Author Notes: Season's Greetings!

This is the second installment of Stories for My Daughter, individual one shots of Severus Snape and his adopted son, Harry Potter. Like the Feisty Little Cherub, the idea for this story also came from my daughter. The back story is AU and so you'll find young Harry happier and more cheerful than in canon. Oh, that reminds me - I really need to get to that back story, but in the meantime, enjoy this one!

Summary: Twelve year old Harry Potter is determined to save at least one life for Christmas, despite Severus Snape's annoyance. Featuring an innocent Christmas cracker and a havoc wreaking little white mouse. Father/Son relationship.

Warnings: Severe OOCness, silliness and loads of fluff!

Rating: 'T'

Disclaimer: Harry Potter is the brainchild of JK Rowlings.

- Story Start -

It was Christmas Day. Severus and Harry were in fine spirits as they walked hand in hand to the Great Hall for lunch, the Potions Master walking at a sedate pace and his adopted son skipping beside him.

It was Harry's second Christmas at Hogwarts. He didn't mind so much that Ron and Hermione were celebrating this Christmas with their families, or that he was the only student left at Hogwarts this year. He had Severus, Hagrid and Headmaster Dumbledore to help him celebrate, and that was plenty. Even better, some of the professors were flooing from their homes just to join them for Christmas lunch before returning to their loved ones.

When they reached the Great Hall, Severus pulled open the double doors. Despite dining here everyday, Harry's eyes still lit up at the sight of the huge Christmas trees Hagrid had brought in twelve days ago. They sparkled and shone with twinkling lights and glittering ornaments, some that revolved and others that played tinkling versions of Christmas carols.

"Wicked!" Harry cried out. He turned to beam up at Severus who was blinking at the kaleidoscope of colours, the blend of tinkly melodies assaulting his ears.

"C'mon, dad!"

Dragging Severus by the hand, Harry made for the large round table placed near the closest fireplace. It was set for lunch, complete with snowy white tablecloth, sprigs of holly, exquisite china, crystal glassware and polished silverware. The other members of the faculty were already seated there; Albus Dumbledore facing the entrance with Minerva McGonagall on his right, Filius Flitwick next to her and followed by Pomona Sprout, Poppy Pomfrey, Argus Filch and Rubeus Hagrid.

"Good afternoon, Headmaster. Merry Christmas to all."

Severus' quiet greeting went unheard, buried under Harry's excited "Merry Christmas, everyone! I'm so glad you're all here!"

With everyone smiling and greeting the Boy Who Lived as though they hadn't seen him for a year instead of three days - Argus Filch included - Severus sighed. He sat down next to Albus, leaving the last empty seat between Hagrid and himself to Harry.

After the flurry of handshakes and hugs, Harry sat down, his eyes sparkling and his cheeks flushed with excitement.

Albus raised his hands and clapped twice. The food appeared at once.

"Everyone tuck in!" he urged and they did.

There were two large turkeys roasted to golden perfection, chestnut and raisin stuffing, honey glazed ham studded with cheddar cheese, creamy mashed potatoes, mushroom rice, buttered peas and mince pies.

Even Severus (who didn't have much appetite on festive occasions) helped himself to a turkey drumstick, mashed potatoes and peas. He was hungry after a morning spent trouncing Harry in a snowball fight. He would have won by a bigger margin too if Hedwig hadn't intervened and dive bombed him with missiles of her own creation; snowballs stuffed with acorns, leaves and even one with a dead mouse.

That last one had landed on Severus' head.

- o -

An hour later, everyone put down their knives and forks in favour of emitting satisfied sighs and patting rounded stomachs. The main dishes vanished, but instead of dessert, a box of Christmas crackers appeared in the middle of the table.

"Some exercise to help us digest our excellent lunch before we have pudding. Help yourselves!" Albus explained, beaming around the table. Ignoring the disapproving grunt coming from his left, he took a cracker and held one end out to Harry, right in front of the stoic Potions Master who sat between them.

"Will you pull this one with me, dear boy?"

"Of course, Professor Dumbledore!" Harry grinned. He grabbed the end of the brightly coloured cracker and on a count of three, pulled hard.

The magical firecracker went off with a bang that made Severus wince. An Admiral hat flew high in the air in a shower of confetti and three white mice. The confetti landed in Severus' lap, two of the mice ended up on the floor where they scurried off to freedom and the last one somersaulted in the air a couple of times before falling straight down into Harry's empty wine goblet. It squeaked in panic, tiny claws scrabbling on the smooth surface as it sought to escape its round glass prison.

Severus spelled away the confetti, his attention on Harry as the boy grabbed the hat and tried it on at once. Harry looked adorable with his green eyes bright under the visor of the hat and his cheeks pink with excitement. The Potions Master allowed himself a small smile; it would never do to let the other members of staff witness how much he loved James Potter's son... even if he was also Lily's.

Harry set the Admiral hat more firmly on his head and looked around, possibly searching for the source of that high pitched squeaking amidst the laughter and chatter. He peered at his wine glass and saw what it now held.

"It's one of the mice from the cracker! Look, Dad!" he cried out and pointed at the mouse.

"Hold on, Harry. I'll get that," Severus replied. He took hold of Harry's glass and upended it, intending to catch the mouse and put it on the floor. The little creature was faster. It escaped his descending fingers and streaked across the pristine surface of the tablecloth.

Severus slapped a hand over it but the mouse feinted and ran the other way. He tried to catch it again and it leapt right off the table... and onto his chest, all four paws splayed wide and tiny claws digging into the fine, brushed velvet of deep blue.

Cursing, Severus tried to catch the little mouse, but again and again, his fist closed over air as the mouse scrambled hither and tither over his chest and finally up onto his shoulder. When Severus clapped his hand down, the terrified creature leapt right off his robes and flailed wildly in the air until gravity pulled it down.

Down, down, down it went... straight into the gravy boat next to Severus' empty plate. A wave of thick mushroom gravy rose out of the boat and landed on the front of his robes with a fist sized stain.

Disaster.

Ignoring the collective gasps of surprised mirth, Severus pressed his lips together and reached into the gravy boat. With thumb and forefinger, he pulled out the dripping, chocolate colored creature by its tail.

"A snack for Mrs. Norris, nicely marinated," he stated, sealing its fate.

"Oh no, Dad!" Harry protested at once, his wide eyes fixed on the struggling mouse that was depositing drops of gravy onto Severus' face and robes.

"No? What do you suggest I do with it then?" Severus bit out through gritted teeth. He didn't need to look around to know he had the attention of everyone at the table now.

"I want to keep it!" Harry said with the air of one who had suddenly thought of a brilliant idea.

"Absolutely not!" Severus declared.

"Oh, please, dad. I want it for a pet!" Harry looked at Severus with everything he had - green eyes widened and filled with absolute distress, lower lip sticking out and quivering - the works.

Even with his face, freshly shampooed hair and best dress robes splashed with gravy and right in front of his gawking peers - did they have nothing else better to do - Severus felt his traitorous heart squeeze inside his chest. He ignored it.

"It is a mouse, Harry!" he said in a flat voice.

"I know, but -"

"I use parts of them as potion ingredients."

"Oh, not this one, it's so cute!"

Severus' eye started twitching. Conversation and laughter had died down at the table and he could feel curious stares burning into his face and robes. Well then, this was the perfect opportunity for him to put his foot down.

Display the decisiveness he was so well known for.

Let everyone know who was boss... or adopted father in this case.

"Harry," he began in suitably quelling tones, forgetting once again that while they worked for the student population at large, they had never worked for Harry. And probably never will.

"Oh, please, Dad, let me keep him, please!"

Severus felt his heart squeeze again. Oh no. Not good. He cleared his throat, took a deep breath and tried not to wince when a few more drops of gravy landed on his face, one of them at the side of his right eye, another on the very tip of his nose.

There was a hastily muffled snort that Severus recognised at once. Minerva.

That harpy.

Another snort that he recognised just as well. Poppy.

Make that two.

"Dad, I promise I'll take good care of him! Don't let Mrs. Norris eat him. Please don't!"

Severus pressed his lips into a thin line again. The ache in his chest was rapidly becoming bothersome. He should look away; staring into those huge green eyes was not helping matters.

"Harry, a white mouse is hardly a suitable pet," he began again only to stop, distracted.

The little creature had given an almighty struggle and had managed to wrench its tail loose. It fell back into the gravy boat with another splash, but struck out at once in what looked like a doggy paddle. Reaching the side, it heaved itself out, causing the gravy boat to fall on its side and dump its contents into Severus' lap.

The Potions Master leapt up with yet another curse. "Merlin's pants!"

There was utter silence for a long moment until Albus broke it with a rich chuckle. "Oh dear, what a cheeky little fellow!"

Ignoring the burst of laughter around him, Severus snarled. His best robes were ruined! Scourgify and Tergeo would never work for such rich gravy on velvet. He turned his furious gaze on Harry who now had the greasy mouse trapped between his hands.

"Hand me that creature, Harry!"

"No, dad! Don't kill him, please!"

"I'm not just going to kill him, I'm going to chop him up for potions!"

Harry's eyes welled up with tears, both at the dire threat and at the look of fury on Severus' face. He had never seen his adopted father so angry... and it was Christmas!

"It was an accident," he whispered, his voice trembling. "He didn't mean to..."

Once again, silence reigned. Everyone was looking between Severus and Harry, their expressions a mixture of sympathy and concern.

"Now now, Harry," Albus said kindly, reaching over to pat the boy's shoulder while glaring up at Severus, "your father isn't going to do that."

"The Headmaster is quite right," Minerva chipped in, adding her potent glare to that of Albus'. "He's just making a - a joke, that's all."

"Little thing's much too cute to be used in a potion!" Pomona declared heartily, her lips pressed into a thin line as she frowned at Severus.

"Nothing to worry about, love," Poppy added, her eyes promising retribution of the worst kind as she fixed them on the Potions Master.

"Tha's right, Harry, nothin' ter worry abou'," Hagrid added his support, shaking his head at Severus.

"Yup. Mrs. Norris has eaten plenty," Filch said stoutly. Indeed, Mrs. Norris was sitting on his lap and ignoring the gravy soaked mouse in favour of washing her face.

Severus suddenly felt exactly two inches tall. He didn't need their disapproving words and looks to know he had been a tad too harsh. Justified perhaps... but it was hard to feel righteous with Harry looking at him with those wide, tear filled eyes.

Severus felt as if someone had punched him in the chest. He took a deep breath... and another... and cleared his throat.

"Harry," he said and cringed when his voice came out husky and raw, as if he had downed half a bottle of Ogden's. "That's right. I was... just... teasing."

Harry's eyes widened. He sniffled once, wiped his face on one sleeve - Severus had to suppress another wince - and sniffled again.

"Really, dad?"

Faced with such hope, Severus gritted his teeth and bade his fearsome reputation a mournful goodbye.

"Really. You may keep him."

It cost him dearly to say those words especially in front of the others, but the end result was worth it. Harry's tears disappeared as if by magic and he beamed at him once more.

"Thank you, dad!" he cried. "I'll take good care of him, I promise!"

"Make sure you keep it away from your familiar," Severus added sternly. He was determined to have the last word or impart a piece of advice, at the very least.

"I'll tell Hedwig this mouse is off limits," Harry agreed with a chuckle. "Excuse me, everyone! I'll go wash him up so he can stay in my pocket while I have pudding!"

He stood up with the oily rodent clutched in his hands and walked off with a cheerful "I'll be back!"

Severus stared after him and blinked, a bit nonplussed at the speed with which his adopted son had gone from heartbreaking tears to cheery smiles. As soon as the doors of the Great Hall closed, chatter broke out again at the table, all of them variations of 'Aw, isn't Harry adorable! and 'Oh, isn't that little mouse cute!'

No one said mentioned Severus at all and yet he cringed. His reputation as the snarky bat of the dungeons, the strictest professor to ever walk the halls of Hogwarts now lay in tatters at his feet. The only consolation was that other than Harry, no other students were present.

When a gentle hand squeezed his shoulder, he turned around to meet familiar twinkling eyes.

"Well done, Severus," Albus said.

Severus scowled and turned away. Really, was his love for Harry that obvious? Was the fact that he could never say 'No' to the son of James and Lily Potter that transparent? It was... it was humiliating!

Then someone cleared their throat. Severus looked over his shoulder, braced for gleeful grins and sly comments about how fatherhood had softened him.

"Did you have to look that ferocious, Severus?" Minerva inquired. "Why, I was terrified!"

"You? Terrified?" Pomona repeated, obviously picking up her cue from Minerva. "I was so scared I thought I was going to pee right here!"

"I think I'm going to have nightmares for weeks!" Filius observed in his squeaky voice.

"Living up to your reputation as the evil Potions Master, I see," Poppy observed with a straight face.

"Bet Buckbeak would'a fled in fear if he were here," Hagrid offered.

"Yup," Filch said again.

Severus stared round at all of them, heat creeping into his face as he saw the glint of barely held back mirth in their eyes. Scowling once more, he swung around and left the Great Hall. Even when the doors swung shut behind him, the gales of laughter were still audible.

Harry was just coming towards him from the direction of the washrooms.

"Where're you going, dad?" he asked. The little white mouse - now clean, wet and white once more - was perched on his shoulder, his bright black eyes on Severus.

A fierce frown was enough to make it squeak and dive inside Harry's robes. With a satisfied nod, Severus met the bright green eyes.

"To the toilet, to see if I can salvage my robes," he replied.

To his surprise, Harry threw his arms around his waist and hugged him tightly, ignoring his soiled robes and even planting his face in the gravy soaked velvet.

"Harry - what are you doing?" Severus said exasperatedly as he tried to pry the boy loose. Bad enough his finest robes were ruined, he didn't want Harry's to go the same way!

Harry just hugged him harder and smiled up at him, cheeks, nose and glasses now smeared with grease.

"What's a little gravy between father and son?" he asked impishly. Reaching up, he curled one hand around Severus' neck to pull him down.

"Thank you, dad. Love you," he said and pressed a noisy kiss on his cheek.

Disarmed once more, Severus had to clear his throat again before he could reply. "Love you, son."

Then he straightened up and drew out his wand to clean Harry up as best he could. "Go back to the Hall. I'll be there in five minutes."

He swatted Harry's behind and smirked when the boy swung around to give him an indignant look. The little white mouse was once again perched on Harry's shoulder and watching him.

Severus ignored it and headed for the washroom. After several careful cleaning spells and a few muttered curses about impudent rodents with luck to spare, he emerged with the front of his robes a little worse for wear, but with his head held high.

He might have lost the respect of his fellow Professors and his reputation as the feared Potions Professor of Hogwarts, but he was still Severus Snape... adopted father to one Harry James Potter... and he was loved.

That was good enough for him, little white mice and ruined robes be damned!

- Story End -

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