Chapter 9 : Feverish Thoughts
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His nails were digging into something soft and flesh-like. He threw himself against the restraints he could feel wrapped around his torso, but they only tightened.
Words, half-distorted and hard to hear, reached his ears. ‘Alex’, ‘having’, ‘calm’, ‘swallow’. He felt the coolness of glass brush by his lips, but he pushed his lips together and threw himself at the restraints again. Liquid spilled over his front, only to vanish a second later.
There was a feverishness to his thoughts. Reality bore down upon his senses, but his nightmare-riddled brain refused to comply with reality’s demands. He thrashed again.
They’re keeping him. He has something to do. Something that has to be done. He opened his mouth to beg with them, but then thought better - no one should know. No one should know about his plan. Don’t think, don’t think, don’t think.
Something cool filled his mouth and he struggled to spit it out, only to find that his nose was plugged and his jaw pushed closed. He thrashed around, finding his torso more free than before, but the restraints around his head unyielding. Against his will, his body swallowed. The coolness spread into his stomach and into his veins and into his mind. The coolness swept over the image of the blue summer dress until he slumped back against the restraints, defeated. The words weren’t so hard to understand, now.
"Dubhán, it's okay. I gave you a calming draught. You had a nightmare. It's okay." There were hands carding through his hair. A heartbeat behind his own. The words kept coming, like endless waves lapping at the shore. He’d seen the ocean once, with grandfather. "It's over now. It can't hurt you. It's okay. Everything is okay. We're here. Da- Harry and Alex are here. We'll make sure everything is alright."
Nothing was ever alright! He fought against the coolness and tried to free himself again, except those arms were back around his torso, holding him there and the strength he was used to in his own limbs was gone.
“Hey, hey, calm down. You’re on the floor, be careful.”
He became aware suddenly of the knock on his head and the ache on his side. He let his eyes open. It was still dim in the room, the only light the magical one above the bed. The lady was off to the side, kneeling. Her blue eyes were worried and he felt a pang of something in his chest that he had made those eyes show him their feelings. Zee was in front of him, laying on the bed with his head off the edge, staring. The man was behind him, his legs stretched out, holding him against his chest. If Dubhán kept his gaze ahead, he could see the man’s feet on either side of his own.
“I put a locking charm up,” he said, feeling the pain in his throat but pushing to finish his...complaint. Was he upset? When was he ever used to privacy? When did he even begin to imagine he could trust them to stay out? The coolness was making it hard to be so completely angry.
“We know,” the lady said, “it took me a moment to dislodge it before we could come in. Zee woke us up.” She motioned to the door, where the white-washed wood surface was scarred with scratch marks. The drywall next to the door was half-chewed, half scratched.
“We heard you screaming,” the man cut in. As if Dubhán needed a reminder of his weakness! He tried to push himself away from the man. The man held tighter to him. When Dubhán tried to pry the mans fingers apart, he saw for the first time that he wasn’t not the only injured one. Up and down the man’s arms were scratch marks.
“I could have bitten you,” he found himself saying, his voice hardly more than a whisper. He touched one of the marks with a finger, brushing across the raised skin. He had done this.
“You could have, that’s true. At worst I would prefer my meat more rare.”
He frowned, still trancing the marks. His.
It reminded him of when he had been little and upset Grandfather. He’d had a mark after that incident and had run his thumb over it for days until it disappeared.
He frowned up at the man. His Grandfather would have simply cast an Ennervate and handed him a Dreamless Sleep potion, if he had bothered to do that. Most of the time Dubhán's only evidence that he'd had a nightmare was the dissipation of a silencing charm when he opened his door. Here was Harry Potter, perhaps not as powerful as his Grandfather, but certainly not weak, willing to be bitten by him, just to sooth his nightmares. It was almost too much for Dubhán to acknowledge.
“It’ll be okay,” the man said, peering over Dubhán’s shoulder to look at the marks too. “I was more worried about you. What were you dreaming about?”
Dubhán drew his hand away from the marks on the man’s arms and looked away, his gaze falling on the lady, who was lingering by the door now, looking nervously out into the hallway.
“I won’t tell you,” he said firmly.
He felt the man’s heartbeat quicken painfully behind him. Normally he would have been furious at just the inkling that they thought they could make him tell, but the coolness was making it harder to pull that fury forward. It was strange and frightening all at once. Perhaps this was why Grandfather had never given him a calming draught before - he imagined he was hardly worth bothering with, right now. Certainly he didn’t feel that he could have entered into an intricate conversation where words were like spells in a duel, or cast any magic with the coherency with which he was familiar.
“I wish you would. I want to help you...but you don’t have too. I can respect that,” the man said and he thought the man was mostly talking to himself. “I want to make everything better, Devlin,” the man said and at last he felt he was talking to him.
But nothing was ever going to be better, because Grandfather was going to figure out a way to get him back, and then it would be silencing charms and Ennervateand the disgusting taste of Dreamless Sleep. He licked his lips, slowly realizing that they tasted like cherries.
“My lips taste like cherries,” he said, even though he had meant to ask what damn potion they had given him. Apparently a calming draught also made him point out the obvious.
“Yeah, Emma refuses to drink calming draughts after a nightmare because they’re yucky, so I bribe Severus to make me yummy tasting ones.” He must have had a questioning look on his face, because the man continued. “As a Potion Master even he can’t resist a trade for rare snake venom.”
“You have snakes?” He asked curiously. Potter frowned slightly, as if in hesitation, but then he dipped his head in answer.
He ran his thumb over the scratch marks again, noting that they were already flattening.
“Grandfather says you can speak to snakes,” he said quietly, trying not to look at anything but what he has managed to do - the scratch marks - the one link to hisstrength in this whole new world as well as his most recent indication of failure.
There is no such thing as success and failure all at once. If failure is present at all, then success cannot be counted.
“Yeah, I can,” Potter said, a weariness to his voice - as if he were accusing him of something. He kept his eyes trained on the fading marks. “Can you?” There was hope there that he couldn’t understand coming from Potter. Why would he care if he could speak to snakes? Suddenly he wished he hadn’t brought the topic up at all, because he hated the only answer, which was really a non-answer, that he could give.
“I don’t know.” Without the calming draught he didn’t think he would have let the words slip out, but now he can’t stop them. “I don’t think Grandfather thinks I can. He doesn’t allow me near snakes - especially not Nagini.”
“But he doesn’t know for sure?” It was the first time the man had spoken about Grandfather so casually and it made him frown uncomfortably in a way he hadn’t expected. Grandfather and Potter simply weren’t supposed to mix nicely, not even in a conversation.
“It’d be so disappointing if I couldn’t,” he said slowly, thinking aloud, catching himself just before he allowed the next words to spill past his tongue it would make me less like him and then what would I be worth?
He decided he hated calming draughts.
The man didn’t comment. The lady looked at him so intensely that he could feel her gaze without having to check. The man breathed in and out slow and rhythmically, like someone trying to control themselves and he felt himself go a bit tense in the the man’s hold. Immediately the man stopped as if he had knownwhy he had tensed up.
“Think you can go back to sleep?”
He nodded, feeling a bit eager for them to leave, since sleep was about the only thing he felt he could accomplish with this potion in his system. Potter lifted him and despite how weak and pitiful it made him feel, he allowed it, because his legs simply would not obey with the accuracy which he expected.
“Will you be okay?” Potter asked, looking nervous. “I can sit here if you like.”
“Don’t be absurd,” he said, managing the sneer but not the right tone, “I take care of myself. I didn’t need you in the first place.”
“I know,” the man said, surprising him. “But it was nice that you let me be here.”
“What choice did I have?” He asked, but it was lacking the venom he wished it had. He turned a bit so that his head was facing the wall and not him.
“Maybe we should just wait until he falls asleep, Alex. We don’t know how he’ll react to the potion. There are people who get sick on it.”
Alex came away from the hallway and came over to him. There was an air of gentleness to her that he hadn’t seen before and somehow preferred and despised all at once. She hovered over him at the side of the bed for a moment, withdrawing her wand.
“I’ll put a tracking charm on him,” she said reassuringly, to the man.
“Oh, shush Harry. I know medical variations. It will tell us if there is anything wrong. I’m sure we’ll just disturb him if we hang around.”
Not only that, but he wouldn’t sleep. He strained to keep his eyes open while his head sunk into the pillows, determined not to fall asleep before they were gone.
There was a warm sensation around his wrist and he saw the glow of something out of the corner of his vision. He lifted his arm with great effort to see the glowing bracelet on his wrist.
“Keep that on. I’ll know if you don’t.” He shrugged, because he didn’t care to follow her rules. He’d take it off when they left. “If you take it off,” she continued, her voice soft and kind in a way that made him shiver with dreaded anticipation. Some part of him remembered this tone. “I’ll make Harry come back and sit with you all night instead.”
“Keep it - promise,” he said, unable to focus his eyes anymore let alone his mind. He heard the lady laugh and the man say something in return in an indignant voice. The door closed behind them. He closed his eyes. Sleep took him.
He fell asleep thinking of the man’s scratch mark and his dreams led him to the memory the marks had originally made him recall. He dreamed of Grandfather and himself, when he had been little. And even though it wasn’t a pleasant dream, he didn’t scream - he never scream around Voldemort, even in a dream.
“See this?” There was a knife in his hands – Devlin knew what it was. But it didn’t glint like metal – it was covered in something green.
“A covered knife,” his grandfather stressed, bringing it closer to Devlin – who demanded his body to stay still despite the fear roiling in his gut. Perhaps he had gone too far this time. What had he done? He could hardly remember, his eyes tracking the knife’s slightest movement. Suddenly his grandfather reached forward and grabbed his hand, bringing it toward the knife. Devlin bit his tongue, full of fear that knew he shouldn’t show.
He dared to look. His finger was on the tip of the knife-edge, but it didn’t hurt, because there was something soft between him and the glinting metal he knew lay beneath.
“This is velvet. It is soft, yes?” He nodded, afraid to use his voice. “This is where you are right now – on the edges of my nerves.” He plucked Devlin’s hand away – away from the softness, and drove the knife through the green fabric. Now Devlin could see the metal, glittering dangerously at him.
He grabbed for Devlin’s hand again and this time, when his finger touched the edge of the blade, it hurt. There was no velvet between him and the blade, now. He pulled back his arm and immediately stuck the finger into his mouth.
“Don’t push me, child. I am like that knife. I afford you a bit of comfort, but if you push me, I hurt you.”
When he woke up the next morning he realized he was still dressed in his clothing. He smoothed down the wrinkled fabric, since the only other thing he had to change into were pajama’s and he despised them. Last night niggled at the back of his mind, but it wasn’t until he turned toward the door and saw the claw marks that the night rushed upon him.
He sunk to his knees momentarily, right where he had been last night, in the man’s arms. He felt overwhelmed and scared. He wanted Geoffrey to be here, telling him quietly to stopthinking.
Don’t think, don’t think, don’t think!
“Devlin?” There was a knock on his door. He couldn’t bring himself to demand whoever was there to sod off and eventually the door peeked open. It was the man and he frowned atDubhán.
He must look so pitiful, on the floor like some scared child.
“Hey,” the man said, pushing his head in a little bit more, his feet remaining in the hallway. “Your mum took Emma to Molly’s house. She has to go into work for a couple hours but...I thought we could go shopping for some new clothes for you.”
“I don’t have any to wear,” he said quietly, motioning to his horribly wrinkled ones. He didn’t have a wand to fix them either, although he supposed the man could.
“I got that covered!” Potter said, his voice full of pride in himself. He stepped in a bit more and threw a set of clothes at him. They were basic pants in a rough thick blue material and a shirt in red. He’d never seen anything quite like the ensemble. At home he had only button down shirts and slacks, if he weren’t wearing robes.
“What is this?” He asked, turning them over in his hands.
“Jeans and a t-shirt,” Potter answered, smiling still. “Go ahead, get them on and meet me downstairs.”
He nodded. Even though he would rather be anywhere but out shopping with the man, it was yet another chance at escape and it was being handed to him on a silver platter. So he got dressed in the rough blue pants that snapped closed and he pulled the ‘t-shirt’ over his head. Then he looked in the mirror. He looked strange, although he couldn’t pinpoint what was so different. Pulling the t-shirt over his head had caused his hair to ruffle and he looked at his reflection in surprise for a moment. Hung next to the mirror was a picture of the boy and the man and Dubhán stared at it for a long time, marveling how a little mussed hair could make him look so much more like Potter. He shook his head and the strands fell back into place.
Potter was sipping coffee at the table reading a pile of paper a good inch thick. When he saw Dubhán, he vanished the papers immediately.
“Hey look at you!” Potter said, smiling - somehow Dubhán knew it was a genuine smile, although it never seemed to quite reach his eyes.
“Where are we going?”
“To Diagon Alley, of course,” he said. Dubhán frowned, itching to point out the man’s stupidity but knowing it was in his best interests to let the man fail (and him escape). “Ever been there before?”
“Yes,” he said, although he suspected Geoffrey had already told the man as much.
“We’re just waiting for a friend of mine,” Harry said. So the man had planned, a bit. A moment later the floo flared to life and lit the hallway green. Dubhán tensed for just a moment at the color, but the man had noticed and his brilliant green eyes were darker when Dubhán turned around.
A red-headed man came into the kitchen, followed by a lady.
“Hey Harry,” the man said, smiling. “It sure is good to see you. And get out!”
The lady turned to him first, smiling with a wispy sort of fondness that made him sure she was seeing him as the little boy.
“Hello,” she said.
“Hello,” he replied the words coming automatically. He always felt a bit more shy around women, perhaps because he didn’t see them very often. Bella, he thought, hardly counted.
“Ready?” Harry asked, standing up. “Wait, is it cold outside?”
“You’ve got jackets on...”
“Well it’s a bit nippy out.”
The man’s face fell at the lady’s words.
“I forgot to get a jacket for you, Devlin!”
“I do have my cloak...” He said, not eager to have the man cancel his one chance to redeem himself over a jacket. The man nodded.
“Yeah, why don’t you go toss it on, alright?” He nodded and scampered up the stairs. When he came back down wearing it, Hermione’s eyes went a bit wide.
“That’s a very nice cloak,” she said softly.
Harry frowned uncomfortably and shrugged.
Dubhán waited for someone to make a move and when the first move was the man pulling out his wand, he tensed. The wand was aimed at him.
“I have to put some wards on you,” Potter said kindly.
“I thought you trusted me,” he sneered.
“No, I said you wouldn’t try to escape because now you knew I knew how clever you are,” Potter clarified, trying to smile in a redeeming way. “So, just a couple spells, huh?”
“What if I say no?”
“Geoffrey told me to bribe you with the bookshop and point out at least you’ll have something to read without losing your mind here from boredom.” The man had a point - or rather Geoffrey did - and begrudgingly Dubhán approached the man. Besides, who was to say the mans spells would be flawless? Dubhán might be able to pick them apart slowly during the trip.
It felt like he was covered in slime for a moment, then as if it had been charmed off of him with a harsh cleaning spell - he rubbed at his arms under the cloak.
“Now may we go?” He asked and the man laughed softly but nodded.
“You always were impatient,” he said fondly and Dubhán glared at the reminder that the man knew him even the tiniest bit - that they had once meant something to each other. That they still might.
Potter lead them to the front door. Dubhán had never seen the front yard - with a stone walkway leading to the curb, green grass on either side with flowers planted against the house. They walked past the wards, Potter holding onto him in what Dubhán felt must have been a passkey to the wards to allow Dubhán exit. They fizzled around him and he felt his heart beat quickly in his chest at even the possibility that he might escape today.
“I know you’ve Disapperated before,” Potter said to him. “But I’m just giving you a warning.” And that was all the warning Dubhán got before the man had gripped his body and brought it against his own. Pop.
They were standing outside of a shop called The Leaky Cauldron. Dubhán stared at it for a long moment as they waited for the man and the lady. Ron and Hermione, he recalled and then he sneered at himself.
“What’s this supposed to be?” He asked, motioning to the building.
“The Leaky Cauldron, of course. Haven’t you been?”
“No. We usually start in Knockturn Alley.” The words made Potter frown deeply.
“Yes, well. Stay close, alright?” There was a weariness to his voice that Dubhán didn’t understand until Ron and Hermione had arrived and they had headed into the pub.
Every head turned.
Dubhán felt as if he’d just entered a Death Eater meeting by Grandfather’s side.
Every eye was on Potter, but then they shifted within moments to him.
Potter was looking at him sympathetically, as if he felt like he couldn’t handle this.
“Sorry, I hate crowds too,” Potter whispered. Dubhán straightened beside him, squaring his shoulders and looking around him with an air of indifference.
“This bothers you?” He asked in the same whisper, smirking. “Whatever for?”
Potter frowned thoughtfully down at him and Dubhán knew he had just given the man something to think about. He tried to ignore that if he didn’t escape, Potter would probably question him about it.
Despite all the regards, everyone seemed to know to keep their distance from Potter, which left Dubhán free to observe them all - looking around for possible rescuers. He noted that each adult around him (and they were surrounding him protectively), had their wands half disengaged from their holsters, slight curve to their wrists the only thing keeping the wand mostly up their sleeves. So they weren’t complete idiots.
“Lets go order the robes first,” Potter said. They entered the small store.
“Hello Mr. Potter,” a young lady said, her voice casual despite the importance of her visitor. “Is this the young man you called ahead about?”
Dubhán noted that they were the only customers in the whole place and that when he looked back, Hermione was placing a spell on the door. So Potter had reserved the shop. How clever.
“Yes, Samantha, this is him. I need some robes for him. I’m not sure what kids his age - nine - usually have in their wardrobe but I need the lot of it.”
“That’s alright, Mr. Potter. Mrs. Potter called ahead and gave me the order.” She smiled kindly at him in a bemused sort of way. “I just need to measure the young man and then I’ll let him pick out some of the colors.”
Dubhán didn’t much care about the colors. He didn’t intend to ever wear the robes, so what did their colors matter? But he stood on the stool for her and allowed her to measure him.
“This might take a moment, but please try to stay very still,” she said to him as she pulled out the charmed tape measure.
“Of course,” he said, pulling off his cloak and handing it to Potter to hold. He held out his arms enough so that the measuring tape would be able to measure his arms as well.
“You’ve done this before,” the lady chided, smiling at him in a befriending way. Dubhán automatically smiled charmingly at her.
“Oh yes. I’m sure this will be quicker than getting fitted for a three piece robe,” he said, laughing. Harry marveled at this strange boy in front of him, so different than the boy he had been housing for nearly a week now.
“Oh boy, yes! Mrs. Potter wants you to have a dress robe, but I promise I won’t need any extra measurements! Whatever did you wear a fitted three-piece too?”
“My birthday,” he said smiling wistfully.
“That must have been quite a party!” She said as the tape finished up and she ushered him off the stool. She turned to Potter now. “You can go now, Mr. Potter if the young man doesn’t want to pick the colors. I’ll order them in your usual colors. Mrs. Potter said to send it by owl to your mailing address - does that still sound alright?”
Potter looked at him for a moment and he shook his head. He’d already told them he didn’t care about the colors.
“Yes, thank you Samantha.”
“Sure thing, Mr. Potter.”
Hermione cancelled whatever spell she had placed on the door - and one on the window apparently - and then they exited.
“How about the Quidditch store?” Harry cheered. Ron grinned. Hermione sighed. Dubhán arched an eyebrow.
“Harry...” Hermione said in a pressing tone. Potter’s face fell a little but he nodded, apparently understanding whatever message had been hidden in the one word.
“Alright, alright. But I did promise Devlin we could go the bookstore.”
So, despite the look Hermione gave him, Potter led the way to the bookstore. Dubhán waltzed in and the shopkeeper, Jeremy, looked up in surprise.
“Why if it isn’t Dubhán! Come to buy my shop out again, young man?”
“You remembered me?” Dubhán asked, his voice oddly soft at the idea that someone who didn’t have to remember him for fear of the Dark Lord’s wrath, had remembered him anyway.
“I never forget a little boy who buys that many books,” the shopkeeper said. “And Mr. Potter - I didn’t know you knew this young man.”
Potter’s eyes were alight with something Dubhán couldn’t quite identify, but whatever it was it wasn’t pleasant. He covered the distance between the front doors and the counter with long quick stride.
“This is Devlin Potter, Jeremy,” Potter said, softly, leaning across the counter slightly. There was a false smile on his face that might have looked real to anyone who couldn’t see his eyes. Jeremy’s face went ashen and his eyes flickered to the boy.
“I didn’t know, Mr. Potter,” he said nervously, wetting his lips. “I didn’t know. You know if I had-”
“I know,” he said, his voice kind with with an edge of finality to it that sent a shiver up Dubhán’s spine. There was something dark in his eyes when he turned around again and when he came back to him and grasped his hand, he felt a shock of magic race from Potter’s hand to his. Perhaps Potter was more like Grandfather than he had ever fathomed, because that magic...
“Why don’t you pick some books?” Potter was saying, the strange magic gone from their connected hands, his green eyes emerald and shining again, his tone fond and engaging. He was Potter again - that was the only way Dubhán could think of it at all. Ron was sharing a look with Hermione.
“Alright,” he said slowly - feeling cautious around the man suddenly.
Hermione and Ron stayed by the front of the store and Potter followed him around, although the man left him some room.
He moved a book from a shelf and came face to face with a steel blue eye. He frowned and removed another book, revealing the other eye.
“Hello,” the man said softly. “Get over here now.”
His rescuer. Except it wasn’t who he had expected at all - not that he had expected any particular person - just not this person. He glanced to the side. Potter was two shelves away, at Quidditch.
“Well, stop dawdling, boy.”
He dropped the books in his hands. It might have been in excitement, or worry, or surprise, or something else entirely that he didn’t want to name, but either way, Potter’s gaze snapped up at the sound.
“Devlin?” He asked, striding towards him. The man disappeared from the hole with a foul word. There was a note on the shelf instead. Potter pulled Dubhán behind himself (but never removed his hand entirely), withdrawing his wand and checking the note over for charms, portkeys, and hexes. When he was sure it was safe, he brought Dubhán forward again, to keep a clear eye on him, while he read the letter.
Whatever it said, it made Potter blanch and grab for Dubhán’s hand once more.
“Pick your books,” he said softly. “Go on.”
Was he stupid? He looked at him incredulously.
“No one tells me what to do, Devlin,” he said firmly, seeing the question he hadn’t dared to ask. “I want you to have something to do at home. Pick your books out. It will be alright.”
Dubhán moved awkwardly around the store. If they were watching he would defend himself by saying he was leaving every opportunity for them to succeed, but they didn’t try again.
Potter paid for his books and they disapperated from inside the shop with the shop owners approval. They were at the edge of the wards into the house. Potter dragged him through with a forced calm to his appearance. He only relaxed his grip on Dubhán when they were in the house and he had shut the door. Hermione and Ron were looking at him - knowing something had happened.
“Who was there?” Potter said, crouching in front of him in the hallway. Dubhán stared into the hard green eyes. They weren’t right again. He wetted his lips but instead of answering he shook his head. His palms inched backwards until he was touching the wall.
Not right. There was something wrong with Potter and it made his insides quake in a way they hadn’t since he was little.
“Tell me who it was, Devlin,” he said, that hard edge attempting to hide itself - but Dubhán could still see it, lingering at the edges of his eyes and tone - and in hismagic itself.
“No,” he said. “No.”
“Harry?” Ron put a hand on Potter’s shoulder and those green eyes snapped to the redhead. “You feeling alright, mate?”
The question seemed to trigger something in Potter and he shook himself a little, shaking his head.
“No...I just...I was really scared Devlin,” he said, but Dubhán knew he had been something else as well, because that hadn’t been fear in his eyes. He reached out to touch him and Dubhán side-stepped the hand. Something wasn’t right. It was like the red eyes of Voldemort that always meant the man wasn’t bothering to hide the monster he was, to Dubhán. His gaze was intent upon Potter, searching his eyes for the darkness that had been there, just a moment ago. His heart was beating quickly in his chest.
“Is everything alright?” Alexandra asked, stepping into the hallway. In that moment Dubhán couldn’t have been happier to see her and fled from the man into the kitchen, lingering behind her form. She was there and whole and right and in that moment that was all that mattered to his mind and magic. She peered at him for a moment over her shoulder. How pitiful he must look, coward behind her, but she didn’t say anything and Dubhán knew that he was safe there, behind her.
“There was a Death Eater at the bookshop,” Harry said, his voice tired now as he peered at Devlin behind Alexandra. He had scared the boy. Somehow the boy had seen his anger despite him trying to hide it.
Harry stood there, his son’s cries from last night ringing in his head ‘don’t touch me!’. He didn’t want his boy to ever think of him like that - to look at him as he was now. He wondered if this was how he ever looked at Voldemort.
“Devlin?” He said softly, pleading. His boys eyes were on him, wide and intense with emotions Harry didn’t want in the dark green eyes. His boy didn’t move. His lips were pale, his chest puffing and deflating with fear.
Alexandra turned a bit and leaned down. She’d been trying so hard to be strong for their boy but there were emotions in her eyes as she peered at him. He allowed her to touch him, each of her hands on a shoulder, soothing. Harry felt a pang of failure and envy, looking at them.
“Are you alright?” She asked. His dark green eyes shifted to her and his pale lips parted.
“I want Geoffrey,” he said suddenly and there was an edge of desperation to his voice that Harry hasn’t heard since he was six. “Now.”
Harry scrambled to his feet, intent to prove to his son that he would fix this even if it wasn’t him that could repair the situation. He grabbed the floo and called out to Sirius’ house.
“Devlin wants Geoffrey,” he said softly. Sirius frowned, but went to get the Death Eater who was apparently in the kitchen. The Death Eater was running towards the floo on his own, his eyes sharp and worried as he climbed through.
As soon as Devlin saw the Death Eater he ran to him. He felt another pang of failure and envy as he watched the Death Eater with his son in his arms, soothing Devlin.
“Don’t think, don’t think, don’t think,” Devlin said into the man’s shoulder, just loud enough for Harry to hear. Harry knew the boy wanted to be whispering the words and it was a testament to how upset he was that he couldn’t.
Geoffrey’s eyes flashed for a moment in fear. He looked at them imploringly over Devlin’s shoulder. His face had gone ashen and his whole face screamed: what has happened?
“That’s right,” Geoffrey began, his eyes wide upon them with fear even as his voice was quiet and tranquil - as if he were reciting something. He remained on his knees, swaying a bit to calm Devlin. One hand on the boys back, the other on his head, keeping it against his shoulder. Harry thought he was avoiding Devlin seeing him, his face so clearly full of fear. “You’re not going to think about that at all. Don’t think, don’t think, don’t think. You’re going to think about the ocean. Write your worry in the sand. See the wave coming? It’s washing away your worry. Don’t think about it. Here’s another wave. It’s almost gone now. Another wave - do you hear it crashing against the sand? - against your worry. There is no worry anymore. Just waves. Again and again and again. Just waves. What are you seeing?”
“The waves,” Devlin said, his voice suddenly empty, the fear gone from his tone. Harry blinked at the change. What was happening?
“That’s right,” Geoffrey put the boy down. Harry wanted to speak to Devlin about what had happened, now that he was calmer, but Geoffrey changed the subject before he had the chance. Harry thought it was absolutely purposeful and wanted to glare at the man - but now Devlin could see them and he didn’t want Devlin to be afraid of him again. “What are you wearing?”
“Jeans and a t-shirt,” Devlin said glancing back at him.
“Muggle clothes,” Geoffrey said. Devlin raised his eyes, as if he truly hadn’t known. “Do you have something to change into?”
“Your new clothes are on your bed,” Alexandra broke into the following silence.
“Go get changed,” Geoffrey said, giving the boy a tap between his shoulder blades in the right direction. When Devlin had left the room Harry opened his mouth, but Geoffrey held up a hand.
“He’s listening,” he said. So Harry cast a mild silencing spell.
“What did you do?” Harry demanded.
“I calmed him down,” Geoffrey said casually, but Hermione was already stepping forward, shaking her head.
“You did more than that. That’s rudimentary Occlumency! That’s how it’s taught.”
“No, that is not how it is taught. If I were teaching him he’d be independent but he is dependent.”
“I don’t understand,” Alexandra said softly. Harry peered at her, because of all of them, he had suspected she would understand anything connected to Occlumency. But then again, she had never been taught the art - like her father it came automatically to her.
“There have been times in the boys life,” Geoffrey began slowly, peering at them all wearily, “when it was necessary to protect his mind from Voldemort - both for my safety and for his own. The boy doesn’t know that is what I am doing.”
“What does he mean? Is he modifying his memories?” Harry looked at Hermione for answers, but the girl shrugged and suddenly Harry needed to know and he strode over to the flames again. There was a black haired hook-nosed man staring at him within moments.
“I need your opinion on something,” Harry said and the man sneered, but came through.
And so it was that Severus Snape was standing in his home for the second time in less than twenty-four hours. Harry wasn’t sure what his world was becoming. The Potion Master looked to be thinking along the same line.
“What do you want, Potter?” Snape sneered.
“Is it possible to walk someone through Occlumency without teaching them it?”
Snape stared at him for a moment, his gaze hard and unreadable.
“Are you referring to the child?”
“Explain yourself in more detail then, Mr. Potter.”
“Devlin was upset,” Harry began. “He asked for Geoffrey-”
“The Death Eater?” The obsidian eyes regarded the man for a moment, sneering.
“Yes. Then, when he saw him he began to say ‘don’t think’ over and over again. Geoffrey started talking about the ocean. Hermione said he was teaching Devlin Occlumency, but Geoffrey said he wasn’t because Devlin was dependent upon him for it. I want to know what he means and if it is modifying Devlin’s memories!”
Snape stood there for a long moment, methodically cleaning his hands with a rag he had brought though.
“You used visual aids?” He asked Geoffrey, a look of academic curiosity momentarily replacing his sneer.
“I merely made the boy stop thinking about it,” he said simply.
“Why not simply teach him, if you are capable yourself. Clearly the boy is capable.”
“It would not sit well with the Dark Lord,” Geoffrey said carefully.
“But he is capable, yes?”
Snape raised his eyebrow at the tone.
“Ah...you never wanted him to learn.” He stepped closer to the Death Eater. “You never wanted to Dark Lord to suspect he were capable of hiding anything completely.”
“What is so damning that you have hidden for the boy, then?”
Geoffrey pushed his lips together, but did not respond.
“Is it modifying his memories or not?” Harry asked impatiently.
“It is not. Since you were once familiar with muggle things, it would be what the muggle’s refer to as ‘hypnotism’. The Death Eater gave Devlin’s mind something else to associate with the memory. The memory won’t surface to his mid without the associated memory as well - the visual aid-”
“The ocean,” Alexandra supplied.
“Very well. It isn’t foolproof by any means, but if the Dark Lord is disinclined to tear the boys mind apart (thus rendering him insane) it would work spectacularly and almost invisibly. The boy would never suspect anything but that the man uses a routine that calms him.” Snape was peering at the Death Eater carefully. “But you...you’re capable of the real thing.”
“Here Dumbledore was thinking you have been driven to your betrayal by capture, but you have been betraying your Master all along,” Snape sneered, his endless eyes boring into the Death Eater.
“He told me to keep the boy safe at all costs,” the Death Eater said. “I did.”
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