The very next morning, at breakfast, a knock sounded on the front door. Severus laid down his coffee and paper and strode to the door. Harry and Draco exchanged looks.
Opening the door, he instantly adopted a stiff posture.
"Lucius," he said dryly.
"May I help you?" he asked, betraying no emotion.
"Where is my son?" Lucius demanded. As an afterthought, he added, "Can I come in?"
Lucius's eyes narrowed. "Why? Because Draco is in there? I know Harry Potter," he spat the name with disgust, "came in a flying car last night to steal him away. What do you have to say to that?"
"I have no knowledge of such a thing. As far as I know, Harry was in his room all night," Severus lied.
"I say he wasn't-" Lucius began on a rampage.
Severus held up a hand, "Shall we simply resolve the matter?" He turned halfway. "Harry! Come here," Severus demanded, partially to make it seem as if Harry was to be punished if he was involved (for appearance's sake) and partially so that Harry would want this to be private. It was essential that Draco stay behind in the kitchen. Knowing Harry, it was very possible that he had been eavesdropping which would actually help in this situation.
A startled-looking Harry entered the corridor. "Yes?"
Lucius pushed the door open further. "Where is Draco?" he demanded.
"I don't know sir," Harry replied in a passable lie for it was understandable that he would be rather startled by the situation. "No one has heard from him all summer."
Lucius growled. Harry looked at Severus. Through unspoken contact, Severus instructed him to, as soon as possible, slip Draco the Invisibility cloak.
"I know you had a hand in this!" Lucius fumed. "I saw you! Don't lie to me, boy." He charged at Harry, whipping out his wand.
Instinctively, Severus threw up an arm, preventing him from touching the child.
"Harry, leave us for a moment please," Severus said as a cue to get the cloak.
Harry understood and headed up to his room. Severus turned back to Lucius.
"I recall that I did not invite you into my house," Severus said darkly. "Nevertheless, given the situation, I will allow you to search my house if it will make you go away. You may not, however, harm my son."
A step on the stairs squeaked seemingly by itself. Lucius, in his fury, took no notice.
Lucius glared. "Your son? You have no son. You betrayed the Dark Lord, Severus, don't forget that. I have absolutely no reason to obey scum like you."
Severus merely shrugged and stepped out of his way. He hoped that had given Harry enough time to return to the kitchen and cover Draco. Lucius stormed into the hall, cane clacking against the floorboards. He peered into the kitchen. Severus stepped up and saw nobody but Harry sitting at the table.
"How-" Lucius's eyes narrowed at Harry. "You wen't upstairs."
"I came back down, you mustn't have seen me," Harry said innocently.
Lucius growled again and proceeded to the next room. When he had searched to his heart's content, Lucius returned to the hall.
"I don't know what kind of trick you're pulling here, but I know that Draco is in this house," he said.
"How do you know that?"Lucius glared. "I saw Harry last night. I know. I'll be back."
With those parting words, he stormed out of the house, door slamming behind him.
Severus gave an uncharacteristic sigh and turned to Harry.
"Well done," he said. "But it will not be safe for Draco here any longer."
"Why not?" Harry asked in alarm. "We can just hide him with the cloak again."
Severus shook his head. "There is a spell that can locate blood relatives within a certain vicinity. Lucius knows this. It is dark magic and requires several illegal ingredients. I suppose he has gone to collect them."
"Oh," Harry said sadly. "What, then?"
"He is only friends with you, Ms. Granger and Mr. Weasley correct?"
"The Weasleys would be too easily compromised due to Lucius's extensive connections at the ministry," he mused aloud. "Do you suppose he could stay with the Granger's? Lucius would never deign to check a muggle family for his pureblood son. Will you owl?"
"Sure," Harry said, returning to the kitchen.
"He's gone Draco," Harry said to the apparently empty kitchen.
Draco appeared out of nowhere and bundled up the cloak. Harry quickly summed up what Severus had told him.
"So would you mind staying with Hermione if they agree?" Harry asked.
"No," Draco replied. "Anything to not go back there."
Harry nodded, feeling much the same way about the Dursleys. He penned out a quick letter to Hermione explaining the situation. Addressing the envelope, he handed it to Carmax. "Fly fast and wait for a reply," Harry told him before launching him out the window.
The atmosphere in the room was tense. Harry tried to lighten the mood.
"Want to play some chess?" he asked Draco.
"I guess," Draco said unenthusiastically.
They headed off to Harry's room. After a few games which Harry won easily due to his more or less "intense" training with Ron, Carmax came pecking at the window.
Harry unfolded the letter and read it aloud. "Dear Harry, I am very happy that Draco is okay and out of that awful situation. I talked with my parents and they said they would be happy to have one of my school friends stay for a while. It will not be a problem. Can we meet you at King's Cross in an hour? Signed, Hermione."
Harry smiled at Draco. "You're going to live with dentists!"
"What?" he asked.
"Er, they clean teeth."
Draco gave him a quizzical look.
"Never mind," Harry breathed. He and Draco went downstairs.
"Severus?" Harry asked. "They'd like to meet at King's Cross in an hour."
"That will be fine," he said. "Though we will need to get back quickly. I do not know what kind of connections Mr. Malfoy has for illegal supplies. Personally, it would take me a few hours to procure such things; his contacts may be more expeditious."
Harry raised an eyebrow.
Severus merely shrugged and went back to his work. When the time came, Severus repeated the side-along apparation process to King's Cross. Harry stood looking around until Snape and Draco appeared beside them.
"They should be here soon," Harry said as they took a seat on a bench underneath which they pushed Draco's trunk. "I've never met Hermione's parents."
"Harry! Draco!" a feminine voice from behind them called. "Oh, and Professor Snape."
"Hermione!" Harry and Draco responded at the same time. They stood to give her a hug. Hermione pulled back and gave Draco a long look.
"I'm so glad that you're okay," she said. Hermione gestured to the reserved looking couple behind her. "These are my parents. Mom, dad, this is Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter."
They smiled graciously and shook hands.
"I'm Severus Snape, Harry's guardian and Potions Master at Hogwarts," Severus introduced when Hermione faltered.
After another round of handshakes, Harry decided that they seemed very nice.
"We'd be glad to have Draco," Mrs. Granger said. "It's a shame about your family emergency. I hope it goes alright," she said to Severus, who didn't react. "It's horribly cold in Finland; do dress warm."
"We will, thank you for being considerate," Severus said, ignoring Hermione's blush. He pulled out the trunk and handed it to Mr. Granger.
"We must be going then," Hermione said, "maybe we can meet up in Diagon Alley when I buy my books?"
Harry looked to Severus who nodded. "Sure," he said. "Just let me know when."
She promised that she would so, with goodbyes all around, they departed. Harry and Severus made it home just in time. It was barely five minutes before a sharp rap on the door brought Severus to attention.
He looked at Harry. "Follow my lead."
Harry nodded and stayed in the sitting room while Severus went to the door.
"I'm back," he heard Lucius say.
"Obviously," Snape replied. Harry grinned lightly imagining his guardian's accompanying sneer.
"May I come in?" Lucius's voice struggled for relative politeness.
"I'd prefer you didn't, but I do not believe I have a choice," Severus told him.
The slam of the door told Harry that Lucius had stepped inside.
"If Draco is truly not here, you will not object to my preforming a Blood Bound spell?" Lucius's voice sounded, growing nearer.
"I suppose not. Though I am loathe to allow Harry to witness Dark Magic."
"A good learning experience," he replied harshly.
Severus was silent. Lucius stopped in front of the sitting room. "This room will do."
"Harry, leave please," Severus said. It was not a request.
Lucius's lip curled. "Touching, Severus. Stay Harry."
Harry experienced a moment of conflict. He dearly wanted to see what this spell entailed but it would mean disobeying a direct order from Severus. In the end, he decided that his loyalty to Severus was more important. Harry left.
"How sweet, Severus," Lucius said adopting a tone such as one he would use with a child. "He really does love you."
"Severus Snape: one, Lucius Malfoy: zero," Severus sneered with a glare. "Now can we get on with this?"
Lucius took out a small bundle. Unrolling it, he revealed a piece of chalk and several small containers of crushed powders. Severus instantly recognized them as highly illegal and equally as desirable for a potion maker such as him. He felt a stab of envy of Lucius's connections. Malfoy used his wand to fling the carpet away and expose the hardwood floor.
Ever desiring to avoid menial tasks, Lucius snapped his fingers. "Dobby."
A small house elf in soiled rags appeared beside Lucius looking nervous.
"Take that piece of chalk and draw a pentagram. It must be perfect. No line should be over one meter long," he snapped.
"Yes, master," Dobby said, taking up the chalk.
It took him several minutes to finish but the resulting Pentagram was indeed perfect.
"Leave," Malfoy ordered. Dobby disappeared instantly.
Lucius put the powders into bowls hewn from ash and set one at each tip of the pentagram. Severus stood calmly watching the process. The last item that he drew from the bundle was a silver dagger.
"Globin revelio," He began to incant. He mumbled a long string of words then started over. As he did so, he drew the dagger over his palm. When the blood began to flow, he clenched his fist and held it over the very center of the pentagram. When a single drop of blood fell onto the hardwood floor, Lucius jerked his hand back so that it would remain a solitary drop. Severus reflected that he must either really care about his son or really want to be able to punish Severus or Harry for their parts.
A white light flared from the center of pentagram outwards. When it reached the chalk, it flew up into a column that lit the room. With something akin to an explosion of light, it flew to pieces and passed through the walls without heed to their physical nature. A large crash was heard from upstairs. The light returned, flared blue once, then dissolved, indicating that it had located one blood relative. Lucius grinned viciously.
"Are you familiar with this spell, Severus?" Lucius asked with an air of superiority. "It immobilizes the subject. And you said that Draco wasn't here."
Severus could do naught but stare. Possibilities whirred in his mind. As far as he knew, only Harry was upstairs. Oh, Merlin- that could not be. Despite his mental discipline, his heart picked up speed. He forced his voice to remain steady as he said, "Shall we go see?"
Lucius swept from the room, a shaken Severus striding in his wake.
Harry walked dejectedly up the stairs, disappointed that he had not been allowed to witness whatever was going on. He allayed his angry thoughts with the fact that Severus had seemed to send him away for his best interests. That was a lie that all adults told children, but no one had ever told Harry that so he was at least slightly touched.
He trudged into his room and opened the latest book of interest. It described the best ways to fight dark creatures. Most of it simply washed over Harry for he did not understand, but some he found interesting. The author was a fair artist as well and his renderings of the creatures were sometimes amusing. Harry assumed that they would not be so in real life.
A small pop made Harry glance up. A house elf stood at the foot of his bed. Its clothes were ragged, which was unusual for Harry to see.
"Midgy?" he asked. "What happened to your towel?"
"H-harry Potter?" it stammered, eyes huge. After a second glance and hearing its voice, Harry decided that this wasn't Midgy.
"You aren't Midgy." Harry frowned.
"I is Dobby, sir."
"I'm Harry Potter, but you know that," Harry said. "You want me to get you a fresh tea towel like Midgy wears? Yours is looking a little old."
His eyes grew even wider. "Harry Potter offers Dobby a new cloth? Dobby has heard of your greatness, sir, but not of your goodness."
"Er," Harry began. Before he could finish whatever it was that he was going to say, Dobby had run across the room to the bed. He squeaked and slammed his head against the lower rail that held the mattress.
"What are you doing?" Harry asked, alarmed but not wanting to raise his voice very loud lest they hear him downstairs. He pulled Dobby away.
"Dobby almost spoke ill of his masters sir," the small creature said, shaking. "Dobby is not to do that. He must punish himself."
"Don't punish yourself, Dobby. That's an order from me," Harry said in the hopes that his influence would work over the elf.
Dobby gave a sad smile. "You is so kind. That is why Harry Potter must not go back to Hogwarts," he said in a voice that made it seem imperative. He ran to the bedside stand and pulled out a drawer to slam his head on.
"What?" Harry asked, while roughly prying Dobby's fingers away from the drawer. Harry gave up and let him keep it for he had stopped hitting himself with it. "Of course I'm going back to Hogwarts. Its like my second home. And Severus works there."
"But bad things will happen!" Dobby yelled. "Dobby doesn't want bad things to hurt Harry Potter!"
"Well, thanks, Dobby, but I have to go back," Harry said, confused but touched. "I can handle myself."
Dobby shook his small head then froze with a flash of white light. The drawer tumbled from his immobile fingers to the floor with a crash.
"Dobby?" Harry asked. "Dobby!"
Harry heard footsteps on the stairs. He panicked and backed up a few steps, afraid he would be blamed for what had happened. Harry's door flew open to reveal Lucius's triumphant face. He glanced around the room and his eyes fell on the statue-like figure of Dobby. His face fell. Severus edged his way into the room. Upon seeing Harry, free and mobile, albeit almost frozen in fear, Severus's face showed intense relief. Harry's fears abated somewhat though his sense of confusion mounted.
With a wave of Lucius's wand, Dobby was free. "What are you doing up here?" he snapped furiously.
"When master told Dobby to leave, he thought master meant to leave the room. Dobby was invited in by Harry Potter," the elf said tremulously.
Harry nodded in confirmation.
Lucius's eyes narrowed. "Then why the drawer? Were you punishing yourself?"
Dobby nodded weakly.
Harry stepped in. "I offered to get him a tea towel to wear like Midgy does, sir. His rags were pretty dirty. Then he just started hitting himself with the drawer. I tried to stop him then he froze."
Before Lucius could respond, Severus said, "I did not realize that a house elf was considered blood."
"Neither did I," Lucius admitted. "The binding spell must make him essentially part of the family," he said with disgust.
Dobby was shaking.
"Come with me, Dobby," Lucius said. Turning to Severus he added, "It appears that Draco is not here. I do not believe that you had no part in this. Should I prove that you did, you will deeply regret it."
Severus made a mental note to teach Draco Occlumency just in case. Lucius did not have the skill for Legilimency, however, he was fairly certain of that. Severus inclined his head. "I would expect no less from a former Death Eater."
"Former, Severus?" Lucius growled. "What, has your mark up and disappeared? I am still a Death Eater, Severus, as are you. When the Dark Lord returns to power, you will rue the day you were born," he said with relish. Lucius turned his blonde head to Harry. "Your fate will be worse."
Lucius prodded Dobby out of the room with the butt of his cane. Neither Harry nor Snape moved until the door slammed from downstairs.
Harry let out a deep breath. "Oh my."
"Don't believe him, Harry," Severus said gently.
"I don't really, but I know that he will try to punish us," Harry looked up. "Try, not succeed."
Severus's lip curled slightly. "Indeed. Now what was the elf really doing up here?"
"You didn't believe my lie?"
"I know you better than Malfoy," Severus replied.
Harry recounted Dobby's warning. Severus did not appear especially troubled.
"There has been trouble at Hogwarts in the past. I do feel better that I will be near to you, and I believe that I can keep you protected," Severus said.
"But what if it doesn't only affect me?" Harry asked. "Dobby talked like it would happen either way, he just wanted me to be safe."
Severus said, "I think that between the two of us, we can protect at least those you care about the most. Though I suppose we will have to wait to see what the threat is. If there is one."
Harry nodded. "Thanks for everything you've done to help Draco, Severus. You haven't really made your situation any better by doing that."
Severus rolled his eyes. "I am far beyond the point of caring."
Harry smiled. Then asked, "Why did you look so relieved when you walked in?"Severus's face was inscrutable. "When we heard a crash and the spell revealed a blood relative upstairs, I thought you were alone up here. So naturally, I thought there had been some mistake years ago and that you were..."
Harry gave an exaggerated shudder. "Thank merlin that's not the case. I don't look like a Malfoy, so I?"
"Most definitely not. Let us go get something to eat," Severus suggested.
"Agreed," Harry said, acutely aware of his growing hunger.
Together, they left the room and went downstairs.