Severus decided, at long last, that Harry was ready for the move to the manor. Severus had explained, as well as he could, the layout of the manor. He had told Harry that they would be staying there from now on. He had also gone over basic rules, speaking to Harry about going to Severus whenever he was scared or upset rather than lashing out and reinforcing the new time out system. They were as ready as they would ever be.
"Come here, Harry," Severus instructed, holding his arms out. Harry toddled across the room and allowed Severus to pick him up. Harry lay his head on Severus's shoulder, his eyes drooping a little as he clutched Severus's robe.
How could the boy be tired already? Severus wondered. He decided that he'd have to consult a healer about it. Children Harry's age should be able to get through more than a couple of hours without dozing off. After all, most seven year olds attended school.
Pushing the thought from his mind, Severus threw floo powder into the fireplace and reached a hand up to wrap around the back of Harry's head. Severus didn't want Harry trying to look around while they were in the floo. Severus stepped into the fireplace and called out his destination, and a moment later he was stepping into the sitting room of Snape Manor. Harry was whimpering a little, and Severus whispered platitudes in order to calm him down.
A moment later, Harry was squirming to get down. Severus set Harry down, and the boy immediately scampered off to explore the room. Harry ran his hands over everything, getting to know the texture of everything from the upholstery on the settee to the wood on the floor. Every new feeling seemed to bring Harry excitement; he would grin up at Severus as though he'd never been so happy in his life. Severus wondered why Harry hadn't exhibited such joy at the tactile world back in the Hogwarts quarters.
"It's very nice, isn't it?" Severus asked, smiling at Harry. "It's dinner time now. You can look around afterwards."
Severus led Harry into the dining room. Harry seemed just as thrilled with the furniture here. He trailed his fingertips lightly over the stone wall, and when Severus transferred him to one of the dining chairs, Harry stroked the cushion he was sitting on. He was so distracted that he didn't even notice the food appearing in front of him.
"Harry!" Severus's voice was sharper than he meant it to be. Harry looked up, startled, and his eyes scanned the room around him. It was as though he couldn't figure out where the noise was coming from.
"Harry, look at me."
Now the green eyes locked onto Severus. Harry's lips parted a bit as though he was confused. It wasn't until Harry leaned forward, tiny fingers gripping the table, eyes squinting, that Severus understood. He stood up and walked closer to Harry's chair. Harry looked less confused now. He gave Severus a small smile.
James Potter had been nearsighted, although Severus had never known how bad it was. He should have suspected that James had been near blind to anything more than a few feet away. After all, if it had only been a minor optic impairment, potions would have solved it and glasses wouldn't have been necessary.
Clearly, Harry had inherited his father's poor eyesight. It was probably why he was exploring things here with his hands. Severus's quarters had been fairly small, and Harry would have been able to see everything to some extent, even if they were blurry. Here at the manor, the rooms were a lot bigger. Everything Harry came across probably seemed to be popping up unexpectedly. It would be like a huge adventure to a child who could barely see.
Severus mentally stored away the new note: Harry needed an eye specialist. For now, Severus merely directed Harry to the plate in front of him. "Eat your food, son."
Predictably, Harry ignored the silverware provided and picked up one of the carrots on his plate, holding it in one fist and nibbling at the top. Satisfied, Harry ate the rest of his carrot. Severus moved back to his own seat when he saw Harry trying the other items on the plate, which included applesauce and pre-cut pork.
Harry couldn't finish all the food on his plate. In fact, more than half was left when Harry hopped down from his chair and began to walk around the dining room, his stockinged feet making a little swishing sound against the floor. Severus allowed Harry to wander, and, a moment later, finished with his own meal. He walked over to Harry and set a hand on the boy's shoulder. Harry looked up with that smile back in place on his face.
"Did you enjoy your dinner."
"Yeah, it was good, wasn't it? Come on, let's go upstairs and look at your new bedroom."
Severus decided that he was satisfied with the way that Dusty decorated Harry's bedroom. The walls were done in a pale blue, and the floor was covered in plush white carpeting. The furniture was sturdy and made out of hard plastic that Harry wouldn't be able to hurt too much. There was a bed and a little chair on one wall, and on another, a desk facing a window that had been charmed not to open enough for Harry to go out. Additionally, there was a toy box for Harry.
Severus walked Harry around the room. He showed Harry how to put his book on the bookshelf and how to put his ball in the toy box. Harry was excited by the toy box. He opened and closed it repeatedly, grinning when the metal latch banged against the plastic box.
"Do you have to go potty?" Severus asked. When Harry didn't respond, Severus led him into the bathroom nearby and helped him use it again. Harry seemed happy enough to use the toilet, and Severus hoped that he could have the child potty trained soon, without too much effort.
Harry went back into his room without Severus leading him this time. Harry gathered up his book and his ball and carried them into the center of the room. Sitting down, he looked from one to the other as though he was trying to figure something out. His mouth was moving slowly, but Severus had to get closer to hear what he was saying.
"Treat," Harry was whispering, over and over, looking from the ball to the book and back again. Trying to connect them, Severus realized.
"Book," Severus said, touching the object. He moved his hand to the other item, and, equally deliberate, said, "Ball."
Severus repeated the process several times before looking at Harry. "Where's your ball?"
Harry carefully reached a hand out and wrapped around the ball. As Severus's nod of approval, Harry gave a little shriek of delight. "Ball! Ball ball ball!"
He wasn't satisfied, though. Harry ran across the room and pointed at various objects, everything from the bed to the floor, looking for Severus to give him the words. Severus did so, gladly, amazed at how quickly Harry was able to learn the words.
"Where's your bed, Harry?"
Harry raced across the room and jumped onto the bed, his eyes shining. Severus smiled. "Very good."
"Pillow!" Harry said. "Cover. Sheet. Bed."
Severus smiled again and moved closer to Harry. He was as excited as Harry was for the boy to learn new words. He hadn't expected Harry to be so eager to learn. He had expected teaching Harry to be an uphill battle. Instead, he realized, Harry was happy to be in the new world. He wanted to know everything he could about it…. Just like Lily when she experienced the magical world for the first time.
Severus was so distracted that he forgot to anticipate a visit from the house elves, so when a knock came at the door, he was as surprised as Harry was. He covered it with a carefully bland expression.
"Go open the door, Harry, and see who's there."
Harry frowned but walked across the room and pulled on the door handle. Designed for a child's hand, the door handle wasn't made to turn as many were, but merely needed a touch. The door swung open without a problem.
Harry tensed when he saw the family of house elves standing in the hallway, and then he ran back to where Severus was standing. Although it wasn't the best reaction Harry could have ever had, Severus was proud. Harry had come to him, as they had talked about. He rewarded the child by putting a comforting hand on his shoulder.
"They're called house elves, Harry." Severus said. "They are very nice. They live with us. It's time that you be introduced to them properly."
To Severus's surprise, it was neither Dusty nor Fable who approached Harry first. Instead, it was the youngest of their three sons, a toddler who's skin still hadn't turned from it's peach color to the green of an elder house elf.
"Hi!" the boy said. "I'm DaVinci."
"Say hello, Harry."
Harry looked a little nervous at the house elf, but this one was smaller than Harry was, and thus not quite as threatening as his parents. Harry opened his mouth and gave a quiet, "H'llo."
The first step was the most important. Severus carefully introduced Harry to the rest of the family of elves. The three boys, DaVinci, Monet, and Greco, and the parents, Dusty and Fable. Harry seemed a little frightened of each of them… and then, Harry saw the little bundle Fable held in her arms.
"Baby!" Harry shrieked excitedly. "Pretty little baby!"
He reached a hand up and softly petted the blankets around the elves' daughter. Severus was barely watching him. His mind had traveled a million miles away. Where had Harry learned the word 'baby'?