Sequel to Mine
Harry yawned and stretched with his eyes still closed, enjoying the feeling of the afternoon sunlight behind his closed lids. Snuffling into his pillow he lifted his head and slowly opened his eyes, looking around his bedroom blearily.
He was thirsty. What was he doing asleep in the daytime anyway?
Recollection drifted back and he turned over, huffing angrily. He had told his dad not to let him fall asleep, and then he'd gone and let him doze off. And even worse he'd carried him in here and laid him on the bed.
Harry scrambled to a sitting position and surveyed his sock clad toes.
And he'd taken his shoes off.
"Bugger," Harry whispered, just because he knew it would drive his dad nuts if he heard him. Then he looked around guiltily because sometimes it really did seem like his father had eyes in the back of his head, and after a few months in the wizarding world this didn't sound as unlikely as it once had.
Where was his dad anyway? Harry knew he wouldn't be far away, he'd promised him once when Harry was scared that he would never go away and leave him, and Harry believed him with all his heart. His daddy had been really sad that night, he'd cried and everything. Harry hadn't even thought grown ups could cry, but his dad had, real sad tears.
Funny thing was that when his father cried it made Harry feel a little better. He wasn't sure why.
Quiet on sock clad feet Harry crept down the hall and peered into the sitting room. There was his dad all right, and it looked like Harry wasn't the only baby still taking naps. Book spread open and propped on his chest Harry's daddy was fast asleep, soft little snores ruffling the long strands of hair that fell around his face.
Boldly Harry crept over to him, weighing his options. He could say 'boo' and make his dad jump a mile, Dudley used to do that to his father when Uncle Vernon was sleeping in the backyard with his hanky over his face.
But that seemed kind of mean, and Harry didn't want to be mean like Dudley was.
He could go into the kitchen and help himself to chocolate cake, but there wasn't really much thrill filching food these days, when all he had to do was call Mr Pickle and he had more cakes than he could eat.
Growing bored with his thoughts Harry leaned on the arm of his dad's chair and surveyed his sleeping face thoughtfully. He remembered waking up that first morning with his dad, after falling asleep on the purple bus. He remembered running his finger down this stranger's nose and wondering if they looked alike.
Harry touched a finger to his own nose. Would he look like his father when he grew up? He hoped so. He wanted people to know who he belonged to, and not have them saying how much he looked like his other dad. Maybe when he grew his hair long, Harry considered. Maybe then people would say he looked like his real father.
Harry's stomach growled and he licked his lips, wondering if he should call Pickle after all, and get some food. He had some biscuits in his bottom drawer, they'd been there for ages and Harry couldn't even remember what he'd been saving them for. Maybe he could munch on a few of them, and then his dad would probably wake up and they could do something together.
Make a potion maybe, or go for a walk. Daddy didn't like card games much, and he said he didn't know how to play cars, but that was okay. Even when Harry played by himself he was happy as long as his father was there, reading or writing in his books. Just to look up and see him there made Harry feel... happy somehow.
Mind made up Harry crept back into his bedroom and plopped onto the carpet by his bed, sliding open the bottom drawer and pulling out the tin of biscuits. Honeyduke's. Harry could read that name though it was a long one. The writing was all gold and curly with little honey bees buzzing around the letters. Honeyduke's Chocolate Assortment.
Harry sounded all the words out in his head and grinned widely as he pried the lid off. Those were all long words but he was a good reader, all his teachers said so. It was the best thing he did, next to flying a broom. He was a natural at that.
Three biscuits later Harry's tummy was a little fuller and his first urgent hunger had faded. Now he paused thoughtfully as he chose his next biscuit, admiring the curious shapes and artful swirls of chocolate atop them. He leaned back against the chest of drawers and sighed happily, thinking about nothing more than how good the next biscuit would taste.
When on the wall the tapestry moved, just a little.
Harry froze with the biscuit at his lips, eyes widening behind his glasses. He knew the ghosts could come through walls, he'd seen them in the Great Hall and sometimes in the corridors. He didn't like the ghosts but his dad had told him he'd forbidden them to come into the tower and so far none had. At night Harry drew his curtains around him tightly and so far the ghosts had stayed away. But even as he watched now the tapestry swayed just a little.
Harry wondered if he should call out for his dad. He was only just down the hall, he'd certainly hear him and come running. He resolved that he would, if a ghost even peeked through his wall then Harry would call for his dad and his dad would get his wand out and make a huge spell to scare it away!
Just thinking about it made Harry feel a little better and his breathing evened out a little as he kept his eyes glued on the great colourful tapestry, waiting for the first sign of a intruding ghost. Then he felt the tiniest puff of air around his knees and the corner of the tapestry swayed a little and all of a sudden Harry knew what it was. It was just a breeze stirring the corner! Of course it was! Ghosts couldn't move things or even touch them, his dad had told him that when he'd told Harry he didn't have to be afraid of them, not even the Bloody Baron with his spooky staring eyes.
But where was the breeze coming from? The window was on the other wall and the afternoon was airless and hot. Besides, if there was a breeze through the window it wouldn't move the tapestry right over there, would it?
Curiousity took over and Harry scooted along the floor on his hands and knees, leaving the soft silky carpet by his bed and wincing at the stone of the floor beneath his knees. It wasn't really rough, too many feet had worn it down over the years, but it was hard and chilly, even on a bright summer day. Harry tweaked the corner of the tapestry aside and instantly felt the slightly cooler breeze on his cheeks, vying with the cold of the floor.
Sensitive fingers searched and were rewarded by a seam in the stone wall, wide enough that his small fingers could probe into it, following the groove along and around a rounded corner. Thrilled, Harry's fertile imagination supplied the answer. A secret passage!
He should have known! Didn't all castles have tunnels and secret rooms and treasure? Why, there was probably a chest of gold or something behind this door! If only he could find the way to open it, if only he could find... Small agile fingers reached a deeper groove and excitedly Harry pushed, feeling rather than hearing a heavy click as something swung free. And then Harry was jumping back as the stone panel swung noiselessly open, revealing a small dark chamber beyond.
Breathless with excitement Harry peered in, finding himself looking around the curve of the old stone wall into a tunnel. So he had been right! A secret passage leading to who knew where? And he was the only one who knew about it, probably in a hundred years. Oh, how he wished Neville was here to share it with him.
It did look awfully dark in there though, Harry thought as his excitement faltered a little. And dusty too, cobwebs hung down and swayed a little in that soft breeze. Maybe if he went and woke his dad up they could explore it together?
But it was an awfully small opening and the tunnel didn't look much wider. His dad mightn't fit and Harry just knew he wouldn't be allowed to go down on his own. Why, his dad didn't even let him take a bath with the door closed. He treated him like he was still a little baby or something!
Harry didn't have a torch but he had his nightlight and he darted back to his bedside table and scooped it up. He was not a baby, and he was not afraid. Hadn't his dad told him that this castle was the home of wizards? And wasn't he a wizard? There wasn't anything here that would hurt him, and anyway he'd only go a little way in, he could still call his dad if it got scary or anything.
Pausing only to wedge a stool into the opening so it wouldn't slam shut on him, Harry blew gently on his nightlight until it glowed warmly. Then he set his shoulders and peered into the tunnel.
Beside Snape's bed a small glass globe chimed softly and began to glow. But down the hall in the sitting room Severus Snape only snored a little more loudly and settled in to catching up on some missed slumber.
The tunnel went a little way and Harry shivered as the cobwebs brushed his face. He could only just walk upright but he crouched a little anyway, not wanting to touch the cold black walls. He really wished that Neville was here, although he had the feeling that the other boy would not have accompanied him on this adventure. Neville didn't even like reading scary adventures, and when the hero of the Tales of the Dragon Boy had been facing the scary sea monsters at the end of the book he had hidden his face in his hands and closed his eyes while Mr Lupin read the passage.
Suddenly the light was filling a bigger space ahead and the tunnel had widened into what Harry realised was a small room. There was a low stool, and an old cushion tattered and musty with dust and cobwebs rested on it. Fabric stirred but before Harry could cry out a tiny mouse was peeking out at him with a surprised expression.
"It's all right," Harry assured it in a relieved whisper. "I won't sit on your house. I wonder who put it here?"
There was a table too, and books and other objects, covered with dust and hard to make out in the dim light. Harry held the light closer and exclaimed in surprise. Why, they were toys! Here was a spinning top, its gay colours obscured under the thick dust. And these were jacks, weren't they? Girls at school used to play them. And here... Harry's fingers shaped a leather bag, deciding that the hard round shapes within must be marbles.
Some of the things he couldn't identify and his long fingers explored them curiously, a tube that felt like a telescope, but it was too dark too see anything through it. A round board like the face of a clock, with numbers but no hands. A box with a handle on the side, what did that do? Why on earth were there toys here?
Could they have belonged to the children who used to live here? Mr Lupin had told him that a potion master like his dad had lived here long ago. He'd had lots of children and they'd all grown up in the tower like he and Neville were doing. Mr Lupin said he thought they must have had a jolly time having the whole tower to themselves. Could his bedroom have belonged to one of them? Was his secret tunnel once used by other little children, long ago?
His hand was getting tired holding the light and it was really too dark to see much more. Harry picked up the bag of marbles and stuffed it into his pocket, then he picked up the book nearest him and held it under his arm. With a last look around he turned and walked back down the short passage. He didn't even really need the light in his hand, he could see the bright sunlight of his room slanting into the opening ahead and he quickened his pace and jumped over the stone ledge of the doorway and back into his room.
Now that his adventure was over Harry felt grand and full of himself. He'd explored that dark place all by himself! Just like a hero in one of the exciting books Mr Lupin read to them. And he might not have found treasure and gold, but he had found some pretty exciting things, and later he'd go back for them and explore some more.
Blowing his light out Harry raced for his bed and jumped upon it, bouncing slightly and laughing with sheer joy. The book dropped from under his arm and bounced with him, and Harry shuffled back against the headboard and opened it, ignoring the dust that smeared his hands and his knees as he rested it there.
"Brownlow Jennet," he read slowly, sounding out the words. "Brownlow Jennet, wizard." It was a name! "This book belongs to Brownlow Jennet, wizard," he read. "And none of his sisters is to touch it, especially you, Constance."
Harry sniggered. He liked Brownlow Jennet already, even if he did have a funny name. Although he had noticed that most everybody who was a wizard had a funny name, and so did the places and the shops. In fact when you were a wizard and not an ordinary boy, Harry probably seemed like a funny name.
A board creaked in the hall and Harry shoved the book under his pillow and stuck his head out of the curtains.
"Ah, you're awake," his dad said and Harry nodded, eyes darting to the tapestry. The stool still wedged the door open but the big heavy cloth had dropped back down and mostly covered it.
"Harry!" his father continued, reaching for the curtain and pulling it aside. "What on earth have you been doing? You're covered with dust and cobwebs. Have you been under your bed again?"
"No," Harry answered honestly. If only he'd thought to close the door! He really wanted to go back into the secret room and he just knew his dad wouldn't let him. Mostly Harry liked that his dad looked out for him and protected him. It felt good and it sometimes still surprised him. But right now he wanted to hug this secret to himself a while longer, and maybe share it with Neville when he came back.
"Honestly," his father scolded. "I've never met a child for getting so dirty. Well, I was going to take you for a walk but now I think it's straight into the bath for you, young man."
"Oh, daddy!" Harry exclaimed, thrusting himself through his curtains, secret tunnel forgotten. "Can we still go for a walk? I'll wash really fast."
"Thorough is better than fast, Harry," his dad said, but his big hand tousled Harry's hair so Harry knew he wasn't really scolding. Although then he was staring down at his hand and the cobwebs and dust on it so Harry thought he'd better hurry to the bathroom and not push his luck.
They walked down the lake and around its edge, stopping to skim stones on the tranquil surface and so Harry could paddle his feet in the shallows. Then they found some plants his dad had been looking for so they picked some leaves and Harry's hat became a basket so they wouldn't get bruised. Harry was tired but happy when he hung his coat up in the hallway and raced to the bathroom to wash his hands.
"Supper will be here soon," his dad called. "I'm just going to take these leaves down to my lab. Behave yourself while I'm gone. And Harry?" Peering round the door into the bathroom Harry's father looked down his long nose at him. "Try not to get dirty again in the five minutes I'm away. Please?"
This reminded Harry about his tunnel and he promised his dad he'd stay clean and then waited until the door closed behind him. Then he raced into his room and dragged the footstool away from the tunnel's entrance. The door didn't move until Harry swung it back around, and then, as silently as it had opened it was closed, the seam barely showing except to sharp eyes who knew it was there.
Harry scuttled back to the bed and tugged the book out, careful not to smear the dust all over his clean hands this time. He didn't have long before his dad was back, and he'd already decided to hide the book under his tin of biscuits in his bottom drawer. But before he did he opened it up again and turned past the page where Brownlow Jennet had signed his name and written the warning to his sisters, especially Constance.
There was a photograph on the next page and Harry gazed in delight at the children looking back at him. He counted ten, some as tall as Bill Weasley, some smaller than him. Then he counted eleven when he noticed the tallest one holding a baby in her arms. It was no wonder he'd missed it, the tiny thing looked like a ruffled pillow in a baggy hat that tied under her chin and a frilly robe.
There were lots of frilly robes actually, and it was for this reason that Harry knew which of the children was the owner of this book. From tallest to smallest there were ten girls in the picture, bows and hats and lacy collars abounded. And in their midst was one scowling boy, hair slicked down, hands firmly behind his back.
"Brownlow Jennet," Harry breathed in satisfaction.
"Harry?" His dad was back and Harry stowed his book away and headed back for supper. Exploring the tunnel had been an adventure, and Brownlow Jennet's book looked like it was going to be an adventure too. Harry could hardly wait to explore it.
'The hottest August for fifty years!' The Prophet exclaimed, but Snape was so out of sorts with the newspaper he was not inclined to trust a word they had to say. He'd received another owl from Claude Foote, the reporter who'd recognised them while they were away on holidays, demanding a personal interview to 'put the public's mind to rest', as he put it.
Even if Snape hadn't despised the reporter on general principles he would have hated Claude Foote personally. He was the reason why Snape was sticking close to Hogwarts at the moment even though he'd foolishly mentioned a trip to the seaside to Harry.
And Harry was not letting him forget that rash statement. Snape had been distracted, and anxious to distract Harry from thoughts of his absent tutor or he would never have said such a thoughtless thing. Hadn't he resolved not to put Harry at risk again?
But as even Dumbledore had admitted, he couldn't confine the boy to this school forever. The time might come when he had to, but that time was not yet.
Snape fanned himself with the papers he was perusing and yawned. He wasn't sleeping too well at night, head spinning with worries about Harry and whether he was doing the right thing. He'd had another letter too, from an old acquaintance who worked with potions, inviting him to work on a project with him. It was something Snape very much wanted to do, but the new school year was looming and responsibilities already seemed to weigh him down.
How could he take on another one?
Lack of sleep and the drowsing heat took its toll and Snape knew he must have dozed off because the next thing he remembered was jerking awake, his neck stiff and aching. He rubbed it ruefully, reflecting that this was becoming a bad habit. Afternoons should be spent productively, not dozed away. He resolved to wake Harry and take him down to the dungeons for some brewing. It would be cooler down there at least.
The small apartment was quiet and and a quick glance into Harry's room showed the curtain around the bed was drawn back and the rumpled covers flat.
"Harry?" he called out, turning back to the kitchen. This sounded like the silence of mischief to his ears, something every parent became acquainted with sooner or later. He hurried to the small kitchen but stopped on the threshold when he wasn't greeted with the sight of some sticky mess, or more likely Harry's sticky face and an empty cake plate.
Was the boy in Neville's room? Now Snape was getting worried. He was almost running as he hurried into Neville's room and then his own, calling Harry's name and pulling open cupboard doors.
"Harry, if you're hiding it's not funny!" he said firmly, trying to keep the edge of panic out of his voice. His wards were in place, the front door closed tight, the floos locked, under the beds dusty but empty.
Heart pounding Snape stood in the hallway, eyes darting around as if they would alight on some vital clue. Under Harry's own bed? He couldn't believe the boy would remain hidden from him, but perhaps he had dozed off? Harry was still young enough to be prone to sudden sleep. Snape knew he'd never forget the sight of Harry nodding off into his rhubarb and custard one night, and only jerking awake when his nose was yellow and sticky.
"Harry!" he bellowed, skidding on the silky carpet of Harry's room as he rushed to the bed and dropped to his knees, pulling up the ruffled bed skirt and peering underneath. "I'm serious, boy, you'd better show yourself right now!"
Never had a voice been so welcome, even one as soft and anxious. Snape spun and around and saw to his angry astonishment Harry peering at him from behind one of the heavy old tapestries. Jumping to his feet he grabbed the corner of the hanging and dragged it back, revealing a gaping hole in the wall and a curving passage.
"I heard you call me," Harry said nervously.
Relief gave way to rage and Snape grabbed the boy's shoulders and dragged him bodily through the hole.
"What do you think you are doing?" he yelled.
Harry's eyes widened and filled with tears. Snape shook him roughly and the tears spilled and ran down his cheeks.
"I was just..." Harry said weakly. "My tunnel..."
So angry he could barely form words Snape pushed the boy away before he could shake him again. His hands curved into claws and he clenched them and swung away from Harry's stricken face.
"Tunnel?" he spat out. "You found a hole and crawled into it? Are you a fool, boy?" he demanded. "Don't you know anything might have happened to you in there?" He swung back around. "I couldn't find you!" he bellowed and Harry cringed away from him, face wet with tears, jaw trembling.
"I'm s... sorry," he stuttered but Snape was having none of it, his knees were weak with fear, his temper burning. "Go to bed," he ordered. "In Neville's room," he spat as Harry stared at him. "Where I can be sure you won't crawl down any more holes."
Wet eyes gave way to real tears and Harry burst into sobs as he skidded away on his sock clad feet, running from the room and down the hall. Snape felt like crying himself as he sank to the cold stone floor, knees finally giving way. His moments of panic still felt as if they were choking him, waking suddenly to find Harry gone like too many of his bitter dreams to be easily borne.
His tunnel! Harry's words rang in his head. When on earth had the boy found it, and what had possessed him to crawl down it? When Snape thought of some of the things that might have lain in wait for a small child behind the stone walls of this ancient place he felt a cold sweat break out all over him.
Over his shoulder a small musty breeze from the passageway ruffled his hair and he sighed and rubbed his face.
Of course he knew what had driven Harry. His parents had been Gryffindors hadn't they? At least two of them had. Foolhardy risk taking that masqueraded as courage. It seemed Harry had inherited that along with his green eyes and knobbly knees. The boy was too bold for his own good. This was something that needed to be nipped in the bud.
But first he'd better go to Harry. He'd been hard on him, harder than he'd ever been. It had been driven by fear but Harry wouldn't understand that. He'd been sobbing his heart out when he left, and Snape felt a prickle of guilt. He hated making his son cry.
Deja vu hit him as he looked into Neville's room, the bed was empty, the room silent. But then his eyes lit on Harry, sitting on the wide window seat, curled up with his face buried in his knees.
"I thought I told you to go to bed," Snape said quietly.
Snape took a step into the room. "I'm sorry you were so upset," he said sincerely. "But you shouldn't have gone into that passage alone."
"You never said I couldn't," Harry muttered.
Snape stopped in his tracks. "I beg your pardon?"
Harry lifted his chin and turned an angry face to him, no less fierce for the swollen eyes and wet cheeks.
"You never said I couldn't explore my room," he said belligerently.
Snape felt his ire rise again.
"I couldn't find you," he snapped. "You scared the life out of me!"
"I came when you called me," Harry said, setting his chin firmly.
"That is not the point." Snape reined his temper in. Harry just didn't understand and it was up to him to explain it, not shout the boy down as he wanted to do. "You could have been hurt-"
"You told me that nothing in this place would hurt me," Harry shot back, unfolding himself and standing up. His little hands were clenched into fists by his side.
Taken aback Snape searched his memory. Had he really said that?
"I'm sure I said that to comfort you," he said carefully. "But I meant that nothing would hurt you when I was around. I wouldn't let you go and explore just anywhere in the castle alone, would I?"
Harry opened his mouth and then closed it again, a trace of uncertainty clouding his features.
"But this was my room." Harry's fingers uncurled and he locked them together in front of him. "I was only playing," he muttered now, eyes down.
Snape risked another step closer. "And I didn't mean to yell at you," he said, and meant it. "It just really frightened me when I couldn't find you."
Harry sniffed again and wiped at his cheek with a trembling hand. "Uh huh," he hiccupped.
"Remember how frightened you were when you couldn't find me that time?" Snape said, taking another step and crouching down by his son. All his anger was gone now, at the sight of Harry so distressed. And the truth was he hadn't told Harry not to explore like that, and he had told him that he would be safe at Hogwarts.
"I 'member," Harry said, sobbing now.
Snape reached out, his own hands trembling as Harry flinched away from him.
"I'm sorry, Harry," he murmured, letting his hands shape those narrow shoulders again. But this time his touch was gentle and Harry turned into his embrace and leaned against his shoulder.
"I'm sorry too," Harry sobbed into his shoulder and Snape patted his narrow back, lifting him up and cradling him against his chest. He sank down on the window seat and let Harry cry into his neck, trying to convey his own apology with the gentle patting and rubbing.
"I have a wicked temper," Snape murmured, making this part of the apology too.
"You... you never yelled at me afore," Harry stuttered against the damp fabric of his collar.
"Of course I have," Snape said, surprised.
Harry shook his tousled head fiercely. "Not like that," he disagreed. "Like you..." he sniffed, rubbing his eyes on the cloth of Snape's coat. "Like you din't like me no more," he finished in a mutter.
Dismayed Snape held him closer. "Oh, Harry," he said wretchedly. "I was angry with you, that's all. Don't you get angry at me? Why, I can think of a number of times you've yelled at me and stamped your foot!"
Surprised, Harry looked up into his father's face, blinking swollen eyes.
"You remember that?" Snape prompted.
Harry pursed his lips and sniffed again. "I suppose," he allowed.
"But you always loved me, didn't you?"
Harry nodded. "I was just mad is all," he explained.
"Well, so was I," Snape said. He bit his lip. "I shouldn't have grabbed you though," he said awkwardly. He touched one of Harry's shoulders gently. "Did I hurt you?"
Harry shook his head. "I was a bit scared," he confessed. "You look scary when you yell." He leaned his head on his father's shoulder and rubbed his eyes with his knuckles. "I told Neville that you only got mad at other people, not us."
"I can't promise not to get mad at you, Harry," Snape said carefully. "But I can promise I'll never lay an angry hand on you again. That's a solemn promise."
"But even if you're mad at me, you'll still love me, right?" Harry's wet green eyes begged for reassurance and Snape gave it without a moment's thought. He kissed Harry's frowning little forehead.
"I will always love you," he said, and this was a solemn promise as well. "No matter how angry I may get, even if I yell until my eyes bug out."
Harry giggled damply into his shoulder.
"Even if you do the silliest Gryffindor thing in the whole world." Snape met slightly puzzled eyes and nodded reassurance. "I will love you."
This part Harry understood, and he nodded and squeezed out a small smile.
"I love you too."
Snape held his wand aloft and peered around into the curving passageway.
"What on earth possessed you to venture into such a dark little space?" he exclaimed.
Harry looked up at him warily as if checking he wasn't getting angry again, and then shrugged.
"I was being brave," he explained. "Like a hero in a book."
Snape lowered his wand and turned to face his son. "Harry, you must learn there is a difference between being brave and being foolhardy."
Harry frowned in puzzlement. "There is?"
Snape sighed and crouched down to the boy's level, trying to temper his words to a six year old's level as well. "Being brave is when you take medicine even though you know it will taste awful. Or owning up to something even though you might get into trouble."
"I do that!" Harry pointed out.
"Just so. And you are a brave boy."
"But you are also foolhardy, Harry, when you take a risk for no other reason than that you want to. When you ignore danger and carry on regardless."
"But I told you." Harry's tone was slightly petulant. "I didn't know I wasn't allowed."
Snape's brow rose and he sought Harry's shifty gaze. "Really? Then why didn't you come and show me the passage when you found it? Why hide it from me for days?"
Harry made a sour face, hunching his shoulders and biting his lip. "Cos I knew you wouldn't let me," he finally admitted.
"Hmm," Snape agreed. "So you at least suspected that you wouldn't be allowed?"
Harry scuffed one foot on the silken carpet. "I suppose," he said grudgingly. Then he looked up. "Hey, that's being brave, right? Owning up like you said?"
Snape suppressed an urge to laugh at the hopeful expression on his son's face. The boy was irrepressible.
"Don't change the subject," he said sternly. "Now there won't be a punishment for this, I think you've learned your lesson."
Harry looked relieved.
"But I would like you to take another lesson from all this, Harry. If you're tempted to do something you feel has to be kept a secret from me then it's probably something you shouldn't be doing. Right?"
"Uh huh," Harry agreed solemnly.
"So in future if you get this urge... don't do it!"
"But that's no fun, daddy," Harry wailed.
"Nevertheless," Snape said firmly. "Now wait here while I crawl into this small and incredibly filthy little hole you've found. Then I'll seal it up so we won't have this problem again."
"But I want to show it to Neville!" Harry objected. "Oh, please, daddy, it's not dangerous, really it isn't! It's really cool and no one else has one! Not even Ronnie!"
Harry began to explain all the reasons why he should keep his new found hiding place, but Snape's mind tuned him out as it explored a few options on its own. He rose to his feet slowly, glancing back over his shoulder at the small dark passageway, and then back at his son.
Something prickled at his thumbs, some dim presentiment he'd seldom felt before but knew better than to ignore.
"Perhaps a hidden chamber only we two know about might be useful one day," he said softly and half to himself.
Harry broke off his explanation, looking hopeful again. "It might?"
"It must remain a secret though."
"Except for Neville," Harry said swiftly and Snape nodded, still caught up in his thoughts.
"Yes, Neville. But no one else. Mind me, Harry! You're sworn to secrecy!"
Harry looked thrilled. "Ooh, a real secret," he whispered.
Snape looked over his shoulder again and made up his mind. "I'll charm the door with a password."
"This is so cool," Harry breathed. "But what will we use it for, daddy? If it's a secret?"
Snape hardly knew himself and didn't want to speculate further. It was enough not to burn this bridge behind them, enough to have yet another card up his sleeve. For who knew what game might be coming?
"We'll know when we need it," he said lightly, stroking Harry's tumbled hair back from his brow.
"Like when pirates come?" Harry wondered.
"Just so. Now wait here for me while I check it out." He stripped off his coat and looked down at his snowy white shirt ruefully. "And then it will be a bath for both of us, I think."
"I want purple foam," Harry said as Snape illuminated his wand tip once more.
Snape submitted to purple foam and Harry enjoyed their bath immensely, squirming around and splashing up and down the deep shiny tub. The boy had built a submarine to play with while bathing and he happily demonstrated it for his father, explaining how it had to come up to the surface every now and then to fill up with air, like a whale in the ocean.
Snape leaned back against his padded head rest and nodded tolerantly. When Harry was in explanation mode he didn't expect reasoned responses, just the occasional acknowledgment that you were awake.
When he'd applied the sponge to Harry's back he'd checked the boy's shoulders, worried shame driving him to ensure he really hadn't marked the child. Harry was fine, but Snape couldn't help the twinge of regret he felt over losing his temper. He'd been angry, he'd had a right to be angry, but he'd had no right to grab the boy, or frighten him. Being driven by fear was no excuse. Doubtless his own father could have come up with some pretty good excuses as to why he'd felt the need to lash out all those years ago. None of them held water.
Harry paused in his explanation to rub at foam that had dripped into his eye and Snape had to take a moment to wring out a flannel and wipe the sting away. Harry submitted to the slightly rough cloth, half smiling and half grimacing as Snape smoothed it over his forehead and slicked dripping hair back.
"All right, Harry?" he said lightly.
"Uh huh," Harry agreed. "Did I tell you about the torpedoes, daddy? They shoot out of these holes here, like this; vroom! Through the water! Kaboom!"
Snape settled back with a nod again and let the soothing chatter wash over him.
End of Part Fifteen