6 November, 1976
A ghost drifted near as the Professors sat down to breakfast. It was early, and the students were only just starting to file in for the meal.
Professor Whittington Nott sat in front of his plate of slowly cooling, unattended scrambled eggs. He held his fork idly in his right hand, where it was being balanced like a seesaw, whilst the man stared, unseeing, into the distance. His concentration was broken by a jovial laugh, uncomfortably close, since ghosts were rather capable of sneaking up on the unwary and distracted.
“Oh, ho! A lever, poised in the balance of the moment. Quite the dilemma, Professor. A state of indecision, but what to do, what to do?” The monk held his belly, chortling quietly.
Whit glared at the apparition for a moment before recalling his manners. “There are enormous forces in this world waiting to be harnessed, but it is frustrating that one cannot do more with the lesser evils sitting on our own doorstep.” He chuckled at himself, looking away again. “I have studied long, and learned much, but there are still too many problems that even magic cannot fix.” Turning his gaze back to the Fat Friar, the Professor drawled an apology of sorts, “I am rather pathetic today, I am afraid. Not very good company.”
With a gesture of warding, or possibly benefaction, the monk offered this advice. “The most powerful magic of all is in knowing when to apply the lightest of touches. Recall the power of the pin in the axle, or the pebble that starts the avalanche. The one well-placed word.” The Friar chortled, adding, “The kiss in despair, hmm?” He hooked his thumbs in his belt, forging on. “It is these subtleties that can in the blackest darkness render critical understanding, allowing one to create miracles without one whit of magic applied.” The ghost slapped his belly. “A minimum of force, as you were.”
Groaning inwardly at the use of his name, Whit responded, “You’re trying to put wizards and witches everywhere out of business, sir. That seems rather uncharitable for a man of the cloth.” He carefully kept his tone light and playful. It would not do to show his wounded pride overmuch.
The Friar pulled his fat face into a smirk before responding, “Well, get on with it, then. Go ahead. Wake up the ward with your fancy magical forces.” He dipped closer with a jovial grin, causing Whit’s face to grow cold with the proximity. “Tried true love’s kiss, yet?” At Whit’s look of shocked incredulity, he added after a critical once-over that seemed to measure more than outer appearances, “No, you are right. That wouldn’t work for you, now would it, Fool?”
With that, the fat ghost turned and sauntered away, taking the chance to respond to his last well-placed word away. Whit was left feeling as though he had been cut off at the knees.
The morning started early in the infirmary. Madam Pomfrey rousted Severus out of bed to go shower and accept his tongue growth potion before she had to attend an Apparition training session, Dittany at the ready. Severus didn’t need the itch-tea anymore at least, and it was glorious to feel the water sloughing off the dirt of the past few days. Of course the Mediwitch had given him what passes for a wizarding sponge bath - fortunately with an animated sponge and privacy. He hated those - the sponge was always rough and the water cold. This was much better, and he moved his fingers through the fine hair on his head, reveling in the strange new texture. His scalp was still sensitive, and the water felt like ice as it rained down, causing a frisson to pass down his spine. After he had dried off and dressed, this time in black pyjamas and a thin striped dressing gown, he padded back to his bed and sat in the chair next to it.
Madam Pomfrey stuck her head out of the office to observe the boy’s progress. “I think you might be ready for company, Severus. Is there anyone you would like me to contact?” Severus’ expression blackened immediately and the Mediwitch regretted her suggestion.
She never understood how a House whose members had to be constantly on their guard, even with each other, could actually product functional adults. Not waiting for the answer that wasn’t going to come, she went on to say, “We start teaching you to talk again today.” This didn’t get much of a response out of him either. He had been here five days, and he knew full well he was going to be here through the next weekend, and he wasn’t seeing the end of the tunnel just yet. “Do you sing?” Severus reacted to that with a look of pained incredulity worthy of a house-elf suddenly given clothes.
“I want you to hum, Severus. It will get your voice warmed up, and will make things easier later.” She put on her most winning smile. “Go on then. I can get you a wireless if you like.”
He seemed to consider this for a moment before writing, “Muggle music alright?” The last thing he wanted to hum to was the warblings of the latest witch crooning “Enchanted Evening.” Wizarding culture seemed dominated by the taste of old fogies, stuck back several decades or even a century behind the Muggle world.
The Mediwitch’s smile faltered for a moment before she assented, “As long as it isn’t too loud.”
Severus had the grace to turn away, ostensibly arranging his correspondence and homework before he rolled his eyes hard enough to be audible. Realising he hadn’t responded, he waved his wand, and an appropriate response appeared. “Of course, Madam Pomfrey. Even better, if you place a silencing spell over this part of the infirmary, you won’t have to suffer with me.”
The Mediwitch felt this was an excellent compromise, and soon enough Severus was humming right along with his favorite rock ballads.
The young wizard was interrupted in the midst of a passionate air guitar solo in “Magic Man” by the sudden return of sound from the rest of the infirmary and Professor Nott’s dry interjection of “Marvelous, Mr Snape. I hate to interrupt what is obviously a wonderful start on a career in pantomime theatre, but if you would, I could use assistance over here?” He watched Severus turn bright red from the neck up. The teen tried to cover his discomfiture with a dignifying straightening of his robe, one hand idly brushing off invisible dust from his sleeve before reaching over to deliberately turn off the wireless. Grateful to have hair again, Severus quirked an eyebrow in askance at Professor Nott.
Having Severus’ undivided attention, Professor Nott cleared his throat. “Quite. Well then. Over here, if you will.” The two walked over towards the sectioned off cubicle containing Miss Ward, and Severus was alert with interest. With a searching look, the Professor explained what he wanted of the student. “I think this young lady’s level of consciousness may be purposefully suppressed.”
Both of Severus’ eyebrows shot up in surprise, so Nott hastened to explain. “She’s been here five days. I have worked with her, and am confident that...” He trailed off, realising he should afford this young lady some privacy and dignity, “The problem that Madam Pomfrey was worried about should not be keeping her asleep.”
Severus decided to help the man out, and flicked his wand to write in the air, “You mean the curse. On her arm.” He jerked his head at the covered arm on the girl’s left.
Choking on his own attempt at nicety, Professor Nott muttered, “Of course. Slytherin.”
Severus gifted the man with a glare, barely tempered by his desire to not end this particular line of conversation.
“Well, yes. I have done what I can, and Poppy assures me that the lass has no physical ailment that would prevent her from waking either. We’ve already tried reviving charms and waking solutions, sniffing salts, pinching, talking, and pressing her hands without much response.”
He lifted a finger to break off Severus’ disappointed grunt. “However, I think perhaps some exposure to pleasant things may help convince her to wake up.” With a grand gesture, he indicated the wall of windows beyond Severus’ cot, currently lit up with the afternoon sun. “I want to move her over to those windows and expose her to some sunlight. It’s too cold to take her outside, but perhaps having more movement around her will stimulate her. After the light has changed, you can move her back to her home.”
Professor Nott cocked his head at Severus with a wicked grin. “Perhaps you might get through to her with your musical talent.” The man turned his back, chortling, and feeling that he had made quite the joke.
Severus made a rude gesture at the arrogant bastard’s retreating back, mouthing an emphatic but silent, “Fuck you, sir.”
Grumbling internally in disappointment, Severus unlocked the wheels on the girl’s bed and drove her over to the biggest patch of sunlight. He thought he was going to learn something today. Intellectual tease. With a glance over towards Pomfrey’s office, he flicked the radio back on and lowered the volume before collapsing onto his bed in a sullen heap.
Sixteen, and the only girl who would let him near her was in a goddamn coma. Twitching some pillows behind him, he sat upright and contemplated the girl’s prone form. Her hair, which had been cut, was braided to prevent it from causing mischief, but curly tendrils escaped all around her face and down the plait which was slung over her right shoulder. Her lips were regular lips, not too generous, not too thin, and her mouth hung slightly open. Her lashes were the same honeyed brown of her hair. In the light it became obvious that the girl’s eyes were moving around rapidly. It hadn’t been like that when she was over in the shaded corner. After another long look, Severus reached out and grabbed the latest book that caught his attention from Madam Pomfrey’s shelf. “Mind Magic - Applications for the Healer.” He slogged through the introduction, a section heavy on ethics, finding the prose dry and tasteless, like Weetabix. Tossing the book to the side, he stood up and moved the cot a few feet to chase the beams of light from the window. As he did so, the girl tossed her head to the side and frowned before the tension in her face bled away once more.
Severus glanced quickly over towards Madam Pomfrey’s office, then back at the girl, before taking off at a jog to find the Mediwitch. His heart fluttered with excitement. After checking the potions bench and the office, he found her in the clean store room, inspecting the racks of potions and other medical accouterments that Severus hasn’t had time to take in. The motion of him entering the room attracted the woman’s attention, and understanding he wanted her to follow him, she was surprised to see the girl in a beam of sunlight, well across the infirmary from where she had been situated previously. “I am confused, Severus. Did she roll over there on her own?”
The boy had the grace to look embarrassed before he elaborated in gold air writing. “Professor Nott wanted me to put her into the light to see if that helps her wake up.” He shook his head, erasing it and adding further, “Her eyes were moving, and she moved her head.” He stared pleadingly at the matron, willing this to mean something.
Madam Pomfrey snorted softly in annoyance before the faint movement of the girl’s eyes grabbed her attention. “Did she open her eyes, Severus?”
The boy shook his head to the negative with a slight growl of frustration. He would have said that, now, wouldn’t he?
Tapping her index finger on her lower lip, Madam Pomfrey considered the girl, tension bleeding out of her posture. “Dreaming. She’s dreaming! I’ll let the Headmaster know.”
Severus could only guess what this meant as the Mediwitch glided back to her office to pen two missives. He slid his chair over to the girl’s bedside and sat down. What kind of company will she be when she wakes up? She had been rather … tolerable thus far. He chided himself mentally. Pathetic, Severus. Honestly, do you prefer your girls to be unconscious? A bitter guffaw escaped his damaged mouth at the very idea.
From a nearby wall, out of Severus’ line of sight, the Fat Friar peeked in to check on the ward’s progress. He had witnessed the earlier scene with Professor Nott and his somewhat daft tutelage. Chortling in amusement, he withdrew to go tell the others. That Defense teacher wasn’t such a fool after all, was he?