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"Ronald Bilius Weasley, what the bloody hell were you thinking?" Hermione exploded as soon as they were far enough down the corridor not to be overheard. "Professor Snape was trying to save Harry’s life and you were arguing with him? What is wrong with you?"

"Me? What’s wrong with you, Hermione, letting Snape be alone with Harry? For all we know, he could have poisoned Harry and is going to finish the job!" Ron yelled, glaring right back at the furious little witch.

SMACK!

Ron put a hand to his suddenly stinging cheek, where Hermione’s handprint now showed vivid red against his freckled skin. "Hey! What the hell was that for?"

Hermione glared up at him, her brown eyes snapping with temper. "That’s trying to knock some sense into your hard head, Ronald! Honestly, when will you quit believing that Snape is out to kill Harry and start using your head and looking at things the way they really are?"

"What way is that, Miss Know It All?" Ron rubbed his cheek and ground his teeth. "A few days ago you thought Snape was an evil git too!"

"Yes, but that was only because I thought I saw him hexing Harry’s broom at the Quidditch match. Now though, after what happened in the forest, and the way he watched out for Harry during the Quidditch game yesterday . . .I’m starting to think I was wrong."

"What do you mean, watched out for Harry during the game?"

"Oh, will you open your eyes?" she cried exasperatedly. "You’re so determined to think the worst of him just because he’s a Slytherin and strict with you that you can’t see what’s right in front of your big fat nose! Didn’t you see the way Snape was looking out for Harry? He called a foul on his own House team twice because they tried to knock Harry off his broom. Twice! And where ever Harry flew, Snape watched, as if he were making sure Harry was okay. Nobody who wants to kill someone is concerned for their safety that way, Ronald. Plus Harry vouches for him and so does Hagrid."

"Then why wouldn’t he let us stay while he treated Harry?"

"Because we’d be in the way, dimwit," she scolded. "Most Healers prefer privacy to work and the antidote he was going to give Harry was probably going to make him sick and I really don’t need to see my best friend puking all over and whatever."

"Oh. Err . . .yeah, I wouldn’t want to see that either," Ron admitted, flushing. "You really believe that Snape’s not after the Stone?"

Hermione sighed. "I . . .yes, I do. Too many things don’t add up. Come on, let’s go back to the common room and I’ll explain more if we can find a quiet corner. Or maybe we should go to the library, no one will disturb us there . . ."

She turned and walked swiftly back down the corridor, Ron trailing in her wake. He absently rubbed his cheek and thought that Hermione had as good a smack as his mum, surprisingly. Then he prayed to God and all the angels in heaven to make Harry get well, because he didn’t know what he would do if his best friend died.

* * * * * *

 

 

Severus hated to bring Harry back to consciousness, for he knew that the boy was going to be in severe pain from the poison, but he needed Harry awake to administer the charcoal pills and the antidote, so he could judge the boy’s reaction. Only then could he tell how much more of the antidote he needed to administer, because it was not something he could give a set dose to, especially to a child Harry’s age.

"I am sorry, little one," he murmured regretfully, not even realizing he had used the nickname he had given Harry when he was small. He pointed his wand at the boy and whispered, "Ennervate."

A white mist shot out of his wand and into the young wizard’s mouth and nose.

A moment later Harry sputtered, coughed, and groaned. Then he opened his eyes. "Sev’rus?" he whimpered, looking scared and younger than his eleven years. "Am I . . .dying?" He grimaced as the pain in his head and stomach resurfaced. It was sharp and awful, unbidden, tears sprang to his eyes, and he gasped and curled into a ball.

"No, son. You are not dying, not if I can help it." Severus reassured him firmly. "You’re in a great deal of pain because you’ve been poisoned, but I have an antidote here that will fix you." He moved over and rubbed Harry’s back. "It won’t be pleasant, but it will cure you," he said, though he was not as certain as he sounded. "Now, let’s sit you up a little." He gently eased the boy to a sitting position, flinching inwardly as Harry moaned and started to cry.

"Hurts. . .Sev . . .it hurts . . ."

"I know, shhh. Chew these for me, please." He shook five charcoal tablets into his hand and gave them to the boy.

Harry popped them into his mouth without argument, desperate for anything to ease the agonizing pain in his stomach. They tasted terrible and he nearly gagged, but Severus rubbed his back and instructed, "Chew and swallow, don’t think about the taste. Just chew and swallow, Harry."

It was hard, but Harry did it, managing to get the pills down. "What . . .was that?"

"Charcoal tablets," Severus replied. "They’ll help absorb some of the arsenic. They’re a Muggle medicine, but since this is a Muggle poison, I decided to use both methods to treat you. How do you feel now?"

"A bit better." There was still a burning sensation in his gut, but it wasn’t quite so bad now. He could sit up straight, at least, though his stomach was still cramping painfully. "How . . .did I get poisoned?"

"The poison was inside a chocolate frog that you ate. It was a good thing you only ate half of it, for there was enough arsenic inside it to finish you if you’d eaten it entirely," Severus told him honestly. He put an arm about the boy and hugged him gently.

"I don’t understand. Why would someone want to kill me?" Harry whimpered, sniffling.

"Because you are living proof that dark magic is not all powerful, child. But they won’t succeed." Severus told him. He gave Harry five more charcoal tablets.

Harry made a face, but chewed and swallowed them without protest. The pain in his stomach lessened a little more.

Severus waited five minutes, then reached for the first bottle on the table next to Harry’s bed. "This next elixir is going to make you vomit, but you need to expel most of the poison from your system, and that is the quickest way, I’m afraid."

Harry groaned. "Oh no, my stomach already hurts so much."

"Harry, you’ll feel better afterwards." He poured a dose onto a spoon. "Come, open up."

Harry obeyed, the potion was tasteless.

But its effect was nearly immediate.

Harry spent the next several minutes vomiting, Severus held him over the basin, murmuring soothingly. He wiped the boy’s mouth with the damp towel, Harry coughed and spat, his throat burned and his eyes streamed.

Severus gave him a cup of water to rinse out his mouth. Once he had done so, the Potions Master asked how he felt now.

"Like hell, but my stomach does feel better."

"Good." Severus recast the Poison Detection spell and saw to his relief that most of the poison had been expelled.

He gave Harry another two charcoal tablets to chew and re-dosed him a few minutes later, much to the boy’s dismay.

Afterwards, he gave Harry the antidote, which consisted of several ingredients, including green tea and raw eggs. "Ugh! That was totally disgusting, Severus!"

"Get used to the taste, child, because you’re going to be taking a lot more of it. Here, swallow this pain reliever, it should help with your headache and muscle spasms."

Harry took it, for the pain in his head was quite bad and he still felt dizzy. But at least the horrible stomach cramps were lessening. "The poison . . .is it gone now?" His tongue felt thick and fuzzy and his arms and legs felt weak.

"Not quite. I’m going to dose you with the antidote for an entire day, by then it should have neutralized any molecules of arsenic in your system. The antidote also contains a mild fiber-based laxative, son."

Harry nodded blearily, he was still weak and ill, but he trusted Severus to cure him, no matter how unpleasant it might be, he knew the dark angel was only trying to help him. But it was going to be a long twenty-four hours.

At first, Harry was too dizzy and weak to get to the bathroom without Severus’s help, but as the arsenic was removed from his system, he managed to get back and forth from the bed to the toilet on his own.

He took the antidote three more times at Severus’s instruction, and spent the rest of the time in bed, sipping water and clear chicken broth to prevent dehydration and green tea, to cleanse his system.

The Potions Master monitored him closely, making sure the antidote was working properly before giving his ward another dose. To his vast relief, Harry responded well, and had no side-effects from it. He sat beside his son, who looked quite miserable, and stroked his hair and rubbed his back soothingly. "You’re going to be fine. A few more hours and you’ll be in the clear."

Harry nodded, happy to hear that, for he was sick and tired of being in bed or in the bathroom. Still, he reflected wryly, it was better than being six feet under. He laid his head on Severus’s knee and thought about how lucky he was to have a skilled Healer like Snape taking care of him.

"Severus? How did you find me?"

"I didn’t. Your friends, Miss Granger and Mr. Weasley, discovered you in your room and brought you here. They were quite upset and I practically had to throw Weasley out on his ear before they would leave and give us privacy."

"Oh. Yeah, Ron’s like that sometimes." He shifted slightly, stretching out a bit more and nestling closer to Snape. "When can I see them?"

"When I am sure you are fully recovered from the poison and not a minute before. Right now you need rest and quiet. Are you hungry? I think it would be all right if you ate a little. Perhaps a piece of whole-grain bread and some broth and an egg?"

"Yes, I’d like that."

Severus rang a bell and a tray appeared with the food he had suggested upon it. Harry still hadn’t figured out how that occurred. But he was too hungry and tired to pester Severus with questions like that. He ate slowly and cautiously, half-afraid his stomach would protest the solid food he was putting in it, but surprisingly, he was fine. Severus gave him more green tea to drink after, and Harry made a face and asked why he was drinking so much of it.

"The tea acts as an antioxidant and also cleanses your system of dangerous substances, like the arsenic. The bread you ate has lots of fiber, which also absorbs arsenic, as does the sulfur in the egg."

"But I thought you said the poison was out of my body soon."

"It is mostly, but better safe than sorry. I want you to eat plenty of oatmeal for breakfast and greens at lunch tomorrow and eggs as well. Those foods are rich in fiber and sulfate."

"Like I need any more fiber," the boy grumbled.

"Hush and quit complaining, child," Severus scolded lightly. "I know my treatment was uncomfortable for you, and I’m sorry for that, but at least you are alive."

"Sorry," Harry apologized, not wanting to seem ungrateful. "You’re right. Umm . . .Severus, how did the arsenic get in the chocolate frog? I mean, the box was sealed and I had eaten from it before. Even Ron and Hermione ate from it and we weren’t poisoned then."

"That is most likely because the person who planted the frog in your room had not struck then. If I had to guess, I would say that whoever planned this injected the frog with the arsenic, and then placed it back in its box and sealed the box with a Mending Charm. Then no one could tell it had been tampered with."

"Oh. I get it now." But he still wondered who had put it there in the first place. It had to be someone with access to Gryffindor Tower, someone who knew the passwords, but who among his Housemates wanted him dead? Or perhaps the person hadn’t known anything about the frog being poisoned, he or she could have just been handed the thing and told to put it in Harry’s trunk with the others. Innocent dupe or premeditated murderer? "How can I protect myself, Severus?"

The Potions Master sighed heavily. That question had been plaguing him as well. "Were these different circumstances, I would have you move into my quarters until the end of the year, but since that would be drawing unwanted attention to us, I cannot do that. What I can do is to give you a ring with an Anti-Poison Charm on it for you to wear. I should have thought of that earlier," Severus shook his head irritably at his oversight. "Also, eat nothing outside of the Great Hall, the food there cannot be tampered with, either by magic or Muggle methods. I would like to examine that box of chocolate frogs also. Again, go nowhere alone, I cannot stress that enough. Whoever is behind this likes to strike when it is dark and you are by yourself, so do not give him the opportunity. Or her. You only have a month before finals, I would suggest you use your free time wisely and study for them."

Harry rolled his eyes. "Merlin, what do you want me to become a bookworm like Hermione?"

"That would not be such a bad thing. I was a bookworm once myself."

"And you still are," Harry smiled.

"Yes and I’m proud of it. Knowledge is priceless."

Harry yawned. "Sorry. But I’m just so tired all of a sudden."

"Yes, and well you should be. Go to sleep, Harry. I will keep watch."

"Okay, Sev." A second later he had fallen asleep, for his body was worn out from battling the effects of the poison and then enduring the antidote and other potions.

Severus waited until he was certain the boy was sleeping deeply before shifting him from his knee to the pillow at the head of the bed and tucking him in. "Sleep is the physician of pain," he quoted softly. "Sleep well, my Harry." He cleared up the tray on the nightstand and the empty vials before sitting down on a chair next to his peacefully sleeping child.

This was the third attempt on Harry’s life and Severus cursed himself for not anticipating that the killer might turn to poison, the most subtle of all methods. He should have known that, he was a spy, he’d seen the methods Voldemort’s gang liked to use on their targets. Generally they preferred torture and curses, but one or two had used poison on occasion. I’m sorry, Harry. I nearly failed you again. I’m a terrible guardian, how many more times can Death be placated before He refuses to leave? God in heaven, thank you for letting me save my child. He put his head in his hands and rubbed his temples.

At least there hadn’t been any other emergencies or children hurt so far, so he was able to devote most of his time to Harry and not have to keep up appearances as well. And Pomfrey should be returning this evening, then he could allow her to take over her infirmary again and he could speak with Albus about this latest attempt on Harry’s life. Albus was aware of the other times, but hadn’t done much, by Snape’s standards, to protect Harry at all, and that angered the Potions Master. I know you feel that appointing me his unseen protector is enough, old man, but you’re wrong. Harry needs a Goddamn team, not just me, with the way trouble finds him. He heaved a long sigh. Ah well, Sev. The Lord helps those who help themselves.

He massaged his temples for a few minutes longer, and then went to a cabinet and found a vial of Headache Remedy and swallowed it. No sense in courting a migraine. No sooner had he done so, then Minerva appeared in the doorway, her normally stern face creased with worry and sorrow.

"Severus, I have just heard from Miss Granger that Harry was brought here this morning unconscious and she told me he had been the victim of a poisoning! Is he all right? Do you need to bring him to the Poison Ward at St. Mungos?"

Severus shook his head, beckoning her into Pomfrey’s office, where he gestured her to a seat and he sat opposite her in the desk chair. The top of the medi-witch’s desk was covered with charts and medical release forms, which Severus moved aside so he could see Minerva clearly. "No, I did not need to take him to the hospital, since he was poisoned with arsenic, and I know how to treat that."

"Arsenic? But that’s a Muggle poison!"

"A wizard one too, Minerva, poison is universal, except certain magical ones, which are exclusively our province, like silvermort."

"But he will be all right?" she gave her colleague a half-pleading glance, she was clearly very concerned for her student.

"Yes, the poison should be flushed out of his system by tomorrow morning. I have been giving him low doses of Nimue’s Cure, and he has responded favorably to it."

"Nimue’s Cure? But Severus, that antidote is too potent to be administered to children under twelve, and Potter is only eleven, and a small eleven at that!" she exclaimed.

Severus shot her an irritable glance. "I’m aware of the restrictions on Nimue’s Cure, thank you, Minerva. Rest assured I know my dosages, I trained for two years in St, Mungos for my Potions Mastery. Nimue’s Cure can be given to a child younger than twelve if one knows the proper dosage and weight and has need of an immediate counteractive for acute poisoning. I was monitoring Potter quite closely, and he showed no side-effects that I could determine. I also used charcoal tablets to bond most of the arsenic and a Vomit Inducer as well before I gave him the antidote. Your precious Boy- Who-Lived is still among us," he said that last with patented sarcasm, for Minerva’s questioning of his expertise had struck a nerve.

Recognizing this, and regretting her hasty words, the Transfiguration teacher apologized. "Forgive me, Severus. I didn’t mean to insult you, but I am very concerned about him. He seems so vulnerable and this isn’t the first time an attempt has been made on his life. He’s being targeted, and you and I know both know why."

Severus nodded heavily. "Yes. The survivor of the Killing Curse, the only one to ever thwart the Dark Lord, must not be allowed to live. I have my suspicions as to who is behind all of this, but as yet I have no concrete proof." His eyes narrowed and lit with a shrewd burning fire. "But I shall catch the one responsible soon, and when I do he shall rue the day his father met his mother and gave birth to a monster."

"When you do catch him, Severus, leave enough for me, I want a piece of him," Minerva declared, her greenish-golden eyes blazing with protective fury.

Severus dipped his head to her in respect. "Hell hath no fury like a lioness protecting her cubs."

"Or a snow leopard," she added knowingly. "He might not be a serpent, yet you have marked him as your own."

Snape raised an eyebrow, had he been that obvious? He snorted. "I protect the boy because Albus ordered me to, and for no other reason."

Minerva chuckled. "Your stone face could fool almost anyone else save me, Severus. Protest all you want, but the moment you followed Potter into the forest as Wraith, he became yours, as much as Malfoy is."

Snape scowled, Minerva knew him too well. "All hail the wisdom of the Lioness of England," he shot back. "He is James Potter’s brat, and I detested that man."

"But not his son. For Harry is also Lily’s child, and you were her best friend." Minerva said softly. "I always wondered why she never married you."

"Better that she did not. I was no good for her," Snape said shortly. "I played a deadly game, there is no room for a family in the life of a secret agent."

"No? I beg to differ. My grandfather was a spy also, Severus, and he had a family."

"After his spying was done, yes. But not while he was active. A spy works best alone, any attachments make him vulnerable, give the enemy leverage to use against him." Snape recited, those rules he knew by heart, he had lived and breathed them for twelve years, and yet a pair of soulful green eyes and a promise had shattered those rules into dust eight years ago. "Enough. My personal affairs, such as they are, are not important. You came to inquire about Potter’s health. I trust I have answered your questions satisfactorily?"

Minerva was not so easily distracted, however. "Yes, you have. When will Mr. Potter be able to return to class?"

"Most likely by tomorrow afternoon, if my diagnostic reveals his body is free of the poison and he feels strong enough to cast spells. He is sleeping right now, rest is paramount to his full recovery."

Minerva eyed the Potions Master shrewdly. "You look like you could use a good few hours of rest also, Severus. Your eyes are burned holes in your head and I’ll bet my clan tartan you haven’t eaten or slept since those children brought Potter to you this morning."

Severus dismissed her concern with a sharp gesture. "What of it? I’ve gone for longer than this without sleep."

"I know, but there is no need for you to exhaust yourself like this, lad, when there are others who can help you. I would be willing to watch Potter for an hour or two inbetween my classes and I daresay Filius would also. It would take quite an accomplished war wizard to get past him, you know what a duelist he is."

"That won’t be necessary, Minerva. I am perfectly capable of looking after one sleeping boy."

"You are also perfectly exhausted, Severus Snape. You need a good eight hours of sleep before you keel over and well you know it," she scolded, waving a reproving finger under his nose.

He looked down said nose and huffed, "Do you come and badger Poppy this way also, Minerva? Or am I the only lucky recipient of your blasted mothering?"

"Oh, no. I lecture Poppy all the time, she’s a Slytherin too and all of you think you can keep going without rest until Judgement Day." Minerva said with a small smile. "Last year Poppy kept herself awake for three days straight treating that dragon pox epidemic by drinking a Stimulant Elixir, I threatened to tie her to her bed with a Sticking Charm. I can do the same to you, lad, and don’t think I won’t. You’re no good to anyone half-dead from exhaustion."

"Bloody hell, Minerva!" Severus exploded. "Will you stop treating me as if I’m twelve again?"

"I shall when you quit acting like one, Severus Tobias Snape, and start taking care of yourself." She fixed him with a stern glower, one that used to make him cringe when he was a student. "We need you too badly Severus, don’t you see that?" she added, and her gaze softened slightly. "Now I suggest you go and eat something and lie down for at least five hours, you stubborn young fool. Albus may think you’re made of iron and can go without for days on end, but I know better. And if you won’t take proper care of yourself, then I shall have to do it for you."

Severus opened his mouth to give her a blistering retort, then shut it with a sigh. He could see from her expression that she had made up her mind, and once Minerva McGonagall had done that, nothing save a direct command from God could move her. And while he also was stubborn as stone, he was also very tired and worn out with worry for Harry and he knew he could trust Minerva to alleviate some of the burden he carried.

"Very well, you interfering nagging harridan," he growled. "I shall allow you to watch Potter while I eat and sleep for a while. I wish you joy of it, the brat has done nothing but whine since I began dosing him with the antidote."

"Poor boy. You cannot blame him for that, Severus. I hope you did not scold him the way you usually do."

Severus shot her a dark look. "I gave him the response he deserved, Minerva. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I shall go and take care of myself, by your leave, Lady." He swept her a mock bow before Flooing back to his quarters to eat something hot, shower, and sleep for a few blessed hours.

Minerva chuckled, then went to sit beside Harry’s bedside with a magazine and read. One did not win an argument with Severus Snape everyday, after all, and she wanted to savor her victory. Eileen, you’d be proud of him. He turned out to be a better man than his father, despite the lonely path he chose to walk. I’m only sorry you cannot be here to see it, my friend. Although, if I know you, you are probably watching from heaven and wishing you could come back and shake some sense into his stubborn hide. Men! They’re all the same, whether they’re eleven or thirty-one. Good thing they have us women to set them straight, eh?

The Transfiguration Mistress chuckled to herself then bent over her copy of Shapechanger’s Digest, which was a journal written exclusively for those who could assume a form other than human, and had amusing stories, anecdotes and tips for shapeshifters inside it.

* * * * * *

 

 

The next morning, both of Minerva’s wayward boys were feeling much better for their long sleep and Snape insisted Harry eat breakfast with him before performing another diagnostic on him and releasing him from the Hospital Wing. Pomfrey had owled to say she would be another day away before returning and thanked Severus for being her deputy medic once again.

"You just want to make sure I eat my oatmeal," Harry muttered rebelliously, glaring at his oatmeal. It was one of his least favorite breakfast foods.

"Very good observation, Mr. Potter," said Snape, giving his ward a warning look. "I had better see that spoon in your mouth in two seconds or else I shall come over and feed you."

Harry made a face at his guardian. "You’re cruel."

Snape lofted an eyebrow. "Sometimes one must be cruel to be kind, child." He fought to keep from smiling, though he doubted if Harry would recognize the reference to an old Muggle song, it was before his time. "One."

Harry picked up the spoon and shoved some oatmeal into his mouth. To his surprise, it didn’t taste half bad. He swallowed and ate another spoonful. Then he looked over at his guardian, who was eating his own breakfast of ham and scrambled eggs and toast with boysenberry jam, and said, "I’ve been thinking, Severus."

"Praise the Lord, it’s a miracle," Severus said dryly, his mouth quirking.

Harry rolled his eyes at the other’s sense of humor. "I’m serious."

"So am I."

"Really!"

"Go on, child. I’m listening." Snape relented his teasing, Harry was not really up to it this morning.

"I’ve been thinking about the arsenic. Why would the person use that and not something more, uh, magical?"

"Because Dumbledore has set wards up to detect magical poisons. Whoever is behind this knows that, and so he had to resort to another type of poison. Arsenic was once a popular poison among the rich and famous long ago. Unscrupulous heirs used it to make certain their benefactors died in a hurry after naming them in their wills. It is easily placed in food and drink and there is almost no detecting it once it has been masked by other flavors. It also mimics several other symptoms of diseases and viruses, so it makes it difficult to identify right away, unless you’re using magic or have a way to examine the contents of the victim’s stomach. You can use it to poison someone over a long period of time and the person will appear to have died of natural causes. That is why it is sometimes known as the inheritance poison."

"Oh. I understand. Then whoever is behind this has to know something about Muggles, right?"

"Yes and no. Even wizards learn about poisonous substances, so it would not be surprising for a wizard to know about arsenic, and they could obtain some at any apothecary, it’s a common method for getting rid of rats. Filch keeps a small store in his office for just that reason."

"You think Filch is behind this?" Harry sputtered, nearly choking on his oatmeal.

Severus shook his head. "Do not blindly make accusations, Harry. You should never accuse without evidence. There is no evidence that Filch was behind this. For one thing, he would have needed access to Gryffindor Tower before he could enter, and I doubt he would be asking the password from students."

"But you said he had arsenic in his office! Maybe you should ask him if any of it’s missing."

"Simply possessing a substance does not make him a murderer. I have many poisons in my own lab, does that make me an assassin?"

"No, but . . .Filch always is looking for ways to get students in trouble. He is a nasty git and he doesn’t like me."

"Perhaps, but that does not make him a murderer. He is a bitter man, true, but his bark is worse than his bite."

"You sure about that, sir?"

Snape nodded. "Eat. The oatmeal isn’t going to disappear because you’re glaring at it, mister."

Harry groaned and picked up his spoon again. "I hate oatmeal," he muttered. But he knew Snape would keep nagging him until he finished it and he would hate to make the other man follow through on that warning. He had learned long ago not to test the Potions Master, for what Snape said, he did.

Once he had finished the detested oatmeal, which was a small portion, thankfully, Severus allowed him to eat some scrambled eggs with a little salt and drink some more green tea and eat two pieces of bacon. Harry loved bacon and normally would have eaten more, but his guardian warned him to be careful, that such greasy food might not sit well on his stomach, and so he limited himself. He had no desire to throw up again, he’d done enough of that yesterday.

"Have you eaten enough, Harry?"

"Yes, sir. I’m full."

"How do you feel? Are you nauseous at all?"

"No. My stomach feels fine now."

"Good. Come here."

Harry rose and went to stand in front of his dark angel. Snape ran his wand over the boy, casting another diagnostic. It came back normal, the arsenic was no longer in Harry’s system. "You’ll live," he said, and smiled at the eleven-year-old. Then he pulled the boy into a hug so tight that Harry squeaked.

"Ummm . . .Sev, I can’t . . .breathe."

Severus eased his hold a little, but it was a while before he let Harry go. "Do not ever scare me like that again, brat. Or else I shall be forced to take drastic measures, am I understood?"

"Like locking me in my room for ten years?" Harry joked lightly, resting his head upon Snape’s shoulder. "Or beating me senseless?"

"Why, yes, exactly like that," Snape replied, deadpan. "I’ve always thought you could use a good beating, you irritating brat."

"Who, me?" Harry gave him his best innocent puppy-dog look.

"Stop that," ordered the Potions Master, hiding a grin. "That won’t work on me."

Yeah, right, Harry thought, hiding his own smirk. "Okay . . .I’ll be good."

"For once," Severus smirked and tousled his hair. Then he let Harry go. "After I sign your release form, I shall accompany you to Gryffindor Tower and you will bring me the box of chocolate frogs so I can examine them. Then Professor McGonagall will escort you to class and afterwards you are to stay with your friends at all times."

"All right, sir." Harry agreed.

"And here is the ring I promised you as well." Snape tugged a large silver ring off of his right hand. Its band was carved in a serpent’s likeness and it held a large moss agate in its mouth. "This ring is enchanted to repel almost any poison, Muggle or magical. If you consume something laced with poison or touch a poisonous object, it will be absorbed into the stone and you will be unharmed. I am sorry I did not give you this earlier, Harry." He made as if to put the ring on Harry’s finger.

But Harry drew away. "I can’t take your ring, sir. Then what will you do if you’re poisoned someday?"

"Harry," Severus began exasperatedly. "There is less chance of me getting poisoned than you. I am careful, I know spells to detect such things and my quarters are warded against any wizard or witch, and I do not eat anything save what I prepare myself or what is served in the Great Hall. Do not worry about me, child. Now give me your hand."

"But Severus, what if–"

"Harry, enough. You will take the ring and wear it. No arguments, young man." Severus ordered sharply and Harry wilted and gave in.

Severus put the ring on him and spoke a word to shrink it to fit the small wizard’s finger. "There. You should wear this at all times. However, if you need to remove it, you will say Aufero. To put it back on you say Inicio. It will adjust to your finger."

"Thank you." Harry said sincerely. "For everything. I was so scared . . .but I knew you wouldn’t let me die," he whispered, feeling himself choke up.

"Never, son," the dark guardian reassured. He drew the boy into another hug, and Harry wept softly onto the velvet clad shoulder. Severus held him a long time, knowing the boy needed this emotional release.

At last Harry pulled away. "Sorry."

"No need to apologize. You needed that. Do you feel better now?"

Harry nodded, though he knew he should feel ashamed for crying like a baby.

Severus gently wiped the tears away with a handkerchief. "There now. Let me finish filling out your release form and we can go up to the tower."

"All right." Harry agreed, wondering how on earth he was going to explain the ring on his finger to the other Gryffindors, especially Ron. Then he shook his head angrily. He didn’t owe anyone an explanation. The ring was there to keep him safe. Who gave a damn if it was a serpent and Slytherin colors? Snape had saved him once more and he would never again listen to Gryffindor prejudice regarding Slytherins.

As soon as Snape finished filling out the release form and had Harry sign it, they went together to Gryffindor Tower, where McGonagall awaited them.

 

 




 





Chapter End Notes:




How was that? Did you like Minerva in this chapter? Please let me know, I'd love to hear from you!

Next: Finals await the Golden Trio and so does the Sorcerer's Stone. Quirrell's accomplice shall be revealed!

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