Disclaimer: Harry Potter universey things are the property of J. and Warner Bros. I don't make money from this.
Author's Notes: Written for the hpslashnotsmut challenge in 2009 for whatifisaidno. Thanks to Beware the Smirk for beta.
The Healing Process
The Diagnosis – 1998
The corridors of St Mungo's were eerily silent. No one would imagine, from standing in the empty, sterile hallway, that a battle had just been fought, that a war had just been won. And for a few moments, there was no sound in the echoing halls, but Harry's panting breath. Then Snape took another of those hideous, gurgling, retching breaths that shook his body and made him cling tighter to Harry's shoulder. "Help! Someone help us, please!" he called into the empty fluorescent brightness.
Snape's body was deadweight, and though Harry tried to keep hold, gripping at the blood-soaked wool through his exhaustion, the body slipped slightly. Harry ducked, desperately trying to lift the awkward limbs and trunk, to keep the other man from hitting the ground. With relief, he heard the echo of clicking heels coming closer. "Here! We're here!" he called without looking up.
"Mobilicorpus!" a woman's voice said clearly from behind Harry, and Snape's body floated upwards, the weight lifted from Harry's shoulder. Snape's head lolled to the side, eyes black and hollow, but despite everything still very much alive. Snape's form began to float down the corridor, and a small, blonde woman in healer's uniform strode confidently past Harry. "With me, please. What happened?" she demanded.
"It's a snake bite. He's lost a lot of blood, and was probably infected with the venom. You treated another case like this, two years ago. Arthur Weasley?"
The pair of them followed Snape's body, as it floated through a doorway into a small treatment room. He landed neatly on a bed, and Harry was surprised to see his eyes shut, his face ghostly pale but peaceful. Harry was pushed gracelessly out of the way, as the healer cast diagnostic charms, running her wand up and down over his body. Snape's clothes lifted up, as though plucked by invisible hands, buttons popping open, cotton ripping, until the older man's torso was bare, showing the full horror of the open neck wound. "Poisons specialist to the Dippett Unit, please," the healer said into a small badge on the lapel of her robes. "We found Arthur Weasley within ten minutes of the bite, and he barely survived. This is old – three or four hours old. This man should be dead," she continued, as she passed her wand gingerly over the wound, before casting about the brightly lit room and reaching for a bottle of some salve. "You need to be sure of what happened to him, or we can't treat him properly, Mr-?"
"Potter. Harry Potter."
She paused in recognition, for just a moment, before opening the jar, and pouring it's silvery contents directly onto Snape's neck wound. "And the patient's name?"
The ripped skin was beginning to heal, ragged edges re-forming to their neat joins – but without actually joining. The flaps of skin, though neat and clean, would not fuse back together, and the wound remained open revealing the complex layers of muscle beneath. "Come on," the healer muttered under her breath. She sighed heavily, eyes sliding down to his robes. "Shit, what did you take?"
The healer picked up half of the tattered remains of Snape's teaching robes and began rummaging through pockets. Quickly, Harry took up the initiative, and started fumbling through the remaining robes. It wasn't long before he found it – a small glass phial. "Here," he said, handing it to the healer.
"Dittany. There, see?" she said, as though Harry had been lying to her all along. "He only took half, he must have known you'd bring him in."
Another healer walked briskly through the door, and immediately entered into a rapid-fire technical discussion with the healer. Unnoticed, Harry took a step forward, and brushed black hair away from the sleeping Snape's face. "I doubt it," he said softly.
The Treatment – 2002
"This is going to hurt," the healer warned him with an apologetic frown.
"Good," Snape growled from across the room. He was still dressed in the Muggle clothes that Harry had chosen, never imagining he would actually agree to wear them. Two months ago, when Magical Law Enforcement had first placed Snape under Harry's protective custody, Snape had still been a contrary bastard. But it had taken surprisingly little to persuade him into a pair of jeans and a black shirt. Harry liked to think it was because he had asked nicely, but knew deep down that it was more likely a ploy of some kind-
"Ow, shit!" Harry yelled, as the first shard of solidified quicksilver was forcibly removed from his back.
"One down, Potter. Seven to go."
"Bastard!" Harry growled, as the second one burned through his flesh on its removal.
Snape walked over to the small bowl where the mercury shards were deposited to melt, and pushed them around so they scraped against the ceramic. Shards that had been part of an incredibly valuable a powerful medallion, useful in all manner of complex potions. Or it had been, until it was unfortunate enough to fall into the cross-fire of the dual that had consequently ruined it and the rest of Snape's potions lab. Snape rather enjoyed his own life, but he had to admit the loss of such an important acquisition was a high price to pay for his own safety. "Remember this pain," Snape muttered, sneering, "and think of it, the next time you poke your nose into somebody else's business."
"It's my job, arseho-OW!" Another shard clattered into the bowl.
"Please, Mr Potter," said the healer, moving the bowl out of Snape's reach. "You need to slow down your breathing. You're moving too much, I can't take them out cleanly."
Snape smirked, and Harry scowled at him. "Excuse your young patient. He's never been possessed of self control. Have you, Potter?"
"Does he have to be here?" Harry breathed deeply a few times, in an attempt to calm himself down. "Remind me why we can't just wait for them to melt and remove themselves."
Snape crouched in front of him, black eyes trained intensely on his. "Because mercury is poisonous, skrewt-for-brains, and having any of it in your blood system will kill you."
Harry tried to smile through gritted teeth. "Anyone would think you wanted me around."
"'Anyone' would have to have the intellect of a retarded troll to think anything so innately stupid. The only reason I'm here is to watch you squirm."
"Argh!" Harry squeezed his eyes shut, a single tear trickling down his cheek. He did not see Snape's eyes flick up to the healer, the silent communication that passed between them – McCalsky's raised eyebrow, Snape's scowl.
With a self-pitying sigh, Snape said, "Open your eyes, Potter."
"No," Harry sulked. "It's bad enough having to put up with this, I don't want to look at your ugly mug as well."
"Fine. You want to play the martyr, that's fine. Enjoy your wallowing, brat."
"The last three are the largest, Mr Potter, I strongly suggest you open your eyes and let your friend help," McCalsky advised, as she tested the skin around the next shard of quicksilver.
"He's not my friend," Harry muttered, scowling at Snape.
Reluctantly, Harry opened his eyes. Snape smirked. "It's been a long time since you've shown any pain, hasn't it?" It was such an odd statement, Harry almost didn't notice when Snape removed his wand from the folds of his robes. "The young these days have no tolerance for torture. Legilimens!"
The rush and tangle of images was even more erratic than Harry remember, sped to dizzying heights by the pain. "Why are you here?" he demanded.
"I'm going to help you with your pain. Sickening, isn't it?" Snape replied. When the pliers closed around another jagged barb of quicksilver, they both felt it.
"I don't need your help," Harry's mind said clearly.
"And I don't need yours. Yet you continue to push yourself on me. You surely can't expect me to turn down an opportunity to repay the favour." A twist and a wrench and fuck but that hurt. It was not removed, just loosened, and the only sound in Harry's mental landscape were his screams of agony. "Calm down, you're making it worse."
"Aren't you supposed to be helping?"
"This isn't going to work. I can't dull it for you. Come with me." Severus reached out a mental hand, hoping the boy had enough imagination to take it and follow him.
The shift was subtle and surprisingly easy. Harry had only visited Snape's mind once before, and had thought that it was the same whirl of thoughts and memories and feelings and senses as his; he had assumed all minds worked the same way. But now he stood in a black cave, surrounded by drawer upon drawer upon drawer. "It's so different," Harry whispered, surprised not to hear an echo.
"It's ordered, you may want to take notes." Severus said. And he was fully formed, Harry could see him. "You might feel a twinge in a moment."
Harry snorted. "I've heard that before. It's code for 'agonising pain'."
"No, I don't think so. Your body should register the pain, but your mind is safe here. I have excellent defences."
"Why can't I see your thoughts? I know you see all mine." And even as he said it, a ribbon seemed to float around him, like a film reel: all his Occlumency lessons, all his time at Auror school, Snape in hospital, in a series of image one after the other, continuous and eternal.
"Because I don't want you to," Snape said simply, and his imaginary hand reached out and plucked at the end of the reel. "I tried so hard to make you understand how this works. And look at you. In someone else's head, and still spilling your thoughts all over the floor."
A brief flash, like an old camera bulb going off, and a bright crimson frame was added to the film strip as another shard of mercury was removed. "That hurt," Harry said. He knew it, but he had not felt it. "Hey, this really works!"
"Which means you won't be my guest much longer. Madam Healer will remove the mercury while you are ... sedated, as quickly as possible. So don't make yourself at home."
"You know," Harry said, the smallest of smiles gracing his lips. "I learned some stuff." Before Snape could say anything scathing, Harry concentrated. The production of his movie reel slowed for a moment, before the film became blacker. Pulling at the new film, Snape saw that it wasn't that the frames were darker, but that their occupant wore only black. Snape looked at the frames which showed pictures of himself, as Harry saw him. Teaching Potions, eating dinner, striding the Hogwarts corridors, bleeding on the floor of the Shrieking Shack, laughing in his jeans at the flat in Camden. "I don't remember that one."
"You were pretty far gone."
"Of course," he replied. The anniversary of the last battle. Potter had arrived at the flat they shared, as witness and custodian, with a large bottle of very good champagne and a twenty-pack of Stella. He had been grudging at first, but remembered the thread that had pulled him towards, for once, letting go for one night. He had regretted it in the morning, from the simple point of view that there were moments he could not remember, and he could not trust such moments. But Potter's behaviour had never changed, had been as courteous and professional as ever.
With a creak and a flutter, a single small square of paper fluttered from high up in the cave of drawers. Harry reached up and took it, turning it over to reveal a photograph. Harry kicked back on the sofa, white T-shirt and ripped jeans, messy hair, dirty trainers, grinning from ear to ear with a beer can balanced on his stomach. An attractive sprawl, though Snape would never admit as much. Strangely charming in its chaos. Harry smiled to look at it, and glanced self consciously up at Snape. "This is how you see me?"
Snape's look hardened. "Time to go home, Harry."
With a mental push and the heavy clang of a closing gate, Harry was back inside his own mind, and groaned at the residual throbbing ache in his back. "All finished, Mr Potter. One of the nurses will come along in just a moment and bind up your back for you."
The Convalescence – 2003
"I come bearing chocolate!"
Severus opened one eye lid and frowned. "I have another hour before they let visitors in. Bugger off and let me sleep."
"I have to be at work in an hour, McCalsky said I could come and see you as long as I'm quiet and I behave myself." Harry opened his Tesco bag and started pulling out bars of cooking chocolate, magazines, crosswords, and the various detritus of convalescence.
"You woke me up," Snape sulked, though he inspected the contents of Harry's bag with mild interest.
"Well, that's OK. You can go back to sleep again." Harry gave Snape a tight smile, and picked up the copy of Potions Weekly. He sat and opened it, watching over the top as Snape closed his eyes once more.
Harry had barely finished reading over the contents page, when Snape said, "Why do you keep coming?" His eyes were still shut, his face immobile, he could easily pass for sleeping.
"It's boring being in hospital." He chuckled softly, turning a page. "Though you sort of deserve it. How long have you been making potions?" Harry teased with a wry smile, "long enough to have worked out some safety procedures, I would think."
"Twenty-six years! And what is the most basic rule of potions safety?" Harry paused for effect. "Don't pour a cauldron full of bubbling Amortentia on yourself!"
"Very droll, Potter. How long until your shift begins?"
"I still don't understand how you managed to tip it over. You know you ruined the flat below? Muggle Relations had a nightmare explaining why the arguing couple downstairs are suddenly violently in love again. Still, I suppose there are worse side effects. But just, how? You have all those stands and protective charms and shit to keep it together. That's, what? Three hundred galleons' worth of stock down the tube?"
"Mmm," Snape replied, still pretending to be asleep.
"Anyone would think you did it on purpose or something."
The single eye opened once more. "Spit it out, Potter."
Harry put down the magazine and leant forward in his seat. "Ron said that Gibbons said that the guy downstairs said that, just before their house was flooded by pink goop, they heard you completely freaking out upstairs."
"I am a man of dignity, Potter, I do not 'freak out'."
"Then what else would make you pour a very valuable, very time-consuming potion down our mouldy old floorboards?"
The very consideration of 'our floorboards' brought it all back to Snape. It was difficult, sharing a flat with Potter. It had been a year since they had been legally required to share a flat – the trials, the witness protection, it was all over and the danger had gone. But the two men had worked hard on creating a home they could both tolerate. Snape had his potions lab, stocked and arranged the way he liked it. Harry had his hideous Muggle entertainment system, with the blaring surround-sound speakers drilled into precision positions on the wall. Neither wanted to give the place up, and it had been more than adequate to accommodating the pair of them. But, as did most things where Harry Potter was concerned, there had been unforeseen consequences.
"I don't wish to discuss it. And this is hardly what I call 'behaving'," Snape said tightly.
"You know I've been getting better at Legilimency."
That made Snape laugh. Hard.
Which made him hurt. A lot.
"If you think," Snape gasped, between the laughter and the pain, "that a struggling Legilimens whelp like you can breach my defences, when I managed to keep vital information from one of the best Legilimens our world has ever seen, then you are sorely mistaken, boy."
It must have been the pain. Or the potions. Nothing else, surely, could have dulled Snape's reactions to the point where the brat was on top of him and kissing him before he knew which way was up. And when his mind had finally caught up, it was already too late. His body was firmly in control. His lips slid, hot and slick, against Harry's. His tongue automatically slid along the lush lower lip, that pouted so enticingly on the many occasions its owner did not get what he wanted. Then Harry's tongue was twining with his, and Snape could not help the muffled groan that that sensation drew from him. Then the lips were gone, but he could still taste the other man's breath, feel it flutter against his lips. His eyes opened, heavy-lidded, to see Harry's green stare not an inch away from his. "Legilimens," Harry said softly. And, for whatever reason, Snape was in no fit state to resist.
The lab was as perfectly tidy as ever, the potion simmering in its final phase. And as the clear liquid turned pink, Snape leaned over the cauldron to take a deep breath of his favourite smells. The clean smell of damp stone from his dungeon, the sharp tang of aniseed, and the vanilla scent that Lily wore when she was still just a girl.
Except that was not what he smelled. The stone and the aniseed were still present, yes. But the third layer was sharper, a kind of citrus perhaps. It had bite, it had an edge. The complex kind of smell that a man could analyse forever and still not understand.
With a hard swallow, Severus recognised Harry's shower gel. That scent wafted past him every night, while the young man's hair was still damp and dripping, and his skin was flushed pink from the heat.
Severus Snape had always had a temper, even when he was a child. His mother had had difficulty controlling him, as magic crackled along his skin and lightbulbs burst in his fury. As an adult, things were much simpler – if only because he at least had the means to put things back together again. Of course, this was not so easy when invisible, magical hands took umbrage against the item that had angered their owner, and chose to tip it over.
"No!" Snape snarled, pushing Harry out of his mind and off of his bed.
The young man lay sprawled on the floor, reeling from his sudden physical and mental displacement. He raised his head slowly, eyes masked by unruly black hair. "Why did it make you so angry?" he asked softly.
Snape ground his teeth. "I am recuperating. Why can't you let me rest?"
"Answer the question, Snape."
He cast around for a suitable lie. He had been good at this once, thinking quickly in difficult situations. But personal investment had a subtle and cruel way of making him awkward. Against his own better judgement, he muttered the truth. "Because it's not right."
"You mean I'm not right."
Harry was met with a mutinous silence.
"Right. Because I'm an idiot, right? I'm a dunderhead who gets everything wrong, and the only reason I ever get anywhere is because I'm famous. We've lived together for three years, and that's still the way you think, isn't it?"
The sound of Harry's breathing filled the otherwise-silent hospital room. Snape liked to think that it was Lily's green eyes that made him tell the truth, because he had never been able to stand seeing the hurt in them. "I mean I'm not right. You could never reciprocate. And I would never ask you to," he said quietly, eyes trained on the blanket covering his chest.
He could hear Harry moving. Getting up to leave, no doubt. It's certainly what he would do, if he had any choice in the matter. Then fingers in his hair, lips against his forehead. "You're an idiot," Harry said softly, before closing his lips over Snape's.
Although Snape very much doubted that Harry's behaviour constituted 'behaving himself', he somehow found himself incapable of reprimanding the boy. With little other option, he wrapped his arms around Harry's shoulders and contentedly allowed Harry to kiss him better.