Chapter One – Snape's Christmas Gift

Christmas. Bah. Humbug! To paraphrase an old Squib writer. Severus Snape sat in front of his fire on Christmas morning and sipped from a cup of hot Earl Grey. He was aware that the few students who had stayed on over the holidays would be gleefully ripping open presents and stuffing their greedy little faces with sweets. Later they would romp about in the Great Hall making far more noise than their numbers would warrant. They would play with their new toys and gizmos and show off their new jumpers and probably sing happy songs all day long… Snape shuddered. He fully intended to remain in seclusion in his quarters as long as humanly possible, which would be until about supper time when Dumbledore would show up at his door and drag him up to face the torture of unrestrained merriment. He sighed.

He glanced over at the tiny haphazard pile of gifts he had piled in a corner over the past week whenever one of his co-workers had thrust one upon him, not seeming to care that Snape never returned the favor. He couldn't remember purchasing a gift for anyone at all in the past decade or more.

He might as well get the horror over with so he could paste a smile on his face later and insincerely thank the giver for the wretched gift. The largest one was from Dumbledore, of course. Snape steeled himself and opened it. He gasped in cynical not-surprise. New robes! New robes Snape would not wear on pain of death. This year they were mint green. Snape threw them aside in annoyance. No matter how many times he had told the bloody Headmaster that he wore only BLACK, Dumbledore still insisted on giving him happy, colorful robes for Christmas. Snape would toss them into the wardrobe next to the forest green ones with silver pinstripes from last year. And the silver ones with black and green trim from the year before. And the seafoam green ones from the year prior. Snape had buried those farthest back in the closet in an attempt to forget he had ever seen them.

The next package was from McGonagall. It was the expected shaving kit. The stupid woman got him one every single year. As if he didn't shave daily with his WAND. He tossed the shaving kit directly into the trash. Sprout had given him a selection of Slytherin ties, which actually wasn't a bad gift. He rather liked the one with the little intertwined snakes. He set that gift aside as remotely useful.

Hermione Granger had given him a box of sweets. Snape pitched that into the fire without a glance. Nasty little Gryffindor suck-up. He knew she hated him. How dared she insult his intelligence by giving him a gift so blatantly toadying?

A tall package wrapped in shiny silver paper had no tag. Fabulous. An anonymous gift. It would most likely blow up the instant he opened it. Probably from Harry Potter or the Weasley twins. He peeled back a corner of the paper experimentally. It seemed to be a large whitish bottle.

He yanked off the rest of the paper. It was a large whitish bottle. He tapped it. What an odd substance. Not glass or copper or clay. It had a green leaf on the front and an odd word scrawled down the side of the bottle. Shampoo, he read. What the bloody hell is shampoo? A potion ingredient? He turned the bottle over and read the back:

Bodifying shampoo with an energizing citrus complex, gently cleanses and clears away dulling residue to awaken hair's vitality, body and shine. Reinvigorates fine, limp or lifeless hair with voluminous body and radiant shine. Blah blah blah.

Snape glared at the bottle. Hair? Was someone trying to tell him something? Did some nasty person mean to suggest that his own hair was less than… radiant? That perhaps his hair was limp and lifeless? He snarled. He certainly hoped it was limp and lifeless. It was hair. What was the opposite of limp and lifeless? Energetic and lively? He did not want his hair to scamper about on his head like Medusa's.

The very thought. He tossed the bottle of shampoo aside and moved on to the next humdrum gift.

Shortly before supper, Snape lay in his bath and scrubbed with a loofah. His hair might be limp and lifeless, but he took excellent care to maintain a sparkling clean body, mainly due to a terrifying case of body lice he'd contracted as a child. He took scalding daily baths. Sometimes twice daily. However, all forms of lice had steadfastly stayed away from his greasy mound of hair, so he'd never really bothered with it except to give it an occasional rub with a bar of soap and a quick rinse.

He kept thinking about the stupid bottle of shampoo. Voluminous body and radiant shine. What was that, exactly? He reached out and took up the nearby bottle. He cracked open the cap, half-expecting billows of poisonous smoke to erupt or some sort of creature to spring out and rend him.

Neither of those happened, but a pleasant scent wafted to his nose. Hmmm, it smelled vaguely… tropical. He looked at the back of the bottle again.

Apply to wet hair, work into lather. Rinse and repeat.

He poured a bit of the stuff into his hand. It would probably cause all of his hair to fall out. Which would give him a grand excuse to stay secluded in his rooms for the rest of the bloody holiday. He plopped the substance on top of his damp hair and massaged it in vigorously. As instructed, he rinsed and repeated. His head felt a bit tingly, but other than that, no change. His hair was still intact and it appeared to be his natural color.

He exited the tub and toweled off. After shrugging into his standard black robes, he sat at his dressing table and looked in the mirror. His hair still looked plenty stringy. He snatched up the comb on his table and blew off the thick coating of dust. He began to drag the long-unused comb through his locks and was surprised at how easily it untangled. Once it began to dry, his hair began to act strangely. The ends started to curl. The top portion began to fluff up. It gleamed like a raven's wing in the light from his lamps. Snape turned his head this way and that and was shocked when each slight movement made his hair bounce and swing fetchingly. Voluminous body and radiant shine, indeed!

"Bloody hell, I'm better looking than Sirius Black!" he crowed to himself. Who knew something as simple as shampoo could wreak such a change? A knock on the door caused him to freeze. He couldn't go out in public looking like this! The person staring back at him from the mirror was not Severus Snape! This was more like Gilderoy Lockhart's darker, sexier cousin.

"Severus, it is time you joined us for Christmas supper," Dumbledore's voice called through the door. Snape looked around in panic. Perhaps he could throw some rancid grease in his hair, but where to get some? He was a pathetically clean person, but for his hair. He didn't have so much as an old chicken bone. Dumbledore was impatient.

"Severus, don't make me blast the door in and fetch you like last year."

"Fine!" Snape yelled. He stalked to the door and threw it open. Dumbledore gaped at him for a long moment.

"Severus?" he asked uncertainly.

"Who else would it be?" Snape snarled. Dumbledore chuckled.

"Oh yes, that's you all right. Come along. I thought you took some Polyjuice Potion for a moment. You look like someone they had on the cover of Witch Weekly last Tuesday, except that he wore no shirt and some ridiculously tight leather pants…"

Dumbledore babbled on, but led the way to the Great Hall.

Snape stalked behind him. His black hair bounced upon his shoulders as if excited to be released from the confines of years of oily buildup.

They reached the Great Hall and were halfway down the aisle that led to the teachers' table when Snape became aware of silence descending in his wake. He sat down in his usual spot and glared at the faces that gaped at him.

"Happy Christmas, everyone! Let's eat!" Dumbledore said merrily.

Food appeared on the tables and Snape ignored the whispers of students as he dug into his ham and potatoes. He soon became aware that a small crowd had gathered on either side of him. He looked up at McGonagall, who stood shockingly close to him with a bottle of wine clutched in her hand.

"Wine, Severus?" she asked in a strange, throaty voice. He couldn't recall ever having been this close to her before. Frankly, he wasn't enjoying the experience.

"Personal space, Minerva," he said politely. She was suddenly jolted out of the way by Professor Grubbly-Plank, who crowded his elbow anew.

"Pipe, Severus?" she asked and offered him a partially chewed pipe carved from some sort of horn. He recoiled.

"I don't smoke and have no intention of starting."

His right elbow was now jostled. He turned to see Madame Hooch crouched beside his chair.

"Sev, you're looking… well… good," she said in the same throaty voice McGonagall had used. "Want to come to my chambers after supper for a little nightcap? I've got some excellent brandy—"

"Hussy!" McGonagall snarled. Though displaced, she apparently hadn't gone far. "Go back to your brooms!"

"I'd like to see your broom, Severus," Hooch crooned. "How about it?"

He hadn't the foggiest notion what she was prattling on about. And what the hell were all these women doing clustered about him? Hooch hadn't spared him six words in the past eight years, except when she had a complaint about the behavior of one of his Slytherins in her flying class.

Madame Pomfrey suddenly yanked Madame Hooch away from Snape by grabbing a handful of her short hair. Hooch yelped.

"Severus, you're looking a trifle flushed," Pomfrey said as she sidled into the spot vacated by Hooch. "I've come to give you a posset."

"I'll give you a posset," Hooch growled, "If you touch my hair again!" Her wand was out.

"No possets," McGonagall said threateningly.

"If you don't mind!" Snape said loudly, "I would appreciate not being jostled while I'm trying to eat. Will you all please return to your seats?"

The students looked at him in curiosity and the women grumbled, but acquiesced. Snape looked at Dumbledore and wondered if they had all gone mad. He bolted his food and escaped to his chambers where he collapsed in his chair in relief. Thank goodness the festivities were over for another year.

He hadn't been back five minutes before a knock sounded at his door. He heartily debated not opening it, but the knocker was persistent and after the third attempt Snape got up to see who it was.

It was McGonagall. She smiled and batted her eyes at him. He flinched. She gripped a bottle of wine in her hand.

"Hi, Severus! You didn't have any wine with dinner, so I thought I'd bring you some. Can I come in for a little nightcap?"

"Er… No. I'm very tired. Ready to retire for the evening, you know." He forced a yawn and stretched.

Madame Pomfrey appeared behind McGonagall, a bit out of breath.

"Oh pooh," she said. "What are you doing here, Minerva? I came to bring Sevvy his posset. It's my expert medical opinion that he should take it."

She dangled a potion. Snape looked at it suspiciously. McGonagall glared at Pomfrey. At that moment, Professor Sprout hurried up. Snape wondered if all the female teachers in the school had gone completely mental. Perhaps a student had slipped something into the punch at supper. He would have to acquire a sample and test it in the morning.

"Oh, Severus!" Sprout called, "I came to see if you'd care to take a stroll in the garden with me!"

He stared at her. Did the daft woman not realize there was a foot of snow on the ground? Why the hell would he want to go out there at this hour? Or at all?

"I'm sorry, but if you… women will excuse me, I'd really like to be alone. Good night." He firmly shut the door. And locked it with a spell. That should keep them out.

Thankfully, he was not interrupted for the rest of the evening and spent a large part of it sitting in front of the mirror combing his voluminous and radiant locks.