Once Upon a Time in Cokeworth by Kyralian
Summary: Harry is thrilled that he is allowed to go on a holiday with his relatives, but quickly discovers it to be a trick. Instead of a trip to the seaside he expected, the boy is left on the doorstep of a scary stranger who claims to be his father.

A horrible father-story [at least, at the beginning], told mostly but not solely from Harry's perspective.
Categories: Parental Snape > Biological Father Snape Main Characters: .Snape and Harry (required)
Snape Flavour: Angry Snape, Cruel Snape, Stern Snape
Genres: Family
Tags: Child fic
Takes Place: 0 - Pre Hogwarts (before Harry is 11)
Warnings: Neglect, Physical Punishment Spanking, Physical Punishment Non-Spanking
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 27 Completed: No Word count: 80612 Read: 66684 Published: 27 Mar 2021 Updated: 31 Mar 2022
Chapter 18 Grandpa Al by Kyralian
Something was tickling his nose, and he moaned, wrinkling his face and waving a hand to shoo away the insistent fly. Harry’s hand encountered something he didn’t expect, and his eyes flew open wide in surprise. An orange blur in front of his face made him rear back, and blink rapidly, staring in awe at a huge orange lion sprawling on the bed next to him.

It looked so life-like that he would be freaking out, except he realised that he must have been hugging the lion for a while, and he hadn’t gotten eaten for it. Carefully, the boy ran his fingers through the lion’s golden mane, it was that which had tickled his nose. It was a toy, a soft toy larger than any Harry had ever seen. Not even Dudley had a toy as large as that.

“Where have you come from?” Harry asked the lion, looking around as if to find another child in the room the toy might belong to.

He squinted at the rocking chair by the window in confusion, that was new as well. Was this even the same room he’d been sleeping in? The sudden uncertainty made his heart beat faster, had father taken him to the orphanage already? No, he decided after examining every feature of the room from up close. This was the same room, with the same view out of the window, but not everything in it was as he remembered. The desk chair was missing, replaced by the rocking chair, and an open book was lying on the carpet next to it.

Harry went to pick it up, smoothing the creased pages with a hand, not keen on taking the blame for mistreating the book. Just then, there was a soft knock and the door was swinging open, revealing his father. The boy couldn’t look away from the man’s tight face, like a hare caught in the headlights of a car, he just watched as father stepped closer and closer.

“How are you feeling, Harry?” the man asked softly, raising a hand. “Did you enjoy your nap?”

Harry couldn’t suppress a flinch, when father touched his head, but he only brushed hair out of the boy’s eyes with a sigh.

“We need to get you a haircut,” he commented out of the blue.

Harry wrinkled his nose in distaste at the idea. Aunt Petunia had given him a haircut once, and it had been absolutely horrid, until his hair grew back overnight, and it got even more upsetting because his relatives were so angry at him.

“Eliot has long hair,” he protested weakly, ducking his head to hide how distressed he was becoming.

A finger pushed his chin up, forcing him to meet father’s intense gaze again.

“Do you like having an unruly mop of hair on your head, then?” the man questioned, raising one eyebrow. “I would worry some confused little bird may decide to make a nest in it, don’t you?”

The boy stared at his father with his mouth slightly parted, he was almost positive that it had been a joke, but his overactive imagination had already pictured him having to be careful with the comb in order not to dislodge baby birds hiding under his messy tresses.

“That wouldn’t be so bad,” he said quietly, his lips curving into a tiny smile despite his wariness.

“Indeed?” father smirked, rolling his eyes at the ceiling. “Perhaps, a little trim will suffice, just so your prospective bird tenants don’t tangle in it, okay?”

“Okay,” Harry agreed reluctantly. “But I don’t want to be bald, please, father…”

“That,” the man said seriously, clapping him on the shoulder lightly. “Is no danger at all, as men in our family have very strong hair until old age. Have you had a nice nap, then?”

Harry glanced at the bed, nodding a little distractedly, his thoughts still on the hair trimming and bird roosting. He jerked, eyes flying to his father, as he remembered what was there.

“There is a lion on the bed,” he told the man anxiously. “It was there when I woke up, honest!”

“Yes, I have seen it, too,” the man sighed with exasperation. “Do you like the blasted thing?”

The boy frowned, eyeing the toy with apprehension, that had to be a trick question, didn’t it? Nobody had ever asked his opinion on anything before, and he hadn’t owned any toys to know if he liked them or not. Father, however, asked him such things all the time, what food he liked, what clothes he liked. It was nerve-wracking trying to figure out what the right answer was. He opened his mouth to give the safe response that he didn’t know, what actually came out of his mouth, however, wasn’t safe. At all!

“Aunt Petunia would wash your mouth out with vinegar for speaking that way,” he blurted out before his brain caught up to his blabbing tongue.

When he realised what he’d said, Harry’s head snapped around, eyes growing wide with horror and hands clamping over his mouth to stop any more cheek from coming out. He was so dead, blood drained away to his extremities and he swayed unsteadily on his feet.

“Would she, now?” father’s dry tone pulled him from the edge of panic for long enough to notice that the man’s eyebrows were at his hairline, and his arms were tightly folded across his chest. “How fortunate for me that she hadn’t heard me, but perhaps I should exercise better manners in front of you, eh? Let me rephrase, do you like the exercable toy?”

The boy stared at the man mutely, not quite believing that the last two minutes really happened. He knew better than to show such disrespect, and after his horrendous rudeness yesterday! He really hadn’t meant to say it, he’d just been so nervous about the other thing, that it slipped out.

The man heaved an impatient sigh and plucked the book from Harry’s numb fingers, tossing it to the desk and steering him to the bed with an arm across his shoulders.

“You’re speechless, I see,” father drawled, waving a hand at the lion. “You could tell grandpa Al to take it back, if you prefer, say you’d rather have an eagle, or something. He should have asked your preference, after all.”

Harry was so wound up that he didn’t understand half of what father was saying, his slightly derisive voice reverberating in his ears.

“It isn’t for me,” he said in a hollow whisper.

“If it was for me, it would be left in my bedroom, wouldn’t it?” the man pointed out reasonably. “The only thing left to decide is whether you like it or not, so let’s hear the verdict, go on.”

The boy swallowed hard, turning his head to stare at the majestic lion in a daze, stretching his fingers to stroke the golden mane. It was a beautiful toy, the kind you only saw in shop windows, and never had enough money to buy. Certainly, Harry had never expected to be given a toy like that, but grandpa Al had given him those magic pencils at the hospital.

“It’s so grand and amazing, though,” he managed to choke out. “Could I really keep it?”

Father let out a derisive snort, raising his eyes to the ceiling in exasperation.

“Albus isn’t known for his moderation,” he commented dryly. “We should be thankful that he didn’t see fit to saddle us with a live specimen, instead. I take it you’re enamoured with the beast, yes?”

Harry gave a hesitant nod, while giving the lion a wary appraisal. He half-expected it would spring alive at any moment, and devour them for breakfast.

“Are you sure it isn’t?” he asked his father in a whisper. “Alive, just pretending?”

The man squeezed him against his side, as though he could tell that this talk of live lions was making him anxious.

“I am sure,” he huffed. “It’s just a toy, if a horrid one.”

“It’s not!” Harry protested passionately, looking at father with bright eyes. “It’s majestic, and beautiful, and kingly, and-,”

“Alright, I get it,” father cut him off with a snort. “Come on, you can gush at Albus as you thank him.”

“Grandpa Al is here?” the boy asked quietly, suddenly shy.

“Indeed,” the man admitted, pulling the child toward the door by the hand. “He’s visiting for the afternoon.”

“Is he wearing a nightgown again?” Harry asked conspiratorially as they neared the stairs.

His father was abruptly overtaken by a fit of coughing so intense that his sides shook, and he didn’t manage to get it under control when they arrived in the kitchen. Grandpa Al had been peering into the pot on the stove, but at the sound of the hacking coughs [the boy wasn’t fooled, they sounded too much like sniggering], he turned and gave Harry an inquiring look.

“Father just, er, choked on, ah, saliva,” he explained softly, trying really hard to avoid looking at the older man’s navy blue nightgown with sparkling yellow stars.

“Dear me, dear me,” grandpa mused, his blue eyes twinkling madly as father passed by them to look into the pot, studying the contents as he continued sniggering into a fist. “Do you need a potion, Severus?”

“No, no, thank you,” father managed to choke out breathlessly. “Harry!” he snapped, making the child jump. “Show grandpa around the garden! Now!”

Heart beating at a gallop, the boy snatched the old man’s gnarled hand in one of his, and tugged him toward the door. Grandpa Al didn’t resist, or anything, he followed Harry out the front door, all the while grinning like a cat who got the canary. Only when they were several steps past the porch, he started laughing.

Harry ducked his head, not entirely sure if it was appropriate for him to laugh, but he couldn’t help curving his lips upward a little. He didn’t think father was all that angry, just embarrassed that he’d been laughing at grandfather’s clothes.

“Merlin, boy, what have you told him to set him off like that?” grandpa asked between chuckles. “In fifteen years I’ve known your father, I have never seen him snigger like a schoolboy, not even when he was a schoolboy.”

The boy shrugged as nonchalantly as he could manage, thinking it would be rather rude to admit to what he’d said. After all, elderly people sometimes lose touch with reality, and it wasn’t their fault. Mr. Owens from Magnolia Crescent, for instance, had forgotten who his children were. He thought that the people he lived with were illegal tenants, and kept calling police on them. Uncle Vernon liked to rant that he should be locked up in the loony bin, but Harry didn’t think it would be at all fair. Maybe grandpa Al had a similar old man problem, only he didn’t know which clothes were for daywear, and it wasn’t right to mock him for it.

“I said I wouldn’t mind birds roosting in my hair,” the boy said softly, feeling so ashamed of himself that it was difficult to hold back tears.

“Really?” the old man murmured with interest, stroking his white beard with a thoughtful finger. “What fascinating conversations you two must have,” he took his silver spectacles off, twirling them around in his fingers as he considered the matter. “I can see the merit of the idea, but I would be concerned about inviting a magpie to share my head,” he gave the boy a meaningful look as he replaced his glasses. “Their predilection for stealing shiny objects would be very taxing, I think.”

“I considered a little sparrow, or a tit,” Harry admitted with a shy smile.

“That might work,” grandfather nodded sagely, his mouth stretching into a grin. “Only, if I understand their habits correctly, those birdies like to start chirping well before dawn. Are you an early riser, Harry?”

The boy shook his head, relieved to finally find an opportunity to insert the gift into this bizarre conversation.

“They wouldn’t dare wake me,” he explained. “They would be too scared of the lion in my bed.”

“Oh! Good point!!” the old man chuckled, patting Harry on the hand he still held. “I had a feeling you’d find a good use for it!”

“It’s the most incredible toy I have ever seen, grandpa,” the boy said earnestly, grinning so widely that his face hurt. “Thank you!”

“You’re very welcome, my boy,” grandpa said warmly, stretching his arms wide. “Do I get a hug for choosing so well?”

Harry looked into the old man’s twinkling eyes hesitantly, he’d never given anyone a hug before, and didn’t know how to go about it. The only hugs he was familiar with were the ones his father had given him, and they were bestowed when he was scared or in pain. This needed to be something different. The boy squared his shoulders, and took a steadying breath for courage, before stepping forward with determination.

He wrapped both arms around grandfather’s belly, squeezing as hard as he was able. He hoped he was doing this correctly, maybe he should try harder? The boy jumped when grandpa put his hands on Harry’s back, patting him lightly.

“That is a mighty hug,” the man said, a little breathlessly. “Thank you, my boy.”

Harry stepped back, meeting the twinkling gaze anxiously.

“Was it alright?” he had to check.

“Oh, yes,” grandpa Al assured him kindly. “Your hug was as exuberant as my good friend’s Hagrid’s. Well done!”

Harry grinned, relieved that he had managed not to mess up this grateful hugging business, but grandpa’s next question made him grimace.

“So, what have you been up to since I saw you last, Harry?”

Somehow, thinking about what happened, made his rear feel scalding again rather than just really sore.
To be continued...
End Notes:
I suppose I was in a rather silly mood this week.


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