21 Minutes by Vee
Past Featured StorySummary: Trapped in a safe house after fleeing from Voldemort, Harry has exactly 21 minutes to save Professor Snape.
Categories: Fic Fests > Winter fest 2021, Reverse Roles > Healer Harry Main Characters: .Snape and Harry (required)
Snape Flavour: Snape is Angry
Genres: Action/Adventure
Media Type: None
Tags: None
Takes Place: 5th Year
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 1 Completed: Yes Word count: 4832 Read: 2571 Published: 30 Dec 2021 Updated: 31 Dec 2021
Story Notes:
Takes place in 5th year, AU.

Happy New Year, everyone!
21 Minutes by Vee

“Potter!” Snape hurriedly snatched the parchment from the table, but it was too late.

The water that Harry had accidently knocked over had already ruined most of his notes. The Potions Master glared at the puddle forming on the scratched surface of the table. He raised his head to look at the boy. “Detention,” he hissed, pushing his chair back and standing up to leave the small kitchen. “Now!”

Harry, who had started to unsuccessfully mop up the water with the hem of his shirt, stared at his professor. Was Snape serious? He couldn’t be! A hysterical laugh rose from Harry’s belly, so strong, it burst out of him. He laughed until his barely healed ribs hurt. Every bruise he got, before Snape had turned up and whisked him away from Voldemort’s clutches, protested in pain.

“Detention? Seriously? We’re not even in Hogwarts!” he said when he finally got his breath back.

He didn’t have a death wish, talking to Snape like that, and he wasn’t the ungrateful, obnoxious brat he sounded like right now. Harry knew that Snape had saved his life. They were stuck in this god-forsaken safe house, because his professor had blown his cover as a spy to get him away from Voldemort and his Death Eaters.

Since their narrow escape, they had been cooped up in the tiny house for 12 hours and would be stuck for another night and day before they could communicate with anyone or even attempt to leave. The whole house had locked down after the emergency wards had been triggered by their arrival. Being trapped with an angry Snape, hurt and terrified, Harry knew something just had to give.

He crossed his arms over his chest. A fierce headache pounded behind his scar. “You can’t take house points when we are not in Hogwarts and I’m pretty sure you can’t assign detention either! Sir.”

“Watch me, Potter.” The Potions Master spun on his heel and marched out of the kitchen, leaving the door to the other room open in a way that seemed to say: Follow me, or else … The only thing missing from that perfect exit were Snape’s billowing robes, but they had been torn and burned in the fight with the Death Eaters.

Harry drummed his fingers on the table, tempted to just sit there and wait it out. But then he pushed back his chair with a sigh and quietly made his way over to the room. The anger that had been so fierce only a moment ago had evaporated, leaving him wary and drained. Snape had every right to be angry with him. Not because of the water, of course, but about the whole letting-himself-be-kidnapped thing. It had been stupid to go out for a stroll through the snowy streets of Hogsmeade. He had known it back then as well, but it was the Christmas holidays. He had been lonely and just wanted a little Christmas cheer and escape the empty hallways of Hogwarts for a while . . . What he got now was the worst Christmas Eve ever, and that said a lot, considering he grew up with the Durselys.

The other room was even more cramped than the kitchen. The mats they had slept on the night before were rolled up and stuffed into a corner to make space for the huge cauldron Snape had set up. The professor had carelessly swiped everything from the long table to make space for the potion ingredients he needed. Every bit of the walls was lined with shelves with various ingredients and potions books. Harry suppressed a sneer. Of course, Snape would have a potions lab in a safe house. Couldn’t live without his precious jars of slimy ingredients all around him, could he? Part of him knew that it might be vital to have a potions lab near when fleeing to a safe house, but he wasn’t in the mood to admit that.

“You know you can just dry the paper and reverse the damage, don’t you?” he said as he stepped into the room. “What do you want me to do, anyway? Scrub cauldrons?”

Snape didn’t answer. The Potions Master stood at the table, his eyes shut in pain, pressing his left arm against his chest. A fierce spike of pain shot through Harry’s scar as he looked at him.

“Professor?” Harry took an uncertain step forward. “Are you alright?”

Snape glared at him, dropping his arm to his side. “Never been better, Potter,” he spat. “Come in and make yourself useful. You’ll be doing some chopping for me.” He conjured two sharp knifes that clattered onto the table. “Don’t just stand there. Get over here.”

But Harry wasn’t going to let Snape’s snarkiness distract him. “It’s him, isn’t it?” He touched his scar, flinching at how tender it was. “He’s angry.”

His teacher rolled his eyes. “You have just escaped his clutches and his most trusted servant turned out to be a spy. Of course, he is angry.” He moved to turn away from the table, but then stopped, looking back at him. “Your scar hurts?”

Harry, who had come over, leaned back under Snape’s sudden scrutiny. He shrugged, uncomfortable. “Yeah.”

“How bad?”

Harry shook his head. “I’m fine, sir,” he replied shortly. Why was Snape asking about his headache all of a sudden? He hadn’t ever bothered to ask before!

Snape slapped his hands on the table between them, making him flinch. “Answer me, Potter! We have no time for your teenage mistrust and antics. You said yourself the Dark Lord is angry. His anger can be deadly!”

Harry paled. “What do you mean? I thought we are safe here?”

“You maybe,” Snape hissed. “Or not. To find out, I need you to answer me. So, again, how bad is it? The truth this time.”

Harry swallowed. “Bad. It’s been getting worse over the last hour, like a constant pounding.”

Snape, for a lack of a better word, looked worried. A kind of angry-worried, so Harry hastened to add, “But it is not as bad as it could be, I swear. That’s why I said I’m fine, sir. This is nothing compared to the headaches I got after a vision or . . .” He licked his dry lips and looked away from Snape.

“Or?” his teacher pressed.

“Or when I’m actually in a room with him. The headache is so bad then, it feels as if my head is splitting open.” He closed his eyes, trying to force down the horror he had felt, the pain and utter terror while staring into Voldemort’s eyes yesterday. There was no way he would have escaped the madman on his own this time.

“Hm.” Snape frowned. “Show me your scar.”

Harry had a refusal on the tip of his tongue, but one look into his teacher’s face made him change his mind. He sighed and pushed his fringe up. There was a long silence as Snape studied his forehead.

Finally, his teacher leaned back. “It’s inflamed alright, but not green. I guess you are going to live after all.”

“Green?” Harry pulled back, appalled. “Like puss? Why would it be green?”

Snape didn’t answer. He went to one of the shelves at the far wall and took something from it. Holding it carefully in one hand, he carried it back to the table and placed it in the middle. Harry noticed that Snape’s hands shook slightly, but he didn’t say anything. Instead, he stared at the tiny object. It was a little golden cauldron, not bigger than a snitch, with intricate carvings on it and a perfect little handle.

He couldn’t suppress a grin. “What is this, sir? Looks like something you could hang on a Christmas tree.” An image of a huge Christmas tree in Snape’s office, decorated with tiny golden cauldrons flashed before his eyes and he just managed not to laugh at the absurdity of it.

The Potions Master sighed impatiently. “Focus, Potter! There are things more important than Christmas. This is an enchanted object. Like a howler or one of the portraits in Hogwarts, only nastier.”

Harry looked at the tiny thing carefully. “Nastier than a howler?”

“It was enchanted by a very angry man who hated all those that were going to use it.”

Harry frowned. “That doesn’t make sense. How could he know who would use it?”

His teacher pulled out his wand and pointed it at the cauldron. “It’s only useful to Death Eaters. Death Eaters receiving the ultimate punishment of the Dark Lord to be precise.” He picked up the parchment with his notes that had been restored, ignoring Harry’s open-mouthed stare. “Step back.”

His student stepped back hastily, his thoughts swirling. Voldemort’s ultimate punishment? What could that be? His eyes were instantly drawn to Snape’s left arm where, hidden under the man’s shirt, he knew his Dark Mark was. As he looked at it now, he noticed that some strange discoloration was spreading from Snape’s wrist to his hand, like green ink that slowly seeped through the Potions Master’s skin. The sight of it made Harry’s heart freeze. He knew exactly where he had seen that particular shade of green before.

“The killing curse!” He looked up at his professor. “He is using the killing curse on you. Through your Dark Mark!”

Snape regarded him coldly. “Well done, Potter. You have figured it out.”

“But . . .”

His teacher ignored him and turned back to the golden cauldron on the table. He waved his wand over it and muttered an incarnation, his voice clipped and angry while reading the words from the parchment in his shaking hand. Harry now noticed sweat on the professor’s brow and the feverish glitter of his eyes. How did the curse work when directed through the Mark? Obviously slower or Snape would be dead already, but how much slower? How much time did they have?

The small cauldron started humming and lifted up into the air.

“So,” a loud male voice boomed from it, making both Harry and Snape wince. “You want to save your life, you pathetic creature? Now that your master has turned against you and you are faced with the consequences of your actions, now you seek help from those you hunted? Curse you, Death Eater! I wish you the most painful death!”

“Um . . . “ Harry looked from the humming cauldron that was spouting more insults, to his professor. “Sure you picked the right one, sir? This one doesn’t seem to be very . . . helpful.”

Snape nodded tersely. “I was expecting as much. His daughter was a Death Eater and died the same way Voldemort wants me to die. He couldn’t save her, but created a potion that would save whoever can brew it successfully.”

Harry frowned. “Why? Don’t get me wrong, Professor, but he obviously hates Death Eaters, why would he bother . . .?”

Snape pinched the bridge of his nose. “Grief. He hates Voldemort more than his Death Eaters and if he can spite the Dark Lord by crossing his plans or. . . I don’t know, Potter! Hush now, he might be saying something useful soon.” Snape clutched his arm again, his lips pressed into a thin line as he watched the cauldron. Half his left hand was discoloured, the green of the killing curse spreading steadily.

There was silence all of a sudden as if the raving, grieving father was taking a steadying breath. Harry’s and Snape’s eyes were fixed on the tiny cauldron.

“You have 21 minutes to brew this potion,” the voice said. “21 ingredients are needed and you only have 21 seconds after the potion is ready to consume it. After that it will be worthless.”

“He’s a bit obsessed with the number 21, isn’t he?” Harry muttered.

Snape conjured a quill and parchment and shoved it into Harry’s hands. “His daughter was that age when she died. Write down all the ingredients he names and don’t miss one, you hear me?”

“Of course.” Harry put the quill to the parchment and watched as Snape also conjured a couple of vials and a ladle.

My mum was 21 too when she died, Harry thought. He bit his lip. Where did that thought come from?

“Three wings of the dragonfly,” the voice spat and Harry quickly wrote it down, holding his breath. Finally, they got something useful.

“Accio dragonfly wings,” Snape murmured. A jar of dragonfly wings floated from one of the shelves to the table. It landed with a satisfying thunk.

But then there was only silence. No more ingredients. Snape drummed his fingers on the table. He glared at the cauldron as if that would make it speak again.

Tick tock. Tick tock.

The sudden sound of a ticking clock made Harry’s blood run cold. He understood what it meant the same moment the voice spoke again.

“You’re wasting time, Death Eater. Start brewing. Your time is already running. I won’t make this easy for you.”

Snape cursed. He unscrewed the lid of the jar and threw three delicate wings into the cauldron. “Miserable old sod! Forget about the parchment, Potter. He won’t give us a list of ingredients. This is a dictating potion. Damn it, I should have guessed it!”

“A what?” Harry asked bewildered.

“Three pints of pond water from the forbidden forest,” the voice droned on gleefully. “Just hope you have all the ingredients, Death Eater! You won’t have a chance to do this again.”

Harry was relieved to see three jars with murky water float over to his professor. The Potions Master had stocked this little lab well, it seemed. “What does he mean, you won’t have a chance to try this again? We could just listen to him and write down all the –“

“Seven Flobberworms,” the voice called.

Snape summoned these too and sliced them quicker than Harry had ever seen those disgusting things being handled. Into the cauldron they went.

“It’s a dictating potion, Potter. That spinning, spiteful cauldron will blow up after it delivered its message and the potion won’t work again in the same combination.”

“Huh?” Harry glanced at their own huge cauldron. Small flames burned underneath it, and licked the blackened sides of it. “Why wouldn’t it work? I mean, if you have a recipe, and you cook the meal once, you can always cook it again-“

“Potions is not a cooking class, Potter!” Snape thundered. “No wonder you are so bad at it!”

“I’m not!” Harry’s face flushed. “I’m just bad, because you are an awful teacher!”

His shout nearly drowned out the next ingredients. Snape glared at him and summoned the Veela’s tears. Harry snapped his mouth shut guiltily. He wasn’t sorry for accusing Snape of being a bad teacher, it was true, damn it! But now was not the time to fight.

“How can I help?” he said in a calmer voice.

“Seven leaves of wormwood,” the voice sang out, chuckling. “Are you sweating already, Death Eater?”

Snape muttered something under his breath and summoned the leaves. His hand shook so badly that he nearly dropped the jar on the way to the table. Harry caught it, unscrewed the lid and took out seven leaves. He was just about to add them to the potion when Snape’s hand closed around his wrist. His teacher’s skin burned with fever.

“I thought you want to help, Potter,” he hissed. “Slice them or you will ruin the potion!”

Harry pulled out of his grip. “It didn’t say to slice them!”

“Of course not! He expects some basic potions skills, you dunderhead! Wormwood leaves are always sliced, they’re far to potent otherwise.”

Harry dimly remembered Hermione say something like that once. “But why wouldn’t he say –“

“Because this,” Snape jabbed his finger at the spinning cauldron, “is not a potions book but an object enchanted by a vindictive, grieving Potions’ genius. For Merlin’s sake, Potter, just trust me!”

Harry’s eyes snapped up to meet his teacher’s gaze. He had never trusted Severus Snape and his professor had never asked him too. Still, he was here today because of him. Harry squared his shoulders. “Alright.” He went to the table. “How will I slice them? Down the middle?”

Snape blinked. “Yes.”

Harry sliced each leaf neatly in half and dropped them into the now bubbling potion. After that, they worked silently and quickly. Slicing, dicing and quartering ingredients when necessary, stirring the potion. When Snape’s hands shook too badly and the green of the killing curse claimed his right hand too, Harry wordlessly took over all the slicing, following Snape’s instructions to the letter. When his teacher’s knees buckled, he pushed a chair underneath him and ran to collect each of the ingredients that the Potions Master pointed out to him.

On the wall just over the door hung a dusty old clock. Its hands crept unstoppable towards midnight. Soon would be Christmas Day, soon their 21 minutes brewing time would be up. Harry’s back ached from bending over the table. His eyes stung from the fumes of the last jar of beetle eggs he had opened, but somehow his mind was calmer than it had been in a long while. Something about the rhythm of brewing a potion was soothing and he found to his utter surprise that he actually liked it.

“Nearly done, do you think, Death Eater?” the voice sneered from the tiny cauldron.

Harry rolled his eyes. “Just get on with it,” he muttered. The insults and threats were getting old. Snape looked at the spinning cauldron. This was the last ingredient. They both had kept count.

“One feather of the phoenix,” the voice said sweetly. Then it laughed. A hollow, mad laugh that rolled through the room, topped by the little cauldron exploding in a puff of smoke.

Snape closed his eyes. He made no move to point Harry to the jar containing the last ingredient.


His teacher stayed completely still. “It’s over.”

“No!” Harry dashed to the nearest shelf. His eyes scanned the labels on the jars frantically. “There has to be a phoenix feather here somewhere! You had everything else!”

“There isn’t.” His teacher rubbed a hand over his face. “I know my stock, Potter.”

Harry spun around. “But . . .! But you can’t just give up! Contact Dumbledore! If he sends Fawkes through the floo . . .”

Snape said nothing. Even without his professor’s reminder, Harry knew they couldn’t contact the Headmaster, not for hours, as the house was still locked down. The potion would be ruined then and by the looks of his teacher, he didn’t have that much time left anyway. Snape’s head was bowed, his hands clenched to fists. His mind was probably racing just like Harry’s, trying to find a way out of this.

Fawkes. With a jolt Harry looked up at the clock. He knew what to do. There were only a few seconds left to finish the potion. He grabbed his wand and determinedly walked over to the cauldron. There was no time to think about what he was about to do. He stopped in front of the cauldron, took his wand in both hands and held it over the bubbling potion.


The sound might as well have been Harry’s heart breaking. A powerful wave of magic went through the room as his wand broke in two.

Snape was on his feet in an instant. “What have you done?”

Out of the broken wand glided a feather. A perfect feather, shining red and gold. It drifted into the cauldron and landed on the surface of the potion, dissolving instantly. The potion turned from purple to a wonderful, deep midnight-blue. Harry just knew that colour was right, it had been one of Fawkes’ feathers inside his wand after all. Immense relief flooded through him, accompanied by grief deeper than he had ever felt before. His broken wand still felt warm in his hands, but no tingle of magic was left in it.

Behind them the clock struck twelve.

Harry looked up at Snape. “Merry Christmas, Professor,” he said with a small smile, yet tears pressed behind his eyes.

Snape just looked at him, his mouth still slightly open from his earlier shouting. It was the first time Harry saw his teacher speechless. As his professor made no move towards the cauldron, Harry filled the potion into one of the small vials that Snape had conjured earlier. He ran to his professor’s side and held the vial out to him.

“Here! Take it!”

After a brief hesitation, Snape’s fingers closed around the vial carefully as if it was the most delicate thing in the world. “Potter . . .”

“Drink it, sir! You have only seconds left!”

The Potions Master nodded and brought the vial to his lips. Miraculously, he didn’t spill a drop, despite his shaking hands. He drained the potion, his eyes never leaving Harry’s face.

Just don’t let it be poison, Harry thought. From what he had seen of the spiteful little cauldron, he wouldn’t put it past the grieving father to promise a remedy and make them brew poison instead.

The moment the last drop of the potion left the vial, a powerful green, ugly light burst from Snape’s body, flinging student and teacher through the air to land in opposite corners of the room. Harry’s head hit one of the shelves as he crumpled to the ground. Jars of potion ingredients rained down all around him, but he didn’t notice. Blissful darkness had claimed him.

*Christmas Morning*

The first thing Harry noticed as he walked into the small kitchen after waking up was the enchanting green and yellow light dancing across the snow outside the tiny window. It was as if their safe house was surrounded by the Aurora Borealis and the Northern Lights sang just for them.

“Wow,” Harry whispered.

“Wow, indeed.”

Harry turned in surprise. Snape leaned against the counter, his arms crossed over his chest. How he had not seen the man when entering the kitchen was beyond him. “Professor,” he said. “You are better!”

“Obviously,” Snape said. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t be standing here, making you tea, would I?”

Harry blinked. “Tea?”

His professor waved him to the table. “Breakfast, Potter. You were knocked out cold for quite a while.” Behind him a kettle hissed and sputtered and Snape took two chipped mugs from the only cupboard. He dropped tea bags from a glass jar into them, grimacing at the dust on the jar. “This will be nowhere near a Christmas morning breakfast in Hogwarts, I’m afraid, but it’ll have to do.” He poured the hot water into the cups and placed them on the table, next to a jar of jam, two very shrunken looking apples and a couple of pieces of dry, thinly sliced bread.

The Potions Master sat down at the table and regarded his silent student. “How are you?”

Harry looked up. “I don’t think you’ve ever asked me that before.”

Snape just waited.

Harry sighed. He opened his hand and placed the two broken pieces of his wand in front of him on the table. His finger traced over the handle he had held so often. “I don’t know, sir. Can you be happy and devasted at the same time? I’m glad you are okay. And still I’m . . . just numb in there.” He pointed to his chest. “As if something has been ripped out of me. I know that doesn’t make sense . . .”

“It makes perfect sense.” Snape cleared his throat. He looked uncomfortable. “What you did last night was extremely –“ He paused as if looking for the right word.

“Stupid?” Harry ventured.

Snape snorted. “Yes. Definitely. Like most of your heroics, Potter, it was extremely stupid. But also . . . difficult. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to snap your own wand. It took incredible courage. Even for a Gryffindor.”

Harry did not look up. The wood of his wand was smooth and polished against his cold fingertip. “I’m not sure I did do it, sir.”

His teacher raised an eyebrow.

“I mean, I know it broke,” Harry hastened to add. “But . . . I don’t know, it felt as if it snapped by itself? I was determined to do it, you know, and there was no time to think about it, but when it came to actually snapping it . . . I wasn’t sure I could go through with it, and then it just happened.”

“Really.” Snape leaned forward. “That is most interesting. May I?” He picked up the broken pieces of the wand and even though Harry wanted to shout and slap his hands away, he bit his lip and stayed silent.

Snape handled the wand as delicately as he had handled the potion vial last night. He turned it carefully, studying the sharp edges where it had snapped. “You know the wand chooses his wizard, don’t you?” he said after a while.

Harry swallowed. “Yes.” The memory of the pure joy he had felt when first doing real magic in Ollivander’s shop burned in his chest.

“So, is it not possible that the wand also chooses when to leave?” Snape placed the pieces back in front of Harry, his face thoughtful. “I think there is a difference between a wand that is snapped and a wand that snaps, don’t you agree, Potter?”

“Um . . . I don’t know? What do you mean?”

His teacher rolled his eyes and picked up his cup of tea. “What I mean is that I believe your wand can be repaired.”

“Really?” Hope bubbled up in him, spreading a smile over his face, making his eyes gleam. “You think so? Can you fix it? Now?”

Snape held up a hand. “Not so fast, Potter. I have to look into it first and I believe we have to consult Ollivander on this too.” He shook his head. “He won’t be pleased, of course.” Snape ran a finger over the rim of his cup, thoughtful. “I’ll find a way.”

Tears pushed behind Harry’s eyes again. “You mean it, Professor? You won’t . . . forget?”

His teacher regarded him silently. They both knew Harry didn’t mean that Snape would forget about his wand so much, but rather that the Potions Master would go back to despising his student once they were back at Hogwarts. Snape put his cup on the table. He leaned forward and slowly rolled up the left sleeve of his shirt.

“This is not something I will forget easily.” The skin underneath his wrist was pale and unmarred. Not even a shadow remained of the Dark Mark.

Harry stared at him. “How . . . how is that possible?”

Snape shook his head. “I don’t know,” he said quietly. “But I do know it was the potion you brewed yesterday. You set me free, Potter. No more spying, no more teaching, no more two masters, neither Voldemort nor Dumbledore, and because of your sacrifice, Voldemort has no more connection he can use to torture me.” He rolled his sleeve back down. “How could I forget that? The least I can do is make sure you get back your wand.”

Harry blushed. He rubbed his forehead in embarrassment. “I didn’t brew the potion alone, sir and anyway, it was you who saved me first. I never said thanks for turning up when you did and . . . stuff.”

Snape’s lips twitched. “Stuff? Very eloquent, Potter.”

Harry grinned. “Yes, well, you know what I mean.” Then he stopped, his eyes snapping up to Snape. “Hold on! Did you say no more teaching?”

His professor leaned back in his chair. “I blew my cover, remember? I won’t go back spying on Voldemort and so I will be of very little use to Dumbledore. Why would I remain in Hogwarts and spent my time teaching little dunderheads when, as you so nicely put it, I’m an awful teacher?”

Harry’s mouth opened, then closed again. It was true, Snape was a terrible teacher, but he just couldn’t imagine Hogwarts without him. “Are you sure?”

Snape shrugged. “We’ll see. The new term won’t start for a while anyway. It’s Christmas, in case you forgot.”

Harry grinned. “Merry Christmas then, sir.” He looked out the window where the snow was falling thick and fast. “It looks properly Christmassy out there anyway.” He turned back to Snape, his grin widening. “You wouldn’t be in the mood for some Christmas Carols?”

Snape shot him a sour look. “Let’s not overdo it, Potter.”

Still, when Dumbledore and half the Order came knocking the door down hours later to make sure Harry was still alive, they found the boy who lived happily decorating a small Christmas tree with tiny golden cauldrons that were conjured by a very bored looking Professor Snape.

The End.
End Notes:
Disclaimer: Harry Potter and all characters and themes of the HP World belong to JK Rowling.

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