A/N: Severus is extremely OOC in this story. Please do not write to tell me that he is out of character...he was written that way and you have been warned!

The small five year old boy carefully looked over the letter in his hands; he really hoped that Father Christmas got his letter this year. He knew Aunt Petunia said that freaks don't deserve presents and that Father Christmas was far too busy to bother with an ungrateful, worthless little shit like him...but he just couldn't help but hope. Mrs. Figg said that St. Nicholas listened to the wishes of all good boys and girls, all throughout the year, so that he could get their gift just right.

When Harry had told Mrs. Figg what Aunt Petunia had said, she had gone really still and her face had turned bright red; Harry thought she might have been embarrassed because he had told her something that everyone else already knew...that he was a freak. She had shaken her head and made him sit at her dining room table; she put paper and pencil in front of him and told him to write his letter to Father Christmas and she would make sure it got there...so he had.

~O~

Arabella Figg picked up the letter and read it, her heart breaking even more when she was done.

Father Christmas,

I know I havnt ben a good boy this year but I wanted to wish for somthing aneways. Missus Figg says that you here all the wishs of boys an girls an Im a boy so I wanted to wish. I wish for somone to love me. I tryed to be good but Ant Petunia says Im a dirty freek an nobodys gonna want me. Mabee thers a place for freeks like me to go. Can I go ther?

Harry Potter

Arabella patted her eyes with a napkin and smiled gently at the nervous boy in front of her. "Harry, I'm sure that Father Christmas will get your letter...in fact, I know just how to get it to him." She looked up as a knock came on her door; the Dursleys were back and had sent Dudley to fetch Harry. "I'll take care of your letter and make sure that it gets where it's going."

Harry nodded and watched as she carefully folded the letter and placed it on the table in front of her. He knew he wasn't going to get what he asked for, but, as long as Aunt Petunia didn't find out that he'd written the letter, he would be fine. He didn't want to think about what would happen if she found out that he had gone against her and written another letter to Father Christmas.

Arabella watched as Harry followed his cousin back to Privet Drive, hoping that the small boy wasn't being physically abused, but knowing that he was; she had told Albus about the verbal abuse she had been witness to, but he had basically ignored her. She knew that Albus believed that little Harry needed the protection of the blood wards, but Arabella knew differently. She had gone to Diagon Alley one day, specifically to research the blood wards, and had found her answer at Gringotts bank; the goblin wardsmaster who spoke with her informed her that blood wards, at least the ones that could be used by wizards, were fuelled by intent. The holder of the blood used in the wards had to want to protect the person in need of protection; that holder needed to agree to hold the wards and to protect the other person with their very life, if it came down to it. Arabella knew that Petunia Evans Dursley had never wanted her nephew there; she didn't even bother to temper her voice when others were around and she took to screeching at the small lad. She couldn't imagine that the snooty woman would actually give her life for Harry Potter...that meant that the blood wards were useless. Arabella had thanked the goblin and left the bank, not knowing that the goblins had been alerted by her questions and were now looking into the living situation of the Potter heir.

Arabella threw a pinch of floo powder into the hearth and waited as the familiar green flames erupted; she slowly knelt down in front of the flames and called out her recipient.

"Nicholas Klaus, Norway."

~O~

Nicholas Klaus, many times great-grandson of the original Nicholas Klaus, adjusted his dark red robes and sat in the large armchair sitting in front of the hearth; this chair was placed there just for these fire-calls, so that he didn't have to kneel down...he was rather old.

"Arabella Figg...what can I do for you, my dear lady?"

"Sir Nicholas? I have a letter from a young boy...I think you'll have to read it to understand." Her hand passed through the flames and held out a letter.

Nicholas took the letter from her fingers and sat back to read it; when he was done, he looked up at the elderly woman with tears in his eyes. "Please tell me that this is NOT from The Boy Who Lived!"

"Unfortunately, Sir Nicholas, it is from Harry." She paused for a moment, unsure if she should reveal all that she knew and suspected. "I'm very much afraid that Harry is being abused. I've heard verbal abuse from Petunia and Vernon Dursley, and I suspect that it's gone far beyond just verbal...into the physical. I've seen the shoulders of Harry's clothing...which is all much too large for him, I think they're Dudley's cast-offs...I've seen them droop and there have been what look like bruises on his shoulders and back. Sir Nicholas...I can't watch this anymore!"

Nicholas sat further back into the comfort of his chair and beckoned the woman into his home. "Arabella Figg, please come into my home; this is something that we need to speak more about." Nicholas held out his hand to assist the woman through the floo after his wards had shifted and then conjured another chair for her. "Now, Arabella, tell me more about Harry Potter."

~O~

Severus Snape looked at the calendar on the wall of his personal quarters at Hogwarts; he was hoping, against all hope, that it wasn't the first of December. Only three more weeks until Yule, Severus thought morosely, Another Yule without Lily.

He sighed heavily and dropped his head down on his folded arms; he hated this time of year. If only he hadn't been so drawn to the Dark; if only he hadn't wanted to make the Dark Lord pleased with him; if only he hadn't overheard that thrice damned prophecy...if only, if only, if only. Each year, at Yuletide, he prayed for some form of redemption for his horrible transgressions...but it never came. Nothing good ever happened to him, so why would he be able to find peace within himself at this time of year?

He didn't know that his prayers had been heard and would be answered...possibly not in the manner in which he had hoped, but answered they would be.

~O~

For a long time after Arabella Figg had left his warm living room, Nicholas Klaus stared at the letter from young Harry Potter. He knew that this was not a letter that he could let slide; he had to do something about this...especially since Albus Dumbledore didn't seem to want to do so. Nicholas sneered slightly as he thought about the Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry; the man was as manipulative as they come and couldn't, or wouldn't, see what was right before his eyes. Oh, he was an excellent teacher and a wonderful administrator, but when it came to the human side of life, the man had absolutely no idea of how to treat people like people. He was so used to everyone doing as he said that he would never think of Arabella Figg going to someone else with her worries.

Take this child, for instance...Albus had given Arabella Figg the job of watching over little Harry Potter, making sure he was safe; he didn't actually think that Arabella would do anything to correct a wrong done to the child. Leaning forward to look into a large scrying mirror, Nicholas looked into Number 4 Privet Drive; he had looked into the house before, he had every year since Dudley Dursley had been born. He had never seen the presence of another boy in the house, let alone Harry Potter; having judged that the Dursley child was spoilt enough, he had never stopped at that house...he knew that Petunia and Vernon Dursley would make up for any oversight on his part. Nicholas now figured that the old man had used confounding spells, so that he couldn't see Harry Potter living at Number 4 Privet Drive; but, now that he knew about the child living there and the possibility of abuse, those confounding spells were useless.

Arabella had been right; the Dursleys were physically abusing that poor child...and he thought that he deserved it. He had been told he was a freak for so long that he actually believed it; he believed that he was dirty and filthy, that he was worthless and so undeserving of love that it would never come to him. Nicholas was going to change that.

Nicholas stood and walked over to a separate piece of parchment that he had reserved for one man; this man was going to get his Yuletide wish this year. He was going to get the redemption that he so greatly desired...now to convince him that this version of redemption was what he had wanted all along.

~O~

Severus was having a nightmare; it was the only explanation for him being trapped in the Muggle version of Christmas Hell. He looked around him at the garish tinsel and brightly flashing lights and shivered in disgust; the Muggles would do anything to commercialise the most beautiful holiday of the year. Never mind the fact that they had forgotten exactly what Yule was supposed to represent; they simply gave over the holiday to the bright decorations and squealing choirs screeching out carols. This was the reason Severus hated this holiday; somewhere along the line, the Christians and the rest of the Muggles had taken Yule hostage and refused to even consider ransoming it back...at least those of the Jewish faith remembered why they were celebrating!

Slowly, out of a dark corner, a tall, slender man walked toward him; this man was dressed in dark red robes, trimmed in white fur. If it hadn't been for the fact that he looked nothing like the Muggle representations that he had seen, Severus might have thought that this man was Father Christmas; he had a longish white beard, but it was not nearly as long as Dumbledore's beard; his hair was also white, but it fell only to his shoulders in waves and curls; his soft brown eyes held Severus' as the man moved closer, only to stop about a metre away.

"Severus Snape."

"Sir...you have me at a disadvantage...I don't know who you are."

The man smiled and stretched out a hand that was surprisingly unlined, considering that he had to be close to Albus' age. "I am Sir Nicholas Klaus."

Severus could feel the muscles in his face go lax with shock as he shook the other man's hand; this WAS Father Christmas! "Sir...I..."

"Yes, Severus...I am St. Nicholas. Not the bastardised version that the Muggles have let dominate this time of year, but the true 'Father Christmas'. I have come to make certain that you truly want what you wished for."

"What I...you mean..." Severus trailed off as he realised that he might actually get his wish this Yuletide season. "I am to receive redemption?" His voice broke as he fought against tears. "I am to be forgiven?"

"Oh, Severus, my child! There was never a reason for you to wish for those things; they have always been yours. You only did what you thought was right, what you thought would benefit your cause."

"But Lily...and...and Potter...their deaths...I caused them! How could I ever be forgiven for that?" Two more figures walked out of the shadowy corner to join Sir Nicholas; Severus couldn't believe his eyes...now he knew it was a nightmare...for, standing in front of him were Lily and James Potter, both of whom were smiling softly. Lily left James' side and stopped in front of him; she raised a hand to gently cup his cheek...Severus would have been lying if he said he hadn't turned his head into the caress, like a small child looking for comfort.

"Severus, my friend, there has never been a reason for you to punish yourself; you were not the one to cause our deaths. That honour goes to Peter Pettigrew; he was our secret keeper."

James Potter walked over to join his wife and held out his hand. "Snape...I know it's a little too little and a little too late, but I want to apologise for my actions when I was younger and stupid. Had I known what I was pushing you toward, I don't think I would have done half of what I did...cousins shouldn't do that to each other. I know I don't deserve it, but I'm asking for your forgiveness."

Severus looked at the bespectacled man and felt his eyes fill with tears again and flow down his cheeks; this is what he had needed during his time at Hogwarts. If he had had this then, he would never have joined the ranks of the Death Eaters. Nicholas looked on benevolently; he had known what had driven this essentially good young man to turn to the evil that was Lord Voldemort. Now, he was being given the apology he needed and the opportunity to change the life of a child. He listened carefully as Lily Potter began to speak again.

"Sev...there's something I would like for you to do, if you could."

"Anything, Lily, anything!" Tears continued to fall down Severus' cheeks as he grasped his friend's hand.

"Don't say that before you know what we would like you to do." She looked at James and nodded; the other man took over.

"We need for you to claim our son, based on the blood you share with me. Dumbledore left him with Lily's sister and brother-in-law and..."

"He left your son with PETUNIA? The same sister who hated both you and me because we had magic and she didn't?" Severus waited for Lily's nod before asking a question he never liked to ask about a child. "Has he been abused?" When he saw the tears in both Lily and James' eyes, he knew he had his answer. "What do I need to do?"

Sir Nicholas answered his question. "Not now, but within the next two weeks, you will be contacted by Wizarding Children's Services about Harry Potter's living situation; they will have been alerted by the goblins at Gringotts. The goblins were alerted that things might not be well with the Potter heir when a concerned lady went to them about the blood wards that Albus Dumbledore erected at the Dursley house. When they come to you, they will make mention of your blood tie to James Potter; accept the guardianship when they ask if you would take it over. The Dursleys are not appropriate guardians for young Harry."

Severus nodded, noticing that the nightmare-turned-dream was beginning to get fuzzy around the edges. Lily hugged him and kissed him on both cheeks before stepping back; James gripped his hand and pulled him into a loose, one-armed hug before releasing him. "Take care of my son, Cousin, and you will have all of the redemption and forgiveness that you could possibly want. Harry needs you...and you need Harry. Take care of both of you."

Severus sat straight up in his bed and looked frantically around his room for some proof that his dream had been real; he needed to know that it wasn't just his fevered imagination that had produced that dream. Something shiny drew his attention to his chest of drawers; he walked over and picked up the object that had caught his eyes. In his potion-stained hand, he held a small silver pin...on that pin was a representation of St. Nicholas, carrying a tree and a bag. Severus looked up and stared at his reflection, which smirked back at him...it had been real!

~O~

Severus welcomed the stiff-looking Auror and the woman in the wizarding version of a business suit into his quarters; he hoped Albus hadn't been made aware of their presence. He showed them to the comfortable sofa in the living area, but the woman gestured to the small dining table.

"I think, for our business here, the table would be more appropriate; if we could sit there?"

Severus nodded and held out a chair for the woman, assisting her to push it in once she was seated; the Auror could seat himself. "How may I help you?"

"Professor Snape...my name is Miranda Owen, and I represent the Department of Wizarding Children's Services. It has come to our attention that the living situation of a young child is detrimental to his well-being. Upon further research by the Gringotts goblins, it was found that you share a blood relation to this child...his name is Harry James Potter."

"How detrimental is the situation? Albus Dumbledore has told us all that Harry Potter was placed with relatives and was safe and happy in their care."

"Unfortunately, Professor, the situation is dangerous to the child." The Auror spoke carefully, weighing his words. "I was one of the arresting Aurors and ran a preliminary diagnostic scan on the child before taking him into protective custody; the amount of bruising and incorrectly healed broken bones was frightening in a child so young."

"Where is my cousin's son?"

"He is currently at St. Mungo's, undergoing treatment for his injuries." It was now the woman's turn to weigh her words. "I will say that my superior was not pleased that the boy's next nearest relative is a former Death Eater, but I think, because Albus Dumbledore had spoken on your behalf, that swayed his decision." Her expression softened slightly as she looked at the young man. "Severus, I remember you from Hogwarts...you were only a year or two behind me. You are not a bad man; you were just misguided in your youth. Give me a magical oath that you will protect and care for Harry Potter to the best of your abilities and you will gain custody of him."

Severus looked at the Auror before sliding his wand from the holster on his arm; he didn't want to make any sudden moves that would get him stunned...or worse, killed. "I, Severus Tobias Snape, do hereby swear upon my magic that I will protect, care for and give my life for Harry James Potter. I swear that I will carry this out to the best of my abilities and, should I fail in my duty, I will welcome the pain of death. So I have spoken, so let it be." A brilliant white light shot out of the tip of Severus' wand to surround him for a moment, before subsiding into nothingness again.

Satisfied, the woman had Severus sign several different papers, using the Auror as a witness. The papers rolled up on themselves for a moment before unfurling, showing the word 'APPROVED' stamped in red ink next to his name.

"Congratulations, Professor Snape. Your new ward is at St. Mungo's in the Children's Ward; I would suggest going to introduce yourself to him today...we will accompany you. The school is recessed for the holiday, correct?"

"Yes, you are correct. Give me a moment to gather my cloak and inform the Headmaster that I will be leaving for a bit; I will go meet my ward immediately."

Severus allowed himself a small smile as he walked into his bedroom to retrieve his cloak; he swirled the cloak about his shoulders and pinned the St. Nicholas pin prominently on the collar. Sir Nicholas had made this come about; he might not be able to thank him personally, but Severus was definitely going to give him the credit for arranging this.

~O~

Albus Dumbledore was not a stupid man, not by any stretch of the imagination. He had not worked his way up in the wizarding world based solely on his magical abilities...no, he was quite skilled at manipulating others to get the information he wanted. He was extremely vexed, then, when he couldn't get any more information from Severus Snape about his destination, other than he was going to St. Mungo's to see a relative; to his knowledge, all of Severus' relatives were deceased. Well, there was a slight connection to the Malfoy family and another, even more distant, to the Weasley clan, but Albus didn't think that this 'relative' belonged to either of those families. He wished that his spy weren't such a secretive man, but that went hand in hand with the whole spying thing; a spy was supposed to be secretive and cunning...that was the whole point.

There was one other connection that Albus was aware of, but he knew that Harry Potter was safe at his aunt's house in Surrey; no, that boy wouldn't be the relative that Severus had mentioned. Albus sat back, sucking thoughtfully on a sherbet lemon, trying to figure out who this relative was that his enigmatic Potions Master was seeing at St. Mungo's; he wasn't sure whether Severus was going to St. Mungo's at all, he could be going to a Muggle hospital to see someone from his father's family.

When the truth came out, it would be far too late to change anything and Albus' chance at controlling The Boy Who Lived, for the Greater Good, of course, would be long gone...and Albus would be in some serious trouble.

~O~

Severus paused in the doorway of the private room in St. Mungo's Children's Ward; he was unsure of his reception by the tiny boy lying in the bed in front of him. Two medi-witches were stationed on either side of the child, examining him and making quiet comments as to the accelerated rate of his healing; Severus paid close attention to their comments, gleaning from them that it was highly unusual to find such strong self-healing abilities in one so young. The two young medi-witches turned to leave the room, each of them smiling softly at him as they exited.

Severus took another moment to give his own sight examination of the child; he was tiny...not merely in height, but also in body mass, as if he had been starved for the few years he had been at the Dursley residence. Severus realised that this possibility was, in fact, a probability. The stick-thin arms that protruded from the sleeves of the medical gown were covered in large, blotchy yellowish-purple bruises and several cuts that were in various different stages of magical healing; Severus sincerely hoped that they didn't leave scars, the one on the boy's forehead was bad enough.

As he took his first step into the room, he was stunned to find himself on the receiving end of a very quick, but all-encompassing scan of his own. He was surprised, then, to see a small welcoming smile on the child's face as he took another step into the room.

"Harry? My name is Severus Snape." He settled himself on a chair placed at the side of the bed. "Your father, James, was my cousin." He saw the way that the bright green eyes lit up at the mention of his father. "When your situation became known, I was asked if I would like to take up your guardianship...do you understand what that means?" He had kept his voice gentle and low; he could feel the approval practically radiating from the woman from the WCS.

Harry shook his head before answering. "N-no, Sir. What does it mean?"

Severus could hear the fear that the child was trying to hide and hastened to reassure him. "It means that you would be removed from your Aunt's care and you would be coming to live with me. Is this something that you think you might want?" He could feel the approval rise another notch and was relieved that he was doing this properly.

Harry tilted his head slightly and looked Severus straight in the eyes; Severus felt the slight nudge at his mind and was shocked that a child this young would have the ability to invade his Occlumency barriers. He dropped his shields and allowed the boy in, somehow understanding that this was how the child had lived as long as he had. He allowed the boy to pick through his thoughts and knew when he had found the memory of Severus' dream of St. Nicholas; the green eyes widened and filled with tears as he realised that Father Christmas himself had asked this man to take him in. Severus felt Harry withdraw from his mind and watched as the boy nodded frantically.

"Yes, please! Yes!" Severus gently lifted the child and sat back on the bed, holding Harry securely in his lap. The child latched onto the front of his robes and buried his face in Severus' chest, sobbing and muttering under his breath. With a slight amplification charm, everyone in the room was able to hear what Harry was saying.

"My own Christmas present! My first Christmas present! He got my letter...he got my letter!"

Even the stern Auror was almost moved to tears by the child's words.

~O~

Severus made arrangements to take Harry to his home after he was released from the hospital; he spent the next two days cleaning and remodelling his home at Spinner's End, with the help of two Hogwarts house elves that he had borrowed with Minerva's approval. That woman had been incensed to find out about the situation that Harry Potter had been left in and had made up her mind to assist Severus with his guardianship, however he would allow her to help. They cleaned, threw away and completely gave the house over to wizarding space; this allowed Severus to double the size of the house and garden, making a very welcoming home for a small five year old boy. The last thing they did was to set up a large Christmas tree, complete with decorations, and to place several gifts to Harry and Severus under the tree; Severus didn't know that some of the presents were for him from Minerva and the other teachers at Hogwarts...the elves had been instructed not to tell him. Minerva and Filius Flitwick had been proud of Severus Snape; he was taking in the child of his cousin, the cousin who had tormented him all throughout their Hogwarts years.

The morning of the third day, Severus found himself quickly making his way up to the children's ward at St. Mungo's to take his ward home; he was met just outside of the lift by Miranda Owen and the same Auror who had accompanied her before. They walked to Harry's room, Severus in the lead, only to be stopped outside of Harry's door by a wall of wards and three medi-witches trying to get past them. The Auror stepped up and quickly dismantled the wards and opened the door, now taking the lead from Severus; if there was something going on in that room, he was the one most capable of handling it.

"Stupefy!" The spell flew from the Auror's wand and struck the man leaning over the sleeping boy on the bed; as the man collapsed to the floor, they all saw that it was Albus Dumbledore. The medi-witches ran into the room, immediately casting diagnostic spells to determine what the old man had been doing.

Severus waited impatiently for the medi-witches to tell him that his ward was fine before he scooped the small boy into his arms and holding him tightly to his chest. "What did he do?"

"From what we can see, he was trying to undo the guardianship from a blood standpoint; he was trying to remove the child's connection to you from his blood."

The woman from the WCS went pale and looked at the medi-witches. "He wasn't successful, was he?"

One of the witches snorted before controlling herself and answering the woman. "No, and he would never have been...not without help from Gringotts. To do that, he would have had to remove James Potter's blood and replace it with someone else's. He hadn't even been able to remove all of the wards surrounding Harry, protecting him from any type of attack; he knew they were there and what they were, but wasn't able to get past most of them." She cast another diagnostic spell, this time on Severus; he had gone very pale and begun to sweat when he had heard what the Headmaster had been trying to do. She made him lie back on the bed, still holding Harry in his arms; she summoned a phial of calming potion and handed it to Severus, glaring at him when he opened his mouth to object.

Severus obediently swallowed the potion and felt the slowing of his heart-rate and the lessening of the battle-ready tension that had gripped him when he had seen the Headmaster; he was fuming and was determined to bring all sorts of charges against the man lying bound on the floor beside the bed. He looked up at the Auror. "What can he be charged with?"

Auror Alastor 'Mad-Eye' Moody looked at the younger man and smirked gleefully. "Well..." he rocked front to back on his good foot while he balanced himself with his wooden leg as he thought of the answers to the question, "...we can charge him with tampering with protective medical wards, attempting to nullify a valid guardianship, use of illegal wards in a protected hospital zone, attempted child endangerment, child endangerment, attempted kidnapping and aiding and abetting known child abuse and the abusers. The last will be dependent upon how he answers under Veritaserum; if he was planning on returning Mr. Potter to his other relatives' house, then that one will stand as well. I don't think he knows that they're locked in a cell in the Ministry building; I'm curious, though, how he found out that Mr. Potter was here."

Severus nodded and went back to concentrating on his ward; if anyone had accused him of cuddling with Harry, he would have fought it for a while before giving in to the truth...he was cuddling with Harry. He needed the closeness and the feeling of the body in his arms to calm him down; Albus had been unsuccessful and would never get another chance to try.

~O~

Sir Nicholas looked into his scrying mirror and watched the scene unfold at St. Mungo's; he had known that, if Albus found out where the child was, he would do anything to return him to the Dursley house. He knew that he was going to have to testify before the Wizengamot about what he had seen in that house, as would Arabella Figg; he began to prepare his memories and contacted Arabella, so that he could help her organise hers.

He would see Albus Dumbledore in Azkaban for this.

~O~

A week in which many things happened passed by. Severus brought Harry home to Spinner's End and they celebrated a very quiet Christmas; Minerva, Filius, Miranda Owen and even Auror Moody had joined them to make Harry's first Christmas away from the Dursleys very memorable. Albus was questioned by Auror Moody and the Head of the DMLE, gaining answers that they had not expected.

"Albus Dumbledore, you are being charged with several different things; we are here today to question you under the effects of Veritaserum, to make sure that we get the complete truth from you. Open your mouth and stick out your tongue." Amelia Bones, new to the position of Head of the DMLE, was almost excited that her first real interrogation was Dumbledore; she had heard some things about him that had made her doubt his sincerity and devotion to the Light.

"I do not think that Veritaserum will be necessary, Madam Bones; you can trust that I will tell you the truth." Albus smirked inwardly; he wasn't about to tell the truth...and he wasn't going to accept the Veritaserum.

Madam Bones looked at Auror Moody and nodded shortly. Albus started to open his mouth to say something else, but found himself bound and petrified...with his mouth open. Auror Moody smirked slightly as he leaned in to administer the Veritaserum, amused by the look of fear in the old man's eyes. The two law enforcement officers waited for the Veritaserum to take effect and then released the body bind and began to question the older wizard.

"Albus Dumbledore, why were you at St. Mungo's on 21st December of this year?"

"I had discovered that Harry Potter was no longer at his relatives' house and was, instead, at St. Mungo's, being treated for alleged injuries."

"Why would you care where Harry Potter was?"

"He is my little golden ticket to the position of Minister of Magic when Bagnold either dies or retires."

"How were you planning on using him to achieve that purpose?"

"He is The Boy Who Lived; if he backs me, my ascension to that position is assured. It doesn't matter how old he is."

"What do you know of the abuse that the boy suffered at the hands of his 'relatives'?"

"It is necessary that he remain downtrodden, so that I can be seen as his rescuer when it comes time for him to attend Hogwarts."

"So you advocated the abuse to his relatives? You made certain that they would abuse him?" Auror Moody's voice became louder in his anger and Madam Bones gestured at him to close his mouth and listen to Dumbledore's answer.

"A few bruises and broken bones are nothing when compared to becoming Minister of Magic."

Madam Bones pulled Moody aside and whispered in his ear. "If you cannot control yourself, I will continue this on my own...now CALM DOWN!" Moody nodded and took a deep breath to smooth out his temper before continuing.

"What were your plans with Mr. Potter, should you have been able to remove him from St. Mungo's?" Madam Bones nodded approvingly at the older Auror.

"I would have returned him to the Dursleys' home. I don't know who holds the child's guardianship now, but I will return it to them. If it is Severus Snape, he doesn't deserve to have contact with the child."

"The Dursleys are currently in separate holding cells, somewhere in the Ministry of Magic building; what would your plans have been then, since you cannot release them without the permission of the Head of the DMLE?"

Albus' eyebrows rose and he stumbled over his words. "I...I...don't know what I would have done. I did not know that they had been taken into custody. How were the Aurors informed of the abuse?"

"That is of no concern of yours, Dumbledore. Suffice it to say that they are in custody and, like you, are awaiting their own trial." Madam Bones took over from Moody and made sure that Albus knew what was coming. "I think we have enough information to assure that Albus Dumbledore will never again see the light of day. Auror Moody, administer the antidote and escort the prisoner to an isolated holding cell with magic dampeners and anti-animagus properties. He will remain there until he comes up for trial."

Auror Moody nodded, hiding his glee well. He hated child abusers and fought with himself so that he didn't deal out his own version of retribution for the tiny boy who now had a chance at a real life. Albus Dumbledore wouldn't be escaping from his fate...he would make sure of that.

~O~

Severus was sitting in his comfortable armchair, watching an enthralled Harry play with his Speak and Spell, a Muggle teaching game that Minerva had somehow found for the child and charmed so that the toy ran off of magic instead of Muggle batteries. I must remember to ask how she did that, so that I may buy Harry more teaching toys, Severus thought. The fact that he had a child playing in his living room was still a bit of a shock to Severus; he had never expected that he would be so thrilled and overjoyed to be raising the orphaned boy of his cousin and his best friend.

The tapping of an owl at the window drew his attention; he recognised the owl as being one belonging to the school and steeled himself to not react to the vitriol he was certain would be in this letter from Albus Dumbledore. He opened the window and relieved the owl of its letter; the owl perched on the window sill, as if waiting for an answer. As he stood still, staring at the letter in his hand, he felt a small tug on his robes and looked down.

"Sev'rus, sir? Whatcha got? And why did the bird bring it to you? And why aren'cha opening it?"

"Give me a moment, Harry. I need to give the owl something to eat as payment for delivering the letter to me...would you like to help me?" Anything to put off reading what was likely going to be termination papers for his employment at Hogwarts. At the boy's enthusiastic nod, Severus held out his arm and the owl fluttered over to land on his arm; they went into the kitchen and fed the bird some sausage left over from that morning's breakfast.

As Harry watched the owl eat its snack, Severus slowly opened the letter; first he carefully lifted the wax Hogwarts seal, then he slowly unfolded the letter.

Dear Severus,

I know you are expecting this to be from Albus, but he is currently in a holding cell at the Ministry of Magic building. I was told by Amelia Bones that, when they questioned him about what he had been doing, he admitted that he planned on returning Harry to his relatives' house. He didn't know who held the current guardianship, but he assumed it was you and was trying to remove it.

Amelia also told me that his trial is to be held on the 10th of January and he is likely to get at least 30 years in Azkaban for his crimes. I would like to see him get more, but unless he committed the abuse himself, 30 years is just about the maximum amount of time allowed. The Dursleys are another story; Amelia said that Vernon Dursley is looking at the Kiss and Petunia will likely receive the same amount as Albus, since she didn't actually hit Harry, but did nothing to stop it.

You will have to give testimony about the shape he was in when you first saw him in St. Mungo's and what you saw when Albus was there. Auror Moody will also give testimony, along with Arabella Figg, several medi-witches from St. Mungo's and a goblin wardsmaster. I will be happy to watch Harry for you that day.

Until there is a full meeting of the Hogwarts' Board of Governors, I have been appointed Interim Headmistress. Please do not worry, your position here is safe.

Sincerely,

Minerva McGonagall

Severus sat heavily in one of the kitchen chairs, completely unaware that both the owl and Harry were watching him with concern. Albus Dumbledore was being held for trial...Albus DUMBLEDORE was being held for TRIAL! Severus knew that, since Albus was going to be on trial, his own standing might eventually come into question; he would have to speak to Minerva and Amelia Bones about that little matter. He wouldn't risk Harry now that he was his ward; he would have to get that matter cleared up, once and for all.

His mind set on a course of action, Severus set Harry to playing with his toys again, while he composed two letters...one to Minerva and one to the Head of the DMLE.

~O~

14 JANUARY, 1986

ALBUS DUMBLEDORE SENTENCED TO LIFE!

In an unprecedented move, the Wizengamot decided to throw every law they could possibly use at Albus Dumbledore. The former Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry had admitted, under Veritaserum, that he had encouraged the Muggle relatives of Harry James Potter, The Boy Who Lived, to physically, mentally and emotionally abuse the small boy.

The Wizengamot agreed unanimously that Dumbledore should never again be allowed to walk free amongst the public. As he was lead off to Azkaban Prison, the former Headmaster was heard to say, "Just you wait until you find out who Potter's guardian is...I won't look so bad then!" Someone from the Wizengamot cast a silencing spell at the old man and no more was heard from him.

After a little digging, this reporter found that Mr. Potter's guardianship was granted to Professor Severus T. Snape, resident Potions Master and teacher at Hogwarts. A little more digging brought to light that Professor Snape was the second cousin, once removed, of James Charlus Potter, Harry's father. After Dumbledore had been arrested, Professor Snape requested that he make a statement, under Veritaserum, to prove that he was entirely trustworthy with his new ward. Amelia Bones, Head of the DMLE, released the following statement about Severus Snape:

"Professor Snape has proven, to the satisfaction of both the DMLE and Wizarding Children's Services, that he will be an appropriate guardian for young Mr. Potter. There will be no questions about this arrangement and the DMLE will not entertain any suppositions against Professor Snape."

We at The Daily Prophet would like to wish Severus Snape and Harry Potter well and would like to take the time to ask that everyone in Wizarding Great Britain would also wish them well.

Severus folded the morning newspaper and set it next to his plate at the head table; reaching his arms down slightly, he hefted the small weight of his ward into his lap and wrapped his arms around the child, burying his face in the slightly messy dark hair. The noise in the Great Hall quieted as the students and teachers noticed his actions; grins and smiles made the rounds of all of the faces that were turned to watch the two at the head table.

Severus smirked inwardly and looked up at the ceiling, enchanted today to look like the snow clouds outside of the castle. He silently sent thanks to Sir Nicholas; the older man's testimony had been what had convinced the Wizengamot to vote for a life sentence for Albus. Before this time, Severus had never had a reason to believe in Father Christmas...now, he would never doubt that he existed. How else could anyone explain what had happened to both Harry and him in less than one month's time? It had to be the influence of St. Nicholas.

~O~

Sir Nicholas Klaus looked into his scrying mirror one more time before setting it aside for a little while; he was going to look at three particular people. The first he looked at required that he look inside a large grey building on a tiny island in the North Sea.

He quickly found Albus' cell; it was next to the one occupied by what was easily the loudest Muggle he had ever had the misfortune to hear. Sir Nicholas knew that Albus' placement in between the cells occupied by Vernon Dursley and Sirius Black would have been the work of Auror Alastor Moody; maybe, with a little time, Black could get Dumbledore to admit that he had set up the Black heir. Sir Nicholas surreptitiously set up recording devices...just in case.

The second set of people he was looking for swam into view; Sir Nicholas smiled brightly at the sight. Somehow, Harry had convinced Severus to take him outside to build a snowman; although the snowman was slightly lopsided, it was still a note-worthy piece of artwork...it was the first snowman for both of his boys. He watched as Severus lifted Harry up, so that he could carefully push the carrot nose in place and set the coal eyes and smile just right.

With a twinkle in his eye, Sir Nicholas directed a little bit of magic down to his boys and their new companion.

~O~

Severus continued to hold Harry in his arms as they looked upon their masterpiece. Severus had never had so much fun in his life; he was looking forward to much more, now that that life contained Harry. Both of them blinked and looked at each other, and then back at the snowman.

"Sev'rus? Did Mr. Snowman...?"

"Yes, Harry, I do believe that Mr. Snowman just winked at us and smiled."

Severus looked up at the sky again and would swear on his magic that he saw Sir Nicholas Klaus wink at him from the clouds; both heard the faint sound of a jolly laugh on the wind and knew that Father Christmas had once again touched them with his magic.