The True Face of Another

I am humbled and honored by the reception to this story, so far! Thank you all so much! Many things covered in this chapter. I hope you enjoy!

I do not own HP


Chapter 5: Regrets, Curiosity, Denial, and a Taste of Truth

Several Hours Earlier

The instant the boy left the dining room, Severus stared at his hands in shock. With a growl of rage and disbelief, he slammed his fist into the wall-something he hadn't done in years.

He had sworn to himself…that he would NEVER treat a child as his father had him. He had sworn it! And yet, though he hadn't actually hit Potter, he had gotten closer than he would like to admit. He hadn't been aware at the time-his thoughts had simply been to shake some sense into the boy-and the cruelty out of him…

But he couldn't say for sure that he hadn't hurt the boy.

He hated himself for stooping to such a level.

And he hated Potter for pushing him to such an extreme.

It had been Potter who had gone out of his way to bring those memories back-to bring Severus back to those horrible days when Tobias Snape would drink and curse and bully him-sometimes by locking him in a closet all night…usually by using his belt.

Perhaps Potter didn't know the extent of it, but he had blatantly mocked Severus' childhood poverty with his morning get-up. It was absolutely inexcusable.

So while he shouldn't have let his emotions get the better of him-and he certainly shouldn't have touched Potter-he knew his rage had been well-founded.

Not that Albus would see it that way.

The idea of those bloody piercing blue eyes looking at him with disappointment just rankled. Bloody Potter. He had known it would be a terrible idea to house the boy. He just hadn't expected things to turn so extreme so quickly.

Severus made his way from the dining room, intent on spending the day in his study. He needed to calm down before he dealt with Potter.

-HP-SS-DM-

Draco stood, stock-still, watching from the cracked-open side door as Potter wrenched himself free of Severus' grip and ran, his gait wobbly, from the room.

He hated to admit it, but he was unnerved. Even though he knew that Severus had once been a death eater-and not only a spy-Draco himself had never seen the man hurt another person… not physically. Sure, he'd seen him hex well enough, but the way he'd lashed out at Potter was different. Sev had been so angry, and Draco knew he was missing something, because he honestly didn't see what had disturbed him so greatly that he'd lost his usual near-perfect control.

Severus had obviously thought Potter was trying to offend him in some deep way. But as little as he ever wanted to back up Potter, he knew the prat wasn't malicious or vindictive. He was a Gryffindor, for Merlin's sake! He didn't have it in him. He may have thought he was making some statement with those clothes-bloody dumb statement, if you ask me.

But something was wrong with Potter-what exactly that was, Draco wasn't sure. And Draco didn't like being unsure about things. All he knew was that he was missing something. And without enough information, how could he act to push the right buttons? Regardless, he was going to figure Potter out. He had decided that, privately, even before he'd met the boy, before he'd known whether Potter would be his friend or his enemy. And since the prat had refused his friendship, he'd had to go about it a different way. Though he'd used it to torment the boy, he'd always made it his business to be an expert on all things Potter.

Part of Draco wanted to confront his godfather about what Potter had done that had been so offensive, but…seeing Sev lose control like that had honestly scared him.

Draco had always adored and respected his father, but still, he had always known to be wary of Lucius Malfoy, to never demand shows of affection.

Severus, though, had always seemed to Draco to be perfect father material-Draco could remember feeling that way as a child, at least. Even though the potions master was cold to most people, he had been open and caring with Draco almost as long as he could remember and had never disciplined him unfairly. Ever.

But Draco had just seen another side of Severus-a side he wished he had never seen…

He had to get to the bottom of this…To find out what had driven his godfather to such a state. And perhaps he could find something to get Potter out of their lives for good.

-HP-SS-DM-

Knowing the Gryffindor would still be working in the storeroom for a while yet, Draco crept into the laughably small room he'd led Potter to, shocked more than he wanted to admit that the boy hadn't complained about it. Draco really didn't get Potter. Why hadn't he said anything? Draco had been looking forward to that explosion since he'd decided to take his rival to this out-of-the-way hole the first night. Shouldn't it have been obvious this wasn't his real room? Because honestly…who would live in a place like this?

Well, servants, of course. This whole area used to be for servants' quarters. Sev had always hated slavery of any kind (though Draco still didn't quite get why), so these rooms hadn't been used in years, but Potter had clearly made himself right at home.

Draco scoffed, torn between disgust and reluctantly being impressed by how well Potter had cleaned up the place. It was a fair sight less miserable than it had been.

He felt momentarily guilty for leading Potter to this room, but then again, even the thought of having the prat living anywhere near him and Severus just made his gut twist with disgust.

He noticed Potter's owl cage was empty. Lucky thing-that bird seemed pretty over-protective.

Locating Potter's trunk, Draco undid the lock and flipped it open after testing it for curses. He scoffed at Potter's not applying any additional safeguards to it.

He frowned, looking in. Despite how bare the room itself was, there was hardly anything in the trunk. Books. Shoes (if one could call them that. Draco sure couldn't). Hogwarts robe and tie. Some old dress robes…Draco began sifting through and found himself wishing he'd thought to bring gloves. Ah well. A few scourgifies will do the trick.

He located several monstrosities that all seemed to be Weasley-made. Besides that, though, there was only an assortment of moldy, disgusting, oversized material Draco supposed had been clothing at some point, all in the same style as the things Potter had chosen to wear today.

Draco sank down onto the stiff-mattresses bed.

What could it mean? Was this some elaborate ruse Potter was up to? But look as he might, Draco could not find any clothing other than what he had already found.

Potter couldn't seriously only have those clothes. And if so, why? The Potters were a wealthy pureblood family, after all. Potter had money-and certainly his relatives spoiled him. Right? He was the bloody boy-who-lived, after all. There was no way…well, he thought with derision, his relatives were bloody muggles…and it wasn't like Potter seemed that upset about their deaths…

A squawk made him jump, and he turned to see Potter's snowy owl staring at him suspiciously.

"Oh, great. Hey Potter's owl. Listen, don't bug me-I'm just trying to figure things out, okay? I'm not doing anything."

The owl continued to watch him keenly as Draco crouched, thinking over his findings. She followed him with her sharp yellow eyes, but didn't attack him as he checked other areas of the room for spare clothing hidden away. Even a revelio charm brought nothing else out… but then he noticed something glinting in the chest-it looked almost like a cloak, but an instant later, it was gone.

As he reached for it, he found himself suddenly getting pecked by Potter's familiar. "Damn owl! Get the bloody hell off! No, not my hair! Do you know how long it took me to-okay, you know what? Fine. I saw what I came to see."

Grumbling, Draco closed and locked the trunk and left the room, glaring at the owl and nursing his pecked wrist.

-HP-SS-DM-

It was 8 o'clock before Severus recalled Potter was not only still working, but that he likely hadn't eaten…no, considering the store-room door had remained closed, he had to assume that Potter truly hadn't had a bite to eat. It truly hadn't crossed Severus' mind as he himself hadn't felt like eating after the morning's occurrences, but that was no excuse.

He scowled, planting his face roughly in his palm. So now he'd not only physically attacked the boy but had neglected to feed him. Self-loathing and anger and guilt warred in his chest. But little as there was he could do to fix it, there was something he could do to at least stop it getting any worse…

"Nelly."

"Yes, Master Severus sir?"

"Please bring Mr. Potter's dinner to his room and leave it there for him."

"Yes, master Severus sir! Right away sir!"

The little elf vanished and Severus waited until he felt he could be in the brat's presence without lashing out. He then swiftly descended the stairs to his lab.

But the sight that met him almost made him lost his composure despite his mental preparation. The brat was asleep.

Nevertheless, Severus forced himself to simply wake the brat and send him to bed. No doubt then he could pamper and gorge himself and in the morning they could return to their state of mutual dislike.

With that thought, Severus left the brat alone, more than ready to put the boy out of his mind. Bloody Potter. He'd been consumed with guilt all day and what was the brat doing but sleeping on the bloody job!

But he knew it was better he had just sent the boy away rather than scold him. After his earlier display, he wasn't sure he would have been able to restrain himself from lashing out. What had he been thinking taking in Draco? He was clearly not fit to be a guardian. And what was that old fool thinking saddling him with Potter as well?

This just wasn't working. He would speak to the headmaster tomorrow. Potter could not stay with them any longer.

-HP-SS-DM-

Day 5

Harry's head was on fire when he woke up. His body was freezing, though, so he clutched his pitiful covers closer to him. Oh, and he was so thirsty…but as he swallowed, a wave of pain washed over him. It felt like his throat was burning and he couldn't help but cry out, though that only worsened the sensation. His stomach churned unpleasantly, reminding him that he hadn't eaten a morsel yesterday, but he felt so disoriented that he wasn't sure how long it really had been.

Just a day? A few? And where was he? Oh yeah, Snape's. Harry knew the man would be just like the Dursleys if he knew he was sick. He'd have to just wait it out, like always.

Why did his throat hurt so much? He was almost certain it was on fire. Nothing less could make it burn like this…

A flash of white brushed by him and he tried to smile at Hedwig. "S'okay, girl. I'm…fine…"

-HP-SS-DM-

The boy was once again not at breakfast.

Severus scowled furiously. The brat probably wanted to make him look bad, to gather evidence to present to Dumbledore that he was neglecting to feed him…unfortunately, that had become a reality yesterday, regardless of how unintentional it had been.

Draco seemed preoccupied. When Severus attempted to start a conversation with him, he answered politely, formally. It was so unlike his usual behavior when it was just the two of them that Severus had to inquire.

"Is there something the matter, Draco?"

The blond was silent for a time before finally looking at Severus in the eye to ask his question. "Uncle Sev. Why did you get so angry with Potter yesterday?"

Severus' jaw clenched, his eyes widening ever so slightly, but he quickly smoothed out his features. If it had been anyone else, he would never have considered answering…but it wasn't just anyone. It was Draco. And he looked sincere and even the slightest bit concerned…about Potter, a boy Draco had never made any effort to hide his dislike of. Severus was striving to build an environment of openness and honesty with his godson. And though perhaps this wasn't any of the boy's business, Snape knew him well enough to realize that the boy would likely go looking for trouble if he kept too much from him. Snape grimaced in acknowledgement of this tendency Draco shared with Potter.

Severus sighed. "Why do you want to know?"

Draco studied him silently for another long moment. He looked uncharacteristically serious when he answered. "I've never seen you so angry. It…wasn't like you. I know school is different, but otherwise you've always been patient and completely fair, even when I was a brat and…I know Potter's a prat and you don't like him. Hell, I hate the sodding Gryffindor. But it surprised me is all. I suppose, it didn't seem serious enough, his dressing in those awful rags, for such a reaction."

Severus looked Draco in the eye, considering his answer. Draco knew something of Severus' childhood due to his having spent so much time in Severus' ancestral home over the years. But he was still uncomfortable discussing it with the anyone, his godson included. For Severus, those were times he would rather never again revisit. But perhaps he could satisfy Draco's curiosity without going into too much detail.

"It wasn't the clothing he wore so much as his obvious intention in doing so."

"Oh?" Draco kept his tone light. "And what intention was that?"

To humiliate me. Severus took a deep breath. No, he would not come out and say it. "Potter saw some of my memories this year during our Occlumency lessons. One of those memories was of my childhood. Potter's get-up was reminiscent of…" he trailed off. "He was clearly making a statement, attempting some childish revenge by mocking my…childhood apparel," he admitted, though feeling inexplicably ashamed even as he voiced his insecurities. Because it was clear that was what had been at the heart of his violent response.

The room was silent until finally Severus looked up to find Draco looking at him in a way he had long dreaded. Comprehension, but shock and pity were there too. And disappointment.

Severus made to leave the table.

"Uncle Sev, you're wrong," Draco blurted.

"What do you mean, wrong?" He snapped.

"About Potter. As much as I hate to admit it, he's not…like that. If I'd known that's what you thought, I could have told you yesterday."

"I think I know what Potter is capable of, Draco."

Suddenly Draco felt an inexplicable rush of anger-at what, he wasn't sure. Perhaps it was that such a stupid misunderstanding had caused Severus to act in a way that was so contrary to everything he stood for. Perhaps it was because of Draco's own confusion at Potter's behavior and the revelation of his scant belongings. Regardless, Draco sneered. "Do you really? Which Potter, Uncle Sev? Because for all Harry Potter's faults, I do know he's not vindictive like that."

Severus had to reign in his desire to yell at the child. How dare Draco bring up James Potter!

"Draco," he bit out, "Mind your tongue. You don't know what you speak of-"

"You told him not to wear his robe, right? And that if he didn't, he couldn't come to breakfast? You told him to wear something presentable…well guess what? Those were the best clothes the poor sod has in his bloody trunk!" Draco had become increasingly aggravated until he was practically yelling by the end. He wasn't sure why he cared, but he'd been thinking non-stop about what he'd seen in Potter's trunk…about Potter. About how Potter had been sleeping in that miserable room without complaining, slaving away while he, Draco, flew around on his Nimbus 2002…

He'd been happy with things that way. The unfairness of the situation hadn't bothered him a bit-in fact, he'd been thrilled to see Potter knocked down a few pegs…until now. Suddenly, Severus' attitude towards Potter wasn't funny anymore. Somehow, something had shifted again and Draco just knew-maybe it was hearing how Severus was still so haunted by his childhood and then seeing Potter at the same time. He didn't know. But whatever the reason, it was as if he wasn't even seeing Potter anymore, but a mix between his rival and his godfather and he felt the need to defend him. He'd been responsible for some of Potter's troubles, after all.

Severus could hardly remember a time he'd been shocked more than he was now. Draco, who had hated Potter from the day they had met, much as he, Severus, had Potter Sr., was defending the boy and seemed genuinely upset for him. It was mind boggling. What had gotten into the child? Well, he couldn't' have Draco feeling so upset. Reassuring his godson was his first priority. He'd deal with Potter later.

"Draco, surely he has his clothing stored elsewhere. You must have just seen his receptacle for clothing he has been too lax to dispose of."

"No, Uncle Sev. Trust me-I looked. I even cast revelio. There's something up with Potter. I don't get him. Always having to play the bloody hero, never complaining, no matter what and…"

"I beg to differ. Potter certainly complains-with a fair amount of defiance mixed in. Of course, he is also stubbornly defiant."

"Well yeah, of course. I know, Severus, but…I just. Something's not right. Don't you find it odd? Why didn't Potter like his relatives, for one thing? He covets those flee-ridden Weasleys. And he always stays at Hogwarts for breaks, you know." He gave him a long look and Severus scowled, waving off his concern.

"Whatever petty disagreements the child had with his relatives are not your concern. Besides, what you suggest is beyond the realm of possibility. He is the boy-who-lived and Dumbledore-" Severus scowled again. "Draco, I appreciate what you are trying to do-and I will look into it if it will reassure you. I can almost guarantee, however, that your worries are unfounded."

"He's missing breakfast again," Draco commented. "And why doesn't he ever eat?"

"It is nothing more than stubbornness, I assure you. But you are right, Draco, that I should not allow this sullen behavior to continue. Rest assured I had never intended to keep the boy from eating, regardless of his apparel or behavior. I shall ensure he makes it to every meal from now on and understands this-though I still shall not abide him lounging around the manor in sleepwear. You need not concern yourself."

Draco nodded, looking more satisfied. Honestly, Severus couldn't believe Potter had knocked him so off-kilter. He had always been so insistent about making sure children (teenagers included) never missed meals and yet he'd let Potter unsettle him in even the most basic levels of his personal strictures.

"Tilly, could you wake up Mr. Potter, please?"

Tilly appeared, looking somewhat uncertain. "From his bedroom, Master Severus?"

"Yes, of course," he snapped irritably. "He needs to attend his meals and I will not abide him sleeping all hours. Tell him to get out of his bed and join us regardless of his attire."

Tilly nodded, but returned a moment later. "Master Severus, he is not there…"

Severus cursed. "Fine. Look elsewhere and return when you find him."

The elf nodded and popped away.

Severus noticed that Draco looked somewhat uncomfortable-evidenced only by his slightly twitching foot and right hand. The potions master leaned over to ask what the matter was when Tilly returned.

"Sir, he is nowhere to be found!"

"What?" Severus cast a quick homonum revelio spell, informing him that Potter was, indeed, in the manor, and relaxed.

"Oh sir, it is happening again!" She continued, not having noticed the spell cast. "He is just not here!"

"He is here, Tilly, I assure you. And what do you mean again?" He asked sharply.

The elf looked near tears. "Oh, but sir! Every night, when Tilly is going to turn down Master Harry's bed sheets, he is not having slept in his bed! And his dinner from last night, it is not being eaten! Tilly was thinking she is confused about who Mr. Potter is until she is meeting Mr. Potter before breakfast and he is ever so nice to Tilly! Tilly is telling him to come to the kitchen anytime and-"

Thinking a piece of the puzzle was finally falling into place, Severus quickly cut in, "Ah, so has Mr. Potter been getting food from the kitchen?"

"Oh no sir! Tilly is telling him but he is not coming! He is not knowing the way! But Tilly is worried that Master Harry is not alright, sir!"

"Don't worry-the boy is here. No doubt hiding somewhere…but why-" He froze, one explanation for the house-elf's inability to locate the boy coming to mind.

Severus looked at Draco sharply.

"Draco. You didn't show Potter the servants' quarters, did you?"

Draco refused to make eye contact.

"For what purpose?" Severus wasn't sure if he believed the conclusion he'd come to, but it would certainly explain the house-elves' inability to find the boy. After all, the manor's old servant quarters, being a part of the history of Prince Manor he didn't like to consider, had long been warded so that the area could only be seen when one was led by someone who had already seen it themselves. He quite regretted having folded to Draco's 10-year-old demands to see the dismal hall, something which had resulted in hours of being unable to find the boy when Severus was attempting to punish him for some infraction or other.

And house-elf magic would have no effect in those regions, nor could the house-elves see the space-something originally meant to keep human servants and house-elves from intruding on each other's space…

Had Draco been assisting Potter in some prank? Why else had he shown the boy that area?

Suddenly, Potter's snowy owl flew into the room, squawking wildly, as if panicked.

As it was well-known amongst Hogwarts faculty that this bird was uncommonly intelligent and surely would not cause a ruckus for nothing, Severus stood suddenly. "Hedwig, is it? Is it Potter?"

The owl seemed to squawk affirmatively before taking off, Severus following, wondering just what kind of mess the boy had managed to get himself into this time.

Severus scowled as Hedwig led them into the dark, dingy servant quarters. Merlin, how Severus hated this place. It had always reminded him of his time with Tobias and the room he had had at Spinners' End before his mother had taken them to her ancestral home.

The owl led them down the hall to the last room. The door was open and Severus walked in, ready to give Potter a talking-to he would long remember, but his retort fell short on his tongue as he looked at the depressing hole of a room.

The miserable little place was spotless, and yet Severus knew for a fact that the room should have been absolutely filthy-after all, house-elves never wandered into this god-forsaken area, and it had been decades since Prince Manor had seen a human servant. Draco would never deign to lift a finger, nor was Severus convinced the blond even knew the first thing about cleaning, so clearly Potter had been keeping busy…which made no sense unless…

A cold weight settled in his chest.

"Draco," Snape said, his voice strangely calm as he surveyed the spotless, but dilapidated furniture and the empty owl cage, "tell me you didn't inform Potter that THIS miserable little hell-hole was his room?"

Draco gulped. "I didn't expect him to stay," he whispered, his eyes locked on the inhabitant of the bed. Potter looked miserable, and the ratty little paper-thin blanket covering him certainly didn't help. He suddenly felt a flare of guilt that he couldn't suppress.

Severus turned to the room's inhabitant and his eyes widened at Potter's appearance. The boy's skin was pasty white and he was soaked in sweat. Approaching him quickly, Severus cast a diagnostic, and his eyes widened in alarm.

He had seen the boy just the night before. How could he have gotten so sick in such a short amount of time unless… A spastic shiver shot through Potter and the unconscious child began to blindly scratch at his throat. Severus instinctively grabbed the boy's wrists to stop him hurting himself, slightly alarmed by just how thin and fragile the limbs felt in his grasp, and snapped to Draco, not taking his eyes from Potter, "Call Poppy and bring her to Potter's room-his real room, mind you! Now!"

Cursing himself for his negligence-why hadn't he at least checked in on Potter once to make sure he'd settled in and found his room? -but knowing it was too late for that-Severus bundled the boy up (after transforming the miserable blanket the boy had been using into something which actually provided warmth) and lifted him into his arms.

As he rushed the boy out of the likely germ-infested area the boy had been holed up in and up into the luxurious room he had intended for the boy, he pondered how very light the boy was. He was nearly 16 and yet Severus had absolutely no trouble carrying him whatsoever. He had more the feel of a 12-year-old in his arms.

But first things first.

After setting Potter down on the large four-poster, Severus summoned fever reducers and pain potions, both of which he spelled directly into Potter as he knew he wouldn't be able to swallow currently.

He wasn't sure what, but he feared the boy may have ingested something whilst cleaning.

How could he have been such a fool, letting the boy work, unsupervised, around a multitude of volatile potion ingredients? How could he have been so inexcusably irresponsible with this boy? Now that the reality of the moment was clearing away the haze of anger and irritation he had been operating under for the past few days due to the perceived wrong of having Potter thrust on him, it seemed as if accusations were falling on him, one after another, the longer he stared at the vulnerable-looking boy, so different from the defiant one he was used to.

Poppy arrived at that moment, saving Severus the mental lashing he was rearing to give himself. He moved aside to let the woman work and noticed Draco standing in the doorway looking forlorn and guilty.

"This is not a show, Draco. Leave us," he snapped, and the boy scurried out, looking stricken.

Good, Severus thought unforgivingly. The little brat had started this whole mess…

But no. Severus truly had no one to blame but himself. He was supposed to be the adult, and he had further been armed with the knowledge of Draco and Potter's mutual enmity when he had accepted (reluctantly as it was) Albus' proposal. And as much as he often liked to disregard the fact, he knew that Draco was at least as responsible for beginning his conflicts with Potter in most cases. And so he should have, had he been thinking clearly, been prepared for such childish (yet cruel) pranks as Draco had clearly pulled on Potter.

Had he even given the Potter boy more than a cursory glance shaded in his usual dislike, perhaps he would have seen the boy's sullen behavior as more than what he'd assumed-behavior akin to that of a spoiled child upset at having a plaything taken from him.

"Severus!" Snape looked up to see Poppy Pomphrey looking at him with impatience.

"My apologies, Poppy, I was elsewhere."

"Well see to it that you do not remain so any longer! I need a potions master, Mr. Snape, not an audience," she chastised him snappily, as if he were still a first-year.

Biting back a sharp retort, Snape nodded and stepped forward to examine the boy more closely. Potter had regained some of the color in his face, but he was still sweating feverishly, and his eyes were screwed up as if in pain. He was unmoving otherwise. The boy also appeared to be dangerously thin, Snape realized. He had noted Potter's wiry frame on occasion, but covered as it usually was in baggy clothing, it was not normally so obvious as it was now, with the boy stripped to his undergarments.

"What is your diagnosis?"

"Most urgently, his throat and sinuses have been burned, most certainly due to inhalation of a mixture of chemicals and uncommon potions ingredients," she said, her voice clipped as she looked over the list of ailments her scan had reported. "The damage is relatively minor and so he should make a full recovery. He's in for a difficult night, however."

Snape nodded, having expected this. Once again, the knowledge that his neglect had caused this rankled.

"He has a number of other fractures and contusions, though nothing serious since he came to be here. However, he also has signs of malnutrition." Her lips pursed, she gave Severus a hard stare.

"Malnutrition?" He asked calmly, though inside he felt anything but calm. "Such a healthy boy could not reach such a state in so short a period of time," he said, his voice somewhat defensive.

"That would be true, were Harry a healthy boy," Pomphrey allowed. "But his system does not appear to be as strong as one might hope."

"Meaning?"

Poppy gave him a long look, as if determining whether to trust him with this information. Severus twitched under her regard, feeling as if she could see through him, see all his sins. "Mr. Potter has always been thin, and, to be honest, has shown signs of malnutrition almost consistently since I first treated him. Considering the various traumas the boy has endured, it is perhaps not surprising he has neglected to eat sufficiently from time to time…but this indicates a much more long-term and deep-rooted problem," she mused. "Reverting so quickly suggests that he must have been in a similar state for much of his formative years." Her voice trailed off, as if she were talking to herself, "I had, of course, noticed that he seemed thinner after summers, but in general he never has had reason to see me before mid-way through the year and so…"

"I see. Nutritive potions, as well, then."

Poppy nodded. "Yes, and please retrieve several high-strength pain potions and a Level III tissue regeneration draught."

Severus quickly summoned what he had available. "I will need to brew more of the tissue regeneration potion."

"This shall do for several hours." Looking up and seeing the distraught look on the normally expressionless face, her voice softened a bit. "Don't worry, Severus. I shall look after him until you return. I am sure that, whatever led to this, it was not deliberate."

"Perhaps not, but-"

"I am aware of your failings in regards to Mr. Potter," she continued, her voice hard. "I assure you there are plenty. You would do well to think carefully, Severus Snape, about how you decide to interact with him in the future. If what I suspect is true, his system cannot take much more harsh treatment."

"I will be back with the potions," Severus simply said with a short nod after a moment of stilted silence. He swept from the room, but not before taking one last glance at the boy he had hated for so long, who looked so weak and vulnerable lying there with his dirty hair just as greasy and bedraggled as Severus' had ever looked in his own miserable childhood.

Poppy's words pounded through his head without pause as he strode from the room and towards the potions labs. He paused at the door to Draco's room, cracked open an inch. It hit Severus that his own behavior had enabled Draco to act out, and had, in fact, reinforced it. He owed it to his godson, too, to help him rethink his actions.


I realize I covered a whole lot in this chapter. Was it too much? Too rushed? Were Draco's motivations expressed clearly enough or did he seem OOC? And don't worry-things will not be perfectly smooth sailing from now on. It was high time for a wake-up call, but don't expect Harry, Severus and Draco to get over their various hang-ups too quickly.

Please send me your thoughts!

I fear I don't have the next chapter written yet, so it may be a few days. I'll do my best not to take too long with it!