"Rather harsh, weren't you?" the headmaster queried, his expression reproving.
Severus scowled at him as he shut the door to the study just off of the main office. "If you're going to criticize the way I administer punishment, why did you have me to do it?" he demanded.
"As father of the injured party, perhaps I should not have permitted you to do so," Albus stated mildly. "I would have hoped you had calmed yourself enough by this morning to deal reasonably with young Draco."
"Do not speak to me about being reasonable, old man – I gave the punishment that you so generously 'recommended'!"
Dumbledore gazed at him solemnly.
"I may have added a few more detentions each week."
The older wizard kept staring.
"The restriction is justified!"
"But is it really necessary, in addition to the monitoring charm?" Albus asked.
It was Severus' turn to glare back at him, refusing to say anything.
"Severus," the old man said, his tone placating, "I know you are angry – it is well in your right to be – but surely you realize that young Draco acted out in jealousy? While he was undeniably in the wrong, I believe him when he said that it was not his intention to harm Harry. Desperation can lead a person to do that which they normally would not, and Draco feels that he is losing his godfather."
"That is absurd, Albus!" Severus declared. "Draco has parents, two of them -"
"Who are quick to indulge his every whim, so long as he does what is expected of him," Albus cut in. "Isn't that what you have told me before?"
"That does not excuse his behavior."
"Nor am I attempting to do so," the headmaster denied. "But Severus, you are his godfather. You have always been his champion against me or any other that would treat him unjustly. I believe his ill behavior is firmly rooted in his need for reassurance that you still intend to fill that role."
Severus ran a hand through his hair, the action betraying just how much recent events were effecting him. "You truly think I have such influence over the boy?"
"Absolutely," the older man replied. "In fact, I think that yours is the only example he has to follow if he is to part from the path Lucius would have him tread."
"I will have another talk with him," the professor said, then frowned at him. "Don't look so smug, old man. I admit I may have been a bit... severe, but Draco must still be made to understand the consequences of his actions."
"Oh, I quite agree, my boy. Draco needs to know just how much he has truly hurt Harry. Which does remind me – how do you intend to proceed from here on, in regards to Harry? I would assume you'll want to devote some time helping him recuperate as best he can, but that might strike many as odd. Have you considered acknowledging him as your son?"
"Frequently," Severus admitted, "but you know it is not that simple. I really don't wish to speak about this right now, Albus. I want to get back to my son."
"I understand, Severus," Albus told him. "Do tell Harry I shall look in on him later."
The Potions Master inclined his head before taking his leave. As the door closed behind him, the headmaster leaned back heavily in his chair.
"A bit far from your tower, aren't you, Potter?"
Harry's eyes snapped open. Momentarily disoriented by the dream, he allowed his gaze to flit about the hospital wing as the events of the previous night returned to him. Forcing himself to remain calm, the boy took mental stock of himself.
His head, though still a bit muzzy from sleep (which was at least partly potion-induced), otherwise felt fine. Granted, he hadn't really moved it at all. Experimentally, he slowly turned his head to the right, then more quickly to the left. Squeezing his eyes shut, he waited for the room to stop spinning about him. So, he wouldn't be doing any twirling about. Harry figured he could probably live with that for a day or so.
Next on his checklist was his right shoulder. Harry cautiously moved it about. When that caused no undue pain, he slowly extended his arm away from his body. It still felt a bit stiff, but it wasn't as sore as it had been the last time he woke. This, too, he could live with for awhile.
Finally, Harry raised his hand up to peer at it. It looked a bit fuzzy without his glasses, but not so much so that he couldn't determine that it was still securely bound in a brown leather brace. His fingers persisted in their refusal to answer to his will and he couldn't tell if the faint tingling he felt was real or imagined.
This – the inability to move or feel his own hand – this, he couldn't endure. Tears began to stream silently down his face as he let the useless limb fall back upon the bedclothes. What good am I? he asked himself. I can't even grip my wand. What good can I possibly be?
"Mr. Potter?" His attention was drawn to the figure quietly approaching his bed. "Are you in any pain?" It was difficult to tell, but the mediwitch's expression seemed to be that of concern.
Mutely, Harry shook his head.
"You're certain you aren't in any discomfort?" Pomfrey asked gently.
"No, ma'am," Harry whispered, only then noticing how thirsty he was. The woman raised the head of his bed, then offered him a cup of water with a straw. Holding it in his left hand, the teen took several sips before giving it back.
"Alright, Harry, let's see how these work out for you," said the woman, extending a pair of glasses towards him.
Harry would have let her place them on his face, but when she made no attempt to do so, he took them from her and put them on one-handed. To his surprise, the world around him came into even greater focus that he ever recalled seeing it. Was his vision really that bad?
Madame Pomfrey let out a faint chuckle at the look on his face. "I often wondered if your old glasses were the right prescription," she remarked. "I trust that everything is clearer now?"
"It's like it was drawn with a ruler," Harry responded, noting how defined everything seemed to be.
"Pretty amazing, isn't it?" the woman asked knowingly, pleased when the boy gave a small smile. It made her even more reluctant to make her next inquiry. "How is your hand this morning, Harry?"
As she anticipated, Harry's smile vanished, his eyes reflecting a pain that was not physical.
Poppy gave his shoulder a gentle squeeze. "I'll call in a specialist in nerve damage to come take a look, okay? We'll figure something out." She smiled kindly at him, not unsurprised when he didn't even try to return it. The door at the far end of the ward opened to make way for the Potions professor.
The mediwitch ran her usual scans over Harry as the man crossed the room, his dark eyes fixed upon his son. His gaze shifted to the woman as he came to a stop across from her. She gave a minute shake of her head in answer to his unspoken inquiry, then turned away.
Snape reached out a hand to brush the fringe back from Harry's forehead. He felt a bit disheartened when the boy flinched at the contact. Clearly, not only had the incident with Draco left Harry with new injuries to overcome, but it had also set him back in other ways, as well.
"I see you are feeling calmer this morning," the man noted as he took a seat in a chair.
Harry gave a listless shrug.
"We'll figure this out, Harry," Snape promised.
The boy looked at him, studying him quietly. This was the second promise the professor had made to him. Part of him wanted to trust the man, to believe him when he'd said he wouldn't have to go back to the Dursleys, or now, when he implied that he would be there for him. Harry had started to feel close to the Potions Master – he'd even allowed himself to think of him as 'dad' on a few occasions.
Harry had never permitted himself to use the term aloud, however, because another part of him was waiting for it all to end, for the professor to learn what it was that had made his relatives despise him so much and go back to hating him again. Early in life, he'd learned that everyone good in his life would eventually leave him, in some way or another. It was only a matter of time, really.
Oh, he didn't think that the Potions Master did not intend to keep his promises. Something would happen to make him go away, though. Perhaps, Harry's hand simply wouldn't heal and the man would come to realize that Harry was nothing but a worthless freak. Maybe it would be something else, entirely. Somehow, the man would leave him and he would once more become the Boy-Who-Nobody-Wanted.
He'd just been so full of desperate hope that it had taken him a while to remember that.
Harry pulled his gaze away from the professor's face, green eyes falling upon the hand which rested in his lap. "I remember what happened," he murmured.
"Oh?" Snape prompted, one brow raising slightly.
"It was Malfoy," Harry replied. "I-I was walking to your office when I met him in the corridor. We exchanged words and continued past each other. Then, I heard him shout the blasting curse... I couldn't pull out my wand in time to cast a shield and it-it hit the archway, and..." He motioned at his injured hand in conclusion.
"That was more or less Draco's story as well, or so Professor Dumbledore told me."
"You caught him?" the boy asked in surprise.
"He confessed his wrong-doing to the headmaster yesterday evening," Snape told him.
"Oh." Harry picked at a loose thread on the blanket. "He's been kinda funny lately," he mused aloud, recalling his conversation with the other boy. "He's been putting a strange emphasis on my name – on 'Potter', I mean."
"Yes, well," said Snape, "it would seem that Mr. Malfoy discovered our relation to one another and became quite jealous."
The boy frowned. "Oh. But... why would Malfoy be jealous?"
"The headmaster believes that it is because Draco feels you are taking me away from him," stated the Potions Master, then added at the boy's continued confusion, "Draco is my godson."
"He–he..." Harry felt like he'd been punched in the gut by Dudley. "Oh." His gaze dropped quickly. So, this was how it would happen. His fath – professor would choose Malfoy over him. Of course, he would...
Snape placed a finger under the boy's chin and lifted it until the emerald eyes were forced to meet his own. "Harry," he spoke firmly, "godson or not, Draco is being punished for what he did to you, just as you can expect to be were you ever to behave in an unseemly manner. He could have killed you – a matter which I, for one, do not take lightly. I assure you, he will not be enjoying his punishment.
"You are my son. While Draco is my godson and an important of my life, that does not change your position, nor excuse his behavior," the professor told him. "It is true that I have known Draco for far longer . It is also a fact that I treated you very poorly throughout the first two years you were here, but even so, I... I am very pleased to have you as my son, Harry. You are not inferior to Draco in any way."
A pair of tears leaked from Harry's eyes and the Potions Master gently wiped them away. "You should have some breakfast," the man said. "Is there anything in particular you would like?"
"No, sir," Harry responded a bit hoarsely, "anything's fine."
Snape nodded, then summoned a house elf to bring them two trays. It was a bit frustrating for Harry to eat with his left hand when he was so accustomed to doing everything with his right, but with the prof – with his father there, willingly keeping him company, it was something he could live with.