Author's note: I know, I know... It has been quite a while, yet again! After I finished writing my third book of mystical essays about Professor Snape (see the note at the start of the previous chapter), and then going to Ascendio to sign copies of it and ramble again, I needed a few months of rest to recover. Then I wrote another book, went to another convention (MISTI-Con in New Hampshire), there was another lecture... I also wrote an article that is included in my friend Rik Potter's new book The Boy Who Lived: Magickal Spirituality in the Harry Potter Universe. Whew!
But. I wanted to finish this tale! It seems that it will be easier for me to write shorter stories now.
Logospilgrim, the quiet professor
"Let's make you comfortable, Severus..."
She waved her wand, raising the upper portion of the bed so that he was in a sitting position, and arranged his pillows behind him.
"Would you like a potion for the pain first?" Pomfrey asked him, after seeing him wince a few times as he shifted against the pillows.
Her fingers closed around one of the many vials on Snape's nightstand, and she handed it to him.
"Now hopefully I shall not fall asleep," he said after he had swallowed its bluish contents. "At least not until I have eaten a little..." He yawned softly, and didn't seem to notice when Pomfrey removed the empty vial from his loose grip. "It has been a while since... I have had much of an appetite..."
Pomfrey unfolded the napkin that was next to the bowl of soup, and placed it on Snape's lap. "Here you are, dear. Do you need anything else?"
"I don't think so."
The Headmaster picked up the spoon with his good hand, and began sipping the chicken broth that Flopsy had brought him. Moments later, he was close to gulping it down despite his exhaustion.
"Would you like something more, sir?" Harry said. The man was so thin, it was no surprise that he should be famished; nevertheless, Snape's unveiled humanity continued to bewilder Harry, who still had trouble adjusting to all that had happened since the day he had learned whose Patronus the silver doe had been.
Snape put his spoon on the tray and said, "This will do for now..." Although he looked ready to fall asleep, he added, "I can tell you that when I am better, I plan to eat a meal that will put your friend Mister Weasley to shame."
While Harry boggled at him, Pomfrey removed the tray from the bed with a smile. Snape then curled on his side, light snores escaping him almost immediately.
"He said what?" Ron said, his hand freezing mid-motion as he momentarily forgot to close his fingers around yet another warm piece of toast.
"You'd better get ready," Harry told him. "Professor Snape has become a human being. First, we find out that he sleeps, and now, it turns out he eats as well."
"And don't forget the most important bit," one of the Gryffindor girls who sat nearby said. "He's... romantic." The other girls in the small group sighed and giggled while Ron made a sour face.
"Honestly!" Hermione said. However, her chastising tone was tempered by the smile that threatened to stretch her lips.
"I used to think those robes of his were frightening, but now..." The girl who'd first begun talking about the Headmaster's newly revealed tender side put a hand upon her chest and shivered.
Her friends squealed and tittered.
Hermione shook her head; she was spotting similar giggling clusters of students throughout the Great Hall. "Professor Snape is either going to take a thousand points away from all four Houses or run for his life when he gets out of the Hospital Wing."
Fortunately for everyone, and for the Headmaster, neither scenarios would be happening for a while yet.
A ceremony honoring the heroes of the wizarding world had taken place without him, as he was still too weak to attend, but Minister Shacklebolt came to his bedside and placed a white box, containing Snape's Order of Merlin, First Class, and a rolled parchment from the Ministry of Magic extolling his role in Voldemort's defeat, next to all the cards and gifts that were crowding the Headmaster's nightstand.
"Congratulations, Severus," Shacklebolt told the sleeping wizard. "You deserve this."
When Snape wasn't sleeping, he was either eating or gazing out of the windows. He often had visitors as well, but even though he was almost fully healed from his wounds, he couldn't keep up conversations for long; his eyes would start drifting shut and he would fall asleep again.
"I'm fine, just tired, I suppose," he told McGonagall as she sat next to his bed, holding his hand, one afternoon a month before the Christmas holidays. "Now that I have been recuperating, my body doesn't seem inclined to stop, and I don't feel like fighting it. I fought it for so long."
"Of course not, Severus," McGonagall said. "Take all the time you need."
"I am sure I shall feel well enough to resume my duties when the winter semester begins."
"Heavens, don't worry about this now," she said, and patted his hand. "I took over and will continue to do so until you're ready."
"It is... good, now that everything is more peaceful, but I might be feeling somewhat restless, despite all this lying about in bed."
McGonagall chuckled. "I think you still need time. Thankfully, your body is apparently aware of this."
"It is so odd, feeling like this... Almost like a normal person. And yet it is not as difficult as I had imagined it would be. Not that I ever really imagined such a thing. My life has always been like a shadow. I have never truly been present... I have been in the past, or... or wishing. Lurking..."
"It won't be that way anymore, Severus."
Snape's dark eyes locked with hers. "Thank you, Minerva. It was you who released me that day," he whispered. "When you defeated me and set me free. Those scars will always be there to remind me of this," he added, closing his long fingers around McGonagall's hand. "I am home because of you."
She reached down and embraced him, and was not surprised when she felt his arms around her as well.