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For the next week up until the second to last Quidditch game, Harry found his movements restricted by not only his friends but his guardian as well. If Ron or Hermione weren't with him, he would turn and notice Severus lurking some distance away, making sure Harry went to class and to the hall and back to his dorm. While he knew it was for his own protection, he disliked being watched, and was occasionally tempted to act insane and turn around and stick his tongue out at Snape, just to see what he would do. Probably make me write lines and give me a dose of that God-awful mouthwash again. Since that was not something he wanted to repeat, Harry behaved himself.

During Defense class, he could feel a strange frustration from Quirrell, even though the man was hopelessly dry and boring, and had barely taught them how to cast Shield Charms, or anything useful except how to recognize certain dark monsters. Harry took notes in that class, because that kept him awake. But he longed for the extra self-defense lessons from Snape, which had been temporarily put on hold until Severus finished the end of the term grades and classes.

Harry was more concerned with the upcoming Quidditch game than finals at the moment and spent every free moment he had, and there weren't many of them, practicing Quidditch moves. Severus always made sure that he was around when the Gryffindors practiced, watching his charge, though this led to some muttering that Snape was trying to figure out strategy so Slytherin could win the upcoming match. Harry mentioned that to Severus once and thereafter Snape watched the game as Wraith, unseen from behind a tree.

It was two days before the match and the Gryffindors were trying out some new moves when Snape noticed Quirrell lurking in the vicinity. Now Severus had some serious doubts about the Defense professor, based upon his own instinctive dislike of the man and also the fact that half of his Slytherins complained about the man's awful teaching methods to him and so did Harry. And they weren't complaining because Quirrell was a strict teacher or gave difficult assignments. No, they were complaining because Quirrell barely taught at all, most of the class time was taken up with the turbaned professor lecturing about his travels in Istanbul and Egypt as well as several other places. To Severus's way of thinking that was just plain lazy, and if Quirrell didn't want to teach properly, he should resign.

Severus watched Quirrell carefully, noting the sly shifty look in his eyes and the way he always seemed to be looking right at Harry. Severus didn't like that at all and decided a pointed warning was in order, just in case. He strode over to where Quirrell was standing, half-hidden under a pine tree and gripped the smaller man by the front of his collar and said menacingly, "What are you looking at, Quirinius? Plan on teaching your class how to dodge Bludgers next lesson, are you? Or perhaps you were trying to come up with another curse to send a broom out of control, hmm?"

His dark eyes bored into Quirrell's watery blue ones and the other man shivered. "I haven't the f-faintest idea what you're t-talking about, Snape. I . . .I j-just came out here t-to get some fresh air."

Snape sneered at him. "Really? Now why don't I believe you, Quirinius? I think you have a deeper motive, and that somewhere along the line you sold your soul to the devil and now he's calling in his debt."

Quirrell squeaked. "W-What? W-w-why w-w-would you think that?"

Severus shrugged and bared his teeth in a most unfriendly smile. "Because you have that look about you, Quirrell. The look of one who is hag-ridden. You hardly eat or speak to anyone and the way you're looking at those children over there is turning my stomach. You need to decide where your loyalties lie, Quirrell, because if you don't . . ." he trailed off meaningfully.

The other man went fishbelly white and whimpered as if Severus were strangling him. "P-p-please, d-d-don't h-hurt m-m-me! It's n-n-not like you think, S-S-Severus," he managed to choke out at last.

"It had better not be, Quirinius," Snape growled softly, his eyes glinting with the promise of serious bodily harm. "Otherwise there may not be enough left of you to put in a burial urn. Clear?"

Quirrell simply nodded, his head bobbing up and down like a puppet's.

"Good. Now why don't you take some fresh air down by the greenhouse? There's a nice breeze down there and the hibiscus's are just beginning to bloom," Severus suggested, though his tone made it clear that it was an order.

Quirrell scurried off like a whipped puppy, moving in that odd half-lope he had, the ends of his turban flapping.

Severus watched him go, scowling blackly. He would need to keep a close eye on his colleague. His instincts were rarely wrong and this time they were whispering that Quirrell was not all that he seemed.

* * * * * * *

The Quidditch game went off without a hitch. Harry played better than he ever had, thanks in part to all his hours of practice and also due to his new improved eyesight. Then too, knowing Snape was nearby gave him an extra boost of confidence, for no one would dare to jinx him with the Potion Master's keen eye watching.

Slytherin was a tough team, however, and Thorne was a good Seeker, despite not flying a Nimbus 2000. Harry had to be on his toes, for Thorne had three years on him and knew maneuvers he didn't. But Harry had the reflexes to compensate and he used every ounce of his natural talent that game. Not to mention all the techniques Severus had drilled into him during their flying lessons about lightning quick turns and sudden swerves and feints.

It was an hour into the game, and neither Seeker had caught the Snitch yet, though not for lack of trying. But the other players kept interfering with them, as per their Captain's orders, and twice Snape had to blow the whistle around his neck for deliberate fouls, both for Gryffindor and Slytherin.

Harry soared up above the pitch, hovering effortlessly, his eyes darting here and there, and then he spotted the gold ball, wings blurring and humming. He dived out of the sky like a streak of light, using every bit of speed the Nimbus possessed.

Thorne tried to match him, but his broom couldn't keep the pace, and he fell back.

He shouted something, and one of the Slytherin Beaters, Nott Harry thought it was, whacked a Bludger directly into Harry's flight path.

Harry saw the black ball out of the corner of his eye, and reacted with terrible swiftness, pulling the Nimbus up and over the Bludger, spinning into a corkscrew, before pulling out of the dive and chasing the Snitch again. It was a daring and impressive bit of flying and Harry felt adrenaline course through him. He turned his head slightly, hoping Severus had caught that move. How was that one, sir? Wicked, huh?

Then he pursued the fluttering Snitch once more, grinning, and managed to grab the elusive ball while flying half upside-down.

The crowd on the Gryffindor side went wild, screaming and cheering when he held the Snitch aloft.

Harry shot a glance at Severus, who as referee was supposed to be impartial, and the man was wearing an icy mask, but when Harry met his eyes, he saw a twinkle and a gleam of pride in the dark eyes, and Snape quirked the corner of his mouth up ever so slightly and nodded.

Harry's grin covered his face then.

Severus was proud of him, and that was the best reward of all.

He flew down to the ground and was immediately swept up in a crushing hug by Wood and the rest of his team mates. They put him on their shoulders and marched about chanting, "Gryffindor rules-Grrowl! And Potter too!"

Ron was jumping up and down and yelling rude things at the Slytherins in the box next to them, calling them cheaters who never prospered and sly scummy snakes, and other things, until Hermione clocked him one and snapped, "Just because we won, Ronald, doesn't mean you should rub it in their faces. What about sportsmanship?"

Ron rolled his eyes. "You don't understand sports, Hermione."

"And I'm glad of it. All of you are like a bunch of animals."

"Uh-huh. And we're proud of it!" Ron said, and let out a loud howl.

That night, Harry celebrated along with his teammates and the other Gryffindors, drinking butterbeer and ginger ale and eating pumpkin pasties and other assorted sweets he purchased from the school trolley. Mindful of Severus's warning, he only ate things he had bought himself and that were sealed.

Even so, by the time the party ended at half past midnight, Harry was quite stuffed and nursing a stomachache. He rummaged in his trunk and found the vial of Stomach Soother Severus had given him some months before, when the rich food at Hogwarts began giving him indigestion, and took a quick swallow. Immediately, his stomach ceased hurting, though Severus had told him it was too mild to affect a serious stomach problem, such as a virus. It was used mainly on children and adults who suffered from upset stomachs from overeating or nervous anxiety.

Then he quickly got into his pajamas and hopped into bed. He was intending on reading a bit, but his eyes closed before he had finished the first page.

* * * * * *

That weekend was also the one where Madam Pomfrey got an urgent request from her aunt to come and treat her cousin for severe depression and possible suicide. Pomfrey made certain Dumbledore knew the reason she had to take a leave of absence, and appointed Severus her deputy medic until she returned. He was the only teacher on staff that would be able to handle the medical emergencies, and seeing as he had no classes for the next two days, he had agreed.

Harry decided to sleep in the next morning after his victorious match. Most of the older students did also, for they too had been at the party all night. Hermione and Ron left him asleep while they went downstairs to get some breakfast. During that time, Harry woke, took a quick shower and dressed. He was suddenly ravenous, and felt like eating something sweet.

He went over to his trunk, opened it and removed the box of chocolate frogs. Funny, I don't remember leaving my trunk unlocked. He shrugged, supposing it was possible, he'd been very tired last night. He removed a chocolate frog package from the box.

Then he carefully opened it and looked at the card. It was of a wizard named Grindelwald and Harry tried to recall where he'd heard that name before. He set the card aside, Hermione would probably be able to tell him what the guy had done. The frog nearly hopped out of his hand, but he caught it and took a large bite out of it.

The chocolate tasted excellent, as usual, though there was a faint tang of something else on his tongue as he chewed, almost like a fruit nectar. He swallowed, and went to take another bite.

Suddenly his vision swam and he felt oddly dizzy. He put a hand to his head, thinking that maybe the party had taken more out of him than he thought and perhaps he should lie down. He turned to go back to bed, tripped over one of his shoes, and fell on the floor.

He tried to get up, but the room was whirling, and he couldn't see which way was up or down. He sat up, one hand still clutching the remainder of the chocolate frog, then gasped as a violent cramp tore through his abdomen. Huh? Merlin, that HURT! Oww! It was followed by another and he doubled over, whimpering and moaning. What was wrong with him?

Sweat stood out on his brow and he shivered. He tried to focus his eyes, but they insisted on seeing two of everything, and his stomach was burning and cramping. He knew there was something terribly wrong with him, but he couldn't move, and when he tried to call for help, his voice came out a croak and he babbled utter nonsense.

He huddled on the floor, his stomach and head screaming in agony, tears dripping down his cheeks. Severus! Where are you? I need you. Oh, God . . .please . . .I think I'm gonna die . . .Severus! Help me!

Then his muscles spasmed violently, and he banged his head on the stone floor, and knew nothing more.

That was how Hermione and Ron found him some ten minutes later, coming back up to wake him up for breakfast, he was the only one of their year not awake yet.

"Merlin's bloody arse!" Ron yelled, running over to the still form of his friend. "Harry? Harry, what're you doing on the floor?"

Hermione came to kneel beside them. "Ron! He's barely breathing! We've got to get him to the Hospital Wing, ASAP!"

"Huh? What'd you say?"

"As soon as possible, you idiot!" Hermione snapped, waving her wand and making Harry's unconscious form float into the air. "It looks like he had some kind of fit." She began running down the stairs, Harry's still form following. Ron ran beside him.

They burst into the infirmary, calling for Madam Pomfrey at the top of their lungs.

"What is all this ruckus?" demanded a soft icy voice. "This is a hospital ward, not a playground."

Ron felt his jaw drop in horror. "Huh? What's Snape doing here?" he blurted.

"I am here because I am substitute medic until Madam Pomfrey returns, Mr. Weasley." Snape replied coldly, coming out of the office to stand before them. "Why are you screaming like banshees?"

"It's Harry, Professor!" Hermione sobbed. "We . . .we went to call him for breakfast and found him unconscious on the floor."

Severus felt his heart freeze. But somehow he managed to maintain his facade. "Where is Potter now?"

"Here. I cast Locomotor Mortis on him, sir." Hermione answered, gesturing to the floating Harry.

Severus immediately moved over and picked up the child, he could feel his bracelet throbbing and he had known something was wrong, but never imagined this. He placed Harry upon a bed and cast a diagnostic on him, swore, then began treating him for extreme shock. He cast a Breath Ease spell on him, then began to fire questions at the other two.

"When you last saw him, how was he?"

"He was sleeping. We didn't want to wake him," Ron said defensively.

"And you found him on the floor where?"

"Beside his bed, sir. He was holding a melted chocolate frog in his hand," Hermione said, indicating the candy still clutched in Harry's fist.

Severus pointed his wand and the candy was removed to a small dish, where he cast another spell on it, trying to determine whether or not the candy had been tampered with. What he discovered made his blood run cold.

He swore furiously.

"Professor? What's the matter? Is Harry . . .will he . . .be all right?" Hermione asked, her voice quivering as she fought to keep from bursting into tears.

"He will be, if I can get an antidote into him in time," Snape replied shortly.

"Antitdote?" Ron repeated. "But that means . . .he's been poisoned!"

"Thank you, Mr. Weasley, for stating the obvious."

"But with what? And how?"

"The poison was inside the chocolate frog he ate. And it is a well known poison, sometimes called the inheritance poison. Otherwise known as arsenic, Miss Granger." Severus plucked a hair from Harry's head and muttered another spell to detect poisons.

The hair glowed red, revealing that Harry was indeed poisoned by arsenic.

Severus turned to the two young wizards. "Leave, both of you. I need silence to work and your hovering and whimpering is distracting me."

"No!" Ron snapped. "We're staying here."

Snape glowered at him. "You have three seconds, Weasley, to get your backside out of this infirmary before you end up disembowling toads and cleaning the floor with your tongue for the rest of the year in detention  One."

Ron blanched, but stood there stubbornly.

Hermione tugged his sleeve. "Ronald! Come on. You heard him."

"No. I'm not leaving Harry. Anything could happen with that greasy-yeeow!" he yelped as Hermione stomped on his toes.

"Two."

The girl dragged her friend out the door, ignoring his protests.

Severus turned and summoned two potions to him, a bottle of pills, a damp towel, and a basin.

Then he went to wake his son, hoping that he was in time, whispering a heartfelt prayer as he did so. The next twenty-four hours would be crucial.


 



Chapter End Notes:


Well, what did you think? Were you surprised? Care to guess who was behind this? Hint: There's more than one person.

Also, a way to detect arsenic poisoning is by examining hair follicles, I did not make that up. Usually it is used only in cases of long term gradual poisoning, but since Severus used magical detection, the hair showed Harry was poisoned.

Next: Can Severus cure Harry?

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