Author Notes: This OS is a sequel to "Filled Chocolates" and "Caring for You". If you haven`t read this stories yet, I suggest read them, before coming back to this OS. The relationship between Harry and Severus won`t make sense to you otherwise.^^
Appreciation: I have to thank YenGirl for beta-reading this story and pointing out which points I had to change, in order to improve this story.*hugs* Thank you for taking the time to help me, dear!*big hug*
"What are your plans for the summer?"
"My uncle works at a Dragon Reservation so we will visit him in Romania."
"Cool, real dragons? We will only go diving in the Caribbean."
"What? Without magic? Is that possible?"
Harry sighed as he listened to the conversation in the next door compartment. Everyone was planning something enjoyable for the summer. They were going away on visits and holidays... and they seemed to have plenty of free time during the next six weeks.
Harry bit his lower lip. He would be happy enough if the Dursleys went off on holiday and left him alone with Mrs. Figg. Even if he hated to look at all the pictures of her cats, it was still better to get three meals a day for a week or two than to work in the garden under the hot summer sun and do household chores every day.
Nevertheless, Harry knew that even this moderate wish wouldn't be granted. The Dursleys would never leave him alone for such a long time... he wouldn't be surprised if they had already enjoyed their holiday while he was still at Hogwarts.
Sighing again, he looked out the window. The landscape was flying by and it would only be another hour until they arrived in London. He turned to glance at his two best friends. Ron was busy eating pastries bought from the witch who pushed the trolley, while Hermione was – of course – reading a book about places of interest in France, where she and her parents would spend most of their holidays.
Despite his troubled thoughts, a small smile turned up Harry's lips. Ron and Hermione were so different in many ways, but they were his first and real friends. Then his smile faded. He was a little afraid of what would happen after the holidays. The three of them had already promised to send each other letters via owls. Ron had even asked him to spend some time at his home, so it seemed like they would stay friends...
But what if they changed their minds?
Harry clenched his fists. Perhaps Hermione's parents would warn her to stay away from a boy who had some sort of connection with the darkest wizard of the century. Or perhaps Ron's mother would decide that she didn't want an orphan in her home and that her youngest son should find himself a better friend.
"Harry, are you okay?"
Harry turned to Hermione who was watching him with a worried expression on her face. He forced a smile and nodded.
"I'm fine, it's nothing."
"Come on, mate, you look like you are about to cry or throw up any minute. Even I noticed that!"
Harry almost grinned at the slightly arrogant look Ron threw Hermione, who had criticized him all year long for not paying attention to other people's feelings.
"Harry, if something is the matter, just tell us. We are your friends and we want to help you... are you worried about staying with your uncle and aunt?"
Until that moment, Harry had always thought that only Professor McGonagall was able to pierce someone with a look, but Hermione's brown eyes were almost as sharp as she looked at him now.
"No, it's not that."
Harry forced a reassuring smile and tried to think of another reason why he wasn't looking forward to the summer holidays. He had only told Ron and Hermione that the Dursleys didn't want him to become a wizard and that they didn't like magic, but he hadn't told them about the cupboard under the stairs or about the many household chores he had to do. He refused to tell them about those things.
Of course Ron and Hermione were his friends, but Harry didn't know how they would react to such news. Maybe they would think that he deserved to do all that work or they would think it was wrong and inform someone about it, and then Harry would be in even more trouble with his relatives.
No. It was better if they didn't know.
"I'll miss Hogwarts, the magic, you guys and..."
Harry gaped, staring wide eyed at a grinning Hermione and a defeated looking Ron.
Harry only realized he had admitted more than he intended to when Hermione's grin grew wider. Shit, that had been a trap - she was only making a guess and he had just confirmed her suspicions.
Harry gulped. He hadn't told his friends about his relationship with Professor Snape – or Severus, as he called him in private. He hadn't dared to tell them that their hated Potions Master had somehow become like a... father to him. Severus had cared for him when he was ill and he had sat by his bed when Harry had nightmares that time. Severus had even spent many free evenings playing Wizarding games with him.
Harry knew it was unfair not to tell his best friends all this, but he was afraid of their reactions, especially Ron's. He also hadn't asked Severus if he was allowed to tell his friends anything.
They had to keep their relationship a secret because of the Potion Master's role in the last war. Severus had told him a bit about it, and Harry understood that... but sometimes, he wished to spend more time with Severus and not always in the dungeons, but out in the open, like at the Quidditch field.
If his friends learned about their secret, they would probably laugh at him, call him names and tell everyone else. Severus might even turn away from Harry as well, because he didn't need a burden like that and...
"Harry, calm down!"
The young boy flinched slightly as Hermione's hand touched his shoulder, but relaxed a little as he saw the small smile combined with worry in his friend's eyes.
"I told you, you shouldn't surprise him like that."
Ron sounded a little amused. He obviously knew something better than the brilliant young witch for once, but he also looked a little worried as he edged closer to Harry.
"I told Hermione about what happened at Christmas and she..."
"I was suspicious because of the numerous detentions you had with Professor Snape and I caught you smiling whenever you came back from them," Hermione interrupted him. "Since Professor Snape's detentions have a certain reputation, I suspected that something wasn't right and I... followed you once."
Harry blinked in surprise at her. He had learned this year that she could be sneaky, but he hadn't noticed just how observant she was.
"I borrowed your cloak," Hermione continued, grinning by now. "Don't get me wrong, I won't do it again, but I was worried that Professor Snape might be... twisted... and that he would do something to you."
Harry frowned. What was Hermione going on about? In what ways could Severus be... twisted?
"Hermione was worried that Snape could be one of the perverts who are interested in little boys," Ron said bluntly, turning a bright pink.
Harry gaped at him.
"Ron! He... Sev... I mean, Professor Snape would never..."
Hermione held up her hand to stop his stuttering.
"I know, Harry. I followed you into his quarters and I saw that he behaved like a... Dad."
A big smile lit up Hermione's face. "He was great and I'm sorry that you are obviously not spending the holidays together."
Harry nodded. He was too baffled to say anything at the moment. Hermione and Ron knew about his relationship with Severus and from their reactions, he assumed they were fine with it. A sudden warmth swelled in his chest as he realized they had been worried for him... as misplaced as that worry had been. They just wanted to make sure that he was fine.
Harry smiled at them, a true smile, while two happy tears ran down his cheeks.
He didn't have to say anything else... and he wouldn't have been able to since his two best friends embraced him at the same time. Green eyes closed as Harry memorized this moment. He wanted to store it in his secret garden of memories, so that he could look at it if things became a bit too much at the Dursleys.
"Get moving, boy!"
Somehow, Harry managed to shrug and smile at his best friends' shocked expressions. Ron and Hermione were standing together with their parents and they had all greeted the Dursleys... only to receive a disgusted glare by Uncle Vernon and a snippy nod from Aunt Petunia.
"Hurry, I don't intend to spend the whole day at the train station, surrounded by… freaks. It's enough that I have to take someone like you home... but don't expect that you can live with us for free, boy!"
Harry nodded as his Uncle pushed his baggage car to the exit and put his trunk into the car. The look on all the Dursleys' faces told him that Uncle Vernon only did this because he wanted to leave as fast as possible. Maybe he was afraid that some of the wizards or witches would hex him if he lingered around them any longer.
Green eyes looked around the front of the train station one last time, but the one wizard who might have hexed his relatives wasn't there. Severus was nowhere in sight and that must mean he hadn't managed to convince the headmaster that Harry didn't have to stay with his relatives for the summer holidays.
Severus had promised him at the end of the school year that he would try his best to make sure that Harry wouldn't have to go back to Privet Drive again, and Harry had believed him. He didn't want to admit it, but he had been hoping the whole time he was in the train, that Severus would suddenly appear and tell him that they could spend their holidays together.
Harry lowered his eyes in disappointment. He should have known that Dumbledore would never allow him away from his relatives and that Severus couldn't really be interested in spending six weeks with a useless boy like him.
But if only he could have gone to some sort of holiday camp for young wizards and witches, if something like that existed, even that would be much better than staying with the Dursleys, who were all glaring at him and Hedwig. She was watching them all from inside her cage, which he held in front of him.
Harry gulped as he was pushed into the backseat of the car next to Dudley who seemed to have gained even more weight during the last year. His fat cousin only glanced at him before focusing on the video game in his hand.
As Uncle Vernon pulled out of the parking space, Harry wondered if Dudley didn't want to show his parents what a bastard he could be by provoking him with some unintelligent insult, or if he was still afraid of wizards and what they could do with their wands.
Despite his worry, Harry felt a smirk forming on his face. He still wondered sometimes how his Aunt and Uncle had explained Dudley's pig tail to the doctors who had to remove it in an operation. Maybe if he threatened Dudley with sticking another tail on his fat arse, his cousin would leave him in peace...
Harry flinched as Uncle Vernon turned to him while they stopped at a traffic light. For a moment, he almost feared the man had somehow guessed on his thoughts, but his next words were even worse.
"Your Aunt Petunia has told me that your mother wasn't allowed to do magic during the holidays when she was home. So if you had planned on telling us some freaky nonsense to dodge house chores, you can forget that now, boy!"
Harry took a shuddering breath. He was relieved his Uncle had to turn back to the front as the traffic light turned to green, so that he couldn't see how pale his nephew went at his words.
"I just hope you have improved on your running skills."
Harry stared at Dudley who gave him an evil smirk before hammering on the buttons of his video game console again. Forlorn green eyes turned to meet with angry yellow ones. Either Hedwig had understood the threat or she knew that she would have to endure the small space for an even longer time.
Looking out the window at the terrace houses flashing by, Harry wished with all his might that they were still on the grounds of Hogwarts and not some Muggle suburb in London. But since they weren't, he prayed that his holiday would pass as fast as possible.
"But... I need my school things, Uncle Vernon!"
Harry hated how weak his voice sounded as his Uncle threw his broom and his trunk into the cupboard, where he had lived for the first ten years of his live, before he was allowed to move into the second bedroom of his cousin.
"Don't answer back, boy!"
Harry stumbled back as one of his Uncle's paws slammed against his cheek, the loud slap echoing in the hall. He had to lean against the wall until his head stopped spinning.
Great, if his Uncle was slapping him like this on the first day, he didn't want to imagine how hard he would hit him by the end of the holidays.
"Vernon, don't do that!"
Harry blinked tears of pain away as his Aunt appeared in the doorway and gave him a meaningful look. For a moment, he thought she wanted to protect him, because she had finally realized he was the only child of her sister, but then...
"The neighbors will talk if they see him working in the garden and with a black eye and you don't want word of him," she glanced at Harry as if he was some sort of disgusting insect, "getting around."
Uncle Vernon just nodded and locked up the cupboard door.
"Now you won't come up with any freaky ideas, boy. If I catch you trying to break into this cupboard, you won't get anything to eat for at least a week, understand?"
Harry nodded. That wasn't enough for his Uncle who grabbed his collar and shook him hard.
"Answer me, boy! Do you understand?"
Uncle Vernon snorted and released him.
"Of course, you'll only get something to eat if you do all your chores. Petunia, darling, if I'm not mistaken, you have already written down what the boy has to do, right?"
Harry's Aunt nodded and ogled her nephew again as if she wanted to evaluate his worth for her household.
"You will prepare every meal, you'll do the garden, you'll clean every room and if Dudley wants anything, while I'm away, then you'll get it for him immediately. I'll give you a list of what to do every morning."
"Yes, Aunt Petunia."
Harry didn't know how he managed to push the words past his lips. He felt a heavy weight settle in his stomach. They wanted to work him like a slave and if he didn't do his chores properly, they would starve him. Dudley obviously wanted to beat him up and...
Feeling overwhelmed, Harry was very close to making a run for the door and escaping to contact someone. He would take Hedwig since she was still in her cage, perhaps she could contact Ron… or Hermione….
A knock sounded at the door. It wasn't a polite knock, but an impatient one. It somehow reminded Harry of Hagrid's arrival one year ago on his birthday, when he first learned that he was a wizard. He felt his heart jump in his chest.
Maybe Dumbledore had sent someone after all!
"Christ, who could that be? Open the door, boy!"
Harry obeyed at once and squeaked in surprise as familiar dark eyes looked down at him. Then a small smile appeared on the thin lips, turning into a smirk as that dark gaze lifted and looked behind Harry.
"Good evening, Petunia, Mr. Dursley. I'm here on the orders of Professor Dumbledore."
Severus flicked his wand and a formal looking document appeared, floating in front of Uncle Vernon's shocked face.
"And as you will learn from this letter, Professor Dumbledore has assigned me the task of staying with your nephew for two weeks at your home before we leave it. Together."
Harry gaped at the Potions Master who was wearing a very malicious smirk on his face now. He couldn't believe his luck! He was just about to ask Severus how he had managed to convince the headmaster when Uncle Vernon's angry voice broke the stunned silence.
"How dare you come to my house like this?! Get out of here, at once... you ugly freak!"
Severus directed a cold glare at the fat Muggle.
"If I were you, I wouldn't say such things," he hissed. He took a step inside the house and noticed with satisfaction all three Muggles - even the fat boy who had come out to the hall - flinching and taking a step backwards.
Very amusing! A shame he wasn't wearing his black teaching robes, but black jeans and a black collared T-shirt instead, otherwise the effect would have been much better. Nevertheless, Severus was sure he would still succeed in scaring the shit out of this worthless walrus and his family... especially Petunia.
Cold eyes rested on the skinny woman who was trying to shield her fat son behind her back while staring at him with a wary and suspicious look. It would be much more fun if she recognized him, Severus decided and gave his wand a little flick.
When a high pitched shriek sounded at the sight of green sparks shooting out of the tip of his wand, Severus only spared a bored glance at Harry's cousin. Dudley had tried to make an escape, but tripped and fell on the floor instead.
"Dudders!" Petunia was kneeling beside her son a moment later. "What has he done to you, my baby?! Speak to Mummy!"
"He is fine, Petunia."
She glared at the Potions Master with hate filled eyes. "It was you, you did..."
"I only stuck him to the floor. I'm of the opinion that he should be present while I make certain things clear."
"And what is it you want to make clear, you... you..."
Either Dursley wasn't as stupid as Severus had thought, since he didn't insult him again... or he didn't know enough words to express his feelings. The Potions Master thought the latter was more likely.
"For one thing, you treat Harry worse than most Wizarding families treat their house elves."
"What's that again, house... what?"
"House elves are magical creatures that serve a Wizarding family. They can only leave if the family gives them clothes."
Three shocked pairs of eyes turned to Petunia. Severus noted that even Harry seemed just as stunned at his Aunt's knowledge of the Wizarding World. Obviously, they had never told Harry anything about magic or his family.
"I see you still remember what Lily told you during her school years, Petunia," he sneered at her.
Vernon opened his mouth, probably to stutter some nonsense again, but Petunia's high-pitched voice resounded through the hall.
"It's you! The boy from Spinner's End, who... it's your fault Lily believed all this nonsense! If you hadn't told her about Hog... the school, then she wouldn't have met this Potter and got... him!"
Her skinny finger was now pointed at Harry who turned pale.
Dark eyes flashed with fury as Severus moved a little to stand in front of Harry. He didn't care for any of the insults Petunia or her fat and worthless husband threw at him, but he would be damned if he let these narrow-minded Muggles harm Harry in any way.
"You were always jealous of Lily and I must say that you had every reason to be." Severus smirked as the woman turned pale as well. "Lily was smart, brave, loyal, beautiful and had a gentle heart. She also had a husband who loved her."
He had to force out the last few words. He didn't want to compliment the late James Potter, but he couldn't very well insult him in front of Harry.
"They were better parents than you two. I doubt that Harry would have turned into a mindless, fat and ignorant brat if they had been allowed to care for him."
That made Petunia gape at him while Dudley looked like he didn't understand even half those words from where he lay on the ground.
Dursley again opened his mouth as if to say something, but Severus couldn't help wondering if he was about to get a heart attack, seeing how red and swollen his face was right now. He glanced at his left to see Harry staring with wide eyes at his relatives before turning to Severus and giving him a small smile.
Severus almost returned the smile before he remembered just in time that it wouldn't do him or his mission any good if the Dursleys saw that he had a heart.
"Well, Dursley, after this little chat, I think it's time that Petunia gets started on tonight's dinner while Harry shows me to his room. We can discuss everything else later."
Severus couldn't help wondering if Dursley's eyeballs would actually fall out of their sockets since they were widening with every word he said, huge meaty hands clenched at his side.
"No? Are you sure you are in the position to decide anything at all, Dursley?"
Dursley bristled with anger.
"This is my home and you will leave at once. I don't care what this crazy headmaster of yours says and the boy," Vernon glared at Harry, "will stay here and do as we say."
"And what," Severus' voice dropped to a sibilant hiss as he felt Harry move closer to him, "does he have to do during his stay here?"
Every single student at Hogwarts, even the first years, was smart enough to keep utterly silent if their Potions Master used that tone of voice, but Dursley still didn't recognize the danger he was in. Not even the panic-fueled head shaking of his wife could make him consider his next words.
"We provide him with a home, so he will earn his keep. I won't allow him to be as lazy as his useless father!"
Severus felt a huge surge of cold rage rising within him. He was barely able to control his emotions as Dursley ranted on. He wasn't an overreacting Gryffindor, so fine, he would just listen to the Muggle digging his own grave and then report back to Albus what was going on in this house.
"I have already made it clear to that little fre - brat that he will only get his things back at the end of the summer."
Dursley pointed at the door of the cupboard.
"I won't allow the boy to perform any freakish things under my roof. I was very clear about that, right, boy?!"
Petunia realized her husband's mistake faster than he did. She ducked her head and tried to get her son away from whatever would happen now, not realizing that he was still stuck to the floor.
Severus ignored her, too focused on Dursley's words to pay attention to anything else.
"You made it clear to him?"
That was when Severus saw the red hand print on one of Harry's cheeks and something snapped inside him. That bastard had dared to slap Harry!
It all happened at once.
Petunia screamed and let go of Dudley as Severus took one step forward and felled Dursley with a well placed punch to his face. A loud crack proved that something had broken as did the painful grimace of Petunia's husband as he touched his bloody nose, eyes bugging out with shock.
"I'll call the police!" Petunia's scream sounded through the house.
Severus just shrugged.
"Do you really think they can do anything against me, Petunia?" he asked, holding up his wand to remind her of the one thing she feared the most.
"Then, I'll... I'll inform those people of yours!"
"Do that. They will only laugh at you when they realize no magic was used," Severus just sneered at her, not bothering to add that Albus would tease him about his loss of control if he ever got to know why his Potions Professor had punched Harry's Uncle.
Severus looked at Dursley who hadn't moved from his position, and then to Petunia, who looked like she didn't know what to do and was still kneeling next to her son, whose face was full of... fearful respect.
Oh well, Severus intended to put a little fear into him as well. Another flick of his wand had the cupboard door springing open and Harry's personal things started floating out and up the stairs.
Again, Harry gaped at Severus while his fat cousin whimpered in fear. Perfect!
"Unpack your things, Harry. I'll come to you as soon as I have made some things clear to your relatives!"
The young boy blinked at Severus in mild surprise, before beaming at him and whispering, "Thank you."
Dark orbs followed Harry up the stairs before swinging back to the Dursleys. They were all looking at him with a mix of hate and fear, Vernon still cradling his broken nose.
"Now, I want to make some things clear. Harry will not do all your housework. I will make sure that he keeps his things in order, but that's it!"
Severus strode up and down the hall, like he would do in a classroom full of dunderheads. He swung round and glared at Dursley, daring him to answer back, but the man only stared at him and continued holding his fast swelling nose.
"I don't care what you do for the holidays, but Harry doesn't have to ask your permission for anything."
"But we are his legal guardians," Petunia protested.
"You are... but only if there is no magical person authorized by Albus Dumbledore in your house. If you haven't realized it yet, Petunia, I am here and I will take care of Harry, during the summer holidays."
"Why don't you take him with you now?" Petunia glared at him. "We don't want him here, so just take him and leave!"
Severus sneered at that. He bent down to grab her arm to pull her up and whispered something to her at the same time.
"Lily would have taken in your son with open arms. She would have cared for him like he was her son, if something happened to your husband and you. Potter would have never slapped any member of his family... but I doubt that you even understand the meaning of that word. Lily trusted you, because she loved you... her sister."
Severus released Petunia and turned his attention to Dursley.
"I will stay with Harry for the first two weeks of the holidays, since Professor Dumbledore is of the opinion that this duration is necessary to rebuild the protection for his safety. I advise you to behave during this time or the consequences will be very... dire!"
Severus purred the last word and had the satisfaction of seeing Vernon turn as white as paper.
"Now as I said before, Petunia, you can get started with tonight's dinner. I have no special requests, but you could prepare a roast beef with potatoes and chocolate pudding for dessert which Harry likes so much."
Ignoring the stunned silence, Severus cancelled the sticking charm which had held Dudley to the floor before going upstairs. He had to talk with Harry about his plans and hoped the boy wouldn't be too horrified at the prospect of spending the rest of his holidays with his dour Potions Master.
Severus was here!
For the first time today, Harry smiled as he entered his room and sat down on the bed. He just needed a few moments to come to terms with the new situation and understand that the Dursleys wouldn't bully him around this summer.
No, instead Severus was here and...
The smile fell from Harry's face as the full meaning of this thought sank in. He was sure the Potions Master would prevent the Dursleys from bothering him, but...
Biting his lower lip, he tried to push that unpleasant thought away, but it stayed at the forefront of his mind. Severus might have succeeded in convincing the headmaster that Harry shouldn't stay here for the whole summer, but that that didn't mean he liked the idea of spending most of his free time with one of his students.
Harry dug his fingernails into the palm of his hand. Severus certainly didn't intend on taking care of an almost twelve year old boy and it was probably Dumbledores telling him he had no other choice, but to stay here with Harry.
The taste of iron hit his tongue as Harry licked his dry lips, but he didn't pay that any thought, his mind still going around in circles. Of course, it was wonderful that Severus wanted to help him and that he liked him a little bit, but...
What if Severus didn't like him anymore, after the summer holidays were over?
The Potions Master could start disliking Harry's company, because he was forced to endure the young wizard for such a long time and...
"I thought I told you to unpack your things?"
Harry's head jerked up as he heard the silky voice in the doorway. Tearful green eyes met dark ones.
Severus frowned as he entered Harry's room. The trunk was still unpacked and Harry was sitting on his bed and looking like he was meditating.
All right, Harry was a Gryffindor. Severus would normally say that was a good enough reason to explain why the young boy didn't follow such easy instructions, but he knew Harry wasn't as dumb as Longbottom or the youngest Weasley boy.
"I thought I told you to unpack your things?"
Severus expected to hear an excuse then, but not Harry looking as if he was about to cry because of such a simple question.
"Harry? What is it, child?"
He had no idea why Harry looked so... lost and helpless and just a few minutes ago, he looked happy going upstairs. None of the Dursleys had followed him, so... what could have happened in such a short period of time to make him so miserable?
Severus took a look around the room. It wasn't the pleasantest room, especially with the broken toys piled in one corner of the room, but he didn't think Harry would cry because he only had a bed, night table and wardrobe in his room. Someone like Draco might cry if he didn't have his little stuffed dragon with him, but not Harry.
Yes. The boy was probably missing his friends and Severus couldn't blame him for that. He was just relieved that he was used to talking to homesick children in his capacity as Head of House.
Summoning the only chair in the room, Severus sat down in front of Harry. He was just about to say something when Harry beat him to it.
"I'm sorry! You probably have other plans for the summer... and now the headmaster has forced you to... and I'm... really sorry... Please, I don't want... to be a bother... the Dursleys won't... bully me anymore... now that you talked... with them and..."
Startled, Severus listened to part of the babbling before he interrupted the panic speech with a gentle, "Harry."
The young wizard closed his mouth at once, but he still looked like he expected Severus to rant at him at any moment now.
Severus sighed. Sometimes, he wished he had never promised himself not to use Legilimency on children to see what was going on in their heads. It would certainly make this talk with Harry easier, but Severus wasn't Head of the Slytherin House for no reason.
He would find out what was bothering him even if it took him the whole night.
He had ruined it!
Harry inhaled a shaking breath as he saw the serious look in Severus' eyes and cringed.
Why did he always ruin everything?
It would have been easy to just keep his mouth shut, keep out of Severus' way as often as possible and accept whatever he had planned for the rest of the summer holidays. It was quite easy, but Harry always had to make a problem out of everything. He sniffed.
Hearing a sigh escape past the Potions Master's lips, Harry bowed his head. Green eyes focused on the dirty carpet so he wouldn't see the disappointment in those dark eyes.
Severus must be fed up of him now and would leave him at the Dursleys' mercy... or he would send someone else to look after him. A little voice in Harry's mind tried to convince him that he had already jumped to such conclusions once, when he had been sick and that they had been wrong. Severus had told him that he would take care of him and showed Harry that he liked him, but still...
The young wizard still couldn't believe that an adult, any adult, could love him like... a parent.
"What are you apologizing for?"
When Harry only shook his head, a finger went under his chin and forced him to lift his head to look at Severus. The dark eyes were as deep as always, but Harry thought he saw a flicker of something soft and gentle in their depths, before they went blank again.
"I... it's my fault that you are here." Harry took a deep breath and forced himself not to stutter this time. "And that you can't spend your holidays they way you want to..."
The rest of the sentence ended in a gasp as he was enfolded by two strong arms and pressed against a black clothed chest.
"Stupid child!" Harry heard the silky whisper of Severus' voice. "Not even Dumbledore would be able to force me to do anything in my free time that I didn't want to do."
Green eyes widened in surprise before a tearful smile lit up Harry's face. He snuggled closer to Severus and let himself be embraced as happy and relieved tears ran down his cheeks.
Stupid brat, Severus thought to himself. Draco would have taken it for granted that someone would always be there to care for him... but Harry wasn't Draco.
Severus tightened his embrace as the young boy cried the tears he had probably held back for much too long. He growled to himself. Ever since last Christmas, he had suspected that the Dursleys treated Harry badly, but he hadn't thought that they had taken so much of their nephew' self-esteem.
All three of them would pay for their treatment of Harry.
Severus allowed himself an evil grin as he held Harry close to him. A Gryffindor would confront them at once, but a Slytherin would let them imagine that they were safe... and then attack them, when they weren't prepared for it.
In fact, Severus already had an idea when that day would be. He stroked the messy head of black hair lying against his chest and was relieved that Albus couldn't see him right now, otherwise his reputation would be damaged far beyond repair.
"Let's rearrange your room a little, shall we?"
Harry blinked in surprise and looked up from where he was kneeling on the floor, unpacking his trunk.
"I don't know... I mean, I won't be here that often, will I?"
Harry hated himself for the uncertainty in his voice, but he just couldn't help it. Severus had assured him that they would leave No. 4 Privet Drive in two weeks, but Harry would only believe it after they were gone.
"No, but we could make it look better. Besides, we have to enlarge it if we're going to fit a second bed in here."
"A second bed?" Harry echoed.
Dark eyes frowned down at him.
"Yes, or would you rather I sleep in the guest room?"
Harry shook his head at once. Only Aunt Marge slept in the guest room and the smell of her heavy perfume and her dog clung to the room no matter how much the room was ventilated. Harry wouldn't want Severus to stay in there and he was also relieved he had someone with him in the room at night... as childish as that might sound.
"No, of course not, but how do we enlarge the room?" he asked. He wasn't sure if Severus' expression was more of a grin or a smirk as the Potions Master pulled out his wand and drew a complicated looking pattern in the air.
The tip of his wand glowed golden and then...
Harry had to hold onto the bedpost to keep his balance as the ground shook for a moment before everything turned back to normal again. The room was much larger now and the furniture appeared mingy in it.
Before Harry could say anything, Uncle Vernon appeared in the door.
"What's this supposed to mean?!" Again, his eyeballs almost popped out of their sockets as he took in the change to the room. "Who... What have you... done?!"
"We have enlarged the room."
Harry almost laughed out loud as he recognized Severus' tone of voice as one he used when speaking to first year students.
"Harry will add a few new pieces of furniture and change the color of the walls later."
Green eyes widened.
"But, Severus, I..."
"He isn't allowed to do... freakish things... away from his school."
The triumphant expression fell from Uncle Vernon's face as Severus smirked down at him.
"That's right, but I can do magic in here and as the Ministry of Magic has been informed that an adult wizard will be here for two weeks, they won't notice who casts the spells."
He could do magic!
A bright grin lit up Harry's face.
Today was just getting better and better and the stunned expression on Uncle Vernon's face was almost worth everything he had ever had to endure at this house.
"I... you... freaks!"
Harry could even feel Severus smirking behind him as Uncle Vernon stomped downstairs, probably getting himself a beer after the rude shock he had just suffered.
"Now, let's start on your room, then, but first..."
Harry felt a faint tickle as the cut in his lower lip mended itself again. He directed a smile at Severus before looking around his room again. He had just thought of a way to decorate it and was sure he would like it... while his relatives would hate it.
"Dad, I want sneakers that changes colors every five minutes!"
Severus smirked. He had left the door to the garden open so he could listen to the conversation taking place in the kitchen. He had actually planned on reading one of his newest books since Harry had wanted to explore his old neighborhood to see if anything had changed.
Since Severus had instructed him in how to use Expelliarmurs and Dudley had been forced to tell his friends to leave his cousin alone, the Potions Master didn't fear that anything would happen. And now, he even had the pleasure of witnessing Dursley snarling at his own son.
Leaning back in his transfigured armchair, Severus was able to see the fat man slamming his fist onto the table.
"Sneakers that change colors... that's freakish! Only freaks like your cousin and... that man wear such things!"
Severus almost laughed out loud at that. Not even the Dark Lord would be able to force him into wearing such colorful shoes.
"Maybe it's not so bad to be a freak then... I think it's even cool!"
He would have been a Hufflepuff. The members of that House might be loyal and hardworking, but they were just as easily impressed as Dudley was, Severus thought as he watched Dursley turn an unhealthy shade of purple while glaring at his son.
"Don't. Ever. Say. That. Again!"
Amused, but also ready to interfere if necessary, Severus watched as Dursley pushed his chair back, grabbed the keys for the car and left the house. A few moments later, his car was backed out of the drive and gone screeching down the street.
Severus leaned back in his chair again. He didn't like Dudley, but he would still help him if Dursley had turned on his own son. No adult had a right to slap a child, no matter what had happened... even if the child was a fat and lazy brat.
"Mum, why is Dad angry with me?"
Severus had almost turned back to his book, as he heard that question voiced in a bewildered tone. It would be interesting to hear what Petunia had to say.
"He isn't angry at you, Dudders, he... your Daddy just doesn't like magic..."
Severus grinned when Petunia shout her mouth with a snap. There was a terrified look in her eyes because she had used the forbidden word in her own house, but Dudley didn't seem to notice his mother's change in behavior.
"So... that's the only reason why he... doesn't like Harry?"
Dark eyes widened a bit as they took in Dudley's surprised expression and the frown on Petunia's face.
"Go and... use your new bike a little, darling."
Severus saw Dudley hesitate before nodding and going out to get his bike. He allowed himself a satisfied nod after making sure that Petunia was busy with her preparations for the evening meal.
After their first day at No. 4 Privet Drive, Severus had made sure that Petunia's son realized just how wonderful magic was.
"The dragons are really flying!"
Severus saw Harry flinch a little at his cousin's voice. He was proud of the young wizard when he saw the skinny shoulders relax again and Harry nodding to Dudley.
"Yes, Severus created the painting on the wall and he taught me how to charm them, so that they would fly in their painting."
The Potions Master crossed his arms in front of his chest and glared at Dudley as the boy looked at him in surprise.
Dursley's spawn shouldn't think that he was nice or gentle.He was the most dreaded teacher of Hogwarts after all. Although he didn't mind Harry calling him by his given name in front of his relatives, he would be damned if this fat boy thought of him with any expression of fondness.
His glare was effective as Dudley flinched and looked around the rest of the room instead.
Severus had transfigured some useless things like old school notebooks of Harry into new furniture, so that the boy had a whole wall system on one side of the room now.There were also two new beds in the room, which could be separated by a screen at night.
The crest of Hogwarts was right on top of the window and every hour, one of the four house animals would climb on top of the crest as if to guard it.
"So... magic isn't only to... hurt someone."
Severus frowned at that.He had heard of Hagrid hexing Dudley and he could also imagine Petunia and his fat father telling their son all sorts of lies, so maybe it was time to change that.
"No, magic is cool!"
Green eyes brightened just like Lily's always did, when she was excited about something.
"You can do almost everything with it!"
Dudley still looked a little skeptical, but there was also interest in his eyes. Severus wouldn't be a Slytherin if he didn't use that to his advantage.
"I heard you complaining that your bike was broken... maybe Harry can practice the Reparo charm to fix it."
Harry's look was very uncertain, but Severus nodded at him as Dudley clapped his hands excitedly. Neither boy saw the smirk on his face after that, a look that would make even Albus fearful.
Which could be a sweeter revenge than making the Dursleys' own son like magic... or even his cousin?
Severus didn't look up when Petunia put a glass of water on the table in front of him. She glared at him before stalking back to the kitchen.
The Potions Master took a sip and then looked thoughtfully up at the sky. His plan had been successful so far. Dudley was becoming more and more fascinated by magic, although he still feared it to a certain degree... but he had started to ask Harry questions about Hogwarts and the Wizarding World.
Severus had been sure that the boy was only interested in toys, sweets and whatever else boys liked at this age, until Harry had told him that Dudley was also very interested in magical creatures. He too had seen Dudley watching Hedwig as she brought letters from Harry's friends.
Severus was the first to admit that the boy was still a pest, but he could be turned into a useful one. If Dursley got angry with his son too often or even slap him one day, Severus was sure that Petunia would leave her husband. It was obvious to him that her son was more important to her than that fat excuse for a man.
Of course, Severus would have to make sure that Petunia got a job... or that Dursley paid more child support than usual, since Harry would still have to spend a few weeks every year, at his Aunt's place. It was a plan worthy of Salazar Slytherin himself, and Severus had already outlined the next step for this very evening.
He gave an evil grin. He would make sure that the whole family paid for what they had done to Harry, especially Vernon Dursley. He thought back to the scene that had strengthened his decision to go through with this plan.
"Pervert! Sleeping in the same room as a minor boy."
Severus glared at the fat man standing in the door of Harry's bedroom and looking at them in disgust.
"It's not like that, Uncle Vernon, Severus would never..."
"Believe whatever you want, boy!"
Dursley's eyes fell on the Potions Master and looked him up and down.
"I certainly won't come to your aid, if I hear any screams coming from you tonight!"
Severus clenched his fists at his side and only managed with an effort not to beat Dursley up again or to hex him into the next century. He wasn't angry because Dursley thought him to be child molester, since it didn't matter to Severus what such a waste of breath thought of him, but...
The Potions Master looked at Harry, who stood frozen and staring at his Uncle, who looked back at him as if he was a disgusting insect.
How could someone be so cold towards a child that it didn't even matter to him if said child was raped or abused?!
Severus would admit without hesitation that he wasn't a nice man and that his reputation didn't inspire confidence, but he would still come to the aid of any child who was about to be abused... especially under his own roof.
"I suggest you leave immediately, Dursley," Severus suggested in a deathly cold voice as he stepped behind Harry and put a hand on his shoulder of the young boy, "before I decide that you aren't fit to live in the same house as innocent children do or that you aren't fit as a father."
"You dare to threaten me!"
Severus' hand was already on his wand as Dursley took a step into the room, but – to Severus' utter disappointment – the Muggle thought better of it and turned around with a snort, slamming the door shut behind him.
The Potions Master turned to the young boy.Wide, green eyes, glistening with unshed tears met his.
That damned Dursley! Severus sneered. He was truly looking forward to getting his revenge on that fat walrus, although he doubted that even he could think of anything that would make up for the long years of mistreatment Harry had suffered at the hands of his relatives.
The young boy sniffed.
Green eyes blinked frantically to stop the tears from spilling over.
"He doesn't... give a damn... about me..."
All right, that was it. If the Dark Lord ever came back, Severus would personally bring him here to give Dursley a private torture session. But first, he had to make sure that Harry was fine.
Severus led the boy to his bed and urged him to sit down with a gentle hand on his shoulder before sitting down next to him.
"You shouldn't concern yourself with your worthless Uncle."
Harry nodded mechanically, but the tears still flowed down his cheeks.
"What is it that makes you the most upset?"
When Harry just shrugged, Severus rolled his eyes a bit. Trust Gryffindors to not even know the simplest vocabulary to describe how they were feeling.
"When I was... five...my Uncle helped a... little girl, which was... fondled by a man... in a park. He didn't even... know the girl... but he..." the sniffing became more pronounced. "... wouldn't help me... although he... he..."
Harry couldn't finish the sentence as sobs shock his small body, but Severus knew exactly he had tried to say - Vernon Dursley would probably help every child except his own nephew.
New anger rose in Severus, but he pushed it back. It was more important to calm Harry down now than to follow his more basic instincts and curse Dursley with the darkest spell he could think of.
"I won't tell you that you are misunderstanding the situation since you are not, Harry."
More tears fell at his words and Severus had to force himself to continue.
"Some people might tell you that blood is thicker than water, but that's not the case in many families... including my own."
When surprised green eyes blinked up at him, the Potions Master allowed himself a sour smile.
"Let's just say that my father was very disappointed that I was a wizard and my mother didn't have the strength to stand up to him."
Harry's tears stopped at once.
"I'm sorry, sir," he said.
Severus groaned to himself. Why did Gryffindors apologize for things they weren't responsible for, but denied everything if he caught them at a prank?
"Don't call me sir, not here, at least and you don't have anything to apologize for, Harry."
Severus locked eyes with the young boy.
"Sometimes families are great, but most of the time they can't get along with each other. At least you have the choice to find your own family."
Harry just shook his head
"But I'm too young to... you know... marry anyone."
Severus would have slammed his head into a wall, if he hadn't learned to stay calm when talking to children.
"You don't have to marry to have a family. Friends can also become like family and you have many friends who care for you."
Harry opened his mouth to say something and closed it again, frowning a bit.
"And... you care for me... as well?"
Severus blinked upon seeing Harry looking hopeful and terrified at the same time. He knew it was probably thanks to the boy's Gryffindor courage that he had even dared to ask that question and allowed himself a small smile.
"Stupid child, I have already told you so... and you won't be able to change that, even if you wanted to get rid of me."
The brilliant smile that lit up Harry's face after these words was the most precious reward Severus had ever received. He almost felt sorry for the Dursleys that they had never seen how Harry looked when he was happy.
"I care for you, too."
Severus froze when he was suddenly enfolded by thin arms, but returned the hug a moment later.
The Potions Master closed his book. A determined look was on his face as he made his way into the kitchen where Petunia was preparing a fancy cake for the business dinner which would take place this evening.
"Nice work, Petunia."
"I just hope it won't be in vain since you and the boy are eating with us," she said without turning around.
Severus glared at her back. He had told the Dursleys that Harry and he would dine with them without allowing them to argue about it. After all, today was their last day at the Dursleys and he wanted to celebrate that. He also wanted to celebrate the fact that it was Harry's birthday tomorrow and they would celebrate it far away from his god-awful relatives.
The Potions Master smirked as he left the kitchen to finish packing his trunk and get ready for the evening.
"Don't worry, Petunia, everything will go according to plan."
"The roast pork was delicious, Mrs Dursley."
Harry watched his Aunt trying to look modest, while swelling with pride at Mrs. Mason's compliment. He had thought that no one could be fatter than Uncle Vernon and Dudley, but the Masons were just as overweight.
For a moment, Harry had even wondered if the roast pork with onion rings, potatoes, sauce and ratatouille would be enough for the Dursleys and the Masons together as they took second and even third helpings.
Harry had only wanted to eat one portion, but after Mr. Mason's comment that he was much too skinny and that a healthy boy should eat more, Uncle Vernon was forced to put a large piece of roast pork on his nephew's plate himself.
Of course, Harry knew this scenario would have never taken place if it hadn't been for Severus. He glanced at the Potions Master sitting on his left and looked a bit bored by the conversation taking place between Uncle Vernon and Mr. Mason.
He wasn't the only one. Dudley also looked as if he wanted to be elsewhere, preferably in his room to play his new video game. He was only staying in his seat because Harry had overheard Aunt Petunia promising him something if he behaved well this evening.
Harry noticed a hopeful smile on Dudley's face, when his father got up from his chair, but it vanished soon as Mr. Mason followed his host to the living room. His cousin must be hoping that the dinner was finally over, but it looked like the two men wanted to have a business discussion which might last for hours.
Harry too found himself wondering how long he would have to sit at the table here. After all, Severus and he would leave in the morning... together! A small smile lit up his face as he remembered the moment when the Potions Master told him the wonderful news.
"We will stay with your relatives until the 30th of July."
Harry looked up from where he was sorting through his clothes, putting aside those he didn't want to wear anymore. They were all hand me downs from Dudley. A year ago, he wouldn't have had anything else to wear after such an action, but now...
Bright green eyes glowed as they looked at the neatly folded T-Shirts, jeans, sweatshirts and pullovers, which he had bought together with Severus. The Potions Master was just brilliant and that was one reason why the news of their departure date made Harry's blood run cold.
It was one day before his twelfth birthday.
He gulped. Of course, he understood that Severus would be glad to sleep in his own room and do whatever he wanted for the rest of the holidays without the responsibility of taking care for a young boy, but... he would have liked to spend his birthday with Severus.
He sighed and then he shook his head. He shouldn't be so ungrateful.
Severus had turned a possibly horrible stay at his relatives into an interesting and even enjoyable time. Harry even had his favorite meal of roast beef with potatoes and chocolate pudding on his first night here! He now knew that the Potions Master really cared for him so he shouldn't ask for more!
"Where will we go then?"
Amusement flashed in the dark eyes as they looked at the young wizard.
"To a place where we can celebrate your birthday, of course."
"Don't tell me that you are one of those people who forget the date of their own birthday, Mr. Potter?" Severus asked in chiding tone.
Harry quickly shook his head and chuckled. Severus only ever called Harry by his family name in class or when he was teasing him.
"No, but I thought that..."
"I'm sorry, but you'll only be able to meet Mr. Weasley and Miss Granger for the last two weeks of the holidays since you will be forced to spend two more weeks in my presence. I'm sure that your friends will send you some presents for your birthday."
Harry blinked at Severus. The Potions Master wanted to spend more time with him... and he even wanted to celebrate Harry's birthday!
With a brilliant smile on his lips, Harry ran to Severus and gave him a hug. He had been rather unsure at first if it was okay to hug the man, but since Severus was the one to initiate their former hugs, Harry decided it was all right to do so.
"Thank you, Severus!"
"Whatever for, child?"
"For being here."
Harry heard some muttered words, which sounded like "emotional dunderhead", but he didn't care.As long as Severus returned his hug like how he was doing right now, he knew that the little insults weren't meant to be taken seriously.
"So, you are going to a boarding school, my boy?"
Harry almost missed the question. He was busy thinking how long they would continue to sit here since Severus had wanted to leave right after dinner. He looked back at Mrs. Mason who was probably just as bored as the rest of them and wanted to make some conversation.
Out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw Aunt Petunia purse her lips. He knew that she and Uncle Vernon had wanted to tell the Masons that Harry attended a special school, where he would get every help to improve his school grades. That was even after Uncle Vernon realized the Masons wouldn't like the idea of his nephew attending St. Brutus.
Harry didn't care what the Dursley's guests thought of him, but Severus had been furious when he heard about it and even threatened to slip something in the Masons' dishes, which would give them a very nasty eczema.
That had been enough to change the Dursleys' minds, so much so that they told the Masons Harry went to a boarding school for intellectually gifted students in Scotland. Severus was a friend of their nephew's late mother, who also happened to be a teacher at this school.
Harry now gave a sweet smiled to Mrs. Mason. She was probably longing for some intelligent conversation after sitting next to Dudley for such a long time.
"Yes, the school is in Scotland and we are living in an old castle. It's great there."
Harry glanced at Severus, who gave him a slight nod. Severus had told him what was safe to tell about Hogwarts and what he should keep to himself.
"So, you like going to school?"
Harry nodded and a true smile lit up his face.
"It's brilliant! Sometimes, the teachers are very strict, but I learn a lot and I can spend my free time with my friends and we are even allowed to have small pet each at school."
Mrs. Mason gave him an approving smile, much to Aunt Petunia's dislike although she managed a brief, tight smile when her husband and Mr. Mason entered the living room again.
Harry just gave them a brief glance. It looked like Uncle Vernon had gotten the big order he was after, since he was grinning with self-importance as he sat down again.
"But it's hard to be away from your Aunt and Uncle for a whole year, isn't it?"
Harry frowned. He was just about to give an evasive answer when a silky voice cut into his conversation with Mrs. Mason.
The waiting time was over!
Severus had played his role well enough this evening, but now it was time to drop his mask. He also had to thank that boring woman for asking Harry the perfect question and giving him a reason to interfere.
Of course, if she hadn't asked, Severus would still have found a different reason to fulfill his plan this evening. After all, he didn't think Dursley got many such opportunities to entertain prospective clients at his home.
"I'm sorry to ruin your picture of the family which played host to you and your husband this evening, Mrs. Mason," Severus started, leaning a little towards the woman who stared at him in confusion. "It's true that I'm a teacher at Harry's boarding school and one of his mother's old friends, but it's also true that I'm here to make sure that Mr. and Mrs. Dursley don't abuse their nephew again."
Mrs. Mason's mouth fell open while her husband looked from Dursley to Petunia, both of whom were looking like they were ready to faint at any moment.
"He is only... kidding."
Severus sneered as he heard Petunia's lame excuse, voiced in a trembling voice. It was a wonder she was still able to say anything at all, since her face was white with shock.
Dark orbs turned to her husband, the man of the house. Dursley seemed to be on the verge of a heart attack... or a physical attack on Severus for showing him up like that.
Out of the corner of his right eye, Severus saw Harry edging a little closer to him, but other than that little movement, the boy seemed absolutely calm. Good, since their portkey would activate in half an hour, ten minutes before ten o'clock, and Severus wanted to ruin Dursley's deal before that.
"Only kidding, Petunia?"
Severus directed a cold glare at her, which he normally reserved for annoying colleagues like Trelawney or troublemakers like the Weasley twins.
"So, you don't consider locking up your nephew in a small cupboard for ten years child abuse? And it's perfectly fine to force that small child to do almost all the household chores and give him just enough to eat so that he won't pass out from sheer exhaustion?"
No one said anything.
Petunia's face had turned from white to gray while Dursley's face was a most unhealthy shade of purple. Both their guests looked stunned, especially Mrs. Mason who kept looking around as if expecting someone to protest these shocking accusations.
Severus was glad he had discussed the plan with Harry beforehand, so he wasn't worried about Harry listening to him tell perfect strangers how his only relatives had treated him since early childhood. It wouldn't have done his plan any good if Harry protested because he was ashamed of his past.
As the silence dragged with Petunia looking like she was frantically trying to think of something to save the situation, Dudley who finally opened his mouth.
"So... my parents are as bad as those people they talked about at school. I... always thought that it was okay... how we treated Harry... but... I wouldn't have wanted to... live in a cupboard or to... do the household..."
Severus grinned to himself. He hadn't put a spell on Dudley, yet the boy was still been able to help him. Now the Masons would have no reason to doubt his and Dursley wouldn't get the big contract he was hoping for.
Severus saw that Petunia had gotten up and moved to stand next to her son as if to protect him. He couldn't blame her for that since Dursley was clenching his fists at his sides, eyes almost slits with anger and a huge vein throbbing away at his temple.
Maybe he would even succeed at breaking this annoying family apart... if only to help Dudley grow up in a better environment.
All pairs of eyes looked at Dursley, who looked like he would start foaming at the mouth very soon.
"We have given the boy," he pointed a shaking fat finger at Harry, "a home and allowed him to stay with us... of course he had to earn his keep, otherwise he would be taking things away from our own son!"
Amused, Severus watched as Dursley dug his own grave, while Petunia glanced pleadingly from her guests to her husband.
"We won't stay a second longer in this house," Mrs. Mason announced and stood up, her husband doing the same beside her.
Mrs. Mason glared at her hosts before turning to Severus. "I hope that matters have already been taken in hand, otherwise you can count on our help."
Severus inclined his head to her.
"Thank you. I have already contacted the relevant officials about Harry's case."
It was only a partial lie since Severus had informed Albus about everything as well as the fact that he would take matters into his own hands. It was a shame that the Dursley wouldn't go to prison for what they had done to Harry, but it would be much too risky to inform the Muggle police or even the Ministry of Magic at this time.
No, Severus' little revenge was the only punishment they would suffer for now. Judging from their looks, he was positive he had decided on the right course of action.
As soon as the Masons left and shut the front door behind them, a soft voice spoke up.
"You won't allow him to hurt the others, will you?"
Severus turned to the wide green eyes looking questioningly at him. He didn't need to ask to know who Harry was referring to. Dursley might be smart enough not to attack Harry or Severus now, but he might still turn against his son or his wife.
Although Severus didn't like either of them, he sighed, waved his wand and murmured a protection spell. He then assured Harry that nothing would happen to his cousin or his Aunt.
"We will leave now," he announced into the heavy silence and signaled to Harry to rise from his chair.
"Oh no, you won't!"
Dursley had found his voice at last. He glared furiously at his nephew and the Potions Master, that thick vein still pulsing in his forehead.
"You are not leaving here until you do something to... to bring them back!"
Severus just sneered at him and gestured to Harry to go upstairs and bring down their shrunken trunks.
"Do you mean that I should perform a magical spell to change their minds?"
Dursley's hand slammed onto the coffee table.
Severus just shook his head.
"Don't insult my intelligence, Dursley! You know very well what you have done to Harry. Surely you didn't assume that I would let this go unpunished? If you did, you are even stupider then I thought you were!"
Dursley opened his mouth and shut it again, without another word coming out. Petunia didn't dare to say anything either as she stood next to her Dudley.
Severus turned his back on them all and went to meet Harry at the bottom of the stairs.
"I have packed everything in the backpack like you have said."
Nodding, Severus took a pen out of his pocket.
"Is that the portkey?"
Severus smiled at Harry's thrilled look, but masked his expression before turning back to the three forlorn figures in the living-room. They still looked shell shocked, but he was sure a huge argument would follow as soon as he and Harry left this place. He just hoped that the last part of his plan would also come true, that Petunia and Dursley would go their separate ways later on.
"You don't need to say goodbye to them," Severus told Harry who was also looking at his relatives.
When Harry frowned and then shrugged, Severus nodded and held out the portkey to him. But just as the boy's fingers touched the pen, he called out, "Goodbye!"
Typical, emotional Gryffindors, Severus sighed to himself as the portkey whisked them away to their destination.
Harry stumbled when he landed. It was only thanks to Severus' steadying hand that he didn't fall into the... white sand.
Harry frowned and looked down. He was standing on sand and...
His head jerked up and green eyes looked around at their surroundings. He had no idea where they would spend the next two weeks of the holidays, but wherever they were... it was also night.
But there weren't any clouds like there had been in England this evening and it was also much warmer. Harry noted the change in temperature when a warm breeze lifted his hair. It wasn't only warm, but also... humid and smelled of... salt.
Green eyes widened as their owner finally realized where he was - standing on a beach, about ten meters away from the sea.
He was at a beach!
Harry squealed in delight. He had never been at a beach before... but he couldn't swim. Biting his lower lip, he glanced at the tall figure of the Potions Master next to him who was watching the play of the waves as they hit the shore. He wondered if the man could spare a few minutes to teach him.
"Severus," Harry began, but the Potions Master was faster.
"We are in Egypt, Harry. We will live in a safe house which Albus has prepared for us and we can explore the many fascinating parts of this country, thanks to the portkeys the headmaster has made for us."
Harry beamed up at him. Ever since he had learned a bit about Ancient Egypt at his primary school, he had been fascinated by the rich culture, but he had never even dared to dream that he would one day visit Egypt... not as long as he lived with his relatives, at least.
It looked like they wouldn't even have time to swim in the sea and if that was the case, Severus didn't need to know that Harry couldn't...
"We will, of course, also have time to go swimming."
Harry's smile slipped off his face and Severus frowned down at him.
"I... I can't swim, Severus."
The young boy squirmed. Now the Potions Master would certainly wish that he had thought of another way to spend the rest of his holidays, instead of taking care of a boy who couldn't even swim.
"Then I will teach you."
Harry's head jerked up and he saw the smile that lit up Severus' face, a real smile, which even brightened the dark orbs.
"We will have enough time for everything. For now, Happy Birthday, Harry!"
Harry blinked in surprise, a part of his mind still distracted by the fact that Severus wanted to teach him how to swim. Then he realized something.
"It's still two hours til..."
The Potions Master shook his head.
"No, Egypt is two hours ahead of England so it is your birthday today. Now... look, Harry!"
Harry smiled as he was drawn to Severus' side and felt a strong arm going around his waist. His smile grew even bigger as he saw his very first shooting star in the black sky, followed by several more. Each one looked like diamonds falling into the sea which glistened in the silvery moonlight.
"You can make a wish, Harry."
The young wizard shook his head as he took in the beautiful view of the shooting stars.
"I don't have to."
Both man and boy smiled, green and black eyes glistening brightly as they watched the rain of shooting stars which marked the beginning of their first holidays together.