Emancipated Minor - Extended (EM-E)

Fractured State - Part I

Chapter 7 - EM-E - Fractured State - Part I

Severus watched over Harry Potter for three solid hours, determined that when the boy stirred from his death-like slumber, that he would not wake alone. Now that Severus had a much clearer concept of the level of stress the boy had been dealing with for months, and the isolation in which he had borne his burdens, he was determined to make good use of his time as Potter's guardian.

And yes, this was his only coherent plan. The rest of his racing thoughts had been feeding through his mind in a constant, chaotic loop. There was so much to be addressed with his young charge, ranging from the abuse he'd suffered at school and home, to the time travel curse and his lingering injury, to his destruction of the Dark Lord and thinking himself a murderer. At this thought, Severus leaned forward with elbows on knees and covered his face with his hands. Lily's boy actually killed the Dark Lord! I'm free of that bastard. And by extension, I am free of my debt to Albus. He still had no idea what had happened, how both Lucius and Harry had come to be on the Hogwarts grounds under Voldemort's control without the wards having alerted him to the breach.

Severus swiped at the moisture beneath his eyes and glanced over at Potter in time to witness him jerking violently in his sleep, twisting from his side to his back and grimacing dramatically as he let out a hiss of pain, before finally opening his eyes to stare without focus at the canopy of his bed.

"Are you in pain, Harry?" Severus asked him softly.

"Yeah," Harry whispered. His arms were already wrapping around his torso. "I think that time-turner curse is getting worse," Harry said in a gravelly voice. "The bruise hurts a lot. It woke me up."

"And it will continue to do so, I'm afraid," Severus said, "unless you are willing to suffer through the counter curse."

There was a long silence while Severus waited to see how Harry would respond. He badly wanted to fix every hurt that he possibly could, in an attempt to right every wrong he could. But he had no idea how The Boy Who Lived would feel about him being the one to apply treatments and healing spells at this point. He watched Harry bite his lip as he contemplated his response.

"Lovely," Harry finally said in a dull voice. "Do you know it by chance? Or do I have to track down ol' Bellatrix and see if she's feeling compassionate?"

Severus was thrown somewhat off-kilter with this sudden flippant tone from his ward, when he could clearly see the heavy misery in the boy's profile. "I do know it. It is not particularly pleasant, Harry."

Harry turned to look at blurry Snape. He was hearing Severus in the older wizard's tone, and knew that he would likely see more and more of the mentor he'd grown to love as a father figure, now that he could be more open about what he knew. But Harry was instinctively wary, remembering how much friction there had been between him and Severus in the early stages, even after they'd forged a bond. Harry just couldn't stomach more of that nasty side of his professor coming out unexpectedly at this point. It was too much on top of the loss of that bond. …Even if I might be able to rebuild it. … ugh, this is completely mental!

"What will happen to me if you cast the counter curse?" Harry asked, keeping his other thoughts to himself.

"You will feel the healing process in its entirety," Severus told him. "A remnant of Madame Lestrange's bizarre sense of humor. It would not be enough to incapacitate you, but I imagine after everything you've been through lately, it may take a higher toll on you than it would in other circumstances."

"But that's it?" Harry asked. "Just discomfort?"

"That is enough, is it not?" Severus asked carefully.

"Can you do it now?" Harry asked wearily. "I feel horrible anyway."

The counter curse was indeed unpleasant. Harry literally could feel each and every one of his tissue cells and capillaries and nerve endings going through their healing processes. Bloody Bellatrix. The one good thing about his coming back in time was that he could still find a way to make Madame Lestrange pay for all that she'd done - to him, to Sirius, to the Longbottoms, and anyone else, for that matter. He'd muttered as much under his breath, to which Snape had advised he take the time to recover from the day's events first. Now Harry lay on his back on his bed, still wearing the thermal shirt from last night, which was currently pulled up to expose his rapidly dissipating bruise. The sensation was an unsettling combination of burning, tickling and stinging. He'd certainly suffered worse… just this morning, in fact. But he was genuinely worn out enough to feel close to tears by the experience.

Severus had taken a seat on the bed beside Harry after the first couple of minutes, and had distracted him to some degree with minor inquiries, such as, when had Harry last eaten? was he warm enough? was he hurting from the other curses he'd been hit with? Harry had responded that he was fine in all cases, but had kept his eyes averted. When the silence had crept back between them again, Severus had remembered to tell the boy that he'd seen Hedwig in Somerset, and had sent her to The Burrow, adding that Lupin had seen her there this morning and she was safe. Harry had managed a relieved smile and a whispered thanks. He'd asked Severus when Lupin would be moving into the castle, and was surprised but clearly pleased to hear the former Marauder was already settled in. It was clear to Severus this was another detail that was playing out differently in Potter's new experience.

"Thank you, sir," Harry said, his voice weakening to a whisper as sleep struggled to overcome him again.

"You're welcome," Severus replied, pulling the boy's shirt back down and standing to move the covers back over him. "I believe the worst is over. How are you feeling, now?"

"Better," Harry responded. "I think I'll sleep more…" He felt a warm hand on his head as he slipped back into oblivion.

Severus had made sure Harry was sleeping soundly before he flooed back to his quarters to check on Lucius and get an overview from the other wizard as to just what had really happened. But Lucius was still in bad shape, and was not responding well to Severus' potion.

"The pain was exceptional, worse than any other occasion," Lucius gritted through the mini-convulsion-like tremors he was continuing to experience as he paced around the sitting area. "The potions only helped to a certain extent. When would it be safe to have another dose?"

"Not yet," Severus said apologetically. He was very precise with the potions he'd developed, and the post cruciatus combination, along with his magic replenishing potion and a few others, each had to be taken with care. There was danger of overdose in some cases.

"Is Harry not suffering as well? He took a couple of scalding hexes on his back."

Severus frowned. "He apparently recovered quickly," he said, realizing that this was something to be questioned, along with numerous other anomalies, such as how in the world the boy had found enough magical power to kill Lord Voldemort.

"He gave the Dark Lord the impression that he cared very deeply about you, Severus," Lucius said. "I find myself a bit baffled at both that, and the fact that he has not shown me any hostility in recent days. Why is this?"

Severus was alarmed to hear this, recognizing yet another dimension by which Harry could be hurting. "Do you recall my observation, just yesterday morning, that when Harry's secrets came out, there would be catastrophe all around?"

"I do," Lucius said. He tilted his head and narrowed his eyes, and his intermittent shuddering added a touch of drama when he asked, "What, pray tell, has he been hiding?"

"He got hit by a spell cast by Bellatrix," Severus told him, pausing for emphasis. "In January, of the coming year."

"He-" Lucius stopped himself. "What?"

"Yes, and I only just found this out last evening, and being that he has been in a chronic state of magical exhaustion ever since, I haven't had any opportunity to really speak with him about it, other than to be adamantly told that he would say nothing further until he knew it was safe to do so," Severus relayed. He paused, giving his friend a look that suggested there was a difficult encounter ahead of them. "I believe this morning's events were a reenactment for him, and that now he might feel safe to explain further."

"I will need alcohol," Lucius announced. He was still unable to sit, so he strode over to the credenza that served as Severus' bar and stood looking down at the glassware. Shaking his head, he conjured a crystal tumbler and a couple of cubes of ice for his shot of Old Ogden's. "Presentation can add so much to the experience," he explained when he caught Severus' annoyed expression.

Remus was settled on the sofa in the Gryffindor common room reading a note from Dora.

Dear Remus,

I thought you might want to know that Minister Fudge called us into work this morning, without apology for spoiling our Christmas holiday, I might add, to inform us that he wanted to start an investigation into the break-in to the Ministry of Magic. He is focusing on Harry exclusively. Kingsley, Mad-Eye and I all tossed out other suspicious characters, such as, oh I don't know, You-Know_Who, or some of his Death Eaters whom we'd arrested on the premises, but he would not hear it. I've written to Albus, and I know Mad-Eye will fill him in as well, but I thought you'd do well with a message too. I know how much Harry means to you.

With deep regard, Dora

Remus' heart was racing at this news. He was also admittedly curious about just how deep the younger witch's regard ran for him, but it was only a fleeting thought in the face of what he now feared for Harry.

When Severus stepped through the floo, Remus stood and handed him the letter. "We've got complications."

Severus was just coming through the dorm's doorway when Harry emerged from the bathroom, towel-drying his hair and dressed in fresh, albeit it old and overly large, clothing. "How can you possibly be awake already?" he asked the boy in exasperation. Dammit, he griped inwardly. He could tell Potter had cried under the spray of the shower again. Alone. "I'm not certain you should be up and about yet, young man," Severus said, keeping his tone moderate, but to no avail because the messy haired teen gave him a challenging look that could only lead to raised voices and clashes of their two very stubborn personalities if addressed.

Harry's anxiety level was at an all time high now. He'd awoken to a mind filled with racing thoughts and realizations. "Professor, it's really important that I talk to everyone at once," Harry said, not oblivious to the way his guardian was slowly moving towards him. If he allowed it, Harry knew he'd be engulfed in a comforting embrace within a matter of moments, but he was afraid he'd lose the tiny grip on everything that was in jeopardy. He scooted around Snape and went to his trunk to remove the Marauder's Map and checked his pocket for his DA Galleon. "Please, sir? While I've got it all somewhat sorted? We need Mr. Malfoy, Remus, and Dumbledore."

"Slow down, Mr. Potter," Severus said, frowning at the boy's request. "I hesitate to include the Headmaster just yet. But there are already developments, and I am relieved you want to include Lucius in this."

"He was involved in a lot of what we had to handle, er will have to handle," Harry said, shaking his head. He banished the towel back to the bathroom and ran hands through his damp hair, completely missing the stunned expression on Snape's face.

"Where would you like to gather us for this discussion?" Severus asked.

"Alright, Harry?" Remus asked as Severus and Harry came down into the common room. He was heartened to receive a responding smile, but could see how terribly strained the fifteen year old was.

"Hi, Remus," Harry said nervously. He was shaking with agitation. It was actually a horrible place in which to be, having to tell the three adult wizards what he knew. And how tied into everything he truly was. Remus spotted the Map in Harry's hand and nodded his unspoken agreement that it would be a vital tool.

"We will be adjourning to the Room of Requirement," Severus told Lupin.

"Let's check the Map, Harry, just to be sure we have no visitors on the grounds, shall we?" Remus asked.

Severus found himself unable to resist reaching out to lay his hand on Harry's neck as they walked the halls to the ROR. The boy was startled enough to jump slightly at the contact, but didn't resist, and in fact modified his pace so that their steps were more in sync. Severus supposed it was a good thing that he could only focus on what would be revealed in their discussion, rather than dwell on the demonstration of the Marauder's Map he'd just received. If he were to allow himself to recollect the last time he'd seen that folded piece of parchment in Harry's hands and how it had insulted him, he might get a bit testy over things that could not be changed, such as how badly he'd wanted to throttle the third year Harry Potter on that occasion.

When they reached the Room of Requirement, the two older wizards let Harry make the request for the interior he desired, and watched as the young wizard paced back and forth before the seemingly doorless wall with his head bowed in concentration. The entrance appeared, revealing a large room, complete with roaring fire and a circle of a half dozen oversized upholstered chairs set slightly away from the hearth.

Harry had missed the warmth of Severus' hand as soon as he pulled away, and his nerves grew more rankled as he took a chair. Remus came to take the seat beside him and gave him a warm smile of reassurance. Severus sat across from him, of course. Harry nearly smiled as he recognized the potions master's standard tactic of positioning himself with the optimal view to get a read on Harry's mindset.

Severus' tension was in high gear as he watched the boy anticipate the impending announcement. He could tell that Lupin was antsy about the letter he'd received, but they'd checked that rather impressive Map and were so far free of uninvited visitors. "We're waiting on Lucius. Harry had wanted to include Albus, but I insisted we hear his information first, and have an opportunity to digest it amongst ourselves, before we invite the Headmaster, or for that matter, the Order, to weigh in," he told Lupin. The two of them held eye contact for a long stretch, and Severus surmised that Lupin was struggling with a feeling of disloyalty. "I would like to hear everything Mr. Potter has to tell us without censorship by Albus."

Harry watched the silent communication between Remus and his guardian, realizing they were not as edgy with each other as they often could be. I must have missed something. Well, he wasn't going to complain if Severus was already starting to grow up a bit, with regard to his attitude towards Remus. He was also noticing that his professor was calling him Harry more and more. That was a good thing, too. He took a deep breath as Lucius entered, strolling toward them with a slight degree of reserve. He still appeared to be suffering after effects from his final torture session under Voldemort's fury. Harry felt a smile tug at the corner of his mouth as he watched the arrogant blond assess the open seats, as if to choose the best of what remained.

Lucius sought out Harry's eyes and nodded his greeting. "How are you faring, young man?" he asked carefully.

"Not great," Harry admitted. "You?"

Lucius smiled warmly enough that his eyes crinkled slightly, in spite of his unsettled sense that Harry knew him better than he should. "I'm recovering, and very much alive, thanks to you, Harry."

More than anything, Harry wished he didn't have to start the bonding process all over again with each of these wizards. He managed a nervous smile to acknowledge Lucius, but wasn't able to hold it for long. He gulped involuntarily and his chest tightened as he looked around at the three adults, who were now all seated and giving him their full attention. His leg jiggled nervously. "Er, there's so much to tell you all, I don't really know where to begin," he said shakily. He gulped again, feeling a sudden surge of nausea.

"Start wherever you are most comfortable," Severus advised with forced calm. He was ready to jump out of his skin at this point, having learned a valuable lesson today about taking Harry Potter at his word, and feeling as though he was waiting for the next chapter of their collective nightmare to begin.

Harry nodded, and took a deep breath. He stared at the floor in the center of their circle of chairs. "That was the second time I've destroyed Voldemort," he started in a tense voice. "The first time happened on Saturday, December twenty-eighth." He looked over at Remus, correctly assuming that Snape had told Lucius this bit of the story, but that it was news to the DADA professor as of yet. Remus' eyebrows were raised, and his expression horrified. "Bellatrix Lestrange hit me with a curse on January twenty-first that sent me back in time to this past Monday. I woke up from a nap to find out I'd just lost a month and… so much along with it."

"Wait, Harry," Remus said, "before you reveal more, we should all be in agreement about what we are prepared to hear, and the responsibility we would be taking by hearing it, understand?"

Harry nodded quickly, glancing at Snape and Lucius, but turning back to Remus. "Things started happening differently right away. I've already seen how just giving a different answer to a simple question can impact the future."

Remus tilted his head, regarding Harry for a long moment as he processed the enormity of what he was hearing.

"I do not see that we have much choice, Lupin," Severus interjected, still managing his careful tone. "As Harry has indicated, the future as he knew it is already altered. Our refusal to hear what he knows, and has seen, leaves him to carry a very heavy burden on his own. Further, it could potentially handicap our responses to unexpected developments going forward."

"I agree," Remus said, nodding grimly, eyes on Harry. "And this is something that you are not, Harry. You are not alone."

Harry sat back in his chair and stared at his knees for a long moment. "Actually I am alone, in a really big way."

"Why do you say that?" Severus asked, alarm bells sounding off in his mind.

Harry's eyes filled and his chest tightened as if someone had just sat heavily upon it. "Um, well, the other part of all of this, is that Voldemort made horcruxes," he told them shakily. "He made seven of them." Now he looked up at the other wizards. He met Lucius' startled eyes and blinked his own in a futile attempt to stem the floodgates that were about to open. "The diary was one." His throat closed on him then, and the tears finally toppled down his cheeks. He let them run unchecked as he struggled to admit the part that frightened him to the core, that detail he'd left his previous timeline not knowing how it would resolve. He finally ducked his head to blot his face on the sleeve of his jumper, before he finished with, "My scar is one too."

They were all on their feet now. Severus had come right for Harry, but Harry had warily guarded himself and stepped away, so that a large chair blocked Severus' access to him. The others were pacing blindly with shocked expressions, but Severus was focused on Harry.

"Let me comfort you, you little idiot," he said in exasperation. Every instinct he had told him to protect Harry first and foremost, above all other threats.

"It's not a comfort if you still think I'm an idiot!" Harry said brokenly, hurt and misery written all over his face and inducing an element of heartbreak into the already horrifying revelations.

Severus could feel his expression softening, and struggled to speak around the large lump that had somehow lodged itself in his throat. "I called you a little idiot," he said. "There's quite an exceptional difference between the two."

"That's going to be your term of endearment for me this time around?" Harry rasped, not pleased that he felt a smile pulling at his mouth. He could feel another large chunk of his carefully constructed emotional barrier crumble away as he recognized the determination in Severus' expression.

"At the moment, yes," Severus said as he stepped around the chair, realizing he'd just been informed that he and Harry had grown quite close in Harry's previous experience. "Come here, Harry," he said gently, reaching a hand out to cup around the teen's head and tug him forward and into his arms. The boy was shaking as he leaned against Severus, as if he was quite familiar with being held by him. There was a preciousness about the moment that Severus wanted to relish, but at the same time, he was struck by the force of emotion that came up from depths that had been long buried, in response to the way Harry clung to him. The boy already needed him, already trusted something in Severus enough to be comforted. But I have not yet earned this from him… He rested his chin on Harry's head and rubbed the boy's back, determined to quiet the shaking at the very least.

Harry leaned into Severus, feeling the firm pressure of his guardian's warm hand smoothing up and down his back, mixed in with intermittent squeezes, and it helped a bit. But he still felt alone. Severus didn't know him yet. He was starting to care now, and Harry knew the older wizard well enough to know this was the beginning of a rebuilding of their bond, but it wasn't there yet. The last first hug that Harry had received had been an anomaly for Harry, as in, the first real embrace he could remember experiencing, other than the time Mrs. Weasley had held him, and he'd struggled with himself while it had gone on, not knowing how to accept comfort like this. But now he knew how to, and he hated how empty it still felt. The numbness settled back over him and he felt himself growing calmer as his emotions slipped beneath the haze of overwhelmed confusion in his mind. He could tell Severus sensed this shift in him, and allowed his guardian to guide him over to one of the two sofas that appeared to replace the chairs. Severus sat, pulling Harry down to sit beside him, and keeping an arm around Harry's shoulders.

Remus had not been oblivious to the scene that had just played out between Severus and Harry. A part of him was heartened to see such a dramatic shift between his prickly fellow professor and that very special boy. If anyone could soften Severus, it was Harry. But for Remus, what he'd just watched play out served as a reinforcement of his own sense of lacking in that area. Remus adored Harry, and cherished knowing that Harry looked up to him in some ways. That mattered more than anything in his life right now. So, why hadn't he been the one to give Harry a hug?

Lucius sat on the second sofa so that he was opposite Harry and Severus. "Harry, did I repair your eyesight previously?"

"Yes, sir," Harry said. "You were just finishing the third charm when Voldemort possessed me and saw you through my eyes. He pulled me to him then, and when I got to him, he was in the Forbidden Forest, and he'd killed Fudge and kidnapped my muggle social worker, Rebecca Chase."

Severus craned his head so that he could see Harry's face. "Did she survive?" he asked.

"Yeah. Have you met her yet?" Harry asked, startled.

"I have," Severus told him, "and we have a meeting with her on Friday. My guardianship is contingent upon this."

"Oh," Harry said, distracted by this development.

Then Harry's previous words seemed to have registered with Severus. "The Minister of Magic was killed last time?"

"Yeah, and his replacement caused major problems," Harry said, deciding that any further information on this topic might need to remain unrevealed.

Lucius cleared his throat. "Harry?" he asked with a slightly impatient tone. "Was I successful? Is that why you don't seem to need to raise your wand at the sight of me?"

Harry shot a grin at Lucius. "It was a lot more than that, Mr. Malfoy." He looked around for Remus and saw his older friend standing off to the side, seemingly deliberately putting distance between himself and the group. Harry remembered that Remus was still only a week into his grief over Sirius and that he hadn't yet started to rebuild his life. He wondered if this was behind the odd energy he sensed from the wan Marauder. "By the time 'ol Bellatrix hit me with her curse, you three had pretty much handled a lot of drama that came up. Most of it was because of the horcruxes." He looked back at Lucius. "You had explained about the way the diary had influenced you, and when we encountered the next horcrux I could see what it did, and how much it unsettled you."

Lucius had a confused scowl on his face, and was still intermittently exhibiting tiny involuntary convulsive movements that were taking their toll on his patience. "Severus, how much longer before I can take the potions again?" he rasped.

"Has it been six hours since the last dosage?" Severus asked in an atypically obtuse manner.

"It's been eight!" Lucius spat in exasperation, jumping to his feet and coming to take the three vials from Severus' outstretched free hand. He snatched them dramatically, downing each one in approximately ten-second intervals, and continuing to stand, waiting for them to give him full relief. "I will perform the healing charms again, straight away, Harry, as soon as this treatment takes effect. Why has it only reached my feet? What kind of-"

"Perhaps if you could give it a minute more, Lucius," Severus drawled, unable to resist paying Lucius back for his recent, albeit accurate, declarations about his behavior towards Harry. It was incredibly satisfying to hear the bark of laughter from Harry at this.

Harry blinked a few times and sighed with deep relief. His eyesight was fully restored. "Thank you, Mr. Malfoy," he said. His hand was currently fisted around his newly created Lucius-galleon as well. "Now at least we have some of the best of our tools back in place."

"I'm feeling like this is a tad anti-climactic, Harry," Lucius said with a clear degree of regret. "I meant it to be a significant gesture."

"It is, sir, truly," Harry explained, careful to exude his genuine appreciation. "I actually have felt its significance even more, in the last few days of being without it. You've given me a gift that enhances everything in my life. I'm much better at dueling, especially, because I can see people's faces now. And when I started classes again, I could see the board, and the like." He shook his head, muttering. "I'll be glad when it's February, so I can stop referring to the future in the past tense."

His response seemed to have satisfied the arrogant blond Slytherin. "That is gratifying to know," Lucius said humbly.

Severus cast a tempus charm. It was half five. Harry had pulled away to sit up straight while Lucius had healed his eyes. Severus lay a hand between his shoulder blades. "In spite of the alarmingly casual way you just mentioned dueling, young man, I will postpone my demand for explanation because we should eat. You, especially, Harry," he said. "What do you feel like?"

Harry was tempted to summon the ice cream sundae fountain again, but realized he wanted real food. Pizza.

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