An owl flew through the open window and skidded to a stop on the kitchen table. Harry reached over to untie the bundle of letters from its foot. He gave it a pat on the head.
"Thanks, Carmax," Harry said. He eagerly sorted though the mail that it had brought. Harry scanned over the names of the senders, then his face settled into a frown.
"What is it?" Snape asked, studying Harry's face. He nursed a mug of black coffee, as usual.
"I still haven't heard from Draco," Harry said. "There are only three weeks until school starts up again."
"Have you sent him anything?" Severus asked calmly.
"Of course," Harry replied. "Sometimes Carmax brings it back, sometimes he doesn't."
Severus set down his mug. "I suggest checking with your other friends to see if they have heard from him. I am afraid to consider what his father's reaction to the house change might have been."
"You think that maybe his father cut him off? That's something the Dursley's would do. They threatened bars on the windows a few times," Harry admitted.
"Perhaps," Severus said. "I would not put it past Lucius. If no one has heard anything, it may be time for more... extreme measures."
Harry grinned. "I knew you'd understand."
"For the record, I shall not be involved with any hair-brained schemes you might come up with."
"But off the record?" Harry prompted.
"Naturally," Severus replied easily.
Harry flashed him another smile then trotted off to pen some letters to his friends.
Have you heard from Draco? I keep writing but I don't get any response. Have you tried? I'm getting kinda worried. Let me know if you hear anything.
Harry copied the same letter onto another sheet of parchment and addressed one each to Hermione and Ron. Then, he went back down to the kitchen.
Summer was quickly drawing to a close, a thought which for the first time, saddened Harry. Every other year, he had looked forward to returning to school, if only to get away from such close contact with the Dursley's. Though Dudley tormented him at school, it was easier to avooid him and blend into the background. Despite being excited to return to Hogwarts, this summer had actually been enjoyable.
Harry spent the majority of his summer figuring out what wizarding children did with their free time when housework did not occupy every spare moment. He was also learning what it was like to spend time with a father figure. Though their time together was limited by Severus's extra organizational duties due to his position as Head of House, Harry greatly enjoyed the time they spent together. Whether they were brewing or simply playing chess, it was something unlike his previous experiences and he looked forward to the time, however little it may be.
When left to his own devices, Harry either read, or, growing bored quickly with his textbooks, enjoyed the summertime weather outside on his broom. He had to be careful not to let any muggles glimpse him, but that was all part of the fun for Harry. Severus did not allow him to go far from the house alone and Harry had yet to coax him out to fly with him farther away. He was fairly certain that there was a spare broom in the shed but he didn't push it. For now.
Though Harry was content and happy with his first real summer apart from his month at the Burrow, he did have one desire that he had not yet mentioned to Severus.
"Can we do something fun before summer is over?" Harry asked brightly, one day.
Severus lowered his paper and looked at Harry. "What did you have in mind?"
"Um," Harry pretended to think for a moment. "how about the zoo?"
"The zoo?" Severus said slowly.
"Yeah, I went there with the Dursleys the summer before Hogwarts but there was an...incident and we had to leave," Harry said. "But it was really fun."
"Er, I kind of set a snake on my cousin..." Harry said sheepishly.
Severus raised an eyebrow. "And how is it that you were not in Slytherin?"
"How is it that you adopted a Gryffindor?" Harry shot back.
"No need to become insulting," Severus replied, raising his paper once more.
Harry waited a beat. "So?"
"Ah," Severus said, as if remembering. "Fine. Say, next week?"
"Sure!" Harry agreed excitedly. "Thanks Sev!"
Severus shot Harry a dark look.
"Sorry," Harry apologized. "I kinda like 'Sev' though..."
The look got darker.
"Okay, okay," Harry relented, grabbing a pastry and pouring himself pumpkin juice.
"I cannot imagine why you would want to gaze at unremarkable animals lounging around in cages," Severus stated.
"They're not cages, they're habitats," Harry corrected. "That makes it sound a little better."
"Regardless, my point still stands," Severus replied, undisturbed.
Harry shrugged. "I thought we could recreate a fun memory of mine simply without the Dursleys."
"As long as you do not set a snake on me," Severus stipulated casually.
"Deal," Harry said with a grin.
It was not until the next morning that Carmax returned with the replies form Ron and Hermione. Both had said that they had not heard anything. Hermione suggested that perhaps he was on holiday in another country, but Ron's letter said that his father had seen Mr. Malfoy in the Ministry the week before. Harry scowled.
"Hey, Severus?" Harry asked, walking into the sitting room where Snape sat at the writing desk.
"Neither Ron nor Hermione have seen Draco. What should we do?"
Severus paused in his writing and leaned back in the chair.
"Why don't you invite your friends over?" he suggested.
"Uh, alright," Harry said, unsure of what that would solve. "Hermione won't be able to come, though. Her house isn't connected to the Floo network."
Severus nodded and returned to his work.
Harry penned out the request to Ron and sent it through the Floo for speed. After a few minutes, a redhead stepped out of the Floo. It was not, however the one that Harry had expected. Severus looked up as well, his emotionless face flickering briefly in surprise.
"Er, hi Fred, what are you doing here?" Harry asked, trying not to sound unwelcoming.
"My baby brother refused to come the the great menacing Professor Snape's house by himself, let alone first. My brother should be coming through in a moment," he said casually. "Hey there, Professor."
The Floo flared again and once more Harry was surprised. By "my brother", Harry had assumed that he meant Ron. Instead, George was the one who stepped out.
Severus raised an eyebrow. "Is this a Weasley family gathering?"
George turned toward Severus dramatically. "Why hello, Professor Snape! Is this your lovely home I find myself in?"
Severus rewarded him with a glare. With one last flare, the Floo deposited Ron. He looked embarrassed."And we present the main attraction, Ronald Weasley," The twins said in unison, gesturing grandly to their younger brother. Ron reddened further.
Fred said, "Can you dismiss your body guards now? I don't think the Professor is about to eat you."
Ron nodded weakly and they stepped towards the Floo.
"Wait," Severus commanded. The twins turned, shock obvious on their faces. "We may have need of your devious minds if mine alone is insufficient."
They glanced at each other and shrugged. They took a seat beside Ron on the couch.
Everyone seemed to look to Severus to lead the impromptu "meeting".
"It seems that we might possibly have a situation on our hands. Draco Malfoy, whom you are all familiar with, has not been heard from since the close of last year. I am unsure of his current situation, though last I heard, his father was extremely unhappy with him."
They simply looked at him.
"And you need us...why?" George asked.
"I believe that, based on my knowledge and past experiences with Lucius Malfoy, it can safely be assumed that Draco is being held against his will," Severus said. "If you care to assist, I would implement a rescue, shall we say."
"Operation: Save the Slythendor," George said with relish.
"Have you tried a scrying spell?" Fred suggested.
"Of course," Severus snapped. "All it tells me is that he is at the Malfoy manor. Their wards prevent anything more detailed. They have anti-apparation barriers and motion spells lining the grounds."
"What about the air?" George said mischievously.
Severus frowned. "I do not believe so. Brooms, were you thinking?"
The twins shared another look. "Er, not quite..."
Ron began to grin.
"I cannot believe I agreed to this," Severus said darkly from behind the wheel of Mr. Weasley's Ford Anglia.
"You should've let Ron and the twins come. After all, its their car," Harry pointed out.
"It is their father's illegal car. That is the only reason I am okay with 'borrowing' it," Severus said. "I assume you do not want them to get in trouble?"
"Well, no," Harry admitted.
"I will be able to return it without Mr. or Mrs. Weasley's knowledge. They will not," Severus said. "Now, can we get this over with?"
"Let's go," Harry said gamely.
Severus put a silencing charm on the entire car before firing it up. He pushed a button on the dash and the car ascended into the air over the Burrow. He steered it away and out into the night. He flew high into the clouds so that there would not be accidental sightings by Muggles. It took a good twenty minutes to reach the Malfoy manor. As it came into sight, Harry considered that it looked reminiscent of a smaller Hogwarts.
"The barriers are coming up. I hope this works," Severus said as he pressed the invisibility button. Harry leaned his head out the window and looked back at the door on which his weight rested. There was nothing there that he could see.
"It worked," Harry said.
Severus circled lower around the manor.
"To the best of my memory, Draco's room is on the left side," Severus said, steering that way.
"There!" Harry said. He could see through thick bars on the window that there was a small blonde boy sitting cross-legged on the bed. Severus pulled up next to the window and Harry poked his head out.
"Draco!" he hissed. The boy whipped around, eyes searching in the night.
"Harry?" he said in shock. "How- why is your head just floating there?"Harry leaned over to push the invisibility button on the dash. The car flickered back into view.
"A flying car?" Harry interrupted. "Yes. Are you okay, Draco? Why the bars on the windows?"
Draco hesitated. In the darkness, he looked especially thin and pale. "I told my dad about the house change. He didn't take it well. My mom has been sneaking me food though."
Harry glanced wordlessly at Severus who nodded once.
"Do you have your things packed? You can come with us. We'll break you out," Harry offered.
"Us? Who- oh, hello, Professor," Draco said. "I'll get my things."
Within a few moments, he had packed his trunk and was levitating it to the window.
"Uh, what about the bars?" Draco asked.
Harry tossed him a set of chains that they had found in the Weasleys' shed. "Hook those around the bars."
Draco did so and Harry managed to open his door and hook the other end to something on the underside of the car. He hoped that it was strong and unimportant.
"Go," he told Severus.
Severus pulled out and the metal screeched, pulling the nails out of the stone. Once the connection had been severed, it came unhooked from the chain and fell with a resounding crash to the ground.
"We best hurry," Severus advised calmly.
Harry nodded as he returned the car to the window. Severus popped open the trunk.
Draco levitated his trunk into the back as a yell resounded from inside. Harry opened his door for Draco to climb in.
"DRACO!" a voice screamed from within the house.
Draco scrambled onto his headboard and had one leg out the window when Lucius Malfoy burst in.
"Get back in here this instant," he growled.
"Come on," Harry urged.
Draco swung his other leg out the window as Harry grabbed his hand. He was just about to pull Draco inside when Lucius grabbed hold of his shirt. Harry pulled anyway, as hard as he could. He was surprised at how light he was. Draco's shirt ripped and he fell face first into the car. Harry pulled the door closed and Severus hit the gas.
"You okay?" Harry asked Draco.
"Yeah," he replied. "Thanks, Harry, Professor."
They flew away into the night.
"You may stay at our house until the end of summer," Severus offered.
Draco nodded in acceptance. The car ride was strangely silent as they returned the car to the Burrow. They landed softly on the grass and Harry and Draco exited so that Severus could return it as they found it. While they waited, a voice called softly from behind them. Harry and Draco turned and looked up to see Ron hanging out of the window smiling an waving.
"Glad you're okay!" he called.
"Thanks!" Draco replied earnestly.
Severus returned and side-along apparated them one at a time to Spinner's end. When they arrived, Midgy brought out three hot chocolates. Once gone, Harry stood.
"Come on, I'll show you where you can sleep."
Draco followed Harry up to the guest room next to his.
"Goodnight," Harry said tiredly. "If you need anything just ask."
"Thank you, Harry," Draco replied. "Goodnight."
Harry retreated to his room and collapsed on his bed, exhausted but satisfied. He hoped that, should he ever be in a situation like that, his friends would come and save him. Not that such a thing would ever happen now, but at one time, it was not inconceivable. Harry pulled up the covers and closed his eyes, glad that it had all worked out as it did.