Severus looks down at the little one in his arms. He's not entirely sure how it is that he came to be the one to raise him. This child that looks so much like James but has Lily's eyes. This child that lived while his mother died. Bright green eyes stare at him full of wonder. Then again Harry could be staring at the numerous decorations that Lupin insisted he hang.
The werewolf has injected himself into Severus' life. Pushing and shoving as he deals with the fact that Black is now a criminal. Christmas time has come upon them yet again. Cheer and goodwill and all that bollocks.
There are memories that he'd rather forget associated with this season. His father's drinking. His mother's ire. Neither took a break during this time, instead, they seemed to increase. Harry makes a sound that could almost be a word. Being a year and five months old he should be saying mum and da or maybe speaking in two to four-word sentences... if the nattering, disapproving mothers he's had the misfortune to run into are to be believed.
"Lupin says that we need to make this special. I doubt that you will remember any of this."
He doesn't think about why he doesn't push the werewolf out of his life. Doesn't like thinking about the sinking loneliness. It is Christmas time after all. So he lets the smile that has been on the very edge spread. Long fingers reaching up and poking the very tip of Harry's nose. The toddler laughs, mouth open wide and little hands reaching up to grab his hand. He does not like Christmas but Lily had loved it.
“We will not be hanging any plants. We will get a tree, I suppose. For presents. Clothes? Imagine Lupin’s face at that.”
He is talking to Harry like he can answer back. What has his life come to? Harry who finally manages to grab his hand and squeeze it. Still, no words come out. No yay or yes or even no. From what he’s gleaned ‘no’ is a favorite of children everywhere. With a flick of his wand, he gets ready to leave his home.
“Oh, he is adorable! How old is he? I didn’t know you had a kid, Professor Snape.”
Severus doesn’t flinch at the over-exuberant tone of the young shopkeeper who is holding his purchases hostage. Clothes for Harry, a pair of socks that he will send to Dumbledore and a scarf for Lupin.
“Bran! Bran come look at the little one!”
She doesn’t even wait for Severus to answer before she’s leaning closer and cooing. Harry doesn’t like it any more than Severus does. As stealthy as one can be when the center of unwanted attention he leans back. It is Christmas. He tells himself. It’s Christmas and he must be at least polite. Bran is another young woman who starts cooing like a pigeon at the sight of Harry, both ignoring the distress of the one who is being coo’d at.
“Shy little blighter ain’t he?” Bran asks, her hands reaching out. Severus doesn’t know what she aims to do but he has had quite enough. He takes a step back.
“Or like most sane people, he does not like strangers trying to touch him. I would have thought that your parents taught you manners before they released you into the wild. Now, my purchases so that I can continue doing what I need to instead of being assaulted by over fragrant strangers who believe they are entitled to touch someone because they cannot vocally deny them?”
He doesn’t recognize them but they are old enough to have recently left Hogwarts. And they clearly remember him. He holds out his hand for the bag, one eyebrow raised, waiting almost impatiently.
Bran at least has some sense. As she takes the bag from her coworker and hands it to him. As he’s walking away he hears the other girl speak.
“Merlin, he’s still a prick. You would think that having a kid would soften him up. Can’t believe someone would sleep with him.”
Severus doesn’t turn around. Oh, he wants to. But Harry is already trying to burrow his way into Severus’ chest, almost inaudible whines escaping his lips. Harry needs him more than he needs to turn and scold that insolent child like she is still in his classroom. Instead, he takes comfort at Bran yelling a name along with the sound of someone being smacked on the shoulder. He looks down at Harry, long curved nose brushing soft black hair.
“What say you, to getting some ice cream before we continue our shopping? Just a smidge, mustn’t ruin your appetite.”
That gets the little boy to look up at him. Severus most certainly does not feel proud of himself for getting Harry to smile. He doesn’t feel prouder still when Harry flings his ice cream at a staring couple two stalls down.
“You are going to be trouble when you are older, aren’t you?”
Harry just smiles.
The rest of the shopping goes well. He gets his gift for Minerva, a few toys for Harry and some for Draco too. No one tries to touch Harry, no one tries to talk to Severus. It is good. Less good are the awestruck looks that the older Wizards and Witches give Harry. What is even less good is the fact that Lupin is standing outside his door.
Severus takes in the werewolf. Pale skin, dark bags but he’s smiling, arms moving like he wants to grab Harry before stopping. Harry makes noises that aren’t words and reluctantly Severus hands the toddler over. His mind plays over the conversation of that night over in his head. He had finally gone home, heartbroken and seething. Lily was gone and her child would likely be going to her sister. But then there was a pounding at his door. Lupin, crying, snot-covered, like his whole world was gone, Lupin stands on his porch. Minerva behind him looking ready to curse everyone.
“He-- you have to raise him.”
Lupin had said pushing Harry at him. Harry who had cried and screamed and reached for Lupin. Harry who chewed on the scarf that Lupin had pressed into his hands instead of taking him back.
“I… She… the only stipulation is I… that is… I need to be able to see him occasionally… I can help raise him… they…”
And so he became a guardian of a child. So he gained a sometimes furry and violent burr. But… Severus has to admit that Lupin has been useful. That the werewolf has talked him out of a panic attack or two. The parenting books the werewolf brought over even more helpful.
“You should throw a feast.”
“Well a dinner. For Harry. It’s his first.”
“One he won’t even remember.”
Severus puts down his bags, turning so that he can stare down Lupin. Harry is smiling, hands moving and clenching together. It’s disgustingly cute. He hates it.
“You don’t even have to invite me. Maybe… the Malfoy’s? Heard you were made their boy’s godfather.”
He has been meaning to owl Lucius and Narcissa. Draco is about Harry’s age and they could be friends. But the cooking. The preparing. The invitations! Mostly the cooking. While baking is close enough to potion mixing actual cooking is not!
“If I did, there is no way I would suffer it alone. You would have to be here.”
Lupin grins widely and Severus admits he may have lost that battle as he has lost many when it comes to Harry. That isn’t to say that the boy’s room isn’t done up in green and silver just to spite the Gryffindor. That Harry has a stuffed snake that he cuddles with when he naps.
Two of the invites that they write up Severus doubts will come. Dumbledore and Minerva rarely leave the castle. But he knows that Lucius will come. It will be a good first Christmas. Severus will make sure of that.
Christmas. The day comes far too soon for Severus. Minerva sent her apologies for not being able to come and promised that her gifts would make it in time. From Dumbledore, there is no word. Snape wakes slowly, still not used to this forced paternity leave that Dumbledore has him on. Harry isn’t pleased when Severus first wakes him up. Chubby little arms squeezing the stuffed snake tight. Grumbles and groans come from the little boy. Until he sees the lights. The sparkles and the tinsel. The tree. Looking at Harry Severus thinks maybe he can do this. He can come to love the holiday again.
Lupin arrives shortly after breakfast, a pile of presents in his arms. Has the gall to laugh when one falls on Severus’ foot.
“Sorry, sorry. Got carried away.”
He thinks he spies some green wrapping paper in the pile but won’t call Lupin out on it, especially since he sees his name on one of the presents. The pinched lips, narrowed eyed look Lupin gives him when they take turns ‘helping’ Harry unwrap the clothes from Severus give the potions professor life. Harry loves them if squishing them to his face and making loud happy noises is any indication. The toys that Severus bought are educational, like the Baby-&-Me potions kit. He may not want to be Potions Master, the yearning his has for the Defense Against Dark Arts is almost as strong as the quiet joy the sight of Harry shaking one of the plastic potion bottles, but he is damn good at them. Lupin’s toy gifts are more playful in nature.
Two presents are shoved toward him. One is square, like a book. Maybe another parenting book. Those are always handy. Carefully he picks at the tape. Not ripping the paper as he had done for Harry. So it’s in glorious slow motion that the face of the biggest prat is exposed to him. Gilderoy Lockhart. Four years their junior and yet he was the name every teacher sighed.
“What. is. This?” he asks slowly. It’s a very hard thing to suppress the want to throw the book into a fire. Burn it and wash his hands.
“Come now, Severus, surely you remember Gilderoy!”
Lupin sounds much too chipper. Severus glares at him.
“Only an idiot would forget him.”
“He’s made quite a name for himself.”
If there had been tea in Lupin’s hands Severus is sure the man would have taken a sip. Severus rolls his eyes, putting the book down on the ground and using his foot to push it away.
“Oh, I’m-” and that’s when he notices the laughter in Lupin’s eyes. The same laughter Minerva has when she gives him Gryffindor things. Like that blasted scarf, she charmed never to catch fire or tear. If not for young eyes he’d give the werewolf the two-finger salute. The second gift, wrapped to look like a pyramid, is two books; one Navigating Growing Your Herbs and Your Young a book on what herbs won’t kill children, the other Don’t Fret! It’s Natural! A guide on painful stages in children’s lives.
Lupin grins and goes to open the one present that Severus got for him. The scarf that wraps around the rest of the gift is a soft grey. And Severus knows for a fact that it’s as soft as it looks. Deep within the folds are packets of the ingredients for the wolfsbane potion and cheap chocolate. The look leveled at him makes him squirm. It’s nothing. Easy for him to get a hold of.
“Harry stole your other one,” he says, “And while that one isn’t of the same quality, it’s warm. It wouldn’t do for you to sick and Harry to catch it.”
Severus clears his throat and points at the other presents.
“Who are they for?”
“The Malfoy boy… Draco wasn’t it?”
“I hope they don’t mind. I just felt wrong buying Harry things and not the other.”
Time after that is spent cooking. Harry is sitting on the kitchen floor, well out of the way but still where they can see him. They stumble here and there. Bump into each other as they try to cook and bake. Magic spells whizzing this way and that as they attempt to fix mistakes. It’s messy and his mother would have hated it but that just makes Severus love it more.
“I do believe this should be enough, and you’ll have leftovers!”
There is definitely enough food that he will have leftovers. More leftovers than the two of them can possibly ever eat before it goes bad. And that thought is reflected on Narcissa’s face when she enters the kitchen later that night to help set the table.
Draco is ripping into the presents with his father’s help, screeching in glee. Narcissa raises a perfectly lined eyebrow at Lupin.
“Another ‘oops, I went overboard’ moment?” she asks kindly.
She laughs, lightly touching his shoulder. Severus watches them. Of the two Narcissa is the wild card. If she treats Lupin well Lucius will as well… at least in front of his wife. Lucius has never had the highest opinions of werewolves. A sudden cry has all three adults rushing into the front room. The one adult that hadn’t had to move is looking pained as he rubs his face.
“Draco wanted the red block that Harry was playing with and was not… pleased when Harry offered him the blue one.”
“Draco Lucius Malfoy,” Narcissa hisses and Severus takes notes on how she talks to Draco. The way she doesn’t waver when Draco’s eyes start to mist over. One day he’ll have to scold Harry. One day Harry will come out of his quiet little shell and be trouble. The incident sets the tone for the rest of the night and the two boys don’t seem to get along.
They’re sitting down for dinner when there is another knock on Severus’ door. A look of distaste crosses his face as he pushes away from the table. He isn’t expecting to have a giant lion pushed into his arms the moment the door opens. Nor is he expecting the four people that he sees when he manages to look over the lion. Albus Dumbledore and the Dursley’s are standing on his porch. Dumbledore he could handle. Petunia and her husband and spawn? That is testing the limit of his sanity. The fat man that has a very possessive arm around Petunia’s waist has a large mustache that twitches.
“Is he just going to stare or is he going to let us in?” the fat man asks not even flinching when Petunia steps onto his foot. There is a very strong desire to slam the door in Dumbledore’s face. Irrational and insane since he owes much to the old wizard.
“Come now, Severus. It’s Christmas. Harry should be able to see his family. ”
The stress that Dumbledore puts on ‘family’ makes the hair on the back of his neck stand up. He knows that Dumbledore hadn’t been fond of the change of plans. Seems to doubt the power of the spells that have been cast and double cast on his home. The charms and wards. Honestly, Severus is pretty sure his home is about as protected as Hogwarts itself. Which if He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is dead like the world at large seems to believe it’s all for naught anyway. But that seems like more than mild irritation.
“Of… course. Please come in.”
Dumbledore smiles a little half smile that doesn’t reach his eyes as he sweeps into the house followed by a stamping muggle male. With a deep breath, Severus closes the door behind Petunia. The woman the cruel brat from his memories has turned into is looking at him oddly. Like she’s seeing him for the first time. She opens her mouth like she wants to say something but her husband’s booming voice distracts her.
Vernon, as Severus learns is the name of ‘Tuney’s’ husband, is a muggle that isn’t pleased to learn magic exists. His face goes through various shades of purple as Severus levitates food to and fro. It would be amusing. Should be amusing. Especially seeing how everytime Vernon opens his mouth to say something Petunia nudges him or kicks him. But it isn’t amusing. Narcissa looks like she’s sucking on a particularly sour lemon. Lucius is barely keeping himself from saying rude things.
“Do you have a babysitter picked out for when you come back to school this June?” Dumbledore asks, taking a delicate bite out of his dessert. He seems oblivious to the tension in the air.
Severus isn’t even sure he wants to go back to the school without Harry. But if he must...
“Lupin, of course.”
Utensils drop from stunned hands. Narcissa makes a hissing coughing sound that has the mentioned male sinking down in his chair slightly.
“You can’t be serious?” Lucius splutters right as Dumbledore says;
“Are you sure that’s wise?”
Petunia looks away from where she’s cleaning up her son, Dudley. Harry and the boy had teamed up to cause absolute mayhem that was tossing food at Draco. The blond boy joining in gleefully but was outnumbered.
“He seems competent,” she says, “He handled the food throwing well and managed to get both Harry and Draco cleaned.”
She tactfully doesn’t mention the fit her husband almost threw when the Wizard went to clean Dudley. Severus expects the world to end with that. But it doesn’t.
“What’s wrong with him?” Vernon asks. The tone has even Lucius giving the muggle a dirty look.
“Just because he’s a werewolf doesn’t mean he can’t watch Harry. The boy sleeps through the night, most nights. So on the full moon when he has to take the potion it will be fine,” Severus says calmly ignoring Vernon, “If he gets used to Narcissa and she agrees to it I may have it to where they switch that way neither get overwhelmed.”
Dumbledore lays his fork down on the table.
“Why don’t you ask his aunt and uncle?”
“You can’t be serious!”
“Now hold on a bloody moment-”
Severus scowls and looks at Petunia who is glaring at Dumbledore.
“Petunia would you like to babysit Harry?” he asks boredly, trying not to let the emotions he’s feeling bleed into his voice. He’s angry, frustrated and annoyed. Petunia, never taking his eyes off of Dumbledore, replies.
“Maybe, like with Narcissa, if he gets used to us. But I don’t think we are prepared to handle Harry. Not with how far we live from his home.”
The rest of the meal is silent. Not even the children make noise as dessert is hastily eaten.
“You really should reconsider,” Dumbledore says as he ushers the Dursley’s out the door. Lucius and Narcissa have already left, Draco squishing one of the presents from Lupin to his chest. Severus makes a noncommittal noise in the back of his throat.
“Harry needs them.”
“Goodbye, Albus have a pleasant night.”
Feeling drained he leans against the closed door. So much for a good first Christmas for Harry.
He looks up, ready to tear into Lupin for the nickname when he sees Harry reaching out for him.
“Sevsevsevsev!” Harry chants, little hands opening and closing. There is a smile on his face that only grows when his ‘Sev’ takes him in his arms. Maybe it wasn’t as bad Severus feared.