A/N: This story is one of two that I submitted to the Potions and Snitches prompt fest. Promts were: Footsteps in the dark and Frost covered windows.
Thanks to my beta Badgerlady, she's the best!
Disclaimer: as always, I own nothing, JKR owns it all.
The sound of laughter roused Severus from a light sleep. He groaned and rolled out of bed to see who was wandering around the house at two in the morning, although there was a very good chance that it was Harry.
Severus quietly pulled his bedroom door open and slipped into the hallway to encounter a very strange sight in the dim light that Severus always had burning, since Harry didn't like the dark.
"Mr. Potter," Severus said.
"Shhhhhh…," Harry said with a giggle.
"Mr. Potter, what do you think you are doing out of bed at this time of night?"
"I's inbis'dible. You can't see me, so go 'way. Go back to sleeps." Bright green eyes behind black-framed glasses peered out from a fold of the large loosely woven blanket that had quite clearly been taken from one of the boys' beds, and was now draped over the thin frame of Harry Potter and a second person. The blanket was pulled high enough in front to expose two pair of sock-clad feet, then it billowed out around them before dragging behind them on the floor. Harry and his companion clumsily turned and started carefully down the stairs with blanket-wrapped hands holding onto the railing.
"Where are you going, Mr. Potter?" Severus leaned against the wall at the top of the stairs and watched as the two boys under the blanket attempted to bypass all of the creaky sections on the wooden stairs.
"I can't tell you," Harry insisted. "I's inbis'dible." A soft laugh came from under the blanket.
"Is Mr. Malfoy under there with you, Mr. Potter?" Severus asked, knowing full well who was hiding under the blanket with him.
"Nope, n'body here wit' me. 'Specially not Ray."
"I see," Severus said in a serious voice. "So if I were to check Mr. Malfoy's bed, I would find him in it?"
There was a slight scuffling underneath the blanket, then the sound of whispering and Harry laughing.
"Nope," Harry called back up just before they reached the bottom of the stairs. "Ray's inbis'dible too."
Severus followed the two boys down the stairs.
"Harry…" The unmistakable sound of Draco's voice came from under the blanket as they stopped in front of the kitchen door.
"Shhh…He'll hear us." Harry whispered loudly. "We gots to be quiet."
Harry's hand poked out from the blanket. "Alamo-morris," he whispered as he turned the knob and pushed the door inward. Draco's bark of laughter turned into a harsh cough at Harry's indignant "Hey!" and Severus smothered a sudden urge to laugh along with him.
"What was that?" Draco whispered raggedly when he'd managed to stop coughing.
"Magic," Harry replied proudly.
The kitchen gleamed in the moonlight that slipped in behind frost-covered windows. The white blanket covering the two of them shone like a beacon as the boys stopped in the middle of the kitchen to have a whispered conversation, the blanket shifting with their arm movements. Severus stood behind them to listen.
"It's okay, Ray." Harry said. "I promise. It'll be fun."
"You can't promise that, Harry," Draco responded. "What if you get hurt?"
"Won't get hurt, I gots you to look after me." Harry's voice was confident.
"What if I get hurt?"
Harry huffed. "Then I takes care of you, silly!"
The two boys shuffled toward the back door.
"Mr. Potter!" Severus said sharply and the boys jumped, the blanket falling off to puddle on the floor.
"Oh, no!" Harry cried. "Look what you dones! We's not inbis'dible no more!"
Severus eyed the two sharply. "You will not leave this house in the middle of the night."
"We jus' wanted to play," Harry pouted and pointed to the window. "It snowed."
"It's February," Severus said. "You have no shoes on and it's dark. You will not go outside."
Harry picked up the blanket and wrapped it back around his shoulders. "I wants to make snowballs," he said mutinously.
"Mr. Potter, do not make me turn you over my knee," Severus said and Harry blanched. He backed away from the door to stand behind Draco, resting his chin on Draco's shoulder and glaring daggers at Severus. Severus was certain that the one hand not holding the blanket onto his shoulders was covering his backside.
"I told you he'd know," Draco said, grinning at Harry. "Come on, let's go back to bed."
With a deep, disappointed sigh from Harry, the boys turned to go back up the stairs.
"Mr. Malfoy," Severus said, stopping Draco as he opened the kitchen door. "Remain behind."
Harry looked mournfully at Draco. "Sorry, Ray," he mumbled softly and then left the kitchen, the blanket trailing behind him.
Severus listened to Harry's footsteps in the dark as he climbed the stairs, before turning back to look at Draco.
"You know better, Draco," Severus said quietly.
Draco looked levelly at Severus, his grey eyes stormy. Severus found it a bit disconcerting-not to mention annoying-that he had to tilt his head up slightly because Draco was a good inch taller.
"Yes, sir," Draco said sulkily.
"Were you planning on letting him go out?" Severus crossed his arms over his chest.
"No!" Draco exclaimed, looking horrified. "I put a sticking charm on the back door so that he couldn't open it. I planned on letting him fight with it for a minute and then coaxing him back upstairs to bed."
"How did you get a sticking charm on the door without him seeing it?" Severus bit out. "What if he had come into the room while you had your wand?"
"I put a sticking charm on the door every evening while he's in the loo. He tries to convince me to do this almost every night."
"Why did you give in tonight?" Severus said with a glare. "You shouldn't let him get his hopes up."
"I know that," Draco said grumpily, "But it snowed earlier and it was impossible to tell him no. He looked at me with those eyes and I just gave in."
"You must tell him no every time," Severus replied. "We cannot take the chance that his magic might overcome the charm on the door."
"You know that he would have just waited until I was asleep and then tried to sneak out on his own." Draco clenched his fists. "I'm doing the best I can to keep him safe."
"There has to be a way to keep him from wandering off," Severus growled with exasperation. "A tethering charm when he's asleep…"
"I am not going to tie him up like a dog, Severus!" Draco's eyes gleamed with tears of frustration. "Or lock him in the bedroom. You know that would only make it infinitely worse. God!" Draco dragged a hand through his short-cropped hair. "I don't know what to do!"
Severus pulled a chair out from the table and sat down heavily. "The research is not yielding any results. If only we knew what happened!"
Draco sighed. "The only person left who knows for certain what happened is Harry and he doesn't even know that he knows."
"Perhaps if we brought someone in to help," Severus mused.
"Who are you going to trust with this?" Draco demanded. "If the person we pick refuses to take a Wizard's Oath or an unbreakable vow, and goes to the press, Harry will be exposed within minutes. You know that what happened to Granger will happen to him even faster. We may as well just kill him and have done with it!"
Severus slumped in his chair in bitter defeat. Silence enveloped the kitchen as each man tried to work through the situation in which they had found themselves.
A few minutes later, the door to the kitchen inched open and Severus turned in his chair to see Harry peeking through the crack. His fingers curled around the edge of the door and his eyes were sad. "You comin', Ray?" he asked, tears clouding his voice. "I can't sleeps wiffout you."
Severus waved a hand at Draco. "Go," he said and without a word Draco left the kitchen, the door closing quietly behind the two boys.
"Why's my feet so big, Ray?"
Draco looked up from the book he'd been reading on dark curses and their origins in a nearly futile attempt to find something that would cure Harry. The book was one among hundreds of books liberated from Grimmauld Place after the end of the war and before the Ministry could raid the house. For the moment all the books were hidden behind a magical barrier in the Wizard-space basement of their current safe house. A glamour was placed on the book to make it look like a text book in case Harry got curious, as he so often did.
Harry was lying on the sofa with his feet in the air, wiggling his toes. His socks had been abandoned on the floor. With a sigh, Draco set the book aside and got up from the chair to put Harry's socks back on him.
"Your feet are the right size for the rest of you," Draco told him as he crouched in front of Harry and picked his socks up off the floor. Harry immediately leaped up to sit on his feet.
"Don't wan' socks on," Harry whined.
"Daddy Sev will be upset if you go barefoot, Harry. Let me put your socks on." Draco tried to pull Harry's foot out from underneath him.
"No!" Harry jumped up and ran from the sitting room. Draco thumped his forehead against the sofa seat and groaned.
"What is it now?" Severus's amused voice came from the doorway and Draco held up Harry's socks in his fist. "Ah, socks again. I'll go find him."
Draco laughed, his voice muffled by the sofa. "Hopefully you'll find him before he takes off the rest of his clothes."
A frustrated noise followed by a harsh cry of "Mr. Potter!" and Severus was off to look for him. Draco levered himself to his feet and followed.
Draco found Harry outside in the back garden five minutes later, standing barefoot and bare-chested in the snow.
"Harry," he said soothingly, his hand held out in front of him. "Come in the house, it's cold out here."
"No," Harry said, his head tilted back and his arms up over his head, as if waiting for someone to pick him up. "I needs to go." He brought his head up, lowered his arms and looked at Draco with confusion. "Where does I needs to go, Ray?"
"Inside the house, Harry," Draco said, his heart aching. "Remember? We have to play a game of Go Fish."
Harry's confusion disappeared in a heartbeat and his face lit up with delight. "Yay!" he cried, sprinting for the door. "I gets to wins this time!"
The back door slammed, leaving Draco staring unseeingly at the place Harry had been standing.
The door swung back open. "Whatcha doin' Ray?" Harry yelled happily. "Come in here! I can't wins wiffout you!"
"You already did, Harry," Draco said under his breath and went to make sure Harry got dressed so they could play Go Fish.
Severus was dragged unhappily from his sleep when he heard noises coming from the boys' bedroom. With a growl, he looked over at the mechanical clock ticking quietly on the bedside table to check the time. One in the morning, did that damn boy never sleep? He slid out of the bed, wincing as the cold of the hardwood floors seeped into his bare feet. He pulled on a pair of wool socks and his dressing gown before walking down the hall to the adjoining room. Opening the door he found Harry sitting on the floor soaking wet and crying. The room reeked of urine and Severus wished he dared to use his wand in front of Harry to cast an air cleaning charm. Harry's bed was stripped bare and a tired and rumpled Draco was pulling clean sheets out of the wardrobe.
"I had an ac'dent again, Daddy Sev," Harry sobbed, rocking back and forth on the floor. "I's sorry. Sorry, sorry."
Severus pulled Harry to his feet and began hauling up his pyjama top. "It's fine Harry, accidents happen. Lift up your arms so we can get this off you then we'll get you into the shower and cleaned up in no time. Draco will have the bed dry and changed by the time we get back."
"Can I has a baf, Daddy Sev?" Harry sniffled, scrubbing his tear-streaked face with the palm of his hands. "I wants to play wif the duckies."
"No duckies tonight," Severus said, helping Harry out of his stinking pyjama bottoms. "Just a shower to clean you up. You can take a bath tomorrow."
"'Kay," Harry nodded meekly as he padded naked out of the room. Severus stood by the door, then nodded to Draco once there was no possibility that Harry could see into the bedroom. Draco removed his wand from the hidden spot at the top of the wardrobe in order to cast a cleaning spell on the mattress.
"That's the third time this week Severus," Draco said morosely. "I think he's regressing again."
Severus sighed with resignation. "Put the waterproof cover back on the bed. Hopefully we'll get him over this before more drastic measures are needed."
Draco shuddered with revulsion. "Not the nappies again," he groaned. "I'll do anything but that!"
"Daddy Sev!" Harry called. "Hurry up! I can't wash up wiffout you!"
"At least it's you he can't do without this time," Draco laughed and waved his wand over the mattress, muttering the cleaning charm followed by a sterilizing spell. "You'd better go or he might decide to empty the shampoo bottle down the drain again."
"Harry, sit still!" Draco exclaimed as Harry wiggled about on the closed lid of the toilet seat.
"Don' wanna shave, Ray. I's not big enough yet," Harry whimpered.
"Believe me," Draco said, holding Harry by the back of the neck and dragging the razor over his chin. "You are quite big enough."
"Don' like it, Ray. Shaving stuff tastes nasty."
"You say that every morning," Draco said calmly. "Don't open your mouth and the nasty shaving stuff won't get in."
"Hmph," Harry grumbled, but kept his mouth shut.
"There, all done," Draco said, setting the razor in the sink and wiping the stray bits of shaving cream from Harry's jaw. Then he put Harry's glasses on his face, making sure the strap around the back of his head was secure. "Go get dressed and we'll go down to breakfast. I'm sure Daddy Sev is wondering where we are by now."
"Yay!" Harry raced from the room and Draco wipe a tired hand over his face. He looked in the mirror and grimaced at the haggard face looking back. Running a hand over his head, he had a moment of regret for the loss of his perfect hair, but the buzz cut he'd adopted soon after coming to care for Harry had been a necessary evil when Harry had taken to pulling it. With a last scowl at the mirror, he took Harry to breakfast.
Harry sat in his usual chair and watched as Severus plated up the eggs, bacon, and toast. He had his spoon gripped tightly in his fist in anticipation. Draco slumped into the chair next to Harry and poured himself tea before turning to his own food.
"Daddy Sev," Harry yelled a few minutes later, waving his spoon in the air and flinging egg all over himself and the floor. "Look! It's an owls! Lets it in, now, now!"
"Don't yell, Harry," Draco said and looked up from his plate to see an ordinary barn owl sitting on the sill outside the kitchen window, the Daily Prophet rolled up in his talons. "Oh crap, what now?" he muttered as Severus opened the back door to let the owl into the kitchen. The owl dropped the paper onto the table and left without waiting for a treat.
Harry's face dropped in disappointment. "How comes I didn't gets to pet it?" he asked looking longingly out the window.
"He was in a hurry," Severus said absentmindedly as he shut the door. He sat back down and unrolled the newspaper, his other hand reaching for the teapot. His reach stopped in mid-air and the fingers holding the Daily Prophet clenched, crumpling the edge of the paper as he scowled at the headline.
Wizengamot Declares Missing Saviour Dead!
Harry Potter, the man best known for surviving a Killing Curse as a baby, defeating You-Know-Who in a battle that badly damaged Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry nearly ten months ago, and then disappearing without a trace two weeks later, has been declared legally deceased by the Wizengamot. The vote came after two days of heated debate ending in a close count of twenty-five to twenty-two with five members abstaining.
"Kingsley sent this," Severus said, handing the paper to Draco and pointing to the tiny "K.S." handwritten in the bottom corner.
"Wonderful," Draco said sarcastically, shaking his head. "They can't find him for nine months so they go ahead and declare him dead. Idiots. Not only is that unethical, it's illegal too. Only a family member can have him declared dead and they can only do that after seven years and massive efforts to find him."
"We'll have to contact Kingsley and have the declaration reversed before someone pushes the Wizengamot to try and confiscate his vaults."
Draco snorted. "Go ahead and say the name, Severus. You know it's Lucius and his cronies behind the decision. He's doing all of this so that he can get his name cleared. Then he'll go back to doing what he does best, bribing politicians and creating havoc behind the scenes. Getting the Boy-Who-Lived declared dead is the first step. If this works the next thing he'll do is to try and have Kingsley booted out of office so that he can put someone more malleable into the Minister's chair. The Ministry getting their hands on the Black and Potter fortunes is just a bonus."
Severus nodded as Harry looked at the paper over Draco's shoulder. Harry had given up on trying to get the scrambled egg to stay on his spoon and was eating them with his fingers. "Whozzat?" Harry asked, pointing at the picture of himself looking to the side and talking to an unseen someone. Draco thought that the picture had been taken sometime in sixth year by Colin Creevy. The photo was cropped, but Draco could see that Harry had been sitting between two other people in a room garishly decorated in red and gold. It was probably Granger and Weasley, although only their shoulders and parts of their arms were visible.
"Just a boy," Draco said negligently as he read the article.
"Does I knows him?" Harry asked, poking an egg covered finger at the newspaper and causing picture Harry to scowl. "He gots glasses just like me!"
"No," Draco replied. Not anymore, he added silently and felt a pang of sadness and loss for what might have been.
"Read it to me, Ray!" Harry insisted, stuffing a piece of toast into his mouth.
Draco grimaced as toast crumbs fell from Harry's mouth onto his shoulder. He brushed them off with the tips of his fingers, then reached over to wipe Harry's mouth with the towel tied around his neck. "Nah, it's just trash, Harry. Let's go read the book about the doggy instead."
"Doggy, doggy, doggy," Harry chanted as Draco led him over to the sink to wash his hands. He pulled away from Draco and ran from the room with his hands still wet. "Doggy, doggy!"
"Harry," Draco called with exasperation. "Come back and dry your hands!"
"Come on Ray!" Harry shouted. "I can't read wiffout you!"
Severus's mouth turned up as Draco laughed.
"Go on," Severus said, waving him off. "I'll write the letters to Kingsley and Gringotts. We'll stop this before it gets too far."