Title: A Family Christmas
Pairings: Harry/Severus, Ginny/Blaise
Word count: 3,296
A/N: Something I wrote for the Secret Snarry Swap, which took place last month. :)
A loud crack rang out in the crisp morning air of Godric's Hollow, causing the rooks in a nearby tree to take flight. The figure that appeared, heavily cloaked against the chill, glanced around and tugged his collar up before setting off through the pristine blanket of fresh snow towards a row of quaint cottages. The only sign that the day held any significance was the celebratory peal of church bells in the distance.
The third cottage was set a little farther back than the others, its windows awash with a warm, rosy glow. However, this welcoming appearance, and the occupants within the cottage, went unnoticed by all but a small circle of people within the Wizarding community. One of them was the man who now paused to open the garden gate, his black gloved hand disturbing the fine layer of powdery snow on the handle.
Closing the gate behind him, he swept up the path to the sturdy wooden front door and knocked, causing the holly wreath upon it to tremble slightly. The peace of the morning was unexpectedly shattered when the door swung inwards and a cacophony of sound assaulted his senses—high pitched shouts and laughter mixing together and cutting across each other in a state of extreme excitement. In the midst of it stood Harry, in a crumpled shirt and faded blue jeans, a tired smile lighting his face at the sight of his visitor.
Severus raised an eyebrow, taking in Harry's dishevelled appearance. "Should I have brought reinforcements?"
Harry laughed, running a hand through his hair and making it, if possible, even messier. "Maybe." His amusement suddenly dimmed as he glanced over his shoulder and then back at Severus. "I'm sorry; Ginny dropped them off late last night—her plans changed at the last minute."
Severus felt his hopes and plans for a peaceful Christmas with Harry disappear as quickly as the fog from his next breath. It was the first big occasion since they'd crossed the boundary from friends to something more several months earlier, and one which Severus, despite his normal protestations about the event, had wanted to spend in Harry's company.
"Perhaps I should return at a more convenient time."
"No, that's okay," Harry interjected quickly. "I mean…" He paused, letting out a breath before meeting Severus' eyes hopefully. "You could stay with us."
Unfortunately, this proposition was accompanied by a particularly loud shriek as a small body hurtled past Harry in a whirl of messy black hair and teddy bear pyjamas. The part of Severus that abhorred the chaos and noise surrounding small children immediately urged retreat, but the excuse that formed upon his lips melted away the moment his gaze returned to Harry's face, agreement replacing it. He received a brilliant smile in return.
"Is it Father Kissmas?"
A small, rather pale face, framed by a shock of wild auburn hair, appeared from behind Harry's legs, vivid green eyes gazing at Severus with hopeful curiosity. He looked back at her, transported for a moment back to memories of a few happy, carefree childhood days.
"Father Christmas, Lily," Harry corrected, grinning down at her, "and, no. This is Professor Snape, a very special friend who's come to visit. Now shall we let him inside before he freezes to the doorstep?"
She thought this over for a moment, and then nodded decisively. Laughing, Harry gestured for Severus to come in. "Looks like you've been approved."
"I am suitably honoured," Severus smirked, inclining his head towards Lily as he stepped over the threshold into a brightly decorated hallway. She giggled and ran off again. Harry closed the door, but before he could move any closer to Severus, two more children came thundering down the stairs and ran between them. The first, a small boy with familiar messy dark hair, was shrieking with laughter, while the boy in pursuit was taller and didn't appear to have a head at all—his body was visible only from the shoulders down. They raced past towards an open door to Severus' left.
The two of them froze mid-stride, which only added to the absurdity of the scene, and turned to face Harry questioningly—at least, Severus was assuming that James' head had turned.
"Say hello to our visitor, please; this is Professor Snape."
"Hi, Professor," they chorused, and then abruptly resumed their chase.
"Headless hats," Harry explained, looking rather amused at Severus' expression. "George's way of ensuring that he retains the post of coolest uncle." He bent down to pick up a stray sock from the carpet and pocketed it. "I don't think he has much competition, to be honest."
"Indeed," said Severus. "His products are certainly popular with the students, and a source of constant vexation to Mr Filch."
Harry laughed. "George will be glad to hear it."
Severus' cloak was deposited on a nearby peg, beside three small and multi-coloured winter coats, as Harry called, "Not in the house, Lily," sternly through the now open door into the living room. Severus spotted Lily attempting to mount a miniature broom amongst the reams of torn wrapping paper that littered the floor. The boys had disappeared again.
"They're not always this excitable," Harry assured him, leading the way down the hall into a spacious, and mercifully empty, kitchen. Once the door was closed behind them, Harry leaned into Severus with a smile. "Happy Christmas, Severus."
Severus drew him closer, choosing to return the sentiment by covering Harry's lips with his own. He felt Harry relax in his arms, opening up to him at once with a soft sigh of contentment, and gladly reacquainted himself with the taste and feel—everything that was Harry.
It had been a surprise to hear of Harry's separation from Ginny only a few years after the birth of Lily, and even more so when he learned of the reason. But while the rest of the Wizarding world had gone wild with gossip and wild speculation about their saviour's sexual orientation, Severus had carried on as usual. And when Harry had agreed to a temporary teaching position to wait out the storm, bringing him back into the sphere of Severus' life, Severus had expected only a professional acquaintance. He had had no right to expect anything more, nor did the thought even cross his mind until Harry began to work his way, slowly but inexorably, into his heart, breathing new life and new meaning to fill the emptiness.
"I'm sorry our plans have changed," Harry said again, moving to press his nose to Severus' neck, inhaling deeply. "Ginny's picking them up after lunch so we'll have the rest of the day."
"Your apologies are quite unnecessary," Severus murmured. "Your children are, naturally, a large part of your life: a part that I cannot ignore."
Harry lifted his head to smile at him just as James burst through the other door, his head now clearly visible. Severus managed to pull his arms back and adopt a convincingly casual pose but it wasn't necessary; James clearly had more important things to worry about. "Dad, Lily's stuck up the tree in the garden and Albus fell in the pond!"
"How—" Harry stopped, shaking his head as he moved towards the door. "No, on second thought, don't tell me."
While Harry flew up to retrieve Lily from the tree on his Firebolt, grabbing her wayward broom at the same time, Severus used his wand to instantly dry a sopping wet and shivering, yet perfectly cheerful, Albus. As Albus ran back to the house with James, Severus watched Harry return to the ground with Lily, whose fear had turned to delight in the safety of her father's arms.
"Not today, Lils," said Harry, landing lightly on the snow-covered lawn. "Look, it's starting to snow again."
"Can we build a snowman?"
Harry carried her towards Severus and the house. "Breakfast first. And I think some warmer clothes might be a good idea, little miss," he added, tickling her through the thin material of her pyjamas and making her squeal in half-hearted protest through her giggling.
Severus sat at the kitchen counter with a freshly brewed cup of Earl Grey tea while Harry set about preparing breakfast. His offer of assistance had been politely refused, with a certain degree of amusement on Harry's part.
"Potions may not have been my forte, but a cooked breakfast I can handle."
After dressing at top speed that had allowed little time for Severus and Harry to converse freely, Lily had appeared and settled opposite him and was now busy scribbling away with a set of crayons, some of which were worn down almost to a stub. Severus could neither make heads nor tails of the upside-down drawing and doubted if it would be easier the right way up. He idly stirred the lemon in his tea, tilting his head a little to see if the seemingly random lines and blocks of colour became any clearer.
Harry wandered towards the table, his sleeves rolled up to the elbows and a spatula in hand. "What are you drawing, Lily?"
"It's a unicorn standing under a rainbow," Lily said proudly, setting her crayon down to hold the picture aloft.
Severus was infinitely grateful that it was not his opinion that was sought; his doubts had been proved correct. Harry, however, had no difficulty finding an answer. "Wow! And what's that bit?" he asked, using his spatula to point to a random splodge of blue with what looked like a deformed house-elf beside it.
"Albus in the pond," Lily replied simply.
To his credit, Harry managed to keep a straight face (while Severus hid his smirk by taking a large mouthful of tea). "Wonderful. Crayons away now, please; it's time for breakfast."
The sound of less than delicate footsteps across the ceiling, and then down the stairs, made Harry wince as he turned back to check the breakfast. Seconds later, James and Albus burst into the kitchen. They were now fully dressed, although still rather scruffy, and Severus noticed that Albus' socks were mismatched.
Lily clapped her hands together enthusiastically as her food was placed before her. "Smiley face breakfast!"
Two more plates were placed in front of James and Albus, who made similar sounds of glee at the creations—obviously not a new concept but, Severus assumed, something of a tradition. Their toast had been artfully cut into triangles and eggs placed upon them for eyes, half a sausage became the nose, mushrooms the ears, and a long piece of bacon was curved upwards into a broad grin.
Noticing his expression, Harry grinned. "Smiley face, Severus?"
"No, thank you," Severus replied graciously. "I prefer my breakfast unamused."
James snorted, accidentally inhaling some of his toast.
Harry sent the children into the snowy garden to play while he cleared and washed the dishes. Severus was reluctantly dragged outside with them for a snowball fight, much to Harry's amusement. But he was quickly released from the game after he used his wand to deflect the snowballs, enchanting them to hit anything that moved, which resulted in a cacophony of shouts and laughter, and three snow-covered children.
Smirking as Lily tried to outrun one whilst shrieking with laughter, Severus glanced up to the house and saw Harry laughing at the spectacle from the kitchen window. His gaze lingered, enjoying how Harry's whole face transformed when he laughed, the years flying away—it was how he should have looked all the time had life and circumstances out of his control not forced the burden of responsibility upon him too early. It was something that Severus knew better than most.
Harry's eyes drifted to his and Severus felt a twinge in his chest. He immediately attributed it to indigestion.
Severus returned to the warmth of the house a little while later, accepting a freshly brewed cup of tea with a small smile. He was glad to be able to talk to Harry freely, wrap an arm around his waist without fear of having to explain its meaning. However, the respite ended abruptly when Harry discovered that James and Lily had forgone creating a normal snowman and were in fact turning their brother into one instead.
After another hastily performed warming charm on Albus, who had been steadily turning blue, Harry suggested an indoor game of hide-and-seek. However, his assumption that this would be safer apparently did not take into account Lily's desire to be a fairy, and her firm belief that no one would see her at the top of the Christmas tree.
So it was that, by midday, Harry was keeping James and Lily busy with a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle on the living room table while Albus tested out his skills and his brand new Wizard's Chess set against Severus on a smaller table nearby. It wasn't as arduous a task as Severus had feared; Albus was clearly an able player, although he didn't yet have the experience to always foresee his opponent's strategy.
"You are placing too much importance on taking my pieces," Severus told him, lifting his gaze from the ruthless destruction of his knight by Albus' bishop to meet familiar green eyes, which were currently shining with determination and an earnest desire for approval. "Chess is played with the mind, not with the hands. To win, you must look at the board as a whole, predict your opponent's next move while planning your own, and be willing to sacrifice to move your pieces into a position from which to strike."
"Severus," Harry called, his voice amused, "he's seven."
"Quidditch is a much better game than chess," James piped up, slotting a missing piece into the slowly forming picture of a dragon. "I can't wait to play."
"You'll have your chance in a few years when you go to Hogwarts," Harry smiled. He glanced up at Severus and grinned more broadly at his expression.
"What do you teach at Hogwarts, Professor?" Albus asked curiously, clearing the broken chess pieces from the board.
"I am the Potions Professor, and Head of Slytherin House."
James made a face at the name of Slytherin, loudly proclaiming his fervent wish to be placed in Gryffindor, but Albus merely looked thoughtful, watching closely as Severus made his next move. He took several, long moments before deciding his answering move, his eyes flying over the remaining pieces. Finally, he said, whilst sliding his rook across the board, "I'd like to be in Slytherin." He removed his hand and grinned. "Check."
The game proved a little more challenging than Severus had expected. Harry placed a plate of sandwiches beside them as they continued to play, giving Severus' shoulder a light squeeze as he did so before returning to the puzzle. However, the battle between Severus and Albus was increasingly drawing the attention of James and Lily away from their own activity and Harry eventually conceded defeat. He moved to stand behind Severus' chair, leaning over slightly to observe the board. Severus, only several moves away from victory, refused to let himself be distracted by the warmth and alluring scent of Harry's body pressed so close. The Slytherin in him wondered if Harry was doing it on purpose to give Albus an advantage.
It didn't matter; within minutes he announced, "Checkmate," and claimed the game. Albus, to his credit, accepted defeat with a dignity befitting someone much older and Severus' estimation of him grew. He politely shook Albus' hand across the board and informed him that he'd make a fine Slytherin, if Albus was indeed destined for his House, and Albus beamed.
They were in the midst of packing the games away when there was a knock at the front door. Lily immediately ran out of the room, closely followed by Harry, and there was a loud shout of, "Mummy!"
Severus listened to the low murmur of conversation from the hall as he helped Albus put his chess set back carefully in its box, and Harry returned a moment later. "Okay, you two; shoes, coats, and gather up anything that you're taking with you."
James closed the lid to the puzzle box and hurried out of the room after his sister, but Albus paused, looking up at Severus hopefully. "Can you come over to play again next weekend?"
"We'll see," Severus said, his lips twitching upwards. Raising his head as Albus ran off, he found Harry grinning at him.
Ginny was waiting in the hall, helping Lily into her shoes and coat, her new partner beside her. She looked surprised to see Severus, but covered it quickly with a smile.
"Ms Weasley," Severus nodded, his gaze then shifting to her companion. "Mr Zabini. Seasonal greetings to you both."
"And to you, Professor," Blaise replied politely. He was clearly more surprised to find his old Head of House there than Ginny, his eyes travelling curiously between Severus and Harry.
Lily, who was hugging her father goodbye, frowned. "What's seasnal greetnings, Daddy?"
Harry laughed. "It means Happy Christmas, Lils." He kissed her forehead and set her down before hugging the boys. "I'll see you all at Grandma's for lunch tomorrow, okay? Be good."
There was a last minute flurry of activity, goodbyes, and calls of Merry Christmas, before the door finally closed on the group. Harry leaned back against it with a sigh. Then he pulled Severus closer, a smile creeping onto his face. "Now for our Christmas."
Severus wrapped his arms around Harry, looking down into the vibrant green eyes that were shining with promise. "And what will that entail, precisely?" he murmured.
Harry, in turn, raised himself onto his tiptoes and brushed his lips across Severus' lightly before running them along his jaw line to whisper in his ear, "Let me show you."
Snowflakes were still brushing lightly against the window. Severus watched them fall slowly past, a dim white in the darkness. Beside him, Harry lay in a tangle of sheets, his chest rising and falling rhythmically in sleep, his naked body curled inward towards Severus', and his hand resting possessively on the flat expanse of Severus' abdomen. Harry had fallen asleep with the ease of an untroubled mind and a weary body, but Severus had resisted sleep a little while longer, basking in the afterglow of an unexpected and yet surprisingly perfect day.
He had not expected to warm to Harry's family—in fact he had had a great deal of reservations about staying—and yet he had found his time with them most agreeable. Harry shone through each of them, of course, complementing their own unique talents and personalities. It was clear that fatherhood suited him, but it was something that Severus had never before considered. He looked down at Harry's relaxed face, the stray lock of hair falling across his cheek, and his mind returned to once again savour the memories of their very own Christmas.
He closed his eyes to bring them further to life… Harry moving above him, his body painted in flickering firelight as he moved, arched, drawing Severus ever deeper within him, his face openly projecting every thought and feeling so that they wrapped themselves around Severus along with his body, freely giving so precious a gift that Severus had thought never in his wildest dreams to have, or indeed deserve, and, afterwards, the quiet but heartfelt request that he stay. The idea of refusing had never even entered Severus' mind.
Severus shifted carefully onto his side, pressing his nose into Harry's hair and pulling him closer so that Harry let out a soft sound of contentment. Smiling, Severus allowed sleep to gently claim him. Outside, the church clock chimed midnight, bringing to an end the first truly happy Christmas that he had ever known.