June 12, 1992, 11:00 PM, Hospital Wing
“No!” Harry cried and sat up quickly, feeling his heart bursting out of his chest. He stared at his surroundings with wild, uncomprehending eyes.
It took him a long moment to come back to himself, but Harry eventually did. He wasn’t down there, anymore.
Harry panted, feeling even more tired than he had prior to sleeping. How long had he managed to rest, this time?
A quick look at the view outside of the window told the boy that he had probably gotten very little.
Harry sighed and looked down at the clean, white sheets. He blinked once, and then another time as he felt himself get drawn into his dream again.
The remains of Professor Quirrell, the look of shock forever etched upon his face, all of the blood and viscera, everywhere…
Harry frowned, his heart thundering in his chest.
“Allow me to show you what true pain is. Crucio.” Those awful words came back, each one striking his soul with the force of a train and causing his heart to clench.
Harry’s hand went up to his chest, and he pressed his fingers into his flesh, against where his heart would be. He felt its fast beat, like an out of control train about to crash into the station.
He scrunched his eyes shut and did his best to slow his breathing. “Just count to five, Harry. Just count to five.”
One, two, three, four, five. He thought, over and over and over. His worries, his fears, his pains— he pushed them all away and focused everything he had on his counting.
One, two, three, four, five.
Slowly— oh so very slowly— Harry felt the pressure in his chest begin to abate. Still, he continued to restart the count. He did not trust himself, just yet.
He continued in this manner for at least fifteen minutes until he felt that he was finally safe enough to stop.
Harry opened his eyes, taking in his surroundings once again. He tried to swallow, only to realize that he was parched.
Luckily, I prepared myself this time. Harry turned his head towards the bedside table, on which a tall glass of water stood half-full. He reached for it and grasped the glass, making sure to keep his hand as steady as he could manage it.
He frowned and brought the glass to his lips, relishing in the feeling of cool water rushing down his throat and soothing his body for a few moments.
Harry set the glass back down and stared at his quivering hand. He wondered when it would go back to normal.
“It’s different for every person, Mr. Potter.” Madam Pomfrey had told him the day before— or is it ‘earlier today’? Since the day has not yet even passed.
He shook his head. He couldn’t just stay in bed forever, no matter what Madam Pomfrey told him. Harry needed to get out. He felt trapped and alone.
Harry lifted his covers and swung his legs out of bed with some difficulty before getting off. He immediately regretted the decision as his legs gave out and he felt his knees bend against his will.
The only reason he didn’t crumble in a heap onto the floor was because of the right hand that was pressed onto the mattress, helping to hold him up.
Maybe Madam Pomfrey was right. Harry thought for a moment before shaking his head. No. I need to move.
He took deep breaths, letting his legs slowly adjust to the increased pressure. Ten seconds later, he was standing next to his bed without any assistance. Harry turned his gaze to the right and dared to take a step forward.
It was weak, slow, unsteady and hurt like hell, but he had succeeded.
One step at a time, Potter. He thought, keeping his eyes towards the window ahead. He passed a few of the beds which had recently been occupied by the students who had been under the influence of the Imperius Curse, using them to support him before he found himself staring out of the open window.
There’s something beautiful about the castle grounds at night. Harry thought. He wondered why that was, and nodded to himself as he gazed upon the open fields of green.
It’s because it feels as if I have the entire castle to myself. He thought. Like I am free to do as I wish, with no one to bother me.
A cool breeze filtered through, and Harry closed his eyes, relishing the gentle, sweet caress of the wind as it brushed against his face.
Eventually, however, the wind ceased its blowing and Harry had to open his eyes again. He continued to stare out into the distance, his mind still trying to cope with all that had happened.
They had won. He knew that; it’d be obvious to him if this were a loss.
None of the adults had bothered saying anything beyond a few useless platitudes, of course, but he saw it in the way they moved, the way they behaved.
It was as if some great weight had come off their shoulders. The relief that Harry was spotting on their faces was a good enough indicator of how things had gone, the boy imagined.
Still. Harry thought as he turned his gaze away from the window and to the left, where the closed off section was. Why haven’t they released Adam yet?
He stared off in that direction for some time. Was it possible that Voldemort was still inhabiting the boy’s body?
Harry didn’t know, and it was one of the many things that now kept him up at night. He wished none of this had happened. He, Hermione and Ron had gone in, thinking they were going to solve the mystery, catch Snape red-handed and save the day, but that was far from what reality had been.
We were so stupid.
Snape had been one of the people keeping the Stone safe. Adam was right all along. He was right about everything, after all. Harry had never seen the boy make a single mistake.
Could Harry say the same about himself?
His gaze dropped down for a moment before it raised itself back towards the closed off section. If I had just listened to him and done what he wanted, he wouldn’t be in there, right now. Maybe we could’ve… Maybe I could’ve done better.
Harry pursed his lips and turned. He was going to see the boy right now, damn the—
“Potter.” Harry started and almost fell down at the abrupt, familiar voice coming from behind him. He turned to see Professor Snape.
“Professor.” Harry said, his tone guarded as he placed a hand on the window ledge behind him.
“What are you doing?” Snape said as he approached. “You should be resting. This is no time to be gallivanting around.”
He wanted to ignore the words, but something in the way Snape said it seemed to boil his blood. “I’m not gallivanting. I just needed to walk. Sir.”
“Walking, is it?” Snape said and looked in the direction that Harry had been staring down previously. “It wouldn’t happen to be a walk towards a certain section of the Hospital Wing which was declared off-limits by the Headmaster, would it?”
Harry grit his teeth. “No— I just wanted to see him—”
“So you’re worried about Mr. Clarke?” Snape said, looking at him as if he were the dumbest person on the planet. “You think this is sufficient reason to break the rules set forth by the Headmaster?”
“Well, I—” Harry tried to argue but was interrupted again.
“To flout specific rules meant to keep the boy safe from others— but of course the rules never mean anything to anyone named Potter, do they—”
Harry saw red.
“I’m not my father! I never did anything to you!” Harry ground out before he felt all the strength leave his legs. He fell down, somehow managing to maintain his hold on the ledge and keep his head from smashing into the stone floor. Harry struggled to get back up, but felt his grip weaken further and further.
A moment later, he felt the older man’s hands steady him, before propping him back up to a standing position.
Snape lingered for a moment longer, making eye contact with the boy for the barest of moments before taking a step back.
A blanket of silence enshrouded the air around as neither wizard said a thing. Harry’s glare wavered along with his energy, and he had to take deep breaths again.
One, two, three, four, five.
“You’re shaking, Potter.” Snape said, his eyes narrowing in familiarity.
“Madam Pomfrey said…” Harry said, stopping to swallow down the lump in his throat. He could barely think straight, so full of charged emotions he was. “She said that it will pass.”
Snape did not answer, his gaze moving down to the boy’s quivering hands for a few seconds before rising to his face once again. “Wait here.”
“If I see that you have moved an inch towards Mr. Clarke.” Snape said, his glare returning in full force. “I will personally ensure that you will spend the next year scrubbing cauldrons. Stay where you are.”
Harry gritted his teeth, biting back a number of retorts he was so tempted to say. Instead, he watched as the man he disliked above almost anyone else turned and moved away, his robes lacking their usual flamboyant billow.
He’s hurt, too. Harry realized as he turned back to the window, taking a seat on the ledge so he could stare outwards. But hiding it.
Harry adjusted his position, feeling very uncomfortable but pushing the sensation to the back of his mind. Snape’s behavior reminded him of himself, of when he refused to show weakness to Dudley, even after the boy had caused him considerable pain.
So, too, was Severus Snape hiding the injuries that were likely making him feel close to as bad as Harry did.
If anything. Harry thought. He suffered more severe injuries than everyone else did, except maybe Adam.
He remembered the moment in which Snape had gotten to his feet to join Professor Flitwick against Lord Voldemort. He hadn’t seen the man as the Slytherin Head of House, then.
It had been one of the bravest things that Harry had seen in his short life.
If Harry were to be honest with himself, he wasn’t sure whether he could have plucked up the courage to do that, if he were in the man’s shoes. Snape had already been injured and poisoned before Harry had even gotten there.
The amount of sheer willpower it must have taken for the man to get back up again— Harry could scarcely fathom such a thing. It’s certainly no Slytherin to do.
And yet, Snape could be as much of a bully to the students as much as the other Slytherins. One only needed to see how he treated poor Neville to get the idea.
Harry just didn’t get it. How could such a person exist? How could a man be so vile to other people while also simultaneously defending their lives?
He shook his head. Maybe it’s best not to try to understand that one.
Harry heard three buzzes sound off in quick succession and looked around to see that there was nothing there. He frowned for a moment before his eyes widened.
It’s you. Harry thought in astonishment. So I wasn’t imagining it; you’re the presence from before.
Harry heard a single buzz in response and assumed that it was a yes.
He wasn’t sure what this entity was, nor did he know where it had come from. For all he knew, maybe he really was going insane like his Aunt Petunia sometimes pretended he was when speaking of him to the neighbors.
Another series of buzzes made itself known in Harry’s mind, and he could almost feel the creature’s amusement and annoyance.
You are real, aren’t you? Harry thought, feeling stupid for even thinking that. I’m not going crazy, here?
A single buzz, followed by two buzzes came.
“So I’m not crazy.” Harry muttered, rubbing the back of his head. “That’s a relief.”
“Potter?” Snape said, startling him. “What are you doing?”
Harry turned to the man and shook his head quickly. “Just thinking.”
“You’ve stayed there for the past half hour?”
Harry’s eyes widened before he shook his head. “It’s only been a few minutes. Hasn’t it?”
He shook his head again. “Maybe I lost track of the time.”
“Indeed.” Snape said, and it was then that Harry noticed the two vials the man held in his hands.
“What are those, Professor?” Harry said, looking between the vials before turning his green eyes to the man. “Potions?”
“How very… astute of you, Mr. Potter.” Snape said, his voice taking on its usual, obnoxious drawl. “Two special Potions that I brew on the occasions that I require a little more… medical care.”
Harry frowned and edged away from the man, not at all sure about what he was being offered. “I think I will just go back to bed, sir. Thank you.”
But Snape only rolled his eyes. “Who do you think brews a good number of the Potions used here, Potter?”
Harry stared at him for a moment, weighing the man’s words in his mind. Unbidden, a memory came, and it was of the man recognizing the vials that Harry had swiped from this place on his way back to the Third Floor with Professor Flitwick.
Makes sense that the resident Professor of Potions is the one who brews some of the Potions used in the Hospital. Harry thought. There was no sense in wasting such a good resource, after all.
“It’s not a trick?” The boy asked, still feeling a little anxious at the thought.
“No.” Snape said, pursing his lips in an attempt to hold onto what little patience he had left. He raised his left hand, showing a vial full of a black, tar-like liquid. “This, you will take now. It will greatly reduce the shivers one gets after being subjected to the Cruciatus Curse.”
Harry flinched at the very mention of the curse, and immediately tried to make it seem like he hadn’t. Snape, however, shook his head.
“Mr. Potter.” Snape said, staring at him with intense, dark eyes. “A Cruciatus Curse is nothing to scoff at or attempt to hide away from. Better men and women than you have been subjected to it and have been driven past the brink, into an insanity from which there is no coming back. Those who have not been broken, but refused to seek treatment have suffered from irreparable damage to their nervous system.”
Harry frowned, feeling the heat come to his cheeks. “Why are you telling me this?”
“You cannot leave this untreated.” Snape said, shaking his head. “Madam Pomfrey knows the general treatment for the Cruciatus, but she is not so familiar with the effects of the curse that she knows its various levels of damage and how to treat each individual effect.”
Harry stayed silent, merely absorbing the man’s words.
“As such.” Snape finished, raising both hands to show the vials again. “Her Potion to treat the symptoms only ends up mitigating a fraction of what could be achieved if each symptom was treated in a certain order.”
“So, that one first?” Harry finally said, pointing at the vial full of tar-like Potion.
“‘That one first’, sir.” Snape said, glaring at the boy.
Harry resisted the urge to roll his eyes. “Sorry, sir. You said that I should take this vial first, Professor?”
Snape stared at him for a moment before nodding and showing him the second vial, this one full of milky-white Potion. “Yes. And this Potion is to be taken in the morning, before you eat. It will simply numb your pain slightly— not enough to take it away completely, but just enough to allow you to recover in relative comfort.”
Harry nodded, following along the man’s explanation before turning his green eyes up to the man again. “Why are you doing this?”
“I’m afraid I don’t follow, Mr. Potter.” Snape said, his lip curling with annoyance. “And you will address me as Professor, or sir. Am I clear?”
“Yes, sir. Why are you doing this, Professor?” Harry asked, not letting himself get angry at the man’s attitude and pushing with his question.
“It is a Professor’s duty to help all of the students of Hogwarts.” Snape said, keeping his voice level and dismissive. “No matter who it is.”
“Still, you didn’t have to do that for me.” Harry said, sounding confused for a moment before he added. “Sir.”
Snape did not bother to answer that statement, instead turning towards Harry’s bed. “Come, Mr. Potter.”
Harry opened his mouth to say something, but thought better of it. Instead, he chose to follow the man back to his bed. He was made to sit down and was handed the tar-like Potion vial.
“Drink.” Snape said. “I recommend taking it all in one gulp.”
Harry uncorked the vial open, stared at its contents for a single moment before downing it quickly. Harry retched before opening and closing his mouth, trying to get rid of the taste of rotten eggs, chalk, and lemon.
“Here.” The boy was handed his glass of water. “Drink water. It will feel better.”
Harry wanted to hit the man, but he held himself back and did as he was told, gulping down the water like it was his lifeline. True to Snape’s words, by the third gulp, the taste had faded away into nothingness.
Harry opened his eyes and gave his glass back to Snape, who put it on the bedside table. He opened his mouth to say something, when he felt a rush of relief coming from his entire body. He realized that it had stopped shaking completely.
He raised his hand to his face and stared at it in amazement. “Incredible.”
A moment later, he sagged forward, feeling a deep exhaustion begin to set in. “Wha—”
“Now that your body is no longer in active motion and shaking you awake.” Professor Snape explained as the boy tried to right himself. “It will slumber. Tomorrow, however, you will be sore.”
“I… see.” Harry said, feeling himself yawn. “Thank you, sir. I think I’ll—”
And then the boy fell back onto his back, twisting in an awkward position and having his legs dangling out of the bed.
“The stupidity of children…” Harry heard the man say as he moved the boy so that he was in a comfortable position and covered him up so that he wouldn’t get cold in the night.
Snape placed the vial against the bedside table and turned to Harry again. “Now, I expect you to take the next Potion in the morning just as you wake up. Do not wait for—”
He stopped and shook his head. The boy had already succumbed to unconsciousness. Severus let out a frustrated sigh and wrote a hasty note of instructions, placing it underneath the vial before turning and walking away from the Potter brat.
Leaving the exit, Snape stopped for a moment, looking up at nothing in particular.
“We’re even now, Potter.”
And then he continued moving like he hadn’t said a word.