Harry knew that Nape would never hit him. Never ever ever. Even when he was really, really mad Nape would never raise his hand. Sometimes he'd grab him, but if he started crying, Nape would apologize immediately and tell him that he hadn't meant to scare him.
But no hitting. Nope. It seemed silly now to hide his face whenever Nape approached him. Because the man just wasn't like those mean people he had been with before. Of that, Harry was sure.
As Harry sat in Charity's lap, staring in concentration at a picture book Nape had given him, Snape talked. His deep, low voice comforted him and he felt slightly drowsy.
"...knife isn't working..."
"Try it the other way," Charity insisted.
"...Can't believe Dumbledore didn't allow magic,"
"It's not that difficult."
"Here, let me help-by the way, Severus, the jack-o-lanterns don't all have to have these sad faces. They need to look scary or kind of evil, not depressed!"
"This is my own version, then," Snape said defensively. "Who's going to look at all these pumpkins anyway? Waste of time."
"Nape..." Harry yawned suddenly. "Ni'! Sweepy..."
"Not right now, Harry. I'm busy," Snape said.
Harry began crying softly, pretending of course. He had learnt a few Slytherin tactics already.
Snape glared at him. "Give that boy over here, Charity. He is determined to always get his own way,"
Charity obliged, handing the sniffling baby to Snape. Snape sat Harry up on his lap and pulled him close. "Ssh now. Or do you want to sleep on the sofa?"
Harry didn't reply. He could feel Nape's heartbeats. He was very comfortable. He closed his eyes and leant against Nape, drool already flecking the robes.
Charity was looking slightly envious again. Something flickered in her eyes as she pursed her lips. But she hid the look the second Snape looked back at her. She hastily started carving her pumpkin again, and Snape continued with his own work too.
Harry giggled as he saw Snape sitting on the bed, his head resting against the headboard as he read a book.
Nape didn't know that he was here. Nape thought that he was playing in his room, building with his blocks. Nape hadn't heard him crawling inside the room when the man had gotten up to get himself a mug of coffee from the kitchen. He hadn't seen him hurriedly climbing on the bed and hiding in the dark green comforter. He hadn't noticed anything and the man had settled back down on the bed, bringing the cup of coffee to his lips.
"Ooo," Harry whispered very softly.
Snape looked slightly bemused as he turned the page, glancing at the door.
"Lalalala!" Harry sang. "BOP!"
"What in the-" Severus nearly scalded himself, the coffee jumping in it's cup. He glared around the bed. "Potter!"
"Where are-" Snape stopped, sighing as he saw Harry sitting inside his comforter, the little bulge squirming and laughing. "Come out now."
"Nope!" Harry giggled.
"Don't make me get you,"
"Nope, no, no!" Harry decided.
Snape reached for him, putting the cup and book aside, but Harry seemed to be in a very, very mischievous mood...again. He wiggled away and crawled to the edge of the bed.
"Very bad!" Snape scolded.
Harry didn't care. Half of Snape was relieved at that: that meant that Harry was getting over his Disorder and felt safer with him. But half of him was also disappointed: It had taken little to make the boy obey, and now he was probably going to deal with an insane two-year old who was growing up in disagreeable ways.
Babies couldn't walk. They could crawl, and it took half a second to catch them. Now that Harry could walk-not to mention run-things were getting harder.
Harry fell to the floor on his bottom with a bump!
But he didn't seem too distraught at that-he just got up and began trotting away, giggling as he did so. "Can't gemme!" He challenged.
Snape glowered. "Young man, I am in no mood for games. Stop it at once."
"No be mean Nape!" Harry looked upset. He froze in his tracks and glared at the man, folding his arms. He looked quite adorable for a moment and so tiny...and then Snape shook his head. What the heck? Where was his control?
"I'm going to count to three and if you don't stop-"
"Nonono!" Harry went out the room and Snape had to follow.
Harry passed the sitting room and ran into the kitchen. When Snape entered the kitchen, Harry made a beeline for the lab. Snape hurried and suddenly scooped him up, the boy thrashing wildly.
"Mmmm, no! Pwease Nape!"
"You stand right here until I tell you otherwise," Snape ordered sternly. "I am very disappointed in you."
He dragged Harry to a random corner and Harry drooped, looking shocked.
It was a small while later when Snape went to check on Harry, aware that it was time for bed and that Harry ought to have been asleep ages ago.
To his surprise, he found the boy sobbing uncontrollably as he leaned against the wall.
"Harry, Harry, what happened?"
"N-no!" Harry sobbed.
"Hush, what is it?" Snape immediately picked him up, holding him close, feeling anxious.
"Mean! Nape mean!"
"What do you mean Harry, what happened?"
"No like!" Harry tried to wiggle away but Snape held him closer and sat down on a nearby sofa.
"Hawwy no love Nape," Harry declared, crying into the robes.
Snape took a deep breath, trying to ignore the sharp prick of guilt. "Can you care to explain, Harry?"
That didn't look possible at the moment; Harry seemed to be incoherent with grief.
"Nape mean! Time-ow, time-ow!"
"Time-out?" Snape was confused.
"No time-ow. Nape MEAN! Hawwy no play. No play wiv yoo,"
Maybe he shouldn't have been so strict with Harry. Maybe he was just playing, like all two-year olds did. He was such an idiot! Why couldn't he ever understand how to treat people?
"I'm sorry, Harry. I didn't intend to be so 'mean'. Calm down now,"
Harry cried a bit more into his robes, his little hands tightening around the folds of black cloth.
Then he used one hand to rub his tears away clumsily, his head still resting on Snape's chest. "'Kay," he said, taking a shuddering sigh.
"There. Are you fine now?"
"Yep," Harry mumbled.
Snape had to admit that he did care for the little one. Cared for him so much that his heart hurt sometimes. And at other times he couldn't believe that he could feel such a thing for James Potter's son.
As he cradled Harry for a few moments, there were insistent knocks on his door.
Harry squealed, frightened.
"Hush boy, it's nothing," Snape put him down and went to answer the door. Who could it be? Not Charity? It was rather late.
It wasn't Charity. It was Minerva, looking urgent. "Severus, I was on my night-time stroll when I saw an owl flying around the grounds. It was looking for the dungeons and I took the letter from it. It's addressed to you."
"Me?" Snape asked, confused.
"As it says on the letter," Minerva said, handing the envelope to him.
They both heard a tiny cry and Snape turned around and saw Harry peeping at them.
"Harry is still awake?" Minerva looked at Snape accusingly. "It's more than ten."
"We had a little row," Snape explained as he picked Harry up, who had walked up to him. "I was just calming him down,"
Minerva saw the dried tears on Harry's cheeks, a little taken aback.
Snape gave her an And it's your business, why? look and she instantly looked pompous. "I hope you're not being horrid to him, Severus!"
"I assure you Minerva, I haven't been 'horrid' to him," Snape said shortly. "Thank you for bringing this to me,"
"Well, it's good I did. The owl would probably get into the wrong hands. Why it came at night is a wonder," Minerva said. She saw Harry leaning against Snape's shoulder and felt more at ease. It was probably nothing. Severus would never mistreat Harry, right?
"Good night then," Minerva said. "And you should be more grateful than that-I came all the way into the dungeons to deliver this to you,"
"I am," Snape said, resisting the urge to roll his eyes. "Good night,"
When Minerva left, Snape went to tuck Harry in. He pulled the covers over the boy, pushing the stuffed cat into his face so that he wouldn't be scared. "Goodnight." He said.
"Love Nape," Harry whispered. He looked around the dim room a little reluctantly. He didn't really feel like sleeping alone.
"Good boy, sleep well." Snape always felt guilty when he couldn't return the statement. He was too cowardly to say it. Or maybe be didn't feel it at all.
The man left the room, closing the door softly.
Harry blinked in the dimness and then closed his eyes.
Meanwhile, Snape made for his room, confused. Who would have wanted to address a letter to him?
As he opened the envelope, he accioed his coffee and sipped some. Once he had taken out the parchment and unfolded it, he began reading:
Narcissa and I have decided to invite you over for Christmas. You can bring Potter. I hope you can come. Please reply with your answer soon.
Snape was dumbfounded. Christmas, Christmas...that was at least approximately two months away. Kind of. And bring Harry? What if something happened to him there?
Snape wondered if this was a friendly meeting or something much more sinister. Nonetheless, he was used to sinister plots. He hurriedly wrote a reply in his spiky, scrawly writing and put it into an envelope, intending to send it off the next morning. Hopefully this invitation boded well.
Halloween. Oh, great. Snape lumbered over to Dumbledore's office, carrying all of the carved pumpkins in a bag (shrunk so as to be easier to carry). He kept hoping fervently that Harry would stay put and keep playing in his office.
As he muttered, "Chocolate Frogs," the gargoyle stepped away and let him in. He walked up the spiral staircase. He opened the door and saw Dumbledore at his desk.
"Severus! To what do I owe this pleasure?"
"I have brought you those pumpkins. My work is done." Snape said shortly, thrusting the bag towards Dumbledore. "Well, goodbye."
"I expect you to come to the feast, Severus!" Dumbledore's eyes twinkled.
"Indeed," Snape glowered as he stepped out of the room.
He went back to his quarters, intending to put Harry into his office playpen so that he could begin preparing his class which was the next period. When Snape walked inside, however, something was very wrong...He couldn't find Harry anywhere!
Snape looked everywhere, calling out Harry's name again and again until he got quite terrified.
Oh no, oh no, had he escaped through the door? Was he kidnapped?
Snape wrenched open the door of his quarters and prowled through the halls, hoping to find the boy. Oh, when he got his hands on him...how dare he run off!
In a while, Snape started to hear indistinct whining and turned the corner, his heart drumming wildly. He had never felt so terrified and worried in his whole life.
And then he saw him.
The boy was using the wall as a support and toddling down the corridor, wrinkling his little nose, adorned in nothing but his jumper, his untidy black hair sticking up in spikes.
"Potter! Come here at once!" Snape ordered.
Harry froze and turned around, mouth agape. Tears immediately began streaming from his eyes as he toddled forward, his arms held out. "Nape!"
"What are you doing here?" Snape demanded as he picked up the baby. Harry threw his arms around him, crying softly.
"No go," he said. "Whe' you go?"
"I thought I told you to stay in your room. How did the door open?"
"Napey," Harry's face was lost in the black robes. "Go home,"
Sighing, Snape carried Harry back to his quarters. His work would never cease.
Harry giggled as Snape grabbed a vial of potion and left the office, going into the classroom through the secret door.
Harry was sitting in his playpen, playing with the blocks.
Harry put block over block and then destroyed the building. He started over and then picked up his happy-face rattle and destroyed his creation again.
"BOOM!" He cheered.
He turned around to see if Nape would come and play with him. But Nape was working and teaching those children. He could hear Nape talking in an agitated voice to someone and then saying: "Ten points from Ravenclaw for your insolence,"
Harry could walk out of his playpen and check what was happening if he wanted to, but Nape would get very 'set and angry. So he picked up a block and put it carefully on another block instead.
It was a little while later when Snape, tired out from teaching, entered the office again. The man wiped off sweat from his forehead and threw his wand onto the desk.
"I'll be driven mad by the end of all this," Snape growled. He sat down on his chair and Harry stared up at him confusedly.
"Napey!" He held out his arms and Snape obliged, picking him up and holding him close.
"Ooo," Harry fingered the black buttons.
"I expect I will have to dress you in something special for Halloween, eh Potter?" Snape said. "Not a ridiculous costume, of course-special robes,"
"Yep!" Harry agreed. Snape felt Harry wiggling a little. "Play!"
"No, Harry, I have much too much work to do. Play in the pen, and let me get these essays done."
He placed Harry back in the playpen. The baby looked disappointed. Harry started playing again, but without Nape everything felt dismal.
Snape pulled the bright orange robes over Harry's little body and made him put on grey shorts. He held Harry up in front of him, holding him by the armpits.
"Mm. Very nice," Snape put him back down and began combing his hair carefully. A few screams later, he decided to just use some hair gel.
So he smothered the dark locks with gel and smoothened them out.
Harry felt his hair and got gel all over his mouth. Snape wiped him up again and then helped Harry put on some tiny black boots, with jack-o-lantern eyes carved in the center. A present from Charity.
"You look respectable enough," Snape said. "I would have preferred black robes, but this is fine."
"Love Nape!" Harry declared when Snape picked him up again. "Love Napey, love love love."
"Yes, yes, calm down Harry." Snape said. "Let's go, Dumbledore will be expecting us,"
Snape was dressed in his usual black. He walked to the Great Hall, a few minutes before the students. Some of the teachers were sitting at the staff table, dressed for the occasion.
The Great Hall was wonderfully decorated by streamers and floating candles and pumpkins and all sorts of Halloween decorations. His and Charity's carved pumpkins lurked in random corners of the corridors and Snape could see one of his droopy-faced ones floating somewhere.
Dumbledore was dressed in robes of orange, black and purple and he looked extra merry. In a while, the students entered the Hall. The place was filled with candy and sweets and loads of other unhealthy things.
Scowling and trying to prevent Harry from eating any of the sweets, Snape shot a hopeless glance at Minerva who looked at him sternly and said, "Let Harry have some! My word, if there was anyone stricter than you..."
Snape was about to retort that he wasn't half as strict as she was, when Harry suddenly grabbed a lolly-pop and licked it, "Mm!"
"You're going to brush your teeth thoroughly after all this," Snape warned.
The moon shone down on the grounds as Snape and Dumbledore walked together, talking agitatedly. Harry was sleeping on Snape's shoulder, his mouth slightly red from the lollipop and his hair sticky from when he had brought down his chocolate-covered hands to brush it away.
"...over for Christmas?" Dumbledore was asking.
"It's very sudden. I don't understand it at all," Snape replied. "Lucius wanted me to give an answer right away,"
"Don't worry, Severus. It is probably nothing. I insist you go and take Harry with you,"
"Are you sure?"
"Yes. It will be a good opportunity for him to meet new people,"
Snape sighed and looked at Harry, who was still sleeping. He hoped that he wasn't bringing the boy into any danger by accepting the invitation.
Unfortunately, Harry woke up when Snape went back to his quarters. The man had meant to rest after the long, hectic day. But Harry insisted that he wanted to play and Snape watched as the baby scribbled on a piece of paper with a green crayon, looking sleepy but happy.
Snape looked at the letter he had received again, wondering.
You can bring Potter...
Well, he would. If Dumbledore insisted that he should there was no reason to not listen to him.
Snape took deep breaths. Christmas was weeks away, he shouldn't be worrying just yet. As he watched Harry playing, he remembered that today was the death anniversary of Lily and James Potter. Heaving a sigh, he made a mental note to visit Lily's grave whenever he got time.
Harry seemed to be in an unusually subdued mood and when Snape pulled him towards himself, the boy murmured, "Mama?"
"What?" Snape asked softly.
"Nape." Harry looked forlorn as he clung to the man. "Nape, no...Mama."
Guilt overtook the man. He had killed Harry's mother. He had killed her.
"I'm sorry," Snape whispered and he really meant it. He was going to make it up to Lily and Harry, he promised himself that.