Fixing Past Mistakes

Chapter 23

Birthday Boy

Severus woke up earlier than normal. It was a special day today, Harry's first birthday with him, and he wanted to make sure it was special. The mail and coffee were already waiting for him. This was how his days started; he'd have a few minutes to himself before going to wake Harry up. Opening the first parcel, he found Harry's uniform, although he wouldn't exactly have called it that. At Hogwarts the "uniform" was an entire wardrobe; here it was, ironically enough, simply a t-shirt and a jumper for 'cooler' weather. They were allowed to wear whatever shoes, sandals, and shorts they wanted. He had gotten Harry seven t-shirts and two jumpers; although he had a feeling that the jumpers would rarely see the light of day, he'd pop one in Harry's bag just in case of emergencies. The snacks they served at the school were all healthy and could be paid for each day or for weeks in advance. One Galleon covered five weeks of snacks, so he would just hand over ten Galleons, and that would be one less thing to worry about for a year. Harry already had a normal Muggle backpack, but he'd gotten him a new one for his birthday, which ―surprise, surprise― had wolves featured on it. Harry was obsessed with them, and with dragons and horses of any kind. He knew Harry would be over the moon when he saw it, especially considering he'd gotten it to match the wolves he knew.

Putting the package of uniforms aside, he noticed one from St. Mungo's, which had been sent to his old address; Dobby must have collected it when he went to feed Sirius Black. Black…it really didn't sit well with him doing this, allowing an innocent man to rot in Azkaban for a crime he didn't commit. Unfortunately there was nothing he could do; allowing Black to come here for even a second to see his godson would blow everything to smithereens. No, Black would just have to be content with the fact that he probably realized that someone knew he was innocent and was trying to get him out. The only thing that helped the situation was Black's own words, ironically enough; he'd remain in Azkaban, he'd said, if his godson would just live. Severus knew he would have to tell Harry about Black and the werewolf someday; he was just hoping that, when that day came, his son wouldn't sense his bitterness. At the end of the day, Black would do anything for Harry, that much was obvious. Although the fact that he wouldn't dress Harry for his funeral was curious…he'd never given an explanation for that.

Reading the letter, Snape realized that St. Mungo's also wanted his newest creation. It seemed that as an independent brewer he was doing very well; his work was really beginning to hit off. And it was the oddest, most peculiar thing; the other day, one of his neighbours, whom he'd only met very briefly at the barbeque and birthday party, had wanted to buy a few potions from him. Admittedly she had only wanted a bruise paste, a burn paste, and a junior pain reliever and bone-mender; he'd given them to her with a long-winded explanation on how to use them. He'd only taken half of what the potions were actually worth, but he didn't mind; she had four children and was raising them alone, from what he could gather.

"Clay? Patter? Adair? Heather? Dobby?" Severus called loudly, summoning all his house elves to him, or rather all four of Harry's elves, and his one. Dobby was the only one who actually belonged to him, being bonded to the Snape/'Regis' family. The others were bonded to the Potter family, and Harry would gain control of them when he turned seventeen. Today was July 31st, a very special day: it was Harry's first birthday with him, and to top it off, he'd just received the news that his potion was a huge success. Those subjects who had agreed to the trial testing stage did have three different strands of DNA in their system. Other than a little bit of dizziness and disorientation, an upset stomach, and in one case even eyesight changing for the better, no other side effects had been apparent. Which meant the potion was approved, and since he had patented it, it wasn't freely on the shelves. No one other than he would ever brew the potion; it would however, remain closely monitored by the Ministry. St. Mungo's wanted more, not to test it, but for it to be there if anyone wanted it. They were willing to pay a lot of money for it, in bulk if need be; they weren't even attempting to ask him for the recipe. Or rather, attempting to buy the recipe from him to take it on themselves.

"How can we help Master Severus?" Clay asked, speaking for all of them as they gazed at him attentively.

"It is Harry's birthday today," Severus said.

"We know, Master Severus!" Dobby said, almost jumping up and down; all of them had been busy making things for their young master. There was a large banner out the front of the house, with "Happy 4th Birthday Harrison" done in blue colours, since he was a boy, of course. A cake was already baking away in the oven; the house elves wanted to give him a birthday he would remember, especially since they knew what he had been through before Severus had taken him. They had learned this, partly by watching how Harry reacted, but mostly through overheard conversations. House elves were shameless eavesdroppers, but they were fiercely loyal to their families and would never reveal what they heard.

"Then I assume there is a cake being made?" Severus asked, his lips twitching; they'd made a large one for him. His first one, if he was honest. As a child he'd never had one; as an adult he didn't have friends who would want to buy one for him, and he sure as hell wasn't buying one for himself. His last birthday had been by far the most memorable; he hadn't spent it teaching students or just staying in his quarters. No; he had been blessed with the sight of Harry trying to sing "Happy Birthday" to him, along with the elves, a scrumptious cake afterwards, and a divine dinner.

"Yes sir," Dobby proudly grinned.

"Very well," Severus said, then asked, "Has the pool been cleaned?" He hadn't used it or even gone near it since he'd bought the property.

"Yes sir," Heather said; she was the one who had done it just three days earlier.

"Good," Severus said. "Breakfast for two as usual." Then he stood up; grabbing his letters, he placed them in the same drawer he always did. He was actually thinking about transferring all the letters from St. Mungo's to his potions lab, where there would be less chance of their going missing, or of Harry's getting his hands on them. Two potions published already... Merlin, he loved it; it was just amazing. He hadn't realized just how much teaching students had hindered his career. He barely understood it himself, although the fact that he couldn't remember hearing of such potions being created the last time around was concerning. He couldn't consciously recall hearing of a Potions Master called 'Septimus Regis,' or any potion he'd created. Or rather that, he had actually created, but in the past... oh, this was getting confusing.

"Accio Harry's birthday presents!" Severus said, summoning them to him, and diverting the zooming presents onto the table, ready for Harry to open.

The smell of the food was already beginning to waft through from the kitchen; it hadn't taken them long at all. Shaking off his idle thoughts, he made his way up the stairs to wake Harry up, still proud of his accomplishments. Harry could be his son if he wished to be. Right now he wasn't; the paperwork had been written up by the goblins, but that didn't make it true. That wasn't even taking into account that he was the one who would have gotten custody of the boy if the will had been read. This potion would make it a reality; he would be biologically Harry's father. He did want that, more than anything else in this world; since getting Harry out of the Dursleys', he had been so proud of the progress the boy had made. Harry had wormed his way into his heart; he wanted nothing but love and to be looked after, and that it was something new to Severus. People always wanted something; it was human nature. But he'd discovered that looking after someone gave him a sense of accomplishment. He had done that; he was doing something right, and it gave him such a rush of confidence.

Once Severus was up the stairs, he opened Harry's bedroom door. His duvet was once again lying on the floor. He couldn't blame him; it was just too hot here for them. Instead, Harry had a sheet wrapped around him; it was all Severus had on his own bed, even with air conditioning. He found himself shaking his head in wry amusement; Harry had tried to create a little tent for himself again, "tried" being the keyword. The sheet wasn't big enough, nor were the items he was using to make the tent shape, which were a chair and his cupboard door. Severus was genuinely surprised Harry wanted to be in any enclosed spaces, if this could be counted as such, after what he'd been through. Perhaps it was a testament to the fact he was getting over what had happened to him... no, forgetting might be more accurate; as Harry grew up he would only remember him. Maybe he might still have the odd nightmare about the Dursleys, but Severus doubted that would last... he hoped they didn't, anyway.

"Good morning, daddy," Harry said, opening his eyes and staring at him, a smile on his face.

"Good morning, little one," Severus responded, his lips twitching; he was getting used to the routine. "Happy Birthday," he added, wondering if Harry was even thinking about presents this year or if it would be next year when he would expect them. He'd told him last night that it was his birthday today, and he was turning four years old. He'd just received a sweet, tired smile in return; Harry expected nothing from him, which was why he was determined to make this an extra-happy day for him. Since they always went to the beach, that wouldn't be special; he decided not to go down that route. Instead he would begin to teach Harry how to swim, then spend the rest of the day outside, have some burgers and hotdogs on the barbeque. It was by no means a birthday party, but since Harry wasn't friends with many children, he didn't see the point this year. Perhaps next year, after he'd made friends in nursery... the thought of being responsible for a gaggle of children made him nauseous, though. Yet he'd promised himself to give Harry a normal, stress-free childhood, and, unfortunately, birthday parties fell under that category. So this year he would enjoy the time alone with his son.

"Go on then; toilet," Severus said, ushering Harry out of bed as he opened drawers and waited for Harry to pick whatever he wanted to wear. The cupboard was empty; all Harry had was t-shirts, shorts, and, of course, underwear. He had the jacket Severus had bought, but it still had the tags on it; the weather was just too hot for such items. It remained on its hook beside the door, along with both their cloaks.

Harry bounded back through the door grinning cheerfully, no sign of sleepiness to be seen.

"What would you like to wear today?" Severus asked, pulling out his trunks and pulling off the label as he did so. They hadn't been used; Harry hadn't been in the water yet, neither in the pool nor at the beach; just in the bath.

Harry peeked into his drawer, his eyes roaming over his t-shirts as he tried to decide which one to wear today. He decided on the white one with Gobstones on it, with green stuff squirting out of them; he liked that one. His daddy had told him his own mummy had been really good at the game and had been the top player. His daddy had sounded really proud, and Harry was determined to have that pride as well.

"Can I play in the back garden today?" Harry asked, staring up at his daddy in awe. He would never get tired of this. He loved it here; he could go outside every day, and it was always warm! He didn't have to wait to go to the park until a day came along when it wasn't raining. Plus he wouldn't have been able to go to the beach, either, and he loved going to the beach.

"Yes. We are going to have lunch and maybe dinner outside, how would you like that?" Severus enquired, shutting Harry's drawers as he and Harry moved to the middle of the room. Instead of leaving, Severus sat down on the bed, and Harry stopped curiously. Why weren't they going down to breakfast? They always did; had he done something wrong? He began to worry his tongue with his teeth.

"Did I do something wrong, Daddy?" Harry asked, his green eyes clouded with confusion.

"No, Harry, you didn't. You are a good boy, and I'm very proud of you," Severus firmly stated.

Harry beamed; he might be four and growing up to be a big boy like his daddy, but he never wanted this to stop. His tummy felt fluttery just hearing it; his heart felt ready to burst. Even if he didn't understand why people called his daddy Septimus Regis outside, but inside he was Severus Snape; it didn't really matter, since he was daddy either way.

"You know that I am your dad; I always will be, but there's a potion that can make you even more my son," Severus said, trying to explain it in a way the now four-year-old could grasp. He wasn't sure Harry would, but he had to try, at least; if the boy didn't understand, he would wait until he could. He wasn't going to do this without Harry's complete comprehension of the situation.

"More?" Harry asked, his eyebrows scrunching up as he tried to figure out what his daddy was saying.

"Remember how I said you have your mummy's eyes? And your first father's hair? That is because they're a part of you. If I gave you this potion, you would have part of me in you too. Although, there might not be any changes we can see; you may just get better at something you might not have found easy otherwise," Severus explained, groaning at how grown-up that sounded; Harry was only four years old, but he could find no better way to say it.

Harry pondered on what his dad meant; if he had a part of his mummy and first daddy, why didn't he have a part of his now-daddy too? Or did the potion always have to be used to get a now-daddy? But his daddy said it himself; he was already his dad. Harry thought of the nasty people taking him away because he didn't take the potion so his daddy could be a proper daddy. Then he remembered his dad saying they couldn't hurt him; they were locked away now. Did it really matter? He loved his daddy very much; he got lots of food and toys, was tucked in at night, got to play. And the best of all were his hugs; he'd never had that before. He wanted to have a part of his daddy in him… even if he couldn't comprehend the full reality of it.

"Uh-huh," Harry said, nodding vigorously.

"Yes," Severus prompted, giving Harry a pointed look, not even letting him off with it since it was his birthday. He didn't want Harry to become inarticulate. You could tell he'd been spending time with children his own age, especially when he started using words like that, since he didn't normally speak that way.

"Yes, daddy, I want to," Harry corrected himself, still in agreement.

Severus had the odd urge to stand up and jump around like a lunatic; it conflicted with his grown-up mind, simply put. Was he really experiencing the emotions of a teenager? Could this have happened the first time around, if Dumbledore hadn't screwed up his life? His other life? One thing he could blatantly and concretely agree on was it would have been different. They wouldn't have been here, and if they were, Dumbledore would never have left them alone. Perhaps this way was better; he was more experienced, and he realized he was being given a second chance to fix things. Back then he wouldn't have; it was a huge revelation when he realized this, and somehow he knew deep down that everything was going to be all right. Well, if his emotions would settle down; he was not used to this at all.

Taking a deep breath, he removed the potion from his pocket. He'd been hoping to do this, but he hadn't been certain. The potion already had his blood in it, and would start to work through Harry's body straight away. Uncorking the vial, he held it out for Harry to take whenever he was ready. Hopefully the literally blood-red colour wouldn't put him off.

Harry didn't hesitate. He'd been taking potions for what felt like forever now; they tasted extremely icky. This one was worse than the nutrition potion he had to take—although his daddy only made him take that one once a week now, since he was a big boy. Sticking his tongue out, Harry shuddered as he handed the vial back.

Severus picked Harry up and hugged him close, feeling completely overwhelmed. He'd never thought he'd have his own child. Never in a million years had he hoped to have his own family, even if it was just the two of them. "Thank you, Harry," Severus whispered, inwardly cursing himself for being such a sentimental old fool.

Harry just hugged him back, giggling at how silly his daddy was being.

"Right; breakfast; come on," Severus said, placing Harry steadily on his feet before leaving the room quickly. All that was missing was his robes billowing out around him, which he no longer wore.

"Happy birthday, Master Harry!" the five house elves called as soon as Harry entered the living room.

Harry squealed, grinning widely at them, hopping on the spot as he noticed they had brightly wrapped packages in their hands. "Can I open one? Can I open one?" Harry asked, turning his wide, hopeful eyes on his dad as he continued to jump around.

"Only one; you need to eat breakfast first," Severus said, caving just a little at the look. He'd never seen Harry show so much excitement before. He'd seen him almost doing it, but never, ever had he displayed such a reckless abandon as right now. It was a sight to see, since so far Harry had been like him, quiet and reserved mostly, even at the birthday party. Harry had exclaimed how much he'd liked it after a nap once they'd gotten home. Seeing the little girl hurt for some reason had scared Harry a little; Severus hadn't figured out why. Harry hadn't been able to tell him; he'd merely shrugged his shoulders, truly unable to articulate it.

"Okay, daddy," Harry said, smiling sweetly in agreement.

"You may put them on the table; Harry, what do you say?" Severus asked; he knew the presents wouldn't be anything valuable, but it was the thought that counted.

"Thank you, Dobby…Heather, Patter… Adair, and…" Harry scrunched up his nose trying to remember the last one's name before exclaiming it loudly, "…Clay!"

"Well done," Severus praised; by then the presents had joined Severus' on the table. Severus hoisted Harry onto his chair, letting him choose which one he wanted to open first.

"This one," Harry said, pointing towards the large bulky package that Dobby had placed on the table.

Severus lifted it up, nearly grunting; Merlin, what the hell did Dobby have under that packaging? It felt heaver than a dead body. Placing it on the floor, Severus was intrigued himself; what had Dobby given Harry? It felt like wood to him, but it was difficult to tell with the paper wrapped around it. Harry practically ripped the paper in one go, gasping in awe at the sight that greeted him; it was awesome. "Thank you, Dobby!" Harry said, his fingers reverently running up and down the smooth varnished wood. It was almost as big as he was when he was sitting down on the floor with it. There was even a small hand-held Pegasus; he knew exactly where he wanted this: in the middle of all his toys beside his dragons.

Severus' eyebrows almost disappeared completely; that, he had to admit, was a very thoughtful gift. A lot of hours had gone into creating that. It was a Pegasus, animated to make noise. So much precision work had gone into it; no spell could do that for you, and you had to have the talent yourself. Harry's love for any kind of big animal with four legs and a tail was well known. This included hippogriffs, horses, Arabians, unicorns, and, of course, Pegasi. He was grateful Harry hadn't taken to centaurs or centuarride (the females). There were none in this part of the world; it was far too warm for them. They liked cooler climates.

"Breakfast, Harry," Severus calmly reminded his excited son.

"Okay," Harry said, giving it one last longing look before standing up, not quite ready to challenge his daddy just yet.

"Well done," Severus said, appreciating just how difficult it was to come away from his shiny new toy. Oh, he knew there would come a day when Harry wouldn't want to do something and had the determination to speak up. Hopefully by bringing him up right, when he spoke it would be enough to make Harry realize he was serious. Only time would tell... and wasn't it strange that he was looking forward to Harry actually talking back to him? It would be a sign of a normal child, that he was recovering, or rather, had recovered. "Do not choke yourself," Severus admonished in amusement; Harry was trying to swallow his meal whole, without wasting any time chewing.

"I'm excited!" Harry confessed, gobbling down his food despite the fact that made his tummy ache. He had so many presents; he wasn't sure how many, since he only counted up to ten. If they were anything like the wooden Pegasus, it would be brilliant; he would have to do something for the house elves to say thank you. Maybe his daddy would help him with that, since he couldn't do it by himself.

"I can understand that, but take your time; they will still be there when you finish," Severus said, eating his own breakfast in a more sedate manner. He mentally made a note to change his planned potion-brewing. He no longer needed to brew nutrition potions; Harry definitely didn't need them anymore, not even once a week. He was one hundred percent healthy; potions had done all they could to make up for the damage the Dursleys had inflicted.

After Harry practically inhaled his breakfast, Severus allowed him to open his presents. There were a great many, Severus had spared no expense. Fortunately he had drawn a line and only gotten Harry two, or maybe three extremely expensive gifts; the rest were just what was commonly referred to as "stocking fillers." He had sworn never to spoil Harry, not wanting him to think he could get whatever he liked when he demanded things. Unfortunately, that was easier said than done, even for a man like him. He was proud of himself for being able to restrain himself and not allowing himself to buy more, which, by the way, he had been sorely tempted to do. He could think of no other explanation than that he was totally and utterly going soft.

Considering that, just nine months ago, he had bought enough items to fill a shopping cart, and not to forget the items he had been buying through the wizarding delivery service ― yeah, it was a surprise he had thought of anything to buy Harry.

He had bought Harry a dragon handler's outfit, which in fact mostly consisted of dragon-hide, ironically enough. It was thin, though, not like the actual stuff the dragon handlers wore. They were imbued with fire-resistant spells, to prevent them from being fried to a crisp by an angry dragon. The outfit was accompanied by a real dragon tooth on a thong, which he hoped Harry didn't lose or misplace, as they were actually very rare and hard to get. He'd had to use every connection he had, to get the damn thing.

Harry immediately put it on, the dragon tooth taking pride of place around his neck; he didn't seem to care how big it looked against his chest. The junior boots were awesome, and loud when he jumped around, but he didn't care; he was grinning so widely it was beginning to hurt. There was also the fireman costume and trucks (Muggle of course), and of course the Auror costume.

There were paints, paper, crayons, and a large board and chalk, all with educational books and activities. Severus was determined that Harry would learn and be the best he could be, so that when he decided on his future career, it wouldn't be an impossibility for him. He knew not to push too hard; children needed time to develop socially, not just academically. Speaking of academics, Severus had also bought Harry building blocks, although part of him thought Harry was maybe a little on the old side for them.

He bought Harry a few Video's to enjoy, which would join the others in his room. These days he was allowing Harry to watch TV when he went to bed. It seemed to send him off to sleep much easier; he was certainly sleeping within twenty minutes, when he went to check on him anyway. Harry still had his night-light, which he was hoping wouldn't be needed for much longer. The only thing that soothed his concern was the fact that many children who had been brought up without abuse were scared of the dark as well. It wasn't as if Harry potentially thought that he was back in his cupboard or terrified someone was out to hurt him.

When Harry began to play with the toy guitar, Severus thought he'd have something he would regret buying his son... until he got his hands on the keyboard, which did take the place of a toy he would regret. Harry didn't play long regardless; he was trying to get through all the presents. Toy cars, as were needed for a boy; they were one of the things he noticed there were more of in the Muggle store. There was a huge selection of them, and they wouldn't make them if boys didn't play with them, obviously.

He'd also bought a few items that Harry would have to go outside to play with; under no circumstances did he want Harry to be like him. Now, since they already had a swimming pool in their house, he had decided on a sandbox, although he had noticed Harry wasn't particularly… a boy who liked to get dirty. He would come out of his shell sooner or later, Severus was positive of that. He also added a toy broom and a bike to the collection; he considered them and the dragon handler set to be his "big gifts."

He bought Harry a submarine, one that moved on its own, made engine noises, and voiced itself when it suddenly popped up over the water or decided to go down, the whole shebang. There was also a different assortment of toys he could play with in the bath or in the swimming pool.

The last to be opened by an overwhelmed four-year-old, who was actually putting his ripped wrapping paper in the bin each time he finished with a present, were the gifts from the house elves. They all seemed similar to Dobby's, but since they didn't get paid, really, what could you expect from them, a miracle? Heather had created a unicorn to compliment Dobby's Pegasus. The only difference was that the unicorn was mostly smooth, whereas the Pegasi were winged and feathered creatures, so it was a much more difficult image to carve. Patter, Clay, and Adair had made, respectively, a T-shirt with "ET" stitched with excruciating detail, down to the last stitch, a carved ET, and a Dragon-Wolf carving, a creature composed of two animals, a dragon and a wolf. It has the head and ears of a dragon, but with the whiskers, tail, and forelegs of a wolf. Its main body was that of a dragon. He had to admit he was blown away by what the elves had done for Harry; it was obvious to see they liked him, as well the fact that he liked them. He prayed it would never change, and his son wouldn't treat them horribly, like Lucius Malfoy and his ilk. No, it wouldn't change; he would never allow Harry to become like them. That would only happen over his dead body.

Harry stood at the very edge of the pool, staring wide-eyed. He had nothing but his trunks and a pair of armbands on. His daddy was already in the pool, just standing in it waiting for him, as if he understood how scary it was. Harry didn't want to go in; his daddy was big, and he was nearly disappearing inside the water.

"It's all right, Harry; I won't let anything happen to you, I promise," Severus said, trying to convince the four-year-old to come into the water. Inwardly amused, he mused on what odd creatures children were. From what he could gather, this was a typical thing; children absolutely refused to go into the water properly. Then once they did actually go in, you could never get them back out; at least this was his impression from their frequent visits to the beach. Also from what he'd read about the curriculum from the school, they began teaching children how to swim from the age of six. Being surrounded by so much water, Severus had to agree it was one of the best ideas. Not everyone here could cast Bubble-Head charms, after all, especially not minors or non-magical people, as they were called here.

Harry bit his lip as he looked at the deep water again; swallowing thickly, he dipped his toe in before yanking back. He didn't want to disappoint his daddy; this was the most prominent thing on Harry's mind. He steeled himself, finding the courage that lay with the trust he had in his dad not to let anything happen to him. He'd come and rescued him from the dark place, made sure the horrible people didn't hurt him, made him all better just like he'd done for that little girl. Sitting down at the edge, he cagily let his feet go into the water. Unconsciously he began to kick his feet around, rather enjoying himself, and then he shrieked as he was pulled in by his ankles.

"You're bad!" Harry exclaimed, his pout big enough to hold an iceberg on it; his green eyes were filled with fire.

"I am," Severus agreed, his blank face hiding his amusement. He was watching his son, wondering if he'd realize he was in the water and definitely NOT drowning. Severus was looking for any change in Harry, no matter how small it was. Unsurprisingly, he couldn't see any sign of change; he wasn't sure if he was relieved or not. He probably was; he would never want a child to look like him. A secret part of him had wished as a young man ―no, wondered even― what a child of him and Lily would look like. There had been a time when he'd been confused about his sexuality, especially when he'd begun to admire men rather than women. There had been no doubt his feelings for Lily had been more than just best friends. Who wouldn't feel that way with Lily about? She had been absolutely stunning, fiery with an attitude that let people know she wasn't going to take anything sitting or lying down, as evidenced by her need to protect everyone she saw needing help. This had also been the breaking of their friendship, and it was apparent from Lily's letter that that's what it had been. The letter... he'd read it so many times since he'd got it; each night he couldn't help himself but sit and read it. It didn't fail to warm and hurt his heart just seeing her writing and knowing she hadn't died hating him. She'd forgiven him, and if they hadn't been under the Fidelius charm…they maybe would have been able to reconcile their friendship.

"Would you like to play with your new ball?" Severus asked, as Harry began finding his sea legs. He obviously couldn't reach the bottom, but that didn't matter, since he realized nothing bad would happen.

Harry's green eyes were so luminous, they even put the water to shame, and despite the rocky start, he was beginning to enjoy himself. He nodded vigorously; he loved all his new presents and couldn't wait to put them in his room beside all his other treasures. Severus summoned Harry's brand-new ball and passed it along, feeling elated with himself, as he always did when he could successfully make Harry so happy. He no longer dwelled on the depressing fact that Harry could have died…he was also trying to live for the moment, which meant going out more often, and not just wanting to rush straight back. This had him written all over it, even talking to the Headmaster of what would soon be Harry's new school didn't quash it. He didn't know himself if it was an innate fear of being away from a place he called home, being outside among people, or if it had begun through fear when he was spying. He surmised it was perhaps a bit of all of them, but he could never really be certain.

After half an hour of tossing the ball back and forth, and teaching his son to use his arms to move around in the water, Severus placed a Bubble-Head charm on Harry, and removed his armbands, which had dragons depicted on them. Of course Harry held onto his dad like an octopus, all arms and legs, because he was terrified of going under the water, despite the fact that the spell wouldn't allow him to drown. Severus had placed little colourful plastic rings, which he had created with his wand, on the bottom of the pool floor and pointed them out to the child.

"Harry, the spell allows you to breathe underwater," Severus explained once more, before he dunked both of them under the surface. Harry squeaked in surprise, and true to his dad's word, he found that he could breathe.

After a few unsuccessful tries, he finally began to navigate a previously unknown terrain underwater, which led to a few hours of fun, where Harry gathered all the rings. Severus, for the most part, was just content to watch Harry having fun, introducing him to new things and seeing his face light up. It was interesting, to say the least. He wanted to make sure Harry had fun with him, since he was going to nursery soon, and Severus knew he was going to feel a little lost for a while. He'd gotten so used to being a full-time father…him, of all people! To think that in a few months it would have been an entire year since this had all begun... The day he'd gone to fetch Harry was pretty unforgettable, since it had also happened to be Christmas day.

"Can we see the wolves now?" Harry asked, chatting away as his daddy got out the water; he'd been helped out first and told to keep away from the edge of the pool.

"Of course," Severus said in bemusement. Instead of growing less fascinated with them, Harry spent more time than ever with them. Not that he really minded, but he did warn Harry never to go alone, and always stay where he could see him. He'd put wards up anyway; if Harry stepped three feet inside the tree line, he'd meet a barrier preventing him from going further. He didn't think the wolves would do anything; they'd taken an immensely good liking to the boy. He just didn't want Harry getting lost. There would come a time when he could go by himself, but not right now.

Now it was time for some lunch and cake, and if they were hungry later ― dinner. Just how exactly did he get the time to invent potions again? Right now it seemed like a big mystery... but only for a few minutes before it became insignificant.

Big thanks to Jake and Jordre for editing this :)