Tangled Webs chapter 7

Someone was poking him.

He squirmed, and tried to roll away, but something was blocking his path. They poked him again, and he groaned, pulling an arm from under himself and swatting at air. Someone giggled, a soft, womanly sound, and Harry groaned again.

Tonks.

"Leave him alone, Dora."

He quite agreed. She should leave him alone. She could go poke her fiancé, actually. That was a really good idea. He took a deep breath and tried to go back to sleep. He was thwarted again.

"Well good morning to you all!"

Both Harry and Snape groaned loudly at this, the younger of the two wiggling to hide himself under the covers he was sharing with his potion's professor. But not for long.

"Oh, no," Snape said, pulling the blankets back and exposing Harry to the morning sunshine. "If I have to endure this, so do you."

Headmaster Dumbledore came over before Harry could formulate a reply, and beamed at them all. "Lemon drop?"

Harry felt Severus sigh, and fought a smile. He loved the Headmaster, but sometimes he thought the man was barmy. Dora poked him again, Harry cracked an eye open and glared at her.

"Good morning, sweetheart!" she chirped, smiling. Harry didn't know how to handle this, so he cracked the other eye and gazed at his potions professor. The man was looking down at him with an amused glint in his eyes.

"Play along, Potter. It makes things much easier."

Harry rolled his eyes, and decided that if he was going to be awake, he would get out of bed and be done with it.

"Ah, Harry!" Dumbledore cried as Harry sat up, looking for a way off the bed. "I trust you've had a good night's rest?"

Harry nodded, pressing his knees together. Now that he had decided to move, his kidneys had decided that screaming was the best way to get his attention. The bed was huge, and he guessed someone had enlarged it during the night. Snape sat on one side and he knew the man wouldn't move, and Dora sat on the other, looking as if she were ready to poke him again. He wished she wouldn't; he might burst.

Dumbledore twinkled at him. "Perhaps, Ms. Tonks would be so kind as to let a young gentleman off his bed so that he might take care of a few things?"

"Of course, Headmaster." Tonks moved away from the bed, looking as if her fun had been taken away.

Harry managed to wiggle himself off the bed, and then scrambled to the bathroom as fast as his legs could carry him.

Ten minutes later he walked back into the main room. Severus was up and dressed, and battling a persistent Dora who was fussing with his collar. Dubledore watched with twinkling eyes from where he sat on a large, squishy armchair. The bed he had crawled out of had been made, and on it sat a set of neatly folded clothes Harry supposed were his size.

"I trust you've had a good rest, Harry?" Dumbledore asked, fixing him with serious blue eyes.

"Yes, sir," Harry replied, looking down at his hands. The past few days had been nothing short of surreal. One minute he'd been with his uncle, the next he was being tortured by Voldemort. He knew he'd done it, in a subconscious kind of way, but it was incredible to think that so much had happened in only a few short days. And the thing with Madame Pomphrey….. Harry didn't want to think about that.

"I trust you're done scrutinizing the boy with your eyes, Albus?" Severus' eyes bored into the Headmaster's head from where he stood, Dora having given up (not likely) or become satisfied (more likely) that he looked presentable. Personally, Harry thought the man look the same.

Severus was not pleased with the old man. He was still peeved he had been manipulated into going to check on Harry, even if the boy would probably have been dead if he hadn't. Dumbledore gazed at him reprovingly, but Severus chose to ignore him in favor of watching Dora hustle Harry behind a curtain to change. The Headmaster continued to stare at him, however, and soon Severus returned the gaze with a glare all his own.

"Is there a problem, my boy?" Dumbledore rearranged himself casually in his seat, steepling his fingers and re-crossing his ankles.

"There are many problems, old man." Severus was in no mood to play games. He wanted out of this infirmary, he wanted Dora to be laughing at something he said, his back ached and his damned collar was too tight! He wanted out, dammit!

"Really, Severus? Perhaps you should enlighten me, hmm?"

The potions master clenched his jaw to stop the tirade that was threatening to erupt from his mouth. "I'd rather not," he replied after a while.

"Come now, child. Surely if it upsets you so – "

"We're all done!" Tonks beamed, leading a slightly pink Harry back towards them by the shoulders. "The little tyke's all dressed and presentable. Shall we get some breakfast, then?"

"Yes, Dora, lets – "

"Why that's a splendid idea, Auror Tonks!" Dumbledore smiled, heels bouncing lightly on the stone floor.

"I'm off duty, Headmaster," Tonks blushed.

"Never the less, could you escort Harry to the Great Hall, please? Severus and I have a few things to discuss."

Dora's gaze flickered between the furious visage of her love and the calm, stern expression on Dumbledore's face.

"Are you sure? He doesn't look much like he wants to talk to you at the moment."

"I don't" Severus' eyes were flashing.

"Of course you don't child." The old man ignored the way Severus silently fumed. "But you'll indulge an old man, won't you, dear boy?"

This smelt bad all over. Harry looked up to Dora, whose eyes flicked between the two men again. She took a deep breath and said "Okay!" The pink haired woman slung an arm around his shoulders and led him towards the door. "Try not to blow anything up, aright?" she called behind her.

Out in the hallway, Harry stared at the woman with wide eyes.

"What?" she shrugged. "Dumbledore would have found some way to make him stay behind anyway, and I'd much rather Severus rant in there and get it over with than be all moody back at the cottage." She herded him towards the stairs before he could say anything else. "Let's get some grub into you, shall we?"

Back in the hospital wing Severus was glaring daggers at the edge of the bed closest to his mentor. He loved the old man dearly, something he would deny to his dying day, but sometimes the old man made him want to cast an Unforgivable.

Something that, judging by the twinkle in his eyes, said old man knew quite well.

"I'm listening, dear boy," the man said amiably. Severus scowled further, turning on his heel to snap over to the windows.

"What part of 'I'd rather not' did not make it past the fluff in your ears?" His mood darkened further when Albus did nothing but chuckle at him.

"Severus, child, I do believe you are stalling."

"Fine!" Severus exploded. "You want to know what the problem is? Here they are. How the hell could you allow Lily's child to grow up with such despicable people? Did you never check up on him? This couldn't be the first time they've decided to treat him this way; he's been attending Hogwarts for four years, how could no one have seen this?" He whipped past the older man still sitting calmly in his chair. "And what of those damned blood wards you kept touting? Do you know how much of them I saw that night, Albus? NONE!" He spun around, robes billowing behind him, eyes flashing dangerously. "Do you understand what that means? Do you realize how much that child, a child, Albus, has suffered? How much of that could have been avoided, had we even one inkling of what was going on?"

Severus, though livid, was no fool. He knew quite well that he wasn't blameless in this. If he had only looked past his own prejudice at the small child that had gazed around the Great Hall in awe that very first night, all of this could have been avoided. He stormed back to the other end of the wing, his robes flapping dangerously around his ankles.

But he wasn't the one that had checked up on the boy, if that had even been true. He snorted contemptuously to himself. Of course it wasn't true. Dumbledore would never have let the boy be treated the way he had been if he'd known.

Or would he?

"I assure you, Severus, I do realize how grave an error I've made." Dumbledore's voice floated over to him and Severus fought not to sneer. "And reparations will be made, most assuredly."

"You will actually punish someone for wrongdoing?" Severus asked, spinning to face his mentor. "You? Will wonders never cease?"

"Severus, my child – "

"No. What else do you feel the need to divulge? There is a small child alone in the company of a dreadfully clumsy witch I must rescue."

Dumbledore's eyes twinkled. "Fond of the child already?"

Severus sniffed. "I'd rather not visit my fiancé in prison."

"Of course." Dumbledore stood, sounding fond himself. "When you are done rescuing young Mr. Potter, please send him up to my office. I must arrange a place for him to stay this summer."

"Completely unnecessary, Headmaster. Mr. Potter will be staying with me."

Severus stood stock still as he said it, not bothering to look anything but resolved. Truthfully he hadn't given the idea much thought, but now that he'd said it, yes, it fit. He would not be abandoning the child to some other random person. He was a child, and one that needed special care. Plus, Lucius would never let him hear the end of it.

If Dumbledore was surprised, he didn't show it. The two men stared at each other for a moment, each unwilling to make the first move.

"I suppose, I suppose that would be acceptable." The words fell slowly from behind Dumbledore's beard, as if the man was unsure he was truly supposed to speak the words themselves. "The protections – "

"Will be my concern, thank you." Severus drew himself up, and strode purposefully towards the door. "If you will excuse me, breakfast awaits."

He was nearly to the door when Dumbledore's soft voice caught him.

"I truly am sorry for this, my boy."

Severus sighed, then pushed the door open. "You always are."