Disclaimer: I own nothing. (Big surprise right?)
This is in response to the Winter Fic-Fest on Potions and Snitches.
He stared at the top of the cabinet where he knew a full bottle of brandy resided. The temptation to pull the dusty bottle from the shelf and finish off half of it was mostly a result of extreme anxiety, rather than any addictive behavior. With an audible sigh he turned away from the cabinet, and the bottle, leaving the small, antique kitchen behind to go upstairs and change clothes. It had been nearly twenty years since defeat of Voldemort, and Severus Snape, 59-year-old potions master, newly reinstated Head of Slytherin and Deputy Headmaster at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Order of Merlin First Class was once again living in his family home on Spinners End.
Walking up the old creaking stairs that strained to hold his weight Severus's thoughts drifted to how he got himself in this…predicament. He had not quite died in the Shrieking Shack. He had come close, passing out in the arms of Harry Potter seconds away from death, but the boy and his troublesome friends had run off before they could see what happened next. Fawkes had appeared for the fist time since Dumbledore's death and saved him. Healing his wounds with precious tears. The Phoenix had attached himself to the Potions Master after that and was now his familiar. Seeing the opportunity for what it was, Severus did what he needed to do. He disappeared. He had apparated first to his small home in Spinners End, and collecting some money only (that he had hidden), quickly apparated away.
Being a spy for so many years paid off, and under several different assumed names Severus moved freely throughout Continental Europe, making a small fortune selling his potions, Wolfsbane was in high demand in Germany, and having an endless supply of phoenix tears, feathers, and whatever else he needed just made things easier. He earned more then enough to get by though usually resided in run-down apartments during his travels to keep a low profile. He had had no intention of ever going back to Brittan.
Until the letter had arrived.
He had received the letter weeks after reading about the birth of Albus Severus Potter in the Daily Prophet. To say he was shocked was a mass understatement. The letter had been a delayed missive sent to him from his once best friend and love, Lily Evans Potter. He had read the letter while in Macedonia and had barricaded himself inside the shabby apartment for weeks devising a plan. Lily had informed him that one of the few nights they had spent together, after she thought James was dead, had resulted in a pregnancy and the birth of her son, Harry. With a series of complex charms, Lily had permanently altered his appearance. When James had shown up, alive and well, weeks after the affair had begun, Lily broke the 'tryst' off and pretended the baby was James's. Her conscience, however, refused to let her rest, so she penned the letter and charmed it to be delivered to Severus, many years in the future. And if Severus were dead then, which he most like would have been, then so be it.
Opening the doors of his small wardrobe, Severus searched for an appropriate outfit. His clothing varied little consisting mostly of black, but Severus pawed through everything looking for something specific.
After years of wondering what to do about the development of the letter, Severus steeled himself, packed all his belongings, and traveled back to Britain, surprised that his depilated house on the river was still standing. He wanted to inform Harry Potter of this development. Not out of some sort of parental duty, or love, but perhaps vindictiveness. He could only imagine the look on the boy's face when he found out that his father wasn't perfect Potter, but instead a low class, half-blood, death eater. After all, it was one thing to give a child the middle name of a dead man but another to find out that said man is alive and your father.
Finding what he was looking for, Severus stepped back from the wardrobe holding the black shirt out in front of him for close inspection. The long sleeved, V-neck, silk shirt was muggle-like in its appearance but would serve its purpose tonight. The fabric felt slick and soft to his touch and blended into his black pants flawlessly. His winter cloak was downstairs; he would retrieve that just before he left.
Going over to his bed Severus summoned many neatly wrapped packages out from under it, shrinking them as they came and placing them in the pocket of his trousers. Glancing around the room to make sure he remembered everything, Severus went back downstairs. With a quick glance at the clock to ensure he was on time, he grabbed his thick winter cloak off the back of the old, crippled, grey couch and gracefully threw it over his shoulders. Walking over to a small hall closet he removed several more plain, but neatly wrapped packages. Shrinking these he placed them in the pocket of his robe and apparated away.
After Harry had gotten over the initial shock of seeing his thought dead potions professor on his doorstep, he did the only sensible thing: he cursed him. Or at least tried to do so. Severus had anticipated this and easily blocked the spell. Telling the boy a few little-known facts had convinced Harry to allow the man inside, where he briefly saw his three grandchildren before they were ushered to their rooms. Harry had called Hermione Granger-Weasley and Ron Weasley, who after being informed of the situation came over as soon as their children were safe at their grandparents'. After a dose of veritaserum, extensive questioning, and an appearance of Fawkes, the troublesome children decided he was who he claimed to be. For some reason when Severus gave Harry the letter from Lily to read over for himself, the man didn't feel nearly as much…glee as he had anticipated. Actually, as he thought about it, he was regretting bringing it up. Severus would have much preferred to talk to the three children that had been quickly ushered out of the room… his grandchildren.
It had taken time, months in fact, for Harry to even begin to accept the contents of the letter, but for whatever reason, and much to Severus's surprise, Harry wanted to get to know him better. They both knew they would never have a true father-son relationship, but…something…was definitely growing between them. At first it was just Harry that would have lunch or dinner with him a couple times a week, but before long Ginny was coming as well. Then one day Severus's grandchildren had come too, and after a short time he was 'Granddad'. His grandchildren didn't know much about him—only the kinder things their parents had revealed.
One day, Minerva McGonagall had shown up on his doorstep with an offer he almost refused, but after several talks with Harry, Severus contacted her and agreed to become the Head of Slytherin, Deputy Headmaster, and Hogwarts' Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. Severus began his duties the year his youngest grandson started Hogwarts.
In early November, Harry visited Hogwarts for the sole purpose of speaking to Severus. The Deputy Headmaster had invited the boy to stay for dinner, which they ate in his private quarters. He remained speechless for several moments, looking at Harry curiously, after the boy had asked him to join him at the Burrow for Christmas. Eventually, Severus said that he would think about it, but reminded the boy that he was not the most social person in the world. He had felt almost guilty seeing the slightly disappointed look on Harry's face, which caused him even more confusion.
After dinner had ended, and Harry had left, Severus had planned to contemplate his feelings on the matter over a glass of red wine, when he was interrupted by a knock on the door. Assuming it was one of his Slytherins he opened the door with a neutral expression on his face, hiding all the conflicting emotions he was currently feeling. Indeed, it was one of his Slytherins on the other side of the door, but more importantly it was his grandson.
Albus Severus Potter had been sorted into Slytherin, much to his grandfather's delight, and his brother's shock. As a result, James Sirius Potter teased him relentlessly, almost cruelly at times. Judging from the way the small 11-year-old boy was fighting back tears and rubbing his eyes harshly, this apparently had been one of those times. Even without such damning names, Severus would have taken action against such blatant bullying. The fact that it was his grandsons involved just made it personal and he frequently found himself sitting down with both boys for long talks (with the occasional scolding). Severus had invited the boy in who had told him about James's actions and without knowing exactly how it happened the boy had curled up against him. The biggest surprise was that Severus didn't mind at all. Eventually, talk moved from James and pranks to Christmas, and Albus had asked innocently if he was coming to the Burrow for the treasured holiday. After a moment Severus swallowed hard and answered yes. Once the boy left and Severus swore he'd talk to his oldest grandson, he floo called Harry to inform him that, if the offer still stood, he'd be delighted to come for Christmas.
Which is why on December 25 Severus Snape apparated outside of the Burrow. As Severus stood outside the small physics-defying house he considered for a brief moment turning around and leaving, knowing for sure they'd never miss him. Before he could act on the impulse, however, the front door of the abode flew open, and with an excited shout of 'Granddad!' his only granddaughter, 8-year-old Lily came running towards him full speed. All his fearful thoughts and doubts disappeared as a smile spread over the unaccustomed face and Severus, without thinking, opened his arms as a small bundle with red hair hit him full-on in the stomach before he lifted her off the ground, holding her to his chest, returning the tight hug. Very soon two other shouts echoed the sentiment and he was hit again by his grandsons, almost knocking him to the ground. He didn't know why but he soon found himself laughing. Even though he was at school with James and Albus everyday, they seemed to always greet him as though it had been a lifetime since they last saw one another, despite the fact it may have only been a few days.
Still holding his granddaughter, whom he scolded mildly for coming outside without a coat on, Severus walked inside the house, not fully prepared for the scene that would greet his eyes. He knew that the entire Weasley clan would be there: Arthur, Molly, their six children, their spouses, and their children, but having never been exposed to large family-style gatherings, he was not prepared for what he saw. Naïvely Severus imagined something similar to the Great Hall during Christmas, with smiling children who were relatively quiet and stuck close together and colleagues that spoke with formality. However, that was not the case, he realized, as he sat Lily down on the floor so she could disappear into a corner with Hugo and conspire about ways to open their presents sooner.
Severus felt himself nearly panicking. There were children everywhere. Many under the age of ten, and while they weren't swinging from the ceiling they were hardly making an effort to be quiet.
He was ready to apparate away for the second time in less then five minutes and would have done so if a hand hadn't clapped him on the shoulder, causing him to stumble forward slightly. Arthur Weasley, looking older then Severus remembered: more weathered, a bit chubbier, with thinning hair that was white as snow, smiling, his hand still on Severus's shoulder, chuckled and spoke in a warm voice:
"Don't worry, Severus, you'll get used it soon enough."
Severus raised an eyebrow disbelievingly, causing Arthur to laugh as he guided Severus into the kitchen where the adults were gathered. Severus had Arthur to thank for helping to keep the Ministry out of his hair since his return. Granted it wasn't just Arthur, Harry had contributed quite a bit as well, and since Luna Lovegood became the owner of the Daily Prophet, she was able to restrict the media from endlessly harassing him. He was eternally grateful for all of their help. Severus had very little patience for reporters and didn't want the attention his 'resurrection' had forced upon him.
Severus was soon seated at the kitchen table next to Harry, and one seat away from Charlie's very pregnant wife, Raya. He was exceedingly grateful that the noise level in the kitchen was lower then that of the living room. Then before he knew what was happening, Molly had him wrapped in a tight hug and a warm cup of hot chocolate was pressed in his hands.
"Thank you, Molly." Severus said sincerely if a bit stiffly, unused to such displays of affection. "I'm…honored…to be here for Christmas. And the hot chocolate is wonderful."
Molly smiled warmly, accentuating the lines around her mouth. "You're quite welcome, Severus, and we're delighted you could join us." Still smiling she turned away from him to tend to dinner.
For several minutes Severus shifted uneasily as he listened to the conversation going on around him; while he was hardly being ignored, he was able to keep any comments he did have short and concise. Whether or not the group was avoiding him, Severus couldn't say, but he didn't sense any uncomfortable feelings coming from those around the table as he slowly sipped his hot chocolate. His discomfort, on the other hand, around the table was hardly noticeable unless you looked for it; years of spying taught one how to hide feelings.
The longer Severus thought about the almost surreal setting the more confused he became. In the other room eleven children were playing, excitedly discussing what they would be getting for Christmas, while in the kitchen fifteen adults were discussing various things, catching up on current events, and life in general.
As Severus watched and observed the dream-like setting surrounding him, he came to a realization. This was a family. An older mother and father, six of their children, their children's spouses, and their grandchildren. And him. An old man, with graying hair, lines around his eyes and mouth, sickly thin and pale, who had been grouchy and miserable to each and every one of them. What was he doing among them?
As time passed and the smell of dinner began filling the house and noses of its occupants, Severus neutrally asked a simple question that fortified his feelings of being an outsider:
"What should I do with the presents?" he inquired.
All turned to look at Severus with surprised curiosity.
"You actually bought presents?" Ron's surprised voice answered first. He was rewarded with a kick from under the table from Hermione while Molly slapped the back of his head with a dishtowel. "Oww!"
Severus merely raised an eyebrow though he could feel the corners of his mouth wanting to curve up just the slightest bit. Beside him Raya turned to apologize cynically for her brother-in-law as though she wanted to reach over and slap him herself. Severus was beginning to like her.
On Severus's other side, Harry chuckled, his emerald eyes lighting up just as his mother's used to when she laughed. When the green eyes met his, Severus was filled with a swelling of different emotions, guilt and sadness being the most acute, but he also felt warmth—a glow that seemed to fill him. And while the guilt and sadness still existed, they were not as sharp.
He didn't have time to contemplate the origins of this new emotion before Harry answered with a smile, a light comfortable tone, and a mischievous glint in his eye that Severus should have realized meant trouble, Merlin only knew he'd seen it enough times to know.
"Set them on the table before enlarging them and I'll show you," Harry told him.
Severus stood up to remove the miniaturized gifts from the pocket of his robe first and enlarged them. As he did so he heard Harry speaking again, only this time it was to Ron and filled with mirth;
"Of course he bought presents, Ron, not for us, but his grandchildren—they have him wrapped around their little fingers."
Severus paused for a moment in removing his winter cloak, as it truly was too warm to wear it indoors, and leveled a confused look while raising an eyebrow at the boy's words. Was he that easily manipulated by his grandchildren? Severus quickly brushed the thought and look aside replacing it with a smirk as he retrieved the gifts for the adults from his trousers' pocket before enlarging them. The names were written on the gifts in his sharp fluid scrawl, big enough to be read easily.
Harry took a quick surprised look at the gifts and raised an eyebrow himself.
"Then again I could be wrong," Harry said quietly, but happily, once again looking at Severus with mirth filled green eyes, "…About the presents," he clarified firmly, "Not about the kids having you, miraculously, wrapped around their little fingers."
Before Severus could make any comment, the horrid, beastly, arrogant, insufferable, nasty, brat of a boy did something absolutely unforgivable. Harry took a deep breath and yelled, never taking his impish eyes off Severus.
"Kids! Granddad has presents!"
It took Severus a moment to fully comprehend Harry's actions, but by then it was too late. His eyes widened and he turned in the direction of the stampede coming his way accompanied with shouts of joy. Before Severus could fully form a coherent thought, he was tackled by every child in the house, successfully pushing him back down in his chair as they all gathered around to hug and squeeze him. He was too shocked to return the hugs or acknowledge the thanks; he could hardly even register the laughter going on around him. Then as quickly as it happened, Harry asked the kids to carefully take the presents and put them under the Christmas tree.
"Okay, kids," Harry began still chuckling, grabbing his three year old niece around the waist as she tried to peak inside one of the gifts. With arms wrapped tightly around her he bounced her up and down slightly, causing the room to fill with more childish giggles. "Okay, take the presents and put them under the tree. And James don't even think about 'dropping one.' Got it?"
Severus saw James roll his eyes when his back was turned to his dad. Making eye contact with the boy he raised an eyebrow knowingly at his oldest grandson. The boy blushed and ducked his head as he left the kitchen, his siblings and cousins close behind.
Harry released his niece and, chattering excitedly, the tribe of small, constricting, little monsters were gone and Severus finally recovered enough to level a glare that once would have made Harry gulp. As it was, however, it only made Harry laugh harder and Severus wondered what he would have to do to salvage his reputation.
Severus's thoughts of torture were cut short, however, as Arthur, still chuckling merrily, eyes filled with a warmth and kindness he had never seen before, raised a chocolate filled mug to him in toast. "Welcome to grandfather-hood, Severus, it's a wonderful place to be."
Severus stole a quick glance as his grandchildren in the other room, already separating the gifts out and trying to figure out what was in each. Severus looked back at Arthur in time to see him nod his head before taking a sip from the mug and Severus found himself returning the gesture and toast, silently, but with an underlying understanding.
As tradition dictated, dinner was served early and all the children joined the adults around the table. Severus watched as Albus silently slid into the seat beside him before offering his granddad a smile.
The smile faded abruptly however as James came between the two chairs and tried to push Albus off his seat by sitting on the edge of the old wooden chair.
"Move, Al! I want to sit next to Granddad!" James's voice both whiny and annoyed at the same time.
"No!" Albus almost screeched in the way only a prepubescent boy can as he grabbed onto the table for support against his older and larger brother's assault. "I was here first!"
Severus was to surprised to stop what was going on beside him, but actually felt quite flattered also. He was snapped out of his musings by Ginny's voice, which unlike the small eleven year old that had once been possessed by the Dark Lord, was firm and Molly-like.
"Boy's that's enough! Besides your grandfather does have two sides."
"But dad's sitting there." James whined once more, balancing precariously on the edge of the chair, but no longer pushing against his brother.
"Your father is going to sit next to me." Ginny said crossing her arms and Severus heard Charlie whisper something along the lines of 'just like mum' to his wife.
"I am?" Harry asked bewildered, not seeing what was wrong with sitting across from his wife.
One glare from Ginny and Severus was quite amused to watch the boy jump up and scurry, with as much dignity as possible, to the other side of the table.
James quickly leapt up and hurried around to his grandfather's other side. Without his brother shoving him Albus released the table and gave his granddad a grin that Severus returned before looking to his other side where James had now seated himself. Meeting his grandfather's eyes the boy smiled brightly and innocently at his Granddad and Severus couldn't help but to give another small smile in return.
The children were much quieter around the table than they had been in the living room, and Severus was grateful for it. Conversation continued to be light, consisting mostly of funny stories about the various people seated around the old table.
As they were finishing up dessert, Harry, who was now sitting across from Severus at the table, smiled and with a cheerful voice spoke to Severus though most of the table was listening, ready to join the conversation.
"I suppose we should let you know what goes on here for Christmas," Harry informed his father excitedly his entire face lit up with a childlike glow, while leaning forward in his chair a bit. The spoon of pudding frozen in midair, forgotten on its way towards his mouth.
"I suppose that would be a good idea, though a bit overdue," Severus replied sarcastically, even as he shifted Lily in his lap (how she had come to sit there was a mystery though Severus found it eased his anxiety considerably). Harry merely chuckled, his eyes identical to his mother's.
"Well," Harry continued unfazed by the derisive interruption, "after dinner we all help clean up, despite Molly's assurances that it's not necessary."
Harry gave his mother-in-law a lovingly exasperated look that said it was not an option. Molly returned the look with a raised eyebrow, a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth, her eyes shining with warmth and love.
Harry broke eye contact and focused once more on Severus, "After everything's cleaned up we move into the living room where the kids open presents, just like every year, in order, from youngest to oldest; after they settle down the adults open theirs. Then once all the presents are open, we talk for a while longer until someone passes out from exhaustion."
"I see," Severus responded, emotionlessly. None of this really made much sense to him, but he supposed it was because he never had a proper family. He didn't really have time to reflect on any of it though because of James's innocent question:
"Did you have any traditions, Granddad, when you were a kid?" The 12-year-old boy had no idea his simple question would cause the entire table to freeze and look nervously between his Granddad and him. If James had known, he would have asked sooner. Though, the silence was making him feel decidedly uncomfortable.
Severus was more amused by the reaction of the other adults at the table than he was surprised at the boy's question. With a smirk and a small chuckle he looked directly at James and answered the boy much more comfortably than he felt.
"No, James, we didn't really have any traditions when I was a child." Severus's smile faded and he hugged Lily a bit closer to him as memories returned, but instead of the anger he would have once felt at the reminders of his less-than-perfect childhood, he was almost detached. Maturity had forced him to realize that nothing could change his past he could only move forward into the future.
"You see, lad, we were very poor, and my parents really didn't have enough money to buy me any presents, except perhaps, if I was fortunate, one each Christmas. My father usually had to work on Christmas Day, so there was no one to celebrate with, except my mother, but she…" Severus trailed off, not really knowing how to explain the situation to a child, not to mention everyone else at the table who were hanging on his every word. "…she didn't like to celebrate anything without my father, so she often ignored the holiday altogether."
Severus swallowed hard and, trying to focus on good memories, did something that only in the last few years had become any less painful.
"Your grandmother, Lily, however, loved Christmas." Severus was well aware that every single eye was trained on him, but he continued on, steadfastly, almost cheerfully, obviously fond of the memory. "She loved the snow and the Christmas lights muggles use to decorate, and she loved giving people presents. For her it wasn't about getting things from others," Severus gave a small snort, he remembered this like it was yesterday. Leaning back in his chair he allowed the long forgotten feelings of happiness and love wash over him, before deciding to continue on quietly. "Oh, she liked receiving things, but it was about teasing people relentlessly after she'd bought and wrapped their presents until it was time for them to finally open it on Christmas Day. And watching their expressions shift from curious excitement to grateful merriment. And singing, she absolutely loved, singing. I remember one year," Severus leaned back in his chair and smiled broadly at the memory, "we, well Lily anyway, gathered up a few other children and we went caroling a couple days before Christmas. There were about five of us, and we went from door to door singing carols until we were all hoarse. People actually started giving us money, and by the time we were done we'd made about half a crown each."
Once Severus finished his story, a smile still on his face, he made to go back to his pumpkin pie, trying to avoid eating young Lily's hair, but not before making eye contact with Harry. Harry's mouth was hanging open slightly, a trace of shock still evident on his face. His voice when he spoke was thick and husky, filled with more emotion than Severus even thought possible.
"Thank you," Harry said quietly.
Severus nodded his head in acknowledgement then resumed eating, playfully tickling Lily after she'd sneaked a piece of his dessert.
Severus inhaled a deep breath of crisp icy cold winter air as soon as the door closed behind him. Yes, the evening had been much more than enjoyable but…he had never liked large crowds and being around so many people was wearing on his nerves. He had nearly snapped at Lily for clinging to him. He needed to get away for a few moments. The cold, winter night air was cleansing, and even as he tugged his cloak tighter around him, he could feel himself relaxing. The muscles in his neck and shoulders unclenched and his temple throbbed less. Seeing a picnic style table set up to the side of the back door Severus took a seat on the cold wooden bench and merely surveyed the dark landscape. All he could really see were trees and some lights from the nearby muggle neighborhood. He could hear laughter coming from inside the Burrow and wondered how long it would take before someone noticed he was missing. The children were too occupied with their presents to care, and he doubted that many of the adults wanted him there to begin with judging from the odd looks he'd received from Ron and Percy whenever he said anything. Turning so his back was leaning against the table, facing away from the door, Severus closed his eyes and tilted his head back, basking in the cold.
Suddenly, the door squeaked open. Severus turned his head and watched as Albus walked towards him slowly, holding his coat tightly around him. The cold weather was quite a shock after the warmth of the Burrow. Neither said anything until Albus had seated himself next to his grandfather on the cold wooden bench so his back was also towards the door, his feet swinging off the edge. Albus looked curiously at his Granddad, and Severus could see the wheels turning in the boy's mind before he began speaking in a quite, curious tone.
"Why are you out here, Granddad?"
Severus ran his eyes over the boy studying him carefully before taking an old, well-used hand, and running it through the small boy's hair letting it rest on the back of Albus's neck.
Eventually, after organizing his answer in his mind first, Severus answered his grandson in a kind, but emotion filled voice, "I've never spent such a long amount of time with so many people comfortably. Sometimes, I need a bit of space."
Albus nodded, and Severus wasn't sure if the boy actually understood or was just humoring him. Either way Severus found himself oddly comforted when the boy snuggled against him for warmth. Severus wrapped a long thin arm around the small boy and pulled him securely against his side. He knew they couldn't stay out much longer. It wasn't fair to keep the child from the festivities he clearly enjoyed, not to mention someone was bound to come looking for them now.
"You lied," Albus said casually, yet Severus caught an underlying tone of resentment far beneath the surface. Regardless the boy did not move from his place beside his grandfather.
"I've told many lies in my lifetime, lad, and will probably tell more before my death," Severus responded with equal causality and berated himself for beginning to sound remarkably like Dumbledore. Whether it was maturity that had calmed him over the years or a result of his grandchildren he could not say, but it wasn't necessarily a horrible thing.
"I mean earlier. At dinner," A small amount of impatience crept into the child's voice, but surprisingly, for the most part he kept his tone casual. Severus was impressed.
Severus sighed and unconsciously pulled the child closer to him looking up at the dark star-lit sky once more. Before he could reply, however, Severus heard another deep stern voice and he lowered his head to a normal position as he watched Harry walk closer to them, closing the door Albus had left open behind him.
"Albus, don't pester your grandfather," Harry scolded, "If he did lie, it was for a good reason and none of your concern."
It never failed to surprise Severus when he saw Harry, or one of the other children he taught, to act the part of the parent. Albus huffed in annoyance at his father, to which Harry replied with a raised eyebrow. Lily had obviously missed something in her attempt make the boy resemble James Potter; Potter had never been able to raise a single eyebrow that way.
Severus gently interrupted the silent conversation the two were having before his grandson could land himself in trouble.
"It's alright, Harry," Severus said, "Besides the boy is right. I did lie, but…" Severus leveled a look at his grandson that was more understanding then stern, "I did not believe it necessary to reveal certain aspects of my childhood in such a cheerful setting."
Albus seemed properly chastised, though Severus was sure the boy would be after him again to reveal the truth of his words at a later date, and when his father encouraged him to go back inside and play with his cousins he did so without much reluctance.
Severus watched the small child go and when the door had closed behind Albus, he turned his head back around as he spoke with an amused tone to Harry. "I never would have believed it if I had not seen it for myself, but your son has a natural talent for Occlumency."
Harry looked at him startled, taking the seat that Albus had recently vacated, if a bit further away, and Severus doubted the possibility of Albus possessing such a talent had ever entered Harry's head.
With a surprised whisper, Harry asked quietly, "How do you know?"
Severus sent the boy a glare, and mentally patted himself on the back when the boy stiffened slightly at the look. His tone revealed his amusement, "I managed, for years, boy, to fool the Dark Lord, and even Dumbledore to some extent, with my skills in the area. I am more than capable of hiding any lies or omission of the truth from an eleven year old child, yet Albus could tell I was lying."
Harry nodded his head and Severus suspected that he was not sure what to do with such information at the moment. But his train of thought was quickly redirected by Harry's next question.
"Why do you continue to call me 'boy' or 'child' when I'm hardly either?" Harry's curious tone changed to a despairing whisper as he looked down at the snow covered ground. "I don't think I ever was really."
Severus cocked his head in a way that would have been deemed absolutely adorable on an infant, before smiling the slightest bit and answering exasperatedly.
"I call you 'child' and 'boy' because that is what you are. The terms are relative, and while you don't consider yourself a child, I still see you as such, and I guarantee you will always see your children in the same manner. As for your other point…" Severus dropped the more teasing tone and adopted instead one that coming from Severus Snape some might consider almost parental, "You see yourself as forced to grow up before your time? Because of a prophesy, the death of your parents, your godfather, and many of your friends as such a young age?"
Harry nodded still not looking at Severus; instead he studied the snow beneath their shoes. Severus supposed the boy felt almost relieved that someone understood. He probably had been waiting for years for someone to complain to then hold him tight and console him. But Severus wasn't the comforting type.
"Get over it," Severus stated firmly and was quite amused when Harry's head jerked up to look at him with large bright green eyes.
Severus was merciless, however, and continued on unperturbed, though his tone held a bit more patience. "You cannot dwell on the past and the misdeeds done to you." Severus paused and looked away from Harry into the distance. Crossing his arms over his chest he sounded much more casual when he continued, "Aren't you the least bit curious about the lie I told at dinner?"
Harry brow furrowed in confusion at the change of subject, but Severus wasn't really waiting for an answer and continued on, almost without pause.
"Not all traditions are good. I did have some traditions as a child, but they're hardly worth remembering." Looking at Harry, Severus realized the boy was studying his shoes, once more. Severus gently, hesitantly, reached out, and placing his stained, calloused hand under the boy's chin, Severus turned the head so their eyes met.
"Consider what I'm about to tell you as fatherly advise." Severus paused to swallow; he'd never actually said anything regarding their biological relationship except to acknowledge its existence. Harry seemed to have realized this as well considering how his eyes widened.
Severus's eyes were imploring and sad all at once and his voice betrayed the emotions.
"Do not allow the horrid, unfair, things that happened to you as a small child to rule the rest of your life. Believe me, the consequences of doing so are far reaching. The longer you dwell on what has been the less time you have for the present, which in turn causes a dismal future."
Harry still looked confused. Severus released the boy's chin and turned back to the dark, snowy, scenery ahead, folding his arms once more over his chest, "You were not allowed to be a child, which is very regrettable. Nonetheless, it cannot be changed. You should accept the fact and work hard every second of every day to make sure your children never have any idea what that feels like."
Severus looked over at the boy, the confused look was gone replaced with a solemn contemplative look that spoke of understanding. Harry leaned back against the table and folded his arms across his chest, in an unconscious imitation of Severus.
After a while of silence, the two heard laughter coming from inside, while an owl hooted somewhere in the distance. Music was faintly drifting up from the muggle church that just barely reached the ears of those outside. Severus was surprised when he recognized the song: "Silent Night".
Harry's quiet, uncertain, voice startled Severus out of his internal recitation of the traditional hymn, and he looked at Harry with a raised eyebrow, but a welcoming appearance.
"When I found out you were my father," Harry said, "I was devastated at first. Not because I wasn't James Potter's son, which I always will be. I was devastated that you hadn't told me before, perhaps when I was younger and could have gotten to know you."
"I myself didn't know until after Albus was born," Severus saw fit to remind the boy gently.
"I know, but…I love James and Lily Potter. They were my parents and always will be. Despite their faults, I'll always love them. But the one thing I wanted more than anything was to have a family—parents that loved me. And I can't help wondering what it would have been like if you'd have raised me."
"I don't know," confessed Severus softly. "Before I knew you were my son, I would have readily exchanged your life for that of your mother's. Now, however, I…I suppose I understand her sacrifice and the love she must have had for you. She passed her capacity of love down to you, and you have passed it on to your children. I see her in them and in you so often it nearly takes by breath away. Perhaps that's the reason I'm helplessly in love with James, Albus, and Lily. And I suppose…" Severus looked softly at Harry without any of his normal shields up, allowing his eyes to convey all his emotions, "…I suppose I feel the same for you now, as well."
Severus had no idea what reaction to expect from the boy, but he wasn't prepared for what Harry said in a serious voice. Harry was looking at him. And Voldemort, as well as every death eater to live or die could have appeared around them, but Harry and Severus would never have broken eye contact.
"I don't think I'll ever be able to call you dad," Harry said looking apologetic, though Severus couldn't fathom the reason why, before his eyes shifted looking more meaningful, "but…you're a wonderful father."
Severus smiled and stood up from the wooden table, wincing a bit as his back cracked. He was too old for this. Turning around he offered his hand to the boy sitting at the table, speaking light and casually. "Come on, son, we need to rejoin the obnoxiously loud festivities before Molly and Ginny come out here to drag us inside by our hair."
Harry smiled in return and took the proffered hand using it to pull himself up, and then he pulled the ageing professor, his father, close to him in a brief hug. Severus didn't even have time to react as he found himself standing in the snow with the arms of a 38-year-old Harry Potter wrapped around his shoulders. Before Severus realized what was happening, the grip loosened and Harry turned to walk back inside. He made it to the door before turning around and making eye contact with a still shocked Severus.
With a chuckle Harry pushed the door open with one hand and spoke to Severus as he walked through the door. "I suggest coming inside before you freeze with that look on your face."
Severus snapped out of his shocked state and tried to level a glare at Harry, but the effect was lost as the corners of his mouth twisted upwards. Harry began laughing and soon Severus was smiling himself.
Walking inside Severus could not stop his smile from broadening as he took in the sight of his grandchild playing, a roaring fire, and the happy family enjoying a carefree Christmas. He stopped just inside the door, and stood silently memorizing the scene. After a moment, when he was sure he would never forget this instant of his life, and still basking in the overpowering warmth blossoming in his chest he moved once again into the family room and took a seat in an arm chair to watch his grandchildren.
Several minutes past and he ignored everything except Lily, reading a child's book to one of her young cousins, James, begging Ginny let him go tryout his brand new broom on that cold winters night, and Albus, playing with some experimental products from his Uncle while trying to study him surreptitiously. Raising an eyebrow the next time the boy tried to steal a glance his direction he was surprised when the child only raised an eyebrow in return. Albus then abandoned his gift in favor of turning his attention to his granddad, quietly, yet almost overly casual, the child asked a question that within seconds had every eye in the house trained on him.
"What was your favorite gift, Granddad?"
To everyone else the question may have seemed innocent enough, but Severus knew better. He knew the boy planned it. He knew that his bratty little grandson was far to intelligent and cunning not to realize what would happen when he asked this.
And Severus found himself not minding one bit.
In fact he found himself smiling lovingly, an phenomena that was happening far to frequently in his taste, and he answered softly, in a voice that once held nothing but anger, contempt, and pain, but now held warmth and love.
"My favorite gift, child?" At first Severus forced some surprise into his voice as he repeated the question, but quickly lost that quality in favor of one that expressed wisdom and warmth. "My favorite gift his being here. With you and your brother and sister and cousins, even. My favorite gift is… having a…family."
A/N: First many, many thanks to Jade for beta'ing for me. (everyone should check out her story Emerald Eyes. Its amazing).
Second, for those waiting for an update to Brothers and Fathers: I apologize, but with finials and Christmas and everything I haven't had time write. I promise to have a chapter out soon though.
Please tell me everything you think about it. How was the interaction between Severus and Harry? Or Severus and his grandchildren?