A/N: Yes I know it's been ages. RL caught up with me and destroyed any hopes I had of writing anything. I had a lot to deal with at work, not that the situation is going to change but two days of leave tacked on to the end of a weekend has given me just enough breathing room to focus again, even if the phone kept on ringing even though they knew I wasn't to be contacted…
Harry sat at the Slytherin table laughing and enjoying the company of his returning friends. Marcus watched him interact with the rest of his House, marvelling how the skinny fearful boy the Professor had all but threatened him to look after had developed into the happy muscular young man sat opposite him in such a short space of time. His confidence had grown too, not just confidence in his mind, but also in his body. Harry felt confident enough to take teasing from his friends, and jests about his messy hair, which was in the process of growing out from the awful short cut his Aunt had enforced. The result of that was that currently, it was even messier than before, and even less likely to stay tamed no matter what Harry did to try and control it.
Harry looked uneasily around the Great Hall at the students enjoying the feast that traditionally marked the start of term. It took him a while before he spotted the reason for his discomfort. Tristan was sat at the Hufflepuff table pushing his food round his plate with no apparent interest in eating anything. His eyes were red and he seemed to have trouble focussing on anything said to him. Once Harry's eyes had found him, he realised that Severus' training regarding "intelligent observation" was the reason he hadn't felt at ease. Subconsciously, he had already seen it and was still trying to analyse when his conscious mind had spotted the problem. So caught up with his examination of his abilities and worrying about what was wrong with Tristan, Harry completely missed his name being called until there was a gentle nudge at his elbow. He turned to face Draco, ready to tease him about the lapse in manners but his joke died in his throat when he saw Draco's face. Looking around him, he realised that most of the people near him at the table had stopped eating to look at him.
"What?" he asked, more testily than he had meant to.
His older House-mates resumed their dinner, leaving his friends to find out what was wrong. Not all of House Slytherin felt as magnanimous towards their newest "celebrity" snake, but none would show that outside their House in public.
"You were miles away Harry, we were worried something was wrong," muttered Marcus, trying not to show just how concerned he'd been when Harry had apparently spaced out and stared at nothing for several minutes. "Is there something wrong?" he asked when Harry didn't respond.
"Yes…No…I mean, maybe, I'm not sure. I need to talk to…" Harry glanced up at the staff table and frowned, realising that Severus had not followed him to dinner. "Damn! Where is he?"
Draco followed Harry's line of view and realised who he was talking about. He glanced over at Marcus who nodded.
"The Professor spends most of the first evening back dealing with students coming back from…students who have been…that is, if they've…ah…" Draco stuttered into silence before he could embarrass himself any further, or say something that he wasn't ready for anyone else to know yet.
"What Draco is saying, very badly I may add, is that the Professor will be healing those students who came back from the holidays injured," said Marcus.
Harry swung round so quickly to look at Marcus opposite him that he had black spots in front of his eyes for several seconds. Whilst he knew Severus had been helping Tristan, it hadn't occurred to him that there were others. Or that Severus did this alone, with no apparent help from anyone else. For a moment he was consumed with jealousy that someone else was the focus of Severus' attention this evening, before he realised just how uncharitable that thought was. He was healed and more or less alright, he'd been adopted and was safe and secure, with friends to call his own who understood his need for privacy.
Harry relaxed and realised that whilst he had been thinking, he had missed the Headmaster's dismissal of the students to their Houses and the Hall was slowly emptying. He took the opportunity to dart over to the Hufflepuff table to speak to Tristan. He had to push his way through to get to the table as he was going in the opposite direction to the flow of people. By the time he got to where Tristan had been sitting, the Hufflepuff was nowhere in sight. Cursing under his breath, Harry turned in time to see Tristan's mop of brown hair disappearing through the doors and turn left to the stairway down to the Badger Sett. Defeated, he trudged back to his friends and followed them to the Slytherin Common Rooms, thinking about Tristan as he walked. He realised that the first time he had met the older boy, Tristan had told him that he was a Ravenclaw – probably a way of concealing his identity, although not a very good one. In the circumstances they met however, it was probably the only one he could think of at the time whilst being so scared.
Harry roused himself from his thoughts when Severus entered the Common rooms to give his usual start of term speech: part reminder about Slytherin values, part reminder of his office hours (this given with covert looks at several students) and part reminder to those in fifth and seventh year that exams loomed and that high results were expected of Slytherin House.
Professor Snape looked around the shifting mass of children in front of him; examining expressions of those he knew would probably be hurt, trying to judge severity of injuries by gauging their pain. It was a task he didn't look forward to at the beginning of each term, and he had already spent over an hour with a Gryffindor who had apparently "been smart" with his step-father and had been whipped for his cheek. The boy's back had been flayed open and it was a miracle he had made it to Hogwarts in time to be healed. But healed he had been, his back scarred and sore but no longer bleeding, his eyes red from the tears shed on his Potions Master's robes as he talked through what had happened. He had been released to the Gryffindor Tower with a vial of Dreamless Sleep and an appointment to speak further to the Potions Master about what had happened.
Severus also knew there was probably a Ravenclaw girl in his office, using his private shower trying to scrub herself clean after Gods knew what her eldest brother had made her do over the holidays. Despite the now regular meetings of the House Heads, and the growing realisation that the problem of abuse was not confined to Slytherin now that the other Heads of House knew what to look for, most of the children still came to him. He was constant, he was safe and he would not smother them in sympathy. One girl had even smiled at him as he had healed a wound to her most intimate area and told him why his lack of sympathy reassured her.
"You just solve the problem without making it worse. My Granna was the same; she said that if you were looking for sympathy it came between shit and syphilis in the dictionary."
That lost thirteen year old girl had gone on to be Head Girl and was now a force to be reckoned with in the Ministry.
Severus shook himself from his reverie and noticed what his eyes had been telling him, that there were only two children badly injured enough for their pain to show, and that Harry was beside himself with worry over something.
"I will be in my office for the rest of the evening. Flint, the usual please. Draco, my office in ten minutes; Adrian, ten minutes after that. Snape, with me now."
Severus turned and strode out of the Common Room with Harry in tow. They walked in silence for the few minutes it took to reach his office.
"Wait here for a moment," murmured Severus and entered his office quietly to see if there was a sobbing Ravenclaw in his bathroom.
There wasn't, but there were signs that she had been there. The floor was wet and the towel was still damp. Not too bad then if she hadn't stayed, but he would have to deal with the issue at some point.
He opened the door and ushered in his worried son. Severus took his seat behind the desk but Harry seemed too agitated to sit down very long and rather than sit ended up pacing the floor instead.
"Something's wrong with Tristan!" blurted Harry, still trying to assess what he'd seen earlier that evening. He was facing the fireplace when he said it so wouldn't have seen the look of anguish cross Severus' face. By the time he turned, the look was gone.
"What makes you say that?" asked Severus, although he had been expecting it. His feeling of dread hadn't eased when he'd seen the Rawn boy alight the train at Hogsmeade, although that had been when the owl from London had found him.
Harry ceased his pacing and sat at the desk. He closed his eyes and drew on his Occlumency skills to bring up the moment he had seen Tristan in the Great Hall.
"He wasn't eating, just pushing his food around the plate. He looked thinner and he had dark circles under his eyes. But why? He's been here all holiday!"
Severus closed his eyes.
"No, he hasn't," he ignored the sharp intake of breath from the other side of the desk and continued. "There was a family event he had to attend, which meant he had to leave the Castle. He's been gone about ten days and returned on the train with the rest of the students."
There was a knock at the door which interrupted Harry's train of thought. He knew Draco was due so left his seat and crossed the office to the door.
"You'll check on him won't you?" he asked quietly.
"Yes, I will, as soon as I am able."
Satisfied by the response, Harry opened the door to let Draco in and left for the short walk back to the Common Room.
He spotted Marcus sat by the fire with several younger students but the older boy gave him a minute headshake when Harry started towards them. He spotted the tears on one girl's face at almost the same moment. Understanding this was an example of the therapy that Marcus had told him about, where mistreated children would share their experiences to make them less frightening and to develop a support network of their own. Harry had not been part of a group, partly because he had been able to talk to Severus, but also because he shared a room with Draco. Far from being the pompous prat Harry had always thought him to be, Draco was now a close friend and Harry had been forced to be open about some of his experiences after waking his roommate with his nightmares, despite his skills with Occlumency. Draco was an exceptionally light sleeper, the slightest whimper from Harry would have him awake and shaking his former nemesis from his bad dreams.
As the best seats had been taken by the fire, Harry grabbed a book from his trunk and settled himself into an armchair where he had a view of the door so he could see when Draco returned. He became engrossed in the intricacies of the mind arts and almost didn't notice Draco's return. Harry's eyes narrowed over the top of the book, all interest in the topic now gone as he watched his friend make his way quietly and unobtrusively to the dorms without speaking to anyone. Harry turned his head very slightly to glance at Marcus, who was also watching the blonde, even though he was speaking to the group still clustered around the fire. He gave Harry the smallest possible nod, flicked his eyes once more to Draco and then returned his full attention to the boy now talking quietly.
Harry waited until Draco was out of sight, yawned convincingly and put a bookmark in the book he had been reading. He nodded his goodnights to his House Mates, politely declining a game of cards and an offer of a butterbeer as he made his way across the room. He quickly trotted down the short corridor to the room he shared with Draco, and slipped in the door silently. Harry could hear water running so figured he had a good half hour before Draco emerged. For all of the inaccurate names Ron had called him while Harry had been a Gryffindor, and some of those since he had stopped being a Gryffindor, Draco was definitely vain. More so now that he was actively pursuing Hermione. Harry didn't think anyone else had particularly noticed, although of course Ron had taken offence to "the prince of Slytherin" hanging around with "normal people".
It was a bit of a surprise therefore when Draco emerged less than ten minutes later, wearing only a pair of boxer shorts and a towel wrapped round his head like a turban. It was a bigger surprise for Draco who hadn't been expecting Harry to be in their room, having seen him engrossed in a large book in the Common Room. He startled like a spooked horse before getting himself under control.
"Gaah! You…Merlin's tits you scared me!" exclaimed Draco, trying to rescue the towel from his head to cover the scar on his chest.
"I thought you needed someone to talk to. It's about your turn by now isn't it?"
Draco turned his back on his friend and muttered something unintelligible under his breath while trying to find some pyjamas in his trunk.
"I haven't forgotten what you said at the beginning of the year either. About "not being the only one". You're far from the only one, but it helps to talk about it," continued Harry.
"Yeah? Really?" snarled Draco, "Try and tell me I'm not the only one punished for something that isn't wrong, for doing something inappropriate, for saying something that isn't "in line with our family values", for not wanting to be…to be…" Draco dissolved into sobs, leaning over his trunk, hanging on to the edges to keep himself upright as he broke down.
Harry hadn't expected Draco to lose his hold on his emotions quite so quickly and was momentarily stunned. He leapt off his bed and was at his friend's side in a second.
"Draco…" The words died in his throat as he saw the scar on Draco's chest, the scar Draco had concealed with the towel before he turned around.
Draco saw where he was looking and moved to cover himself, but Harry was now the stronger of the two by quite some margin and stopped him easily. Holding his friends' arms by his sides, Harry looked at Draco's face, a combination of shame and embarrassment, with real emotional pain mixed with the tears and snot on the usually impeccable visage made for painful viewing.
"Seen enough?" asked Draco in a broken voice, trying to turn away.
"Never. You are my friend," said Harry softly and released Draco's arms only to envelope him in a hug.
Draco clung to him as though he was drowning and Harry was a life preserver. Harry's shirt quickly dampened with his friend's tears and he carefully led him to the bed. Draco collapsed into the mattress and tried to pull himself together.
"I don't want to join Vol…Him. My…Father was," he paused, "not impressed. He…he burned me, told me I was betraying my ideals by not wanting to join. I told him they weren't my ideals, that I didn't accept them, that Muggleborns have as much right to learn magic as those born into magic families. So he used the Cruciatus curse on me. I screamed, and screamed and screamed. When it was over, I told him I was in love with a Muggleborn and would never join V-Voldemort. He nearly killed me; he would have done if not for my mother. I am still his only male heir, the heir to the Malfoy name and estates and she reminded him of it just in time."
Harry ran his hand through his hair and unbuttoned his shirt. Draco gasped when Harry took his shirt off and showed him. Although most of the scars had faded, they were still visible in the lantern light of their room. The words across his chest and the burns across his back stunned the aristocratic young man to silence.
"Who…Morgana's Grace Harry, what happened to you? Is this why the Professor adopted you?"
"Yes. My uncle did this because I was a freak, because I can do magic."
Draco started to cry again and clutched at Harry pulling him into a hug again. They sat like that for a while, taking comfort in each other, in the fact they were alive and solid.
Marcus found them in this pose and back out of the room quickly. He had urgent news for Harry regarding a friend from another House but didn't want to intrude on what had obviously been a very private moment between the two boys.
In the end, Harry found out at the same time as everyone else – at breakfast the following morning, the Headmaster announced the death of Tristan Rawn.