The usual disclaimers apply.
Harry Potter could not remember ever feeling so safe in his life before. Maybe he had been, he thought for a fleeting moment, snuggling into the 'fesser and hiding his face in the 'fesser's chest, when he had been a baby and his parents had been alive. But since then, he had never felt so protected. It was awesome, it was warm, it was gentle, it was safe. It was his 'fesser. His 'fesser that stroked lazy circles on his back and his head was a bit lowered, apparently, to his own head and he heard his 'fesser's heart beating strongly and then he clapped his back a bit, when his sobs had subsided and he began to hiccup. It was a bit embarrassing, really. He was a big boy, after all but he didn't want to leave this feeling of safety.
And it smelled nice. Just like his 'fesser should smell.
And then, there was the purring noise again and it sounded as if it came from below him. From underneath the bed.
"'fesser?" he hiccuped, making no move to pull away from the embrace and his 'fesser made no move to push him away either, so it might have sounded a bit odd, spoken into the t-shirt he wore.
"Yes?" he asked and his voice sounded very nice indeed and Harry even felt the voice rumbling against his cheek in his chest.
"Do you hear that purring too?" he asked in a little voice and regretted it immediately when his 'fesser grabbed him under the armpits and hoisted him to sit back on fully on the bed. Somehow, he had ended up on his 'fesser's lap before. He immediately missed the warmth that his 'fesser Snape had provided and he shivered, pulling up his knees to his chest.
"Yes," his 'fesser said slowly and darted around the room before he spoke a word Harry did not know and added 'wand' and a moment later, his wand sailed through the air to him and he caught it easily. He said another word and the wand, suddenly, pointed underneath the bed.
"'fesser, what is that?" Harry asked, a bit frightened again now but at the same time – there was something else, something different. His 'fesser took him seriously! If he heard a purring noise, he listened and then checked for him. He did not only discard his thoughts as being freakish or weird. He took him seriously. He really took him seriously. He took care of him. He believed him. He listened to him. Really listened. And that alone was amazing. In addition to him consoling him and rushing to his side when he needed someone, was – extraordinary and made Harry look at his 'fesser with absolutely unconcealed adoration. His 'fesser was a hero and he liked him so much. Never wanted to leave. If this was what his life with him would be like, Harry knew that there was no better place on earth at all and when his 'fesser, with long fingers, pulled the purring cuddly from underneath the bed, its tongue sweeping out and tiny, black, beady eyes blinking at his 'fesser.
He made a growling noise, the 'fesser, not the purring thing and held the cuddly up by it's supposed scruff of the neck. Even though Harry wasn't sure whether it had a neck at all. However, it still made the purring noise, though it was a little more high pitched than before.
"'fesser?" he asked again, almost whispering, "what is that? It was in my bed earlier and I thought it was a magical cuddly toy and..."
"It's a Puffskein," his 'fesser answered and Harry wasn't sure how his voice sounded like. A bit angry, maybe? Harry shrunk back a bit.
"I didn't bring it here," he said immediately.
"I know that, silly boy. You didn't even know what it was."
"Where did it come from, 'fesser? What does it do? Who put it here? Is it dangerous?"
His 'fesser groaned again. "No, it's not dangerous. And I have an idea who put it here but I'd have to confirm it. It eats your snot while you sleep," he smirked a bit but Harry, at this moment, was completely mesmerised by the round, bally, furry creature blinking at him again, and, purring that grew calming and calm again.
He knew it was presumptuous. He knew it wasn't right. He knew that his 'fesser looked at the – what was the name? – with something close to disdain and was close to letting it fall on the floor, but he also knew that– well, it had been in his bed. In his bed. And it looked so trustingly at him, somehow. And it sounded nice, now that he knew what it was and what that tongue was for – even though – eating bogies? That was weird. A bit. But he'd never be congested during the night, not have the weird feeling if one of the bogies moved in the nose and tickled and everything. That would be really – a nice pet to have.
"'fesser Snape?" he asked and looked directly at him, pulling his eyes away from the fluffy animal and his 'fesser looked back at him and his eyes, even in the dim light, looked softer and gentler than before. "Can...I mean, may I, probably, I mean...I never had...except the spiders in the cupboard and one was called Wayne and the other Wilma, but Aunt Petunia killed them all once when I was at school and the cupboard smelled really icky that night and I got a headache from that weird icky smell and I don't know how this got here but I thought that maybe...I'll feed it and take care of it and all and...sir, I...no, it's not important," he hung his head, realising just how stupid he sounded.
Petunia had let him sleep in a cupboard that had probably been fumigated with poison? And he did not dare to ask to keep the bloody Puffskein? A Puffskein. He should have known that Albus would pull a stunt like this, giving the boy a pet immediately. And the boy had named spiders that lived in his cupboard? He did not want a Puffskein in his quarters. He certainly did not want a scavenger that crept on the ground and ate everything on his way, in his rooms.
Oh but – he had to teach him not to use that look. Not to use his eyes quite so deliberately. On the other hand, even though he had just consoled him and had even petted his back (why?) he would still be working on his plan. And if he allowed him to keep the pet – he would take it with him once he left.
But – oh the boy already looked at him with so much trust and, dare he think it, adoration in his eyes, that letting him keep the Puffskein would not further his cause of driving him away.
But – oh he had to keep out of the boy's mind. He did not want to see the images of a little boy letting two rather large spiders crawl across his arms and legs and talking to them softly and returning to a fumigated cupboard. Did not want to see the longing for the pet. And the – adoration – and trust. For him, in him. He shook himself and before he knew what he was doing, he had dumped the Puffskein on the boy's bed.
"You will get instructions how to keep it – him – in the morning. Sleep now."
"I...I can keep it? It's a him?" the boy asked obviously excitedly.
"Yes," he drawled. "For now."
"Thank you thank you thank you," the boy gushed and the Puffskein was forgotten for a moment when he lunged himself at him again.
"Yes, fine. Sleep or I'll change my mind," he replied gruffly and rather roughly, pushed the boy on his back, him, holding the Puffskein to his chest and obviously waited for him to tuck him in. Snape rolled his eyes. "Good night," he said simply and stalked out of the boy's room and huffed to himself, taking a good long look at the faded Dark Mark on his arm to make sure he was really himself – evil former Death Eater, Slytherin, former spy, enemy of all snobbish Gryffindors – and not someone else.
Maybe he was possessed. Or maybe he was just tired.
Minerva eyed her colleague with a smirk. He looked rather tired and annoyed. Well, to be honest, Harry did ask rather a lot of questions and she suspected that they had, just a little, fought over her nice surprise for Harry. Despite what everyone (in this case Severus and Poppy) thought, Albus had neither acquired, nor had known about the Puffskein. The same Puffskein that now rode on Harry's shoulders and on top of his head. No. It had been her idea, and her idea alone and she had put it there. She had thought that a boy, alone, this small, in a huge castle, away from the only home he had ever known (even though he had probably disliked it) needed a small, furry friend. And a Puffskein was a helpful pet. Kept spiders (who lived in abundance in the dungeons) away and would help Harry to breathe (literally and metaphorically) better.
Severus, next to her, seemed annoyed. Plenty annoyed. And as she had suspected, it had something to do with the Puffskein that Harry had, apparently, called Rhubarb. He kept on casting disdainful glances at the poor animal that Harry fed a bit of toast from his own plate. Oh, this was fun. As much as the pet had been for Harry, as much had it been for Severus. He would be so annoyed at the little furball when it'd flit over the floor. But he would not have given it away – she knew Severus. Better than a lot of people. He was snarky, he was mean, he was arrogant. But he had been a lonely little boy. And he recognised a lonely little boy in Harry. And to forbid him a pet – no – he wasn't that heartless.
He still fidgeted on his chair and Minerva grinned as she poked him in the ribs. "Albus is in his office if you want to talk to him. He won't come down for breakfast this morning."
"Oh, is he? Severus, are you going up? Could you tell him that if he doesn't need me, I'll like to go home for the rest of the holidays? Horace is already grumpy that I've spent here so long," Poppy smiled and Minerva rolled her eyes, just as she spotted Severus roll his eyes. Their relationship, Horace Slughorn's, the former Potions Master and the mediwitch's was one of those well-kept Hogwarts secrets. Everyone, not only the instructors, knew about it.
"You can go up yourself. Or send an owl," Severus snapped, then as he stood up, nodded towards Harry who was busy with his Puffskein.
"I'll watch him," Minerva smiled. "I think we will explore Hogwarts together, won't we, Harry? I'll bring him to the dungeons later."
Severus grumbled – and in a billow of robes, was off.
"Minerva, 'I'll go then," Poppy said a moment later. "Good bye, Harry."
"Good bye," Harry smiled broadly.
"Give Horace my best," Minerva grinned slyly. "Are you done with breakfast, Harry?"
He nodded, and smiled at her as well. That boy's smile was all Lily's. As well as his eyes. It was uncanny. It was – beautiful to see their legacy, James's and Lily's so happy here. With her. "Well, Mr Potter, how would you like to take a look around this castle?"
"Very much," he beamed. "Will we see the little man called Peeves again? Or owls? And the portraits? And those metal-thingies that you wear?"
Minerva chuckled. This boy was full of questions. And she would do her best to answer all of them.
He knocked once and without waiting for an answer, he stepped into the Headmaster's office. He was angry. The boy carried the bloody pet everywhere. Could not be separated from it, not even in the shower. And had explained, in all detail, why he had named it Rhubarb (because rhubarb crumble was best with custard and the bloody pet was custard- coloured) and had looked at him with those eyes again and had asked whether he could take the Puffskein to breakfast with him – and had taken his groan as a yes.
And now Albus would hear what he thought of it. And that the boy had to go. Somewhere. Not there. Not with his history. Not with him being Lily's son. He was unfit to raise a child. Any child but especially that child.
"Albus, I...", he said and heard one of the portraits tut and as he looked around, he could see why. There was a woman sitting in his usual chair.
"Severus," Albus waved from behind his desk. "May I present Septima Vector, our new Arithmancy teacher?"
"Yes, yes," he waved it off. "I need to talk to you urgently."
"Excuse me, Professer Snape, it is nice to meet you but I believe I've got this appointment with the Headmaster. And I'd quite like to resume it. In peace. Without an audience," the woman remarked, her eyebrows raised way up towards her mousy brown hair.
Severus couldn't believe the audacity of this woman. He was about to snarl back – throw anything back in her – quite plain face – but Albus interrupted his beginning tirade. "Severus, I could come down to the dungeons when I'm done here and have shown Professor Vector her rooms."
Rolling his eyes, he turned. "Fine. I'll be in my lab. And that boy is with Minerva. With the bloody pet. And you can keep that. I'm not letting the Puffskein back into my rooms. And the boy can stay with Minerva as well."
"Hullo Peeves!" Harry shouted, grinning, as he finally found the Poltergeist in a corridor high up. Minerva had explained everything. Had answered every question! And though she wasn't quite as nice as 'fesser Snape, she was quickly becoming his second favourite person in the world, even though every other time she addressed him, she called him Mr Potter. And that annoyed him. She was still kind and nice. The tiny man was currently sitting on a banister, smearing something on it.
"Peeves!" Minerva next to him thundered and Harry shrunk back a little. He disliked it when people shouted.
"Oh it's the ickly Potty wee Potter," Peeves cackled and floated above the banister.
"Why don't you call me Harry?," Harry stomped his foot on the ground. "Nobody can remember to call me Harry! My 'fesser says Mr Potter all the time, you say Potty wee Potter and Minerva says Mr Potter as well sometimes. I'm Harry!"
"Harry," Minerva said, and somehow, that woman grinned, though why he didn't know, "Peeves will call you what he likes. He cannot be influenced."
"Don't talk to him as if he wasn't there. I want him to be my friend and I hate when people talk about other people," he mumbled. "Dudley always did."
"Fr-fr-friend?" he heard Peeves mutter and the little man floated towards him. "Friend? Don't you know what I am? Who I am?"
Harry nodded, now suddenly feeling quite small. He had never really had an outburst like that. But the Mr Potter wasn't nice. His father had been Mr Potter, probably, just as Uncle Vernon was Mr Dursley and Dudley was Dudley. Dudley wasn't Mr Dursley. "Friend, Harry, you cannot be friends with a Poltergeist," Minerva interrupted his thoughts.
"Why not?" he asked quietly.
"Because he's a Poltergeist," she said.
"That's no reason," Harry protested. "He seems nice. Sometimes. When he's not bombarding me with something. And because my 'fesser protects me, that's no problem."
"Fr-fr-friend?" Peeves asked again.
"Yes, friend! I don't have a friend, okay? And it is maybe nice to have a friend who pulls pranks on other people. And if I'm your friend, you won't pull any on me. Or will you?" Harry reasoned, trying to make it clear.
The little man seemed a bit paler now, less colourful and suddenly, blew a raspberry. At Minerva, not at him.
"I'll be your friend, ickle wee Harry," Peeves declared and moment later, he zoomed through the air hovered in front of Harry and patted his cheek. It felt like, well, cold, and grinned, flashing a lot of teeth, then zoomed over them, and was gone. Without dropping something.
"Well, I never," Minerva muttered and Harry had no idea why she muttered that and why she suddenly looked quite speechless. Even a Poltergeist needed a friend, right? It almost seemed as if that had never happened before though. Harry shook his head and followed the older woman down the staircase, careful of the, well, toothpaste, his new friend had put on the banister.