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Chapter Twenty-Two: Abracadabra

It was snowing, heavily, on the morning of the Bright Sparks' first Quidditch match. All the students struggled out of the castle hiding under cloaks and umbrellas, crowing into the stands and huddling together for protection from the blizzard. Many students had even given themselves bubble head charms, so they could at least watch the match without screwing up their eyes.

"We're going to get absolutely frozen," Draco announced to the changing rooms, as they all stood at the mouth of the tunnel leading to the pitch, looking out at the shivering crowd. He had only come out of the hospital wing that morning, after Madam Pomfrey had patched up the bite on his neck, and said he was fit to play Quidditch. Luckily, the vampire had clearly fed on Sylus and the house elf, and the bite hadn't been very serious, but the loss of his owl had come as quite a shock to Draco's system. Madam Pomfrey had, rather wisely, said that it was best for him to do something he enjoyed and not dwell on what had happened.

"Frozen doesn't quite cover it," said Ron next to him. "Turned into solid blocks of ice, more like. You'd better catch the Snitch quick, Malfoy."

"It won't be hard," Draco mused. "I'll just have to pick my way through the slush on the pitch, because that's where the poor Snitch will have been buried. Maybe I should conjure myself a rake."

"Maybe a hair dryer," suggested Ernie, shrugging.

"A what?" said Ron.

"Never mind."

Ginny and Hannah came through into the boys' changing rooms, carrying their brooms over their shoulders. Hannah glanced over Ernie shoulder at the swirling snow outside. "It's a bit chilly..."

"It's only a bit of snow," said Ernie. "It won't kill us."

"Never heard of hypothermia?" said Ron, raising an eyebrow at Ernie.

"Nobody's going to get hypothermia," said Harry, coming out of the showers, doing up the buttons of his Quidditch robes. "It's just snow."

"Heliopaths are just fire," Ron reminded him. "And giants are just big. And vampires just like freshly-squeezed-from-the-neck blood shakes."

"Are you saying that snow is worse than vampires?" said Hannah, blinking at him.

"Depends how much snow there is," said Ron with a shrug.

Harry stood behind them all and peered out at the snow being whipped against the crowd by the winds. The sky was surprisingly dark, dotted with a few escaping umbrellas that had been wrenched from their owner's hands by the gales. Harry dearly hoped he could hold onto his Beater's bat, or by the end of the match somebody in the crowd would be carted off to the hospital wing with a broken nose at the very least.

At that moment, Lee Jordan's familiar tones echoed out over the stadium. "Good morning everybody, and welcome to the match today, between Abracadabra and The Bright Sparks! We've got a lot of support and potential for both teams, and it should be a good match, provided we can actually see through the snow! If anybody gets blown away, please alert one of the teachers before they get too far over the forest."

Harry looked at the rest of his team. "This is it," he said.

"The big one," said Ron, grinning.

"The one we've all been waiting for?" said Ginny.

Harry laughed. "Cut it out. All we can do is play our best, and if things get too cold, we'll quit the match, okay?"

"Don't listen to Potter," said Draco sternly. "He's crazy. Play until you die, and not a moment before."

"Well, at least one of us isn't taking this too seriously," said Ginny, sarcastically.

Lee's commentary put an end to Draco's reply. "I think we've got an exciting match ahead of us today everybody, so let's bring on the teams! Bright Sparks, are you ready?"

They all jumped onto their brooms, and kicked off, soaring down the tunnel and out onto the pitch, to tumultuous applause. Harry could see Kainda, Luna, Hermione and Justin sitting with all the Gryffindor seventh years in the front row, cheering wildly. They all waved and he grinned back.

"Potter's made a few necessary changes to the line-up this year, mostly due to injury," Lee was informing the crowd. "Kainda Zabini has been taken from the team, replaced by Potter, and to take Potter's place as Chaser is Hannah Abbot from Hufflepuff. The Bright Sparks have quite a fan club behind them, including several teachers! Looking out over the crowd, I can see Professors Lupin, Alrister, Sprout... I think that's Madam Pince there - no, wait, it's a flag pole... somebody move this snow! And proudly on the front row we have the proud friends of The Bright Sparks, including the proud girlfriends of both Ron Weasley and Harry Potter. According to the Daily Prophet article issued over the summer, " If Harry Potter's love life is not complicated enough, the Daily Prophet has unearthed evidence that his ex-girlfriend, muggleborn Hermione Granger, is now dating his best friend, Robert W-"

"Jordan!" Professor McGonagall's voice said, sharply.

"Sorry, Professor... just some background information... okay, let's bring out Abracadabra!"

The other team came speeding out of the changing rooms, leaping onto their brooms and taking off into the air. Harry picked out their captain at once. Rachana Fabiola looked just like one of the typical popular girls on soap operas for muggle teenagers. She had a very mean sort of face, with waist-length black hair tied back into a perfect ponytail, groomed to perfection. She was the sort of girl that had the look of somebody ugly, who was desperately trying to be pretty, and definitely over-doing it.

"Rachana Fabiola there, the team captain," Lee announced. "Celebrated as one of the most attractive - ah, I mean, most accurate - Chasers that Hogwarts has ever seen. Sorry Professor. Rachana's got a strong side together, and who knows? Maybe they'll be able to stop The Bright Sparks right at the starting line, and end the hopes of what could be a major contender for the Quidditch Cup." Lee coughed, casually, and then muttered, "Fat chance."

"Jordan! Unless you can commentate without bias - "

"Alright, alright... and here's Madam Hooch flying forward to start the match. Everybody taking their positions and Fabiola flies forward to meet Potter. Potter looking determined there, or maybe he's about to sneeze, can't quite tell at this point... and they're off!"

Madam Hooch gave a sharp, shrill blast on her whistle and flung the crate open. Harry registered Ginny diving for the Quaffle and shoving Rachana out of the way, but there was no time to hang around and see what happened, as one of the Bludgers was speeding away down the pitch. Harry took after it, feeling snow and wind stinging at his face as he flew. Various blurred shapes of different colours flew past, dipping in and out of the clouds of snow, some Harry recognised and others he didn't. Finally, he caught up with the Bludger, and he was just about to hit it when a figure came hurtling at him out of the blizzard. Instinctively, he flung up his bat and backed away; there was a sharp crack, a whooshing noise, and the Bludger missed his left ear by inches. He wheeled around, just in time to beat it away. He panted, trying to calm his heart, and looking around for the other Beater that had nearly taken his head off. He was just in time to see a boy with light brown hair go pelting away after the Bludger. In letters across his back in gold was "ALEX". Harry made a mental reminder to get his revenge at the first chance he got, then turned his broom around and went off to check on the other end of the pitch.

The second Bludger was terrorising the Chasers, looping around them and making it very hard for anybody to stay still and try to score. Ernie was after it, but he wasn't getting very far. Every time he hit the Bludger, it curved and came rushing back at the mass of Chasers again. Harry could hear Lee Jordan shouting something over the blinding rush of snow and wind, but couldn't make out the words.

"Ernie, chase it this way!!" he shouted. Ernie gave a muted grunt and whacked the Bludger as hard as he could, sending it lurching towards Harry, who pulled back his club and hit it off down the pitch towards the Abracadabra Beaters. This turned out to be a bad idea. Within seconds, the Bludgers had been knocked right back towards Harry and Ernie with a great deal of force. Harry managed to tackle the one aimed at him, hitting it back towards the other Beaters, but Ernie wasn't so lucky. He yelled and ducked to avoid being knocked off his broom, and the Bludger went racing towards Ginny. She turned just in time and screamed. Luckily, it simply barged the Quaffle out of her hands then looped around for another attack. Ernie managed to deflect it this time, but one of the Abracadabra Chasers now had the Quaffle and he was heading off up the pitch. The mass of Chasers went streaking after him, and by the sound of things, Lee Jordan was jumping up and down and yelling. Harry turned his broom around just in time to see the Quaffle fly out of the Chaser's hands, sinking towards the hoops. Ron dived for it.

He missed by barely an inch. The Quaffle went straight through, and the groan of the Bright Sparks supporters echoed around the stands.

"And it's 10-0 to Abracadabra!" shouted Lee. "What a terrible start for the Bright Sparks! Let's hope Potter and his team have some sort of back-up plan here, or their future in the tournament could be in danger!"

Harry flew up to the top of the pitch. Ron looked horrified. "Harry!" he shouted. "I'm sorry, I didn't - "

"It's okay," said Harry. "Just keep trying, don't let it get to you."

"Neville Longbottom takes the Quaffle," Lee informed the crowd, "and we're off again! Longbottom heading up the pitch... he dodges Fabiola, and he dodges Morris, he dodges Vanassche! Pass to Ginny Weasley, pass down to Hannah Abbot, up to Longbottom, down to Weasley again... Weasley lines up to shoot! Come on Ginny! And - "

There was another groan from The Bright Sparks supporters, as Ginny missed. Harry put his hands over his face. What was going wrong?

The Quaffle was taken up by Rachana, but Ginny managed to intercept a throw to Vanassche and tore off down the pitch back towards the goal. Harry followed her all the way, deflecting both Bludgers at least twice. Lee was going hysterical.

"Ginny going for goal! Oh come on, she's got to score! COME ON!!!"

"JORDAN! Calm down! You're going to break the microphone!"

Harry whacked away another Bludger, handing it to Ernie who sent it after Rachana, putting an end to her pursuit of Ginny. Ginny was now against the Keeper. She screwed up her face, and threw the Quaffle as hard as she could. Harry watched, desperately, as it soared towards the hoops. The Abracadabra Keeper dived, his arms out-stretched.

For the third time that match, The Bright Sparks supporters were disappointed. The Keeper snatched up the Quaffle, and flung it to Rachana, who sped off down the side of the pitch before anybody knew what was happening.

"NEVILLE!!" Harry roared. "TACKLE HER!!"

Neville stared at him in horror for a moment, and then looking very reluctant, he flew out to go against Rachana. It all happened in less than a second. One moment, Neville was reaching out to try and swat the Quaffle from her hand, and the next, Madam Hooch's whistle sounded over the stadium. The Bright Sparks supporters leapt to their feet with a roar of rage, and before Harry could even blink, Neville hit the pitch in a heap.

"Foul!!" Lee Jordan cried. "Fabiola cobbing there, excessive use of elbows! But is Longbottom okay?"

Harry flew down to the pitch, stumbled off his broom, and trudged through the thick snow and slush towards Neville. Hermione and Luna were already running onto the pitch too, and Madam Hooch was looking grim. "Come on, boy... that's it, sit up for me..." she was saying. Neville was whimpering and clutching his arm.

"Oh no," said Harry. "Don't tell us it's broken..."

Madam Hooch sighed. "His wrist's gone, at the very least... you'll have to play with two Chasers. Want to carry on?"

Harry nodded. "We've got to... you'll be alright, Neville."

"S-sorry Harry," Neville whispered, before Madam Hooch got two boys out of the front row, and Neville was taken away on a stretcher.

"Do you wish for time-out?" asked Madam Hooch. Harry glanced up at his team-mates, all hovering above him, looking cold and tired.

He nodded. Madam Hooch gave a short blast on her whistle, signalling to the crowd it was time-out. Everybody flew down to the ground, got off their brooms, and trudged wearily towards the stands. Harry beckoned his team over to the side of the pitch.

"What's going wrong?" he said, looking around at them all as they blew onto their hands to try and warm them. "We're in big trouble if this goes on."

"It's just too cold," said Ginny. "I can't throw straight like this, and Rachana keeps blocking me. It's hard enough with the snow, let alone her."

"Right," said Harry. "Here's what we'll do. Ginny and Hannah, stay close together, and I'll protect you from the Bludgers and Rachana. If either of you get the Quaffle, don't think about passing - it just gets intercepted. Just go for goal and don't let go of it. Ernie, you deal with the other Bludger, okay? Ron, keep moving, don't let your hands go to sleep. Draco, hurry up and find the Snitch - it's the only way we'll win this match."

Draco brushed his hair back out of his eyes, and nodded. "Alright."

"Don't lose hope yet everybody," said Harry encouragingly. "The Snitch is still out there, and as long as Draco catches it before their Seeker, we'll be fine."

"So no pressure on me then," said Draco, raising an eyebrow.

"Do you want to swap positions then?" said Harry. "Because here's the bat, off you go."

Draco sighed. "How typically Potter."

"Leave him alone Malfoy," said Ron.

Harry, sensing the usual danger signs of a Draco and Ron argument, stepped in quickly. "Don't start fighting. I'm serious. This is what the other team want us to start doing! If we argue amongst ourselves we'll have no chance!"

Ron and Draco both nodded. Harry looked around his team.

"Then let's get going again," he said. "And don't lose hope!"

They all clambered back onto their brooms, and took off into the air again to cheers from the crowd. Kainda and Justin had started up a chant across the pitch, which was echoed on the other side by Alrister and Lupin. There was a very faint chant of "Weasley is our king" coming from somewhere, but Harry didn't know exactly which side it was singing.

Madam Hooch flew forward with the Quaffle. Ginny and Rachana faced each other, both looking very determined. Everybody was still as Madam Hooch flung the Quaffle into the air, gave a short blast on her whistle, and the pitch exploded with cheers and shouts. Ginny leapt forward off her broom, launched herself through the air, grabbed the Quaffle and went straight over the top of Rachana, landing safely on her broom on the other side. The Bright Sparks supporters were going wild at this, and Rachana Fabiola's face twisted in rage. Before she could turn and grab Ginny, Ginny had sped off down the pitch, with Harry in hot pursuit. He deflected a Bludger, then another, and when Fabiola got too near, he even swiped his bat at her. She gave him a horrified look.

"What are you doing?" she spat.

"Playing Quidditch," he said with a smile. "What are you doing?" The Bludger came pelting towards him and he turned, cracking it hard after Alex Mairwen. Rachana took another wild lunge at Ginny, and Harry swiped at her. "You want to get hit, just keep doing that!" he shouted. Rachana snarled and tried to grab him, get him out of the way, but she was too late. Ginny had flung the Quaffle towards the goal-posts, with a desperate cry, and the whole crowd seemed to leap to their feet at once, clutching at their faces.

She missed. Everybody groaned and covered their faces. Harry could hear Rachana Fabiola laughing from behind him. Madam Hooch's whistle went, and the dark muttering bubbled over the crowd. Harry could see Hermione and Kainda looking worried on the front row.

"Ginny Weasley misses, again..." said Lee, sounding very depressed. "Bright Sparks are in trouble... Madam Hooch resuming play and the Quaffle's back on the pitch. Taken by Rachana Fabiola, pass to Vanassche, and intercepted by Ginny Weasley. Come on Ginny, come on! Potter deflects a Bludger, Weasley heading for goal, she shoots - oh, not AGAIN!"

Harry put his face in his hands. He couldn't remember a time his team had played so badly. If they lost this match... they were out of the tournament, and there would be no more Quidditch.

His moment of stillness turned out to be one of the biggest mistakes he had ever made in a match. One second, he was looking down at Kainda in the stands, then suddenly there was a rushing noise, he felt a crack on the back of his head, and everything went very black and quiet. The last thing he remembered was slumping forward onto his broom, and sliding sideways, falling hard and fast, swirling and spiralling, down and down.

When Harry woke, it was somewhere dark and quiet and warm. There was something resting on his forehead, and he could feel an odd ache in the back of his neck, as though he'd been sleeping in an uncomfortable position. His throat felt very dry. Deciding he should at least try to say something, he settled on 'water' being a good idea.

"Mmrfer..." he croaked.

"Severus!" somebody sitting next to his bed hissed. "Severus! He's waking up!"

There were footsteps into the room. "What?"

"He's waking up," said the voice of Peter, from next to Harry. "He called me Mother."

"Nnh," Harry muttered. "Mmrfer, nt mrrer..."

"Wonderful," said Snape's voice, from the foot of his bed. "He can't speak English anymore. I knew that Bludger damaged his brain."

Harry screwed up his face, and pulled up the blankets. He couldn't work out why he felt so confused and tired, or what the feeling in his stomach was, the thought that there was something he had forgotten to do. He just lay still, listening to Snape's footsteps walk over to him, something cool and damp being laid on his forehead. Peter pushed it back out of his eyes.

"Don't put it there," said Peter, irritably. "Not in his eyes. Idiot."

Snape drew breath, clearly controlling himself. "I am a Potions professor, not a nurse." There was the creak of a chair, as he sat down. Harry screwed up his eyes and pulled the blankets over his face with an annoyed little noise.

Peter sat forward. "Harry...? Are you awake?" he said quietly.

"What... what happened?" Harry murmured.

"You took a Bludger to the back of the head," said Peter. He tucked the blanket around Harry's neck. "Ernie Macmillan managed to catch you as you fell... it was a few hour ago now. You're in Professor Snape's quarters."

"What about the match?" said Harry, dazedly, blinking and trying to open his eyes. Everything was very fuzzy and dark.

Snape sighed. "You won, Potter. Malfoy managed to catch the Snitch after Fabiola's sixth goal, and Weasley's thirteenth miss."

"Oh... good..." Harry closed his eyes again, resting back, trying to stop his head swimming. "I can't see properly..."

"You will," said Peter. "Don't worry. You might just feel a bit woozy for a few days. You're staying here until then. Hermione came just after dinner with some books for you to read, and she says she'll try to get as much of your homework to you as possible."

Harry gave a half-grunt, half-laugh. He didn't know whether he was touched by Hermione's concern, or amused that it was mostly about his homework. "Nice of her..."

There was a chink of glass on metal, and then something passed in front of him. The rim of a goblet was pressed to his lips, and Snape spoke. "Drink, Potter. Sleeping draught."

Harry couldn't argue. He simply drank, feeling sleep ebbing away at his mind, and by the time Snape took the goblet away again, he was already drifting off. Sleep washed over him like a blanket. And most unfortunately, his Dreamless Sleep Draught was sitting in his trunk, back in the Gryffindor common room, and without it he had no way to fight off the nightmare.

It was baking hot under the heat of the sun. He could feel the sand rubbing against his knees as he dug, shifting more and more aside. The entrance had to be around here somewhere. He had to find it soon, or his spade would break, and then he'd be stuck. Wiping the sweat off his forehead again, he drove the blade of the shovel deep into the sand. He cast the grains aside. Still nothing.

He gasped, and fell back onto the dessert floor. He peeled off his shirt, damp with sweat, and just cast it aside. How long had he been digging now? Days. Weeks. More than a month. And still nothing. A few measly ancient Egyptian artefacts, and what good would they be? He knew that buried deep under the sand here was the tomb, of the sorceress Jendayi, and she had been buried with treasure and gold past his wildest dreams. If he found it... he would never have to go on another treasure hunt, never have to worry about money ever again.

He gasped, and ignoring the protests of his aching muscles, thrust his spade hard into the sand again. He heard a dull chink. Was it something there? He flung the spade aside, and crawled forward, scrabbling at the sand and raking his hands through it. Finally, his fingers curled around something metal. He pulled it out. It looked like some sort of talisman, like a cross but with a loop instead of the top piece. What was the word? Ankh, that was it...

He looked down at it in his palm, watching it reflect the light of the sun. There were some odd symbols etched in the metal. He screwed up his eyes, but he couldn't make out the strange markings. What were ankhs worth on the market? Not much, probably... and this just looked like some little thing somebody had dropped a long time ago. He stuffed it in his pocket. He could sell it at the market, and make at least a little money. And perhaps Jendayi's tomb was somewhere near by, and this ankh was from it.

But then Harry was lifted, up off the sand and into the air, flying upwards into the sky, leaving this scene. Time to move on. He found himself going higher and higher, until the whole world was stretched below him like a map, and he was falling again, spinning round and round until he was dropping down, plummeting through air and space, finally landing hard somewhere that was quiet and dark and warm.

He was in Snape's office again, sitting in the usual armchair, but the lesson was different today. Snape was a vampire bat, flapping in front of him, flitting from side to side too fast to see. Then he was turning into the Snitch, and Harry was flying, trying to grab the little winged golden ball, but it was still moving too fast. But suddenly it turned black, and grew, and it was a Bludger, flying at him and hitting him hard in the chest. He cried out, and he was falling again, down and down until he landed once more.

He was somewhere cold now. Cold, dark, and damp. He didn't know where. Madam Ivy was standing before him, tearing up a piece of paper with Harry's NEWT grades on it, and laughing. He begged her to stop, but she ignored him, scattering the pieces of paper all around and laughing harder. Her teeth were lengthening, into two fine points inching over her bottom lip, and she was shrinking, growing a long tail, her eyes turning into those of a hawk. Khepri stood before Harry, still laughing. He reached into his pocket, and drew out the ankh, holding it in front of Harry. Harry snatched at it, but Khepri laughed and threw it away into the darkness. Harry turned with a cry and ran after it, trying to see through the black, but he hit something hard. As he looked up, he saw Snape, Snape the vampire, his eyes red and his upper lip curled back revealing those fangs dripping blood. Snape descended on him, grabbed his hair, yanked his neck aside and bit, hard. Harry screamed.

He woke up with a gasp, reaching for his neck, clasping it. There was no blood when he took his hand away. He sighed and closed his eyes. His heart was pounding inside his chest. It was just a dream, he told himself. All a dream.

Still, it was hard not to twitch slightly as Snape came into the room, his hand curled around a wineglass of something dark red.

"Ah, you're awake," said Snape, pausing to look down at him. "Head better?"

Harry's eyes were fixed on the glass. "What's that?"

"Isn't it obvious?" said Snape. He raised an eyebrow, and sat down behind his desk, taking a sip. Seeing the look on Harry's face, he frowned. "And the problem is...?"

"Do you have to drink that in front of me?" said Harry, inching back against the headboard.

"You've seen me drink it before," said Snape. "Numerous times, in our Dangerous Mind Techniques lessons. Why, Potter, what's wrong with you now?"

"Um..." Harry tugged the sheets up around his neck, through instinct. The dream was still replaying in his head. "Aren't you going to transform...?"

Snape shook his head. "I can control the amount to which I transform. At the moment, I only need fangs, and so I only have fangs." Indeed, when he next lifted the glass and took a sip, Harry caught a flash of pointed teeth under his upper lip.

"Where did you get that?" asked Harry, timidly.

"It isn't fresh," said Snape. "Before you start panicking."

"Where was it from originally?" said Harry.

Snape frowned at him. "Considering a career as an Azkaban Interrogator, are we?"

"Tell me," said Harry.

Snape gave him a very suspicious look. He put down the glass, walked over to Harry, and peeled back his fringe. He made an indistinct noise as he noticed the cold sweat on Harry's forehead, then knelt down, peering into Harry's eyes. Harry trembled slightly as he felt Snape raking his thoughts.

"Mm," said Snape, raising one eyebrow. "After seventeen years of trying, I have finally become the stuff of students' nightmares."

"Sorry," squeaked Harry.

"No matter, Potter," said Snape calmly. "I had the feeling this conversation would be coming soon." He sat down on the side of Harry's bed, and put a hand on the top of his guarded's head. Gently, he smoothed back Harry's fringe, and ran his thumb the length of his scar. Harry shivered a little, as a rush of something cool and calming flooded from his scar.

"Why does...?"

"Dumbledore set the bond into your scar," said Snape. "That's why you received a shock in your first year, when I opened the bond at the welcome feast."

Harry glanced up at him. "It was you...?"

Snape nodded. "Not the Dark Lord, hiding on Quirrel. I believe you met him in the Leaky Cauldron before that occasion, and yet felt no pain?"

"Oh..." said Harry, wondering why he hadn't thought of this before. "So... that's where the bond is? From my scar?"

"Yes," said Snape calmly. He continued to run his thumb along Harry's scar, back and forth, in a very soothing rhythm. "Think of it as the bond's contact point with the outside world. Dumbledore was concerned at first that all three of your bonds were linked from that place, but it has done you no harm."

"All three?" said Harry, staring at him.

"Myself, Peelish, and the Dark Lord," said Snape quietly. "Your bond with Voldemort is not a guardian bond, and is very different, but still links from your scar. This is the reason you feel pain whenever Voldemort touches you there, and the reason you feel calm when I do... now then, Potter... vampirism."

Harry settled back into the pillows, looking up at Snape imploringly.

"There is nothing to be afraid of," said Snape. "At least, not with me. I am completely in control of myself when I transform, and contrary to muggle media, I will not become a blood-lust crazed maniac if I come across any. It is like drinking anything else."

"Um..." said Harry.


"I know you probably won't answer, but... what do you drink from?" asked Harry, quietly.

Snape sighed. He opened his mouth to answer, but he was interrupted, by a soft scuttling noise at the corner of the chamber. Harry looked up, and saw a black rat run out through a hole in the wall, cross the room, and disappear into another crack. Harry glanced at Snape. The professor was not looking at him.

"No," whispered Harry. "You... you don't..."

"There is nothing else," murmured Snape.

"But..." said Harry. The thought of Snape drinking the blood of rats made him feel rather queasy. "But that's horrible!"

"It's necessary," said Snape quietly.

"What if you caught some horrible disease though?" said Harry, staring at him.

"Would you rather I catch a student?" said Snape with a raised eyebrow.

Harry was quiet. "What about the blood lollipops they sell in Honeydukes? Couldn't you have those?"

"Blood flavoured," said Snape. "And I'm hardly the sort of person to sit and lick a lollipop, Potter. The rats do nothing harmful to me, and they are perfectly happy to give me a little... sustenance in exchange for me not putting down rat poison."

"What if somebody else has given them rat poison though?" said Harry. "You'll get killed."

Snape smiled a little. "Is this concern, Potter...?" He smoothed his thumb over Harry's scar again, and some of Harry's fear ebbed a little. Snape pushed him gently to lie against the pillow again. "I have enough antidotes to sort myself out if something goes wrong. And nothing will go wrong. Though I'm touch by your anxiety for my wellfare."

"Well... if you're gone, I don't really have much chance, do I?" said Harry quietly.

Snape was pulling the blankets up around his neck. "Meaning?"

"I need you to help me fight Voldemort," murmured Harry. "I can't do it on my own..."

"You can," said Snape. "And you will. Here, read one of these books Granger has sent you... The Hierarchy of Ancient Egypt... mm, sounds thrilling." He handed Harry one of the thick, dusty volumes lying by his bedside. "I would suggest something by Conan Doyle, or Edgar Allan Poe, but I suppose the ancient Egyptian hierarchy is just as fascinating."

Harry smiled weakly, and let the book just rest on the pillow next to him. "No, we're looking for stuff about the Shani Theoris... it's the ankh of Khepri, you know, that thing that keeps following me around... you don't know anything about Jendayi, do you?"

"Various things," said Snape. "But nothing about an ankh. Have some sleep, Potter. You'll feel better."

"I need to have some Dreamless Sleep Draught," Harry said timidly. Snape fetched him a small cup full, and he drank it, before settling down in the pillows again. "When can I leave your quarters?"

"When you have recovered," said Snape mildly. "And not a moment before. Sleep, Potter." He ran his thumb across Harry's scar one last time, and then stood up, leaving the room and taking his glass of rat's blood with him. Harry closed his eyes, and within a few minutes, he was lost in sleep.


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