Draco sat stiffly at the table as they ate lunch. He was pushing his food around his plate, not eating, and he could feel Severus's eyes on him. For some reason, his father's voice had been echoing in his head all day. All he could hear as he sat before his plate was you don't deserve to eat, Draco. Maybe if you don't eat you'll waste away and die slowly like you deserve. Draco shuddered, his mutilated hand shaking violently.
"Draco," Severus said. His eyes darted up to his godfather nervously. "Why aren't you eating?"
He shrugged. "Not hungry."
"You're malnourished. You need to eat three full meals a day to put the weight back on. You too, Harry." He had noticed that Harry had only eaten a few bites as well. The Gryffindor merely glanced up before looking back down at his plate. His eyes were red and puffed up. Draco wondered what had happened after the wards went off- they had both disappeared for hours.
He rolled his eyes and took a bite of his food.
"Don't roll your eyes at me. You're underweight and you need to eat."
"I know," he said, annoyed now. His thoughts were still caught up with his father, and self loathing was taking over his mind. He really didn't deserve to eat. He set his fork down.
"For Merlin's sake," he snapped. "I'm not a child that you need to babysit."
"You're not leaving this table until you eat at least half of your food," Severus said, his voice stern, as it was when he was teaching.
Draco stood. "Watch me," he said, and strode from the room, hearing Harry mutter "Slytherins" behind him.
He ended up sitting on the stairs to the second floor, head in his hands. He felt guilty for how he had acted, but was more concerned with reigning in his thoughts. He still felt like his father was breathing down his neck. He knew Severus would follow him, but still started when he heard him call his name.
"I'm sorry, Sev," he apologized immediately. "You've been so generous, and I know you're just looking out for us, and I was rude."
"All is forgiven," he said, pulling Draco to his feet. "I'll give you a nutrient potion."
It wasn't until Draco plugged his nose and choked down the potion in Severus's lab that his mind really collapsed.
He was back in the dungeons. Someone held a potion to his mouth and ordered him to drink it. His body was weak and aching, and his head lolled to the side and away from the vial. The man who was holding him in a sitting position kicked him in the back, making a groan escape from his lips, and as his mouth opened they poured the vial into his mouth, plugging his nose so that he would have to swallow it. It took only seconds for the potion to take effect, and he lost control of his body, sagging onto the dungeon floor. Every sense was heightened, and the sound of footsteps was like thunder in his ears as they blindfolded him, strapping him to something metal that was freezing to his skin. He waited there for a few moments, terrified and unable to move, before an electric shock ripped through his body. He screamed. His throat was raw from all the screaming he had been doing for the past two weeks. There was another shock, longer this time, and he screamed again, his breaths coming out in sobs. He wanted to be able to speak, to plead with his captors even though he knew it would do nothing, but he still couldn't move a muscle. The electricity tore through his body again, and as he screamed he could hear the two men laughing.
He became aware that his entire body was trembling, and he heard a crash as the vial slipped out of his hand and shattered on the floor. "Draco?" Severus's face swam in front of him. "I think you should sit down." He pulled out a chair for him and Draco collapsed in it, rubbing his face with his shaking hands. He was breathing too quickly, but he barely noticed.
It took only seconds for the potion to take effect, and he lost control of his body, sagging onto the dungeon floor. Every sense was heightened, and the sound of footsteps was like thunder in his ears as they blindfolded him, strapping him to something metal that was freezing to his skin. He waited there for a few moments, terrified and unable to move, before an electric shock ripped through his body. He screamed. His throat was raw from all the screaming he had been doing for the past two weeks.
There was another shock, longer this time, and he screamed again, his breaths coming out in sobs. He wanted to be able to speak, to plead with his captors even though he knew it would do nothing, but he still couldn't move a muscle. The electricity tore through his body again, and as he screamed he could hear the two men laughing.
"Draco, you're having a panic attack. I want you to breathe with me." He took an exaggerated breath in and then blew it out. "Can you do that?" Draco shook his head rapidly. His skin was tingling as if the electricity was still coursing through his body, and his fingernails were digging painfully into his palms. He saw Severus stand and walk across the room. He came back with a sponge, which he handed to Draco as he sat down next to him. "Here, squeeze this." The professor pried open Draco's left hand and put the sponge in it. He squeezed it as hard as he could, his jaw clenched in fear.
"I know you feel like you're still there, but you're safe here. They can't hurt you anymore," Severus said. He held both of Draco's forearms, forcing the boy to look at him. "Breathe." He took another exaggerated breath, and this time Draco tried to copy him. One after another, each breath calmed him down a fraction more. Eventually the tension bled out of his body, and he found himself still gripped by Severus's hands, staring at the shattered glass on the floor.
"I'm sorry about the vial," he whispered. He slid an arm out of his godfather's gentle grip and directed his wand at the mess. "Reparo," he ordered, but his voice shook, and the glass stayed where it was.
"Don't worry about it," Severus said, and cast the spell himself. He turned back to Draco, who avoided his eyes. "Did you have a flashback?" Draco nodded almost imperceptibly.
"It might help to talk about it," Severus prodded.
Draco stared at the ground. Weak, his father would say. Don't rely on anyone else. Draco pushed away the voice and spoke. "The third week… they started electrocuting me." Though he was still not meeting his godfather's eyes, he could still see his pained expression in his peripheral vision. "They would force me to drink this potion that made me lose control of my entire body, so I couldn't move or fight. They strapped me to something metal, and I couldn't see anything, so I would just wait helplessly for the pain. I couldn't do anything, and I couldn't escape it." His voice was close to a whimper at this point. "Then they would leave, and I would be so relieved, but I would hear them do the same thing to Harry, and I would have to listen to his screams for hours. And I would feel horrible, but I was just glad it wasn't me." He paused. "I'm a terrible person."
Severus shook his head, and Draco finally looked at him. "You were in so much pain, and you were relieved when you weren't experiencing it anymore. That does not make you a bad person. The people who did that to you are bad people."
"I guess," Draco whispered.
"Draco, I want you to repeat after me- 'I am not a bad person.'"
Draco hesitated for a few moments before repeating his words. "I am not a bad person."
"Good," Severus said. "How are you feeling now?"
"A bit better," Draco replied. "But still horrible."
Severus gave him a tight-lipped smile and took his hand, squeezing it gently. "Let's find Harry and have some tea. I have something to discuss with the both of you."
Ron's death is my fault. Everything is my fault.
I miss you. We should have coffee some time.
I'm sorry about Ron. I should have died instead of him. If I could exchange his life for mine I would do it in a heartbeat.
I'm sorry for the way that I reacted in the hospital, and I'm sorry about Ron-
"Harry?" Snape's voice cut through his reverie. He had been sitting at the dining room table with Tiddles for nearly an hour, penning a letter to Ginny. There were a dozen crumpled parchments surrounding his spot at the table, and he could see Snape's furrowed eyebrows as he took in the scene. He quickly piled the parchments together and banished them.
"Sorry," he said softly.
"You should stop apologizing when you've done nothing wrong," Snape responded. "Draco and I are having tea in the library, and we were hoping you'd join us."
Harry nodded. "Okay." He followed Snape into the library, where there were three mugs of tea on the center table. He took one and sat down next to Draco on the couch. Snape took the armchair. They sat in silence for a few minutes, sipping their tea, before Snape set down his mug and spoke.
"Harry. Draco. I've asked you here to have a conversation that I've been putting off for many days now. It has to do with your guardianship."
Harry immediately set down his cup with a clang. This was it. They were going to send him back to the Dursleys, and things would go back to the way they had been, or worse. Could things get worse than they already had been?
"Harry, let me finish before you panic. The issue of guardianship for both of you is an issue that Albus took upon himself to settle. Obviously, Harry, you will not be returning to your relatives' home, and Draco, you will not be returning to your mother and father." Both boys relaxed a bit, but Harry was still anxious- if not the Dursleys, then who?"
"As of right now," Snape continued, "I am your legal guardian." Harry's jaw dropped. "I am… willing to continue this role until both of you are of age. In fact, I would like to. Unless, of course, you wish to be placed with a different wizarding family until that point." He spoke in a rush, as if he wanted to get the words out before he changed his mind.
If it was even possible, his mouth fell open even further. Snape was willing to be his legal guardian until he was seventeen. He wanted to be. He looked over at Draco, who was smiling. "Really?" the Slytherin asked.
"Yes," Snape said. He looked uncomfortable, as if he was afraid of rejection.
"I'm in," Draco said, still smiling broadly. He wasn't used to anybody wanting him. Snape inclined his head, and both of them turned their eyes to Harry, who shifted uncomfortably under their gaze.
On one hand, he was absolutely terrified that Snape and Draco were just pretending to not despise him, and one day they would both revert to their old ways of hating and bullying him. On the other hand, he wasn't used to any adult caring for him the way that Snape had in the time he had been with him, and Draco had been a friend to him after losing Hermione and Ron.
He looked up at their faces. Both seemed hopeful and sincere. He picked up his mug again, staring into the tea, and said, "okay." When he glanced up again, Snape was grinning. That's a rare sight, Harry thought, the dungeon bat is smiling. But he couldn't help the slow smile that came across his own face. He would never have to go back to the Dursleys. He could stay here.
He was going to be okay.
AN: And… I think I'm gonna stop there. Thanks to everyone who has read this fic, I hope you enjoyed. I know it's not a very satisfying ending, but I've been writing it for so long that I'm just relieved to be done.
As some of you know, I've struggled with many of the issues that are featured in this story. All I want to say to you is that if you are dealing with these things as well, recovery is possible. Build yourself a life that is worth living. I love you all, and best wishes. Thank you.