Severus Snape was furious how dare that old meddlesome fool interfere with his holiday plans for a Potter and a Griffindor at that. He has just been about to start a new variation to the Wolfsbane potion that was incredibly volatile when the floo chimed. There he was with his twinkling blue eyes insisting that 'it would only take and hour – pop over and check that all was OK and if not pick him up and deliver him to Grimmauld place and the fresh air would do him good.'
So here he was in Privet Drive full of identical little boxes with roofs. Horrible. If there wasn't something seriously wrong with the boy and this was just more of his attention seeking well... Dumbledore had said that the Order had not heard from him for five days and he had said that he would contact them after three. At the back of his mind he did wonder why it had taken an extra two days before anything was done. Well here he was – better to get it over with he supposed. The thought of whether house points could be taken in the holidays crossed his mind as he rang the bell.
Harry closed his eyes with a sigh. His back was throbbing from his Uncle's latest punishment. Something was wrong though on 2 counts: 1, his back might hurt but his whole body felt like it was on fire, he could barely move. 2, he was fairly sure that he hadn't seen or heard from his 'beloved family' for at least 3 days. They weren't difficult to miss by any stretch of the imagination or however hard he tried. He sighed again. He paused, tipping his head to one side he listened. Nothing, he thought as his now fevered mind lost its fight with sleep.
Sometime later though as he awoke he thought he heard something, he dismissed it as his imagination until he heard it again. Someone was trying to creep up the stairs. They had just stepped onto the creaky floor board about 1/3 of the way up. Harry tried to move but it was useless. The sheet that he had been covered in was stuck solid to his back; every which way he moved to pain was unbelievable. Whoever it was had reached the landing. Harry started to panic he knew it wasn't one of the Dursleys. Who was it? With a final lunge he managed to move across the bed and with one hand he reached for the loose floor board under his bed and his wand. To late the door of his room was flung open and silence prevailed. Harry lay still and motionless.
'How typical of you Mr Potter, do you have no consideration for anyone but yourself. You promised to contact the Order every 3 days it has been 5, and here I find you lounging around in bed'. The cold disdain of his voice seemed to drip from the potion Masters lips.
'Get up now, Mr Potter'.
Before Harry could even think about saying or doing anything Snape growled again 'get up.' Snape reached for the sheet and ripped it back. Harry screamed. Everything from scab to newly grown skin, blood and puss went everywhere. The smell was unbelievable. Snape looked down at Harry in astonishment. Harry lay panting on the bed, unable to control the shivers and shakes that his fevered body gave. Snape moved around the bed and crouched down by Harry's head.
'Potter' he said, there was no reply. Quickly he knelt and brushed Harry's hair from his eyes, resting his hand against Harry's forehead he could feel the fire caused by the infection.
'Harry,' he called - looking for signs of a response. Harry's eyes fluttered.
'Harry' he called again.
'Yes, Harry, I will look after you - it would be best if you sat up to take some potions. Then I will look at your back'.
Harry, with Snape's help, tried to sit up. By the time he was upright he was not only shaking even more but what little colour there was in his face had drained away. Silent tears rolled slowly down his cheeks.
'Well done, Harry, you are doing very well.' Harry looked up in astonishment - Snape actually sounded as if he cared. Just what was going on? Snape caught the look.
'It's OK, Harry, I know that things seem strange and you are unsure.' Snape gently cupped Harry's face with his potion stained fingers and gently wiped the tears away with his thumb. Harry looked up at him and nodded, leaning his head slightly into Snape's hand.
'Good boy – let's get these potions in to you'. Snape gave Harry a strong pain reliever, a fever reducer, a wide ranging antibiotic and finally a blood replenisher. At the last one Snape said, 'OK, just one more to go. It's a sedative to help when I do your back.'
'No,' Harry gasped, 'Please don't.'
'Why ever not?'
'It reminds me ….. port key.'
'4th year - tournament - grave yard - Cedric – Him,' Harry gasped.
'If you are sure?'
Harry nodded. 'Turn over now onto your front I promise I will be as gentle as I can - but this will hurt.' Harry nodded and lay on his front as requested. Snape pulled the sheet further down. After a numbing spell he followed up with spells to clean the blood and pus away, and a sterilizing spell to clean the wounds.
'Harry, can you tell me who did this to you?'
Looking at the now nearly healed back he asked in a whispered, 'has this happened before.' There was no answer.
'Now, Harry, can you stand,' Harry tried and failed as his legs gave way.
'Right,' said Snape sitting Harry back on the bed, 'where are all your things.'
Harry pointed to the loose floor board under the bed and said that the rest of his stuff was locked up under the stairs.
On his way upstairs – as no one had answered the door he'd had a quick look around, but now he looked again. There were so many photo's that he could not believe. But on a closer inspection not one of them included the boy upstairs.
When Snape ducked in to the cupboard he had a feeling of deye vous, he knew that he had seen this before. The Occoluncy lessons that was it, this was the where Potter lived and was punished. He paused there at the back in faded crayon said the words. 'Harry's Room.'
Snape hung his head in disgrace how could be a grown man, a trained Wizard who dealt with the abuse that came with the very name Slytherin whether from outsiders or the families themselves, not recognise the signs, how could he let his hatred of his enemy overcome his love for his friend.
Could he help – really help! Could he look after the young man upstairs and put him before his duty to others – because it was quite clear that nobody else was. Did he have what it took to be a guardian? Yes, he thought he would try. No, that wasn't right. He would succeed. Grasping Harry's trunk he shrunk it, placing it in his pocket he went upstairs.
Harry has lying down again on the bed.
'Harry,' Snape called out, 'are you ready to go?'
Harry tried to stand up, Snape helped him up and looked him in the eye.
'I want to apologise for the way that I have treated you in the past – you are not your father and I was wrong to take it out on you. I am supposed to take you to Grimmuald Place – instead I would like to take you to my home so that I can heal you properly, then I would like to help you in any way I can, if you will let me.' He paused, 'I would like us to get to know one another and I know that it is sudden, but maybe you would consider me to be your guardian?'
Harry tipped his head to one side and looked into his eyes, 'really,' he said – Snape nodded.
'A fresh start, I would like that please.'
Snape smiled and whispered 'to a new beginning,' and they disappeared.