Once Harry awoke early the day after Christmas, he was surprised to find Snape once again sitting in a chair nearby. 'Where's Mum and Dad?' Harry asked, sitting up.

"Your parents are having a lie in," Snape replied as Madame Pomfrey came in and disconnected the IV from the port in Harry's arm. "Camille and Hermione are in the Great Hall if you feel up to joining them later."

'Actually…' Harry signed, before putting his glasses on. 'I was hoping that we could talk.'

"Of course," Snape said, giving his student a nod and his full attention. "What did you want to talk about?"

Harry paused for a moment before asking, 'I just… I wanted to know… Is there anything you can do for Camille? To… help her hear again?'

Snape leaned back in his chair and thought about Harry's question. After a few moments, he replied, "It would depend on what kind of damage was done."

Harry shook his head, wondering if Snape had thought he meant reversing the damage. 'No, I… I meant like a… a magical hearing aid or something,' Harry replied.

Snape shook his head and decided to better explain his response to the question. "I don't know. Again… it would depend on how much damage was done. If the damage is limited to the soft tissue, then there should be some way to help Camille." Making sure Harry understood, Snape added, "How did your cousin lose her hearing?"

'She had a bad ear infection when she was 9,' Harry replied. 'She kept saying her ears hurt but the Dursleys ignored her. One morning she woke up and couldn't hear anything.'

Snape considered that for a while before he said, "That should be easy to remedy. I'll have a talk with Flitwick and see if there is something we can do."

'Thank you,' Harry replied. 'I just wish there was something you do to help me talk again.'

"One thing at a time," Snape said, giving Harry a rare smile. Studying Harry for a few moments, he said, "Potter, whatever… animosity I felt towards you in the beginning… I would like to apologize."

'It's not necessary, sir,' Harry replied, shaking his head. Snape had never really shown him any enmity. So why was the Potions Master apologizing to him?

"On the contrary," Snape insisted. "I let my animosities for your father build my dislike for you before ever having met you. I knew you looked like your father and when I first saw you when you were 11 I saw James taunting me. I never considered that you would have Lily's compassion."

'It's alright, Professor,' Harry replied as Madame Pomfrey came back in with a new IV bag containing a mix of potions to help enhance the effectiveness of the chemotherapy drugs. Once she'd hooked up the new meds, Harry looked at Madame Pomfrey and gave her a faint smile.

"Potter?" Snape asked, eyeing the teenager shrewdly.

But Harry shook his head before lying back and closing his eyes to try and grab a bit more sleep.

Lily felt tired when she awoke early the morning after Christmas but she simply could not go back to sleep. She kept thinking about Harry and the small tube inserted into his neck. She'd contacted Dr. Laurence last night about if it would be possible to remove the trach tube from Harry's throat, thinking that if Harry's throat healed enough, maybe the tube could come out. But the doctor said that it was too soon to tell if Harry's throat would be stable enough. If the trach tube was removed and Harry's throat collapsed again they'd be right back where they started.

An arm reached across her waist, pulling her close but Lily closed her eyes and resisted as James kissed the back of her neck. "Tiger Lily?" James asked, feeling Lily withdraw from him. "Hey…" Sitting up, James slowly rubbed his wife's back. "What's wrong?"

Lily didn't look at him as she said, "Remember when I first got pregnant?"

"Yeah," James said, continuing to rub Lily's back. Pausing for a moment, he smiled and said, "First time my mum's ever literally jumped for joy." When he heard Lily start crying, James rolled her towards him. "Lily, talk to me. Please."

Lily slowly sat up and looked at James. The messy hair she'd fallen in love with the first time she saw him. His brown eyes which were usually filled with mischief were now filled with concern behind wire-rimmed glasses. Finally, she said, "When I first saw Harry in Diagon Alley, I should have shown him who I was."

James sighed. He knew how Lily felt. But he also knew that there was no way Harry would have been able to understand. "And what would you have said?" James asked. Holding Lily he pulled her close, he knew why she felt guilty. It had been her idea for him to use the animal transfiguration potion in the first place.

"Harry can't speak," Lily said, her tone harsh with pain and anger. "And Camille can't hear. And if one of us had been there—"

"Lily, I didn't know who you were! Who Harry was!" James said, angrily. Seeing that Lily was close to tears again, he sighed. "I remember facing off with Voldemort… then nothing. The next thing I knew as a human was looking at Harry out in the woods."

"I'm not angry at you, James!" Lily said, quickly. As she got out of bed, she sighed as she rubbed her face. "I'm just so tired. Everything keeps happening and it never stops." Sitting back down on the bed, she said, "All I ever wanted was for us to be a happy family."

Moving so he could put a hand on Lily's back, James said, "We are a family, Lily. Maybe it's not what you envisioned, but sometimes you have to work with what you've been given." Slowly pulling Lily back into bed with him, he went on. "We've been given a chance to be with our son again. A chance to get to know our niece. What more could we ask for?"

"I know," Lily whispered into James' messy black hair.

"Things will get better," James promised, slowly kissing the side of his wife's neck.

When Harry met up with his parents and friends in the Great Hall, he didn't feel quite as nauseous as usual but he still wasn't up for food yet. Slowly sipping a glass of apple juice, Harry only half listened to everyone talking. Although he tried not to show it, it was hard for him to be around other people a lot of the time. Camille understood somewhat but not entirely since she could still talk—even if she had no sense of volume and her voice was distorted a bit from not being able to hear for almost 5 years.

But Harry couldn't talk at all. There had been teachers in his muggle school that thought he had a learning disability and one of his favorite teachers had mistakenly thought he was autistic until he'd corrected her. Even here at Hogwarts, he'd had to work harder than anyone on the spellwork and non-verbal magic.


Looking up, Harry saw his mother looking at him, concern in her eyes. 'Fine,' he mouthed, giving her a small smile. But when Lily kept giving him a look, Harry shrugged and signed, 'It's nothing, Mum. I'm fine.' But he stood and headed out of the hall and went to the steps where he sat down.

"Something wrong, Potter?" Snape asked as he came out of the dungeons and into the Entrance Hall. Standing before Harry he waited until the teenager looked at him. "Well?" he asked, expectantly.

Harry sighed and signed, 'No one understands what it's like for me. Not even Cam.'

Snape studied Harry for a while and finally said, "Come with me, Potter." Harry stood and followed the Potions Master to his office. Once inside, Snape made tea and handed a cup to Harry who sat down on a rather ragged looking couch. "You are, of course, correct." Seeing Harry's puzzled look, he sipped his own tea and elaborated. "There have only been a few wizards who practice non-verbal spells out of necessity. Even without magic your predicament would cause you grief. But that is no reason to cut yourself off from others."

'What do you know about it?' Harry said with a glare. 'What do you know about being with friends and still feeling lonely? About being abused and unable to actually say anything?'

"My father hated magic," Snape said, calmly. "He would fight with my mother. He would call me a freak. Your mother was the first and only friend I ever had."

Harry didn't say anything at first but after a moment, he asked, 'I just wish someone would understand how I feel. Hermione and Camille try to and Mum and Dad are great, but…'

Snape pondered that for a moment before setting his teacup down. "I spoke with Professor Flitwick and Madame Pomfrey." Seeing that Harry was interested in this news, he went on. "Flitwick is currently working on a magical hearing aid for your newly adopted sister."

Harry nodded, although he was wondering how this affected him. 'That's great,' he said with a smile.

"In regards to your own disability," Snape went on, not fooled in the slightest by Harry's would-be cheeriness. "As you know, your vocal cords were badly damaged and after all these years magical healing would be ineffectual. But there may be another way."