By Beverly Anderson
Word count: 3879
Rating: G (suitable for all audiences)
Summary: Dumbledore takes action to show Harry Potter that he is loved.
“Something’s just not right,” Dumbledore said thoughtfully as he looked over the latest report from Figg.
It was a worrisome letter. She was deeply concerned most recently about Harry Potter, whom she was keeping an eye on for Dumbledore. He’d turned nine the day before she wrote, and he’d visited her for the first time in a long while because the Dursleys (who were his aunt and uncle) had decided that they needed someone to watch him for the afternoon while they accompanied their son to some event. She had been concerned for two reasons. The child was much too thin and small for his age, and he had been covered in bruises. She had seen them by accident, when he was watching TV, lying on his stomach, and his shirt had slipped up in the back. She told him that she had never seen the boy do anything but what he was supposed to, including weeding and pruning in the garden.
What concerned Dumbledore most was the fact that the blood wards that protected the boy were useless if he was not loved by the family. He’d been put there to protect him from anyone who wanted to harm him as the boy who lived, despite the killing curse. He’d been put there to hide from any of Voldemort’s minions, the Death Eaters, who might seek either retribution or to bend the young boy to their will. But if the wards were not protecting him, it would be without purpose. So he summoned the only person he knew that might be able to find out that answer, the only one on staff that knew the family personally.
“Yes?” the dark-haired man drawled when he stood before his desk.
“Lemon drop?” Dumbledore asked with a smile, to which the only answer was a raised brow and he put the bowl back down. “Ah, please sit, Severus,” he said and motioned to the chair, which the potion master finally took.
“I must ask you a favor, Severus,” he began. Snape rolled his eyes. “I know, you are busy getting ready for the upcoming term, but I’m afraid you are the only one to do it. I need you to check the blood wards on Harry Potter’s dwelling.”
Snape sighed. “Why would I need to do that?”
Dumbledore had known this would happen. “You knew Lily and her sister, and you will be able to gather if there is any affection in the household for the boy. If there is none, he should be removed, as the blood wards will be useless and he will be vulnerable.”
“I’m sure he is coddled plenty, headmaster,” Snape said, rolling his eyes.
“I’m not so sure that is the case at all. Ms. Figg indicates that he is undernourished and possibly being abused by them.”
Snape’s reaction was expected, an arched brow and a curt nod as he left the room. Dumbledore had known the man would react to a child being abused, as he himself had faced the same as a young man. He honestly hoped that Figg was wrong, but he couldn’t take any chances. If the remaining loyal Death Eaters got ahold of the boy…
Severus Snape was not the coddling type at all, and in fact was perhaps the most feared teacher on the staff at Hogwarts. So he wasn’t sure what he would do when he got to this house that contained the Potter boy. He just knew the child would be just like James. He could feel it. So he appeared in the shade of the trees across from Number 4 Privet Drive and stalked over to the door and rapped on it.
The familiar face of Petunia, once Evans, now Dursley, appeared in the doorway. Her eyes were wide with shock as she looked down and up the road to make sure that the robed wizard hadn’t been seen, then threw the door wide and motioned for him to come in.
“Severus,” she said with a venomous sound to her voice. “Why are you here?”
Snape was sure now. There were no active blood wards here. Anyone could walk right into the house and take the boy without a second thought.
“Petunia,” he answered with equal venom. “I’m here to check on the boy.”
She snorted. “He’s fine, now leave.”
Snape never took well to orders from anyone, least of all from the woman who had scorned her sister for having magic, and him as well. “I’m afraid I can’t do that, because it seems that the protections laid here are gone.”
“Why would they be gone?” she asked, incredulous. She knew why the boy had been left with her. Lily’s protection was layered over the boy, and through her bloodline.
Snape hated dealing with muggles. “Because if he’s not cared for, they dissolve. Blood wards require some sort of connection between the blood relatives.”
She rolled her eyes again, still not offering him tea, which was quite rude, of course. They were standing in the sitting room now, and she hadn’t even offered to let him sit.
“Where are your husband and son?” he queried.
“Dudley is at school, and Vernon at work. Now if you please, leave before they come home,” she said, pointing toward the door.
“And where is Potter?” he asked, eyes narrowing.
“A friend’s house.”
“If your son is in school, shouldn’t he also be in school?” he asked, believing the woman must be daft to think he’d believe her drivel.
She didn’t speak for a long moment and he heard a sniffing sounds. It was very quiet, and he turned to look behind him. “What was that?”
“Nothing, no one is here but me. Now please go,” she said, trying to push the issue.
He snapped his wand out and pointed at her with a raised brow. She meeped and was quiet.
“You should know I am no longer the quiet child your sister knew, Petunia. I have no qualms about killing muggles these days; in fact, it is encouraged by some of my employers,” he said with a sneer.
Petunia gulped appropriately.
He stood quietly for a long moment and heard it again, and almost a whimpering sound, coming from the direction of the stairs. He moved closer and he felt the woman tense behind him. There was a small cupboard under the stairs, and he swore the sound was coming from the tiny vent in the wall beside the doorway. He moved forward, and using his wand, flipped the latch. For a moment he stared, wondering at such a heavy latch on the outside of a cupboard. Then he reached down and turned the small knob and blinked to be sure he was seeing what he thought he was seeing.
It was a cupboard, and in the back were cleaning supplies, but there was also a small boy curled into the corner on a baby mattress. He had a shaggy mop of black hair, and a pair of wire-framed glasses hung over his face as he looked up at Snape with brilliant green orbs. He clutched a thin sheet against him and cradled his left hand against his chest protectively. His clothes were filthy and way too big. His knees were drawn up to his chest, and what Snape could see of his ankles showed the thinness of the child. Aside from that, his face was bruised purple along the right side of his jaw, and quite swollen.
Snape turned to see Petunia staring at the ground like someone caught. He stood up. “How dare you do this to Lily’s child, Petunia? She was your sister,” he hissed.
“He’s a freak just like she was,” she snarled, looking into the cupboard. “He doesn’t deserve what he has. I didn’t ask for him to be dumped on my doorstep. I never wanted him.”
Snape, for perhaps the first time in a long while, gaped. “He’s family, Petunia. His parents died. What else would you have us do?”
“He should have died with them,” she said, turning on her heel and walking away, leaving Snape blinking after her.
That explained the blood wards being gone. He felt another presence and the front door banged open. Petunia screamed, dropping a teacup, as another black robed figure swept into the room. A wand was pointed at her and she was quiet. The robed man pushed the cloak off to reveal a head of platinum blond hair.
“Severus,” he said. “I see you found the same thing that I had.”
Snape nodded, and pointed to the cupboard. “See for yourself.”
The platinum blond moved forward and looked into the tiny cupboard and stood up, frowning. He turned to look at the astonished Petunia.
“I’d have expected better of Lily’s sister…” he muttered.
Lucius kneeled down before the doorway. The boy was the same age as his own son, and stared out with frightened eyes, blinking rapidly.
“Harry?” he said. “Would you like to leave this place?”
“You know that Albus sent me to retrieve him, Lucius,” Snape said quietly.
Lucius looked up at him. “And you know the Dark Lord would want him with one of us.”
Petunia spoke up, or rather yelled, “I don’t care which of you freaks take him, just get out of here with him!”
Snape and Malfoy both glanced at the red-faced woman. Neither could believe such callousness existed in Lily’s family. They looked back at the boy. He stared back with wide, frightened eyes.
“Harry, please, come out, we’re going to take you away from here,” Lucius said softly. “I have a son your age, Harry; would you like to meet him? You could be friends.”
Harry’s eyes widened. “I could have a friend?” he said, causing even the two hardened death eaters to cringe. “I’ve never had a friend. Freaks shouldn’t have friends,” he said softly, looking down at his knees.
Lucius closed his eyes and reopened them. “You aren’t a freak, Harry. You know what, you’re like us.”
Harry looked up, his eyes less wild. “Like you? You can make things happen?” he whispered.
Lucien nodded and pointed his wand at Harry’s askew glasses. “Reparo” he whispered, and the glasses righted themselves.
Harry grinned happily. “You won’t hit me if I make things happen?” he asked, eyes wide. “I don’t mean to do it…”
Lucius shook his head and reached out his hand. “Not at all, Harry. I’ll teach you how to not make things happen unless you want to.”
Harry scooted forward slowly, reaching out with his uninjured hand, and took the larger man’s hand. Lucius smiled and once he was close, scooped the boy into his arms. Harry gasped and stiffened, making it quite obvious to the blond man that he was quite unused to positive attention.
Snape shook his head, wondering how he was going to explain to Dumbledore that Lucius Malfoy had taken off with the boy. He supposed it could be worse. Lucius was, after all, Severus’ best friend, or only friend, really. Together, without a word, they apparated to Malfoy Manor.
Narcissa was sitting on the divan reading to young Draco when she heard them pop in, and looked up to see Snape with her husband.
“Lucius?” she asked, standing up and realized he was holding something. “I thought…”
Lucius gently set the boy on his feet.
Harry wobbled and giggled. “That felt funny,” he said softly.
He looked up at the woman who was looking at him, and buried his face in Lucius’s robes shyly. By now, Draco had stood up and was standing by his mother.
“Who is this?” she asked.
Snape sighed. “This is Harry Potter.”
She frowned, looking down at the hiding child and up to her husband who had a hand on his unruly black hair. “And why is Harry Potter in my house?” She couldn’t keep the disdain out of her voice as she glared at the child who looked up with brilliant green eyes.
“I’m sorry!” he squeaked, tugging on Lucius’ robes desperately. “I’ll go back to the cupboard, I’m sorry I bothered you!”
Narcissa saw the brilliant purple bruise then, and frowned. Despite the shock and surprise, she kneeled and grabbed the boy’s chin and turned his head out of her husband’s robes. He whimpered but didn’t move to stop her. She traced a finger over the swollen bruise and looked up to her husband who was looking at her with an arched brow.
“The blood wards fell; Lily’s kin were not protecting him any longer. We were wondering why the wards were falling, and this is what we found. He was locked into a cupboard, alone, and obviously hurt,” Lucius explained.
“Why in the world…” she began.
Draco had come over and looked at the smaller boy with a critical eye. Harry smiled and shyly hid his face against the robes again.
“Hi,” Draco said.
Harry peeked out of the robe and whispered, “Hi.”
“You want to see my room?” Draco asked. “I’ve got all kinds of stuff.”
Harry’s eyes widened and he nodded enthusiastically. “Do you have toys?” he asked breathless.
Draco scrunched his brows. “Of course, stupid. What do you think? Don’t you have toys?”
“No, Dudley had toys, I didn’t get any,” he said with wide eyes. “Dudley never let me play with his toys. Can I play with your toys?”
“Um, yeah, dummy, I just asked you to come to my room and see them,” Draco said, rolling his eyes.
Harry didn’t move until Lucius pressed a hand on his back. “Why don’t you go with Draco, Harry? But be careful; I’ll bring something to make your arm feel better when it is time for dinner.”
Harry looked at him. “I don’t have to make dinner for you?” he said, again wide-eyed.
“Of course not, why would you have to make dinner? You’re a child, for Merlin’s sake,” Narcissa said with a scowl.
“I had to cook for Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia and Dudley because I had to pay for my room,” he said seriously. “I did all the chores, too. I didn’t like ironing, though,” he said, holding up his hand where there were several burn scars. “I mess it up too much and they get mad at me. I don’t like getting burned with the iron when Uncle Vernon gets mad at me.”
Narcissa, Lucius, and Snape exchanged glances. “Well, sweetie, just go on with Draco, and we’ll have dinner together.”
“I can sit at the table with you?” he exclaimed.
Draco snorted, and then grabbed him by the upper arm. “Come on, dummy. Let’s go play. Maybe they’ll make a sweet for us.”
The three adults stared after the two boys.
“He seems unfazed by Draco’s rough demeanor,” Snape noted. “I suppose it is only to be expected. He hasn’t been treated kindly.”
Narcissa looked after them for a longer time. It was true she’d desired more children, but considering the life they led, they thought it to be something that would never happen. She briefly wondered what Lily Potter would think of her son being in the care of the Malfoys.
“Does he have no other family?” she asked.
Snape shook his head. “He has a godfather, of course, Siruis Black. But he’s in Azkaban for questionable reasons.”
Lucius looked at Snape curiously. “Questionable reasons? I thought he was their secret keeper.”
“He was never tried, Lucius, as much as I would like to blame him for Lily’s death, he was never tried,” Snape answered thoughtfully. “Dumbledore, as well as I, have our suspicions that the Ministry may have been at the forefront of that debacle. As much as I loathe to admit it, the mutt had more loyalty than sense. I cannot truly believe that he would betray James and Lily any more than Remus would.”
“That still doesn’t answer the question of what we’re going to do with that little boy,” Narcissa said. “Won’t Dumbledore want to take him?”
“And do what with him?” asked Lucius. “Put him in a room at Hogwarts? He’s a child; he needs someone besides a doddering old wizard to take care of him. He’s already missed nine years of his childhood; he deserves some happiness, at least.”
Snape nodded. “I suppose that he is better here, but you know Albus will not be pleased with being excluded. I know that since you’ve taken up my occupation, you have gotten on with him better, but still, this is Harry Potter, the boy-who-lived. Prophesized to defeat the Dark Lord.”
“He’s not anything except a little boy,” Narcissa said.
The two men nodded at her, knowing what she was thinking. Despite the weight of fate that was settled on the boy’s shoulders, he was just that, a boy.
Harry stood in awe of what lay before him. He’d never seen so many cool toys.
Draco couldn’t understand what was wrong with the gaping boy. “Are you really stupid or something?” he asked.
Harry shrugged. “Uncle Vernon said I was, but I don’t know. I thought he was stupid.”
Draco snickered. “Most grownups are stupid.” He then looked over the boy. “Where did you get those clothes?”
Harry glanced down. “They used to be Dudley’s, because I don’t get new things. I have to throw them out when they get too much dirt or blood on them.”
“That’s stupid, they don’t even fit,” Draco said, grabbing the boy and dragging him to his closet. “Dobby, find Harry some clothes that fit,” he said to a small creature that appeared when he spoke his name.
Harry screamed when he saw him pop into existence. Draco stared at him after the house elf popped away. Harry was hiding behind the bed.
The door opened and Lucius stuck his head into the room. “What’s going on?” he asked.
Draco looked confused. “I called Dobby to get some clothes for him, and he acts like he’s never seen a house elf.”
Lucius came in and pulled Harry to his feet.
“It…just appeared there, and it was a…a…” the boy muttered, looking around for it.
“Draco, he hasn’t seen a house elf before,” Lucius said. He turned to the shaking boy. “Harry, Dobby is a house elf. He helps around the manor, and he’s not going to hurt you. He’s a magical creature.”
Harry nodded hesitantly, but jumped and shrieked when the elf returned with a crack.
Dobby frowned. “Dobby thinks this Harry yells too much.”
Lucius smiled, taking the clothes from him. “He’s just scared, Dobby. Give him time.”
He popped away, Harry once again yelping at the strange sight.
Lucius looked at the boy. “Here, let’s put you into something that isn’t three sizes too big.”
Harry nodded, but looked around uneasily. “But you’ll see.”
Lucius frowned. “What do you mean?”
“I’m not spose ta let anyone see. Uncle Vernon would get mad.”
“Harry, it is okay, I’m taking care of you and that’s okay now. You don’t have to worry about your uncle anymore. Come on, out of these rags,” he said, lifting the too-big shirt. The breath caught in his throat. “Is this what no one is supposed to see, Harry?”
Harry nodded, looking down at his toes, which had become very interesting under the loose threads at the base of the sweatpants he was wearing.
Draco moved up closer and looked at him. “Father, why does he have so many scars and bruises?”
Harry’s back reflected the repeated beatings he had received with a belt; some were deep and obviously had been infected and never treated. There were some fresher welts from a recent beating. There were other marks on his chest. And he was positively emaciated. Lucius could count each rib and vertebrae on the child. He pulled at the waist of the pants and the boy reached to stop him, but he yanked them away, finding that the child was wearing no underwear beneath them. His buttocks and legs were in no better shape than his back. Lucius quietly helped him into a pair of underwear which Harry kept touching.
Draco snickered. “You act like you’ve never felt silk before,” he said.
Harry looked up at Draco with wonder reflected in his eyes, and shook his head. Draco blinked and locked eyes with his father for a second. Draco was quite intelligent, and his father was very sure that he was coming to understand that Harry had been mistreated greatly. Lucius couldn’t count himself among the most affectionate of fathers, but he treated his son with respect and would never leave such marks on him. This child before him had been hit repeatedly. There could be no excuse for this sort of thing, no matter a child’s actions. And the more he was around the boy, the less Lucius believed that Harry could ever provoke such a response in anyone. Lucius helped the boy into a pair of shorts that had a drawstring, and a shirt that was only a little too big on his thin frame. He smiled at the boy.
Harry stared. “I’ve never had something actually fit!” he exclaimed. “Will I get to go places too? I never get to go anywhere.”
“Of course! And we’ll have to start getting you ready for school with some basics,” Lucius said with a smile.
“I’ll go to school!” he exclaimed, getting a look from Lucius and Draco. “I’ve never been; I have to hide in the cupboard when Dudley goes to school so no one knows I’m there, especially when people from the school come over.”
“Wait, you’ve never been to school?” Lucius asked, frowning. “Do you know how to do math and reading?”
Harry shook his head. “I tried to sneak a book into my cupboard, but I got beat for it and they took it away from me. I wanted to read, but they said freaks don’t have to read, they just have to do their work and be quiet when anyone comes to visit.”
“That will change soon, child,” Narcissa, who had been listening at the door, said softly.
She left to arrange for a private tutor that specialized in basic skills to come over and work on catching Harry up. She was back after a quick floo call.
Harry kept staring at them. “Thank you,” he said finally.
“Whatever for?” Lucius said.
“Making me feel happy!” Harry exclaimed and hugged the tall blond man.
Lucius stared down for a second, then up to Narcissa who had entered the room just in time to see the boy latch onto her husband. His face slowly softened, and he returned the embrace tentatively. He knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but he and Narcissa had decided already. Harry would have a family, and he would have them as a family. Dumbledore, dark wizards, all of it be damned. The child needed someone, and he needed them now, so they would give him what he needed. Draco was frowning, but he would have the brother he never would have had otherwise.
And so it was that Harry Potter-Malfoy came to be who he was always meant to be, not the boy who lived, but the boy who was loved and lived to love.