When Snape woke his face was damp with tears and it took him a few minutes to realize where - and more importantly, when - he was. The dream was part nightmare and part vivid memory, one he hadn't revisited so dramatically since the War. He supposed it was all the talk of Draco's heirship over dinner and the mock threats of disinheritance that had sparked it.
In the summer of Draco's fifteenth year, Draco had appeared at the gate of the Green shortly after 3 a.m. in the pouring rain. The holidays had just started, and Snape was back at the estate only because Semotus was away for the week. The house elves had woken Snape from a sound sleep, saying that Master Draco was at the gate. And he knew it must be bad, for Draco to appear at the gate of the Green so late, alone.
He shoved his feet into boots without socks and grabbed a dressing gown without pausing, wrapping it around himself as he dashed down the stairs and called the carriage to fetch Draco. He ran it so hard he thought the wheels might fall off, but in a few minutes he was at the gate.
There stood Draco in a heavy gray winter cloak with the hood up, soaking wet, having evidently cast no spells to repel the rain or warm or dry himself, though his knuckles were white with gripping his wand. Snape cast Prohibeo Pluvia and Lumos and opened his mouth to berate Draco for his foolishness as he approached. But then he saw the streaks of red running off Draco's cloak into a pool of pinkish rainwater around his feet, and he shut his mouth before his gasp of horror could escape. He wasn't sure if it was Draco's blood or someone else's (don't think, don't think whose blood it could be), but neither option was encouraging. He opened the gate, guided Draco to the shelter spell, helped him into the carriage. Once they were inside and on their way to the house, he cast Exaresco. But Draco remained dry for only a moment, as the back of his cloak became moist almost at once, thick red streaks appearing and spreading at an alarming rate. Draco's own blood, then, damn Lucius to hell; Snape began trying to catalogue the healing potions available at the Green, but his work rooms were at the cottage and the school. The resources he had at the estate were frighteningly limited. He put an arm around the boy and pulled him in close to try to warm him. Draco winced as he moved, and shivered miserably, but was silent.
"How bad is it?" Snape asked in a low voice.
"Not good." Draco's voice barely rose above a whisper. "Bastard used a scourge on me, metal tips. And enchanted the wounds; healing spell ripped them open instead of closing them."
"Fuck. Draco, this is serious. We can't treat this here. You have to go to St. Mungo's."
"No, no," he gasped. "Can't. You know. Better off bleeding to death." His eyes were huge with fear of his father's retribution, and Snape was torn. He knew the boy was right; Lucius would retaliate if this abuse came to light. But Snape feared these injuries were beyond his very basic medical skills. He'd do what he could, but if things got too dicey he'd have to take the boy to hospital and find a way of protecting him later.
The back of Draco's cloak was getting stickier all the time. Snape helped him into the house and up to the master bathroom where there'd be room to work.
"Is it just your back?"
Draco nodded. Snape gently removed the wand from the boy's grasp and pocketed it, then took out his own. He removed Draco's cloak and shirt instantly, thinking that it would be less painful to have the garments suddenly gone than to try to peel them off. Draco still gasped and swayed on his feet.
He was a mess. The scourge had ripped huge strips of skin from his shoulders and back - deep, deep gouges. Draco didn't have much in the way of extra flesh, so the wounds were going very close to the bone, especially over the shoulder blades. And spelled so they wouldn't heal with magic. By Lucius. Lucius. Snape swallowed and told himself sternly that he wasn't going to vomit in front of the boy.
He took Draco's elbow carefully and lowered him onto the thick rug in front of the bathtub. "Lay on your stomach," he said. "I've got to get supplies to clean you up."
"I'll bleed on the rug," Draco murmured.
Snape rolled his eyes, though the boy couldn't see him. "You can buy me a new one, imbecile. Don't die while I'm gone."
"Trying." His voice sounded very faint. Probably on the verge of passing out from blood loss. It was a wonder he'd stayed awake as long as he had. Snape would have to hurry.
He dashed off toward the library, but had to make a side trip to one of the guest bathrooms to empty his stomach of his dinner. He rinsed out his mouth as quickly as he could and continued on. Fortunately his father's shelves were very well organized and he found what he needed immediately, Medical Emergencies and the Dark Arts, which included an extensive chapter on healing injuries that had been enchanted against magical medicine. Then to his father's potions stores to see what good he could do.
He found the standard household potions in the cabinet in his father's study. He loaded up the pockets of his dressing gown: Pepper-Up, an anti-infective, some fairly strong pain-killers (though nothing as good as what he had in his workrooms), and thank every god, a resanguinary potion. Now that was a bit beyond the standard fare, unless your household was up to its eyeballs in the Dark Arts. Snape had never been so happy for his family's unsavoury history. Unfortunately, there wasn't much of the precious elixir left, perhaps a dose and a half. He could only hope it would do until he could get to his workrooms for more.
He called for Lumilla, and asked her to bring a clean white sheet then returned to the master bath. He found a tableau in monochrome with red accents - white tile and rug, Draco's chalk-white skin, his black trousers, red tentacles of blood running off his back and pooling onto the rug beneath him.
He leaned down and touched Draco's hair gently, and Draco's eyes fluttered open. "Still alive," he whispered.
"Ten points to Slytherin for a stubborn refusal to bleed to death. Here, I'm going to roll you over on your side as much as I can." He did so, pulled out the resanguinary potion and carefully lifted Draco's head up enough to get the potion down him. "What are the active ingredients in a resanguinary potion, Mr. Malfoy?" He asked as he poured half the potion down the boy's throat.
Draco swallowed and answered weakly, "Five drops of Gryphon's blood, three strands of unicorn hair and two drops of phoenix tears." His colour began to look better at once, though the rate of bleeding picked up as well.
"Excellent. Another ten points for keeping your wits about you while refusing to bleed to death." He pulled out the anti-infective. "And the standard potion against infection?"
Again he poured and again the boy swallowed. "Powdered cat's claws, coneflower, shredded skin of salamander, capsicum and hydrastis canadersis."
"In what base?"
"Denatured eagle feather infusion. Typically." His voice sounded a little stronger, and Snape felt his panic slowing just a little.
"Very good. Now this is a pain-killer, not as strong as you require, unfortunately, but it's all I've got to hand. Hopefully you're going to be too stoned after you drink this to answer any more questions." He poured half the bottle into Draco's mouth, who gulped it gratefully, and then rolled the boy back over onto his stomach to see what he could do about the wounds. Draco groaned as he moved him but didn't otherwise complain.
Snape opened Medical Emergencies and the Dark Arts and found the relevant chapter. What it described were essentially Muggle medical techniques, enhanced where possible with magic done to the ingredients rather than on the patient directly. For bleeding wounds it recommended cleaning the area and then stitching the skin closed with needle and thread. Barbaric, but Snape didn't have any better ideas. Lumilla appeared then with the sheet and a stack of soft flannels. She didn't say anything, but set the things on the bathroom counter and began running water in the tub. She dipped one of the flannels in the water and handed it to Snape who began washing the wounds as gently as he could. As the flannel became fouled, he handed it to Lumilla who gave him a fresh one and rinsed the dirty one out. The worked for quite a while like that, passing cloths between them, the only noise in the room the running water and Draco's quiet hisses and moans. Finally the still-bleeding wounds looked as clean as they were going to be, and Snape turned his attention to the task of closing them up.
The book suggested using black silk thread and a curved needle, which Snape conjured along with a pair of scissors to cut the thread. He leaned down and whispered in Draco's ear, "I've got to close these up by hand, with stitching. It's going to hurt. I'll try to work quickly." Draco didn't open his eyes, but nodded.
The book said to make the stitches small and close together, so that's what he did, conjuring more thread as he needed it. He sutured all the smaller cuts, but the bigger ones were so gaping that there wasn't enough skin left to stitch closed. In that case, the book suggested a technique called "skin grafting" where extra epidermis was sewn over the wounds to close them up. It recommended conjuring strips of skin identical to that of the victim, if possible, but that was an extremely advanced magical process and Snape had never been that good with a wand, not for anything other than hexes. He decided to try transfiguring some of his own skin to match Draco's, which was easier than conjuring living tissue outright.
He explained the process to Draco. "I wish you could do this yourself, you annoying creature," he muttered.
"Always better at wand work than you," he answered sleepily.
"True. You'd better hope I'm good enough." He conjured a sharp knife and took the skin from the inside of his arms. Lumilla assisted. He healed each neat, square furrow as he went, and touched Draco's skin gently with his fingers as he made the transfiguration to match. Then he stitched the grafts into place. Draco was silent, having finally passed out. When Snape was finished, he cleaned around the stitches, now only seeping blood, and Lumilla made bandages from the sheet and they lifted Draco carefully to wrap them around his torso and tie them in place.
His eyes struggled open, dull gray in a face gone once again too white. "Are you starting soon?"
Snape quirked a brow. "We're done. Take the rest of the resanguinary." He helped Draco swallow it down, and the boy's colour perked up again.
"Tired, Sev," he murmured. "Wake me before class. Don't eat the last cake, 'kay?" He slipped back into unconsciousness, but his breathing was even, and when Snape checked his pulse, it wasn't as strong as he'd like, but it was strong enough. He released the breath he felt like he'd been holding for the last half-hour at least. The boy would be all right.
He used Mobilicorpus to get Draco down the hall to the guest room next to his own, stripped the boy down to his underwear, and tucked him into bed, setting his wand on the nightstand. Then Snape changed out of his dressing gown, threw on some clothes and headed to the cottage to pick up more potions. He placed Lumilla on sentry duty, with strict instructions to come get him if Draco's condition changed at all.
It took him about forty-five minutes to get to the front gate, Apparate to the cottage, get all the things he wanted packed and Disapparate back to the Green. He had a bag stuffed full of potions and creams, supplies to put St. Mungo's to shame. Lumilla reported that Draco hadn't moved at all, curtsied and disappeared. He poured a bit more resanguinary potion down Draco's throat, which the boy swallowed without really waking up, and then Snape settled into a chair to wait.
When he opened his eyes, sunlight was pouring in through the windows. Draco was lying on his stomach in the bed. His eyes were open, bloodshot and red-rimmed but focused, and his colour looked good.
"I'm sorry. I know Semotus won't be happy to have me here."
Snape shrugged. "Semotus is in France, having recovered from his mysterious and supposedly terminal illness just enough to travel. No doubt he'll be ill again when it suits him. But I don't expect him back here for at least a week, at which point I will be retreating to my cottage."
"Paternal difficulties," the boy said with a pale shadow of his usual cheeky grin. "I know how that is."
"Would you like to tell me what happened?"
He grimaced. "Do I have a choice?"
"No. What happened?"
"One of Lucius' patented late-night rages. Too many Dark hexes or too many drinks or too much of something, you'd know better than I. He decided my school marks were unacceptable. I should have been top of my year in every subject, not a mere three of seven. The Granger bitch fucks me over again." He waved a hand as well as he could from his awkward position. "No, I take it back. It's no one's fault but Lucius'. Anyway, that was the excuse for the scourging. I think the spelling of the wounds was for my backchat."
"Draco, you know better."
"Fuck him, Sev. He's always going on about Malfoy Pride. Well, a Malfoy crawls before no one, not the Head of Family, not a twisted up Boggart of a Dark Lord. He can beat me until he kills me, and perhaps he shall one day, but he cannot make me grovel."
"You'd be surprised what the proper leverage can make you do," Snape answered.
Draco's eyes were shadowed with fear, but his face stayed set in defiance. "He said he'd remove the spell and heal me if I would beg his forgiveness."
"And you ran instead."
He tilted his chin rebelliously, but said nothing.
"How did you even make it all the way here?"
"I had some resanguinary potion and a stimulant in my private cache. But I stole the Gryphon's blood from Lucius' stockpiles and I think it was too old. My potion didn't work as well as yours."
"You could have died. You very nearly did. If it had been anyone but me you'd run to, you surely would have."
More stony, adolescent silence.
"Draco, this teenage rebellion does you no good. If you're not willing to report him -"
"Useless. He owns the Ministry and you know it. I'd suffer a tragic accident within a year and he'd only be pushed to find a way to generate another heir."
"Then you must learn to choose your battles wisely and bend your knee to him, for show at least. Make use of your Slytherin cunning, for fuck's sake! All this idiotic posturing is worthy only of a Gryffindor."
The boy made no reply, but looked thoughtful. "It's going to scar, isn't it?" he asked after a while.
"Such vanity," Snape laughed. Though in one so beautiful he could almost excuse it. It would be a shame to mar such radiant skin. Skin as beautiful as his father's. "Once it's healed, there is a cream you can use to eliminate the scars."
He looked relieved. "It's not the ugliness so much, really, it's just . . ."
The humiliation. The lifelong reminder that his father had almost killed him. The indignity of being marked like some sort of slave or animal. Snape understood.
"Sev, don't get involved in this any further than you have. You can't protect me from him any more than you do already."
"Our relationship is none of your concern. I do what I can for you, Draco, poor as that may be. I couldn't live with myself if I did anything less."
The boy sighed. "I never wanted you to move out, you know. If you stop seeing him altogether, it's not going to change anything. It will only make him cranky."
"How can I even look at him knowing that he's nearly killed you? It took me months after that first time to look him in the face, and a year nearly before he could seduce me back to his bed, even on an intermittent basis. I'm disgusted with myself that I've kept dallying with him at all."
"He's persuasive when he wants to be. The more you're around, the better. I'm glad when you're there."
What a fucked up life his poor godson had. He shouldn't even know about such things at his age, about the compromises of adult relationships, about how often people did things for which they hated themselves. Snape couldn't blame Draco for being selfish and wanting an ally around, regardless of the cost. And Snape swallowed compromises on a daily basis but this was one too many. It wasn't going down.
"You'll stay here for a week at least. Perhaps I can persuade him to remove the spell when he's regained his senses, and then we can heal the wounds magically. I'll owl him to let him know you're here and alive. I'm sure he's worried, actually, though he'd never admit it."
Draco closed his eyes, evidently knowing when Snape would not be moved.
"Are you in pain?"
Draco smiled wanly. "Truthfully? It's horrible."
Snape reached into his bag and found one of the stronger pain-killers. He helped Draco sit up just enough to drink it. "This should help. I have another two or three that are stronger still, but I'd rather use the lowest effective dosage. If you're still in pain in an hour or so, we'll try something stronger."
"Thanks. Really, Sev. Thank you."
He ran a hand over Draco's hair. "You're a tremendous pest, but I've grown used to you. Sleep. Ring for the elves and they can get me if you need anything."
The boy nodded and closed his eyes.
When Snape went to check on him a few hours later, followed by Lumilla bearing soup, Draco was still sleeping, but he woke as Snape came around the side of the bed. Lumilla left the soup on the table and discreetly vanished.
"How are you?"
"Better. Stoned out of my mind. I think that one is quite strong enough, thanks." He giggled and closed his eyes.
Snape fought the urge to smile, and pulled a square of parchment out of his pocket. "I should probably wait until you're more lucid, but I'll show this to you now, and I can always show you again later." The boy's eyes opened, his rampant curiosity getting the better of him, even in his drugged state. Snape unfolded the parchment and handed it to him. "I've had my solicitor come by to draft my will. I've named you my official heir. If Lucius ever disowns you, you may draw upon the resources of House Snape. It's a poor substitute for stopping all of this, and you won't even be the Snape Heir until Semotus dies, if he ever does, but I thought it might give you some small peace of mind at least."
Draco's face was radiant, but he was evidently struck dumb.
"I'm proud to have you as my heir, Draco." Semotus would likely have some choice words about it, but everyone had the right to choose their own heir; there wasn't a damn thing the old man would be able to do about it.
Draco held out his hand and Snape took it, then kissed the boy's forehead. "This is . . . " the boy croaked, then cleared his throat. "I will do my best to do honour to the House of Snape."
"I know you will. Now go back to sleep."
"Yes, Dad," he giggled and closed his eyes, the piece of parchment still clutched tightly in his fist. Snape let him keep it.
Snape went to see Lucius the next morning and found him drawn, disheveled and pale. Snape said one word, "Why?"
And Lucius shrugged and looked mildly ashamed. "Too much cocaine, too much brandy, too much Dark Magic. Take your pick." It took every ounce of Snape's will not to draw his wand and hurl every hex he knew. (And years later, when Snape related this response to Draco after the boy had taken too much cocaine himself and done things he was ashamed of, Draco had run to the nearest toilet to be violently ill.)
Lucius agreed to come remove the spell and to allow Draco to spend the rest of the week at the Green recovering. He didn't apologize, and he swept out of the room as soon as the last syllable of Finite Incantatem was out of his mouth. Snape didn't waste his breath with a reprimand, and refused to speak to him about anything other than Draco and Death Eater business. They never slept together again, though Lucius frequently made overtures at Death Eater gatherings and social functions.
The episode taught Draco something about stealth. He took Snape's advice to heart and began doing a much better job of pretending a submission that grated on his nerves but served him. It would serve him even better after the visions started, and then the War. That summer was Draco's first serious tuition in bone-deep subterfuge.
In August, Narcissa received an inheritance from the Fornet side of the family, about 50,000 Galleons. She transferred it directly to Draco without telling Lucius, and Draco asked Snape to help him invest it. It gave him another little measure of insurance, that if things became unbearable he had a way of surviving on his own. He told Snape that his two mottos were, "Slytherin Not Gryffindor," and "Three More Years."
Of course, once the visions started, he realized that he wouldn't be granted his freedom in three years, that in fact he was likely to die before he ever reached his majority. And once he was out of Snape's reach and protection, in the belly of the beast and using everything he learned in his fifteenth year to try to bring his father down, Snape began having dreams about him, about failing him.
One was a version of that rainy June night, where Snape couldn't stitch the wounds shut. The blood just kept welling up through the sutures, pouring out of him. Draco laid on the floor of the bathroom, staining all the white red with his blood, an accusation, a plea in his eyes. Help me, those betrayed child's eyes begged, and Snape tried and tried to no avail.
The first three months after the Final Assault were one long, horrific version of that dream, trying hopelessly to save Draco when everyone said it couldn't be done, that it was kinder to let him go. And then the boy's fucking dreams had started again after that, and Snape was waiting every day for the shoe to drop, still struggling with all his strength to prevent the inevitable, because he didn't know how to do anything else.
Snape wiped his face with his nightshirt sleeve, and laid back down. After a few moments, he sat up again and got out of bed. He put his dressing gown on and headed downstairs to read a Potions journal and wait for Draco's morning letter. By the time the sun came up, reality would sink in, that Draco was safe. He had been rescued from his fate by The Lion of Gryffindor. He was alive and successful and in love and having the time of his life. And until dawn, Snape would just have to take it on faith.