The usual disclaimers apply.
He scowled at the old man sitting there, sipping his tea with a bloody twinkle in his eye and it made Severus more than mad. In fact, it made him close to, well, hexing the Headmaster into oblivion. Or the next week given that it was only Tuesday.
"Can't you at least admit to planting that Puffskein in the boy's bed?"
"No," Albus smirked. "I can't because I haven't. I know however, that my wife had an affinity for those animals when she was young and that she gave all her nieces and nephews one. And I know that she went down to Hagrid yesterday and that his pair just had a litter a few weeks ago."
"Minerva," Severus growled. "Why don't you two keep the boy?"
Suddenly, Albus's face grew darker and the twinkle nearly vanished. "Firstly, because you cannot keep a child, my boy. You raise him. You give him a home. We're much too old for that and while Harry might like us, it is you whom he adores, with you, he wants to stay. Secondly, why do you keep referring to him as the boy? His name, as he has pointed out, Harry. And I'll have you know that Lily picked the name."
"I don't know what she has to do with it," he snapped. "I don't care who named the boy. I don't know how many times I have to repeat myself but I am unfit to raise a child. Much less give him a home. I don't understand why he wants to stay with me."
The Headmaster got up from the chair he had sat on and stared down at Severus and the younger man was reminded why a certain Dark Wizard had feared Albus Dumbledore. He was growing angry – and mind, he was only growing angry, wasn't even angry yet. But it was as if a façade, a mask had dropped or maybe put on. He glowered, he seemed close to fuming and the air seemed to crackle with magic.
"You," Albus began, his voice thundering almost, and his finger pointing at Severus who had, just a tad, shrunk back, "insisted we take Harry away from his relatives. You promised to keep him safe, to help me protect him. Do not fail to fulfil this promise."
Severus was sorely reminded of the vow, the promise he had made. To Lily's memory, to Dumbledore, to himself. His love for Lily had somehow, over the course of the past 6 years, changed, he knew. He wasn't always acutely aware of the changes, and sometimes, he realised that he still loved her – but not in the way he had when he had begged the Headmaster to keep her safe. She had a place in his heart – and the boy reminded him. And he was so very stupid now, he knew, for wanting to push the boy away when he had the chance to raise him in the memory of his mother, and not the memory of his father. In the way his mother would have done it, if he could, and not as a Quidditch-crazed prankster but a studious nice young boy interested in books. Utter rot. He could not do it. Could not do it at all.
But Albus was right. He had a promise to fulfil and slowly, hung his head. He had, put that way, no chance but to let the boy stay. He had been responsible to bring the boy to Hogwarts and he had promised to keep him safe. And where could he guarantee his safety? Not in any family. Not anywhere but under his own watchful eye.
He jerked his head up when he felt a large but gentle hand squeezing his shoulder. "Don't fret, my boy. We will support you. But it might even be beneficial for you."
"Beneficial for me?" he asked and his voice sounded, oddly hoarse.
"Yes, Severus. And not only because of the reason you think..."
"The Dark Lord," he said. "I can..."
"There are other reason," the Headmaster interrupted. "But those are for you to figure and not for me to point out."
"Albus, what do you...," he began, his voice growing steadier and angrier again. He didn't know what to feel – anger, rage, confusion – but all that turned into annoyance, when the door was burst open (just burst open, no knock, nothing) and the little fiend stormed in, the bloody Puffskein riding on his head again, Minerva in tow. Well, two people Severus could glare at now, pushing all the confusion away. How dare the little beast to just storm in there? It was not as if he was actually liv...oh well. He did. Apparently.
And Minerva with her bloody Cheshire Cat grin. Maybe, Severus thought, he should force-transfigure her into her Animagus-form and let the boy and the animal have their way with the cat. Pulling tails, overly stroking – she would certainly dislike that and his wand seemed to almost want to fall into his waiting finger.
"Don't even think it, Severus," Minerva said, knowingly, pointing at his wand-hand. "I can see your fingers twitching."
"'fesser Snape, 'fesser Snape," oh, the fiend had now seen him and discovered him and bounced, the Puffskein called Rhubarb bouncing on his head with him, like a little stupid furry hat on the unruly mop of hair (at least he had managed to flatten the hair over his scar again), towards him, tugging on his sleeve. "'fesser Snape, we went to the Astronomy Tower and to the hut of Haggid and he told me that Rhubarb will eat spiders. But I like spiders and then Haggid said that he would eat anything else that was on the floor and I should just let him furry around on the floor. That's a word I made up. And then I said that Rhubarb was like a Hoover and Haggid didn't know what a Hoover was, so I had to explain but I don't think he understood and then there was this huge dog and he slobbered all over me and may I take a bath, please, later? Because the doggie was nice but I still smell like him all over. And then Minerva and I met Peeves and he agreed to be my friend after he put toothpaste on the banister and then..."
"Would you like to take a breath?" Severus drawled and sniffing, he could indeed smell the dog-stench coming from the boy's direction. At least, he thought, the boy was sensible and not all over the huge, furry thing.
Severus disliked dogs, for obvious reasons, and well, he could maybe deal with a Puffskein but definitely not with a dog. For obvious reasons. But the boy did sound sensible. To a degree.
"I am breathing," he laughed. "And then..."
"Wait, did you just say that Peeves, the Poltergeist Peeves agreed to be your friend?" he said the last words as if it was one of the worst to ever come over his lips.
"Yes, 'fesser Snape, that's awesome cool, right? Nobody will bully me with you around and with Peeves as my friend. And if I'm friends with him, he won't drop anything on me, right? And because you protect me and because Peeves knows that, he won't drop anything on you either. Well, I'm actually not so sure about that, but I'm sure I could tell him not to."
Snape shot a bewildered glance at the Headmaster and his wife. It was unknown for Peeves to agree to anything anyone said. And friends? With a Poltergeist? That just didn't make any sense. It couldn't be.
"It's true, Severus," Minerva sighed. "Stormed up and made friends with him. I heard Peeves agree."
"That's what I said," the boy looked a little, well, crestfallen now. "Don't you believe me?" he asked further, his voice growing smaller and smaller, "Do you think I lie?"
"And on that note," Albus said cheerfully, "I believe it is our cue to go. Come on, wife."
"I dislike being called that, you know."
"She also dislikes being called Minnie," Harry whispered now. "She was all angry with me and it only slipped out."
Severus could only shake his head at that – whatever it was. Comedy, probably, that was taking place right there in front of his eyes. Harry Potter calling the sternest, severest teacher (apart from himself, of course) Hogwarts knew Minnie? Making friends with a Poltergeist? Carrying a Puffskein on top of his head? It was a dream. Or he had fallen down a rabbit-hole and any moment now there'd be a chorus of house elves commenting the happenings on the stage. Maybe with a Muggle musical tune.
"Believe me," Minerva poked his ribs, "you're not dreaming. It's just a breath of fresh, very fresh air." And with that, she and her husband left, without him having the chance to question her about the Puffskein, or telling them both to stay out of his life. Without him having the chance that he really really really wanted to wake up from this surreal nightmare and that he wanted his old life back. Please.
"'fesser Snape?" the little fiend did not grant him his wishes. "Do you think I lie?"
"No," he replied automatically. "I do not think you lie."
"Good because I'm not. Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon always thought I did but I never. Because even if I had lied, they still wouldn't have believed me and it didn't help me any to lie."
Severus listened up at that moment. It didn't help me any to lie. That was – oh he had to test this. "Would you have lied if it had helped you any?" he asked, slyly.
Harry didn't understand the question but close to his ear, he heard a faint, not so happy purring and Haggid had explained that this was the noise that Rhubarb would make when he was hungry. Or had to use the loo. Well, Harry had not figured out the loo-situation yet and he didn't want to make his 'fesser angrier by stepping into Puffskein-dung. Or anything. Whatever it was. Nevertheless, he plucked Rhubarb from his head, and it almost seemed as if the little fellow was smiling at him when he set him gently on the ground. "Please don't eat any spiders," he whispered to his pet and a moment later, it furried (he liked the word) on the ground, with his long tongue looking for food. Harry then focused on his 'fesser again.
"What do you mean?" he asked quietly and 'fesser Snape sighed.
"If, at the Dursleys you had lied if you had known that it would help you in any way, would you have?"
That was a stupid question. "Of course," he replied readily. "I don't like lying much and I would never lie to you but if..." he trailed off.
"Interesting," his 'fesser muttered.
"Oh, nothing," he smirked. Why was he smirking now? He didn't understand his 'fesser at all. It wasn't right to lie, he knew that from Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon but if it had gotten him out of the cupboard, or out of trouble, well, he probably would have done it. Not that it would have worked. And he certainly didn't want his 'fesser to think that he was lying to him. He wouldn't do that. His 'fesser, so far, had always been honest with him, too. So it was just fair, wasn't it?
"Yes?" he drawled.
"Erm...," Harry didn't know how to ask. And to be honest, he really wanted to take a bath but afterwards, he didn't want to change into the stinking clothes and he didn't know how to ask for clean ones (he had not seen any in his room) and it was certainly too early to change into the pyjamas he had worn. He hadn't even had tea yet though Haggid had given him some very hard, very sweet biscuits. Fortunately, Minerva had taken it away from him after the first bit. It still hurt his teeth though.
"What? Just ask. Or say. You're otherwise not afraid to be asking questions," his 'fesser said and Harry had to giggle. Now that he was sure
that he hadn't thought he was lying, and that he didn't think he would lie and that somehow that topic seemed gone now anyway, he felt better. Even though he had only ever asked to keep Rhubarb and that had been hard enough. And that bath-question earlier had been, well, not really been asking for it. More, what was the word?, theotetical. Or teothetical. Or something like that. Not for real. But he was always talking a lot. And asking a lot but the 'fesser did understand, Harry felt, that this was the first time in his life when he felt that he was allowed questions and talking.
And he got answers and replies and his 'fesser even took him seriously.
"Erm, may I, erm, maybe, I don't, I mean it's not really bath-time yet and Aunt Petunia only ever said that I could use the garden hose outside during the day, but maybe, erm, for an exception? Maybe. Because it really smells icky and is sticky and slobbery...and..."
His 'fesser looked at him weirdly. Like he had done something, well, not wrong, but surprising and when he answered, when he said something, it was in a very kind, but strangled sort of voice. "I take it you remember where the bathroom is?" He nodded eagerly. Of course he didn't. He wasn't stupid. "Well then, what are you waiting for? Or do you expect me to give you a bath?"
He sniggered. He was seven! He was a big boy. He could wash himself. But then his sniggers stopped. There was still the matter of clothes. Those stank. "'fesser Snape?" he asked again.
"What is it now?" he asked, and looked into Harry's eyes again. "Erm, it's just that..."
Then, his 'fesser had an even stranger look on his face. Something weird had just happened, Harry thought, even though he didn't know what it was but in a quick second it seemed that his 'fesser had remembered something or anything and he looked, for only a heartbeat, almost sad.
"There will be clothes in your room. And a bathrobe in the bathroom. Put that on before you run around here naked," he said suddenly, strangely and as Harry dashed, happily, to the bathroom, Rhubarb quick on his heels, he thought that sometimes it felt as if his 'fesser could read his mind.