The bright room was filled with laugher-The laughter of an excited infant and the soft, amused laughter of a much older man.
If one looked closer, they would see a small child with untidy black hair, bright green eyes and a red lightning scar on his forehead sitting on the black-robed lap of his guardian. They would see the child reaching up for a flying stuffed cat and his guardian helping him, one strong arm around the small waist, the man's dark hair falling over his face and into his dark eyes.
Harry reached up with both of his chubby arms, trying to catch the stuffed cat, giggling wildly. "Oooo! Cat! Ooo!"
He wiggled and laughed. "It no come!" Harry looked very determined.
Snape had charmed Harry's favorite toy to fly up in the air and when Harry had tried to catch it, they had made a game out of it.
Snape was having so much fun, that, at first, he did not hear the knocks at the door. It was when he heard a distinctive "Severus!", did he finally regain his senses and put Harry down on the carpet, where the baby got up on his legs and began jumping up and down for the cat.
Snape went to the door and opened it. It was Charity, much to his surprise.
"Aren't you coming to the Great Hall for lunch, Severus?" Charity asked him, beaming.
Snape raised an eyebrow. "What? Oh, no," he lied. "I have decided to eat in my quarters today,"
"Me and Harry are...playing,"
Charity looked disappointed and she pursed her lips, slightly angrily. Snape could have sworn that she even looked jealous. But she quickly bounced back, "Oh. Would it be too pushy of me if I join in too?"
Snape was shocked. But he had to stand up to her. "I'm sorry, Charity. But we're really busy at the moment. Maybe next time?"
He was a little taken aback by the look on her face. One of anger and jealousy and disappointment.
"Oh, well. Maybe next time," Charity said grumpily. She flounced off, her pink robes rustling on the floor.
Snape closed the door with relief and saw Harry grinning up at him, while holding the fluttering stuffed cat in his hand, which was trying to break free. "Lookie Nape! Hawwy wiv cat!"
"Very good, Harry," Snape approved. "Now, enough playing. Why don't we have some lunch?"
Snape ordered the house elves to bring up a plate of tomato pasta, steamed chicken and salad.
Sitting in the kitchen, Snape fed Harry small pieces of lettuce from the salad and pasta. The boy ate it all up obediently.
Snape looked in horror as Harry dunked the plate of tomato pasta on his T-shirt and began giggling, looking up at him for praise.
"What have you done?" Snape demanded angrily. "Are you mad, Harry? That was your new T-shirt."
Harry looked contrite and tears welled up in his eyes. "Hawwy sowwy," he whispered.
Huffing, Snape carried Harry to the wardrobe in the boy's room and checked out the child's clothes. Snape suddenly realized how less clothes Harry had left and decided that a shopping trip was necessary.
"Right. We will have to check out some shops later on," Snape said as he adorned Harry in a yellow and orange T-Shirt.
After finishing lunch, Snape did just that. He was free for the day and he joined the students outside for their last Hogsmeade visit that term.
But Snape didn't intend to find clothes in Hogsmeade. Holding Harry as close to himself as he could, Snape apparated.
When they reached London, he felt Harry sobbing in his arms, much to his horror.
"Hush Harry, what's wrong?" Snape asked, concerned.
Harry was looking shocked and he kept hiccuping. "Nape!" He cried, wrapping two arms around the man's waist.
Maybe Apparation wasn't the best way to travel with a baby.
"Quiet down, now. I'm right here. We're here on your behalf, after all. Hush now, I think I see a Wizarding clothing shop over there,"
He took Harry inside the shop. It was called Threads and Wands. It was big with various racks and colorful clothes. They weren't many people inside at the time. Snape set Harry down on the ground, looking at the racks of robes and wondering if Harry's size was available. He wanted to get the trip over with as soon as possible. He hated shopping. Snape began to choose some colors and designs.
It was a while later when Snape was done, satisfied with his findings.
As he turned around, holding some tiny green and red robes and trousers, he saw that Harry had disappeared.
"Harry?" Snape looked worried. "Where are you?"
It turned out that Harry had wandered off. An assistant carried him back, the boy crying in distress into her shoulder.
Snape thanked the assistant, feeling deeply humiliated and very much like a novice and inexperienced guardian.
He carried Harry and was about to scold him for running off when the boy started to scold him. "No like," Harry declared sternly. "Nape no go."
Harry looked at Snape with great disapproval and didn't talk to him at all, even when Snape showed him his new robes. The baby had obviously gone off on a huff.
Snape didn't know if babies were actually this rude or if it was just Harry's Attachment Disorder. The silly child had probably thought that he had abandoned him.
Feeling annoyed, Snape requested the shop assistants to measure Harry and pack up the green and orange robes and the trousers. It was only when the clothes were going in the bag, did Harry look up and point with a loud squeal at some black robes.
"Nape!" He cried, eyes widening.
"What?" Snape asked, disconcerted.
"Napey!" Harry jabbed his fist at the robes. "Nape!"
"Aww, do you want those robes too, little one?" The shop assistant asked.
Harry nodded and squealed, "Tha's Nape!"
Snape intervened. "There is no need to buy him those robes."
"N-no," Harry pleaded. "Be Nape! Hawwy be Nape!"
Snape had no choice but to purchase the black robes, bewildered that Harry wanted to copy him. He really didn't understand child psychology. As they walked out of the shop, Harry holding Snape's hand, the baby suddenly pointed to a toy store.
"No," Snape said firmly. "We only came here to buy clothes, Harry."
Harry stamped his foot. "Pwease!"
Harry pointed to the store again, tears dripping down his cheeks. "Nape! Nape! No be mean! Hawwy play!"
"We can watch," Snape amended, taking Harry to the display window of the shop. They watched, Harry in enthusiasm and Snape in faint annoyance, at the moving trains and self-flying birds and parrots, the bouncing balls and the rocking horses. Suddenly Harry squealed so loudly that Snape nearly dropped the bag of clothes.
Harry was pressing his little nose against the window frame, looking in surprise and adoration at a grey stuffed elephant with floppy ears, big feet and a long trunk.
"Ooo! Ooo!" Harry begged. "Play!"
"Harry, that's enough. We're leaving," Snape said coldly.
"N-nooo! Want! Want! Pweaseeee!"
Harry began sobbing, his face red and blotchy. People were watching them, and Snape was getting furious. "Harry!"
"Be quiet! That's enough Potter! Just wait till we get home, young man. I told you I do not tolerate tantrums,"
Harry sobbed and begged and Snape knew that, if he gave in, it would be another step in spoiling him. Yet, everyone was staring at them and his reputation was tarnishing. Inevitably, he sighed and entered the store, intending to buy the stupid toy elephant.
Laughing, Harry hugged the stuffed toy elephant to his chest as Snape tucked him in bed.
"You are growing very spoilt," Snape reprimanded as he tucked the comforter 'round the boy's shoulders.
Harry yawned and smiled. "Love Nape,"
The baby felt the man smoothening his messy hair away from his face and looking at him for a moment. And then the man moved away.
The last thing Snape could see before he closed the door of the room was Harry smiling in his crib, the stuffed elephant wedged in his arms, the cat (un-charmed now) lying somewhere in between.
And he felt a huge surge of affection, with no clear idea where it had come from.