"EEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeEEEEEEEEEEEE!" Five year old Harry Potter tore through the halls of Hogwarts, screaming like a tin whistle, as a puffing Hagrid lumbered after him.

"C'mere, Harry!" the giant panted. "C'mon now!"

Sirius Black sprinted around the corner, drawn by the seemingly frantic screams of his godson. He jerked to a halt, wand extended, as he saw the child bearing down upon him with Hagrid in hot pursuit. "No! Wait!" he gasped, realizing a collision was imminent.

Harry, every inch as perceptive as his godfather but significantly smaller and more nimble, dove between Sirius' legs. He got clear a split second before Hagrid barreled into the smaller man, knocking both flying.

"What in Merlin's name is going on?" A hard hand closed on Harry's shoulder and yanked him to his feet, as people hurried up from all directions.

"Unca Severus!" Harry clutched at his other godfather's leg. "Save me!"

"From Hagrid?" Severus asked incredulously.

"Uh huh!" Harry nodded vigorously. "He's gonna make me give Irving back!"

Snape glanced over to where Hagrid was groaning on the floor, clutching his stomach where Sirius' head had impacted. For his part, Sirius kept trying to get to his feet, only to collapse backwards as his eyes refused to focus. Dumbledore, Sprout, and a crowd of students were trying to help. It appeared that they had that crisis well in hand; Snape turned his attention back to the dark haired child before him.

"And just who is Irving?" Snape asked sternly, bending down to look Harry in the eye.

"My new friend!" Harry happily thrust out his right arm. "Say hello, Irving," he ordered in Parseltongue.

Snape reared back in horror as a Deathly Adder hissed mere inches from his face. The black and green snake was the most poisonous serpent in existence. There was no known antidote to its venom and even minute amounts were deadly. "Put it down!" he cried, frantic.

"But he might get stepped on, Unca Severus," Harry said, frowning in confusion. "Do you want to get down, Irving?"

"No, thank you. There are too many Big Feet around here. And I am not hungry at the moment."

"He says he doesn't want to get down, Unca Severus," Harry translated politely.

"He what? You can understand him?" Snape gasped. Seeing his godson casually handling such a deadly creature was terrifying enough; finding out immediately thereafter that the boy was the only known parselmouth in existence was yet another shock he could have done without.

"Uh huh. Can't you?" Harry asked innocently.

Snape forced himself to set aside this latest revelation and deal with the immediate concerns first. "No, I – Wait a minute. Does Irving belong to Hagrid?" Severus demanded furiously, already confident of the answer. Who but that dimwit would have such a dangerous creature on school property?

Harry abruptly looked guilty. "Um. Maybe." Seeing his godfather's expression, Harry quickly added, "But Irving wanted to take a walk, Unca Severus. He said so!"

"And did you ask Hagrid's permission?" Severus demanded, folding his arms forbiddingly.

"Ummm." Harry wondered if he could get away with a lie. He sneaked a look back over his shoulder. Hagrid was still groaning, though six students had managed to prop him upright. But he figured that all too soon he'd be able to answer Uncle Severus' questions. Uncle Sirius was still muttering happily about "pretty birdies going tweet" so he probably wouldn't be coherent for a while, but Harry decided sadly that he'd better own up. Although it was likely that Hagrid would try to protect him from punishment, the giant was so incapable of remembering anything but the absolute truth – and so hopeless at not spilling everything he knew – that Harry had quickly learned not to use Hagrid as a co-conspirator. "No," he admitted sadly.

"Is that why he was chasing you through the halls? To retrieve Irving before someone was hurt?"

"Yes," Harry said in a tiny voice, peering up at his godfather through his fringe. He could see that Uncle Severus was getting pretty angry. He just hated it when Harry did something dangerous, though Uncle Severus was – in Harry's opinion – a big weenie when it came to defining "danger". To him, everything fun was dangerous: flying on a broom, feeding the Giant Squid, playing Quidditch with the big boys, talking to Deathly Adders… The only person more unreasonable than Uncle Severus was… oh no! Nana was going to be really cross!

Abruptly Harry was a lot more apprehensive.

"And why exactly were you screaming like a banshee?" Severus pressed, his face in the forbidding glower that reduced first years to tears.

Eyes fixed firmly on the ground, Harry lifted one shoulder in a shrug. "It was fun," he mumbled. "I just thought we were playin'."

"Ah, Severus, I see you have caught the young rascal," Dumbledore bustled up. "I understand from Hagrid that Harry may have a certain friend with him," he said delicately.

"The creature is wrapped around his wrist, Albus," Snape said coldly. "I trust you have something in which to safely transport the serpent?"

"Bye bye, Irving. I think you've got to go home now," Harry said sadly. "Thanks for playing with me."

"Goodbye, little speaker. We shall talk again soon." Irving obligingly slithered into the glass container that Albus had conjured up.

"I trust you will speak with Hagrid about the wisdom of having such a creature at Hogwarts?" Snape said. Dumbledore did not reply – he was too busy staring at Harry.

"Headmaster? Headmaster? Albus!" It finally took a poke before Dumbledore jerked and focused on Snape's face.

"Oh, er, yes, Severus. Very dangerous. Yes… Was that – Did Harry just speak –"

"Why, yes," Snape said casually. "Weren't you aware that Harry is a parselmouth? Forgive me for not mentioning it earlier." The expression on Dumbledore's face was worth every grey hair that the brat had caused him by practically sticking the snake up his nose. "We will leave you to take care of matters here."

"Oh. Yes. Of course." After one last, searching look at Harry, the Headmaster tottered back to where Hagrid was now merely moaning and rubbing his stomach in distress.

"And as for you, you miserable little wretch," Snape said, turning to his godson. The nearby students looked shocked at his language, but Harry was entirely unfazed.

"'M sowwy, Unca Sevewus," he lisped, trying his sad puppy dog expression. "I didn't mean t'be naughty."

"You are a disgraceful brat. Look at the chaos you have caused!" Severus waved an arm over to where Sirius continued to stagger as if someone had hit him with a jelly-legs jinx. He was still dazed and babbling about the "shiny stars". Severus felt his lips curling into a grin and ruthlessly squelched his mirth. He and Black were getting along much better now compared to their schooldays, but seeing him wonky-eyed and wobbling was still great fun. Suddenly he found he wasn't nearly so irritated with his godson. "Did you know that Hagrid would run into Uncle Sirius?" he whispered to Harry, bending close.

"Ye-es," Harry admitted hesitantly. He knew if their positions had been reversed, Uncle Sirius would have been rolling on the floor with laughter, without a thought in his head of punishment. Uncle Severus thought it was funny too, he could tell, but Harry also knew that Uncle Severus wasn't going to admit it. Or forget that Harry's naughtiness had caused it.

Then in the distance, Harry heard the distinctive "click click" of a very familiar set of shoes as they marched briskly down the hallway. Uh oh! He needed to do something awfully quick, or Nana would be the one to deal with him.

"Well," Uncle Severus said, a happy gleam in his eye as he watched two Ravenclaws help Sirius lurch off to the Infirmary, "I suppose that since you didn't mean to be naughty…"

"But I was!" Harry said frantically. "Vewwy naughty!" Of all times for Uncle Severus to drop his Evil Bat of the Dungeons routine!

"Yes, well –"

"I was going to put Irving in your bed," Harry blurted out. "I thought it would be funny to see you yell. And I was going to pretend that I thought you'd like him 'cause you're a Slyvverin and he's a snake."

Whew! Now Uncle Severus didn't look so happy. "You were going to what?" he demanded. "You little fiend!" He mumbled a quick spell, then spun Harry around and landed a smack on his bum. The swat echoed around the corridor like a gunshot and the watching students gasped and clucked in horror at their evil professor's cruel treatment of poor little Harry.

"Owwwwww!" Harry yelled, screwing up his face in distress. His hands flew to his backside to protect it from further brutal assaults.

Uncle Severus didn't even pause. He brushed Harry's hands aside and slapped his bottom again. "You do not kidnap poisonous snakes, young man!" he scolded. "And you do not plan to put them in people's beds!" He swatted Harry a third time, making the students jump and quail at the loud and terrifying whack his hand produced against his unlucky godson's backside.

By now, most of the surrounding students were green with terror. After such a dreadful spanking, poor Harry wouldn't be sitting anytime soon, and Snape actually liked him. What would the Evil Bat do to them if they were ever foolish enough to misbehave in his classroom?

Harry burst into noisy tears just as his Nana hurried up.

"My goodness, what on earth happened here? I just saw Sirius being taken up to Poppy, and the entire sixth year class of Hufflepuffs are busy helping Hagrid back to his cottage, while Albus is wandering around with a snake in a bowl. Shall I assume Harry has something to do with all this?" Professor McGonagall asked calmly, eyeing the scowling Potions professor and her sniveling ward.

"Unca Sevewus smacked me," Harry whimpered pitifully, anxious to point out that salient fact before any of his sins came to light. He carefully didn't mention that said smacks hadn't hurt in the least.

"And he deserved every swat," Snape said defensively. He was already berating himself for spanking Harry in such a public forum, and so hard too! Obviously he had misjudged the force of the whacks. The child was in too much distress. Harry was simply a bit mischievous; there was no reason to have been so firm with him.

"Yes," Minerva said drily. "I could hear them from down the corridor." She barely avoided rolling her eyes. Really, if Severus wanted to disguise the fact that he barely tapped the boy by using a noise-amplifying spell, that was one thing, but he needed to keep the sound level to a believable level. Even the students, who were all too willing to accept Snape's Evil Bat persona at face value, would start to suspect something if every time he swatted Harry it made the windows shake.

Harry nervously eyed his Nana. Had she bought it? If she thought Uncle Severus was punishing him, then she wouldn't, but if not… Harry was under no illusion as to which of the two was the sterner disciplinarian. What was more, not only did Nana's swats sting lots worse than Uncle Severus', but she also came up with really awful punishments, like no flying or having to help Mr Filch clean the castle.

On the very rare occasions when Uncle Severus actually spanked him hard enough to hurt, instead of just making a loud and scary noise while giving Harry's bum a gentle pat, the unpleasant tingle faded within a few moments. Even better, Uncle Severus' punishments usually revolved around Harry spending time with him in the dungeons, making potions. Uncle Severus didn't seem to realize that since Harry liked making potions, these were fairly ineffective punishments, but Harry wasn't about to point that out to him.

"I'm sure you will impress upon Harry the error of his ways," Minerva said, giving Harry a Look. "Just as I'm sure that Harry will have learned his lesson?"

"Yes, Nana!" Harry promised, clutching Uncle Severus' leg for protection. "I'll never make Hagwid wun into Unca Siwius again, an' I'll never take one of Hagwid's pets wifout permission, an' I'll never, ever put anyfing into Unca Sevewus' bed," he assured her.

That last point reignited Snape's ire. He popped Harry on the seat again. "And you will pronounce the name of my House properly. This lisp of yours is an annoying affectation."

Harry let out the obligatory howl for the onlookers, while tightening his grip on Severus' leg. "An' – an' I will say 'Slytherin' pwoperly," he added quickly, giving his godfather a reproachful look while rubbing his bum with his free hand. That swat had actually stung a bit. He'd forgotten how touchy his godfather could be about his House.

"If you don't say 'Gwiffyndor', I'll not have you mangling 'Slytherin'!" Severus snapped, while the students loudly tsk'd at this latest example of Professor Snape's unreasonable treatment of the boy.

Harry accepted both the rebuke and his smarting bum philosophically. Good point – he knew he needed to work on making the lisp more consistent. He sneaked a glance at Nana and saw the laughter in her eyes. She knew perfectly well that he wasn't about to mispronounce her House's name!

"All right, then I'll leave Harry to you, Severus," Nana said, eyeing both fondly. Harry sagged in relief. The tingle in his bottom was fading fast, and he had no desire for Nana to rekindle it. "Behave, little one," she admonished, leaning over to kiss him. "Try to stay out of trouble, at least until suppertime."

"Yes, Nana," Harry said obediently, then was pulled away by a huffing Severus.

"It's just like your Nana to leave all the unpleasant tasks to me," he muttered darkly, tugging Harry through the corridors. "Oh, yes, I get to be the mean one, giving out all the swats and punishments, while she gets to do bedtime stories and Albus rots your teeth with his lemon drops and Sirius is nothing but a playmate. But no, I have to be the adult and make you hate me."

Harry stared up at him, shocked. "I don't hate you, Unca Sevewus!" he exclaimed.

Snape glanced at him, genuinely surprised. "Of course you hate me. I just spanked you."

"But it didn't –" Harry slapped his hand over his mouth just in time. He had nearly told his godfather it didn't hurt! How dumb would that have been?

"It didn't what?" Severus asked, puzzled.

"It – um –it didn't make me hate you," Harry said, thinking fast. "Cuz I know you only did it cuz I was vewy – er, very – naughty, and you spanked me so I would learn not to do it again." There. Would he buy it? He peeked up at his godfather and saw Snape was pressing his lips together hard in an effort to avoid showing emotion. Awww. "I know you only punish me cuz you love me, Uncle Severus. And I love you too." He accompanied his words with a heart-melting look and placed his hand on Snape's arm.

Snape fought back tears. What had he done to deserve such a godchild? And who could have predicted that Lily's personality would so overpower that idiot Potter's? Really, it was easy to forget Harry was James' child when he had none of the arrogance and troublemaking nature of his father. Rather, Harry was a kind, thoughtful, clever little boy whose intelligence and curiosity sometimes made him do things that could appear naughty. Snape maintained his poker face with the skill of long practice, but inwardly he resolved to see about getting Harry that new broom he wanted. Minerva insisted he was too young, but if he got Sirius to side with him – which he would; after all, it was a new toy for Harry – then she might give in purely to encourage the two men to find common ground more often.

Harry sighed with satisfaction. Now Uncle Severus wasn't sad anymore, and from the look on his face, Harry would be getting a "just because" present pretty soon.

Snape cleared his throat. "Yes, well, you are correct in that, but you are still going to have to be punished for your actions today." He led the way into his quarters. Harry happily bounced onto the sofa.

"Okay," he agreed amiably. At Snape's look of confusion, Harry quickly amended, "I mean, awwwww! You already smacked me, Unca Sevewus. No more punishment!"

"Yes," Severus informed him heartlessly, wondering if he should get some bruise salve for Harry's bum. "You can start by writing apologies to Hagrid and Sirius. You can also make them each a nice 'get well' card."

"Okay," Harry nodded cheerfully. He liked to draw.

"And you are not allowed to visit Hagrid without Nana or me or Uncle Sirius – wait. Forget that. You are not allowed to visit Hagrid without Nana or me from now on."

Hey! That wasn't so okay. "But Unca Sevewus," Harry protested, "Hagwid loves me to visit! And I love to visit him too!"

"And today proved that the big dolt has creatures there that are much too dangerous for little boys to play with," his godfather retorted, unmoved. "I don't know what he was thinking to show you a Deathly Adder!"

"Um…" Harry dug one toe into the carpet guiltily.

Snape hadn't been a teacher without learning a few things. "Harry! You mean he didn't show it to you?" Harry shook his head, not meeting Severus' gaze. "Then how did you see it?"

"I – I sorta was looking around Hagwid's hut while he was making tea and getting out de wock cakes," Harry turned up the lisp, expecting his godfather to take exception to this next part, "and I saw a cage dat was all de way under de bed and behind some boxes and –"

"And in fact had everything except a 'HARRY, DO NOT TOUCH THIS' sign on it, isn't that right?" Snape demanded furiously.

"Yes, Unca Sevewus," Harry agreed dolefully, hanging his head. He wouldn't have been surprised to have gotten another swat – even one that actually stung – but instead Snape sat down heavily in a chair and just looked at him. It was something so like what Nana might have done that Harry was nonplused.

"Aren't you mad?" he asked after another minute passed and Uncle Severus still hadn't started to yell.

"No, Harry," Snape replied, and for once his snarky voice was devoid of irritation, genuine or otherwise. "I'm too upset to be mad."

Harry's eyes widened. This was unprecedented. Uncle Severus was always angry, or at least he pretended to be. It was Nana who never got mad. She just got very stern and her eyes flashed, and that was Harry's signal to start begging for forgiveness – or running for Uncle Severus. "Why are you so upset?" he asked worriedly, climbing into Severus' lap and peering into his face, as if the answers would be there.

"Because I've just realized that you are still a very little boy." Snape replied with a sigh. "Your Nana and I are so accustomed to dealing with older children, I think we forget that you're still so young. You can't understand things like consequences. If one of the students were to do something so foolish as to ransack Hagrid's home looking for dangerous creatures, I'd know they were just being willful and disobedient. But you, Harry, you just truly don't understand what could have happened today."

Harry felt an unaccustomed heaviness settle in his chest. He couldn't remember the last time he had made Uncle Severus so upset. Oh, sure, he regularly reduced the man to shouting and dire threats, but Harry knew that it was all a big act. This was no act. Uncle Severus was really, really frightened and sad, and it was all Harry's fault.

He put his little hands on both sides of Snape's face and stared at him anxiously. "Don't be sad," he ordered, his voice cracking. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean it."

His apology didn't lighten the worry in his godfather's face. "I know, Harry. It's not your fault. You're only five. You shouldn't be given so much unsupervised time. You're too young to take care of yourself properly."

"No, I'm not," Harry argued, feeling tears prickle his eyes. He knew how proud his Nana and Uncles were of him; they were always saying how grown-up he acted (most of the time). Now Uncle Severus was saying that they were wrong, that Harry's behavior today proved that he wasn't as grown-up as they had thought. Harry began to wish he had never decided to play scavenger hunt in Hagrid's hut without the giant's knowledge or permission. "I can do it, Uncle Severus. Don't say that."

"Harry, do you have any idea what could have happened today? What if you couldn't speak to the snake? What if he had been so frightened by you that, before you could say anything, he had bitten you? What if it had been some other creature that you couldn't talk to?"

Harry sniffled miserably. Uncle Severus was really, really disturbed. Harry must have done something just awful. "I didn't know it was so bad," he whimpered. "I didn't mean it."

"Harry," Severus enfolded him in a hug. "You could have died. You don't even understand what that means. You think getting a spanking is the worst thing in the whole universe. You don't understand about the consequences of your actions."

"But a spanking is bad," Harry argued, tears spilling out. "It – it hurts," Well, at least Nana's hurt, he clarified silently. "And I cry, and you and Nana always say you swat me only when I've been very, very naughty becuz it's such a bad punishment."

"Oh, Harry," Severus sighed. "You're just a little boy. You can't understand how some things are much worse than a spanking. Like dying or being so sick that you want to die or making someone else feel that way. How do you think Hagrid felt when he realized that you had taken his snake? The snake that was so dangerous that he went to all that trouble to put it away safely?"

Harry hiccupped through his tears. "I guess he was scared. And angry."

"Probably more scared than angry. After all, Hagrid loves you very much. Why do you think he was scared?"

Harry couldn't bear to look at his godfather. He felt so ashamed of himself. He had stolen. And from Hagrid – who was always so nice to him. What a bad boy he had been! "I think he was scared cuz he didn't know what might happen."

"That's right. Why did he put the snake away so carefully?"

"Cuz Irving's dangerous?"

"Yes. And what do you think he was scared of when he realized you had taken it?"

"That Irving might hurt me? But he wouldn't, Unca Sevewus! He's my friend!"

"But did Hagrid know that? Did you wait and explain it to him?"

"N-no," Harry sobbed, collapsing against Snape's chest. " 'M sorry!"

"And what if the snake –" Snape refused to call a deadly serpent 'Irving' – "- had gotten loose and hurt a student? Someone who couldn't talk to him the way you can? How would Hagrid have felt then? How would you have felt knowing that you were responsible for someone being hurt?"

Harry just gave up and bawled. Now he understood why Uncle Severus was so upset. "I'm sorry, 'm sorry," he wept.

Snape sighed and hugged the boy. Merlin, he was good. "I know, Harry, but you see, you're still too young to understand the consequences of your actions, and until then, you are not going to be allowed to go anywhere that might be dangerous, and that includes Hagrid's hut. Until you're older, you can only go there with Nana or myself."

Harry still wanted to argue, but he knew his godfather was right. He hadn't thought of all these things. He just thought it would be nice to show Irving around the castle, and then when Hagrid had come running after him, he thought it would be fun to pretend it was a chasing game. Now, though, he understood how worried Hagrid must have been – and Uncle Sirius too, when he came tearing around the corner, frightened that Harry was really screaming for help. What a stupid boy he was! He was even dumber than that first year who'd walked too close to the Whomping Willow and nearly gotten thumped to death. How could his Nana and Uncles ever trust him now? He hugged Snape more tightly and cried and cried.

It took several minutes for Harry's storm of tears to abate, and then, curled in Severus' lap, he asked the question which had begun to worry him as he realized the full extent of his misbehavior. "Are – are you gonna spank me some more?" he hiccupped, face pressed against his godfather's chest. He waited nervously. Something told him that if ever his Uncle Severus were going to give him a real walloping, it would be for this.

Snape hid a smile. "I suppose I should," he agreed austerely. "But my hand already hurts from spanking you so hard before. So I'll just have to come up with a different punishment."

Harry relaxed. Okay, so as weird as Uncle Severus had acted – just like Nana in a lot of ways! – he still wasn't totally changed. "Yes, Unca Sevewus," he said obediently, sitting up and wiping at his face.

Uncle Severus sighed again and produced a handkerchief. He mopped up the tears and then had Harry blow his nose.

"Now then," he began. "No dessert for a wee-" Snape saw Harry's horrified expression and changed his mind. "- for two days. And an early bedtime for the next week. If you can't behave like a big boy, you don't get to stay up like one, you horrible brat." Harry nodded. He didn't like the early bedtime, but if he could get one of his godfathers to put him to bed, there was a good chance that they'd use up the extra time with more stories. "And I'll talk with Nana –" Harry's eyes grew wide with fear " – about our needing to provide you with more supervision." Oh. Harry relaxed again. He didn't like that, but he couldn't really complain either. And getting more time and attention from the adults he loved wasn't all that awful either.

"Now," Uncle Severus said sternly, hoisting Harry to a more upright position, "how long have you been talking to snakes?"

"I dunno. A long time," Harry answered immediately. Now that he knew the worst of his punishment – which wasn't really very bad at all – and now that he was reassured that his Uncle Severus still loved him even though he had been very very naughty (even bad), he felt much better. He didn't know why Uncle Severus wanted to know about his conversation with Irving, but he was happy to accommodate his godfather by talking about it.

"Why didn't you tell anyone you can talk to snakes?" Severus demanded, marveling anew at the idiocy of children. Harry could prattle on for hours about a meaningless conversation with the Bloody Baron yet be inexplicably silent on something like being a parselmouth.

"I did!" Harry protested. "I did – I told Nana that I had made a new friend named Jimmy and she said I should invite him for tea, an' I did, but then Jimmy said snakes don't like tea. And I told you about Mavis, and you asked what House she was in and when I said she wasn't in a House but a garden you told me not to play with gnomes cuz they can bite. An' I tried to tell you she was a snake not a gnome but you was brewing and told me to play quietly. An' I told Nana and Uncle Sirius about my friend Janey who lived in the forest, and they said that I had a very good imagination, and –"

"Enough," Snape interrupted. "And it's 'you were brewing' not 'you was brewing'." So that solved the mystery – he and the other adults had assumed that Harry was talking about students or imaginary friends. Hardly a surprise, really. He eyed Harry. "Who ever heard of snakes being named Jimmy and Janey and Mavis?"

Harry scowled at him. "They're good names! The snakes like them!"

Severus scoffed. "I do not believe that snake mummies and daddies are going around naming their babies Mavis and Jimmy."

Harry fixed him with a haughty stare which Severus failed to recognize as his own classroom sneer. "Unca Sevewus," he said severely, "snakes do not have mummies and daddies. Dey awe eider ovipawous – which means dey lay eggs – or ovovivipawous – which means dey pwoduce live offspwing. However, in bot' cases, when de young emerge, dey awe fully independent and…"

Severus pinched the bridge of his nose. It was a good thing that Harry would not be spending so much time at Hagrid's anymore. Being lectured by a five year old on natural history was very irritating. Especially when the five year old knew more of the technical terms than the average adult.

"Enough," he ordered firmly. "You are not to approach snakes in such a haphazard fashion. Haven't we taught you about not talking to strangers?"

Harry nodded. "But you never said anything about snakes, just people!" he protested indignantly.

Snape glared at him. "Talking is talking, is it not?"

"I guess so," Harry admitted sulkily.

Ha! Severus preened. It wasn't often that he got to out-argue the brat. James' glibness had definitely been inherited, along with Lily's quick thinking. "Then you are to be just as careful when speaking with strange snakes as with strange humans."

"But snakes are nicer than humans," Harry objected. Severus didn't doubt this for an instant.

"Even so," he replied sternly. "You must exercise caution and courtesy. How would you like it if someone burst in here and grabbed you up?" He suited action to words, much to Harry's delight. "And then carried you off?" he continued, draping Harry upside down over his shoulder and heading towards the child's room.

Harry giggled happily. It was usually Uncle Sirius who went in for roughhousing, not Uncle Severus, so this brief bout was all the more special for its rarity. Severus gave the child a gentle shake. "How do you like this? Hmmm?"

"EEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" Harry shrieked as Uncle Severus' long, cool fingers tightened around his ticklish tummy. "Help! Help! I'm a poor little snake! Help!"

Uncle Severus tossed him carefully onto his bed. "All right, you naughty little snake," he said, pausing for a moment to gloat over the nickname. Minerva would have a stroke if she heard him calling Harry that; she and Black were supremely confident that Harry would end up in Gryffindor. "Get busy with the cards for Hagrid and Sirius. I'll help you with the words later. They'd better be ready when I finish brewing or there will be no dessert for you!"

Harry nearly pointed out that he'd already lost his dessert privileges but quickly thought better of it. If his godfather didn't remember, why should Harry bring it up? "Yes, Unca Sevewus," he said obediently, scrambling off his bed and heading to his coloring supplies. "Will you also help me charm the pictures so they move?"

"Maybe. If I have the time," Snape sniffed. It wouldn't do to let the brat think he was a complete pushover.