|Author: Athea (email@example.com)
Fandom: Harry Potter
Pairing: Severus Snape and Hagrid
Title: Forbidden Forest
Summary: Who takes care of Severus after a particularly nasty bout with Voldemort?
Date: July 2002
Pain . . . anguish . . . suffering . . . a stabbing fire that burned all the way inside.
A splitting headache that I was rather hoping would just put me out and keep me there.
No such luck, I found when the agony moved harshly through my legs, twisting them into positions that they shouldn't have been able to assume.
The panting was annoying me until I realized that it was coming from my mouth. It beat the screams that were about to break free.
Ribs finally broke and stabbed my lungs like so many sharp knives.
And there was no more breath, not even for screaming as I fell into the dark.
Severus was late. More than late he was overdue and the glass ball that held a drop of his blood had turned dark and cloudy. I tried to be optimistic and thankful that it hadn't turned black but good cheer came hard to me in these horrible days. Pinching the bridge of my nose, I willed away the headache that threatened to overwhelm me.
"Where are you, Severus?" I asked the fire, almost glad that it couldn't answer me back.
A fluttering at the window aroused me and I hastened to open it, hoping that Severus had managed to get off an owl to me. But instead of an owl, a tiny green and purple Greeley wren chirped up at me and I blinked in surprise. "Do you have a message for me?"
The beak opened wide and spewed forth a pellet of green gauze. Looking down at it as if wondering how it got there, it flicked its tail and flew back to the Forbidden Forest. Summoning my wand, I gently levitated the message to my desk and unwound it carefully.
'Snape hurt - hippogriff lair - hurry'
The message was from Hagrid, the only mortal who wandered in and out of the Forest with impunity. I made sure that I had a full medical kit, including some of the potions that Severus brewed so carefully. Leaving the castle in Minerva's capable hands, I ventured into the Forest. The wren met me within a few feet of the edge of the Forest and flew ahead of me, her cheerful whistle guiding me through the dark undergrowth.
Bushes and grasses parted before me then closed back up again behind. How I was ever going to get out of here again, I hadn't the slightest idea. But my dear Severus needed me and I took a firm hold of my imagination, ignoring the odd illusions that kept pace with me. Fairies, naiads and dryads all beckoned to me with sensuous allure. I kept my eyes straight ahead and hurried as quickly as my 150 year old body could move.
Although, I might just remember one or two of the lovelies in the privacy of my own bed. I may be old but I'm not dead yet. Unlike poor Severus if I didn't get to him in time. I'd gotten rather good at patching him up even though I wish I didn't have to. Perhaps we were close to the final battle with old Tom Riddle. I prayed fervently that it was so. I didn't know how much more my Potions Master could take and still survive.
I came out of the trees into a glade of surpassing beauty. One of the hippogriffs stood waiting for me and I bowed to the silvery creature. She craned her head in return and the wren whistled at us both before flying off. She turned and pawed the ground three times before descending into the hidden opening that appeared. Taking a deep breath, I followed her.
A faint light appeared at the end of a seemingly non-ending tunnel. She might be able to see in the dark but I had no such ability. Luckily, a slight spell on the end of my wand enabled to keep up with her. The light grew brighter and we entered a cave filled with the rustling of a hundred life forms. I blinked, or perhaps a family of three hippogriffs.
"Headmaster, he's 'ere." Hagrid's voice came from behind the hippogriffs and his face was somber. When I approached the nest, I could see why. Severus lay as if dead, blood everywhere and bones sticking out of places where they had no business being. "He's right bad, Sir."
"He is indeed, Hagrid. We need some hot water. Is there a fire handy?" I was muttering spells under my breath and surrounding him with a levitation spell to keep weight off his shattered body.
"I'll see to it." The half-giant moved slowly away and I could see that he'd been very carefully holding Severus above the nesting materials, which seemed to be mud and twigs.
We'd need something better than that once we got him put back together. I worked very hard for almost an hour before the seeking spell said everything was in its proper place. I'd sent Severus' mind very deep to avoid the pain that was inevitable. It was unfortunate but his body had been shattered by pain and it was in pain remade. He was going to take a long time healing.
Sitting down with a bit of a thump on the mattress that I'd made from the previous bed, I took a deep breath and accepted the cup of tea that Hagrid had silently made for me. He sat beside me on the stone floor and watched Severus breathing. That was about all he'd be doing for the next few days and I tried to think where he would best heal. The castle was out of the question, too many eyes. St. Mungo's was also right out.
"He can stay with me here in the forest." Hagrid's deep voice was barely a whisper. "I'd look after 'im."
I was startled by the offer. I hadn't realized they were friends. "Thank you, Hagrid but I'm afraid that this cave is not the place that I'd choose for a speedy recovery."
"Not 'ere but in my summer cottage by the lake. It's real quiet like but you can visit by boat. It's kind of in the Forest but not, if you catch my drift." He looked earnestly at me. "I'd follow your directions and take real good care of him."
I thought long and hard but couldn't come up with anything else. "It will mean a lot of work for you, Hagrid. Once he wakes up, he's going to be a very bad patient."
The half-giant smiled at me. "I know he'll be a real handful, Headmaster. But I owe 'im."
This was a fascinating side light on their relationship. "Why do you owe him, Hagrid?"
He blushed and looked down at his hands. "I started having pains in my fingers. It was real bad and I got clumsier than usual. I was afraid that I'd 'ave to give up working with the animals. The Professor came by to harvest some scales from the sea dragon and noticed. He listened real careful like when I told 'im how bad it was gettin'."
Really, this was a side of Severus I'd never head of before. "What happened then?"
"He came back with a potion. Tasted real bad, it did. Made me burp something awful but the pain started going away. I've got to take it once a month but it works a treat and he wouldn't ever take anything from me." One large finger gently traced Severus' long elegant hand where it lay so limply on the cotton cover. "Won't ever rightly pay 'im back but I'd like to help 'im now."
I made up my mind. "Very well, Hagrid. I believe that you'll be just the nurse for Severus. Now, how to get him to your cottage? Is it far?"
"Nah, just a hop, skip and a jump. Wait a tick." He stood and spoke to the male hippogriff in their language. The magical creature nodded once and crowded me aside.
A tingle in the air told me that magic was being done but I couldn't see what until the mattress that Severus was lying on began to levitate. I almost held my breath but it remained level while floating towards the tunnel. Even at my age, I could still learn something new.
I bowed my thanks to the female and her grifflet. Hagrid carried my bag for me and we ventured back out to the Forest. The journey wasn't long at all but I was tired by the time we got there. Dawn was breaking over the lake, tinting the waves pink and gold. I was asleep on my feet but Severus was tucked into the rustic giant-sized bed and appeared to be breathing a little easier.
Summoning a boat, I said my goodbyes to Hagrid and settled in for the trip across the still waters. I left him the medical supplies in case he needed them. I promised him that the seventh year students would take care of the animals back at Hogwarts. He smiled down at me and waved goodbye, giving the boat a good shove off. I settled back to take a nap and gather my energy for the day ahead.
Hopefully, Severus would heal quickly.
Waking wasn't as painful as it should have been. Opening my eyes, I looked up into a lacy canopy that moved slightly in the cool breeze. Where was I? A tuneful humming came from just out of my sight and I slowly turned my head to see who it was. Something was teasing my mind, some memory that was just out of reach. My pillow was soft and placed just right beneath my neck.
"Morning, Sev," a gentle rumble came through the air and I smiled at one of the good memories. The half-giant crouched down to my level and grinned at me. "You're going to be just fine. The Headmaster fixed you up real good. You thirsty?"
I thought about that but shutting my eyes was a mistake. The sound of his voice lulled me right back to sleep.
This time I felt stronger. Flexing my feet was painful but more like the memory of the pain rather than the real thing. The humming was gone but I could still feel Hagrid some where nearby. His warmth and caring always flowed out and filled the space where he was. It's one of the reasons that he's such a good caretaker of our animals and the magic creatures that found a haven with the school.
Not all magic comes in a wand. Opening my eyes again, I was caught by the glow of a red and orange sunset through the window at the foot of the large bed I was in. Hagrid was leaning in the doorway, a look of wonder on his face. He wasn't in the least childish, just . . . perhaps a bit childlike in his approach to the world around him. I envied him sometimes and wondered what it would be like to take joy in a sunset.
Right here and now, I was determined to just lie and enjoy it. The breeze was fresh and slightly chilly so I was glad of the soft blanket over me. The sky kept changing colors like one of my potions and my mind persisted in trying to name what each one was. But I was too weak to keep thinking and closing my eyes, I fell back to sleep with a sigh.
A fire was crackling near by and the sound of a teakettle steaming away, sounds that comforted rather than alarmed. The scent of herbs drying reminded me of summers in the country when I was a very little boy. Opening my eyes, I saw it was night again. Which one, I hadn't a clue and didn't really care. I was tired of the pain, tired of the duplicity, tired of my life. Perhaps Dumbledore had done me a disservice when he healed me.
"Sev, you're awake." Hagrid sounded glad and I felt the gentle touch to my hand that I realized I'd been waiting for.
"Hagrid." Was that husky whisper really me?
"Got the tea on, Sev, won't be a tick. That will help your throat." He bustled away and my eyes followed him while he measured out some tea into a brown teapot then poured the hot water over it.
I was feeling a little empty, come to think of it. He came back and very gently lifted me so he could put another pillow behind me. The aches were still there but nothing I'd not felt before. My head felt as if cotton wool was stuffed inside it instead of my mind. I smiled to myself, perhaps all my brains had leaked out of the sieve that had been me once Voldemort was done with me.
I should be dead, I realized my smile turning into a frown. I was sure that he meant to kill me once Malfoy had given him the proof that I was a traitor. Why wasn't I dead?
"Is there pain, Sev?" Hagrid's anxious tones brought me back to the here and now. He had a tea cup in one hand and he helped me take a small drink of the potent brew. It tasted more wonderful than anything I'd ever tasted in my life.
"Dead . . . I should be . . . dead." I managed to say before taking another sip. Really, we don't appreciate our national drink the way we should. It was better than any elixir that I could brew.
"Well, in a manner of speaking, you were. Um, kind of dead, I mean." He was blushing fiercely and I pondered that convoluted speech.
"Kind of?" I prodded him verbally while I drank some more tea and he held the cup. My hands were too weak to hold the cup for myself.
"You won't be mad, Sev?" He was biting his lip and I wondered what in the world he was talking about.
"Not mad, Hagrid." One of these days, I'd be able to speak in whole sentences. That day was not today.
"Um, you were leaking away something fierce there in the circle. They were just watching you and laughing." His gruff voice told me of his reaction to that. "So I asked the vampire bats that roost near there to drive them away. I told them they could have any of them but you if they wanted 'em."
"Good." I finished the tea and eyed the biscuit in his hand. For a giant, he was an excellent cook and I'd had those particular cinnamon sugar buns before. "Hagrid?"
"You want to try eating now?" He chuckled and brought it to my lips. It took energy that was in short supply but oh, the delicious taste of the light fluffy biscuit and the tasty cinnamon.
"Hm-m-m," was all I could manage to say and he chuckled again, breaking it up into little pieces for me to savor. But just that small amount of chewing was enough to tire me and I swallowed the last bit with the last of my energy.
"Little more tea, Sev?" Hagrid seemed to understand without words what I needed.
I managed a nod and he poured some more of the steaming brew into his own cup and helped me swallow some more. It washed the biscuit down and I let him remove the extra pillow so I was once again flat. It felt wonderful and I sighed contentedly. Just one thing more and I'd let myself sleep again. "After the bats?"
He blushed again and smoothed the blanket over me. "Well, they all started running every which way and a few of the local hellbenders were feeling a little frisky so they kind of gave the ones on the ground the hot foot, which sent them all off flying so I could get to you."
Hagrid stopped and his large hands fidgeted with the blanket. I freed one hand and laid it on his. "Just tell me, my friend."
In a whisper he told me. How I wasn't breathing, how he breathed for me until his friend the unicorn had touched me with her horn and given me back a pulse. How he got word to Dumbledore and how the Headmaster had brought me back from the brink. It seems I am very lucky in my friends. The two of them had managed to bring me back. I should have thanked him then or something . . . anything. But I couldn't get the words out.
Part of me had accepted death and I was too tired to feel anything but empty. But Hagrid didn't want thanks, he just hummed me to sleep, stroking my hand and letting me relax into slumber. When next I awoke, I would thank him.
It was three days before I could get back to Hagrid and his patient. Potion classes were on hold for the moment. I told everyone that Severus had been called away. Young Harry knew different since he'd dreamed the entire horrible episode. I made sure that he spent several hours a day with the animals and burnt off all that energy with Quidditch.
He would be fine eventually. I wasn't so sure about Severus. The devastation of his body had been so complete. In fact, I was pretty sure that only Hagrid's breathing for him had sufficed to keep his spirit in the broken body. Sighing, I settled in to enjoy the boat trip across the lake. The squid came up to wave hello and I fed him a loaf of the raisin oatmeal bread he liked.
Hagrid was nowhere to be seen when the boat beached itself on the white sand. I climbed out and gathered up the bag I'd packed for Severus. He was a very fastidious man and after several days of wearing nothing but one of Hagrid's nightshirts, I had the feeling that he'd be glad of a change. Knocking politely on the front door, I waited for Hagrid to answer it.
"Afternoon, Sir, come on in. Sev's resting but I just made tea." The smiling giant took the bag from me and opened wide the door.
I came in to find Severus nothing more than a lump in the huge bed. His color was better and his brow was unwrinkled, which meant he was truly sleeping and not dreaming. I'd nursed him through quite a few nightmares over the years and I would have thought that this last episode would have triggered them again. But it appeared I was wrong and I was glad of it.
"How has he been, Hagrid?" I took the cup of tea and sat in one of the chairs by the fire.
"He sleeps a lot, Sir." The giant took the other chair and looked sadly over at the Potions Master. "He told me thank you but 'e didn't really mean it. He said that I should have let him go, 'e wasn't of use anymore now that You-Know-Who knows he's working for you. I think maybe he's real depressed."
"Not of any use?" I sat up straight and looked over at Severus. "Nonsense, he's a valuable member of the staff and without him, things would be much worse. Although, they are rather bad at the moment." I slumped back a little and finished my tea. "There was another attack on Hogsmead. It left seven dead and three in critical condition. One of them was a fourth year student."
"Who?" The whisper of a voice came from the bed.
"Charles Bretton of the Ravenclaws. He took a Crucio spell for almost five minutes. Pomfrey thinks he may eventually recover," I sighed and crossed to the bed to sit on the edge of the mattress. "But it will take time. It was not your fault, Severus. It is none of our faults."
"None or all, Dumbledore." Coal black eyes gazed dully into mine. "I'll be of no more use to any of you. You should have let me go."
"No. I will not lose another friend to the Dark." I took one of those elegant hands in mine and warmed it with my own.
"Me neither, Sev. I don't 'ave so many friends that I can lose any." Hagrid said over my shoulder.
"True." Severus blinked slowly and I saw tears form but not fall. "I've only got two friends and they're both here. But I'll be good for nothing for some time to come. I'm tired."
I could see the exhaustion dragging his eyelids down. "Sleep then, my friend. Sleep and eat what Hagrid makes for you then sleep some more. One of these days you'll wake up and want to take a walk. When that happens Hagrid, owl me and I'll come again."
Sev didn't even give his trademark snort of derision, he just nodded and went back to sleep. I saw what Hagrid had meant. He was tired to death and it wouldn't take much to tip him over the edge to madness or suicide. And that was not going to happen. I hadn't taken great enough care of him when he was younger and I would not make that mistake again.
Silently I arose and beckoned Hagrid to follow me. He took a moment to twitch the covers up a bit and stroke Severus' hand on the coverlet. It felt like a very private moment and I wondered just what kind of friends they were. I stroked my beard while I walked down to the boat that had brought me.
Could it be possible that Hagrid might be what our Potions Master had been looking for all his life? Might he provide the grounding that Severus needed so desperately? I eyed the half-giant with a wondering look of appraisal. He was big of course, but he was also kind, gentle and a master of the earth magic that was his strongest element.
"Hagrid, would you mind me asking a personal question?" I ventured to ask when he appeared, unsure of my request.
He eyed me knowingly and blushed a bit. "I like him, Sir. I always have but we don't have a lot in common and I always knew that I wasn't good enough for him. He's pureblood and the smartest wizard I know. Beggin' your pardon, Sir."
"No, you're right. Severus is a brilliant Potions Master and one of the top three in the world. But blood, pure or otherwise, has nothing to do with suitability. His parents were both from ancient wizard families but his father was a monster. Septimus was," I paused, suddenly sure of my way, "what the muggles would call a 24 karat son-of-a-bitch. He abused Severus from the day he was born."
"How?" Hagrid's eyes were suddenly flashing fire and I was glad the elder Snape was already dead.
"Beatings over trifles, cold harsh words that flayed the sensitive boy alive, and expectations that not even our Harry could have fulfilled." I took a deep breath. "I didn't know of it until his mother died. I arrived unexpectedly for the funeral to find Septimus beating him for crying. He was just ten and at his first year at Hogwarts. The elder Snape passed it off as discipline and although I thought it excessive, I did nothing. To my everlasting sorrow, I let it go."
"You had a lot of kids to take care of, Headmaster. Is his father still alive?" Hagrid was opening and closing his hands carefully.
"No, just after Severus became a Death Eater, his father had a heart attack and died alone at the family estate. I went to the funeral and found Severus already closing himself off from everyone." I blinked back sudden tears. "I should have done more then but since we can not change the past, we must look ahead instead. He counts you as a friend as I do. Be that for him. Give him your friendship and what comfort he will accept. Perhaps he will finally find the healing that he needs to mend his broken heart."
"Thank you, Sir. I'll do my best." Hagrid helped me into the boat and gave it another hefty shove off the beach. "He may think I'm barmy, Headmaster. But gentlin' wild creatures kind of gives me an edge. I already know how to be patient."
That surprised me into laughter and I left with a lighter heart than when I had arrived. Hagrid might be just what the doctor ordered for our Potions Master. I would wait until summoned again. If only Voldemort would hold off for just a bit longer. I sighed and settled in for a nap. Oh, to be a hundred again.
Hagrid's humming made me want to smile. It always had but I had a reputation to maintain so I'd never given in and just let it out. I was propped up on two pillows again, watching the gentle giant brush the sable fur of one of his creatures. The two yellow eyes of the Nemean Lion watched me carefully but I was too bemused by his very existence to make any threatening gestures. I thought the last one had been killed by Hercules during one of his labors.
Obviously he'd had time to have a family but how in the world had they arrived in the British Isles from the Peloponnesus? For a moment, I thought about several potions that used snippets of fur from one of them but it couldn't hold my interest. I went back to not thinking and watching Hagrid's hands give the lion he called Ty a through brushing. I liked watching those strong fingers wield the brush like the expert he was.
Ty's rumbling purr announced his own pleasure in the thinning of his thick fur. His claws scratched the tiles on the floor as they kneaded the floor. Hagrid's face showed a single-minded concentration that I thought admirable. He was very good at his job and I thought about that. I had once considered myself an artist who used ingredients to create potions that ranged from innocent to lethal.
Right now, I couldn't make a kitten de-furball potion, which any of my first year students could manage . . . even Longbottom. Sighing, I rested my head against the pillow and went back to watching Hagrid. I didn't want to think or want or feel. I just wanted to exist enough to eat and drink and watch an overgrown feline get brushed.
"You feeling all right, Sev? That was a mighty big sigh." Hagrid stopped for a moment and looked worriedly at me.
"You're very good with him." I said idly. "Has he ever told you how his family came to the British Isles?"
"Ty?" He started brushing again. "His great grandmother arrived in the seventeenth century carrying his grandfather. Every couple of centuries, one of the family goes back to the Argolis Valley and mates with one of the Old Country lions. Keeps the breed clean without a lot of inbreeding."
I blinked. That was without a doubt the longest explanation I'd ever heard from the giant. "I see. Does the summer heat bother him?"
"Nah," Hagrid grinned at me and I finally let myself return a smile. "When he gets too hot, he comes to me and I brush him. You got any use for some fur?"
"It's used in . . ." I automatically began to answer and that startled me into silence.
He frowned a little but let it slide, working through the tangled mane with a delicate hand. "It's all right, Sev. You don't have to think about potions if you don't want to."
For the first time in a very long time, I felt . . . free. I didn't have to think about potions, Hagrid had said it so it must be true. Dumbledore had told me to take my time. Voldemort thought he'd killed me. Lucius had written me off. Ty could care less what I did. There was no one who needed me in any way what so ever. What an incredible feeling that was, I thought in astonishment.
"Tell me how you met him, Hagrid." I asked him and listened to his voice tell the tale. Somewhere in the middle of it I fell asleep.
When I awoke, it was dusk and Hagrid was stirring something savory on top of the wood stove. He was quite good at cooking on such a primitive device and I was slowly finding my appetite again. It had been months since I'd done anything more than eat to stop the hunger pains. His cooking was plain but did more than ease my hunger. It tempted me to eat a little more than was quite comfortable.
Perhaps I would become a glutton, I mused while watching him putter around the small area that served him as a kitchen. For the first time since I'd awakened to find myself not yet dead, I wondered where I was. It wasn't his cottage near the mews so it must be the mythical summer cottage that he'd alluded to once. It was obviously not a dream at all. Turning my head, I wondered where his bed was since I was in this one.
There was another door just beyond the large fireplace and I'd seen him go in there and then come out. "Hagrid, how many rooms does your cottage have?"
He looked up and smiled at me. "Just this one and the bathroom through there. Are you ready for dinner?"
"Yes, thank you." I looked around again. "Where have you been sleeping?"
Hagrid dished up some of the savory stew and brought it over to me. "I didn't want to disturb you with my snoring so I've been sleeping out." He made a vague gesture through the open front door. "Let's get you propped up then."
I let him move me into position and hold the giant sized bowl for me. I wouldn't let him feed me but I didn't have the strength to hold more than the spoon so we'd compromised. The first bite tasted as good as it smelled and I closed my eyes in enjoyment. His low chuckle vibrated the whole bed and I smiled again. I ate almost a quarter of the bowl before I could eat no more.
"That's good, that is. You enjoyed it, I think." He nonchalantly used my spoon to finish the bowl and I felt something like a blush steal over my cheeks. That seemed a rather intimate thing to do for some reason.
But I needed to re-address what he'd said before. "The wind is picking up. You should sleep inside tonight."
"No need, Sev," he got up and went to dish up some stew. "I like lying outside and watching the storm come up over the lake. Little thing like wind doesn't bother me."
I frowned and picked at a small hole in the soft coverlet. A few feathers escaped and I recognized the soft under-down of a swan. A quick mutter and the hole disappeared. Blinking, I realized that it was the first bit of magic I'd done since that night. Somewhere inside of me I still had the ability. If only I had the energy to spark it. Closing my eyes, I relaxed against the pillows and just listened to Hagrid eat.
He closed his mouth when he chewed. I couldn't abide a noisy eater. People who chewed with their mouths open were among the rudest of individuals. I slid into a waking dream where every sense mingled with each other. The only way I can describe it was hearing with my skin, feeling with my nose and seeing with my ears. Tea was being brewed and the cookie jar was opened. The sharp scent of ginger wafted to me and I could see the gingerbread men lined up on the plate.
That made me smile again and I opened my eyes to see him hovering over me. "You want your tea now, Sev? It can wait if you want to catch a nap."
"Now is fine, Hagrid." I could hold the cup since it was sized for a human. It was hot and sweet, just the way I liked it. The plate of gingerbread sat between us where he perched on the edge of the bed. And somewhere between finishing my tea and selecting a ginger cookie, I decided that it was time to take another step towards healing.
"Hagrid, I believe I'd like a bath. Is there a tub in that bathroom of yours?"
He blinked a moment then grinned wider than I'd ever seen him. "Sure it does, Sev. While you're bathing, I'll change the sheets for you."
"Thank you, that will be nice since you will be sharing the bed with me afterwards."
"I will?" He looked rather taken aback.
"Yes, there is no longer any way that you could hurt me so it's time for you to return to your own bed. Snoring has never bothered me. Now, do you have hot water or should we spell some?" I was determined to have my way in this.
"It will heat real quick. One of the hellbenders obliges me when I need to take a bath." He was blushing. "Would you like me to wash your hair for you?"
I nodded. "Yes, thank you. It must be a tangled mess by now."
"Nah," he blushed again. "I brushed it out real careful like. But it will feel better when it's clean. I'll just go get the bath started. Don't you be trying to get out of bed just yet."
I nodded and closed my eyes to gather my strength. It would probably take every last ounce of energy I had just to take a bath. Poor Hagrid would be forced to see my scarred body but he'd already seen everything I had and it hadn't scared him off yet. He must be used to seeing his wild creatures both healthy and sick. I would be no different. I clenched my hands into fists then held them like that for almost a count of ten.
Appallingly weak was my diagnosis of my own condition. Just that little exercise almost exhausted me. It would be a while before I was back to normal. Opening my eyes, I looked into a future that was bleak, to say the least. I was going to be a burden to Hagrid and Dumbledore for some time to come. A great sigh built within me and escaped with almost the same force as the wind that was now howling around the cottage.
"Now, Sev, it will be all right. You'll see." The noise had muffled his reappearance. Hagrid stroked my arm with warm fingers. "Ready for your bath?"
I nodded, afraid that my voice would break if I spoke. Pushing back the down coverlet, I tried to sit up by myself and found I could not. Hagrid simply slid his hands under my back and legs, lifting me gently from the tangled sheets and bearing me into the warm bathroom. Sitting me on a stool by the tub, he whisked off my nightshirt and pulled off my warm socks.
The water gently steamed in the large white tub with the lion feet. He set me into it as gently as he'd lifted me out of bed. It felt heavenly. "There you go, Sev. You just soak for a minute or two while I change the bed. Then I'll be back in to wash your hair."
"Thank you, Hagrid." I relaxed against the sloping back and closed my eyes to enjoy the delicate scent of jasmine.
"You're welcome, Sev. Don't drown on me." A single gentle finger pushed the hair back behind my ear.
I hummed a reply and concentrated on the lovely feeling of floating. I could hardly wait for his return. I needed to wash away the last of the degradation that Voldemort had put me through. Once that was behind me, I'd figure out what I could do for the future. Events would interrupt this interlude soon enough. I was here on borrowed time, I'd always known that.
Just a few more good memories before I descended back into the darkness.
Severus could sit up for an hour at a time by the end of the first week. He was still real quiet but then he never did talk much when we were together. At first, I'd thought that he was so intelligent that we didn't have anything in common. But if I asked a question, he always answered me. And if I didn't understand his answer, he'd find another way to tell me. I usually got it by the third explanation.
I realized then that he was a born teacher. Some people have the knack of showing or telling others how to do something. He had that knack but he didn't suffer fools gladly and most of the children he was teaching either didn't want to know how to brew a potion or only wanted the results and could care less about the process. He was so frustrated some days that he'd come out to the mews and spend time with whatever creature was roosting or nesting there.
Or with me. Once I realized he was coming out for some peace and quiet, I stopped asking him questions. But he didn't like that either so eventually, I figured out what I could ask and when to ask it. He wasn't talking down to me, he was just adjusting his mind to the person he was with. That probably made him a real good spy for the Headmaster but it surely did hurt him.
Not the physical hurts, although he always bore them real stoic-like, but the mental ones. Animals don't lie to each other. But humans sure do seem to spend a lot of time lying right to a body's face. And wizards seemed to have made it a fine art, right up there with say, potion making. I'm a pretty truthful kind of person because I don't have anything to hide.
Well, maybe one thing. I sighed a little to myself while I trimmed the hoof of one of the hippogriffs. He'd been real helpful with moving Sev the night I found him all broken up. So, I'd told him to come around when he needed his next clipping. I had him in the little paddock behind the cottage where I could keep an ear out for Severus. But so far, he hadn't stirred a mite since breakfast a couple of hours ago.
Running a file over the clipped edges, I rounded them the way that Ceyx liked them. The last hoof was a little ticklish so I took a firm hold of his leg and filed it real quick. Getting kicked by a hippogriff in his prime would hurt something fierce. But he held still for me until I was satisfied that he didn't have no hangnails.
Stepping back, I watched him trot around the paddock a few times. His hooves helped his sense of balance so trimming them evenly was real important. Stopping in front of me, he butted my chest in thanks and I scratched his ears to say 'you're welcome'. Then he took off for home while I gathered my tools together and went back inside.
I went in quietly in case he was sleeping but he was awake, staring out the window. "I'm going to make tea, Sev. Would you like a cup?"
Those coal black eyes moved to me and I thought I saw a spark of something glow. "What were you doing, Hagrid? Is it very hot outside?"
I glanced down and noticed the sweat gleaming through my chest hair. "I worked up a sweat on Ceyx while I was trimming his hooves. Sorry about that. I'll wash up while the kettle is boiling."
He nodded slowly. "Some tea would be nice."
I smiled and put the kettle on before going in to wash up. I didn't want to take the time for a bath but I was going to need one this evening. While I was splashing my face, a sudden picture came into my head of the two of us in the tub. We were both naked and he was lying on my chest while we kissed. And just like that, I was harder than hard and staring into the mirror above the sink with wide eyes.
Oh dear, this wouldn't do at all. If he knew, Severus would give me one of those icy cold looks, raise his eyebrow real disdainful-like and ask me cuttingly what I was playing at. I subsided a little and sighed. Maybe once he was healed and back in the castle, I could remember that picture again and find some release with my hand. The piercing whistle of the kettle startled me and I wiped my hands quickly to go and see to it.
But when I got out there, Sev had already tried. He'd managed about two steps before falling and the bewildered look on his face told me he hadn't realized just how badly he'd been injured. Reaching his side, I tenderly picked him up and carried him back to bed. He was shivering like it was freezing and I wrapped him in my arms, trying to soothe him with my hands.
"Why don't I have any control over my legs?" His voice was tight with fear.
"They were all twisted, Sev." I rocked him slowly and rubbed his back like my mother had done for me when I was just a little-one. "Dumbledore had an awful time getting everything back in place. I think every single bone was broken. He spelled them right again but it's going to take time for them to remember how they're supposed to work."
His breath caught just a little and I knew if he was crying, he wouldn't want me to know.
"I'm going to get the kettle, Sev. You just rest a bit and I'll bring you your tea." I laid him back against the pillows and pulled the covers up, trying to ignore the little sniffs he kept giving. Risking a quick look, I saw his eyes all dull instead of sparkling. "Oh, Sev, it will be all right, really it will. Time heals all wounds, my mother says. And she's never wrong."
He nodded, his eyes closed and his hands listless on the cover. "I'll be fine, Hagrid."
"Yes, you will, Sev." I stood up and crossed to the now shrieking kettle. I made chamomile tea. He needed soothing instead of stimulating. Maybe I'd do a little baking this afternoon. Severus loved my cinnamon and sugar biscuits. They'd calm him down.
He stayed real quiet all afternoon even when I put the biscuits in the oven and washed up our dishes. I kept an eye on him but I knew he was taking his weakness hard. Sev didn't like anyone knowing that he wasn't a hundred percent. Course, he should have known by now that I wasn't going to tell anybody. His secrets were safe with me. He was safe with me and always would be.
The biscuits cheered him up a little bit and he dunked one in his tea after he saw me do it. He was real graceful but I had the idea that he maybe hadn't done that before. The Headmaster had talked about Sev's father being cruel to him and I still had a strong urge to go back in time and shake some sense into the man. Well, maybe a little more than shake him.
I felt real fierce whenever I thought of someone hurting Severus Snape. Hopefully, I'd be useful when it came time to take on Voldemort again. One of these days he was going to pay for what he'd done to my Severus. I blinked to myself and caught him looking strangely at me. I hadn't said that out loud, had I?
"Hagrid, I have always wondered about your family. Would you be willing to tell me about them?" He looked kind of hesitant but really curious and I cheered up.
"Well, it's pretty simple really. Me Mum was the giantess and Dad was the human. Mum was just sixteen when she met Dad, who was visiting the Forest to record the mating habits of the hippogriffs." I grinned a little. "Dad always laughed fit to bust whenever he told us that story. She got him out of trouble when he got too close to the half-mad beasts. He hadn't realized that all their senses are more acute then so they knew he was there in the tree. He was a scholar like yourself but Mum was the practical one. "
Was that a little smile he was hiding?
"They rushed the tree and began knocking their hooves against the trunk, shaking poor old Dad almost off of the limbs he was hanging on to. Mum heard all the commotion and asked one of the unicorns to lure them away. He did and Mum got him down. She read him the riot act all the way back to my Grandda's cottage. Well, one thing led to another and pretty soon they were married and I was on the way. They live up near Loch Ness. I like visiting them around the summer solstice. My brothers and sisters are scattered all over the Isles."
He looked faintly stunned. "How many siblings do you have?"
"There's six of us. I'm the eldest, then comes my sister Rhea, brothers Gration and Hossic - they're twins. Royan, my sister is next and Gersey is my youngest brother." I ticked them off my fingers, one by one. "Our reunions are pretty noisy but we have a lot of fun."
Severus blinked several times and then a smile slowly stretched across his face. "You're very lucky, Hagrid. I'm glad your family is so close. I always wondered what it would be like to have brothers and sisters."
"Well, I'd share mine with you but they can be a right noisy bunch, Sev." I told him and watched him chuckle. That sounded real good to me so I shared a few more stories with him until he was rocking with laughter and having trouble catching his breath.
That wasn't too good so I slowed a bit and shared how I'd left home and come to live at Hogwarts. The Headmaster had watched me taking care of a Hellbender who'd gotten involved with a muggle tar spreader. The poor thing had thought it was a flirtatious salamander and got covered with hot tar before he could make his escape. I'd come across him and taken him home to fix up.
Dumbledore had been called in to help explain to the muggles why their machine had exploded. He backtracked and found me helping the Hellbender to heal himself. We chatted for a long time while Mum made tea and shared those cinnamon sugar biscuits that Severus liked. A month later, I had an owl offering me the post of animal handler at Hogwarts. He was smiling by the time I finished and I sat back with a smile of my own.
It brought back a lot of good memories for me. Severus was already there then and we'd met when he came to check on the sea dragon. He collected the scales when Sedgwick molted once a year. We'd got to talking a little and pretty soon, I know that I considered him a friend. It took about three years before I was pretty sure he thought of me as one, too.
"Hagrid, I think that I would like to begin exercising my limbs. They won't get better on their own." He handed me his cup and pushed the covers back from his long legs.
"All right, Sev, but we're going to take it slowly. If you overdo it, you could actually take even longer to heal." I stood up and put the cups in the sink before coming back. "Flex your toes so I can see which muscles are weak."
He flexed and I saw that there was more weakness than I'd thought. The next twenty minutes hurt him a lot but he stayed stoic. I was the one who called a halt to what had to seem like torture to him. He was sweating quietly by the time I moved his left leg in the last in and down arc. A fine trembling shivered through his whole body and I wanted so badly to gather him into a hug but I knew he'd never allow it.
And that's when I had a kind of insane idea. "Sev, how about a nice hot bath to rest those sore muscles? I can re-use the water when you're done."
He looked a little startled but I could tell that a hot bath sounded real good. "Are you sure it's no trouble, Hagrid? I can wait until tomorrow. It's not like I got dirty with just that small exercise."
I smiled at the faintly disgruntled look on his face. "Nah, Sev, no trouble at all. I'll go run it now. It will feel good to get clean again."
Humming happily, I ran the water and added a little wintergreen oil to help relax him. I put the rosemary and oatmeal soap that Madame Pomfrey makes up for me by the washcloth so I could wash him once he was in the tub. When I went back out to get him, he'd sat up by himself and swung his legs over the edge of the mattress. He was breathing a little hard with just that much exertion but I pretended not to notice.
All men have their pride and although it sometimes appeared that Severus had more than most, he didn't really. He knew his own worth and that wasn't really being prideful. His nightshirt had scrunched up around his thighs and he kept trying to pull it down. Outside of kind of boney knees, he didn't have anything to be ashamed of but I was betting that he didn't feel that way about it.
So, I pretended to ignore that too, scooping him up real gently and carrying him into the steamy bathroom. He sniffed once and a faint smile lifted the corners of his mouth. "Wintergreen, Hagrid?"
"Yah, it's one of Mum's favorites. She makes it for me every Christmas."
"Ah, I see. Your family believes in practical gifts." He held onto my arm while I pulled up the nightshirt and slowly helped him down into the hot water. Once he was down, I pulled it off the rest of the way and threw it in the clothes hamper. He needed a clean one anyway and I liked helping him dress.
"Truer words were never spoken, Sev. Mum makes sure that we stay practical and Dad reminds us that soaking up new ideas is what we need to grow." Kneeling by the tub, I found the soap and began to matter-of-factly wash his feet.
"Oh," was all he said and out of the corner of my eye, I saw his eyelashes flutter closed. There was this little smile that kept wanting to escape his lips and when I ran my knuckles firmly up his arch, it finally blossomed.
That looked wonderful to me and I wondered if I dared keep on massaging up his legs. I thought I might just have seen his cock twitch and although I'd like to see more, it wasn't fair to him to embarrass him. And he probably would be if I kept on going. Looking up, I caught him staring at me.
"Hagrid." His voice is so smooth and silky it reminds me of a unicorn's soft underbelly.
"Too much, Sev?" I worried that the pressure I used might have been too hard.
Those dark eyes stared at me while his forehead creased a little. "Hagrid, if I'm wrong please tell me? Would you like to share this bath with me? Or perhaps something more?"
I went hot and cold at the same time. He had noticed. But he didn't sound upset or anything so what to tell him? Swallowing hard, I nodded. "Yes, if you didn't hate the idea. I'd be real careful."
He nodded once then stretched out a hand to me. "No one's ever been 'real careful' with me. I trust you know how."
Never? He'd never been touched with slow, careful love? He trusted me? I suddenly felt about 100 feet tall. "I do know, Sev and I promise not to hurt you. I trust you, too."
And that's when he smiled at me, a real honest-to-goodness smile that made him look ten years younger. "Then I suggest that you remove the rest of your clothes and join me."
I was going to run out of breath if he kept on saying such amazing things. Moving over to the stool, I sat down to take off my boots and socks first. Then standing up, I unbuckled my pants and slid them down my legs. Sneaking a peak at Severus, I was real encouraged by the little spark in his eyes.
Throwing my dirty clothes into the hamper, I came back to the tub and hesitated. "Still all right, Severus?"
He moved up in the tub and gently reached out to stroke my hip. "Very much all right, Hagrid. Please join me."
So, I climbed in behind him and settled in while he leaned back against me. Just like my dream, I finally had him in my arms. And he felt very, very good there.
I'd gone completely and utterly insane.
I'd invited a man into my bath with the promise of more than just washing.
I'd invited a man who was a half-giant to . . . to what?
Make love to me? Was I ready to make love to him?
Hagrid was a man of simple pleasures but not a simpleton by any means.
I'd never been anyone's pleasure before.
And I wanted to be that for him more than anything I'd ever wanted in my life.
His body was warm and solid behind me. His arms wrapped loosely around me, loaning me his strength and kindness, which I needed so desperately. Taking a deep breath, I relaxed against the hairy chest that had made me so breathless before. The sweat gleaming among the dark curls had taken my breath away.
There is a gentle power in him that children and animals recognize instinctively. And I guess you could include Potion Masters, too.
Safe. He made me feel safe. It had been a very long time since I'd felt that way. With sudden clarity, I realized that I'd reached a crossroads in my life. Voldemort thought me dead. Dumbledore couldn't use me anymore since my cover was blown. Until the last battle when I would fight with whatever means I had at my disposal, I was free.
Free to do what I wanted. Slowly, I turned in Hagrid's warm arms until we were lying face to face. "Hagrid, I am unsure about one thing."
He chuckled. "Only one, Sev? I've got at least ten things I'm worried about. Tell me what yours is."
I couldn't help but smile. "I know the mechanics of making love and I know why it's supposed to feel good but it is all book knowledge. I'm afraid that you will be disappointed in my performance."
"Never, Sev? It's never felt good?" His gaze was so warm and yet sad.
I shook my head. "I was given to the others several times when Voldemort was angry with me or just feeling particularly nasty. I endured them and healed myself afterwards. That is the sum total of my experience."
"Oh, Sev," he pulled me up a little so we were eye to eye. "I love you so much. What they did was rape you and that's not something I would ever do."
I glared at him. "I know that, Hagrid. I was just explaining."
He smiled and stroked my shoulders with his big hands. "I understand, Sev. All too well, I'm afraid. When I was just a lad, I fell in with a bad crowd of giants for a couple of months. They seemed all right to me but Mum had a fit when she knew who I was going around with. And I found out the hard way what they really thought of me."
"What? What did they do to you?" I raised my head from where I'd pillowed it on my arms.
"Gang-bang," he said matter-of-factly. "Hurt me real bad while they taunted me about being a half-breed."
I was going to find out who they were and kill them slowly. "I'm sorry, Hagrid. No one should have to go through something like that." His mother could help me track them down. "They were nothing more than ignorant savages." I bet that the hippogriffs and the hellbenders would help, too. "I wish you'd never had to know such evil." His brothers and sisters might want to participate as well.
"Oh, Sev," he was chuckling while his warm fingers stroked the back of my neck. "You are not going to track them down and hurt them." I tried to look innocent. "They already paid for that and a 'undred other things. The family took care of them real nice and legal like, although the twins had the fun of beating up a couple of them."
"Oh," I had the sudden feeling that I was pouting, "good for them."
"Sev, I'd like to kiss you now. Would that be all right?" He was smiling through his beard and I nodded shakily.
Soft and bristly at the same time, that was what his kiss was like - soft lips and wiry hair from his chin to mine. He was moving slowly from one side of my mouth to the other, ghosting up my cheeks to my eyes, nipping at my nose, nuzzling little kisses to my lips. I'd never felt anything like it in my life and my heart was beating so fast that I thought I might pass out.
"So good, you smell so good." He murmured in my ear and I shivered at his gentle nip of my ear lobe. "I knew you would, Sev. Even when you came to visit after mixing up some smelly potion, there was still a touch of musk that was just you."
"Smelly . . . oh . . ." my thoughts fragmented while my whole body reacted to his. He still smelled of sweat and hippogriff but underneath was the earthy scent that I realized was his alone. "Hagrid . . . I could . . . oh there . . . say the same."
Finally the tip of his tongue tickled my thin lips and I parted them so I could breathe. In another moment, I'd be panting to get air into my lungs. When he slid inside, I was startled but the rich taste of him filled my senses while the rough surface of his tongue rasped against mine. He was everywhere and I felt surrounded by his strength and gentle self.
My brain couldn't manage a single thought. Between our groins, his shaft and mine were rubbing together and the friction was going to drive me right out of my tiny little mind. But when his hands slid down my back to cup my buttocks, it was too much and I spent myself against his stomach. Collapsing against his chest, I felt his shaft surge up between my legs.
He must have grasped it with one of his hands because it wasn't very long before I felt his hot seed splash over my lower back. I closed my eyes and smiled into his throat. I was boneless, covered in cum and I'd never been so happy in my life. The sound of his heartbeat beneath my ear was a lullaby sweeter than any my mother had ever sung to me.
Perhaps a brief nap would help, I thought sleepily. Just a minute . . .
I knew the moment he went to sleep. I was still trying to catch my breath. It had never been that good for me, not ever in my life. All he had to do was wiggle just a little and let me kiss him and I'd gone off like a cheap firecracker. Gently, I cupped up some water to wash his bum and back. It had been a few months since I'd done more than take myself in hand for a wank so I'd sprayed him good.
Knowing that Severus was willing to let me touch him had made it better than anything. The feel of him coming against me and the smile he couldn't hide had gotten me so excited that all it took was a single pull of my cock before I erupted. Poor Sev was going to need some rest before we tried that again. I washed him as best I could without moving too much.
Trailing soapy fingers up and down his back, I felt the ridges that could only be left from beatings, beatings that had taken place when he was very young. I'd seen and felt them often enough on some of the magical creatures who'd fallen into the hands of muggles. Once I had him back in bed, I was going to kiss every single one. I still wanted to go back in time and take a whip to his father though.
Remembering the look on his face after I'd told him about the gang bang, I chuckled silently. He'd been having the same urge and that made me feel real good. My family had been there for me while I was healing but he'd never had anyone to hold him and tell him that he was still worthy of love.
But I would. I'd cuddle him and show him how good making love could be. By the time he was healed inside and out, we'd see what we could make of us. If I was real lucky, there would be an 'us' for a very long time. My fingers kept coming back to his cheeks, stroking the downy softness and trailing slowly down his cleft. His legs straddled my hips and he was open to every touch.
I had the urge to lick him, right over that little hole and down to his balls. My fingers felt really big there and when he shivered, I realized that he was awake again. "All right, Sev? If you don't like a touch, you need to tell me. I won't hurt you, not ever."
"It feels," he was biting his lip and I brought my hands up to rest on his lower back. "No, don't stop."
I tried to see his face but he was buried in my beard. "Does it feel good, Sev? My fingers are kind of rough, maybe I shouldn't touch your skin there."
"Calluses are a part of both our lives, Hagrid." His voice was dry like always but the hint of humor wasn't something I was used to from him. "And your gentle touch feels . . . wonderful. I think we need to finish our bath so we can go to bed. I can't feel my feet anymore."
"Damn, I forgot about your legs." I didn't panic but it was a close thing. "I'm not taking very good care of you."
"Nonsense!" He rose up and glared at me. "You are doing exactly what I want you to do. But unfortunately I will need a few days to gain more strength. Perhaps some of my exercises can be reconfigured to include this?"
'This' was him wiggling over my cock while his hands stroked my chest. And I was instantly hard and aching again. "Maybe, Sev, we'll take it slow and figure out what feels good. A good come tenses a lot of different muscles so we'll definitely be working on that."
"Oh good, I was hoping you'd see it my way." He smiled down at me and wiggled again. "Are you always this quick to get hard again?"
"Only when it's you, Sev," I told him truthfully and watched him blush.
I could really get used to this, I decided. But for now, I had to get us both washed and safely out of the tub before he hurt himself. His face was all scratched from my beard and I decided right then and there to shave it off. I did that in the summers usually because of the heat so doing it now would seem natural. I didn't want anything marring that beautiful skin of his.
He was like fine porcelain while I was rough pottery. My thoughts were interrupted by the most amazing feeling. I'd helped him sit up between my legs so I could wash his front but somehow he'd gotten hold of the soap and was washing my arms. Those long elegant fingers of his looked real odd against my tanned skin. A good 'odd', of course and I was getting harder and harder with every touch.
But I still wasn't prepared for him to hesitantly touch my cock. I gasped and his eyes flew up to mine while he froze. "No, Sev, it feels good, almost too good. I'll go off like a rocket if you keep on doing that."
A pleased smile crossed his face while I watched him think about that. When he wrapped both hands around me and gently slid them up and down, I lost it. I squirted up at him like a fountain while he rubbed me again and again. I was so relaxed at that point that I almost slid completely under the water. But when he leaned down and cat-licked his way around my crown, tasting my seed I had the urge to get hard again.
But he'd drained me for the moment and he was shivering a bit so I roused and sat up straight. "Thanks, Sev, that felt real good. But it's time to get out of the tub and into a nice warm bed."
He nodded and slid back a little, loosing hold of my cock kind of reluctantly. Leaning forward, I kissed him again and tasted myself on his tongue. The moment I got him into bed, I was going to be tasting something else and I could hardly wait. The rest of me got a hasty cleanup while he watched with sleepy eyes and an occasional touch. Maybe I could wait until after his nap.
Severus was shaking by the time I lifted him out of the tub and I wrapped one of my big towels around him while holding him close. Taking him into the front room, I sat him down in my chair before going to strip the bed of the dirty linen. Snapping out fresh sheets, I said a little tucking spell to get everything all nice and tidy for him. It was a spell that my mum had taught me when I was a little boy and I always thought of her when I used it.
When I turned back to him, I found him sound asleep, one cheek pillowed on his hand. He looked so young right then that I wanted to hold him close and keep every single bad thing that had ever happened to him far, far away. That wasn't possible but I could try to keep anything or anyone else from hurting him. Gently picking him up, I carried him to our bed.
"Hagrid," the sleepy voice made my heart clench. "Oh, that feels good."
I dropped a kiss on his head, unwinding him from the towel and tucking him in. "Sleep for a bit, Sev."
Those dark eyes opened just enough to smile up at me. "You too, Hagrid. Hold me while I sleep."
So I did, sliding in beside him and tucking him against my chest. "Good idea, Sev. A little nap is just what the doctor ordered."
"Um-um," he murmured and I felt a tongue dart out to taste my nipple. "You're so warm, Hagrid. Don't let go."
"Never, Sev, I'll never let go." I let my voice drop while I stroked his dark hair and tried to not get hard again. "Sleep and grow strong, love."
He yawned against me. "Love . . ."
Maybe he'd remember he'd said that when he woke up. I sure hoped so because I wanted to say it back to him over and over until he believed me. Closing my eyes, I mapped every inch of his skin where he touched me. His cool flesh was warming the way that I hoped his heart was. More than anything, I wanted to free the bright spirit that had been caged for so long.
But I was patient, kind of like a hunter who could scent his prey. I was willing to take it slowly and show him all the good parts of loving. We had the time for now to go step by step while we worked our way up to sharing with each other. Before he knew it, Severus was going to be smiling and laughing with me.