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.