Disclaimer: This story has been written out of fan-appreciation. I own nothing but the characters I invented (clearly not Snape, Harry Potter, Dumbledore ecc.) and the poor excuse for a plot I patched together.

AN: The lyrics as well as the title of this story derive from the fabulously melancholic Johnny Cash song "Desperado". And of course, I can't claim Oscar Wilde's brilliance for myself. The story Abby reads from, is "The Happy Prince".antisocialite! You certainly don't deserve water and mouldy bread for this one ;) I'd offer you champagne and cake instead...

Many thanks to my brilliant beta

Don't your feet get cold in the winter time?
The sky won't snow and the sun won't shine
It's hard to tell the night time from the day
You're losing all your highs and lows
Ain't it funny how the feeling goes away?

Desperado, why don't you come to your senses?
Come down from your fences, open the gate
It may be raining, but there's a rainbow above you
You better let somebody love you, before it's too late

He inhaled. Instantly the smell of disinfectant invaded his nostrils. Somewhere between the state of waking and sleeping, his keen mind had jumped into action, frantically trying to gather information about the situation he was in. He took another breath, slowly, almost cautiously. He felt … pain and relief. It meant he was still alive.

Now wait a minute. Alive? He was actually surprised to discover that apparently he had survived the Dark Lord's wrath. Surely it must have been dumb luck. Yet there he was, his heart still beating out a faint but steady rhythm, his lungs stringing together a seemingly endless cycle of inhales and exhales, while every bone in his body was aching. Pain - it was there with every breath he took. Whenever his rip cage expanded there were was a sharp stinging sensation and when he tried to swallow his throat felt like it was on fire.

Pain was nothing new to him. Like an old companion, it had accompanied him over the years, so that he had become something achingly like an expert on pain. He was aware it came in many varieties and that sometimes the bodily wounds healed quicker than those of the soul. While others shrunk away from pain, it was something he could hold on to, the only fixed point in a situation that was so far unexplored.

His brain registered more and more information. Apparently an IV-drip was running into his forearm. It felt unpleasant, but not more so than the bite of an overgrown mosquito. He didn't care to open his eyes. At this point, it was already enough having to work through the fact that he was still alive and feeling less than jubilant about it.

What was the last thing remembered? He closed his eyes even tighter, retreating into himself, searching his consciousness for memories. The last thing he remembered was bleeding to death while the Potter boy stared down at him with wide eyes. In retrospect, it had felt slightly ironic that he should be the last thing he saw in his earthly existence. The whole world seemed to evolve around the infamous Mr. Potter after all. However, in all fairness, he had to concede that the black-haired Boy-Wonder-Who-Lived-And-Lived probably wasn't to blame for everything in the end. The happenings this insolent child had so often been caught in the middle of, and sometimes even arrogantly instigated dated back to a time long before his birth - a time, when his parents had still been students at Hogwarts. School days, school days. Dear, old golden rule days…His choices were all made now and regrettably most of them wrong.

A bitter smirk played around the corners of his mouth. Ultimately his death would have been pointless, but which death actually made sense nowadays? Only the young died heroic deaths. Middle-aged sods like him…Well, they just died plain normal old meaningless deaths, because they knew better. Idealism became somewhat elusive from a certain age on.

He heard the rustle of fabric. Being quite sure he hadn't moved, he concluded that he wasn't alone in the room. Maybe it was time to open his eyes after all. The first thing that came into view was his own arm that looked paler and thinner than he remembered. He felt strangely indifferent discovering that. The dark mark was overshadowed by a nasty purple bruise. There had been a time when nothing had been able to overshadow it, but now it was just a faded, nostalgic memory. He closed his eyes again, feeling exhausted.

"I think he's awake," he heard a female voice say. As far as voices went it was probably not disagreeable, but right now any voice would have echoed painfully inside his skull like fingernails screeching on a blackboard.

A shadow fell over him. An unfamiliar scent invaded his nostrils: expensive perfume, powdery sweet, almost sickeningly so. "I'm going to call a nurse," the voice said after a long moment of hesitation. He could feel the woman's eyes on his face and frowned in displeasure. Her presence was barely tolerable to him.

Unexpectedly the pain intensified, washing over him like a wave. Before it had been bearable, but now that every sensation intensified tenfold, his skull was threatening to explode. He wanted to scream, but could not. There should be sounds coming out of his throat, but all he could hear were some desperate, strained gasps. His cheeks felt wet. He was crying, probably for the first time in years, but at this point he was beyond caring. His body was pain, his mind a red foggy cloud.

"Restrain him," another voice ordered, suddenly sounding close by. A lot of different faces hovered over him, but he was not able to make out one of them clearly. They briefly emerged from the foggy blur that was his vision, then disappeared back into it. He shook his head over and over again, instinctively guessing what was about to happen. No! No! No! No! Someone touched his arm. A firm but gentle grasp around his wrist, a brief pointless struggle, followed by the faint sensation of a needle breaking his skin. After that everything slowed down peacefully. Sounds got softer to the point of almost being muted and fast movements unfolded in slow motion, as he gradually drifted off into dreamless slumber.

"This is an outrage!" she hissed at the young healer, while two nurses scurried around the man's sickbed in the background. One was eyeing the IV-drip critically through which the Healing Potion was dripping into his arm, while the other was taking the man's pulse. The young healer was slightly out of breath. He was in his late-twenties and probably straight from Merlin's Medical School or some other place. Being inexperienced as he was, the woman's sudden outbreak was momentarily overwhelming him.

"I'm sorry, Miss Priestley," he started.

"It is not Priestley. It's Carter," the woman cut in, her voice high-pitched and shrill, thanks to the emotional upheaval she was in.

"Miss Carter, if you will kindly tell me what's the matter I'll do my best to help in any way I can," the young man suggested, trying to be particularly polite in order to not enrage her any further.

"I'm surprised you should have to ask. My aunt's coma is the result of a Death Eater attack. I find it somewhat inconsiderate that you should choose to put her in the same room with one of them." Her green eyes glared at him in disapproval. Her hands were slightly shaking. Upon noticing it, she balled them into fists.

"Please, Miss Carter. You must calm down." He looked around helplessly searching for something or someone to rescue him from this situation. His eyes landed on the silver clipboard that hung from the bed end of Miss Carter's aunt. He grabbed it, holding it between himself and the woman like a shield. "Miss Carter, may I call you Abigail?" he asked, having caught sight of her name as his eyes nervously skimmed over the patient's history.

"No, I don't think that will be necessary," she answered flatly, crossing her arms over her chest.

He was momentarily dumb-struck by her response. "Miss Carter, that man is not just any random Death Eater. Have you bothered to read the papers lately?" He was being to get irritated himself. "That's Severus Snape." The doctor motioned at the patient in question.

Abigail turned to take a brief look at the man on the hospital bed behind her, then focused her attention back on the young doctor "So?"

"He worked for Dumbledore and the Order of the Phoenix," he explained exasperatedly.

"Oh, sure! You should have told me sooner. That makes it all better now," she remarked sarcastically.

The young man sighed. "Well, if it's any consolation to you, I'd vouch for him. He's perfectly safe. Besides you see what state he's been reduced to. How much a threat can he be under this condition?"

"What do you think? Just as much as any unconscious Death Eater can be. So he's practically as harmless as a kitten," her voice was dripping with sarcasm.

"Alright, I see that there's no reasoning with you," the healer raised his hands defensively.

"There will be if you transfer my aunt to another room."

"I'll see what we can do about it," he strategically failed to mention, that at present St. Mungo's was packed and the chances of getting her aunt another room were at present that of a snowball in hell. The war had just come to an end. There were many injured and even more on the verge of death. He had more important things to care about than resentments and hurt feelings.

She bent over him, staring down into his face. Her eyes were not gentle. They took in every flaw, every tiny imperfection.
Most people looked peaceful when they slept. Their masks slipped, revealing who they truly were underneath. It was like a quick look into the past that allowed a glimpse at a much younger and innocent version of the sleeper. But this man? His face was a mask even in sleep.

His hooked nose was the most dominant feature of a face that exuded an air of arrogance and severity. The two deep lines around his mouth probably weren't there because he was such a humorous person and enjoyed a hearty laugh. She could practically imagine that mouth sneering at her derisively. The complementary frown, which she supposed came with it, was probably to blame for the deep crease between his eyebrows.

Her eyes settled on his throat that was so neatly wrapped in bandages. They needed to be changed. Tiny red dots were forming on the crisp white cloth, expanding and darkening ever so slowly. For some reason, she could not explain, she reached out her hand as if to touch his cheek. Would his skin be warm or cool? Her fingers hovered over his face for a moment indecisively.

She started violently, when suddenly his hand shot up and wrapped around her wrist. His grasp was firm, but not brutal. She hadn't expected him to wake up. He had been out cold since that incident a few days back.

Their eyes met. One eyebrow rose almost derisively as he regarded her unblinkingly. Gazing into his black eyes was strangely unsettling, but she held his gaze without backing down, even though she felt like a mongoose sitting in front of a poisonous snake.

"You're one of them," she said finally, amazed by the calmness of her own voice. With one energetic tug she managed to free her hand.

His hand sank down on the blanket treacherously slowly. Unable to speak, he continued to stare at her, seemingly completely unimpressed by what she had just said. Then finally - a slow nod, as if to signal her that he had understood.

"They," her voice was almost a hiss when she said that word, "nearly killed her." Abigail's eyes automatically wandered over to her aunt's sleeping form. He cautiously turned his head to follow her gaze, mindful not to rip open his wounds again. There was a spark of recognition in his eyes when they settled on the older woman's face.

She was watching him from the corner of her eye, never leaving him out of sight. "You know her? No wonder. Everybody does." Her mouth was set in a bitter smile.

"But that's probably why…" She fell silent for a moment, struggling to keep her emotions in check. Her sadness only fuelled her anger, which was somewhat counterproductive, because she was trying hard to remain civil.

"You can imagine I'm not particularly thrilled to find you here, even though the doctor tells me you're the exception from the rule, a living paradox, so to say. The one Death Eater in the entire world who can be trusted. You must excuse me, if I don't share his enthusiasm," the mocking tone of her voice was hard to miss.

She fell silent again, regarding him taxingly, as if she was trying to figure out whether he was or threat to her or not. After awhile she seemed to have come to some kind of conclusion because she averted her eyes to stare at the polished linoleum floor instead. "I've read up on you. Your biography isn't exactly trust inspiring, but that Potter kid sure thinks you're some kind of hero."

His mouth contorted into a bitter smirk, which didn't escape her notice. "My thoughts exactly," she commented his actions. "Let's set things straight. I don't pretend to know you, but even if I did, I suppose we wouldn't become the best of friends."

The expression on her face changed. The fake calmness that had been there before was eclipsed by an angry frown. She leaned in closer so that they almost came nose to nose. He regarded her evenly for a moment. Up until now she had only been just some annoying woman whose aunt he had the misfortune of sharing a room with. She hadn't mattered to him, because all she had been was just another nameless face, but unfortunately she seemed to be set on making this personal. She was forcing him to look at her, to perceive her on a level that exceeded the mere acknowledgement of her existence. His eyes wandered over her face trying to catalogue its features. Oval face, high forehead, small chin, snub nose, arched eyebrows, green eyes…

To her surprise, her sudden proximity seemed to make him extremely uncomfortable. His nostrils slightly quivered as he inhaled the scent of her perfume again. Warmth radiated from her and seeped into his skin. It was an unfamiliar feeling that unnerved him greatly. Unable to hold her gaze any longer, his eyes soon wandered here and there, looking at anything but her. His obvious discomfort gave her the kind of reassurance she needed to say out loud what lay on the tip of her tongue.

When she spoke again, her warm breath tickled his skin. Her voice was low; almost a whisper, but he heard it well enough. "For now let's just say I'll have my eyes on you. If anything goes wrong…if you and your Death Eater friends even do so much as touch a hair on my aunt's head…" The rest of the sentence hung in the air unfinished.

"I may be just a simple woman, but don't underestimate me." She gave him one last lingering look, before she moved away abruptly to get up.

Her sudden departure left him wondering whether he had just been imagining things. Yet, the spot on his bed where she had just sat was still warm and her threat still echoed in his ears. To his own surprise he had to discover that he took it quite seriously.

Her voice ripped him out of dreamless slumber. Unlike the last time he had heard it, it wasn't loaded with aggression. It was soft and kind, which led him to the conclusion she probably wasn't talking to him.

A conversation with him was rather one-sided these days anyway. The healer had informed him that Nagini's attack had severed his vocal chords, making it impossible for him to speak until his wounds had mended themselves. Currently they were administering him Vox-Reparo Potion, which they hoped would do the trick. He had read about it, but it was still in its early experimental stages, so he didn't get his hopes up.

"Seriously, I can't understand why you like this story so much. I swear every time I read it, it brings me to tears," Abigail said, obviously talking to her aunt.

He turned his head uncomfortably to look at her. She was sitting on a chair next to her aunt's bed, holding a worn leather-bound tome in her hand. Her hands were nervously fingering its binding as if running her fingers over its smooth surface was providing her with some kind of comfort. Every now and then she adjusted her glasses. They were dark-framed, rectangular and gave her a rather bookish look.

"They say that on some level coma patients are able to perceive what happens around them, so maybe you'll be able to hear my voice. I know that this is childish…I do, but I have to at least try, don't you think?" She paused as if actually waiting for the unconscious woman to answer. Silly girl! The only thing to be heard was the occasional dripping of his IV. It was the kind of silence that could probably become maddening on the long run. Having himself endured it for hours, he knew what he was talking about. He wished she would continue talking as well. To his relief she finally did.

"I knew you'd eventually come to see things my way. Well, I'd better start reading then," she cleared her throat. The rustle of turning pages could be briefly heard, then her surprisingly even voice filled the room.

"High above the city, on a tall column, stood the statue of the Happy Prince. He was gilded all over with thin leaves of fine gold, for eyes he had two bright sapphires, and a large red ruby glowed on his sword-hilt." He was too bored to fake disinterest. This sterile little hospital room didn't provide him with too many distractions, so he listened intently as she read, soaking up every word. This was the only entertainment he had had in the last couple of days and he was utterly thankful for every second of it.

He felt strangely touched by this melancholy story. It was a story about self-sacrifice and self-less love. He didn't understand much about life, but those two concepts were familiar to him. The suggestion that at the end of one's earthly existence there would be a reward for the things one had done, however, was something that made him frown. It seemed unlikely he would ever be pardoned for what he had done, though it had all been for a greater good. The end justifies the means and what not…Bollocks!

The sound of the chair, screeching over the floor as she got up ripped him out of his reverie. She kissed her aunt on the forehead as she usually did and turned to leave. The steady clip-clap of her high-heeled shoes announced her departure. She faltered when she passed his bed.

"I did not read to you," she finally said abruptly. Her voice quivered ever so slightly, when she spoke. She was sniffling a little. Whether she had been crying or not was at that point relatively unimportant to him. For some reason he was deeply offended by her comment. His only means of revenge was nonverbal nowadays. He decided the best way to deal with this would be by glaring holes into her retreating back.

After she was gone, the unbearable silence enveloped the room again. He turned his head to regard this person lying in the bed next to him. All she was to him was some elderly, silver haired woman. To the rest of the Wizarding World, she was Miriam Priestley – a celebrity. The Squibbler, The Daily Prophet, practically every newspaper, had already written about her in the course of years. Her well-known face that was usually smiling down cheerfully from book covers was now blank and unglamorous. It was practically impossible not to know who she was. Miriam Priestley, mahatma of spell research and development, proud authoress of various "Defence against the Dark Arts" tomes. She didn't look like much of a legend now; as a matter of fact she looked every bit her age, every wrinkle, every fleck on her skin pronounced, thanks to her sickness.

He was in desperate need to find something to occupy his mind with. It wasn't like anybody was going to come to visit him anyway. Nobody cared about him enough to see how he was. All he had to look forward to was another long, long afternoon. So when he spotted the leather-bound book lying on the table next to Priestley's bed, it was like a silver lining. All he had to do was get up and take it, but who knew whether he was actually ready to undertake such an ambitious endeavour. It would have been so easy if he just had his wand. A simple "Accio book!" would have sufficed. Well, too bad! He didn't have his wand and attempting anything like wandless magic was out of question in his weakened state. There was no use crying over spilled milk.

He swung his legs over the edge of the bed. The hospital gown was barely covering his knees. They looked bony and white, not like the last time he had seen them. His trust in the functionality of his legs was somewhat shaken, but the alternative of suffering more boredom, wasting time staring at the ceiling, was not really an option. He'd rather lie around on the floor like a beetle on its back than endure another minute of this.

To his own surprise he managed to wobble over to the table and retrieve his quarry without any major incident. It only took about half an hour. Sure, there was the occasional slipping, stumbling and nausea, but nothing he couldn't weather. In the end he sank back into his bed exhaustedly, but with the book in his hand. He spent the rest of the afternoon leafing through it, devouring every word written on its yellowed pages.

In retrospect, he probably should have never lamented the lack of company, because he got it much sooner than he wanted. The next day, Harry Potter came to visit. Fortunately the high-pitched squeals of delight the nurses were giving off at the sight of him afforded him an advance warning, so he could fake being fast asleep in time. He could hear a chair being drawn next to his bed, followed by a long-drawn exhale. Luckily Potter had enough sense not to try and wake him. His endurance was quite surprising. After one hour he was still there.

"Is he always like that?" Potter finally whispered at a passing nurse who had come to fuss over Mr. Priestly.

"Yes, I dare say he sleeps quite a lot. At least he always does when I come in," she said in a friendly tone.

Inwardly Snape was snickering evilly. That was because she was almost as annoying as Potter. She was always bothering him, offering to fluff his pillow, asking whether he enjoyed his lunch and what not, which was an extremely stupid thing to do, seeing that he couldn't answer.

"Maybe I should leave," Potter said regretfully.

"So soon? You've only just arrived."

"I'll return." It sounded like a threat to Snape's ears. The noise of the chair being dragged over the floor announced Mr. Potter long longed-for departure. He heard his feet treat over the floor. Obnoxious rubber soles. What else?

The door opened. "Oh! Sorry," a well-known female voice exclaimed. It was that woman again. Apparently it was already time for her daily visit to her aunt. "I didn't expect you here. You're Harry Potter, right? Abigail Carter. Nice to meet you."

Now he had a name to go with that face. Maybe he could now stop calling her "that woman" - or maybe not if she continued to be that exceedingly obnoxious.

"Nice to meet you, Miss Carter. You're not in by any chance related with…"

"Miriam Priestley, yes," judging by the tone of her voice she was smiling.

"Oh, for a moment I thought you would say Snape," Potter's tone was suspiciously neutral.

"No," she said coldly. Her monosyllabic response was speaking for itself.

"I take it you don't like him," Potter observed.

"Was that so obvious?" she asked, slightly embarrassed.

"Yes."

"I'm sorry then."

"No problem."

"Alright," Potter briefly paused, "It was nice to meet you, Miss Carter."

"Abigail," she offered.

"Abigail. But only if you call me Harry."

"Alright."

"Fine."

"Goodbye then."

"Bye. See you around, I guess."

"Yes, I suppose so," he heard an unmistakable smile in Potter's voice. A few steps, then he stopped again. "I'm sorry if this is a bit forward, but I just I have to ask…How can you dislike someone who isn't even able to speak?"

"He's a Death Eater," she said as if that alone was self-explanatory.

"I see, but given his history don't you find that a little, I don't know, prejudiced?"

"Maybe, but anybody in my position would be a little sensitive when it comes to Death Eaters," the tone of a voice was a warning not to approach that subject.

"How so?" Potter still wasn't much for subtlety obviously.

"I have been on the run for the last two years. I'm what they call a Mudblood, you see. I own a bookshop in Diagon Alley. It's been closed in my absence. 'Colliding Worlds'? I don't suppose you've heard about it. We sell Muggle literature as well as spell books, biographies and anything else ever published in the Wizarding Community."

"Actually, I have. A friend of mine likes to shop there. Hermione Granger?"

"Of course, Hermione. Say hello to her from me. She's such a love. I hope she's well."

"She is."

"That's good to hear." An embarrassed pause ensued, as wasn't uncommon in a conversation between two relative strangers.

"About Snape…"

"Yeah, what about him?" There was a hint of irritation in her voice.

"I'm aware he doesn't seem like the nicest person." She let a muffled chuckle. Snape was mildly offended. "It's easy to dislike him," oddly enough Potter jumped to his defence. "I did for the longest time, but you should bother taking a second glance."

"Why should I?"

"Snape kept me safe all those years at Hogwarts. He put his neck on the line for me over and over again and I didn't exactly repay him kindly."

"Why would he do such a thing? From what I read on the papers it was quite obvious he disliked you," she enquired curiously. Snape could practically imagine the frown on her face. He only wished Potter wouldn't answer her question. Of course, when it came to Potter, all wishing and hoping was for naught.

"He may have…maybe he's still disliking me even now, but he didn't dislike my mother."

"Oh," she said. Quite obviously she had understood the rather unsubtle subtext.

"Yes," Potter said.

"Thanks," Abigail said after a while.

"What for?"

"Just for sharing."

"It wasn't that big a deal."

"Well…"

"Alright."

"See you around."

"Yeah, bye." Finally the door closed behind Potter. The nurse had snuck out at some point during the conversation between Abigail and Harry, so there was only him, her aunt and Abigail in the room. He heard her inhale and exhale slowly purposefully for awhile as if she was trying to calm herself, then she walked over to sit next to her aunt's bed and from there everything went its regular course. Except before she left she walked up to his bedside and placed the book she had read from before on his bedside table.

"To keep you company. I know you took it last time…I expect it's less trouble like that," she said. She was gone before he could open his eyes.

After a week they suddenly came up with the idea of giving him quill and parchment so that he would at least be able to communicate. The reason it had taken them about a week to figure that out wasn't thoughtlessness. It was just that their patient didn't seem to be particularly talkative.

Since most of his broken bones and bruises were starting to heal, he spent considerably less time sleeping and more being bored. Naturally he was thankful for Abigail's visits, because even though she was not visiting him, she still provided him with some kind of distraction during those endless days at St. Mungo's. Whenever she ran out of words to say to her aunt, she would whip out some book or another and start reading from it.

Not all of them met his taste, some were rather flowery and girlish, but as she had said before, she wasn't reading to him, so he didn't complain. Whether they appealed to him or not, they all managed to draw him in and allowed him to leave behind this dismal room to which he was confined to, be it only for a time as short as an hour.

For some reason - maybe it had been Potter's words - she was now making a habit out of leaving the books on his bedside table before she left, so that he would be able to read them whenever he liked.

"Do you even have a look at them?" Abigail asked when she laid down the latest book next to his bed. She looked at him expectantly as if she was actually waiting for an answer. Oddly compelled to justify himself, he impulsively reached for quill and parchment.

His handwriting was regular, like something out of a printing press and rather old-fashioned. "I didn't merely have a look at them, I've even read them," the paper said. He had had to sacrifice most of his trademark sarcasm to conciseness, but still some of it had managed to seep into the short note.

"I hope you enjoyed them," she said rather impersonally.

With fascination she watched as his hand scrawled out another sentence on the paper as if of its own accord. "They were satisfactory."

"Good. Well, alright, I'm going to leave then," she announced and turned to leave, but was stopped by his hand on her arm. She looked down at him questioningly. He quickly removed his arm, before he hurried to scribble something else on the piece of paper.

"I'm tired of this. Why don't you finally ask?"

She alternately regarded him, then the paper with a frown on her face. "Ask what?"

This time he refrained from writing anything. It wasn't necessary. The look on his face spoke volumes. His eyebrows were raised sceptically and his mouth was curved in a mocking smile.

"Good," Abigail said, trying to keep her voice even. She had indeed wanted to ask this the minute she saw the dark mark on his arm. "Did you have anything to do with what happened to her?"

He turned his head to regard her aunt for a long while, then finally shook his head.

There was suddenly a lump in her throat. She believed him, when he said he didn't have a part in what had happened to her aunt, but his hesitance implied he had a hand in many other things that were equally terrible and revolting. Abigail slowly took a step back, but for some reason she didn't leave. Maybe it was only because she was afraid to turn her back on him.

"Did you enjoy it…the things you did?" Abigail asked when she had found her voice again. Involuntarily her mind flashed back to the day they had found her, starved and desperate. Like vultures they had played with her. She had been weak - too weak from running to even hold her wand right…They had been circling her, drawing the circles closer and closer. Their faces had been smiling, while she had been crying and begging for mercy in vain.

He set the tip of his quill on the parchment hesitantly, then he finally wrote with a certain vehemence. "I don't enjoy anything."

She was taken aback by his unexpected admission. For awhile she did little but gape at him wordlessly, at least until the last vestiges of her manners resurfaced. "I'm sorry," she finally managed to get out, not knowing what exactly she was sorry for - the fact that she had been less than polite or that he apparently was a very sad and profoundly unhappy person.

"I neither need nor want your pity," his writing was imprinted deeply into the sheet.

"Good, because I'm not going to pity you," she informed him curtly. A long pause followed. She could feel his eyes on her. Was he trying to chase her away with stares? That had stopped working with her round about 5th grade.

Her eyes fell on the book that was lying on his bedside table. It was something familiar. Some sort of safe haven in this grotesque situation. "This is one of my aunt's favourites," Abigail told him, changing topic deliberately. What she had just learned was already enough to digest for one day. "Take good care of it. I want it back tomorrow."

"The Vox Reparo potion should have worked by now. Have you tried speaking yet?" the young healer asked somewhat exasperatedly.

He shook his head. No, he hadn't. He hadn't felt compelled to do so up until now.

"Well, maybe you should try now," the other man suggested. "We want to know if it's had at least some kind of effect."

Snape nodded slowly. Though he didn't want to admit it, his voice was his only vanity. Nobody had ever told him he was handsome and the daily glance inside the mirror had driven this reality home quite vehemently. His voice, however, was something other people had occasionally praised, calling it silky, even mesmerizing. Over the years he had learned how to use it in his favour to make students tremor and intimidate opponents.

He liked his lips nervously, cleared his throat, then took a deep breath. This was the moment of truth. "I…" he was surprised to hear his own voice again. It sounded strangely unfamiliar, but then again he hadn't used it in quite some time. "It did have some kind of effect alright. You should tell your potions maker to make it more potent. It took about eight ingestions for it to work. Was he afraid of getting the ingredients wrong and killing me accidentally?"

"So it worked," the healer remarked dryly.

"Very belatedly," Snape added for good measure.

"After the kind of injuries you suffered, it's a wonder it's worked at all," he noted something in Snape's patient history.

"So how long do you intend to keep me here after I've regained my voice?"

"Frankly, Mr. Snape, you shouldn't take this so lightly. It's a wonder you're still alive after all. If Mr. Longbottom hadn't found you when he did…You still have to recover. You suffered extensive bleeding, several broken rips and fractures, couple of severe haematomas…I wouldn't be comfortable releasing you just yet."

"Fine," Snape answered darkly, trying to come to terms with the fact that he had been saved by none other than Neville Longbottom. The universe seemed to have a rather dark sense of humour.

TBC