Disclaimer – insert something witty that expresses my lack of ownership of these characters etc…
Authors notes – based on a "what if Severus Snape took a personal interest in Harry at the end of his second year? Or was manipulated into it somehow…"
AU for the end of the Chamber of Secrets and onwards, though I will keep in some of the major events of the books. Basically I'm gonna pick and choose…
Warnings – Harry/Ron pairing (pre-slash). Harry/Severus mentor relationship…
The Guardian, the Ward and the Convict
Severus Snape, last of the Princes, youngest wizard to ever gain the title Master of Potions in the Northern Hemisphere, Head of Slytherin and Potions Professor in the foremost school in England, swept through the lower corridors of Hogwarts mentally calculating the minutes until the students were bundled off back to mummy and daddy tomorrow for the summer.
As he glided past the small corridor leading to the teacher's private gardens, a jealously guarded secret from the little pests lest they invade and destroy it, a faint whisper of voices travelled to his ears, and he stopped to listen discretely. Old habits died hard, and this one had stood him in good stead during the War.
"… at least there are no more classes," the voice resolved itself into the young Weasley boy, sounding earnest and concerned. Severus restrained a sigh, because where Weasley was, Granger and Potter were sure to follow. The three were inseparable, despite his best efforts. The trouble they caused each year would only grow in severity as they aged, and he'd been all for resorting Granger into Ravenclaw, and seeing if the infernal Hat would resort Potter as well. It was in the bylaws that the teachers could do so if a student seemed to be misplaced, and Granger definitely was. He'd been argued down on that one though.
"Honestly Ron," the misplaced know it all scolded, "Our lessons are important."
"He's in no shape to go to class, Hermione," Weasley retorted, and from the awkward silence it appeared that the Granger girl concurred.
"Well at least you'll be going home soon," she sounded as if she wasn't sure that was a good thing, and the snort from Weasley, unattractive and uncouth as it was, confirmed Snape's surmise on that front.
"I'd rather spend the summer with Snape," Potter said softly, and Severus felt himself flush in anger. The implication that he was an unattractive and feeble last resort to some horrible fate was unavoidable, but hard on the heels of that came another thought. Why would Potter, spoilt and feted at home, rather spend the summer with the strictest and least friendly teacher in his programme?
As he was musing this point the Gryffindors came into sight. Usually they walked with Hermione in the middle of the boys, a protective formation that Severus didn't think they were aware of. Sinistra, in one of her rare fits of sentimentality, had announced how quaint it was that the two boys were caring for their Muggle born friend. Hooch had predicted darkly that they'd come to blows over the girl at some point, but Severus disagreed. He'd seen the way Weasley looked at Potter. One of these years those two would end up in bed together, and Salazar help the rest of the school with the inevitable fall out.
Today the trio of friends had changed their usual pattern. Potter was between Weasley and Granger, a position that served to highlight his lack of stature. It also highlighted his pallor, and his lack of weight. Severus spent as little time as possible thinking about his enemy's son, but faced with the boy in this unguarded moment he could see that something was not right. Potter usually radiated power and arrogance, though the power was probably because the brat had never learned to properly shield his magical core. Now he seemed small and ill, oddly frail between his two friends, and Granger was only just released from the hospital wing herself. Sending him back to the Muggles in this state would not endear the school to them, and Severus sighed mentally. Once again it was up to him to ensure the useless brat took proper care of himself.
"Potter!" a small part of him meanly enjoyed the jump that all three teens gave, "What were you doing down that corridor?"
If the trio knew of the teacher's garden then he'd have to ensure that the place was properly warded. He had no faith in their discretion and certainly didn't want to see the place ruined by curious or malicious students.
"Taking a shortcut, sir," Weasley spoke up, one hand steadying Potter protectively. In his heart of hearts Severus had to admit that he didn't like that the students were afraid of him as a person. A certain amount of fear of a teacher was a healthy thing, but it could be tiresome on occasion. Potter paled even further in fright, something that he'd never done before. The brat was ill, seriously so if Snape barking a question at him was enough to get him to pale and shiver in shock. Before Severus could take points from Potter for allowing his friend to answer for him the brat made a confused sound, his eyes slid out of focus and he slipped gracelessly to the ground despite Weasley's best efforts. The redhead ended up on the ground too, partially trapped under the dead weight of the Boy Who Fainted and Granger gasped, throwing herself to the floor too, hands reaching out to support Potter as best she could.
"Move back, Miss Granger," Severus barked, now truly concerned. He had only heard the barest of rumours about the monster that Potter had slaughtered, and it seemed that only the Headmaster had the full picture. Severus had been foolish enough to assume the interfering old bat was watching Potter closely, an assumption that had left him dealing with a fainting Gryffindor, bracketed by glaring housemates.
A wave of his wand showed the boy was ill, fevered and dangerously weak. He should never have been out of bed so soon, and as Poppy wouldn't have allowed him to wander around in this condition the Head of Slytherin could only assume that she hadn't seen the brat after his encounter in the Chamber of Secrets. There was nothing to be done but to pick the child up, magic was contra-indicated at this time, and ignore the bleating of his friends as Severus headed for the Hospital Wing. As he strode through the halls he sent a Patronus message to the Headmaster, demanding his attendance in the Hospital Wing at once.
He wanted a full explanation from the Headmaster of the nature of Potter's injuries, and a full accounting of the events in Slytherin's Chamber. He also wanted Potter's remark explained properly to him. Why would the Boy Who Lived prefer to spend the summer with his Potions Master, someone who had never coddled or even spoken nicely to him instead of a family that loved him?
A few sharp words dismissed the bleating second years, and then Severus was alone, watching closely as Poppy ran scan after ritual over Potter, trying to stabilise him. Albus arrived after only a few moments, the ridiculous Fawkes perched on his shoulder. The Phoenix fluttered over to nestle into the pillow beside Potter's pale face and Severus used the distraction to isolate Albus with a sharp privacy spell, which was to give Poppy peace as she worked if anyone called him on it, before stepping in to interrogate the most infuriating man alive.
It took surprisingly little pressure to get Albus to admit that Potter had faced and slain a Basilisk in Slytherins Chamber, and that the thing had bitten the boy.
"He should never have survived such a bite!" Severus gasped, his mind whirling with shock, "The poison…"
"Was negated by Fawkes tears," Albus said soothingly, "He cried over the wound, and Harry was fine. Besides, I suspect that the Basilisk was so old that its poison was very weak."
"Albus," Severus gritted impatiently, "In most snakes that would be true, but in a Basilisk it is not. As you well know I have made a study of various snakes and their venom. Believe me when I tell you that a Basilisk bite is only survivable for more than a few minutes if a fully grown man is bitten close to the cursed things hatching! A bite from a Basilisk as old as the one in Slytherins Chamber would have killed a grown man in rude health in mere seconds. A child the size of Potter should have died before the fang even left his flesh! Even a scratch would be instantly fatal!"
"I… the fang struck his bone…" Albus murmured, and pulled his hands out of his sleeves. In one of them he held a silver box, which when opened revealed a curved fang, the blood on it at least an inch deep. Potters blood, Severus realised, marking the depth of the wound to his arm when the serpent bit him in its death throes.
"And you were going to send him back to the Muggles?" Severus breathed, his mind whirling and his careful control completely undone, "A child so magical that he could stave off death for minutes at a time, a child so ill that a mere question could make him faint? When I came upon him, he was telling Weasley and Granger that he would rather spend the summer with me than return to those Muggles."
"He did?" Albus frowned, looking over at the Matron and the Phoenix, the thin, small form of the Boy Who Lived barely a lump in the bed, "He asked me to remain here for the summer too…"
Uneasy with the knowledge that he had gained, and wrong footed by the break in his control, Severus had no way to turn down the old coot's next request. Before he knew what had hit him, he was in charge of Potter for at least the next few weeks of summer while Albus did some careful research of his own. As a palliative to the situation, Albus suggested that the slain Basilisk be harvested for potions ingredients, something that the Master in Severus was eager to obtain. It would also allow him to look around the Chamber that the Founder of his House had created. Salazar Slytherin had been known for his dabbling in a wide range of arts, and not all of his journals had been accounted for. Unfortunately many had been destroyed by misguided do-gooders, and with the Chamber inaccessible for so long…
As a reward for burdening himself with the son of James Potter, it was one guaranteed to appeal to Severus, and he consented with only a small show of reluctance. Poppy chose to summon their attention just then and he graciously allowed Albus to dismantle his privacy spell and condescended to listen to the Matron's waffling about stress and other such maladies, all of which could be cured by a good long rest. Albus announced that Potter was to remain at Hogwarts for the next few weeks under Severus' supervision, and Severus scowled through the ensuing lecture on the proper care and feeding of twelve-year-old boys. Poppy was of the idea that Potter was somehow 'delicate', something that Severus resolved to mention to the boy when he was conscious, looking forward to his reaction.
He spent the evening in his quarters, contemplating the coming weeks. If Potter thought that he was going to loll about uselessly for the entire time, he'd have to think again. Severus saw no reason that the boy shouldn't start on his homework with immediate effect, and once he was through the two week period of rest that Poppy insisted he have before commencing any sort of activity – such as broom flight in her opinion, or harvesting the serpent in the Chamber in his – there would be plenty of base potions to brew that Potter could chop ingredients for. Despite his constant criticisms, Severus was well aware that Potter was probably one of the best in the entire castle at preparing a potion, though his brewing methods were not up to the same standard. By the end of summer that would change.
He was still ruminating on the best course of study for the Brat Who Lived to Burden Unsuspecting Potions Masters when the students were turned out into the awaiting carriages and the gruesome thestrals that pulled them. Severus had been able to see them as a student, and had yet to become inured to their leathery wings and hollow appearance. He stood with the rest of his colleagues, nodding to the occasional seventh year graduate, refraining from the more sentimental waves and calls for a bright future that some of his colleagues indulged in. Argus Filch, the squib caretaker stood to one side, counting the students carefully, and when the final carriage refused to roll away from the steps, it was Filch who instantly knew why.
"There's two missing," he hissed at Severus. For some reason that Severus could never quite fathom, Filch seemed to feel some kind of kinship with the Head of Slytherin. The man made Severus' skin crawl.
You didn't need to be in Ravenclaw to guess which two were missing, or why. Minerva had of course informed the remaining two thirds of the Golden Trio that their companion would not be taking the train home, and as he stomped towards the Hospital Wing, Severus was bitterly regretting the fact that term was over and he couldn't deduct the appropriate points.
Sure enough, Weasley and Granger were hovering over Potter, looking as if someone was about to storm the hospital wing and hex the brat. At his entrance Granger jumped and looked at her watch.
"Oh no! Ron, the train! We're late!" she gasped and got up, leaning over to kiss Potter's temple and smooth his hair. The dark haired teen was barely conscious, though he leaned into the touch readily enough. Evidently he was still exhausted from the effort of negating the fatal bite he'd sustained, and therefore probably not truly conscious of his surroundings or even what day it was. Weasley stood as well, and when she was clear of their friend leaned down and grasped a slender shoulder, squeezing gently.
"I'll owl, mate, as often as I can," the low words were rough with some unnamed sentiment, and Severus' eyes narrowed in interest when Potter actually managed to respond to the words with a soft sound, forcing his eyes further open.
"Ron, come on," Granger urged and skittered past Severus without a word, Weasley in reluctant pursuit. He could hear them clattering down the stairs and was more than content to let them go, choosing instead to observe his unwitting charge for the summer. Potter was asleep once more, or unconscious, it amounted to the same thing, and unaware of the scrutiny.
Making a mental note to ensure the brat ate properly to replace some of the body mass that he appeared to be missing – perhaps as a result of his magic's strenuous efforts – Severus left for the dungeons to properly organise a sensible timetable for the boy.