"Professor Snape?" Dumbledore asked incredulously. "Are you sure, my boy?"
"Yes, sir, I'm sure, provided that I'm not too much of a burden to the professor," Harry said firmly, hating how hoarse his voice still sounded.
The Headmaster frowned, before he replied in a soft voice, "Harry, please don't forget that you're not a burden, neither to Professor Snape, nor to anyone else here at Hogwarts. We all love you, and we're glad to have you here. I can't tell you how sorry I am for placing you with the Dursleys in the first place. Will you forgive an old man for a grave mistake?"
Harry could merely nod as a coughing fit shook his small body, and Madam Pomfrey hurried to his bedside. "Headmaster, what are you doing to my patient?" she asked sternly.
"Nothing Poppy," Dumbledore replied gently, rising from his seat. "I hope to see both of you in the Great Hall for breakfast. Harry has an announcement to make."
Pomfrey waved her wand over Harry several times, muttering to herself, before she replied, "I'm sorry, Albus, but I'd prefer to keep Harry in bed for the moment. I need to give him his next dose of potions, and then he should be well enough, so I could try to mend his eye sight, which was what he asked Father Christmas for, wasn't it, Harry?"
"Yes, Madam Pomfrey," Harry replied excitedly.
"I also have to do a few tests with him concerning the breathing problems he spoke about in his letter," the Healer told the Headmaster in a firm voice, causing the old man to nod approvingly and excuse himself.
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Thirty minutes later, everyone, who had remained in the castle over the holidays, except for Pomfrey and Harry, met in the Great Hall for breakfast.
"I suggested to Harry that he should spend some time with each of you today in order to get to know you," Dumbledore told his colleagues. "However, the boy told me that he already knew whom he wanted to become his guardian."
"And who might that be?" Flitwick enquired, slightly surprised.
Dumbledore glanced around, before he replied, "He told me that he liked Minerva a lot; however, if he had to decide on just one of you, he'd choose Severus."
A collective gasp followed the Headmaster's explanation, which was only interrupted by a vehement "No!" from the Potions Master. "Albus, the boy is delirious. He can't mean that. Nor would I be willing or even able to raise the offspring of James Potter. No, I'm sorry, Albus, but definitely not."
"As much as I regret to remind you, Severus, but please recall that we decided yesterday to let the boy choose his guardian and not the other way round," Dumbledore replied sternly. "If he is too much of a burden for you to use the boy's expression, we can make you and Minerva both his guardians."
"Yes please," Snape threw in quickly, trying to push all his memories of James Potter to the very back of his mind.
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A short while later, Snape entered the hospital wing, where Harry was engrossed in his potions book.
"Good morning, Mr. Potter," he said in his soft voice, causing Harry to look up in delighted surprise.
"Good morning, Professor," Harry replied hoarsely, frowning when he felt the teacher's cold hand on his forehead.
"Mr. Potter, are you feeling all right?"
"Yes, I'm fine, and Madam Pomfrey even mended my eye sight, so I can see really well now. But she told me to stay in bed until lunchtime," Harry whispered the last sentence, averting his eyes to the floor.
"I was wondering what could have made you choose me as your guardian and thought it must have been the high fever," Snape said softly without any malice in his voice.
"No Professor, I'm not delirious if you mean that," Harry told him, getting slightly upset. "There are two reasons for my choice," he explained. "One is that you were the only one apart from the Headmaster, who didn't make a fuss about me, and the other is that Professor McGonagall told me you were a good friend of my mother, and so I thought that maybe..." He slowly trailed off, unsurely playing with his bed covers.
"That what?" Snape queried, while his dark eyes seemed to look right through the boy.
"That perhaps you wouldn't hate me as much as Aunt Petunia does," Harry replied in a hardly audible voice, hesitantly turning his eyes to the teacher.
"I don't hate you child," Severus reassured the boy, "and I'll become your guardian if that's what you want. The Headmaster decided to assign you a second guardian though, which will be Professor McGonagall, who was your second choice as far as he told me. He asked the house elves to prepare a room for you, which is just opposite of this room and has two doors, one leading into my quarters and one into Professor McGonagall's."
"Thank you so much, Professor," Harry croaked happily, throwing his new guardian a huge smile, while he busily cuddled his stuffed dragon.
"Very well. If Madam Pomfrey allows it, I'd like you to move into your own room, so that you'll get used to living together with me while we're on holidays, even if you still need to stay in bed. I'll go and ask her," Snape announced, before he headed into the Mediwitch's office.
After receiving several instructions from the Healer, Severus was allowed to take Harry home. He gave Harry some space so he could dress himself, causing the child to look at his new clothes in amazement. 'These are all new and they're all mine,' he mused in absolute delight. They entered Harry's room through the door right over the corridor, and the boy looked around in admiration. There was a four poster bed, a huge wardrobe, a bookshelf, and a desk with a comfortable looking chair in the room that was held in light blue colours. The enchanted window opposite the door through that they entered the room showed the view onto the Hogwarts grounds and the lake.
"This is beautiful," Harry gasped, looking around in utter amazement.
"I'm glad you like it, Mr. Potter; however, as you know I have instructions to keep you in bed. You can either lie down here or rest on the sofa in my living room. Of course you can also spend the day in Professor McGonagall's quarters, but if you don't like being fussed over, I suggest that you stay with me until your condition improves." He raised an eyebrow at the child, who quickly made a few decisive steps into the Potions Master's direction.
HP HEALER POMFREY HP
Harry spent the rest of the day in Severus' quarters. To his delight, the teacher sat with him and began teaching him about potions ingredients. In the afternoon, Severus taught him how to properly prepare some of the ingredients, before he laid out the recipe for an easy potion, which Harry managed to brew flawlessly after the teacher's instructions.
"This is a simple healing potion, which I make all the first year students do in the third week of the school year," the teacher explained, while he showed Harry how to bottle the potion into small phials for use in the hospital wing. "Over the rest of the holidays, we'll brew the other first year potions together, so that you might be able to participate in their class when school starts again, provided that you'd like to do so."
"I'd like that very much. Thank you, sir," Harry replied in absolute delight.
"I believe that you're extremely adept at Potions just like your mother was," the professor told him when they returned to the living room.
"Professor, do you perhaps have a photograph of my mother?" Harry enquired hesitantly, causing his guardian's expression to become thoughtful.
"Yes, I think so," he finally replied, pulling a few photographs from a small drawer in the bookshelf, handing one to Harry.
'Mum!' Harry thought, feeling incredibly happy at the sight of his mother, who was dancing in the snow throwing kisses at him. "Hello Mum," he whispered, softly stroking the photo.
"Mr. Potter, are you feeling well enough to attend dinner in the Great Hall, or shall we have dinner here in my small kitchen?" the teacher's voice pulled him out of his thoughts.
"I don't mind, sir," he whispered, hoping that he wouldn't have to walk down all the way to the Great Hall.
To his relief, the professor decided to remain in his quarters and floo-called McGonagall to excuse both of them from dinner, before he turned back to Harry, smirking.
"You see, even here in my quarters you won't be completely safe from my colleagues' fussing. Professors Dumbledore, McGonagall, and Madam Pomfrey will come down for tea after dinner to make sure that I'm not using you for potions ingredients," he explained, letting out a long sigh that caused Harry to laugh.
For dinner, Severus made Harry eat some chicken broth, before he allowed him to return to the sofa again. Back in the living room, Harry placed the parchment and quill he had received from the Headmaster on the table in front of him and began to write his letters.
Dear Father Christmas,
Thank you so much for arranging for me to be taken to Hogwarts. I love it here, my new guardian and all the other teachers are very nice, and Madam Pomfrey has already healed my eyes. I also have to thank you for all the Christmas presents, but the present of getting a new home is the best I could have ever wished for. I'm the happiest boy in the world. Thank you very much!
He folded the parchment twice and turned to his guardian, throwing the man a pleading look. "Professor Snape, do you know how I could get this letter to Father Christmas?" Seeing that the man raised an eyebrow, looking at him with an unbelieving expression, he showed him the letter. "It's just a small thank you note, but I want him to get it."
"Yes child, I know what we can do," Severus replied pensively. "Let's give the letter to Professor Dumbledore when he comes for tea in a few minutes, and he can ask his phoenix Fawkes to take it to Father Christmas. I'm sure that'll be the fastest way to send your letter."
"Thank you so much," Harry replied gratefully and threw his new guardian a huge smile, knowing that from now on his letters wouldn't end up in a rubbish bin anymore.
Merry Christmas to all the kind readers, who reviewed and gave me their support throughout this story! Thanks to Maritime Stars for her advice. I'm not a native speaker of English. Please excuse my mistakes or help me to correct them.
All recognizable characters belong to J. K. Rowling, and I am not earning anything by writing this story.