1. Accident in the Classroom by krosi
2. Toddler Troubles by krosi
3. Slow Age by krosi
Severus paced his classroom while the fifth year students worked on a deflating draught. He criticized and corrected where it was needed as he sneered at how incompetent many of the students still were at brewing such a simple concoction. Honestly, if he had it his way, potions class would only be offered to students fourth year and up, and only to students with a true desire to learn its art and study its beauty. Otherwise, this was just a waste of his time and teachings.
As he paused behind the golden trio, his upper lip curled slightly as he watched Harry and Ron whispering quietly to each other over their cauldrons. The magnificent hero of the wizarding world who could hardly maintain an A in the classroom—weren’t they all so lucky to have such an accomplished wizard to rely on? He stepped a little closer behind them.
“Careful now,” he snarled in a low tone, “we wouldn’t want to have any exploding incidents with this particularly draught, now would we, Potter?”
Harry and Ron visibly bit back any retorts as they glared down at the ingredients laid out in front of their cauldrons. Severus noted the disarray of the ingredients and shook his head.
“Five points from Gryffindor for a chaotic workstation. How either of you haven’t thrown in the wrong ingredient yet is beyond me. Finish up, you’re two steps behind the rest of the class.”
With that, Severus walked away from the Golden Trio, ignoring Hermione’s potion as he knew the bushy haired girl would most likely have a perfect result if she wasn’t already finished with it. As much as he wanted a class with only successful students, he also wanted students that weren’t mouthy know-it-alls.
As he moved toward the front of the classroom, he spared one last glance in Harry and Ron’s direction, noting that they were rushing through the last few steps. He rolled his eyes. Every student in the classroom should know by now that rushing a potion only ended in disastrous results. He would not remind anyone of this at this stage in their schooling—he’d rather fail those who refused to remember and not have to deal with them in any future classes. Let’s see what Mr. Auror-to-be Potter thinks of that, Severus thought with a smirk. Ah, to crush the dreams of the wizarding world’s famous celebrity.
It was then that Severus noted a burnt citrusy smell that brought on a wave of nausea. It was rather unexpected, as from what he had observed, everyone had at least been following the potion correctly. Scanning his eyes across the room, he noted the angry, spitting bubbles in Harry’s potion as he added leaf by leaf in what should be the final step of the deflating draught. Sensing danger, Severus whipped out his wand and cast a shield charm around the classroom just as the potion fizzed up angrily like a shaken soda before exploding with a sharp pop.
Severus’s shield charm had covered everyone just in time . . . almost everyone.
“Harry!” Hermione and Ron cried as their friend was no longer standing where he had been, his cauldron empty save for a few blotches of the remaining potion.
Damn it, I’ve killed him, Severus thought as he moved swiftly toward where Harry had been standing. Merlin, have mercy on my soul and God be with me when I inform Albus his hero is dead.
Stepping around the table, Severus saw Harry’s robe on the ground. Preparing his stomach for the worst, he took a deep breath and kneeled, pulling the robe away to see what mess remained.
His eyes widened and, throwing the robe back over what he had seen, he shot up and glared at his students.
“Class dismissed,” Severus said quickly, “You’ve all passed. Leave your potions and get out.”
“But Harry,” Hermione started to say, her hands hovering over her mouth, tears welling in her eyes as she tried to step closer and look around Severus.
“All of you out!” Severus demanded, pointing at the doorway to his classroom. “Now.”
Though Hermione appeared affronted and distraught at the same time, she allowed Ron to drag her out of the classroom, the redhead glaring daggers at Severus as he left with his friend. Everyone else was quick to follow his instruction and ran out of the classroom, abandoning their cauldrons and ingredients scattered on the work benches.
Letting out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding, Severus turned around and kneeled once more, he pulled the robe down once more.
“Only you could manage something like this, Potter,” Severus said.
Blinking up at him with large green eyes was a very small infant version of Harry Potter.
“What are we supposed to do about this, Albus?” Severus asked as he watched his mentor bounce Harry in his arms. Harry was now wrapped up in his robe, which had been shrunk enough to be used like a swaddle blanket. His glasses that had been found on the floor were currently tucked away in Severus’s pocket as the baby kept yanking them off. Severus shook his head at the sight as he continued. “I have no clue how he has even managed to accomplish such a drastic change to the potion he made today. Of course, only Potter would find some way to create a deaging potion.”
“Now Severus,” Albus began as he adjusted Harry over to his other hip. “I’m sure it was an accident at best. I can’t imagine he wanted to turn himself into a baby of all things. However, we must act quickly and restore him to his proper age before wind gets out about his condition. Heaven knows this school is not known for keeping its secrets for long and the last thing we need is for—”
“The Dark Lord to know about Potter’s condition,” Severus supplied. He closed his eyes for a moment, occluding this very conversation into a deep, dark place in the back of his mind, as he often did on a regular basis when conversing with Albus. It helped to occlude often. It became almost second nature to do it when done on a regular basis that he didn’t even have to think about occluding when it mattered the most. These actions have saved him on numerous occasions, and the Dark Lord suspected nothing, even still. Opening his eyes, he studied Harry for a moment. At least the baby was quiet. He would probably lose his mind if the baby started crying.
“Precisely,” Albus said. “As this is potion-based magic, we all know the best counter will be potion-based. Do you think you could reverse this, Severus?”
“Potentially,” Severus said, not wanting to make any promises he couldn’t keep. He frowned as he looked over at Harry’s station. If I analyze the ingredients he was using and check for contaminants, I might be able to find out what went wrong. Then, I would simply have to neutralize the effects of those ingredients. It may take a single dose of a new potion; it may take several, depending on what happened. Potter could be stuck like that for days while trying to age him back up.”
“I see, I see,” Albus said while nodding his head, smiling at baby Harry, who gave him what could only be described as a concerned look. “Well, in that case, I’ll hand him off to you to get started right away.”
Time froze for all of three seconds as those words processed in Severus’s brain.
“What?” he snapped. “You can’t mean that you expect me to watch the little brat, fix his mess, and teach my classes at the same time?”
“Of course not.” Albus chuckled. “I’ll get a substitute. One of your graduates a few years ago is almost finished with his apprenticeship and needs a few hours working in a teaching position toward his curriculum. This might just be the perfect opportunity. That way, you can devote all your time to watching Harry and brewing the potions he’ll need.”
“Oh excellent,” Severus said with a forced smile. “All the time in the world to devote to one precious Potter.”
“He needs your skills right now, Severus,” Albus reminded. “And look at him, he’s just a helpless baby now. Try to be gentle with him. I’m entrusting you to restore Harry to his former self and bring him back in one piece.”
“And what am I supposed to do if I am . . . called away?”
“I am assigning one of our elves to be called upon in case of an emergency. I will send you a name to call for should you need to leave Harry for an extended period of time. Hopefully, it won’t be too long for you to restore Harry. I will inform the students that Harry has fallen severely ill following this incident and that you have taken him to a secure location to help him heal.”
“And where am I supposed to take him?”
“I was under the impression that you have an off-the-grid location that even the Dark Lord knows not of?”
Severus crossed his arms and threw his head back with an inconvenienced sigh. The place in question was his one escape from Hogwarts, students, and Death Eaters. It was a small but cozy cottage deep in the woods of Southern England, somewhere no one else was ever permitted to be, not the headmaster, not the Dark Lord, and certainly not the little prince who was currently a baby. Severus gritted his teeth. It would be a good location to hide away with Potter until he was returned to normal. However, he could only imagine what chaos Potter would unleash on his poor humble home.
“I still have ownership of the house on Spinner’s End,” Severus offered.
“Too risky,” Albus decided.
Right, because every Death Eater knew where that house was.
“What is wrong with hiding away in my quarters? Here?”
“We need you out of the castle in case Madame Umbridge tries to see what is wrong with Harry. If word of his condition gets back to the Ministry, Merlin knows what they might try to do.”
Excellent point, yes, but must he come to my one sanctuary? Severus bit his inner cheek and glared at the baby, but Harry was ignoring him, focused intently on fiddling with strands of Albus’s beard while the adults discussed his fate.
“I see I’m left with no choice but the Escape Cottage. Very well, Albus. I will take Potter and work quickly on getting him back to his fifteen year old self. Hopefully, we’re back within the week.”
“That would be excellent, Severus,” Albus said, grinning broadly. “We certainly don’t want Harry falling behind in school. Of course, Christmas holidays starts in a week, so if you are not back before then, you’ll have plenty of time to restore him and return him before the term starts back up.”
“Lucky me,” Severus said in a dry tone. He huffed before holding his hands out for Harry. “Alright then, Potter, let’s get this over with.”
Albus moved to hand Harry over, but the little brat cried out and gripped on to Albus, hiding his head in Albus’s shoulder. Severus bit back a snarky remark while Albus shushed and reassured Harry.
“It is okay, Harry, you will be safe with Severus. He will take good care of you. He is a good man, you will see.” Albus bounced Harry and patted his back. He pulled out his wand and waved it around the baby, changing the swaddle blanket into a diaper and a dark green onesie as he said to Severus, “An age charm places Harry at about nine months old. Poor child must be so confused right now, having no idea where he is or who we are. Move slow with him, he’ll warm up to you, I’m sure. Harry has such a big heart.”
Severus fought a disgusted look as he reached for Harry once more, removing him from Albus’s hold. Harry whined and reached for Albus, but the older wizard waved goodbye to Harry before leaving the classroom, leaving Severus awkwardly holding Harry in the middle of the potions classroom.
Unsure of what to do, Severus slowly set Harry down on the floor, afraid if he moved too quickly, he might break the baby. Harry seemed able to hold himself up without any support, so Severus slowly backed away as if sudden movement might provoke some kind of reaction.
“Just stay there,” Severus commanded. “I’m just going to be right here at your station trying to figure out where you went wrong, Potter.”
Harry blinked at Severus. After watching Harry for a few seconds and deciding the baby wasn’t going to move, Severus stepped over to Harry’s workbench, which was only a few feet away from where he left Harry sitting on the floor. Peering through the mess of herbs, powders, and animal parts scrambled on the desk, Severus picked through everything, identifying all the correct components of a deflating draught on the table, frowning as he tried to figure out what Harry may have done differently from the other students. His hands pushed aside the ginseng—well, what should have been ginseng. He narrowed his eyes.
“This is ginger, Potter,” Severus snarled, holding up the root and glaring at Harry. The baby’s lip puckered out slightly. “You were supposed to grab the ginseng. Maybe, if you slowed down and paid attention to what you were doing in the storage room, you wouldn’t have made such a silly mistake. And while ginger certainly changes the use of the potion, it wouldn’t have done so this drastically. So what else did you add in to your potion?”
Harry didn’t say anything as he kept his lower lip pushed out, not that Severus expected his help in the matter anyway.
Severus turned back to the mess, shaking his head irritably.
“If you kept all your ingredients separated and in an orderly fashion, you wouldn’t lose your head trying to follow the recipe.”
Severus picked through the leaves on the table, feeling the texture of each one when he noticed a couple differently shaped leaves in the mix. He brought them closer to his nose, smelling them, then looking at Harry pointedly.
“Daisy leaves,” he said. “I’m assuming you didn’t grab these intentionally—knowing how you students raid the storage room collecting what you need, things always end up where they shouldn’t be. However, if you paid half as much detention to detail to your potion as you did to a snitch in a quidditch field, you would have noticed that a few of the leaves were not quite the same. Daisy leaves are very useful in age related potions, preserving youth and innocence. Combined with the ginger, which enhances an ingredients ability, then the ingredients of the deflating solution, naturally, you end up with something that deages the body. Well done, Potter. Your ineptitude never ceases to amaze me.”
If a baby could look annoyed, Harry had managed to accomplish the look. Severus thought nothing of it as he cleaned up every table in the room with a swish of his wand before sending all the cauldrons over to the wash sink. He walked back over to Harry, staring down at the tiny form on the ground.
“All we have to do now is figure out an aging potion that will bring you back to your rightful age.”
Severus reached down to lift Harry but jerked back when the baby let out a loud cry. He hesitated, studying the child before narrowing his eyes.
“Do not do that,” Severus said through his teeth. “I have to carry you whether you like it or not, you little brat.”
Harry slowly pushed himself over on his stomach, then began crawling away as fast as he could.
“Oh no, you don’t,” Severus said, scooping up Harry quickly, holding him out at arm’s length while Harry started screaming. The noise was ear piercing and Severus winced, his temper flaring up quickly. How anyone could stand having one of their own of these tiny human beings was beyond him.
“Stop that this instant before I cast a muffler on you!”
He hadn’t really expected the baby to obey, and much to his surprise, Harry grumbled angrily but stopped screaming. Severus halted in his tracks as something struck him. He set Harry down on a table, keeping a hand on him in case the child tried falling off. He stared directly at Harry, meeting his eyes.
“You understand me, don’t you?” Severus asked.
Harry blinked at him.
“Nod yes if you understand me,” Severus demanded, trying not to grow annoyed at the lack of response.
Harry slowly started tilting his head back, further and further, and when it looked like he might fall backwards, Severus had a horrifying image of a baby breaking his neck, and he quickly put his hand behind Harry’s head, stopping the child. Maybe the muscle tone wasn’t quite all there for nodding yet.
“Never mind that,” Severus said, sitting Harry up once more. “Seeing as your vocal abilities are less than subpar, is there anything you can control to help me understand you?”
Harry’s face morphed into a small frown before he opened his mouth then blew a loud raspberry. Unamused, Severus glared at Harry.
“Cheeky as ever,” Severus said.
Harry laughed, then blew another raspberry.
Annoyed, Severus snatched Harry up, tucking him under his arm in a football hold, earning loud squeals of complaints and protests.
“That’s enough out of you,” Severus said as he paused in front of the stone wall behind his desk. He pushed in a stone and a doorway opened. “It’s your fault we are in this mess and now I have to tend to you and make your potion to get you back to normal. You just had to be the center of attention, didn’t you, Potter? You have to be in the spotlight causing problems and forcing others to fix your mistakes. You had to make every moment of my life miserable somehow this year, didn’t you? Well, I promise you, you will not be pampered or coddled during this. I will return you to your rightful self and then you can serve detention with me—no, with Mr. Filch—every night for the rest of the school year. That ought to strike your fancy, eh, Potter?”
Harry’s cried increased in volume, growing angrier as Severus cut through his office from the secret passageway to the door on in the back of his office that led to his quarters. It was a quaint but comfortable living space, with neutral colors setting the theme, not too dark but definitely not too bright. The door from the office brought them through a small kitchenette that was immediately connected to the parlor, where he set Harry down on the floor once more, ending the angry cries, but Harry still glared up at him.
“Don’t give me that look, you’ve no one to blame but yourself for this. Wait here, I need to grab a few things then we are leaving to my place to fix this mess you’ve made.”
Harry blew another raspberry at Severus as he made his way deeper into his quarters. While the sound grated at his nerves, he chose to ignore it and focus on the task at hand. He needed a few tomes from his study that he knew discussed age related potion consequences and then he needed to pack for his emergency stay at his cottage. He couldn’t believe he would be bringing Harry of all people to his secret location. He would be the first person beside Severus to have set foot in the house in ten years. Special Potter, indeed.
Severus packed a suitcase and stuffed the tomes in with his robes, then shrunk the suitcase and pocketed it. He wondered if he should pack any of Harry’s belongings, but he was sure he wouldn’t have Harry long enough to need any of his things, especially when he wouldn’t fit in them anyway. He would just have to transfigure things along the way. He was sure this would be a multi-potion process. Aging up would have to be done in steps regardless of the quickest solution he found—a slow process was the safest way to recover from a sudden deaging event.
Taking a moment to collect his thoughts, Severus rubbed his hands down his face. Of all the people to end up as Potter’s caretaker, even if temporarily, he had never in all his years imagined something like this happening. Was this some sort of sick karma? As much as he hated this, and he was sure he would hate every minute he had to spend with Harry, he had been given a job. And just as with any job, he would fulfill it to the best of his ability. Though he was making no promises both of them would come back alive. Harry was already pushing his limits, and he wasn’t sure how much more of his impertinence he could take.
Finally stepping out of his bedroom, Severus headed for where he had left Harry.
Except Harry was no longer there.
“Potter?” Severus called out as he whipped his head around looking for the tiny baby. “Show yourself this instant!”
No baby appeared, and when he heard nothing, Severus growled loudly before pulling out his wand.
“Point me Harry Potter.”
He felt his wand tug and followed its pull, walking slowly through his living room. The wand kept tugging against his hold, so he followed it ahead, walking past the door to his bedroom and pausing in front of his study as he felt it jerk to his right suddenly. He slowly stepped into his study, glancing around as there were only so many places to hide. He moved around his desk and glanced under his desk, then shoved his wand up his sleeve and snatched the baby, earning an angry shriek.
“Just what do you think you’re doing?” Severus demanded, holding the baby out at arm’s length.
Harry blew a raspberry.
“You really are a despicable child,” Severus commented. He hesitated as he thought about what to do next. Throwing the child under his arm resulted in screaming, so he wondered hos he could carry the child without any drama and without keeping him at an arm’s distance. He remembered what Albus had done earlier. Slowly, he pulled Harry toward him and rested the child on his hip, supporting him with one arm. Harry grumbled softly but obligingly accepted the carrying style.
Nodding in victory, Severus carried Harry out to the parlor and headed for his floo.
“I don’t know what you were attempting to do,” Severus said, “probably looking for some adventure no doubt. There will be none of that under my watch; absolutely none of that Gryffindor foolishness you so proudly embrace. Is that clear, Mr. Potter?”
Harry blew another raspberry.
Severus’s upper lip curled but he resisted snapping at the child and instead, grabbed a handful of floo powder, then said a long string of enchantments before dropping the powder. Unlike a regular floo, they did not start falling through a hundred chimneys. Instead, a gold shimmer swallowed them and they slowly faded out of sight, the breath knocked out of them in a familiar feeling as apparition before they reappeared in a chimney thousands of miles away from Hogwarts.
It was a small, one-story English cottage, but the inside was comfortable with a large sofa and a plush armchair surrounding an ornate chimney in the parlor. The small windows did not fail in bringing in plenty of sunlight to brighten the room, but there was also muggle electricity to add additional light, and Severus flicked a switch to brighten the room more. Following the room flow, they were led into a tidy, old style kitchen with appliances dating back to the forties’ and a large pantry. The kitchen led to a hallway that would bring them to two bedrooms connected to a single bathroom, and adjacent to those rooms was a small closet and a large room Severus had converted into a makeshift potions lab. Down the hall led to a newly constructed outdoor deck mahogany stained and overlooking a pond in the far backyard and the forest that surrounded the house.
Severus settled Harry onto the armchair in the parlor.
“Stay here. If you fall off and crack your skull open, it’ll be your own fault for disobeying. I have to babyproof the house for your stay.”
Harry grumbled as he relaxed in the chair, his lower lip puckering out.
Severus ignored him as he checked his house for anything that could harm a baby, plugging up electrical outlets, removing loose cords, and placing a lock on his potion lab door. He wasn’t about to tell Harry he was Potter-proofing the house more than he was baby-proofing it. The cords and outlets were more for sure. Harry clearly still had his fifteen-year-old mind intact, he should know better than to put his fingers in an outlet.
There was also another advantage to having his mind intact. It meant that the deaging process was complete. Harry hadn’t mentally deaged, just physically shrank to his infant self. And growing a body back up to its correct age was much easier than restoring a mind with memories and knowledge to its correct age without screwing something up in the process. The potion he needed for growing a body was a simple potion, but it required several hours of simmering to complete, then it needed to cool down to room temp before it could be consumed. Easy enough, and it would make aging Harry much smoother.
As long as he cooperated of course.
Severus checked the protective wards around his property, then set up a charm that would let him know if Harry every stepped outside of the property boundaries. He debated setting a charm that would keep Harry locked inside but the potion was at least a three to four dose process, and it could only be take every forty-eight hours to prevent over exhaustion on the body from the rapid aging. He would also brew a few painkillers for Harry to take with the potion as well, knowing the growing pains would not be pleasant.
Satisfied with what he had accomplished, Severus headed back to his parlor in time to catch Harry sliding off the armchair, his feet inches from hitting the ground. Severus grabbed the child before he crashed to the floor, holding him up and glaring at him.
“Are you incapable of minding me for more than one minute? If that’s the case, I’ll transfigure you a crib and you can stay there all day while I brew your potion.” Harry pouted at Severus, but he ignored the look. Instead, Severus rested Harry on his hip and carried him to his potion lab. The room was a modern contrast to the rest of the house with its sterile tables and organized shelves of ingredients lining the walls. It had an industrial sink along with cupboards where cauldrons were stored to avoid dust collection.
“You should be very grateful, Potter,” Severus spoke as he moved around the room, grabbing a book off the shelf and slamming it down on a table. He flicked through it. “The potion is simple enough but I could have done without having to look after you and fix your mess. If you’re going to screw up, you have to go all out, don’t you? You never do something halfway. Well, I hope this humiliation will teach you to mind yourself in the future. Slow down and pay attention to what you’re doing in potions class, honestly—is it not the first thing I teach you as a first year?”
Harry remained quiet as Severus bantered, unable to do anything as Severus carried him around the lab, grabbing a cauldron and several ingredients.
Once everything was set out, Severus sighed as he looked at Harry.
“I suppose I can’t work with you attached to my hip all day, now can I? I guess a crib will have to do.”
Severus transfigured an old wooden shelf into a tall baby crib, making sure the side bars were extra high in case Harry got any ideas of crawling out. He remembered hearing stories from older staff members of nieces and nephews crawling out of cribs as tiny babies, and he wasn’t taking any risks.
Transfiguring a pillow into a thin mattress, he summoned a blanket and tossed it in the crib before lowering Harry into it.
Harry screeched angrily, kicking his feet at the bed before Severus plopped him down on the thin mattress.
“I’m afraid you have little choice in the matter. I can’t keep an eye on you and brew the potion at the same time. You’ll just have to make do.”
Harry growled angrily before throwing himself back and crying out, glaring up at Severus.
“Knock that off, you uncouth child. Would you like something to do?”
Severus smirked, then grabbed a stirring rod and transfigured it into a rattle. He offered it to Harry, who’s glare deepened.
“What, not good enough for our little hero?” Severus asked. He set the rattle down next to Harry. “I’m afraid other toys might be too dangerous for you at this size.”
Severus walked to his work table and started prepping ingredients for the potion, glancing at the book for instruction on how things needed to be prepared. He started with mincing the herbs when the rattle struck the edge of the table as it soared toward him, startling Severus as it dropped harmlessly to the floor, landing next to Severus’s feet. He swung his head in Harry’s direction, who had a satisfied look. Severus narrowed his eyes at Harry.
“Impressive throw, Potter,” Severus said as he returned to his work. “But you’re not getting it back.”
Harry babbled as he rolled away from Severus, staring at the plain wall. The silence gave Severus a chance to work through the potion, mincing and chopping and shredding ingredients as he needed and adding them to the potion as instructed, timing everything to the second with his pocket watch. He glanced at Harry now and then, but the baby managed to fall asleep. He was sure Harry was running on a baby’s schedule anyway, a small body could only handle so much after all.
It was an hour and a half later that Severus finished the potion, but now it needed to simmer for six hours, and then it needed to cool until it was room temp before it could be consumed. Severus glanced at the time: it was nearly two thirty in the afternoon. What a long day it was turning out to be.
He glanced at Harry, noting for the first time the pained look on the baby’s face.
Concern washed over Severus as he ran over to the crib. Could he be having a late reaction to the potion’s accident? Was something going on internally that he and Albus had missed?
“What is it?” Severus asked. “Are you alright? What hurts?”
Harry’s face seemed to turn red and he looked away from Severus, refusing to meet his eyes.
Severus wasn’t sure why he bothered asking. Harry couldn’t answer him even if he wanted to, so Severus reached down to lift the boy and check him over when a particular smell struck his nose. Realization hit and Severus pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to keep down the contents in his stomach and remain stoic about this. Merlin give him strength to do what he never thought he’d ever have to do. Was there a spell for this? Some kind of charm mother’s knew that he might be able to look up? Would a cleansing spell work? If only he had stopped by the library for a book on useful parenting spells. Now he would have to change Harry bloody Potter’s diaper the old fashion way. Hopefully he could figure that out.
“I suppose you are in need of a change, Mr. Potter,” Severus said, as he reached down to lift Harry.
The child’s head swung his way and Harry let out a loud shriek, startling Severus, who jerked back. He paused, slowly deepening his glare at the baby.
“Stop doing that!” he scolded. “Do you want to stay in a dirty diaper all day, Potter? You can’t drink the potion until tonight, and even then, it’s an overnight process where you will age, hopefully painlessly in your sleep. I, for one, do not wish to smell your business all day, so let’s do us both a favor and get this over with.”
Severus reached in the crib once more, where once again, Harry screamed, but Severus grabbed the baby and moved him over to a work bench, ignoring the baby’s protests. Harry did not help matters as he struggled to roll away from Severus as he attempted to undo the seat of the onesie, and Severus’s growing frustrations did not make it any easier.
“Be still before I stupefy you,” Severus threatened, though he was sure it was illegal to stun a baby. Harry didn’t need to know that though. Using one hand on Harry’s stomach to pin the baby down and his other hand to undo the snaps, Harry’s angry shrieks turned into a genuine baby cry, much like any other baby with dislikes for a diaper change. The noise was like nails on a chalkboard to Severus, but at least Harry was holding still now.
Now that he had access to Harry’s diaper, Severus tried a more hands off approach as he lifted Harry’s legs up to raise his bottom off the table, then with summoned warm wash cloths ready, he vanished the diaper and the washcloths cleaned Harry’s bottom before a clean washcloth appeared and Severus transfigured it into a diaper. He applied a baby powder potion solution he did have in stock for selling and applied a generous amount on Harry before doing up the diaper three times before he was sure it looked correct. Finally, he sighed and fixed Harry’s onesie before lifting the baby and casting a self-wash charm on his work table, and cleaning supplies attacked it vigorously. Severus carried a red faced Harry back to the crib and set him down.
“There, it wasn’t so bad, was it? Hardly worth the tantrum you threw.”
Harry pouted at him, his face red.
“It’s not fun being humiliated, is it?” Severus continued. “Perhaps you’ll remember this for a long time and think twice before not paying attention in Potions class again.”
Harry moodily dropped on his back and rolled away from Severus. After going through the horrible action of changing a diaper, Severus expected for more gratitude, though he should have known Harry would give him none. Something boiled over in Severus and he bared his teeth at the baby.
“Such ungratefulness,” Severus growled. “You’re just like your father. Ungrateful, reckless, careless, and an absolute idiot.”
Harry made a small noise of protest, glaring up at Severus.
“You have no argument to prove otherwise. Your father would do something this rash and get away scot-free. Except he would have made sure someone else suffered the humiliation of becoming a baby. He was rather partial to that sport—humiliating others for fun.”
Harry squealed louder at Severus.
“What—don’t believe me? What would you know about him? You never met him. You probably think he was some great hero, but he was far from it. Nothing but a pig-headed scoundrel, he was.”
Harry’s eyes watered then he screamed angrily at Severus, repeating it when Severus snapped back.
“Stop it, you’re getting upset over nothing at all,” Severus scolded over Harry’s screaming, raising his voice louder as his anger grew at the noise. “I’m only sharing the truth with you, and you know what, Potter, sometimes the truth hurts. And the truth is your father and his friends were just like you: conceited, thinking themselves above the rules, and getting away with everything without so much as a slap on the wrist. You can go around thinking highly of him all you’d like—stop screaming!—but I was unfortunate enough to meet him and the bully he lived up to be. You can’t imagine how it pains me to have to deal with you every day, a constant reminder of him and his wicked ways, and the product he made with my best friend!”
Severus fell silent quickly, his eyes widening at what he had just said. Harry had also stopped screaming at Severus and was staring wide eyed, then he made a sad face up at Severus. Severus groaned and rubbed his hands down his face as he turned away, sliding down until he sat on the cold floor of the lab, his back against the crib. He shook his head softly.
“I can’t believe I’m yelling at a baby,” Severus said. “Lily’s baby, nonetheless.”
Harry made a soft coo and Severus turned his head to look at him. Harry opened his mouth, ready to make another sound when his stomach growled loudly.
Taking that as cue to move on to a new subject and totally forget about his little outburst, Severus jumped to his feet.
“Ah, I see you’ve made room for food. At your age, you’d still be on formula, so I should find a potion for that, I’m sure one exists. In the meantime, . . . err, here.” Severus summoned a banana and set it in the crib with Harry.
Harry looked at the banana, then gave a pointed look at Severus, making a disgruntled noise.
“Right,” Severus said, snatched the banana and peeling it for Harry before setting it back in. He headed for his table, ignoring another disgruntled cry from Harry. Surely the child could figure out how to eat a banana from there.
As he grabbed one of the tomes that discussed emergency potions, he glanced at Harry, who was busy taking fistfuls of banana and stuffing it in his mouth, making an absolute mess of one piece of fruit. Severus returned his focus to the index, scanning for anything that might be of use. He finally found the perfect potion, an emergency baby formula potion. He flipped to the correct page and studied the instructions.
“Alright then, easy enough,” Severus said, setting up a cauldron and collecting the ingredients he needed. “It’s almost the same as making a nutrient potion, except everything is diluted and pureed a little more. I think I’ve got this. A tablespoon of standard ingredient, three drops of honey, chopped ginger root . . .”
As Severus worked on the potion, Harry finished his fill of the banana, shoving the rest aside and lying down to watch Severus work, blinking blearily. When Severus was finished, he frowned at the thin but slimy looking green liquid that remained, ladling some and letting it pour back into the pot inquisitively.
“They feed this to babies?” Severus questioned. He glanced in Harry’s direction. “You wouldn’t want to sportingly try it, would you?”
The aghast look on Harry’s face quickly morphed into tears as Harry started crying.
“No need to be so judgmental,” Severus snapped. He looked down at the book and studied the side binding. “I suppose this is what they did two hundred years ago. I should really update my collection.” Severus sighed, feeling completely exhausted. And he still had four hours to go on the simmering potion.
Then, two bottles appeared on his table, filled with prepared formula. A parchment slip appeared next to them in very familiar handwriting.
Thought you might need this, the parchment said. Save the other in the fridge for dinner. Also, Frilly agreed to be available to watch Harry for you in the event of an emergency. Just snap your fingers twice and will her access to your home and she will come.
Thank you, Albus, Severus thought in his head. He tapped one of the bottles and it vanished to his fridge for later. He handed the other bottle to Harry, who accepted it and brought it to his mouth. However, he took one gulp and chucked the bottle away, whining pitifully.
“You need it, Potter. That is what your stomach can handle. I will not have you starve under my care.”
Severus picked up the bottle and offered it back to Harry, but the little brat turned away with a whine.
“Drink it, Potter,” Severus demanded.
Harry took the bottle from Severus, then threw it at the man as hard as he could, hitting Severus in the nose.
“Ow—you incorrigible little brat!” Severus held his nose for a moment, walking away to cool his temper before he reached into the crib and pulled the kicking baby out. Harry screamed briefly before clamping his mouth shut when Severus picked up the bottle. Severus adjusted Harry against himself in a way he had seen young mothers do at parks or in muggle towns. Harry struggled against him however.
Severus tried to jam the nipple into Harry’s mouth, but the baby kept it shut while turning his head every which way.
“I’m not exactly sure what you were expecting, but regardless of its taste, you need this. Now knock it off and open your mouth.”
Harry refused, whining out a negative answer in response to Severus’s statement.
“Drink this or I’ll force feed you the green slop. And trust me, Potter, I will enjoy every second of it.”
Harry obediently opened his mouth and accepted the bottle, hesitantly drinking from it. Sighing in relief, Severus wondered what he should do now, if he should let Harry continue to feed himself in his crib or hold the baby until he was done.
Severus decided he didn’t want to risk Harry deciding not to finish the bottle so he walked out to his parlor, leaving the Age-Up potion to simmer in the lab. He settled down into his armchair, leaning back slightly so he could support Harry’s weight against him rather than just all in his arm, which was growing tired from the baby’s weight. Harry seemed to have found a rhythm with the bottle and was nursing away, but he did frown slightly up at Severus, who stared down at him, watching to make sure he drank enough, that was all.
After a few minutes, Harry’s eyes began to droop, and he jerked himself awake a couple times, much to Severus’s amusement. However, as Harry faded, Severus found his own eyes closing against his will . . .
He wasn’t sure how long he was out for, but he felt small fingers brushing against his cheek and his eyes slowly opened, catching Harry jerking his hand back and staring up at him wide eyed. Severus blinked and pulled out his pocket watch, checking the time. Two hours had passed—how on earth had he slept for so long? He also realized Harry was snug against his shoulder. He must have moved him to a more comfortable position in his sleep, though he wasn’t sure who it would have been more comfortable for, himself or Harry. The bottle was long forgotten on the floor, but the majority of it had been consumed.
“I’m not sure what’s come over me,” Severus said, as he sat up on the chair. He adjusted Harry in his arms before giving him a look. “How long have you been awake?”
Harry blinked at him, then scrunched up his nose as if that would answer the question. Rolling his eyes, Severus settled Harry on his hip and carried him to the potions lab, checking on the potion.
“It’s almost done now. I should make us some dinner. With what little chompers you have, I’m sure you’ll manage soft foods well enough.”
Severus moved the crib into the kitchen before setting Harry inside it. While he made a meal of mashed potatoes, broccoli, and chicken, Harry managed to push himself up in his crib, gripping the bars for support until he was standing.
“Nape,” Harry shouted.
Severus turned sharply, looking at Harry, who bounced slightly on his feet.
“Congratulations, Potter,” Severus said dryly. “You found your voice.”
Harry pouted, then repeated, “Nape!”
“Not now. I’m busy.”
“What, is that all you’ve figured out how to say?” Severus said turning away from the food and walking over to the crib. “What do you want?”
Harry let go of a bar with one hand and held it out toward Severus, who frowned, then seemed to get the hint. He wasn’t the least bit fooled that Harry wanted to be held by him of all people.
“Fine, but you stay where I can see you in the kitchen.”
Severus lifted Harry out of the crib and set him on the floor. Harry crawled after Severus when the man went back to the stove, but after watching him for a minute, he crawled around the kitchen, exploring the new place.
He pulled himself up using the chairs for support, looking around at new heights to take everything in.
“What is it?” Severus asked. “Too small for our hero? Not enough gold silverware? It will have to do for the time being. You’ve nowhere else to go while you’re in that condition.”
Harry spared Severus a glance before dropping to all fours and crawling over to Severus. He gripped Severus robe and pulled himself up against Severus.
“Nape,” Harry said, looking up at Severus.
“What do you want now? Food isn’t ready yet.”
Harry’s bright green eyes met Severus’s, and it was as if he was trying to communicate sentences with them. However, as he could not make Severus understand him, he looked down, then leaned into Severus’s leg, wrapping his little arms around Severus. Then he dropped back down to all fours and crawled away.
Severus wasn’t sure what to make of Harry’s actions. He brushed it off as Harry losing his balance. Nothing more.
After dinner and another bottle (and another dreadful diaper change), Harry was given free range to crawl around the house while Severus cooled down the potion. Harry pretty much just followed Severus, ever so inquisitive about what he was doing. Severus nearly tripped over Harry at one point, almost kicking the child in the process, at which point Harry was set in his crib once more, much to his contempt.
Finally, the potion was ready, and Severus changed Harry out of his onesie and into a toddler sized t-shirt and strapped on a pull up over the diaper.
“I highly doubt the potion ages more than a few years at a time, so this will be a slow process, Potter. Do not be disappointed when you are only three or four tomorrow morning, but I expect you to be an obedient toddler or I’ll lock you in a room the entire time you are here, is that understood?”
Harry blinked up at Severus, clearly making no promise of such behavior.
Biting back snide comments, Severus lifted Harry and carried him to the lab. He grabbed on of the bottles and poured a dose of the potion Harry needed into it. He used a dropper to administer three drops of two different kinds of pain killers, which Harry obediently opened his mouth for. Then, he headed to the chair to sit with Harry and feed the potion to him.
Harry opened his mouth to accept the nipple and began drinking quickly, his face scrunching up in obvious dislike of the potion, but he didn’t stop.
“Good boy,” Severus commented, unable to stop himself in time.
Harry’s eyes softened as he blinked up at Severus, then his eyes slowly drooped close. Severus watched Harry closely, making sure he took in every last drop of the potion. Harry continued to drink it even as he appeared asleep. Unfortunately, Severus would have to brew a fresh batch again, as the potion broke down completely after twelve hours. Such a time sensitive potion, but it made sense for what it was treating. Severus leaned back in the chair, holding Harry close so as not to wake him. The bottle fell from Harry’s mouth, but the potion was gone. Harry smacked his lips a couple times and curled into Severus.
Severus didn’t move for a long time as he stared down at Harry. Such a small bundle of trouble he was. He was in for one hell of a week; Severus was sure of it. But for now, there was at least peace while Harry slept. And Severus didn’t want to set him down quite yet. Just to make sure he had no reaction to the potion, of course.
Severus’s eyes shot open at the sound of a noise that didn’t quite register in his brain yet. He blinked a few times against the morning light, rolling over in his bed and rubbing at his eyes before glaring up at the ceiling, waiting to see if he’d hear the sound that had woken him again.
“Snape!” a small voice screamed for him in the next room over.
There it was. The sound of a young, annoying Harry Potter calling from the next room. Growling under his breath, Severus forced himself out of the bed then deliberately went about his morning routines first, ignoring a frustrated cry and another call of “Snape!”
The little brat could wait until he was good and ready to take him out of the crib he had spelled with wards to contain Harry should the child even consider crawling out of the crib before he was even awake. He was glad to have thought of it last minute now, as he was sure Harry would already be running around his house causing havoc if he hadn’t.
After a quick wash of his face and teeth, Severus threw on a casual black robe and slipped on his boots. He crossed through the bathroom and into the second bedroom; a room which he had converted into a study, however, he had shoved the desk and chair against a back wall to make room for the crib where one Harry Potter was glaring at him, standing on the thin mattress and holding onto the bars of the crib. The shirt he had put on the baby last night fit toddler Harry, so he only had the shirt and the pull up on.
“’bout time,” Harry said in a small, squeaky voice that Severus was sure to grate on his nerves before the day was over. “Get me outta here. And I want normal shorts.”
“Why should I?” Severus asked, crossing his arms. “If I take you of that, you’ll surely cause all sorts of chaos in my home. I think it best if I leave you inside that crib all day. It would at least give me some peace from you.”
“I’ll scream until you take me out,” Harry threatened.
“A muffler would make your cries mere white noise,” Severus countered.
“That’s child abuse!” Harry argued.
“What would you know of child abuse, you spoiled little . . .”
“More than you, ob’iously,” Harry muttered under his breath.
“Enough. It is your own fault your in this mess and I spend all my time attempting to age you back up to your correct age and this is the thanks I get? You truly are an ungrateful scoundrel. I should leave you to figure out how to fix your own problem but knowing your skills in the classroom, you’d set my house on fire.”
“Snape!” Harry cried out in exasperation. “Let me out.”
“That’s Professor Snape to you.” Severus snapped. He let out an exasperated sigh of his own. “I suppose I must feed you breakfast and set you up with things to do to occupy your time while I gather what I need for tomorrow’s potion.”
“Why can’t I take it again today?” Harry asked as Severus lifted him out of the crib and set him on the floor. Harry wobbled on his feet for a moment before finding his footing. He stared up at Severus, who used his wand to turn the crib into a toddler sized bed.
“The potion is time sensitive, so I must prepare a fresh batch anyway. It is also inadvisable to age more than a few years in a short time span, so a good thirty-six to forty-eight hours is warranted between each dose to give the body a chance to rest up and heal from such a rapid process the potion causes. Of course, I’d love nothing more than to watch you writhe in agony as I pour the potion down your throat daily until you are fifteen again, but I made a promise to the Headmaster I’d have you back in perfect health. How fortunate for you.”
“It was accident,” Harry said. “I didn’t mean to—”
“You never mean to do anything, do you, Potter? It’s always just pure luck, isn’t it?” Severus flicked his wand at Harry, earning a flinch from the small child, which he ignored. “You are three years old. Not bad. A few more doses and you’ll be back to your Gryffindor tower in no time, by the end of the week no doubt. And I may have a peaceful winter break without your presence.”
Severus flicked his wand again and the pullup turned into underwear and the shirt into a gray robe that lengthened to fit Harry correctly.
“I don’t want to be here either,” Harry stated. “I really was accident. You’re bad teacher.”
“Hitting me where it hurts,” Severus said with a smirk. “Which gives me an idea. I have something for you to do while I make breakfast.”
Severus grabbed Harry by his arms, lifting the child and carrying him over to a corner of the room where the desk and chair sat. Harry screamed and kicked at Severus, trying to pull himself free of Severus’s grip. Severus pulled out the chair and set Harry down in it, heightening it for the small child and hexing it so Harry could not leave the seat. He pushed the chair in and pushed away a few things before shoving a quill and parchment toward Harry.
“As punishment for this ridiculous predicament you’ve got us both in,” Severus began. “You can sit here and write “I will pay attention in potions class and not make such a foolish mistake ever again” fifty times while I make us something to eat. That ought to keep you busy.”
Harry glared up at Severus before holding his hand out.
“I need my glasses,” he said.
Severus summoned the thin spectacles and slapped them down in Harry’s small hand. When Harry picked up the quill as best he could, Severus left him alone in the room to focus on a quick breakfast. He knew he couldn’t confine Harry to the desk all day, the child would be screaming and rebelling again in no time. But at least he was out of his hair for twenty minutes or so while he threw something together. He realized he would need to go shopping for more food as he explored his kitchen, then figured he could make a list and send the house elf assigned to him for the week out to do the shopping. That would be much easier.
Severus would work on the list later. For now, he threw together a quick porridge and topped it with a variety of nuts and seeds. It was minimalistic but would serve its purpose. He was sure Harry would have something to say about it though. He’d probably demand a meal fit for a king. Well, he would get no special treatment here.
Severus set the table and heightened one of the chairs before marching back to his office room—or Harry’s temporary bedroom. He paused in the doorway, narrowing his eyes at the boy who was scribbling away on the parchment. At least Harry had obeyed his orders with little complaint. He couldn’t stand whinging.
“That’ll do, Potter,” Severus said. “Let’s see what progress you’ve made.”
Harry suddenly leaned forward and used his arms to cover the parchment.
“Err, I’m not done yet,” Harry said.
“I figured you wouldn’t be,” Severus said with a roll of his eyes. “Let me see how far you got.”
“Potter,” Severus growled through his teeth, “do not test my patience. Hand over the parchment this instant.”
Harry bit his lower lip before he sat up and held the parchment out. Severus snatched it and glared at it, and that glare deepened.
At the top of the parchment were large, shaky letters in a sad attempt to write out the required sentence Severus had demanded. Harry hand managed to fill the entire top with “I will pay attention,” with the last word curling down slightly as Harry clearly ran out of room to finish the word. Instead of finishing the sentence, doodles and squiggles covered the entire page, ranging in all shapes and designs with no clear picture of anything on the page.
“What is the meaning of this, Mr. Potter?” Severus asked.
“You try writing with these ‘tubby hands,” Harry said, holding his hands up to show Severus. “It not easy.”
“Regardless, you should have at least tried.”
“I did try.”
“I will not stand here and argue with a toddler.” Severus crumbled the parchment and tossed it in the nearby wastebin. He waved his hand over Harry to free him from the hex that kept him seated before lifting Harry and setting him down. “Report to the kitchen for breakfast. After you are finished, we’ll find you something to do to keep you occupied while I work.”
“I have to go potty,” Harry said, then blushed as he realized how he worded it.
“Of course, you do,” Severus said. “I highly doubt your bladder has grown that much if yesterday was any indication of how small it was.”
Severus made a step stool for Harry to climb in the bathroom, then stepped out to give the boy some privacy, but he stayed right outside the door in case Harry had any trouble. Being as small as he was, it wouldn’t take more than a breeze to knock the child into the toilet. After a minute, he heard the toilet flush and the step stool slide across the floor over to the sink, but no water sounded.
“Snape!” Harry cried.
“Professor Snape,” Severus corrected as he stepped into the bathroom. He turned the faucet on without waiting for a response from Harry, who quickly went to work washing his hands.
“Since you didn’t do us any favors and flush yourself down the pipe,” Severus said, “I suppose you may have breakfast now.”
Harry huffed and glared but followed Severus out to the kitchen, where he struggled to climb into the chair raised for him before Severus lifted him into the seat. Severus pushed a bowl of the porridge toward Harry, who licked his lips and picked up a spoon to eat hungrily, quickly making a mess all over his face. Severus sat down with his own bowl and watched with slight disappointment that Harry did immediately demand for a Full Breakfast, but he didn’t let it show as he instead gave the child a sneer.
“Perhaps I should have transfigured you a bib,” he said.
“It not my fault,” Harry said in between a bite of food.
“Nothing is ever your fault.”
Harry ignored Severus and focused on eating, which for some reason annoyed Severus even more. This was not how he expected breakfast to go, though he wasn’t sure if he was relieved that Harry didn’t complain or annoyed that he didn’t get to accuse Harry of being the spoiled, insolent brat he was.
“Food to your liking then, eh, Potter?” Severus asked.
“It okay,” Harry replied with a shrug. He seemed to remember something and looked up at Severus. “Thank you. For breakfast and helping me.”
Severus inclined his head, but he felt more annoyance grow within him. Harry wasn’t supposed to be polite or thank him for anything. He was supposed to be a James Potter reincarnation and demand he live the rich life Severus clearly could not offer him while he was trapped as a small, helpless toddler.
Breakfast turned into a quite affair and when both were finished, Severus took the dishes to the sink to wash by hand, giving himself something physical to do while he contemplated his day. Harry used a wash cloth Severus had handed him to clean his face as best he could.
“Can I get down now?” Harry asked, kicking his feet as he discovered this chair was hexed so he couldn’t fall—or climb out and cause mischief, as was Severus’s bigger concern.
“And what do you plan to do with yourself?” Severus asked.
“I don’t know. Look around?”
“And find all sorts of trouble,” Severus said. He shook his head. “I think not. You may get down when I’m finished so I am better able to keep an eye on you.”
Harry grumbled under his breath and crossed his arms. Severus smirked as he finished cleaning the dishes. That behavior was more like a Potter. Too bad he didn’t start complaining loudly so he could snap at him to shut up.
Finally, Severus allowed Harry out of his seat, then directed the young boy to the parlor. His first impulse was to have Harry work on his homework, but after witnessing the mess he created with a quill and parchment earlier, he figured that was a bad idea. So instead, he set Harry to the task of alphabetizing the books on the shelves. Harry seemed less than thrilled but did as he was told, struggling the with some of the larger tomes. Severus hoped it kept Harry busy while he checked on the food pantry and his potion ingredients stock room to make sure he had everything he would need for the future potions.
Severus checked out the fridge and pantry first, writing a list on a scrap of parchment of a variety of items he would like on stock. Once Harry was aged up at the end of the week, he was packing him up and sending him straight back to Hogwarts while he finished out his winter break at the Escape Cottage in peace and solitude. He might as well as have enough food to last him the entire time. Once he made a decent sized list, he moved onto the storage room. The potion was simple enough and required few ingredients, all of which he had in stock. Severus sent the list to the house elf, Frilly, using a special spell that transported objects outside of the protective wards surrounding the cottage. After, Severus worked on reorganizing his stock room for a bit, finding it a nice way to pass time and get into his own thoughts.
Some people wanted to escape their thoughts, but Severus found comfort getting into his own head and letting his mind wander sometimes. With how often he needed to occlude to keep safe, letting his guard down in the safety of his home was a rare and treasured time. He could reflect and remember, look back on memories he had to hide from the rest of the world. He could ponder the crisis he found himself in, the decisions he made, and the philosophies that kept him going through this war. He could get lost in his own head, and lose track of time.
“Shit!” Severus said suddenly as he glanced up at the time, seeing that several hours had passed. “Potter.”
He left his potions lab and stepped into the parlor, not surprised that Harry was no longer there. He scanned the room, then moved through the dining room and into the kitchen, then glanced into the bedrooms and the bathroom.
“Potter!” he called out, panic rising in his chest. How on earth did he lose the Boy Wonder? “Come here this instant!”
There was no response, but he did feel a small, cold draft.
Glancing down the hall and into the makeshift mudroom, he noticed the back door slightly ajar and swaying the slightest bit with the breeze. Breathing heavy, fists clenching at his sides, Severus stormed down the hall and threw the back door open. Harry wasn’t on the wooden deck, but he did see the small child sitting way out in the frosted backyard near the pond, poking a stick at the ice on the water. And the child didn’t even have a coat on over his robe.
Eyes flaring, Severus down the steps and across the yard with swift yet silent footfalls, catching Harry by surprise when he grabbed the boy’s arm, yanked him up, and swatted his small, troublemaking rear end.
Harry sucked in a breath and covered his bottom with both hands, wide eyes staring up at Severus while tears began welling up.
“I did not give you permission to go outside, Mr. Potter,” Severus scolded. “I had no idea where you were.”
“I’m sorry,” Harry said with a quiver in his voice as he sniffled.
“You should have at the very least asked me before vanishing like that and you do not even have appropriate attire on for this kind of weather. What were you thinking?”
“I don’t know.” Harry rubbed his left eye, pushing his glasses up slightly. “I was bored.”
“Bored? Perhaps I should find a list of menial tasks for you to fill up your day, then maybe you wouldn’t be so bored that you take off without my knowledge.”
A small sob broke through Harry’s lips as he alternated between rubbing his eyes and his bottom. The noise sparked a small rage within Severus, and he bared his teeth.
“Stop your sniveling, you got exactly what you deserved,” he snapped.
That only seemed to make Harry’s eyes water more, and Harry choked slightly before tears streamed from his eyes and he began crying softly, apologizing again under his breath.
“Stop crying before I give you something to cry about!” Severus nearly shouted.
That’s right, Severus, an old, familiar voice sounded in his head, and his eyes widened. Stop your sniveling. Real men don’t cry. Tough it out before I give you something to cry about.
Heart pounding, mind racing, hands shaking, Severus realized exactly who he sounded like, and it brought back awful memories he thought he had shut out forever. He realized he hadn’t occluded earlier when he suddenly remembered to check on Harry, and his mind was still wide open and allowing this . . . this . . . whatever was happening to him. Severus backed away from Harry, looking back and forth between the child and his shaking hands. He stumbled as he turned around and nearly tripped up the stairs as he walked back into the house.
You got exactly what you deserved. You had it coming. Quit that annoying whinging! Man up!
Severus slowly slid against the wall in the hallway, lowering himself to the floor as he closed his eyes and tuned out the rest of the world, then shut down the assault on his mind, forcefully occluding everything away. He breathed slowly, willing his heart to slow and his hands to stop shaking.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Again and again.
Control was an illusion.
But it was an illusion he enjoyed, and he slowly felt himself gain back control of himself, of his mind, of his emotions.
A small tap on his shoulder brought him back to reality, and he opened his eyes and was face to face with the small three-year-old who stared at him with a guilty look. Harry fiddled with something in his hands before he held out the object.
Instinctively, Severus accepted whatever it was Harry held out to him. It was a stuffed green snake, coiled and it’s neck held up in a strike pose, its mouth open to reveal two fangs and a forked tongue. It was a gift his mother had given him several years ago, one of the very few Christmas presents she managed to scrounge up for him as a young boy. Without thinking, Severus traced a finger over a stripe on the snake’s back before his voice came back, and he looked up at Harry.
“Went through my things, did you, now?” he asked.
“It was behind some books on the shelves,” Harry admitted. “I wanted to play . . . I mean, look at it.”
“Are you okay, Professor?”
“I’ll live if that’s what you’re asking.”
Harry slowly moved next to Severus, then sat down on the ground, his back against the wall. He looked up at Severus.
“I really am sorry for not telling you I went outside. I didn’t think you . . . care.”
“It is okay,” Severus answered. “We never did go over rules and what I expect of you while you are here and in a state of vulnerability. That is on me. I apologize for yelling at you. That may have been a bit . . . uncalled for.”
“You hit me, too,” Harry pouted at Severus.
“I did, and this once I will admit I was hasty to do so, but if you act up or pull a stunt like this again during this process, you’ll find yourself receiving more of those. This was serious, Potter, you cannot disappear like that. And you cannot go outside as you wish without my knowledge. The wards are strong, but anything is possible, and anything could have happened while you were outside out of my eyesight.”
“Okay. I’m sorry.”
“So you’ve said. Make sure it does not happen again.” Severus paused, looking down at the snake in his hands. “Also, disregard what I said about your crying. You had just been swatted, probably for the first time in your life, and you had every right to cry. It is okay to express your emotions. You know this, right?”
“Yeah, I guess. I mean the Dursleys would always tell me to stuff it if they ever caught me crying.”
“Hmph. I’m assuming they wanted to toughen you up?”
“No, they just didn’t like it when I made noise. They didn’t like anything that reminded them I existed. Is that what your parents wanted? To toughen you up?”
Severus’s eyes strayed from staring intently at the snake plush over to Harry’s inquisitive but perceptive look. He sighed and leaned his head back against the wall.
“My father did. My mother was a much kinder person.”
“That nice,” Harry commented. “At least you had one person who cared.”
Seeing Harry’s face fall brought questions to Severus’s lips, but they couldn’t break past his closing seal. Clearly, Harry’s world was not all glitter and gold and pampering as he had first suspected. Severus looked back at the snake in his hands, then offered it back to Harry.
Harry reached for it, then jerked himself back.
“Oh, I’m all done . . . looking at it.”
“If you’re sure,” Severus said as he set the plush down next to Harry on the floor. He stood himself up, glad he had successfully occluded everything back to the locked compartments of his mind where they belonged. He realized the kitchen and pantry had been restocked, and he snapped his fingers at Harry.
“Up with you. You can help me make lunch. That way I can keep an eye on you.”
Harry stood up, his hands twitching as he clearly resisted touching the snake.
“I be one second,” Harry said.
With a knowing look, Severus walked out of the hall and into the kitchen, waiting for Harry to secretly take care of the snake, probably to put it on his bed or something. Severus was hardly bothered that Harry found the play toy, honestly, he had forgotten that he still even had it. If it kept Harry out of trouble, he was fine with the toddler finding comfort in it.
Harry reappeared in the kitchen with the stepstool from the bathroom. He put it near the stove and stepped up on it.
“What are we making?”
“Funny that you think you’ll be managing anything on the stove,” Severus said as he flicked his hand at the stool, causing it to slide over to the countertop. Harry waved his arms around for balance at the jerky movement but a spell kept him from falling off of it. He gave Severus an annoyed look.
“Come on,” Harry whined, “I’ve been cooking for the Dursleys since I could walk.”
“I find it strange you refer to your family as “the Dursleys.”” Severus pulled out a pot and set it on the stove while summoning a variety of ingredients from the fridge.
“All right, little chef,” Severus said as he handed Harry a chopping knife. Onions, tomatoes, an avocado, and a green bell pepper arranged themselves in front of Harry. “Cut up these vegetables while I work on the meat. Do not make me regret handing you a knife.”
Severus did not regret his decision. Turned out Harry was quite good with a knife, albeit slow. While his penmanship was atrocious, his chopping skills were refined, even with stubby hands, which brought many questions to Severus’s brain, but he decided not to push for answers now. The two worked side by side to make a simple chili dish while discussing Severus’s rules he expected Harry to follow, and the list was not much different than Hogwarts: obey, follow curfew (bedtime), always tell Severus where he was going or doing, ask permission for everything, so on and so on. Punishment was much like Hogwarts as well, lines when Harry could write legibly again, restrictions to his bedroom, or a good old fashioned corner time. Harry wondered about any more swats to his bum but Severus warned him only serious offenses would warrant that again.
The ingredients were all combined together once finally prepped, and Severus added a couple cans of pinto beans to the mixture with a variety of seasonings and a dallop of sour cream. The pot simmered while Harry asked a question that had been on his mind for a while.
“There were fish in the pond,” Harry said.
“Yes, I put them there,” Severus said dully.
“Are they dead?” Harry asked, his eyes widening. “Are you going to fish them out later and use them in your potions?”
“What a ridiculous notion.” Severus shook his head as he stirred the chili. “Of course not. They are simply hibernating at the bottom of the pond. They are very much alive.”
“They looked dead.”
“They are not.”
“After lunch, can I go back outside with Fangs—I mean, the snake toy.”
“I don’t see why not,” Severus said, ignoring the mention of the now named plush. “But you will check back in with me every so often and stay away from the pond. The ice is very thin.”
“I wouldn’t walk on it.”
“Maybe not, but you were sitting very close to it. Lean forward too much and you would have fallen in and I would have to explain to the headmaster why his Golden Boy is an ice pop.”
“I’ll stay away from the pond,” Harry finally agreed.
After lunch and a couple hours outside, which Severus couldn’t help but check on Harry every fifteen minutes to know he was still there and safe, Severus had Harry take a bath to clean off the dirt he managed to get all over himself. Harry cleaned himself quickly, then sat in the warm water for a while, Severus checking in on him by knocking on the door and asking if he was all right. He would never tell Harry that he charmed a small window on the door so he could see Harry but Harry couldn’t see him. It was for the toddler’s own safety, after all. He remembered hearing a tale of young children drowning with just a drop of water, and he wasn’t taking any risks.
His third time checking on Harry, Severus peered through the window he created and made sure Harry hadn’t drowned. Harry was clean and simply relaxing in the warm water. Severus frowned slightly, then flicked his wand at the tub.
Bubbles foamed in the water, startling Harry at first, who looked around as the bubbles slowly filled the tub, stopping at the rim and covering Harry all the way up to the neck. Harry looked at the door, as if expecting Severus to burst into the room. When nothing happened, Harry smiled and slapped at the bubbles, then picked some up and pushed them on his face, giggling at the ticklish feeling.
Severus smirked, then walked back to the lab to finish taking inventory of what potions he had.
The rest of the day ran smoothly, though Harry wasn’t too impressed with an early bedtime.
“But I’m really fifteen,” Harry said. He fought back a yawn.
“Yes, but you’ve had a long and tiring day for your size,” Severus argued. “It’s bedtime.”
“I’ll never fall asleep this early.” Harry plopped down on the floor in the middle of the parlor where he had been enjoying a mug of hot cocoa near the fire. He crossed his arms and pouted.
“If you really were fifteen,” Severus began, “you wouldn’t act so much like the toddler you physically are. Remember, I have a potion to brew tomorrow and it’s quite time consuming. If you wish to be of any assistance tomorrow, you will get a good night sleep now or you won’t step one foot in the lab or outside your room tomorrow.”
“Fine,” Harry said, standing up and stomping toward his bedroom. “I’m going to bed.”
Severus sighed a relief that the toddler hadn’t decided to give in to childish instincts and throw a tantrum. That relief was short lived.
The next morning, the toddler woke up in a fowl mood, and Severus wasn’t entirely sure why. Harry also hadn’t let go of the plush snake he acquired yesterday, and the poor toy was stuffed under Harry’s arm, its neck squeezed against Harry’s chest as the child sat on the floor of the kitchen sniffling and rubbing his eyes.
“Potter, I’ve asked you twice now to get off the floor,” Severus growled under his breath as he scrambled eggs in the frying pan. “I don’t know what’s gotten into you, today, but might I remind you that you are a fifteen year old boy, not an actually little brat of a toddler.”
“I know!” Harry whined loudly. “I’m not trying to be brat!”
“Stop your . . .” Severus took a deep breath and stopped himself from finishing that sentence. He turned the heat off as the eggs were finished, the final dish to his usual breakfast meal in the morning, and he turned his attention to Harry.
It all started with a cranky toddler that had fallen out of the bed that morning and cried as he clutched a hand over his slightly bruised cheek. Severus had applied a bruise balm and chalked up the reaction to Harry’s toddler instincts kicking in, but those instincts did not go away. Instead, Harry grew frustrated when he couldn’t get the button of his robe on by himself but refused help from Severus, then he couldn’t get himself in his seat, once again, refusing help from Severus.
“You do not have to prove your independence to me, Potter,” Severus said. “I am aware you are more than capable—when you are fifteen. A little help is necessary at your current age. Now, may I set you in your seat?”
Harry held his arms up and Severus lifted the toddler and put him in the raised chair. Harry cuddled the snake and rubbed his eyes once more, his glasses nearly falling off his face.
Severus was trying to remain as patient as possible with Harry as he knew many of his reactions and tantrums were not intentionally trying to drive him insane. A lot of it was simply Harry’s immature emotions flooding the small body and overwhelming him. He was even sure teenage Harry would look back at this moment and be greatly embarrassed.
Severus dished up two plates, one dish being more of a dessert plate for Harry, and he gave the toddler a scoop of each food before setting the plate down. Harry glanced down at his food, then made a face.
“What this?” Harry pointed at the greens on the plate.
Severus sat down at his seat with his dish of scrambled eggs, sauteed mushrooms and spinach, and chopped avocado, a breakfast he ate most mornings. He did not think much of Harry’s preferences when he fell into routine making it, but Harry had eaten similar vegetables in the chili yesterday, so honestly, Harry should have no problems with these foods.
“Your breakfast,” Severus answered. He dug into his own. “Eat it.”
“Yucky.” Harry pushed the plate away.
“It is not. Try it. You might like it.”
“Quit this childish behavior you’ve adopted. You are fifteen years old inside that small body, and I expect you to act like it.”
Severus did not really expect Harry to act his true age, but he had hoped the threat might convince the child to at least try some of the food and eat a little. Instead, Harry pounded on the table with a fist and screeched out a loud, “No!”
“Do not raise your voice,” Severus scolded. He felt a rise in his temper, but he tried to bite it back as he instead tried a different tactic. “If you do not eat your breakfast now, you can put it in the fridge for later. By lunch time, if you still have not eaten it, that food becomes your lunch. If you do not eat it then, it becomes your dinner. Are you getting the picture, Potter?”
Harry pouted at him. Still, a spark of recognition and understanding glazed over Harry’s eyes and he picked up his fork and pulled the plate closer, stabbing at his eggs first and taking a bite. Feeling victorious, Severus nodded his approval at Harry and focused on his own food. When he finished, he sipped his tea while Harry picked away at his food, eating a fair amount of everything on his plate.
“All done,” Harry said.
Severus took the dishes to wash, leaving Harry in his seat while he did so. He did not miss the way Harry yawned and snuggled his snake. An idea struck him then, and he realized what the problem with Harry might be.
“Perhaps you are overtired. Children your age do have a tendency to nap now and then and you did not nap yesterday. While I don’t want you falling asleep now having just eaten a full meal, perhaps in an hour or so you can lie down again and sleep.”
“No nap!” Harry declared, his lower lip quivering.
“Oh yes, I think a nap is very much a priority today.”
“Down,” Harry demanded.
“I will get you down in a minute. Then, you may assist me in prepping the ingredients for your potion.”
He really didn’t need help with prepping ingredients, Severus simply wanted a reason to keep Harry close so he could watch him. A tired Potter could only mean trouble. Harry rubbed his eyes but didn’t object to the plan. After dishes were washed, Severus freed Harry from the seat and led him to the potions lab. He picked Harry up once more and settled him on the table next to where he would be prepping ingredients.
“I need you to powder some bicorn horns for me while I get everything else ready,” Severus said as he set a mortar and pestle down. He brought over two horns and set them next to Harry. “It’s simple enough. The horns are fragile when shed, which makes powdering them very easy.”
Severus picked up the pestle and struck one of the horns with the blunt end three times, breaking the horn into smaller pieces and sending horn dust flying. Severus picked up one piece and set it in the mortar and used the pestle to crush the horn.
“Crush the horn like so into as fine a dust as you can. Make sure there are no chunks left before you dump the powder into this container. When you fill this entire container, let me know. Can you handle that, Potter?”
“Yes, Professor,” Harry said, scooting closer to the mortar and pestle and taking over on crushing the powder.
Severus nodded in approval and worked on prepping the ingredients he actually needed for the potion. The bicorn horn was not necessary, though he did need a few powdered for his stock collection. Severus kept a close eye on Harry as he chopped, minced, and measured. Harry’s eyes would slowly flutter shut every few minutes but the stubborn child would jerk himself awake and refocus on powdering the horn pieces surrounding him on the table.
Severus snorted as Harry jerked himself awake once more before sticking his tongue out as he picked up another horn piece and carefully set it in the mortar before bringing the wrath of the pestle down on the horn. It was almost a cute picture.
It was hardy forty minutes when Harry was falling over on the table, leaning dangerously closer and closer to the table while still trying to powder the bicorn horn. However, Severus felt better putting Harry down for a nap now that his stomach had time to digest some of the food. Besides, it hardly took him thirty minutes to prep his ingredients, he had been stalling and moving slow intentionally. Pushing everything aside, Severus carefully removed the mortar and pestle from Harry’s grasp.
“That’s enough, Potter,” Severus said as he gathered the toddler into his arms. “You were very helpful, but a nap is in order now.”
Harry wrapped his arms around Severus’s neck and rested his head in the crook of Severus’s neck, one hand loosely gripping the snake plush’s head. Warm breath tickled Severus’s neck, sending a shiver down his spine. Severus paused for a moment to consider readjusting Harry so that he was not so close to his neck, but he stopped himself. Harry’s breathing had evened out and his eyes were closed. How he was holding on to the toy was beyond Severus. And how he was supposed to move now without waking Harry was also beyond Severus, but he carefully took a couple steps toward the spare bedroom and the toddler did not stir.
Arriving in the bedroom, Severus slowly lowered Harry to the bed and tucked the child in. The toy finally fell from his grasp, but just off to the side of his bed. Severus picked up the snake plush with the intent of tucking it in next to Harry, but he caught himself and pulled back, toy still in his hand.
What on earth was happening to him? He was not becoming soft. Not him, the bat of the dungeons, the miserable, unfair potions master. Besides, this was POTTER.
He was just putting Potter’s toddler body down for a nap cause the child needed it. That was all. And just to prove it, Severus set the plush toy at the other end of the bed, in a corner near Harry’s feet. There. That way it wouldn’t fall off, though who cared if it fell off, right? He certainly didn’t. He was not becoming soft.
Severus quickly left the room.
Harry woke up in a more tolerable mood, and he assisted in making another lunch meal before playing outside once more, exploring the yard and checking out the pond to see the hibernating fish when Severus wasn’t looking. That evening, the potion was ready, and Harry was very eager to take it. After dinner, he bounced about in his room with excitement, jumping on the bed and hopping off to do something else to prep for bed, such as brush his teeth or actually change into sleepwear.
“Calm down, Mr. Potter,” Severus said. “You are screeching like a banshee and if you do not stop this instant, I will exorcise you like one.”
Harry thought that was the funniest thing as he fell over on his bed in a fit of giggles. His new night shirt was one of Severus’s plain, muggle shirts shrunk down a bit to Harry’s size, though the length was left alone, so it was like a long dress on Harry.
“I’m serious. Calm your immature excitability so you can take the potion.”
“I am calm,” Harry said as he sat up in the bed. He held his hands out for the vial of potion Severus was holding.
“Are you ready to go to sleep?” Severus asked. “This is not pleasant when you are wide awake.”
“I know. I’m ready.”
“First a pain reliever and a sleep aid.” Severus handed the vials in question and Harry quickly tossed Fangs down by his pillow and slurped down the tiny doses in a rush. Severus hesitated with the large dose of the Age Up potion. “Be careful and slow down.”
“I am being careful.” Harry held his hands out for the next potion.
Severus kept his hand on the vial as Harry accepted it, but Harry did not like the attempt at assistance.
“Stop, I can do it!” Harry insisted as he tried jerking the vial out of Severus’s hands. “Let go.”
“Stop that and let me help you. You do not want to get that anywhere else but—”
“I got it!” Harry exclaimed as he jerked the vial free, falling backwards on the bed from the exertion of doing so.
And the vial spilled all over his face and exposed chest.
“Goddamn it, Potter!” Severus shouted as Harry screamed in agony as the potion fizzled and burned the pale flesh.
Severus picked up the screaming toddler off the bed and rushed him to the adjacent bathroom, where he turned on the shower head and sprayed down Harry’s chest and carefully splashing Harry’s face to try to remove as much of the potion residue as possible. Harry’s cries increased before the child suddenly blacked out, going limp in Severus’s arms.
Severus removed the contaminated shirt and summoned a towel to dry Harry off, being mindful of the superficial skin wounds on Harry’s face and chest. Unfortunately, the potion had managed to soak into Harry’s skin, and there was no telling what kind of consequences that would have for Harry. He would have to monitor Harry very closely over the next few days to make sure no further adverse reactions happened from this experience.
Summoning a burn salve and a fresh shirt, Severus shrunk the shirt and dressed Harry in it before applying a generous amount of the burn salve to Harry’s wounds, watching them fade away quickly.
“Potter,” Severus said softly, rubbing Harry’s sternum with a closed fist. “Wake up, Potter.”
Harry did not stir.
Severus picked up the child and carried him back to bed. There was nothing he could do now except give Harry time to recover from the traumatic experience. He felt Harry’s head, relieved to feel no warmth, then rested a couple fingers against his neck, feeling his strong pulse. Harry’s breathing was steady, and Severus felt better about not rushing him off to St. Mungo’s. He covered Harry with a blanket, and something fell at his feet.
It was the snake plush.
Severus picked up the toy, hesitated, then rested the snake plush in the crook of Harry’s arm before tucking the blanket around the small child. He dragged his desk chair over to the bed and transfigured it into a plush armchair. Sitting down, Severus sighed as he watched Harry’s chest rise and fall evenly. Stubborn, difficult, disobedient, impudent child, Severus couldn’t help but think even as he reached out to readjust the blanket once more before leaning back in his chair and dimming the lights in the room. He watched Harry for a few minutes before his own eyes betrayed him and he fell asleep.
A scream woke him an hour later and Severus was on his feet with his wand out.
“No, no, please!” Harry cried out, his eyes still shut. “Don’t lock me in my cupboard, I didn’t mean it!”
Harry turned back and forth in the bedsheets, sweat dripping down his forehead.
It took Severus a moment to realize there was no danger and that Harry was having a nightmare—no, a night terror by the looks of it. Severus put his wand away and leaned over the bed.
“Potter,” Severus said gently, but when Harry didn’t respond, he raised his voice. “Potter!”
“No, please, don’t,” Harry whimpered.
“Potter, wake up!” Severus grabbed Harry’s shoulder and pinned the boy back to the bed to stop his thrashing. “Wake up, you’re having a nightmare.”
“Don’t lock me in!” Harry cried out as his eyes shot open and darted around wildly, his breathing heavy.
Severus kept Harry pinned to the bed for a moment to make sure Harry was truly awake before he released him. He stared down at Harry for a moment, studying the lengthened hair on Harry’s forehead. There was a slight change in Harry’s nose as well as his ears, an obvious change even in the dark room. Severus frowned and stroked his chin in deep thought. While the potion was meant to be given orally only, the effects of the potion appeared to be working dermally as well, although very slowly. He wondered how long it would take for the effects to stop and at what point. Severus realized bright green eyes were staring up at him and he shook himself out of his analytical head and cleared his throat.
“Are you okay, Potter?”
Harry’s lower lip quivered as he shook his head.
“No? What is wrong then?” Severus swallowed before forcing the next words out of his mouth. “Did the nightmare scare you?”
Harry nodded and Severus resisted rolling his eyes, reminding himself that Harry was functioning on child instincts and emotions.
“Are you going to lock me in my cupboard?” Harry suddenly asked.
“Why on earth would I lock you in a—did you say your cupboard?”
Harry nodded his head, and Severus realized that Harry seemed fearful of him as the child held the blanket up close around his head and was squeezing the snake plush tightly against him. Severus frowned.
“Do you know where you are, Potter?”
Harry blinked a few times, then shook his head.
Severus leaned forward, pulling his wand out and flashing a bright light in Harry’s eyes, startling the child who pushed back in the pillow. Harry squinted at the light, but Severus noted that his eyes reacted normally. Severus then noted a warmth emitting off the child and he rested a hand on Harry’s head, feeling with his palm first then the back of his hand to be sure. Harry felt very warm, and his wand confirmed a fever of thirty-nine degrees Celsius.
“Am I sick?” Harry asked.
“In many ways, but I believe you are simply delirious right now. Most likely from your fever.”
“Am I going to die?”
“Unfortunately, no. You are, however, going to take this potion.” Severus summoned a small vial from his supply closet and held it out to Harry.
“Potion?” Harry frowned. “Like magic?”
“Magic isn’t real. You’re trying to trick me. What is it really?”
“You are indeed delirious. Take the potion now, Potter. I don’t have time for games.”
“It’s not a game. Aunt Petunia says only freaks believe in magic.”
That statement whipped an old wound within Severus, and he slammed his hand forward into the headboard with a loud thud, startling Harry who let out a small shriek.
“Watch it, Potter. I don’t care how old your present mind is but you will not be an insolent brat in my house.”
Harry started crying softly, hiding his face in the snake plush.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be a freak! Don’t lock me in the cupboard.” Harry mumbled the last part in the most pleading manner.
Severus narrowed his eyes as he pulled back and stared down at the blubbering child, realizing he had misread what Harry had been trying to say. He felt a twinge of guilt in the pit of his stomach for upsetting the child, but he ignored it in favor of getting Harry back to sleep as quickly as possible, at least to silence him again so he didn’t have to confront awkward feelings.
“You are not a freak, Potter. I should not have snapped at you. This is . . . medicine that will help your fever.”
“Really. Enough tears, no need for you to choke on it. Take it quickly, then I have—err, some warm milk you can drink to wash it down.”
“You’re not tricking me to take the medicine, are you? I really get milk?”
“Yes, Potter. I will give you milk when you take the medicine.”
Harry brushed away the last of his tears and sat up in the bed, setting the snake down next to him. He reached a hand for the vial. Severus gave Harry the small dose and watched mildly impressed as Harry drank the whole thing down with nothing more than a slight grimace. True to his word, Severus summoned a glass of milk from his kitchen, then held it in his hand for a minute as he cast a steam charm on it, heating up the glass until the milk was slightly frothy. Severus traded the glass of milk for the vial, which Harry accepted with wide eyes.
Harry stared down at the glass of milk before slowly bringing up the milk to his lips and sipping it. As if he had never indulged in such a treat, Harry began to gulp the milk quickly. Severus made no comment as he watched Harry drink it down. Once he was finished with the milk, he yawned and handed the glass back to Severus.
Severus sent the glass flying back to the kitchen to be washed and set away.
“How did you. . .”
“No questions,” Severus said, holding up a hand to stop Harry from asking anything further. “It is time for you to fall back to sleep. You are sick and need to heal.”
“No, Potter. Go back to sleep. You are clearly tired.”
“No, I’m not,” Harry said through a yawn.
“I just wanted to know . . . about . . .” Harry tried to fight back every yawn that escaped his lips.
“You’ll find out everything you need to know soon enough. Go to sleep.”
Finally, Harry rolled over and snuggled the snake plush, yawning one last time before falling into a deep sleep. Severus didn’t move as he contemplated everything that had transpired. He remembered Petunia from his childhood, and while he didn’t like her as a teenager, he had thought she of all people would have grown up and matured enough to treat Harry like the prince the boy acted like. Perhaps that was not the case after all. Freak. The word rang over and over in his head. And locking him in a cupboard? Had Petunia really stooped so low. He wouldn’t even inflict that kind of trauma on a child—deserving of it or not.
Severus barely got any sleep that night as his mind fought with images of himself locked in small tight places, and then Harry would wake him with his own terrors. This went on for the next few days. Harry remained in a delirious state as he fought with a fever that would rise and drop faster than the Whomping Willow lashing out at an intruder. Severus would spell food and water into Harry’s stomach and used an elimination charm to manage Harry’s toiletry needs while the child was too out of it. Twice Harry had wet the bed when Severus was too late with the elimination charm, but Severus managed to spell the sheets clean once more.
Every few hours, it seemed, Harry was awake in bed crying over something. Sometimes it was a nightmare, and Severus heard some awful things.
“I didn’t mean to steal food, I’m just really hungry!”
“I really tried finishing all the chores! Don’t lock me up, please!”
“I’m sorry I’m such a freak. I’m sorry!”
Every time, Severus would gently wake Harry from the nightmare, and the child would be just as confused about where he was and would stare up fearfully at Severus, who would then amaze the child with small uses of magic.
Yet, other times, Harry knew exactly where he was and he would cry out for other reasons, usually for pain relief from a super high fever or because he was actively vomiting. Harry was usually still quite out of it, but at least he was coherent.
“Snape!” Harry called out as he thrashed in his bed, kicking the blankets off. “Help!”
“I know, Potter,” Severus said wearily as he entered the bedroom. “Is it your head again? I have a fever reducer and a headache reliever for you.”
“My hand hurts, too.” Harry said, clenching his fists and squeezing his eyes shut. At this point, he had slowly grown to about the size of a five or six year old, and it had been a slow and painful process indeed.
“Your hand?” Severus asked. That was a new one.
“It really hurts.” Harry insisted.
Severus draped the cool cloth he had brought in over Harry’s forehead before picking up Harry’s hands and looking at them both. He huffed as he saw nothing obvious.
“Which hand, Potter? I cannot help you with phantom pains you might be feeling in your fevered state.”
“It hurts, it hurts,” Harry mumbled, clenching both hands again. “Make her stop, I don’t want to write anymore lines.”
Hmm, that’s an interesting request.
“Make who stop?”
“Umbridge. It’s cutting my hand. It hurts, it hurts.”
Harry thrashed in his bed once more before Severus carefully restrained Harry and poured the potions in Harry’s mouth. Almost routinely, Harry managed to be still long enough to swallow on his own. Harry seemed a little more comfortable, but he continued to whine as he settled back in the bed.
“I don’t want to write any more lines.”
“What lines is Umbridge having you write?”
“I . . . I must not tell lies.”
“Have you been telling lies, Potter?”
“No, I promise. It hurts. I don’t want to write with my blood anymore.”
“With your blood? What in Merlin’s name are you talking about, Potter?”
“It’s cutting me.” Harry slowly faded back into a turmoiled dreamworld. “Make it stop.”
Severus agitatedly rubbed his hands down his face. What the hell was Harry talking about now. What was Umbridge doing to Harry and perhaps even the other students. Something was cutting him while he was writing lines. What an absurd thought. Severus stared down at the sleeping child for a moment before reaching out his hand and feeling Harry’s head. It was still warm but much cooler than it had been moments ago. Severus picked up Harry’s right hand and rubbed a thumb over the smooth skin. While the deaging potion had made Harry younger, old scars never left, not even the lightening bolt scar that remained so prominent on Harry’s forehead. However, he did notice that scars were faded and hard to discern at the moment. But he knew just the recipe for faded scars.
Rushing to his lab, Severus pulled out a few basic ingredients: string of turtles, a red thumb, two goat’s beards, and a mother-in-law’s tongue. He had discovered this recipe on accident while messing around with enhancement healing potions. He had uncovered an enhancement potion that reveals old scars to their fullest, regardless of concealment charms, which Aurors quickly started buying for several cases. However, it would work nicely with Harry as well.
With a hot cup of milk thistle tea, he mixed the ingredients and let it simmer for twenty minutes before returning to Harry’s bedroom with the small cauldron held in large forceps. He allowed the cauldron to continue cooling while he pulled out Harry’s hands and ran his fingers over them gently, making sure he wasn’t missing anything obvious.
Finally, the potion was cool, and he applied a generous amount of the thickened salve to Harry’s hands, then allowed them to soak in the potion while he put the cauldron back in his lab.
When he came back, he saw a few scars on Harry’s hands, old ones most likely earned from Quidditch games. But the one that held his attention the longest was not only a scar but a damn full sentence.
Carved in Harry’s right hand were the words “I must not tell lies.”
What the bloody hell was Umbridge forcing Harry to do?
Severus stood stock still for several moments as anger seethed within him. He had never liked that pink, disgusting, self-egocentric toad from the Ministry, but this was far above a personal dislike of character. This was child abuse on a whole upper level than even himself was willing to commit. Sure, he probably scarred himself into many students’ nightmares which wasn’t great, but he had never caused physical harm to any of his students. And especially nothing permanent.
The potions effects faded away with the scars that disappeared into the background, waiting to reappear in full force when Harry was of the appropriate age he had earned the scars. Harry was still in a deep sleep, and like the last few days, would probably remain in a deep sleep for another hour.
Plenty of time.
Severus turned sharply and went back into his lab. He grabbed a vial from the far back wall in his supply closet and pocketed it. He headed to his living room, grabbed a handful of floo powder, then vanished in a flash of green flames as he floo’d from his safe house.
“No!” Harry cried, bolting up right in his bed. “Snape!”
Severus shot up from his own bed in the next room over and hurried to his lab for a fever reducer and a headache reliever, as he had done several times before.
“Snape!” Harry cried again in a very distressed voice.
“Relax, I heard you,” Severus said as he entered Harry’s room. “What is it, a headache?”
“No, no, Arthur—Arthur Weasley. He’s been hurt, the snake, Voldemort’s snake, it attacked him, he’s hurt and bleeding.”
Severus winced at the name, almost glancing over his shoulder as if the Dark Lord would be behind him but he caught himself at the last minute, reminding himself that his home was untraceable and had been for years.
“Enough, Potter,” Severus said, stepping closer and pushing gently on Harry’s chest to encourage him to lie back down. “It was most likely a nightmare.”
“No, it wasn’t a nightmare. It wasn’t, I know it wasn’t.” Harry pushed against Severus then gripped Severus’s wrist desperately. “You have to believe me. I saw it, I saw everything, through—through the snake’s eyes. He’s really hurt, we have to tell someone.”
“We are doing nothing,” Severus said firmly.
“No, you have to believe me,” Harry pleaded.
“I will alert the headmaster of . . . what has occurred, but you will remain here and rest. You are still affected by the potion in your system, and you need to take it easy.”
“I need to be there,” Harry insisted.
“No, Potter. You are in a very vulnerable state and you are still very ill. You will stay put while I go speak to the headmaster of what you have witnessed. Do not get out of this bed for any reason and do not even think of leaving the Escape Cottage of so help me, you will regret it. Is that clear?”
Harry reluctantly laid back down and nodded his head miserably. Severus made sure he wasn’t planning on moving before he stepped out of the room and quickly headed for his fireplace, using the floo to travel back to Hogwarts.
He had an exhausting conversation with Albus, but it turned out Harry had been right. He returned to the cottage two hours later, half expecting the place to be burned down or Harry to be missing in action. He was pleased to find his home intact and Harry asleep in the bed. Severus stepped into the room and rested a hand on Harry’s head. He sighed in relief. Finally, the fever was broken.
Harry stirred under his touch and his eyes blinked open. Then they widened and he sat up abruptly.
“Is he okay? He isn’t dead, is he? I should have been there.”
“Enough, or I will tell you nothing.”
Harry stopped talking and waited for Severus to explain.
“Mr. Weasley is alive though in critical condition at St. Mungo’s. The Dark Lord’s snake did attack him tonight. The snake’s fangs have an unusual kind of venom that keeps wounds open, so Mr. Weasley is taking blood replenishing potions until he recovers on his own or an appropriate antidote is found.”
“What about his family?”
“They are with him currently, giving him their full support. They are all safe.”
Harry visibly relaxed before he gave Severus a concerned look.
“What did I see?”
“About that,” Severus said, sitting down in the armchair he had left up so he could closely monitor Harry during really bad spells, “the headmaster and I talked about this vision you had. It appears that you have a connection to the Dark Lord, one that allows you to see what he is up to, and . . . could allow him to see what you’re up to.”
Harry’s eyes widened. Severus continued slowly so he didn’t frighten Harry.
“It is unclear what the extent of this connection between you and the Dark Lord is, but it seems that he is unaware of it and we need to keep it that way. But it is highly likely he will discover the connection you both possess, so the headmaster and I both agreed that you need to be taught Occlumency.”
“What’s that?” Harry asked.
“It is the ability to close one’s mind against a Legilimency, which is the act of navigating through the many layers of a person’s mind and potentially extracting information if you know how to interpret what you find.”
“So . . . it’s like mind reading?”
Severus sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose.
“The mind is not a book,” Severus explained, “to be opened at will and examined at leisure. Thoughts are not etched on the inside of skulls to be pursued by any invader. The mind is a complex and many layered thing, Potter. Or at least . . . never mind. The point is that the Dark Lord is a master Legilimens and an expert at invading and interpreting thoughts and emotions correctly.”
“So he could read my mind and use that information against me,” Harry theorized.
“It’s not mind reading,” Severus snapped then growled under his breath. “But yes, Potter. He could. That is why you will be taught Occlumency.”
“Me. And you will start your lessons when you are back to your correct age.”
“But what if he . . .”
“If you experience any more visions, and you report them to me. However, Occlumency is taxing mind magic and something young bodies should not be attempting. For now, you will rest. It appears the potions effects have finally ceased.”
Harry looked down at himself.
“How old am I now?”
Severus flicked his wand at Harry.
“You are seven years old now. While the potion is not meant to be applied to the skin, its magic still worked, albeit very slowly. And because of that, you will now take it easy for a couple of days to make sure there are no adverse reactions, and that the potion has in fact worked itself out of your system.”
“How long have I been in bed?”
“Five days. And you will stay in bed until I say otherwise.”
“I’ve been in bed that long? What about aging up? I have to start learning the Occlumency and . . .”
“No, Potter.” Severus stood up and once again gently pushed Harry back down in the bed. “Rest. You will take the age up potion when I feel you are ready again. As I’ve said before, you are not to leave this bed for any reason.”
Harry crossed his arms and pouted but laid down in the bed.
As Severus began to walk out of the room he heard a softly muttered, “Joke’s on you, I already left the bed when you were gone.”
Severus turned sharply and glared at Harry, who blanched before saying, “Just to use the loo.”
Severus pinned Harry with a glare for a few seconds longer before stepping out of the room.
“Stupid dungeon bat ears,” Harry muttered again.
Severus smirked in the hallway. I can let that one go, he thought.
For the next few days, Harry remained confined to his bedroom, though he was allowed to get up and stretch his legs now and then. The first and last time he had dared to wander farther than his bedroom door, Severus had chased him back in his room with the threat to use the stirring rod to swat his insolent rear end.
Finally, Severus allowed Harry free range of the house on day four, the day before Christmas Eve.
“Can we go to Hogwarts for Christmas Eve?” Harry asked during a lunch meal.
“Do you really want to parade around Hogwarts as a seven-year-old?”
“Well, I guess not. But it’ll be my first Christmas not in Hogwarts since I started school.”
“What a pity you’ll have to break the trend.”
Harry huffed and picked through his food.
“At least I won’t have to see Um-err, Professor Umbridge until after the holidays.”
Severus glanced up from his Daily Prophet over to Harry’s somewhat relieved look.
“Professor Umbridge,” Severus began, “came down with a sudden and severe case of Spattergroit. Unfortunately, she will be out of school on sick leave for several months.”
“Are you serious?” Harry asked.
“I wouldn’t tell you if I was not, Potter.”
Harry was quiet for a few seconds before he eyed Severus suspiciously.
“Did you have something to do with that?”
“Of course not, Potter, don’t be ridiculous. Why would you make such a scandalous accusation?”
“Sorry,” Harry muttered, then whispered, “Would have been pretty cool if you did, though.”
Severus smirked but did not say anything.
“So, who’s taking her place?”
“That will be decided by the headmaster, as it should have been a decision made by the headmaster all along.”
“That’s good,” Harry said, unconsciously rubbing his hand.
Severus observed the action, then changed the topic.
“I understand it can be hard being cooped up in the house for so long. You must be dying for some fresh air. Why don’t you go explore the backyard while I clean up?”
“Really?” Harry frowned at Severus.
“Absolutely. There is also a shed just to the side of the cottage that may or may not contain a broom. If you happen to find one, be sure to put it back.”
Harry shot out of his seat and ran for the backyard.
“Make sure you grab a cloak or something warm,” Severus called out.
Severus cleaned up the kitchen, keeping an eye on Harry from his window. He had watched Harry struggle with an oversized green cloak that fit like a long robe on the child before he discovered the broom in the shed. Before the child could even jump on it, Severus muttered a spell that would keep the broom under twenty miles per hour and would allow it to go no higher than ten feet in the air. Harry was still just a small seven-year-old who could fall off and suffer serious damage. He could tell that Harry had discovered the restrictions when he tried to push against the spell, only to be dropped down to the ground.
Severus checked on Harry every so often while the child played outside, alternating between the broom and checking out the pond. After two hours and Harry was still playing outside, Severus decided to head out to the yard and see what Harry found so fascinating about his half-frozen pond.
Harry was sitting in the grass by the pond, the broom on the ground next to him.
“What are you up to, Potter?”
Harry looked up at Severus, then pointed at the pond where motionless fish lingered at the bottom.
“Just talking to the fish. Nukes is upset that he hasn’t eaten in days, but Lilypad thinks he’s just a bottomless pit that can never be satisfied. Oh, and the big red and white one is Comet, he’s just happy to nap. He’s my favorite.”
While Severus first wanted to ask if Harry had lost his damn mind, he decided to ask, “Are you planning on naming the house next, too? You’ve named everything else.”
“The house already has a name,” Harry pointed out.
“So it does.”
“Was that a laugh, Professor?” Harry asked with a grin.
“Don’t get used to it,” Severus said. He motioned for Harry to get up. “If you are quite done making a mess of your trousers, it is time to come inside for a bath. Make sure you put the broom back where it belongs.”
Harry jumped to his feet.
“The next time I age, can you take the restrictions off of it?”
Harry accepted the answer and ran to the shed to put the broom back.
After a bath, some quiet time which Harry spent reading a book in the living room while Severus read research articles, the two made a quick dinner together before Severus wanted Harry to go to bed.
“But it’s too early.”
“You’ve had a tiring day, Potter. I allowed you to do far more than I had originally intended.”
“Can’t we play a game of chess first?” Harry asked. I found your old chess set.”
“It was never missing. I am not arguing with you. I told you to go to bed. Do not end this day on a sour note.”
Harry ignored Severus in favor of pulling out the muggle chess box from the shelves in the living area. He set it down on the low coffee table and began setting it up.
“Potter,” Severus growled. “You are deliberately disobeying me.”
“One game, please,” Harry begged as he continued to set up the game. “I promise to go right to bed right after.”
“Bargaining will get you nothing but an earlier bedtime.”
“I thought Slytherins loved to bargain.”
“Biased, are we?”
“Just one quick game.”
“Oh, I’ll make it quick all right.”
Severus stepped over to where Harry had finished setting up the game and was attempting to hide a yawn. Severus squatted in front of the table, eyeing Harry’s poor attempt to hide another yawn trying to break past his lips.
“You’re sure you don’t want to go to bed now?”
Severus glanced down at the board, then back up at Harry, meeting Harry’s stubborn eyes.
“White first. Make your move then.”
Harry blinked as he realized he had set himself up as white, so he moved one of his pawns one space to f3. Severus studied the board briefly before moving a pawn himself to ef.
“Professor, what do you plan on doing for Christmas?”
“Same thing I do every year. Nothing.”
“Oh. Do you think I’ll get anything from my friends?”
“Perhaps. Our assigned elf can bring your gifts here. I’m sure she’ll be more than happy to do so.”
“Do you think I can ask her to deliver my gifts to my friends too? They’re all back at Hogwarts but I can tell her what’s for who.”
“Of course, now quit stalling. Make your next move, Potter.”
Harry looked at the board, rubbed his eyes, then shot a look at Severus.
“Wait, what about Hedwig? Is someone taking care of her?”
“Your friends have most likely taken on the duty of caring for your owl, Potter. And if not, I’m sure she is taking care of herself just fine. Now enough stalling or I end this game now and you’ll go straight to bed whether you like it or not.”
“Fine.” Harry grabbed another pawn and moved it two spaces to g4.
Severus studied the board, glanced at Harry, then glanced back at the board once more.
He picked up his queen and moved it to h4, where it was directly diagonal to Harry’s unprotected king.
“That would be checkmate, Potter.”
“What?” Harry studied the board. “But how? We just started.”
“Also known as fool’s mate.” Severus stood back up and motioned for Harry to do the same. “Come. You promised to go straight to bed after one game.”
“But . . .”
“No, Potter. Perhaps if you weren’t so tired, that game would have lasted longer, but as it stands, it is your own fault it ended so soon. And a promise is a promise. Let’s go.”
“Fine.” Harry pouted as he stood up and followed Severus to his temporary bedroom. “I can’t believe I lost in two moves.” Harry yawned, then said, “And I’m not tired.”
Severus watched Harry crawl up in his bed and plop down on the pillow miserably, but his eyes blinked blearily in attempts to stay open. Severus rolled his eyes and stepped into the bedroom. He grabbed the blanket and covered Harry up.
“Stop fighting it and sleep. You are most certainly tired.”
Harry yawned again and turned his head to look at Severus.
“When can I age up again?
“After Christmas. Your body still needs a little more time to recover from the traumatic experience of absorbing an aging potion through your skin and going through a very slow aging process.”
“I feel better though. A lot better.”
“I know. But a couple more days, then you can age up again. It will most likely only be another couple of years but as long as there are no unexpected surprises, you will be back to normal within the week.”
Harry smiled, then closed his eyes, his arm unconsciously curling around the snake plush, Fangs.
Severus turned out Harry’s light and closed the door slightly. He looked out at the chess set still on the table, and he couldn’t help the smirk. Harry was rather tolerable at this age, despite the whining and begging he liked to do. All the night terrors had ceased with the break of the fever, but they still weighed heavily on Severus’s mind. Harry didn’t appear to remember anything that happened during his fever and slow aging, and perhaps that was for the better. Severus walked out to the living room to put the chess set away, looking down at the fool’s mate that had occurred. Severus used his wand to pack the game away and set it back on the shelf where it had been.
He was no fool to think that the rest of the week would go without a hitch. This was Harry Potter after all. And as thus far has proven, he was capable of disaster even in the simplest of things.