Section three - Very early Christmas morning
Midnight had come and gone and still Ron could not fall asleep. His singed
eyebrows were smarting and he couldn't help but rub the irritated skin.
Nothing was working out like he had planned it.
When he had first heard that Snape was coming to spend Christmas with his
family and a good majority of the Order of the Phoenix, he had been
disappointed at having to share his family and a little frightened of what
the stern professor would say when the inevitable Christmas letter jumpers
were opened and admired. The presents were a running joke in his household
but every single Weasley would gladly cut out his or her tongue before
saying anything derogatory in front of Mrs. Weasley.
The idea behind the perfect prank had first come to Ron when he started
thinking of ways to keep Snape from saying anything that could hurt his
mum. A couple of the Weasley Wizarding Wheezes "Dumb & Deaf Divinity" and
the professor would be unable to speak or hear for a good thirty minutes.
That would allow time to finish the gift giving.
It had been Fred's idea to start the fun early and plant something in the
guest room the menace was sleeping in. The idea was simple and classic but
it lacked what Ron wanted the most - public humiliation.
He still clung to his original idea of the tricky Christmas treat platter
but knew that the real genius lay quietly in the brightly wrapped package
just to the right of the tree. Hermione, Harry and George had spent twenty
minutes agonizing the precise placement for proper angle and torque.
Quick, easy - but with lasting results.
It finally dawned on him why he couldn't sleep. A throaty rasp and rattle
had been filling the quiet night at intervals that made it impossible for
him to drop off. Rolling over, he heard a disgusted snort nearby.
"Harry, what is that noise?" mumbled Ron; glad he wasn't the only one
"I think it's Bill snoring."
"It's not me," the accused man retorted, throwing a small pillow at the
smart aleck across the room. "And since Charlie is drooling on my
shoulder, I don't think it's him."
The oldest Weasley boys had been moved into Ron's already crowded room for
the few days the house would be full and were not happy about it. Their
room had originally been planned on for Snape but was appropriated for the
Muggle, Mr. Jonathon Fredricks, after his inelegant exit from reality.
Snape was now sleeping, quite against his will, on the lumpy couch in front
of the fire.
"Neville? Is that noise coming from you?"
"No," he mumbled. "Not me. I was asleep until you all started throwing
things at each other." Another pillow came out of the darkness to strike
him on the shoulder. Snagging the ammunition from the floor, he threw it
in the general direction it had come from.
"Ahh! We were being good and you had to drag us into the battle," cried
Fred from the swinging hammocks he and George had strung up from the
exposed timbres of the peaked ceiling.
Pillows, blankets, socks and crumpled Chudley Canon posters began to fly
through the air as the boys got completely into the sides of the battle.
"Wait! Lumos!" The fight stopped as light glowed from Charlie's wand.
"Why are we throwing things at each other?"
"Someone is making a racket. We just wanted to shut it up," Ron patiently
explained, tossing a moldy end of bread from hand to hand until he realized
what he had and threw it down in disgust.
"It didn't work. I can still hear the grating wheeze."
He was right. Instantly, everyone dropped their weapons and listened
"It's coming from above us."
"No, that's impossible. There's nothing above us."
"There's the ghoul, but it usually just bangs around on the pipes."
"The sound is definitely coming from below us."
"Is it dad?"
"He's never made this kind of racket before."
"I don't think I've ever heard that kind of sound before."
As if thinking with one brain, the same thought hit them at the same time.
They shouted in unison, "SNAPE!"
"Too bad we couldn't put anything in his bed, like we planned," Ron
complained. He had tried to convince his mother to let the Muggle stay in
the living room, but she had been unmoving about showing the stranger as
much hospitality as they could offer in the crowded house.
"We'll get him in the morning. There is no way he'll figure out what we
have waiting for him in his present."
Neville poked his head out of the fort of blankets where he had been
hiding. "I get to be the one to hand him the gift, right? You promised."
"Don't worry, Neville." Harry searched the room for his socks, finally
finding one on Fred's hammock and the other stuck between the wall and
Ron's school trunk. "I think we should go see if we can do something to
stop the noise."
"Now you're talking, mate!"
The twins dressed, eager to help with any dead of night activities, and
five of the seven started down the darkened stairs. Bill and Charlie
promised to meet them downstairs.
"Fred, why don't you and George Apparate like you did before?" Ron asked
quietly, remembering how the two of them never seemed to walk anywhere
after they got their Apparating license.
"It's not as fun as it used to be. That, and George got in a spot of
trouble one day when he tried to Apparate into the backroom of the store
and almost didn't make it back in one piece."
There was a thump and Fred ducked another blow from his brother's fists.
"You promised not to tell the story again."
"He asked. I promised not to bring it up again. You never said anything
about answering questions." The two scuffled until Harry hit them each on
the head with his slipper.
Bill waited for them at the bottom of the stairs. "If we're the only ones
up after your trip downstairs, I'll be surprised. I think Ron tumbling
down on his butt would have made less noise."
"I told 'em to shut it," Harry retorted, glaring at the twins.
"Yes, I heard you. It would have been less of a roar if you hadn't done
anything." The group was silent as they tried to figure out if Bill had
complimented or chastised the proclaimed leader of their group. "Come on.
Charlie has to feed Precious then he'll be right down. He asked that we
not start the fireworks until he gets down here."
"How do you know about the fireworks?" Neville asked. Both Harry and Ron
glared at him and made slashing motions to keep him from talking. "What?
He wasn't supposed to know we were going to do anything. Who told you?"
"No one had to tell me. I figured out that something was going on - I
can't imagine the lot of you being together without something going on - so
I just paid attention. Snape being here was just too good to pass up,
wasn't it?" His sarcastic quip quieted down the group like nothing else
Ron finally whispered, "Do you think the others have figured out what we
want to do?"
"You blew the kitchen up today with your baking, Ron. I think your mum
must have a good idea that it wouldn't be within her best interest to eat
anything you try to hand out." Harry laughed as Ron turned on him, his
eyes narrowed. "What? Did you really think we were all going to try your
"Gran did ask me to warn her whenever your experiments showed up on a
table. If she hadn't been so concerned with Ginny's next attempt on her
life, she'd probably have spent her time glaring at you."
Bill laughed, his face finally turning bright red and his breath coming out
in funny little gasps as he attempted to stop. The earnest expression on
Neville's face as he talked about his grandmother's misinterpretations of
past events was enough to keep him going until he finally slumped to the
floor in an effort to get his breath back. Even the twins were finding the
boy's sincerity funny.
"Come on, Neville. Let's leave these half-wits to their own devices."
Harry, Ron, and the slightly offended boy crept closer to the snoring.
They were disappointed to see that there was no way the sound could come
from Snape. He sat on the couch, staring at the banked fire.
"What's he holding?" Neville whispered.
"I can't tell. Something pretty important, I would say. The guy's in his
own little world right now."
"Let's see if we can't get a better look." Ron smiled as he grabbed a
rubbery twist of string out of his pocket.
"Let's just say we can thank Fred and George for being forgetful. They
should never have left the Extendable Eyes lying around like they did
yesterday." His first attempt to levitate the eyes across the room ended
with a thud against a wall. The second time, a footstool got in the way.
Harry whipped out his wand and growled, "Let me. You're going to get us in
"No. I can do this." The third time was successful as the rubbery orbs
landed gently on the arm of the sofa. His threw a look of triumph at his
"Is that a girl with him?" The photograph in his hand was clear now, but
Neville still strained forward, eager to see what he could.
"Looks like one but who would possibly be in a picture with him?" Harry
squinted, as if trying to place the woman, until a movement caught his eye
and he found himself watching Snape flick a small bit of moisture from the
corner of his eye. In that instant, the boy felt his heart twist.
Neville felt his nose twitch. As he tried to keep the sneeze inside, he
only succeeded in making it bigger and more explosive. As it ripped
through his system, he gripped the closest thing to him for support - Ron's
wand arm. Harry saw the arm fumble and tried to steady the Eyes with his
Ron flailed about, trying his best to stay on his feet. A wild sweep of
his arm caught Harry on the chin, knocking his head back. With a crash,
all three boys fell to the floor.
The snoring had also kept the three girls awake, but they had decided to
stay under the warm covers and have a chat. Since Tonks had arrived after
the house had calmed down, she had been promptly carried off to the girls
room to be caught up on current events. Ginny, in the meantime, was
getting a wicked plan involving an adaptation of Tonks' current hair colour
and the family gathering later that day. Her mother was sure to
hyperventilate when she saw her only daughter's hairstyle.
"Is it easy to keep the different stripes of colour in place?"
"My hair's much shorter then yours so I don't have to worry about it moving
about. Are you sure you can do this spell without having it backfire and
making something awful happen to your lovely hair?"
Ginny sighed. "Lovely? No, it's not lovely. It would be lovely if I was
the only one around with this colour, but I'm surrounded by red hair. It's
like being a septuplet sometimes. I'm tired of looking normal. You're so
lucky to be able to change your appearance on a whim."
"Not lucky. It's a struggle always feeling that I have to look a certain
way in a certain situation. This is more a statement to myself that I can
be an individual and I don't need to confirm to the standards set by those
"Hoping Snape says something?"
"Most definitely!" The conversation faded into sleepy giggles until the
light knock at the door.
Ginny quickly lit a candle with a burst from her wand and crept over to
"Open up because Precious is likely to wake up any time now wanting food
and I don't think you want to be responsible for what she's liable to do."
"Forgot to ask if you were all decent," Charlie mumbled as he cast his eyes
down to his big toe sticking out of his left sock.
"It's freezing in this house, Charles Weasley!" Tonks retorted. "Of course
"Nice hair, Nymphadora." The second pillow fight of the evening started
with a laser shot to Charlie's left ear.
"Call me that again and I'll throw something with more umph behind it."
After being hit many more times, the man held up a white pillowcase, the
most recent missile. "I give up. You win!" Picking up the blanket-
wrapped dragon from the nest of pillows in the corner, he sat down at the
foot of Ginny's bed and pulled a baby bottle out of his rucksack. "The
girls tell you the plan, Tonks?"
"They got me up to speed. I don't know if I care for that kind of prank,
though. It's great at the time, but it always comes back at the worst
"Not too keen myself, but Neville did me a good turn so I feel I should
help him out. Poor kid. Ron's told me some of the stories about how
Snape's treated him. No one deserves that kind of hassle from a
"He's tame as a lamb in our class," Ginny mentioned, huddling over her
brother's shoulder to watch the cute little animal taking the strange green
liquid in the bottle quite greedily. She realized that the others had
become strangely silent and looked up. "What? Don't look at me that way.
I know he's a git. He just doesn't have anyone to pick on in my class."
"I'm surprised he doesn't pick on you just because you're a Weasley."
Hermione rolled her eyes with disgust.
"There are worse enemies to have, you know."
"Oh, really? Like who?"
"Like Mrs. Longbottom. The woman is just waiting for her chance to take
off my head with that handbag of hers. I bet it's full of bricks."
"Why would she use-"
Three explosions from down below rattled the window beside the bed, causing
the rooms occupants to flinch. Complete silence followed.
Tonks cleared her throat and shook her head while she asked, "You forget
"Like you weren't supposed to set Snape's surprise tonight because he was
on the couch."
Hermione laughed. "Then what was that?"
"I don't know." Moving to put the dragon back in her nest, he shook his
head. "You better get dressed. Christmas may be starting early this
Sure enough, the front room was pandemonium. Mad Eye Moody stomped about
the room, shouting at anyone that got in his way about a decided lack of
vigilance. The room was so crowded that a lot of people were unlucky
enough to get in his way. Mundungus was skulking at the bottom of the
tree, surreptitiously shaking the different presents. The twins were
pinned to the wall - literally - while their mother made them look as if
they rued the day they had decided to spend Christmas with their family
instead of a nice beach in the South of France.
"Exploding Snowballs," Ginny groaned as she noticed the splotch of green on
Fred's cheek. "I was hoping the twins were going to forget they had
brought some of those home. They sting when the land and they leave marks
on whatever they hit."
"I think we should make ourselves scarce," Tonks whispered. "If the
expression on Ron's face is any indication, the twins aren't the only ones
that have been interrogated by Mrs. Weasley."
Sure enough, Ron was staring into space with wide eyes. He had the look of
a prisoner waiting for a death sentence to be carried out. Harry hunched
beside his friend, looking as if he was trying to hide from the rest of the
adults in the room.
The only person who didn't look angry, guilty, or scared was Snape. The
professor stood in the centre of the room, a smug look on his pinched face.
Large splotches of colour were fading slowly from the front of his
"Too late," muttered Charlie as he stepped in front of his sister to shield
her from the screams coming from the now hysterical woman in the corner.
Neville was bent over his grandmother, barely keeping the woman in her
"That's the one. I saw the little harpy. She tried to kill me. Sneaking
into my room and exploding a bomb right by my ear. I saw her. I nearly
died of the fright. I could have fallen down the stairs and broken my
neck. Would that have make you happy? You should be locked away where you
can't hurt anyone else."
The new arrivals didn't faze Mrs. Weasley as she continued to scream at the
boys but the others fell silent. Mr. Weasley ran to the aid of the boy
while Bill sprinted over to help keep his sister from running at her
accuser. Snape pulled out his wand but looked unsure who needed to be
silenced the most.
"You flighty old bag. I never did anything of the sort. Tell her,
Hermione. I didn't try to kill you at the train station, and I haven't
been anything but polite tonight." Hermione's eyes widened as she was
suddenly made part of the ranting, and she slunk back against the wall.
Tonks moved to stand beside her, as if hoping no one noticed she had come
down with the group. No such luck. Ginny saw the movement and tried
another tactic. "Tell her. Tell her, Tonks. I was upstairs with you this
whole time. The whole time, I tell you. Think you can get me with your
handbag again, do you? Not bloody likely. Let me go, Charlie. Let me at
her. I can handle her. I'll make her wish she had never woken up."
Harry pulled himself from beside the chair and walked to his teacher's
side. "I don't think any of them will want to remember this in the
morning. I know you had been planning on wiping the Muggle's memory. I
say just level this whole place with the spell."
The sneer that had fallen off when the screaming match started inserted
itself back where it belonged. "Do you mean to tell me you aren't going to
attempt the spell yourself, Potter? This is just the thing you would
enjoy. Another chance to save the day."
The two rivals faced off but there was a lack of heat from Harry. "I don't
know the spell well enough to do something this big but I know you can," he
"What?" Snape mocked. "I don't think I heard you."
"Do the spell. You're a better wizard."
"And why should I let them forget this? I was covered with slush fifteen
minutes ago. Don't you think someone should pay for that?"
"Look around the room, Professor. I think everyone's paid in spades for
the snowball fight. This shouldn't be how anyone spends the holidays.
Think of it as a present to the Weasleys for opening up their home and
keeping you from spending another holiday alone."
There was a thin crack in the bitter veneer that turned into a small smile.
"Since you won't remember this, I think I'm safe in saying this. Happy
"Happy Christmas, Professor. May your new year be full of fewer detentions
With a laugh and a perfectly executed swish and flick, the room glowed and