Beta'd by the wonderful rakina
Rating: R /NC-17 overall
Dedicated to coeur_de_ma_vie who wanted a Snarry adoption AU fic.
Warnings: AU, OOCness, angst, child abuse and who knows what else. Under 18.
Disclaimer: JK Rowling owns the Potterverse, I just play in it from time to time.
Summary: "He should never have been left with those people!"
"He shouldn't have told you!" yelled Harry when his dad confronted him on Christmas Eve about Malfoy and all the rest of it. "I thought we were friends!" He couldn't believe that Ron had told on him.
"Ron Weasley is your friend, Harry. A very good one; he was worried about you, that's why he told me. He didn't want to, but I made him tell me. Why haven't you told me any of this? About the nightmares and that your scar is still hurting and bleeding? I'm supposed to look after you. How can I do that if you don't talk to me when something is wrong?"
Harry shrugged his shoulders.
"That isn't an answer, Harry. Come on, you can do better than that."
They were sitting on the sofa in the living room, fire crackling in the grate; Harry stared at the flames rather than at his dad. He twisted his hands in his lap.
"I thought you'd think I was being silly. Being a baby. No one else in our dorm gets nightmares."
"Harry, everyone has nightmares at some time or another, including me and I suspect your dorm mates as well. It's not silly. It might even help if you can talk about it. Do you remember what the bad dreams were about?"
"No, not really. I just feel really, really scared and I wake up screaming and my scar hurting. Ron has to wake me sometimes."
"I'll give you some Dreamless Sleep for tonight; it's only a temporary solution. You can't take it all the time and it would be better if you stopped having the nightmares, but until we know what is causing them that might take a while. But enough doom and gloom, I thought you could come with me to choose a tree."
"A Christmas tree? We're going to have a Christmas tree?" Harry had loved seeing the decorations in the Great Hall; everything was a lot prettier than his aunt's plastic tree with its gaudy plastic baubles but since their quarters weren't decorated, he didn't think they would be having their own tree.
"Of course. We need somewhere to put our presents, don't we?" Severus smiled at him and Harry's heart felt far too big for his chest. Presents! He was going to get presents! He'd already ordered his dad an eagle feather quill set, along with some books on potions after Fred had showed him how to owl in his order as Harry wasn't allowed to leave the school grounds. They were already wrapped and hidden at the bottom of his wardrobe – not that his dad ever seemed to go into his bedroom anyway, but just in case. Harry didn't want to spoil the surprise.
"Fetch your cloak, Harry. Gloves and scarf as well, it's cold out."
"Okay, Dad," said Harry as he hurried to his room to get all he needed. In the few minutes Harry had been gone Severus was already dressed in his own cloak and bundled up with a scarf and gloves too. Harry grinned at him and took his father's outstretched hand as they made their way out of the castle.
"Where are we going?"
"There's a small plot of Christmas trees in the Forbidden Forest; staff are allowed to make use of them. Hagrid plants new ones every year."
Harry felt his arm tensing up and his dad must have noticed it too.
"Harry, what's wrong?"
"I don't want to go in there."
"It's not far in, not nearly as far as you went on your adventure. We'll still be in sight of Hagrid's hut and the school."
Harry pulled his hand away and stood shivering on the snow covered ground. "No, please. Don't make me go in there."
"Harry? What is it? Did something happen to you in the Forest?"
Harry nodded. "There - there was something in the Forest, some sort of creature. It - it was drinking unicorn's blood and my scar ached the whole time it was there. It stopped aching as soon as it went away."
"Drinking the blood? Are you sure, Harry? Absolutely?"
"Yes; the blood was silvery and all around the creature's mouth it was all silver were it'd been drinking it. I don't want to go in there, please."
"Very well, Harry. Why don't you visit Hagrid and I'll get the tree? You can help me decorate it later. I shouldn't be too long."
Harry nodded eagerly; anything to stop him from going into that Forest again.
"Professor! 'Arry, c'mon in!" urged Hagrid as soon as he'd opened his door.
"I can't stay," said Severus. "I'm off to get our tree, but could Harry stay with you for an hour or so?"
"Of course he can. C'mon on in, 'Arry. I'll make some hot chocolate."
His dad hugged Harry before turning round and striding into the depths of the Forest. Harry followed Hagrid inside his hut; the place looked the same as when he'd been here with Ron and Hermione a few times. Hagrid had invited them to dinner once but after Hermione found what looked like a talon in her stew, they decided to give Hagrid's cooking a miss – he seemed to think that most things were edible.
There was only one room in the hut with a large bed in one corner and an enormous settle on the opposite side of the room. A table and four chairs took up most of the room in the middle and along the wall facing the door was a large fireplace. A black cauldron was hanging over it and Hagrid peered into it before getting Harry settled in one of the two armchairs on either side of the fire.
Hagrid hunted through some cupboards to find cups and hot chocolate, talking to Harry all the while he was making it.
"Not goin' with yer dad to fetch yer tree, then?"
"No, I didn't want to go into the Forest," said Harry, pulling his gloves off by his teeth and then putting his hands out in front of him to warm them by the fire. "Did you ever find what was hunting the unicorns?"
"Nope, a few more dead last week. Whatever animal it is, it's gettin' bolder."
Harry shuddered. Those poor unicorns. He hoped Hagrid found whatever it was soon.
Hagrid finished making the chocolate and handed Harry a mug that was almost big enough to swim in.
"Thanks," Harry sipped the liquid, relishing the taste. He'd never tasted chocolate before he came to Hogwarts, but Madam Pomfrey and Severus both seemed to feel he needed a lot of it.
There was a loud 'pop' from the cauldron over the fire and Harry almost spilled his drink.
"Oh. Oh dear," said Hagrid, looking very distressed. "I didn' think it would be 'atching yet."
"Hatching? What is it?" Harry set his mug down on the floor by his chair and edged closer to the fire so that he could see into the cauldron. A large, brown egg sat at the bottom of the cauldron and there were a couple of cracks down the middle as if whatever was in there was just about to hatch. Harry had never seen a bird's egg that large before and going by Hagrid's worried glances toward the windows, Harry guessed it was something that Hagrid wasn't supposed to have. Hagrid loved animals, the more dangerous the better.
Hagrid sighed to himself and went to fetch a pair of oven mitts. He slid his hands into the hot cauldron, gently lifted the egg out and placed it on the centre of the table. Both drinks lay forgotten as Harry watched eagerly to see what strange creature was about to hatch from the egg.
Time seemed to stand still as more and more smaller cracks appeared on the egg. Harry held his breath when the egg shattered onto the table and he was left almost dumbstruck.
"A dragon! You've got a dragon!" exclaimed Harry as a creature only about twice the size of his hand coughed, shooting a few sparks in the air and unfurling leathery brown wings. "But aren't they restricted?" Harry seemed to remember Ron saying something about it.
"I need to get a licence," said Hagrid. "So don' be tellin' anyone yet that I've got one, all righ 'Arry? It'll be our secret."
"Um. Okay," said Harry, feeling a little bit uncomfortable. Uncle Vernon had always said that whenever he wanted Harry to perform his bedtime routine but Hagrid had never done anything like that. It was hard work keeping secrets and in a way he was glad his dad had talked to Ron about all of the things that had been going on. They were out in the open now and hopefully his dad would be able to help.
"Norbert, say 'ello to 'Arry," said Hagrid, beaming a proud smile and tickling underneath the dragon's chin.
"You'd better hide him before dad gets back," said Harry.
Hagrid nodded and wandered around frantically searching for a hiding place.
Harry smiled as Hagrid put the dragon under the bed. This was one secret he wouldn't mind keeping.
The tree wasn't large, Severus didn't want it to overpower their small living room but from the way Harry's face lit up when he saw it; it could have been twelve feet tall.
"Oh! It's beautiful!" said Harry, reaching out a hand to caress the branches and sniff the scent.
"I thought we could decorate it and then have some dinner. Then it's early to bed for you or Santa won't come."
"Santa isn't real," said Harry shakily. "If he was real he would have brought me food and taken me out of the cupboard! That's all I wanted, every year, and he never came! He never came!" Harry was working himself into a state and Severus felt his heart go out to the innocence that Harry had lost so early.
"Harry. Oh, Harry," said Severus as he knelt down and wrapped Harry in his arms. He didn't mean to upset him but that's all he seemed to be doing today. "Ssh, love, it's all right. It's all right."
Harry sobbed; his head leaning on Severus' shoulder; Harry was just about a head taller when Severus was kneeling down. Severus rubbed his back and just held him until Harry calmed down. He knew that Harry had never received any sort of comfort from the Dursleys and Severus was determined to make up for it. Harry would never want for anything while he was in Severus' care.
He would make damn sure of that.