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Chapter Two: The Curse of Reflection

One hand full of blond hair, and one hand full of black, the Potions master hissed at his charges for silence while marching them both back to the castle. To his great surprise, they obeyed him. He reviewed his day, wishing it were over.

Please help him, please help him, please help him . . . . This refrain was all Severus heard in young Malfoy's mind when the boy calmed down enough not to beg it aloud after bringing Harry to his laboratory that morning. He had sat, rocking himself and muttering in his mind, on the stones of the laboratory. Har--Potter Severus had carried to his bed because he could not keep holding the bo--gir--student and pry sense from Draco at the same time; he had then quietly contacted Madame Pomfrey and returned to the disturbed Slytherin.

"Draco, did you do this?"

The boy gave a hiccoughy laugh. "Daddy was very helpful, too," he answered, lapsing into hysterics.

He was abruptly brought out of them by the back of his head of house's hand. Severus dragged him off of his feet by the back of Draco's robes high enough that he could look the boy in the eye. "You will cease your blubbering and succinctly explain the situation. Do I make myself clear?"

"Put that boy down now, Snape," said a voice with deadly coldness from the door to the lab.

"I think not, Lupin. I'll thank you not to interfere in the business of my House."

"Torture your brats on your own time, Snape," Sirius Black said, stepping into the room from behind Remus Lupin. "Harry's been kidnapped."

"And you think I had something to do with that, do you?" Snape asked. He had already placed Draco on his feet, but was continuing to hold the boy so that he would not fall down.

"Leave him alone, you bastard," a surprisingly lucid Draco spat, suddenly spinning threateningly toward the door.

Black raised his wand.

Snape found his own quickly enough.

This was when Poppy stepped into the room, assessed the situation, and commanded, "Accio wands!" She caught Severus' in her left hand, and Sirius' in her right, and handed them both to Remus, who placed them into his robes without hesitation. "That's enough, boys. Get yourselves to separate corners and tell me where my patient is this instant!"

"Potter is in my bedroom, Madame Pomfrey," Severus told her, in a tone not contrite, not subdued, but tractable.

"What?" yelled Sirius.

"Don't you dare, Sirius Black," Poppy said with some vehemence from above the tip of her wand. "Whatever it is, Severus had nothing to do with it. He's the one who asked me to come help Harry. You stay right here and let me work." With that, she disappeared into Severus' bedroom.

There was a brief silence, and then a scream. "Great goblin warriors! Who did this to you, child?"

It was some hours later when not quite all the interested parties found themselves assembled in Professor Dumbledore's office. Draco, somewhat calmer after the administration of an efficacious potion, had been asked to wait in the antechamber after telling his story.

"--but everyone knows that Harry's here, and there is no safer place for him!" said Black. "Where could we possibly hide him that's any better? He can't go back to the Dursleys now! There is no way to explain this, there--there has got to be something you can do, Madame Pomfrey, please!"

"I'm sorry, dear, but this is beyond my skills to explain or . . . correct."

Lupin's soft growl surprised everyone when he asked, "Correct? What's to correct?"

"You can't be serious, Remus. We can't let him stay like that!"

Severus would have spoken, but Albus gestured for him to be still.

"Harry's alive, hurt, but he'll recover. She'll recover. What's to correct?"

"He can't be left like that, Remus. We can't leave James like that!"

It took a moment for Sirius to realize what it was that he'd said.

With some force, Severus retorted, "James Potter is dead, you idiot. You killed him."

Before the two men could come to blows, Draco, who had, not surprisingly, been listening to them, burst into the room.

"No, Professor. The Dark Lord killed James Potter, and he's just as likely to kill Potter's son if you people can't figure out how to save him." He looked around the room, unable to fix on any one person's face. "Don't you understand? My father has been ordered to kill Harry." He then looked directly at Snape. "And unlike some, he's never failed his master."

Severus sped up, remembering how Draco had rushed from the room, with Poppy at his heels.

Draco allowed Snape to drag him toward the school, remembering how he had found what he needed in the man's laboratory earlier in the day before fleeing the school with Harry. His father, Draco had known, was going to summon Snape that night. And it was quite possible, while Lucius and whoever else the wizard had arranged to have present while planning on how to kill him, that the man might decide that Severus was suspect--Severus, the only adult in Draco's life who had ever treated him as something other than a bit of flesh to be molded and used. He had heard his father ponder Snape's status before, but Lucius had always managed to convince himself that no one could possibly defy the Dark Lord twice. Since defying Lucius on the platform, all Draco had thought about was how to keep the two people he loved safe.

Daddy likes dark-haired little boys a lot better than fair-haired ones, even though he'll take a blond when his preference is unavailable, the boy thought before screaming in his head, No, you can't have him, you sick shit! You can't have either of them!

Snape shook him, and the boy forced his mind to be still.

The Potions master, now untroubled by Draco's thoughts, returned to his own.

He had apparated to Hogsmeade with his charges from a wizarding inn near the safe house where Lucius Malfoy was in hiding, so that he could fire-called Albus in Madame Rosmerta's private parlor.

He learnt that when Poppy had not been able to find Draco, she had set Filch the task of looking for him and gone to check on Harry.

"She failed to see that, although the child appeared to be sleeping, she was not making any breathing sounds."

"Glamour," Snape said to Albus in disgust.

"Yes, a Malfoy gift. But I do not blame Poppy. She was quite overwrought, you know. She told me that, in her experience, 'children rest wearing the faces of good fairies no matter how disobedient their waking mein might be', but that it was difficult for her to see Harry lying there and looking so troubled."

Snape snorted at this report of the nurse's romantic nature. "It's not like you to excuse incompetence, Headmaster," he said, cutting call short so that he could return the brats to the school.

Before leaving Hogwarts for his meeting, Severus and Minerva had gone to the dungeons to privately discuss what was to be done with Harry. The Potions master had insisted that the nurse return his wand.

"I don't think we can bring Harry up to the dormitory, Severus. He's been traumatized, and it's too soon to subject him to the enquiries--"

"Enquiries, Minerva? Is that to which you think the other children will subject Potter?"

"It is a difficult situation, of course. Until we know if his condition is . . . reversible, I would like him to remain with you."

"That is out of the question."

"Surely your dislike of the boy--"

"As was pointed out this evening, and demonstrated so dramatically today, Harry Potter is not a boy any longer--however temporary the situation may be--and for that reason alone, it would be inappropriate for . . . Potter to remain in my care."

"No one could ever accuse you of--"

"Minerva, as you well know, I have been accused of baser acts than the one to which we are obliquely referring." He held up his hand to stop her speaking. "As for my dislike of the boy, it has been forcibly proved to me that Harry is definitely not his father. In any case, you know that I cannot be seen to favor this particular student.

"Albus doesn't want to risk you, Severus. You know that. You're not going back."

They had reached Severus' private rooms. He considered her. "Albus left that choice to me, Minerva, as you well know. And I do not see how this change in the brat will have any effect on my work for the Order."

"But the school is buzzing with the news that Draco brought Harry to you for help. By now, no matter our precautions, one of the students will have found a way--"

"I'll make it work, Minerva. I must."

Severus had handed the Transfiguration mistress a cup of strong tea, and had poured himself a Scotch. The two professors had settled into stuffed chairs by the fire, and drank quietly, gathering their courage. For Severus always felt unsettled before meeting with any of the Death Eaters, and Minerva had to speak to Harry when the effects of Poppy's Dreamless Sleep draught wore off. The girl had remained in the Potions master's chamber with an attending house elf during the discussion.

"Perhaps this can wait until morning," Minerva had said just before Severus had risen to leave for his . . . appointment. "After all, I'm sure it's best not to wake the child."

Severus had said nothing. He had already known, then, that Potter would be his . . . guest.

When they at last arrived at the castle, Severus took them Harry and Draco directly to his private rooms. If only the blasted child had been asleep, thought Severus, glaring at Harry. She looked somewhat dazed, but remarkably well, considering what her day had been. I am not looking forward to this lecture, he thought, because I don't know what to say to the stupid, selfless brats. He turned to Draco, who looked as though he might speak.

"Draco, you'll take my bed--last door at the end of the corridor through the sitting room. Harry, to your room. NOT A WORD! I want you both asleep within the next ten minutes, or I WILL KILL YOU. GO! AND LEAVE THE DOORS OPEN!

When the dreadful little sprites were settled, Severus cast restraining wards around their beds, flung his robes and coat over one of the chairs in his sitting room, and fell down into his chair by the fire. He finally allowed the relief he had been reigning in since Lucius had allowed Harry and Draco to leave with him wash over his body. It carried all of his tension away, and his thoughts spilled into the welcoming black drain of sleep.

Albus Dumbledore stood looking out his windows at the night sky. He hoped his words had been appropriate after the Sorting Ceremony: As you well know, one of your number has been injured today. I, and the other professors, are doing everything necessary to keep all of you safe. I know that you will keep Harry Potter in your thoughts, and allow him to recover in peace. Everyone is to please refrain from owling home until certain matters are resolved. All of your parents have been informed of this necessity, and they know that you are well. And now I believe that we should eat.

From the looks on the faces of Hermione Granger and the assorted Weasleys, Albus knew that he'd have a very difficult time keeping Harry's friends from discovering what had happened to him.

How hard should I try to prevent them knowing?

He wished he knew what Harry would want done, but the child was sleeping in an unused room in Severus' private suite. It had held the remains of exploded cauldrons and other detritus before the house elves had cleaned it.

Exploded cauldrons, thought Albus. He felt momentarily unable to hold any other thought in his head. But soon, he permitted his mind to cast out and seek out the other people affected by recent events.

In the flat they had shared since the beginning of the previous summer, Remus Lupin and Sirius Black were silently holding each other--though Sirius was screaming inside his head. Remus rocked the other man resolutely. I know this is hard on him, but I won't allow him to hurt Harry. Sirius needed comfort just as much as Harry would, Remus knew, but Sirius was the adult here. And Sirius was still himself. Despite his earlier assertions about Harry being able to recover, Remus wasn't convinced of that fact. But I've got to keep these two whole, and together, no matter how many near-death experiences they share between them. We're all the family any of us has left.

Harry dreamt fitfully.

She had awoken with a start as the potion slid thickly down her throat, and she did not need her glasses to see that Draco's wand was pointing at her because it was resting between her breasts. Yes, my breasts, she thought, trying not to giggle.

"Do I need to Imperio you to get you to help me save Severus?"

"Could you do that?" she'd asked, genuinely curious. Everything is so interesting in this dream.

"Potter, do I?"

"No," she'd responded. "Let's go save Severus, shall we?" She had giggled, then. It was some potion Dream Draco had given her. He is sort of dreamy, even though he's a ferrety prat. I wonder if he'll want to snog again this semester, the shit.

The last thing that Draco had told her before they apparated was, "Dad likes a little introductory drama from his pets, so when I do it, you'll need to really make an impression. Got it?"

No, Harry had not, but she figured she could do it, anyway. She had seen Draco playing with Blaise more than once, though their games were not like the ones in which Draco had described his father engaging. She was glad. In sixteen years, she'd never heard the term "sexual politics," or the very graphic descriptions of it to which Draco had treated her. She began to wake up to get away from this memory, but she was simply too tired to open her eyes. She drifted off to sleep again, wondering, Who is Cleopatra, anyway?

"Perhaps Hermione will know."


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