Hermione and Potter wake me when they arrive early in the morning. They scurry into the room like a sneaky hurricane, muttering and whispering to each other. There is a crackle of magic and I can feel the hairs on my arm raising in reaction.
"Do a silencing spell too, Harry. I don't want anyone to know what we are up to…they might try to get in and stop us."
Ah. They've warded the door to keep others out. What is it that they plan to do to me? I am well aware that Hermione is a clever witch, but whatever homemade antidote she has concocted is bound to fail if she is ignorant of what caused my accident in the first place. Worse than that, her ministrations might make my situation worse. I am able to breathe at the moment, but if my paralysis worsens, I could suffocate.
"Are you ready, Hermione?"
"Yes, I have it here in my bag, but I need a minute."
"Why? We really shouldn't dawdle. I don't know how much time we have before the staff notice they can't get in."
"I understand, Harry, but he's agitated."
"How can you tell?"
"Look at his eyes. They're the only thing he can move."
The woman is right. I hadn't noticed, but in my agitation, I was trying to look around myself.
"Try to hurry, Hermione."
"Professor, calm down and listen, please. I know about your antivenin."
"I have all of your notes, and your samples, and I know about the antivenin you developed. I studied it thoroughly, and I believe you are in your current state because you could not calculate the exact amount of blood loss."
"I know I don't have your level of expertise, but quite frankly I couldn't find anyone who does have your skill to help me. Slughorn was perfectly useless."
"I have worked on this potion for over a month and had some successful testing with mice. I have a weak dose with me to test on you. I have every reason to believe it will have a positive effect, and I am reasonably certain it will do nothing to harm you."
I find myself relaxing as she speaks, and I am no longer unduly concerned. She's a bright woman who does her homework. To be honest, if I have any chance of getting out of this damned bed, it lies with Hermione.
"Your antivenin was quite volatile. This potion is also volatile. Don't expect a great improvement from this single dose. I have come to the conclusion that small regular doses have the greatest chance of success."
Good reasoning, especially for a muggleborn. I have nothing against muggleborns, but their folklore and fiction subconsciously teaches them that magic produces instantaneous results. This is often not the case, as Hermione has obviously learned.
"So, we are trying a ten percent solution of the potion today. It's been spelled not to choke you, and we should know within a few moments if it has a positive effect."
Soft hands grab my chin and a small thumb opens my lips far enough for the thin neck of a potion bottle. The liquid is tipped in, and my throat swallows automatically in reaction to the potion.
"Hermione, I think someone is knocking."
The hands leave my face and there is a small rustle and clank of sound. I imagine she's tossed the vial back into her bag.
"Go ahead and drop the wards, Harry. Now we're only visiting as usual."
A tingle of magic and a breath of air as the door to my room is reopened. A silence falls between the two young people as they wait to see what effect their efforts bring. One of them is pacing back and forth near the foot of my bed and I find myself mentally following the small sound back and forth.
Several minutes pass and I have begun to suspect that the potion has failed entirely when I notice something new.
I'm staring at the ceiling. It's not a very nice ceiling…a swirly beige plaster with water damage stains here and there. For someone who has not been able to open their eyes in ages, it's a perfectly adequate ceiling. The splotches of damage at least add interest.
My eyes are open, and I blink them several times simply because I can. At this point, having control of my body, in even the smallest way, makes me feel more in control.
I try to move my fingers and toes, but they remain paralyzed. Fair enough. Hermione said it would take time.
I look slightly to the left, and there she is. The girl looks like hell. Her hair is the worst rats nest it's ever been and has at least two forgotten quills stuck here and there. Dark circles seem to have made a permanent home under her eyes, and she looks thin and drawn. She's also smiling a gloriously happy smile at me.
I think she is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.
"Look, Hermione, he's smiling at you."
The voice draws my eyes to the other side of the bed, and there is Mr. Mop-top himself, grinning down at me. He looks exhausted as well and I wonder what he's been up to.
"I think he fancies you, Hermione."
"Don't be ridiculous."
"Well, he isn't smiling at me."
"The Professor is going to be up and about before too long, Harry. Do you really want to be on his bad side when he's standing with a wand in his hand?"
"Oh, go on. I think Severus will be happy enough we got him out of that bed that he'll give me a pass."
Severus? Since when has the boy taken to calling me by my given name?
"Did you see that? He rolled his eyes at me!"
"I dare say you deserved it, Harry."
I don't know why I'm wasting my time looking at that boy when Hermione is at my side. My eyes move back to her and she blushes a little as she smiles down at me.
I must be smiling, at least slightly, though I cannot truly tell. Why shouldn't I smile at a pretty young woman? I'm no longer a spy, a Death Eater, or embroiled in a war. I shall smile at whoever I like.
I try to speak and manage a soft grunt.
"Don't worry, Sir," Hermione hastens to reassure me. "It was only the first dose. The effect should be cumulative and each subsequent dose should give you more improvement. I plan to stay here today and we should be able to have another dose every few hours."
"I wish I could stay, but I have to get back to work."
I wonder what sort of work the boy wonder is up to.
"How many are left?" Hermione asks.
"An even dozen, but we have a lead on the McWeavers."
Ah. I should have guessed. Potter is helping to round up the last of the Death Eaters. No wonder he looks so tired.
"Stay safe, Harry."
"I will do my level best. Take care of Severus."
The insolent boy walks to Hermione's side and kisses her on the cheek.
"Hey! Now he's scowling at me!"
"I told you not to annoy him."
Potter leans over me and frowns. "Look, Sir. We've been through a war together and won. Hermione and I got you into this hospital and we're going to get you out of that bed. And I'm going to call you Severus, so you might as well get used to it."
His hand descends to lightly touch my cheek and I am shocked to see moisture in his eyes.
"Get used to it," he repeats. "I've lost enough people in my life, you know?"
I have no idea what my expression holds, but Potter seems satisfied with it.
For my part, I can understand his feelings. I too have lost most of the people in this world that I truly cared for, small though that number may be. Besides, being friendly with Potter the war hero will have its uses in this post-war world. I may have a medal around here somewhere, but there will be those in the wizarding world who want me dead.
Hermione raises my bed a little so that I can sit up and see what's around me. There's not much to see in the drab little room except for the woman herself, but that suits me fine. I get to watch her as she removes one of her ridiculous romance novels and begins reading to me. She catches my eye from time to time and reacts with a combination of smiles and soft blushes. Even with her rat's nest hair and exhausted eyes, she is utterly enchanting to me.
Despite the novelty of my regained sight, a night of little sleep soon catches up to me. When Hermione discovers my eyes are at half mast, she lowers my bed to the flat position and fluffs my pillow for me.
She smiles as she gently brushes a lock of hair from my eyes.
"Sleep well, Professor. I'll wake you in a couple of hours and we'll try another dose."
I fall asleep to the sound of her voice softly reading to me.
It is a newly rediscovered joy to awaken and be able to open my eyes. The ceiling is not the most beautiful of sights, but it beats being blind. I can barely see Hermione from the corner of my eye. She appears to be asleep in her chair, but as if she senses that I am awake, she begins to stir as soon as I look in her direction.
I imagine she's set up some sort of ward to alert her when I awaken. She's a clever girl.
As she speaks, she leans over me and peers into my face, studying it. A wand appears in her hand and she casts a nonverbal spell. Diagnostic spell, by the looks of the ticker tape that flows from her wand.
"No adverse effects whatsoever. Good. Your color is improving as well. Ready for another dose?"
"I'll take that smile for a yes."
Am I smiling? With the paralysis, it is difficult for me to judge what my face is doing. It's as if it has a mind of my own. I concentrate for a moment and decide my lips are slightly upturned. Suitable enough, I suppose. At least I am not grinning at the girl like some imbecile.
Hermione leaves my bedside long enough to quietly shut the door to my room. The vial is produced and administered so quickly that even if someone had walked in, they were unlikely to notice it. I imagine the precautions of the morning were there in case I had unexpected side effects than they were to prevent exposure of the antidote itself.
Hermione sits at my side on the edge of the bed. Her hand is on my wrist to keep track of my pulse as the potion takes effect. My heart does seem to race a moment, but quickly returns to its normal pace.
I feel different. Slightly more energized. An experiment to move my limbs produced definite twitching in both my fingers and toes. That is positive progress indeed. If the potion is giving me any movement at all in my extremities, the likelihood of it completely reversing the paralysis is quite high.
"How do you feel, Professor?"
I clear my throat, purse my lips, and try a few words. My voice is harsh with disuse, but perfectly understandable.
"Please, Hermione, call me Severus."
A/N: As always, thank you so much for reading! I am having so much fun returning to the Potterverse for a visit. It's nice to write something for the pure fun of it again. We have at least a few chapters to go, but we are certainly past the halfway mark.
I'm writing without a beta, so any mistakes are my own.
Please check out my novel, Wyrd House at Amazon[dot]Kindlescout[dot]com. Nominate it for a chance to get a free advance copy of the ebook if it's selected. My KS campaign ends on March 3rd. It's a mystery full of magic and romance, so I think you would all enjoy it. You can also keep up with all my writing news at my blog: julianneqjohnson[dot]wordpress[dot]com.
Thanks for reading!