Summary: Albus Dumbledore was a master manipulator. He knew what was best, and he knew how to get it, and how to get you to accept it. He always had the last say, and always got his way, which would eventually become your way (whether you liked it or not). And sometimes, sometimes, you wouldn't even know that you had been manipulated.

Warnings: Mention of Child Abuse.

Disclaimer: I no ownie.

A/N: Plot bunny attacked me. Wrote this up real quick. Hope you enjoy.

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Masterful Manipulations

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"NO! Absolutely not Dumbledore!"

"Severus, please, consider the options…"

"I don't care! It's bad enough you sent me to check on him in the first place, I am not taking him home with me for the holidays!"

"It would only be a few weeks. Just to keep him safe from the Death Eaters. There's no one else available."

"What about the Weasleys? Surely they'd be willing to open their home to Potter."

"Do not sneer at their care for the boy Severus."

"Forgive me Headmaster. But I don't see why I have to do it. Even the Granger chit would be a better option than my home! Pettigrew and the Dark Lord has access to it for Merlin's sake!"

"I have a cottage on the seaside I have no need for. I've already drawn up the deed to put it in your name. Consider it a bonus for the faithful service to this school you've given me. We can put plenty of charms and wards over it."

"Don't you think that's a bit too much trouble for a few simple weeks? Merlin, what next?"

"Severus, can you really deny Harry a safe place to go during the hols? All children must return home this Christmas so the wards surrounding Hogwarts can be strengthened. There's no one else available I trust."

"What about his Head of House?"

"Honestly Severus, your scorn is unnecessary. You know Minerva is needed here as the Deputy Headmistress."

"I'm the Head of Slytherin! I should be here as well!"

"We have no telling what your Dark Mark will do to the wards if you remain here while we try to rebuild them."

"…so it comes to that. After all these years of my devoted loyalty, and you throw a mistake from my past in my face!"

"Severus, it is nothing like that…"

"Don't you dare try to sugar-coat things old man!"

"Severus, sit back down, please…"

"Am I still a liability to you Headmaster? After everything…"

"Oh my dear boy. It is nothing like that. You loyalty has never come into question, and I have never regretted giving you my assistance, you know that. Here, have another cup of tea."

"Thank you sir…"

"It is because of loyalty that I know you are the only one I can trust young Harry with. If you will not do it for me, do it for Lily."

"Do not bring her into this!"

"Harry is Lily's son as well. Surely you've come to realise this…"

"I have…come to the understanding…that he is not solely his father's son."

"So grudgingly you give your finds Severus."

"Stop twinkling at me Dumbledore."

"Harry seems to trust you. He's opened up to you far more than he has to me."

"I was the one who found about the abuse! What do you expect? He's like a lost puppy who disgustingly gives his loyalty to the first person to offer him a kind word. The minute I followed your orders in taking him from those disgusting muggles the pact was sealed."

"A pact you say?"

"That's not what I meant!"

"But it is true nonetheless. Harry feels strongly for you. I heard him just the other day defending you to young Mr Weasley."

"For fear of lost House points! I told those Gryffindor brats what would happen if I heard them insult me like that again. As if I would dare lay a hand on a child after my father…"

"Quite right. And Harry knows this. He willingly tells you things I have to pry out of him."

"Only because he grew used to the habit! I was one of few teachers here over the break, and the only one who knew the full extent of his business. You cannot expect him to offer information to people who have no business in his own. Besides, after your brilliant idea of teaching the brat Occlumency last year, he saw a few…images…of my own childhood."

"Exactly. He knows you can empathise with him. He knows you understand what he went through. Which makes you the perfect candidate for his guardian."

"Guardian! Dumbledore, you just said it would be for a few weeks this winter hols!"

"Well, you'll already have the cottage, and since you'll already be providing support for him as well, we might as well make it permanent. After all, he's already suffered so many upheavals already…"

"Next thing you know, you'll be telling me to adopt the bugger!"

"Why! That's an excellent idea Severus!"

"Dumbledore!"

"I'm sure Lily would have chosen you for godfather had James not had a choice lined up."

"And if I hadn't driven her away by falling for the Dark Arts. And becoming a Death Eater. You know, a servant to my other master, the one who wants to kill the boy! Are you really so sure it's wise to have a Death Eater as guardian to the Boy-Who-Lived?"

"Of course not."

"See, there you go—"

"Which is why you'll quit spying."

"Dumbledore! We need that vital information!"

"Voldemort is growing too untrustworthy. He could kill you in a fit of spite. You're much more valuable alive. After all, Severus, you must realise how fond I am of you."

"Dumbledore. Ahem. Thank you. That's…very kind of you to say."

"It is nothing of the sort, it's the truth. You're quite like a son to me my boy."

"Headmaster…"

"And Harry is like a grandson. So it makes since why you should adopt him."

"Dumbledore!"

"And provide a loving home for him."

"Loving! Are you out of your mind! We despise each other! We'd kill each other before the first week was out! Besides, you know what my father was like…who's to say I won't react in the same manner the instant he disobeys me?"

"Because I know you Severus. You could no more have hurt Lily."

"I did hurt Lily, in case you failed to notice."

"And here now is a chance to make up for that, to redeem yourself, to make amends. Take care of Lily's boy."

"I can't!"

"Severus, he needs you. And you need him."

"I need no such thing! I refuse Albus Dumbledore! Don't give me that maudlin sigh!"

"Very well then Severus. In that case, I am afraid Harry must return to his relatives."

"What! Are you out of your mind! Dursley would kill the boy!"

"You sound concerned."

"Only because that brat is the supposed saviour of the wizarding world! It wouldn't do to allow his muggle uncle to murder him before the Dark Lord got his hands on him."

"And he will get his hands on him, unless you take him in, and protect him. You're the only one who can. You understand him, you know what he's going through, and what he's going to have to face."

"I cannot do it Dumbledore. Anyone else would be better than I."

"It's either you or the Dursleys, my dear boy. I can trust no other."

"…you would abandon the boy to those abuses again?"

"It is better them than Voldemort."

"It is the same thing! You don't know what it was like for the boy there!"

"Because he won't open up to me like he will you."

"And you wonder why! You're the one who sent him there in the first place, Albus. I was there to see firsthand what Dursley did and put a stop to it. It's practically an obligation for him to talk to me about it! He's a kicked puppy! That's why he spends so much time around my person!"

"You were the one who gave him the password to your quarters."

"Only because I couldn't have him lingering around in the dungeon corridors waiting for some Death Eater-in-training to happen by and spell him! If he won't use any common sense I'll have to do it for him! And he knows he's only allowed in there at certain times."

"He obeys you."

"Because he fears me."

"He respects you."

"Same difference."

"Severus."

"Stop sighing at me old man."

"Is that you're final answer then?"

"It has not changed."

"Very well then. I shall inform Harry the Dursleys will be picking him up at King's Cross."

"Albus!"

"My hands are tied on this, Severus, if you will not consent."

"…fine!"

"Oh I'm so glad!"

"Don't smile at me Dumbledore. We're going to kill each other before the week is out."

"Severus, before you go…perhaps we should sign the adoption papers now. You know, just get them out of the way, before we forget. Now, now, don't growl like that. Here's a quill."

"I see you just so happen to have the papers already drawn up and in your desk."

"Well, you never know…"

"Will Potter need to sign these?"

"No, no, after you took him from the Dursleys I had his guardianship temporarily set to me. I'll sign it and then that'll be that."

"If you say so Albus."

"…and…that's…that. There. All finalised. Congratulations my dear boy."

With a snarl, Severus spun out of the hideously patterned chair Albus had conjured for him and swept down the revolving stairs, a grimace on his lips. He burst out from around the gargoyle who could not move fast enough and turned the corner, spotting the anxiously pacing Harry Potter, whose eyes immediately snapped to his. Trepidation shone in their depths, the boy's shirt hem twisted beyond all recognition in his sweating hands, his lip caught firmly in his teeth.

"Sir?"

"It's done Potter."

Slowly a smirk spread across Severus's lips, an answering grin on Harry's, all the apprehension leaving his posture as he let out a deep sigh and released his shirt.

"Good. I'm glad."

"I told you I could get him to do what I wanted. Now let's go home."

"Never doubted you for a second. Dad."

With a deep, resonating laugh, Severus wrapped his arm around Harry's shoulders and together they walked through the halls as father and son.

"Remember son, sometimes even the player gets played."

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The End

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