A/N: Thanks to my wonderful beta's for their thoughtful and necessary help. Thanks to everyone who reviewed, reviews make my day!
Disclaimer: As always, except for the originals characters, JKR owns it all.
Harry couldn't decide what to do next. He wanted to stay in his curled-up position on the floor, but he also wanted to crawl into the wardrobe and hide from the man who he was sure had come to take him away from Draco and Uncle Sev. If he hid in the wardrobe, there was a minuscule chance that he wouldn't be found. Zero chance really, because Draco would never let him get away with it, but it was an attractive thought. It was too bad that it required moving and right now, he couldn't make his legs obey.
"Mr. Potter." The brusque, cold tone of Uncle Sev's voice made Harry's head snap up and he scrambled to his feet, his fallen robe still clutched in his hand. He tried desperately to keep the fear and hurt from showing on his face. Later, after Uncle Sev…Professor Snape…he had no idea what to call him now…after Harry had left with this new man, Mr. Lupin, and was alone, then he would fall apart. He should have known better than to think that he could have a family. Why, why had he let himself be lulled into this sort of complacency? He was a fool and now he was going to pay for it.
"Sir, I…" Harry stammered, trying the force the words out without giving in to the tears. "I…know you don't want me anymore…I'm sorry for…thinking that you would…want a freak…"
"Mr. Potter," Uncle Sev said again, interrupting his scattered speech. His tone was slightly softer when he said his name this time and Harry could hear him coming closer. "As amusing as you may find it, I do not enjoy repeating myself. Did you listen to nothing I said in the infirmary last month?"
"What?" Harry asked, totally baffled. "I…what?"
"I distinctly remember telling you that I would take care of you. That we were a family. I told you these things in the full hearing of two witnesses, Madam Pomfrey and Draco. Have you forgotten that already, or do you truly believe that I didn't mean it?"
The urge to cry was overpowering after Harry had viciously tried to suppress it. "I'm sorry," he whispered brokenly and then found himself gathered into Uncle Sev's arms, his face buried in Uncle Sev's neck.
"You foolish child," Uncle Sev said gently. "Why would you think again that I am sending you away?"
Harry just shook his head, not wanting to answer Uncle Sev.
"Harry," Uncle Sev's voice held a warning. "Answer me."
"Draco said…" Harry whispered into Uncle Sev's shoulder.
"Do not attempt to place the blame on Draco for any of this," Uncle Sev interrupted him. "Unless I am very much mistaken, Draco said that there was someone I wanted to you meet. Not someone to take you away."
"But…that man…he knows my name," Harry whispered with confusion. "Why would he know my name unless you're giving me to him? You promised me that no one would know."
"You told," Harry said. He felt a sudden rush of red-hot anger and pushed away from Uncle Sev. "You told!" Harry yelled as his shaking hands clenched in Uncle Sev's robes. "Why would you do that? What did I do to make you do that?" He pulled one fist away and hit Uncle Sev's shoulder.
"Mr. Potter, stop this immediately." Uncle Sev's voice was clipped. Harry fell silent and his hands dropped to his sides as his heart shattered with the realisation of what he had just done. Stupid, stupid boy, he thought, wrapping his arms around himself. Now Uncle Sev really would send him away. "You will remain silent while I explain, is that clear?" Uncle Sev growled.
"Yes, sir," Harry said quietly, bowing his head, waiting for the inevitable rejection. Why couldn't he control his emotions? He'd never had that problem with the Dursleys. Because the Dursleys hated you. It was easy to know what to do because they never wanted you.
"I sent for Mr. Lupin because I need help. I cannot continue to leave you with Poppy every day; she has her own work to do and I need someone that can assist with teaching you. Lizzy is doing a fine job, but there is more that we need to begin. Mr. Lupin knows who you are, because…" Severus's voice faltered for a moment. "Mr. Lupin was friends with your father and mother. He knew them before they died."
Harry's face snapped up, he felt his eyes widen with shock and his mouth dropped open. "He…He…" Tears ran down Harry's face and he scrubbed at them violently with the palms of his hands. "I'm not going to cry," Harry said as he pulled his handkerchief out of his pocket.
"It's fine, Harry," Draco said close to his ear. "Everything is going to be fine. You're staying here, I'm staying here. No one is leaving."
"So, you're not…" Harry stopped himself before he say going to send me away. A deep feeling of shame for assuming the worst of Uncle Sev washed over him. After several deep breaths and Draco's calming hand on his shoulder, Harry stuffed the handkerchief back into his pocket. "All right," he said, stiffening his spine. "I'm ready to meet him."
"Wait," Draco said and a surprised Harry felt himself pulled towards the loo. "Give us a minute."
The door closed behind the two boys and Draco turned on the water in the sink.
"What are you doing?" Harry asked. "Shouldn't we be going out to the sitting room?"
"We're going to clean you up a bit," Draco replied. "I need to try and make you more presentable for company."
Harry huffed a shaky laugh. "Is that all you ever think about?"
"Ha," Draco snorted. "If you could see me, you'd see that I was glaring at you right now."
"It's a good thing I've got you here to let me know." Harry's shoulders started to relax and he felt the flannel in Draco's hand rub gently over his face. "I can do that, you know. I'm not a baby."
"Of course you're not. Babies cry all the time and can't take care of themselves. Oh, wait…"
Harry was shocked for a moment at what Draco said. Was he a baby? He felt like it at times, but Uncle Sev had said…
Draco grabbed Harry's shoulder. "I'm teasing, Harry. Just playing with you."
Harry relaxed at Draco's words. Of course he was teasing, boys did that all the time. More than a few times he had paid attention to the things that the boys around the Great Hall said to each other. A lot of it he didn't understand, but some of it sounded like the laughing conversations that Dudley had with his friends, before the accident, when Harry could still hear what others said from inside his cupboard.
Harry grabbed the flannel out of Draco's hands and grinned. "Prat, snot, meany…"
"Is that the best you can do?" Draco burst out laughing. "You need to work on those insults."
Harry stuck his tongue out at him as Draco ran a comb through his hair.
"Your hair is hopeless, Harry."
"Doesn't matter if I can't see it, does it?" Harry asked, resisting the urge to run his hands through his hair.
"Of course it matters," Draco said haughtily as he straightened Harry's shirt, then patted him on the arm. "Feel a bit better now?"
"Yeah," Harry said, astonished to realise that Draco had been distracting him. "I actually do."
Lupin was sitting on the sofa with his head in his hands when Severus emerged from Harry and Draco's room. He looked up when Severus sat in his chair. "Is Harry okay?" Lupin asked.
"He will be," Severus answered and Lupin nodded sadly.
"I never thought he would react that way," Lupin said, running a hand through his hair. "That he would be afraid of me. If James and Lily could see what has been done to him…" Severus watched as Lupin struggled to finish the thought, but then gave up with a groan.
Severus sighed. "I should have been aware of how he would take it. He was never wanted by the Dursleys, so why would I want him?"
"You…You helped him," Lupin said softy.
"What did you expect me to do, Lupin," Severus snarled. "Lock him in the cupboard? I think he had quite enough of that when he was living with his relatives."
"Lock him…what?" Lupin was on his feet. "You mean to tell me that those…those…" A growl worked its way up Lupin's throat. "I am going to kill Albus!"
"Yes, well you will have to get in line," Severus said with a smirk. "Behind me and Minerva."
Lupin was shaking with anger and the hoarse growls were getting louder.
"Stop!" Severus said forcefully. "Or I will send you to your quarters and you won't meet Harry until after the full moon."
Lupin took a deep breath and held it for a count of five, then expelled it with a rush. He collapsed back onto the sofa. "Sorry," he muttered. "I hadn't realised that the instinct to protect Harry was so strong."
"You've ignored it for this long," Severus sneered. "You can continue to do so."
Lupin nodded, then turned to look as the door to the boys' room opened. Draco led a much calmer Harry into the room. Severus saw that Harry's face was freshly washed and an attempt had been made to comb the boy's hair.
"Harry," Severus said. Harry walked up to him and grasped a handful of Severus's robes.
"I'm sorry, Uncle Sev," Harry whispered, his face turned down.
"What are you sorry for?" Severus asked.
"For hitting you," Harry blushed a deep red. "And for thinking that you were going to send me away."
Severus put his hand on Harry's shoulder. "I understand, Harry. I should have told you about Mr. Lupin before I brought him here."
Harry just shrugged and released his hold on Severus's robes.
Severus put his hand on Harry's shoulder and led him over to where Lupin stood. "Harry, this is Remus Lupin. He's going to be helping Lizzy with your schooling and Professor Flitwick with your magic."
Harry's fingers twitched at his side for a moment and then he put out his hand. "It's nice to meet you, Mr. Lupin," he said.
Lupin took Harry's hand and shook it briefly. "I'm glad to be here, Harry. I look forward to helping you."
"Uncle Sev says that you knew my parents," Harry began, his hands twisting in front of him. "Is that true?"
Lupin smiled. "Yes, I was one of James's best friends. I can tell you a lot of stories."
Severus felt the familiar twist of anger and jealousy in his gut as a smile lit Harry's face, but then Harry put his hand on Severus's arm. "My Uncle Sev tells me wonderful things about my mum; it'll be nice to hear things about my dad, too."
"I'll be happy to tell you anything you want to hear," Lupin reassured him, reaching out and touching Harry's arm.
Harry leaned his head against Severus's side and Severus felt the anger and jealousy disappear in a rush. The boy was his.
The sound of the doors opening when Uncle Sev came into the Great Hall with Mr. Lupin in the middle of dinner caused the volume of the chattering voices of the students to lower somewhat and then start back up at a higher level. While there was some pointing and staring at the two men, Draco noticed that the only people who seemed truly interested in Mr. Lupin's appearance in the Great Hall were sitting at the staff table. Professor McGonagall had a wide smile, while Professor Dumbledore looked shocked and worried.
As the two men approached the staff table, Professor McGonagall and Madam Pomfrey got out of their seats and hugged Mr. Lupin. Professor McGonagall whispered something into Mr. Lupin's ear that made him laugh. Professor Flitwick vigorously shook his hand, while gesturing with the other hand. Professor Dumbledore got to his feet, but didn't shake Mr. Lupin's hand. He said something that Draco couldn't hear, but it wiped the happiness off of Mr. Lupin's face. Uncle Sev replied to whatever Professor Dumbledore said, making the Headmaster frown briefly before reapplying his smile. Draco recognized the mask on Professor Dumbledore's face, because his father did that sort of thing all the time. The only difference was that Father had a better mask and would never have allowed the frown to slip out. Uncle Sev looked quite happy with himself in a sneering sort of way as the Headmaster sat back down and Uncle Sev and Mr. Lupin continued down to the end of the table.
"Is something wrong?" Harry whispered.
"No, why?" Draco asked back.
"You're awfully quiet all of a sudden," Harry said.
"I'm just looking at Uncle Sev and Mr. Lupin. Professor Dumbledore doesn't seem happy that Mr. Lupin is here." Draco watched with interest as the Headmaster ate his dinner while speaking to Professor McGonagall sitting next to him. Professor McGonagall seemed completely relaxed, chatting away while sipping her tea as if nothing different was happening. Professor Dumbledore's mask stayed in place during the conversation, not slipping again after the first time. Draco would never have known it was false, except that it reminded him of his father's face when Father entertained people he didn't really like, but needed to please in order to stay in good with the Ministry.
"Professor Dumbledore. He's the Headmaster, isn't he?" Harry asked.
"Yes," Draco replied. "He's here for most of the meals. I forgot that you hadn't met him."
"I did sort of meet him when I was Sorted. He was in the room with Uncle Sev and Professor McGonagall. I remember that Uncle Sev seemed angry with him, but I couldn't hear what everyone was saying." Harry took a drink of his pumpkin juice. "I'm not sure, but I think Professor Dumbledore was upset because the Hat put me in Slytherin."
Draco laughed. "He probably was since both of your parents were in Gryffindor. I think everyone expected you to go there, even Uncle Sev. Sometimes when he tells the stories at night, it's almost as if he's surprised that you're there."
"In Slytherin?" Harry asked.
"Not just that, but also living with Uncle Sev. From the way he talks about your father -or rather avoids talking about him- it's like he expected to hate you just as much. He might have if you had been Sorted into Gryffindor." Draco shuddered to think that the Hat had almost Sorted him into Gryffindor. He made a vow right then never to mention that particular conversation to anyone.
"I can see that, especially with the way he used to treat Neville," Harry agreed. "I asked the Hat not to Sort me if I was going to be taken away from Uncle Sev."
"You asked the Hat not to Sort you?" Draco exclaimed.
"Yeah," Harry said and then shrugged. "I was afraid and I think the Hat knew that, so it put me in Slytherin."
Draco looked up as Uncle Sev arose from the table with Mr. Lupin. Mr. Lupin was speaking and Uncle Sev looked like he wished Mr. Lupin would shut up. It made Draco wonder why Uncle Sev had invited Mr. Lupin to come when it was obvious that he didn't like him.
Uncle Sev stopped at the table and stood behind Draco. "Take Harry back home when you're finished. Mr. Lupin and I have an appointment with the Headmaster this evening. I expect we'll be rather late."
"Of course," Draco replied and watched as they walked off.
"He said 'home'," Harry breathed. "Like he meant it."
"He meant it, Evan," Draco said. "He wouldn't say it if he didn't. Are you still worried that he's going to send you away? You really need to stop that if you are."
"No, I believe him." Harry said, and he almost meant it.