Harry slowed to a stop as he neared the entrance to the living room and leaned his head against the wall, listening. He was just in time to hear the music swell again, the orchestra driving the man’s voice into a soaring operatic vibrato. The song filled Harry’s senses, wrapping around him as only this piece could do.
And he knew it well, for it was part of Severus’ ritual. He had also heard it about eight or nine times already tonight.
Peeking around the doorframe, Harry saw Severus was seated in the center of the sofa, facing away from where Harry stood. Severus’ head was tilted back, resting against the cushions, and his eyes were closed. His right hand balanced a small glass tumbler on his thigh, half-filled with a thick, off-white substance.
The fond smile that curled the corners of Harry’s mouth appeared before he was even aware of doing so, but he supposed he shouldn’t be surprised: the scene before him was as familiar now as anything in their nearly ten-year relationship. Christmastime always brought out three things in Severus: eggnog, a fit of nostalgia, and Pavarotti’s “O Holy Night.”
Severus would listen to the song on repeat, sometimes as many as twelve times in a row, until he had nursed his way through the drink. Then he would turn off the Wireless, shake the maudlin thoughts free, and go in search of Harry. What would follow would sometimes vary, but it always began with a fierce and thorough snogging.
Admittedly, that was Harry’s favorite part – though he had begrudgingly grown to love the song, too.
With another glance at the eggnog in the tumbler, Harry guessed he had about twenty minutes left before Severus would be done nursing the spectres of his past.
Quietly, Harry stepped away from the living room and went back upstairs, took a quick shower, and then hopped into bed, fluffing the pillows and bedding so he could arrange himself artfully. With each year that had passed, he had grown to anticipate the end of Severus’ sulk more and more. Not that the rest of their sex life was bland (it wasn’t), but the validation Severus seemed to need during the holidays made for an especially impassioned and intense coupling.
As expected, Harry only had a few minutes left to wait before he heard the lower floor go silent, followed by the creak of someone ascending the wood stairs. Harry summoned his sultriest grin just in time for the bedroom door to open.
Severus froze just past the threshold, letting his eyes feast on the naked display before him, and then walked over and placed a rather perfunctory kiss on Harry’s lips. Before Harry could argue, Severus produced a box from behind his back and handed it over.
“What’s this?” Harry asked.
“I believe it is called a gift.”
“Ha ha,” Harry mocked. “I meant, what is it for? We aren’t set to exchange gifts until tomorrow.”
“I know. However, this arrived earlier today and I decided it could not wait."
A tendril of unease curled through Harry and he studied Severus’ face. “Is everything all right?” At Severus’ nod, Harry reluctantly continued. He untied the bow and tore at the paper, all the while keeping an eye on the strange expression on Severus’ face.
Inside the box was a rolled set of parchments. Easing the leather tie off, Harry unrolled them and began to read, his eyes growing larger with each additional line. He stopped about halfway through the first page.
“Severus?” he choked out. “Is — is this what I think it is?”
Something in Severus’ features softened and he sat down next to Harry on the bed. “It is.”
“But… how? When?"
“Do you recall the agency we visited in October?”
Harry blinked past the moisture in his eyes and nodded. “How could I forget?”
“I returned a few days after our initial visit to begin the paperwork. They already had most of our particulars on file from our application and interview, and the rest I completed on my own. There were a few items I had to research, but I believe they are correct. You will want to review those just to be sure.”
Harry nodded automatically, still looking at the parchments. His hand was shaking. “You did all this without me? I mean, I’m not upset, I’m just—”
“I did not wish to mention anything until I knew there would be no obstacles in the process, so as to spare you false hope. Thankfully, it all went rather smoothly. They did ask why you had not accompanied me, however, so I had to tell them of my plan to surprise you. They thought it terribly romantic.” Severus scowled, but Harry could see the affection in it and he smiled. “What you hold in your hands is the official contract for adoption,” Severus continued. “We are but one signature away from starting a family.”
Harry’s heart was nearly beating out of his chest. He flipped to the last page and looked at the four signature lines, three of which had already been filled: one for the adoption agency, another for the child welfare office at the Ministry, and one for Severus. The last line said ‘Harry Potter’ underneath it and Harry stared at it so long the letters began to blur from the tears streaming down his face.
“My God, Severus… I don’t, I don’t even know where to start.” He looked up. “I can’t believe you did this. You’re okay with this? I mean, really okay with this? You want to start a family?”
Severus cupped Harry’s face with his hands, smudging away the tear tracks with his thumbs. “Having a family is part and parcel of what it means to be with you, Harry. I have always known you would want one of your own. From where I sit, it was never a question of if, only when.”
“But I thought you didn’t want kids?”
“Would I have accompanied you to the orphanage if I didn’t?”
Harry gave him a watery smile. “I thought you were just humoring me.”
“Not for something as important as this. I admit it has taken me a while to warm to the idea” — Harry snorted — “but you must realize that had more to do with my own fears of inadequacy than it did the notion of a child itself.”
“And I’ve also told you a thousand times you would be an amazing father.”
“Yes – ad nauseam.” Severus stroked Harry’s cheek with his thumb, however, softening his words. “You will forgive me if I cannot take you at your word, as neither of us experienced a good role model where that particular task is concerned.”
“So then why now? What changed?”
“Over the last couple years especially, I have come to realize we are not our past, and if we decide to be good parents, then we will be. No other factors should matter.”
Harry stared at Severus for a long moment, his heart swelling at this amazing chain of events. He pulled the man into an embrace and squeezed hard. “God, I love you,” he said, kissing every part of Severus’ face he could reach, feeling Severus’ response in the way two strong arms closed around his back and held fast to him.
“And since we seem to be doing special gifts early this year,” Harry added as he nibbled down an exposed neck, “I have one for you, too.” Truth be told, as thoughtful as Harry’s gift was (season tickets to London’s Royal Opera House), there was nothing he could give Severus that would even compare to what Severus had just given him. To them, he amended. But before he could hop off the bed, Severus stopped him.
“Tomorrow. I have put the remainder of my evening off long enough. I am in need of my husband’s body now – in particular, his delightful little arse.”
Harry chuckled, feeling a corresponding twitch in his groin. Severus grabbed him and flipped him onto his back, prowling over him, then leaned down and captured Harry’s mouth in the type of kiss that usually followed Severus’ Christmas ritual – the one that heralded greater pleasures. Harry grinned and proceeded to give as good as he got.
Absently, he wondered how their Christmas tradition would change next year. Maybe Severus would no longer need his Pavarotti and eggnog. Maybe he would need it more. Maybe it didn’t matter. After all, a child would soon be born unto them… in a manner of speaking.
O Holy Night, indeed.