The Search for Life and Death

The Summons

In the previous chapter, Remus and Sirius hurry to rescue Harry from 4 Privet Drive, but Harry is in horrible shape and they may well be too late. Draco Malfoy is suffering, too, his mother dead at Lucius' hand, and Draco himself next on the list.

Warning: This chapter contains some medical scenes situated in the flashbacks (italicized sections) of Madam Pomfrey's and Snape's perspectives. For the full version of this chapter, which contains the sexual situations that have been censored from this version, visit my site on Archive of Our Own.

Enjoy the story.

THE SEARCH FOR LIFE AND DEATH

IV

The Summons

Number four Privet Drive had been empty most of the day. Vernon and Petunia Dursley had decided to take their son, Dudley, out for a day to the zoo and aquarium, and for ice cream and a special dinner, because he was a perfect son and they couldn't ask for anyone better. There was no mention of how much greater he was than their filthy, horrible, abnormal nephew. He wasn't a problem anymore, anyway.

"Vernon," Petunia Dursley said to her husband, as he pulled into the drive and shifted the car into park, "how will we… you know – get rid of it?"

Vernon Dursley turned his head to look at his wife, despite not having any neck, and smiled at her in a reassuring manner. "Now don't you worry yourself, Pet. It's all been taken care of." He shut the car off and kissed his wife on the cheek before the three of them made their way into the house.

Earlier that summer, Vernon had gone in search of some help with the problem of his nephew. It wasn't enough that he confined the boy to his room for the entirety of the summer. Vernon wanted him out of the house and out of their lives, but from what Petunia told him, that would never happen so long as that boy was going to that damnable school. And nothing seemed capable of tearing him away from it. As long as the boy was alive, he would be attending Hogwash or whatever the place was called.

The solution had been simple.

The lingering problem was disposing of the boy's body after he had been dealt with. That was where Vernon's contact came in. Vernon didn't like the man, and he didn't trust him, but there was no denying that he would be useful. As he had put it, he had ways of getting rid of unwanted things, and he knew exactly what it was that Vernon wanted to get rid of.

The man wouldn't arrive until the next day, but that was fine. The door to the boy's room was closed and that would keep the smell in. He certainly wouldn't be going anywhere.

Things are already starting to look up, Vernon thought, as he and Petunia got ready for bed. Petunia had been forced to cook dinner since the boy wasn't capable of doing so anymore, but it hadn't been any great tragedy. Petunia had always loved to cook and she was far better than the boy, since they didn't have to fear that their food might turn them into slugs on a bad day. Dudley had been sent off to his room with a movie and two bags of popcorn, and for the first time in almost fourteen years, Vernon found he didn't have to worry about what the freak might be doing in his room.

He did find himself wondering briefly, as he crawled into bed and kissed his wife's throat, whether or not the boy had actually died, yet. Vernon hadn't stopped beating the boy after he had fallen unconscious from the hit to the head – a bad miscalculation on Vernon's part. His ministrations had continued until he had been satisfied with the number of cracks and snaps he had received from the freak's body. It was a strangely powerful feeling, Vernon had found, knowing that a rib would break under the simple pressure of one foot. He wondered if he would miss that over time.

He had no worries, however, that the boy would survive. If he was not dead yet, he surely would be by morning. Vernon had needed to throw the boy onto his bed to stop him bleeding all over the carpet. That cost a great deal more than a new set of bed sheets, and it was bad enough that the boy had pissed himself when he passed out. They'd need to hire a cleaning company to come in and fix up the room once everything had been disposed of. Once the boy was gone, that bed was garbage, as well.

The room would need to be remodeled and refinished, but then Dudley could have his second bedroom back once they got the smell out. Life would be so much better, not having that freak in the house. That thought spurred an excitement in his blood – the very idea that they would be free of all of this freakishness – and Vernon kissed his wife passionately.

Some time later, Vernon was vaguely aware that Dudley had raised the volume of his movie, but he paid it no mind. He kissed Petunia on the throat.

He hadn't yet slid under the covers on his own side when there was a flash of light from the walls and a spell activated.

Hermione wished fervently that she was still at Hogwarts.

She had been there, within those great stone walls, and had been so near the attainment of knowledge that her fingers ached to turn a page. It wasn't until after she had returned home that Hermione had recalled wanting to look up feelings that connected one person to another. That dread that she had felt for Harry, and the feeling of having had a dream she couldn't remember…

Remus had escorted her to the Hospital Wing, as he had promised. The walk had been silent for the most part, Hermione shivering beneath the folds of the blanket around her shoulders and Remus clearly lost in his thoughts. He had received a headache remedy from Madam Pomfrey and slipped the unbreakable vial into a pocket absently, lingering in the doorway for a few moments. It was when Madam Pomfrey began a fierce lecture on how she shouldn't travel by floo when she was ill ("You should have been in bed resting, Miss Granger!") that Hermione saw Remus slip quietly out of the door.

Madam Pomfrey had clearly not been unaware of his presence, and the conversation that she'd had with the medi-witch came easily to Hermione's mind.

Madam Pomfrey glanced at the doorway just as it swung fully shut. With a swift twist of her thin, frail-looking neck, she'd turned back to Hermione and hmphed indignantly as she concentrating on waving her wand over the girl before her. "Honestly," she muttered, either forgetting that Hermione was a functional human capable of hearing what she said or not really caring, "the way he acts you would think I didn't know how to treat a simple cold!"

She slipped her wand into the pocket of her apron and bustled to the cabinet on the wall, unlocking it and pulling out two vials. Hermione watched her quietly as she locked the cabinet and came walking back, all the while muttering to herself.

"It's not as though I spent seven years of his life treating him for bruises, cuts, scrapes, and everything those boys managed to get themselves into when the moon wasn't full. If I didn't know better I would have thought that he was the medi-witch and I an intern." She tsked as she uncorked both vials and handed them to Hermione. "Blue one first, then the green," she said sharply, "and mind you drink all of it, Miss Granger."

Hermione had done as she was told, swallowing the blue first and grimacing at the bitter, rubbery taste. Madam Pomfrey hadn't given her much time to recover before she was demanding that she drink the green potion, and Hermione did, coughing once she'd done so, at the smoky flavor and the waxy feeling of her mouth afterward. Madam Pomfrey had tsked again and muttered something about time lapses between potions. Hermione had taken that the two potions she drank needed to be taken immediately after the other and she wondered why the two weren't mixed, though perhaps that would nullify the effects. She was grateful for the glass of water that Madam Pomfrey pressed into her hands, the cold liquid washing away the residual taste in her mouth.

Madam Pomfrey was bustling around, putting things away as Hermione stood next to the bed, wondering on many things. She was wondering where she would return home from – should she go back to Professor Dumbledore's office? She was wondering what Remus would find when he went to check on Harry (oh, she hoped he was all right!). And she was wondering why Remus had lingered for a time in the doorway, since Madam Pomfrey seemed so worked up over it.

"Do you think he doubts your skill?" Hermione asked. She dug her teeth into her lip afterward, startled by her own bluntness. Madam Pomfrey had turned to look at her in mild surprise, however, and there was no taking it back now.

"No," the medi-witch said, folding the blanket Hermione had been wearing as she turned to her patient. "Remus Lupin has been a resident within my infirmary far too many times for him to question my skill." She placed the folded blanket in a closet, clearly thinking about how to word what she next wished to say. Everyone knew Hermione's intelligence and curiosity, and Madam Pomfrey knew that the girl before her would have taken more from her soft ranting after Remus Lupin's exit than most people.

"He cares a great deal, Miss Granger, for many people." She shut the closet door and turned to face her patient. "He loves in a way that is dangerous for him, because of the way that people view what he is."

A werewolf, Hermione knew. She had figured it out herself, though it didn't bother her as much as it seemed to many other people. Harry certainly didn't seem concerned about it, even after their disastrous third year, and Ron had only apparently reacted so harshly in the Shrieking Shack because they all thought Remus had been helping Sirius Black, a murderer. But that wasn't the case, and Ron had never seemed bothered about it beyond that – even the other Weasleys didn't act as though anything was different about Remus. It didn't matter.

"I know a great many things about the students of Hogwarts, Miss Granger – those present and those who graduated long ago. It is my duty as healer to keep their confidences, even if they do not realize that I know as much as I do. I will not break the bonds I have made for myself. I can tell you, however, that Remus Lupin is a man with a heart of at least three people, who cares for many but loves a select few deeply – cherishes them and their presence, and wishes to protect them. For whatever reason, Miss Granger, you are one of those people. If he thought for a second that you would have had a cough after I was done with you, or if I would have needed to go to Severus for a potion that I did not have in my stores, he would have stayed here until all was well, or until I returned. That is simply the way that Remus Lupin is around the people that he loves. It is a dangerous level of love, but so, too, is it something to be cherished."

Hermione sat on her bed, deeply lost in thought. She knew, of course, that Remus was a very kind man. He had been protective of the three of them, and he had taught them all a great deal. Yes, he was a professor and he was supposed to teach them, but the truth was that not many professors did. Certainly not the Defense Against the Dark Arts professors, of whom Remus Lupin had been the only decent one. He had taught them more than the rest of the DADA professors combined, and he had even taught Harry how to perform the Patronus Charm, outside of class. He cared, but she had not … she would never have thought to word it as Madam Pomfrey had, but it felt – right.

Hermione's musings were interrupted by a fierce and incessant tapping on her bedroom window. She twisted to see a tiny ball of feathers flying repeatedly into the glass, as though through sheer stubbornness it might be made to disappear.

"Pigwidgeon?" Hermione asked, recognizing Ron's tiny owl. She hurried over to open the window, letting the owl into the room, where he began to fly in excited circles around Hermione, making it impossible for her to grab the letter he was holding.

Sitting on the bed, Hermione sighed. "Pigwidgeon? Is that for me?"

The tiny owl hooted excitedly and flew into her arms, nibbling happily on her fingers as she extracted the letter from around his leg. "Oh, hush," she scolded softly as he hooted in disagreement at her hands being stolen away. Leaving the small owl to flutter around the room, Hermione unrolled the piece of parchment and sighed at Ron's atrocious penmanship. Until she read his words.

Hermione,

Dad said he saw you at Hogwarts. Did they go check on Harry? I dreamed about him. The muggles were beating him, Hermione. Do you know ANYTHING?

Ron

Moving over to her desk, Hermione dipped her readied quill in ink and began to pen a response.

"Albus, what is the meaning of this?" Minerva McGonagall asked, as she stepped sharply out of the floo, dusting ash from her emerald green robes. The headmaster stood before her, solemn-faced and weary. As Minerva looked, however, she noticed that his office was not empty.

"Poppy, Severus," she said, nodding in greeting to her fellow staff members. Poppy was sitting in a chair, her hands clasped tightly together in her lap and her face steadfastly determined to hold a neutral expression. Behind her, Severus stood with his arms crossed and a scowl on his face that seemed rather a bit darker than normal. Minerva regarded the two curiously for a moment before she turned back to the headmaster. "Albus?"

"I'm afraid something has happened, Minerva, of which I dare not keep you unawares." He motioned toward one of the chairs in front of his desk. "Please sit down."

The Transfiguration professor and Head of Gryffindor House had never been one to back down or to take something like a request to sit down lightly. She knew Albus Dumbledore quite well, on a variety of levels, and she did not like the look in his eyes now – a gaze completely devoid of the twinkle that normally pervaded his every waking moment and annoyed the hell out of everyone else. She ignored his request, standing quite firmly in front of him. Her lips thinned to a white line as she continued to match his gaze. "Albus?"

Dumbledore sighed heavily, having expected this level of stubbornness from Minerva, but still not enjoying it. He eyed her, hoping that, perhaps, she already knew what he was about to tell her, and so he might be spared the dark task. He knew he would have no such luck, of course and so he sighed again. He took a moment to adjust his half-moon spectacles, but met her eyes solemnly when he caught sight of her growing impatience.

"I have made a mistake, Minerva," he said. His voice was a little rough from his most-recent use of it, but he ignored this. The physical discomfort of a scratchy throat was heavily out-weighed by the discomfort of having to inform Minerva that she was right. Not because she would gloat but because he knew she would wish that she had not been right, and against all evidence otherwise, she might choose to take the blame herself, rather than laying it at his feet. Where it belonged.

"It is a mistake that may have been prevented, if only I hadn't been a stubborn old fool and had listened to you in the first place." He coughed, looking away from her worried, stunned expression. It was rare that he admitted to being wrong, and rarer still that he admitted it to her. He didn't want to go on. "You were – quite right, Minerva, about Vernon and Petunia Dursley being unfit guardians."

There was a soft poof-thudding sound, as Minerva fell into one of the chairs behind her. She had brought her hands up to her mouth and her eyes glimmered in moist fear. She continued to stare at Dumbledore, and forced her hands down to speak. They lowered no further than her throat and sat there, one clutching at the other until her knuckles were white.

"Not Potter," she said in a whisper. He tongue was struggling to untangle herself, to voice more words, though she did not know what she would say. Why did this moment seem so similar to fourteen years ago, when she had sat with Dumbledore on a brick wall and asked if it was true, that Lily and James were… were…

"He is alive, Minerva," Dumbledore said, though his face grew no less solemn during this admittance and he looked almost reluctant at having assured her of this. "He is badly injured. Poppy and Severus have been taking care of him."

Minerva turned to her two colleagues in time enough to see Severus grimace at the Headmaster's words. He made no reaction otherwise, however, and it was Poppy who spoke up.

"It took far more time than I would have wished," Madam Pomfrey said, taking over for Dumbledore when he glanced at her, "but we managed to stabilize Mr. Potter. Remus and Black had found him."

Minerva was watching Poppy with rapt attention. The medi-witch was keeping her demeanor sternly professional, her face an emotionless mask as she spoke. Behind her, Severus had no such reserves and Minerva caught his sneer at the names of his two childhood rivals.

"Remus was trying to heal some of the damage when Potter's heart failed." Minerva let out a sharp gasp, her hands returning to her mouth as her eyes widened. Poppy either did not hear or chose to ignore this in favor of getting all of the information out at one time. "They were forced to take a portkey to Hogsmeade. Black made it here first in his animagus form and warned me, so I was able to prepare the wing and summon the headmaster. Remus arrived moments later with Mr. Potter."

Poppy glanced at Severus with a look of deep gratitude, which he turned away from, pointedly looking away from Minerva, as well. "I admit that I was not certain we would be able to save him. He was very far gone and he is still in a great deal of danger. We were able to restart his heart and keep it going."

She refrained from telling Minerva about the second time Potter's heart had failed. She and Severus had been magically injecting potions directly into Potter's stomach in order to replenish his lost blood and fluids, and had been doing their best to repair the major damage done to him. While straightening the shattered bones of one leg, Potter had moved instinctively away from the pain. He had not been conscious – of that Poppy was certain – but he had clearly been close enough to awareness to feel the discomfort of his shattered leg bones moving around underneath his skin.

It would not have been that great of a deal if Potter hadn't jostled himself in a way that one of his broken ribs shifted and slid through the soft skin of his left lung. Poppy closed her eyes at the gut wrenching memory. The boy had still been unconscious and his movements had only indicated a mild pain – of course, it would have been a great deal more than mild and the child's threshold of pain alone was disturbing – but then his breaths had turned into strange wheezes one moment, and gurgling gasps the next, and then he was choking as he coughed and sprayed blood across white sheets.

Poppy remembered Severus' moment of inaction probably better than he did himself, for she knew where it stemmed from and knew what emotions – or thought she knew, though she was rather certain in her ideas – she would have seen parading across his face had she turned to look at him. Shock, disbelief, horror, uncertainty, hatred, disgust – he hated the boy and all the staff knew it, but so too did he recognize the bruises and the damage. Or she recognized and prayed that he did, as well, because he had once suffered similar trauma, though never nearly as bad as this moment, and it was something that he should consider before condemning the boy any further. Thinking back on that moment now, she briefly wondered if he would.

The two had worked in tandem, their wands flicking swiftly, their faces set with grim resolve. Severus magicked blood replenishing, bone repairing, and various other potions directly into Potter's stomach, and Madam Pomfrey used a diagnostic spell to allow her to see the rib piercing the boy's lung, and thus extract it and reform it in place.

For a short moment that seemed more like hours tacked on the end of others before, things were smoothing out. The rib had been fixed back into proper place, the skelegro already working to mend the bone. The blood replenishing potions were certainly not yet at full effect, but Madam Pomfrey had vanished the blood from the boy's throat and lungs, and the child was breathing steadily.

And then, abruptly, his heart stopped.

The air in his lungs whispered past the boy's lips and he went completely still, as the blue pulsing light matching his heart suddenly gleamed bright blue, a steady, burning glow, before winking out of existence completely.

Madam Pomfrey heard Severus swear in a string of words she was sure would have shamed He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, as she rushed forward and placed her fingers on Potter's neck. She sought a pulse that her heartbeat revealer spell might have failed to detect, but found none.

"Severus!" she snapped, as she pulled the pillow out from under the boy's head, tossing it toward another bed and out of the way. She waved her wand in an arching path, before ending the movement at Potter's mouth. "Aer Respiro," she said, watching as the air above the boy's face swirled and seemed to coalesce into an orb that was no more opaque or solid than it had been moments before, but was visible, almost like a bubblehead charm. She thought it might have been a variation of that same form, crafted for medical purposes. Filius surely knew, but she hardly cared at the moment.

Severus was waving his wand, as well, and the bed beneath Potter had stiffened. He was mumbling under his breath when he didn't need to chant a spell and Poppy had a fairly good idea that he was exercising his rather extensive vocabulary on the cruder levels.

"You need to cast an extensive healing spell," he said, his voice almost detached save for the sharpness displaying his discomfort with the situation, in many forms. "There is too much damage here for us to wait for him to heal on his own. The potions won't take swift enough effect." He flicked his eyes, very briefly, to her, though they returned to Potter almost immediately.

"I cannot cast a healing spell on…" She swallowed the thickness in her throat, unwilling to continue in that line, though they both knew her words. One could not heal the wounds of a corpse. "His heart needs to be beating, Severus."

There was a hesitation in him that she wanted to strangle. She'd do the damn procedure herself if he could perform the healing spell, but he couldn't! She opened her mouth, eyes lighting up in rage, but he stepped forward before she could say anything, his eyes still on the boy. "Prepare your damnable spell, woman."

She ignored his tone, the insult, and his clear distaste for what he had to do. She touched her wand with both hands, brought the tip of it to her forehead so it lay vertically across her face, and closed her eyes. She began to chant quietly.

"Ω, Aceso, κυρία της Θεραπείας,Σας εκλιπαρώ για έλεος σας.Δωρεάν αυτό το σώμα, και η σφραγίδα αυτών τωνπληγές μ 'ένα φιλί.Αφήστε τη ροή του αίματός σας για να επουλωθούνκαι να επιστρέψει σε μας.Σε ικετεύω, θεά μου, κυρία μου.Ω, Aceso, πάρτε μαγεία μου για το έλεος σου."

Madam Pomfrey shook herself mentally, driving away the memory of those crucial moments that still had her shaken.

"Who is with Mr. Potter now?" Minerva asked after some silent contemplation, after which she was forced to clear her throat before she could speak. The hesitation gave Madam Pomfrey time to compose her thoughts.

"Remus is with him at the moment," she said, recalling the werewolf's return to the hospital wing. It had been at a very unfortunate moment, while they were still trying to restart Potter's heart so that she could activate the healing spell. Madam Pomfrey was not sure she would be able to coax the man to leave the boy's side after he had been forced to bear witness to that moment. His tears were still painful to her memory.

"I asked him to watch over Harry while Severus and I came to speak with the headmaster."

Dumbledore nodded quietly to Madam Pomfrey and Severus, though there was still a grim quality to his face. Clearly, Harry's current status was not what he had hoped for. "Was there anything else before I allow you to return to your charge?"

Madam Pomfrey looked slightly uncomfortable, as she met the headmaster's eyes. "I… cannot be certain. It's very difficult to diagnose in an unconscious patient, before symptoms begin to show-"

"Potter might be mentally damaged, though that's hardly anything new," Snape said, cutting Madam Pomfrey off. She turned to him with an exasperated look, almost appeared as though she might strike him, though she didn't. He met her gaze with an emotionless glance, but she merely pursed her lips in distaste.

"Poppy?" Minerva asked, her concern outweighing any intention she might have had, otherwise, to hex Snape for his comments.

"Nothing is for certain," Madam Pomfrey reiterated, returning her attention to the stern Transfiguration professor, "but Potter has suffered a great deal of head trauma. My diagnostic spells are similar in some regard to those of Frederick Worthington. You remember him, I presume."

"Of course," Minerva said faintly. Frederick Worthington had been a Gryffindor a year below James Potter and his friends. He was remembered in his school days for his unfortunate fascination (and failed emulation) of the Marauders and their pranking. This resulted in a great many trips to the Hospital Wing, as the boy was notoriously horrible at setting pranks that he didn't manage to get caught in himself. On the Quidditch field, however, Frederick rivaled James Potter as the best Gryffindor Chaser in the span of a decade. With Alexander Paddington rounding off their trio, the Gryffindor team was a force to be reckoned with on the field.

The only problem that Frederick had was that he was incredibly adept at attracting bludgers. He frequently took them to the head.

It was this, unfortunately, that led to the end of Frederick's career as a star Quidditch player. He was set to receive a letter from various Quidditch teams asking him to play for them once he graduated, but too many knocks to the head had caused detrimental effects. He developed an affliction more well-known in the muggle world than the wizarding world, known as Dementia Pugilistica, or Punch-Drunk Syndrome.

Headaches, tremors, loss of strength… by the time Frederick was nineteen, two years after graduating Hogwarts, he was unable to walk. Three years later, he'd committed suicide. It had been a hard time for everyone who'd known him – student and teacher alike. He had been a well-known, well-liked boy.

The idea that this could happen to Potter – to Harry…

"Isn't there anything that could be done, if this proves to be right, Poppy? Severus?"

"I'm afraid I don't know of any spells that will counteract the effects. There were none when Frederick was suffering, and I consulted many friends more knowledgeable in the field than I."

"Nor are there any potions available. There simply isn't a cure for mental afflictions such as this. We'll just have to set up a room for Potter in St. Mungo's. Perhaps near the Longbottoms-"

"Severus!" Minerva cried in shock at his words. She stared at him with wide eyes but he merely sneered in reply, which brought her concern to the forefront. Now was not the time to address him on his attitude, but she would make inquiries later.

"That's enough, Serverus," Dumbledore said, stepping calmly forward. He gave the Potions Master a warning look, but Snape did not appear apologetic and none of the three really expected him to. He merely rose to his feet with the others, ignoring Minerva's scrutiny.

"I dearly hope your fears reveal themselves to be unfounded, Poppy."

"As do I," she muttered, straightening her robes.

"We must consider it a possibility, however, and in that light, I shall allow you to return to your charge. I might ask that you send Remus to me, however, so that we may discuss plans on where Harry will be spending the rest of his summer, and beyond that, of course."

The act of speaking of the boy as though all would be right in the end did not escape Madam Pomfrey, but she was grateful for the optimism, however forced. "I will tell him that you're asking for him, though I cannot promise me will come." She glanced at Severus, but the Potions Master was avoiding her gaze and, without a further word, she returned to the hospital wing through the floo. Severus took a moment to nod a silent farewell to McGonagall and Dumbledore both, before he followed the same passageway, back to his dungeons, leaving the two alone in Dumbledore's office.

"Albus, you don't think…" Minerva was wringing her hands together, her eyes staring quite some distance away, into the past.

"I dearly hope not, Minerva, and truly, that's all we can do. We must simply hope."

Severus Snape stormed out of the blazing floo as abruptly as a tree suddenly collapsing to the forest floor and crushing all life in its wake. His cloak billowed out behind him as he moved swiftly, his long stride carrying him across the office. His wand was out, his wrist twisting and flicking the slender stick of wood. The already-dimming fire burst into new fervor when three large blocks of wood were magically thrown into the hearth. A large green armchair slid across the floor to rest in front of the fire and a table flew over to rest beside it. Snape plucked a glass off of a shelf, flicked his wand to silence the room and lock the floo so he would not be interrupted by anyone unless it was exceedingly important.

Grabbing a half-full bottle of firewhiskey by the neck as he strode back toward the hearth, he fell into the armchair, filled the glass to the brim, and threw it back in one shot. Grimacing as the liquid burned acid down his throat, he poured himself another glass before he sat the bottle on the table next to him. Then, holding the glass in both hands, he began to brood.

This had to be the worst day he had ever had during summer holidays since he began teaching at Hogwarts. Since he had once still done a great deal of spy work for Dumbledore over the holidays, this was no small feat, but, of course, Potter could accomplish it.

Severus wiped his mouth as though to rid it of some lasting residue, though there was nothing on his lips, nothing at all signifying such an awful experience in the hospital wing, save for a memory.

Severus truly wanted to tell himself that he didn't give a bloody damn if Potter died and just return to his dungeons, where he would brew more potions for the upcoming school year. He wouldn't need nearly as much of anything, because Potter wouldn't be around to throw himself into trouble every five minutes.

For a moment, Severus basked in the imagining: a world without any lingering memories of James Potter. No messy black hair and stupid, clumsy children with glasses flaunting their princely fame about like it could grant them leave of death.

Why should Potter be saved when so many others had died?

Emerald green eyes flashed across his mind's vision.

Lily.

Sometimes, Severus Snape hated the memory of Lily Evans almost as much as he hated her son. But only because it caused so much pain to remember.

The seeming-sturdiness of the boy's chest gave under the pressure of Severus' hands. He did his best to ignore how very small and frail the boy actually was, as his hands, one layered over the other, thrust down, compressing the boy's ribcage and pumping blood from his heart. The boy lay frightfully still, his face a pale-grey color, those damnable emerald green eyes closed. Severus thanked the gods for that small mercy. He did not know if he would have been able to function under the vigilance of a second pair of dead green eyes.

The boy's body moved slightly with every thrust of Severus' arms, his chest compressing tightly downward and then springing back up. He stopped for a moment, he fingers moving to the boy's neck, seeking a pulse but finding nothing. He paused to let Poppy's ongoing spell feed oxygen into Potter's lungs so his brain wouldn't shut down, not that doing so could hurt much.

Behind him, he could hear Poppy reciting a spell in Ancient Greek. His mind translated it on instinct.

"Oh, Aceso, Lady of Healing,I plead for your mercy.Free this body, and seal thesewounds with a kiss.Let your blood flow to healand return to us.I beg you, my goddess, my lady.Oh, Aceso, take my magic for your mercy."

He could feel the magic swirling through the air like a current, drawn to Poppy as the spell summoned the energies. It drew power from him, from the school, from her, and from all of the spells that she had cast.

Severus swore as the breathing spell she had cast flickered and vanished, drawn into the ritual healing spell she was forming now. Swearing profusely in his mind as he thrust his arms down again on Potter's chest, he hoped to restart the boy's heart without having to do anything that was any more insulting.

But the Boy-Who-Lived was useless if brain dead.

"Stupid, ridiculous child. I should just let you die," he grumbled to himself, as he moved to Potter's head. Grabbing the boy's chin tightly and pinching his nose shut, he pulled Potter's forehead back, jutting his chin into the air. The boy's mouth was already open from when he had reacted instinctively, even unconscious, to choking on his own blood. Severus placed his mouth tightly over Potter's – all the while screaming internally – and exhaled.

Potter's chest jerked with an abrupt motion, the air filling his lungs forcing his chest to expand. The air whisked out of him with a little hiss and Severus exhaled again into Potter's mouth. The boy's chest rose and fell with the breath, and after another, Severus fitted his hands back over the boy's chest and began to pump his heart again.

He only needed to start the boy's heart. Even if it lasted only a moment, it would be long enough for Poppy to activate the healing spell and thus do away with the damage causing all of these complications. But the boy was proving, as always, to be difficult.

Potter's limbs twitched lightly at the deep thrusts of his professor's arms, but Severus tried not to see this. He remembered another time, long ago, when he had attempted such a revival technique as this.

It had failed then, too.

CRACK!

Severus froze in his movements. He'd felt the shift and snap in a reverberation through Potter's torso. One of the boy's ribs had broken at the force of the compressions. Maybe the one that had already been broken and had only begun healing…

"Keeping going!" a voice in his mind snarled.

The Potions Master hesitated only a moment, before he thrust his hands down sharply again and continued where he had stopped. If he could just start the boy's heart, his ribs would be healed.

The sound of a door opening and closing had not been clearly defined by his preoccupied mind, but the sudden gasp for air behind him caught his attention, as did the whisper of the boy's name whose rib cage snapped again as another rib broke beneath his ministrations.

"Damnit, Severus, what are yo-"

"Kindly excuse yourself, Wolf. I'm trying to save his life."

"But you-"

The sudden jerking of Potter's head had Severus pulling away abruptly. The boy threw his head back as he gasped for a breath that flew into his lungs with a violent sound. The boy started coughing as soon as he had inhaled, his entire body convulsing with the barks. Blood sprayed from his mouth across white sheets.

"Poppy!" Severus snarled.

The woman had already begun the spell's activation, however. He could feel the magic ripping from her, tearing across their plane and slamming into the boy like a physical force. He watched as Potter's body actually convulsed when the magic struck him, and then the waves of light were pulsing around him as Aceso answered Poppy's prayer.

Severus returned to the present with a fierce snarl, swiping at his lips. Swearing viciously, he grabbed his shot glass, alcohol sloshing over the sides in his ferocity.

"Damn Potter," he cursed, and tossed the whiskey back.

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