A/N: Written for a prompt on P&S, but I can't tell you what the prompt is because it'll ruin the fic before you've even had a chance to read it! So it's mystery...
It was bad enough that Severus Snape found himself at the beck and call of the headmaster throughout his summer break, but was it too much to ask that he get a measly four weeks to himself – Potter-free? Dumbledore's moments were always inopportune, yet somehow he seemed to make Severus feel as though he were being uncooperative. It didn't matter that, in his first week of the school holidays, Dumbledore had sauntered through the floo at Spinner's End, disrupting Severus' breakfast, and requested a complete restock of the Hogwarts Hospital Wing due to an error at the local apothecary.
"We will need to find a new potions supplier," Professor Dumbledore had said, "but until then I am counting on you. I know I am, once again, expecting too much from you, Severus, but it is only because I trust you to do right by our students."
Two weeks – two whole weeks – it took for Severus to complete the headmaster's list of potions and salves, and by the end of it, he'd needed to keep a few back to tend to his blistered and calloused hands.
Not a day later, the floo lit up before Severus even had a chance to sip his afternoon tea, and it was left to get cold as he found himself searching his library for information on troll repellents. His next week and a half carried on the same – just as he would sit down with a good book, or be nodding off in his chair, or even as he shed his robes in anticipation of a nice, relaxing soak in the bath, Dumbledore would appear, all smiles and lemon drops.
He should have expected it really. In a way, he was lucky to be left alone until after lunch. It was almost five o'clock in the afternoon and Severus was sat at his desk in his library updating his lesson plans. School started back in just over a week and the summer had been a great one for new potion discoveries. With the permission of Dumbledore, Severus could now teach the sixth years how to brew a successful skin grafting potion – something he was sure Poppy would make use of considering the ineptitude of many of his students. Harry Potter immediately came to mind and Severus sneered to himself. The boy had managed an Outstanding in Potions, though Severus couldn't for the life of him understand how.
Knowing Potter, the entire class will be in need of the potion by the end of the lesson, he thought snidely.
Even the mental image of the boy left a nasty taste in his mouth. Just as he let out a small growl to himself, the floo flashed and Severus didn't even need to look up to know who it was.
"Afternoon, my boy! How are things?" Dumbledore strode forward, glancing first to Severus and then to the work on his desk.
"Since you invaded my home yesterday, you mean? Nothing has changed, Headmaster."
"Oh, come now, Severus. The wizarding world doesn't stop when the students go home. Tasks still need to be done and I am an old man now," he said, eyes twinkling.
Severus dropped his quill and motioned for the man to sit opposite him in his armchair.
"I assume there is something you need, Headmaster," Severus said shortly, leaning back in his seat. Dumbledore mirrored his position making himself comfortable. A silence hung in the air as Dumbledore smiled, seemingly mulling over his words in his head. Severus exhaled heavily. "Honestly, Albus!" he snapped impatiently, "The sooner you tell me, the sooner I can have another five minutes of uninterrupted peace."
"It seems that, however I phrase it, you will not look favourably on what I have to say." Dumbledore tilted his head, as if weighing up the situation. "Your old acquaintance, Bellatrix Lestrange, as well as many other known Deatheaters...I have word that they have escaped from Azkaban." Severus shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "The Prophet will likely run the story tomorrow, but my sources at Azkaban tell me that I am the first to know. I believe...I believe that Harry may be in danger. He has been reckless this summer, leaving the house alone for hours at a time. I believe his mind is still fraught with the death of his Godfather."
"That was months ago, Headmaster, and they barely knew one another. If the boy wants to mope, let him mope. Playing the sympathy card as usual, and as usual you are falling for it again!"
"Severus! Five years have passed and yet you still cannot see the boy for who he truly is."
"Who is to say that you are seeing the true Harry Potter?" Severus quipped. "Forgive me, Headmaster, but sometimes I think that I am the only impartial professor at that school!"
"Stubborn as you may be, think on this: what is more likely, that you are allowing yourself to be blinded by an old grudge, or that the entire Hogwarts faculty, bar you, has been duped by a fifteen year old boy?"
Rendered speechless, all Severus could muster was a half-hearted glare, the merest hint of James Potter setting his teeth on edge.
"Worry not, Severus. When you realise you are wrong about Harry, he will not hold a grudge; that boy has a capacity to forgive like no other." Ignoring the daggers being sent his way, Dumbledore sat forward in his chair and continued. "Your feelings for Harry aside, I need you to do one last summer task for me. The wards at Privet Drive have been fluctuating for some time. This summer has been the worst, and although I have had no word from Mrs Figg of any ill-doing at the Dursley household, I cannot risk it. Were the wards to fall suddenly, I cannot guarantee that we would be the first to get to Harry – especially if You-Know-Who is watching. Severus, I need you to –"
"No. Not on your life." Severus stood abruptly.
Undaunted, Dumbledore remained seated. "You cannot refuse what you do not yet know, Severus!" Dumbledore chuckled lightly.
"You want me to fetch the brat! And I'm saying no." Marching to the floo, Severus waved his hand wildly towards it. "Now you may leave me in peace!"
"I'm afraid I am not asking. In your frenzied fits of rage whenever this boy's name comes into conversation, you seem to forget that the future of the wizarding world depends on him. How well do you think he would fair in the hands of Voldemort right now?" Severus grimaced at the name of his old master. "He is a strong boy, Severus, but he is not yet ready. Until then, we must keep him safe. You, Severus, you vowed to keep him safe."
Dumbledore watched as Severus waged war with his own mind – the clenching and unclenching of the jaw, the tensing of muscles and the look frustration behind the man's eyes that only a person well-trained in the behaviour of Severus Snape could recognise.
"You will fetch him and bring him here –" Dumbledore stood and held his hand up to stop Severus from protesting, "– and then you will fire-call me in my office. Say nothing of Harry's whereabouts as I will be in a meeting with members of the ministry this evening and it will be best to keep this to ourselves, but I will make my excuses and come straight away."
Through gritted teeth, Severus exhaled irritably and muttered a low, "Yes, Headmaster." Oh yes, he would retrieve the boy, but he would certainly not be happy about it.
Harry could see Privet Drive from the swing in the park. He knew it was dangerous being outside all day, but since Uncle Vernon's punishments came whether he had done his chores or not, he figured he could just keep out of his family's way during the day. There were some things he couldn't get away from, though, no matter how hard he tried. Any hope Harry had of forgetting what had happened at the Ministry was stolen by Dudley's taunting.
"What kind o' name is Sirius anyway?" he'd said. "Yer bit on the side, eh? Always knew you were a bit funny." And inside, Harry was angry, he really was, but it was like he didn't have the energy to expel it. All he knew was that whilst he was outside, he wasn't getting hit or threatened. He could outrun Dudley now, so Dudley and Piers had quickly got bored of Harry Hunting. He spent most of his time over at Piers' house anyway and Aunt Petunia, regrettably for Harry, was spending the evening catching up with one of the neighbours – at least he could normally trust her to rein in Uncle Vernon's temper. The downside was that he had to go home sometime and although he knew to expect some kind of punishment, the fear was that he never knew what it would be.
In the midst of his and Uncle Vernon's last clash, Harry was expecting to be winded by his uncle's meaty fist, he was expecting the kicks every time he fell down, but this time Vernon's hands found places on his body that were Harry's and Harry's alone. Turning away and hunching over after a sharp blow to the side, Harry felt Vernon's body behind him. He could feel the warmth of his uncle's breath behind his ear as a rough hand curled around his torso and immediately headed for his groin. Getting his breath back, Harry tried to tear himself away but Vernon tightened his grip and Harry yelped.
"Yes, boy," his uncle snarled in his ear, "since nothing else seems to faze you, perhaps I should resort to a different sort of punishment." When Vernon let go, Harry instinctively turned to face him, but no sooner had he turned around, a knee connected sharply with his groin and he fell gracelessly to the ground with a thud.
Thankfully, the punishment had ended there, as a warning – a threat and nothing more. But as time went by, all Harry could think about was that rough, sickening hand, and his uncle's words as they turned over and over in his head. What sort of different punishment did he mean?
Clutching the chains of the swing, Harry held on like he never wanted to leave. But he knew he had to go home soon. What he didn't know was what would happen then.
If the heavy clunking of his shoes was anything to go by, Severus Snape was in a fearsome mood. After the headmaster had left, he'd waited an hour to collect the boy in the hope that his temper would settle. Alas, it did not. As he trudged down Privet Drive in search of number four, each step was laden with a number of curse words that he muttered darkly under his breath.
After this dreadful task, he thought, Headmaster be damned, I will have my last week of peace and quiet.
Standing on the driveway, Severus gritted his teeth and took a mildly calming breath before storming to the front door and swiftly rapping on it with his knuckles. Seconds went by and there was no answer, but Severus could hear something. There were no voices that he could pick out, but something had certainly moved. He knocked again, louder this time, tapping his foot impatiently on the ground. Shaking his head, he looked around seeing that the street was, indeed, empty and he pulled out his wand.
The lock clicked and he pushed at the door, not even hesitating as he entered, wand in hand. Stalking into the hallway, he was alerted by a sudden groaning that stopped as soon as it started. As he moved towards the kitchen door, the sound of movement, of laboured breathing, of pain, got louder. With a push, the door swung open to reveal Vernon Dursley, grey-faced, gripping his arm and writhing desperately on the kitchen floor.
Like a switch, Severus forgot most of his frustration and rushed towards Vernon's body. It was then that, out of the corner of his eye, he spotted Harry Potter. The boy, clear as day, was stood in the corner of the kitchen, just watching. Even a wizard could tell that this man was having a heart-attack, and the boy just looked on doing nothing. "Potter!" No answer. The boy just stood there. "Have you called anybody, Potter?" Severus snapped louder. The boy didn't even react. "Merlin!" he growled, his anger growing again. In seconds, Severus had used the muggle telephone, called for an ambulance, and awkwardly told Vernon Dursley that help was coming – all the while, glaring harshly at Harry, who was ignoring it all.
As the ambulance approached, siren whirring in the distance, Severus saw that as his time to leave. "Potter, grab your things," he snapped in Harry's direction. When the boy didn't move, he strode over to him, grabbing his arm and flinging him towards the kitchen door. Harry started. "Your things! Get. Them," Severus growled darkly, "now." Stumbling awkwardly out of the room, Severus sneered as he watched the boy first drag some belongings out of the cupboard under the stairs and then scramble up to his room. For a second, he thought he heard the boy retching upstairs and he assumed the full blow of his uncle's heart-attack had just hit him.
Serves him right for being so hopeless.
Seconds later, the boy had made it down the stairs, looking somewhat worse for wear – though he'd be getting no sympathy for it – and Severus, leaving no room for words or protestations, immediately shrunk Harry's things, grabbed his arm and they both disapparated just as the ambulance arrived.
"Prince Potter can't pick up a muggle phone? Is that beneath him?" Severus was red in the face as he shouted. He sat the boy on a wooden stool in the kitchen – the only room he would allow the boy to see. There were comfy chairs at the kitchen table, but no, Severus thought, he doesn't deserve to be comfortable! Severus was livid. Had the boy no morals, no decency? That family had taken him in and yet all he could do was watch as his own uncle faced death. Had the boy not been responsible for enough of late? Not to mention he had thrown up on Severus' shoes as they arrived.
The boy had said nothing since arriving. He sat on the stool, watching Severus' feet intently but answering none of his questions. And that look on his face...Severus couldn't work it out – and that frustrated him even more.
"Your own uncle and you stand there ready to watch him die, Potter! What were you thinking? I know you have the rest of the wizarding world under your thumb, boy, but I know your kind. Just like your father. Did you freeze? Is that it? Pathetic, stalling in the face of danger! How are you going to defeat the Dark Lord?" Severus paced the floor in front of Harry. "If that man had died, it would have been on your sorry head! Even a first year knows when to call an ambulance!"
Severus stopped his pacing. The boy's voice, heard for the first time that day, was devoid of any emotion. Severus shook his head.
"No, Potter! I don't think you do. When were you going to pick up the phone? When he'd passed out on the floor? How about when he'd stopped breathing? Look at me, Mr Potter, I am asking you a question!"
Harry looked up, but the eye contact didn't last.
"Or perhaps you didn't stall," Severus continued, his voice taking on a lower tone. "Perhaps you knew exactly what you were doing, allowing your uncle to suffer like that. You are a depraved boy aren't you?" Harry twisted in his seat and Severus watched as his words seemed to undo him. "It wasn't enough to watch that God-mutt of yours drown in the veil? It seems that despite the Headmaster's constant attempts to get me to believe you are pure of heart, I was right all along – unappreciative, spoilt, ungrateful, vile excuse for a man –"
With a start, Severus whipped his head around to see Dumbledore standing in the room. In the midst of his rage, he hadn't even noticed the floo.
"The wards have fallen at Privet Drive. You did not fire-call me as we had discussed." Dumbledore chanced a glance at Harry who was now hanging his head, looking at his feet. "Severus, what is going on?"
"I will tell you what's going on, Headmaster! Upon entering number four Privet Drive, I found a man on the floor having a heart-attack, and this boy," he strode over to Harry and tugged at his t-shirt, "expected saviour of the wizarding world, doing nothing, watching his own uncle keel over."
As Severus let go of Harry's shirt, Dumbledore walked tentatively over to the boy. In a soft voice he asked, "Is this true, Harry?" For a moment nothing happened, and then slowly Harry nodded. Were Dumbledore's eyes not solely on the boy, were the situation not so intense, they'd have missed it. Noting Harry's unusual disposition, Dumbledore frowned. With a sigh, he left the room, motioning for Severus to follow. For a second, Severus thought of not going, worried that the boy would go running off in his house somewhere, but Dumbledore's gaze was beckoning.
Moving into the living room, they spoke in hushed tones. "Severus, Harry has been through so much. His reaction is not surprising considering the situations he has faced of recent."
"He is not a fragile little boy, Headmaster. He knew what he was doing and he made no effort to help his uncle. He couldn't have been further away from him in the room!" Severus huffed.
"It must be grief...he isn't himself." Dumbledore searched Severus' eyes, imploring him to see reason. Harry was struggling, that much Dumbledore knew. "I know Harry. He would not leave an innocent person to suffer."
"I beg to differ, I was there!"
"Think on my words, Severus. Please."
"Why are we even arguing, Headmaster." Severus threw his hands into the air. "I have seen the brat's depravity with my own two eyes, but it's nothing to do with me. Consider your task completed, you may take him now."
"Ah, Severus, there's something else I would like to discuss with you. Hogwarts is empty, Harry cannot stay there and the Weasleys are away. Since he is already here –"
"No, Headmaster, absolutely not!" Severus' voice rose and echoed throughout the house.
Harry felt sick with himself. Things happened so quickly, but Snape was right, he did know what he was doing. That made him feel even worse. What kind of human being could watch somebody hurt like that and do nothing about it? Hanging his head in shame, he could barely muster the energy to nod when Dumbledore asked him to confirm how much of a monster he was. He'd barely noticed when Dumbledore and Snape had left the room, but it became apparent when Snape's deep, bellowing voice carried through the walls.
"No, Headmaster, absolutely not! You have already foisted him on me for long enough!"
Dumbledore's voice was too soft; Harry couldn't make out anything he was saying, but Snape was coming through loud and clear.
"I have not had a break! All summer I have been your errand boy, you must let me have this last week."
Another unintelligible mumble.
"You do have other options; you just have to put your trust in somebody else for a change! I will not do it. It is bad enough having that insolent little brat in my classes, let alone in my home!"
Harry's ears perked up. Dumbledore was trying to move him from a hell-hole to a pit of despair! But he did not want to go back to the Dursleys. He knew he should be more worried about being in the same house as Snape, but anywhere was better than Privet Drive. He just wished that, for once, he could stay with people who wanted him around.
"Send him somewhere else! Find his Aunt and move them to a safe-house!"
Harry felt his heart speed up. No, not back with them, please not back with them!
"Severus, stop this!" Harry froze as Dumbledore's voice, usually calm in the face of disorder, carried through the walls just as well as Snape's had. "It is merely one week! You made a vow! Soon this war will be over and you will have as much time to yourself as you wish, but for now, Harry must be kept safe. Do you understand?" Dumbledore's voice left no room for argument. Snape's reply, if there was one, was not audible.
Severus was expecting some sort of commotion when Dumbledore explained to the brat that he'd have to stay with his Potions Master. To his surprise, Potter seemed almost relieved. There were no tantrums, no harsh words, no sarcastic retorts in his direction, and it irked him that the boy appeared to be completely unaffected by the news. When Dumbledore left, he gave Severus a warning look. And now the kitchen was tense with silence as Harry sat on the stool not daring to move and Severus tried to think of what to do next.
"Your things are in the study. You will sleep on the couch; I do not have a spare bed, so Prince Potter will just have to make do," he sneered. "This is my house, everything in it is mine. You do not touch anything, you do not go into any room where the door is closed and you do not wander." Severus marched into the hallway and lifted the lid off a small chest. Pulling out a scratchy, worn blanket, he marched back into the room where the boy had scarcely moved and threw the blanket into his lap. "Come," he ordered, and once again he was surprised that the boy didn't even put up a fuss.
The study was a small, sorry affair, cluttered and dusty as though Snape never went in there, but it was better than anywhere in the Dursley household. At least the sofa didn't have springs in all the wrong places like his old mattress did.
"The bathroom is upstairs, but other than that, you are to stay in here, is that understood?"
"Yes, Sir," Harry said quietly.
"You will be called by my house-elf for meals, but I expect you to stay out of my way. If you are late for a meal, you will not eat." With that, Snape turned on his heels and swept out of the room, slamming the door behind him. Settling himself on the couch, Harry took a shaky breath and took a moment to take in all that had happened in the last few hours, but the thought of it all made him feel ill at ease. For now, he was glad to be away from it all. At least Snape would leave him alone. He didn't want to go back to Aunt Petunia, let alone his uncle. If that meant staying on the right side of Snape, he would grin and bear it.
As he curled up on the sofa, his stomach rumbled. He didn't know if he'd be getting a meal tonight, but he'd felt worse. Trying to make himself comfortable, his mind kept working against him. If Sirius knew that you were staying with Snape, it said, he'd be so disappointed. Closing his eyes, he shook his head and told himself to think about nothing. Nothing hurt nobody.
That night, a house-elf called Tibble called him down for dinner. He followed reluctantly, driven mainly by hunger, certainly not by his craving for human company. As it happened, Snape didn't show. Harry ate as much as he could stomach and retreated back to his room. Only when he had shut the study door did he hear Snape's heavy footsteps. He had obviously waited until Harry had finished before eating his own meal. At least Tibble had treated him like a proper human being.
The next day, Harry had woken from a fitful sleep to the sound of Snape walking around the house. He had intended to stay in the study until called for breakfast, but his bladder felt ready to burst. When he could hold it no longer, he flung the study door open and rushed upstairs to the bathroom to relieve himself. In an attempt to make it back to his room, however, he ran directly into the man he was avoiding.
"Potter! You do not run in this house, do I make myself clear?" Snape looked down at him, a hot breath coming from his nose.
"Yes, Sir," Harry said.
"You may treat your home and your family with as much disrespect as you like, boy, but here you will do as I say. Understood?"
"Yes, Sir, I'm sorry." Harry just wanted Snape to lower his voice – that or he wanted to get back to the study. For a second too long, the man reminded him terribly of his uncle. Snape, for a moment, looked confused at Harry's own odd expression, but he didn't stay around long enough for Harry to work out why.
Breakfast was quiet. Tibble watched him eat, but Snape, once again, was nowhere to be seen. Lunch was much of the same and Harry was beginning to hate spending time alone. In the study he was alone, at meals he was alone and all he could think about was the reason he'd ended up with Snape and all the commotion leading up to it. Just thinking about being back there made his stomach churn, but there was nothing else to occupy his mind. By dinner Harry found himself too sick to eat.
As he lay on the couch that night, twisting himself to find a comfortable spot, he found himself hoping, just for one mad moment, that he would bump into Snape again. At least then he could quietly seethe about the man's insults – anything to stop his mind from circling the events he'd rather put behind him. He couldn't even talk to Tibble because the house-elf would never come when he called – he wondered if Snape had anything to do with that.
That night, Severus was more irritable than usual. He had barely slept the night before, largely down to having the presence of another in his house overnight – that had not happened for years, and now he found it quite disconcerting. He forced his dinner down after he'd heard the boy retreat back to the study, and then took himself to his bedroom. Though his bed looked tempting, his mind was running rings around any thoughts of sleep. Lying on his bed, he closed his eyes in the hope he would eventually drift off, but an hour later, he was still wide awake staring at the ceiling, his mind thinking only of Potter most likely sleeping like a baby downstairs. It bothered him something rotten.
Angrily getting out of bed, he stomped to the bathroom, undid the medicine cabinet and fetched an old vial of Sleeping Draught. It had been a while since he'd needed one of these. Uncorking the vial, he tipped it back into his mouth and swallowed the lot in one mouthful. Just one step towards the bathroom door, however, and his head was swimming. Before he could think, his stomach clenched and his legs fell from under him. Sprawled on the bathroom floor, his eyes caught a glimpse of the label on the Sleeping Draught vial.
Madam Moore's Apothecary, he read before passing out completely.
Sleep had evaded Harry. He had managed to doze off just after midnight, but something startled him out of a nightmare and he retched over the side of the couch. Despite the mess he'd made, he thanked Merlin for whatever woke him up. He scrabbled around for his wand and muttered a quick Scourgify, cleaning the floor and himself. He thought about going back to sleep, but the taste of bile lingered horribly in his mouth and he needed to get rid of it. In his t-shirt and boxers, he tiptoed out of the study and quietly ascended the stairs, avoiding the creaky floorboards. Creeping past Snape's room, he quickened the pace to the bathroom but stopped short when he saw the light was on. The door was ajar but he couldn't see in enough to know if Snape was in there. Standing still and listening, Harry heard shuffling. Gently pushing the door open, he was shocked to see the convulsing form of Snape laying on the cold floor, frothing at the mouth, his face positively ashen.
Harry immediately jumped to his aid, kneeling by his body and trying to still his shoulders. Seeing the empty potion vial on the floor, he realised Snape must have taken it before he fell ill. Watching the man suffering made Harry's stomach flip – the situation reminded him so much of before. Steeling his nerves, this time, Harry decided, he would not be the person he was then – Snape may have been the thorn in his side since he started Hogwarts, but the man was not like Uncle Vernon. He was not, and Harry found himself panicking at the sight of this man looking so sick and vulnerable on the floor – this man who was usually a pillar of stoicism and strength.
Scrambling to his feet, he forced open the medicine cabinet over the sink and rifled messily through its contents.
Sleeping Draught, no. Skele-Gro, no. Swelling solution, calming draught, pepperup potion...no, no, no!
He slammed the door closed and moved to the cupboard under the sink. It was filled with little drawers, and as Harry searched through them he was not surprised that he didn't know what half of it was. When he reached the bottom drawer, however, he let out a bated breath as his eyes spied one thing he could easily name – a bezoar. For once he was thankful for Hermione's incessant need to share her knowledge with everyone.
Falling to the floor, he gritted his teeth and dropped the bezoar into Snape's mouth, massaging the man's throat to encourage him to swallow. Within seconds, to Harry's relief, the convulsing had stopped, but the man was still unconscious. He didn't know what to do, but he knew he needed to make sure Snape was okay. Running downstairs to the floo, Harry grabbed a handful of floo powder and tossed it in the fire, ready to fire-call Dumbledore, but the flames fizzled out. He tried again, but the fireplace practically spat the powder back at him. Snape had locked the floo.
With no floo and Hedwig staying in the Owlery at Hogwarts, Harry was at a loss. He could have sent a patronus, but Snape's house was in the middle of a muggle town – what if somebody saw? With no way to contact Dumbledore, Harry felt the panic swell from his head to the pit of his stomach. He was going to have to take care of Snape himself.
It took all of his strength to half carry, half drag Snape's limp body to his bedroom. Getting him into bed was even more of a challenge as Harry had to contend with his own physical ailments courtesy of his uncle. With a groan, he managed to roll the man onto the bed and pull the sheets over him. It was only when Snape was lying there, quietly breathing, that Harry took stock of the room. It was green, but not Slytherin green, it was lighter like peppermint. The sheets were dark and the curtains were near-opaque, but the rest of the room was surprisingly bright with the lights on.
Not as dark as you like us all the think, eh Snape? Harry thought.
Looking back at Snape, he only then noticed the slight trembling of the man's limbs. He had a fever, but that's all Harry knew. He certainly didn't know exactly what was wrong with him. Yes, the bezoar seemed to alleviate the symptoms, but if he was having a reaction to the potion he drank, Harry had no idea what he needed to do to make the man better. Giving Snape a fever reducer seemed like the best bet, but what if the fever reducer reacted badly with whatever was in that potion vial in the bathroom?
Harry took a deep breath and ran to the bathroom. He grabbed the potion vial off the floor and took that and a damp flannel back to Snape's room. After placing the flannel on the man's forehead, Harry read the Sleeping Draught vial, trying to work out what could have caused Snape to react so badly. Noticing no change in Snape's condition Harry made a quick dash for the library, picking out a pile of potions books and a couple of healer encyclopaedias and then set them out on Snape's bedroom floor, looking for anything that might help. Without hesitation he opened the first book: Potions: Boil, Bubble and Brew. Jumping straight to the glossary, he found each of the Sleeping Draught ingredients in the hope that one might be listed with serious side-effects like Snape's, but there was nothing.
The next book, How Not To Brew: Interactions and Nasty Effects, had information on everything he could dream of knowing, all except Sleeping Draught. Harry assumed that, judging by the state of the book, Sleeping Draught had not been discovered when it was written.
As he moved from book to book, everything he saw was much the same as the last book and his frustration was growing tenfold. The only thing keeping him going was the man in the bed and the fact that he finally had something else occupying his brain. He read throughout the night and eventually fell into an uncomfortable sleep in the quilted chair at Snape's bedside. He only awoke when a sound from the bed startled him. As he walked towards the bed, he took a quick step back when he noticed Snape's wild open eyes.
"Sorry," he was saying in shallow breaths. And when he saw Harry, his head flopped to the side so that their gazes were locked on each other. The usual deep black orbs were glazed. "L...Lily?" he rasped and Harry couldn't take his eyes off the man. "Sorry. So..sorry. Lily." Snape's words were quiet but clear and Harry's mind did a dizzying spin at the very sound of this man, Severus Snape, hater of Harry Potter, saying his mother's name so desperately. "Lily," he said again, and this time a weak arm came from under the covers in a feeble attempt at making a connection. Harry stepped back and looked away. The man's arm fell limp once more, his eyes closed and his head lolled back into his pillow again as he passed out.
Harry sank slowly back into the chair. Snape knew his mother; he must have done. But it could have been any old Lily, couldn't it?
Just because Snape says my mother's name...it doesn't have to be her. Someone would have told me. There's more than one Lily in the wizarding world. Yes, someone would have told me...
But why would he reach out to me like that?
As he sat in the chair, thinking of his mother, of her red hair and her emerald eyes, he didn't know what to believe anymore. He shook his head and swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat, blinking away the sadness and opting instead for picking up another book. He scanned the contents of Healing Potions: The Wizard's Way and sat up straight when he saw an entire section on Sleeping Draught. The page was split into paragraphs: ingredients, brewing, intended outcomes, allergic reactions, mild side-effects, serious side-effects and industrial errors. He skimmed the first few parts and jumped to allergic reactions, but Snape's symptoms didn't fit. Nor did any of the side-effects, mild or serious, describe what Snape was experiencing. There was, however, an entire page on industrial errors. It appeared that, when brewed in bulk, the quantities could sometimes vary and the potion would have to be recalled. Harry read on intently.
"The most common of errors when bulk-brewing a Sleeping Draught is a build up of flobberworm mucus residue causing the batch to contain more than the maximum quantity, resulting in the patient receiving an overdose of flobberworm mucus in their potion. The patient will experience sudden-onset stomach cramping, weakened muscles and convulsions."
Beneath this section, the image of a man convulsing on the floor stared back at Harry. It could easily have been Snape that very night. This is it. He read on.
"If the healer remains uncertain, a sample of the potion may be required. When the ratio of flobberworm mucus to lavender is too high, the potion will emit a pink hue rather than its usual purple colour. If this is the case, a flobberworm mucus overdose is likely."
Reaching for the old vial, Harry ran to the bathroom and tipped it vertically over the sink. Slowly a droplet descended down the tube and mere seconds later, Harry found himself watching a small globule of pink liquid oozing down the white basin toward the plughole. That was his proof; the potion was defective. He walked back into Snape's room and checked the man's pulse. It was high, but not racing, though his body was still clammy. Picking up the book, Harry continued reading.
"In the event of a flobberworm mucus overdose, stabilise the patient with a bezoar or krackenstone," Harry internally praised himself for his own quick thinking, "administer a dose of Fever Reducer every four to six hours until the fever breaks to aid in a speedy recovery."
Dropping his head and thanking Merlin for letting him find the right book, Harry didn't waste any time. After a rushed search around the house, Harry returned to Snape's bedside with four vials of Fever Reducer. These, by the looks of the handwritten labels, were Snape's own brews and they looked to be made recently, unlike the vial of Sleeping Draught. Harry could only hope that they were safe to use.
He uncorked the first vial of Fever Reducer and, with a firm hand holding Snape's head still, he tipped the vial into the man's mouth. Snape choked but Harry held him down and desperately pleaded with him to, "Just swallow it". And Snape did. The rest of the day was much the same; Snape barely moved – there were no more repeat episodes of his fevered mutterings – and Harry spent his time making his meals and sorting the books in Snape's library. He had no idea where Tibble had gone, but he could only assume that the house-elf only made an appearance when summoned by Snape. By the evening, it was time for Snape's second dose of Fever Reducer and this time Snape didn't choke; the potion slipped down easily and Harry sat in the quilted chair just listening to the sound of Snape's breathing. He had done all he could around the house, trying to keep his mind from returning to the days before, but now he had nothing to do but sit and think. Staring at Snape's shivering form, Harry felt sad. Despite all of their arguing and all of the snide comments that came his way, he desperately wanted Snape to wake up, he wanted the man to open his eyes and become a tangible presence in the house again. He wanted proof that he could save a life worth saving – proof that he wasn't depraved like Snape had said. Maybe the man would change his mind now and take it all back. But maybe he wouldn't.
It was midnight again when Harry awoke stiffly on Snape's chair. Stretching his limbs, he ambled sleepily towards the light switch and turned it on. Snape had barely moved positions, but he was no longer trembling. Harry rubbed his eyes and walked swiftly to the bed, immediately noticing the sheen of sweat across the man's face. Grabbing the flannel, Harry wiped Snape's brow and the man groaned lightly in his sleep. Something in Harry's heart unclenched as he watched Snape's face relax for the first time in days. A sense of relief washed over him. Harry ambled back to the chair, curled up and closed his eyes in the hope that he was right: the man's fever was breaking; he would be awake by morning.
Chapter 2 coming up soon :) Thank you for reading - leave me some love if you feel compelled!