Harry stared out the barred window, the midnight moon shone through his room illuminating the destruction. Clothes lay strewn about, books with ripped out pages littered the floor, broken shards of glass glittered on the floor. Closing his eyes Harry fought to breath as yet another sharp pain attacked his ribs and forced yet another tear from his eyes. Swallowing down the pain Harry tried to focus on something good but flashes of memory stole through his mind and the death of Sirius caused him to gasp aloud. Thundering footsteps sounded up the stairs and stopped right in front of Harry's door, for a moment pure panic set in and Harry quickly twisted to the side of his bed curling himself up tightly. His limbs shaking hard as he heard the key rattling in each of the ten locks before the door flew open, squeezing his eyes shut Harry faced away from the figure silently praying that it wouldn't happen again. Knowing footsteps entered his room and quickly slammed the door shut. The footsteps came to rest at the foot of the bed and Harry could feel sweat forming at his hair line as he kept his eyes shut. "The problems with you freak….Is that you still haven't learned your place." Slurred words broke the silence as Harry shivered in fear. The sound of a belt being slipped from its place around Uncle Vernon's waist and into his waiting hand caused Harry to lose his breath.
Sitting up Harry stared at Uncle Vernon through the darkness, "Please…Please no more." Harry whispered unable to form the words of defiance he had once done. Vernon smiled in the darkness as his hands tightened around the belt before letting it fly. The first hit Harry in the face causing stars to burst from his sight and blood to taste in his mouth. Closing his eyes he felt the leather hit his back biting back the cries that would only drive Vernon to do more damage. Please….Someone help me! Please I don't want to be alone! Harry screamed inside his head as he felt his back begin to burn and his vision begin to fade.
Serverus was settling down with a cup of tea and his latest potion magazine, the castle had been surprisingly calm after the fiasco with Voldemort and the prophecy. For now the minister had cooperated wonderfully with Dumbledore to tighten security and maintain the population. Serverus snorted aloud, 'Probably because the fool believes that Dumbledore will make everything better.' He thought, remembering that Fudge had almost been given to kissing Dumbledore's ass after seeing Voldemort alive and well in the ministry. Shaking his head Severus settled down with the magazine, inwardly commenting on some of the new theories about Boomslang and its uses. Suddenly a pain overwhelmed him as he clutched at his stomach hunching over and spilling his tea on the carpet. Please…Someone help me! Please! The echoes of the voice bounced off the potion masters skull as he clutched his head in pain. In seconds the pain was gone but the lingering side effects still remained, the voice he had known it was Harry Potters. Gritting his teeth Snape pushed himself off his knees wondering when he had fallen and drew himself to height. Still clutching his stomach Serverus paused to wonder if he should not contact Dumbledore but as he felt another wave of pain stretch into his system he quickly dismissed the idea. Stumbling to the fire Severus grabbed a handful of floo powder and threw it into the fire calling out the leaky cauldron as he stepped in. There was no direct way to get to the Dursley's except apperating and Snape quickly vetoed the idea. If Dumbledore caught him on his way out he would have to explain. 'Probably got in trouble and they took away his damn ice-cream.' Snape growled convinced he would get to the Dursley's and have a good yell at Potter. Once at the Leaky Cauldron Snape apperated to the Dursley's street and found the houses quiet. A chill in the air made Serverus pull his cloak tighter around his shoulders as he marched towards number four. Taking out his wand Snape cast alohamora on the front door and quietly let himself in. It was close to midnight and all the occupants were asleep looking around he found nothing wrong with the downstairs and calling a lighting spell made his way towards the stairs. Suddenly he was hit with waves of pain that nearly knocked him to his knees at the same time his ears heard the sound of leather hitting flesh. Stumbling up the stairs Serverus turned just in time to see Vernon finish whipping Harry with his belt. All the color drained from the potion master's face as he took in the scene. Blood pooled around Harry's feet as he was strung across the bed his arms and legs tied spread eagle. Without thinking Serverus crossed the room and stood between Harry and Vernon his wand pointed directly at Vernon. "I think that you have had enough." Snape growled, in a blind furry.
Vernon pulled back his face shone with fear as he hastily dropped the belt and pulled away from the dark figure. "What the hell do you think you are doing here….This isn't your business and I thank you to keep your crooked nose out of it!" Vernon bellowed once he recovered from the shock.
Serverus glowered as he took another step towards Vernon, "I would think wisely about the next move you make….It may be your last."
Vernon scoffed at the idea his eyes shone brightly, "I will do what ever I please….This is my nephew! You and your freaky friends sent him to me and I will do what I please." Pulling a letter with the Hogwarts official stamp he handed it to Serverus, "That explains it all….Now get out of my house!" Vernon yelled waiting for Snape to read the letter.
Serverus ripped the paper from his now shaking hand and read it over, it was from Dumbledore addressed to Harry:
I am afraid that your request to transfer to the Weasley's is not possible. I have informed you that you are there for your own protection and that it would not benefit you in the least to have you moved at this time. Furthermore, I know that you think that your uncle is being unfair however I would hope that you would make an effort to keep these arrangements in order for you to gain as much strength from the charm your mother left.
The shock must have shown on Serverus's stoic face as Vernon laughed, "There you have it…Even that crackpot at the school thinks that he should stay here…Now for the very last time leave!" Vernon yelled, shoving Serverus aside. Harry moaned sensing movement getting closer as he tried in vain to curl himself tighter. Serverus, however, refused to be thrown out of the way by a muggle and quickly stepped in front of Vernon again. "I read the letter but remind me where it says that Harry should be whipped!?" He hissed shoving the letter in Vernon's face.
Vernon started his face turning a shocking color of purple, "You people are all alike….First you want me to beat him then you come in here and make a fuss!" Vernon growled.
"What people!" Serverus demanded stopping Vernon with the point of his wand. They were getting dangerously close to Harry who now could be seen clearly. Black eyes, bloody nose bruises and cuts littered his body. Taking a deep breath Serverus turned away refusing to look at Potter until he got the mess sorted out.
"One of your people came by here….Same day that they let him back. Told me that it was hard raising a criminal like Harry, told me that he would be more than willing to take on the responsibility if he could get Harry to sign the contract, the man explained that it was in Harry's best interest to sign it but he refused….Stupid boy!" Vernon yelled at Harry. Staring at Snape Vernon pulled another piece of parchment from his pocket, "Said I was to convince Harry to sign over guardianship to the man any way possible." Snape felt his heart stop in his chest as he read over the contract. Reading over it Snape realized it was both legal and binding.
"This man…Did he have a name or were you willing to sign over Harry to just anyone!" Snape barked, taking a healthy step towards Vernon and getting him away from Harry.
Vernon sputtered, "Of course I did….Fudge I think…Cornellius Fudge."
Cursing loudly Snape glanced back at Harry and realized he had been fighting to save himself since he left Hogwarts. Vernon smiled almost gleefully, "So, unless your willing to take the freak off my hands…get out!"
Snape stood back, his face carefully schooled as Vernon stepped around Serverus intent on hurting Harry again. For a moment he considered going to Dumbledore, but realized in the time it would take to get back to Hogwarts Harry could die. Swallowing down his anger he once again stepped in front of Vernon. "I accept." He said quietly.
Vernon stopped mid-step and turned to look at Serverus, carefully considering his options Vernon realized that his time had come. Pulling out the contract Vernon thrust it at Serverus, "Sign at the bottom and donate some of your blood…It's a wizarding contract." When Serverus raised an eyebrow, but did as he was told. Taking out a silver dagger Harry whimpered and quickly pulled away. Sighing, Serverus didn't bother to consul the boy figuring that he would take the time later, right now he just needed to get Harry out of that house. Piercing his finger he let three drops of blood spill on to the parchment and watched as it sizzled and sealed. Vernon growled, "I don't want that freak in my house again."
Ignoring Vernon the potion master quickly took the dagger and cut Harry free from his restraints trying to disregard the look of terror that flashed over the boy's gaunt face. Pulling him into his arms Serverus held Harry tight as they walked down the stairs and out the door. Apperating back to Hogwarts Serverus stumbled and dropped down to one knee. Grunting Serverus debated with himself about waking Harry and making him walk. Glancing down at Harry's pale face, he could feel the small form shiver as it huddled closer to the warmth. Taking a deep breath Serverus grunted as he pulled himself to height and walked swiftly to the castle. "Poppy! Dumbledore! I need your help!" Serverus yelled bursting into the infirmary and setting Harry down on one of the beds he tried to let go of his burden, but Harry awoke at the bellow disoriented and catching a glimpse of his professor gripped his robes in a death grip. Looking down Serverus tried to wrench loose but to no avail, "Potter….Harry, I need you to let go for a minute so I can get a potion." He tried not to snap at the boy but his patients was wearing thin and Harry's condition was getting worse.
Harry shook his head, "Please professor….Please don't leave me!" Harry whispered, gripping Snape's robes harder. The tremors through his body were more pronounced and Severus watched as his blue eyes started to roll back into his head.
"Dumbledore!" Severus screamed, franticly wondering where the hell everyone was. "Harry, I promise I won't leave…But your not well and I have to heal you." He said, calming his voice as he talked to Harry.
Harry, for a moment seemed too disoriented to understand and then slowly he let go of the robes he had been clutching at his eyes wide with terror never leaving Snape's obsidian. "I trust you." He whispered leaning back against the pillow, his whole body rigid. An unfamiliar emotion bubbled inside Serverus as he watched Harry pretend to relax and let go of his robes but all too quickly the shivers reminded Snape of what he needed to do and he quietly went in search of the potions he needed, being mindful to stay in Harry's sight. Gathering several small vials Serverus returned, a small smile creasing his mouth as he watched Harry relax. "Okay Potter…I have some potions." Serverus said quietly, trying not to startle. Uncorking several he pushed them into Harry's trembling hands. Harry tried to bring them to his lips but the tremors increased as the vials got nearer and exhaustion won out as he spilled part of the vial's contents on his torn clothes. Eyes widened in horror as Harry flinched away from Serverus who quickly recovered the vial before it could be spilled all the way.
"I will not touch you!" The potion master growled, more angry at Vernon and Fudge then anyone. 'What the hell were they thinking….What the hell was Albus thinking!' Putting a hand behind Harry's neck ignoring the flinch, Snape lifted him gently off the pillow and helped him drink the potion. Uncorking another he made Harry swallow three before gently laying Harry back down on the bed, wondering blue eyes met Snape's as Harry silently asked.
"I gave you a sleeping draught…You should rest easier." Severus explained, watching Harry's eyes flutter and a small hand reach out and grab his. The grip was surprisingly strong for what Harry had endured and Snape leaned down, "I won't leave Potter. You have my word." Harry smiled still grasping at Snape's hand before letting his eyes roll back and sleep. Once Serverus was sure Harry was asleep he gently let go of the hand and walked quietly to the window calling down his owl. Scratching out a message to the headmaster and Poppy he sent his owl out the window and resumed his place beside the sleeping boy. For several hours the stillness of the castle seemed to press on Severus as he felt his own eyelids drooping in the moonlight infirmary until he recognized several footsteps pounding their way down the hall. The doors opened violently and Albus and Poppy appeared, "What has happened Serverus?" Albus demanded, "He is not supposed to be here."
Biting down anger Severus reached into his cloak and pulled the letter he had stolen from Vernon handing it to the headmaster. "I think you know what has happened Albus…You let a monster savagely attack Potter because you felt it beneath your interest to check on the boy when he wrote you!" Severus growled, still holding Harry's hand as Dumbledore read his own letter. Confused Albus looked down at Serverus, "I don't understand."
"That missive was snatched from Potter by the boy's uncle whom took it to heart and began to beat him knowing that nobody from Hogwarts was going to send help." Snape hissed, glaring at Albus. Albus looked at Harry's bruised face and paled, "Oh…"
Snape refused to let Albus off the hook that easily and continued his diatribe, "I felt Potter's cry for help tonight and went in search….When I got there his guardian, and I use that term loosely, was whipping him with a belt not the first time. I made my presents know and that was when his guardian, again loosely, told me that he and Cornellius Fudge had made an agreement."
Sharp eyes turned to his and Severus knew instinctively that Albus had had no knowledge of that. Feeling a bit better he continued, "Fudge had spoken with Vernon about making Harry agree to switch guardianship from Vernon to Fudge. Vernon was allowed to torture Harry until Harry broke and agreed to sign a wizard contract stating that Fudge would become his legal guardian."
Albus sat heavily, stunned. Glancing at Harry he looked over the boy's gaunt face and grimaced, "I…I know how unhappy he was after Sirius death. I assumed that wanting to get away from the Dursley's was his grief…" The old man explained softly, turning to Snape he frowned, "How did you get Harry then?"
Taking a deep breath Serverus continued, "It was palpable that the boy's uncle did not care for him in the house…When questioned what it would take to remove him Vernon explained I would have to take guardianship."
Albus looked hard at Severus, a frown on the man's lips, "I assume that means…"
Nodding Serverus turned to Harry, "That I am now Harry Potter's legal guardian."