Severus Snape did not have a reputation for being an agreeable person. His pale, sickly complexion gave the impression that he rarely, if ever, saw the sun and his hard, dark eyes did not invite friendly conversation. He was tall and imposing and severe and anyone who met him would be absolutely shocked to discover he spent most of his days surrounded by children. But despite his appearance and his resigned scowl, he held the small boy with assured ease. Nor was harry uncomfortable in his arms or uneasy of the man's appearance. The two popped into existence in a large empty field. The small boy leaned over, threw up, and then leaned back again without so much as a whimper of distress.
Severus glanced down at his young charge with a look of distaste, looking him over with some relief that the boy managed to miss his robes and shoes, while large green eyes stared right back. The lack of real expression in the boy's face was somewhat disturbing, as though the eyes took in everything and gave nothing back. He did not appear happy or sad or annoyed or worried or any number of things a child of his age ought to be feeling. He didn't talk, not even to ask yet again if they were going home. Perhaps the apparation had unsettled the child after all, sending him back into his non-verbal existence.
"The place we are going is warded," Severus said, feeling he should explain even if the boy wasn't asking, "We have to walk a bit before we're there." The boy didn't respond to his words, but a small hand did move once more unexpectedly towards his face. Severus allowed this for a moment, wondering what the boy was thinking but not quite daring to violate the child's mine with magic. Then the boy started to look around properly and he cried out softly, apparently only just noticing the field for the first time. Severus started walking.
There was no proper road to walk on, not even a dirt trail, nothing but tall grass and flowers all around as well as the occasional tree. Contrary to what his students would have thought, Severus didn't seem to mind the nature surrounding him in the least, or the ruggedness of his path. He walked with long assured strides, ignoring the buzz of insects or the occasional rustle of larger creatures fleeing the area as they went by. Harry sat up tall in his arms, turning his head every which way so as to see everything. Severus noted that he squinted a lot, when he bothered to watch the boy at all. Mostly he looked straight ahead, keeping half an eye out for snakes. They had been walking for at least half an hour through the field and then a small wood with a creek at its center which Severus levitated over, when they finally came into site of a small cottage.
They were coming at it from the back where a small stone fence was raised around a garden. Beyond the garden were fruit trees; Harry reached up a hand for an apple as they passed but missed. He came away with a handful of leaves which he let drop, one by one, except for the last which he clung to tightly. Severus didn't pause but walked directly to the wooden gate that led into the garden and then further right up to the back door of the cottage. Inside was a small kitchen with a small fireplace and many cabinets and a table but no stove or fridge or any other such modern conveniences. There was a sink but it didn't seem to have any pipes or faucets to go with it. Harry looked everywhere with wide interest.
"We home?" he asked, the first words he had spoken since they left the psychologists office behind.
"Yes," Severus answered abruptly. He went swiftly through the kitchen, passed a bathroom and a staircase and into the front of the house. It was mostly a large, cozy living room but there was a small dining table in the corner nearest the stairs. There was another round brick fireplace and a couple of chairs that looked handmade and a wooden couch with blue cushions. There was also the front door, flanked on either side by large windows, which led onto a wide covered porch. Beneath the stairs was another door, not to a cupboard or closet but to a staircase leading down, not that either person could see that now as the door was closed. Altogether the cottage was small and cozy and it looked very likely that the upstairs would be smaller still, with two rooms at most. Severus set Harry down upon the soft blue rug that adorned most of the living room before he sat himself down upon the couch.
Harry sat where he had been put for a moment, looking around the room. Then he pursed his lips together, stood up, and walked back to where Severus sat. He didn't try and climb up next to him or request to be lifted up, but he did put one small hand on the other's knee.
"Two people will be visiting us soon," Severus said, once more feeling the need to explain things, "You've met Headmaster Dumbledore. No doubt he will want you to call him Grandpa Albus or some other ridiculous title. He will be bringing someone else with him who you haven't met. Pomfrey is a healer who will look you over to make sure you are healthy." Harry stared at him, giving absolutely no indication that he understood.
"They will probably have questions they will ask you, even though I expressly told them it is too soon. You do not have to answer, but you can if you want to. No one will hurt you here."
"This home now?" Harry asked, his lips still pursed as though he were deep in thought, or perhaps upset about something, and then, "Mama here?" Severus blinked at him, his face blank of all expression. Before he could come up with an answer, there was a knock at the front door. Severus stood and swiftly glanced out the window before opening it. The old man with the white beard was standing there, just as Severus had predicted, next to a woman in healer robes holding a bag. Severus invited them both in by name.
Harry watched the intruders enter from his position by the couch, his wide eyes suddenly wary. He didn't run away, though, or start to cry or show his distress as a normal child would. Dumbledore immediately started towards the boy but was blocked by Severus's arm. Pomfrey hung back, respectfully waiting though her eyes were already raking over the boy with a professional air. Severus ignored them both after he stopped Dumbledore and he strode back to the boy.
"These are the people I told you about," he said, taking the boy's hands in his to make sure he had his attention, "Madam Pomfrey is going to examine you now." He nodded for Pomfrey to come forward. "Harry," Severus continued, "This is Madam Pomfrey." He took one of Harry's hands and gave it to the nurse, keeping the other hand to himself. Harry studied her, finally pulling his hand away from Severus so that he could reach out and run his fingers over her robes.
"Has he told you anything?" Dumbledore asked, still keeping his distance, "Does he know what happened?"
"He has hardly spoken at all," Severus answered, "I told you it would take time. He might not even know." The old man nodded, giving a tired sigh. For that moment, he looked his age.
"Come along, Harry, let me get you up on the table," Madam Pomfrey said, ignoring the exchange between the two men. She lifted the boy up and he allowed it, though he frowned and turned his head towards Severus while she carried him to the table. There she pulled out her wand and cast a few diagnostic spells. The boy shuddered as the magic hit him, his face taking on the same surprised expression as when he had first noted the field. Madam Pomfrey paused.
"Can you feel that, Harry?" she asked, surprised. He didn't answer. She shrugged and went on with her tests. The conclusions were little different from what the emergency workers had discovered; he was malnourished and disturbingly small for his age. His magical core was also immature, more so than a six year old's should be, but somewhat depleted. He had let off a lot of magic recently.
"Hello, Harry," Dumbledore said, coming up from behind her. Severus rolled his eyes as he also strolled over to the boy's side. He knew the old man wouldn't be able to resist his questioning for long.
"Hi," Harry answered, suddenly and unexpectedly.
"I want to ask you something very important," Dumbledore said, his voice gentle and friendly. Harry stared at him, not answering this time.
"Do you remember your house exploding?" he asked, staring into the little boy's eyes. The boy stared back, not answering.
"I told you it is too soon," Severus said, smirking, "Unless you want to break into his mind." Harry frowned, turning his head to look up at him.
"No," Dumbledore sighed, "I don't think it would work, in any case. He is too young." In fact, very powerful legilimens had been known to become trapped in the maelstrom of an infant's mind, their natural magic and chaotic thoughts wrecking havoc on the most well ordered mind. Severus wondered if there wasn't such a danger if Dumbledore wouldn't try it anyway. Not that he would mean any harm by it, no, he wouldn't see it as a violation but as a valid way to communicate when there is no other way. He would be gentle, easing himself in between the cracks, careful not to touch or upset. He would probably leave behind scars deeper than he could possibly comprehend.
"He couldn't have caused the explosion," Madam Pomfrey insisted, "It was too well contained for wild magic. And he is too immature for control."
"Isn't that what we decided?" Severus demanded, "Even if the minister is too stupid to feel that way."
"There is still a lot of paranoia," Dumbledore answered sadly, "Everyone keeping an eye out for the next dark lord. I'm afraid the papers are already running with it."
"Is it true they kept him in a cupboard," Madam Pomfrey demanded. She glanced towards the boy who didn't seem to comprehend anything they were saying.
"Yes," Severus answered her abruptly, "The Muggles found him in it." Madam Pomfrey clucked disapprovingly and she pulled out a few potions.
"For nourishment," she explained, "One of your own, Severus. Now, drink this Harry, it will make you feel better." She held the flask towards him. He turned his head away, wrinkling his nose.
"Harry, drink it," Severus ordered in his no-nonsense voice. But Harry only glared, closing his lips together tightly.
"Now, now, dear," Pomfrey said, pulling out a chocolate frog, "Drink this all up and you can have a treat." Harry eyed them warily, not yet willing to give up.
"I doubt he knows what a chocolate frog is," Severus pointed out, "Just pour it down his throat." Dumbledore looked rather shocked but Pomfrey only sighed and expertly positioned Harry to do just as Severus had suggested. Harry started to squirm, making a high pitched keening noise until Pomfrey did, indeed, manage to pour the drink down his throat and make him swallow it. It all happened in a matter of seconds, and directly afterwards she put the chocolate frog into his hand. The boy stopped keening, staring at the wriggling bit of chocolate until it stopped moving. He looked back towards Severus with a questioning look upon his face. Sighing, the man lifted the boy's hand with the chocolate in it to the boy's mouth. Harry closed his mouth quickly, obviously expecting another bad tasting medicine. But as Severus only held it there the boy cautiously probed it with his tongue. Finally, he stuffed it all into his mouth at once, nearly taking one of Severus's fingers with him. The man eyed the child with thinly veiled annoyance but the boy didn't seem to mind, happily munching on the chocolate.