A/N: Sooooo... I'm a horrible person for leaving you at such a cliff hanger for two years. But I'm back and committed to finishing this story. Again, sorry about the wait.

Chapter 17

For Only You

Whatever Harry had been expecting him to say, it wasn't that. Severus watched the boy try to figure out the jump in logic. It was somewhat endearing that Harry didn't immediately think he was a slobbering beast one night a month.

"We're supposed to learn about them in later years," Harry tried, brows bunched up. "And I've seen movies.."

"The cinema is not known for its accuracy," Severus murmured as he rubbed the backs of his hands with his thumbs. Then he decided he'd better just come out with this. "Harry, I am a werewolf."

Harry just blinked at him at first. He opened his mouth to say something, then closed it again, bewildered and bothered. Severus figured this was a better reaction than he could have hoped for. The horror and disgust would come later, of course, but at least Harry was simply staring at him now.

"The night of the full moon, I transform. That is why I am always gone," Severus continued as calmly as he could. He ignored how shot his nerves were, how ready he was for Harry to simply reject him right then and there. His hands would have been shaking if he weren't gripping them so tightly."The day after, I sleep. The transformation is painful and exhausting."

"But…" Harry floundered. He looked at his hands, fingers twitching here and there. "But..."

"The potion you see me take is a way to control myself during the transformation. It keeps the animal mind under control. Makes me… safe. Without it, I would be a mindless beast as soon as the moon rose."

Harry shivered. He shifted, hugging himself across his chest and looking back up at him. Severus wasn't sure what he saw in the boy's eyes. He wasn't sure he wanted to know either. Harry's face was white as milk and his eyes looked almost glassy with shock. Severus wished there had been another way to tell him, something less blatant and jarring, but he doubted anyone could have done any better.

"C-can I catch it..?"

Severus blinked once, a little surprised at Harry's tiny, unsure voice. "…No. I'm very careful to keep contamination under control. You can only be turned on a full moon by surviving a transformed werewolf's bite. So please continue not invading my space on these nights. I don't want to turn you any more than you would want to be turned."

For a moment, Harry looked like he was going to be sick on the rug. Severus wouldn't have blamed him. He should have had the foresight to have cocoa ready but he'd been hoping to avoid this conversation for… Well, forever, perhaps, despite what Remus had been pushing at for the last few weeks.

For a long time they were silent. Harry stared at the rug, alternating between looking sick and bewildered. He was too young for this. Actually, anyone was too young to deal with the reality of a werewolf, even wizards. Severus' chest clenched painfully as he waited, letting Harry have the time he needed to process this.

Finally, Harry glanced at him, though his eyes were quick to drop again after. "...Can I think about this?"

"Of course. Take whatever time you need."

Harry got up and fidgeted a moment, looking as if he wanted to reach out to Severus for a moment but not sure if he should. Or if he really did want to. Severus tried not to let that hurt him. He stood, letting his robes settle around him, and hugged his arms across his chest.

"Sleep well," Severus murmured, when it seemed Harry didn't know how to end the conversation. The boy gave him a grateful look that melted back into something unsure soon. Then he left and Severus listened to the door click closed. It sounded deafening at that moment. He knew he was being very stupid, but it seemed… final. Ominous.

Severus headed to bed, careful of one leg that wanted to fail under him. That damned cerberus puppy. He swore he'd skin the thing for biting his leg, but at least it hadn't bitten the damn thing off and his healing factor was doing well to get him back to one hundred percent. Harry was an issue he'd have to think about later. His leg brought something back to the forefront.

Quirrel should have been able to handle that troll. Despite the man's terrified nature, he couldn't be completely inept. If Dumbledore really felt there was still a danger in the world severe enough to keep a spy in his pocket he'd never put someone into such an important position who couldn't do the job. Would he?

That took some thinking. The next day, he was still worrying about it. He brushed Remus off when the man asked him if he was all right and instead kept his eyes out for a moment he might be able to corner Quirrel and get some answers. There was something going on and it involved the man. If he hadn't missed his guess, it involved the Philosopher's Stone as well. That brought about some very unsettling ideas.

Before he managed to confront Quirrel, Severus went to see Dumbledore. He didn't expect to get much from him, but perhaps the Headmaster would let something slip. It didn't happen often. Still, there was hope. Severus took his seat and the offered tea, nose twitching at the sugary scent. Something like little lemon candies, which matched the taste as well. He didn't mind too much. Lycanthropy had sweetened his tastes over the years.

The conversation brought less than Severus had hoped. Dumbledore was very good at evading questions and had been dodging Severus' grilling for years. In the end, Severus had learned nothing more than Dumbledore would greatly enjoy a new pair of socks for Christmas, or perhaps a purple tie for his muggle disguise. Severus left in disgust. Why had he really expected?! Certainly no real help. But as he got to the door, Dumbledore finally, blessedly, said something important.

"What do you know of Horcruxes?"

Severus paused and glanced back at him, still annoyed from his evasions even as he grew more confused at the question. "More than I wish to. What is your point?"

Steepling his fingers, Dumbledore lost the look of a codgery old man, settling into the general he had been during the war. "I had an interesting conversation with Horace the other day. Reminiscing. You see, he was teaching potions when a young Tom Riddle attended this school."

Severus' scorn vanished. Instead, it was replaced by a deep, dark fear that he had tried so hard to leave behind. A fear he had tried to convince himself was foundless. But Severus knew what a Horcrux was and he knew the only reason Dumbledore would bring them up.

"How many?" he asked, his voice hushed. "How many did he make?"

"I don't know," Dumbledore replied honestly. "But I have reason to believe they are far more than I like and they can defend themselves."

And what an odd thing to say, but Severus was blindsided by the very idea. If the Dark Lord had made even a single Horcrux… Then he was still around, biding his time. Waiting. And then the horror of his attack on the wizarding world would happen again. And again, if they didn't manage to find and destroy every Horcrux he'd fashioned.

"Severus," the old man said softly, drawing his attention once more. "We must find them."

He could hear the unspoken words. Severus must find them. There was no one else that could walk the two worlds and keep his life. But Severus didn't want to search for them. He didn't want to become entangled in the lives of the remaining Death Eaters. His mind flashed to Lucius Malfoy and a wave of revulsion flashed through his body. Severus looked away.

"I will do what I can," he murmured. "But I have something to lose now. I can't throw everything I have into it anymore."

"But you must." Dumbledore's voice was soft but stern, firm in his convictions. "If you do not do this, Harry will suffer the return of the man that murdered his parents, who would likely torture him for days on end before killing him. Severus, you are the only one who can save him."

A flash of rage and Severus wanted to hit him as hard as he could, but he didn't move. "You would have made a fantastic Slytherin."

"I've heard that often."

Severus left him then and tried to leave the anger and fear behind, but it warred within him. So many times, he had told himself, told everyone, that the Dark Lord was gone. That he could never return. But now… He stopped near one of the windows, staring out towards the lake. Students wandered here and there, some studying, others playing games. If he did not do this, none of them would be safe, least of all his son…

But if he ended up dead, Harry would be in the hands of all those Severus had tried to save him from. Either the Ministry, who would use him for political gain and get him killed, or Dumbledore, who would turn him into a child soldier and manipulate him so that Harry chose to be that way.

No. Leaving Harry alone was not an option, but nor could he ignore the danger his son was in. He would search for the Horcruxes and identify them. Then he'd let Dumbledore's Order take care of them.

He wasn't really surprised when he found himself at Remus' door. But he didn't knock. Instead, he closed his eyes and drew in the lingering scent of the man. It was calming, even hours old. His senses were still wild from the full moon and often lingered for days after, longer with each time.

And that was another worry to add to the others. Even after Remus had forced him to admit that he still had feelings for him, and Remus's own confession, Severus had still nearly lost it during the full moon. He was still going feral. The idea should have been terrifying, but Severus felt… tired. He almost wanted to let it happen. Except it would leave Harry alone.

That in mind, Severus went to pen a letter to Belby and, hopefully, settle his mind for the task to come. It would take every shred of cunning he had to suss out the Horcruxes and lead to their destruction. But Severus would do it.

Dumbledore was right. He was the only one who could.

Chapter 18

Can Keep My Heart

The one person Severus never wanted to go to was the one person who would have any luck of finding the Horcruxes. Only the man who had been closest, who had been in the Inner Circle of the Dark Lord's most trusted disciples, could set Severus on the right path. The only reason he went was for Harry.

As soon as Severus step foot into Malfoy Manor, the cold settled deep in his bones. It hardened his body, his heart, and sharpened his mind in a way he might have envied, had he not realized the danger he was putting himself in. Who knew when Lucius Malfoy would grow tired of his little slut and discard the toy he'd held so jealously to him? But Severus did not have the luxury of fear. He didn't have the time. At least this time he would have surprise on his side.

A house elf tried to deter him, saying that the Master was sick, indisposed, sleeping. The hurried, depthless lies nearly made Severus pause. What was terrible enough to cause a house elf to lie? They were so distressingly terrible at it. For a brief moment, Severus wondered if, perhaps, Malfoy had taken up someone else in his sick games. Or maybe even Narcissa?

If it were Narcissa...

Resolve steeled, Severus forced the elf to lead him to her master. She was sobbing by the time they made it to the study but even this would not turn him from his task. He dismissed the pathetic thing and reached for the knob only to stop and listen. From inside, he could hear Malfoy's voice but it was not the dark, silken tones he had grown accustomed to. This was frantic, uncontrolled, desperate in the way of a man with so much to lose. No answer, but if Lucius Malfoy was so afraid...

The Dark Lord was dead.

But those indeterminate pleas...

The Dark Lord was dead and would remain so as soon as Severus destroyed his last anchors. His wand was in hand when Severus opened the door, a spell on the tip of his tongue. But it stayed stuck in his throat, unneeded.

The room held only one occupant. Lucius Malfoy was sprawled beside his desk, half against a bookcase and the floor, a shaking mess of a man. His hands were caught in his mussed hair, fingers split and rubbed raw. His eyes held a madness Severus had only glimpsed a few times and never within what was once his friend. He barely resembled himself at all. Bloodshot eyes, rimmed with irritated red and bruised purple; clothing slept in, wrinkled, in disarray. Scratches in his face...

Malfoy's eyes rolled up to look at him in the doorway and he gave a sudden pained moan that had the hair on the back of Severus' neck standing. He ripped his hands free of his hair, taking long blonde strands with them, and scrambled to his feet. Malfoy barely made it, swaying enough to make him stumble and use the desk to keep him steady.

"Severus!" he whined, voice trembling as badly as his body did. "Severus, you have to know- you have to know that I-"

He choked, grabbing at his throat, his face, dropping his head as his shoulders hunched jerkily. It was the most bizarre thing Severus had ever seen.

"Malfoy," he murmured, greeting or question he wasn't sure. Lucius Malfoy had gone mad.

The blond man gave a broken, bitter laugh. "No! That's not- That's not what you call me, that's- Severus. Severus. Listen to me. Not to me, but to me."

Severus didn't move. He didn't know what to say or do as Malfoy pinned him with a desperate, wide eyed stare. What on Earth...? Then the man stumbled towards him, reaching out with bleeding hands to grab the front of Severus' robes in a death grip. The cold inside him magnified, pure ice stretching out from his chest to the rest of his body.

"Listen to me, Severus, old friend-"

"We are not friends," Severus replied immediately and was surprised by his own hushed tone. Malfoy stared at him, panting for breath as if he had been running for days.

"Yes we are," Malfoy insisted as his hands shook against Severus' chest. "Yes we are. You don't understand. I didn't know what was happening. I didn't realize. You don't understand how powerful he is. I didn't know, Severus."

"The Dark Lord?" Severus murmured softly and Malfoy's eyes went wider.

"Yes! Yes! You understand? It's him, Severus. It's him, pulling strings and wants and dreams. Oh Merlin, the dreams." Malfoy shuddered hard as pure revulsion swept through him so powerfully that his entire body began to crumple from the weight of it. He fell against Severus, weakened, and Severus felt something inside him worn thin and weak finally snap.

Malfoy's knees hit the ground as Severus grabbed his jaw, jerking his head up, making him face him. And when he had Malfoy's eyes, he delved into his mind with all the finesse of an axe.

A thick, disgusting, black thing had itself wrapped around Malfoy's mind. It filled nearly every crevice and cranny, soaked into most every thought and feeling and dream. Tainting them. Owning them. Twisting them until they were as black and ugly as it. And as Severus delved into memory, it turned to him.

Severus jerked bodily as he dragged out from Malfoy's mind. The man himself gave a strangled whine and collapsed onto the floor. That.. Severus had never seen anything like that before. He leaned back against the doorframe, trembling as he tried to banish the sick, oily feeling of it from him. He felt choked and nauseated and...

A moment of clarity. Severus knew what that was. He stared down at Lucius Malfoy, the shaking wreck left of him, and he knew.

"You fool," he whispered. "You power hungry fool."

Severus knelt down beside Lucius, turning him onto his back and snapping his fingers to get his attention. Bloodshot, terrified eyes turned onto him.

"How many?" Severus hissed out and when the man didn't seem to understand, he asked again, "How many of you did he implant his soul into?"

"Six," Lucius whispered. "Six. I didn't... Severus, I didn't know what it would do. It keeps me sleeping so often now-"

"Quiet." Severus dropped his hands in his lap. He didn't want to touch anyone, least of all Lucius fucking Malfoy, the Lord of Terrible Ideas and Worse Ambition. "What did you think it would do?"

"He said it would give us power. His power..."

Severus laughed, cold and dark. "You're not an idiot. You must have realized what it was. The sacrifices alone should have been obvious enough!"

Lucius closed his eyes tightly as shame rolled through him. "You don't understand. You weren't... You weren't in the real middle of it. Too young. I... I didn't want you in there."

"Don't you dare try to tell me you were protecting me," Severus hissed out as the cold reared inside him fiercely. He got back to his feet, backing towards the door. "Not after this. Not after everything you-"

"It twisted me!" Lucius howled. He tried to get to his feet but could only manage his knees. "It twisted everything I've ever wanted or needed- Twisted what I am until I didn't recognize myself anymore and I can't... Severus, most of the time, I don't even know it. I don't care. So often, I don't even care anymore. And when it's quiet, when I can think again- Merlin, Severus, what it's done to my son!"

Severus stopped. For a brief moment, a cold fear welled up inside him. Draco. Had he- but Severus had been watching. He'd have known, have noticed, if Lucius began... to his son...

"No," Lucius breathed and this time he was able to stand, stumble back to him. "No, Severus, not that. Not even if it- I stayed away when I felt it rising. I called for you. I sent him away. Severus, I always sent him away. I can't... I can't stop feeling these... these things, needing them, but I called for you."

It made a sick kind of sense. Once, they had been great friends. Once, they had been there for one another. Even this made sense when Severus put it through the lense of a badly damaged mind.

"When did it start?" Severus murmured softly, feeling as if his insides had been shredded. Lucius barely moved, his eyes half lidded and locked on the ceiling.

"Long after the ceremony. When I realized there was someone else in your heart that might actually return the favor."

Severus glanced at him, surprised, but Lucius didn't look back.

"It was always me, before," the blond man murmured softly with a candor Severus had never heard before. "I was the only one that really saw you. And then he realized what worth you were. I tried to accept it. Severus, I really did try. But every time I thought about you or him, I... It churned inside me. I couldn't... stand the very idea of you belonging to someone else. You were mine. You are mine."

And it was true. For now. Because of the noose of knowledge around his neck and held in Lucius' hands. But this...

"You made me a toy," Severus hissed, quiet and bitter.

Lucius sat up, raking a hand back through his hair to get it out of his face. "I made you mine. I etched myself so deep inside you that you will never forget me."

It happened too quickly for Severus to react. In an instant, the broken, shattered man before him was no more. In his place was the tormentor Severus had come to know intimately well. Severus made a break for the door, but Malfoy was on him a moment too soon, slamming him back hard against the doorframe.

"You are mine, Severus. Mine to have and to touch and to break."

No. Not this time.

Something burned through the ice inside of him. It flashed so fast and hot through his body that Severus barely realized what he was doing until after he'd wrestled Malfoy to the ground. And then he didn't care because this time, this time, he was not going to let it happen. He couldn't let this- he would not submit like a frightened bitch to a sick and clawless wretch.

Severus raked his hands down Malfoy's chest and wasn't surprised when cloth and skin broke under his sharpening nails. His other hand wrapped tight around Malfoy's throat and kept him pinned down. Malfoy's hands scratched and tugged frantically but Severus had never been stronger than this. He would not be moved. Severus tore open the front of Malfoy's robes, ripped aside his undershirt to get to the bare expanse of his bleeding chest. He could hear nothing except the fast, hard rhythm of Malfoy's heart.

Remove it and he would remove the weakness that had dared cow him for so long, had dared think itself strong and worthy and above. Keep his pup safe from the twisted thing infecting his pack-


The fury broke. Severus blinked and color bled back into his vision. He stared down at Malfoy as the man's struggles grew weaker. What was he doing?

Severus let go and got to his feet, stumbling back a few paces. He looked at his hands, the blood under his sharpened, lengthened nails. It was worse than he feared. Severus fled the Manor.

Chapter 19

Steady and Calm

When Severus returned to his rooms in the dungeons, he immediately washed the blood from his hands. And then he washed them again. And again. He washed until he couldn't even smell the blood anymore. Lucius Malfoy hung in his clothes like a wraith, so he stripped down and sent them to be laundered as he slid himself into the shower.

How long it took to feel clean, he didn't know. But it took longer to stop shaking. A second more- not even, a half second more - and he'd have killed Malfoy right then. With his bare hands. Like an animal.

Like a wolf.

Like the mindless, rampaging beasts in the movies Harry had watched with muggle friends at Durmstrang, like the Wizarding World believed him to be. He was becoming that nightmare and it terrified him to the core. The break in his ever present self control...

It was accelerating. His fall into the feral nature of the beast inside him. And he didn't know what to do.

The bathroom door opened and before the sound registered in his mind, Severus had the intruder pinned against the door with one arm pulled taunt up his back. The next second he noticed a familiar scent and recognized the salt and pepper hair. Severus let go and stepped back.

"You surprised me," he muttered.

"I gathered," Remus murmured, rubbing his shoulder with a frown. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine." Severus grabbed a towel, wrapping it around himself for decency. "Did you need something?"

Remus didn't answer at first. When Severus finally looked at him, he found himself pinned with a concerned gaze.

"Severus. Are you okay?"

He tried to say he was but the words stuck fast in his throat, refusing to come free a second time. He wasn't. Not at all. When Remus pulled him into his arms, Severus let him. They said nothing and Severus concentrated on the warmth of Remus' body and the sound of water hitting the tiles of his still running shower. He wrapped his arms tight around Remus and clung to him as if the other man could banish the vile thing growing stronger inside him with every passing of the moon.

"I thought you might need me," Remus said softly, warm fingers rubbing over Severus' back. "And if you didn't, I thought I might need you."

Severus held him tighter. He didn't trust his voice to be steady.

I called for you. I can't... I can't stop feeling these... these things, needing them, but I called for you.

Closing his eyes, Severus buried his face against Remus' throat, surrounding himself in the man's scent and warmth. This was why it was worth it. This was why he had to be strong and could not fail. Would not fail.

Remus muttered a drying spell when they finally let go, then led Severus into the bedroom. He sat them both down, taking the brush from Severus' night table, and began to carefully tame Severus' spell dried hair. The silence was a balm, even if Severus could sense the concern churning inside his... Lover, maybe. If he could call them that right now. A few hurried kisses, never enough caring touches. He supposed it was still accurate.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Remus murmured after he'd soothed the knots from Severus' hair.


It took nearly a minute before Severus realized why he felt a strange sort of deja vu, but unlike years ago when Severus had nearly broken them apart with his inability to trust anyone with his weaknesses, Remus didn't press further. He didn't risk Severus' rage, and that was almost painful. Severus understood, of course. Things were still... strange. New and old at the same time. So much history and yet the years apart had marked them.

Remus was the same in all the ways that truly counted, but he had matured. Calmed. He was not the man Severus had once loved, but a better one. One that Severus was even less worthy of. One that was humbling to be near because no matter how long it had been, Remus' feelings for him had not wavered or weakened, even though they should have. Even though Severus had done his level best to break him.

He didn't want to talk, but somehow he had to. About something. Just not Lucius Malfoy or the Horcruxes. Those were burdens he would shoulder alone. However...

"I attacked someone today," he found himself murmuring because this was something he could talk about. One area he could be weak in because Remus was - had always been and would always be - his pack leader. "I was so... angry. Felt it, like a switch in my mind, and I..."

Remus was quiet a moment and the brush had gone still. Severus could scent his surprise. Then Remus set down the brush and shifted to press against Severus' back, wrapping his arms around him. His head came to rest upon Severus' shoulder.


"Someone I used to know," Severus murmured because he could not say the name; he would not talk about him. The words were already hard enough to rip from his throat. "He threatened me and I snapped. I nearly killed him."

Remus squeezed tighter a moment. "But you didn't. You stopped."

"Barely." Severus closed his eyes and leaned back into Remus' body. "Barely."

For a long time, they sat in silence. Severus concentrated on the sound of Remus' heartbeat and the feel of warm breath against his neck. He laid his head back on Remus' shoulder and didn't even think about how he was baring his throat. The trust that showed. Even when he was trying so hard to push Remus away, Severus still trusted him with everything he had.

"I'm going feral," Severus whispered finally. Remus stiffened behind him. "I've known for a while."

Remus buried his face against Severus' throat and a shudder went down his body hard enough that Severus could feel it along the length of his. It was a strange thing. Going feral was something had had known about, distantly, for most of his life. Something that happened to weak minded werewolves without the strength to keep their humanity. It was why the Wizarding World feared them so. A feral wolf was different than a transformed man. A feral wolf remained as wild and uncontained in human form as he was in fur. For Severus, it had been a terrifying notion at first, but now he... almost welcomed it. The freedom.

"Remus, promise me-"

"It's reversible," Remus said quickly, squeezing him tighter. He wasn't even denying what Severus claimed. He knew. "I've heard of it reversing. Don't you dare give me some kind of 'if I don't make it' speech-"


He fell silent but his scent was loud enough. Anger, grief, love, a swirling mess of feeling that Severus let surround him, comfort him. That was on perk he supposed, just how long his senses stayed heightened. He lifted his hands to rest on Remus'.

"I want you to look after Harry, if it happens," he murmured softly and continued over another protest. "Don't let Dumbledore or the Ministry get their hands on him. They'd twist him, turn him into something harsh and cold. Don't let them send him back to Lily's sister. That would be even worse. It needs to be you."

"Severus..." Remus drew in a shaky breath. "I promise. But it won't come to that. I won't let it."

Severus didn't honestly think that was under Remus' control, but the reassurance still made him feel protected. And it was that precious feeling of security that he had missed most.

Remus stayed for the rest of the day. They took dinner there and spent their time sitting close in front of the fire, just being. Severus had rarely been so relaxed and content. The moment was broken near curfew by a light knock at the door. Severus debated answering it, but he had an idea of who it was. Giving Remus' knee a squeeze, he got up and went to it.

Standing behind was not the boy he expected. It was Draco Malfoy.

"Sir," he greeted and though his expression was controlled and neutral, the simple word was enough testament to his mental state. Draco was always very careful with his words. He knew the power of them. If he was "sir" and not "Uncle" or "Professor", the boy had to be rather bothered. Severus let him in and closed the door quietly behind.

"Good evening," he intoned. "What can I do for you?"

The boy started to answer and then went still as he realized Remus was on the couch Severus had just left. He snapped his mouth closed and frowned. For a moment, Severus thought he might have to kick Remus out but the man was already getting up to go. He greeted Draco cheerfully and headed out, brushing his hand to Severus' on the way. When the door closed behind him, only some of the stress in Draco's body drained out. Severus led him to sit down and poured fresh tea for both of them.

"What was Professor Lupin doing here?" Draco asked, eyes on the tea held securely in both hands, letting it warm his fingers.

"We were discussing a few troubled students." Draco glanced at him and Severus knew he didn't believe that but at least he had enough decorum not to call Severus on the lie. A Malfoy knew how to play the game of social graces. "What did you need to talk about, Draco?"

Draco, not Mr. Malfoy. Godson, not student. Draco lowered his eyes again even as he drew up straight and strong in his seat. So unlike Harry in that, more like Severus himself, not wanting to show weakness even to friends.

"Father has asked me to stay at school for the winter holiday," he began and his voice was as steady as his expression, even if he couldn't quite meet Severus' eyes. "Would you allow me to join you and Harry for your holiday?"

Severus had no problem with that, but he did wonder something. "What about your mother?"

"She is visiting other family." The faintest sour edge to his voice told Severus exactly what Draco thought about that. "She won't be back in the country before the end of the break."

And that was... odd. Very odd. For Narcissa to forgo a chance to be with her son even for a few days, especially after the first time they had been apart in Draco's short life... It set Severus on edge and not just because he could sense the rejection and bitterness Draco felt. The two of them had always been close, especially after Lucius began to change. Severus had the urge to curse. He had been so careful to watch Draco for any signs of abuse that he hadn't thought to do the same for Narcissa. Something had to be going on and his duty to Draco demanded he find out what.

"Harry will be pleased to have you join us. I will arrange things." He hesitated and then decided it wasn't worth doing so. "Professor Lupin will likely join us as well."

Draco didn't look exactly surprised but there was a suspicious glint in his eyes, something oddly cautious. "I see. Then you talk with him often about troubled students."

"I suppose." Severus had no intention of actually talking about this and hoped Draco would get the point.

Except he didn't. "What does my father have to say on this?"

That made Severus pause. He looked at the boy closely, seeing the edge of defiance in his gaze tempered by a knowledge of danger Severus had hoped never to see. But Draco was not like Harry. Draco knew things, noticed them.

"It is not your father's concern who I do and do not consort with," he answered finally and Draco got up to his feet.

"Then you had a row?" he asked and seemed almost relieved. "Apologise. He'll forgive you. He likes you."

Severus didn't want to look at Lucius Malfoy's face for the rest of his life. He closed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose. "It's a little more complicated than that-"

"No it isn't." Draco folded his arms over his chest, agitation radiating from him. "I'm not stupid, Uncle. I know about that kind of thing. Deviances."

Where did he even hear that? Severus did his best to keep his composure through the crackle of panic in his chest at the very idea of anyone knowing about his own preferences. He still heard Lord Avery's voice in his mind.

"Draco. This conversation is over."

The boy looked mutinous a moment, then jerked his gaze away. Moodily, he started for the door. His hand was on the knob when his control broke and he muttered out, "If you weren't fighting maybe he'd let me come home."

Severus rose and went to him, turning Draco to face him. He rested his hands on his shoulders, squeezing even if Draco refused to look at him.

"Your father cares a great deal for you," he murmured even if he didn't quite know why he was defending the man.

"No he doesn't." Draco's hands were tightly fisted at his sides. He lifted his eyes, gray eyes hurt and tired. "You're not there. You don't see it. He won't even talk to me anymore. He won't look at me or... or even be in the same room anymore. He doesn't care about anyone. Just you. Even Mother left."


"She left. She took her things and went to live in the summer house."

Severus reeled. When had this happened? He'd been so caught up in his own life that he hadn't noticed- "When?"

"Last year." Draco was staring at the floor again, brows furrowed tight. "She said she needed some space. Something about finding her passions. I think she went to live with her lover. She visits, like when school started."

The fact that Draco was so attuned to the fact that his parents had lovers at all shook Severus deeply. And yet, Draco had not let anyone notice. He'd kept it inside him, quiet and waiting, and simply gone on. It made Severus wonder what else he'd hidden.

"I apologize," Severus murmured softly and it was for more than simply the current state of Draco's parents. "If you ever wish to talk, my door is open to you."

Draco hung his head and Severus heard him swallow. "...I know."

The boy went on back to his dorm soon after, leaving Severus to ponder what else he may have missed. He would need to contact Narcissa and see what of his suspicions were correct, but his primary goal had to be ridding Lucius of the parasite in his mind. One horcrux found, five others to locate. And somehow, he doubted the other five would be as welcoming of his presence.

Chapter 20

Through The Darkness

Harry felt as if his life had become some strange show on the telly. He remembered sitting at a muggle friend's house along with Cibor, watching monster shows and laughing over how much of it had been wrong. And now his life felt like that, full of monsters and wrongness. He didn't have the first clue how to handle this.

The first day or so, Harry just went about his usual routine even though he barely heard anything during classes and was more than abysmal at the practicals. Hermione offered to tutor him but that ended up being a disaster with how unfocused he was. He just couldn't stop thinking about his father's words.

Imaging Severus Snape as a werewolf just seemed... wrong. He was the epitome of control and calm, something Harry wished he was better at. There was no way this was real, but his father rarely joked and never pranked. He had always been a quiet, solemn man who loved Harry dearly but barely smiled and kept his thoughts to himself. Not crazy, not cruel, not a whirling fury of claws and death.

Actually, the idea of a werewolf was funny enough to be a joke, but Harry, like all magically raised children, knew they were real. And being real, he knew it was possible. This bout of sickness matched up with the full moon at least. It... was possible.

One thing Father had always taught him was to never believe anything without proof. So Harry went to the library on Saturday and worked through as many books as he could manage, eating up anything said about werewolves. It was slow going, as he wasn't all that great at research, but he needed to know. He needed to make sure.

"Are you in the library willingly?"

Harry jumped, staring up at Hermione from his pile of books. She cocked a brow and then looked over his books with badly veiled interest.

"I don't remember there being a test on magical creatures," she mused as she leaned over him to get a better look at the page he was on. "Werewolves?"

"It's- um-" Harry reeled, trying to find some explanation that didn't involve spilling everything. His head felt blank and vacant. "It's for... er... I'm doing extra credit?"

"Is that so?" Hermione flipped to the next page. "On werewolves?"

"Yes! For- uh- Transfiguration. My grade's abysmal."

"I can believe that."

Except even though she sat down with him, Harry was pretty sure she didn't believe a bit. But she didn't say anything about it. Instead, she pulled out some parchment, inked a quill, and got to work helping him. Harry felt a sudden flare of affection for her.

The two of them worked through the morning and broke for lunch mostly because even though he was the one with vested interest, Harry's eyes were falling out of his skull with boredom. They'd combed through dozens of books, Hermione filling up foot after foot of parchment with her tiny, tidy scrawling. Harry mostly just found books for her and and ran to get more parchment. Thankfully, Hermione didn't seem to mind doing the legwork.

It was after lunch when Hermione's quill stopped dead mid-word. She stared at the parchment, her eyes growing wider. Harry looked up from his own book when he realized she'd stopped writing.

"You okay?"

Hermione opened her mouth to say something and then closed it again and just looked at him. "Harry, why are we doing this research?"

"Uh, for the extra-"

"No, the real reason."

Harry felt the blood drain from his face as she continued to stare at him.

"Oh man," Hermione murmured and there was a faint hysterical tinge to her tiny voice.

Harry shot to his feet as panic raced through him. "You can't tell anyone! Okay?! You can't or- or- or terrible things will happen because he's terrified of anyone noticing. I mean, he didn't even tell me until just now and if he finds out you know I don't know what he'll do to me-"

Hermione just stared as she grew more and more pale. "Professor Snape?"

"And Professor Lup- Oh Merlin I didn't say that. I didn't say anything. Oh Merlin, I really don't know what Professor Lupin would do to me if he knew I-"

The deluge of words stopped when Hermione slammed her hand over his mouth. They stayed like for a long few seconds, staring at one another as everything settled. Finally, Hermione let go and sat back down in her chair. She looked at the pile of parchment, her quill, the sprawled out books, and then looked back at Harry. For a moment, he thought she might lose it right there and just flip out but she didn't. She folded her hands in her lap and took a slow, deep breath.

"Okay, Harry," she said quietly. "What were you looking for specifically?"

Harry almost hugged her. Instead, because his father would be mortified by his lack of decorum, he just melted back into his chair and began peppering her with questions. It was a true token to Hermione's strength of character that the very act of playing tutor brightened her color. Soon, she was as animated as Harry in finding the answers he needed.

That night, Harry marched himself to his father's rooms. He knocked, gave the password, and went on in without waiting. Thankfully, Severus was settled in an armchair surrounded by papers. He gave Harry a nod of greeting, lifting a brow at the abrupt entrance.

"To what do I owe the honor?" Severus drawled out and Harry could tell he wasn't expecting anything good. And now that Harry was here, he felt his insides suddenly churn tight.

"Er." Harry blinked because everything he had meant to say had disappeared in a flash when confronted with his father and what his father was. He felt lost. Grasping for straws, he muttered out pathetically, "I was in the library today."

"On a Saturday?" Severus set aside his grading quill aside and began to gather up the various piles of parchment. "Surely not. What sort of torture did McGonagall assign you?"

Somehow, the hint of sarcasm relaxed Harry's nerves a bit. He dug his toe into the carpet, shrugging a shoulder. "Did some research. You know, I hear that's what libraries are for."

"I might know of that rumor."

Harry took a breath and glanced at the stone ceiling, counting out forked cracks.

"...I was looking up werewolves."

Severus was quiet a moment. Then he continued shuffling about parchment. "Should I take this to mean you found the answers you were looking for?"

"Sort of." Harry scratched through his hair, curling the longer strands in his fingers idly. "I mean, I learned a lot. But the books didn't have everything I wanted to know."

"I see." Severus got up and took the grading back to his office with his quill. When he came back he didn't sit, instead watching Harry with a guarded gaze. Weighing his reactions, wondering what he was thinking. Sometimes, Harry thought maybe his father could read his mind. "What would you like to know?"

Harry measured his words out carefully. He didn't want to offend Severus or pull up any terrible memories, but this was something he needed to know. Something to make it all make sense.

"How did you get turned?"

Severus did not jerk so much as freeze so solidly that he barely breathed. And then he sagged, as if something so terribly heavy had been set on his shoulders that he couldn't quite hold them up anymore. He went back to his chair. "That... is a difficult story."

"I'm sorry," Harry blurted but he wouldn't take it back. He needed to know.

"No, it's all right. I..." Severus rested his head on one hand. "It happened while I was attending school here. I was sixteen."

Harry settled himself on the floor near Severus' chair, dragging a knee to his chest. "Did it hurt?"

"My memory of it is fractured. The bite made me very sick. I nearly died." Severus settled back in the chair, gazing out at nothing rather than Harry. Lost in thoughts and memories. "There was a werewolf attending school here. Like I do now, he kept himself very well hidden. Then a friend of his who knew of his infection decided to play a very nasty prank on me. We didn't get along and he thought it would be funny to lure me to his friend while transformed."

"What- how would anyone think that was funny?!" Harry blurted and wished he knew who it was so he could punch them in the nose! Because come on, what about common sense?!

"He had a... particular sense of humor." Severus sighed a little, shaking his head. "In any case, another friend of theirs found out about the prank. He came to save me. I suppose in a way he did, as I still live, but he was too late to save me from the bite. I spent the next few weeks sick and dying. They were sure I would not survive the first transformation. But I did."

It was such a simple story when told like this. Harry knew there had to be more, but that his father would share this much with him made him happy. Well, not exactly happy, but content, at least.

"Do you still know him?" he asked shyly. "The one that bit you?"

"Oh yes. He and I are..." Severus hesitated, as if tasting various words in his head to find the right ones. "We have kept in contact over the years, more or less."

"Were you mad at him...? For biting you?"

"I was for a time. Then I realized it hadn't been his fault in the first place. He had done everything he could not to infect anyone else."

Harry sat back on his arms, watching Severus talk as if none of this were really all that important anymore. It just was. Severus always seemed to take everything in stride. "What happened to his friend?"

"He...was punished. In a fashion." Severus shook his head a bit. "And then he joined up with some very bad people. Last I heard, he was serving time in Azkaban."

"Serves him right," Harry grumbled. That made it harder to go punch him in the face but the things he'd heard about Azkaban - Durmstrang students were notorious for their ghost stories and Azkaban was a great stage - soothed him. Whoever this person was, he was getting punished and that made things right.

They talked a little about school and less important things. Harry liked it, falling back into the routine they'd used to have before life turned strange on him. He still wasn't... okay with the werewolf thing or the adopted thing, not really, but he was trying his best and at least Father was too.

As he got up to go, Severus stopped him.

"Just so that it does not surprise you," he murmured with a strange sort of hesitance, "we will be celebrating the holiday at home. Draco is joining us and... Professor Lupin will as well."

Harry blinked with confusion, then nodded and went on his way. Professor Lupin? Well, he supposed that was okay. So he and Severus were better friends than Harry'd thought. It was good, he guessed. His father needed more friends. And Professor Lupin was nice. So it was okay.

Maybe. He'd have to think about that.