Author's Notes: Happy Holidays, everyone! I wrote this story for a Christmas/Winter FicFest at P&S, and I hope you'll enjoy it. There are a couple things you should know:
It is the first Christmas after Voldemort's defeat, so there are plenty of DH spoilers here. Severus Snape survived, and in fact, this story will go along with my others so he and Harry have a close, loving guardian-type relationship. Some people may consider Severus OOC, but I justify it by saying that he and Harry have been through a lot together by this point, and that Harry has been a good influence on him. Also, Severus is really happy now, for probably the first time in his life.
Another thing---have you ever watched a TV show where a couple had a baby, and then a few months later that baby had miraculously aged and was a little kid? Yeah, I used to laugh and say that was ridiculous, too. But I've done the exact same thing here with Teddy Lupin. I couldn't help it. I really needed him to be about 3 years old, and I really needed it to be the first Christmas after DH. It doesn't make sense, I know, but try to work with me. Please?
One last time—lots of DH spoilers, and lots of angst warnings! I hope you'll give it a chance and read!
J.K. Rowling owns "Harry Potter." I just like to play in her universe.
Christmas at Prince Hall
Rain pounded against the leaded windows of the upstairs sitting room like a thousand nails hammered by the shrieking wind. Thick storm clouds hid the night's full moon and the infinite stars, obscuring any source of natural light on this wild December night.
If there had been any passersby on this isolated moor, they would have thought they were lost in the wilderness with no welcoming shelter for miles around. There was no sign of the long, low stone manor house on the edge of the moor, or its smaller outbuildings, no hint of light shining from its windows, no way to pass through the wrought-iron gates or cross the sweeping lawn, for Prince Hall was under the Fidelious Charm.
Despite Harry's amused protests about paranoia, Severus had insisted on placing both his old family estate and Grimmauld Place in London under the ultimate protective spell. Harry thought he was taking caution a little too far. After all, Voldemort was defeated and the war was over. But Severus had been adamant.
"There are still a score of Death Eaters at large, despite the best efforts of the Aurors, and furthermore, Harry, it is common knowledge that you are the master of the Elder Wand. I don't want to alarm you, but you should realize that it's likely someone will eventually try to challenge you for it. I want our homes to be as safe as possible."
After that discussion, Harry hadn't really protested too much. Severus did have a point, and in any case, with both houses protected by a Secret-Keeper (Severus for Prince Hall and Harry for Grimmauld Place), he could enjoy having some privacy without being hounded by the press or the crowds of well-wishers that tended to surround him when he went out in public.
He'd have thought the furor would have died down by now, six months after Voldemort's demise, but it hadn't. The few times he'd ventured out to Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley, he'd still been swamped by people wanting to thank him, shake his hand, talk with him about the war. They even wanted his autograph, for pity's sake. It was enough to make Harry grateful for the Fidelious Charm.
In any case, after several months of reconstruction, Prince Hall had finally been restored to its former grandeur, and Severus, Harry, and Kreacher had moved in a few days ago, just in time to celebrate Christmas. They had spent most of the time settling in and preparing for the guests that would be arriving on the morrow, although that particular day Severus had spent the afternoon setting up his Potions laboratory and Harry had gone to the Burrow.
Now it was late, and they were both in the upstairs sitting room that connected to Severus' bedroom. They were both wearing pajamas and robes, and both were sitting on a comfortable beige sofa. Or rather, Severus was sitting, reading a book with his feet propped on an ottoman before the fire that burned brightly in the grate. Harry had Summoned a pillow, placed it across Severus' lap, and curled up beside his guardian, laying his head on the pillow.
Severus raised his eyebrows, but with one hand, he began carding gently through Harry's hair. An uncharacteristically tender expression crossed over his face, gone in an instant, but it had unmistakably been there. Although at one time, he never would have believed it, he had grown to love this boy as if he were his own son.
For a while they were quiet, Severus reading and Harry watching the dancing flames of the fire. Then Harry spoke.
His guardian glanced down. "I thought you were asleep."
Harry shook his head. "Just resting."
"Hard day at the Weasleys'?"
Severus' tone was joking, but Harry's face grew sad. "Yeah, it was, actually. It'll be the first Christmas without Fred, and it's hitting them hard." He swallowed. "Me, too."
Severus' black eyes became sorrowful, too, with a mixture of shared sympathy for the loss of the Weasley boy and all the other lives that had been lost, and for the pain that Harry felt. The child had already suffered so much. Severus didn't want him to suffer anymore.
He sighed and said what he had said before, whenever they talked about Fred Weasley, or the Lupins.
"Harry, do you remember what you told me about the time you used the Resurrection Stone? You saw your parents…"
"And Sirius and Remus," Harry murmured.
"Yes," Severus nodded. "And they were all right. You know from your own experience that there is a better place to go on to after this life. I'm sure Fred Weasley is there. He's all right."
"I know. I've told the Weasleys all about it, too, and I know it's helped them. But it's still hard."
"Yes," Severus agreed softly. "It's always hard to miss someone."
He couldn't think of anything else to say, so he just kept on smoothing Harry's hair, and after a while, Harry seemed to force the sadness aside and turn his attention to other matters. "What time are Andromeda and Teddy coming?"
"Mrs. Tonks said they would arrive in time to eat lunch with us."
"Why don't you call her 'Andromeda'? She said we could," Harry asked. "Is it because you still don't like her?"
Severus shook his head. "I don't dislike her, Harry. While it's true that we exchanged words at our first meeting, it was a simple misunderstanding, and we were both being a bit overprotective of our children. Once Mrs. Tonks knew that we weren't trying to take Teddy away from her, everything was fine. I find her to be a very admirable person in many ways. It's just that she and I are both somewhat reserved and tend to be formal unless we know a person quite well."
"Well, it was nice of you to invite them to come for Christmas," Harry told him.
"Me? Nice?" Severus exclaimed in mock horror. "Bite your tongue, Potter!"
Harry did just that---sticking out his tongue while very gently biting down with his teeth and crossing his eyes at his guardian. Then he burst out laughing when Severus laid the book aside and began tickling him. Harry retaliated and a few moments later, they had both fallen off the sofa and knocked the ottoman over with a crash.
There was a loud pop and suddenly a small elderly house elf wearing a soft woolen tunic and a golden locket around his neck appeared.
"Masters?" He croaked in a deep voice that sounded something like a bullfrog. "Kreacher heard crashing noises and wondered if everything was all right."
Harry was still laughing too hard to answer, so Severus pulled himself together and tried to look dignified, or as dignified as possible, anyway.
"We're fine. We were…." Deciding that there just wasn't a way to make a tickling match sound dignified, Severus simply repeated. "We're fine. Good night, Kreacher."
The house elf looked at them doubtfully, but then he nodded. "Good night, Master Severus. Good night, Master Harry." Another pop and he had Disapparated.
Harry's glasses had fallen off and he groped under the sofa for them, frowning when he saw that the frame was bent. "Dang it," he muttered, sitting up and reaching for his wand on a side table. "Reparo."
Severus stood and offered a hand to Harry, who slid the newly repaired glasses back on and then let his guardian pull him to his feet. They settled back on the sofa, but as Severus started to pick up his book again, Harry sighed. "Severus?"
"What am I going to do about Kreacher?"
"I've told you, Harry. I really don't think Kreacher will appreciate you setting him free. If you want him to enjoy Christmas, you should give him another trinket from Grimmauld Place."
"I know Kreacher doesn't want to be free," Harry said. "But I don't want to own him. It was one thing during the war, when at first we couldn't take a chance on him going to the Malfoys, and then we were on the run and I didn't have time to worry about setting him free. But now it's different. I mean, I think Hermione has a point. It's just not right for me to actually own someone."
"A moral conundrum," Severus agreed. "Trying to balance what is right in principle with what may be right for this particular elf."
"It's not as if I would be throwing him out on his ear," Harry reasoned. "He could still stay here for the rest of his life. I kind of figured he'd want to. He just wouldn't be a slave."
"Ah, but to Kreacher, freedom is a mark of dishonour," Severus pointed out. "If you set him free, then you must be displeased with him."
"I know," Harry shook his head in frustration. "Everytime I've even hinted at giving him his freedom, he almost goes into hysterics. But I don't like owning a house elf, Severus. I keep feeling like I'm doing something wrong."
There was a silence, then Harry sighed again. "You're not going to tell me what to do, are you?"
"It has to be your decision, Harry. You're of age now, and Kreacher does belong to you, not me."
"Whatever happened to 'What's mine is yours, and what's yours is mine?" Harry grumbled.
Severus' lips quirked upwards. "Well, legally I have no right to determine Kreacher's fate. But if you truly want my opinion…"
"Then I would not give Kreacher his freedom, at least not right now. I'd give him something else as a Christmas gift, and continue to work gradually on getting him to accept the idea."
"I guess that's the best way to handle it," Harry agreed, standing up. "I just wish he wasn't so dead set against freedom. Well, I think I'm going to head on to bed. Night, Severus."
"Good night, Harry."
Harry crossed the hall to his own bedroom, a spacious corner room done in sage green, ivory, and brown, with windows that looked out onto the back lawn and the moor to the right of the estate. Tonight, of course, the dark sky and the lashing rain concealed the view. The wind howled and rattled the glass so fiercely that Harry cast a Silencing Charm on the windows before slipping beneath the covers of his four poster bed.
A small Christmas tree stood in the corner, tiny multicolored lights blinking and reflecting off the crystal ornaments. Harry watched them, slowly growing drowsy and thinking pleasant thoughts about seeing his young godson (that still seemed terribly strange---him having a godson!), and spending his first Christmas in his very own home.
There was a chill in the air the next morning, in spite of the fire burning in the fireplace, and when Harry looked out the window, he could see thick gray clouds covering the sky, though at least the rain had stopped. He dressed in a warm caramel-brown jumper with a golden Snitch embroidered on the front---one of Mrs. Weasley's better efforts---and khaki trousers. He quickly pulled on socks and shoved his feet into loafers, noxed the lights on his Christmas tree, and headed downstairs for breakfast.
Severus was already waiting in the small family dining room. That was no surprise---Harry rarely beat him no matter how early he got up. Harry had been trying to gradually get his guardian accustomed to wearing colours besides black, and this morning Severus was wearing a dark blue jumper and gray trousers, though he did have on a black robe over them.
Harry said good morning and slid into his seat just as Kreacher came in from the kitchen, levitating a tray with two plates of eggs, ham, and porridge before him.
"Kreacher, you're supposed to have Basil or Rinnie do the work. You're the head house elf, remember," Harry told him. Kreacher was really too old to have to work, Harry felt, but knew that the elf would be devastated if they put it that bluntly. So to spare his feelings, Harry had come up with the idea of 'promoting' him to head house elf and hiring other elves to follow his orders.
It hadn't been easy, either, to find free elves. Dobby had been the only one that Harry knew of, and though Hermione was determined to work for elves' rights once she'd passed her N.E.W.T.S., so far free elves were a rarity. After much searching, they'd finally found Basil and Rinnie, but Kreacher was still having a hard time believing that anyone else could serve Master Harry as well as he could.
"Ah, but Master Harry, that Basil doesn't fix Master Severus' eggs the way Kreacher does, and that Rinnie is so clumsy, she's just as likely to drop the tray as to serve it," Kreacher explained, setting their plates before them with a flourish and going back to the kitchen.
Harry looked over at Severus, who just shrugged and said, "He's right. The eggs are always runny when Basil cooks."
The morning passed slowly. After breakfast Severus went back to his laboratory to finish organizing the great cabinets of ingredients. Out of boredom, Harry joined him and spent the next three hours labeling jars of beetle eyes, minced flobberworms, and dragon scales.
Just before lunchtime, they gathered in the drawing room. Severus stepped over to the garland-topped mantel and removed the pair of scarlet stockings. Within minutes, a great emerald fire flared up in the grate and a tall woman in black robes stepped out of the fireplace, a small sandy-haired boy in her arms.
Andromeda Tonks was no longer young and the past year had been hard on her. Her brown hair was liberally streaked with grey, and her face was heavily lined. But she moved quickly and gracefully, and her large dark blue eyes were sharp, though they softened when she looked at the child in her arms, now squirming to get down.
The instant his feet touched the ground, Teddy Lupin threw himself at Harry, flinging his arms around Harry's neck and almost strangling him.
"Hey, Teddy." Harry hugged him back and tried to loosen the little boy's grip without being too obvious about it. Fortunately for him, Teddy was too excited to be still for long. He was already jumping down and running over to Severus.
Harry was greatly amused by the fact that Teddy had never been the slightest bit intimidated by Severus. Granted, Severus had mellowed a lot over the past couple years---who would ever imagined the dour Potions professor of Hogwarts engaging in tickling matches, for example---but he was still not exactly the kind of person little children found warm and cuddly.
Except for Teddy Lupin.
"Uncle Sev'rus!" Teddy wrapped his arms around Severus' legs and beamed up at him.
Severus attempted to pry him away and shake hands. "Young Mr. Lupin."
"I'm not 'young Mr. Lupin'. I'm Teddy," the little boy giggled. Just then he caught sight of the great tree standing in the corner, covered with exquisite gold and silver ornaments (all with Unbreakable Charms on them) and piles of brightly-wrapped presents underneath. He promptly let go of Severus and ran over to investigate.
Andromeda started after him, but Harry stopped her. "It's all right. We put all kinds of Charms on the tree yesterday. He can't hurt anything."
"Obviously, you haven't spent enough time around Teddy if you believe that," Andromeda said dryly, but she smiled, took his hand and squeezed it. "How are you, Harry?"
Harry smiled back. "Fine, thank you, Mrs. … Andromeda." It had only been a couple weeks ago that she had said they might as well be on a first name basis and Harry still found it a little strange.
Severus came over and though he and Andromeda greeted one another cordially enough, Harry thought they both seemed slightly cool. Tempers had flared at their first meeting, when Andromeda had accused Harry of trying to steal custody of Teddy from her and Severus had fiercely come to Harry's defense. Once that mess had been straightened out, Harry and Andromeda had learned to get along pretty well, but she and Severus remained stiff and formal, though polite, to one another. Harry wasn't sure that Severus had really let go of his initial animosity, in spite of what he'd said last night.
The man did have a tendency to hold a grudge, after all.
But there was little time for anyone to feel awkward, not with Teddy running around, exclaiming with delight over the decorations, shaking presents to try to guess what was inside, and laughing at his reflection in a mirror as his hair changed from green to red to purple and finally back to his natural light brown. Like his late mother, he was a born metamorphmagus, though at only three years old, he lacked the concentration to hold a changed image for very long.
"He reminds me so much of Dora," Andromeda said quietly. "He may look like Remus, but he's got her personality, that's for certain."
Harry wasn't exactly sure what to say. He missed Remus dreadfully, and Fred Weasley, and Dora Tonks, too. But his grief didn't compare to hers, he knew. He had lost friends. Andromeda had lost almost her whole family. He was glad when Rinnie came in and announced that lunch was ready.
After dining on salad and sandwiches, Andromeda announced that it was time for Teddy's nap.
"If you'll show me to our rooms, I'll put Teddy down," she said, but Teddy leaped out of his chair and ran around the table to grab Severus by the arm.
"I want Uncle Sev'rus to tuck me in."
Severus looked around uncomfortably, but Andromeda was already pouring herself another cup of tea and Harry only grinned wickedly at him.
"Oh, very well, then." Severus stood up and swept towards the door; Teddy skipping along cheerfully beside him. Andromeda sipped her tea and asked. "So, Harry, how are your studies coming along?"
"Pretty well," he told her. "Ron and Hermione and I study together most days, and we meet with a bigger study group at Hogwarts on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. The professors take turns tutoring us, and Professor McGonagall says we're on track to take our N.E.W.T.S. in the spring."
"Any ideas for what you want to do after that?"
Harry sighed. "I don't know. I used to want to be an Auror, but now I'm not sure."
"Well, you still have time to think about it," she said.
"Yeah, that's what Severus says," Harry agreed. "It's just frustrating sometimes. It seems like everyone else knows what they're going to do. Ron's going to work with George at the joke shop, and Hermione's going to apply at the Ministry, probably in the Magical Creatures department since she wants to work on social welfare. Neville's going to do an apprenticeship with Professor Sprout."
He sighed again. "Even Ginny and Luna have plans and they're a year behind us. And here I am, with no idea what I want to do with the rest of my life."
Severus came back in time to hear the last bit. He walked behind Harry's chair and rested both hands on the boy's shoulders. "Harry, even if you did nothing at all for the rest of your life, you have already accomplished more than most wizards ever do. Don't worry. Just concentrate on passing your N.E.W.T.S. for now, and when the time is right, you'll know what you want to do."
Andromeda nodded. "Very sound advice. Professor Snape is quite right, Harry. There's no need to rush into a decision. And speaking of Hogwarts, how is the reconstruction coming along?"
"Quite well," Severus said calmly. "Minerva expects the school to re-open on schedule in the fall."
"Will you be returning as the Potions instructor?"
Severus shook his head. "No, I'm much happier devoting myself to research. Professor Weasley will remain in the post. She's better suited to working with children than I am."
Harry tilted his head back to grin at him. "Oh, I don't know, Severus. Teddy's pretty fond of you."
Severus glowered down at him, but then seemed to relent and shook his head, saying dryly. "Oh, well, I've become a father to one Marauder's son. I might as well be an uncle to the other." He lightly squeezed Harry's shoulders. "If you two will excuse me, I do have an order from St. Mungo's I need to begin working on."
Harry watched him fondly as he left the room, then turned back to Andromeda. "Severus is really amazing, you know. He's already invented some kind of Elixir that heals a manticore's sting, and he's made improvements on loads of medical potions. He gets orders from hospitals all over Europe."
Andromeda smiled. "It's a good thing he has a chance to develop his talents. You're very proud of him, I can tell."
Harry ducked his head, feeling a little embarrassed for some reason, although it was true. "Yeah. I'm just glad he can finally be happy."
"I think you probably have more to do with that than his Potions research," Andromeda said softly.
"Um, well, maybe," Harry muttered, feeling more embarrassed by the minute. He decided to change the subject. "I could show you around Prince Hall, if you'd like, Andromeda."
"That sounds lovely."
So they spent the next hour touring the house and grounds, and then Harry left Andromeda happily poring through some the rare books in the library. She'd wanted to check on Teddy, but Harry offered to do it for her. He headed upstairs. They'd given their guests connecting rooms just down the hall from their own.
But when Harry cautiously peered in, expecting to see a sleeping child, he was surprised to see Teddy sitting up cross-legged on the bed, holding a photograph in his small hands and looking at it intently.
"Hey, Teddy, I thought you were taking a nap." Harry came to sit on the bed beside him.
"Couldn't sleep." Teddy gazed up at him, his grey eyes wide and unusually solemn. "I wanted to see my mama and daddy." He held the photo out to Harry.
It was of Remus and Tonks. They were standing in the garden at the Tonks' home, smiling and waving at the camera. The photo had been taken on a summer's day, and the rosebush behind them was in full bloom. They both looked carefree and happy---even Remus, and tears blurred Harry's vision as he watched them.
Teddy was watching him. "Grammie cries, too, sometimes when she thinks I can't see her. But I do."
Harry swallowed hard. "Well, it's hard to miss someone. Sometimes you can't help but feel sad."
"I don't want Grammie to feel sad." Teddy stared down at the photo pensively for another moment, but then he laid it on the table beside the bed and looked back at Harry, a big smile illuminating his face. "But she won't be sad long, Harry. Cause I got a really great surprise for her for Christmas. When is Christmas, anyway? I keep waiting and waiting, but it doesn't come."
"Well, tomorrow is Christmas Eve. We're all going to the Weasleys' house for dinner. You remember Ron, don't you? You'll get to meet all of his family tomorrow. And then the next day is Christmas."
Teddy, however, looked aghast. "But that's forever!"
Harry had to laugh. "It'll go by fast. Now, if you're not going to take a nap, why don't we see if your Grammie will let me take you for a ride on my Firebolt?"
Severus set the last potion to brew and left his laboratory in search of the others. It took a little while, but he finally found them in the garden. The sky was still cloudy, though the pale winter sun peeked out now and again. Now, during the warmest part of the day, it wasn't terribly chilly, though Andromeda had insisted on Teddy bundling up in his woolen winter cloak.
She was sitting on a low stone bench, watching as Harry carefully flew the Firebolt in figure eights a couple of meters off the ground, Teddy's arms clasped tightly around his waist. They were going slowly, but the broomstick was still fast enough to make Teddy squeal in delight and to make Andromeda bite her lip in concern.
Severus eased himself onto the opposite end of the bench. "Harry will keep him safe."
She looked over at him and nodded. "Yes, I know. I'm just being foolish. I tell myself that I'm not going to be too overprotective, that I've got to let him live and not smother him with my fears." Her lips quirked upwards. "I just don't always listen to myself."
They watched the two boys, one almost grown and one little more than a baby, in silence for a while. Then Andromeda said, "Harry truly is a wonderful young man. I'm glad that he's part of Teddy's life."
"He takes being a godfather very seriously," Severus answered. He considered her thoughtfully and then said slowly, "You know, of course, that Harry was orphaned at an early age, too. But he wasn't as fortunate as Teddy. He was betrayed by the adults who should have cared for him. He was alone in the world, at least until he came to Hogwarts and made friends there."
A sorrowful expression flickered across his face. "I will always regret that I wasn't there for him during those years. Harry wanted Teddy to grow up knowing that he has friends, a family that he can depend on."
"It was a lucky day for us when the two of you showed up on our doorstep," Andromeda agreed.
She took a deep breath. "I do owe you an apology, Professor Snape. I've already apologized to Harry, but I don't think I ever did to you. I know I was rude and unfair that day, and I'm very sorry. I can only say that I thought you wanted to take Teddy away from me, and I was frightened out of my wits. He's all I have left. He's everything to me."
Severus gave her an appraising look and then seemed to warm ever so slightly. "I'm afraid that I spoke harshly as well. But Harry is everything to me, and after all that he's been through, I cannot stand back and watch him be hurt again."
They looked at each other. Then Andromeda held out her hand. "Truce?"
Severus took it. "Truce."
They leaned back on the bench and watched their boys zoom around the garden in companionable silence.
The next afternoon they Flooed to the Burrow to spend Christmas Eve with the Weasley clan. The weather was still damp and it had turned cold again so they all dressed warmly. Harry wore another Weasley jumper---this one a dark red with a black "H" embroidered on the front---and black trousers. Severus wore a hunter green jumper and black trousers, while Andromeda dressed in flowing violet robes and Teddy wore a blue jumper with khaki trousers.
Hermione was there with her parents, and she and Ron hugged Harry when he stepped out of the fireplace.
"Harry, can we go outside and walk a bit?" Hermione whispered in his ear. "I really think Ron needs to get away for a while."
Sure enough, Ron was pale and his face had a pinched sort of look. Harry nodded. "Yeah, just let me say hello to Mr. and Mrs. Weasley."
A few minutes later they borrowed cloaks from the hall closet and slipped outside. A bitter wind sideswiped them as they stepped out the door and all three shivered and huddled together as they left the garden and walked down the lane towards the village of Ottery St. Catchpole.
They were silent for a time, trudging along with their heads bowed against the wind. Harry noticed that Hermione's mittened hand clung to Ron's. They came to the crest of a hill and stopped. The village lay below them; crooked narrow streets and small houses, all festive with holiday lights and garlands strung from the lampposts and candles shining in the windows.
Ron finally spoke. "Thanks for coming with me. I know it's freezing out here, but I just had to get out. I feel like I have to be brave, for Mum's sake, and George's, but it's really hard, you know. I keep remembering all the crazy stuff Fred used to do. Remember two years ago, when he dressed that gnome up like an angel for the tree-topper? And one time when we were all little, Fred was determined to catch Father Christmas leaving gifts, so he left booby traps all around the tree. We wondered why Dad had a black eye the next morning. And then there was the time…"
But his voice choked and he turned away without finishing.
Harry and Hermione exchanged anguished looks. Hermione hugged Ron hard, and after a minute, Harry stepped close and wrapped his arms around them, too. The three of them held one another for a while before finally moving apart a little bit.
"You know what I remember?" Harry asked. "It's just a silly little thing, but that very first day I met you guys, on the Hogwarts Express first-year, Fred and George saw me struggling with my trunk and they just came right over and helped me with it. From the very beginning, all of you treated me like I was one of you. I really miss Fred, too."
"Ron," Hermione said softly. "Your family wouldn't want you to feel like you have to be brave for them. It's all right to be sad. We're all sad, but we'll help each other through it. That's what family is all about, right?"
Ron didn't say anything, but he reached out and grasped their hands tightly. "We'd better get back. We'll all be sick and Mum'll have our heads. Not to mention what Severus'll do if you come down with pneumonia, Harry."
"Severus isn't that over-protective," Harry protested.
Ron's face was still strained, but he made himself snort and say, "Huh! He watches over you like a hen with a newly hatched chick."
"I'm going to tell him you said that."
"Don't you dare!"
Back at the Burrow, the mood was somber, too, but Harry thought that was better than if everyone had tried too hard to be cheerful and to act as if nothing were wrong. George was very quiet, but he had brought Katie Bell to dinner and Harry noticed that she sat beside him and held his hand for a long time that afternoon.
He also noticed that more than one family member slipped off alone, only to return with red eyes later. And Mrs. Weasley couldn't hold back tears when she was setting the table and came to the place where Fred had always sat.
And yet, there were good moments, too. Little Teddy was too young to really understand or to be solemn for long, and he brightened everyone's spirits as he dashed about, chattering. Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny sat on the landing of the stairs and played Exploding Snap. They all got very silly, to the point that anything anyone said was hilariously funny, and by the time they'd calmed down, Harry's sides were aching. Mr. Weasley switched the wireless on and waltzed Mrs. Weasley around the living room. Percy was there, reunited with his family. And Bill and Fleur kept giving one another sly secret smiles.
Mr. Weasley had to magically enlarge the kitchen table so they could all fit around it, and after a delicious dinner of ham, baked potatoes, peas, and plum pudding, they all trooped back into the living room to open gifts.
It was late by the time they'd finished, and Teddy had curled up on a cushion on the floor and fallen asleep. Severus was starting to drop none-too-subtle hints about leaving, when Bill and Fleur exchanged another of those looks, and then Bill said, "Wait, there's one more present."
He Summoned a small silver box which had been carefully hidden in the very back of the tree and handed it to Mrs. Weasley, saying, "It's really for everyone, but I think Mum should open it."
She unwrapped the paper and lifted the lid. Then she froze and stared into the box, tears coming to her eyes again.
"Well, what is it, Mum?" Ginny demanded.
Mrs. Weasley held up a pair of tiny white baby booties. She turned to Fleur. "You're really…?"
Fleur nodded, a radiant smile lighting her face. "Yes, the baby ez due in July, and if eet ez a girl, she will be Victoire Gabrielle, and if eet ez a boy, Arthur Frederick."
The room seemed to explode with happiness then…everyone jumping up and hugging Fleur and clapping Bill on the back. Mrs. Weasley was crying again, but this time they were tears of joy.
It was very late when Harry's family left the Burrow.
"Harry, wake up! It's Christmas!" Teddy raced into Harry's room at the crack of dawn, and woke him by jumping on the bed and yelling in his ear.
"Ouch, Teddy." Harry sat up, feeling a little grumpy. He hadn't gotten much sleep and he thought he might have lost the hearing in his right ear now. But Teddy's excitement was contagious and he found himself grinning back at the little boy. "Oh, all right. Give me a minute."
He slipped his plaid robe on over his pajamas and tugged slippers on his feet. Then he let Teddy pull him into the hallway. Andromeda was coming towards him, knotting the belt of her robe.
She gave him a wry smile. "There's no sleeping in with Teddy around."
"So I discovered." Harry glanced down at his godson. "I don't think I'd wake Severus up that way, though, if I were you."
"Oh, I woke him up first of all," Teddy said cheerfully. Satisfied that they were coming, he ran ahead of Harry and Andromeda.
"And you're still alive to tell the tale?" Harry looked over at Teddy's grandmother. "He's definitely a Gryffindor. You know that, don't you?"
She pretended to sigh. "Yes, but I love him anyway."
They gathered in the drawing room and opened their gifts. Harry had bought jewelry for Andromeda, a child's toy broomstick for Teddy, and a catalogue's worth of rare Potions ingredients for Severus.
He got a misshapen clay jar from Teddy ("I made it all by myself, Harry!" The little boy proudly declared.), clothes from Andromeda, and two tickets from Severus. He looked over at his guardian curiously.
"It occurred to me, Harry, that you've never been on a real holiday. And I haven't been on very many myself," Severus explained. "So after you take your N.E.W.T.S. in June, you and I are going to take an extended holiday and see the world. If you're agreeable, that is."
"Well, yeah. Wow, thanks, Severus." Harry got up and went over to hug him. "I can hardly wait. Where all are we going to go?"
They talked about the trip for a time, Andromeda had done a bit of traveling before and she recommended some sites they should see. Then Teddy had more presents to open.
But every little while he would get up and run to the door or to look out the window. At first, with all the talking and excitement, the others didn't really notice, but after he'd done it several times, Andromeda called, "Teddy, dear, what are you doing?"
Teddy turned from the window and there were tears in his eyes. "Looking for Mama and Daddy. I asked Father Christmas to bring them back. But they're not here."
Andromeda looked as if she wanted to cry, too. "Oh, darling. They can't come back."
"Why not?" Teddy demanded. The tears were running down his face now. "Father Christmas can do anything."
"Well, almost anything," she whispered. "But not that."
"But I want them!" Teddy wailed.
She reached for him, but he pushed her away and started to run from the room. It was Severus who caught him and carried him back to the sofa. He sat down and just held the little boy in his arms, offering him the quiet comfort he'd offered to Harry so often over the past two years.
At first Teddy pounded against Severus' chest with his tiny fists, but then he just went limp and curled up against the man.
"It's not fair! Everybody else has a mama and daddy. Everybody but me," he sobbed.
Harry went over to sit beside them. He laid a hand on Teddy's back. "I don't have a mum or dad, either, Teddy. Mine died when I was little, just like yours did. So I know how you feel. I know you feel really sad and lonely sometimes, especially when you see other kids with their parents."
"Or if you have a bad day, and you wish you could talk with your mum and dad about it. And they'd hug you and tell you that they love you and that everything will be all right."
Teddy was still crying, but not as hard. "It's not fair."
"No, it's not fair," Harry agreed. "But there is something that helps."
"What is it?" Teddy sniffled.
"Having other people who love you." Harry told him. "And you're pretty lucky there, Teddy. You have your Grammie, and she loves you an awful lot. And I'm lucky, too, because I have Severus."
"And he loves you an awful lot?" Teddy asked.
"Yes, indeed," Severus said quietly. He held Teddy with one arm, but with the other he pulled Harry close and kissed the top of his head.
Harry leaned against him and smiled. "So see, Teddy, we really are lucky."
"But I still miss Mama and Daddy," Teddy whispered.
"Yeah, I know. But you know something? They're all right. They miss you, but they're in a good place. Someday you'll see them again, and in the meantime, they want you to be happy."
Teddy sniffed again. "You really think so?"
Harry nodded. "Yes. I know so."
Teddy looked around at Andromeda, who had been watching them with tears running down her own face. He climbed down from Severus' lap and went over to her.
"I'm sorry, Grammie. Don't cry. I love you."
"I love you, too, Teddy." Andromeda scooped him up in her arms and mouthed "Thank you" to Harry and Severus. Then she carried Teddy out of the room.
"Well," Severus remarked. "Not exactly a happy Christmas, is it?"
"They'll be all right," Harry said. "They have each other."
Severus cleared his throat. "Harry, I know I've said it before, but I do want you to know how sorry I am that I wasn't there for you when you were younger. I would give anything if I could change the past."
"I know that. But Severus, it's okay. You have been there for me. Look how many times you've saved my life. I wish I could give you something really great for all those times."
Severus smoothed his hair. "But you have."
When Harry looked puzzled, Severus said softly, "I may have saved your life, Harry, but you've made mine worth living." He gathered Harry in his arms and held him close. Harry leaned against him, listening to his guardian's heartbeat.
He twined his arms around Severus' waist. "I told Teddy I didn't have a mum or dad, but that's not exactly true. I do have a father now."
He looked up and said, "Happy Christmas, Dad."