A/N: Hello! This is the sequel to my story Broken Mind Fractured Soul. You can read this story without reading that first, but if you do, you have to accept the relationships and personality he displays at face value since you are skipping the reasoning and development to how he got to where he is. I hope you like this story. There are just a few things I wanted to get out of the way before we start.
1) I added an epilogue/teaser to the end of BMFS. You can start this story without it, but I didn't want you to miss out if you didn't know.
2) This story will have a Draco/Harry pairing.
3) There will be dark themes and violence in the action scenes.
4) Harry's name and appearance will change in this story after Severus adopts him and adds his DNA to that of James and Lily. I will try to keep Harry the same enough for him to be recognizable to the readers. His name will change to Shadow Snape.
5) If you are reading this without first reading BMFS, read the prologue very carefully. It does a bit of summarizing and sets the stage. Also, I would recommend reading Chapter 52 of BMFS. That will pretty much give you a good idea of what has happened up to this point.
Now, enough blather. On to the story! (grins)
Shadows Within the Light
Harry spent the two weeks after the third task mostly in a healing, dreamless sleep. He remembered snippets of Remus and Sirius changing his bandages, helping him drink potions, and helping him bathe, but, thankfully, he was too numb and exhausted - not to mention in pain- to really take notice of everything happening around him. His whole world had narrowed to his broken body's needs and demands.
But for the last two days, awareness had flirted with his consciousness. He was managing to stay awake and actually converse with Remus and Sirius. He even talked Omi into fetching him newspapers and had been shocked further awake at the news printed there. The wizarding world was rabid with panic; torn practically in half between believers of Voldemort's return and those that believed it was just a vicious rumor.
Harry didn't know which category he was in. He had no recollections of the night in the graveyard. Just a vague sense of icy terror. He tried asking Remus and Sirius, but they only offered him reassurances of his safety and insisted it was best he not think of anything right now but his recovery. It was maddening.
And then Severus had arrived on his third day of coherency. Harry didn't know what to expect from his mentor, but answers to all his questions wasn't it. He was grateful, humbled by the man's trust in him and in his strength, but he was also grimly anxious about all he had learned. He retreated into himself, freeing his mind from his still severely injured body, to think about everything Severus had revealed to him.
Dumbledore was dead and could no longer threaten him. Relief was his immediate response, as well as pleasant surprise that Draco had found the strength to activate the poison they had created together. He was so damn thankful that the blonde had gotten there in time to save Severus. But the headmaster's death left a huge hole behind. He knew there was going to be some heavy-duty pushing and shoving as those in power tried to elbow into positions of authority over the most influential school this side of Europe. And that left openings for corruption.
Voldemort was dead, yes. But the majority of his followers weren't. And they were a problem. Word had to have spread in those circles of Voldemort's demise. Some will want to take his place, some will be after Harry for revenge or just because he is a potential threat to them. Especially since they tortured him. They will fear retribution.
And they should. Harry felt a burning hate for those bastards that had left him so bloody broken. He couldn't sit up on his own! And Severus' descriptions, brief though they were, of his body before Boy and Demon could heal most of the damage… He felt angry, sick, and frightened. Not a nice combination. Mostly, he just wanted to know none of them would ever be able to hurt him again.
Then there was the fact that the wizarding world thought he was either dead or kidnapped. The minute he showed himself there would be demands for answers and explanations. His life was going to be even more ravaged by the populace than normal! Interviews, stalkers, attackers, beggars, worshipers… No matter which category, the whole of the wizarding world would be watching him, wanting something from him. It was intolerable. He was willing to defend himself from Voldemort, and he was willing to do what he could to protect those around him, but he was not going to be their sacrifice, martyr, or soldier. He belong to no one but himself.
And then there were the more private problems of Demon and Boy, his last two alters. He was aware they were both changed by the events in the graveyard; he could see it when he Occluded and explored his own mind:
The ocean representing his mind swallowed him, and he sank deep. Slowly all light disappeared, the fish and sea-vegetation disappeared and still no doors. It just felt like he was sinking into a bottomless hole in the middle of his ocean floor. Suddenly struck with a deep fear, he flailed for the surface toward the light. His alters were too deep now, too wild. He had no access to them, no control…
It was a very unpleasant realization.
Chewing over all these problems - trying to predict what they meant for the future and weigh all the potential ramifications to himself - Harry settled deep within his Occlumency shields to think. As he did so, he worked to camouflage the deep hole in his mind and soul and set mental booby-traps for anyone who might break in his mind and go looking where they shouldn't. The barriers might even help keep Demon and Boy from rising up out of the darkness. Harry desperately needed some sort of security. He'd break if he couldn't even feel safe in his own head.
Harry opened his eyes and blinked against the bright, late morning sun filling the room. For a wonder, he was alone; the chair residing beside his bed empty. He sighed in pleasure and just enjoyed the solitude while it lasted. His bed was just as it always was: the thick down comforter fluffy and warm, the dark blue color complementing the spotless thick black carpet.
The light cream-colored walls contrasted with the dark floor, making the room seem bigger. The heavy drapes over the window were even lighter, making them glow with the sunlight they gently held back. The walls were bare but for a single mahogany frame holding a silver ring behind its sparkling glass; the mate of the one he still wore on his right middle finger. He also still wore his silver bracelet, which remained on his left wrist.
Returning his attention to his room, Harry noticed the closet door was cracked open. There was just enough light to see his clothes, school trunk, and the shelves at the back that held his books and photo albums. He smiled, the dull pain constantly thrumming through his body forgotten completely as a wave of happiness washed through him. It would never cease to amaze him that he had a place to call his own, a home at last. This would be his third summer in this house.
The bedroom door opened and Remus and Sirius came in. Harry turned to them and smiled. The two men froze, and then Sirius was running over, exclaiming and scolding at the same time. Remus followed more slowly, but his smile spoke volumes. Harry laughed softly, careful not to jar his ribs as Sirius turned into a dog so he could run in a circle, yapping happily.
"You act like I've been out of it for years. It couldn't have been more than a few days," he shook his head.
"Three actually," Remus answered. "But you know what he's like."
"Yeah; a toddler," Harry grinned.
Sirius morphed back into his human form and pouted. "I am not!"
Remus burst into loud laughter and Harry snickered.
"I see you are awake," Severus spoke, coming into the room. He was still limping and Harry suspected that it was a permanent injury. The thought made him instantly angry.
"Will it never heal?" he asked softly, needing to know. Remus and Sirius stood still, waiting for Severus' answer, aware of their charge's seriousness.
"It may," Severus inclined his head.
"But you doubt it," Harry said grimly, hands tight on his blankets.
"I do," he allowed and stepped closer to the bed. "However, I would not change my actions."
"I know." Harry was grateful for the man's support, but it still upset him.
"I wanted to ask you if you had made any decisions concerning your current position," Severus smoothly changed the subject.
Harry lifted his head, his thick hair falling into his unsettling eyes. His glasses were an asset in this; muting most of the effect of the new altered color. He looked much older than his few years with the serious, knowing cast to his face. He had seen things no one should, and still he had survived. It made Severus feel fiercely proud, as well as fiercely determined to shield the child from further horror and damage.
"I have actually," Harry admitted. "If I return to the wizarding world, I will be a target. From people who want me to protect them, from people who see me as a threat, from the remaining Death Eaters. I'll be torn apart, and I won't put myself in that position. I'm thinking of leaving the country, or just staying at the house for a while. It's not like I can't learn on my own, and I'm ahead of my peers in Hogwarts, anyway."
"I suspected you would feel that way." Severus folded his hands before him, keeping them low. His expression was carefully blank, and Harry knew his mentor well enough to listen carefully. Whatever his teacher was about to say was very important. "I will follow you, whatever you decide, but I wanted you to be aware there is a third option in addition to relocating and hiding."
Sirius' eyes widened. He knew where this was going. He went ridged next to his friend and had he not been so full of grief and shock, he would have howled and screamed his denial. Remus' hand gripped his forearm tightly- whether to support him or to keep him silent, Sirius didn't know. Either way, he couldn't move. He could hardly breathe.
"What?" Harry pushed when Severus just looked at him intensely, his dark eyes watching him carefully.
"The Adoption Ritual," he finally spoke, softly and carefully. "I would be honored if you would consent to be my son in blood and name."
The world faded away. Eyes wide, absolutely shocked, Harry could only stare at the man before him. This man had fought for him, had helped him learn who he was and helped him heal the damage in his mind. This was the first person to celebrate his birthday with him, the person who had given him a home. He was secretive and almost too clever, but he never put himself before Harry's needs. At least, not since the whole Black disaster in third year.
Severus even took in Neville, a student he didn't like, all because Harry did. Severus had fought his own mentor for Harry's sake! And taken serious injury from the fight he would not have won had it not been for Draco. This was the one who had not fled even Demon, but had remained in the graveyard to rescue Harry. He would have bled to death in minutes had Severus not been there to send him home to Remus and Sirius.
Harry did love the man, but a father? Could he give anyone that much of himself, that much trust? If he could, Severus was the only person alive who deserved it, but still… part of him flinched away from the idea, saw it as a trap. He already had the home, had the man's protection and care. Why go further and become of his blood, take up his name, legally place himself under his power as his child?
"Think on it. I do not require an answer immediately," Severus spoke, breaking the tense silence. He inclined his head again and left the room as quietly as he entered.
"Harry…" Remus spoke softly, encouraging the teen to speak, to open up.
"I need to think…" Harry shook his head once. Then he thought of something and looked up at Sirius, who looked about to scream or cry. "Are you alright?"
"I…" Sirius swallowed thickly. "I would adopt you as well. Remus would if it were allowed. We all love you, Harry."
"I know," he said softly, looking down at his hands. Both wrists were bandaged, but otherwise they were uninjured except for some bruising across the back of his hands. "You are both good friends. I care about you, but it is different with Severus. He is…"
"The one who saved you," Remus spoke gently. He reached over and stroked the teen's messy hair once. "We understand, Harry. We will support any decision you make."
Sirius nodded, but it looked mechanical. He stuttered something and stumbled from the room. Harry looked up at Remus calmly. He wasn't very worried. Sirius would either be okay with the offer or he wouldn't. There wasn't much he could do about it. But he knew Remus would feel more strongly about Sirius' distress, so he nodded to let him know it was okay if he went after him. Remus smiled and pat his shoulder before turning and following his friend.
Sighing, Harry leaned back and relaxed. Alone again, but this time he wasn't aware of the room he loved. All his attention was on the decision he was facing.
The forest that surrounded Draco was ancient. Almost as ancient as his name. They had seen many centuries pass, and, even as a kid, he had felt their strength, had felt insignificant compared to them. Those trees did not care if he were good or bad, right or wrong. More importantly, they did not care he was heir to the Malfoy name and legacy.
Draco had always come to this balcony whenever he felt the pressure of being Lucius' son. It had always given him a strange comfort to know that not everything in existence scrutinized him. The forest was a blissful escape when the world was too much. But staring at them now, he felt cold and afraid. The trees didn't care about human life or human pain. Were someone tied down between their trunks and tortured under their canopy, they wouldn't help. They wouldn't even notice.
Shivering, he gasped and backed away. Draco had no idea why he kept coming here. Every time he hoped something would change, that the sense of peace would return, but instead he felt the cold chill of helplessness and nausea. Dark circles lay under his eyes. His pale skin was clammy and gray, no matter the warmth of the summer morning. The sense of illness hung around him, of weakness.
Coming home from Hogwarts, he knew things would be bad. He was still shaken about Dumbledore's death, could still see it happening in his nightmares. But he had Professor Snape's word that Shadow was safe. He clutched that knowledge to him and never let it go. Not even when he got home to find his father, pale with blazing eyes, maddened.
Lucius shifted between fearful - hiding in the library and allowing no one near him - to paranoid. Twice Lucius attacked Draco and his mother, accusing them of being enemies in disguise. The beatings had been horrible, but not long lasting. Lucius would stop before too long and just stare at them, eyes wide with some awful light. Then he'd leave them and search feverishly through his office. Papers and books and scrolls were littered throughout the Manor.
Narcissa and Draco tiptoed around the house. When called on, they obediently helped Lucius put up protective wards and tighten the Manor's defenses. Anything to keep away one of his rages. They just had to get through the summer. Once Draco was back at school, Narcissa would leave to visit family. They just had to survive two months.
They were going to make it. They were remaining strong, safe outside of Lucius' madness. Neither one of them even thought about questioning its source. They honestly didn't want to know. Both were aware whatever happened to Lucius had something to do with the Dark Lord, but they were better off not knowing if it had been able to unhinge Lucius Malfoy. Instead, they focused on escape.
Of course, Draco had learned long ago that nothing that had to do with his father was easy. Four days ago everything changed… Draco opened his eyes wide, desperate to see what was physically in front of him, even if it was those awful trees, but it was too late. His thoughts had wandered too close to the bright flame of horror in his mind, and he was sucked back there, back in his father's Pensieve...
He stood there, as if he were a real spectator, in that graveyard. It was as if he were the one bowing down before the disfigured, grotesque being that was the reborn Dark Lord his father worshiped, had tried to teach him to worship since he was a little child. Red evil eyes and flickering long tongue, Draco heaved, but had nothing in his stomach to vomit.
He stood, trapped in memory, held in place by his father's double, as Death Eater Lucius stepped up for his turn on the body of his only and best friend…
The naked body lay twisted at the waist, arms spasming to the right, his legs broken almost in half in three different places; still… so still… so covered in blood and bone chips…
As he watched, the blood slowed, the legs were pulled together by an invisible force, straightened in an obscene parody of their natural state…
All the skin was missing from the body's ribs… They lay in rows, white and glistening with blood in the moon light. They expanded with every tortured breath, sunk in on every scream… The pulpy flesh of lungs pulsed within the fragile cage…
Even as he watched, the blood was slowed and stopped, skin creeping along like moss… a delicate attempt to cover the organs and maintain life…
Draco watched as his Death Eater father laughed… fucking laughed… and twisted his wand… the broken body's slender arm following the movement, popping loudly at the elbow and wrist… and the screams began again… continued on forever… as more cruel magics broke him further… twisted him beyond recognition… beyond humanity…
Horrifically, the face was untouched… The maddened eyes blazed with terror and pain, with incomprehension and desperation… This face, twisted with agony and drenched with sweat and tears and streaked with blood… this face was that of his best friend… He had sworn to do his best to protect Shadow, and Draco stood there and did nothing as the Death Eaters tortured him… While the Dark Lord watched on with lustful pleasure… While his father stood behind him and clutched at his shoulders, leaving bruises… While his father's mirror pealed more flesh from the broken body of a fourteen-year-old boy.
"Look! Look at him! He's possessed! He was dying! He should be dead! He's some kind of Dark Creature!" Lucius practically shrieked in his ear as Shadow rose from the ground, still missing chunks of his body, still twisted and broken, but shining with power and a horrible starving rage.
Draco was glad then, glad his father was behind him, so that he couldn't see Draco's smile. Eyes wide with shock and horror from witnessing his friend's torture, he wanted to laugh hysterically at the irony that they had merely awoken their own destruction. "He's not a creature," he shouted over the thunder, screams, and cold delighted laughter. "He is Demon."
"Yes! Yes! He's a demon!" Lucius gibbered.
Then everything went black and they were released from the Pensieve… Draco stared blankly at his father, still vibrating from everything he had seen. He could hardly think straight, knew he was close to passing out.
"We have to protect ourselves from that thing! We have to find a way to destroy it! It'll be coming for us, Draco! We have to stop it," Lucius babbled, eyes bright with manic fever.
Draco had said nothing in return. He had simply turned and walked away. Away from his mad father, away from the Pensieve… He wished it were as easy to walk away from the memories now trapped in his head. Of his friend's suffering, of his father's crimes.
For four days, he had locked himself in his room, refusing to see his mother, refusing to eat or sleep. He was thinking; he was trying not to think. Draco didn't really know for sure which he was doing. He felt lost, and he was grieving. He was only fifteen for Merlin's sake. His father was a psychotic murderer, worshiping a monster of a Dark Lord. His best friend was going to be hunted down as some evil creature…
And maybe that didn't even matter. Maybe his best friend no longer existed. How could Shadow survive what they did to him? And even though his father was completely bat-fuck crazy, Lucius still had control of Draco and his mother, still ruled over the Malfoy name and fortune. And… Draco was afraid. Afraid of what his father would do to him and his mother if they were to try and get away. He had watched Lucius torture Muggles for days last summer, but what he had seen his father take part in at the graveyard went way beyond that.
What was he suppose to do now? The Dark Lord might be alive… His best friend might be dead… and his father had lost it… What was he going to do? What was there to do? What was going to happen to him and his mother? What was Lucius going to demand of them or force them to partake in?
Arms wrapped around himself, he turned to go back into his room when something flashed in the sunlight, above the trees. Dawn had come an hour ago. The sun had fully risen while he had been trapped once again in his memories of that damned Pensieve. Draco lifted an arm and shaded his eyes, squinting. An owl? Gasping, he ran from the balcony and out his door. Bolting down the stairs, he ran passed his mother, ignored her startled call, and flew outside.
There! … He could still see it! … A large white owl hovering outside the tightened wards of the Manor: Shadow's owl!
He ran into the forest, through the wards, and called for Hedwig. The gorgeous owl cut silently through the canopy and came gliding down toward him. Draco beamed, his heart rocketing in his chest with hope and excitement. The owl hooted sternly, nipping him on the ear as she settled on his shoulder. She almost couldn't fit, she was so large now.
"Sorry, girl. Were you waiting long?" he asked softly, panting and still grinning.
Hedwig hooted again and lifted her leg where a scroll had been shrunk and tied.
Draco took it gently and removed the charm, returning it to its rightful size. Needing to move, he walked slowly as he read the message:
Dear Serpentine Prince,
My apologies for not writing sooner. I've been recovering from a strenuous contest, but I assure you that all is well. I received your gift, the book on the Greek gods. It will greatly help me in my project. Thank you, Serpentine. Hopefully I can return the favor one day soon. In any case, I'd like to thank you in person. Let me know a convenient time. We can meet at Diagon Alley, maybe shop for school supplies together. I am worried you might not have what you need. Let me know as soon as you can.
Draco blinked tears out of his eyes, grinning like a loon. Shadow was indeed well. Cleverly he had coded the message in case he got Draco in trouble. Between the lines, Shadow expressed concern for him and what was happening with Lucius, as well as thanked him for rescuing Severus. But what really made Draco happy was his friend's request to see him soon. Draco would like nothing better, needed nothing better. He knew it was true by the letter in his hand, but he needed to see him with his own eyes before the memories in the Pensieve would stop haunting him.
"Wait here for a minute, Hedwig? I'll be back with your reply shortly."
Hedwig hooted agreeably and flew up into the branches, watching indulgently as the blonde human ran back into the sealed off Manor.
Harry ate lunch, still in bed. Omi had brought a lap tray and Harry ate from the food given to him carefully. Not only did he have to be careful not to pull on any of his wounds, but his stomach was still uncertain about solid food after weeks of surviving off potions. Remus sat beside the bed, ready to offer assistance if needed. Harry was determined to eat on his own, however.
"Have you thought about Severus' offer?"
"I have," Harry answered, sipping from the soup and pretending not to have noticed Sirius going stiff on the opposite side of the bed as Remus. They sat in silence for several dragging minutes as Harry continued to bring a small sip of soup to his mouth one spoonful at a time.
"Have you decided?" Sirius finally demanded. His blue eyes were bright with anxiety and his hands were clenched at his side.
Harry sighed, "No. I haven't. But I am leaning toward accepting. As attractive as hiding out here is, I don't really want to leave Neville and my friends. It would be a shame to give up the chance of experiencing Hogwarts without Dumbledore breathing down my back. Still… I'm not sure it will work out. I'll let you know when I decide for sure."
This last was said mostly to Remus. Harry thought it unnecessarily cruel to bring up the subject, especially when he didn't have the answer. Remus met his gaze levelly, obviously disagreeing. Sirius, oblivious to their exchange, stood and left the room without another word. Harry lifted an eyebrow, demanding an explanation.
"He needs to get use to the idea," Remus answered, gesturing toward Harry's food to get him to continue to eat. "He has a tendency to push away things that upset him until he can't any longer. Then he explodes. This way, he is forced to face it fairly constantly and releases his displeasure in spurts. Should you choose to accept the adoption, he will have been forced to confront it enough by that point and hopefully won't throw a fit."
"Hmmm," Harry murmured thoughtfully, slurping his soup. "I see your point."
"May I offer you my opinion?" Remus asked carefully.
Harry sighed, but nodded.
"I think you should accept. Not only do I think Severus takes good care of you, he also works well with you. You two make a good team. And, I think most importantly, you are as good for him as he is good for you." Harry smiled a bit at that and Remus continued. "Also, like Sirius, you need to face the things you don't like, not run from them and get hysterical when you can't any longer."
Harry grinned, "I don't know. Hysteria has its good points."
"It may be amusing, but not very productive," Remus smiled back. "Now eat your lunch. Omi will be very displeased if you don't finish."
"And how will my doctor feel?" he asked teasingly, looking up through his thick bangs.
"I'm sure your doctor would not be concerned, since he merely has to go to the resident Potion Master and requested more Nutrient Potion."
"Evil, you are," Harry exclaimed, pointing his spoon at the man. "Severus would be all over me, if you told him I wasn't eating."
"Would he?" Remus asked innocently, his eyes brown eyes sparkling.
Laughing, Harry realized he was outmaneuvered and finished his lunch. He really didn't want to upset Omi, and Severus needed rest. His mentor was still a bit worn from everything that had happened. As a reward for being a good patient, Harry was given his magical parchment that connected to Neville's. He had written his brother briefly last night after he had sent off Draco's letter. Neville was at the Herbology Institute at the moment, but was desperately glad to hear from Harry.
Hey, brother. You in?
There was a long pause, but then quick words appeared. Harry! Hi! I'm at lunch. I can talk for about fifteen more minutes.
How is everything? Started any of your own projects yet?
No, but I'm learning a TON. I wish you were here. It's all so fascinating!
I'm sure it is. Harry laughed. Neville always made him feel less freakish. His down-to-earth (no pun intended) personality was always refreshing. You'll have to tell me about it in more detail when I see you. When will that be, by the way?
The program closes on our birthday. I think I can talk Gran into letting me come to the house a week after that. So probably I'll be by August 7th or so, and I'll stay until school. If Professor Snape allows it, I mean.
Of course! That will be nice.
Yeah… How are you, Harry? You said you were fine, but…
I am fine, he interrupted. I'll tell you more in person. Not now.
I understand. If you need me, I can come home sooner. I wanted to be with you from the beginning, but Remus…
He was right, Harry cut in again. I miss you, but I mostly sleep all day. I'm glad you are at the Institute! Wouldn't have gotten you into the program otherwise! Stay. Have fun. I'll be here when you get back.
I just feel disloyal.
Don't! Really, Nev. I'm glad you're there. I need time to take in everything that happened. This is good and I'll see you in a few weeks.
Okay, okay, I get it. Neville wrote, but then hesitated a second before continuing. Be well, Harry. Write me at night when I have more time to talk. I love you, brother.
Same here. I'll write you before bed.
Talk to you then.
Harry put aside the parchment and yawned. He hadn't been joking when he said he slept most of the day. At least he was down to only one nap instead of three. Remus projected he would be able to start taking long walks in a week or so. Harry couldn't wait. The bedside service had only been amusing the first six hours or so.
It wasn't even dark out when Hedwig came swooping into his room after Remus let her in. He raised an eyebrow when he saw the scroll, but didn't push when Harry didn't answer his unasked questions. Instead, he offered to go start his bath, giving him a few minutes alone.
"Thanks, Remus," Harry smiled at him. The man smiled back and gently shut his door behind him. Harry immediately turned his attention to the letter.
I am so thankful to hear from you. I've been worried. There's much to tell you. Things aren't well here. I'll be at Diagon Alley tomorrow. If you can come, meet me at the book store at noon. If not, I'll write you again later in the week with another possible meeting time. Don't write me back.
Harry crumpled the letter in his fist and scowled at the wall. Draco was in trouble, and Harry couldn't hardly sit up on his own, let alone get to Diagon Alley. But he had to do something! He remembered sitting in a dark abandoned classroom, listening to Draco describe what had driven him to question his loyalties. Lucius had forced his friend to watch him torture innocent people when he was only thirteen, and he put Draco under the Imperio Curse for almost three months when he was fourteen. Harry couldn't imagine what Lucius was like after the disaster in the graveyard.
"Your bath is ready," Remus said as he entered. He hesitated when he saw the intense look on the teen's face.
"I need to talk to Severus," Harry said grimly. "Alone, please."
Remus nodded and left the room. Harry sat silently, cursing his body and doubly cursing the Death Eaters. It felt like an eternity before Severus finally came in.
"Shut the door please," Harry said softly.
Severus lifted an eyebrow, but did as he was asked. He walked silently across the room and sat in the chair that was now always by the bed. Harry waited for him to sit, but just barely.
"I need your help once again. It's about Draco."
"What has happened?" he asked calmly.
Severus' dark eyes were neutral and his emotions were like a still pool, giving out nothing. He was the only person Harry knew who could become so still and accepting. Everyone else had a constant flow, no matter how small, of emotions escaping them. Only Severus could stop that flow and direct it inward, canceling it out so that he could observe and listen without distraction. It was one of the things Harry admired most about the man, one of the things he was most grateful for; especially since he was such a powerful Empath.
"I can't really explain everything," Harry admitted. "Draco has confided in me and I can't betray that trust. But, basically, he's in trouble. He's going to be at the book store on Diagon tomorrow at noon. He wants me to meet him there so we can talk. I need you to go for me. I want him to come here if he can, if you will allow it?"
"Lucius was one of the ones who hurt you and will, without a doubt, be hunting for you now," Severus pointed out neutrally.
"Draco is not his father. I can't give you details, but we've been conversing for over a year. I trust him. You know I do. His name came out of that damn spell as an equal to Nev." Harry took a deep breath and met his mentor's eyes. "Well? Will you grant him sanctuary?"
Severus didn't say anything at first. They just watched each other. Then the older man sighed and crossed his legs, his hands linking over his knee. "I want you to realize that I spent almost a decade creating this house. I've sacrificed many things to ensure this place is safe from detection. No one can find me here or break in. Only I knew of its existence… Until you… I gladly share my home with you. I opened it to Longbottom, Lupin, and Black. That's three more people who can potentially betray this location, who make this place less safe."
"I do understand that," Harry said softly, lowering his head and fidgeting with his fingers. "I'm as protective of this house as you are, though I know you have no way of knowing that." He fell silent. Sighing, he lay his head back and stared at the ceiling. "You know, growing up, all I wanted was to get away from the Dursleys. I imagined having my own home, but I… I didn't really picture people in it. When I was younger - I guess until I was about six - I imagined my parents or some other family member rescuing me. That fantasy died when I got to school and saw how loving parents acted around their children. I realized that if anyone were coming, they would have by then. So the fantasy changed to a place of my own with no one else. That was my idea of paradise. It kept me going."
"I was not asking you to justify yourself," Severus said softly into the break in Harry's rambling. "I am not accusing you of being careless with our home."
Harry smiled at the shared possessive. Our home, Severus had said. "I know that." He lifted his face and met his mentor's gaze. "Severus… When you fist brought me here… It was… Unfathomable. You had no reason to invest your time and energy in me. Yet you did. You took me in and you really cared what happened to me. Hell, you hid me from Dumbledore and still worked to heal me despite his orders not to. You made peace with enemies for me, and you took in another teenager because it would help me cope. You've done a lot."
"I'm not asking you for commendation either," Severus hissed, his openness rippling and shattering with embarrassment and disquiet. His legs uncrossed and he sat stiffly in his seat, obviously deeply uncomfortable.
Harry smiled softly. Remus was right. As much therapy as he still needed, Severus obviously had issues of his own that needed to be worked out. His inability to hear compliments or gratitude wasn't healthy, and Harry suspected the root of that problem was very ugly and painful, something he hoped he could help Severus make some kind of peace with.
"I know you aren't. Just listen," he admonished, making Severus shift some more in his seat. "What I'm trying to say is that of all the things you've given me, this house is the most precious and important. What it symbolizes is what matters most to me. I want to keep it protected as much as you do. If you feel Draco could be a threat - even unintentionally - then I'll have to think of some other way to help him."
"We will think of some other way to help him," Severus corrected. "I did not say I would not be of assistance. I merely wished to express my concern. Draco is Lucius' heir. If we were to hide him here against Lucius' will, we could not stop him from finding his son or this house."
"I see." Harry bit his lip thoughtfully. "Blood magic. Made worse because Draco is tied to a large and prestigious family, it would anchor any finding spell and give it strength."
"And Lucius has no other children. Add to this the fact that Lucius has worked closely with Draco's magic while teaching him from a very young age. It will be almost as familiar as his own," Severus added.
"Right," Harry nodded. "So what can we do?"
"Do you know the specific trouble he is having?" Severus asked carefully, finally relaxing again in his chair. He was certain the unexpected emotional exhibit was finished.
"I'm not sure. He didn't say." Harry uncrumpled the note laying next to him and handed it over. Feeling a bit mischievous as well as nervous, Harry decided to tell the man what he had been trying to say with that unbelievably awkward rant about the house. The timing was perfect since Severus was distracted. "I would be honored to be your son. I agree to the adoption."
Severus jerked in his chair, almost ripping the letter in half. Harry's eyes went wide, matching his mentor's across from him. He had never seen his teacher so shocked before. Never had Severus been caught so off guard that he was ever this expressive with body or expression. But he sat there now with his mouth hanging slightly open, his face paling further, his whole body went tense, and his hand re-crumpled Draco's letter in his fist.
"Pardon?" Severus finally managed.
"I… ah… I was trying to say so earlier… but… Anyway, I thought about it, and I really like the idea," Harry finished strongly. His green eyes were bright under his thick wavy bangs and round black glasses. His expression was solemn, without uncertainty. This was too important to mess up.
"You do not have to say so." Severus said, regaining his footing. "I will help you with Draco in any case."
"I know that," Harry shook his head. "I decided this before Draco's answer came." He sighed and ran his hands through his hair, ignoring the pain the move caused. "Look. There are many reasons why I am agreeing. I don't want to leave Hogwarts yet. I want to go back to school with Nev and Draco. I want to keep an eye on what's happening here, but I don't want to be Harry Potter while doing it. I always hated the fame and expectations being Harry Potter brought me. I am glad to finally be shedding it. But more than that…" He looked over at Severus, meeting his guarded dark eyes. "Severus, I've learned to depend on you. I trust you. You're a part of my life now, and I wouldn't have it any other way. No matter what I choose, you're going to be there. Might as well as make it official, right?"
"I… am surprised at your decision. I am aware how much you prize your independence," Severus said carefully. He leaned forward and stared intently at the teen, gauging his reactions and non-reactions. He had to be sure this is what Harry truly wanted.
"I'm still independent," Harry countered, but his eyes narrowed. "You aren't taking that away from me. You will have no more authority in our personal relationship than you do now, correct? You aren't expecting something else?"
"You are correct," Severus reassured. "I merely wish to provide you with a firmer foundation of support and protection."
Harry eyed the man. "Does this mean that you feel obligated to offer adoption? I thought it was because you wanted me as your son as much as you wanted to help me."
Severus flinched back as if he had been struck, his eyes widened again. "Harry… I did not mean to imply… Of course I do not act out of obligation…" he stumbled over his words, his face pale, distress and anxiety rising off him like smoke.
Harry smiled softly. He was on a roll tonight. Making Severus lose his almost unwavering emotional footing twice in so many minutes had to be a record.
Finally, the man cleared his throat and glared semi-menacingly at the smirking teen. "My care for your wellbeing is more personal than a mere wish to help you. When I said I'd be honored to have you as my son, I meant every word."
Harry really did smirk then. Only Severus would come as close as he ever would to saying 'I love you' while glaring at the other person as if they were guilty of something. In any case, he did understand. And he didn't need empathy to know Severus truly cared for him. So he softened his smirk into a smile. "I will be honored to have you as a father, Severus."
Red formed on Severus' cheeks. Humble gratitude as well as happiness twined with embarrassment and poured from the slender form of his mentor. Harry's smile turned into a grin when Severus' thin lips twitched up into a small smile of his own. "The ceremony takes place on the day of your birth. There is a potion you will have to drink. It will alter your DNA so that you will be equally made up of mine, Lily, and James' genetic material."
"So I'll look like a combination of all three of you?" Harry questioned, curious. "I thought I would just have to wear a glamour."
"It is possible that you will not change very much at all. It is also possible you will change greatly and in ways you might not suspect. Genetics is very complicated. You are made up of as many recessive traits as you are dominant traits. Adding my genetics to the mix may cancel out the dominant traits established from the mixing of Lily and James and allow the recessive ones to the surface," Severus explained contentedly, relaxing into his role as teacher.
"I'm not going to turn into a girl, am I?" Harry narrowed his eyes suspiciously. "I know I've had alters that were girls, but I would rather not change sex."
"You will not change sex," Severus did smile then. "The potion and ritual is designed to take my genetic material and use the combination it would produce for a male child, then bind it with the genetic code you already possess."
"In a way…" Harry said slowly, his eyes sparkling playfully. "It's kinda like I'll become our child, were it possible for us to make children."
"That is the most disturbing thing I've ever heard you say," Severus sneered. "But you are correct. When two people mate, they combine their DNA into a single code or a single entity. I am combining my DNA with yours, and making a new single entity that will result in your new physical body."
"You keep emphasizing the physical part. Am I to take it you are reassuring me that my personality, mind, and soul will not be altered or touched in any way?" Harry smiled.
"Clever child," Severus nodded. "That is exactly what I'm trying to tell you. If I thought this would affect your mental barriers or bring out Demon or Boy, I would not have suggested it in the first place."
"Good," Harry nodded decisively. "Because neither are coming out ever again if I can help it. Merging is a lost cause. Boy and Demon are too insane and dangerous. I would not come out of a merging sane or functional."
"Unfortunately, I agree. Rehabilitation after such severe abuse and trauma is not feasible. Demon is another matter, however." Severus sighed and rubbed at his forehead. "He did not originate within you. He was born of a dark spell that merged with a small portion of your infant soul, thus you claimed him and power over him. There may be consequences to locking Demon away or merging him with your personality. We need to think carefully before we make decisions pertaining to Demon. He is an unknown variable."
"I guess," Harry wanted to cross his arms, but knew he shouldn't. His chest still hurt. "For now, though…"
"Yes. For now we protect your mind from both your alters," Severus agreed.
They were interrupted from further discussion as Remus knocked on the door and stepped into the room. "The medicines in the bath will expire soon," he said softly.
"We are finished." Severus stood and carefully pulled down the covers and spelled Harry with a levitation charm. He would have carried him in his arms, but that would unnecessarily aggravate the teen's wounds.
Harry sighed, but didn't fight the charm or complain about his lack of clothes. With all the bandages covering almost every inch of skin, he didn't feel very naked. Besides, clothes would just hurt and chafe. He was so use to the consistent low level of pain, he hardly noticed it anymore, but anything added was like hot sparks of shock along his nerves. It was best to just close his eyes and let them help him. Soon he would be able to walk and take care of himself again. Until then, he had to bear it.
A/N: Don't for get to review! And thanks for reading; I'm already getting really excited about this story.