"Wha--?" I shot upright. "Is he --?"
"Shhhhh." Albus stroked the damp hair back from my face. "You were dreaming, dear heart. Lie back down." And he promptly lay a cool hand over my forehead and sent me back off to sleep, just as he'd done with Severus.
I slept deeply and well after that, and I woke with a curious, refreshing sense of well-being.
Hmmm. Better than a Dreamless Sleep Draught.
I pulled on my robe and cautiously peeked into the other bedroom.
Albus was sound asleep in the chair, snoring, chin tucked well into his beard and his hands clasped underneath it. Severus, however, was awake, his fathomless eyes plastered on the old wizard.
And anyone who would dare to say Severus Snape was incapable of love would have to eat their words on the spot. Never mind the icy reputation; never mind his frequent grousing about Albus' decisions and behavior. Severus adored the old man as much as it is possible for one human being to love another.
I couldn't stifle a yawn, and the breath was enough to alert him: he shuttered his emotions immediately and craned his neck to stare groggily at me.
"Can you manage some water?" I said softly so as not to wake Albus.
He nodded, and I padded into the kitchen to fetch a glass and a straw; I detoured to the bathroom for some lip balm and went back to the room, cautiously sitting on the edge of the bed.
He managed a couple of weak sips, and allowed me to spread the balm on his lips before closing his eyes and sinking back into the pillows.
If that quiet acquiesence wasn't enough to frighten me, the seizure that followed was.
"Just keep his arms from flailing too much, Miranda," panted Albus, who'd woken immediately at Severus' strangled cries. "We don't want him to -- oooof," he gasped as Severus' arm caught him in the gut.
When the seizure passed and we finally got him settled again, Albus sat back down. "That's what you can expect from Crucio," he explained grimly. "We don't want him to re-break anything," he added. "Perhaps Dobby and Winky should stay in the room with him for the next day or two."
"Albus?" Severus managed weakly.
"Yes, my boy?"
"Loo. Now," he stated succinctly.
Albus quirked an eyebrow at me. "Why don't you dress and run up to the Infirmary to let Poppy know he's awake?" he suggested.
I obeyed with alacrity. There were some things I wasn't ready to know about Severus just yet, despite having seen him naked the night before. Dealing with a medical emergency is quite a different thing than helping a sick, grumpy male aim for the toilet: I knew that well enough from helping Ian, and I doubted Severus Snape would behave any more gracefully than my nephew had, especially as he'd taken several blows to the groin. Despite Poppy's healing charms, having a pee was going to be a nasty business for a while.
When Poppy and I returned, Albus was helping Severus back into bed with Dobby's assistance; Winky was bustling around the kitchen setting out strong, hot tea for Albus and coffee for me, and oatmeal and toast for us both.
"You didn't tell me you'd been having nightmares," Albus noted as he dug into his breakfast.
"It's been getting better. He's made sure I had Draughts when necessary -- but that's a handy gift you have," I replied.
"Yes, it is, and not everyone can do it. It can be draining," he admitted.
"I would have been fine, you know," I said, concern for the old man making my voice sharp.
"Fine, but not well, and I need you well -- he needs you well. I think," Headmaster said reflectively, "that you'd really best depend on Winky and Dobby for any and all necessary help, and concentrate on just being with him, all right?"
"You maternal types always overdo it," he said with a faint twinkle, and chuckled when I choked on my oatmeal. "How does it look, Poppy?" he asked as she entered the sitting room, her examination finished.
"He'll live," she said shortly, and plunked a little dropper-bottle on the table in front of me. "Three drops in eight ounces of water every two hours. It's a mild opiate, and it'll keep him quiet. Resist the temptation to give it more frequently when he starts acting the git -- and he will in a day or two," she added with a proud, tired smile.
"Where's mine?" I muttered.
"You'll get yours after, with an all-expense paid trip to the tropical paradise of your choice," Albus noted. "Provided you don't strangle him, of course. Or me. Poppy, he passed rather a lot of blood...."
I suddenly wasn't in the mood to finish my breakfast.
"Kidneys took a pounding, that should clear up in a day or two as well. Now, Miranda, Dobby and Winky know what he should eat, and when, so you let them handle that -- they've instructions to bully him if necessary, so you stay clear. Get as much water as you can into him, though -- but no trips to the toilet by himself for the next few days...."
Oh, bloody wonderful.
"Keep him in bed -- sit on him, if you have to," Poppy continued, oblivious to my misery, and Albus choked back a little snort. "I really th-- oh, really, Headmaster," she noted with a glare worthy of McGonagall. "That's the last thing on his mind, I'm sure."
"I wouldn't put a wager on that," Albus mumbled, and hastily shoved another spoonful of oatmeal in his mouth when I added my own glare to Pomfrey's.
"You need some sleep," Poppy informed him severely. "He always gets snarky and suggestive when he's tired, dear, don't let it bother you," she added to me.
"I'll catch a nap," Dumbledore noted dutifully as he brushed toast crumbs from his beard, "after I help the First Years demolish Severus' classroom."
He was too exhausted and in pain to do anything but lie quietly in bed, allowing me to read to him when he was lucid -- and I admit to spending far more time than necessary at his side while he slept. I was rather afraid he might still slip away, though Poppy assured me the worst of the damage had been instantly repaired (yet another great advantage in the Wizarding World).
Within two days he'd progressed to Simply Very Ill, and was still tolerable, though he threw a fit when he learned Headmaster had taken his classes.
"Merlin's balls, Albus, it'll take me weeks to put my stores back in order after you muck about with them!" he managed in a respectable semblance of himself. "Why didn't you just set Black loose on them, and have done with it?"
"You can restrain the hyperbole, Severus," Albus noted soothingly. "It'll only take days -- and it will keep you out of trouble for a while."
Albus spent quite a lot of time with Severus, in the evenings -- once he was able to put complete sentences together -- and I assume they discussed what had happened at the Death Eater meeting and whatever he had learned there, before Voldemort had sprung the trap. With me Severus was not communicative, either about the events of that night or his alarming comments to me: he retreated to monosyllables.
But on the whole I preferred him alive and surly to three-quarters dead and romantic. And to give him credit where due, he never complained about the pain or humiliation -- just the boredom.
By Friday he'd worked up to Merely Miserable -- my misery, that is. He was so bored by then that I couldn't keep him in his room, and he moped about the sitting room, pillaging my music and raiding the bookshelves (I'm certain he'd been a hyper-active child). He read at an alarming rate. At one point, when he was driving me absolutely mad, I shoved a stack of unmarked essays and a pen at him and commanded that he shut up and mark grammatical errors for me. He did. Without comment or complaint, and quite thoroughly.
True to Albus' worst fear, he'd refused to so much as look at his potions research. I kept the medicines, especially the opiate, hidden from him just in case.
His pacing of the room, while necessarily slow and painful, was the most nerve-wracking: one could never tell when a seizure would hit, and the Elves and I would have to drop everything and rush to support him before he re-injured himself.
Chess had been a bad idea. We'd tried it for a while until he'd realised that his pieces were responding shakily, mirroring his own distress, and then he'd called a halt to the game and locked himself in the bedroom for two full hours. We only got him out by sending Winky in to scold him. She was quite the little termagant.
"Dinner time now, Master Snape," Dobby and I heard her squeak.
"Go away." Surly, and not a little pained.
"You need to eat now, Master Snape," she insisted. "Madam Pomfrey says you have to. Is Master Snape too tired to eat? Winky can hold his fork --"
"I said go away, you annoying little twit," he snarled. "Do you want to end up like Nod?"
Nod made an unfortunate error in judgement one day, popping into Severus' rooms for a spot of cleaning -- and destroyed a delicate potion that he'd spent days on. The resultant hex was the reason the Elves no longer cleaned his rooms unless he called them.
"No wand, Master Snape. Even Winky knows you can't hex without it," Winky said, with an ill-advised air of triumph.
He couldn't hex her, but there was the distinct thud of a heavy book hitting the door, and I winced. I hoped it was one of his.
"Master Snape," she said reprovingly, "you knows Winky can pop out faster than you can throw."
Silence from him -- or at least the response was so low we couldn't hear it.
"Miss Miranda says she won't eat until you does," Winky noted craftily, and I hastily shoved my half-eaten supper toward Dobby, who refilled the plate instantly with a wise, complicit look.
"Oh, bloody..." There was silence, while he presumably struggled to rise from the bed. "Get out of the way, you hellion, I can walk on my own."
There was a scrape as the book was kicked away from the door, and he unlocked it and lurched over to the table. It was a silent meal, but at least he ate.
By Sunday Poppy had sent him to his own rooms under Winky and Dobby's care. I took a long, steaming-hot bath, and when I got out there was a sweet little note from Albus waiting for me.
Hah. I'm only unhexed because you took his wand with you, and he's alive because even I wouldn't strangle a desperately ill man.
Please note that I didn't say I wasn't tempted.
I wonder if he was serious about that tropical vacation. For all three of us. We deserve it.
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And Miranda refuses to divulge any more of what happened during the worst of Snape's recuperation. I'm not sure if it's because she's trying to leave him some privacy and dignity, or because she refuses to live through it again, even in memory. I suspect it's both.