Thank you everyone to all the great reviews! Here is the next chapter.
The door banging open to his bedroom startled Severus out of a deep slumber. His eyes flew open and he whipped his wand out and pointed it at the intruder, relaxing and lowering his wand when he realized it was just Harry. He frowned at the child's distraught face. A loud sob ripped out of Harry's throat.
"Mr. Snape!" Harry cried, hugging his rabbit to his chest as he ran into the bedroom. "Something's wrong with Mr. Trifle!"
And with that, Severus found the rabbit dropped n his lap. He hesitated, staring down at the rabbit's twitching face.
"What's wrong with him?"
"I . . ." Severus picked up the rabbit and looked it over. He noted some patches of hair was missing and the rabbit seemed agitated in his hold and it kicked. Severus tried to keep it still so he could run his fingers over the bald areas to check for any lumps or redness, but the rabbit would not hold still for him.
"What's going on?" Eileen asked as she appeared in his doorway, Peadar behind her. "We heard Harry crying. Is everything all right?"
"Mr. Trifle is sick!" Harry said, tears flowing freely down his face.
"Oh dear," Eileen sighed, walking into the room and looking down at the rabbit.
Peadar walked over to Harry and rested a hand on the boy's shoulder.
"Why don't we let Nana and Severus look over your rabbit and we'll go get some nice chocolate milk, okay?" Peadar said, taking Harry's hand and leading the reluctant boy away. Harry wasn't all for leaving Mr. Trifle alone, but at Severus's nod, he allowed himself to be pulled away, rubbing his teary eyes under his glasses.
Once Harry was gone, Severus handed the rabbit to Eileen to hold while he stood out of his bed to better examine the bunny.
"Do you know anything about rabbits?" Severus asked, finding nothing abnormal on the rabbit's skin.
"Besides how to cook them? No clue."
Severus snorted. "Don't say that around Harry."
"There's a vet office not too far from here, about an hour away. I can show you the apparition point. She sees our dogs and comes up here for the horses. She does everything as far as I know, she might be able to tell you what's wrong."
"I'm going to need to cancel my classes," Severus said, crossing his arms and drumming his fingers.
Eileen's eyes brightened for a brief second and she looked up at her son.
"I can substitute for you."
"I couldn't ask that of you," Severus said.
"It would be no problem. It's not like I have a thousand things to do here besides entertain Harry, who I'm sure will want to go to the vet with you. I can keep your classes caught up and you won't have to worry about making up anything or extra work. I deal with kids all summer; how bad could it be?"
Severus quirked a brow at that.
"My lesson plans are on my desk in my quarters. Are you sure you remember enough to teach?"
"Please." Eileen rolled her eyes playfully. "I passed my NEWTS with an O. I may not be a potions prodigy like someone I know, but I can teach a thing or two about several aspects of potion brewing and what that entails."
"If you're sure . . ." Severus trailed off. It was a wonderful offer, in all honesty. He would get a day off from work without any fear of falling behind.
"Trust me," Eileen said, handing the rabbit to Severus and summoning a card. "This is the vet. Ask for her, she's very good."
Severus accepted the card while he adjusted the rabbit in his arm. He sighed with defeat and nodded his head.
"I expect all my students to be potion prodigies when I return to work tomorrow. Clearly you did something to me, so do the same to them."
Eileen smiled before leaving the room to allow her son to dress for the day. She found Harry drinking a large glass of chocolate milk and eating drop scones drowned in a strawberry sauce topped with whipped cream. Eileen scolded Peadar before explaining her plans for the day, and then sent Harry upstairs to dress quickly and join Mr. Snape.
Severus finished dressing, then dragged the rabbit out from where it had crawled under the bed. He ran over to Harry's room, pausing when Harry ran out to meet him. Severus narrowed his eyes at the boy's clothes.
"Didn't you wear that yesterday?" Severus asked.
Harry was wearing the same bunny shirt, but the trousers looked new. Harry glanced down at his shirt and then back up at Severus.
"I only wore it for half the day yesterday," Harry argued. He glanced back down at it. "It's still clean."
"Fine," Severus said, handing the rabbit to the boy and picking them both up. He looked at the card again, turning it over. An image of a location flashed at him as the card was charmed to do, and he closed his eyes and held on to that image before apparating there. He appeared in a cluster of trees a few yards away from a small building attached to a barn. A couple acres of land held a couple horses and a lone cow. He was sure the high-pitched screams he heard from inside the barn came from a pig. Harry huddled closer to Severus, clutching tightly to Severus's hand as he wrapped his other arm more securely around Mr. Trifle.
Severus squeezed Harry's hand comfortingly before leading the way to the building. It was an old building and ivy was claiming half of the walls. Severus opened the marked-up door and inside was a remodeled waiting area, complete with a small fish tank. Severus walked up to the receptionist desk.
"Good morning, sir," the lady behind the desk greeted. "Do you have an appointment?"
"No, an emergency actually," Severus said. "My . . . err . . ."
Harry blinked up at Severus when the man's gaze dropped down on him.
"My son's rabbit is sick," Severus finally said. "Do you think Doctor"—Severus glanced at the card— "McCarthy could take a look at him?"
"Dr. McCarthy is currently trimming hooves on a pig in the barn, but I will inform her that you are here."
"Is that what's making all that noise?" Severus smirked knowingly.
"Yes, sir." The lady laughed. "Some pigs, when they don't get their way, they are the most dramatic little things. Now, I'm just going to make sure your bunny is stable before I go let the doctor know she has an emergency."
The lady took Mr. Trifle from Harry and checked him over, watching his nose and looking in his mouth briefly before handing him back to Harry before walking away. Severus sat down on a bench, Harry jumping up next to him, petting Mr. trifle and telling the rabbit it would be okay.
After another ten minutes or so, an older, curly-haired woman walked into the waiting room, a stethoscope around her neck. She smiled and held out a hand for Severus, who stood and shook it.
"Hello, Mr. Snape," she greeted, "I remember you from the MacAuley's Estate. Oh, it must have been so long ago. How's your mother doing?"
"She talks so much about you when I go up to the barn. And who is this?"
"This is Harry," Severus introduced.
"And this is Mr. Trifle," Harry held up the bunny. "He needs help."
"Oh dear," Doctor McCarthy accepted the bunny and cooed. "You poor thing. Let's get you looked at."
Doctor McCarthy led the way to a clean exam room and set the bunny down on a scale first, weighing him before moving him to the exam table. Severus crossed his arms as he watched and waited while Harry leaned against the table, biting at the edge of his thumbnail. The doctor opened the rabbit's mouth and nodded before she looked over the patches of missing fur. She listened to the rabbit's heart with her stethoscope.
"Can I hear?" Harry asked, holding his hands out.
"Harry, not know," Severus said.
"It's okay," Doctor McCarthy said. She handed her stethoscope over and helped Harry put it in his ears correctly and place it over the bunny where he would hear the heart the best. Harry giggled.
"It's so fast!" he said loudly.
Doctor McCarthy laughed and pulled the stethoscope out.
"Bunnies have such fast, little heart beats, don't they?"
Doctor McCarthy sat the bunny up and felt around Mr. Trifle's groin area, checking that over as well.
"Do you know what kind of rabbit it is?" the doctor asked.
"Uh, checkered giant, I think."
"So it's just a little baby still, isn't it? Ah, I think I found one of your problems. Mr. Trifle is a Mrs."
"What's that mean?" Harry asked. "It's a girl bunny?"
"It's a lady. And I think she is experiencing a false pregnancy. Do you have any other rabbits?"
"No, we got this one from a butcher who found it abandoned . . ."
"He was going to eat her!" Harry complained, his lower lip puckered out.
"She's the only one we have. We've only had her a few days now."
"I see. Well, sometimes stress can also cause hormones to act up and make her think she's going to have babies. She's at least six months, possibly a little older at her size, definitely breeding age. That is why she's been pulling out her fur and acting a little more irritated than usual. It should pass, though if you have no plans on breeding her, we could spay her now. It'll reduce her risk of cancer urinary problems, it'll calm her down a little, and may reduce her urge to spray."
"Pardon?" Severus's face contorted with the last remark.
"What's spay mean?" Harry asked.
"It means she won't have any babies," the doctor explained.
"What if she wants to have babies?"
"We are not having this conversation right now," Severus said, rubbing his temples. He sighed. "How much is this going to cost?"
"After everything Peadar and Eileen have done for me," Doctor McCarthy waved her hand at Severus, "I can spay your rabbit at no cost, especially since you rescued the little gal. This one's on me."
"I couldn't possible allow that."
"Nonsense. I insist. My receptionist won't take a pound from you. Now, I do have a full schedule, but I can fit Trifle in at the end of the day. We'll keep her here until I'm ready for her. I'd say, be back around six tonight and she'll be ready to go."
"We have to leave her?" Harry asked, petting his rabbit.
"Just for today and then she'll be all yours."
"We'll come back for her, Harry. Say goodbye and let the doctor do her job."
"Bye bye, Miss Trifle," Harry said, leaning over to kiss the rabbit's nose.
After several more kisses from Harry and one last squeeze, Severus finally managed to lead Harry out of the vet clinic.
"Mrs. Trifle will be just fine," Severus assured Harry as he walked over to the tree clusters. "She'll need to rest for a couple days and then she'll be back to her old self."
"It's Miss Trifle," Harry corrected. "She's not married."
"My mistake," Severus said, picking Harry up and apparating back to the manor.
Severus sent a note to Eileen and Peadar about their findings. Harry ran up to his bedroom to "remodel" Miss Trifle's cage to make it more comfortable when she returned, leaving Severus with the strange notion of having nothing to do. Later that morning, as Severus considered what to make for lunch, Eileen stopped by.
"Have my students driven you away already?" Severus asked.
"Of course not," Eileen said. "They're all a lovely bunch, actually."
"They better not get used to this spoiling. I'll be back to set them all straight first thing tomorrow. Did the keel over in shock when they found out who you're related to?"
"Maybe one or two." Eileen smirked. "Most were more curious about your childhood. They had so many questions."
"Which I'm sure you didn't answer."
"Of course not." Eileen smirked, unsettling Severus greatly. Eileen snorted and held out two thin slips to Severus.
"What is this?"
"Something I've been saving for the right moment. I think you two need to get out of this stuffy house and, I don't know, explore Ireland a little."
Severus took the slips. They were tickets to the Dublin Zoo. Severus crinkled the edges in thought. He had never been to the Dublin Zoo, or any zoo for that matter. He had always wanted to go to one when he was a child, but that dream vanished years ago. He had an aching feeling that this was Eileen's way of making up for an experience she had been responsible for losing for them both in the first place. And now, he didn't want to go. He didn't want to see a bunch of smelly, pathetic animals pacing in their cages. For a moment, a thousand excuses as to why he couldn't take Harry to the zoo popped into his head, and he almost uttered one of them.
"What are those?" Harry asked as he entered the kitchen.
Every excuse Severus had prepared drowned in a flood of forced cheerfulness.
"Nana wants me to take you to the zoo," Severus explained, handing the tickets to Harry.
"Really?" the boy smiled.
"They are for both of you," Eileen said. "I am going back to Hogwarts now. Lunch is in an hour and they are serving the most delectable beef Wellington."
"Lucky," Severus snapped.
Eileen vanished in the floo's green flames. Severus eyed the tickets Harry held, disdain filling his eyes, but Harry's happy smile told him he had fallen into a trap.
Thirty minutes later, Severus found him walking through the gates of Dublin Zoo, and he held tight to Harry's hand, though the boy was doing his best to drag Severus along faster, eager to see everything the zoo had to offer.
"I've never been to a zoo before!" Harry gasped at everything around him.
"Neither have I," Severus admitted in an agitated whisper. His tone did not seem to reach Harry's ears.
"This is going to be the best! Look at the goats!"
Harry ripped free of Severus and ran over to the barnyard, reaching down to pet the goats sniffing him for food. Harry laughed at the ticklish breath on his neck. Severus caught up with Harry and pulled the boy away from the goat.
"Do not take off from me like that again or you and I will leave this park immediately," Severus scolded.
"Sorry," Harry said, finding the top of his shoes very fascinating. "I really wanted to see the goats and sheeps."
"That does not give you the right to leave my side. You will stay close to me, clear?"
"Yes, Mr. Snape."
Severus could feel eyes on him, and with a swooping glare at everyone not minding their own business, he pushed Harry back toward the barnyard, where a smile quickly reappeared on the boy's face. For fifteen minutes, Harry petted the goats and sheep and tried to coax the ducks to come closer. Finally, they moved on to the next enclosures, the reptile house. Harry oohed at the snakes and reptiles on display, running from the Gila monster to the tortoises and pausing in front of the Burmese python. Severus was staring at the Green Tree Python when a familiar hissing sound sent shivers down his left arm. He sucked in air and his head snapped in Harry's direction.
Harry was making hissing sounds at the Burmese Python behind the glass. The python was slowly rising up to face Harry and flicking it's tongue out at the boy. Severus felt his insides coil, and a wave of nausea struck him suddenly. He walked over to Harry, who was still hissing away, and quickly turned the boy to face him.
"What are you doing?" Severus asked.
"I was just talking to the snake."
"You could understand him?"
"Yeah, can't you?"
"No. We're done here. Let's see something else."
Harry scrunched his nose as Severus dragged the child away from the reptile house. A parselmouth! Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived, was a parselmouth. That would settle well with the rest of the wizarding world. How would Harry even have such a skill? Severus didn't let Harry ago until elephants were in sight and he allowed the boy to walk ahead of him as he stared at the majestic animals. Severus couldn't stop staring at Harry. His spine still tingled from the chill hearing parseltongue had caused. A loud trumpet pulled Severus from his thoughts, and his eyes strayed from Harry to the elephants playing with their water, and he couldn't help the small smile.
For a fun-filled hour, Harry and Severus saw many animals including a tiger, meerkats, wolves, penguins, giraffes and more. When Harry struggled to see the lemurs over the crowd in front of him, Severus lifted the child to his shoulders, and they saw a couple more animals like that. Severus was surprised at how enjoyable the zoo experience was turning out to be. The place was clean, and all the animals looked happy, enriched, and they weren't as smelly as he had originally thought. Then Harry spotted the face painting table.
"Can I be a lion?" Harry asked the painter. "Remember the lions, Mr. Snape? They were brilliant."
"Of course, you want to be a lion," Severus muttered, tipping the painter and leaning back to watch Harry's face transform. He hoped the paint washed off easily.
When Harry was finally a lion, Severus bought them lunch, which turned out to be a few cheap sandwiches as he was not paying to dine in. After the two ate their fill, Harry ran off to the playground while Severus sat back on a nearby bench and drank his lemonade.
Harry ran up the playground, nearly running into another boy about his age who was leaning against the rail, drinking a juice box. His face was also painted.
"Hey," the boy greeted. "Cool shirt."
Harry looked down at his bunny shirt and smiled.
"Thanks," he said. "It looks just like my rabbit."
"You have a rabbit?" the boy asked. "My mam won't even trust me with a goldfish."
Harry laughed and studied the boy's face. It was painted red with some white, but he could also make out blue eyes and dark brown hair. Harry tilted his head.
"What are you supposed to be?"
"I'm a red panda," the boy answered. "There my favorite. Are you a lion?"
"Yeah." Harry growled playfully, holding up pretend claws.
"Imma crocodile!" a much smaller blue-eyed boy said, running up to the other boy. His face was painted green and he had white teeth on the bottom half of his face. "Roar!"
Then, the little boy ran up the playground and down the slide.
"That's Cian," the older boy said, "my little brother. I'm Ollie, by the way."
"I'm Harry. Nice to meet you," Harry held out a hand as he remembered Draco showing him.
Ollie smirked but shook Harry's hand.
"You British? You're accents different."
"I'm from Surrey. That's in England."
"I'm from Longford. That's in Ireland."
"I think my Nana and Papa's estate is close to there. Nana said it once . . . is that a town?"
"I think it's a county too," Ollie explained, he slurped the rest of his juice box. "My mam's waving to me, see you around."
Ollie jumped off the playground and joined a couple walking away from the playground, Ollie walking next to his father's side while sending one last wave Harry's way. Cian ran ahead of the family, laughing and roaring.
"Make a new friend?" Severus asked when Harry ran up to him.
"I think so," Harry said, looking down at his hands. "But we only shook hands once."
"Okay." Severus raised a brow at that. "I think we have plenty more animals to see. Let's get to it."
"Where's Longford?" Harry asked.
"Where MacAuley Estate is."
"Really? We live really close to Ollie then."
"Or a hundred miles apart."
Harry frowned at that, but math was a hard concept, and he didn't think much more on it. For the rest of the afternoon, he saw many more animals and even animals they had already seen. Severus bought an ice cream cone for Harry, which he ended up having to assist in before it melted everywhere. Harry had managed to drip ice cream on his shirt, and the two ended up in a bathroom for twenty minutes scrubbing at Harry's beloved shirt before Severus remembered he was a wizard and spelled the stains away. Finally, Severus was forced to carry an exhausted Harry out of the zoo. It was nearing six o'clock, and when Severus was clear of any muggles, he apparated back to the vet clinic.
He sat down with Harry still in his lap, the boy's head on his shoulder. Harry blearily watched the colorful fish in the tank while they waited for Miss Trifle to be discharged, Severus's rocking lulling him deeper into a trance. Slowly, Harry's eyes closed.
Severus rocked Harry slowly, patting the boy's back. Today had been a good day, despite his earlier protests. He realized something. Harry had him wrapped around the boy's little finger. How did that happen, he had no clue, but something inside Severus wanted to keep it that way. Maybe it was that Bond of the Guardian thing influencing his brain, but right now, he wanted to hold on to the dead weight against his shoulder and chest. He wanted nothing more than to hear the "d" word come out of Harry's mouth again. He wanted it, but he knew he couldn't have it.
Or could he? Eileen seemed to think Severus keeping Harry was a brilliant idea, but how would he even go about that? The world would object to him adopting the child.
The mere though of adopting sent a chill down his spine just as hearing parseltongue had. Perhaps he could talk to his mother about all of this.
Finally, an assistant came out with the rabbit in a carrier.
"Dr. McCarthy thought you could use a carrier," the assistant whispered, handing over the rabbit. "Busy day?"
"Very busy," Severus said. "Tell the doctor I can't thank her enough."
"Of course, sir. Have a good evening."
Severus left with the rabbit and apparated everyone back to MacAuley estate. He settled Harry in his bed, tucking the boy in before freeing the rabbit and shutting her in her cage.
While Harry napped, Severus decided to check on his mother at Hogwarts. He should make it back before Harry even knew he was gone, and he floo'd away.
Harry blinked his eyes open and looked around. He was in his bed and Miss Trifle was in her cage. He smiled and crawled off the bed and over to his rabbit, opening the door and petting her. She seemed very tired, so he decided to leave her in her cage and shut the door once more. He stood up and stretched, a yawn escaping his lips.
He walked down the stairs.
"Mr. Snape?" he called.
There was no answer.
The house was silent. Harry gulped. Had he been left here all alone? Where was everyone? Harry glanced in the kitchen, then moved through the entertainment room before deciding to try some of the back rooms. He checked the guest bedroom and bathroom, then paused in front of the back door that led to the gardens. He opened the door, only for something red to rush by him. Slamming the door shut before anything else could come through, Harry gulped and turned around.
In downward dog, wagging his tail with a tennis ball in his mouth, was Shandy.
"No!" Harry told the dog firmly, hoping that one word would convey that he wanted nothing to do with the dog.
Shandy tilted his head and his ears perked, but he didn't move otherwise.
Carefully, Harry made his way around the dog and through the kitchen. He ran to the living area, wondering where everyone could have gone. Maybe Mr. Snape went back to Hogwarts? Maybe he wanted to check on Nana while Harry was sleeping. Harry stopped in front of the fireplace, frowning at the container of floo powder.
A bark startled the boy and he spun around.
Shandy was in the living room now, jumping around the tennis ball on the floor. Then, the dog snatched the ball in his large fangs and shook his head with a growl. He bowed again, wagging his tail and staring directly at Harry.
Harry grabbed a handful of powder as he had seen everyone else do many times. He swallowed dryly as he backed into the fireplace. Shandy dropped he ball and stood up, tilting his head at Harry.
"Hogwarts," Harry said and threw down the powder.
A thousand fireplaces flashed before his eyes and Harry nearly threw up on the trip before he was spat out in a dusty room, hitting his side hard from the fall. Harry groaned and held his elbow, looking at the scraped wound. He stood up and looked around. He had hoped the fireplace would have taken him to Mr. Snape's quarters, but maybe he should have said "Mr. Snape's room" instead of "Hogwarts." Harry walked out of the unused classroom and into the hallway.
It was quiet. Not even the shuffles of students could be heard. Harry walked down the dark hall, hunching his shoulders as portraits eyed and sneered at him. He walked faster.
As he turned a corner, he nearly ran into . . . something. He backed up and stared at it with wide eyes.
"Watch where you're going!" Peeves snapped at Harry.
Harry's face paled and is knees rattled. Then, he screamed. And Peeves, in all his glory, screamed back.
"A ghost!" Harry cried, running in the opposite direction and down the hall as fast as he could. "A ghost!"
"A child!" Peeves screamed, waving his arms around, flying down the other hall. "A child!"
Harry flew down staircases and ran past startled students. He looked back to see if the ghost was following him when someone shouted, "Hey, watch it!"
Harry oofed as he ran into an older student, who nearly dropped all his textbooks.
"Sorry," Harry said, but his attention was captured by another sight.
A headless ghost was floating toward him before a hand pushed its head back up into its proper place.
"Ohh," Nearly headless Nick said as he rubbed his neck, "It's great to be able to get cricks out of your neck so quickly."
Harry's jaw dropped, and when he came to his senses once more, he screamed again.
"Whoa, easy kid," Nick said, "I won't hurt you."
"He's pretty friendly," the student tried, reaching a hand out to Harry.
But Harry turned away and ran down more staircases. This time, he ran past students and teachers alike, who gave him curious glances. He was a sight to behold, as his face paint had smeared and he looked less like a lion and more like an orange faced oompa-loompa. He wasn't actively screaming, but his heart was racing in his throat. He was sure the ghosts were chasing him, growing in numbers to corner him. He didn't understand why no one else was running away, but it was their funeral. Uncle Vernon had made sure that Harry knew all about ghosts and their brain-eating ways. Harry would not be a victim.
Harry didn't stop sprinting until strong arms captured him.
"No!" he cried. "Let me go! They're going to eat me."
"Harry, stop!" Mr. Snape's voice demanded. "Relax, it's me."
Harry looked up at Mr. Snape and sobbed with relief. He raised his arms and Severus reflexively picked him up. He clung to the man, shaking and muttering about the ghosts and how scary they were. He could hear Nana's voice and her soft hand joined Severus's in rubbing his back soothingly.
"Severus!" A new voice reached Harry's ears.
He peeked out from Severus's shoulder to see the older bearded man in long purple robes staring with stern eyes at Severus and Eileen, shaking his head disapprovingly. Severus sighed loudly while Eileen patted Harry's back. Harry turned his face back into Severus's shoulder.
So much more to come!