door, as if he were waiting for Severus to say something further.

"I presume you were the one who had me brought here?" Severus raised his eyebrows.

Potter nodded, his expression shuttered, and it occurred to Severus for the first time to wonder what he might look like, after such a close brush with death and who knew how long a time in St. Mungo's.

"Well?" Severus asked, more sharply than perhaps he intended. "Are you simply going to stand there and stare at me?"

Potter shook his head, although his eyes didn't leave Severus's face as he pulled the chair so that he could sit by the head of the bed. Severus was sure that he detected a wince, although there was no sign of pity in Potter's eyes.

"I presume you did come for some purpose?"

"To see how you were. That's all." Potter's voice was quiet.

Severus arched an eyebrow. "Not to gloat? Not to tell me when I shall be required to stand trial for war crimes?"

"No. You've already... um. Do you know how long it's been? Has anyone told you anything?"

"How long?" Snape asked warily. The nurse had told him nothing of use.

"Six months, nearly." Potter swallowed. "You were tried in absentia; no one knew when you would regain consciousness, if ever."

"And the verdict?" Severus asked. He was absurdly pleased that his voice was steady. He had always assumed that, should he survive, he would be tried, but he had expected to be able to defend himself in that event.

"You were exonerated. Partially. Extenuating circumstances. You'll not serve time in Azkaban, but everything you owned has been confiscated to pay restitution to the students who were injured during your time as headmaster."

"Everything?" Severus couldn't quite grasp that. "All my books?"

Potter nodded. "I'm afraid so. But sir, listen..."

Severus wasn't listening. He would almost rather have gone to Azkaban, Dementors or no, than lost his library. It wasn't the monetary value, but the knowledge it represented, amassed painfully over so many years, that he regretted. But he refused to show his weakness in front of Potter.

"Thank you for the information." His throat closed and he resolutely kept his gaze on the sheets, seeing them pull where his hands were clenched into fists. "I'm sure you have better ways to spend the rest of your day."

"Sir." Potter's voice broke.

"Yes, what is it, Potter?" he said wearily.

"I... I don't think you heard me. I bought them."

"What?" Severus glanced at him involuntarily. Potter's face was scarlet.

"I bought them," he repeated. "All your books. It seemed the right thing to do. If you had... hadn't woken up I was going to donate them to the Hogwarts library eventually."

Severus stared at him, willing Potter to meet his eyes, and after a moment Potter did. He wasn't lying, no, but there was something he wasn't telling.

Severus cleared his throat. "What else do I need to know?" A thought struck him. "On what evidence was I judged?"

If it was possible for Potter to flush any darker, he did so. "Your memories. I testified on your behalf. Dumbledore taught me to tell the difference between a true memory and a false one; they had to accept my evidence from what I saw of your memories in the Pensieve."

"I see," said Severus slowly, his mind whirling. "I still fail to understand why you would have done so, given that you have had ample cause for antagonism towards me."

"I had a lot of time to think about it, to go through those memories that you gave me and to understand them, and you, a little better. You loved my mother, that was clear, but you would never have married her, would you? Not even if you hadn't quarreled over the Dark Arts?"

Severus felt his cheeks grow warm despite himself. He shook his head slightly. There was no purpose in denying the truth.

"No, I thought not." Potter scooted the chair closer to Severus his bed. "I know that you began working for Dumbledore because of your feelings for her, but I know too that your reasons changed, didn't they." It was a statement, not a question, but Severus nodded dumbly anyway.

"Yes." Potter leaned near. His eyes were as green as Lily's had ever been, green as grass in the sunlight on a summer's day. "You're the one fixed thing in my life, Severus." He said Severus's name so steadily that Severus knew he must have practiced it, grown used to it. "And I may never have this chance again."

He brushed his lips over Severus's temple, then his cheek, and finally his lips. When he pulled away, Severus fought to keep the treacherous moisture from his eyes and his expression impassive. Potter stood up. "Thank you for not laughing at me, at least. Goodbye."

He was almost at the door when Severus spoke.

"Potter."

Potter paused with his hand on the door handle and looked back over his shoulder at Severus, waiting.

"I would... I would like to speak with you again another day," said Severus awkwardly.

Potter's face lit up with a smile of pure delight, and he nodded before slipping out the door. Severus took a breath and closed his eyes, seeing in his imagination the green of spring.