This was an absolute nightmare. Not the recurring one where he taught an entire potions class without his robes on. Not the haunting one where he watched Lily die. Not the completely unexplainable dream where he turned into a bat and was chased from the Divinations tower by Professor Trewlawny.
Nor, indeed, the kind of nightmare that Severus could shake off upon waking up – because he was awake.
This kind of nightmare was the living, breathing kind where somehow a little boy could suddenly walk and was getting into every. Single. Thing.
He should have expected it. Harry had been pulling himself up on furniture for some time. And his frantic crawling was bound to turn into walking at some point, certainly.
At first, it hadn't been so bad. Snape had been reading the Daily Prophet while Harry played with his animal toys at his feet. Harry had been playing quietly that day – a true treat for Severus who hardly got to enjoy a moment of quiet anymore – and Snape had only looked down because he felt a pull on the cushion he sat upon.
Harry was pulling himself up, and smiling up at Snape, waiting for praise.
"Good standing," Severus said, noncommittally. He understood he needed to validate Harry's progress if he were going to improve, but standing really wasn't that tremendous of a feat, was it?
His apathy disappeared as Harry turned his shining eyes from Snape's face, and with all the focus he could muster let go of the chair, and took a few wobbling steps forward.
Snape dropped the paper, watching as Harry toddled across the room. Three, four, five wiggling steps, and then down he fell. Waiting for a cry of alarm at the fall, Severus stood from the chair, about to reassure Potter that his effort had been valiant indeed, but Harry pushed himself up, resolutely, and began to walk again.
Snape felt pleased. He wasn't raising a fusser or a quitter. No, Harry was turning into quite the motivated, centered young man. As Harry reached the sofa, he turned and beamed at Snape who crossed the room quickly and knelt at Harry's side.
"Well done, Mr. Potter," he said, very seriously. "That was some fine walking."
"Oh, Pot walk!" Harry said, nodding his head, clearly very pleased with himself. "Pot walk like Nape. Pot walk all the ways."
Snape had encouraged him all that evening. He'd taken Harry's chubby little fist in his hand and helped him walk from the living room to the kitchen. When Harry's legs began to wobble even more, Snape stood behind Harry and held both his hands, Harry reaching over his head and concentrating on each step.
As Snape put Harry in his crib he told him what a good job he had done that day, and how they would practice walking again tomorrow.
He wished he'd never said it. The next day, Harry was beyond practicing, and was all about doing. Severus had set him on the floor in the kitchen to play for a bit while he got their breakfast. His back had been turned for all of twelve seconds when there was a smash and a, "Oops."
Harry had pulled the drawer clean out from the cabinet, and forks and spoons were everywhere. Snape was glad the drawer hadn't landed on Harry's head, and moved to pick up the cutlery. He reminded himself not to be frustrated. Harry was a child. He was learning to walk. That would mean less carrying about, which would certainly be a good thing for his image. Sometimes messes were made and accidents happened. There was no use berating the boy for this.
It wasn't until he had replaced the drawer and returned to grab their bowls and another clatter of objects falling made him turn that he realized this walking thing might not be all positive.
From then on, it had only gotten worse.
That evening he had taken Harry and sat him firmly on his lap. "Is there anything in this room," he said. "That can stay any lower than two feet from the ground? I'm beginning to seriously doubt it."
Harry had been walking off, opening drawers, removing contents, grabbing things and pulling things and just been a handful all day. And Severus was tired.
The next day was even worse. Snape was feeling extremely frustrated. It didn't matter that he had moved things to higher surfaces, and that he had cast annoying spells on all his own cupboards and drawers so they were difficult to open. Harry was still toddling about, and generally wandering off.
"I'm just not going to chase you anymore," Snape said finally. "I've child proofed things as well as I know how. If you want to wander, wander."
Harry didn't seem to mind this new arrangement at first. He mostly just played with his toys while Snape sat in his armchair, scribbling notes in his black notebook. He had another book open on his lap and was muttering to himself as he glanced down at the pages in between writing his own notes.
Then Harry decided the living room wasn't a good place to play, and blocks weren't a good game. A good game was Find Pot.
He wandered out of the room and down the hall. Every few feet he'd stumble a bit, but he'd push himself up and keep going. Snape had left the door to his room open and Harry smiled. Nape hardly ever let him play in here.
For a few moments Harry patted at the bed, trying to devise a way to climb on top of it, but it seemed to be rather out of the question. Finally he settled for lifting the bottom of the comforter and crawling underneath. He clapped his hands in pleasure at this new fort he'd created and waited patiently for Nape to come and get him and tell him he had been clever.
Snape, for his part, just assumed Harry had gone to his room to find a new toy or some such thing. He continued his work on the LeStrange diary. He expected Harry to either come walking back in or to call at any moment. When neither happened, Snape supposed he was just learning to entertain himself.
He gave a slight start as a knock on the door shook him from his studies. He answered it dutifully, and frowned to see Minerva standing there.
"You didn't come eat in the Great Hall," she said.
"No. Harry's been learning to walk. Contained spaces seem a bit more reasonable at the moment." Snape replied.
Minerva beamed. "He's walking! Wonderful! Where is the smart boy?" she asked, peering around Severus for a glimpse of the child.
"Playing. Walking. Causing small amounts of mayhem. Is there something you came to say?" Snape couldn't imagine it was such a big deal that he hadn't been dining with the others. Not enough to drag Minerva down to the dungeons.
"I've actually just come to deliver this mail," she said, holding out a couple of envelopes. "You weren't there when the owls arrived, and after dinner I'd nearly forgotten I'd grabbed the mail for you."
Snape said nothing, just accepted the letters and made to shut the door.
Minerva sniffed in disapproval. "You're welcome," she said. "And I sure hope you're teaching the Potter boy better manners than that." Her speech concluded, she turned and made her way out of the dungeons.
Snape shut the door and carried the mail to his chair. He was excellent at teaching Harry manners. Harry's manners were exquisite when he wasn't fussing or hitting or pulling or yelling.
His prickliness at his parenting being insulted faded as Severus realized the first letter was in Lucius' hand. This seemed an awful lot of correspondence, especially when they were supposed to be discreet. The news must be urgent.
Just heard from Crabbe – Sharra's decided to take matters into her own hands. Not about the journal, about the boy. You're not safe. Potter isn't safe.
The letter wasn't signed. If it had been intercepted, Lucius would have been in indescribable danger from the other Death Eaters.
The kind of danger Snape was in now.
A jolt of fear suddenly hit him. Where was Harry?
He moved quickly, headed straight for Harry's room, worried about how quiet it was.
It was apparent in an instant that Harry wasn't in his room. Where was he?
"Harry?" Snape called, his voice less level than normal. "Harry!" Even less calm.
He was about to look in the study when he noticed his door was a sliver open. He normally was careful to shut the door. He liked order and cleanliness and his bedroom was the only place he felt he truly preserved that these days.
He entered the room and felt a great relief at his askew comforter, a Harry sized lump on the floor beneath its folds.
He lifted the blanket and Harry grinned at him.
"Nape find Pot!" Harry exclaimed. Then turning very serious he looked at Snape intently and said, "Good Nape. 'Mart Nape."
"Up you come, Harry," Snape said, lifting him and striding out of the room. "We need to have a word with the Headmaster."