Disclaimer: I do not own J.K. Rowling's work.
Summary: Harry returns to the Dursley's depressed over the loss of his god-father Sirius and sick from self-neglect. Aunt Petunia realizes something is amiss and begins to contemplate her choices and behavior towards and involving her nephew. After a much revealing and more than somewhat shocking visit to a muggle doctor, Harry sets of on a new journey for his sixth year at Hogwarts, discovering new friendships and relationships in unlikely places.
Warning: This is a response to a challenge on , there will be no slash, and yes it may or may not be an adoption fic, but there will be Severus/Harry mentor/guardianism, AU sixth year and after.
Hope you all like it!
Chapter One: Disease?
Harry was sweating and freezing, he was sure his fever had escalated since last night.
He drew the blanket tighter around his shoulders as he stumbled across the hallway to get to the bathroom.
He had only been at Number 4 Privet Drive for two weeks and already he was sick of it, literally and figuratively this time. His fever had started out as a cough that had occurred before he had left Hogwarts for the summer; it had grown steadily stronger until it had settled in his lungs, making it difficult for Harry to breathe. Harry had left his cough unattended, allowing it to fester into a cold, and now a fever. Harry wasn't quite sure why he hadn't asked Madame Pomfrey to give him a potion to get rid of it. After all, he'd been in the hospital wing almost every day during those last few weeks of term.
What with Hermione and Ron recovering from the….
The Ministry… Sirius.
It had all been his fault, his own stupid fault.
Harry washed his face, leaning against the bathroom sink and pressing the heels of his hands against his eyes, he let out a shaky breath, refusing to cry over his own mistakes.
He splashed his face again, trying to cool himself off, drying his face; he chanced a glance at the mirror.
He looked awful.
His face looked drawn and worn, deep purple bags were under his eyes, and his skin stood out pale and waxy over his bones.
It was a wonder he hadn't noticed it before, but he was losing a lot of weight.
He looked down at his clothes, well, Dudley's hand-me-downs anyway, (though his clothes had always been a little big), they now looked positively huge. When was the last time he had eaten a proper meal?
Harry couldn't recall.
Knock, knock, knock…
He started slightly, that was odd, who would be knocking on the door at this hour, and he was sure that the Dursley's weren't exactly the 'knocking type'.
But then again, maybe it was Dudley, who, when he wasn't avoiding Harry at all costs, was being strangely civil, or at least he wasn't bothering Harry at all.
Breathing deeply, Harry pulled out his wand just in case, he thought vaguely of how paranoid he was getting. Oh well, he shrugged, 'Constant Vigilance', and he pulled open the door, leveling his wand with his chest.
There was a sharp gasp of surprise, and Harry lowered his wand, hastily stowing it in the waistband of his flannel pajama bottoms.
It was Aunt Petunia.
"Put that thing away! What do you think you doing!" she somehow managed to screech and whisper at him.
"Sorry, sorry." Harry yanked his shirt back down over the stick of holly.
He looked back up at his Aunt face; she seemed to be steeling herself to say something unpleasant.
"You're sick," she said, almost accusingly.
"It's just a fever or something." Harry thought it best to answer honestly and finish this conversation, lest she wake the whole house, the last thing he needed was to have his Uncle blundering down the hall to yell and spit in his face, he had quite enough germs as it was, thank you very much.
Aunt Petunia sniffed, raising her nose into the air as though Harry smelled. Come to think of it, he probably did.
"You've had that fever since you came here." She pointed out quite unnecessarily; Harry knew just how long he'd been sick without her help.
"I know, it just isn't going away," answered Harry, refraining with difficulty, from rolling his eyes. Why she felt the need to corner him at 2:30 in the morning to point this out was beyond him.
Aunt Petunia seemed to be struggling again, finally she said, "I'll take you to the doctor tomorrow, Vernon will be out on a business trip for the weekend, so I'll have enough time to do something about your incessant coughing."
Harry's mouth would have dropped open, but he caught himself just in time.
Turning away from him she added, "I won't have my Dudders catching any dirty diseases from…" she trailed off, but Harry knew what she meant.
Diseases from freakish people, people like him, wizards.
This time he did roll his eyes, he doubted his fever had anything to do with the wizarding world. Harry's Aunt was rounding the corner towards hers and his Uncle's bedroom, how she managed to offer him help and still appear disgusted by his very presence amused him.
She paused, but didn't turn, "Thank you." A slight nod of her head and she continued on her path.
Harry was feeling considerably worse later on that morning, his back hurt, his neck felt swollen and itchy, and his headache had apparently taken a permanent residence behind his eyes.
His stomach jumped, and Harry's eyes flew wide open.
"Shite!" he whispered, before running full tilt towards the loo, hoping against hope that he'd get there in time to empty the contents of his stomach into the toilet instead of on the floor. Harry stormed through the door; he stumbled over the rug in front of the sink and bent quickly over the toilet, the sense of nausea, overwhelming his senses.
Harry waited, now kneeling in front of the porcelain bowl; his body didn't seem to be capable of expelling anything. Harry groaned, his stomach was roiling, but he couldn't seem to vomit the bile that pressed against his throat.
Giving up on the toilet, Harry sat back against the wall behind him and pulled his knees to his chest to rest his forehead on them. His throat tickled, the only warning he had prior to a coughing fit, Harry brought up a hand to smother the sound. Coughs racked through his body, searing his throat, and straining his chest and back. It was starting to feel like fire whenever he coughed. The doctor definitely sounded like a good idea right now, though he would prefer to heal himself the magic way, it was much faster.
But seeing as he had no way of getting any healing potion to him, Harry had settled for second best, which was better than nothing at all. The coughing subsided and Harry heaved himself of the tiled floor.
"Might as well shower and dress now," muttered Harry, putting a hand against the wall he had just got up from to steady himself.
Petunia Dursley had never been able to truly hate her sister, envied and mistreated, yes, but never hated. No matter how hard she tried, she just couldn't bring herself to and Petunia Dursley nee` Evans knew exactly why.
Lily had never done anything wrong, her once beloved sister, had been perfect. Lily always looked for the best in people, always did the right things, always made her parents proud, and most of all, Lily was magic. Though Petunia would never admit it to anyone, and had only just accepted it herself, she was jealous, she had always been jealous.
And from the moment she had seen him on her doorstep, Petunia had used her nephew as an outlet for her jealousy.
Her nephew, her sister's darling son, Harry.
Petunia could remember the way Lily had spoken of him in the few perfunctory letters they had exchanged during those last three years. At the time Petunia had put on a façade of disgust so well-practiced that nobody would ever realize how much she envied her sister of her perfect life, home, and family. After Harry had been born Lily's letters had become so full of love that Petunia had to take breaks between paragraphs to reassure herself that she had come out with the better end of the stick.
And in the end, maybe she had.
Standing outside the examining room Harry was now in, and listening to Doctor Edward Eccles, Petunia Dursley looked back on her behavior over the years, only just now accepting her faults, did Petunia allow the wave of grief and guilt that she had fought against for so long wash over her.
The tears that had been threatening to overflow since Doctor Eccles had asked her to step outside the examination room spilled over, ceaselessly tracing down her swallow cheeks.
The Doctor was asking her questions now, and Petunia found that she didn't know the answers.
"When was her nephew's last meal?"
"Had something happened at school?"
"How long has he been sick?"
"For how long have his lymph nodes been fluctuating?"
The last question brought a pause to the anxious habit of wringing her hands.
"Lymph nodes?" She repeated, her voice several octaves higher than her natural tenure. A solemn nod from the doctor.
"Fluctuating?" She asked faintly, a fuzzy childhood memory returning to her.
"Mummy, I don't feel well."
Eight- year- old Lily Evans lay in bed, her red hair fanned across the pillow and usually vibrant green eyes, cloudy and unfocused from headache and fever. Blonde haired, grey eyed, Petunia Evans watched her sister and mother through the bathroom doorway in the bedroom she shared with her sister.
Mrs. Evans brushed the strands of hair from her daughter's sweaty forehead, allowing her palm to rest on the heated skin for a moment.
"Hmm, you're heating up darling." Another brush of her hand, this time down the side of Lily's face. "Is your throat itchy? Is your head hurting?"
Ten-year-old Petunia watched as Lily nodded pitifully, and she couldn't help but be a bit annoyed and more than a little resentful of her sister for taking up all her parent's attention this past month. Far be it from Petunia to know why Lily couldn't keep herself from becoming ill every other week for days at a time. But Petunia couldn't seem to keep the niggling concern for Lily from gnawing at her heart.By the next week Mr. and Mrs. Evans had taken Lily to the doctor to find out why their daughter's sickness persisted so.
Petunia could still recall the looks on their faces and the extra hugs and kisses both girls had received that night, and every night, for a month to come.
She remembered the conversation she had overheard between her mother and father who had been talking in the kitchen late one night when Lily's sickness had been particularly bad.
Petunia tiptoed out of the room she shared with her sister intending to fetch herself a cool glass of water to soothe her parched throat, she had been snoring, she knew it, not that she'd ever admit it. After all, Lily never snored.
Petunia scoffed, she couldn't see why they were making such a big fuss over Lily's constant babyish whining, but trust Lily to milk it for all it was worth. Petunia wrinkled her nose in distaste, in her opinion her sister should just buck up and stop whinging about her damned (a word she had learned a year prior from her father when he had come home angry one day after work) throat and swollen lymphy thingies. Didn't the doctor say the lymph whatevers shouldn't hurt?
More than likely Lily was just pretending.
Crossing through the sitting room Petunia paused outside the kitchen door.
Why on earth (a phrase often used by her mother) would her parents be awake at this hour?
Petunia placed her ear on the door, quieting her breathing as much as possible; in order to hear the faint voices through the swinging door that divided the kitchen from the sitting room.
"-swelling should have gone down."
"-hasn't the fever broken yet?"
"-starting to get nervous."
Broken sentences made their way through the door, Petunia held her breath to her more, she was certain they were speaking of Lily.
"-Doctor says it could be-"
That was her mum.
Petunia pressed her ear more firmly against the door.
Definitely her father.
Petunia wondered for a minute what lymphoma could be, but brushed it of a moment later as nonsense her parents were concerning themselves with in response to Lily's pretending.
If someone had asked Petunia why her sister was always ill, she would have promptly replied that Lily had picked up some disease from the Snape boy from Spinner's End. He was always so dirty and scruffy looking, he could have been carrying some kind of virus, but Mr. and Mrs. Evans never turned their noses up at anyone, and besides, he was darling Lily's friend.
Snapping herself back to present she preceded to ask the doctor some questions of her own.
"How can we be certain that he does indeed have…?" she trailed off, forgetting the name Doctor Eccles had given her just moments before.
"Hodgkin's disease, Mrs. Dursley, I can give you a pamphlet for different types of cancers." He replied, blue eyes warm and full of sympathy for her current situation.
"Yes, that would be much appreciated." She drew a kerchief from her handbag, dabbing at her eyes with it and discreetly wiping her nose. Doctor Eccles turned away to give her a moment to collect herself. "Thank you." She said softly, eyes on the white lacy kerchief she was now wringing between her fingers.
"If you would like Mrs. Dursley, we could explain this to your nephew now, but I find that most parents or guardians find it easier to tell their children or young charges themselves."
"Yes I, -yes, I understand, we'll, -Harry and I will talk about it at home." Petunia swallowed thickly, she wasn't quite sure why she had just done that, but somehow, she knew it was the right thing for them to do."
Doctor Eccles nodded his head in agreement, "Well, that should be all Mrs. Dursley, just let me give you the names and numbers of the clinics for young Harry's testing. Then you may collect your nephew and sign out with Ms. Margaret at the front desk" And with that he left her standing in the small hallway outside of Harry's door.
Petunia wiped her eyes again in a futile attempt to cover up all crying evidence. She knew it was no use, crying had always made her pale faced and red eyed. Sniffing as she drew a deep breath through her nose, she knocked on the green door, and upon hearing a weak "come in," from inside, entered to face the biggest of her mistakes.
A/N: Wow, that didn't take nearly as long as I had thought it would, anyway, no matter.
I hope you will all enjoy this story very much, as you've probably noticed I am in need of a beta reader, so please feel free to let me know if you are available, I've tried searching on the site, but technical difficulties are preventing me from any progress.
Again, enjoy :)