The man in the hospital bed was shaking and drenched in sweat, his dark hair an oil spill across his pillow. Blood poured from numerous cuts on his chest and face, and one particularly nasty gash meandered from his left collarbone to his right hip, a reddened, Biblical Nile, spilling blood with each pump of his heart.
Albus Dumbledore watched the mediwitch tending to the man he loved like a son with deep concern. Poppy's movements were precise, with no wasted effort as she flicked her wand and murmured healing spells over Severus Snape. Slowly all of the cuts knitted together until they were undetectable from the rest of his flesh; all except the bloody laceration that bisected his torso. Poppy hissed as it closed and healed, but it remained an angry red scar that seemed liable to reopen with movement.
"A poison of some sort?" Dumbledore asked.
"Maybe. I'll have to take some blood to determine." She huffed in irritation. "HE could have isolated the potion or poison in no time. Of all the bloody luck, our Potions Master is the one struck down." She turned to face the old wizard. "Except it's not really a coincidence, is it? It's been two months, TWO MONTHS since Harry struck down You-Know-Who, and this is the FIFTH time since the final battle that Severus has been under my care." Poppy smoothed the hair off of Severus's pallid forehead. She had a fondness for the man that the other Hogwarts professors couldn't understand.
Severus had entered Hogwarts as an eleven year old and from that time on, he'd been admitted to the hospital wing more times than any other student or professor. As a skinny, sullen boy, he'd sat on her stool, chin jutting fiercely, refusing to name names as Poppy once again fixed a broken nose or regrew the bones in a hand. Severus Snape never cried out in pain, and never shed a tear. Instead, he'd thank her through gritted teeth, a cold and helpless fury shining in his eyes.
Adult Severus was not much different from the boy he'd been, except his wounds had grown exponentially worse. He'd return from Dark Revels shaking from the aftereffects of the Cruciatus Curse, seizures wracking his form for hours. As he thanked the mediwitch once again, his mouth would be filled with blood from biting his cheek to keep from screaming. It seemed that every year, his eyes grew colder and darker, and he retreated further into himself.
Grief for this wounded man prompted her to say, "Albus, he can't continue like this. You know the remaining Death Eaters are targeting him specifically because they view him as having betrayed them. We have to do something to protect him. His whole life no one has ever stood up for him. He's always been the one in danger; the one who sacrifices. The battle's over. We've won. Voldemort's dead." The unconscious man flinched at hearing his old Master's name.
Albus looked into Poppy's eyes and sighed. "You are quite right, of course. I have brought it up to Severus every time he's found himself in your patient and knowledgeable care since Harry took down Tom Riddle." He stroked his beard meditatively. "You know how stubborn he is. I don't know if he particularly cares if he lives or dies now that his task is finished."
Poppy made a disapproving noise in her throat as she took a vial of blood from Severus for testing. She cast a stasis spell and handed it to the Headmaster.
He smiled sadly and gestured with the bottle. "I'll have Horace Slughorn start working on this right away. How long before Severus wakes up?"
"It depends on what is in that vial and how seriously his immune system was compromised by Lucius's expert application of Cruciatus." She turned away sharply and began rearranging the medicinal potions in the cabinets behind her. Her breath caught in her chest as she recognized the spidery script on the bottles. She felt Albus's hand on her shoulder and heard his voice.
"You are right, Poppy. I will figure out some way to keep him safe."
"It's a very strong dose of Death's Oblivion potion." Seeing Poppy's and Albus's alarmed expressions, Horace Slughorn hastened to add, "No, it's not a poison, and it certainly won't kill him. It's a memory suppressor… a very good one actually. If given a large enough dose, it can actually wipe every single memory, conscious or unconscious, cognitive, physical, or emotional, and leave a blank slate. Antonio Bellacruza, the Italian potions master who invented it in 1372, was also a rather abominable poet. He called it 'Death's Oblivion' because he fancied the effects of his potion must be similar to the blankness a soul experiences in the moments between death and rebirth. Rubbish, of course. He was a truly brilliant Master, but gave his potions ridiculous names like this one… And let's not forget the infamous aphrodisiac 'Lady Abruzzi's Tea Party,' the effects which—"
Dumbledore cleared his throat gently, interrupting the man mid-pontification. "Excellent, Horace. All terribly important details. Is there any hope of a cure for one affected by such a potion?"
Slughorn blinked myopically. "Yes, of course. That's why it fell out of favor. Well, one of the reasons anyway. There is a potion to reverse it. Death's Oblivion is a suppressor, not an eradicator of memories. The antidote merely unlocks them. Also, a well cast Obliviate is much faster than brewing a potion, and far more precise, too. You can never tell what will be lost using the potion."
"How long would it take to brew the antidote?" Poppy asked, relieved.
Slughorn considered the question. "Once I am ready to brew, two months if all goes well. However, I'd need at least six weeks to do the arithmantic calculations to determine the strength of the antidote needed, and the correct dosage before I begin brewing."
"And once the potion is administered? How long will it take for him to regain his memories?" The Headmaster inquired.
"It depends. It unlocks the memories, and they come back as they are triggered. There have been cases documented in Moste Potente Potions that have been as short as a week, and some that have taken several months."
Albus looked at Poppy. His eyes were twinkling for the first time since Severus Snape had been apparated to the hospital wing by Nymphadora Tonks after the attack.
"Horace, would you be able to come back and teach Potions this year? I'm afraid Severus will be indisposed for the next term, and we are going to need your expertise." At Horace's nod, Albus turned to face the Hogwarts mediwitch. "Poppy, I have a plan to protect our stubborn Potions Master. We shall hide him in plain sight."
The headmaster stroked his beard for a moment before looking down in surprise. "Drat it! Poppy, do you have more of that de-sticking balm? I've discovered another lemon drop in my beard. Ah… two actually."