Adventures After Babysitting
Chapter 6: A Brilliant Gift
Time flew by and Christmas - the most wonderful time of the year - was just around the corner. Hogwarts was once again decorated with fairy lights and garlands. An enormous tree was erected in the Great Hall and adorned with ribbons ad brightly coloured ornaments of all shapes and sizes. Many of the statues were charmed to sing tunes of the Yuletide, much to the annoyance of Severus. The Potions Master's private quarters remained, for the most part, un-festive.
On Christmas Day, Severus chose to attend the staff party this year, under the condition that nobody forced him to partake in any juvenile games.
At Grimmauld Place, Harry was pacing up and down his room, with a serious dilemma on his hands
Everybody was downstairs having fun, Harry could hear everyone chatting and laughing. The Twins were making a ruckus and he could hear Mrs. Weasley yelling at them to pipe down. He'd excused himself ten minutes before, saying he had forgotten to do something.
He ran up to his room, opened his backpack and brought out a card. He tore opened he windows and hollered for Hedwig. His faithful owl was there in under a minute, flapping snow into his face.
"Hedwig, stop stop! It's freezing. Come inside," Harry shivered, but Hedwig only ruffled her feathers and stood on the window sill. She clicked her beak a Harry and kept her behind stuck defiantly out the open window. Harry grumbled and moved to the far side of the room, away from the wind.
The teen looked down at the envelope in his hands. He had thought for a long time about what he was about to do next, which was to send a card to Snape. It had taken him a week to decide on buying the bloody card. He spent hours thinking of what to write on it.
It was six o'clock, supper was almost ready and Harry expected somebody to call for him any minute now. If he didn't send the card now, chances are he won't get another chance until after the party. If he waited any longer, he'd probably chicken out and chuck the card away. Plus, if he didn't send the card now, Snape won't receive I until tomorrow. If he was going to send a Christmas card to Snape of all people, he'd at least wanted it to be delivered on Chrismas.
But should he really send it? Did Snape even get Chrismas cards? What if Snape hated Christmas and hated getting cards. What if….
"Oi! Hedwig come back!" Harry shouted after his rebellious owl as she flew inside and snatched the envelope right out of his hands. He ran to the window. "Hedwig! I changed my mind! Get back here you stupid…."
But Hedwig was gone.
"….bird." Harry trailed off and planed his forehead into the hand that was holding the letter.
"Harry!" Shouted Ron from downstairs. "Mom says supper's ready!"
"Alright, alright," Harry shouted back. He made a noise that was somewhere between a groan, a sign and a whine. He pulled he window shut and tousled his hair with his hands. I'm just going to go kill myself now.
"What were you doing?" asked Ron when Harry appeared in the dining room.
"Nothing," Harry said, shaking his head and smiling at his best friend.
"Well, come on then, before all the food's gone!"
The Weasleys, Sirius, Remus, Tonks, Ron and Hermione were all seated at around a long table. It was utter chaos. Mrs. and Mr. Weasley were trying to get everyone settled down. Harry smiled broadly as he took a seat next to Ron and Fred. Within five minutes, he'd forgotten all about Snape.
Christmas was not Severus' favourite time of the year. He found the holiday bothersome. People seemed to suffer thorough days of stress, only to be rewarded with a few hours of celebration, before they are back to stressing again.
His colleagues tried to coerce him into Christmas parties ever year. Although he occasionally attended the gatherings, he preferred to stay home. As for the tradition of gifting, Severus found that most of his associates were terrible at deducing what he wanted. He was equally bad at gifting others. But he supposed that it was the thought that counted. Most of his gifts were from fellow professors and old friends. Once in a blue moon, he would receive a small token or a card from a student or past graduate.
He had just returned from the staff party, stomach full of turkey and whisky. There was a small stack of four or five cards floating by his door – last minute deliveries, probably from those who only sent the card out of some misplaced sense of obligation.
Severus snatched the cards from the air and entered his rooms. He opened each one, sparing but a glance at the names on the cards. There was no one of significance. Then he came on the last card and recognized the messy writing on the plain envelope.
No, it can't be, thought Severus. He opened the envelope hastily, but with more care than he did with the others. An ordinary Christmas card slipped out into his hands. Severus opened the thin, laminated piece of cardboard.
To Professor Snape,
Thank you for taking care of me. Have a good holiday.
The note was short and simple, but Severus clutched the card in his calloused hands as if it was treasure.
Harry had a descent haul of presents this year, a jumper from Mrs and Mr. Weasley, books from Hermione, and a whoopee cushion from Ron, just to name a few. His most prized gift was miniature Quidditch set from an anonymous source. Harry had gotten the package the two days after Christmas. It was wrapped in brown paper and came with a small tag that said; You are welcome. Merry Christmas.
Harry had gotten quite a few extravagant, yet anonymous gifts before. His Invisibility Cloak, his Nimbus 2000, and his Firebolt all came from nameless donors – though Harry knew exactly who they were from. At first, Harry, as well as Ron and Hermione thought it might be from Professor Dumbledore. But the headmaster had gotten him a signed gift as well, 2 boxes of limited edition sweets from Honeydukes.
"Maybe he doesn't want everyone to know because they'll accuse him of favouritism," said Fred.
"Oh, don't be silly," Hermione countered. "Professor Dumbledore doesn't show Harry favouritism."
"Whatever you say, dear Hermione," said George with sarcastic affection.
"Who do you reckon it's from then?" Ron asked, playing with one of the setting and didn't wait for Harry to answer before exclaiming, "Hey look! It says here we can set it to stage 99 gameplays from the Quidditch Cup! They're two to ten minutes each! "
"Woah!" said Fred and George simultaneously.
"Some gift you got there, Harry," said Sirius, walking into the room to see what the fuss was all about. "I'm only sorry I didn't get it for you."
"It's alright, Sirius. I love your present," Harry said quickly.
"Yea, but it's nothing compared to this thing," Sirius confessed as he bent down over the contraption and look at it from several angles. "Quite a piece of work this is. I never had anything like this when I was a kid."
"Yea, it's pretty cool huh."
"Are you kidding? It's great! Who's it from?"
"Um…" Harry stammered. He had an idea who it might be from. But he didn't think Sirius would be too pleased to hear the answer. "I'm not sure. There wasn't a name."
"Let me see."
Harry showed him the tag.
"Hmm…very mysterious. Well it wasn't me."
Harry shrugged, looking at Sirius.
"Whoever it was from, they are at least a little bit well off. I mean, a thing like this must have cost a pretty knut," Sirius appraised.
"Yea," Harry answered, turning back to watch the figurines fly around the board. Was this really from Professor Snape? Why would he spend this kind of money on me? Was he well off? He didn't look like it. At last, Harry thought with a bit of embarrassment. I didn't even get him anything except for a lousy card from the SickleLand!
The others were not as preoccupied with the identity of the gifter. Ron and the Twins were in absolute awe and spent hours toying around with it, reading the manual and exploring all the features. Ginny got her hands on it too, but wasn't nearly as impressed as the boys. Hermione, on the other hand, was much more interested in reading and chatting with Ginny.
"I can't believe it's over already!" Ron groaned. "I don't want to go back to school. I wish it was Christmas forever."
The trio was back in Hogwarts, and so was everyone else. The school was bustling with students again. The halls were filled with chattering girls and boy. In the dormitories, friends showed off what they got and those from privileged families boasted about their expensive gifts to jealous housemates.
At least a dozen Gryffidors were squeezed together, hovering around a table and gushing in envy at Harry's prize.
"Woah, Harry, you're so lucky!"
"Wait till Malfoy sees this!"
"Can I borrow it, Harry. Please, please, please?"
"I saw this at on display at Quality Quidditch Supplies! They don't have this at any of the toy stores!"
"I asked me mom for one, she said no way!"
Their Quiddtich captain, Angelina, was thrilled when she discovered that one of those features in the set included game planning and strategy. She begged Harry to let her use it, saying that it could win them games. Harry agreed to let her borrow it, but reminded her that he was in no way donating the set to the team.
The days settled back in to their normal routine, despite the grumbles of Ron. Harry was running to meet his friends in the Quidditch field for the first practice after the holiday. He rounded a corner, firebolt in hand and …
"Mr. Potter! Watch where you are going!" Severus chided when he nearly received a chest full of Gryffindor.
"Sorry," Harry apologized quickly, stepping back. Potions class didn't start for another two days, and Harry hadn't seen his professor at all during the three days he had been back.
"Why is it that you are always in such a hurry and never looking where you are going?"
"Sorry, professor. I'm just late for my Quidditch practice."
"I see. If you can't be punctual to your won Quidditch practice….I have little hope that you will be punctual for anything. Such as handing in the homework I assigned in last class?"
Harry gave Severus a lighthearted defiant look. "I've finished it," he announced proudly.
"Have you? And done properly?" The words rolled off Severus' tongue.
"Well, this is a surprise. But I'll have to see, won't I. Your definition of 'proper' is far from accurate," the Potions Master replied, crossing his arms.
Harry did finish the homework. Potions class wasn't like it used to be, and although it was still a struggle, Harry knew he could do better if he wanted to. He had worked harder on it than he would have last year. He reasoned that it was because OWLs was this year. If he wanted to be an Auror like his parents, he needed an E in Potions. From what he learned from Hermione, they were like the GCSE. So it was probably important to at least try to get a decent grade and the first step to a decent exam grade was actually do research on his homework.
What the teenager refused to acknowledge was, he wanted to do well because he wanted to surprise Snape. He wanted to receive praise his good work. He wanted to do so well on it, that the professor would have no choice but to give him an O.
But what did he want to prove? Why did he want Snape's approval?
Up until three months ago, Harry had every intention to drop Potions for sixth year. He had already decided on a year of lackluster performance in potions class, skirting by just enough so that he didn't end up in detention. What was the point of trying when he would fail anyway - more so due to the sabotage attempts of the Slytherins than his own demerit.
The relationship between the two had changed from one of loathing and suspicion into one of concern and tentative trust. Harry wasn't willing to face the conflicting feelings he had for Snape. However, he was heading in a direction that seemed to invite familiarity rather than hostility.
"I did finish it. You'll see."
Severus nodded curtly and accepted Harry's word for now. "Did you enjoy your holidays?" He asked, changing the subject.
"Yes, sir. How was yours?" Harry asked shyly.
"As well as it could have been, Mr. Potter. Thank you for asking. Did you get all the things you wanted?"
"Yea. I guess. I don't know what I want half the time."
"I'm still getting used to the idea, sir." Harry knew he shouldn't be. He's had five years now to get used to the idea of getting real presents for Christmas and birthdays. You'd think he'll be used to concept and practice. But he wasn't.
"Used to the idea of what?" Severus inquired.
"Nothing. Nothing," said Harry hastily, his eyes darting away.
Severus frowned but didn't press the issue.
"I've never met a teenager who doesn't know what he wants for Christmas."
"I never know what I want," Harry said with a shrug. His upraising wasn't exactly proper, but one thing the Dursleys did teach him was manners. It was rude not to thank someone who'd given you a gift, even if it was a coat hanger. He shuffled his feet and began cautiously.
"I…I got something really special this year though. But there was no name or a card, just a tag. So I'm not exactly sure who gave it to me."
Severus expression didn't change at all (it almost never did). "Is that so?"
"But. If…I mean, if I did know. I'd say thank you. It was a very nice present. All my friends wish they had it."
"You like it?"
"Yes. It must have been expensive though," Harry said, biting his lower lip. "People shouldn't spend that kind of money on me. I don't deserve it."
"If they meant for you to have it, then obviously they think you deserve it," Severus said.
Harry looked up at his professor and searched his expression. "Yea…I guess you're right. But I didn't get anything for him them though. Only a stupid card."
"I am certain it was much appreciated. It is the thought that counts the most, Mr. Potter. Not the extravagance of the gift."
The Gryffindor's ears turned red. He was terribly embarrassed about the whole conversation…it was very awkward trying to beat around the bush and speaking about a person in third person, when that person involved is right in front of you.
"Do you think so?" Harry asked.
"I know so."
The silence that followed dragged on for eons.
"Don't you have somewhere to be, Mr. Potter?"
Harry seemed to forget he had a broom in his hands and was late for Quidditch . "Right. Yea. Uh…I guess, I'll see you in class, professor."
"Enjoy your weekend, Mr. Potter. See you Monday."
Harry ran down the hall, trying hard to not think about Snape by thinking about how annoyed Angelina would be about his tardiness.