My Little Runaway @bluerowley
Schedules and Routines

Here's the next chapter! Enjoy!

"And then, after I found that hamburger in the garbage, I went back to the pretty lion statue and got right up in his paws to sleep for the night," Harry said as he happily followed Mr. Snape through the big bookstore.

Mr. Snape had woken him up early, so they could walk to Hogsmeade and go to some stores. Mr. Snape had used the invisibility spell like when they had snuck in to the big castle. Harry also had to drink some weird potion that changed his hair to a blond and his eyes to a hazel, as well as concealing his scar. Mr. Snape had explained that Hogsmeade was a village of just wizards and witches – no muggles, which Harry now knew were people without magic. What a strange word – muggle. That didn't matter though – Mr. Snape was buying him clothes! He got new jeans and sweater, weird clothes that Mr. Snape called robes, and even new shoes. It had been jaw dropping watching a tape measure fly around him to measure different parts of his body and then see all the clothes come flying towards him. And then, when it was all over, Mr. Snape shrunk everything and put them all in his pockets.

Now, they were at a bookstore and Mr. Snape asked a worker for teaching books for little kids. He grabbed books on writing and math and history and science and then he had Harry pick out a few books just to read for fun! Harry struggled to pick out just a few – they all looked so interesting. And Minny had already given him so many cool books! Harry grabbed three books – The first issue to The Adventures of Martin Miggs, the Mad Muggle by L. C. A. Comics (a comic book about the adventures of a French muggle), A Children's Anthology of Monsters by Newt Scamander (informative fairy tales about different magical creatures), and Manxmouse by Paul Gallico (a novel about a strange mouse that went on little adventures). He recognized The Tales of Beedle the Bard as one Mr. Snape had given him, so he was glad to add to his growing collection of books.

While shopping, Mr. Snape had asked him about his time alone on the streets. Harry had happily recollected his time away from the Dursleys, starting with how he had snuck out of the house and ran to his school to hide in between the dumpsters, where he had collected some food. Then he had searched for the prison for days (he wasn't really exaggerating the two days he had looked) to find Mr. Snape before he had to start asking people for directions. A couple people actually bought him food. Except people got suspicious of him and tried to grab him. Then he had to keep running and running away from Surrey. He slept in trees and under shrubs a few times and then one day he wished to see Mr. Snape and ended up near those four lions and statue.

"I'd prefer if you stayed away from dumpsters and garbage in general from this point forward," Mr. Snape said, looking down at Harry.

Harry nodded as he watched all the books shrink to be placed in Mr. Snape's pockets.

"And then that's when you decided to reach out to me and sent a patronus like image of yourself to my quarters, is that correct?"

"What's a pat-tone-us?"

"Patronus. It's like a . . . err, well, it's mostly used as an anti-demen- . . . well, it's complicated, Harry. It's kind of like that stag I showed you last night, remember that? Something . . . like that."

Harry thought back to the silvery image of the stag Mr. Snape had shown him. He nodded, even though he still had so many questions. Mr. Snape just sighed.

"Now, I believe we have one last stop to make."

"What's that?"

"The toy shop. As Minerva instructed."

Mr. Snape didn't look happy at all to be going to a toy shop, but Harry was excited. He had never been to a toy shop. He happily followed Mr. Snape out of the bookstore and to a building filled with various wizarding and muggle toys alike. Harry gasped and stared in awe, frozen in the entryway. Mr. Snape tugged him further inside.

"Now, Harry," Mr. Snape said in a serious voice. "We need to be back at Hogwarts in a half hour. I have an afternoon class to attend to. You may pick out three things to keep yourself occupied. Be quick about it."

Harry nodded and took a single step away from Mr. Snape. He stared in awe at the shelves and shelves of toys there were. It was incredible! Who knew there could be so many toys? And Mr. Snape was letting him pick out a couple? Three to be exact. And after all the clothes and books and . . . it was too much! Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon would have never let him do something like this. He never did anything to deserve this. Only good boys were allowed to get toys. Why was Mr. Snape allowing this? Was he – the lonely freak who lived under the cupboards – a good boy? Oops – he wasn't allowed to say freak anymore. But Mr. Snape couldn't hear his thoughts. But it still wasn't allowed – he was being a bad boy just standing there! What was wrong with him?

Harry felt his eyes water and he sniffed to try and hold back his sad tears. He didn't deserve toys. He couldn't pick out three. This felt wrong.

"Why are you crying – you're in a toy store!" Mr. Snape said from behind him.

Harry realized a couple tears had escaped his eyes and were slowly trailing down his cheeks. Mr. Snape was now standing at his side once more and staring down at him with a concerned look. Harry shook his head and rubbed at his eyes. "Nothing," he muttered, "I'm not crying."

"Do not lie to me. What is the matter?" Mr. Snape sighed agitatedly, then took in a breath and closed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose. He then spoke in a calmer voice, "Is it . . . perhaps overwhelming? You are not used to this, are you? Picking out toys for yourself, I mean."

Harry nodded. It was overwhelming. It was too much! Mr. Snape was too nice for a boy like him.

"Why don't . . . err, we could . . . perhaps pick out a couple things together?" Mr. Snape hesitantly held out a hand to Harry.

Harry rubbed at his eye one last time and smiled softly before accepting Mr. Snape's hand. He allowed Mr. Snape to lead him down an aisle that had shelves of various toys for kids – from beginner broomsticks to Wizard's chess to animated stuffed animals. It was all so strange to Harry, but Mr. Snape didn't seem at all surprised when a dragon figure breathed a small flame of harmless fire. Harry had jumped at that, but Mr. Snape offered a reassuring squeeze of Harry's hand. Then, Mr. Snape led Harry down a different aisle, where toys were less mobile and flighty. Harry relaxed a bit more and smiled at some normal stuffed animals.

After a ten-minute search, Harry decided on a game of wizard's checkers (something he could play with Mr. Snape), a muggle Lego space set, complete with a spaceship, an astro man, a space dozer, and a shuttle, and finally, a six pack of never-drying playdough. Mr. Snape had to encourage him to actually pick out what he liked, otherwise, they would have left with nothing. Harry was still feeling very overwhelmed, but he smiled at Mr. Snape all the way back to Hogwarts, knowing that his invisibility would keep the man from ever knowing he was staring at him in admiration.

Once back at Hogwarts, Mr. Snape said they had a schedule to go over still but they would do that when Mr. Snape returned from teaching his class. Mr. Snape flicked his wand at a feather (which Mr. Snape called a quill) and it turned into a small, three-drawer dresser for all his new clothes, which flew out of Mr. Snape's pockets and into their respective places. Then Mr. Snape emptied his pockets of the books he had bought and set them on top of the dresser. He set the toys on the shelf with the others of Harry's before saying he would be back and leaving.

Lunch was served, and Harry took his appetite stimulator and ate a ham and swiss sandwich with steamed carrots and broccoli on the side. He enjoyed the food and happily gulped down pumpkin juice, belatedly remembering he was supposed to drink it slowly. He would remember for dinner.

Harry stood and took his plate, cup, and utensils to the kitchen, prepared to wash and dry, but as soon as he set everything down in the sink, they vanished. This place was strange. Harry wondered if there was anything he would have to clean, but the entire room was as clean as it was yesterday. There wasn't even a speck of dust in sight. He wondered if Eve did the cleaning and how since he never saw her. Harry scuffed his feet as he walked past the fridge, pausing to stare up at the rules listed on the fridge.

Apartment Rules

Do not enter my study or lab

Do not touch my wand

Listen to Eve when I am not around

Do not answer the door should anyone knock. If someone enters, besides myself and Minny, hide in the bedroom and lock the door.

If there is an emergency, tell Eve to alert me

Freak is a Forbidden Word

Such strange rules. Mr. Snape had put them up yesterday evening, saying that he might add more as time went on. Harry sighed as he stared at the rules. They were so different from his relative's rules. For one, Mr. Snape forgot to add no talking, no crying, no running, no playing, and no touching anything. But Mr. Snape seemed to want him to break those rules. Except the no crying. Mr. Snape didn't seem to like crying. Not in a bad way, more like a way when Harry cried embarrassingly in front of his class. Maybe crying makes Mr. Snape feel uncomfortable, too.

Harry walked around the rooms, pausing in front of the potions lab door. He really wanted to watch Mr. Snape make a potion. It sounded like so much fun. But that room was forbidden unless Mr. Snape invited him in. It was dangerous, though how, Harry wasn't really sure. Mr. Snape compared it to chemistry, but Harry didn't know much about chemistry.

Not knowing what else to do, Harry decided to play with all his new toys, testing out everything (except the checkers since that was a two-player game).

The playdough was amazing! No matter how much he rolled and molded with it, it didn't dry out and he could remold the same piece into new shapes again and again. He created a red car with yellow lightning bolts on the side and black bumpers and big black tires. He made a smaller blue car with purple lightning bolts and black bumpers and orange wheels (since he ran out of black). He raced the cars around the bedroom before deciding to pack the playdough away and open his new Lego sets. He spent a couple hours building the spaceship and the astro man when Mr. Snape returned.

"Mr. Snape!" Harry called to him happily, running over to the man entering the living area. "Look at my spaceship! And my astronaut!"

"Err, they are nicely done, Harry," Mr. Snape said. "Put those back on your shelf by your bed and come sit down on the couch. We have a few things to discuss."

"Okay," Harry smiled, running back to the room and setting his new creations on the shelf by his other belongings, including the robot toy Minny had transfigured from the Rubik's cube. He plopped down on his bed and stared at the toys for a moment longer, his imagination taking over. He envisioned his astronaut flying into space and landing on the moon, only to run into – a giant, evil space robot! The robot was blocking the way back to the ship! The astronaut will have to fight the robot, so he pulls out his awesome laser gun and blasts an arm. But the arm grows back each time he shoots it off! And then the robot shoots lasers back! The astronaut jumps behind a big moon rock, only for a laser to blast it to pieces. The astronaut runs for another moon rock, shooting his gun at the robot, but the robot sees where the astronaut is going and blasts that rock before he can hide behind it. The robot has him cornered now and . . .

"Harry!" Mr. Snape's voice cuts through Harry's imagination. "How long does it take to put your toys away? Get back out here!"

Harry jumped off his bed and ran back out to the living room, offering Mr. Snape a sheepish smile.

"Sorry. I got distracted."

"Obviously," Mr. Snape frowned, setting tea supplies down on the coffee table before sitting down on the couch. "Sit. We have much to go over."

Harry obediently sat down next to Mr. Snape and smiled up at the man. Mr. Snape raised a hand and some weird paper came flying out of the forbidden study room. Harry stared down at the strange paper as Mr. Snape held it between them. It was a schedule.

Monday – 8am-10am: Writing

2pm-4pm: Math

Tuesday – 8am-10am: Study Time

2pm-4pm: History

Wednesday – 8am-10am: Lessons with Minerva

2pm-4pm: Study Time

Thursday – 8am-10am: Science

2pm-4pm: Reading

Friday – 8am-10am: Study Time

2pm-4pm: Test

Saturday – 8am-10am: Lessons with Minerva

2pm-4pm: Study Time

"As you can see," Mr. Snape began, "You will spend four hours each day learning and studying. I expect you to use your study time wisely by working on any assignments either I or Minerva may assign you. I have worked your schedule to work around my own and Professor McGonagall's. Mondays, I have a morning lecture, so I will see to your writing when I return in the afternoon, as which we will work on math. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I have labs and classes to attend to, so you'll do most of the work on your own. Thursdays, as you know, I have an afternoon lecture, but I will be quizzing you on your reading material. Any questions so far?"

Harry shook his head. It looked like his boring days were about to get busy.

"Every Friday, you will have a test on everything you've learned in that week. For tomorrow, we will skip that test as you are just starting your schedule. But on Saturday, I will drop you off at Professor McGonagall's office to begin your lesson. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, you will have lessons with her. They will vary from topics on magic to muggle studies, depending on how well you are doing in your subjects. For this first time, I will drop you off, but I'm thinking of having Eve take you to Minerva's office routinely. It would be safer and less conspicuous. I certainly can't be seen visiting her so often and she otherwise. Understand? Any Questions?"

"Are we reading today?" Harry asked. He liked to read and if Mr. Snape would stay and read with him – nothing could be better!

"Well, it's almost four thirty," Mr. Snape said. "As I've said, I have an afternoon lecture. You'll be doing the reading on your own. I believe Saturday will be the day we officially begin your schedule. How does that sound?"

"Oh," Harry couldn't help the small pout. "Okay."

"Any other questions about your schedule? Lunch will continue to be at noon, and you may use your lunch break to . . . err, play with your toys or something until two. I do have a grandfather clock," – Mr. Snape pointed off to the tall clock in the corner of the room – "so, I expect you to keep track of time. Even so, Eve will inform you of when it is two. I expect you to be responsible and start on the work I set out for you. This schedule is nonnegotiable. Questions?"

Harry shook his head.

"Good. So, err, what have you done today? Did you eat lunch?"

"Yes, Mr. Snape. All of it. I was going to clean my plate and stuff but it all disappeared."

"Yes, that happens here. The house elves tend to them, as they do everything. I will have Eve hold back on your toys and bed. I expect you to make your own bed each morning and to pick up after your toys and books. Dirty laundry will be collected by the house elves, but I expect you to put your own clothes away when they are returned. I do not want to find anything out of place. You know where your belongings need to be."

"Yes, Mr. Snape. Well, after lunch, I played with my new toys. I made two brilliant racecars with the playdough! One was blue with red lightning bolts – no wait, red with yellow lightning bolts! The other one was blue and purple – oh, now I wish I had saved them, so you could see them! I pretended that the room was a big racetrack . . ."

Severus allowed Harry to talk about how he had played with the playdough and how amazed he was that it never got even a tiny bit dry from constantly be molded into something new. Then Harry went on to explain how he had followed the instructions to the Lego models so carefully and built the spaceship and astro man. Harry said he would create the shuttle and space dozer tomorrow if there was time, which Severus responded that he was sure there would be plenty of time for that, since they weren't going to start the schedule then.

After Severus had been thoroughly updated on the boy's day, dinner was ready, and they went to the table where Eve served them their food. Harry needed another appetite stimulator in order to eat more than half of his plate. Severus was sure Harry would be on the stimulator for a few more days before he could eat a good portion of his meals without it. Once dinner was over, Severus helped Harry draw a warm bath. While Harry bathed, Severus picked up the daily prophet he had missed that morning in his rush to shop for Harry under Minerva's suggestion. He sat in his armchair and tried to read the news, yet his thoughts strayed to Harry and the situation he found himself in. This would be the second day (full day) he had kept Harry in the castle. So far, his plan was working, he just had to start looking for a suitable family. And pretend to investigate the boy's "disappearance" for Albus. And keep up with his lessons and teaching. And manage his part as Head of Slytherin. And teach and care for a seven-year-old child.

What the bloody hell had he signed himself up for?

After fifteen minutes of distressful thinking and semi-reading the paper, Harry appeared in his pajamas with a board game in his hands.

"Can you play wizard's checkers with me, now?" Harry asked, holding out the game.

Severus stared at the boy in front of him. He opened his mouth, then closed it again. He narrowed his eyes.

"Not . . . tonight. I should actually prepare some ingredients for tomorrow's first year classes. Merlin knows they can't prepare their own ingredients properly."

Severus stood and set the Daily Prophet aside, prepared to hide away in his lab. He was just not cut out for amusing children. Harry's face seemed to fall as he set the game on the coffee table, but he looked up at Severus with a hopeful expression.

"Are you going to your lab? Can I come?"

"What have I told you about my lab?"

"But," Harry's lower lip puckered out. "You said that maybe I could watch you sometimes. Please? I'll be good and quiet."

Severus closed his eyes and inhaled sharply. He's heard that phrase far too often growing up. Be good and quiet indeed. It was all Harry was actually good at – heck, he excelled at it. Well, what harm would it do to have the boy observe him in the lab. Perhaps it would entertain him until bedtime. Maybe the boy would bore of the ingredient preparation he'd fall asleep in the lab. It wasn't a bad idea, honestly.

"Fine," Severus decided. "But just this once."

"Yes, Mr. Snape!" Harry exclaimed, a large smile spreading across his face.

Severus rolled his eyes and led the boy to his lab, holding the door open for him. Harry eagerly stepped inside, staring around at everything as if it was the most amazing place in the world. Severus summoned a variety of ingredients to his prep table, at the same time checking on a simmering cauldron on one of the long tables. He gave the potion a stir and removed it from the heat. He'd vial it all later, after his necessary ingredients were chopped.

"What's that, Mr. Snape?" Harry asked, pointing at the cauldron as he used his hands to push up on the table to get a closer look.

"It is a Fever Reducer and get down!" Severus snapped, picking the boy up and off the table to set him on his feet.

"Sorry."

Severus summoned a stepstool and set it near his prepping station, heightening it so the boy could see above the table. When he was finished, he pointed at it and said, "Sit."

Harry jumped up on the stool and clasped his hands together, resting them in his lap and looking at Severus expectantly. Severus separated a jar of ginger roots from a container of bezoars. He picked up a grater to start on the bezoars first, as that would take the longest.

"Now, I need to grate these bezoars and then –"

"What's a bezoar?"

Severus glared at Harry for his interruption. The boy seemed a bit remorseful, but his eyes still sparkled with curiosity. Severus sighed and looked back at the bezoar he was grating, the tiny pieces collecting in a small, growing pile. He might as well as answer the kid's questions if he was going to have him in there.

"A bezoar," Severus answered, "is a stone taken from the stomach of a goat and it will save you from most poisons. It looks like this." Severus held up the bezoar pointedly to show Harry. Harry frowned at the stone that seemed to shiny to have been in a goat's stomach.

"That was in a goat's stomach? How did it get there? Do all goats have it?"

"It . . . depends on the type of bezoar. Other animals can create bezoars, as well. Some bezoars are formed by indigestible plant material – as is the case in most ruminants – cows are ruminants, Harry, as are sheep and goats." Severus had seen the question forming on the boy's lips and had answered before the child could ask. "Sometimes a bezoar is a hairball trapped in the stomach. And sometimes it's not in the stomach at all – maybe it's stuck in the throat, perhaps from swallowing food that hasn't been chewed properly. In horses, that is known as choke."

"Is it because they're choking?"

"Hmm," Severus returned to grating. "Indeed. Smart boy."

He ignored how Harry's smile brightened and focused on what he was doing. It was quiet in the lab for a minute.

"This is ginger," Harry suddenly said.

Severus looked at the ginger roots and then at Harry.

"Yes, it is," Severus frowned. "I need to chop them."

"I can help you," Harry offered.

"I don't think giving you a knife would be appropriate."

"It's okay. Aunt Petunia taught me all about chopping, and dicing, and mincing."

Severus froze. Did Harry honestly know the difference between the three? Some adults didn't even know the difference – forget most of his first-year students. Severus felt an anger for Petunia and her horrid husband surge within him. He really wanted to get back at her for her little scene at the hotel and for everything she had put this boy through. Severus closed his eyes, remembering how Harry had begged for him to take the boy in, claiming he could clean, garden, and cook. Clearly, the boy was not fibbing.

"Why don't –" Severus cleared his throat as he felt himself choke a bit from how dry it had gone. "Why don't you show me what you know? Here."

Severus handed Harry his chopping knife and watched the boy closely, making sure he didn't cut himself. Harry picked up a ginger root and began chopping it into even pieces at a slow rate. While Severus could chop them much faster, the boy was doing an adequate job even at his pace. In fact – the ginger was perfect when Harry finished and looked up at him expectantly.

"Did I do okay?" the boy asked quietly.

"Excellent," Severus remarked with a frown. When Harry just stared, Severus blinked and offered a small smile to the child. "You did very good. Why don't you keep at it while I grate these?"

Harry nodded as a smile stretched across his face once more and grabbed another root. Severus shook his head as he watched Harry focus on what he was doing, his tongue sticking out at the corner as he slowly chopped the ginger perfectly. It amazed Severus how the strong the boy was – despite everything he had been through. How willing he was to please adults around him. Severus focused on his own task, working silently alongside Harry. For an hour, the two-finished prepping the ingredients, and when that was done, Severus sent Harry to their room, so he could work on cleaning up.

Severus used the alone time to think over Harry's skill with a knife. And the boy's comment from the hotel. Clearly, Harry was no more than a house elf to the Dursleys'. Severus growled under his breath and ran his hands through his hair in frustration. If he ever ran into that woman again, he would . . .

A loud tapping sound rang through the apartment. Severus sighed and left his lab to find the source, though the sound was very familiar. He had a feeling he knew what it was. As he entered the living room, Harry was peering out of the bedroom door.

"What's that, sir?" he asked.

"Go back into the room. Shut the door."

Harry did just that. Severus sighed as the incessant tapping continued. There had been no reason for Harry to shut himself in the bedroom door, but he'd rather this little routine be kept between himself and what was outside the door. Severus opened the door and looked down to see a Hen Harrier – a male, pale gray in color with black tipped wings – sitting outside his door, looking up from where it had been tapping its beak on the wood. The bird gave a kek noise and flew into the rooms, landing on the coffee table and offering its leg. Tightly grasped in its talons was a rolled-up piece of parchment. Severus sighed and accepted it, knowing the bird would be gone sooner if he just took the parchment.

Dear Severus, I wish I could see you or at least hear your voice again. It's been so long – five years to be exact. I know I've said this before, but I'll say it again: I am sorry. Would you please come see me? If just for a cup of tea? I'm connected to the floo network, all you have to say is MacAuley Estate, Ireland. You are always welcomed, any time, day or night. Or, you could send Kieran off with a message. He'll gladly accept it. Sincerely, your mother, Eileen Prince-MacAuley.

Severus sighed, staring down at the parchment a moment longer before tossing it into the flaming fireplace, watching the parchment crinkle and burn. The hen harrier, Kieran, made that strange noise again as it stared at him, tilting its head.

"I have nothing in return," Severus said, crossing his arms. "The door is still open. Fly away."

"Kek." Kieran just stared back.

Severus sighed again, closing his eyes. It had been five years since he had last spoken to his mother. And five years since their last big argument. It was all they ever did anymore. And it was over the same thing. It didn't matter what they were talking about – somehow, every conversation wound up back to their argument. They could have been discussing the weather and they'd end up arguing. Maybe he always started them, but they were conflicts yet resolved. And he wasn't about to accept any apology yet. Not now, and perhaps not ever.

"Fly away," Severus insisted, opening his eyes and glaring at the bird.

Kieran just kept staring, a strange throaty sound emitting off the bird before he spread his wings and took flight, leaving Severus's quarters. Severus slammed the door shut behind it and collapsed in his armchair. He hated that bird and what it signified. The unsettled turmoils that still existed. The turmoils he didn't want to face. Severus rubbed at his face and closed his eyes, feeling like he could use a beer or something to relax.

"Mr. Snape?" Harry's voice invaded his head.

Severus opened his eyes and looked at Harry, who was holding a book in his hands.

"I was wondering if you could help me with a couple words in the beginning. This is a hard book."

Severus looked at the book Harry was holding: Manxmouse. Severus sighed again.

"Try reading the first sentence," Severus suggested.

Harry stood at Severus's side, so he could see the page as well.

"There was once ra-rather an ex-ex-extra-extra-or –"

"Extraordinary," Severus corrected.

"Extraordinary," Harry repeated and continued, "old cccc . . . I don't know that word."

"Ceramist," Severus said, looking at the rest of the sentence as he took the book from Harry, "who lived in the village of Buntingdowndale in the heart of England. This is a kid's book? I wouldn't expect you to know a lot of these words."

"What's a ceramist?" Harry asked.

"Someone who makes porcelain things. Why don't you read a different book? One that is easier."

"But this one looks interesting. Can you read it to me?"

There was that question again. Severus frowned at Harry.

"No. I will not. Read an easier book." Severus handed the book back to Harry.

"But," Harry's lips trembled as he stared at the cover. "This looks fun. I want to know what happens with Manxmouse. He looks so different and he probably doesn't like being different. And he goes on cool adventures and . . ."

"Oh, for the love of . . ." Severus growled as he lifted Harry roughly and set him on his lap, snatching the book from the boy. "Fine. I'll read it to you. But just this first chapter. And just this once."

Harry smiled happily and nodded, leaning into Severus as he opened the book to the first chapter. Severus felt as though he had been played but would a seven-year-old really know how to manipulate someone like this. Just to be safe . . .

"This is not going to become a nightly ritual, understand. Just this first chapter, just this once."

"Yes, Mr. Snape."

The boy sounded too satisfied. Severus narrowed his eyes but began reading the first chapter of the book. It was a rather interesting first chapter – events happening, weddings, the very creation of a blue Manx Mouse by a ceramist. Severus had never read this book and found himself intrigued to read the next chapter, but he also noted that Harry was asleep on his lap. He sighed and leaned his head back against the chair cushion. What was happening to him? Why on earth had he agreed to read to the child. Yes, the boy had been on the verge of tears, but that shouldn't bother him. His first years were often on the verge of tears. What made this situation different?

Severus carried Harry to his bed and set the book on the shelf with the other books and toys. It was just this one night. Harry would have to amuse himself with books from now on. This was it. The last night he read to the boy. Harry would have a schedule to follow and homework to occupy his time from now on. This was not a nightly ritual. It wasn't.

I hope you liked it!

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