By the time Severus, Harry, and Draco had made it to the infirmary, Poppy had already treated most of the students for minor smoke inhalation and sent them back to class, or dosed them with Calming Draughts and sent them back to their dorm for a lie down after informing their professor what had happened. This was not the first such crisis Poppy had ever had to deal with from an exploded potion, though such had not happened in Snape’s class since his first year as a teacher. Severus was normally extremely careful and watchful, but even the best teachers could have an off day.
Draco was gasping a bit when they finally crossed the threshold of the Hospital Wing, but he was more concerned for his father, who seemed to be having difficulty breathing. Severus’s face was pale and his breath rasped horribly in his throat. He must have inhaled some of those damn fumes, I’ll bet, Draco thought, even as he yelled for the mediwitch. “Madam Pomfrey! We need you over here! Professor Snape’s in a bad way.”
Severus shot his blond-haired son an irritated look. “Must you announce . . .my condition . . .to the entire school . . .like a public crier, Draco?”
Draco flushed, but before he could respond, Poppy was there. She waved her wand over the professor, said briskly, “Well, Severus, you’ve almost suffocated yourself this time. It’s bed and an atomizer of Lung Repair for you. Come along now.” She pointed her wand and Snape was hovering in the air. “Let him go, Mr. Malfoy, and have a seat over there next to Mr. Snape and I’ll get to you in a minute.”
Draco obeyed, watching in amusement as Poppy scolded his father in a low voice for not leaving immediately when the cauldrons exploded. “Really, Severus, do you think you have an immunity to toxic substances? The children . . .oh, well . . .that’s understandable . . .but you should have called for help . . .”
Severus replied, but Draco couldn’t catch it, it was too low. He turned and seated himself next to his brother, who was still looking rather shell-shocked. “You all right, Harry? I didn’t hit you that hard, did I?”
“No. But what about Dad? He . . .didn’t look so good. Is he going to be okay?”
“Yeah, Madam Pomfrey’s taking care of him, and if it were really bad, she’d send him to St. Mungos, so I guess he’s going to be all right. She’s fussing over him and giving him potions right now.” Draco reassured his brother, who bore a terrible anxiety in his green eyes. “We can see him after she checks us out, I’d say.”
“Good.” Harry said, then he started to cough again, harsh wracking coughs that shook his slight frame.
“You’re not too good yourself, kid,” Draco observed, holding Harry’s shoulder to keep him from toppling over.
“He must have gotten a noseful of whatever that stuff was,” Ron said from Harry’s other side. “It was good that you went back in and got him, Malfoy.”
“What, you think I was just going to leave him there?” Draco snapped. “He’s my brother, Weasley! He was worried about our father, that’s why he wouldn’t leave, the stubborn arse. He gets that way sometimes.”
“You’re telling me,” Ron sighed. “That why you belted him one?”
“Had to, he was fighting me like crazy.” Draco said, somewhat defensively.
“Maybe you knocked some sense into him,” Ron remarked, and Harry shot him a dirty look. “My brothers would have done the same to me.” He eyed Malfoy thoughtfully. “Guess you’re all right . . .Draco.”
Draco snorted. “Glad I meet with your approval, Weasley.”
Harry was glad that the two weren’t going off on each other and thought that at least the potions explosion had done one good thing—it had made Ron see Draco in a whole new light. He wiped his burning eyes on his sleeve, they felt gritty and hot.
Poppy reappeared, ran a diagnostic over them, pronounced Ron well and told him to return to class, he tried to protest, but she shooed him out of the infirmary anyhow. Draco she dosed with a light Decongestion Draft and said he too could go back to class.
“But, Madam Pomfrey, my father and brother—”
“Will be fine in a day or two, Mr. Malfoy. Your quick thinking probably saved their lives. Go on now, they’ll be sleeping in a bit, you can come visit after classes.”
He was interrupted by a hoarse voice. “Draco, do what she says.”
Draco huffed, then said reluctantly, “Yes, sir. But soon as I’m done with school I’ll be back.”
He departed the infirmary, leaving his brother to the tender mercies of Poppy Pomfrey. The mediwitch rolled up her sleeves, then led Harry over to a bed next to his father and handed him a set of hospital pajamas. Harry made a face, he hated spending time in the Hospital Wing, but he put on the nightwear without a fuss, observing slyly that Poppy had even managed to get his father out of his black robes for once. Wonder how she did that? Maybe she charmed them on him?
Severus was lying on the bed beside him, a mask over his face attached to a small clear tube with a vial on the end of it. The top of the vial had a pump with a green ball on the end of, like a fancy perfume bottle, that the professor squeezed every so often. An orange potion was sprayed up the tube and into the mask for Severus to inhale.
“Do you see that atomizer your father is using, Mr. Snape?” asked Poppy briskly.
“You’ll be getting one too, it contains a Lung Repair potion you need to inhale, since whatever potion exploded created a toxic gas which damaged the inside of your throat and lungs, though you’re not half as bad as your father.” She set several vials down on the folding nightstand and said, “Are your eyes stinging and burning, Mr. Snape?”
“Figured as much. Lie down and remove your glasses. I need to put a potion in your eyes.”
Harry obeyed, allowing Madam Pomfrey to place several drops of a soothing clear potion in his eyes which cleared them up and made them quit hurting. “Better now?” she inquired kindly. “You’ll be getting another dose later on.” She then made him drink a Pain Reliever, a Decongestion Draft, and then instructed him on how to use the atomizer with the Lung Repair potion. “You are to breathe in this potion every two breaths until it is empty. It will probably make you slightly sleepy.”
“Madam Pomfrey, will my dad be all right?”
“Well, Harry, he was rather badly injured from the corrosive fumes, but with rest and potions he should be fine within three days. So don’t fret, child.” She patted his shoulder, gave him a drink of water, then helped him set up the atomizer.
The potion left a slightly odd taste in his mouth as he breathed it in, but it was not unpleasant. As he lay there, looking up at the ceiling, he recalled the strange figure he had seen standing behind his father in the doorway.
The man had been tall, dark, and quite handsome, and Harry recalled something else. . .the man’s canines had been enlarged, like fangs, almost like a . . .vampire. Harry snorted at his own foolishness. A vampire at Hogwarts. Draco’s tap on the jaw must have made him see things. Except . . .he was certain he had seen someone helping his father . . .but a vampire? Was there such a thing as a good vampire?
He concentrated on breathing in the potion, looking over at his father, who had finished his draft and was now sleeping. You’re going to be okay, Dad. Thank God!How did that potion explode? Was it really an accident? Or was it deliberate? Gotta talk to Draco later.
He managed to finish the vial before drifting off to sleep. Madam Pomfrey came by and gently removed the atomizer and re-cast a diagnostic. Harry’s lungs were nearly mended. She smiled and ruffled his hair before leaving him to sleep.
* * * * * *
Harry woke to find Severus watching him, his dark eyes bright with concern. “Hey, Dad.”
“How are you feeling, son?”
“Okay. How about you?”
“I have been better.” Severus admitted. He sighed and said sternly, “Why did you not leave when I ordered you to, Harry? You wouldn’t have been injured by the smoke or gas if you had done what I told you.”
“I know, Dad, but . . .I didn’t want to leave you alone,” he admitted in a small voice. “I knew it was bad . . . that whatever had exploded was poisonous . . .but I just . . .” He turned his head away to hide the sudden tears.
“What? You just what?” his father asked in a somewhat gentler tone.
“ . . .I was afraid you were going to die,” Harry mumbled into his pillow, embarrassed that he was behaving like some crybaby now that everything was going to be all right.
“Excuse me? I couldn’t understand what you said. Turn around and look at me.”
“Never mind. It’s stupid. I’m stupid. Just forget it.”
“Harry, look at me.” Severus ordered, exasperated. “You are not stupid.”
Harry stubbornly kept his face turned away, half-buried in the pillow.
Half a minute later he felt a hand on his shoulder, tugging him firmly about until he was staring up at his father, who was sitting on the edge of his bed, wearing a set of plain white pajamas. “Harry, I would like you to talk to me. You could have died, young man, and I would hope you had a good reason for risking your life other than you were stupid.”
Harry felt himself flush. “It doesn’t matter. Am I in trouble?”
“No, but you will be if you don’t explain yourself.”
“You’ll laugh at me. It was dumb, can’t you just forget it?”
“Was it, perhaps, because you were trying to save me?”
“Yes . . .I told you it was stupid . . .you didn’t need my help . . .I made things worse . . .I was afraid you were going to die . . .but you aren’t now. . .”
“You were afraid I was going to die, so you stayed behind?”
Harry nodded, not trusting himself to speak.
“Harry Albus Snape—” began Severus, half-angrily. Then he stopped, because scolding would not help and he really couldn’t fault his son for wanting to save him. “Foolish boy, don’t you know that I remained behind because of you? That I would never leave you in danger?”
“I’m sorry . . .”
“Don’t apologize. You’re a Gryffindor, phoenix, it’s your nature to be a blasted hero. And it’s mine to keep you safe at all costs. We’re a pair of fools,” the Potions Master said wryly. Then he pulled his astonished son into a hug. “I would do anything for my family. And so would you, I see. And Draco. Such is the legacy of Prince Manor.” He held Harry for a long moment before drawing away and taking his son’s chin in one hand. “However, I will ask you to remember that when I give you an order, it is for your own good, and you should not hesitate to obey it, Harry. I have handled many such potions accidents before and I knew what to do, but having you in the room made me hesitate and broke my concentration.”
His son hung his head. “Sorry, sir. I was just afraid . . .”
“I know, but next time trust me. I have no desire to die a martyr, Harry. I wish to live a long life with my family—you, Draco, and Sarai.”
“That’s good to hear, Severus, but unless you get back in your bed, you might be in danger of expiring.” Madam Pomfrey scolded.
Severus eyed her irritably. “How so, madam?”
“Because I might be tempted to kill you for acting like a stubborn dunderhead and not following my orders, Professor Snape. I specifically told you to stay in bed until I said you could get up, your lungs still aren’t mended and you need to rest in order to repair them.”
Severus’s eyes climbed into his hair, and Harry clamped a hand over his mouth to keep from bursting out laughing. Listening to Madam Pomfrey scolding his father as if he were a first year was just too funny.
“I was speaking with my son, he was worried about my condition. I didn’t realize I needed your permission to talk to my child,” Severus began sarcastically.
“Never you mind, Severus,” the matron scolded. “As long as you are under my care, you agree to follow my rules. Now get back to bed before you overexert yourself.”
“How is sitting here overexerting myself?” grumbled the Potions Master, shooting her a baleful look before rising and moving back to his vacant bed.
“Lie down, Severus,” Poppy ordered, and to Harry’s amusement, his father actually obeyed the small mediwitch, though not without some muttered explicatives under his breath. Poppy ran her wand over him, declared that he was still congested and part of his lungs were still damaged and he needed more of the Lung Repair Elixir, a Pain Reliever, and another potion that would cleanse his bronchial passages.
In five minutes she had the professor outfitted with another atomizer and mask, and though he shot the mediwitch a death glare for fussing over him in front of his son, Severus did not fight her treatment. He had enough healing knowledge to know that Poppy’s treatment was spot on, and what he would have prescribed himself. So he submitted to her ministrations, albeit with a few scowls that fooled neither the mediwitch nor his son.
But Harry wasn’t smirking a moment later, when Poppy came to examine him and said he too need another dose of Lung Repair Elixir, another eyewash, and more bed rest as well. “But Madam Pomfrey . . .I feel fine!”
“You and your father are very much alike, Mr. Snape. Both of you don’t know how to take proper care of yourself, you would push yourself till you drop dead and then wonder why.” She summoned another atomizer and attached it to the vial of potion before handing the mask set-up to Harry to put on. Groaning, Harry took it and placed it over his face. Five seconds later, he was breathing in the potion.
“Twenty minutes, gentlemen, then I’ll come back and you can have breakfast.” Poppy declared, then she departed to eat her own morning meal, leaving the two alone in the infirmary.
Alone, except for the watchful vampire and the shimmerling who blinked into the room a moment later.
:Master Harry! Master Severus! Are you all right? How did this happen? Smidgen cried, her violet eyes whirling in distress.
Severus sent her his theory, that the explosions were not an accident, but a clear plan to sabotage him as a teacher and perhaps even kill him and his sons. The shimmerling hissed, all of her fur standing on end. :If ever I discover who did this to you, Wizard Severus, he shall know what it means to arouse the wrath of a fae creature!:
Unseen in the corner of the infirmary, Phil’s eyes also blazed violet sparks, and his hands tightened into fists. And my wrath as well, cat-kin! No one, and I mean no one harms my family and gets off. If I ever discover who is behind this mishap, that one will beg for mercy before I am done, youngling or not. The Nightwalker’s jaw was clenched hard, though his iron expression softened as he looked at both Snapes, older and younger, lying in the beds. They look so fragile, so . . .mortal. I have lived several centuries and seen many whom I cared for and called friend and relative die, but even so, there is a core of steel within them that others I have known lacked. Were I to be in a battle to the death, I would prefer them at my side than any other, even another vampire. They would be most formidable opponents.
Smidgen turned her head to stare at the spot where Phil was, veiled so strongly that only she could catch a glimpse of his shadow and nothing more, despite her dreamweaver’s sight. :Indeed. Severus is a fine Defense Master and he knows the art of being a shadow as well. And he has begun to teach young Harry as well, and his son has proven to be an apt pupil.Both of his sons,: she amended, recalling Snape’s blond fosterling.
Phil gave her a slight bow. But of course, little shimmerling. They are Snapes and Princes, and I would expect nothing less from them. Even so, they are not invulnerable, and I fear for their safety if the one who caused this is not found.
Smidgen did also, and asked whether Phil would help her search about the lab and maybe pick up some clues, or even a scent, though the trail was cold and most of the intruder’s scent had probably been smothered by the smoke from the explosion.
It would be my honor, Lady Smidgen, Phil sent gallantly, with an old-fashioned courtesy that had died out in these modern times. But let us delay the search until the healer returns from her morning meal.
Smidgen agreed, then blinked away to procure her own food from the house elves, who were Low Court fae and eager to serve a high ranking messenger of the Seelie Court with whatever she might desire to eat.
Phil remained vigilant, as an ancient vampire he could go for days without hunting, and then he only hunted those who bore the taint of evil within them, the stench was audible to his ultrasensitive nose, and he regarded it as doing the people and the world a favor by ridding them of dangerous parasite and predators.
* * * * * *
Poppy returned, gave her patients breakfast, and then followed that up with a Sleeping Draught, much to Severus and Harry’s disgust. But she was deaf to their protests and had them drink the draft to ensure that they got the rest they needed.
Shimmerling and vampire watched in amusement as the little mediwitch bossed the two more powerful wizards around, like a typical healer, and once their charges were asleep, decided to leave and explore the lab to see what clues might be found there.
Phil could move almost as fast as Smidgen could blink, and arrived at the lab moments after the dreamweaver, who was sneezing and wrinkling her nose in disgust at the acrid aroma.
“Careful,” Phil warned. “Some of that toxic substance might still be lingering in the air. You should not breathe it in.”
:I shall not. Even a green apprentice knows how to cast a Bubblehead charm: Smidgen mewed, and proceeded to do so, surrounding herself with an invisible coating of air.
Then she flew into the lab, her sharp eyes alert for anything that might tell them what had caused the explosion in the first place.
Phil bent over the cauldrons, examining them closely, muttering as he did so.
The shimmerling sniffed about, trying to discern the scent of those who had been nearest the cauldron before it exploded, but the awful odor of the gas masked any scent that might have once been there, as she had feared.
So she waited for Phil to conclude his findings, tail twitching impatiently.
After about twenty minutes, the vampire straightened. “This was no accident. I am no mean potions student myself, and I can tell that this substance was not created by misreading a potions text. I know the draft they were working on, I could hear them talking through the door, I have very keen hearing. There is no way on God’s green earth that this could be the result of adding the wrong ingredient at the wrong moment. Because there is nothing in the antidote that is volatile enough to explode and produce chlorine gas.”
:Aye, it was deliberate, I suspected as much. But how can we find out who it was? I could not place the scent of those who used this cauldron.:
“My nose is a bit sharper than yours, Smidgen. I can smell fear and a desire for revenge coming from this student—students, actually for there was more than one.”
:Can you hunt him down?:
“Does a bear love honey?” laughed the vampire. “I will know the scent again when I smell it and then . . .” Phil bared his fangs, and suddenly he looked menacing and terrifying as only a vampire could.
Smidgen shivered and thanked the Goddess of the Wood for making her a shimmerling and therefore not on Phil’s hit list. Whoever had harmed his family was going to pay.
Phil licked his lips, struggling to keep himself in check. Now was not the time to go off the deep end. He could go and find every one of those people like the one who hurt Harry and tear them apart. But he restrained himself. He locked away the whimpering and begging self and just walked away.
Meanwhile, Draco had come in to keep Harry company as well and it was then that Harry recalled the strange figure he had see in the doorway of the potions class, holding up his father. “Uh, Draco, what do you remember about the potions class?”
“Besides our dad nearly biting it and me holding you up so you didn’t pass out? Not much. Why?”
“Because . . .you’re going to think I’m crazy, but I’m not—Just for a moment, I thought I saw . . .someone behind Dad, dressed in a suit and tie. And he . . .had fangs, Draco.”
“Fangs? Harry, I think you overdosed on the pain killer,” laughed Draco. “How would a vampire get in the school?”
“I dunno . . .but I know he was a vampire. Draco, please, you’ve got to believe me.”
But Draco just shook his head, he had enough of supernatural beings. Besides, everyone knew vampires couldn’t get past the wards. “Go to sleep, little brother. Come morning, you’ll be good as new.”
“Draco . . .”
“Hush. Just get some rest. Things will be different in the morning.”
“I know what I saw!” Harry argued. “It wasn’t my imagination!”
“Little brother, I hit you pretty hard. Anybody would be seeing things after that.” Draco pointed out. Harry scowled mulishly. “C’mon, Harry. Bloodsuckers can’t get past the wards, unless they’re invited or they’re not radiating an evil aura, and whoever heard of a good vampire?”
“I’m telling you . . .he saved Dad’s life!”
“And I’m telling you, keep your voice down, before you get Pomfrey the Dragon on your arse and wake up Dad.” Draco argued. “Maybe you’d like to explain to him what you saw while your head was spinning, hmmm?”
“Ah, shut up, Draco!” Harry groaned, still tired and out-of-sorts. Could the other wizard be right and he had just imagined it? But it had seemed so real! Harry clasped the Medallion of Inheritance in his hand and felt the silver amulet send a comforting wave of warmth through him. He yawned and felt his eyes drift shut, even though he could have sworn he wasn’t tired.
Draco smirked knowingly and muttered, “Fever dreams,” before playfully cuffing the sleeping heir to Prince Manor and walking out of the infirmary and back to his afternoon classes. Vampires! His brother was so gullible sometimes!