Chapter 17: Recovering
Disclaimer: I do not in any way, shape or form own any recognisable characters or settings. Everything belongs to JK Rowling
Pain. He was swimming in it. Drowning in it. Pain surrounded him, was in every crevice of his body. He couldn't think for the pain; couldn't even open his eyes. His very soul ached and his chest burned as he breathed in and out. Never had he felt pain of this magnitude; not even when Uncle Vernon had beaten him to a pulp. No. He wasn't going to think like that. This was a different pain. It was magically caused and different in temperament than pain caused by a mere Muggle.
Slowly, Harry became aware of more than just pain. He was aware of a blinding whiteness hitting the back of his eyes, making them ache beyond belief. He was aware of a strong scent of disinfectant, which made his nose want to wrinkle up in distaste, something he was loath to do in public. He was aware of a small, soft hand gripping rather tightly to his own and a warm weight, someone's head, resting on his sore abdomen.
His eyes fluttered before cracking open. He blinked dazedly before deciding the pain wasn't worth the effort and closing them in relief again.
"Mr Snape? I saw your eyes open, young man."
Harry heaved a sigh, jolting the head on his stomach awake, and cracked his eyes open again. Painfully, he lifted his gaze to where Madam Pomfrey, the school medi-witch, was standing by his bed tapping her foot sternly.
"Mr Snape," Madam Pomfrey began upon seeing she had his attention, "just what were you doing that got you into such a state?"
Harry contemplated answering the nurse but decided he was in too much pain and promptly closed his eyes again and fell asleep instantly.
"This will work perfectly into our plans for Harry," McGonagall excitedly explained to Dumbledore. "Don't you see, Albus, we can twist the events to our advantage. Get Harry placed back with the Dursleys and away from Snape's influence."
Dumbledore frowned. "He'll argue against us," the elderly wizard pointed out. "It'll come down to evidence and Veritaserum."
McGonagall scoffed at that. "Please," she said disparagingly. "Who are the Ministry more likely to believe – the Headmaster of Hogwarts or an ex-Death Eater?"
Dumbledore's frown didn't disappear. "But still," he said doubtfully.
"Think about it, Albus!" McGonagall cried. "We tell the Ministry that Granger and Weasley overheard Snape pushing Harry into stealing the Philosopher's Stone for You-Know-Who. Granger and Weasley informed our Defence Professor who went barrelling in there to save Harry only to be killed by Snape. Outcome? Snape will get life in Azkaban and Harry will be placed back with the Dursleys where he belongs and where he can once more be manipulated. He won't be able to resist a re-Sorting and will finally be in Gryffindor where he belongs!"
"Harry will argue and disagree," Dumbledore countered.
"Yes, until we mention to the Ministry that Snape has quite obviously been mentally torturing the boy to the point where he is afraid of the man," said McGonagall.
A slow smile spread Dumbledore's wrinkled face. "I like it," he said. "Get Granger and Weasley here now."
McGonagall smirked. "As you wish, Headmaster," she said smoothly before sweeping out of the office.
"When did he wake up?"
"Two hours ago. There's been no movement since, though. His body doesn't want to deal with the pain so his magical core is keeping him asleep as much as possible."
"When do you think he'll wake up again?"
"Soon. He's very powerful and when he next wakes he should be able to stay that way for a short period. Long enough to explain what happened to him."
"I don't want Dumbledore in here."
"Of course not, Professor."
Sick of hearing voices, Harry cracked his eyes open, sighing in relief when he was not blinded with pain.
"Harry? Professor Snape, Harry's awake!"
"Thanks, Daphne," Harry croaked, feeling annoyed at how weak his voice sounded.
Next thing he knew both Madam Pomfrey and his father fell into his line of vision.
"Mr Snape, I have a few questions," Madam Pomfrey began, as Severus sat down beside his son staring at him anxiously.
Harry sighed and nodded at her to begin.
"First, how are you feeling?"
Harry blinked. "Sore," he said shortly.
"Care to elaborate?" Madam Pomfrey asked.
"Very well," Madam Pomfrey said with a sniff. "What happened to you, Mr Snape?"
"I duelled Quirrell and Voldemort. I won," Harry said shortly.
Madam Pomfrey huffed. "Well, if you're not going to be helpful," she said crossly before storming off to her office.
"Harry?" Severus said.
Harry turned his head to look at his father. "Voldemort was sharing Quirrell's body," he explained. "His face was on the back of Quirrell's head. We duelled then I was Summoned to Quirrell but the minute he touched my skin he started burning. Third-degree burns. I'm not sure what it was but I held on until he – " Harry paused. "I don't know what happened to Voldemort but I know his spirit is still alive."
Severus nodded. "I understand, Harry," he said. "I will look into it. You rest now."
"Yes, Father," Harry said softly, closing his eyes once more. He was asleep in seconds.
"But you told me he was Light," Fudge accused Dumbledore. The Minister did not want to admit that his plans for allying with the Snapes and distancing himself from Dumbledore's manipulations were falling through.
"I was wrong," Dumbledore said, an expression of faux sadness etched on his face.
"Well then," Fudge said, turning to his Aurors. "Find Snape and question him."
The Aurors saluted before marching away to find the esteemed Potions Master. Fudge gave Dumbledore a dubious look before hurrying after his guard. Once the office door closed, McGonagall, Granger and Weasley stepped from the shadows.
"Good work," Dumbledore praised the two Gryffindors.
"Thank you, Headmaster," Granger said sweetly. "My book voucher?"
Dumbledore's eyes twinkled. "Your book voucher and my explicit permission in legal format will be delivered to you at breakfast tomorrow. Mr Weasley, one thousand five hundred Galleons will be added to your Personal Vault."
The Gryffindors' eyes lit up greedily as they both smiled thankfully at the Headmaster before making their way back to their common room.
"We chose well," McGonagall said quietly.
"Yes," Dumbledore agreed. "Miss Granger is so desperate to be a part of our world she will do anything for knowledge and young Mr Weasley desperately wants to be known for himself and not for his family. Plus, he detests being poor."
"Yes," McGonagall agreed. "Next year we should perhaps invite Miss Weasley into the mix. After all, she is betrothed to the boy."
"A most wonderful idea, Minerva," Dumbledore said.
"Professor Snape, you have been accused of conspiring with the Dark Lord!"
"Excuse me?" Severus rose to his feet and raised a single eyebrow.
"You heard," said the determined Auror. "You are wanted for questioning."
"You may question me here," Severus said silkily, sitting back down. "I also happen to have a vial of Veritaserum handy if you believe you will need it?"
"That will not be necessary, Severus," said Fudge as he entered the Hospital Wing.
"Minister." Severus inclined his head respectively.
"Dumbledore is up to something," Fudge said bluntly.
"He wants Harry under his control," Severus explained, "and that is not going to happen while he is under my care."
"I figured as much," said Fudge with a sigh. "Aurors, you are dismissed. Professor Snape is innocent."
Though confused, the Aurors did as the Minister bid except for his two bodyguards, who retreated to wait by the doors.
"Explain everything," said Fudge, seating himself comfortably.
Severus did so and in return Fudge told Severus what Dumbledore had said.
"Cornelius," Severus said, "it is true that I was a spy for Dumbledore. I now no longer have plans to be on either side of the war. I remain true and loyal to myself and my son only."
"As it should be," said Fudge. "If necessary, the Ministry will align with you in the war."
"Much appreciated," said Severus. "What are you going to tell Dumbledore?"
Fudge smiled grimly. "That you were questioned under Veritaserum and found innocent of all charges. Do you want me to take it further?"
"No," Severus said slowly. "If at all possible, Harry and I have our own plans for the old coot."
Fudge smiled again. "The Ministry will turn a blind eye," he assured the Slytherin.
"My thanks," said Severus.
Fudge shook hands with the Potions Master before leaving. Severus glanced down at his sleeping son. "I will exact revenge," he silently swore.
A/N: Hey, guys. One more chapter after this and then the fic is complete *sob*. The final chapter is already written and betaed and will be uploaded in a couple of days. I just want to give all my readers a chance to read this chapter before bombarding them with another one.
Many thanks to iGymnast for being such a wonderful beta.