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.
Unbeknownst of a black spider that was clinging to his robes, Hagrid apparated back to Hogwarts, heading straight to the Headmaster's office.
"I brung the lad to get 'is school tings 'eadmaster Dumbledore sir," Hagrid explained, pulling a small parcel out of his inner robe pocket. "An' ere's ye know what," he added, handing over the secret item.
"Thank you Hagrid," Dumbledore said gently, offering the half giant a lemon drop, which the man politely declined, hastily wiping a small, black spider off his robes.
"And how was Harry?" the Headmaster enquired. "Did he give you a reason as to why he didn't reply to his Hogwarts letter?"
"The lad didn' even receive it," Hagrid growled, telling the old wizard how he had found the saviour of the wizarding world with his atrocious relatives, conveniently leaving out the fact that Dudley Dursley was now spiking a pig tail.
"I see," Dumbledore said, gravely, shaking his head in annoyance, before he once more thanked the half giant and dismissed him.
The small spider hurriedly scrambled up on the next book shelf in order to not become squashed by the half giant's large feet.
When the door closed behind Hagrid, the Headmaster let out a long sigh and stepped over to his familiar, gently petting the phoenix' head. "Oh Fawkes, even if no one believes it, I really only left Harry with the Dursleys because I thought it would be the best and safest for him. But maybe I was wrong and should have asked Minerva or Severus to become the child's guardian," he said, more to himself than to the phoenix.
#That's the first correct thing you said about that poor child, old man# Fawkes trilled pleasantly, #but it's not too late. You can still ask Minnie-know-it-all or the grumpy one to take him in during the holidays.#
"That's true, Fawkes," Dumbledore replied, pensively. "I'll speak with them. I have to call them to discuss the matter with the stone anyway." He leaned into the fireplace and called the four Heads of House, which were his most trusted colleagues.
The small spider was too busy climbing up to the highest shelf to notice that two witches and two wizards stepped out of the fireplace and made themselves comfortable in the chairs around the Headmaster's desk.
However, all of a sudden, a loud alarm went off coming from the shelf, which he had just manage to climb, causing the spider to back up, startled, and fall back to the second lowest shelf.
"What's that alarm?" McGonagall queried, frowning, as she stared at the device that was sending out the alarm.
The Headmaster stood from his chair and walked over to the shelf, looking at the silvery device with a combination of confusion and concern.
"The wards around Harry's house are coming down," he said, gravely.
"Could it be that someone tracked him when he was in Diagon Alley today?" McGonagall asked, worriedly.
Dumbledore let out a long sigh, before he admitted, "Only this afternoon, I've told Fawkes that I'm going to make one of you his guardian, so that he won't have to return to his family every summer." Turning his eyes to the Potions Master, he demanded, "Severus, will you please go and check on the boy?"
The Potions Master looked at the Headmaster in shock. "Albus, why me?" he queried. "What do I have to do with that boy?"
"Perhaps because you're going to become his guardian," the tiny Professor Flitwick threw in, "considering that you're the only of us young enough to raise a child."
"Very well then," Snape conceded and grudgingly left through the fireplace.
Arriving at Arabella Figg's house, Severus quickly made his way to the Dursley residence, glad that the cat obsessed squib was not around to make his day even more miserable - if that was possible at all. Severus had known Petunia since Lily and he had been three years old and had played together on the playground between their houses. Severus had soon realised that Lily was a witch, and on her sixth birthday, he had informed her about the matter and had ever since spoken with her about magic, potions, spells and charms. Petunia had not even wanted to listen. Feeling like an outsider, she had begun to hate them for their magic, something that she was lacking.
'I can imagine how happy she was having to raise a small wizard, a powerful boy at that,' he mused, recalling how he once had witnessed six-month-old Harry's accidental magic at an Order meeting. 'Oh well, everything looks peaceful here. Let's see what might be the problem.' With that he rang the door bell.
He did not have to wait long, before Petunia opened the door. "You!" she shrieked, trying to close the door into Severus' face.
"No Tunia, that won't work," Severus replied, kicking the door open with his foot. "I'd like to speak with Mr. Potter," he then demanded, giving Petunia a warning look.
"The freak went off with that giant kind of yours yesterday and didn't come back," Petunia hissed, looking at Severus with an expression of pure loathing. "I hope he's gone for good," she then added.
"Hagrid brought him here to the doorstep," Severus said quietly, quirking an eyebrow.
"Well, the door bell rang once, but there was no one here," Petunia said, thoughtfully. "By the way, that awful man hexed my Duddykins. Can you reverse what he did?"
Severus raised an eyebrow.
"He gave him a pig tail," Petunia answered his unasked question and called Dudley, who was lurking at the top of the stairs.
Let's go inside," Severus demanded, firmly closing the door behind himself. With a flick of his wand, the boy's pig tail was gone. "So Potter did not return here?" Severus once more confirmed, causing Petunia to nod. "Very well, if he returns, please make him write a letter to myself and inform me about what happened."
"I will," Petunia promised, feeling too relieved that her Dudley was back to normal to hold any grudges against Severus for the time being.
With that Severus returned to Hogwarts and informed the Headmaster of his findings without telling about the Muggle boy's pig tail. Only too well could he understand why the boy had ended up with the additional limb. 'Very fitting,' he silently acknowledged the half giant's spell.
"Well, then there are two possibilities," Dumbledore said, pensively. "Either Death Eaters kidnapped him from the Dursleys' doorstep, or the boy ran away willingly."
"Where would he go?" McGonagall queried. "Considering that Hagrid told us he didn't know anything about the magical world, he wouldn't know where to hide in the magical world."
"And after hearing that he was a wizard and being called freak by his aunt, he'd certainly not hide in the Muggle world either," Severus sneered.
"Freak?" McGonagall queried, horrified, casting her younger colleague a furious look.
"Now now Minerva, let's wait what the boy says when we question him. We can only hope that he'll return on time for the new school year," Dumbledore said, concluding the conversation.
After his colleagues left, the Headmaster stepped over to Fawkes' perch. "Oh Fawkes, I really messed up this time, didn't I?" he spoke up, more to himself than to the bird.
However, the phoenix nodded his agreement. #Yes old man, you did, but as I said, you can still make up for it. The grumpy one would be a good choice. He'll understand the child well.#
Harry made himself comfortable on an old piece of cloth, unaware that it was the Sorting Hat's brim. 'They're talking about me,' he suddenly realised in shock, when his relatives' names were mentioned. 'How did they find out that I didn't return to the Dursleys?' he mused, when he recalled the alarm that had gone off earlier. 'Do they have an alarm that alerts them every time when a student doesn't return home?' he wondered. 'The one that the phoenix called snarky even went to speak with Aunt Petunia. How strange is that all, and how good that no one knows that I can change into a spider whenever I want.'
Once when he had been fleeing from Dudley and his gang, he had accidentally changed into a spider, and after the other children had left, he had found out that he could change back and forth just by his own will. Ever since then, he had made use of his secret ability in order to evade Uncle Vernon's wrath.
'This must be the Headmaster's office,' he thought, wondering if it was safe for him to stay where he was during the four weeks until the beginning of the school year. Finally, he decided to remain at least for the time being.
#I know where you are, Harry, but I won't give you out,# Fawkes suddenly trilled, when they were alone in the office, causing the spider to cast the phoenix a terrified look.
During the following weeks, Harry remained on the bookshelf in the Headmaster's office, following the conversations between Professor Dumbledore and his colleagues with interest. Only during the nights, when he was alone with the phoenix, did he slowly move down from the shelf and transformed into his human form, feeling safe in the dark.
Once he had realised that the boy could comprehend phoenix talk, Fawkes did his best to keep his new friend entertained, whenever the Headmaster, the only other human, who was able to understand him, was absent.
Hearing how the Headmaster kept asking his colleagues if they had heard anything about him, Harry began to feel miserable for hiding from the kind teachers. However, on the other hand, he realised that it had been Dumbledore, who had placed him with the Dursleys, apparently against the wishes and warnings of his colleagues.
'I like Minerva and Severus best,' he mused, after once again witnessing a fight between the two teachers and the Headmaster about leaving him with his atrocious and abusive Muggle relatives like the Potions Master worded it. 'But the Headmaster is really strange. How can an adult man eat so many lemon drops?'
One night, Harry noticed that he felt miserable as soon as he transformed into his human form. His throat was sore, his head and eyes hurt, and he felt hot and cold at the same time. 'Oh no, I'm sick,' he realised and immediately changed back into his spider form, knowing that he had felt perfectly well as a spider.
Unbeknownst to Harry, it was the morning of the 31st of August, the last day of the summer holidays, and the Hogwarts professors still had no clue about Harry Potter's whereabouts.
"Minerva and Severus, I'd like one of you to become the boy's guardian," Dumbledore informed his most trusted friends.
"Of course Albus, no problem," the Gryffindor Head agreed immediately.
"Let's see first where he's going to get sorted tomorrow," Snape replied, calmly. "Then his new Head of House can as well become his permanent guardian, considering that the Head will be his guardian for ten months out of twelve anyway." He glanced at the Sorting Hat, almost chocking in surprise, as onyx eyes met emerald green ones.
"If Harry comes to Hogwarts at all," Dumbledore replied in apparent concern.
"I'll see to it," Snape promised, smirking as he invitingly held the back of his hand in front of the shelf, on which the Sorting Hat was placed.
Neither of his older colleagues paid attention, as a small spider stepped onto the tall wizard's hand, instinctively knowing that the man had the intention to help him properly arrive at Hogwarts as a student.
The Potions Master carefully carried the spider all the way down to the dungeons, noticing in concern that the spider began to continuously sneeze when the cool air of the dungeons hit his skin. He brought him into his private chambers, where he placed the small animal on the floor in front of the fireplace.
"Mr. Potter, I hope you enjoyed your time in the Headmaster's office," he spoke up in a soft, baritone voice. "However, the school year is going to commence tomorrow, and therefore, it seems like an adequate time to change back to your human form, especially since you seem to have caught a cold, of which we should get rid right away."
Harry looked at the professor with anxiousness. 'Does he really mean that? Should I change back here and now?' he wondered.
"Mr. Potter, what are you waiting for?" Snape drawled. "Please transform now. Nothing is going to happen to you."
Harry thought himself back into his human form, noticing in relief that it worked immediately.
"I'm sorry," he apologized to the tall wizard, letting out a harsh cough.
"What are you sorry for?" Snape queried, quirking an eyebrow. He motioned the boy to sit on the sofa, while he lowered himself into his favourite arm chair. Seeing that the boy seemed not inclined to reply, he continued, "Yes, I demand an explanation as to why you decided to not return to your relatives but spent the last four weeks in the Headmaster's office in form of a spider. Indeed a very original way to arrive at Hogwarts. However, you seem to be ill, and I'm going to cast a diagnostic spell at you."
Harry anxiously observed how the professor pulled his wand, pointed it at his head and finally waved it over him, letting out a long sigh as he stuck it back into his robe pocket.
"Mr. Potter, you caught the magical fever as it is called," the Potions Master explained. "Many Muggle born first years catch it upon their first impact with the magical world. I'm going to give you a potion for it, and you'll stay here on the sofa and rest. We'll see if you'll be well enough to ride the Hogwarts Express tomorrow morning."
'Why is he so nice to me?' Harry wondered, when the professor brought a small goblet with a light blue potion, pressing the goblet against his lips.
"Don't linger on the taste," the older wizard instructed him, nodding contentedly as he took back the empty goblet.
"Thank you so much, sir," Harry said gratefully, realising that he instantly felt much better.
"You're welcome," Snape replied, smirking. "Now lie down and rest. I'll be in my private lab. I still have a lot of potions to brew before the students are going to arrive."
"Sir?" Harry spoke up, hesitantly. "Could I perhaps help you with something? I feel much better now, and maybe there is something I could do to help?"
The professor cast him a surprised look, before he agreed. "Well, as long as you feel well enough, you could prepare ingredients for me. It's not easy though, and it requires meticulous work."
Harry smiled. "That's all right sir. I've learned how to cook since I was three. Maybe this'll help me a bit."
"Very little," Snape replied, smirking, and led Harry into his private lab, where he showed the boy how the ingredients were stored and how he had to prepare everything that he needed for the first potion on his list.
The two wizards peacefully worked together in the lab, completely forgetting the time, until Severus remembered that Harry needed his next dose of potion as well as a proper meal.
"Let's have dinner together in my quarters," he decided, cleaning up the lab with a flick of his wand.
"Thank you so much for allowing me to assist, sir," Harry said, gratefully. "I liked it a lot."
Severus merely slightly inclined his head, although he had to admit to himself that he had somehow enjoyed the child's presence in his lab. 'It was like when Lily was brewing with me,' he mused, when he absentmindedly called his house-elf Cicero and instructed him to place the boy's luggage into his guest room and serve dinner for two.
During dinner, he questioned the boy about his home life at the Dursleys and also told him that he had known Lily and Petunia since their early childhood. "Your mother was my best friend," he admitted to the boy, who was hanging on his lips.
In the morning, the professor deemed Harry not well enough to ride the Hogwarts Express, so that the two wizards spent another day in the lab brewing potions together, which they both thoroughly enjoyed.
With a combination of disappointment and excitement, Harry listened as the Potions Master explained later in the afternoon that he would take him now to Hogsmeade.
"The other students are going to arrive shortly, and then you can mix with them at the station, so no one will know that you did not come with the Hogwarts Express like everyone else," Snape explained, causing Harry to eagerly nod.
"Thank you so much for everything, sir," Harry said gratefully. 'I hope Dumbledore will pull through with it and make Professor Snape my permanent guardian like he told Fawkes,' he mused as he trailed behind the tall wizard, looking very much forward to becoming just a normal Hogwarts student.
A while later, Professor McGonagall placed the Sorting Hat, whom Harry knew all too well, on Harry's hat.
'Ah, I already know you,' the Hat growled. 'You still owe me an explanation, why I had to serve as seat and bed for you during the summer.'
Before Harry could even think of an appropriate reply, the Hat shouted into the Hall, "Slytherin."
Seeing Harry head over to his House table, unobtrusively casting him a triumphant look, Severus looked at the Headmaster, smirking. "Albus, will you please prepare the guardianship parchments accordingly? Considered that Mr. Potter has been placed into Slytherin, I'm going to become his permanent guardian."
"Was that your doing, Severus?" Dumbledore asked in exasperation. "Where was he?"
Severus let out a small chuckle, before he sneered, "Beware of black spiders with emerald green eyes. Mr. Potter spent the whole summer in your office, cuddling with that antiquated piece of cloth over there. I'm sure your feathered duster knows about this."