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Chapter Twenty-Six: Supper and Switches

The day passed into night swiftly with the past conversations and revelations to fill the time between the short snatches of sleep the wizard and student were able to take. Soon it was time for preparations to be made for their final meal... and hopefully deep sleep. Dumbledore retreated with Fawkes, promising to come down again in the morning.

The House Elves easily maintained their reputation for food that was both nutritious and desirable to the palate, especially with the drastically decreased number of people to feed in the castle. Even Severus found his mouth watering at the smells escaping from beneath the warming lid as Madame Pomfrey settled a tray upon a table that hovered securely over his lap. Satisfied at the sight of her patients being able to fend for themselves, Pomfrey stepped back and left them to it, calling over her shoulder, "You'll use the bathroom in here for your shower, Severus- you still need to remain within the wards for a while. Harry, you can use the bathroom out in the main ward in the meantime. I'll be back soon with your things."

As the door softly closed behind her, the two wizards glanced at each other, forks in hand. Harry was pleased to see that Severus had calmed again and while he was brooding- and there certainly was plenty to brood about- he wasn't in one of his downward spirals of depression. Rather than staring back for too long, Harry offered Severus a sheepish grin and set his attention to shifting the location of his meal from the plate to his stomach.

Harry's thoughts worked furiously on whether or not he should start pushing things again and ask Severus if he was going to use his potion treatment for his hair or not, and was greatly surprised when Severus quietly spoke after a few minutes of silence. "I expect it would be a good idea to refrain from using ... my Father's potion."

When there was no further sign of conversation, Harry hesitantly replied, couching his manner and tone to be as respectful yet casually open as he could. "That would be a good idea, Severus. We still don't know everything that it does for certain, do we?"

Severus didn't reply immediately, and glancing out of the corner of his eye Harry was able to see the cooler colors of sadness and hurt until they were brought back under control. When Severus spoke, his voice was as calm and thoughtful as ever. "Once I'm able, I'll do an analysis on the substance; find out its composition and process of brewing."

Blinking with surprise and realization, Harry stared wide-eyed at Severus. "You don't brew it yourself then?"

"No," Severus murmured, his gaze firmly remaining upon his plate. "My father sends me a supply occasionally, when I have need of it." With this he returned to his meal as did Harry who suddenly understood what was behind Severus' previous sadness and hurt.

Severus had trusted his father to the extent of not questioning him and ...

Harry shook his head to himself, feeling a surge of anger at the man who had worked with Voldemort against his own son. Although Harry wanted to believe that such a man must be evil and heartless, he couldn't discount Severus' reaction ... as though Severus had thought better of him. Severus was hurt by it- he hadn't been expecting that something from his father wouldn't be what he was told that it was. He believed in his father ... until now.

There was also another issue to consider. With Severus' last statement and the information previously revealed, Severus knew that Harry realized all of this. Sure, in past Severus belittled Harry's abilities and intelligence the past four years, but with their new situation Harry was certain Severus didn't underestimate him- if he ever really did. The last thing Harry wanted was for Severus to withdraw into himself again, either out of anger and embarrassment over the situation with his father, or out of self-preservation and reluctance to let someone else get so close to him. Again Harry felt anger for the waste of opportunity that Severus' father had thrown away by giving his loyalties first to Voldemort.

Wait a second- waste of opportunity?? Harry frowned fiercely and stabbed at the last piece of cutlet on his plate with a fierceness that caused Severus to start a little and glance over at him curiously. He couldn't manage sheepishness this time- not with how angry Harry was at himself, so Harry just muttered, "Sorry," and finished his meal. How could he frame it like that? Harry thought to himself. Severus was more than just an opportunity. More than just the cruel git of his past years. More than just a teacher that could give him a good grade. Even more than someone who just might be instrumental in keeping Harry's skin intact in his future confrontation with Voldemort.

Severus was intelligent, brave and cunning. He was hurt, and Harry wanted that stopped.

Movement from the other bunk alerted Harry to Severus' pushing the hovering table away in preparation for rising. Rather than question the wisdom of the action Harry carefully watched for any signs of trembling or weakness, pleased to see that their recent trials hadn't left too strong of an effect for Severus to manage.

He'd made his careful way to the edge of the bed when Madame Pomfrey entered the room carrying two sets of towels and warm looking robes. "Ah, there you are. You'll need this," she smiled as she handed the items to Severus. Turning to regard Harry, she placed the other set on the bedside table. "When you finish up, you know where to go. And yes," she stated briskly to the both of them, "this means you're no longer strictly confined to bed, and no- you're not to leave the Hospital Wing yet." With that stricture sorted out to her satisfaction and without waiting for reply, Pomfrey walked back out, calling lightly over her shoulder, "Do let me know if you need any help, gentlemen."

Harry felt himself blush, and spun his head around at the sound of a snicker from Severus. "The Boy Who Lived has hormones," he noted with amusement which faded as he glanced at the toiletries that Pomfrey had left with him. One hand plucked out a small cylindrical bottle filled with clear liquid, cradling it between elegant fingers before carefully setting it down on the nearest table. Silently, Severus made his way to the bathroom.

Harry's shower was uneventful, he wound up choosing the smaller shower stall over the respectably sized but not enormous bathtub in an effort to get clean quickly so that he could get a decent night's sleep.

Dried and dressed in his nighttime robes, Harry emerged from the bathroom in the main ward of the Hospital Wing and smiled warmly at Madame Pomfrey as he started to make his way towards the isolation ward.

The next thing he knew, he was opening his eyes to the sight of the matron's concerned features as she checked him over for concussion and bruises from where he lay on one of the isolation wing bunks. When her fingers gently brushed hair away from his scar, Harry flinched in pain and gasped for breath over a wave of nausea. "What happened?" he asked.

"It appears that you've had a reaction to Voldemort's most recent attempt at summoning Severus," she softly murmured in thoughtful regard for the beginning of Harry's building migraine. "Now, sit up slowly and drink this."

Harry sputtered around the glass as he tried visually searching the room for Severus. "Where is he?" he got out before Pomfrey more firmly applied herself to making Harry swallow the potion she held.

"He's perfectly all right," she soothed, handing Harry a bar of chocolate and straightening again. "You blacked out for a few minutes, but the pain for both of you diminished once we got you back inside the wards. He's finishing his shower now."

With a thankful sigh as the potion abated the nausea, Harry rested back against the pillows and made an attempt to gnaw at the chocolate he'd been given. "Just great," he muttered, "What are we going to do now? I thought this whole thing between us was supposed to be for the benefit of the Wizarding world; how can it work out when we're swooning at the slightest pain?"

"I'd hardly call this the slightest pain, Harry," came Severus' voice from the direction of the bathroom. When Harry turned to look, he found that Dumbledore was helping Severus to walk, his manner concerned and brooding. Severus himself had stopped short, his words seemingly caught in his mouth which was still open slightly, and Harry couldn't help but regard the other in return, shocked. Severus' hair was somewhat softer and appeared to be more of a dark brown, but that wasn't what caused Harry's consternation.

He didn't see an aura around Severus any longer. Frowning, he concentrated and tried again to no avail; it was difficult to do so with his scar still throbbing and his limbs still trembling in reaction to the most recent trauma. Just as Harry was about to voice his worries, Severus spoke again.

"Calm down, Harry; we'll sort this out. So ... this is what you meant by the aura you spoke of."


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