I apologize for the long wait on this particular story, I just want every chapter to be worthwhile and as good as I can get it before I post. This story has direction and I want it to be enjoyable at the same time without forcing out a chapter or making it seem too silly. I hope I still have readers interested, so thank you for all the wonderful reviews, favorites, and follows. It really encourages me to keep writing.
"Why are we here?" Harry asked as Severus led him into the grocery store. "I thought we were going to your mother's?"
"We are," Severus said, grabbing a basket and looking at produce. He bagged a few apples. "You like pears, right?"
Harry nodded his head and Severus bagged a couple pears. "I might as well as supply you with some food for the next couple weeks until we can find you a more permanent situation," Severus said, leading Harry further into the store.
It had been a week since the hidden tunnel incident and Severus had quickly received a response back from his mother. She had said she would be happy to accommodate Harry for him while Severus worked things out with the Ministry or a secretive foster home. Severus wasn't sure what he would do yet. However, Harry could not stay at Hogwarts any longer. It was just too risky.
Severus found the condiments and packed peanut butter and jelly for Harry and located the bread. He frowned as he thought of other sandwiches the boy liked to eat. "Turkey or chicken?" he asked, raising an eyebrow at the boy.
"Turkey," Harry said.
Severus led Harry to the back of the store where the butcher was preparing meat. Upon seeing customers approach, he removed his gloves and apron, scrubbed his hands, and walked over to the counter. "What can I do for ye?"
"Just sliced turkey will do," Severus said, looking down at the hunks of meat.
"Mr. Snape, look," Harry called to him.
Severus glanced in Harry's direction, where the boy was looking down in a box on a lower counter away from the food. Severus stepped closer to the boy to look in the box. Inside, was a large, furry rabbit, black and white in color. The rabbit huddled in a corner of the box.
"Isn't it pretty?" Harry said. "Why's there a rabbit in here?"
"Found it in this box outside the store this morning," the man said, handing Severus the sliced turkey. "Looks like a checkered giant. They get pretty big, that one's only half grown. Someone must have wanted a small rabbit as a pet, but when that one got too big, they dumped it at the grocery store."
"Aww," Harry said, looking down at the bunny. He reached in and pet the bunny. "What are you going to do with him?"
"I was thinking he'd make a good stew," the butcher said.
Harry gasped and looked up at the man wide eyed.
"Really?" Severus hissed through his teeth. "You had to say that?"
"You're going to kill him?" Harry asked, tears in his eyes.
"Look kid, the rabbit has never seen a day in the wild, I let it go and it'll be picked up by a hawk in an hour. This is merciful."
"Why don't you keep him as a pet?"
"I ain't a rabbit person. Me dogs would rip that thing apart. This is life, lad. People should learn not to take on pets they know nothing about."
Harry sniffed loudly, his lower lip trembling. Severus sighed, and gently took Harry's arm. "Come," he said. "Let's finish our shopping."
Harry gave the rabbit one last pet before allowing Severus to pull him away, a few tears trailing down his cheek. Severus bit his inner cheek as he looked down at Harry. The boy's soft crying was starting to get to him. For a second, he wanted to snap at the boy that it was just a rabbit and it was not a big deal—rabbits were commonly eaten in Europe. He stopped, growling exaggeratedly before turning back around and reaching into his pocket.
"How much for the damn rabbit?" Severus said.
"Ye want him?" the butcher smiled. "Five pounds and he's yours."
Severus paid the man and picked the rabbit up out of the box. It was one heavy rabbit; had to be about six or seven pounds. Did the man say this thing was half grown? Severus held out the rabbit to Harry, who's eyes brightened, and he smiled widely as he accepted the animals and hugged it.
"Enjoy the rabbit," the butcher smiled, pocketing the money.
Severus sighed. He had no idea how to care for a rabbit, but he was sure they'd figure it out. For now, he needed to finish shopping. He led Harry through the store, finishing his list while the boy squeezed and kissed his new pet.
"I think I'll name him Mr. Trifle," Harry announced. Severus wasn't surprised. It was the child's favorite dessert. "What do you think, Mr. Snape?"
"It's a fine name." Severus said, paying for the food and leaving the store. How did he walk into a grocery store and leave with a new pet? Harry walked ahead of him, petting the rabbit fondly, his eyes not on where he was going.
"Stay close to me," Severus said, catching Harry's arm. He let go once Harry was standing at his side and dug through his pocket. "I do not want you getting lost. Let me make sure I have enough muggle money now for transportation. It's a long trip by foot to the estate."
"Look at the horsies!" Harry cried, running over to a waiting carriage attached to two chestnut horses with white feathering.
"Harry!" Severus snapped, fishing out some money then quickly catching up to the child, who stroked the white blaze of one of the horses, laughing as the animal sniffed his hair, its breath tickling his neck.
"Aren't they pretty?" Harry said, patting the horse's nose. "What kind are they?"
"They're Cobs," said a short, blond man, walking up to the two. He held a bucket up to one of the horses, allowing it to take a drink. "Alright there, gentlemen? Are ya in need of a ride?"
"Yes, to MacAuley estate," Severus answered. "Do you know the way?"
"I've passed by the place," the man said, moving the bucket over to the second impatient horse nosing the bucket for a drink. "I can get ya there in about forty minutes."
"That would be wonderful, thank you," Severus said, paying the coachman, who tipped his hat as he set the bucket in the back of the carriage. Severus helped Harry climb up in the carriage with the rabbit, taking a seat next to the boy. The coachman climbed up to his place and flicked the reins, whistling to the horses.
"Bean a grand soft day, don't ya think?" The man spoke after they left the town and travelled down a road. "Name's Niall. Ya from around here?"
"You could say that."
"Laddie, keep yerself in the carriage, now. We wouldn't want ye falling out."
Severus gave Harry a firm, warning tap on his bottom, and the boy got off his knees and sat appropriately on his bottom, giving Severus an indignant look as he cuddled the rabbit. "Behave," Severus chided lightly.
The rest of the ride was quiet, and they arrived to MacAuley estate.
"There ye lads are," Niall announced. "Enjoy yar visit."
Severus lifted Harry and set him on the ground before picking up his bag of groceries. The carriage drove on and Severus escorted Harry to the large gates. He paused just as he reached them, taking in a deep breath and closing his eyes. It had been so long since he had last been here.
"Wow!" Harry said, his eyes wide. Harry adjusted the rabbit in his hold and walked toward the towering white gates.
"Harry, please, stay with me," Severus said. "I do not want to have to tell you again."
"Sorry," Harry said, waiting until Severus was at his side. Harry adjusted the rabbit so he had it cradled in one arm before reaching out and taking Severus's free hand.
Severus looked down in surprise at the boy's action, but if it kept Harry close, he would allow it. He tightened his fingers around Harry's and led the child through the magically opening gates. Severus walked with Harry inside, following the stone path up to the door. Green pastures surrounded the manor, with some land fenced in to keep the horses in. A fountain garden in front of the manor misted the two as they neared the front door.
Loud cawing from a high tower of the manor caught Harry's attention. Several hen harriers stared down at the two newcomers, some eyeing the rabbit in Harry's grasp hungrily. The rabbit tried to kick out of Harry's hold, but Harry let go of Severus's hand to firmly grip the bunny.
"It's okay Mr. Trifle," he assured the black and white rabbit. "I won't let them take you. You're safe right here."
Severus used the door knocker to announce their presence. The door opened quickly, revealing an older woman with streaks of gray in her tied back black hair, her black eyes as piercing as Severus's. Harry blinked up at her, looking between Severus and the lady curiously. The lady was almost two heads shorter that Severus, but that did not stop her from wrapping her arms around the man in a tight embrace.
"Severus!" The woman greeted. "Oh, it is wonderful to see you again."
Severus did not return the hug, instead, he looked annoyed. The woman did not seem to care. She pulled back and smiled at Severus. "I have dinner on the stove, Peadar is in his study but he will be glad to know you've arrived safely. And you must be Harry."
Eileen kneeled in front of Harry, reaching up to brush some hair out of Harry's face, her smile bright.
"Harry, this is my mother, Eileen," Severus said, remaining formal.
"Hello, Eileen," Harry said, reaching out to shake the woman's hand as he had done with the Malfoys.
Eileen laughed and pulled Harry into a hug. "There's no need for such formalities here. You will call Nana as long as you're here—I will answer to nothing else."
Harry laughed and said, "Okay."
"Mother," Severus began, giving her a warning look.
"Don't worry, Severus, it'll be fine," she said, pushing Harry back as she felt something squirming in between them. "And who is this fella? I don't believe we've met."
"This is Mr. Trifle," Harry said, holding the rabbit up. "Mr. Snape got him for me."
"Good day, Mr. Trifle," Eileen said, shaking the rabbit's paw. "And how do you do?"
The rabbit twitched its nose. "He says he's doing great," Harry said, smiling up at Eileen.
"If we may enter," Severus interrupted, "we have much to discuss and I'd like to get Harry settled."
"Of course," Eileen held the door open for them.
Severus gave Harry a gentle push inside the large mansion. Harry stared excitedly at how large the living room alone was. It wasn't quite as massive as Malfoy Manor had been, but it felt homier and the personal touches from the painting and decorations on the wall to the vases of flowers told Harry that people actually lived in it.
"This is amazing," Harry said, spinning with Mr. Trifle as he admired everything. "I'm going to stay here?"
"Yes, you will," Eileen said. "At least until we find a more permanent solution. Or so says Mr. Snape." Eileen smirked at Harry. Harry frowned as he looked around.
"Where is Mr. Snape?" he asked.
"Just putting the food away," Severus said, rejoining the three. He looked at Eileen. "I want to thank you for allowing Harry to remain here."
"Of course," Eileen said, frowning at Severus. "But I would like to hear the whole story from the beginning, if you do not mind. I want to understand why exactly you are hiding him from Albus Dumbledore."
"I will, in a moment. Let me show Harry to his room. Which one did you say?"
"The guest room across from yours. We set it up just for Harry. Although I was unaware of the rabbit."
"I hope that won't be a problem. That rabbit is a new addition."
"I'll have the house elves see to a cage and litter."
Severus nodded, motioning to Harry to follow. Harry eagerly walked up the spiral stairway and down a long hall, passing several rooms. At the end of the hall were two rooms across from each other and another stairway. Severus escorted Harry into his new room, a large bedroom with a windowsill, desk, wardrobe, attached bathroom, and a queen-sized bed.
"Brilliant!" Harry said, setting Mr. Trifle down on the bed before hopping up on it. "This is my room?"
"I'm sure you're glad not to have to share with me anymore," Severus smiled.
"I didn't mind it," Harry admitted. "I've never had my own bedroom before. Just my cupboard and then my own bed and now I have a whole room! It's so big!"
"I'm glad you like it," Severus said, sitting down on the bed next to Harry. He absently stroked the rabbit's fur as he thought about his next words. "I'm not sure how long you will remain here, but I can assure you that I will find a home that will give you your own bedroom just like this one."
"And you will visit me, right?" Harry asked.
"Of course," Severus said. "As often as I can."
Harry nodded and smiled, lying flat on his new bed. Mr. Trifle shuffled over to him and Harry picked up the rabbit, holding him up in the air. "Mr. Trifle says this is the best room ever."
Severus smiled and pulled out two toy-sized suitcases from an inner robe pocket. He used his wand to restore the cases to their original size. "I need to speak with Mother. While I do so, unpack your bags and get settled in. The house elves should be bringing a cage for Mr. Trifle soon."
"I don't want him in a cage!"
"The cage will just be for when we must leave him home alone and it will be where his litter is. Besides, he may like to take naps in his own little place with a nice comfy bed."
"Oh," Harry said, hugging Mr. Trifle. "I mean, okay."
Severus nodded and left Harry in the room, heading back downstairs.
"Severus," Peadar MacAuley greeted with a soft smile from where he sat on the sofa next to Eileen. "It's been so long since I've last seen ya. Did ya grow your hair out? It looks longer."
Peadar was a scruffy older man with narrow spectacles and a square face. He was close in height to Severus, if a bit shorter.
"Perhaps," Severus said, sitting in a chair across from the sofa. "We have a lot to talk about."
Severus began with Albus's request of finding a runaway Harry in a winter storm and scaring the boy into staying put at his relatives. However, the storm had interfered with plans and he had been stuck with the boy, in which he learned a lot about the child's awful home life. Severus explained how he had gone back for Harry and took him to Hogwarts for the time being, then how Harry had almost been found out by Albus. And that was how he ended up needing their help.
"We will be glad to house him for as long as ya need, Severus," Peadar said.
"Thank you," Severus said. "I know this isn't the welcome home you've both been looking for, but it means a lot to me for your help."
"Mr. Snape!" Harry called from the mezzanine in the house, looking down at the three in the living room. "I've finished packing. And you were right—Mr. Tifle likes his cage."
"There's the wee troublemaker!' Peadar announced. He waved to Harry. "Come down so I can get a look at ya."
Harry ran around the floor to the stairs, only walking when Severus warned him to slow down. He walked down the stairs and over to Peadar.
"I'm Harry," Harry said, smiling at Peadar.
"And I'm Papa," Peadar said, ruffling the boy's hair. "I hear you're quite famous in the Wizarding world, huh?"
Harry shrugged, laughing at Peadar's enthusiasm. "Ya don't know?" Peadar raised his brows. He stroked his beard as he looked at Harry thoughtfully. "A modest celebrity, it must be. You know what every celebrity needs?"
Harry shook his head.
"A little Turkish delight," Peadar said, standing and guiding Harry toward the kitchen with a hand on his shoulder. "I'll show you where that is."
"Peadar, please," Severus said, though he didn't move from the chair, "don't spoil his dinner."
"He'll be alright, Sev," Eileen said, sitting up on the sofa. "While we have a moment, I want to apologize for the last incident when you were here. I understand I probably overstepped when I mentioned your eating habits and it was a really bad time to bring that up, but as your mother I—"
"You stopped being my mother when I was eleven. I'm not having this conversation right now."
"Severus, please," Eileen gave Severus a tired look. "We can't put this off forever, and you can't hold what happened against me for the rest of your life. I did what I thought was best at the time—"
"Your judgement left much to be desired for, as it does now."
"I don't know what to say." Eileen shook her head. "You won't hear me out, you won't accept my apology. What do you want me to do? I know I left you and I regretted it every day since you were eleven years old. I always thought, by Christmas, I'll bring you to our new home and surprise you. But Christmas came and I was still broke. So by Easter, I'd surprise you. And then Easter came and I had nothing to give. And then you were out of school, and then you were back to school, and then holidays flew by and I still hadn't written to you and . . . I still had nothing.
"And when I thought I'd write; I was afraid to." Eileen dragged a hand down her face. "I didn't know what you would think of me. After all, I did abandon you, and I admit to that. I am by far the worst mother. But I just hope that one day, you'll let me make up for it. But that's up to you."
Severus had remained silent. He sighed and looked in the direction of the kitchen. "I'm here for Harry's sake. And if you insist on the silly names, then fine. As long as he's happy."
Eileen closed her eyes, her face tensed and pained. She breathed out a long breath before offering a small smile. "Are you sure you want to find a new home for him? He seems very attached to you and you've been together for quite a few weeks."
"I am just Mr. Snape to him," Severus said, standing, Eileen following his lead. "We have a connection which I will tell you about later. But he needs a home where he has a normal family. Not a lonely spy."
Eileen nodded her head, "If you're so sure you are just Mr. Snape to him."
Severus walked into the kitchen, finding both Harry and Peadar halfway through a container of Turkish delight. He rolled his eyes while Eileen scolded Peadar. He should make Peadar put Harry to bed that night.
Later that evening, after Harry had a tour of the house and explored the gardens, everyone settled down for dinner. Eileen filled bowls of her stew to go with her creamy polenta and fresh, steamed broccoli. She set the platters down as everyone took their seat, Peadar at the head, Eileen to his right, Severus to the left and Harry next to Severus. Severus thanked Eileen as she set the food down in front of him, Harry copying the man when he received his. Once Eileen took her seat, everyone dug in.
"This is really good," Harry said, taking a large bite of the stew. "What is it?"
"Why, thank you," Eileen smiled. "It's an old Prince recipe. Rabbit stew."
Harry's spoon dropped as quickly as his mouth did. The boy looked down at the bowl and felt his eyes water as his lower lip trembled. "This is rabbit?"
Eileen's eyes widened in realization. "Oh, dear, I'm sorry sweetie, I can get you something else . . ."
"Wait one moment," Severus said, holding a finger up to Eileen as he turned to face Harry. "You were just saying how good it was. You can most certainly finish the stew."
"But it's rabbit," Harry sounded more distraught.
"And? You were eating it fine, Mother made this for this occasion, she spent a lot of time prepping—"
"I don't want to eat rabbit!" Harry declared.
"Do not interrupt me," Severus said, pointing a stern finger at Harry.
"What if it was Mr. Trifle?"
"It obviously wasn't."
"Maybe it was his friend."
"Severus," Eileen said, "really, it's not a problem. I can make him something else."
"Absolutely not, he can eat what is being served or he can leave the table." Severus glared at Harry.
However, Harry surprisingly glared back and pushed back his chair, leaving the table without much fuss. The boy could be heard stomping up the stairs. Severus rubbed his head frustratedly. Rarely did he have to scold the boy, but when he did, it always left him with a headache, especially when the boy pushed back. His appetite vanished now. Eileen sighed and sat back down, looking across the table at her son.
"I could have made him something else, Sev," Eileen said. "He has a pet rabbit, of course he was going to react negatively to eating rabbit."
"If I wanted your advice, I would have asked for it," Severus said, his eyes still closed.
"I did not mean it that way, I just feel it was unnecessary to try and force him to eat it—"
"I was not forcing him." Severus opened his eyes and glared at Eileen. "He said he thought the stew was good and the minute you tell him what it was he decided to be picky."
"I wouldn't call it picky."
"Then we can agree to disagree, as always."
"Oh, don't start this again. Can't we just have a relaxing, normal family dinner without arguing in the first ten minutes."
Severus threw his napkin down on the table as he stood. "We were never a normal family," he snapped before leaving the table. Eileen sighed and rested her head in her hands, Peadar reaching over and rubbing Eileen's back.
Severus made his way upstairs to Harry's room, having already asked a house elf for a plain sandwich and the broccoli from dinner for Harry. The meal arrived on the desk in Harry's room just as Severus arrived. Harry was cuddling Mr. Trifle and sniffing in his pillow.
"I'm sorry," Harry quickly said when Severus entered. "Did I ruin dinner for everyone?"
"No," Severus said, sitting down on the edge of the bed. "I should have inquired about what dinner was and made sure you would have liked it."
"I did like it," Harry said, his lower lip protruding. "I feel bad about it. Mr. Trifle hates me now."
"He does not." Severus rubbed Harry's back as the boy sniffled. "No more rabbit from now on. I'll keep that in mind. I would like you to apologize to . . . Nana later about your behavior at the table."
"Okay," Harry swiped his arm under his nose and pushed up, scooting over next to Severus. Harry wiped at his eyes and looked up at Severus. "Do you like your Mum?"
"What makes you ask?"
"I don't know. You didn't hug her back when she hugged you and you don't smile when you talk to her. It doesn't seem like you like her."
"Why is it complicated?"
"It just is, okay?" Severus snapped. Harry looked down sadly, muttering an apology. Severus rubbed his temple before shaking his head and saying, "No, I'm sorry. You see, I didn't have a very nice father—no, not Peadar, he is my stepfather. But my previous father was not very nice to Mother and I. So she decided to leave and try to build a better life for us. However, she didn't tell me she was leaving, and she also never came back. I didn't see her again until I was seventeen. So, it's not that I don't like her, it's just . . . our relationship is a little tense right now."
Harry frowned in thought, "My mummy died for me. Is our relationship tense, too?"
"Oh, Harry." Severus felt his face tighten and he was sure he was pale. He wrapped his arms around the child and pulled him against his side, burying his face in the boy's hair. He held him for a minute, trying not to let those words affect him. He shook his head. "Absolutely not. She loved you, Harry. And she still does. My mother and I . . . this is . . . different."
Harry nodded as if he understood, keeping his head rested on Severus's shoulder. Severus summoned the plate of food on the desk and gave it to Harry. "Here, a turkey sandwich. I expect you to eat all of your broccoli."
"Yes, Mr. Snape," Harry picked up his fork and ate a stalk of broccoli. Mr. Trifle's nose twitched as he scooted closer and closer before snatching a broccoli off Harry's plate, moving away to nibble at it. Harry laughed while Severus snorted.
"Naughty rabbit," Severus commented. "When you are done, take a bath and then its bedtime, alright? You've had a long day."
Harry nodded, taking a bite of his sandwich.
Lightning lit the room up in blues while thunder shook the mansion. Harry startled awake. He looked around, remembering he was in the MacAuley manor and he had his own bedroom here. Nana and Papa had said goodnight to him hours ago and the last thing Harry remembered was Mr. Snape reading Leo the Lop to him, one of the Serendipity books. While Mr. Snape had already read that book to him, after getting Mr. Trifle, Harry wanted to hear it again.
Now, it was storming out and he was sleeping alone for the first time since he had come to stay with Mr. Snape. Harry held the blanket up against him, glancing over at the rabbit's cage. Mr. Trifle had buried himself in his hay and was sleeping. Harry took a deep calming breath.
Another loud band of thunder and Harry jumped out of the bed.
"Mr. Snape!" he cried, opening his door and running out of his room. He opened Mr. Snape's bedroom door which was thankfully across from his. "Mr. Snape!"
Harry ran up to the bed, jumping on it and shaking the man.
"Daddy!" he cried, "wake up."
Mr. Snape groaned and rolled on to his back, reaching over and lighting his wand to see. He blinked his eyes at Harry before sitting up and rubbing at his face.
"Harry, what are you doing in here?"
"There's thunder," Harry said.
"And? You're not afraid of thunder, you've slept through storms before."
"But I was with you."
Mr. Snape sighed. Harry swallowed. He hoped he wasn't about to be sent away now. He really was scared.
"You're going to have to get used to sleeping alone, Harry. I leave on Monday for my classes."
"But you'll come back, right?"
"Not every night, but I guess for the first week, I will be here each night to make sure you are settled and used to your own bedroom, okay?"
"I would like that."
"You left Mr. Trifle all alone. You don't think he might need company during this storm?"
"He was sleeping under his hay."
There was a bang of thunder and Harry squeaked and lurched forward, wrapping his arms around Mr. Snape's neck, burying his face in Mr. Snape's shoulder. Mr. Snape was surprised by his reaction, but the man wrapped his arms around Harry comfortingly.
"You are safe, Harry, there is no reason to be afraid. It can't hurt you."
"The lightening can."
"Not while you're in here. Trust me."
"I want to stay with you."
Mr. Snape sighed, but he rubbed Harry's back soothingly. "Alright, but just for tonight."
"Really?" Harry asked, pulling back to look at Mr. Snape.
"Yes, really," Mr. Snape said, brushing Harry' hair back and planting a kiss on Harry's forehead. Harry smiled, but Mr. Snape's eyes widened. It was the first time the man had ever kissed him affectionately. Mr. Snape blinked. "Err, why don't you lie down, then. Keep to your side."
"Yes, Daddy," Harry said softly, crawling under the blanket.
"What did you call me?" Mr. Snape asked quickly.
"Mr. Snape," Harry answered, meeting Mr. Snape's narrowed eyes. Mr. Snape tilted his head at him, an unreadable expression on his face. Then the man nodded and turned over and Harry smiled happily at the man's back, snuggling into his pillow.
There is a lot more interaction between these four characters and a lot more to be revealed in the next chapter, so hang in there. I am updating at the best rate I can for all of these stories. Thank you and remember to review!