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It was a chilly midwinter evening and Severus was skimming the length of the wooded forest in search of Dittany. The wild, overgrown forest itself was situated in the highlands of Scotland, making the easterly wind that much more nail-biting. Trudging through the think blanket of snow, Severus’ feet were starting to feel numb despite them being insulated in a pair of fur-lined hiking boots. He crouched down to extract some of the herb nestled at the base of an oak tree when he saw something reflective out of his peripheral vision. Cautiously Severus stood, grasping his wand whilst still keeping it concealed-just in case a Muggle happened to be skulking around the forest at this late hour-which would be suicidal.

“Hello?” He called out tentatively, as he made his way across the landscape to the area in question.

There was no answer and it was deathly silent, save for the wind rustling the branches of the trees. Concluding it was likely to be a wild animal prowling around, Severus turned back and started shuffling away when he caught sudden movement to his right. Someone was running flat out, weaving between the trees at a frantic pace. It was certainly the outline of a human, a small human at that, most likely a child. Initially he was just going to turn a blind eye and ignore the disturbance, yet he couldn’t turn his back on a child. They would succumb to frostbite or hypothermia if they remained out in this weather. Without a second thought, Severus sprinted in pursuit in an attempt to catch up to the child.

Whoever this person was, they could certainly move quickly. Even with Severus running at top speed, he couldn’t get close enough to the person to stop them from continuing. Deciding that it may be best to take the risk, Severus ceased pursuing the entity and silently took cover behind a tree, poking his head around it every so often to see if the child had noticed that he was no longer following them. After running for a few more seconds, the small form glanced behind him and, assuming that he had lost his pursuer, crept behind one of the trees.

Noting the exact tree that the person had taken refuge behind, Severus tiptoed as quietly as possible towards it before poking his head around to see a small boy sitting at the base of the tree. The boy was shivering uncontrollably and clutching his legs to his chest in a defensive gesture. The child was wearing no more than a pair of pinstriped pyjama bottoms and his head was shaved, stray pieces of stubbly hair barely breaking the skin’s surface. Obviously the child had run away, from a hospital it would seem, and so Severus had no choice but to approach the boy and attempt to return him. 

Slowly he approached the boy, stopping a few feet away from him, desperately trying not to be intimidating despite his usual condescending nature. Severus tried to relax his body language and make himself look approachable, otherwise there would be no hope of convincing the boy to return. Deciding that this was as good a time as any, he called out softly.

“Hello?”

The boy’s head shot up and his breathing quickened, his eyes darting around frantically as if deciding whether or not to make a run for it. Instead the boy remained rooted to the spot in all-consuming fear.

“Are you lost?” Severus asked gently.

Again there was no response, the boy just remained frozen, staring up at him in undisguised fear. 

“Would you mind if I sat with you?” He whispered softly.

The child didn’t reply, yet he made no indication that he was going to bolt and so Severus crept closer until he was a couple of metres away from the boy. Severus then lowered himself to the ground, the deep snow freezing his bottom through his robes.

“What is your name?” He asked sensitively, keeping his warm gaze directed at the boy in the hope that he would open up.

The child seemed to contemplate whether or not to answer as he narrowed his eyes and tilted his head to the side as if inspecting a particularly strange looking creature. The boy whispered something but Severus couldn’t hear. 

“I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that.”

“Harry…my name is Harry.” The boy stated quietly.

“Well, it’s nice to meet you, Harry. My name is Severus.” He replied, making a conscious effort to smile at the child. “How old are you, Harry?”

Instead of responding verbally, the boy held nine fingers out in front of him, staring at Severus with a searching gaze.

“My goodness, you are nearly in double figures!” Severus exclaimed excitedly in an attempt to make the boy relax. “Are you lost, Harry? It’s awfully cold out here.” He stated, noticing the shivers that were racking the boy’s body.

Harry shook his head in negation.

“Then what are you doing out in the woods all on your own?” He asked with growing concern.

“Hiding…from the bad people.” Harry whispered softly, hugging his legs even tighter to his chest.

“Who are the bad people and why are they looking for you, Harry?” Severus pried, confused as to where an earth the boy had come from.

It took a while for the boy to respond, yet he just made a swift swiping motion under his neck. Surely this child was just deluded or mentally unstable. Who would be so desperate to murder an innocent nine year old boy?

“I really think you should get out of the cold, Harry. It’s getting rather late, would you like to come home with me?” He offered, not that he would take any real notice of the boy’s answer. If he refused, Severus would just stun him and take him home anyway.

The boy looked up at him in shock and continue to scrutinise him.

Severus held his hands up in a surrendering motion. “I won’t hurt you, I promise. I just want to get you warm and fed.”

Harry nodded hesitantly before getting to his feet. “You promise…no hurt, Harry?”

“I promise, I won’t hurt you. I am a teacher and I would never harm a child, I work at a school here in Scotland.” Severus explained as he held out a hand invitingly.

Harry was hesitant, yet he slowly extended his had to hold his whilst maintaining a distance.

“Good boy. Alright, let’s go and warm you up.” He announced as he removed his robes and wrapped them around the shivering boy.

The pair took a few short steps when Severus’ wand fell from his pocket and onto the white blanket of snow beneath them. He scrambled around to pick it up quickly before the boy noticed and cursed himself for being so clumsy and disorganised, however the boy uttered something that he didn’t expect to hear.

“Wand.” Harry stated, pointing at the instrument that was now resting in his free hand.

“Yes.” Severus replied carefully. “And what does a wand do?” He asked. Maybe the boy had just seen magicians with their ridiculous plastic wands, he had to be sure before he divulged any information.

“Magic silly!” Harry stated as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. “You’re a wizard…Harry wizard.” The boy said, pointing to himself for emphasis.

Was the boy’s temperature rising? Was he becoming delirious? Surely Harry wasn’t a wizard, no wizarding family would have any trouble locating their child if they were lost. Unless of course, he didn’t have a family. It does seem that he has escaped from some sort of hospital facility.

“Are you now?” Severus questioned sceptically.

Harry nodded his head before extending his hand, which now had a flower growing from it, it’s petals dancing in the keen wind. Severus was utterly astonished. The boy was a wizard after all. It transported him back to when he met his first friend, Lily. She had done a very similar thing and they quickly became best friends.

Swallowing past the lump that began to form in his throat at Lily’s memory, Severus transfigured a leaf into a butterfly which floated over towards Harry. The child beamed up at him and watched fascinatingly as the butterfly fluttered around him before vanishing.

“Well, knowing that you are a wizard makes my life considerably easier. Have you ever apparated before?”

Harry shook his head. “No, but Harry’s heard of it…”

“Alright. It can make you feel a bit strange at first but it will be over before you know it. Would you mind if I carried you? It would make the experience much more pleasant for you and will ensure that you don’t let go.” Severus stated honestly.

At this, Harry backed away slightly, looking up at him with undisguised fear.

“What’s wrong, Harry?” He asked softly, mentally kicking himself for startling the child. He was hoping to make the boy feel safer, not the opposite.

“Harry’s scared…” The child admitted, his eyes travelling down to look at his feet.

“It’s alright, it won’t hurt.” Severus reassured him. “It will be over before you finish counting to five, I assure you.”

Harry seemed to contemplate this and he shuffled back over towards him, reaching his arms upwards. Severus scooped him up gently and rested the small boy on his hip.

“Alright, Harry. Hold on tight to me and when I say go, start counting to five. Can you do that for me?”

The boy nodded and closed his eyes tightly, resting his head against Severus’ chest.

“Okay three…two…one…go!” He said before apparating to his home at Spinner’s End.

Chapter Text

Harry coped with apparition a lot better than he had expected and, despite him looking a bit peaky, the boy was fine. Severus was infinitely glad that the boy hadn’t vomited all over him.

As opposed to the snow covered Scottish Highlands, Cokeworth was void of the festive white dustings and instead sported a rather unappealing watery sludge of ice. Severus decided that it coincided nicely with the run down, litter strewn street. Spinner’s End certainly wasn’t an affluent area, it was derelict. Most of the compact, terraced houses being unoccupied and abandoned and the remaining few that had people residing in them were now owned by the local council.

Striding purposefully towards the front door, Severus passed his carefully constructed protective wards and flicked his wand to unlock the front door which swung open to admit them into the narrow, pitch black hallway. Another flick of his wand spelled the lights on which uncovered the peeling wallpaper and the thick wedge of dust that was sitting atop the skirting boards. 

Turning his attention to the boy in his arms, Severus set the child down and was surprised to see that the boy grasped his robes tightly, almost as if he would disappear if he didn’t cling to him. Deciding it was best to ignore the behaviour for the time being, Severus crouched down to the child's level to address him and, there it was. Staring him blindingly in the face was the famous lightening bolt scar. How had he not joined the dots before? This wasn’t just any young boy named Harry. No, this was Harry Potter, The-Boy-Who-Lived and his late best friend’s son. Albus had informed him that they boy was living with his Muggle relatives until it was time for him to attend Hogwarts. So what was the child doing skulking around in the forest late at night? Something was clearly amiss and he was extremely suspicious, yet he decided not to announce his sudden revelation. The last thing he wanted was for Harry to become frightened.

“Okay, Harry, I’m going to run you a bath to warm you up. Is that alright?” Severus asked the boy kindly.

Harry nodded in response, looking up at him expectantly. Severus took the trembling boy's hand and lead him up the creaking staircase, along the hallway and into the bathroom. Seeing as this was his childhood home, the bathroom was rather small but functional. Housing a toilet, a basin and a combined bath and shower for economical use of the space. 

Pointing his wand at the bathtub, Severus aimed a spell at the taps which promptly started decanting warm water into the tub. Within a few minutes, the tub was full with plenty of bubbles, thanks to the bottle of honey and almond milk bubble bath he had found hidden in the back of the vanity. 

Once everything was in order, he turned around to see Harry peeking nervously from around the door frame, looking terrified to step over the threshold. 

“Come on then, Harry. The bath is ready for you.” Severus said, unusually cheerfully in a frugal attempt to encourage the boy to step inside.

Harry remained frozen to the spot and shook his head violently. “It’ll burn.” The boy muttered.

Severus’ heart broke for the boy. He had obviously been through an immensely traumatic ordeal, which meant gaining his trust was going to be a difficult feat.

“The water won’t burn you, Harry. You can test the water first if you like.” Severus replied, swirling his hand around in the water, chasing the bubbles in an attempt to pique the child’s interest.

It seemed to do the trick as he heard the boy creeping towards him and standing beside him. Severus glanced up at him and nearly passed out from shock. When the boy turned to look at him, Severus couldn’t help but get lost in the depths of Harry’s emerald green eyes. They were exactly like his mother’s.

Snapping out of his stupor, he gently guided the boys hand towards the water, encouraging him to submerge his fingers in the bubbling pool.

“Is it too hot?” Severus asked, looking at the boy searchingly.

“No, warm. Smells nice.” Harry admitted, smiling up at Severus with wide eyes.

“Good. Alright, I will leave you to get in whilst I fetch you some clothes.” He stated, making his way for the door before he was stopped by a concerned sounding Harry.

“Sev’rus?” 

“Yes, Harry?”

“You come back?” The child asked worriedly, staring at him as if he were going off to war, not merely retrieving clean clothes from his bedroom.

“Of course. I will only be across the hall and I will be back in two minutes. Call me if you need me, alright?” He questioned, growing even more concerned for the child’s mental state, he was clearly uncertain about everything.

“Okay.” Harry whispered as Severus left the room, striding over to his bedroom to procure some pyjamas for the boy.

Making his way across the bedroom, Severus approached his chest of drawers and hastily rummaged through them for something suitable. Obviously none of his clothes would fit the boy and so he fished out a pair of his black and white plaid pyjamas and transfigured them into a smaller size, hoping that they would now fit the boy.

Swiftly walking down the hall, he was glad to see that Harry had undressed and had gotten himself into the tub, yet Severus was taken aback by how thin the boy was. He could see the outline of every rib and vertebrae protruding from the child’s chest and back. He also had several jagged scars decorating his back, which looked as though they had been inflicted by a belt or whip of some sort. Several bruises littered the boy’s upper body along with some burn marks that hadn’t faded and he was positively filthy. The once clear bath water turning an unpleasant murky brown. Severus was fuming and disgusted that anyone could treat an innocent boy so horribly. Steeling his senses, Severus shuffled into the room and couldn’t help but note Harry’s shocked expression.

“You came back…” Harry stated softly.

“Of course. I said I would didn’t I?”

“Yes, but most people lie to Harry.” The boy admitted, looking down at the water in shame.

“I stay true to my word, I can assure you.” Severus replied reassuringly.

Another smile up at him made Severus feel a bit more relaxed, the boy was warming to him. He knew that he would have to determine where Harry had come from eventually but he chose to take it one step at a time. He certainly didn’t want to fracture the newfound trust the boy had placed in him and didn’t want to traumatise him any further. 

Strolling back over to the vanity, Severus found a clean washcloth and some soap for Harry to use and walked back over to him, offering it to the boy so that he could wash up. Initially, Harry looked up at him is disbelief, as if he wasn’t used to being given anything, not even basic wash things.

“Thank you.” The boy whispered softly before beginning to scrub himself clean.

Severus felt mildly uncomfortable with the situation but he didn’t want to leave the anxious boy. Instead he just hummed and milled around, pretending to be organising his vanity whilst the boy finished up. Then he summoned some freshly laundered towels and held one up in front of the child. Harry seemed to get the idea and took the proffered towel, wrapping it tightly around his waist to protect his modesty. Severus’ eyes couldn’t help but glance at the bruises that stretched over the boy’s chest, ranging from dark purple to fading yellow. Harry had evidently been on the receiving end of numerous bouts of physical abuse and no doubt neglect and emotional abuse to boot. 

Offering his hand, Harry took it and he helped the still shaking boy safely out of the bathtub. Severus turned around for the other towel and leant forward to begin drying Harry’s hair when he flinched violently, throwing his hands up in front of his face in defence. Retracting his hands, Severus waited patiently for the boy to lower his arms before placing a comforting hand on his shoulder.

“As I said before, Harry, I’m not going to harm you. I want to help you. Do you understand?” He asked softly.

Again, Harry nodded and Severus was relieved when he let him assist in drying him before he handed the boy his nightclothes. 

“I will be waiting just outside the door, alright? Come out when you are ready.” Severus instructed, heading for the door when he felt a hand grasp his sleeve.

“No-no close door.” Harry stuttered nervously, looking up at Severus with pleading eyes.

He had no idea why, at the age of nine, the boy couldn’t form coherent sentences, yet he tried his best to ignore it for the time being. It was probably as a result of the abuse the child had suffered.

“Alright, I won’t close the door.” Severus assured him before stepping out into the hallway.

He stood there for a moment, resting his head against the wall and pinched the bridge of his nose. What on earth had he gotten himself into? On the other side of this door was a terrified young boy. None of it made any sense. Dumbledore had assured him that Harry had been growing up safely under the care of his aunt and uncle. Severus knew that Petunia was incapable of being affectionate to anyone, or anything for that matter, yet he didn’t think that would stop her spoiling the Potter brat. However, here he was, a broken little boy who looked terribly malnourished and frightened of every small noise and slight movement. 

Severus was plucked out of his musings when Harry exited the bathroom. Even though he had shrunk the garments they still drowned the boy, the sleeves of the arms a few inches too long and the excess fabric hanging off of his too-small frame. Without giving it a second thought, Severus crouched down and started rolling the boy’s sleeves up as well as turning up the bottom of his pyjama trousers so that Harry didn’t trip.

Making their way down the stairs, Harry still clutched onto his hand tightly as they walked into the kitchen. As with the rest of the house, the kitchen was very basic, consisting of a small row of countertops, a clinical white fridge, a compact oven with hob and a pewter sink. There wasn’t enough space in the house for a separate dining room. Instead, there was merely a two-seater dining table in the far corner of the room, positioned under the window which looked out onto the wild, neglected garden.

Settling Harry into a dining chair, Severus crouched down so that he was on the boy’s level. 

“Now, Harry, are you hungry? Would you like something to eat?”

The boy responded by nodding his head enthusiastically, as if Christmas had come early at the prospect of food. 

“Alright, I will just get you something, okay?” Severus said before spinning around and getting to work.

From the looks of it, the boy hadn’t eaten in a while, and so his stomach would have shrunk significantly. Therefore, Severus decided it was best to start with something plain yet wholesome to avoid any of the food he consumed making a reappearance. After a few moments considering what to give the boy, Severus decided on some buttered toast. Rolling his sleeves up, Severus searched his bare cupboards and popped two slices of sliced white bread into the toaster whilst he located a bread knife and a pack of butter from the fridge. Glancing back, he saw that Harry was still sitting silently and gazing wistfully out of the window. 

Severus jumped slightly as the toast popped out of the toaster. He placed it on a plate and spread a thin layer of butter on the toast’s surface before grabbing a glass and filling it with milk. 

Unfortunately as he placed the refreshments in front of Harry, Severus’ sleeves were still rolled up. Standing stark against the pale skin of his forearm was one of the biggest regrets of his life. Realising his mistake, Severus quickly yanked his shirt sleeve back down, but it was too late. Harry bolted from his seat at the dining room table and made a beeline for the door. Thanking his incredibly quick reflexes, Severus flicked his wand, effortlessly locking and heavily warding the door so that the boy couldn’t escape. After frantically attempting to open the door and deciding that it was hopeless, Harry dropped to the floor and scrambled over into the corner of the adjoining sitting room. The boy seemed to be trying desperately to get as far away from Severus as humanly possible. 

Treading carefully, Severus crept towards the trembling boy, who’s shoulders were now shaking and tears streaming down his face. As he moved closer, the walls of the house began to shudder and books were flying off of the bookshelves, circling the room like a hurricane. Severus had never witnessed such an intense bout of accidental magic in someone so young. Obviously the boy had immense power.

“Harry?” He called out softly. “Harry, please calm down for me.” Severus pleaded, remaining a few feet away from the boy, trying not to aggravate him further.

“Bad man!” Harry shouted, pointing at the mark that was forever branded on his skin and covering his ears, rocking restlessly back and forth.

Realisation hit Severus like a train. So the Death Eater’s had been searching for Harry. No wonder the boy was in such a state, even a fully grown adult would struggle to survive their cruel and brutal methods.

“Harry, please listen to me.” Severus continued. “It was a very long time ago, I was young and foolish. I left their group long ago, I promise you.”

“Harry trusted you!” Harry screamed back over the cacophony of items swirling above them.

“You can trust me, Harry. Please let me explain.” He implored.

“No, you hurt Harry!” 

“I will never hurt you, Harry. I made a promise to your mother.” Severus spat out before thinking about it.

Upon hearing that, the paraphernalia stopped spinning and merely hovered, frozen in the air above them. Severus took the opportunity to continue coaxing the boy out of his hiding place. 

“She was my best friend, Harry. You see, we grew up together, on this very street no less.” Severus explained, never taking his eyes off of the boy. “Lily was unbelievably kind, Harry. I know she loves you very much.”

“You knew Mummy?” Harry asked tentatively, looking up at the man for the first time since his episode.

“Yes, Harry.” Severus replied, slowing moving closer. “I loved your mother dearly, she was everything to me.” He admitted, trying to push back the tears that were threatening behind his eyes. ‘Since when did I grow soft?!’ He thought to himself. 

“Show Harry.” the boy stated plainly. 

“I’m sorry?” Severus asked in confusion. 

“Show Harry.” The child repeated, sitting cross legged on the floor as he gestured from his own head to Severus’, wiggling his fingers.

“Do you mean to tell me that you can perform Legilimency?” He asked, completely baffled at the prospect.

Harry’s eyes brightened and he nodded excitedly. Severus couldn’t believe it. Surely the boy couldn’t perform such an advanced branch of magic. Most competent witches and wizards couldn’t master it in their entire lifetime, let alone at the tender age of nine. 

“Alright, I’m ready when you are, Harry.” He challenged, sceptical as to whether the boy could actually perform the magic or was just bluffing. Therefore he was unbelievably surprised when the boy penetrated his mind with ease, and he began to send forward memories of Lily.

…Both he and Lily were playing in the park, swinging high on the swings and laughing together…

…Their excitement the moment they received their Hogwart’s letters…

…Both of them lounging under a willow tree as they completed their summer assignments…

…Lily reassuring a crying Severus when he had been branded with the Dark Mark…

Evidently Harry must have seen enough, as he retreated sharply from his mind, which caused a sudden wave of dizziness to hit Severus.

“You not bad man?” The boy asked hesitantly, pointing at him and eyeing him quizzically.

“No, I am not. I made a mistake. They lured me in and I realised my mistake when it was too late.”

Silence ensued for a few minutes before the boy admitted softly. “They tricked Harry too.”

“What did they do, Harry?” Severus asked sensitively, but the boy merely scrunched his eyes shut and shook his head adamantly. “Please, Harry. I would like to help you. I made a promise to your mother to protect you. I had thought you were living with your aunt and uncle all this time and so I didn’t think you were in danger. Please forgive me…” 

Harry glared at him curiously, looking dubious as to whether he should accept his apology. “It’s okay. Sev’rus no hurt Harry.” the boy stated, offering him a slight smile.

“Thank you, Harry. Would you like to come and eat now?”

Harry nodded enthusiastically and Severus extended his hand towards the boy and was surprised that he grasped it immediately. Carefully navigating their way through the detritus that now littered the floor, the pair made their way into the kitchen. Once Harry was sitting at the dining table once more, the child spoke again.

“Harry sorry. Harry fix.” The boy uttered before waving his hand in an arc motion.

To Severus’ amazement, everything in his living room was setting itself to rights. Severus stared up at the scene in awe as all of his things were returned to their original place. This young boy was extraordinary. Harry is able to perform such advanced magic, and cast it all without a wand and wordlessly. Talent like his was simply unheard of and it made Severus feel sick to his stomach, that must have been what had drawn the Death Eaters to Harry in the first place. The boy had pure, immeasurable power that most witches and wizards could only dream of.

————————————————————————————————————————

After the boy had finished gnawing on his toast, it was approaching eleven o’clock in the evening. At which point, Harry should certainly be in bed. Without Severus saying a word, Harry waddled into the hallway and inspected the staircase, a confused look marred the child’s face as he spun around.

“Where’s the cupboard?” The boy asked, pointing to the staircase and stroking his hand along the panelling as if a door would just appear out of thin air.

“There is no cupboard under the stairs. Why do you ask?” Severus questioned, completely baffled as to why the location of a cupboard was suddenly relevant.

“Where Harry s’posed to sleep?” The boy asked innocently.

“You will be sleeping in the guest room upstairs, if thats okay with you?” Severus added, confused by Harry’s intention of sleeping in a cupboard. The child must have really been through the mill.

“Okay.” Harry replied shyly as Severus led the boy up the stairs and into the guest bedroom.

As Severus never had anyone over to stay, the guest room was sparse to say the least. The walls were painted in plain duck egg and a few pieces of basic furniture were scattered about the room, including a large double bed with soft, feather down pillows and a quilted duvet. Harry seemed shocked at the size of the bed and the boy giggled as he threw himself onto it and snuggled up beneath the bundle of blankets. He couldn’t help but smile at the boy who looked so small and vulnerable amongst the covers, you could barely see him. Not really sure how to put a child to bed, Severus just turned on the lamp that was resting on the bedside table and perched on the edge of the bed next to Harry, who in turn was trying to stifle a yawn.

“Are you comfortable?” He queried and the boy nodded.“Good. Well, my room is just across the hall, if you need me just knock on the door and I will come to you. You know where the facilities are should you need them and do not hesitate to come and wake me at anytime if you need me, alright?”

“Yep. Thank you, Sev’rus.” Harry replied sincerely, finding his hand and giving it a light squeeze.

Severus felt his heart melt slightly as he stared into the boy’s wide green eyes, which were now sparkling. What in Merlin’s name had happened to him? He was Severus Snape, the ‘Dungeon Bat’, since when had he become a mollycoddling Hufflepuff?!

Severus nodded his head towards Harry and leant over to switch the lamp off when Harry stopped him by reaching his hand out.

“Could…could you leave the lamp on? D-don’t like the dark.” Harry stuttered, looking away sheepishly. 

“Of course, though I can provide you with a soft night light if you would prefer?” He asked, awaiting the boys response but still not making a move to turn the lamp off.

“Yes, please!” Harry exclaimed, looking up at Severus excitedly.

With a few waves of his wand, Severus conjured a ball of soft light, which changed colours intermittently. Harry grinned for ear to ear and it was the first time the boy had smiled properly and Severus couldn’t help but smile back at him. He wanted to make the child smile as often as he could.

After making sure Harry was settled, Severus turned to leave. He was just about to pull the door to when he was stopped in his tracks.

“Please don’t close the door!” Harry said desperately, sitting bolt up in bed and staring at him in undisguised horror. 

“Hush, child. I was going to leave it ajar but I can leave it fully open if you wish?” 

“Could you maybe close it halfway, please?” The boy asked hesitantly.

“Is this okay?” Severus queried, pulling the door closed slightly more, giving Harry privacy whilst still allowing him to see the hallway.

“Perfect, thanks.” The child said sleepily as he settled back underneath the covers.

“Alright. Goodnight, Harry.” He whispered, not expecting a reply he was surprised when he heard a muttered, ‘G’night, Sev’rus’ in response. 

Feeling slightly more relaxed now that the child was settled, Severus crept into his room, changed into his nightclothes and flopped onto the bed. The situation was only going to grow more complicated as time went on, he was sure the boy would have to see a therapist from the mere snippets he had captured from observing the boys movements. He has most certainly been abused for an extended amount of time and it is quite remarkable that the child hasn’t been driven insane. Severus knew that he was going to do everything in his power to help Harry, if not for the boy then for Lily. He just didn’t have the first clue how to provide for a child. It was unlikely he would be able to raise the boy himself, being an Ex-Death Eater turned spy and all, yet he was already starting to become attached. He certainly wasn’t going to allow any more harm to come to Harry Potter as long as he lived. 

Chapter Text

Severus almost fell out of bed when he awakened to a pained scream from across the hall. Leaping out of bed, several inconceivable scenarios were playing out in his mind.

Surely the Death Eaters hadn’t found Harry. No, that was ridiculous. For starters, they wouldn’t be able to breach his carefully constructed wards and certainly not without him knowing. 

Without any further ado, Severus dashed along the hallway and burst into the guest bedroom to see the boy writhing restlessly on the bed, throwing his limbs out in all directions. It was clear that Harry was having a particularly vivid nightmare, though he wasn’t sure how to go about waking him. He didn’t want to frighten the boy any further.

Creeping into the room, he called the boy’s name softly. As expected, there was no response and so he raised his voice and shouted, “Harry!”. 

Still, there was no comprehension and so he had to firmly shake the boy whose eyes immediately snapped open in pure terror. Harry scurried as far away from Severus as he could possibly get and crouched down in the far corner of the room. Approaching the boy carefully, Severus soon found himself way out of his depth. Harry had both of his hands covering his ears defensively and he was rocking back and forth whilst muttering under his breath. As he moved closer, Severus could just about make out what the boy was saying.

“Please, please don’t hurt me. I didn’t mean too. Please, please don’t hurt me.” The boy repeated frantically as he closed his eyes in an attempt to block out all sensation.

“Harry?” Severus called out again and Harry’s head shot up like a meerkat and he trembled as he tried to push himself even further into the corner.

“Harry, you had a nightmare. It wasn’t real, you are safe here.” Severus reassured the child.

The boy stubbornly shook his head, tears escaping and leaking down his cheeks. 

“I will n-never be s-safe. They always f-find me.” Harry stuttered before breaking down into choked sobs.

Unsure of what to do, Severus continued talking.

“I will not let anything happen to you, Harry. As long as I am here, you are perfectly safe, I assure you.”

As Severus continued to talk, it was clear that Harry wasn’t listening to a word he said as the boy continued to sob uncontrollably. Deciding it was better to try and calm the boy down before he made himself ill, Severus took the plunge and swiftly scooped Harry into his lap and wrapped his arms around the shaking boy. 

Unsurprisingly, Harry instantly resisted and kicked up merry hell. The boy began to scream and lash out, trying everything he could to escape Severus’ hold. Harry’s magic was now swirling around the room in full-force, yet Severus persevered and refused to let go of the boy in his arms. Not knowing what else to do, Severus continued to mutter soothing words into the child’s ear in the hope that he would eventually get through to him. 

After a painful twenty minutes, Harry seemed to decide that Severus wasn’t going to hurt him and, though the boy’s crying persisted, Harry’s magic ceased its destruction. Then, without so much as a warning, the boy in his arms whipped around and threw his arms around Severus’ neck and continued to sob into his shoulder. Not used to being embraced, Severus stiffened for a few seconds before wrapping his arms protectively around Harry, tracing soothing circles on the child’s back in an attempt to calm him.

“Alright, hush child. Try and breathe for me, it’s okay.”

Harry obviously wasn’t paying any attention as the child’s breathing became more and more laboured until he was practically hyperventilating. Severus didn’t have the first clue of what to do in this situation, how on earth did you encourage a child to breathe?

“Harry, breathe with me, okay?” He asked the trembling boy, who now gazed up at him in sheer panic. “Deep breath in…” Severus instructed “…and deep breath out.”

After a deluge of tears and what felt like hours of deep breathing later, he had finally managed to calm Harry down and fell into an exhausted sleep. However the boy was still clutching onto Severus for dear life. Severus’ legs were staring to cramp up from being on the floor for so long and he attempted to move himself into a more comfortable position. Harry’s grip became impossibly tighter and it took him a while to prise the boy’s fingers from his shirt so he could set him down onto the bed.

Once Harry was tucked under the covers, Severus waved his wand to put the room to rights and crept out of the room, making sure he left the boy’s bedroom door partially open. Heaving a heavy sigh, Severus turned around to check the clock on the wall, it was four-thirty in the morning. Deciding that he could still catch a couple hours of sleep, Severus trudged back to bed and cleared his mind to relax after the nights ordeal.

————————————————————————————————————————

It took a while for Severus to fall asleep again, therefore when his alarm sounded at six, it felt as though he only had his eyes closed for mere seconds. No matter how much he wanted to cocoon himself in his bedsheets like a caterpillar, Severus manoeuvred himself into a sitting position and stretched. He then took care of his morning ablutions before getting dressed, making his bed and heading down to the kitchen to prepare breakfast. 

Waltzing into the kitchen, Severus flicked his wand to open the blind and looked out to see that Jack Frost had been to visit overnight. Everything, down to each blade of grass was covered in ice crystals. Looking out at the scene made the chill in the room even more noticeable and Severus flourished his wand to set a fire blazing in the hearth. 

Before he could even contemplate doing anything else, Severus was in need of coffee. He made light work of it and, after a few wand movements, a steaming mug of black coffee rested on the worktop for him. Sipping tentatively, Severus found himself staring out of the window again whilst contemplating what he might give the boy for breakfast. Severus himself wasn’t very adventurous and tended to opt for a simple bowl of porridge or a slice of buttered toast. However, he wanted to give the boy something a bit more appealing, guessing that he was only offered cold helpings if anything at all. 

Opening the fridge, Severus sighed as he took in what he had lurking in the fridge. A half a block of cheese, a few eggs, a near-on empty tub of butter and a quart of milk which, after removing the lid was well past it’s best. He really needed to go grocery shopping, he had delayed it for as long as he could. 

Finally deciding on preparing scrambled eggs on toast for the boy, Severus set to work. Though he had access to magic, Severus often preferred to cook using muggle means. The process was, in a way, similar to potion making. Timing was crucial and there were certain ingredients that didn’t work together. Keeping an eye on the eggs, Severus crossed the kitchen and opened the cupboard to retrieve the bread. Mould was starting to speckle the outer crusts and so he just had to cut them off until he stocked up on groceries. Shoving the bread into the toaster, Severus continued to stir the eggs and the toast popped out of the toaster just in time to prevent the eggs from burning. Chucking the toast on to a plate, Severus added a thin layer of butter to the toast before dolloping the eggs on top. Cleaning up with a wave of his wand, Severus placed Harry’s breakfast under a warming charm until he awakened and started on his own breakfast. Seeing as the bread was already out, Severus decided to have buttered toast and, within minutes, was sitting down at the table, gnawing on his toast and reading the Daily Prophet. 

As time went on, Severus began to wonder where the boy was. It was approaching nine o’clock in the morning and Severus doubted that the boy would have slept in this long. Figuring he should check on the boy, Severus rose from the table and made his way to the guest bedroom. 

The door was in the exact same position he had left it in last night, however light now flooded the hallway, meaning that the boy had opened the curtains. Definitely awake then. 

Lightly knocking on the door and receiving no response, Severus cautiously pushed the door open and was met with a sight he certainly didn’t expect. The bed was made and said boy was standing erect with terror in the corner of the room, his head bent and refusing to make eye contact with him. 

“What’s wrong, Harry?” Severus asked out of concern, seeing as the boy hadn’t moved an inch since he had entered. 

The boy muttered something incomprehensible and Severus leant forward so that he could hear it again. 

“I’m awaiting my punishment, Sir.” The boy mumbled, still not daring to look up from the floor. 

Severus was beyond confused. “What in Merlin’s name would I punish you for?”

“For w-waking you up in the night, S-Sir.” Harry stuttered and Severus sighed heavily. 

Making his way over towards the boy, Harry flinched violently as Severus crouched down to the same level. The child really was small for his age.

“Harry, I am not going to punish you for having a nightmare. It was beyond your control, do you understand?”

The boy didn’t look overly convinced, however he nodded tentatively and Severus resumed his upright position. 

“Alright, your breakfast is waiting for you.” Severus stated, holding out his hand to Harry. 

For a brief moment, the boy looked confused but it was gone in an instant and he took Severus’ proffered hand. 

Sitting back down at the dining room table, with the boy in tow, Severus watched as Harry picked at his breakfast and avoided his gaze. The child was restlessly fidgeting and it was driving Severus nuts. This was definitely going to be more difficult than he first thought.