My Dark Protector

Chapter 33

Severus hastily wiped down the counters in the potions lab, trying to clean up before Harry roused for breakfast this morning. He was remaining awake for longer periods of time. Severus didn't believe it would be long before his afternoon naps were a thing of the past. His body was enduring more, strengthening, the muscle atrophy had caused a great deal of damage over the years. He thanked Merlin for the potions, he knew without them Harry would have declined and died before true help could have come to his aid. Magic was only able to do so much, it had barely been able to keep Harry alive as it was.

Huffing in annoyance, Severus cleared his mind, the farther Harry recovered, the more he dwelt on the past. Thinking more and more on what Harry had been like when he was first found. He hated it. Remembering what Harry had first been like. He just wanted to think on the future, Harry had come along so well, beaten all expectations both he and Poppy had for him.

They truly believed that Harry was going to completely recover, both mentally and physically.

As he exited the lab, he found Harry already standing in the living room, legs barely shaking anymore.

"Good morning, little one," Severus' voice was like a balm to Harry, soothed him like nothing else could. It spoke of safety, warmth, family, happiness, shelter, and refuge.

"Good morning, Severus," Harry said, it had taken him a long time to say his Dark Protector's name right. But he had done it and the pride on his face was enough praise for Harry without hearing the words. He slowly began to make his way into the kitchen, with difficulty, but also with great determination, he fed his cat. Staring at the water bowl, and instead of guiding the bowl to the sink. Harry took a deep breath, anxiety and fear building up inside of him, he used the same spell his Dark Protector did to fill it up with fresh clean water.

He stood frozen and still. Waiting.

What Harry was waiting for he did not know, anger? Admonishment? Fear? Being hurt? Taken away and poked and prodded? Quite frankly he was expecting some sort of explosion, but that did not happen. Instead he felt arms wrap themselves around him, cupping the back of his head, and guiding him around.

Harry swallowed thickly, unable to meet his Dark Protectors eyes, somewhere inside of him he knew he was being illogical. That his Dark Protector had magic, that he had magic, and that he was free to use it here. Encouraged may have been a better word for it. Yet the all-consuming fear never left Harry, not even for a moment. It had taken all the courage he had to do this. He feared that the past would occur once again, that someone evil, horrid, and nasty would take him and hurt him and others.

"Well done, Harry," Severus spoke gently, positively bursting with pride, but he knew making a big deal about it was the absolute worst thing he could do. So, he remained calm, but most assuredly made sure that Harry understood that he'd done good. That he was proud of him, he knew how well Harry responded to any positive emotion especially pride. "I'm so proud of you, you're so strong," he added, Harry was still not meeting his eyes.

He was beginning to fear that perhaps Harry was not going to respond in any way, frozen from the moment he cast a simple water charm.

He exhaled sharply when Harry suddenly lurched around him, arms holding him tightly around his middle in quite a formidable grip. His body was trembling lightly, probably going through a lot of emotional upheaval at the moment. Everything he knew against everything he was re-learning. Severus was barely able to breathe through the coiled tightness that Harry had brought by holding him so strongly.

"You're okay, you're fine, everything is going to be just fine," Severus spoke gently into Harry's ear. He was so pleased that Harry felt safe enough here with him to use magic. It also showed that he had the ability to retain and memorise information. He had done that spell perfectly, and for the first time too, it was amazing. "You did so well, little one," he couldn't wait to teach Harry everything he could. It was a lot of ground to cover, to get his O.W.L's and N.E.W.T's completed.

Harry shuddered in his Dark Protectors arms before slumping completely. Giving over his weight and worries to the wizard. He had made Severus happy and proud, he felt so exhilarated with himself at his accomplishment. He wasn't quite ready to do more magic though. So, he hoped his Dark Protector would be happy with what was done. He loosened his hold but didn't let go, just grasped a hold of the back of his cloak and held on. Touch starved as he was, he'd never back away from his touch. Not his Dark Protectors touch. He trusted him after all. Others though…he didn't like others touching him.

"How about we have some breakfast and go somewhere different today?" Severus suggested, as he continued to rub Harry's back. He was making no move to leave, or let Harry out of the safety of his arms. Harry felt safe here, and he'd be damned if he didn't give Harry every bit of support he needed, whether it was emotional or physical. He hadn't had a touch that was kind for years, so sue him for overcompensating. He didn't give too fucks, Lily would have been the same and he was trying to use her as an example.

"Shops?" Harry questioned, looking up, green eyes peering at his Dark Protector curiously.

"I was thinking of somewhere else," Severus said thoughtfully, Prince Manor in fact. He knew realistically he couldn't keep Harry here forever, it wasn't fair. Surrounded by people but unable to be seen, secluded until it was safe for him to roam around. He wanted to see what Harry thought of the place, he knew one part of the manor he would love. He'd never actually ventured in himself, just gave it a quick glance when he was roaming around curious. It was the labs that had been calling to him far greater than anywhere else. "Pancakes or waffles?"

Harry remained staring for a few moments, pondering on the question, as his stomach rumbled hungrily. "Waffles, please," he declared after he made his decision.

"Alright, waffles it is, why don't you sit down until they're ready?" Severus suggested, still allowing Harry to remain comfortably ensconced in his arms.

Harry nodded before reluctantly letting go, shuffling out of his Dark Protectors arms before making his way to the couch. By the time, he got over there he sank down on the cushions with a relieved sigh. It hurt sometimes, to stay standing so long, today was one of those days. He didn't mind though, he liked being able to move, to do anything really.

Roz appeared just as Harry sat down, already making everything they wanted when Severus informed her what they'd like today. Waffles – only for Harry mind – sausage, egg, bacon and toast. Severus, however, made himself a cup of coffee. He had gotten up earlier to brew potions, Poppy preferred him creating them, so he always did what he could, when he could.

He poured some milk into a goblet for Harry, before making his way through.

"Drink up," Severus said, handing over the goblet, milk was always going to be a vital part of Harry's diet for years to come. The more he drank the better, as far as Severus was concerned.

Harry did drink it, loving the taste, "Thank you," he said, with a white moustache, which was quickly wiped away by Harry's tongue when he wiped his lips.

"You're welcome," Severus replied, he was very pleased that Harry's manners had remained, even when he became more independent and stubborn. He abhorred cheekiness, bad manners and bullying, and what he abhorred he could not stand. It took nothing to be polite and considerate, which he knew, most people wouldn't know of him, due to his manners in class, which he taught children how to brew potions. He was quite proud to say that he had never had an accident in his classes. His students were too terrified to screw up to the extent that anything bad could happen. With Slughorn here, he feared that may change, but unfortunately, there was little he could do about that. He would not hand over Harry's care to anyone else. Not to teach children who held no love for the arts of Potions making.

No, Slughorn could do what he liked. For the first time in his life, he had a true purpose. Not a feeble one that was a danger to his health. Spying on the Dark Lord, he must have been insane to even contemplate that. Something he was thinking more and more frequently, he suspected it had something to do with having a life now.

One that meant something, something tangible, that gave him a sense of purpose, happiness and contentment that had been so absent thus far.

Harry crooned softly at his cat, which was growing quickly, he couldn't be considered a kitten anymore. Petting at him, he could do that now without getting stiff or accidently pressing to hard and hurting him. He now knew to be very careful. Sevvy hadn't moved when he got up this morning, which was strange, Sevvy was usually up before him not the other way around.

Sevvy made him feel nearly as protected as his Dark Protector did. It was like hugging his stuffed animals, feeling sleepy and knowing he was safe.

"Mine," Harry argued with Sevvy over the fact the cat wanted to drink his milk. Which he wasn't allowed to do, Severus said no, and so Harry listened. Sevvy got his own bowl of milk if he wanted it, he didn't drink from his goblets he'd said and that was that.

"Put your cat down, breakfast is ready," Severus informed him as he nursed his coffee, seeing Roz plating up their foods. Harry still had a smaller amount compared to Severus, and didn't have a lot of syrup on his waffles. They kept his sugar intake to a minimal. Everything was still cut up for him to make it easier, but Severus reckoned that he'd be able to sit and eat at a table properly soon enough. He was just being soft at allowing Harry to continue eating on the couch. He knew Harry got sore and stiff still, so that was why.

Harry slowly lowered Sevvy to the floor, as the familiar sound of vials clinking together. Inwardly he groaned, he didn't like the taste of the potions much. Yet he'd never complain, they made him feel better, stopped the pain, they were just so worth it.

"Drink this before you eat," Severus handed over the open vial he always had around for Harry to take before each meal.

Harry didn't hesitate to drink the vile concoction down, before handing the empty vial back. The aches and pains he'd accumulated since last night washing away as if they had never been there. Now, that there, is the reason he never would moan about it. Well, that and the fact he had stopped complaining a long time ago, it never did any good where he was concerned.

"Thank you, Roz," Severus accepted the plates of food, his lips twitching as Roz refilled his coffee cup with a click of her fingers after giving over breakfast.

"Eat up, after this I'm going to take you to my home, Prince Manor," Severus explained, putting the plate of cut up food into Harry's lap, he quickly grabbed the fork eager to eat. His stomach was rumbling loudly, he was so hungry.

"Manor?" Harry echoed wide eyed, he knew what manor was, Manors were like castles, sometimes, the pictures were different. "Is it big?" he was curious now.

"It is," Severus replied, as he ate his first meal of the day. "I do believe you'll love it." Especially the pool, it was underground, almost cave like, he'd once wanted to fill it up, turn it into a Potions Lab. Fortunately for him, he didn't, there had been plenty of lab space that he just didn't need more.

"Will there be any peoples there?" Harry asked, his green eyes sparkling.

Severus glanced at the boy, wondering at that look, did he want to interact with someone? Or was it merely interest in something new? Trusting him that he would be safe? He honestly wished sometimes that he could read Harry's thoughts. It would make everything so much easier. Well he could if he wished, read Harry's mind, but he quite frankly would never evade Harry's privacy like that. It had been evaded as it could possibly get, without adding mind reading to the list. "Prince Manor is my home, not a school, when we go there, only you and I will be there. Except of course, some House-elves who take care of the property." Severus informed him, still trying to gauge what it is that Harry was truly trying to ask. Quite concerned about Harry's state of mind, that he quite frankly forgot about Harry's grammar mistakes. Which he would always correct.

"So, I can look around?" Harry asked quietly, not quite meeting Severus' eyes.

It was Severus' turn to freeze on the spot, he could imagine Harry's thought process if this was what he was thinking. He had noticed the fact he was only ever allowed out when there was nobody around. All manner of thoughts could be circling Harry, the probability of them all being negative was high indeed.

He was going to have to tell Harry why that was, at least an acceptable version. He wasn't exactly known for his subtly, perhaps asking Minerva and Poppy would be his best bet. They were used to dealing with children. They could help him with how best to tell Harry a childish version of why and what.

He hadn't wanted to. Not this soon.

Unfortunately, this was just the way it would need to be done. He refused to let Harry think awful thoughts. That he couldn't be seen since he wasn't normal. That his magic made him wrong, and he shouldn't associate with normal people. Just imagining the thoughts made Severus almost shiver in revulsion if not for his long-held ability to keep most reactions to himself.

"You definitely can," Severus finally managed to speak.

A childish smile spread across Harry's face, happy at the prospect of such a simple promise.

"We can even investigate around the grounds, if you feel up to it?" Severus suggested, "We have all day so we can take our time. There will be no rush." He vowed to himself to do right by Harry. Even if it meant moving him to Prince Manor to give him true normalcy, instead of being stuck in these damn quarters if that was what's troubling him.

"Really? Without the walker?" Harry said determinedly, green eyes alight with delight.

"Without the walker," Severus conceded, they had all day after all, what would it hurt to stop now and again. It was a beautiful day, with winter coming, why not let Harry enjoy a full day outside in the sun? He had been trapped in the darkness for far too long.

He wasn't sure if it would be ideal to let Harry out in the winter, he could get very easily poorly, become sick. It would depend on how his immune system was, sooner or later though it would need built up.

"I am going to tell him about almost everything," Severus informed Minerva and Poppy, while Harry was distracted by colouring in, he largely still went out the lines, but he was getting more careful. "I am just unsure of how to say it in a way that would be appropriate for him…somehow in a way that he might actually understand."

"I see," Minerva nodded thoughtfully, "Yes, it is concerning isn't it? Daunting too I'd imagine."

"I don't think he should know," Poppy's voice was adamant, stern but very quiet as to not concern Harry or let him overhear them. "Not yet, he deserves this safety you've given him, Severus, to rip it away…it's not only careless but it would hurt him and terrify him more than anything else we could do."

"I would hate to see him retreat back into himself," Minerva's brows furrowed, realizing at once that Poppy was quite correct. "The thought of getting taken away…you're quite correct, perhaps he isn't ready for any of that. We always knew there was a risk at keeping him here at Hogwarts…" perhaps too much a risk.

Severus' eyes shied away from theirs, feeling sorely lacking for his desire to tell Harry everything. He just didn't want the boy to think he was a prisoner or a freak as he had been made believe his entire life. What would cause the most damage? Harry knowing? Or perhaps he should just take Harry away from Hogwarts. Bring him to Prince Manor and let him free to roam. Without a door locked, free to live his life, with a new imagination. Be a child that he'd never been allowed to be.

"Do not think so harshly of yourself, Severus," Poppy stated sharply, understanding Severus' reaction better than most. He hadn't seen such a look on Severus' face since he was a damn teenager and she did not like it one bit.

"I think he's beginning to realize that he's being kept down here away from people." Severus said quietly, the urge to rasp his hair in fistfuls was strong. "I am worried what this might do to his state of mind…it is fragile as it is."

"Ah," Minerva exclaimed softly, understanding Severus' decision now. "Perhaps have Sirius take Harry out to the Muggle world? Perhaps the days you work? You could also take him out yourself more often, he isn't in the dire straits he was when he was found."

"Or we could move him elsewhere, do what we wanted to do at the beginning. Take care of Harry, together, between the three of us, as well as Sirius and Roz, Harry won't be alone. Somewhere near a park? But not with too many people, who knows how the Muggles would react to Harry being there." Poppy explained, unaware that there were children much like Harry – however temporarily Harry's is – there and judged just as badly by many regretfully, but the Muggle adults wouldn't blink over it.

Severus breathed out, glancing at Harry, feeling peace flow through him. He was happy colouring, a smile on his face, except when he was concentrating on which colour to choose. Things felt less stressful when he saw Harry this way, made it feel all worthwhile. "I think perhaps, Harry and I will see if we like Prince Manor enough to stay,"

"Both of you?" Minerva whispered, mixed feelings at the thought. She would miss Severus terribly, she had worked with him for many years. Yet, the thought of Severus doing more with his life than just teaching students he most definitely didn't want to teach was good.

"It's something I'd need to discuss with Albus," Severus confirmed, he felt guilty about making Dumbledore's workload even more immense. He was already ploughing through more wizengamot meetings than was sane. Then keeping everything to do with Hogwarts on and the up, admittedly with a lot of help from Minerva but that was her job. If he left, not only would they need to find a new Head of House for Slytherin…they would also need to find another person to take his classes. Although he assumed Dumbledore may just ask Slughorn to step up completely, at least until he found someone worthwhile.

"No, this is something YOU need to decide for YOU and HARRY," Minerva retorted seriously. "Let me worry about Albus, but I do not believe he would talk you out of it. He wants Harry as safe as possible. Just like we do."

Severus relaxed further at her proclamation, "Yes, you're quite correct, Minerva," this was about him and Harry, what was best for them both. Being here at Hogwarts, was maybe not that anymore. Harry had unique needs for someone his physical age, he needed to spread his wings a little, explore, he was always so happy and eager to see things. Books couldn't do that justice.

"Of course, I am," Minerva teased, "So both of you get going, have fun, it's already nearing ten o'clock." With how slow-moving Harry was, through no fault of his own, it would take them all day to see the manor and its surroundings. She had never been, but she had heard it described in social circles.

Severus breathed out, nodding in agreement, it was time.

Tonight, would be a deciding factor on whether they stayed here or moved to Prince Manor.

It was all down to Harry, whether he was ready to move, but Severus had an inkling that all would be well.

There we go! That's the next chapter done next one will be Sev and Harry enjoying their day out at Prince Manor, I'm not sure how this story will be ended, the original - if I can still call it that due to the fact its so laughably different! - had a evil Voldemort so that's not going to happen! I suppose his seventeenth birthday would be the best place to end it, where he's considered an adult and not easily - or like at all - manoeuvred into the Ministry's care and safe. The main question would be whether Harry would be mentally equipped to deal with adult life, or whether he will retain the mind-set of a child and living in safety with his Dark Protector? Read and Review please