Note: Written for Odogoddess.
by Rex Luscus
Severus Snape stormed through the passages of Hogwarts like the cold front that was just then sweeping through Scotland. Outside, the December snow was frozen into jagged, treacherous crusts. Torches guttered as Snape's heavy winter cloak whipped past.
"Severus!" Horace Slughorn stepped into the corridor, sherry in hand. "Happy Christmas! Come in and--"
As he swept along, his black look caused even the portraits to cringe and avert their eyes.
Minerva McGonagall was ascending the great staircase as he passed.
"Severus, won't you come up and have a drink with us?" she called. "It is Christmas Eve, you know," she added preemptively.
His expression clearly stated, 'Do you even need to ask?'
"Well," she sniffed, "I had to try, at least."
Outside, the moon was high and bright, and the lawns glittered like glass. Once he had passed through the gates, he Apparated away with a thunderous pop.
The streets of Muggle London were full of frantic activity. Last minute shopping for last minute preparations for hastily organized Christmas parties and dinners, no doubt. Snape did not think about the warm homes and families the people he passed would return to; they were merely obstacles in his path. Somehow, the Muggles knew instinctually to cut him a wide berth as he tore down the streets, weaving between women with parcels and chestnut venders, men towing little boys and honking taxi cabs. No one who saw him failed to quickly step aside or to keep from meeting his dead black gaze.
At a stand near a traffic circle, he bought a small red poinsettia.
He turned down a street and found it mostly empty; his shoulders relaxed a millimeter or so. How Muggles could stand to live on top of each other, constantly touching each other, was beyond him. It was difficult enough keeping humanity at arm's length in the relative open spaces of Hogwarts.
He stopped in front of a boarded-up department store.
"Snape," he told the nude, dismembered dummy in the window. "Visiting." The dummy nodded lazily. He stepped through the wall.
The halls of St. Mungo's were festooned with holiday decorations. He couldn't help wrinkling his nose. Patients shuffled past and pressed too close; families gathered around the odd bed. Snape didn't look at any of them.
Once he reached the Long-Term Ward for Permanent Spell Damage, he glanced down at the poinsettia to be sure it was still fit. It seemed to be managing. He passed a family surrounding a man in bed who was taking a sweater out of a box, although it was clear he wore nothing but a hospital gown. How absurd. Turning a corner, Snape spotted the end of his journey.
A small, square woman with flyaway gray hair in a messy bun sat in a rocking chair next to the window, with an afghan in her lap, staring dully at nothing. She raised her heavy brow as Snape approached.
"Hello, Mother," Snape said, stopping before her. She stared at him without a word.
The poinsettia feeling ridiculous in his useless hands, he set it on the table next to the empty bed. The woman's eyes followed and remained on it there.
"Well, happy Christmas, I suppose," said Snape. "And all that nonsense."
She looked back up at him and gave him the faintest ghost of a smile.
Kneeling beside her chair, he put his arms around her neck and laid his head on her small shoulder. Ever so slightly, she leaned into his embrace.