Christmas was possibly Harry Potter’s favourite time of year.
No, it was definitely his favourite time of year. It had been ever since his twelfth Christmas, when the mother of a friend he’d known for a mere four months had knitted him a jumper signifying the beginning of the inclusion into the family which he’d been a firm part of ever since.
He enjoyed the frantic run-up to the big day itself; the panic of last-minute buying, getting the house prepared every time they hosted the family or getting his and Ginny’s three kids and his godson – all of whom were as troublesome as each other – to the home of whichever family member had that poisoned chalice.
Though they planned the holiday to perfection every year, things never went to plan. Ever. One year, the pygmy puff George and Angelina bought for Lucy died the night before, and another, Dominique’s cat ate the chocolates, again on Christmas Eve. Then there was the year Fred fell off his new broomstick on Christmas Day and had to be taken to St. Mungo’s, not to mention the year Hermione went into labour in the middle of Christmas dinner.
Christmas never went right.
But Harry still loved it. He could endure the inevitable hiccoughs, Fleur’s tutting when Mrs Weasley wanted to listen to Celestina Warbeck’s Christmas Concerts, Percy’s pompous boasting about his latest Ministry successes, George’s endless pranks all holiday, Ron and Hermione’s constant bickering, Teddy and Victoire’s constant bickering – though his annoyance at their arguing had now been replaced by paranoia whenever they were absent that they were in a horizontal position in someone’s bedroom – and adolescent sulking from his children and many nieces and nephews; Lily in particular had already adopted her mother’s hot temper.
He could endure it because, no matter what went wrong; despite the arguments, duplicated presents, dead pygmy puffs or unexpected babies, every Christmas was spent with the people he loved the most. His family.
The past couple of years, there had been another reason why Christmas was his favourite time of year. Last year, he’d packed his eldest son off on the Hogwarts Express and this year, his younger son had gone too. At Christmas, they were home again, even if only for a fortnight. He did miss them, even if there were less arguments and explosions in the house when they weren’t there.
Therefore, he was barely able to contain his excitement as he stood on the platform with his wife and daughter, waiting to collect his sons.
“You’re like a kid on Christmas Day,” Ginny said, smiling fondly at him.
He liked the analogy.
James refused to hug him when he got off the train. He expected that. James was ‘too cool’ for this kind of thing. But James still grinned at him, and gave Lily a bear hug.
Harry had been expecting a hug from Albus, though. He’d always been more sensitive – and less concerned about his public image – than James.
So it was puzzling and upsetting when Albus barely smiled in response to his enthusiastic greeting, contributed nothing to the conversation in the car, and headed up to his room the moment they got home.
“What on earth is up with him?” Harry frowned.
“I don’t know.” Ginny looked as concerned as he was. “James, has he been alright at school?”
“He’s been fine,” James shrugged. “Seems to have made a few friends. I don’t know, I don’t really see him round. Do we have any food? I’m hungry.”
And, totally unconcerned, he headed off to the kitchen.
“He seemed okay in his letters,” Ginny mused. “I mean, he never seemed overly enthusiastic, but then, how many eleven year old boys are?”
That didn’t appease Harry, and he didn’t think it appeased her, either. After all, this was Albus they were talking about, not James.
Albus’ mood remained for the next few days and, at a loss for what to do, Harry turned to Rose.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with him,” she said, looking worried. “He’s doing fine in his classes, and lots of people like him. I can’t see what would be troubling him. Do you want me to ask him?”
“It’s okay,” he replied with a reassuring smile. “I’ll talk to him later. I’m sure it’s nothing. He probably just thinks it’s uncool to be seen hugging his dad now he’s all grown up. By the way, what are you getting him for Christmas? Your Aunt Ginny and I have come up with something, but she thinks you might have thought of it too...”
The night before Christmas Eve, he bit the bullet, and knocked softly on Albus’ bedroom door.
“Al?” he said gently. “Can I come in?”
He slowly pushed the door open and saw that Albus was lying on his bed, staring up at the ceiling.
“Hey, buddy,” he said quietly, shutting the door behind him. “Are you alright? You’ve not seemed yourself since we picked you up from the train.”
Albus didn’t respond.
Harry sat down gingerly on the bed beside him.
“Is it a problem at school?” he pressed gently. “Are you having trouble with your classes? From what we’ve heard from Neville and Hagrid, you’re doing well...”
“Classes are fine,” he said quietly.
“Well, is it someone in your house causing you problems? James and Rose say you seem fine in the common room. You are happy that you’re in Gryffindor, aren’t you? I thought that this was where you wanted to be?”
“House is fine.”
“Then...” The uncomfortable realisation hit him. “Is it someone outside your house?”
A pause. Then-
“Dad, why did you name me like you did?”
He frowned; that hadn’t been the response he’d expected.
Albus sat up slowly, still avoiding eye contact.
“Some people have odd names,” he said slowly, deliberately. “But ... most people don’t have two odd names. And most people aren’t named after two school teachers. And lots of people at school say that their parents didn’t like this Snape guy that you were all taught by...”
Harry thought he felt his heart break, just a little.
“Severus Snape was an incredibly brave man-”
“Yeah, I know, you’ve told me that one already,” Albus said shortly. “But telling people I’m named after a ‘brave person’ doesn’t stop them from making fun of the name, especially when I can’t tell them what he did.”
“They – who’s making fun of you?”
“Doesn’t matter,” he mumbled, frowning as he looked down at his lap, where his fingers were intertwined. He seemed to think he’d said too much.
Harry sighed sadly, and adjusted himself so that he was sitting next to his son, his back against the headboard of the bed.
“You know, I haven’t told you everything about my past, because I didn’t want to scare you,” he said. “I told you what you needed to know. I told you everything that the wizarding world knows, and I told you enough to make sure that you learn from what happened, and know that it can’t happen again. I didn’t tell you about Severus Snape, because ... well, I guess I thought you didn’t need to know. What he did was incredible, but all the same I never liked him. I named you for him because of what he did, and I guess I thought that was enough.”
He took a deep breath.
“He used to be friends with my mum, Lily, before they went to Hogwarts. And then he got sorted into Slytherin when they went to Hogwarts, and he made friends with the wrong people; the people who thought Muggles were less important. So he thought he couldn’t be friends with her any more. But he loved her the whole time. And then she married my dad, and Snape became a Death Eater.”
Finally, finally, there was eye contact. But it was only an incredulous look.
“You named me after a Death Eater?”
“I’ve not finished the story!” Harry said. “Don’t judge until you know the full story. You remember that I told you about the prophecy?”
“Uh huh. The one that said one of you or Voldemort had to kill the other one?”
“That’s the one. Well, Snape overheard it, and realised it was about my mum, and that Voldemort wanted to kill her. So he turned spy against Voldemort, in the hope that she could be saved.”
“But she wasn’t.”
“No, but even so, if it wasn’t for Snape, I wouldn’t have survived. Because Snape asked Voldemort to spare my mum-”
“But he didn’t.”
“Stop interrupting!” Harry ruffled his son’s hair affectionately. “Voldemort gave my mum the option to run. I told you that too, remember? She could have saved herself, but she wouldn’t stand aside, she sacrificed herself-”
“And that sacrifice saved you,” Albus finished.
“I knew you remembered.” Harry grinned. “But that wasn’t all that Snape did, you know. When Voldemort came back, he carried on as a spy for us, and when Voldemort took over the school and the Ministry, Snape did his best to protect the students. And at the end, just before he died, he gave me the information I needed to make sure Voldemort died. Do you see how he was brave now?”
“Yeah ... but you still didn’t like him?”
“I didn’t find out about most of this until after he died. I thought he was Voldemort’s man. Even before that, he’d never liked me, because he didn’t like my dad. He ... he wasn’t a good man, Al. He was flawed. But he wasn’t a bad man either. And he played a massively important role in the fight against Voldemort. That’s why you have his name.”
“But you haven’t told people about him,” Albus pointed out.
“That’s because if I did, I’d have to tell them about the prophecy. There are some things that I don’t want the general public to know. They know enough to ensure his name isn’t sullied.”
“It’s still a stupid name,” Albus muttered, but he seemed slightly appeased. “Okay, so that’s that one sorted. What about Albus? Some geezer with a long beard who liked chamber music and ten pin bowling?”
“You’ve read his Chocolate Frog card.”
“Bit hard not to when Ma-people throw it in my face every day,” he grumbled. “I know yours off by heart too. Do you have any idea how ridiculous it is to see your dad’s face on a Chocolate Frog card?”
Harry grinned, relieved that he seemed happier.
“Albus Dumbledore was the greatest Headmaster Hogwarts ever had. Possible one of the greatest wizards who ever lived. His personal sacrifices were ... huge. He’d lost his entire family by the age of eighteen; the only living member of it hated him for a mistake he’d made. And he hated himself for it, too. The rest of his life was spent trying to atone for these sins he’d made as a young man.”
“What sins? They can’t have been that bad, at that age...”
“He blamed himself for his sister’s death,” Harry said softly.
Albus didn’t respond.
“He devoted his whole life to fighting the Dark Arts, and nurturing the future of the wizarding world. Without him, I could never have defeated Voldemort, and this world would be a much darker place. It would be a totally different place. He didn’t quite teach me everything I know, but he taught me a lot ... and I’m forever in his debt. That is why you’re named after him.”
Albus seemed awestruck.
“Wow...” he tailed off. “So, I’m the son of the Boy Who Lived, and I’m named for two of the greatest, bravest wizards ever. No pressure, Al...”
Harry laughed, and threw an arm around his shoulders.
“Don’t be daft, Al. You know the only person your mother and I expect you to be is yourself. And you’re the best you that you can be.”
Albus frowned, trying to process the convoluted sentence.
“We can all learn lessons from the past, Al,” Harry continued. “And while what happened twenty years ago is unparalleled, and I hope will remain that way, there are still things to remember and learn from it. The thing to learn here, is that you should never stop fighting for what is right, even if there’s an easy way out. Remember, everyone has a contribution to make to the world. And I think yours will be a pretty special one.”
“Thanks, Dad.” Albus beamed, and hugged his father. Harry grinned back, and squeezed him tightly.
“So do you think you can go back to Hogwarts and tell those people that you have a better name than them now?”
“Definitely,” Albus said with a grin.
“I’m glad to hear it. Now, who is it that’s been causing all this aggro?”
Albus looked slightly sheepish. “Malfoy.”
Harry stared at him.
“Malfoy? You’ve been teased about your name by Scorpius Hyperion Malfoy?”
“I know; I told him his name was silly but the girls think it’s cool – wait, what did you say his middle name was? Hyperion?”
“Didn’t you know that?”
“No! You never told me!”
“Hmm, I wonder why that was?” Harry smirked slightly. “Just remember, Al – you didn’t like being teased for your name, so don’t go round telling everyone his. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Just a little hint or two here and there should be enough to shut him up. Oh, and one more thing.”
“Yes?” said Albus, who looked as though all of his Christmases had come at once.
“Don’t tell him who you found out from,” Harry finished with a wink. “Now, are you coming downstairs? There are some Christmas presents that need wrapping, and you know how bad I am at wrapping presents...”