Panic gripped at his heart as Harry wrapped his left hand firmly around the splint holding his opposite wrist. Still, his fingers remained motionless and numb. "I can't feel my hand," he gasped again, his breaths coming far too rapidly. A roaring sound filled his ears and his vision, already blurry without his glasses, began to grow dark.
"Harry." A hand landed on his left shoulder, causing him to flinch violently and send a sharp jolt of pain from the sore joint on the opposite side. "Harry, calm yourself," the voice commanded.
"I... can't... feel... my hand!" Harry exclaimed, emphasizing each word, which should have been impossible with the erratic way he was breathing.
"Harry." The tone was sharper, the hand on his shoulder applying just a bit more pressure.
The boy finally managed to draw in a deep breath, enabling him to shout. "No!" He fought off the owner of the hand as he continued, his sudden ranting and thrashing hardly more desirable than the hyperventilating. "I won't calm down! Don't you get it? I can't feel my hand! It won't work. How am I supposed to do anything, huh? How do I do anything without my hand? What am I if I can't do anything? I'm worthless! Worthless, worthless, worthless – No! Let me go! Let go!"
Despite his valiant struggle, Harry soon found himself with both arms pinned between his chest and that of the person holding him. As he couldn't even move his legs anymore, since they'd become hopelessly tangled in the bedclothes, the boy finally let his forehead fall against the rough cloth covering his captor's shoulder. A miserable keening escaped his lips as his body trembled with sobs. Several minutes later, he grew still again.
"Well," Poppy said shakily once the calming charm she had cast on Harry finally took effect, "he took that a lot harder than I anticipated."
"I did not expect such a reaction from him, either," Severus admitted, gently laying his son back against the pillows. The boy's face was streaked with tears, his distress evident even in slumber. "What does it mean," he asked quietly, "the fact that he can't feel his hand? Will he never be able to use it again?"
"Honestly, it only confirms what I already suspected; there's been damage to both the sensory and motor nerves in his hand," the mediwitch told him gently. "I don't know how much function he'll be able to regain at this point. If he doesn't begin to have some sensation or movement within the next few days, he... he might not regain any at all.
"I had hoped there might have been something, but I'm afraid we'll just have to wait. I'm sorry."
The man nodded to indicate that he had heard her. Again, his hand found its way to the boy's fringe. "He does not deserve this," he murmured quietly, smoothing the hair back from Harry's brow.
"No," Poppy agreed sadly, "no, he doesn't."
The curse shot from his wand...
Potter twisted to the side, trying to draw his own wand from his pocket...
Rock exploded outward as the curse struck the archway, large cracks spreading out and upward like a spider's web...
Pieces of stone fell from the crumbling archway...
Potter instinctively ducked his head, the boy's arm coming up to shield himself...
A large chunk of rock slammed into his arm as another bore down on his shoulder, the force of it knocking him to the ground...
Agony and fear contorted the Gryffindor's face as he fell...
Then, he was buried...
Draco shook his head, trying to dislodge the recent memory, but it was useless. Again and again it played through his mind in an unending cycle, the whole thing moving in horrifying slow-motion, allowing him to relive every horrifying detail.
Guilt clawed at him, despair threatening to overwhelm him. For hours he wandered, jumping at every sound, glancing around anxiously, half-expecting a certain Potions Master to come for his blood at any moment. And come for his blood, the man would – Draco was certain of it.
The thought petrified him.
Finally, after passing the impassive statue for what might have been the ninth or tenth time, the blond-haired boy approached the gargoyle which guarded the headmaster's office. With the grind of stone against stone, its head shifted to look at him.
"Um..." Draco began uncertainly, then cleared his throat. "That is, I need to see the headmaster."
"Oh. Password. Uh..." What would the headmaster's password be? The boy recalled hearing that it was always some sort of candy. "Cauldron cakes?" he guessed.
To his surprise – and complete horror – the gargoyle sprang aside, revealing the spiral staircase behind it. Swallowing hard, the Slytherin stepped forward. After all, he was the idiot who'd guessed the stupid password right the first time, wasn't he?
Slowly, the stairs spun upwards until he stood in front of the door leading into the office itself. He raised his hand to knock.
"Do come in, Mr. Malfoy," a voice beckoned, before he had a chance to rap his knuckles against the wood.
Draco felt the blood drain from his face, but complied nonetheless. Shutting the door behind him, the thirteen-year-old moved until he stood in front of the large desk, staring determinedly at an odd knickknack without really seeing it.
Albus Dumbledore eyed the boy solemnly. There were not many Slytherin students who ventured willingly to his office, and the Malfoy scion always seemed to regard him with particular disdain. That he should make an appearance after what had happened a few mere hours before was not likely to be a coincidence.
"What can I do for you, Mr. Malfoy?" the headmaster asked neutrally, which for him, was a rather cold tone to use.
"Well, you see, sir... I mean-" Draco stammered, then burst out, "Please let me see my parents one last time before sending me to Azkaban!"
"Oh?" Dumbledore raised questioning brows, his expression otherwise unreadable. "And what have you done to merit being sent to Azkaban, Mr. Malfoy?"
A sob forced its way past the boy's throat, though, he blinked furiously to keep tears at bay. Finally, he uttered his confession, his voice a hoarse whisper, "I killed Harry Potter."
When his horrible admission didn't immediately receive a response, Draco peeked up at the headmaster's face, his terror increasing tenfold at the man's expression. Never had he seen the jovial wizard look so stern, his eyes twin pools of ice and his mouth set in a frown. The boy wondered if anyone had ever been eyed with such disapproval and disappointment by the man. After all, how many students had confessed to the murder of the Savior of the Wizarding World?
"And when did this occur?" the headmaster pressed.
Draco began trembling. Merlin! He's gonna make me tell him the whole thing! "Earlier, sir," he said aloud, his voice wavering, "not sure how long ago. In the upper dungeon."
"Which curse did you use to... kill your classmate?"
"The blasting curse, sir."
"And you hit him with the curse."
"No," Draco shook his head. "I-it... the curse hit an archway. P-Potter was standing beneath it and it – it crumbled on top of him. He was buried... I didn't mean to hurt him. I-I just lost my temper. I swear I didn't mean to kill him."
"Why didn't you seek help for Mr. Potter if you did not mean him harm, as you claim?" Dumbledore demanded severely.
"I'm sorry!" the Slytherin cried quietly. "I'm really sorry."
"Then, why did you attempt to curse him?" the man prompted ruthlessly.
"I was jealous, alright? Be-because I found out... I found out he was Uncle Sev's son," a note of bitterness had entered the boy's tone. "It's his fault Uncle Sev missed Christmas Eve with us! He ruins everything!"
"So, you thought you'd be rid of him."
"No! I really didn't mean to kill him – honest!"
"Fortunately for you, Mr. Malfoy, Harry is not dead," Dumbledore told him, though, there was nothing reassuring in his tone. "That said, it is possible that he may be facing permanent disability. I will leave it up to your Head of House to choose your punishment."
"But, sir!" Draco exclaimed, eyes wide in panic. "Can't you punish me?"
"I could," the headmaster agreed, "but I won't. It would only be fair if Professor Snape chose your punishment, don't you think?"
Draco, his face sickly pale, was unable to form a proper response.
"Return to your dormitory, Mr. Malfoy, and do not leave until you are told otherwise," Dumbledore commanded. "You will not like the consequences should you disobey."
"Yes, sir," the boy rasped. Turning, he left the office. He was dead. So dead. "Uncle Sev's gonna kill me," he whispered to himself once more.
The gargoyle nodded in agreement.
"You are not sorry," the Potions Master cut off the boy's apology, snarling furiously. "The only reason you confessed your wrong-doing to the headmaster is that you felt it inevitable that you would be caught. No doubt, you had hoped he would listen to your pathetic excuses, your feigned remorse, and offer you leniency. Even if he had, did you really think I wouldn't find out? Were you so foolish as to believe I would let you off for attempting to murder my son?"
Draco had never, in his entire life, seen his godfather so angry. Not even when Longbottom made his cauldron explode or one of the older students mouthed off to him. In fact, he couldn't think of an instant that even came close. He had known the man would be livid, but nothing like this. For the first time in his life, Draco Malfoy was utterly and genuinely afraid of Severus Snape.
"I didn't mean to hurt him," Draco repeated himself futilely.
Snape leaned down until he was a few scarce centimeters from the boy's face. "Then, why, pray tell, did you attempt to use the Blasting Curse on him?" he demanded, his voice silky and quiet, even as his dark eyes raged violently. "Do you know what would have happened if you had hit him with that spell? The damage it would have caused? How much time it would take before Harry had bled out? You say you didn't wish him harm, that you didn't want to kill him, but that curse would have done just that!"
"I'm sorry," the boy cried. "Uncle Sev, I-"
"Professor Snape," the man corrected sharply, glowering down at him. "I do not have a godchild who would attempt to kill a fellow student simply because he is jealous he is my son."
"But, Professor, I-"
"'But'? 'BUT'? What other excuses could you possibly have, Mr. Malfoy? You attacked an unharmed opponent. DON'T try to deny it – Harry's wand was still in his pocket when he was dug out from the rubble you left him to die beneath. He had no means by which to defend himself. Even if you had just cause to attack another, I. taught. you. better than that!"
This time, Draco wisely refrained from speaking, biting his lip to fight back sobs of fear and guilt. The professor was pacing back and forth across the narrow study, robes snapping angrily each time he turned, even as his furious tread made hardly any noise at all.
"You ought to be expelled for such abominable behavior," Snape informed him curtly, "but as your father would no doubt pat you on the back and find you another wand, that is hardly a suitable punishment. I will not allow you to be rewarded for your actions, which is why you will remain here where I can be sure you at least have the opportunity to learn your lesson.
"Your wand is now mine," the man declared, stopping in front of his student and holding his hand out for the slender piece of woodwork. "You may have it for classes, but then, it returns to me."
"Yes, sir," Draco whispered hoarsely, surrendering his wand.
"Your broom is also mine, as you are no longer allowed to use it. You are prohibited from playing Quidditch and attending all matches. You are banned from going to Hogsmeade. And you are not allowed to leave the dorm except to attend classes, meals, and detentions – which you will serve with Mr. Filch six nights a week, unless you are told otherwise."
That was a bit harder to swallow, but the boy managed to nod.
"Finally, there will a monitoring charm placed upon you, as you cannot be trusted to behave yourself. Have I made myself clear?"
"Yes, sir," Draco responded meekly. "I really am sorry, sir."
"I know you are," Snape acknowledged impassively. "Unfortunately, I also know that you are not sorry for your actions, but the consequences. You should have come to me, Draco. Instead, you may have permanently disabled my son. Now, get out of my sight."
Tears streaming silently down his face, Draco quickly obeyed, certain his godfather would never forgive him.