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A Christmas Wish

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Headmaster Severus Snape stood in the shadows, watching the students hurry out the entrance hall towards the waiting carriages. They were definitely happier and livelier than they had been a year ago, when the Dark Lord's shadow had hung heavily over the school. The first term had been quiet, with none of the bitter house rivalries of the past as Hogwarts, as well as the Wizarding world, slowly returned to normal. The end of term exams had shown a significant improvement over the previous three, the first improvement since the death of Albus Dumbledore.

"Truly, Hermione, I'll be fine here! I've plenty to keep me occupied."

Harry Potter's voice rang clear above the din of the other students and Severus frowned as he edged further back into the alcove. He'd successfully avoided speaking to the young man since the Final Battle, despite Potter's attempts to communicate. Potter had matured into a quiet, powerful young man, who had worked diligently during the repair of Hogwarts and assisted with the repair of the school. Minerva had expressed concern over Potter's quietness since the beginning of his eighth year, something seemingly echoed by his closest friends. Severus himself had recognized the signs of depression in some of the things she described, but had kept his opinion to himself.

"I realize that you are determined to make this year count, but you need a break…"

"Hermione, I'll go flying and I promise I'll be at the Burrow for Christmas dinner."

"Are you sure, mate?"

"Yes, Ron, I'm sure." The trio came into view and Severus watched as Potter clapped Weasley on the back. "Besides, as a newly engaged couple, you will be busy making plans for the wedding!"

Severus could see the Granger smile shyly and resisted the urge to snort. He watched at Potter hugged Granger and waved the couple off towards the waiting carriages. Weasley waved from the window as the threstral pulled them away. As the carriage disappeared, Severus was astounded to see Potter's shoulders slump and his head bow. Stuffing his hands in the pockets of his robes, Potter's bearing was the picture of misery as he turned and trudged back towards the castle.

In anyone else, Severus would have to agree that Potter appeared depressed, but for the hero of the Wizarding to be in such a state was unfathomable. Potter had wealth, good looks, and a bright future already mapped out for him, including a career and wife, if the youngest Weasley had her way. Why in the world would Potter be in such a state?

The corridors were refreshingly silent as Severus made his way up to his office. The whirl of Dumbledore's Dark detectors was a welcoming sound as Severus stepped into the circular space. He moved to stand by the window, not really seeing the rare December day of warm sunshine. Harry Potter was an anomaly to Severus and it bothered him. Every assumption he had made, from the time Potter had been orphaned until the moment he stood in front of the Wizengamot to proclaim Severus was a hero had been wrong. The spoiled, arrogant child he thought Potter to be had been, in reality, abused and deprived of even the meager things that Severus had possessed as a child. Likewise, everything that Severus had heaped on the boy, from accusations of attention seeking, to mediocrity in his magical power, to self-righteous disregard for the safety of others, had all been wrong. Potter had for exceeded everyone's expectations, except perhaps Albus’, by sacrificing his life for all of them. This child, who had never had a single gift from Father Christmas, had gifted them all with their freedom.

"I'm concerned about young Harry, Severus," Dumbledore's portrait addressed him and Severus could hear muttered agreements from the others in the gallery of headmasters.

"Seems a common theme," Severus muttered as he turned towards the painting. "I just saw Potter, Albus, and he looked fine."

Dumbledore cocked his head and looked at Severus sadly, the look that always seemed to convey disappointment in whatever Severus had just told him. "Harry has had far too little comfort in his life, Severus, and I truly believe that you are the only person who can help."

Severus snorted. "Potter certainly receives enough comfort from the Weasley chit."

"Alas, no," the portrait shook its head. "I believe Neville Longbottom is going to ask Arthur for young Miss Weasley's hand this Yule. No, Harry is much more like you and I than you or he realizes. Someone who was denied the slightest affection when he was young is going to crave it as he becomes an adult and that in itself could lead him into reckless behavior."

"As if Potter needs any excuse for reckless behavior," Severus snapped, even though he knew the young man had been the model of decorum since the start of term.

"Rather my point, Severus," the portrait admonished him gently. "Harry has had a heavy burden on his shoulders since the day he arrived at Hogwarts and precious little time for frivolous pursuits. It is like a child who is long denied a puppy, and then becomes an adult who owns a pet store." Dumbledore's blue eyes seemed to bore into Severus even in paint form. "It would be unthinkable to leave Harry vulnerable to those who would recognize his predilections even before Harry does, and use them for their own nefarious means."

Severus frowned. The only time Albus used the term predilections was as a synonym for their shared homosexuality and the prospect of Harry Potter being queer was as preposterous as it was arousing. He filed the idea away for later, when he was alone and randy. Switching back to the first suggestion and decided that no child should be denied the comfort of an animal companion. He had long wanted a cat himself while growing up, until the day he watched his father brutally kick at one that wandered onto their stoop on day.

"If Potter wants a dog, then he shall have a dog," Severus declared as he turned and headed up the curving staircase to his private quarters, tired of the conversation and his own warring emotions.

"You're being deliberately obtuse, Severus."

Dumbledore's voice trailed behind him and Severus slammed the door shut as he stepped into his sitting room. The fire burned merrily and his afternoon cup of tea sat waiting for him. Summoning the bottle of brandy from the sideboard, Severus added a dollop to his tea, a private celebration of making it successfully through the first term. Severus seated himself in his favorite chair and settle back. Blowing across the surface, Severus noted the dark gray clouds that were filling the sky outside his window.

It rather reflected his mood. Severus took a careful sip of the hot liquid, his thoughts dwelling on Potter as they often did these days. Despite his determination to make sure Potter had a wonderful Christmas, Severus knew he also had to make it plausible as it wouldn't do to have Potter suspect that he had any deeper feelings for him. Severus was able to keep his feelings from Albus and he was going to keep them from Potter as well. It was only in the dead of night that Severus allowed Harry to come visit in his fantasies.

"But what if Father Christmas can't find me, Harry?"

A young female voice carried through the open door to the Great Hall which Severus identified as Helena Parker-Smythe, a Slytherin first-year who was one of the few students to stay for the holidays. Severus stopped just outside, wondering how Potter would answer.

"Father Christmas is magic, Helena; of course he will find you."

"Even though my daddy did bad things?"

"Father Christmas doesn't care about that, silly, just about whether you are studying hard, being respectful, and treating others nicely."

"I am! Will you help me with my letter?"


"My wish letter to Father Christmas!"

"Oh, I remember my cousin writing a letter demanding toys and sweets—"

"No, no, you write a nice letter to Father Christmas and tell him how good you have been and then you can tell him what you wish for more than anything in the whole world. You can also give him a list of toys,” Parker-Smythe said softly.

"Or a puppy?" Did Potter's voice sound wistful?

Parker-Smythe laughed softly as Severus rolled his eyes. "Yes, a puppy or a pony or a lovely pink dress!"

"Well, I might pass on the dress, as pink isn't really my color, but I'll certainly help you with your letter, Helena."

"You can write one too, Harry, since you never got to write one—"

Their voices faded in the distance as the pair moved towards the single round table at the far end of the room and Severus waited for another moment before he stepped through the door. Potter, dressed casually in tight Muggle jeans and a jumper, helped Parker-Smythe seat herself at the holiday day table under Minerva's approving eye. The two Hufflepuff students and one Ravenclaw were already sitting between Filius and Minvera, leaving two open chairs, side by side. Potter gave a shrug but avoided looking at Severus as they took their seats together.

The meal was a simple affair - roasted meat, root vegetables, and something sticky for pudding. Severus would rather have dark chocolate and a good port for afters, but he was sure the Governors would frown on that in the Great Hall. The conversation flowed around him, although Potter was not an active participant in the lively conversations.

"—and then Harry and I are going to send letters to Father Christmas!"

The Ravenclaw boy, a know-it-all third-year, piped up. "And who's going to cast the Christmas Spell for you?"

"I'd be happy to," Filius' voice was disapproving as he looked at his student. "If you'll permit me to, Mr. Potter?"

"The Christmas Spell?" In those words, Potter admitted to everyone in the room except Parker-Smythe that he'd never sent a letter to Father Christmas.

"It's the incantation that carries your missive to that individual who can best fulfill your wishes, Mr. Potter," Severus interjected, smirking at the looks of disbelief. "In this case, Father Christmas, obviously."

Harry – Potter gave him a brilliant smile that did funny things to his heart rate. Their eyes met and locked before Potter's skittered away, reminding Severus of a unicorn foal's mix of nervous and shy. The look managed to fuel Severus' ardor and his protectiveness in one go, a dangerous combination. It took all his skills to keep the smirk on his face.

"Headmaster, can we go to Hogsmeade tomorrow?" McFarlane, the Hufflepuff third-year, asked. "There's going to be a Faire and everything! Harry could escort us – he said he would!"

"I can push my plans back and chaperone them, Severus." Minerva pushed away from the table.

"No need," Severus said smoothly. "My morning is clear." He looked at Parker-Smythe. "I will owl your grandparents to see if they will give permission for you to go, this one time. The rest of you, be ready immediately after breakfast."

"Thank you, sir!" Potter gave him another smile as the students echoed his appreciation, beginning to chatter excitedly as they made plans for Hogsmeade.

Severus stood and nodded, sweeping out of the Great Hall, his mind already plotting. Tomorrow was the twenty-third, which gave him two days to implement his plan. He strode back towards his office, boot heels tapping out his progress on the stone floors. First on the list was locating an appropriate puppy to procure for Harry, Severus thought. There were several breeds that had magically roots, he knew, as he mentally dismissed the Crup. He also dismissed the corgi and terrier breeds, his thoughts turning toward the hounds, setters, and possibly the collies, something with some substance that would be a good companion for Harry, who was alone far too much. A mastiff seemed too big, but Severus would have to make an inquiry with the Magical Menagerie in Diagon Alley.

Several hours later, Severus sat back with a satisfied smile. He'd successfully ordered Christmas decorations, a sampler of Honeydukes' finest dark chocolates, a Yule sweater from Glad Rags, and a few other seasonal odds and ends. He was less pleased by the response from the Menagerie, which essentially told him to come look for himself. Now he'd have to make time to do that tomorrow afternoon. Lowering the lights with a wave of his hand, Severus went up to his rooms and walked straight through to the bedroom. Moving through his bedtime ritual, Severus refused to let himself think of the light in Harry's eyes when he'd agreed to chaperone them tomorrow, the smile he'd received as their eyes had met, and the undefined emotion that had been underneath both.

As he lay in bed, Severus mentally inventoried his potions ingredients to keep his thoughts from straying into inappropriate areas. He still woke up the next morning with soiled sheets and hazy images of Harry pleasuring him.

It was a cold morning, with heavy clouds and the promise of snow in the north wind, but it didn't dampen the enthusiasm of the small group that left Hogwarts at precisely ten. It was actually the younger students doing the talking and giggling as Severus walked behind them. Potter didn't even try to keep up with the group’s eager pace and Severus soon found them walking along in silence. Ignoring the sideways looks Potter was shooting him, Severus did, however, walk close enough that their arms occasionally brushed. Potter's sharp intake of breath the first time it happened caught his attention and Severus wondered if perhaps Albus' ramblings meant Potter was queer.

His cock gave an appreciative twitch and Severus clamped down on the reaction immediately. This realization didn't change anything, Severus thought, moving slightly away, only to have Potter closed the gap between them again. It seemed an unconscious action as Severus could see that Potter's attention was focused ahead. Having discovered he was homosexual might be one of the reasons Potter was depressed and could indicate that he hadn't come to terms with his sexuality. This information didn't deter Severus; it only made him more determined to make this holiday season the best Potter had ever had. Although he was concentrating on Christmas traditions, Severus remembered several Yule traditions that he'd learned from his mother when he was a boy that he planned to resurrect.

"Thank you, Professor Snape."

Potter's voice broke into his thoughts and Severus saw that they had made it to town. "Make sure you keep the others out of trouble, Mr. Potter."

Potter frowned and opened his mouth as if intent on saying more but closed it immediately. "Yes, sir," he muttered before walking straight head to where the children were standing uncertainly in front of the joke shop.

Severus moved on to complete his own shopping, knowing that Potter was capable of minding five other students. He left them to their own devices for nearly two hours before heading back down towards the Three Broomsticks. His shopping was almost completed and Severus was feeling smug that his plans were falling into place.

"Oh Harry! He's adorable!"

Frowning, Severus peered around the side of the pub, where an alley ran the length of the building. A short, heavy-set boy stood there with a box of wiggling black objects in his arms as Parker-Smythe bounced beside him, grinning. Harry Potter stood in front of them, one of the squirming things in his hands. It was a puppy. Something unsuitably small, predominantly black with a touch of tan at the feet and face, and it was enthusiastically licking Potter's nose. The longing in Potter's eyes was unmistakable and Severus' heart stopped as he watched Potter stroke the puppy. With a heavy sigh, Potter set the puppy carefully back into the box and ignored it when it immediately whined, lunging towards him.

"They are very cute, but I don't think…" Potter straightened his shoulders. "Thank you for letting me hold him, but I can't." He turned to Parker-Smythe. Come on, Helena, the Headmaster will be here soon…"

Severus took the opportunity to step into the alley. "Potter! Parker-Smythe! Gather up the others and be prepared to leave in ten minutes!"

Potter looked like Severus had caught him casting an Unforgiveable, his face flushing guiltily. "Yes, sir!"

He watched them scurry off toward the Three Broomsticks before Severus turned to the boy still standing in the alleyway. The puppy Potter had been holding was trying to scramble over the side of the box, yipping and crying as Potter disappeared from sight. Turning those dark eyes on Severus, the dog cocked his head, as if scrutinizing Severus' character, before it yipped at him. Severus saw the hopeful look on the boy's face and knew he was most likely making a mistake.

"How much does this creature cost?"

"He's only," the boy paused as he eyed Severus, "a Galleon, sir."

Severus sneered at the exorbitant price, but fished a coin out of his waistcoat pocket. The boy grinned and gave him a brief outline on how to care for the puppy, who seemed to fly into Severus' hands when he reached for him. Holding him up for closer inspection, Severus was surprised when the dog nipped at his nose. Severus immediately increased the distance between the vicious animal and his person.

"That just means he likes you, sir!" The boy thrust a bag of supplies at him, gathered his box, and disappeared down the alley. Severus was sure he'd sort into Slytherin when he arrived at Hogwarts the next year.

Severus looked the puppy in the eye. "You are a gift and I will not tolerate the surprise being spoiled, so you will remain silent until we are safely in my rooms, do I make myself clear?"

The puppy stared back, his tail wagging madly. Severus sighed and carefully slid him into the inner pocket of his robes, his head the only part visible. Casting a localized silencing charm, Severus strode out of the alley and toward the waiting students. He moved briskly up the path, leaving the children to scamper to keep up. Potter matched his pace without a problem and neither of them spoke, which suited Severus. He was busy ignoring the movement in his robes. Snow began to fall as they reached the gates, heavy fat flakes, and Severus was thankful to have everyone safely inside.

As soon as the doors were closed, Severus excused himself, barely acknowledging the students thank you as he retreated to his rooms. He'd just stepped into the sitting room when Severus felt the flow of warm liquid seep through his clothing.

"Bloody hell!"

Reigning in his anger, Severus gingerly lifted the small animal out of his pocket and set him down on the rug. Emptying his cloak of the items he'd bought as he gritted his teeth against the feel of cooling wetness, Severus used his wand to quickly Banish the urine and took off his robes. The little menace watched him intently as Severus muttered under his breath, dark eyes following his movements. Severus stripped down to his trousers, intent on a shower, but thought better of leaving the terror unattended. Reaching down, Severus lifted the puppy and held him up for a closer look, careful to keep his nose out of reach.

"I will not tolerate any more of this type of behavior." Intelligent eyes looked back at him, one ear stood up straight while the other was folded forward, and the puppy seemed to be hanging on to his every word. "In the short time you will be here, I expect cooperation."

The dog, who was barely more than a handful, yipped at him before starting to squirm with such strength that Severus almost dropped him. Bringing the puppy against him, Severus carefully held on to him as he used his wand to create a containment area in the corner of his sitting room. Shaking out the contents of the bag, Severus discovered a small amount of food, a half-chewed something of questionable origin, and a scrap of paper that proclaimed the dog was a Yorkshire terrier.

"Yorkshire, indeed," Severus muttered, setting the dog down. He transfigured the sack into a water bowl. "You seem a bit on the scrawny side to me."

Ignoring the dog's yelps of displeasure, Severus walked through to his bedroom, stripping his robes off as he went. He moved through to the bathroom and showered. He dressed casually in slacks and a jumper, determined to spend the remainder afternoon relaxing. He would make arrangements with the house-elves to deliver the furry menace to Harry and then he'd be done. There was no indication that the two of them could be anything other than friends, which was more than Severus could tolerate with the way he felt. He refused to let the affection he felt for Harry turn to resentment.

The silence and the smell hit him as he walked out of the bathroom and Severus immediately knew the source. The menace had struck again. Flicking his wand, Severus took care of the excrement and the lingering odor in the air. The dog had curled up next to his water dish and was sound asleep, looking unerringly sweet but Severus didn't believe it. He studied the situation for a moment, before Summoning an old towel from cupboard. Placing it in the corner of the area he'd made for the dog, Severus transfigured it to a patch of grass.

That ought to satisfy the menace, Severus thought as he straightened. He tapped the top of the table next to his chair to signal the house-elves for his dinner. After spending the majority of the day with his students, Severus felt he'd earned a night alone. There was a strange pang in his chest, but Severus ignored it, knowing it was best to limit his exposure. Retrieving the bottle of single malt scotch that Minerva had given him last Christmas, Severus planned to savor the last of it tonight as he expected he'd be gifted with another bottle. It would at least ease the tightness in his throat as mind dwelled on his decision.

Dinner was a tasty meal with roasted chicken and rice and Severus made short work of it. He left the chocolate truffles and port on the table as he sat back and sipped at the whiskey. For the first time in years, Severus would be able to spend his holiday without being concerned about Dark Lords, Death Eaters, or meddling headmasters. Severus ignored the pang of loneliness, putting it down to missing Albus.

A tap at the window startled him and Severus moved toward the window, his movement causing the dog to stir. The owl came in on a blast of cold air and the dog started barking, a piercing high-pitched sound, as Severus took the parchment envelope that was offered. The barking must have unnerved the owl as it shot back out into the dark and Severus frowned as he closed the window. He didn't feel any Dark magic, and a wave of his wand confirmed it was safe. A familiar scrawl across the front had written "To Father Christmas".

Severus' heart sped up as he realized that he had received Harry's Christmas letter. Moving back towards his chair, Severus scooped up the dog and settled him in his lap as he turned the envelope over in his hands. Severus slid his finger under the seal and slid a single sheet of parchment out, letting the envelope fall. He unfolded the letter and read:

Dear Father Christmas,

I have never written a Christmas letter before; I didn't know kids like me could. Growing up, I knew that people that were good and deserving got their wishes, but my cousin, who was neither, always got everything he wanted, so I wasn't sure of the rules.

I was good this year, completed the tasks assigned to me, made the sacrifices that were required of me, and I think I've earned having a wish granted. It's for someone I care for deeply and who would never ask for it himself, but deserves it very much. He was my mum's best friend and has protected me for years, and, at great risk to himself, he helped me accomplish what I needed to do.

My Christmas wish is that Severus Snape finds the happiness he so greatly deserves, even if it isn't with me. He deserves to be with someone who loves him as much as I do.


P.S.: if I'm to receive any present, I'd very much like a puppy, please.

Severus read the letter through twice before lowering it. His chest was tight and his mind going in circles trying to find the hidden message in what he'd just read, but he knew there was none. Harry wasn't devious enough to write a sincere letter with any subterfuge in it. It was obvious that he thought Severus would never know the contents. Swallowing the lump in his throat, Severus considered the implications of the magic behind the Christmas letter and the fact that he was the only person who could grant Harry his wish.

The puppy pushed his nose into Severus' hand and he absently petted his head. Severus considered marching right down to the small, private room and demanding that Harry explained exactly why he'd written what he had. That, however would be disastrous if Severus had interpreted the letter wrong and Harry rejected his advances. No, Severus knew that his approach had to be foolproof, which called for a more Slytherin approach. A response that would convey the message Severus wanted, without possibility of misunderstanding.

A sharp piercing pain at the top of his thumb startled him out of his thoughts and Severus scowled down at the dog who was trying to chew off his finger tip. Severus' instinct was to cuff him, but when the puppy began to lick his abused thumb, he sat still as he watched. Perhaps he had been going at this situation with Harry completely wrong – effectively cuffing Harry when he would try to engage Severus in conversation or get near him in anyway. While Severus recognized this as a self-preservation reaction on his part, it had been effective in pushing Harry away.

A plan began to form in his mind and Severus surged to his feet. He set the puppy back into his area and gave him the food that had been in the bag. Severus had plans to make and he had very little time to get them in motion. Cuddling the puppy awkwardly against his chest, Severus stood up. He had much to do.

"Perhaps you won't be such a bad addition after all."

Severus was surprised when Harry's door opened silently to his touch, especially with the strong protective fields he felt as he stepped into the small sitting room. It was simply decorated with a small couch and a single chair set in front of the hearth. A broom leaned against the wall beside the door and a cloak was draped over the back of the chair, but otherwise, the room was devoid of personal items. There were no holiday decorations of any kind, rather like Severus' own sitting room.

Setting down the bag he carried down on the chair, Severus drew his wand. The past twenty-six hours had been a challenge for Severus to organize everything he wanted to make a Christmas that Harry would never forget. He paused for a moment and looked around the room again. Usually, Severus could sense Harry's magic when he was in close proximity and at the moment, he couldn't. The bedroom door was ajar and Severus moved to glance into the room. It was empty.

Severus frowned, immediately wondering who Harry was spending his Christmas Eve with. No one was the answer him mind immediately supplied and Severus knew that Harry hadn't left the grounds, as the wards around the castle would have alerted him immediately. For a moment, Severus gave thought to the darkest fear he's harbored in the back of his mind, but as quickly dismissed it. Harry had already died once and Severus didn't believe that suicide would be an option for him. Perhaps Harry was out walking the corridors, as he'd done so often during his years at Hogwarts.

Concentrating on his task, Severus quickly removed the things he'd brought in the bag and then tapped the table twice. The tree he'd chosen appeared, hovering in the middle of the room thanks to house-elf magic. Levitating the small tree to one side of the fireplace and setting up the area for the puppy on the other side, he added the few items he'd brought and put the small assortment of gifts he'd bought under the tree. Severus really didn't have much experience with Christmas either, keeping the decorations minimal, with fairy lights and small silver stars the tree. On impulse Severus had also obtained a sprig of mistletoe and a flick of his wand sent it floating slowly around the room.

Moving to the enclosure he'd transfigured, Severus made sure there was water and food, as well as a patch of grass at one end. Reaching into his pocket, Severus lifted the sleeping puppy out of his pocket and settled him on his bed. He ran his hand over the small head and smoothed the hair down on the little body. If it weren't for the sharp teeth, Severus could almost like the little menace.

Severus felt Harry's magic before he heard the door open. Snatching his hand away from the puppy, he straightened to his full height and slowly turned. Harry, clad in sleep pants and a jumper, was trying hard to hide the pleasure he felt at seeing Severus in his rooms, masking it with wariness.

"Headmaster? What are you doing here?" With his shoulders sloped inward, Harry seemed to be expecting Severus to deliver some type of blow.

Severus had run a dozen different responses to that question through his mind in the last day and a half, discarding the scathing and sarcastic along with the flowery and romantic. "The Christmas spirit has apparently deemed that I alone can grant you the wish you asked of Father Christmas."

The puppy, now awake, yipped his agreement and Harry's eyes grew large as he wrapped his arms around himself. "My Father Christmas letter went to you?" Harry looked horrified. "I can explain—"

Severus could see that Harry thoughts were spiraling downward, despite the visible evidence to the contrary. "There is no need to explain." He took a step closer. "The magic determined I was the best person to grant your wish."

"Why?" Harry looked at him, a touch of fire in his eyes. "Why entrust it to someone who's gone out of his way to avoid me for the past six month? Who would only ridicule my foolish, sentimental drivel?"

Stopping in front of Harry, Severus was surprised as Harry was almost as tall as he was. "More likely because the magic sensed reciprocal drivel hidden within me."

"It what?"

Severus reached out slowly, trying to smile reassuringly, but he was sure it looked more like a grimace. "The spell on the letter sent it to me, as I'm the only one who could make your wish come true." He laid his hand on Harry's arm and stepped closer.

Harry didn't pull away, but he didn't lean into Severus either. "I don't understand, you mean you read my letter?"

It was a critical moment and for once, Severus' articulation skills seemed to abandon him. A movement caught his eye and Severus looked up to see the enchanted mistletoe hovering over Harry's head. Silently, Severus pointed up. Harry followed his movement, and Severus waited, allowing Harry to lower his eyes once again before Severus tugged him closer.

Reaching up with his free hand, Severus cupped Harry's cheek and leaned in to brush his lips along Harry's. He pressed them together lightly, pulling back a little to allow Harry to protest, but instead, Harry's mouth opened slightly in surprise. Severus took advantage of that to adjust the angle of his head and covered Harry's lips again. Using the tip of his tongue, Severus stroked along Harry's lower lip as Harry moved closer. With light pressure, Severus coaxed Harry to open his mouth as he wrapped one arm around Harry's waist and slid his hand around to cup the back of the tousled hair.

With a strangled groan, Harry slid his arms around Severus' neck and brought them flush together. Severus groaned and used Harry's move to deepen the kiss, leisurely exploring the sweetness of Harry's mouth. Harry couldn't seem to get close enough, pressing his erection against Severus. Turning them slightly, Severus slipped his thigh between Harry's legs. A whimper of need from Harry was all Severus required to wrap his arms around him, one hand splaying across his arse. His cock throbbed as he pulled Harry against him and Severus rocked against his hip. The feeling of Harry pressed against him, the heat of his body, the sweetness of his lips, and the tingle of magic against his skin was unbelievably arousing. When Severus felt Harry stiffen and shudder in his arms, warmth seeping between them, he lost control. Thrusting against Harry, Severus came in his trousers, something he hadn't done since he was a teenager. Somehow, he couldn't feel embarrassed, especially with Harry still wrapped in his arms, breath hot against his throat.

A tingle of magic made against his skin Severus smile and he started to kiss Harry's jaw until the puppy made his presence known by giving a sharp yip. Harry pushed Severus back to arm's length and his eyes examined his face.

"How long?" His question came out breathless and Severus winced at the accusation he heard in it. "I've known since my sixth year that I…that you were special to me."

"I—" Severus could feel his cheeks heat, he'd been hoping that Harry wouldn't ask that particular question. "It was—"

The puppy barked loudly and Severus was glad for the diversion. Pulling away, he found Harry's hand and led him over to the enchanted enclosure, where the puppy was dancing on his back legs in his excitement to get to Harry. Severus reached down and picked him up, carefully settling the dog into Harry's arms.

"Happy Christmas, Harry," Severus said quietly, his throat tight.

"You—" Harry didn't seem to be able to finish, succumbing to the puppy's enthusiastic tongue lashing.

Wrapping an arm around Harry's waist, Severus guided him to the couch. He was surprised as Harry sat next to him, pressing into his side. They sat in silence for several minutes as Harry examined every bit of the dog, delighted when the small terrier flopped over and exposed his belly for a rub.

"Mind the menace's teeth, they're plenty sharp."

"Where ever did you find him?" Harry looked up, face close to Severus. "He's perfect."

"This is the same dog you and Parker-Smythe were fawn…looking at in Hogsmeade," Severus told him. "The dog was inconsolable when you walked away."

"So you bought him for me?"

"Like wands, it seems, dogs chose their masters and this one clearly chose you." Severus told him dryly. "Mind the menace's teeth.

"Thank you." Harry leaned over and kissed Severus softly, tentatively.

Severus cupped the back of Harry's head and held him there, deepening the kiss until they both pulled back, breathless.

"How long?" Harry asked again, looking at him.

Severus met his eyes. "Since Occlumency lessons," he admitted. "Your father and godfather's bullying wasn't the only memory in that Pensieve."

"Really?" Harry had the audacity to smile. "What else was in there?'

Severus threaded his fingers through the tousled hair at the back of Harry's head and drew him closer. "Some disturbing erotic dreams I had begun having, that were wholly inappropriate at the time."

"And they involved me?" Harry whispered against his lips.

"In so many different ways," Severus assured him. "Shall I demonstrate one?"

Without waiting for an answer, Severus drew him close and did just that.

One year later

Severus stood at the window and watched as fat flakes of snow swirled around the tower. He winced as his office door slammed behind him, but didn't turn as the portraits all called out their greetings. The arms that slid around his waist warmed him, even as the cold nose Harry pressed against his neck made him shiver.

"Happy anniversary, Severus."

Severus turned in Harry's arms. "Romantic sop," Severus sneered, but submitted to Harry's kiss. "Besides, it's technically tomorrow."

"And I like to think you were my first Father Christmas gift, delivered Christmas Eve."

Hiding a smile, Severus kissed him again. Their relationship had taken time to build and even though they'd not slept apart since that night a year ago, they hadn't actually made love until Harry had passed his NEWTs in the spring. They'd experienced ups and downs, but had come out of their rows stronger, more committed to each other with each difference managed. Tomorrow they would make their first appearance at the Burrow for Christmas dinner.

"Did Menace enjoy his walk?" Severus asked against Harry's lips as he walked him backwards towards the stairs.

"He did! Tried to chase the snowflakes and then wanted to take on Mrs. Norris." Harry laughed, pivoting on his heel to walk arm in arm with Severus.

"Who outweighs him by half."

"He is a bit feisty but what do you expect when you name a dog Menace?"

Severus smiled, he hadn't meant for the name to stick. "Perhaps you should show me again how much you appreciate my agreeing to Christmas dinner before he wakes up."

Grinning, Harry took his hand and led him up the stairs to the catcalls of the portraits. But Severus didn't care; he'd finally found happiness in his life, thanks to a Christmas wish.