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Watching and Waiting

By Jessica Swampygliders

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Severus paced the length of his office with his hands behind his back. Minerva's words kept flowing through his head. 'You're worried about him.'

Like hell he was worried about the boy, he didn't care one iota about the menacing little scamp. He just had to make sure he lived, make sure he kept his promise to Lily. Nothing else, nothing more. Why would he be worried? It was not like the boy was going home to a bad home life after all. He was sure Patunia pampered him like a little prince.

The dark man slumped down into his chair very unlike himself and placed his head in his hands. Then why the hell did he have this nagging feeling that they were failing the boy yet again? What was he missing?

Severus sighed and lifted his head from his hands. Maybe he should just go check on the boy one last time. Not that he cared for the boy at all, no, he was just going to make sure that he hadn't done anything more to hurt himself. There was no telling what someone would do when they were that deep in a depression. That must be what was bothering him.

With that decided, the man got up from behind his desk and with his dark robes flowing behind him he strode to the hospital wing. All the way there he kept telling himself that it was not concern that was coursing through his veins, he just knew that the boy was more than likely causing trouble for the nurse. Yeah, that was it. That had to be it.

Again, as he entered the hospital wing, he cast a silent notice-me-not spell over himself and headed to the private room he knew Potter to be in. Quietly he slipped in and saw that Albus was already sitting by the boy's bed.

Severus silently sighed as he looked over at the bed. The boy was not awake as he had hoped. Poppy had told him that he would be sleeping a while, but he had hoped that the nurse was wrong and that he would have awakened soon. He knew the longer you slept the greater your injury.

Quietly he watched as Albus sat there beside the boy and gently ran his fingers through the boy's hair. Suddenly the older man stopped and turned slightly to look at where Severus was standing.

"I know you are there, Severus. Come and sit down."

The man just sighed, knowing that pulling the wool over Albus's eyes was not an easy feat. Quietly he took the charm off and then sat in the chair next to the older man.

"You were right, Severus. I am sorry I did not listen to you."

Severus looked over at the older man. It was not like Albus to admit that he was wrong, normally he made some kind of excuse to go with an apology.

"Are you finally getting him help?"

Sadly the man nodded. "I didn't realize just how much he was hurting. I arranged for a qualified Healer to visit him once a day when he gets back to his relatives. Poppy doesn't want him to leave here too soon though, she is afraid it might seem as though we are just handing him off even if that is not our intention."

Severus nodded. "She is right. Has he woken at all?"

Albus gave a small nod. "He woke ten minutes before you got here. He was so distressed to find himself here Poppy put him back to sleep."

Closing his eyes the darker man let out his breath slowly. "Why was he distressed to be here?"

Albus shrugged his shoulders and shook his head. "He just closed in on himself. Curling into a ball and muttering that 'He can't be here, he'll just get people hurt'. He didn't even notice my presence in the room or really even Poppy's until she made him drink a dreamless sleep. Even that was a challenge."

"He is blaming himself for his Godfather's death. That is why he has distanced himself from his friends." Severus sadly looked at the boy. He knew how hard it was to lose someone you loved. He didn't wish that kind of pain on his worst enemy.

The Headmaster nodded. "That night he destroyed my office, I told him it wasn't his fault, but it seems that I failed in convincing him. I thought he was going to be ok."

"He is not."

Closing his eyes Albus nodded again. "I can see that now. Thank you for looking out for him. And I am sorry if this has brought any memories back to you."

Severus stood up and headed to the door. "I gave my word that I would keep him alive and that is what I have done."

"Thank you my boy." Albus sadly smiled at his boy as he passed through the door. Severus would never show it, but must be bringing memories of when he lost his mother.

With that, Severus walked out of the room and closed the door behind him knowing that finally the boy was getting the help he needed. That nagging feeling was still there in the pit of his stomach though. There was something that he felt like he was missing and it had something to do with that flinch.

Ignoring that feeling for now Severus started to walk back down to the dungeons. He had more papers to grade than he thought he could handle. All this week he had ignored his duties to follow Potter around, but now that he was in capable hands he could finally get some work done.

A few hours later, Albus was still sitting in Harry's room trying to figure out just what to do. Sure, he had set up for Harry to go back home a week early, but it bothered him just how much persuading it had taken for his relatives to agree. Actually, it's more than bothered him, it disturbed him how his Aunt had called Harry names that did not suit the boy. Did she really call him a bratty freak? He must have misheard her.

He really wished that he could take the boy in himself rather than send him off, but he knew the Ministry would never let him. Not while they were trying to discredit him and the poor boy at every turn. And the Ministry could never see him the way he was right now, it would just confirm their reports that he was unstable and they would find some little hospital to lock him up in and throw away the key.

Albus reached forward again to stroke his fingers gently through Harry's soft hair. The boy flinched back a little, but then relaxed and leaned eagerly into the kind touch. He could never allow that to happen to Harry.

"Oh, my boy. If only I could take this pain from you I would."

Softly the boy on the bed gave a little groan, and Albus noticed that his eyes were starting to open again. Gently he removed his hand from the boy's hair and watched as the boy woke, hoping beyond all hope that this time Harry was more lucid than the last time he awoke.

Slowly the boy's eyes opened and spotted Albus sitting next to his bed. When he saw who his blurry eyes deduced who it was Harry's eyes dulled, and he turned to lay on his side to face the wall.

"Harry?"

No response came from the boy he just lay there listlessly. He didn't particularly want to talk at the moment, especially not to his Headmaster. Not after what he had done to his office...or what he had revealed to him after Sirius's death.

With sad eyes Albus gave Harry a pleading look. "Harry, child, can you look at me?"

The boy made no move to look at Albus and the old man let out a sigh. Gently he reached out and tried to place a hand on Harry's shoulder, but the boy shrugged him off and seemed to curl into himself even tighter.

"Child, I know you are upset with me right now, but I only have your best interests at heart. I wanted you to enjoy your childhood as long as possible and not burden you."

Continuing to look at the wall, Harry mumbled under his breath so quietly that Albus could not hear, "If you wanted me to enjoy my childhood, why did you leave me with them? Why did you leave me to be beaten at every turn?"

With a sigh Albus moved from his chair and sat on the edge of Harry's bed and gently placed a hand on the boy's back. A flinch came from Harry, but otherwise he made no move to shake himself from the gentle touch.

"I hope you know Harry, that I am here for you whenever you need me. If you ever want to talk my ears are always open."

Closing his eyes tightly the boy's knees came up to touch his chin. He didn't like close contact and he really didn't like it when people touched his back. It always reminded him of when the touch was not so kind.

Sensing the boy's discomfort Albus removed his hand from the boy's back and watched in wonder as the boy's posture relaxed a little. Concern filled the old man, had someone hurt this child? It was not normal for someone to tense so much from such a simple touch.

"Are you alright Harry?"

Still nothing came out of the boy making Albus sigh.

"Alright Harry, I'm going to go get Madam Pomfrey. I'll be right back."

Albus got up from the bed and moved to the door. The way Harry was reacting the way he was, he had to admit that he was beyond a little worried and his worry was growing by the minute.

Finding the matron not moments later Albus explained just what had happened with Harry and all the while he spoke the nurse's eyes grew more and more worried. When he was finished, her professional side came out, and she bustled into the boy's room to see what she could do to help. She knew healing Harry's heart was not going to be easy. It never was when it came to the heart.

Before she entered the room, she turned around and gave Albus a sad, but stern look. "I think for now you should wait outside Albus."

The man only nodded defeated. He knew the woman was right, she always was when it came to the student's health.

Quietly, but not quiet enough that she would startle the boy Poppy came in the room and gently shut the door behind her. She then, came over to the bed and sat where Albus had sat just moments ago.

"Hi Harry, how are you feeling?"

To her disappointment she received the only answer Albus had gotten, nothing. Sighing, she got up and moved to the other side of the bed so that she could see the boy's face. She didn't like forcing the boy to look at her, but she knew she had to right now if she was going to see if he was hurting anywhere besides his heart.

Sitting on the other side of the bed Poppy gently took the boy's right wrist and prodded it tenderly. She wanted to make sure it was healed fully and that this was the first time the boy had decided to hurt himself.

"Harry, I need you to talk with me, ok? I need you to answer these questions as honestly as you can. It is very important."

Harry closed his eyes, but nodded. He didn't want to speak with anyone, but he felt bad ignoring the nurse who had always treated him so kindly. She had always healed his wounds when he fell off his broom or made him feel better when he was sick. It was the most anyone had done for him in his young life and for that he would do almost anything for her. Almost.

"Do you hurt anywhere?"

Harry shook his head. For at the moment, nothing physical did hurt, rather he felt like he was floating outside his body.

"That's good. Can you feel my hand on yours?"

The boy gave a small nod. He could feel the slight warmth of the nurse's hand against his.

"Can you move your fingers for me?"

With little to no concentration, Harry wiggled his fingers all around much to the nurses pleasure. She had hoped that there had been no nerve damage. They were superficial cuts, sure, but someone's magic could do weird things when trying to protect the body and in some cases, some people's magic had cut off the nerves in their hands after feeling a threat. That was why cutting was so dangerous in the magical world, so much more than the Muggle world.

Poppy gave the boy a small smile and set down his wrist. "Very good Harry. Now I'm going to need you to speak with me to answer these next few questions. Can you do that for me?"

Harry looked away to study his pillow making the nurse sigh, but she decided that she should try anyway. Gently she placed a hand on the Harry's cheek and sadly looked at the boy when he flinched back.

"Harry. Why did you hurt yourself?"

The boy closed his eyes and brought his knees tight to his chest shaking off the nurse's hand as he did. He started shaking his head violently and seemed to pull into himself.

Looking down at the hurting boy Poppy gently rested a hand on his back. "Ok Harry, it's alright, we don't have to talk about that right now. Just relax for me. Come on Harry, calm down now."

Harry continued pulling is face to rest on his knees and seemed far from calming down. The nurse anticipating something similar happening pulled out a calming potion out from her pocket and held it up to the boy gently forcing him from hiding his face in his knees.

"I need you to take this potion Harry."

Through tears and shallow breathing Harry was able to sip down the fowl tasting potion that the nurse was offering.

"There we go Harry. You are such a good boy."

Gently while Harry calmed down Poppy tenderly rubbed his back and brushed back his hair. When he was calm enough, and his tears were slowing she gave him a small encouraging smile.

"Feel better?"

The boy gave a small nod, but then looked away. She knew his emotions were haywire right now and he probably didn't know what he should be feeling. Grateful that the nurse was helping him, embarrassed that she had seen him crying or mad that they had brought him here. He was probably feeling all three at once, and it was swirling inside him angrily.

"Can you tell me the last time you ate, Harry?"

Harry shook his head, making the nurse sigh, but she snapped her fingers and a house elf appeared with a tray of soup and milk. The elves knew when she needed them, because often she had made as little noise as possible to summon them in case someone was sleeping.

The elf handed the tray to the nurse and she nodded her thanks while he popped away.

"Do you want to sit up and have some soup?"

Harry shook his head. He knew it wasn't a request by the way it was said, but he didn't feel like he was worthy of food. Not with what he had done to his Godfather. He had killed the man who had loved him like a father.

"Harry, If you don't have some I'm going to have to force feed you and you are not going to like that. You need to eat something."

Seeing the glint in the nurse's eyes Harry reluctantly sat up in bed and let her put the tray on his lap. For the next few minutes Harry played with the soup in the bowl and just starred at the glass of milk.

That was until Madam Pomfrey sighed and took the spoon from Harry. Scooping up some of the soup she held it up to the boy's mouth until he opened and let her feed him.

"Five more spoon fulls and a piece of bread, then it will be all over. Alright?"

Harry nodded and accepted another spoon full from the witch reluctantly. He couldn't believe that the nurse had decided that he was incapable of feeding himself, but he had sat there just playing with his food for a long while. Still, this was beyond humiliating...but at the same time it was nice to be cared for.

When the nurse was finished feeding the boy, she handed the boy the glass of milk and ordered him to take deep sips until it was gone. The nutrients in the milk would help him greatly. Finishing the milk, the nurse then took the cup away and then gently removed the tray from his lap and the pillow that was keeping him propped sitting up.

"Why don't you get some more rest now and then maybe when you wake, you will feel more like talking." Poppy sat on the side of the bed and then gently fluffed up the pillows and pulled the covers up to cover Harry's chest.

Harry adverted his eyes from the nurse and rolled over on his other side so that he was facing away from her. Closing her eyes for a moment Poppy placed a gentle hand on his back and ignored the flinch.

"Just call me if you need anything Harry, or if you just want to talk. I'm always here for you Harry, no matter what. I want you to know that, alright?"

Harry just continued staring at the wall and Poppy sighed, but gave him one last gentle caress and then removed her hand. She then walked out of the room to greet an inpatient and worried Headmaster, but not without looking back and giving one last worried look at the poor boy.

The last time she had been so worried about one of her patients was when Severus had come back from one of those meetings half dead last year. This heartbreaking worry, she felt she never thought she would feel it again, but here it was again. She supposed only two people could do this to her, those two people she cared about most. The two who never seemed to get the better end of the stick.

Outside, she was immediately bombarded with questions from not only the Headmaster, but Minerva was there as well to see the boy.

Tiring very quickly of having question after question thrown at her with no time to in between to answer them Poppy finally just put a silencing spell on both of them. Much to the amusement to the man who was hiding in the shadows.

Pinching the bridge of her nose Poppy just pointed to the four chairs that were conveniently placed for just this kind of circumstance.

Pointing to the corner she knew Severus was in Poppy sighed. "Severus, you too. I know you are lurking there."

Grudgingly with his arms crossed Severus emerged from the shadows and sat in the chair that had the least the offending color. He was not sitting in a purple chair! He refused!

When they had all sat down Poppy looked at the two who still had a silencing spell on them and rose a finger sternly. "Can you two promise to give me a moment to answer your questions before you ask the next one?"

Both looked down and nodded, so she took off the spells and then turned to look at Severus. "Since you are not behaving like a child, would you like to go first?"

The man rose an eyebrow at the witch, but nodded nevertheless. "How is he mentally?"

Sadly, she shook her head. "He wouldn't open up to me, but it is obvious his mind is going through great turmoil."

"Will he recover?"

"I do not know, but I think there is more going on than just his Godfather's death. I don't think he realizes it, but his glamours are down, and there are scars."

"Scars?"

The nurse nodded and then looked over at Minerva. "Have you arranged for him to go home for the rest of the term?"

The woman nodded. "I had to do everything I could to convince them it was for the best."

"I don't know anything for sure, but maybe it would be wise to investigate Harry's living arrangements there before we ship him off. I have a bad feeling..."

As the woman trailed off, the Headmaster with great sadness in his eyes placed a hand on hers. "He has to go back. There is no safer place for him. The blood wards."

"But Albus, what if they were the ones who hurt him? How can we send him back there if it's just to be hurt?"

Albus looked over at Minerva, who had posed the question they had all wanted to ask. "I am sure my dear, that Petunia wouldn't hurt her own blood."

Severus looked at the Headmaster and thought of his own past, but then roughly pushed away those thoughts. Surely Albus had checked up on the boy before and knew what he was talking about. Why else would he assure Minerva that everything was alright?

The head of the lions just nodded, accepting Albus's word, but had one more question. "Who gave him those scars then?"

Albus shook his head. "I don't know, my dear, but we will find out."

Minerva shot Severus a worried glance, and he returned it with a nod. Apparently, they were on the same train of thought. There was something very, very wrong here for Harry to have so many scars.

Looking over at Albus Severus nodded and then moved from his chair to Harry's room. He had to see for himself what the nurse said was true. If it was, then everything he had believed these last five years had been lies he had been telling himself.

Silently he opened the door and closed it behind him. He really hoped the nurse was overreacting to normal childhood scars, but deep in his heard he just didn't know. Was this the nagging feeling he had deep in the pit of his stomach?

Severus silently sighed and then walked over to the bed very careful not to wake the boy. It was obvious the boy had fallen back to sleep after his meal with Poppy. Smirking Severus knew just how he had fallen asleep so quickly. She often dosed the milk she gave to patients with dreamless sleep so they would rest after she left.

Coming over to the boy he sat on the side of his bed and gently brushed his hair from his face. His hand stilled over Harry's cheek though, and he traced the angry scar that ran from the top of his ear all the way down to his chin.

He could see where Poppy had her suspicions, but until the boy told for sure what that scar was from they could not act on their suspicions. For all they knew it could have been an accident or some school aged children getting rough with him. That is likely what happened... knowing the boy he probably had gotten into a street fight when he was back home. Yeah, that was it. There was no way Patunia would lay a hand on her nephew. They were all just overreacting. They were just overreacting.

Severus removed his hand from the boy's cheek and then left the room as quietly as he had entered. All the time silently telling himself that they were just overreacting, it was a street fight.

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