Snape couldn't believe how fast time passed when you didn't want it to. The man was over-pressured with work and preparations. The Christmas holidays were starting soon and he was expected at Lucius's Manor.
Snape was packing; putting in clothes and practically everything in his quarters in the suitcase, shrinking most of the stuff.
He had stalked to Harry's room, shrunken the cot and picked it up. Harry had looked shocked and had started crying.
"Calm down, Harry," Snape had said exasperatedly. "It's not going anywhere. You'll get it back."
Then he had had to shrink all of Harry's toys and put it into a bag. Harry had become so sad that he had hidden under the leather chair, whimpering. Snape had decided to just leave him be.
He shrunk some more objects until nearly everything was done. He was going home after all-after he had finished celebrating Christmas at the Manor, he would go back to his house. And besides, he couldn't leave behind the more important things unsupervised in his quarters, where anything could happen to them.
Snape folded up his robes and Harry's clothes and only looked up from his work when he saw Harry crawling into the room.
"Why Hawwy no play?" Harry's eyes were streaming as he asked the question. Nape must be very cross with him.
"We're leaving tomorrow," Snape said. "Surely you can survive without toys for a day?"
"Hawwy play. Hawwy good boy,"
Snape was in no mood to argue with the senseless boy. He gave Harry the giant stuffed elephant to quiet him and the baby walked away with it, snuffling his head in it's grey fur.
By the time Snape had nearly finished, Dumbledore entered his quarters.
"Have you ever heard of knocking?" Snape asked the old man irritably.
Dumbledore gave a smile. "So, you're leaving Severus?"
"Obviously," Snape said.
"Good luck. I wish you all the best. The train leaves early the next morning." Dumbledore said.
"I just hope everything goes well at the Malfoy's,"
"Don't worry, Severus. Everything will be just fine."
That night, after a hardly-tasted dinner at the Great Hall, Snape and Charity walked together back to his quarters.
"I'm going back home for Christmas too. My sister may come for a visit. Would you like to come to my house too?"
"I need to go to Malfoy Manor. They've invited me."
"Oh." Charity sighed. "Well then, do you want to come to my quarters for a while, instead? We can talk a bit."
Snape opened his mouth but then Harry started whining, "Nape! N-nape! Sweepy!"
"Not now, I'm afraid. I need to get Harry to sleep," Snape answered, shrugging.
Charity glared at Harry, as if it was all his fault that Severus couldn't visit her.
Suddenly Snape heard a cry mid-walk. He saw a first-year Slytherin whimpering. He handed Harry to Charity, and went over to the child to see what had happened. He was the Slytherin Head of House and comforting little ones seemed to be one of his principal duties.
While he interrogated the boy, Charity glared at Harry again.
"Chawwy!" Harry cried. "Love Chawwy,"
"This is all your fault. You always come in our way," Charity hissed. Then she suddenly had an idea. "You want to come to my room, don't you Harry?" She demanded, her nails hurting Harry a little.
Harry blinked, surprised. "Mm.." He looked uncomfortable as if he may cry.
"Tell him. Tell him that you want to come," Charity insisted.
Harry didn't understand. "Come?"
"My room. Come to Auntie Charity?" Charity asked.
"Play?" Harry asked, eagerly.
Charity grimaced and wondered if she and Snape would ever get a minute alone at this rate. Something had to be done. She needed to get rid of Harry.
"Now you go right back to your common room, Barker. I'll deal with Mr Jones." Snape was saying. He walked back to Charity and Harry. "Stupid Gryffindors. Bullying the smaller Slytherins. I have to put a stop to this," he looked so fierce for a moment that both Harry and Charity looked taken aback. It was as if he was at war with the Marauders again, not some random Gryffindor bullies.
But then Snape reached for Harry and began walking again. Charity hurried to keep up with him.
She kept shooting unpleasant looks at Harry as they strolled through the corridors.
"So, you're Muggle-born right?" Snape asked conversationally.
"Yeah," Charity replied nonchalantly, sidling up closer to him.
"Have the threats stopped?"
Charity was confused for a moment. Threats?
"I don't understand," she muttered. "What threats?"
Snape gave her a strange look. "Oh, you know-The threats you received for teaching Muggle studies. That gang of people. You told me some while back, a few days before the term started."
Charity flushed bright pink. That had just been a show to get his undivided attention. So that he would focus on her for once, instead of Harry. So that they could talk about her, instead of that stupid baby. She had almost forgotten about that drama. It had been bliss, though-Severus looking concerned for her, all protective.
"I won't let anything happen to you," he had said.
Oh, it had been so wonderful.
"Oh yes, I remember!" She lied. "The threats have not gone yet...but hopefully it's all going to get better."
"Oh," Snape said. He stopped abruptly as his quarters came into view. "I'll see you later then, Charity." She looked up at his face and smiled.
"Later," she agreed.
That night, Harry didn't sleep in his room-he slept with Snape. Snape set him on one side of the bed and Harry was delighted that he got to sleep on the 'big bed' today.
Snape kept glancing back at him. What if Harry fell off, despite the magic borders? He pulled Harry closer to himself. As the night progressed, Snape pulled him closer and closer until Harry was sleeping on Snape's pillow, raher close to the man.
Snape refused to admit that this was his own doing. The boy was probably shifting around.
As Harry slept, the elephant pressed to his face, Snape slept too, worried about the trip tomorrow. He took a deep breath and wrapped both of his arms around Harry's waist, hardly realizing what he was doing.
Snape's enchanted alarm clock buzzed loudly, causing him to wake up with a jolt. He saw Harry's face resting on his shoulder and wondered how the heck it had gotten there. He pushed Harry away gently and rubbed at his eyes.
The Hogwarts express was going to leave soon. Snape hurriedly picked up his suitcases, awoke Harry, dressed him up, dressed himself after a quick shower, had breakfast and raced out of his quarters. He said a hasty goodbye to Dumbledore and went up to the train.
He could see some of the children stare at him but be ignored them. His heart was pumping wildly...He would have to go to Malfoy Manor. Who knew what surprises lay there?
Snape boarded the train and took a private compartment. Sighing, he put Harry down and leaned his back against the seat, closing his eyes. It was very early in the morning.
"Nape?" Harry asked meekly.
"Go to sleep, Harry. It's very early," Snape murmured.
"Eh." Harry looked uncomfortable. He looked around the train compartment. He suddenly got anxious. Where were they going? "We no go Nape! We no go!"
"We're going home. Don't you remember the place you were first in?"
"Home?" Harry was confused. Wasn't home the place they had just left behind?
Snape sighed, unsure if Harry still remembered his house or not. "Come here."
Harry obeyed and then Snape pulled him onto his lap and said, "Sleep,"
"Ni'?" Harry asked.
"Nape ni' too!" Harry couldn't forget the unfair thing which had happened last time-Nape had told him to sleep but he had stayed awake himself!
"Yes, yes, I'm sleeping too,"
"Goodie!" Harry approved, snuggling up to his chest and closing his eyes.
The Snape of many months ago would have been horrified and would have pushed Harry away. But the Snape of today was much more used to it. He pulled Harry closer to himself with one hand and closed his eyes too. It was going to be a long journey...
Finally the train ride was over. The sky was quite dark. Snape picked Harry up, holding the suitcases.
"Hawwy walk," Harry said imperiously. He leant away from the man's arms indignantly. He could walk now. Wasn't he a big boy? Minerva had said so!
So Snape let Harry walk. They walked out of the train, and in time, left the station too. Snape then found a convenient spot, picked Harry up, and apparated.
Harry was found crying in his arms again, looking bemused and scared. Snape hushed him and then walked a bit. After a while, he stopped. In front of him, a majestic manor rose through the trees; Malfoy Manor.
They were here.
Snape knocked at the brass doors, waiting at the doorstep. Harry was holding his hand, looking very curious.
In a while, just like last time, a house elf opened the door.
"Good day to you Mister Severus, sir! Master and Mistress has been expecting you, sir!" the house elf squeaked, bowing low.
"Ooo!" Harry waved to the elf, intrigued.
The elf gave a watery smile. "Dobby will now show you to the living room, sir! Follow Dobby, sir."
Snape and Harry followed Dobby to the living room, where Lucius was standing, his face alight.
"Severus!" He rushed to greet him and shake his hands and hug him. "It's excellent that you could join us!" He looked at Harry, who was staring up at him. His smile wavered. "And this is the Potter boy?"
"Yes," Snape said stiffly.
"Yes, I can see a bit of a resemblance to his father. Ah, and the scar...Well, how do you do, boy?"
Harry saw the tall, blonde man reach out a hand towards him. Harry shook it, looking bewildered. "Ello."
Snape's eyes flickered when Harry said that and Lucius looked suddenly warm. "Well, let's get you both to a seat. Sit, sit, Narcissa should be coming soon-"
The moment he said that, not very long later, Narcissa Malfoy entered the room. She was looking very pretty: Her long blonde hair hanging over her shoulders, her blue eyes sparkling. She was wearing golden robes and glittery jewelry.
"Severus!" She beamed, rushing to meet him. "Oh, I am glad that you could come. And I'm so happy that you could bring Harry too! I thought he and Draco would get along just fine-should I bring Draco, then?"
"It's nice to meet you too, Narcissa. Yes, bring him-"
"I'll just go. He's playing in his room, the little darling. I'll go get him." She walked off.
"She's very fond of Draco," Lucius explained, his eyebrows raised.
Narcissa brought Draco a few moments later. Draco was blonde like his parents, with big grey eyes and a haughty look about him.
"Ooo! Lookie Nape!" Harry was very surprised. He had never seen another baby like him. Except Duddy, but Duddy was mean!
"Give Draco to me, Narcissa. It's been a while since I last saw him," Snape said.
Narcissa obliged, delighted.
Draco smiled up at Snape. "Sev'us?" He asked.
"Yes-He's grown up quite a bit, Naricssa,"
"He's adorable, isn't he?" Narcissa cooed.
"The Potter boy, though." Lucius said suddenly. Snape tensed. "How's it going with him?"
"He's fine...Obedient, surprisingly." Snape didn't know what else to say.
"He looks very well-behaved," Narcissa said, shooting a strange, spiteful glance at Lucius. "Come here, Harry! That's his name, isn't it?"
"Yes. Harry Potter," Snape said. He said the 'Potter' part spitefully, like it was a swear word.
Harry walked up to her meekly, shooting mournful glances at Draco in Snape's lap.
"That's the...the scar," Narcissa said, looking at the small red cut on Harry's forehead. "Oh! I heard about it, of course. It really is there. Like lightning,"
"Nape," Harry whimpered.
"No need to get scared, little boy." Narcissa said kindly. She picked him up and suddenly gave a little gasp of delight. "Very well behaved, this boy! Draco never lets anyone other than me and Lucius pick him up! With the exception of you, of course, Severus. You really have been bringing him up well."
Snape tried not to look too proud.
"Baby?" Harry pointed at Draco.
"Yes, dear! Just like you. Would you like to play with Draco?"
"Uhm," Harry looked at her uncomfortably.
"Please give Draco here, Severus." Narcissa looked even more delighted.
Snape obliged and Draco looked at Harry, his tiny eyebrows raised as if sneering at him.
Harry's mouth was trembling. "Eh!" He said. "Baby!"
Narcissa set them both down on the floor. The two of them stared at each other for a few moments.
Harry gulped. "Baby play?"
"Play?" Draco got to his feet and began toddling somewhere.
"Come bak baby!" Harry looked anxious, getting to his own feet and toddling after. They both disappeared somewhere. Snape wondered where they had gone to.
"I knew they'd like each other," Narcissa said, looking so happy that it was infectious.
The adults then began chatting, enjoying themselves.
Harry had never seen such a wonderful room in his life. It was huge, absolutely filled with toys-all the things Nape had never gotten him-rocking horses and stuffed animals. Charmed birds and colorful toys. It was a baby paradise. Draco walked into the paradise casually, and then fell on the floor.
Harry oohed at everything and picked up a toy. "Play!" He looked stunned.
"Play!" Draco agreed.
"Baby play wiv me?" Harry asked Draco.
Draco nodded. He pointed to a rocking horse. Harry was only to happy to agree.
"Avery gave you the book?" Lucius looked surprised. "I thought the Dark Lord wanted to give it to me,"
"It doesn't matter either way. I could give it to you if you like. I don't understand all the fuss about it anyway." Snape replied.
"Well, it doesn't matter," Lucius agreed. "The Dark Lord just wanted it for safe-keeping. But now that he is gone..."
"He may come back," Snape shrugged, remembering what Dumbledore had said.
"Maybe, though I don't really see how. That Potter boy destroyed him, didn't be? It makes me a little unnerved to think about it. That little child must be dangerous, full of Dark Magic."
He shot Narcissa a look and she looked back at him angrily. Something Snape did not know was happening here.
Snape wanted to correct Lucius. But he didn't want the man to break friends with him, and he couldn't really explain about Lily's sacrifice, now could he?
Snape nodded nonchalantly. "I usually take control over him. Make sure he doesn't get into mischief."
"I wonder where the kids are right now?" Narcissa wondered aloud. "Shall we go see?"
"Yes," Snape answered gratefully. He had been worrying about Harry. So they got up and looked for the children.
After a while Narcissa stopped outside a room and said, "I think they're in Draco's room."
Snape watched as she opened the door. He was shocked at the scene:
Harry and Draco were riding on a rocking horse, yelling and giggling as the horse rocked backwards and forwards at a dangerous speed.
"Oh, it's wonderful! They've made friends." Narcissa's eyes shone with glee. "Don't they look adorable?"
Snape could only watch tensely as the horse rocked back and forth erratically, the babies hanging on for dear life.
After the excitement, Narcissa showed Snape the room in which they were going to be staying. It was large and grand, with a big bed and a dresser, an ornate mirror and a carpet. There was even a chandelier.
"Thank you. It's wonderful," Snape smiled at her. He quite liked Narcissa. Truth be told, he had also had a kind of school-boy crush on her back at Hogwarts, despite Lily. He tried not to flush too deeply remembering about it now.
"It's no problem at all," Narcissa said. "I like having guests in the house." She looked behind Snape, out of the door. Lucius had gone somewhere. She suddenly looked extremely anxious. "Severus, please," she whispered pleadingly. "Don't let Harry out of your sight."
"I don't understand-" Snape was taken aback.
"He's not safe, please believe me," Narcissa kept throwing darting glances behind him, as if worried Lucius may come back. "I can't tell you much, but please keep an eye on him. At least while you're here. I don't want anything to happen,"
"Narcissa, you're making no sense-"
"Well, Severus, do you like your room?"
Snape turned around to see Lucius, smiling at him and looking expectant.
"Yes, it's very generous of you both." Snape said, feeling mildly disconcerted by Narcissa's rambling.
Narcissa looked dismayed. In a brave attempt to regain her composure, Narcissa smiled weakly, "You are sweet, Severus. Well, Lucius, why don't we have some tea? I had the elves cook something special today."
She swept past them both. Lucius raised his eyes at Severus and said, "We'd better go. She never takes no for an answer where guests are concerned,"
Snape nodded and followed. But he couldn't help feeling extremely anxious at the cryptic message Narcissa had given him. Why wasn't Harry safe here? Why shouldn't he let Harry out of his sight?
"...please keep an eye on him. At least while you're here,"
What was that supposed to mean? He had hardly been at the Manor for a few hours and already things were not boding well.