The next day, Harry lay abed late. He relished the freedom here at Malfoy Manor, as opposed to the dire oppression of the Dursley residence. He sighed and stretched, and was about to swing his legs out of the bed when there was a large crack.
Dobby appeared in the manner customary to his kind, and sank into a low bow.
"Master Harry, I is needing to speak to you," he said, turning his green tennis ball-like eyes in his direction.
"What is it Dobby? Am I late for breakfast?" Harry asked, smiling at the serious elf.
Dobby's ears drooped.
"No, it is more important than that. Dobby knows what happened last night, but Dobby is not allowed to tell Master Lucius," the elf said.
"Why not? He's your Master isn't he? Don't you have to tell him everything?" Harry asked as he was pulling on his socks. He believed this was some prank of Draco's, trying to pull Harry's leg.
"There were spells, Dobby doesn't know what they were, but Dobby cannot speak of it- not to Master Lucius or Master Draco or Master Severus…somethings was stolen last night. Somethings precious to the Darklord,"
That made Harry sit up and take notice.
"Are you serious? What was it?" Harry questioned.
Dobby's ears drooped further.
"I is not sure, but with it gone Harry Potter is in great danger! Some things are not meant to be released into the world," the elf sniffled into his dirty tea towel miserably.
"But who took it? Surely you can say that much Dobby," Harry said.
"I do not know his name. He was a tall man, a dark man,"
There had been a lot of tall dark men at the party the night before; height was something breed into pureblood society it seemed.
"What do you want me to do? Tell Lucius?" asked Harry again, wondering how he always seemed to be the one carrying privy information.
"You cannot, Master Harry. The spell will work against you if you try. But I knew I could tell yous," Dobby said with a sad smile.
"Hang on, why me and no one else?" Harry frowned.
"I is not knowing, sir, it just felt right," the house elf left with another large crack, leaving Harry to try and sort through the muddled and cryptic message on his own.
At Breakfast, both the older men seemed quiet and had a tendency to rest their heads in their hands.
"Too much wine," Draco whispered conspiringly to Harry.
Lucius looked more worried than hung over, in Harry's opinion, but he ate his porridge in silence.
"What are you boys going to do today then?" Severus asked.
"I thought we'd go flying," Draco answered, looking at Lucius for approval.
"Fine, but get some of your summer homework finished this afternoon," Lucius replied absently.
"Of course Father," Draco reclined his head slightly. "Come on Harry, the day is perfect for flying!"
After a few hours, Harry pulled his broom up and landed softly in the grass. His heart was pounding with exhilaration. It seemed that no matter his mood, when he had been flying he felt all his trouble melt away in an instant. He gratefully accepted a drink of water from a house elf that had appeared as he landed, anticipating his needs. Draco landed next to him, and flopped backwards on the grass.
"Some fun, eh," he muttered, more to himself than anyone else.
Harry lent back next to him, looking up at the blue sky. They lay in companionable silence for a few minutes, before Draco spoke.
"Are you happy here, Harry?" he asked almost lazily.
"Of course! You have the greatest house in the world," Harry replied sincerely.
"I'm glad. I hope you spend every summer here, just like this," Draco mumbled with his eyes closed.
"Me too," Harry whispered, knowing full well that Dumbledore would try and get him back with the Dursleys every year of his school life. "I hope that too,"
The days seemed to meld into one another in a pleasant blur. Harry could not remember ever being this happy, or ever feeling so free. He knew also that Severus wanted to speak to him about the Dursleys, but he never could bring himself to say anything himself. He felt he deserved the way they treated him, and could not really understand why it was so different at Malfoy Manor. The inevitable came however, one sunny afternoon when he and Draco were finishing a History of Magic essay. Severus appeared at the door looking slightly uneasy.
"Harry, would you mind if we had a word?" he asked softly.
Draco took one glance at the tall Potions Master and left the room quickly. Severus shut the door behind him.
"What is it?" Harry asked warily.
"I've been watching you, since you came to stay here for the holidays. I'm glad you're eating, and sleeping properly Harry. I'm glad you aren't hurting yourself any more," Severus said bluntly.
"What do you mean?" Harry asked turning pale.
"I know there were times last year when things were difficult, and I know you hurt yourself. What you have lived through is inexcusable, but Harry, there are people who care for you as well, people who don't want to see you in any more pain. Do you understand?" Severus looked uncomfortable at this little speech.
Harry thought of the days spent flying with Draco, or when they simply lay in the grass. He remembered Breakfasts with Lucius and Severus, when they would smile and laugh. But he also remembered the darkness in his life, and the pain he had already gone through.
"It's not like a light switch. It's not something I can turn off. It won't just go away because you, or even I, want it to," Harry whispered sinking deeper into the chair.
Severus crossed the room in a few strides, causing Harry to almost flinch at the sudden movement before he remembered who it was in the room with him. Severus touched his hands gently.
"I know that. But I want you to come and talk to me, or Lucius, or even Draco when you feel like that. I know there is a part of you that thinks that the way the Dursleys treat you is what you deserve, but you deserve much better, Harry. This year I am going to do my best to make sure you are safe, and that no one will ever hurt you that way again,"
Harry looked up at him with tears in his green eyes. He noticed that Severus said he would do his best, and did not promise to do what could prove impossible. He heard Dobby's words in his head 'you is in great danger…" But at that moment, looking into the earnest face of the man in front of him, Harry felt safe.
"I will do my best too," he said.
"And that is all I can ask for," Severus replied sadly.