This story picks up right where Building Doors left off. It covers the rest of Harry's third year, the summer, and fourth year, including the Tri-Wizard Tournament. It won't make sense if you dont' read Building Doors first. Note: the canon timeline for Sirius diverges from the norm in this story, but we haven't seen the last of padfoot.
* * *
Harry was on his third cup of hot coco when Severus rose and came to the kitchen to make coffee. He could have no way of knowing it wasn't Harry's first, but the bags under Harry's eyes made him give the boy a close looking over.
"Did you sleep at all?" he asked warily.
"Some," Harry said.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
Severus held in a sigh as he turned to start making breakfast. He often asked Harry if he wanted to talk about the things that were bothering him, though Harry rarely took up the offer. Severus wanted to know when his adopted son was having difficulties, but he wasn't going to force him to talk. He would rather the thirteen year old tell him because he wanted to. Severus couldn't say he didn't understand why Harry didn't talk much about his difficulties though, as Severus rarely told anyone about his own life.
In a few minutes Severus had eggs and bacon ready and had set a plate in front of Harry at the dining table in his dungeon quarters. Harry seemed to look better as he ate and was fully ready to face the day after a cup of tea Severus had brewed for him.
"If you would like some dreamless sleep, you only need ask," Severus reminded him as Harry rose to take his dishes to the sink.
"I know. I don't always know when I'm going to have a nightmare though."
After they had done the dishes, Severus asked if Harry had plans for the day. The term had ended two days ago and Christmas was in a week. Harry had moved back into the Dungeon quarters for the holidays.
"I was going to ask if I could work for a few days on the Alleys. I haven't heard from Basil or Bennet but I know they were hoping I'd work over the break."
"Will you be absconding across the countryside if allowed to go to Diagon by yourself?"
"No sir," Harry said sheepishly. It had only been a few weeks since he'd snuck out of the castle by Floo in the dead of night and convinced Bellamy's family to take him to his cabin, where the Headmaster had then had to come and find him.
"I will take you to Flourish And Blotts this morning and pick you up in the evening."
"I can go by myself if you're too busy."
"I am not. Get ready to go."
Harry went to his room and pulled on a warm, dark earthy blue hoodie and put his shoes on and came back out. Then he and Severus walked up to the staff lounge behind the staff table in the Great Hall to use the Floo, and floo'd directly to the upstairs office of Flourish and Blotts. They'd given Harry permission to use their Floo when coming and going for work, and he hoped they wouldn't mind that he and Snape had come unannounced.
Bennet was at the desk doing paperwork when Harry came out of the Floo, followed by Severus a moment later.
"Harry, we wondered if we'd be seeing you," he greeted warmly. Harry had always gotten along with Basil, one of the two brothers that ran Flourish And Blott's, but it had taken Bennet a long time to warm up to him. Harry was glad Bennet didn't act so coldly towards him anymore though.
"Do you need me to work for a few days for the Christmas rush?" Harry asked hopefully.
"Yes, it's not too busy right now because it's early, but in an hour Basil will have his hands full at the till. Go downstairs and he'll put you to work restocking the Quidditch section."
"Ok," Harry said. He made for the steep spiral stairs that led to the first floor and the shop, but was stopped by his father.
"What time will you be done today?"
Harry turned to look at him, and then to Bennet.
"Five should be good," Bennet said. "We'll feed him lunch."
Severus nodded and turned back to Harry. "I will collect you at five."
Harry smiled at him and gave him a nod and then hurried down the stairs and out of sight, though they could hear Basil greeting him happily and asking if he was there to work. Before Severus turned to go back through the Floo, he said, "Unless he is running errands for you, I would prefer he not go out on the Alley's."
"Is this about him taking off the other day?" When Harry had disappeared from school, Severus had accosted every person Harry had frequent contact with on the Alleys for information about where he might have gone. That was clearly still fresh in Bennet's memory.
"Are you aware of the recent change in his guardianship?" Severus hadn't seen the information that he'd adopted Harry and that Albus had adopted him in the paper's yet. In this way Albus had become Harry's adopted grandfather and Severus his father. But because three prominent families had merged, he was certain the word had gotten around.
"You adopted him," Bennet acknowledged.
"As his new guardian I would rather he not be wandering the alleys by himself unless you have a specific task for him to do. I have told him this as well."
"We probably won't send him out today," Bennet said. "He's been living on his own for a long time though, and it's not my place to hold him here if he wants to leave."
Severus wanted to growl something unfriendly at the thirty something man, but knew he was right. "I will be back to collect him at five." He threw a handful of floo powder into the fireplace and stepped into it, disappearing in a green flash. Bennet shook his head and wondered how Harry and Snape were managing when Harry was so independent, and Snape clearly didn't want him to be.
* * *
Harry spent the day stocking shelves, washing windows, and helping Bennet fill out order forms. Bennet wanted Harry's opinion on books kids at Hogwarts might like to read, and Harry was able to pick out over a dozen that they ended up ordering. They ordered carry out for lunch, which Basil went to get and bring back to the shop, and then Snape returned at five on the nose as promised to retrieve Harry.
"See you tomorrow Harry?" Basil asked cheerily.
"Yup," Harry said. "I wanted to look at the other list of books Bennet had that we didn't get to go over."
Harry turned to Snape to go back through the Floo, but it seemed he had other ideas. "We are going out to Muggle London."
"Oh," Harry said. Maybe Snape wanted to go to that tea shop McGonagall liked. Harry waved to Basil and Bennet and left through the door out onto Knockturn with Snape.
"What are we doing in London?"
"We have some shopping to do."
"Oh. I don't have any Muggle money on me. Can we stop at Gringotts first?"
"That will not be necessary," he said.
They went in the door to Double Lane Clothing, and then out the other door onto the Muggle street. It was getting dark and cold, but there were still a lot of people out doing their shopping.
Severus hailed a black cab and had it take them to Carnaby, a shopping district the Muggle's seemed to like as it was busy when they arrived.
"You're in need of more warm clothing," Severus told Harry after he'd paid for the cab and it had driven off.
"Oh, I think I have enough," Harry said, looking down at his favorite hoodie. He wore it all the time now that the weather had grown cold and there was a foot of snow at Hogwarts and the weather was chilly and rainy in London.
"Regardless, we will be getting some more items. Since you are staying in the room in our quarters more often now, you should also have some things to make the room your own."
"Sir, you don't have to spend any money on me. I can pay you back."
"It's not needed."
Severus steered Harry into a young men's clothing shop and told Harry to get comfortable pants, pajamas, and hoodies. When Harry asked him how many, Severus told him to start picking things out and he would tell him when to stop.
Feeling a little awkward, Harry went to one of many racks of hoodies and began looking through them. He found a deep red one that reminded him of Gryffindor and pulled it off the hanger. There was also a sage green one he liked that he picked out. He thought two was more than enough given he also had one he was wearing right now, but the Potions Master only gave him a look that said, ‘continue'.
"Sir, two is enough isn't it?"
"How many items of clothing did you ruin over the term in Potions class and Defense?"
"Probably." He'd spilled a potion on one of his new shirts and burned a hole through one set of robes. In Defense he'd ripped a pair of jeans when he'd fallen during a duel with Neville, and somehow he'd caught the sleeve of a sweater on something sharp in the common room and ripped it.
"Then it seems you are in need of new clothing."
"But-" Harry turned back to the racks of sweatshirts. "I don't see any more I like," he tried, hoping the man wouldn't think he was being picky. If there were no more he liked, then Snape couldn't possibly force him to get more, could he?
"That is fine. We are going to more stores."
Harry held in a sigh and wondered if he could get away with only picking a few pairs of pants before they left. The problem was, this store had a lot of comfortable pairs of joggers that Harry really wanted. He had jeans and slacks and khaki pants he wore in the day time, but only had one pair of comfortable pants to wear when he was in the dorms or not planning on going out for the day.
"Are there none you like?" Severus asked when Harry hadn't picked any out a minute later and was just staring at the shelves of pants.
"I, erm, like them all."
"Pick five pairs."
Harry flashed him a grin despite that he felt uncomfortable being told to get new clothes when he'd just gotten new clothes at the start of the school year a few months prior, and set to work finding five pairs he liked. There was a soft black fleece pair he planned on sleeping in, and two dark gray pairs of the softest sweatpants he'd ever seen. He also ended up with a light gray pair and a soft maroon pair that nearly matched the hoodie he'd picked out.
Severus paid a hundred and fifty pounds for the purchase and then they went into another clothing store nearby. This one seemed to only sell outerwear and Severus had Harry pick out a pair of gloves and two winter caps to keep his head and ears warm. The Headmaster had just given Harry a soft pair of warm black gloves days ago along with a very expensive looking coat that made Harry feel like he belonged in the business world, but the things he was getting here were perfect for everyday use.
They stopped at a fast food restaurant at six and had dinner, and then his father took him to a store that sold home goods like bedding and rugs. In short order Severus had Harry pick out a dark gray rug that would fit in his dungeon bedroom and a new blanket and pillow. The blanket was dark red squares with light gray squares, and was heavy and soft.
Instead of taking a cab back to Diagon Alley, they found an alley that was empty and apparated back to the school gates. Nightmare fresh on his mind from the night before of his Patronus failing to protect him, Harry moved to be close to Severus as they passed through the gates and past the Dementors.
Severus looked down at the boy with surprise when he found him pressed up against his side, but didn't say anything about it. When they were well up the drive and the Dementors were out of sight, Harry moved to give him some space and said, "Sorry sir, I didn't mean to bump into you."
"I did not notice," Severus lied. The boy had a full Patronus now, but was still scared of the Dementors. It was no wonder with the horrors they made the boy re-live whenever they came near. Severus was more than happy to provide his adopted son with the feeling of protection if that's what he needed.
* * *
Over the next few days Harry fell into a comfortable routine of going to work at Flourish And Blotts in the morning and coming back to the castle in the evening. Severus took him to work through the Floo and retrieved him each time. Harry wondered if he was only doing it to ensure Harry wasn't running away again, but found he didn't mind too much. After Dumbledore had found him and brought him back, his new father and grandfather had had a long talk with him about accountability. They were all accountable to each other for their actions, which Harry found to be completely new to him. He understood what it meant to be responsible for your actions, but being accountable to others was new. They had said they would be accountable to him as well, but Harry wasn't sure how well that sentiment would hold up if they ever did something he didn't approve of. The Dursleys had been accountable to no one. Even Dudey was never held responsible for his actions, which were usually blamed on Harry. There had been no one to stop them from locking him in the cupboard under the stairs, withholding food from him, or punishing him however they saw fit.
Harry didn't think Snape would hit him, but he wondered if he ever did if Dumbledore would do or say something about it. Harry's main worry wasn't being punished, but rather being sent back to the Dursleys if he stepped too far out of line. If Dumbledore decided to send him back, would Snape allow it? He wanted to know, but didn't want to find out at the same time.
Each evening after they returned from Diagon Alley, they either went to Dumbledore's quarters for dinner, or he came down to the Dungeon to have dinner with them. Once they'd eaten together in the Great Hall at the end of Ravenclaw table, where the staff had been eating since most of the students had gone home. There were only about 10 students left in the castle for Christmas this year, including Harry, so everyone had moved to Ravenclaw table for meals. Generally the teachers sat at the end of the table nearest the staff table, and students sat further down towards the middle of the table, but Harry had been invited to sit by Dumbledore and Snape. While he'd felt awkward spending so much time at meals with the two of them at first, it had now become his favorite part of the day: coming home to his family.
* * *
Two days before Christmas, Dumbledore found Harry before he disappeared to the alley's for the day. Harry was having breakfast in the Great Hall by himself this morning, and was reading a new book he'd earned by working at Flourish And Blotts.
"Good morning dear boy," Albus greeted him. "What are you reading?" Harry closed the book and handed it to him. "Business Ventures Through The Ages," he read the title aloud.
"I got it for working this week. Bennet ordered it for me. I got to pick a book out too."
"A good one I hope?"
"The Compendium Of Quidditch. It's huge. It's a big encyclopedia of Quidditch history and great matches and tournaments that have happened in the past. It also has the history of a lot of moves we use today and has a section on broom making."
"Very interesting. Perhaps you could show it to me when you're not busy. Do you have plans today?"
Harry shook his head. "Basil and Bennet are traveling for Christmas and closed up the shop last night. They won't be back until New Years. They're going across the pond to talk to a book dealer there. I told them to look for good books I can sell here."
"Already planning for the next bazaar?"
"I was thinking maybe I could sell some things myself if that's allowed."
"As it so happens, it is allowed. Small student enterprises have often given birth to successful businesses after students leave school and teach students valuable lessons. I believe currently there are a few older Slytherins who sell hair and skin products, and a Ravenclaw or two who do extra tutoring on weekends for a small fee."
"Do I have to get a business license?" Harry asked. He didn't want to be fined by the Ministry Office Of Business Affairs yet again. He'd been fined thousands of Galleons in the last month before his barrister Harrison Silver had been able to get a moratorium on the fines while they waited for a court date to sort out the unlawful fines.
"You need only have approval from a Head of House or the Headmaster, which you will have so long as I can look over the products you plan to sell or the services you plan to offer."
"I'm going to have to make a list," Harry said. He'd heard of the Ravenclaws who tutored, but hadn't realized there were students selling products. Maybe it was just because the Slytherins didn't like Gryffindors and didn't want to sell to them.
After the headmaster had had his breakfast and Harry had gone back to reading his book, he looked up to Harry and said, "If you're willing to go with me, I'd like to make a trip to do some shopping."
Harry lowered his book and said, "Is it for clothing sir?"
"Are you in need of any clothing in particular?"
"No," Harry said emphatically. "Professor Snape... I mean, my dad took me and I have too many clothes to fit in my wardrobe now. I'm going to have to leave some in my room in the dungeons when school starts again."
Albus chuckled. "I was thinking perhaps of some last minute Christmas shopping and a trip to the tea shop on Knocturn."
Harry was all for a trip to the tea shop. It was his favorite place on Knocturn aside from Peverell's orphanage.
"I'd like that sir," he said.
"You seem to be well dressed for the weather," Albus observed. Harry had on a comfortable pair of his soft black joggers and his maroon hoodie. "Unless there's something you wish to retrieve before we leave, we can go now."
"I'm ready," Harry said. "When we get to the Alleys could I make a trip to Gringotts though?"
They used the Floo in the staff room to get to the Leaky Cauldron and Harry noted the password was different than it had been the day before. It seemed Snape had been true to his word and was having the password to the staff room Floo changed often so Harry couldn't sneak off again.
After Harry had pulled out some money and exchanged some for Muggle notes, they wandered down Diagon, which was full of Christmas shoppers.
"Is there anything you're running short on?" Albus asked. "School supplies for instance?"
"I need to get down Knockturn to Magic Mart," Harry said. "I wanted to buy some things for my friends and some more notebooks for myself. Professor Sn- dad won't let me out on my own anymore so when I go to Flourish And Blotts I have to stay there for the day."
"I see," Albus said. "Perhaps in time you can regain some of the trust that was given before. Severus can be hard to win over, as you know, but once he gives you his trust again you'll have it without question."
"I won't run off again."
Albus only nodded and gave him a small smile. He didn't look certain of Harry's words, but seemed not to want to say anything about it. Harry really wanted their trust back. He liked being able to go up and down the alley's on his own during breaks from school. As he got older he hoped to be allowed to go out into Muggle London on his own as well.
They went into Madam Malkins and Dumbledore picked up a soft red scarf with gold flecks he had ordered by owl.
"That will look nice on you sir," Harry said as he paid for the scarf.
"Do you think so?" Albus asked, holding it up to himself. "I've never considered wearing lady's items before."
Harry froze and looked up at him. Albus was smiling down at him.
"I didn't realize sir. I didn't mean anything by it."
Albus waved his apology away and showed him a clasp at the end of the scarf. "This is what makes it a women's scarf. Men's scarves in the wizarding world have a button and a hole to put the button through to keep it tightly around the neck. Women's scarves have a decorative metal clasp."
Harry looked closely and saw it was a cat clasp.
"For Professor McGonagall," Harry realized. The scarf was red with gold flecks, and together with the silver cat clasp it made it perfect for the head of Gryffindor house.
Albus smiled at him. "Once we stop at the apothecary I'll be able to pick up Severus' gift."
As they left Madam Malkin's and headed down the alley towards the apothecary, Harry thought about the scarf and about the gifts he would buy his friends. He hadn't considered buying gifts for his new adoptive father and grandfather. He'd never bought or made gifts for adults before. Before Hogwarts and meeting Ron, Hermione and Ginny, Harry had never given a gift to anyone before.
"Sir?" Harry asked before they made it to the apothecary.
"I've never bought gifts for adults before. I don't know what to get Professor Snape."
"As it so happens, I ordered in several rare potions ingredients I know he's had his eye on for a long time. Would you like to give them to him?"
"Oh, no sir, I mean, those are your gifts, I couldn't."
"You can give him some of them, and I can give him the rest then. Is that fair?"
"Thank you," Harry said gratefully. He had lived with Snape over part of the summer and stayed in his quarters several times during the term and now again for the holidays, but he was often still a mystery to Harry. Sometimes Harry looked at him and thought to himself how much of a stranger the man was even though he'd adopted him, because he knew very little about him. Dumbledore felt like a mystery to Harry too, because Harry still wasn't used to the adults in his life wanting to hear what he thought about things or wanting to spend time with him, but he had learned quite a bit about Dumbledore in the time they'd spent together over the summer and term. Where Dumbledore liked to tell Harry stories about adventures he'd had in the past and about his favorite sweets, colors he liked, and about his favorite pair of socks, Snape was usually silent.
Harry paid ten Galleons at the apothecary for Brazer Spice, a potion ingredient he'd never heard of, and Dumbledore paid forty Galleons for two other ingredients they were going to give to Snape for Christmas, and then they went to Knocturn to go to Magic Mart.
While Magic Mart didn't sell many fine stationery items in their stationary section, they had a lot of fun items Harry knew his friends would like, as well as shelves of Muggle school supplies like notebooks full of lined paper.
Harry picked up a large notebook with 200 lined pages and a picture of a unicorn on the front for Hermione along with a bottle of reddish purple ink, Hermione's favorite color, and a pack of a thousand sticky notes in rainbow colors. He had seen her using them before and she often lamented that she never had enough to last her through the term with the huge amounts of notes she took.
For Ron Harry bought a bottle of dark orange ink the color of the Cannon's uniforms, and two black lined notebooks. He also picked up a package with several large Chudley Cannon's stickers and was planning on putting them on the front of the notebooks before he gave them to his friend for Christmas.
On an endcap in one of the stationary aisles Harry found Muggle notebooks with lined paper that had the four house crests on them and bought one for Ginny with the Gryffindor lion and a bottle of color shifting ink that changed from red to gold as you wrote.
Harry picked up a few things for his other friends like a sack of various flavors of blood pops Munro was now carrying and being fined by the Ministry for. He was planning on sending the blood pops to Bellamy with a book he'd purchased from Flourish And Blotts earlier in the week. He also bought a fine fountain pen and bottle of expensive ink for Justin. Most of the things Justin had were used or cheap since he lived in the orphanage, and Harry had a feeling he would appreciate a really nice pen and ink.
Albus browsed through the rest of the store while Harry was in the stationary aisle, but came back and found him staring at a stack of muggle lined notebooks.
"Have they done something to you?" Albus asked at the intense look Harry was giving them.
Harry looked up at him and grinned sheepishly. "I know something I'm going to sell at school is all," Harry said, turning away from the notebooks but giving them one last look as they left the aisle. Harry was certain he could get those notebooks cheaper out in the Muggle world. He could buy stacks of them for hardly anything at all and then customize them himself. The only issue was that Harry wasn't that interested in making products to sell. Maybe Justin would be interested. Harry wanted to sell things and be involved in the behind the scenes aspects of the business, but not in the creation of the products.
Harry paid 19 Sickles for his items and then they went to Exotic Tea across the small plaza from Magic Mart and had cups of steaming hot tea. When they were nearly done, Harry said, "Sir? Could I stay behind for a minute to talk to the owner? Alone? I promise it will only be a minute."
Albus let his eyes roam to the woman behind the counter and then around the little cafe to see who else was there. When he was satisfied he nodded and told Harry he would wait outside, but asked him to be quick since it was cold out and starting to snow. Harry wondered what he had been looking for and hurried to the tea counter.
"I want to buy one dry serving of every kind of lemon tea you have," he said. "And do you have anything ridiculously sweet?"
The woman smiled and said, "I have a tea that tastes like a jelly donut. It's brand new."
She packaged sixteen tea bags, each a different flavor of tea, and Harry paid for his purchase and hurried outside.
"That was quick," Albus said, smiling down at him. Harry had only taken a few minutes and now had his purchase for the Headmaster tucked away in brown paper tied with twine. "Are you ready to return to the castle?"
Harry nodded and Albus held out his arm. Harry only looked at it and bit his lip though. "Is there a problem?" Albus asked gently. Harry had never had an issue taking his arm to apparate before.
"No sir," Harry said, though his voice was tight.
Albus considered him quietly and said, "Harry, I would like to know what you're thinking, whatever it is."
"I don't want to be a bother sir." Harry looked up at him and reached for his arm, but when he saw Albus was willing to wait him out patiently, Harry fidgeted and looked down into the snow at their footprints. "Could we maybe take the Floo from the Leaky Cauldron instead?"
"I don't see a problem with that, or that it would be a bother. Is there a reason you would prefer to take the Floo back?"
Harry mumbled something and when Albus didn't respond, Harry said louder, "The Dementors."
"Let us head to the Leaky Cauldron then."
They didn't talk on their way back down Knocturn and Diagon, though when they got back to the castle Albus asked if Harry would like to come up to his quarters to have tea and to wrap Severus' present. Harry agreed and told the Headmaster he'd be up in a minute after he retrieved his new Quidditch Compendium to show him from their dungeon quarters. Going back to the dungeons first would also give him time to put the bag with the Headmaster's gift of tea away until he could wrap it and his friends' gifts later.
Ten minutes later and Harry had carried his heavy book up to the Headmaster's office, given the gargoyle a random password since Harry was keyed in and any password would grant him entrance, and found the Headmaster in his living room, a fresh pot of tea on the coffee table.
"Will Severus be joining us?" Albus asked.
"He wasn't in the quarters. I think he said this morning that he was spending the day in his office grading end of term tests."
"Ah yes. End of term grades are due tomorrow morning. I find it best that the staff get their work done before Christmas eve so they can spend the rest of the holiday relaxing. Have you finished your homework for the term?"
"Mostly," Harry said. "I just have a few more questions to answer for Care of Magical Creatures."
"Perhaps you should do so this evening before bed then so you can enjoy the holiday too."
"I will sir."
Harry poured himself a cup of tea. It was some sort of fruity variety he hadn't had before. It made his taste buds dance for a moment before ending in a bitter taste and it took him several sips to determine that he did like it, though not as much as the licorice and peppermint tea he preferred.
Albus rose and went down the stairs to the lower part of his quarters which Harry assumed was a bedroom, and came back a few minutes later with two rolls of wrapping paper and spello-tape. He let Harry choose which paper to wrap his present to Snape in first, and then used the other paper to wrap his own gift to the Potions Master. When he was done he wrapped the scarf he'd purchased for Minerva.
"Now, about your new book," Albus said, and Harry came to sit next to him on the couch and opened it to the page he'd been reading the night before about how brooms and the charms that made them fly worked.
"Very interesting. Truly a resource for everything related to Quidditch," Albus commented after a few minutes of looking through the book and letting Harry tell him about some of the things he'd learned from reading it so far.
"If you don't have plans with Severus this evening, you're welcome to stay for dinner Harry. I'm going to brew another pot of tea and catch up on some of my own end of term work."
"Maybe I'll run back downstairs and get my homework then," Harry said.
"Where is it?"
"On my desk in the dungeons."
Albus held up a hand to stall him from rising to leave and called for a house elf. He asked it politely to retrieve Harry's Care of Magical Creatures homework and textbook from his desk in the bedroom in Snape's quarters, and the elf disappeared with a pop. It was back in less than a minute with Harry's homework and book.
"Thank you," Harry said to the elf, and the tiny house elf bowed and was gone with another pop.
Harry spent twenty minutes finishing the last of his holiday homework, and Albus retrieved several scrolls of parchment and a quill from his office and came back into the living room to settle in on the couch with his own work. When Harry was done with his homework he opened up his Quidditch Compendium and sat on the floor in front of the fire to read. This was how Severus found them at six when he came to Albus' office to hand in Potions grades for the end of the term: Harry on the floor unaware of what was going on around him because he was fully involved with his book, and Albus checking off several boxes on a piece of parchment and signing the bottom as he sat on the couch in the warm and cozy living area.
Severus didn't wait to be invited in and sat down in the comfortable chair by the fire, stack of parchment in hand with the grades for every student taking Potions.
"Hello Severus," Albus said warmly without looking up from his own work. He checked another box, wrote something down, and then set his parchment down to look up. Harry turned from where he was lying on his stomach on the floor to look at his Potions Master as well.
"Good evening. I have the end of term grades."
Albus held out his hand for the parchments, which Severus gave him, and set them down on his own stack of completed work on the coffee table.
"Tea?" Albus asked.
Severus held up a hand to decline the offer.
"Unless you have plans for dinner, I was planning on calling for dinner service in a few minutes," Albus said. Severus looked tired and nodded in agreement that he would stay for dinner.
Albus went back to the rest of his list and Severus looked down to Harry on the floor. "I trust you found something to keep yourself occupied today?"
"Yes sir," Harry said. "We went to the Alleys."
"I thought there was no work to be done today."
"We went shopping. I bought my friends some gifts." Harry said happily, though he paused then, bit his lip as he looked at the floor, and then looked back up at Severus. "I mean sir," he said, voice changed in an unsettling way, "I didn't ask him to waste time taking me. He was going already and I tagged along."
Severus noted that Albus had paused in his work and looked up at Harry. The child radiated nervous energy that hadn't been there moments before.
"Harry," Severus said quietly, "you are allowed to go out shopping and to enjoy yourself."
"I just meant, I didn't ask him to take me. I know he's busy."
Severus sighed and looked to Albus for help.
"I enjoy spending time with you Harry," Albus told him. "I had errands and wished to take you with me."
"Ok," Harry said quietly and looked back down to his book. He still looked nervous and though Albus and Severus shared a look, neither commented again about it. Albus put his work down and called an elf to bring up dinner for them, and a few moments later, diner appeared in the small dining area off the living room.
Albus and Severus struck up a conversation about end of term grades as they ate, which eventually turned to talk of Harry's end of term grades. He wasn't failing anything, and he had brought his Transfiguration grade up by a few points as Severus had advised Harry to try to do, but many of his other grades were still merely A for acceptable. An O, an E, and a handful of A's. Harry thought his grades were pretty good, but knew Snape and Dumbledore wanted him to do better. Just a few more points in Transfiguration and he could bring that A up to an E as well. He only hoped that would be enough to satisfy them.
"I believe in being rewarded for hard work," Severus said as Harry finished his dinner. "For the O in Defense and E in Charms I will take you to Honeydukes tomorrow before they close for Christmas Eve and let you pick out two items. If you can keep your good grades in Defense and Charms, and bring the A in Transfiguration up to an O by the end of the school year, I will plan a trip to a Quidditch match for the team of your choosing."
"If I get an O by the end of the year in Transfiguration?"
"Will you be mad if I can't?"
"No," Severus said, going back to finish the last few bites of his roast.
"Perhaps if you are struggling to bring your grade in Transfiguration up, you can come to one of us for help," Albus said. "I would be happy to look over your essays or help you practice. I taught transfiguration before I was the Headmaster. Severus and I would also be willing to help you with your other schoolwork."
"Won't other kids think I'm cheating? Getting extra help from you just because you're my guardians? Their parents aren't around during the term to help them."
"Any student may ask any teacher for help at any time," Severus said. "Many students receive extra help and tutoring throughout the year. And for those struggling with a certain subject, their parents help them during holidays and breaks from school, or hire tutors to give them extra lessons over the summer."
"I didn't realize," Harry said. Hermione always got good grades and never seemed to need help, and he couldn't imagine Ron's parents paying for a tutor for him, though maybe his parents helped him over the summer themselves. He had never thought to ask his friend something like that before.
"I think I can get that grade up," Harry said. "I'm just a few points from an E. If I get an O on my next paper I'll be up to an E."
The conversation turned back to other things again and after a few minutes Harry asked if he could be excused. He wanted to get back to the dungeons to wrap some of his gifts for his friends. Albus sent Harry away with what was left of the two rolls of wrapping paper and spello-tape and Severus told him he'd be along in a few minutes.
When Harry was gone and the mess from dinner sent back to the kitchens with a wave of Albus' wand, Albus looked at Severus across the dining table and said, "Today Harry asked not to be brought back to the castle via apparation. When I asked him why, he indicated the Dementors. I thought now that he has mastered the Patronus it would help ease his worries about them."
Severus sighed. "A few days ago when I took him shopping for winter clothes, we apparated back. When we passed through the gates he pressed himself up against me until we were well up the drive and halfway to the castle."
"I wish we could give him the sense of security and safety he deserves."
"A petition against the Minister to get the Dementors removed would go a long way towards that," Severus reminded him again.
Albus nodded. "The time must be right to do so."
Severus rose to leave and was about to bid Albus goodnight when Albus stopped him with a question. "What was that about earlier in the living room with Harry? Why did he appear to be nervous when he mentioned going to the Alley's with me?"
Severus shook his head. "I do not know and intend to find out as soon as I get back to the Dungeons."
"He seems happy, but it takes so little for him to grow nervous or timid," Albus lamented.
"It's only been a few months since the trial. He's still adjusting. It will take some time."
* * *
"Harry," Severus greeted when he got back to their quarters. Harry was in his room wrapping presents, sitting on his new soft rug that covered most of his stone bedroom floor.
"Sir. I know I'm not supposed to be out past curfew, but could I please go to the owlery to find Hedwig when I'm done wrapping these to send them off since Christmas Eve is tomorrow? I'm going to have to use some school owls too."
"You may, provided you come back when you are done and do not wander about the castle."
Harry grinned. "No trouble to get into now that you're changing the Floo password daily."
Severus sat in Harry's desk chair and gave him a consternated look. Instead of diving into questions about Harry's earlier behavior, he surveyed some of the items Harry had purchased for his friends. "What have you decided to give your friends this year for Christmas?"
Harry explained his gifts, including the ones that were already wrapped. He also told Severus about telling the Headmaster that a woman's scarf bought for Professor McGonagall looked nice on him. Severus smiled and gave a little laugh, which Harry found odd because the Potion's Master laughed so infrequently.
As Harry finished wrapping his last gift, Severus said, "I would like to know about the things you said in the Headmaster's quarters earlier.
"Sir? About my grades?"
"About spending time with him on the alleys."
"Oh." Harry seemed less anxious about it now, possibly because he was still focused on taping the last piece of wrapping paper to the last gift. "I just meant, I wasn't out wasting his time sir. I know he's busy and has things to do and that I'm not supposed to be taking up all his time."
"We will talk more about that in a moment. Why did you appear so unsettled when telling me this when I arrived in his quarters?"
"I didn't want to be in trouble."
"What would make you think you were in trouble when he had invited you to spend the day out with him?"
Harry fidgeted with his fingers again, trying to delay having to answer. Was it a trick question? Harry knew his adoptive father didn't want him wasting the Headmaster's time. Uncle Vernon had loved asking Harry trick questions and then punishing him no matter what answer he gave.
"Harry, look at me."
Harry looked up and realized he was breathing heavily.
"It was not my intention to cause you anxiety by speaking to you about this."
"It's not you." It was, partially, but thinking about the Dursleys sometimes took him right back there, like he was reliving the moment despite that there were no Dementors nearby. After a few moments he was able to calm down a little and said, "I thought you said you didn't want me wasting his time."
Severus searched back through his memory for a conversation like that and couldn't remember one. "When did I say this?" he asked.
Harry shrugged. He was certain he'd told him that, and besides, Snape had been so annoyed during the summer any time Harry had spent time with the Headmaster, like he was just a chore the Headmaster was being forced to take care of when he had better things to do.
"I don't remember when exactly," Harry admitted. "But you didn't like it when I was going to do things with him."
Severus didn't have to search through his memory to know what the boy was referring to this time. He had been irritated with Harry after the trial and with Albus for catering to him. That was before he'd begun to see the truth to what Harry had told the court during the trial about how he'd been treated by his relatives. It was before he'd really started to look at Harry and the impact the trial had had on him. It was before he'd wanted to take care of Harry and protect him.
"What the Headmaster said is true, he enjoys spending time with you, as do I. Despite the poor way I acted towards you before the term started, I will never be upset about you spending time with him, or with me. You belong to us now, and we to you. Spending time together is something families are supposed to do and not something you will be in trouble for."
"It's hard not to feel like I'm in trouble all the time with you." He'd grown used to being around Snape, and seeking comfort from him even, but with the animosity they'd shared and the way Snape had treated him in his first and second year and even up to the start of the most recent term made it hard to relax. Sometimes Harry forgot and felt completely at ease, like he could manage slipping into the relationship of being the man's adopted son. And then other times like earlier that evening, he was reminded of the way Snape used to treat him. He was reminded of how the Dursleys had treated him. If he had seemed to be enjoying himself at all, he was in trouble. And he was always, always treated like a burden his relatives didn't have time for.
Severus cursed himself in his mind. He had treated the boy poorly since he'd known him. It must be so hard for the child to believe things were different than they had always been. Severus had been trying hard to not fly off the handle and to give the child the benefit of the doubt. For the last few months he'd felt like he was wearing kid gloves when dealing with Harry, because he was trying to foster a sense of security for him and get him out of survival mode. Apparently he'd been failing, and he didn't know where to go from here.
"I am sorry for the way I treated you before and am committed to not making the same mistake again. I realize that will take time for you to get used to. If I'm treating you in a way you feel is unfair, I want you to tell me. As I told you before, we are accountable to each other."
"Ok," Harry said quietly.
Severus helped Harry pack his gifts into an empty box so he could carry them up to the Owlery, and decided to go with him so other teachers wouldn't harass him about being out after curfew now that it was eight o'clock.
Harry used a large owl that was bigger than Hedwig to send off the two packages for Bellamy and Justin since they were both headed to practically the same location, used Hedwig to send his gifts to Ron and Ginny, and then found a smaller school owl to send the last gift off to Hermione. When he was done he leaned on the railing in the Owlery and stared out at the moonlit grounds in the chill night air for a few moments.
After that he and Severus headed back down through the castle. On their way Severus asked, "What are some of the interactions between us that cause you anxiety?"
"Erm, I dunno," Harry said.
"You mentioned frequently feeling like you are in trouble. If you can explain those instances that have made you feel that way since the term has started, I can understand better how to... modify my behavior. You should not have to feel anxiety over interactions with me."
Harry frowned, hands in the pockets of his warm hoodie to warm them up from having been out in the cold air of the Owlery. "When I was late coming back from work at Flourish And Blotts that night right before school started again," Harry said. "I was sure you were going to yell at me til' my ears bled."
"As I recall, you were not in trouble for that incident."
"I know, but I was surprised that I wasn't. When you weren't waiting up for me in the quarters to yell at me, I was sure you were going to the next morning." They were silent as they walked past the short corridor leading to Gryffindor and then continued down a short flight of stairs to the next landing and rounded a corner near the Charm's room. "And then when I'm not expecting to be in trouble," Harry said, "when I think things are ok, then I get in trouble after all. It makes me think I have to be in trouble over everything all the time."
"When did you believe you would not be in trouble and then were?"
"After the Quidditch Expo."
"Again, I apologize for my earlier behavior."
Harry looked up at him as they walked through the dimly lit corridors.
"I know I do stupid stuff sometimes, and sometimes I should be in trouble, like for running away. I don't like it when you yell at me though. I don't like shouting." He shuddered and forced himself not to think back to his uncle's red face as he yelled at Harry until he was hoarse.
"I will endeavor not to raise my voice when you are in trouble."
Harry had expected to be in much bigger trouble than he had been for running away. He had served a detention and had to do Saturday school for missing classes, but other than that Snape had made him sit down and have a couple of conversations and Dumbledore had made him write a letter to himself about what he wanted his near future to look like. He'd disappointed them, and had lost some of the freedom he'd had to go to the Alleys by himself during the holidays, but that was almost nothing. He'd expected to be in detention for weeks, to be yelled at and put down. That wasn't what had happened though. Maybe Snape was right. Maybe he really was sorry and had been trying to change how he reacted to Harry when Harry upset him. Harry couldn't actually remember a time since the term had started that he'd been shouted at by Snape or given unfair detentions or falsely accused of doing something he hadn't.
When they got back to the dungeon quarters a few minutes later, Severus asked if Harry would like some tea before bed. Harry declined and went to his room to think more on what had been said. It only led him to fall asleep thinking about his relatives though, and he woke an hour later breathing heavily and sweating from a nightmare about them. The hallway light came on outside his bedroom door and a moment later his door opened to reveal Snape.
"Are you all right?" he asked.
"Yeah, I think so," Harry said, though his voice shook.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
Harry was quiet as he shivered in the darkness, cold now that the blankets had been thrown off of him.
"Could we have that tea now?" Harry asked, expecting the answer to be no. Severus pushed the door open the rest of the way and beckoned Harry to come to the kitchen. He made Harry a cup of peppermint tea and sat across the table from him. Harry sat warming his hands on the tea cup and staring into it rather than drinking it.
After several minutes of staring into his tea Harry said, "You remember in my second year, when I came back after summer break, and in class you told me to sit still or you'd stick me to my stool?"
Severus thought back and found the memory, though it was faint. He had interactions like that with students every day, and couldn't remember them all. "Yes."
"I couldn't sit still because the stool was hard and I was covered in bruises on my back and legs. It hurt to sit. I was dreaming about that... the week before I came back for my second year... right before Ron and his brothers rescued me from my relatives."
Severus didn't know what to say to him. He knew the boy had received a beating in the summer after his third year, because the photos his barrister had taken had been shown during the trial. He didn't know what to say to Harry about the abuse though. What would Severus have wanted someone to say to him when he'd come back to school covered in bruises as a student? He didn't know.
Instead of saying anything, he moved to another chair at the table, this one closer to Harry and said, "You are no longer there and they cannot hurt you. You are here with me, and I will not let that happen to you ever again."
"I know," Harry said quietly. "I just wanted to sit out here with you for a while so I could remember."
Severus' chest hurt for Harry and what he'd been through, but at the same time felt warmed by his adoptive son's confession. He felt safe with Severus. The feeling of safety was something Severus had been working so hard towards giving him.
"Would you like me to warm your tea, or would you like to return to bed?"
Harry rubbed his eye and shivered again in the cold air since he'd taken his hoodie off before bed. "I think I'll go back to bed. I kind of want to be awake on Christmas eve."
"I will see you in the morning then."
Harry bade him goodnight and then disappeared down the short hall and into his room.
Severus sat at the table for a few more moments by himself. This was something he'd done for the boy. Something he'd been able to give him that the child had sorely been lacking. Severus had never felt quite like this before... he'd never felt so good about something he'd done. Then again, Severus wasn't used to doing things like this for people. He wanted to give Harry everything he'd been missing before the trial, and was determined he would.
* * *
Harry wasn't well rested the next morning, but had gotten enough sleep to make it through the day. He'd never spent Christmas with a family of his own before, and wanted to savor every moment of today and tomorrow, even if they had no plans other than exchanging gifts on Christmas morning.
When Harry dressed and put on a warm pair of socks to head into the living room, he was surprised to find a small tree near the fire. It wasn't decorated with ornaments, but it had white lights on it and made the dungeon living room feel bright and cheerful. There was also a green garland across the fireplace mantle. Snape was in the kitchen making coffee.
"Good morning sir," Harry said.
"Good morning. We are having breakfast in the Great Hall this morning. Albus wants to spend the day together but needs to have at least one meal in the Great Hall today." It had been explained to Harry before that the Headmaster needed to be seen eating with students and staff as frequently as possible. All of the teachers were supposed to take the majority of their meals in the Great Hall, though they were given leeway to have a certain number of meals in private each week.
"Are we doing anything today?" Harry asked.
"I suggest you take a book or two with us to the Great Hall. After breakfast we will be going to the Headmaster's quarters to spend the day. I will be taking a book myself."
Harry nodded and went back to his room to get his new Quidditch book. He wished he had a novel to read, but he hadn't been to the library yet over the break to get one. Since he had spent Christmas by himself last year at the castle he had checked out several novels to keep his mind occupied and found that he enjoyed reading novels when he had the time.
Before they left for the Great Hall, Harry said, "Sir, is it ok if I skip breakfast?"
"Is there a reason why?"
"I'd like to get a novel from the library."
"Come to breakfast and then you may go to the library. You are not required to spend the entire day with us and are allowed to check out books."
Harry found that there wasn't a spot saved for him next to the Headmaster this morning, but he didn't mind. Dumbledore seemed to be involved in a serious discussion with Hagrid and McGonagall about the Dementors, and as soon as Snape sat down next to them he joined in. Instead Harry moved down the table a ways to sit with a group of older Ravenclaws who had stayed at the castle over the break to study for OWLs and NEWTs. He was soon involved in a conversation about the magic behind broom flight and about the new test brooms he'd donated to the school at the start of the school year.
Harry finished breakfast and then headed to the library, most of the staff including Snape and Dumbledore still deep in discussion at the end of the table.
In the library Harry found two novels that looked interesting and checked them both out. One was about a mage that had never had formal education who fought dark magical creatures and saved unsuspecting Muggles from close calls with death. The other was about a girl his age who had been kicked out of a magical school in America because she'd battled a demon and ended up burning down part of the school in the process. A thought struck Harry as he browsed the rows and rows of novels, that none of them were about Fae.
"Madam Pince?" Harry asked, the books he wanted to read in hand.
"Yes Mr. Potter?"
"Are there any novels about Fae like these ones?" He held his choices out to show her.
"I'm afraid not, at least not here."
"Are there novels about Fae at all?"
She pursed her lips. "None that you'll like I'm afraid. They're all about witches and wizards saving villages from hordes of vampires, or rogue werewolves."
"Do you think there are books out there somewhere where Fae are the heroes?"
"There are," she said. "Most of them are from other countries.
"Why don't we have any?" He already knew the answer though.
She looked thoughtful. "Every year we purchase a few new books. I suppose I've never had a request for those so I've never looked into getting any of them. I'll see if I can find some though."
Harry smiled at her as she took the two books he'd picked out and marked their titles next to his name on her list of books that were checked out.
A few minutes later, Harry made it to the Headmaster's office. He gave the gargoyle guarding the entrance a thoughtful look and said, "Christmas pixies." It hopped aside and he stepped onto the moving staircase with a smile. He had fun giving it random words since anything he said would grant him entrance.
As he neared the top of the staircase, he heard voices in the Headmaster's office, indicating he had finished with breakfast. Usually he opened the door and walked in, but he didn't want to interrupt a meeting if there were other teachers in there so he knocked.
"Come in Harry," came the Headmaster's voice.
Lupin, McGonagall and Madam Hooch were standing in front of the Headmaster's desk.
"Sorry sir, I didn't mean to interrupt."
"No need to apologize. Severus is making tea in the kitchen," he said, indicating the door to his quarters, and Harry smiled at him and moved across the office and then into the Headmaster's living quarters, shutting the door gently behind him.
It seemed Severus had finished making tea and was sitting in the comfortable chair by the fire in the living room reading a Potion's Journal. The Headmaster had a tree about as tall as Harry by the fire, flocked in white with colorful lights and many colors of ornaments.
"Did you find anything good?" Severus asked as Harry sat down on the couch and set his books on the coffee table.
"Yes sir, a couple good novels. I want to find some with Fae as the heroes though. Madam Pince said all the novels with Fae were about wizards killing them and chasing them off."
"I would imagine there is a shortage of that kind of heroic story."
Harry settled in to read. The Headmaster didn't come in for almost an hour, but when he finally did he retrieved a book it looked like he was in the middle of and sat on the couch next to Harry, who was two chapters in.
Harry enjoyed sitting quietly with his guardians and reading. It was like the many times he'd gone to Snape's quarters after rough Patronus lessons with Lupin and just sat by the fire across from the usually silent man. He'd been allowed time to just think and still be with someone else when he didn't want to be alone. This was similar.
Harry wasn't all alone for Christmas this year. It felt completely different than sitting by himself in the empty common room of Gryffindor reading while he knew his friends were off spending time with their families. He remembered his aunt, uncle and cousin spending time together watching the telly. Uncle Vernon sat in his chair, making comments about the news or whatever show they were watching, and Dudley sat on the couch next to Aunt Petunia, laughing at whatever was on. Aunt Petunia never said much or laughed at the telly, but Harry supposed she was happy enough spending time with her family. Harry had always watched from his cupboard in the entryway, though he saw more of his family's backs than the telly.
"Is it a good adventure?" Albus asked about his book after an hour, and Harry looked up and nodded.
"Would you like to play a game?"
"A game sir?"
"A board game. Although if you are right in the middle of an intense adventure, I won't mind if you say no."
"I'll play," Harry said. "I don't have any games to bring up here though."
"Oh, I think you might," he said, looking up at Severus and giving him a small wink. Albus rose and went to the small personal office off of the living room, and came back to the couch a moment later with a gift wrapped in red paper with golden snitches. He handed it to Harry who took it uncertainly.
"For me sir? But it's not Christmas yet."
"In my family, it was always tradition for each child to open one gift on Christmas Eve."
"Really?" Harry asked. He'd never been able to participate in Christmas traditions before. He turned to the gift and pulled the paper off, revealing a handsome wooden box with an H carved into the front. The lid had an opening running down the center, and hinges on two opposing sides of the square box, so that when Harry opened the lid it hinged out at both sides, splitting in the middle and revealing the interior. The inside was split into four wooden compartments. One held gobstones, one held checkers, one held a set of frosted glass chess pieces, white and light blue, and the last held a deck of Fire And Ice Bane cards. Harry had seen the kids in the common room playing Fire And Ice Bane, but he'd never been asked to join in, and Harry instead spent his time playing chess with Ron or gobstones with the other boys in the dorm.
"What game is this sir?" Harry asked, wondering what kind of game used all of these pieces.
"Lift the top section of the box out," Albus said, and Harry lifted up on the box. The part of the box holding the playing pieces lifted away and revealed a chess and checkers board, which Harry lifted out of the box as well and unfolded to reveal a full playing board.
"Wow," Harry said, impressed.
"Look on the outside of the box at the very bottom," Albus said, pointing, and Harry tilted the box to look and found a notch in the side big enough to fit his finger. He put his finger in the notch and pulled, and a carved gobstone board pulled out from inside of the box.
"It's great!" Harry said.
The entire box was a one foot by one foot square. It was the perfect size to hold all of these games, but small enough for Harry to carry to the common room under his arm to play with friends.
"Which game would you like to play first?" Albus asked.
"Could you show me how to play Fire And Ice Bane?"
Albus nodded and Harry pulled out the cards. He was surprised when Severus pulled his chair forward towards the coffee table to play as well.
"The goal is simple," said Albus. "It's like a magic duel. Each card holds a fictional fire or ice based spell. The card will tell you what the name of the spell is, what you have to do in order to cast the spell by playing the card, and how much damage it will do. Some of the cards affect everyone, including the caster, and others can be cast at a specific person. We each start with 20 points. When you deal damage with a spell to one your opponents, they lose however many points the card says. Some of the spells are protection spells that can stop your opponent's spell from taking your points.
Harry looked through some of the cards. Fire cards had a red border, and ice cards had an icy blue border. They were as the headmaster described, and each had a colorful drawing of what the spell looked like or what it's effects were.
"Up to four can play," Severus said. "If more are going to play a second deck must be added of other types of magic, such as Earth And Water, Or Wind And Sky.
Severus showed Harry a spell to shuffle the deck, then Harry dealt ten cards to each of them and they began to play. Harry picked the game up quickly, and almost won, though in the end it came down to an intense battle between Snape and Dumbledore. Snape won with a satisfied smirk and took the deck to shuffle again. The game was fast paced and they played two more rounds before the Headmaster had the elves deliver lunch.
After lunch Snape went back to reading while Harry and Dumbledore played checkers. Harry was interested to find out that wizarding checkers was different than Muggle checkers and had different rules. In wizard checkers the black and red pieces changed colors, some colors allowing special movement of the pieces, and sometimes the pieces stuck themselves to the board. Some of the squares on the board were traps that held certain pieces in place if your opponent jumped or moved in a certain way, preventing you from moving certain pieces until two turns had passed.
Around four Professor McGonagall came up to talk to the Headmaster about something in his office, so Severus played chess with Harry, followed by another round of Fire And Ice.
The Headmaster hadn't come back by the time dinner rolled around, so Severus ordered dinner and put a warming charm on Dumbledore's plate.
"Are you sure he's coming back sir?" Harry asked. "He might have gone to dinner in the Great Hall."
"Most likely there was an issue with a student that needed to be dealt with. He will return when he can."
"Do you think everything's all right?"
"Yes," Snape said. He had no Slytherins staying in the castle for Christmas that year, so he didn't have to worry about being available and around the Dungeons as often as he normally would. "If a student is seriously injured or ill, has done something that would warrant more than a regular detention, or needed to go home before the break ended, it would require his attention. He is normally very-" he paused, re-thought what he was going to say and said instead, "there are some things he is required as Headmaster to oversee. It could also be that Minerva needed him to sign paperwork or that there was an issue with the castle that he needed to make a decision about."
"He's busy," Harry said.
Severus looked up from his food and gave Harry a serious look. "Not so busy that he can't spend time with his grandchild."
Harry looked down at his plate and couldn't keep a little smile from coming over his face. He didn't think it would ever get old, hearing someone say that he had a father or grandfather. He had still been trying to work up the nerve to call Dumbledore grandpa to his face. He was working on calling Snape dad too, but wasn't sure how much Snape would like that. For now he had settled on trying to remember to say Snape was his dad instead of his professor when talking to people that knew he'd been adopted.
Just as Snape had said, a few minutes later Dumbledore returned and sat down at the table. He didn't even mention whatever he had been called away to deal with, so Harry reasoned it couldn't have been too important. He supposed that even on holidays the Headmaster would have to be on call to deal with important issues so long as there were students staying in the castle.
"Sir?" Harry asked. But both men looked up to see if he was talking to them.
"Erm, grandpa I mean," Harry said, face heating up. Dumbledore stared at Harry for a moment and then smiled.
"Did you have to go help a student?"
"As a matter of fact I did. A student returned early."
Harry frowned. "Are they ok? Are they sad to have to come back early?"
Albus gave a serious look up to Severus and then said to Harry," there was an issue at home. The student is resting comfortably in the Hospital Wing."
"But they'll be ok?"
"Yes. I suspect he's eating dinner and preparing to settle in for the night."
After they ate, Harry went back to the couch to read. He strained his ears to listen through the open door to the office where the two men had gone to talk privately.
"Is it one of mine?"
"What are the nature of his injuries?"
Harry didn't hear the answer, but he did hear Severus say, "I will go and speak to him."
"He specifically asked for you not to be interrupted," Albus said. "He was not interested in speaking to me or Poppy either."
They spoke for a few more minutes in low tones Harry couldn't make out, and then came back into the room.
"I finished this book," Harry said. "I know I have another to read, but I'd really like to go get the second book in this series to start tonight. Can I go to the Library for a little while and come back, or will it be too late?"
"Of course," Dumbledore said.
"Thanks. I'll be back."
Harry took his half finished book and left, hoping neither man would notice he'd also taken his deck of Fire And Ice cards.
A few minutes later Harry eased the Hospital Wing door open and peeked his head into the softly lit ward. The lights weren't out yet, but then again it was only six thirty in the evening. Madam Pomfrey seemed to be out or perhaps in her quarters which were connected to her office on the far end of the ward. When he was sure there were no adults inside, he slipped through the door and eased it closed so it didn't make any noise. Draco was at the other end by the windows, back to Harry and staring out at the softly falling snow in the darkness.
Harry walked down to the end of the ward and said, "Hey."
Draco's back stiffened, and he sighed heavily. "What do you want Potter?"
"Kinda boring being stuck at the castle for Christmas. No one else in Gryffindor. I was coming up to pester Madam Pomfrey but she's not here."
Draco still didn't turn to look at him. "Go away."
"I can if you want," Harry said, "but I've got a deck of Fire And Ice cards if you wanna play. Unless you're too sick."
"You think I want to play with you?" Draco said. His voice didn't have the edge to it that it usually did when talking to Harry though.
"Well I don't particularly wanna play with you either," Harry said. "Might as well though. I just learned and need to practice."
Draco scoffed and turned to him, revealing his pale face, now marred by a bruise up near his temple.
Harry walked to him and sat down on the foot of his bed, making Draco scoot back.
"Watch it!" Draco snapped. "You almost sat on me!"
"Don't hog the whole bed then," Harry said, opening the deck of cards and starting to shuffle them.
Draco sneered but didn't say anything as Harry started to deal them each ten cards.
"You're ridiculous Potter," he snapped, picking up the cards. "You're going to make me play a hand just to get you to leave. If I win you're out of here."
"Sure," Harry said, "should be easy to beat me since I just learned."
But Draco didn't win. He lost by a few points and Harry shuffled and dealt again.
"I won," Harry told him. "Oh well, guess that means you're stuck with me. You have to win two hands now before I'll leave."
"I could refuse to play."
"You could. You could probably go get Madam Pomfrey and tell her I'm being a pest."
"After this hand," Harry said. Draco dealt this time and won, but lost the next hand. Harry didn't comment on the fact that the blond could have won, but had played spells in the worst order.
"You gonna be around tomorrow too?" Harry asked.
"I'm going to Goyle's house in the morning."
"He have Fire And Ice cards?" Harry asked.
Harry won again and Draco lost again. They'd played ten quick rounds in only 30 minutes, and Madam Pomfrey was still nowhere to be seen.
After the eleventh round while Draco was dealing, he said, "They say you got adopted by the Headmaster... and Snape."
"Yeah," Harry said.
"Pretty pathetic Potter," Draco said, scoffing. Harry looked up at the bruise on his temple again, and thought about the fact that the blond boy was here on Christmas Eve and not at home, and was going to his friend's house in the morning instead of back to his parents.
"Yeah, well I kept coming back to school with bruises like yours. It was too many times to ignore."
"I fell," Draco said. "I was ice skating."
Harry nodded. "Yeah, I was clumsy like that too." Harry was rewarded with a dirty look but didn't comment on it. Usually when Harry was stuck in the Hospital Wing, Ron or his other friends came to keep him company, to study or play games with him. All of the Slytherins were gone though, and Harry thought it would be a crummy Christmas Eve to have to spend the evening in the Hospital Wing alone. Let Draco give him dirty looks. He didn't care.
Draco beat Harry three times in quick succession, every movement looking angry, like he wanted to throw something. Finally Harry looked at the clock on the wall and said, "I think you finally got even with our score," Harry said. He packed the deck into the card box and stood up off the foot of the bed where he'd been sitting. He turned to leave but then turned back to Draco. "Goyle's house might be kind of boring," Harry said. "And you need some major practice in Fire And Ice." He tossed the deck of cards to Draco and said, "You should take this. We can have a re-match when you've had more practice with Goyle."
"What is this Potter, charity?" Draco said, the edge coming back into his voice when it hadn't been there all evening.
"Charity?" Harry asked, looking at the cards. "That's a Christmas present." And Harry wasn't lying, because it had been a present to him, and he supposed Draco needed a present more than Harry did this year.
"I don't want a present from you."
Harry shrugged. "Throw them in the bin then." He flashed a quick smile at Draco, put his hands in his pockets, grabbed his book, and left the ward, Draco staring dumbly after him.
Back in the Headmaster's quarters a few minutes later, Harry found Dumbledore reading on the couch in front of the fire where he'd left him. Snape was nowhere to be seen. Harry sat down on the couch with his book.
"How was Mr. Malfoy?" Dumbledore asked, not looking up from his book, and Harry paused.
He looked at Harry and said, "Madam Pomfrey stuck her head through the Floo an hour ago to tell me he had a visitor."
"Am I in trouble sir?"
"For visiting a sick friend on Christmas Eve?"
"Erm- he's not exactly a friend."
"You are not in trouble. Did he say anything to you?"
"Leave me alone Potter. You're ridiculous Potter. That's about it."
"You're something else Harry," Albus said, and Harry wasn't sure if it was a compliment or not, though the old man was smiling.
"Where's Professor Snape?"
"He had business to attend to outside of the castle. He will return soon."
"It would be best if you did not ask."
Later that evening, after Harry had been plied with chocolate chip cookies and hot chocolate, he fell asleep on the couch by the fire, book open on his chest. Albus draped a blanket over him and went to his room to sleep in the lower quarters. Harry had never fallen asleep there or stayed the night before.
Severus returned at almost one in the morning and didn't want to wake Harry, though Harry would wonder the next morning at the bruises and cuts on Snape's knuckles.
* * *
Harry was surprised to find himself on Dumbledore's couch the next morning. Snape was behind him in Dumbledore's little kitchen making tea as Harry sat up and rubbed his eyes. One of them must have covered him in a blanket. He'd been reading and must have fallen asleep.
"Sir, did you sleep here too?" Harry asked.
"I did not. I returned and found you asleep and went back to our quarters."
"I'm sorry sir."
"Do not be. I was gone for some time."
Harry spied the knuckles on Snape's right hand as he brought a pot of tea to the coffee table and three cups, but didn't comment. Snape went back to the kitchen and made a pot of coffee as well, and just as he was bringing that to the coffee table, Dumbledore came up from the lower quarters wearing a dark blue robe and festive looking socks with red and green stripes.
"Merry Christmas Harry, Severus," he said cheerily.
"Merry Christmas sir," Harry said. Severus greeted him in the same manner but looked tired.
"Coffee, what a wonderful way to start the day," Albus said, pouring himself a cup. He called for breakfast and the elves sent up cinnamon rolls and blueberry muffins. Harry spied presents under the tree, and noted that the one he had wrapped for the Headmaster down in their quarters was also there, but ignored them as he took a blueberry muffin and drank some Earl Grey.
Harry pulled the blanket back around himself as he sat on the couch and finished his muffin.
Albus waved up the fire in the grate and said, "Harry, why don't you sit down by the fire and the tree and find a present."
Harry took the soft brown blanket down to the floor with him, still wrapped around his shoulders and sat by the tree. The first present he pulled out was the headmaster's gift for Snape. He handed the present to Snape, who was sitting in the comfortable chair by the coffee table drinking coffee.
"Here you go sir."
Severus set his cup of coffee down and took the gift, wrapped in silver paper. Inside were two satchels of potions ingredients.
"These must have been very hard to come by," he said, bringing one satchel to his nose and smelling it, before opening it and peering inside.
"Oh, not too difficult," Albus said. "They came from that young harvester Germany."
"Get another Harry," Albus said, and Harry pulled a red one out. It had his name on it, and the tag said it was from Snape.
Harry pulled the red paper off and found a pair of soft gray slippers. He put them on immediately over his socks and smiled up at the man. "Thank you sir. They're nice and warm."
Harry pulled out his gift for Dumbledore, and he smiled and thanked Harry when he saw the many teas inside. "Just what I wanted, something sweet to drink on Christmas day."
Harry reached into the little pile of gifts and found the one he'd wrapped for Snape and handed it to him. Harry knew based on what Snape had already opened from Dumbledore that the man would know Harry had help picking out the gift. He might even know that Dumbledore had just let Harry buy it and put his name on it. He hoped the man wasn't upset that Harry didn't pick something out by himself.
Snape unwrapped the tiny box of powder Harry had given him and did the same as he had done with the other potions ingredients from Dumbledore. He smelled them and seemed satisfied. "I have been wanting this for a long time, thank you Harry," he said, closing the lid to the little wooden box and bowing his head slightly to Harry.
Snape had given Dumbledore a pair of expensive dragonhide gloves that would keep his hands warm in the coldest temperatures, and then the gifts for the adults were exhausted and the only ones left were for Harry. Harry got some items he really liked from his friends, including a notebook from Hermione that had pages filled with grid paper instead of lined paper so he could easily make columns and charts and keep business notes. There were three presents left, two from the Headmaster and one from Snape. Harry opened a blue gift from Dumbledore and found new blue leather flying goggles with the Falmouth Falcon's symbol and a new Falcon's t-shirt. Harry wasted no time in putting the goggles on and then pushing them up his forehead. "I love them," Harry said.
The gift from Snape was also full of Falmouth Falcons items. There was a Falcon's pin, which Harry was looking forward to pinning on his backpack, a poster of the Falcon's star Chaser Harry admired so much, and a pair of Dark blue joggers with the word ‘FALCONS' in bold silver letters down the left leg near the ankle. Harry noted that the new gray slippers Snape had gotten him would go well with the other Falcon's items as their colors were silver and dark blue.
Before Harry opened the last gift he took the pants and shirt and jumped up from the floor. He went into the bathroom and came out a minute later wearing his new clothes, including his goggles still up on his forehead. Albus was smiling and Snape didn't look displeased.
"Don't forget the last one," Snape said, and Harry picked it up off the floor and sat on the couch next to Dumbledore again to open it. He pulled off the paper to reveal a scroll tied with a silver ribbon. When he unrolled it he found a drawing of three family trees, all of them connected at the bottom. The family tree on the left said Potter, and detailed Harry's lineage all the way back to his great, great, great grandparents, who were apparently named Peverell. In the center was the Prince family tree going back many generations, and finally on the right was the Dumbledore family tree. At the bottom of each there were lines drawn connecting them. It showed the headmaster over Snape's name with a line drawn straight down to Snape. Then there was a line drawn down from Snape to Harry.
Harry had never had something like this before, though to him it was like his photo album of his parents, because that too had taken his breath away when he'd first been gifted with it. He had spent months going over the photos and trying to memorize every detail of his parent's faces. He wanted to do the same with this, to know the name of every person in the Potter line, and to stare for hours at the bottom of the family tree, where there was clear proof he had been adopted... where there was proof he was wanted.
"Do you like it?" Albus asked.
Harry looked up and wished his eyes weren't so watery this morning. "I love it. I get to keep it?"
"It's yours. Severus and I have copies of our own now too."
Harry turned back to the family tree... to his family tree, and tried to drink in every detail. His father and grandfather watched him for several more moments before they began to chat as they poured themselves more coffee. Albus tousled Harry's hair, and Harry didn't stiffen at the contact. This was what Christmas with a family of his own was like, and Harry wanted to remember it forever.