Title: Memories, Dreams, Reflections
Beta Reader(s): bethbethbeth
(Highlight to View) Warning(s): References to nasty wounds.
Note: Contains details found in Deathly Hallows Part 2.
Summary: Sometimes, all it takes is a touch.
It wasn't as though the man had been particularly talkative prior to his final confrontation with Voldemort. In all the years Severus Snape had taught at Hogwarts, he had generally only spoken when necessary, or on the rare occasions when his anger and bitterness couldn't be contained.
Voldemort's downfall did little to change that. Two months later, Snape was more silent than ever; the difference was that it now appeared to distress him.
He was still recovering, the poison that had almost killed him -and yet saved him- not completely out of his system, affecting everything from his muscular responses to his thought processes. The serpent's unique, potent venom, combined with the various preventative experimental potions Snape had ingested since he'd undertaken his role as a double agent, had slowed his heartbeat to the point of near death, paradoxically preserving his life and decreasing his body's need for oxygen and blood. Although he eventually awoke from the coma that had kept him alive in the hours following Nagini's violent attack, the only sounds he could utter were strained, unintelligible groans.
"He's tried to speak, but it hurts him too much," Madam Pomfrey had told Remus a few weeks after Snape had been brought to the Hospital Wing. "His voice may never be what it once was... I don't know. It's too soon to tell."
Her tired eyes became filled with sadness.
"I'm afraid he'll never be like he was before."
"I don't think any of us will," Remus quietly replied. "At least he won't be alone."
Madam Pomfrey shook her head. "I know he's in pain." She paused, as if she couldn't bring herself to say the words that momentarily stilled her tongue. "I also fear he can't remember how to speak," she said in a choked whisper.
"He might be too traumatized to sort through his thoughts."
"I'm sure you're right," Madam Pomfrey said. "It's been so hard, seeing him like this. I can't think straight either."
"All that happened to him, not just that day... He's only a human being. I can't begin to imagine what he must have endured. He never allowed himself to break -until the end," he said, recalling what Harry had told them about what he'd thought were Snape's final moments.
Remus had locked his gaze with Madam Pomfrey's. "Severus is one of the strongest men I've ever known. He'll get better."
Snape's body jerked on the bed where he lay.
It was early in the evening. Poppy was sitting at her desk, going over her list of potions and supplies and noting what was running low. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw her sole patient's abrupt movement; immediately, she rose from her seat and hastened to him.
He tossed his head from side to side and gasped.
"Severus, it's all right," Poppy said, gently putting her hands on his shoulders. "You're home, you're safe... Wake up, dear. Everything's fine."
"Nnnn... nrrrgh... No..."
Her mouth fell open. It was the first word that had left his lips since he'd been in the Hospital Wing. His voice rattled, as though a handful of glass shards had become lodged in his throat, and it made her heart clench.
At that moment, Lupin entered the Hospital Wing. As soon as he saw what was happening, he ran towards them.
Snape was still ensnared in his nightmarish visions, and the sweat that had begun shining upon his face mixed with the silver tears leaking from beneath his closed eyelids, which were darkened by exhaustion.
The terrible sound was suddenly replaced by an almost inaudible exhalation; he had lost the ability to make any use of his damaged vocal cords, and a thin film of blood tinted his teeth pink.
"My God," Lupin said, paling.
"Get me a pain potion, Remus!" Poppy said.
By the time he returned, Snape had awoken, but he didn't seem at all aware of where he actually was. What they saw in the murky depths of his eyes was an unnamable agony, and terror, and despair.
"Severus," Poppy said, very softly. "Severus, can you hear me? It's Poppy. Remus is here with me. You're at Hogwarts, remember?"
Another silver tear rolled down his cheek, and slowly his eyes cleared, fear and anguish replaced by confusion, then pain. His mouth formed a tight, slightly quivering line.
"Severus," Poppy said, repeating his name in an effort to anchor him back to his present surroundings, "I have a potion for you. Do you think you can swallow a bit?"
His lips parted, and he just looked up at her.
"Remus," she said quietly.
Lupin pushed his threadbare robes out of the way, then carefully slid an arm underneath Snape's shoulders and raised him from the pillow. Though he did his best not to jostle Snape, the latter frowned a little.
Poppy placed the vial upon the Headmaster's lower lip, tipping the contents into his mouth; Snape tensed as he awkwardly gulped the liquid and it made its way down his mutilated throat, but soon he closed his eyes again, relaxing against Lupin's arm, the skin between his brows growing smooth, his pain easing.
"There..." Poppy said. "That will help. Would you like something to drink?"
He nodded once.
She poured water into a glass from the pitcher on his bedside table, and gave it to Lupin.
"Severus," he said. "We'll try a couple of sips, all right?"
Snape's eyelids fluttered. He gazed at Lupin, who felt him shrug and sigh. After swallowing the equivalent of three tablespoons, Snape was at the end of his strength and fell asleep before Lupin had even lowered him back upon the bed.
Harry had told them how Snape had wept as he desperately attempted to tell the Boy Who Lived that death was coming.
He related how the sight of Snape's naked misery had shaken him to the core. It wasn't what Harry had expected, although at the time he'd been rapidly losing his grip on most of what he'd previously believed was true. He listened to Snape, no longer sure of anything, but kept hoping and forged ahead like a blind man in a storm.
He certainly hadn't expected to see Snape looking at him with lost, guileless eyes. Harry had knelt in the man's blood and pressed his hand against the mauled flesh above the Headmaster's torn black collar, wondering what to do, what to think...
Then Snape's tears and memories had begun to flow. It was as though the whole man had turned into a broken heart, pumping and leaking blood, grief and longing.
Lupin shook his head as he replayed Harry's emotional account in his mind, yet again.
He couldn't fathom the extent of Snape's suffering during that final year before Voldemort's ultimate defeat, but it was unsettling nevertheless to picture the man weeping, let alone actually seeing him do it.
All those buttons of his might as well have suddenly come undone, revealing a humanity each of Snape's former colleagues had discounted when they'd fallen, oh so quickly fallen, under the spell of his consummate and painstakingly orchestrated performance.
He had given so very much... He had given everything. And in the end, the strong yet delicate web he'd spun was ripped to shreds with a wave of Voldemort's wand.
Lupin sighed and put his hand upon his stomach; it had been difficult, indeed almost impossible for him to eat of late.
At least I still have my son...
Many had not been so fortunate. He needed to remember that. He had to remind himself of that, no matter how often. No matter how much it had hurt to lose Tonks, so soon...
Lupin wiped his eyes with a rumpled handkerchief and turned to look at Snape, who had been sleeping for a few hours.
He found Snape's dark, shadow-ringed eyes peering at him.
"Severus," Lupin said. "I'm sorry, I didn't realize you'd woken. How are you feeling?"
A smirk, or what seemed like his attempt at one, pulled at the corners of Snape's lips.
Lupin reached for two of the vials on the bedside table. "You'll need to take these... I can help, if-"
Snape tried to shake his head, then screwed his eyes shut and held his breath.
"It might be best not to move too much for now," Lupin said, laying a hand upon Snape's shoulder after a moment of hesitation.
Snape's eyes snapped open, a mixture of fury and panic brewing in their inky depths.
Lupin immediately removed his hand. "Sorry, Severus. I just..."
Snape's gaze darted around the room. All the beds were occupied, though no one but him appeared to be awake.
He glared back at Lupin, who watched as Snape's emotions went from a familiar tempestuousness to helpless discomfiture. He blinked repeatedly, his mouth opened and closed.
Lupin was immobile.
Snape's chest rose and fell more and more rapidly. "P... p... pp..."
His eyes widened. He stared up at Lupin with a pleading expression etched upon his face, as if he'd remembered he couldn't speak -but couldn't remember why.
"Poppy is getting some rest, but I can fetch her if you'd like," Lupin said with a calm voice.
Snape's body sagged a bit; his breathing slowed. "Nnn... No," he finally rasped. He released a relieved breath. "No." Another breath.
"Don't worry, Severus. Give yourself time to recover. You were unconscious for quite a while, and you haven't fully expelled the venom yet."
Snape shuddered slightly, and his fingers clutched the blankets that covered him.
"I have potions for you. I'll have to assist you," Lupin said. "And we'll need to change the bandage around your neck."
Snape didn't respond.
Lupin uncorked the first vial, then gently cupped the back of Snape's head and lifted it so that Snape could drink.
After swallowing the contents of the second vial, Snape was completely relaxed. Lupin knew that it was possible for someone like Snape to fight the potions, even in his current state, and not allow himself to let his guard down around a man he'd so frequently referred to as "the werewolf."
However, despite the evident distaste -and the hint of fear- with which he'd viewed Lupin upon awakening, Snape surrendered to the numbing effects of the potions Lupin had administered to him.
If Snape was experiencing confusion, he wasn't the only one, Lupin reflected. The Headmaster was going back and forth between what Lupin would have called predictable behavior, and something altogether new.
He was closing and opening.
Even when he reacted as he would have of old, it felt, on the whole, like a pale imitation of a person who had perhaps never truly existed.
The real Severus Snape was made visible on the floor of the boat house, the other one disappearing like a phantom.
A lingering phantom... But for how much longer? Not too long, I hope.
Snape had been haunted enough.
"Severus? I'm going to change your bandage now."
The man in question seemed fairly unfazed by this information, that is until Lupin's fingers grazed his throat.
He gasped softly, and his eyes clouded over. A silvery liquid again pooled there, like mist on the surface of dark, troubled waters, and ran down the sides of his contorted features.
It was with shock that Lupin felt the tight grip of Snape's hand around his wrist.
Sweat bathed Snape's face. He sank into his pillow in a vain effort to back away from a threat only he could perceive. His depleted body was shaken by a succession of jolts and a hoarse cry emerged from his lips.
"Severus," Lupin said, placing a hand upon Snape's cheek. "You're at Hogwarts-"
"Hahrr... Har... rry," Snape ground out.
"Harry's fine," Lupin said. "Listen to me."
He then pressed his entire hand against Snape's throat, just as he knew Harry had done when he'd gone to Snape after Voldemort had left with Nagini. Instantly, the vision that held the Headmaster in its thrall was subdued; he quietened beneath the delicate pressure of Lupin's touch, and his eyes opened.
"It's all right," Lupin said. He adjusted his hand, his thumb stroking Snape's jaw as he did so. "No one's going to hurt you."
More liquid escaped the corners of Snape's eyes, but this time it was only water.
"It was Neville who killed Nagini, you know. With the sword of Gryffindor. Lopped her head off, right after standing up to Voldemort. No one had the chance to tell you yet, am I wrong?"
The astonishment on Snape's face almost made Lupin laugh out loud.
"Voldemort is gone, and we all know who you are now," Lupin said, sobering. He paused, looking straight into Snape's eyes. "Forgive me for doubting you."
Snape, despite his weaknesses, blew out his breath impatiently, though Lupin could tell that the man's irritation was half-hearted and stemmed from both habit and discomfort more than anything else. He could see relief in Snape's eyes as well.
"I'm not sure that even what I've gone through because of my condition can compare to how lonely it must have been for you, when we all thought..."
The relief increased, warming eyes that had often seemed so cold to most, as Lupin continued to press his hand against Snape's neck.
Snape's hand was still wrapped around his wrist, and Lupin felt his long, thin fingers squeeze him just a little.
"I hope you realize that you'll be subjected to many requests for forgiveness," Lupin said. "From Harry, in particular. He can be persistent, as I'm sure you distinctly remember. And Minerva... She's been rather hard on herself."
Snape shook his head ever so slightly, and his breath hitched. More tears welled in his eyes. Lupin felt Snape's Adam's apple move beneath the palm of his hand.
"We should discuss all of this later. Poppy'll have my head for exhausting you like this."
Lupin reached for another vial on the bed side table. "She left this in case changing the bandage was more painful than expected. I think it'd be a good idea if you took it. What do you think?"
Snape nodded and released Lupin's wrist.
When Snape swallowed the potion, the pain made him frown less than previously.
"Better?" Lupin said.
"Yyyeh... Y- Yes," Snape whispered. A spark of triumph gleamed along the outline of his irises, so that they almost appeared golden brown in the candlelight.
Lupin couldn't help but smile, though he said, "Don't try to talk too much."
He then began to unwind the bandage. Once he got to the last segment, he carefully lifted it, making certain not to pull Snape's flesh as he exposed the gaping wounds that were barely starting to heal. Poppy's care had prevented necrosis from taking hold, but the blackened edges along the bite marks testified to the horrible death Snape might have suffered.
Snape's head was tilted back and tension lined the skin around his eyes, which were narrowed to slits.
"I'm going to apply some disinfectant and salve," Lupin said.
Snape blinked once.
Lupin grabbed two amber colored jars, and with the tips of his fingers rubbed first the disinfectant, then the salve, upon the gashes that extended from the base of Snape's shoulder all the way to his ear lobe.
Snape's complexion had turned somewhat ashen during Lupin's ministrations, but his breathing was steady.
"Almost done," Lupin said.
He swept Snape's hair to one side of the pillow so that it would not get caught in the bandage, and slowly wrapped Snape's neck with a long strip of white gauze.
"There," Lupin said, securing the bandage with tape. Then he lightly pressed his hand against Snape's throat again.
Snape stared up at Lupin. After a while, he fell asleep.