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Severus felt the bracelet on his wrist vibrate violently. It woke him up out of a sound sleep, startling him so badly that he nearly fell out of bed. What the blazes? It took the Potions Master a minute to figure out what had woken him, then he immediately placed his opposite hand on the thrumming bracelet. Instantly, he saw Harry lying motionless and broken upon the floor at the bottom of the stairs.

NO! His heart shrieked in denial, leaping to a terrible conclusion.

Then his head overruled his heart. The bracelet would not have warned if Harry were dead. Death negated the magic. Therefore the boy still lived. And Severus, his guardian, must once again save that which had been given into his keeping. He sent a silent plea that Harry hang on for one minute, just one minute longer.

Then he drew in a sharp breath and flung on his clothes and ran swift as a panther on the hunt, up a secret passage to the stairs near the Entrance Hall. Hogwarts was honeycombed with such passages and Severus had learned most of them through the years. Now that knowledge would enable him to save his child, Lily's legacy, that he had come to love as his own.

I'm coming, son. Wait for me. Please.

He cursed the fact that Dumbledore had placed Anti-Apparition wards all over the damn place, because in an emergency, every second counted. Severus ran as quickly as he could, until at last he was out of the secret passage and crossing the hall to kneel beside the still form of Harry Potter.

He saw, to his immense relief, that the boy still breathed, his chest still rose and fell. Severus could have wept for that small bit of mercy. He hissed a Summoning Charm and a stretcher appeared. Another quick gesture and Harry's unconscious form was levitated on it and the stretcher followed Severus as he retreated back through the passage.

He could have taken the boy to Pomfrey, but years of habit were hard to break, and all he thought of was how he could save the child, whom he had healed many times over from various ailments. He quickly cast a standard diagnostic, discovering that Harry did not have as many broken bones as he had first thought. In fact, the only thing he had broken was his left ankle. His other more serious injury was a severe concussion and multiple bruises to his head, back, right hip, and thigh. His hands were scraped and abraded, he had tried to break his fall, but obviously hadn't been successful.

Severus wondered what had caused Harry to fall, but soon shoved that thought to the back of his mind. That was not important right now. Time enough for answers later. First, he must heal his broken child.

He made his way to his lab, which was where he always took Harry when he needed to be healed, and carefully laid him on the bed. The mattress was spelled to conform to Harry's frame and cradle him gently, easing the pressure on his bruised and battered body. Severus quickly summoned a potion that reduced swelling of internal organs and administered that to the boy first.

The concussion had caused some swelling and bruising to Harry's brain. Nothing too serious, and the potion would help heal the damage. Severus used a straw to give the potion to the unconscious boy, letting a measure flow down the child's throat until the vial was empty. Then he moved on to getting the Bone Knit Elixir down Harry, and straightening the broken ankle so it would mend properly. He carefully splinted it, even though it would be fully repaired within a day.

So far, so good. There are no other internal injuries, thank God. Though plenty of bruises and scrapes. The child will look like a patchwork quilt by tomorrow and ache like bloody hell, even with my potions. Still, that is better than the alternative.

Severus turned to get his bruise balm and a strong pain reliever, shuddering slightly at the memory of seeing Harry crumpled on that cold stone floor. His heart had nearly stopped beating, fear had congealed in his veins, and every atom of his being had shrieked in denial. He had seen some awful sights as a spy in the days when Voldemort was active, but none of them compared to the sight of his vulnerable, exasperating, incorrigible son lying so still upon the ground, glasses askew and cracked, blood trickling from a cut lip, one arm outstretched, as if he had tried, at the last minute, to save himself.

Severus blessed the foresight that had possessed him to make the bracelets that day and also his mother for teaching him all of her healing arts. Eileen Snape had been an excellent Healer as well as a potion maker and she had taught her son everything she knew. Without it, he would have never been able to keep his promise and save Harry as often as he had.

One hand gently stroked the hair away from Harry's face, and then he vanished the boy's clothes and turned him over, hissing in sympathy at the abrasions and bruising down Harry's back, all the way down to his feet almost. The bruising on the right hip and thigh was the worst, though Severus also discovered a shallow cut and a lump on the back of the boy's head where he must have struck it. Oh, Harry. How the hell did this happen to you?

He quickly set to work washing the cuts and scrapes with some antiseptic wash, cleaning them thoroughly before applying special salve and bruise balm to them. They would be healed within a day as well, until then however, Harry wouldn't find sitting very comfortable at all. In fact, Severus knew he would have to send the boy to the Hospital Wing and tell Pomfrey of his injuries, and he would strongly suggest she keep him there for an entire day to make sure everything was mended. The medi-witch knew of his healing skills and also of his occasional tendencies to succor students in need, so she would not find it odd that he had helped Potter.

Once all the salve had been applied, Severus spelled a set of underwear and loose pajamas on the still unconscious boy, turned him gently on his side, and sat down to wait. He prayed Harry would wake up soon and tell him what on earth had happened and hopefully his memory had not been affected by the knock on the head.

Two hours later, Harry awoke, groaning softly. "Oooh . . .I hurt . . ."

Severus laid a hand on his shoulder. "I know, child. You had a nasty fall. I found you lying at the bottom of the stairs."

The green eyes tracked on him and he saw to his relief, a flash of recognition in their depths. "Where . . .?"

"You're safe in my lab, don't worry." Snape gently lifted Harry's head and placed a vial of pain reliever to his lips. "Here, this will help with the pain. Swallow." Harry did so, grimacing, but Severus ignored that and made him finish the vial.

Afterwards, some of the sharper pain in his leg and hip dulled and Harry sighed in relief.

Severus gently laid his ward's head down on the spelled pillow and said, "I need to ask you a few questions. What's your name?"

Harry blinked, then answered, "I'm . . .Harry . . .that's my name. . .Harry Potter."

"Good. Now then, Harry, how many fingers am I holding up?" Severus held out a palm up with four fingers.

Harry squinted. "Uh . . .f-four . . .?"

He reached out a hand for his glasses. "M-my glasses?"

"Wait. They were cracked in the fall," Severus cautioned.

"They're broken?" It came out as almost a wail. Not my brand new glasses!

"Yes, but they're easily mended. Hush." Severus soothed, pointing his wand and chanting a quick, "Occulo Repairo!" The glasses mended in a flash. Typical, the boy made a fuss over his broken glasses, but never over himself. "There. Good as new." He slid the frames on Harry's face. "Now, how many fingers, Harry?"

"Three."

"Good. Do you know where you are?"

"Yes. The magic place. Your lab in . . .Hogwarts."

"Right. And who am I?"

Harry's brow crinkled for an instant. Then he said, very softly, "You're my guardian angel, Severus Snape."

Severus remained stunned, unably to form a coherent reply. He thinks of me as his guardian angel? Me, Severus Snape? I, who am the most flawed imperfect man upon the face of the earth . . .and yet I am the one he calls angel. The impact of those words, innocent and heartfelt, touched him profoundly. Never had anyone called him thus, he the sarcastic greasy git, the strict taskmaster, who inspired respect tinged with fear from nearly all his students. Except this one, the unloved child, who had somehow touched the lonely heart of the man in black, and taught it how to love again.

Harry wasn't sure why he had said what he had. Perhaps it was the effect of the pain relieving potion, which made him feel slightly fuzzy-headed. He had a vague feeling that maybe he shouldn't have told the man that, but it was too late to take it back. "Sir? I . . .I'm sorry if I've . . .uh . . ." he groped for the right words, his mind wasn't working too well. " . . .offended you . . .I know, it sounds dumb . . ." He dropped his eyes to the sheet-covered mattress, wondering if Severus would sneer at him now for being a little baby.

"Offended me?" Severus repeated incredulously. "You think calling me your . . .guardian angel is offensive?"

"Well . . .when I was little, you never told me your name so I . . .I started calling you that in my head because you helped me whenever I was sick."

"Harry, I . . .am honored that you would equate me with something so pure and holy. I cannot even tell you . . ."

"You don't mind then? Or think I'm . . .a stupid little kid?"

"No. You are anything but stupid, Harry. You are one of a handful of people who has ever seen past my mask . . .one of those was your mother."

Harry smiled, relieved that Severus didn't think he was stupid. He was about to ask Snape to tell him more about his mother when an agonizing cramp shot through his right thigh. His eyes went wide and he cried sharply, "Ahhh!" It felt like a bolt of fire had stabbed him and he writhed uncontrollably.

"Harry! What's wrong?" Severus was on his feet immediately.

"My . . .leg . . .arghhh! Oh God . . ." the boy sobbed, unable to help himself, he had never known anything like that terrible sharp pain. His hands gripped the mattress in a frenzy.

Severus's diagnostic revealed a bad muscle spasm, what Muggles called a charley horse. He must have torn something there and it stiffened, the Potions Master thought, and gently lifted the battered boy. "Harry. Harry, listen to me. I want you to let go of the sheet and I'm going to stand you up. Standing up will help. All right?"

Whimpers came from the boy now, and tears stood in the green eyes. Severus set him on his feet, keeping an arm around him. Harry slumped half against his lean frame, shaking. His leg felt as if someone were squeezing it with a pair of dull shears. Horrible darts of pain shot up and down his entire leg, from hip to ankle. "Sir . . .make it . . .stop!"

"Easy, son." Severus knelt, still keeping an arm about his waist, and began to massage the knotted muscles in Harry's thigh and calf. "How's that? A little better?"

"Yes." Harry agreed, sniffling. The awful pain was easing under the firm pressure of Severus's long fingers. He took a deep breath, wincing as the Potions Master worked at the muscle. But the agony was fading, bit by bit.

Severus rose, then lifted Harry in his arms and placed him back on the bed on his stomach. "I'm going to remove your pajama bottoms, child, and massage you with some eucalyptus oil. I don't have a Muscle Reliever made up, so my hands must suffice. Try and relax."

Harry gritted his teeth, feeling himself blush, though he knew quite well this wasn't the first time Severus had seen him partially undressed. When he had chicken pox, Severus had rubbed Rash Away salve all over him, and given him a bath with oatmeal. He'd been five then. He buried his face in the pillow as the Potions Master gently removed his pants and began rubbing the sharp-smelling eucalyptus oil into his thigh, working the muscle in a firm circular motion.

Severus tried to be gentle, but the boy was bruised and for a few minutes the massage hurt quite a bit, until the muscle began to relax and the lean strong hands worked in the oil, rubbing up and down the thigh, calf, even part of the lower back and bottom.

"Ow, ow, ow."

"Relax. It'll only hurt for a minute."

"You said that before," complained the eleven-year-old, wriggling.

"Lie still." Severus ordered, his hands kneading firmly.

"Ow! This isn't helping."

"Hush. It'll be better soon. Count to ten."

"Huh? What for? Ow!"

"Just do it."

Harry groaned and began counting.

Severus massaged, applying pressure, until the knot in Harry's thigh was gone. By the time the boy had reached ten, the cramping was also gone. Snape rubbed for a bit more, easing all the tension in the leg before drawing away and wiping his hands on a rag. Then he replaced Harry's pajamas and asked, "Well? How do you feel now, Harry?"

"Better," Harry said, his leg tingled a bit, but it was not feeling that excruciating sensation it had before Snape had worked in the eucalyptus. He lifted his face from the pillow. "Where did you learn how to do that, sir?"

"My mother," Severus replied. "Are you comfortable? Do you want anything to eat or drink?"

Harry thought about it. "Maybe a little juice," he answered.

Severus summoned a cold glass of pumpkin juice with a straw and Harry sipped it gratefully.

The Potions Master waited until he had nearly finished the cup before he asked carefully, "Harry, can you tell me what happened to you? I found you lying at the foot of the stairs. Did you trip and fall?"

Harry frowned, trying to remember. It was so hard. His mind was all fuzzy . . .he couldn't remember, every time he tried, he felt the memory slide away from him, and the harder he tried to grasp it, the more elusive and slippery it became. "I . . err . . .I didn't fall . . ." He dimly recalled standing at the top of the stairs looking down and then felt someone shove him hard. "Somebody . . .somebody pushed me . . .but I can't remember anything else."

"You're certain?" Severus demanded, looming over him, his face dark with anger.

In spite of himself, Harry trembled. He couldn't help himself, the look on Snape's face was terrifying. He imagined an avenging angel would look so, just before he smote-smited?-a demon or whatever. "Yes, sir."

Severus held out his hand, and Harry placed the empty cup into it. Snape banished it back to the kitchen with a lazy flick of two fingers. His mastery of wandless magic was one of his talents, like Occlumency. "You saw someone before you fell?"

Harry slowly shook his head. "No . . .But I felt somebody shove me and then I was falling down the stairs."

Severus scowled blackly. So it had not been an accident. It had been deliberate. Someone had been trying to kill Harry. "Do you remember what you were doing up there, Harry? Classes were over for the day, why were you on the second floor?"

Harry gulped. "I . . I was . . .I don't know . . .there was something . . ." He struggled to remember what had happened before, but there was nothing but a large blank spot. "I went to eat with Ron and Hermione, and then . . .I can't remember."

"You don't remember going to your common room?" Severus prompted.

"No," Harry's eyes went wide. "I'm trying, sir . . .!" His brow creased until Severus feared he would bring on a migraine.

"Don't worry, Harry. Right now it's not important. Stop trying to remember, it may come back to you later, when you've healed more from this trauma." One long-fingered hand ruffled the boy's mop of hair. "Sometimes head injuries can do that to you."

He continued to run his fingers through the child's raven hair, thinking frantically about how he could protect Harry without letting any of the staff or Dumbledore know. If he cast a protection spell, they would see it and know from his magical signature that he had cast it, and then they might start questioning him. Severus knew that whoever had hurt Harry would be watching and waiting another chance. But Snape would make sure he never got another one.

"I want you to give me your class schedule. That way I'll know where you're supposed to be at all times. Furthermore, you're not to go anywhere alone, always stay with one or more students, your friends, whoever you want. Whoever hurt you might try again, but he won't dare harm you in front of someone else. Keep your friends close, Harry."

"What about you?"

"I will be watching as well. But I fear whoever it was has gone underground." Severus sighed. He might be able to coax the would-be murderer out by leaving Harry unguarded, but that was one risk he was unwilling to take. He would not use Harry as bait. No, he would draw whoever it was out another way. "Don't worry, boy. I will make sure you're safe. That I promise."

Harry smiled up at him, his lips curving in a sweet smile of utter trust.

Seeing it warmed Severus almost as much as when Harry had called him his "guardian angel". He returned the smile with a quiet one of his own. "Is there anything else you remember, Harry? Anything at all? Sometimes even the most insignificant detail can be important."

"No . . . except I think I remember yelling at Malfoy."

"Your fight with Malfoy was two days ago, Harry. Nothing else?"

"No. I'm sorry." Harry said unhappily. He knew it was important that he remember, but his mind refused to cooperate.

"Perhaps you'll remember later. For now, I'd like you to rest a bit more, it's almost three in the morning."

"And I've got class tomorrow," Harry grimaced. He wondered how he was going to be able to get through it. His lower back, bottom, and legs felt like one big ache. He had never been hurt this badly before, not even the time Dudley pushed him off the monkey bars at the park when they were six and Harry had cut open his lip and broken a tooth.

"No, I'm going to bring you up to the Hospital Wing and tell Madam Pomfrey to observe you for a day. It'll give you time to heal, you're bruised quite badly, child, and you've a broken ankle as well. Sitting down is going to be uncomfortable for a day or two until my salve has a chance to speed heal those bruises, I'm afraid. So best you stay in the Hospital Wing and rest."

"Why can't I stay here? I like it here, it's warm and comfortable." Harry protested, snuggling into the emerald blanket. He didn't want to tell Severus he was afraid to leave him, that here was the only place he felt truly safe.

"Harry, what's the condition of my promise?" Severus reminded.

"That no one can know you're protecting me. . . Oh." Harry's face fell. He was beginning to really hate that condition. "Why does everything have to be a secret?" he demanded petulantly. "I hate pretending to hate you, it really sucks."

"Believe me, I don't enjoy it either. But the Hospital Wing is the best place for you. Madam Pomfrey is a better healer than even I am, and she'll see to it you're well before you go back to class." Severus didn't tell Harry he was setting up protective wards about the Hospital Wing, which would only activate if the visitor was evil and up to no good. "I know this is difficult for you, child. But we have no choice. So we must bear it as best we can."

Harry longed to snap that he didn't want to, that the situation sucked, and he wanted nothing more than to just stay here, warm and safe, where his guardian angel was. He wished he were eight, so he could throw a tantrum and beg to stay, but he wasn't. He was eleven and too mature for such tactics, plus he knew it would do no good. When Snape made up his mind, that was it. Whining got you nowhere and only irritated the hell out of his professor. Still . . .

"Do you have to send me back in the morning? Can't I stay till the afternoon, sir?" He fixed the stern man with his most pleading wide-eyed gaze.

"Harry. I have class to teach, and you can't be seen down here. But I will keep you till after breakfast. Then I shall deliver you to the Hospital Wing. You should be fully recovered by tomorrow night."

"All right." Harry sighed, pouting slightly, knowing it was the best he was going to get. "At least I'll be able to play Quidditch on Saturday."

Severus frowned, wishing he could forbid the boy, but Harry was not in his House, and so all he could do was vow to make sure no harm came to his ward. "Yes. Remember what I taught you and you'll be fine."

"I know, sir. Thank you."

Severus raised an eyebrow. "And what are you thanking me for now?"

"Umm . . .for saving my life."

Severus's mouth twitched. "Well, it is my job. As your ‘guardian angel'."

"Yeah, but thanks anyway." Harry said, then rubbed his scar absently. His scar . . .suddenly he recalled Quirrell's stuttering voice. "Uh, professor? The first day I had class with Professor Quirrell, something kind of . . .weird happened."

"Something weird? Do tell."

"It was my scar, it just started hurting real bad. And it happened when I looked at him for a little bit." Harry related the incident in Quirrell's class. "Do you know what it means?"

Snape had his suspicions, but no concrete proof. Still, he knew better than to say what he really thought to the impressionable boy. No sense in making the boy panic. But the scar had been gained after Voldemort had tried to kill Harry, so perhaps it resonated when evil was near, like a former broken bone ached when it was about to rain. "Was that the only time it has hurt like that?"

"Uh, yeah." It had never hurt that bad again, though occasionally it tingled when the turbaned professor was nearby. Still, Harry wasn't about to tell Snape about every little pain, lest the dark angel think he was a wimp.

"I am not sure what it means yet. If it happens again, let me know immediately, am I understood?"

Harry nodded, yawning. A slow sleepy lassitude was spreading through him. The familiar scents of spices surrounded him and he was so very warm . . .he stretched out a hand and felt it clasped by a familiar large one.

"Sleep, Harry. I will keep watch." Severus murmured, patting the boy gently.

"I know," Harry mumbled. "Night, Severus." An instant later, he was asleep.

Severus stared down at his child, a reluctant grin stealing over his features at the bold way Harry was now addressing him. When had he ever given the brat permission to call him Severus? Of all the cheek!

Then he bent and allowed his lips to brush Harry's forehead. "Sleep well, you cheeky brat. I will discover who is behind this, I swear by all the magic I possess. And when I do . . .that one had better pray for God's mercy, for he will have none from me." And in the ebony eyes blazed the promise of vengeance squared. "No one hurts my son and gets away with it. No one."

Then the Potions Master settled back into his chair, the fingers of his left hand still clasped by a sleeping young wizard, determined not to fail in his guardianship.


 




And so . . .the plot thickens.

How did you all like Severus's reaction?

Next: Suspicions abound on who pushed Harry down the stairs. Plus breakfast with Snape.


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