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Warning--implied child abuse in this one!

The Dursleys were going on vacation, Harry learned as soon as he set foot back on Privet Drive. To Paris and Normandy in France. Dudley wasted no time in bragging about the trip to his less fortunate cousin, which Vernon had been awarded as a perk because he had just gotten a promotion and signed a huge account.

"Dad has tickets enough for me and Mum, but not you, freaky Harry," sneered Dudley nastily. "So guess what you get to do? Stay home all by yourself, aww . . .poor wittle baby!"

Harry gave Dudley a sharp glare. "Shut it, Diddydumpling. I don't care if I am home alone." It would be three days of blessed peace and quiet, of nothing to do but relax and watch TV for once, until Snape came to get him.

"Don't call me that, reject!" Dudley shoved him hard, nearly knocking Harry into the wall of his bedroom. Aunt Petunia had instructed Harry to go up and help his spoiled whale of a cousin pack for his trip.

"Why not? Your darling mum does," Harry teased, wincing as his shoulder protested.

The Dursleys were still as horrid as ever, nine months away hadn't changed that, he thought glumly. Except Harry didn't need to suck up to them as much any more, now that he would be spending summers with Severus. Harry knew his relatives would be jumping for joy when they learned that Harry was no longer their responsibility over the summer or the holidays, thanks to his Uncle Toby's decision to adopt him. They had barely batted an eyelash when he had told them of his mother's distant relative from America, who had paid for him to have corrective eye surgery. "Too bad there isn't surgery to correct your freakiness too, boy," Vernon had remarked coldly, eying his nephew in disgust. "Maybe you can ask this uncle of yours to get you a lobotomy too, huh?" He guffawed and Dudley followed suit, giggling like a demented hyena.

Harry had not bothered to reply to that, instead he acted like he didn't understand Vernon's insinuation, and left to help Petunia prepare dinner. She hadn't made any derogatory comments about his new eyes, except to say that this man better not expect them to reimburse him. Harry had reassured that Tobias Knight would never think of doing that. "He owns a winery in Napa Valley, he has enough money to pay for surgery and then some." Harry improvised swiftly.

"Is he . . .one of them?" Petunia asked, stirring a pot of potatoes.

"A wizard? Yeah. He went to school with my mother," Harry answered, ignoring Petunia's flinch. It was ridiculous, the way she was so magic-phobic, she couldn't even say the words "magic" or "wizard", much like the way most wizards refused to say Voldemort's name aloud. Sometimes, Harry longed to just yell "Boo! I'm a wizard and can do magic!" right in her pinched face, but he knew better.

He had learned early on as a child that nothing brought the wrath of Vernon and Petunia down on his head quicker than using those forbidden words. The one and only spanking he had ever received from Petunia had been because he had innocently told their next-door neighbor that he could do magic sometimes, he'd been five. Petunia had been mortified, though their neighbor, the funny old cat lady Arabella Figg, had just laughed and said children had such good imaginations these days. But Petunia had not been amused and she had made her disapproval plain upon Harry's bum as soon as she had dragged him inside, spanking him soundly on his bare bottom and then throwing him in his cupboard. Harry had cried himself to sleep, and when he had woken up he had found himself in Severus's lab, snuggled in the dark angel's lap. That had prompted one of the many discussions between the wizard and his ward about the true nature of magic.

Petunia had shuddered, then hissed, "Do not use that word, boy! You know it's filthy and obscene!" She reached out and gave his ear a pinch. "Now get out of my sight and help Dudley pack."

So he had gone dutifully upstairs, reasoning the sooner they were packed, the sooner they would leave, only Dudley was in one of his nasty moods and all he wanted to do was torment Harry. Only Harry had changed from the diffident boy he had been forced to become under the thumb of the Dursleys and he decided to have a little revenge upon his bullying cousin.

 

Dudley looked like he was going to sock him one in his already sore shoulder, so Harry wriggled his fingers threateningly and said, "How'd you like to go to France with frog's legs, Duddy? I heard they're a delicacy there."

Dudley went backwards so fast he crashed into the wall, his hands covering his bum, his plump face ghost-white. "N-No, please! No more magic . . .Harry, don't!"

"How about a weight loss spell?" Harry waved his arms theatrically and cried, "Bibbitty boppitty abracadabra wallalacazam!" Dudley squealed like a murdered pig. "Look, you're a size smaller already. You can fit in the airplane now, Big D!"

"Change me back! Right now!" his cousin was bawling. "Or else I'm telling Dad."

"Okay, quit freaking out," Harry said quickly, not wanting to get in trouble with Vernon his first day home. He pointed his finger at his cousin, who was shaking and said, "Shazam! There, now you're back to normal."

Dudley stopped trembling and gave his cousin a look of fury. Then he shrieked, "MUM! HARRY TRIED TO MAGIC ME WITH SOME FREAKY SPELL HE LEARNED AT THAT CRAZY SCHOOL!"

"You stupid sodding tattletale!" Harry cried, knowing he was in for it now.

"Harry James Potter! Get down here this instant!"

Harry groaned, wishing he'd kept his temper.

"Now you're in for it, freak!" Dudley chortled. "It's back to the cupboard for you!"

Harry flicked a finger at him as he went past, and Dudley flinched. Then he continued down the stairs to face Petunia's wrath.

* * * * * *

 

Harry didn't end up back in his cupboard, though for his "attempt upon her precious Diddykin's life", Petunia decided he couldn't be trusted at home alone by himself and said he needed a babysitter. "So we don't come home to a pile of rubble from you experimenting with your evil powers, boy!"

A babysitter? What does she think I am, seven? "Sorry, Aunt Petunia, it was an accident."

"That's what all your kind say," she snorted. "Now, who can I get to come over and put up with you on such short notice...?"

"Uh . . .Mrs. Figg?" Harry suggested helpfully. She was batty and had too many cats, but Harry liked her, she had often watched him when the Dursleys had gone on vacation when he was small.

"She's in the hospital, had some kind of angina attack. Probably from having so many cats. So she's out." Petunia rubbed her chin thoughtfully. Then she smiled coldly. "Well, there is one other person . . .and I know she's not busy . . ."

"Who?" Harry asked warily, feeling dread settle in his breastbone.

"Marge. She can come here and keep an eye on you while we're away." Petunia declared. "You won't be able to try any of your tricks with her here, you wretched boy. I'll tell her she can bring Ripper too."

Harry felt his heart sink to the bottom of his shoes. He'd really done it this time. Marge, who was Vernon's sister, a huge woman with a loud mouth and a nasty disposition, was bad enough, and now he not only had to endure her, but her bulldog too, who had enjoyed biting him when he was six, and had chased him up a tree once.

Good one, Harry. Now you get to spend three days with Mrs. Grinch and her psycho bulldog. Way to go, Mr. Snape.

"But Aunt Petunia, I don't really need a sitter, I'm eleven, I can take care of myself . . ."

"Quiet, boy! You're mentally unstable, due to your freaky heritage, and you cannot be trusted to behave yourself without an adult around to keep an eye and a firm hand on you." Petunia said crossly. "I'll phone Marge right now . . ."

Harry watched her dial the number, wishing he really could use magic outside of school, so he could Obliviate or Confund Petunia. Then he prayed that Marge would have something she had to do, like attend a confederation for nasty women or an association for psycho pet owners, and had to refuse Petunia's request.

But no such luck. Marge was not doing anything important and agreed to come and stay at Privet Drive for two weeks and keep an eye on Vernon's delinquent criminal nephew.

* * * * * *

 

 Harry bid a relieved yet reluctant farewell to his relatives the next morning, putting their suitcases and travel bags into the boot of the car at four AM, and enduring a sharp lecture from Vernon about behaving for Marge, who would be arriving sometime around ten or eleven in the morning.

"I had better not have any complaints about you from my sister, boy. Or else you can spend the rest of the summer locked up in your room, peeling paint off the walls. Clear?" He gave Harry a wickedly cold stare.

"Yes, Uncle Vernon."

"Now get back inside and start cleaning the kitchen. I don't want Marge seeing the house a wreck." He shoved Harry towards the house and then started the car.

Harry went and watched them drive away from the front window, barely able to suppress a cheer. Bon voyage, Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon! Hope you don't come back for a long time. He turned away and went into the kitchen to clean it up, since he didn't want Marge to start picking on him first thing.

After that he decided he was going back to bed for awhile, he had a few blessed hours before the Nazi showed up. But just as he was about to head back upstairs, a barn owl tapped at the kitchen window holding a letter.

Harry opened the window and greeted the owl, fed it a piece of buttered toast from his own breakfast, then took the letter it had brought. Maybe it's from Severus.

He opened it, recognizing Snape's elegant handwriting upon the envelope. The parchment was so new it crackled when he unfolded it.

Dear Harry,

There has been some sort of bureaucratic delay in filing your custody papers, typical of the Ministry, the damn parchment-pushing procrastinators! They won't be filed until the end of the week, which means I cannot remove you from the Muggles any sooner than Saturday at the earliest. I apologize, I know I said it would only be three days and if I could speed up the snail's pace they work at, I would. God knows they need somebody over there to light a fire under their backsides. Merlin grant me patience!

I'm sorry for the delay, son. If it weren't for the fact that the blood wards were paramount for your safety, I would say to hell with it and get you now, but I refuse to risk your life. I will see you as soon as possible, Harry. Try and stay out of trouble until then.

Love,

Dad

 

Harry snarled a word that would have earned him two minutes with Snape's infamous "mouthwash". Then he sighed and folded the letter carefully and went back upstairs to catch up on his sleep, for he would need all his energy and fortitude to deal with Marge and her spoiled bulldog.

* * * * * *

 

The first three days were not so bad, Harry made sure to stay out of Marge's way, mostly, save for preparing meals and doing the occasional dusting and cleaning. Marge was a huge woman in her early forties, Vernon's older sister, and his only sibling. She had big pouffy hair dyed a shade of dark blond that made her look like a circus sideshow member, though Harry would never dare to tell her that. She thudded when she walked, and she dressed in loud prints and bold colors, like screaming green and eggplant and blazing hot magenta and brilliant yellow. She also wore high heels and ropes of pearls about her neck, wrists, and gold rings on nearly all of her stubby fingers.

Her bulldog, Ripper, accompanied her everywhere, and was a slobbering, drooling fat animal with a nasty temper. Harry, who normally liked animals, detested him, for the dog had bitten him badly on several occasions as a small child. He huddled right next to his obese mistress, eating the scraps that fell from her plate and farting and growling at Harry every time the boy went by.

All of that he could have tolerated, though Marge did tend to make snide little comments to him. When she had first arrived, she had said, "I see you're still here, boy, living off the goodwill and charity of my brother like the slinking little rat you are. Still go to St. Brutus's, boy?"

St. Brutus's was a juvenile detention center for children with criminal backgrounds and tendencies. Vernon and Petunia had told everyone they had sent Harry there, so no one would question where he really went to school. As a result, he now had a reputation as some kind of juvenile delinquent in the neighborhood.

Harry nodded shortly. "Yes, ma'am."

"Humph! Figures, hope they discipline you right there. Boys like you need a firm hand. They use a cane at St. Brutus's, boy?" she inquired nastily.

"Oh, yeah, they've beaten me with one loads of times," he lied, wishing he could tell her to shove it where the sun didn't shine.

"Good. Teach you some respect. You mind your manners with me, boy, else I've a cane right here that I can use on you," she threatened, indicating her paisley painted walking stick.

"Yes, ma'am," Harry said through clenched teeth, cursing the Ministry roundly in his head.

At mealtimes he fed Marge and Ripper first, eating only after she had gone, for he had no wish to sit at a table with her, she was a most unpleasant woman, with a shrill laugh and fingers that pinched. She was forever grabbing his arm, to tell him to fetch her this or that, and Harry was sure he was going to have bruises by the end of the week.

The dog was just as bad, he chewed up Petunia's Aubosson carpet in the den and peed on Vernon's golf clubs, which were in a stand in the hall. Then he managed to knock over the trash and eat God-knows what out of it and get sick all over. Marge was beside herself, weeping and wailing over her "precious little angel!" and blaming Harry for not watching the dog. But Harry was used to that, whenever something went wrong at the Dursleys, he was blamed. And he was stuck cleaning up after the animal too, naturally.

Merlin, Dad, hurry up. I know it's not your fault, but I really need to get out of here, before I either go round the bend or commit murder.

Four days had gone by since Marge's arrival, and by then Harry was heartily sick of the woman's complaints, demands, and nasty comments. He wished he'd stowed away in the car, even living homeless at the airport was better than being Marge's servant. She was even worse than Vernon, the overbearing opinionated beldame. He had secretly nicknamed her Mrs. Grinch, for she was as mean and nasty as the character in the old Dr. Seuss book he'd read when he was six. He found himself humming the tune to the Christmas special often when he encountered her in the living room or the kitchen, for she was continuously in the fridge, stuffing her face, just like her brother and Dudley, she was a compulsive eater.

But the final straw occurred the afternoon of the fifth day, when Harry discovered Ripper in his room, shredding up the carpet, peeing on his brand-new Mystic trainers, and horror of horrors, chewing on the end of his Nimbus 2000. Harry had managed to keep his trunk of school supplies with him in Dudley's second bedroom by allowing Vernon to padlock it (he didn't know Harry could unlock the trunk with a charm), and he had put his Nimbus in a corner next to the armoire, he had been meaning to hang it up on the wall, but hadn't had time to find some hooks.

And now here was the damn bulldog, gleefully chewing his prize broom to splinters.

"Hey!" he yelled. "Get off that, you blasted mutt!"

He raced up and tried to yank the broom out of the bulldog's mouth, but Ripper snarled and refused to let go.

"Stop, you demented bugger! Give. . .it . . .back!" Harry struggled and wrestled, to no avail.

Ripper continued to gnaw and growl, his bulldog jaws locked tight on the Nimbus's handle.

Harry continued to tug, dragging the bulldog around the room, for the stubborn canine would not relinquish his hold. "Dammit to hell!"

Hedwig flew in the window just then and screeched loudly.

"Help, Hedwig!" shouted Harry. "He's wrecking my Nimbus."

The snowy owl flew down, screeching and nipping at the fat dog, and even piercing him lightly with her talons.

Ripper yelped but his jaws remained fast, no matter how hard Harry pulled on the broom or Hedwig nipped and scratched him. Between Harry yelling, Hedwig screeching, and Ripper snarling, it was chaos in the bedroom and the commotion brought Marge huffing and puffing to investigate.

"What the bloody hell is going on in here?" she thundered, upon seeing the owl and the boy trying to wrest Ripper's chew toy from him. "You let my dog be, boy!"

"Tell your dog to give me back my Nimbus!" Harry cried, incensed. "He's ruining it and it's expensive! Make him let go!"

Marge gasped. "That piece of junk, expensive? Don't lie to me, boy! You think I'm stupid? I wasn't born yesterday. You got that thing in some rummage sale. Now leave off, you little hooligan, and let my baby alone!"

Harry saw red then. He gave a mighty heave, twisting hard, and he heard something snap and suddenly, Ripper released the Nimbus and Harry tumbled backward onto the bed, clutching his broom to his chest.

Ripper was shaking his head and panting, his jaws flecked with pinkish slobber and one of his teeth was a little crooked. He bared his teeth and growled at Hedwig, who was still diving at him.

"Filthy bird!" yelled Marge, swiping at the owl with her cane. "Get out of here before I make you into soup!"

Hedwig cried out in pain as one of the fat woman's blows struck her.

"Stop it!" Harry yelled. "Leave her ALONE!"

"You be quiet, boy! This thing's rabid, it needs to be destroyed immediately, it's clearly ill, attacking my defenseless Rippy-poo that way!"

"Hedwig's not rabid, she was trying to help me!" Harry came up off the bed then, setting the Nimbus down to confront the repulsive matron eye to eye. "You hurt my bird, and I'll . . .I'll make all your stupid dog's teeth fall out, you bloody bitch!"

Now, as threats go, that wasn't much of one, at least not compared to what he could have really done if he had wanted to. But he shouldn't have threatened Marge like that, he knew better than to get her riled. Seeing her try and hurt his owl, however, pushed him beyond the limits of his tolerance, and so he allowed his temper to run away with him.

Marge remained speechless for about two seconds, her bosom heaving up and down like a ship's sail billowing in a storm-tossed sea, if ship's sails were colored bright magenta, lime, and orange. Then she found her voice. "How DARE you speak to me like that, you little smartass bastard! Who do you think you are? You're nothing but gutter trash, like your drunken bum of a father and your whore of a mother, a lying, conniving, thieving wretch!"

"SHUT UP!"

Harry could feel his magic stirring, roused by his sizzling temper, and he struggled to contain it before it exploded. Severus had always stressed that he should never use his magic without proper focus and concentration, lest he harm himself or others with unexpected magical results. He felt a terrible pressure in his head and he whimpered as it built.

Marge was still ranting and he turned away before he unleashed something that might have killed her, for much as he loathed her, he did not want her dead. He pointed a hand at the window and unleashed some of his pent up power as a gust of wind that rattled the side of the house and cracked the windowpane slightly.

"You destructive selfish freak! You broke that window on purpose!" Marge shrilled. "That'll cost to repair it that will, and Vernon's going to be furious!"

Harry ignored her, breathing hard, trying to get the rest of his power back under control.

Marge was not minded to be ignored, however, and she reached out and yanked Harry back around by his ear. "Now, you listen here, boy-"

"Get off!" Harry yelped, struggling in her grip.

"I've had it up to here with your sly ways and your refusal to behave. I'm in charge here and by God, you'll obey me or else." Marge's pig-like brown eyes were slitted and they fastened on Harry with a vindictive spark burning in them. "You need a good lesson in manners and I'm going to see that you get one, you little hoodlum! And then I'm going to kill that rabid bird as well!"

"NO! Hedwig, fly!" Harry yelled, struggling against Marge's grip. But it was no use, the woman had a grip like iron and he could not free himself.

Hedwig took wing and flew away through the partially opened window and the last glimpse Harry caught of her was of her soft tailfeathers.

"Devil spawn!" Marge spat, shaking Harry so hard his teeth rattled. "I'll teach you to respect your betters."

Harry knew then that he was in serious trouble and prayed he would survive.

* * * * * *

 

Severus felt his bracelet vibrate and he quickly set down the book he had been reading and clasped the bracelet. He was still in school, setting up his lab for next term, making sure he had all of his potions stocked for next year while waiting for the adoption to officially go through.

An image formed in his head, of Harry lying bruised and battered atop a worn bed, tears seeping from under his lashes. Name of the Trinity, son! What the blazes happened to you?
With a quick wave of his wand he performed a Fetching Charm, and Harry's limp body appeared upon his living room couch.


"Dear sweet Merlin, Harry!" he cried in shock, for the poor child was badly bruised and cut all over his lower back and Severus was almost certain there was worse under the boy's trousers, which were only half on.

Harry moaned and stirred. "D-Dad?" He opened one eye cautiously, afraid that Marge was still lurking nearby.

"I'm here, child." Severus laid a comforting hand on his shoulder. "Who did this and why, Harry?"

"Aunt Marge . . .said I was a devil spawn . . .tried to kill Hedwig . . ."

Severus swore. "I told you, Albus, that something like this would happen one day." Then to Harry he said, "Lie still, son. I'm going to get some potions and soap and water and then we'll see about fixing you up."

Harry made a noncommital grunt and pressed his cheek against the soft green leather.

Severus returned a few moments later, laden down with a Pain Reliever, some antibacterial soap, bruise balm, and a serious wish to strangle the woman who had dared beat his son so badly. "Harry, I need you to wake up," he called, shaking his son gently.

Harry whimpered, then woke. "Wha's going on?"

"Your so-called aunt beat the bloody blazes out of you, child. Drink this, please. It'll help dull the pain."

Harry swallowed obediently, for he hurt terribly. He sighed when the potion started to work, dulling the sharp pain in his lower body.

"Relax, son. I need to take off your pants and shorts," Severus told him, gently peeling them off.

 He swore again when he saw the welts and bruises left by something he was almost certain was a cane or a switch. Seeing them made him flinch in remembered pain, for he too had known the awful pain of being beaten, though his father had preferred a belt or a stick. He had never intended for Harry to know that sort of pain ever, but now he had, and Severus shook his head, regret and anger mingling as he gazed at his son.

He heaved a sigh and reached for the basin of warmed water with some of the Hogwarts soap inside of it and a very soft cloth. "Harry, I'm going to wash those cuts, I apologize if I hurt you, but it has to be done. Would you like another dose of my Pain Reliever?"

"No, I'm okay. Go ahead." Harry said, then he gritted his teeth and grabbed handfuls of the pillow.

Severus was as gentle as he could be, but even so it hurt and Harry found himself wriggling and sobbing into the pillow after a time. "I know, child. I'm sorry, it's almost over," he murmured. His poor son's backside and thighs were striped raw, Severus found himself shuddering involuntarily as he tended to them, dark memories resurfacing. And this is why I don't discipline my child with belts, switches, or rulers and why I will never smack him more than three times.

Severus applied the numbing bruise balm and a quick healing salve next, but even so he knew his son would not be able to sit much for the next day or so. Harry whimpered and sniffled a bit when Severus rubbed the salve on. "Ow! Not so hard, Dad!"

"Sorry. I'm hardly touching you, son." Snape patted him on the shoulder, then continued applying the salve, wishing the woman that had done this flayed alive and boiled. That anyone could hurt a child this way was disgusting, it made him feel ill.

Harry winced and tried very hard not to move, but it was hard since his whole lower back and bottom felt like a blow torch had been applied to it. It felt much better now than it had previously, but it was still mighty uncomfortable. He was embarrassed as well that Severus had to see him like this, and wondered anew how the Potions Master always seemed to know when he was sick or hurt. Was it some sort of resonance from the Blood Adoption? But no, it had been there before, and he had never thought to question it, until now.

"There! How do you feel now?"

"Better," Harry said, and it was true. He was numb and it felt so good. He propped himself up on an elbow and looked at Severus, who was wiping his hands on a soft towel. "What now, Dad? Did the adoption officially go through?"

"No, not yet. Which is why I'm going to have to send you back to that awful woman for another day. But rest assured, I shall make it so that she will not dare to lay a finger on you, and I shall keep you here until tomorrow morning, so that I can reapply my ointments and such." He drew a light sheet over Harry's lower half. He then sat down next to his son and asked, "What happened to cause this. . . .incident? Will you tell me, Harry?"

 Harry hesitated. Then he nodded. "It all started when the Dursleys left on vacation and had Aunt Marge come and watch me. That was partly my fault, since I was sort of teasing Dudley, pretending to do magic on him, since he was always such a nasty git to me, and he told his mum and then Aunt Petunia decided I needed a babysitter and called Aunt Marge. . ."

It took him some time to tell of everything that had occurred during the five days and towards the end Harry found it very hard to speak of how Marge had beaten him without breaking down, he still felt ashamed about how he had cried and begged for her to stop, he who had faced a cold-blooded murderer like Quirrell and an evil soul like Voldemort, couldn't take a beating without crying like a baby. By the end of the whole sorry tale, Harry had tears running down his cheeks and was biting his lip hard.

"I'm such a coward . . .I didn't fight hard enough . . .and all the while she was hitting me I was . . .bawling at her to stop . . ." Overcome, he put his face into the pillow and wept.

Severus rubbed his back and stroked his hair until he had calmed down and stopped crying, then he said, "Harry, you are no coward. You have plenty of courage, you're a Gryffindor, not to mention my son. Anyone would have begged that woman to stop, you are not to feel ashamed for doing so. What she did to you is inexcusable and abusive, you did not deserve any of it, and you are to be commended for your self-control over your magic, considering the circumstances. You could have easily blown the vile woman out the window instead of just cracking it a little. But you demonstrated unusual self-control and I'm proud of you for that. Most adult wizards could not have maintained that degree of discipline."

He shifted slightly in his chair. "Yes, you should not have talked to an adult that way, but she also had no right to beat you like that, no adult has the right to do that to a child, no matter what that child has done." He could see that Harry still felt ashamed however, and he understood totally. So he drew in a deep breath and said quietly, "I know what you're feeling right now, son. How you are ashamed for letting a mere Muggle wallop you that way, and embarrassed that you let her see how much she hurt you, scared that it will happen again and you can do nothing to prevent it, oh yes, I know."

Harry felt his mouth hang open. "But how . . .how could you know . . .that's exactly how I feel . . .? Can you read minds?"

"No, Harry. I do not have that ability, I am merely quite good at anticipating reactions and intuitive. But I know how you're feeling from experience." Severus grimaced, as if in remembered pain. "For I have been where you are now, Harry. When I was a child, I too was beaten and abused, by my drunken father."

"You? No way!"

"Me. Many's the time I had to go to school wearing long sleeved shirts and I never bathed or swam in public, since I didn't want anyone to see the scars my dear old dad left upon me. He was a Muggle too and he hated the fact that I had magic and took after my mother instead of him. He tried, like Marge, to beat the strangeness out of me. Of course it didn't take. But I can remember many nights when I cried just like you did now, and called myself a coward because I was too afraid to hex my own father. Once I was like you, a child that was helpless and powerless in the face of a monster, and it was then that I vowed that never again would I be a victim, and that's one reason I'm a defense specialist."

Harry stared at him wordlessly. To say that he was shocked speechless was putting it mildly. But surprised as he was at Severus's revelation, it also gave him hope, hope that he might recover from this and grow up to be a confident and assured and compassionate individual. He was awed that Severus had endured what he had for so many years, Harry doubted if he would have been able to do that. He was a wreck from just one time.

"How did you finally get out of it?" he managed after a time.

"I grew too old for him to hit without me hitting him back," Severus said simply. "I left home as soon as I was of age and never looked back. I have not seen or spoken to him in over ten years, for all I know he is dead and gone to hell now. But that's ancient history, Harry. I came to terms with what happened to me a long time ago, and I promised my mother before she died that I would be a better man than my father."

"You are, sir." Harry said then.

Severus gave him a rare smile. "Thank you, Harry. I know I'm a strict bastard sometimes and I have a tongue that could cut glass and a sharp temper, but never doubt that I love you. I may not say it enough, but I do feel it."

"I know." Harry smiled back at him. Then he asked, "What about Aunt Marge?" he suppressed a shiver when he spoke her name.

"I will be taking care of her, son," Severus said, in a voice that chilled the blood in Harry's veins. "She will learn what it means to harm a defenseless child and she will never forget it as long as she lives." There was midnight and fire in Snape's voice now and it made Harry thank God he was not Snape's enemy.

"You're . . .you're not going to kill her, are you? Because then you'd be arrested."

"No. Much as I'd like to throttle her, I only kill if I have no other choice. Nor will I torture her. But she will rue the day she ever took a cane to you, Harry Snape, that much I will promise you!" He reached over and began to run his fingers through Harry's messy hair and Harry yawned and laid his head down. "Sleep well, son. I know you're exhausted."

And Harry did, knowing he was safe at last.

 

* * * * * *

 The next morning, after Severus had reapplied more salve and fed Harry breakfast, he sent him back to Privet Drive, told him to remain in bed, then went down to confront the wicked woman who had taken such delight in whipping his child.

Marge was sitting with her feet up in the recliner, watching some TV show, Ripper beside her, when Severus appeared in the room out of the air. He was wearing his glamour of Uncle Toby, but even so he managed to look quite intimidating.

Marge screamed. "Who . . .who are you? How did you get in here?"

"Mere doors and locks cannot keep me out," Snape said darkly.

Marge went white as snow. "You're . .. you're one of them."

"One of them?" Severus sneered. "If you mean a wizard, then yes I am. Call a spade a spade you spiteful harridan. I'm here to discuss my nephew, who it seems you have beaten to within an inch of his life." The Potions Master leaned forward menacingly.

"I . . .I . . .was angry, the boy deserved it," Marge whined. "How did you know about it, anyway? He run to cry on your shoulder?"

"The very walls have ears and eyes for one like me, woman." Severus hissed. "And there is no child who deserves that kind of punishment, no matter how disrespectful he is or how much you dislike him. NO ONE!" Snape thundered and Marge half-fainted and Ripper peed all over the recliner and then ran away to hide behind the sofa.

"But he . . .he was insolent and he backtalked me and . . .and he hurt my dog . . ." whimpered the other, sounding like a schoolgirl trying to make up a good enough excuse so the teacher wouldn't punish her.

"Even so that still does not give you the right to harm him thus! A bar of soap and some extra chores would have been sufficient, not giving him twenty with a cane, you miserable harpy! We have strict laws governing the treatment of underage wizards by a parent or guardian. Shall I show you what happens to those who break those laws?"

Marge trembled. "No . . .no, I'm sorry . . .I'll never touch the brat again."

"Damn straight you won't." Severus growled, then he became Wraith in an eyeblink.

Marge screamed hysterically.

 

Wraith keened a battle cry and Ripper whined and tried to dig a hole into the couch, petrified.

Marge panicked, coming to her feet and trying to run out of the house.

Wraith let her get as far as the end of the walk before he caught her.

The neighbors were roused out of their Friday morning lie-in by a hysterical fat woman running screaming down the street, yelling about snow leopards eating her, though no cat could be seen. What was even more strange was she kept insisting the leopard had scratched her and rubbing her backside and sobbing, but Mr. Evans across the street saw nothing but a few tiny holes and no blood.

"Lady, if a snow leopard had scratched you, you'd have a hell of a big chunk ripped out of you. And there's nothing there."

"He said . . .he said you wouldn't be able to see it . . .that no one would believe me . . .but I swear, I'm telling the truth!" Marge wept.

"Who said? The leopard?"

"Yes . . .only he's not a leopard all the time, he can become a man too . . ."

Mr. Evans shook his head. He had always thought the Dursleys were rather odd and here was the proof, a crazy lady who saw phantom snow leopards that changed into people.

"I think you need to go back home and lie down. Maybe take a sedative."

"No! No! You have to believe me!" Marge cried, stamping her foot like a spoiled little girl.

"Lady, if you don't go back home in five minutes, I'm calling the police . . .Always knew those Dursleys had bad blood in them . . ."

Eventually, he managed to persuade the woman to return to her brother's house, though she refused to see Harry at all, and kept to herself on the bottom floor, never venturing upstairs again. She also found sitting down extremely uncomfortable for three days.

At last, on a bright Saturday morning, Uncle Toby returned to collect his son, showed Marge the documents granting him legal custody, and the woman crossed herself and told him to take the devilspawned brat and leave.

"Good riddance, that boy had more bad blood running through his veins, from being born to such people, than you could shake a stick at. His mother was no better than she ought to be . . .ulp!"

Suddenly she found herself staring into a pair of very angry eyes as Snape said, "Do not ever say that about Lily Potter again, or else I shall make your tongue fall out. She was a far better woman than you will ever be. Is that understood?" He shook her slightly.

 

"Yes, sir." Marge quivered, her eyes bugging out.

"Good . . .you learn quicker than most of your kind . . ."sneered Severus. "I will take the boy with me and you will have no further doings with him. You will inform your brother when he returns that guardianship has now passed to me and Harry need not be returning here ever." Severus released her, giving her a look of utter loathing, as if she were dirt or pond slime.

Then he swept up the stairs to help his son pack and leave Privet Drive, taking him to a new home deep in the Highlands of Scotland, a place known only to the Potions Master and his late mother, Eileen Snape, where Harry could heal and they could be at peace, now that the adoption was finally legal and the blood wards had been transferred.




 





Chapter End Notes:




So . . .how did you like Sev's revenge upon the horrid beastly woman?

Note: Wraith REALLY did scratch her, but he made sure the Muggles couldn't see it and therefore they all think Marge is nuts.

Next: Harry settles into his new home for the summer. I may post the next  one sometime later on tonight, because femalefarrier begged me to!

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