A Light in the Darkest of Times
Severus Snape sat alone in his quarters. A tumbler of whisky was on the desk before him. He looked scathingly at the little baubles on Christmas tree that Dumbledore insisted he have in his living room. He had tried removing or destroying it several times. However, every time he did it just reappeared back in the corner of his simply furnished room. Dumbledore was most infuriating men he had ever known. The Headmaster knew how he hated Christmas time. He told anyone who would listen often enough that he was dubbed the Grinch in the staffroom. Christmas was after all his least favourite holiday of the year. Even as a child he had detested the cheesy music and all the sentimentality that went along with it. He had no reason to be at his childhood home in Spinner's End anymore. His parents were long dead and he would endure the holiday in Hogwarts instead – as he did every year since he became a teacher. He would hide out alone in his dungeons for the duration if he thought he could get away with it. Nevertheless, considering the nagging Dumbledore would give him, he figured that it was just as well to go with it.
This particular Christmas had been a hard one and it had been the first since Harry Potter had come to Hogwarts – a walking symbol of his biggest mistake. Harry's green eyes brought to mind his childhood friend, Lily. It was much easier to concentrate on the fact he looked just like a miniature version of Potter senior, whom he had hated. He sighed realising that he had overindulged on the alcohol and that always made him melancholy. He reached up to the topper most part of his bookshelf and removed four of the books. Where the books had been lay a wooden box, which he pulled out carefully. Inside this box there were many letters from Lily and old photographs. He emptied the contents onto his desk and rifled through the photos. He sought one in particular from a Christmas long gone by. It was taken with a Muggle camera and the figures on it were stationary. A skinny pale dark haired boy stood with his arm around a smiley, pretty red-haired girl. Behind them there was chubby bald man with a black beard and thin woman with hair the same shade as the girl. It was taken on an evening that would later be used as his inspiration in the darkest of times. He found his memory wandering back to that day in December 1972…
Severus hated leaving school for the winter break to return home to the Snape household. In the weeks leading up to the holidays, he had to listen to his classmates' plans for Christmas break. Whenever he was asked about what his family would be doing, he gave a non-committal reply and changed the subject as soon as possible. The only consolation was that the break was not as long as the summer holiday. When he returned to Hogwarts after Christmas, he would have to listen to the tales of feasts fit for kings and expensive presents that would have cost more than all of gifts he had ever received put together. Oh how he hated being poor, but what he hated even more was the fact that his parents loathed each other and him. He had memories of Christmas' past which he enjoyed, but not in recent years. He wasn't quite sure whether it all changed after his father lost his job or when he found out that his son was magical. Whichever it was anyway, his father started to drink heavily and began to become abusive to his mother, who responded by distancing herself from her son. She was a shadow of the fun loving mother of his early years. At least he remembered it that way, but he could have been wrong.
The morning had started well enough. He managed to brew the draught of peace, while he was in school and slipped it into his father's morning tea. A small drop of it should have been enough to give them a peaceful if not happy day. His father was in a good mood and as a result the tension that usually surrounded the household had lifted. It wasn't until dinner was over that the spell lifted. It appeared that perhaps alcohol and the draught of peace were not best mixed. The alcohol negated its effects much to his disappointment. The slightly burnt pudding was as the first thing to attract Tobias Snape's wrath and he threw the pudding- bowl and all- at the wall. The bowl smashed into pieces and bits of pudding rained down over Eileen Snape's head.
"You're good for nothing!" He spat the words. "You can't even make a proper pudding."
Severus quietly slipped away from the table and into the hall. He could hear his mother's raised voice as he crept up the stairs to his room. "Maybe if you didn't drink away all our money, I could have bought the proper ingredients instead of having to make do with what's in the larder."
He felt a twinge of guilt at leaving his mother down there on her own with that man, but more often than not his presence exacerbated the situation. His father was roaring so loudly he could hear him upstairs. No doubt the neighbours could as well. "Shut up! I wish I never married you. You and that unnatural son of yours are a real burden. No wonder I have to drink to get by."
Severus finally had enough. He grabbed a package from his bedside table and jumped out the window on the tree scrambling down the tree trunk as quietly as he could. He needed to get away as soon as possible. He already knew his destination. Seeing as he had a present to give Lily, he decided to go to the Evans' house. He walked away from Spinner's End, his parents' voices ringing in his ears.
It took Severus about fifteen minutes before he arrived at his best friend's home. He could see the Evans family huddled by the fire in their warm sitting room, the television showing the Queen's Christmas Speech.
"Grow up, Severus," he muttered, as he tore his eyes away from the window. He took a deep breath walking to the door instead and rang the doorbell. Lily Evans answered the door and her mouth immediately dropped open in surprise.
"Severus!" Lily gasped. He knew she hadn't been expecting him until Boxing Day at the earliest. She gave him an enthusiastic hug, which he reciprocated awkwardly. He pulled away and gave a shiver. It was only then she invited him inside, rather embarrassed at forgetting her manners.
"Come in, come in," she said, ushering him inside into the warmth.
Both Mr and Mrs Evans beamed in welcome, while Lily's older sister, Petunia, gave a little scowl. Patricia Evans got up and kissed him on the cheek. He blushed furiously. His mother didn't even do that anymore.
"It's lovely to see you, dear." Patricia smiled at him, as Petunia stuck out her tongue at him. Harry Evans gave him an equally welcome smile. "Do your parents know you're here?"
He could see Lily out of the corner of his eye. She was giving Petunia a scorching look of reproach. "Yes," he lied. Patricia gave him a piercing glance, as if she could see right through him. She said nothing though. Instead she ushered him into the kitchen to choose something sweet to eat. The kitchen in the Evans' house always smelled of baking. His own mother was a wonderful cook and baker, but she never did it for enjoyment anymore. Cooking was done for mealtimes, and baking was a thing of the past, lost with the woman that she used to be. After she had plied him with mince pies and cookies, they returned to the sitting room once more. Lily patted the seat next to her and he went over to the couch. His heart was much lighter and his terrible day was almost forgotten in a whirlwind of board games and cocoa. Once they had their fill of sweets and games, they sat exchanging stories. Harry and Patricia asked him about school and classes, while Lily excused herself with a promise to return with his Christmas gift. He was nervous about giving her his present. He had spent the better part of the last month racking his brains with an idea for a Christmas present for Lily. He was short for money and anything he gave her would have to be homemade. He knew how much she liked Christmas, and she always had thought deer to be beautiful creatures. Therefore, he had decided to make her some silver deer ornaments to hang on her Christmas tree. They weren't particularly well made but what he was proud of was the charm he had cast on them. Lily soon returned with his gift, which he tore open under her expectant gaze. It was a book of course – A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. It was a book he had borrowed previously from the Evans treasure trove of books and he had enjoyed it immensely.
"Thank you," he said sincerely. "I hope you like yours as much." He handed her a crudely wrapped boxed. He could see the sneer on Petunia's face as Lily opened the box to reveal the deer. He sighed in relief when the red head squealed excitedly and wrapped her arms around him.
"Hang on, Lil," he muttered. "That's not the best part." She finally let him go and he pulled his wand from his pocket.
"You can't do magic outside of school," Petunia hissed, putting her hands on her hips.
Severus rolled his eyes. "I just need to tap them. The magic is already in them. I won't be doing any spell."
"Ooh let's see then," Lily said impatiently.
He tapped one of the tiny deer and smirked when the deer stood up one by one and jumped from the box onto the table. He could see even Petunia was looking impressed while Lily smile was as wide as he had ever seen it. The deer then proceeded to dance across the table in unison before hopping onto the Christmas tree, where they continued to dance across the branches for a few minutes before they finally came to a standstill.
"If you want them to dance all you need do is tap them with your wand," he said. "The rest of the time they will be still like normal decorations." They were perfect in a Muggle home and there was no way that they could be accidently set off considering you had to tap them with wand first. Harry and Patricia beamed happily as Lily examined her present.
"Oh, Sev." She looked up at him smiling. "That's one of the best Christmas presents I've ever received. You made them all by hand and did the charm yourself didn't you?"
He turned a bright red and nodded. He was delighted that she was so pleased with what he had to give. He had been nervous at the thought of it – his stomach churning and his heart thudding in his chest. He had never had a proper friend before Lily and she was the only real friend he had in school. Not long after it was time to leave and face whatever was waiting for him at home. However, he walked back to Spinner's End with a smile on his face.
Severus was brought back with a jolt into the present by the chiming of the cuckoo clock. Lily Evans might be dead, but she was alive in his memory forever as a pretty, spirited child with a beautiful smile and catching laugh. He had wonderful memories from that Christmas with the Evans. He concentrated hard on that memory and pulled out his wand. "Expecto Patronum." A beautiful silver doe burst forth from his wand.
"Lily," he murmured. "I'm sorry."
The silver doe returned to him, bowing her head. Somehow, this gave him the strength to face yet another day. As long as he had breath left in his body he would protect her son. "Always."
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