The Boy Who..?

Chapter 24

"There is a high probability that young Harry can regain at least some motor function," the healer had told Madame Pomfrey and Snape, though, he hadn't been quiet enough to prevent Harry from overhearing. "I ought to know a little more in a couple of days. He should have some movement by then. Honestly, though, his recovery largely rests on Harry himself. Whatever function he does regain, it will not be easy for him. Even with the use of potions and medicinal magic, therapy could take several months..."

Harry sat cross-legged on his bed, glaring intently at his hand. If his recovery was up to him, then he wanted ALL function and whatnot back. He wanted his hand to return to the way it was before. Yet, here he was, the day the healer was supposed to come back and still nothing. Well, apart from the phantom tingling that he still wasn't certain wasn't just in his head.

"You okay, mate?" Ron asked hesitantly.

The dark-haired boy looked over at his two best friends. At first, he hadn't wanted them to visit at all. He didn't want to interact with anybody. In the past, he had always looked forward to Ron and Hermione finally being able to visit him when he was injured. After all, being stuck in the hospital wing was probably his least favorite thing in the world. This time, however, such normality had felt like a grave mockery to what had befallen him.

Madame Pomfrey had allowed him to refuse company for about a day before insisting that she would "not allow you to grow withdrawn and depressed, Mr. Potter. Not in my hospital wing. Seeing your friends will do you some good – you need their companionship, now, more than ever. If you wish to continue moping, that is your incentive, but don't think for a moment that I'm above giving you a cheering draught."

So, Ron and Hermione had come to see him, and after that first disastrous reunion – during which Harry had yelled at them both and accused them of only caring that he was the Boy-Who-Lived like everyone else – he found himself rather glad for their frequent presence. They had soon figured out that he wasn't much in the mood for talking, though, he seemed fine with listening to them, just as long as he wasn't forced to join the conversation.

"Not really," Harry answered at last, turning his attention back to his hand.

"Stop that," Hermione admonished, pushing his arm down so it rested completely in his lap. "Harry, you're going to drive yourself crazy."

"Healer Cowan said I should have some movement, by now!" the boy protested.

"We know. You've been obsessing over it since he came."

"I am not obsessing!"

"Actually, you kinda are, mate," Ron ventured, but was promptly silenced by a glare that could have easily been one of Snape's.

"That's not the point," said Hermione, her tone diplomatic. "Harry, this is going to take time – it's not like any of your other injuries. It's more serious. The healer said he'd know more today. Even if you don't have some movement back, yet, it's not the end of the world."

"That's easy for you to say!" Harry snarled, jerking back from where her fingers still rested against his forearm. "You're not the one who's lost a hand! You're not the one wh-who's crippled. Look at it, Hermione!" He shoved his hand in her face. "I might as well not have a hand at all!"

The girl took his hand in both of hers. Harry tried to pretend that he could really feel the contact, that the pressure from the gentle squeeze she gave his fingers wasn't just his mind working overtime to supply the sensation he knew he should have. She was right about one thing, he noted grudgingly as he ran his left hand through his hair. If he kept on the way he was, he was going to drive himself insane.

"We're here for you, Harry," Hermione stated as though it was the most natural thing in the world.

"Yeah, mate," added Ron, moving around to perch on the edge of bed opposite her. "We're your best friends. We've got your back."

Unbidden, tears stung Harry's eyes upon hearing their loyal declaration. He hated how weepy and insecure he'd been feeling, but he couldn't seem to shake it. Knowing that his friends would remain by his side helped. "Thanks, guys," he murmured, "really."

Snape was setting up for his afternoon classes. It would be less than half an hour before the fourth-year Hufflepuff/Ravenclaw class came in from lunch and he wanted to have everything set up as it would take most of them the whole class period to complete the assignment. The man allowed his mind to wander as he moved about the room, his thoughts coming to rest on the small thirteen-year-old in the hospital wing several floors above him. He looked up as someone entered the classroom.

"Lupin," Snape greeted the man neutrally, finishing up his task.

"Snape," the werewolf returned. "Are you teaching your classes this afternoon?"

The Potions Master raised a sardonic brow. "Is there any reason I shouldn't be?"

"It was my understanding that Healer Cowan was coming back to see Harry again today."

"That would be the case."

Lupin nodded slowly. "And you're going to be here. Teaching your classes."

"Yes," Snape bit out testily. "What are you getting at, wolf?"

"Shouldn't you be with Harry?"

"I believe Poppy is more than capable of accompanying him while the healer takes another look at his hand." He shuffled through some parchments on his desk.

"Have you been to visit him?" the Defense teacher asked, moving closer.

"Of course, I have!" his colleague snapped. "I've been there each night."

A pause, then, "When he was awake?"

"Several times. I've had a lot to do. I'm sure Harry understands this."

"Yes, of course," Lupin responded, his tone taking on a sarcastic edge. "I believe his exact words were, 'his classes are more important'."

The air rushed from Snape's lungs and he hardly noticed that he'd released a jar of beetle carapaces before it had reached the tabletop, causing it to topple over and spill its contents. "Harry said that?" he rasped, his throat suddenly dry. He mentally flagellated himself. Of course, the boy would interpret his absence in such a way. How could he forget how insecure the boy was, especially now?

"It took a while to get him to tell me what was bothering him," Lupin said quietly. "Harry doesn't want to be a bother to anyone. Especially to you."

An invisible hand clenched at his heart. "He's not a bother," the Potions Master murmured softly, then more loudly, "He's not a bother. He's my son."

"And intellectually, he knows that -"

"But emotionally, he has a hard time believing that means anything to me," Snape cut in bitterly, silently cursing the Dursleys to everlasting hell. He pinched the bridge of his nose. "I've failed him."

"You haven't failed him," Lupin contradicted. "Not as badly as you're probably thinking, anyway. You're still figuring all of this out. Harry seems so strong – it can be easy to forget how vulnerable and insecure he is, sometimes." He placed a hand on the Potions Master's shoulder. "You can make it up to him. Be there for him this afternoon."

"You're right," Snape conceded, then narrowed his eyes on his colleague. "You know, I really hate when you do that."

The werewolf had the audacity to laugh. "Duly noted, Severus," he assured.

Severus found he didn't mind the Defense teacher using his given name. Throughout his life, it had been uttered as a curse or warped into an insult more often than not. The manner in which the wolf spoke his name, however, was almost... companionable. Somehow, the thought that Lupin could be more than just a colleague, that the man could be his friend, wasn't nearly so unappealing as it had been in the past.

In fact, the idea was quite welcome.

"Healer Cowan," Madame Pomfrey greeted, mildly surprised as the man entered the hospital wing. "We weren't expecting you for at least another hour."

"It's Garret," the man corrected her. "My other afternoon patient canceled, so I decided to come by early. How are you today, Harry?"

Harry shrugged listlessly. Despite his best efforts, his hand had remained unresponsive to his wishes. An overwhelming sense of defeat weighed upon him. Though assured of Ron and Hermione's continued friendship, he couldn't help but feel that he'd be of little value to anyone else without the use of his hand.

The boy looked up as the doors at the end of the ward opened again, his stomach fluttering as Professor Snape stepped through them. He was probably only stopping in for a brief moment. Likely, the man felt obligated to do so. Harry swallowed back the disappointment at the thought. He was just a burden to yet another relative.

"I apologize for not being here sooner," Snape said. "I had to speak to the headmaster about making arrangements for my afternoon classes."

"Someone else is teaching your classes?" Harry blurted out before he could stop himself.

The Potions Master smirked in amusement. "I believe the headmaster is more than capable of looking after the fourth-years and the seventh-years can supervise themselves for a class session."

"But... why?" the boy asked hesitantly.

"So that I could be here." Snape's answer was stated simply, yet, it made Harry feel a bit of warmth, nonetheless.

"Glad you could make it, Severus," said the healer.

Garret Cowan smiled genially, though, he didn't bother to completely conceal the speculative look he gave the other man. While he'd been truthful when he said that Harry's recovery rested largely on himself, it was also true that friends and family could impact the attitude taken by a patient healing from a serious injury. He rather suspected that this Severus Snape – a man the boy often glanced at with uncertainty and tentative yearning – would play a vital role in the young wizard's ability to cope in the coming months.

He sincerely hoped it would be for the better.

"Let's have a look at your hand, shall we?" Garret (for the healer insisted on the familiarity of given names) asked brightly, turning back to the teen.

"Okay," Harry agreed with a small smile.

Already less withdrawn, Garret noted. Do you realize how much influence you hold over your son, professor? He removed the brace from Harry's wrist. The bones and tendons that had been injured were already mended. In fact, apart from the damage to the nerves, the boy's hand was whole. Harry watched intently while the healer scanned his hand with his wand.

"Any change since my last visit?" Garret inquired as he worked. "Movement? Sensation?"

"... No." A brief pause preceded the boy's answer.

"'No'?" the man echoed knowingly. "You don't sound very confident. Are you sure there hasn't been anything?"

"Well," Harry hedged, "there's been some tingling in my fingers, but I think that's just in my head."

"Oh?" Garret tilted his head. "And how long have you been experiencing these imaginary tingles?"

"Uh... since Sunday? I think. Maybe Saturday..."

"Ah. You must have forgotten to tell me about that before."

"I thought it was in my head!" the teen protested.

"Could be," Garret conceded rather cheerfully, "but still something we healers like to know about."

"So, this tingling," Poppy began, shooting Harry a reproving look for neglecting to mention it sooner, "it's a good sign, isn't it?"

"At the least, it indicates that there is still some sensation, even if the nerves aren't transmitting the signals properly."

"What does that mean in regards to treating the damage?" Snape queried, startling Harry, who hadn't noticed that the man had moved to the other side of his bed. "I've had some experience in the treatment of spell damage to the nerves, but physical trauma often requires a different approach."

"By 'spell damage', I assume you mean the Cruciatus curse?" the healer asked for clarification, receiving a nod of confirmation. "Well, the main difference would be the level of damage caused."

"The Cruciatus curse, while being extremely painful, does not usually cause lasting damage," stated Snape. He was not surprised that the other man had surmised that his experience was with the Unforgivable. It was no secret that he had been a Death Eater, even if he had been exonerated on Dumbledore's testimony.

"That isn't to say that a particularly potent or targeted casting of the spell wouldn't cause greater injury, as would prolonged and repeated exposure."

"Still, the torture is in the sensory overload caused by seemingly all of a person's nerves transmitting pain simultaneously. A person is far more likely to lose their mind from the sheer agony than to suffer permanent injury."

Garret looked suitably impressed. "And you've had experience in treating the aftereffects of the Cruciatus?"

Dark eyes briefly flickered over to Harry. "Towards the end of the war, I developed a potion that helped alleviate its lingering effects," Snape answered.

"I would love to have a look at it sometime," said the healer.

"Of course," the Potions Master acquiesced.

Harry looked back and forth between the two men. He hadn't quite followed the entire conversation, though, that was partly due to the fact that he hadn't even heard of the Cruciatus curse before. There was something else that he had missed, also, if the glance the professor had shot his way was any indication.

Fortunately, Garret noted his confusion. "The Cruciatus is a curse that was favored by You-Know-Who's followers," he explained. "It stimulates pain receptors all over the body. Some have likened it to the feeling of white-hot knives piercing the skin. It's excruciating and the experience is known to cause psychological damage in some cases, but the injury inflicted on the nerves is – generally – relatively low.

"The nerves in your hand, however, Harry, were crushed. This is greater level of damage, but there is a treatment I want to try that should help with the healing process..."

"But the other day, you said I should have some movement back by now!" Harry interrupted.

"A sharp set of ears you have, Harry," Garret grinned, as he hadn't actually been talking to the boy when he'd said that. "It's best if your nerves begin to heal on their own before I use any medicinal magic on them. That's why we're going to wait a couple weeks before I attempt any sort of magical treatment. You might not have any movement, now, but I'd be terribly surprised if you didn't by then."

The teen's teeth worried his bottom lip for a moment. "Does... does that mean I'm going to get my hand back?"

Three sets of eyes rested on the healer, awaiting his response.

"Harry," the man spoke, his tone gentle, but firm, "I don't want you to get your hopes up. While it is possible that you could get most, even all, function back, it isn't very likely that your hand will ever be the same." He took both of Harry's hands in his, lifting the left one into the air. "You're going to have to learn to do things with your left hand. Even if – let me finish. Even if you are eventually able to do everything with your right hand again, it's going be many months before that will happen. You need to be able to function the best you can, now."

Harry's vision was blurred once again and he vainly tried to blink back the unwelcome moisture. A cool hand pulled against the side of his head and soon his face was pressed against scratchy robes that smelled faintly of stale potions. He leaned into the volunteered comfort as the tears began to fall in earnest.

"Why me?" he murmured brokenly. "Why does everything h-happen to me? If-if only I was ju-just Harry, none of this would ever h-happen to me – none of it!"

Snape simply ran a hand over the boy's head as he cried, not bothering to refute what he'd said. Besides, it was mostly true: if Harry wasn't the Boy-Who-Lived, many of the things that had befallen him might have never happened at all.

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