"You know that I support Fleur and Bill marrying, but honestly, you would think that he would have the sense to take a calming draught before he gets married!"
Harry glanced at Ron during the tirade; Ron rolled his eyes.
"I know Ronnykins, that you would at least have that much sense!"
Ron rolled his eyes again.
"But no, instead Fleur gets to the altar and has to kiss a sex maniac who had the gall to lick his chops before he kissed her."
Harry had to wonder if he and Ron should hide under the table until she was calmer.
"I simply can't imagine what your father's colleagues are saying at the Ministry!"
Mrs. Weasley turned and threw her dishrag in the sink as though she was hexing the dishes clean. Suddenly, a call of an owl startled the three in the kitchen. "What in the world?"
Mrs. Weasley stood and opened the window. "Do either of you recognize that?"
"Um, it looks like an owl, but I don't know if I've ever seen a solid black owl." Ron said as he pushed back from the table and stood. Harry shook his head at Mrs. Weasley's inquiring glance.
"I know it's an owl, but whose?"
Ron ducked as the owl came in the window and landed on the table in front of Harry.
"That ruddy owl tried to take my head off!" Ron shouted. Harry smirked.
"Owls aren't malicious, Ron." Harry told him as he spotted familiar spidery script on the letter.
"Tell that to the back of my head, mate!" Ron continued grumbling about malicious owls and their murderous tendencies while Harry unwrapped the note. Once the note was removed, the owl turned and left the kitchen the way he had entered: he used Ron's head for target practice.
"Bloody Bird!" Ron shouted after it.
"Ron!" Ron ducked his head.
"Sorry, Mum." He turned to Harry. "What is it, Harry?"
Harry's face had paled a bit as he stared at the envelope.
"Who's it from?"
Harry opened the envelope slowly and slid out the small slip of paper.
I request your presence. This letter is a portkey, and it will activate in 3…2…1.
"Snape." That was the only word Harry had time to say as the portkey activated and he felt the familiar tug behind his navel.
Harry's wand appeared in his hand the second he materialized…where? He shook off the accompanying disorientation he had come to associate with portkeys and looked around. He found that he was in a rather large room with a high ceiling. The walls were white, which gave the room a rather cold appearance than it would have had originally. Tapestries hung from ceiling to floor and gave the room a bit of color, although many of the tapestries had turned a mottled grey with age. The only warmth in the room was from an elaborate fireplace at the other end of the room.
"Where the bloody hell am I?" Harry whispered to the silent room. "And why is it so bloody cold?"
His questions seemed to disappear in the vast expanse of the room.
Harry froze and tried to convince himself that the cold was responsible for his hallucination. Snape, slimy Snape, would not seek him out or send him a portkey to this frozen over hell.
Harry supposed everyone could be wrong at least once in their lives.
Harry cursed in his mind as he fell to the floor.
"I have something to say to you, and with you in this state, I am assured of a captive audience." Snape's lips twitched. "I have no desire to repeat myself."
Harry could only hear Snape as the man walked over to a door and motioned someone into the room.
"Take a seat, Draco. Both of you need to hear this." Draco sank into a nearby chair while Harry was left on the floor.
"We must remember that the three of us have been tossed together by a series of circumstances that was never in our control. Before you think a question, Potter, I will answer your foremost concern. No, I did not intend to kill Dumbledore. I was forced to out of care for another individual besides myself. I see that you are surprised. I am not the man of evil that you think I am. It appears, rather, that I am a savior of sorts. I am bound by two Unbreakable Vows. I have vowed to protect Draco at all costs. Dubledore was aware of this. Do you not think that if I wanted to kill you, I would have already done so? Think! Why would I save you? It was not for my own benefit. Dumbledore was far more cunning than either of you could possibly imagine. So, here we are…and in the last place the Ministry would ever think to look for us."
Draco looked at Snape with a weary countenance.
"There is a valid reason for the cold. We are in St. Petersburg, or to be more accurate, in a small village outside the grand city. My former master has agreed to take us in so that the both of you can finish your education. My master is possibly the only one who can fathom a way to prepare you for He-who-shall-not-be-named." Snape paused, allowing that information to sink in.
"Now, Potter, I am going to let you up. If you do not act like a civilized wizard, I will petrify you and keep you that way for the duration of your stay. I hope you understand me." Snape waved his wand and Harry felt the spell release him.
"I hate you." Harry said as he pulled himself into a sitting position. Snape seemed amused.
"You may hate me all you like, but you will obey me. Is that clear?"
Harry glared at Snape for a few seconds before answering.
"Yes." He said flatly.
Snape motioned Harry to a chair, and Harry took it grudgingly. He found a warming charm on it, which helped to alleviate some of the cold that had seeped in while he was on the floor. Harry noticed that Draco Malfoy did not look any better than the last time he had seen him. Snape was going to protect the both of them? Harry hoped Snape would be willing to protect them from the other.
"I fear that the both of you are in for a bit of a rude awakening. Mathias, the master of the house, has agreed to let us pretend to be Muggles- but on one condition: you must learn the Russian language. We will all be taking on Russian names and posing as a family. Harry, Draco, I am your father."
Harry and Draco stared at each other in horror. Brother? The two of them were meant to be brothers? Sons of Snape?
"I have always wanted sons…Now, your names. Mathias chose them for us. Draco, you will be Mikhail Dimitriovich Teomye. Harry, you will be Ivan Dimitriovich Teomye. I wil be Dimitri Bechnovich Teomye. Mathias expects you to be able to say and pronounce them correctly, as well as spell them…in Cyrillic, by the end of the week. Mathias has listed us on his servant roster. I am the new groundskeeper, while the two of you will be Mathias' personal household servants. This is to protect you and allow Mathias to continue with your studies. Now, do you have any questions?"
"You expect me to just accept this?" Harry demanded of Snape. "I had plans."
Snape raised an eyebrow. "Those plans are now cancelled. Yes, I expect you to accept this, and more than that, Mr. Potter, I expect your cooperation with this plan." Snape gave him a meaningful look. "Do you really expect your luck to stay with you for long? Do you feel that you are ready to take on this destiny of yours? Defeat the Dark Lord?" Snape allowed Harry to mull this over and he turned to Draco.
"This is the only way?" Draco asked through a strangled voice.
"Yes. The most pleasant, at any rate."
Draco nodded acceptance and stared down at the floor. Harry wondered what had happened to make him so subdued. Oh, right. The Dark Lord.
"Are the two of you prepared for a bit of a shock?"
Draco looked at Severus. "As if this is not much of a shock already?"
Snape waved away the question. "Draco, now is not the time. Mathias wishes to meet you now…and to say that he is a bit unusual is an understatement. Now, if there are no further objections, I will let him know that you are here."
The boys looked at each other and shrugged. It seemed they really had no choice.
"Very well." Snape did something the both of them did not expect. Snape seemed to be talking quietly to thin air!
"Master Mathias? The boys are ready."
Harry looked around and saw no one.
"Professor, are you sure he heard you?" Harry asked.
"Oh, yes. Of that I am certain." The air within the room suddenly seemed to flex at the mysterious master of the house entered the room. He was rather tall, well over Snape's height, with very pale skin and piercing grey eyes. His hair seemed alive of its own accord and undulated between the colors of silver and black as he walked. His hands were perhaps the most frightening aspect of him, claw like with long glassy fingernails. He gave a predatory smile towards Snape.
"Usmeshka, so these are the boys you wish me to meet." Mathias gave each of their teenage forms a disdainful look. "I assume that neither of your have been in the presence of an aristocrat. I will expect you to treat me with the respect that is warranted by an aristocrat." Mathias' voice seemed to fill the entire house. The boys cowered and Snape actually flinched.
"Bow to me, you uneducated brutes!"
Harry and Draco quickly dropped to the floor. Neither boy was willing to disobey this man. He was worse than Snape!
"That's much better…" Mathias tapped his claws against his teeth. "Now, what to do with you?"
Harry made the mistake of beginning to rise from the bowed position.
"Boy! You never rise from a bow until a master tells you to rise!" Harry flinched. Mathias filed that information away. He placed a boot on Harry's back and forced him to the floor. Snape looked scared.
"Mathias, please remember these boys are mortal. They are…fragile." Snape eyed Mathias as though to see how his former master took his statement.
"Oh, righto!" Mathias lifted his boot from Harry's back. "Sorry boys. I wanted to make an effective… impression. And trust me, the sooner we can get rid of this vulgar English language, the better…and the better mood I'll be in." He nodded to Snape. "I will give you this day as a sort of vacation. Tomorrow, I will expect you in the kitchen at dawn." He turned to Snape. "Usmeshka can show you to your quarters."