AN: Thank you to all who reviewed! Sorry this took so long, and hopefully I'll have the next chapter up sooner. This one is kind of short, but I figure it's been so long that any update would be welcome! To 917brat: I'll be addressing the rest of the Weasleys next chapter! And don't forget that Ron has almost all of Gryffindor on his side- even some upper years! So he doesn't necessarily have to be smart enough to pull all of this off. (And you're right- I am kind of writing him to be a little dumb)
"Severus, what-" Poppy began. She was shocked. How had Harry ended up unconscious on the couch in Severus' personal rooms? Why hadn't he brought the boy to the hospital wing? And, most importantly, why did Harry look so different? She had released him from her care just this morning! Her scans showed nothing of this magnitude. The boy was practically a skeleton!
"Before I can explain anything, I need you to do what you can for him, I'd rather he not continue oozing on my furniture." And Harry was oozing. There were semi-healed cuts littering the boy's body, and several sores leaking a clear liquid. The burn wounds had also split open in some places, revealing the still developing skin beneath. The injuries marred skin already marked with scars of every kind- burns, cuts, scrapes- there was evidence of them all. The marks adorned an obviously malnourished body. Harry was shorter than he should be, and every one of his ribs was visible. Poppy was brought back to the present when Severus continued. "I need you to catalogue all of his injuries as well. We may need official documentation of them if we are to be of any help to the boy."
Poppy snapped her head around to look at the man. Official documentation? Just what had happened? She usually took down a record of injuries, of course, but she didn't send anything in to St. Mungos or the Ministry for official documentation unless a crime had been committed or charges were being pressed. Her notes on her patients went into her daily logbook, which was always locked away after she was finished with it. What is going on? Poppy thought to herself. I knew Harry was having a hard time with the other Gryffindors, but I didn't think it had gone this far. This is… horrific.
"Poppy!" Severus barked.
"Hm? Oh, I'm sorry Severus! I just can't help but wonder how he got like this. I mean, I saw him just this morning! He was fine! His burns were healing and he was a healthy weight and- my god, is he shorter? Severus, what is happening?" Poppy was suddenly afraid. How had the boy managed to hide his condition from her?
"Heal him. Now." Poppy looked at the man across from her and knew he would brook no argument. This was going to go how he wanted it to, and she was going to help him. It would have scared her, had he been anyone else. But Poppy trusted Severus, maybe even more than she trusted Albus. He would work towards the right goal.
So Poppy went to work. There was a lot to be done. Now that whatever had been blocking her spells was gone, the medi-witch was shocked by how much damage had been done to the small body in front of her. She hadn't been able to see all of the internal injuries and other issues when she had initially looked him over. Several bones had prior breaks, and not all of them had been set and healed properly. Many of the sores were showing signs of infection. There were bruises on nearly every part of his body and what little portion of his skin was clear of other markings, seemed to be red, irritated, completely dry, and even cracked in some places. Just mentally listing all of the potions and salves she would need to work on him was a chore. She immediately turned to her emergency bag that Severus had demanded she bring and dumped the contents on the table. She turned and waved her wand over the still form on the couch. The results appeared on a scroll spewing from the end of her wand.
"What? This is-"
"Poppy? What is it?"
"I've never seen so many injuries on one patient. The parchment is normal, but it's never been an Ever-Last Scroll. A few inches at most, maybe, but this is… unprecedented. He has wounds years old that have never healed properly. Breaks, cuts, abrasions. He's had at least one break in almost every bone, including hairline fractures in his skull." Puppy was nearly in tears. Harry had been in her ward many times over the years, but never for anything like this. She'd grown fond of the boy over the years, and to see him so broken devastated her.
Turning back to the pile of medicine on the table she started sorting through it. She separated the salves from the potions and got started.
"Is there anything I can do to help?" Severus asked.
"Yes, start applying the salves. You'll need to undress him first. You should know which ones to apply where, as you've made most of them." Severus turned and banished the boy's clothes to the wash basket and started in on rubbing the salves into the boy's skin. There was one for the rash, one for the burns, one for the sores- it was astounding.
"How will his system take all of these different potions? Wouldn't it reject all of them, and have him vomit them up?" Severus was curious. Poppy was a professional, and even he could tell that she cared a great deal for the boy. She should know the effects of having so many different potions in his body at the same time.
"Normally it would, but I've put him in a deep healing sleep, a sort of miniature coma. His body will function on its lowest acceptable level until he's healed enough to be awake without pain. It will slow the healing process down some and he won't wake for a few days, but it's the only way I can think of to deal with this sort of situation." Poppy continued as she poured half of the vials into Harry's mouth and massaged his throat to help them go down. The other half she spelled directly into his bloodstream. "I've never dealt with anything this severe before, and I don't have time to look for other options. He's magically exhausted on top of everything else and in critical condition. Frankly, I'm amazed he can even walk, let alone sustain a spell powerful enough to fool my scans without raising any red flags. Even if he didn't cast the spell himself, it takes a lot of energy to keep that sort of thing going, and I can tell it was tied to his magical core. As it is, I barely had to do anything to send him into the healing coma; he was almost there all by himself."
Severus stared at her in shock. Great Salazar's ghost it was a miracle the boy was even alive. He had to figure this out. Bringing Poppy into this was a good idea. She can heal him, save him. If it takes a few days for him to wake up, then we have a few days to make plans. As we don't know exactly what's happening, there's not much we can plan for, but we can at least keep him safe until we figure things out. It's a good thing my classes are over for the day. Severus might be good at making excuses to men of power, but right now he was too busy scrambling to heal the boy whose father he had hated. It was an interesting feeling.
Hermione was worried. She thought that Harry had been released this morning. He hadn't been to Transfiguration or Charms, though. Maybe he's gone back to the hospital wing. Maybe his burns were acting up and he wanted some medication. But it had been too long for that, and she knew it. So Hermione went to the hospital wing to check. Walking in, Hermione glanced around. All of the beds were empty, and she didn't see any light from under Madam Pomfrey's office door. She was walking over to check the private rooms when she heard the sound of a floo activating.
"Alright, bring him through. Easy now, he's still unconscious. For Merlin's sake, watch his head, Severus. You'd think a Potions Master of your caliber would be a bit more graceful, running about those cauldrons every day as you do!"
"Well, Madam Pomfrey, it's a little difficult to keep watch on Potter's head when I'm spinning about through the floo. Maybe if you'd kept the connection open, then I could've just stepped through, instead of going the long way through all the way from my quarters in the dungeon," Severus snarked back. His hands and forearms were cramping from covering every inch of the boy's skin in healing and disinfecting salves, as well as soothers for the aggravated areas of his skin.
Both adults stopped abruptly when they realized they had company. Hermione was standing in the doorway, where she had stopped immediately after barging in at the mention of Harry. She stood stock still, taking in the sight of her friend. She wanted to cry. Harry looked awful. Burns, cuts, scrapes, sores- all over his body.
"Ms. Granger-" Hermione's head snapped around at the sound of her name. She stared at the Potions Master. Did he have something to do with this? She didn't believe any teacher could be so cruel, but she had to know. Then movement drew her eye and she was reminded of Madam Pomfrey's presence. No, the mediwitch wouldn't help anybody who had so horribly injured one of her precious students. She had too big of a heart for that. Hearing her professor clear his throat, Hermione looked at the man. He was staring at her. He'd obviously asked her a question or given her an order, but teacher or not, she wasn't leaving that room until she knew what had happened to Harry. She completely ignored whatever he had said and began her own interrogation.
"What happened to Harry? Who did this? Why does he look so different? I saw him just yesterday and he was fine! Burned and bored with being stuck in the hospital wing, but he was getting better! When I find out who-"
"Miss Granger!" Severus spoke sharply, cutting through her quickly developing rant and gaining her attention. He didn't like being dismissed. "This is what's going to happen. If you can stop your incessant chattering and manage to not interrupt me with any needless queries, then we can be finished with this insufferable conversation." When the girl nodded, he continued. "First, You will be quiet until we can get Mr. Potter to a private room and settled in a bed. After that, you will take an oath of silence pertaining to what you have seen. Then," he stressed, as she seemed about to interrupt. Great Salazar, could the girl not keep her thoughts to herself for the space of two minutes? "Then, you will turn around and walk out that door and leave us to continue aiding Mr. Potter."
"No?" Severus looked back up from the boy's chest where he had been smoothing more salve into his bruises there. The girl's face was set in determined lines, her lips pressed together and brows drawn down over serious eyes. She was going to make this difficult. "No? You have no-"
"I mean," Hermione interrupted "that I won't leave. Giving an oath of silence isn't the issue. I know Harry has more enemies than friends right now, and that discretion is important, but I will not leave him with you two." The two adults looked offended and bordering on angry, so she hurried to explain. "You, Madam Pomfrey, have no quarrel with Harry, but he's only just left your care and he has no love for hospitals or Healers. It's nothing personal, but when you've had as many medical emergencies as Harry has, it's not hard to come to despise the very sight of a bandage." The mediwitch nodded and went back to her spells. Hermione turned to Professor Snape. "You, however, have never treated Harry with anything less than complete contempt and hatred. You loathe him and everyone knows it. I'll not leave him with you. You won't even explain to him how he got where he is, or what happened before you got your hands on him. However much your skill with Potions is needed now, Harry is going to need a friend to talk to, and you dn't fit the bill. I will not interfere with his treatment, and I will give him space to recover. I'm one of the few in all of Gryffindor that will even speak with Harry more than to throw insults at him."
Severus opened his mouth to respond, but apparently the girl wasn't done yet. "In addition, Harry is likely to blame himself for getting into this situation in the first place. How would you deal with that? Tell him to suck it up? Berate him for being a foolish Gryffindor for pandering to unnecessary feelings? That's not what he needs now. He's going to need support and comfort. He's going to need me, the person who knows him best. Well," she said with a bitter laugh "as well as he can be known. Harry's not exactly an open person. Especially not recently." Severus frowned at that. Surely the boy had been bemoaning his plight to anyone who would listen, especially his know-it-all friend. That he hadn't been was surprising. That is, until Severus looked at the boy in question. If he had been keeping the secret of his injuries to himself, without telling even the Granger girl, as he obviously had, the shock on her face had been sincere when she saw her friend, then who's to say he hadn't been keeping other secrets?
For the first time, Severus felt guilty for his behavior towards the Potter boy. For assuming he'd had pampered life he had always wanted. For assuming that, because of who his father was, he would be just like him, despite the fact that he'd only been a year old when the man had died. Instead, it seemed that the Potter boy's, Harry's, life had been far more similar to his own. He had to have gotten those scars and cuts from somewhere, as well as the badly healed breaks all over his body. There was no way he could have gotten them all while at school, and Severus knew he'd not been fighting the Dark Lord over the summer break, so he really only could have been so badly hurt at his relatives' house. Given that he knew they lived in Surrey, and not the Sahara or the Amazon, it became clear that the boy had been abused. How badly still remained to be seen, and when Severus had a sudden thought, he paled, and rushed to Poppy's side.
"Poppy! I need you to check for signs of abuse other the than the physical."
"Severus, I can't to a full mental or emotional evaluation until Harry is awake and talking."
"No, Poppy. I need you to check him for signs of sexual abuse." Severus nearly choked getting the words out. To rape someone was a complete violation of their body, mind, emotions, and even their magic. Magic was a wild thing, tamed to a certain extent for the use of humans, but still wild, animalistic. It would not reject sexual advances itself, and instead accept the sexual pleasure, and if its host was not strong enough to fight off an attacker physically or magically, or didn't even have their wand on hand to fight back, they were defenseless. In the case of a purely violent attack, Magic had been known to fight to defend her host until they could escape, but never in a sexual situation.
Witches and wizards who had been raped almost always shut themselves off from their magic, completely avoiding any contact with the power coursing through them. They often ended up killing themselves to escape the madness of being close enough to touch and feel the warmness that was Magic, but closed off to the feeling. Knowing that they were doing it to themselves made them go the last inch over the edge, and many committed suicide, sometimes taking the people around them out with them. If the rejection of magic was strong enough, it would grow agitated at being ignored and explode outwards, killing anyone in its way as it sought to reconnect with the Earth Magic surrounding it. It was heart wrenching to witness, even if the victim was a stranger.
If Harry had been raped…. Severus didn't even want to ponder the consequences. The boy was important. The prophecy named him as the only one with the power to defeat the Dark Lord. To have him helpless, shut off from his magic, it would be disastrous. Severus found himself not only worried over the outcome of the war, but the well being of the child laid out in front of him. Life hadn't been fair to him, and while Severus knew that life wasn't fair for anyone, he felt a twinge when he remembered his own part in Harry's torment.
"-erus… Severus!" Poppy had obviously been trying to get his attention. While he'd been distracted, she'd managed to move the boy into the private room just off her personal rooms. When she saw she had his attention, she hurried to reassure him. "There's no sign of any sexual abuse." Severus sighed in relief. That was one positive thing in this avalanche of downsides.
"Madam Pomfrey?" Oh, now the girl gets timid, Severus thought. "When will Harry wake up? He looks…. Well, he looks dead. I don't-" Hermione was at that point too choked up to continue.
"Oh dear," Poppy bustled around the bed to cup Hermione's face in her hands. "Not to worry. I've put him in a healing coma. He won't wake up for a few days, and his systems are functioning just enough to keep him alive and healing. Do you understand? It's going to look like he's on the verge of death for a while, and truly, if Severus hadn't found and helped him, he would be. But we got to him in time. He is going to recover, do you hear me?" Hermione nodded. She glanced at the dark professor standing at the foot of the bed.
"Are you ready to swear your silence, Ms. Granger?" at her nod, Severus took her through the process of a wizard's oath. If Hermione ever willingly divulged any of the information she was about to receive, she would lose her memories of it, her magic, and possibly even her mind. As has been said, Magic itself is a primal thing. It will not easily break an oath, once made. Even the most primal beings have a certain code that they live by. Magic would not let Hermione break her vow without consequences. Her magic would turn its back on her. Ripping the magic completely out of someone would kill them, but locking it away works just as well. And being able to feel, but not touch, your magic would drive anyone insane.
Now understanding exactly what she was to do, Hermione stepped forward, and raised her wand.