Harry Potter's Second Chance
A little bit of sentimental fluff for Christmas

Disclaimer: All the characters and the world of Harry Potter belongs to J. K. Rowling.

Update: Dec. 13, 2010 - This one shot has been translated by PetiteMary into French. If you would like to read it, please visit http : / www . fanfiction . net / s / 6508284 / 1 / La_seconde_chance_dHarry_Potter

It was all over. Voldemort, after a brief resurrection, was dead. For good.

He should be happy, shouldn't he?

He, the Boy-Who-Lived-And-Lived-Again, was not happy.

Since that night where he'd not only witnessed the senseless death of Cedric Diggory as they were unwittingly portkeyed to the Riddle cemetery, Harry Potter had witnessed more death than any child should have to bear. There had been a battle... a final battle.

Harry learned later that the members of the Order of the Phoenix only knew where to Apparate to because of the paranoid Potions Master, Severus Snape.

It seemed that Snape, who long had a dislike of the current Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Alastor Moody, had suspicions that the man wasn't who he purported to be. His first hint were ingredients missing from his ingredients cabinet; potions used in the making of Polyjuice Potion.

His other clue was the man's odd behavior. First of all, Moody continued to imbibe from a silver flask. The real Alastor Moody was a tea drinker. Not that the gruff Auror wouldn't love to indulge in Firewhiskey to his heart's content, but he'd been the recipient, in his younger days, of a curse that had thrashed his digestive system. Any sort of alcohol was an instant recipe for ulcers.

The other clue was actually more telling; Moody engaged Snape in conversation at the staff table in the Great Hall. Moody had conceded the fact that Snape was a spy for the Light and implicitly trusted by Dumbledore, but he flat out despised the dark-haired wizard on general principles. Moody would not voluntarily converse with Snape unless a red hot poker were applied to his backside.

Those were the biggest clues, but Snape was a discerning man who knew how to read body language and interpret the subtle layers of personality that comprised the witches and wizards he encountered. It was a skill vital for the preservation of his life. He had many chances to observe the real Alastor Moody and although this one imitated the real Moody quite well, his pantomime faltered minutes before he sipped from his flask.

The fact that had all of Snape's senses alert for trouble was when Harry Potter's name had been spat forth from the Tri-Wizard Cup. Why Dumbledore had allowed himself to be bullied into keeping Potter in the challenge, Snape was unable to discern. Every challenge could mean death for Potter or his friends and Snape was kept busy night and day as he made certain that they survived. His attempts were thwarted, though, with the last challenge. He had wanted to check over the Tri-Wizard Cup, but he'd been unable to. At the very last minute, though, he had managed to cast a Tracking Spell on Potter, thus, the moment the boy was portkeyed away from Hogwarts and the maze, Snape knew of it.

The Order was too late to save Cedric, but they did arrive just as the duel between the returned Voldemort and Harry began.

Harry really couldn't remember much of the duel. He did recall seeing the vile green light of the Killing Curse headed straight for him and instead of dodging it, he threw out his arms as though to embrace it. There were many, Death Eater and Order member alike, who saw the curse strike the boy and instead of consuming him the curse was reflected and sent back at many times its strength to the Dark Lord. In a brilliant explosion that sent Harry and others nearby tumbling backwards, Voldemort was obliterated, permanently.

Harry had wished he'd been knocked out, but he wasn't. He was conscious for the aftermath. Remus Lupin had been horribly injured by a bone distortion curse; he would survive, but he'd limp on his left leg for the rest of his life.

Tonks didn't survive. Crabbe senior sliced her horribly with a Cutting Curse and she bled to death not far from her bone-twisted lover.

The hardest death for Harry to watch was that of Sirius Black. Black had been running towards Harry when a Blasting Curse from Bellatrix caught him in the middle of his back. He screamed as bones fractured. As he fell, the ghastly witch threw a Cruciatus Curse that finished him off. Harry, still bone weary from his expenditure of his magic, dragged himself over to Black's body putting himself directly in Bella's line of fire. Just as she was cackling her delight at finding the Boy-Who-Lived, she screamed as she was enveloped by the red mist of some spell Harry had never heard before. The wielder of the spell was Snape.

No, Harry didn't have to worry about the Dark Lord coming for him anymore, but he was plagued nightly with nightmares and crushing guilt that sent him into a terribly deep depression. It did not help that he had to return home to the Dursleys who had little regard for him and certainly no sympathy for what had happened to him. The fact is, they were his legal guardians and although Dumbledore had promised to rectify his living situation, there were so many other things that required the now retiring Headmaster's attention.

It was a recipe for disaster.

One month into the summer, the Ministry and the Daily Prophet declared the rumours of the You-Know-Who's death as being nothing more than rumour. There had been a battle between Death Eaters, Aurors, and members of Dumbledore's rebel group, the Order of the Phoenix, but no body, nor no sign of You-Know-Who had been discovered.

Any thought of Harry Potter was lost to mere mentions deep within the Daily Prophet as the front page practically burned with the greater news of corruption eating away at the Ministry, starting with Cornelius Fudge. Not even the hoped for scandal of a Death Eater teaching at Hogwarts could overshadow the problems with the Ministry. Severus Snape had quite likely escaped incarceration in Azkaban due to the fact so many Death Eaters had been captured and they were more important to deal with.

Another bit of news had to do with the retirement of Albus Dumbledore who had sustained injuries from a curse that would soon disable him and eventually end his life in ten years. Taking his place would be Minerva McGongall who was still recovering from her injuries; a series of Stunning Spells to her abdomen.

Sharing breakfast one morning with the Headmaster, Snape found himself actually disgusted with the casual way the Daily Prophet was dismissing Potter. Snape himself had certainly never been exactly pleasant to the boy, but that hideous Rita Skeeter dared to blame Harry for the disaster at the Riddle Cemetary.

"Potter. He's still with those dubious Muggles, isn't he, Albus?" wondered Snape.

"He is. I had meant to look for a proper wizarding home for him as there is no need for the blood wards, but I just haven't had the time," replied Albus wearily.

"That is a nearly impossible task, Albus. There are too many who would simply use the child for their own status in our world, as well as those erstwhile types out there who would only wind up hurting him." Albus downed the potion that Snape had brewed specifically for the old wizard to aid him with the worst of the symptoms that plagued him.

Snape eyed the old man carefully. "You hoped to take him, didn't you?"

"I had hoped..." he spoke wistfully, "but the Healers tell me I shall be confined to a bed within a year. Harry requires someone younger and someone who has his best interest at heart. Perhaps a parent who might understand what he's been through."

"Arthur and Molly?" asked Snape.

"Arthur and Molly and all their children dearly love Harry, but I am not certain they are quite what he needs." Albus sighed heavily as his fingers drummed pensively upon the table. "The problem eludes me, Severus, and there are so many other things that take precedence." He sighed heavily. "And I am so very tired."

It frightened Snape to see his mentor in this way. For so long, Dumbledore had appeared to him to be immortal. To see him... old... worried him.

"Has anyone looked in on the boy?" Snape wondered why he was being so persistently curious about Harry Potter. He had no particular fondness for the boy. Truth be told, he found the child to be an absolute irritant and the fact the child greatly resembled his father, James Potter, did nothing to help endear the boy to him. Yet, something felt off to him about Potter being so easily pushed aside now that his destiny was fulfilled. Then there was the Headmaster's need to see the boy in a wizarding home where he'd be loved.

Dumbledore was aghast at his own neglect. "I never thought to!" He dropped his head into his wrinkled hands just as a Ministry owl arrived with the day's business. Looking up and snatching the batch of paperwork from the owl, he sent it on its way. "I should have at least written to him!"

"I have nothing to do today except to work on my lesson plans for next term. If it will assuage your mind, I shall look in on Potter."

I have gone mad. Did I just volunteer to check on the Golden Child?

Stunned by his own suggestion, he couldn't help the small blossom of pleasure that welled inside his soul as the Headmaster's eyes twinkled briefly. Snape never thought he'd miss that bloody twinkle, but it had been so long since he'd seen it.

"I would be ever so grateful, Severus. Just make sure he's well and let him know we are thinking of him."

Snape nodded curtly. "I shall go this afternoon. Is there anything I might assist you with until then, Albus?"

As breakfast vanished, the two men bent over Dumbledore's work for the day and Snape aided the old man until he retreated to his bedroom to rest.

Harry Potter wasn't known for thinking during the best of times. That was Hermione's job. She was a brilliant thinker. Had she known what her best friend was up to, she'd be lecturing him right now and showing him the folly of what he was about to do to his life. Hermione was in Australia with her parents, though, and had no inkling of what her friend was about to do.

Harry had very cleverly stolen a book from the Hogwarts Library. Not just any book. This was the tome Hermione had discovered in the Restricted Section in their second year, Moste Potente Potions.

The ingredients had taken some time to gather as he had to owl-order the ones he didn't have. The other difficulty was he could only work on the potion at night. If his relatives had caught him...

If Aunt Petunia had caught me, she'd smash my brains from my head with her iron skillet, and then toss me out with the trash.

No one would suspect, since it was a common stereotype, but the verbal abuse, the beatings, had mostly come from Petunia, not Vernon. Harry's Uncle Vernon was no prize since he helped to spoil his pig of a son Dudley rotten. Vernon would make up lists of chores, and he'd yell, but he'd never raised a hand to his nephew. He hadn't the stomach for it. There were times, though, when he'd had to step between Petunia and Harry. Petunia had a terrible temper and an unreasoning hatred for her late sister and Lily's 'freakish kind'. Vernon was frightened of the wrath that could come down upon them if Petunia's temper ever slipped so quickly, she'd not hesitate in killing Harry.

Harry knew this and did his absolute best this summer to hold his tongue and to do everything required of him. The nights were then his to brew his potion.

Finally, today, his potion was finished and Harry sat on the center of his lumpy bed staring at the cerulean blue liquid. He was rather proud of the job he'd done and almost wished that his despised Potions Master could have seen it. For a brief moment he pretended that this blue, crystalline shimmering potion was just the thing to melt the wizard's hard exterior. Maybe the man would even award him a few points.

Harry chuckled at the absurdity. Snape would never view any of Harry's work with pride and he'd certainly never award Gryffindor points.

Lifting the jelly glass that his potion was in, he tipped it back into his mouth, swallowed, and smiled. It didn't taste bad at all.

As Harry slowly passed out, he wondered if he would remember his friends.

Dressed in casual dark grey trousers, a black cotton shirt, and a lightweight jacket, Severus Snape strode down Privet Drive. The cookie cutter appearance of all the houses annoyed him and he snorted derisively. It was an oddly silent summer afternoon, except for a few homeowners that were watering their lawns.

Is that an activity they schedule?

As he approached #4, he heard a grating voice screeching as a deeper voice thundered. He rapped his knuckles hard against the door and there was instant silence behind the door. A few minutes later, Lily Evan's pinch-faced sister, Petunia answered the door.

"You!" she spat.

"So good to see you as well, Petunia." The inflection he gave her name made it sound like a bad taste in his mouth. It was something he'd perfected from the moment he'd met her and Lily when they were all children.

"Vernon!" her voice screeched so high it was like fingernails on a blackboard and Snape could barely stop himself from cringing. "Bring him!"

A moment later a very large man appeared at the narrow doorway with a small, dark haired boy hanging limply in his arms. Petunia ripped the child from her husband's hands and shoved the child, hard, right into Snape's abdomen.

"I don't know what that little beast did to himself, but I raised him once and I'll not do it again!" Her tiny, black eyes practically pierced Snape's bewildered gaze. "If you don't take him back with you, I swear..." she stepped through the door and leaned towards him and hissed, "I swear, you great, freaky, bat, I'll drown him at the pond in the park! Do you understand me?"

Snape took a brief moment to look down at the child in his arms that was tangled in a swath of a dirty, knit shirt many sizes too large for him. Automatically he shifted the child's unconscious body until he was better supported in his arms. The child he held couldn't have been more than five, possibly six years of age. To his horror, he knew this was Potter.

"What happened to him?" he demanded sharply.

"Pet, maybe he ought to see?" Vernon said softly. Petunia shot her husband a glare that had him backing away swiftly.

Turning back to Snape, she crossed her arms over her thin chest. "Up the stairs, second door. Take all his things, Snape, and then get out."

Hoisting the young Potter more firmly in his arms, he was momentarily startled as the child woke from his stupor and wrapped his thin arms around his neck and buried his face in his shoulder. Patting the boy's back, Snape pushed his way into #4 Privet Drive and ascended the stairs.

At the top of the stairs was a door glinting with six locks upon it. It hung partially open. As soon as he pushed through the door, he saw the remains of Harry's Potions Kit at the end of his bed. He gently addressed the child, "P-Harry, can you tell me what was brewed here?"

Harry leaned closer to Snape's cheek and whispered in his ear, "I was having horrible nightmares and when I woke up I was here. The skinny woman screamed at me and the large man yelled. I'm sorry for what I did, mister. Are you going to drown me now?"

"Certainly not!" he spoke firmly. "Would you sit on this bed whilst I pack all of this? Then, I'll take you someplace much nicer."

Harry nodded his head and then let the tall, dark man seat him on the bed. Clasping his hands between his knees, he waited, very politely, as the man carefully packed everything in a trunk that floated through the door. He was wide-eyed as he saw this, but as he'd been taught to never ask questions, he kept his curiosity to himself. Maybe the man would tell him later what he was doing.

Snape preserved the remains of Harry's brewing work so that he could analyse it later in his lab. Without a doubt the foolish boy had de-aged himself, but the Potions Master needed to know how well or how badly Potter had succeeded in his brewing, and just what potion recipe he'd used.

Once the potion and the kit were preserved, he summoned Harry's trunk and began to pack everything away. The only thing missing was the boy's wand. He looked around the room.

"Harry, do you know if there is a hideaway anywhere in here?"

The little boy's brow furrowed in thought and then he slipped off the bed. He almost tripped over the long hem of the dirty shirt and Snape caught him.

"Wait, child. Let's fix this mess, first."

Harry watched with wonder as the man waved his stick over the shirt and it changed. It became a small green t-shirt, and a pair of white shorts.

"You're magic!" Harry gasped with awe.

"I am a wizard, child," smirked Snape. "Now, show me that hiding place."

Fingering his new t-shirt, Harry was momentarily distracted from his task. Catching a glare from the man, Harry let go of his t-shirt and went to a discoloured floor board. He pointed.

In moments Snape had the floorboard up and there was Harry's wand, and some of his textbooks. He quickly had those packed, closed the trunk, then shrank it and put it into his pocket. He then scooped the lightweight boy into his arm.

"Time to go, Harry."

"Don't bring him back, Snape." Petunia, the perpetual scowl lining her face stopped in the doorway.

He turned sharply. "Are you willing to give up all rights to the child, Petunia?"

"Send the paperwork or whatever you need to do," she sneered a sneer that rivalled one of Snape's own. "Now leave."

Without another word, the little boy and the Potions Master Apparated away.

Little Harry clutched Snape's jacket in his small fists and let out a whimper as he felt his insides turned out. Luckily the feeling only lasted a moment and the man rubbed his back to soothe away the nausea.

"Better?" Snape asked. Harry nodded. A slight smile graced the side of Snape's mouth briefly as he pointed over to Harry's right. "Take a look."

Harry twisted his body until he beheld the wondrous sight of a huge castle rising up into the sky. He clapped his hands together delightedly. "Do you live there? Are you the king?"

"There is no king, Harry," said Snape as he walked through the gates and towards the castle. "This is a school of witchcraft and wizardry. I am a teacher here."

"Will I go to school here?" he asked hopefully.

"Most certainly. You are a wizard, child." Harry's green eyes sparkled brightly and for the first time, Snape didn't see James Potter, but Lily Evans. Her green eyes had sparkled in the same manner when he'd told her she was a witch. Examining the boy's face further he was able to see more of Lily in Harry's face. He wondered how much more of Lily he might wind up seeing in the boy.

With his long legs, the walk to the castle entrance was a swift one. Once in he put Harry down and conjured a pair of slippers for the child's bare feet. He then transfigured his own Muggle clothing back into his wizard robes.

Snape's mind was deep on what he'd have to tell the Headmaster about what Potter had done to himself so he didn't realise that Harry, with much shorter legs, was quickly getting left behind. Of course, the child was so fascinated by tall, stained glass windows, enchanted armor that waved to him, and whispering, moving portraits, he had no idea that he was almost out of sight of the tall man with the stern look.

"Potter!" Snape, suddenly noticing that the boy wasn't beside him, turned and saw Harry staring up at the portraits. Harry heard his last name being shouted, and obediently turned from the paintings and ran down the corridor to Snape.

"Who are you?" asked Harry.

Snape scowled. "I am Professor Severus Snape the teacher of Potions." Adjusting his long-legged stride, he motioned for Harry to keep up beside him. He was slightly startled as the little boy slipped his fingers around his.

"This is a really neat castle," he commented. "I bet you're real happy living here, sir."

"I find it to my taste," he replied non-commitedly. Giving the child a surreptitious glance, he asked, "Do you think you might like living here?"

Harry's green-eyed gaze brightened and he smiled. James Potter's grin always had a superior smugness to it that irritated Snape when he was unfortunately in school with Potter's crowd. Harry's smile had an open honesty to it that truly reminded him of Lily. He wondered why he couldn't have seen this before the boy had foolishly aged himself. Snape now recalled many times when he had seen the boy smile at his friends, or during some interesting tale, so he knew it had not changed as Potter had grown.

Her green eyes, her smile... how much more of Lily is in her son?

"Well, child?" he prompted when Harry hadn't yet answered his question. "I expect you might have some opinion where you'd like to live."

Harry stopped, causing Snape to stop walking as well. Concern, worry, and even a touch of fear flittered across the child's face. "I'm not going to have to go back to them? Aunt Petunia's always mad at me."

Snape knelt down so he was looking directly into those worried, green eyes and placed his hands lightly upon the shoulders that felt so thin. "I promise you, Harry, you're never going back. You'll live someplace where you're wanted."

There was not a smile to be seen on the dour face of the older man, but Harry could see in his eyes that the promise was a true one. He let out a puff of air in relief. "Thank you for taking me away," he said shyly as he reached for Snape's hand again.

Standing straight, Snape curled his fingers around Harry's and they continued to walk to the Headmaster's office.

Soon they arrived at a statue of a gargoyle as tall as the Potions Master guarding a stone, spiral staircase. To Harry's delight, the gargoyle winked at him.

"Ice mice," Snape bit out. The gargoyle slid aside and once more Harry was lifted into the man's arms. The stairs spun them about and Harry giggled and clapped his hands again.

"Severus! There you..." Dumbledore stared at the little boy with messy, dark hair, and bright green eyes in the Potions Master's arms. "Oh my! What have we here?"

Harry stared at the curious old man with the long hair and beard, but he slipped an arm around Snape's neck and with his other hand he clutched spasmodically at Snape's robes.

"Harry Potter, meet Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry."

"Hi," he said softly with a tremulous smile. He then whispered in Snape's ear. "He looks like Merlin. Is he nice?"

"Very nice," he assured the child. "I have something that I must attend to, child. Would you be all right with the Headmaster?"

"You promise to be back?" he asked, a slight edge of fear to his voice.

"I promise. Albus will watch over you, I'm sure." Snape glanced pointedly at the old wizard who nodded. He then put the boy down. "As you can see, Albus, it seems the Boy-Who-Lived de-aged himself. I'm going to analyse the remains of Harry's work to see what potion he used and whether or not it's permanent."

As Harry's curious gaze was drawn by the moving portraits that watched him, Snape lowered his voice and stepped closer to the Headmaster. "I was... ordered... in no uncertain terms that he is not to be brought back to the Dursleys. They wish to relinquish their rights immediately."

Dismay clouded Albus' face. "Certainly he can stay here temporarily, but... oh Merlin, what am I to do with him now?" He looked over as Harry struck up a conversation with Headmistress Dilys Derwent.

Snape eyed the man who, even at nearly 120 years, had been so vital and with a mind that had been sharper than any other wizard's. It distressed him to see the Headmaster so easily rattled by something he would have had a solution for in minutes.

"He can stay with me, Albus." The older wizard's bushy eyebrows brushed the edge of his conical cap and blended with the ermine trim. Snape sighed. "He seems to trust me and... I find him... tolerable." His eyes briefly closed and he pinched the bridge of his nose. He couldn't believe what he was about to say, but this seemed to be a day for the impossible. He opened his eyes. "Should the potion he took prove to be permanent, then, with your permission, I'd like to adopt him."

"Severus! Are you certain? I, of course, would be pleased to help you do so, but I know you've had an uneasy relationship with the teenager. That, and I never have been too certain you even like children." A ghost of a twinkle sparkled lightly in the sapphire eyes of the Headmaster and Snape knew the man was teasing him.

"Quite so, Albus. I'd be entirely too pleased to boil any of my students down to their component parts. However, some children do have merit." He glanced over at Harry who had seated himself on the floor and was relating something to a strangely, intrigued looking, Phineas Nigellus Black. "As I find myself curiously with a future I had not expected..." his voice faded, not willing to finish the thought out loud. "I blamed the son for the sins of the father, Albus. I forgot that he is also his mother's son and there is much that I owe Lily."

Dumbledore smiled, exceedingly pleased. He gripped Snape's forearm. "I shall see to the necessary paperwork, Severus. Let me know as soon as you have the results."

Snape nodded and then looked over to Harry. "Behave yourself, young man."

Harry turned and smiled brightly. "Yes, sir!"

Once down in his lab, Snape unpacked the potions kit. He began the complicated analysis of the potion Potter created by using a particular potion he'd created just for separating out the ingredients of a potion and identifying them. While the results brewed, he went through the boy's trunk and found a slim journal at the bottom. Beneath the journal was the Hogwarts' library copy of Most Potente Potions.

"And here I'd blamed Miss Granger for this book's disappearance," he muttered grimly.

It appeared that the journal had been a gift from Miss Granger at the end of term. Harry's entries were sporadic, stream of consciousness, that sentence by sentence revealed his depression. He blamed himself and was full of guilt for all the deaths that had occurred not just the night he'd fought Voldemort, but he also blamed himself for his parents deaths. Many entries talked loosely about his parents and about Sirius Black. Many of these entries were smudged by tears.

The last entry provided the information Snape needed about the potion Harry had brewed. The teenager, though still very depressed, was perhaps at his most lucid. He seemed to know that someone might find his belongings and so he'd written the last entry in the style of a last will and testament.

Harry had left his broom to his friend Ron and his books to Hermione. He also hoped that Ron would look after his owl, although she was currently missing. He guessed that Hedwig might be at Hogwarts. Snape made a mental note to look in the owlery for the beloved pet.

The very last of the entry startled Snape as he found it addressed to him!

Professor Snape, you'll probably be angry with me, but I still hope a tiny part of you, that part that Dumbledore trusts, is kind of impressed with this potion. So you don't have to look, it's called Second Chance. The book says there isn't anything to reverse it. I know you probably are thinking this is the stupidest thing I've ever done, but I want a second chance, even if my Aunt finally follows through with her threat to get rid of me.

Professor, I know you were helping me with the tournament. Thanks for doing that and keeping me alive. Call me a dunderhead Gryffindor if you want, but I think you don't totally hate me since you always saved my hide. I wonder, now, if I should have just let the Sorting Hat put me in Slytherin.

"Slytherin?" Snape closed the journal. How different things could have been, he wondered, if Harry had been in his house instead of Minerva's.

A chime interrupted his thoughts, letting him know that his analysis potion was complete. He doused the flame and watched as the results appeared above the cauldron. After several minutes, he vanished the potion and tapped the journal with his index finger.

"I am impressed, Potter. You did a most adequate job." Harry's de-aging was permanent and there was nothing to be done but for the child to grow up again. As Snape cleaned everything up and re-packed Harry's belongings in his trunk, he thought to himself that the boy would get his wish; he now had his second chance.

Severus Snape's adoption of the de-aged, six year old Harry Potter was not at all a smooth process. The Dursleys, at least, were not a problem and had quickly relinquished all rights to the child. The problem mostly concerned a Ministry that was in flux as Cornelius Fudge and his cronies were being ousted. Corruption was being revealed at all levels, and an insignificant matter like the annoying Boy-Who-Told-Lies needing a new home, seemed to be the last thing anyone wanted to deal with.

Snape had expected problems with an ex-Death Eater adopting the de-aged Harry Potter and although there were a few objections here and there, much of the problem dealt with Dumbledore being pulled in too many directions at once and the Potions Master needing to put aside his own needs in order to help Albus.

It didn't help that Rita Skeeter had to get her digs into Harry Potter one last time. A very libelous, front page article accused the now de-aged boy of not just being a liar, but a coward as well for having run away from friends and family by de-aging himself. The article went on to descry how disappointed Harry's parents would have been to know that their only child, at one time considered the hope of the Wizarding world, was nothing more than an empty icon of hope manipulated by those who thought they knew what was best for everyone else.

So enraged by the article, that Snape slapped Skeeter and the entire Daily Prophet with a defamation suit on behalf of one, Harry Potter. It was a suit that would have languished in the courts for years, but the Daily Prophet which had relied so heavily upon the auspices of the corrupt Ministry that was now toppling, had to scramble to salvage their reputation and repair it. The Skeeter woman was ordered to write a public apology and then she was summarily fired, permanently. Damages were paid by the newspaper to Mr. Potter, and those were placed in his Gringotts account.

The shock of their friend's de-aging had quickly reached Ron and Hermione. Both wanted answers and both wanted to see their friend as soon as possible. Dumbledore took on the task of writing to the two students as one of the few pleasures he had during stress-filled days. He promised them that soon they could see Harry, but not right away.

Paperwork and correspondence was a plague to Snape everyday as the adoption process was forced through every obstacle that would have left Harry without any guardian until he was at least 80. It was the interim Minister of Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt, that finally managed to push the adoption almost to its conclusion.

Three weeks before term began, Snape was notified by the Children's Services Adoption Department that he and Harry had to prepare for an interview.

Snape, still a rather private man, had to open his home at Hogwarts to three interviewers from Children's Services. They would have tea and then scrutinise every corner of his quarters, and the room created for Harry and his playroom, to make sure all was safe and that the child was properly provided for. Then, the interviewers would each speak to Snape and Harry separately.

By now, Harry, who had been living in the dungeons with the Potions Master, adored his guardian. He liked the way Severus spoke to him as though he were a real person and not some silly baby. When Harry talked, even if he started blathering on rapidly about what he'd discovered that day about Hogwarts, Severus actually listened to him and asked questions.

Severus had purchased clothing for Harry that was all his, brand new, and not hand me downs. Harry even had his own set of black robes that were, at his specific request, just like his guardians robes. If he ran really fast, they billowed, too.

Harry had regular meals, a bedtime (with stories), and when he had nightmares, Severus was always there to wipe away his tears and to hold him until he fell asleep again.

Harry knew that Severus was soon going to be his father soon and sometimes this thought would get him so excited, he'd either start running all over the place, or jumping up and down (usually on his bed).

He wanted to call his guardian 'daddy', but he patiently waited until Severus told him he could.

Patience. Surprisingly, for a six year old child, Snape learned that Harry was, indeed, a very patient little boy. It was this patience that gave him the idea to allow the child into his private lab. Harry listened carefully and took instruction so well, that Snape wondered why the teenaged Harry had been such a poor student. He hated to admit it, but he thought that part of that problem had been his fault as well. After all, he had used any excuse possible to deride the teenager in his class, often making caustic references to James Potter.

Snape discovered that teaching Harry Potions was not only time well spent, but time enjoyed as well.

The day of the interviews and home inspection arrived and Snape was so nervous, he had to take a dose of Calming Potion and a dose of Anti-Nausea Potion. Harry, sensing his guardian's unease, kept close to Severus in the hopes of easing some of the older man's anxiety.

All went well, until the interview with Harry. The interviewer made the bumbling error of telling the little boy he might be taken away from Snape. Harry, completely upset, had broken free from the awful interviewer's grip, ran out of his bedroom, and into the sitting room where he jumped into Snape's lap.

"Harry! What is it, child?" Snape asked soothingly.

Harry pointed accusingly at the interviewer stepping out of the bedroom, somewhat angry at the little boy. He was a young man whom Snape had recognised as being a student of his almost five years ago. "He says he's going to take me away and give me to someone else!"

Snape's gaze narrowed sharply, stopping the young social worker from advancing further. He stuttered, "T-truly, that is n-not what I said, sir!"

"My son doesn't lie," Snape said darkly.

"I'm'a good boy!" Harry asserted. "I don't want to talk anymore, Sev'rus."

"Neither do I, Harry." His look seemed to challenge the interviewers who suddenly looked uncomfortable. "I think this is ended. Harry has had a long day and it's time for his afternoon nap."

The oldest interviewer, Imelda Pickens, rose to her feet. She was a grandmotherly type of witch and smiled at both Harry and Snape. "I quite agree, Mr. Snape. These interviews are always tiring. However, I am quite impressed by everything here and Harry does appear to be entirely attached to you as you are to him. We'll notify you by tomorrow afternoon of our decision."

That night Snape was unable to sleep. He spent the night watching over little Harry as he slept in his bed in his room, blissfully unaware of how his world might be turned upside-down the next day.

Harry stared at the documents that had Severus looking kind of goofy. They didn't make much sense to him, but if Severus was happy, then it was a good thing.

"What is it, Sev'rus?" he demanded for the third time as he looked up from the ottoman he was leaning against as he kneeled on the floor. He'd been colouring in front of the fireplace.

"This says we belong together, Harry."

"Forever?" his green eyes sparkled.

"Forever. You're my son now, Harry." Snape picked Harry up and sat with him on the sofa. "No one can ever take you away."

"Sev'rus," Harry began, his brow beetling with deep thought, "if I'm you're son, are you my daddy now?"

"I am. But, you can keep calling me Severus, if you'd like."

Harry shook his head. "I wanna call you daddy. Okay?"

"All right, then." He ruffled Harry's black hair, which wasn't as messy since he'd begun to let it grow.

Harry grinned cheekily. "Daddy! Don't mess my hair!"

Snape did it again and Harry squealed with laughter. Impulsively, the older wizard wrapped his arms around the little boy, hugging him tightly.

"He's going to be frightened, Albus!" Snape had been arguing with the Headmaster for the last ten minutes. He was fast losing.

"Harry is a growing boy, Severus. He needs friends and I think it would be best for him to get re-acquainted with Miss Granger and Mr. Weasley."

"I don't object to that, Albus, but your idea of going to the Burrow is what I'm concerned about. All that noise..." Snape didn't want to mention that as much as Molly Weasley might adore her brood and think they're wonderful, he rather thought they were an unruly bunch of primitive monkeys. He didn't want his son to pick up any of their misbehavior.

"You worry too much, my boy. Harry will be fine." The Headmaster's eyes twinkled mischievously. "I think you might have a tough time if you don't try to embrace the Weasleys."

Snape merely rolled his eyes. He rose from his chair. "Harry and I will meet you at the entrance in fifteen minutes."

Fifteen minutes later, Albus, dressed in light summer robes of yellow and orange, watched as Harry, hand in Snape's larger hand, skipped happily alongside his father. The child was clearly ready for adventure.

"Hi Albus!" Harry waved and broke from Snape's side and ran to the older wizard. He refrained from throwing himself at Dumbledore since Snape had explained to him that the Headmaster had to be treated gently these days. Harry carefully hugged the older man, pressing his face into the thick, tickley soft beard. "Can I have a sherbet lemon, Albus?"

Plucking a small tin from his robes, Dumbledore opened it, and offered the little lemon sweets to the boy. Harry was about to take a fistful when he caught a glare of warning from his father. With an aggrieved sigh, he took only one and popped it into his mouth. Dumbledore smiled happily.

"You take my hand, Albus," said Harry offering his small hand. "Don't get lost now."

"I won't as long as you are beside me, my child." Albus took Harry's hand, and then Harry slipped the fingers of his free hand into Snape's. The three walked out of the castle and were soon on their way to the Burrow.

Ron Weasley had grieved for his best friend. A part of him understood what Harry had done, but he was going to miss growing up with him. It had taken weeks for him to accept that Harry's de-aging was permanent. It was even harder when the Headmaster had told them that Harry's worst enemy, the git of the dungeons, was adopting Harry. That was a potion that Ron was finding far too difficult to swallow. Having the git and a six year old Harry Potter visiting at the Burrow was just too painful and he would have stayed in his room, but his father dragged him out and told him he had to shape up.

Hermione took the news better. She was also sorry to know that her best friend had taken such an escape, but she decided to make the best of it. As for the adoption, Hermione really couldn't say she had any fondness for the Potions Master, but she did respect him and knew that he'd never hurt Harry. She was looking forward to the visit at the Burrow.

"Is Harry five or six years old, Mrs. Weasley?" asked Hermione as she drank some pumpkin juice.

"Albus told us that Madame Pomfrey calculated his age at six years. Professor Snape believes that Harry chose that age since that was when his accidental magic first manifested," replied Molly Weasley.

"That makes sense," remarked Ron. "Harry told us once that was about when things changed between him and the Dursleys."

"You're sounding..." teased Fred.

"Reasonable, little brother," finished George.

Ron frowned and cast a quick glare at his father. "Didn't have a choice."

Fred turned to Arthur, "What does Harry remember, dad?"

Arthur shook his head. "Nothing. Professor Snape will explain things when he's a little older, but for now it's best not to mention his past since it will only confuse him."

Ron was staring sullenly down at the flowery patterns in the tablecloth. Hermione put an arm around his shoulders and gave him a quick hug. "Harry can still be a friend, Ron, and we can make new memories with him."

Ron managed a small smile as he leaned against Hermione.

"They're here!" Ginny announced. She'd been watching through the window. "He's cute!"

Ron groaned. Fred and George punched his shoulders and he growled at them. Despite that, he joined the rest of his family as they headed outside to greet their visitors.

As soon as Harry saw all the redheads that were pouring out of the odd, but really neat looking house, he stopped in his tracks and raised his arms to his father. Snape quickly picked him up and whispered an assurance in the boy's ear.

"Albus! Severus!" greeted Arthur. "So good of you to come and spend this lovely day with us."

"How are you doing, Arthur?" asked Albus.

Arthur replied with a weary smile, "Barring the migraines the Ministry gives me, I'm well."

Snape interjected, "I can send you some Migraine Potion, if you'd like, Arthur."

Arthur smiled thankfully at the severe man. "Greatly appreciated, Severus." Arthur then turned his attention to the little boy who currently had one fist tight in the folds of the Potions Master's robes. "How do you do, Harry?"

"Okay," he replied quietly. "Did you paint your hair, cause it's really red?"

Arthur laughed and the way his eyes crinkled took away the sting of embarassment. Harry's smile got a little bigger as he decided he liked Arthur.

Molly greeted the men, but her eyes were on little Harry. "You have a handsome boy there, Severus. Welcome to the Burrow, Harry. I'm Molly Weasley and this is my husband, Arthur. Some of our children, Fred, George, Ginny, and Ronald. This young lady is Hermione Granger. She's Ron's best friend."

"Hullo, Harry," said Hermione with a sweet smile.

Harry's first smile was for the bushy haired girl. "Hi, He'mione." Ron snorted at the mispronunciation and Harry promptly blushed and buried his face in Snape's shoulder.

Fred stepped closer, "I heard you really like Quidditch, Harry."

That caused Harry to turn to the twin boys. He nodded. "I don't have my own broom, yet, but daddy's taken me flying. It's fun!"

George looked quickly at Snape and saw the man nod quickly. "You can fly with me today, Harry. Would you like that?"

"Yes!" Harry looked at his father. "Can I get down now, daddy?"

Snape let the little boy down, and in a blink he was gathered amongst the teenagers, chatting with them as though they'd been friends forever. The dark-haired older man felt a painful tug on his heart. Arthur saw this and drew Dumbledore and Snape over to a picnic table where they could talk and keep an eye on the kids.

"Harry is very devoted to you, Severus," smiled Molly approvingly. "When I first heard of what Harry had done, my heart broke for the poor boy. I am so very happy that you were able to give him what he always wanted."

Snape was embarrassed by the compliment. "I merely provide what is needed, Molly," he gruffed stiffly as he looked towards the garden where the twins were showing the young Harry how to catch gnomes and toss them away.

"Indeed you do!" she grinned knowingly and headed for the house.

The three men began talking about the Ministry. Arthur had been considered for the Minister of Magic position but kept declining. Both Albus and Severus felt he would do well and spent the next half hour trying to talk him into accepting. At one point Harry had interrupted, his hands dripping with slimy mud. His shorts also had smudges of mud on them and somewhere he'd lost his trainers. He was proudly holding something between his cupped hands.

"Look, daddy! These are tadmoles!" Snape looked warily down at two little wriggling tadpoles between the small hands. "Ron says they turn into frogs. Is he lying?"

"He's correct, Harry. Their tails will disappear and they will grow up to become frogs."

"Can I have a frog?" asked Harry.

"You have an owl, Harry," Snape spoke sternly but gently. "For now, I think one pet is enough."

Harry frowned. "Don't you need a frog, daddy?"

"I think not, child. Go put those tadpoles back in the pond and have Fred or George clean your hands." He caught Harry by the collar before he ran off. He pointed down at the dirty feet. "One more thing, where are your socks and trainers?"

"Hermione had me take them off so they wouldn't get muddy," he replied and then turned and ran off before his father could stop him again.

For a moment he watched the little boy and then, almost to himself, he said, "It baffles me how he can go from being disappointed to happy so quickly."

"Children are flexible that way, Severus," said Arthur with a knowing grin.

The day at the Burrow was a pleasant one that kept Harry busy with his new friends. He thought the twins were funny, but Ron paid more attention to him and didn't treat him like he was a cute little baby. When Ron found out that Snape had been teaching him the rudiments of chess, he brought out his chess set (which had been a birthday gift from Harry a year ago) and they played beside the adults. Ron won, but he was impressed with the little six year old. He tried to engage Harry in a second game, but the little boy in Harry won out and he just wanted to see the pieces fight against each other.

By the time Molly, Ginny, and Hermione brought dinner out, Harry was beginning to slow down considerably. He ate a hearty dinner, but halfway through eating a half of a treacle tart, he fell asleep against his father. Snape tried to rouse him for their trip home, but the little one was deep in slumber. Lifting Harry up to his shoulder, he and Albus made their farewells and Apparated back to Hogwarts.

In the entrance hall, the Headmaster gave Harry's forehead a kiss and mumbled goodnight to his Potions Master. Snape then strode down to his dungeon quarters and tucked his son into bed. He watched Harry sleep for a little while and then took himself off to bed.

Father and son slept deeply and blissfully, both tired out from an enjoyable day.

Not all days were perfect with the little six year old. Harry was an exceedingly polite child, but he had a stubborn streak nearly as long as Snape's and sometimes, when he wanted something, he became a downright, conniving, smart-tempered snake.

It was a week before the start of the new term and Harry wasn't happy that his father was busy so much. Snape had potions to brew for the infirmary and sample potions to brew for his lower classes. He had ordered a new syllabus for his seventh years, and he had to read that over as well. He also had to review requests for students to take his NEWTs level class when they hadn't gotten an O on their OWLs.

Harry could only be good and patient for so long. His father had promised to take him exploring in the dungeons, but that excursion kept getting put off. One afternoon when he was supposed to be colouring in the sitting room, his father had been called away to a staff meeting. Snape hadn't wanted to leave Harry behind, but hoped that since he'd been so good so many times before, that it would be all right. As soon as his father left their dungeon home, a disgusted Harry threw down his crayons and promptly left.

At first, Harry felt rather confidant as he explored the dank, dark, depths of the castle dungeons. He found some interesting rooms and niches to explore and had even collected a few intriguing, and somewhat shiny, trinkets. Just as he was getting tired of walking he decided he ought to head back home. The problem was, he had no idea which way home was.

He pretended for a few minutes that he knew exactly where he was, but the dungeon wasn't cooperating and was only getting darker. Then he tried to go back the way he came, but it seemed like there were new tunnels where they hadn't been before. He didn't know that he should have just stayed put and called for the Bloody Baron. Truth was, the Baron kind of scared him, so he just didn't think of doing that. Instead, he kept walking, taking new tunnels, never realising that he had gone so far down in the dungeons that he'd inadvertently entered the dungeon labyrinth beneath the Black Lake. Harry only knew that he was starting to get very cold and it was rather smelly.

Shivering and with his arms tight about his chest, Harry was still walking, but now he was silently weeping. He desperately wanted to go home and he didn't even care if his daddy grounded him, gave him a time-out, or even spanked him. He was thoroughly miserable.

Far above Harry, in the Headmaster's office, Snape was near frantic with worry. He was pacing a mad hole in Dumbledore's carpet while the blasted old man spoke to the portraits for any clues on where Harry might be. It didn't help that Minerva kept glaring at him. Thankfully she'd stopped asking him what business he had in leaving a six year old child all by himself.

Remus Lupin, who had been at the staff meeting since he was teaching DADA for the new term, had come to Dumbledore's office to speak to him when he found one frantic parent, a darkly annoyed Deputy Headmistress, and the Headmaster.

Minerva quickly apprised Lupin of the situation since Snape seemed only prepared to bite his head off. Consequently, Snape really didn't listen when Lupin asked him a question.

"Did you say something to me, wolf?" snapped the distraught father.

"I asked you if you've tried Harry's Marauder's Map, yet?" Lupin repeated patiently.

"That bit of parchment that insulted me?" he glared heavily at the werewolf.

"That's the one."

"What good is that piece of paper, Lupin?" he crossed his arms stubbornly over his chest.

"The map shows you where everyone in the castle is. It also automatically updates itself when its owner, currently Harry, discovers new places." Lupin had a smug look on his face, obviously rather proud of the old Marauder artifact.

Snape dashed out of the office. He had seen that map but had not been able to discover its secrets so he had thrown the useless thing back into Harry's trunk.

There was very little of Harry's teenager past in the trunk. Snape had removed the Invisibility Cloak, he'd burned the oversize clothing, and his school robes waited for the day he'd be able to wear them again in his wardrobe. Harry's books were on his bedroom bookshelf and the journal he'd written in, Snape had tucked away with the Invisibility Cloak. The trunk was now a place for Harry to put his treasures. Snape knew Harry picked up little things that fascinated him but he had no idea how much of it was in the trunk. Just as he was getting frustrated sifting through the child's treasure, he found the Marauder's Map wedged into a bottom corner of the trunk. Yanking it out, he made the return trip to the Headmaster's office. Breathless, he shoved the map at Lupin.

"Well?" demanded Snape.

Taking out his wand, Lupin tapped the folded parchment and intoned, "I swear I am up to no good."

"Well, that answers a few questions," sneered Snape cryptically. Any further insult was quashed as Lupin laid out the map on Dumbledore's desk.

"There he is," pointed Remus with his wand.

"Amazing!" commented Albus as he watched the small marker for Harry traversing a twisty tunnel. "I was certain all the entrances to the underground labyrinth had been sealed."

"That information is no help, Albus," growled Snape. "He needs to stop wandering until we can get to him. Is there any way of sending him a message through this map, Lupin?"

"Can Harry read, yet, Severus?" asked Lupin.

"He's just learning now," replied Snape.

"I don't..." began Lupin.

"I think I know what might work," smiled Albus at the two men. He pointed his wand at the little moving marker and incanted a spell beneath his breath. "That should do it. Severus, Harry ought to be able to hear you and you should be able to hear him if you touch your wand to the map."

Snape did as instructed and called out, "Harry? Can you hear me?"

Down deep in the labyrinth, Harry sniffled and shouted in relief, "Daddy? Where are you? Are you coming to rescue me? I'm cold!"

"I'm in the Headmaster's office, son. I need you to stay put right where you are. We're coming to get you."

"I'm sorry, daddy," the little voice trembled and sniffled. "I only wanted to 'splore with you."

"Hush, Harry. It will be all right. Just stay there and we'll come for you."

Snape gathered up the map and with Lupin right behind him, they headed down into the depths of the castle to rescue Harry.

Following the map wasn't difficult and Snape had to grudgingly admit that as magical artifacts went, it was a very good piece of work. He wasn't about to compliment Lupin, though, and just concentrated on getting to his son.

Intermittently he spoke to Harry through the map to reassure him and let him know where they were.

Harry was overjoyed when he saw two bobbing wand lights cutting through the gloom and towards him. Tears running down his face, he threw himself into his father's arms mumbling apologies. Snape ignored the contrite words and knelt down and quickly examined the little boy. Other than a chill, he seemed all right. Thankful that his son was all right, he crushed him to his chest and then abruptly pulled him away and held him at arm's length.

"Don't ever disappear on me like that again, young man!" he scolded. "You're not ever to leave home unless you let me know where you're going. Is that understood?"

Harry's mouth drooped unhappily and he nodded miserably. "Are you gonna punish me. daddy?"

Snape's jaw dropped and then he pulled the boy close again. "Not today, Harry. I'm too relieved to see you."

Picking up his child, he and Lupin made their way back to the upper dungeons and then they parted company.

Snape put Harry down for a nap and then took the map into his sitting room. He studied it briefly, folded it up, and tucked it away. The map, along with the Invisibility Cloak, would go into safe-keeping for Harry... when he was grown up.

The new term started and Harry was overjoyed to see the empty castle filled with so many children. He was pleased to see Ron and Ginny Weasley, but he was sad to learn that the twins had finished school and wouldn't be there. Sitting at the staff table beside his father, Harry shyly watched the Sorting ceremony. He was a little unnerved by some of the hostile stares he received from some of the students sitting at Slytherin House table. Snape leaned over and whispered in his ear.

"They will not hurt you, my son. They know better."

"Daddy?" Snape stayed in his position to hear his son's question. "Why is that one boy staring so hard at me?" He pointed surreptitiously.

Sitting up, Snape's gaze narrowed sharply at Draco Malfoy. Draco's father, Lucius, had met his fate at the end of Mad-Eye Moody's wand. The boy was more subdued and rather lonely looking since Crabbe and Goyle had not returned. Seeing his Head of House's gaze, Draco nodded imperceptibly and put his attention on the meal in front of him.

Snape had caught an odd look in the blonde boy's silvery grey eyes and wondered what the teenager was up to. He knew that Draco and Harry had never gotten along and part of him worried that Malfoy would take advantage of Harry's vulnerability and hurt him.

The Headmaster snapped the Potions Master from these thoughts when he asked, "Have you decided what you'll do with Harry during the day, Severus?"

"I know some parents are willing to put their children under the watchful eyes of a house elf, but Harry's penchant for tr... adventure means that is out of the question. I have spoken to Molly Weasley who has agreed to take care of Harry at the Burrow during the day. In the late afternoon, Miss Granger has offered to tutor Harry in his reading and writing skills. The impertinent girl has been trying to talk me into sending my son to a Muggle primary school!"

Albus chuckled. Snape was already showing he was too possessive a father to relinquish his son to primary school when he can teach Harry the basics himself.

Near the end of the feast, the Headmaster made the last announcement of his long career at Hogwarts. He told everyone of his resignation and officially turned over the mantle of Headmaster to Minerva McGonagall. Albus had tried to offer the position of Deputy Headmaster to Snape, but he had declined feeling that teaching, his house duties, and Harry left him no time for dealing with the politics of Hogwarts. Filius Flitwick had accepted the position.

The new Headmistress announced the appointment of Remus J. Lupin as Head of House for Gryffindor and the new, expected long term instructor for Defense Against the Dark Arts. During the applause, Dumbledore, now officially retired, slipped quietly away in order to finish his packing and to prepare his move.

As the feast broke up and the students parted to their various houses, Draco Malfoy pushed against the crowd in order to catch Professor Snape before the wizard disappeared for the evening. He knew his Head of House would be addressing all of Slytherin later, but he wanted to talk to the man privately.

Seeing the boy searching for him, Snape was instantly by his side. He looked down at Draco, realising for the first time that in another year the teenager would be almost as tall as his father had been. He brushed away the thought of the boy's father and curtly ordered, "My office. Twenty minutes."

"I don't wanna go to bed!" Harry had backed himself into a corner in the sitting room and had his arms crossed stubbornly over his still thin chest.

"Harry, you've had a long day..."

"I don't... wanna... go... to... bed!"

Snape was late for his meeting with Draco and with exasperation, he yanked Harry up off the floor, carried him into his bedroom, and shouted, "Get in bed! Now!"

Scared, Harry scrambled under the covers, practically burying himself away from his father's angry voice.

"Don't you dare move, young man, or you'll really be in trouble. Understand?"

"Y-y-y-es," came the stuttered reply.

Snape whirled out of Harry's bedroom, shut the door and then cast a spell that would let him know if the little boy tried to leave. He then made his way to his office to meet with Draco. He never heard the little sniffle that came from under his son's blankets.

Snape regarded the young boy... no, young man that patiently waited for him in his office. He was interested to note that the arrogance that had been so a part of the boy's demeanor the last four years was missing. He couldn't say whether it was a good thing or a bad to see the humility that hovered like a timid ghost over Draco's frame.

"You're curious about my son," Snape stated as he sat down behind his desk.

Draco studied his professor for a moment, and then sighed, openly giving up any pretence. "I almost didn't believe the article about Potter in the news, but then I saw you with him in Diagon Alley several weeks ago."

Snape had been shrinking his robes for Harry to wear, but the boy really needed his own clothing. That meant a trip to Madame Malkin's at Diagon Alley. Knowing Harry would need a complete wardrobe, and probably had a few opinions on what he'd wear, Snape had arranged a block of time to meet with Amalie Malkin herself.

Harry was distracted as usual by the amazing marketplace, but at a curt word, he fell into step next to his father and was soon inside the clothing shop. Amalie Malkin descended upon her customers and Harry felt enveloped and smothered by the lavender scent that fell from the older woman. It didn't get any better from there. He was measured, clucked over, and had dozens of fabrics held up to him. Questions were asked of him, but he was quickly feeling exhausted and cranky. Right near the end, he clammed up and refused to meet either adults eyes. He was very glad to be ushered out into the clean, crisp air two hours later which did much to revive him and erase the crankiness.

A stop at Fortescue's was a small reward at the end of the afternoon for the little boy. Draco was certain he wasn't seen at the nearby cafe and so he watched with interest as the little, black-haired boy bounced in his chair as he ate his ice cream with perfect abandon. As he consumed the cold confection, Harry rattled on about a variety of insignificant subjects. All the while the Potions Master listened quietly and with extreme patience. Although to anyone who didn't know him might think the older man was bored with the child he was watching, Draco was able to see a strange contentment in the dour face of Snape. As Snape took a damp cloth to Harry's ice cream messed up face, Draco felt a deep pang at what he had missed from his father.

Draco knew his father had loved him, but Lucius had not been a very demonstrative man. He had yearned for such attention and affection all his life. Now, his father was dead along with his crazy Aunt Bella and so many other Death Eaters. He understood what Potter did, but knew he'd never have such nerve to do the same.

Draco shifted in his seat and then carefully composed his fluttering nerves at Snape's wary distrust of him. Draco had always respected the Potions Master and a small part of him was jealous of the de-aged Potter. It wasn't his to covet, though, and so he'd decided to earn something else just as important; the man's respect.

"I'd like to offer my services for this year and until my seventh year, sir. I know you're going to be very busy during the term and it isn't always going to be possible to keep a proper eye on your son. I know that there are those, here in the school, who would try their best to cause Po...Harry mischief and maybe even harm him. If I can help watch over him when you're too busy, I'd like to."

Snape had not expected such an offer and one that sounded more sincere than all of Lucius Malfoy's charm-laden, political machinations. He was well aware that there were Death Eater children who'd want to take revenge upon his son and he hated to admit that he couldn't be protecting his son every hour of every day.

In their magic, both Harry and Draco had been evenly matched. Their dueling skills were beyond that of any seventh year, and their knowledge of spells was also impressive. Snape almost regretted the fact that Draco's superior arrogance had prevented a solid friendship developing between the two boys. Instead, they had become rivals constantly trying to best each other.

He would not show it, but it astonished him to see the Prince of Slytherin offering to become Harry's protector. He let a small glimmer of pride touch his obsidian gaze and Draco's cheeks blushed temporarily.

"Would I be able to call upon you at any hour of the day or night, Mr. Malfoy?" Snape inquired gravely.

"Certainly, sir. I expected you might already have something in place to watch over Harry while you're teaching." His tone hinted gently at a question. Snape merely nodded an affirmation. For a brief moment, Draco's reserve failed him, and the insecure boy who'd lost his father in an unjust war appeared. "Will Harry like me?"

Snape sighed. He knew of Draco's struggle to be the perfect son for Lucius. He had seen too many times when Draco tried to impress his father with some accomplishment, and more grown-up matters took precedence instead. Had Lucius Malfoy not been seeking power through the misguided leadership of the Dark Lord, he might have been a good man, and a good father. Like many of the Death Eaters, who were simply men and women that wanted more for their families, he had become trapped in the lure of Dark Magic and its elusive promises. They became slaves when they should have been proud, responsible, individuals.

Draco was the best of his father and with the Dark Lord gone for good, the world held much to offer him. In that moment, Snape made a silent vow to Lucius to make certain that Draco did achieve all that was best for him.

"Harry does not remember anything but his first six years. He understands that he was de-aged and that he has to grow up again, but I've done what I could to keep knowledge of his past here at Hogwarts from him. At this age, it would be upsetting for him." Snape gave the boy a steady stare and then stood up and came round the desk.

"I am pleased to accept your offer, Mr. Malfoy. I think you should make yourself available for dinner tomorrow when you can meet my son. Seven o'clock. Don't be late."

"Yes, sir! Thank you, Professor!" Draco was further delighted when his professor extended his hand. He hesitated, but only for a second, as he understood that Snape was, for the moment, looking upon him as an equal. With all the formality borne of a Malfoy, he gravely and firmly took the offered hand and shook. He did not smile with pleasure until he was halfway to the Slytherin common room.

Snape was helping Harry into his formal robes as they prepared to meet for dinner with Draco Malfoy. Harry was doing his best to be cooperative. Although he had fallen asleep the night before after his father had yelled at him, he had not forgotten that scary voice and temper. All day he had been as perfect and as good as possible. He didn't ever want to hear his father yelling at him again.

"You recall the discussion we had a few weeks ago about the Dark Lord, the Death Eaters, and how, even though the Dark Lord is now gone forever, the danger is still present?"

Harry nodded and squirmed as the collar of his new robe was a bit tight. Harry did recall the conversation. It had triggered an awful nightmare of some snakey man with red eyes running after him.

"Draco is one of the best students at school and he has offered to take care of you when I am called away for meetings or have other school business to attend to."

"Is that going to happen a lot, daddy? School bizness?"

He lifted Harry off the short coffee table the boy had been standing on, and planted his feet firmly on the floor in the sitting room.

"It's possible, Harry. School makes for a very busy time. Of course, you're also going to be a busy young man when you stay with Mrs. Weasley and help her take care of her house."

"And don't forget tooting with He'mione, daddy!" Harry piped up. He was looking forward to lessons with Hermione. Her curly wild hair fascinated him and she talked about a lot of things with Harry as though he were as smart as she was.

"Tutoring," Snape corrected.

"Will Draco play with me?"

For a brief moment Snape wondered if he weren't cheating Harry by not living someplace where the boy would meet other children his age. He recalled something Miss Granger had mentioned about a 'park' and made a mental note to ask her again about it.

"I'm sure he will, son. Now, do we look perfect for our guest?" Snape stood tall and straight as his son eyed him critically.

"You look great, daddy. What's for dinner?"

There came a knock on the portrait door and Harry's face brightened. He turned and silently asked if he could answer it. With a nod, Harry happily ran to the portrait door and opened it.

Harry looked up at the tall, slim young man that wore formal robes in soft shades of grey. Draco couldn't help but smile at the open, friendly face that greeted him. Even so, as manners dictated, he bowed slightly at his young host.

The bow from the older boy reminded Harry of the manners his father had been teaching him recently. Doing his best to govern his enthusiasm, he bowed, a little awkwardly, and welcomed their guest. As soon as he politely ushered in Draco and his father formally greeted his student, Harry lost all formality, grabbed Draco by the hand, and pulled him over to his little art center that Snape had set up a few weeks ago. He had an easel, paints, crayons, brushes and pencils. On the easel was a rather decent portrait of Hagrid, the half-giant.

"Did you know he's a half-giant? That means he's bigger than everyone. He makes these yucky rock cakes that I think have real rocks in them and Fang, that's his dog, slobbers on everything. I have to take a bath every time I visit because daddy says the slobber is smelly."

"Do you ever take a breath?" Draco asked with a smirk at the little boy who held his hand tightly.

Harry liked Draco's smirk. It was a lot like his father's. He grinned cheekily. "No."

"Harry? Remember what I told you," Snape reminded softly.

"Oh! Uhm, Dr... Mr. Malfoy, come sit down." He pulled Draco over to the sofa and chairs in front of the fireplace. "Do you want some pumpkin juice or butterbeer? Daddy lets me pour pumpkin juice into glasses. I like it better than butterbeer. What do you want?"

Harry didn't wait for an answer and ran to the kitchen. Snape seated himself in his favorite chair and commented, "He isn't a hyperactive child, I can promise you, Mr. Malfoy. He's just been waiting for this visit all day."

"That's okay, Professor. I don't think in four years that Harry's spoken that much to me. He seems... happy."

"Harry!" Snape's attention was caught by his son in the kitchen with a tall and very full glass of pumpkin juice. "Both hands on that glass and don't you dare run."

"Yes, daddy... I mean, sir." Carefully Harry held the very full glass at arms length and walked it into the sitting room. As he handed it to Draco, he was very pleased that he hadn't spilled a single drop.

The moment of perfection was ruined as Harry jumped up beside Draco on the sofa and bumped the boy's arm. The pumpkin juice sloshed and spilled on Draco's beautiful dress robes and the floor. Mortified, and also afraid that his father was going to yell, Harry raced like a shot to his bedroom and slammed the door shut.

With a very slight apologetic sigh Snape Scourgified the spill on the carpet and Draco did the same spell on his robes.

"He's been very nervous about his manners of late," began Snape. "I should go speak to him."

"Professor? Could I go talk to Harry?" For some reason, Draco could remember his own nervousness when his parents had paraded him out in front of their adult friends. Not that he would be punished for making any blunders, but it was important to him that his own perfect behavior reflected well on the parents he cared about so much. He was certain that Harry was probably feeling the same way.

Snape considered a moment and then nodded. "If you need me..."

Draco rose to his feet. "I'll let you know, sir."

Draco headed over to the closed door and knocked gently. "Harry? It's me, Draco. May I come in and talk?"

There was no answer, but a minute or two later, the door opened a crack and one green eye looked up at him for a moment before disappearing. Draco pushed the door open and allowed himself to be distracted by the decor of the little boy's room.

It was a large room, with an ornate four-poster bed draped with purple velvet drapes edged with gold embroidery, that dominated the bedroom. Next to the bed was a matching, tall wardrobe, and then a wide, enchanted window that looked over the Mer City beneath the deep waters of the Black Lake. The carpet was a thick, warm gold with a decorative purple and lavender Celtic knot design around the edge.

The walls were decorated with remarkable watercolor or crayon or pencil portraits of Snape, McGonagall, Dumbledore, and Flitwick all surrounded by sketches of owls, and various fauna Hagrid took care of including several drawings of a slobbering Fang.

Draco allowed himself to be drawn in by the most detailed portrait which was of Snape bent over a cauldron measuring out ingredients in the midst of his lab. His robes, instead of being one big block of black had folds and shading of deep purple, dark blue, and even delicate highlights. What really amazed Draco about the artistry of the portrait wasn't that Harry had done a brilliant job of portraying the Potions Master (which he had), but he had caught the wizard's passion for the art of potion making.

"You're very good, Harry." Draco never thought he'd be complimenting Harry Potter over anything, but his praise of the little boy's artwork was genuine. He wondered if the teenager he'd known had been an artist.

"Thank you," came Harry's soft reply. "I'm sorry for messing up your robe."

Draco turned and smiled at the little boy that was somewhat dwarfed by his large bed. "That's okay, Harry. I know a cleaning spell so it's all fine. Plus, the house elfs here are really good at getting pumpkin juice stains out of clothes."

A very tiny smile quirked at the corners of Harry's mouth. "Daddy's really mad at me, isn't he? He's been trying real hard to teach me manners and I keep forgetting."

"Nooo, he's really not mad at all, Harry. He's more worried about you. I think he knows you were trying to make a good impression." Draco sat down beside the little boy.

"Did I? Did I make a good m'pression?"

Draco chuckled. "Yeah. You did, Harry. Are you hungry for dinner?" Harry nodded and slipped off the bed. As an afterthought, he took Draco's hand. The two boys left Harry's bedroom.

The small dining table by the kitchen was laden down with roast, potatoes, vegetables, and warm breadsticks. A glass of red wine was by Draco's and Snape's settings and Snape was currently pouring pumpkin juice into a glass for Harry.

"Harry. Are you all right now?" asked Snape.

"I'm sorry for making a mess, daddy." Harry's voice was whispery and forlorn. "Are you mad?"

Snape knelt down in front of his son and grasped him gently by his upper arms. "You've done very well, Harry. The spill didn't matter since it was easily cleaned up." He brushed a strand of hair that had fallen over Harry's right eye away. To Draco's gobsmacked surprise, Snape kissed Harry's cheek and drew the little boy into a brief hug.

The rest of the dinner was relaxed and mostly dominated by Harry talking to Draco. After dinner they sat down in front of the fire and Harry plopped himself next to Draco. Snape and Draco talked about Potions class, some of the other classes, and deftly avoided talking about the Dark Lord and Lucius Malfoy.

By the time Harry was starting to nod off, Draco made his farewells and thanked his professor for dinner. At the portrait door, Snape stopped his student briefly.

"Mr. Malfoy, I have a short staff meeting before breakfast tomorrow at 6:30 in the morning. Would you come by then, see to Harry getting up and dressed and escort him to breakfast?"

Draco nodded. "I'll be here, professor. Goodnight."

The next morning Harry woke up feeling a little disoriented as he opened his bleary eyes not to see his father's face, but Draco's. Draco slipped the child's glasses on his face and Harry yawned.

"Morning, Harry. Your dad's in a staff meeting so I'm taking you to breakfast today."

"Great! Do I get to sit with the big kids, Draco?"

"Sure. Now, you go get washed up and I'll get some clothes out for you."

Harry trotted into his bathroom and shouted through the closed door, "I'm going to the Burrow today so I don't need any robes!"

Draco went to the wardrobe and picked out a pair of trousers, a t-shirt, and a knit jumper. He also picked out some underwear and socks and lastly grabbed a pair of trainers. A few minutes later Harry raced out of his bathroom completely naked.

"Augh!" cried Draco. "Where's your bathrobe, Harry?"

"On the bathrobe hook in the bathroom where I always put it." Harry's tone sounded as though Draco should have known better.

"Well, from now on, if I'm here, wear it. I don't particular want to see you parade around in your starkers, all right?"

"What's starkers?"

"Naked." Draco helped Harry with his undershirt.

"Are you my babysitter?" Harry asked with a moue of disgust.

Draco scoffed sharply. "Heck no! Girls are babysitters! I'm your bodyguard." He grinned smugly. "There's no better student than me in school so the professor trusts me with you."

Harry smiled. "Neat! I like having a bodyguard better. I keep telling daddy I'm not a baby."

"Well, you're obviously right, Harry. Babies can't walk and they wear nappies. They can't really talk either." Harry had buttoned his shirt askew so Draco fixed it with a wave of his wand. "You don't have to wear the jumper, yet, but take it with you."

Draco watched as Harry then wrestled with tying the laces on his trainers. He thought to offer to help, but the little boy was concentrating so firmly, he didn't want to interrupt. A few minutes later, Harry grinned down at the laces, feeling as though he had conquered them very well.

When Harry and Draco walked into the Great Hall Harry, talking animatedly about a visit during the summer to see the giant squid, was oblivious as their arrival caused a stir amongst the Gryffindors.

"What's that poncy git doing with Harry?" Ron bit out sharply.

Hermione watched the two and just shrugged. "Does it really matter?"

"Of course it does!" he snapped. "What if Malfoy turns Harry into a Slytherin?"

Hermione scowled. "That's ridiculous, Ron. It honestly doesn't matter what House Harry winds up in, he'll still be Harry."

"No he won't, Hermione," asserted Ginny. "He's not even Harry now."

Hermione stared in disbelief at the brother and sister. "What is with the two of you? I thought you both liked him when he came and visited during the summer. Ginny, you thought he was cute and couldn't stop gushing over him. Ron, you played chess with him."

Ron merely sneered at Hermione and then glared once more at Draco and Harry. "He's going to turn into a git!"

Draco was aware of Harry's old friends watching him interact with the young Harry and was fascinated to discover that he could care less what they might be saying or thinking. As he half listened to Harry prattle on, he scanned the table of Slytherins looking for possible troublemakers.

Pansy Parkinson was scowling darkly at Harry. Draco already knew she was going to be trouble. Not only had she lost both parents at the battle of Riddle Cemetery, but she despised Harry. Sitting with her was Theodore Nott and seventh year Janus Bole. Those three were definite trouble. Luckily, none of them had any skills in subtlety and it wouldn't be difficult in keeping an eye on them.

There were a couple more Slytherins that he was uncertain about that would bear watching and careful interrogation of.

Lastly, he scanned the table for allies, those students who had been brave enough to follow their own beliefs and not those of their parents. Millicent Bulstrode was at the top of his list. She might be a big girl, but being muscular didn't mean a person lacked intelligence. Milli was not only a great athlete, but she was academically superior as well. She knew the art of subtlety and subterfuge and kept her beliefs carefully to herself. She was going out with Blaise Zabini who would also make a good ally.

Draco was distracted from his thoughts as Harry tugged on the sleeve of his robe. "Daddy's meeting is over. Can I go sit with him, Draco?"

Draco glanced up at Snape seating himself at the staff table and then back to Harry. The child had almost finished breakfast. He frowned, "Did you eat just all the sweet stuff, Harry?"

"Uhm... no?"

"Right, Harry. Don't even try lying. You're terrible at it. Eat a piece of ham and some fruit and then you can bug your dad."

"Okay!" Harry started to pick up a large slice of melon with his hand when Draco caught him by the wrist and placed a fork in his hand. Harry glared, but obediently ate his fruit with the fork.

A few minutes later Draco let Harry run up to the staff table where he hugged his father and was pulled up into the older man's lap as he finished his morning coffee. Harry chattered happily about his morning to Minerva. He knew that his father had to have at least two cups of coffee in the morning before he was good for any sort of conversation. It was enough that Snape had an arm wrapped securely around his waist and was idly bouncing the little boy on his knee.

Breakfast was soon over and that meant Harry would soon be at the Burrow. He hated that he'd be leaving his father behind, but it helped knowing that Snape would be picking him up at five o'clock.

Even though he understood this, he couldn't help the tears that escaped down his cheeks as he watched his father disappear in the green flames of the Floo at the Burrow. Molly didn't let Harry remain sad for long as she took him outside where they worked together on the garden.

As they worked on the garden, Molly taught Harry about the various magical plants she had growing there. Once finished Molly went to prepare lunch while Harry raced around after gnomes and threw them out of the garden. Through her kitchen window, Molly smiled as she watched the little boy happily running around the garden laughing and whooping with joy after the gnomes.

At one o'clock Harry pitched a minor tantrum over having to take a nap, but when Molly agreed to let him colour with his crayons in a Forever Colouring Book on the living room floor, she found him fast asleep a few minutes later. Levitating him to the old, worn couch, she covered him with an afghan and indulged herself in the latest issue of Witch Weekly.

In the afternoon, Harry was ecstatic to discover that he was going to be able to play with some magical learning toys. He wasn't great, but he was happy to learn he truly did have some magic. Molly assured him that as he grew older his magic would mature along with him.

At a half hour before five, Harry planted himself in front of the Floo and waited impatiently for his father to show up. As soon as the clock struck five, Snape stepped through the whooshing green flames, Harry launched himself at the man, almost knocking him back into the lethal orange flames.

"Could you possibly be happy to see me, young man?" asked Snape with a smirk.

"Yes!" Harry kissed Snape's cheek as he wrapped his arms around his father's neck. "We gardened today and I planted Livid Drops, Snow Potatoes, and Pepper Root! I tol' Molly that you use Pepper Root in Sneeze Stop Potion. She said she knew that, but maybe she didn't... and then I threw gnomes out of the garden... and coloured... and..."

Snape smushed Harry's face against his shoulder for a second, then pulled him back, looked sternly at him and ordered, "Take a breath, boy."

"Okay." Exaggeratedly he took a breath and was surprised by a yawn.

"Is it possible you need a nap, my boy?" asked Snape.

"No! I had one, didn't I Molly?"

Molly smiled. "He did. But, he did have a very busy day."

"So he behaved, did he, Molly?" asked Snape seriously.

"He was a very good boy, Severus." Molly leaned over and kissed Harry's forehead.

"We'll see you tomorrow then." Glancing down at the little boy, he wasn't surprised to see that he was sleeping against his shoulder.

Once back at home, Snape put his little boy to bed and went to settle himself from his day with herbal tea and some reading. Before he knew it, he had fallen asleep in his chair.

At six o'clock a chime announced the arrival of Hermione Granger. Snape started awake and was caught off guard to find Harry curled up on his lap. He shook his son awake and told him to go get dressed since it was time for his tutoring. As Harry ran off to his room, Snape waved open the portrait door and welcomed the curly-haired Gryffindor.

"Miss Granger, my apologies but both Harry and I are running a bit late," he said resisting the urge to stretch from his sleep.

"That's fine, Professor Snape. Where would you like me to set up?"

"The dining table is fine. I'll be in my office beginning my interviews with my first years." He drew a small bell from his robes pocket. "If you need me, just ring that. I can hear it, but my students can't."

Harry emerged from his bedroom dressed. He smiled shyly at Hermione. "Hi, Harry!" she greeted.

"Hi, He'mione."

"Harry, how did I say you should address Miss Granger as she is here tutoring you?"

"Professor Granger?" Snape nodded and Harry smiled.

"Good luck, Miss Granger. Harry, be a good student." Snape then swept out of his quarters and disappeared down the corridor to his office.

Harry clambered up onto a chair next to Hermione, eager to be a student. "What are you going to teach me, Professor Granger?"

"I'm going to teach you how to use and take care of your quills and then you'll practice your letters."

Hermione found that Harry was an attentive student filled with questions. At one point she felt a small pang in her heart as she recalled all the times she practically nagged Harry and Ron to do their homework and revisions. Harry, bent on learning spells to defeat Voldemort, didn't appreciate most of his classes and, like Ron, sometimes made Hermione want to tear her hair out. She also helped Neville, but he, unlike Harry and Ron, had always wanted to learn and improve.

Young Harry, the son of Professor Snape, was a pleasure to teach and by the time their hour was up, she was pleasantly surprised by how far they'd gotten. Harry had grasped the mechanics of quill usage quickly and had made it through half the alphabet. He needed more practice on his letters, but Hermione was very pleased that her little student concentrated so well upon his work that he had very few ink splotches on his practice pages.

Snape returned just as Harry was helping Hermione pack her bag. He gave her a questioning look. She smiled. "Harry's a quick learner, Professor. He got as far as L in his letters with almost no ink splotches."

Harry beamed and rocked back on his heels. "Very good. You'll practice at least another hour before bedtime, then."

"Okay. What's tomorrow, Professor Granger?" asked Harry.

"Reading. Be sure to pick out a book that we'll go through together, all right?" she instructed. Harry nodded. "G'night then, Harry. G'night, Professor."

"Night, He'mione!" beamed Harry.

"Miss Granger, thank you." Snape opened the portrait door for Hermione and then closed it behind her. He then turned to his son. "Go and wash your hands, Harry. We're eating dinner in the Great Hall tonight."

"Yippiee!" Harry ran to his room and into his bathroom and quickly washed his hands and dried them off. Running back out to the sitting room he called out to his father.

"Yes, Harry?" He took his son's fingers into his hand as they left and stepped out into the corridor.

"I really like being a student. I think I might be smart."

"I have no doubt you are, child." He ruffled Harry's hair and smiled, just a tiny bit, with pride.

Severus Snape paced both angrily and uneasily in his office. He shouldn't be there, but he was so very angry with his son that he was afraid that the spirit of his abusive father might appear within him and hurt Harry. What was worse, Harry had done something so very stupid and so terribly dangerous that Snape could not be a good father if he did not punish the child. He really hadn't punished Harry before, beyond raising his voice, since he'd been so very good, but now he had no choice and he had absolutely no idea what to do!

Finally he decided that he must speak to Albus. He made a quick Floo call to Dumbledore's retirement home in Wales, and stepped through to talk to the old man. Albus listened as the Potions Master paced back and forth as he related what had happened.

It was a Saturday morning and Snape was busy aiding Minerva and Filius in taking care of requisition paperwork for Hogwarts. Regrettably it interfered with plans Snape had made with Harry to visit Hogsmeade for the day. Harry had predictably pouted through breakfast, but the child seemed to recover his spirits and politely said goodbye to his father just as Draco arrived to take care of him for the day.

Draco decided that Harry needed some fresh air so they had gone to go watch the Gryffindors and Ravenclaws play a practice match. Unfortunately, Draco had become too drawn into the game and in analysing his opponents when halfway through the game he realised that Harry was nowhere to be seen. His heart plummeted to his toes as he imagined Snape cursing him in the worst way. He was just about to desert the stands when he caught sight of a new flyer intruding upon the game.

It was Harry Potter.

Draco's heart couldn't plummet any further, but it was ready to completely stop. Draco shouted at the little boy who flew high above the pitch with total abandon. The Gryffindor team tried to keep up with Harry in hopes of protecting him.

The worst didn't happen, though. Some good sense crawled into the six year old's brain and he sailed on down to the ground where he was met by a very distraught and angry Draco.

"What do I do, Albus?" asked an anguished father as he paced in Dumbledore's bright living room. "I can't even begin to think where he came up with such a bloody stupid idea... and I'm mad at Draco, too, but I know I really can't blame him. He's just as angry as I am. Dammit!" The man snapped and dropped into a far too cushiony chair.

"Are you that afraid of losing Harry that you're afraid to punish him, Severus?"

"Afraid?" Snape looked away, not daring to let the old man's gaze settle on his. Yes. He was afraid of losing Harry. He was also afraid of becoming his father who had never been able to control his temper when it came to dealing with his son.

"What do you feel would be appropriate, Severus? Step outside yourself and become an observer. What punishment would impress upon the child that he mustn't repeat such a dangerous stunt ever again?"

Viewing the problem in that manner was simple and Snape answered readily. "A spanking and a lecture."

"That sounds quite reasonable to me, my boy. Just remind yourself to never hit in anger and neither to overdo it. A few swats is enough to bring repentant tears and to impress upon the child's mind the seriousness of his actions."

"He won't hate me?" Snape asked softly.

Albus smiled and rose carefully from his chair. He leaned upon an ivory cane and placed his hand upon the younger wizard's shoulder. "You need not worry, ever, about becoming Tobias Snape, my boy. Your love for Harry runs strong and deep. He will understand that you're only doing what is necessary to keep him safe."

Snape rose to his feet and looked down upon his old mentor for the first time ever. Dumbledore's once straight spine was now bent. His skin was like fine, parchment. Yet, within his blue eyes there was the youth he'd once been. Putting a supporting arm at the old wizard's back, he helped Dumbledore back to his chair. He spread out a small quilt over the man's lap.

"Would you like a visit from Harry tomorrow, Albus?" asked Snape. It was his way of showing his gratitude.

Albus smiled and those blue eyes twinkled brightly. "I would very much enjoy a visit, Severus. Come by for afternoon tea."

"We'll be here."

It was only five swats, but it was enough to cause a flood storm of sobbing. Harry muttered a few times, but his face was pressed against his father's shoulder as he held onto the older man. Snape's arms were around his son, holding him in his lap as he patted the child's back and whispered soothing nonsense words in his ear.

After what felt like an eternity, but was only a few minutes, Harry's tears began to abate and he slid out of the tight embrace to nestle against his father's side. Snape's arm draped protectively over his son.

"I'm s-s-s-sorry, daddy," stuttered Harry.

Snape cast a cleansing spell on his robes and then conjured a handkerchief for Harry. "Blow your nose or you'll be congested tonight, child." Harry obediently did so and gave the now dirty handkerchief back to his father. Snape vanished it and then put a finger to the little boy's chin and tipped his head gently.

"I want you to apologise to Draco later today, child. You terrified him disappearing like that."

"I will."

"I want you to understand, Harry, that Draco was responsible for you. How do you think he would have felt if you'd gotten hurt, or worse, killed?"

"Really bad?" Harry replied softly.

"Draco would have been devastated and he'd feel terribly guilty. How awful do you think I'd feel if I'd lost you to such a foolish stunt?"

Harry sniffled and swiped at the fresh tears. "I won't ever do it again," he gasped and then gulped.

"I should hope not. You were very, very lucky. As it is, you are not going to get to watch the next Quidditch game and I certainly won't be taking you flying until after the holidays." Harry's jaw dropped in horror. He loved Quidditch! "Furthermore, young man, Ronald Weasley has a detention with me on Monday scrubbing cauldrons. I think you should assist him."

"That's not fair," grumbled Harry, crossing his arms over his chest.

Snape frowned down at the small show of defiance. "Punishment is not supposed to be fair, my boy. Now, you missed your nap this afternoon, so even if you don't feel tired, I want you to go to your room and climb into bed."

"Yes, sir." Harry slid off the sofa and made his way to his bedroom door. His hand on the doorknob, he paused and asked, "Daddy? Do you still love me?"

"I'll never stop loving you, Harry."

Harry allowed himself a small smile before disappearing into his room. Fifteen minutes later, just as he was about to drop off to sleep, he was happy to see his father come into his room and tuck him in. Snape then leaned over and kissed Harry's brow.

"Sleep well, child."

Harry Potter loved the castle of Hogwarts. He couldn't think of a more fascinating place to grow up. The only problem was that he was often so busy with Molly during the day, learning to read and write in the early evening with Hermione, and spending time with his father, he didn't get to spend the time he wanted exploring the castle.

Draco was very good about taking him exploring, but his time with his bodyguard was usually erratic and not always long enough for a good exploration.

On his very first ever detention (Draco was certain Harry had broken some sort of record for being the youngest person to ever get a detention) Harry was actually looking forward to cleaning cauldrons with Ron. Harry was very sure that Ron had done some exploring of Hogwarts and he was going to ask him for some stories.

Unfortunately, what he didn't know was that he and Ron had once been very fast and close best friends. Just when Ron had gotten used to the idea of Harry being a little kid again, he saw Harry with the worst gitty Slytherin next to Snape; Malfoy. What's more, little Harry practically appeared to worship Draco and this jealousy had wormed its way like rot into Ron's heart.

When Ron arrived right after his last class of the day for detention with Snape, he was not at all pleased to see Harry sitting, of all places, at the desk he, Hermione and Harry used to share. Ron immediately sat as far away from the little boy as possible.

Harry had intended to greet Ron politely as he recalled the wonderful day he'd spent at the Burrow and the chess game he and Ron had played. He liked Ron. Unfortunately, the scowling look sent his way by the redhead almost felt like a physical rebuff. Just in case his perception might be wrong, he smiled tentatively at Ron.

"What are you doing here, you prat?" snarled Ron.

"I got detention for flying," replied Harry cautiously.

Ron snorted, "Great so I'm babysitting you?"

Before Harry could reply Snape emerged from the supply closet. "On the contrary, Mr. Weasley, Mr. Potter will be your assistant as you scrub cauldrons. You know how this goes, so begin. Take Mr. Potter in hand and show him what needs to be done."

Now, Ron really wasn't a bad person, but sometimes he just didn't think things through and that, more than anything else, is what caused him the most trouble. He was just about to make his life a hundred times more unpleasant as he showed Harry how to scrub the cauldrons and purposely neglected to tell the child to wear the pair of dragon hide gloves next to the sink. There were caustic substances in many of the cauldrons and no one, not even Snape, was dumb enough to clean a cauldron without a good pair of dragon hide gloves.

Harry did wonder why Ron put on a pair of gloves, but he didn't ask. Although he had figured out that Ron was annoyed with him, he had no reason to think the older boy would be mad enough at him to hurt him. He began scrubbing cauldrons and at first he ignored the weird tingling on the skin of his hands.

Ron's conscience, trying to do its best to get Ron to fix things before it was really too late nearly kept his tongue quiet a minute too long. One second before Harry was about to stick his unprotected hand with the scrubber into a cauldron that had some yellowish and greenish gloppy substance in it, Ron's conscience won and he snatched the cauldron out of the boy's hands.

Ron knew he didn't completely escape trouble, though, because some of that icky glop had been smeared on the outside of the cauldron. Before Harry could even start to cry out, Ron shouted for the Potions Master, grasped Harry's little hands, and shoved them under now cold water.

Despite the cold water, the tingling escalated into an itchy, painfully sharp burning that hurt a LOT! Harry cried out and tried to wrestle his hands from the older boy's grip, but Ron's fingers were wrapped tightly around his wrists as his hands were being doused by the cold water. His arms were just short, little six-year old arms, so the edge of the sink was digging painfully into his ribs.

"DADDY!" screeched Harry, and Ron knew that scream to be his death knell.

The little kid within Ron advised him to run and get the hell out of there, but Ron didn't listen to that little kid anymore. He knew enough to keep Harry's hands under the cold water before the pain turned into something very ugly and scarring.

Snape, heart in his throat at hearing his son's scream, dashed back into the classroom and to the sinks at the rear of the room. His eyes had only a moment to assess the problem and he had his wand out and cast a spell over Harry's hands to stop the physical damage before it got started. A second's glance into the older boy's eyes told him precisely that the Weasley boy had neglected to instruct Harry to wear his dragon hide gloves on purpose.

The damage was averted, but the pain was still there and Harry was crying profusely now. Snape picked his son up and levelled what his Slytherins called his 'Death Eater glare' upon Ron. "Get to the Headmistress' office and wait for me there, Mr. Weasley. This does not bode well for you."

Snape swept out of the Potions classroom like some great black bird protecting its young. As Ron trudged up to the office of the Headmistress, he fully expected that black bird with his great beak to eviscerate him. In other words, he was dead.

Ron waited and waited and waited some more until the Floo in Headmistress McGonagall's office flared to life, depositing the dark figure of Snape onto the hearth. Snape automatically cleaned away the soot, glanced at the rigid Headmistress and then pierced the redhead with a deadly look.

Ron should have died, but thankfully looks that could kill was a magic Snape did not possess. Even so, Ron gulped audibly and his voice squeaked, "How's Harry?"

Snape bent over and leaned in so close to Ron that his nose was almost touching Ron's own freckled nose. "Perhaps you'd like to first explain your abominable actions towards my son, Mr. Weasley? At the moment, I don't believe you care one whit about his welfare, so prove it."

Snape rose to his full height and glared dangerously down at the quivering teenager. "Severus, I do believe you're not allowed to kill any of the children for their wretched behavior anymore. The new minister, Arthur Weasley, tends to frown upon such medieval actions."

"Pity," sighed Snape in mock disappointment and without removing his glittering black eyes from Ron's, he continued his questions, "An explanation, Mr. Weasley. Why did you neglect to warn a six year old child about what was needed to handle filthy cauldrons coated with dangerous substances?"

"I...!" Ron bit down, literally, on his tongue to stop the lie that was about to shoot out of his mouth. Knowing that despite the Headmistress' warning, he was a dead man, he figured the embarrassment the truth would cause was a minor thing. So, with some reluctance, he explained.

"Ah," Snape began tersely as he swept like a predator back and forth in front of the Gryffindor. "Since Harry has shown affection towards Draco Malfoy, one of my Slytherins, you thought to punish him for disloyalty towards you and Gryffindor House."

Ron knew he hadn't quite said things that way, but it was, more or less, what he'd done. "I suppose I'm expelled now," he rasped, half looking at McGonagall and half looking at Snape.

"Severus?" questioned Minerva. He stopped his pacing to give her his attention. "I leave Mr. Weasley's punishment up to you." She rose to her feet and stepped away from her desk. "I trust you to do the right thing." The stately woman then left her office for the inner sanctum of her private quarters above her office.

Ron's heart tightened in his chest as McGonagall left. Now he knew for sure he was dead and Snape could very easily dispose of his body and no one would be the wiser.

"Much as I would like to do what you're thinking, Mr. Weasley, your death would hardly teach you anything, and before you sigh with relief, you will be getting a detention, a week's worth. That and I will be sending a letter home to your parents explaining everything, so I'm certain your mother's eventual Howler will make a most indelible impression upon your mind."

Ron sagged. Molly's Howlers were worse than death.

Snape then sat down across from the redhead and to Ron's surprise, the anger was gone from the depthless black eyes. If he wasn't mistaken, there seemed to be a tiny glimmer of concern. He blinked rapidly. That couldn't be.

"Mr. Weasley... Ronald, I know that you and Harry were the best of friends from the day the two of you met. With the exception of that one day at the Burrow, you have purposely kept your distance from Harry and there is not a day that goes by that I catch you throwing rather sad and wistful looks in Harry's direction. Why?"

Ron bit the inside of his cheek at the tears that were hot behind his eyes. "I lost my best friend, Professor. Harry only thought about himself when he took that de-aging potion. He never once thought of what him being a little kid was going to do to those he left behind. He doesn't remember anything!" A tear did escape and before he could wipe it away with his hand, Snape had pressed a clean handkerchief into his fist.

"All the talks we had, the things we did. Studying, riding on the train together, talking about girls, flying... he doesn't remember any of it. Professor Snape, I feel like Harry Potter died. That day at the Burrow, though, I saw a little bit of my best friend in Harry and I sort of thought, if I just waited for him to grow up a little, I'd have him back. And then..."

"Then you saw Harry with Draco, your sworn enemy," Snape concluded.

"Yeah, but not just that! Harry was having fun with Malfoy! Didn't he remember all the times that git sabotaged his potions, or hexed him in the corridors, or pelted him with snowballs that were icy? Malfoy's dad nearly killed Harry when his trick with You-Know-Who's diary didn't kill Ginny! How can he LIKE Draco?" Ron's voice had steadily risen until he was shouting at the Potions Master.

"Harry cannot go back to who he was, Ronald. There is no way to reverse the potion he took, so, in a way, I do understand the loss you are feeling for your best friend. Harry has a new life now, one in which he gets to be the happy little boy that he always wished to be without the Boy-Who-Lived celebrity. He is going to make new friends and he did want to be your friend, again. He told me, before term began, that he was looking forward to seeing you again because you were the first person, older than him that didn't treat him like he was 'a cute, little baby'."

Ron crushed the handkerchief in his hands and slumped in the chair. "Well I've bollixed things up now. After what I did, he isn't going to want to come near me."

Snape huffed. "Actually, you're quite wrong. Once Madame Pomfrey was able to stop the pain in his hands, Harry was quite worried that I might... 'smush you to death'." Snape sneered. "My son made me swear to keep from doing so, so alas, I can only punish you, not kill you. That, and Harry hopes you'll visit him in the Infirmary. He loathes it there."

Ron lightly smiled at that. "Yeah, Harry never did like the Infirmary. Madame Pomfrey has a bad habit of hovering."

"Hm. That she does." Snape rose to his feet and moved his chair back to where it had been. "Detention will be delayed until Saturday morning, Mr. Weasley." He started to turn away, but then stopped. "Oh yes, I very nearly forgot. Harry wanted to give you a punishment as well."

Ron's jaw dropped in indignation at the Potions Master's son giving him a punishment. "Wh-what would that be?"

"Harry would like for you to write him a story about Hogwarts. He specifically requested that there be a monster in it. It will be due on Friday."

Snape was gone before he saw the slight grin on Ron's face. Writing a story wasn't bad. In fact, he a few in mind.

Ron did write a story, and had it finished by Wednesday. He couldn't give it to Harry, yet, though. He had to make sure Snape approved of it. Ron had given his teacher the story after Potions class and had been waiting as patiently as possible while Snape read it. Finally, Snape put the parchment down and eyed Ron.

"The troll incident from your first year?" Ron nodded as Snape glanced back down at the parchment. "I don't believe I was apprised of the full details of this incident. Very interesting." He drummed his fingers thoughtfully on the parchment. "So, you think this is an appropriate story for my son?"

"Well, sir, I did overhear you telling my dad that someday you'd tell Harry about him having grown up and killing Vol... er... Him. I thought, maybe, if you did that it wouldn't be so bad for him to read this story and someday, if he finds out it was real, he might think it was kind of cool that he stuck his wand up a troll's nose."

Snape grimaced. He had wondered what had damaged the troll's sinuses. That troll had a perpetually runny nose after that.

"Madame Pomfrey is letting Harry out of the Infirmary today. Why don't you take the story up to him and then escort him to lunch. Let him know, though, if you would, that he can join me at the staff table, if he wishes." Snape handed over the parchment with a sharp gesture that snapped the paper. "Very good job, Mr. Weasley. You might try some inserting some of that creativity into the dry prose of your Potions essays. It would make them much more entertaining to read."

Ron smirked. "Yes, sir. Thanks!"

Harry was a tiny bit disappointed that his father hadn't come to pick him up at the Infirmary, but the story Ron gave him mollified his mood greatly. The two boys sat together on a stone bench outside the Great Hall as Ron read the story to him.

Harry was delighted to know that he was one of the heroes in the story and he laughed heartily when Ron read the part where he jammed his wand up the troll's nose and got troll bogeys all over it.

When Ron finished the story, he folded the parchment and gave it to Harry. Harry tucked it away in his robe pocket knowing that he would ask Hermione later to teach him to read it so he could read it himself over and over again.

For a brief moment there was an uncomfortable silence between the two and then Harry spoke up, "Do you still hate me, Ron?"

Ron was appalled. "I don't hate you!"

"But, you..." he didn't want to finish the accusation.

Ron's shoulders sagged. "I did that not because I hate you, Harry, but because I was a stupid, jealous prat. I saw you with Malfoy and you were having such fun with him, that I thought you didn't want to be my friend anymore."

"Can't you both be my friends?" he asked sincerely.

"Well, sure we can, but you should know that me and Malfoy never really got along well. Slytherins don't like Gryffindors, that... sort of thing." Harry's own shoulders drooped sadly. "But, hey, that's just school stuff and really doesn't mean all that much. You can be friends with both of us. I don't mind." Ron smiled.

Harry grinned happily. "Great! Thanks for the neat story, Ron. Can I show it to Draco?"

Ron coloured slightly, but nodded. "Yeah, but later. Let's go get some lunch."

The Christmas holidays came and Snape was about to yank out every strand of hair. Harry's excitement, while endearing, at first, was beginning to drive him mad. Snape himself had no fondness for the holiday, for the decorations, blinking lights, and Christmas carols. He soon realised that he'd have to change his attitude, or as Minerva put it, 'Don't be a Scrooge to your son this Christmas!'

Snape had never minded the comparison to the stingy curmudgeon from A Christmas Carol, but this time that was the last thing he wanted to be for his son. Before he knew it, his quarters were hung with glittering fairy lights, yards of ivy and holly, a wreath on his portrait door (which the subject, an irascible Galileo didn't care for), and stockings (one for Harry and one for Snape) hanging over the fireplace.

The one saving grace in Harry's enthusiasm was that he wasn't constantly asking (demanding) his father get him this thing or that thing for Christmas. It wasn't until a week before Christmas that Snape discovered that Harry didn't even know he was supposed to get presents on Christmas day. He was very excited to learn that Father Christmas would bring him something and put it under the tree. In the next minute, though, Harry also learned that his friends would be giving him gifts.

"Harry? Why are you sniffling?" Snape looked down at the little boy who only seconds before had been dancing around the sitting room plotting ways to catch Father Christmas.

"If my friends are getting me presents, I can't get them anything. I don't have any money!"

Snape smirked. "Ah. That is a problem, isn't it. You know, maybe it's time for you to receive an allowance. Although, you are only six."

Harry scowled and the sniffles were gone. "What's an 'lowance?"

"Allowance," Snape enunciated. "It is a weekly stipend that good children receive for doing things like keeping their room clean, and doing chores around the house."

"But you said I'm only six," reminded Harry. "Can't six year olds have an allowance?"

"Well, I don't know," Snape teased lightly, "but, you have been exceptionally good of late. You even managed to end the feud between Mr. Weasley and Mr. Malfoy. No mean feat that was." Harry grinned. "Perhaps you should get a weekly allowance since as six year olds go, I consider you rather exceptional. In fact, you're probably due some back pay." Harry frowned and Snape quickly explained what back pay was. "Wait here."

Snape disappeared into his room and a few minutes later he came out with a small leather, drawstring purse. He shook it and the contents jingled. "Five galleons and ten knuts should do it, don't you think?" He handed Harry the purse.

Harry opened the little purse and stared down at the gold coins. He was RICH! Jumping up, he hugged his father's legs and then looked up, "When can I go shopping?"

Snape did a very good job of erasing the look of disgust and chagrin that wanted to plant itself on his face. "We'll go to Diagon Alley in a few days, but I want you to give some thought, first, to what you'd like to get your friends. All right?"

Harry nodded in agreement and headed back to his bedroom. He had some thinking to do.

Harry was certain of what he'd get his friends for Christmas, but the one person he didn't know what to get was his father. At lunch the next day, he left the staff table and Snape watched curiously as the little boy talked first to Ron and then to Draco. Whatever he discussed with the two boys had him smiling rather smugly when he trotted back to the table and took his chair beside his father.

Snape leaned towards his son and his voice thrummed with warning, "You appear to be a boy who is... up... to something."

"I'm being a GOOD boy, daddy." Harry grinned, picked up his bowl of soup and slurped loudly at the broth.

"Harry!" snapped Snape.


Harry didn't think he had seen anything more beautiful than Diagon Alley at Christmas. All the shop owners went out with their decorations and the street fairly glowed in a beautiful array of coloured lights. Everywhere one could see there was live holly and fragrant wreaths of pine, bayberry, and cinnamon hung on many doors that added to the delicious smells of the season.

The most spectacular shop and the first one Harry wanted to visit was Weasleys Wizard Wheezes. Colourful bubbles emerged from the shop and beside the front door was a clockwork statue in the form of Merlin. Harry was practically dragging his father by his hand to the shop of the prankster twins.

"Must I go in there, Harry?" Snape rolled his eyes over-dramatically.

"Oh please, daddy? It's not that bad." He gave his father his best wide-eyed, puppy dog look.

Snape scowled, and crossed his arms over his chest. "I see Mr. Weasley still persists in teaching you useless expressions to try and manipulate me."

Harry huffed. "How come they work on Ron's dad, then?"

"Because Arthur has been thoroughly worn down by six sons and one daughter; all of them manipulative, little, miscreants." Snape opened the door to the shop and when Harry looked questioningly at his father, he smirked mildly. "Didn't you wish for me to go in with you?" Snape held out his hand and Harry grabbed it so they both could walk in together.

"The Snapes!" called out Fred.

"Welcome Professor Snape and Harry," greeted George.

Harry didn't hear the twins as all his senses were dazzled by the many different products. Snape and the twins watched in varying degrees of amusement as Harry floated amongst the different displays and products.

"See that look on his face, Professor," said Fred.

"People have accused us of being fools accomplishing nothing," continued George.

"But we ask you, Professor, is that nothing?" smiled Fred.

Snape said nothing to Fred and George, but he had to admit that the look of bliss and wonder on his son's face was worth all the galleons in Gringotts.

Christmas morning, Harry was up before the sun. He slipped his feet into his slippers, tossed on his bathrobe, and ran out into the sitting room to see the tree. Gaily wrapped packages shone like gemstones under the tree and Harry jumped up and down. He then ran to his father's room, pushed through the door, and launched himself onto the bed.

"Father Christmas came! Daddy! Father Christmas came and brought presents!"

Snape exploded out from under his covers and captured the madly bouncing boy in his strong embrace and began tickling him. Harry squealed and tried to escape, but it was impossible so he tried another tactic; giving up. He threw his arms around his father's neck and kissed his cheek.

"Daddy, you have to get up. Father Christmas DID come!"

Snape kissed Harry's brow. "Breakfast first, Harry, then presents. Now, go wash up while I check and see if the house elfs are even awake, yet."

"Hurry, daddy!" Harry wriggled off the bed and ran back to his room and into his bathroom to wash up for breakfast.

Snape fell back on his pillows and laid a hand over his heart which was still beating rapidly from his frightening wake up call.

"That child will have me in my grave before I see a single grey hair!"

The free house elf Dobby was awake and put together a very prodigious breakfast for the Snapes of bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, fruit, and pastries in the shape of Christmas trees. As Harry ate, his green-eyed gaze kept darting towards the presents and then to his father who was being agonisingly and deliberately slow as he read his morning newspaper and drank his coffee. What Harry didn't see was that every time Harry's look went to the tree, Snape was stealing a glance at his son and smirking to himself.

"Harry, maybe we should get dressed and go for a walk before we open presents," suggested Snape, his black eyes glittering with his teasing.

Harry's jaw dropped open. He was about to protest when his father's flat look darkened considerably. "Aww, okay." With his shoulders practically drooping down to his knees, Harry shuffled towards his bedroom. As he passed his father, a long arm shot out and snatched him up. The little boy squeaked and then giggled.

"Presents, Harry!" chuckled Snape as he let his son go.

The little boy nearly dove for the first present and the next half hour was a flurry of shiny, torn paper, bows, and ribbons.

Hermione gave Harry a sketch journal and an Always Inked Drawing Quill that she'd spelled so it would shrink and enlarge using a password. Draco had gotten Harry a stuffed Opaleye Dragon that was spelled to fly around the room and Ron gave Harry a copy of Quidditch Through the Ages. He received a knit jumper from Molly, warm, and colourful socks from Dumbledore.

Just when Harry was getting worn out by all the unwrapping, he climbed onto his father's knee and leaned his back against Snape's chest. He then dropped his head back against his father who brushed away several strands of hair that obscured his face. Harry's black hair was behaving much better now that its length had increased. It brushed his shoulders and curled slightly at the ends.

"Are you happy with everything, Harry," asked Snape.

"This is the best Christmas ever, daddy. Are you happy?" He leaned against the arm that was wrapped around him.

"Very." Snape shifted slightly getting more comfortable with his son on his lap.

Snape would never have imagined being where he was today just several months ago. He had always felt that when the Dark Lord was finally destroyed, he would follow as well. It was his destiny. There had been a prophecy...

He should have known better. Snape had never held much stock in prophecies but Dumbledore had been so convinced that he'd allowed himself to be drawn in as well. What both men should have learned early on was that nothing could be predicted with Harry Potter. By the prophecy, Harry should have met his destiny when he was a fully trained wizard by his seventh year. Who knew that not only would Voldemort underestimate the still fledgling wizard, but so would the damned prophecy. The Dark Lord was gone forever and as for Snape... he was now the loving father of Harry Potter.

Harry felt his father's chest rumbling with the restrained mirth he preferred to outright laughter. He smiled and craned his head back further to look at the smirk on the man's face, and the smile in his black eyes. Harry grinned.

Snape gave Harry one of his rare, true smiles, kissed his forehead, and then looked over at the Christmas tree. "Harry, I do believe you missed a present."

"No I didn't, I..." he looked at the tree and was astonished to see a slim present wrapped in green, shiny paper and tied with silver ribbon. "That wasn't there before."

"Are you certain?" asked Snape. He nudged the child off his lap. "Better see who it's from, Harry."

Harry picked up the gift and saw the little parchment tag that had the name of the giver on it. The word was one of the first words Hermione had taught him. "It's from you, daddy!"

Snape leaned forward in his chair to watch as his son ripped the paper off the gift to reveal a six year old sized broom. Harry jumped up and down and let out an excited shout.

"My own broom! Thank you, daddy!"

Snape explained the various aspects of the Junior Firebolt to Harry. The little boy was just a tiny bit disappointed that the broom was charmed to fly no higher than two feet, but he loved it.

"Daddy, I know you think I forgot to get something for you, but I didn't. Will you stay here?"

Curious, Snape seated himself in his chair and watched as Harry trotted to his bedroom. It was several minutes before Harry emerged and when he did he was carrying a large, piece of thick paper. Standing in front of his father, he held it out timidly. As soon as Snape took it, Harry clenched his hands behind his back as he waited for his father's opinion of his gift.

Harry had painted a portrait of himself and his father in the Potions classroom. At first look, the Snape in the portrait, standing over the little boy working on a potion, appeared stone-faced and prepared to snap some caustic remark at the child. However, there was a softness in the dark eyes that were clearly pride. The Potions Master also had a gentle hand upon the boy's shoulder.

The Harry in the portrait appeared to be concentrating solely on his work, but there was a smile of contentment on his face as he felt his father's hand on his shoulder.

Snape knew that Harry was uncommonly talented when it came to his paints, crayons, and pencils. This portrait, was by far, the best he'd ever done. The warmth in his heart and soul was almost painful as he thought of Harry working on this painting... just for him.

"Harry, this is truly the best Christmas present I've ever received," exclaimed Snape.

Harry's cheeks flushed crimson and his smile beamed almost as brightly as the fairy lights on the tree.

"You really, really like it?"

"It is magnificent, Harry." Snape stood, took out his wand and conjured a frame befitting the painting. He then levitated it over to the fireplace and hung it over the mantle. Harry's eyes widened with pleasure. He then tugged on his father's sleeve.

"I love you, daddy."

Snape picked up Harry and gave him a quick, tight hug. "I love you, too, Harry. Merry Christmas."

A/N: I know that the twins didn't set up shop until, I believe, the sixth book, but I wanted WWW in the story, so I kicked 'em out a year early.

This was a plot bunny that had been hanging around for a bit looking for a decent ending. Somehow, the Christmas season just helped to finish the tale. As to whether or not I'll do more of this, I haven't decided, yet. I quite like little Harry, so who knows, I may not be finished. Leave a review, please, and let me know what you think.