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The Boy-Who-Was-Silenced

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Thin wisps of frost cracked under warm, weathered bare feet; his breath misting in front of his face. Weary, bright green eyes scanned his surroundings like flickering a searchlight. Searching for anything, or anyone, that would do him harm. Harry glanced down as he squeezed his toes into the dead patches of grass underfoot. Grass that was covered by the melting layers of snows flakes that had been very pretty to watch fall down. He frowned sadly at the sight of the slushy like snow, and the yellowing grass. He didn't want the plants to die! First the falling leaves, and now the menacing ice crystals. They both had schemed to destroy his well-beloved garden. It wasn't exactly his garden and his only, but he cared for it as if it was, and he could do nothing to save his only possession. Something that his aunt was too impatient to tend to, these lovely flowers and mischevious vines winding around the tall trees that shielded him from cruel eyes. His aunt would much rather use her long neck to spy on her neighbors instead of peeking at the budding flowers, and her long-fingered hands to tend to her grubby little boy.

If Harry had been asked to describe his cousin, he would compare him to a big, fat weed. One that soaked up all of the sunlight, making it so that Harry was classified as a small little tulip: easy to bend, and fragile petals that floated on harsh winds. All that Harry wanted to do was to uproot that little weed, but the harsh wind, which held a likeness to his Uncle Vernon, would surely punish him if he struck back at little Duddlykins. Dudley seemed to absolutely charm his Aunt Petunia, similar to how a dandelion charms little children. Harry's aunt acted like her namesake, as the actual flower, his aunt was seemingly well-liked, but she was as deadly as Nightshade. A close relative to Petunias. Harry had been told about these flowers, from a little, gray snake that claimed to have come from someplace called Africa and had traveled around the world. He went on countless countless adventures. He knew a lot about Petunias since he had passed many hot regions in Southern Europe; where he says many variations of the Petunia bloom and romanticized the Deadly Nightshade. The plant was spoken about in such a flattering light, that Harry often wondered if he could crush its berries and mix it in with his relative's food. Even if he did find a patch of Atropa Belladonna, he knew that he wouldn't- couldn't- do such horrible things like they have done to him. He was, however, very glad that no one could read his mind, no matter if he was only eight years old. Many would be surprised by his dark thoughts, but years of having time to delve into his own mind, as little of it that the Dursley's thought that he had, gave him a sense of familiarity with his thoughts. They were almost comforting. Some were depressing, like when he was curled up in his cupboard, wishing to die; some were scary, just like his thoughts on killing his relatives.

He knew that his heart was kind, though, as the snake had told him many times before. A true heart of gold. He was the only one who Harry seemed to be able to talk to, the only being that he trusted in his small, lonely world. He said that his name was Imari, and he dubbed Harry, 'Jabari'. Harry didn't understand the name or its meaning to Imari, but he liked it more than any of the names that he was called by the people inside the normal looking house behind him. Harry only knew his own 'name' because of their next-door neighbor, Mrs. Figg. She had caught him once in the past, bringing in the groceries, and his aunt had to introduce him to her. Only to appear norma of course. She had looked down at him pointedly and said that he was Harry, her nephew that was often ill and couldn't go to school because of his sickness. He felt like his aunt had made the name up on the spot with the fake story, therefore he detested it. So far, he hadn't had any need for the normal name, as he rarely went outside of the backyard anymore, and his aunt and uncle kept him from going to school. Harry hadn't even known what a school was before Imari explained it. When he was younger he just assumed that his Uncle Vernon took Dudley with his fancy bag, to whatever errand they needed to run. Imari told him differently, at the start of the cold season, when Dudley was leaving the house more frequently. Harry had asked Imari many questions, and the snake was more than happy to entertain the boy. Harry was taught all he knew from the reptile, often times while he trimmed the leaves of the fenced garden; both hidden in the thick trees. Harry's sharp eyes surveyed the blank white yard, his heart already aching for his friend. Imari had warned him before of course, of his hibernation through the snowy season, but he still missed his friend.

His aunt Petunia had just pushed him out of the back door, right after making an early breakfast for the three. Such breakfast would act as an appetizer for when they go out to get a big lunch. Harry walked towards the bushes where Imari was sleeping in a deep hole under some branches, a nest that Harry had made especially for him. He shifted in his large shorts and tattered shirt, hand-me-downs that his aunt had given him years ago. They were even more dirty, and grubby looking, as they hadn't been washed even before they were given to him. Instead of filling the clothes in as he grew older, Harry found himself to be shrinking, like a little grape, drying into a raisin under the beating rays of the sun. The cold made his joints hurt, and the dim light of the still resting sun made his eyes strain behind his very broken glasses. He absently wondered what was so special about today. Hell, he wondered what was so special about this whole month! All month, and the months before, Dudley had been whining about getting more and more gifts, more often than any other time of the year. Uncle Vernon had even brought in a tree to the house, that he had Harry tend to of course. While his Aunt Petunia made him cook trey after trey of cookies in all sorts of weird shapes. He had heard the peculiar songs play on the radio as well, songs about mother's kissing a pair of claws or something. He never did understand these normal people, like Imari didn't understand humans. Well, humans besides him. Rubbing his tired eyes with a yawn, Harry stiffened as he heard the bushes near him rustle a little bit.

Harry had problems with the creatures that wandered into his garden at times. But that's to come when your family (If you could call them that), throws you outside at any possible time that they can. He felt his empty stomach churn nervously with weary nerves, Imari usually helped him in these situations. Harry took a few deep breathes, making sure to keep his eyes on the area where the rustling came from. Harry slowly stood up, just like Imari told him too, and started to shuffle towards a tree, making himself look smaller in case it was an animal that wanted to eat him. Without a moment's hesitation, Harry climbed the tree, just as a medium-sized cat slinked out from under the bush. It looked like a walking corpse. Its ribs were caved in, and it's hungry eyes looked around the snow-laden grass, just as he had done a few minutes ago. It was searching for a mouse or a squirrel or chipmunk that hadn't made it to their tree before the cold winds came in, and the snow knocked the leaves to the ground. Harry sympathized with the black and white cat; his cautious green eyes watching it prowl around the yard, and step over his dead plants. He watched it go over to the garbage tin, and stare up at it, but he knew that there was nothing in it. He had already scavenged the crumbs that the Dursley's left in it./p>

It was a desperate season for the both of them. Harry observed the way that the cat seemed to droop when its delicate nose couldn't pick up any scent of food. It sluggishly climbed one of the smaller trees, as to get to the neighbor's yard. A hop over the fence and the cat was gone, as abruptly as it had appeared. Deciding not to waste any more of his limited energy, Harry stayed perched in his tree. Taking in the icy cold air that pierced his lungs, while his teeth clattered together in a symphony of bones, and his lips gradually colored blue. It felt like decades had passed before his aunt called him in. Always in that low voice, her lips barely moving, as she stood in the doorway. Huddled up in a cheaply made fur coat, Petunia beckoned him down from the tree, her gaze disapproving as he sluggishly lumbered down on the thick branches. "Are you some monkey, boy?" She asked him in a disdainful voice when she closed the door behind him, his eyes blinking slowly as he frowned. He glanced up at his dolled up aunt and gave a soft shake of his head. His aunt scoffed, giving his head a swat on the back with her wool glove. "Just get into your cupboard," She commanded, pushing his bony shoulder towards the normal looking door, that hid the tormented behind it.

He nodded quickly, not wanting to get into his uncle's path. The fat man was bustling around the house as Dudley played with his new toys. Harry barely glanced at the new devices, knowing that his aunt or uncle would accuse him of planning on stealing any of his cousin's trinkets. He opened the door and allowed his aunt to shut it harshly, barely getting his ankle out of the way before it snapped shut. Alone again in the darkness, it seemed. Harry listened as the floorboards creaked dangerously over his head, the staircase groaning as Dudley ran up and down them. Hurriedly stuffing toys into his room, his greedy hands taking more and more. Never sparing Harry any. He didn't much care for toys, though, so no tears were shed on his part. It was a cycle, this life. Imari had told him about cycles, cycles such as the Buddhists' and Hindus' reincarnation cycle. Whenever imari taught him, Harry would almost drink the information, like the few drops of water that he could get. Harry connected his life with this information, that he was like the Untouchables in the Caste System. An outcast, who was accused of doing something wrong in another life.

Maybe he did do something horribly wrong in his other life. Harry thought this to himself as he huddled up on his old, tattered mattress that acted as a bed. His blankets were riddled with unwashable dirt, as they were as old as him. They were filled with the pungent smell of urine, resulting from his numerous nightmares, and nights stuck in the cupboard without a trip to the loo. He felt much better in here, though, at least in here, he could stay warm; where outside, warmth was stolen from you, taken from every breath that you exhaled. His thoughts whirled around like a hurricane, his mind jumbled from the cold and the new layer of utter sadness blooming in his chest. 'That's what I get, for having friends,' Harry thought dejectedly, his lips set into a deep frown, as his very blood seemed to pump loneliness throughout his body. As lost in his thoughts as he had been, Harry suddenly realized that there was only silence. So used to the constant noise that came with living with people like the Dursley's, Harry was actually quite startled by the quiet. He sat up slowly, his heart pounding rapidly in his ears as if to replace the noise of the telly or the stomping of feet. Running his tongue over his chapped lips, Harry brought his hand timidly to the doorknob. When he was younger, he used to try to open the door but was always bad at guessing when the Dursley's were gone. Often times he was beaten as a freak was when one tried to get out of their cupboards.

His stomach growled fiercely from not having a fortnight of anything but rotten fruits and spoiled milk from the garbage tin. He had been sick the entire time, miserable when he awoke and melancholy when he went to fall into a fitful sleep. Putting his ear to the door carefully, Harry double checked to see if they were actually gone. Nothing reached his ear through the door, but the suddenly blissful cry of silence. Harry slowly brought his hand up to the doorknob and twisted it gently. He gave a soft gasp, his eyes widening as he found the knob turn with his hand. Gripping it like a lifeline, Harry opened the door a crack. He brushed his neglected hair out of his face as he peeked through the opening, and listening again at the doorway. He couldn't believe that they had forgotten to lock the door! Harry suppressed a giddy giggle as he crawled to the kitchen, knowing to avoid the windows. Even if the curtains promised to hide him from the eyes outside. He slowly stood up from the tiled floor, and reached out for the refrigerator door, before having second thoughts. He changed his mind and made his way over to the pantry instead, having enough of the disgusting fruit for a while before he had to go back to eating out of the garbage.

In this empty kitchen, he would eat whatever he felt like eating. As he scanned the contents of the pantry, he worriedly thought of what would happen if his aunt, or even Dudley, realized that some food had been taken. Letting out an anxious breath and bouncing on his toes, Harry carefully moved the containers around until he made it to the back of the pantry. He found an old can of tuna fish, probably from when his aunt had bought some, only to find out that her little Dudders hated tuna. That had been months ago, but Harry could care less about when they had been bought, he could only think about how hungry he was, how his stomach seemed to be trying to eat itself every day, no matter how much he put into it. Moving everything back to where it had been, Harry pulled the tab open swiftly, lapping up the oils that threatened to spill over the top as he hid under the table. He didn't give a thought to why he was crouched under the kitchen table, he could only feel a sense of protection; a sense of relief at being hidden.

For when he was hidden, Harry had no worries. He didn't have to slave over his messy cousin, be harassed by his aunt, or beaten to a pulp by his unforgiving uncle. Harry knew that nothing would change for him, years of having his hope being torn from his little body made him open his eyes to the real world. No one would want to save a freak like him.

Chapter Text

It had been one of the better snowy seasons that Harry had experienced. With the relatively light snowfall and Dudley's case of the 5th Disease, Harry had a partially tranquil season. Excluding the occasional beating when Uncle Vernon felt to assure himself that he still held power over his weak nephew, of course. The snow had melted and another year passed with the supposed New Year's Eve, things would go on in his small world. Harry didn't understand why his relatives had celebrated the year, he certainly didn't. It just acted as marker for another year in his cupboard, in the deafening darkness with the temperamental spiders and his tattered blanket.

He supposed that they were celebrating another year of keeping his existence a secret, or another year before Dudley or his uncle died of a heart disease or something of the like. He thought these things idly, as he picked at the grass next to his knee. The melted snow unveiled his beloved garden, muddy as it was, with its drooping flowers from the ice and morning frost. He knew that his aunt wasn't watching him since she was still fluttering around her son, who had recently taken to faking to be ill as to skip school, while his uncle was at work. Harry took his time, running his hands through the short grass, grass that he had mowed during the blisteringly hot season before the cold winds came in. He adored the smell of the cut grass, the sweet buds in the humid air, just the smell of nature in general. In agreeable weather, Harry could stay outside for years on end. Become as wrinkled as a prune from hours under the sun. The thought that his aunt believed she was punishing him by pushing him out of the back door, made him want to giggle and laugh freely. But, he held those giggles deep in his chest, knowing that if he made a single sound and someone heard him, that his aunt would take to punishing him. Despite her adversary to ever dirtying her hands like Uncle Vernon did with his belt and fists.

Letting out a pent-up sigh, Harry wiggled towards the bundle of sticks and grass that covered the deep hole where Imari rested. His sharp eyes didn't catch anything different, his cautious ears couldn't hear his friend. Only picking up the happy songs of the birds that lingered around in the tree overhead. He shifted nervously, busying his hands with stroking the bush branches around him, thinking back to what Imari had told him. He knew not to wake his friend up; but he guessed that the little hope that was hidden in the deepest corners of his being, expected Imari to awake as soon as possible. He shook his head, knowing that he couldn't depend on anyone but himself. He would be nine soon, as he often kept track of the upcoming months with the blooming of the flowers. Harry had been told his birthday once before. Dudley had told him, as to mock him, once during his sixth birthday, when Harry was cooking the dinner for the family. Since Uncle Vernon would be coming home late from work that night, much too late for them to go out, his aunt had concluded.

Harry had clung to that information then, and couldn't let go of it since. He didn't know why he remembered it. Birthdays to him were pointless, just another day stuck in the cupboard or doing chores. But it was kind of like the simple information, knowing that he had something in common with the normal, perfectly average Dursley's. It made him feel something strange in his chest. He knew that freaks like him were outcasts, complete garbage. But after years of watching Dudley unwrap gifts, hearing his excited squeals and awed gasps through his door, Harry couldn't help but want that. Those little things that made one normal. Blinking his eyes, as to get rid of that helpless daydream, he frowned as he examined how some of the trees were still bare. 'When the rest of the trees are full of leaves, Imari must wake up before then,' He assured himself, and gave a determined nod. Harry was about to stand up from his crouched position when he heard the sound of someone giggling. He quickly turned his head, looking over his shoulder. In the doorway, he spotted Dudley.

His fat face was partially covered with a thick scarf, and his blond hair hidden in an ugly wool hat. Harry grimaced at the maliciously gleeful smile on his pudgy face, his eyes holding a predatory glint as his pale eyes looked over Harry's pitifully small form. "Hey freak," Dudley taunted in a hushed tone, knowing that his mother would punish even him, if he made a scene and exposed Harry to the other normal people. Harry stood up as quickly as he could, knowing that his smaller build gave him an edge in running away from the overweight boy. He ignored his creaking joints as he eyed the small wooden cricket bat that Dudley pulled out from behind his large figure. Harry quickly scaled the tree he was under, while Dudley giddily charged him, thinking that they were only playing a game. A cruel game that his uncle would play with Harry. Dudley truly didn't know any better, he wasn't doing this out of meanness. He was only a little eight-year-old, learning how to treat Harry based on how his parents treated him. Only following his parents' examples with dealing with freaks.

Harry kept climbing up the relatively tall tree, with Dudley practiced his bat swing on the base of the tree's trunk. Dudley didn't know how to climb a tree and didn't dare taunt his cousin too loudly, so he resorted to hitting the trunk while glaring up at the boy in the branches. Harry stopped when he was a little half ways up the tree, leaning up against the body of the tree and embracing its rough skin. He blew out a single puff of air, knowing that he was safe from that whale of a boy. He observed the little snatches of the sky that he could pick out from the thick of the tree branches, not daring to climb out, in fear of falling and breaking something. Harry listened as Dudley's breath quickly began to become ragged, and how he dropped the bat on the wet ground and ran back inside. Harry assumed that the other boy had asked his mother if he could just get some fresh air, knowing that his aunt would do whatever it was that made his cousin happy. Harry relaxed against the tree, pressing his forehead against it, and began to doze off as much as someone stuck in a tree could.

With the smell of the plants awakening, and natures' purity surrounding him, Harry began to feel his weary soul settle. He felt his lips moves, a soft voice erupting from them. It had been such a long time since he had last spoken, he had forgotten the sound of his own voice. "Hello tree," He felt himself murmur, more than he heard it. The tree didn't reply back of course, but he felt a deep comfort at being allowed to have his voice back. Surrounded by the Dursley's, he hardly felt comfortable to let out a word besides the required "Yes sir," or "Yes, ma'am," when his relatives felt the need for formal words. They didn't need to worry about words, or him talking out of line, as they learned years ago when he was five. After reading an article, his aunt had diagnosed him as a mute, while his uncle said he was just a dummy. "Dropped a few times on his head I bet, by those drunkards," He'd crow. Harry found that if his parents ever returned, he could forgive them for those supposed drops. Just anything to get him out of this place.

"Did it hurt when your leaves fell off?" Harry found himself asking the tree, dispelling any of his troubling thoughts, relaxing his scrunched up eyebrows as he inquired how the tree lost its leaves. With his voice barely a whisper, he conversed with the tree as he did with Imari, his aching heart caused by their seasonal departure, his scarred heart was healed once again. "Have you spotted my friend Imari?" He questioned curiously, "He's right under your nose," He continued. After a moment's thought, he let out a soft giggle, "If you had a nose of course," He allowed himself a small smile. Turning his face so that his cheek rested against the bark of the tree, Harry felt his sleepy eyes shut, his usually static body finally at rest. The twinkling of wind chimes in his ears mixing with the wind that was becoming more lazy and gentle, its touch more loving than harsh.

A few weeks later, Harry scampered out of the back door one morning carrying some bruised apples and too ripe bananas. He spotted a long gray snake in the bright grass. Gasping, he practically sprinted over to the familiar snake. "Imari!" He called out in a soft voice, watching the snake easily pick the front of his body up from the ground. "Jabari!" The snake hissed out joyfully, his voice holding adoration, and his graceful coils allowing him to quickly slither over to meet the little boy. Harry glanced over his shoulder to make sure he hadn't been caught by his aunt, while she hurried around in the kitchen, getting Dudley prepared for his drive to the school. He let out a sigh of relief when he saw that her attention was somewhere else, so he continued his run over to the tall pine tree that he had climbed weeks before. A tree so large that it towered over the small tools shed. He settled behind the trunk, offering the both of them privacy from his aunt's hawk-like eyes. Harry clutched the fruit to his chest, as he got comfortable on the loosening soil, not caring if his shorts got even more soiled.

"How did you sleep?" Harry asked him, as the snake winded himself onto Harry's ankle, settling onto his shin. Imari let out the equivalent of a snake's chuckling, "It's called hibernation," Imari reminded his friend. Who got an expression that appeared when he took a piece of information and stored it away in his brain. It usually involved the scrunching of his eyebrow and a small little smile. "And it was fine," He answered the boy's question, in his round-about way of getting at things, as Harry ate his small breakfast at a slow pace. "How are those humans treating you?" Imari asked the boy, his tone staying neutral since he didn't want Harry to feel like he was attacking him personally. Harry shrugged, "Better than before," He hissed back in his gentle voice, munching softly on one of the apples, the other being stowed away into Imari's nest since the snake didn't mind hiding his food. Imari took it upon himself to examine the boy himself, looking over his thin frame with a shrewd eye. Eyeing the bulky clothing that he usually wore. He flicked out his tongue, tasting for blood.

Not tasting any fresh blood under the layers of stench and dried blood, Imari allowed himself to settle against the boy's pale skin. Imari hadn't known the boy for long, but long enough to become the boy's only trusted, confidant. Imari had smelt the undertones of something rich in the boy's scent, something that he had only come upon once in his adventures. Magic, it was called. Imari wasn't magical at all, he knew this since he couldn't breathe fire, like that dragon he had crossed in Egypt. Ever since then, he had gotten to be good at tasting magic, something that he planned to pass onto the boy. He had once met a wizard before, so he knew what the boy was. You could say that Imari looked after the magical boy like one would look after a hatchling. His little snakelet to be specific. He watched as his Jabari eat the rest of his apple in peace, swallowing the seeds and tossing the stem.

"Did you eat already?" Harry asked the snake nervously after finding the snake's gaze still trained on him. Imari nodded, making a soft hushing noise as to keep Harry from going on a rant. "I caught a bird before you came out," He assured the black-haired boy with a gentle tone, gesturing shortly to the lump further down his slender body, watching his lips pull back into a shy, close-lipped smile. Imari flicked his tongue out in a content way, allowing Harry to gently extract him from his shin, and hold Imari up to his chest. Imari curled around Harry's shoulder, nestling against the collarbone that peeked out from under his beige shirt. Imari nestled in the crook of his collarbone and neck, while Harry stood up as to get the tools needed to tend to the flowers and other plants. "Now," Imari broke the comfortable silence after a few minutes had passed, "Where did we leave off before my hibernation?" He asked Harry. Knowing full well that the boy could easily recall their 'lessons'. Imari loosely called them lessons, since it was mainly him talking about his experiences while the boy did his yard work. Harry allowed a small smile to slip onto his frequently blank face, his gaze softening on the still budding flowers as his hands gently caressed the soft purple, white, and pink petals. Unknown to the little boy, he planted bits of his magic into each flower, making the flowers stronger against the bitter weather. Imari could taste the gentle increase of magic in the air, the taste of it familiar.

As Harry went from bud to bud, he felt his nerves become soothed, as they usually did when he was surrounded by nature. Humming softly in thought, Harry replied to Imari, "You were telling me about other animals and the like," He replied in his soft hissing voice, another thing that the green-eyed child didn't pick up on, that Imari noticed instantly. Imari flicked his tongue out in thought, watching Harry pick up his little trowel, and experimentally dig into the still hardened ground; trying to determine the soonest he could plant the new flowers and plant seeds. "Back in Africa, when I was a newly snakelet like you," Imari began his lesson, teaching Harry about the other animals that could be found in the world, and how to protect himself in the wild. His scales were already darkening, indicating that he was becoming an adult. If he was still in his family's nest, he knew that his mother would be pushing him out of the nest to create his own, and he would be challenging other males for his mate. Imari had left Africa on accident, after slipping into a strange wizard's bag, and was brought to England after a few adventures in Europe. He was lucky that he had come by a speaker such as his Jabari. Shaking his head, he got back to the lesson.

"In my youth I have come upon many creatures," He hissed into Harry's ear as the boy shifted the dirt, making it look like he was doing something. "Tigers were common in my forest, along with bushbabies, mongoose, and other animals." Shifting on the boy's shoulder, his gray scales glinted slightly in the weak sunlight, "In a world full of predators and prey, the only way to survive is to watch from the background," He told Harry in a matter-of-fact voice, knowing that the boy would understand his words intimately. "And strike when least expected after giving the prey a sense of ease, or else you will end up hungry or dead." "A healthy amount of caution will help one greatly in their fight in life," His words were met with a small nod of understanding. Imari settled deeply onto the green-eyed boy's shoulder, watching his loving way of taking care of the flowers for the next few hours. The two fell into a comfortable silence, while Harry's thoughts raced through his head, still contemplating his friend's words.

Their silence was later broken by the sound of the back door closing heavily. Harry felt Imari stiffen, and he turned his head to look over his shoulder. Finding his uncle standing on the little slab of concrete in front of the back door. Harry realized that the sky was darkening with the sun beginning to set, not noticing how long he had been outside or the fact that he couldn't feel his fingertips or toes. He came to the conclusion that Uncle Vernon must have just gotten home from work. Harry dutifully stood up, still holding the time-worn trowel in his dirty hand, he cast a worried glance at Imari, hoping that his friend was hidden in the dim lighting. "It's time to start dinner, freak," Vernon's deep voice traveled easily over the quiet yard, the light of his cigar casting light on his fat face. "Yes sir," He acknowledged his uncle in his hushed voice, nodding his head. His shoulder-length black hair fell into his face, curtaining it and hiding his wide eyes. His uncle gave a huff, his beetle-like eyes watching the boy pick up all of the gardening tools, and head to the little shed. "Goodbye Imari," Harry murmured to his friend in the darkness of the shed, subtly shrugging his shoulders as to gesture for the snake to leave. Imari detested humans, but he saw the clear predatory look in that man's eyes, and it made him want to rear up and strike him. Show him Africa's most feared snake.

"Let me come with you," He hissed lowly to the child, wanting to protect the little child. Harry shook his head, placing the plow into its place, "You'll be found, and killed." Imari knew that he was right, so he hesitantly slid off of the boy's shoulders after giving him a squeeze with his coils. Knowing that if Harry took longer than usual, that the man would come and punish the boy for trying to make them go hungry. The logic of these humans angered Imari. They made him want to throw his self-preservation in the air, and kill his snakelet's tormentors. As good as an outlet for his anger that may be, he knew that it would only make the child's life even more unpredictable. Since he wouldn't have, dare he call them, a family to look after him. Imari didn't know much about human behavior, but he liked to think that his observations were kind of accurate. All he knew of humans, besides the man who had unknowingly brought him to England, was that they were hungry. Battle hungry, blood hungry, power hungry, all of this hunger. He associated these types of hunger with humans, hunger that he had never felt.

"Goodbye Jabari," He hissed forlornly, slithering off of Harry, Imari hid in the darkest corner of the shed, as Harry walked out, swiftly closing the door behind him. Harry quickly scampered to the back door, left unlocked by his impatient uncle. Harry went to start to the kitchen sink, washing his hands off, grabbing the required utensils, setting the table, and deciding to make some bangers and mash. Setting a pot of water on the stove to boil potatoes. Grabbing the peeler, Harry started peeling the bag of potatoes that he dragged out from the pantry. Halfway through the third potato, Harry tried to ignore the ruckus Dudley made as he burst into the kitchen. "Hey freak, I am hungry," Dudley declared snobbishly, "Make me a snack," Harry nodded at the order, knowing that his lazy cousin would tell on him if he did otherwise. Harry kept an eye on the potatoes, knowing that his fat cousin would find a way to sabotage him if he didn't. Harry pulled an apple out of the fridge and wordlessly handed it over into his cousin's greedy hands. Dudley screwed his nose up in distaste, "Ew, not this!" He shrieked out, chucking the apple at Harry's head, making the black haired boy duck.

Hearing the shout, his aunt hurriedly walked into the room, exclaiming, "What is going on in here?" Her eyes locked on Harry, her face becoming one of blatant dislike. "Mommy, Harry threw an apple at me!" Dudley yelled out, making himself cry, his fat face becoming an ugly shade of red. Harry paled as her dislike abruptly changed to hatred, even though he caught how she saw that Harry couldn't have possibly thrown the apple by the fridge at her son. "Why must you always terrorize my son, you wretched boy?" She asked him in a deadly voice, her tone cold and unforgiving. Harry's tongue was a dead slug in his mouth, unable to form words as he moved his gaze to watch her feet. Allowing himself to be berated. His neck gave a crack as his face was harshly pulled up, his green eyes widening in fear as he gazed up at his intimidating aunt. "You are lucky that I am above abuse," She snarled, her eyes blazing as she glared down at her nephew. Harry winced at the prick of her sharp nails, his back still aching from the cold outside, and his uncle's last punishment. The scars yet to clear.

"You should damn well be happy with the fact that I didn't let you die out on our doorstep when that old, crazy coot dropped you on us," Her venomous words made Harry's eyes tear up, his gaze forced to remain on her malevolent features. Recently, his aunt had been telling him, time and time again, on how he had been a burden since he was a baby, as she gave him the story of how he had come to them. His parents dying via car crash, and their young, reckless group of friends bringing him to them. He didn't get the details, but the new information still threw him for a loop. Instead of crying out at the unfairness and cruel way that she treated him because of other peoples' decisions, he nodded, taking the blame on his small shoulders. His aunt's face remained hard when she let go of his sharp chin and fetched her Dudders some junk food for a snack. She left her nephew to the boiling water and unpeeled potatoes. Delicately sitting down, Harry continued to peel the vegetables. As always, when he finished the food, after sneaking a burnt sausage and a scoop of mash, Harry practically flew into his cupboard and laid down on the mattress on the floor.

His eyes and mind not yet ready for sleep, he stared up at the cobweb clusters above his head. He knew that his aunt was only a liar, yet his mind could never tell when she decided to interfere. His joy of being reunited with Imari, and getting to tend to his garden, had pushed these dark thoughts to the corners of his mind. Curling up into himself tightly, his bony elbows sticking out as he wrapped his arms around his knobby knees. If he was as honest with himself, he knew that he would rather have died then live with his relatives. Stuck again in this dark cupboard, the confined air stale, and the floor holding varies degrees of urine, Harry couldn't see anything to live for. Couldn't see a life beyond serving his aunt and uncle until their resting in a graveyard, yet no peace would come to him. He knew that as soon as the two died, his cousin would decide to take his free will for himself, having him as his own servant to control. Life would never be easy for him, he knew this. As he is the infamous and forever hated, Harry Potter.

Chapter Text

Severus had been quite relaxed, as it was the beginning of the summer, a season that he dreaded when he was younger, but cherished as a teacher.
He had taken off his teaching robes since the dungeons usually got a tad bit warmer than usual from the increasing heat and the thawing of the ground above, and the frozen lake in some parts. He wore a simple cotton black long sleeve with some respectable slacks, as he didn't care much for fashion. His greasy locks fell in his face, shrouding it as he kneeled on the ground, reading through his carefully written labels of the jars. Simple, hands-on work like this soothed Severus' nerves, unlike how most purebloods' and other wizards and witches found the work to be tedious without magic, this habit of his could put him in the category of a muggleborn in the wizard community, if not for his own blood status. But he was used to being an outcast since even in the muggle schools he was forced to attend in his youth, he was always teased and picked on since he was what people would call a neat freak and the other kids found his features strange, and ugly in some cases. Just as he was had just started to put his more delicate potions supplies in storage, as he usually did when his attention was diverted from the jars as he heard the telltale signs of someone trying to fire-call him.

He was fairly surprised that Dumbledore had called him, as they often went their separate ways when Severus packed up for Prince Manor for the summer. Preparing himself for the worse, he answered the call giving his affirmation that he would be there, and grabbed a hand full of flop powder, and jumped right in after calling out Dumbledore's Office. As Severus had gracefully glided out from the fireplace, he quirked an eyebrow at the sight of Minerva, and her stern glare on Albus. "Ah," Albus clapped his hands jovially, "Severus my boy, how wonderful it is that you could join Minerva and me!" He beamed at the black haired man with a twinkle in his eyes.
Severus gave the older man a more professional nod and looked between the two with curious eyes. "What seems to be the problem?" He asked them in a cautious voice, politely refusing Albus' offer for a seat with the small shake of his head.
After offering the mandatory lemon drop, ignoring the exasperated scowl from the irritated witch in the room, Albus got to the point of the meeting. "My associate on Privet Drive has advised me to bring Harry to Hogwarts a year early," He told them his eyes becoming more somber.
"She has been told some time ago by Petunia that Harry gets ill easily, so we must make sure that the transition goes well with his needs and such, by bringing him to Hogwarts for Poppy to vaccinate him against magical illness that can occur," He told Severus, as he had told Minerva a few moments ago. Severus glanced at the witch, noting how her scowl grew, and catching the concern that showed in her pale eyes.
"Who is this Petunia exactly?" Severus asked the headmaster, his eyes narrowing as a sense of dread filled his chest with the pierced lips that Minerva sported, "Surely not Petunia Evans, Albus?" He trailed off, looking from one to the other of his coworkers. Minerva gave a small nod to herself with a frown, as she recalled that Severus had been childhood friends with Lily.
"She was the only living relative that he had," Albus stated, a brief amount of worry coming into his pale eyes, as he felt the atmosphere become tense with the two before him, Minerva shook her head, "I had told you, Albus," She declared harshly, crossing her arms as her lips thinned at how the wizard was making up excuses for his mistake, "They are the worst kinds of muggles." Severus nodded in agreement, even if he hadn't met Tunie's new family, "Anyone would be better than that wrench," He told them in soft voice that held true venomous hate, his fists clenching tightly together at his sides.

Severus could recall the menace clearly, as her cruel words often made Lily cry, and he often found her weeping after a fight broke out between the two girls, and the black haired man made use of these countless experiences, by telling Albus and Minerva everything that needed to be known about Petunia Evans. His stories continued on and on until the sun had sunk low and the sky and the two had long since taken a seat and had been offered tea and biscuits in between the stories. Albus' already scarred heart became weighted down with dread and worry, as he listened to these memories. Albus hadn't known of Severus' memories of Petunia, but if he had, he would have surely run his decisions of where to put Harry past his well-trusted spy, if said spy hadn't been going through an intense bout of depression that is. Albus knew that he should have listened to Minerva in the beginning as well, however, in the heat of the moment, the only thing he could think of was to get Harry away from vengeful Death Eaters and corrupt political figures. but he couldn't blame her nor Severus. He only had himself to blame for making such a rash move. The old wizard sighed tiredly, casting a simple spell as to check the time, as he looked up at the hard faces of two of his most trusted companions, his eyes having briefly been trained on the floor in his deep thought. One he had could call an old friend, the other a young boy that he had let down through another series of mistakes. "I am sorry to have not have listened to you Minerva," He first apologized to her, knowing that the guilt that she must have been feeling from letting the boy stay with potentially harmful muggles would be eating her up. "And I truly regret not taking any more actions to protect Ms. Evans son," He looked to Severus then, watching those dark eyes battle with long dealt with emotions of grief. Dumbledore rose steadily from his chair and cast a glance to both of his friends. "I shall go and start to make amends with Mr. Potter," Albus said with a rough voice, "By taking him away from those Dursley's as soon as possible." He declared, his usually gentle voice grim.

As tired as he was from rehashing all of Petunia's horrible deeds, Severus rose to his feet as well. "Albus," He spoke with a respectful tone, "You must plan, instead of rushing in there like some," Severus halted his tirade, realizing that he was going to use the word Gryffindor as an insult while in a room with two people from such house. "Novice," Severus exchanged the word, ignoring Minerva's small tired snort of amusement. Severus met the man's pale eyes evenly, "Dealing with an abusive household, you must act carefully," Severus explained when he saw a despaired gleam in the man's eyes. Ruthlessly pushing down any sorrow or envy that came with seeing those eyes fill with feelings that hadn't been shown to him when he was younger. Severus adjusted the collar of his shirt, "We must observe if those muggles are there, as to extract him safely from the situation," He informed the rash man, knowing that his insistence on saving all of those that were loyal to the light side, would make him act without thinking. Severus would be categorized as a gray wizard, who looked for redemption. Therefore Dumbledore pitied him, knowing of his background as an abused and bullied boy, only looking for a place to belong and deciding to open his arms for the greasy haired man when news of the Potters' death spread around. "Of course," He stroked his beard, falling back into his chair with a troubled expression on his face. Severus looked out of the window behind Dumbledore's desk, seeing the almost pitch black sky, he clapped his hands behind his back. "Well, I must be heading back to my packing," He announced to the other two, knowing that his excuse of sleeping would be scoffed at since he had the well-known reputation of being a bigger night owl, even more than Filch who practically stayed up all night as to catch mischevious children.

Getting mumbled goodnights from the two as they looked to be getting into a serious conversation, Severus let himself out of the headmaster's office via floo, throwing the powder in the fireplace, since he didn't feel like taking a walk through the vast hallways this particular evening. Entering his office, Severus glanced at the jarred ingredients and began to look at his priorities. He was itching for a cup of tea and a night of relaxation after the seriousness of the topics talked in Dumbledore's office, but he couldn't rest with the idea of his ingredients out in the open in such a messy state. Rolling up his sleeves, Severus let out a deep exhalation through his nose, letting himself fall into the just as relaxing state that organizing can put someone in. Work in his life was something to get out of the way as soon as possible, and whatever joy he could pull from it was his advantage. This theory of his had followed him throughout his youth, even to when he worked for the Dark Lord. Especially then. He didn't miss that darkness, the harshness that had been shown when one made a mistake, the torture. It's hard to believe that he hadn't seen how terrible of a person that the dark wizard was. When Lily died, and he joined the light side, he vowed to never let anyone pull him away from being his true self. Someone who actually cared about those they deemed worthwhile, such as when he was younger and helped Lily through her discovery of being a witch. Anyone else in his place would never have done that, especially his bullies. This darkness that rooted its way in his soul, from the inkling of his father's abuse, kept him from helping anyone else, made him never want to feel such vulnerability when one crushed your hopes and dreams with their cruel words and violence.

Shaking his head, Severus pushed himself into his chore, knowing better than to get caught in his dark thoughts. Such darkness could make one wish to die. And that darkness hid in his mind, just above his throat, spewing out of every pore of his being, taking its hatred out on others for overlooking it, and it's misery.

Chapter Text

One would think blindness was terrifying. Living in a world where there was only darkness, the world where you relied purely on the other senses that one could be born with. To become disabled in such a way, most would be disheartened. To know that there was a possibility that they could never see like they could before. However, Harry could find pleasure in the dark world that was his cupboard. Holding his sun-kissed wrist up in front of his face, he felt a sense of relief in not being able to see his arm. He found that he relished the dark, finding a deep satisfaction in being hidden from everyone, even himself. He thought that he would much rather prefer a life shrouded in darkness than one scorched by the light. He was surrounded by the silence that came when his relatives left him behind to go to a place called France, as to visit Vernon's side of the family since his mother and father had moved to England when he was a baby. Vernon's family was very, very normal. They all had perfect, blond children, all with excellent grades and beautiful faces, just like their little Dudders, Harry would hear his aunt compare their atrocious son, to the seemingly nice people that Vernon described over dinner sometimes. Harry had heard these stories while he was washing dishes, and would often think about what would happen if he ran away to France, running into the arms of Dudley's kind Meme and Pepere Dursley. At least that's what his uncle called his grandparents, saying that those were the french nicknames for the older people.

Cuddling up in his blanket, Harry recounted how much he had eaten today since his aunt had been kind enough to set out a certain amount of food for him to eat while they were away for a month or so. Harry knew not to turn any lights on at night or open any curtains during the day. He was only allowed to tend to the garden and to keep everything dustless while they were away. Harry rubbed his face into the limb pillow, the case ripped from years of use. He truly did dream of a loving family, such as his uncle's. For he told countless stories of the charity that they have done. His aunt Marge was rich, the money that didn't go to Dudley, was sometimes donated to some cause or another. His grandparents were well-known missionaries that had went to Africa in their youth. He had asked Imari what a missionary was, and the snake had told him that it was someone who helped others in need, or tried to at least. Harry wanted someone like that to help him in his small world. Someone besides Imari, who was nice, but not an adult of his own kind. Someone who couldn't help him without the possibility of getting killed, like if Imari were to actually bite someone. He couldn't live with the thought that Imari could die by the rough hands of his uncle. Harry had celebrated his supposed birthday with his friend, who had given him a dead bird, "A gift that will make you big and strong," the snake had claimed, happy with himself for providing for the little boy, while Harry had tentatively poked it with a stick. He had crouched over the dead angel-like creature, wondering if someone would find him like that one day.

It had been a good day since Harry had the kitchen to himself, where he had plucked the bird outside, and cooked it up in a strategic way, having more food to eat. But that was some time ago, and the heat outside made Harry more fatigued that he usually was with the sparse amount of water he was allowed. His aunt threatened to punish him if he took too much food, or made their water bill rise even more than he already made it with his 'excessive' watering, and secret bathing sessions in the cool water. Harry didn't understand the value of this human money, as freaks were known to have problems with such common things. It was something that caused violence, Imari had told him when he asked, something that kept people silent when horrible things were done and could also help during times of hardship. Harry wished he could have a lot of money then. Possibly when he was even older, how old? He didn't know. His future was a scary thing that his little, recent ten-year-old mind didn't like to ponder on. He knew that as things went on, some things wouldn't change. Like his cupboard. He would always be the freak under the stairs, waiting to be let out, waiting for many things that would probably never happen.

A change that he liked, however, was the freedom of an unlocked door. This usually happened during the month when his relatives left, but each time was always delicious as the first. The small taste of freedom was something that he could die from, as he would become so overwhelmed, that he would surely drown in the feeling. Now he could come into the house whenever he wanted, as long as he closed the door quietly, and he could freely talk to Imari under the shade of the trees. He had learned so much from his friend these past weeks. Additionally, his garden was absolutely gorgeous, bringing him the usual pride that he got, as he smelt the sweet scent of the flowers that came from his hands. Imari had told him that the flowers were special, that had surely been the best, and saddest day of his life. It had been a hot day, as it often was, with an early rain shower from the humid weather. Harry had come out at the end of the storm, a soft drizzle coating his shoulders as he hurried to take shelter by Imari's nest under the pine tree. He had been about to greet his friend when his eyes caught how his flowers seemed to glow in the dim light of the slowly rising sun. "They're a splendid sight, aren't they?" Harry nodded absently, as his friend let out a snake's equivalent to a chuckle, slithering out of his nest to take his place on his speaker's ankle. Harry carefully looked away from the flowers, fearing that they would stop if he took his eyes away from them for a second. "You know what makes them so special?" Imari's soft hiss traveled up to Harry's ears, cutting through the sound of the raindrops falling rapidly from the leaves of the trees surrounding them. The pine needles of the tree acted as a tightly made umbrella, keeping her hiding children safe from the rain falling from the sky.

Harry shook his head slowly, blinking down at his friend with a hesitant smile as the snake picked himself up to look him in the eyes with his soft gaze. "They glow because of the warmth of your love for them," the snake told him after a thoughtful pause, in which Harry had patiently waited for him to find his wording for the answer. Harry's tanned face blushed happily, a soft giggle escaping his lips, "They glow because of me?" He asked in a breathless voice. Never before, had he ever seen any flowers that glowed like the ones before him. His lips quirked up into a happy grin, as he looked at the flowers again as his friend laid his ever growing body over his chest, curling around his neck with his thick coils. The scales had gotten to become noticeably darker. In the serenity of his garden, stroking the scales of his close friend, Harry had looked down at Imari's face, hanging off of his shoulder, a question on the tip of his tongue. "Imari?" He asked his friend, his insecurities coming to light as he watched the glow of the flowers dim until they looked normal once more over the span of a few hours as the rain continued to fall lightly. The snake gave a soft hiss in reply, lazily looking up at the black haired boy. "Yes, Jabari?" He urged the boy when he didn't speak his mind after a few quiet minutes.

"Will you always be with me?" He asked his friend, thinking to how even the flowers that glowed for him, had left him as the sun rose, creating rainbows in some nearby puddles. Imari shifted around Harry unsurely, his tongue flicking out in a calming motion to the young child. "As long as I live," He assured the boy, "But know this Harry," He rose to look the boy once more in the eyes, his tone now serious. "Like the bird that I had killed for you on your birthday, I will one day die," Harry's face fell into a confused frown, his eyes looking away from his friend, focusing on how his toes disappeared into the moist soil when he buried them. His attention was captured once more by the snake, when those familiar scales rubbed against his face, soothing the harsh furrow of his brow, and the way his eyes scrunched up with the threat of tears. "Just because I may die doesn't mean that I will leave you," Imari told him, flicking Harry's cheek with his tongue, tickling the sensitive skin, making it hard for Harry to keep a little, lopped-sided smile from taking over his face as Imari continued the sign of affection. "My spirit will be with you, in the nature around you," He assured the boy, "I'll especially be in your memories, and though death may be hard, death is natural."

Harry let out a harsh breath, his pulling himself out of the memory, pushing himself back into the present of his cupboard. He still felt grief over the possibility of the death of his friend but had come to accept it as Imari had put it. As a part of nature, something that was needed to keep their crazy world in order. And Harry surely understood the need for order. The organization of a clean kitchen allowed his cooking to go faster and neater, so why wouldn't the world be like his kitchen?

While Harry was thinking all of this, the events taking outside in the dark neighborhood. The only light that came from the streets outside of the house, were the streetlights, the moon in the sky hidden behind thick clouds, and the stars a weak breath against the polluted night sky. A figure in a dark business suit stood on the end of the road, at a crossroads of the colliding streets. He shifted in the stiff white shirt under the heavy jacket, tucked into a pair of black slacks. He walked down the barren street in his well-loved shoes, his steps quick and his coat billowing out weakly, trying to mimic his travel cloak that he had left at home for his late night voyage. Severus had persuaded Dumbledore from going himself, saying that the old man would attract too much attention to himself, additionally giving the boy an unneeded shock with his strange appearance. One could call him selfish for wanting to see his departed friend's son first, however, he wouldn't care. As usual. He was placed in Slytherin house for a reason, and one could say that he would be a typical Slytherin. It's sad, but most abused children ended up in the house of the snakes, but that was only an estimation, as surely there were many other children in other houses that had been abused.

Severus scanned the dim front yards, the houses all similar in their outward appearance. The old wizard had told him the address, which was ingrained into his memory from the fury that came with knowing that such vile things were taking place. Before apparating, he had cast a disillusionment spell over himself, making sure that no muggle would see him, in the likely case scenario that he would have to use magic to get into the house. He approached the mailbox, showing that it was the correct house, the little black four seemed sinister in the streetlight. Walking down the pathway, he felt a warm presence embrace his form, wrapping around him with a tight grip, almost desperate. Remembering the blood wards that were explained to him the week beforehand, a week that he had spent, stalking the Dursley's and finding that only three had left for France. He doubted that the wards worked, weakly if at all, so he was surprised by the strength left in it. He assumed that it was acting as a dying breath, transferring to the next guardian over the young child that was trapped in the house in front of him. He stood in front of the small porch, taking a deep breath through his crooked nose, he brought his hand to the doorknob, giving it a soft shake to see if it was locked.

Finding that it was, he took out his wand, and pointed it at the knob, breathing out a firm Alohomora. The soft click of the unlocking door and Severus pushed it open, closing it behind him silently. To his sharp nose, the house smelt clean, a thick scent of air freshener and cleaning chemicals in the air of the house, covering the horrid sins committed in this average house. He cast a quick Lumos, not daring to turn on the lights of the house in case someone thought that the Dursley's were being robbed. He may have magic, but he wouldn't know if anyone witnessed his mission to save the boy before it was too late. The dim light gave him sight in the dreary house, it's normal wallpaper casting abnormal shadows with the placement of the furniture as he walked his way through the foyer. He kept his footsteps light, and his breathing quiet. He used a point me spell as he found a staircase, not wanting to risk startling the boy in case he used accidental magic and harmed the both of them. He observed how the arrow pointed straight, towards a doorway that looked to lead off into the kitchen. The even dimmer light gave his face a blue tint, as he took calculated steps towards the living room, unsure of where the boy is resting.

Finding the living room to be empty, he turned towards a cupboard door. The arrow pointed towards it, straight as it's real life counterpart. The heavy clean smell hid the smallest taint of blood and filth that was emitted from behind the ominous door. He put his hand on the doorknob, opening it slowly, as he kneeled down to make himself smaller. The disgusting smells that wafted out made his lips curl back in distaste, but the sight that greeted him from behind the door broke his heart. Curled up on the mattress on the floor, was the smallest figure that he had ever seen, it's back facing him in the pale blue light. If he was getting a ten-year-old boy out of this hell hole, he would have assumed that the figure on the bed was no older than six, possibly five. He could see the clear signs of malnourishment in the child, with the way that his spine and ribs were prominent through his almost transparent shirt, the tattered thing only staying on the thin boy with the force of willpower. Thinking better than to touch the child Severus deliberately let his disillusionment spell off, before he called out to the child in a soft voice.

"Wake up little one," he watched as the boy's body suddenly tensed, as he had assumed that the child would be a light sleeper. "I'm here to take you out of here," He continued, his usually venomous voice gentle. He watched as the boy marginally turned to face him, in the pale light, he saw the glint of glasses but was surprised to see beautiful green eyes looking up at him. "Hello," he greeted in a warm voice, his thin lips kept in a small, friendly smile. "What's your name?" He asked him, acting as if he didn't know the child, as to keep him from becoming suspicious of him. His question wasn't met with an answer, as the child continued to stare up at him with a gaping mouth, as if in awe or shock. "I was a friend of your mother," he explained in a soft voice, "I'm here to take you to somewhere safe, somewhere away from here," he added, forcing himself to stay patient, as he usually was with the children who were put into his house with a history of child abuse. "Would you like that?" Severus was greeted with a hesitant nod, the child having closed his mouth, and was now blinking up at him, possibly believing that he was dreaming that he was being saved.

"Can you walk?" He asked him, shifting into a position to where he could pick the child up if needed. He was saved the trouble as the child nodded, pushing himself up on trembling arms, and standing up to reveal his short height for the man. Severus stood crouched, as he knew that his great height could intimidate most children, "To warn you, I am quite tall," He told the child, who shrugged in answer, making him give a soft chuckle. He stood up slowly, his wand held loosely at his side, as he tried to pass it off as a flashlight, as he had changed the spell wordlessly with a Lumos. "Is there anything that you need to retrieve?" Severus asked the child, watching the child's guarded facial expressions when he looked up at him. He gave a wordless nod, slipping by the grown man like water does around a large boulder. Severus gave himself a mental note about the child's supposed muteness but made sure to not instantly diagnose him, as he could probably just be nervous when met with a stranger.

Harry walked through the kitchen and out the back door, silently closing it as to keep from attracting the man's attention, who appeared to be in deep thought. He couldn't believe that this was happening, and was scared that it was too good to be true. His aunt had never told him what to do if a stranger approached him in the house when they were gone, so he was just doing whatever would keep himself safe. Such as making sure to not talk as he did with the Dursley's, giving him a backup plan if he found himself in a sticky situation. He walked over the dew covered grass, his bare feet relishing the cool liquid as he walked over to Imari's nest. "Imari," he called out quietly, after looking over his shoulder to make sure that the man hadn't followed him out. He heard the shifting of the snake from inside the hole, and the small little head popped up to greet him. "Jabari, what brings you out at this time of night?" The snake asked in a curious voice, his head swaying as he joined the boy on the damp grass outside of the nest. "A man has woken me up, and tells me that he will take me away from this place," Harry stated bluntly, crouching in front of the snake, "Will you come with me?" He asked the snake in an almost pleading voice, revealing how scared and nervous that he actually was, despite his still blank face.

Imari gave a wordless nod, though the child couldn't see it, and slithered up his outstretched arm, hiding in the boy's shirt. "I will make sure that he is trustworthy," the snake promised, "Grab some of the flowers in case he gets suspicious to why you went outside," he added as an afterthought when the boy stood up. He gave a nod, swiping back down and pulling some of the lightly glowing flowers out of the ground as carefully as he could. With his friend hidden in his shirt, twined around his thin body, and the mysteriously glowing flowers in hand, Harry walked back into the house with these abnormal things. As Harry entered the kitchen, shutting the door silently, he heard the little flicking of Imari's tongue as the snake tasted the air. Imari felt a wave of relief wash over him at the taste of the same kind of magic that enveloped the boy he was wrapped around, on the man that stood in the hallway. "He is safe," Imari told the boy, relaxing his tight coils slightly, letting the boy know that the man wasn't bad. "But I will strike if he threatens to hurt you, just like I should have done to those humans," he hissed softly, Harry gave a soft nod.

He wordlessly joined the man back into the hallway, noting that the cupboard door was shut. He watched the man slowly turn to face him, the flashlight that he held still by his side. He could see the way that his dark eyes widened with the added light from the flowers, as they looked at the magical plants. "Those are gorgeous," he praised the boy, realizing that he had made them grow that way, subconsciously or not. "Are you ready?" He asked the boy, holding his hand out in case the boy wanted to hold it, knowing that they would have to do side-along apparition to get to Prince Manor since the Leaky Cauldron would probably overwhelm the boy with all of the magic in the building. Letting out a deep breath, Harry nodded, timidly reaching out, and grabbing the man's hand. The man looked down at him, "This may be scary, but apparition is the only way to get ourselves out of here," the man informed him, though he didn't know what apparition was. "It may hurt a little, but I believe that you are strong enough to handle it," the man assured him in his deep voice. Harry nodded, feeling an inkling of pride as his strength was acknowledged.

Severus looked down at the determined boy with a sigh, "Everything will be explained soon."

Chapter Text

Using apparition with the dark man was like being dragged through the mud, shoved through a tube, and kicked out at the end. His stomach and chest hurt once they came to a clearing in front of a towering gate, much like the owner of the manor behind said gate. Harry felt Imari shift in discomfort, but otherwise, the snake stayed silent, only flicking his tongue out in an irritated manner.
Harry subtly put a hand on one of his thick coils, the other hand sweating in the loose grasps that his savior held on him. He felt those dark eyes turn on him, observing him with the slightest amount of concern. "Are you well?" He asked the child, "Would you like me to let go?" He added before the black haired boy could reply, as he looked at the body language that the boy was unconsciously showing him. Getting a nod in reply, Severus let his hand drop to his side, and instead turned his focus onto the familiar iron gate.

He did all of the things required of the ancient ward, one that had come with the manor when he had gotten it in his inheritance once his mother, and later his father, had passed. His mother had left everything to him, as she didn't have much of a choice since his grandfather had voided her rights to anything in the Prince's wealth since she had married a muggle. Severus knew that he had been chosen as the head of the old house, mainly because of his ties with Voldemort and how news of his alliance had spread throughout the few pureblood family houses, his grandfather being added to that group. His grandfather, along with himself, had both dabbled in the dark arts, giving the two a connection that was more pronounced than the broken bond between his own daughter and son-in-law. On his deathbed, one of the many that Severus had been called to, the old wizard had praised him, saying how he was the grandson that he had always dreamed of. With the family nose and dark features, Severus had been disgusted, as at the time, he had gone to Dumbledore, the scared, lonely young adult that he was. He hated the dark at the time, and his scowl in present matters showed this disdain as he looked at the terribly dreary building.

The gates creaked open slowly, and he glanced down at the boy once more. "I must warn you," his baritone voice broke through the crisp night air, his pale skin practically glowing in the moonlight. "This manor has a history of dark occurrences," he informed the young boy, knowing that the atmosphere surrounding the manor could intimidate anyone easily. Severus saw the way that Harry seemed to get jittery and tense at the mention of the dark past of the house, worried that the boy would run away, Severus thought of something that would keep the young boy from leaving in the middle of the night. "The garden is absolutely lovely, perhaps we could replant those little flowers of yours once everything is settled?" Severus offered the boy, ignoring his irritation at seeing an almost carbon copy of one of the many tormentors from his childhood, James Potter. Such appearances could be ignored, as this child was surely not that snot-nosed bully, but a child in need. A child that was more like him than James could ever be, someone he could understand.

"Follow me," he ordered softly, noting the hungry look in those green eyes. He set a semi-brisk pace as he walked up the stone hedge pathway to the front door. Once both wizards were out of the way, the gate closed behind them, and they were left with the sounds of nature between them, for neither felt like talking anymore. The sound of the crickets in the fields close by the surrounding forest filled the late summer night, giving a song while a few wild owls hooted to each other. Other more dangerous creatures such as foxes and bears were repelled by a charm in the ward that repelled such beasts, along with the magical types. Severus' adept ears picked up the quick footsteps of the boys' tiny feet, and a small sense of pride filled his chest, as it usually came when he was given the opportunity to help abused children, and made any progress with the children.

He still had some children to check up with, he speculated to himself, while they passed by the front garden, his plants surrounded the small basalt porch. Severus watched out of the corner of his eye as Harry subtly swooped down to touch the dark petals of one of the roses in the bushes nearby. Severus turned towards the front door, and unlocked it with the key, and opened the heavy oak wood door. He stepped into the vast foyer, holding the door as he turned to look at the boy. Severus gestured for him to enter the empty house, taking the time to light the old fashioned torches by hand with some matches that he kept nearby, the torches kept aflame with its own magical properties and the few house elves that Severus had allowed to stay and work for him. "Come on in," Severus told him in his gentle voice once he saw how Harry still stood on the porch, distracted by the flowers.

Harry gave a small nod and entered the house if a little tentatively, his bare feet went from cold surface to cold surface, as Severus hadn't had anything to give the boy for footwear without magical means. The hardwood floor of the foyer was clean, since the elves kept to the cleaning with a tight fist, for they owed Severus their lives, and cleaned with their own free will. Long story. But such a clean, smooth surface was something that Harry had never experienced, as he had to deal with the constantly soiled carpets and tiled floors since the Dursley's never could clean up after themselves. Harry tilted his head up, looking up at the fancy chandelier that hung from the high ceiling, lit with electricity. The modernized chandelier and the torches attached to the stone walls gave Harry the feeling of being in the home of some sort of royalty. He and his scrawny body had never been in such an elegant place, with its dark wallpaper and trimming. He watched with wonderous eyes as the light made the crystals glitter and sparkle, as he walked under it, trailing after the man in the black suit.

Severus lead the awed child to the vast dining room, with its long table, and the utensils on display, the goblets lined with precious jewels, and the platters with elaborate designs. Severus walked towards a chair at the top of the table, closest to the entrance to the kitchen. He ran a hand over the decorative lace and other fabrics that line the dark brown chairs. "Take a seat," he advised the young child, turning to face him. He watched the bewildered expression on the tan face become guarded once more, as he nodded, sitting down in the chair that he had pulled out for him. "I'll grab you something to eat," he informed the black haired boy when he looked up at him with a question in his eyes. He gave a small nod, unsure whether the man was actually being truthful, while his stomach involuntarily let out a growl at the idea of food. He had to make his rations smaller, as the only thing he had had in the fridge at the Dursley's house was some outdated yogurt, and a drumstick from the bird that Imari had given him, and considering that the bird had been a tiny thing, it had really only added a few more days of food to eat.

As he listened to the heavy footfalls of the dark haired man, he felt Imari shuffle around under his shirt, the snake camouflaged in the dark, tattered fabric. "Such a large place," the snake observed, flicking his tongue out, "I'd like to explore around if you could handle the separation?" Imari looked to his friend curiously, his head poking out of the collar of his shirt. Harry gave a moment's thought, weighing the advantages of having his friend search around these foreign walls. Harry set a hand on a coil of his friend, giving his head a shake, "No, I need you now Imari," he admitted in a soft voice, "We can't split up, what if you got hurt?" Harry asked, looking down into the snake's soft eyes, the sleek scales on the top of his head glinting in the dim light overhead, from a much smaller chandelier than that from the foyer. Imari nodded, sharing the same thoughts. "Would have saved us both from any surprises," he hissed loosely, his shifting around the thin body of the young child, tightening and loosening periodically to find a position that was comfortable for the both of them. Imari gave his friend a peculiar look, calculating the calm look on the boy's face, despite the turn of events.

"I must tell you something, Jabari," Imari stated suddenly, as he flicked his tongue out once more, trying to point where the pale-skinned man was, "This man, he is magical," Imari told him, trying to give him an idea of what the man was going to say, since he didn't want his friend to get this information from someone that he didn't trust, or have a base of trust with. "Just like you," he hissed, watching those green eyes blink in surprise, "Magic is bad," Harry trailed off unsurely, knowing how his uncle reacted when Dudley brought something home from school that even referenced this magic. He didn't understand what was wrong with it, he just knew that it was what made something freakish. Though he wouldn't have even guessed that he had it since it seemed like only people in those fairy tales that sometimes played on the telly had. He had seen many evil people with magic, such as the Evil Queen from those American 'rubbish' films that his uncle would only play to teach Dudley a lesson, saying that it truly showed what happened to freaks with these abnormalities. "This man will explain everything that I can't," Imari told him, catching the sound of the rustling of clothing, and heavy footfalls coming towards them. He ducked back into Harry's shirt, just as the door opened behind them, making Harry jump at the sudden noise of the man approaching, as slowly as he was.

Severus held a bowl of fresh fruit and a few slices of bread on a brown platter along with a pitcher of water and a few cups, unsure of what the boy could stomach. He watched the tense muscles of his back slowly relax as the boy looked at him from over his shoulder, those familiar green eyes guarded as before, his mouth shut and his voice nowhere to be heard. "I have some grapes and apples if you would like them, along with some bread," Severus said once he got to the table, setting down the small platter of food, he watched the hunger gleam in those green eyes, as he sat down in a chair next to him, folding his hands and crossing his legs as to appear as non-threatening as possible. "Eat whatever you like," Severus gestured towards the food calmly, as the child had stared at him with uncertain eyes. Still keeping an eye on the man, Harry grabbed a slice of the bread, finding it to be pleasantly warm to the touch, as though it was toasted beforehand. He began to nibble on it, his stomach small and easy to fill with the constant starvation that he had to endure. Severus allowed him to finish a slice, and poured him a glass of water, along with his own so that the boy wouldn't feel any sort of discomfort.

"As I promised," his baritone voice echoed in the large room, his tone gentle as he took a sip of water, the child having his fill of food. "I will explain everything for you, and then get you a room if you would like," he looked at him with a soft gaze, his words were meet with silence, as he gave a sigh, rubbing his temple in thought. He couldn't just throw information at the child after a life spent with all things muggle, and muggles who hated magic to add to that mess. "As I said before, I am was your mother's friend," Severus started the explanation, sliding off the heavy muggle jacket, as he had wanted to ever since he had put it on. My name is Severus Snape," he said in an off-handed manner, bracing himself for the bittersweet pain of thinking about his childhood love. "And, her name was Lily, and she was a kind woman, and had she known of what her sister and her horrible husband had done to you," Severus kept himself from choking up by taking another sip of the cold water, "She would have come down from Heaven and put an end to it from the very beginning."

Harry couldn't help but give a small smile, his eyes downcast with sadness at the imagery of his late mother, having to watch his abuse from Heaven. He had never seen a picture of her but often felt a warmth in his chest when he thought of her, and his father. Usually, a green light was associated with a woman's scream, which he could now place with his mother, but he didn't know the true cause of her death. The question sat on his tongue, heavy and unwilling to move as he looked up at the man, who had become silent as to let harry mull this information over. Severus saw the unspoken question in his eyes and his body language. "She was killed by an evil man," Severus revealed to the boy, as he hesitantly fiddled with his cup, "Along with your father." Severus despised the man, but he couldn't blame the boy for decisions made by a man that he had never known. "She died to save you, and the man tried to kill you as well," Severus added, leaning forward as he saw the flash of guilt in those eyes that glittered with unshed tears. Severus' hands hovered over Harry's own hands, allowing the boy to decide whether he wanted the comfort offered to him.

Harry slowly turned his hands up and allowed the dark haired man to grasp his smaller hands in a gentle hold, not unlike how Imari would wrap around him with his large body. The contact was brief and slightly awkward, as Severus was always unsure on how one would give comfort to a young child that had a history of child abuse since every child had their own differences and boundaries. Harry didn't care that the man had tried to kill him, he was upset that he had caused the death of his parents, and he felt the inklings of a heavy sadness that felt as suffocating as depression, settle on his very chest, like his cousin when the boy decided the pin him down in the garden and beat him with his chubby fists. Harry pulled his hands away from the older man's. He wrung his hands in his lap, sad and uncertain of what he should do with this new information. "It's not your fault," Severus reassured him, as he waited for the information to sink in, "Lily wouldn't have blamed you, as well as James," Severus told him once he had the boy's attention once more. "They would probably die for you, again, and again, if they were to face the Dark Lord once more," Severus told him, watching as the child's misery was soothed with his words. Harry gave a small nod, as he received the gentle assurances from Imari as well, his friend tightening around him marginally, giving him support in the only way he knew how to.

Harry's mind picked up the title of the Dark Lord, finding a source for his sense of vengeance for the death of his now named parents. Severus watched the slight easing of the boy's body, as he leaned back into his chair and took another sip of his cup of water. "They loved you," Severus assured the boy, even more, a slow smile creeping onto his face, as he thought back to some of the stories that circulated around the order of what took place in the Potter's household. Severus had been trying to make it up to Lily, a few weeks before her death had taken place. He had tried to make the Voldemort spare her, but her love for her son made it so that she had stayed in his way. Severus didn't understand her love for her child, as he was never given such attention, besides his mother, who he had despised when he was growing up. She couldn't, wouldn't leave her abusive husband with her illness, and as a child, he blamed her for not divorcing or protecting herself against the despicable muggle that was his father. But, ever since her passing, all those years ago, he realized that her love for him never faltered, as she left the manor that he was sitting in this very moment, to get away from the darkness. To start anew, like a flower blooming after a forest fire.

He often found it ironic that her attempts of keeping him away from such darkness, pushed him even more towards it in his late teens. The two sat at the table, both in their own thoughts, as Severus thought of his own mother, comparing her to the one that he imagined his dear Lily would have been. While the young boy was thinking on how Imari's earlier words related to this man's own, trying to piece together how both correlated to each other. Harry had questions for the man that seemed like they would burst from his chest if he didn't ask them, yet the thought of actually opening his mouth to talk to the man made him nervous, his stomach clenching with the thought that if he spoke, the man would get rid of him. Wringing his hands, he gulped nervously, looking at the navy tablecloth, the fabric spotless as his eyes traced the white lace patterns. His lips trembled as he opened them, trying to speak with the man, the only human that seemed to actually welcome him with open arms, an extreme change from his previous treatment from the Dursley's. The bread that he had eaten seemed to act as a brick in his stomach, he couldn't talk just yet. He wasn't comfortable with the man yet. But he desperately wanted to thank the man, to ask him all of these questions swarming his head. The mixture of these intense emotions made tears well up into his eyes, which he scrubbed at in frustration as his chest began to heave with the bottling of his confusion.

Seeing the obvious signs of distress, Severus calmly cleared his throat, trying to catch the child's attention instead of touching him, assuming that the sudden contact would only set him off into a panic attack. "Now, now," Severus hushed in his deep voice, once those eyes looked up at him in a panicked state. "There's always a right time for everything to take place," he assured the boy, "Whether that is days, weeks, or years ahead of us, you will find your voice sooner or later." His words acted as a balm to the boy's frazzled nerves, soothing him to the point that he took a deep breath and wrapped his arms loosely around his stomach. Severus had noted the bulk around his abdomen but had played it off as a trick of the light, but now it was obvious that the boy was hiding something. Carefully noting that quirk, he didn't bring it up, as he glanced at the time, and finding it to be quite late. "With everything said, why don't I give you some tea to calm your nerves, and we get you up to bed?" Severus commented in a gentle tone, standing up from his chair slowly while taking the platter, and headed to the kitchen after telling Harry that he could stay where he was.

Making the tea swiftly, he brought it back to the dining room with the same platter, piled with a small cup of milk, since he didn't know how much Harry would take. He set his homemade tea, custom brewed with his own mixture of herbs that he collected from his garden, onto the table, and filled the two cups with the hot liquid. "I'll let you pour your own milk since I don't know if you even like milk," he told the boy, as he went through the familiar motions of making his own cup of tea, having put in a small amount of a calming draught while in the kitchen. He happily leaned back with the warm cup, watching the boy as he unsurely mixed in a small amount of milk, his motions choppy and clumsy, as he spilled a drop or so of the milk. Before Harry could even let out a word, Severus wiped it up with a steady hand, giving the pale boy a small smile and tipping his head at the kettle, as he leaned back into his cushioned chair. "Small mistakes aren't punished here," Severus told him, as the boy still stared at him, his hand hovering over the milk, "Please do make your cuppa, and relax." The dark haired boy gave a tight-lipped smile, his guarded expression melting away slowly as he copied the motions that Severus had went through moments beforehand.

With the tea in his stomach, Harry felt himself relax deeply, in a way that he had never been able to do before. The two wizards sipped at their tea in amiable silence, both happy to just ignore the other, and just sit there and listen to the near silent house. It's creaks and groans filled the silence, as it surely was an ancient thing, as Harry would come to find, with its many hidden doorways, and airy rooms. If Harry was not a child used to having so little, he would have surely been disgusted to be in such a dusty old place, but he couldn't find it in himself to act ungrateful towards the walls that sheltered him from the harsh life that he had been living so far. Couldn't find it in himself to judge his savior, as the man hadn't judged him for the freakish way of life that he was forced in. After finishing their cups, they both just sat there, Harry looking up at the chandelier with its childish crystals, while Severus observed the boy himself. He took in everything, trying to read his thoughts by looking at his face and the way he held himself in the straight-backed chair. If anything, Severus' own childhood had made it so that he was extremely well at reading people, which helped in his spy business as one would think he could.

Severus broke the silence with a sigh, "I suppose we should find you some chambers," he thought aloud, going along with his act of not knowing of Harry's situation a week beforehand. He stood up, leaving the uncomfortable jacket at the table with the abandoned cup for the house elves to take care of, Severus walked over to the wide doorway that led to the foyer. He stopped for a moment, looking over his shoulder to make sure that the young boy was following, he watched as the child gave a soft yawn as he sluggishly made his way over to the older man. The dark-eyed man led the way up the staircase, leading him to the second floor of the manor, and towards some of the rooms that were closest to his own guest room. He stopped in front of the door, looking down at the boy patiently, "This room is closest to my own, and I believe that it is in good shape," the words 'Compared to your previous living situation,' went unsaid for Severus, as the man opened the door. With the creak of the door hinge, the boy was met with the large room, a room that looked to be truly monstrous in contrast to his cupboard.

"My door is right there," Severus pointed towards the door that was right across from Harry's own, as he crouched down to eye level with the child. "Be sure to know," Severus breathed out softly, maintaining eye contact with the child in front of him. "You can come to me if any problem arises, no matter how big or small you see it," Severus declared in a serious tone, his chest clenching with the view of those bright green eyes, filled with such hope and gratitude. Harry nodded, his ruly curls brushing against his cheeks, as he stood in front of the doorway staring back into the dark brown eyes of the man. Before the man could stand back up, Harry surprised even himself with the quick hug that he gave the man. Before Severus could return said hug, Harry slipped out of his arms and gave a nod of acknowledgment as Severus gave a shocked goodnight. He stood back up and left the door ajar as he stepped away from it, feeling a strange sense of amusement at the shy hug, being reminded of a time where someone with the same green eyes had hugged him in a similar way, long ago.

Once he heard the closing of the door across from him, Harry clambered onto the large bed, too tired to worry on soiling it. He felt Imari slither out onto the bed, as the lights turned off, seemingly by themselves. He couldn't find it in himself to care too much about the lights, as he gave a weak goodnight to his friend, and unceremoniously fell asleep under the thick duvet.

Chapter Text

Sunbeams cascaded through the thin, black curtain, making shapes on the floor, as the bird songs from magical and normal birds drifted into his room from the garden. Stretching languidly, Severus tiredly carded a hand through his greasy hair. He sat up, going through his morning routine at a slower pace than one would think he would do since he was hosting a very temperamental child. However, he hadn't felt any disturbances in the wards that he had set around the boy's room since he had doubted that the boy would actually go to him if something was wrong. Progress was important, but he wasn't going to really rush anything along with the Boy-Who-Lived. He headed to the door leading into his bathroom, planning to go greet Harry once more in his sleepwear, thinking that seeing such an intimating man as himself, would seem a little more human in the frilly, light green sleeping gown that he wore. The fabric was similar to a robe that he wore for comfort when he was finished grading papers during the school year and wished to just sit by the fire and read one of the muggle novels that Minerva would lend to him.

Brushing his teeth, Severus stepped into the shower for a brief morning shower after undressing, slipping on the gown once more when he was finished. He dried his hair off with his towel. The shampoo and conditioner that he used helped extract the harmful chemicals that came from countless hours hovering over a cauldron. His hair had a natural greasiness to it, but the feeling became more subtle as he brushed out the damp locks. Pushing on his dark slippers, Severus shuffled over to the slightly open door across from his own room. He gave a soft knock, knowing that the boy was still asleep because of one of the spells, a spell that was typically used by mothers with newborn children. He heard the rustling of someone waking up, creaking the door lightly, he called out in a soft voice, "Are you awake?" His deep voice seemed to remind the boy that he was in a safer place, as he heard the soft padding of feet on the hardwood floor, as the boy walked over to the door, which Severus hadn't opened fully as to allow him some sense of privacy.

After a moment of waiting patiently, Severus was rewarded with the face that peered up at him with a reasonable amount of weariness. He gave a weak nod and opened the door marginally as Severus stepped back, giving the boy room to do as he pleased. Before the boy could attempt to say anything, Severus regarded the clothing that the child was still wearing. "Ah," he mused aloud, "I forgot to mention, you have free range over any of the clothes in the closet and drawers," Severus told the boy with a polite voice, as he saw the weariness fade slowly away from the boy as he was exposed to Severus' calm voice. Severus watched the slight trepidation vanish as well, as he observed how the boy held back a little smile at the older man's garb. "As you can see with myself," Severus continued, waving a hand at his gown with a controlled motion keeping it away from the boy, "You do not have to dress formally," here, Severus leaned in, almost as if he were conspiring with the gradually relaxing boy. "Why don't you find something comfortable to wear?" Severus suggested lightly.

He held the boy's eye contact, keeping his gaze soft and truthful. He watched the boy give a small nod, before moving to close the door. Severus held up a hand, holding it up shortly as to not give the idea that it would be used for punishment. "I will wait out here to guide you downstairs," he informed the child, who gave him a quirk of a grateful smile, before closing the door with a soft click. He turned back towards the large room, frowning slightly. He walked over towards the towering wardrobe and pulled at one of the drawers. He peered inside to find freshly folded clothes, most of which, he could tell were much larger than he was. He felt Imari slide off of him, from where he had hidden under his shirt. "These shirts will hide me well," Imari mused, having pulled himself up once he landed on the floor as to observe the clothing. The clothing reflecting the style of the manor, them both being very dark, and the fabric thick.

Harry heard Imari slide away, roaming around the room to give the scarred boy more privacy, though Harry was comfortable to undress in front of his friend, as the snake knew all of his scars and wounds from tasting the blood before. There weren't many secrets between the pair, and Harry was glad about that part of their friendship. Harry slid off the large shorts, untying the rope holding it around his waist. He hadn't been given many undergarments, and he had been advised to stop wearing them by his friend since it was not healthy to wear the unwashed undergarments that Dudley wore, as proven by the countless cases of pubic lice that he had gotten before from his blond cousin. He still felt dirty despite being as naked as the day he was born. He looked to see Imari slithering towards him once more, holding a folded towel in his black mouth. "I found a bathroom," the snake informed the young child, as the boy hesitantly wrapped the given towel around his naked body. He gave a soft hiss for Imari to hide under the bed as he walked to the door, and opened it tentatively, he looked around the hallway, finding the door across from him still open, he saw the form of the older man, sitting at a desk.

Harry nervously cleared his throat, knocking on the door unsurely. He watched how the man bookmarked his place in the book that he was reading, and looked over at him. "Taking a bath, are we?" Severus questioned, standing up slowly and setting his book on potions back onto his desk, "I'll help you run it if that is what you'd like?" Severus offered the young boy, knowing how the modern faucets might be a little foreign to the boy since he was covered in multiple layers of dirt. Harry gave a short nod and waited for the man to take the lead, not wanting to turn his back to someone that could still harm him. Severus took the gesture with a short nod of his own, leading the way out of his room, and to Harry's, where he opened the went into the bathroom and sat on the edge of the tub while Harry grabbed the clothes that he would be changing into. He leaned over and turned the faucet handles, making sure that it wasn't too hot nor too cold. Severus went to the small closet, and pulled out some thin tubes of shampoo and conditioner, along with his a jar of body wash that was made by a Potions Master before him in the Prince family.

"I do not typically help others wash, but if something happens," Severus paused a little dramatically, once Harry had reentered the bathroom, clutching the fresh clothes. "Don't be afraid to call me, I'll be sitting at the desk just outside" he stated patiently, as he watched the young boy shift from foot to foot, looking down at the floor, as Severus subtly cast another charm used by a mother to make sure that a child wouldn't drown or anything. He saw the unruly hair bounce as the boy nodded, seemingly getting past the idea to allow others to help him in such a way, as he had never really taken a bath before, his aunt would typically spray him off in the sink when he was young, or have Dudley chase him with the hose. Severus left the boy in the bathroom, leaving the door ajar once more. As he passed the bed, his sharp ears caught the almost silent sound of some creature shifting, along with the smell of dirt and other signs of wilderness. Blinking, he came to a stop next to the bed, and slowly crouched down to look at the creature under the bed. He caught the glint of scales before the animal shifted towards the darkness in a way that he couldn't see it. He looked over his shoulder at the bathroom door, Harry was not to be seen, and even if he had spotted the boy, he wouldn't have gotten an answer of what the creature was, though he guessed that it was some sort of snake.

That would explain the shape in Harry's shirt from earlier. Letting out a sigh, he stood up from his crouched position, and carefully walked back to the other side of the room, taking a seat on the chair in front of the mahogany desk and sitting up in the straight-backed chair. He leaned over and grabbed one of the hardcover books in a shelf of the desk, and began to read it as he heard the water turn off. He read his book peacefully, knowing that waiting for the child would be the best course of action since he didn't want him to get lost in the dark house, or stumble on some ancient dark curse hidden in the house. Additionally, it gave the house elves some more time to prepare their small breakfast, since Severus had a small appetite, and he had seen how little Harry had eaten the night before. Severus held in a chuckle at what his students would think of him, if they were to see him right now.

He was known as a cruel teacher, but that was necessary when teaching Potions. He couldn't teach his curriculum like Pomona did, as they dealt with completely different subjects, and had different things to worry about. He knew that she was often times the students' favorite teacher at the beginning, as the Head of Hufflepuff house was very kind and motherly, her only worries being that someone got bit by some magical plant or other, while Severus had to worry about someone brewing the muggle equivalent of a bomb. He'd rather be a hated teacher than an incompetent one, such as Slughorn had been. The man had made many mistakes with how he thought, as many students were injured, or someone misused their knowledge of potions. Severus had made it a goal of his to keep as many students safe as possible while in his class, and mainly for his snakes, out of it as well. He had a patience that came with having to be a spy, his hands always steady and his actions thought out smoothly. He just gave his students the image of a short-tempered git, as to keep them from losing respect for him, and taking his words of caution for granted.

As he looked around the desk, he heard the faint clunking noise as the drain was pulled from the bathtub, and heard the click of the bathroom door closing. Severus cast a tempus, observing how about half an hour had passed while the boy was soaking in the tub. He smirked at the thought of his godson, Draco, who was starting to take much longer in the bath nowadays, as the boy started to worry over his appearance. He adored his godson, as pampered as the brat was. He was truly a determined little boy, with a character that was as animated as you could find them. He peered over at the closed door from over his book, wondering if the two boys would get along. He had an inkling of hope that they would, as he wanted Lily's son to have someone besides himself to rely on in the school year. Of course, with Lucius' ties with the dark lord, and his fear of being tortured for treason, Severus had to make sure that his old friend didn't try to assert himself or use the poor boys as a means to appease the dark lord.

He carded those thoughts of the future away for some other time as he heard the click of the bathroom door opening. Severus observed the relaxed posture of the black haired boy, noting the tiny, content smile on his tan face. Severus stifled a chuckle, once he saw how Draco's clothes were humongous on the poor boy. The black sleep shirt fell right above his knees, while the pants were rolled up and tied loosely around his bony hips. Severus noted the slight bulge in the front of the boy's shirt and saw that it was definitely a snake, as Harry wasn't supporting it in any way. "Good soak, huh?" Severus voiced, as he stood up, giving the boy a soft smile that was returned hesitantly. "Now let's get some food in you," Severus announced, turning towards the door, and leading the way once more, his green sleeping gown drifting along the wood floorboards, his pace slow, instead of his usual brisk walking that would make his cloak flare out menacingly.

Harry followed the man, still amused at the image that he made. With his dark features and his dreary house, he had been surprised that the man wore a gown to bed and had kept it on around any company. Though he knew that freaks were barely company, he assumed that the man would wear his fancy suit again, as his uncle never came down from bed with his pajamas on. He grabbed the handrail as he followed the man down the steps, making sure that he didn't trip over the large cuffs of the pants. The clothes were comfy, and he had been delighted to see that the underwear had come in an unopened package, as he didn't like walking about with no boxers on, it always allowed all of his bits to be seen, if Dudley were to trip him during a game of Freak Hunting. The clothing was soft, and he never wanted to take any of them off again. He just couldn't help the smile that took over his face, as he was lead into the dining room, with Imari wrapped loosely around him, in a reassuring hold that made him feel a warmth inside his chest.

Being lead to the table, Harry sat down, as Severus went through the same door he had last night. Harry unsurely twisted his hands in his lap, the excited feeling in him turning to a nervous buzz as he wondered what he should do. Should he get up and make his freakish self-useful? Or sit around and face punishment for being lazy? He felt Imari tighten around him in a comfortable hold, his little head poking out once more. "Everything's fine," he assured the boy he has twined his coils around, nudging his cheek with his snout, and flicking his tongue out amiably. "Do you need anything to eat?" He asked his friend, making sure that the snake was getting everything he needed. Imari flicked his tongue out, "I can wait, the bird I ate yesterday is still being digested," he explained under Harry's judging eye, flicking his tail. Harry nodded, as Imari slipped under his shirt once more, and the man returned with two plates of food, and as he watched with wide eyes, two other plates floated behind him. Before he could stop himself, he hissed out in a soft voice, "Magic."

Hearing the snake-like hiss, Severus looked up at Harry in surprise, quickly hiding it as to keep the child from becoming too nervous to answer any of his questions. "I have had a variety of things made," he told the boy, making the floating plates seem like a normal thing for the boy to see. He stopped in front of the table, and set the plates in his hands, down onto the table, along with the floating plates with a flick of his wand. He observed how Harry's eyes caught the movement of his wand, as he casually sat down, a platter with tea and creamers walked in by one of the manor's house elves, Cherry. He smiled softly at the awe and slight confusion as the boy's green eyes looked at the house elf in wonder. "Thank you, Cherry," Severus thanked in his deep voice, the little elf in its fairly decent clothes bowed at him, and left, not having a name to address the child next to him. Harry turned his confused eyes onto the person he had come to slowly trust within his 24-hour stay in this manor.

Severys busied himself with the tea, trying not to make a big deal about magic, slowly introducing him to the more simple parts of the wizarding world. "That was Cherry, she is known as a house elf," he told the boy, making his own cup of tea, as well as doing Harry's with the amount of milk that he had seen the boy use last night. He had added some calming drought as he had done last night, not wanting the boy to panic and not take magic well. He looked up at the boy with a small smile, his dark eyes meeting the bright green. "I was doing magic with these plates, a simple floating charm," he told the boy, taking his tea and blowing on it, deciding against using a cooling charm, as to keep from overwhelming the child. He took a sip, and set it down to cool down naturally, as he dug into his eggs and sausage patty, along with his toast. He looked up to see the boy still watching him, his eyes full of a strange hunger, a hunger that he generally saw in the eyes of a Ravenclaw that was stuck without the answer to a question or given a blank piece of paper. Wiping his mouth with his napkin, he sighed, You will learn how to do such magic when you attend Hogwarts, a magical school," he told the boy, taking a sip of his slightly cooled tea.

Harry bit at the inside of his cheek at the half-assed answer, wanting to really know what magic is after years of being treated horribly for it and finally meeting a decent person with the same powers. Working up his courage, he licked his lips and spoke the question that was on his tongue. "Is magic truly good?" He asked the man, not knowing that he was speaking in the tongue of the snake to the man, as loudly as he could. Severus quirked an eyebrow again, having heard the same hisses that had come from Voldemort when he talked to the snakes that he used as spies, controlling them. To hear these louder hisses from the boy, without the prompting of a snake, he wondered how the boy learned to speak in parseltongue. "I," Severus trailed off unsurely, he gave a small nod to himself, deciding to tell Harry the truth, "I can't understand what you're saying," Severus told the boy in a gentle voice, watching the confusion set on his features. "You're not speaking English, however, it is brave of you to try and speak now," Severus praised the boy gently, as he explained the problem.

Harry furrowed his eyebrows, not understanding how he couldn't be talking English. Harry felt Imari shift under his shirt, and he saw how Severus pointedly stared at his shirt, "Is that your snake under there?" He heard the man ask him, and Harry gave a subtle gulp. Imari whacked him playfully on the side with his tail, almost chidingly after he stayed motionless for a few minutes. Harry gave a small nod and felt Imari wind his way up through the armhole of the shirt that he was borrowing. He watched as the large snake gracefully slithered onto the table, with Severus barely clinging onto his as he almost dropped it from surprise. "My, what a large creature you are," Severus thought aloud, having not realized how large the snake was before it was revealed to him. Imari let out a soft laugh, and looked back at Harry, flicking his tongue at the child. Harry felt a smile quirk the corners of his lips as he saw the humor in his friend's eyes. "Humans with their fascination of the simplest of things," Imari hissed slowly, going back to Harry and comfortably wrapping himself around his neck.

Severus watched the interaction with masked curiosity, Imari flicked his tongue out with amusement, finding no malice in the man's emotions or his posture. Harry gave a sudden giggle as Imari tickled his neck with his tail, making Severus smile. "Close I see," he mused, chuckling on how Harry jumped, as though he had forgotten that the man was there. "We shall try to find a way to have a two-way conversation later," Severus informed the boy, who had adverted his attention to him from his friend. Severus continued on, gesturing with his hand towards the food on the table, "I believe that you should try to eat as much as you can." Harry flashed another grateful smile at the kind man, giving a nod. "Would you like me to have Cherry bring a rat or a bird for your friend as well?" Severus questioned him, holding his tongue from adding an unneeded 'Mr. Potter' at the end of the sentence. Harry looked towards Imari, who gave a hiss, saying no, so he shook his head and grabbed the plate with apple slices on it. He happy chewed on the piece of fruit, as the two ate in silence, the only sound disrupting it when Imari or Harry hissed at the other, the two feeling a little chatty besides the idea that they were talking in front of a stranger.

After grabbing some toast, and drinking his tea, Harry felt full and calm. The extra weight from Imari acted sort of like a safety blanket, making him feel like no harm could come for him while he sat in this dark house. Severus sipped his tea, waiting for the boy to finish, as Cherry popped in, and took his plate, as well as the few leftovers. He tried to identify what type of snake that the boy had wrapped around his neck. Once he saw that he was done, and they both finished off their tea, Severus stood up, looking out of the large window at the sky outside. "I believe that today is the perfect weather to go outside," Severus mused, looking at Harry with a tilt of his head. "Didn't I say that I would take you to the gardens?" Severus inquired from the boy in a playful manner, his tone light. Harry's eyes seemed to sparkle with anticipation at the idea of going outside, as he nodded enthusiastically. Severus gave a chuckle, "Alright, alright," he murmured, leading the way to the wide, arching set of doors that lead to the back patio.

Once he pushed the heavy door open, he held it for Harry, and let it close as he continued to the back door, and unlocked it with a simple Alohomora. With the door unlocked, there was nothing stopping Harry from excitedly prancing past the tall man. Severus let loose a low chuckle at the sight of the boy, fluttering among the flowers like a hummingbird. Severus moved to a bench in the shade, taking to watching over the boy as he darted around the ancient gardens. Calling out, Severus warned him about the more violent magical flowers. "They might just eat your finger or so," Severus told him, watching as the boy looked up from the flowers that he was leaning over with wide eyes, pulling his hands close to his chest uncertainly. "Not all of them you silly child," Severus told him, "Go back to your dancing and singing, won't you?" Severus waved the boy on, watching as the snake hissed something into his ear, that made the boy beam merrily and give a wave back to the man.

Severus gave a fond smile, as he watched the boy go back to cheerfully working with the flowers, a large contrast to the boy he had seen in the dreary house behind him. He looked around at the nature surrounding them, he found himself exhaling deeply. He supposed that only the loving fingers of the magic of nature could heal the tender wounds caused to the soul. Merlin knows that he himself had felt similar healing.

Chapter Text

The just waking sun beating down on his thin back, Harry had happily tended to the magical and normal flowers in the man's garden. Imari had kept him from losing a finger at one time when the man couldn't get to him in time. He glanced back at the man in the shadows, his light green nightgown almost blending into the floral surroundings. "You should really ask him for his name again since you've obviously forgotten it," Imari suddenly piped up from his position above his head, dangling on a low branch of the many trees scattered around the garden. Harry rolled his eyes, at the snake, his dark scales glinting in the harsh sunlight, he wiped off the sweat on his forehead, frowning at how sweaty and out of breath he was already. "I can't speak English, remember you prat?" Harry retorted in a small voice laced with sass, not really sure on how that worked since he had thought that he had been speaking English since he had been able to babble. Imari was quiet for a few minutes, so Harry squinted up at his friend, only to see that he had relocated to ground, his front hovering over the ground.

"What are you doing?" He asked the snake as he quirked an eyebrow, Imari was bobbing his head at some spot in the near distance, behind a patch of white flowers. Harry looked up and blinked in surprise when he saw a flash of red. "It's a Garden Gnome," Imari explained in a hushed voice, and gave Harry a funny look, "I am feeling quite peckish," he stated simply, making Harry give a surprised giggle at the snake's antics. "Should you be eating something like that?" He asked nervously, looking towards the man in the shadows, observing how he was relaxing on the stone bench, his eyes seemingly closed, his head tilted towards the sky. "Dare me to?" Imari jokingly asked, before briskly slithering towards the now rustling bush a few yards from them. Harry's eyes widened as a high pitched shriek came from the creature that Imari had bitten into, making both him and the man who had rescued him jump at the sudden noise.

Harry quickly stood up, faster than the older man, and sprinted towards the bush, while yelling at Imari to stop in Parseltongue. "Let the thing go," he cried out in a worried hiss, not wanting his friend to be punished for eating something he shouldn't have."Why don't you hunt some of those noisy birds or the scurrying mice?" He begged as the screaming increased in volume before it became silent once more. Severus had stayed back for a moment, letting Harry deal with whatever trouble his snake had gotten into when he felt the unsettlement caused by the ominous silence penetrate the once hesitantly joyful air. "Is everything alright over there?" He called out, taking a few steps forward, knocking Harry out of whatever stupor he had fallen into. He saw the black locks bounce up and down with his nod and stayed where he was, putting up a faux air of nonchalant ease as he turned to look like he was just observing the flowers nearby.

Harry picked up a stick, ready to part the bush to get to his friend. His hand shook with nerves, as his thoughts quickly became negative. Could a Garden Gnome, whatever that was, have killed his dearest friend? His fringe fell into his eyes, hiding his unshed tears as he nervously bit the nails on his free hand. The bushes parted, as Imari lazily slithered out of the forage. He unabashedly showed off a relatively medium sized bump, but Harry could have cared less, as he gave a sharp cry. That cry almost made Severus rush over from his nerves being on edge, since he couldn't exactly see what Harry was seeing at his position, but he relaxed once more when he spotted the slight unclenching of the boy's tense limbs. "You fatty!" Harry hissed loudly, his fists coming to rub at his tearful eyes, "At least I'm not like a twig," Imari hissed in a playful tone, as he tasted the air. He knew that his actions wouldn't really make the man act violently, as Gnomes were seen as more of a pest than anything. Harry gave a shout of indignation, but soon fell into soft giggles as Imari sluggishly wrapped his thick coils around the boys thin body in a playful manner.

The comforting feeling of such coils almost made Harry fall over with the almost dead weight on his shoulders, yet provided a sense of tranquility for his constantly weary mind. "If you were any fatter, I would surely be crushed to death," Harry huffed out with annoyance laced thickly in his voice. Imari gave a chuckle like hiss, moving down from Harry's shoulders to wrap around his torso. Harry straightened up, putting his hands on his hips and furrowing his brow. "Now, where did we place my glowing flowers?" He muttered to himself. Imari nodded towards the man, "I believe Severus might have saved them from when we got here," Harry quirked an eyebrow at him. He cast a nervous eye at the man, and with the encouragement of his friend, he shuffled over to the man. He snatched a flower from a bush on his way and stopped once he was at his side, making sure to stay out of arms reach. Severus looked over at the boy that had stopped a pace away from his side and turned slowly to face him. Spotting the flower gripped lightly in his hand, Severus smiled softly, "Hmm, I suppose we'll have to do charades to figure out what your question is," Severus thought aloud as he knelt to Harry's level, chuckling at the amused look that crept into his green eyes at the silly idea.

Severus looked at the flower in his hand and hummed, "That's a Harebell you have there if that's what you're asking," he informed the young boy, who shook his head and made a wide gesture with his free hand. He pointed at himself and the flower, then seemed to become embarrassed as he tried to say the word he was thinking in English. "Mine?" Harry stuttered, the word coming out with a subtle hissing accent. Severus' eyes widened in realization, as he stood up, "I see," he gave a sudden snap of his fingers while calling out a house elves name, something along the lines of "Mipsy!" Startling Harry with the abrupt word and movement. Harry heard the slightest crack with his sensitive ears, clutching Imari as he turned wide eyes on a house elf that was dressed similarly to Cherry, with their decent clothing and his leathery face. Severus made eye contact with Harry with a slight smile, "Mipsy is the main handler of the garden, I am sure that he placed your flowers somewhere safe, yes?" Severus asked the elf with an inquisitive tone, the old house elf widely trusted to know what to do with any sort of plants that he was placed with.

Mipsy had been staring at the head of the Prince house with a bewildered expression, as his master had surely never worn his nightgowns out of the safety of his bedroom. "If I may inquire sir, have the others forgotten to prepare your clothing for the day?" Mipsy asked the man in a bewildered tone, his large brown eyes looking up at his kind and fair master. If it had been the old head of the house, he would surely have been punished for such a question, possibly even beheaded. Severus rolled his eyes, "No Mipsy, today is just a day for lazing about," Severus stated simply, waiting for the elf to finish his good-natured teasing and chuckling. "Why of course my lord," Mipsy declared, turning to the young boy and taking in his somewhat frightened and cautious posture. "I have indeed taken care of your flowers, Mister?" Mipsy trailed off looking between the two human beings politely. Severus cleared his throat, "Mister Evans will work just fine," he told the elf with a small glance to the boy, who gave him a confused look.

"Ah, Ms. Lily Evans son I suppose," Mipsy said in a delighted tone, as for the past week his Lord had been planning how to get said boy out of an abusive household. Mipsy and the others could relate to the boy, as their past Lords and Ladies had dealt corporeal punishment out quite freely, sometimes abusing the elves to the point to where they could barely form complete sentences, or would bring harm to themselves. Those elves had been sent to a Saint Mungos like hospital for house elves, where they began their long journey to heal and sometimes to fade away surrounded by goblin caretakers, who showed great kindness to them. Severus gave a pleased nod, as a shy smile came to the young boy's face at the mention of a family member who seemed to have loved him. Mipsy turned to Harry and gave a small bow, "Pleasure to meet you young Evans," he greeted formally, and once he straightened up he gave a small smile, "I shall be getting you your flowers then?" He asked the boy with his kindly, high pitched voice. Harry gave a small nod, his cheeks aflame at being bowed to and addressed in such a respectful manner.

Harry jumped when Mipsy vanished, and came back as fast, holding a pot with his flowers in it. "Here you are," Mipsy bowed once more with the plants held out towards the black haired boy. Before accepting the pot, Harry gave a flustered bow to the elf, surprising both the creature and the man in front of him. "Um, Thank you, sir," Harry murmured in a quiet voice, saying the select few words that were beaten into his system. "Why it is no problem at all Mister Evans," Mipsy beamed at the boy, as he handed the pot off to the boy. "Well, I must leave once more to deal with the Dragon Snaps," he told them, giving a small bow as he vanished once more. Harry turned to the tall man and smiled timidly at him, " Thank you, sir," Harry said with the same quiet tone, quite pleased with himself that he could speak in front of the adult, not having to worry about the strange feelings that arose when he thought of talking in front of people. With those three words, Harry tried to convey that he was grateful for everything that the man had done for him, as Imari gave a pleased hiss to the man, while Harry gave a clumsy bow in his direction, assuming that he was required to do so if the man was a Lord as Mipsy had said.

Severus shook his head at the young boy, "It was the right thing to do," he told the boy with a quiet voice, understanding the deeper meaning of the boy's words. Severus placed a tentative hand on his shoulder, the weight warm on the boney thing. "There is no need to bow to me as well, for we are equals," Severus stated in a calm voice, his dark eyes looking into his green. "Mipsy and the others only do so because they kind of hold me in a heroic light for not treating them in a horrible fashion," Severus told him, in a patient voice, turning slightly to inspect the Primroses that he was smelling. "You are not expected to treat me like some strict authority figure," Severus told him in a light voice, the words, 'Until you're in school,' in the back of his mind, as he surely wouldn't play favorites in his classes.
Even with the worst cases, he knew that his students wanted to feel normal, and to be normal, he believed that they must all be treated the same. Unless they acted in a way that endangered the class, then he had to put his foot down to say, and do a balancing act of being harsh and comforting for students that had similar lives to Harry. With children who had a more easier home life, he would be slightly more harsh towards them, but never to a point to where it became unhealthy for the student or caused any emotional damage. Despite the rumors of his detentions, he would never lay his hands on a child, whether they came from an abusive household or not.

Severus gave a small nod to himself, and looked at the boy, a smile playing on his tight lips. "Why don't you go back to exploring the garden?" Severus suggested lightly, moving his hand in a slow manner, and ruffling his hair in an affectionate gesture that would possibly make James Potter faint if the man was to see it. Severus' smile grew at the pleased expression on Harry's face, his hand stroking his beloved snake as he looked up at him with hopeful eyes. "I think I saw a group of Garden Gnomes that looked positively delicious," Imari hissed suddenly in Harry's ear, his head bobbing in a silly manner as Harry let out a string of giggles, and ducked out from under Severus' kind hand. He felt Imari slide off of his little body, and they both ran off, Harry throwing Severus a gleeful expression over his shoulder as he followed his friend deeper into the garden with his flowers in hand.

Severus smiled at the sight of a full blown grin on the child's gaunt facial features, wishing to the strongest star that things will continue going well in this boy's hard life. He turned an observant eye back to his flowers, listening to the steady hum of wards around the garden, as he contemplated how having a child in the manor would work out, and if Dumbledore would make him a permanent caretaker for the child, though he doubted the last would work out well.

---Page Break---

Time flew by fast for the two with only minor incidents, such as Harry stumbling into a pit of Devil's Snare and having both Mipsy and Severus fretting over him and the small scraps he had gotten from falling from a tree that had tried to shake him off. Harry sat on the extravagantly large chair, chatting with Imari in a comfortable manner while Severus read a book, the house elves preparing a late lunch for the pair. Severus had long since changed into proper clothes, remarking that he could only allow himself a few hours of laziness. Harry was also eyeing the book that Severus was reading, interested in the thick tome though he couldn't read the letters on the cover. He also spotted a thinner book on the patio table, that had a picture of a child with some pieces of technology in their ears.

"Imari," Harry hissed at the snake in a soft tone, the snake laying on the top of the umbrella, as he was sunbathing. "Can you tell me the titles of the books that Severus is reading?" He asked his friend curiously, drawing his knees closer to his chin, watching the droplets of water from his cup of water fall down the tall glass and drip onto the table with half closed eyes. He was quite tired, but his curiosity had always been strong, despite how hard he had tried to curb it. He watched how his friend's long body caused fascinating patterns form in the shade under the umbrella as he dropped his head next to Severus' shoulder, making the man jump slightly. He gave an amused huff, giving Imari a hesitant pat before turning back to his book. Imari turned his attention to the books and slowly read them off. "Hmm, there's one on British Sign Language for parents, and the other is in Russian or something," Imari told him, nodding towards the thick tome, "Probably about Potions considering the diagrams," he guessed as he pulled his thick body back onto the umbrella, and fell down onto the top of Harry's chair, and curled around his shoulders.

Harry hummed under his breath, relishing in the nice heat coming off of his friend's warm scales. "Probably going to learn BSL, yeah?" Harry said in an offhand manner, not really caring about talking in any sort of English at the moment, as he was happy where he was right now. Imari did an imitation of rolling his eyes, giving an amused hiss as he flexed and relaxed his coils around his friend. Lunch arrived soon, brought in by Cherry, as she gave a curtsy to Harry and Severus as the food popped onto the table with her appearance. Harry gave a hissed thanks with Severus' English version and grabbed one of the small finger sandwiches that rested on the platter. He hummed softly as he ate the creamy egg salad sandwich, enjoying the pleasantly plain tasting food compared to the disgusting yogurt and other food stuff that he had to eat with the Dursley's. Severus was writing something, eating in a distracted manner, one that made Harry giggle softly as he watched the somewhat loose filling of the sandwich get on his fingers as he wasn't paying attention to where he put his hand.

"Find me funny, huh?" Severus mused once he finished his sandwich, wiping his hand on a napkin as he took a sip of what he told Harry was pumpkin juice. Harry gave a shy nod, paired with his small smile. Severus chuckled at the reaction, but soon slid the piece of paper over to the boy. "I would like to see how much English you can read and write in, once we are finished with lunch," Severus told him once the paper was half way towards him, the pencil sitting beside it as he grabbed another sandwich and began to eat it. Harry looked at the paper with interest, the words unfamiliar to him, and his eyes squinting to make out the blurry words. Observing this, Severus came to several conclusions, such that the boy probably wasn't wearing prescription glasses, and most likely couldn't read the simple sentences, them being 'The girl ran fast. The boy swung high. The dog chased the rabbit.' Severus allowed Harry to finish the sandwich that he had been eating and saw that he was full. Grabbing the pitcher of water, he filled the boy's dwindling water and sat back. "Seems as though we'll have to do some lessons," Severus told the boy in a relaxed voice after a few moments of comfortable silence with the summer breeze flowing over them. Harry looked up at the man, a mixture of expressions on his face, varying from perplexed to scared. Severus gave a reassuring shake of his head, "It's nothing painful," Severus told the boy, watching how he seemed to have tensed up like a rabbit listening for the prowling wolf. "Like my lessons," Imari hissed helpfully in Harry's ear, making the boy relax once more as he brought a hand up to stroke one of the thick coils around him.

Harry gave a nod to Severus' inquiring gaze, settling back into his chair. "I will have to contact the headmaster of the magical school that I told you about," Severus told him, "As well as some of my coworkers, since they would probably have my neck if I decided to try and teach you their own subjects," Severus gave an exaggerated roll of his eyes. Harry relaxed even more at the silly motion of the tall man, smiling softly. Severus leaned slightly towards him, keeping his body posture non-threatening and friendly, "Additionally, we will see about getting you proper glasses," he told the boy, raising an eyebrow as Harry ducked his head at the friendly gaze, feeling slightly embarrassed at one of his many flaws being pointed out blatantly. Severus leaned back, taking a sip of his cool drink, thinking of what to say at the almost defensive posture. "Not everyone can have perfect vision," Severus stated, making Harry look up at the man with anxious eyes, as he hunched into himself, waiting for those two words to come from the man's lips. He inwardly berated himself for trusting an adult, as he knew that only freaks had such simple imperfections. He had just hoped that the man wouldn't have noticed, thought that the glasses were working in making him normal. "I mean," Severus' deep voice caught Harry's attention once more, pulling him out of the self-depreciating thoughts for a second. "Everyone is a little different in their own way," Severus told the boy, his dark brown eyes intense and capturing Harry's green in their intensity. "Whatever your aunt and uncle may have said, being different is a good thing," Severus continued, taking a deep breath as he thought back to thoughts he had, had implemented into him in his younger years. Thoughts that had made him see his best friend in such a way, that he had become intolerant to such differences.

"If everyone was the same, the world would be a boring place," he told Harry, "Also," he licked his lips, briefly flicking his eyes to the look at a pot of lilies that he kept by the doorway to the patio. "You have your mother's eyes," Severus shared with the boy, watching as the boy's face lit up at the new information, that hungry look returning at full force, as though he wanted to know more right this moment. Severus knew that he wasn't ready to tell the boy everything about Lily Evans, but he could easily push his feelings to the side if the boy asked him. He also knew, that he would definitely not be the right one to tell many good things about the boy's father, though he hoped that his old bully wouldn't be too glorified to the point that he was seen as some god. "I could show you some pictures before bed?" Severus suggested, thinking of the large photo album that he had on one of the shelves on the bookcase part of his desk. Harry gave an enthusiastic nod at the idea, craving for a face to attach to his relatively unknown mother. Leaning back in their chairs, Severus observed the boy's body language seriously, making sure that he had made up for his blunder. "Would you like to continue playing outside, or go inside?" He asked the child with a more comforting voice, a voice that wouldn't make him feel trapped or forced to do anything.

Harry looked over at the full bushes, eyeing the plush grass. He rubbed his eyes grudgingly, making Severus chuckle at the bunched up face as the boy scowled at his own bodies signs of exhaustion. "You may take a nap if you would like?" Severus suggested, "The weather should be nice all of this week and the next," he stated in a conversational tone, taking another sip of his pumpkin juice. Harry blushed slightly at being so easily read, yet nodded at the offer to sleep in the soft, welcoming bed from last night. Severus pushed himself out of the chair, and lead the boy back up to his room, turning to him before leaving the room. Harry looked up at the man from under the thin sheet, the suffocating comforter pushed down towards the foot of the bed. "I'll be down in my lab if you will need me," Severus paused for a second to take in consideration of how the boy would possibly call for him, or anyone if they couldn't understand him yet. "If it's because you are hungry, you may just walk to the dining room and Cherry will provide you with a snack," Severus told him in his steady voice, making sure that Harry nodded, showing that he remembered where said room was with a thumbs up.

Severus kept the door ajar and walked leisurely down the grand, dark wood staircase leading to the foyer. Instead of going down to the room holding his Potions equipment, Severus instead walked to the study that was across the open living room. He turned the shining brass door knob and closed the door behind him. He brought himself in front of the gaping fireplace, ignoring the fancy wallpaper and golden artifacts from the past residents of the manor, he kneeled on the cool black stone in front of the mouth, floo powder clutched in a fist. He threw the powder in, the flames erupting instantly. Severus yelled out the necessary title of 'Dumbledore's Office,' sticking his head in for a fire call once his request was accepted. Letting his eyes adjust to the drastic change of lighting from going from the Prince study to the headmaster's office, Severus felt his lips settle into a scowl by habit, as he found himself looking at a seated Dumbledore, sipping on tea in a pair of frilly robes decorated with unicorns and other light creatures and imagery. "Why, Severus, I was not expecting your call," Dumbledore said as a way of greeting his coworker, smiling softly with a kind twinkle in his blue eyes. "What seems to be the topic of this conversation?" Dumbledore asked in his aloof manner, making Severus roll his eyes and huff in annoyance.

"I have successfully extracted Potter from that horrible place," Severus informed him in his sarcastic voice, "I hope that you plan to do something to those atrocious muggles, or else I will," Severus added quickly while the old man gaped at him. Dumbledore sat up attentively as he shook himself out of his shock. "Why, that is perhaps the most rash I have ever seen you act, my dear boy," Dumbledore teased, briefly recalling past times where Severus took an almost obsessive amount of time for his plotting and weaving his way from one mission to another. Severus' lips pulled up in a snarl, making Dumbledore shake his head, "I apologize for my lack of focus," Dumbledore said with a guilty face, knowing that he had more important things to wonder and ask about. "How is the boy?" He asked him with a serious voice, setting his tea down to turn his entire concentration on the young man fire calling him. Severus smoothed out his expressions into something gentle, showcasing his true emotions for the headmaster for the first time since his joining the light side. "I worry for him," Severus sighed, his deep, earthy eyes becoming slightly distant. "He can not speak much English, nor read it," he explained, this information making Dumbledore's chapped lips pull down into a concerned frown, considering that the lad would have to go into first year in September.

"He can understand it just fine though," Severus made sure to add, not sure if he should include the added fact of the boy being a Parselmouth. Severus didn't bite his lip or show any other sort of sign that one would typically show when withholding information, though he did reason with himself that it would come up sooner or later. "He is fluent in Parseltongue, and I haven't seen much of his physical wounds, nor have I gotten a good idea if he is suffering from any sort of mental illness or break from such a harsh childhood," Severus continued on in his assessment of the child. Dumbledore ran a wrinkled hand through his white beard, his brows furrowed in thought while Severus waited for the man to give his thoughts. "I will see about setting up a meeting with Poppy soon, possibly this week if she is not too busy," Dumbledore stated in a firm voice, earning an agreeing nod from Severus. "How are his social skills, I mean," Dumbledore paused slightly, rubbing at his crinkled forehead, "You have only taken him in recently, yes?" The man questioned curiously, earning a nod. "Last night in fact," Severus informed him, "He has been shy and cautious around me, but if I continue to be quiet and gentle, he will most likely come to trust me deeply," Severus mused aloud, taking a little guess into the boy's character, and comparing him to how other abused students have taken to his softer treatment towards them.

Dumbledore gave a pleased nod, as he could see no one better to take Harry under their wing. As senile as he makes people believe him to be, Dumbledore was actually quite a good judge of character and could sometimes make accurate guesses to their underlying motives. "I will also see with Minerva if she would teach him how to write and read, seeing as she does tutoring during the summer anyways," Dumbledore intoned, giving an amused chuckle at how restless his long time friend becomes during the summer break. That woman could be harsh and tight-fisted, but she truly did love teaching children. Severus nodded in agreement, "I can give him lessons on more basic muggle things such as measuring and mathematics, along with the speaking part of his English studies," Severus told the older man, his thoughts going to how he could join those lessons with some Potion 101 courses to get him used to how things such as medication are done in the Wizarding World, along with Harry being more comfortable to speak in front of him. "I will also have to take him clothes shopping, and get his school supplies," Severus added as an afterthought, "Along with eyeglasses," Severus reminded himself.

Albus sighed, shaking his head, "It baffles me how Petunia could have neglected such basic human needs," Albus admitted in a weary voice, taking into consideration that the boy probably didn't have vaccinations for even muggle diseases such as chicken pox or the flu with the idea of unprescribed glasses. Severus gave a growl at the mention of the woman, his previously soft facial features turning to blazing hatred. "She simply doesn't understand them, since she has obviously proven that she can't possibly be human," Severus exclaimed in a heated voice, "Such vermin as her and her husband should be placed into a pound!" He said in his cold tone, his voice steady and soft. "Or better yet Azkaban, where they can rot with those of their ilk," Severus ranted, a malicious glint coming to his dark eyes as his face turned slightly to the side, his hair falling to cover parts of his face. Used to hateful rants from the dark young man, Dumbledore hushed him in a soothing voice, "They shall be brought to justice," Dumbledore declared in a firm voice, the clear promise allowing the hateful grip on Severus' heart to relax slightly. Dumbledore took a sip of tea from his light green tea cup, the dark vine pattern curled and shifting around the porcelain cup. A Christmas gift from Pomona. Dumbledore hummed softly to fill in the silence that stretched between them, allowing Severus to get a bearing over himself, his emotions returning back behind his craftily made walls. Severus brushed back pieces of his greased hair as he looked back towards Dumbledore, his brown eyes less like the winter cold ground, and resembling a cup of warm rum, "Have his parents left a vault for his school years?" Severus asked the man, moving his focus towards more logical thoughts rather than the emotional tidal wave that had crashed over him.

Dumbledore gave a nod, setting his teacup back onto the brown plate, and onto the white stand beside his purple chair. "I believe no deposits or withdrawals have been made in any of the vaults since their death," Dumbledore assured the man, having knowledge of how some pureblood vaults like the Prince family's could have a mind of their own at sometimes. "I hope to use Harry's schooling vault, considering that the Prince is well known for being full of more tainted artifacts," Severus told the man, knowing that he didn't have to explain how some of the money could quite possibly be cursed by some vengeful relative or another. Dumbledore nodded, knowing how Severus had worked hard to create his own personal vault to keep from using the blood money. "I will contact the Potter family vault holder before any trips are made, and have them send a key to you," Dumbledore told the other man, his wrinkled hand going back to carding through his tangled beard. Severus nodded his thanks and observed the man as he drank from his teacup once more. "If I may inquire?" Severus cleared his throat, his voice full of subtle curiosity, making the older man raise an eyebrow at him.

"Inquire what may you?" Dumbledore jumbled the previous question in a playful voice, making the black haired man shake his head in barely contained amusement. "Who do you plan on hiring for the Defense position this year?" Severus asked him, the question resulting in Albus casting a pitiful gaze at the man, a gaze that easily made him scowl in return. "As I told you before Severus, the curse hasn't been broken yet," Dumbledore told him, referencing the old curse that one Tom Riddle Jr. nee Voldemort had cast on the position years ago. "As much as I know that you would like to teach that course, I can not allow you to fall into harm's way," Dumbledore told the man in a firm voice, remembering the youngers past self-harm and loathing during his depressive state of mind after Lily's death. Dumbledore knew that he couldn't change the past, and Merlin knew that he wished the hardest that he could for his dear students. Especially Severus and Sirius. But he would not allow this one to fall back into horrible habits and destructive thoughts. Severus hid a mournful expression, replacing it with one of resignation as he sighed, "Of course, Albus," he replied in a soft voice, turning his brown eyes from the floor where they had drifted off to in the brief silence. As much as Severus wanted to be independent, he knew that he would probably always need that little helpful nudge towards happier and more positive thoughts and habits for what might seem like an easy thing for others to do.

Albus nodded, reassuring himself slightly, as he took another sip of his tea. "Quirinus Quirrell will be coming to take the position after traveling a bit from last year," Albus informed the man, making Severus' raise an eyebrow. "How does one change from teaching Muggle Studies to having an interest in DADA?" Severus murmured, his eyes narrowing in suspicion. Albus held his hands up in a telltale sign of claiming to have no idea when Severus turned his gaze to look accusingly at the sometimes meddling old man. "He wrote me whilst in Albania after a vampire attack," Dumbledore claimed, his posture and facial features indicating that he wasn't lying or giving a partial answer. Satisfied that he wasn't being tricked, Severus allowed himself to soften his gaze at the headmaster. Seeing this gradual change, Albus settled his hands in his lap, and gave a small smile, his eyes twinkling playfully. "Since it had been awhile since your last mission," Dumbledore intoned in a grandiose voice, leaning towards the fireplace, "And I wouldn't like my trainees to become soft," Severus scoffed at this, "I was hoping that you could keep an eye on Mister Quirrell, as well as Harry, considering some of the arrangements that I am making with a Nicholas Flamel this year." With this vague sentence, Dumbledore winked at the slightly confused spy, as he went between curious and affronted at his skills being questioned.

"Goodbye my dear boy," Dumbledore exclaimed jovially, chuckling to himself at the determined expression that slipped through Severus' usual blank mask. He hoped that Quirrell wasn't going to be a threat, though he knew that his trusted spy would surely be able to handle the man if he was, for Severus could never leave such a mystery unsolved without getting most, if not all, of the answers that he sought. Albus' loud exclamation made Severus blink out of his already racing thoughts, and mumble a quick goodbye in return as he pulled his head out of the green flames. He absentmindedly wiped off the dust on his shoulders, his knees cracking slightly at being held in such an uncomfortable position for so long. He always forgot to use the little cushion that rested beside the elegant armchair near him. Standing up briskly, Severus cast a tempus, and seeing that Cherry was waiting outside the study door, he hurriedly walked off to the dining room, planning to join his temporary charge for dinner.

Chapter Text

After a few days under Severus' care, he noticed a subtle change in the quiet boy. Of course, he could not speak English, as that would be quite a feat in such a short time, but the boy was more relaxed in his presence. He couldn't help the flinch here and there, and Severus never lay a hand on him without the boy's clear permission. The gardens greatly helped pull him out of his shy little shell, as both man and child bonded over planting since Severus had to look after his own herbal ingredients for some of the potions that he makes. Once Pomfrey wrote that she was free the coming Thursday, Severus made sure that the boy knew what was going to happen. The talk hadn't gone that well, but Severus had reassured him, saying that she would only be checking to see if he was well after staying with the Dursley's and give him the needed vaccines. No prying, nor abusing of the information that she would have the boy's condition. With the promised privacy, Severus had gotten Harry to come to a hesitant agreement to allow the nurse to examine him.

They were sitting in the tea room, drinking black tea and eating a few scones that the elves had baked. Imari was spread out on the back of the large straight-backed chair that Harry was sitting in stiffly, his eyes flitting around the airy room in a nervous manner. Severus' dark eyes were watching him closely, his posture relaxed as he bit into one of the other biscuits that sat with the scones on the large, elaborate platter. "Poppy is a lovely woman," Severus told the boy in a soothing voice, knowing that the boy had a past with people who never kept their word or thought that someone who was decent actually had an ugly face. Those flickering eyes looked to the relatively pale man, looking at him with a barely hidden panic. Imari winded down towards the boy, his smooth, scaly face wavering before his own. "I will not allow her to hurt you," Imari told him in a solemn voice, his tongue flicking out fast, his fangs and deathly black mouth flashing with promise as his black beady eyes observed the boy's expressive facial features.

Imari had never seen this much emotion on the boy's face. He turned his head slightly towards Severus. He kept the top half of his body in the air as he began to coil around Harry, as he scrutinized the man before them. This human has made his friend open up in such a short amount of time, Imari was frightened that he would betray them in some sadistic way to hurt Harry. He felt a hiss build up in the back of his throat as he rested on Harry's collarbone in a protective manner, knowing that the man would read him well enough. Harry found almost instant relief with his trusted and only friend reassurance and posture. He let out a sigh that came from the bottom of his gut as he allowed himself to settle back into the rigid chair and actually take a bite from one of the more sweeter biscuits.

Severus didn't mind the threatening stare that came from the snake, more so, he would gladly endorse it. He believed that the boy would definitely need a person, or creature, as protective as it to get by in his hard life. He turned his dark eyes to the old grandfather's clock, knowing that Poppy was supposed to come into the nearby floo that sat a few feet away, the chair she would possibly sit in, set near his own seat. Severus assumed that she could also move them to a different room, seeing as something that could become serious as a checkup would be improper for a tea room. Just as the clock chimed as it turned to one o'clock, the fire flamed green, making Harry jump at the sudden movement, though he knew it would do such a thing. Poppy came bustling out with her white uniform dress, her small heels clicking on the stone platform surrounding the fireplace as she held her white bag full of the necessary vaccines and equipment needed, muggle and magical. Her pale eyes looked around the well-lighted tea room, the wide windows open with the dark curtains pulled to the side. She gave a respectful nod to Severus in greeting, before slowly turning to Harry, making sure that all of her movements weren't rushed or sudden. "Hello Mister Evans," she greeted the young boy, having read from Severus about making the boy look up more towards his kind mother than his father who had a past of being harsh and mean to others. She would have rather stuck with the proper name, but she knew how some abused victims could get the idea that since their parent treated others poorly, that they were destined to a fate similar to their victims from bad karma, or the idea that evil breeds evil and such.

"How are you today?" She asked the boy in a chipper voice, making her face open and friendly, as she barely rested her eyes on the snake for more than a minute or so. She pulled her bag over to the chair next to Severus once she got a cautious shrug in answer, turning her back briefly to the boy as she went through the motions of sitting down in the dark chair. She gingerly sat down, having been told that she couldn't instantly go onto the boy like a bird on a worm. "And your friend?" She tipped her white hat at the snake as she set it to the side, hoping to look less like some harsh authority figure that could be related to his previously mentioned aunt and uncle. She folded the well-worn fabric in her calloused hands, ignoring the shocked expression that she got from the tan boy. "Well, I hope," she commented in a relaxed voice when she only got silence as a reply. For this, Harry nodded more surely, swiveling his eyes to look at Imari with an unsure look in them. Imari flicked his tongue out at the woman, before hissing lowly enough that the madam couldn't hear, "She smells of healing and good will," before settling his head down on the boy's chest as a sign of trust.

Seeing this, Harry felt his frayed nerves relax at once, his trust in Imari's judgment making him unclench his jaw and shrug out the tension in his shoulders. Poppy took this all in stride as she examined him with skilled eyes, accessing his thin frame and limbs, as well as his small stature. She knew that he was supposed to be turning eleven in July, but the boy resembled a sickly six-year-old. She turned her eyes onto Severus, deciding to make small talk to allow the boy to get used to her, though such a concept as waiting to tend to an obviously hurting child made her feel slightly ill and wrong. "How are the potions coming along Severus?" She asked the man, getting the idea that the boy couldn't speak, and wanting to see how the man worked around that predicament since she hasn't yet worked with a young child who was mute, adults and teenagers who were forced mute with spells were something she could deal with, but not abuse victims who were mute for a totally different reason. Severus settled deeply into his chair and scratched his nose in a thoughtful manner. "Well enough, though I shall be starting to work on them more frequently Midsummer," he replied, turning to look at Harry with a small smile. "Hopefully, I will have our friend here joining me with some of the more easier brews, yes?" He suggested in a slightly off-handed manner, making the offer seem light and un-restricting. Poppy watched the interaction with clever eyes, taking mental notes on how Harry gave a shy smile in return while he nodded his head.

"Perhaps some of them can be used in the school year," Poppy added, her thin lips quirking to the side in a coy smile. "Why your mother was such a natural at brewing potions, maybe the skill will be awakened with Severus' help here," both lads in question blushed slightly. She patted Severus' arm good naturally knowing that the humble man was blushing at the sudden, endearing and reassuring comment from the woman that had practically taken him under her wing at his worst. She turned her cool blue eyes onto the young boy in front of her and observed the curious gleam that fell into those green eyes. "Perhaps," Severus agreed once he got rid of the barely there blush, schooling his flustered emotions so that they were hidden behind the calm mask that he wore around the timid boy. Harry didn't do much to hide his own emotions, as he peered at the nurse with a new, shy eye. "You knew my mother?" He asked her in a small voice, forgetting that she wouldn't understand the hisses that came from his lips. She tilted her head at him unsurely, making him blush in embarrassment when he realized that he had spoken his thoughts aloud. Severus flicked his gaze between the boy and the nurse, "I believe that he was asking you how you knew Lily," the man told her, taking the role of a weird sort of translator for the two when Harry gave a shy nod as both adults looked to him for confirmation.

Poppy smiled softly, leaning back in her chair, her pale eyes distant as her usually stern face softened. "Lily seldom came to the Infirmary wing for an injury, but often helped me with some of the wounded when she was older," Poppy told the boy, her voice holding a fondness for the person in mind. "She told me of her dreams of becoming a medicwitch in St. Mungo's, and with her strong Charms work and her fascination for learning healing spells, she could have easily made it," she gave a breathless chuckle, reaching for a handkerchief that she kept in her dress pocket as she felt her eyes become wet. She spared a glance towards Severus, looking to him to see if it was alright for her to mention how Lily married James in front of him, knowing that it was a touchy subject for the man. Severus easily swallowed his feelings past the lump in his throat, and gave a nod, knowing that it wouldn't be fair to keep all knowledge of the boy's father from him. Poppy sighed, shifting in her seat. "Once they graduated, Lily and James, your father," she reminded the boy, not knowing how much the man next to her had told the boy. Harry nodded in recognition at the name, and she pressed on, "Decided to have you almost once they left," she gave a small smile at the image of the happy pair, as she had been specifically called to assist in the birthing of the boy in front of her.

"They settled down in a little cottage on Godric's Hollow and had me act as a sort of at-home nurse, of course at the time they were in hiding as well," she told the boy, sparing him a glance, and seeing how focused he was to her story telling. She sighed at the confusion in his eyes, not even bothering to look at Severus since he was properly mulling over his mistakes and would not help the boy with his distant, guilty eyes. Drawing attention to such a subconscious sign would probably set the idea that Severus helped kill the boy's parents when she knew perfectly well that he was the one who tried to at least save Lily, and could have possibly allowed Harry to live. She had had to care for the man during his depressive state of mind, tending to self-inflicted wounds and acting as a counselor since he and Dumbledore were too paranoid to allow him to stay in St. Mungo's or see a private counselor. He had ranted on and on like a madman about an oath that he had forced Voldemort to make, as well as how a rat had been present, a traitor of in the Order. Though he could never see their face because of the glamours that Voldemort had given to hide their identity of said rat since they were skittish about being on the dark side. With this evidence being confirmed after she had brought the man to a more tranquil state of mind, and Poppy herself being someone who didn't romanticize things like this, she had been skeptical when Dumbledore decided to announce that it was the power of a mother's sacrifice that had protected Harry and leading to the reasoning behind the blood wards and the like.

Poppy found this outrageous, as she had the first-hand experience with orphans who had shortly died after a mother had sacrificed herself for them, on the battlefield and off of it. Sure there may be small bouts of magic that help with the pain of the wounds given to the child or protecting them for a few more hours, but none enough to kill a fully grown wizard such as Voldemort. She cleared her throat, pulling herself out of her thoughts with a shake of her head. "Hiding from the dark wizard who killed them, and many other families too," she told him in a soft voice, watching as those expressive green eyes filled with a sadness. "It was a war that ended that night," she told the boy with her firm voice, her eyes turning to the fireplace, where the flames were dying down slowly as the fuel that propelled them wasn't replenished, the ashes gathering at the bottom. "Such a feat is taken seriously in what I'd think, any world, but it saddens me to think of the countless other young witches and wizards like yourself have been left alone in this world," she ended her monolog with a forlorn sigh, rubbing her face with her calloused hands. See wished that she could sugar coat such a story, but knew that the boy would be better off knowing it beforehand before he was thrown into the spotlight.

They sat like that for a few minutes, in a contemplative silence as they sipped at their tea. Once checking with Severus behind her raised teacup, Poppy carefully stood up. "If you would allow me," she caught the boy's attention as she set her teacup down onto the pretty floral plate, and wiped her hands on her small apron-like garb. "May we start the check-up for today?" She asked the boy in a calm and patient voice, folding her hands in front of her as she stayed near her chair. Harry turned his green eyes onto Severus as he stroked Imari, feeling grounded with the help of his friend as he tried to squash the trepidation that brewed in the pit of his stomach. Severus made sure that his eyes were calm and reassuring as he gave a gentle nod, making sure that he had composed himself during the short break. "If it makes you feel safer, you may keep your friend close," Poppy compromised easily with the silent boy as she took a cautious step towards him. He nodded his head, curling himself slightly towards Imari in a nervous and afraid posture, not caring about how he would be seen by the people observing him.

Harry absolutely hated new things such as this. The possibilities for something going wrong or being used against him made his mouth dry out as Imari wrapped himself around the boy. "I'm going to cast a diagnostic spell on you, that will tell me about past wounds and illnesses, as well as a spell that will tell me what vaccinations you would need," she explained in a calm voice, "They are very standard spells a medicwitch like myself would know," she continued to talk, trying to let the boy feel at ease as she pulled out her wand and murmured the incantation that she could recite in her sleep, after giving Harry a moment to relax and counting down for him. Harry felt a sensation similar to how Imari squeezed himself around Harry when he was annoyed. The magic held him with a lax grip after a few moments, as though the tight squeeze had taken a look at his internal organs. Harry felt the magic of the spell look at his body like someone examining and probing a bug under a microscope. "I don't like this," he whined out softly in a hiss, clutching onto one of Imari's thick coils with shaking hands as his friend shifted to a spot that would make the boy feel less frightened. "Hush, it'll be over in a few moments," Severus reassured the boy in a voice that hid his slight worry at the sight of the pale boy, making Harry slightly startle as the man appeared near him out of nowhere.

Severus looked into the pinched and frightened expression on the boy, understanding that this could be one of the first spells to be cast on him when he would remember it, and probably felt very foreign and scary. Poppy must have been under the idea that the boy must have had some sort of protective charms spelled on him when he was a baby, and recast as he grew, but it seemed that even that had slipped Dumbledore's feeble mind. Severus inwardly snarled at the incompetence of the old man, feeling a familiar, biting hatred rekindle for such forgetfulness and lack of insight. 'The boy's senses must be overwhelmed,' Severus thought to himself, feeling guilty for not having the guts or insight to have thought to allow the boy to get used to magic. He felt the boy's own magic swirl around the air as his discomfort grew under the spell, a piece of parchment being written with all of the previous wounds and illnesses making it last longer. Severus brought a hand up, allowing the boy's panicked eyes to watch it for a few seconds. "May I provide physical support to your overwhelmed nerves?" He asked the boy, planning on allowing the boy to hold his hand or something like that.

What he didn't expect was to have a rail thin body suddenly glomp him, thin arms curling tightly around him. He rested a hand on the boy's back, listening to the almost fast and uncontrolled breathing coming from the hyperventilating boy. He ran his free hand through the boy's unruly locks, talking softly under his breath for the last twenty seconds needed of the spell. When Poppy was apologizing profusely to Harry, after being silently ignored for the whole ordeal, she grabbed the parchment out of the air with a worried face. Her eyes ran over the words professionally, while Severus sat back on his heels, focusing on comforting the shocked boy, who was clutching his robes and trembling like a leaf whilst whimpering softly. "The first spell is always the worst," Severus told the boy in a soft whisper, making the boy peek at him with a disoriented green eye. "Poppy and I had assumed that you have had a spell cast on you beforehand, so thought nothing of the alternative possibility," Severus admitted in a low voice, rubbing the boy's back with a soothing hand.

"I'm sorry such a misunderstanding has caused you pain," Severus apologized sincerely, being regarded with a smart eye for a few moments until Harry gave a small, curt nod. He sniffled as he burrowed his head even deeper into the opening front of the man's 'at-home' robes, his nose touching the buttons of his black shirt. Poppy looked at the innocent and vulnerable action from the boy with a small, smile like a grimace, feeling guilt in her chest as she read and re-read all of the wounds. The earliest wound was from when he was one-year-old, this being Voldemort's spell and cases of mishandling, close to shaken baby syndrome, following after that date. Both, or just the spell, would have been causing enough to cause his poor eyesight. Poppy had pierced her lips as she saw that starvation was a common state for the boy's body, as the malnourishment began when he was three, and the beatings when he was just turning four. Poppy looked over the broken bones, burns, and fractures with an eye that hid her cold fury for his relatives. There wasn't much to find joy in, as none of these wounds pointed to the happy childhood that the boy was rumored to be having, but she felt a sigh of relief leave her lips when she noted that there were no sexual abuse wounds such as any cases of anal bleeding or serious STDs given to him by a forced sexual arrangement. She did spot more than one occurrence of pubic lice, a more softer kind of STD when compared to AIDS, and illnesses such as the flu, chicken pox, and a case of the measles. She was almost certain that such illnesses haven't killed the boy because of his resilient magic that had helped his immunity system when no one else bothered.

"I'm sure that you would rather not relive memories of these wounds," Poppy stated in a gentle voice, making both boys turn to face her. She folded the long piece of parchment and nodded to Severus, "I'll save this for you for another time," she promised Severus who gave a nod in return. Poppy turned her eyes to the boy that he cradled so softly in his arms. Said boy let out a subconscious whimper, flinching as he recalled the highly uncomfortable feeling of the spell just cast on him moments beforehand. "My apologies for such a miscalculation," she gave her own heartfelt apology when she had the boy's attention, watching his face as he began to get a grip on his raw and grated nerves, reeling them in behind a fragile, blank face. "How about we take a break, yeah?" She suggested as the room was enveloped in silence as she shifted slightly, Severus looked down at the boy before standing with a nod. "I can ask Mitts and Cherry and if they can prepare a quick snack," he told them as he settled a hand on Harry's shoulder, "And we can go relax out on the patio."

Poppy nodded with a soft smile, "That sounds lovely, seeing as I was much too busy to eat lunch," she said in a conversational voice, observing how Harry actually took Severus' hand in his own, and practically clutched his side as the dark man led them out. She heaved her bag up with practiced ease, and followed behind them, ignoring the subtle, suspicious glances that Harry kept sending back at her. Once they got outside, Poppy took a set closer to the railing, settling into the dark chair and leaning back into it with a tired sigh as she rolled her head, cracking her neck. Severus settled into his own chair, with Harry perching himself on his own, his eyes flickering towards the nurse here and there, as though he didn't trust her to suddenly cast the needed spell on him. He understood where such paranoia came from, as he had had to always watch his father's mode, especially when he was drunk, and then, sometimes his mother could be too much as well, as her off-handed kindness and protectiveness when he was younger had turned into a straight case of her trying to have a way to control him, and she had shown her true face on her deathbed. Severus knew that she wasn't the best, but she was his mother, and to him, that mattered a lot, considering he didn't have to deal with muggle foster care interventions if she had decided to leave him with his father. He knew that she hadn't wanted to be a mother, that much was clear.

"Would you like some apple slices, Master Snape, Mister Evans and Madam Pomfrey?" Mitts asked, showing his generic wrinkled, though surprisingly young and vibrant face as he apparated to the table, a tray of the vaguely requested snack held in his hands. He had scars, that Severus knew came from being beaten with a burning fireplace poker from some old lord of the house. They ran across the side of his face, and scars that showed on his bony arms, and crisscrossed under the decent clothing that he wore over his scrawny body. Severus turned to look at him, "Yes, thank you Mitts," he consented, taking the tray carefully from the elf, who bowed lowly to his kind Lord and popped back into the kitchens. Severus sat the small platter onto the glass table, watching how the sunlight hit off the jewels decorating the sides for a few seconds. Severus took a slice and dipped it in the peanut butter that had been placed in a small sauce dish. He smiled as he looked to see Harry carefully nibbling on the fruit. He leaned back in his chair and observed how Poppy was looking at the garden.

The leaves were greener than they had ever been, and the flowers in mid-bloom. "Beautiful isn't it?" He inquired, making her look at him and nod in reply. "I've never seen so many gorgeous flowers," she elaborated, basically showing how her blood status as a half-blood had kept her from many houses like Severus', as most of the pureblood's either went to someone who was pureblood, or used traditional means to heal their children, such as some pagan rituals for serious illnesses or just spells that they weren't strong at doing. She had mainly worked with houses such as the Longbottom's and the Potter's and had tried to help the Weasley's in multiple cases since they were the most likely to be ravaged by some disease considering there was enough to supply an army and they lived in such a small house. Though they weren't blood supremacists, Molly was a very traditional woman, as she relied on her herbs since her own noble house of the Prewett's was known to have a hand in herbology and labeled as 'Green Magicks' as well as Hearth and Cottage Magicks, were they embedded their magic into their sewing and other household chores. Poppy knew better than to argue with families that focused on certain types of magicks, considering her own mother was a pureblood who worked with crystal magicks. It was quite complex, and hard to explain since the skills were either passed down or were something that was actually in their magic that made it react strongly to the objects they were using or chants they were saying.

Severus nodded, shifting so that his body was facing Harry, who was seated nearer to him than he'd ever been so far in their shared week together. "Mister Evans has helped with that, I think he has the natural skill that is associated with the Potter's Floral Magicks," Severus wondered aloud, making the boy look to him with a curious look in his eyes. Poppy turned her blue eyes to the boy, then turned them into the garden behind her. Besides his eyes and some of his facial features, the boy could easily be mistaken for a younger James Potter, as the boy has his messy black hair, and his body type was similar to both parents, as both had been quite skinny children with very few curves, though she could also card that up to being a result of his previous starvation. "What a wild place that is," she intoned, recalling the large and towering manor, where flowers and their vines crawled up the pristine white walls. "Perhaps you will inherit the manor when you're of age," she told the boy, making him look over her with a cautious look in his eyes. Severus nodded at her words, "Since everyone is basically related to each other in the pureblood houses, perhaps you to have a distant link?" Poppy went on to add in wonder, smiling when she saw the barely guarded joy that flashed in the young boy's eyes. Probably from the idea that he has some relative in his extended family that was kind.

Severus pierced his lips in thought, his eyes calm when Harry bodily turned to observe him, his motions free from Imari's large body since the snake had taken to winding himself up on the closed umbrella and moving towards the branches that hung over the edge of the patio, the snake being much more comfortable in tall places. "Most likely," he agreed in a soft voice, "I had barely glanced at my family's tree and saw that my great aunt had married a Potter long ago, so I could be a distant cousin," Severus explained to the boy, watching as a soft smile flashed on the boy's face, though his eyes showed some worry. Trying to read into the boy's worry, Severus rubbed his chin in thought. "I won't act as your cousin from those horrid Dursley's if that's what you're worried about," Severus assured the boy, assuming that said boy had treated him just as horribly as his aunt and uncle had. Harry relaxed slightly in his chair, making sure to not totally trust the man, in case he betrayed him or tried to harm him in some way.

Harry's eyes flicked up to where Imari had been up in the trees, though he couldn't see the snake now since he had decided to blend himself into the dark leaves of the tree nearby. He felt a sigh of relief escape his lips, as he ate another apple slice, and turned to look at the birds flying around them, going from bird feeder to bird feeder and chirping merrily to each other. Harry looked back at the table, realizing that he had been tuning out the two adult's light conversation. When he heard that they were just talking about potions and the like, he tuned them out once more, not finding the conversation to be interesting when the garden was this close to him. He unconsciously wiggled his fingers and toes in excitement, as he shifted around the chair, thinking about the fun that usually came with tending to the flowers. His attention was drawn to Severus when the man snapped his fingers, making him turn towards him once more. He looked at the amused look in the man's eyes, and was given a shooing motion as he softly suggested, "Why don't you go play?" Making Harry give a short giggle as he bounced off his seat and scampered down the stairs like a graceful cat.

With the grass under his bare feet, Harry darted towards a corner of the expansive garden that Mipsy and Severus had subtly given to him. He flew through the hidden 'doorway' the vines falling in front of the entrance. He threw himself near the flowers that he had been tending to the day before, running his hand over the petals, relishing in their silky petals. From here, he couldn't hear the conversation of the two adults, though Imari had told him that it was a result of some spell, which he didn't understand. He rolled onto his back, enjoying the privacy that he got from this place. It was such a nice contrast to the way he had felt during the spell, then it was like he was being looked at in an intense way that rivaled his uncle and aunt when they were picking out some flaw. He gave a shudder and snuggled into the grass as he picked up a smoothed over rock, and threw it in the air. He had pulled the rock from the small pond that rested in the corner of the safe space, where a small black iron bench sat at its side. Harry caught it with his small, slightly rough hand, and ran his long fingers over the smooth top.

Sometime passed before Imari brought himself down to Harry's side, pooling his heavy body over Harry's chest and stomach. His thick, black coils settled on him like a thick quilt, the snake's eyes twinkling down at him with slight concern. "I think it's about time that we finish up the examination if we want to get at least half of the vaccines done today," he hissed softly, making the boy look down at him with a small unsure frown. He brought his hand to rest on Imari's body, gazing up at the dark blue sky, not yet indigo nor the robin egg color it was earlier in the day. "Why can't we just stay here forever?" Harry asked the snake in a soft voice, as he stroked his snake in an absent way. Imari shook his head at him, wisdom shining in his tiny, beetle-like eyes, "You can't run from life, Jabari. Or else you'll be swept by it in the end, and drowned in the sorrows that you've run from." He paused, seeing the slightly wilted look on the boy's face, an old expression resting on his young features that should never have been there until much later. "Facing things will prevent that, and I think that you are strong enough for this," Imari encouraged the boy, winding himself around his arm in a comforting manner, "All of this."

Harry and Imari stared at each other, as green eyes searched for reassurance and something to stifle his rising anxiety and insecurities, while Imari looked to provide the most support to such a weathered boy that a snake could do. Harry gave the snake a shaky smile, wiping at the tears that had gathered in his eyes with his free arm, as he brought his other arm close so that he could hug his friend. Imari wrapped himself around Harry's shoulders and neck, hanging loosely on the boy, seeing as he had no shoulders or arms to embrace the child that he held so dear to his heart. "I guess I shall endure one more spell," Harry whispered in a soft voice as he sniffled softly, wiping his nose with his navy blue robe sleeve as he pushed himself off of the ground. Imari gave a huff, "Child, this is the Wizarding World," Imari teased the boy, earning a small blush and giggle, "Spells are basically their life, and will be yours too soon enough." Harry made to disagree as he pushed past the vine entrance, but bit his lip shyly and quickly jumped back when he came almost nose to nose with Mipsy, who was leading Severus and Madam Pomfrey to where he was. "Oh, hello Mister Evans!" Mipsy greeted the boy in a jovial voice, positively beaming at the boy in a delighted manner, "Time goes by fast, and Madam Pomfrey must be leaving sometime soon," Severus explained for the flustered boy when he turned his green eyes onto the trio with slight confusion.

Harry spared a quick look at Imari, getting a slight idea that the snake had knowledge that the group was coming to retrieve him, and hissed a small thank you. "Would you like to continue the examination in your part of the garden?" Severus suggested, knowing that the garden was a comforting place for the child. Harry glanced at the entrance, but quickly shook his head, not wanting to share such a thing with the nurse. Severus nodded understandably, before leading them to a more open part of the garden, stopping by a fountain and a few benches. Harry tilted his head slightly to look at the rainbows that came from the sprouting water from the stone Selkie's mouth, the creature reeling up into a powerful stance as it face resembled that of a spooked horse. He quickly turned his eyes back to the witch, adjusting his fragile, scotch taped glasses in a slightly nervous manner. Poppy gave him a small smile, "This spell shouldn't feel like the last," she reassured the boy with a slightly confident gleam in her pale eyes as she held her wand loosely by her side. "If you wish to hold onto Severus' hand, you may, as well as keep your friend once more," she told the boy, watching as he minutely relaxed with a quick nod.

Harry shyly took the man's outstretched hand, feeling the large, spindly hand with its stained fingertips practically engulf his own small one. Poppy gave another countdown, and cast the standard spell, watching his face closely for any signs of discomfort. This one barely lasted longer than a few seconds, as the parchment popped out, quickly, the spell usually used in a hospital when the patient either didn't have any documents to their name, common among the traditionalists, or were in a life threatening situation and they couldn't send a nurse to retrieve the papers. She carefully read over the paper with pierced lips after seeing that Harry was alright since the spell had barely felt like it had been cast at him. She noticed a few muggle vaccinations, Influenza, Chicken Pox, Measles, and the like, as well as the magical, needed being the standard Dragon Pox, some allergy information, and the vague eyesight information that would be sent to a more experienced healer in that area.

"I have the dragon pox vaccines in my bag if you'd like to get it over now?" She offered the boy, who nodded with brief hesitation. As she went through her neat;y organized, and magically expanded bag as Severus read the parchment, she chatted with the two. "Usually with wizarding children, I rarely give the muggle vaccines as well, since they usually grow up more often than not with either both or one magical guardian," she told them, as she pulled out the vial needed for the painless vaccination. She looked into those hungry green eyes, seeing that her tirade was holding someone's attention, and continued on, handing him the vial as she said, "Do drink this will you?" He did as asked while she talked, "You are what most refer to as a Half-Blood," Poppy informed the boy, who held a curious look in his eyes, she forged through his unspoken question, "I'm sure Severus can explain it more in depth when he has the time," she assured the boy as she glanced at her silver watch, and gave a huff. She had to hurry since she was due to check-up on someone else's child but forced herself to calm since she needed to explain to the man and child all that she knew.

"For future knowledge, you will most likely be more prone to falling ill considering that you lived with muggles that didn't tend to your needs, and your blood status," she told them, focusing her eyes on Harry. "Much like when you were a boy Severus," she nodded to the man, recalling how he easily fell in his first year due to the intensely different environment, considering his father basically forced him and his mother to live in a poor, muggle house without tending to their health. His mother made it worse, by sticking to her traditionalist self when Severus fell almost deathly ill with the flu when he was eight and was almost stolen by the faeries when his mother tried to cheat them. Severus gave a briefly there shudder as he nodded, remembering the clear terror when he had been held in the ugly creatures arms, a changeling held in one that was hovering nearby. "Your magic has had to work extremely hard to heal your other wounds and previous illnesses, so I will need to prescribe you some muggle antibiotics, and potions that will help with your malnourishment and other ailments that came from your relatives starvation that I'm sure that Severus will be able to handle?" She told the man in an inquisitive voice, turning her eyes to the dark man, who gave a confident nod, since as a Potions Master, he had had the experience of treating to some clients after the war as a way to cope with his depression and guilt.

Poppy gave a stern nod, and turned her steely blue eyes on the boy, and softened her face slightly at the boy. "I will be back soon next week with the neccessary muggle medication and vaccines," she told them, before giving him a polite smile. "Enjoy yourself in the mean time Mister Evans," she told him in a soft voice, gesturing slowly at the garden, "And get your needed rest, you brave boy," she said in a kind voice, before giving them a polite goodnight, and following Cherry to the manor, and to the tea room so that she could floo out, while Severus turned to the boy, and kneeled on the grass. Severus smiled softly at the boy, his yellow teeth hidden behind his chapped lips as he continued to hold the boy's hand, a proud look shown easily on his facial features. "You did well, Harry," Severus told him in a soft voice, briefly noting the way the boy's eyes briefly narrowed at the man, before the boy shyly grinned at him with a faint blush and nodded bashfully, having recieved two compliments in one day and being quite proud of himself as well.

Severus stood up, and gently guided the boy back to the manor, where they soon ate dinner after a comfortable game of Wizard's Chess.

Chapter Text

A few days after the examination with Poppy, and Severus was pleased to see that nothing had drastically changed with Harry's behavior. He actually noticed that Harry was actually more willing to spend time with him, opening up to him through very subtle ways that most would not notice in the quiet boy. For instance, tea time was a very daily thing between the two now, as they could often be found on the back porch, lazing about in the dark wood chairs and eating biscuits while taking a break from gardening and their "lesson". However, Severus had also taken note of Harry's slight trepidation towards wands and magic. Whenever he pulled his wand out to do something as simple as to Accio something to him while they were weeding the garden, the boy would give a small, inhibited flinch at the sight of the wooden stick. Such a reaction worried Severus. He did not want the boy to fear magic and miss the beauty that it could bring. He could only hope to make it so that the bad memory of the occurrence was overshadowed by better memories.

One bright morning, Harry was awoken from his plush bed by Imari's forked tongue, flicking over his face in quick movements. "Jabari, wake up," he hissed in a low voice, his dark, beetle-like eyes looking down at the boy as he squinted up at the snake. "What is it Imari?" Harry asked his friend in a curious voice, his hisses broken by his yawns and snuffles as he rubbed his face in a tired motion. He stretched his tiny arms and legs, and sat up, feeling at ease with the room that he had been staying in for the week he had been in the manor. "Someone strange is here," Imari told the boy, wavering his head in the air in an unsure manner, before winding himself loosely around Harry's shoulders when the boy sat up, shifting on the loose robes that the boy sported. "She is human, but she has the scent of a cat," the snake told the boy in a confused voice, showing his confusion in the way that his coils shifted around his friend. "She seems very stern, but might be nice," Imari added as an afterthought, realizing lately that his fleeting observations could make the boy scared of the woman. Harry frowned his skin prickling up with goose bumps at the idea of meeting another woman who he would be encouraged to trust with his well being. The Madame might not have meant to hurt him as Imari and Severus had assured him, but he didn't want to experience any more pain while in a place that could provide him salvation. Even if he was promised that things would get better, he would hope to think that he deserved more, another constant assurance from his long time friend. Harry didn't even want to think about how he would feel if Imari turned out to be another misleading figure in his short life.

Harry let out a sigh as he turned his body to the side of the bed, and hopped down from the elegant bed. Realizing that he hadn't really made conversation with his friend, he belatedly replied, "I sure hope she is." He shuffled around the room, shrugging his shoulders to get Imari into a comfortable position, intentionally pattering around so that he had some time to prepare himself for whatever was in store with this mystery woman. Harry turned his slightly squinting eyes around the room, gave a small, mental pray to whoever was listening, and crept his way towards the open doorway, and made his way down the stairs. Running his hand down the thick railing, Harry slowed his steps a few steps before the bottom and looked around with a cautious eye. Nothing seemed out of place, yet he could make out the soft sound of conversation in the parlor room. Harry turned his cautious eyes to Imari, who squeezed his coils around his torso in a comforting manner. Harry gave a quiet sigh and placed his small hand over on of Imari's black coils, squashing down the spike of nerves that settled in his chest as he decided to head to bright room.

Stopping in the doorway, Harry blushed as he drew the attention of Severus and an elderly looking lady who had been about to take a sip of her cup of tea. Flicking his eyes between the two, Harry hesitantly lifted his hand in greeting, his fingers curved towards his palm in a sort of awkward wave. He watched the older woman set her cup down on a small, decorative plate that sat on the stand next to her, and turn her attention towards Harry.

"Hello, Mr. Potter, my name is Minerva Mcgonagall, " she introduced herself in a croaky voice that held a warmth that could rival the sun. Harry smiled in return, ducking his head as he awkwardly shuffled into the room and decided to stand by Severus' chair. Minerva smiled fondly at the image of both boy and man,sipping on her tea once more as she observed how quick Severus had learned how to read Harry's body language and subtle changes in expression.

"You see Harry, Minerva is one of my co-workers at Hogwarts," Severus decided to explain to Harry simply, his tea long forgotten as he focused on making sure Harry felt comfortable around Minerva since he knew that he wouldn't be able to keep the woman away from the two of them after this initial meeting. Mother-hen that she is. Given this new information, Harry's emerald eyes shifted over to look at Minerva closely, trying to gauge the likelihood of her hurting him. Imari did much the same, his black eyes regarding and tongue observing her more critically from his initial peek at her before waking Harry up.

Minerva didn't necessarily make herself seem smaller or more quiet for the boy as she had assumed Severus had, as she thought that the boy would be able to become accustomed to her bold and witty personality soon-- especially since he was able to grow comfortable around someone as witty as Severus. After a few minutes of allowing Harry and his pet snake to observe her, Minerva cleared her throat softly, making the boy look at her more sharply. "It's a pleasure to finally meet you Mr. Potter and your familiar, I'm very excited to get to know you," she looked at him imploringly with her signature little smile as she straightened her light blue set of casual clothes from her seated position.

Pleased to hear her straightforward greeting, Harry gave her a slightly bigger smile as he stroked Imari's scales, both remaining silent as they looked between the two to see what this was really about. Reading his body language, Minerva chuckled softly at the noticeable "Please-get-on-with-it" posture that she often saw when she held conferences with her upper year students. "As you may be wondering, I'm here to help tutor you," she told Harry lightly before Severus could say much the same, rolling her eyes when both looked at her with slight shook at her competent reading of Harry. Harry blushed at being read so easily by someone he just meet, while Imari gave a hiss-like chuckle.

"Oh please you two," she gave a warm huff, setting her tea down, "I'm not blind, and there's no need to tip-toe around each other," she stated calmly, deciding to use her stereotypical Gryffindor brashness to disperse the awkward tension that she felt in the room. Locking eyes with Harry, Minerva gave Harry a very warm look that took him by surprise as he had never been regarded with such open fondness. "Come settle down lad, I'm basically your Godmother given how close I was to your mum and dad," she told him in a gentle voice that she usually reserved for students that she took a particular shine to.

Feeling a heavy, warm feeling not much different from Imari's coils squeeze his chest, Harry glanced at a quietly bemused Severus with a happy little smile, and took a seat on an elaborately patterned foot stool by the fireplace and in between the two chairs-- it was a plush little thing that resembled a foot stool that he caught a glimpse of in a story book based that was set in the Victorian Era.

Severus smiled at the noticeable growth that Harry was displaying, and turned to look at Minerva gratefully for taking control of an introduction that was really above his comfort level. Minerva gave a pleasant smile, and took a sip of her earl grey tea. Once he was settled, Severus asked Harry if he would like some tea as well. Getting a nod in return, Severus called Cherry to bring in another delicate little cup and some more tea bags. Preparing the boys cup under watchful grey and green eyes, Severus handed the boy the blue and gold designed cup and settled into the back of his chair.

The trio settled into a more comfortable silence than they had experienced in the beginning of the interaction, all three feeling a little happy at the lack of tension in the room. Imari's tongue flickered between the three with piqued interest, "Jabari," he hissed quietly, gaining the attention of Harry and the adults quite easily with the break in silence, "Do you think you can ask why the lady smells like cat?" He asked his boy curiously, bringing the previously mentioned wonder to the forefront of Harry's mind. Really wanting to know himself, but not knowing how to ask, Harry rolled his eyes and gave out a frustrated huff. "I can't speak English Imari, I thought we both knew this," he hissed in a tone that held quite a bit of whine, making the snake chuckle and tickle his cheek with his forked tongue.

Severus raised an eyebrow imploringly at the pair when Harry shifted to look at him with exasperation, "Let me guess, your snake friend must have a question?" He guessed in an unsure voice, his warm brownish-black eyes looking between the two. Quirking his lips in a smile, Harry nodded as a reply and then pointed at Minerva as to keep the game of charades going. Minerva hummed, "About me?" She implored, hoping to make Harry as comfortable with "talking" with her as she could at this point in their introductions. Harry blushed lightly and nodded, before furrowing his eyebrows and trying to make cat ears with his little hands. Severus and Minerva looked at each other in confusion at the clumsy gesture, before Minerva came to the conclusion that the snake must have smelt her cat animagus form.

Smiling at Harry, Minerva decided to give him a simple explanation, "Your friend thinks I smell like a cat because I can transform into a cat, Mr. Potter," given that answer, Harry's eyes widened at the thought of being able to turn into an animal. "That's so cool!" He breathed out, looking at Minerva with fascination practically glimmering on his facial features. "Huh, that's a new one," Imari commented as well, looking at Minerva with a more toned down interest, as he didn't really care much about animal transformation considering that he was a snake already and didn't see the point in being a cat.

Severus and Minerva chuckled at the cute, awe-struck look on Harry's face, making the boy duck his head into the blanket that he had thrown across his lap. "Aw, there goes his cute little face, what a sweet lad," Minerva commented warmly, her eyes bright as she observed the sweet child and his quite modest demeanor. Severus gave a deep chuckle and smiled just as warmly at him, placing his spindly fingers gently on the boy's wrist and capturing his attention. Getting a view of the almost beet red color that toned the boy's sun-tanned face, Severus smiled at him warmly and opened his arms for a hug for the embarrassed boy.

Hesitatingly briefly at the open gesture, Harry felt his cheeks begin to hurt from how big he smiled at Severus. Harry allowed Severus to envelope him and Imari, ignoring the slight protest the snake gave at the position, and allowed himself to enjoy the affection the man was giving him. "Don't mind Minnie, Harry, she just likes to tease," Severus informed the boy as he easily brought the boy up to his lap, such an action making Minerva have to cover her grin from the sheer sweetness the image in front her. Harry himself, while slightly unsure how to feel about the close position, decided to go along with the position as he felt quite happy being close to the man since he had proven that he would not hurt him within the time that he's known the man. "Hmm, I would have to disagree, I just speak my mind," she voiced in an exaggerated tone as she stuck her nose in the air, making a very childish giggle erupt from the child's mouth, which he almost immediately stopped in shock at hearing such a sound come from himself.

Imari looked at Harry with joy, as did the other more adult figures in the room. Praying that he didn't upset the other two, Harry bit his lip nervously and looked up at Severus with trepidation at the thought of being told off for being loud. Saddened by the fact that Harry would be frightened of what they'd do for doing something as simple as laughing, both adults were reminded (not that they forgot mind you) of the boy's upraising. Severus moved one of hand's off of Harry's head at a slow pace and ran his calloused fingers through the boy's dark locks in a soothing manner. "It's alright to be happy or to find one of us funny, Harry," he assured the boy, making sure that he held the boy's eyes with a kind expression. When Harry timidly looked over at Minerva, she made sure to hold just as soft an expression.

Feeling properly reassured, Harry hesitantly hopped off of Severus' lap and placed his stomach on his hands when the two looked at him inquiringly. Severus chuckled, "It's breakfast time indeed, we mustn't laze about all day," he intoned, standing up carefully as not to spook the boy. Minerva moved in a similar manner after setting her tea down and making sure Harry was standing at a distance were he wouldn't feel cornered by the two adults. Imari shifted in anticipation for breakfast, as he had been waiting patiently for them to want to eat since he knew that Harry would have wanted his support throughout the meeting. "Finally," he hissed at Harry in a fairly grumpy manner, the hug and feeling of closeness from being held by Severus having made him a little antsy. Harry smiled at him gratefully, giving him a scratch on some scales that he knew Imari loved as thanks, knowing that the snake wasn't really mad at him since he knew Imari would have said something before the hug if he had been really uncomfortable with the man touching him.

The trio walked to the dining room, all happy to see that the house elves had gotten breakfast prepared while they had been conversing. As they dug into their food, Imari eating his birds and mice in a separate area as to not disturb the others with the gross sounds of bones getting crushed, Minerva thought that they might as well begin to discuss lessons while they were still accustomed with each other. "So," she began, drawing the other twos attention, " I'm open to start tutoring some time soon within the month, however, I wouldn't be adverse to doing some more..." She paused her sentence, looking for the right word to describe how she wished to become an adult that Harry could trust, "fun things before the first lesson as to get used to each other," she finished with an unsure tone, looking between the two with a hopeful expression. Severus looked at Harry imploringly, making it clear through his gaze that Harry could decide how he wanted things to go with Minerva.

Happy to have the freedom to decide, Harry leaned away from his bowl of oatmeal and furrowed his brows in thought. On one hand, he was afraid to introduce someone new in his life, knowing that she could really end up hurting him and even possibly take him away from Severus if she decided to betray them. Yet, looking back at their interaction from this morning, Harry kind of wanted her to be closer to him. Especially since she mentioned something about being his Godmother, and knowing his parents. Harry looked over at Severus after a few moments of staring at the white linen and absently picking at the lace. He took a deep breath, and nodded in agreement.

Chapter Text

After initially taking the boy in, Severus had been extremely saddened by the entire situation in itself, he was also saddened by everything that Harry was missing. He hadn't had clean clothes that had been purchased for him specifically, he hadn't had anything to take with him when Severus first picked him up besides his snake, and most of all, Harry never had the experience of being doted on. Even with his terrible childhood, Severus could recall moments where his mother, as sickly and manipulative that she could get, would give him some gift that brightened his day-- a spare chocolate frog, or even a new pair of socks would make his sour expression bloom with joy. Observing how the meek and fragile nine-almost-ten year old boy touch things with such delicate care and catching the boy looking at some old knickknacks that he had given him with a sparkle in his eye, Severus made it his resolve to get the boy to go shopping with him.

So, Severus--despite knowing full well that the boy would need more time to settle--had really wanted to take Harry shopping during the first week that the boy was in his care. Minerva, on the other hand, had wanted to take him the very second she laid eyes on him. Having grand-nieces and nephews didn't help curb Minerva's desire in the slightest, as she absolutely loved doing anything that made children she cared about smile and feel welcomed. While they had had a few quiet arguments in the parlor after the introduction about getting the boy used to the general public, both came to the agreement that they wanted to spoil the young boy rotten. They were so endeared by his modest and shy personality that they just knew that being doted on like any other child would help him feel normal, loved, and maybe even help gain some confidence in his relationships with them. However, it hadn't been easy to convince the boy that it would be alright to spend any amount of money on him or that they would be able to protect him from others outside of the manor.

The first time Severus had even broached the topic of clothes shopping, Harry had stomped up a tantrum so bad that he had made himself sick with worry for upsetting the Potions Master. He had smushed himself into some closet within the house and hyperventilated about the possibility that Severus could send him away for his behavior until Imari had lead the man to his hiding spot. Of course, Severus assured the boy that he would never do something like that, and gently reassured him that he was actually quite proud that Harry had felt able to express his displeasure-- even though Severus had had to repair a broken vase that likely costed way more than the manor itself.

The second time that Severus had told Harry that they needed to go shopping, it had been three weeks into Harry's stay in the manor. At this point, things were relatively settled. Harry was receiving his lessons routinely from both Severus and Minerva about all things school and speech related, he observed Severus when he brewed in the lab, and he played in the garden whether it rained or poured. The two big things that they hadn't addressed at this point were: checking up with Madame Pomfrey and getting him new clothes and toys. Seeing as how Harry paled at the brief mention of having a check up, Severus reasoned that they get shopping out of the way and dealt with the last vaccinations that he needed towards the end of the summer. Given a more black and white decision, Harry easily decided to go clothes shopping that week.

"Imari, I really don't like this," Harry hissed his displeasure towards his friend, who was hidden under his bright yellow rain-jacket. Harry made the perfect picture of a brat as he waited under the front-porch for Severus to pull his brown Buick Roadmaster out of the musty barn-turned-garage that tilted towards the manor in an haphazard manner. Harry wore a cute, floppy rain-hat that fell towards the front of his face, nearly obscuring and knocking off his new light-blue glasses that he'd gotten from some woman who worked privately in Diagon Alley, and he held his arms as tight as he could around his torso without squishing the daylights out of the snake. Imari, gave his signature snake-y laugh, his head ducked against his snakelet's collar bone as to keep the cool, English chill in the rain from settling against his scales.

"It'll all be fine Jabari, Severus, Minerva, and I will be there to help keep you save," the snake reassured the boy for what had to be the hundredth time. Imari really wished that the boy could trust them, but he understood the fear of being taken somewhere unfamiliar. He just hoped that their presences could help keep the boy as grounded as they could, and that the rain would chase away a majority of the muggle shoppers that might want to shop at the tiny mall that the human adults had chosen to shop at.

Both were brought out of their thoughts as they were startled by the loud sound of a car engine starting up. Through the dense rain, Harry could see the main barn doors almost magically open up by themselves, and watched as Severus expertly backed out of the barn with very little difficulty. While Harry had been unpleasantly surprised by the loud sounds of the car, he found himself super excited to get in a car for the first time. His arms squeaked away from their crossed position as he found himself running to lean onto the side railing of the porch overlooking the barn, his hat tipping down into his face as the pummeling rain dripping from the gutter gathered on the rim. Harry huffed as he shook his head, leaning away from the opening as to keep the hat from sliding right off. He got the hat straightened out just in time to see Severus step out of the car with his wand pointed towards the air like an umbrella.

Harry watched in fascination as the rain drops cascaded down the sides of an invisible umbrella and after a few minutes he ran down the porch steps to meet the man half way on the stone pathway leading up to the front of the manor. Severus chuckled at the clear display of excitement and held a hand out for the boy to grasp as he expanded the size of of the magical umbrella. "Silly boy," Severus commented fondly, his smile and twinkling eyes being mirrored by the green looking up at him. They both headed to the car from there, Harry awkwardly sliding into the passenger seat after Severus opened the door for him. Severus briskly walked to the other side of the car and hastily dispelled the charm after he opened his door, wanting as little rain to soak the seat as possible.

"My, it's really raining out there," Severus chuckled, taking his deerstalker hat off and placing it on the compartment between Harry and his seat while the windshield wipers worked double time to keep their view clear. Severus turned to look at the boy next to him, and gestured for him to take his hat off as well. After doing so, Harry involuntarily blushed as Severus helped buckle him into the seat. "Thank you," Harry told the man bashfully as he stared out at the gloomy looking forest and stretch of gravel that rested ahead of the car, those two simple English words being a few of the handful that he could say so far into their lessons. Severus gave him a beaming smile, and gently patted the boy's wet shoulder, "It's no problem Harry," he replied, feeling so very proud for the boy despite his slow progress.

Harry's eyes flickered over to the man, a small smile playing across his slightly damp cheeks, the raindrops from his hat having drooped onto his face before he had taken it off. Severus sat back in his seat and buckled himself up, deciding to pull out an album of cassette tapes that he kept in the car since it was a slightly long ride from the manor's location on the outskirts of the North York Moors. "Would you like to choose the music?" Severus asked, unzipping the dusty album and holding the selection of music out slightly towards the boy. Harry looked down at the little boxes in wonder, having never played or been trusted enough to touch cassette tapes when he lived with the Dursley's. Harry pointed at Severus and shrugged, not really knowing what music to choose or even what some of them were.

Seeing the decision being left to him, Severus still made sure to keep the tapes in between them while he choose in case the boy changed his mind. Going through his mixture of classical music, rock, and... ugh... pop music, Severus decided to go with one of the more mellow, classical tapes since he didn't want to boy to be upset by any loud songs. "I guess we'll be listening to some, uh," Severus squinted his eyes at the faint writing, "Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven, very classic composers indeed" he informed Harry, popping the little thing into the cassette player. The beginning of a soft song played through sound-system, having already been turned down beforehand given the newness of the experience.

Severus once more turned to face Harry, "Now before I start driving, I just want you to know that I won't be able to see any of your gestures since I have to keep my eyes on the road," he told the boy in a gentle tone, the quite serious nature of words making Harry look at him adamantly. "If you need to get my attention, make sure to either hiss something or tap my arm, okay?" Severus instructed the boy in a firm manner, really not wanting the ride to be spoiled if the boy felt like he was being ignored. "Do you have any questions before we start driving, Harry?" Severus asked after making sure what he was saying sunk in with the boy. Harry gave a slight nod, and made the gesture that he usually reserved for Minerva, a pair of clumsy little cat ears on the top of his head, and tilted his head in a curious manner, having not seen the elderly woman at all while they were getting ready for the trip.

Severus hid the smile that usually wanted to peek out at the cute name sign that he had given Minerva. "She had to do some paperwork this morning, but she told me to tell you that she'll meet us at the mall," Severus relayed the message, giving the boy a playful smirk and winked, "She also wanted to remind us that we won't be able to shake her off anytime soon," he joked, making the boy let out a little giggle at the little inside joke that the three have had since Harry was first introduced to the woman. Severus felt the now familiar warmth in his chest that came from the green-eyed boy's laugh, seldom as it was heard. Severus straightened in his seat, and briefly made sure everyone and everything was set for the trip.

"Alright-y, here we go," he announced as he put the car in gear, smoothly getting the car to move on the gravel path that lead to the front gate. The car tilted around a bit on the bumpy surface, making Harry tense up in his seat at the slight turbulence, but he was soon settled by Imari, as the snake peeked out of the top of his long sleeve shirt and happily slithered into the heated car. Imari settled himself on to the back of Harry's seat, his head resting on the boy's shoulder as he hissed, "This isn't too different from when I traveled in that bag with that wizard man." The sentence piqued Harry's interest, as Imari never really found it super exciting to re-count how he came to England from Africa. He'd usually hiss some sort of simple thing like, "A man brought me," or "It's just a lot colder here," and never really go into too much detail about his life.

"What was the bag like?" Harry asked in a soft hiss, finding himself settling into the soft leather of the seat as his face was warmed by the warm air coming from the vents. "It had looked relatively small when I first saw it, but it was absolutely gigantic when he brought me inside," Imari recalled, feeling a sort of phantom feeling of the tall man's gentle hands holding his coils. Harry narrowed his eyes at the description, really baffled at the idea of a bag being small but large. "It's true," Imari exclaimed as he flicked his tongue at the boy's cheek, "Maybe once you learn how to sign more you can ask Severus about it?" He pondered, moving his body to lay more closely to the vents without obscuring the black-haired man's view as he looked for a place to take a nap.

Harry spared said man a glance in thought, his lips quirking up at the constant excitement that came with the idea that he'll be able to talk with the man more as they continue to tackle his muteness. As Severus was focused on the now paved road, he couldn't really inquire on why the boy was smiling, or really see what all of the hissing was going between the two. It was kind of interesting for Severus, as he found that he was coming to understand the boy's parseltongue the more that he interacted with the child. It was a kind of "duh" conclusion, but it still amused Severus when he was able to softly scold the boy for any serious attitude or cursing.

After looking at the man for a few seconds, Harry turned to talk to Imari some more. However, he was halted by the sight of the snake dozing on the heater, half of his body resting on Harry's seat while the other rested on the dash-board. Harry giggled quietly at the sight before turning to look out at the passing scenery. It wasn't necessarily early, but it was dark enough from the rainstorm that the wheat fields and sky were tinted with a blue-ish grey that resembled the dawn sky. Harry watched the scenery alter between richly packed fields that looked to be ready for harvest and the already barren plots. Observing the crops, Harry felt a feeling of awe grow within his chest at the height of the crops, as well as a feeling of desire to run through the stretches of yellow and green. While Harry understood the trend of his family having more nature related magical skills, Harry still found himself being swept with the waves of contentedness that came from seeing plants and wildlife.

Much of the car ride was spent in this fashion-- Severus driving very carefully until the rain cleared, and Harry with his nose practically pressed against the window as he marveled over the seemingly infinite stretch of the Moors. Severus had spared a few glances at the boy when he could to make sure he was settled, as he didn't want to find himself falling into the assumption that silence meant that the boy was okay. Having found the boy pressed against the glass in both instances, Severus had found himself able to relax more in the drive and settled more comfortably in his seat as he kept his attention on the long stretch of road in front of him.

All to soon for Harry's liking, the fields and random pockets of woodland were soon broken apart by a small village and the addition of mid-morning commute. Harry sighed quite loudly at the loss of scenery, bodily moving himself to face forward and to grudgingly look out of the windshield. Severus chuckled at the action, bemusedly looking at the peeved boy as he came to a stop at a red-light. "No more fields, eh?" Severus teased gently, knowing the boys love for nature from observing his almost obsessive gardening and handling of flowers while at the manor. Harry narrowed his eyes slightly at the man as his cheeks became tinted with a blush, yet he still nodded and made the sign for "Angry", his brows furrowing quite intensely as he pointed at the buildings near by. Severus gave a deep chuckle at the boy's dramatics, and as the light turned green an idea came to him, "How would you feel if we go to a park or a public garden sometime after shopping?" Severus asked the boy, smirking as he heard the boy shift in his seat in an excited manner.

Harry found himself a little excited by the prospect of getting his hands on more greenery, yet he also knew that came with possibly interacting with more people as well. Feeling a little unnerved at the idea of interacting with more people, Harry settled down and decided to think a bit more about the proposed idea. Sensing the slightly nervous air in Harry's silence, Severus reassured the boy, "We can just see how it goes if you want, it's all up to you bud," Harry furrowed his brows at this idea of freedom and gave a slight "huph" as he thought the decision over. Harry decided at the third red light, tapping the man's arm and giving him a thumbs-up at the proposition. Severus smiled and nodded, "Alright, we'll be at the mall in a few more minutes," Severus informed the boy in a gentle tone, hoping that the slight warning would make it so that he wouldn't get too panicked at the site of the mall.

Harry gave a grimace and sat back in his seat with a heavy feeling in his chest, biting his cheek as he let out a deep breath through his nose. He nodded his head in acknowledgement and gave a thumbs-up when Severus asked him if he was okay after getting into the main parking lot and parking the car. Severus unbuckled his seat and looked at the statuesque child next to him with a gentle eye. Seeing the boy remain staring out of the wind-shield with a steely gaze, Severus felt himself let out an involuntary sigh. "We can wait a bit until Minerva shows up, eh?" He offered, giving Imari a slight nudge as he hoped the snake would help calm the boy's nerves. Watching the snake blink it's tiny eyes open, Severus found himself gesturing at the boy with his head when he felt the snake's sleepy gaze land on him in an almost human manner.

Severus watched as the two whispered to each other and the snake cuddled the boy with it's coils while trying to scope out Minerva's animagus or human form. Spotting the tall form of the woman walking through the misty, early morning light with a large umbrella overhead, Severus found himself smiling at the Mary Poppin's look that the woman unintentionally gave off with her almost too formal power suit and comfy ankle boots. Severus gently nudged the child, drawing his attention towards the window and watched as Harry giggled at the same observation-- the boy just having finished the film earlier that week.

Severus placed his hat back onto his head while Harry decided to leave his in the car, the both of them hopping out of the old car's squeaky seats once Imari was hidden under Harry's jacket. Harry gave a gentle shiver at the cool air that came with the rain despite being so heavily padded with his comfy long sleeve shirt and jacket. "Hello Minerva," Severus greeted the older woman with a warm tone as she sidled up to the other two, she greeted them just as warmly and tilted a little at her waist to meet Harry's eye, "You ready to get some new clothes and toys lad?" She asked the boy with a playful tone, smiling at the blush that settled on his tanned face. As Minerva straightened up, she held her gloved hand out towards the boy invitingly as Severus did the same. Being faced with two open hands, Harry found himself blushing harder as an almost suffocatingly sweet feeling filled his chest. Harry slid his hands in the waiting two, and they set off to the mall.

Walking into the sort of stark closed smell of the mall, Harry found himself scrunching his nose at the difference from crisp outside air and the musty smell that he'd grown accustomed to in the manor. All three were happy to see that there were very few people walking around at this time of day, only seeing food vendors and opening shift employees bustling around their stores. The three walked towards a standing map, "Now, where do you think you'd like to go first Harry?" Severus asked the boy, squatting down slightly as showed Harry the icons and softly explained what stores were which. Kind of flustered with the selection, Harry pointed at some store called H&M, the red having instantly attracted his eye while some of the other logos liked kind of daunting. "Alright, good choice lad," Minerva complimented the boy, excited that he chose a store with a wide selection of items.

Harry smiled up at her bashfully, and they set off to the level with that store. On the trip there, Harry found himself looking at all of the stores in wonder, the signs and window displays absolutely inciting to his new perspective. Reaching the entrance of the store, Harry found himself gulping at the grandness of it. He kind of startled when they were greeted by an employee who had been folding clothes near by, and partially hid himself between Minerva and Severus' forms as the two conversed with her politely. "Yes, were getting some essentials for this growing lad," Minerva explained when the woman inquired if they were looking for something specific, although she made sure not to put Harry in the spotlight so directly, allowing the boy to remain how he was. The woman, having previously introduced herself as Katie, looked at him kindly, quirking a smile at the child's cute and shy eyes peeking at her, "Well, I'll leave you three to it, if you find yourselves needing me just call me name," she told them before turning to the section of pants that she had been working on.

Severus and Minerva thanked her and lead Harry off towards the little boy's section. "Way to keep calm Harry," Severus complimented the boy as they sat him down on one of the cushioned seats, "Do you feel okay though?" He asked, wanting the boy to remain as soothed and comforted as possible given the new environment. Harry blinked up at the man and older woman shyly before giving a thumbs up, a loose feeling of anxiety rested against his chest after interacting with the stranger though he found that it wasn't too bad. "Tough boy," Minerva chuckled, giving the boy a soft pat on his shoulder, "Now let's see about some cool sneakers, eh?" She inquired, feeling like the shrunken boots and other foot wear that Severus had found weren't really the boy's style. Harry nodded hesitantly, and stood up with the help of Severus' hand.

Harry picked out three pairs of shoes with the help of the gentle coaxing from the two adults, selecting a pair of black Converse, a pair of nice sandals since Severus hinted that they might go to a beach sometime this summer, and a pair of nice thick boots for the upcoming autumn and winter. "Is this all you want from here?" Severus asked the boy curiously, having noticed that the boy had been eyeing a pair of shoes that were ridiculously brightly colored and lit up. Looking at the three he had already picked out, Harry felt a complex feeling of guilt and disgust come over him at the thought of being greedy and spending all of their money, so he meekly nodded his head in reply. Severus picked up the colored sneaker on display and held it in his hands toward the boy, "What about these guys?" He asked, holding back a smile as Harry bit back a smile and looked at the ground modestly, "I think the dungeons could use some light," Minerva voiced her opinion from her regal position on the cushioned seat, her hands crossed properly on her knees as she smiled at the boy kindly.

Blushing, Harry gave a hesitant nod, still rather unsure due to the childish design and lights that the shoe produced. Severus selected his size and added it to their cart and shepherded the two towards the pant aisle that was right next to the shoes. "Hmm, I think some jeans are in order," Minerva voiced aloud, picking up a pair of nicely cut jeans and showing them to the boy, who nodded once he felt the texture of the denim. The adults allowed him to choose a few different washes of fabric before turning him to the lounge wear, "They're not as comfy as night-gowns, but you could still sleep in these," Severus told the boy in a haughty manner, making the child giggle for the first time in the mall. He picked out a light and a dark grey pair of sweatpants, and blushed as Minerva picked him out a "devishly cute" set of pajamas. "Look at the cute tartan pattern," she cooed, her aged hands displaying the soft fabric to the other two. Severus rolled his eyes, "Very Scottish I'd say," Severus teased, "Don't you have a spread at home with that exact pattern?" Severus inquired, making Minerva huff as she handed the set towards Harry for the boy to decide. Holding the soft fabric in his hands, Harry could only stare wide-eyed at the set, as he had never felt something as soft as it before. "Yes," he told them, drawing the attention of the adults on the boy's slightly hissed but English word, "Like it yeah?" Minerva chuckled, her hand running through the boy's soft curls of hair in a fond manner. "More?" He asked in a timid voice, holding the pajamas up slightly to the adults in a curious manner.

Being presented with this adorable view, both felt their hearts almost melt at the sight. "Of course, Harry," Severus and Minerva confirmed almost at the same time, "Would you like to pick two more?" Severus asked the boy, gesturing towards the diverse selection of pajama bundles. Harry gave Severus a slightly suspicious look before his trust in the man won out and he nodded. Positively delighted with the boy's progress, Severus allowed the boy to pick out any pattern he wanted, resulting in a set with bulldogs and a Union Jack themed set that was almost outrageous with its vibrancy. "Nice choice lad," Minerva chuckled, absolutely smitten with the cute bulldog taking a nap on the set.

They then moved on to the shirts, which slightly overwhelmed the boy with the wide range of graphics and designs. Sensing the discomfort and anxiety over deciding, Severus surprised the boy by scooping him up and placing him in the seat of the cart facing him. "Do you want us to help you decide, love?" Severus asked the fidgeting boy, the term of endearment making the other two look at Severus warmly. The man blushed, but continued to look at the boy softly (after giving Minerva a glare when she gave him a soft nudge). Harry nodded, not really liking how his throat cramped up with the acidic feeling of indecisiveness and the feeling that he would pick something wrong.

Giving a nod and pulling out a hidden water bottle from his subtly enchanted coat pocket, Severus gave the boy the bottle of water and turned to look at Minerva. "I believe you heard his orders Sargent Mcgonagall," Severus stated in a joking tone, almost making water come out of Harry's nose at the unexpectedness of the joke. Minerva gave a chuckle as she shook her head fondly at the man before winking at Harry and giving him a salute. She went to pick out some long sleeves and jackets, while Severus strolled through the graphic tee section at a relaxing pace. He picked a few soft tees that were color-blocked with a few slightly pastel colors, a few white tees to hopefully tie dye if the boy felt like it, and a few silly tees with nature and summer puns on the front. "Hmm, I think this one suits you," Severus stated, showing the slightly dozing boy a more teenage styled shirt that held a botanical theme. Harry perked happily at the vibrant flower patterns and excitedly held his hands out for the shirt, Imari's little head peeking out from his shirt from curiosity. "I like it," Harry told the man in a chirp, his strong emotions finally outshining the anxiety that had been retracting from his throat and chest, "Outside," Harry elaborated as best as he could, his voice still barely loud enough to be heard above the pleasant music playing above them. Severus observed the boy warmly, "Outside, eh?" He intoned with a chuckle, fondly patting the boy's cheek and grabbing a different pattern for the boy, almost making him squeak in excitement over getting two cool shirts.

At that point, Minerva came with a large bundle of an array of thermal shirts, pullovers, hoodies, and a single nice winter jacket that would surely engulf the boy. Severus and Harry widened their eyes in shock at the woman, absolutely gobsmacked at how much she had selected for Harry. "Wow," Severus breathed out, "At least we know you'll be warm," Severus deadpanned after a rather pregnant pause as Minerva stuffed the cart full of her goods. "Please Severus, the boy deserves it," she scoffed in a haughty tone, making Harry blush as Severus out right agreed without much thought. "Now to the boring stuff," Severus sighed in a silly voice, making Harry giggle once more as he carted over to the underwear section, where Severus picked out some more briefs and cartoon themed ones out, while he asked what kind of patterned socks the boy would like. Harry looked at the selection curiously, his hands hugging his mid-section where Imari was settled, and pointed at some colorful ones, and a bundle of long black socks. "Now I think all that's left is toys," Minerva hmmed out in a gentle voice after giving Severus a look over the boy's head. "Unless you want to get out now, since we could just pick up a catalog and order them through mail," Severus suggested once he saw the tired look flash across Harry's face. Given that option, Harry nodded and signed "That one," with a grateful expression, really wanting to get out of the store as he had been noticing more and more people looking over at the interesting trio that they made.

Giving a nod, Severus and Minerva walked towards the counter where they were greeted by Katie again. "I see someone's got a good da' and nan," she commented warmly at the humongous amount of clothing that was laid out in front of her, making the boy blush and hide his face in the opening of Severus' jacket. Severus and Minerva chuckled, a little chuffed at the misunderstanding, "Indeed he does now," Minerva agreed happily, her gloved hand rubbing the flustered boy's back in a soothing manner. Katie gave an "Aww," and quickly got all of their items scanned, her heart bleeding from the slight implication. "Can we also grab one of those catalogs," Severus asked her as she finished bagging their things.

Katie nodded, easily grabbing the thick book and giving them their total. It was a hefty some that made Harry startle up and gap at the two, slight tears glistening in his eyes as he nervously bit at his thumb. Catching the nervous behavior and tears, Katie reacted quickly and offered the boy a piece of candy that they usually kept behind the counter for upset kids. "I bet you've been such a good boy lad, that you must surely get a toffee," she told the boy, capturing his startled attention with her bright yet gentle voice while Severus took out the funds he had been allotted in one of the Potter vaults for the shopping trip-- the vault having been saved for the case of Harry being taken under a different guardian. Harry shyly took the piece of candy from her outstretched hand and signed thank you when he found that his throat was clamped shut like an iron gate.

Katie accepted the money, giving Harry a warm smile and completed the transaction from there with a swiftness that came from experience. "Have a good day now, yeah?" She told the trio warmly, waving them off with a fond look as she began to tend to the couple that had been behind them. Giving their goodbyes, Minerva and Severus walked to the entrance and grabbed all of the bags after helping Harry out of the cart. "Good job, lad," Minerva told him proudly, her voice slightly quivering as she took his hand gently, the three of them walking back through the mall and to the parking lot. There was still a noticeable slowness to the mall, as they had barely taken an hour a half to find all of the items that Harry had needed, so they were able to walk at a relaxed pace. Once getting to the sort of ugly, wood-paneled car, Minerva gave Severus a friendly hug and bent down to Harry's level, a proud glimmer in her eye.

"I'll be seeing you in our next lesson, my smart and brave boy," she told him, opening her arms slightly for a hug, which Harry leaned into. He was wrapped in the smell of lavender and something a bit sharp and herb-like from the woman, and could only allow himself to be held by the older woman. She pulled away after a few seconds and straightened herself out in a prim manner. "Don't get into too much trouble boys," she warned in a gruff voice before turning on her heel and disappearing as quickly as she had come to them. Severus placed a hand on Harry's shoulder and guided the boy to the open car door, happy that the trip hadn't gone too poorly.

Chapter Text

As much progress as Harry had made so early into their lessons and his general recovery from the Dursleys, Severus wasn't really surprised when the boy finally snapped from frustration. He had been in his office next to the "lesson room" that Minerva and Harry were in (the boy's snake exploring the manor more), the wall temporarily spelled as a one-way mirror for him or Minerva to observe lessons in case something went wrong. Fiddling with his quill and not-exactly listening to Minerva since she sounded calm, Severus was starting to create the general outline for the school year for most of his classes, making sure to get the younger years done first since they required more training with basics and would likely need the most revisions as he got to know each class.

As he carefully crossed out a list with an annoyed huff, Severus looked up quickly when he heard the little "ding," sound from the wall and saw the flash of blue light that came as an indicator that there was an increase in accidental or untrained magic in the room. Severus glanced at Harry's frustrated face, the boy's cheeks puffed and red as he seemed to be holding his breath. He saw and heard Minerva trying to gently soothe the boy, but he definitely didn't want things to escalate before she could settle him down. Stepping away from his desk, Severus briskly made his way to the door leading to the converted play room and softly knocked on the door. Hearing Minerva's brisk, "Come in," Severus did just that after making sure that he had control over his facial features.

"I thought I'd come and offer some fresh biscuits," Severus told the two who turned to look at him, not wanting the boy to think that he was being observed right away. Minerva gave him a relieved look while Harry's hunched shoulders and furrowed brow relaxed slightly, the boy having thought that he would get beaten or in trouble for giving the older woman trouble. "Would you like grab them Min?" Severus asked the woman softly after receiving their nods as replies, Minerva nodded once more and gently stroked Harry's shoulder reassuringly as she stood up and walked out of the room. Severus observed how Harry seemed to tense up at being alone with him, Severus walked over to Harry as softly as he could and took a seat next to the boy.

Harry looked at his father figure with poorly disguised trepidation as he shuffled in his seat, his eyes flickering from the man's dark eyes before resting on the table. "What's wrong Harry?" Severus asked the boy after gently resting his hand against the table with his palm up, inviting the boy to hold his hand while they talked. Harry turned his head from looking at the hand and gave an irritated huff in reply, his eyes becoming teary as he felt the frustration from before come back with force. After swallowing a few times from the pure emotions running through his chest, Harry aggressively jabbed towards his throat and crumbled some nearby paper, his wild magic knocking over a container of pencils without his permission.

Harry yelped at the unfamiliar movement of magic from his core, having never experienced his own magic in such a corporeal manner. Jumping from his seat, Harry banged his forehead off of the table as he rushed to pick the pencils up off of the floor, jerkily whimpering out "I'm sorry," over and over again in English. Startled by the quick progression of events, Severus blinked from the disorientation and moved to settle the boy gently. He leaned near the child, not exactly hovering over him, and gently grabbed his arms as he tugged the whimpering and softly crying boy away from the mess as his magic continued to muck about the room. The accidental magic ripped some books off of a nearby bookshelf and proceeded to tear off an ancient map as it moved around in distress.

Severus shushed the child as he drew his quivering body near him, keeping the from facing him directly in case that made him more upset. "It's okay Harry," Severus reassured the boy in a deep, soothing voice, rubbing his arms in a circular motion until the child was able to stop himself from repeating "I'm sorry," and until his whimpers settled into hitching breaths and sniffles. By that time, Severus had the boy cradled against his chest and was sitting on one of the chairs, his arms keeping Harry secured in a loose embrace as the boy settled down from the outburst.

Taking a deep breath, Severus brought the boy's head out from where it had been tucked under his chin and cupped his cheek. "You're okay Harry," Severus told the boy when those green eyes looked at him anxiously, not wanting to get told off and abandoned for making a mess or lashing out. Severus rubbed his thumb against the boy's temple as those words made his lips quiver and a few tears to slip down his face, "Broken," Harry whispered quietly in English, his voice wobbling around the lump in his throat. Severus let out a deeply sad sigh and pressed his lips against the boy's forehead, sympathy and melancholy for the poor boy raging within his chest. Pulling away from the sniffling boy Severus cleared his throat deeply.

"You're not permanently broken, love," Severus told the child in a gentle tone, "You're a little worn and torn, but you have to give yourself and us more time to help mend what has been done to you," Severus felt his eyes water as he held the vulnerable boy's stare. Giving his own sniffle, Severus continued, "We've taken you away from that house, but it doesn't mean everything will instantly heal," Severus paused as he clutched the boy a little closer to his chest, "You're a strong, strong boy Harry, I know you will overcome this and grow," Harry gave a little sob and found himself shaking his head at the prospect of overcoming his muteness and everything else from the Dursley's, unable to see himself getting there when everything was so hard now.

"I know, it seems like miles away," Severus told him in a gentle voice, fighting against the way he wanted to hurriedly assure the boy and make everything better, "But you're not alone, and you'll never be alone again," he murmured as he brushed away the fresh tears, his words striking the boy's heart-strings deeply and made him grab onto Severus' robes with tight, desperate fists. Harry felt the buried emotions from the past few weeks splurge out of his chest as he noisily sobbed into the man's chest, his insecurities and frustration seeping out of his being and metaphorically pooling around them. Severus resorted back to hushing and soothing the boy, even going as far as to rock him in his arm in a soothing manner.

When Harry settled down once more, his felt like he had just been running away from his Aunt Marge's dog with how jittery and out of breath he felt. His head rested against Severus' chest, his eyes drooping slightly from the emotional outburst. Taking Harry's head away from the circle of wet cloth, Severus gently switched him to his other side and continued to sit with the boy in his arms until he heard Minerva knock on the door. Severus told her to come in with a quiet voice, keeping the boy settled even though he had perked up at the thought of Minerva seeing the mess he had made in his upset state of mind.

Severus looked up at the older woman, catching sight of her tear-streaked face before she squatted slightly and hugged the both of them. Her breath stuttered out and her voice cracked slightly from her emotions as she pulled away, deciding to just stroke their faces lovingly instead of breaking the silence. After a long period of silence as the three of them gathered themselves, Harry surprised the two by perking up and looking around the trashed room with wide eyes, "Mess?" He asked in a curious and hesitant voice, seeming to ask the adults how they were going to clean up and fix the torn antique map and books. The two chuckled as they looked at him with fond eyes, "We can ask Cherry to clean up, and fix everything with a few simple spells," Severus informed the boy in a soft voice, the reassurance that nothing couldn't be fixed allowing the boy to settle down once more.

"Well, now that I've cried my heart out," Minerva joked in a slightly wobbly voice as she looked at the two with a soft gaze, "I have a meeting to catch with Albus," she told them, giving the both of them good-bye hugs before leaving the room. Severus and Harry continued to sit together, moving to a plush armchair as Severus found the wooden one hurting his back. Harry was still snuggled against Severus' chest, his green eyes flashing around in a jittery manner from the adrenaline that his magic and nerves had given him, although his gaze kept on landing on Severus' face and his shoulder length hair. Severus was content with leaning back in the chair and stroking the boy's head, his dark eyes observing the child in his grasp with a loving glint.

After a few more minutes of content silence, Harry squirmed and sat up, his side still pressed comfortably against the man's chest. With a huff, Harry more formally hugged the man, his chin resting on his bony shoulder as Harry hesitantly nuzzled his head in between his shoulder and neck. Severus gave the boy a loose hug in return, smiling brightly when the boy gave a whispered, "Thank you," before squirming to be let off. Sappy moment over with, Severus let the boy out of his grasp and fondly watched as he all but jumped out of his arms with a beet-red face.

Severus chuckled as Harry signed that he was embarrassed, going as far has to scuff his socked feet against the rug in an ashamed manner. "Feelings just burst out sometimes, love," Severus stated bluntly, shifting forward to tilt the boy's chin to look at him, giving the boy an earnest yet stern eye, "It can all be fixed, but try to keep it your feelings from festering like a moldy shoe," he advised the boy, the words, "Don't be like me," on the tip of his tongue held back. Harry gazed at the man with contemplative eyes as he thought the advice over before nodding and pulling the man out of the chair, wanting to either get away from or start cleaning the mess that he had made. Chuckling, Severus stood up and called Cherry as well as another house elf named Bryn to help clean the mess. Severus gave a quick summary of what happened without making the boy feel too bad, and ushered the child out of the room with Cherry shooing them away.

"Would you like to join me in the Potions lab?" Severus as the boy once they stood in the hallway, the door shutting close quite firmly as the elves preferred to work without the two in the way. Glancing up at the man with a smile, Harry nodded and timidly grabbed his hand, slightly pulling the man towards the direction of the staircase. Chuckling, Severus allowed himself to be guided by the boy as they stepped down the grand staircase into the foyer and down the hallway near the dining room. Passing the room slightly, they came to a door at the end of a hallway, the warm lighting and flowery wallpaper making it look extremely old fashion, as did the old, oval picture frames that held some black and white photos of Eileen Prince. They were lovely, silent moving pictures that showed her as a young woman, playing on the beach with her siblings, as well as a few of her putting on makeup. The makeup ones always made Harry giggle, as she would be in the middle of putting her blush on and would catch sight of the photographer and make a funny face at the camera before laughing.

Severus had liked picking those pictures out since they reminded him of the more simpler and kinder woman she had been before she had become this nightmare who manipulated and verbally took her frustrations out on him. Leaving the past to the past, Severus unlocked the door, and allowed Harry to push it open, the boy long since comfortable with the gaping mouth of a staircase that lead down to the manor's cellar. Almost skipping down the stairs, Harry excitedly tugged on the man's hand as the kind of motion-detector spell lights activated, the candles bursting with light at the presence of the two wizards. Harry had tried to ask Minerva how the man had done it after only getting a wink and a smirk, although the woman's answer of, "They turn on when they sense his dramatics," confused him more than anything.

Reaching the bottom of the stone staircase, Harry let go of Severus' hand to climb onto his stool next to the main counter and a professional grade cauldron that glittered in the light. Severus ruffled the boy's hair as he passed him and took out his Potions equipment and "tool" belt, clipping the weird mixture of muggle and wizard supplies on his de-robed waist and rolled his black dress-shirt's sleeves up. Taking out a clipboard with a paper listing all of the potions that Madame Pomfrey would be needing for the school year. As much as the other teachers liked to get on him for his workaholic nature, Severus tended to remind them that simple potions were very easy for him to do and were just as relaxing as baking a cake or a pie.

"Hmm, I think we can do the pepper-up potions tonight," Severus thought aloud, only really considering making potions that had a very extended shelf-life since he didn't want to waste ingredients. Catching Harry's nod from the corner of his eye, Severus selected the spelled knife on his belt that he provided to younger students that would keep them from cutting themselves and placed it on the counter in front of the boy. Severus then grabbed the Amethyst cutting board that he had protected with a coat of clear epoxy, and set it in front of the boy with the ingredients for the potion. Halting the boy's quick hands, Severus warned him that he would have to cut certain ingredients a specific way as to keep the properties from being affected, "Follow how I cut," he told the boy as he physically guided his hand, moving both of them in the proper cutting style for the mandrake root.

Getting the nod that the boy understood, Severus stood back to observe the focused brunet. Complimenting him for his good listening, Severus gave the boy a pat on the back, and went to prepare the cauldron for the more complicated steps that the nine-almost-ten year old wouldn't be able to do. The man cracked his neck and sighed in relief, content to spend the afternoon making potions with the sweet boy that he was hesitantly beginning to see as his own son.

Chapter Text

If there was one thing that Narcissa Malfoy didn't have enough of in her life it would be patience. Sure, she was a mother of a rowdy little boy and could handle the worst tantrums one could ever think of, and sure, she has to constantly make sure her husband knew his place, but she does not have much patience with her friends and their well-beings. If she has owled you three times for a spot of tea after not getting a floo-call back, that is three times too many in her books. And to get such treatment from Severus Snape no less. The man who she helped through his most trying times, the man who she thought of as her own brother in all but blood just-- just ignoring her? That line of thought instantly made Narcissa's skin crawl at the implications of his silence, especially when she knew the consequences that came when the man went off of his muggle medication.

Could he have slipped down that damnable staircase to his cellar, crawling half-way with his bum head to call for help? Could a malicious Death-Eater have found out his true loyalties and decided to kill the man in his sleep? Or the most horrible thing she could ever imagine-- she held a hand to her mouth as her stomach rolled at the mere thought. The thoughts piles around in her anxious head and seemed to torture her as she sat by the fireside, a cup of chamomile tea in hand as to sooth her fretful mind. Narcissa knew that some of these thoughts were irrational, a sort of result of her gruesome childhood of paranoia and second-guessing, yet, she couldn't keep herself from biting away at her finger-nails in worry. Severus had never gone this long without replying to her messages, always giving her some sort of sign when he had to go "off-the-grid" in the past.

Staring into the deep flames in her pink night-gown, Narcissa took a deep gulp of her tea and decided to visit the man right then and there. If not to reassure herself, she would also go to scold the man and to threaten him in to submission, hopefully making it so that he never went this long without talking to her again. Making up her mind, Narcissa stood briskly and made her way up the grand staircase to check to see if Draco was still asleep. Opening the door to the grand children's room, she caught sight of the boy's subconsciously raised tush in the air and felt a soft smile replace the worried frown on her thin lips. She closed it softly before heading to the office, making sure Lucius would know where she would be in case she took longer than expected. Knocking on the door to announce her presence, Narcissa opened it without abandon when Lucius told her to come in.

"I'm going to check on Sev," Narcissa told the man in a firm voice, her hard tone and battle-ready strides easily capturing Lucius' attention from his paperwork. Lucius blinked up at his catch-of-a-wife and hid his gulp as she stopped right in front of his desk with her "Don't test me" stance pulled out. He cleared his throat and said, "Of course darling, he hasn't been replying to any of our letters," the agreement flew off of his lips as he nodded, turning his gaze to look at his paperwork as Narcissa smiled at him with a sharkish grin. "Good that we're in agreement Luc," she practically purred, making the hair on the back of his neck stand-up and goosebumps rise on his arms. Lucius wasn't really sure why his loving wife loved to unsettle him like this (even though he found it a little arousing), and when others asked him why he allowed himself to be run by a woman he would: 1.) Tell them that he liked it just fine, 2.) Tell them to respect his wife or he would tell her what they said, and 3.) often blame his father for courting him off to a Black as the whole family was just generally unsettling by nature.

Lucius felt her thin fingers clasp around his hand, his grey eyes glancing up to meet her icy blue. "You behave now," she ordered the aloof man, making his usually calm and controlled face blush at her tone. "Of course dear," Lucius replied to the woman in a steady voice, leaning up to give her a farewell kiss when she leaned towards him, her delicate locks of hair cascading and dragging over his instant-dry ink. "I'll tell him you said hi," she added once she left him properly flustered, the man having always remained easily flustered when it came to affection and anything more than chaste kisses during their marriage. That was one of the main reasons why they'd stopped at Draco, as anymore and Narcissa was sure she would have either killed the bumbling man or would die herself from the adorable awkwardness that overcame him when she had her way with him.

Narcissa caressed his sharp face and easily stepped away from the desk with a smile. Turning on her heel, Narcissa drifted out of the office and went to change into more fitting wear for the visit. Changing into a comfy but sporty set of emerald robes, Narcissa made her way towards their personal apparition site, and apparated to the Prince Manor that she had been informed that he would be staying in. Coming to the outskirts of the gated estate, Narcissa walked quickly towards the entrance and called out to the elf in charge of the grounds. Mipsy appeared in front of her, really confused as to why Madame Malfoy was in front of the gate at midnight. "Good evening Madame, has Master left the floo inaccessible for the night?" He politely asked the woman, wanting to make sure it wasn't an imposter or anything before letting her in. "No Mipsy, he hasn't returned my letters and I would like to talk to him about it," she told the elf with a firm voice, shifting her stance slightly in the mud and gravel that made up the road.

Mipsy analyzed her more closely, looking for a glamour or the hints that came from someone using polyjuice. Finding her to be the real Madame Malfoy, Mipsy opened the gate and began to lead her down the short road. While Mipsy wanted to warn the woman of his Masters new ward as to keep anything from happening, he felt the vow that he had agreed to tighten his vocal cords whenever he opened his mouth to say something--although it didn't stop him from warning his master of the woman's visit. "Here we are Madame," the elf bowed at the entrance, leaving the woman to enter the gloomy manor at her own risk. Having grown up in a manor that was far more intimidating and dark, Narcissa easily opened the door and stepped into the house.

Severus had been in his office reading a muggle romance novel when he got the notification from Mipsy. Hastily placing the book in his desk drawer, Severus tightened his sleeping robe around his slight form and descended down the staircase just in time to see the woman step into the foyer. Meeting eyes, Severus stared down at her haughtily, "Hello Narcissa," he greeted her, slightly uncomfortable to have the woman come to his house uninvited. Narcissa scoffed at her slightly younger friend and rolled her eyes in eply, "Hello Severus, I've come to inquire why you've decided to ignore me," she stated in a straightforward manner as she began to march towards the man on the staircase. Startled by the movement, Severus began to hesitantly meet the woman halfway and silently brought her to the parlor room.

Settling in the garishly floral armchairs, Severus called on Cherry to bring them some tea and biscuits, heavily avoiding the aristocratic woman's stare. Severus shifted and brought his dark eyes to look at Narcissa with a raised eyebrow as to prompt her to start the interrogation. "Oh Severus, stop acting like you didn't expect this to happen," Narcissa told him while narrowing her eyes at him, "You know how deeply Lucius and I care for you, of course I'm going to see why you haven't answered my calls and letters," she huffed, "What kind of friend would I be if I just allowed such insolence."

Severus rolled his eyes as he took a sip of his cup of chamomile tea, and set the delicate cup on the stand near his arm, "I'm grateful that you care, and maybe I shouldn't have ignored you for so long without an explanation," Severus admitted with slight guilt before straightening his shoulders, "Yet, I must ask that we only correspond over floo and owl mail due to some..." Severus trailed off as he ran a hand through his hair in an unsure manner. The body language that she could read from the man made Narcissa lean forward in curiosity, wanting to know his reasons without any care of how eager she looked. Severus sighed, "I've taken on a ward who has a very fragile temperament," Severus admitted more honestly, seeing that it would be best to just rip off the bandages than to allow Narcissa to pester him and Harry and possibly cause the boy to become afraid of the woman.

Receiving this information, Narcissa reared back in shock, never having imagined the man taking on children given how emotionally strained and withdrawn the man was prone to be. Narcissa continued to stare at the man with surprise, making him shift under her microscope-like blue eyes in discomfort. Before he could give a snappish reply Narcissa stated, "Well, that's something," and the two fell into a slight silence as they regarded each other, the firelight dancing and shadowing their similarly blank faces. "How have things been going?" The woman asked in a soft voice, quite intrigued on what type of father figure Severus has acted to the obviously abused child. Given the question the man shifted slightly and fiddled with one of the spoons that Cherry had provided for them with the silver platter. "I like to think I've done a decent job so far," he replied, fairly insecure and unsure how good of a father he has been since he didn't really have a good role model on proper parenting. "The boy has opened up to me, and-- and he seems to enjoy spending time with me," Severus continued in an awkward manner when Narcissa didn't reply, "He joins me in the lab and loves when I read to him or garden with him," Severus added on as examples, feeling his pale skin slightly color when he meet Narcissa's eyes and found her smiling softly at him.

"It sounds like you've been doing splendidly," she complimented the man, always willing to give him confidence in areas were he was lacking. "Do you think he would be fine meeting me, and some time later, Draco?" She asked her friend in a relaxed manner, knowing that it would be difficult to meet the boy if he had a deep distrust for adults who could hurt him. Severus gave a little shake as he gave her an apologetic expression, "I wouldn't want to push him to meet others at this point since he's settled a little bit," he told the woman honestly, the man also hesitant to introduce the two/three given her connections with the Dark Lord. Severus knew that he could trust the woman, however, he wasn't comfortable (or naive) with the idea of Harry being so close to Narcissa and the rest of Malfoy's as he wasn't exactly sure how much they've changed after the First War despite their acceptance of his position as a spy. It would be horrible if they were to betray and injure the boy if the Lord ever returned.

From Narcissa's perspective, she could understand some of the man's hesitation given that the both of them came from rough households and have had to dictate how close others got. She set her hand on the man's arm in a comforting manner before giving him a conspiratory smile, "It's alright Severus, just don't be surprised when I send the boy sweets or gifts," she chuckled as he rolled his eyes fondly at her spoiling nature towards children. "Of course," he agreed, a little happy that the woman wasn't going to entirely cut connections off with him and his new ward. "Would it be alright if I write him letters as well?" She asked curiously, not wanting to overstep any boundaries as her close friend began to continue in this new part of his adult life. Severus scratched his cheek idly, "Er, I guess," he allowed, "Although, I'd have to read them to him given that he's never learned how to," Severus added in a blunt manner, not wanting the woman to write anything too personal/weird as well as not wanting her to place any spells that would harm anyone but the person meant to read the letter.

Narcissa blinked at the information, having not been aware of the boy's age or his home life enough to know if his previous guardians had at least given him proper education, "How old is the boy Severus?" She inquired, her voice barely containing her outrage for the child. Severus took a nervous sip of his tea, "If you're going to react violently Cissa, I must ask you to leave and recollect yourself before you act recklessly," he informed her, not wanting an outburst to startle the sleeping boy on the floor above them. Narcissa nodded and calmed herself easily, the practice of hiding her emotions within the deepest part of her being ingrained into her from her childhood. She checked her dainty watch and sighed at the time, the talk having gone till well into an hour. Not really wanting to leave with so many things unresolved about the child, Narcissa hesitantly stood up and hugged her friend in farewell. "Make sure to write me, or else," Narcissa warned the man after their embrace, her gloved finger prodded the man's shoulder in an aggressive manner before she turned to the fireplace.

Narcissa left with the sound of the man's chuckling, stepping into the green flames with an habitual ease. Severus watched the woman leave with a fond expression, sitting back into the armchair as he continued to drink his tea and gazed at the fireplace in thought. His dark eyebrows furrowed in worry as his slightly anxious mind ran through the scenarios that could take place if Narcissa and Lucius Malfoy learned that he was taking care of Harry Potter.