"Severus, it's only for this year. You've never helped before in the previous years. Quite frankly, I think you're missing out on too much. It might help you-,"
"-what? Get into the holiday spirit?" Severus sneered. "It's nothing but a waste of money and time. To add to that, all the frivolous behavior causes all people to suddenly become incompetent dunderheads. And let's not forget what happens to the love-sick idiots."
"All I'm asking is for you to assist the rest of the staff in decorating this one year."
"No, Albus! I absolutely refuse!"
"Severus, do you think this looks better in blue or white?"
Severus growled. "Black," he muttered, and then growled as the word reminded him of his much hated old arch-enemy.
"Severus, honestly! If you didn't want to help decorate, then why in the world did you come and volunteer?"
"A certain manipulative old coot forced me to –,"
"I'm most certain that he didn't force you as you so claim."
"Minerva, one cannot simply refuse Albus Dumbledore."
Minerva seemed to consider this a moment then nodded in agreement. "Yes, I suppose. Point taken. Now, which color did you say?"
"Minerva! Why are you asking me to choose the colors? I'd rather have everything be bla-, erm, grey."
"Severus, this is Christmas. The season is winter. Not Halloween in the fall."
Severus rolled his eyes. "Grey sure reminds me of winter."
Minerva shook her head in defeat and decided to just use both. With a flick of her wand, dark and light blue and sparkling white streamers were strung all over in the Great Hall. The two worked like this for almost the whole time until the very last decorations were little paper, green trees that were charmed to turn appear as if they were turning and flash their Christmas lights.
"Hmmm, Severus, tell me, do you think these trees look better light green or dark green?"
Another flick of the wand.
"Oh, wow Severus. I really like the way that looks, especially the light green. It reminds me a bit of the color of Mr. Potter's eyes. Do you like it?"
"It's, erm, great," he mumbled. In an effort to change the topic, he added red ornaments to them all.
Minerva glanced at Severus in surprise and relief that he was actually doing something.
Severus looked at the trees as a whole and frowned. "Too much red," he said and immediately half of the ornaments disappeared. Much better. "There seems to be too much red around here the whole school year actually," he muttered to himself. He had been thinking of the Weasley twins who forcibly reminded him too much of the Mauraders. Last week, they'd made everyone's cauldron explode in mini red and green fireworks during mid-term exams. Cleaning up the mess had not made him any happier. Unfortunately, Minerva caught every word.
"Excuse me, what exactly do you have against my loyal Gryffindors?"
Oh, right. The house colors… Well, he did have a problem with most of the Gryffindors too. But he wasn't about to have another argument right now about Houses. He just wanted to get back to his quarters and spend the rest of the evening in peace.
"I was simply referring to a certain couple of red heads in your house Minerva." Everyone knew how much he hated the Weasley twins. This comment wasn't anything new.
Wrong thing to say.
"And what is wrong with the Weasleys?" she demanded.
Nothing at all, it's just all of those red heads are either complete morons, or insufferable idiots.
"WHAT?" Minerva screeched, " I BEG YOUR PARDON!"
Oh. Did he just say that out loud?
Poppy had just entered with a large box of glass statues when she dropped it from shock due to the sudden outburst.
A very relaxing evening indeed. Congratulations Severus.
"What exactly do you have against all red heads Severus? I'd like to know!"
"Severus? Where are you going?"
"I believe that we are finished decorating Minerva. I'm going to be in my quarters. Now, if you've got anything else to argue about the red- boys, erm, Weasleys, then talk to someone else."
Minerva tilted her head in confusion. "What does Ginny have to do with this?"
Severus looked at her in confusion. "What in the world are you talking about?"
"Well, you said the Weasley boys, and Ginny is a girl, so…"
"I wasn't talking about the Weasley girl whatsoever."
"Oh. Well who were you trying to exclude then Severus?"
"It's obvious. You were irritated with the Weasleys and being that their whole family has red hair, your comments inferred that you had a problem with all red heads in general. Then when I pointed this out, you must have thought of someone who has red hair that you don't dislike. So you tried to correct your mistake and only infer the Weasley boys. But you forgot they have a girl as well… oh. Severus, it's a girl isn't it?"
Gosh, you just couldn't keep your stupid mouth shut. Why wasn't she in Ravenclaw?
"Merlin whatever gave you that idea?"
"I'll take that as a yes! Who is it, Severus?"
Could the woman not take the hint and shut up? Just the thought of… her… and her eyes… her hair… sent a sharp pang into his heart. He couldn't take this any longer.
Before Minerva could say anything more, he spun on his heels and stalked off to his quarters with his robes billowing dramatically behind him.
Minerva looked at Poppy in curiosity. "I've always wondered how he does that."
Poppy's look of sadness told Minerva that something was off. "Something wrong Poppy? Was it something I said?"
Poppy blinked away the tears that threatened to come. Being a medi-witch, she saw a lot more than people thought.
"You've never observed his childhood days have you Minerva?"
Severus opened shut his door and was about to collapse in a chair to read a good book, to take his mind off everything else, when he noticed a small package on the table next to him. He looked at it suspiciously and cast multiple charms over it to see if it was a prank or held anything dangerous. Nothing showed up. He looked over the package and found a small tag that read:
I hope you like them. If you're wondering,
this isn't a trap or trick or anything…
See you in class. Enjoy.
Happy Christmas Professor!
Okay, what kind of a joke was this? He studied the handwriting closely. Yep. Potter's handwriting. Wait, no. How could that be?
It was Christmas Eve, and he'd gotten a gift… from Harry Potter. What was the world coming to? He opened the package to find a box of chocolates from Honeyduke's. He cautiously took a small bite out of one. It was so sweet. When was the last time he'd had chocolate? Heck, when was the last time he'd ever gotten a present? And what on earth had possessed the boy… Potter's boy to get him a gift? He was going to have a little chat with the Golden Boy tomorrow.
"You heard what I said!" he snapped.
"I-I just wanted to give everyone a gift… you included."
"Don't tell lies –,"
"But it's true! No one deserves to be alone on Christmas!"
Severus briefly scanned the boy's mind. He was telling the truth. There was no hint of pity, sarcasm, or cruelty. What the…?
"I – I'm sorry, sir. Did you not like the chocolates? You don't have to eat them."
Actually, Severus had already eaten one-fourth of the box. But he wasn't going to admit that. What about his reputation? The greasy git of the dungeons liked chocolate from Honeyduke's? No. That just wouldn't do!
"Get to breakfast Potter." He couldn't look into those eyes anymore and see the confusion… the hurt.
"Five points from Gryffindor!" he snapped
He watched as the boy's eyes widened and as he nearly sprinted to the Great Hall.
"Five points for running in the halls Potter!"
As soon as the boy was out of sight, he sighed and walked away. The image of his eyes, her eyes still burned in his mind.
"So Severus, are you having a lovely Christmas Day?"
"I'll take that as a yes. Lemon drop?"
"Is there a reason why you called me to your office, Headmaster?"
"Only to check up and see how you're doing. Lemon drop?"
"Albus, we've already gone over this a million times. There is no way in my entire lifetime that I'm going to accept a stupid lemon drop from you, so cease offering me one!"
"Severus, you know I'll never stop doing that. I've got green and red peppermints here instead. Want one?"
"Come now Severus, I know you have a sweet tooth if you ate those chocolates Harry sent you."
Severus stood there speechless, and when he tried to talk, it all came out in a jumble. "B – w – wh – what? H-how'd – y – you…?"
"My boy, you'd be surprised at how much I know what happens in this school."
"What in Merlin's name drove the boy to get something for me though?"
"I believe Harry was in, let's say, the Christmas spirit."
"He has his mother's heart. This is a time of giving. I'm quite personally extremely proud of him considering he went out of his way to buy a gift for you of all people despite the behavior you've displayed towards him."
Severus didn't answer.
"And I expect you to thank him as well."
Something was wrong with his hearing.
"B-but what? Albus, I'm a Slytherin. I don't thank people, especially Potter!"
The headmaster's eyes grew serious. "You will tell him thank him, Severus."
Severus sighed as his own words came back to him. One cannot simply refuse Albus Dumbledore.
He bowed his head in defeat and gave the slightest of nods, but that was enough. Albus knew he'd follow through.
With that matter settled, the headmaster changed the second subject he wanted to discuss. "Minerva told me about an interesting conversation you two had about Harry's friend and his family."
Groan. Not now.
"Anything you want to talk about?"
"Are you sure?" He's not my private counselor!
"Albus, if that's all we have to discuss, I really must be going."
"By all means, Severus. Are you sure you don't want a peppermint?"
The twinkle in his eye was not missed.
"Shut up, Albus."
The headmaster chuckled as the door clicked shut.
Severus sighed as he dipped his quill in the ink. How did he do this? Albus's words echoed in his ears. He has his mother's heart… Severus closed his eyes and briefly imagined that he was sending this to Lily. With that, he knew what to write. He made it short, brief, and didn't bother to add any extra flavorings to the note. But for once, he didn't make any sarcastic or cutting comments. It was plain, sincere, and he could not believe that he'd just actually sent it off with his owl!
Harry's jaw dropped. Surely he'd read that wrong. This had to be from a different person. He thought he was going to feint. In his hand the following day was a note that read:
Thank you for the gift. It's much appreciated.