Chapter 2 : Late Night Visitor
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It had taken Harry a very long time to unwind after the events of the past 48 hours or so. After finding Hermione and Ron in the aftermath of the battle, he had just wanted to escape to the tower and sleep for days, but he still had people that he knew he needed to see.
One of the first people that he sought out had been Professor McGonagall. He had felt like he needed to tell her the truth about Professor Snape. He had thought that clearing his name was the very least that he needed to do in honor of the incredible bravery he had displayed in carrying out the actions he had done that had been instrumental in bringing down Voldemort.
Harry had been shocked, of course, to learn that Professor Snape had not died as he had originally believed. Professor McGonagall had withheld from him the exact details of how Snape had been rescued largely due, he had guessed, to the small crowd of students and professors that had been in close proximity to where they had been standing. She had indeed assured him that he was alive and was currently recovering at St Mungo’s hospital. The intense relief that this news had brought him very nearly overwhelmed him.
It had not been easy for him to convince Professor McGonagall of Snape’s innocence. It was only after they had taken another trip to the pensieve, and he witnessed the tears that she had been unable to hold back did he know that she finally understood all that she had just seen. He was most embarrassed when she embraced him so tightly and crooned on and on about how proud she was of him and how brave he had been. It was only when she heard Harry yawn loudly that she released him and ordered him to get some rest.
He barely remembered much of his journey up to Gryffindor tower, but was enormously happy to see that food had been set out for him in the common room. He quickly devoured a full plate of food, and was joined shortly thereafter by Hermione, who looked just as tired as he felt. Ron had remained with his family in the Great Hall, and she explained that she had felt like an intruder as they tried to deal with the loss of Fred.
The two of them sat and talked for hours about everything except for the events that had occurred in the past twenty-four hours. It wasn’t until it was nearly dinner time that they finally started acknowledging the exhaustion that had been threatening to overtake them. They exchanged hugs before they both retreated to their separate dorms for some much needed sleep. It had been mere seconds before Harry was very deeply asleep.
Harry cautiously pulled back his bed curtains and was surprised to see that he was no longer the only sleeping person in the room. The complete darkness made it nearly impossible to determine who was there with him. With a quietly muttered “Lumos” he easily identified Neville Longbottom, Dean Thomas, Seamus Finnagan, and Ron and George Weasley all sleeping quite soundly.
A quick check of his watch told Harry that it was shortly after two o’clock in the morning. He pondered the idea of summoning Kreacher, and asking him for a bite to eat before deciding that what he really needed right now more than food was more sleep.
Snape was awoken from a dreamless sleep by a woman dressed in the St. Mungo’s lime green robes typical of those that were usually worn by healers. He carefully studied the woman as he worked to wake himself up fully. This woman had a heart shaped face with perfectly proportioned features, pale white skin that looked almost porcelain, and jet black hair that framed her face. The most striking feature of this woman was her eyes that were sliver-grey speckled with the brightest blue flecks. She was, Snape decided, rather attractive in an unusual kind of way.
She held out a stone cup filled with a warm, neon yellow liquid in it. “This is the anti-venom. While I am mostly certain that I was able to remove most of the venom myself, I would feel more comfortable if you completed this treatment as well. Just as a precaution. I brewed enough for two more doses.”
Snape took the cup and drank it down and was somewhat surprised by the subtle citrus taste of the potion. “It takes much better than I would have imagined,” he muttered.
The woman grinned sheepishly. “I try to add some muggle food flavorings with my potions to make them easier to swallow. It’s something I started doing when I was worked on a children’s ward after having one too many potions spat back into my face due to their vile tastes.”
Snape scowled and looked down at the potion citically. “How can you know that the muggle ingredients won’t interfere with the potency of the potions?” he asked skeptically.
The healers smile faded immediately. “I guess we’ll just have to wait and see just how effective it is then. You’d best just hope that I was truly successful at removing the venom and that the anti-venom would just not be needed,” she stated coldly.
Snape stared up at the woman in complete confusion. Why had this woman that he had just barely met seemed to have taken such offense at his asking a simple question? Unable to resist using legilimency he searched through her eyes to the memories she held on the surface of her mind. He was utterly astounded to see an image of a much younger version of himself sitting alone in the Slytherin common room.
“Have we met before?” he asked casually, trying to hide from her that he had just read her thoughts.
“Hmpf,” she said. “Of course you wouldn’t remember me.” She rolled her eyes and sighed deeply before saying, “I’m Alexis Prewett. I was at Hogwarts with you. Granted, I was three years behind you, but I would have thought that you would have some memory of me. I was the butt of many jokes, pranks and mean taunts at the school thanks to a horrible stuttering problem, embarassing social awkwardness and overall general weirdness.”
“I paid no attention to any of the petty dramas that plagued my fellow schoolmates, so I have absolutely no memory of any of this at all. Surely you can’t hold against me the slights of others,” he scoffed.
“Yes. That would be most unfair of me to blame you for the thoughtlessness of others. I should think instead that I would judge you solely by the cruelness of your own actions,” she replied coolly.
“Whatever do you mean?”
“I am talking about the way you treated me in my first year at Hogwarts.” She retorted. She sighed before continuing. “Shortly before the Christmas holiday, I found myself struggling in potions. It had been recommended to me by Professor Slughorn that I ask you for a bit of tutoring since he had deemed you the best in your year. It took me almost a week or so to work up the courage to finally ask you for help.” She paused a moment as if remembering. “When I finally did ask you I was most astonished by your reply which I can still remember as clearly today as the day you muttered it. You had said, 'Why would I waste my time on a silly little girl who is never going to amount to anything significant in this world?’ I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised by your reaction since I probably would have gotten worse from other snakes. I guess I had just expected you to have been above all the others since you had yet to have engaged in the silliness that others had resorted to in belittling me,” she finished bitterly.
Snape sat in stunned silence for a long moment as he tried to remember this incident she was referring to. The more that he thought about it the more he realized that he could not even recall ever hearing her name before. He did not want to believe that he had been so cruel to someone when asked for help, but he could not forget that he had been in a very dark place at that time of his life and much of the rest of his time as a student at Hogwarts.
“I must apologize for insulting you so. I do regret a great many things from my time as a young wizard. I fear that there will never be enough time left for me to make retributions to all I have wounded,” Snape said quietly. “I am most aggrieved that I made such a harsh judgment against you since, as I understand, it is solely because of your expertise and diligent care that I am even alive.”
Healer Prewett stood staring at him most unsure at how to proceed. She was angry with herself for confronting him with petty childhood dramas especially since she had vowed to herself when he had been placed under her care, that she would not stoop to that level. So why then was it was the first thing she did when he finally could talk. His heartfelt apology, however, was not something she had ever expected from this man that she once had been sure did not even have a heart.
She studied him carefully for another few minutes before saying, “The Minister of Magic, or shall I say the temporary Minister of Magic, wished for me to summon him as soon as you were awake and coherent. I did not want to do so until I first spoke to you and made sure that you were comfortable with the idea of him visiting.”
“Who is the temporary minister,” he asked hesitantly.
“I do not have any concerns about him visiting,” Snape said.
“Very well then I will summon him,” she said with a little bow as she left his bedside and headed off the ward.
He sat back against his pillows and tried to push aside his thoughts about Healer Prewett to try to mentally prepare himself for Shacklebolt’s visit. He could hardly imagine that any reasons he may have for visiting, especially as Minister of Magic could be anything positive.
Thankfully, it was only a matter of minutes before her heard Healer Prewett saying in a stern voice at the entrance to the ward, “Do remember Minister, as long as Severus is here on this ward, he is MY responsibility and I will not allow you to upset him in anyway. Do you understand?”
Snape could not help but feel a twinge of guilt as he heard Prewett confront the minister on his behalf knowing that she had every right to not care if he was upset by this visit. Of course, he reasoned with himself, her concern for his emotional state was most likely nothing more than professional worries about his general health and well-being that she would have bestowed upon any of her patients. Whatever the reasons for her concern he had to admit that he was grateful.
When Kingsley Shacklebolt finally approached Snape’s bed his expression was completely unreadable. “How are you feeling, Severus?”
“Surprisingly well, considering,” he replied conversationally.
“I am told that you are quite lucky to be alive,” Shacklebolt said.
Snape nodded. “I, unfortunately, am not yet aware of any specifics as to how I came to be here, but I was told by Minerva that I owe my rescue to Aberforth and my recovery thus far to the diligent care of Healer Prewett.”
Shacklebolt stepped closer to the bed and knelt down, bringing himself down so that he was eye-to-eye with Snape. “Is what I have heard from Minerva true? Did Albus truly ask you to kill him?”
Snape sighed before answering and wondered how many more times he would be forced to retell his story. “Albus was already dying thanks to an unfortunate incident with a cursed ring. When he had heard of a plot to have him killed, he asked that I be the one to kill him instead, which would inevitably give Voldemort the impression that I remained his faithful servant allowing me to remain in the know about his whereabouts and his plans. It was also understood between Albus and myself that the empty position of Headmaster opened upon his death would be offered to me, by Voldemort, which would allow me to protect the school as best I could.”
Shacklebolt grabbed Snape’s hand and held it firmly and exclaimed, “I cannot tell you how truly relieved I am to know this Severus. I did not…no…could not believe that you would honestly betray Albus like that. Even knowing what little I know about your past affiliations as a death eater, I could not forget all of Albus’s assurances and insistences that we all trust you and bear to believe that he could have been so wrong.” He let go of his hand and stood up as Healer Prewett returned to the ward. “I want to be sure that you know that you will have the full support and backing of the ministry when you are well enough to return to your post as Headmaster of Hogwarts.”
“I don’t want to be headmaster. That honor should have gone to Minerva. She had been Deputy Headmistress under Albus. I would be more than happy to return to my position as Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher and Head of Slytherin House,” Snape replied automatically.
“Well…If you are certain that is what you want I am sure that could be arranged,” Shacklebolt stated hesitantly.
“I am quite certain. I served my purpose as headmaster and I am more than ready to be finished with it,” he insisted as he let his head fall back onto the pillow and closed his eyes.
“That, Minister, is my clue that it is now time for me to insist that my patient now be left alone to rest. Although I am sure that you would be more than welcome to come back in the morning if you should still need to talk with him,” Healer Prewett cut-in from behind the Minister.
Shacklebolt bowed deeply to the healer. “Certainly ma’m. Thank you for contacting me and letting me come at such an inconvenient time in the morning.”
Snape watched Healer Prewett lead Shacklebolt away from his bed and towards the doorway that led off of the ward, and then allowed himself once more to drift off to sleep.
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