After the War, it seems that everyone is either a Healer or a patient. Harry spends time with an amnesiac Snape and a traumatized Draco.
His hands twisted nervously in his lap, so pale. /Oh, Draco/. The color that sent him into panic attacks was the only word he could say.
Harry came up behind Neville and put a hand on his shoulder. In the Janus Thickey Ward, the Healer robes were charmed a soothing blue to prevent the screams of terror that could be heard down the halls in the early days of Draco's stay. All green eyes were glamoured brown or blue. It had been his idea, and then his rule, when he took Directorship of the hospital.
"How is he?" he asked his old friend softly. He smiled down at Draco.
"Green," Draco said plaintively, shivering.
"Nightmare," Neville replied. "Of that night."
That night. He often dreamed of the ten muggleborn first-years he was forced to execute with the Killing Curse. No one knew if his mind had snapped or retreated, but the Order had found him alone on his knees in the field surrounded by the bodies, shaking uncontrollably and screaming his throat raw.
"Christ," Harry muttered. He sat down next to Draco and rubbed his skinny upper back soothingly. "You're safe now, Draco," he said gently. He pitched his voice low and warm. "Safe. No one will hurt you here. No one will make you do anything you don't like."
Draco's tremors slowly ceased. Harry kept one hand protectively between his shoulder blades.
"Did Padma get the Ban on Legilimency lifted yet?" Neville asked. His eyes shone with thirty years of hope and waiting.
"She presented it to the Board this morning," Harry said. He smiled slightly--his brilliant wife was the hospital's greatest weapon in the overhaul of the Wards and Programs. "They'll get back from their deliberations this afternoon."
Neville snorted. The Head of the Potions and Plant Poisoning floor was a gentle, kind man, but, in his own words, he "Didn't suffer bureaucrats gladly."
"I thought there was a Herbology session you had to lead the trainee Healers in," Harry observed.
"It all went funny-shaped when Fred Weasley's daughter dared her cousin to lick the alihotsy leaves. I called in another Healer to make it a practical lesson and left as soon as I could."
Harry chuckled. "Bless the Weasleys. May they always be around to wreak havoc."
"Not on my floor, if you please." Neville gave him a wry grin. "If that girl passes her Healer exams--"
"You know she will," Harry interrupted.
"--I'm assigning her to the Children's Ward." He rolled his eyes toward the ceiling. "She'll kill everyone else with her enthusiasm."
"She's great with her younger cousins," Harry agreed. "They adore her."
They shared a smile at the thought of Ginny and Dean's two little boys, almost ready for Hogwarts.
"Here for Severus?" Neville asked abruptly.
Harry sighed and looked down the long rows of beds to the hunched over profile at the end of the ward, flipping slowly through a magazine.
"How is he today?" he said in answer.
Neville smiled encouragingly. "Luna said he was doing very well today. He remembers the Order, and they had a long conversation about his potions research."
Harry could tell his friend was holding something back. "Do I have to pull my Director act out to get a full report, Nev?" he asked.
"I'm sorry." Neville blushed. "It's just--he's--"
"He still thinks it's the first war," Harry sighed. He absently rubbed Draco's bony back again, and stood up.
Draco looked at him. His face was troubled. "Green?" he inquired.
"No, Draco," he said gently. "Not here. You're safe from that here." He nodded to Neville. "Stay with him a while before you go visit with your mum and dad, all right? You know how he gets after a nightmare."
Neville smiled and pulled a battered copy of Quidditch Throughout the Ages from his robe pocket. "We'll finish our reading on England's teams, I think."
"Thanks, Nev." Harry made his way down the aisle to his former professor, his former comrade-in-arms. The man had been tortured into an odd form of insanity when he was caught retrieving a Horcrux for Harry. The Occlumens had split his consciousness into a past and present self in order to destroy all current knowledge of the Order.
Would he be insulted and cursed today? Harry wondered. No, Luna said he remembered the Order. He's turned spy in his memories now.
He sat by the older man's bed and waited for him to speak. It didn't take long.
"Where's that idiot Black?" he asked, nose still buried in his magazine. "Off chasing skirts? Or is he coming to the Order meeting today?" His voice held a strange, barely noticeable tremor.
Harry smiled. Severus was having a good day, thank God. "Who knows where Sirius is right now," he said dryly. He laughed quietly at his statement. The broken-glass pain of losing his godfather was dulled to smoothed sea glass after the rowdy post-war wake the Order had held for all the fallen.
"Where are the rest of the Order, then?" Severus demanded edgily. "Shouldn't they be here, too? Where's the Headmaster?" He still wouldn't look up from the pages of his subscription.
"It's just us today, Snape," Harry said. He pulled two sandwiches and bottles of pumpkin juice from his Healer's satchel, as well as a new Potion's Quarterly. "Figured we'd chat while everyone's out."
Severus' hands shook as he took the proffered food and magazine. "If I'm not here to report, then I should go," he said. He sounded slightly nervous.
"Stay awhile, Snape," Harry said. He stretched his legs out in the chair and took a drink of the cold juice. "Let's catch up. Been a while, hasn't it?"
The older man nodded jerkily, hair obscuring his eyes. "Why, Potter, I didn't know you cared," he sneered. "You and Black run out of people to hex with me gone?"
"I'm sorry for that," Harry said. "That wasn't right. Four on one--and just out of boredom, most of the time." He shook his head. "It wasn't right," he repeated.
"Why the change of heart? Dumbledore?" Severus asked. He seemed to be almost pleading for an answer.
"I promise you, Harry will grow up to be like Lily," Harry said seriously. His trained eyes caught Severus' minute wince. "Not another James or Sirius."
Snape ran a shaky hand through his long, lank hair. "I--Potter," he started. He covered his face with a hand. "I have done something unforgivable."
/Oh, God/. Harry slowly straightened in his chair. /The bloody Prophecy/. "Go on, Snape," he prompted. "I'll decide what I can't forgive."
"Dumbledore--he--I assume he has informed you of the Prophecy?"
"I--Oh, God, Potter," he broke off. He met Harry's gaze with haunted eyes. "I was still the Dark Lord's-I, I heard part-I didn't know--"
"Christ, man," Harry said abruptly. Severus flinched. "You weren't in the Order; why the Hell would you keep that from him?"
"But I--and the Longbottoms, too," Severus said helplessly. "He'll come for your children, Potter. And it's /my fault/!" His voice cracked. His face was a study in anguish, though no tears fell.
"Snape," Harry said sharply. "Did you know Alice was pregnant? Did you know Lily was?"
The man swallowed hard and shook his head once.
"Look," he said calmly. "V--You-Know-Who would have found out about the Prophecy eventually, if not from you then from someone else. Understand?"
Severus nodded reluctantly.
"What you did..." Harry trailed off. He ruffled his hair distractedly. "It wasn't your bloody fault." He grinned. "Well, I suppose if you want to get into it, it was your bloody fault."
"How can you laugh about this?" Severus asked incredulously.
Harry shrugged. "It's the nature of Prophecies, isn't it?" He caught Severus' eyes again and said firmly, "The only thing you're guilty of is putting the damned thing into action. Which is inevitable as far as Prophecies go."
The torment and hope in the dark eyes of his mentor during the Second War was almost too much to bear. "You--you really believe that, Potter?" he asked. "Really?"
"I really believe that," Harry replied firmly. "I don't blame you. And I'm sure Lily, Frank, and Alice don't either."
"I--thank you," he whispered. He ducked his head.
"Potter?" he said eventually, staring at his hands.
"Yeah?" Harry responded.
"What's it going to be like? After, I mean?" Harry could hear the upper-case After in Severus' forlorn question.
Harry leaned back in his chair. "We'll defeat him," he started. "And everyone will rejoice. Dumbledore and the Order will make sure you don't go to Azkaban. You'll keep teaching Potions at Hogwarts."
"Not Defense Against the Dark Arts?" Severus asked wistfully.
"Come off it, man," he laughed. "The job's cursed. You're better off as Head of Slytherin House and resident Potions Master. You'll take points from all the Gryffindors when they blow up cauldrons in your classes, and you'll terrorize the first years.
"Harry will end up in Gryffindor, of course, alongside Frank and Alice's son, and Molly's little boy."
"Of course," Severus interjected, rolling his eyes.
"They'll be friends with a very bossy little bookworm. They'll play Quidditch and swap insults with Lucius Malfoy's son, who will eventually grow up to be a fine man." Harry faltered. Draco had grown up very quickly after sixth year, and Harry had spent a year getting to know the man who selflessly volunteered to spy for the Order.
Severus' eyes burned into his face hungrily. "Tell me more, Potter," he said. "Please."
"Against all odds, Harry will make it into the NEWT Potions class," he said. "And at the end of his seventh year, he and many of his friends will end up working for Saint Mungo's in some capacity. The Daily Prophet will call them the Healing Year."
"The Prophet calls the children your son's age the War Generation," Snape said softly. "I like the Healing Year better."
"I do, too," Harry said. He smiled. "Harry will marry Padma Patil, another one of the Healing Year, and when they're thirty they'll have a baby girl. He will be the Director of Saint Mungo's. Padma will be the hospital's lawyer and spokeswitch. Odd Lovegood's daughter will head up the long-term Spell Damage ward."
"What of all the Weasleys?" Severus interrupted. "And--and the Death Eaters' children?" He eyed Harry warily. "Will I like that part of the story?"
"The Bill Weasley will become a cursebreaker and marry a part-Veela," Harry told him. "They'll have two children. Charlie will work with Dragons in Romania. Percy will work for the Ministry." He grinned. "The twins will start a joke shop and buy out Zonko's, and have nine children between the two of them--very confusing at times. Their youngest boy, Ron, will play Keeper for the Chudley Cannons. Their newborn daughter Ginny will grow up to work on the Spell Damage floor of Saint Mungo's."
"And the Death Eaters' children?" Severus pressed. "What happens to them, After?"
"Crabbe and Goyle's sons will be known as the most formidable Beater duo in the British Isles--they'll keep up the Falcons' tradition of vicious Beaters. The Bulstrode girl will become the most famous research specialist for Saint Mungo's in recent history. Coraline Zabini's son will run a chain of luxury hotels." He stopped. It hurt, telling his professor everything this way. His eyes stung suspiciously.
"Go on, Potter," Severus said. His eyes were closed. His face looked almost serene as he pictured Harry's words.
"The MacDougal and Parkinson girls will open a day school for pre-Hogwarts muggleborns, so they will fit into the Wizarding world better, and Ministries of Magic around the world will follow their example with the new educational system." Harry looked over at Severus, who was smiling slightly, eyes still closed. "Malfoy's son Draco-" Harry paused and gathered himself before he could start crying. "Draco Malfoy will grow up and go to Hogwarts, where he and Harry will be rivals in the classroom and on the pitch. They will become friends in Harry's seventh year. Harry will follow him to Saint Mungo's. They'll remain friends for as long as they live."
Severus sat quietly for a long moment before speaking. "Will I like your version of After? Will I be there?"
"I don't know if you'll like my version of After," Harry said hoarsely. He fought to control his voice. "But you will be there. And you will be an inspiration to all of the Healing Year. They will look up to you for your intelligence and your bravery."
Severus squared his shoulders. "Thank you, Potter," he said in a low voice. His eyes seemed less haunted now. "When things get bad, I'll think of your After. You-you're not so bad, now."
Harry smiled sadly. "We're not fifteen anymore."
Severus snorted. "I should hope not." He shifted slightly. "I-it was good of you to visit, Potter. I'll see you next time there's an Order meeting in Hogwarts?"
Harry stood and shook his hand firmly. "You will. So long, Snape."
"Take care, Potter," was the subdued reply.
Harry strode away, down the wide walkway between the rows of beds. His throat felt too tight, too painful. Pins pricked at his eyes. I miss you, Professor, he thought. You damned sarcastic bastard, I miss you so much. You should be here for all of this, not apologizing to the spectre of James Potter for dooming his family.
A pale, skinny shape wrapped its arms around his chest and began to run a calming hand up and down his spine. He looked down and smiled faintly at Draco.
"Green, green, green," Draco crooned soothingly. "Gree-een, gree-een."
Harry hugged his friend back and let his tears drip into his colorless hair. "When will you come back to me, old friend?" he whispered. "When will we play Quidditch again? Will you see my daughter some day?"
"Green," Draco whispered back, sounding concerned. He gave Harry a tight squeeze around his ribs and let go reluctantly. Harry sniffed and wiped his eyes.
"I'm all right now," he said thickly. "Thank you." He walked slowly back to Draco's bed with him. "I brought you a box of crayons," he said. He rummaged around in his Healer's tote. "Brought you a sketchbook, too."
Draco smiled brightly at the gifts, and opened the large box of crayons immediately. Harry had removed the four green crayons beforehand, so that his traumatized friend wouldn't have any flashbacks.
"Draw me a hippogriff?" Harry suggested, teasing.
Draco stuck his tongue out at him.
Harry chuckled. "Fine, fine. No dangerous beasts. Got it. How about some Quidditch stuff?"
Draco brightened and turned to his sketchpad with a determined expression, a light brown crayon in his hand.
"I have to meet Padma in a few minutes," Harry said gently. "She has important news from the hospital board for me."
Draco looked up quizzically.
"You remember," Harry told him. "We're trying to get the Legilimency Ban lifted so we can do Mind Healing here."
Draco nodded. "Green," he piped, voice encouraging. He smiled and turned back to his sketchbook.
"I'll be back tomorrow," Harry promised. "In the morning. I don't have a meeting scheduled. We'll have breakfast together."
Draco grinned happily at his paper.
Harry squeezed his friend's shoulder supportively and stood. "Tomorrow, Draco. I won't be late."
He walked out the locked double doors and into the busy hall, back into the world of After. He smiled and nodded to the greetings called out to him--brilliant Millicent, intense Luna, steady Neville. He stepped into the enchanted lift and closed the door before anyone else could enter, pressing the "Don't Move the Bloody Lift" button.
He sank to the floor and put his head in his hands. Breathe. Breathe, Harry. For Fuck's sake. You knew Snape would remember That Day eventually. Breathe, breathe/. He choked on nothing and hit his chest. Air flew into his lungs. He gasped in relief. Stop it, Potter. It had to happen sometime./
He sat for a while, looking at the tile floor of the lift blindly. "I miss you two," he whispered. "That Ban had better be lifted." He stood and moved shakily to the panel of buttons. "Fifth Floor: Tea Room, Gift Shop, and Offices."
"Don't be a coward, Potter," he told himself in a harsh whisper.
As he pressed the large button, he could swear he heard a young Severus Snape whisper in his ear, "When things get bad, I'll think of your After."