A/N Written for Hoggywartyxmas on LJ. I've used some Pottermore elements, and Filius's diary. But there are some parts I've written myself, and they wouldn't have been half as decent without the help of my two wonderful betas, Kelly Chambliss and Tetleybag.
For winter's rains and ruins are over,
And all the season of snows and sins;
The days dividing lover and lover,
The light that loses, the night that wins;
And time remembered is grief forgotten,
And frosts are slain and flowers begotten,
And in green underwood and cover
Blossom by blossom the spring begins.
-Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909),
Filius Flitwick woke up with the nasty shock of a man who realizes he has seriously overslept. The room was full of daylight, bright daylight, even. It could only mean he was hours behind with his work, had missed breakfast, perhaps even lunch.
He blinked at the brightness of his room. It was uncanny for a bleak, Scottish winter day. Everything seemed filled with light.
Of course! Smiling, he sank back into the cushions. Snow. That explained the luminosity and that special silence where sound wasn't gone, merely very muted. He put on his glasses and checked his alarm. Nearly seven o'clock; it would go off any minute. He turned it off, got out of bed, and walked to the window.
Hogwarts looked beautiful. Rather, Filius mused, the way it must have looked when the Founders started it. At this early hour there were no reminders of the twentieth century: no streamlined brooms, no students with their too-modern haircuts. No Carrows.
This, then, was more or less what Helga, Godric, Rowena, and Salazar had seen when they had looked out of their windows at the first snow of the year. He had been thinking of the Founders a lot, lately. About their ideals. And their falling-out. But today he wanted to remember the way they must have collaborated. The joy they must have felt, bringing it all together.
Strange how snow still had the power to make him all happy and excited. Whenever he woke to the first snow of the season, he felt optimism and that childish joy that is made up of sleigh-rides, slides, and snowmen. Would this be good snowman snow?
Silly thought for a grown man. Surely at his age it should just mean the annoyance of endless melting charms without which he couldn't walk in deep snow and the bother of overly-boisterous students? Why would one think of a pure, new world? Beautiful as it might look right now, he had realized long ago that the only thing as pure as the driven snow was, in fact, the driven snow. Everything man-made was in various shades of grey. Even now, when no man was outside to spoil the purity, there was a greyish-blue rectangle on the spotless white. The shadow of the Astronomy Tower. How fitting. The Astronomy Tower had thrown the darkest of shadows on all of their lives after the sickening thud that had broken Albus's bones and their little group.
After Potter's unbelievable revelation, Pomona and he had joined Minerva in Dumbledore's office. Minerva had taken control, as they knew she would. They had looked at her for directions, and that was when they had had the first, ghastly intimation of the truth. For Minerva had hesitated, had been indecisive. Minerva, then, didn't know what to do either? That could only mean one thing – but surely, either Albus or Severus had confided in her? Surely she, of all people, knew which step to take next?
Finally, Pomona had said that the school should remain open for as long as there was a single student who wanted lessons. Filius had exhorted her to let the Board decide – this wasn't the time to make a snap decision they would regret later.
And afterwards, when the three of them were finally left alone, Filius had suggested that for some reason – that hand of Albus's, that darkest of curses – Albus had planned his own death. Had asked Severus … the idea that Albus would ask that much of Severus was almost preposterous, but not as bad as the idea that Severus had actually murdered Albus. Murder would mean Severus's true allegiance had been with the Dark Lord all along, and that was unthinkable. It couldn't – it mustn't be true.
"I am convinced that you are right," Minerva had said, carefully enunciating every word. Back ramrod-straight, eyes dry, hands still. Knuckles white from clutching those hands in a desperate bid for self-control. She had taken a deep breath, as if she wanted to say more, but had turned around and hurried away instead.
"Convinced…" Pomona had whispered. Filius had swallowed several times. It was one of the most heart-breaking statements he had ever heard. Minerva didn't know, then. Neither Albus nor Severus had confided in her. Half a century of friendship between her and Albus. More than friendship, so much more, between her and Severus. No wonder Minerva had been indecisive. Her whole world had been shattered.
When Severus had been appointed Headmaster, it had taken all of Filius's courage to look at Minerva. Her face had told him all. She still knew nothing more. Snape had simply severed all ties and now went his own, ice-cold way. It was the only time Filius had thought of him as Snape. On all other occasions he forced himself to call him Severus, in his thoughts at least. In public, with the Carrows prowling around, he stuck with Headmaster .
The light that loses, the night that wins…
The night would not win. He had looked for light wherever he could. The fact that all Order members were still alive, that Severus hadn't betrayed any of them, that was light. For months that had been the only light in a world where students were tortured, were forced to torture each other, where the Headmaster didn't interfere. Where Severus did not contact any of them, gave no sign, no message, no look even that spoke of their friendship. He truly had severed all ties, in the manner of a man who didn't plan to return.
Ever since You-Know-Who's return, Severus had been a double agent. Which meant that You-Know-Who had to be as convinced of Severus's allegiance to him as Filius was of his allegiance to Albus. And that was the whole problem in a nutshell. Severus had been, was still a perfect actor. He was that good he had convinced the Dark Lord. Or was he that good he had convinced Albus? Which part was acted? As the weeks went by, Filius had begun to despair – had they then, truly, had a Death Eater in their midst for years?
But when Christmas drew nearer, he had made his way to Severus's office. "Surely, you don't plan to cancel Christmas, Headmaster?" he had asked. And for one fleeting moment, Severus's face had softened. They had shared a happy memory, even if no words were spoken.
Blossom by blossom the spring begins.
Filius went to his desk, removed the wards from the bottom drawer, unlocked it, and took out last year's diary. He would remember the good times. That's why he kept a diary, after all. Time remembered is grief forgotten.
December 18th, 1996
Ridiculous notion of the Board, that a 'small, subdued festivity' is more suitable in the current, grim situation. True, the Ministry is fairly short of money, what with the repairs after the fight in the Hall of Prophecy and the Atrium. But that's no reason to deprive the children of some much-needed Yuletide cheer.
Scrimgeour has clearly instructed Thicknesse to aim for minimum expenditure. I also strongly suspect that he called Albus away on urgent Ministry business just to give Thicknesse a better chance of succeeding. And Thicknesse did his best. Not that his best is anywhere near good enough, when faced with the four of us.
"We need every Knut we can save for the reconstruction, and besides, the Minister strongly feels that in these grim times we can't celebrate Christmas as if nothing were happening. Already there are various Hogwarts students who have lost Beloved Ones. It's a mark of respect for them to restrict festivities," said Thicknesse in a voice that aimed for mellifluous but didn't get beyond maudlin.
"That's nonsense." Pomona's briskness shattered the mood effectively. "There's no point in wallowing in despair. We will not celebrate Christmas as if nothing has happened; we all miss and remember the victims, our own student Cedric Diggory among them. But we'll celebrate nonetheless."
"Besides," I added, "Christmas is the season of peace and goodwill – it won't hurt our students to be reminded of goodwill to each other, regardless of their House or their ancestry."
"Furthermore," said Severus, and paused briefly. Thicknesse, who had clearly expected some support, since Christmas Jollifications and Professor Snape can hardly be put in the same phrase without smiling, looked crestfallen at that ominous 'furthermore'.
"Furthermore, it might send out the wrong message if we were to inform the students and their parents that the Ministry sees fit to cancel Christmas."
But Thicknesse is not one who gives up easily. "We're merely trying to limit an excessive gaiety and merry-making which, according to the Ministry, is not in keeping with the losses our community has suffered already. Surely our Beloved Ones would want to be remembered in a manner befitting … I mean, a manner …"
Making eye contact with Minerva McGonagall when you're talking balderdash is never a good idea. The poor chap was fighting a lost battle and he knew it. That was the second time he trotted out 'our Beloved Ones'. I quite looked forward to Minerva finishing him off.
"I fully agree with my esteemed colleagues," the Deputy Headmistress said, "and I'd like to add that the opinion of the dead, even if they were capable of expressing it, is immaterial." She paused and looked briefly at the Chairman.
Writers often mention meaningful looks, but can a look actually say, "Put that in your pipe and smoke it?" Since this afternoon's meeting, I'm inclined to think it can.
"Life is for the living," Minerva continued, "and the living will celebrate Christmas at Hogwarts. In a manner befitting the situation."
A small gesture to save his face, but Thicknesse accepted it eagerly. It's a wise man who knows when he's beaten. "That's what I meant," he said. "The celebrations should befit the occasion. I'm glad you all agree with me." He then invited us to a small – a very small – Christmas drink at the Ministry, and praised us loudly when we all declined on the grounds of not leaving Hogwarts and the students. So audible was his relief that I almost have second thoughts on that party; the Ministry clearly has no intention of joining the economy-drive it seeks to impose, and the food and drink promise to be top notch.
"Such dedicated people," Thicknesse babbled on, "and all working so admirably together in the best interests of the children and staff members. You must be quite like a family to each other, after all these years."
Pomona nodded, with an uncharacteristically thin smile. She's kind enough to appreciate the effort that was made, if not the actual comparison.
Minerva cleared her throat and said, "Quite."
Thicknesse looked that anxious I took pity on him and gave him a real smile.
Finally, Severus raised his goblet. "I am so pleased to hear you say that," he said, suavely and with an expression that was as close to a benevolent smile as he can get. Thicknesse beamed. He will use this to turn the evening into a success story when he gets home. "My little speech at High Table went down very well," he will tell his wife, "and when I compared them to a little family they were visibly touched. Professor Snape even said …" Moments like that are a litmus test for a good marriage. Will his wife smile back and call it a marvellous success, or will she tell him to try pulling the other leg – it's as uncharacteristic as possible, and did he test the Snape-lookalike for Polyjuice Potion?
Filius closed his diary with a smile. Family, indeed. Worst idea the poor chap could have had. When asked, his colleagues would say they hated it because it was a cliché. But that wasn't the real reason why they disliked the notion so much, even though there was some truth in it. Each and every year, notably around Christmas, some condescending Ministry official trotted it out. Bets were made on its being mentioned. At the time, Filius had known thatMinerva and Severus had had a bet on the poor chap making the familiar remark again. But even in his diary he had refused to speculate on how the winner had been paid. There was such a thing as too much information. During the meeting it had been difficult not to grin, though, when Severus had made that uncharacteristic "I'm so glad" remark. More difficult even when Filius had seen Minerva's glare.
Slowly, he got up from behind his desk. There was work to do. Breakfast first, then a brief round among those of his Ravenclaws who spent Christmas at school. He'd send them out to play – he did hope the snow was snowman-quality. It would do them a world of good. Then he'd check on the decorations and he'd wrap his gifts. At least there were decorations, he thought as he donned his robes and laced up his boots, and they would celebrate Christmas in spite of everything. The trees and garlands were already in place, but some refreshment charms would be in order. And he'd have to replace some of the mistletoe.
a/n To be continued - next week.