Spinner's End had always seemed to be under a bleaching enchantment. The whole street was a monochrome palette of greys. Tobias was always the grubby brown of the mill. Eileen had been faded blues and thin yellows. Severus always thought that, until he'd gone to Hogwarts, Lily Evans, with her red hair, green eyes and laughing pink cheeks was the most vibrant source of color in his world.
Now, her son (he's yours now too, Sev) lay in his upstairs guest room. The black dog at his feet, the white owl at his head. The color had been stolen from the boy's world as well. and Severus sat wondering how it could be restored.
He thought, with some dry amusement, that it was unusual for him to think in such florid metaphor. However, Lily's voice continued to provide a running commentary in his head and she had liked metaphor. Sometimes, when she had lived, he'd thought of them for the real Lily's amusement. Perhaps, he was doing so again, out of habit. They often weren't very good metaphors, but, as he remembered (to the mock indignation of the voice in his head), neither were Lily's.
He supposed it was the only way he could come up with the right things to say to Harry. Listen to the Lily-voice in his head; say whatever it was he imagined she would say. Because, Merlin knew, he was thoroughly out of his depth.
Certainly, he would have never, ever, under normal circumstances, have considered telling a student (but, Harry's not just a student, Sev) what he'd done to himself, all those years ago. Not even Dumbledore knew. Poppy had quarantined him to the hospital wing for a month, telling his head of house and the headmaster that he had been experimenting with spells and that the injuries were entirely accidental. For a month, Poppy and Hagrid had taken turns watching him, when Lily wasn't sitting by his side.
For two days, he'd refused to tell Poppy the incantation he'd used. She'd had to spell blood replenishers into him, when he wouldn't take them voluntarily. And use a Sticking Charm to keep the bandage on his arm, when he'd sullenly pull it off.
Unlike Harry, his had not been an act of impluse. The only reason he'd been caught was that Lily had come back from Hogsmeade early, finding the note he'd owled to her, on her bed. She guessed that he had gone to the top of the Astronomy Tower. The favorite retreat of morose students for generations.
The next time he'd come that close to finishing himself off, was after Lily's death. Then, it was Duty that had stayed his hand. Duty to Lily, to Dumbledore, to the boy.
Severus fingered the long white mark on the inside of his left arm, that disappeared under his sleeve, as his tea sat cooling on the table. He heard Poppy moving around in the other room.
"Good morning, Severus." she said, bustling in. She was already dressed in a tidy set of yellow and white robes, while he had yet to make it out of his dressing gown.
Lupin had taken his turn watching the boy over night. After Severus had checked and double checked that the moon was, in fact, still waning.
"Mm." He grunted. She was well aware that he was not one for speech in the morning.
She poured herself tea from the pot and started putting jam on a slice of toast in the middle of the table.
He looked up, suddenly, "I don't believe I've ever apologized to you."
Poppy stopped, midmotion, "For..?" she tilted her head, quizzically.
"Putting you through finding me in a pool of blood." Severus appreciated it as never before, what she must have gone through. He'd helped with suicide watches before, but he'd never caught a student in the act. He had thought taking the Dark Mark was the worst thing he'd ever done to anyone in his life; now he thought differently.
Poppy put her knife down, stretched out her hand to grasp his left hand. It was the one with the scarred wrist, which he was again examining, "I'm very glad we were in time, that day." She said, softly
He gave her a faint smile.
She squeezed his hand, "Severus," she said very seriously, "Were you aware that your Patronus has changed?"
Severus looked at her, blankly, "I beg your pardon?"
"The Patronus you sent me. It was different." Poppy said evenly, "When you get a moment, you might want to look at it."
Before Severus could reply, footsteps came down the stairs. Severus saw Lupin in the hallway.
"Where's Harry?" Severus demanded, sharply, as the other wizard came into the kitchen.
Lupin pulled out the chair next to Poppy, "I told him he could go on and have a shower and join us when he's done."
"You left him alone?" hissed Severus, standing quickly, starting out of the door. Lupin grabbed his arm.
"Severus. Stop." Lupin said, firmly.
Poppy was up and on Severus' other side, otherwise he would have drawn his wand on Lupin. As it was, he merely pulled his arm out of Lupin's grip, "Explain." he said, tersely, with narrowed eyes, looking down on the slightly shorter man.
Lupin looked at Poppy, as if for support, "I believe Harry's out of immediate danger, for the moment. It won't do any good to upset him further, with unnecessary precautions. I think fifteen minute checks will be sufficient, today. I've also received a promise that he won't do anything foolish without at least speaking to one of us first."
Poppy nodded, "I think that sounds reasonable." She said, looking at Severus, "Come sit down."
Only because Poppy asked it, did Severus, reluctantly, retake his seat, "If you are wrong, Lupin, and that child harms himself, I will hold you responsible." He growled. Not only would Severerus hold Lupin responsible, but he'd inflict every injury onto the Wolf that the boy did to himself.
Severus pulled out the fob watch, and set it on the table where he could keep an eye on the hand, while he drank his tea. He pointed his wand at it and spoke the incantation so that it would tell him exactly where Harry was.
"How was his night?" asked Poppy, as Lupin took the seat next to her, and poured himself a cup of tea from the pot.
"Restless." Lupin sipped on his tea, a bit, "Woke up a few times. Nightmares. Didn't want to talk. I don't think he trusts me much." Lupin smiled, a little sadly, "It seems that in his experience, adults have been rather unreliable."
Severus and Poppy both winced, "When I think how many times I've sorted out his Quidditch injuries," muttered Poppy, "And, I never thought to look for anything untoward." she admitted, shamefaced. She raised her eyes to both the men, "I'm embarrassed to say, I sort of assumed Harry was just one of those children who were a little, well...fussy about food. You know. You remember how Lily was?."
The men nodded, looking away from her and each other.
"I just thought if he took after her, it wasn't that odd that he'd be thin and...well...a bit on the small side. And, if he was fast," she hesitated, "We like to tell ourselves these things are in the blood, don't we?"" She went on, quietly, "I just thought it was James coming out in him." She glanced apologetically at Severus.
Severus snorted, softly, "It seems, his speed is from spending most of his life dodging blows."
Lupin looked up sharply, "He said this?"
"No." Severus shook his head, "But, see how fast he moves if you raise a hand anywhere near him."
Lupin sighed, "What else do we know about his life with his relatives?" he asked.
Severus rolled his eyes, "Does it matter? They're appalling people."
"Half the difficulty we've been having with Harry is through lack of information." Said Lupin, firmly, "I'm beginning to believe that no one knows Harry nearly as well as they think they do."
Severus couldn't argue with that. He didn't think he knew the bloody boy at all.
"It seems to me that the best way forward for us is to..."
Severus raised his hand, to quiet him, realizing the watch hand was moving.
They heard the dog gallumphing down the stairs, although the boy made no noise. Poppy and Lupin turned around to watch the boy come in through the hallway.
Harry came into the kitchen, his eyes downcast, his hands dug deep into his pockets. He hovered in the doorway hesitantly, his shoulders hunched up around his ears, "Hello" he said, not raising his eyes. It was hard to see his expression under his messy, damp fringe.
The dog leaned against the boy's thigh. Harry took one hand out of his pocket to pet the dog.
Severus stood and moved over to the chair near the wall, so that the child could take the chair next to him, across from Lupin.
No one spoke. Harry wiped his nose with his sleeve, sitting down. The dog curled up in the hallway, Severus was pleased to see. He wasn't going to make an issue of it this morning, but he really did prefer not having to eat with the bloody great brute underfoot. He noted that the dog had a heavily patterned leather collar that Lupin must have provided.
Poppy buttered some toast, putting in it on a plate front of Harry, "Here you are, dear." she said, kindly.
"Thank you." the boy muttered. Severus poured the child's tea. He felt Lupin's eyes on them both.
"How are you feeling, Harry?" Lupin asked.
Harry toyed with his piece of toast, but made no move to actually put it into his mouth, "I'm fine." not lifting his eyes from the tabletop.
Severus tutted, pulled the ever present potion vial from his pocket. He put it on the table, and slid it sideways, towards the boy.
'What is that?" asked Lupin, as the boy took the vial and drank it.
"Slow poison," snarked Severus, without thinking, irritated that Lupin was questioning him, in his own house.
Lupin and Poppy both shot Severus nasty looks, before Harry nodded, taking a bite out of his toast, "Rids the world of people who annoy their teachers." he said dryly, after he'd swallowed, "Don't worry, it takes about a hundred and fifty years to work."
Harry glanced sideways at Severus through his fringe, and took a another bite.
Severus looked back at the boy and smirked.
Lupin's eyebrows went up. A small smile played at the edge of his lips, even as he looked at them both of them, as if he'd never seen them before. Poppy smiled into her teacup.
"You know, I never realized how like your father you are." Lupin said, slowly.
Severus gave the Wolf a warning look, but Harry only shrugged, "Everyone says I look just like him." Harry began buttering more toast. He stopped suddenly, Lupin's words catching up to him, "You knew him, then?" he asked, in a small voice.
"Yes. I..." there was the tiniest flick of Lupin's eyes towards Severus, "Went to school with your parents. I was in Gryffindor house with James."
Severus noted how very careful Lupin was not to perjure himself.
Harry didn't ask anything else. That didn't bode well, that apathy.
Poppy summoned the eggs and sausage from the stove, serving Harry and putting the rest in the middle of the table.
It took a very short time for Harry to work his way through what Poppy had given him, and then she gave him another serving, sharing a little smile with Severus. Harry was not the first student they'd had to feed up. Every year there would be students who wouldn't or couldn't eat. Harry was just better than many at hiding it.
When Poppy had finished her tea (and had been sure that Harry had eaten enough for her satisfaction), she stood, "I'm off to the castle. If you gentlemen need me, send for me. I'll see myself out, Severus." She smoothed her robes down and sailed out the door, being careful not to tread on the watchful dog in the hallway.
Her sudden departure left the three of them at a bit of a loss.
"Erm..." said Harry, abruptly, "I'll just clear up, shall I?" he fit deed to word and started picking up plates from the table, taking them to the sink. He filled it with hot water and very efficiently began to do the washing up.
"Your dog will need a walk, soon." said Lupin, amiably, "I'm sure some air will do you good. We should both go out with him."
Harry shot Lupin a suspicious glance, "What?" he asked, a little hostile, "So we can talk about what happened?"
"We do need to discuss it." Asserted Lupin, gently.
"Why?" snapped Harry, snatching Severus' empty cup from the table. Magic crackled in the air. Severus felt the boy's wand heat up in his pocket, calling to its master's magic.
"Because it helps." Severus reached out to put his hand on the boy's, not wanting a repeat of the glass breaking, dish throwing incident.
Harry looked down at Severus' hand on his arm in confusion, Severus felt the tense muscles relax after a moment. The the boy's magic stopped pressing against Severus' eardrums. The child's eyes sought Severus' for the first time that morning. Severus wasn't sure what the child was looking for, so he endeavored to look reassuring.
When Harry pulled away, Severus let him go. He turned around, and put the dishes in the sink, before shocking Severus by asking, very quietly, his back to the men, his head bent over the sink, "Do you feel up to coming, Professor Snape?"
Lupin smiled broadly. He looked Severus with his eyebrows raised and nodded vigorously at Severus.
"I...think I could manage a short walk" replied Severus completely taken aback.