A/N – Yes, late late late. Recently started seeing a chiropractor because my pain got too bad. Turned out I had a torqued pelvic region from my fall last August (my left foot was 2 inches shorter when I lay down) and 2 dislocated ribs. I'm hypermobile, so I dislocate things easier than most. Too bad it doesn't hurt any less. I've discovered it's rather hard to sit down and write when in chronic pain.

Angst warning for this chapter.

Chapter 20 – Early Morning Trauma

Monday - 12:03 am, January 13, 1992.

Severus' floo flared late that evening, just as he was beginning to consider going to bed.

"Severus?" Minerva's anxious voice called out.

Kneeling down in front of the fireplace, he took in the sight of his colleague's haggard face. Her hair was falling from its tight bun, and her eyes were suspiciously watery. Despite their disagreements, she was still his friend; it worried him to see the woman in such a state.

"Minerva? What's happened?" He pressed when she did immediately respond.

"Poppy needs you in the Infirmary," She whispered, her eyes distant.

Taking only the time to glance in the direction of Harry's door, he stood up and warned, "Step back then!" He waited until her face was gone from the green flames and then said, "Infirmary," before striding into the fire.

"Severus!" Poppy shouted at him from across the room. "I need you over here now!"

He ran across the room, barely noticing as Minerva collapsed into a chair near the fireplace. Poppy had thrown her body over the convulsing form of a girl, and Severus used his long arms to help hold her.

"What is it?" He shouted across the bed.

"Poisoning, I believe!" Was Poppy's answer.

It felt as though a block of ice dropped into his stomach at her words.

"Can you hold her by yourself?" Poppy asked.

He nodded and stretched himself out further across the girl.

Poppy picked up her wand and did a series of complicated diagnostic spells. Between the shaking of the girl under him and the angle of her results, he was only able to follow about half of what she was doing. The girl's body was hot under him, and he didn't need a spell to know she was running a fever—a high one.

"Her pulse is 187," Poppy informed him tensely. "Dilated pupils and swelling in her throat as well. When Minerva found her, she was staggering around looking for a dragon named Hubert."

Abruptly, the convulsions stopped and Severus was able to straighten up, not quite groaning at the stiffness in his back.

"Any rash?" He grunted out, quickly running through the possibilities in his mind.

Poppy leaned down over the girl and undid her blouse with a swipe of her wand. He leaned in with a scowl at the sight of a bright red discoloration covering her neck and majority of her chest.

"Atropa Belladonna poisoning," He guessed.

"Suicide, Severus?" Minerva's shaky voice questioned, and he turned to find her standing behind him. Her face was white, almost grey, and it was clear that she was in no state to be up and walking around.

As Poppy quickly gathered potions, Severus took Minerva by the elbow and led her to a nearby bed. He was bothered by her acquiescence, and mildly surprised that Poppy hadn't already spelled her to sleep. He guessed that the situation with the girl—the Gryffindor girl, his mind finally corrected him—had taken all of her attention.

Letting Minerva sit upright, though insisting that her feet be elevated, Severus quickly called out for Caddy.

"Yes, Master Severus?" Even the lateness of the hour didn't interfere with Cadillac's pristine appearance.

"I need tea for two, and a plate of biscuits. Chocolate ones," He added, feeling the need for sugar. "And then, I would like you to stay in my quarters and keep watch over my project."

Caddy's left ear twitched at Severus' code word for Harry, but otherwise did not react to the extra request. "Certainly, Master Severus."

The proper little house elf popped out of existence for a moment, and then reappeared with a simply done tea tray. As he did, Severus quickly summoned a nearby chair and took a seat in it next to Minerva's bed.

He waited until he had served Minerva her tea—with lots of sugar—before broaching the subject of the girl behind him. He had kept a peripheral watch on Poppy while with Minerva, but it seemed that the woman had everything in hand. Whether it would do any good was still left to be seen.

"Tell me about the girl, Minnie," Severus asked in a soft voice. "And eat a cookie," He added, pressing one into her almost lax hand.

Minerva gave him a watery smile in response to his seemingly out-of-character mollycoddling, but did as he said. By the time she began to speak, some of the colour had begun returning to her lips and her cheeks had lost their sick looking pallor.

"You should recognize her, Severus. She held what, the worst record for number of exploded cauldrons? Well, before Longbottom, isn't that right?"

"That's Elizabeth Murphy?" Severus took another glance at the pallid girl several beds over from them.

"Aye," Minerva answered softly.

"She's grown about a foot since I last had her in class. She didn't make it into 5th year Potions, you know," Severus pointed out. And thank Merlin for that.

"I'm not certain who was more relieved about that," Minerva answered quietly.

"An utterly abysmal Potions' student, as well as Herbology, if I remember correctly from Pomona," He responded, his mind already wandering over what little he recalled about her.

"But an absolute gem in my class," Minerva answered, her lips twisted upward fondly for a moment as her mind became lost in memory. "She achieved animagi status last year. As a fourth year, Severus. Do you have any idea how rare that is?"

He grunted. Suicide was a tricky thing when it came to magic. If that was what this was.

"Let's hope that she hasn't lost that talent then when she awakes," He answered.

Minerva's eyes narrowed at his words. "Why would she lose the talent? Animagi isn't simply something to be turned on and off. Once you have it, you can't lose it."

"As you and I both know, suicide in Latin means 'self-kill.' In wizards and witches, to purposely kill yourself often kills your magic as well." He crossed his legs and leaned back in his seat in an effort to ignore the horrified expression that had come over Minerva's face at his words.

"Did you know that Filch wasn't born a squib?" He asked in a conversational tone.

"I know that he didn't attend here," Minerva responded with a frown.

"He started working here about halfway through my fifth year."

"I'm surprised you remember that," Minerva interrupted.

Severus fought the urge to shrug like the schoolboy he once had been. Minerva sometimes had that effect on him. He remembered Filch, because the man had made an effort to get in-between him and Potter's gang on more than one occasion. The man didn't take points, but he would often shoot simple hexes at Potter and Black when they weren't looking, and Severus had appreciated it. It was certainly more than anyone else had done.

"He was married too," Severus answered instead.

"Argus?" Minerva goggled.

Frowning at her surprise, he continued the story. "She was a muggle and lived on the very far end of Hogsmeade, just past where the wards stop. He told me about her occasionally." Severus fell silent, not wishing to share those private details with his colleague. He suspected that Filch didn't even remember telling him to begin with.

"What happened?" Minerva pressed in a soft voice. She put down her empty teacup and reached out a cold hand to Severus' own warm one.

"Death Eaters killed her in one of their raids upon the village about a year after I graduated from Hogwarts," Severus answered with a grim expression. "I doubt they even knew who she was married to. She was just 'another filthy muggle' to them."

"How did you learn of her death?"

"Albus . . . He contacted me and asked if I would talk to Filch. I couldn't come. Later that week, Filch tried to take his own life by jumping from the Astronomy tower."

Minerva gasped but did not take her hand away from Severus' grip. "I remember that Argus was absent for a long time one term, but I didn't really feel capable of inquiring. So many people were involved in the war, and so many other people went missing . . ." She trailed off. "It became difficult to keep track of them all after a bit."

Severus jerked his head down in a nod. This was more difficult to speak of than he had originally thought it would be.

"Obviously he survived," Minerva supplied when he didn't immediately continue.

"As a squib," Severus added. "He wasn't ever a great wizard, but he was a fairly competent one in some areas." He cleared his throat and then continued. "You know his cat, Mrs Norris?"

Minerva frowned. "The most spiteful creature I have ever seen."

Severus snorted with little humour. "Norris was his wife's family name before she was married."

Her eyes widened and the little colour she had regained seemed to drain from her face. "That poor poor man."

They both looked up as the door to the Infirmary opened. It was Dumbledore.

"Sorry for my lateness," Dumbledore said contritely. "Minister Fudge had some sort of emergency he couldn't handle and insisted on working it out with me. Can someone bring me up to speed on Miss Murphy?"

. . .

3:31 am, January 13, 1992

Sometimes Harry couldn't tell if the nightmares he was having were his own or his unicorn's. Sometimes he could hear her thoughts and he was pretty certain that she could hear his.

There was a dark creature leaning over Mother's still form, sucking her blood . . . laughing his cold cruel laughter . . . a wand in his face . . . a stick of magical wood had killed her . . . fear, terrible horrible icy feeling in the pit of his/her stomach . . . hiding in the bushes, hiding in his cupboard, hiding away from sight from the man—the monster—that still stalked them.

Harry awoke with a gasp and sat up with a jerk. His body hurt; it felt as though he had been tensing all of his muscles in his sleep as he tried to escape the dark. A soft damp nose pushed itself against his chest and he wrapped his arms around Goldie's head as best he could and held on through the worst of his shivers and shakes.

"Want Papa Pa!" He whimpered into Goldies' head.

He waited a moment in hopes that his Daddy Sev would hear his cry, but he didn't come. Sniffling to himself, Harry got up and after a moment of hunting for his slippers and glasses, he shuffled out into the main room of his Papa Pa's quarters.

The bright light surprised him. His Papa Pa should be in bed! They had classes tomorrow! Why wasn't his Papa Pa in bed?

He blinked hard and then nearly lost his balance when Caddy's calm measured voice broke his concentration.

"Little Master Harry," Caddy's voice was gently chiding. "You should be in bed."

"Want Papa Pa," He answered. His leftover shivers from his dream hadn't subsided yet and he trembled by his doorway. Goldie nosed his backside and he took another step forward. He wanted his Daddy Sev.

"Master Severus was called away to help Madame Poppy in the Infirmary," Caddy explained gently.

"Want Papa Pa," Harry answered stubbornly. "Papa Pa's supposed ta be in bed. Papa Pa's supposed to be asleep! I want Papa Pa!" He cried out, stomping his foot ineffectually against the stone floor.

"Little Master," Caddy's voice became slightly sterner. "Your father cannot be here right now. Would it make you feel better to write him a letter and let him know why you need him?"

Harry scowled and was about to answer that, no, that wouldn't make him feel better!, when he felt Goldie's calm presence in his mind.

'I have an idea,' She said in his mind.

Harry blinked in surprise. His Goldie usually sent him ideas and pictures and feelings. She didn't say words! Interestingly enough, her voice sounded a bit like the wind chimes that hung at #5 Privet Drive.

"Would you like me to bring you some hot chocolate, Little Master Harry?" Caddy asked when he saw Harry turn to go back into his room.

Harry shook his head in the negative. His Goldie had told him to go back to his room, so he was, but that didn't mean he wanted his Papa Pa any less. He couldn't spare brain power to form words though, so he didn't speak again to Caddy as he closed the door behind him.

'Ask Hogwarts for Father,' Goldie suggested in his mind when she had his full attention.

Harry perked up. That was a great idea!

'Miss Hogwarts?' He asked in his head.

A feeling of a much larger something settled around him and he knew that Hogwarts was listening.

'I want to see Papa Pa!' He thought, before adding, 'Please?'

Hogwarts' feelings overflowed into him and he giggled. They tickled.

'Go through the door, little Snake,' Hogwarts suggested.

Harry frowned. 'What door?'

Hogwarts didn't answer. Goldie chose that moment to nose him forward.

He blinked and then blinked again. There was a door in front of him in a wall that didn't have anything behind it. Without thinking, his hand stroked the plushie snake that was almost always wrapped around him. His Papa Pa had shown him that he could keep his wand inside it, and after seeing a door appear out of nowhere, he was somewhat inclined to pull it out.

Goldie nosed him again. It was almost as though she was asking, 'Well? What are you going to do?'

"Gonna go through," He whispered aloud. He didn't move immediately and Goldie nickered at him.

"Really," He added with a decisive nod.

He took a deep breath and then stepped forward to the door. He didn't have time to think about the lack of a doorknob, because the door swung open at his presence.

"Like muggle magic!" He whispered with a giggle.

The corridor in front of him was lit with wall sconces, but there were no other adornments of any kind. If he had been tall enough to look more closely them, he would have seen that they were each engraved with a small snake barely the length of his pinkie finger.

But he couldn't, so he didn't.

He and Goldie walked forward and the door shut behind them.

. . .

3:47 am, January 13, 1992

Hermes' bed, like all of those within the Slytherin dorms, was enclosed by heavy green curtains that blocked—or at least decreased—the sounds coming from one's roommates. He had gone one step further and charmed his curtains with a one way silencing spell. He could hear Millie, but she couldn't hear him unless he opened them or had a truly horrific nightmare.

Books were spread in front of him as he feverishly searched for a way to fix himself. He knew that he didn't have a lot of time left before his body started going through female puberty. He also knew that it would be far easier to correct his body before he started growing other . . . things.

"Mammary glands," He whispered with a shudder.

The books in front of him were focused on a variety of things; some covered curse reversal, while others were about more mundane things like, "Aging for the Modern Wizard." Additionally, he had several books on human anatomy, both muggle and magical. Oddly enough, it seemed that appendectomies were rarely needed in magical people, but amputations were far too common.

He had certainly learned plenty of information; he simply wished that it could have all been useful.

Slumping back on his pillows, he rubbed a hand across his eyes tiredly. He needed to sleep. Monday morning was already here, and classes were fewer than seven hours away. He supposed he could close his eyes for a bit.

Sliding down farther onto his bed and ignoring the multitude of books and parchment that poked him as he tried to find a more comfortable position, he began to feel himself drift. What he needed was access to the Restricted Section in the library. As far as the library itself was concerned, all he was getting through these books was overview. The in-depth stuff was the information that was more closely guarded, and therefore more difficult to gain access to.

Maybe Snape can write me a pass. But would it be worth it? Letting him into my plans, even a little?

Despite his better judgment, Hermes liked Snape. His head of house was scary, but that was also part of his appeal. Hermes knew that the majority of his classmates didn't like him. He didn't have to try very hard to know that. It wasn't something he minded either. They didn't see him as weak.

They see me as scary and unpredictable. They won't cross me if they can avoid it.

He'd rather be scary than accessible. Snape was scary. His mother was scary. Even the mention of Lord Voldemort was enough to give some of his classmates the shakes. He'd rather be scary than friendly any day of the week.

Not as if I haven't tried the "nice" thing already, he thought ruefully. He'd tried being nice to the kids at his last school, but that hadn't worked out very well. Instead of becoming someone who was approachable and helpful, the other kids had tried to walk all over him.

"Freak!"

He dreamed about the playground; a hand in the middle of his chest pushing him backward.

"Boys only. We don't want you."

He couldn't go to the girls on the playground. He didn't want to, but he wouldn't have been allowed to anyway. They didn't want him either.

"You should try harder to make some friends, Hermione," His mother kept saying over and over.

He twitched in his sleep, involuntarily kicking over a pile of scrolls.

"You're going to have to grow up sometime. You need to learn to be a woman. You'll never find a husband like this."

He had known from an early age that he was different. It wasn't just his brains that set him apart from the others in his age group. It was something else, something more basic. It wasn't just about what he did or didn't like or do. It was self-identification. It had to do with how he saw himself in relationship to his peers and the other people that he grew up around.

Being a girl didn't fit in his head, much like how he didn't seem to fit quite right in his own body.

"Cross your legs, Hermione!" His mother screeched at him.

He cried out.

"You know what girls who don't cross their legs are saying, don't you!?" She grabbed him and pushed him down on the floor. "Little girls who spread their legs are offering themselves!" She slapped him in-between his legs. "I won't have my child acting like a whore!"

The next day, his mother had discovered that the windows in that room had all cracked. Luckily she had assumed it had to do with a neighbourhood kid, but he had known better. He had felt them break.

. . .

3:48 am - January 13, 1992

Harry sped up as he saw the door in front of them. Their walk through the unknown hallway had been largely uneventful, and he was more than ready to find his Papa Pa!

Like before, when he was close to the door, it opened on its own. Carefully, Harry peered through and was pleased to find himself in the Infirmary just like Caddy had said. Sniffing the air a bit and glancing back at Goldie for confirmation, he stepped out into the room and took a turn to the left. A few beds down and he found what he had been looking for.

Severus was asleep on one of the narrow Infirmary beds. Next to him was a very pale girl who looked faintly familiar to Harry. She seemed to be very ill, and something at the base of his spine told him that he ought not to touch her. Keeping on the opposite side of his Papa Pa's bed, Harry carefully pulled off the unused blanket at the foot and spread it on the floor.

'Can you make it real soft, Miss Hogwarts?' Was his silent query.

Not waiting to see if his request worked, Harry gripped 'Fessor Snake tighter and slowly crawled up in his daddy's bed. Severus unconsciously shifted as he worked his way into his arms, and then they both relaxed again. Harry grinned as the heat from his Papa Pa radiated outward into his own chilled extremities. Eyes closing, he put the tip of his snake's tail in his mouth and sucked on it contentedly. He was asleep within seconds.

Beside the bed, Goldie continued to eye the girl speculatively. She could see what Harry had only sensed: A dangerous veil of simmering poison surrounding her body. The child was actually oozing it from her pores as Severus' potions continued to purge her of the deadly poison. Her life force was pulsing very slowly; almost as slowly as Goldie's mother had pulsed before succumbing to death.

It was that similarity that drew her closer to the child, despite her instinct telling her otherwise.

Death smelled sickly sweet there in the partial darkness of the Infirmary. Goldie didn't want to be closer to Death, but there was something else there that drew her in. A tiny pulse all of its own whispered to her, and so, with trepidation, she dipped her head closer in to feel.

A baby. The girl was pregnant, but it seemed that she would not be for very much longer. The tiny pulse of life was flickering—waning. It reached out for its mother, but feeling no support from her, it pushed outward even further.

The baby unicorn felt it and echoed back that it was heard. The tiny flicker pulsed again, and Goldie acknowledged it once more.

'You are not alone,' Goldie said to the small pulse.

Struggling, the life reached out a tendril of consciousness to Goldie and held on as tightly as it could. Goldie accepted it and allowed it to take root within her mind.

When the baby died, its consciousness did not. It had found a home within Goldie and there it stayed.