December 24th

The teachers tossed at breakfast who was to proctor the brats. It was agreed that one teacher could easily do it alone, if the students spent the day as a group. Snape was lucky in the toss for the morning shift, but he lost the second toss and therefore was responsible of the brats in the afternoon.

He spent the morning brewing some more paxmundi. His fellow potioneers were going to ask for samples once his article in Potions Weekly was published. While he was stirring the cauldron, he thought about what to do with the students after lunch and decided to shoo them outside. There was not much mischief you could come up with on a snow-covered lawn.

Malfoy sneered. "You don´t really expect me to go out in the cold, do you?" He glared at Snape and the other students in turn. It was obvious that he despised the company as much as the weather. "Father will hear of this!"

The potions master bit back a comment that his father was too occupied with baking Slytherin Snakes to care and gave the boy his best death glare.

"You will have a snowball fight," Snape explained. "The first-years don´t know any warming charms and have to keep moving in order to stay warm. Malfoy, Potter, Olson, you are one team. The winner will get warm cocoa when we go back inside."

The tiny Hufflepuff girl ducked as her teammates glared at each other. Weasley, the Granger girl and the Abbot boy put together their heads and started planning a strategy. Well, let Potter and Malfoy learn the hard way that emotions weren´t helpful in a battle. Snape was content with himself. He had turned a wasted afternoon into a lesson for the supposed-to-be saviour of the wizarding world.

The W.A.G. team advanced on the M.O.P. group. They threw snow balls and soon all M.O.P.s were spitting snow, but the W.A.G.s didn´t grant them a break and continued their attack.

"See what you got us into," Malfoy shouted at Potter at the top of his voice. "You and your stupid animosity."

"Animosity? Who´s being an arrogant git here?" Potter retaliated with equal volume. "Now stop whining and strike back." He picked up some snow to make a ball.

"I´m not whining!" Malfoy shouted back.

Potter dropped his snowball. "Oh, are you not? ´I´m not going to go outside! I will tell my Daddy!´" Snape had to admit that Potter did an excellent imitation of Malfoy´s earlier complaint. The effect was spoiled by a snowball hitting Potter in the face.

Malfoy laughed. "Good one, Granger!" He giggled like mad.

"Stop that!" cried tiny Begonia Olson. "I want cocoa."

"You´re finding this funny?" Potter shouted. His face was crimson with anger. "Let´s see how you find snow in your own face!" He lunged at the blond and soon the two seventh years were rolling in the snow.

Snape let them fight for a while before he restored order.

After dinner, he opened his advent calendar. In it was a Christmas cracker. He hated those. But then, so far all the gifts he had gotten from the calendar had been good, so maybe this one wasn´t so bad either. The potions master grabbed the ends of the cracker and tugged.

It wouldn´t open. Instead red writing appeared on the offending object. ´I work only with a friend´, it said.

With a sigh the potions master went to the floo and called Dumbledore, as the headmaster – crazy and annoying as he might be – was the closest to a friend he had.

"Severus," beamed the headmaster, "how may I be of assistance?"

The younger wizard offered one end of the cracker. "It won´t open for me alone."

They both tugged and the cracker exploded. First, the air was full of glittering silver stars and Snape couldn´t see anything. But as the glittering stopped, he saw a Christmas tree standing in the corner and several parcels lying beneath it.

"Wow! Impressive!" cried the headmaster. "Where did you get it, Severus?"

"It was in my advent calendar."

"Advent calendar? May I see it?"

Snape agreed with a curt nod and went to fetch the box.

"I have heard of these," the headmaster said in an awe-hushed voice as he turned the small box in his hands, "but I never thought I´d live to see one. Where did you meet him?"

"Whom?" Snape asked, puzzled.

"Well, Santa!" Dumbledore cried as if explaining the obvious.

Santa? The old man couldn´t be serious. But then the man who had sold him the calendar had had a beard like Dumbledore´s and his voice had been full and deep, like legend said Santa´s was.

"Diagon Alley." Snape cleared his throat. "Firewhisky?"

"Yes, please." Dumbledore sat on the sofa. "I´m glad he chose you, Severus. You´re working so hard all year, you really deserved a treat."

The two men sat for hours, sipping the strong liquor. Snape told what he had found in his calendar box and Dumbledore oohed, aaahed and giggled in the right places.

Snape´s Christmas tree glittered.

It was a peaceful night.

A very Merry Christmas to all my readers! May your holidays be filled with peace and fun.