Severus did not want the job in the slightest. In fact the conditions under which he had accepted it could be termed as emotional blackmail he was fairly sure; it would never hold up in court. Dumbledore, when confronted with this, had widened his eyes slightly and said, "It was hardly a legally binding contract, but if you do want to try and take the matter to trial, that is, of course, your prerogative." Git. But despite the dubious conditions under which he had agreed to do the job, the fact remained that he had agreed. And if he was going to do it, he damn well was going to do a good job of it.

"I think I'll pass on dragging my whole sordid past through the judicial system, thank you," Severus said. "All I require at the moment is the boy's current home address."

"Whatever for?" Dumbledore asked, sounding bemused.

"It has recently come to my attention that you placed him with Lily's sister after the death of his parents." Severus didn't know what bee had gotten into Minerva's bonnet, but she had been in fine form that afternoon, going on about which seemed to be every single thing that had displeased her for the past decade. "As I trust Petunia Evans as far as I can throw her," Severus paused to consider Petunia's bony frame and his own wiry strength, then amended that to, "less far than I can throw her, I consider it my duty to check in on the boy to make sure he is being properly cared for." Severus watched as Dumbledore's expression grew more and more confused throughout this speech and Severus concluded it with a sneer. "Have I surprised you?"

"Say pleased rather. Pleased and proud," Dumbledore corrected shedding his confused expression to regard Severus with a smile, which Severus found… highly off-balancing. "I confess I believed you would have much too difficult a time looking past Harry's paternal heritage to truly embrace this task."

"So sorry to have upset your expectations," Severus said, because vitriol and sarcasm came easily to him and the notion that someone could be proud of him, and not just for what he could accomplish with his magic, but for who he was, was also highly off-balancing.

"Don't be," Dumbledore said, his joviality paying no heed to Severus's harsh tone. "I'm proven wrong so rarely it's actually a somewhat refreshing change."

"The address," Severus prompted.

"Of course," Dumbledore said. "It's 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey." As he spoke the words appeared in the air before him, and with a flick of his wand they landed on a spare piece of parchment, which Dumbledore handed to Severus.

"One last thing before you go," Dumbledore said. "Do try not to antagonize the Dursleys. I realize you and Petunia didn't get along as children, but you of all people should realize that people can change."

Severus rolled his eyes at the sentimentality. "I shall endeavor to not be needlessly antagonizing."

Dumbledore sighed, likely well aware of the purpose of the qualifier 'needlessly.' "Very well. I'm trusting you, Severus."

Now that was definitely emotional blackmail.

Placement 1: The Dursleys

In retrospect, Severus thought as he held the thankfully no longer wriggling brat before him by the armpits, Dumbledore's trust in him was perhaps a bit unjustified. No sooner had that thought occurred than Severus ruthlessly quashed it; he had done the right thing removing Potter from the Dursleys' household. And even if it hadn't been the right thing, there was no going back on it now. What was done was done, no point in dwelling on the past and might-have-beens. There was a certain irony in Severus Snape being the one to espouse that, but as Severus had a deep and personal loathing of irony of all kinds, he ignored it.

Dumbledore looked up when Severus flooed into his office, appearing both surprised and not by the fact that Severus had returned carting the Toddler-Who-Lived around, holding him at arm's length as though he was something foul and unpleasant smelling. In point of fact, Potter reeked to high heaven, but Severus certainly had no intention of changing any nappies; Dumbledore could deal with that. "I take it that it didn't go well?"

"They had locked him up in the cupboard under the stairs," Severus snapped.

"And you of course made sure that that was not a punishment for some misbehavior on Harry's part before kidnapping a child from his home," Dumbledore remarked, his tone dry, but with a hint of warning underneath.

"The boy is two years old, what could he have possibly done?" Severus said.

Dumbledore raised an amused eyebrow at him. "I take it you've not met many two year olds."

"And you have?" Severus said. Dumbledore made a sort of humming response, acknowledging the point without agreeing with it and waited.

"There was every indication that the cupboard was his permanent bedroom," Severus said. "As to the matter of kidnapping: I hardly think it can be considered as such, given that when I stated my intention of taking Potter from their care, they said they were 'glad to be shut of the boy' and that I was 'saving them the work of beating the freakishness out of him.'"

Dumbledore's normally gently twinkling eyes went diamond hard in an instant and Severus imagined he could almost feel the man's anger crackling in the air. "Did they hurt Harry?" he demanded.

Harry, who up to that moment had been quietly occupying himself by staring in wonder about the room, whimpered and began to struggle in Severus's arms. Likely he wished to get away so he could hide himself, as he had done earlier when his uncle had gotten angry. Dumbledore's expression fell immediately. "Oh Harry, I'm so sorry. I'm not angry at you, my dear boy."

"Good boy," Harry said insistently.

"Yes Harry, you're a very good boy," Dumbledore's agreed. Harry let out a few more sniffles, then forgot any sense of distress entirely when Fawkes made a great show of spreading his wings then fluttered from his usual perch to the back of Dumbledore's chair. Potter clearly considered this to be the most fascinating thing yet, and he lapsed into wondered silence yet again.

"I am sorry for losing my temper," Dumbledore reiterated, this time addressing Severus, but Severus easily dismissed the apology. Truthfully, he had found the sudden burst of outrage somewhat reassuring. He hadn't thought that Dumbledore knew anything about how Potter was being treated, but… Well, with Dumbledore it was never a question of whether or not he knew more than he was letting on, just a matter of how much more.

"I found no evidence of physical abuse, though I would recommend you have Poppy look him over. Especially as I suspect they haven't been feeding him properly – he can't weigh more than a stone." Of course, even just a stone can get heavy when held at arm's length for an extended period of time, so Severus approached Dumbledore's desk and unceremoniously deposited the toddler in the middle of it. "I expect you to do a much better job of finding someone to take Potter in next time," Severus said. And on that ominous note, he left.

(And because he left, he didn't see what happened next. Harry turned to Dumbledore and said, with the full gravity and solemnity of his two years, "Bird." He considered carefully and added, "Fun."

"I agree, Severus is a funny man," Dumbledore said with equal solemnness. "But not to worry Harry, I have a plan." Dumbledore tapped his nose knowledgably, only to have the appendage crinkle in distaste. "Which we will get to as soon as I have Poppy change your nappy.")

Placement 4: The Weasleys

Severus shifted his hold on Harry slightly, trying to more closely mimic how he had seen Molly Weasley performing the task. No matter how unsuitable Severus found that household to be, there was no denying that the woman had a good deal of experience with the matter. Severus was not yet entirely convinced he preferred this method, however. Certainly was easier on his arms, but Harry seemed to have developed a fascination with Severus's hair that this position was only encouraging.

Dumbledore was not in his office proper when Severus arrived, but calling his name brought them man from out of his quarters quickly enough.

When he spotted Potter in Severus's arms he looked both resigned and amused. "Hello Harry, Severus. Is this a purely social visit, or have you discovered some heretofore unknown fault with the Weasleys' ability to parent?"

"Even if I were so inclined to drop by for social visit, why on earth would I do so with Potter in tow? The boy is a – Potter stop that this instant!" Severus quickly intercepted before Potter could stick the handful of Severus's hair he had been holding into his mouth. Severus pulled the pacifier Molly had foisted off on him out of his pocket and offered it to the boy instead. Potter eyed it dubiously, but allowed Severus to place it in his mouth and sucked on it halfheartedly. It was clearly deemed an acceptable, but inferior, replacement for Severus's hair.

"As I was saying, the boy is a menace. Something that the Weasleys aren't going to train out of him," Severus said accusingly.

"I don't know, I've heard that Bill Weasley is fairly well-behaved," Dumbledore said, citing the only Weasley child to have attended Hogwarts thus far.

"An anomaly I'm sure; their house was like a zoo. There was on point when I was certain Potter was going to be trampled to death by the lot of them."

"I'm sure Molly or Arthur would have intervened before it got that far," Dumbledore said sounding amused, though Severus couldn't see what about; the Boy-Who-Lived getting trampled to death by a pack of wild children was no laughing matter. Besides, while Molly Weasley might intercede, and indeed had done so, Arthur Weasley had a 'boys will be boys' attitude that was unacceptably blasé.

"Yes, well I have no intention of leaving Potter's continued well-being up to chance," Severus said. "The Weasleys are simply not acceptable guardians."

"I suppose you are the expert; I shall have to trust your judgment," Dumbledore said, and Severus frowned inwardly. He hardly felt like he was an expert on the matter. Possessed of a modicum of common sense and standards certainly, not to mention he was the only one willing to put the effort into verifying that Potter's guardians were suitable rather than just hoping and assuming they were, but that didn't make him an expert. Perhaps he should get some books on the subject…

"Yes, you shall," Severus agreed firmly, showing none of his inner doubts.

He approached Dumbledore, intending to pass Potter off to him. Potter was reluctant to go at first, but once Dumbledore had him, the boy developed a spontaneous obsession with Dumbledore's beard Potter grabbed a tuft of it with either hand and, spitting out his pacifier, stuck one of them in his mouth fist and all. Dumbledore chuckled and extracted the hair from Potter's mouth. "He is a delightful child, isn't he?"

Severus saw no reason to dignify a comment as ridiculous as that with a response.

Placement 9: Remus Lupin

"You left him with the werewolf?" Severus hissed. He want to yell at Dumbledore, the man certainly deserved it after the dunderheaded stunt he'd pulled, but unfortunately that wasn't an option at the moment. Potter had been in the middle of his nap when Severus had showed up to rescue him from Lupin – who had been suspiciously easygoing about Severus taking Potter away, something to look into later. The boy had woken briefly when Severus picked him up, but, no doubt used to the procedure by now, he quickly fell back to sleep in Severus's arms.

"Remus was a good friend of James and Lily's before they passed," Dumbledore said.

"So was Sirius Black," Severus snapped back (quietly). "Do you intend to give Potter to him next?"

"Don't be ridiculous, Severus. Azkaban is no place for a two year old."

"But a murderer is an adequate guardian?" Severus asked before noticing the twinkling in Dumbledore's eyes and the mirthful twitching of his lips. Severus was being teased.

Well, that was completely unacceptable. The only person ever allowed to tease Severus was Lily. And, Severus supposed, if the young Potter ever attempted to do so it might be permissible, but only because he was still very young and couldn't be expected to know better. Plus, he was still recovering from the trauma of being abused; allowances must be made.

"Potter's guardianship is no joking matter," Severus said.

"I assure you, my boy, I am taking this very seriously," Dumbledore said and he did seem as though he meant it.

Severus narrowed his eyes. "If you are taking it seriously, then clearly you just have no ability and tell adequate home from an inadequate from the completely horrendous."

"That seems a little harsh," Dumbledore replied.

"A pair of child abusers and a werewolf," said Severus, throwing out the two most egregiously awful choices Dumbledore had made.

"I obviously had no idea at the time that the Dursleys would behave that way, and as for Remus, I was hardly planning on leaving Harry under his sole supervision on the night of the full moon. No matter," Dumbledore said, waving off his own explanations. "If you say Remus is unsuitable, then he is unsuitable. I shall simply have to find someone else."

"You do that," Severus agreed. Even if Dumbledore was not the least bit discerning in this matter, he was remarkably good at turning up people willing to take Potter in and managing to transfer Potter's custody around without too much of a legal fuss or any sort of public outcry. "Once you've found someone, you may come to me and if I think they might be acceptable guardians, then I will allow you to take Potter to them."

"Are you going to be taking care of Harry in the meanwhile, then?" Dumbledore asked.

"I hardly see how I have a choice, since clearly someone need to screen your selections," Severus said.

"Of course," Dumbledore said nodding, either unaware or not caring that he was being insulted somewhat. "I'm sure that Harry will have a lovely time with you."

"I'm not doing it for the child's enjoyment," said Severus, though Dumbledore looked as if he believed that not a bit. So Severus gathered his dignity, or at least as much dignity as he could gather while carrying unconscious toddler who had left what felt like a sizable puddle of drool on his shoulder, and said, "Now if you'll excuse me, I have things to attend to." Severus turned, for the sake of his own sanity pretending not to hear Dumbledore's few stifled chuckles, and left to put Potter down to finish his nap. Sufficient sleep was so important for a boy his age; all the books said so.

Placement 14: The Longbottoms

"Lookit!" Harry cried. Once he was certain Severus was watching, not that the man would ever be so stupid as to take his eyes off a two year old who was insisting on climbing up the stairs by himself, Harry turned back and placed both his hands down on the stair two above the one he was standing on. Using his hands to balance, he brought one foot and then the other up to the next stair. With his feet firmly planted, Harry pushed off with his hands and stood up straight once again. Then he turned back to look at Severus, flush with pride at his accomplishment.

"Yes, you can climb up the stairs, as you've amply proven." On every single stair. All the way from the gargoyle to Dumbledore's office. Severus could only be grateful that the rather odd nature of Dumbledore's stairs meant this distance was much shorter than it rightfully out to have been.

Harry giggled, continuously delighted with Severus's acerbic comments. Then he cried, "Lookit!" and went through the procedure all over again.

"What do you want, House points? You haven't been sorted yet, you ridiculous child."

Harry giggled and cried, "Lookit!" again, but thankfully there were no more stairs left for him to climb. Failing that, Harry trotted across the small landing and slapped his open palms repeatedly against the office door.

"Come in." Dumbledore's voice was rich with amusement, promptly killing any vague hopes that Severus had that Dumbledore might have somehow failed to hear their procession. Sighing inwardly, Severus opened the door.

"Dumdore!" Harry said happily.

"Why hello Harry, so good to see you again," Dumbledore said, bending to ruffle the boy's hair before turning to Severus and prompting, "Augusta?" They were both so familiar with the routine by now that the one word was all that was needed.

"Still seems a perfectly tolerable woman, but she apparently has your flair when it comes to selecting people to watch it over her children." Not that Severus was doing much better on that front himself. Sure, he had been able to dismiss a number of Dumbledore's more obviously unacceptable choices out of hand, but there had also been people that Severus had thought would be fine, only to later discover they were completely inept. It was startling, really, how many people there were, some with children of their own, with no concept of how to properly raise a child.

"Ah, I suppose it would have to be something like that," Dumbledore said thoughtfully.

"What does that mean?" Severus asked.

"Only that I'm acquainted with Augusta, and I was finding it difficult to guess what you'd find the matter with her. She's a bit of a disciplinarian as well, but I would hardly expect you to be one to object to something like that," Dumbledore said.

"Of course not. Discipline is very – Harry!" Severus said, cutting himself off. Harry, who could not have been reasonably expected to know that he wasn't allowed to play with things on Dumbledore's shelves, but was more than capable of recognizing a tone of voice, turned around looking guilty. "Come here," Severus instructed, pointing to the ground in his feet. Harry cast one last longing look at the shelf, but then obediently toddled over. He fell on his rear once he had reached Severus, and looked up at the man with woebegone eyes. Severus give an inward sigh and pulled out of one of his robe pockets a stuffed snake, one of a set of four that Dumbledore had gifted Harry, the others being a badger, an eagle, and a lion, and all much more awkward to fit in a pocket. Harry brightened at the sight of the toy and took it eagerly, zooming it around aimlessly in the air and making hissing noises.

"As I was saying," Severus continued smoothly, "discipline is very important. I'm not going to allow anyone to raise Harry to being arrogant hellion like his father."

"Clearly not," Dumbledore observed. "So what exactly happened at the Longbottoms'?"

"When I arrived I was told both the boys were out playing in the snow under the eye of Augusta's brother Algernon. I went to check on them, and while Harry seemed to be enjoying himself, the Longbottom boy was nearly buried in a snow drift without a coat or mittens or any sort of cold weather gear. Apparently the man was attempting to jumpstart Longbottom's magic," Severus said, his words brimming with disgust.

"How distressing," Dumbledore said, and despite the relatively mild tone to his words, it was clear he really was distressed. An emotion compounded, no doubt, by the fact that there was very little he could do to remedy the situation. 'Encouraging' a child's magic was a time-honored and still widely accepted tradition in pureblood families, though Severus suspected that even the likes of the Blacks and the Malfoys would find nearly freezing a child half to death before he had even turned three a bit extreme.

"I'll see if Minerva won't have a talk with Augusta; the two of them were friends of sorts back in school," Dumbledore said finally.

Severus nodded, honestly more relieved that Harry had been removed from the situation than he was worried about Longbottom. Although, as he looked at Harry happily playing with his snake, for a moment Severus couldn't help but see another boy, one with lips and fingers starting to go blue with cold, and without thinking about it, Severus found himself saying, "While you do that, I'll take Harry back to our quarters for a warm bath."

Entirely unnecessary, given that Harry had been bundled up appropriately, and was quite obviously suffering no ill-effects from the cold, but still. It seemed like the thing to do.

Placement 22: Albus Dumbledore

Severus glided into Dumbledore's office with Harry on his hip and a glare on his face. Dumbledore stood up from his desk and crossed the room with his arms outstretched, as though he intended to take the boy from Severus. "Good afternoon, Severus. So good of you to bring Harry up."

Severus pointedly ignored Dumbledore's proffered arms, instead settling himself in one of the chairs in front of the man's desk and Harry in his lap. Dumbledore raised an eyebrow at this, but didn't comment, merely retook his seat and gestured for Severus to speak.

"I had trusted that once you volunteered to take Harry in yourself, that meant this matter was finally settled," Severus said, his words clipped and angry. "Foolishly so, it appears, as I just now as I was walking to the Great Hall, I encountered Harry being carried around by a Gryffindor prefect of all people!"

"Now Severus, Mercy Thompson comes from a large family, and she's quite well practiced in looking after children," Dumbledore said reasonably.

"It wasn't Mercy Thompson, it was that oaf Jeffery Jones," Severus snapped. So not only was Dumbledore handing Harry off to students to look after him, but apparently the students were passing him around among themselves as well. "You're supposed to be Harry's guardian!"

"His legal guardian, yes, and of course I'll always be there for Harry if he needs me, but I never intended to be his round the clock caretaker; I don't remotely have the time for it. Instead I was thinking that everyone here at Hogwarts could be part of a communal effort in raising Harry. As they say, it takes a village to raise a child."

"This is a school, not a village," Severus spat, and that wasn't to mention the fact that that was a moronic saying in the first place. Dumbledore made a dismissive gesture, as though to say the distinction was an unimportant one.

Severus's eyes narrowed. There was the other matter, one that he had been waiting to bring up until after he finished collecting his evidence, but the occasion seemed too appropriate to miss. "Molly Weasley fire-called me the other day. She wanted to arrange 'another playdate' for Harry and her brood," Severus began.

"I'm sure Harry would enjoy that immensely; it sounds like a marvelous idea," Dumbledore said. Privately, Severus agreed. He still did not trust the Weasleys to raise Harry into a well-mannered child, but Severus knew, both from painful personal experience and from his books, that the opportunity to socialize with peers was very important to a child's emotional development, and Harry's peers were something that the Weasley household undeniably had in abundance.

Still. "You're missing the point. She did not want to arrange a playdate, she specifically asked for another playdate. When I questioned her, she revealed that she had always believed herself to be no more than a temporary guardian for Harry. In fact, all of Harry's previous guardians that I've been able to contact so far have thought that," Severus said, allowing just the barest edge of accusation in his tone.

"Really? I can't imagine how they could have gotten mixed up… I suppose I must have thought that this would be the best way to avoid a lot of potential fuss. After all, a temporary guardian that is found to be acceptable could very likely be persuaded to take on a more permanent role, but there's no telling how some people would take it if they thought they were becoming permanent guardians, only to have Harry taken away from them because they weren't suitable parents." It all sounded reasonable and could have been convincing, had Dumbledore not said it with the thoughtful air of a man speculating on someone else's motives, rather than explaining his own

"You're up to something," Severus said.

"My boy, I am always up to something. Between being Headmaster here at Hogwarts, the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, and the Supreme Mugwump, I'm terribly busy. That's why I couldn't take on Harry's guardianship full time, which I believe brings us back to the matter at hand," Dumbledore said, sidestepping the matter with a good deal of grace if not any subtlety. "You know, I think the Malfoy have a boy about Harry's age. What do you think Harry, do you enjoy being a brother?"

Severus reaction of near-gaped mouthed incredulousness was ignored by Dumbledore in favor of paying attention to Harry. The boy responded to being addressed by saying, "Snake." That being Harry's word for toy, which Severus knew that Dumbledore knew, though the man replied as though he didn't.

"How very astute. Yes, Lucius and Narcissa were sorted into Slytherin."

Harry sat up a little straighter in excitement and grandly proclaimed, "Swiferin, Huffpuff, Ra'encla, Gryffdor." Well, that was new. Maybe Jeffery Jones wasn't a complete idiot after all.

"Very good, Harry!" Dumbledore said, openly delighted with the boy.

Harry giggled and clapped in equal delight. Then he turned to Severus and said, "Da!" – Severus had yet to figure out what word the sound 'da' was supposed to stand for, but he had at least been able to put together it was Harry's way of requesting his attention – "Swiferin, Huffpuff, Ra'encla, Gryffdor."

"Yes, congratulations. Though your pronunciation is atrocious; it's Slytherin," Severus corrected, putting a good deal of emphasis on the 'th' sound.

"Swifffferin," Harry said back.

"We'll work on it later," Severus said, rolling his eyes and giving Harry a pat on the head for the effort.

"Not too much later; I'm sure the Malfoys will be ready to take him in in short order," Dumbledore said.

Severus leveled his harshest glare at the quite probably senile old man; he was in no mood for one of Dumbledore's little games. Not that he was ever in the mood for them, but sometimes they were less bearable than others. "We both know you have no intention of giving Harry to the Malfoys. I suspect there is someone else that you actually want to stand as guardian for Harry, someone that you think I'll disapprove of, and all these other obviously inadequate choices have only been to serve as contrast so I'll agree with your eventual suggestion. So why don't you simply tell me who this person is, and we can stop wasting everyone's time."

Perversely, Dumbledore's grin grew at this. "It appears we've been found out, Harry my boy," Dumbledore said confidingly. "Nothing for it now but to tell Severus the truth, I think."

"Don't hide behind the child, Dumbledore; it's embarrassing," Severus chided.

What protestations Dumbledore might have offered to that would forever remain unvoiced because at that precise moment Harry looked Severus straight in the eye and said, quite loudly and distinctly, "DA! Swifffferin!"

The penny dropped.

Eight Years Later

"No, I didn't mean it's not there. It's no good because of the portrait that got moved across from the fifth floor entrance," Harry clarified, addressing the Weasley twins sitting across from him at the Gryffindor table. "The witch in it will snitch on anyone she thinks is acting suspicious to Filch; she told on me once before I was even a student. I think she fancies Filch, actually."

Fred, George, and Ron, who was sitting on Harry's right, all looked faintly nauseated and even Percy seemed somewhat uncomfortable. "Thanks for the tip, mate," Fred said.

"And the images we will never be to get out of our heads," George added, sounding significantly more sarcastic. Harry just shrugged and grinned.

"Harry?" Harry turned to look at Neville, sitting on his other side. "You don't think your da is going to be mad that you were sorted into Gryffindor, do you?"

"Nah, I'm pretty sure he already saw it coming," Harry said. "He says that 'despite my predilection for snakes, I have all the ambition of a flobberworm and the survival instinct of a pack of lemmings.'"

"Your dad said that to you?" came the incredulous voice of Hermione Granger. Harry wasn't sure that he liked the girl yet: she'd seemed fairly bossy and a bit of a know-it-all, but on the other hand she had helped Neville find his toad, which Harry knew from experience was a thankless task.

"Oh, that just how he talks," Harry assured her.

"Yeah, he doesn't ever really mean it," Neville agreed, sounding as much like he was trying to convince himself as Hermione; he'd always been a bit scared of Harry's da.

"And besides," Harry said, returning to the original topic, "all of Da's friends were in Gryffindor. There was my mum when they were little, and all of you guys" – Harry gestured to the Weasley boys and Neville – "and Charlie and Bill and Auntie Molly and Uncle Arthur and Auntie Augusta and Uncle Remus and Uncle Dumbledore – oops, I mean Professor Dumbledore" – Harry was going to have to remember to call all the staff by their proper titles now – "and Parvati and Auntie Priya, though Padma and Uncle Parees were in Ravenclaw, and so were Uncle Xenophilius and Auntie Pandora, and then Auntie Amelia and all the Diggorys and Tonks and Uncle Ted were in Hufflepuff and Auntie Andromeda was in Slytherin, but there's Uncle Alastor and Uncle Elphias and Uncle Dedalus and Auntie Emmeline-"

"What are you prattling on about?" Everyone, including the people on the other side of table who really should have seen him coming, startled. Everyone except Harry, that is; he was pretty used to his Da being sneaky.

"How Gryffindor is your favorite House," Harry said cheekily, grinning back at Severus, who was standing behind him with a hand on either of Harry's shoulders.

"Perish the thought," Severus said with a delicate, and probably fake, shudder.

"Second favorite then," Harry countered, which Severus didn't disagree with, and that was as good as admitting it was true.

"You have a busy week up ahead of you, so I expect you to go to bed at a reasonable hour tonight."

"Da," Harry protested, rolling his eyes.

"And I want to see you sometime outside of classes and meals," Severus continued, ignoring Harry's objections.

"Yes, Da," Harry said dutifully. Severus gave one last squeeze of Harry's shoulders and then let go.

"One other thing," Severus said. "One point for Gryffindor." Everyone within earshot whipped around to look at the hourglasses and watched in astonishment as a single red ruby dropped to the bottom of the Gryffindor hourglass.

"That's got to be a record," Ron said in amazement.

"What was that for?" Harry asked, looking at Severus again.

Severus ran a quick hand through Harry's hair and turned to head back to the staff table, calling back as he went. "For learning how to climb the stairs."

His Da was so weird.