Let Crazy

By Kat Reitz and tzigane

"Drink this..."

Pitch colored eyes peered back at him, then dropped down to the carpet. He found his own eyes following that drop, as he so often did, and glanced down to the child's fingers as they knotted and unknotted into his stuffed lion. Squeeze, release. Choke, release. Twist, release. Squeeze, release...

"Please drink this, Boy." The child's name brought his attention up again, those pitch colored eyes locking onto the fluted glass that he held one handed before the wan face. "It's only milk, Boy..."

At that, some of the mistrust slipped from the small face, and fingers released the stuffed toy long enough to take the glass almost sweetly from his hand. It was just milk, and once Boy realized that, he drained the glass eagerly. No potions, no taint to the taste. He handed the glass back, and it was set aside.

"What did you do today, while I was away?" He settled slowly beside Boy. It might've been a strange name, but it was no stranger than his inability to remember his own name. Once, he'd been a teacher; once, there had been another little boy who'd looked up to him trustingly; and once, there had been a sense of purpose. Now the world seemed to bleed color only when it wished to, and his list of duties were simple yet overwhelming. Raise Boy, make this, mix that, bend over, gogogogomove...

Boy snuggled against his chest, and started to speak. He had a quiet, small voice, and his retelling of the day's events poured out smoothly from his lips. "Today, Uncle Lucius came down and showed me how to hold a wand better. He said you were never good at it, and that I should learn from the best. I think you're the best, but I don't tell Uncle Lucius that. He gives me sweets, sometimes..."

"What else?" His own voice sounded far inferior to Boy's voice. It was more of a murmur, tired and falling into a velvety slur of words. Still, there was strength to be found in Boy snuggling nearer him. He was glad that the child was comfortable after the milk he'd had.

"Tom-father says we're moving again. I don't want to move again, father." One little hand smushed the stuffed lion against his chest. It was hard to remember when Boy had been given the now timeworn toy, or when and where Boy had come from. Where he himself had come from. Boy had been two, he was told, when things had cleared in his mind. One day, he'd found himself drifting out of a haze he couldn't recall, and there was Boy sitting in his lap, babbling the half-real, half nonsense words that any child was prone to use.

"Do we have to move?" Pitch colored eyes looked up at him, almost in suspicion and hope; as if he could make that decision.

"I don't know." He slipped fingers through Boy's hair, combing through the soft, clean black strands for a moment. Like his own hair, when he could clean it. Like Tom's hair, sometimes. It was hard to think too clearly on the subject, so he let his mind skitter away from it. Was, or had been? It didn't seem to matter. He slipped his hand away, shifting to lift Boy up. "Let's go to bed now. Did you take your bath?"

"Yes." Boy held still as he carried him towards the bed. He was sure Boy wasn't lying, because he could smell cherries and mint in the hair pressed tenderly against his shoulder. Boy was eight, but small, still small enough for him to hold close like that when he felt sufficiently strong, still small enough to be rocked and swayed when he was a little ill or unhappy. Carefully, the sheets were pulled down one handed, and Boy was laid down atop the velvet top sheet of the mattress.

Some nights, he was allowed to sleep on the bed with Boy. That night wasn't to be one of them. He still clearly recalled the rough buss of lips over his mouth, the whispered order to sleep on the floor.

Like the dog he was, he supposed. He hadn't been pleasing or fast enough that day, so there was a potion in his robes for him. Strangely, not drinking it failed to cross his mind. Once Boy was asleep, he knew that he'd drink it and experience whatever his Lord wanted him to suffer. Some nights there came a heavy, restful sleep. Some nights he transformed into creatures and beasts, fair and foul. Other nights he laid there in fear, shaking as an imagined something gripped at his body and lurked. Power would ebb and flow, and sometimes he had to give that one to Boy. Part of what Boy would become, he was told, and he hated to give him that.

"Will you tell me a story?" Boy cradled the lion in his lap once more, and his spasmodic little fingers were at work on it again, squeezing and twisting it. He half wondered if that felt good, but he wouldn't ever know, as he was forbidden to touch it. So he supposed it must feel good.

"Tomorrow. It's late now, and we should sleep..." Boy seemed about to protest that for a moment, but he simply sighed and then shifted deeper under his luxurious blankets.

"Good night, father."

He watched Boy until he was fast asleep. Then he snatched a pillow from the bed, and lay down on the carpet. He curled around the pillow for a moment, recounting to himself his day. The kick Lucius had given him that day still held an echo of an ache. His jaw still ached from his evening duties, his arms still ached from stirring that morning. Lucius had given him a numbing potion, though, so that those pains were only blessed aches. Not so bad a day.

Perhaps the phial that he pulled from his pocket then would just turn him into something -- a cat, or a dog, something similar to those things. Boy liked it when that happened. Then he had a delightful pet for a few hours the next morning.

That thought kept him from hesitating at all as he unstopped it, and swallowed the entire phial in one quick mouthful. It tasted like sunlight, and how flowers smelled. The liquid sent a burst of life down his throat, blossoming on his tongue and then outwards. His eyes closed as a warm, drowsy feeling started to overtake him. Sweet reward, then. He'd just shift closer to Boy's bed, and....

Slitting open his eyes to make sure he didn't shift too close and knock his head against the mahogany edge, he felt a sudden wash of horror that cleaned away the hazy warmth and filled in its wake a growing, itching sense of horror.

The pillow in his arms had turned to a half-rotted corpse -- a Muggle he half recalled seeing near Lucius a few days ago. All the rest of the pillows were similar, much to his horror as he started to sit up quickly. There laid Boy in sheets of sackcloth, black-haired head pillowed on the bloated stomach of a corpse. Near to his face he cradled a taxidermied rat, and the mattress and bed had turned into a huge beetle shell. Perhaps it was a live beetle. It didn't matter, as he was quick to his feet, jerking Boy off of the thing, and staggering backwards towards the safer-seeming middle of the room.

Boy startled, waking up with a scream that was quickly muffled by a hand slapping over his small mouth. He half-sat, half fell down, Boy pulled tightly to him in his lap. On an afterthought, he snatched the rat from Boy's hands, and tossed it away from them. It skidded, bounced off of the far wall a little, then took to its feet and raced under the belly of the huge glistening beetle. He felt his heart leap into his chest, choking and strangling there until he felt the screaming stop against his hand. It was impossible to hear, not the way that blood was pounding in his ears. Then his hand dropped down, holding Boy closer still.

"Father...?" Boy sounded worried, peered up at him with now huge black eyes.

Of course. Of course Boy couldn't see what he saw. Perhaps he'd seen it all the time, and thought nothing of it? He couldn't be sure just then, sure of anything. So he shuddered a little, starting to rock Boy in his arms. "Shhh. Go back to sleep, Boy. Please go back to sleep..."

He'd scared Boy. Merlin, he hoped Boy didn't tell them that come morning... "All right, father." He tried to snuggle into him as he had that corpse, and was allowed to do so even though the mint and cherries smell seemed to hold must and rot now.

Only Boy slept that night.

He'd half expected to nod off into slumber at some point in the night, damning fear and the sights that lay before his eyes. Perhaps he had, or perhaps he'd drifted to sleep with his eyes open, because he seemed to wake up when Boy squirmed in his still-tight grasp, twisting and trying to get free to stretch.

"Good morning," he murmured, voice sounding hollow as he looked around the room. With the light that trickled in through the half-windows that were set high along the wall, the room seemed much less frightening, and yet somehow more so. Much to his horror, the room looked as it had before he'd closed his eyes to it the night before. There were the bodies, and there was the gigantic creature Boy had been sleeping atop... He shuddered, swallowed, and started to stand up whether Boy wanted to stand or not.

"Are you feeling all right, father?" Boy peered around the room, trying to see what was so worth of his attention. Boy's question was summarily ignored as he was herded into the bathroom.

"Brush your teeth, get ready for the day," he heard himself saying, as he took in the bathroom. The curtain around the bathtub looked as if it had been used to wrap the body that laid at one filth-encrusted end. His eyes skidded away from that, towards the sink and mirror. A bug -- he thought, he hoped -- crawled along the outer edge of the cabinet, and slipped beneath the mirror. Hadn't it been a pretty, gilded thing just the night before? Gold overlaid atop of wood, the room bright and spotless. Now it seemed that it wasn't bright enough even when he lit the rest of the torches. The walls, or perhaps something else, were eating the light.

Boy enjoyed bathing. Boy had beautiful smooth skin, a pretty face, and pretty hair, and he liked to bathe and fill his tub up with suds, and splash his little stuffed lion atop the uppermost edge of the water. He knew that; so he shouldn't have been so surprised when Boy moved right back out into the bedroom again. He'd already hesitantly picked up a crusty-feeling bar of soap from the cabinet -- who knew where that bug had gone -- and by the time he followed Boy, the child was already half-wedged under the belly of the bug, presumably reaching for his rat.

Lion. Rat. Something, it was...

It, what he was seeing, had to be an illusion. He told himself that, even though he didn't believe it, even though he spun back into the bathroom, slammed the door behind him, and started to retch into the toilet that had previously been gleaming porcelain.

"Uncle Lucius, I don't think father's well. I think father's very sick -- he's locked the door, and you have my wand, so I can't magick it open."

"Oh, dear," the so-familiar voice answered. It seemed almost mocking to his ears, only Lucius was usually kind to Boy.


"Well, then, we'll simply have to see what we can do about getting him out, won't we?" Even sick, he could almost imagine the exchange of wand that came about, snuck from Lucius's pocket to give to Boy as if it were something that he shouldn't have, a secret shared between the two of them even though every person who trod those halls knew how well Boy could use that wand. Perhaps they kept it from him so often out of fear for themselves.

"Thank you, Uncle Lucius," Boy replied with perfectly trained politeness. And it was easy to imagine him bowing a little, before he stuck the tip of his wand into the lock's hole, and blasted the door open with an idle word.

His heart was hammering in his chest again, and he startled when the knob of the door banged against one deteriorating wall. Even the corpse in the bathtub sat up and took notice at the noise.

"You don't seem to be well at all," Lucius noted with a slight tut noise. "Boy, you may bathe and get dressed. I shall take care of your father. I'll make sure that he'll be all right."

He pressed himself back against the wall a little when he saw Boy head towards the tub again. The corpse was dead for a second time, but did it matter, since Boy had that Rat in his hands once more? He closed his eyes, trying to shut out the reason that agreed so well with his mind. The world was deteriorating, and the others didn't SEE it... "Good, good morning, Lucius."

"Good morning, you. Shall I take you upstairs and allow you to lie in my bed for a bit?" That was as much threat as invitation. It was a miracle it didn't make him vomit again.

"No, I just..." He started to move towards the door; trying not to look towards the beetle he'd laid Boy atop the night before. "I just had something that disagreed with me last night, Lucius."

"Ah, of course," Lucius agreed smoothly. "Yes, sometimes that happens even to the best of us. Still, it might be best if you came upstairs now. I'm sure that Tom can make you feel much better..."

"But Boy's morning lessons..." He put a hand over his eyes, trying to soothe away his vision. If it went on much longer, he'd claw his eyes out rather than see that thing in the corner of the room again.

"I'll take care of them," Lucius falsely soothed, petting his dark, sweat-damp hair. "Don't fret over such a thing."

Over such a thing. If he wasn't needed to care for Boy, he was sure that he wouldn't even be alive. To have a duty of his so lightly shrugged off as unnecessary was more frightening than soothing.

"That potion from last night," he murmured in a hushed whisper, holding still the moment Lucius's fingers touched his hair, "made me sick. There's something wrong with it..."

The pillow, that he'd curled up around for a moment the night before, sat up, and stretched. Then it gave a yawn that snapped the rotted jawbone.

"Ahhh, yes. It should have been quite nice, shouldn't it have?" The bland tone behind Lucius's voice said otherwise, despite everything. "I hope you feel better soon, dear. We'll go upstairs, though. It will be nicer up there, I'm sure, for you... There's another potion, after all..."

"I'll be back, later, Boy," he called, over his shoulder with both eyes desperately closed. "I'll go upstairs then, Lucius. Just please... fix this."

"Of course," Lucius soothed almost ludicrously. "Of course I shall. Boy..."

"Yes, Uncle Lucius. I'll bathe now, just as you say. Please let me know that father's all right?"

"Of course, dear Boy. Of course," the blond replied.

It was nice that Boy cared, but he wished that Boy didn't, and hadn't mentioned it to Lucius. Boy at least hadn't told Lucius that they'd both spent the night on the floor. Perhaps he'd thought of it as an adventure, or... something, something that was quickly forgotten and not mentioned to a soul. For a moment, there was a fleeting whim to look at the room again just to see if it still -- but he couldn't bring himself to, not without fear of throwing up nothingness again. The yawning hunger in his stomach couldn't get much worse, and soon he'd be throwing up guts, and bits of himself, and then he'd be like the pillow on the floor.

He ducked his head a little, eyes still closed, and started to walk towards the door. Lucius would be beside him, then ahead of him in little time at all.

Indeed, Lucius did catch up with him shortly. "I'm so sorry that your potion disagreed with you," he said lightly. "It must have been something placed in it by mistake, don't you think?"

"Yes." No, he thought that Lucius knew exactly what it had done or was still doing to him, and what it was letting him see. He thought that Lucius was delighting in it, but it wasn't his place to say that was good or bad or even indifferent. His place was to agree, and hope that Lucius did fix it; so he walked, stepping over the teeth he saw jutting out of the bottom edge of the doorway, saw through half-closed slits.

"We'll be back soon, Boy. Study your lessons for a bit while I take your father upstairs to rest," Lucius called, expecting no answer since water had started to run in the bathroom.

Just the thought of the corpse in the tub made the darker man want to puke as he moved steadily up the stairs.

"What will you do?" he asked softly, after a moment, half-daring to lift his head to look Lucius in the eyes.

"There's a potion waiting for you upstairs. Tom gave it to me for you. I think you'll appreciate having it this morning," Lucius assured him breezily.

Then it would hopefully fix what he was seeing. Either take it away, or stop him from seeing it, but that didn't answer if it was or wasn't reality. He wasn't sure he ever wanted an answer to that question. "I think I will," he agreed quietly, moving nearer to Lucius as they walked. It wasn't a conniving motion, as something from the wall, a picture that shouldn't be capable of movement, reached out at him with clawed fingers. "You won't leave Boy alone for long, will you?"

"No, of course not. Once you've lain down in my bed, I'll be sure to go back to him. He should have his lessons, don't you think? Ah, I miss giving my own boy lessons..." Lucius sighed. "So long ago. So far away."

Very often, he heard Lucius speak of his boy -- never a name, or anything else, just passing references that made little sense to him. He'd never known the boy, but sometimes it sounded as if he were dead. That was the only reason, he supposed, why he'd never heard too much about the boy. "I'm sure." They started up the stairs, and he leaned closer and closer to Lucius as they did so. The walls seemed alive, the occasional brick pushing itself aside to reveal a grinning row of teeth from a skeleton's head, or the empty socket of an eye.

"So sweet. It must be nice, I suppose... Still having a boy of your own. Ah, yes, here, my rooms," Lucius murmured. "The potion Tom has left for you is stoppered there upon the vanity."

He moved towards the vanity unsteadily, noting to himself as clinically as he could manage that it was a grinning skull that was emitting the most horrific laughter. Still, he could slip his hand over the fleshless surface, grasp that gleaming phial, and drink it. As long as it stopped what he saw, he could do that. "This one?" he asked quietly, turning to look at Lucius.

"Yes," the blond replied in a self-satisfied, smug sort of tone. "Yes, that one..."

His fingers scrabbled at the stopper for a moment, desperate for relief despite the mental bells telling him that Lucius sounded too pleased, too kind towards him for there to be no catch to it. He had no valid reason to question Lucius, though, and no recourse to carry the question through. He only hesitated a moment, thinking of Boy and his stuffed Lion, and how they must be having a wonderful time in the tub, pressed the crystal edge to his bottom lip, and drank it quickly.

It tasted not half so delicious as the one from the previous night; there was a tinge of the grave there, the taste of things long dead. A lingering aftertaste of sulphur burned his tongue, nipped at his brain. It seemed even to spread into his veins and to force quick, hard shudders from him.

"How is it?" Lucius asked solicitously.

There was little sense in responding until the last of the hard shudders has wracked through him. His head hung down, eyes closed as he rubbed a hand over the sleekly polished surface of the vanity.

Polished. Clean wood. It suddenly felt safe to open his eyes once more, and he did, if slowly, if hesitantly. The world around him made sense again suddenly, all clean glistening wood and gilded edges, the room filled with exquisite plaster decorations.

"Is that better?" came another question from behind Lucius.


He set the phial down, and turned very slowly, starting to kneel down. Tom had always liked it when he did that, and made an effort to correct him when he didn't, or didn't do it fast enough. "Yes, sir. It's much better, my lord. Thank you."

"Yes..." The beautiful man moved into the room and laid a hand tenderly upon the nape of the other, slipping lightly beneath hair damp with sweat and grease from his night of fear. "Yes, I'm delighted that you appreciate my efforts to make you grateful. Perhaps, then, you won't object to coming upstairs and spending time with me for the day..."

There would be no more of seeing the gigantic beetle where Boy's bed was. No more corpse pillows, no more grinning thing in the tub, no more rat for a stuffed lion. Even if that was what was, he didn't wish to see it, he didn't need to see it. "No, my lord. I won't object..." It could be pleasant, after all. Sometimes it was, and other times it wasn't. He was just a dog, a something that didn't matter, so there was little point in him objecting with anything other than his eyes.

"Then come," Tom invited him, pulling him up almost tenderly with that hand touching him. "You, of course, will take care of Boy's learning today, Lucius?"

"Naturally, my Lord. As you wish," the blond said with some delight.

He rose with the hand that was in his hair, at the nape of his neck. Like a puppet, he supposed, and guessed that he was one. Better that than a grinning corpse. Even in the worst of times, he couldn't help but feel trickles of love and want towards Tom, towards Lucius. "Boy told me... that we were moving soon, my lord."

"Yes. It's becoming less than safe here, with that Potter brat at large, not to mention his... companion." Green eyes with pupils that seemed to spark red glanced towards Lucius. "It isn't safe for you, or for Boy."

"Then I'll help him pack his clothes up as soon as... later." Not 'when you've finished', because that would imply a rush to have him finish. Tom did things at his leisure and no one else's.

"Yes, my dear, lovely man. So like our Boy, aren't you? So sweet," Tom whispered, mouth nearing that of Boy's other father, and only the clearing of Lucius's throat distracted him. "Ah, yes. We shall adjourn to my rooms, Lucius being so very particular about his own. Come."

He knew quite clearly where they were going. Each place they moved to had a similar layout to all of the others. Perhaps Lucius's room and Tom's room would be on different floors than they'd been previously, but Tom always liked the uppermost room. The quickest route of escape, he supposed, and the more beautiful view. He and Boy were always kept in a basement room with lights that were windows against the ground. For their own safety, he knew.

At least, that was always what Tom told them.

"Come along. The others will all keep their opinions to themselves for a bit," Tom soothed, and that was something of a relief. Sometimes, the guards were rather nasty to him when he went along the halls by himself. They didn't dare to do it with Tom near.

So walking beside Tom, with that guiding, almost assuring hand at the back of his neck, was a relief. They passed storerooms, doors, and the occasional small group of guards or others he half-recognized. Yes, it was a moving day, or coming up on one. The place was abustle, and seemed as if it had been for days. "You had business to do last night, my lord?"

"Related to our move, yes," Tom agreed. "I wanted to be sure that you were safely in your haven and unlikely to leave it." He didn't plead forgiveness for the horrible night that the other man had suffered.

"Thank you, my lord." If there was a reason for it, it could almost be forgiven in his mind. They started up the steps, and it was comforting to see smooth plaster and polished wood, beautiful paint as far as his eyes could see. "I didn't disturb Boy very badly."

"That's excellent. He's a prodigy, a brilliant boy. We wouldn't want to disturb him if we find it avoidable to do so," Tom agreed with him with an almost gentle demeanor. It led him to hope that the day wouldn't be so bad.

Tom was being so gentle, so quiet. Perhaps he simply wanted to relax, and there was more than a little willingness in him to help Tom do that very thing. "Shall I get you anything when we get to your rooms, my lord?" He requested nothing for himself. He didn't even think of asking for a bath, though if Tom ordered him to take one, he would.

"I think I should like to bathe. With you," Tom seemed to decide at random. "You shall draw a bath and ready things as I like them."

As Tom liked them were neat, orderly, and with variety, a hot bath, with a warming spell cast into it. He'd have to be very careful in the casting of that warming spell, as it was tricky enough by itself, without the added strain of no sleep, and too much stress. "Gladly, sir." A bath with Tom also meant that his first assumption was hopefully right. Rest, even if it wasn't sleep.

Oh, he hoped...

"Come along, then. It will be a delight to have you... close to me again," Tom murmured, and he went.

"I know it's only practice, but give me one -- no, two reasons why I shouldn't give it my all, since you keep telling me not to." The handle part of the broom poked at the slighter man, shaggy brown hair hiding the amused cant of the speaker's eyebrows. The noon practice was one that the coach considered most important, and the team always bickered amongst itself over whether she was right or not.

"Oh, bugger YOU, Potter. Two reasons. One, I'm hungry, and two, I want a bath, preferably one in my own home and not surrounded by Quidditch witches," the blond across from him answered, a pretty pout stealing over those lips. "Also preferably now and not in an hour. It's not like they'll kick you off first string for it, now will they?"

"True. But I thought you liked to have all of those eyelashes batting at your bared bum," Harry smirked, picking up Draco's broom from the bench. "Come on. It's Friday, so at least we can use that as our excuse. Game's on Sunday this week, and it isn't like she won't drill us tomorrow, is it?"

"She's worse than that Wood you Gryffindors had all of those years ago," Draco agreed tiredly. "And there's nothing wrong with eyelashes batting at one's bottom, so long as they are eyelashes one has chosen." He sniffed at the end of that little tirade.

"So you have certain witches you want peeking at you, and certain ones you don't?" Harry jerked a head towards the door. "I want to be privy to peeking at you, too, you know. And since you're so picky about where you bathe, I'll just have to go with you right into the bathroom to do it."

"Oh, well, that's all right, then," Draco said firmly. "After all, yours are the eyelashes I'd choose to have batted... Though I do wish you'd pluck those messy brows, Potter."

"They haven't grown into one, have they? No, all right then. So, I'm not touching them with Muggle tweezers, and I'm not letting you get near them with your wand. Eyebrows would grow thin and neat if they were meant to be that way." He started to head towards the door, quite comfortable with their banter. After all, they'd been living together since shortly after leaving Hogwarts. He should be.

"I could make them look awfully nice, Potter," Draco cajoled. "Just five minutes of wand work. Five. You let me fix your hair, don't you?"

"Only because it gets in my eyes if I don't." He held open the locker room door for Draco, waiting a moment for him. "We'll Floo back, all right? Since you want to take a shower anyway..."

"How utterly chivalrous of you, Potter!" Draco sighed in delight. Apparition made him horribly queasy, Harry knew, and so they Flooed back and forth when they were traveling together. It was faster, after all, and being even partially connected to the Floo network was easy to have done. Additionally, the fact that Malfoy Manor had a plethora of fireplaces gave the convenience of being able to arrive anywhere in the home where they lived.

"I'm chivalrous when I'm in a good mood. Did you forget that?" Harry teased over his shoulder, starting to walk towards the arena's fireplace.

The audible sniff his lover gave was almost teasing. "Oh, yes, and.... demanding, as well." Draco was nearly smirking with the delight of having gotten that in.

"Is that you or me, Malfoy?" He picked up the bowl of Floo powder, and held it out to Draco. "Go on, toss it in. You're good at tossing."

The blond mimicked Harry's words right in front of him before grasping a handful of powder and flinging it into the fireplace, turning the flames green. "Malfoy Manor!" he cried as he stepped in, and then he was gone from sight.

That left Harry with both of their brooms. A pinch of Floo, and a shout later, Harry was stumbling out of the fireplace Draco had already come out of.

"Come on, come on," the Slytherin urged him from some feet away, already completely naked. He was beautifully white all over, slim through the hips and broad through the shoulders. It made Harry's heart skip a beat. "I want a bath. Are you coming with me or not?"

"I'm coming." Harry paused long enough to lean the brooms against the side wall for the house-elves to find and clean, and started to strip out of his dirty, sweaty uniform. "You know I like to make the best of our time..."

"Oh, I know better than anyone," Draco agreed with a fair smirk, moving forward to begin stripping off Harry's clothing as well. "Now, what do you suppose we could consider the best of our time for today... Harry?"

"Well, I'll probably agree with whatever you suggest, as long as it doesn't involve flying circles in the air as if we're three and we've forgotten how to land a broom." Harry dropped his shirt off of his shoulders, bits of the uniform robes coming off easily. "It might be getting all of this padding off."

"Mmmm, no, no, those, I can get rid of..." His wand came out from somewhere (Harry was afraid to ask just where) and waved, a quick spell for shedding clothing getting rid of the lot of it. "Now, then. Are you coming?" Draco nearly purred with delight.

"I'll be there before you," Harry drawled warmly. "Since it's cold in this hall!" He hated that feeling of shrinkage, particularly just before he wanted to put himself to use.

It seemed that the blond knew exactly what the problem was, as he gave a fairly vicious grin of delight. "I always knew that Gryffindors were kept up in warm towers for a reason," he drawled teasingly. "You'd shrink away to nothing if you lived in the dungeons, wouldn't you?"

"Merlin knows, it got you..." Harry reached a hand to stroke over Draco's groin as they padded down marble halls -- a bit extravagant, but it was an ancestral home and Harry had been assured that most ancestral homes were so vast-feeling.

The sigh of pure pleasure Draco let loose quite pleased Harry. It made him a bit smug, there was no denying, especially when it also gained him a motion of hip and thigh that pressed them close together. "Are you sure it's bathing you want, Potter?" the question came huskily.

"Of course." Harry's fingers, just a little gritty from the day's playing, squeeze once before he starts forwards a bit faster. "We really ought to shrink the house..."

"You say that every time you think you're too horny to make it to the other room," Draco snickered, his own snitch-dirty hand reaching down to stroke over Harry's hard (if a bit shrunken) flesh. "That would defeat the point of having a mansion, wouldn't it, now?"

"Yes, but the beds would be so much closer..." It was only the two of them, and the house-elves, and occasionally guests that they invited. Lucius was long-missing, and Narcissa had been beheaded and impaled on the back fence with Lucius's very tender hands.

"Ahh, Harry..." Draco sighed. "Mmmm, just come closer, won't you? I'll keep you warm until we reach the baths..."

"Then we won't reach the baths. Then we'll leave our Quidditch stench all over the floor, and Wippy will howl at us for the mess..."

"Wippy ALWAYS howls about the mess," Draco disagreed, but he hurried a bit more, tugging Harry most carefully with him.

Harry let him. He only ever disagreed with Draco on important or particularly moral issues. In day-to-day life, their wants and whims mostly matched, and when they didn't, they at least overlapped. Draco was horny, he was horny, and they both wanted a shower. The particular order and happenstance of those two events didn't matter to him too much.

"Come on," Draco murmured as they finally reached the bathroom. A tub full of suds and water met Harry's eye, no doubt drawn up by one of the house-elves on an order given the moment the blond had returned to the house. "Get in."

At least it saved them both the tedium of having to draw one themselves, or wait, naked, hard, and just a bit stinking from the practice while a house elf did it before their very eyes. There was nothing, Harry had learned, that could kill a hardon faster than a house-elf going about its daily work.

"I hope it's hot," Harry murmured, moving to slip into the end of the tub that was away from the tap.

"Oh, it's hot, all right. Freshly drawn, I might add," Draco told him as he climbed into the tub in front of Harry and settled down to lay his back against the Gryffindor's chest. "You whinge too much," he teased.

"I do? What've I whinged about today?" Harry half-demanded, as he skated a hand through the suds to grab a bar of soap from the little dish it sat in from the bath of the night before.

"Ending practice early and coming home for a bath with me," the blond pouted, cocksucker's mouth bowed up into a pretty little frown that made Harry want to use it.

It was a pity that Draco was turned the other way. Then again, his pretty curved seeker's rump was close enough to use for roughly the same purpose. "I do like our jobs, don't you?" Harry asked his lover, as he reached down beneath the water and started to soap Draco's cock.

"I'd like mine better if I got to be first string more often," Draco disagreed, though there was little heat in the statement. How could there be when Harry's hand was stroking him so nicely? "I'm as good as you..."

"Sometimes..." Harry gave his hand and the soap a twist, pulling upwards than slipping down to rub over Draco's balls. "When I hurt myself last season you played quite a lot of first-string."

"Oh, that's very nice," Draco whimpered, rubbing back to that delicious touch. "But I fretted over you last season. That made it not as good..."

"If we played for separate teams, you'd play first string... but I'd also never see you as often as I like," Harry added, tilting his hips a little so that he could wedge himself up between Draco's cheeks. The blond man liked sex in more ways than had previously ever poked into Harry's mind even in idea form. Now, Harry chuckled mentally, he was quite corrupt.

"And I want to see you often," Draco agreed on a moan, shifting back to allow Harry to press closer. There was no denying that he was addicted to sensuality; nor any denying where he'd learned it from, either. It was a shame Severus Snape was dead and gone, but Harry was sure that Draco had long ago put that out of his mind. He had Harry now, and Harry made sure that was enough.

"Well, then I'll try to make up to you for playing second string," Harry teased, both hands pushing Draco's legs apart so that he could drop the pretense of soap and simply stroke and grope the blond man slowly. One hand tugging at his balls, the other wrapped around his cock, thumb rubbing over the inflamed looking -- even through the suds clouded water -- tip.

"Damn you," Draco huffed, squirming with delight at the action. "I want fucking, Harry. Please..." That last was a whine, one accompanied by a squirm of the other man's body.

"On your knees." Harry didn't have to tell him that, though, as he started to rise to his knees himself and pushed Draco up in the process. It left him neatly between Draco's legs, both of them half-submerged in the water and half not. "And hold the soap," he added, a huffed order as he better positioned his cock to pound into Draco.

"I'm holding!" Draco gasped out, though his fingers were bent much more on keeping hold of the edges of the tub. It was obvious that he wanted to be taken, and a look shot back over his shoulder dared Harry to do as much.

Fingers curled over the bone of his hips, holding him steady, and Harry held that look, letting anticipation sink in for Draco. He'd well learned when to wait for just the moment when Draco would be tempted to smack him into action. Time it perfectly, and the blond would be almost startled when he did move. A quick, hard thrust, and Harry discovered he'd been right in trusting Draco to cast lubricative spells on himself.

"Oh, GOD!" Draco let out, clenching around him in sheer delight. "Please. PLEASE!"

Harry half-ignored those groans, though, and just rolled his hips against Draco's. A slow swaying, and deeply as he was pushed into the other man there was no leeway for Draco to push himself back any further. "You're so damned hot today. I bet your broom got you thinking about this, didn't it?"

"Yes," Draco moaned. "Harry...!"

His lover just kept circling his hips, not pulling back any but slowly rubbing himself off within Draco's tight clutch. "Yes?"

"Harrrryyy, if you don't fuck me, I swear I'll scream. I'll scream so loud the house-elves will come in. I'll scream so loud I'll deafen you!" Draco threatened, trying to pull upward.

Harry's hand held him still, though, as he rocked his hips back. It was pleasant to have still warm water lap at his thighs when he started to move, the crackle of dying suds reaching his ears. "I'll go soft if the house-elves come in here."

"POTTER! Would you please, please, PLEASE just fuck me!?" Draco demanded, groaning as he settled back against Harry, arms wrapping backwards to stroke the nape of the brunette's neck.

"Now that you've asked prettily..." Harry rocked his hips backwards a little more, then shoved forwards into him again, starting a steady, throbbing motion.

The motion jerked delicious little sounds out of his lover, accompanied by the lift of thighs that were tight from all of their Quidditch playing. God, it was wonderful to fuck him, and Harry delighted in being the one to do it. The nape of Draco's neck was right there near him and he kissed it, a sucking kiss that was likely to turn to a bruise. It only turned the other man on more, though.

The thumb of one hand started to smoothly circle the head of Draco's cock, pressing and rubbing, spreading the weeping wetness over and around the ridge. He could possess and overwhelm Draco so easily. Kiss at his neck, fill his ass, use his cock to steer his sensual motions.

"Please." The words seemed to sweep over them both. "Please, please, please, I'm so close. I'm so close. It doesn't take much, please... Please, Harry...!" He wasn't close enough to come yet, and Harry knew it, but the way Draco moved was enough to plead just as prettily as his words did.

"Then keep moving, Draco." He bit tenderly over the spot where he'd just kissed, head dropped down to nuzzle between the sharp points of Draco's shoulders as he started to fall into a faster pummeling thrust. "Oh, uhm, you're so damned hot..."

The water splashed against the sides of the tub, splishing back in with every firm rock of their bodies, the magical barrier there keeping the water from spilling out. They'd made sure to spell it so after their first time in the tub, and it was more than worth the hours they'd spent doing it.

"Oh, fuck," Draco managed to groan. "Oh, fuck. Oh, Merlin. Oh, oh, oh, Potter..."

Harry gave up on holding Draco's hip, and put those fingers to better use stroking over Draco's balls, rubbing over the skin between Draco's legs that was so close to where his cock was sliding in. By then, it mattered little what he did, as long as his hands kept moving, and his own hips didn't stop. The tight clutch felt tighter, the friction of his fast and faster thrusts finally sending him over the edge.

He didn't make any distinct noise, but a howl and a few panting grunts of pleasure as he came inside of his lover. A few more thrashing squirms, and Draco came, too, sobbing as he finished and collapsed back against the other man.

It was some minutes before either of them spoke again, and when Draco did, it was with no small amount of tired amusement. "That," he announced, "was very, very good."

Harry let himself lean back, thighs shaking a little as he pulled Draco back with him. He felt stiff after kneeling like that for so long, hot water or no. "Now we have to wash all over again," he teased, "and a sandwich would make it better."

"You're a Gryffindor," Draco agreed, snuggling into Harry's embrace and ignoring the dirty water. "A sandwich makes everything better for you lot. Especially Weasley. He could put away twice as much as you and me and perhaps even Crabbe combined."

"And look at how tall he is now." They were both fairly short, but that worked to their advantage as seekers. Tall, gangly seekers just wouldn't do in a professional Quidditch match.

"He'll do... if you like that sort," Draco sniffed, wrapping an arm back to rub at the back of Harry's neck. "Myself, I've come to be a connoisseur of compactness, so to speak."

"Only through my insistence," Harry teased quietly, leaning back in the tub somewhat, but not enough to trap Draco's arm behind him. His own hands settled at the small of Draco's back, rubbing idly. The cleaning spell filter would kick in soon enough, removing semen and soap scum, and they could languish until then. After all, skipping practice was an exercise in relaxing.

"Indeed. Your insistence was quite nice, all things considered." Draco quite appreciated Harry's insistence, and he showed it often. It was, after all, something that had brought both of them companionship and a truly phenomenal sex life.

"Mmm, and I've gone along with a lot of your insistences..." Like sex in every position, and skipping practices -- the latter wasn't a thing that 'good' people did, but Harry was giving up on acting perfect. He had nearly Sorted Slytherin, after all. He ought to take advantage of that, or so Draco had told him often enough.

"Wash my hair," Draco demanded idly.

"With..." Harry's fingers skimmed over the bottles, plucking up the first one he wanted. "Foot scrub?"

"No," the blond said, mouth pouting again. "That's for feet," he noted, stating the obvious.

"Ohh, you want shampoo," Harry drawled, as if it were just striking him. When Draco ordered him around like a servant, well, he decided to act like one -- with a little warning, of course. Though sometimes Draco had been on the receiving end of a chocolate-syrup back massage instead of the oil he so enjoyed.

"Yes. Preferably my kind, Potter, and not yours, though I suppose I could accept your shampoo if we've become desperate on the matter," Draco decided, pinching the dark-haired man's inner thigh lightly.

The bottle of foot scrub was replaced, and Harry picked up Draco's specific bottle of shampoo. He magicked a few cupfuls of water down over Draco's head, then put a sickle-sized blob of shampoo on top of Draco's head.

"That's MUCH better, Potter," Draco sighed, and squirmed a bit so that the water slapped against the sides of the tub again.

"You're spoiled," Harry murmured, "and I'm helping you. How did that happen?" Not that he needed to ask. He recalled well enough how he'd so easily bent to Draco's will the first... and second... and third times. Almost idly, he started to massage the shampoo through Draco's soft pale hair.

"Mmmmm, it's always been so," Draco decided, closing his eyes and just enjoying the bath his hair was getting. "I've always been spoiled. I'm glad you aren't resisting the urge to spoil me any worse these days."

"Well, when I try, you just get stroppy at me. Then I'm miserable, and you're miserable, so..." Harry made sure that his fingers rubbed deeply, massaged through to Draco's scalp. "Not much point, is there? Merlin knows that I don't want to suff--"

"Masters! Master Draco, Master-Potter-sir! Is man in fire, is man in fire!!"

"Take a message," Draco moaned. "It can wait until we're at least out of the tub and dry, can't it?"

"Master Dumbledore-headmaster-sir says is urgent! Says must find you!"

"Oh, shit," Harry growled. He started to shift, pulling his hands out of Draco's hair to scoop water up to wash the shampoo away.

"Bastard. Potter, once, just once, can't someone else be the Wizarding World's savior?" Draco grumbled as soap spilled into his eyes.

"You can help, you know," Harry griped as he splashed more water down over Draco's head, finally casting a spell to get rid of the shampoo. It left Draco's hair clean and wet, but it wasn't the same as a slow luxurious rinse was. "Come on, let's go..."

"I don't want to help," Draco sulked as he got out of the tub, dripping wet. The drying spell not only kept water in the tub but also dried both of them off as they stepped out of it. "I want to be selfish. I want to keep you. Someone else could save the world..."

"A lot of other someone-elses have tried and not ever come back." One came particularly to mind, but Harry didn't need to name names. He stood for a moment once they were both out of the tub, and decided that the house-elves could drain the water. "Let's grab clothes, then see what Dumbledore wants."

"Is masters coming?" Wippy screamed through the door.

"We're coming," Draco called back, face pale from the words Harry had said to him.

Harry kissed Draco's temple, even as he snagged him on the way out the door. Wippy was brushed aside when the door opened, and Harry led Draco towards their nearby bedroom so they could put on clean clothes. The ones they'd strewn in the hallway were likely already being washed elsewhere in the mansion. "Nothing will happen to me, Draco."

"Remarkable. That's what he promised, too, you know." They went through some of the same steps every time that Dumbledore wanted something from Harry, but Draco couldn't help himself, and Harry knew it.

"I know, Draco," Harry tsked softly. He tossed Draco's favorite house robe to him as soon as they were inside the door. "You could probably come with me, you know. You're a skilled wizard in your own right."

"Perhaps, but I'm of the opinion that getting involved in the sort of things they send you to do would likely end up with me dead, you know. I don't have the same infernal luck you seem to have, Harry." He slid the fuzzy robe on. He'd walk with Harry, anyway, but... He probably wouldn't volunteer to go and help, whatever the matter was, and Harry was well aware of that.

"Well, I wouldn't want you to tempt fate," Harry said seriously, as he shrugged on his own house robe. Once, he would've insisted Draco join; but that was before he realized that Draco was just sad, and worried about the matter. Any anger wasn't because of some inferiority complex, as Harry had once imagined when he'd been in school.

One thing he was most certain of -- Draco Malfoy had never felt inferior to anyone. It wasn't a feeling that was built into the blond.

"All right. I suppose we should go and talk to him..." Draco said reluctantly.

Harry glanced to his lover for a moment, then nodded slowly, grabbing his arm and tugging again. "I bet it'll foul up practice tomorrow." Wippy was outside of the door when he opened it, apparently ready to start howling about how Dumbledore was still waiting. Caught off-guard as he was, the house-elf fell silent, and trotted to lead the way to the library from which the message had come.

"Ah, Harry, my boy, and Draco, too, I see. I'm most sorry if I caught you at a particularly inauspicious moment," Dumbledore apologized from the fire, green flames whipping about the old man's head.

"We were just naked and bathing," Draco answered dryly. "Nothing inauspicious about that."

"Is there something going on, h-- Dumbledore?" Harry always caught himself calling the man 'headmaster' or 'professor', or Dumbledore as he just had, instead of Albus. It was what one was supposed to do for a man that was respected and above one in stature.

Now, if he could just remember that...

"There have been some leads on the matter you and I were discussing some weeks ago, Harry. We think that we might have found them. They'll be moving again very shortly..." Dumbledore's voice trailed off into silence. "But if you move quickly, you might catch them."

"Is back-up ready?" There was suddenly an anxious gleam in Harry's eyes. This could be it, the end, without some horrific melodramatic war with a ridiculously high casualty rate. Not that Draco would approve if he knew the plan was to find and crush a den of vipers.

"Yes," Dumbledore replied. "We were hoping that Draco might agree to participate. There are signs that a child might be present."

"A child? What are you talking about?" The disgruntled confusion on the blond's face was obvious. "I'm not a woman to be giving a child over to me!"

"A child, traveling with..." Harry trailed off as he thought about it. There had been school-aged books left behind at the last house they'd found, hadn't there? "Are you sure, Albus? Really sure?"

"What the hell is this all about?" Draco demanded.

"Perhaps if Mr. Malfoy agrees to accompany you, we can discuss this more in my office. Within two hours, Harry?" Dumbledore requested. "I can have the others here by then."

"We'll be there early," Harry agreed. "Until then, Albus. I'll explain it to Draco..." He'd get his ear chewed off if he didn't.

"Oh, yes, you'll explain it to Draco, all right," the blond muttered from the side of his mouth.

"Until then," Dumbledore agreed, and the flames blew into nothing.

Draco turned on him at that moment, hands on his hips. "WHAT is going on, Harry? And none of that saving the world shite, I want details."

"We've been tracking Voldemort -- and maybe your father -- and now you just heard the he-- Albus say that there might be a child with them, all of those Death Eaters and scum..." It poured out in a rush for Harry, as he moved away from the fireplace. He had to dress properly for what they were going to do, take a few preventative potions.

"Even Death Eaters can raise a child, Potter." It was said a little coolly, as if that comment had bothered him greatly. It probably had, all things considered. "So you want another Death Eater child with you to convince this one to abandon his elders."

"Probably, yes." Harry looked his lover in the eyes. Sometimes, he wondered why he said the things he did, or how he could phrase them so badly when he hadn't meant to make a mess of it at all. "I meant that they're running. They're active, Draco. When you were little, Draco, you weren't living in a house with Voldemort, were you? And we know what your father did..."

"Of course we know. He was just as mad then as he likely is now, but Potter..." Draco sighed. "I just don't, I can't imagine why they would have a child with them. What on earth use would that be? Just one more thing to leave a trail and aggravate them through the day..."

"Who knows," Harry shuddered, jerking his head towards the door. "Can we philosophize on this while in our room? All I'm sure of right now is that we found readers, texts, and a few sweet-wrappers at the last one. I didn't think anything of it, but..."

"But obviously there's a child... Or they want you to think there's one," Draco sighed.

"Or they want us to think that there is one," Harry agreed. "Which means that it's probably a trap. But on the off-chance that there is a child, and it isn't a trap, we have to go in. Think of what killing Voldemort now could do for our world, Draco. When he's least expecting it." They started down the hall at a smooth pace, and Harry felt a bit of a draft buffet his ankles. It was almost a reminder that it was cold outside, and that he'd need to dress accordingly.

"All right," Draco agreed as they reached the door to their room. "All right. I'll do what you want."

"Not what I want, Draco. What Dumbledore wants. I'd be just as content to have you stay here." He closed the door behind them again, out of pure habit, before hunting out clothes. "Do you want to ride there?"

"Please," Draco agreed as he began to get dressed, eyeing Potter's own search for clothes. If one didn't watch him carefully, Harry sometimes got a little creative with what he wore. Draco was much pickier, thank goodness. "No, I won't do it for Dumbledore... but I'll do it for you. I know as well as you do that the thought of a suffering child is enough to send you into a decline..."

"Mm. And I want to know just what you said -- why travel with one at all? It'd be a liability, unless there's some... use." Blood, or hair, or something for which no child should be used. He didn't want to think about it. Harry just wanted to get dressed. He pulled on a pair of lovingly mismatched socks, and then a pair of slightly mud-stained trousers from the day before.

"Potter," Draco said sternly, "No. That simply will not do. You should always make a neat, clean appearance, even if you do plan on attending a blood bath."

"I'm wearing robes over it," Harry shot back. His house-robe dropped to the floor from his shoulders, and a simple shirt was pulled over his head. "No one will see."

"It isn't important that no one will see, Potter. It's important that you know you're clean and sharp and ready to go." It was a discussion they'd had many times before, and it was soothing in some ways considering the journey upon which they would soon embark.

"Fine. But I don't mismatch my socks -- the elves do it." Shirt still on, Harry slipped off his trousers, then spared a glance to Draco. "Well, you can get dressed, too."

"I think I'll go naked," Draco pouted. "Besides. We still have nearly two full hours, and if we Floo into Hogsmeade...." He glanced at Harry from beneath his lashes.

"Ohh, Flooing that far will save so much time." Harry decided that they had at least an hour to comfortably play with. They could Floo to Hogsmeade, fly to the school in a bare handful of minutes, and still be early. And in that hour of open time, he foresaw no need of pants.

"Now, then, Boy, look here. You do it like this. Swish and flick," Lucius lectured idly. He knew that the others were packing things up, but Boy's things were always the last to go.

"Swish and flick, swish and flick. Are we done now, Uncle Lucius?" Boy queried, as he mimicked the motions a few times. "Or can we do something else now? I'm done swishing and flicking." He had a quiver in his eyes that usually showed up when he wanted to be near his Father, or Tom.

"Well..." The blond seemed reluctant to give into him, but that shimmering quiver was quite heartbreaking. Mostly, Lucius gave in because he hated to hear the brat whine. "I shall send your father to you shortly, then," he decided, and began to stand.

"Is he better now...?" Boy perked up a little, slipping down out of his chair, wand still in hand, to follow after Lucius when he stood. From as soon as he could walk, Boy had taken to following people when they moved. Shadowing them, as if what they were doing was far more interesting than anything he did.

"Yes, much better," Lucius agreed. "Tom-father bathed him and sent him to nap and he's feeling much changed."

"What was sick with him? He didn't want me in bed last night, so we slept on the floor. Which was all right, since he's warmer. Why is it colder here than it is upstairs?" Dark eyes peered up at Lucius -- Uncle Lucius, Boy's dear uncle -- and seemed to dance between green-tainted and purest black. He liked his answers, any one that he got.

"Because heat rises, Boy. The cool air stays down here, and the hot air rises. Tom-father likes the heat," Lucius explained, "and your father has always been much more fond of cool and dampness. This is why you are so often down here."

"Oh." He never protested the answers he was given. Boy just smiled, nodded a little, and then pressed onwards with, "What was father sick with?"

"A little bug. A very little one. He'll be quite well by the time he comes down to you shortly," Lucius told him. "You might go ahead and bathe and get ready for bed. I shall read you a story. That way, he will be pleased not to be required to tell you these things."

"I'd like that." He stuck his wand out towards Lucius, imperiously waiting for the blond man to take it as he always did.

It was at that moment that a violent shaking seized the entire house, knocking both Boy and Lucius off of their feet. The blond man gave a loud yell that was frightening. "Get down, Boy, and stay there!"

Boy obeyed, but that was what Boy did. He listened; he did as he was told. He dropped to the floor, and even started to move towards his clothes closet a little, wand still clutched in his small hand. "What's happening?"

"Stay here!" was all that Lucius would tell him as the house shook again and the man disappeared, leaving him entirely alone.

Boy wanted to know why the house was shaking, and why Lucius had yelled and then run. He wanted to know what was going on, and why there was an itching feeling of something not right in his mind.

Without his uncle there to see that he stayed perfectly still, Boy darted up to grab his stuffed lion by the tail, and then raced to the clothes closet. It was small, dark and warmer in there, as he'd learned when playing hide and seek with father, so it seemed a good place to hide and wait out the horrific shaking.

Two, three shakes passed, and then he could hear yelling, shouts, the whizzing noises of spells being cast. Then footfalls, running, broke into his immediate hearing, heralded by a strained query.

"Boy? Are you in here, Boy?" Father.

"Father!" Boy gasped out, crawling momentarily into the door of the clothes closet. He was frightened to see his father there, the man's face pale, his eyes wild. "Father, come and hide with me!"

The worst sign yet was when his father seemed to agree to the idea. He had his wand out, a strange and rarely seen thing for Boy, and he gestured Boy back into the closet. "Out of sight! Get further back," he hissed softly, as he slipped into the closet, too, closing the door after them both.

"Father," Boy breathed once they were settled close and tight in the dark warmth of his clothing. "Father, what's wrong?"

"We're under attack. Tom and the others are pushing them back now Shall we practice being quiet?"

"Yes, father," Boy whispered, snuggling close against his father's chest. The noises outside were truly big and frightening, and he wanted more than anything to avoid seeing them. He had no doubts that his father would keep him warm and safe. Father had always kept him warm and safe, or tried to.

They grew louder, and then a howl broke the noise. Silence, then shouts and footfalls again as the fighting resumed. Boy was hugged closer, his back against father's chest so that he could feel the fearful hammering of another's heart so near to him. Practice being quiet...

Perhaps hours passed, or minutes. Neither had a clock, and neither dared bring light to the little closet.

"Oh, dear God."

That was a voice from outside the closet door, one that seemed pained.

"They were right. There is a child here, or there was. Oh, God, Potter, a child. My father's been raising a child, and you know what rotten parenting skills he's got.... Why, it would be like me raising one!"

"You wouldn't be so bad..." The scuff of a shoe, and the drawers of Boy's desk being shuffled about. The milk glass from the night before, close to the edge, tipped over it and fell to the floor with a smash that made breath catch in Boy's chest. It was just a quiet hitch, but it was enough to make his father stop breathing as if to compensate for the sudden soft noise.

"The other aurors will be here soon... and I'm damned tired, Draco. And damned giddy. Let's go home and get drunk..."

"That sounds like a fair idea, Potter." The other man, Draco apparently, seemed dispirited. "That poor child...."

Boy nearly screamed as the door flew open, a wand pointed in before a young man that looked like Uncle Lucius, and another who appeared frighteningly like Tom-father.

Out more in the open, Boy was quite clearly visible. Pale and slender, black hair to his chin and eyes gone wide with terror, he knew that the strange men could see his father's arm wrapped across him.

"We'll surrender if you lower your wand," came the hesitant, almost confused voice from behind Boy.

"Oh my sweet God," the Uncle-Lucius one whispered, turning so white that his skin was purely translucent. "Oh Merlin. Oh, Potter..."

The Potter one who seemed like Tom-father spoke firmly. "Stand up then, and come out slowly. You can put your wand in my hand."

Boy's fingers twitched as father stood, ducking the clothes, and hefted him easily against his hip. The stuffed lion on Boy's hand knocked glassy eyes against his shoulder, as his arms went to clutch onto his safety. It was an almost comfortable gesture for Boy, one that made him feel much safer despite the odd strangers.

"Give him your wand, Boy," he was told softly, as his father gave his own to the Tom-look-alike.

Perhaps it was Tom-father, playing a trick on them?

"Severus..." the blond managed to say, and the way that his mouth trembled was terrifying. "Severus, is that you? Tell me it's you, and this, there's a child... Where could a child have come from?" The question was obviously meant more for the man who looked like Tom than anything else. "Harry, it's... I..."

Boy shyly offered his wand obediently as his father had told him to do. The man who looked like Tom-Father was outwardly staring now, but took the wand from Boy as he eyed the one holding him.

"This is Boy," Father told the two of them firmly, hand falling to Boy's hip to better hold him. "And I'm... me." His father hadn't a name, but Boy had never thought it strange. "Where's Tom? And Lucius?" If something had happened to them, it was his duty entirely to see that Boy was all right. Boy trusted father to do that.

"They escaped," the blond answered shakily. "Father naturally is more concerned about his own hide than about anyone else's. There's nothing new about that. Severus, how long have you been with them?" he asked, and his hand went out as if to touch the gaunt cheek so very close by.

Boy turned to hide from that touch, and to protect his father from it as well. "You aren't Uncle Lucius, but you look like him. And you," he indicated Harry, "you look like Tom-father."

"So who are you both?" It was very rude for the two, even if he and father were prisoners, not to introduce themselves to their prisoners. Even Boy knew that. "And why do you call me 'Severus'? I don't have a name."

"Tom-father?" Harry broke in. "Who's Tom-father?"

"Tom-father," Boy said. "Not like father. He comes down sometimes to see what father and Uncle Lucius have taught to me."

"He means Tom Riddle," the blond told the Tom-father look alike, voice flat. "Tom and my father have undoubtedly kept them unknowing. What's your name?" he asked the little boy, since Severus seemed convinced that he didn't have one.

"Boy," Boy answered hesitantly.

"Oh, Merlin sake!" the blond exclaimed in disgust. "They took Severus's name from him and would only call the child Boy!? Harry, I told you my father was a miserable sort of person to entrust with a child, never mind a Severus who's forgotten himself..."

Harry eyed the two, who were just as studiously eyeing him back. Snape was alive, and standing in front of them. He wasn't dead, and he was holding a child in his arms. The child seemed to almost be a disconnect from the surroundings, something unexpected that simply didn't fit in, at least in his mind. "Draco," Harry murmured, frowning a little. "Draco, why don't we take them out of here, and back to the Ministry?"

Severus took a step towards them, Boy still held close to him. "What are you going to do with us?"

"I don't think we'll take you to the Ministry," Draco decided slowly. "How old are you, Boy?"

"Eight," Boy answered truthfully, though shyly

"Eight," Draco said slowly. "Eight. That's not good timing, Potter, no, not good timing at all. I think we should go and see Dumbledore."

"Why?" Harry was drained, felt tired but elated all at once, and now he had baffled to add on top of it. He half-wished for a spiteful moment that they hadn't found anyone there at all, because he wanted a hot bath very badly, and Draco beside him in bed. The smell of death was starting to waft down to the dungeon's hallways, clinging to their clothes a little. He gestured Draco nearer to him, and quickly cast a bubble of silence around them both.

"Because," Draco explained to him, "eight and a half years ago, Severus wasn't sleeping with some girl. He was sleeping with me, you know that. Thus it makes things a bit odd and even more difficult, Harry, with this Boy..."

"Draco, you were fifteen! And Snape's a male! Merlin, it's...!" Impossible, he wanted to say, but it didn't seem impossible. Harry glanced to Boy, then sighed quietly, "We'll go to Hogwarts with them. Tell the Ministry of them when we get there, all right? We really ought to be celebrating, Draco..."

"I know. I know, I know, it all seems so mad, but what else is there to say, really? Oh, Potter, I just..." His hands were wringing together. "I don't honestly think that Severus bred off of me if that's what you're saying, but one never knows what Father might have done to any of us. I told you that forever ago!"

"Or what he might have done since..." Harry's eyes dropped to Boy again, who seemed to be getting a bit squirmy in Severus's arms. The Man who Persevered hesitated a moment in looking away from the two, then brushed a kiss against Draco's lips. "Let's go, then. Think we can Apparate out of here?" He pulled down the bubble of silence idly, so that Boy and his father only heard the last two words.

"Will we be coming back?" Severus asked bluntly. It was obvious to Harry that he was more than a little intimidated by them, but he could understand the man's need to know.

"No," Draco said gently. "We won't be coming back here. There are much better places for you to stay."

"Better places?" Boy asked, black eyes remarkably inquisitive.

"Yes," Draco replied, reaching out to lightly caress over a cheek. "A beautiful white mansion full of pretty things and air and warmth for you to stay in."

Boy glanced around the room for a moment. "It is too cold down here..." Boy hugged onto his father at the touch of Draco's fingers, almost flinching a little.

"Am I allowed to bring Boy's things?" A shift, and the child was being very carefully put down on the ground. "It's just... think of it like moving, Boy. Help me gather your toys."

It wouldn't take long, Harry noted to himself as he glanced around the room. It reminded him vaguely of his room when he'd lived with the Dursleys. Everything in it seemed old and timeworn, including the lion clutched in Boy's hands and Snape himself. "Bring them," Harry said, "since we won't be coming back."

"There will be new things if you want them," Draco offered hesitantly. "I'm Draco. Draco Malfoy. My father was your... Did you call him Uncle Lucius?"

"Yes," Boy said honestly, squirming slightly as he hurried to gather up his favorite books, still clutching at that bedraggled lion. He obviously loved his lion. "Uncle Lucius never said he had a dragon."

Harry could see surprise dart over Severus's face, and he glanced over his shoulder as he moved to Boy's desk to pull out a few of his quite complicated puzzle-toys. "He spoke of you as if you were dead."

Harry glanced into the closet, and on a whim started to take clothes out -- all for Boy, he noted, and perhaps one shirt and one cloak for Snape.

"I suppose he would have," Draco murmured, gathering up books and toys and making them tiny so that he could fit them into a little bag that he had found. "Father was really quite disappointed in me after... Well, after he did some horrible things of which I didn't altogether approve," he finished hurriedly.

Severus brushed against Draco as he offered up the puzzles to shrink. He seemed magickless without his wand, but Harry still felt suspicious of him. "Horrible things...?"

"Will Tom-father and Uncle Lucius come visit us at the new place?" Boy asked, peering up at Harry as he moved towards the closet to unceremoniously dump his toys into a trunk that he and father had been sitting on.

"No, sweeting," Draco told him almost gently, cutting in before Harry could answer. "I'm afraid that Tom-father and Uncle Lucius won't be coming to see you, but you can make do with your father, can't you? And Harry and I promise that we'll care for you, too, if you like."

"Draco..." Harry hesitated again, looking at them both. Boy, asking so many questions, and Snape, acting as if he were a prisoner of war. Somewhere out there, there were fireworks going on, and, and... Harry patted Boy's soft black hair, and smiled down at him. "Yeah. But we need to take you both to see someone else first. Does he have everything?"

For a moment, the ex-professor looked around the room, then he nodded, moving towards Boy with one hand held out a little. "Come along. We'll go out through the front..."

"No, no, it's all right. The front is a bit busy just now," Draco said, and a banging noise made it clear that he meant it. "I'm sure that we should probably go out the back. Aren't Sirius and Remus cleaning up, Harry?" Grey eyes looked at him hopefully even as Draco made sure to shrink the last of Boy's things and settle them in his pockets.

"Mm, it should be clear now," Harry agreed, watching Boy all but cling to Snape once he had the gaunt man's hand tightly holding his. He was struck for a moment with a vague memory of a child's story about ducks that he'd read in a book of which his cousin had quickly tired. "I'll go first."

Severus paused a moment once they were out in the hall, watching Harry drag the chest behind him magically. Harry could smell blood, rot, and a nose-burning scent associated with Hexes. He didn't doubt that Severus could, too. "They're all dead, aren't they?" There was no mincing of words, and no shielding of them for the child's sake.

"Some of them," Harry replied, seeing no reason to lie. "We've captured Lucius, and Tom... Tom is gone."

"Tom-father!" Boy gasped, tears welling up as he suddenly wrapped himself even more tightly about Severus. It made Harry feel like a heel, and the look on his lover's face didn't help it any.

Draco nearly hissed as he said, "You could have been kinder in telling them, Potter!"

"Merlin..." Severus knelt then and there, pulling Boy close to comfort him despite the fact that they weren't exactly certain of safety in the hall. "Shhh, shhh, Boy..." He shifted Boy near, so that he'd be settled against his hip when he stood again.

"I..." Harry looked awkward after his verbal slip, looking to Draco for some way to cover up for it.

"It will be all right," Draco promised, kneeling down near them. "It will be. We'll help you to remember who you are, Severus, that you have a name. You'll be delighted to return to us, I know you will..."

Silence, except for Boy's hitching sobs against Severus's shoulder. The man's expression was carefully blank, as he seemed to digest Draco's words, phrases that made Harry's belly ache. Then his face contorted a little, before he muttered softly. "You've killed most my family... scared my boy... there's blood in the halls... and I should be delighted to return with you?"

The sheer look of hurt that darted across Draco's face shook Harry. "Ordinarily," Draco muttered, "I don't do this sort of thing. I'm not exactly a hero, unlike Potter here. Actually, I usually stay out of this business. I made this a bit of a special occasion because my father is a very bad man, and they said that there was a child here. No one," he said, "should have to think of Lucius Malfoy as family. Even me."

For his trouble, he received an arched eyebrow, and then almost icy quiet as Severus ducked his head down against the top of Boy's. "You said I have a name..."

"Severus Snape," Harry said, moving towards the three. "You used to teach us at the school we're going to take you to..."

"I remember teaching." He kissed his boy's head again, pulling him closer. "Shh, Boy. Be brave for me?"

"Don't want to be," Boy whimpered, a heartbroken sort of sound. "They killed Tom-father, and they'll make us go away with them..."

"Sweeting," Draco began again, "sweeting, I promise we'll find a way to make you happy. Your Tom-father did bad things to people. I'll even bet he did bad things to your father here, too. And my father made it a habit to do horrible things to people. I promise you, nothing bad will happen to you with us."

"Don't believe you," Boy said in a soft almost sob, hiding his face against his father's neck. It gave his father the opportunity to stand up, holding him easily with both arms.

"You won't have to take the bad drinks anymore, Boy, and I won't either. You'll at least like that, won't you?" Severus whispered not too quietly.

"I'll go ahead and see if Remus can get a port-key for us." Harry glanced to Draco for confirmation of that idea.

"That sounds like a magnificent idea," Draco agreed quietly. "I'll stay here with them so that they don't have to see what's going on elsewhere in the house." Never mind that he didn't particularly want to see it, either, and Harry knew it. Draco had never been the sort who belonged amidst these sorts of skirmishes, who could actually face blood and death with any sort of equanimity. Feeling a little grateful, and quite guilty for it, Harry slipped off down the hall to find Remus.

Severus moved to stand near a wall for support, rocking Boy lightly in his arms. "Why will we go back to a school?"

"Because Dumbledore is there," Draco explained, "and perhaps he can help us to get your memory of yourself back. That is part of the problem, isn't it? That your memory of yourself seems to be gone or missing, perhaps..."

"Who is 'Dumbledore'?" That sounded like a silly name, the name of someone in a book, a fictional person that didn't exist. That thought was there and gone quickly, before he decided it was best to sit down again, as Boy seemed intent on crying and sniffling no matter what he did. He wasn't going to scold his boy for it, not when everything he had ever known was destroyed now.

"He's the Headmaster at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry," Draco murmured. "You worked for him, years ago. You taught Potter and myself. You taught me many things," he implied, glancing at the man from beneath blond lashes in a way that made Severus shiver.

"Things," Severus repeated, quietly mulling that vague word over. Lessons, like he taught Boy? No, there was a certain dip in Draco's voice, a hint of a deeper meaning that wasn't deep at all. It was a shallow thing in Severus's mind, but he filed it away in memory. Draco was just like his father Lucius, he told himself as he stroked fingers over Boy's back. "I suppose that I did."

"You did," Draco agreed. "It broke my heart when they said that you had died, you know. You can remember that later, if you want."

Boy snuffled against Severus's ear wetly, arms wrapped tightly about his shoulders. "Oh, Father," he whispered. "We're all alone."

"Shhh. We'll manage, Boy. Things will just be a little different now." Severus kept rubbing slowly, warming the child's narrow back against the chill of the dungeons. He turned his head a little, seeing Harry pacing back to them with two others behind him, and decided to be glad that Boy couldn't see that. Glancing up to Draco again, he murmured, "You'll watch out for Boy and me, Draco?"

"I promise," Draco pledged seriously even as Harry stepped up behind him.

"Remus had a key," he said solemnly, holding out the scarf that the werewolf had given him. "We must all put our hands on it, now."

Severus started to stand again, legs aching a little more from his day's duties than moving about with Boy. A bit of weight had lifted from his shoulders since Draco had given him that promise. He had little reason not to believe it, and every reason to want to hold him to it. "Boy, too?"

"Boy, too," the Tom-look-alike -- Harry, Severus reminded himself harshly -- agreed. "Come on, then, Boy. If you'll hold the scarf as well, we'll take you to meet an interesting old man who's very bossy and who will no doubt delight in meeting you."

Tentatively, Boy lifted his damp face away from Severus's neck, sniffling. "Will he be nice?"

"Or I'll stomp him," Draco agreed solemnly.

Severus shifted Boy up a little, grasping the end of the scarf and holding what he held towards his son. "Now, don't hold your breath this time..."

"I used to hold my breath," Draco whispered to Boy as they gathered close.

"Really?" That seemed to be a perk of interest, at least a little.

"Uh-huh," Draco agreed. "And I'd always throw up when we arrived. Once, I threw up all over my father, and he yelled at me something awful." Boy's face was scrunching up. "You're not going to hold your breath, are you? If you are, I promise I won't yell, so long as you aim at Potter, here."

"I won't yell," Harry volunteered with a shrug as they all waited for it to kick in.

Boy clutched at his bit all the tighter, and then started to talk, "Father never ye--"

That stomach-pulling, led by a knot in the belly feeling was unmistakable and disorienting from start to finish, catching at least Boy and his father off guard a little. It had been a while, after all, and given how their respective days had been going, even if things hadn't been so disrupted Severus was sure that he still wouldn't have been able to keep his balance. At least that was what he told himself, as they arrived, with Boy's things, in the middle of a strange-looking stone hall.

"Ah, Harry, and Draco. I see you've..." The old man speaking paused, as if obvious shock had taken him over. "Severus?" he creaked out finally. "Severus!?"

"Yes, Headmaster," Harry said finally. Draco began to settle their things a bit more neatly since some had tumbled and fallen from his pockets. "It's Severus, and this is his son, Boy."

Severus lifted his chin a little, looking the old man firmly in the eye, never mind that he was supposedly there to meet them. "Good evening." He shifted Boy, not yet ready to put him down on the ground yet, and then found himself quite distracted by taking in his surroundings. It felt familiar, but he couldn't place a finger on how it was. He only knew that things felt as if they were all in the right place -- four different colors of banners, the mildewless stones of the walls, the glowing feel around them.

"You look funny," Boy said, peeking at the old man and his beard in particular.

"Yes, well, do you know, the gentleman holding you told me just the same thing some thirty or so years ago," the old man said with surprise as he moved closer. "Severus. You have been greatly missed by all."

"I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I don't know you," the old man was told, with a vaguely polite inclination of Severus's head that seemed to be some sort of apology. "How long is it that I've been 'missing'?"

"Quite a long time," Harry said as he majicked the things Draco had put back in his pocket, and the little bag, all into the trunk that they had stuffed with earlier.

"He's forgotten who he is, Professor Dumbledore, or the memory has been taken from him," Draco said, peering at Severus. "He doesn't remember that he's Severus Snape or that he was Hogwarts's Potions master, either. And Boy..."

"Yes, his name is just Boy, then?" Dumbledore asked, frowning.

"Yes, it's his name." Severus frowned back at the headmaster. Was he daft? Boy's name was Boy, just as his was... ah. Ah, he could almost see how it must seem strange to them. He hadn't had a name, and now he had 'Severus' to twist around in his mind and think of himself as. And a potions teacher? Another thought that felt fitting, but was still unfamiliar enough to be fuzzy.

"Well, perhaps a visit to Madame Pomfrey is in order for the both of you," the headmaster said seriously. "She will be able to tell what sorts of strange magicks might have stolen away your memory, Severus."

"And I'll go with both of you," Draco assured them solemnly.

"I think I'm going to commandeer a bed up there, Draco..." Harry gave a tired shrug, as he started to lead the way. "So I think a trip to the infirmary is in order for all of us."

Severus slipped Boy down to stand on the floor, grasping hold of the child's hand right away. Boy was lean like his father, but looked healthier, and looked like it would only be two years or so until he hit a tremendous growth spurt.

"I have no.... clear memories before Boy was two," Severus murmured after a moment, hoping that that knowledge might help somehow. There was no reason for him not to play along to their game, and he was much older than the short handful of years that his memories gave him.

"Perhaps Madam Pomfrey will be able to do something to help," Draco agreed with Dumbledore in an offhanded sort of way. "Should we report this to the Ministry, sir?

"No," the old man replied. "I shall take care of the matter in its entirety."

"But sir, the Ministry is bound to find out," Harry protested only a little. The elderly man gave no response, only kept walking, and so Severus followed along as well.

As they moved through the castle, Boy stopped walking sometimes to stare at the walls, or a picture or statue, and his father would stop with him, and answer any questions that he could, quite honestly and pleasantly. When he realized that Boy could sidetrack them for hours, Severus picked the child up again, and Boy quite contently settled on smooshing his stuffed lion in his hands.

"He's a sweet boy," Severus overheard Lucius's son say to his companion. He detecting a lingering wistfulness, a faint worry, and he wondered what that was about.

"Well, he seems better now than he did... before. And Snape..." Harry's voice trailed off as they stopped in front of the doors to the infirmary.

Severus hesitated as he looked up at those doors. There was another feeling he had -- that he didn't like going there? That he'd been there before and hadn't liked it. It was indistinct, but present, and Boy felt his father tense a little.

"Is this where we're going?"

"Yes," Draco answered, stepping forward and pushing open the door slowly. "I hate having to come here."

"That, Mr. Malfoy, is because you are a distinctly horrible patient," the woman inside the room declared even before she noticed Severus and Boy. "Great HEAVENS!" she cried when she did, dropping a tray with a bowl on it. It shattered at her feet, which startled the only patient in the room out of a sound sleep for just a moment, some Hufflepuff that neither Harry nor Draco knew.

"Yes," Dumbledore agreed. "Good heavens seems to be the extent of it."

The more people who saw him and had similar reactions, the more Severus was convinced that perhaps he had had a life there before what he remembered. He taught, they said he taught, he felt familiar to the place or it felt familiar to him.

"Why's everyone yelling, father?" Boy hid his face again, frowning as he continued to mush his stuffed toy in his hands. Severus noted again that it must feel good to Boy, and that was why he wasn't allowed to...

Merlin, what was he going to do now that he didn't know what he was and wasn't allowed to do?

"I think they're surprised to see us, Boy," he murmured back.

"That would be the understatement of the century. How very you, Severus," the woman said, using her wand to clean up the mess.

"Madam Pomfrey..." Lucius's child -- man? Son, Severus decided -- began.

"Poppy, do please see that they're both healthy. Also, Severus seems to have lost his memories. Perhaps you can do something about that?" Dumbledore interrupted.

"Well," she said thoughtfully, "perhaps. But you well know that the longer someone is without a thing, the more difficult it is to get back..."

"Yes," the old man agreed. "I know."

Severus was paying neither of them any attention, instead watching the nurse clean up the soup with her wand. He usually wasn't allowed his, and neither was boy, and yet the Tom-look alike and the Lucius look-alike, and now even this woman had used them freely. "Will we be allowed our wands back?" he asked after a moment of silence, ignoring the conversation around him. And he didn't ask the headmaster, but rather Draco.

"Oh," Draco said blankly. "Yes, of course, just let me..." He patted down his robes before pulling them both back. "I hope you know which one is which, for I must admit that I haven't the faintest of notions."

Severus glanced at the wands for a moment once he held them both in his free hand, and then slid one up inside of his thin sleeve, the other being pocketed for a moment. Boy was quite happy to have his hands full of his toy.

"Why don't we all go in," Harry murmured, taking a step forward

"Oh, yes, yes," Madam Pomfrey said, twittering suddenly in a way that struck Severus as being wholly unnatural to her. "Gracious. Of course. Severus, I still have your bed for you. I'll have to make it a bit larger, I'm sure you'll want to keep your son with you..."

"His name," Dumbledore said solemnly, "is Boy."

"That won't do," she fretted further, gesturing them all into the infirmary and then rushing in without waiting for them. "That won't do at all... Harry, Draco, would you like to lie down, as well?"

"My bed?" Severus followed her without question, careful not to let Boy hit his head on the edge of the double-doors. He didn't like the sound of that idea, that he was in that... hospital so often? He hated having to go up to Lucius's bed to be treated for things, and that place struck him very much the same. "I have a bed in this place?"

"You've had one since you were just a boy, always into so many scrapes and fights, and Sirius Black often there beside you when it wasn't Lucius Malfoy or Remus Lupin," the nurse explained. "Now, all of you, hurry along."

Boy, mostly quiet and calmer, gave a tense sniffle at Lucius's name, ducking his head against his father's neck. "I miss Tom-father," he whispered, "I want to see Uncle Lucius... I want them back!"

He knew what Boy wanted, but there wasn't any feasible way to do it. Dead was dead, and gone was dead, too, just as captured was as good as dead. "Why was I here so often...?" he pressed again, even as she guided him towards a bed in the corner.

"Accident prone?" Harry suggested, settling on the edge of a bed, and starting to take off his shoes. "You'll come and get us, Albus, if they have any parades while we're here?"

"Of course, Harry. They wouldn't have one without you, I suspect," Albus replied wryly.

"Yes, well. What's a parade without the Boy Who Lived, the Man Who Persevered, all of those other stupid titles," Draco announced. He even sounded like Lucius, which was disturbing. It made Severus's skin shiver

"You're mocking me," Harry smirked, shifting from his bed to Draco's, pinning the blond man playfully. "Mock me now, Malfoy..."

"Tom-father!" Boy squealed suddenly, peering over his shoulder at them both. It startled Severus, who'd been about to turn to sit with Boy on the bed, and he had to look. And in a faint flash of his vision, he could see it, the dark head ducked over blond.

They were looking back at Boy, no small amount startled by his yelp of glee, and a visible shudder worked down Draco's spine. "There are days I wish I looked like my mother," he muttered, "but at least I never had to worry about looking like Voldemort, Harry."

"Lucky for you," Harry whispered back, peering at Draco for a moment before staring back at Boy. The glee seemed to trickle off of his face as he realized he'd been quite wrong in his hope, but it wasn't replaced with shame -- only a lingering, clinging sadness as Severus sat down with him, shifting him comfortably in his lap.

It was hard to imagine that there was any other exclamation that could so entirely silence a room as 'Tom-father'.

"Harry..." Draco said softly. "He's just a little boy..."

"I know," Harry sighed. He ducked his own head down, scooting Draco over so that they shared the bed. It was a position in which Severus and Boy could both watch them, see what they were doing. Being able to see them made Severus feel a little safer, somehow.

"What are you going to do with us?" Severus asked Madam Pomfrey bluntly, as he rocked Boy a little. His son had sunk back into sulking piteously, and he couldn't blame Boy for doing it. It was tempting, but he wasn't allowed to sulk or protest the way things were, or the way things ended up.

"I'm going to make sure that you're healthy," Poppy told him, "and make sure that you're whole. And then, I will see what I can do about your memory. After that, why, I suppose Albus will make a decision of some sort, though Harry and Draco both seem most concerned with you, Severus, and no surprises there."

"So I've been told a few times," he said, glancing to the two of them before looking back to her. "Tell me what I need to do." Take Boy out of his arms, he supposed, but he wanted to comfort his son until he was told he couldn't.

"You can stay right where you are, both of you," Poppy told him, and she waved her wand. It nearly sparkled in front of them, golden light flowing over them both and ending in a slight tinge of green. "You're certainly both very healthy," she noted, "though there are some strange things floating about in your system, Severus..."

"What sort of strange?" There was nothing he could think of as 'strange', and if there was, he didn't bother thinking on it. "Boy's all right?"

"Just fine," Poppy agreed. "Your boy will be a fine addition to Hogwarts one day, perhaps even soon. You, however, have several unusual chemicals floating about in your bloodstream, likely from strange potions. Would you mind if I took a sample? Perhaps then I can work out what I need to give you to counteract them properly."

"Take a sample." Severus offered the arm that wasn't secured around Boy's waist, pulling the sleeve up by rubbing it against his chest to better roll it.

For a moment, she simply stared at the skull-and-snake tattoo that was there, faintly greyed but fully prominent on his skin. He wondered why it surprised her. Everyone else he knew had them, after all. Still, when she drew away she bustled about doing what she needed to do and drawing a full phial of his blood with care. "There," she said, bandaging him carefully. "Now, the two of you rest, and I shall go to work."

"Read me a story?" Boy half suggested, and half demanded it, as he father shifted him off of his lap, to lie on the bed. The child's shoes were removed, and his socks, and then Severus started to meticulously tuck him into sheets that seemed inferior to what they'd had at home. But the mattress didn't even have a hint of a smooth curved beetle shell, and for that Severus found himself being grateful.

"No, but I will tomorrow. Your books are all packed away," he was promised.

"Yes, father," Boy sighed, and for a moment, Severus could almost imagine that slight huff to have come from the blond now asleep several beds over. It was an illusory sort of feeling, enough to make him want to shake his head and get it out of it.

A memory, or just another half-hinted familiarity? Severus decided not to think on it, as he reached to grab a pillow from the adjacent bed. Then he shifted to lie on the floor, arms curling around the pillow. It was almost like a perfectly normal evening back home... only he didn't have a potion to drink.

"Severus!" That was the woman's voice, startled completely. "Why on earth are you laying upon the floor?"

"Because that's where I sleep," he told her flatly, not even bothering to look up at her or to move.

"Merlin," he could hear Harry murmur from down where he laid with Draco. "Your father, Draco... Merlin."

"I told you he was a horrible bastard, Potter. You just never really wanted to believe it, did you?" Draco said sleepily. "You can sleep in a bed here, Severus," he declared. "It's all right. There are lots of them. There are lots of them at Malfoy Manor, too..."

It felt like a strange thing, their orders. Were they testing him, so that they could punish him for it later? "So I am... allowed to sleep on a bed?" He wanted to be sure, to test what he was being told. Questioning Tom would've gotten him in trouble, but he'd already questioned Draco before, and nothing had come of it.

"Of course you are," Draco said, as if he would never have considered anything else. Severus remained uncertain. "I am not my father, Severus. I won't do anything to you that would be mean or hateful...."

"And I am not Voldemort... Tom... whoever you called him," Harry sighed. "So please, sleep on a bed..."

Severus started to sit up, ignoring Madam Pomfrey's staring, and eyed Boy's bed for a moment. Yes, that would work. He'd just curl up atop the sheets as he'd used to do when he was allowed, and he wouldn't take up any space that he wasn't supposed to take up.

Boy thought nothing of his father laying down beside him on the bed, only atop the sheets and then shifting lower to curl up almost like a dog. He could hear faint murmurs of sound from the two men who looked so familiar and yet not, and he ignored them.

"Good night, Madam Pomfrey. Thanks for letting us stay here," the Tom-look-alike said clearly, almost startling Severus after all of their soft talking.

"You're very welcome, dears. Do try and rest," she said, settling a blanket over Severus with undeniable care. "Tomorrow will undoubtedly be a busy day."

Severus lifted his head a little, making a questioning face. Perhaps it fell unbearably cold in the room. If that was the case, he supposed there was a purpose to them giving him a blanket. He hugged his pillow a little closer, curling himself up anew in the blanket without a word. Boy was already asleep.

"I can't help but think that it would be most painful for him to regain his memory," Poppy said fretfully as they met in her office the next morning. Boy and Severus were still sleeping, completely worn out from their experiences of the day prior.

"But if he doesn't, then how will he ever know anything about us!?" Draco asked, obviously concerned. "How will we find out where Boy came from, or..."

"Or who," Harry added. "That Tom-father business is disturbing, to be honest..."

"If I can have a moment with the poorly named child, I'm sure I could trace his parentage," Dumbledore assured them all. He'd seemed to develop a firm plan while the others had spent the night wastefully sleeping, or so it seemed to Harry. "I suspect that Severus may have been under Imperio for such an extended time, with such pressure, that irreversible damage may be done."

Draco's hand shook as he reached up and pushed loose strands of hair out of his eyes, the stuff still slightly damp. "If he has been, then what shall we do? Tom-father is as disturbing as Lucius being a father, really, Harry, and I turned out more or less all right..."

"Much better than 'less', Draco," Harry agreed, glancing towards the closed office door.

"Well, the options that I foresee are as follows." The headmaster cleared his throat, expression falling forebodingly morose. "Severus is committed to Saint Mungo's for an unknown period of time, and Boy is given to the Ministry for testing and will eventually make his way back here as a ward of the government. Or, Severus is committed to Saint Mungo's for an unknown period of time -- again, unknown, because I believe it would only exacerbate the situation -- and Boy is given to the custody of someone we trust to raise a child. Or, Severus and Boy are given to the custody of someone trustworthy. It has been done before with Severus..."

"Done before?" Draco asked, head tilting to the side. "What do you mean, it's been done before?"

"Well, when he was very young," Poppy explained, "both of his parents died, and he was alone for a very long time. There was really no one to watch him, and they gave him to his grandfather, who paid little by way of real attention to him..."

"Needless to say, he eventually ended up as a grown man released to my custody after he was cleared of most accusations of wrong-doing at his trial." The headmaster gave Madam Pomfrey a look -- one that said that he didn't want the topic quite touched on yet.

"So he was in... your custody, Albus, when he started teaching here? I didn't know they did things like that with grown wizards..." Harry sometimes felt that half of his life was missing, because there was always some bit of knowledge that those born to wizarding families never felt like explaining to the mudbloods and Muggleborn.

"Only if they feel they're redeemable. They'd rather not crowd Azkaban with persons who might actually be capable of behaving like a human," Draco said, rubbing at his eyes momentarily before heaving a great sigh. "In other words, though, you'll be wanting a home for them both and you'll be wanting us to volunteer. Is that the long and short of it?"

"You're very sharp, Draco," the white-haired wizard praised. "There's no pressure. I'm sure I could arrange something else if you thought it would interfere with your life."

"One of us would probably have to give up Quidditch, Harry," Draco told his lover flatly in a way that made Harry want to twitch. "It would be an unpleasant venture, I've no doubt, one requiring a great deal of patience. You know I have no patience, Harry."

"Do you think I have any?" Harry asked, in wide-eyed exasperation. He gave Dumbledore a brief, but clearly dirty look, and then turned to better face Draco. "Look, you know him, and you're better with kids..."

"If neither of you feel that you can possibly do this..." Dumbledore began.

"No," Draco cut him off, shooting Harry a sharp-eyed glance, "I'll do it."

"No, we'll do it," Harry corrected his lover, "but I'll be damned if I'm quitting the team yet. I'm sure he and... Boy don't need to be watched every hour of every day, Draco..."

"Madame Pomfrey hasn't tried to replace his memory yet, Harry. What if he doesn't manage to come out of that with his sanity in place? He'll need someone then. And we can't just keep calling that child Boy, can we?" Draco asked, looking at all three of the room's other occupants.

"No, that won't do at all," Madam Pomfrey sighed. It seemed as thought she felt it was safe to speak again after the wordless chastisement Dumbledore had given her. "But he's obviously old enough to know his name... I've never had to suggest that someone have their name changed."

"Well," Draco said, "it would only make sense. He can't be Boy all of his life; it makes him sound like someone's fat old Pug!"

That twitched a smile to Harry's mouth, and he nodded a little to himself. "Why don't you suggest a change to them, then? Once they're awake..." Them -- not just to Boy, Harry told himself, since Severus was presumably the child's father. Dumbledore would figure that out at his leisure, probably when it was a comfortable time to have Boy out of Severus's sight.

"I shall," Draco decided staunchly, and that was the end of that matter.

"Now, then," Poppy said, "as to Severus's memory. I can do my best to renew it again, but I cannot guarantee that there will not be spots here and there that are, well.... MISSING, as it's been so long..."

"And perhaps there are things that he was never aware of, during his time spent in.... captivity." The headmaster moved towards Poppy's desk, fingers plucking up a small phial for a moment, before putting down it and two others just like it. "I would recommend putting something in a drink for him before trying to tap his memory. He has his wand, and could still make himself a very dangerous man."

"Well, I, for one, refuse to attempt to take it from him," Draco announced. "He's had enough abuse and people slipping him things secretly if I know my father, and I do. I won't do it," he decided. It made Harry proud of him, the way that he stood so firmly where before he might have tried to weasel someone else into making that sort of statement.

"Then give it to him openly," Dumbledore suggested, picking up the three phials and holding them out to Draco. "If he refuses, then he simply will not take them. It's as simple as asking, Draco."

"Simple as dropping a book on your own head." Harry stood up in a restless motion then, and peered out the narrow window to see that Boy was starting to stir. "I think you know very well that he'd take it, Albus. Merlin, we must be insane, Draco..." He had to be insane, given the circumstances, given what he knew about the illicit relationship that had ended before he'd even entered the picture in that manner.

"Well," the blond said slowly, holding the three phials carefully in his hands "yes, there is that part." He seemed to consider the matter. "I'll explain to him what's in the phials and ask him if he wants to take them, but I know my father, and I'm almost certain that he would have done as you suggest, Headmaster. I won't just hand them to him and tell him to take them."

"Then you learned a great deal more while you were in school here than I suspected." Dumbledore opened the door, then, moving quietly into the main part of the infirmary. "It's heartening. Now, I believe that our two guests are more awake than they're leading us to believe... Good morning, Severus. You can sit up now, Boy."

That appeared to startle Severus a little, and he brought his head up in a jerk, eyes down as if expecting chastisement. "I'm sorry. What time is it? I didn't know we were running late, the alarm didn't..." He sat up as he started to make excuses, not quite focusing on his surroundings yet. A few more blinks, one hand coming up to rub at his eyes, and he fell quiet as if sensing that things were not as they had been, memories catching up with his presence in Poppy's infirmary.

"Hallo. I'm hungry," Boy declared quite loudly, as he started to get up.

"Well, then," Poppy said, reaching down to lightly brush his forehead with her fingers, "I shall make sure that breakfast is brought up to you quite promptly."

"D'you want a bath?" Draco offered to Severus tentatively. Harry and Draco had both had one, needed one. Harry was sure that Severus and Boy did as well since they, too, had been in that place of fighting and Hexes not so long ago.

"I do." Boy again, as he shifted to sit atop the sheets, his stuffed lion already being wrung tightly in his little hands. Severus glanced to him for a moment, then back to Draco.

"If I'm allowed." The ambiguity of that statement made Harry's skin crawl.

"You're allowed, Severus," Harry murmured, voice perhaps a touch exasperated as he moved towards where the child's trunks were. The boy seemed a little overbearing, so perhaps there was something for him to do to keep him occupied.

The way that Draco reached out his hand, fingers almost tenderly touching Severus's face even before the man flinched away, was quite enough to make Harry jealous. "You can have a bath whenever you want. You may eat whenever you're hungry, and whatever you desire, all you have to do is say that it's so. You won't be punished for that."

Such promises for Draco to make. Harry had the sudden inkling that Draco might just drop from playing second string forever, and hoped he was wrong. He wanted every moment he could have from his lover, and now there was this... intrusion. And he and Draco hadn't yet had a chance to talk about it at all in private.

"That sounds like a nice lie." Severus shifted from his haphazard cross-legged position, slipping off the bed to stand. "Boy, come with me. I'll start your bath..."

"Actually, Severus, we were thinking of varying your routine a little," the headmaster broke in with a smile. Somewhere in the background, Madam Pomfrey was milling about. The clink of glass bottles against each other made Harry look up from his search. "I'd like a moment to speak with Boy, in the office over there, and Draco and Madam Pomfrey would like to speak with you about repairing your memory."

Harry watched Draco's mouth compress, knew that flick of eyebrow that signified his displeasure. "There are several potions here which they say will calm you as Madam Pomfrey tries to bring your memory back," Draco said flatly. "They wanted me to just tell you to take them. If you don't want to take them, however, I don't wish for you to do so. You must do as you please regarding them."

Severus held his hand out for them, just as Harry had predicted he would. Once the narrow glass tubes were nestled in his hand, he unstoppered one and sniffed the cork almost suspiciously. It smelled like cockatrice feathers, and juniper, a scent that curled up into the air and hung there for a moment even once he'd half-moved to close it again. Finally, he swallowed the phials one after another after another, watching the others in the room as he restoppered all three and offered them back to Draco, empty.

It caught Harry off-guard when the potions decided to start working. Like a punch in the gut, Severus's body gave a shudder, and he half-curled forwards for a moment, eyes closed. Boy was oddly nonreactive to that in a way that made him seem even more creepy.

"God only knows what Father must have given him," Draco muttered bitterly. "We might ask Boy later if he knew of anything."

Harry watched as his lover moved to stretch the ex-Potions professor out on the bed, covering him carefully despite the fact that Madam Pomfrey was coming nearer. He wondered what she would do, and if it would help anything at all by way of Severus's memories, and what would happen, when, and if, Severus remembered things. "God probably doesn't want to know," Harry murmured quietly. He moved towards the bed with another stuffed toy in his hand, this one less loved than the lion -- a hippogriff -- and offered it towards the child. "You can come with the headmaster and I, Boy, and you can have breakfast while we talk to you."

"Father will be all right, won't he?" Boy asked hesitantly. "I'm not sure I should leave him alone. That other man looks like Uncle Lucius, but he isn't..."

"It will be quite all right," Dumbledore assured the boy. "He does indeed look very much like your uncle Lucius, but I promise that he will take good care of your father."

"But he isn't Uncle Lucius..." Boy didn't seem worried that Draco looked like Lucius, but rather that he wasn't Lucius. He shifted on the bed, on hands and knees so that he was beside his father and looking Draco in the eyes. "You aren't allowed to hurt father." Then he slipped off of the bed, looking at Harry and the Headmaster. Now he had both stuffed toys, clutched close to him. "I'm still hungry."

"Well, we'll get you some breakfast while Madam Pomfrey tries to help your father, then," Dumbledore said most delightedly. "Would you like that, Boy?"

"Do you want me to stay with you?" Harry asked softly, watching the way that Draco looked at Severus with a certain interest of his own.

"No," Draco replied, shaking his head without removing his eyes. "I'll be fine here. You go on, Harry..."

He'd be back, Harry reminded himself, and Draco would still be there, and he'd probably still be staring at Snape. There wasn't much reason to have the jealous feeling he did, but he couldn't keep himself from lingering for a moment more, before murmuring, "All right."

"Where are we going?" Dumbledore had already started towards the doors, Boy following him at a wary distance.

"Just down the hall. There's another room there, and there will be breakfast when we arrive," the Headmaster told the boy cheerfully.

"Do you really think what Madam Pomfrey is going to do will work?" Harry asked, as he caught up with them just in the hallway. It was easy to do with Boy hanging back with such reluctant purpose. He was half-tempted to swing the child into his arms if not for the thought that he might be declared Tom-father again.

"Poppy, as I'm sure you know, is most excellent at her craft," Albus replied seriously. "If anyone can help Severus now, it will be her. Draco, of course, cannot harm the attempt. The boy was, after all, a large part of Severus's life before our dear Boy here."

A large part? It had always been left mostly unspoken. Harry hadn't wanted to hurt Draco with memories, and hadn't thought too much about a man twice Draco's age sleeping with him and teaching him all of the astonishing things Draco knew about sex.

"What does father have to remember that you think is so important?" Boy asked them both, glancing between them. For a moment, Harry thought he saw the boy's eyes shift color from black to green, to grey, to black again, all in a rush.

"Your father was very important to all of us. We would like him to be able to remember his life before he had a son, before he became who he is now," Dumbledore explained.

"It's a little disturbing to see Severus Snape agreeing to take something without arguing first. He's brilliant," Harry admitted, though that was perhaps a reluctant sort of admittance.

"Father never argues," Boy frowned at them, squishing his stuffed toys tighter as he hugged them to himself. "Never. Father's very quiet. And Tom-father was brilliant, too..." He seemed to remember what had happened to Tom-father after saying that name, and fell quiet again.

"Yes," Harry agreed. "It's unlike your father not to argue with us at least a little, or be sarcastic. We want to make sure that he's all right more than anything else."

"Father's all right just as he is." Boy started to walk a little faster than them, his thin legs, long for his age, carrying him forwards briskly. There was something about him that made him seem out of place in the school. Whether it was in his magical aura, or his motions and expression, Harry wasn't sure.

"Here we are, Boy, the door's back here..." Dumbledore stopped in front of a stone archway, pushing open a wooden door. "Breakfast awaits."

"Oh. That's good." Boy paused. "I'm very hungry. May I have my bath when I'm done with breakfast?"

"If you like," Harry agreed, "and if your father doesn't need you."

"Father always draws my bath," Boy sighed, as if Harry were daft for suggesting that things would go in any way that wasn't expected. He almost crept into the room, looking at the warm-feeling wooden textures, the cleanly hewn stones and neat, small table laden with food. "Ohhh, do we have to wait for other people to eat first?"

"No," Dumbledore agreed with a smile, "you may have your breakfast now if you wish. The others will undoubtedly be along shortly, and then things might become rather noisy." It was the nature of the teachers' lounge, Harry had noticed, that the lot of them were always rather loud first thing in the morning.

Boy seemed as if he might say something, protest the notion or state that he wasn't allowed to go first. Instead, he finally moved towards one of the chairs, and climbed into it as quietly as he could with his two stuffed animals still hugged against his chest. Then he balanced them in his lap, and simply stared at the food.

"You can grab whatever you like," Harry coaxed, picking up a sweet roll to start himself off.

"Tom-father and Uncle Lucius never send whatever we like," Boy said, staring at the table. He was obviously having a difficult time deciding what to do. "They always send milk and toast and sometimes eggs."

"I know what that's like. Why don't you just... grab the first thing that catches your fancy? Anything. If you don't like it, you don't have to finish it." Harry sat down on the other side of Boy so that the child was between Dumbledore at the head of the small table and himself. With that in mind, he reached a scoop, and served himself a heaping of scrambled eggs. "If you need help, just tell me."

"Can I have one of those?" His fingers pointed to a cranberry muffin, one of Draco's favorite breakfast items.

"You may have whatever you like," Albus assured, and Harry knew from the look of concentration on his face that the man had surely begun to work his magic around the boy. Good. It would be unobtrusive, as Boy seemed unaware of it even going on, or he was aware, and simply didn't feel that it was worth mentioning. Harry would keep him distracted, and Dumbledore could finish what he was doing.

"Here you go." Harry picked up the fattest muffin with the most glossy, sweet-looking top, and put it on Boy's plate.

With careful fingers, Boy began delving at the muffin, pinching off a bit of the top to bite into. His eyes widened, lightening dramatically as he nearly hummed with the taste before pinching off some more.

For the son of one evil man and one dour man, Boy was quite a bundle of energy. Harry added a few more things -- bacon, sausages, and a cup of coffee -- and started to daydream as he ate. Voldemort was dead, and throughout their realm of the wizarding world, there were celebrations going on, people waking up with hearts lighter for news of the end of the grueling war. And yet here was this child, so sad and so distinctly missing his Tom-father, and even his uncle Lucius. It was disturbing...and even more disturbing was the look that Albus cast him as the boy wrinkled his nose at the taste of the coffee.

"I don't like this," Boy said. "It's bitter and nasty, like the potions Tom-father would bring sometimes."

"What... sorts of potions?" Harry asked that on a whim, wondering if there was information to be gleaned from just casual talking. "I'll get you juice instead..." He pulled the coffee cup from Boy's hands, and went for pumpkin juice.

"All kinds of things," Boy offered. "They usually gave them to Father, and not to me, and sometimes Father would turn into a dog or a cat or something nice for me."

Harry's hand shook a little, startled at Boy's calmness more than his words as he handed him the pumpkin juice. "And other times...?"

"Sometimes scary things," Boy admitted. "And sometimes things happened that I couldn't really tell at all. Father's that way sometimes."

"Do you know why they gave him -- and you? -- those potions? Who made them?" Probably Severus himself, but why wouldn't he sabotage something that he knew he was going to end up taking?

"I don't know," Boy answered, getting another of the cranberry muffins and clutching it close as if a little afraid Harry would say no. "I always study in the day. Sometimes Father teaches me, and sometimes Uncle Lucius."

"What've you learned?" He wondered about that. How to kill people? Hexes? Every horrific thing that dark wizards could teach a young boy?

"All sorts of things," Boy said, nibbling happily at his muffin once he realized Harry didn't care if he had a second one. "Uncle Lucius doesn't like to let me have my wand for long..." He sighed. "Poor Uncle Lucius. He's dead, too, isn't he, just like Tom-father..."

"No, he's been... put away. Someplace where he used to be, and escaped from." Harry took a long suck from his coffee, wondering what Albus was learning that caused such interesting facial expressions. "What else did you do in a day?"

"I would get up and eat breakfast and have a bath," Boy said, "and then I would study and have lunch and study some more and Father would come in. Sometimes, he would eat with me, and I would have another bath, and then we would go to bed."

"It sounds to me as if you might like to play today," Albus said, finally speaking up. He must have reached the end of his study. "Would you like that?"

"Play? Play what? My puzzles are in the box T--H... Harry brought with us." Boy looked to Harry, crowding his stuffed toys against himself with an elbow as he continued to eat.

"Have you ever been out to fly?" Harry asked him almost gently. "It could be fun. You might like it."

"Fly? No, Father and I only went outside on special days. Or when he needed something from a garden. It wasn't safe outside." Boy put down his juice glass, looking to Dumbledore. "But you're the reason why it wasn't safe. Now it doesn't make sense anymore."

"Why is that, dear boy? Now, it's safe to go outside all of the time?" Albus asked him.

"Now Tom-father's gone. He didn't go outside, and he wasn't even safe inside, and you k-killed him, but not me and father. But it wasn't supposed to be safe for us to go outside. But we're still safe. I don't understand that." He ate a bit more muffin, little fingers picking sweetness out of the paper-wrapper before hugging his toys against himself again. "Unless you plan on hurting us."

"I won't ever hurt you," Harry promised quietly. "When I was a little boy your age, I lived with people who hurt me. I wouldn't dream of doing anything so horrible to you, Boy, or to Severus. I want you to understand that. And Draco is even less likely to hurt either of you."

Boy's eyes shifted colors again, as he studied Harry. There was a faint pull at him, and then Boy murmured, "I want to see father, and a bath. Then I'll go play. But I want to see father. I think he's hungry, too."

"All right," Harry agreed, nodding. "We'll go have a bath and see your father. I'll bet Draco will have already thought of bringing him breakfast, Boy. Would you like to take him a muffin?"

"Mmm-hmm." Boy shifted his toys to one hand, the lion still clutched in his fingers, the hippogriff stuffed under his arm, and with his newly freed hand he grabbed the nicest one that was left. Then he started towards the door without waiting for them.

Grabbing a muffin of his own, Harry followed after the boy with a glance back at the Headmaster. The old man seemed rather disturbed so perhaps it was best to let him alone at the moment, anyway. Hurrying, Harry slipped forward and took Boy's hand. "Come on, we'll walk together. All right?"

"You look a lot like Tom-father," Boy sighed. "Are you sure you're not him?"

"Very sure," Harry agreed. "I'm afraid I'm not even any kin to him at all."

"Then why do you look like him?" Boy peered at him again, the intense scrutiny to that gaze trying to make him into Voldemort, Harry supposed. It wouldn't work, and with time Boy would give up on the idea that he and Draco were just other forms of Voldemort and Lucius Malfoy.

"I suppose, in a way, it's just bad luck, really," Harry shrugged, looking at him firmly. "Your Tom-father tried to kill me when I was just a baby. Maybe he left his mark on me that way."

"He'd never try to--"

They had just reached the infirmary doors, and there was a crash the very moment that Harry pushed open one door. He should have known there would be some sort of complete disaster, should have felt it, but he hadn't. He hadn't, and now....

Opening his eyes, he strode inside with a sigh

"Leave me be!" There was some motion, almost a blur running away from the beds and then it dove under Madam Pomfrey's desk.

"Please, Severus..." The sound of Draco's begging was undeniable. "Please come out. I've brought you breakfast, Severus. Please..."

"Stop!" Boy gasped, hurrying forward. "You're hurting Father, aren't you!?"

"No, we're simply trying to get him to calm down..." Madam Pomfrey didn't move towards her desk, but towards a potion shelf, wand in hand.

Calm down. They wanted him to calm down, when his head felt as if it were spinning, and the world had changed again. It wasn't so bad as it had been, but it was still bad enough. Beds with spidery legs, row after row of those things, taunting him, and leech encrusted walls... "I don't need to calm down!" Severus told them from where he was crouched under the desk, with his eyes closed. He felt Boy run up to him, crawling under the desk, too, and he had enough sense to open his arms and clutch the child close.

"Please, Severus," Draco begged, kneeling just outside of the desk himself. "Please, if you'll just tell me what's wrong I'll try to fix it. I'll find a way to make it right..."

Draco couldn't see it, just like Boy never could. Severus shook his head tightly, rocking a little as he clutched the worried child close.

"Father? You're ill again...? Uncle Lucius would know what to do..." He would've shot a dirty look to Draco if he hadn't buried his face against father's neck.

Severus was dimly aware of Harry moving near, talking to Draco. "...gave him, reacted with whatever Madam Pomfrey gave him...?" He didn't want to listen with concentration, though. He wanted to make it all go away, and didn't want to see that his son was clutching dead animals between them again. Would the rat skitter away this time, if he threw it? Or would it gnaw a hole into his chest and escape that way?

"It must have reacted badly," he heard Draco say, and the white hand that delved beneath the desk seemed almost skeletal. It was no small amount disturbing, especially when the face that so resembled Lucius peered at him hopefully. "Please, Severus. We think it's a bad reaction to the medications. If you'd just tell me what it is, what's wrong..."

"Everything's wrong," he muttered, closing his eyes so he wouldn't have to look at that pale, bone-like hand, or the face that seemed to spark his thoughts in a hundred different directions. If he didn't think, and didn't look, then everything would be all right.

"Father," Boy whispered, clutching him tightly. "Father, I brought you a muffin. Please, Father, it's good. I won't let them hurt you..."

Food... food would be good even with what he'd seen. Severus was aware that he'd been hungry since... the day before? The day before that? It was hard to remember. He peered at the now half-smushed thing after a hesitant moment, and gagged quietly when a cockroach waved one thready leg at him from its perch atop the smooth sweet top. Then it slipped away back under the surface.

"No... thank you," he declined with a shudder.

"Please come out, Severus. I'll find out whatever's giving the bad reaction. I'll fix it. I promise," Draco swore, and it was obvious to Severus that he wouldn't give up.

"Here we go," the nurse declared, coming close to them. "This had ought to fix it."

"I don't want to take anything else..." He shifted back as far as he could, and flinched only a little when the back of his head hit the inside back of the desk. "Don't make me..."

"At least come out, Severus," Draco pleaded. "If you come out, I swear I'll find someplace safe for you. I'll find something that will make you feel better. Please come out..."

"We're sure that this potion Madam Pomfrey has will fix whatever it is that's wrong with you," Harry coaxed, bending down near Draco. "Please try it."

"Make it end," he whispered back to Draco and the man beside him. "Stop it, and I will..."

"This ought to stop it. I just want to make you healthy again, Severus..." Poppy assured him gently. He didn't believe it, not really. "Come out and we'll do our best. I promise."

There was always a catch, though, and he wasn't sure he wanted to see what the catch would be. Where had the reluctance come from? It must've been part of the thoughts, ideas, that had suddenly flooded into his head when Pomfrey had given him that last potion.

Carefully, Severus started to shift, releasing Boy from the deathly tight clutch, but something peeked at him over the lip of the desk, some skeleton cat. It leapt from the desk and clattered away bonily towards the door. He startled visibly, staring at it nervously until it was out of sight.

"It's all right," Draco soothed, holding out his hand to boy. "It was just a silly cat, some student's lost pet. Please come out, Severus..."

"Will they make you want breakfast, Father?" Boy asked, nibbling at the roach-infested muffin.

He felt his stomach lurch, catching in his throat until he had to swallow down bile and spit to keep from throwing up. He closed his eyes a moment again, and then reached a hand for the potion. "Just... give it to me."

That pale, skeletal hand snuck under the desk again, a flask tightly held in clacking fingers. "Here, Severus..."

It had to get better soon, it had to, it had to... it was worse than waking up with a corpse under his head, worse than the one in the tub, worse... He swallowed it quickly, grimacing. The taste wasn't death, but it was close, and pain stabbed through his head in a moment that sucked the breath from his chest.

"Father?" Boy had slipped to his feet, but was still peering at his father, half-huddled under the desk. "Are you better now?"

Paler faced than usual, sweating, and drained-looking, he nodded to his son, and shifted towards the no-longer skeletal figures.

"Come out and lie down, Severus. We won't try anything to get your memory back again for a bit. Come out and eat some breakfast," Draco nearly begged. "I have all of your favorites here, every last one of them," he promised.

He stood shakily, looking at the muffin Boy had brought him. It looked... safe again, but the memory still lingered. "I'm not very hungry," he denied as firmly as he could, while turning very carefully, intent on heading back towards the bed where he'd been sitting. Perhaps he could just go back to sleep and start the morning over in a few hours.

"You must be hungry," Draco sighed. "You haven't eaten since yesterday. If it will make you feel better, I'll eat bites before you do. How does that sound?"

"Draco, he's not a child. He probably doesn't want you babying him," Harry muttered.

"I don't care," Draco replied. "I'll do what it takes."

"I'm going to go talk with the headmaster," Madam Pomfrey told them all. "I'll be in his office if I'm needed..."

Severus eyed the mediwitch for a moment, and then did move to sit down again. "Perhaps just a little..." He decided he'd never tell them what he saw.

The visible relief on Draco's face was something that he'd never seen on Lucius's. "If you'll climb into bed, I'll bring a tray. All of your favorite things are there," he reiterated. "There are chocolate muffins and scrambled eggs with cheese and a cup of chocolate for you..."

"I'm allowed to eat in bed?" He seemed a little suspicious, as he sat down atop the sheets and mattress, one long leg tucked up under him. Boy moved to sit on the end of the bed, manipulating his stuffed toys in some sort of bored dance. "I can't... remember what chocolate tastes like."

"You're allowed to eat wherever you like," Draco assured him. "Well, except for perhaps under the desk, but only because I think you'd be awfully cramped under there."

"Draco has something against being squished into small spaces," Harry explained.

"Why?" Severus settled a little, watching Boy play silently with his toys. Then he looked to Draco again, awaiting an answer in a strangely timid manner.

"Because when I was very small, Lucius liked to push me into tiny spaces in the wall that weren't large enough even for house-elves and leave me there," Draco said simply, taking a bite of egg before offering a second bite to Severus. "Potter here enjoys small enclosed spaces. I don't."

"I don't enjoy them," Harry protested. "I'm just used to them. I don't care about them." The bed was a bit small for four people to crowd onto, but he perched on the end, near Boy. It made Severus want to watch him very closely, but at the same time, he was so hungry, and if Lucius's son could eat it then it must be all right.

When he took the first bite, the egg tasted rich, and warm, and the cheese was a nice touch that he decided he liked even if he couldn't remember it. After that first bite, it was hard for Severus to resist another, and another, slowly starting to simply eat. "Lucius did a great deal of... things."

"Yes. He wasn't always a nice man," Draco agreed obliquely, glancing at the boy at the end of the bed.

"Sometimes," Boy said, "Uncle Lucius brought us fruit. That was always nice."

"That was," Severus agreed in a quiet sigh, taking another bite of egg. He felt torn and twisted between these new people and the family that he'd always known; the ideas that tickled at the back of his mind weren't helping with that torn ripping sensation in his mind. He almost started to say something else, but then the man with the white beard poked his head into the room. "Draco? Harry? I want to speak with you for a moment. You'll be all right on your own, won't you, Severus?"

"I... Of course."

"You can't speak with one of us at a time?" Draco asked, tilting his head to the side.

"No, I'm afraid that I will need both of you," Dumbledore said most seriously.

Turning back to Severus, Draco frowned slightly. "Will you try your muffins while I'm gone?"

"Yes." Or he'd let Boy have them. Either way, they'd be gone when Draco came back, and it was all the same. "I will."

"Come on, Draco," Harry sighed. "It figures the moment I get comfortable, we have to get up again..."

"Well, that's your own fault for getting comfortable, isn't it?" The words didn't have much bite to them, though, and Draco's arm slid about Harry's waist as they both stood. It was obvious to Severus that there was something there, something he didn't understand, and it made him wonder if he might have once upon a time. He watched them go, and then slowly went back to eating.

Draco's obvious motions of affection sucked a little of the edge off of Harry's jealous and sullen expression, so that Harry looked like himself again -- calm, a bit staid, and seemingly easy-going -- when they entered the hall. Albus was still tight lipped, which wasn't a good sign, and he led them not towards the staff-room, but towards his own office.

That couldn't possibly be a good sign, either.

"Is it really all that bad, Headmaster?" Draco asked. Harry could tell that Draco was seriously considering hiding behind him sometime soon.

"It... was surprising to me, Mister Malfoy." He opened the door with a murmur to his gargoyle, and then closed it tightly behind them. "As I suspect it will surprise you."

"You won't want us yelling it out to the rest of the school, then," Harry said, giving his lover a wry smile and momentarily brushing the hair at the nape of his neck comfortingly.

"I would consider that a terribly unwise thing to do, Harry," Dumbledore sighed. He gestured for them both to sit down, though he declined in favor of walking towards Fawkes. "While Boy was eating breakfast this morning, I determined his parentage."

"And?" Draco asked. "He looks so much like Severus that it's terrifying, really."

"Acts a bit like him, too, at least before," Harry agreed as they both settled into chairs side by side.

"Severus is indeed one of his parents. As, much as I feared, was Voldemort. There is one other, though. Not more than a touch, but it was enough to affect the spell Voldemort used." Dumbledore looked at them both now, and added, "Though I do not wish to know how a professor at this school managed to have a student's semen on his body."

The sheer loss of color in Draco's face was dramatic, turning him parchment white. "You don't... I mean, that is to say...."

"Were you in sexual congress with Professor Snape when he was called away that last time?" Any amusement slipped from the headmaster's face, and he seemed disappointed, sad and perhaps a little disgusted.

The Slytherin's spine stiffened, chin notching up as his eyes turned cold grey. "I had been his lover since third year, yes," Draco admitted in a voice that nearly dared the old man to say anything to him about it. The sound of it certainly brought Harry upright, the way it always had when Draco used that icy tone and expression.

"That wasn't what I asked, Mister Malfoy," the headmaster said, a faint flinch reflecting in his voice as he looked at them both sternly. "I was asking if you were present when he was last called to Voldemort, and if you were in sexual congress at the time."

"Merlin, Albus..." Harry stuttered for a moment. Third year? Third bloody year? He'd had an idea, but there was a difference between idea and fact. Still, he plowed onwards. "What does that have to do with anything?"

"It would tell me how dominant, over time, threads of your lover that appear in Boy could become."

Draco's hands were knotted together in his lap, the knuckles pressed tightly together. "Yes," he said, the sound of it hoarse and filled with a certain tremulousness. "Yes, we were. It was... It was late, I had slipped up from the dorms. When the call came, I was afraid, it hurt him more than usual, but..." He shook his head. "He said he had to go. He kissed me goodbye..." Other words seemed to be there, but he couldn't seem to speak them.

Harry snaked a hand out, fingers clutching over Draco's tightly. As much as he disliked the idea of Draco having anyone else as a lover, as much as he detested that it would probably happen again, he did love Draco and hated to see him aching so. "Shh."

"Boy is a creation of bodies and magic. A bit of you, Mister Malfoy, mixed in with a great deal of Severus and Voldemort. But you can appeal to that thread of magic that came from you, and perhaps outweigh any darker influences that may be native to him," the headmaster sighed.

"You actually think the same thing doesn't fill me, as well?" It was a rather bitter question, one of Draco's twisting hands coming up to cover his face, the other clutching tightly at Harry's hands. "How did they do it, then? I don't understand..."

"Sex is a very powerful form of magic. Since you're well versed in how it works, I'm sure that Voldemort went through many of the same steps you would, and then used the energy to spark the spell. Then a wizard would use whatever semen he could magically draw off of his... victim, host, call it what you will, and mix it into the start of a child. That would include any that you had left behind." The more Dumbledore talked, the more Harry was sure that he wasn't disturbed by what Voldemort had done as much as he was by Draco, a student at the time, having sex with a professor. He gave Draco's hand another tight squeeze, half-tempted to catch the other hand in his free fingers.

"And is that why he doesn't remember anything up until about six years ago?" Draco asked faintly.

"He's exhibiting many of the signs of someone who'd been under a very heavy imperious curse. Riddle likely only lifted it once Boy started to require more attention, and he was sure that he'd... sufficiently suppressed any rebellious tendencies Severus might have previously had." Fawkes leapt up onto the headmaster's arm, and then Dumbledore moved to sit down across from Draco and Harry. "Though that still leaves the question open as to why."

"I'm really terribly unsuited to this sort of thing," Draco muttered. "This is the sort of thing that happens to Potter, not me. Why? Because Severus is powerful and beautiful and perfect. Why not?"

"But think of the liability of having a child with them at all times, teaching and raising Boy. Surely Voldemort had a reason," Dumbledore murmured, as he scratched the feathers under the phoenix's neck.

"Maybe he wanted an heir. A pureblood, who'd be powerful," Harry suggested.

"It sounds like the sort of thing Voldemort would do, or Father. I wonder if they knew, that there was... Well, that it had worked out the way it did..." Perhaps that was why Lucius had been with them, after all. "Are you sure that it isn't father's seed, and not mine?"

"Quite sure. The thin magical link is yours, not your father's. And because of Voldemort's tie to Harry, Boy is now faintly tied to you, also, Harry. Not in the same way as Draco, yet... almost as effective."

"Effective? What do you mean 'effective?" Harry let his fingers stroke Draco's palm, trying to calm himself, too.

"I don't understand," Draco said slowly. "I know for certain that Harry wasn't sleeping with Severus, and I can't say I've ever understood this tie to Voldemort. Aside from the scar, how could that affect him?"

"Voldemort's power didn't simply disappear, Mister Malfoy. It spread out to those tied to him when he died. Power spreads in order of closeness, so that children receive it first, then perhaps siblings. But with the dark mark, Voldemort had tampered with the natural order of things. Boy more than likely received a glut of the dark lord's power, as did Harry, only you've probably both been too exhausted to notice. Harry has been magically bound to Voldemort since the scar appeared on his forehead." Dumbledore seemed as tired of explaining it as Draco sounded boggled by it, at least in Harry's eyes.

"So, I'm lovers with the Dark Lord. Just what I was dating you to avoid." It was a feeble joke at best, but better than nothing, Harry supposed.

"So if we're all tied to Boy, then it shouldn't be all right that we're probably going to end up with them?" Harry asked.

"It should help," Dumbledore admitted, "Indeed, I'm depending on it to help. Poppy told me how... badly Severus reacted to the potion she gave him. Do you have any idea what he may have been seeing?"

"It was one of Father's favorites," Draco admitted. "I'm sure he was probably seeing dead things. Bugs, everywhere. Slimy walls, things growing..."

"And some people would've accused professor Snape of considering that sort of world a Heaven." Harry would've done so himself, when he'd been a student. He didn't any longer, just squeezed Draco's hand.

"Well, that would explain the sheer panic," Dumbledore murmured half to himself, and half to Fawkes. "Would you be amiable to taking Severus and Boy to Malfoy Manor with you? When you wish to, of course. We can keep them here indefinitely, because aside from the picture in the Slytherin Common, I believe few students would know who Severus was."

"Harry..." Draco looked at him, eyes pleading. Damn.

"We probably need to talk about it," Harry said firmly, looking back at Albus. "Before we agree, that is."

"Of course. Feel free to use my office. There are things I must attend to at the Ministry..." Fawkes hopped onto the back of the headmaster's chair, and then Dumbledore stood up. "Have a pleasant day, both of you."

He swept out before either of them could protest, or fit in another word. Another subtle manipulation on his part, Harry gathered. His hand was still clasped over Draco's warm, faintly unsteady fingers. "I probably shouldn't even bother arguing with you, Draco," Harry sighed, not willing for the moment to look at those pleading eyes. Fawkes was a welcome distraction, as the bird hopped onto the desk to chew on a quill.

"Harry, they don't have anywhere to go, or anyone to go to. We destroyed what life they had, and you heard him. The child..." Draco drew in a deep, unsteady breath. "And God only knows what he'd do about all of it. He's so obviously pissed off about what we were doing together..."

"I know, Draco. Merlin, I know. I just... I want you to myself." There, he'd said it, and he'd bear the flush of guilt that hit him when he voiced his selfish want. "I like having you play on the same team as me, I love going home with you at night, and the house is quiet, and... It's like family should be. Without the screaming the Dursleys did."

"You'd be willing to let them suffer, to let Severus go to St. Mungo's and to let the Ministry have Boy?" Draco asked him, looking at him with an inscrutable expression. "Aren't you supposed to be the hero here?"

"No.... no, I'm not willing to let that happen to them," Harry sighed, looking up and over at Draco at last, catching the look on his lover's face. "I can't let that happen. I just wish there was more... choice, or... something. Maybe that I felt there were a choice to make."

"There is a choice, Harry," Draco told him. "Just the ones that Dumbledore gave us. It's simply that it isn't much of a choice at all, you're right about that." He paused, taking a deep breath. "I never wanted you to know, you know. Not really."

"To know what?" He'd learned a lot in such a short time, hadn't he? The one thing that stuck out was the way Draco had touched Snape's cheek, tender and hopeful before the man flinched away. He knew in his heart that Draco still loved Severus, or still loved the past he'd had.

"That I was just thirteen when... There were reasons," Draco said, taking a deep breath. "Very many reasons, I..."

"You can tell me them, Draco," Harry coaxed quietly, shifting in his chair so that he wouldn't have to be twisted around to look at his lover. "If he's going to live under the same roof as us, I'd like to know."

"You know, of course, that Father... That Lucius intended that I follow in his footsteps. That I become a Death Eater like he was," Draco began hesitantly. "And there were... things... that Death Eaters... Well, there..." He shook his head. "Harry, I can't TELL you all of this. I adored him. He was there. He made it easier, and he wanted to be sure that I wasn't hurt as badly as I might be..."

"Go on," Harry pressed. The Death Eaters had done what to him -- the son of a very high-ranking member of their own?

"It wasn't really all that terrible," Draco excused. "Just a few drinks and letting them do as they liked. All of the other Death Eater children suffered the same thing, and I didn't mind it so badly. At least I knew what was going on. Severus made sure of that..."

"And so even... after, you and he still...?" Harry fiddled with the words for it in his mind, as Draco had been purposefully vague. He'd been raped, apparently under his father's watch, but Severus had helped prepare him for it?

"Of course." There seemed to be nothing strange about that to Draco, but then, he hadn't found the other odd, either, obviously. "I told you. I adored him. I worshipped him. He was very sweet with me, and.... And I loved him," he tried to explain. "I loved him awfully...." That should have been obvious considering the state he'd been in for the last half of the year after Severus had first disappeared.

Harry suddenly feared that he would be the most normal influence Boy would have in the household. That was more personally disturbing to him than thinking of what the Death Eaters were -- had been, they were mostly gone now and their leader dead -- capable of. Draco didn't see anything terribly wrong with what he'd just said?

"You still love him, don't you?"

"It doesn't mean that I don't love you, Harry." That was a serious statement, those grey eyes on him firmly. "It just means that I never stopped loving him, either. Really, it doesn't change anything."

"Are you sure it won't? What about if Snape gets his memory back...?"

"You're this jealous over a sick man?" Draco asked him, an eyebrow rising. "Potter, I've spent most of the last eight years with you. If you don't know how mad I am about you by now, you might as well not believe anything I've ever told you at all!"

It was with a sigh that Harry shifted, slipping his arms around Draco's shoulders for a faintly rough hug. "I sound like an idiot, don't I? I just... worry."

Lips pressed against his for a moment, brushing over them almost airily. "Don't," Draco assured him. "I love you no matter what, you know. Besides, it will be nice having Boy at the Manor, won't it? Someone to have flying lessons with and that sort of thing...?"

"I suppose." Harry huffed a sigh, part frustration as he shifted back from Draco to stand up. He still had one of Draco's hands clutched tight in his own, so the other man felt a tug to stand up, too. "Do you think we'll be able to help Severus?"

"I hope so. I truly do, Harry, but if we can't, then at least we can make things comfortable for him, and that's better than nothing, isn't it?" Arms slid around his shoulders, and Draco kissed him again.

He leaned into it that time, but kept tugging on Draco to walk. He was still tired, and still strangely giddy from what he'd accomplished. They hadn't even yet had a chance to see what was going on in the 'outside' world in relation to Voldemort's death. And if Draco coaxed him too much, he'd fuck him right there, with the Phoenix watching them from Dumbledore's desk. "That's better than nothing, you're right. Let's go and get them, then..."

"Right," Draco agreed, and one last kiss nearly put shut to anything else in Harry's mind for a short time. "Let's go and get them."


"Are we there yet?" Boy asked. It was his favorite question of all when they were moving, and his father had always indulged him in it. Even if the Harry looked as though he would love to harm him if he asked it one more time, Boy had to know from experience that Severus wouldn't allow that.

"No, we're still here. And when we're there, you'll know," his father told him smoothly, an idle hand patting the wall of the carriage. "Have patience." It was a concept that he was working on, himself. Despite the assurances he and Boy had been given that afternoon by the man with the beard, he wasn't near enough to comfortable with the idea.

"There'll be all sorts of things there you'll like," Draco promised him, "and it's only another fifteen minutes or so. You can have cranberry muffins every morning. I always do," he told Boy.

"Cranberries are good for you," Harry agreed, shooting Draco a sly look for a moment. Vague sexual innuendo was something that would slip past Boy, and Severus was unresponsive to it. The black-haired man's attention drifted to the window, staring out at the scenery as if he were straining to recall it.

"Yes, in a general sort of way. And there'll be chocolate for your father. It always delighted him when he was younger," Draco continued.

"Why are cranberries good for you?" Boy asked, tilting his head to the side. That hint of green-grey was in his gaze again with his curiosity.

"They can stop certain types of infections." Severus reluctantly looked away from the window, giving Boy his full attention. "Do you remember when you had that cut on your hand?"

"Cranberries would have made it better?" Boy asked, wide-eyed at the thought. "But I had to take that nasty ointment and put it on there instead?"

"It's to prevent infections," Harry said quickly. "And only certain types."

"Types you don't have to worry about," Severus told Boy firmly, patting the head of the stuffed lion that Boy had insisted on keeping out of a trunk. He couldn't understand why Harry had been so... disturbed by Boy carrying it around with him constantly. It was his favorite toy, after all, and it was spelled to hold together for at least a few more years.

"Not for many more years," Draco agreed with him, digging into a small box that he'd brought with them from Hogwarts. "I have a biscuit here. I wonder if there might be someone who'd like it..." He glanced at Severus from underneath his lashes. "I might even find a second one, if there's more than one taker."

"I want a biscuit." Boy even slipped off of the seat, to stand in front of Draco and wait to have a biscuit put into his hand.

"Do you want one, Severus? The house-elves make wonderfully good biscuits..." Even Harry seemed to be interested in offering food. It was a curious experience.

"House-elves..." He vaguely recognized that concept, and nodded to Harry a little. "Yes, I will.... try it, if you wish me to."

"No, no," Draco answered. "The question is, do you want to?" The biscuit was held out to him in the palm of his hand, to be taken or ignored. "I know you like sweets..."

"I don't know." That was mumbled, as he reached to take the biscuit from Draco's fingers. Boy was still standing there, and Severus had the fleeting thought that perhaps he should give his son his cbiscuit. That was certainly what would've been expected of him before...

"I hope you enjoy it," the blond told him warmly, which was frightening in and of itself. If Lucius had said something like that, Severus's hair likely would have stood on end. Draco glanced to the side and gave Harry a sly smile. "I might have another bicuit or two..." he offered.

"Does that mean I'll get one, too? Are you just conjuring them out of air, or...?" Harry leaned to peer into the tin, which clearly did have biscuits stacked into it. It made Boy giggle as he sat down beside his father again with a little bounce. He didn't have half the caution that Severus did about eating, now that he clearly realized he could eat what he was offered. Severus could appreciate that, at least.

"Well..." Draco teased him. "Perhaps I could even see my way through to letting you have two," he teased with a smirk, hands hovering over the small hoard of biscuits as if to protect them from Harry.

"Well, I could do with one, since we're so close to the manor," Harry verbally backed down even as he shifted a hand to slip it between Draco's hands and the biscuit tin.

"Biscuit thief!" Draco cried, and the whole thing made Boy giggle with delight. Watching them was disturbing because they so resembled Lucius and Tom, but it was also much more entertaining for Boy, at least.

"May I have another?" Boy requested. "Father, eat the rest of yours!"

"I will," Severus murmured. He didn't act cowed by Boy's insistence, but he did take a slightly larger bite, giving up on savoring the biscuit as he had been to simply eating it. "Don't have too many. We will be there soon." It wasn't home, though, as Harry had called it a few times. Home was a small room that was probably now either crawling with officials, or burned to the ground.

"We won't let him overeat," Harry promised him. "That'd ruin his supper, which really wouldn't be nice at all."

"I don't know," Draco disagreed. "I've had my dinner ruined a time or two, and it was quite a delight. Once, when I was nine, the house-elves fed me fresh-baked peanut butter biscuits until I was near to bursting. I couldn't even eat a bite of liver that night at dinner." He seemed pleased with that fact.

Liver. Severus's lips twitched oddly at the thought. He'd eaten liver -- real liver, but there were times when meat was meat, and food... He broke off the edge of the biscuit that he'd bitten from, and handed what was left to Boy. "Just don't eat biscuits until you burst," he chided gently.

"Something wrong with it?" Harry asked, watching the motion of handing what was left to Boy.

"It's all right if you're not hungry," Draco said. "Or perhaps you'd like a different kind of biscuit better? I have others," he offered.

"No, I've simply had enough for the moment, s-- Draco." He folded his arms over his chest, once he'd polished up the crumbs of biscuit that had been left on his fingers. Instead of looking out the window again, he glanced to Draco, the tin of biscuits, and then the whole of the carriage's interior. His eyes always returned to Draco and Harry. They looked like Tom and Lucius, but happier, perhaps? Less determined and without the same goals.

In a way, it was just as pleasing as it was frightening. There was no denying that their lack of drive, or seeming deficiency of motivation, made Severus nervous. How could it not, when he'd been with Lucius and Tom for so long?

"Well, if you change your mind..." Draco offered tentatively.

"We're almost there," Harry said.

What seemed seldom was, after all. Severus nodded a little at Harry's words, before leaning his head back against the back of the seat. His fingers folded into the borrowed cloak he'd been given that covered up his too-worn robe. It was warm and clean, a contrast to his robe that always felt gritty, or as if there was some potion spill on the edge of it. "I'd rather not throw up in your beautiful carriage."

"It's self-cleaning," Draco told him. "I used to get carriage-sick as a child, and Father got tired of waiting for the house-elves to come along after me."

"Self-cleaning?" Harry asked, obviously amused. "Huh. Interesting."

"Things can self-clean?" Boy perked up a little at that idea, and a bit of biscuit spilled from his mouth which he was quick to pick up form the floor and put back in his mouth. "I never knew things could do that. Father, why did we never have anything that self-cleaned?"

"Because." Severus gave a shrug with his answer, which meant that Boy wasn't going to get a specific answer. "That was how it was."

"Self-cleaning spells are awfully expensive," Draco explained. "The creation of something large that cleans itself is always difficult. There aren't a lot of wizards willing to go to that trouble and expense for a thing.

"Tom-father could've, if he'd wanted to," Boy decided with a slight mournful sniff in his voice. He fell quiet for a moment again, still snuggled up to his father's side, then twisted to hug him with the hand he was still wringing his lion with. "Don't say bad things about Tom-father? They said a lot of bad things about him where we just were."

Grey eyes glanced towards Harry, the worry in them apparent. "We'll do our best," he promised Boy, though Severus wondered if it would be that easy.

"We'll be... honest about him, if you will, too," Harry decided after a moment. "What sort of room would you like at the manor?"

"Can I have any one I want?" Boy asked, eyes huge in his face. Severus was glad that he was quickly becoming accustomed to being given what he wanted; he had always given Boy what he wanted when he could, so in some ways it was not much of a surprise. "Can I stay with father?"

"You can both have any one you want," Draco agreed. "Side by side if you like."

"Si..." Severus nodded to that, a bit blandly. Side by side seemed to mean in an entirely different room, which pulled away from him too quickly his sole reason for being: to protect and watch over Boy. It was hard to do 'side-by-side'.

"It's all right if you'd rather have the same," Draco assured him. "I just wanted to offer you two if you'd like."

"We're used to... just one room," Severus said quickly -- not to say that Draco's suggestion hadn't been a good one, no, he couldn't let that be thought at all. Nor could he just let himself be moved to another room without some protest. "It's been that way as long as I can remember."

"Then that's what you'll have if it pleases you, but you must promise that you won't sleep on the floor," the blond pleaded with him, brows knitting together.

How strange. Glancing out the window again, Severus rolled those words around in his mind. It seemed... decent of Draco, and Harry. Yes, that was the word that rose to his mind -- 'decent'. But decent didn't tell him why. "Why shouldn't I?" It wasn't a challenging question when he glanced back to Draco, but one full of simple curiosity.

"Because it's bad for you. You can sleep so much better on a bed than you can on the floor," Harry told him. He was obviously restless, shifting on the bench across from them.

"It doesn't make you ache when you sleep on the floor?" Draco asked him.

"Father's almost always slept on the floor," Boy said, tilting his head to the side to look at the two of them. "It's what father does."

Severus nodded vague agreement, though it was clear from his eyes that he was questioning himself on why he'd always done that. Because it was how things were? Because it was a treat to sleep on a bed, and he was allowed that only when he'd been very pleasing. Some things simply were or weren't. "Occasionally it bothers me. But... I deserve it, so..." He trailed off, sensing Draco would argue against what he'd just said. Words against Fact again.

It was true that Draco would argue. "You've never deserved that!" he railed suddenly. "Severus, you don't have to sleep on the floor ever again, you don't have to do anything that you don't want to do anymore. I swear it!"

Severus winced a little, just from the fact that Draco seemed angry. It didn't matter that he was angry with someone else, but he was addressing him and yelling.

"Draco, why don't you just..." Harry had a hand on his lover's arm, pulling him to sit back in his chair. "Why don't we get the bags? We're almost here."

That hand seemed to calm the blond, to make him realize what he was doing. He sat back, trembling so that Severus could see his attempt at calming himself. "Of course, Harry. If you like."

"Can I help?" Boy asked after a quiet moment, still close to his father's side.

"If you'd li--" The carriage jolted quickly to a stop, at the front steps of the manor. Severus glanced out the window then, and if Harry had kept talking he was oblivious. The castle looked... familiar. No, not a castle, but a great manor house, white and decrepit in places, but crisp and newly repaired in others, as manor houses often seemed to be.

"Welcome," Draco said softly, "to Malfoy Manor."

"It's home," Harry murmured, nodding his head in agreement. "It's huge, but you'll get used to it rather quickly, I'm sure."

"And we can be wherever we like in that place?" Boy asked, with slightly wide eyes. "It's pretty outside. Can I go outside?" He moved, quickly, to slip to his feet, his Lion clutched tight in both hands as he walked towards one window. There was clear hesitance in opening the door; he looked backwards towards Severus, awaiting answers.

"If it's safe, I suppose... that you can." He stood then, shaking off the cringe he'd taken on when Draco yelled at him.

"I'll show you the gardens," Draco agreed. "You'll like playing in them; they're spelled to be warm year round so that the flowers are always lovely. My mother loved to work in the garden..." That seemed a wistful statement, and it made Severus curious.

"Lucius never... mentioned her," Severus murmured. He seemed vaguely distracted by Harry opening the door for them, and by Boy's happy, anxious leap out of the carriage.

"I don't suppose he would have, since he left part of her hiding in Draco's favorite spot in the gardens," Harry answered with a sigh.

"Not in front of Boy," Draco muttered fretfully.

"What not in front of me?" Boy twisted a little where he stood, testing the spring of frost-touched grass under his feet. "Can we go inside? Everything's dead out here. I want to see your pretty gardens."

Severus watched Draco for a moment at his fretfulness, then filed that away in his mind with all of the other things he'd noted to himself. He'd look over all that he'd learned before he went to bed later that night. For the moment there wasn't time. "Come along, Boy. It's only a touch of frost, and we'll be inside soon."

Harry reached to begin lugging Boy's luggage from the carriage. "Just up those stairs -- just knock, and the house-elves will let you in." He murmured something else to Draco as Severus and Boy moved towards the front steps.

"Are the gardens full of flowers?" Boy asked, turning to glance behind them. "We never saw many flowers before, did we, father?"

"No, not many," Severus agreed, as he walked up the stairs with Boy beside him. He knocked on the door just as he'd been told, and looked down at the house-elf that answered the door. It screamed immediately, and slammed the door in his face.

"Wippy!" Draco yelled. "You open the door, you silly elf, right this very moment, or I swear I shall give you clothing!"

"No, no!" the elf squealed, flinging open the door, though it nearly cried at the sight of Severus. "A-anything but clothes! Wippy swears he'll be good, Master Draco! Not clothes!"

"Draco, why's Wippy screaming?" Harry asked with a faint wince as they started up the stairs. Severus did as he'd been told, and brushed past the elf and walked into the hallway past it, Boy in tow.

A thought struck him as he stared first at the elegant mosaic beneath his feet, then up at the reliefs cut into the stone along the walls. The place wept magic, was huge, and made him feel ill to be standing in. There was that gnawing familiarity once more, chewing at his mind as he pulled Boy nearer to him. "Stay close."

"You won't get lost," Draco promised with a glance that swore to Harry that he'd tell him later. "The house occasionally... Er..."

"Shifts," Harry said, trying to help him out a bit.

"Yes, shifts, moves, but it's only fiddling with you a bit."

"Oh. That's all?" Boy relaxed a little, slumping against his father's leg. "Tom-father and Uncle Lucius were the only people who could make where we were stop shifting."

"Probably the same spell," Severus mused quietly, looking up at the carvings again. Yes, they seemed to be slowly rotating, shifting so that positions changed and the entire thing was ever so slightly different. "Yes. Can we go to a room now?"

"Of course," Draco assured him. "It's just a bit further up the stairs and then take a right. There are several rooms in that direction, guest rooms, and Harry and I have a room at the end of the hall."

Harry and I. Severus tucked that idea away with everything else -- he might not sleep that night, with so much time already planned for looking through thoughts -- and started to lead Boy up the stairs. He'd choose a room far away from Harry and Draco.

It would be best that way. Surely...

"Come on, father, hurry, I want to see what's up there," Boy pleaded. They'd never had a room upstairs before.

"I'll show you my old room," Draco told him pleasantly. "There are dragons on the walls and all sorts of things you'll like. Both of you."

"Dragons? Real dragons?" Boy noticeably expected real dragons from a room upstairs. He ended up half-dragging his father up the stairs, who was walking slower in an attempt to take in Malfoy Manor properly. Then Severus gave up, and took up a pace that kept him even with his excitable son.

"We have to wait for Draco to show us where the room is, Boy."

"It's just down the way," the blond said, tugging Harry to move after them more quickly. "The dragons are painted onto the walls..."

"You'll probably like them," Harry added, following behind a bit more slowly.

"They're not enchanted, are they?" Severus asked after a moment.

"Well..." Draco hedged. "They fly all along the walls and sometimes do other dragon-ish sorts of things Is there something wrong with it?"

Did he want to challenge Draco? No. "No... I just..." No, 'I' wasn't a reason to use in challenging someone's decision. It could get him in trouble, even though Draco said he wouldn't get in trouble. Lucius liked to lie like that, too, sometimes. "It's nothing."

"I want paintings on the wall that fly," Boy decided with soft awe in his voice, as all four of them stopped in front of the door that had once been Draco's room. Severus remembered that door, too, which struck him strangely.

"Look inside," Draco invited, and gently pushed the door open.

Inside was a boy's dream room; dragons wheeled and flew along the walls and the bed was huge, decadent, something ten boys could sleep in side by side and from which they would never be in danger of falling. One wall was filled with children's toys and books that would delight a young man of many ages.

"Is it all right?" the blond Slytherin asked, fingers beginning to wrap together nervously.

"Is it all... is this mine?" Boy asked, walking into it uncertainly. It was overwhelming for him, Severus was sure. He'd never seen so much in one place, especially not things meant for him.

"If you like it..." Draco's nervousness was obvious, as if he feared that Boy would tell him it was awful and that he didn't like it in the least.

"Oh..." Boy moved towards the toys almost right away, staring up at the shelves with bright eyes. If he was told yes once, he wasn't going to press and ask again, for fear of being told no. "Thank you, very much, uncle... Uncle Draco." Boy decided Draco's title with hesitance, as he twisted around to look at the blond man.

The sheer wideness of those grey eyes in response to the nominal acceptance as family almost hurt Severus. He was uncertain of how he felt about it, of the reasoning behind it, but he didn't dare to say a word about it. His feelings shouldn't be important in the matter.

"You're very welcome, Boy," Draco managed to get out, turning quickly to Severus as if to mask his sudden uncertainty. "Is this suitable?"

"More than suitable." Severus was staring at the more purposeful things -- the inviting desk, the bed, and that there was a bathroom and a closet in rooms off of the bedroom. "Thank you for this." Though it was the least that Draco could do, considering that they'd taken Lucius and Tom from him and Boy. But they also could have killed them, or found some hellish place to put them.

"I'd have done it no matter what, you know," Draco said, and the way that he said it gave a faint twinge somewhere in Severus's torso.

Harry nodded grimly. "It's true." It was all he said, and there was no way to argue that, so Severus nodded, moving towards Boy and the shelves. He wasn't accustomed to the presence of others for such an extended time, with so little... purpose to the visit.

"We'll settle ourselves in now. We won't be any trouble," he promised.

Draco stepped forward, a bit closer to them both, before Harry's hand clasped his elbow. "I never thought you would be," he said inadequately, hands clasped tightly before him.

"I love it," Boy decided, cradling a stuffed toy against his chest with the same delight he held his lion. It was startling to Severus when he realized that it wasn't that little creature.

"I'm glad," Draco expressed, relieved.

Severus peered down at his boy, petting his sleek black hair idly. Boy looked so happy, so easily pleased, as he hugged the stuffed Thestral to his chest. "Good. Why don't you and I look through these and play a little? I think today is a bad day to resume your studies."

"Come on, Draco," Harry murmured, tugging at Draco's elbow. "We'll come and fetch you for dinner."

"I promise," Draco swore, and Severus believed him. He had promised many things, and he had followed through on all of them.

Carefully, Harry pulled Draco out of the bedroom, and closed the door gently behind them. Severus watched the entire time, which disturbed Harry more than he wanted to admit. "Let's... start with the house-elf," he finally said, once they were in the hall and guaranteed a privacy.

"Well, really, Harry, house-elves do tend to scream at the smallest of things and bash their heads in doors and...."

"They also never slam the door in a wizard's face," Harry reminded. Draco was avoiding telling him something, he knew it.

Those hands were wringing together fretfully again. "He can't help it, really, I mean, Father used to sometimes bring friends over, THOSE Kinds of friends." Draco shrugged as they slipped into their bedroom. "He probably just remembers Severus from one of those times, Harry."

Harry grasped both of Draco's hands, in a jolt of motion that probably startled Draco, but soothed Harry. He hated to see those hand gestures. "I think you need to relax, Draco. With me. You're very stressed just now."

"They might need something, though, Harry, and what if they come in or..."

"I don't think they will," Harry cut in, pulling at Draco's hands to lead him towards the bed. "I'm going to just do something that you'll like. Even if they do walk in, it won't be worth hiding." He was determined not to live in the shadow of Draco's suddenly worried what-ifs. He wouldn't let Draco do that to both of them.

For a moment, his lover said nothing, and then finally he leaned forward and kissed Harry full on the mouth, holding nothing back. "I'm so exhausted, and sick of worrying..."

And just two days before, he'd been obnoxiously forward, and full of energy. Harry feared it would be a long time until he saw that Draco again. "I know. So just let me undress you and lay you down on our bed..." 'Our' bed; not the bed, not his parent's bed, but 'our' bed. He stressed those words against Draco's lips, before he kissed his lover back with just as much passion and need to claim.

"You promise there won't be anything to see, Potter?" It was as much of a dare as it was a question, really. "I think there might be something to see..." If he didn't fall asleep the moment he hit the bed.

"Just a little something." Harry's hands roamed, tugging at Draco's robes to get them off of him. He'd undress once he'd started his lover towards being undressed. The robes and under-clothes puddled carelessly on the floor, and then Draco was urged forwards to lie on the bed. "Accio oil."

"Ohhh, that definitely sounds like something to see..." For the moment, Harry hoped that he wouldn't think about Severus or think about Boy or think about the way he'd shattered when the older man had gone missing. Harry would make sure that he wouldn't think of any of those things; Draco would just think of him and the delicious pleasure of Harry's touch.

Harry had picked up the pieces. It sparked anger anew to think that he'd have to keep Draco from flying to bits again. If Snape had stayed dead... "I'm the only one who sees," Harry murmured, part teasing but part very serious as he knelt over Draco's buttocks, the silk of his boxers brushing his lover's skin.

"Yes," Draco agreed faintly, stretching out upon the bed, entire body lengthening with delight. "Just you, Potter. Only you."

He didn't hesitate to dribble oil over Draco's back, pouring a thin line over his spine, from shoulders to buttocks. Then he set the stoppered bottle aside, before leaning in to rub the oil into Draco's skin. "I think everything will work out," he whispered softly. "Snape and Boy can handle themselves well..."

"If Wippy's screaming doesn't drive them into the dungeons," Draco agreed on a moan, shuddering. He was tight all over from the sheer tension of the last few days; there was no denying it. "Oh, Merlin, that feels good, Harry."

"Remind me to talk to the Ministry about Voldemort's death," Harry murmured casually, as he started to press and rub more pointedly. The harder, tighter muscles first, then the ones less knotted, and down like that. "We should check our owl mails. I'd bet the game tonight's been called off for celebration..."

The soft, steady moans Draco gave were filled with pleasure. "Don't care," he declared. At that particular moment, with Harry's hands on him and his face in the pillows, he probably wouldn't have cared if Snape and Boy had walked into the room.

"Good," Harry murmured, rubbing just a little harder. Draco needed to relax, and he was going to make that relaxation stick... With every ounce of concentration Harry had, he lavished his hands over Draco's back, and rubbed. He ignored his own steadily growing erection, and anything else in exchange for simple relaxation.

It was ten minutes before dinner when Wippy knocked on the door. "Master Harry Potter sir, Master Draco, is dinner serving time."

The fact that Draco's eyelashes didn't even flutter made Harry believe that he had accomplished what he wanted to do. Still, he answered. "We'll be down. Don't forget to call Professor Snape and Boy, Wippy."

"Wippy no want get Snape," the house-elf complained from just outside the door. "Wippy scared! Wippy have ears pulled off once!"

Harry felt Draco tense beneath his fingers. "Professor Snape wouldn't pull your ears off!"

"Yes, yes did!! Yes did! Wippy like ears, no lose ears..." Hermione was instilling, little by little, a sense of self-preservation on the house-elves. It was suddenly very obnoxious to Harry.

"They bloody well grew BACK, didn't they!?" Draco demanded, all of Harry's hard work completely undone now. "You weren't without them forever, and you probably did something that made him twist them off, anyway! He's twisted my ears a time or two, don't whine!"

"Shh... I'll fetch him myself, Wippy," Harry growled at the door. "Now leave!"

Wippy might have added some parting whine, but Harry couldn't hear it, as he leaned down to kiss the back of Draco's neck. "You be quiet, too."

"Oh, fuck, this is never going to work," Draco moaned into his pillow. "Can't leave the house-elves with them. Can't do Quidditch. Can't do anything. I must have been mad..."

"You can do Quidditch," Harry murmured, rubbing at his shoulders again. "And you can leave the house-elves with them. I doubt that Voldemort watched them like a hawk, and they seem to have... managed."

"Managed, but were they happy?" Draco asked him, sighing as he began to relax again just a bit. "Really, Potter. Happy is more important than it sounds..."

"I don't see how your fretting over them both will make them happy," Harry murmured. "Better if you're happy, and we all just... live. It'll work itself out." He rubbed a bit more, and then started to slip off of Draco.

"Do you promise?" Draco asked him. He'd asked the Gryffindor that once before, when he'd made the decision to let Harry hold him together.

Harry had the same answer he'd given then. "Yes." He let his hand rub the line of Draco's spine again, and then he stood, moving to toss a robe on quickly. There was no need to bother with trousers, not since they were home and not flying anytime soon.

"You know something, Potter?" the blond sighed almost idly, draping himself against the bed. "You still amaze me. Even now."

"I don't see what's so amazing..." Harry shrugged, as he buttoned the upper half of his robe, and headed towards the door. Putting up a fight would gain him nothing. If he made Draco choose... he might choose not to be with him. He might choose Snape and Boy. He might choose him, but detest him for forcing that decision. He tacked on coyly, as he opened the door, "We'll pick this up again after dinner."

"Promises, promises." Draco was up and getting dressed as well, slinging on lightweight summer silk robes. They clung to him, revealing his erection for a moment before he gently patted it into place. "That was most pleasant, Potter."

"Glad to know that my touch still works." He closed the door halfway, hoping that Draco would head to the table rather than follow him when he fetched Snape and Boy. Now he at least understood why Wippy had screamed.

"I'll go down and check to be sure everything's in order," Draco called, still finishing up his buttons as Harry moved to fetch the two from their room down the hall.

"Make sure it's not all sugar!" Not that the house-elves would do that to them for dinner but Draco might ask them to. Harry had a sneaking suspicion that so many sweets and rich foods would probably only make Snape and Boy sick if they didn't have some of the things to which they were accustomed.

Boy. He and Draco would have to discuss later in the night how to breech that Boy needed a real name. The dark-haired child deserved a better name as much as he deserved a less smudged lineage and past. Those thoughts drifted through his mind, as he knocked lightly on the door to the room Boy was in.

The sound of giggles greeted him upon opening it, accompanied by the sight of Boy bouncing happily on the bed. It seemed to have an added spring to it, one most worthy of a young child's bed. "Look! Look! This is so much fun!"

He'd probably puke if he kept it up.

"Where's your father?" Harry glanced around for a moment, as he moved towards Boy to still him. "It's dinner time, Boy."

"Father went into the bathroom," Boy answered. "A little while ago. Are we going to have all of those good things to eat again?"

"Some of them. You'll like your dinner..." Harry caught the child finally, around the waist, and swung him off of the bed gently. "Come on... let's get your father. How long has he been in there?" Bathing again, Harry guessed, or perhaps he was being ill. He couldn't begrudge the man baths given the state of lacking cleanliness he'd been in.

"A while," Boy decided, wrapping his legs about Harry's waist and putting his arms about his shoulders for a moment. "Father likes to bathe when he can. It's nice for him. I like to bathe, too. Bathing is fun. My lion likes it, too." He paused and looked about wistfully for the stuffed toy.

"You haven't lost your lion, have you?" Boy's hands seemed empty and restless without its worn fur to rub. Harry shifted Boy, not quite sure that he was holding the child properly. He was affectionate beyond expectation, given his upbringing.

"I put it down when I went to jump. May I fetch it?" he asked, tilting his head to the side. Boy had accepted that he could make requests much more quickly than Severus had, and Harry was glad for it.

"Yes." Harry slipped the child down from his arms even as he spoke, then he moved towards the bathroom door to knock. No answer for a moment, and then he could hear a faint splash of water, and motion.

"I'm sorry, just a moment..."

"Dinner's ready," Harry called quietly, turning slightly at a tug upon his hand.

"I found my lion," Boy said, and he obviously wanted up again, both arms raised.

Severus opened the bathroom door the very moment that Harry pulled Boy back into his arms, dressed in his ragged robe again, still looking damp and as if he'd rushed himself out of the tub. His eyes, for a moment, fell on Harry and Boy, as the child wrapped his arms around Harry's neck, and then his gaze slid away as if it didn't bother him. Harry could tell that it did; Boy was all he had left, and it undoubtedly made him uneasy.

"I lost track of time, I'm sorry..."

"Nothing to be sorry for," Harry said evenly. "It's just time to eat, and Draco worried that you'd be more hungry than was really bearable."

He didn't seem sure of whether to trust Draco entirely yet, either. But he did move closer, fingertips petting the lion's nose hesitantly. "Come here, Boy. Don't trouble T-- Harry so."

"He's no trouble," Harry answered, but he gave Boy over to Severus with ease. "Are you ready to go downstairs?"

"I'm hungry," Boy said, an oblique agreement as he snuggled his head against his father's very clean throat. His motions made Severus smile just a little, as he shifted his arms slightly. The similarity sent a little shudder down Harry's spine; the whole thing was creepy.

"Yes. Please, lead the way," Severus requested, and so Harry did.

The dining room was nearly impossible to find for newcomers to Malfoy Manor. It was said that wizards and witches unguided by a member of the house had occasionally been lost and had starved to death, their bleached bones found centuries later when others became lost and died with them. Harry thought that was all a lot of nonsense, but there was no point in taking chances. He guided Severus and Boy downstairs, not forcing talk from either of them if they didn't want it.

Snape seemed oddly content to walk in silence from Harry's point of view. It wasn't the commanding, sharp, foreboding silence he was used to from the other man. It was the quiet of someone trying not to be noted, someone who was unsure. This time, it seemed to flow to Boy, too, muffling his jabber and random questions until they reached the dining hall itself.


"Yes," Draco said, startling them all. The table was set, and it was a bit larger than usual. The blond had long since made the elves do something about the giant table they never used, saying it could be brought back in later if there was a need. "Welcome home."

"This isn't home home, is it, father?" Boy twisted in his father's arms, to peer up at him. Severus was busy looking around, so it took a moment for Boy's gaze to be caught and noted.

"It looks just like it... but I would say that it isn't, Boy," Severus murmured, releasing Boy carefully, a hand still holding his free hand. "Let's sit down, now. Don't forget your manners."

"You left real food on the table," Harry said, in a suitably playful aghast tone, as he closed the door behind them, and moved quickly to side beside Draco.

"Even I occasionally succumb to the need for a vegetable," Draco said with great stateliness before laughing at himself. "Besides, vegetables make one appreciate dessert so much more, don't you think, Harry?" He leaned forward and kissed the dark-haired Gryffindor sweetly upon the mouth. "Have a seat and dinner will be served."

Boy pulled a chair out for himself, slipped into it, and then scooted it closer to the table's edge. He folded his hands on the edge of the table, Lion balanced on his lap. His father sat down with greater hesitance, shifting his chair to the side a little to be closer to Boy. "Can we... simply eat?"

"Of course," Draco agreed. "Try some of everything. The potatoes are particularly good, cream sauce and all."

"Avoid the beets, though," Harry advised from the side of his mouth, a twinkle in his eye even as he took some of them.

"Harry's just saying that because he likes them best, but he cannot eat them all," Draco informed his lover sternly. "Otherwise, it'll give him a bellyache."

Boy shifted forwards to reach for a roll, and when Severus saw that he'd end up with elbows in his plate, grabbed it up for Boy. "Here. Tell me what you want, and I'll put it on your plate for you." Boy was quick to ask for beets, and the potatoes, and a little of everything else there, from green beans, to a slice of roast dripping with juices and butter. Then Severus served himself, much the same, except he avoided the beets that Harry liked so much.

"Will dinner always be so nice," Boy asked, around a mouthful of food, "or is this extra special?"

"Dinner is always this nice," Harry answered. "Severus, have some of the beets, won't you? Draco's right, they'll just make me ill if I eat all that I want. Unless you don't like them, in which case, there's more for me."

"Personally," Draco whispered to Boy, "I detest them. They taste just awful."

Boy's eyes flared a little, and then he peered at the red slices, in their red sauce. "Maybe I shouldn't try them."

"He doesn't like carrot cake, either," Harry told Boy with a wink. "He's a weird one. Take a bite, and then if you don't like them, I'll eat yours, too." Dealing with a child was easier than he had thought it would be.

"Oh..." Boy flashed a slightly nervous smile at Harry, then speared one slice, and ate it quickly, scared of the taste being horrifically bad. But it didn't seem to be. He chewed, swallowed, then speared another. "That's interesting. I like that."

"Just be sure to eat a little of the rest of your plate, too," Severus said, between quick bites of food.

"Especially the potatoes," Draco told him, digging a fork into one of his own. His plate was remarkably balanced with something from every bowl on the table except for Harry's beets.

Severus noted that to himself, filed it away. Oddly, that fit the most neatly into his mind. Draco deferred that to Harry, and he followed suit as he supposed he should. The rule didn't apply to Boy as it did to him and Draco, so Harry encouraged Boy just as Tom had encouraged Boy to do things only it was beets weighed against twisting spells. How strange. He shook his head to himself a little, and ate another part of potato.

"Will we move often?" Boy asked, once he'd eaten another bit of beet, and a little meat to balance it.

"Oh, no," Draco said. "I doubt we'll move at all, really. I've lived here since I was born, and Potter here has been lacking in enthusiasm for rebuilding his house at Godric's Hollow. You might go to school in another two or three years at Hogwarts, however."

"I loved going to Hogwarts," Harry agreed. "Besides, you know Sirius wants to rebuild at Godric's Hollow."

"Bastard." The word tripped from Severus's mouth before he quite realized he'd said it, and once he had, his face twisted into an expression of shock and dismay.

The startled laugh that burbled up from Draco's lips was matched by the grin on Harry's. "Well. You do remember a thing or two, after all. I'm sure he'd likely say the same about you. God knows he has a time or four."

"I recall flashes." He rubbed at one temple with an idle hand, before returning to eating his dinner. "I can't say why I think he's that, or who he is... but, that's what that name makes me think."

"He's an old friend of my father's," Harry explained. "You were in school together, and you hated one another with a violent passion. Perhaps it would be good for you to see him," he suggested. "We could invite Sirius and Remus up for lunch one day..."

"Harry, the ex-convict, I can bear," Draco sighed, "but the werewolf, too?"

"Draco, Remus isn't just a werewolf. That's once a bloody month, and the rest of the time, he's no more queer than you," Harry pointed out flatly, gesturing with his fork with every word as if to give it punctuation.

"What's a werewolf?" Boy twisted a little, looking for his father to answer that.

"I'll show you in your book tomorrow, Boy," Severus murmured, watching Draco and Harry contemplatively once more. "They're people under a very interesting curse."

"Considering," Draco sniffed, "that I'm very, very queer, I find the comparison perfectly appalling, Potter. I suppose that I shall accept such a visitation, however."

"Good, I'm glad you're amiable to that. And you are very, very..." It struck Harry for the first time that there was a small, quite young boy sitting at the table.

Boy didn't seem to care much, and Severus wasn't glaring daggers at either one of them. Severus was, in fact, looking at the edge of the table for the moment. "They won't be like the people who visited Tom-father, would they?"

"They're actually rather nice, considering that they're Gryffindors," Draco explained. "I think it's the nature of all Gryffindors to make everything come up butterflies and roses and chocolate frogs, myself. Well, there are good reasons to like the lot of them, I suppose." He cast a pleased look at Harry with that statement.

"Draco likes to pretend that he's very hard nosed, but you'll find it's all words and flash, and there isn't much sub..." Harry trailed off when Severus shifted his chair back and slipped under the table.

"What's he doing?" Draco muttered, an expression of sheer consternation crossing his face.

"He does that every night at dinner," Boy said, shrugging as though it didn't occur to him that it might not be a good idea.

"Severus, why don't you get out from under the table...?" Harry didn't want to bend down and look at the man. If he was having some sort of hallucination, he didn't want to startle him with his likeness to Voldemort.

Snape was absurdly quiet, so Draco wasn't expecting the touch of faintly chilly fingers to his groin, one hand cupping over him as the other slipped up under his lightweight robes to push them out of the way.

The little shriek that Draco let out was accompanied by the clenching of his entire body, his hands pounding flat onto the table in shock. "FUCKING HELL!"

"Father doesn't say words like that..." Boy said, shaking his head a bit disapprovingly.

Boy was summarily ignored by both Harry and Draco for the moment. Harry shot to his feet so quickly that his chair clattered backwards, and then he grabbed the back of Draco's chair and yanked.

And there knelt Snape, looking confused and perhaps just as stunned as Draco. He had one hand frozen where it had been, the other falling back to his side in the confusion.

By that point, Draco was nearly hyperventilating with shock, both eyes round with horror. "Oh, Merlin. Oh, God. Oh, fuck, Father must have... But I would never, Harry, Harry, it's, I... Oh, Severus!"

Severus stared back at them both from his position under the table. "Have I do something wrong?" It seemed that he knew he had, and it showed in his voice -- tense, hesitant, as he placed both hands on the floor to better steady himself.

The urge to tell Severus to get out of the house and never touch his lover again was strong in Harry's gut, but he managed to subdue it. "It isn't..." He couldn't think of the word.

"You don't have to do that. Not anymore," Draco broke in, covering himself and reaching down for Severus's hands. "Not ever. I don't... WE don't expect that from you."

"But Father always goes under the table." Boy tilted his head curiously, peering at Draco and Harry. "Uncle Lucius called it dinner duties."

Severus slowly rocked back onto his heels, which was a far more comfortable position than on his knees, staring up at Draco all the while. There was finally a streak of red that stole over his face -- sparked more by memories of vague thoughts than anything else -- and he started to stand. "I didn't know, I... I apologize." Harry looked like he wanted to strike him, after all, even if his words didn't say it.

"I wish that I had personally killed Father," Draco said bleakly, reaching out to touch Severus's face and to pull him close despite everything. His arms went about the man's waist, his forehead pressed to Severus's chest. "He deserved killing. Oh, God, Harry. Harry, he deserved it!"

"Merlin... Severus, why don't you sit back down, please...?" Harry wouldn't make him move, not with Draco embracing him. He watched the ex-potions professor place a hand awkwardly on the side of Draco's neck, clearly unsure of what to do in that situation.

"Tell me why I shouldn't do that," Severus asked, almost pleaded, after listening to both of them talk. "I don't understand..."

"It's something private. It's a thing one should do with love." Draco was pale, shaking. "That, what you were doing, it's something one would, one should only..."

"I don't understand," Boy said in unhappy confusion.

Boy didn't seem to be alone in that, only Severus seemed afraid to repeat that statement. "It won't happen again," he half whispered, looking down at Draco clutching close around him.

"I'm sorry," Draco told him. "I'm sorry."

"I don't know why." Severus looked from Draco's head, to Harry for a moment, before he let his gaze slid away to the floor. "May I leave?"

"Are you sure you've eaten all that you want?" Harry asked politely. "It's all very difficult to explain, Severus..."

The red streak across his cheeks fell darker, hotter on his face, and he nodded once to Harry. "I... would really like to leave now. Please."

"What's going on?" Boy asked, shifting to lean more against the table.

"Do you need me to show you how to return to your room?" Harry was doing his best, honestly. The shock and irritation of seeing his lover with Snape sprawled at his feet, robes parted, would have probably sent Ron yelling and flinging hexes with his wand.

"It's all right, Boy," Draco soothed, reluctantly letting go of Severus and falling back in his chair.

Severus leaned backwards for a moment, hand on the edge of the table as he looked at Draco. There was a muddled mess of emotions visibly stirring in him, embarrassment foremost among them. "I won't do anything like that again," he promised them both, avoiding Harry's gaze before he spun away, to head towards the exit.

"I'll take you!" Draco declared, flinging himself up from his chair. It was nearly enough to drive Harry mad, but he couldn't do anything about it. Harry had wanted Draco alone after dinner. He'd wanted his lover, he'd wanted to do something for Draco. And there was no way he could trust Snape, after the stunt he'd just seen the man pull

"I... I'll stay with Boy," he sighed, staring over to the child and rest of the food on the table. "We'll catch up."

The spark of gratefulness behind those silvery eyes was more irritating than anything else, for the moment. "I'll be in our room, Harry. Bring up dessert?" Draco didn't like going without it.

The question was whether he'd be up in their room with Snape, or by himself? Harry shoved down the simmer of jealousy, and nodded to Draco. "I will."

Severus loitered outside the door, lingering. He wished he'd been left alone, since Draco's presence made the burning in his cheeks all the hotter. Still, there was nothing he could do about it and so he followed when the blond swept past him, robes swishing quietly against the door-frame.

"Severus..." he began as they climbed the stairs. "What you were doing. Father wanted you to do that a lot, perhaps?"

"It was my nightly duty," Severus murmured, looking at and counting the stairs as they walked. There seemed to be one less going up than there had been coming down. "And sometimes he took me up to his room for a potion. Otherwise, I tended to Tom. If... I need to know what I should and shouldn't do anymore."

"I don't know your routines, so I can't say, but Severus, Harry and I don't expect that from you." Draco paused on the landing and put a hand lightly on his arm. "Once, you and I did do that. A long time ago, because I loved you, and I honestly believe that you loved me. And that's the way it should be, really... done with love. Not the other way. It shouldn't be a duty, but a pleasure. Does that make any sense at all?"

"I can't recall it ever being a... pleasure." His voice sounded a little better to his own ears, and for a moment he looked into Draco's eyes. The grey was so much like Lucius's had been, but it lacked the sharp edge. And it felt familiar to his mind, something he wanted to dwell on for the comforting feeling it gave him. "The first thing I recall is Boy sitting on my lap, babbling."

"That must have been a long time ago. Perhaps, if we're lucky, you'll start to remember other things soon." Draco's hands twitched, almost reaching out to touch him. It made Severus nervous. "I hope you remember."

"Why?" Severus heard his voice fall, to an odd, hopeful husk. "Why do you care? Whatever I used to be... isn't anymore. I can only remember the past six years. It's not very long at all."

That hand came up despite everything, cupping Severus's cheek. "That doesn't matter. Just because it's been so long and just because you don't remember, it doesn't mean that I don't. And I do. And I want more than anything for you to be you again. Even if you can't be..." That thought seemed horrifying to Draco, and Severus wondered why. "Even if you can't be, it won't matter. I'll still adore you just as much."

It almost seemed like a trick. So warm, and full of unthinkable promises, that it had to be a trick or a test. Severus was sure he was going to fail it. "Why? I'm not worth more than my service and skills, and...." And they didn't want his services, and hadn't asked about skills.

The wistful smile that crossed those lips was so very unfamiliar. "You're worth a great deal more than that, Severus Snape. Even if you're as yet unable to acknowledge it."

"That name still feels new." Foreign, he wanted to add, but that would imply that he didn't like it; and he did like it, the way it curled from Draco's mouth and connected to him like the warm press of palm to his cheek. He made himself turn away, though, starting up one step ahead of Draco. "I trust you. I think... I believe I like you, too."

"Good," Draco declared decisively. "I want that. I like you, you know, and Boy, too, though it might be nice if we had a name for him, as well. Boy is something that might be applied to a great many people," he suggested a little gently, "and when he starts school, it could become difficult."

"He's still too young to go to school," Severus denied. "And Boy has... always been his name. I wouldn't know what to call him."

"I'm sure Mother probably left baby name books somewhere in the house. We've never exactly been known for throwing things out. Perhaps we could look through them and see what you like? It'll be at least three years before he begins school..."

Severus glanced back to Draco, and then murmured, "You really are planning on letting us stay, aren't you?"

"Yes." Not 'of course' or 'there's no other bloody choice', simply yes, because yes was the truth more than any other answer might be. Severus sensed it. "In a way, I'm more involved with the two of you than anyone else ever could be. Dumbledore saw that, and he wanted me to take care of you."

Severus frowned a little, as they stopped in the hallway once more. "What do you mean by 'involved'?"

"You have little by way of family. I suppose 'former lover' is as close as anything else that might have come into consideration," the pale young man said.

That made him smile, even if it was a tight gesture. "Whatever reason I had for leaving you... I must've been a fool."

"It wasn't willing," Draco assured him despite the footsteps he could hear following them up the stairs. "You were Called, by Tom. He was... Voldemort, Lord Voldemort, the Darkest Dark Wizard ever. And you were spying for the side of Light. You told me you'd be back by morning, only he stole you away from me."

"Do you know why?" He never could understand it, other than a vague conception that it had always been that way. That he had always been there, and Boy had come from somewhere, and who knew how it was supposed to work.

Draco shook his head. "Father cut off Mother's head that night and impaled the rest of her on the fence at the back of the property in her favorite garden. I never knew why anything."

"Draco, I think it's too late at night to tell that story," Harry called up, from just a few steps behind them. He had Boy hitched up onto his hip, the child's arms around his neck.

"I saw a cut off head once," Boy declared. "Just once, though. Tom-father made me close my eyes so that I couldn't see it any more after that, though. Uncle Lucius kept it in his dressing room."

"She was pretty, and looked like...." Severus's mind made the connection with an arcing spark of disgust, and he closed his eyes for a moment so he wouldn't look at the young man who now very sharply struck him as looking like that head. "I'd like to go lie down now."

Not quite as much as Draco would, it seemed, for the sheer pallor of his skin increased even as his lips began to tremble. "Harry...." he managed to whisper.

"Your room's just there," Harry pointed as he moved to take Draco's arm at the elbow. Boy shot them a frightened look for a moment, then hugged his ever-present stuffed toy closer to himself and walked over to his father, who stood patiently waiting.

"I'm sorry," Severus said again, meaning it as he moved to open the door and disappear from Draco's sight. Suddenly life with Tom and Lucius seemed to hold no pluses that where he was didn't have; any comfort that seemed to linger from remembering routines faded little by little, as he saw disapproval at his own actions, and realized things that were simply... wrong that Lucius and Tom had used to do.

"Harry..." Severus heard behind him as he opened the door and herded Boy inside. "Harry, my Mother..." It was quite heartbreaking.

"That wasn't really his mother's head, was it?" Boy asked in a whisper.

"I think... that it might have been." It was the only answer he had, without lying and saying 'no'. "We shouldn't mention it again, Boy."

"I wouldn't like it if it had been your head," Boy decided, giving a little shiver.

"I know." Severus hadn't quite closed the door behind him, and didn't think twice about it as he moved to kneel, and pull Boy close.

"Will everything ever be all right again, father?" Boy sighed. He wrapped his arms tightly about his father's neck. "I didn't mean to upset Uncle Draco."

"I think he knows that, too." Boy's upsetting words atop his own obviously upsetting actions had compounded on Draco, and Severus had a feeling that Harry was eager to deal with it away from them.

It was bedtime, more or less, and so Boy settled tiredly against his father. "I hope so," he sighed. "I'll say I'm sorry in the morning..."

That was enough to make Severus smile, as he patted Boy's back lightly. "Yes. That's a fine plan. Let's get you washed, and then... I'll read you a story." He shifted to pull Boy up when he stood, lifting him easily.

"Will it be a very good story?" Boy would be excited, he was sure, if it hadn't been such a very long day. There were tons of storybooks in their new room.

"Yes. Now, get into the bath..." He turned Boy loose, intent on grabbing a handful of the books to browse through them while he helped Boy bathe. Yes, he'd read his son a story, then they'd go to sleep -- on a bed no less, he reminded himself -- and in the morning things would hopefully seem less dire. At the very least, perhaps the apology over the head could be given and the whole thing forgotten about, surely.

"Father?" Boy asked, pausing momentarily to look at Severus from the bathroom doorway. "Could it be a happy story?"

"I..." He was genuinely startled to hear Boy request that, but nodded, and grabbed a few more books to look through before he followed his son in. "Yes. Yes, it can be..."

In the early morning hours, there was a figure lingering beside Draco and Harry's bed. Not standing, but kneeling, watching them both carefully in the dim morning light.

It made Harry nervous, frankly. Draco slept like the dead on a normal morning, never mind after a day like the one before, or a night spent making himself sick over his mother's missing head. That meant that he wouldn't notice, at least, or wake up giving girlish shrieks.

If Harry had known Draco sounded like that when they'd been best enemies, he'd have laughed himself sick.

"What're you doing?" he asked very, very quietly.

"Remembering," was the whispered answer. Severus's crouching form started to stand up slowly; he pushed strands of hair out of his eyes, looking at Harry with a gaze that seemed halfway understanding for the first time since he'd been 'found' again. It was certainly a far cry from the lost, hurt look that he'd had when he'd crawled under the dining room table the night before.

"Remembering what?" Remembering Tom? Remembering Lucius?

...remembering Draco?

Harry wasn't sure that he wanted the man to remember Draco. He was jealous of him, wanted to keep Draco close for himself. That almost made him feel guilty, almost made him feel selfish, but Harry had managed to keep very few things in his life for himself. He was allowed to be a selfish son of a bitch about Draco, he was allowed not to want Draco to quit the team, and he was particularly allowed to mourn their privacy. Now they had... Professor Snape and... Boy in the house, and Snape had just left himself into the master bedroom.

So he must have remembered how to get around the mansion at some point in the night. "Before." Severus cast an eye over Harry, then Draco again, before he--

Walked clean through the door, passed through it as if he'd never been there.

"Shit." Harry was never going to get used to wizarding world weirdness. Never, never, ever.

"Wha's shit?" Draco mumbled. He wasn't awake, and Harry knew it. He was only talking, and it was a wonder it was even that coherent.

"Nothing," Harry dismissed softly, maybe even a little sullenly as he rolled back onto his side. That way he could look at Draco and talk at the same time. "Severus just walked through the door."

"The broomstick is on the left, Potter. He can't make it through the door," Draco said incoherent, curling towards Harry's warmth.

It was sweet and comfortable; Harry pulled him nearer, and closed his eyes with a sigh. "Sure, Draco. Sure. Go back to sleep."

Go back to sleep, and maybe Harry could forget Severus in their room and walking through the door, or maybe he couldn't, because it was eating at him. This wasn't Draco's old room, or even his parents'. They had mentioned the location of their room the night before, but Now-Severus wouldn't come in without permission, so something wasn't quite right.

Had it been Severus? Was it a spell? Suddenly Harry had to shake Draco awake, even though the clock only said it was seven. "Draco... Draco, c'mon..."

"I don't want to come on. No Quidditch practice," Draco mumbled, slitting his eyes open slowly. "Lucky 'f we've got jobs, missing practice 'n' games 'n' strawberries..."

Definitely not awake.

"Draco, Severus just walked in and out of our bedroom without opening the door. I'm going to go investigate."

"W'tch out f'r dragons. They breathe fire in the mornings," Draco warned sleepily, turning to burrow his cotton-tuft head under a pillow.

Harry gave that fluff of hair a pat, before he rolled out of their vast bed. His robe wasn't very far, and he could just toss it on before going down the hall to peer into the room that Boy and Severus were sharing.

Once he tested the door first.

Where had he put his wand again? It had to be here somewhere, though he'd been a little haphazard when he'd been putting Draco to bed the night before. Between near-hysteria and exhaustion, it had taken a lot of work to get him there, and Harry hadn't taken time to think about where his own things had been placed.

Ah. Right. There it was, half beneath Draco's robes and the covers on the floor, and Harry took it quickly in hand to cast a few spells at the door.

Not a damn thing. Whatever had happened had nothing to do with the door itself. It was still solid, and there weren't even any traces of magic on its surface. It made the hair on the back of his neck bristle, the entire thing just a little weird. Surely Severus hadn't managed to just walk through and leave nothing?

Well, in any case, it was safe to walk through it, so Harry headed into the hall and towards Draco's old room.

The door there was closed, too, but he thought for a moment that he saw a shape lingering over its surface, or slipping into it. The sight was enough to make Harry shiver again and hurry forwards. Just to check that Boy was safe, of course. He was a queer little thing, but generally sweet, and...

When he opened the door, the room was silent and seemed to have three occupants instead of two. Boy sleeping peacefully on his back in the middle of the bed, Severus lying a little lower, curled up almost at the child's feet. As odd as that still was to see, it was nearly a relief to note. And then there was the shadowy form that had been in the bedroom, Severus without question, who gestured Harry to be silent before he knelt weightlessly on the bed near Severus's sleeping form.

The urge to demand answers made Harry's teeth clench for a moment. "What are you?" he hissed furiously, wand brought to the front defensively. Nothing fancy, not the way that Draco always fought -- simple, straightforward, and much more threatening instead.

"I am him, you daft child." The shadow gestured to Severus's sleeping body, and then reached a hand for the man's hand, fingers disappearing. Slowly the thing started to shift, laying down into the sleeping man.

Probably not a good idea to just let it, but Harry hesitated. What if it was a good idea? Or at least a better one than it seemed just now. Draco knew exorcism spells, after all, so if it was some dangerous Malfoy Manor ghost, he'd be able to take care of it.

Might better get Boy out of the bed, though.

Boy slept like a log, it looked like. That didn't stop Harry from edging towards the top of the bed, while the shadow paused in lowering itself into Severus. "Don't touch my son, Potter," it warned in the sort of hiss that he expected to say, 'Look, Longbottom's botched another potion!'

Then it sank entirely away into the sleeping man, who didn't even move.

Great. Just great.

"Boy," Harry said softly. "It's morning. Come on, let's go downstairs and get some breakfast." Just in case that shadowy thing got violent, because it was doing a damn fine Professor Snape imitation.

"Huh?" Boy started to sit up almost immediately, looking disoriented and unsure. "Are we moving?"

"No," Harry told him, shaking his head. "We're just going to have breakfast and let your father rest a while longer. Uncle Draco isn't up yet, either."

"Why so early?" Boy obeyed well, though, crawling out from under the sheets as he moved to the edge of the bed to slip his shoes back onto his feet. "Should I wake Father?"

"No," Harry decided. "Your lion is under the pillow. We'll let your father sleep a while longer." And maybe get both of them farther away before he woke up, just in case.

"Okay. Can I bring him breakfast again?" Boy crawled back to pull his stuffed lion out from under the pillow, and finally slipped off of the bed. He seemed to have a fondness for Harry, if only because of his resemblance to the dead dark lord. Maybe he could sense the little bit of power Harry had taken in?

"Sure," Harry agreed, reaching out and picking Boy up, canting his hip slightly in mockery of Molly Weasley and her many, many grandchildren. "We'll bring something sweet, chocolate, or some eggs. Your father likes chocolate, right?" They backed towards the door slowly, Harry's green eyes firmly on Severus's sleeping body.

Hardly any motion, except that he curled up a little more beneath his blanket, tugging it closer around himself. Maybe with time he'd actually sleep under the sheets.

"He liked it when we had it for breakfast yesterday. He's not usually allowed sweet things," Boy said seriously as he slipped his lean arms around Harry's neck. It was amazing that the child could walk at all, the way he seemed to demand to be carried everywhere; but he was so small for his age. Had Snape, or Voldemort been such petite child? It seemed... silly to think of.

Harry had seen pictures of Draco, though. Tiny little boy, gleaming bright, and his arms tightened slightly around Boy as they moved closer to the door. That, more than anything else, made him aware that Boy was a part of what lay between Draco and himself. He was small and young, in need of guidance.


"We'll allow him sweet things," Harry murmured, fumbling behind him for the doorknob.

"Okay. Father would like that. Are we going to wake up Uncle Draco?"

He could protect Boy from whatever foul fate Tom Riddle had been planning for him, or from whatever fate the Ministry would like to apply to him. He was just a child, just like Draco had been, just like he'd been himself...

The doorknob opened easily, and let Harry slip quietly out into the hallway.

"Uncle Draco could use his sleep. Besides, he's not a very good morning person," Harry told Boy solemnly. "His head's all tufty, and his eyes are bleary, and he wanders about like a vampire. Blah!" he teased, making a vampire face and giving Boy a quick nuzzle.

Boy giggled, clutching at both his stuffed lion and Harry's neck. "Tom-Father had a vampire visit once. He was a scary man, even Uncle Lucius didn't like him. And Uncle Lucius... liked everyone."

Except for the people whose heads he chopped off at the nape.

"Well, we won't have any vampires visiting here. Uncle Draco is as close as it gets, though he's quite frightening first off in the day."

"Maybe we should do lessons early in the morning," Boy suggested. "Will we have a routine here?"

"If you want one. Uncle Draco isn't so good at schedules, but I'll bet your father is, and Whippy is kind of obsessed about schedules." Making beds, drawing baths. Draco drove their house-elves crazy.

"Whippy shut the door on Father," Boy pointed out. His attention seemed to be drifting a little, to the paintings on the walls, to essentially everything but Harry himself.

"Apparently, Whippy remembers your father well." Harry paused, frowning slightly. "Boy? Are you quite all right?" Perhaps Harry reminded him too much of Voldemort. "Do you like the portraits?"

"Uh-huh. They move. We didn't have ones that moved, because Tom-Father said it was dangerous. Is it still dangerous?"

"No," Harry promised. "Tom likely thought them dangerous because portraits gossip. They'd have told where he was, like spies, sort of."

"Oh." Boy didn't quite seem settled by that answer, but he laid his head on Harry's shoulder. "How did we get found? Tom-Father was always careful."

"He wasn't careful about some very important things that made it a little more pressing that he be found. That's all, Boy." Harry wasn't going to tell him that Boy's books and toys had made the search more important. "Tom-Father did some very bad things is all. Like taking your father. Uncle Draco was the last one to see your father for a very long time, and we..." Harry would NOT choke on the statement. No. "...we missed him very much." Well, the Order had, anyway.

Sort of.

"You aren't going to take Father away from me, are you? I wouldn't know what to do without Father. He's always been there, except when Tom-Father wanted to see him." They finally reached the dining room, and Boy gave a squirm in indication that he wanted down.

"We won't take your father away," Harry reassured Boy. "He'll stay here with you, and you'll learn fun things. Uncle Draco will probably spend a lot of time with you, too. He likes the dragons in your room."

"So..." Boy walked beside Harry with hurried small steps. "So it'll be like it was before? Uncle Draco will help teach me and Father will do things, and you'll be off being important?"

It was almost enough to make Harry wince. Instead, he paused by the table and pulled out a chair, waiting for Boy to climb up into it. "Well, I don't know that it'll be just like that. Uncle Draco and I play Quidditch, so we spend lots of time at practice and games. Maybe you and your father can come watch sometimes. Study outside."

Boy's eyes turned a little wondering again, and he looked keenly back and up to Harry again. "I like being outside, if it's safe."

"It should be very safe now," Harry promised him solemnly. "After breakfast, and after we wake Uncle Draco and your father, we'll go outside, okay?"

"Okay. What will I be learning today? Hexes again, or...?" Boy peered at the table, once more laden with so much food to pick things out of.

"How about we don't do hexes today?" Harry suggested. "Would you like some bacon?" He pushed the plate in Boy's direction. "Do you learn hexes every day?"

"All Death Eater children learn curses every day," a voice grumbled from the doorway, drawing their attention and revealing Draco in full fluffball glory. "Potter, there had best be an excellent explanation for this early rise business of yours..."

There was an explanation, but he didn't want to give it with Boy there. And they couldn't exactly leave him with Severus while he talked with Draco, could he?

Maybe they could do something else instead, something a little more pragmatic. "Boy, why don't you sit and eat your breakfast? I need to talk with Draco for a moment." Boy gave him a nod, and shifted a little in his chair to get comfortable, his eyes welling faintly with sympathy.

"I hope Uncle Draco doesn't yell as loud as Uncle Lucius. That's scary," Boy said seriously. "Oh. Uncle Draco. I'm sorry I told you about Uncle Lucius's... About last night."

"It's... All right," Draco assured the boy, shuddering faintly. "It's all right. You couldn't have known that it would upset me."

"I will be more careful," Boy promised while picking up his juice glass.

"Great. Great." Harry smiled at both of them, then grasped Draco's shoulders to steer him out in the hallway. "Do you have ghosts in the Manor, Draco?"

"What sort of question is that? Of course we have ghosts in the Manor, Potter! What sort of household d'you think this is? They're all family ghosts, of course," he admitted, "except for that one Goyle ghost, but according to the portraits, he deserved to die."

Harry took a moment to sigh, staring for a moment at the door he'd closed behind himself. No, it didn't sound quite right. "Any Snape ghosts? I woke up this morning to see Severus kneeling beside the bed. He talked with me, then... walked through the door. I tried to wake you up, but you were dead asleep, so I followed him myself. Draco, the ghost... thing told me he was Severus, then uh sort of crawled into Snape's body. That's why Boy's in there eating breakfast right now."

The look that Draco gave him as good as screamed that whatever it was hadn't been normal. He didn't answer Harry, either, just turned and ran for the stairs with the cotton fluff atop his head waving wildly.

"Draco? Draco, what's going on?" Harry demanded as he started to chase after the blond man.

"I have to check on Severus!" Draco yelled back, nearly tripping up the last steps in his rush. "I have to, have to know, because..." And then there was some sort of Hermione-ish babble about 1433 and the implications of ghost-Severus, but Harry missed them.

He hated it when he missed things, and could only follow along behind Draco before they reached the door that was Draco's old bedroom. "Draco, just calm down...?"

'Calm down' wasn't applicable, though, not with those eyes wild as Draco paused in front of his childhood room long enough to fling it open. "SEVERUS!"

"Hmn?" Severus had been sleeping curled up in the middle of the bed, and sat straight up in startlement. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to sleep late, the alarm..."

"Severus," Draco panted, dropping down beside the bed. "Severus, Severus..." Incoherent, definitely, and maybe Harry should have waited to tell Draco until he was more awake. "Do you remember anything? Anything at all? Please, Severus..."

"I..." Severus peered at Draco for a moment, and he looked entirely disoriented as he sat up and reached a hand for Draco. "I remember... some."

"Some?" The way that Draco clutched that hand to him sent violent sparks of jealousy skittering through Harry's belly. "I..." He obviously wanted to ask how much some was, but managed to keep the question behind his teeth. "Oh, Severus. Severus. Please get better..."

The lean man sat up a little more, letting his hand be clutched at by Draco. "I... I will try, Draco. I have been trying..." A moment of almost ease crossed his expression, then he twisted. "Where's Boy?"

"I took him down to eat breakfast," Harry answered, arms crossed over his chest. It prevented him somehow from bursting out into selfish invective. "Wippy will keep an eye on him."

Severus's eyes narrowed a little as he pulled away from Draco and started to slip off of the bed. "After I told you to leave him alone."

"You, or some demon trying to take over what's left of Severus Snape?" Harry asked shortly.


Severus's eyebrows furrowed at Harry for a moment, as he stood and straightened his thin robes. "Me. I distinctly remember t-telling... saying you shouldn't... I'm sorry, I didn't mean to give you an order."

"But it was you," Draco said softly, reaching out to touch Severus's face gently. "It was you, and you're remembering. Like that story that we used to tell in the commons..."

"Story?" Harry almost wanted to laugh when both he and Severus asked the question, question overlapping.

"Boy's old enough to hear it. Let's go downstairs for breakfast, and I'll tell you there," Draco offered. He still hadn't let go of Severus.

Hand on his face, such an intimate gesture that made Harry seethe inside. He was just going to have to get over it before Draco made him get over it. "May I shower first?" Severus requested.

"Of course." Draco stepped away, removing his hand slowly. "Take your time. Take a bath, if you like. It can wait until you're done. Oh, Severus!"

The ex-potions master just looked at Draco for a moment, gave him a small, tentative twitch of his mouth, and then turned to disappear into the bathroom. Harry noted that it was certainly a way to dissolve an awkward moment -- just walk off. Leave him to deal with Draco.

"So... it's not a demon?"

"No," Draco said, turning towards him. His face was beautifully flushed with hope, mouth trembling slightly, and Harry could see his mother in him at that moment so much more than he could see Lucius. "It's not a demon. It's an old, old story, a tale about Imperious and those strong-willed enough to resist..."

Doing what? Walking out of themselves? Harry stared for a moment at the bathroom door, then slid an arm over Draco's shoulders. "That's okay. I can wait to hear it properly. Should we wait here, or?"

"Downstairs," Draco decided, leaning close and kissing Harry's cheek. It was sweet, and the faint fluff of sleep-snarled hair caressed his temple. "I'll talk to Whippy. We'll have your favorite breakfast."

"Great." He didn't feel like he had much of an appetite, but when presented with food, it would probably rouse itself. But Harry still turned to leave the room, even as the sounds of running water rose up from the other closed door. "We need to go to Diagon Alley and get them proper things. And give Boy a name..."

"I'll have the house-elves find Mother's baby name books. I'm sure they're around here somewhere, and surely there's bound to be something better than Draconus Maledictus," Draco decided happily.

Harry shook his head a little as he waited for Draco to join him in the hallway. "Maybe we can just give them to Boy, and have him choose his own?"

"Well, yes. But Severus should help. It would give him a feeling of control, don't you think? To be allowed to choose such a thing, something so important to him..."

Severus Severus Severus. Harry sighed and gave a nod as he reached for Draco. The other man still looked like a puff head, the last vestiges of sleep clinging to him, and the urge to rub at his sleepy lover's back was hard to ignore. "All right. I'm sure we can abandon the two of them to books for a little while so they can figure it out. Something tells me if we're there, Snape will just keep asking us."

Draco obviously approved of Harry's notion, beaming with delight and leaning over to kiss him. "And maybe he'll come back to himself, Harry. Maybe he'll be the Professor again, and such a delight."

"Draco..." Harry sighed that as he turned his head a little to properly return the kiss. "He didn't like me when he was the 'Professor'."

"It will be different now," Draco decided. "You've done so much, Harry. Defeated Voldemort. Saved Severus and Boy. Kept me from going mad missing him, and I love you, Harry. I love you so much. He'll see that, and he won't hate you." Draco paused. "All right, yes, he probably will hate you, but we'll have opportunity to change that now."

Harry groaned as he veered a little, to make sure they did end up in the dining hall after all. "Your words of comfort hearten me, Draco. Like a lead weight tied to a balloon."

Draco gave him an utterly brilliant smile. "Yes, well. At least it isn't a lead weight tied to your ankles, Potter. That would be so much more worrisome, don't you think?"

"Oh, not much more worrisome, since that balloon has to come down, and it'll probably be on my..."

He'd been in the act of pushing open the dining hall doors, and froze as he looked into the room.

"Oh," Draco said blankly behind him. "My. Potter. Tell me that there isn't a giant sausage monster battling a toast over my breakfast, would you?"

The problem with telling Draco that was simply that it would be a blatant lie. There was a giant sausage monster battling a toast over the table, and a string of bacon cheerleaders danced at the edge of the room.

"Good morning, Uncle Draco!" Boy called almost merrily from the side of the room, flanked by two house-elves who seemed delighted.

"There are bacon cheerleaders in my dining room, Potter. Bacon. Rashers of bacon. Cheering," Draco pointed out with bland inflection, as if this was some every day occasion. "Gracious."

"I think the sausage thing is about to lose," Harry decided in a breath of startlement as he moved towards Boy and the house-elves. "Boy, you don't play with your food like that! Whippy, I know you had a hand in this!"

"But it's fun, Uncle Harry." Boy looked faintly wounded as the toast whalloped the sausage monster and stood victorious over it.

"Whippy says to boy, Whippy says not to twist off ears!" a little voice protested from under the table. "Whippy thinks is better play with food than Whippy's ears!"

"You don't play with food in this house!" Harry snapped at Whippy. "Boy, end this now. Get the food back on its trays." Draco apparently wasn't going to put his foot down, so he'd just have to do it.

"Do as Uncle Harry says," Draco agreed, still faintly horrified by the bacon cheerleaders. "Then we can all sit and eat breakfast like semi-normal creatures, at least..."

Boy looked a little crestfallen, and half-scared as he slipped to his feet and walked towards the food, and the cheerleaders who had stopped cheering. He murmured something, and gestured -- and the whole scene stopped.


"You can do that? Without a wand?" The way that Draco looked at Boy wasn't half as startled as Harry, as if he'd expected such a show of power, somehow. Maybe he had, because he certainly knew more about Severus than Harry did, at least.

"When I have to. Shouldn't I?" Boy peered back at Draco, with his black on black eyes looking hopefully at him. "Father has my wand. I'm not allowed to have it but sometimes."

"God, I can see why," Harry muttered as he stared at the little boy.

"It's all right, sweet Boy," Draco said. "Now, then. I think that we should have chocolate pancakes with whipped cream for breakfast. What do you think?" he proposed, going right along as if wandless magic was nothing at all to worry about, and as if it wasn't frightening to have the son of Severus Snape and Tom Riddle (with a touch of Draco) looking so sweetly pleased at the suggestion Draco had made.

"Okay!" Boy then headed back to the table, and glanced over his shoulder at them both before he pulled his chair out and climbed into it. "Are you going to wake up father?"

"He's awake and taking a shower right now," Harry half-soothed as he moved to sit down, too.

"And when he comes down, I'll tell everyone a story," Draco suggested, seating himself as well. "Would you like that, boy? Hm? It'll be a very good story, I promise."

"How does it end?" Boy asked as he scooted forwards in his seat. "Does it have a good ending? Father told me a story last night with a happy ending."

"It ends very happily," Draco confessed, pausing with his hand over the bacon plate before bypassing it altogether and choosing sausage. Always rooting for the underdog, that was Draco, in a bizarre, senseless way. "I hope that everything will end just as happily very soon."

"Mmm." There was no reason for Harry to agree too fervidly and stack the odds higher against himself. "And then we figured that maybe it was time for you to get a name. I mean, a name of the sorts most people in the Wizarding world use."

"Except not Maledictus," Draco teased. "Perhaps you'd like something better. Like Marshmallowcus."

The mere notion caused Boy to giggle, snorting milk out through his nose in a messy little splotch. "Oh! Marshmallowcus!"

Boy was certainly endearing himself to Harry with moments like that. The weird little glimpses of innocence as he relaxed into a world that wasn't Death Eater run. "Here," Harry grinned as he leaned over and handed Boy a linen napkin to blot his nose with.

"That's horribly disgusting," Draco snickered. At least it was milk; Harry knew that Muggle pop made one's nose burn when that happened.

"Ids obly milhg," Boy protested, wiping and wiping before he just blew his nose, and then shook his head a little.

"Yes, well, I shouldn't like to drink it out of your nose," Draco teased, leaning forward and finally taking a slice of bacon. "Eat, Potter. And make sure Whippy brings those chocolate pancakes!"

"Yes sir," was the sighed reply as Harry did just that, getting out of his chair for a moment to find and corner the little house-elf. It left him distracted when the doors opened again, and Severus peered in for a moment before he entered.

"Father!" Boy cried happily. "You missed it! Uncle Draco made me stop playing with my food, but you would have liked it, I know!"

"You shouldn't play with your food, Boy," Severus chided, firm and gentle as he walked towards the table and the seat that was open beside Boy. "Food is not something to be wasted in play."

"But it was lots of fun," Boy said seriously, looking at Severus. "And Uncle Draco didn't yell. Not like Uncle Lucius or Tom-Father would have."

"Urm. Yes. Well. No reason to yell at you when I thought Whippy had done it," Draco admitted.

"Oh, that explains it," Harry muttered as he walked back to the table. "Whippy will be here with the desired items very shortly -- food and books. Severus, are you feeling any better?"

"Much, thank you, Potter." Severus picked up his napkin, and fastidiously unfolded it to set it in his lap.

And realized almost belatedly what he'd called Harry.

It was almost worth being called Potter again to see the look of horror on Severus's face, and the look of absolute joy on Draco's.

Draco cried, "Excellent, Professor!" and clapped his hands together with the delight of a child.

"I..." Severus went a little pale, a little uncertain. It had delighted Draco, though, and that seemed to be enough to keep him from apologizing, Harry thought.

"Father, Uncle Draco is going to tell us a story," Boy declared as he scooted his chair almost solemnly sideways so he could sit closer to his father. "While we eat."

"Which will be whenever our house-elves stop having a breakdown," Harry agreed dryly.

"Are they really? How remarkable. See, that's what happens when you go stealing my house-elves, Potter. Dobby could put a stop to that in a moment..." Draco told him.

Harry gave a groan as he reached to pick up a piece of bacon. "Draco, that was years ago. And it wasn't personally against you, it was against your father."

"For which I certainly shouldn't blame you, as he probably plotted to have Dobby kill you, if I know Father, and I do. So. Are we ready for a story, then?" Draco asked, reaching for a strip that had previously been a cheerleader and munching on it.

"Yes," Boy said firmly, nodding his head. Severus was watching Draco in silent curiosity, but nodded as he looked at him.

"Right, then," Draco began. "I shall tell it to you as it was told to me, ten years ago and more. It's the first story you ever come across in Slytherin house, one meant to scare the ickle firsties, but it never frightened me, and I suspect that it won't frighten you."

It'd probably frighten Harry, though.

Damned Slytherins.

"Once, a very long time ago, long before Salazar Slytherin left the grounds of Hogwarts never to return, there was a man. This man's name was, remarkably enough, Draconus, just like mine." Well, that explained why it hadn't frightened Draco. He'd probably been delighted to be the remote star of the story. Harry could imagine that Draco had probably prodded a few of the other children who'd listened to it the first time, and gone, 'That's me!'

"And?" Boy prodded, shifting a little eagerly in his chair.

"Draconus was an adventurous sort of fellow, full of trouble and a great deal of wit, so much so, in fact, that he angered the wrong set of people. No one's entirely clear as to what he did. Some say," Draco whispered, "that he stole the secret of making of wands. Some say he walked in on a Hufflepuff orgy." Surely that wasn't right for Boy's delicate ears! "But there's one thing everyone agrees upon. The persons he upset created a curse especially for him."

And how does this curse relate to Severus, Harry almost asked. But he looked sideways at the man, watching him from the corner of his eyes as some tiny light of comprehension started to dawn.

"It was said to be a curse amongst all curses," Draco whispered excitedly. "Better than any other, because Avada Kedavra and Cruciatus had not yet come into being."

"Imperius!" Boy gasped.

"Exactly. And so, for long years, Draconus suffered under its yoke. He did truly wicked things, sometimes, things which he would not have chosen to do under his own will, and no one believed that it was not his desire until the wicked wizard who had cast the curse shuffled off this mortal coil and left Draconus lost and bereft, seemingly with no will at all of his own."

It was all a little too close to home to the current situation. "You said seemingly?" Harry pressed.

"Seemingly," Draco agreed. "Now, Draconus was, in some way, kith and kin to the great Salazar Slytherin. And Slytherin, seeing that the entire world was set against his blood, took Draconus in and kept him safe in the dungeons of Hogwarts, where he lived for many years, drifting from room to room and only likely to do precisely what he was told, for in those years, Imperius was not so refined as it is now. However, there came to be sightings amongst the students. Some would say they had seen Draconus doing this or that, only he wouldn't have been anywhere near whatever trick had been perpetrated."

That was probably the scary thing for the first years. A belligerent ghost in their midst.

"How'd he do it?" Boy half-asked, and half-demanded to know.

Draco spread his hands wide. "No one knew. No one could say. Suspicions ran rampant, practical jokes were played that had no explanation, things were taken and moved to other places. Everyone was at a loss to explain it. Until one day..."

"One day?" Even Harry was wrapped up in the story by now, wondering what the point was, exactly.

"One day," Draco said softly, "Draconus and Salazar were sitting in the Slytherin common room, playing a card game, when Draconus himself came through the door."

Harry could rather imagine that scene well. He'd see it that morning when Severus had been looming near Draco, and then had just walked through the door.

"I see." That was Severus, looking... more interested in Draco's story than anything yet. It was an improvement to the lost kicked puppy expression Harry had seen when Severus had crawled under the table at dinner the night before.

The blond man took a deep breath. "Draconus met Draconus in the center of the room, and in a brilliant flash of light, they became one. One person. One will. One wizard."

"But how? What happened?" Boy pressed. He didn't get it because they hadn't told him what had happened that morning.

"No one knows," Draco admitted. "Until now, no one has ever spent so long under Imperius ever again."

"Was that what I was under?" Severus couldn't quite look at Draco, his eyes focusing elsewhere in the room as if trying desperately to remember something just out of his grasp.

"Yes," Draco said most seriously. "That's what you were under. And this morning, Potter saw someone who looked precisely like you wandering the halls and.... remembering."

"And now I... am starting to remember things," Severus offered. "I see. Perhaps I had, at one time, the foresight to..." He hesitated; there was a feeling that once he would have waded flawlessly through the sea of theory that he was swimming in then. "To bind that important part of myself to something else, for my own preservation."

"Draco," Harry said seriously, a frown creasing his forehead. "You might have bound it to Draco."

Boy was staring at all of them, and scooted a little closer to his father. "Father... how could you have? You've always been with me."

"Not always," Draco informed him. "Once upon a time, your father was a Professor at Hogwarts. A Master of Potions. Once upon a time, before you, he was with me."

"Oh." Boy shifted, almost as if he wanted to climb onto his father's lap for a moment; but then there was a noise from the door, and Whippy was coming in carrying a large, laden plate of the requested breakfast.

"Hogwarts..." It rang quite a few bells in Severus's mind, but he wasn't sure he wanted to think on them just then. Later that night, that was the time for deep thinking about things.

"Hogwarts," Harry said. "Where we were before we came here. We didn't go down to the dungeons, though."

"Maybe we should have," Draco suggested, "but after Madame Pomfrey's potion failed, I just. I didn't think it was a very good idea..."

"Neither did I," Harry shrugged as he looked over at Severus. "Well, since you're coming back to yourself... why don't we eat breakfast? And then we could..." He glanced at Draco for confirmation. "Go to a place with lots of other wizards. Maybe reacquaint you with the world."

"Why are there lots of other wizards?" Boy asked as he watched Severus put food on his plate for him.

"Well, just because there are, I suppose," Draco explained, reaching for a chocolate pancake of his own. There was a bowl of whipped cream beside every plate. "We could go somewhere like Diagon Alley. It's very busy. There's ice cream..."

"Is it okay to have all of these sweet things?" Boy asked that generally, but looked in particular to his father.

"Since they're new, I think... we could consider these past few days a treat," Severus said quietly.

"And I bet they're still celebrating at Diagon Alley," Harry added, unable to help himself and not grin. He still hadn't had time to revel in it all.

"Oh. I had forgotten all about that, in a strange sort of way," Draco admitted. "Do you suppose we had ought to take them, considering? Oh, and the sweets.... no, you see, that's really quite normal wizard fare, at least, if you aren't living with Father. He had an atrocious fondness for bitter things."

"We know," Severus said as he grabbed a couple of pancakes for himself.

"Well, I mean... given the circumstances... why not bring them out? There's only partying going on..."

"And possibly pictures, Potter," Draco pointed out prissily. "If it had gone the other way 'round, I shouldn't have liked to go out gallivanting to see your face spread all over the Daily Prophet, you know."

"Er, well..."

"Pictures of what?" Boy asked, but only after swallowing a mouthful of his food.

"I believe they mean that there are pictures of Tom, and Lucius." Severus glanced sideways to his boy, expression muted but compassionate in ways that Harry decided he'd always be shocked to see on Snape's face. "They may not be nice pictures."

"Oh. I... I'd still like to go out, if it's okay... But maybe not for a while?"

"Not for a while," Draco agreed. "Perhaps if we speak very quickly and miss out on a tad of truthfulness, we might convince Potter here to fetch us some ice cream while we wade in the garden. What do you think?" he asked Boy, a very serious question.

"Uhm, yes?"

Harry scowled at them all. "You could just ask, you know. It wouldn't be any trouble for me."

"Spoilsport," Draco chided, but he leaned over to kiss Harry's cheek, all the same. "I know you'd like to go out and see what's going on, Potter. I don't think Boy should see it, though, and with Father likely in Azkaban, I'm fairly certain I know which head they'll be wanting to roll now that they've got him, and it looks altogether too much like me. Sins of the father and all that. Would you please? Go out and see things and fetch home some ice cream?"

So Draco could have his time alone with Boy and Severus; but that was fine, because Harry was still finding them both rather disconcerting to be around. Maybe they'd settle in better if he was gone. As long as Severus didn't try to tend to any 'duties', he couldn't foresee any problems. "Well, at least let me finish breakfast before you shoo me off."

"Of course, Potter. And I'll give you kisses to spare on your way out, so that you won't be lonely, all right?" A brilliant smile spread over Draco's mouth, right before he popped a chocolate and whipped cream pancake bite into his mouth.

"All right," Harry conceded with a quirk of his mouth as he went back to eating.

"I take it Father didn't let Boy go outside often," Draco offered idly, watching the child run about chasing butterflies in the garden some time later. "Or you, either. What did you do every day, Severus?"

"I worked. I made potions, tested them sometimes..." Severus was sitting comfortably beside Draco on the garden bench, posture a little reserved and stiff, but at least he was sitting on the chair like a human, even if it had taken a touch of encouragement.

It was still strange to be encouraged to act like everyone else. Severus was going to take time to readjust to that concept; he knew he would. "I did what they told me to do, and I took care of Boy in-between."

"You were always the best potions maker known to wizardry," Draco said with a great delight. "You delighted in it. I hope the experience won't have taken that from you. Of course, if it has, there are so many other things to interest you, as well."

"Mm." Severus tipped his head back, looking up and up at the bright sun. Harry had been gone for some time, probably enjoying the celebration of... the death of people he still half-thought of as his family. Tom and Lucius, because no matter how bad things had been, they were still so vivid...

Vivid, but fading. Fading in the face of half-memories of Draco. Perhaps the return to memory in Draco's story hadn't been so dramatic, but rather a slow, aching thing that left him confused and strained. "I don't know. I made so many, had them tested on me..."

"Yes. That sounds rather remarkably like Father," Draco said simply. "But here, you can eat what you like, and we can spend time together, and it will be good, Severus. I promise you that."

"I hardly remember you." He closed his eyes tightly. "You were supposed to be dead, do you know that? Whenever your father spoke of his son, it was as if he were dead."

"I suppose I shouldn't be surprised." There was a faint tightness in Draco's voice that belied the easy words. "After all, he left my mother's body on the back fence by way of goodbye, in my favorite spot. The roses haven't grown there since."

"I... I know. I know what he was capable of in... two senses." Severus tilted his head back, and opened his eyes for a moment, peering up and up at the open, beautiful sky before he straightened and looked to check on Boy. Who was still amusing himself very harmlessly. "But he was a good teacher to Boy. If... sick."

"Father excelled at teaching, particularly the Dark Arts," Draco agreed. "It's a shame that he never learned any kindness or moderation, I suppose. Even I have learnt some, after all, and anyone who knew me as a child would likely have called it a miracle. I probably wouldn't have, had it not been for you."

"You give me too much credit." He kept his eyes on Boy, as he tried to close his hands over one of the enchanted butterflies he was chasing and failed. "What about, ah... Harry?"

"Harry..." Just the word made Draco's mouth curl upwards in a smile. "Harry has taught me a great many things. And laughed when I ignored them to do more Slytherin sorts of things, as well. Harry has been excellent."

"Good." Severus almost smiled for a moment. "I wouldn't have wanted you to miss out on life because I was... gone. He seems like he's grown up."

Draco didn't question Severus's statement, only smiled slightly. "We all grew up. Especially the Slytherins. We had to do a bit of it once you were gone. You were all that stood between certain doom and us one way or another. But yes. Harry grew up, too. Did you know that the hat wanted to put him in Slytherin? I'll bet you did."

"He needed to be in Gryffindor." Severus paused for a moment, wondering where that had come from before he smiled. "But yes. I knew. Know."

"You'll remember," Draco decided. "Possibly not everything. But hopefully the better things." Draco was one of the better things, or at least Severus thought he was.

"Things such as?" Severus pressed the issue a little; maybe he needed prodding, or just to talk. So many unexpected things rose up in simple conversation.

"Such as other students of yours. Other people who love you. Even old Bumblebore likely missed you, though I personally think very little of him," Draco admitted.

"I could tell," Severus murmured as he looked away from Boy and towards Draco. "But he did a great deal for me. He..." It was there, at the tip of his tongue, the tip of his mind, teetering.

"Gave you safe passage," Draco prodded him over that edge. "From Father and those like him. You kept up a beautiful falsehood for them, Severus. You are what it means to be Slytherin. Planning. Cunning."

"It worked to a point," he murmured. "I couldn't have done it without... safe harbor."

"Yes. But you're home now, and things will be better. I promise, Severus. I'll make it so."

"I..." Severus glanced over to Boy, who had moved to meandering through the flowers he knew were harmless. "I believe you will, Draco. I do."

"I will," Draco said again simply, and then they were quiet.

"My goodness," Draco drawled over a cup of steaming hazelnut chocolate. "I do believe there's an owl pecking to get in. Now, I wonder why that would be?" Blond brows raised in Harry's direction, a vibrant grin splitting the brunette Gryffindor's face.

"Can't imagine. Last I heard, there weren't any eleven-year-olds to be had 'round here today."

There was less of a grin and more of a look of relief on Severus's face. He'd been so worried about his son's position in the magical world, wondering if he'd even get a letter. As it was, the black-haired man rose to open the window and let the owl in. "I suppose this means someone will have to stop playing with his toys for a moment."

The boy looked up, poking out his tongue. "Uncle Harry is teasing me, Father. I think he should be punished." One eleven-year-old hand wagged a finger at Harry even as Draco laughed and lobbed a blob of whipped cream in the Gryffindor's direction.

"Hey, you might hit the owl!" Harry protested as he swooped over both him and Draco and alighted on the stool that was next to Julian where he sat on the floor, surrounded by the bounty he'd been given for his birthday. "Go on. Take the letter from him, Julian. This is a big day for you."

"What if it doesn't say what it should?" Julian asked. He'd changed as he'd gotten older; his hair was less dark, his eyes more pale, but still he resembled Snape more than anything else save his small pert nose.

"Of course it's going to say what it should, darling boy," Draco promised. "That's a grade-A Hogwarts owl there, the same one that brought my invitation to me."

Severus glanced at Draco for a moment, then just shook his head. They both knew that the owl that had delivered Draco's letter to him had crashed into a pillar while trying to leave Malfoy Manor, and had died almost immediately.

"I'm sure it says what it should," he soothed vaguely. "They don't send letters to people who don't belong there."

"Open it," Draco encouraged, smirking in Severus's general direction. It was one of those moments that made Harry pout, his mouth turned down in a little frown that always ended up kissed away. "Go ahead."

"Uncle Harry?" Julian's eyes pleaded sweetly. "Will you open it?"

"Gladly," Harry told him as he moved down from his chair. The Owl watched them all, making sure the letter was received and read before he left. "Here..." He broke the seal, and then started to read it aloud.

"Dear Mr. Julian Snape," he quoted. "We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment. Term begins on September 1. We await your owl no later than July 31. Yours Sincerely, Minerva McGonagall, Deputy Headmistress." He looked up at the boy with a grin. "And there's a list of books and uniform things that you'll be needing. Reckon we'll have to make a trip to Diagon Alley."

"Which means ice cream!" Draco said excitedly.

"So you see?" Severus murmured as he subtly shooed the owl back towards the window it had come in through. "The letter says just what it should say."

"I'm really going to go to school? Real school? The one where you taught, father?" Julian asked, eyes lighting up with excitement. "And where Uncle Harry and Uncle Draco went?"

"And with any luck at all, you'll be in Slytherin!" Draco crowed with delight.

"Gryffindor!" Harry argued back at him.



"...I kind of like Ravenclaw," Julian whispered to his father.

Severus nodded sagely to his son's remark, and leaned into him to whisper, "Wherever you sort, Julian, I will be very, very pleased with you. But that's still some time away, isn't it? Why don't you go back to enjoying your birthday gifts?"

"Kay," Julian agreed, smiling brilliantly at Severus. Things were okay. He had his letter, he had presents, and Uncle Harry and Uncle Draco were flinging eggs at one another across the table.

It didn't get much better than that.