The gentle pitter-patter of rain filled the silence as Severus pulled-out of the parking-lot of the restaurant little over an hour later. Draco and Harry were perched side-by-side on the backseat, their belly's full with food and a nauseated feeling. No one wanted to talk about the obviousness of Vernon's leering. Severus looked in his rear-view mirror at the boys' and was surprised at how well they were both holding-up after such a disturbing experiance. Then again, he reasoned to himself, they had both been through more than any should at such an age.
He decided to break the silence but just as he parted his lips, Harry's meek and tired voice sounded out from the backseat, "thank you for doing this, sir, I really appreciate it"
Severus caught the sight of beryl eyes in the mirror, "not a problem, Harry, any friend of Draco's is a friend of mine" he stopped at a red light, "however, Harry I know this will be uncomfortable for you but I honestly feel as though some action should have been taken a long time ago"
He watched as Harry's ashen features crumbled in on themselves, "I know, sir" he responded listlessly, "sadly they were prone to not believing a word I said"
Draco's silvery eyes darted between his godfather and his friend before he sighed, "can we discuss this when we all get home and are warm and dry, please? Seeing your uncle leering put enough strain on my appetite as it is"
Severus nodded, "very well Draco, what do you wish to discuss?" the dark-haired man asked tightly, his knuckles flashing white as he gripped the steering wheel.
The blond boy shrugged, his wet clothes irritating his skin as he moved, "how I'm dreading winter, the future, everything? Or how about the fact that in a few days you, of all people, will not only be deserting me but also Harry? Which one is more intriguing to you?" he hissed through clenched teeth, the cold rain already soaking into his bones. Harry frowned over at him with wild concern in his eyes.
"You're leaving, sir?"
Severus glanced back at the bright green eyes and felt his heard clench painfully in his chest. "Yes I am. I work as a professor at my old school"
Harry nodded. "Oh right, um ... what subjects do you teach?"
Severus felt his mind run blank. What was it that muggles taught? There wasn't that much difference between the basic curriculum! "Chemistry and some psychology" he finally answered, thanking Lily for persuading him to take Muggle Studies.
Harry frowned a little at this as Severus pulled off into a small road barely wide enough for one car to cruise down, "so you teach two subjects? I was under the impression that most people only teach one or the other?"
Before the blind panic could suffocate Severus a third time that evening, Draco's familiar drawl entered the atmosphere in a bored manner, sounding like music to Severus' ears. "Severus likes to brag about how he was well-advanced for his age-group and managed to study for both degress -in case of an emergency in his career, then he would have another line of work to fall-back on"
Severus chuckled more to himself than at Draco's familiar tone of voice, "yes well it is better to be prepared for the worst. Here we are boys -now run out to the front porch and I'll be there in a moment" He waited until he had heard the boys unfasten their seatbelts, open the car doors and jump out into the piercing rain before resting his forehead on the steering wheel. "Oh, Lily, what the hell am I doing?"
Silence was his answer, an answer he had grown accustomed to. He sighed and wearily rubbed his forehead before tugging at the door handle and stepping out into the downpour. The icy needles pierced from the Heavens and sank deep into his skin as he strode swiftly up to his front porch and fished his keys out of his pocket. Both boys' were hunched over due to the cold. Severus clenched his teeth tightly and unlocked the door, ushering the boys' into the front parlour.
"Here you are boys' these are the only pyjamas I have I'm afraid" Severus stated apologetically as he entered his spare bedroom where both boys' were peeling their shirts off like a snake would shed it's skin. Both their skin looked drained of any colour thanks to the chill settling into their bones. "I suggest you both take a bath or a shower before either of you catches a cold" without another word, he turned on his heel and left.
Harry sat on the edge of the double bed and stared at the door where Severus had last stood before turning his gaze to the large pair of pyjamas in his lap. Draco had an almost identical pair. "You're uncle is a very strange man" he breathed shakily into the cool atmosphere around them.
Draco shrugged as he tugged his shirt free from his body. "Well he may be weird but I wouldn't be without him for the world" He growled in frustration as he soaked jeans bunched awkwardly around his ankles. "Plus I think he likes having us around the house -gives him something to occupy himself"
Harry frowned and then looked around the room; it had plain white-washed walls with black beams running along the cieling and around the doorframe. The small window had curtain obscurring the inky blue light pouring in from the streets outside. It all looked rather bleak and lonely. "Your uncle does not have any family -does he?"
The question, though so innocent, made Draco's heart lurch uncomfortably in his chest. He peered over his shoulder but Harry was not looking at him. He licked his lips, "well ... it's believed that he did have a son somewhere in the world ... but he had never seen him"
Harry scoffed weakly, "how does that even work?"
"The woman whom he loved, and had his child -well she was married to a horrible man. The man wanted a child -an heir to his fortune -but he was barren"
Harry turned to look up at the blond, "so she had the affair just for a child?"
Draco shook his head, "she wanted the affair as much as Severus did. She had not planned on getting pregnant at all. Her husband knew nothing about it until she was almost full-term with the baby"
Harry bowed his head, "that's too bad -especially if Severus never even got to see his child"
Draco nodded, "I imagine that is why he does not wish for another family. He already has what's left of one, somewhere ... he just needs to brave it all and find his son"
"Is he afraid of the rejection he might recieve from this boy?" Harry asked as he reclined sideways onto the bed, the cool sheets making him shiver.
Draco grabbed two of the towels that Severus had laid out on the bed for the both of them. He hugged them to his abdomen, the softness soothing his nerves. He fixed Harry with a stern stare and tilted his head slightly to one side, "wouldn't you be?" Harry said nothing as he watched Draco disappear in to the en-suite bathroom. He waited a few moment until he heard the shower running and then slipped out of the bedroom.
He found Severus in the front parlour in an armchair, nursing a steaming cup of something that scented the air with the sweetness of Summer. He felt an instant calm absorb within him as he descended the last few steps and cleared his throat to gain Severus' attention. The dark-haired man started from his stupor and frowned at Harry, "I thought I told the both of you to shower before coming down?" he asked tersley.
Harry shifted before nodding his head back in the direction of the staircase, "Draco is in the shower at the moment" Black eyes narrowed upon him as he felt a breeze tickle his bare ankles. "I just -I wanted to say that ... I'm sorry you have not found your son yet" at Severus' angered expression he hurried on, "don't b angry, sir, I caught Draco off-guard and asked him why you did not have a family"
Severus sighed wearily and bowed his head to his chest. His son was standing in the same room as him, barely two metres away and he could not tell him. Why did the world hate him? He looked up and patted the space beside him on the sofa. Harry obediantly went and sat beside him. "No one's life is perfect Harry, you must always remember that. The world will play tricks on you and we must get through the maze of it all. I do have a son and I wish he knew I was there for him"
Harry could feel the emotion radiating off of the man in torrents, like black silk ribbons dancing in the air around them. "If it's any consolation, sir, I'd love it if you were my father -at least you're actually here when I need you"
Severus had no time to respond as a pair of lithe, muscular arms wound around his shoulders and hugged him. He was momentarily immobalised before he hugged Harry a little uncertainly. "I'll always be here, Harry, whenever you need me" he murmured into the air.
"Harry?" came a call from somewhere upstairs. Severus chuckled to himself and released Harry from his embrace, "the shower's free now!"
"Go on up, Harry, there'll be hot chocolate for when you both come down and I also need to discuss some things with the both of you"
Harry's small smile faltered at the serious tone Severus had adopted by this point but said nothing on the matter. "Of course, sir, I won't be long"
Severus shook his head and waved the boy away dismissively, "I'm in no rush. Take all the time you need"
Harry nodded before continuing on his journey up the narrow staircase. He crossed the small landing and entered the bedroom and choked on the air as his cheeks enflamed. Draco was standing there in an awkward position as he balanced on one leg to get his pyjama trousers on. As quick as lightning, Draco recovered and then tugged the rest of attire on, "Bloody Hell Harry have you not heard of knocking?" he snapped, his cheeks flushing crimson, his damp blond hair ruffled and sticking up in every direction.
Harry blinked a few times before shaking his head, "I-I'm sorry I thought you ... were um ... d-dressed already"
Draco huffed in annoyanced, "well clearly I wasn't" he ground out, snatching a towel from the bed and ruffling his hair with it. "Next time please knock"
Harry nodded, "I'm sorry Draco"
Draco growled before looking up at Harry; still drenched and cold he looked like someone had left their favourite toy out in the rain. His heart skipped a beat, "It's fine, just hurry up and have a shower before you catch a cold"
Harry smiled weakly, "will you wait for me? I don't want to be left up here on my own"
Draco cocked a sleek blond eyebrow, "and why not? You're not afriad of the dark, are you?"
Harry smiled weakly and shook his head, hugging the towels and pyjamas to his chest, "no -but this house ... it's creepy"
Draco rolled his eyes but nodded nonetheless, "alright I promise to wait for you" Draco watched as Harry entered the bathroom and closed the door behind him. He sighed and collapsed sideways on to the mattress, "he is slowly but surely killing me" he breathed out.
The house was calm as Severus waited for the hot chocolate's to brew properly. He shifted and -looking over his shoulder to make sure that no one could see him -removed a small phial from his nightgown pocket and unfastened the cork. He hesitated as he positioned the phial over Harry's tea-cup. He didn't want to spike the boy ... but he needed to know some home-truths if any of the horrors from his past were ever going to get confronted. He added a single droplet of clear liquid to the tea cup before placnig the re-corked phial onto a high shelf. He sighed before picking up the tray and heading in to the front parlour.
"Here you are boys'" he gave a tired smile as he set the tray on the small coffee table pulled into the middle of the room. Harry and Draco were sitting side-by-side on the sofa opposite Severus' armchair. They each reached forward and took a mug each before reclining in their caccoon of blankets.
Draco hummed gratefully as he took a large gulp of his drink, the mini-marshmallows melting against his lips, "you said you wanted to discuss some things with us, Uncle?"
Severus did not respond straight away. He merely gave a small nod of his head. "Well firstly I wish to discuss what you two intend to do for money and living accomondations throughout the following few months, say until Christmas holidays?"
Harry popped a marshmallow into his mouth, "well I've been planning to convert our attic into another room, for Draco"
Severus cocked a dark eyebrow, "and your aunt is fine with this?"
"I have not told her that the room if for Draco, necessarily, but she knows that I plan to convert it ... so ... it's a start"
Severus felt the corner of his mouth twitch. He wondered what house Harry would have been in had he been accepted into Hogwarts. He was as cunning as a snake but as loyal as a lion -a devious little wizard to the core. His heart swelled within him as he inclined his head, "and if she says no?"
Harry shrugged, "I think we both know she won't say 'no' to that"
Severus steepled his fingers on his lap, "also, I want to make sure that both of you are financially stable. Draco, I know you volunteer for that old woman-"
"Who I still have not met" Harry injerected playfully. Draco rolled his eyes and smiled into his mug.
"-but that is not a supportable way of life. Did you mention you were to be working with Harry after the weekend?"
Draco nodded, "yes I will be working at the wonder that is Tesco's" the blond remarked dryly, earning himself a kick from Harry underneath the blankets.
Severus nodded, "I will be back just before Halloween for a few days away from all those annoying brats they call students. In which time I do not want either of you to have 'missing' poster's plastered up all over Surrey"
Both of the boys' snickered into their frothy mugs, earning a small smirk from Severus. Harry peered up over the rim of his mug, "I'll try my best sir" he snickered even more, his cheeks flushing pink slightly.
Severus' face grew a little darker as the fire continued to crackle in the grate, "now I need to talk to you Harry. About your Uncle"
The atmosphere in the room grew thick and tense. Harry felt rigid on the other side of the sofa and Draco immediately wished that he could take the smaller boy into his arms and sooth him with all the kindess in his heart. Alas, he could do nothing but sit on the other end of the sofa and watch a broken boy break even further. Draco turned his attention to Severus, "do we really need to discuss that poor excuse of a man right now, Uncle?"
Severus nodded, "indeed we must. It is better that that man is brought to justice than allowed to get away with the crimes he had committed"
Draco felt Harry shift again underneath the blanket. He stretched his leg out slightly until their feet touched, the cold skin feeling soft and refreshing. "I can understand that father but it should be Harry's choice whether he wants to or not"
"I ... I do want to" Harry admitted weakly as he took another timid sip of his drink, "but like I said before, no one believed me when I tried to tell them. They said I was just making it all up. That I had a wild imagination and I was accusing my Uncle of indescent things because he shouted at me once when I was young"
Draco narrowed his eyes at Harry and then turned to his Uncle, "is that so?" he breathed darkly.
Severus hummed in thought, "when was the first time you tried to tell someone about it Harry?"
Harry hesitated, picking at a loose thread on the end of the blanket wrapped over himself and Draco, "just after my seventh birthday -Uncle had given me my 'present' and I could not run properly for sports the next day. The teacher asked me what was wrong and I told her that my Uncle did something bad to my backside. She asked me if it hurt and I nodded. Turns out she thought it was just a little bit of discipline that got out of hand" he sighed and rubbed his eyes from underneath his glasses, "a few weeks later it happened again and I told her that my Uncle but his 'thingie' in me for being a naughty, dirty little boy. She called a meeting with Petunia and Vernon. At this point Petunia did not know anything about any of it so she was quite adamant that I was making it up and Vernon -well he just denied everything, saying that I was always making up wild stories"
"Did anyone try to help you as you got older?" Severus asked.
Harry laughed darkly with a slight shake of his head, "of course not. I grew up labelled as a liar. Anything I tried to tell anyone was branded as a lie. Even when they sent me to a psychiatrist after three years of telling the same story no one believed me. And a psychiatrist is generally meant to believe you, I'd imagined" he scoffed to himself, draining the last few dregs of his hot chocolate. "But no. I had been making myself believe that it had all happened. Including my withdrawn behaviour, that was my fault as well"
Severus felt anger and disgust swirl within his stomach. It was an atrocity that his own flesh and blood had been subjected to such torture. He felt bile swirl within him. "Doesn't sound like a professional to me. Did you have any friends you could tell?"
"No. No one wanted to know me once I had my little label"
"So you were isolated?"
"And your Uncle continued to ... do these things to you?"
"Yes sir, he continued to rape me. Telling me I deserved it for being a friendless little freak"
Draco felt his stomach clench as he set his mug down on the table. Severus pinched the bridge of his nose, "I think that's all for tonight boys'. It's getting late, perhaps you should head up to bed"
Both boys' nodded and then stodd up from the tangled blanket. Harry said a weak 'goodnight' before heading upstairs ahead of Draco. When he heard the bedroom door close, Draco whirled around to glare down at his Uncle, "you drugged him didn't you?"
"I needed a confession. Of course I drugged him -only with a single drop mind. The rest he did on his own"
"And this is meant to be earning his respect?" Draco hissed sharply.
Severus rolled his eyes, "yes Draco. This is what's best for him. Now go to bed"
Draco pursed his lips into a thin line before nodding. When he reached the bottom of the staircase he glanced over at his godfather, "Uncle?"
"Make sure that bastard gets what he deserves"
A thin smirk crawled onto Severus' lips, "I wouldn't dream of anything else"
The ice clinked as it was expertly swirled around a wide glass with a quarter of brandy in it.
The door opened and a shadow fell across his features. He smiled thinly. "Good evening Cissa, I have missed you"
Narcissa smiled tightly, her eyes sweeping over her husband sat proudly in his chair by the fireplace. "Well when you go off to France with the rest of your -friends, I find I would stick out like a sore thumb"
Lucius chuckled darkly, the sound irking her. "Nevertheless, you still look as radiant as ever"
She smiled a little wider, "and is Bellatrix fairing well in our French abode? I dare say she prefers their cuisine"
Lucius smirked, "she is settling fine. I had a few other of my friends wives accompany her there"
"And what are your plans now, my dear?" she asked, trying to keep her voice as neutral as possible.
He smirked wider, his grey eyes leering, "well firstly, I am going to take you to bed and show you how much I have missed you" he downed his brandy in an elegant manner, slipping from the leather armchair as he always had. As he neared the door Narcissa could not help but think that perhaps the madness was passing. Perhaps he did not plan to become Voldemort's successor. Perhaps it had been all in her head. As he curved a hand down her cheek and towered over her, she felt like a sixteen-year-old school girl again.
But there was something hanging in the air between them, something unsaid. "A-and?" she asked softly, not really caring about the answer.
"And then I am going to see Severus first thing tomorrow evening and see why he had not stopped by all Summer" As Lucius kissed her cheek, Narcissa felt her heart freeze. "Are you coming, Cissa?" Lucius called from where he had reached the bottom of the grand staircase before her.
She swallowed and nodded, "yes I will be up in a moment, dear, I just wish to choose a book for some light-reading"
He smiled from the staircase, "of course mon cher"
She smiled lovingly as he ascended the stairs before her face fell. Her heart lurched in her chest. She hurried over to the bookcase and wrenched off her favourite novel, and with her wand, extracted one of the blank pages from the back without a trace. Snatching a quill from the study desk, she penned a quick reply, took a pinch of floo powder and tossed both into the fireplace, hissing out Severus' address before closing the networks.
Clutching the novel to her chest, she turned from the already dead embers of the fireplace and sauntered out of the Study, her heat heavy with whatever tomorrow would bring.
That is when it hit him -literally.
A fist had collided heavily with his shoulder and a leg had struck out at his shin bone, causing him to grit his teeth not to shout the house down.
In the foggy blackness of the early morning Draco's sleep-stained brain had all but forgotten that Harry suffered from nightmares. This brutal wake-up call was merely a reminder. He sneered into his pillow and rounded over onto his other side, ready to strangle Harry around his throat -but he stopped himself short when he looked at how pale and wet his companion looked. Swallowing thickly, he reached out a hand and smoothed back the soaked strings of Harry's black fringe away from his sweaty features.
"Harry?" he asked, tapping the side of Harry's cheek, his body starting to convulse with dread. He continued to tap frantically for a little while, his hand merely making contact with sweaty flesh and emitting a wet smacking sound. Beside him, Harry's over-heating, sweaty body writhed, his hands clawing the bedsheets and tangling them. "Harry? Harry, please wake up? Can you hear me?"
Still, he received no answer.
Harry's panting and feverish body made Draco feel helpless. He did not know what to do. The panic bubbled inside of him and forced itself out of his mouth in a single, strangled word, "Uncle?" he called out, a sob ripping through him. "Uncle please! Help!" he could feel his eyes brimming with tears as he bolted from the bed, colliding with the door frame of the en-suite as he lumbered about wetting a cloth to press against Harry's forehead.
Severus appeared, looking like the Crypt Keeper as he glared at Draco accusingly before a pained cry from Harry's writhing form drew his attention to the bed. He knelt beside the bed, as Draco climbed up beside Harry, pressing the cold wet flannel to his pale, sweating cheeks and forehead. "What's going on in here?" Severus snapped.
"He's prone to nightmares" Draco managed to choke out, his hands shaking frantically as he tried to cool Harry down, "but they're never this bad"
Severus hummed in thought before standing up, much to Draco's panic. "Stay here with him, I am going to get some potions"
"That's too risky" Draco sobbed out, pinning one of Harry's wrists to the headboard to prevent it from hitting him in the face.
"Would you rather he continue suffering like this for the remainder of the night?" Severus scolded, already sauntering out of the door and down the hallway to his own room.
Draco looked down at Harry and wished that there was something that he could do to help him. Severus returned in a flash with an handful of small phials and his wand. Draco frowned as Severus bent down and gripped Harry's jaw stiffly, whilst the rest of his body jerked and thrashed as though he were under a 'Crucio'. Popping a phial, Severus slowly counted three drops as they disappeared into Harry's mouth. "What's that for?" Draco asked, his heart echoing in his ears.
"It's a calming draught"
"Shouldn't you be using more?"
Severus glared over at Draco but there was no malice behind the glare, "it's to calm his body for starters, if I am going to examine this nightmare then he will need to remain in it -hold him down!" he barked the instruction forcefully, half-dragging Draco's body over Harry's torso, to stop the writhing. With the tip of his wand Severus extracted one of the longest, pulsating silvery string of memory he had ever seen. It throbbed on the end of his wand as he lowered it into an empty phial.
It took a few moments before Draco realised that Harry had stopped his erratic behaviour, but was still tossing from side-to-side, his face screwed up in the agony of memories. Draco choked on a small sob as Severus tipped the rest of the calming draught into Harry's mouth, propping him upright against his chest for the liquid to course down his throat.
The thrashing stopped at once. The breathing evened out.
Both Severus and Draco sighed with relief, the bleak promise of dawn a mere few hours away haunting the room. Severus then took out another phial and poured it into Harry's ajar mouth whilst he was still propped against the older man's chest. Draco furrowed his brow, "what's that?"
"Dreamless Sleep" Severus stated in a hushed tone, "he'll need it after that I dare say" he offered a second phial to Draco but the blond shook his head, "are you sure?"
"Yes, Uncle -I just want to ... make sure ..." he gestured with his hand to Harry's limp, sweaty form. He didn't need to say anything else.
Severus inclined his head before stroking back Harry's fringe and placing a tender kiss to his forehead, "get some sleep both of you" he instructed calmly, before retreating from the room, his presence lingering in the doorway for a moment longer than necessary.
Once the door closed with a 'click' Draco adjusted the pillows behind his head, piling two up so that he was slightly more upright than Harry. He then pulled Harry against his chest so that Harry's was half-lying on his side and half on Draco's torso, the temperature from his overly hot body making Draco feel uncomfortable. He shook it off as he pulled the covers up over themselves; he knew that as soon as Harry's temperature went down he would instantly grow cold. It had happened to him a few times when he was younger.
He reached over to the night stand and began dabbing the cool cloth against Harry's cheeks with one hand whilst stroking the fingers on his other hand through the damp, unruly locks of Harry's rebellious black tresses. He sat there, almost motionless save for the stroking motions he made with his hand, absently humming a small tune to himself, the name -to him -long forgotten.
It was not for another half an hour, when the sky outside drew a few shades lighter, that Harry shifted on his chest, his fingers running under Draco's pyjama shirt for the warmth of skin-on-skin contact. Draco felt light-headed and sleepy, but he desperately wanted to believe that the small voice he had heard belonged to Harry. "M'sorry for waking you up"
He absently shook his head, his eyelids growing heavy as his fingers slackened in their motions, "S'no problem ... you can wake me up -" he broke off to yawn, wriggling down further under the blankets and the weight of Harry's body, "-anytime"
Harry adjusted himself, burying his head against Draco's chest, inhaling the soothing sent of fabric softener and a scent that was entirely Draco's own. His mind grew foggy and blackness drew over him once again, but it wasn't before Draco's long, cool fingers wrapped around his own and a pair of lips pressed against his forehead.
He should have felt angered by the contact -but if that sort of contact was what welcomed him on the other side of a nightmare -he was not so sure that he had a problem with it anymore.