AN: Another chapter already! I couldn't possibly be trying to make up for the cliffhanger lol. Enjoy :)

Chapter 51

By the time that Severus and Harry had sat down for breakfast the next morning, Severus was still trying to come up with the words to tell Harry about the letter. He had all but decided to bite the bullet as they say and just spit it out. But he hardly thought that announcing it with no warning over their morning toast and eggs was the proper way to deliver such news.

Then, just as he was finishing his coffee, there was a knock on his door, further delaying the news.

Harry looked behind him towards the kitchen door, as if that alone would tell him who was visiting them at this hour of the morning. Severus gave a sigh and dropped his napkin onto the table before standing up.

When he opened the door, Severus was surprised to find Professor Flitwick on the other side. Though before he could even say good morning, Flitwick bustled into the parlor.

"I'm sorry to disturb your breakfast, Severus, but I really need to discuss something with you and it's rather important."

Severus nodded, sensing the urgency in the older man. "Of course."

He went back to the doorway of the kitchen but only stuck his head inside. "Harry, Professor Flitwick and I will be in my lab if you need me."

"Sure," Harry said around a mouthful of toast.

"Don't talk with food in your mouth."

Harry rolled his eyes but said nothing as Severus disappeared back into the parlor.

Severus led Flitwick down the hallway to his lab and then took a seat behind his desk, motioning for Flitwick to have a seat as well.

Flitwick took a seat with a sigh.

"I wanted to speak with you about this on Friday, Severus, but I got caught up with helping a student with their charms essay and unfortunately it slipped my mind. Then you were out of the castle yesterday."

"Quite alright," Severus assured him, though he was rather hoping that Flitwick would just get on with whatever it was he had to say.

"On Friday afternoon, I was headed to the Great Hall when I noticed a group of students in the hallway. They each had their wands raised and I overheard Fred Weasley threatening to hex Allen Daley."

"Then why, may I ask, aren't you telling this to Minerva?" Severus asked with a frown.

"Because it appeared that Mr. Weasley, and most of the others in the group, were trying to protect someone else: Mr. Malfoy. He was pressed against the wall, while Daley, Marcus Flint, and Roderick Kingsbury all stood surrounding him. I missed the beginning I'm afraid, but I couldn't shake the feeling that they were harassing Malfoy and that the Weasley children, Harry, Ms. Granger, Mr. Finnigan, Mr. Thomas, and the Greengrass sisters were simply trying to step in to help. I did take points from all of them but I felt like you should know. I don't know about the other teachers, and I certainly can't speak for him outside of my classroom, but I've noticed a change in Mr. Malfoy." Flitwick seemed uncertain as he said this, but he pressed on anyway. "He always sits alone in my class now and doesn't speak unless spoken to. His Charms grade has also been falling slightly over the last few weeks."

Severus nodded. "Thank you for letting me know. I have also noticed a change in Draco, but he insists that everything is fine."

Severus sighed as he stood up and paced the length of his lab once before speaking again. "I do know that he has received at least one letter from his father expressing his displeasure in Draco's choice of friends as of late. I'm sure that's really come as no surprise. And I had been wondering how he was getting along with his Housemates lately. I suppose I should try to have another word with him. Maybe he will open up about whatever it is."

"I think that is wise," Flitwick agreed. "In any case, I wanted to make you aware of what I had witnessed. You'll let me know if there is anything I can do to help?"

"Of course," Severus replied. "And thank you for bringing this to my attention. I will be speaking to Draco immediately, and if need be, I'll have a meeting with my entire House to get to the bottom of this."


After Severus saw Flitwick out, he returned to the kitchen with Harry.

"Professor Flitwick tells me that he saw you and some other students in the hallway Friday and that he took points away when he overheard Fred Weasley threatening to hex another student."

Harry's eyes narrowed and he put his fork back on his plate. "Fred only threatened him because that twit Daley almost hexed me! And it was all stupid anyway because we were only there in the first place because Marcus Flint and the other two had Draco cornered and were threatening to curse him."

"There's no need to get so upset, Harry. Professor Flitwick thought that might be the case and that is why he came to see me this morning. He wanted to make me aware of what he thought was going on so that I could get to the bottom of it."

"Oh," Harry said quietly. "Alright then. You should."

"And I will. I'm planning to talk to Draco, but I wondered if you could tell me what you know about what happened first."

Harry took a deep breath, his breakfast now forgotten as he told Severus everything he and the others had overheard.

"He told him that his dad basically gave him orders to do whatever necessary to 'keep Draco in line.' You didn't see him, Dad. Draco actually looked scared for a minute. You don't really think Mr. Malfoy would let someone curse his own son just because he was mad at him, do you?"

Severus ran a hand across his jaw and sighed. "I hope not, but to be honest, I'm not sure. At this point, I wouldn't put anything past Lucius Malfoy."

"Well, you can't let him! He has to be stopped!"

Severus held his hands up in front of him. "I know. I'll do whatever I need to protect him, just as I would do for any other child. But there is not a lot I can do if I can't get Draco to talk to me. As far as I know, Lucius hasn't actually done anything yet."

"I don't trust him," said Harry, sullenly.

"Neither do I." Severus stood up and pushed his chair back under the table. "Alright. I wanted to talk to you about something else, but if it's alright with you, I need to find Draco and talk to him first."

"Am I in trouble?" Harry asked suspiciously.

"Should you be?"

"No!"

Severus smirked. "Then you have nothing to worry about. I shouldn't be long, but if for some reason I'm not back by lunch, Jenka will give you something."

"Alright." Harry followed him out of the kitchen and into the parlor.

"Don't leave our quarters. And don't get into anything you're not supposed to be in."

"I won't."

"And do your homework. I believe I said we would play chess tonight if you got it done on time."

"Okay, okay. I will. You don't have to spend ten minutes telling me all the rules every time you leave. I'll be a good little boy and stay out of trouble. Happy?"

Severus scowled down at him, though he wasn't actually upset. "Immensely."

Harry grinned and left Severus in the parlor as he walked down the hall and disappeared into his bedroom.


Severus was one of few people who knew that Draco often spent Sunday mornings in the Library studying. And he was quite pleased that he found him there today so that he wouldn't spend unnecessary time searching the castle for him. He was also glad that there didn't seem to be anyone else in the Library that could overhear their conversation.

Draco was sitting alone at a table in one of the farthest corners of the Library with an open book in front of him, which he clearly was ignoring in favor of staring out the window towards the Black Lake. He didn't hear Severus approach, and so he was startled violently when Severus pulled out the chair across from him.

"Oh, sorry, Professor. I didn't realize it was you," Draco said quietly.

"Were you expecting someone else?" he asked as he sat down.

"No."

Deciding that there was no reason to dance around the subject, Severus began. "Professor Flitwick came to see me this morning. He told me about Friday and how he saw you and the others in the hallway with your wands out. He was quite worried about you."

Draco scowled. "He shouldn't be. I'm fine."

"Are you?" Severus asked quietly. "Because after he left, I spoke to Harry and he's worried about you as well." Severus held up his hand for silence when Draco looked like he was ready to argue the point. "He told me what he overheard Flint say to you. About how he's been writing letters to your father and how he's using him to keep tabs on you."

"Flint's an imbecile who just wants to look like he's important." Draco shrugged off Severus's words before closing his book and looking out the window once again.

Severus sighed. "Draco, I can't help you if you won't talk to me. Please, tell me what's going on. If Flint and the others are—"

"It's not a big deal!" Draco said more loudly than he had meant to. He looked around and was glad to see that there was no one to hear him.

"It is a big deal if one of my students is being bullied by another. Especially by one who is so much older."

"I can handle myself."

"I didn't say you couldn't, but you shouldn't be in a situation where you would need to."

Draco was silent for a moment so Severus went on. "Have you gotten any more letters from your father?"

Draco nodded. "But all it says is that he's coming up to visit."

"When?"

"Today. He said he wanted to talk to me in person about my behavior recently."

Severus grit his teeth. "Draco, please, if there's something I should know, about your father or Flint or anyone, please tell me what it is."

Draco bit his lip and continued looking away.

"Is someone threatening you? Harming you in any way? Do you think your father really told Flint to do something to you?"

"I don't know," Draco said, his voice barely above a whisper.

"What do you think?"

"I think that even if he did, he would never admit it and we would never be able to prove it."

Severus nodded once. "Alright. I'm going to talk to Dumbledore. I want to know if your father has mentioned anything to him about visiting. But I want you to know that no matter what happens today or any other day, I'm here for you. For as long as you want me around, I'll be here. And as long as you go to this school and are one of my students, I'll be buggered if I'm going to let you come to harm. If anything happens, anything at all, I expect you to come to me immediately. Do you understand?"

"Yes," Draco said.

Still feeling unsatisfied, but certain that he'd gotten all he could out of Draco, Severus stood up. "You're sure there's nothing else I need to know before I speak with the Headmaster?"

"I'm sure," Draco said, even as he thought about the night Flint had held him against the wall by his neck and wrestled his ring off of his finger. That wasn't something he ever planned on telling anyone, least of all Severus. It wasn't as if he could prove it had happened anyway.


Draco didn't stay in the Library for very long after Severus left. He hadn't been able to concentrate on his Transfiguration text anyway, and the warmth from the sun shining through the window was only making him sleepy. So instead he decided to head down to the dungeons to drop his books off in his dorm room before going to the Great Hall to see if there was any breakfast left over.

Unfortunately, just as Draco had climbed the staircase back up to the first-floor landing, he saw his father standing in the Entrance Hall; talking quietly to Marcus Flint. Before Draco could even attempt to think of a means to escape, Lucius looked up and saw him. The expression of disgust on his face caused Draco to lose what little appetite he'd had.

"Draco. Come here." Lucius's tone was sharp and Flint smiled in a way that reminded Draco of a dog who had just chased a cat up a tree.

Draco held his head up as he crossed the hallway to stand in front of his father. "Hello, Father."

Lucius looked Draco up and down, examining everything about him. Draco was suddenly keenly aware of the fact that he wasn't wearing a tie and that his robes were hanging open, showing that his shirt was untucked and wrinkled. There were few things that Lucius Malfoy tolerated less than wearing rumpled clothing.

"You look as if you slept in your clothes," he said snidely and Draco wanted to roll his eyes at his father's inability to let it go.

"I'm sorry," Draco replied promptly as he stood stiffly with his hands clasped behind his back, "I didn't expect you until later."

"Is that an excuse?"

"No, sir." Draco dropped his gaze to the floor, angry at himself now for always falling so quickly back into old habits with his father.

Lucius pulled his wand from where he kept it in his cane and pointed it at Draco. Immediately his shirt tucked itself in and the wrinkles disappeared. Then his robes buttoned themselves and straightened neatly across his shoulders. Draco didn't dare protest.

"Much better."

After that, Lucius was silent for what seemed to Draco like a long time, but was really only a few seconds. "As I said in my letter, I want to speak with you about your behavior and grades, as neither has been up to the standard of a Malfoy. Especially since I had already told you in previous letters what I expect of you."

Draco could feel his face heating up at being reprimanded and treated like a child, not just because they stood in the Entrance Hall where anyone could walk by and see, but also because Flint was there. As much as he told himself he didn't care, it bothered him that the older boy was all too happy to be witnessing everything.

"I am deeply ashamed of you, Draco. Is this what I can expect from you from now on? A son who doesn't appreciate all that I've done for him and who directly disobeys me the moment my back is turned? Do you think that I enjoy hearing from your professors that my son is falling behind in his classes? Stand up straight, boy!"

"Yes, Father," Draco replied as he corrected his posture, holding his head high once more.

To add to his embarrassment, at that moment Ron and Hermione walked out of the Great Hall. Draco caught Ron's eye for only a moment before Ron quickly pulled Hermione towards the staircase. Draco hoped they hadn't heard much as he tried to concentrate on a piece of the wall just above his father's shoulder.

"I hear from Mr. Flint here that you are still disregarding my orders concerning the company you keep," Lucius spoke quietly, as if he were attempting to give Draco a modicum of privacy. But Draco knew that that wasn't the case at all. His father always spoke in a deathly calm and quiet voice when he wanted to be sure that he was getting through to his son. As though Draco having to strain to hear him made his words sink in better.

Draco glanced at Flint who sneered back at him.

"Have you thought nothing about what I told you in my letter? Do you care nothing for the shame that you are bringing to our family name? Because I assure you, Draco, if you continue to defy me, nothing good will come of it."

Draco could feel his heart racing. He clenched and unclenched his fists behind him and wished desperately that he could disappear.

"I shall not have a son who cares so little about the wishes of his father. I will not tolerate it, Draco. You will cease with this nonsense at once or so help me I will—"

"No!"

Suddenly the only thing Draco could hear was the sound of blood rushing behind his ears. He wasn't sure what had made him shout like that, but he wasn't sorry he had.

"I beg your pardon?" Lucius asked, his face morphing into a sneer as he took a step closer to his son.

"I said no. You can't tell me who to be friends with! It's not up to you! You don't get to decide who I talk to or hang out with; I do! I decide! It's my decision to make and I've made it!"

"Ah, Mr. Malfoy! How wonderful it is to see you today!"

Everyone whipped around to see Dumbledore and Severus descending the last few steps of the staircase. Severus looked livid, though Dumbledore looked as if he were seeing an old friend for the first time in years.

"Mr. Weasley and Ms. Granger told me you were here, but alas, I didn't know I was expecting a visit from you today. Your owl must have gotten lost on the way here to tell me of your arrival."

Draco looked behind the men to see Ron and Hermione standing quietly. Ron nodded at him and Draco gave a small nod in return. Clearly, they had seen what was happening and had gone straight to the headmaster. Draco was grateful.

"Yes, of course, Headmaster. Unfortunately, I am not here for a social visit. I had an urgent matter for which I needed to speak to my son."

"Yes, yes, and I can see that you have," Dumbledore said with a smile before turning to Draco. "Draco, my boy, are you quite alright? You look a bit flushed."

"I'm fine, Professor," Draco said politely.

Dumbledore placed a hand on Draco's shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze.

"Draco, why don't you and Mr. Flint run along and find your friends? It's far too nice of a day to waste. Perhaps Mr. Malfoy would like to join me for a spot of tea?"

Draco knew a dismissal when he was given one and he was all too happy to oblige. Making sure of which way Flint was headed first, Draco turned towards the Great Hall and went inside, though not before he heard Lucius tell Dumbledore that he had other places to be and wouldn't be able to stay for tea.

When he heard the doors to the castle close, Draco glanced back out of the Great Hall and saw Dumbledore heading back to his office, but Severus was opening the castle doors and slipping out of them, leaving them open slightly.

Quietly, Draco moved forward and peered through the crack in the doors. He could see Severus walking down the steps and he heard him call out to Lucius, who stopped and turned back to face him. Draco held his breath as he tried to listen to their conversation. At first, they spoke too quietly for him to make out much more than a word or two, but after only a moment, their raised voices carried more easily over the winter wind.

"You've poisoned my own son against me and I won't stand for it!"

"I've done nothing of the sort!" Severus responded. His back was towards him but Draco knew without a doubt that his trademark glare was in full force. "If Draco seems to be turning against you, you might think about why. Perhaps having him followed and reported on is a mistake? Or maybe it would have something to do with you giving orders for older students to take matters into their own hands when they see him doing something you don't approve of?"

"I haven't—"

"Do not lie to me! You forget that I know you too well, Malfoy. I know exactly what sort of measures you would take to keep your reputation intact, even if it meant your own son came to harm."

Draco watched as Severus took a step closer to Lucius, and he had to strain to hear what he said next.

"Let me be very clear. You will not harm Draco. Not by your hands or anyone else's. If I should find proof that you have done anything to him, your reputation will be the least of your concerns. Do not for one second think that I won't make you pay for the damage you've done to him. If you are smart, you will cease this ridiculous notion that you can control him. He has a mind of his own and he knows how to use it!"

Lucius glared at him and when he spoke again, his voice was angrier than Draco had ever heard it. "If Draco chooses to continue to defy me, then he will no longer be a son of mine."

"If you denounce him, what will it do for your image?"

Lucius's laugh was cold and bitter. "I wouldn't need to denounce him publicly. After all, the Blacks never had to do so publicly with Sirius and he still got the picture."

"You would just ignore him? Pretend he doesn't exist? Your own child?"

Lucius lifted his cane and studied the serpent handle as if it carried secrets of its own. "Examples need to be made, Severus. It would be wise for Draco to learn that now."

Draco's breathing was shallow and he tried to swallow back the bile that had risen in his throat. He couldn't listen anymore. Without a second glance, he turned on his heel and ran. He ran past students heading into the Great Hall and down the winding staircase to the dungeons. He didn't stop until he stood outside Severus's quarters. He tried the door handle and was surprised when it opened for him without hesitation. He wondered when Severus had spelled it to allow him entry.

He wasn't sure why he'd come here but knew he didn't want to be anywhere else.


Severus spent the better part of the next two hours furiously pacing Dumbledore's office. Remus was also there, and though they tried, no one could come up with an effective way to help Draco.

"It doesn't matter, Severus," Remus said as he watched his brother move about the room. "Lucius Malfoy has the Ministry in his pocket. No matter what we do or say, nothing will come of it. Even if they did an investigation, you know as well as I do that he would come out smelling like roses, and who knows what he might do to Draco in retaliation."

"We can't just leave him there!"

"Of course I'm not suggesting that we leave him there, but until we come up with a better solution, our main focus needs to be just keeping Draco safe."

"And how do you propose we do that?" Severus stopped his pacing long enough to turn angry eyes towards Remus.

"For one thing, he's here throughout the school year. That is at least a start—"

"And then come summer, he'll be shut up in that house with him."

"And with Narcissa," Dumbledore chimed in. "Whatever else she may be, Narcissa will always be a mother first. I do not think she would let any harm come to her son if she can help it."

"And Lucius will, as always, be thinking about his image. If he truly doesn't want a scandal, perhaps he would rather have Draco out of sight? That's what the Blacks did to Sirius. They would rather pretend nothing was wrong than admit that their son was rejecting their views."

Remus sighed. "I know this isn't what you want to hear, Severus. It isn't any easier for us either, but right now I think it's most important to keep Draco safe. Draco still says that Lucius has never physically abused him?"

"Abuse can be more than physical and you know that, Remus."

"Yes, but right now we don't have proof one way or the other. I'm sure there is a way to at least minimize the amount of time he has to stay there for the summer."

"No," Dumbledore said suddenly. "We will not be leaving him there. I won't let that mistake happen again. I am not willing to put Draco in harm's way if we even suspect that Lucius may do something."

"Then do you have a suggestion?" Remus asked.

Dumbledore steepled his fingers in front of him as he stared blankly towards Fawkes's perch. "I think," he said after a long moment, "that for now, we can say that Draco will not be returning home for Easter break. I feel he will have far too much studying to catch up on. And in the meantime, we have about four months to come up with a more suitable arrangement. I would like to speak with Draco privately about this when he is feeling up to it. Perhaps I will invite him for tea tomorrow."

Remus and Severus exchanged looks.

"That's it?" Severus asked. "You've got no other plans?"

"Right now, Severus, my plan is to have some lunch. I believe that you also have something to take care of?"

Severus immediately thought of Harry and how he'd left him hours ago. He nodded. "Alright, but I hope you know what you're doing."

Dumbledore smiled, though there was no twinkle in his blue eyes.


When Severus opened the door to his parlor ten minutes later, he found Harry sitting quietly on the couch. He turned when he heard Severus enter and said, "Draco just left. He told me what happened today."

Severus sighed as he took a seat in his armchair. "How was he?"

Harry shrugged. "He was alright by the time he left I think. Did Mr. Malfoy really say that he wouldn't be his son anymore if he didn't stop being friends with me?"

"He heard that?"

"He was listening at the door. He heard almost everything. What are you going to do about it?"

"We're not sure yet," Severus answered honestly. "But I promise that we're working on it. We won't let anything happen to him, Harry."

Harry nodded. "I know that." He began to pick at the loose threads on the couch. "I'm scared for him."

"Me too," Severus replied quietly.

After a few minutes passed in silence, Severus cleared his throat.
"I wanted to talk to you about something, but with everything that's happened with Draco, I understand if you'd rather wait."

Harry looked up in surprise. If Severus wanted to talk about something, there was no stopping him. It felt unusual that he would ask if Harry was up to it. He shook his head.

"No, that's okay. Is something else wrong?" he asked with a frown.

Severus reached into the pocket of his robes and pulled out the envelope from the Ministry. "A letter came last night," he said as he passed it over to Harry who took it wordlessly.

He carefully opened the envelope and pulled out the letter before unfolding it.

"Dear Mr. Snape,

After carefully reviewing your petition to adopt Mr. Harry James Potter, the Ministry has decided that it would be in the best interest of the child to grant your request.

We are pleased to inform you that all you need to do is to sign the Formal Adoption Request papers that will follow this letter in the presence of a witness, and return them by Owl Post so that they may be filed with the Ministry's Child Services Department.

We hope that—"

Harry dropped the letter and looked up at Severus.

"W-what?" Harry swallowed hard as he looked back down at the paper in his hands. "They said yes?"

Severus nodded. "They did."

Harry felt tears fill his eyes and his throat suddenly hurt with the effort he was putting to not letting them fall. "They said yes?" he asked again. "Really?"

"Really," Severus assured him. "I get to adopt you officially, Harry."

Harry stood up and turned away from Severus as he quickly brushed the sleeves of his t-shirt across his eyes. He bit his lip and tried to get his breathing under control. He was thirteen years old for Merlin's sake!

"Harry?" Severus asked quietly. "Are you alright?"

Just as he was about to stand up and reach out to him, Harry turned and launched himself at his guardian. Severus fell back into his chair with a slight "oomph," as the breath was nearly knocked out of him.

Harry had his arms wrapped tightly around Severus's neck as he continued to cry into his shoulder.

Severus, who just last year couldn't imagine the idea of hugging anyone, least of all Harry Potter, now wrapped his own arms protectively around Harry's back, pulling him closer to him.

"Shh," he murmured into Harry's mess of black hair. "It's alright. I've got you, Harry. Dad's got you."