Chapter 3 : First Talks
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He continued to send magical pulses of energy into Harry, alternating them at five minute intervals. Gradually he increased the time to fifteen minutes, until he was sure Harry's core was stable.
When he was satisfied that Harry's core was replenished, he then took stock of the boy's other injuries. Neglect was obvious, the boy was filthy, his hair matted, and Severus wanted to scrub him from head to foot. He also noticed how thin the boy was, Severus could feel his ribs and there was not an ounce of spare flesh on the boy. When he ran a medical diagnostic on the boy, he saw that Harry was malnourished and had once suffered a broken arm and collarbone. He also noticed some faint scarring on the backs of the boy's legs and bottom, thin white lines. Severus' mouth tightened into a grim slash. He knew very well where those came from, as he bore similar ones . He silently cursed Vernon Dursley and Gil Malfoy to hell. And if that were not enough, they had locked him in some cupboard like an animal. In a way, Snape was glad the Dursleys were dead, since it saved him the trouble of doing something terrible to them.
He tucked his wand away and looked over at his father. "He'll live. He's undernourished, that's why he's so small and thin, he looks like he's nine instead of ten. They starved him, neglected him, and whipped him and Merlin knows what else." Severus' fastidious nose wrinkled. "He's in dire need of a bath, but I can take care of that when he wakes up."
Tobias looked troubled. "It's good you found him when you did, otherwise who knows what might have happened. Will anyone be looking for him?"
"You mean his so-called guardians? Or the Ministry?"
"The Dursleys are dead. They were killed by followers of You-Know-Who, they were looking for Harry, but his magic protected him, made him undetectable. The Ministry should be looking for him, but I don't know when they'll discover what happened and that the Boy Who Lived is missing. I'll worry about them later. Right now my priority is this boy. Those bloody Dursleys!" Severus growled.
"They and all those like them ought to be shot," Tobias agreed angrily. He detested those who abused children, and a long time ago his dearest wish had been to take his son from Gilbert Rothschild-Malfoy and then strangle the bastard. But he had settled for saving his son in the end, reasoning that going to jail for assault wouldn't help Severus. "I'm not sorry they're dead, if this is how they treated that poor kid. Will those followers of that bloody dark wizard be hunting for him?"
"They may, but they'll never find him here. Not with my wards up," Severus assured him.
"Maybe I ought to get out my pistol anyhow," Tobias mused. "Not even a dark wizard can survive a bullet unless they see it coming."
"Dad, do you still have a carry permit?"
Tobias nodded. "Yup. Even though I was mustered out, I still have a legitimate right to carry a gun. Don't worry, Sev, I'll keep it out of reach of curious little fingers."
Severus heaved a sigh, though he was not worried so much about Harry playing with the gun as he was Tobias shooting someone he thought was a dark wizard by mistake. He made a mental note to tell his father any time he brought home a guest. But that wasn't too frequent, so maybe he shouldn't worry. Tobias was levelheaded, and though his temper flared hot, it was never without cause.
"Just be careful where you aim it."
"You just mind your manners, boy, and I won't be tempted to shoot you in the arse," Tobias drawled, his eyes sparkling with humor.
"You're a riot, Dad," Severus grunted, rolling his eyes at his sire. Then he turned back to look at the boy on the couch.
To his surprise, Harry was awake, and looking at Tobias with an expression of shock and terror.
Severus gently reached out a hand and to his dismay, Harry flinched and cringed. "Easy there. I won't hurt you."
Harry shivered. He didn't know where he was, all he knew was that he was alone with two strange men, one of whom had threatened to shoot the other. "Who are you? Where am I?"
Frightened green eyes peered up at Severus. The Unspeakable knelt beside the couch. "Don't be frightened, Harry. My name is Severus Snape and I was a friend of your mother's. That man over there is my father, Tobias. You're in my house, where you're safe."
Harry swallowed hard. The tall man's voice was low and soothing, but he was still scared. He had never known anything but hurt from an adult man . . .except for teachers. He wondered if this Snape man could be a teacher? "W-Why did he say he was gonna shoot you?" he managed to get out.
"I was only kidding, boy," Tobias reassured, and gave the boy a smile. "It was just a dumb joke. I'd never hurt my son." He rose and came over to the couch and held out one large hand. "Pleased to meet you, Harry."
Harry shrank away, one hand lifted to cover his mouth.
"Hey now," Tobias kept his voice very soft. "Nobody's going to hurt you. Not here. All I want to do is shake your hand."
"Oh. S-sorry, sir." Harry blushed, but his reaction had been instinctive. He tentatively put his small hand into Tobias' larger one. "How do you do, sir?"
"Fine, Harry. And you don't have to call me sir. Just plain Toby will do." Tobias gently clasped the boy's hand and then released him.
"Harry, what do you remember about what happened?" Severus asked softly. "Why were you locked in that cupboard?"
Harry looked at the dark-haired man and his hands twisted together. "I-I'm not supposed to tell. I'll get in awful trouble if I do. Uncle will . . .he'll . . ." he didn't finish the sentence, but looked down at his hands in shame.
"Listen to me, Harry. Your uncle can't hurt you ever again. Do you know why? Because he's dead."
"Dead? Then the . . .bad men really did kill him? What about Aunt Petunia and Dudley?"
"They too are dead. I would offer you condolences, but I don't think you're all that sad that they're gone." Severus told him.
"No, not really. They never wanted me. I was always in the way, they told me I was a freak like my mum and dad. That's why they locked me in the cupboard. Because I got a letter."
"A letter? From a school called Hogwarts?"
"I don't know. Uncle Vernon wouldn't let me see it. He burned the first one. But then more came. They came out of the fireplace, even after uncle boarded up the mail slot. They came through the window, dozens of them. They made Aunt Petunia scream and Dudley trip over his own feet. Uncle Vernon was so mad, he said it was all my fault we were being invaded by possessed mail, and then he smacked me and locked me in the cupboard. " Harry hung his head, his long fringe of messy hair falling in his eyes.
"How long were you in the cupboard, Harry?"
"A week. I think. I . . .I told Aunt Petunia I'd be good, but she wouldn't let me out. Said it was cause of my freak nature that those letters kept coming, even on Sunday. I asked her if maybe if I could see one, maybe they might stop, but she screamed that's how it all started and kept throwing them out and burning them."
Severus snorted. "Stupid bint! You were right, Harry. If you had opened a letter, then they would have stopped coming. The letters will only keep coming if they are unopened."
"But why? Who would want to send me a letter?"
"Here. I have one in my pocket." Severus dug out the letter he had intercepted and handed it to Harry.
Harry carefully unfolded it and opened it. He read it through silently. "Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry? Is this some kind of silly prank? There's no such thing as wizards and witches. Magic doesn't exist."
"Yes, it does. You see, Harry, you're a wizard. As am I." Severus said quietly.
"Me?" Harry stared at him, his green eyes wide with terror. "No! I'm not a freak! Magic isn't real." He suddenly wrapped his arms about himself and rocked back and forth, whimpering. "I promised I'd never do anything freaky again!"
Alarmed, Severus reached out a hand. "Harry, calm down. It's all right. You're not a freak." The Unspeakable's voice hardened. "Your aunt was wrong to tell you that. You're a wizard, child, as were your parents before you, and using magic is as natural as breathing."
"No! No!" Harry was shaking now.
Severus was at a loss. "Dad? What do I do now?" he asked.
Tobias, who had some experience in dealing with hysterical children, sat on the edge of the couch and said, "Harry, don't be scared. It's okay, kid. I guess they hurt you pretty bad if you used your magic, huh?"
Harry sniffled. "I don't have magic. Uncle Vernon said magic is fake and I wasn't to talk about it or else he'd whip me black and blue."
"Bastard!" spat Snape. His black eyes glittered. "If he wasn't already dead, I'd bury him!"
"Easy, Severus. You're scaring him," Tobias reprimanded quietly. He indicated Harry, who was shaking soundlessly.
Severus felt ashamed. "I'm sorry. I won't hurt you."
"Relax, lad," Tobias said. "Don't mind Sev. His bark's worse than his bite. Know what I mean?"
Harry nodded and tried to quit shaking. For one moment the tall man—Severus—had the same expression on his face that Vernon got whenever he was going to teach poor Harry a lesson. But so far neither man had laid a hand on him in anger. Still, Harry knew that could change. He looked at the blond man, Toby, and whispered, "Are you a wizard?"
"Me? Naw. I'm a regular bloke. No magic. Sev got his power from his mum. I'm an architect. I build houses."
Harry began to relax. At least there was one normal person here.
Severus wanted to try again to convince the boy that magic was real, but he didn't want Harry to panic again. Clearly the Dursleys had lied and conditioned him to reject his magical heritage. That was something he wasn't sure how to handle. "Harry, do you know how your relatives died?"
"I . . . I think so. There was a knock at the door, I heard Aunt Petunia answer it. I think there were four men, I could hear different voices. They . . .they kept asking where is he? Aunt Petunia ran to get Uncle Vernon and Dudley told them where I was, but . . .for some reason they couldn't see me. I . . .I could feel them . . . they felt wrong . . .all dark and cold and scary . . .I didn't want them to find me . . .I tried to hide in the back of the cupboard . . .and then I could hear them, but they couldn't find me, I don't know why. They kept screaming at Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia, asking them why they lied. Dudley too. Uncle Vernon told them to get out, I think he tried to shoot them, but . . .something happened. I heard Aunt Petunia screaming and crying and then . . .nothing. It was all quiet. I knew I had to be still, to pretend I wasn't there. I lay down and tried to breathe like a mouse. They kept looking and swearing, but somehow they never found me. They left, and I was so hungry and thirsty. I banged on the door, but no one came. Then I . . .think I passed out."
"You did. Do you know why the bad people couldn't find you? Because your magic acted to protect you," Severus told him. "I know you don't believe me, but it's the truth. You're a very powerful young wizard. That's the reason you received a letter. Hogwarts is a school to help train young wizards in the right way to use your magic. Your aunt knew this, her sister Lily, your mother, was a witch. She grew up with magic, even though she didn't have any. But she always knew magic existed. I was her neighbor, your mother's best friend."
"Yes, sir," Harry muttered, though he wondered how his mother had ever been friends with a crazy man. Unless his mum had been delusional too?
Severus sighed. He could tell the boy didn't believe him. He was tempted to show Harry some magic that would prove to him that Severus was telling the truth. But he sensed the boy had already had too many shocks for one day. "When did you last eat?"
Harry shrugged. "Errr . . .a few days ago, I guess."
"Hell, kid, you must be starving," exclaimed Tobias. "Why don't I go and make us something to eat. I'm hungry too. How about you, Sev?"
"I could eat something," Severus said. "Take your time though. Harry, why don't you come upstairs and take a bath? Or a shower, whichever you prefer?"
Harry looked down at himself. He knew he smelled and was dirty. But he had no other clothes to wear. "I . . .But I don't have any other clothes, sir."
"That's not a problem. You can borrow a shirt of mine, it'll do until I can get you some new clothes. The ones you're wearing are good for the rubbish bin." Severus said. "Come on."
Harry slowly slid off the couch and followed Snape up the stairs.
Severus led him into the bathroom, a rather large room painted hunter green and cream. There was a thick green bath mat on the floor before the tub, which had a matching shower curtain. Cream tiles were on the floor and there was a sink and counter in the corner, next to the toilet. A large mirror hung over the vanity.
Severus marched over to the tub and ran the water. "There's soap and washcloths inside here, as well as shampoo and conditioner. Take as long as you like. I'll be back with some clothes and towels."
Then he left, shutting the door behind him.
Harry stared about at the bathroom, which was even bigger than the Dursleys. He felt awed to be in such surroundings. He reached out to test the water and found it very warm. It was the first warm shower he could remember having in years. Usually by the time he could even get a shower, there was no hot water and he had to take one lickety-split, because the water was freezing and Aunt Petunia needed him to finish up chores around the house and the yard that Dudley was too lazy to do.
He peeked inside the shower and saw rows of shampoo and conditioner and a great big bar of striped soap. Real soap! He almost grinned. But then he recalled that he wasn't allowed to use real soap. Petunia had hammered that into his head ever since he was five. Surely Severus would be the same. He wouldn't want a dirty freak touching his soap.
Harry reluctantly drew away and knelt down and looked in the cabinet under the sink for some soap that they wouldn't care if he used. Sure enough, he found a bar of yellow lye soap, right next to a plastic bucket. That's the proper soap for dirty little freaks like you! Petunia's carping voice rang in his mind. Harry's hand closed about the bar of soap and he placed it on the counter. The mirror was starting to get a little steamy.
Harry quickly removed his shirt and was just starting to remove his trousers and underpants when Severus opened the door. He jumped and nearly fell backwards, his feet tangling in his trousers.
"Relax. Here's the towels and a shirt and shorts, they might be a little big, but better than nothing," Severus came in and started to set two fluffy blue towels and one of his black T-shirts and boxers on the counter, he had shrunk them to an approximate size with a spell.
Harry had backed up in front of the toilet, and a red flush crept up his cheekbones.
Severus noted the bar of soap sitting atop the vanity and frowned. "What's this doing out?"
"It's my soap," Harry said very quietly.
"This is floor cleaner. Surely you weren't—" Severus scowled. "For the love of Merlin, you don't mean to tell me that you were going to wash yourself with this?" His voice crackled with displeasure, though it was not meant for Harry, but for his cruel relatives.
Harry froze. Was he going to get smacked now? "Sorry, sir, sorry. I . . .I thought . . .I'm sorry, sir."
"Stop apologizing," Snape ordered, gentling his tone. "Come here."
Harry shuffled forward, certain he was about to be punished for touching the soap. Snape certainly looked angry. Harry swallowed hard. He should have known he couldn't last an hour without getting into trouble. He never could do anything right.
Severus watched, puzzled, as the boy approached him, and then leaned over the counter. He did not look at Snape, just muttered, "Okay. I'm ready, sir."
Severus' brow creased. "Ready?" Then he understood. Bloody hell, he thinks I'm going to beat him. "Harry, no. No. Stand up."
"Sir? Aren't you going to punish me?"
"For touching your things."
"My things? All I wanted was to tell you that you don't wash yourself with my floor cleaner. It's for floors, not little boys. Now stand up straight. I'm not going to hit you. Merciful Merlin!"
Harry slowly straightened and gaped at Severus. "You're not going to punish me? I can use the good soap?"
"Yes, you can use the good soap. That's what it's there for. And the shampoo and conditioner. Use as much as you like. And no, you're not in trouble. Now quit dawdling and get in the shower." Severus said, shaking his head. He waved a hand and Harry yelped, for his trousers and pants suddenly vanished and he was naked.
He immediately went to cover himself.
Severus chuckled. "Boy, you don't have anything I haven't seen before."
Harry flushed and scurried towards the tub, jumping into it with a splash and drawing the curtain.
"When you're done, come downstairs. Tobias ought to have supper ready by then." Severus quietly shut the door, adding, "Mind you wash behind your ears," because it was what Tobias had always said to him when he was that age.
Then he slipped back downstairs, his temper sizzling, muttering, "The Killing Curse was too good for those damn animals!"
Harry took his time scrubbing himself and washing his hair. He delighted in the warm water and the soft soap that smelled like pine and cedar, a good manly smell. For once his skin didn't sting and burn till he rinsed off the lather, and he could take as long as he liked. It was almost like heaven. He made certain he was squeaky clean before coming out twenty minutes later.
Severus' shirt and boxers were a little baggy, but Harry didn't mind. He was used to that, wearing Dudley's cast offs. At least this shirt wasn't stained or holey, and it smelled clean. They were soft against his skin. Harry stroked the fabric and smiled. They were the best clothes he had ever had.
He made his way back downstairs, silent in his bare feet. He found both men in the small kitchen, Severus was setting the table and Tobias was cooking some grilled cheese and soup. Harry's stomach growled loudly.
Severus turned. "Much better. How do you feel?"
"Hungry," Harry admitted.
"Sit down," Severus gestured to a chair.
Harry sat, though he found it strange, for normally he was not allowed to sit down with the family.
"Here you go. Eat up." Tobias set a small bowl of soup and a sandwich in front of Harry.
Harry inhaled the aroma of the chicken soup and then began to eat, hurriedly.
"Slow down, you'll make yourself sick." Severus ordered.
Harry stopped eating.
"Severus, quit badgering the kid," Tobias said.
"I'm not badgering him, just trying to make sure he doesn't throw up."
"If he does, it's not a big deal. Let the kid eat. Go on, Harry."
Harry looked from one to the other. He didn't want them to fight. Not over him. He picked up the sandwich and bit into it. It was hot and delicious. He forced himself to chew and swallow. Soon he had finished the entire thing and the bowl of soup. Tobias had set a glass of soda beside his plate and he drank it down. He would have liked to eat some more, but he felt full and didn't want to get sick.
"Looks like you liked my grilled cheese," Tobias said.
"Yes, sir. It was excellent."
"You can have seconds."
"No thanks, sir. I'm full."
"If you're sure . . .and it's Toby, Harry. Toby."
Harry began to yawn. He felt awfully sleepy.
"Looks like you're ready for bed." Severus observed. "You can have the guest room."
"Then . . .I can stay here?"
"Of course. I didn't rescue you just so I could turn you out on the street. We'll talk some more later, after you've slept. All that healing I did on you is bound to tax your body's reserves." Severus beckoned him and once more Harry followed him up the stairs and into a room with a blue and green diamond patterned comforter and curtains. The bed looked huge and luxurious to Harry, who had never slept in a double bed before. He hesitated, still half believing this was some kind of dream.
But at Snape's urging he crawled up on it and lay down. Severus tucked him in and said, "Pleasant dreams, Harry." Then he left, leaving the door slightly ajar and the lamp on.
Harry snuggled down under the comforter. He was warm, clean, and full. This was like paradise. He soon drifted off to sleep, hoping he was not dreaming.
A/N: Hope you're all enjoying this new one so far. Do you think Harry is behaving realistically given all that has happened to him?
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