"You," she said severely, "are full of surprises."
I tried to respond, but nothing came out.
"Go back to sleep, child," she said kindly. "All's well."
So I did. Not that I had any choice.
He looked far better than I felt, that has to be said. He was still comatose, but healthy colour had returned to his face, and his limbs were warm; even the shattered left hand was flushed with pink, and the bones had finally begun to reknit themselves.
Poppy was convinced he'd wake soon, but I had my doubts. Again I'd acted impulsively without considering the consequences of messing with something I knew next to nothing about, and I thought it entirely possible I'd condemned my husband's mind to a twilight limbo like that I'd swum in, rather than the actual peace of death.
But I couldn't brood over it now: I had teaching to do once I was back on my feet -- the Blessing and the stress of the last week had knocked me on my arse -- and like everyone else, I just had to get on with it.
Poppy and Minerva were intensely curious about the Blessing and what I'd done, though I was convinced it was the combined effort of everyone who'd been at the bedside.
"No, Minerva, it's not magic," I said rather crossly -- for the third or fourth time (Minerva was almost as stubborn as Severus when she got something stuck in her head). "I saw my gran do it enough, and I know it wasn't. Surely you could have sensed whether it was coming from me."
She had to concede that it hadn't, though grumpily.
"But it obviously helped, Miranda," she retorted. "His started breathing more freely straightaway."
"It's not to bring them back. I doubt it can really ease their pain, for that matter. It's just to help the living come to terms with it, and let the dying know that it's all right if they must go.
"The body can only take so much pain before it simply shuts down," Poppy thought aloud. "Maybe that little respite was enough to pull him back, whatever the cause."
"All of you laid hands on him, too -- perhaps the Blessing channelled your powers, or acted as a conduit for them, or something."
"Perhaps," she said. "Some of the older texts on Healing mention a laying-on of hands but it's simply not practised any longer, not since specific Charms were developed and mediwizardry became a licensed profession."
"You should ask Seamus Finnegan, he's working on an old Irish medical --"
I cut myself off and bit my lip so savagely that I drew blood. I'd forgot that we'd lost Seamus.
Minerva grasped my hand and gave it a squeeze. "It's no matter right now," she said, and very practically pulled a handkerchief from her sleeve and gave it to me to blot away the blood. "But I don't want you trying it again. We thought for a moment that we'd lost you, as well."
Patty made it but she looks knackered. Paula's babying her -- been getting her mice from the pet shop. Will see if she's in good enough shape to send back in a few days. If not too fat to fly by then.
Gran said she'd heard something big had happened.
Know your mobile service may be knocked out, but hoping you'll check this soon if not. Any change?
SUBJECT: re: Sev
A change for the better a few days ago. Still comatose but not in extremis. Seems more comfortable but not responding. Just as well at this point, the Infirmarian's ready to drop. Can only wait.
Headmistress pushing on with classes despite her own and others' injuries -- determined kids will end school year as normally as possible.
I'm tired but unharmed. Really tired. Will tell you more when able, if your gran doesn't before me.
He'd kill you if you called him Sev to his face, you know.
SUBJECT: re: Sev
Maybe you ought to try the Sev thing. He seems the type to respond to irritation.
Gran wants to know if she can help, if Infirmarian stretched. Different methods, same results. Willing to go with new methods, though.
SUBJECT: gran's offer
Pomfrey says ta but all right now. Worst cases already sent to St. Mungo's (except Severus. Nothing they can do and as I can't Apparate...).
Smiles in his sleep sometimes. Utterly relaxed. Looks like a little boy.
Sorry -- more later
Sorry, meant to say Patty flew in yesterday afternoon. Pomfrey looked at your gran's potion, read instructions, shrugged. Gave it to him. No change but seemed to smile more often in afternoon. At least seems to have given him sweeter dreams.
ARE YOU GETTING ANY SLEEP?!!!!
SUBJECT: re: YOU
SUBJECT: re: YOU
We love you.
SUBJECT: re: YOU
Come up here and prove it. The daft part, I mean. I'd smirk at you if I had the energy.
I kmow the other. Love you both too. Kiss Paula for me.
No change. Pomfrey more optimistic than me.
SUBJECT: GRAN ALERT
Assume no change. Wanted to give you a few days away from my pestering.
Gran has decided this requires her personal attention and will pop up Monday (has a friend who Apparates). Tell Pomfrey to be on lookout for a small black woman with dreds and a sharp tongue.
SUBJECT: re: GRAN ALERT
Your gran is very sweet and very like mine in a scary sort of way.
Put her hand on Severus' forehead and closed her eyes and mumbled something -- then eyes popped open, looked straight at me and said, "He be in there, girl. You keep doin' what you doin' and he come out when he ready."
Then I think she went down to the kitchens and terrorized the Kitchen Elves for a while. I'll put it this way, she stood over me and made me eat jerk chicken for supper in the Infirmary. I hear they had it in the Great Hall, too. McGonagall had kittens.
*VBG* You have no idea how appropriate that last comment was. Not literally, but almost. Actually might be literal, I've no way of knowing. But I hope not. Much squickiness, as the kids here say.
Sorry, babbling. God, I'm tired. I'll 'splain it later, Lucy.
Alastor kept me apprised of what was going on with the investigations. The idiotic bureaucrats (sorry, I know that's an oxymoron) at the Ministry had been hell-bent on an exhaustive inquiry into each and every individual who'd taken part in the battle, and there was much discussion of confiscating student wands and performing Prior Incantato to see who had used the Unforgivables. Contrary to every rule on the books, Alastor had made certain that every Seventh, and many Sixths, had learned them; the wards around Hogwarts had prevented Magical Law Enforcement's surveillance from detecting them when they were practised.
Alastor had, it was obvious, far fewer scruples about the use of extreme force than Albus had had. I wouldn't call him bloodthirsty, but teaching children those horrendous curses is something I can't imagine Albus would have countenanced -- much less encouraging (or ordering) them to use them. It was a little frightening to discover that the gruff, kind man I knew was capable of such ruthlessness.
At any rate, Protheroe put his foot down and informed the Head of MLE to go suck an egg. (Not in those words, of course.) Bad enough that our students would have to live with the fact that they'd used an Unforgivable, and often on their former schoolmates and the parents of their peers; there was no sense in punishing them further, as they'd done it specifically at Alastor's direction.
Alastor was going to pay for it eventually. He was to report to the Ministry after the end of term for a fuller investigation and, quite possibly, punishment. He wasn't in the least repentant, and Arabella Figg was backing him up from her bed at St. Mungo's.
The Death Eaters who'd remained at Gringotts' to maintain the barrier fled when they heard about Voldemort's death. What the Ministry was doing about or to the goblins Alastor didn't know, and frankly I didn't care. I understood that they were motivated by self-preservation, but their defection still rankled.
Hogsmeade had taken a big hit. It had been Voldemort's initial Apparition point: the first wave of Death Eaters had made it all the way through the village before the Giants had been able to respond to the alarms. The Giants lost two of their number -- a very bad thing indeed: there were only thirty still in the British Isles to begin with.
Hagrid, mercifully, was not one of the dead.
Even Harry Potter had got better, finally rousing from his stupor. He didn't return to Gryffindor Tower; Sirius -- now recognisably Sirius, as he couldn't maintain Valentine Jonson's glamour without Filius -- took Harry to his rooms, and was tending him there.
Severus remained the same, damn it. In desperation I'd followed Lucy's advice and hissed in his ear one night, "I only took a week, Sev; you can bloody well get your arse in gear and wake up, you lazy git."
He didn't wake, but his lips slowly curved upward, as they did when he was in the midst of a pleasant dream.
Damn the man.
He didn't seem to be in any pain, not since the night we'd done the laying of hands on him. But he stayed adamantly unconscious.
Until the fourth week.
I'd been giving him a sponge bath -- silly, because of course all Poppy had to do was a simple cleansing charm once a day. But I enjoyed tending to him: he'd never have let me do it otherwise, and there was a certain sensual pleasure in stroking his long limbs and blunt, lax fingers with the sponge, and then gently drying him. I suppose it might be considered sick by some, but it was the least I could do for him -- to tend to his more intimate needs myself, rather than allowing Molly or Poppy to do their practical charms -- and I needed the comfort of touching him. (I never took advantage of certain autonomic responses typical of the male body -- wasn't even tempted to -- though I was gratified to note that the bathing sessions sometimes inspired them. And the fact that I wasn't tempted only confirmed for me that while I certainly appreciated Severus' body, it was his soul and mind that I desired.)
It was a dreadful education, too, to see in the full light of day the myriad scars from past wounds that marred his body. He'd twitted me, once, whether I'd care to wear my scars openly, as Alastor did. Severus had obviously chosen to do so, at least on those he could conceal beneath his customary high-necked, long-sleeved garb. The worst -- though by no means only -- included the scars across the Dark Mark; a still faintly pink scar across his left shoulder from the beating last spring, as well as what looked like wheals from a long-past whipping; a thick area of raised tissue at his waist, which I'd often felt but never asked how he'd acquired; a patch on the back of his right thigh, suspiciously like an old burn; and a deep, ropey scar across the back of his right heel, as if someone had tried to cut his Achilles' tendon.
I had his foot propped up in my lap and was musing over that one while stroking the high, narrow arch of the sole when his toes suddenly clenched and the foot jerked infinitessimally in my hand.
I stared stupidly at it and then deliberately ran a fingernail up along the sole. I discovered two things:
1. Severus Snape was ticklish.
2. He was very much awake.
He stared at me in sleepy reproach from beneath half-closed lids. I held my breath and absently soothed the tickle with my palm.
"Do you know where you are?" I asked him in a strained voice.
His eyes flickered about the room and then he rasped out, wincing, "Infirmary."
I left the bed, fetched a glass of water with trembling hands, and helped him sip.
"What's your name, and who am I?" I demanded as calmly as I could.
"Severus Snape," he managed, still in an unlovely croak, "and you are my wife, in case you've forgotten. I sincerely hope that is an academic question, as I'm in no condition to prove it to you."
He was definitely back, snark intact. (Thank God: it was one of his more delightful gifts, when not wielded viciously.)
"I'd best get Poppy," I said softly, and darted for the door.
"Miranda --" he croaked out, stopping me at the threshhold. "Would you terribly mind adjusting the bedclothes? I'd like to retain some semblance of dignity."
I'd left him naked as the day he was born.
I leaned against the door jamb, considering the situation. "I'm sure it's nothing Poppy hasn't seen before," I said, trying for a casual tease and failing miserably, an unmistakable tremor in my voice.
He glared at me.
"On the other hand..." I conceded, crossing back to the bed and pulling the sheets up to his shoulders, "there's no point in advertising. I don't need the competition." And I dropped a kiss on his dry lips before going for Poppy.
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