A Christmas Scheme
As the oldest child of Ron Weasley and Draco Malfoy, 12 year old Elise had grown up with both Severus Snape and Harry Potter. Both men were her godfathers and, it had to be said, thoroughly doted upon her.
Her dad had been friends with Uncle Harry since he'd been 11 and now that both men were in their mid-30s that friendship was stronger than ever. Uncle Severus was Pa's godfather and had taught him everything he knew about potions, enabling him to become the resident Potions Master at Hogwarts.
Both men were frequent visitors to the Weasley-Malfoy household and Elise, along with her twin younger brothers, adored them both. Uncle Harry was always there to take her for a broom-ride or to play tricks on Dad and Pa, while Uncle Severus had answers to every question she could possibly think to ask.
Elise had a huge family of aunts, uncles and cousins surrounding her and, while she was immensely fond of them all, Uncle Harry and Uncle Severus were her favourites. The only problem, as far as she was concerned, was that they were both a little slow. Well, they'd have to be or else they would have pulled their heads out of their backsides years ago and realised what was right in front of their faces.
Uncle Severus and Uncle Harry belonged together. Elise could see it a mile off and, judging by the many conversations her parents had had on the subject, so could a number of other people. It seemed the only people who were oblivious to this very obvious fact were Uncle Severus and Uncle Harry themselves.
So, as another Christmas drew near, Elise decided to take matters into her own hands. This year, thank Merlin, Uncle Harry wasn't bringing any of the useless saps he had dated in the past and Uncle Severus was solo as usual. There had been that disaster of a relationship a couple of years ago before Elise had started at Hogwarts, but the less said about that the better.
No, this year Uncle Harry and Uncle Severus would be coming to Christmas dinner at the Burrow, both of them single. The time was right and Elise had a plan. As with all good plans she would need an accomplice.
She waited until she knew both her parents would be out of their family quarters at Hogwarts. Pa was busy taking his Slytherins to the train station to travel home for the holidays while Dad was having dinner with Auntie Hermione and Uncle Neville. Her brothers were with Nan and Grandad, being kept out of the way while Hogwarts wound down for Christmas.
After double-checking that she was indeed alone, she made her way to the fireplace and made a fire-call to the one person she knew would help her.
"Hello sweetheart," said Uncle George as his smiling face bobbed about in the flames. "Something I can do for you?"
"I think it's time for Operation Cupid," she said, watching as Uncle George's grin grew even wider.
"Oh excellent! About bloody time, I saw both of them last week and just wanted to bang their heads together."
"Well, if we're clever enough that won't be necessary."
She outlined the plan to her uncle, who was positively giddy at the thought of it. There was nothing Uncle George liked better than being involved in a strategy, especially when it targeted his nearest and dearest.
As with all good plans, this one was simple enough, but it required magic that Elise simply didn't possess at her young age. It would also allow them to put some of Uncle George's ingenious tricks to good use to aid them in their endeavours.
"Well, Commander, I'll see you in a week to put this plan into action," Uncle George said, saluting her before disappearing from the fireplace.
"Who was that?" came her Pa's voice, and Elise turned to see him coming through the entrance, shaking snow from his pale hair.
"Uncle George, he wanted present ideas for the twins."
"He's leaving it a bit late isn't he? Honestly, no sense of organisation," Pa said with a sniff. He couldn't comprehend anyone not having Christmas sorted by the end of October. How he had been married to Dad for so long was a mystery; he was the most disorganised person on the planet.
"Well, that's all the students sorted and your dad's out for the night, what say you and I pop into Hogsmeade for some dinner?" he asked her with a smile.
"Anything to avoid cooking eh?" she said as he wrapped an arm around her shoulders and winked at her.
The week leading up to Christmas was always a busy one and Elise found herself involved in all the usual traditions that her family indulged in. Her dad always turned into a big kid at Christmas and Pa spent most of his time trying to rein him in while dealing with the twins' natural exuberance.
There was the carol concert at the twins' primary school to go to, the visit to the garden centre near Nan and Grandad's to see their amazing Christmas display, and the usual Christmas Eve dinner at Grandpa and Grandma's.
Elise enjoyed spending time with the Malfoy side of her family. Grandpa was a hoot but few besides Pa understood his sense of humour. She loved to listen to the wry, clever things he would say, always pleased when he threw her an approving smile when she laughed at them.
Grandma was by far the most elegant woman Elise had ever met and no matter what anyone thought, she was kindness itself. Dad had a soft spot for Grandma, and she for him. She would deign to cook for no one, but for Dad she made Black Forest Gateau every time they went over. Dad had made the whole family swear that they would never tell Nan that Grandma's was better than hers.
Christmas Day rolled around and by the time the whole family was gathered at the Burrow Elise was more than ready to put her plan into action. She was sitting in Nan's armchair, which afforded the best few of the entrance porch, and was able to see the moment Uncle Harry went to answer the door.
"Severus! We were wondering where you'd got to," said Uncle Harry as the two men engaged in one of their firm handshakes.
Elise resisted the urge to roll her eyes. It was patently obvious to anyone with a functioning pair of eyes that the two men were in love with one another; she simply couldn't understand why they were so thick. She knew they had a volatile history and had once barely been able to be in the same room, but it had been a long time since that had been the case.
"My apologies," said Uncle Severus as he divested himself of his cloak. "I had a commission to finish before I could leave."
"Working on Christmas Day? Such dedication," said Uncle Harry with a grin. "Come in while I go and fetch you a drink. A nice, crisp white?"
"Perfect," said Uncle Severus, watching Uncle Harry go. "Happy Christmas, sweetheart," he said, moving to stand behind Elise's chair and dropping a kiss on her forehead. "Your father tells me your Potions grades are very encouraging this term."
"Mm and nothing to do with nepotism, I assure you," Elise said with a grin. "He's tougher on me than anyone."
"Only because you can take it," said Uncle Harry as he appeared with Uncle Severus' wine. "You're tougher than your Pa any day."
"That goes without saying," Elise returned smoothly.
"How's your new project going?" Uncle Harry asked and Uncle Severus' eyes danced the way they always did when talking about his beloved art.
"It's slow but I'm making progress. I've allowed myself today and tomorrow but then it's back to work. And you? Are you still enjoying coaching?"
"Oh I'm so much happier than when I was playing. It's a young man's game, that's for sure."
"Oh yes, at 36 you're positively ancient. Spare a thought for us bona fide old men."
Uncle Harry laughed and Elise watched as the two men continued their conversation. Uncle Harry's eyes never lit up the way they did when he talked to Uncle Severus and Uncle Severus never smiled at anyone the way he smiled at Uncle Harry. She thoroughly despaired of both of them.
"I've made sure they're sitting together at the dinner table," Uncle George whispered in her ear and she nodded as she looked up at him.
"Good," she murmured back. "Make sure both their glasses are kept topped up and then we can put the proper plan into action after we've eaten."
She watched them all through the meal, trying to keep up her end of the conversation with everyone else. Christmas dinner was always a noisy affair. Everyone gathered around the magically extended table and the grown-ups tried to conduct conversations while the horde of children outdid one another with tales of how their magic was progressing.
Elise normally preferred to speak with the adults, although her older cousin, Poppy, Uncle Charlie's oldest, was great fun to spend time with. This Christmas Elise only wanted to concentrate on the two men opposite her.
Uncle Harry and Uncle Severus were being polite and speaking to others around the table when people asked them questions but for almost the entire meal they spoke solely to one another. Both men looked captivated by what the other was saying and Elise felt a little spark of triumph when Uncle Harry leant over and placed his hand on Uncle Severus' arm.
The answering smile from Uncle Severus was enough to turn Elise into a fully-fledged romantic, but she knew there was still a little way to go before she could claim victory. She didn't know why the two men couldn't work things out by themselves. It was obvious how they felt about one another, obvious that as far as they were concerned there was no one else around the table but each other.
She had asked her parents many times over the years why her uncles were so apparently clueless. Dad had said that the timing had never been quite right, that both men needed time to see each other differently after their long and complicated history and those new viewpoints had never quite matched up.
Pa had been a bit more blunt about the situation. According to him, both men were so emotionally stunted and unable to recognise genuine emotion when it was staring them in the face that he didn't hold out any hope for either of them.
Well, Elise wasn't going to give up so easily. She was convinced her uncles would find happiness with each other and if they needed a little help along then way then so be it.
It was after dinner that her plan was really ready to be put into action. As she had predicted, an hour or so after eating, when everyone was cosily gathered in the living room, the idea of a game of quidditch was raised.
Elise exchanged a glance with Uncle George and he said with a grin, "Harry, Sev! You can both referee. After all, we can't have a former England player in the mix, too unfair."
"You're assuming I don't want to play," Uncle Severus in a slow drawl, his lip quirking.
"The day I see you up on a broom knocking around with this lot, I'll sell the shop," Uncle George returned. "Now, as referees, you two are responsible for fetching the brooms. That way we'll know none of them have been tampered with."
"Tampered with?" said Uncle Charlie. "Who on earth is going to tamper with them?"
"You can't be too careful. So go on you two, the sooner you get the brooms, the sooner we can start."
Uncle Harry and Uncle Severus exchanged glances but rose to their feet nevertheless and headed out to the garden. Everyone was so busy trying to pick teams that they didn't notice Elise and George slip out moments later.
They were just in time to see both men enter the broom shed and as the tails of Uncle Severus' cloak disappeared, Uncle George spelled the door shut and hit it with several of the strongest locking spells he knew.
"Did you manage to get both of their wands?" Elise asked.
"What do you take me for?" Uncle George asked with a grin, reaching into his robes and extracting the wands of both men. "Swiped them when they were doing the washing up. Honestly, for war veterans you'd think they'd be more alert."
"The fools thought they were among friends," Elise said with a smirk.
"What's going on out there?" came Uncle Harry's voice as he banged on the door. "Hello? Is anyone there? I think we're locked in!"
"Oh Uncle Harry!" said Elise in her most convincing voice. "Nan said she's been having terrible trouble with the gnomes lately, they've been causing mischief all over the garden! She sent me out to check they hadn't messed with the door again but it looks as though they have. Surely you can get it open between you?"
"Yes…yes of course. Just a second I…wait a minute. I haven't got my wand! Severus, have you – oh. You haven't got yours either? Looks like we're in a bit of a fix, Elise. Can you help us?"
"Of course! You two just sit tight and we'll have you out of there in no time."
She turned to face George again and whispered, "They're both perfectly capable of wandless magic if necessary, we need a precaution. You can do wish fulfilment magic, can't you?"
"It's one of my specialities," said Uncle George proudly. "Many of my products wouldn't exist without it. What are you thinking?"
"Well, not to be too romantic about it, but I think the spell should end with a kiss. Seems appropriate, no?"
"Oh sweetheart, you truly were made for Slytherin. When you graduate Hogwarts, I'll be taking you into partnership."
Elise giggled and stepped back while Uncle George created the specialised wards. He really was very impressive. It was easy to forget, with his easy manner and childish ways, that he really was quite brilliant.
"Right, now that's done we just have to go and convince everyone else not to rescue them," said Elise as she and Uncle George made their way back into the house, Elise hoping that her fathers would see her side of things.
Meanwhile, in the shed…
"Well," said Harry, glancing around the dusty shed, "this is embarrassing."
"Two war veterans being caught without their wands?" Severus asked with a quirk of his eyebrow and Harry grinned in response.
"Moody would be so ashamed of us," he said with a sigh as he took a seat on an upturned bucket. "Well, who knows how long they'll be getting us out, might as well make ourselves comfortable."
"How can comfortable can one be exactly in a broom shed?" Severus asked, perching on a crate opposite Harry.
"We certainly had worse during the war," Harry said, shaking his head ruefully.
"Indeed. There was that one pleasant week that we slept in a bog."
Harry laughed, remembering the week Severus was talking about. It hadn't been so amusing at the time, of course. The war had lasted for three years, longer than any of them had anticipated. It had been bloody, messy and at times had seemed hopeless but they had prevailed in the end.
He and Severus had been partnered together 18 months into the conflict and, while neither man had been happy about it at first, they had grown to respect one another. From their working relationship a friendship was born. Many a night they had stayed up into the small hours drinking firewhisky and engaging in conversations that had been more personal than Harry would have ever imagined.
As they had neared the final battle, Harry had begun to realise that he had fallen in love with the man. He never entertained any notions that those feelings would be returned and he was too afraid to jeopardise their friendship to try and push the issue.
"It all seems so long ago now. Hard to believe we live in a world where Elise and all the others have never known the threat of Voldemort."
"That's what we were fighting for, wasn't it?" Severus asked with a small smile.
"That and other things," Harry said, returning the smile. It had been years and yet when Severus smiled at him, Harry's stomach still did summersaults.
There was silence for a moment before Harry rested his chin on his fist and said, "Elise really is something else, isn't she? I know we're not supposed to have favourites among the children, but she really is mine."
"She's a force to be reckoned with. She has all of Draco's cunning and all of Ron's fearlessness," Severus replied, sounding inordinately proud of his god-daughter.
"Who would have ever thought those two would end up married with three children?" Harry said, shaking his head.
"Oh I spotted it a mile off," Severus said imperiously.
"You liar, you were just as surprised as I was when Draco stormed into the hospital after the final battle and kissed Ron. That really was awfully romantic," Harry said with a wistful smile.
"Sap," Severus said, rolling his eyes.
"Oh come on, surely it melted even your cold, black heart," Harry said with a teasing smile.
"It did no such thing. My cold, black heart is as untouched as ever."
"So…Alastair did nothing to chip away at the ice then?" Harry asked, deciding to venture into a topic they rarely spoke about – their love lives.
Harry had had his share of paramours over the years, but they never lasted very long. Of course the truth was that he would never be able to commit to anyone while he was still in love with Severus, and he didn't see that changing any time soon.
Severus had had two relationships in the almost 20 years Harry had been friends with him. There had been Scott, Draco's one-time accountant, whom Severus had gone out with a couple of years after the war ended and then Alastair, a fellow Potions Master, a couple of years ago. Harry had been heartbroken each time.
"Alastair was…a distraction," Severus said carefully after a pause.
"A distraction from what?" Harry asked, noting the slightly pink tinge to Severus' cheeks.
"The…pressures of work, day-to-day…trivialities," Severus replied, seeming a tad ruffled.
"You went out with Alastair for two years to keep your mind off day-to-day trivialities?" Harry asked sceptically. "Was he aware of his role?"
"He…was aware of where my heart lay…towards the end," Severus said, looking over the top of Harry's head.
"It…it didn't lie with him?" Harry asked, feeling his stomach flip.
"He…was not the right person for me. I don't know that anyone would be."
"Oh," said Harry quietly, not sure what to make of that. Still, it came as something of a comfort to learn that Alastair hadn't been the love of Severus' life. For the entirety of their relationship, Harry had wished death on the man on more than one occasion, which was hardly fair as Alastair was a decent enough chap.
"One hardly needs to ask about the state of your love life," Severus said, shaking himself as though to rid himself of the previous conversation.
"For the simple reason that I don't have one."
Severus snorted. "The slew of men you've left in your wake says otherwise."
"There hasn't been a slew of men thank you very much," Harry said, affronted.
"The Prophet begs to differ."
"You know better than to pay any heed to that rag," Harry said, feeling his cheeks heat.
"I also have the evidence of my own eyes, of course. I've seen you at enough functions with something pretty dangling from your arm."
"Well excuse me for trying to fill my life with a little company. What else I am supposed to do, wait for the person I actually want to spend my life with to open his fucking eyes?" Harry said, knowing instantly that he should have kept his mouth shut.
"And what does that mean?" Severus asked, his eyes narrowing.
"Nothing," Harry said quickly. "Nothing…just that clearly none of these men have meant anything to me and I'd like to be able to settle down with…someone. Perhaps…perhaps I just need someone to…notice me."
Severus shot him a withering look. "The whole bloody world notices you. They noticed you when you were the slayer of Voldemort, they noticed you when you were a champion quidditch player and they noticed you when you were in the papers for your playboy lifestyle!"
"Well I'm still bloody single, aren't I? So obviously something isn't working. Did it ever occur to you that all those blokes I've been out with have been substitutes for…what I really want?"
Black eyes fixed on him and Harry looked down at his shoes. It had been a long time since he'd been a teenager and yet he felt like one at that moment. It was as though he was back in the dungeons, trying to lie his way out of a confrontation with his terrifying Potions Master.
"And what is it that you really want?" came the smooth voice after a moment.
"I…nothing…it doesn't matter." Harry shook his head and took a deep breath, then looked up and said, "Tell me about your latest commission, it sounded very interesting."
"If you want to change the topic you'd do better than to attempt to engage me in talk of potions."
"I'm interested!" Harry protested. "I'm always interested in your work, you know that!"
"Be that as it may, you know I always know when you're trying to avoid something."
"Says the man who dated someone for two years to keep his mind off other things!" Harry shot back, getting to his feet. "That's the pot…telling the kettle it's…an enigma…" Harry said, aware of how stupid he sounded.
A look of pure mirth crossed Severus' face and he rose to stand opposite Harry. "Why can you never get sayings correct?" he asked with another one of those smiles that turned Harry's insides to goo. "I've never heard you get one right in all these years. It really is adorable."
"Adorable?" Harry echoed in disbelief, not sure whether to feel elated or insulted. "Puppies are adorable, Severus. Elise was adorable when she was a chubby toddler, I'm…I'm…"
"Would you like some help thinking of an adjective?"
"I'm not sure I'd care to hear whatever other adjectives you'd used to describe me," Harry said, unsure exactly which waters this conversation had been steered into.
"I'm fairly certain I've said most of them to your face at one time or another."
"And the ones you haven't?"
Severus stepped a little closer and Harry swallowed hard. He was trying very hard to not be so foolish as to let his hopes overwhelm him. He had made that mistake one too many times in the past.
There had been so many occasions over the years when he had been on the brink of telling Severus how he felt, times when he had imagined that Severus was on the verge of confessing something to him. It had all come to nothing though and Harry had been left feeling as though he'd been kicked in the gut each time. It was better to simply let things be rather than to face the reality of rejection. Harry wasn't sure he could have borne that.
"What adjectives do you imagine I'd attach to you?" Severus asked, his voice still low.
"I was never very good at guessing games," Harry replied, feeling as though he was being backed into a corner.
He had never seen this look in Severus' eyes before and he felt himself falter under its intensity. Something had changed, the atmosphere was no longer teasing, Severus was no longer smirking but was looking at him as though there was nothing else in the world to look at.
Harry took a deep breath through his nose, feeling his mouth go dry as he asked, "What was Alastair a distraction for?"
Severus' eyes darkened and the silence seemed to stretch for an eternity before he finally said, "You."
Harry couldn't have been certain, but he was sure he felt the earth move beneath him. Blood pounded in his ears and his legs felt as though they couldn't properly support him.
"If you're winding me up I swear to Merlin that I will hex you, wand or not," Harry said, his voice strained.
"You know it's the truth," Severus said softly.
"I…I don't know what to say," Harry said, his powers of speech deserting him.
Severus shook his head. "I never had any hopes of you returning my feelings," he said, his voice tinged with sadness. "But I'm tired of hiding behind a lie. At least you know. I hope we can still maintain our friendship."
"Are you mad?" Harry said before he could stop himself.
Severus' face hardened and Harry saw all the man's guards go up in a heartbeat. "Very well then, if you feel uncomfortable now that I've told you the truth then so be it. I always knew it would be a mistake, that I should just – "
Severus' sentence was cut off as Harry launched himself at the man, wrapping his arms around Severus' neck and kissing him for all he was worth. Severus' shock lasted only briefly and within moments Harry felt himself pulled more firmly into the man's arms as Severus' tongue insinuated itself into his mouth.
Harry had spent years imagining this moment, creating it a thousand different ways in his mind, but nothing could have prepared him for the reality of it. Severus was firm and warm as Harry pressed up against him and he was kissing Harry like a man possessed. Harry felt as though he was being devoured and he couldn't have torn himself away if the reincarnation of Voldemort had thundered into the broom shed.
Indeed, he was so caught up in the moment that he didn't hear when the shed door opened and his god-daughter said, "Maybe we should have given them a little longer."
~*~ Christmas Eve the following year~*~
"That's the last of the presents wrapped," said Harry as he flopped down on the bed at Severus' feet. "All ready to be taken to the Burrow tomorrow."
Severus placed his book to one side and looked down at Harry with a smile. "We should have got Elise nothing but coal."
"How can you say that?" said Harry with a laugh. "It's thanks to her we're here now."
Severus reached down and pulled Harry up to sit beside him, wrapping an arm around his shoulders and holding him closely. Harry nestled into the man's side and smiled as he remembered what had brought them to that moment.
"If that girl doesn't end up as Minister of Magic I'll live my old age out as a squib," Severus said, combing his fingers through Harry's hair.
"I wonder what she'll have in store for us this year," Harry said, trying not to purr under Severus' gentle ministrations.
Severus' movements stopped and a moment later he said softly, "I have taken precautions this year to make sure she has no reason to lock us in the broom shed."
"Oh? And what does that mean?" Harry asked, tilting his head up to look at Severus.
Severus met his eyes and Harry thought he saw just the smallest glimmer of nerves in his partner's face. After a pause, Severus reached over into his bedside table and pulled out a small box. He held it in his hand, looking down at it pensively before holding it out to Harry.
"In the interest of protecting ourselves from our precocious god-daughter, I thought it best to stay one step ahead of her."
"What is it?" Harry asked, feeling his pulse speed up, certain he could guess what the box contained.
Severus gestured for him to open it and Harry tried not to grin too widely as he found himself looking a white-gold band etched with runes.
"This had better be what I think it is," he said, looking back up to meet Severus' eyes.
Severus smiled and said, "We've waited long enough, don't you think? I say it's time to make it official."
"You're asking me to be your husband?" Harry asked softly. It was the obvious step to take of course. They had had a sickeningly blissful year since their previous Christmas in the Burrow's broom shed and Harry had to pinch himself sometimes to make sure it was all real.
If Elise hadn't been his favourite before, she certainly was now. People had made a great show at the time of telling her off for the little stunt she had pulled, but it was clear that they were all just as thrilled as she was. Harry wondered if everyone had been able to see it all these years and if all their friends had been despairing of how stupid they were.
"Yes I am," Severus said, reaching up to run a hand through Harry's hair. "If you don't say yes you'll have Elise to answer to."
"Fool," Harry said, leaning forward to kiss him. "As if my answer would be anything else."
Severus sighed as they parted and said, "I must have done something very bad in a past life to find myself saddled with you."
Harry grinned and said, "If you're not careful I'll follow you into the next life too. Merry Christmas, love."
"Merry Christmas, Harry."