Chapter Forty-Seven: Offense and Defense
The sight of the smaller woman advancing threateningly upon Sirius Black was a sight that Severus would fondly cherish in the years to come. For not only was Black getting at least a little of his comeuppance, but just for once someone was standing in Severus' defense without asking for anything in return.
"But-" Black sputtered in anger for some moments even as he retreated a few steps from the angered matron. Finally deciding it was unwise to confront the woman in her own territory, Black struggled to suppress his temper. "... I'm sorry, Madame Pomfrey; I didn't mean to yell. But Snape-" he growled as he transferred his glare upon Severus.
"That doesn't matter," bristled Madame Pomfrey. "They are both patients of my ward, and you will refrain from such behavior if you wish to visit Mr. Potter. Otherwise you will have to wait outside until he is discharged from here."
"Discharged?" Black bristled in return. "What do you mean discharged?" An accusing glare was leveraged upon Severus as he asked the nurse, "He wasn't hurt, was he?"
"Not physically," Poppy growled softly, taking another step forward and forcing Black to concentrate upon her again to avoid a collision. "He's very stressed at the moment and needs some peace and quiet in order to rest. And that means no arguments or confrontations."
Black looked about to open his mouth again to protest, but when he glanced over at Harry who in all this time had subsided again into a near-cringe at Black's anger, Black refrained and frowned with what might have been actual concern. Dumbledore twinkled in the background as Black slowly drew a breath and spoke a little more quietly, "Harry can come with me. We'll walk around a little in the fresh air... talk about old times and all."
"Perhaps later on," Poppy firmly replied, "But not now. Go and let him rest. I'll send for some dinner which he will eat here."
"Aw, come on, Poppy," Black whined with a more casual address now that Poppy's wrath seemed to have been discharged- for the moment. "He'll be better off having dinner in the hall than here with Snape sneering and glaring at him. Enough to ruin anyone's appetite."
Severus, who had been watching Harry's aura slowly build to irritated anger with a distracted sort of fascination, wasn't entirely surprised when Harry suddenly burst into movement, tromping to the bathroom off of the ward in a fit of temper. Poppy looked a bit regretful, seemingly understanding the cause of Harry's departure. Black however looked after Harry without comprehension. He would have started to follow him but for Poppy's getting in his way again. Instead, he called, "Harry?" just before the boy entered the bathroom and slammed the door behind him. Black blinked and looked down at Poppy, "What's wrong?"
Severus decided to take that opportunity to enlighten Black about his blind insensitivity. "Perhaps he simply doesn't appreciate being spoken about as though he isn't in the room, and as though he doesn't have any say in what his plans are," he sneered at Black.
"And what do /you/ care, Snape? You don't look out for anyone but yourself," Black snarled.
Not caring to dignify the accusation with a return argument, Severus was of the mind to turn away from Black and ignore him, but there was that flame of hatred burning in his chest that was always difficult to subdue when it came to encounters with him. He certainly wasn't about to turn his back on the other man, not trusting Black's restraint- even if Dumbledore /was/ standing just behind him.
"Now now, my boy," Dumbledore murmured as he patted Black on the shoulder. "Let's go to the Great Hall for dinner; we still have much to discuss. Just give the boy some time; I'm sure you can come up to visit with Harry afterwards," he finished with a glance at Poppy who nodded in affirmation.
Severus couldn't help but mutter, "Must he?", but thankfully Dumbledore must have decided that no good would come of further arguments as he steered Black out of the ward before Black could frame a cutting reply in return.
Harry felt a wash of relief, even through his depression, when he could no longer hear other voices. Between the conversation about him and his own inner thoughts he had felt overwhelmed and angry- almost embittered at how Sirius was behaving and what he had said about Severus. Not that he hadn't expected it, but hearing the amount of hatred in his voice had hurt... it almost felt as though it had been directed at him.
Keeping the door to the bathroom firmly shut, Harry wandered over to the sink and washed his flushed face with cool water. It was then that he noticed dried traces of Severus' blood on his fingers from when he had been healing the older wizard. He bit his lower lip and set about washing his hands thoroughly.
His stomach churning, Harry cast occasional glances at the door, brooding upon what was happening outside. Although he didn't entirely trust Dumbledore any longer, he knew that the Headmaster would keep Severus and Sirius from harming each other; he needed them both. And so did Harry.
Making the short trip to the toilet, Harry lowered the cover and sat against the porcelain, thankful for its coolness as well as he closed his eyes wearily. He really didn't know if he'd be able to deal with the hostilities between the two now most prominent male figures in his life. Especially if he wound up becoming a weapon used against each other. To that end, he considered keeping the information regarding his newly forged link to Severus a secret. But then Sirius would have no reason to lay off of Severus apart from the truce that Dumbledore had asked of them at the ... the end of ... last year.
Harry moved forward on his seat, letting his elbows rest on his knees and his hands drape down just before them. Scouring his mind, he tried to distract himself with ideas of what he could tell his Godfather to satisfy him regarding Severus. Probably nothing would completely satisfy him, but maybe something would at least help a little...
As the door closed behind Dumbledore and Black, Severus felt himself grow disoriented for a brief moment and he glanced towards the closed bathroom door. "Poppy," he murmured, suddenly resting fully back against his pillows. "... Harry."
The nurse's eyes widened and she promptly went to the bathroom door. Likely she was checking whatever wards she might have on the area. Seemingly satisfied with what she saw, she calmly knocked on the door and gently called to the boy. Ah; that must mean the wards had told her he wasn't in physical danger...
Severus watched as the bathroom door eventually opened with a quiet click and Harry peered hesitantly through the small space he had cleared. Maintaining his own calm, Severus blinked once and folded his hands loosely before him, subtly broadcasting the clue that the visitors were no longer present while Poppy took the opportunity to measure up how badly Harry was feeling. Severus had no such difficulty; thanks to the aura sight, he knew. He sighed.
Likely this was going to take time and effort. There weren't any words to fix some problems; Severus knew this from seeing to his small horde of Slytherins. Harry would just have to learn and see for himself. Until then, treating Harry as normal would be the best thing for him.
Well, perhaps not the customary 'normal', but this new sort of 'normal', Severus amended to himself as he politely nodded to Harry when the boy came to resume his seat next to his bed. After all, it seemed he had Harry to thank for healing him- again; he felt better than he had in some time now. Peace reigned for a time as they shared a quiet dinner.
As hoped for, dinner passed uneventfully apart from the soft and suffocating whirls of depressive blackness that tainted Harry's aura. Severus was released from the Hospital Ward after a thorough checkup by Poppy in the isolation ward, leaving Harry to his contemplations for a short time.
Of course, it wasn't much of a surprise when Harry and Severus ran into Black again upon emerging from the corridor leading from the infirmary.
Black had first smiled upon spotting Harry, an expression that Severus had rarely if ever seen upon the other wizard except for when he had been getting the better of Severus during their student days. That smile faded somewhat upon noticing Severus' presence but with notable effort on Black's part, it didn't fade altogether. Instead, Black focused his attention upon the boy before him. "Harry," he greeted. "Are you feeling better?"
Surprisingly, Harry didn't respond immediately- as though he was studying Black to judge his mood. A moment later, Harry tried for a smile as well, although to Severus it was blatantly put there with his own show of effort; Harry's aura was as depressed as ever despite the addition of determination and a faint wisp of hope that was drowning in the darker sea. "Hello, Sirius. I'm much better, thank you."
"Good," Black promptly replied. "Why don't you and I go take a walk. Or we can go to the room that Dumbledore's letting me use..."
"I'm sorry, Sirius, but before we can do that there is something I need to get set straight with you," Harry murmured, his fingers unconsciously twisting themselves together with growing anxiety.
"Sure, Harry," Black replied with a somewhat untrained attempt at encouragement. "But we can go and talk somewhere else, can't we?"
Harry slowly shook his head, "No, Sirius. Right here and now. With Severus here as well."
Black scowled as he moved his attention again to Severus. "Snape! You're behind this all! Harry's been acting strangely and Poppy and Albus-"
"-Haven't let you have your way at every turn?" Severus interrupted. "Not like the way it was when we were students... Such a shame."
The expression on Black's features put Severus in mind of the other wizard's animagus form, as did his snarl. "What were you doing with Harry in the Forbidden Forest?" he asked, ignoring Harry's rising protests.
Maintaining his supportive position just behind and to one side of Harry, Severus allowed a smirk to take up residence. "I do believe that it is none of your business."
"Damn straight it's my business," Black yelled. "I'm Harry's Godfather!"
"And the boy has my condolences for that fact," Severus angrily returned. "He's had a difficult enough life without having to deal with you and your thoughtlessness, disregarding the consequences of your actions so long as it gets you what you want."
With this, Black bellowed with anger and started to charge at Severus, thankfully angling to bypass Harry. Not wanting Harry to get in the way, Severus reached out a hand to push Harry aside, but he didn't count on Harry's stubborn protectiveness and the boy's own building anger.
"STOP!" Harry yelled as he threw one hand outwards at Black. Suddenly Severus felt as though his very life was being drained through his hand and into Harry. Severus felt as though he was looking through a darkening tunnel as he watched Black being thrown against the far wall at the other end of the corridor. Then there was nothing as Severus crumpled to the floor and unconsciousness...
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