A/N Typing with a splinted hand and on painkillers. Blame any glaring problems on that.
The pain in Severus' head was, quite literally, blinding. Bright, geometric patterns of light obscured his vision, pulsing with his heartbeat. As dim as the light in the room was, it was too much. Severus tried to keep his head very still, closed his eyes again. The patterns were still there, and he knew that the light only added to the agony. Inexplicably, he heard the sound of a child crying.
His head hurt so much, he couldn't think. He would have snapped at the child to hush, if he could have organized himself to do it around the knife stabbing through his occiput.
Fear that wasn't Severus' washed over him. It was the sensation he'd had before, when he'd gone too far during Legilimency. He was experiencing someone else's feelings and memories. He wasn't sure whose.
The mind was very young. A student, then? He'd helped Poppy with injured students, at times. That made sense. He was a strong enough Occlumens that he generally didn't get too entangled.
This mind was damaged. Magic pulsed around him, repairing the mind and the physical structures that housed it. The child's magic was disorganized, but rallying. Very strong, too. The raw power of it must have knocked Severus off balance, drawn him into the injured child's mind. A healing sleep would be beneficial. Severus drew his own power around himself, a buffer against the young one's pain. He regained enough awareness of his physical body to recognize that he held his wand. He focused, intending to reach out with one of the gentler sleep spells,.
The child was struggling with traumatic memories, however. That small spell would not be enough. The memories were too strong, stirred up, as they were, by the brain's own healing mechanisms.
Fearful, confused scenes of squalid little rooms. There seemed to be many of them, each as bad as the other. The other mind fixed on a blond woman. She was shouting at a black haired, blue eyed man man. The black haired man raising his wand and blond woman falling to the floor in agony. The man turned his wand towards the owner of the memory.
The pain in Severus' head redoubled and the crying became a wail. Now the pain was quite as bad as any of the Dark Lord's Crucios.
Severus tried to pull away from the child's mind completely. To his alarm, he could not.
It wasn't that he was being held there; there was just nowhere to go.
Severus fought to orient himself to where he was, mentally backtracking through ridiculous ideas, to the last things he could remember that made any sense.
Hogwarts. Poppy. Her potion. Something exploding. And then, this bizarre dream. Trapped in this child's body.
Now, it appeared that the body's rightful owner had awoken. The child was confused, and seemed too overcome with the agony in his head to question the presence of another mind, although Severus was certain the boy sensed him.
The next moment confirmed that he child did, indeed, sense Severus, "Oh, shite, it's bad isn't it?" the child spoke aloud, but Severus knew it was he who was being addressed. He wasn't sure what to make of that comment, nor the way he and the boy's mind seemed separated by only the thinnest of barriers.
"Shh. Shh." A woman's voice said. Soft hands stroked his forehead. He felt her move him around, until he was curled up, resting on her lap. She may have levitated him, he wasn't sure.
"Mum?" The child spoke to her now, "What..?"
"You hit your head. Do you remember?" the woman whispered.
"N-no..." stuttered the child's voice, "Was...Father...? Did he..? Did he hurt you again? Are you...?" Severus felt a fine trembling through his limbs. The child's mind associated the word "Father" with such fear. Severus remembered his own mother comforting him, just like this, after his own father had given him a beating.
"Kreacher?" whispered the woman. Severus recognized the voice as Ginny Potter's, "Go fetch that pain potion Ernie said he could have." Then, to the child, "Tim, it's me. Your Ginny-mum." her voice cracked a little, "You're only dreaming." Ginny reached down to take his hand wrapping her larger one firmly around the one in which he held his wand, "There, do you feel your wand?"
Severus felt the wand pulse, "Yeah," whimpered the child, "My head hurts..." the boy trailed off.
"I know." Ginny stroked the boy's hair, "It's all right." She rocked him back and forth a little, "Were you dreaming about your other mum?"
"M'sorry." the child cuddled closer to the woman, "He was there too. He...he..." the child couldn't continue. Severus was surprised to see the child reaching for control of himself, instinctively emptying his mind of the roiling emotions as a way to master the pain.
"It's all right, lovey." She repeated. She wrapped both arms around him, holding him firmly. Severus was surprised, surely this child was too old for such treatment, even injured as he was.
On the other hand, Severus was no judge of such things.
His (their?) head still felt as though he had been struck with an iron bar. Severus wondered when the hell that elf was going to get back with that pain potion. He took a breath, and control over the magic he and the child apparently shared. With an effort, he used a mental incantation to soothe the younger mind to sleep. There was no point in the both of them suffering. The child didn't fight him, either. Surprisingly, he showed at least as much trust in Severus as one of his Slytherins might have, in better days. The boy's mind relaxed into sleep, allowing Severus to put his own mental efforts into coping with the pain.
A crack announced the elf's return. Ginny moved his unresisting body around. A glass bottle was put to his lips and Severus swallowed.
One never really appreciated the absence of pain, he thought. The potion reduced his to a dull ache.
"Tim, love?" Ginny said, "Can you open your eyes for me?"
Severus opened them carefully. He was far to close to the woman's face, he thought. He flinched back and looked down. She seemed to understand his discomfort. She smiled lopsidedly, "Just look up for a second, Tim." She pushed damp hair out of his face, bringing up her wand. He realized she was checking his pupil reflex.
Her eyebrows drawn together and her mouth pressed into a worried line, Ginny eased him off her lap and back onto the bed, tucking him under the covers, "Expecto patronum" Severus didn't see what her Patronus was, it leapt so quickly from her wand, and out of the curtained window. That done, she used a refreshing charm to clean his sweaty sheets and pajamas.
Clearly, this was a woman long experienced with looking after, and comforting, sick and injured children.
The last thing Severus remembered from last night (was it last night? It felt that way) was falling asleep in this room, with a forty year old Harry Bloody Potter sitting with him. A troubled father keeping watch over a sickly child.
What Severus had expected, was to be waking in his office (if he woke at all), with a hangover from bad hallucinogens.
"I need to look in your eyes, again, lovey." said Ginny, clearly she hadn't liked what she'd seen the first time. She took her wand light and again checked first one eye, then the other. She pursed her lips, "Healer Ernie's coming in a few minutes, sweetie," was all she said, "Do you think you could eat?"
Severus didn't dare shake his head, "No." he said.
"How about just some tea, then?" She said, a little too brightly. Ginny rearranged the pillows to get him sitting comfortably. When the motion didn't make his head explode, Severus' relaxed a bit. She poured some tea from the tray that sat on a little table and brought it over. Severus took it, sipping cautiously.
The curtains were drawn, with daylight seeping in around the edges. It was a bright day outside, by the looks of it, and would have been painful on his light sensitive eyes. Severus was grateful for that consideration. At any second, it felt as though the headache could come back, full force.
Ginny settled back into the rocking chair, "How did you sleep?"
Severus shrugged. It was rather absurd to be dreaming about sleeping. The whole thing was rather absurd. He kept sipping the tea, hoping it wouldn't come back up. A healing potion lurked underneath the milk and sugar. He could taste dittany, feverfew, peony, and meadowsweet. Silently, Severus began to recite the rest of the ingredients and the steps of the potion to himself. It was an old trick to calm himself, reciting potions in his head.
"What are you thinking about?" asked Ginny, gently.
Severus shrugged again, not trusting himself to speak. All the evidence was leading him to conclude that his first assessment was wrong. He never felt real pain in dreams. Nor was a dream ever this continuous or vivid. Given that it felt real, it seemed that he would be wisest to treat it as if it were real, for now.
If that were the case, there were things he should know.
He finished his tea and handed the cup back to Ginny. He grasped his wand in one hand. Tapping it on the bed, thinking how best to discover what he needed.
"Would you like me to read to you?" asked Ginny, "If your head hurts, it might not be a good idea for you to read yourself. Would you like me to keep reading the book you started last night?."
Severus nodded, cautiously.
Ginny picked it up from the end of the bed, "Where you left the book mark?" she asked.
Severus hadn't gotten very far. Too many healing potions, making him sleep. He'd managed about two pages, before he couldn't focus his eyes. Potter had plucked the book from his grasp and tucked him in, as he recalled. He couldn't remember what he'd read, now.
Before she could start though, they heard the sound of the floo, in the kitchen.
"That'll be Healer Ernie." Said Ginny, anxiously.
Severus didn't remember Ginny Weasley as being a nervous sort of girl. Quite the contrary. And, Molly Weasley was as formidable as a she-bear protecting her young, but she was not given to being overly dramatic about illnesses, either. So, this was not a behavior Ginny might grow into as a mother herself.
"Is everything all right?" he ventured, slowly.
She frowned, as though she thought he was inconveniently quick on the uptake, "I don't like that your headache was so bad." she said simply.
Severus couldn't say he particularly cared for it, either.
McMillan came in, lead by the house elf, who gave Severus an almost accusing stare, before leaving the room with a pop.
"Thank you for getting here so quickly, Ernie." Ginny said, with relief
"No problem, Ginny." McMillan said, "Told you to send, if there was a problem. What's happening?"
"He woke up with a really dreadful headache," replied Ginny, nodding towards Severus, "And, look at his eye."
McMillan sat down on the side of the bed, used his wand to look into Severus' eyes, "How bad was the headache?"
"Bad enough, that it had him dreaming about Smith." Ginny said, in a brittle sort of voice, "He woke up thinking I was his other Mum."
The healer went very pale when Ginny said that. He turned to Severus, "I need to do some diagnostic spells, all right?" he said to the child.
"All right." Replied Severus. He knew McMillan. A Hufflepuff, with all that house's characteristic patience, grit and persistence; he'd been one of the students causing the Carrows a great deal of trouble. If one was going to let someone muck about with one's brain, there were worse choices than Ernie McMillan.
McMillan took out what looked like a pair of jeweler's glasses,"Just close your eyes for me." he said.
Severus felt the man lean over him, "Hmf." the man said, after a moment, "The headache? Started all at once?"
"Yes, I think so." Ginny answered, for him, "He was sleeping quietly, and then he cried out."
"Yes." Severus agreed.
"Worst headache you've every had?" McMillan asked.
"I think so?" with the body's owner asleep, it wasn't as though Severus could ask.
"Is it..." the healer hesitated, "Would you say it was as bad as a Cruciatus?" he asked very quietly. Perhaps, because he didn't want Ginny to hear.
Severus opened his eyes to look at McMillan, a little shocked. How would the child know something like that? But, Severus knew, so,"Yes." he whispered back.
The man nodded, "Ginny?" he said, "I'm afraid he's got a bit of a bleed. I need to do some spell work to stop it." McMillan looked over his shoulder at her, pushing up the jewelers glasses, "Happens with head injuries sometimes." He said, "They seem to be on the mend, and then a blood vessel will burst, suddenly."
"Why didn't the healing potions take care of it?" Ginny's voice was louder than Severus would have liked and high pitched with fear. Severus sat on his urge to explain to the woman, in detail, the difference between what could be accomplished with healing potions, as opposed to spell work.
"I'll go in and stop the bleeding, and the potions will deal with what his native magic can't." The healer said. He turned back to Severus, flicking his wand to raise the back of the bed up, so it was more convenient. He pushed the jeweler's glasses back down, over his eyes "Tim?" he said, "This may feel odd, but it shouldn't hurt. If the headache starts to come back, let me know right away, all right?"
Severus nodded, thinking it was interesting that the healer seemed very familiar with the boy, and the boy's case.
The healer put his wand right up against Severus' temple, muttering incantations. Severus felt nothing, at first. The other mind began to stir uneasily, before throwing off the sleep spell, with surprising suddenness.
Severus braced himself for the child's magic to move against him, to perhaps even try to expel him, but the child's magic didn't react. In fact, Severus' presence caused the child no discomfort at all, although it was disconcerting for Severus to suddenly become nothing more than a passenger in the child's body, between one breath and the next.
"H-healer Ernie?" the child asked, surprised that the man had, from his perspective, just apparated in front of him.
"Tim?" The man asked absently, still concentrating on his spell casting.
"How long have you been here?" Tim (Severus supposed that was the boy's name) asked the man.
"About ten minutes," McMillan replied, "Don't you remember me getting here?" he didn't seem overly concerned.
"No. I remember my head hurting..."
The healer nodded, "I came to fix it." He seemed satisfied with whatever he'd done, "How's it feel?"
"Better?" the boy said, uncertainly.
"He looks better than he has, since he came home." Ginny affirmed, standing to look over the healer's shoulder.
"How long have I been home?" Tim asked, confused.
"Sweetheart, don't you remember?" began Ginny, worriedly.
The healer cut her off, "It's all right, I told you, these injuries can be odd." he smiled reassuringly, "You hit your head and your magic was having some trouble clearing it up."
"Oh." The boy settled back, his eyes on the adults, still confused.
It occurred to Severus that, perhaps, what had happened was that Poppy's potion had backfired. Perhaps, rather than killing him, it had somehow trapped Severus' spirit in his wand? Now, he was accidentally released into the boy's body, when the boy's own magic was weakened?
Severus shivered with revulsion at that thought (of course, he couldn't really shiver, having no body of his own, but a shudder seemed to travel through the boy's body, in sympathy).
Was he a Thing like the Dark Lord now? A Thing that didn't have the decency to properly die? Oh gods, an idea that was even worse than whatever Poppy had done going awry occured to him; perhaps the Carrows had found his dying body and the Dark Lord had stuffed whatever was left of Severus into his wand? A trap, like that bloody diary had been a trap?
If that was the case, perhaps he could get the child to reveal his presence? Given both Potter's experience with possession at the hands of the Dark Lord, they'd have no qualms about finding some way to get rid of Severus.
What if they couldn't, without harming the boy, though?
"Where's Dad?" asked Tim, abruptly. From the wash of feelings attached to the word, Severus realized that "Dad" applied to a very different person than "Father".
Ginny smiled at the child, "He's at work. He'll be home early. Al and Lily are at the Burrow."
"Ginny," the healer had finished his diagnostic spells, "I think he should be fine, now." He brushed off his robe and stood.
"Well, what happened?" Ginny demanded, tensely.
"As I said, one of the blood vessels was weakened," McMillan shrugged, "That's not uncommon to happen, in the first seventy two hours after a concussion."
"Mum?" asked the boy, quietly, "I think I'm hungry." he said it softly, tentatively, "I suppose, I'm in bed for the afternoon? I had a new book I was reading, didn't I?" he stopped, perhaps half remembering what Severus had been reading, the day before, "Where is that?"
Ginny grinned. She sat down on the side of the bed, in the spot that McMillan vacated. She handed him his book, "I'll ask Kreacher to get you something."
"Something easy on the stomach," cautioned the healer. Then, to the child, "Keep your wand with you. Your head's still healing."
Tim looked for it, and then tucked it under his pillow, "I was in potions class?" he asked slowly, "I think I remember...yeah...Someone nearly blew up their cauldron."
Ginny nodded, "You don't remember getting here? You were unconcious, until yesterday morning. Your Dad went and fetched you. You were awake and talking last evening."
The boy shook his head, "I don't remember." he said softly.
"Don't be surprised," McMillan came to the child's rescue, "He might not have been properly awake. He was pretty dazed, when I saw him yesterday." He told them reassuringly, "You know how it is after a bludger injury. Sometimes, it takes days to properly come round."
The house elf appeared, obviously having listened to the whole exchange. He had a tray laden with enough easy-on-the-stomach delicacies to feed the whole hospital wing. The creature's eyes sharpened when he looked into the child's eyes, then smiled in relief. The night before, the elf had known that the mind in control of the body had not, in fact, been Tim's. For reasons best known to himself, the elf had decided that he would keep Severus' secret.
Kreacher had whispered to Severus, "Kreacher knows Little Master is not himself. Little Master is needing Other Master, Kreacher is thinking."