The Aesculapian Serpent
by Healer Pomfrey
All recognizable characters belong to J. K. Rowling, and I am not earning anything by writing this story.
I am not a native speaker of English. Please excuse my mistakes.
It was on New Year's Eve that the Dursleys once again left eight-year-old Harry Potter with Mrs. Figg for the day, because they wanted to take Dudley somewhere without being disturbed by their nephew's presence.
"Hello Harry," Arabella greeted the child, who was very small for his age, and let him in. "Did you get nice presents from Father Christmas?"
Harry averted his eyes to the floor, before he replied in a barely audible voice, "No, I never get gifts from Father Christmas, because I'm a freak and a nuisance and only good boys get presents."
Arabella could barely keep her anger to herself; however, knowing that she was supposed to neither tell Harry about magic nor interfere with the Dursleys' education methods, she merely commented, "That's strange though, as I know for a fact that you're a very good boy. You're neither a freak nor a nuisance to anyone."
When Harry slowly raised his eyes, giving her a hopeful glance, she looked at the boy in concern, noticing that he looked worse for the wear. 'He seems unwell to me,' she mused.
"I'm fine," Harry reassured her quickly, when she voiced her thoughts.
However, when she carefully placed her hand on the boy's forehead, a movement, which made him flinch back violently, she realised that it felt hot to the touch.
"No sweetie, you're not fine," she disagreed and made him drink a Pepperup potion as well as a fever reducer in spite of his protests about not being allowed medicine.
When Harry drifted off to a much needed healing sleep, she swore to herself to tell the boy what he needed to know. 'I don't care about Albus' wishes. I won't have him suffer for two and a half more years. It wouldn't do good to speak with him now though, considering that he has to go back home tonight and perhaps won't be able to come back to ask questions whenever he wants. But as soon as the Dursleys will go on holidays again, so that we'll have some more time, I'm going to tell him about magic,' she resolved.
Seven months later
Harry looked up in surprise, when the door to his cupboard opened abruptly. "We're going to be away for three weeks. The list with your cores is up on the fridge," Petunia Dursley informed him shortly, before she turned around and quickly left the house.
'I hope they at least left me some food this time,' Harry mused, when he heard the Dursleys' car drive away. On the one hand, he was glad to be on his own for three weeks, but on the other hand, he knew that he needed something in his belly other than water at least every second day. A glance into the kitchen and the empty fridge showed him that his aunt had not bothered to leave anything for him. 'How am I supposed to survive three weeks?' he mused, as he turned to the list of chores, inwardly groaning at the content.
He was brought back to reality when the door bell rang. 'Who might that be? Am I supposed to open the door at all?' he wondered and hesitantly stepped into the hall.
It was Mrs. Figg, the cat lady, as Harry used to call her. "Harry, have your relatives gone for holidays?" she asked in a gentle voice, letting out a sigh, when the boy replied affirmatively. "Would you like to come over to my place for a while?" she invited him, causing a small smile to appear on the child's face.
'It's boring when she shows me all of her cats' photos over and over, but at least I'm not alone the whole day, and she always gives me something to eat,' he thought, as he followed the kind lady over the street to her house.
However, instead of leading him into the room, where she stored her photo albums, Mrs. Figg ushered him into the living room and made him sit on the sofa. "Harry, I'd like to speak with you about something," she began to talk, and Harry noticed that she seemed to be slightly hesitating.
"Have your relatives ever told you about Hogwarts?" she queried, giving him a questioning look.
"Hogwarts?" Harry asked in surprise. "No Mrs. Figg, I've never heard about it," he replied in a soft voice. "What's Hogwarts?"
Mrs. Figg nodded her head. "I thought so," she then said, pensively. "Very well then. Harry, I'm not supposed to speak with you about what I'm going to tell you now. Can you promise me that you won't tell anyone that you received this information from me?"
"I promise," Harry replied in confusion, looking at the older lady in expectation.
"Harry, you're a wizard," Mrs. Figg began to explain, curiously eyeing him to see his reaction.
"I'm what?" Harry asked in disbelief. He stared at the old lady, trying to assess if she had gone nuts.
Mrs. Figg merely smiled at him. "You're a wizard, Harry, just like your parents were witches and wizards, and Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry is the school, which they went to and that you're going to attend when you'll turn eleven," the Squib explained, patiently.
"But Uncle Vernon said there's no such thing as magic," Harry stammered in utmost confusion.
"Oh there is magic," Mrs. Figg corrected him, "and it's absolutely awesome. Unfortunately, I'm a Squib, which means that my parents were magical but I'm not," she continued. "To tell the truth, I have some magic, but it's not enough to actually use it. But I've many friends in the magical world, and I can tell you a lot about it. However, you mustn't reveal to your relatives that I let out the secret, as they apparently don't want you to know about your heritage."
"I won't," Harry promised again, "and thank you very much for telling me. I'd love to hear about the magical world." He leaned back in his seat and slowly relaxed. 'So I'm not only a freak but a wizard, and there's even a school just for freaks like me. That's great. But why did Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon never tell me? At least Aunt Petunia surely knows if mom was a witch too.'
"Your relatives seem to despise magic greatly," the old lady said gently, when he voiced his thoughts. "So much that they just deny its existence."
During the next few hours, Mrs. Figg told Harry everything that she knew about Hogwarts, noticing that Harry hung on her lips and seemed delighted about the news. She also spoke about the night when his parents were murdered and why he was famous in the magical world.
When Harry had to leave after having dinner with the kind lady, he asked, "Mrs. Figg, will you tell me more about the magical world tomorrow? Please?"
Mrs. Figg smiled at the eager boy. "Well, I already told you almost everything I know, but if you want, I can take you to Diagon Alley, the magical shopping area in London. It'll be interesting for you, and maybe you can buy a book about magic."
A huge smile spread over Harry's face, before he replied in clear disappointment, "Can I buy a book without money? I don't have any money."
The Squib sighed, before she informed him, "Your parents have left you a whole vault full of Galleons. I'll take you to Gringotts, the magical bank, where you can access your vault and get some money for books or other things you might want."
That night, Harry was much too excited to sleep. As soon as it became light, he got up and began to work on the long list with chores that Petunia had left for him, before he headed to Mrs. Figg's house as early as he dared disturb the kind lady.
"Do you want me to take you to Diagon Alley?" the old lady queried in clear amusement at his excitement.
"Yes please," Harry replied immediately, only to add in a smaller voice, "I don't have money to buy a bus ticket though."
"That's all right dear," Mrs. Figg said gently. "Today, we're going to travel through the fireplace. I'm going to take you with me. Just remember, if anyone asks you, that I didn't tell you about the magical world. You can always say that you know about it from your relatives. They're allowed to inform you about it, but I'm not."
"Don't worry, Mrs. Figg, I won't give you out," Harry replied, giving the old lady a reassuring smile. "I'm very grateful that you made my life so much better by telling me the truth. Now I know that I'm going to get away from the Dursleys in two years' time to attend Hogwarts. That's awesome."
Slightly anxiously, Harry stepped into the fireplace together with the old lady, noticing that she shouted, "The Leaky Cauldron", before the world began to turn around.
When the movement stopped, Harry scrambled up from the floor and curiously looked around. Since it was fairly early in the morning, the pub was almost deserted; only two elder wizards were sitting at the bar drinking something that looked like beer, and the barkeeper greeted them friendly.
"Good morning Mrs. Figg," Tom said, before he cast Harry a sharp look. "Is that..."
"Good morning, sir. I'm Harry," Harry hesitantly informed the man.
"Harry Potter! Welcome to the Leaky Cauldron," Tom blurted out in clear excitement, causing a group of people, who were just passing by, to stare at the boy.
"Good morning, Tom," Mrs. Figg threw in quickly. "Would you please be so kind and open the passage for us, before we attract much attention?"
"Of course," Tom agreed and led the way out of the pub.
With amazement, Harry observed how Tom tapped his wand against several bricks in a wall behind the pub making a door appear in front of his eyes. Trailing behind the Squib into the magical shopping area, he saw small shops on both sides of the street and curiously looked around, until Mrs. Figg stopped in front of a large, white building.
"This is Gringotts," the old lady informed him. "You have to go to one of the Goblins inside and tell them that you want to visit your vault. It's better when we don't go together. In the meantime, I'll exchange some Muggle money into Galleons. We'll meet again in front of the bank."
"All right," Harry agreed, hesitating. 'I'd prefer if she went with me,' he mused upon seeing the Goblins sitting behind their tables. 'But I can understand that she doesn't want to be seen with me if she wasn't allowed to tell me about the magical world.'
He anxiously stepped in front of a goblin, who looked down at him, eyeing him with a bored expression.
"Good morning, sir. I'm Harry Potter, and I'd like to see my vault," he said, trying to sound more confident than he actually felt.
"Harry Potter," the goblin replied slowly, staring at the boy. "Do you have your key, Mr. Potter?"
Harry cast the goblin a terrified look. "No sir, I don't have a key," he admitted, inwardly groaning. 'Well, it would be too good to be true to actually be able to get money,' he thought in disappointment.
His expression became hopeful, when the goblin instructed him to wait a moment and turned around to call another goblin, whom he introduced to Harry as Griphook.
A few minutes later, Harry found himself in a small cart that was racing through an underground mountain and finally stopped in front of a door. 'Wow, that was a fast ride,' he mused, glad when he could get out of the cart for the time being. Griphook instructed him to put his hand against the door, informing him that the door would be able to recognise his magical signature.
Not exactly understanding what this was about, Harry sighed in relief, when the door obediently opened under his touch.
"Excuse me, sir, but how many coins will I need to buy some books?" he hesitantly asked the goblin, who handed him a small bag.
"Fill this, and it should be enough to last until you get to Hogwarts," the goblin advised him, "and if it's not enough, you can come back here and get more money at any time."
A few minutes later, Harry was back in front of the bank, where Mrs. Figg was already waiting for him.
"Harry, seeing that Diagon Alley is getting crowded already, I'm afraid I can't walk here together with you. If the Headmaster finds out that it was me who brought you here, I'll be in a lot of trouble. Therefore, I suggest that you come back here on your own tomorrow or any other day." Seeing disappointment spread over his face, she continued, "For now, we can head to Muggle London, where I'll show you to the Ink Pot."
"The Ink Pot?" Harry mouthed, giving the old lady a questioning look.
"The Ink Pot is a Muggle bookshop, which also has a large magical division that is hidden from the Muggles," Figg explained, patiently. "The owner is very kind, and if you buy any book there, he'll be able to charm it, so that your relatives won't be able to see it."
"Oh that would be awesome," Harry replied, excitedly. 'Otherwise they'd take it away from me right away.'
The Ink Pot was a mere five-minute walk from the Leaky Cauldron. Mrs. Figg led the boy straight into the division containing the magical books. "I suggest that you buy the book 'Hogwarts: A History' first to gain a general overview," she said thoughtfully. "You could also ask the owner to reccomend you something about a special topic."
Harry decided to use to follow both advices, and thirty minutes later, he happily left the shop carrying several introductory books as well as a copy of 'Hogwarts: A History'. All of his books were charmed to be invisible to Muggles.
During the following days, Harry spent much time reading his books, feeling happier than he could remember having felt ever before. Since Mrs. Figg had instructed him to come over at least for dinner every evening, Harry made it a habit to visit the Squib once a day to speak with her about what he had read during the day.
A few days before the Dursleys returned from their holidays, Harry once again travelled to Diagon Alley, using the Floo from Mrs. Figg's house. This time, he curiously looked into the windows of the shops in the street. A window that displayed magical brooms seemed especially interesting; however, knowing that he wouldn't be able to fly whilst residing at the Dursleys', he refrained from taking a closer look and instead entered the Magical Menagerie, attracted by a toad at the entrance, which was spitting out chocolate frogs every now and then. 'Those frogs look as if they were made of chocolate, but how can they jump away?' he wondered. 'Are they alive?'
"Hello young fellow. Pleassse ressscue me from here. I like you and want to become your familiar," he suddenly heard a strange voice.
Harry curiously looked around, before he realised that it had to be the colourful snake on the left hand side that had to be speaking to him.
"Hi there," he hissed back, "I'm sssorry but I live with my Muggle relativesss. I don't think they'll allow me to have a pet ssnake."
"I'm a magical sssnake," the snake replied, convincingly. "I can make myself invisssible at any time. They won't even noticcce me."
'He's beautiful,' Harry mused. On the one hand, he was still afraid that the Dursleys would get to know if he brought a snake home with him, on the other hand, it would be nice to have a pet with him all the time.
"She's a very rare and special snake, a so-called 'Aesculapian Serpent'," the shop owner informed him, "and seeing that you speak Parseltongue, she's just the right familiar for you."
"Parseltongue sir?" Harry asked in confusion.
"Snake language," the man explained, grinning. "It's a very rare ability. She can turn herself invisible at will, and she's not poisonous; instead, her venom has special healing powers, similar to phoenix tears. She'd be a treasure for a Potions Master, thus the name of this species; unfortunately, none of the Potions Masters around are able to speak Parseltongue." Seeing that Harry looked from him to the snake with apparent interest, he offered, "I'll leave her to you for twenty Galleons. Usually, she's worth at least fifty; however, seeing that she'll be in good hands with you and that you'll be able to make use of her rare powers..." He trailed off, looking at the boy in expectation.
"All right, I'll take her," Harry decided and paid for the snake.
"Her name is Iro, which means 'colour' in Japanese," the shop owner informed him, as he gently laid the snake around Harry's neck.
'The name fits well,' Harry mused, 'considering that her skin is rainbow coloured.' With Iro curled around his neck, he left Diagon Alley for Muggle London, heading straight to the Ink Pot, where he once again asked the owner to recommend some books from all areas. Finally, he skimmed the Potions shelf for books about healing potions, adding several more books to the pile. 'Well, who knows when I'll be able to come here, once the Dursleys are back from their holidays,' he thought, as he proceeded to pay for the sixteen books, which he had chosen.
"I can take the money straight from the Potter vault," the owner informed him, causing Harry to gratefully agree.
During the following months, even when school began again, Harry continued using every free minute to read his magical books. He also frequently visited Mrs. Figg, greatly enjoying talking to the old lady about what he had read in his books. Although Mrs. Figg was not able to perform magic, she was still very interested in the wizarding world, which Harry appreciated greatly. While he was reading books about Charms or Transfiguration, he often tried to practise the explained spells just using his right hand, knowing from what Mrs. Figg had told him that he would not be able to buy a wand before his eleventh birthday.
"Harry, be careful," Mrs. Figg advised him one day, "if you read too much about special subjects, you might be bored once you enter Hogwarts, because you won't learn much new during the first few years."
'Hmm, that might be,' Harry thought and replied, smiling, "All right, from now on I'll concentrate on Potions and only read Potions books. It'll still be interesting when I'll finally be able to brew." In fact, he was especially fascinated by Potions, not only because of his familiar's special healing abilities, but also because the brewing of potions seemed somehow similar to cooking, in which he deemed himself really good. 'Maybe I can become a Potions Master, so that I can brew potions with Iro's healing venom and make many people healthy,' he resolved.
Six months later
It was shortly before Christmas that Harry one day decided to take his life into his own hands. At school, the teacher instructed the class to draw a picture about Christmas, and Harry spent much time to diligently draw Father Christmas standing in front of himself. Laying his crayons aside, he stared at the picture, and, in front of his teacher's watchful eyes, the persons in the painting suddenly came to life. Father Christmas pulled a small parcel out of his red robes, which he handed to Harry, and the boy took off the wrapping paper, revealing a book, which caused a huge smile to appear on his face.
"Very well done," the teacher, who was already used to his antics and did not mind them, commended him gently, and Harry was very happy with himself.
However, when the parents of all children came to the school for a Christmas party, looking at their children's paintings that were decorating the hall, everyone gathered in front of his strange picture. An hour later, Harry found himself back at home with Uncle Vernon shouting at him about not openly displaying his freakishness, before he used his belt on Harry's back and finally fiercely shoved him back into the cupboard.
'I'm going to leave this place,' Harry decided the instant his uncle returned to the school for the Christmas party. Unable to sleep due to his back pain and headache resulting from the treatment by his uncle, he spent the night practising a shrinking spell on his huge piles of books like it was described in one of his Charms books. Unfortunately, doing magic aggravated his condition, and by the time Petunia hammered on his door shouting that he should make breakfast, he felt awful. Nevertheless, he packed his shrunken pile of books into his school bag and dragged himself out of the house, as if he was just normally going to attend primary school. However, as soon as Dudley was out of sight, he changed the direction and hurried to Mrs. Figg's house. Quickly explaining to the kind, old lady what had happened and what he intended to do, he used her fireplace and took the Floo to the Leaky Cauldron.
"Tom, may I please speak with you in private?" he hesitantly addressed the barkeeper, seeing that several customers were just taking breakfast in the room.
"Of course," Tom replied gently and led him away from the public into a small, private room. "What's wrong, Harry?" he enquired, giving him a concerned look.
"My relatives are too horrible," Harry said in a small voice. "I'd like to rent a room for a while. A cupboard would do for me too."
"A cupboard?" Tom repeated, incredulously. "I have a very tiny room on the top floor, which I could leave you for a Galleon a month or three Galleons including three meals a day."
Knowing from his second visit to Gringotts that his parents had left him more than a million Galleons, even if he would only be able to access some of his vaults after turning seventeen years old, Harry gratefully agreed and happily allowed Tom to lead him to his room. 'This room is very tiny?' he thought, incredulously. 'It's at least four times as big as my cupboard.' The room was equipped with a comfortable looking bed, a small table and a chair. From the small window, he could look out into Diagon Alley. "This room is awesome," he said aloud. "Thank you so much for allowing me to stay here."
"You're very welcome," Tom replied, thoughtfully. "Harry, if word gets out that you're missing from your relatives, people will surely look for you. If anyone asks for you, should I tell them about your whereabouts?"
"No please don't," Harry replied, horrified. "The Headmaster of Hogwarts seems to insist that I remain with my relatives, but they hate me because of being a wizard, and I really don't want to stay with them anymore."
"Very well then, I'll make the house-elves bring your meals here into your room," Tom decided. "When you cross the pub, please be quick, so that I can easily say that I haven't seen you."
"All right," Harry promised, deciding to use the early mornings to go out and stay in his room to study during the afternoon and evening, when the pub would be crowded.
"This room isss much more adequate than the one at your relativesss' houssse," Iro voiced her opinion, curling up next to him on the bed.
"Yesss, I think so too," Harry agreed, smiling.
During the first week, his plan worked perfectly. No one spoke to Harry about fleeing from his relatives, and no one seemed to be searching for him, at least not at Diagon Alley. However, in the morning before Christmas Eve, Harry woke up feeling horrible. Not only ached his back and head like during the last week; however, his eyes hurt and he felt hot and cold at the same time. 'I'll just stay in bed today, and maybe tomorrow it'll be better,' he thought. However, his condition did not improve in the slightest. In the morning, his ears seemed to be filled with cotton wool, and he was so dizzy that he had to hold on to the wall every now and then. 'That's it. I'll go to the apothecary and buy a potion,' he decided and slowly dragged himself out into Diagon Alley.
He hesitantly entered the apothecary and waited impatiently, while the shopkeeper was engrossed in a conversation with a customer.
"Hello little one, what can I do for you?" he finally turned to Harry.
Harry felt himself blush at the sudden attention and said in a small voice, "I need a headache potion, a fever reducer and maybe some Pepperup potion please."
"Are these potions for yourself?" the apothecary queried, giving him a sharp look.
"No sir, for a friend," Harry lied, feeling extremely uncomfortable at the whole situation.
"How high is his fever?" he was asked, and looked at the wizard in front of him in shock.
"I don't know sir," he whispered, noticing terrified that the tall customer, with whom the shop owner had been talking earlier, was not only listening with apparent interest but was slowly coming nearer.
"Mr. Potter?" the man asked in disbelief, raising an eyebrow at him.
"Yes sir," Harry replied, uncomfortably.
Before he knew what happened, a slender, cold hand found its way to his forehead, where it lingered for an instant, before the man spoke up in a stern voice.
"Mr. Potter, if asking for help, it would be adequate not to lie." Turning to the apothecary, he said, "I'm going to take the boy back to where he belongs and give him the appropriate potions."
"Very well, Severus. Please think about the matter and inform me how many batches you'll be able to brew," the other man replied in a gentle voice.
"Come on Potter," the tall wizard drawled. "I don't have all day. Let's take you back to your relatives."
"Excuse me, sir, but... Severus as in Severus Snape?" Harry blurted out in excitement, giving the man a curious look.
"Exactly. Why do you know my name?" the older wizard returned the question, causing Harry to smile.
"I've been looking forward to meeting you, sir," he replied, unconsciously rubbing his forehead. "In 'Most Useful Potions: Recent Inventions' it says that you're the youngest and best Potions Master since Salazar Slytherin, and I'm very interested in Potions."
Snape cast him a surprised look but said firmly, "Mr. Potter, as much as I'd like to continue this conversation here, you're very ill and belong into bed. Do your relatives know that you're here?"
"No sir," Harry whispered and in a barely audible voice informed the professor that he had left the Dursleys' house and was residing at the Leaky Cauldron.
Letting out a long sigh, the professor demanded, "Show me to your room, so that I can assess your condition and give you the necessary potions."
Very slowly as to not aggravate the boy's condition, the two wizards walked to the nearby pub, and Harry led the older wizard into his room.
"Lie down," the professor instructed him and began to wave his wand over the child, casting a few diagnostic spells.
'That feels tingly,' Harry thought in surprise and worriedly noticed that the professor's expression turned furious with each spell he cast. "I'm sorry for being such a burden," he whispered, looking at the Potions Master with anxiousness.
"You're not a burden," Snape replied, absentmindedly, before he hissed, more fiercely than intended, "Who did that to you, boy?"
Frightened, Harry replied, "Who did what, sir?"
Snape let out a long sigh and pulled the chair over to the bed. "Mr. Potter, you have a concussion, which is quite bad, probably because you ignored it and were gallivanting around Diagon Alley. In addition, you have several cuts on your back, which seem to be infected. Both problems are causing the high fever you're running." Seeing that the boy stared at him with a blank expression, he continued, "I'm going to call Madam Pomfrey, our Healer."
Harry raised his hand as if to stop the professor, casting him a horrified look. "Please Professor, the Headmaster can't know that I'm not at the Dursleys anymore. Could you not simply give me a potion for the concussion and some Murtlap essence for the back and forget that I'm here? Maybe I need a fever reducer too," he added as an afterthought. "But I have enough money to pay for all the potions."
"Murtlap essence?" Snape queried, seemingly astonished. "Mr. Potter..."
"As I told you, sir, I'm very interested in Potions," Harry answered the unasked question, pointing to the small shelf above the table that held all his belongings. "I've read all these books, and I can't wait to be able to brew potions."
An expression of utmost surprise flashed over the professor's face, before it returned to a blank mask. "Mr. Potter," Snape began to explain, patiently, "you've obviously been abused by your relatives. No, don't move your head," he admonished the boy, seeing that Harry was shaking his head in denial before he winced at the pain the small movement caused. "Madam Pomfrey won't give you out to the Headmaster; however, she'll be able to document the abuse and advise us what to do. If she can gather enough evidence, we might be able to convince Professor Dumbledore to allow us to take you to Hogwarts. Now stay put, I'll be back in a few minutes."
'Severus Snape,' Harry mused. 'How lucky I was just to run into him. He seems very grumpy, but on the other hand he tries to help me. I hope Madam Pomfrey is nice, too. I think that's the Mediwitch of Hogwarts, whom Mrs. Figg told me about.'
He was brought back to reality, when Snape returned with an older witch in tow.
"Hello Harry," she greeted him friendly. Like Professor Snape had done earlier, she proceeded to wave her wand over the child multiple times, muttering to herself in apparent anger as she proceeded.
"Harry, I need to take a look at your back," she said finally.
"Okay," Harry replied in a small voice and anxiously turned his eyes to the professor, feeling strangely reassured by his presence.
The Healer took his clothes off with a spell, and both adults exchanged terrified looks at the sight of Harry's back. While Pomfrey gently smeared a salve on the infected cuts, Snape spoke up in a surprisingly gentle voice.
"Harry, if you don't want to speak about what happened, can you show me the scenes?" he queried, quirking an eyebrow. "Do you know what Legilimency is?"
"Yes sir," Harry replied, affirmatively, and fixed his eyes on the professor's obsidian eyes. An instant later, the Potions Master saw Harry's drawing at the primary school and observed his uncle's reaction.
"Harry," the Healer spoke up, when Snape pulled out of Harry's mind, "we're now going to return to Hogwarts, where we'll speak with Professor McGonagall and the Headmaster. I hope that Professor Dumbledore will see reason; otherwise I'm going to report the Dursleys to the Ministry of Magic for child abuse, so that even the Headmaster cannot insist that you stay with them anymore. Your concussion is too bad to take you with us right now. Therefore, you must remain here, stay in bed and wait until Professor Snape or I will come back for you. Don't leave your room, and don't move your head unnecessarily."
"Yes Madame," Harry replied obediently. "Thank you so much for helping me."
Before he knew what happened, the Healer spelled a potion into his system that made him drift off to sleep within an instant.
When Harry's mind turned back to awareness, Professor Snape was sitting on the chair at his bedside, reading what seemed to be a Potions journal.
"Hello Professor," Harry greeted the older wizard, smiling.
"Welcome back to the world of the living," the Potions Master replied, smirking. "Madam Pomfrey and I managed to convince the Headmaster to take you away from your relatives and allow you to reside at Hogwarts," he explained in a soft voice. "Until your complete recovery, you're going to remain in my guest room, and afterwards Professor Dumbledore will assign you one of my colleagues as your new guardian."
"Thank you so much, sir," Harry replied, gratefully.
Snape pulled out a chain from under his robes, explaining that it was an emergency Portkey that would take them to Hogwarts.
"My books," Harry suddenly remembered, almost panicking at the thought of forgetting his sole possessions. However, when his eyes reached the small shelf, it was completely empty.
"I've got your books in my robe pocket," the professor explained, reassuringly. "Now hold on tightly," he instructed the boy, before he activated the Portkey by uttering, "Lily."
'Uh this is even worse than the Floo,' Harry thought wearily; however, before he could even move to get up from the floor of what seemed to be a living room that was built in a circle around an enormous fireplace, the Potions Master scooped him up and carried him into a small room, where he placed him on a bed. It was a four poster bed, which felt extremely large and comfortable to the boy.
"This is your room for the time being," the professor informed him, before he made him drink his potions that caused him to drift off to sleep again.
During the following days, Harry woke up a few times, but each time he merely realised that either Madam Pomfrey or Professor Snape were speaking to him in soft voices and felt a tingling sensation run up and down his body, before he drifted back to a potions induced slumber.
When his mind turned to awareness again, he felt much better. 'Mrs. Figg was right; magic is really awesome,' he mused, 'especially potions.' Before he could take a closer look at his surroundings, the Potions Master swiftly entered the room, as if he had known that Harry had woken up.
"Good morning Mr. Potter," Snape said in a soft voice. "How are you feeling?"
"Much better sir," Harry replied, smiling. "Thank you so much for bringing me here and healing me."
"You're not completely healed yet, but you're on the mend," the professor corrected him, giving him a sharp look. "Are you feeling well enough to join my meddling colleagues and me for breakfast in the Great Hall?"
"Of course," Harry said, suddenly feeling very excited, when realisation set in that the nice room, into which the professor had brought him, was situated at Hogwarts. 'Of course they told me they'd take me to Hogwarts, but still I didn't properly realise it,' he thought, inwardly shaking his head at himself.
The Potions professor took Harry through the Floo to the Great Hall, explaining that students were not allowed to use the internal Floo network, so that he could only travel together within Hogwarts together with him and that his condition was not good enough yet to walk all the way up from the dungeons.
Harry looked around in absolute amazement. 'This is the Great Hall,' he thought, completely impressed by the charmed ceiling that made it look as if it was snowing inside the Hall.
Snape led him to an empty seat next to an old, female professor, who was wearing dark green robes, before he lowered himself into the chair next to him.
"Welcome to Hogwarts, Harry," the professor on his left side greeted him and began to introduce herself as well as her colleagues to the boy.
The professors proceeded to ask about his life at the Dursleys, and Harry replied as shortly as possible, not even wanting to think let alone talk about his relatives.
"Harry," the old Headmaster with the long, white beard finally spoke up. "I'm sorry for placing you with your relatives. I thought you'd be safe with them. From now on, you'll be allowed to remain at Hogwarts, provided that one of the professors is willing to become your guardian."
"Thank you sir," Harry replied, gratefully.
"Severus, you'd be the best to take Harry in," Dumbledore continued, and Harry inwardly smiled, until he heard the Potions Master's reply.
"No Albus, you can't ask me to take a Potter in. He's the spitting image of his father," Snape replied in a sharp voice. "He'll be better off with one of the ladies, who're willing to fuss about him."
"Severus!" McGonagall admonished him lightly, before she said, "Albus, any of us, except for Severus, would be willing to become Harry's guardian."
"Very well then, please think about the matter," the Headmaster instructed his colleagues. "We'll speak about it again in my office, one hour before the students are going to come back. I expect all of you to make an appearance."
'Oh no, Snape doesn't want me,' Harry mused, feeling incredibly sad at the thought. However, during the following days, the Potions Master behaved as friendly as he had been before Christmas breakfast, and Harry slowly pushed the matter to the back of his mind.
During the week until the end of the holidays, Snape allowed Harry to sit in the living room and read whatever book he could find in his shelves or alternately assist him in the potions lab.
Whenever the professor brewed in his lab, Harry chose to assist the older wizard, who was clearly surprised how adept he was.
"Harry, did anyone ever teach you Potions?" he asked one day, when they had just finished a huge batch of potions for the hospital wing.
"No sir," Harry replied, uncertainly. "I only read a lot about potions, and I love to brew together with you. It's so soothing."
"You're very adept, just like your mother was," the professor uncharacteristically commended the boy, as he absentmindedly cleaned up the lab.
Severus made himself comfortable in the offered chair in the Headmaster's office, watching how Harry gently petted the Headmaster's feathered duster, Fawkes. 'Now as his eyes aren't dull and glassy anymore, he really resembles Lily,' he mused, taking in with surprise how happy the boy looked in spite of having spent the whole day in the dungeons assisting him brewing one batch of potions after the next for the hospital wing. 'I really like having him assist in the lab. He doesn't disturb me, and I enjoy the company, because he's very careful and behaves well.'
Glancing at the other three Heads of House, Madam Pomfrey and finally the Headmaster, he heard himself speak up in his soft, baritone voice, which was usually reserved for his best friends among his colleagues as well as his little snakes, "Provided that Mr. Potter agrees, I'm going to become his guardian and make him my apprentice."
With amusement, he observed how Harry let out a happy squeal, while Minerva stared at him in disbelief, the Headmaster tried to feel his forehead, Poppy cast him an understanding smile, and Pomona and Filius congratulated him.
"Thank you sir, for making me the happiest boy in the world," Harry said gratefully, carefully petting the magical snake that was curled up in his neck.
"Harry," the Headmaster suddenly spoke up, seemingly alarmed. "Where and when did you get that snake? Are you sure that he's not poisonous?"
Harry smiled. "That's Iro, my familiar, and she's not poisonous. She usually turns herself invisible, when we're together with people, whom she doesn't know well, but apparently, she seems to have decided that none of you means harm to either of us. That's why she's showing herself today. I bought her at the Magical Menagerie in Diagon Alley six months ago. She's a very special serpent, and her venom has healing abilities similar to phoenix tears," he explained, glancing at the Potions Master.
"An Aesculapian serpent," Severus said in amazement, thinking, 'I'm the luckiest Potions Master in the world if my ward owns such an awesome familiar.'