Severus stepped back from the Christmas tree and surveyed his work. Popcorn wove elegantly around the tree on a thin strand of string, some pieces glowing green or red from the tiny lights surrounding them.
"This is a really great idea, Daddy. I'm glad we made the popcorn string," his son grinned up at him from the floor, where he sat admiring the tree.
"Yes, Professor McGonagall is just full of good ideas, isn't she?" Severus reached for a handful of buttered popcorn out of the bowl on the end table beside the couch. "You can thank her tomorrow."
The seven-year-old boy stood up and popped a piece of popcorn in his mouth. "How come we never done this before?"
"Never 'did', Harry," Severus chided.
"Sorry. Did. So how come?"
"The popcorn you mean?"
"Because," said Severus, "You would have eaten it."
"Would not have," Harry said, clearly indignant. He went behind the couch and started dragging a large cardboard box of ornaments to the center of the room.
Severus popped a few more pieces of popcorn into his mouth. He lifted the box into his arms and set it down on the couch.
"Yes, you would have," he reached into the box and pulled out a small, framed picture of a three-year old Harry, waving at the camera with grubby, chocolate covered fingers. He held it out to his son. "You ate everything when you were a baby. Or you tried to anyway."
"Hmph," Harry took the picture and hung it on the tree. "That's just cause I was curious. I wanted to know what things tasted like. Maybe some of it was tasty. I wanted to know."
"And you are still just as curious, if not more. If popcorn goes missing off this tree, I will know just who to blame it on," Severus smirked, hanging a tiny red bulb. "And Santa will too."
"That's not true! Santa don't care if we eat the popcorn," Harry paused from digging through the box to glare at his father.
"Well, he doesn't! He just cares about being good and doing your schoolwork and stuff like that. Not popcorn. 'sides, if I can't eat it off the tree, then you can't either," Harry said. He crossed his arms over his chest.
"I'd never do such a thing," said Severus with a huff.
The boy laughed. "Yes, you would. I know you like popcorn."
Severus grimaced. "Hang up your ornaments, son. Bedtime remains at 8 o'clock, whether you have finished or not."
Harry turned back to his work and Severus reached for a few more pieces of popcorn. The child was becoming far too smart and aware these days. He was seven, after all. It wouldn't be long now and he would be sitting beneath the Sorting Hat in front of the Great Hall. And then, Severus thought grimly, he really would have his hands full.
They continued to hang up decorations on the tree, and Severus listened quietly for the most part while his song chattered on endlessly about all the decorations that had been going up around Hogwarts earlier that day. Finally, they came to the bottom of the box. It was empty now, save for a single, smaller box sitting inside.
Harry looked up at him. "Now it's time for the special part, right?"
Severus stooped and pulled out the second box. He flipped open the lid and lowered his hands so that the boy could see inside. Harry stared at the contents intently and silent. He always took this part of the decorating seriously, but tonight Severus thought he could see a more thoughtful expression in his son's green eyes.
In the box were two shining, silver glass doves. They were identical and slightly larger than Harry's fist. Severus had acquired the pair when Harry had been too small too even understand Christmas and they had gone on the tree ever since.
"Can I hang 'em this year?" Harry asked, biting his lower lip. "Please?"
Severus cocked his head. "Are you sure you can be careful enough?"
Harry glanced briefly up at the tree. "I promise I will. I'm big enough now. You always say when I'm big enough I can. Can I please?"
"I suppose so," said Severus, a bit hesitant. "But I want you to use both hands so you don't drop them."
"I'll be super careful. You'll see," Harry grinned brightly.
Severus took the doves out of the box and slid them gently into his trouser pocket. Then, bending slightly, he scooped Harry up into his arms. Holding his son in one arm, with his other he reached back into his pocket and held out the glass dove. Harry took it very carefully into his own hands.
"This one is for my other daddy," The boy said, his voice soft. He leaned forward slightly out of his father's hold and fastened the dove to a tree branch. He looked back at Severus. "Is that right?"
"That's perfect. You did a good job, Harry," Severus said.
Harry smiled. "I told you I could do it."
"That you did. Are you ready for the other one?" asked Severus, reaching back into his pocket. He held the second dove out to his son.
Just as gingerly as he had with the last one, Harry took the dove and hung it high on the tree.
"And this one is for my mummy," said Harry. He leaned back and put his arm around his father's neck. "Can we talk about them?"
Severus raised his eyebrows. "Of course we can. What did you want to talk about?"
The boy shrugged one shoulder. "Dunno."
"Here then," Severus left the tree and went to his favorite armchair beside the fireplace. He lowered himself into it, repositioning Harry onto his lap. "Never be afraid to talk about something with me, all right? We can talk about whatever you would like. Now, what's on your mind?"
Harry kept his head down and picked silently at one of the tiny buttons on his plaid pajamas. After a moment, he looked back up.
"Can you tell me about my mummy and my other daddy?" He asked. "I know that they died when I was just little, but I don't remember what happened. Nobody's told me before."
Severus smiled faintly. "That is a sad story, Harry. Not even grownups understand all of it. But I suppose if you are old enough to hang up the doves, then you're old enough to hear this as well."
He held out his hand and silently summoned a blanket from the back of the couch. He draped it over his son, while Harry leaned back and settled against his chest. When they were both comfortable, Severus took a deep breath and began.
"Your parents were good people. When we were children, your mother and I were very good friends. We played together every day. Your father and I, on the other hand, did not get along so well. We got into a lot of fights and much trouble when we were boys. But that was wrong of us and eventually we both grew up and learned to respect one another."
Harry craned his neck up. "What's respect?"
"Respect is a word that means you listen to other people and to what they have to say. You treat them kindly and are polite when you speak to them," Severus explained. "Do you understand?"
The boy nodded his head. "You can keep telling the story now, Daddy."
"Well, when your mother and father got married, they had you and they loved you very much," Severus laid a hand on top of his son's dark hair, still damp from his bath earlier that evening. "You were their favorite person in the whole world."
"Sometimes I think I remember that," said Harry, his eyes focused on the dancing flames in the fireplace.
"Mmm hmm. Sometimes when I'm almost sleeping, I hear singing in my head. I always think it's my mummy," He looked back up at Severus. "Did she like to sing to me?"
Severus frowned wistfully. "I don't know that for sure, Harry. I wouldn't be surprised if she did though."
Harry settled back against his father. "I'm gonna say she did."
"I think that you are probably correct."
"So then what happened?"
"Well," Severus rubbed his chin. He was determined to make this horror story of his son's past at least somewhat child appropriate. "Even though your parents were so good, and nearly every person who ever met them loved them, there was a very bad man who did not."
"This bad man was a wizard who was very unhappy, and if he wasn't happy, then he didn't want anyone else to be happy either. So one night, he came to your house. Do you remember how I tell you that you can use magic for good or for evil, but that you must always use it for good?"
Harry nodded solemnly. "When I'm big enough to have a wand and go to Hogwarts, I'll always be good."
Severus smiled. "That would make me very happy. But unfortunately, this bad man used his magic in an evil way and he used a bad curse on your mother and father that killed them. Then he tried to kill you too."
Harry's brow furrowed and his small mouth dropped open. "I, I didn't know that. But why? What'd I do?"
"No, you didn't do anything, Harry. You didn't have to do anything," Severus firmly added. "Don't ever think that."
Harry bit down on his lip. "Was I bad?"
Severus sat up straighter and swiftly turned Harry around so that the boy was facing him, his legs straddling his father's lap.
"None of what happened was your fault, son. Do you understand? People made some bad choices and a very evil wizard chose to use his magic in the wrong way. But none of what happened was your fault," Severus tilted his head so that he could meet his son's eyes. Then he asked softly, "All right?"
Harry remained silent, but did nod his head, just slightly.
Severus sighed and leaned back against his chair again. "Perhaps I was wrong to tell you this. You may yet be too young still."
"No!" Harry's eyes widened. "No, tell me the rest."
"Are you sure?" Severus asked, still concerned about how the story would impact the child in the long run.
"Yes. Please? I want to know."
Severus sat for a moment, all too aware of the puppy dog eyes that were boring into him. Finally, perhaps against his better judgment, he inclined his head in reluctance.
"When the bad wizard tried to send the same evil curse at you, one that was supposed to kill you, it instead rebounded and came back to hit him instead. It killed him and you survived," Severus said. He pushed the thick hair away from the boy's forehead and gently fingered the scar that lay hidden there. "That's how you got this right here."
Harry reached up and felt the scar with his own smaller fingers. He looked at Severus sadly.
"I wish my mummy and other daddy got to stay alive too."
"So do I, Harry. Everyone wishes that," said Severus, comfort laced in his voice. "But we can still remember them every day."
"Like when we put the doves up?" asked Harry, his eyes moving to the tree.
"Exactly like that. Your mother loved Christmastime, every bit of it. She used to turn on the radio and play Christmas music. Then she would dance around the room, decorating, singing and smiling. It was her favorite time of the year."
"It's my favorite time too. I like all the snow," Harry paused. "What was mummy's favorite Christmas song?"
Severus closed his eyes for a moment and thought back, not because he couldn't remember. He remembered very well. It was a memory he had always cherished and remembering was bittersweet every time. Lily pushing her red hair out of her face as she leaned over the record player... tugging at his hand... "You're a great dancer, Sev, I know you are. Come on, it'll be fun..." ...the way her eyes reflected the colored lights shining on the Evans' Christmas tree...
A tug at his sleeve pulled him from his memories. He looked down to find the same green eyes from his memories staring at him intently.
"Daddy, are you sleeping?"
Severus chuckled and rubbed his hand over his face. "No, I was just thinking. I'm sorry. Now, yes, your mother's favorite Christmas song. She loved all of them really, but I know she was especially fond of what is called 'Have Yourself aMerry Little Christmas'."
"I don't know that one. Did she like it lots?" Harry reached up and scratched at his nose.
"Very much. She used to try and get me to dance to it with her all the time and although I often said 'no', she did get me to dance with her more than a few times when we were children. She really had a way of getting people to want to do what she wanted them to," Severus said fondly.
"What about my other daddy?" The child tugged the blanket over his bare feet. "What was his favorite Christmas song?
"I'm not really sure, Harry," said Severus. He realized that he regretted not being able to tell his son more about James Potter. "I didn't know your other daddy as well as I knew your mum. But I do know that he was very partial to rock and roll music."
"Did my mummy and daddy like to dance together too?"
"All the time. I saw them dance together often. If there was a party, your parents were there dancing and your mum was always smiling. She was always happy when she was dancing," Severus said. He'd always imagined that talking to Harry about Lily and James would be painful, and he found it surprising now to realize it wasn't so bad after all.
They sat silently for a few minutes, both deep in thought about those they were missing most in their lives. Severus missed Lily every single day, especially during the holidays. There had been a time in his life where talking about Lily and James would have sent him into a jealous rage. But then something had changed in him. Somewhere in between the day she had married James and when Harry was born, it had finally occurred to Severus what a coward he had been and what Dumbledore had been telling him all that time. James had gotten Lily and if Severus was envious, he only had himself to blame. Once he had accepted this, his life had changed for the better and now, even after she was gone, while he still missed her, it didn't hurt nearly as much. He was seeing more and more of her in Harry all the time and Severus couldn't be more thankful to have the privilege of now raising her son as his own.
He looked down at the boy in his lap, who was still awake but staring into the fire with glazed over eyes. Severus pulled out his wand and silently dimmed the lights so that the room was lit by only the brightly colored Christmas tree lights and the fireplace. He slid his wand back up his sleeve and Harry clutched at the front of his shirt.
"I don't want to go to bed yet," he said.
"Well, that's just too bad. It's past your bedtime already and you've had a long day. Now let's go," Severus made to move the boy from his lap.
"No, not yet," Harry clutched tighter and peered up at him. "Can we dance first?"
"Dance?" Severus repeated, giving the child an incredulous stare. "Harry, its half past eight already. This is not the time for rambunctious dancing. You're going to bed."
"Just one song," Harry implored. "Like mummy used to do. I know you can do it. Please?"
Severus sat back and regarded the small boy with a resigned stare. "You are just as bad as your mother, did you know that?"
"Here, sit for a moment," Severus stood and sat Harry back down in the chair.
He went to the corner where he kept his old record player on the bookcase. He began sifting through his albums and very quickly found the one he wanted. He could feel his son's eyes watching him as he removed the large black disc from its sleeve and sat it in place. He positioned the needle and within moments Frank Sinatra's voice, clear and deep, was filling the room. He went back to where his son was waiting for him.
"One song," Severus reminded the child, his face stern, but his voice gentle.
Harry nodded eagerly and held out his arms, shrugging the blanket from around his shoulders. Severus bent over and easily scooped the boy into his strong arms. As Sinatra sang, Severus moved into the center of the room and began to slowly sway back and forth.
Harry leaned forward and rested his head on his father's shoulder. "You're a good dancer. You should do this more."
Severus didn't say anything, but moved one hand to begin rubbing the boy's back.
After a few more minutes, as the song continued, Harry snuggled even closer against his father's chest.
"I'm glad we hang up the Christmas doves," he whispered into Severus' dark hair.
Severus held the boy tighter to himself. "So am I."
"I love you, Daddy," the boy mumbled softly.
"I love you too, Harry."
A tired sigh escaped the small boy and then he was sleeping, his hot breath tickling Severus' neck. As the song went on, the father carried his son to bed.