Ginny knelt in the grass where Harry lay, biting her lip hard. The mere sight of her husband so still, his back looking like someone had tossed him into a cauldron of boiling oil, made her want to start screaming, or vomiting, or breaking down in tears. She gently cradled Harry's head in her lap and whispered, her voice hoarse with fear, "Harry, oh God, Harry! You're going to be all right, you hear me? I'm going to get you help and everything's going to be okay. I love you, Harry. Now you just hang on till I get you to St. Mungos." She bent and kissed his head. "Don't let go, Harry. Hang on. Don't let go."
She looked up, her vision blurring with tears in spite of herself and saw her father. "Dad, don't just stand there. Help me!"
Arthur snapped out of his guilt and shock and quickly conjured a stretcher and levitated Harry on it. "Ginny, I'm so sorry. The microwave blew up, I don't know why and Harry shoved me out the door and was carrying Alby when it . . . exploded."
"Dad, how it happened isn't important now," Ginny said, doing an admirable job of keeping her voice steady. "It was an accident, I'm not blaming you. Right now we need to get Harry treated. Please bring Alby inside to Mum. He's okay, right?"
"Yes. He's just shaken and bruised and has minor spark burns. Nothing to require a trip to the hospital for." Arthur said.
"Mummy!" Alby sobbed. "Daddy's not moving!"
Ginny went and hugged her child. "Shhh, love. Daddy's sleeping because he's hurt. But we're going to take Daddy to the hospital and the Healers will make him all better. Now, I need you to be a brave boy and go with Grandpa and let Grammy fix you up, okay? Mummy needs to go with Daddy to the hospital." She quickly stepped away from her distraught son, before she lost all her composure and began sobbing like an insane woman. Keep it together, Gin. Just keep focused on helping Harry and not how much you want to start crying and never stop, she thought firmly.
Arthur headed into the house with Alby.
Only then did Severus approach Ginny and tug on her sleeve. "Ginny, I want to come with you. Harry needs me."
Ginny looked down at the pint-sized Potions Master and shook her head. "No, Sevvy. You need to stay here with my parents and Alby. Harry needs a Healer, probably more than one."
But Severus shook his head stubbornly. "Ginny, I'm a Potions Master, which is like a Healer. He's badly burned. He'll need a special burn salve."
"Which a Healer can give him. Don't argue, Severus. I'm not in the mood." She ordered wearily, placing a hand on the stretcher, getting ready to Apparate.
Frantic, knowing somehow that he should not leave Harry alone, Severus threw himself at her legs and clung. "Ginny, listen to me, please! No one knows more about treating burns than me. I can't count how many times in my former life I've been scalded with steam, hot liquids, or seared by putting my hand on a hot cauldron. If I didn't know how to mend burns, I'd look like Frankenstein by now."
Severus shook his head irritably. "Muggle reference, it's not important. Just listen to me for a minute. I might be a child now, but I still have my memories of being a top Potions Master. I remember every draft I've ever brewed and then some. And before I was Headmaster, I was working on a new burn salve, one that was even stronger than conventional ones, it was one that healed at triple the rate and also encouraged the growth of new tissue and reduced scarring. No one knows the formula except me, I never shared it with anyone else. That's why I need to come with you."
"Severus, are you sure?"
"Positive." He looked up at her and in his eyes was a burning desire to help save Harry. "I want to help him as much as you do. He saved my life. Take me with you." It was at times like these when he hated the fact that he was no more than a helpless child, unable to act without adult permission or supervision. He could help Harry recover from this horrible accident, he knew he could. Now he had to hope that Ginny believed him.
Ginny hesitated for several moments, trying to decide what was best for Harry and also Severus. While a part of her longed to treat Severus like the five-year-old he was, another part of her also wanted her husband to have the best care possible, and if that care happened to come from the hands of a potions prodigy, so be it. In the end the latter line of thinking won out.
"All right, Sev. Hold on tight to me. I'm sorry I don't have a Stomach Soother with me to give you."
"That's all right, Ginny. I already threw up," Severus informed her gravely, before putting his arms about her waist and holding on.
Ginny sent out her Patronus before she Apparated, first to Molly and Arthur (who was no doubt getting his head bitten off by Molly) letting them know Severus was with her, and then to Draco, Remus, and Neville, making them aware of what had happened. Her silver lioness quickly sprang out of her wand and raced inside the Burrow. Then she concentrated and Apparated with Harry and Severus to St. Mungos.
In about five minutes, emergency personnel had swarmed about Ginny, Severus, and Harry. The next thing Ginny knew, they had carted Harry off to the Spell Damage Ward on the fourth floor, since that's how Ginny had described Harry's accident, because she didn't want to get her father in trouble for experimenting with Muggle objects and she didn't know how to explain a 'microwave' exploding any way. She had told the Healers that her husband had been demonstrating a new variation on a Blasting Curse to her father when it went wrong.
Now she sat beside Harry's bed, the Healer assistants had banished his clothing and he was now in a long hospital gown that was open at the back. He was still unconscious, they had spelled into him a potion for pain and another for shock, but would wait for further instructions from the Healer before doing anything else to their patient.
Severus was sitting in her lap, sensing that Ginny needed someone to hold right then, since she could not hold her husband. He leaned his head back on her shoulder and dozed, despite his worry, he was tired and needed sleep. He slept for about twenty minutes before waking up to find a Healer examining Harry.
"I'm afraid, Mrs. Potter, that Harry has significant muscle and tissue damage. He has second and third degree burns on his upper back and shoulders and even our best burn salve won't be able to prevent scarring and he will be about three weeks healing. It's a shame he wasn't more careful. We can keep him sedated, so he won't be in much pain, for a week at least, while we work on him. He's lucky to be alive."
Ginny looked devastated. "Healer Jordan, do you have to keep him sedated for the whole week? Isn't that dangerous?"
The Healer shrugged. "Not really. The Dreamless Sleep can be used for two weeks without side effects."
Severus abruptly shook his head. "That depends on the dosage. A full vial given every twenty-four hours is only safe for a patient for a week. After that you risk him becoming addicted to it."
Healer Jordan's eyes nearly flew out of his head. "And just how on earth would you know that, boy?"
"I know because I've brewed the potion and studied the side effects," Severus replied, not liking the condescending tone.
Healer Jordan laughed. "You have a son with quite the imagination, Mrs. Potter! He's brewed and studied the potion indeed! Good one, boy! Nice of you to try and make us laugh. As if a five-year-old could brew Dreamless Sleep!"
Severus flushed, he disliked this pompous ass intensely. "I can too brew Dreamless Sleep!"
"How very amusing, boy, now stop pretending, the game's over," the Healer smirked.
"I'm not pretending! I know!" Severus snapped.
"I think your son needs a time out, Mrs. Potter," growled the Healer. "He's starting to get cranky."
Ginny stiffened. "He has a right to be, considering his father's lying badly injured in that bed. Now, why don't you call your assistants to start treating my husband, instead of standing here arguing with a five-year-old?" Suddenly, Ginny didn't like this pompous Healer either, even if his disbelief of Severus' skills was understandable.
Jordan stiffened and then called for some of his assistants.
While the assistants were tending to Harry, Ginny took Severus out of the room and down the hall a ways. "Oh, Severus! You shouldn't have kept arguing with him."
"Why not? He's an utter idiot! Any first year Healer apprentice knows that Dreamless Sleep is not a safe substance unless monitored strictly." Severus said indignantly. "Besides, his treatment is inferior, compared to the new salve I was working on. If we brewed mine, there would be less recovery time, no need for constant sedation, and no scarring."
"Do you remember the formula?"
"Yes. But it would be nice if I had my notes too. What happened to all of my things after I died?" asked Severus.
"Well, Harry took most of them, and he also took over your vault. He donated most of the money in it to potions research. He cleaned out your office and quarters and kept all of your potions journals and potions books and notes. He refused to throw anything out. He even kept your good robes and gave the rest to Gladrags. It's all inside the Potter vault." Ginny informed him.
"Can we go and get them?" Severus asked, a bit diffidently. "It's not like I can't brew from memory, but my notes will make it quicker and more accurate."
"I'll take you to Gringotts," Ginny said.
Severus smiled. It made him feel good knowing that Harry had cared enough to preserve his possessions and hadn't thrown away his things as if they were rubbish. He didn't even mind that Harry had spent his money, donations for a good cause were as good a reason as any to use it.
Three hours later, the salve was steeping, Ginny having assisted Severus in the brewing of it, though he prepared most of the ingredients and measured them out while she added them to the cauldron at the correct time and stirred. They brewed it in the Potter lab, that being the closest one besides the hospital's, which they would have had to ask permission to use. In addition to that, Severus also brewed a stronger Pain Reliever that did not have the side-effect of making one sleepy. That way Harry did not have to be sedated.
As they waited for the two potions to steep, Severus sat on a low stool, biting his lip and praying that the salve would work. He had never really doubted it would, but he knew that with an untested solution there was always the possibility that it could fail. Except he could not afford to let it fail. Not this time. It has to work. It just has to. Harry needs it too badly for us to have to go through endless stages of alteration. He couldn't bear to watch Harry suffer, and he knew the pain of multiple burns was equal to the Cruciatus.
It had always been so, now that he thought about it. Whenever Harry had been injured or hexed as his student, a part of him died inside, for it meant he had not been watching Lily's son as he should have, and it pained him to see a child suffer. He could never show that, of course, but it hadn't stopped him from feeling it.
He felt it now, the same old guilt and helplessness, and he clenched his hands into white-knuckled fists and studied the bubbling potion intently. If all had gone right, the salve would heal the burns at an accelerated rate, and not only heal, but numb the nerve endings.
Ginny turned to look at him, her emotions felt raw, and if someone had reached inside her and scoured away her heart. "Sevvy, what are you thinking of?" she asked, coming and putting her arms about him.
He sighed and said quietly, "I'm thinking of how much we need this salve to work."
"Do you think it won't?"
"Nothing's ever certain," he whispered. "There're always variables in new solutions. I think it will work, but . . . I won't know until we test it." Severus admitted.
"It must work!" Ginny said fiercely. "It must! You're the best in your field."
"I know, but . . ." he trailed off, not wanting to say what he feared, that even the best failed.
Ginny pulled him into her embrace, weeping softly into his hair. "Sev, please! Have faith in yourself! I couldn't bear it if . . . he was suffering . . ."
"Me neither," he admitted, tears welling up in the corners of his eyes. He couldn't bear to lose Harry now, not now when he had finally started to trust, to allow his broken heart to care again, to admit, if only to himself, that Harry was slowly replacing Tobias, and that Harry had, ever since he returned from the Veil, treated him like a son. Severus had convinced himself that after the nightmare of his childhood, he needed no one to be a father to him—not Dumbledore or Slughorn. When he had been UnVeiled, he was still convinced that he was better off alone, rather than under the thumb of Harry Potter. It was only after the rescue from the centaur and Harry's careful healing and the discussion at midnight after the quarrel that Severus felt Harry truly meant what he said, and Severus could open his heart and trust Harry not to betray him. That it was safe for him to love the Defense professor the way he would have loved Tobias. That he had found, at last, a man worthy of being a father to him.
He had just begun to take the first steps along the road when the accident occurred. Would things ever be the same? Severus didn't know, and that frightened him terribly. He needed Harry. He . . . loved Harry, and if the salve failed, he would never forgive himself. He sniffled and clung to Ginny, and together they wept for the courageous young wizard, who never hesitated to put others before himself, while the potions softly simmered in the background.
While they had been brewing, Ginny had contacted Remus and asked him to come watch over Harry until she returned. Remus happily obliged, leaving Teddy and Jamie with their grandmother and taking Sirius along, because the little boy had begged him to.
Now the two Marauders sat in the sterile room watching Harry breathe, the only sound in the room besides themselves. Sirius had insisted upon seeing how bad Harry's injuries were, and once he had glimpsed the terrible burns, had gone pale as the sheet Harry was lying on, and began to cry.
"Moony . . . his back . . . looks like . . . a charred steak . . . how can he ever . . . get better?" the little boy had wailed, burying his face in the mattress.
Remus just shook his head and gently pulled up the sheet and then took Sirius on his lap. "The Healers will do everything they can to make him better, Siri." He soothed, rocking the child against his chest. But inwardly he longed to howl as well, for he had seen burn victims like Harry before, and if they recovered, they were scarred for life.
"But what if they can't? What if . . . what if . . . he dies?" Sirius sobbed, nearly choking on the awful words.
"Shhh. . . right now he's in stable condition, Padfoot," Remus told him, holding him close. "He's badly hurt, but you know Harry, Sirius. He's a strong young man, he's survived the Killing Curse. Twice. He won't let some burns defeat him. Right?"
Sirius heard what Remus was saying, and he almost smiled. He cried for a few more moments, then lifted his head and said, "Right. He'll make it. He's been through too much not to." He swiped his hand across his eyes. "It's just . . . seeing him like that . . . it scares me . . ."
"It scares me too, scamp," Remus admitted. "But we need to keep hoping for the best, and nobody said he's dying yet." He pulled out a handkerchief and scrubbed the little boy's face with it.
"How long do you think it'll take for Ginny and Snape to brew the potion?"
"I don't know, Siri. It all depends."
"Well, I hope Snape knows what he's doing. That he's really as good as everyone thinks he is," Sirius said, scowling.
"Sirius, I'm sure that Severus is doing all he can to help Harry. He loves Harry too, you know."
"Humph! Not as much as me!" the seven-year-old declared. "Harry's my godson."
"And he's Severus' guardian now," Remus reminded his ward.
"So?" Sirius stuck out his lower lip, pouting. He curled up into the werewolf's shoulder.
"So . . . you both love Harry and there's no need for you to be jealous and quarrel over who loves him more. That's the last thing Harry would want. Got me?" Remus asked, a little sharply, and he gave Sirius a warning tap on the bottom.
"Okay, Moony," came the muffled response.
Remus smiled a little and cuddled with the curly-haired imp.
Sirius nestled more snuggly into Lupin's arms and tried not to think about the ugly raw patches of skin he'd seen on Harry's back. It was like Moony said, he couldn't lose hope. He had to believe that Harry would get well, and that Snape could really brew a miracle cure. Sirius wished there were something he could do for Harry, besides sit there and watch him sleep, but he wasn't Healer or potions maker. He sighed and thought about playing with Harry once he was well, and going flying with him, all the things he'd never gotten to do with Harry the first time around.
But this time would be different. He would try and be more tolerant of Severus, and make Harry . . . and Remus . . . happy with him. It was funny, but he cared more about what Remus thought of him than he ever had his own father. Probably because he respected Remus, whereas he had never respected Orion. Orion he had viewed as a man who was led around by the nose by his termagant wife. Walburga Black had worn the pants at Grimmauld Place, and Sirius had always hated the fact that Orion never stood up for himself or his boys. He'd always caved to Walburga's wishes. Sirius had liked Orion better than his mother, but that wasn't saying much.
Now, Remus and Dora, they were whole different cauldronful of newts. They worked as a team, and Dora didn't boss Remus around like a puppet. He both liked and respected them as people and as his guardians. He didn't always care for all their rules, or for the times he got punished by them, but he was slowly coming to learn that when he got in trouble it wasn't only himself that suffered, but Remus and Dora too. He found that he didn't like it when they were upset, angry, and disappointed in him. Like over the sledding incident. He also discovered that he enjoyed spending time with Remus and Dora, reading and playing games, and being hugged when he was sad, all the things he'd never done with his real parents.
Sirius turned his head so he could see Harry and thought, please get well, Harry. Put that Potter stubbornness to work and wake up. If anyone can recover from those burns, you can. And as soon as you're better, we're going flying and playing Quidditch.
When Ginny and Severus returned, they found Sirius and Remus keeping a silent vigil at Harry's bedside.
As they entered, they heard Sirius ask, "Will he wake up soon?"
"No, because they've given him Dreamless Sleep. They want to keep him sleeping so he won't be in so much pain, Siri."
Sirius looked up as Ginny and Severus came into the room. He gazed hopefully at them. "Did you make the potion?"
"Actually, we made two potions," Ginny told him, giving him a hug.
"Two?" Sirius repeated.
"One burn salve and one Extra Strength Pain Reliever that won't put you to sleep." Severus clarified.
"Will they work?" asked Sirius hopefully.
"Yes." Severus said, forcing himself to sound confident when inside he was a mass of nervous anxiety.
"Now we just have to tell the Healer and we can apply the salve." Ginny said.
"We should apply it and then tell the idiot," Severus argued. What if the Healer refused to let them try it? Then all of their hard work would have been for nothing and Harry would recover at a snail's pace.
"No. Because then he might try and say his salve worked better." Ginny told him. She hurried off to find Healer Jordan.
The Healer looked skeptical. "You say you brewed this in accordance with a recipe invented by the late Potions Master Severus Snape?"
"Yes, and I don't think I need to tell you that the man was brilliant, a genius with potions," Ginny stated. "My husband was one of his most trusted students and inherited all of Professor Snape's research and notes. This burn salve is probably ten times as effective as the current one you now use."
The Healer snorted. "It's untested, and normally we do not use untested salves or potions on our patients. Not even if they were invented by the premier Potions Master in all of Europe."
"If I gave you permission, we could test it on my husband. You can't find a better test subject than him and I trust Snape's skill." Ginny said firmly.
"Very well. I'll need you to sign a form saying you release us from all liability should this . . . salve not work as expected. If it doesn't, you will then agree that my course of treatment is to be followed?" Jordan queried, a bit testily.
"Yes, of course. Thank you for allowing me to try," Ginny said.
"It's your husband, Mrs. Potter," Jordan stated with a slight condescending air, that made Ginny want to smack him. "If you want to experiment with his life . . ."
Irritated, Ginny snapped, "What are you implying, sir? That I would risk my husband's life? Here is the recipe for the salve. Tell me if there is anything the least bit life threatening in it." She thrust the paper with the potion recipe at him.
Jordan perused the recipe, and his eyebrows went up. "Now why would . . . ah, I see it now . . . most remarkable . . ." He cleared his throat. "Mrs. Potter, if this salve works, it could be a brilliant medical breakthrough for those suffering from potion accidents and fires. If it works."
"Then there's no danger of my risking my husband's life using it?"
"No. All of the ingredients are curatives." Jordan said. "Let's see how it works."
They hurried to Harry's bedside, and the Healer whisked away the sheet covering him and peered at the angry, blistered, red and blackened flesh. The Healer pulled on a glove and began to gently apply the salve to the burnt skin. While they watched, the raw flesh began to slowly heal.
Healer Jordan looked ecstatic. "Look, it's working! You can practically see the flesh mending! In a week, he could be healed completely with this. It's . . . amazing!"
He quickly smeared the salve over the rest of Harry's back.
"Would . . . you mind if I made a copy of the formula? Was it difficult to brew?"
"It's not an easy potion, but a competent brewer could do it in under three hours," Ginny replied, not bothering to think about how she had help from the inventor of the salve.
"I see . . . well, I shall be back in a few hours to see how he's progressing. I must show this to my colleagues," the Healer said. "I apologize for doubting you." Then he tapped his wand against the original formula and made a copy of it. He hurried off with the formula clutched in his hand, looking a bit dazed.
Ginny gently pulled the sheet back over Harry and said, "I'm going to Floo my parents and see how Alby's doing. All we can do now is wait." Looking very relieved, she hurried over to Severus and hugged him, picking him off his feet. "Thank Merlin you're a potions prodigy , Sev!"
"Thank Harry, for saving all my potion journals and notebooks," Severus said, hugging her back.
She set him down. "I know he's not out of the woods yet, but it's a start. I'll be right back." She practically Apparated from the room.
Sirius looked over at Severus and said, "You know, I never realized it before, but your skill with potions is pretty amazing, Severus."
Severus arched an eyebrow. "A compliment, Sirius? Now that is pretty amazing."
Sirius shrugged. "Every once in awhile, you deserve one."
"Thanks ever so much," drawled Severus. He turned to climb onto a chair on the opposite side of the bed. He felt a warm glow of satisfaction flow through him, knowing that he had helped Harry on the road to recovery. And been acknowledged by both a Healer and Sirius, however reluctant, of his true skill and importance in the magical community. He had been published before in several potions journals, and won a few awards early in his career, but in the last years before his death, he had not dared to patent any of his latest inventions, as they were healing potions for several curses that Voldemort's followers were fond of using. He didn't care so much about the recognition as he did that all of his hard work had not been wasted, but would be used to help as needed and improve the art of potion making.
Severus sat down, then abruptly decided he didn't want to sit in this rather lumpy chair with his feet dangling because he couldn't reach the floor. He slid down and climbed up on the bed next to Harry instead. Harry's eyes were closed and he appeared to be dreaming. Severus took Harry's hand and placed it in his lap and gently stroked the back of his hand.
"You're going to get better now," he crooned to the comatose wizard. "My salve will heal you. And then you can brew potions with me again and tell stories."
Not to be outdone, Sirius climbed up on the opposite side and took Harry's other hand. "Yeah, and then you can play Quidditch with me and beat me in Wizard Chess."
Severus scowled at Sirius over Harry's shoulder. How dare Black interrupt his time with Harry? "But first he's going to fly with me."
"You, fly? I thought all you ever wanted to do was brew smelly potions," Sirius shot back. "Since when do you like flying?"
"Since Harry showed me," Severus answered.
Sirius didn't like the sound of that at all. Since when was Snape the dungeon bat a flyer? Flying had always been Sirius' past time.
"Boys, enough!" Ginny cut in. "You can both go flying with Harry when he's better."
They subsided, mulish scowls on their faces.
Ginny bent and smoothed the hair down over Harry's forehead. She kissed him lightly on the scar and whispered, "We're all waiting for you, Harry. Wake up soon."
Sirius could see the love in Ginny's eyes and it made him feel ashamed for quarreling with Severus.
Severus blushed when he caught the naked adoration on Ginny's face. A blind man could see how much she loved her husband. It was the sort of love he hoped he would know with Lily once she returned from the Veil. He squeezed Harry's hand gently.
Ginny reached over and ruffled his hair before settling back in the chair Severus had vacated. Remus was softly snoring in the opposite chair.
"How's Alby?" Severus asked, only then did he recall that Alby had gotten hurt too when the microwave exploded.
"He's fine, Sev. My mum patched him up and he's asleep."
"And how's your father? Is he alive?"
Ginny snickered. "As far as I know, Mum hasn't hexed him to pieces yet. This isn't the first time something's exploded out there in the shed, just the first time Harry's ever been over to be involved in it. Last time, Dad managed to put out the fire and no one was hurt. Poor Dad! He never means any harm with his experiments, and the fact that Harry and Alby got hurt just makes it worse."
Half-an-hour went by and Harry still slept. By then both Sirius and Severus were dozing, curled like puppies against Harry's side. Only Ginny remained awake, though her eyes were starting to close when she saw Harry beginning to stir.
Harry opened his eyes and blinked hazily. Before he could speak or reach for his glasses, he saw Ginny,
"Harry, how do you feel?" she asked gently. "Are you in pain?" She came and laid her hand upon his cheek.
He shook his head. "No. Where's Arthur and Alby?"
"They're fine, safe at the Burrow. You're in St. Mungos, love."
Harry lifted his head slightly. His whole back felt numb. "How badly am I hurt?"
Ginny told him what had happened and what Healer Jordan had said about his recovery time being halved because of Severus' invention.
"That's good. I hate hospitals," Harry said, then he tried to lift his hand to clasp Ginny's, only to find both his hands being held by two small boys. He looked down and saw Severus clinging to one hand, then when he turned his head to the other side, saw Sirius holding his other hand. He chuckled. "What's this? A new way of keeping me in bed?"
"They both insisted on being next to you," Ginny informed him. She bent and kissed him again, a real kiss this time, on the lips. "A kiss to make it better," she whispered.
Harry gave her a sweet smile. "I feel ten times better already."
Ginny began laughing and crying at the same time. "I love you so much!"
Before Harry could reply, Sirius and Severus woke up. He found himself mobbed by two little boys hugging him about the neck and crying, "I love you, Harry!" amid tears and smiles.
"Love you too," Harry managed to reply, his throat hoarse. He did his best to hug both children, but it was awkward when he was lying on his stomach. Still, neither boy seemed to mind, and Harry didn't either. He wasn't too concerned over his recovery. He knew that with Severus' potions, lots of rest, and hugs and kisses, he would be fine . . .eventually.