Harry refused to go to sleep for the rest of the night, as just the thought of sleep made him nauseous. The thought of having another dream-vision was a terrifying one.
Sirius and Zach kept vigil with him throughout the night, talking quietly in the kitchen while Harry sat by the doorway, staring into the living room where the fireplace was crackling. The fire was a good distraction, because staring at the tree and the wrapping paper that hadn't been banished yet only served to remind Harry that there was a family whose Christmas had been ruined by the loss of their father.
Harry really didn't know how he was going to handle the next time he saw Ron Weasley or his sister Ginny at Hogwarts. What could he say to them after witnessing their father's murder? Would they even know that he had seen it? Harry didn't know what Sirius had done or said after he left after hearing about Harry's vision.
When the sun rose, Harry let out a sigh. He was exhausted but the sun brought a comforting presence he knew he would never find at night.
Much to his dismay, Harry felt his eyes drooping the higher the sun rose in the morning sky. He struggled to keep them open and coffee wasn't helping, despite how many cups he drank. Eventually the combination of too much coffee and too little food in his stomach caused his stomach to rebel and Harry was forced awake as he retched into the toilet.
"Happy Boxing Day," Sirius said as he knelt beside Harry and passed over a glass of water once the vomiting seemed to have stopped. "Was it the memories of the vision again?"
Harry shook his head and sipped at the water, using it to rinse out his mouth. "Not this time. I think it was because I haven't slept and I've barely eaten but I don't want to do either of those things. I...Sirius, you've gone through this. How did you learn to handle everything?"
"Not very well, but it was wartime. The constant terror helped dull some of the other emotions and alcohol helped dull a lot of others. Then I was in Azkaban and I didn't have a choice but to deal with the memories. Being Padfoot only helped so much."
"I don't know if I can do this," Harry murmured as he flushed the toilet.
Sirius grimaced. "We all said that," he admitted. "But we got through it. The first night is always the worst. I'll see if I can hunt down Snape and find some sleeping potions for you."
"I don't want to sleep!" Harry snapped and coughed as his vocal chords protested the sudden increase in volume.
"I know, but you need to sleep eventually. You'll kill yourself otherwise."
Harry wanted to protest but did he really want to pretend that he knew better than someone who had already lived through Voldemort's reign of terror once before? In the end, he looked away and attempted to get to his feet, wincing when his entire body shook with the effort.
"Catherine was starting to make breakfast," Sirius said as he wrapped an arm around Harry's shoulders to steady him. "Do you feel up for some toast?"
Harry would have said no but he caught the determined glint in his godfather's eye. Sirius wasn't going to rest until he had eaten and had slept, even if that meant forcing food and sleeping potions down his throat.
A few minutes later, Harry found himself back in the kitchen with a plate of toast in front of him. There was a platter of sausage that was starting to smell tempting but with how many times he had been sick since the day before, Harry wasn't sure if he could handle the grease.
As they had walked into the kitchen, Catherine had pulled Sirius into the living room and was discussing something with him in whispers. Harry had the feeling that it had something to do with him, but he was too nervous to ask. Was he going to have to go back to Hogwarts?
As the thought crossed his mind, Harry shook his head. No, that probably wasn't it. The Davis family had become his family and he had known them long enough to know that they wouldn't send him away just because things were getting rough.
Three hours later, Harry finally found out what his foster mother and godfather had been talking about as they got ready to go to London on a last minute trip.
"Why are we heading into the city?" he asked.
"There's a few errands we need to run," Catherine said. "Tracey, Chloe, and I are going to have a girl's day after we pick up a few things while Zach and Sirius are taking you to St. Mungo's."
Harry stopped dead in his tracks. "What? Why?" he demanded. "There's nothing majorly wrong with me!"
"You may think and feel that way, but you saw a man die last night," Catherine said bluntly. "And you were in so much pain last night that you got sick multiple times. You also confirmed that your scar has been hurting and it's been going on for a while. It's not good to be in so much pain and for so long. We need to find out why and clarify what last night was about. Your scar could very well be connected to what you witnessed last night but we need to find out if there's some underlying reason."
"I'm not going to become some bloody test subject!"
"Language," Catherine reprimanded automatically. "And they're not going to study you. It'll just be one appointment with a couple of specialists. You'll be done in time for a late lunch and then we can enjoy the afternoon as a family."
"I don't need to see anybody!" Harry protested. "I'm fine!" Catherine gave him a flat look and Harry shifted uncomfortably. They both knew his last statement was a lie.
"You can say that however many times as you want but repeating it won't make it true," she said softly. "It doesn't matter who you are. Everyone needs help, even if they require it in different forms. You're my son, so I'm going to make sure you have all the help you need, even if you don't want it. If it makes you feel better, Sirius got you an appointment with his mind healer."
"He has a mind healer?"
Catherine gave him another flat look. "Of course he does. He resided in Azkaban for twelve years. That doesn't come without a cost."
Harry flushed at the reminder. "He's never really let on."
"I'm not surprised. Don't take offense, but most wizards are horrible about talking about what goes on in their heads. They'd rather let their thoughts show through their actions."
Harry's lips quirked into a half-smile. "Don't say that around Tracey," he said. "She already says stuff like that and I don't think the boys in our House would appreciate a comment like that."
Catherine chuckled and took Harry's hand, rubbing the back of it soothingly. "These next few days are going to be hard, but Tracey and I will be here for you, as well Zach and Sirius. As horrible as a Christmas night as you've had, I'm thankful that it happened while you were home for the holidays. It makes me sick, thinking of you having to deal with something like that at Hogwarts."
Harry internally agreed.
St. Mungo's seemed different, Harry thought as he sat in the waiting area, though he knew things hadn't changed. He just had a vastly different opinion of the place now that he was a patient and not just a visitor.
Zach and Sirius sat on either side of him in the private waiting area. They were the only three in the room and they were the only three allowed inside while Harry was waiting for his appointment. The rest of the general public wasn't allowed in—a measure taken to protect patient confidentiality, Harry had been told. Everyone was trying to prevent word from getting out that he was at St. Mungo's and Harry was thankful. He could just imagine the headlines if word got out about the night before.
Mad, they would call him. A desperate attempt for attention, since he wasn't getting any at Hogwarts. Harry wasn't naïve. As much as he tried to ignore the papers, he knew that he showed up in them every few months and the claims got wilder the more he tried to ignore it.
By not speaking out against Dumbledore, he was showing his support for the claims that Voldemort was back. By not saying anything, he didn't think that Voldemort was back. By not saying anything about the subject of Voldemort's possible return, he was showing signs that he was overconfident or worse, a sociopath and the next Dark Lord.
There was no way to win.
Harry reluctantly got to his feet when the healer appeared, waiting for him. His godfather and foster father also got to their feet, which caused the healer to frown.
"Blood relatives or legal guardians only," he said. Harry glanced back at the two adults, who didn't seem surprised by the statement.
"Godfather," Sirius said. "Check the newspapers."
Harry rolled his eyes at his godfather's cocky attitude. He wasn't the only one as he saw his foster father do something similar. Zach reached into his pocket and withdrew a slip of paper and presented it to the healer. The wizard in the lime green robes studied it for a few seconds before a surprised look crossed his face.
"That wasn't what's been in our records," he said.
"Then your records need updating," Zach said calmly. "Me and my wife have been his legal guardians for over four years now."
"We'll make sure they're updated then," the healer said promptly. "Make sure to stop by the receptionist on the way out. Follow me, please."
Reluctantly Harry stepped forward to follow the healer, with Sirius and Zach close behind. The healer continued to talk as they walked behind the reception desk and down a white and sterile-looking hallway. "Now, Mr. Potter, do you know what we'll be doing today?"
Harry shook his head. "Just that I'll be seeing a mind healer eventually."
"Yes, that will be your final appointment. First, you'll meet with one of our neuro-healers and then with a healer that specializes in cursed wounds and scars. Those two healers and your mind healer will form a team to study what's happened from all angles and hopefully we'll eventually have some answers."
"I thought I wasn't going to be a test subject," Harry muttered under his breath.
"It's standard procedure," the healer stated, managing to overhear the comment. "Our neuro-healers and mind healers often work side by side, especially with more complex cases. Specialists are brought in when needed and with your unique history, Healer Travers was requested almost immediately to join the team by Healers Monroe and Cavanaugh."
"Cavanaugh is the mind healer," Sirius informed Harry.
The teenager just shrugged, not particularly caring who was who. He just wanted to get this visit over with. After all, this wasn't quite how he imagined celebrating the holidays with his family, even if some of them were in the room.
The rest of the morning and the early afternoon went by in a blur for Harry, with most of the information and questions going in one ear and out the other. He briefly noted the recommendation of long-term therapy but quickly disregarded it. He had lasted this long without it and since the end of the holidays was coming up quickly, he doubted his family would actually schedule any appointments when he would be at Hogwarts. Dumbledore might allow it and he was sure that Professor Snape could be talked into allowing him to go to St. Mungo's on the weekends but there was the matter of Umbridge. She would undoubtedly get involved, say no just because she could, and she would enjoy doing so.
Harry smirked internally. Finally she could be useful.
Severus hissed as the mark on his forearm burned and started to throb. He had been expecting the call since the night before and word of Arthur Weasley's death had started to spread but no matter how much time he had to prepare for a call and brace himself for the pain, the call was always more painful than he had prepared for.
The wizard vanished the contents in the cauldron and summoned his robes and the hideous mask. Poppy would have to wait another day for her potions since there was no possibility of ignoring the Dark Lord's call, even if he was in the midst of brewing. More arrogant, more dedicated Potions Masters had done so and Severus had seen the results-and cleaned up the bodies-firsthand.
Being unable to apparate within the wards of Hogwarts and being forced to go to the edge of the grounds to do so, Severus was one of the last to arrive and with the mask on his face, he blended seamlessly with the rest of the gathered Death Eaters. As he weaved his way to the front of the room, he observed Lord Voldemort.
The man sat casually in a high-backed chair, a cold smirk upon his face. His red eyes glittered with triumph as his gaze flickered from his followers to an object in his hands.
"The prophecy," he whispered once the last of the Death Eaters arrived. The Dark Lord rolled a glass orb in his hand as he spoke and the Death Eaters in the room fixated on it, the prize they had been after all year. The only question was…who had brought it to their lord? Who would be exalted?
"I had forgotten," Lord Voldemort hissed, "that when the prize is great enough, important enough, it is best that I handle matters myself. It was not through any of your efforts that I was able to retrieve this prophecy, something that is profoundly unfortunate since we have lost many to our cause over this seemingly small, insignificant orb. However, it is this prophecy that will give us an advantage over the so-called Light, the ones who do not want the reforms that will better our world, removing the plights that have terrorized it and our customs for so long. Soon, our battles will be won and we will lose no more comrades senselessly."
As Voldemort spoke, Severus kept his eyes trained on the prophecy, feeling his heart sinking as he watched the orb turn and twist in the Dark Lord's hands. He had made a foolish mistake before regarding that prophecy and nearly lost everything he held dear. Now it was in Lord Voldemort's hands and Severus had a feeling that this time, he was going to lose the last thing that was important in his life.
And once that happened, Severus knew that he would no longer have the strength to keep playing both sides. With nothing to fight for, he would most likely fall at the knees of whichever master who called him first.
"My Lord," Lucius Malfoy whispered at Severus's side. "Have you determined what the prophecy speaks of?"
"All in due time, Lucius," Voldemort replied, hissing out Malfoy's name. "All in due time. There is much we must do first before the words of the prophecy will truly give us the advantage. But for now, it feels prudent to celebrate our victory. The first of many."
The cheers started off weak at first but soon grew until they reached deafening levels. Severus was grateful for the masks they wore, because it would have impossible to fake any enthusiasm at this moment.
"Severus," Voldemort hissed after dismissing his followers. "Walk with me."
"My lord?" Severus questioned as he followed the man out of the room, always being careful to remain a step or two behind the skeletal man. He removed his mask once it was no longer necessary but he longed to keep it on. Private conversations with the Dark Lord were not often of the good sort and after seeing the prophecy, he was feeling some lapse in his control of his face and micro expressions.
"It seems you have done the impossible, something that many believe people with our predisposition cannot achieve. You had a son with another man."
A chill ran down Severus's spine but he did not deny the statement. It would be pointless, since Voldemort already knew the truth, and it would be a death sentence because very few survived after lying blatantly to the man's face.
"An achievement, I sometimes think, that should not have been," Severus replied after a pause.
"Yes, after all, that achievement of yours has brought me some great many troubles," Lord Voldemort agreed. "But I find myself willing to overlook that, since I believe that those troubles have ultimately made me stronger. How is your son nowadays?"
"Troubled at moments but he tries to be a normal teenager. He surrounds himself with those he considers friends and complains about classwork and professors," Severus said. "He is very keen at staying out of the spotlight, encouraging others to take his place."
"He was sorted into Slytherin, was he not?" Voldemort questioned. Severus inclined his head.
"He is well acquainted with Lucius's son, as well as Parkinson's daughter. He also had a brief affair with the eldest Greengrass girl, though her attentions are now on the Nott heir."
"Then it seems that those Muggles he was raised with didn't impact his future too much."
"He was removed from that situation when Dumbledore was briefly removed from his power as Headmaster," Severus explained. "I ensured that he is being fostered with a somewhat reputable family, even if they don't share the prestige of the Malfoys and their ilk. His foster sibling is in Slytherin and keeps an eye on him."
The Dark Lord was silent for a few minutes and Severus walked quietly besides him, knowing better than to push the wizard before he was ready to speak. It would only bring pain.
"And what drives him?" Voldemort asked.
"He was sorted into Slytherin, so he must have ambitions. What are they?"
"Like most that come from our great house, he keeps those close to his chest. Though, I suspect that more of what he aspires to achieve will become apparent once appointments about careers begin."
"Born to those who have thrice defied," Voldemort hissed under his breath. "You've never defied me Severus, have you?"
"Not that I'm aware of, my lord," Severus replied automatically. "I am one of your most loyal followers."
"Yes, I quite agree though recently it has become apparent that there is more you could do to prove your loyalties to me."
"Anything, my lord."
"If you perform those tasks to my satisfaction, I am willing to admit that Harry Potter is not the child of the prophecy you brought to my attention so many years ago. After all, I've been only twice defied, not thrice and the boy has not gone out of his way to try and challenge my power. There are certainly other children who could have been the prophesized one."
Bile rose in Severus's throat. Could he do it? Could he condemn another child to save his son? He knew that Neville Longbottom would be the first child Voldemort would go after once he turned his sights away from Harry.
"Whatever you ask, my lord, I will do willingly and to the best of my abilities," Severus replied. His voice cracked as the moisture had quickly seeped out of his mouth.
"You always tell me exactly what I want to hear," Voldemort said silkily. "Return to Hogwarts. I'm sure the old man is anxious to hear what has occurred."
"And the tasks you have set for me?" Severus questioned. The Dark Lord gave him a cold smile.
"All in due time, Severus. After all, I need to ensure that you will keep your promises and these are not merely words spoken in the heat of the moment."
"I believe you are thinking of Lucius Malfoy, my lord. He is the one who makes such promises."
Severus's gamble paid off as Voldemort gave a high-pitched laugh. "Go, Severus," his master ordered. "I will call you when I have need of you again."
The Potions master bowed and backed away quickly, apparating out of the manor as soon as he was in another room, out of sight.
The looming presence of Hogwarts was always a comforting sight as Severus returned to Death Eater meetings. It wasn't safe, especially not when he had to relay information to Albus and certainly not with Umbridge wandering wherever she pleased, but the castle had always given off a warm, comforting presence that Severus could barely compare to anything else.
Rather than going straight to Dumbledore, Severus returned to his brewing room and paced its length for a few moments as he forced his mind to settle. He had not been prepared for Harry to come to the Dark Lord's attention as his son but it had happened. Now he had to anticipate the man's next moves, what his upcoming task might be, and plan accordingly.
Taking a deep breath, Severus pulled the ingredients for Pepper-Up Potion from his storeroom. It was the potion that Poppy needed the most urgently, as the month of December and the colds that came with it had depleted the majority of her reserves. Another deep breath and Severus reached for the first ingredient of the Potion he knew how to brew with his eyes closed and as he brewed, he plotted.
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