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Fifty: Brooding and Bottlenecks

Tension ran through Severus at the sound of the hated voice of Black, and his lips automatically curled themselves into a sneer. "None of your business, Black, so why don't you just see to the fleas you must have picked up whilst you were out cavorting with the other mongrels."

Dragging himself up enough to look across the room at the partition concealing Harry and Severus, Black growled back, "I've already said that when it concerns Harry it /is/ my business, Snape."

"Now now, gentlemen." A break in the developing war came with Dumbledore's voice. "Sirius, I'm afraid I must ask you to be patient for a while longer. When the time is right, you will come to understand what is happening." Apparently, he'd already tried to keep a leash on Sirius when he'd taken him off to talk to him earlier, Severus thought.

A quiet clatter of dishes coming to rest upon a table, and Dumbledore continued. "Now, Madame Pomfrey had made the request of a meal for Harry, but the House elves and I suspected that more would be needed, and after all- my little friends do so enjoy making impromptu meals to be enjoyed at need." More sounds of movement came from outside the partition, suddenly emphasizing to Severus the lack of movement from Harry.

Looking over, he noted that the boy was somewhat slumped into himself, no doubt enjoying a good sulk and self-browbeating. "We'll talk later," Severus quietly said to Harry. Green eyes blinked and lifted to stare at him, widened and then despairing. Shaking his head, Severus couldn't help but smirk ruefully although the expression was only brief. For how long had he wanted to see Harry just like this in past years- repentant and fearfully respectful? Now the expression just made him more tired.

Footfalls approached the partition and the clumsy clink of a spoon on a soup bowl from across the room made it clear to Severus that Black was being stubborn as usual and trying to feed himself whilst half conscious. Not that the condition was new to him, Severus couldn't help but add silently. There was no way he was going to speak to Harry further on this while Black was aware and in the same room. Silently he cursed Poppy for making them stay.

The partition was opened enough for Dumbledore to carry a tray inside, laden with two soup bowls and a plate filled with small finger sandwiches. "You need to build your strength," he said kindly as he set the tray down. Severus was somewhat surprised that Dumbledore hadn't levitated the tray in an attempt to give something to distract Harry from his current state of mind. Perhaps he was planning something else, an idea that Severus didn't entirely like.

Bowls were set on small tables for each of them, Severus' being the bed's lap table, and the sandwich plate was set on the table next to him within easy reach of both him and Harry.

At the sound of a spoon clattering to the floor and quiet cursing from Black, Dumbledore smiled again, "Perhaps I had better give our Mr. Black some assistance; I see that the two of you should be able to handle things in here." Promptly, he turned and parted the curtains, closing them behind him before crossing the ward.

It grew silent once more as Harry continued to only cradle his bowl of soup, stirring it listlessly. With the hopes of prompting Harry to eat, Severus tried setting an example for him and tucked into his own soup carefully so that he wouldn't join Black in losing his silverware to the floor below. He wasn't particularly hungry - he rarely was anymore - but perhaps if Harry was faced with something other than a fire-breathing potions master and was instead in the company of someone calmly eating their soup, he might unwind at least a little bit. Knowing the dark feelings Harry was experiencing far too well from his childhood, Severus' intent was to refrain from speaking until after the meal was finished. When Harry tasted his soup and then started eating with a will, Severus took a breath and returned to his soup as well.

That internal promise lasted until just after they'd finished their soup. Severus wasn't surprised that Harry was hungry after all the work he'd been doing as far as healing was concerned. What did surprise him was when they both reached for a sandwich on the plate and Harry quickly drew back from him before contact was made.

Severus was hardly the type to enjoy touching anyone if he could help it, but the behavior on Harry's part was new. Frowning, Severus didn't eat the sandwich; instead he broke the silence and asked, "What is the problem, Mr. Potter?" his voice perhaps a touch sharper than he'd intended.

Harry's shoulders drew up defensively at the tone and shook his head silently.

Controlling his voice to neutrality, Severus noted, "Avoiding the issue isn't going to help." He broke another internal promise to himself as he brought up the subject rather than waiting for more privacy. In a quiet hiss, he stated, "These abilities aren't going to go away. They will be here whether we want them to be or not. If you shy away from the issue, you will not learn to control them and you will do yourself and everyone around you more harm than good." Sternly, he added, "I will not allow you to do so. Together we are going to learn how to use these abilities, or together we are going to die when they backfire on us again." Waggling his finger sandwich at Harry, he scowled, "Now, Harry, accept the truth of the situation and pull yourself out of that funk or we shall see how well you learn to control the powers whilst under Imperio."

The combination of the threat and the sight of Severus shaking a sandwich at him was enough to crack Harry's composure. He started giggling a little, even if it had a slightly hysterical edge. When Harry looked up at Severus again and saw traces of concern seeded through the impatience in his aura, it softened the edges of Harry's self-loathing a little further.

Severus was right in that Harry needed to control his portion of their powers. If Severus was able to continue dealing with him and still be concerned ... Harry knew from recent experience the large extents that Severus was capable of hating- both himself and others. If what Harry did wasn't a cause for hate in Severus, Harry decided that he could make an attempt at forgiving himself.

Harry knew it would be difficult as his sense of guilt was great, but Severus had already spoken to him about it and he didn't want to be the cause of further aggravation. Harry also knew Sirius well enough to know that the man would insist it wasn't Harry's fault. Not an entirely true statement, but it made Harry determined that he /would/ learn to control the power so that it would not be his fault again.

Something of Harry's expression must have transmitted his intentions as Severus nodded once when Harry looked up at him again. "With that decision made, eat. You'll need it."

By the time they had finished their meal, Madame Pomfrey had returned. Sending a house elf away with the dishes, she set to checking up on Sirus and then Severus and Harry before she would even begin to answer Severus' demanded questions on the status of the potions. Entering the partition, Madame Pomfrey cast a silencing spell around their immediate area before turning to speak to them.

"The potions are well enough and under stasis now. Once your energy has built up enough again," the nurse added with slow reluctance, "I will allow you to go to your lab and work on the potions under the condition that you take Mr. Potter with you to help and that you both check in with me every two hours for the first day at least."

"But it's been so slow," Harry murmured in protest as she scanned Severus with a quietly intoned spell. In his wish to keep Severus from aggravation, Harry spoke for his benefit. "At this rate it'll be days and ... Mr. Malfoy will probably need the potion soon."

Apparently satisfied with the results of the scanning, Madame Pomfrey turned to regard Harry seriously. "In my experience, there are many causes behind why some treatments may be slow to take effect. For instance, if the Skelegro were to work too quickly the regrowing bone would likely do a great deal of damage to the limbs and would not be correctly placed either. Not to mention the agony that the patient would experience. You recall how much it hurt as it is, do you not?"

Remembering all too well, Harry nodded emphatically.

"Well then. Other reasons behind a slow treatment may involve a bottleneck of some sort. Most frequently it is either caused by an improperly created medication or cast spell, or it could be a side effect of a curse or other ill effect battling the treatment. However," she added as she inspected him sternly, "I do believe that in this case, the bottleneck is in you."

"How do you mean?" Harry protested. "I want Severus to be well again- I wouldn't do anything to hurt-"

"I didn't meant to imply that you would, for you would not. As a matter of fact, that is part of the problem." The nurse placed a reassuring hand upon Harry's shoulder. "You are too afraid of harming Severus that you are subconsciously not allowing the healing energy to travel at a faster pace than a trickle. This is not your fault; you are not a trained mediwizard. However, you will need to realize and accept this, and make a concerted effort to allow the healing to flow more swiftly. Do not push it, however. Do not force the energy out or you will drain yourself and burn Severus. Just ... do not fear and let the magic do its work for you."

"But the last time I let the magic do its work, it drained Severus and hurt Sirius," Harry argued.

Madame Pomfrey shook her head gently, "You were casting magic in urgency and perhaps even a bit of anger or fear. Just relax. I will watch over you as you try again this time, Harry. I will not let Severus come to harm. Do not fear."

Harry looked over at Severus who had been listening, and Severus nodded once with silent permission.


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