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The Empty Grave of Severus Snape

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When Severus Snape woke up, he was in St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries, and a full month had passed since the final battle. He opened his eyes, quite groggy, and was confronted with what seemed to be an explosion of flowers and plastic balloons. He tried to sit up, and when he couldn’t, he tried to speak. But he couldn’t do that, either, as it turned out. Instead, he could only look around his bed in horror. There were teddy bears and cards and bouquets and piles of sweets. Was he in hell?

 

“Mr. Snape!” The healer that walked in almost dropped her clipboard in surprise when she saw that his eyes were open. He glared at her. “Goodness, Healer Venbright! Mr. Snape is awake!”

Mister. Snape thought. Great.

Another woman, older, joined the first and they moved over to his bedside. They were dressed smartly all in white, and it was a bit of a relief to have some of the violent colors around him obscured by their bodies. He opened his mouth to ask what day it was, but the new healer held up her hand.

“Mr. Snape,” she said kindly. “It is better that you do not try to speak just yet. You’ve suffered extensive damage to your throat and vocal chords, and the poison in your system has been very resistant to our attempts to purge it.” Severus raised his eyebrows at her and she seemed to understand his question. “You will, of course, regain your power of speech eventually, but we did not expect you to wake up quite so soon. There is still much work to be done.”

Severus tried to raise his hand to his neck, but it felt like all the strength had been drained from his body. He could barely lift his fingers a single inch. He let them fall, and then looked between the two witches and raised his eyes to the clock on the wall.

“The date?” the younger witch offered. Severus blinked at her. “Oh.” She looked at her superior and grimaced. “Well. It’s June the fifth.” Severus was at once very dizzy, and there was a little ringing sound in his ears. June the fifth? A month? And he’d woken up quickly? And then he realized that the ringing sound wasn’t just in his ears, it was in the room, as the nurses scrambled around him. And then he didn’t remember anything else. 

 

***

 

The next time Snape woke up, it was dark. Well, not perfectly dark, but darker. There were a few nightlights by the door, and there was one on his bedside table, too. This one was shaped like the Slytherin crest, and he scowled at it, and then looked at the ceiling, thinking.

He felt weak, but not paralyzed. At least, not as far as he could tell. He set about trying to shift his body a little under his sheets. He could wiggle his toes, and point and flex his feet, but could not move his legs. In fact, they felt like they were cast out of lead. He could move his fingers, too, and make a fist, and he could turn his - oh, no, better not to turn his head. He could open and close his mouth, and swallowing hurt, but he could do it. 

And, of course, he wasn’t dead. How in Merlin’s name was he not dead?

 

The door opened, and a nurse peeked in at him. Must be midnight rounds. He closed his eyes, and she left again. And after a while, he fell back asleep.

 

***

 

A gentle knock awoke him, and through his eyelids he could tell that daylight was streaming in the windows. He opened his eyes, and was again nearly blinded by the riot of color that was his bizarre collection of well-wishes. The door opened, and the healers walked in. This time, there was a man with them - very old - with a long white beard carefully plaited down his chest. 

“Good Morning, Mr. Snape,” he said, as one of the healers beside him handed him a clipboard. “Congratulations on your return to consciousness.” Severus just stared at him. What kind of thing was that to say? Congratulations. “How are you feeling?” Severus changed his stare into a glare. Stupid idiot question. “I see. Well, my name is Healer Demeraux, and I am here to evaluate your body control. Can you move, do you think?” Severus thought about giving him two fingers but withheld it. Instead he twitched his foot. “Very good.” 

The healers set about torturing him. Making him move his limbs as much as he could tolerate, and then even having him tilt his head this way and that. And that - was agonizing. But they seemed satisfied, and in the end, Healer Demeraux nodded his head, and made some notes, and then left him with the other two. 

“Would you like me to tell you a little about your condition?” the older witch, Healer Venbright, asked. “Blink once for yes, twice for no.” The younger woman was watching, looking uncomfortable. He wondered if she was a trainee. And then he wondered what he looked like. He blinked once. “Well, as I’m sure you know, you were bitten by a snake.” 

Yes. I know that.

“The fangs punctured your carotid artery and jugular vein, but barely missed your esophagus. We have in your file that there was blood-replenishment potion found in your system when you arrived here. Good foresight on your part.”

Get on with it. 

The Healer’s eyes searched his and she flushed a little. 

“Well. The venom injected into your system was a kind of neurotoxin. A paralytic. Very resistant to treatment. Your heart has stopped four times, but we have not quite lost you yet.” Severus looked up at the ceiling, wanting to roll his eyes, but not quite able to give it the force that sentence warranted. He blinked once, very hard, as if to say, YES, obviously I am not dead. Thank you. 

“We’ve only recently made a breakthrough in your case, actually,” the younger healer cut in. “A new combination of purgatives and antivenins. They triggered a series of very alarming seizures, but then - you …” she looked at her supervisor and trailed off. Severus looked back at Healer Venbright, who was glaring at her underling quite fiercely. Severus felt a little better about her competence, seeing an expression like that on her face.

“Then you woke up,” Healer Venbright finished. Severus looked at her, and then at the pile of trash beside his bed, and blinked twice. “No?” she asked. He blinked twice again. No. “Would you like us to take it away? There will only be more.” Severus raised his eyebrows. “Yes. Quite a stream of gifts, really. We’ve been giving some of it away to the other patients to make room.” Severus had so many questions. But he couldn’t speak. Blast. “But I can clear some out for you, if you like.” He blinked once, and looked at the bouquet of mylar balloons. They had dancing kittens on them. Offensive. 

 

He slept again, and when he woke next, there were four people around his bed, talking quietly and gesturing. He scratched his nails a little against the sheets to let them know he was awake. 

“Oh! Mr. Snape.” It was the young one. He found he quite liked her for letting slip things he was apparently not supposed to know. He hoped she would do it more. “Good morning.”

“I’m happy to see you awake,” said Healer Demeraux. There was another wizard with him, this time. Rather tall and thin, with horn-rimmed spectacles. He looked like he didn’t get out in the sun all that much. “This is our Potions Master, Wilford Ollerton.” Severus raised his eyebrows. Master Ollerton sighed. 

“Yes. Of the Ollertons,” he said. 

The Ollertons had a pretty good reputation in the Potion’s world. And this man looked just like a Potions Master should. Unwell. 

Healer Demeraux continued speaking.

“Your treatment team has come to the consensus that another dose of your medication might restore more movement to you. But in order to do so, we will need to put you into a magically-induced coma. Now that you are conscious, we would like your consent before moving forward.”

Alarming seizures, Severus thought. Have at me.

He blinked once. 

“Are you sure?” the young healer asked. He looked at her and blinked once. 

“Very good,” Healer Demeraux said, and turned to Healer Venbright. “If you would, please.” She withdrew her wand, a long and thin one of wood so dark it was almost black, and touched it to Severus’ temple. A cascade of rainbow colors rushed through him, followed immediately by darkness. 

 

***

 

Severus could sit up, and he did. And when he did, a little bell sounded and the young healer sprinted into the room.

“Mr. Snape!” she gasped, and turned to shout out the open door. “He’s SITTING UP!”

“Abigail, Merlin, don’t shout.” Healer Venbright came in, too, and closed the door behind her. “My apologies,” she said. “This is a high-pressure case. She gets excited.” Abigail turned red. Severus looked down at his hands and flexed his fingers. Then, he raised his right arm and extended it out in front of him, and then his left. His skin was so white it was almost translucent, but here he was - moving his arms. And then, he noticed something. He turned his left arm over. His Dark Mark was gone. 

“It worked. I can’t believe it worked,” Abigail whispered. “I thought he was going to die for sure.”

“Be quiet,” Venbright hissed at her. Then she turned back to Severus. “Don’t try to speak, just yet, Mr. Snape. Your throat is still very damaged and now that the paralysis has lessened you can very easily hurt yourself. You might be able to write, though, to communicate. Would you like to try that?” 

Severus did want to try.

They brought him a pad of paper and a muggle pencil, explaining to him that a quill might be too difficult to wield just yet. And then they summoned a little table that could be turned to rest over his lap, and handed him the supplies. 

I told you get rid of trash, he wrote. His handwriting was blocky, but legible. Abigail read it out loud and started to laugh. 

“We did!” she said. “This is all new!”

How long asleep?

“Oh, four days,” she said. 

Seizures?

Abigail looked at her boss and she shrugged. “Yeah,” she said. “Really bad ones.”

Scared you.

“A little bit.” She smiled at him.

How are scars?

Abigail grimaced again. She was really quite useful to have around. She was so transparent. “Well,” she began. “They’re pretty… extensive. Still healing.” Now that Severus could move around a little more he could feel a sort of strange tight sensation all the way down his right arm and the right side of his chest and back. 

I want to see.

“Not just yet,” Venbright broke in. “Give it a little time.”

It’s my body.

“Just… give it time.”

Severus rolled his eyes.

Water , he wrote. They produced a little bottle with a long, thin straw, and Abigail held it for him while he sipped at it. The water hurt going down and Severus thought that he wouldn’t be able to speak for quite a while. Then, when he was done, he wrote, Newspapers. Back Issues.

“I can try to find some for you,” Abigail answered. “How far back do you want?”

Battle, he wrote. 

“I’ll try.”

“You should rest, now,” Venbright said. “I’ll give you something to sleep.”



***

 

“Is it Tuesday already?”

“Ha, yep. Tuesday again. I heard he’s awake. Is that true?”

“Yes! And he can write, now. Just since yesterday.”

“That’s fantastic. Can I go in?”

Severus opened his eyes, wondering what time it was. It was sunny again, which surely meant that the nine on the clock indicated nine in the morning. There were footsteps outside his door, and then a soft knock. Abigail poked her head in.

“Mr. Snape?” she asked. “Your visitor is here. Can I send him in?”

Visitor? What visitor. 

But then, he should have guessed. It was Harry Potter. With an armful of newspapers.

“Hi,” Harry said, looking a little nervous. “They said you wanted papers.” Severus propped himself up against the headboard and just looked at him. He looked pretty good, all things considered. A little thin, still, as he had been at the final battle, but his hair was cut, and his clothes were clean, and his color was good. Severus supposed it had been weeks and weeks. 

Harry was still lingering in the doorway, and Severus took pity on him, and gestured for him to come in. He did, and then set the papers on the bedside table and pulled up the lone chair like he’d done it before.

“How are you feeling?” he asked. Severus took his pad of paper and wrote back.

Very stupid question. Harry laughed a little. Severus wrote again. How are you?

“Me? I’m alright. Been really busy.” Severus raised an eyebrow. “Yeah, you know - Death Eater trials and statements and stuff. A lot of people want to talk to me.”

Trials? Severus wrote. Harry bent over to see, and then answered.

“Yeah. It’s a lot harder now that everyone’s Dark Marks have disappeared. The Wizengamot is relying more on testimony and memory. I have a lot of information in my brain, since I walked right into their weird base camp that night. A lot of them had their masks off.”

Me? Severus wrote. 

“Oh, no, not you. I took care of that already. You can read about it in the papers all you want. I think I got most of the major ones. Here,” he rummaged in the stack he brought, and then held up a Daily Prophet for him to see. 

SEVERUS SNAPE: HERO?

That was the headline, and under it, there was a picture of Harry sitting before the Wizengamot, and then a picture of Severus as headmaster. Severus put his head in his hand, wishing desperately that he could let out the groan of horrific embarrassment that was trapped inside his damaged throat. Harry chuckled. 

“I’m really sorry,” he said. “But I think your choices were either prison or hero.”

Prison. Severus wrote.

“Come on, you don’t mean that.”

That’s why gifts?

“Oh, yeah. You’re an international sweetheart, now.”

A what?

“Yeah. Well,” Harry said. “You saved me.” He rummaged again in the papers and produced a later one. This time, the headline was slightly more sedate.

The Man behind the Boy Who Lived.

And underneath this was what must be the only photo of them together. Severus Snape, unconscious in this very hospital bed, and Harry in the chair he was sitting in now, looking down at him.

How picture? Severus wrote.

“Someone snuck in. I heard they actually got arrested for taking that. I dunno if that’s true or not, though.” 

Severus looked at the date. May 14th. 

Been Visiting?

Harry turned a little pink and looked at the floor. “Yeah,” he said. What had Severus heard when he’d woken up?

Tuesdays.

“And Fridays,” Harry answered. “I’m the only one they’ll let in, you know.”

Special treatment for Potter, Severus wrote. Harry smiled a little, and raked his hand through his hair. 

“Oh, yeah, there’s a lot of that going on.”

 

***

 

Harry didn’t stay very long, but even so, Severus found he was quite exhausted by the visit. He slept again, and woke in the early evening. And once he was awake, he turned to the pile of papers, and found the earliest one. The morning after the battle. A huge headline blared across the entire front page: 

VOLDEMORT DEAD!  

And the subtitle: 

Battlefront Hogwarts

Severus thought that was painfully dramatic, and wondered what the tabloids had said. Dark Lord No More, maybe. Or The Boy Who Lived, Again!  

He looked at the picture. It was Harry, as he’d expected, scraped up and singed, holding his wand out before him like he feared reprisal.

In the story, Severus read exclusive interviews with some of the students that had stayed behind to fight. He learned that absolutely everyone thought that Harry had died. He learned that Neville Longbottom had drawn Gryffindor’s sword out of the sorting hat and chopped off Nagini’s head. Severus thought that was pretty rich. What an excellent death for Voldemort’s prized consort. Beheaded by a Longbottom. He scanned past some less relevant interviews, looking for an one with Harry, but there wasn’t one. He moved on to the next paper. 

He read an article entitled: Hogwarts School - Too Damaged to Reopen? (It wasn’t)

He read: Albus Dumbledore Redeemed, and Malfoy Manor Stripped, and Death Eaters Among Us. He did not read: Severus Snape in Critical Condition, nor did he read: Honoring the Fallen, though he did look at the list of the dead. There were a lot. Some children, too.

And then, a few issues later, about a week after the final battle, he saw: Harry Potter Speaks. It was long. And it was, apparently, the first time Harry had spoken to any reporters, because the tone was breathless. He read that not only had the others thought Harry was dead, but that he had actually died. Or, at least, he’d visited death. Harry described the white light he’d seen, and how it had morphed into King’s Cross Station, and how he’d spoken to Dumbledore, and seen the maimed remnant of Voldemort’s soul. Severus thought it sounded rather like an involved hallucination. But then, Harry had needed to die to purge the splinter of the Dark Lord’s spirit from his body. So maybe he really had died, and come back to life. 

He read further, about the quest for the Horcruxes, and how his friends had been invaluable, and about the escape from Malfoy Manor, and how Dobby had died. That part was rather sweet, Severus thought. How Harry described Dobby as his friend, and not a servant. 

And then, a little further on, the interviewer told Harry that he’d been seen entering and exiting St. Mungo’s regularly, and asked him who he was visiting. And Harry said: “I’m visiting Severus Snape.” And the interviewer’s shocked follow-up: “What? Why him?” And then a veritable block of text.

 

What do you mean, why him? Without him, I would have died when I was eleven years old. Without him, I would not have known what to do to finish Voldemort, let alone been able to do it. He gave eighteen years to the cause. He almost gave his life. How dare you ask me why I am visiting him? You think because of the Mark on his arm that he was a Death Eater? He was a soldier. He fought more than anyone. He did more to defeat Voldemort than I did. And all he got for it was fear, and hate, and scars. Severus Snape is the bravest man that has ever lived. And when he recovers, I will personally see to it that he doesn’t spend a single day in Azkaban. Any more questions?

 

Severus could almost hear him say it. Angry, and tired, and frustrated. And based on the papers after that, the Wizarding World had been listening. Severus’ whole life had been raked over and printed again, and again. There was a picture of him as a boy, standing in front of his parents, published under the headline: The Tortured Soul of Severus Snape. There was an unforgivable artist’s rendering of him sitting at the Headmaster’s desk, staring dramatically out the window under the headline: The Headmaster’s Last Secret. Someone had even dredged up his NEWT scores and published those.  

He flipped through the papers, numb with shock. Harry hadn’t even needed to wait until Severus woke up to exonerate him. Once the reporters had started digging, Harry was summoned to the Wizengamot, and had testified for five hours as to Severus’ position in the Order of the Phoenix. This coverage, too, was breathless. And where the early depictions of his life had not been flattering, these later ones were positively rosy. And then, finally, the issue Harry had held up for him, first. SEVERUS SNAPE: HERO?

The Wizengamot had unanimously exonerated him. He’d been awarded the Order of Merlin First Class. There was going to be a statue. And that, he hoped, would be completed only if he died. And maybe he could still manage that. If he died, he would never have to face whoever was sending all these fucking flowers to him. 

 

Harry came back on Friday, and when he appeared, Severus chucked a stuffed bunny at him. It didn’t have enough force to make it quite to the door, and it squeaked forlornly when it hit the ground. Harry stooped down to pick it up.

“I figured you’d be mad about the papers,” he said, setting the bunny down on the side table and pulling up his chair. “That’s why I brought them all at once. So you could be mad all at once, too.”

Severus scrawled on his pad of paper: You ruined my life.

“Was it good, before?” Harry asked. Severus rolled his eyes and looked away, and then wrote again.

Order of Merlin.

“Yeah,” Harry answered. “And a statue.” Severus looked at the ceiling. “I saw the design of it, actually. You’ll hate it. It’s got Dumbledore and me, too. It’s terrible.” He laughed. “The three of us are sort of standing in a triangle, facing out, with our wands en garde. It’s the worst.”

Not Hogwarts, Severus wrote.

“No, I think it’s supposed to replace the fountain of magical brethren at the Ministry. Pretty funny considering how much harder the Ministry made everything.” He laughed again. “Jerks.” 

Severus watched him laugh for a while, thinking. Then, he wrote: Thank you.

“For ruining your life?”

Yes.

Harry smiled. “Even Steven,” he said.