Authors note: Just a mini disclaimer...I want to make it perfectly plain that my depictions of the emotional/mental battles Harry & Snape are dealing with, are by no means, an attempt by me to make them appear weak or inferior in any way. They only depict shadows of very real cases of combat related post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), survivors guilt & combat stress reactions that I have seen and worked with in the (my) muggle world. The material may represent sensitive material if you are struggling or know anyone else that may be working through similar issues.
It was nearly lunch time by the time that Snape finally awoke. He was quite relieved to find himself in much less pain than he had been in before. He was even surprised to find that he was hungry.
As he struggled to sit up in bed Alexis entered the ward and hurried over to help him. “How nice to see you waking up finally,” she said with a smile.
Snape merely looked at her as he finished adjusting himself in a more comfortable position. “How long will it be before I can leave?”
Healer Prewett stopped to look at him and said, “You, of course, are not being held here against your will and are free to leave whenever you should wish. I would, however, highly recommend that you remain for at least one more night. I would feel more comfortable keeping your wounds open a bit longer before you leave.”
Snape truly did not wish to remain here any longer. There were so many things that he had to tend to. He knew that Minerva was most likely overwhelmed back at the school and he felt that he needed to be there to help. At the same time he knew that he would not be any help at all if he needed to keep changing bandages and/or constantly drink healing potions.
“I will stay until tomorrow morning,” he resigned. “I really must be getting on my way after that.”
“Good,” she replied looking somewhat relieved. As she carefully began checking on his wounds she casually said, “You had another visitor this morning.”
“Really?” He could not imagine who else would even be bothered to visit him that had not already come. “Who?”
“Harry Potter was here, very early this morning I might add.”
Snape knew that he should not have been surprised by this since Minerva had told him that Harry had already wanted to come visit him.
“I have to admit that the boy is much different in person than how he is portrayed by the ‘Prophet’, she continued conversationally.
“Of course he it! Nothing that ridiculous excuse of a paper can ever be taken serious,” Snape snapped. He almost shocked himself by the strong feelings of protectiveness that he was suddenly feeling. “Did he say what it was that he wanted?” He added quickly before he dwelled too long on those odd feelings.
“He was, for reasons quite beyond my comprehension, worried about you. Even as absolute as he in thinking that you despise him, the weight of the guilt that he carries threatens to destroy him,” she said quietly without looking at Snape.
Snape snorted. “Guilt? What could he possibly be feeling any guilt about?! He accomplished the impossible and saved the world. What else is there that he could possibly need,” he spat.
“You truly are an ignorant bastard!” Alexis hissed. She turned from his bed to walk away causing Snape to quickly grab her wrist to stop her. “Let me go,” she said menacingly.
Snape let go of her wrist and said softly, “Don’t go. Please. I’m sorry.” He waited to be sure that she was not going to leave before continuing. “I cannot pretend to begin to understand the inner workings of Mr. Potter’s mind, but I am at quite a loss at the reasons he may be harboring any feelings of guilt for accomplishing what no one else could do. I did not mean to come off so hostile and for that I am sorry,” he finished as he stared up at her.
She appeared to consider his words for a few long moments as she searched into the depths of his eyes for signs of his sincerity. When she finally spoke she wore on her face an expression of trepidation and uncertainty. “I know that I should not be speaking to you about this at all, but I cannot seem to be able to restrain myself from doing do. I need to know, were you aware that Mr. Potter witnessed the attack against you?”
“I remember him appearing at my side after Voldemort had left, but I had no way of knowing how he had gotten there or for how long he had been there, nor did I have any time to dwell on such matters. I knew that I did not have much time left and there were very important things that needed to be passed along to Potter,” he replied.
“What things?” she asked.
“Things that would explain to him why things have happened the way they did. Answers to things that he has been asking for years,” he mumbled.
“Were these things about you?” she pressed.
“Yes. About me. And things that Dumbledore had wished for me to pass along to him.”
“You wanted him to understand you didn’t you? Not to hate you as thoroughly as he is convinced that you hate him,” she whispered as she stepped closer to his bed. “Why? What did it matter to you how he felt if you thought you were dying?”
Snape found that he was unable to answer this question. The truth was that he did not know why he had wanted Harry to know the truth about him. He wanted to think that it had been for the sake of Lily’s memory, but he was sure that was only a very small part of it. Perhaps Dumbledore had been right in suggesting that he had come to care about Harry. That he could not bear for him to think that he was truly an evil person.
When he did not respond to Alexis’s question she said softly, “The guilt that Harry is struggling with is because of you.” Snape snapped his eyes from where he had been staring to look at her in surprise. “He saw you being attacked and felt that he should have done something to stop Voldemort from hurting you.”
“But that’s absurd! Not only would he have gotten himself killed, but his friends Miss Granger and Mr. Weasley that had been with him as well!” Snape exclaimed.
“This has been explained to him, but it failed to ease his pain. He did not know that you could have been saved and this greatly increases the weight of his guilt. He has been mentally beating himself up for not being able to save you in some way. Or at the very least have thought to have gotten you to someone that could have helped instead of just left you to die,” she replied.
“But how is this in any way my fault?! What am I supposed to do about this?” He paused and heaved a deep sigh. “I am sure that these feeling of guilt he has will fade away once he remembers how much he hates me,” he mumbled.
Alexis took a step closer to him and placed her hand on his shoulder. He closed his eyes fighting the surge of emotions brought on by her simple gesture of affection. He struggled hard to not reveal the depth of his conflicting feelings that were brewing and threatening to overwhelm him.
“I am not trying to blame you for what he is feeling, Severus. I am only trying to get you to understand what it is that he is struggling with right now in hopes that when you two finally do come face-to-face again you can hopefully be a bit less confrontational with him. I am truly starting to believe that asking you to be compassionate with him may just be too much to ask from you; so the least I can hope for is for you to not jump down his throat. Whether or not you, or anyone else wishes to acknowledge it, Harry is still in so many ways, barely an adult. He has sacrificed so much of his young life and has had to deal with so much more than anyone could ever imagine. The worst of it all is that he has had to do it all so completely alone,” she finished quietly.
“Which funny enough, is almost entirely all my fault,” Snape admitted under his breath.
Alexis sighed heavily and turned to walk away. “Ugh!! I quit! Now you really are just trying to be difficult! There is no way that his misfortunes are in any way your fault. Not unless you told Voldemort to kill his parents, then brought him back to life after everyone thought him to be destroyed and then forced Harry to seek him out to destroy him again! I knew I shouldn’t have even bothered trying to talk to you!”
Snape had no desire to argue with her so, he so chose not to respond to her rant. As he watched her storm away off the ward he could not help but think that maybe he should have explained himself more thoroughly to her. But then he thought better of it. While it was not normally in his nature to back down from a heated discussion, he found that he was rather unwilling to reveal to this woman just how right she had been in her sarcastic accusations towards him. Or even admit out loud that he was almost more responsible for the unfortunate events that had tortured Harry for the majority of his life than even Voldemort himself had been.
When Harry, Hermione and Neville arrived back at Hogwart’s, he was surprised to find that the castle was a flurry of activity. There was a large gathering of witches and wizards standing in and around the entrance hall. Many of them Harry recognized as either Order members or fellow students, but there were still a great deal of them that he did not know at all.
“What’s going on?” Harry asked as he approached several of his classmates that were standing close to the door.
“Professor McGonagall is trying to organize clean-up and rebuilding,” said Dean Thomas. “I’m off with Seamus here to see how much damage has been done in the dungeons and the kitchens. I’m not sure what else she needs help with, but I’m sure that she will have something for you guys to do if you want to help.”
“Of course we want to help,” Neville said immediately as both Harry and Hermione nodded their agreements.
“Why are you guys still here?” Harry asked. “I would have figured that all the students would have been sent home already.”
“Oh, well the Hogwart’s Express is coming tomorrow to get everyone. They had wanted it here yesterday, but it took them longer than expected to round up all of the crew. Apparently most of them went into hiding after the Christmas holiday when the death eaters attacked the train and abducted Luna,” Seamus stated. “A lot of parents have already come and picked their kids up themselves and many more used the Floo since it has finally been opened back up. The rest of those that are left have been staying at the Inn in Hogsmeade, which has been serving as an emergency shelter for those that did not or could not stay here at the castle like we are. Aberforth has closed the Hogs Head to his regular crowd turning the place into a dining hall for the students until they can be sent home.”
“Oh, Harry! There’s McGonagall! Let’s go ask her what we can do to help. Excuse us guys,” Hermione exclaimed.
When the three of them approached Professor McGonagall, she was a bit busy studying a long rolled up scroll and muttering to herself, to even take notice of them being there. When she looked up she almost seemed shocked to see them there. “Oh goodness! What can I do for you three?”
“We want to help, Professor. What can we do?” Neville asked.
She looked hard at them and shook her head. “No, no. You three do not need to do anything more. You have already done so much for everyone that you can’t possibly think that we expect you to do more.”
“Please ma’am. We really want to help. We’d all just go crazy sitting here doing nothing all day,” Hermione pleaded.
“Very well then,” she resigned with a sigh. “What we really need done before much else can be done, is to have the grounds checked to be sure that there are no more bodies anywhere. I do not believe anyone has done that yet,” she said as she read off her scroll. Then as if she just realized who she was talking to she added quickly, “Of course if that is not something that you feel ready to handle right now, I can find you something less morbid!”
“It’s no problem at all, Professor. Honest,” Harry reassured her. He thought the idea of getting out of the castle and out into some fresh air was a perfect idea.
With a nod from McGonagall they walked back out of the front doors as the rest of the volunteers began dispersing to their assigned tasks. Hermione, not surprisingly, took command of their little task force.
“I think that we should split up. We can cover more ground that way,” she stated. “Neville, why don’t you head around towards the greenhouses; Harry, you can go out towards the Quidditch pitch and I’ll head around towards Hagrid’s house.”
“Great. If any of us finds anything we should just come right back and find McGonagall or someone to help us out with it,” Neville suggested.
“Excellent,” Hermione said. “Let’s get going.”
The three of them went off in their own direction. Harry, who had greatly appreciated his friends’ company on his visit to St Mungo’s, found that he was relieved to be alone with his thoughts now. He hadn’t spoken to either of them about his visit except to say that Professor Snape was sleeping, but was looking well enough. He definitely had said nothing about his conversation with Healer Prewett.
Unfortunately, as much as he really did not want to, he really couldn’t keep from feeling responsible for Snape’s attack. Unfortunately Snape’s injuries were not the only ones that he was feeling guilty for. He felt ultimately responsible for everyone that had been wounded or killed in the battle here at Hogwarts. He knew now that he should have simply snuck in and out of the castle, quietly getting the diadem and leaving immediately thereafter. His presence at the castle was the sole reason that it had been attacked and that was something that he was never going to be able to forget.
Harry wandered along across the lawn deep in thought when he suddenly became incredibly cold. He stopped dead in his tracks and began searching for the dementors that he was certain were the cause of the sudden and intense chill. Harry took a small step backwards as he scanned the skies, only to find the air return to its previous temperature. He tentatively stepped forward again to find that the cold had indeed returned.
He closed his eyes in an attempt to calm the panic that was rising up inside of him and saw in his mind, the brilliant flash of a blinding green light and heard a strangled cry of terror.
Harry drew his wand as he opened his eyes to see nothing but the quiet deserted grounds once more. He soon found himself becoming very short of breath and began rapidly trying to take deep breaths to alleviate the feeling. The breathless feeling soon gave way to a near suffocating pressure in his chest that further prevented him from being able to breath in proper full breaths of air.
Gasping for breath, Harry dropped to his knees beginning to fear that he was having a heart attack. Even as the thought hit him though, he knew that he was entirely too young and healthy to be having a heart attack. He slowly worked to clear his mind and he forced himself to take slow deep breaths. As he did do, he began slowly feeling better. He waited until he was sure that the feelings had subsided completely before standing up once more.
Unsure about what had just happened, his first thought was to make his way straight up to Dumbledore’s office and ask him. Almost immediately though, he realized that not only would he never be able to ask for help from Dumbledore, Sirius and his parents, but now he could add Lupin to the list of mentors/guardians that he had lost forever. The loneliness that was now consuming him made him wonder if maybe he should have just gone off with Dumbledore when Voldemort had hit him with the killing curse in the forest. He had, after all, already told Neville about Nagini, plus Ron and Hermione had known about it. They would have been able to defeat Voldemort just as easily as he had. There had been nothing special about what he had done to defeat him that one of the three of them couldn’t have done.
Shaking his head as if to rid himself of such thoughts, Harry forced himself to continue his search of the grounds. As he continued to walk he encountered several more of the mysterious cold spots, but he did not allow himself to investigate them for fear of repeating the strange episode that he had just repeated. Several times as he passed through the spots he thought that he had heard angry or scared echoes of screams.
He quickly finished his inspection of the grounds, feeling grateful that he had not found anyone that had been left behind and returned back to the castle to meet up with Hermione and Neville, who had not been as lucky with their searches. Hermione had discovered a giant that had seemingly suffered a pretty brutal death, she suspected Grawp must’ve had something to do with it based on the extent of the injuries, and Neville encountered an unknown death eater that he guessed had met up with one of Aargog, the acromantula’s, relatives.
After they had notified Professor Flitwick about the casualties that they had discovered they were dismissed and told to head to the Great Hall for some lunch. Harry, deciding that he was not hungry, went back to Gryffindor tower, with intentions to try to make sense of the events of his day.
Once he was back in the familiar common room settled into his favorite chair by the cold fireplace, he was quickly overcome with the weariness that was no doubt a direct result of the emotional morning that he had already had. He fell into a fitful sleep almost at once that was plagued with disturbing images of faceless witches and wizards moments before their untimely and sometimes gruesome deaths.
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