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Twist of Fate

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Harry had been at home for a week and was already bored out of his mind. The Hogwarts Express had dutifully dropped them off at the end of their sixth year and Harry, unsurprised to see that his relatives were nowhere to be found, had prepared himself to catch a taxi. Arthur Weasley, although excited at the prospect of muggle travel, had decided to Apparate them both instead, knowing it was safer. Ever since, the Dursleys had been in a right snit over the appearance of their nephew on the doorstep, angry at the use of magic so close to their homestead. Harry didn’t have the inner strength to point out that if they had been there to pick him up in the first place, there would have been no need to use magic.

So Harry had returned to his room, hiding himself away as he counted down the days until he could at least escape and go stay with the Weasleys. If Dumbledore continued to make good on his previous promises, Harry only had another four weeks until he could get the hell out of Private Drive.

The door to his room suddenly shuddered as his uncle hammered against it with his fist.

Boy!” he roared. “We are expecting guests any moment now. You are not to leave your room. Do you understand me?”

The brunet smothered a sigh. “Yes.”

“So help me if I find you out of it!” Vernon threatened.

The usual beating then…? Harry thought tiredly, staring up at the ceiling. He listened to the heavy thumps as his uncle stomped away. Harry could only imagine the type of snobs his relatives were about to have over—he’d rather remain up in his room anyway.

Glancing over at Hedwig’s empty cage, Harry wondered if she’d reached Ron yet. He had decided that he was old enough to ignore his uncle’s orders now; if Harry wanted to write to his best friend he damn well would. Since it was the only thing that usually kept Harry sane, he thought it was only fitting to make sure he didn’t lose his mind for the duration of the holidays. The only downside to corresponding with his friends was the waiting period. Ever since Hedwig had first taken flight Harry had collapsed onto his bed, waiting patiently for her to return. There was little else for him to do whilst he was here. As usual, anything magically related was locked securely away, save for his wand. Harry had made sure to keep that particular item on him, regardless if he was still too young to perform magic outside of Hogwarts.

Only a few more weeks until I’m seventeen… Harry thought with a small sliver of satisfaction.

Swiping a hand over his face, the brunet allowed himself to fall into a stupor. He couldn’t go downstairs, there was nothing he could do in his room… perhaps it was time for a nap.

With that thought echoing in his head, Harry allowed his eyes to close, body relaxing into the stiff mattress below him.

A few blissful minutes passed in silence and Harry could feel himself beginning to doze. Below, he thought he heard the doorbell ring, which would explain the voices he heard drifting up the staircase. He could feel himself drifting into dreams… when all hell suddenly broke loose.


 

The explosion that rocked the house was nothing short of spectacular.

One moment Harry was lying peacefully on his bed. The next he had been thrown across the room from the sheer force, slamming into his wardrobe with a grunt, pain immediately sheering down his side as he landed on the wooden floorboards.

Harry stared around blindly. What the bloody fuck…?

His wand snapped automatically into his hand as he got to his feet. Dust was settling around him, screams and yells echoing in his ears. He spun around, eyes scanning the room for any sign of an immediate threat. There was a great gaping hole in the side of the house and Harry was able to see into the garden where a section of his bedroom wall was completely missing.

This was not good.

Harry’s immediately thought was Voldemort, that the ever-determined Dark Lord had finally run out of patience and had come after Harry himself. But that was ludicrous. The Dursleys, as much as Harry detested them, were his protection. Voldemort couldn’t enter the blood wards…?

A dark shadow entered Harry’s line of sight, filling the frame of his blown-apart door.

Impedimenta!” he yelled, a bright beam of red light erupting from his wand tip.

The shadow was knocked instantly backwards. Harry hadn’t been able to tell if it was a Death Eater or not but he was not taking any chances. He turned around on the spot, eyes scanning the still hazy air as the dust slowly began to settle.

Was the Order here? Harry thought, eyes falling to the garden through the jagged hole in his wall. He could hear what he thought were exchanged curses and shouts but there were no voices he distinctly recognised. Turning once more, Harry analysed the immobile form of the unknown Death Eater he had knocked out. With a quick flick of his wrist and an incarcerous, Harry bound the figure on the floor and carefully stepped over it. He swept his stare up and down the hallway, checking for threats before moving cautiously towards the stairs, wand held out before him.

Before he could reach the landing, the entire house suddenly shuddered, and Harry was knocked sideways into the wall. His hand tightening reflexively around his wand even as he winced, his shoulder throbbing slightly from the impact.

What the hell was going on out there…?

More shouts could be heard. Harry thought he recognised some of them—shit! Was that Remus?!

Diffindo!

Harry spun and blocked the curse with reflexes he’d forgotten he’d had. He sent a reciprocated curse, trading spells with the enemy until the dark figure fell with a heavy thud to the carpet. Harry’s breaths were coming out in hurried pants, the adrenaline from the duel flooding through his veins. Everything seemed so much louder all of a sudden. He could definitely hear voices he knew now; their shouts and orders echoed up the staircase, sending waves of relief to course through him.

Get downstairs you idiot… Harry’s mind kicked into gear and he spun around. He was moving determinedly towards the stairs when the familiar crack of Apparation reverberated down the corridor, halting him in his tracks. Immediately, Harry instinctively knew who it was, even before the eerily familiar voice hissed venomously, and he turned, wide green eyes meeting with vicious red. The power of the curse Voldemort shot at him caused Harry’s skin to itch in warning, and he moved, trying desperately to not make contact with the sickly purple light. All air left his lungs in a brutal gasp as the curse hit his right arm, his wand instantly dropping from his hand.

The pain was like nothing Harry had ever experience before. The bones in his arm instantly shattered, his entire limb vibrating from the intense heat that engulfed it. He could barely keep his eyes open as his knees buckled, the agony causing his limbs to go flaccid. He hit the ground unceremoniously, clutching his injured arm to his chest, and struggling to draw in shaking breaths through clenched teeth. He no longer heard the battle around him. All he could do now was wait, knowing that Voldemort was close, ready to cast the final curse.

Forcing his eyes open, Harry managed to catch sight of a familiar silhouette standing over him protectively. As the familiar dark tongues of shadows flickered in the corner of his vision, a final thought crossed his mind.

 Holy shit… I’m about to die…

Then everything went black.

Chapter Text

It was like swimming through fog.

Unclear and heavy, it pressed in all around Harry as he unexpectedly surfaced during various moments of clarity. His thoughts were jumbled; he was unable to discern what thoughts were his and what where the mumbled voices he thought he could hear at times.

What happened…?

A deep, fervent burning caught Harry’s attention. His right arm—the arm that had been injured during the attack—made itself known as Harry tentatively attempted to move his fingers. He winced, the burn spreading up from the bones of his hand right up to his shoulder. He swallowed back the groan that wanted to fall from his throat.

God, he was tired.

Where was he, anyway? He obviously wasn’t dead… perhaps Voldemort had a sick plan that involved him in some way?

Harry’s eyes flickered drowsily, heavy-lidded. He forced them open, taking in the blurry sights of what appeared to be the hospital wing at Hogwarts.

Hogwarts…?

Why on earth was he here? It was summer… wasn’t it? Or had this all been some wicked dream? Maybe he’d been in a Quidditch accident—maybe school was still in session…

His thoughts were buried beneath the thick, fuzzy quality of his consciousness and as hard as Harry struggled to make sense of his thought process, the reminder that he had obviously been subjected to something horrible was a constant presence in his mind.

“It is about time you re-joined the living, Mr Potter.”

A familiar deadpanned voice reached Harry’s ears. He noted the hint of concern within the tone, something was that not normally present whenever the Potions Master spoke to him.

“P-Professor Snape?” Harry’s voice sounded rough, his throat parched. He allowed his head to fall to the side, spying the dark-haired male sitting gracefully in a chair at his bedside. The older man had his legs crossed elegantly, his usual black robes draped around him.

Okay so probably not a Quidditch accident then. There was no way Professor Snape would be the first person he’d see if he’d been hit with a bludger.

“I see you’ve retained your memory.”

Uncrossing his legs, Severus got to his feet, stepping closer to the bed and pulling out his wand. “I daresay you have questions about the attack on your relatives’ home, however I must request you wait until I have completed a diagnostic scan. You have been unconscious for six days.”

Harry could only stare at the fuzzy form of his teacher in bewilderment as Snape ran his wand up and down his body. The faint frown that was already tugging at the man’s brow deepened as he hesitated over Harry’s right arm, his wand beginning to vibrate in his hand. Harry followed his teacher’s gaze, noticing for the first time that his arm had been bandaged and was set in a sling.

Snape was muttering to himself now. Harry could only catch every other word.

“Stronger.” More ineligible murmurs. “Unstable.”

Harry swallowed as a frown appeared on his face. “Sir?” he managed.

Snape broke his train of thought and straightened. “Hold still, Mr Potter,” he said instead, “while I scan your cranium for underlying injury.”

Harry simply blinked tiredly in reply, barely able to register the fact that Snape stood over him let alone the instructions he ordered. Catching sight of the confusion on the young male’s face, the Potions Master allowed an eyebrow to rise in silent question as his scanned his wand over Harry’s head.

“I am sure you are perplexed by the lack of Madam Pomfrey’s presence?”

“It crossed my mind,” Harry admitted in a murmur. “But considering what’s happened… I’m learning to accept what is.”

The smallest of smirks quirked Severus’s lips.

“Madam Pomfrey, like many teachers, is away from the school for the duration of the holidays. I was the easiest person for the Headmaster to contact. You were moved here to the infirmary to only my, Professor Dumbledore, and Professor McGonagall’s knowledge.”

Dark images flashed across Harry’s vision.

“Professor Dumbledore was there, wasn’t he,” he stated. “At the Dursleys.”

Snape nodded.

“Probably the only reason why I’m still alive.” The brunet briefly closed his eyes, allowing a sigh to seep out of his body. “Is Professor Dumbledore here? Can I speak with him?”

“The Headmaster will return soon. He has gone to inform the Order on how you are progressing.”

“Do they know what happened, sir? Why is no one else here?” Harry inquired.

“No one has been allowed on school grounds for your safety, Mr Potter. The Dark Lord is hunting high and low for you at the moment and it would be far too easy for him to infiltrate should the school be open to visitors.”

“Does this mean I will remain here until school returns?” Harry asked.

Snape shook his head. “There is too much risk for you to remain here, especially with so few people to help protect you. The Headmaster will find a place of security for you to spend the remainder of the summer.”

Harry couldn’t help the frown as it pulled at his eyebrows. “But Hogwarts… I thought it was the safest place from Voldemort?”

At the mention of the Dark Lord’s name a muscle jumped in Snape’s jaw. The man took a moment to compose himself before speaking.

“During the semester, yes, this is correct,” the Potions Master replied, voice edged with a slight bitterness. “What makes Hogwarts so secure is the collective magical energy of the students. It feeds the wards, protecting the inhabitants. Hogwarts was, after all, built specifically for young witches and wizards; a place to learn without the danger of outside threats.”

Understanding dawned over Harry. “That’s why Professor Dumbledore does not allow students to remain over the summer holidays.”

Snape inclined his head. “Hogwarts will be the first place the Dark Lord will search for you—if he hasn’t attempted so already.”

Memories of the attack suddenly flooded Harry’s mind and he winced as his arm began to throb, reaching for it instinctively.

“What happened?” he asked, turning his gaze to the man standing beside him. “How was—” his voice faltered. “The wards…?”

Snape held the young man’s gaze for a moment. He clicked his fingers, a house elf immediately popping into the room.

“You be calling, Sibby, sir?” the elf asked with a bow.

“Fetch some broth, bread, and water,” Snape instructed. He turned back to Harry as Sibby disappeared. “You will need sustenance. Afterwards, I will answer any questions you have.”

Rather than argue with the man, which Harry knew would be an extremely futile attempt, he simply nodded, pleased when Snape rewarded him with the ghost of a smile.

“This is the most compliant I have ever seen you, Mr Potter.”

“Being the subject of an extreme attack has that effect on you, Professor.”

The older man snorted, lowering himself back into the chair he had once been sitting in. Again, he crossed his long legs, eyeing the young male carefully.

“How are you feeling?” he asked.

Harry could tell it was not out of concern—the questions was too matter-of-fact, standardly brisk.

“Weird,” Harry replied. “Tired… and my arm feels strange.”

“I daresay it must. It was a rather nasty curse you were hit with.” When the young man frowned curiously at him, Severus shook his head minutely. “Not yet,” he continued. “You will eat first.”

The usual rush of anger that Harry generally felt whenever he was ordered around by Snape was uncharacteristically lacking. He wasn’t sure if it was due to the gratitude since Snape had apparently been the one to care for him for the past week, or if Harry honestly couldn’t bring himself to feel any particularly intense emotions. Ever since he had woken, the brunet had been in a daze. The fact that it wasn’t entirely due to his exhaustion was becoming more and more apparent, however. Harry had been so close to dying that day it scared him. The only reason why Harry seemed to have survived was because Dumbledore just happened to get there in time to save him. What sort of Chosen One was he…?

“Sibby be bringing the sirs plenty of food!”

“Thank you,” Snape answered, dragging Harry’s attention back to him.

Harry watched his Professor summon a tray, levitating a bowl of soup, a plate of bread, and a glass of water onto the floating wooden receptacle. The professor allowed the tray to hover steadily over Harry’s lap, before the older man expertly flicked his wrist and Harry felt his body slide smoothly into a sitting position, pillows shoved behind his back and his food coming to rest on his legs.

“Er—thank you,” Harry murmured, feeling a hint of embarrassment tinge his cheeks. He was used to Pomfrey fussing over him in such a manner but Snape? This was almost too much. He stared down at the food with minimal excitement. Despite being asleep for six days, Harry was unable to find his appetite. All he wanted to know was how this had come to be, why he was at Hogwarts, what had happened to his arm, and how the fuck Voldemort had managed to infiltrate the wards surrounding the Dursleys’ home.

Feeling clumsy at he reached for the spoon with his left hand, Harry decided that staring at his food rather than eating it was not going to help his predicament. The silver utensil was cold, foreign against his skin as he manipulated it with his fingers, trying to find a comfortable position in his non-dominant hand that wouldn’t cause him to spill soup all over the sheets.

Voldemort couldn’t have hit my other arm…? Harry thought bitterly.

When the spoon proved to be too awkward, Harry opted for soaking pieces of bread in the broth and eating it that way instead; at least it was easier on his left hand than trying to work out how to hold a damn spoon.

The silence between him and the Potions Master was uncomfortable at best.

Harry could not remember a time he felt more discomforted. He would have preferred it if the Professor would make his usual snide comments, at least to maintain some form of normality between the two of them given the circumstances.

Harry snuck a glance to the side, perturbed to see Snape eating the broth Sibby had brought with an elegance Harry envied. The older man was not looking at Harry however. He had his dark eyes trained on the soup hovering on a tray before him as if he too, was just as uncomfortable with the situation as Harry was.

When Harry had eaten his full, he reclined back against the pillows with a silent sigh. His stomach swirled uncomfortably despite the small amount of food he had eaten—no doubt his stomach was rebelling against the sudden invasion after going so many days with nothing. He remained quiet as Snape continued to eat, taking small sips of his water to help soothe his churning stomach and allowing his gaze to wander around the familiar, although slightly blurry, sights of the hospital wing. It was odd, not seeing Madam Pomfrey bustling around in her usual manner. The lack of humming voices was also a strong reminder that Hogwarts was currently barren, everyone home for the holidays.

Suddenly, Harry’s mind drifted to thoughts of Ron and Hermione. Did they know? Had they been told what had happened? Surely if the Order knew then they would as well—

“Are you done with your meal, Mr Potter?”

Snape’s blurry face came into his line of vision once more and as Harry was nodding his reply, he found himself realising that he had yet to ask for his glasses. It was becoming a little hard to concentrate when all he could see were out-of-focus shapes.

“Professor, where are my glasses?”

The Potions Master cleared his throat. “Your spectacles were irreversibly damaged during the invasion, Mr Potter. Once you are well again I am sure the Headmaster will assist you in acquiring new ones.”

Oh. Fantastic.

Harry closed his eyes, already beginning to feel the start of a faint headache blossoming. The tray was removed from his lap, and he heard a gentle thunk as his glass of water landed on the bedside table on his left. He waited until Snape had stopped moving before opening his eyes once more, turning to look at the Professor who was seated, gazing at him steadily.

“There is a temporary spell I can perform which will allow you to see somewhat clearly if you are happy for me to perform it,” Snape said then. “It is the best I will be able to do for the mean time.”

“I’d like to try the spell,” Harry replied. “Please.”

Inclining his head, Snape reached into his robes and withdrew his wand. He pointed the tip directly between Harry’s eyes and murmured “Videre.”

At once, Professor Snape’s face came into focus, as did the hospital wing’s surroundings. There was a slight blur around each object but it was certainly a lot better than his vision had been previously.

“The spell will last for approximately two hours. Afterwards your eyes will need to rest for a while before I will be able to reapply the charm,” Severus explained, tucking his wand away once more. “Now, I believe I owe you an explanation.”

Harry found himself glancing down at his injured arm, his first question already burning on his tongue. “What was the curse that hit me… sir?” He figured that if he continued to remain polite, Snape would be more inclined to answer his questions.

“The curse was intended to make your magic uncontrollable,” the older man explained, “in order to defeat you in an easier manner. I am sure you remember what happens whenever you and the Dark Lord cross wands.”

Harry nodded.

“I believe the Dark Lord had intentions in making your death… a public spectacle.”

Before his eyes, Snape watched at Potter’s skin paled dramatically, jaw clenching tightly at the bluntness of his response. The boy had already been pale from the incident. Now he looked positively grey.

“Thankfully,” Severus continued, unsure at the feelings swirling in his chest at the sight of the boy appearing so vulnerable, “he did not succeed in his attempt.”

“So far,” Harry muttered, frowning down at the crisp white bedspread covering his legs. “Why hit my arm?”

“The Dark Lord’s initial target would have been your chest; the core of your magic. Unfortunately still, the curse has hit your wand arm. While it is advantageous that it is simply your arm that requires healing, your magic will remain somewhat unstable until you are able to regain some form of control.”

Some form of control… that doesn’t sound promising…

“Is the damage e-extensive?” Harry found himself asking. His throat was beginning to feel tight.

“It is hard to say,” Snape replied. “I have been unable to do more aside from scanning it each day. It would seem however, that the cursed magic has delved deeply within the tissues of your arm. It does not look promising.”

Harry felt sick. “Meaning I may not be able to perform spells properly.”

“Presumably.”

Fuck.

God, the silence was deafening. Harry didn’t know what to do. If it had been anyone other than Snape he could have cried, screamed, yelled, anything

“I realise this may be hard to hear—”

Do you though?” Harry suddenly snapped. Ah, here it was, the usual anger he had been expecting ever since he woke. “Having been hunted all of your life for something you never had control over? Being attacked in your own fucking home and almost being killed? Being told that I may not be able to use my magic ever again? Yeah, I bet you get told that on a daily basis!”

The familiar sneer had once more appeared on the Potions Master’s face, disdain shining clearly in his black eyes. “Potter, if you would stop acting like a child for a mere moment—”

Please don’t.”

Breathing harshly, Harry clenched his eyes shut tight, willing himself not to breakdown. “Look, I’m sorry for snapping at you, especially since you’ve apparently been taking care of me for the past week but I—I just can’t—” His voice broke and he pressed his left hand to his eyes, swallowing convulsively. He would not cry in front of Snape!

“Mr Potter—”

Oh god, what if he could never do magic again…?

“Potter!”

Who would stop Voldemort?!

“POTTER!”

Harry jerked, turning wild eyes towards the source of his name. Severus Snape was standing beside the bed, staring down at him in astonishment. It took Harry a moment to realise the bed and the bedside table were both vibrating intensely, the glass of water that had once been standing on the table top was now missing, shattered on the floor.

“You need to remain calm,” Snape murmured. “Your magic is unstable. That does not mean it is non-existent.”

A deep, burning ache had begun to travel up Harry’s injured arm. He reached for it instinctively with his left hand, flinching at the sudden flare of pain he felt as his fingers brushed across the bandages lining his limb. He withdrew his hand, staring down at the sling in anguish as his injury hummed. He didn’t realise what Professor Snape was doing until his wand was hovering an inch above his arm, scanning from the tips of Harry’s fingers to the top of his shoulder.

The deepening frown on Snape’s face did nothing to stem Harry’s worry.

“The Headmaster will need to be informed.”

Harry had no idea as to whether the Professor was speaking to him or murmuring to himself.

“I will take my leave now, Mr Potter, try to rest.”

A suddenly jolt of alarm swept through Harry as Snape stepped away from the bed. “No, wait, please,” he begged. “I want to ask you one more thing.”

Snape’s nostrils flared briefly but he nodded jerkily.

Swallowing, Harry stared at the man standing beside him. “Do you—do you know how Voldemort managed to get inside the blood wards?” he asked. “Sir?” he added, quickly.

Aside from the standard muscle jump in his jaw at the mention of the Dark Lord, Snape’s face gave nothing else away. After a moment, the older man shook his head minutely.

“I do not,” he replied, holding Harry’s gaze unwaveringly. “The Dark Lord said nothing of his plan of getting inside.”

Harry felt his heart sink.

“That is enough for today. Rest now, I will return soon.”

Before Harry had time to register what Professor Snape had said, the older man was already turning on his heel in a swish of dark robes, striding across the floor of the hospital wing.

Chapter Text

“The boy’s magic is entirely unstable, Headmaster, he is a danger to himself and to others.”

Snape watched as Dumbledore rose a wrinkled hand to his beard, stroking it thoughtfully as they stared at one another. The Headmaster’s office was dim, the only light provided was the fire flickering merrily in the hearth and various candles floating lazily above their heads. Dumbledore had returned from the Order meeting not long after Snape had lowered himself into a chair to wait, his thoughts a melodic swirl in his mind as he recalled the way Potter’s magic had fluctuated.

“Unexpectedly unstable or emotionally?” Dumbledore asked then, one of his silver eyebrows quirking slightly.

“Emotionally,” Severus replied. “So far. The boy has not been awake long enough for me to make a solid judgement. At the present time, his magic has only flared dangerously whilst the boy has been upset.” He held Dumbledore’s gaze. “Headmaster… there may be a chance the boy will never be able to perform controlled magic.”

Long fingers continued to stroke through silver hair. “I cannot imagine Harry taking this news well.”

Severus felt his top lip curl slightly. “Mr Potter has already demonstrated his childish feelings to the situation.”

“My dear boy, Harry has been through an extreme traumatic experience; how might one expect him to react? I do believe Harry is well within his rights to be upset by the situation.”

“Be that as it may, Headmaster—”

“Come now, Severus, it is perfectly alright to be empathetic towards the boy.”

Snape’s throat convulsed as his swallowed back his retort, teeth clenched. He knew Dumbledore thoroughly enjoyed riling him up when it came to his feelings for the Potter-brat.

“In any case,” Severus continued after a moment, “Mr Potter will require monitoring and assistance until his injury can be rectified. Hiding him in a safe location may be difficult.”

Dumbledore’s usually twinkling eyes became unexpectedly grave. “Is Voldemort currently aware of Harry’s location?”

“The Dark Lord has his suspicions,” Severus replied, “he has yet to test them.”

The Headmaster gazed steadily at his desk top, a frown crinkling his brow as his fingers continued to stroke his beard. The silver hairs glinted in the firelight, sparkling like tiny stars.

“The boy cannot remain here, Headmaster.”

“No, no of course not,” Dumbledore agreed. “To find a safe location for Harry will be difficult however. There are few people I would trust in order to keep him safe, and fewer places that are secure.”

There was a moment of silence as Snape watched Dumbledore in quiet thought. He himself had no answers to give—the Headmaster would certainly know of a secure location in which the boy could be kept. No doubt Dumbledore would choose someone like Shacklebolt to protect him. The man was an experienced Auror, one of the few Severus surreptitiously respected. The only concern would be Potter’s injury. No one, aside from himself and Poppy, were medically trained enough to be able to care for it appropriately—

“I believe Harry would be best to stay with you over the summer, Severus.”

Snape jerked. It was with sheer force of will that the Potions Master contained his shock as he stared at the Headmaster. A small smile was on the older wizard’s face as he observed him.

“I beg your pardon, Headmaster?” Snape began carefully.

Dumbledore’s smile widened. “You heard me, Severus,” he replied brightly.

The dark-haired male cleared his throat. “I can’t imagine Mr Potter being… agreeable to this situation,” he began carefully. “The boy and I do not see eye to eye.”

“As I am well aware.” Dumbledore quirked an eyebrow. “Perhaps you can both use this summer to overcome any past animosities between the two of you.”

“Past animosities is putting it lightly,” Snape muttered, clenching his jaw in annoyance. “Headmaster, I respectfully disagr—”

“Severus, you know I would not suggest something if there was not a good reason for me to do so,” Dumbledore interrupted. “And it is certainly high time for the two of you to let bygones be bygones. Harry will be seventeen in two weeks and therefore of age. He is no longer a boy and will require guidance, something, I believe, you would be the best at providing.”

Me?” the dark-haired man stared at the Headmaster in open disbelief. “But Minerva—”

“Would have been an excellent choice as well.” But Dumbledore was shaking his head, stubborn blue eyes focused fixatedly on Snape’s face. “I have chosen you, Severus. He will be safe in your care.”

“Safe? You cannot possibly—”

“You are secure within Voldemort’s inner circle, no? Would it not be prudent for you to be completely aware of the situation on both fronts? Aside from that, Severus, this would give you the ample time to continue teaching Harry Occlumency. Merlin knows he may need it now.”

Snape knew he would not win this battle, regardless of the very reasonable arguments he could make. The Headmaster sat, smiling serenely, a knowing glint shining in his eyes at Severus’s discomfort. There was nothing Snape could say that would change Dumbledore’s decision.

“…as you wish, Headmaster.”

His words were barely mumbled, Snape hating every syllable that fell past his lips.

Him and the Potter-brat. Alone. Together. For six weeks.

“Excellent.” Dumbledore clapped his hands together jubilantly. “Now, if Harry is well enough, I would like to speak with him. Fetch him won’t you, Severus? I would walk down and see himself myself but I am expecting an urgent fire-call and minute now.”

Snape rose from his chair slowly. With a stiff nod, the dark-haired male left the office, lips pressed tightly together and onyx eyes glinting angrily.


 

The stone floor was cool on Harry’s feet as he gingerly lowered himself to the ground from his bed. He felt shaky, and was beginning to consider waiting for Snape to return, when the nudge from his bladder reminded him why he was attempting to go to the bathroom by himself in the first place. Carefully, keeping his left arm as a brace on the bed, Harry pushed up off the mattress, spreading his weight tentatively between his legs.

So far so good… Harry thought morosely.

He took each step carefully, his legs feeling like jelly, but the promise of the bathroom drove him on. Even if he managed to make it to the toilet and nothing else it would satisfy him. Honestly, what was the better option? Actually asking Snape for assistance?

Harry shuddered at the thought.

“Hell no,” he muttered.

As he neared the door to the bathroom, he was pleased to realise that his body was beginning to acclimatise to the movements. Each step became surer, his body no longer wracked with strained tremors. With a silent cheer, Harry reached his destination, pushing open the door with a satisfied huff. It took him a little longer to relieve himself than normal; his left hand was clumsy with movements, and with his injured arm dangling in such an awkward position, Harry found it difficult to move around the limb without bumping it.

This is going to make the healing-process interesting…

Once he had relieved himself and haphazardly washed his hand, Harry found himself staring blankly in the mirror for a moment, his eyes tracking over his reflexion. The vision spell Snape had used was still working for the meantime, so Harry was able to stare at his face unhindered. What he saw didn’t exactly excite him.

His skin was pale and he had faint red blotches on his cheeks. Dark circles were heavy under each dull green eye, his hair was lank and in good need for a wash. Before he could stop himself, the fingers on his right hand suddenly twitched, as if he was about to run them through his hair, and the same deep burning pain instantly spread up his arm, causing him to sway. Quickly, he latched onto the sink with his good hand, clutching at it desperately until the pain began to subside to a less intense hum.

God… I can barely move my fingers without it causing me agony… how the fuck am I meant to take on Voldemort in this state…?

Harry leant against the wall of the bathroom with a soft groan. The familiar despondent ache that had settled in his chest not long after he had woken had returned, filling him with an emptiness that seemed to suck him in.

This is stupid… Bitter thoughts began to swirl around in Harry’s mind. I’m a bloody wreck. My magic has gone to shit… my wand arm has been practically destroyed… I’m absolutely useless… and all for what?

“I’m a fucking sixteen-year-old boy with an archenemy,” Harry spat aloud, glaring down at his sling, “because of some ridiculous prophesy. It wasn’t bad enough that I grew up with demons for relations.”

Harry pushed up off the wall, beginning his way back to his bed. God… he felt so drained. He had been fighting battles all of his life and had very little to show for it. Oh, yes, that’s right, he had a psychopath after his blood and a severely damaged arm that most likely meant he’d never be able to cast spells again.

How could he have forgotten?

I’m not even technically an adult yet and this is how my life—

What are you doing out of bed.”

Snape’s bitter voice shook Harry from his downward spiral. He looked up, only slightly surprised to see the Professor’s face twisted in resentment; a familiar scowl that Harry had grown accustomed to over the years.

“Bathroom,” Harry replied. It took every effort to keep the sarcastic disdain from his tone. Honestly, where else would he have gone?

“You should have waited until I returned,” Snape pressed, glaring irritably. “We have no idea what the ramifications of your injury could entail.”

“You didn’t exactly give me a return time, Professor,” Harry muttered, making his way back to his bed carefully. I would give my entire right arm for Madam Pomfrey right now…

“You’ll be mindful to watch your attitude, Potter. Need I remind you who it was who has looked after you this past week.”

I never asked you to… a voice in Harry’s head hissed. Instead, he kept his mouth shut, eyes stubbornly focused on the crisp white sheets as he finished crossing the distance between him and his bed.

“Seeing as you are mobile, Potter, the Headmaster has requested to see you.”

Harry’s head snapped up. “Professor Dumbledore’s here?”

A dark eyebrow quirked on Snape’s brow. “Would that not explain the summons, Potter?”

Harry wondered what it was that had made Snape so petulant all of a sudden. Granted, this was how the two of them normally acted towards one another, but the professor had been somewhat civil when Harry had woken. He actually was beginning to miss their awkward impromptu lunch-date.

“Professor Dumbledore is waiting in his office.”

Snape gestured towards the Hospital Wing doors and Harry took the hint, falling into step behind his teacher as he followed him through the castle.

It felt so surreal walking the familiar path to Dumbledore’s office with the absence of distant student noise. The castle stood eerily silent, their footsteps the only sound to disturb the quiet. Harry half expected for classroom doors to open, students spilling into the corridor on their way to lunch. Even the ghosts were strangely absent. Did they have specific places within the castle they preferred to haunt when not floating around talking to students? And did Filch stay at here over the holidays or did he and Mrs Norris have their own home to retire to?

Harry blinked, frowning in bemusement as his thought process.

Look what happens when you don’t have friends to distract you… he thought in mild amusement.

His footsteps faltered slightly. He’d give anything to see his friends right now. Hermione’s determination to figure out his injury and how to heal it would have reassured him, and Ron’s constant banter and idealistic positivity would have distracted him from depressive thoughts, ones he was having more and more with each passing hour.

Instead here he was, walking through an empty Hogwarts castle with the one person, aside from Voldemort, who detested him. He couldn’t exactly ask Snape for a hug when he was feeling upset.

Fudge Fly.”

If Harry was in a better mood, he would have laughed aloud at the sour way Snape uttered the password. As it was, he had to stifle a snort, biting his lip as he followed the professor past the gargoyle and up the rotating staircase. The door to Dumbledore’s office swung open at their approach, the familiar whirring and spinning colours of the Headmaster’s unusual apparatuses greeting them from their places on the walls. Behind the large dark wooded desk sat Dumbledore himself, smiling gently as he gestured to the chairs on the other side of his desk.

“Ah, Harry! It’s so wonderful to see you up and about, my boy.” Dumbledore was practically beaming behind his beard, blue eyes twinkling madly.

“Er—thank you, sir,” Harry replied, taking a seat.

“How are you feeling?”

“Alright, given the circumstances.”

The Headmaster chuckled indulgently. “I can imagine, dear boy. Now, I’m sure you have many questions about the attack on your relatives’ home. Unfortunately, many of the answers you seek we may not have the answers to. Is there anything in particular that is troubling you?”

Harry stared at the Professor, his brow creasing. “I was wondering if you knew how Voldemort managed to get inside the blood wards, sir?”

Snape observed Potter with a frown. The boy had asked him the very same question of course but that was not what bothered the professor. Out of the few questions Potter had asked, the wellbeing of his relatives had not been one of them.

The selfish child is so self-centred he does not even care for his own family… Snape thought in disgust.

Dumbledore’s face fell. “Alas, Harry, I am sorry to say we are not sure. However Voldemort managed it, he has guarded the secret well. We can only speculate that it involved some form of very dark and powerful magic.”

Harry felt himself nodding at the reply, his mind already filling with vague memories of that day. “What… happened exactly?” he found himself asking. “I don’t remember much.”

The old wizard leant back in his chair, his eyes trained on the dark-haired boy who was gazing at him in confusion. He released a gentle sigh.

“As you are aware, the Order regularly has people posted near your home for security. On that particular day, I believe it was Remus who was on watch.”

Harry’s eyes boggled. “Is he alright? Was he caught in the explosion?”

Snape’s frown darkened. He cares enough for the werewolf then…

“Remus is fine, Harry,” Dumbledore reassured. “He was the one to alert us, of course. As quick as we were to respond however, damage had already been done to your relatives’ home and Death Eaters were already inside the broken blood wards. Thankfully, you were able to hold your ground long enough for me to arrive—disheartened as I am to know I was just that little bit too late to prevent the curse from hitting you.”

Harry remained quiet for a moment, his eyes on the floor. “And… the Dursleys?” he murmured.

“Shaken but alright, thankfully.”

Harry said nothing. Snape felt an odd, uncomfortable twinge as he observed the boy’s reaction. His concern for the werewolf had been genuine, which was, although not entirely odd, but considering only knowing the man for a few years was certainly perplexing. Paired with his subdued reaction to his relatives, people—family no less—the entire situation did not sit well with the professor.

“So—er, what now?” Harry asked then, meeting the Headmaster’s gaze once more.

Dumbledore smiled benignly. “It has been decided that for the rest of the summer, you will reside with Professor Snape.”

Severus turned a quick glance to the boy sitting in the chair before the Headmaster. He expected Potter’s usual outrage, the defiant glare that reminded Severus regularly of the boy’s immaturity. He was surprised when Potter’s face held only a confused frown, his eyes on the Headmaster who regarded the young man with a gentle smile.

“I don’t… understand, Professor,” Harry finally admitted, glancing briefly at Snape.

“What about, my boy?”

“Well—er—Professor Snape and I don’t…” he trailed off, cheeks reddening slightly. “We don’t usually get on very well.”

Dumbledore chuckled. “I believe Severus said the same thing,” he replied, sending an amused smile in Snape’s direction. “I, however, am certain that this would be a wonderful chance for the two of you to get reacquainted on a more… positive level.”

Harry wasn’t sure to say in response to that. Instead he sat, his mind blank at the prospect of him and Snape living together for the remainder of the summer.

Guess that explains his foul mood earlier… he thought wryly.

“Now, the question of your lodgings arises.”

The brunet blinked, looked back at the Headmaster once more. Dumbledore had turned his attention to Severus, raising his bushy white eyebrows in a silent question. The Potions Master looked positively disgruntled, his long arms folded in a sulky manner.

“We will be secure in Prince Manor,” he bit out. “The wards are strong and very few are aware of its existence. Those who do are familiar with my… distaste for the abode.”

“Very well,” Dumbledore replied with a nod. “Harry, I will have someone from the Order stop by and retrieve your belongings. Will you be alright without them until sometime tonight or tomorrow?”

Harry nodded jerkily. His trunk and anything magic related was locked securely away in the cupboard beneath the stairs. What on earth was the person going to think when they went to collect it?

“What is the most secure way for Harry to get to Prince Manor, Severus?”

“Floo travel will be best,” the other man replied. “Potter will need to remain here for a moment until I can reset the wards to allow him entrance.” Snape stood. “It will take me five minutes to do so,” he concluded as he walked towards the fireplace. He reached for some floo power and tossed it into the hearth, green flames bursting into life. Without waiting a beat, Snape stepped into the flickering fire, yelled “Prince Manor!” and disappeared, leaving Harry to stare after him, a mixture of bewilderment and aching loneliness swirling in his chest.


 

Harry expected to stumble out of the fireplace as he usually did. What he didn’t expect, was the sudden strong grip on his upper arm, steadying him as he regained his balance.

“Th-Thank you,” he managed to cough out.

Snape released his arm without a word, instead turning to look around them. “Welcome to Prince Manor, Potter,” he said, deadpanned. “Do not be surprised if certain aspects of this abode are unfriendly, no one has lived here in years.”

“You don’t live here normally?” Harry asked, surprised.

“No,” the Potions Master replied briskly. “I see no need to live in such a large premises with myself being the sole occupant. For the purpose of protecting you from the Dark Lord however, this manor will have to do.”

Harry glanced at his Professor, sensing something amiss in the older man’s voice. Silently, he followed Snape across the large foyer, heading across the deep plush red coloured carpet to the grand sweeping staircase. The manor was rather elegant, all dark and warm tones. Harry had expected something a little more cliché; green and silver and plenty of snakes had been his first thought.

Deep red plush carpet lined the wooden staircase they ascended, the stairs so wide and so beautifully carved that they put even Hogwarts’ grand staircase to shame. The red carpet split into two as they climbed higher up the stairs, dividing into separate wings of the manor.

I wonder how many rooms this place has… Harry pondered, his eyes constantly tracking over the windows and portraits that lined the walls. He noticed absently that each picture seemed to avoid looking at them as they passed by. Many figures were whispering, ducking into neighbouring paintings and averting their gazes. Snape did not give any sign of noticing. He strode purposefully down the corridor, dark eyes focused straight ahead and posture rigid.

“While you are here, you may not send any mail of any kind lest it be traced back to you. The Headmaster would have informed everyone of your wellbeing so there should be no need for you to send anything. Your belongings will most likely be returned to you sometime this evening.” He spoke bluntly, almost tonelessly.

Without warning, Snape paused outside a pair of dark mahogany doors and turned towards them.

“Your room,” he stated at the wood.

Harry was quiet for a moment, eyes on the doors.

“I’m sorry,” he blurted suddenly, jaw clenching.

Snape frowned, turning to gaze down at the male beside him. “Whatever for, Potter?”

Harry exhaled and ran his left hand through his hair. “For this,” he replied simply. “I can’t imagine you’re very impressed with me being here right now.”

Snape regarded the young man carefully. Potter was acting nowhere near his usual self and it was quite disconcerting. He couldn’t help the small wave of concern that washed through him. Regardless of their past, Potter had been through an extreme ordeal no one person should go through. Ever.

“Potter.” The older man suddenly sighed, as if a weight he had been carrying for too long seemed to grow even heavier. “I can’t express my pleasure at this arrangement, however… it is not your fault. Your apology is unnecessary.”

Harry could only nod minutely in response. A movement caught his eye as Snape stretched out an arm to open the left-sided door, pushing it open and gesturing Potter to enter. His teacher followed him inside, snapping his fingers as he did so and Harry came to an abrupt halt as a small, smartly dressed House Elf appeared before them, bowing deeply.

“This is Tokey. Call her whenever you require her services.”

Harry stared at the elf for a moment before he jerked his head in another nod.

“Unless you have further questions, I will leave you to become accustomed to your living quarters,” Snape continued. “I will be in the potions lab should you… require me.” Then, without further hesitation, the tall dark-haired man left, sweeping from the room and leaving Harry with the manor’s house elf, who blinked her large yellow eyes at him wonderment.

“Shall Tokey be fetching some food for Master’s guest?” she squeaked.

Feeling queasy, Harry shook his head. “No,” he murmured. “Thank you.”

“Please be calling Tokey if young sir wants food! Tokey be fetching it right away!”

Harry nodded and watched as the small elf disappeared with a crack, leaving him suddenly alone. Turning slowly, Harry allowed his eyes to drift over the large and overly extravagant bedroom he had been given. It was massive—bigger than the entire top floor of the Dursleys’ home.

Good lord.

He felt strangely detached as he crossed the floor. His eyes were focused on the huge bed, the deep blue satin duvet shimmering in the gentle rays of afternoon sunlight that filtered in through the floor-to-ceiling windows. A wearily sigh fell from his lips as he lowered himself onto the mattress.

This was going to be a long summer vacation.

Chapter Text

As the clock in the informal dining room gonged nine in the morning, Severus allowed one of his dark eyebrows to quirk upwards in disdain. Potter had yet to awaken and join him for breakfast. He should have expected this from a teenager, however.

“Is the boy awake yet, Tokey?” Snape asked, unimpressed, but not surprised, at Potter’s laziness.

“Yes, Master,” Tokey replied.

Snape frowned. “He is?”

“Master’s guest is being awake since very early,” Tokey continued, pouring a fresh cup of tea into Severus’s mug. “Tokey be asking the young sir if he wanted anything and the young sir asked if he could help with preparing breakfast! Tokey was upset—isn’t Tokey good enough, Master?”

Snape’s brow crinkled as a frown tugged at his eyebrows. “Your services are incomparable, Tokey,” he reassured. “I am sure Potter did not mean to offend you.”

“Should Tokey be fetching the young sir now, Master?”

Severus shook his head as he reached for his tea. “I will go upstairs and see to him myself, Tokey. I will need to inform him of my plans for today. If he requires food I am sure he will tell you.” He pressed pursed lips to the edge of his mug, sipping the hot liquid delicately. He was in no rush to walk upstairs and check on the boy, Potter was certainly capable enough to care for himself without Severus’s assistance. And until a time came when Potter was indeed in mortal peril, the wards Severus had placed around the room would alert him to such danger.

As long as the boy and I continue to have minimal contact with one another we may survive this summer…


 

Snape paused outside Potter’s bedroom door. Drawing in a deep breath, he knocked briskly before he entered without a further word, coming to an immediate halt. His eyes widening slightly as he observed Potter attempting to remake his bed, the boy so focused on his task he had yet to notice the Professor’s presence.

Snape cleared his throat. “Mr Potter.”

Harry jerked in surprise, dropping the sheet he was in the process of smoothing out.

“What in Merlin’s name are you doing.”

Harry glanced downwards. “Making my bed?” he replied.

“Would it not be prudent for Tokey to complete that for you? Particularly since you are currently incapacitated?”

The dark-haired young man lifted his left hand to the back of his neck, rubbing it awkwardly as he shrugged. “I’m just used to it,” was all he muttered.

A sixteen-year-old? Used to making his bed?

“Be that as it may, while you are here and do not possess a capable right arm, I would suggest leaving Tokey to attend to tasks such as that, is that clear?” Snape instructed sternly.

The boy’s jaw visibly clenched but Snape was satisfied when he nodded his answer.

“Good. Now, I will be leaving momentarily to fetch certain items from my usual abode. I will not be long. You are not to leave the manor whilst I am gone, understood?”

“Yes.”

Snape did not bother correcting Potter on his lack of manners. Instead he turned, eyes on the doorway.

“I—um, Professor?”

The tall male paused. “What is it, Potter?”

“Could you… perform the visibility spell again? Please?”

Mild surprise filled Snape as he turned back around. Potter looked remarkably uncomfortable at asking for help for something so simple. Snape couldn’t help but smirk.

“Very well,” he replied, brandishing his wand.

With a lazy swipe and a murmur, Harry’s gaze became clear once more, the room coming into focus. Snape was staring at him with an eyebrow quirked, his long fingers expertly sliding his wand back up his sleeve.

“Thank you,” Harry murmured, gaze falling away.

Snape watched Potter for a little while longer. He knew he would not be able to continue doing the vision spell for the boy—sooner or later, Potter would require new glasses.

“We will see to providing you with spectacles sometime this afternoon,” he decided. “It should be safe to take you to St Mungo’s—as long as we are both properly disguised.”

The boy stared at him briefly in astonishment.

“I cannot, after all, continue to perform the vision spell whenever you require it.” With a brisk nod, Snape turned on his heel. “Remember, do not leave the manor.”

His robes swished. The door slammed shut. And Harry was left alone, staring dazedly at the dark wood.

Now what… the voice in his head murmured.

The brunet glanced around, unsure where to even begin. He had already spent a small amount of time organising his trunk which had arrived the previous evening. What little quantity of clothing he had was now put away, his textbooks now shelved neatly on the large bookcase by the dark-wood desk. Normally, Harry would not have given a flying fuck about where his clothes went nor where his school things would have been placed, but spending hours alone in a foreign room with nothing else to do had spurred him on… even if it was purely to distract himself.

Now his trunk was empty and his wand lay untouched and unused on his bedside table.

Taunting him.

Ugh.” Harry turned away. Stupid wand… stupid arm…

An unpleasant tingle had swept up his left arm when he had lifted his wand out of the trunk—almost as if the blasted stick of wood knew it was being held in the wrong limb. Harry hadn’t even bothered trying to hold it in his right hand, god knows what might have happened.

With a huff, Harry sat down on the edge of the mattress, staring into space. If he had been back with his relatives, he’d be working his arse off doing the never-ending chores they always flung at him. His cousin would be constantly demanding food, his aunt cringing at the very sight of him as he moved from room to room. Days were always better though—most of the physical punishment began as soon as his uncle returned from work.

Most.

Harry exhaled. He really should have a shower or something… it didn’t appear that he had bathed since the last morning at the Dursleys. He looked down at his arm, a frown appearing on his forehead. But how was he going to shower with his arm all bandaged and in a sling? Would it be worth the material getting soaked?

Harry bit his lip, wondering if he should wait until Snape returned. Almost immediately, a wave of reluctance coursed through him—there was no way he was going to ask Snape for help with cleaning himself. No way in hell.

“Erm… Tokey?” he called hesitantly, not sure if the summons would work.

There was an immediately crack, the small elf appearing at the end of the bed from where Harry sat. She bowed low, her squeaky voice filling the room.

“Young sir is calling Tokey? How can Tokey be of assistance?”

“Er… I was wondering if you had any ideas on how I might have a shower or something. Because of my arm…” Harry gestured to the sling awkwardly, feeling absurd. “I’m not sure if I’m allowed to get it wet.”

Tokey’s head tilted to the side as she stared at the injured arm. “Should Tokey attempt a water-repelling charm, young sir?” she suggested.

“Uh, I suppose? I mean, we can only try.”

“Yes, yes!” Tokey beamed. “Tokey is happy to try whatever young sir wants! Come! Tokey will run a bath for young sir.”

Tokey hurried quickly across the lush carpet floor, heading to a door at the other end of the room. It swung open as she approached, light spilling through the doorway as hundreds of candles flared into life. Harry stared bemusedly after her for a moment before getting to his feet and following. His jaw dropped slightly as he entered the ensuite—it was ridiculously lavish; Harry had never seen a bathroom so extravagant. The room was the size of a living room at least, and tiled in glossy black marble. Alcoves lined the walls with towel racks, sinks, and fancy looking benches. There was a pool-like tub inset into the ground, similar to the one in the Prefects’ bathroom at Hogwarts, however there were no taps lining the edge that Harry could see. Around the edge of the bath was a risen lip of marble, with various rectangle holes hiding various sponges and soaps. As he stepped closer, Harry could see cut out shapes that resembled seats situated at various depths within the tub.

Apparently tone-it-down wasn’t an option for this house… he thought wryly.

“What scent does young sir prefer?” Tokey squeaked then.

“Oh—I don’t—I’m not sure?” Harry replied. “Why don’t you choose something for me.”

The elf beamed. “Tokey be choosing something very nice for young sir!” She clapped her hands briskly, and jets of water exploded out of carved holes in the sides of the large rectangle crevasse. Instantly, a soothing aroma encircled Harry. It was gentle, a mixture of lavender and honeysuckle, and it enveloped him in a deliciously warm cacoon of comfort. The tub did not take long to fill, and Harry suspected a magical helping-hand in that regard. With the extravagance that this manor exuded, Harry couldn’t believe Snape didn’t live here full time.

“Tokey will be casting the spell for young sir now!”

Harry looked down. The elf was waiting patiently at his side, her big yellow eyes gleaming.

“Alright, let’s give it a go,” Harry replied.

“Does young sir wish to remove the sling for the duration his bath?”

The dark-haired young man looked down at his arm, frowning thoughtfully. It would make taking off his clothes a lot easier.

“Or perhaps Tokey can be undoing all the bandages so young sir gets proper clean?”

“Um,” was all Harry said in response.

“Tokey knows how to be bandaging young sir’s arm again!”

Snape really hadn’t given him a proper ‘how-to-care-for-one’s-injury’ lecture—how was Harry to know if it was safe to remove the current bandages he had on? Knowing his luck, they were probably some kind of special bandages… like, magical or something.

“Er—maybe not the bandages,” Harry finally decided. “I think I should wait until I can ask Professor Snape.”

Tokey nodded her head wisely. “Yes, Tokey be thinking that be a good idea. Tokey will only remove young sir’s sling and then Tokey will cast the water-repelling charm.”

With a click of her fingers, Harry felt the knot slip loose, the material of his sling falling away. He carefully lowered his injured arm, wincing slightly as the burning sensation returned. Slowly, he stretched his right arm downwards as much as he could before the pain became too much, and he returned the limb to be cradled against his chest, loosely held in his left arm.

Looks like I’ll be using the sling for a while then…

“Is young sir ready for me to perform the spell?”

Drawing in a calming breath, Harry nodded. With gentle grace, the spell fell over the bandages, from the tips of his fingers to the top of his shoulder, glowing a soft blue. It was a relief when the charm did not appear to antagonise his injury as Harry had been somewhat expecting.

“Tokey will leave young sir to undress now,” Tokey squeaked, looking positively thrilled to have helped Harry in some way.

“Er—thank you, Tokey,” Harry replied.

With a crack, Tokey disappeared, leaving only the faint rustling of bubbles as they floated lazily across the water’s surface.

Harry took his time undressing. He knew it wouldn’t be practical to cause further distress to his arm as he removed his clothing, and it wasn’t as if he had a place he needed to be. His shirt was the more difficult article to remove, and once that had been tossed to the floor, he stepped from his pants and under garments easily, heading straight for the edge of the very inviting bath. He walked along until he came to a spot where he remembered seeing one of the higher carved steps and, with an exuberant sigh, sank into the sudsy warm water gratefully. Every negative emotion seemed to seep out of him as he lowered himself into the depths; the water felt so wonderful on his skin, as if calming charms were weaved throughout the heated liquid. He sank down until the water came up to his collar bones and allowed his head to fall back, resting against the edge of the bath, and closing his eyes gratefully.

“There be self-cleaning soaps in the water, young sir!” Tokey squeaked unexpectedly.

Harry jumped, sending water sloshing over the rim. Tokey blinked innocently at his side, head quirked slightly, and not at all perturbed at Harry’s state of nakedness.

“In case young sir finds it being hard to wash with his sore arm,” she continued, “the soaps clean for you!”

“Th-Thank you, Tokey.” Harry coughed awkwardly, feeling his cheeks grow hot.

“Would young sir be liking anything to eat? Tokey can prepare food whilst you bathe!”

The prospect of food did not sit well with Harry’s stomach. He shook his head.

“No, it’s alright thank you, Tokey.”

The Elf’s face fell.

“Er—but maybe a drink would be good?” Harry continued, feeling bad. “My stomach is feeling a little off at the moment.”

“Tokey will fetch tea!!” she announced excitedly. “Tea is being good for upset stomachs!” She disappeared instantly, allowing Harry to relax in momentary privacy.

At least this isn’t so bad… he thought.

The lack of angry voices that usually yelled at him from the other side of the bathroom door was a refreshing change. Of course, they had been replaced by an incessantly eager house elf… but still…

Water dripped from his tanned skin as Harry lifted his left arm, wiping his damp hand over his face as he laid his head back once more against the edge of the tub, allowing his eyes to take in his surroundings. The superior quality of the bathroom was so foreign to Harry it made him feel like an interloper. The entire manor was so unreal, so artificial… it made it all the clearer that Harry did not belong. He shouldn’t even be here. Not with Snape—not with anyone. He should still be at Private Drive, avoiding his relatives and just waiting out each day before he could go to the Weasleys where he was actually wanted.

Where people actually cared for him.

Snape doesn’t fucking care… Harry sunk a little lower in the water. He’s just doing what Dumbledore asked…

The hollowed echo that had settled in his chest after waking in the Hospital Wing was a growing ache; a brewing storm cloud. It was easy for Harry to recognise, it was the same one he had felt for months after Sirius fell through the veil.

And yet… Harry was too tired to be concerned.

Closing his eyes, he drew in a deep, steam filled breath, and allowed the water to attempt to soothe his exhaustion.


 

There were several thuds as Severus lowered three large terrariums onto wooden benches. Each terrarium held a different coloured snake, and it was with gentle gestures of his wand that the Potions Master slid each of them into position carefully. Although many would assume that he would regularly use their venom in various potions and nothing more, Severus was rather fond of his scaled serpents. He considered them the only company he ever needed, especially since they could not speak back.

“Welcome home, Master!”

Snape supressed the automatic shudder that ran down his spine.

This will never be my home… he thought bitterly.

“Thank you, Tokey,” he replied instead. “I assume nothing disastrous occurred whilst I was absent?”

Tokey shook her head, ears flapping. “Master’s guest is being very well behaved. He had a bath and some tea.”

Snape paused. “Has he eaten?”

The elf shook her head again, albeit sadly, and her big yellow eyes shone with unshed tears. “No, Master,” she whimpered. “Tokey is being very sorry. Tokey should have provided food anyways. Master’s guest be saying he wasn’t hungry.”

“Foolish boy,” Severus uttered, pulling out shrunken racks of vials from his pocket. “How on earth is he supposed to improve if he does not eat.” He set the racks down on a bare section of bench and returned them to their regular size. “Inform the boy that if he does not eat right now we will not be fetching his glasses.”

Tokey disappeared. Snape stared angrily at the bench top.

Idiot boy. No doubt used to a lavish style of living if he can’t even fetch himself food.

Even still, as the thought dimmed, Snape felt an uncertain niggle at the back of his mind.

It’s nothing… he thought determinedly. The boy is simply lazy.


 

“Master be telling Tokey that young sir must eat!” Tokey squeaked. “Master said that he and young sir will not get glasses unless young sir has some food.”

Harry’s stomach lurched. God, he was so not used to this. Back at the Dursleys, Aunt Petunia would thrust a slice of bread and cheese in his face whenever she deemed it time for him to eat… which usually only included mid-morning and dinner, so he rarely had to even consider meals unless he was cooking for his relatives. Even at Hogwarts there were scheduled meal times, and more often than not it was because he was with Ron and Hermione that he even remembered to eat.

“Tokey will be making something for young sir right now!” the elf said adamantly.

“Alright, alright, but please, Tokey, something simple?” Harry interjected, worried the elf would return with a buffet style plate.

Tokey frowned in puzzlement, tilting her head as she studied the brunet.

“Er—because of my stomach, remember?” Harry continued. “Not feeling well?”

Her eyes widened in understanding and she nodded vigorously. “Of course, of course!” and she popped away with another crack, leaving Harry to groan into the silence.

What the hell did Snape care if he ate or not? Not getting glasses unless Harry ate something? Seriously?

“The git just can’t help himself, can he,” Harry muttered bitterly. “Just has to keep reminding me who’s in charge. Treating me like a fucking child.”

It wasn’t long before Tokey had returned with, thankfully, a simple sandwich and a glass of water. Harry eyed the now blurry food with minimal excitement but knew that Snape would hold true to his threat if he didn’t at least consume something. And there was no fucking way Harry was going without his glasses for a day longer.

“Master be saying that once young sir is done, he is to be meeting Master in the foyer ready to go,” Tokey said, placing the tray on the bed. “Tokey will be telling Master when young sir has finished his food.”

“Alright,” Harry acknowledged, reaching for the sandwich. “Thank you, Tokey.”

 

 

Twenty minutes later, Harry was reluctantly descending the stairs that led to the foyer. Despite how much he desired having glasses again, the prospect of going anywhere with Snape as his guardian ruined the entire experience. Per Snape’s request, Harry was dressed as inconspicuously as he could manage, his pouch of wizarding money tucked away in his jeans pocket.

As promised, the professor was waiting for him beside the fireplace, arms folded and his long face forcibly blank. Harry sucked in a deep breath, willing for patience.

Whatever snarky comments he makes just ignore them… you know there’s no point in rising to his bait…

As Harry neared, Snape removed his wand from up his robe sleeve.

“Do not move whilst I apply the glamour,” he commanded, eyes tracking over Harry’s form in speculation. “Even a miniscule movement can be enough to flaw the charm.”

Harry did so, feeling awkward as his teacher moved around him with slowly sweeping movements of his wand. He felt the glamour tingle as it settled over him.

“While we are out you will refer to yourself as Alexander Smith.” Harry glanced up, staring at Snape as the man came to stand before him once more. “You may mention that you attend Hogwarts if asked, however, it would be prudent to name a different house to avoid raising suspicion. Keep your answers simple and short. Avoid all personal details unless it is directly linked to your health or eyesight, understood?”

Harry nodded.

“And do try not to bring attention to yourself.”

Harry bit his tongue. He nodded again.

And then Snape was turning, heading towards a mirror that hung a few feet away. Harry watched, slightly transfixed, as his professor applied his own glamour, his features melting into a face that he did not recognise. Although his eyesight prevented him from seeing distinct details, Harry could tell that Snape’s hair was no longer black but a deep auburn, his eyes not as dark and his hooked nose now small and rounded.

Harry wondered what he looked like now.

“I will go through first,” Snape announced, returning to the fireplace. “You will wait exactly 60 seconds before following me, is that clear?”

“Yes, sir,” Harry replied, swallowing back a sigh of exasperation. He had only been with the man for five minutes and he was already feeling exhausted.


 

St Mungo’s was positively humming with life as Harry stepped dizzily from the hearth. Once again, he felt Snape’s unusually strong fingers grip his upper arm, preventing Harry from falling face-first onto the cool, tiled floor.

“This way,” Snape said briskly, barely waiting for Harry’s equilibrium to return, and directing him down the nearest corridor.

It wasn’t hard to notice how tense Snape had become all of a sudden. His wand was concealed inconspicuously in his hand and his eyes swept constantly, as if waiting for a threat to jump right into their path. Harry couldn’t imagine what threat there might be in a hospital of all places, and it felt so weird to be the subject of Snape’s… concern? Nah, paranoia was more like it.

They came to an abrupt halt before a large white welcome desk. Harry hadn’t really caught sight of which department they were in—obviously—but he could only assume it was the place where he’d be getting his new glasses.

“Good afternoon,” Snape began in a bored tone, “we are in need of an eye specialist.” He gestured to Harry standing beside him. “The boy requires a new set of spectacles.”

The Medi-Witch sitting behind the counter moved her gaze from Snape to Harry.

“Name?” she asked.

“Alexander Smith,” Harry replied. The words felt so strange falling past his lips as he spoke and he tried hard not to appear awkward. Easier said than done.

“Have you been to St Mungo’s before, Mr Smith?” the Medi-Witch asked.

“Er—”

“He has not,” Snape interrupted smoothly. “Due to an accident, Alexander irreversibly damaged his spectacles. He simply requires new ones.”

“And you are…?”

“His caretaker,” Severus replied bluntly. “He is staying with me over the summer holidays.”

The Medi-Witch clicked her tongue at Snape’s abrasive nature before quirking her wand. A quill, some ink, and a board with parchment attached to it slid along the counter to where they stood.

“Please fill out the form and return it to me once it is completed,” she droned.

Snape took the quill and parchment wordlessly, jotting down an abundance of false information. His hand sped down the length of the page and before long, he was sliding the parchment back over to the Medi-Witch.

“Thank you. A Healer will be with you shortly. Please take a seat.”

And then there was that wonderful awkward silence that Harry just loved. There he was, sitting side-by-side with his Potion’s professor who refused to even look in his direction let alone talk. Oh yes, just perfect.

Do it for the glasses… he told himself. Do you really want to be blind all summer…?

Lifting his left hand, Harry rubbed his tired eyes, trying to release the slowly building pressure in his head.

Not long now.

A throat cleared. Harry looked up.

“Hello,” smiled a woman brightly. She was wearing traditional lime-green Healer robes.

“Um, hello,” Harry replied.

The Healer was tall, with a slightly upright curved nose, pinched lips, and curly dark hair that would put even Aunt Petunia to shame.

Harry couldn’t help but shudder. Typical his Healer should remind him of his aunt.

“Mr Smith was it?” the woman continued.

“Er—yes,” Harry replied.

She smiled kindly. “I am Healer Harbert, the eye-specialist. Follow me please.”

Harry fell into step behind the Healer, Snape right on his heels. The Professor had barely left an inch between them since they left the manor and it was beginning to unnerve Harry slightly. It was bad enough that Harry didn’t exactly like people being physically close to him, but having Snape constantly brushing up against him…

“In here, Mr Smith.”

Harry and Snape entered the proffered room, waiting patiently for Healer Harbert to close the door. Only then did Harry sense Snape relax. It was minimal, and Harry was sure the Healer would not have known the difference, but to him, it was almost as if Snape had flopped into a cushioned armchair before a roaring fire.

“Alright let’s get started.” The Healer smiled brightly at Harry. “Just take a seat here, Mr Smith,” she directed, reaching out a long-fingered hand to press encouragingly on Harry’s shoulder. What neither she, nor Snape for that matter, expected, was the sudden flinch from the young man as her fingers brushed against his shirt, his body curling away instinctively from her touch. Harbert blinked in surprise, hand withdrawing as she frowned quizzically at her patient. Harry, not realising what he had done, sat down where the Healer had indicated, left hand hovering subconsciously over his right arm in a protective manner. Harbert cleared her throat slightly and reached for her wand.

“When did you first have your prescription altered?” she asked, voice gentler than it had been.

“My what?” Harry replied.

“Your prescription, Mr Smith. When you first received your glasses.”

The young man blinked, unable to help himself from glancing at Snape who was watching the pair with a faint frown on his face.

“My un—er, I was just given glasses when I was younger. I’ve never had my eyes checked,” Harry replied, feeling awkward.

Harbert blinked. “Never?” she asked.

Harry shook his head. The Healer gazed at him quizzically for a moment before she shook herself, placing a gentle smile on her face. “Not to worry then,” she replied. “Please remain still while I scan your eyes.”

Harry did so, feeling rather nervous as he did. He watched, eyes darkening, as Harbert moved closer, gentle fingers gripping his chin to hold his head in place. The itch to pull away from her touch was almost overpowering, so much so that Harry felt his left hand clench onto the arm of the chair, fingers digging into the padding as he fought the automatic reflex.

Throughout the entire procedure, Severus Snape watched the boy’s interactions with a growing sense of unease.

He did not like this.

There were too many signs; too many red-flags that did not sit well with the Professor. From the beginning, Potter had not acted the way he had expected. This could have been predicted of course—the two of them barely knew one another and no doubt each had their own assumptions about the other person. What Snape was beginning to recognise about the boy, however, was the eerily familiar signs of abuse.

“Ah yes, there is some prominent scarring in each eye, more so in the left.” Harbert shifted her wand from right to left, her gaze focused on Harry’s. “Yes, a new set of glasses will definitely be needed. Please hold still for a moment longer, Mr Smith, I need to make a record in order to complete a new set of lenses.”

Harry swallowed anxiously. Please hurry up…

Bubbling panic was rising in his chest. She was too close, her fingers squeezing into his skin as she continued to hold his head immobile. Then, just as the hold on his panic was about to break, Harbert released his chin, stepping back and shifting her gaze to the glowing words and numbers that were now floating in the air.

Drawing in a silent breath, Harry leant back in the chair, eyeing Harbert carefully as she analysed the report.

“Alright, Mr Smith, everything looks to be in order,” she said then, flicking her wand. The words and numbers faded away. “I just need to pop down to the lens department to place your order. While you wait, please have a look and try on frames. Each set of frames have momentary vision charms placed on the glass which will allow you a brief chance to see your reflection so you can choose which ones you would like unhindered.” With a gesture from his Healer, Harry turned. A white screen as suddenly retracting upwards, revealing slightly out of focus shelves that appeared to be lined with various frames. A mirror was situated in the middle, separating the shelves into two sections.

“I won’t be long!” Harbert called cheerfully. “The girls in the lab are very efficient.”

Feeling somewhat awkward, Harry slid from the chair and turned towards the shelves. He had no idea what type of frames he wanted—all he needed was something practical and easy. He would have given anything to have Ron and Hermione with him at that moment, they would have made the situation seem a little less… daunting.

And Harry wasn’t about to ask Snape for fashion advice.

Allowing himself a brief smirk at the thought, Harry reached for the first pair of blurry frames his eyes landed on. He could tell they were black, thin, and slightly rounded; they reminded him of his previous pair. But, as he slid them on and stared at his reflection—after the mild shock of seeing a blond, blue-eyed, scar-less young man looking back—Harry found himself disliking the way they sat on his face. He tried to envision them on his usual appearance but was still unhappy with what he imagined. So, with his vision currently clearer than it had been moments before, he quickly shifted his gaze over the shelves, searching for frames that appealed to him.

Sitting on a shelf on the left-hand side was another black pair. These had rectangle eye-pieces, and the frames were thicker. He took them off the shelf, placed them aside as he removed the pair on his face, and slid the new glasses into position.

The first thing that Harry noticed was how comfortable they felt. Before, his old glasses had constantly bit into the bridge of his nose, causing the area to ache throughout the day. These frames didn’t seem to be as tight, and the rectangle shape was a nice change.

Huh… I rather like these…

For a split second, Harry almost turned around to ask Snape what he thought. Biting back a chuckle, Harry removed the glasses and folded them neatly, holding on to them as he returned to his seat and hoping that they’d look just as good on his regular face as they did on his current.

Sleek auburn eyebrows rose in slight amazement.

“That was rather… efficient of you,” Snape commented.

Harry glanced over at his teacher, allowing a miniscule smile to curl the corners of his lips. “Despite what you may have heard, I am not one for extravagance.”

Severus snorted but said nothing. Perhaps the boy is more different than I anticipated…

Thankfully, it wasn’t long before Harbert returned, relieving the two males inside of their standard awkward silence.

“How’d you go?” she asked.

Harry held up the frames. “I’d like these ones, please.”

The Healer practically beamed. “Excellent!” Hidden within the folds of her robes, Harbert removed a white pouch which contained Harry’s new lenses. She placed them carefully on a small table after one last inspection for scratches and took the frames Harry offered her. With a few murmured words and a flick of her wand, Harbert skilfully replaced the old pieces of rectangle glass with the new lenses, grinning brightly as she handed the completed frames to her patient.

“Let’s see how well they work.”

Harry slid the frames back on his face.

Thank fuck.

“They’re perfect,” he breathed, quickly looking around the room. “Thank you so much.”

“You’re very welcome,” Harbert replied, leaning casually against the edge of the table. “Let’s hope these last a good while now, hmm?”

Snape barely held back the irreverent comment that burned on the tip of his tongue. Potter gets into so much mischief I’m surprised his previous spectacles lasted as long as they did… Instead he straightened and pinned the Healer with a stare.

“Is there anything else you need to explain, Healer Harbert?” he asked.

“Actually,” she said in response, “there is. Along with your new glasses, Mr Smith, the hospital offers a set of complimentary contact lenses; something the muggles came up with you see.” Her hand disappeared into the folds of her robes again and pulled out a small black box, flipping the lid open. Nestled inside were two extremely small discs.

“These tiny little plastic circles sit on the surface of your eye,” Harbert continued, “and they allow you to see without the need for frames. Many find them useful during intense activities, such as quidditch.” She paused then, head tilting to the side. “Do you play for your school team, Mr Smith?”

Harry’s mouth automatically opened, the word ‘yes’ on the tip of his tongue, when he remembered Snape’s warning.

“No,” he murmured.

“Oh well, not to worry!” Harbert continued cheerfully. “Probably a good thing though, considering your arm. Whatever did you do, by the way?”

A chill suddenly descended over Harry as Harbert’s unintended-to-be-upsetting words echoed in his ears. Oh god… quidditch. Harry hadn’t even thought about it. There was no way he could play with his arm like this! He’d barely be able to stay on his broom let alone catch the snitch!

And who knows when your arm will be alright again…? It could take weeks… months even…

“Mr Smith?”

Snape cleared his throat. “Perhaps you can elaborate on these… contact lenses,” he uttered.

“Certainly. As I mentioned, muggles were the first to create contact lenses and, after discovering the ingenious idea, Healers worked to manipulate them in a more permanent sense. Muggles are required to replace their contact lenses regularly, if not daily in some cases. With these however, they have been constructed with an Ever-Last charm, allowing them to maintain their durability. You may also wear them for as long as you desire as they will not harm your eyes. I do not, however, recommend sleeping with them in. They should be applied in the morning when you get up and removed at night before you retire to bed. There are instructions within the box to assist you, as well as a list of ‘how-to-care-for’ to ensure you get the best possible outcome.”

“They sound positively miraculous,” Snape agreed drily.

Harbert ignored his sarcasm. “What do you think, Mr Smith? Would you like to try them?”

Harry eyed the box thoughtfully. I guess it wouldn’t hurt…

“Alright,” he said finally.

Harbert flipped the lid shut and handed it over. Harry shoved it into his jeans pocket while he glanced over at Snape as the older man stepped across the floor towards him, pulling out his pocket watch and making a show of looking at the time.

 “I believe time has run out for us. We must be leaving.”

“Of course.” The Healer stood upright and moved to the door, pulling it open.

“We thank you for seeing us so promptly,” Snape stated as Harry got to his feet. “Do we settle the expenses with you or elsewhere?”

“You’ll settle the bill at the welcome desk,” Harbert replied. She smiled gently, presenting her hand to Harry in farewell. “Best of luck to you, Mr Smith, enjoy your summer holidays.”

He offered her a small smile in response, shaking her hand as briefly as he could without it seeming rude. “Thank you,” he murmured, stepping through the open doorway.

Harbert watched him go, the smile on her face fading as a frown replaced it. Turning, she spied a similar expression on the face of the older man who had accompanied her patient. They caught eye contact, a moment of dawning comprehension passing between them before it was broken, as if nothing had just occurred.

“Goodbye,” Snape murmured, sweeping past her.

It was a very quick stop off at the desk. Harry paid for his new glasses, thanked the Medi-Witch, and then Snape was whisking him back down the corridor they had come, re-entering the bustling entrance of St Mungo’s. Tugging the boy to the very last fireplace, Snape cast a quick eye around before applying a temporary silencing charm around them and the hearth, preventing eavesdroppers from hearing their destination.

“You will go first,” Snape said. “I will be behind you momentarily.”

Harry hesitated briefly, slightly worried about his exit without anyone to stop him from falling.

Now, Potter,” Snape hissed impatiently.

Jaw clenching, Harry walked to the fireplace and threw a handful of floo powder onto the ash covered bricks. He stepped into the midst of vibrant green fire, called the name, and disappeared.

Watching the boy’s form become engulfed in green flames, Snape pursed his lips in determination. There was no avoiding it. It was all too clear that Potter did not react in the same manner as other seventeen-year-olds. In fact, Potter did not react in the same manner as most people.

And Severus knew.

He knew exactly what he was seeing; what he had been blind to for the past six years the boy had been at Hogwarts.

Squaring his shoulders, Snape stepped into the still warm hearth, grabbing a handful of floo powder.

Come hell or high water, Snape would get to the bottom of this.

Prince Manor!

Chapter Text

Potter was brushing down his jeans when Snape stepped from the fireplace. Pulling out his wand, he quickly disabled the glamour charms over the two of them, his mind uncharacteristically blank as he considered the best approach to speaking with the boy. He had never been faced with such a delicate dilemma. It was hard enough that he and boy had no personal groundings to speak of… but to add the possibility of abuse to the equation, how on earth was he going to breach this subject with Potter—

A throat cleared, shaking Severus from his musings.

“Er—thank you for taking me to get my glasses,” Harry said then, his eyes flicking uncomfortably from the floor to Snape’s.

Severus replied with a curt nod. In the distance, he could hear one of the many clocks that inhabited the manor, dinging. It seemed to echo in the strained silence of the foyer.

This is why I could never have children… he thought bitterly, annoyed at his inability to be able to connect Potter. Their functions and attitudes are ridiculously foreign to me…

“I’ll just—erm, head upstairs then—”

“I want you to clarify something with me, Potter,” Snape interrupted, falling instinctively into teacher-mode. This was good. He understood the teacher and student relationship. “And I am sure you will understand my… concern.”

A faint frown appeared on Harry’s forehead.

“About what?”

“Your reply to the Healer’s question in regards to your original eye prescription was unexpected. I simply have a few questions I would like answered about your muggle residence.”

Sudden, stricken panic flashed across Potter’s face before it was forcibly transformed into a strained, blank mask. Severus knew without a doubt that his concerns were indeed valid.

“It’s fine,” Harry replied stiffly. “I was really young when I got glasses. I barely remember getting them. I probably just forgot.”

But Severus could not help but notice how laboured the words were spoken, how Potter had started to turn away from him, his eyes searching desperately for a means of escape.

And, oh god, Harry could feel himself beginning to panic. Denials were already burning on the tip of his tongue, his heart thundering in his chest. Surely, surely, Snape was not going to actually ask him about his life with the Dursleys? No… no he wouldn’t. Why would he. The professor had done nothing aside from detest him the moment he stepped foot inside Hogwarts all those years—

“Tell me about your aunt and uncle.”

Harry froze. His insides went icily cold.

“What about them,” he replied bluntly, refusing to look at the professor.

“I want you to tell me about how they treat you.”

“How they…” Harry turned around, outrage twisting his facial features into a scowl. “What exactly are you implying?” he demanded.

Irritation was welling up within the dark-haired professor. Of course Potter just had to make this more difficult than it should have been. “I am simply trying to acknowledge the signs I witnessed throughout the duration of our time at the hospital.”

“What signs!” Harry snapped. “There were no signs! I don’t care what you think you saw but you are wrong!

“Don’t you dare disrespect me, Potter!” Snape’s minimal control had broken. “As per usual your ignorance continues to astound me. Do you not realise that I would not be questioning something like this if I did not have a good reason for it? You respond to the mention of your relatives as you would a plague. Your physical reactions are example enough of what I suspect—”

But Harry was backing away, shaking his head as he stared in disbelief at the man across from him.

“You’re wrong,” he blurted.

“You are being absurd!” Snape fumed. Why on earth was the boy determined to hide the truth? “For once in your life, Potter, understand that I am not attempting to deride you! This is a serious—”

“Don’t pretend to care,” Harry snarled. “This—whatever you’re doing—I can’t—”

Potter—”

“Don’t! This has nothing to do with you! Whatever you thought—” Harry’s voice broke but he swallowed and forced himself to continue, despite the way his voice shook. “You’re wrong, alright? You’re wrong.”

The desperate plea in the boy’s voice was the only thing that prevented Severus from forcing Potter to face the reality. He remained where he was, watching the boy retreat up the staircase, Potter’s thin frame fighting tremors that threatened to consume him.

All at once, irrational anger welled up within the professor. It was rushing and boiling, spreading through his veins like wildfire. This shouldn’t have been that hard! How could the Potter-brat not see what Severus was trying to do?

I am not good at this! His mind screamed in agitation. This should have nothing to do with me! I am simply here to protect the boy… That. Is. ALL.

Even still, as the spike of fury lessened, an uncomfortable pang settled in his stomach. It hovered hauntingly, an insistent reminder of his failed attempt. If Severus had been a more patient man, he would have stopped himself from rising to Potter’s blatant denials. He would have tried to give the boy the security and reassurance Severus wished he’d had when he had once been in Potter’s position.


 

Potter had not come down for dinner.

He knew the boy was avoiding him, that much was clear. Severus would not have expected anything less. The more time he had to deliberate about their altercation, the more Snape came to realise his lack of tact. As much as Potter irritated him, he should have approached the situation in a much more understanding manner.

But he didn’t. He had pushed too hard. And Severus knew without a doubt that he would have reacted in the exact same way Potter did if the roles had been reversed.

The only problem was, Severus knew he was not the right person to be addressing this issue. There were plenty of other people that Potter could open up to. People that actually liked and cared for the boy.

Why then, Snape mused, had Potter not done so already? Surely Granger and Weasley knew?

You know exactly why Potter has done nothing of the sort… his subconscious derided him. For once in your life, stop blaming the boy…

Snape flinched unexpectedly as a high-pitched wail sounded around him and his head snapped up in alarm. The wards he had placed around Potter’s room had begun to shriek, their piercing warning holding an almost sinister message that set Snape’s heart racing. There was no possible way that it was an outside force that caused the wards to react, which left only a single, sickening possibility that Snape’s mind immediately thrust into fruition.

Surely Potter was not stupid enough to try and hurt himself purposely…

The surge of trepidation was foreign to him as he shot to his feet. Without wasting a further moment, Snape apparated upstairs.


 

Harry knew he was hiding.

He knew that Snape probably realised this too.

But there was no way in hell Harry was going to go anywhere near his Potions professor.

What the hell was Snape thinking? How dare he demand such personal information! Besides the fact that, even if Harry had wanted to discuss his home life, it certainly would not have been with a man who detested him, ridiculed him, and made his life at Hogwarts utter hell!

How could Snape even begin to understand how I’m feeling… Harry thought morosely.

Exhaustion hit him like a wave and he yawned. It wasn’t very late; the trip to the hospital had only taken an hour or so, and Harry had been hiding in his room for a further three. The sun had set outside and Tokey had already popped into his room to ask if he would be coming down for dinner. Harry could not stop the small twinge he had felt at Tokey’s downtrodden expression but he honestly could not bring himself to face Snape at that moment.

With a grunt, Harry kicked off his shoes. They landed with a dull thud onto the floor, quickly followed by his jeans. Smothering another yawn, Harry pulled back the duvet and climbed into bed, settling himself with the soft pillows as he reached up to removed his glasses. The process of folding them and placing them carefully on the bedside table sent a wave of familiarity crashing over him and instinctively, his eyes went from the black frames to the portraits that should have been sitting behind them.

Harry felt his heart plummet.

Where two frames should have been was a disturbingly empty space.

The photos. Of his mother and father. And the one of Sirius—

Oh god.

They hadn’t been in his trunk. And he knew someone must had been in his room because he had the clothes from his wardrobe. Surely they would have seen and grabbed them…?

Harsh breathing was breaking the silence and it took Harry a moment to realise that it was him. He sat up, gripping his bent knees with his free hand as his body began to shiver, chest heaving with gasps. The photos had always been there, offering him happiness whenever he was feeling low. Harry was miserable at the Dursleys’ but the smiling faces of his parents and his godfather made it bearable, lent him just enough strength to be able to face each day.

And they weren’t here! Different—everything was different. It was wrong and weird and so utterly unfamiliar.

The pictures… he needed the pictures…!

The thought ran around and around in his mind, each pass becoming more and more frantic. Beneath him, the bed began to vibrate, distant bangs echoing as books began to fly off shelves, landing heavily onto the carpeted floor and bouncing off walls. His chest felt so tight, as if no matter how deeply he breathed there was not enough air filling his lungs, and his body was awash with a burning heat so intense sweat began breaking out across his skin, his heart galloping in his chest. Lost in blind panic, he did not hear the door to his room crash open.

Potter! What on earth are you—”

Snape’s voice faltered. The boy was within a whirlwind of pure erratic energy, his form curled up in the centre of the shaking bed. Hearing Potter’s panicked inhalations, understanding dawned over Snape as he realised the severity of the problem. He stepped quickly across the floor, pushed himself through the building magical vortex, and placed firm hands on Harry’s shoulders, gently, but resolutely, easing him back enough so Snape could see Potter’s face.

“Calm. Down.”

Harry felt his chest constrict. His gasps grew faster.

“Potter, listen to me. You are fine. You are safe.”

A whimper fell from Harry’s lips; the bed shuddered threateningly. His chest was positively burning; lungs on fire as he tried to fill them with oxygen. The room began to swim dizzyingly before his eyes.

Without warning, a single candle entered his line of vision, the little flame flickering madly against Harry’s rushed exhales. As he stared, the flame began to grow in size, reaching a point before it reduced, shrinking.

“Look at the candle, Potter. Watch how the flame expands and diminishes. Match your breathing with it. Breathe in to make the flame grow. Exhale to make the flame shrink.”

Harry locked his eyes desperately with the gently flickering light, watching it rhythmically enlarge and contract. He forced himself to breathe with the tiny ball of fire, his entire focus directed to the simple task.

“Tokey.”

There was a crack.

“I require a calming draught.”

Another crack.

“Good, Potter. Follow the flame.”

And Harry did. The little light was a saviour, a beacon of rhythmic tranquillity that allowed him to gain control. Slowly, with each minute that passed, Harry could feel his body calming, chest no longer burning. The surging vortex that whipped around the two of them began to dissipate, the thuds of books falling silent and the bed growing still. Harry barely registered when his professor shoved a vial beneath his nose and he grabbed it instinctively, downing the contents without a second thought, never once breaking eye contact with the pulsating flame.

A wonderful mollifying sensation swept down his chest, swirling, soothing, relaxing every muscle it came into contact with; Harry could feel himself sinking into the mattress. He drew in a final alleviating breath and closed his eyes, relishing in the controlled strength he could feel returning within his actions.

Beside him, Snape remained silent as he vanished the candle. He waited, patiently, for Potter to finish composing himself. His eyes swept around the room swiftly, taking in the amount of damage the boy had done in such a short amount of time.

His unstable magic was becoming too strong.

Books had been torn to shreds, the desk had been thrown across the room. There was, much to Severus’s surprise, giant cracks in the windows that he had not noticed previously. Potter’s lack of control was certainly becoming alarming; the only benefit at this point was that the boy’s magic seemed tied to his emotional state, allowing it to be somewhat predictable.

So far.

Severus eventually returned his gaze back to the boy on the bed, satisfied to note how calm Potter seemed. With another deep inhalation, his green eyes blinked open, and he turned a hesitant glance in Snape’s direction, cheeks flushed.

“Are you alright.”

It was a statement and nothing more. Pure clinical. Even if Snape couldn’t quite suppress the tiny flicker of concern.

Foolish boy.

Potter’s dark head nodded and he lowered his eyes, swallowing.

“Are you aware of the reason behind your panic attack?”

Harry was quiet for a moment, the room eerily still.

“Pictures,” he finally croaked.

The Potions Master frowned. “Pictures?” he repeated, unable to keep the scathing tone from his voice.

“I have… pictures. Of my parents. Of… Sirius. I always keep them beside my bed, alright? Every night I look at them before I go to sleep and tonight—” Harry trembled, choking on his words. “T-Tonight I realised that they’re not here. And—and I need them. They need to be here.”

“Why on earth are photos of your parents and Black so important to you?” Snape asked with a frown.

“Because they were the only ones to care about me!” Harry was suddenly yelling, his emerald eyes glistening with tears. “They were the only family who loved me! Who cared enough to be there when I needed them the most! The Dursleys loathe me, alright? Is that what you wanted to hear?! My goddam relatives, the only fucking family I have left, despise the very space I fill! You try growing up in a home where you’re hated from the moment you landed on their doorstep!”

“I did.”

Snape’s voice was oddly calm, the deep tone penetrating Harry’s agitation. The younger man stared at his professor helplessly and Snape, for the first time since laying eyes on Lily Potter’s son, stared at Harry with candid understanding.

“I asked you this afternoon about your relatives because I recognised the signs,” Severus stated. “It is hard to ignore the very same characteristics I see in you, when I myself portrayed them for seventeen years.”

Potter released a shaking breath, a soft, almost painful noise falling from his parted lips as he gazed agonisingly at the bedspread.

“Then why… why didn’t you approach me sooner?” Harry croaked.

With a sigh, Snape rubbed his eyes in resignation. “Because it was easy to disregard the manifestations of abuse I saw at Hogwarts. The limited contact we had with one another paired with our intense dislike allowed me to overlook certain aspects. Since you have come into my care, however, I can no longer be disillusioned of the obvious distress you are in.”

Snape flicked his wrist and the chair, which had been sitting in the corner of the room, zoomed to his side.

“Now…” the professor continued, lowering himself onto the cushioned seat, “tell me about your aunt and uncle.”

This time, when Snape uttered those words, Harry felt a faint flicker of warmth in the pit of his stomach. It was minimal, but present, and enough for Harry to draw his knees to his chest, locking them securely with his left arm as his swallowed thickly.

“They hate me.”

His voice was but a whisper.

“They hate the very idea of what I represent. I am not their family. I am not their nephew. I am the freak that they fear and nothing more.”

“And they attempted to beat the magic out of you.”

Shock flitted across Harry’s face before it melted into morose agreement. He nodded.

“I am all too familiar with a family member attempting to prevent you from being who you truly are. For me, it was my father. He was a muggle and he detested magic with a thriving passion.” Snape’s face was impassive as he spoke. He offered no further emotion, nothing else for Harry to connect with aside from the words. But it was enough. Enough for him to see that at least, in this unexpected turn of events, there was someone who fathomed the hatred Harry received from his family.

“I didn’t know I was a wizard until I turned eleven,” Harry murmured. “They tried so hard to keep it from me—to stop me from going to Hogwarts. If it wasn’t for Hagrid…” An utterly bitter laugh fell from his lips. “Sometimes I wonder if it would have been better if I never knew. That if, when I passed Hogwarts age and never went, the Dursleys might have been nicer. Maybe even… considered me normal.”

“It is useless to have thoughts like that,” Severus responded. “You are here. What is done, is done. And you are a wizard, Potter. Regardless of what you may or may not have been, it does not excuse your relatives’ attitudes. They made the choice to treat you the way they did. That is not your fault.”

An aching sadness grew unexpectedly in Harry’s chest and he clenched his jaw, frantically trying to squash the urge to weep.

“I know you’re right,” he said, voice breaking slightly as he turned desperate eyes to his professor. “But they were the only family I knew. It’s hard not to wish for delusions like that when you see your cousin being hugged and told that he is loved every day.”

“They never touched you?”

“I was only touched when they hit me.”

Snape’s jaw clenched tightly. His father had been the exact same. However, where Severus had had a mother who blatantly showed her affection for him, Potter had not.

No wonder the boy hated being touched. Every gesture offered, even a simple offering of a hand in greeting, may have caused Potter to believe he was about to be struck. And for many, the lack of physical contact becomes so normal to them that the foreign nature of receiving a pat on the back, a friendly clap on the shoulder, or a welcoming hug goes unwarranted; undesired.

And there was something else that bothered the Potions Master. Potter’s eating habits.

“Since you arrived here you have barely eaten,” Severus observed, “I want you to tell me why that is.”

“I don’t—” Harry grimaced uncomfortably. “I don’t really eat. My aunt, she—she’s the one who tells me when and what I can eat.”

“And whilst at Hogwarts?”

Harry shrugged, keeping his eyes locked on the bedspread. “I guess I just follow Ron and Hermione. It helps that Hogwarts has set meal times; makes it easier for me. Being here—or even when I’m at the Weasleys—when there is nothing planned I feel so lost… like it doesn’t even occur to me to make a decision on my own.” His left hand ran through his ruffled hair, clenching briefly in agitation. “It’s not just food,” he admitted. “It’s a lot of things.”

With a dreaded sense of unease, Snape murmured the suspicion that was sitting on his tongue.

“Describe to me a standard day at your relatives.”

It was easy to see the discomfort Severus’s enquiry produced. The boy’s cheeks grew a steady shade of red, the fingers on his left hand twisting painfully tight into the sheets.

“I know it is hard,” Severus continued, keeping his voice as placid as he could make it, “but in order to make you the most comfortable, I need to understand your experiences and which of those that may be triggering.”

Slowly, Potter’s hand unclenched. He lifted cautious eyes to his professor.

“Just… just a standard day?” he asked.

Snape was silent a moment. “For now,” he replied.

Harry paled slightly at the intended promise but he drew in a steadying breath. He had been hiding this for too long. He was unable to look at Snape when he started talking. He struggled enough just to form the words as it was.

“My aunt unlocks my door at seven thirty every morning. I use the bathroom and then go downstairs to cook them breakfast. While they eat, I begin the standard chores; they usually take around three hours to complete and I’m not allowed to eat until they are done. My aunt controls what I eat and how much. Afterwards, she tells me which extra chores that need to be completed. If there are none, I am locked back in my room until it is time to cook dinner. Once dinner is completed and I have cleaned the kitchen, I am allowed to have a shower before I’m locked back in my room for the night.”

Harry became quiet.

Severus knew there was a lot the boy had left unsaid. If his aunt and uncle were—and Severus did not doubt that they were—anything like his father, the recount of his home life that Potter had just shared was the very, very censored, abridged version. For now, however, he would allow the boy to hide the darker side of his childhood.

“From what you have told me, Potter, it is no wonder you had a panic attack this evening,” he stated.

The boy looked up in confusion.

“You are reliant on structure; on direction.” Snape gazed steadily at Harry. “You have grown up in a household that forced you to follow a strict set of rules. From the moment you landed on their doorstep, you have been told when you were to eat, sleep, and do house work. Even house elves have more freedom than you do.”

“I’m sorry, I tried to—”

“It’s alright, Potter,” Severus interrupted calmly. “I do not expect you to adjust immediately; that would be detrimental to your mental health. Instead, we will formulate a structure for you that will allow you to eventually adjust to making your own choices. From now on, each day will be coordinated in order to assist with your anxiety. Breakfast will be at eight o’clock every morning and I expect you to be present. During that time, we will organise what you will do for each day. As it stands, your Potions work is abysmal, so you can be rest assured that many of your holiday hours will be spent revising, is that clear?”

Harry nodded.

“You and I will also establish a more reputable relationship. From now on I expect you to be honest with me and, in return, I will endeavour to be honest with you. A standard level of respect will be required in order for this to be successful.”

Harry nodded again.

“If there is anything you would like to request be avoided, do so now.”

“Erm—what do you mean exactly?”

“Is there anything that you can think of at this time that makes you uncomfortable? Perhaps an action or a phrase.”

There was another brief moment of silence as the brunet bit his lip in thought.

“There’s just… one thing,” Harry began, “I’m not really sure about anything else right now.” He reached up to rub the back of his neck, another sign Severus had noticed the boy did whenever he was feeling awkward or anxious. “I don’t really mind what you call me, Potter or even Harry is fine. If you could avoid calling me ‘boy’ that would be good. It’s—It’s how my relatives refer to me.”

Snape inclined his head. “Very well. If there is anything else that becomes triggering, you are to tell me immediately, understood?”

Satisfied with Potter’s answering nod, Severus got to his feet. “I believe that is enough for tonight, I will take my leave now.” He banished the chair back into its corner. “This has been an exhausting and traumatic evening for you. If you would like to have it, I will have Tokey bring you a vial of Dreamless Sleep.”

Shivering at the prospect of nightmares, Harry nodded. “Please,” he murmured. His mind was reeling with memories of his childhood; there was no way he’d sleep peacefully tonight unaided.

“Do not concern yourself with the mess at the time, Tokey will see to it in the morning. I will see you tomorrow at eight o’clock in the informal dining room. Do not be late.”

The sternness had returned to Snape’s voice and Harry couldn’t help but smile slightly at the familiar tone.

“Yes, sir,” he replied.

The Potions Master was nearing the door when Potter spoke again.

“Professor?”

Severus was sure he had never heard Potter call for him in such a revered tone before. He turned.

“Yes, Potter?”

“How did you know the flame would work?”

Severus stared at him.

“Personal experience,” he finally uttered.

Chapter Text

It started as a whisper.

Hushed murmured words that seemed to drift in volume, as if people were walking passed an open door. Thought processes that could not… but must have been his.

Harry blinked, looking up with a faint frown. Snape sat at his usual place at the head of the table, the Prophet open in his hands, mug of tea steaming calmingly on the table top.

Silent.

The brunet shook himself slightly. Probably hearing things…

He returned his attention back to his food. A half-finished, simple breakfast stared back at him. To ensure a gentle ease into a new routine, Snape had made adjustments to Tokey’s serving method. Instead of the lavish, three-course meal the elf would have normally served at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the professor had requested smaller, plainer meals that would make Harry feel more at ease.

The new routine had begun four days ago. The first morning had been a little awkward, Harry still reeling from the fact that he had admitted his biggest secret to Snape of all people. The professor had been true to his word however, and not only maintained a civil and considerate tongue, but willingly helped Harry organise what he would do each day, utilising the hours to their benefit whenever possible. He had presented Harry with a strange looking quill and, as his professor explained its purpose, it reminded Harry strongly of the Quick-Quotes Quill Rita Skeeter had used whenever she conducted an interview. When Harry had voiced this similarity, Snape had snorted.

“That woman is a menace,” he replied simply. “This particular quill is a Self-Writing quill, a much more reliable tool for which you will be able to take any notes or write whatever you wish whilst you are unable to use your dominant hand.”

He had given it to Harry so he would be able to complete the assigned summer homework, as well as revise for any subjects Harry thought he should. Snape had also taken to allowing Harry in his potions lab. With his arm still incapacitated, Harry was unable to physically make potions along with the older man, but he found himself enjoying the professor’s mini-lectures as he explained each process, how they worked, and their place within each concoction. It was amazing the difference in Harry’s focus when his teacher wasn’t spitting verbal daggers in his direction; Snape was a rather proficient teacher when he wanted to be.

Being in the lab also allowed Harry the chance to speak with Snape’s snakes. It wasn’t long before the young man had the beautiful reptiles intoxicated with his presence, their forked tongues flickering madly as they tasted the air eagerly during conversations. Out of the three, Harry’s secret favourite—which he dared not reveal lest he hurt the others’ feelings—was Snape’s Jameson’s mamba. It was an impish deep grass green, the colour reminding Harry of the wide sweeping slopes of Hogwarts during spring and summer, with black glistening eyes and a positively wicked sense of snake-humour.

The three of them began showing—encouraged sneakily by Harry as Severus suspected—a growing impudence whenever he attempted to vial their venom for a potion. Not only would they seek shelter and cheekily slide away whenever Snape neared, the Potions Master had actually had to succumb to acknowledging defeat and begin to ask Harry for assistance in gaining the venom he required.

It did not help that it became a regular occurrence for Severus to glance over and find an adoring look on Potter’s face as he conversed with the serpents, eliminating any sort of urge the Potions Master felt at removing the boy from his lab.

Another murmur.

Harry jerked slightly, turning his head as if to catch the end of a passing conversation.

Silence.

With a sigh, he lifted his left hand to his temple, rubbing it gently.

And to top it off… I’m going bonkers…

There was a rustle of paper. “Is there something bothering you?” Snape asked, laying the Daily Prophet onto the table and lifting his mug to his mouth as his dark eyes swept up to Harry’s face.

Harry was on the verge to say “no,” when he remembered the mutual promise the two of them had made to be honest with each other. What was the point of dismissing and hiding this when, in all probability, Snape would most likely deduce that there was a problem and force Harry to admit it? Not only would it make Snape rather angry with Harry for hiding it in the first place, he would probably return to being an arse as well.

“It’s just… I keep hearing murmurs. Or, at least, I think I do,” Harry replied, feeling a tad silly. “Probably just tired or something.”

“Constantly or just this morning?”

“Just this morning,” Harry clarified, “and not often. It’s only been twice I thought I heard something.”

Snape eyed him carefully for a moment. “Tell me if it becomes worse,” was all he said, placing his mug back on the table and resuming his reading of the Prophet.

Oh. Alright. Okay then.

As much as Harry was pleased that his Potions Master had not ridiculed him for voicing something so… strange… he couldn’t help but feel slightly peculiar with Snape’s lack of concern.

Maybe he’s actually attempting to make sure I don’t feel so weird about everything… he thought with mild amusement. He bit back a smile and returned his attention back to his food. Harry was forking some more eggs into his mouth when Tokey popped into view beside Snape holding a silver tray with a single envelop sitting right in the middle.

“Master! This be arriving for you!”

“Thank you, Tokey.”

Snape took the cream-coloured rectangle and Harry, assuming it was from Dumbledore, continued with his breakfast unconcerned.

Until his professor sighed. Of course, it wasn’t much of a sigh—more a huff of air and a flare of nostrils—but from Snape, it was definitely sigh worthy. Harry’s head lifted, brow creasing slightly. As much as he wanted to know, he did not ask Snape who the envelope was from. Purely in order not piss off the man, really, but still…

Harry lowered his gaze once more but was unable to stop himself from surreptitiously sneaking glances.

“Tokey, I require ink, a quill, and some parchment.”

“Right away, Master!”

Harry stabbed some more egg with his fork, trying to wait patiently for Snape to hopefully tell him what the letter was all about. Thankfully, he did not have to wait long.

“Potter.”

Harry jerked his head upwards at once, meeting Snape’s dark gaze.

“Have I ever given you a reason not to trust me?” his teacher asked.

Harry blinked at the unusually framed question. “Erm—no?” He couldn’t help but notice how the corners of Snape’s mouth quirked minutely in amusement at Harry’s uncertainty.

“I promised to keep you safe here and I intend to do so.”

Snape paused then. He seemed to be struggling to find the right words. With his attention entirely on his teacher, Harry almost jumped out of his skin when Tokey reappeared with a crack, offering her master the items he had requested.

“Thank you, Tokey. That will be all for now.”

Tokey opted for a curtsey this time, smiling brightly at Snape before removing herself from the room. Harry kept his eyes on the dark-haired male who was meticulously arranging the quill, ink, and parchment in a familiar, conversation preventing, manner.

“Is there something wrong?” Harry asked, small tendrils of worry beginning to grow.

“That is what I wish to discover,” Snape replied truthfully, “but in order to do so, I am put in a rather… precarious position.”

Another pause. Harry was beginning to dislike this stop and start method of conversation—it was making him feel uneasy.

“I trust you, sir,” Harry murmured then

There was a brief flicker of surprise on the older man’s face at Harry’s sincerity. “Thank you, Potter,” he said as he glanced back down at the letter. He seemed to decide something and, with a faint determined nod, he spoke.

“Aside from the Headmaster, Potter, there are only a few other people I am willing to confide in. The request in this letter comes from people you yourself are wary of—and for good reason. They play their part well; very few are aware of their true allegiance.”

The brows on Harry’s forehead began to pull together, deepening into a frown the more words his professor uttered.

“The request comes from Lucius Malfoy.”

Harry was surprised by the lack of anger he felt at the mention of the elder Malfoy. Still, he regarded Snape with a look of unease—did Lucius Malfoy know that Harry was staying here…?

“I would not have brought this to your attention if I doubted their intentions,” Severus continued.

“What does he want?” Harry asked.

“Information mostly—and not in the manner that you would expect. Lucius will want to know my standing on the current situation; there are many aspects for him to consider when he makes a decision that will directly influence him and his family during this war. The Malfoys play each side in their favour in order to attain the best possible outcome.”

“And… their allegiance?”

“Is to themselves,” Snape replied without hesitation.

Harry fell silent again. Thoughts, warnings, and suspicions were running rampant through his head. He honestly did not know what to think.

“You do not have to be present when I speak with them if you prefer; I am prepared to meet them at their Manor if need be. Lucius has made it clear that, if he is given the chance, he would like to speak with you but it is not an ultimatum; he will understand your reluctance to meet. If you do make the choice to see the Malfoys, I will need to invite them here to ensure your safety. However,” Snape pressed, staring at Harry intently, “I will not invite them here if you do not wish it. I will not damage the established trust between us. Is that clear?”

Harry found himself nodding, slightly breathless at how adamantly Snape projected his words. He did not doubt his professor, he knew every word Snape had spoken was the truth.

But holy fuck it was a lot to take in.

What danger would there be really? Even if Lucius did make the decision to inform Voldemort of Harry’s whereabouts, the wards surrounding Prince manor were ridiculously strong—it would give him and Snape plenty of time to seek shelter even if Voldemort managed to break through. Snape trusted Lucius… there must be a good reason for that, right? So far his professor had been nothing but forthcoming with his promise to make Harry feel safe and secure; there truly was no reason for Harry to distrust the man.

He lifted determined eyes. “I would like to hear what Lucius has to say,” he confirmed. “If you trust them enough to invite them here then… I will too.”

Harry was beginning to enjoy the look of surprise that kept flitting across Snape’s face; it was a lovely change from the contempt he had become used to at school.

“Very well,” Severus said with a decisive nod. “Would you be comfortable for me to extend the invitation to Draco and Narcissa?”

“Er—I suppose. I mean, don’t be surprised if Ma—Draco and I start throwing insults at one another.”

“I’d be more surprised if you didn’t,” Severus replied bluntly, reaching for the quill. “My godson never really did ascertain the appropriate methods of handling an infatuat—” The professor trailed off and kept his eyes trained on the parchment. “In any case, you may find it a familiar, somewhat placating, aspect.”

Harry, stuck on the surprise that Draco was Snape’s godson, had conveniently missed—what would have been rather intriguing information—slip of the older man’s tongue.

“Draco’s your godson?”

With a blink, Severus raised his head to stare at the dark-haired boy whose face reflected candid surprise.

“Indeed he is.”

“Huh.”

“This shocks you?”

“Hmm? Oh no, nothing like that,” Harry replied. “I just—I didn’t fully realise how close you and the Malfoys actually were. Honestly it makes me feel a little better about this meeting.”

With the tiniest of smiles, Severus returned his attention back to the parchment. “You may regret those words once you and Draco fall back into old habits.”

The boy snorted. “Probably.”

“Now, if they are acquiesced, I will arrange for them to come at midday tomorrow. Is that alright with you?” Severus asked, his hand pausing momentarily as he waited for Harry’s reply.

“Yeah that’s alright.”

They fell back into companionable silence as Snape finished writing his reply. Harry fiddled with the handle of his coffee mug as his thoughts drifted to possible outcomes of tomorrow’s meeting with the Malfoys. He figured he probably should be more concerned about willingly speaking with two members of a family that openly detested him—maybe, if he was lucky, Narcissa Malfoy wouldn’t hate him as well.

When Snape’s response had been completed, the scroll rolled tightly, tapped with his wand to remain secure until Lucius’s touch, and safely within Tokey’s hands for it to be delivered, the professor turned his attention back to Harry.

“I would like to inspect your injury today. Your bandages will need to be changed and a plan made to assist in healing.”

Harry found himself glancing down at his arm. Nothing had much changed since he had woken—aside from him being more consciously aware of preventing unnecessary movement or bumps.

“During the week I cared for you in the Hospital Wing, I was able to analyse the spell’s effect somewhat. It is possible I will be able to create a potion with specific healing properties that will help. It is hard to say as to whether it will be successful or not.”

“I’m happy to try,” Harry replied. “I’d rather not go back to Hogwarts with my arm the way it is.”

“Understandably,” Snape commented in mild amusement. He cast a glance across the room to the grandfather clock. “Aside from allowing time for us to attempt to rectify your injury, is there anything else you would like to accomplish today?”

“Just some revision I think,” Harry answered. “I won’t make any secure plans right now just in case my arm takes a little while.”

Snape nodded, seeming pleased by the way Harry was able to make his own definite decision. “Are you finished with your breakfast?”

Harry looked down and nodded.

“Then we shall head down to the lab now. Thank you, Tokey, we are done here for this morning.”

The little elf popped back into the room. “Did Master and young sir be having enough to eat?” she squeaked.

“Yes, thank you,” Severus replied at the same time Harry nodded again. “Lucius received the message?”

“Oh, yes, Master! Tokey be handing it straight to Master Lu-Lu!”

Green eyes brightened with glee. “…Master Lu-Lu?” he repeated, unable to stop the grin from stretching his lips.

Snape’s own quirked as he fought a smile. “Tokey is rather fond of Lucius.”

Tokey nodded her head, ears flapping. “Tokey’s brother Dobby be working for Master Lu-Lu once! Tokey be liking the Malfoys very much.”

Harry felt his jaw drop. “Dobby is your brother?

“Yes, young sir!” Tokey’s head tilted as she gazed at him. “You be knowing Dobby?”

“Er—yes, actually,” he replied.

The elf’s face split into a beaming smile. “That makes Tokey so happy!”

“Do you see him often?” Harry asked.

“Sometimes, young sir,” she replied. “Dobby be working at Hogwarts now—he is very happy there!”

“Yeah, he is,” Harry said, smiling gently.

“Tokey is so very happy to be knowing you is friends with her brother! Tokey will make young sir’s favourite for dinner!”

Harry watched in bemusement as the elf clapped her hands jubilantly and popped away with a crack.

“I daresay you have a knack for making friends with house elves, Mister Potter.”

The brunet snorted a laugh. “That’s putting it mildly,” he replied.

Snape was shaking his head, eyes glimmering slightly in amusement as he rose to his feet. “Come, Potter, let us see what we can do for your arm.”

 

 

The snakes hissed a warm welcome as Severus and Harry entered the potions laboratory. Harry instantly grinned and paused by their terrariums, hissing back adoring greetings while Snape gathered the tools he needed. The three snakes pleaded with Harry to release them so they could slide around his warm skin and Harry, sorely tempted to do as they asked, had to settle with lavish promises that once he and Professor Snape were done with what they needed to do, he would ask the older man if the three snakes could join him for the time he spent studying. Somewhat placated, the snakes assented, and Harry made his way across the lab floor. He sat in the chair Snape gestured to and waited patiently.

“Support your arm, Potter, I’m going to remove the sling.”

Harry did so, cradling his injured limb tenderly as the soft material of the sling slipped away. Beneath his tentative fingers, a familiar burn was beginning to disseminate in the wounded skin, the same strange hum he had felt in the Hospital Wing rising and falling menacingly, as if wild magic coursed within his veins.

“What is it, Harry?”

The sound of his given name had him looking up, slightly startled. It wasn’t until he had moved did Harry realise that he had been staring open-mouthed at his bandaged limb.

“It feels so uncontrollable,” he admitted, “as if the smallest nudge could make it… explode.”

Snape eyed his arm warily. “Let us hope the potion I intend to brew with appease that.” He raised his wand again. “Are you ready for me to remove the bandages?”

Harry’s eyes dropped immediately onto the white material, biting his bottom lip as dread began to swirl within his chest.

“Is it…” he cleared his throat. “How bad does it look?” he asked hesitantly.

“Most of the damage is internal,” Snape replied cautiously. “However, there is indeed visual evidence of the injury that will not be able to be hidden with a glamour.”

“Oh, god, is it all mangled?” Harry winced, but, thankfully, his teacher was shaking his head.

“No, your skin remains intact. It will be better for you to simply see it, Potter, you will need to become accustomed to it.”

Releasing a breath, Harry nodded to the man standing before him. “Okay.”

“I will need to remove your shirt.”

Harry nodded again. With a careful flick of his wand, Snape vanished the boy’s shirt and, after a moment of consideration, cast a warming charm on the area. The lab was quite chilly despite the season.

“For your comfort, I recommend resting your arm here.” Snape gestured to the padded arm of the chair and Harry complied. He did not remove his gaze from the limb, not even when Snape jerked his wand and the bandages began to unravel, beginning with the twice-around strips that encircled across Harry’s chest. Slowly, the material fell away from the top of his shoulder and Harry, who had been watching the self-rolling bandages avidly, felt his eyes widen as he caught sight of the unusually coloured veins which spread vine-like down the length of his limb. They were faint purple, almost a pastel lavender, and they seemed to grow darker the further down his arm they ran. They stood out vibrantly against his now aberrantly pale skin which, compared to his usually dark-tanned complexion, was certainly… startling.

“Oh… shit,” he breathed.

“Indeed, Mister Potter.”

Harry stared, transfixed. The light-to-dark gradient of his veins was almost pretty, in a I almost died and this is my souvenir sort of way. As the last of the bandages fell away, he was alarmed to see that the tips of his fingers were tinted a faint shade of purple-grey, the veins on his hand and fingers so dark in colour they were almost black.

“Alright… I see what you mean. This would have been a tad hard to describe.”

Snape’s thin lips quirked upwards for the briefest moment before he was turning away to levitate a small table to his side. Sitting atop was a rack that held three vials and new rolls of bandages.

“I’m afraid that in order to complete the potion, I will require blood from your injured arm,” Severus stated, and Harry’s eyes flickered to the vials, making the connection. “Will you allow me to collect some?”

Harry nodded. After all, how was Snape meant to make a healing potion for him if he didn’t donate some blood?

“Hold your arm out, yes, just like that, good.” Snape stepped closer, wand in one hand and vial in the other. He hesitated briefly. “This will hurt,” he warned, casting his dark eyes to Potter’s face. The boy met his gaze with a determined nod, drawing in a deep breath. Severus reached out with his wand and pressed it as firmly as his dared to the boy’s sensitive skin. Immediately the boy hissed, his head flinching away as his eyes clenched closed, body going taut. He kept his arm frozen in position however, and Snape couldn’t help but admire his resolve.

Once the three vials had been filled and stoppered, Severus removed his wand and reached out a hand, a pain-relief potion smacking into his palm, and handed it quickly to Harry who accepted it gratefully.

“Thank you,” he murmured, his breathing still slightly elevated. After downing the contents and returning the now empty vial to his professor, Harry slumped back in the chair and closed his eyes, willing for his head to stop spinning. More than ever he really fucking hoped that this potion Snape was about to brew would work. The pain from the touch of a single finger had been immense enough let alone his teacher’s wand. How on earth was he going to make it through his last year of school with his arm in this way? His arm seemed to vibrate teasingly at the thought and Harry forced his eyes open to glare at the offending limb.

Please… please heal… His chest ached; a hollow echo. Who was he kidding? He had the worst fucking luck in the world.

He sat wordlessly and compliant as Snape redressed his injury in fresh, magic-infused bandages. Harry hadn’t realised how much of the wild magic the material actually suppressed until his arm was once more wrapped securely.

It was a gentle hum now.

With his arm fully covered, Snape made a gesture with his wand, returning Harry’s shirt. Sensing that their Master and his young ward were almost done, the snakes began to hiss insistently, causing Harry to look over at them with an indulgent, however slightly impatient, smile.

Behave yourselves or there will be no visits today.”

The serpents fell quiet immediately. Harry snorted.

“Ladon, Nagendra, and Nyoka would like to know if they are allowed out for a little while. I don’t mind taking them upstairs with me whilst I study, if that’s okay?” he asked. “Unless you need them?”

Snape shook his head, Harry’s sling in his hands. “No, I do not require their venom at this time. You may take them upstairs.”

Harry’s smile was genuine as he grinned at his teacher. “Thank you, sir.”

A dark eyebrow quirked. “Do not let them distract you from your studies,” the older male instructed, carefully retying the expanse of white material back into a supportive construct.

Harry nodded.

“The remedy for your arm will take precisely four hours to brew. During that time I expect you to complete at least one assignment, understood? I will send Tokey up with your lunch at twelve thirty,” Severus instructed, pleased when the gentle smile remained on the boy’s face as he nodded once more. “Good. Make sure the three of them behave themselves.”

Harry chuckled as the professor turned away, dismissing him, and Harry strode over to the terrariums.

You may join me while I study, on the grounds that you are to behave.

We will be ever so good, young master,” Nyoka, the Jameson’s mamba hissed, “we do not wish to jeopardise our leisured freedom.”

Finding a humanoid creature who speaks our tongue is not something to be missed,” Ladon agreed, sliding up the side of the glass as Harry lifted his lid. “We enjoy the time we can spend with you.” He slithered, warm and content, up Harry’s arm, curling elegantly around his shoulders, his dark brown pearlescent scales shimmering.

You three are much too kind,” Harry hissed, unable to stop the delighted grin from tugging at his lips. He opened Nyoka’s lid next, watching her deep grass-green form slide eagerly onto the skin of his offered hand. She settled quickly on his upper arm, strong muscles constricting as she wrapped herself like a band around his bicep, head rested on the edge of Harry’s shoulder. Her tongue flickered, tickling Ladon’s scales.

Harry turned finally to the last glass tank. Nagendra, beautifully coloured in thick black stripes and thin white stripes, was staring at him intently, waiting for him to lift her lid. With a smile, he did so, and she slid happily up his arm, following Nyoka and curling securely around his forearm.

Ready to go? Everyone comfortable?

Yes, young master,” the three hissed in reply.

The trek upstairs consisted of eagerly flicking tongues and excited hisses; it had been a while since the three serpents had been freed in such a large premises. Before long they were inside Harry’s room and he made a beeline for his bed, knowing it would be the most comfortable place for the snakes to slide around. A pile of study material still sat on the spare bedside table from the previous day and Harry made the decision to continue on with the essay Snape had set them. Perhaps, if he managed to finish it today, Snape would be nice to enough to look over it for him.

Ladon and Nagendra descended onto the soft duvet the moment Harry sat on the mattress. Only Nyoka remained, taking Ladon’s place around Harry’s shoulders and neck, taking great pleasure in pushing her nose through his thick, wildly curling locks as she glided across his scalp.

What are you doing, young master?” she asked, poking out over his forehead as he placed his Potions textbook, some parchment and his self-writing quill onto the bedspread.

Trying to be a good student,” he replied in amusement.

This text has a scent similar to the lab,” Ladon announced, gliding over the heavy tome.

I wouldn’t be surprised,” Harry replied. “This is my Potions textbook.

The death adder’s tongue flickered. “It has Master’s scent on it,” Ladon said and Harry nodded.

Professor Snape teaches at my school, that is how I know him.”

With care, Harry rearranged the pillows on his bed against the headboard so he was able to lean back. He positioned his self-writing quill and half-finished essay to his right and his textbook in his lap, resting on his bent knees. Before beginning, he grabbed another textbook from his bedside table, just in case.

Harry was content as he worked. The presence of his serpent company anchored him in a comforting manner. The way Nyoka was a reassuring weight around his neck, her tongue tickling his skin. The constant slide of Nagendra as she slithered up a bent leg, peeping over the top of his potions textbook. And Ladon, who had slipped beneath Harry’s shirt to rest against the warm skin on his stomach, curled into a spiral.

Harry wondered why he hadn’t bought himself a snake in the past.


 

Lunch had come and gone.

Harry had managed to finish the draft version of his potions essay, relatively happy with the contents, and was seriously considering asking Snape to look over it for him.

The worst he could say is no… Harry thought reasonably as he stroked a finger along Nyoka’s scales. Maybe he won’t mind if I pick his brain a bit…

His understanding of the subject had definitely increased since he’d started spending so much time with his professor in the lab, listening to Snape as he explained potions and ingredients—

Tokey popped into the room.

“Please be excusing Tokey, young sir!” she squeaked. “Master be asking for you to come to the lab!”

Potion must be ready, Harry thought. “It’s alright, Tokey, thank you. Let Professor Snape know I’ll be right down.”

The elf disappeared. Harry released a small sigh, slightly disappointed that his time with the snakes had come to an end.

I’m sorry, friends, but it is time to return to the laboratory.”

Do not worry, young master,” Nagendra hissed, sensing his lowered mood, “we will have more time together.”

 

 

Before they knew it, Nyoka, Nagendra, and Ladon were settling back into their glass homes. Harry stared at them longingly for a moment before turning away, gaze falling on Snape instead.

“How have your studies progressed?” the older man asked, carefully measuring doses of toxic green liquid into awaiting vials.

“Good, actually,” Harry replied. “I managed to finish the draft of an essay I’ve been working on.”

“Excellent, Potter, I am glad to hear it. Now, take a seat whilst I finish measuring the doses.”

Harry lowered himself back into the same chair as this morning, watching Snape as he corked and labelled—

Twenty-two… twenty-three… bloody hell how much did he make…?

Twenty-four vials.

It was going to be a long process then.

Finished, Severus banished the cauldron and racks of vials, save for one, uncorked, which he kept in his hand to give to Harry. The young man took it reverently, staring at the concoction with a small dwindle of hope.

“You will tell me if you feel anything out of the ordinary, yes?” Snape instructed.

“Yes, sir,” Harry replied, feeling nervous all of a sudden. “Erm—are you expecting something bad to happen?” he asked.

“There is always a risk when taking a new potion,” Severus replied. “Especially with an injury such as yours. Whilst I am relatively certain that you will be fine, I do not wish to take the chance.”

Oh. Well, that seemed reasonable enough.

Harry eyed the glistening green liquid. “All of it?” he asked, looking up at his teacher.

Snape nodded. “I do not expect the taste to be all that pleasant. I recommend downing it quickly, Mr Potter.”

Here goes nothing… Harry tipped the cool glass against his lips, the bitter liquid quickly spreading across his tongue and he forced it back, swallowing against the urge to gag.

Ugh.”

“What a charming face, Potter.”

“I swear you make it taste bad on purpose.”

An evil smirk curled at Snape’s lips as he took the empty vial. “Alas, my secret has been discovered,” he replied, before his face took on a more serious expression. “Any adverse reactions?” he inquired, dark gaze moving swiftly over Harry’s face and down his figure, as if trying to see any immediate grievous signs.

Harry shook his head. The potion seemed to have settled within his system rather nicely. “Nothing so far,” he replied.

Snape continued to survey him for a moment longer before giving a brief nod, stepping back. “Tell me if anything feels strange or different, yes?”

Harry nodded, getting to his feet as Snape turned towards his desk to document the current results.

“You have two choices as to what you may do for the rest of the afternoon,” Severus continued, eyes on the parchment, “you may either remain here with me in the lab and continue looking over potion ingredients to familiarise yourself, or you may retire to a place of your own comfort and continued to revise a subject.”

“Actually, I was wondering if you’d be happy to—er, that is… I—oh f-fuck—”

Severus spun around rapidly, in time to see the boy’s face lose all colour, his now dull green eyes rolling back into his skull as his knees buckled. Quicker than a thought Severus’s wand was in his hand, casting a levitation spell just before Harry’s form hit the stone floor.

And swore. Loudly.

With a quick swipe, Snape cleared the nearest benchtop, sending empty vials, parchment, and a cauldron sailing away hurriedly so he was able to lie the boy’s body down on the wood to scan him. His movements were uncharacteristically jerky as his wand moved up and down casting diagnostic scans, dark eyes sweeping and lips pursed in concentration.

When the results came back, Severus almost sagged in relief.

The potion had not caused any harm to the boy as he had initially suspected. In fact, the potion actually seemed to be working… just a little bit too well. The dosage he had administered was evidently too strong, causing Potter’s body to momentarily shut down as the potion counteracted the surging wild magic in his arm. Some dose-altering would, hopefully, solve the current reaction.

Severus allowed himself a moment to close his eyes, calming his thudding heart as the realisation that the boy was going to be fine sunk in. It wasn’t bad enough that he was the sole person responsible for Potter, making him number one suspect should anything go wrong, but he and the boy had actually been getting along these past few days. What if this break in trust caused Potter to return to his distrustful and arrogant nature?

Snape shoved back the ridiculous thoughts. Regardless of the boy’s reaction to the situation it would not do well to dwell on it. Harry’s health was what mattered.

Feeling calmer, Severus pointed his wand at Potter’s face.

Rennervate.”

It took a moment before Harry responded. Eventually, his head listed to the side, eyebrows drawing together in confusion. Heavy-lidded eyes flickered feebly.

“P-Prof… sor?” The word was barely mumbled.

“It’s alright, Harry.” Severus spoke calmly and evenly, knowing Potter would have difficulty understanding him at the present time. “The potion was too strong and your body was not expecting it. Just lie still.”

Harry stopped fighting to keep his eyes open and allowed them to close. He had never felt so groggy in his entire life. Snape murmured something by his side but the words barely caressed his ears as all sounds began to fade; Harry could feel himself drifting—

“I need you to sit up now.”

Snape’s voice, although loud enough to rouse him, was surprisingly soothing. Harry felt an arm slide beneath his shoulder blades and a hand come to rest on his shoulder. In one smooth movement Harry’s torso was lifted up off the wooden bench top. His head lolled backwards on his neck, muscles refusing to function, and he felt a hand move to support it. As he was brought up into a sitting position, the world began to spin drastically and Harry could feel himself lurching to the side. Strong hands gripped him, holding him steady and his head came to rest on something hard and warm.

“Stay still, Harry.”

Snape’s voice was so close to his ear. He blinked tiredly, his blurring vision slowly coming into focus, and he realised his head was resting on his professor’s shoulder.

“Drink this.”

A vial was shoved beneath his nose, the rim pressing encouragingly against his bottom lip. Harry mustered enough strength to lift his left arm and grab at the vial, tipping the contents into his mouth and swallowing, his arm quickly falling limp into his lap and fingers just barely hanging onto the slim glass.

God, he was tired.

He couldn’t even muster the energy to feel awkward about the fact that he was literally leaning on Snape of all people.

Minutes passed. Slowly, ever so slowly, Harry could feel strength returning to his limbs, his mind no longer as hazy. His teacher didn’t move until Harry had lifted his head unaided, his vision soon filled with Snape’s slightly paler than normal face.

“Forgive the light, Potter, I need to check your pupil reaction.”

The younger man managed a slight nod. Then Snape’s fingers were lifting his glasses upwards, the shining tip of his wand suddenly bright in one eye and then the other, leaving oddly dazzling circles of light that he tried to blink away. His glasses were lowered back down onto his nose.

“Squeeze my hand.”

Harry shook himself, surprised to note he hadn’t even realised that his teacher had taken his left hand. He squeezed. Snape nodded. The man moved then, holding his hands against Harry’s feet.

“Press against my palms.”

Harry did so, feeling a tad strange at the odd instruction.

“Good, Potter.” Snape placed the back of his hands on the top of his shoes. “And again.”

Harry flexed his feet towards himself.

“Excellent. There seem to be no deficits in any of your limbs.”

“And… that’s a good thing, yes?” Harry asked, watching as Snape inclined his head.

“Indeed, Potter. How’re you feeling?”

“Exhausted.”

“I’d imagine. It goes without saying that you will not be receiving that dosage again any time soon.”

Harry groaned, rubbing his forehead to help clear some of the drowsy haze. “Yeah, agreed,” he murmured. “Definitely don’t want that to happen again.”

“Here.”

Harry took the offered glass of water with a murmured “thank you,” and swallowed a mouthful. He stared distractedly at the dark stone floor as thoughts filtered sluggishly. If the full strength of the potion was enough to do this to him, he could be sure that a smaller dose would no doubt make him somewhat fatigued. What probably be best to set a regular time, perhaps before bed, so it wouldn’t interfere with his day.

“I recommend resting for the remainder of the day, Harry,” Severus said then. He did not like how pale the boy appeared. “Allow the potion to be processed through your body appropriately, alright? I will complete diagnostic scans tomorrow.”

“Alright,” Harry agreed easily.

His bed sounded like an amazing idea right about now.

Chapter Text

Due to the events of the previous day, Harry slept late the next morning.

Aside from sending Tokey to check in on him every so often, Severus left the boy to sleep, knowing it would be less detrimental to his wellbeing if he was able to get the rest his body needed. The Malfoys were not expected until midday so there had been plenty of time for the boy to slumber; Severus had set an alarm for eleven o’clock on the chance Harry did not wake in time.

Severus already had suspicions as to why Lucius was intent on speaking with them today. The man required information, yes, however the request of actively seeking Harry’s presence was what confirmed Severus’s suspicion in the first place. Lucius Malfoy wanted to ascertain whether or not the boy actually had what it took to defeat the Dark Lord. Whatever the blond aristocrat witnessed here at Prince Manor today would directly affect his, and by extension his family’s, actions within the war.

Lucius never did do anything by halves.

And regardless of what his closest friend chose after their meeting today, Severus had already made his decision as far as Potter was concerned.

With a soft chime, the alarm he had set dinged gently and Severus lifted his head, dark eyes locking on the clock face as it displayed the time.

It was time for Harry to wake.

Instead of sending Tokey, Severus got to his feet and left the room, making his way through the manor and up to the boy’s room. He knocked gently, not expecting as answer, and twisted the knob to open the door and enter the still dark bedroom. With a wave of his wand, a few candles flickered into life, allowing the gentlest of lights to permeate the darkness.

Harry was a curled-up lump in the middle of his large bed. He may be seventeen in just a few weeks, a man within the eyes on the Wizarding community, but Potter had never looked more like a fragile child than he did in that moment. It didn’t surprise Severus in the least to notice the way the boy slept; curled up as if expecting to be struck at any moment, taking up as small amount of space as he possibly could.

Severus suppressed a sigh. Potter deserved better than the life he had been given.

With another flick of his wand, the curtains within the room began to slowly part, filling the large space with sunlight, and rousing the sleeping figure who attempted to burrow instinctively beneath the blankets.

“Unfortunately, it is time for you to wake, Mr Potter.”

Dazed and dull green eyes flickered open, the drowsy stare blank for a moment before a sliver of clarity lightened them ever so slightly. They lifted to meet Severus’s.

“How are you feeling?” the professor asked.

The boy shrugged half-heartedly. “A little groggy… but that’s pretty standard when I wake up.” His was voice was low and husky; roughened by sleep. “What time is it?”

“Eleven.”

Harry jerked, sitting upright. “But—aren’t the Malfoy’s coming at midday?”

“Yes,” Severus replied briskly, “however, your health is my concern right now. Your body needed rest and I was happy to give it. Regardless of the arrival time of our guests, you will not rush. If you are not done by the time they arrive it does not matter. You are not the one with the appointment; Lucius can learn to wait.”

“Are—are you sure?” Harry asked tentatively.

“Very much so,” Severus answered with a nod. “I will have Tokey bring you breakfast up here. Is there anything you wish to do this morning before the Malfoys arrive?”

“Do I have time for a bath, sir?”

“You have time to do whatever you wish,” Severus replied. “In fact, it will give me the chance to inspect your arm before you bathe.”

With a decisive nod, Harry reached over to pick up his glasses. His eyes lingered momentarily on the empty space behind them, something that did not go amiss by Snape as he watched the young man carefully shift to the edge of the bed. The process of checking his arm went smoothly. Snape cast several charms over the strangely tinted skin, dark eyes moving swiftly across the various words and symbols that were cast into the air. He seemed rather placated with the results.

“How does your arm feel today, Potter?” he asked.

Harry tentatively flexed his fingers, unable to stop the wince that crossed his face. “Without moving it feels slightly more settled than it did yesterday,” he replied. “The magic felt so uncontrolled before but now, as long as it’s still, it feels more contained—as if I were still wearing the bandages.”

“But as soon as you move?”

“It reacts, almost like a surge,” Harry replied.

Snape stroked a thoughtful finger against his thin lips. His gaze drifted to the bedside table, eyeing a familiar length of wood.

“Have you attempted to hold your wand?”

The dark-haired young man shook his head. “Not yet,” he replied, glancing over at it. “My arm didn’t seem to react well when I tried to get near. I used my left hand instead and even that felt uncomfortable.”

“Try now,” Severus instructed. “Slowly,” he added.

Drawing in a wary breath, Harry cautiously lifted his bare right arm and extended it towards the length of holly lying innocently on the wooden top of the bedside table. As he neared his wand, Harry noticed the familiar unsettled hum that began to vibrate beneath his skin, originating in his fingertips but quickly spreading up the length of his forearm the closer to his wand he got. There was an unexpected snap, his magic crackling threateningly, as both his wand and his hand released a radiating conflicting pulse, like the repelling ends of two magnets.

Withdrawing his limb and cradling it carefully, Harry turned disappointed eyes to his teacher, who observed the scene with interest.

“That was… an intriguing reaction,” Snape murmured, “and certainly not what I was expecting. It does, however, raise a potential solution to your problem.”

“Really?” Harry asked, unable to hide the hope in his voice. He watched Snape nod.

“I will not elaborate further lest I fill you with expectations that I cannot fulfil. For now, you will proceed with having your bath and breakfast.”

Harry, although somewhat dismayed at the lack of information, nodded his agreement and got to his feet. At least this time he would be able to bathe without his arm in bandages. He was about to head to the bathroom when he paused, biting his lip as he looked at Snape.

“Er—is there, I mean, how should I dress? For the Malfoys?” Thoughts of his oversized, ratty clothing passed through his mind. Whilst he had never really cared in the past about how he was dressed, for some reason he was compelled to put in the effort. He felt weakened enough as it was with his injury and torrential emotional state… he didn’t particularly want to add ‘decrepit appearance’ to the mix.

Snape’s face had taken on a strange combination of exasperation and sympathy, something that certainly did not make Harry feel any better.

“Dress however you like, Harry,” he replied, voice taking on that odd gentle quality which tended to perplex Harry rather than soothe, “you are not the one who is required to make an impression. Understood?”

His professor’s blunt statement did make him feel better however. Over the past few days, while being pleasant or nice or even empathetic did not really come naturally to Snape, Harry had begun to notice that it showed itself in other, more Snape-like ways. And they were ways that actually made sense to Harry. They offered no room for argument, no room for misunderstanding; it was exactly what he needed in order to help him make sense of his whirlwind of a life and feel secure.

“Understood,” Harry repeated with a small smile. “Thank you.” He watched the older man leave, a small tendril of amazement growing in his chest at how easily he had come to trust and appreciate the Potions Master. Although their tentative new understanding of one another had stemmed from a not-so-pleasant analogous experience, it had allowed them to connect on a level not many would have anticipated nor expected.

And for the first time in Harry’s life, he actually had someone who understood. Someone who could share their experiences in reciprocation. Someone who would not stare at him in pity, or attempt to help in useless ways because Harry’s childhood made them feel uncomfortable.

Everyone always seems to make issues like these so personal… Harry thought bitterly, heading towards the bathroom. If they truly understood, they would realise that I do not want someone to fight on my behalf. The damage has already been done, there is not point drawing attention to it. I just need them to let me be.

The wall sconces flared into life, filling the large, black marbled bathroom with fiery warmth and light. Harry absently called for Tokey as he grabbed a towel, asking her if she was able to fill the tub for him once she appeared. Tokey beamed and clapped her hands, the jets instantly spouting hot water. The familiar scent of lavender and honeysuckle filled the air.

“Master be asking Tokey to make young sir some breakfast. What would young sir be liking today?” Tokey asked once the bath had been filled.

“Whatever you served to Professor Snape this morning will be fine, thank you, Tokey,” Harry replied. “You know I’m not so great with making these sorts of decisions.” His smiled, attempting nonchalance, but even Tokey could see the unease lurking just beneath the surface.

She straightened determinedly. Her Master had explained that his charge for the summer did not cope very well when it came to telling Tokey exactly what he wanted, because even the young sir didn’t know! Master had been expressively clear that Tokey was to be patient with the young sir and offer whenever she could to assist him.

“Tokey be happy to make young sir the same breakfast as Master!” she smiled happily. “If it makes young sir feel better, perhaps you be giving Tokey a list of the foods you likes? Then Tokey can be making sure she always gets it right!”

Harry bit his lip as he contemplated Tokey’s request. It would make her job easier if she knew what foods to avoid, and it would give her the chance to make meals for him without her having to double check. He was never really able to give her a straight answer when she did.

He nodded. “I’ll try to remember to do it tonight,” he replied. “Is… is that okay?”

“Of course, young sir, of course!” Her ears flapped madly as she nodded, yellow eyes bright with glee. “And don’t be worrying, young sir, Tokey be reminding you if you be forgetting.”

Harry’s grin was genuine this time. “Thank you, Tokey.”

The elf bowed elegantly. “Coffee with breakfast for young sir?” she asked, straightening.

“Please,” Harry replied.

Tokey couldn’t help but bow once more, disappearing with a crack. With a mild shake of his head, lips still quirked upwards in amusement, Harry faced the now full bath, eyeing the floating suds that seemed to beckon him so invitingly.

And who was he to ignore such an alluring invitation?


 

Clean, warm, and smelling wonderfully of the scents from the soaps within the water, Harry settled on his bed while he waited for Tokey to bring him his breakfast. He was dressed relatively normal as far as his usual style was concerned, opting for his less shabby, but relatively faded, blue jeans. The shirt he had chosen was currently lying over the back of the desk chair, waiting until his arm was once more wrapped in bandages before being worn. Harry had been unable to help himself when he’d chosen the shirt with a wicked grin—it was Gryffindor red, with the symbol of his house quidditch team on the front in gold. It had been a gift from Hermione last Christmas after he’d become Quidditch Captain, complete with his player number and last name printed on the back. He had been pleasantly surprised when he had discovered that the illustration of the Gryffindor lion regularly turned its head and widened its jaws in a mock roar.

Perfect for a confrontation in a room filled with Slytherins.

Of which, Harry was slightly disconcerted to note, he did not find himself particularly caring about. The idea of willingly meeting with Lucius Malfoy of all people should never have been an option in the first place since Harry, normally, would never have given the supposed Death Eater the chance in the past. What was most concerning though, was that Harry wasn’t entirely convinced it was due to Snape’s trust of the blond-haired devils that had persuaded him to give ‘the Malfoys a chance’.

Reflecting on his recent choices, Harry had decided that he no longer cared.

After Voldemort’s attack and being so damned close to losing this war, Harry had come to face the realisation that maybe, just maybe, he would not be the victor in the end after all. For years people had looked to him, the Saviour of the Wizarding world, their way out of this mess, placing all of their responsibilities on his shoulders, to be told nearly every day that he would be the one to finally defeat the darkest wizard of the age.

Him. A not-even-yet-seventeen-year-old.

To face a madman who was four times his age? Who had delved into the darkest of magics for years?

Yeah, that made total sense to Harry.

And it was totally normal for an entire society to expect that, right? To set him up most likely to fail purely because they want someone who wasn’t them to have to deal with it? Leaving Harry in the midst of being an orphan, practically losing everyone he’s ever fucking cared about, endangering those who try to get close—

“Breakfast, young sir!”

Tokey’s squeaky voice made Harry jump, shocking him out of his quickly spiralling thoughts.

“Thanks, Tokey,” he replied. He reached for the coffee gratefully as the elf placed the tray laden with food on the bedspread. Harry eyed the amount suspiciously as he blew across his steaming mug.

“Did Professor Snape honestly eat all of this for breakfast, Tokey?” he asked.

The elf blushed, tugging on her ear. “Tokey be thinking young sir be very hungry is all,” she replied innocently. “Cause it being so close to lunch.”

Harry was unable to stop the patient, indulgent smile as it tugged at his lips. “Alright,” he acquiesced, “but please don’t be upset if I don’t eat all of it, okay? I get full very easily.”

Tokey nodded. “Enjoy your food, young sir! Please be calling Tokey if you be needing anything else.”

A knock at the door interrupted them and Harry called out for Snape to enter.

“Could you place a stasis charm over my food please, Tokey? Professor Snape is going to rebandage my arm,” Harry said as the older man entered the room.

“Certainly, young sir!” Tokey replied immediately. Once the charm was in place, she bowed low once more before she popped away.

Harry turned his gaze to his teacher, immediately captivated by the strangely shaped black contraption nestled in the crook of his elbow. He frowned at it inquisitively.

“I see Tokey has provided you with a suitable feast.”

“She thought I may have been rather… ravenous?”

“Understandable.”

Harry could have sworn that there was the semblance of a smirk on his teacher’s face. Before he was able to scrutinise further, Snape held up the weird black thing.

“I have constructed a much more stable sling for your arm,” he stated. “One that will help minimalize the amount of bumping and unintentional movement you seem to do.”

Harry allowed the jibe to was over him, a small smile appearing on his lips. He had come to realise that whenever Snape insulted him in such a manner, it was the rare moment when the older man was showing his concern. After all, if Snape truly did not care for Harry’s wellbeing, he would not have created a sling just for him. Eyeing it, the sling seemed to be made of what appeared to be sturdy black, slightly padded material, with reinforced curved splints to help maintain its shape and offer further protection and security. Black straps fell from the sling which, Harry assumed, were what helped hold the sling into place.

He looked up at Snape.

“Thank you, sir. I… I really appreciate it,” he said genuinely, oddly touched at his thoughtfulness. He bit back a smile as he noticed Snape become visibly unsettled. It wasn’t much, just an unexpected blink, a slight quirk of a dark eyebrow, and a quick dart of his eyes as he focused on laying the sling on the bed.

“Do try to take care of it, Mr Potter,” Snape said instead. He removed two rolls of magic-infused bandages from his pocket and Harry held out his arm obligingly. The sight of it was still alarming, but at least the shock had worn off now. He did wonder if his skin would ever return to its normal appearance though.

Carefully, the bandages wound themselves around the limb. They started with each individual finger, the strip splitting in two in order to wrap the digits more effectively. Once done, the roll had no problem winding itself around Harry’s hand, wrist, and up his forearm, pausing just after the elbow so the second roll was able to take over, finishing the rest of the extremity. With his arm finally covered, Harry watched as Snape held out his hand, the red shirt lifting up off the back of the chair and into his palm.

His mouth twisted as he took in the front.

“Appropriate…” Snape remarked dryly.

Harry grinned. “I thought you might appreciate it.”

“I don’t believe appreciate would be the word I’d use, Mr Potter. The colour alone hurts my eyes.”

Harry’s grin morphed into a smirk. “I wasn’t talking about the aesthetic, sir,” he replied. Judging from his tone, he knew exactly what Snape had meant.

“Does your agreement to meeting with the enemy include throwing them off their game with visual deterrents? Or simply to remind them of your Gryffindor-like innocence?”

“Hmm… both?” Harry replied, taking the offered shirt from the professor. “Wouldn’t it be a relatively effective Slytherin trait to pretend to be something whilst actually being another?”

“There may actually be hope for you yet,” Snape replied, seating himself on the edge of the bed as Harry donned his shirt carefully. Now fully clothed, the dark-haired young man turned expectantly to the black contraption lying on the duvet.

“This sling should be easy enough for you to put on and remove as you see fit,” Snape explained, lifting it back into his hands. Long elegant fingers slid down a strap that looped from one side of the sling to the other, big enough, Harry presumed, for it to go over his head and hang around the back of his neck. “Would you prefer me to apply the sling since it is the first time? Or do you feel comfortable enough to attempt by yourself?”

Harry tilted his head slightly. “I might see how I go applying it myself, if you could direct me, maybe?”

“Certainly.”

The black sling was passed between them and Harry took a moment to observe the shape and texture of the material; definitely sturdier than the flimsy white sling he’d been using. When ready, he returned his gaze to his professor.

“Position the sling below your arm as it will be easier for you to lower the limb inside due to the unmovable curve where your elbow will sit,” Snape began, speaking in a much more patient voice than Harry was used to. “Use your free hand as a guide to lift the sling up and hold it into position. Make sure your elbow is pressed securely into the curve.”

Harry did as instructed, surprised at the gentle cushioning effect that seemed to line the inside. The sling itself covered a vast majority of his arm, leaving only the very tips of his fingers and the top half of his upper arm visible.

Snape nodded his approval. “Good. Now use your upper body to help stabilise the sling as you will need your free hand to begin adjusting the straps.”

Harry pressed his injured arm against his torso, holding the sling in place as his left hand drifted towards the straps that hung loosely.

“Take the strap that is attached at both ends—yes, that one—and guide it over your head until it rests comfortably around your neck.”

Harry hadn’t noticed before that the strap had a thicker, rectangle-shaped pad about the length of three inches situated in the middle. He briefly wondered what it was for, but as he placed the long black loop around the back of his neck, the pad came to rest comfortably against his skin and his eyebrows rose slightly in realisation.

Clever… Harry thought absently, adjusting the sling carefully to make sure it was sitting right.

“The last strap may be difficult for you to secure,” Snape continued, gesturing to the last length of material that had an odd metal shape on the end. “It is intended to be wrapped around your waist, across your back, and connected to your elbow as a further means of stabilisation. The best way for you would be to guide it around your back and get it as far around as you can. Then come around the front and see if you can reach it. Try to ensure that you do not twist the strap.”

With Harry’s torso ridiculously narrow and his arms rather lanky, he found that he did not have a problem reaching around as Snape had instructed. His only concern was when he had to come around the front. In order to reach the end of the strap, he would have to press awkwardly against his injured arm. A relieved smile broke out on his face as he tentatively pushed against the sling, finding that the thickness and added protective charms weaved within in the material ensured that his injury remained unscathed. He clipped the strap into position and waited patiently as Snape made minute adjustments. Once done, his arm was settled comfortably against his torso.

“How does it feel?” his teacher asked.

“Really good,” Harry replied, looking up and offering a small smile. “Thank you.”

Severus inclined his head and cast a quick tempus, eyeing the glowing red numbers thoughtfully. There was still twenty-five minutes until the Malfoy’s were expected to arrive.

“Would you be opposed to me remaining here whilst you are eating?” Snape asked as he removed the stasis charm from around the personalised buffet and conjuring a small table for it to sit on.

Harry shook his head. “Not at all,” he replied, reaching for the fork. “I’ve gotten used to having meals with you, I’d probably feel weird if you weren’t here.” Which was probably precisely why Snape was staying… Harry mused, only half listening as Snape called for Tokey to fetch some tea.

Despite the rapidly changing nature of their relationship, Harry found himself rather… content. He had never, not once in the entirety of his life at Hogwarts, dreamed that Snape would have been the one he ended up confiding in. But, like a lot of Harry’s life, in some sick cosmic joke, it made sense. He now had a clearer perception of the man, finding comfort and reassurance in their shared experiences. Snape’s uncanny understanding of the odd quirks Harry had formed due to his upbringing allowed him to put in place effective relievers, something Harry been unable to attain in the past, even from people who cared or meant well.

They sat companionably, holding an easy conversation as Harry ate what he could of the large breakfast Tokey had presented. He hadn’t even noticed the time passing until a soft chime echoed around the room, Snape lowering his almost empty tea cup to the tray.

“That would be the Malfoys,” he stated, getting to his feet. Harry lowered his fork, ready to follow his professor downstairs when the man suddenly held up a patient hand. “Stay, finish your meal, and take some time to collect yourself. I will entertain them until you are comfortable enough to join us. As it is, it will also give me the chance to greet them alone and officially determine the nature of their visit.”

Harry immediately nodded his understanding. He knew that as much as Snape would have preferred to entrust his closest friend without uncertainty, there was still the chance that Lucius Malfoy came with malicious intent.

“If, for whatever reason, it is unsafe, I will signal you. You will then have Tokey take you to the Headmaster, understood?”

“Yes, sir,” Harry replied.

Snape nodded once more. “I will see you momentarily.”

The young dark-haired male watched the Potions Master leave, wondering if there truly was a chance the Malfoys had come with the intent to harm him.

Well… at least I’ll find out sooner rather than later… he thought with an ironic and slightly disturbing smile.


 

“Tokey be showing Master Lu-Lu, Mistress Cissy, and young Master Draco to the informal sitting room, Master.”

“Thank you, Tokey. Please inform Harry of where we are once he comes downstairs.”

Tokey nodded. “Tokey can be doings that, Master! Would Master also be liking some tea for his guests?”

“Please.”

The elf popped away and the Professor stepped across the entrance hall, wand nestled up his right sleeve. He was not expecting to be required to use it in a defensive manner, however Severus Snape was not one for taking chances, regardless of who he was meeting. Ahead, he could hear the familiar soft laughter of Narcissa, no doubt in response to a snarky back and forth between father and son. Severus’s guard lowered an inch.

“I do believe Severus would beg to differ,” he heard Draco comment as he entered. A wry smirk was on his godson’s lips, eyes glinting with mischievous glee as he gazed at his father.

“I do believe Severus may beg for his own opinion,” the dark-haired man commented.

The youngest of the Malfoys turned a rare smile in his direction, one only usually reserved for family. Severus allowed his own lips to curve upwards briefly in response.

“Severus,” Narcissa greeted warmly, crossing the carpet to press a warm kiss to his cheek, “it is lovely to see you.” Her eyes drifted to the space behind him. “Mr Potter?” she questioned, returning her light blue stare to his.

“Harry will be along momentarily,” Snape explained. He gestured to the cushioned chairs. “Please sit. I have Tokey preparing tea.” He intentionally used the boy’s given name, knowing it would establish the growing familiarity between them. He also refrained from explaining exactly what it was that was detaining Harry, thus reinforcing the fact that the Malfoys were indeed simply guests here today and that whatever business it was keeping him from the meeting, it certainly was not the Malfoys’ business to know.


 

When there came no warning from Snape after ten minutes, Harry deemed that a worthy amount of time before beginning his decent through the manor. As he stepped into the entrance hall, Tokey promptly popped into sight to direct him to where Snape and the Malfoys were seated. As he neared the open doorway, he couldn’t help but allow his footsteps to falter, listening to the converse of voices.

“May I ascertain a few… qualms I have with you before Mr Potter arrives, Severus?” he heard Lucius ask.

“I suppose it depends on the nature of your qualms.”

“Nothing malicious, I assure you.”

“Then you may proceed.”

There was a brief pause. Harry listened intently.

“Where do you stand in all of this, Severus?”

Inside the room, Snape eyed his oldest friend carefully. “I believe you already know the answer to that, Lucius,” he replied.

The elder Malfoy inclined his head in understanding, a wry smile twisting his lips. “You are complacent with the possible dangers your decision will have?”

“As soon as I took the boy into my care,” Severus agreed steadily. “I have made my decision and I intend to remain true to it, regardless of the repercussions.”

“But, Severus… what if the Dark Lord…?” Narcissa began.

“I have lasted this long,” Severus replied, deadpanned. “My entire being has revolved around fulfilling the promise I made in Lily’s memory. Since that night, every choice I made, every act I performed, was done so in order to protect Lily’s child. Since the Dark Lord’s attack this year, I have tripled my efforts. Do not mistake me—I intend to protect Harry with my entire being.”

Harry swallowed, eyes wide.

“Do you believe the boy will be able to defeat the Dark Lord, Severus?” Lucius remarked.

“I will ensure it.”

Then the room fell silent, leaving Harry to stare blankly at the empty corridor, mind reeling, and a mixture of feelings swirling around inside of him. His thought process didn’t even know where to begin let alone measure what he had just heard Snape proclaim. He supposed he should feel pleased at the professor’s support… but that also established yet another person who expected him to be the one to defeat Voldemort.

But he said he would ensure it… does that mean Snape intends to assist me?

A small flutter; a brief flare of hope.

Here goes nothing…

Drawing in a steadying breath, Harry entered the room.

Four heads turned towards him in one synchronised movement. If the scene wasn’t so serious, Harry would have laughed. Instead he crossed the floor, trying to keep his eyes determinedly fixed on the seat Snape had left free for him. Even still, he was unable to help himself from sparing the Malfoys a brief glance. They looked impeccable as always.

Ugh.

He lowered himself onto the couch beside his Potions professor, declined Snape’s offer for tea, and steeled himself for the moment he and Lucius Malfoy connected gazes.


 

Draco stared.

Potter looking fucking awful; he was nothing like the young man he had grown to know over the past seven years. He was pale, his usually vibrant emerald eyes dark and subdued. He was too thin and he looked absolutely exhausted. Even when Potter’s gaze met his for a brief moment, there was no fire of recognition, no defiant glare returned. Instead, the boy simply allowed his gaze to fall away as he sat beside the Potions Master, staring at the family of Malfoys as if it was a regular occurrence for them to stop by.

At least, Draco mused, his new glasses were an improvement.

Adjusted and no longer blinded by the garish red abomination Potter was wearing, Draco let his stare fall to the black sling that concealed Potter’s wand arm. With a faint frown, he wondered what had happened. If Potter had been injured during the attack, surely Severus would have been able to heal the injury?

Unless the injury was caused by severe Dark Magic… Draco’s subconscious murmured.

“Mr Potter.”

His father spoke, voice the epitome of pureblood politeness.

“Firstly, I would like to extend a gracious thank you for agreeing to meet with us today. I am hoping this conversation will be enlightening for the both of us.”

Potter nodded, holding Lucius’s gaze with polite indifference. But remained silent.

Draco’s curious frown deepened slightly. What the fuck is Potter playing at…?

“I am sure you are curious, if not suspicious, of the underlying reason as to why I requested your presence today. I come of my own accord—the Dark Lord does not know I am meeting with you today.”

Lucius paused then, expecting the familiar lash of unrestrained anger and hot-headedness he had come to associate with the Boy-Who-Lived. When Potter continued to survey him calmly, offering a small nod of acceptance, it momentarily perplexed him. At his side, his wife released a minute, sorrowful sigh, and he knew that Potter’s appearance and severe lack of aspiring attitude was concerning her greatly.

“I will explain where my family and I sit within this war if you are content to listen, Mr Potter?”

Another nonchalant nod.

Draco pressed his lips together in annoyance. He was not enjoying this passive version of Potter.

“My role as a Death Eater is exactly that, Mr Potter, a role.” His father began bluntly. “I play each side as I deem necessary. Do not misunderstand me however; while there are many things that the Dark Lord believes in that I do not, there remains an astounding number of things that I do, in fact, agree with. The same can be said about my relationship with the Light as it were. You will understand, I’m sure, the desire for me to protect my family. This war is rapidly approaching a turn and I am determined to make certain that my family passes through it safe and unharmed. I will be honest—there will be no direct help from me unless there is something I am able to gain in return. I do not rush into circumstances like a brash Gryffindor.”

For first time since he’d entered the room, Potter spoke.

“And your intended goal?” His question was voiced astoundingly calmly, no hint of anger or defiance present. Lucius’s sleek blond eyebrow quirked ever so slightly.

“That regardless of the outcomes of this war, the Malfoys will remain untarnished and on top,” he replied bluntly. “It worries me not who the victor is.”

Potter’s head bobbed again as he nodded his understanding. Draco was feeling unsettled at the lack of typical Gryffindor outrage.

“Understandable.”

It was only due to the years of pureblood training that prevented Draco from dropping his jaw at the way Potter uttered the word so… so apathetically.

This was not the male he knew. This was not how Potter should be.

The fire that had burned so passionately within his schoolyard-enemy had completed been extinguished and it was ridiculously disturbing. He and the brash Gryffindor may not have been on any level of friendship in the past, yet there were certain expectations that the two of them had established over the years, a regime as it were, in how he and Potter acted around, and with, one another.

And Potter was breaking the rules.

Draco watched, with a growing frown, as Potter seemed to grow more and more agitated as the conversation progressed. What was odd, however, was the fact that the attention was now off Potter. Why was the Boy-Who-Lived suddenly becoming so worked up now that Severus and his father were speaking? Potter’s head jerked ever so slightly, as if catching the passing end of another conversation, one that the rest of them could not hear.

There was something seriously wrong with the supposed Saviour of the wizarding world.

The room grew quiet as there came a lull in the conversation. Severus took the chance to turn to Potter and murmur something that did not reach where Draco and his family were seated. He watched Potter nod, a flash of relief and gratitude crossing his face, before the dark-haired young man turned to face them.

“Please excuse me,” he said, voice soft, as he rose to his feet and left the room without so much as a backwards glance.

Oh no you don’t… a voice in Draco’s head growled. He waited a moment before catching his godfather’s eye. “Severus, if I may, I would also like to be excused,” he stated. Although his tone was every bit as polite as expected of a Malfoy, the hidden message behind his request went unmissed by the Potions Master. The dark-haired male nodded and the Slytherin was instantly on his feet, following the path Potter had trodden a minute before. He slowed just before the entrance to the foyer, catching sight of Potter walking towards the staircase and waited until the Gryffindor had almost reached the top of the stairs before following, wanting to make sure the other male was unaware of his presence until they could find a secluded area.

He almost needn’t have bothered, apparently. Potter was so lost in his thoughts that he did not even turn when Draco’s foot scraped the edge of the carpet as the blond turned down the corridor, a fact which caused pale eyebrows to lift in mild surprise. Potter had always been notorious for his suspicious and edgy nature, catching Draco numerous times at Hogwarts simply by hearing him approach. Watching the dark-haired male enter a room midway down the hallway, Draco straightened his shoulders with resolve and crossed the distance between them in brisk, long strides. A small, satisfied smirk appeared briefly on his lips when the door to Potter’s room remained open and Draco had absolutely no qualms about storming inside.

“What the hell is going on, Potter?”

Potter didn’t even turn around.

“What do you want, Malfoy,” the male replied, deadpanned.

“You look like shit,” Draco spat. “Surely living with Severus isn’t entirely horrible.”

The brunet’s shoulders sagged. “Just go away, Malfoy. I’m not in the mood.”

A derisive laugh fell from Malfoy’s lips. “That’s never stopped me in the past, why would you expect it to work now?” With an abrasive shove, Draco slammed the bedroom door closed, glaring at the other boy’s back. “I won’t ask you again, Potter, what the hell is going on?”

“Why are you so concerned?” Harry bit out, finally turning around. His face was contorted into a scowl, green eyes blazing for the first time in days. “Why the fuck are you even here?

“Because the apparent Saviour of the Wizarding World needs a good kick up the arse,” Malfoy sneered in disgust.

Harry threw up his left hand in frustration, a growl escaping his lips as he stomped away from the blond. “If you think I’m going to take advice from a fucking git like you, Malfoy—!”

Silencio.”

Harry’s voice instantly vanished. He spun around, cheeks flushed with anger, and mouth working soundlessly as he gestured obscenely at the blond who stood calmly, wand held steady in his hand.

“Stop acting like an ill-bred dunce and I’ll consider removing the spell,” Malfoy stated. “You may find this hard to believe, but I do actually care about your wellbeing, Potter.”

Harry’s mouth snapped shut and his face screwed up into an expression of disbelief.

Bull. Shit. He mouthed.

“Shocking, I know.” Malfoy pointed to the bed. “Now sit down and shut up.”

Emerald eyes burned.

“Glare at me all you want, Potter, I will not remove the spell until you act civilised. You and I are completely alone up here and you are unable to perform spells since you are not yet seventeen. You look like utter shit and I want to know what the hell is going on. So sit down and shut up.”

Harry’s free fist clenched and unclenched, his teeth bared in a snarl. Malfoy held his stare, one sleek blond eyebrow quirked, almost begging Harry to defy him. Slowly, with deliberate, angrily exaggerated movements, Harry lowered himself on the edge of the bed, flipping Malfoy off as he did so.

Malfoy smirked. “Good boy.” He twirled his wand expertly with his fingers in a blatant show of mischievous joy, enjoying the way Potter’s cheeks grew red and blotchy with repressed fury. “Now, if you play nice, I’ll remove the spell. Start mouthing off at me again, and I’ll curse your mouth permanently shut, understand?”

There was nothing more Harry wanted to do than tear Malfoy limb-from-limb at that moment. The conceited arse out-matched him easily now that Harry’s arm was damaged—and he wasn’t exactly about to call Snape for help. Finally, after a full minute of the dark-haired male holding the sly Slytherin’s gaze with a glare, he conceded with a stiff nod.

“I rather like you like this, Potter,” Malfoy said, summoning a chair wordlessly from the corner of the room. “Silent and compliant. My kind of man.”

The fingers of Harry’s left hand curled painfully tight into the duvet, restraining himself from punching Malfoy in the nose. His eyes burned with the promise of murder. Malfoy’s smile grew.

“Sweet Merlin, my summer really has been dull. This is the most fun I’ve had since last semester.” He flicked his wand lazily, lifting the silencing spell. “Spill, Wonder Boy. What the hell is going on?”

“Fuck off,” Harry growled.

“Oh, what a shame, that is not the answer I am looking for today.”

Then go away.”

“No. Tell me what the fuck is wrong with you.”

“Nothing.”

Malfoy’s jaw clenched briefly. “Try again, Potter.”

“Bite me, Malfoy.”

“If you’re not careful I will do precisely that.”

The dark red blotches were rapidly growing on the brunet’s cheeks, jaw working frantically as his teeth grinded. “Fine!” he hissed. “You want to know what’s going on, Malfoy? Voldemort decided to drop by for a delightful chat that just so happened to end spectacularly as you can plainly see. You’ll have to forgive me if I don’t fucking feel like jumping for joy from the results of the outcome.”

Bored silver eyes stared at Harry in disdain.

“Finished?” Malfoy remarked. “Merlin, Potter, one would never second-guess your innate melodramatic Gryffindor nature.”

“I was as good as dead, Malfoy!” Harry suddenly spat, green eyes flashing with anger. “I’d like to see how you would fucking take it!”

“You were caught off-guard,” Malfoy replied calmly.

“Yeah, in the bloody place we all thought I was safe!” Harry pinched the bridge of his nose in frustration, trying to calm his suddenly erratic breathing. “Voldemort managed to blow apart the one place that was meant to be impenetrable. How the fuck did he do it? And now that he has… it just shows that I’ve been underestimating him my entire life. I’m not ready for this, and now—” he looked down in disgust at the sling, “I never will be.”

Malfoy stared at the other male. Where the fuck was the stubborn, determined, asshole Boy-Who-Lived he was used to? “Not with that fucking attitude,” he snapped in disgust.

“Oh sorry, Malfoy, am I making you upset? Getting you down? Am I not chipper enough for you?” Harry spat viciously. “You’ll have to forgive me of course, it’s a tad hard to be all joyous and righteous when you’re struggling with the fact that you almost died.”

“Is this pity-party planning on ending soon?” Malfoy sneered.

Fuck you, Malfoy,” Harry replied venomously. “You haven’t lost anything. You have a family who love you and actually want to keep you safe. You don’t have a fucking madman after your blood. You can still play quidditch! Quidditch was the one thing that kept me sane and now I don’t even have that anymore!”

“You can still captain a team without actually playing I hope you realise.”

“Because that is so much better than the thrill of catching a snitch right from beneath your nose.”

“Sweet fucking Merlin, Potter! Would you stop being so bloody pessimistic about everything!”

“Why do you even care?! What should it matter to you if I’ve stopped giving a fuck!

The familiar signs of surging wild magic were beginning to appear but both males were so focused on each other that neither of them had realised.

“Because a lot of people are depending on you! Yet here you are, wasting away like an absolute degenerate!”

“And how the fuck would you know about people depending on me, Malfoy?!”

“Because I’m one of them!

You—what?” All at once, Harry’s anger seemed to dissipate, the room growing still as the wild magic seeped submissively back under control.

“You heard me,” Malfoy spat.

“But why would—your father?”

“My father may be playing each side, Potter, but I for one would prefer not to serve the Dark Lord as a marked slave.”

Harry stared at him. Malfoy held his gaze with a derisive sneer.

“Shocking is it?” he sneered, voice laced with snark. “Had me pegged under your typical stereotype?”

Harry choked a laugh. “Can you blame me, Malfoy?”

Staring at the predictable Gryffindor, Malfoy shook his head in mild disbelief, his blond hair swaying loosely. “Yes, actually,” he stated, piercing Harry with a hard glare. “And it is these sorts of prejudices that blind you to the truth.”

Anger began to bubble within Harry’s chest again, a frown tugged at his brow as his lip curled. “Prejudices that blind me to the truth?” he spat. “Pot. Kettle. Black.”

“Prejudices go both ways, Potter! You’re so concerned with everyone playing the role you expect of them that you feel betrayed when they don’t follow your expectations. How many times have you felt deceived when someone acted outside the ideals you laid upon them? How many times has a Gryffindor disappointed you whenever they weren’t typically brave and true?”

Harry stared blankly, unable to spout denials, and the blond smirked in response.

“Exactly,” Malfoy continued. “The world is not black and white. Gryffindors are not entirely good and Slytherins are not inherently bad. Slytherin may be the face you expect to see behind the mask of a Death Eater, but I certainly do not have any plans on becoming one.”

Tilting his head questionably, a faint frown wrinkled his brow. “So why aren’t you playing each side like your father?” the Gryffindor asked curiously. “While it’s a fucking relief to hear you say you don’t actually want to become a Death Eater… is it not expected of you?”

“Does not concern me,” Malfoy replied offhandedly. “I will openly defy him if possible—even if I only succeed in providing an alternative choice for my friends who do not know any better.”

“Why?” Harry pressed. “Why did you, of all people, change your mind?”

For a brief moment, an odd look passed over Malfoy’s pale face. Before Harry could blink, the look was gone, and the familiar derisive glint had returned to the intense silver eyes.

“Because I no longer believe in the Dark Lord’s goal,” Malfoy replied haughtily. “Any ideologies I had supported and agreed with in the past have been overshadowed by the pure fact that the Dark Lord is insane. He is nothing like the wizard he used to be before his resurrection. He has lost sight of what he originally stood for—all he does now is curse and kill.”

“And what did Voldemort originally stand for, pray tell?”

Malfoy quirked an eyebrow and ignored the snide attitude behind the question. “Maintaining Pureblood traditions, Potter. Even you can’t deny how muggle-orientated the wizarding world is becoming.” He held up a hand suddenly, stopping Harry halfway through his indignation. “I know the integration of muggles is inevitable; wizards and witches have the right to choose who they marry if they so wish. What is disappearing, is everything magical folk stood for. Our traditions, our values—they are all being replaced. Take Traditional Yule Tide for example. The twelve days of Yule Tide rituals do not exist at Hogwarts anymore—there is only Christmas day. Didn’t you ever wonder why during the Triwizard Tournament when we had the Yule Ball it was named thusly despite never celebrating a proper Yule at Hogwarts before? That’s because they used to, Potter, back when the Triwizard Tournament was a regular occurrence.

“There is a Muggle Studies class for Merlin’s sake. Where is the Wizarding Studies class? How on earth are Muggleborns expected to assimilate into an entirely new culture if there is no one to teach them? Not everyone will be as determined as Granger, and even then her knowledge into true wizarding traditions is limited.”

Harry stared at Malfoy, eyebrows high on his brow. “I don’t know what’s more concerning,” he stated, “that we’re actually having a relatively civil conversation or the fact that you’re making some form of sense.”

“It’s amazing the things you learn when you learn to pull your head in.”

“Shove off, Malfoy,” Harry replied without heat.

“That comment was as much directed at you as it was me, Potter,” Malfoy replied. “I’ve come to terms with a lot of things since last year. I hated the person I was, so I decided it was time for a change.”

“You going to stop being such a prat?”

“Don’t be ridiculous, that is my legacy.”

Harry’s sigh had a hint of melodrama, something the blond couldn’t help but roll his eyes at. “I guess it is hard to stop being such a git after so many years…”

“Look who’s talking.”

Harry’s outraged snort filled the room even as a wry smile appeared on his lips. “Hell, I’m not even going to fight you on that.”

“Hmm, so the Saviour can be taught.”

“So, apparently, can you,” Harry shot back immediately. “Only took you seventeen years.”

Malfoy’s upper lip began to curl. “It’s a bit hard when you’re surrounded by it every fucking day. Don’t tell me your opinions on things haven’t been warped by oppressive beliefs.”

A sudden vice-like icy grip clamped down on Harry’s chest. He swallowed thickly, body tensing as he fought to keep himself calm.

He didn’t mean anything by it… his mind murmured desperately. He was just proving a point…

Even still, the vicious voice of his uncle had begun to echo in his head, filling his thoughts with reminders of his worthlessness, of his weaknesses…

“Potter?”

Harry jerked. “I’m fine,” he snapped reflexively, glaring at the blond. “Was just—just my arm. It does that sometimes.”

Disbelief was clear on Malfoy’s face but Harry relaxed when the Slytherin made the obvious choice not to press.

“Definitely not going into the family business then?” the brunet asked instead, hoping to shift the attention.

It was an obvious deflection ploy, one that Harry knew Malfoy would pick up on immediately. Strangely, the other boy seemed content to allow the change of focus.

“I’m going to stop being an ignorant stereotype,” Malfoy replied adamantly. “I love my father, Potter, but I have come to realise that not everything he believes in, I must as well. I did that for my entire life and look where it got me.”

“Skulking around and unsuccessfully attempting to kill Dumbledore?”

“Look at you being all high-and-mighty, not like you at all.”

The smallest of genuine smiles had appeared on Malfoy’s face, but a concerned expression was dawning on Harry’s, dimming the brief moment of good-natured ribbing that had just occurred. “I can’t imagine Voldemort was terribly pleased with the end result, what with Dumbledore not being dead and all…” He watched as the blond’s jaw momentarily clenched, eyes becoming shadowed.

“No, he was not. Thankfully, Severus managed to convince the Dark Lord that my skills could be utilised in a far greater, effective outlet. The Headmaster has been able to evade the Dark Lord for years. How was I—a sixteen-year-old student—meant to kill a wizard as ingenious and powerful as Dumbledore?”

Harry decided not to press further and simply nodded. “Well, if it means anything to you, Malfoy, I’m… glad you’re alright.”

“Sweet Merlin, concern from the Wonder Boy himself. This may be the greatest day of my life.”

“God, you’re such a prick.”

“A fact I have never denied.” Malfoy smirked openly, his posture the most relaxed Harry had ever seen it.

With a bemused smile, Harry shook his head and pushed his left hand through his curling hair. “So, what now then? I can’t imagine you wanting to tell me all of this only for us to return to loathing one another.”

There was a faint flicker of pale eyes as they darted to the movement of Harry’s hand. “I suppose not,” Malfoy agreed mildly. “Especially since I tend to frequent Severus’s abode during the summer.”

“Only natural when your Potions Professor is your godfather.”

Malfoy blinked. “He told you that?”

“Er, yes? Why wouldn’t he?”

“It is not information Severus usually feels incline to share. The last I looked, Potter, you and the Professor weren’t exactly close friends.”

Harry shrugged. “We have… an understanding,” he replied as his gaze drifted, a benevolent smile curling his lips. “Despite your earlier accusation, staying with Professor Snape has become the least of my concerns and I—I’ve come to appreciate his presence.” He could feel Malfoy’s scrutinising gaze boring into him and he lifted his head, meeting the blond’s stare.

“Hmm,” was all Malfoy said in response. “Good.” He rose to his feet, brushing down the smooth, dark waistcoat he wore. Harry forced himself to tear his eyes away from the motion.

“I’d call that a successful first attempt at being civil, wouldn’t you, Potter?”

A single shoulder lifted half-heartedly in response. “Time will tell how long it lasts,” he replied as Malfoy banished the chair he’d been sitting on back to its rightful place.

“Indeed.” Malfoy smirked again. “You will be seeing me again, Potter.”

“Oh god, is that a promise or a threat?”

Malfoy snorted delicately as he stepped across the carpet. “Both, obviously,” he replied. The bedroom door swung open at his approach and, with a final quirked eyebrow and an audacious twist of his mouth, the Slytherin swept out of the room.

Harry stared at the empty doorway. Despite the shock of the somewhat amicable conversation he and Malfoy had just had beginning to ebb away, Harry found himself smiling in disbelief.

He and Malfoy. Tentative friends.

How the hell had that happened.

Chapter Text

Entering the dining room with a yawn, Harry almost stopped dead when he saw a familiar blond-haired Slytherin seated at the table with Snape. As it was, he did find himself pausing to stare at the unusual sight, unsure what to make of the disturbingly familial scene. Harry’s usual chair was free and waiting for him, but that meant he’d be face-to-face with Malfoy when he sat down. When the other boy had mentioned that Harry would be seeing him again, he honestly had not been expecting it to be so… soon.

With a bemused frown, Harry reached the table and took his seat.

“Good morning, Potter,” Malfoy said with a smirk. “Sleep well?” He had a gently steaming cup of tea sitting before him.

“Er—yes?” Harry replied, unable to stop himself from throwing a quick glance in Severus’s direction, who was, as usual, reading the newspaper and paying them no mind.

“I hope you’ll forgive my presence,” Malfoy continued easily, lifting his tea to take an elegant sip. “My summer has indeed been spectacularly boring, I simply sought for a variation in company.”

“It’s… fine.”

Harry felt odd.

There was nothing remotely dangerous about Malfoy being present for breakfast. It wasn’t as if Harry felt threatened or anything… so why was the situation making Harry feel as unsettled as he did right then? He swallowed harshly, trying desperately to stop his heart from beating so fast.

It was different and it was making Harry feel ungrounded. Snape had promised that this manor was to be a safe place. He had gone out of his way to ensure that everything remained the same each morning—especially in the morning when Harry was feeling the most unsure and vulnerable. Keeping things the same at the beginning of each day gave Harry the reliant reinforcement he needed in order to feel safe and secure, ensuring the promise his professor had made him.

And Snape had changed the game. Without even warning him.

A sudden lump swelled within Harry’s throat. He swallowed again, unable to shake the slightly perturbed sense of betrayal now a swirling torrent in his chest. Should he have expected less from Snape? Was there honestly no one that Harry could feel completely safe with? His heart began to gallop. A cold wash swept over him as sweat broke out all over his skin. Oh god, he needed to get out. Right now.

“I—excuse me,” Harry mumbled. He did not look at either Snape or Malfoy as he pushed himself quickly from the table, needing desperately to get out of the room so he could breathe.

Malfoy watched, intrigued, as his godfather rose silently from his chair, catching Potter just before he was able to make his escape. He could not hear the gently spoken words Severus murmured to Potter—who honestly looked like he was about to pass out at any second—but whatever he said must have worked because within a few minutes, Severus was leading the Golden Boy back to the table.

At least Potter doesn’t look as grey in the face anymore… Draco thought in mild amusement. He kept his mouth shut however, suspicions circling within his head at Potter’s strange behaviour. Catching his godfather’s eye, they shared a brief but extremely pointed look, to which Draco offered a minute nod, his suspicions confirmed. He made sure not to look at Potter as he retook his seat, and instead busied himself with taking another sip of tea and keeping his face respectfully blank. Thankfully, that was when Tokey popped into the room to serve breakfast, providing a suitable distraction. There were three loaded plates on her tray and she placed them before each of them with a squeaked “Good morning!”

Draco couldn’t help but notice that Potter’s food, although practically the same to his and Severus’s, was prepared slightly differently. The tomatoes and mushrooms, which were both grilled and sautéed on his and his godfather’s plate, were left uncooked on Potter’s, and while the eggs prepared were standardly poached, they had been scrambled for dark-haired young man. Everything had also been efficaciously cut into bite sized pieces.

Well. That was certainly a given… Draco mused, placing his napkin across his lap and reaching for his cutlery.

Breakfast passed without incident, the conversation that arose was minimal and uncannily domestic. Potter picked half-heartedly at his food, a sheer sign of his uncertainty with Malfoy being present, but still answered the Potions Master whenever the man turned the conversation towards him. Severus inquired after each of them about their summer studies, and it wasn’t until Draco observed that with each question his godfather asked him he would then ask Potter, that he realised how Severus was establishing a sense of normality, something Draco could see working when, with each casual inquiry, the Golden Boy relaxed just that little bit more.

And, of course, Draco was as smug as a hippogriff when he successfully coaxed a smile from Potter with one of his well-placed quips. Between the two of them, he and Severus had almost gotten Potter completely out of his self-contained shell, when an interruption broke the carefully established air of asylum. Both young men noticed when Severus involuntarily twitched, his left-hand clenching tightly. They turned as one, Harry frowning in confusion, Malfoy’s eyes reflecting suspicion.

“I have been summoned,” their professor stated. He lifted his dark gaze to Harry whose face was rapidly revealing his unease. “Do not leave the manor.”

Harry nodded his understanding, the unease on his face morphing into panic as Snape got to his feet. “You’re going?” he asked.

“I have to, Harry,” Severus replied. “You know I do.”

“But—” Harry worried his lip. “It seems too… coincidental.” He winced, sending an apologetic look as he glanced at Malfoy.

“Be that as it may, I cannot deny the Dark Lord when he calls for me,” Severus continued patiently. “Should something happen, you know who to call, yes?”

Despite the reluctance on Harry’s face, the young man nodded. Snape found himself pressing a brief hand to the messy dark hair in reassurance before his dark gaze swept to Draco. Only the slightest hint of apprehension shone in the silver gaze, the placid mask of indifference firmly in place.

With a final inclination of his head Snape left the table, two pairs of eyes watching his form cross the floor and vanish through the doorway. A strained silence filled the room. Glancing guiltily towards Malfoy, Harry worried his bottom lip for a moment before speaking.

“I didn’t mean to accuse your father, especially in front of you,” he murmured.

“Don’t be ignorant, Potter,” Draco replied with a snort, “what else were you to think given the circumstances? Granted, as much as I hope that it is unlikely for my father to betray Severus, something may have happened which has forced my father’s hand.” There was a look of concern on his face that Harry had never seen before. It almost made Malfoy look human. The Slytherin seemed to realise this as well because he was quick to drop his stare to his half-eaten breakfast, piercing half of his tomato and cutting distractedly. “In any case… I suppose we’ll soon have our answer.”

Harry hummed noncommittedly, picking up his fork again and stabbing at a piece of sausage as his thoughts turned to more worrying ideals.

“I am sorry if my presence here this morning caused you distress,” Malfoy uttered candidly, stunning the brunet from his musings. “Would you prefer it if I left?”

Harry stared at the male across from him for a moment. He shook his head.

“No. No, it’s alright. I—” he cleared his throat, “I’d probably go mad if I was left alone right now. Besides, I suppose I need to get used to you being around sooner or later.”

The smirk returned to Malfoy’s face. “Yes. You will.”

Harry groaned. “We’re going to drive each other mad, aren’t we.”

“Without a doubt.”

Lowering his fork to his plate, Harry reached for his mug of coffee, staring distractedly at the dark brown contents before lifting his gaze to catch Malfoy’s. The blond frowned faintly at the questioning look on the Golden Boy’s face and he too, lowered his cutlery, quirking his head to the side in an obvious inquisitive movement. He watched the emerald eyes swirl with a mixture of suspicion and uncertainty before it became all too much.

“What is it,” Malfoy stated bluntly. He did not enjoy being on the receiving end of that stare.

“Something I remembered has made me question what you told me yesterday,” Harry replied. “About your father.”

“Everything I said to you yesterday is true,” Draco began defensively. “I—”

“Tell me then,” Harry quickly interrupted, “if your father is so intent on saving face and playing each side to his favour, why did he give Tom Riddle’s diary to Ginny in second year? If your father truly plays each side, why did he assist in the almost-successful return of Voldemort?”

Silver eyes blinked in surprise. “I was not aware of the true extend of the danger,” Malfoy admitted, “neither was my father, I suspect. To him it was simply a dark artefact, one with an obvious tie to the Dark Lord, that he needed out of his clutches and away from the Malfoy name. Why he gave it to Ginevra Weasley is based purely on one fact: my father is not a nice man. He would have planted the diary with the Weasleys with the malicious hope that they were caught with it.”

“If that were simply the case, why did he not attempt to destroy it?” Harry asked.

“He dared not to,” Malfoy replied. “He knew the Dark Lord had not been completely destroyed that night. It would be hard for him to slither his way back into good graces if he was caught destroying such a personal dark artefact of his old Master.”

Harry ran his left hand distractedly through his hair, holding Malfoy’s gaze. “Are you aware of what the diary was?”

Pale eyebrows pulled together in a frown. “What do you mean, Potter? It was a dangerous dark item—cursed no doubt.”

An ironic smile twisted Harry’s lips into an ugly grimace. “It was a fuck more dangerous than that, Malfoy,” he bit out. “It is the reason why I questioned your father’s motives in the first place.” He watched, unsurprised as the familiar curl of a sneer appeared on Malfoy’s face.

“Are you planning on gracing me with your unsurpassable knowledge then, Potter?” he drawled.

“Are you honestly unaware of the diary’s true nature?” Harry shot back.

“It was just a cursed diary, Potter! Merlin, you are insufferable.” Draco didn’t have to pretend to show his disdain this time, Potter’s presence was enough for the feeling to be genuine. He watched guardedly as the dark-haired male shook his head at Draco’s emission but, when striking green eyes met his once more, Draco was surprised to see a swirl of prominent introspection within their depths.

“What I am about to tell you does not leave this table,” the brunet ordered, and Draco felt a shiver run down his spine at the commanding tone. “I am taking a chance to trust you, Draco, don’t make me regret it.”

The intensity of Potter’s sincerity shocked him. He nodded. Draco watched, eyes drifting over the male as Potter drew in a steadying breath.

“What do you know of Soul Magic, Malfoy?”

Soul Magic…? “The standard knowledge,” he replied. “Soul-Bonds and the like, both Light and Dark rituals.”

“Any rituals to do with immortality?”

“Achieving immortality is unfeasible, Potter.”

“Then you will be disappointed to discover that Voldemort found a way,” Potter stated bluntly.

Grey eyes narrowed. “That is impossible.”

“Not for an insane, power-hungry mad-man.” A sliver of satisfaction wormed its way into Harry’s stomach as he watched a flash of doubt pass over Malfoy’s face. He inclined his head knowingly, understanding the other male’s hesitation.

“It is how he was able to return,” Harry murmured. “The diary…” his voice trailed off, lips pressing together as he kept his gaze on Malfoy. A sliver of doubt had begun to grow, making Harry take pause on lunging so trustingly with such crucial information. Was this budding friendship worth losing a war over…? I’ve already said enough to get into serious trouble should Malfoy go to Voldemort with this information…

The Slytherin seemed to realise his predicament however. The disgruntled expression on Malfoy’s face quickly smoothed into a mask of understanding, a knowing glint in his eye as he casually reached for his tea, taking a measured sip, before speaking.

“Look, Potter,” he began, voice oddly gentle, “this can wait. Whatever this—” he waved a casual hand between them— “is between us is still new. I don’t expect deep dark secrets to be shared on the first morning.”

Harry took a moment to consider Draco’s statement. He was right, really. They spent the better part of seven years loathing each other, it was a bit much to suddenly drag Malfoy in this shit with Voldemort, especially since it was too early to clearly determine Malfoy’s loyalties, regardless of what he had announced yesterday.

“Let’s move on to a cheerier subject, yes?” Draco suggested as he lowered his cup back onto the table.

Harry released a breath and nodded. “Yeah,” he agreed. “And… you have a point. So—yeah, let’s change the subject.”

A humorous smirk twisted Malfoy’s lips. “Severus told me you’ve taken quite a shine to Ladon, Nagendra, and Nyoka.”

Harry felt his own mouth pull into a smile. “I suppose that is putting it mildly,” he attempted to jest.

“Severus also accused them of favouritism since they will no longer obey him.”

This time, a genuine grin broke out across the dark-haired male’s face. “Entirely true,” he remarked. “It isn’t my fault that I’m so… charismatic?”

“Charismatic towards snakes…” Draco smirked ironically. “Indeed.”

“I suppose you like snakes and all that, considering you’re in Slytherin?” Harry asked, missing the odd glow in Malfoy’s eyes.

“Being in Slytherin doesn’t automatically mean you like snakes, Potter,” Malfoy stated evenly. “Even if, coincidently, I actually do.”

“Do you have a snake?”

Malfoy shook his head. “Unfortunately, I do not.” But then he chuckled darkly. “Despite his connotations and… typical Slytherin flare… my father is rather averse to serpents.”

Harry’s jaw dropped as he gaped, eyes lighting up with mischievous glee. “You’re lying.”

“I assure you I’m not.”

“Your dad is afraid of snakes.”

“Exceptionally.”

“This is the greatest thing I’ve ever heard.”

“You’d be wise not to use that against him, Potter, lest he turn you over to the Dark Lord out of spite.”

“It would totally be worth it.”

The blond snorted. “Figures.”

Harry chuckled down at his plate of food, actually feeling rather comfortable sitting here with Malfoy. The morning may have started out shaky, but Snape’s placid reassurance had indeed paid off.

Go figure… Harry thought mildly.

The two young men finished off their breakfast in amidst light conversation, rounding up their meal with a final cup of tea.

“You are content if I continue to keep you company?” Malfoy clarified, draining the last of his drink.

Harry nodded. “Need to try and make this friendship thing work somehow, yeah?”

“Indeed.” A gentle smile appeared on his face. “Well, while we attempt that, why don’t we allow Ladon, Nagendra, and Nyoka a taste of freedom?”

Potter’s face immediately brightened. “I can’t imagine they would be opposed to that idea.” He nodded towards Malfoy’s plate. “You done?” he asked, and Draco nodded, picking up the napkin from his lap and delicately dabbing at his mouth. Harry tossed his own napkin onto the table top and pushed from the table just as Tokey popped back into the room.

“Sirs are being done?” she asked.

“Yeah, thanks, Tokey,” Harry replied. “We’re going to get the snakes and settle somewhere—probably one of the parlours.”

The elf nodded her understanding. “Do sirs be wanting refreshments?”

Harry turned expectantly towards Malfoy who shook his head at the silent question.

“I think we’re good for now thanks, Tokey,” Harry said. “Maybe later?”

“Certainly!”

Harry sensed Malfoy fall into step beside him as they left the informal dining room. His mind was still reeling from the abrupt change of the nature of their relationship; to suddenly shift from hating the Slytherin with unadulterated passion to now willingly spending companionable time with the male…

“So, Potter, which of the three is your favourite?” Malfoy inquired, flashing him a brief, impish smirk. “I am rather partial to Ladon myself, he’s such a beautiful specimen of death adder.”

Harry turned to him, eyebrows drawn together in indignation. “You can’t have a favourite, Malfoy,” he scoffed.

The blond’s eyebrow quirked upwards and he held Harry’s stare unblinkingly.

Harry felt his cheeks heat.

“Nyoka,” he grumbled, much to the Slytherin’s pleasure, who chuckled.

“You’re much too easy, Potter,” Draco said good-naturedly as they entered the laboratory. “If it makes you feel better, Nagendra has already been claimed as Severus’s favourite.”

“I feel that it may be more the other way around,” Harry replied as he sent an adoring look towards the terrariums. “Nagendra was rather adamant that I knew her love for her master.”

“I’m not surprised,” Malfoy stated, “she’s terribly possessive. Took her a full year before she allowed me to touch her.”

Harry felt a small spike of satisfaction as he lifted Nagendra’s lid. She had, of course, taken to Harry immediately, but the dark-haired young man had to wonder if it was due to his ability to speak parseltongue, giving him the chance to gain their trust almost instantly. He hissed a welcome, complimenting her shiny scales which glistening beautifully, fresh from her recent skin-shed. She hissed a pleased thank you in return, slithering smoothly up Harry’s left arm.

I see Master’s Cherished is with you,” Nagendra noted, flicking her tongue towards the blond. “Is he a friend of yours as well?

Of sorts,” Harry replied truthfully, lowering her lid before reaching for Ladon’s. “We are trying to get to know one another.” He had to bit his lip from laughing at the fact that Nagendra had referred to Malfoy as Snape’s ‘cherished’. It was much too adorable for the snarky Slytherin.

He greeted Ladon warmly and allowed him to glide smoothly into Malfoy’s waiting touch. The blond took Ladon’s weight with practiced ease, stroking his pale fingers almost lovingly along the pearlescent brown lamina. Harry found himself staring at the two, watching with a hint of fascination at the way Malfoy handled the snake so gently. An impatient hiss drew his attention and he turned towards Nyoka who was sliding eagerly up her favourite log, her nose nudging petulantly at the lid to her enclosure. Harry chuckled, offering an apology as he released her and enjoying the way she immediately sought to curl around his shoulders, her flickering tongue tickling the shell of his ear. Feeling comforted, Harry was content as he and Malfoy headed for one of the parlours, sharing quips and sarcastic barbs.

His worry for Professor Snape was just a gentle hum now.


 

Tokey was waiting diligently by the fireplace when Severus returned.

“Young sir and young Master Draco is being in the west parlour, Master!” she squeaked.

Severus blinked. “Draco is still here?” he asked and the elf nodded her head. Pleasant surprise warmed the professor as he made his way to said room, thoughts swirling in his mind. Perhaps Potter would adapt to small changes more easily than I originally anticipated…

He could not deny that the reason behind why Harry had allowed the change in the first place was due to his growing trust within Severus, something that the Potions Master knew he needed to maintain. Their building friendship was still a surprise to Severus; he honestly had not considered the chances of this occurring were even possible. And, Severus snorted at the reminder, how irritatingly pleased the Headmaster was going to be once he discovered how close he and Potter were becoming.

Snape caught the sound of conversation as he neared the open parlour doors. Entering the room, his dark eyebrows lifted in momentary surprise at the way his godson and his supposed arch-nemesis conversed in a friendly matter, his three snakes sliding between them as they revelled in the body warmth and freedom.

“How utterly domiciliary,” he drawled, allowing the tiniest of quirks to lift the corners of his mouth.

Both heads turned as one and Snape had to pause for a moment, taken aback by the sheer genuine relief on Potter’s face when the young man saw that he had returned unharmed.

“Father didn’t throw you beneath the Knight Bus then?” Draco commented, arching an eyebrow as Ladon slid elegantly across his chest from one shoulder to the other.

“Fortunately, he did not,” Severus replied, crossing the carpet. He reached out a hand for Nagendra to scent as she flickered her tongue towards him, taking her weight as she uncurled from around Harry’s arm to glide up his, wrapping possessively around his shoulders. “I am happy to see the two of you have not resorted to killing one another.”

“It seemed too predictable,” Harry replied with a smile. “Probably messy, too. We couldn’t do that to Tokey.”

“Speak for yourself, Potter.”

“You’re just upset that Tokey likes me more.”

Silver eyes rolled impudently as long fingers stroked along Ladon’s scales. “Whatever helps you sleep at night, Potter.”

Harry chuckled softly before turning a curious gaze towards Snape as he sat down on the other end of the couch. His lips parted, a burning question on his tongue, when he suddenly paused, head tilting to the side as Nyoka flickered her tongue towards his cheek. A faint frown appeared on his brow before Harry responded, the silky tones of Parseltongue still strangely foreign to be falling from Potter’s mouth. As the young man conversed with the snake, Severus glanced over towards his godson and refrained from rolling his own eyes; the heated look in Draco’s gaze as he stared at Potter was difficult to ignore.

“Nyoka wishes me to ask you why you smell of Nagini.”

Harry’s voice broke his wayward thoughts and Severus returned his attention to his ward, allowing his dark gaze to drop to the green-coloured snake before returning to similarly coloured eyes.

“I suppose that would also explain as to why Nagendra was so persistent in reclaiming me,” he replied.

With a small smile Harry nodded. “They could all scent the difference as soon as you entered the room. Nagendra was a little more… proactive in her decision to reclaim.”

“I see.” The Potions Master smiled wryly, unable to stop himself from stroking his serpent adoringly. “As for Nagini, the Dark Lord was most insistent on my milking her venom.” The older man paused for a moment, fingers still stroking Nagendra as he withheld his dark gaze from meeting either Draco’s or Harry’s. He could already envision the curious but confused frown on the brunet’s face, as well as the suspicious regard on his godson’s.

At Severus’s hesitation, Draco knew it was time to leave the two of them alone. “I will take that as my cue to depart,” he voiced. Draco lifted a hand, gesturing towards his shoulders. “Potter, if you wouldn’t mind?”

Harry hissed at Ladon as he extended his arm. The death adder unwound himself and slithered gracefully from one boy to the other, heading for his favourite spot beneath Harry’s shirt to soak in the body warmth. Malfoy then stood from his chair and smoothed down his clothing, turning an expectant look towards the green-eyed young man.

“Yes to Friday, Potter?”

Harry nodded. “Yeah,” he replied. “But I’m warning you, I’m absolute rubbish at chess.”

“Have you learnt nothing from Weasley? Shame on you.”

A grin grew on Harry’s face as he chuckled. Malfoy maintained his smirk as he turned to bid his farewell to Snape before sweeping from the room. For a brief moment, Harry had almost forgotten why Malfoy had felt the need to leave in the first place, but turning to find such a grave expression on his Professor’s face quickly returned those concerns.

“Has something happened?” Harry found himself asking, forehead creasing with worry.

Severus cleared his throat. “A… concerning development has arisen,” he began. “The Dark Lord is making motions to procure the Ministry, and I am afraid he is closer to success than I originally anticipated.”

“How—” Harry cleared his throat, throat suddenly dry, “how close, exactly?” he asked.

Snape’s insistent stare was all the answer Harry needed. He felt his jaw tighten, a brief flare of fear erupting inside of him.

“An emergency Order meeting has been called for this afternoon,” Severus continued, wincing internally as he witnessed Harry’s eyes light up at the idea, the hope to accompany him to Grimmauld Place all too evident. He shook his head slightly. “You cannot come to the Order meeting, Harry.”

Snape was surprised to feel a pang in his chest as he watched the boy’s face fall, the eager light quickly dissipating into disappointed shadow. Sensing his sadness, Nyoka rubbed her head against his cheek, hissing comfortingly.

“I cannot guarantee your safety,” Severus appealed, answering Potter’s unasked question. “I realise that Grimmauld Place is unplottable and serves as a viable location of protection for the Order, however—” Snape pressed on before Harry could interject, “there are too many people who are able to access it; too many chances for someone from the Dark Order to take advantage of. Do you understand, Harry? It would be so easy for a member of our team to be under the Imperious curse, let alone us knowing the exact depth of people’s true allegiances. Harry, I am not purposely trying to hurt you by denying you from going, I am simply trying to protect you to the best of my ability.”

Acceptance burned regrettably in green eyes and the boy nodded, jaw clenching slightly. Severus found himself fighting a compulsive urge. He sighed.

“I will be happy to pass on a written message to your friends if you so wish.” The words pushed passed Severus’s lips before he could stop them, but the way Harry’s face immediately brightened stopped him from snatching the offer back.

“I would appreciate that, thank you, sir.”


 

“There is nothing more we can do,” Kingsley concluded heavily. “Should Pius Thicknesse be successful in his attempt to become Minister for Magic, the Ministry will be completely out of our control. You-Know-Who may be pulling the strings, but without his actual presence the face of the Ministry, the public will see no reason to revolt against the change.”

The Auror’s words were met with an oppressed silence. Uncertainty hung as a palpable presence within the air.

“It is a blessing that Severus was able to give us the warning when he did,” Kingsley murmured, his brown eyes landing on the dark-haired man who inclined his head in response. “We could have easily been blindsided by the attempt to overthrow Cornelius. As it is, we are now able to assist wherever we can. Cornelius may be an incompetent fool, but he is, at the very least, a Light Supporter.”

“What is our next course of action, Kingsley?” Arthur Weasley voiced. “As far as the Order is concerned.”

Shacklebolt shared a glance with Dumbledore who was sitting, albeit deceiving serenely, in his chair at the table beside Lupin.

“The Order is to stand by,” Kingsley said finally. “There is not much we can do from outside the Ministry, everything will need to be handled by those already in a position to help manipulate the overthrow.”

There was a gentle wave of hushed murmurs. Kingsley and Dumbledore shared another glance and the Auror nodded, calling for an end to their meeting.

“Progress will be kept up-to-date,” he promised. “A standard meeting will be held in two weeks’ time.”

The crowd began to file out, leaving only a few select people remaining within the kitchen. Molly Weasley hurried quickly out of the room with Harry’s missive so she was able to pass it on. The room remained quiet until she returned. With the door locked, warded, and the kitchen secured, Dumbledore turned to Snape.

“How is Harry progressing, Severus?” the Headmaster asked.

“As well as he is able,” the Potions Master replied. “We are currently in the process of restoring motion and capability to his injured arm. It will be, however, a slow progress.”

“And his magic?”

“Still currently unstable. I am in the works to conceivably amend this complication but until I am able to construct and put into motion my idea, there is simply no way of telling if it is to work.”

“Would you care to elaborate, Severus?” Minerva asked pointedly, lifting a somewhat amused eyebrow at the usual way the dark-haired professor articulated so astutely.

The corners of Snape’s lips quirked upwards in response to Minerva’s pointed question. “I simply hope to construct a glove-like implement that will assist with the control of the boy’s magic in his injured arm. Potter currently cannot even touch his own wand without his magic lashing out. With any luck, my hypothesised idea will allow the boy to once more control his magic and return full range of movement to the limb.”

“Sounds promising,” Minerva replied. “Let us know if there is anything we can do to be able to assist you.”

“I will, Minerva, thank you.”

The Headmaster smiled pleasantly. “It is good to hear of Harry’s growing recovery,” he stated. “And I daresay it has been a wonderful chance for the two of you to get to know one another, don’t you think, Severus?”

Snape’s lips burned with the instinctive automatic reply to the Headmaster’s quip. Instead, he held back the retort in favour of informing the small group of what had transpired the previous day.

“Given the circumstances, there is something I feel I must bring to light.”

“And what is that, my boy?”

Severus cleared his throat. “There has been a development,” he admitted.

Dumbledore frowned faintly, the usual twinkle in his blue eyes fading somewhat. “How so, Severus?” he asked pointedly.

Snape subtly drew himself to his full height, refusing to allow any sense of hesitation to leak into his façade. He could not appear nervous about his decision, particularly since he knew there was in fact, no threat to Harry regardless of how it may seem.

“Lucius Malfoy was insistent to speak with Potter and the boy agreed to see him. He made the informed decision by no one’s will but his own. The Malfoys were granted access to Prince Manor yesterday afternoon.”

His statement was meant with an edgy stillness, gripping the room in an iron clasp of dread. The silence was broken only by a penetrating burgeoning growl.

What,” Lupin snarled, rising from his chair.

Dumbledore did the same, climbing to his feet with his wary eyes on his Potions Professor. “I’m afraid I am in the mind to agree with Remus, Severus. What is your reasoning behind entrusting Harry’s safety with Lucius Malfoy of all people?” he asked.

“Because I know Lucius,” Severus stated. “I know his place within this war and his reasoning behind speaking with Potter. There was no danger present.”

Lupin reared back in disgust. “No danger present?” he spat. “You’ve revealed exactly where Harry is being kept!”

“There are several safety measures in place to ensure Potter’s security,” Snape retorted derisively. “Even with the risk of inviting Lucius to the manor, do you not think I had plans in motion? Even now the manor’s security has tripled! Do not insult my integrity, Lupin! I would never intentionally bring harm to the boy!”

“But, Severus—”

It was Molly who spoke this time, her face crinkled with concern and worry for Harry. Usually her mothering nature irritated Severus but he could not help but feel a twinge of guilt at the desperation on her face—it would not do well to forget that Molly Weasley considered Potter one of her own.

“Please, it’s not so much that we distrust your judgement,” the Weasley matron continued, “but the mere idea of Lucius Malfoy wishing to see Harry… does that not strike you as odd? As… suspicious?”

Snape allowed his head to incline in acknowledgement. “I understand your fears, I had them myself,” he admitted. “It is not my place to speak on Lucius’s behalf but understand this, I would not have invited him to see Potter if I was not entirely sure of his intentions. His need to see Potter was to ascertain for himself if the boy is strong enough to defeat the Dark Lord. It also gave Potter the chance to realise that those who he had once thought were certain to follow the Dark Lord willingly, did not, in fact, wish that of any kind. I speak, of course, of Draco Malfoy.”

The air was filled with an abundance of shocked gasped and snorts of disbelief. Severus pressed on with a subtle roll of his eyes.

“A classic example of perpetual prejudices,” he sneered. “Which is exactly why Draco knew his best chance to seek help was from the Boy-Who-Lived himself. Potter has gained a strong ally and a greater perception of the ambiguities within war.”

“And Harry… Harry is safe? Is happy?” Molly asked softly.

“Yes,” Snape replied, tone gentler than before, “he is. And I promise you, Lucius Malfoy’s invite to the manor was rescinded as soon as his family left. He is no longer able to gain access.”

There was a beat of silence. Many of the people who still resided within the room seemed content to accept his reasoning. There was one person however, who was not.

“And we are simply meant to trust your word?

The sentence was hissed with such fury that for a moment, Severus was unable to believe that it had been uttered by his usually docile ex-classmate. Lupin was still standing, his form leaning forward heavily on the wooden table, hands splayed in an aggressive display.

“As a trusted member of the Order then yes,” Severus drawled angrily. “I have done nothing to dissuade this fact.”

“Aside from allowing a known Death Eater into the very place Harry is meant to be safe!” Remus retorted immediately.

“Potter knew exactly what to expect when I delivered the request! He made his own choice to speak with Lucius!”

The scrape of nails digging into wood caught everyone’s attention. Lupin’s fingers were curled tightly into the table top, the wood splintering beneath his fingertips. “You should have brought Harry here,” Remus bit out stiffly. “He has the right to speak for himself.”

A muscle in Snape’s jaw twitched. “You would be willing to bring him here, unknowing if it is safe, purely to prove a point?” Severus was livid and he felt his lips curl in a snarl.

“He’s safer here than he is with you!” Lupin exposed his teeth as a growl worked up into his throat, his eyes flashing a wicked glow of gold. When he spoke next, the entire room could hear the underlying rumble of barely repressed werewolf fury.

The proximity of the next full moon became suddenly clear.

“Harry should never have been entrusted within your care!”

Remus.”

The name was spoken as a command, the regular softening edge Dumbledore added to his speech was prominently lacking. With a grunt, Lupin forced himself back and crossed his arms over his chest, fingers clenched into his clothing.

“You know very well I do not make my choices lightly,” the Headmaster continued, pinning Lupin with his stare. “Harry is, and continues to be, safe with Severus.”

But Remus was shaking his head, another growl rumbling in his throat. “Many of us haven’t even seen Harry since the attack on his relatives’ home and no one has seen him since you placed him in Snape’s care. All we have is Snape’s word.” His upper lip had curled once more. “I demand to see him so I can judge for myself if Harry truly is safe! Harry deserves to be given the choice as to where he wishes to be.”

The radiating fury emitted from the werewolf had Dumbledore turning to Snape apologetically, knowing Remus would not be placated until he saw Harry.

“Would it be acceptable for Remus and I to accompany you to Prince Manor, Severus?” the Headmaster asked.

Teeth grinded, lips pressed together. Bitterness was sour in Severus’s mouth. Even still he nodded his head stiffly, feeling his dignity beginning to shatter at the mere accusation that he was not entirely trusted.

The distrust wasn’t entirely new however… why on earth should I be surprised…?

Severus was well aware that it was more than that simple notion. It had taken a very intense altercation between him and Potter for the two of them to reach an understanding, to even establish a sense of trust. Now that he had it, Severus was loathe to allow it to be broken. But it would, wouldn’t it? Why on earth would the boy wish to remain with him of all people if given the choice to leave? He was certain Lupin would convince Potter to leave the manor; twist the boy’s perception of Severus until Potter hated him once again.

“Excellent,” Dumbledore smiled, clasping his hands together jovially. “Molly, my dear, perhaps you would like to see how Miss Granger and Mr Weasley are faring with their response to Harry? Then Remus, Severus, and I can be on our way.”

“Of course, Albus,” Molly replied immediately, bustling from the room.

Severus could feel Lupin’s penetrating gaze, his eyes burning a sizzling hole in the side of his head. Despite the itch to meet the werewolf’s stare, Snape kept his eyes locked on the currently empty fireplace, blood bubbling with frustration and a sickening sense of failure.

The sooner they left, the sooner this could end.

Chapter Text

This chapter is dedicated to my wonderful translator Oswin321 . Thank you so much for all of your help!

 


 

 

Tokey popped into view the very moment Severus exited the fireplace. He instructed her to fetch Harry just as the hearth emitted Lupin and Dumbledore behind him. With a wary gaze directed to the werewolf and the headmaster, Tokey disappeared with a crack.

“Well?” Lupin demanded. “Where is he?”

“Patience, Lupin,” Severus sneered. “Potter is inclined to do whatever he wishes whilst he stays here. I do not make him wait in the foyer until my arrival.”

Remus snorted but wisely held his tongue. Dumbledore gazed serenely around the manor, ignoring the two younger gentlemen as they waited for Harry to arrive. Approaching footsteps made the three of them turn, Harry stepping out into the large room with a mild look of shock on his face.

“Harry,” Remus breathed. He rushed forwards to embrace the young man so quickly that Harry barely had time to register what was happening before he was in the werewolf’s arms. “How are you, pup?”

A bemused frown appeared on Harry’s face. Remus hadn’t called him that specific pet-name since Sirius’s death. Somehow, it almost felt… wrong.

“Er—fine?” Harry found himself reply, detangling himself from Lupin’s embrace with an awkward smile. “How, um, was the meeting?”

“Illuminating,” Remus replied, voice deepening into a soft growl as he threw a brief glare towards the Potions Master.

“Remus? Has something happened?” Harry began. He conveyed a confused look at Snape and Dumbledore, trying to gain an understand on the feel of the current tense atmosphere shrouding the room.

Severus’s upper lip curled in disdain when Lupin physically moved himself in front of Harry’s gaze, obscuring his view and forcing the young man’s attention fully on himself.

I have had just about enough of this… Snape thought viciously. He stalked across the floor, robes billowing threateningly, barely pausing to utter the spiteful comment burning on his tongue.

“Do not let me hold up this tender reunion,” he drawled with a scowl. Without waiting for an acknowledgement, Snape thrust the scroll of parchment containing Hermione and Ron’s reply into Harry’s free hand and stormed off in the direction of his potions lab, leaving Harry to stare after him in concern. His eyes shifted from his teacher’s retreating back to Dumbledore and Lupin. The Headmaster was gazing at him in an almost apologetic manner.

“Remus has something he wishes to discuss with you, my boy,” Dumbledore stated, “perhaps the two of you would like to find a comfortable place to sit and talk?”

“Oh—alright,” Harry replied. He couldn’t help but glance once more towards the corridor Snape had disappeared down. “Um, did you want tea or anything, Professor? I can call Tokey.”

“I am quite fine, thank you, Harry.” Dumbledore smiled warmly. “You and Remus go on now.”

“Lead the way, pup,” Lupin said, smiling warmly.

With his best friends’ reply clutched safely within his left hand, Harry started towards the west wing of the manor, Lupin right on his heels. He felt slightly perturbed by the sheer closeness Remus seemed insistent on keeping and, despite Harry being the one to lead the way, the werewolf seemed to be guiding him, his large hand pressed into the small of Harry’s back protectively. Harry found himself fighting the urge to pull away, not wishing to offend the Marauder, but certainly not enjoying the possessive nature his old professor was now exuding.

As soon as they entered the room, Lupin spoke.

“How are you really, Harry?” he asked. “You can be honest with me.”

Harry gave his friend an odd look, stepping towards a couch. “Fine,” he replied. He felt a faint frown tug at his brow as he sat down. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

“I don’t believe you to be safe here, pup,” Remus stated bluntly, joining the young man on the couch. “I feel you should come stay with me, with someone who actually cares about you.”

Harry couldn’t help it, he flinched. Lupin’s words stung more than he had expected them to.

“What makes you think Professor Snape doesn’t care about me?” he asked briskly. “I don’t know about you, Remus, but there hasn’t exactly been anyone else here to comment on that fact.”

“Harry,” Lupin pressed, condescendingly patient, “come now. You and I both know the type of man Severus is. Look at the way he treated you just now—you deserve better.”

“Actually, now that I know the reason behind your visit, it explains a lot,” Harry shot back. “How else is Professor Snape supposed to respond? I’m certain you wouldn’t be exactly pleased to be told you were distrusted enough to have me removed from your presence.”

“I’m different—”

Are you though?” Harry bit out quickly and Lupin blinked in shock. “I have known Professor Snape for seven years, and while he may have been an absolute arse to me for most of it, his presence in my life has been consistent. Even now, when Professor Dumbledore forced me into his care, he has not abandoned me. He’s been patient and understanding under circumstances that he had no control over. Remus, this is the first time I’ve seen you since Christmas, and the only reason you’re here now is to convince me to leave. You’re not even trying to listen to what I’m saying to you.”

“Please, pup, that’s not true,” Remus replied imploringly. “Don’t you realise how much I wanted to make sure you were okay after the attack? I didn’t even know where you were—”

“And yet before that you never came near,” Harry interrupted and Remus fell silent. “Every time I’ve seen you, it was purely because of convenience. God, Remus, even Sirius went out of his way to check in on me! He broke in people’s houses just to use their fireplace! Lived in a cave in order to be near to me! And where were you?”

The older male drew in a steadying breath, hands clasping together in his lap. “You’re right, Harry, I haven’t been around as much as I would have liked,” he stated. “But allow me the chance to fix it. Come stay with me—you know I will protect and care for you. You deserve to stay with someone who can gave you that. There is no way you are truly happy staying here.”

“I happen to like staying here,” Harry retorted angrily. “Despite what you may think, Professor Snape has been supportive and caring throughout my time here. We’ve come to understand each other on a level I honestly did not expect and it works.”

But Lupin was shaking his head, lips twisted in a wry smile. “Harry, Severus is very good at manipulation. That is what made him such an efficient Death Ea—”

“I think we’re done here,” Harry interrupted ferociously.

Lupin’s face paled. “Harry—”

“No.” The brunet got to his feet. “Look, I appreciate you trying, and it has been good to see you, but you’re not listening to me. I don’t need to leave—I don’t want to leave—and you need to accept that.” Before Remus could reply Harry had swept passed him, walking briskly down the corridor.

There were so many thoughts, so many voices yelling and arguing in his head that Harry could barely make sense of them. He just knew that the feeling within his chest was an ache, one that burrowed deep within him, burning and relentless, numbed only by the shock that accompanied the audacity of someone Harry thought he could trust. With a soft gasp air, Harry stumbled back into the foyer, left hand still clutching desperately at Ron and Hermione’s reply.

“Ah, Harry my boy, did Remus—?”

“I will be staying here,” Harry stated crisply in reply, casting a dark look over his shoulder before returning his gaze to the Headmaster. “I’m sure that is alright with you, Professor?”

Dumbledore smiled. “Certainly, Harry.”

The young man nodded, gaze sweeping across the foyer distractedly. Taking pity on the young man, Dumbledore cleared his throat.

“Allow me to inform Severus on your decision.” He smiled kindly, relieved to note the way Harry relaxed minutely.

“To know he’s stuck with me? You may need to pre-emptively offer him some brandy first.”

The Headmaster chuckled. “Suggestion noted.”

It did not take Dumbledore long to locate the Potions Master. He was sitting sullenly in a cushioned armchair before an empty fire hearth, sneering at the stone as if it were personally responsible for his current situation.

“You need not state the obvious, Headmaster,” Snape stated tonelessly, knowing as soon as Dumbledore had entered the room, “I am sure you have come to tell me Potter has decided to leave with Lupin. After all, it wouldn’t surprise me—”

“Severus, Harry wishes to remain here with you.”

“—why on earth would the boy want to stay—what?

Dumbledore smiled gently. “Harry wishes to remain here with you,” the Headmaster repeated patiently. “He seemed most adamant about it.”

Snape sat for a moment, eyes still on the hearth. “The boy must be delusional.”

“Undoubtedly,” Dumbledore agreed in amusement. “Why on earth would he wish to remain with someone he feels safe with? Hmm, delusional indeed.”

Snape lifted astonished eyes to the Headmaster’s face. The older man was gazing at him knowingly, a gentle smile on his lips.

“You’re good for him, Severus,” Dumbledore stated. “And, dare I say it, he may be good for you.”

Severus dropped his gaze with a soft snort but said nothing to deny the statement. It was true that he himself had grown accustomed to the boy’s presence; Harry was now a face he was used to seeing across the breakfast table, a voice he was now used to hearing whenever he inquired to the boy’s wellbeing. And, if he was honest with himself, Severus had taken a small token of pride in the trust Harry now bestowed in him.

A trust that was evidently strong enough for Harry to choose to stay… Severus thought with mild surprise. The boy is actually willing to choose to me over the werewolf…?

Without warning, a tumbler of brandy appeared beneath his nose. His gaze shot up to twinkling blue eyes. Was—was the Headmaster smirking at him?

“Harry mentioned that you may require some brandy to accustom yourself to this… turn of events.”

Snape allowed his lips to twitch in the semblance of a small smile. “He may be worth the effort after all.” He tossed the brown liquid back, relishing the gentle burn that ran down his throat, and got to his feet. “I suppose it would be polite to see the both of you off then.”

“Indeed, my boy,” Dumbledore replied with a soft chuckle, leading the way from the parlour.

Snape vanished the tumbler and fell into step with the older male, feeling a hell of a lot better than he had when he initially stormed down the corridor previously. As they neared the foyer, shouting reached their ears. A wave of frustration and protectiveness surged inside of Severus, surprising him greatly. He straightened his shoulders in determination all the same as he quickened his strides. He was more than aware of how fragile Harry’s control over his magic was, especially under times of duress.

“I can’t just leave you here, Harry!” Lupin’s desperate yells fuelled Snape’s anger. “Especially since you are not yet seventeen! If I have to, I will invoke a Guardianship!”

The proclamation was met with stunned silence. Severus could only imagine the outrage on Potter’s face. Thankfully, he and Dumbledore finally reached the end of the corridor, stepping into foyer just as Harry spoke.

“I want you to leave. Right now.”

“Harry, I’m just trying to do what I think is best for you—!”

Professor Snape has done more for me these past two weeks than you have ever done!” Harry yelled. “How dare you threaten to take away my ability to choose! People have been controlling me my entire life and I’ve had enough!!” The air around him crackled dangerously and, before any of the three older men could move, Harry’s magic lashed out, shoving Lupin backwards with unrestrained force. The werewolf flew several feet away, landing with a thud and skidding across the polished marble floor, coming to rest at the hearth of the fireplace with a look of such utmost shock on his face Severus would have laughed if the situation had not been so serious.

“Oh dear,” the Headmaster murmured. Severus cast him a glance, only slightly perturbed to see the slight look of amusement on the old wizard’s face. A pair of sparkling eyes turned to him briefly before they swept back to Lupin still lying stunned on the floor. “Come now, Remus,” Dumbledore said, speaking calmly as he walked towards the werewolf, “Harry is more than capable of making judgements and choices on his own. I do believe it is in your best interest to discontinue your attempts to coerce him before you destroy the relationship between the two of you.”

Lupin accepted the hand offered to him and, with surprising strength, the Headmaster pulled him to his feet.

“You know very well Severus is trustworthy,” Dumbledore stated evenly, “do not let your possessive nature to be close to James’s son blind you to that.”

Melancholy filled eyes fell on the young male in question. Harry was facing Snape, face pale, the shadows beneath his eyes more prominent, but looking the most relieved he had seen him since his and Dumbledore’s arrival. Snape had a hand resting on Harry’s shoulder, the other removing a vial from inside his robes. With barely a word spoken between them Harry accepted the vial and downed the contents. The grateful, however exhausted smile that he offered to the Potions Master, made Lupin’s heart constrict.

That should be me…

“I know you consider Harry a part of your pack, and I imagine it is mighty hard fighting the pull of your werewolf senses within such close proximity of the full moon,” Dumbledore continued, “but you must also respect Harry’s decision or face the very real possibility of losing him for good.”

Remus swallowed the sudden lump in his throat. He knew the Headmaster was correct. He knew his current possessive nature could be somewhat blamed on his very near transformation… but he also knew that deep down he had already felt guilty for abandoning Harry. For leaving him with barely a letter to pass away the time or show that he actually cared for him as much as Remus said he did…

“Come, Remus,” Dumbledore said gently, “there has been enough excitement for one day. You can always write to Harry if you feel the need, I am sure Severus will find a way to ensure the letter is passed on.”

Remus somehow doubted that but he did not argue with the older wizard. He nodded and felt Dumbledore brush passed him as he started for the fireplace. A spike of panic held the werewolf in place—he needed to apologise—

Wary green eyes met with his. Remus swallowed again, allowing the remorse to colour his face.

“I am sorry, Harry,” he said roughly.

Harry’s jaw tightened slightly but he inclined his head in acknowledgement. Lupin felt the overbearing need to go to him, to wrap the thin frame in his arms and reassure that he never meant to hurt him…

But he knew he would not be well received. Especially now. Instead, Remus followed Dumbledore to the fireplace and reached for the floo powder. Keeping his eyes on the sooty bricks of the hearth, he disappeared in a whirl of green flame.

Silence filled the foyer.

“Come, Harry, after all that excitement I could certainly use a pick-me-up.”

With a small, perplexed smile, Harry followed his professor down the corridor to the east parlour. He was thankful that Snape was leading him to the opposite side of the manor, away from the room that had started it all. Entering the sunset lit room, the two of them settled near a large widespread window, one that overlooked a vast stretch of green grass. Harry stared longingly at the makeshift quidditch pitch at the far end of the stretch—hopefully one day… he thought determinedly.

“Tokey.”

The elf popped into the room, falling into a curtsey. “Master be calling Tokey?” she squeaked.

“Harry and I will take an easy meal in here for dinner,” Snape replied. “It has been a rather trying day and I believe we are both in need of some comfort. Some light finger food would be delightful, and please fetch my 1907 Waltmeister Firewhiskey and two glasses.”

“Tokey be making a nice selection, Master!” she beamed happily, before disappearing with her usual crack.

A comfortable silence fell over the two men as they sat, watching the sun descend behind the border of dark-leaved trees that lined the grounds. Harry’s left hand twitched around the parchment he was still clutching—he’d completely forgotten about Ron and Hermione’s reply. By now the scroll was rather scrunched, so he ended up unfolding it than unfurling. He smoothed what he could of the creases before latching eagerly onto the words.

 

Harry! We’re so relieved you’re alright!

 

Hermione’s familiar curling script brought a sad, reminiscent smile to Harry’s face. God, he missed them so much.

 

We were absolutely beside ourselves when we had heard what happened at the Dursleys; Ronald had to be held back by Charlie to stop him from apparating there to help you! I tell you, Harry, one day that best friend of yours is going to get himself killed—

 

There was a splatter of ink and a smudge, as if someone had tried to wrestle the quill from Hermione’s hand. Harry’s smile morphed into a grin. It was pretty easy to tell who that would have been.

 

As I was saying! Don’t worry, Ron will get his turn to write to you. If he behaves, that is. Stop reading over my shoulder, Ronald.

What has it been like staying with Professor Snape, Harry? You sort of brushed over that in your initial letter. I mean, I’m glad to see that living with Professor Snape has not been all bad but considering your old attitude towards him… in any case, Ron and I are both just so happy you’re safe and well. Do you think the professor will work out a way for us to exchange regular letters? We miss being able to speak with you, and I know Ron is going out of his mind not knowing what’s going on, especially since you’re with Professor Snape of all people.

You’re not missing much here, I promise. Ever since You-Know VOLDEMORT (need to get used to that, right?) attacked you, the Order has been working out how exactly he managed to breach the blood wards. So far with little luck. Most of my time has been spent keeping Ronald sane and giving Mrs Weasley a hand around the Burrow—I feel like I may be failing on both counts (haha).

Alright, I’ll stop hogging the parchment now. I love you, Harry! We think about you every day and try whenever we can to wheedle information about how you’re doing. Even though we can’t sit in on the Order meetings yet (Mrs Weasley said not until we’ve left school despite being of age now), we still come to GP in the hopes that you might be there or so we can harass Professor Dumbledore.

If you get the chance, ask Professor Snape if he would happy to accept your birthday gifts so we can pass them on—there is no way we’re going to miss you turning seventeen!

All my love,

Mione.

 

 

Way to hog the parchment, Hermione. Mate!! How are you? Are you alright? Sick and tired of the Greasy Git yet?

 

Ron’s scratchy handwriting and typical comments had Harry producing a soft snort.

 

Yeah look, I may have tried to get to you when I heard what had happened, but I was well within my rights! I’m seventeen, I can do whatever the fuck I want, and you were in trouble, what else what I supposed to do? Sit back and just hope you’d be all right and dandy? Fuck that! Let’s be real, mate, you would have done the same for me.

 

Harry could not deny that fact and so in a way, he could not blame his best friend from trying to come to his aid. His chest ached slightly as he swallowed the growing lump in his throat.

 

Mum went absolutely spare when she heard about you though, so I feel kind of bad. I’m almost thankful Charlie held me back when he did. She said only Bill and Dad were to go and that was that. I’ve never seen mum that scared though—I hope you realise you’ve been officially adopted into the family, mate, because I’ve only ever seen mum go that crazy when one of us kids is in trouble. It took Ginny and the twins two hours to calm her down, and even then I think it was only because Fred spiked her tea with brandy.

That sucks about your arm, mate. Do you think it’ll ever heal? You said Snape made you a potion to help—has it done anything? Probably not, knowing him. He shouldn’t be giving you false hope, that’s just cruel. Oh crap! What about Quidditch?? Fuck, mate, I’m sorry, you’ve probably already realised that… shit I didn’t mean to re-open that wound. Don’t worry, maybe your arm will heal in time! Even if it doesn’t, you’ll still be Captain though, yeah? We’d be fucked without you. Ginny makes a pretty good Seeker, I’m sure she won’t mind playing in that position if it comes to it.

 

I’d prefer her than anyone else… Harry thought honestly. At least it wouldn’t feel as if the position was completely stolen from me… plus Ginny is always happy to ask for my advice when she needs it…

 

Just look after yourself alright, mate? I know it probably sucks being stuck with Snape of all people but at least we’ll be back at Hogwarts soon, then things can get back to normal and you can ditch the Greasy Git.

Talk soon,

Ron.

 

Harry sighed softly. He knew Ron could only base his statements on their past animosity with Snape, but he still couldn’t help the way he wanted to jump to the professor’s defence. He hadn’t been lying when he shouted at Remus before.

Beneath Ron’s message was another paragraph, written by none other than Ginny if the messy scrawl was anything to go by.

 

Harry! It’s Ginny. (Obviously). Just wanted to throw in my own well wishes and all that. I bet you’re fine though—you’ve always been pretty damn tough. Just like me, probably why we get on so well, don’t you think? Hey guess what! I chopped off all my hair. Yep, you read that right. Mum absolutely bawled her eyes out. Oh well. But sweet Merlin, Harry, it looks so good! I can’t wait for you to see! Everyone else except Mum loves it, so at least I’ve got that going for me. Anyway, enough about my glorious hair.

 

Harry felt his mouth stretch into a grin. Leave it to Ginny to help take his mind off the negative aspects of his life right now. She’d always had a spectacular gift of reminding him to keep things in perspective, and the way she was able to normalise even the most anomalous qualities of his life helped Harry feel, well, normal.

 

Now, you listen to me, Harry Potter. Regardless of what’s happened and how you’re feeling, you just remember that you have an amazing family here thinking of you and ready to give you a hand whenever you need it. Even if you don’t need the help, you just make sure you know we’re here ready and waiting to offer whatever support we can. If you ever need to talk, or vent, or even kick and scream, you know who to turn to, yes? I can’t imagine it’s been easy to go through something of this magnitude with not many people to talk it out with.

If we don’t get to speak before it’s time, Happy Birthday!! I’ll sneak a shot of firewhiskey just for you.

Hugs!

Gin Xx

 

By the time Harry had read the letter, Tokey had popped back into the room to deliver the firewhiskey and accompanied glasses. He glanced over as Snape poured an inch into each glass and, with a small surge of surprise, accepted the glass the professor handed to him.

“Cheers, Mister Potter.” Snape raised his glass in a small salute and Harry quickly mirrored the motion.

As much as he was warmed by the gesture, Harry only took a small sip, placing the glass down carefully as words he wanted to express buzzed around his mind. He should speak now, before the alcohol had the chance to hit his system; he didn’t want Snape to think that his words were aided by alcohol.

“I meant it, by the way,” he blurted.

“Meant what, Harry?”

“That you’ve done more for me these past two weeks than Remus ever has,” Harry stated, staring at his glass distractedly. His words were met with an unexpected silence. Harry lifted cautious green eyes to find black orbs staring at him in wonder. Harry felt the sudden urge to continue. “After everything I—I just didn’t want you to think I took what you’ve done for me for granted.” He worried his bottom lip. “I really do appreciate everything you done, regardless of what other people might try to make you think.”

Snape lowered his gaze as he raised his glass to take another sip. “Thank you, Harry,” he murmured in reply, eyes focused on the smoking amber liquid.

Another comfortable silence fell over them. Harry took a second sip of the firewhiskey, calmed by the burn he felt as it slid down into his chest. A minute later, the quiet was broken by Severus’s voice.

“I believe… given the circumstances,” he began, “and considering the changing nature of our relationship as it were…”

Harry’s brow creased at the hesitant tone in the professor’s voice. Had he done something wrong…?

“That it would be more appropriate to use our given names. Within a relatively social or private setting of course.”

Harry blinked. Snape met his shocked stare with a miniscule smirk.

“Yes, Harry, that means you may call me Severus… if you feel compelled to do so.”

“I—” Harry cleared his throat. “That would be nice,” he replied with a soft smile. “If—if you’re sure?”

“I’m sure, Harry,” the older man replied. “You have well earned the right. Of course, it would also make it less outlandish since Draco often refers to me by my given name, however you were still acknowledging me as ‘sir’ or ‘professor’.”

“At least Draco was kind enough not to lord that fact over me,” Harry replied.

“Indeed.” Severus chuckled.

When Tokey popped back into the room with a delicious array of finger foods, Harry and Severus fell into an easy, familial conversation, with brief pauses in between bites or sips of their drinks. The sun had fully set by this time and the room was now alight with hovering candles, their reflection glinting competitively with the twinkling stars now stretched across the darkening sky.

Harry was feeling warm and comfortable. A gentle breeze brought the sensual scents of summer in through an open window across the room and, as he drank from his second glass of firewhiskey, Harry realised this was the most content he’d ever felt, and with Severus Snape of all people. Their conversation grew more amicable, Snape sharing anecdotes of his time teaching at Hogwarts, and Harry returning the favour with comments of his life as a student, particularly how nerve-wracking it had been entering Hogwarts for the first time.

“You were such an impertinent first year,” Severus teased, “Merlin save me if you had been in my house…”

Harry couldn’t help the evil grin spread across his face. “Then I suppose you’ll be shocked to know the Sorting Hat wanted to put me in Slytherin.”

Snape’s eyes narrowed. “You lie,” he stated.

The young man shook his head, his evil smile developing into an easy grin. “The Sorting Hat was adamant; said I’d ‘do well in Slytherin’. Of course, during the brief time between me finding out about Hogwarts and the actual sorting, everyone I had come into contact with had told me how horrible Slytherin was. So, naturally, I asked the hat to put me anywhere but, despite how much it wanted me in Slytherin.” The brunet sat back with a satisfied smile, enjoying the look of disbelief of his professor’s face. “Just imagine,” Harry continued, face brightening, “how much you could have rubbed it in Professor McGonagall’s face.”

A dark chuckle slipped from thin lips. “That certainly would have been a perk,” he admitted.

As the evening wore on, their conversation began to drift to more unsettling topics. Ever since the night of Harry’s panic attack, they hadn’t really broached the subject of his home life since, aside from Severus attempting to make Harry’s experience at the manor as triggerless as possible. The young man began to admit certain facts that he’d kept hidden his entire life, knowing without a second of doubt that Snape would never ridicule or pity him. And, in return, the older man began to confess buried stories of his own.

“If this manor is yours, why do you not live here?” Harry asked, remembering Snape’s comment on the very first day they had arrived.

Severus glanced about the room, a wave of disquieting memories invading his consciousness. “Because I do not wish to associate myself with the name it stands for,” he replied simply. “My mother was born of the Prince line, a pureblood, and the only heir to inherit the name.” He paused for a moment, sipping delicately at his remaining firewhiskey. “After my mother eloped and married my muggle father, my grandfather adamantly refused to acknowledge her in any sense of the word. Since my mother did not speak of them all that much nor let on to their true natures, I did not think much of their animosity until I tried to turn to them for help.” Severus’s jaw clenched briefly; the echo of betrayal and hurt was still a prominent memory. “My father was a lot like your relatives,” he stated bluntly. “He abused my mother and I on a regular basis. I turned to my maternal grandparents, hoping to find some form of escape, and was very efficiently rebuffed.”

Harry felt his jaw drop. “How could they do that to you and your mother?”

A heavy sigh left the older man. “Because my grandfather was a chauvinistic arse,” he replied. “I will never forget the words he wrote to me after I tried desperately to seek their help: ‘Your mother chose this life and it is of no consequence to us how it has turned out. Do not write to us again’.”

“He didn’t care,” Harry seethed, “about his own daughter and grandson being abused?”

“He did not.”

Harry felt sick.

“Needless to say, I turned my own back on my mother’s side of the family. When my grandparents passed away, I was shocked to find that the manor and vaults had been left to me. Apparently, my grandmother had convinced her husband to keep them within the family. I could not bring myself to touch them, however. The Prince vaults remain untouched to this day, and the only reason as to why we are staying here for the summer is due to the secure wards that cover the land, ensuring your protection.” Catching sight of Harry’s parting lips, Severus pinned him with a glare. “So help me if you apologise, Harry,” he voiced with a hint of frustration. “I would spend the remainder of my life here if it meant it kept you safe.”

Harry shut his mouth immediately, offering a—if somewhat hesitant—nod of understanding. He wanted desperately for Snape to keep talking about his past, particularly about the statement Severus had made to Lucius Malfoy about the promise to his mother… but a yawn had him breaking those thoughts.

“It’s getting late,” Severus murmured. “I believe it is time for you to retire to bed, Harry, especially given the day you’ve had.”

Fighting back another yawn, Harry nodded his head in agreement. He shoved his folded letter into his jeans pocket and stood.

“This was nice,” he admitted with a soft smile. “Thank you… Severus.”

The professor inclined his head. “Goodnight, Harry.”


 

When the clock on his bedside table began to gong, Harry didn’t even flinch.

He had been watching it for hours, eyes tracking the movement of the hands as they shifted from the early hours of the morning until they read eight a.m. The room was now bathed in a gentle light… but Harry’s thoughts were just as dark as they had been when he’d cried himself awake from wicked dreams. Not even the dose of his healing potion had been enough to keep him slumbering.

Harry knew he needed to get downstairs. Severus would be expecting him for breakfast any moment now. But Harry could not gather the energy to even toss back the blankets covering him. With a shaky sigh, he shut his eyes, willing the dreaded ache in his chest to go away.

Why now…? Oh god, I hate this so much…

“Tokey,” Harry croaked, drawing the duvet up even higher as he searched for some form of comfort. A familiar crack had him peering blearily at Tokey’s blurry form.

“Young sir be calling Tokey? Oh! Is young sir not feeling well?” the elf rushed to Harry’s bedside, yellow eyes gleaming with worry. “Should Tokey be getting Master?”

Harry shook his head. “No,” he murmured. “I just… could you please tell Pr—Severus—that I…” his voice faltered, throat tightening. His fingers curled painfully tight into the blankets that covered him—what was he supposed to say? “Tell Severus that I’m feeling sad? Miserable? Like an absolute fucking wreck…?”

But Tokey seemed to understand his hesitation and she smiled tenderly, reaching over to pat him on his ruffled, messy curls.

“It’s being okay, young sir,” she said, her smile widening at his bemused expression. “You just be stayings in bed, alright? Tokey will tell Master and Tokey will bring you something sweet to drink.”

Gratitude washed over Harry as he nodded. “Thank you, Tokey,” he managed, feeling tears beginning to prick at his eyes. Ugh… today was going to be a rough one…

 

 

Harry had shuffled himself up high enough to drink the tea Tokey had brought him, his blankets drawn up around his chest, and found himself staring into the brown liquid distractedly as vivid memories swam unforgivingly through his consciousness. The hollow ache, which had diminished to a faint echo the past few days, was back in full force, the dark cloud a rumbling storm in his chest, fuelled by the pained thoughts that had risen to the forethought of his mind.

And he hated it.

But he was so tired.

As much as he wanted to shove the horrible feeling away, Harry could only permit himself to drift, as if he was barely treading water, on the edge of simply allowing his body to give in, to just stop caring anymore

There came a knock at his door, and after a moment it opened, Snape stepping inside. Harry felt a tiny surge of nervousness at the sight of his warden; regardless of how understanding his professor may have been, it was still remarkably frightening to feel so vulnerable around anyone right now.

“How’re you feeling, Harry?” the older man asked, coming to sit on the edge of the bed.

Harry’s jaw clenched slightly and he shrugged. Immediately, a wave of regret crashed over him at his impassive reply; he didn’t want to appear so rude or uncaring. Severus seemed to understand however, because he inclined his head and continued to speak.

“Is there anything you need?”

Snape’s voice was so uncharacteristically kind, so unusually tender, that Harry could feel the fragile hold he had on his emotions beginning to shatter. He squeezed his eyes shut tight, swallowing thickly as he shook his head. His tightened his fingers around the warm cup to stop his left hand from trembling.

“N-No, I think—I think I’ll be okay,” he murmured in reply. “Just a… bad day. I get those sometimes.”

“No doubt prompted from yesterday’s events?”

Harry nodded again. “It brought back some bad memories. And I… I didn’t sleep very well last night.”

The nightmares were left unsaid, but Severus knew all too well what Harry meant.

“You take all the time you need today to do whatever makes you comfortable,” Severus continued. “I will be in the potions laboratory for most of the day as I have potions to brew, but I want you to promise me that if you become distressed at any time that you will call for me, yes?”

“Alright,” Harry murmured in reply.

“I will also be sending Tokey up regularly with food and drink. Nothing extravagant, I assure you. Simple meals that I expect you to at least attempt.”

Another nod. “I’ll try,” Harry promised.

“That is all I ask,” Snape said gently. “One last question and I promise to leave you be.”

Wary green eyes rose to meet with black. Severus took a moment to analyse the boy’s face, taking in the purple bruises that lined each eye and the lines of sheer exhaustion that made him look both older and younger than his years.

Snape allowed a small smile to grace his lips. “Would you like the snakes’ company for the day?” He watched, unsurprised, as Harry’s eyes brightened with relief and the young man inclined his head. “Very well, I will fetch them for you now.”

Harry felt his heart swell slightly as he watched him stand, smoothing down his dark robes. As empty as Harry was feeling right now, he welcomed the sense of validity Snape’s understanding and care brought him at that moment. The older male, usually so cold and callous, was being so candidly empathetic that it soothed Harry’s ragged nerves, solidifying the trust he had with the professor.

“Thank you, Severus,” Harry uttered, catching him just before Snape stepped from the room.

Severus halted, turning a brief look to Harry curled up on the bed. “It is my pleasure, Harry,” he replied. With a final swish of his robes, Severus disappeared into the corridor, closing the door behind him with a gentle snap.


 

Despite not having plans with Potter until the next day, Draco found himself exiting the fireplace into the foyer of Prince Manor all the same, thoughts of joining his godfather while he worked on his mind. And if Potter just so happened to be there… well, who was Draco to miss an ample opportunity to ogle the Boy-Who-Lived?

After checking in with Tokey to see where Severus was located, Draco soon found his godfather midway through what appeared to be a batch of Pepper Up potion. He glanced around the lab hopefully, a flare of disappointment lighting up in his stomach when he caught no sign of the bespectacled Gryffindor.

“Good afternoon, Draco,” Severus murmured.

“And to you, Severus,” the blond replied. He glanced around again. “Potter did not join you today?” he asked as casually as he could manage.

Snape shook his head. “Harry is in his room. He suffers from the occasional downward spiral and unfortunately today is one of them. During these moments, he is most comfortable having time to himself in order to process his negative emotions. I will allow him one day to do so before I intervene.”

Pale eyebrows drew together in a frown. “Why not simply intervene now?”

Obsidian eyes met with curious silver. “People require time to process emotions, Draco, whether they be good or bad. There are times when it is perfectly acceptable to allow someone to wallow as it gives them time to reflect and not feel pressured by social expectations. After what happened yesterday, it is no surprise that Harry is feeling the way he is.” Snape caught Draco’s questioning gaze and emitted a soft, indulgent sigh. “Lupin attempted to coerce Harry into leaving my care. Despite Harry’s refusal, Lupin threatened to forcibly remove him, and the emotional strain has caused other deeper memories to resurface along with the supposed betrayal of someone Harry thought he could trust. He simply requires time to process, Draco, do not worry yourself.”

“I’m not worried,” Draco retorted immediately. “Merely… concerned.” He stifled a huff of air, mentally pouting at the mere fact that Potter was sulking in bed. That didn’t mean he’d have to be nice tomorrow, would it? Regardless of their blossoming friendship thing, he wasn’t exactly ready to be genuinely pleasant. Draco had way too much sass for that.

“Should you manage to drag Potter from his room tomorrow,” Draco pressed, “will I be expected to be somewhat… nice?

Snape snorted. “The day you are nice to Mister Potter, Draco, will be the day flobberworms fly,” he stated bluntly, eyes on the bubbling potion before him. “But in answer to your question, no, you will not. Harry will prefer it if you treat him as you normally do. He does not need to be coddled, he needs to be reassured that everything is normal.”

“Thank Merlin,” Malfoy muttered. “Well, since Potter is somewhat indisposed, is there anything you need a hand with?”

“As a matter of fact,” Severus began, adding a pinch of Bicorn horn, “there is.” He gestured to his left, not taking his eyes off the cauldron. “See there the dragonhide.”

Draco stepped across the laboratory, his eyebrows pulling together in curiosity as he took in the large expanse of black pearlescent scales. “What is it for?” he asked.

“I am attempting to create a glove-like implement for Harry. Although the potions have indeed helped, there is still too much wild magic within his arm for him to be able to control it. Due to the durable-nature and the magical quality of dragonhide, I am hypothesising that it will give Harry the stability he needs in order to gain back the use of the limb. With some of my personal modifications made, of course.”

Draco threw his godfather an impressed glance. “Rather ingenious of you, Severus.”

The older man snorted. “Obviously, Draco,” and Malfoy chuckled, eyeing the dragonhide thoughtfully. He was careful not to touch it, knowing how magically-pervious dragon scales were. No doubt that was the key feature that Severus was after; the glove would be unique, connected to Potter in a way that no one else would be able to attain. It would be what gave the glove the ability to help control the otherwise uncontainable injury.

“What would you like me to assist you with, Severus?” Draco asked.

“There are several potions I need to brew, two of which need to be completed at the same time. The dragonhide needs to soak in each of them alternatively over a period of three days. If you are agreeable, I would appreciate your help in brewing them.”

“Of course,” Malfoy replied immediately, feeling rather smug that his godfather trusted his brewing abilities. “Today?”

“If you are free. I would prefer to begin them as soon as possible.”

Draco eyed Severus carefully. He was more than aware of how efficient and persistent the man could be; his usual facade almost always quelling any hint of his true desires. But watching him now, at how eager he seemed to begin the process of the glove, had Draco reeling slightly.

“Forgive me, Severus, but I’m curious. Why are you so impatient for this to be done so soon?” he asked.

There was a minute pause, Snape’s hand hesitating as he reached for the stirring rod. “It is Harry’s birthday next week,” he replied. “I am hoping to have it done by then so I am able to gift this as a present. If the glove is successful and Harry can once again control his magic, he will begin to feel more like himself and I can begin to mentor him in Advanced Defence. And, of course, it would be beneficial for us to have as much time to do so before the school session resumes.”

Draco suspected that his godfather’s eagerness was more related to making Potter happy more so than the alluded teaching aspect but he kept his mouth shut. Severus had been in a surprisingly good mood every time Draco had come to visit this summer, it would not do well to throw a wand in the cogs.


 

True to Snape’s word, the older man did not allow Harry to mope alone for longer than a day. Bright and early the next morning had Tokey urging the young man out of bed and into the bath, ready in time for breakfast. Although Severus did not press for conversation that morning, he made sure his intentions were clear in keeping Harry preoccupied that day until his inner turmoil had settled. Severus was already aware that Draco was returning to the manor that afternoon to engage Harry in games of wizard chess, but what Snape knew and Harry didn’t, was that Narcissa would be joining them. She was insistent on getting to know the Boy-Who-Lived; the day her family had seen Potter for first time at Prince Manor had given Narcissa a terrible revelation, one she was rather adamant on rectifying. The young man needed a caring touch, and she was just the one to give it.

And so it was with blushing cheeks and a slightly agape mouth, lips parted in surprise, that Harry was greeted by a beautifully smiling Narcissa Malfoy who pressed a welcoming kiss to a red-tinted side of his face.

“It is lovely to see you again, Mr Potter,” she said easily. “I do hope you don’t mind me joining Draco this afternoon, I thought it would be a wonderful chance to get to know one another.”

Grateful for the small nudge from Severus, Harry was able to shake himself from his shock.

“Of c-course, Mrs Malfoy,” he replied, proud that he only stuttered once, “I don’t mind at all.”

“Excellent.” Her smile widened as she turned to Snape. “Shall we, Severus?”

“Indeed.” Snape summoned Tokey, ordering some tea and sandwiches to be brought to the eastern parlour. Harry and Malfoy then fell into step behind the professor and Narcissa, exchanging standard pleasantries and trying—and failing—to hinder snide remarks to one another.

“You look like you only just rolled out of bed, Potter, haven’t you ever heard of a hair brush?”

“We don’t all take three hours to groom ourselves, Malfoy.”

“Perhaps you should take a leaf out of my book then—Merlin knows you need it.”

“If you spent more time practicing quidditch than in front of the mirror maybe you could actually bring a challenge to our games.”

Malfoy pressed a hand to his chest in mock-outrage. “You wound me, Potter.”

“Not enough, apparently,” Harry muttered.

Draco smirked.

The four of them settled in the parlour with tea and sandwiches. Harry was content to sit back and allow the others to provide the flow of conversation, offering his own replies whenever a question was directed to him. Narcissa was good on her word when she said she wished to get to know him. She asked many questions, inquiring after his interests and his favourite studies at Hogwarts. It was so impeccably ordinary that Harry could scarcely believe it. If it wasn’t for Malfoy’s regular and well-timed mocking comments, Harry would have felt too coddled, too overwhelmed by the kindness. That was, until Narcissa began to mention bringing baby photos of a young Draco.

Mother!” Malfoy gaped. “You’ll do no such thing!”

Harry snorted into his tea, unable to stop the chuckles that bubbled up within him.

“Oh, Draco, don’t be such a spoil-sport,” Narcissa replied with a small smirk. “You were such an adorable babe. I recall one particular photo, I believe you were three at the time, and you had somehow managed to get into Severus’s office. Ink was everywhere.”

“It was my most expensive ink as well,” Severus added sourly. “Your hair remained splattered with black until I was able to brew a potion to clean it.”

“Oh my god.”

“Shut up, Potter!”

Harry laughed harder, tea sloshing inelegantly over the rim of his tea cup as he attempted to place it back on the table. With a roll of his eyes and a flick of his wand, Severus took over the task, allowing Harry to his belly laughs.

“P-Please, Mrs Malfoy, please bring those photos.”

“Don’t you dare!”

“Oh, Harry, of course! It would be my pleasure.”

“Dear Merlin.”

“Hush now, Draco, stop being such a sour-kneazle.”

“Oh for—can I just kick your arse at chess now, Potter?”

“Well, since you asked so nicely…”

Malfoy stood from the couch with a huff, practically marching over to the small chess table set up by the open window across the room. Narcissa uttered a soft laugh and sent a wink in Harry’s way as the dark-haired young man went to join him.

 

 

Harry had actually been enjoying himself that afternoon. Chess wasn’t entirely horrible with Malfoy. He was certainly nowhere near as patient as Ron was, but the Slytherin tended to slide hints into insults whenever Harry took too long to make a move. Severus and Narcissa had continued to converse on the couch in between sips of tea, occasionally glancing over whenever a particularly loud exclamation of outrage reached their ears.

“See those white pieces, Potter? If you move them maybe you’ll get somewhere.”

“Now, now, Draco,” Narcissa interjected cheerfully.

Malfoy looked up at his mother’s approach. Harry’s gaze was still focused determinedly on the chessboard, but when Narcissa continued, he lifted his head in slight surprise.

Je rentre à la maison, mon Dragon. Envoie moi s'il te plait un message si tu restes avec Severus et Harry pour diner,” the Malfoy Matron said.

Oui, mère,” Draco replied. “J'ai trouvé aujourd'hui agréable, merci de nous avoir rejoint.” 

Narcissa smiled lovingly at her son before turning her smile onto Harry. “I had a lovely time getting to know you, Harry, I would thoroughly enjoy doing so again.”

Harry felt his cheeks warm. “Thank you, Mrs Malfoy,” he replied. “That would be nice.”

Severus stood from his chair. “I shall escort you to the fireplace, Narcissa.”

“Wonderful, thank you, Severus.”

Harry watched the two adults sweep from the room before turning a look of intrigued amazement towards the young man sitting opposite him. “I didn’t know you could speak French,” he stated.

Malfoy stared at him derisively. “Ever wondered where my last name originated from, Potter?”

“Well, no, not really.”

“Merlin, how have you survived this long with the limited knowledge you seem to retain in that brain of yours?”

“Sheer dumb luck.”

“Fair enough.”

Harry wasn’t sure when Malfoy’s barbs had become amusing instead of hurtful. He gazed at the blond boy with a small smirk; Malfoy could be very quick-witted when he wanted.

“Do you normally speak French at home?” Harry asked then.

“Usually,” Malfoy replied, staring down at the chessboard with a faint frown. “Also gives me the chance to trash talk straight to people’s faces. It’s wonderful.”

Harry snorted. “I bet.”

“It’s still your move, Potter. Hurry up, will you? I’m dying of old age.”

“I would be so lucky.”


Translation:

I am off home now, my Dragon. Please send a message if you will be staying with Severus and Harry for dinner.”

Yes, Mother. Today was enjoyable, thank you for joining us.”

 

Chapter Text

“Happy Birthday, young sir!!” Tokey’s smile was almost blinding as Harry stepped into the informal dining room. “Tokey be makings all young sir’s favourites for breakfast!”

Harry paused for a moment, feeling a surge of affection towards the little creature who was the first to ever verbally acknowledge his birthday on the actual day. “Thank you so much, Tokey,” he replied, his lips stretching into a grin.

The elf beamed again and gestured towards the table where Severus was already seated. “Tokey be having young sir’s coffee ready! It be waiting for you on the table.”

Harry thanked her again and continued his way to his seat, offering a welcoming smile to his teacher as he sat.

“Many happy returns, Harry,” Snape said with a ghost of a smile. “Officially seventeen now. Any sign of grey hairs?”

“After the year I’ve had, I’m surprised my hair hasn’t gone entirely white,” Harry replied. “But I did grow my first chest hair—I’m officially a man.”

Severus chuckled indulgently as he took a sip of his tea. “Felicitations,” he said, and Harry grinned.

When Tokey arrived with a delicious array of all of Harry’s favourite breakfast foods, he and Snape ate in companionable silence, broken occasionally by a comment about what Severus had read in the paper that morning.

“Oh, I took the liberty of acquiring the gifts your friends wished to give you,” the Professor mentioned, gesturing to the far end of the table.

Harry turned, eyes widening at the sight of the pile of presents he had not noticed on his way in. Of course, it wasn’t as if Harry normally expected presents considering his childhood, but even since making friends at Hogwarts it still took him by surprise whenever he received something at all.

“Oh,” he sighed gently. “I—thank you.”

Snape hummed noncommittedly. “I am sure you are practically vibrating in your seat to see what they are, but you are to finish your breakfast before you are allowed to touch them.”

Harry turned back at his professor’s solemnly uttered words, expecting to see a familiar scowl, and was pleasantly surprised to see a knowing smirk twisting the older man’s lips. Harry was sorely tempted to throw out a “Yes, dad,” but kept his mouth shut, reaching instead for his coffee with a gentle smile.

Harry had completely forgotten that Hermione had asked about Severus being amicable in retrieving their birthday gifts for him. And yet the older man had gone out of his way to do so, entirely without Harry’s input whatsoever.

One breakfast and two mugs of coffee later, Severus flicked his wand and allowed the pile of presents to settle on the cleared table before Harry who continued to gaze at them in mild awe.

“I’m sure your friends did not purchase these gifts simply for you to stare at them, Harry,” Severus nudged ever so gently from behind his tea.

Harry released a soft awkward laugh, rubbing the back of his head with his left hand before he reached for a massive haphazardly wrapped gift that was no doubt sent by Hagrid. A knobbly, multicoloured knitted-something tumbled onto the table alongside a handwritten note. Within the well wishes and many happy returns was an explanation of what the present was, which turned out to be a hand-knitted scarf Hagrid had made himself. Harry’s heart thumped happily in his chest as he lifted the scarf for closer inspection—Hagrid had attempted what seemed to be Gryffindor colours, with multiple shades of red, a weird vermillion shade, a bright lemon yellow, and a dull honey. The scarf was also what appeared to be at least ten feet long.

Harry loved it.

He reached for another, pleasantly surprised at the Quidditch Tactics book Hermione had gifted him, partnered with a golden snitch clock that emitted soft puffs of smoke-numbers and fluttered its delicate wings when Harry poked it to display the time. From Ron, he received a box of his favourite Honeydukes chocolates and a small secretive note telling him the rest of his present was a combined gift from the family. Intrigued, Harry searched through the pile until he found a small box with a scroll attached, wrapped in the same paper that had covered Ron’s gift to him. He carefully plucked the scroll from the present and unfurled it.

 

Dearest Harry,

Many happy returns on this special day! Although we are heartsick to be unable to see you, please know that we think of you every day. You are always in our thoughts, Harry, and we all love you very much.

In the Weasley family, we have a tradition that we bestow upon a member of the family on the day that they turn seventeen. It has been a tradition upheld for centuries, one that we ensure is passed along to each of our children.

Please enjoy this gift.

All our love,

Molly, Arthur, Bill, Charlie, Percy, Fred, George, Ron, and Ginny.

 

He opened the box.

Tears filled Harry’s eyes.

Nestled within a box of white satin was a stunning black and gold watch. Its large face was constructed with beautifully carved cogs and spirals, and long elegant black clock-hands pointed to the correct time. Gingerly, he lifted the watch to inspect it closer, turning it over in his hand, breath catching at the small inscription etched into the black back.

Harry James Potter

31.07.1980

Member of Clan Weasley since

01.09.1991

 

A cloth napkin discreetly landed before him, folded neatly and drawing his attention away from the watch. Harry took it with a watery smile, glancing up at his teacher gratefully before hiding his face within the white linen, allowing his tears to flow. Once calmed, Harry delicately positioned the watch back into the box and continued to unwrap the rest of his presents. He was absolutely overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness of his friends, feeling loved and appreciated as he sat happily, surrounded by the wonderful gifts he had received.

It had been one of the best birthdays he’d ever had.

“If you follow me to your room, I have organised a surprise for you,” Severus announced, getting to his feet.

Harry stared at him in amazement for a brief moment before doing the same, following the professor from the informal dining room and along the familiar path to his bedroom. As they entered, Harry couldn’t help but scan the area, searching for anything out of the ordinary. He half expected an abundance of streamers, and was extremely relieved when the room remained the same as he had left it that morning.

Well, except for a large covered box-looking thing that now sat on his desk.

Harry frowned at it, turning to look at Severus who inclined his head, dark eyes glittering as he gestured towards the cloth covered shape. Feeling bemused, Harry crossed the room and paused by the desk, reaching out to pull the dark-coloured cloth off. It slipped easily from what it covered, and Harry felt his jaw drop at what it revealed.

“You—” his voiced faltered, his left-hand hovering over the terrarium as he stared with wide eyes. “You bought me a snake?”

A smirk curled at the Professor’s lips.

“An appropriate gift for a should-have-been-Slytherin,” the older man replied. “Not only will she frighten your fellow Gryffindors, but she will provide you with more… stimulating conversation.”

Harry was unable to stop the smile that spread across his face despite the stab at his house and friends. He stared into the tank, eyes falling on the beautiful red, gold, and black snake. He turned his grin to his teacher.

“Gryffindor colours?” he enquired.

Snape snorted. “It felt necessary,” he replied. “I saw no reason for your housemates to complain if your snake had the colours of your house.”

The brunet laughed as he turned to look back at his newly acquired pet. “What species?”

Atheris squamigera,” Snape replied. “African Bush Viper,” he continued after Harry’s blank look. “That means you will need to establish rules with her should she bite someone. Although her venom is not severely potent, it can be dangerous if left untreated.”

Harry nodded his understanding. Snape was pleased to note the excitement that crossed over the young man’s face. He hadn’t bothered to predict Harry’s response to his gift—the boy would either like the snake or he wouldn’t. Severus was happy to see the way the brunet responded however; for someone who could speak to snakes and thoroughly enjoyed their company, Snape wondered why Harry had not been gifted with a serpent earlier.

A gentle hissing tugged Severus from his thoughts. He watched carefully as Harry extended his left hand into to terrarium, hissed words falling from his lips.

Hello there, little one,” Harry murmured, stroking a finger over the snake’s ridged scales. “You are beautiful. What are you named…?

I am called Impes,” the snake replied, lifting her head off her heated rock in interest as her tongue tasted the air around the hand hovering near. “Are you my master…?

It appears so,” Harry replied with a gentle smile.

How did I come to be here?” Impes asked.

Harry glanced over to Snape, eyes warming. “My… warden… bought you for my birthday. I am seventeen today. He is a Slytherin—a snake himself in a way. I believe he thought you were a suitable gift.”

Are you a snake as well, master?

Harry chuckled, stroking Impes’s head affectionately. “No. Unfortunately I am a Gryffindor; a lion. I was close however—I was almost a snake.”

Is that due to your ability to speak with me?” Impes slithered her way up Harry’s arm, her warm belly soothing on his skin.

Harry pondered the question. It was, in a way, most likely due to Voldemort’s magic within him that caused the Sorting Hat to consider him for Slytherin. After all, Harry had never really considered himself as particularly cunning.

Possibly,” the brunet replied instead. “I’m going to put you down for a moment, Impes. I want to thank my warden properly,” Harry hissed, lowering his arm back into the terrarium. Impes glided back down his skin, curling up on her heated rock. Harry then turned to Snape and, before the older man could even blink, Harry had stepped forwards, wrapping his left arm tightly around him in a warm hug.

“Thank you so much,” Harry murmured. “She’s perfect.”

For a split second, Severus had frozen in place. He had not expected the hug, lest of all from Harry who could barely stand being touched himself. As the shock began to drain away, Severus allowed his arms to come around the young man in his embrace, returning the hug with a brief squeeze.

“You are welcome, Harry. I am glad you like her.”


 

With his newly acquired gifts placed neatly in his room, Harry took Impes down to introduce her to Ladon, Nyoka, and Nagendra, while Severus worked on something in a far corner of the laboratory that Harry couldn’t quite discern. The snakes utterly adored Impes, their tongues flickering madly as Harry lowered her into each of their terrariums in turn whilst he explained that it was his birthday today and that Severus had been the one to purchase Impes.

I think he wants to make sure I’m not lonely when we return to Hogwarts,” Harry mentioned, “because I won’t get to see you as often.”

Master is very considerate,” Nagendra said knowingly. “How do you like your new master, Impes?

Impes curled possessively around Harry’s wrist as she twisted to stare at Nagendra. “My Master is strong and kind. When I am fully grown, I will be proud to protect him.”

Nagendra flickered her tongue and gazed at Impes in a very impressed manner. “You will be a fine guardian for him.”

Impes positively preened from the compliment, twisting elegantly up Harry’s arm as she hissed with pleasure. Harry smiled indulgently, echoing Nagendra’s words. He continued to converse with the snakes until Severus called him over. The older man was standing before one of his workbenches, an odd looking black glove-thing lying on the surface behind him.

“Although I am somewhat pleased with the stability the potions have been giving you,” Severus began, “I realised some time ago that it would not entirely be enough to assist you with regaining full use of your arm.” He turned to gesture to the glove-like implement. “I have crafted this for you from dragon skin. Due to the magical complexity of the hide, along with some of my own adjustments, it should, hopefully, return full movement to your limb.”

Harry stared. “Really?” he murmured hopefully.

“I am hoping so,” the professor replied. “Again, I cannot be sure since we have yet to test my theory, but I could not resist having it completed by your birthday.”

A jubilant grin light up Harry’s face. “Well, what are we waiting for?”

Snape chuckled softly at the young man’s eagerness and flicked his wand, conjuring a stool for Harry to perch. Another flick produced a warm rock for Impes to rest, safe from the removal of shirts, slings, and bandages. She watched, intrigued, as her master’s warden carefully unravelled the thick white stripes that covered his right arm, all the way from his shoulder to his fingertips. Her tongue flickered warily at the sudden surge of wild magic now exuding from her young master—what had happened to him?

“I will require your assistance with putting the glove on, Harry,” Snape said. “In order for it to be completely bonded to you and your magic, no one must touch it until it is settled and secured on you first.”

Harry nodded his understanding. His right arm hummed, and he wasn’t entirely sure that it was purely from wild magic; it was almost as if his limb knew that it would soon be functional once more. He watched as Snape flicked his wand, the black glove lifting up off the table and turning slowly until the opening faced the fingers on his right hand. Carefully, Harry reached out with his left and began to cautiously slide the glove up his right arm. The sensation sent tingles running up and down the humming limb, something that was not entirely unpleasant. Inch by careful inch, the glove glided up smoothly until it had reached the apex of his shoulder. Two straps were secured around Harry’s torso to hold it in place and, with one final scan of his wand, Severus nodded with satisfaction.

The dragon skin was surprisingly soft. The scales were smooth, nowhere near as ridged as he had envisioned with Snape first mentioned dragonhide. The black pearlescent nature of the skin shimmered beautifully in the firelight of the torches and, as he ran the tips of his fingers of his left-hand up his right forearm, he was surprised at how distinct the sensation was—it was almost as if the glove acted as a second-skin. Harry could feel every touch, every movement as if it were his own.

“Do not overexert yourself, Harry,” Severus warned. “You will need to rebuild the strength in your arm gradually lest you cause more damage. This means that I would prefer you to hold off from doing any form of magic for the meantime, just until we are sure your arm has adjusted to the dragonhide.”

The brunet nodded, staring down at his gloved arm as he flexed his fingers tentatively.

No pain.

With a breathless smile, Harry carefully extended his arm, gazing intently at the limb as he moved it cautiously, clenching his fingers into a fist and then releasing again, testing the boundaries of his movements.

“How does it feel?” Snape asked, watching every motion with wary black eyes.

“Fantastic.” Harry beamed. He flexed his wrist, extending his arm to test the range of movement the glove now gave him.

It was unbelievable.

It was almost as it the injury had never occurred. His arm felt fantastic—there none of the nasty burning sensation that had plagued him for the past few weeks, none of the agonising pain on movement. Harry could scarcely believe it.

“Tokey.”

The elf popped into the room with a bow. “Yes, Master?” she squeaked happily.

“Please fetch Harry’s wand. It will be in his room on the bedside table,” Severus instructed.

Tokey popped away, returning moments later clutching a familiar stick of holly in her hand. Snape took the wand in careful fingers, turning to face Harry who drew in a deep, affirming breath before reaching out with his gloved hand, his fingers tentatively brushing the end of his wand.

Nothing happened.

Another breathless smile broke out across Harry’s face as he gripped the handle, staring down at his wand, barely believing his eyes.

“Perhaps a small, simple spell,” Severus murmured, his dark eyes wandering carefully over Harry’s wand and arm, searching for anything out of the ordinary.

The young man nodded and turned, searching for something small he could summon or levitate. He spied one of Severus’s black steel stirring rods and, with a gentle flick on his wand, attempted to summon it. The stirring rod shot across the lab so fast Harry only had a second to step out of the way before he was impaled. As it was, the rod embedded itself deeply into the stone wall behind him, jutting out imperiously, leaving Harry and Snape to stare at it with wide eyes.

“Er—”

“I believe I said a small, simple spell,” Snape stated, and when Harry turned to look at him, a small smirk was on his face. “Do not worry, Harry, it may take some time for your magic to settle. I suggest you avoid more complicated spells for the mean time. We will incorporate some training into your schedule over the holidays to ensure you become accustomed to using your right arm once more.”

Harry nodded, eyes drifting back down to his newly gloved arm.

A gentle hissing brought his attention back to Impes, who was reared up on her stone, head tilted slightly to the side.

I’m alright, Impes,” Harry reassured with a gentle smile, crossing the distance between them. He pocketed his wand and held out his right hand, allowing Impes to scent the dragonhide before she happily slid up his arm. The sensation was uncanny—Harry could still not believe just how well his glove provided the impression of real skin. Just as she settled comfortably around Harry’s neck, Tokey appeared once more in the laboratory with a small pop.

“Master Draco be arrivings, Master!” she squeaked. “Shall Tokey be telling Master Draco where Master and young sir are?”

“We are done in here for now, thank you, Tokey,” Snape replied. “Tell Draco to meet us in the east parlour.”

Tokey nodded briskly and disappeared. Snape lifted Harry’s sling into his hands.

“I suggest you keep this in your possession for the meantime, Harry. Whilst I am happy to see that the glove has returned function to your arm, I believe it to be important that we do not rush the healing process. I would like for you to rest your arm for an hour or so a day until you rebuild your strength. I’ll have Tokey place it in your room for now.”

Harry nodded his understanding. “Thank you, Severus. This—this is… I had convinced myself I’d never be able to use my arm again.” He flexed the fingers on his right hand again. “You’ve done so much for me… I don’t know how to thank you.”

Severus cleared his throat, inclining his head in a familiar action Harry recognised. With a soft smile, Harry didn’t push his gratitude further but instead offered to take his sling to his room himself, allowing Severus time to compose himself in privacy. He left the lab with one final goodbye to Ladon, Nyoka, and Nagendra and strolled contentedly to the large sweeping staircase in the foyer.

There you are.”

Harry turned. Malfoy was strolling towards him, a bottle of amber liquid in one hand and his other brushing some leftover soot from his black and grey waistcoat. Harry couldn’t help but notice how nicely the article of clothing seemed to shape Malfoy’s torso—

“Happy Birthday, Potter.”

Harry blinked in surprise, taking the bottle of Ogden’s finest firewhiskey that was presented to him. “Thanks, Malfoy,” he said, glancing up at the Slytherin. “Er—you didn’t have to…”

“Nonsense,” Draco replied haughtily. “Besides, I fully intend on drinking half of that with you. I can’t in good faith allow you to get sloshed alone on your birthday after all.”

Harry snorted but grinned all the same. “Fair enough.”

Malfoy’s eyes dropped down to the small snake draped around Harry’s neck, his sleek eyebrows lifting in slightly surprise.

“New snake?” he questioned.

“Yeah, she was a birthday gift,” Harry replied. “Her name is Impes.” At the sound of her name, Impes lifted her head, uncurling enough from around her master’s neck to stretch out towards the new person standing in front of them.

Your friend?” she hissed, tasting the air with her tongue.

Of sorts,” Harry replied with a gentle smile.

He’s rather shiny, isn’t he? And he smells very nice.”

Harry laughed before he could stop himself.

Draco’s eyes narrowed. “What did she say, Potter?”

Harry grinned. “She said you’re shiny,” he replied, biting his lip to stop himself from laughing. “And—” a chuckle slipped past his lips, “apparently you smell nice.”

The blond snorted. “Don’t laugh at my grooming habits, Potter, it would appear that your snake has very good taste. I may forgive her for being so horridly coloured.”

“Courtesy of your godfather.”

“Severus would never!

Impes flickered her tongue, her head quirking to the side inquisitively before she slithered down Harry’s newly gloved arm towards the Slytherin. Draco eyed her scrutinisingly.

Does the shiny one not like me, Master?” she asked, turning sad dark eyes towards her owner.

Of course he does, Impes,” he replied, before giving Malfoy a glare. “You’re making Impes think that you don’t like her, you git.”

“Goodness, we can’t have that,” Malfoy sneered, but he extended his hand all the same, taking Impes’s weight and stroking soothing fingers along her ridged scales. “A sook just like your owner, aren’t you?” he murmured. She curled happily around his forearm, tongue flicking in and out rapidly as she took in his scent.

“What do you know, you look good in a bit of red and gold.”

“Shut up, Potter.”

Harry chuckled, brushing some wayward curls off of his forehead. The simple pleasure of being about to do so with his right arm was so uplifting he couldn’t help the satisfied smile as it stretched across his lips.

“I need to run this upstairs,” Harry said, lifting the sling in question. “Sev’s still in the lab if you wanted to say hi.”

Malfoy’s eyes darted to the corridor behind Potter. “And miss annoying you for an extra five minutes? Don’t be so cruel.” He fell into step beside the brunet with a smirk. “Missed me?”

“Like a hole in the head.”

“Mmm, perfect.” Draco tilted his head, glancing down at the glove now covering Potter’s right arm. He had to admit Severus had done a spectacular job, the dragonhide had been crafted beautifully and, as currently demonstrated by the free range of movement Potter now possessed, it was clear that it was working efficiently.

“I suppose I should ask how your birthday has been then,” Draco continued, lifting Impes before his eyes to gaze at her properly.

“Careful, Malfoy, you don’t want to use up all of your niceness so soon.”

“I can be charitable, it is your special day after all.”

“Okay now you’re making me feel weird.”

“Is that all? I need to step up my game.”

Harry couldn’t help the chuckle that fell from his lips and before he knew it, he was sending a grin Malfoy’s way. It was just so… so effortless bantering with the Slytherin. The tension between them was definitely still there but it had morphed now, becoming something that drew Harry towards Draco, to get a rise out of him in such a way that had him craving more.

And Malfoy met him head to head in the most delightful way.

On his wrist, Impes tilted her head as she flickered her tongue towards Malfoy’s nose. She seemed pleased by something.

Why are you tickling Draco’s nose, Impes?” Harry asked in amusement.

The shiny one finds you attractive, Master,” she replied, “I can smell it on him.”

Harry didn’t respond, but his gaze became much more focused as he eyed Malfoy. He couldn’t deny that he himself found Malfoy rather good to look at, or that he’d imagined certain actions happening, but he’d never considered that Draco would actually return the desire.

“Is she discussing my grooming habits again, Potter?” Draco asked haughtily. “I’ll have you know I am well-disciplined with my hygiene!”

Harry snorted. “Among other things,” he teased.

“Oh, shut up.”


 

“Pass over the bottle, Potter.”

“Excuse me, Malfoy, but this was my gift.”

“That I so considerately bought for you, so hand it over, you birthday hog.”

Snickering, Harry passed over the bottle of Ogden’s. He and Malfoy had long since retired to Harry’s bedroom, mostly in order to give Severus a rest from their constant bantering, made worse of course by the addition of alcohol. The two boys were currently sitting on the floor at the foot of Harry’s bed, passing the bottle of firewhiskey back and forth between the two of them and splashing smoking amber liquid into tumblers amidst teasing conversation, bickering, and excessive jibes.

Malfoy placed the bottle in between them, lifting his tumbler to his lips to take a sip. Although the blond’s profile was swimming back and forth slightly, Harry found himself unable to shift his gaze away. It wasn’t a surprise that Harry found Malfoy attractive—the bloody tosser was gorgeous after all, you’d have to be blind not to see it.

“Hey, Potter.”

“Yeah?”

Draco turned slightly unsteady eyes towards him. “You ever notice Severus smells odd? Almost like bitterness… and old shoes.”

There was a beat of silence before Harry erupted into gales of laughter, stomach muscles clenching as he almost doubled over with amusement.

“Holy fuck, Malfoy, that might just be the funniest thing you’ve ever said.”

Draco preened, his lips twisting into a devilish smirk. “What can I say? I’m bloody brilliant.”

“You know, they say brilliance and insanity walk hand in hand…”

Draco scoffed. “Oh, shut up, Potter.”

Make me, Malfoy.”

Defiance shone brightly in emerald eyes, matched equally by intense glimmer of promise in silver. For a moment, there was no movement aside from the flicker of sparsely spread candles, the only sound their breathing.

“Well?” Harry murmured, his voice low. He noticed absently as Malfoy shivered slightly. “I’m waiting, Draco.”

With a surge Malfoy flew forwards, his gaze locked on Harry’s lips for the briefest of moments before their mouths came together in a rough embrace, causing a great rush of air to expel from Harry’s lungs. As the surprise faded, Harry realised his hands had already acted on their own accord, coming to rest on Malfoy’s waist, fingers curling tightly into the other male’s clothing.

The kiss was sloppy, drunkenly driven, with fumbling hands and muffled moans.

And Harry didn’t even give a flying fuck.

His thoughts, jumbled as they were from the amount of firewhiskey he had consumed, were focused on the burning warmth of Malfoy’s mouth, his thrusting tongue, and his clumsy, wandering hands. Harry firmed his grip on the blond’s hips, tugging the male into his lap until Malfoy was straddling his thighs, long pale fingers delving into Harry’s dark curls and tugging playfully.

Harry dug his fingers into Malfoy’s hips hard enough to bruise. The blond uttered a throaty moan, his gasp lost in Harry’s mouth as he shifted impossibly closer, a hard thickness pressed against Harry’s own responding erection. With a growl, Harry thrust upwards as he pulled Malfoy’s hips down, grinding roughly and causing Draco to choke on his moan, eyelids fluttering against the onslaught of sensations.

And it was utter bliss.

Chapter Text

It was with a grimace and a wince that Harry stumbled into the informal dining room the following morning. Severus folded a corner of the Daily Prophet to watch the young man, a dark eyebrow quirked upwards and small smirk on his lips as Harry half walked, half stumbled, his way towards the table.

Harry’s arm was once again in his sling. Although gloved, he thought it best to not take any chances this morning, especially given post-drunken birthday celebrations. Severus could not stop the soft chuckle that escaped his lips as Harry collapsed into his chair with a groan, proceeding to drop his head onto the wooden surface on the table with a thunk.

“I would ask how you’re feeling but I daresay the glare I would receive from doing so would answer my question.”

There came an affirmative grunt.

“I can imagine Draco must be feeling somewhat the same.”

Another grunt.

“If you lift your head long enough to consume this hangover potion perhaps you will prove to be better company.”

Face pale—with a delightful tinge of green—Harry lifted his head, reaching for the vial Snape offered him. The older man flicked his wand and the vial unstoppered itself, Harry downing it all in one go. Severus could tell exactly how unwell Harry must have felt when he did not waste any precious time to complain about the taste of the orange fluid.

“I hope this has been an enlightening experience as to the limits of your alcohol consumption.”

“Ugh, it definitely has,” Harry mumbled in reply, rubbing his forehead tiredly. “I can barely remember what Malfoy and I did last night after we headed up to my room. I know we were just being stupid and saying random crap… and I think we—”

Harry trailed off, his words failing him momentarily as a particular memory flashed bright and intrusive in his mind’s eye.

Oh.

He snorted. “Yeah… definitely going to watch how much I drink in the future,” he finished, fingering the empty vial thoughtfully. He lifted it, gesturing towards his teacher. “Thank you for this, I promise not to overdo it in the future.”

“Good. Do you feel up to having some breakfast?”

“I think so, yeah.”

It was in that moment that Harry realised there was a third spot set across from him.

“Is Malfoy still here?” he asked, somewhat surprised. Surely Draco would have gone home as soon as he would have been able? Especially after what they had done last night…

“He is,” Snape replied offhandedly as he returned to his newspaper, “I sent Tokey to awaken him not long before you arrived.”

Harry remained silent, but his mind was off on a tangent of ‘what ifs’ and ‘surely nots’. What if Malfoy doesn’t remember? What if he does and he’s only just woken up…? What if he brings it up in front of Severus?? Surely not

Harry’s thoughts immediately ground to a halt as the familiar blond stepped into the room, dressed impeccably as usual, and sauntered over to the table.

“Severus,” Draco greeted pleasantly. “Potter,” he finished with a smirk. He sat down gracefully, all evidence of any alcohol consumption prominently lacking. “I hope I find you… well… this morning.” His gaze lingered meaningfully on Harry for a few seconds and Harry knew in that instant that Malfoy most definitely remembered what had occurred the previous night.

Harry groaned silently. Judging from the knowing glint in Malfoy’s pale eyes, the Slytherin was particularly pleased to be aware of the information.

This was going to be a long morning.


 

Breakfast passed surprisingly without incident. Aside from the occasional smirk or innuendo, Malfoy had not actually gone out of his way to reveal what had happened between them last night, and Harry was beginning to question why that was.

Of course, maybe Malfoy is actually trying to be decent for a change? Maybe he’s trying to respect me…?

Even Harry’s subconscious had to snort at that idea.

Unless… Harry’s heart skipped a beat. Unless Malfoy thinks there was more to last night than I’m realising… oh shit, does Malfoy think we’re dating or something now??

But Malfoy was being annoyingly obtuse on the subject. All morning the sly Slytherin had sent smirks over to Harry, his silver eyes glinting with contained glee, but had yet to bring attention to the events that had occurred the previous evening. When Malfoy suddenly suggested an innocent game of chess as they were leaving the informal dining room, Harry felt a small spike of panic. Maybe this was it, maybe this would be the time he mentioned something.

What is wrong, Master?

Impes’s head poked out from Harry’s collar. She had been beneath his shirt and wrapped around his left upper arm ever since he’d begrudgingly rolled out of bed with a throbbing headache and a firewhiskey abused stomach.

Ugh nothing, Impes, it’s alright,” Harry replied.

Impes flickered her tongue. Harry couldn’t help but notice it seemed to be in a somewhat sarcastic manner.

Your heart races and your skin grows moist…?” she questioned.

It’s nothing,” Harry insisted. “Just worried about something, I’m sure it will be fine.”

Is it about your shiny friend?

In a manner of speaking…

“Potter, are you going to join me or speak to your snake all day?”

The soft chuckle that followed had Harry’s head turning toward the sound. He was not surprised to see the cheeky smile on Malfoy’s face.

“Of course, dependent on the snake, perhaps I could… assist you with that.” He sat at the chessboard table, staring up at Harry in a way that Harry could only describe as impertinent.

“Yeah, well…” Harry’s voice trailed off as he too sat down, rubbing the back of his head again awkwardly. “Are we going to talk about this?” he blurted.

“Talk about what, Potter?”

This,” Harry replied angrily, gesturing between the two of them. “Last night specifically.”

“What on earth is there to talk about? I find you attractive, you obviously find me attractive. We just happened to act on that last night. Doesn’t mean we’re dating or anything, Potter.”

Harry’s erratically beating heart began to calm. “Oh,” he said, lowering his still outstretched arm. “Okay, good.”

Scrutinising grey eyes swept up and down. “Are you sure?” Malfoy asked.

“Yeah.” Harry bobbed his head to help emphasise his words. “Look, I’m not exactly looking for anything complicated at the moment given the circumstances.”

“You don’t say,” Malfoy replied with a soft snort. “Because your life has been anything other than complicated.”

Harry could only offer a weak shrug and a sheepish look in reply. “With stuff like this, I’m usually the one that bungs it up. Shove Voldemort in the mix and I’m surprised I’m not a complete mental case.”

“Who say’s you’re not?”

“Shut up, Malfoy.”

Draco chuckled easily. “Sometimes I question my own sanity based purely on the fact that I find you attractive.”

“Yeah? Well ditto.”

The smile that lingered on Malfoy’s face for a meme moment was almost pleasant. Harry stared at it until it was gone, and then shifted his eyes back up to the pale eyes gazing at him thoughtfully.

“So we’re in agreement?” Malfoy continued, moving a hand forward to slide a pawn into place, instigating the beginning of their game.

“About not dating?” Harry asked, forcing his gaze onto the chessboard as he finally slid into the opposite chair.

“Correct.”

“Well yeah.” Harry picked up a pawn and mimicked Malfoy’s move. “But maybe…”

“Maybe?”

“Well, just because we’re not dating doesn’t mean we can’t…”

Yes, Potter…?”

Harry rubbed his suddenly very warm face. “God you can be such a prick sometimes.”

“A fact I shall never deny,” Malfoy smirked. “Are you suggesting that while we may not necessarily be dating, we continue to… fraternise?”

“Um, yeah?”

A soft chuckle fell from Malfoy’s mouth. “I suppose that could be arranged. I most certainly wouldn’t want to deny myself the chance to fuck the Boy-Who-Lived whenever I was feeling particularly horny.”

Harry watched him analyse the chessboard once more. “But… just casual.”

“Just casual,” Malfoy repeated. “Be rest assured, Potter, I am definitely not looking for anything serious, alright?”

“Good, yep, casual it is.”


 

Harry had fallen into a deep funk.

What little hope he had had of his arm healing and him getting back on track had blown up in his face—much like the pillow he had attempted to non-verbally wingardium leviosa moments before.

His magic was unstable and dangerous… and Harry had no idea how to control it.

He and Severus had been working on simple spell work for the past few days. Regardless if he used verbal spells or nonverbal spells it made no difference—everything Harry tried exploded spectacularly before his eyes. His magic was simply too erratic to control. He could feel it, same as it ever was, but there seemed to be more of it now somehow. His wand practically vibrated in his palm every time he tried, and, what was worse, the more he practised, the stronger the explosions or mishaps seemed to become.

Come on… come on…! Harry thought desperately, relaying every little bit of determination he could muster into the simple spell.

Another pillow burst into a flurry of soft duck feathers, a rain of grey and white floating teasingly before him. Harry didn’t even bother to attempt a reparo, let alone a scourgify. Lord knows what might happen.

With a frustrated grunt Harry sunk to his knees, resting his face in his hands as he allowed his wand to fall to the carpet. It spluttered red sparks in an angry stutter, before lying still and innocent. Harry glared at it. He knew it was silly, feeling so angry towards a piece of holly, but at least feeling as if he could blame something else aside from himself made him feel slightly better.

Harry sighed, pressing his hands to his face with a small amount of force before allowing them to fall away, rocking back on his heels.

“Tokey.”

The little elf popped into the room. “You be calling Tokey, young sir?” she squeaked happily, curtseying.

“Yeah, could you um—would you mind?” Harry asked awkwardly as he gestured to the mound of feathers.

“Young sir is not be having much luck,” Tokey stated with a sympathetic glance. With a click of her fingers, the two pillows returned to their original, luscious self, all evidence of the fluffy explosions completely gone.

“Thanks.” Harry got to his feet, feeling rather awkward having to ask Tokey to fix everything he broke. “Where is Severus at the moment? Is it a bad time to bug him?”

Tokey beamed happily. “Tokey be knowing Master is brewing, but Tokey is happy to be checking for young sir!” And she popped away before Harry could tell her not to worry. If Severus was brewing, it was always best to leave the Potions Master alone until the man himself deemed it appropriate for visitors.

Harry allowed himself a small ironic smile, stooped down to pick up his wand and slipped it into the thigh holster he had had Tokey pop out and acquire for him. While there was nothing he could, at the moment, actually use his wand for, Harry felt strange going about without it. And Severus had already given him a talking to about shoving it in his back pocket for safe keeping.

When Tokey still had not returned after five minutes, Harry bit his lip. Had she gotten in trouble for distracting Severus mid-brew? Harry had never seen Severus outwardly scold Tokey for any mishaps, he was surprisingly patient with the house elf, but it was also uncharacteristic for Tokey not to return after undertaking a request, even if Harry never actually asked Tokey to check—

Knock, knock.

Harry crossed the room with a faint frown, his brows relaxing as Severus’s familiar face appeared in the doorway.

“I take it your brewing is done then?” Harry asked, stepping aside to allow his mentor access.

“Fortunately, the potion I am working on has reached a twelve-hour undisturbed simmering window.” Severus took a few steps inside, eyes casually sweeping the room. “So, how many pillows has Tokey been required to reparo today?”

“Just two,” Harry grumbled, crossing his arms in annoyance. “I don’t know what is going wrong. No matter how hard I try I can’t make a spell work. I’ve tried every angle I can think of and I just—everything I do has no control.”

“Non-verbal?”

“Same result,” Harry replied with a sigh. “The smallest explosion I’ve managed was non-verbal and with as little magic used as possible. I don’t—I don’t know what else to try… and it feels as if it’s getting worse.”

Severus observed Harry carefully. “Show me again,” he requested, gesturing to one of the recently repaired pillows.

Harry drew in an unsure breath but unsheathed his wand all the same, staring in trepidation at the soon-to-be destroyed object. He decided on the same non-verbal levitation charm as before as he held his wand firmly in his hand. Just as all the times before, his wand began to hum, almost in anticipation, and Harry could already begin to feel his magic seeping into the stick of holly, filling the wood to the brim with uncontrolled power. He barely had to think the incantation before the pillow had exploded, even more violently than before, and Harry lowered his wand again with a grimace and a further deepening of desperation that settled as a familiar ache in his chest.

There was a brief moment of silence before the Professor spoke.

“What I think you may need,” Severus began, stroking a finger across his chin, “is to attempt to regain control over your magic wandlessly.”

Harry frowned up at the Professor, confusion evident on his face. “But isn’t the entire purpose of a wand to channel our magic?”

Severus inclined his head. “That is indeed correct. However, I am wondering if it is because of your wand channelling your magic that is causing your spells to become too powerful.” The confused expression remained on Harry’s face. Severus suppressed an exasperated smirk. “It is possible that the dragonhide glove is augmenting your magic. As in denial I have been in the past, Harry, you are in fact a remarkable wizard, one whose magic has proven beyond a doubt that it is stronger than most. While the spell the Dark Lord used may have injured your arm, thankfully it has not touched your core. Your wand arm is simply the extension your magic flows through. The magical nature of the dragonhide seems to be acting as an amplifier, which in addition to your innate magical ability, it seems to be proving too much for your wand to handle.”

Something suddenly occurred to Harry. He remembered the day when Severus had removed his bandages for the first time, how uncontrolled and wild his magic had felt coursing within his arm, simmering just below the surface of his skin as if the smallest touch could have sent it surging.

“Well… we can only try, right?” Harry said finally, not daring to hope as he gazed at his teacher with the smallest amount of desperation.

“Like everything, this will take time. You will be frustrated and impatient and will, no doubt, not see much improvement for a decent while. To first control your magic wandlessly, you are required to completely retrain your body’s access to your magical core, to strengthen connections within your body that you have never considered before. But with determination, I am sure you will be successful.”

Harry looked down at his hands. Was it possible? Was the reason why his spells ended in destruction purely because they were becoming too powerful?

“Okay,” he said, returning his gaze back to Snape. “I’ll need to at least give it a go. There’s only a month left until school returns and I won’t be passing my NEWTs at this rate.”

Snape inclined his head in agreement. “I have some texts on wandless theory that will be off some help. We will begin with those before we move on to practical lessons. Wandless magic can be very potent and wild; many witches and wizards struggle to adapt without the use of a wand. I do not feel that this will be the case for you, however you know I am not one to take risks.”

“Not you, Severus, never you,” Harry replied with an impish grin.

Snape’s lips twitched, his dark eyes gleaming with hidden mirth. “You best watch that cheek, Mr Potter.”

The younger man chuckled. “Alright, alright, I’ll be good,” he replied. “Can I have a look at those texts now? Please?”

“Where was this enthusiasm during my previous lessons hmm?” Severus replied, turning and gesturing for Harry to follow him.

“Who needs enthusiasm when you have Hermione,” Harry replied. He and Severus stepped into the corridor and Harry, expecting his teacher to turn left and start downstairs for the manor’s library, was slightly surprised when his teacher turned in the opposite direction, heading further down into the depths of the estate.

“These particular books are rather… valuable. Because of this, I keep the them in my private collection,” Severus explained, answering Harry’s unasked question as to the whereabouts of their destination. “I trust you will take care of them.”

“Of course,” Harry said.

“Whilst we have the freedom of the summer holidays it will be prudent for you to gain an in-depth understanding on wandless magic. We may be able to continue your lessons when we have returned to Hogwarts but that will, of course, be dependent on your school timetable and my own. We will also have to be mindful not raise suspicion, there are still many loyal to the Dark Lord who would be more than happy to report their scepticisms to gain his favour.”

“So more remedial potions then?” Harry asked innocently.

Snape emitted a soft snort. “As loathe as I am to admit it, I feel your potion-making skills have exceeded the need for remedial potions this year. We will have to come up with another, hopefully believable, lie.”

“You could just throw me into a bunch of detentions.”

“Then we would be seeing an awful lot of one another, Harry,” Severus stated with a smirk.

“I’m not that bad!”

Severus’s chuckles were warm as they echoed down the corridor and Harry felt a smile pull at his lips. Sometimes he couldn’t believe how far the two of them had come. Once, so enraged by the mere sight of one another to sharing a jest at the other’s expense. Warm was spreading through Harry’s chest as he walked beside his mentor and he was unable to remove the gentle smile from his face, even as Severus continue to poke fun at his rule breaking.

Chapter Text

**A/N: I would like to reiterate and clarify that this is NOT a romance fic, not at first at least. The following chapter includes some serious rough sexual scenes—as will most of this story—since the boys initially use sex as a coping mechanism for their frustration. As unnecessary as this warning will appear to most of you, I have had some strange comments in the past where readers were “not expecting porn in my story”, despite the fact that the tags were clearly labelled. So - WARNING - rough sexual themes ahead! Please read through the tags THOROUGHLY if you have not done so already. Every theme mentioned is used during these scenes. For those not interested in Rough Sexual Themes, I will announce the beginning and end of said scenes so you can skip them Xx**


“You bought me clothes?

Harry stared at the multiple parcels with a mix of dread and surprise. When Malfoy had said he was coming over for lunch Harry had not expected the Slytherin to be coming with clothing meant for him.

“Don’t act so surprised, Potter, your current wardrobe is atrocious,” Malfoy replied snidely. “It’s high time you had clothing of your ow—” he cleared his throat, “clothing that actually suits you.”

Harry found himself frowning at Malfoy’s slip of the tongue but decided to ignore it. “And what’s so wrong with my clothes now?” he asked haughtily. He ran his hands subconsciously over the current oversized plaid shirt he was wearing. Despite it being one of Dudley’s, it was one of the few items of clothing Harry had that he actually didn’t mind but had been unable to wear when his arm had been in a sling. Since his arm was gloved and currently feeling good, Harry hadn’t hesitated to bust the old boy out.

“What’s wrong with them?” Malfoy almost choked the words out. “You mean aside from them being out-of-date, gargantuan, ratty, and worn?”

“Jeez, Malfoy, save some insults for dinner.”

“Come on, Potter, just let me do something nice for a change. Don’t be so difficult.”

Me being difficult?”

“At least try some on.”

“Malfoy, I really don’t feel comfortable with you—”

“Consider it a belated birthday present if you’re that putout.”

“But—”

“Mother will be so disheartened to know her kindness has also been rebuffed…”

“Ugh! Fine! Show me what you got.”

A satisfied smile curled at Malfoy’s lips as he directed Harry to sit on his own bed. Malfoy went to the various packages piled on the end, pulling the string of one with delighted relish. At once, a bundled heap of emerald green material tumbled from within the brown wrappings. Harry eyed it, feeling trepidation unfurling within his stomach.

“You didn’t buy me a bunch of dress robes did you?” he asked worriedly, still standing uncertainly by his bedside, “you know I don’t wear—”

“Sweet Merlin, Potter! Give me some credit for fucks sake.” Draco pointed to the bed. “Now sit down and shut up.”

The emerald green material turned out to be a silken, long sleeve shirt with black buttons running down the middle. Malfoy held up the garment, staring at Harry expectedly.

“Er—um, nice?” Harry replied awkwardly.

“Merlin help me,” Draco muttered. “You’ve no fashion sense at all, do you, Potter?”

Harry rubbed the back of his head, eyes tracking over the shirt. “Well—I can see that it’s green.”

“Five fucking points to Gryffindor!” Malfoy laid the shirt aside, shaking his head in disbelief. He reached for the same package where another article of clothing lay folded neatly. It turned out to be a pair of black jeans, which Harry found himself actually liking the look of.

“Huh, they’re not bad,” he offered. “They look comfortable.”

These, Potter, are professionally styled. Comfortable? Yes. Anything like the abysmal pair you’re currently wearing? No.”

Harry scowled, hands running unconsciously over the denim currently covering his thighs. “Don’t be such a prat, Malfoy.”

“Here.” Ignoring the jibe, the blond thrust the jeans into Harry’s face. “Put these on. I want to see if they fit.”

Harry snatched them with a grumble, placing them on the bed beside him before standing up to remove his old jeans. Malfoy busied himself with the other parcels as he did, loosening the knots on three others and sorting the new clothing into piles.

“Well?”

Even the turn Potter did screamed sarcasm. But that was the least of Draco’s concerns. His gaze was heated as it swept up and down, admiring the way the denim clung to Potter in all the right places. Potter may have lost weight since he’d seen him at the end of the school year but Draco still had to admit that the young male was still a mouth-watering abundance of quidditch muscle, broad shoulders, and fiery stubbornness to match his own.

Who looked fucking marvellous in the black jeans Draco had chosen for him.

And made him want to revisit certain aspects of Potter’s birthday and more so.

Draco had been fixating on the memories of that evening ever since. As intoxicated as the two of them had been, there had already been an underlying burning sense of desire that had made it oh so easy to crawl into Potter’s lap that night. Ever since, Draco had been craving more, and he was becoming quite tired of waiting. Satisfaction from the knowledge that Potter wanted something casual the same as him had been thrumming in Draco’s veins ever since the Golden Boy voiced it. Draco’s blood was simply boiling for a casual fuck. And from the way he had caught Potter staring at him on multiple occurrences, he knew that he was not the only one.

The rest of the morning was spent with Harry trying on various items of clothing, Malfoy directing him with what colours were best suited with each. Malfoy, to his credit, has ensured to get Harry manageable shades, with plenty of black and blue jeans that could be interchangeable with the various shirts. Harry obliged, appreciating the thoughtfulness behind the gesture, even if Malfoy was making it the most painful experience.

“And do me a favour, Potter, choose yourself some clothes from this, alright?” Malfoy tossed what appeared to be an owl-order magazine onto his duvet. “Some new shoes especially,” he added, with a derisive glance at Harry’s sneakers. “You’re allowed to be selfish once in a while. I’ve even done you a kindness and highlighted a few potential purchases to get the ball rolling.”

It was odd, Harry thought, how well Malfoy could read him at times. Growing up with the Dursleys had stripped Harry from every decision he had ever been given. Even when he had received his letter to Hogwarts there had been nothing for him to choose—he had simply gone down the path expected of him, regardless of whether Harry wanted to or not. So now, even something as small as purchasing his own clothes was completely foreign to him. He had had seven financially-free years from the Dursleys and the thought of buying things for himself that weren’t specifically required for school still hadn’t occurred to him.

One step at a time… he thought, attempting to reassure the flare of anxiety that had bubbled into existence at the mere thought of choosing something from a magazine. It’s just clothes… no one is going to deride you for choosing a shirt… well… except for maybe Malfoy…

Harry cleared his throat. “I—er, thanks, Malfoy, for all of this,” he said, glancing at the clothes folded neatly. “I’m grateful for the effort you went to but I, well, why are you doing this?”

Malfoy paused mid-fold of a dark pair of blue jeans. He looked over at Harry, grey eyes oddly calm as they surveyed him.

“Mother was particularly adamant,” he replied, finishing the preparation of the pants and adding them to one of the piles. “She has a bit of a soft spot for you it would seem. I joined her because in all honesty, I have been a right prat over the years and thought this might be a nice gesture.” He straightened up and turned, facing Harry with what appeared to be an air of controlled calm, even if he did fold his arms in a somewhat defensive manner. “We’re attempting this friendship thing, correct? Give or take some sexual endeavours on the side.” The Malfoy smirk was back and Harry couldn’t help but roll his eyes, his own smile appearing on his face. “This is just a simple gesture of good will, nothing more, nothing less.”

“Definitely not trying to court me or anything?” Harry asked.

“Change genders and produce me an heir and then we’ll talk, Potter.”

Harry laughed. “Alright, good. Thanks, Malfoy.”

“Straight couples are a tad strange though, aren’t they?” Malfoy continued, returning his attention once more to the clothes. “Relying on gift-giving to ensure the other one is aware that they are being pursued.”

“Not just straight couples,” Harry said in reply. “Seamus and Dean are constantly throwing gifts at one another and they’ve been together for two years. The last time they fought, Seamus came back with a bunch of roses which had been spelled into the colours of Dean’s favourite football team. The reason for their fight? Seamus said Dean had put too much jam on his toast.”

“Gryffindors, honestly,” Draco remarked, shaking his head. “A bunch of kittens the lot of you.”


Ooft.”

Harry’s back slammed none-too-gently into the wall. The dummy he had been attempting to disarm lay in a pile of smouldering ash and Harry, who had flown a good fifteen feet across the room from the backlash, was grimacing at the pain lacing up and down his spine.

“It would seem we will need to begin smaller,” Severus commented. The older man crossed the room, offered Harry a hand up. “Are you hurt?”

“I don’t think so,” Harry replied as he got to his feet, “just a little winded.”

Severus’s dark eyes ran themselves up and down the young man before him, checking for himself if his ward was indeed alright. Satisfied with his observation, Severus nodded.

They had started practising wandless magic today. Harry had spent the past few days going over the reading material Severus had given him, writing notes and trying desperately to understand the methods. Each night at dinner he and Severus discussed the topics involved, planning their approach to the lessons.  With the return to Hogwarts looming ever closer, Harry had to be sure he was at least safe. There was no way he could return if he posed any sort of threat to the other students. And, at the very least, Harry had to be able to defend himself.

There was no knowing the allegiance of each student attending Hogwarts after all.

“Do you wish to continue?” Severus asked, still watching Harry carefully as the young man walked back across the room.

“Yeah let’s try a bit more,” Harry replied, turning to face a new wooden foe. “Considering what happened when I tried Expelliarmus last, what should I try now? What would be considered a—er—delicate spell?”

Snape tapped the end of a long finger against his lips as he considered Harry’s question. “Try a Rictusempra. Non-verbal.”

Harry sucked in a calming breath, eyeing the immobile figure with slightly apprehension. Calm down… you know the spells are worse when you’re panicking…

Another steadying breath.

Harry lifted his right hand, the spell barely a conceived thought in his head, when the dummy suddenly shot back across the room, whirling like a frantic spinning top. It splintered into large chunky pieces when it struck the far wall, the resounding crack making Harry wince.

He turned awkwardly to the Professor.

“I believe that is enough for today,” Severus instructed with barely hidden amusement. He banishing the few remaining dummies he had summoned at the beginning of the lesson and cleaned the mess of Harry’s latest victim with a casual flick of his wand.

Harry found himself nodding in agreement. His right arm was starting to ache uncomfortably, and it was on an unconscious impulse that he found himself reaching for his sling which was lying on a benchtop nearby. As he strapped his arm back into a comfortable and secure position, he turned to Snape to ask the question that had been on his mind for a few days now.

“Why is it that my arm still gets sore, Severus?”

“Because it is regaining it’s strength, Harry,” Severus replied. “Think of your arm and magic as one muscle,” he explained, “your physical arm been at rest for many weeks now and it will require restrengthening as you begin using it again, just like any injury you acquire that cannot be healed immediately. Many muggles require rehabilitation for their injuries for many weeks to give them back the strength they once had. It will also take time for your arm to become adjusted as being the core caster of your magic, since it has now taken on the role of your wand. In a more positive light, however, you have already progressed further than I had expected—you can direct magic through your arm. Now, we must concentrate our efforts on regaining your control. The more you practice, the easier it will become and the less painful and tired your arm will be.”

Harry felt himself relax as he listened to his teacher’s words and he nodded his understanding, offering a small smile in thanks at the explanation.

“Aside from your arm, Harry, is there anything else that is still causing a problem for you? Are you still hearing murmurs?” Severus asked.

“Not really,” Harry replied with a quick shrug of his shoulders. “But I don’t know if that’s because I’m ignoring it because I’m used to it or if the reason why I was, or thought I was, hearing voices before was because I was tired. I’ve been feeling pretty good lately… aside from the slight frustration of not being able to perform spells without blowing something up,” he added with a crooked grin.

“Can you recall the last time you thought you could hear a voice?”

Harry bit his lip. “Possibly a few days ago? I think it was when you, Malfoy, and I were having lunch. I missed part of your conversation because I was distracted by what I thought was another voice in the room. It was really quick and quiet, was hard to work out whether I did hear something or…” Harry trailed off and shrugged again.

“Anything else out of the ordinary?” Severus asked, watching as the young man shook his head. “Alright, good. We will continue to focus on your work with wandless magic for the mean time. While hearing voices is not something to be ignored, until we can work out what is the cause there is not much we can do on that front. It doesn’t appear to be malicious, could very well be as you say that it is something tied to your exhaustion. We will monitor it.”

“Sounds like a plan.” Harry grinned.


It was not long before Harry was begging Severus to allow him to go flying. Ever since he had been gifted the glove for his birthday, the idea of being able to play quidditch had been the forethought of Harry’s mind. He found that he so desperately needed to find something that he was still good at. Lessons with Severus were going well, but progressing slowly. Even though the number of destroyed dummies was finally reducing, the pace of success was not happening anywhere near as quickly as Harry had hoped. Each day had them drawing closer to their return to Hogwarts and with it, the ever-looming date of destiny between Harry and Voldemort. And with Harry’s magic as haywire and unpredictable as it still was, the lack of control was lighting a panic within him, fuelling his need for some semblance of command and governance.

Something, Harry hoped with all of his might, that would be fixed if he could just try flying again.

 

 

It was with slight pursed lips and a very reluctant sigh that Severus finally gave in to Harry’s request one morning at breakfast. With a jubilant grin, Harry was thanking his teacher and pushing away from the table, thoughts of inviting Malfoy over for a little game of one-on-one swirling about in his head. He headed for his room, rushing over to this desk to write out a quick message.

 

Malfoy,

Get your arse over here. Sev’s given me the all clear to go flying and I need the reassurance that I can still kick your butt at catching the snitch.

- H.

 

He blew gently on the quickly drying ink before folding the parchment in half and calling for Tokey. She popped into the room right beside his chair, gazing up at him with her big yellow eyes.

“Young sir be calling Tokey?” she squeaked.

“Yeah, thanks, Tokey.” Harry held out the small missive. “Can you take this over to Draco Malfoy? Hang around for his reply if it doesn’t take too long. Is that alright?”

“Of course, young sir!” Tokey beamed, accepting the message. “Tokey be making sure Young Master Draco sends back a reply, young sir!” She disappeared with a crack.

Within five minutes Tokey was back with a rolled up piece of parchment which she thrust happily into Harry’s hand. He thanked her as he unfurled the message and she curtseyed, popping away again. A silly grin spread across Harry’s face as he read Malfoy’s reply.

 

Potter,

Who the fuck taught you how to write a summons letter.

I’ll be there in twenty.

- M.

 

 

Harry had his broom shouldered, a snitch in his pocket, and his boot tapping the floor impatiently as he waited for the fireplace to burst into flames. At twenty minutes exactly, Malfoy stepped out of the hearth with his own broom, elegantly brushing down his clothes of any soot.

Finally,” Harry remarked.

“Don’t be so impatient, Potter,” Malfoy sneered in reply, “I told you how long I would be.”

“Alright, fine, let’s just go already.”

“In a moment. I have to go and greet Severus.”

“What? Why?”

The Slytherin rolled his eyes. “For Merlin’s sake, Potter, do you have any manners at all? It is customary to greet the Lord or Lady of the house you are visiting. It’s called being polite. Besides the fact that Severus is my godfather after all.”

“Okay, okay, go already,” Harry said, unable to stop from pouting ever so slightly. “I’ll meet you outside.”

“Why so impatient, Potter?” Draco asked with a quirk of a blond eyebrow.

“No reason,” Harry mumbled in reply. “Just feeling restless.”

 

 

The two young men played three games of capture-the-snitch, with Harry winning all three much to Malfoy’s increasing annoyance. Malfoy had been adamant that after the second game they were to play at least one more in order for him to finally get one over Potter. Whether or not he actually cared about capturing the snitch or just wanted to continue ogling Potter as he rode a broom in deliciously form-fitting pants was another story entirely.

“Good to see not much has changed,” Draco sniped as they made their way back inside, heading for Potter’s bedroom. “Your total reliance on the firebolt to beat an opponent is still just as prevalent.”

“Get fucked, Malfoy,” Harry replied with a roll of his eyes. “You know damn well I could beat you with my arm still in a sling.”

Malfoy snorted as they reached the final corridor. Something excitable and reckless was flickering like a flame in his belly, and as they entered Potter’s room the blond kicked the door shut with a sudden surge of relish. Potter turned to glare at him, green eyes ablaze, and Draco felt his cock twitch. Fuck the Golden Boy was attractive. Draco could feel his mouth practically water at the temptation Potter presented. Ever since their clarification about their unexpected hook up on Potter’s birthday, things had not progressed as fast as Draco had hoped. Hell, Draco didn’t even really need progression between them as it were, but he certainly needed a good fucking orgasm that wasn’t brought on by his own hand.

And Potter had already shown his interest.

“And yet with all of your many talents you continue to be infuriatingly mundane.”

“Why are you being such a wanker for?” Potter snapped. “It was just a game.”

Draco’s eyes flashed, but it wasn’t with anger as Harry had been expecting. Suddenly, Malfoy had Harry’s entire attention and as he ran his eyes over the Slytherin’s form, something began to simmer in the pit of his stomach.

Harry had been half-hard throughout the entire game on the quidditch pitch. Watching Malfoy fly as he dipped, dived, and teased Harry on the field had had more of an impact on him than Harry had anticipated… not that he was complaining of course. Harry had been so frustrated with himself and his inability to perform magically that whatever little game Malfoy was playing now had Harry’s entire attention.

“Why don’t you actually show me what you’re good for,” Draco commanded, keeping his gazed fixed on Potter’s. He barely acknowledged the young man tossing his broom onto the bed, but he certainly noticed the way Potter stalked towards him, and his heart stuttered a little, a small flight of nervous anticipation at the growing fierceness on the Gryffindor’s face.

Show you, Malfoy?” Potter growled, and Draco had to suppress a shiver.

“You don’t have the bollocks.”

Harry shoved the blond into the wall, hands fisting into his shirt. Malfoy met him with vicious force, their lips crashing together, teeth clacking as they kissed brutally.

“You’re such a shit,” Harry gasped, tearing his mouth away.

Fuck you, Potter.”

Their lips came together once more, Harry plunging his tongue into Malfoy’s mouth in a dominating fashion. He heard the blond groan, Malfoy’s fingers loosening ever so slightly, and Harry felt a sudden spike of satisfaction as he ravished the Slytherin, taking immense pleasure as Malfoy began to yield. The kiss continued until Malfoy had to pull away, gasping for breath, silver eyes almost completely black. Harry felt the blond’s hands slide down his arms and over his hips, one hand in particular being exceptionally daring.

— Xx Rough Sexual Themes Ahead xX —

“For me?” Malfoy purred, gripping the hard thickness through Harry’s jeans.

“If you’re lucky,” the brunet replied, voice husky. “I may make you beg yet.”

A determined fierceness shone in Malfoy’s eyes and a sneer curled at his lips, even as an enticing shiver coursed up his spine. An evil smirk stretched across Harry’s face when he saw it. Who knew the normally enigmatic git would become so unmasked when horny?

“Something tells me…” Harry began, grasping Malfoy’s hips in a vice-like grip and roughly pulling the boy towards him, “that you might just like begging.” Then he ground his hard erection against the blond’s, pleased when a strangled moan drowned out Malfoy’s snarky reply.

“You—oh, f-fuck—” Malfoy’s hands came to rest on Harry’s biceps. “You wish.” Draco smothered a moan, not wanting to give Potter the satisfaction of every reaction the damn male seemed to drag from him.

“How do you want it, Malfoy?” Harry growled. He sunk his teeth into a twitching tendon on the blond’s neck. Malfoy jerked and moaned, pressing himself closer to Harry.

“Down your throat?”

Another bite. Another moan.

“Rubbed against your cock?”

Draco began to pant.

“Sliding hot and rough into your arse?”

“Oh, sweet Merlin,” Malfoy groaned.

“Well?”

“Throat—” Draco sucked in a desperate breath when Potter grabbed his crotch, rubbing it mercilessly. “Fuck! P-Potter—oh gods, throat.”

Harry chuckled darkly. He was thoroughly enjoying this side of Malfoy. With a brief surge of willpower, Harry pulled himself away from the Slytherin and raised a hand to Malfoy’s shoulder. He gave Malfoy a knowing look, pressing down firmly, not surprised when the other young man initially resisted the silent order. There was the tiniest flare of resistance in silver eyes as Harry increased the pressure on Malfoy’s shoulder. With a surge of satisfaction, Harry watched Malfoy finally succumb, the blond falling elegantly to his knees with an anticipated breath escaping passed parted lips. Malfoy leant forwards, nuzzling the hard length hidden within the confines of Harry’s jeans that had Harry biting back his own moan. Long pale fingers fiddled impatiently with his fly, freeing his erection, but before Malfoy could encircle it within his grip, Harry growled out a command.

“No touching.”

There was another flare of defiance before Malfoy complied and Harry, being the selfless person that he was, did not keep the young man on his knees waiting. His fingers tangled deeply within delicate blond strands as he guided Malfoy’s open mouth to the head of his cock. Hot caresses of breath made Harry shiver, and he was unable to prevent the soft groan that rumbled in his throat as the blond boy wrapped his lips around him. Searing slickness encased his cock, drawing Harry in deep as Malfoy moved, wriggling his tongue in a positively sinful manner.

Harry felt Malfoy relax his jaw and silver eyes swept up to his: a silent challenge. Harry’s fingers tightened in Malfoy’s hair and, with a smirk curling at his lips, he hastened to accept. Harry shoved his hips forward, cock sliding across the hot tongue and into the eagerly awaiting throat.

Both males groaned.

Harry tilted Malfoy’s head back and forced himself further, his pelvis pressed firmly against Malfoy’s nose. Withdrawing only a little, the brunet began to thrust eagerly in short, sharp jabs, the walls of Malfoy’s throat constricting tantalisingly around him. The look of pure bliss on Malfoy’s face was almost enough to make Harry come right then and there. Pulling out, Harry allowed the boy on his knees a chance to breathe while he slid his hand up and down his wet cock in firm controlled strokes, enjoying the sight of Malfoy’s moist, reddening lips. A pink tongue darted out to run over them as Malfoy lifted his gaze.

“Do it like you mean it, Potter,” he rasped, voice already becoming hoarse.

Harry’s eyes flashed. “Careful, Malfoy, I might just do that.” With his left hand still buried in Malfoy’s hair, he allowed his right to drift down to the gentle curve of the blond’s neck, gloved fingers pausing at a spot just below Malfoy’s Adams apple, almost in silent promise.

Malfoy seemed positively jubilant by the prospect. He opened his mouth eagerly, too impatient to wait for Harry to move as he worked the pulsating cock, sucking and swirling his tongue expertly, and for a short while, Harry was content to allow Malfoy to demonstrate his cock-sucking skills. The blond hummed, his tongue stroking, massaging, the underside of Harry’s cock, while a deft pale hand moved to his own aching bulge, unbuttoning his pants and releasing his erection.

God, Malfoy looked delectable.

Draco paused when he felt fingers tighten in his hair and he looked up, positively mewling at the possessive glow in Harry’s eyes. He obeyed the silent command and fell still, the only movement his stroking hand, and allowed Harry to regain control.

“Do it like I mean it, Malfoy?” he murmured, sliding his entire length in and out of the blond’s throat achingly slowly, “now’s the time to change your mind.”

Malfoy was probably the only person capable of sneering around a cock, which delighted Harry to no end. He chuckled, low and deep.

“If you insist.”

Malfoy’s hand was moving ferociously over his own erection, his eyes lustrous with pleasure. Watching Malfoy on his knees before him, Harry’s thick cock causing the boy’s throat to bulge with each rapid thrust, awoke something deep within Harry he had not realised he had been hiding. The feeling was almost primal, a strong desire to claim.

To dominate.

To be in control.

And Malfoy’s current submissive behaviour was fuelling that fire fiercely. With a snap of his hips, Harry shoved forwards roughly, burying his cock entirely within Malfoy.

And stayed there.

Realising what the brunet was doing, Draco moaned wantonly, his hand almost a blur on his own prick as his eyes fluttered shut.

Look at me,” Harry growled.

Glazed, glistening silver eyes found his and Harry felt his cock throb. Malfoy was completely within his control, blissfully compliant to allow anything the brunet could dish out. The Slytherin had not fought him after he’d slipped to his knees—in fact he seemed to urge Harry on.

Who was becoming exceedingly impressed. Harry had been choking the blond with his cock for at least half a minute and Malfoy seemed just as determined as Harry to see how long he could last. Saliva was dripping down Malfoy’s chin due to his inability to swallow and it made the male appear all the more debauched.

“I wonder how many people know how much you like to gag on cock,” Harry mused, casually smearing a dribble of spit across Draco’s blotching cheek with his thumb. The blond choked, desperately trying to swallow, and Harry swore aloud as his cock was massaged by the convulsing muscles in Draco’s throat. He watched, mesmerised, as Malfoy’s glassy eyes began to roll back, the lack of oxygen becoming very apparent.

And still Malfoy did not struggle against Harry’s grip.

Astounding. Utterly astounding. And Harry revelled in it. He never would have known Draco Malfoy was a kinky-bastard, but if the quickening pace on the blond’s erection was any indication, Draco certainly had a few bedroom secrets of his own—

With a wicked jerk Malfoy came, hot white semen coating the front of Harry’s jeans who groaned in approval. He pulled out of Malfoy’s mouth and the blond boy dragged in a desperate shaking breath as he sagged, body trembling. Harry did not give him long before he reclaimed Malfoy’s mouth, thrusting powerfully into the thoroughly abused throat with abandon. His climax had already been close and the addition of the delicious noises Draco was currently making, Harry was thrown over the edge. With one last brutal thrust, he shoved his cock in deep, body stiffening as hot spurts of come flooded Malfoy’s throat.

When he finally removed himself from within Malfoy, Harry watched, with a twinge of satisfaction, as a dribble of come leaked passed his lips and down his jaw. Compelled to taste, Harry dropped to his knees and leant in close, holding Malfoy’s head still with one hand and pressing a sucking kiss to his flushed skin. His tongue trailed up to the corner of Draco’s lips and Harry felt the other boy shiver, before he claimed Malfoy’s mouth one last time in a bruising kiss. Malfoy responded lazily, sated and accommodating.

Then Harry finally, finally, allowed himself to release Malfoy, the blond lying himself down on the carpet, silver eyes closed and chest still rising and falling rather rapidly. Harry joined him, fixing his jeans as he did so.

“Holy shit,” Draco rasped. “Who knew you had it in you, Potter.”

Harry hummed in amusement. “Right back at you, Malfoy,” he replied.

“Mmm, I’m going to be feeling you for a week.” Malfoy sighed, and long fingers stroked appreciatively down his neck.

“You have a fucking sinful mouth, Draco.”

The Slytherin chuckled darkly. “You don’t know the half of it, Potter.”

Harry was suddenly hit with the urge that he definitely wanted to know. He hadn’t really known what to expect when he’d shoved Malfoy to his knees, and he had been exceptionally ready to push the Slytherin to his limits, when Malfoy had met him at every shove, revelling in Harry’s dominance and begging for more.

Was it trust that allowed them to push so far? To shove each other to the brink and see just how far they could go?

Hell no.

Trust had nothing to do with it. If anything, it was the thrill of reciprocated and unrestricted pent up frustration that made them fit together so well. Harry wanted to use and Malfoy wanted to be used. And it was the fear of the unknown, of not knowing when either of them would stop, that was so enticing. It was the one thing in each of their lives that they could control.

— Xx End of Rough Sexual Themes xX —

“Remember, this means nothing, Potter,” Malfoy clarified, getting to his feet as he straightened his clothes and spelled them clean.

The brunet snorted, also getting to his feet. “Relax, Malfoy, I’m not looking for a boyfriend to cuddle.” He yanked the Slytherin towards him, effectively ruining the smoothness of the shirt that Malfoy had finished flattening. “The only plans I have for this are mutually beneficial.” He brought his gloved hand to Malfoy’s chin, gripping it with his fingers as he stroked his thumb along the blond’s still reddened and swollen lips. God, he could feel himself getting hard again just by doing so. And judging from the way the other boy’s eyes darkened with arousal, Malfoy was too.

Harry smirked. “We use each other for a decent fuck. That is all.”

“If you call that decent.”

Vibrations buzzed from Malfoy’s lips and up Harry’s thumb but the pleasant tingle was nothing compared to the defiance in the blond male’s voice. It was that very tone that heated Harry’s blood so deliciously.

“Careful, Malfoy, or we may just find out how decent I can be.”

Malfoy’s bottom lip twitched slightly, as if he had wanted to capture it with his teeth as Harry’s words filled him with a flickering flame that made him want to pant.

“Guess we’ll just have to find that out next time, Potter,” he breathed, eyes flicking to Harry’s mouth. “Alas, I am expected home.”

“Shame,” Harry murmured, finally pulling away from the blond and allowing some space between them. “I look forward to next time.”