Disclaimer: I'm not muscling in on JK's turf - just gambolling on it, like a spring lamb, having fun working out the literary and psychological puzzles which she is having fun setting us
"I don't want to have to wake him up when he obviously needs sleep so badly. At the same time, he's starved to the bone and I really don't want to leave him dependent on nothing but a drip for nourishment any longer, especially with the demands the burns are still making on his system. But there seems no point in setting up a central line when, in fact, the sooner we get his digestive system working on some actual food the better - so I'm going to put in a naso-gastric tube, at least until he wakes up naturally."
"It means I feed a tube up his nose - God knows, there's plenty of room for it - and down the back of his throat into his stomach, so we can get small amounts of food into him directly without having to wake him up to swallow. Don't worry: I'll teach you how to use it."
Poppy looked horrified. "I - I realize that Muggles have to do the best they can with - mechanical measures, but even so, surely this is... he's a man, not a, a ninjun or whatever you call those things. There must be another way, surely."
"Are you able to magic small amounts of food directly into his stomach accurately enough to be sure of not injuring him? No?" He tipped the sleeping man's head forward gently and prepared to insert the lubricated tip of the tube. "In that case, kindly get on with your job and let me get on with mine."
By a minor miracle, they managed to bring the patient up to full hydration without any more major seizures. By the following day - the fifth day after his dramatically horrible return to Hogwarts, including the day and a half he had spent lying in undiscovered agony in the students' Potions-supplies storeroom - Snape seemed stable enough that Adrian felt safe to return to work, though he still planned to return to the school every evening, as soon as his hospital shift was over, and spend the night there, so that he could check on his patient at 7am and 9pm every day. "Bob - my flatmate - is going to wonder what I'm up to, but I'll tell him I'm staying with Immie's little sister and some friends of hers, helping them out with something. That's not not true, is it?"
They were using the Floo as little as possible, now, for security reasons, so in the morning Adrian made the brisk seven-minute walk to the Hogwarts gates where he was met by Tonks, in all her pink-haired glory, ready to Apparate him almost to the doors of Glasgow Royal Infirmary. The method of transition was appealingly reminiscent of a Star Trek Transporter but the sensation made him slightly sea-sick.
Replaced back into his own world, he wondered whether the whole thing had been some weird hallucination - maybe he really had had the 'flu' and the rest of it was just a fever dream. He wasn't sure whether he hoped that it was real or that it wasn't. If it was real then so was Snape's dreadful suffering - but so were love and care and magic and wonder and his own dazzling maiden performance, definitely worthy of Hawkeye Pierce although he thought it as probably shouldn't.
But at half past eight in the evening there was Tonks, waiting to yank him through a hole in reality much too small for him, and walk him across the green grounds in the darkness, watching the many-fingered folly of the castle's roof-line rearing against the stars. And there was the infirmary, and Minerva McGonagall coming to greet him looking reasonably cheerful, so that he felt safe to ask "So how's Sleeping Beauty, then?"
Out cold, was the invariable answer. Adrian had heard the expression "sleeping like the dead," but he hadn't seen the thing demonstrated until now. On the whole, though, he thought that it was probably a good thing - not only because Snape had four months'-worth of lost sleep and of overwhelming physical and mental exhaustion to make up for, but because unconsciousness was known to accelerate healing. Rather than try to stir Snape out of his profound slumber, it seemed better and safer to teach Poppy how to use the naso-gastric tube, and let the man sleep for as long as he needed to.
He had already slept through having his spinal cord mended - usefully so, since Poppy had had to immobilize him for twelve hours in case any sudden shift of position disrupted the smooth re-joining of the nerve paths. She had hardly needed to bother: the man might have been a stone for all the movement he made.
In the event, Poppy got used to using the tube very rapidly, although it still made her tut under her breath. She learned to prop Snape into a partial sitting-position - that, at least, was a simple matter of transfiguring the shape of the bed - aspirate a little fluid to make sure the tube was still sitting correctly in his stomach, and hang up the bag with the liquid feed, warmed to room temperature; basic sugars on the evening of the operation, and then a special formula mix which Tonks Accio'd from the hospital stores on Adrian's instructions.
Adrian told her that it was possible to attach the bag to a pump, which would deliver the feed continuously and as slowly as was desirable. But apart from the usual difficulty in getting Muggle electrical devices to work in a standing magical field, it made the whole thing sound even more like priming an engine and Poppy preferred to feel that she was - despite the paraphernalia of tubes and bags and stands and syringes - still feeding and caring for her friend with her own hands. It was something that they had shared and understood in each other after all, when he had had mind enough to do more than tremble and weep - when he was her friend and colleague, her bold brittle almost-son whom she had fretted over since he was eleven - that preference for doing things with your own hands, rather than just a casual wave of a wand. Something they had both shared, eccentrically, with Hagrid - the knowledge that the touch of hands was almost an act of worship, of reverence, whether it was for the beauty of a potion truly made or the intricate marvel of a living being.
A barely living being, in Snape's case, but at least he obeyed Minerva's strict instructions and somehow kept on breathing steadily in and out. The patient's stomach was so shrunken that at first Poppy had to introduce the feed a few cc's at a time, at half-hour intervals; but over the course of a couple of days she was able to get him up to the equivalent of a mouthful or two at a time, at least. It still meant that he was only taking the equivalent of two or three bowls of soup a day, which was little enough for a man who had been, before he was maimed, over six feet tall. But his metabolism was dropping back down to normal now that the burns were almost healed, and the level of myoglobin in his urine was tailing off, indicating that he was no longer trying to digest his own muscles. Adrian assured her that the special feed-mix which Tonks had purloined from the Muggle hospital was especially nourishing: so the little he could absorb was enough that she could at least be sure he would no longer lose weight, if he did not gain it, and Adrian thought it safe to discontinue feeding him via the IV drip; although he continued to administer antibiotics and extra water by that route.
Every day, she and Adrian checked the patient's blood-sugar levels with a diagnostic spell, to make sure that his system was coping with the feed and his insulin-levels were within normal parameters, and administered extra insulin if they were not. And every day that passed, Snape remained asleep - deeply, profoundly asleep. When they handled him, to salve or clean or feed him, his head lolled back limply and his arm hung loose and flail. If it hadn't been for the diagnostic spells Poppy would have thought he was in an actual coma, but to her relief the spells showed that he was simply burnt out with exhaustion and weakness. Sometimes she sat and held his hand and talked to him in a low voice, reassuring him that he was in a safe place and that nothing bad was waiting for him when he woke, but his famine-sunken eyes remained closed, thick black lashes lying like smudges of soot in the hollowed-out sockets.
After five days of this death-like slumber, Snape finally began to surface - but in no very easy or peaceful fashion. Shivers chased each other across his skin as his eyelids flickered, and when Poppy caught his hand and tried to talk him to the surface he made a soft, frightened noise and flinched away from her - having only bad expectations of what he might be waking to. His eyes when he finally opened them were wild and lost, empty of recognition, and it was only Adrian's return a few hours later which finally ended his tight, miserable shivering.
Waking up was certainly a positive advance, medically speaking; especially since it meant that he could now - with a lot of gentle coaxing - eat something a little more solid than the fine puree required by the naso-gastric tube. Even if it was only thick soup and porridge. Feeding him was an emotional minefield, since he was still almost too weak to swallow and his stomach was long out of practice at handling anything with fibre in it, so that he still needed to be fed little and often. In the eagerness of his hunger and his long deprivation he would try to bolt down whatever was offered, as if he thought it might be taken away in a second, but if he ate more than a mouthful or two at a time he immediately threw up, and then shook worse than before. They left the tube in for a few more days, to make sure enough nourishment was getting into him, but that only made him the more likely to gag - and it didn't help that the antibiotics had killed off most of his surviving gut-flora. Adrian had a difficult and frustrating time of it trying to explain to Poppy, Albus and Minerva what live yoghurt was and why it might aid Snape's digestion - they seemed to think it was the kind of thing Hagrid might keep in a pen.
They had longed for Snape to be able to sleep, had seen it as an entirely positive goal; but the reality was that, rested, he was more sensitive to his environment and more easily panicked by the slightest disturbance, cringing in abject, trembling submission whenever anyone went near him, even to feed him, and whining in his throat like a dog - which at first seemed to be all the sound he could make, even now that Bill had lifted Silencio off him. Adrian's cheerful reassurance that hypervigilance was only to be expected in somebody so badly abused didn't make it any easier to deal with or to watch. Also, Snape still slept at least twenty hours out of twenty-four - and when he slept, he dreamed.
The first time he passed straight from deep sleep into howling anguish, clawing at his own skin and at anyone who came near him, Poppy Pomfrey and Albus, whose turn it was to sit with him, were close to panic themselves - but within a day they were viewing it as routine and Dumbledore, with his irritating ability to look on the bright side, was pleased that at least their patient was vocalizing now. He was even more pleased when Snape actually began to speak out of his tearing dreams, proving that his speech-centres were intact - even if it meant alternating between raging incoherent profanity and sobbing pleas for mercy.
Even if his voice was coarsened into a raven's croak, ruined by thirst and screaming. Even if he never spoke out of any conscious and voluntary desire to communicate, but only three parts asleep and in the grip of nightmare. Gradually, quietly, the members of staff, and several members of the Order of the Phoenix, came to pay their respects but all left saddened and frustrated, and many left in tears. Even Harry came, awkward, hushed and guilty, and went away again shaken and pale, after watching his quondam enemy gasping and crying as Professor McGonagall tried in vain to wake him.
Hermione Granger, briskly uptight though she generally was, proved to be surprizingly good with the worst of his distress. She happened to be present during one of these desperate episodes, helping Poppy Pomfrey to make up the healing potions which Snape himself would formerly have made, and she seemed more able than the three adults to enter into his nightmare delirium with him and change it for him - promising him both mercy and rest in a soft, steady voice, although there were tears in her eyes when she turned away from him. He for his part seemed to find her less threatening than his former colleagues, and even permitted her to hold his hand gently without shaking or pulling away.
The man had taken so many calming draughts and Dreamless Sleep potions over the years that they no longer had much of an effect when matched against outright panic, so that there was little Poppy or anyone could do to ward off the nightmares. The dreams were so scarring and horrible to watch, let alone to live through, that they even considered Obliviating some of the worst of Snape's memories - despite the ethical problems associated with tampering with a wizard's memory without his consent. But when Dumbledore so much as tried, delicately, to use Legilimency to identify particular traumas and triggers Snape shied away in panic and slammed down the shields which made him one of the best Occlumens on record, and Albus had no desire to commit another sort of rape by forcing the victim's mind. Even if he could do so, which was moot.
In any case, all that he could sense in Snape's memory before it closed to him was a vast long confused tangle of horror, a kaleidoscope of agonies coming so close on each other's heels that the sufferer could neither separate them nor name their source; of hands and mouths and genitals pawing at him, penetrating and choking him as he tried madly to push them away; of hands and knives, whittling him away to a useless stump of himself; of sobbing with thirst and hunger as other hands yanked his head back by the hair and forced him to drink things that were foul, or poisonous, or that left him twisting and howling in the grip of some magical distortion.... There was no one thing, or even a dozen things, which could be taken out to disconnect the mechanism of panic; it was all too crazily interconnected, and taking it all away - leaving Snape with no memory of being tortured or abused at all - would still leave his mind dragged down by a great cold soggy mass of fear and shame, without even understanding the reason. That might stop him dreaming so violently in the short term - but in the long term it would make his mental and physical injuries even harder to deal with.
The man was still as frail and light and brittle as a dry leaf, as if the slightest gust of wind could carry him off. Nevertheless Adrian was very pleased with his patent's progress - nightmares, shaking fits, vomiting and all. Nine days after Snape's return to Hogwarts, the young surgeon was able to remove the last of the hydrogel dressings from skin which looked - thanks to Poppy's ministrations - months rather than days healed, and the following day he felt it safe, finally, to thank the unicorn in all his wild dignity and his edgy grace, and send him on his way. There were plenty of tears then, when he was able to say with some confidence that Snape, weak and exhausted though he still was, was now significantly more likely to live than not. Filius Flitwick sniffled gently and tried to pretend he hadn't, Hermione stifled a sob, Albus and Minerva wept openly and Hagrid, predictably, cried like a village pump, until the tears dripped off the ends of his beard like falling stars.
Adrian still came every morning and evening to check on his patient, though he no longer felt it necessary to sleep on the premises overnight. He looked over the latest diagnostic list which Poppy Pomfrey handed him, and seemed reasonably pleased. "Has he shown any sign of recognition yet?"
"Not really, no." She sighed tiredly. "He seems marginally less frightened of Hermione Granger than he is of the rest of us, but that really isn't saying much. You seem to be the only person who doesn't terrify the life out of him."
"Is it because I'm black, do you think? Could it be that there aren't any black Death Eaters?"
Dumbledore shook his head. "I don't think it can be that. The Zabinis are black, and I'm fairly sure that the father at least will have taken part in...." He gestured wordlessly at Snape's terrible injuries.
"Must be the accent, then. Or maybe it's my excellent bedside manner... seriously, having a good bedside manner is a bit like being a horse-whisperer. I think we can take him off this tomorrow," he added, checking the drip. "That will give him the full ten days on antibiotics - and he's really taking enough fluids by mouth, now." He strolled to the other side of Snape's bed and stood looking down at him. "What do you think, then, man?" he asked softly. "Am I a Snape-whisperer?"
Snape opened his empty eyes and watched him warily, but he didn't shake or attempt to jerk away, even when the young surgeon sat down beside him and slid a firm but gentle hand behind his back to lift him up while Dumbledore adjusted both the pillows and the bed to prop him in the right position to be fed. If anything, he was so calm he looked hypnotised.
"Don't worry, it's not more yoghurt. A little chicken soup today," Adrian said coaxingly. "Jews always say it's the best thing for you and it really is great stuff - very good for your chest, leik. That's it - good man. A little more." He looked across at Madam Pomfrey. "Could you pass me my bag, please - and a clean glass?"
When he had his bag, he drew out a bottle of what looked to be a rather expensive red wine, and poured a moderate measure. "I have something nice for you" he murmured, but at that the patient broke away from his trance-like calmness and made a sharp, unhappy noise, turned his face away and did his best to curl up, hunching his shoulders miserably and keeping his mouth tightly closed.
"Not the right thing to say?" Adrian asked thoughtfully. "All right." He touched Snape's quaking shoulder lightly with the tips of his fingers. "It's all right, man. This is just me. I'm not going to hurt you - everything's going to be fine. Come on professor, come on, now - that's it. Good man. I really do have something for you that I think you'll like."
When he had managed to get the frightened man to turn to him again voluntarily, he held the glass to his lips. "That's it, now - just a little sip...." As Snape tasted the wine, his expression and his whole demeanour changed. He stopped trembling and relaxed back against the pillows, his eyes fixed on Adrian's face, breathing fast but looking, for the first time, cautiously intrigued rather than petrified. Adrian grinned at him. "That's all right, isn't it? A little more? Good man."
Afterwards he handed the rest of the bottle to Poppy, looking serious and thoughtful. "Keep it fresh - I'm guessing you'll have a method - and give him a mouthful or two after you feed him. Well, maybe not every time you feed him - I don't mean you to make him drunk, leik - but at least a couple of times a day."
"To aid his digestion?"
"Well - partly. But mainly - well, to let him know that he is still a... an adult, not just a collection of symptoms: a sophisticated person who used to sit down to a proper meal with wine, and will be able to again soon."
The taste of the wine, if nothing else, did seem to penetrate Snape's conditioned dread and register as Something Nice - as something that really was nice, and not a cruel joke played on a starving man. It occurred to Hermione - who being Muggle-born and a daughter of dentists knew more about the treatment of long-term, intractable illness than most wizards could ever hope or fear to - that they should treat his dazed confusion and his inability to recognize his surroundings as if he were in a coma, and fill his environment with pleasant, familiar stimuli which might lure him to the surface of whatever quagmire of misery and terror he was currently floundering in.
Her first idea - that they should surround him with the sight and smell of potion ingredients - proved to be a very bad one, and it was only after Madam Pomfrey and Professor Dumbledore had spent a terrifying twenty minutes getting him comparatively calm again that it occurred to anyone that less than two weeks ago he had spent a day and a half lying in a Potions store-cupboard with his belly cut open, unable even to scream. But quizzing the house-elves about his favourite foods, bringing him his own blanket up from the dungeons, burning scented oils and playing music to him all seemed to help. He was still fragile and drifting, lost without anchor and unable clearly to recognize anyone or anything, but he knew the difference between pleasure and pain, and being fed on sweet tea and pistachio ice-cream did seem to reduce the frequency of his clawing, desperate panic-attacks.
Hermione even took to brushing his hair with a soft brush after washing it. The first time she tried it he was miserably submissive and quivery, expecting some fresh torment, but she hummed to him softly and kept brushing, and before long she had him almost as drowsily placid and unstrung as Crookshanks always was when she brushed him.
The house-elves, in fact, were even more than ordinarily solicitous towards Snape, and Hermione was intrigued enough to ask Rinna about it. The infirmary's head house-elf flicked her ears back and forth doubtfully. "Miss hat-knitting Miss wouldn't understand, Miss wouldn't."
"Try me. Was he... nice to you? Polite?" Hermione asked, trying unsuccessfully to square that idea with her memories of Snape.
"No, he is horrible to us. He shouts at us and calls us dunderheads and interfering little idiots, and he is deliberately provoking, and sometimes he throws things, although he is always careful to miss. But he is rude to us exactly as he is rude to humans, no more or less, and he provokes us as if we are persons to be provoked and not just livestock to be used, and he knows the value of work done with the hands."
Gradually, they settled into a routine. If Snape still seemed to know none of them, trapped half asleep in a confused tangle of fearful anticipation and fractured memory, still they had learned what really scared him and what didn't and except when he was actually dreaming they were able, generally, to keep his fear at a level of queasy tension rather than outright terror. Hermione even hoped, as she sat peacefully brushing his hair for him and listening idly to the matron's voice drifting through the door to the main hospital wing as she treated a patient, that he was beginning to recognize her - if not as someone he had known before, then at least as someone unthreatening in the here and now.
The private room he was in had been spelled silent, so that when he screamed shrilly and spasmed in his sleep his cries would not alarm any patients in the main body of the infirmary. The Headmaster persisted in believing that they would have the old prickly, over-sensitive, painfully dignified Severus back some day, if he lived - and he knew that Snape would find it humiliating to have the whole school listening in on his boiling nightmares. Besides which, the very fact that Professor Snape was still alive was being kept secret - from Voldemort, particularly, but also from the school. The Headmaster thought - and for once Hermione could see the point of his reticence - that to tell the Slytherins that their Head of House was still alive after four months of mind-wrenching suffering, to rouse all their romantic and protective instincts and make them feel that good had triumphed and that their protector had been saved from the clutches of the monster, and then to have to tell them that he was dead after all, or driven mad beyond hope of retrieval, would not only be cruel but would teach them a very negative lesson - that evil, in the end, would always triumph over good.
Noises from the outer infirmary, however, could be heard perfectly clearly in here, since it was thought that the sound of the day-to-day running of the school might help Professor Snape to realize where he was. Listening and brushing, Hermione heard the outer door bang open and a voice she thought she recognized as a third-year Hufflepuff Beater say something urgent about a broom and an accident - and then there were more urgent voices and the sound of hurrying feet - and then Snape jerked away from her hands and began to shriek, horribly, like something caught in a trap.
Oh, God - Professor McGonagall and Madam Pomfrey were just the other side of the door but they could hear nothing and there was no way she could leave him even to fetch them - and there seemed to be something almost equally dramatic going on out there anyway. "Professor Snape - sir - " she said firmly, trying to make him hear her as he wept and muttered "No - no - no," rolling up and trying to shield himself one-handed with his scarred face turned aside from her, deathly-white and gasping for breath. But she did not dare to touch him, and nothing she could say or do would reach him as he lay curled on his side, rocking and weeping in blind inconsolable terror.
An interminable ten minutes later the door opened to admit Adrian, come for his evening visit and talking over his shoulder about arteries to Madam Pomfrey, who was busy with someone in a bed on the far side of the room. Professor McGonagall at his shoulder saw what was happening before he did and hurried to Snape's side with a shocked gasp, wringing her hands and muttering "Oh, dear - Severus, I'm so sorry, we were busy with - " She glanced aside at Hermione distractedly, her square glasses sliding untidily down the sharp ridge of her nose. "Did you - do you know what provoked this, Miss Granger?"
"It was the blood," Adrian, the surgeon, said, flaring his flattened nostrils. "He smelled the blood."
It was only much later that anyone registered the fact that Snape had, for the first time, spoken while at least nominally conscious.
He cringed and shook at the movement, as he did at any movement, now, and tucked himself down into a shuddering ball. They had moved him back to his own rooms, since he was stable enough now not to need round-the-clock medical supervision and it was thought that the familiar environment would be more pleasant for him - and a lot less prone to sudden shocks. But he seemed hardly any calmer here than he had been in the infirmary. McGonagall put her hand out towards him, wanting to touch him and not daring to, and murmured "Shush - shush now, Severus, you're at Hogwarts, you're safe now. Look at me, now - look at me." Trying to soothe him, as she had done so many times over the past two weeks, with a singular lack of success.
She had no expectation that this occasion would be any different - but this time, this time the command at least got through and he lifted his face, jerkily, like a puppet, and looked at her obediently. She almost cringed away herself: looking into his eyes was like looking down a tunnel into some awful abyss but she held his gaze by an effort of will and called his name again, coaxingly and this time, this time she saw recognition waking in those empty eyes like water flowing into a dry well. He stared at her, more focussed than they had yet seen him since his return, and opened his mouth as if to say something, but nothing came out except a gasping hiss. As she stared back, willing him to speak, he licked his lips and tried again. Finally, in a voice like the rustle of dry leaves, he mouthed "Minerva?"
"Yes - that's right, Severus - oh, yes, it's me, it's Minerva."
"Minerva!" he croaked again, hoarsely, and struggled to move towards her, though without his left arm to lean on he could barely raise himself from the bed. She gathered him up and folded her arms round him, and he clutched at her with his one hand, buried his face against her shoulder and whispered "Minerva - oh, Minerva" over and over, while she cradled him against her and the tears poured down her lined cheeks.
"Are you real, Minerva?"
"Of course I'm real, child - what kind of a question is that?"
"The Dark One made me dream a false you, to torment me with, a false you and a false Dumbledore - I thought that I was safe, that I was home, and then he made me see how you spat at me and gave me back to the torturers but I didn't think you'd really do that - if you didn't want me you might give me to Azkaban but not to, to - please be real, Minerva. Please be you. Please be real please be real please be real...."
"As if I would do such a thing!" she said fiercely, hugging him against her. "As if either of us would give you up to anybody." Truth to tell, there were times in the past when she had wished his erratic temperament, his aggravating sense of humour and his smugly insincere post-Quidditch commiserations a thousand miles away, and if he'd had to end up in Azkaban to achieve it she would seriously have considered it, provided it was only for a few weeks. But right now she felt as if she never wanted to take her eyes off him, ever again.
Snape pressed himself against her, his eyes open and unseeing in the firelight and the gathering dark, and whispered "Please, Minerva, Minerva, help me - don't let go of me. Don't let me drown."
"Shh, child, shh. Of course I won't." Releasing one hand for a moment and hugging him the more firmly with the other, she took up her wand and transfigured the end of the bed into something resembling a giant armchair, so that she could settle back comfortably with him in her arms, and hold him for as long as he needed. "You can rest, child: we will not let anyone hairm you." Stroking his long hair back from his face, she began to sing to him softly, a fine old song about loyalty and lost hope and a promise of safety in a world of danger.
Albus Dumbledore rose to his feet and stood for a moment looking down the length of the Great Hall. Pumpkin lanterns grinned inanely and lasciviously from every niche and nook, but there were no grins on the faces of the students at this year's Hallowe'en Feast. The mood was grim and subdued even at the Gryffindor table, and the Slytherins looked as though all the heart had been taken out of them.
He cleared his throat. "Ladies, gentlemen, might I have your attention? Thank you. Many of you," he said steadily, "will have heard that Professor Snape's body was returned to us seventeen days ago, in a mutilated state." He heard one of the younger Slytherins give a muffled sob at that, but before the condition could become general he went on smoothly. "I have to tell you now that that was not entirely true, or at least not the whole truth."
Sharp eyes turned towards him - a sudden collective intake of breath. "Please forgive me, but I did not tell you this before because I did not wish to run the risk of raising false hopes, only to have to dash them. Professor Snape was and is grievously injured, but he was and is alive, and Madam Pomfrey assures me that his condition is improving and he is expected to survive." There was a sudden buzz of excited muttering at that, a flutter of movement, especially from the Slytherins - but not joy, no, because they had all, surely, heard of the terrible mutilations inflicted on Snape's body and the thought of him being alive and suffering was almost worse than him being dead.
Dumbledore leaned his hands on the table, feeling suddenly very tired. "I am sure that many of you, especially those of you in Slytherin House, will wish to visit the professor, but I have to warn you that currently he is too ill and too... exhausted to receive visitors. At present he is still - dazed after his ordeal but he is capable of recognizing his surroundings and of speaking," (after a fashion, he thought grimly, and if you included raving for mercy), "and we have considerable hope that his mental faculties will prove to be undamaged.
"Many of you... many of you will have seen the rumours in the press that Professor Snape was a Death Eater. I have to tell you now that those rumours are both true and entirely misleading." He had half expected an uproar at that little revelation - but you could, as the saying went, have heard a pin drop. The Slytherins didn't seem even to be breathing. "Severus Snape was... foolish, misguided in his youth, as so many young persons are, and he allowed himself to be misled by the false glamour of Voldemort's court and by his promise of a glorious new age.
"But Severus was not a particularly cruel man by nature - I know some of you might dispute that," he added, hearing a snort of disbelief from the direction of Gryffindor, "but his position was a precarious one, as has now been amply demonstrated, and the strain under which he lived had a regrettable effect on his disposition. He realized early on that Voldemort's promises were hollow and his cause evil, and he began to work secretly against Voldemort, whilst still appearing to work for him. He was not just my eyes and ears, as the press so kindly revealed last year; he was a mole and a double agent, working under deep cover: the most dangerous and stressful job of all.
"Severus Snape," he said firmly, "has probably done more, and certainly risked more, to counter the rise of the Dark Lord than any other single individual, not excepting myself. For that courage and dedication, he has paid a terrible price. Voldemort discovered - I do not know how - that during the battle at the Ministry of Magic it was Professor Snape who had betrayed him and alerted me. The professor was captured during the incident in June and - tortured very cruelly, over a period of months. This is the cause of his present injuries.
"He was returned to us as an object lesson, with the intention that he would die before our eyes, but fortunately and with... some outside assistance Madam Pomfrey was able to save his life. Hereafter I promise to keep you informed of any changes in his condition, and to let you know as soon as he is well enough to receive visitors.
"I have to warn you, however, that Voldemort is likely to take Professor Snape's survival as a personal affront. I did not think that it was either feasible or fair, especially to Slytherin House, to keep the news to myself any longer; but now that the fact that Professor Snape is alive is general knowledge, I am placing the school on high security alert. Please be on the lookout for any suspicious activities or magical traces, especially in the vicinity of Professor Snape's quarters, and report any such activities immediately to the nearest staff member. In view of the current political situation, I have to say, with regret, that that may include suspicious activities on the part of fellow students of this school."
He sat down, rather abruptly, and listened to the rising roar of angry, excited voices.
The Bonnie Moorhen is a lovely but rather sad little Jacobite song about James Stewart (the father of Bonny Prince Charlie, and the rightful James VIII of Scotland as far as they were concerned) fleeing the country. It's sad because it's full of hope that he will return again soon - and he never did.
"...although he thought it as probably shouldn't" is a slight paraphrase of a fairly common if now slightly old-fashioned British expression, used to soften the impression of arrogance which may be created by praising oneself. E.g., "I did a really good job there, though I sez it as shouldn't." Somebody more refined and/or formal, like McGonagall, would say "...although I say it who probably shouldn't."
That largely concludes the medical detail, which may come as a relief to the squeamish. Apologies to anyone who found it disturbing: as someone with a degree in Biology whose best mate is an ICU ward sister I find operations etc. interesting rather than upsetting, and I wanted to show Adrian's cheerfully medical mind-set. Thanks are especially due to cecelle for vetting all the medical bits for glaring inaccuracies.
Also, the story was written as an antidote to the sort of pornography-of-violence fanfic in which Snape (or any other character) is subjected to chapter after endless chapter of gloatingly-described as-it-happens torture and then doesn't even receive any sympathy and support as an antidote - either dieing horribly, or being expected to recover, without any apparent ill-effect, in a couple of weeks. I wanted to show how miserable, destructive and unerotic that kind of severe abuse is, to look at how you would really go about treating that sort of damage and how long it would take to recover, psychologically and physically - and to show Snape getting the proper kindness and care he deserves.
This chapter has been slightly edited in accordance with the new backstory in Deathly Hallows, to reduce the degree to which Dumbledore thinks of Snape as having been his friend prior to his disappearance, and to show people tending to think of him more as "Dumbledore" than as "Albus".
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