AN: Hello all! For once, I was able to make this chapter in a month and a week. Hoping you guys enjoy the chapter, and as always, leave me reviews, I love them :D
Chapter 24 - A Trail of Broken Glass
It was half an hour later. Severus was sitting down, a glass of Scotch in his hand, Dumbledore across from him, a cup of tea in his down. Severus' head was bent down, staring into his glass.
"I'm truly sorry, Severus," Dumbledore replied. "That was inconsiderate of me to say."
"And it was completely fair as well," Severus said, still staring into his glass. "This whole time, for 16 years, I had been protecting him only for Lily….although it's ironic to know that I never really had protected him after all."
"Ofcourse you did Severus," Dumbledore said, leaning towards him. "You have saved his life many times over his past years at Hogwarts."
"Perhaps. But how have I treated him?" Severus said slowly.
Dumbledore was silent for a moment, staring into the soft fire crackling in the fireplace.
"And you see…every year, he went back to that bloody place…he didn't even have a safe haven anywhere." Severus sighed. "I had always made his life a struggle, during the past five years."
Dumbledore spoke slowly. "And why is that?"
"Well…" Severus' voice got caught in his throat for a moment. "…every time I looked at him…he reminded me of James."
Dumbledore placed his tea cup on the table, and leant over to put his hand on Severus', who was starting to grasp his glass very tightly. "I hope you're starting to realize now that…he's not. He may be James' child…but he's not James."
Severus sighed, his breath wavering. "I know that. I know. You just don't understand how hard that was…to see…"
Dumbledore had a sympathetic look on his face. "My boy, I understand. Views don't change very quickly." Dumbledore put his cup down on the table. "However, I would have to say...I believe yours have changed, have they?"
Severus took another sip of his drink, the warm, alcoholic liquid running down his throat. He wasn't sure if the alcohol was calming him or making him more nervous, but due to his shaky breath, he figured the latter.
"Well, I am accustomed to barging into your house concerning insolent little students, aren't I?" Severus said sarcastically.
Dumbledore smiled softly. "Remember, Severus – inside you, you have goodness. You may have been a death eater before, but that does not define you now. Trust me, my boy, when I say that you are not like them."
Severus sighed, not being able to reply. He put his own glass on the table sharply, the liquid swishing, a drop landing on the table. He closed his eyes sharply, and when he opened them again, he was looking straight at Dumbledore.
"Just tell me one thing, Albus. And please tell me the truth." Severus was looking intently at him. "Do you actually care about Harry? Did you ever really care for him?"
Dumbledore looked at Severus, a blank look on his face. He turned his gaze towards the cup, silent for a moment. Then, looking back at Severus, he replied, "Yes, I do care for Harry. I always have, since I left him on Petunia's doorstep. You don't know how much it pains me to put him through all this…." He drifted off, looking at his cup again.
"I feel there is a 'but' in here somewhere," Severus said in a leveled tone, still looking at Dumbledore.
Dumbledore sighed, closing his eyes. "He is our best hope. He is our only hope, Severus. You understand that."
Severus' expression grew hard, an intense look on his face, when suddenly, he collapsed back into the couch, defeat registering inside him. He grabbed his glass and took a huge gulp.
"Well, he doesn't have to go this road alone," Severus said, looking down at the floor.
Dumbledore smiled a genuine smile. "I wouldn't expect anything less, Severus."
Harry rose in the morning, a sleepy yawn escaping from his lips. He sat up in his bed and stretched, feeling quite relaxed. He removed the covers from over him, and dragged his feet off the bed, stretching his legs and wiggling his toes. He stood up and went to the window, pulled away the curtains, and opened the window, feeling the light breeze come in. He closed his eyes and breathed in the fresh air. He was really starting to like this place. However, he just remembered, he had only about a week and a half left of the summer. He sighed as that realization came to him. He always loved to go back to Hogwarts. However this time…something was different.
He shrugged the feeling off, rubbing his eyes and walking towards the door, feeling the hunger in the pit of his stomach.
Another realization came to him as soon as he thought of that – he felt hungry. He hadn't felt hungry since he had gotten the illness. And he had breathed in that fresh air properly.
He swallowed. Slightly scratchy, still, but the pain of his sore throat had most of all disappeared. Other than his head feeling slightly fuzzy, it felt almost like a miracle. He walked out of the hallway, and as he entered the kitchen, he heard the sizzling of bacon and eggs. And he could also smell them!
"Hello sleepyhead," Severus said. "Decided to sleep in today?"
"Hey, it's only….10:30 AM." Harry claimed, yawning.
"You're going back to Hogwarts in less than two weeks," Severus said, taking the eggs and bacon off of the frying pan and placing them on to a plate. He turned around to the dining table, where Harry had already seated himself, and put the plate on the table, Harry's mouth watering at the delicious smell. "I think I should start waking you up at 7 AM, get you back on a regular sleeping schedule."
Harry groaned, as Severus chuckled. "Now why don't you get up and make yourself useful, and get some plates and utensils?"
Harry shook his head, but he was smiling. It was a comfortable morning routine. And he liked it. A feeling of emptiness nagged at him slightly, but he shook it off again as he rose out of the chair to help set the table.
They were about halfway through breakfast. Harry was hoarding the bacon, drinking a cup of coffee, while Severus was calmly taking a sip of his own tea. He shook his head, watching Harry eat, but he dismissed it because Harry had not been eating much all week.
"So what have you got planned for today?" Harry asked, mouth full of bacon.
"I'm not sure I understood you with your mouth full," Severus said reproachfully.
"Sorry," Harry apologized, swallowing his food with a guilty look on his face.
Severus smiled. "I have to start getting things ready for the new school year. And you," Harry rose his eyebrows as Severus looked straight at him, "Are going shopping for new school attire and materials."
"Really?" Harry said in surprise, putting his cup of coffee down. "Who is going to take me then?"
"Professor McGonagall will escort you to Diagon Alley to purchase some new robes for you, and to get you your new textbooks and supplies. I dare say your robes are getting quite short for your height. When was the last time you had new ones made for you?"
Harry shrugged. "Before third year, I think? I don't remember too well. It has been awhile. The last time, Mrs. Weasley made sure I had gotten new ones, but since then, everything's been a little hectic."
Severus' heart ached silently for the boy who didn't even have anyone to take him to get proper school robes when needed.
"Well, we will definitely make sure you have everything you will need, and that everything will fit properly too," Severus said. "Perhaps you might even meet Mr. Weasley and Mrs. Granger as well. How does that sound?"
"It sounds great," Harry smiled. "It'll be nice to get out…and also nice to see Minerva again."
Severus raised his eyebrows.
Harry put his hands up, a cheeky grin on his face, "She said I can call her that."
Severus shook his head, although chuckling slightly to himself. "Try to refer to her as Mrs. McGonagall during school hours, alright?"
"Okay," Harry said, taking his fork to get another scoop of bacon. He stopped suddenly as a thought came to him. "Wait, hold on…you had to have had this all planned out earlier, right?" Severus nodded. "But I was just about confined to my bed right up until last night! So how did you…?"
Severus smirked. "Confidence in my potion-creating techniques?"
Harry gave Severus a little jab across the table, and both of them laughed. But Severus could see Harry's silent thank you.
"And hey, since you seem to be feeling quite better now, I think, after you get back, is a great time to get started on the rest of your summer homework, young man."
Harry groaned again, and Severus laughed.
I promise you. You won't have to go through this road alone.
Harry was in his room changing when Minerva arrived.
"So, Severus, potion worked, as you expected?" Minerva said, smiling as she arrived through the floo.
"Am I ever wrong about these things, Minerva?" Severus joked.
Minerva gave him a reproachful look.
Severus chuckled. "Well, his symptoms are not entirely gone, still a bit of a scratchy throat and some dizziness, I've given him another dose right after breakfast. If he seems to feel faint or anything –"
"Don't worry, I'll let you know," Minerva said. "He's in safe hands."
"You know, you're perhaps one of the only people I can trust saying those words," Severus commented.
"Well I'm honoured," Minerva smiled. "Have you ever gotten down to the root of this situation?"
"It's complicated," Severus shook his head. "Whatever it is, it is no good for us. At all."
"Just relax, Severus," Minerva said calmly. "We don't really know anything yet."
"We know that Draco Malfoy attacked Harry and Lupin with an intent to do some good damage."
"We don't know what happened there, Severus," Minerva said, but from the look on Severus' face, she could tell that he was thinking that she couldn't even deny it.
"You two had better be off," Severus said. "I'll get the pack rat right now." Minerva chuckled as Severus walked towards the bedroom hallway.
He knocked on the door of Harry's room. He could hear a low mumble on the other side. "Don't make me drag you out of there, Harry." Just as soon as the words had left his mouth, Harry walked out, a smile on his face. He was wearing a white-collared shirt over a solid red shirt, with a new pair of jeans. He shook his head in dismay as he saw the turned up collar.
"If you want to be a gentleman, you might as well atleast dress the part," Severus said, turning down his collar as Harry rolled his eyes. Severus leaned down towards Harry. "Now I want you to remember, stay with Minerva, don't waste time, get everything you need, and – "
"– don't do anything foolish," Harry finished. Severus looked at him, a face he hadn't really looked at for 5 years, and smiled.
"And stay safe," Severus said. "Can you promise me that?"
"Yes," Harry said, smiling back.
When Harry apparated away with Minerva, Severus wasn't so sure.
There were few days when the Malfoy Manor was rid of the wards of Death Eaters that felt like they had the entitlement to be there whenever they wanted to. But then again, with the way things were, I guess they did now. Atleast, under the Dark Lord's orders.
But today, it was empty. Lucius stood in front of a large window, watching the sky grow darker. His hands were crossed around his chest, and he had a vacant look on his face, as he stared out into the setting sun.
He felt a hand lay softly on his shoulder. "Lucius."
He didn't answer, but the voice of Narcissa made him feel slightly calmer.
"What's wrong?" Narcissa said, in a soothing voice, putting her other hand on his other shoulder.
Lucius still couldn't speak. More so, he couldn't put his thoughts into words.
"All of them…Alecto, Amycus, Dolohov, Goyle, Yaxley….thinking they can come and just walk around the manor like they own it," were the first words to come out of his mouth.
Narcissa started to massage his shoulders, but it didn't help. He walked away from Narcissa, pacing away from the window.
"I know it's a bit of a mess around here…" Narcissa said softly.
"Around here? This whole thing is a mess!" Lucius hissed, causing Narcissa to draw back slightly.
He noticed her action, and he walked back to her, taking her two hands in his. "It shouldn't be this way. It wasn't this way. We were not made the scum of the earth. If it wasn't for the stupid Potter boy, none of this would be happening."
Narcissa didn't speak, but just held his hands, looking at him, a silent comfort.
"Now, that damned Severus Snape is at the Dark Lord's right hand, while we are barely escaping death at this moment."
"Now don't say that," Narcissa said, putting a hand up to his face.
"It's true." Lucius' voice was drawing to a hiss once again. "Since the Department of Mysteries fiasco…" Lucius couldn't find the words to say, anger heating up inside of him. "I don't know what's going on with Severus and the Potter boy."
"Whatever it was, I'm sure it was under Dumbledore's orders. You know the position he's in."
"I know that, Narcissa," Lucius said, frustrated. "However, I also know that the Dark Lord is unaware of this little situation. As the Dark Lord's main man, I believe this is something that would be very important to mention…"
A shadowed look came across Lucius' face. "What is he? A mere half blood who was lucky to get on his good side. I've been serving the Dark all this time! And up until now, I WAS his main man!"
Lucius was starting to become even angrier. "That Potter boy has caused too many problems, and now I find him and Severus together in Paris? And the way that Severus immediately found the boy and took him away…maybe Bellatrix was right in not trusting him." Lucius mused. "I think it's about time that the Dark Lord knew what was going on around here."
"Lucius, no." Narcissa said sharply as soon as Lucius had finished speaking.
Lucius gave her a dark look. "What?"
"Lucius, listen to me," Narcissa said urgently. "We don't know what's happening. And right now, we can't afford any mistakes." Narcissa voice was steady, staring straight into Lucius' eyes. "And he is the only one at Hogwarts who can protect Draco."
"I thought he made an unbreakable vow?" Lucius said, still in anger.
"An unbreakable vow is hard to keep if there are no means to. If he falls in the Dark Lord's eyes, and is sent away from Hogwarts, then he cannot protect him. Your son will be on his own."
Lucius didn't speak, her words resonating in his head. He was furious. Furious that Harry Potter had him defeated and sent to Azkaban, causing him to fail his mission. Furious that Severus was now practically the Dark Lord's second in command, while the Malfoys were the laughing stock of the Death Eater crowd. Furious that his and his family's life was starting to come into shambles.
But he sighed in defeat. Narcissa was right. It was like a trail of broken glass. Every piece connected, in some weird, absurd way.
The two stared at eachother, hands held in eachother's, as the last of the sun's light set over the horizon.