The Care Of Infants - Perfica - Harry Potter (2024)

Snape hid in the shadows and hoped that Potter would actually manage to kill the Dark Lord this time. Barring that, he hoped that the boy would manage to escape before he was irreparably harmed.

God. He hoped he wouldn’t have to save him.

Potter stood shaking in the centre of a circle of Death-Eaters. Voldemort continued to taunt the eighteen-year-old, hissing out the gruesome details of the excruciating tortures he planned to inflict on his nemesis before finally doing what he’d set out to do all those years ago – kill Potter, and take back his powers.

Merlin, Snape hated his job.

Swallowing thickly under his mask, Snape pushed himself to the front of the pack.

The situation was totally unexpected. It had been a pleasant Sunday afternoon that he’d set aside for relaxing and reading. His Dark Mark had burned and, as was to be expected, his own plans fell by the wayside. Speaking to Dumbledore quickly through the Floo, he’d grabbed his garb and made his way to the Dark Lord’s side.

To find Potter there, face blanched as he pulled his wand from inside his robes. Several Death Eaters stepped forward as if to disarm him, but Voldemort stopped them with a murmured, “Let’s see what he can do.”

Snape had warned the Headmaster that it was ridiculous to assume the boy would be safe away from Hogwarts, even in Hogsmeade. Dumbledore had listened to his complaints, but had decided the boy needed time off to enjoy himself with his friends.

Damn Hogsmeade, and damn Dumbledore for being an optimistic fool.

Snape stood rigid as Potter screamed at Voldemort. Snape’s dark master rejoined with a strongly cast Cruciatus. The boy collapsed to the floor and convulsed, causing snickers of laughter to leak out from beneath the masks of the Death Eaters. Snape hoped that his eyes didn’t show his anger.

Harry sat up, spitting blood. He stared at the Dark Lord defiantly, wand held taut in his whitened grip. “Do you know what’s wrong with your plan, Tom?”

No. Shut up. Shut up, you idiot. Don’t make things worse.

Harry raised himself to his knees. “It’s that you’re always such a complete failure.”

Oh Merlin, you’re going to die, and you’re going to make me die trying to protect you.

“I mean,” Harry taunted, pushing himself up to his feet, where he swayed uncertainly, “what sort of idiot can’t even kill a baby?”

Voldemort scowled. “Let’s see if I can get it right this time, shall we?”

Harry yelled out a curse and his wand blazed to life, just as Voldemort’s did the same. The two flashes of light struck with the sound of thunder, struggled against each other as the air was filled with undischarged electricity, then curved and hit Harry with a resounding boom.

As the dust settled, Snape realised a few important facts. One, Voldemort had not yet succeeded in killing Potter. Two, Potter was, at this very moment, an infant, and crying naked in the middle of his heaped robes. And three, (to Snape, this was the most important fact), he would have to do something quickly before the wizarding world as he knew it imploded into a great, stinking pile of manure.

Snape dove.

When the mood took him, he could strike as swiftly as his house mascot, and it was only the work of a few seconds to grab Potter’s wand, seize the squalling infant in his arms and Disapparate.

Snape allowed a snide grin to break over his face as he heard Voldemort bellow.

#####

“You’ll never guess what I just saw!” Nearly-Headless Nick said to the Bloody Baron as they passed each other near the entrance to the Great Hall.

The Bloody Baron, a ghost of few words, inspected the fingernails on one hand.

Nick, used to the Baron’s casual attitude, did not let that spoil his story. “A Death-Eater! A sodding, great Death-Eater running through the castle. And do you know what he was carrying?”

The Baron’s shoulder lifted minutely.

“A baby! Naked as the day he was born! Screaming at the top of his lungs! I say, these are exciting times to live in, what?”

The Bloody Baron inspected the fingernails on his other hand.

Nearly-Headless Nick grimaced. “I’ll just go find The Grey Lady, shall I?”

#####

“How perfectly extraordinary!”

“Isn’t it just?” Snape replied snidely.

Dumbledore continued to stare at the infant in his lap, who had finally stopped crying and was just sniffing occasionally, seemingly entranced with Dumbledore’s beard.

“And you…but he…how extraordinary!”

“Yes, thank you. I think we have established the fact that this is indeed, the most extraordinary bloody thing that has happened all bloody day – “

“Language, Severus.”

Snape glared. “If Potter has any recollection of this conversation afterwards, I will personally apologise to him for tainting his precious ears, but until that happens, could you please tell me what the bloody hell we’re going to do?”

Dumbledore sighed. “If you’d be so kind as to call Poppy up? No, Harry, that doesn’t taste good, no matter how much it looks like marshmallows. Trust me, I know. Now, let’s see if we can reverse this little mistake.”

#####

“Fit as a fiddle,” Pomfrey proclaimed.

“Really? No injuries present from the spell?” Dumbledore asked.

Pomfrey tickled Harry’s stomach as she put his nappy on. He giggled and squirmed as she dressed him in a one-piece romper suit. “No, not a one. He appears to be a perfectly happy, healthy baby. I’d say he’s approximately six months old, give or take a few months.”

“He still has the scar,” Snape said from his position in the corner.

Dumbledore ran his fingers over Harry’s forehead gently. “Poor wee thing.”

Snape snorted. “You do realise that Potter is probably aware of everything that is transpiring as we speak, and will take advantage of you at a later date because of your…softness? As if he doesn’t enjoy all the attention anyway,” he added, not quite under his breath.

“I’m afraid you’re wrong, Severus. I didn’t say that Harry appeared to be six months old, I’m saying he actually is. He has as much of an idea of what’s going on as would any infant in this situation,” Pomfrey said, lifting Harry to her hip.

“Ah, so his intellect hasn’t suffered,” Snape said with a smirk.

“Severus,” Dumbledore said. “It’s been a long night, and we’ve much to do. Poppy, would you be so kind as to make up a bag of things that are needed by a baby of Harry’s age? And the quicker the better, if you would.”

“Of course,” she replied, handing Harry over to him.

“And Severus,” Dumbledore said with a small grin, “if you would be so kind as to mind Harry while I take care of a few urgent matters? I shan’t be long.”

Dumbledore plonked the sleepy infant into an unsuspecting Snape’s arms and was out the door before Snape could think of a suitable reply.

Harry shifted in his arms.

“For Merlin’s sake, Potter, be still!”

Snape held him at arms length, hands clamped under his armpits while Harry’s legs flopped uselessly.

Harry’s head rolled wearily on his neck as he tried to focus his eyes.

“What’s the bet you need glasses even at this age, you myopic miscreant?”

Harry dribbled.

Snape sat down and gingerly pulled the boy closer to him, after making sure he wouldn’t be covered in Potter drool. Harry fussed until his back and head were supported by Snape’s arm.

Snape sneered. “Don’t get too comfortable.”

Harry hiccupped.

“And don’t vomit anything up, or I will personally remove your intestines and make myself a pair of decorative suspenders.”

#####

“All preparations have been made.”

Snape started, tightening his grip on Harry’s lax body. Harry opened his eyes and whinged. Snape relaxed his hold, grumbling under his breath. He had not been dozing – he was just resting his eyes. Merlin knew what sort of day he’d had. And to have Harry Bloody Potter sitting and drooling in his lap…

He sniffed and realised he was still clad in his Death-Eater garb. He fancied he could smell the scent of past curses mingling in the cloth with the foreign smell of talcum powder.

He shook his head to clear it, realising the Headmaster was looking at him expectantly. “What do you mean, preparations have been made?” Snape asked, his voice hoarse from weariness. “When are you going to turn Potter back to his usual annoying self? And why am I baby-sitting the little toad? Surely his friends would jump at the chance to wait on him hand and foot?”

“Ah, Poppy, just in time. Up you get, Severus,” Dumbledore said, pulling Snape to his feet.

“I beg your pardon?”

“I’ve put everything you need in there,” Pomfrey said, thrusting a carry-cot into Snape’s free hand. “Changes of clothing, self-sterilising bottles, a never-ending jar of Mother Molly’s Milk, flannels, pyjamas, booties, teething ring. I’ve even put a few extra nappies in, although the one he’s wearing is self-cleaning and will adjust to his size as he grows older. However, he will need to bathed, Severus, every day. And I mean, every day. Oh dear, I’m sure I’ve forgotten something important!”

“What are you going on about?” Snape roared.

“As for linen, food and other essentials, I’ve found a way around that. I know it’s difficult, but grab onto this,” Dumbledore said, thrusting a wooden box the size of a large hatbox into Snape’s hands. Snape’s fingers tightened against his will. He could feel Harry’s body starting to slide in his arm and pivoted his hip, forcing the child back up his body.

“Now he needs feeding, but I don’t want to give him anything here or he may bring it right back up. Do make sure you give him a bottle as soon as possible, Severus. Make sure the temperature is tepid. The best way to test it is to let a little drip onto your inner wrist. And of course, he will need to be burped or he’ll suffer terribly,” Pomfrey said, wrapping a blue blanket around Harry’s body and tucking him against Snape’s chest more securely.

“Headmaster, please!”

“Severus,” Dumbledore said gravely. “I cannot reverse the spell. I’ve tried everything I could think of, but I need more time. He can’t stay here – from what you’ve said, every Death-Eater saw what occurred before you so cleverly saved him. Voldemort himself knows of Harry’s predicament. And they know that you have betrayed them. Hogwarts is no longer safe for you, my friend.”

Snape understood this intellectually, but was still having difficulties in working out why he had an infant in one hand and a bag of children’s supplies in the other. “And you want me to…?”

“You must leave, Severus, and you must take Harry with you. I have arranged a safe place for you both to stay. The facilities are intact although you may be at a loss for some items. The box I’ve given you has a two-fold purpose. It will portkey you and young Harry to your safe haven, and will act as a way in which we can communicate with each other. Simply write me a letter, pop it in the box, and I will do my best to send you what you need as quickly as possible.”

“But Albus, surely – “

“I’m afraid we don’t have much time. Please, Severus. I know this task will be an onerous one for you, but it is imperative that Harry be kept safe until we can work out a way of reversing the spell. If the Wizarding world discovers his predicament, all hope will be lost. And if Voldemort should find him in this state…”

“But I know nothing of the care of infants! Poppy would be – “

“Poppy is not being hunted as a traitor,” Dumbledore said abruptly, “and Poppy cannot keep Harry as safe as you can.”

Snape sighed and looked down at his young charge. Harry had been remarkably still throughout their conversation, his large, green eyes wide open and interested.

“Are you sure he doesn’t know what’s going on?” Snape snarled.

“Positive,” Pomfrey replied.

“Bloody hell. I’m going to be the laughing stock – “

“One minute to go, Severus,” Dumbledore said, touching his wand to the wooden box in Snape’s hand. “You’ll do a marvellous job, I’m sure of it. I have every confidence in your ability.”

“How long, Albus? How long until I can come back?”

Dumbledore smiled sadly. “I wish I knew. Thirty seconds.” He gave Snape’s shoulder one last squeeze, smoothed back a few errant strands of hair from Harry’s forehead and stepped back.

“Now don’t forget what I said, Severus. He needs to be fed. At least four times a day, and be careful of what solids you give him. Make sure he’s bathed daily and make sure he sleeps on his back. Don’t let him put small objects in his mouth – “

“I know I said I knew nothing about the care and maintenance of infants, Poppy, but I am not a complete moron. Anyone with an ounce of common sense – “

The box glowed suddenly and Snape felt a tugging sensation in the small of his back. He wrapped his arms tightly around Harry and lowered his chin, tucking the baby’s skull against his throat as his surroundings spiralled and shifted and turned black.

####

Loose parchments floated to the ground, caught in the whirlwind of Harry and Snape’s departure.

“I hope I’ve done the right thing, Poppy.”

“I’m sure you did, Albus. After all, what could go wrong?”

Dumbledore’s eyebrows rose.

“Oh dear,” Pomfrey muttered.

####

Week 1

Harry lay in the carry-cot and sucked enthusiastically on his bare foot.

Snape sneered – after the first few disastrous attempts he’d made trying to feed Potter and keep him clean, he’d decided that the less clothes the brat wore during feeding the better. Apart from his nappy, of course. Severus didn’t even like removing that for his daily bath, but feared what Poppy would say if she found out he’d resorted to cleaning spells.

He placed exactly one measured scoop of Mother Molly’s Milk into a bottle and added water straight from the tap until the level sat at 200 millilitres.

“Years of rigorous training at the best establishments the Wizarding world has to offer, all so I can mix up your bottle four times a day. Ironic, isn’t it, Potter?”

As usual, Harry didn’t respond verbally, although every time Snape spoke, Harry’s eyes would swivel to his position. He blinked at Snape.

“Nothing wrong with your ears, at least.”

Snape tapped his wand sharply against the bottle, warming it then tipping a drop onto his exposed wrist to ensure it wasn’t too hot to be immediately consumed. He placed the rubber nipple into Harry’s mouth and Harry immediately latched on, supporting the bottle with his hands and feet.

“Perhaps your house mascot should be changed to something simian?”

####

Week 2

“Any changes?” Pomfrey asked, playing with Harry as she gave him a physical examination.

“No,” Snape replied grudgingly. “Any luck?”

“No,” Dumbledore said, pulling supplies out of his bottomless bag. “I thought you might like a bit of this.” He placed a bottle of whisky on the dining table.

Snape nodded, getting two tumblers out of the cupboard. The two men indulged in a drink.

“What about you, Severus? Any problems I should know about?” the nurse asked, placing a cooing Harry into Dumbledore’s outstretched arms.

“Apart from a terminal case of ennui and the distinct possibility of my mind turning to mush due to a lack of adult conversation? None at all.”

“Ah,” Poppy teased. “If only I could tell the rest of the staff how you pine for them.”

“Har-bloody-ha,” Snape said, knocking back another drink.

“Ah!” Dumbledore cried, “I knew I’d forgotten something. Reach into my bag, Severus. There’s a little something that should provide a distraction for both you and Harry.”

Snape glumly set down his empty glass and rooted around in the Headmaster’s sack. It squeaked and writhed in his grasp until he squeezed its neck into submission. Out of the small mouth came a large, heavy, square-shaped object wrapped in plain brown paper.

“Well? Open it,” Dumbledore said.

Snape ripped off the paper. “Oh, goody,” he drawled. “What I’ve always wanted.”

“Now you can listen to the wireless! It will do Harry some good to hear other voices, might assist in his intellectual development.”

“I’m never turning it off,” Snape replied dryly.

“And it will be good for you to remember that there is a world still out there, Severus, even if you’re not an immediate part of it at the moment,” said Dumbledore.

Snape set the wireless down heavily. “Merlin, Albus, how much longer? I’ve nothing to do apart from listen to Potter prattling all day. It’s getting to the point where I’d rather take my chances against the Death-Eaters.”

Dumbledore looked forlorn. “We haven’t found anything yet. We’re doing the best we can.”

Snape didn’t want to appear ungrateful. After all, he was safe from harm, he had everything a body needed to sustain itself for a good amount of time, it was just that…

“Isn’t there anything I can do? I’m serious, Albus, I’m losing my mind.”

“You could make up some supplies for me. I can always do with extras,” Poppy said.

Snape knew he was being placated and, for once, didn’t mind. “Send me some equipment.”

Dumbledore gave Harry a kiss on the forehead and handed him back to Snape. “Until next week, my boy. Oh, I almost forgot.”

He reached into his sack and pulled out two letters. “For Harry, from his friends. They’ve no idea of what’s happened, of course, but I’ve assured them that he is being well taken care of.”

Snape took them with distaste. “At least I’ll have something amusing to read tonight.”

#####

Week 4

“And this…” Snape said, turning dramatically, a beaker containing a sparkling pink liquid in his hand, “is the basis for the Skele-Gro potion you’ve found to be so helpful in the past.”

Harry hung in his swing, his feet dangling a few centimetres off the floor. His eyes were open with wonder as he stared in Snape’s direction, one clenched fist pressing his teething ring to his mouth.

By now, Snape was used to seeing Potter covered in drool.

“Exactly,” Snape agreed. He turned back to his workstation.

He had configured one of the rooms in their house into a passable Potions laboratory. After his quick reconnaissance their first night, he’d set aside one of the rooms for himself, one for Potter and one for his work. The parlour, bathroom and kitchen were small but serviceable.

Using long-unused Transfiguration skills, he’d managed to separate the workroom into two distinct areas. The larger section was set aside for his equipment. Although he wasn’t used to working in such bright conditions, he’d balanced the annoyance of natural lighting with the need for a well-ventilated area, and had adjusted the roof to allow fumes to escape harmlessly into the open air. The smaller part of the laboratory he set aside for Potter. When Potter was too irritable to be left on his own, Snape would hang him in the corner. It served the dual purposes of keeping an eye on the brat, and giving Snape an audience.

Snape was unused to conversing with people who paid such diligent attention, especially without insulting or lecturing them, and was slightly disconcerted with the fact that he had fallen so easily into the habit with Potter. Oh well. Chances were the twit wouldn’t remember any of it anyway.

As Potter gurgled happily in his swing, Snape turned his attention back to his bubbling cauldrons. After the first few days, he’d quite happily settled into his normal routine of brewing potions for the infirmary, this time, without the constant interruptions of classes, colleagues and Dark Lord’s.

All in all it was quite peaceful, if one forgot who else was with him.

“Durblefweeb.”

Snape cleared his throat and concentrated on cutting the weezlewood into even portions. “Remember our agreement, Mister Potter. I will endeavour to be – “ his lip twisted, “nicer than usual to you, if you will strive to think before you speak, act or otherwise emote. Are you going back on our agreement?”

“Splejeadar.”

#####

Week 7

After dinner, Snape and Harry would retire to the lounge room. On most nights, Harry would fall asleep to the sound of the wireless playing softly in the background while Snape read the books Dumbledore sent in his weekly care package. As the hour grew late, Snape would pick up Harry’s lax, warm body, tuck him into bed and fall into his own for a much-needed escape from reality.

A fast, boppy tune started to play, and Harry’s head lifted as soon as it started. His eyes lit up and he awkwardly got to his feet and toddled over to the speaker.

Harry had started to walk over the last few days and Snape couldn’t help but feel a tiny bit of pride in the fact, even though he really had nothing to do with it, and even though he had to be more careful of his young charge’s location at all times. Of course the boy would learn how to walk – he’d done it before and would most likely continue to develop at a normal rate physically.

But Dumbledore had been filling Snape in on Harry’s upbringing during his visits while Poppy checked them both over, and Snape knew exactly how cruelly the Muggles had treated him. It was one thing to be ignored or spoken to harshly. It was another to be put in the dark and left to starve. Snape looked at Harry’s chubby thighs and felt mildly superior – here he was, a confirmed bachelor of many years standing, and even he knew how to raise a baby. Better than Muggles, at any rate.

Harry’s mouth gapped slightly in awe as the music washed over him. He grinned, then looked over to Severus to see if it was okay to do so. Snape couldn’t help but nod slightly and Harry let out a yelp of happiness.

He started to move to the beat, knees flexing and straightening, face screwed up in concentration as he tried to bounce in time. Snape let out a snicker at the sight – Harry Potter, the Great Hope of the Wizarding World, stood at his feet, clad in a velvety romper covered in frolicking bunnies, lurching and clapping his hands as he tried to dance. He was completely without rhythm and Snape chuckled.

Snape had seen many examples of the boy’s clumsiness in the past. He was forever bumping into things and tripping over his own feet. It appeared his lack of coordination was one thing that had remained through the change.

Snape laughed out loud. Harry responded in kind and clapped his hands together harder. Snape’s face crumpled as he realised Harry didn’t know he was being laughed at.

He became aware of the fact that it was not right for him to laugh at Potter, even though he would have done so in the past. The boy might grow up and remember, or the boy might be trapped at this age forever. Either way, it was a momentary joy for the child in a life that had been so bleak for so long.

Snape laughed again, slightly self-consciously, but this time he did it with Harry.

#####

Week 10

“Hey.”

Snape bit his lip and hunched down further over his manuscript.

“Hey!”

He suppressed the urge to growl and dipped his quill into the inkpot. Damn, he was running short. He’d have to add that to the list for Dumbledore.

“HEY!

This time, the annoying word was accompanied by the sound of small hands slapping against wood.

“Hey. Hey!”

Snape twisted in his chair, slamming his quill down and tipping over the inkpot in the process. The few scant millimetres of ink left poured over his meticulous writing.

“Will you, for the love of God, cease your blathering?” he roared. “And if that is not possible, would you at least have the courtesy of learning a new blasted WORD?”

Harry hung onto the slats of his playpen like a bored prisoner, bobbing slightly as his knees tried to hold up his weight. His lower lip started to tremble.

“Oh no. Please, no.”

Harry’s eyes scrunched close and his mouth opened wide, displaying five baby teeth.

“Please, I beg you. I take it back!”

Too late.

“WAA-HAA.”

“Potter!”

“WAA-HAA-HAA.”

Snape cursed and threw his chair back, strode to the playpen and loomed over Harry’s bawling face.

“Mister Potter,” he said, trying to remain calm. “I’m sorry I yelled at you. I realise that you are finding this situation as distasteful as I…Potter! Stop crying. I didn’t mean to startle you.”

Harry continued to wail. He lost his grip of the slats and fell back, landing heavily on his bottom. He looked a mess – face red, eyes streaming, fluid building up around his nose and mouth.

He looked like his feelings had been hurt.

“Potter,” Snape said, crouching next to the playpen. He spoke softly. “There is no need to cry anymore. I will not harm you. Don’t upset yourself.”

Harry whimpered and stretched his arms out beseechingly. Snape sighed and stepped into the playpen. As soon as he was seated, Harry rolled over and clutched onto his thigh. Snape pulled him up, silently bemoaning the fact that he was very shortly going to be covered in baby snot.

“Hey,” Harry said, snuffling wetly at his neck. “Hey.”

“Hey yourself,” Snape said, stroking his back.

#####

Week 13

Snape was sitting on the front steps of the cottage enjoying a quiet cup of tea and the pleasant warmth of the afternoon sun on his back. He wasn’t sure where they were, but suspected Dumbledore had hidden them somewhere in Scotland. The plants and seasons were remarkably similar to the area surrounding Hogwarts; Severus had already found a few ingredients he could use in potions growing wild near the stream a few hundred metres from their house.

A loud scream interrupted his quiet time. He jumped to his feet, dropping his cup and grabbing his wand. After three months, he had catalogued all of Potter’s cries, but this was a new one. It was too early for him to have woken from his afternoon nap.

He froze in astonishment. Potter appeared to have aged. His screams were those of pain – his romper suit had failed to stretch with him, and was cutting into his neck, wrists and knees.

With a few slashing motions of his wand, Snape had removed Harry’s tattered clothes and pulled him out of the playpen. He was definitely heavier and quite a bit taller.

Harry’s tears had subsided once the restricting clothes had been removed.

“Hey,” he whimpered.

Snape stared. “I think we need Dumbledore.”

#####

“Well?”

This time it was Snape who stood anxiously by Pomfrey’s side as she diagnosed Harry.

“I don’t understand it,” she said, vexed. “It’s not possible for a baby to grow this rapidly in such a short amount of time. Are you sure you didn’t do anything to him?”

“Of course I’m sure,” Snape said angrily. “If I could affect his age, wouldn’t I just turn him back into a eighteen-year-old?”

“Remarkable,” Dumbledore breathed. “I think that Harry’s superior powers have foiled Tom again. The spell won’t stick!”

“Sorry?” Snape said, not sorry at all.

“The spell Tom cast – whatever it was – is not permanent. It’s obvious that Harry’s body, Harry’s natural powers, are fighting against it as we speak. I have no doubts that Harry will get back to his usual self, even without our help.”

“And how long will that take?”

“Your guess is as good as mine, Severus.”

“’Vres,” Harry said.

Snape raised an eyebrow at the boy standing at his feet. The top of Harry’s head was somewhere around his knees. “I beg your pardon?” he asked coolly.

“’Vres!” Harry exclaimed, waving clenched fists.

“How wonderful! His speech is developing,” Dumbledore exclaimed.

Poppy crouched next to Harry, peering into his eyes. “I think it’s beyond that, Albus. From my estimates, Harry is now three years old, and as such, should be capable of doing what other three year olds do.”

“And what would that be, precisely?” Snape asked with a faint tinge of dread.

Poppy smiled as she stood up, ruffling Harry’s hair. “Getting into mischief, trying to find his place in the world. Discovering things.”

Snape paled while Dumbledore beamed.

“Perhaps it’s time for you to have these,” Poppy said, rummaging in her large apron pocket. She leant over and slipped a pair of round spectacles onto Harry’s nose, tucking the temples gently over his ears.

Harry shook his head sharply, trying to get used to the unusual sensation of having something on his face. His nose crinkled as he looked around, then relaxed as he gazed at the adults.

“’Vres!” he yelled, holding his arms up.

“Professor Snape, Mister Potter,” Snape ground out.

“’Vres,” Harry replied stubbornly.

Snape bent over. “You,” he said, poking a thin finger into Harry’s chest, “Harry Potter. Me,” he said, pointing to his own chest, “Professor Snape. And don’t you forget it.”

“’Ape.”

“Snape.”

“’Ape!”

“SNAPE!” Snape yelled, turning purple.

“This could be a long conversation,” Poppy whispered.

“I agree,” Dumbledore said. “Let’s get out of here while they won’t miss us.”

#####

Week 16

The first time Snape communicated to Dumbledore through the box outside of their prearranged schedule was the night Harry started to wheeze in his sleep.

He had displayed flu-like symptoms all day – runny nose, sneezing, lethargy – but it wasn’t until Snape heard Harry struggling for breath through phlegm-filled lungs that he’d started to worry. He’d been mildly irritated that his day had been interrupted by the boy’s constant need for attention. Snape had brewed him herbal tea, drained painkilling potions down his throat and ensured he was tucked under a blanket on the lounge, with adequate materials for his amusem*nt easily accessible. He’d even made chicken and vegetable soup, and had gone to the trouble of feeding it to the four-year-old without once raising his voice.

No improvement.

After a warm bath and a change of pyjamas, Snape had sent him off the bed with a dose of Sleep-Easy. He’d settled onto the lounge, too tired to continue his own work, too tired to do anything but stare into the fire. After a while, Harry’s coughs had subsided and Snape’s eyelids drooped as he dozed.

He wasn’t sure what had woken him up, but as soon as he’d regained consciousness, he was aware of Harry’s laboured breaths. He stumbled into the bedroom.

Harry lay twisted in his blankets; chest heaving as his lungs wetly sought for air. Snape untangled the blankets from his short legs and covered him up. He lay a hand on the boy’s forehead and frowned when it came away damp. He pulled the blankets back and undid the buttons of Harry’s pyjama top, feeling his chest, throat and armpits.

“Potter,” he said, shaking Harry’s shoulder.

Harry muttered incoherently and shivered.

“Potter,” he said, louder this time. Harry struggled weakly and Snape started to get worried.

Reaching under his back carefully, he pulled Harry up into a seated position. Harry’s head lolled against his chest as Snape shook him again, this time more urgently.

“Harry. You must wake up now.”

Harry whimpered, his hot forehead pressing into Snape’s neck. Snape hesitated for a minute more, than gently eased him back onto the bed, tucking him in and striding into the lounge room to pen off an urgent letter to Headmaster.

Within twenty minutes, Snape was assisting Dumbledore and Madame Pomfrey out of the box. The two men followed the efficient nurse to Harry’s bedside and watched as she neatly removed the sweaty pyjamas from his lax body, soothed his furrowed brow with a tender touch, diagnosed and administered, poked, prodded and waved her wand. Harry looked at her feebly during the examination – he was apparently smitten with the sight of her enormous, winged-tipped hat. After coaxing Harry into drinking another vial of Sleep-Easy, she waited until he’d fallen asleep and gestured to the men to follow her out.

“Nothing to worry about, Severus, he’s just caught a touch of the flu.”

“Nothing to worry about? Is it normal for a person to struggle for breath in that manner?”

“It is when you’re a child, now don’t fret. I’m sure you had loads of colds yourself when you were young, we all did. Now just keep up with what you’ve been doing; plenty of fluids – although not milk as it will make him more clogged up – a cool, damp cloth if it feels like he’s burning up. Keep him well rugged up and well rested, and he’ll be up and about in no time.”

Snape looked at Pomfrey sternly. “I’m glad you think this is no great matter, but let us not forget who he is, or rather, who he was. His health is of the utmost importance.”

“You’re doing a fine job, Severus. Is there anything you or Harry need?” Dumbledore asked, giving Snape’s shoulder a squeeze.

“Nothing off the top of my head.”

“You did the right thing. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you feel the need,” Pomfrey added, shrinking her wand and putting it in her pocket. “Oh, one more thing. If I were you, I’d cast a listening spell on his room, that way you’ll be able to hear him if he calls out to you.”

Snape placed the box on the floor and helped Pomfrey find her footing. When she’d reached the bottom and called out to Dumbledore, the Headmaster smiled and, with an infuriating wiggle of his eyebrows, took his leave.

Snape stood in the middle of the room, feeling like an over reactive fool. He dampened the fire and paused at the doorway to Harry’s room. The boy still looked mildly uncomfortable, but at least his breathing no longer sounded so tortured.

He snorted. Listening spell, indeed. He wasn’t going to be the one to inform the Headmaster that his precious Boy-Who-Lived had expired in the night. He Accio’d a comfortable seat from his room and set up watch. Within minutes, he was snoring.

#####

Week 23

“Professor?”

“Yes, Potter?” Snape replied, continuing to sort through the plants he and Harry had collected earlier in the day. When the weather was fine, he had taken to having a walk after lunch and, since the boy was not to be trusted on his own, had made Harry come with him. Apart from the boy’s incessant chatter and overabundance of energy, the walks were quite pleasant.

“Can I paint please?”

“May I paint, I think you will find, is the correct way to ask that question.”

May I paint please, Professor?”

“You may,” Snape said, distracted. He bundled a handful of dandelions together and hung them from a hook on the wall near his desk.

For a few blessed minutes he was left in peace, until Harry returned, carrying a sheaf of parchment and a box containing painting materials. He disappeared and returned shortly, holding a glass of water carefully, the tip of his tongue poking out from his mouth as he concentrated on not spilling a drop.

He lay out his equipment on the desk Snape had transfigured for him a few weeks ago. It was just the right size for a six-year-old and had the added advantages of being sturdy and easy to clean. Harry looked up and smiled when he saw Snape observing his movements.

Snape snorted and turned away, going back to his cataloguing.

#####

“Finished!”

“Hmm,” Snape said, not paying attention to the annoying sound.

“Would you like to see?”

“Hmm.”

“Professor, would you like to see?”

“Hmm.”

Silence fell. Snape continued to read, but slowly became aware of a nagging feeling in the back of his mind, like he’d done something wrong. He frowned and looked over his notes. No, everything appeared to be correct.

A scuffing noise caused him to raise his head. Potter sat at his table, frowning slightly as he stared at the open tubes of paint resting on the desk. He slowly began to screw the lids back on, obviously trying his best not to make a sound.

“Potter.”

Harry peeked out from behind his fringe.

“May I see your painting?”

A huge smile broke out over Harry’s face, and once again, Snape was amazed at the resilience of youth. He didn’t think it had been so easy for him to forgive people when he was young.

Harry picked up the parchment by the corners, careful not to get paint on himself. He carried it over to Snape’s desk and looked up expectantly. Snape repressed a sigh and picked up the child, seating him on his lap.

“This is today,” Harry said, putting the picture on top of Snape’s scroll. Snape resisted the urge move his things.

“That’s you,” Harry said, pointing to a long, thin stick figure painted completely in wavy black lines. Cartoon-Snape’s eyes were large and round, like he’d been caught in a moment of surprise.

“And that’s me,” Harry added, pointing to a smaller figure wearing a blue robe. His cartoon was standing next to Snape’s and they were holding hands. Cartoon-Harry had a big red smile.

“And that’s the stream, and that’s the big tree with the shiny leaves, and that’s the sun, and that’s the place where we saw the ducks that time, and that’s the rock that looks like a dog. Can we have a dog?”

“No.” They’d had this conversation before.

“Oh well,” Harry sighed. “Do you like it?”

“It’s very…nice,” Snape said, his lips twisting.

“I did it for you.”

“Thank you, Mister Potter.”

“Professor, you promised to call me Harry!”

Snape rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Sorry, Harry.”

“That’s okay,” Harry said cheerfully. “I know you forget sometimes. Will you hang it up when it’s dry?”

Snape picked up his wand and placed a quick-dry spell on the parchment. “There. Happy now?” he asked, picking up his quill and pulling a Potions text closer.

Harry’s head sunk slightly. “Yes, Professor.”

“Off you go,” Snape said distractedly, lowering him to the ground. “Read some of your lessons before dinner.”

The boy nodded and walked away slowly, dragging his feet.

Snape raised his head and ground his teeth. “Harry?”

Harry turned.

“How about here?” Snape asked, holding his painting up near the drying dandelions.

#####

Week 25

Every morning, as soon as he was awake and had made himself presentable, Harry ran into the lounge room and opened the box to see if Dumbledore had sent them anything exciting.

“Letters. Two for me and one for you.”

Snape grunted around his toast and took the letter from Harry’s hand. Harry started to butter his toast as Snape poured him a cup of pumpkin juice and a cup of milky weak tea.

“It’s from Ron and Hermione. Do you think I’ll be able to write to them soon?”

“What would you say to them?” Snape asked as he opened his letter from Dumbledore.

Harry frowned. “I don’t know, but it feels rude not to write back when they’re so nice to keep writing to me.”

“Wait until you’re old enough to see them again. They’ll understand, they always do.”

Harry nodded thoughtfully. “Professor?”

Snape folded his letter roughly. “No news is no news, Albus?” he muttered then looked up. “What did you say, Harry?”

“I like it here much better than I did at the Dursleys’.”

“The Dursleys?” Snape asked, his mouth dropping open with incredulity. He snapped his jaw shut. “What do you mean? How do you know who the Dursleys’ are?”

Harry shrugged self-consciously. “I don’t know, sir, I just remember a little bit of …stuff.”

“What exactly do you recall?”

“Not much, but I know you treat me better than they ever did.” His voice lowered. “You don’t yell at me as much as they did, and you never hit me if I make a mistake, and you let me eat every day. I just…” he shrugged again. “I just like it better here with you, Professor.”

Snape’s eyes narrowed. “Fetch me my quill and some parchment. We need to speak to Dumbledore.”

#####

Harry and the Headmaster sat side by side on the lounge, talking incessantly. At first, Snape had given them their privacy, making tea and fiddling with jars in the kitchen. After a few minutes of trying to overhear the conversation, he’d huffed and sat opposite them, justifying his behaviour by telling himself he had every right to know what was going on in the boy’s head. The sooner they could find a way out of this mess, the sooner he could return to Hogwarts. He certainly didn’t like being stuck in the middle of nowhere.

“What else can you remember, Harry?” Dumbledore asked.

Harry hunched his shoulders protectively. “Not much, sir. I remember the Dursleys’. I remember running away from Dudley. He and his friends were…Harry-hunting. I remember a dog. Oh!”

“Something else?”

“It used to be dark a lot, wherever I was. And I – “

“Go on,” Dumbledore encouraged.

Harry looked over to Snape, who was rigid in his chair, fingers steepled in front of his face.

“I used to be scared a lot. And hungry. And sad,” Harry whispered.

Dumbledore and Snape exchanged a glance. “Why were you sad, Harry?”

Harry squirmed in his seat, face turning red. “They used to say bad things to me. They used – , they called me a freak and said that I didn’t have any parents because they were stupid and hated me so much they got themselves killed in a car accident. They said that’s where I got this,” he said, petting his scar. “They said I should be happy they took care of me, ‘cause no one else would want me.”

Snape’s eyes narrowed as Dumbledore moved uncomfortably in his seat.

“Harry, my boy,” Dumbledore began. “What your relatives told you – all of it – was nothing but lies. You are most certainly not a freak. You are a very special young man and you are very much loved by those who know you. And your parents…why Harry, my boy – “

Snape left the room abruptly and returned to his workroom. He didn’t need to hear the rest of the story.

#####

For the next few days, Harry was the quietest he’d been since he was a baby. He accompanied Snape on his walks, but no longer pointed out every object of interest. Snape was surprised to see that the boy’s head was up to his waist.

Harry read through the books Dumbledore and Pomfrey sent to him, memorised his lessons, practiced his writing and arithmancy, and dolefully repeated the Latin verbs Snape made him say every night as they sat in the lounge room. When they were finished, Snape would watch Harry over his book. Harry would sit close to the wireless, listening and staring into the fire.

He hadn’t asked Snape for a dog in days.

#####

Week 26

Snape bit into his toast and read last week’s newspaper, half listening to the sounds of Potter following his normal morning routine. The lid of the box thunked down and the chair legs squealed.

“Any news?” Snape asked, lifting his eyes. He inhaled suddenly and nearly choked on his tea.

Harry sat down opposite him, looking slightly defiant and a little bit scared. His hands fumbled for the butterknife. He wasn’t wearing his glasses.

If that had been the only unusual thing occurring, Snape would have sent him back to his room to get them. They both knew Harry had remarkably poor eyesight and could do himself an injury if he wasn’t careful.

But no, that wasn’t the only difference.

Harry had put on one of Snape’s black robes and had rolled the sleeves up so his thin wrists peeked out from the ends. The robe was much too long, so he had put on a belt, tucking the extra fabric up and over. It still reached the floor.

Snape stared over his teacup as Harry chewed his toast and poured himself a glass of juice, holding the excess amount of sleeve out of the way so it wouldn’t dip into his plate.

Harry lowered his head and continued to eat fervently. His hair was, for once, not the untidy mess it usually was. He’d parted it roughly in the centre and smeared something on it to make it hang limp and greasy near his cheeks.

Snape watched as a bead of oil ran down Harry’s neck. Ah. So that’s where his goosefat had disappeared to.

Snape pushed his own lank locks away from his face and debated whether or not he should let the boy suffer in silence (as he was so obviously doing) or call him out immediately.

“Potter.”

Harry lifted his head, toast hovering near his mouth.

“Would you care to explain yourself?”

Harry very carefully laid his toast onto his plate and folded his hands into his lap. “I’m sorry, sir.”

“Never mind that,” Snape said, aware of the fact that he was sounding snide. “What is the meaning of this?”

Harry’s head hung. “It’s just that…Dumbledore told me what happened to my parents, and what the Dursleys’ did to me, and I thought…I don’t belong to anyone. Not really. So I thought…if I looked… “

“Well? If you looked what?”

Harry’s voice was a whisper. “If I looked more like you, maybe you wouldn’t send me away. I’m sorry, sir.”

Snape felt embarrassed and disgusted and slightly amused and a little bit proud. And perplexed.

“Potter.”

Harry was forced to look up, the movement causing a single tear to roll down over his cheek.

“It is…unnecessary,” Snape said uncomfortably, “for you to go to such lengths. I have no intention of sending you away.”

Harry’s eyes brightened.

Snape gritted his teeth. “You are my responsibility, for want of a better word. Regardless of what you look like, or where you have come from, you are my concern.”

Harry sniffed unattractively. “Does that mean you’ll take care of me?”

“Haven’t I always?” Snape asked, more to himself.

Harry nodded and rubbed his eyes.

“Very well then. Return to your rooms and make yourself presentable. Try your best not to cover my robes in even more grease.”

Harry’s smile trembled as he stood up. “Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.”

Without warning, he flung his arms around Snape’s neck and squeezed tightly.

“Yes, well,” Snape said, patting his arm awkwardly. “There’s no need for that. Don’t forget your glasses.”

#####

Week 29

Snape knelt by the stream, pulling cloverfoot weeds out of the mud. The day was warm and he was sweating slightly under his robes. He was starting to feel hungry. He was quite content.

“Put ‘em up!” Harry yelled.

Snape straightened, rubbing his lower back. “What’s that you say?”

“I’m a policeman. You’re a filthy bank robber. Put ‘em up or I’ll shoot!”

Snape cursed Dumbledore’s obsession with Muggle books once again. On her last visit, Poppy had decided Harry’s biological age to be roughly ten, while his intelligence was a few years advanced. Snape liked the idea of Harry being able to read for his own amusem*nt in the evenings, and wondered if he’d have any luck getting the boy interested in beginner’s Potions. He snorted and decided he shouldn’t even waste the energy trying.

“I’m afraid you are mistaken, Officer,” Snape said, rising to his feet. “I’m the bank manager, and you have inadvertently allowed the real villains to escape.”

Harry narrowed his eyes. “Don’t try and trick me, Mad Dog. Your poster’s been up all over town.”

Snape bit his lip to hold his tongue. Oh, the irony.

Harry stretched out his hands, index fingers pointing outwards like he was holding a gun. “Give yourself up, Mad Dog. You’ll never get away with it.”

Snape advanced menacingly. “Really?” he drawled.

“This is your last warning, Mad Dog. Surrender or die!”

Snape considered. “Give me liberty, or give me death!” he shouted, charging.

“Bang! Bang bang! Bang!” Harry screamed.

Snape stopped suddenly, his hands flying up to smack against his chest. He grimaced and Harry laughed excitedly, jumping up and down on the spot.

Playing to his audience, Snape groaned and fell heavily to his knees. “You…got me, you stinking…copper.”

Harry cheered and tackled him, tipping them both into the mud.

#####

Week 33

“Good morning, Harry.”

“Good morning, sir.”

Snape frowned and lowered his paper. There was something unusual in the boy’s tone. Snape looked him over carefully. It was hard to tell sometimes if Harry was changing due to normal growth, or due to the spell wearing off. He looked about the same height.

“Is there a problem?”

“I remember. I remember Hogwarts, and Hagrid coming to get me, and Hedwig. I remember you.”

Snape’s breakfast sank to a lump in his stomach and he did his best to draw up his snidest grin.

“Indeed, Mister Potter?”

“Yes.”

In the last eight months, Snape had forgotten how clearly Harry’s eyes showed his hatred.

#####

Snape sat silent as Harry penned off his own letter to the Headmaster, drinking endless cups of tea and wondering how this changed things. He should get back to work – there were always potions that needed to be brewed, ingredients to prepare…

Instead he sat at the table and drank tea, while Potter did the same.

An hour later, a knock was heard from inside the box. Harry jumped in his seat. Snape placed the box on the floor and unlatched the lid.

Dumbledore’s smiling face was seen first, followed by his hand. Snape helped him up and out. Pomfrey came next.

“Well, then,” she said, as they stood around uncomfortably. “Harry, would you mind if I check you over?”

Harry shook his head and led her to his bedroom. The sound of the door closing was loud in the silence.

“This is good news, isn’t it, Severus?”

Snape nodded.

#####

“I remember a lot. More than I did before,” Harry began quietly.

Pomfrey and Dumbledore sat side by side on the lounge, Snape stiffly in the seat he’d bought in from his room. Harry sat on the floor by the wireless.

“I remember Professor Quirell, and Voldemort.”

Pomfrey’s eyes shuttered briefly at the name, while Dumbledore frowned. “What do you remember of Lord Voldemort?”

Harry sighed suddenly. “I know he wants to kill me. You didn’t…when you told me about my parents, you didn’t tell me the whole story.”

“No, I did not,” Dumbledore said apologetically.

Harry’s face hardened. He looked much older than his years. “And I don’t think you’ve told me everything yet. I don’t know why I’m here or why…he’s here,” he added, looking briefly at Snape.

Dumbledore’s eyes flickered in Snape’s direction. “How much do you recall of Professor Snape, and your relationship to him?”

“What relationship? He’s my Potions teacher. He picks on Gryffindors.”

Snape refused to look away from Harry’s stare.

“He hates me,” Harry added. “He always has. I don’t trust him.”

Snape could feel his jaw trembling and clenched his teeth.

“Now Harry, you know that’s not the case, even if you don’t remember everything,” Dumbledore said softly. “Have you forgotten who has been taking care of you all this time? Surely it can’t have been all that bad.”

“If you’ll excuse me,” Snape said, standing abruptly. “I have work that needs to be seen to.”

“Severus – “

“Tell him,” Snape hissed to Dumbledore. “For once in your life, tell him everything he needs to know.

#####

Snape stayed in his workroom all day, brewing and chopping and stirring. He’d heard Dumbledore and Pomfrey leave an hour after he’d locked himself away. He was glad they didn’t stop in and say goodbye.

He snarled and ripped Harry’s picture off the wall, crumpling it into a ball and letting it drop to the floor.

The house was quiet. The boy couldn’t get into any mischief on the grounds – there was always a certain point that marked the boundary of their property, and neither had been able to push through to get to the other side. Therefore, he must be moping outside, or had locked himself away in his room.

Good. Snape didn’t want to see the ungrateful brat.

By midafternoon Snape’s hunger made itself known but he ignored it just as easily as he had done in the past. As the sun set and it became cooler, Snape halted his potions and lit a fire, a book laying in his lap as he contemplated what his next move would be.

Hmmm. Didn’t matter what he planned, the Headmaster would do as he saw fit.

Night fell and he could hear crickets calling out to one another. He heard the clink of cutlery from the kitchen.

“Professor?”

A tentative knock sounded again.

“Professor? Sir?”

Snape ignored him, and eventually the knocking stopped.

At around three, when the night was at its darkest, he picked up the picture from the floor and smoothed it out, placing it between the pages of his book.

Snape sat by the fire with his book in his lap.

#####

It was just past dawn and Snape moved quietly around the kitchen, eating breakfast and checking the box. He found a package for Harry and a letter for himself. He shoved the letter into his pocket and placed the package on the table in front of Harry’s chair. He spelled his dishes clean and set the kitchen to right. He rubbed his forehead – even though his eyes were gritty with tiredness, he knew there was no point in going to bed.

Footsteps, then silence.

He continued staring out the window.

“Good morning, sir.”

Snape thought of a million things to say, but settled on, “Potter.”

The boy hadn’t moved.

Snape turned. “I’ll leave you to your breakfast then, as it is patently obvious we have no desire to be in each other’s company.”

“Actually sir,” Harry stuttered, “I did have something to say to you.”

Snape stopped. And looked.

It was so difficult to see Potter like this. He hadn’t changed physically since the previous morning, but the uneasy alliance that had sprung up between them in the passing months had been shattered, and they were back to being each other’s enemies.

Well. That was the natural order of things. Potter got into trouble and Snape either bailed him out or punished him for it. This…this interlude was an aberration, not the new world order.

“You have a package from Dumbledore,” Snape said, gesturing towards the table.

Harry ignored it. “I wanted to apologise for what I said last night. It was rude and I didn’t mean it.”

Snape snorted. “Of course you did.”

Harry shook his head vigorously. “I didn’t, not really. I think I was just…confused.”

Snape’s sneer was cutting. “And are you less confused now?”

Harry nodded slowly. “Professor Dumbledore told me everything, sir. All about – “

His voice broke. “All about what happened to me, and who did it, and why. And about you.”

“What about me?”

“What you do for the Order. What you’ve done to help us – I mean, me.”

“The world doesn’t revolve around you, Potter,” Snape whispered, his voice a ghost of its former strength.

“I know, sir. We used to have some really big fights, didn’t we?” Harry asked with a small grin.

Snape nodded. “If there’s nothing else then I should – “

“Will you teach me, Professor? Will you help me get back what I’ve lost? I don’t…I’m not sure how long it’s going to be until the next change, and I want to be ready. I could be eighteen any day now.”

Snape cleared his throat. “Open your parcel.”

Harry did so, carefully, and removed his wand. A soft, reminiscent smile broke across his face as his fingers wrapped around the handle.

“Mornings and afternoons, Potter. We begin tomorrow.”

#####

Week 37

“Sir?”

Snape barely raised his head, continuing to scribble down his test results. “Hmm?”

“May I go outside to fly?”

“You may.”

“May I also practice my spells? I don’t want to break anything inside.”

“You may. Lunch will be served in one hour, and will disappear in one hour and fifteen minutes. See that you are here if you don’t wish to fend for yourself.”

Harry grinned. “Yes, sir,” he called over his shoulder as he ran out of the room.

After a few minutes had passed, Snape made his way to the kitchen window, standing to one side so he wouldn’t be observed. Harry was swooping from one side of the yard to the other, casting spells that made rocks levitate and spin in the air.

Dumbledore had sent him the broom as a birthday present. Harry had been shocked – he’d had no idea it was his birthday and had taken to his broom just as easily as he had the first time he’d flown one.

Snape didn’t give him anything.

#####

Week 43

Snape sat in the lounge room, half listening to the wireless that played quietly in the corner as he enjoyed his alcohol. For once, nothing of great concern was on his mind and he took the opportunity to simply relax.

“Professor Snape?”

His head shot up. Harry hadn’t awoken in the middle of the night since he’d been an infant.

Harry stood in the doorway, a towel wrapped around his waist. “It’s happened again.”

“So I see.”

It was disconcerting to hear the voice speak without breaking, to hear it finally settled into the lower timbre Snape remembered from Harry’s fourth year. It was even more surprising to see that he was nearly as fully formed as he had been before Voldemort’s spell.

“Do you…are you suffering from any inconvenience?” Snape asked.

Harry chuckled lightly. “I’m not in any pain, but my clothes don’t fit me anymore. I turned over in bed and fell out.“

“Do you wish to summon the Headmaster?”

“It’s not urgent, but I think I need bigger robes. I can’t really walk around like this all day.”

“Quite. I’ll lend you one of mine, if that’s not too disturbing a thought.”

“I seem to remember wearing one of yours before,” Harry said with a grin.

Snape’s expression was carved in stone. “You’ll find it in the bathroom tomorrow morning. Good night, Mister Potter.”

Harry wavered at his door. “Good night, sir,” he said, escaping back into his room.

#####

Week 45

When Harry was younger, he would sit at one end of the lounge, his knees up and his brow furrowed as he read or wrote. Snape would sit at the other end, legs crossed elegantly, sipping tea or alcohol as they passed the evening in near silence. Occasionally Harry would lie on his stomach near the wireless, listening to the programs, laughing at the plays or humming along with the music.

Now that he was older, he sat on the floor, leaning on the coffee table as he did his homework, doodled on parchment, or just stared into the fire.

Snape felt peculiar in the situation. He was uncomfortable with how comfortable he felt there, but he was damned if he was going to change his routine for anyone. Particularly Potter.

“Sir?”

“Hmm?”

“Do you miss Hogwarts?”

Snape turned a page. “Of course I do.”

Harry stared at him then frowned. “Yeah,” he said, unconvincingly. “Me too.”

#####

Week 49

They’d taken to having their walks together again.

“So, was I really that bad to have around as a child?”

Snape strolled with his hands clasped behind his back. “You dribbled constantly. Your conversational skills left much to be desired. You were obsessed with the idea of having a pet dog. In short, I think I prefer you as you were.”

Harry grinned at him. “You were a lot more fun to be around back then,” he said, holding out his hands and turning them into guns. He pretended to shoot Snape.

Snape smirked. “I think your memory’s going again.”

#####

Week 52

“I’ve made dinner. Come and eat before it gets cold.”

“Don’t you know how to knock, Potter?”

“Yes, I do. I have lovely manners, thanks to you, but you tend to ignore me when I knock.”

“I wonder why,” Snape muttered, spelling the flames under a boiling cauldron away. “What’s the occasion?”

Harry shuffled nervously. “It’s been a year. Since…”

Snape looked at the calendar that hung near Potter’s painting. “Time flies when you’re – “

He refused to finish that sentence.

Snape retired early soon after dinner and stared at the ceiling as he lay in bed and listened to Potter masturbat* in the room next door.

The thought of a silencing spell hadn’t crossed either of their minds.

#####

Week 55

Snape’s eyes were open before he even knew he was awake.

“Professor? Professor Snape?”

He cleared his throat. “What is it, Potter?” he asked, making sure the blankets were pulled up to his chest.

“It’s happened again.”

Snape pulled his wand out from under his pillow and cast Lumos. “Come in.”

Harry edged forward, a towel wrapped around his waist. “I’m sorry,” he said, gesturing at himself, “my nightshirt was too tight and I – “

“Be silent. Come closer.”

And he was right. Potter looked as he had just before he’d been struck down by Voldemort’s spell. There were tiny differences visible – the improved diet he had enjoyed during his second childhood had added a few inches to his height and he hadn’t been sickly pale since he’d started to walk. Some things remained the same. He still needed his glasses and the scar on his forehead shone out brightly in the sliver of moonlight coming through Snape’s window.

“We should contact Dumbledore.”

“Can’t it wait? It’s just…” Harry ran a hand through his hair, messing it up even more. “I don’t know if I’m ready to cope yet.”

“You may not be, Mister Potter,” Snape said, his throat tightening, “but the sooner we get out of here, the better. I am heartily sick of this place.”

Harry’s lips thinned. “Right. If that’s the way you want it, I’ll do it in the morning.”

Harry left the room, banging the door shut. Snape rolled over onto his side and pulled the covers up to his ears. “What I want,” he said quietly, “is for things to go back to normal.”

#####

When Snape entered the kitchen, Dumbledore and Pomfrey were sitting at the kitchen table while Harry cooked in the background. He stopped when he saw Snape then grimaced, banging a pot on the stove.

“Severus! Wonderful news, isn’t it?”

“Quite,” he said, pouring himself a cup of tea.

Harry put a bowl down in front of him. “Thought you might like porridge this morning.”

“Thank you, Mister Potter,” Snape said, not looking at him. “So, Albus, when are we to return? It shan’t take long for us to gather our things.”

“Let’s not be too hasty. There are still things that need to be considered.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Snape enquired, eyes narrowing.

“It means that we’re not sure if the spell is finished,” Pomfrey answered.

“What?”

“It means,” Harry said, sitting down opposite him and buttering his toast jerkily, “that the Headmaster and Madame Pomfrey aren’t sure I’m not going to get any older. And it’s too risky to go back until we’re sure. Isn’t that right, Headmaster?”

“Albus, it’s been over a year! Even if Potter must remain hidden, surely – “

“Do you think Tom’s forgotten about you, Severus? A year isn’t a long time in the scheme of things.”

“I want to see Ron and Hermione,” Harry muttered.

“I want to go home,” Snape snarled.

“I’m sorry, my boys. I believe a Muggle band said it best – you can’t always get what you want.”

“I’m going to die an old man here,” Snape said, giving up.

“So am I,” Harry agreed.

#####

Week 56

“So, what’s it like being old?” Harry asked, scrunched up comfortably on his end of the lounge.

Snape’s eyebrow rose as he continued to look at the book in his hand. “Would you care to rephrase the question?”

Harry snatched the book from him. “You know what I mean,” he said, laughing. “If things keep going the way they are, I’ll probably end up being older than you. I’ll get to tell you what to do for a change.”

For the first time in months, Snape laughed.

#####

Snape had been unable to sleep, so had taken another hot shower. As he passed Harry’s room to return to his own, he noticed the bedroom door was ajar.

A flicker of movement caught his eye.

He stood to the side, body hidden in the shadows.

Harry was sprawled naked on top of his bed. In the small gap between door and post, Snape could see that Harry’s eyes were closed as he leisurely stroked himself, one hand absently fondling his nipples.

He shouldn’t…he should go back to bed. It was wrong to spy like this.

But Harry’s skin looked like satin under the starlight, and his hips moved sinuously as they pumped, and his bent knees quivered with the strain of pushing himself up, and even though he panted not a sound could be heard.

Snape was glad for silencing spells.

Harry bought a hand to his mouth and licked his fingers, caressing his nipples once more before trailing the fingers down past his co*ck, touching them briefly to his balls before dipping them lower.

Snape went back to his room before Harry opened his eyes.

He tossed and turned in his bed for half an hour before giving in, guiltily pulling himself off while he pictured Harry doing the same thing.

#####

Week 57

“Professor!”

Snape hissed as his hands jerked, spilling the bubbling potion he had been decanting onto his skin.

The door was thrown open. “Sir, you’ll never guess – , oh sh*t! Are you all right?”

“I will be,” Snape growled, dropping the vial and ladle onto the bench and pushing past Harry as he hurried to the kitchen. He fumbled with the tap. A steady hand reached around his body and turned it on. Snape sighed as the cool water poured over his burnt skin.

“I’m sorry,” Harry murmured as he took Snape’s hand in his, rubbing it gently under the stream. “I didn’t mean to distract you.”

“You did not dist – “ Snape stopped. What could he say? That the boy had startled him?

“I can do this myself, Potter,” he said, tugging his hands away.

Harry chuckled as he released his hold, circling Snape’s wrists and pushing the soaking sleeves of Snape’s robes up to his elbows. “Well, I’m sorry anyway.”

Snape stared at his singed hands and noticed the Dark Mark conspicuous against his pale skin. He rotated his wrist to hide it.

Harry slid his hand down and ghosted his fingers over the Mark. He smiled and gently coaxed Snape’s hands back under the water. “My turn to take care of you.”

#####

Week 58

“I think it’s happened again. This afternoon,” Harry clarified as he chopped onions for their dinner.

Snape looked up from his own cutting board. “You don’t look any different,” he said as he cut carrots into precise strips.

Harry shrugged and looked him in the eye. “I feel different.”

Snape held his breath. “I wouldn’t know.”

Harry put down his knife and gently took Snape’s from his hand. He placed his hands on Snape’s shoulders and turned him slightly.

Snape let him.

Harry looked at him with consideration, like he was a puzzle that needed to be solved. He frowned and leant in, kissing Snape softly.

Snape felt the pressure on his lips and froze.

Harry pulled back and his eyes slid over Snape’s face. When Snape didn’t move, he leant in again, applying more pressure.

Harry’s lips moved slowly over his, as if they were testing the water.

Snape pulled back this time. “Let’s finish dinner, shall we?” he said, clearing his throat.

Harry nodded, still frowning.

#####

Snape had almost decided not to go into the lounge room after dinner, but thought that would be conceding defeat. He had no idea of what was going on, but refused to appear rattled by it.

When he sat down, Harry passed him a glass of whisky. Snape drank it down quickly and reached for his book.

“Don’t,” Harry said, moving closer to him.

Snape let go of the book and slowly sat back, letting Harry lean into him. The wireless played softly in the background and gradually he began to relax. Harry’s body was a warm, comfortable mass beside his, the shadows flickered pleasantly along the walls, and Harry smelt like beef stew and whisky.

He turned his head and Harry opened his eyes. He lowered his head and Harry raised his, their lips meeting halfway.

It had to be over a year since Harry had kissed anyone, and Snape didn’t kiss the men he f*cked, so their first mutual kiss should have been awkward, but as they started, Snape realised he wanted this more than he’d known. Harry shifted in his arms until he was lying half across his lap and Harry’s mouth opened wider and the kiss deepened.

Harry moaned when Snape’s hand tightened in his hair and he clutched at the robes around Snape’s chest, pulling their bodies closer. Time slowed to a crawl until Snape opened his eyes and realised he was lying underneath Harry, the boy thrusting against his thigh.

“I’m going to bed,” he said, sitting up abruptly, leaving Harry tousle-haired and confused on the lounge.

#####

In the early hours of the morning he passed by Harry’s door again. This time, the door was wide open and the silencing spell absent as Harry lay naked on his bed, glasses on as he stared at Snape standing in the shadows. Snape didn’t move as Harry tugged himself to completion, come splattering across his stomach as he stared at his Professor.

Snape returned to his room and didn’t even try to go back to sleep.

#####

Week 60

By day they acted as if nothing unusual was going on. Snape brewed and Harry studied. They prepared and ate their meals together. They sent letters and received mail. They went for walks. They allowed Pomfrey to examine them and Dumbledore to update them.

At night, they kissed on the lounge until Snape became too uncomfortable and hid in his room.

Sometimes he would sit in the corridor and listen to Harry moan as he pleasured himself. On other nights he was sure Harry did the same as he lay on his bed and wanked furiously, biting his lip so as not to call out.

#####

Week 61

“I don’t think I can do this anymore,” Harry said as Snape pulled away, straightening his robes.

Snape poured himself another drink, concentrating on keeping his hand steady. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“You keep stopping, like you don’t want it.”

Snape looked at Harry lying on his back, face flushed with their exertions. “I’m not supposed to.”

#####

Snape lay on his bed and stared at the ceiling. He was still in his robes and all he could think about was what Harry had said.

He heard Harry move about the house – the muted sound of water spraying in the shower, the kitchen tap being turned on and off, the sound of a cupboard door closing as Harry put away his clothes.

Harry’s bed squeaked as he lay on it.

Snape rubbed his hands over his face, exhaling heavily.

The frequency of the bed squeaking increased.

He stood up and paced. If he went into Harry’s room, he knew what he would see. It was unconscionable, the whole situation.

Snape left his room, deliberately making noise. He halted at Harry’s door. Harry’s hand froze.

“Do you…?” Harry asked.

“Shhh,” Snape said, kneeling on the bed. He kissed Harry’s hipbones, nuzzling his soft belly.

He heard a sharp intake of breath, then felt Harry’s fingers moving in his hair.

“Severus – “

“I want to taste you,” Snape said simply, lying down between his thighs.

Harry was as sweet as he’d imagined, just as he’d hoped when he used to glare at him in their final year of classes together. The hips moving under Snape’s hands thrust shallowly, as if trying not to cause too much of an inconvenience.

Snape’s hands trailed below, cupping Harry’s buttocks and pulling him in deeper. Harry arched, his thighs closing around Snape’s head. Snape pulled back and licked from root to tip, over and over again, causing Harry’s breath to pant. He pressed wet kisses in the space where co*ck became balls.

“Severus,” Harry whimpered.

Snape took him into his mouth again and sucked hard. Harry came with a gasp as Snape drank him down.

He let the soft co*ck fall out of his mouth and lay his head on the pillow of Harry’s thigh.

“Severus?” Fingers touched his hair questioningly.

Snape kissed his fingertips and let himself be drawn up. Harry’s arms wrapped around him tightly.

“Thank you,” he heard whispered as Harry kissed his ear.

Snape closed his eyes.

“I want to – “

A hand fumbled in his robes, attempting to delve between his legs.

“Not tonight,” Snape whispered, kissing Harry’s brow. “Sleep.”

#####

Week 62

For four nights in a row, Snape entered Harry’s room after dark and pleasured him. He never allowed Harry to help him achieve release, preferring to lie awake and uncomfortable as Harry snored delicately next to him.

One night he decided to be strong. He put on his nightshirt and shut his bedroom door. He made himself comfortable and tried to sleep.

Within the hour, Harry was knocking.

“Severus? Are you all right?”

“Yes.”

“Why didn’t you…I mean, why – ”

“I thought I might give you some peace.”

His mattress lowered as Harry snuck under the covers. “How am I supposed to have that if I don’t have you?”

Snape turned onto his side. “Harry – “

“Shhh. Let me, for once.”

Harry burrowed underneath the covers, pushing Snape’s nightshirt up out of the way. Snape felt strong hands on his thighs, and fell on his back, parting his legs.

“You’re not supposed to – “ Snape croaked.

“Relax. I’m good at this.”

Snape felt himself being taken in hand, raised up and caressed. His fists clenched as Harry’s mouth lowered itself slowly, hot and wet and tight.

“Harry – “

A thumb rubbed against his inner thigh, brushing his balls with each pass. Snape opened his eyes and looked down. He couldn’t see. He had to see.

He threw the covers to one side and watched Harry’s head bobbing up and down. Harry sucked on him and smiled, his eyes creased in concentration.

Snape’s mouth felt dry as he struggled for air. His hips moved of their own accord.

Images of Harry flew in his mind – his Harry beneath him, bleeding before the Death Eaters, biting his lip as he fumbled through Potions, running through the Forbidden Forest, fighting to stay atop his broomstick, staring at him suspiciously across the Great Hall, fighting, playing, painting, dancing, laughing, crying, his Harry on top of him – images flew and swirled and pinpointed…

Oh god. It had always been about Harry.

“Harry!”

The name felt like it was ripped from his throat.

“Hey,” Harry said, moving up to cover him completely. “Hey.”

Snape shook his head and let Harry kiss him on the mouth.

#####

Week 70

Snape sat on the steps of the cottage, watching the sunset. The door opened and he heard a shuffle behind him. Arms wrapped themselves around his chest.

“I don’t want to go back,” Harry whispered against his nape.

Snape stroked the fingers clenching tightly in his robes. “We can’t stay here forever.”

“I don’t want to go back,” he repeated desperately.

Snape lifted Harry’s hands to his face. He kissed their palms. “I’m sorry.”

Harry’s legs tightened around him and he leaned back into the warmth. They stayed like that until the crickets started singing.

#####

Week 73

They lay side by side. Snape burrowed his face into Harry’s thigh. He had grown – he was a young man now, over twenty. Snape kissed the trembling muscles. They were the same height now.

“Come on, love,” Harry said softly, parting Snape’s knees gently.

Snape let himself be spread open, let himself be taken into the tender mouth. He stretched down and ran his fingers through Harry’s hair. He closed his eyes. He didn’t need to see it anymore; he could imagine just what they looked like together – arms and legs wrapped around each other, hands rubbing and struggling, tongues sliding over every inch of skin.

“Oh, god,” Snape muttered, rubbing between Harry’s cheeks, feeling the welcoming twitch of acceptance.

“Mmmm,” Harry moaned, canting his hips, letting Snape in.

Harry came violently, as generously as he did everything else. He didn’t pause, even in the midst of his pleasure.

Snape held back for as long as he could, gratification being pulled from him reluctantly.

#####

Week 79

“Severus?”

Snape woke up to an empty bed.

“Severus!”

He got up quickly, grabbing his wand and running towards the voice.

He found Harry in the bathroom, staring at his reflection in the mirror.

“I’m – “ Harry said, eyes filling with tears.

He was older. As old as Snape. Maybe even a couple of years more.

“I’m – “ his voice broke. He turned and threw himself into Snape’s arms. Snape marvelled at the strangeness of being able to rest his chin on Harry’s shoulder without stooping.

“You’re Harry,” Snape said, clinging back just as hard. “You’re still Harry.”

#####

Snape stared out of the kitchen window as Harry, Pomfrey and Dumbledore sat at the kitchen table.

“What do we do now?” he heard Harry ask.

Dumbledore cleared his throat. “Harry, we – “

Snape spun around. “You’re going to take him away, aren’t you.” It wasn’t a question.

Pomfrey fumbled with her wand. Harry looked bewildered.

“This needs to stop,” Dumbledore said heavily. “Before it goes too far. We’ve run out of ideas. Harry, you need to face Voldemort.”

Harry’s nostrils flared. The morning shadow of his beard glinted in the light. The lines around his mouth and eyes deepened.

“Okay,” he said, looking at Snape. “Okay, I’ll do it. I just want one more day.”

Snape opened his mouth to speak.

“No, Severus,” Dumbledore said firmly. “You are a liability.”

“I can distract Voldemort,” Snape argued.

“You could distract him,” Dumbledore replied, eyes flicking in Harry’s direction.

“I won’t – “

“He’s right,” Harry said.

Snape’s lips tightened into a thin white line. “Leave me then. See if I care.”

He locked himself in his workroom, staring at the painting of them holding hands.

#####

This time, when Harry knocked, Snape opened the door.

Harry took his hand and led him to his bedroom. They stripped methodically and lay naked on top of the covers.

Harry put his head on Snape’s chest, just like he used to.

Snape’s fingers tightened in Harry’s hair. Fine silver shone in the midst of dark brown. “I would have died for you,” he hissed.

“You would have died with me,” Harry whispered against his shoulder.

When Snape felt his chest becoming wet, he rolled over onto Harry and kissed him furiously. Harry’s legs fell open.

“Now, please,” Harry moaned. “For the love of God, now.”

They prepared each other quickly and Snape sank in to the hilt. Once inside, he refused to move. He buried his face against Harry’s neck.

“Don’t,” Harry cried, rubbing his back.

“You don’t,” Snape said roughly, holding Harry so tight he thought they might stop breathing. “You don’t - “

“Love,” Harry whispered.

They moved together.

#####

Week 80

Snape stood in the cold kitchen, staring out of the window. The grounds were lifeless.

A knock was heard from the box.

He opened it with trepidation.

“Severus,” Dumbledore’s tired face said. “It’s time to come home.”

#####

When Snape walked into the infirmary, he was disconcerted to see Harry awake and sitting up in his bed. Dumbledore continued to talk but Harry gazed over the Headmaster’s shoulder, locking onto Snape.

How much does he remember? Does he hate me as much as he used to?

Dumbledore saw that Harry’s attention had slipped and looked around. “Ah, Severus. I was just saying to Harry that you would no doubt be visiting to see how he’s feeling.”

Snape nodded minutely, aware of Dumbledore’s words but ignoring them for the sight of Harry. A living, breathing Harry who, although slightly pale, looked to be in reasonably good health.

And eighteen years old.

“Potter,” Snape said, his throat clenched.

A flash of confusion darted over Harry’s face, then disappeared.

“Professor Snape. Sir. Thank you for – “

“It was nothing.” Snape concentrated on relaxing his jaw. “You are…well, I suppose?”

Harry nodded slowly. “As can be expected.”

The air was charged with unspoken words. Snape had made sure he focussed on Harry being alive after his final confrontation with Voldemort, but had never let himself imagine what would happen after. Would Harry remain trapped in his older age? Would he again regress to infancy? Would he remember everything that had happened?

Would he forget?

Snape glanced at Dumbledore, nodded brusquely in both their directions and turned to leave.

“Professor!”

He froze.

“Harry,” Dumbledore said as Snape heard the sound of a chair being pushed back. “If I may, I will take my leave. As pleased as I am with your triumph, there is still a lot of paperwork that needs to be done.”

“Thank you for visiting me, sir,” Harry called out. Dumbledore laid his hand briefly on Snape’s shoulder as he left.

“Professor.”

Snape took in a shuddering breath and steeled his features. He turned as soon as he was positive his face betrayed nothing.

“Would you - ?” Harry asked, gesturing towards the chair.

Feeling like a man approaching death, Snape sat down carefully. He felt adrenalin pumping through his veins, felt his body starting to shake. He clasped his hands tightly together.

“Severus.”

Harry leaned over and placed a warm hand on his.

“Hey.”

Snape found the strength to look up.

Harry’s eyes were bright and clear, decisive in his youthful face. “How long are you going to make me wait this time?”

Snape exhaled shakily and lifted Harry’s hand to his lips.

“Just until you’ve left school, Harry.”

He kissed the palm of his hand.

“Just until you’ve left school.”

The Care Of Infants - Perfica - Harry Potter (2024)

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