December 28th, 1991
For the fifth night in a row – of all good days of the year, on Holy Innocents Day, Severus Snape sat alone in his Hogwarts office. His mind dwelt on Christmas Past.

"Long Past?" you may inquire.

No, Reader. Snape's past. More precisely: this past Christmas of the year 1991.

You will be glad to hear that Snape had not suffered a major personality change. He was still as introvert a colleague, as sarcastic a teacher, and as greasy a git as the good old castle knew, or any other good old dwelling, street, or village in the good old Wizarding World.

You will not find him making a Laocoon of himself with his stockings, or trying to shave while dancing, either. He valued his nose too much for such nonsense.

He merely mused that this year he had learned a thing or two during the Festive Season.

The secret of Flitwick's successful gifts, for instance. Was that already four days ago? It seemed much shorter – as if everything had happened in one, long night.

During their drinking session Snape had thanked him again for his own, beautiful present. "What I do," Flitwick had said, "is buy things as soon as I see them. I spotted that book on Les Herbes Enchantées in Aix-en-Provence this summer, and I thought of you at once. That's Severus's Christmas Gift in the bag, I thought."

It was the most sensible idea in the world. Almost … yes, almost a Slytherin idea. Next year, that was what he would do, too. As soon as he saw something suitable, he'd buy it. One could spread expenses and avoid the December rush, all in one go. It might even save money, since he wouldn't have to buy at Christmas prices.

And it was perfectly doable. It had happened to Snape, too, to think of his colleagues when he saw something on his holidays. Those slippers he had seen in Istanbul had made him think of Flitwick, for instance. Utterly comfortable they had looked, and beautifully-embroidered. The little shoe-shop had been a riot of colours, and the bronze-and-blue ones would have made a most suitable gift. Flitwick always wore slippers in his leisure hours.

Snape had just never thought about Christmas in the middle of summer, and he hadn't bought the slippers since bringing back one gift for just one colleague would have been odd. But now he knew the trick, and this coming year he would be prepared. It would be good to have a special gift for Flitwick, not just because of the man's own generosity, but because he had truly enjoyed the evening they had spent together.

"Come and see me again! Will you come and see me?" Flitwick had asked, and Snape had promised that he would.

Also, the Slytherin cake had been most successful. Snape rather thought he might add a pitcher of mulled wine next year.

No, perhaps not. If his students found it in the morning, they would drink it for breakfast. Not even Slytherin Manners would survive that. But he might pass by with the pitcher on, say, Christmas Eve. Supervise the students while they drank. Talk a bit. About this and that. Quidditch. What they planned to do on Christmas day. It needn't be long – just ten or fifteen minutes. Stay longer and they'd start feeling embarrassed. So would he. Fifteen minutes of polite conversation and one goblet of mulled wine was more than enough – for all concerned.

Also, he had put a stopper in Dumbledore's ludicrous idea to hide the Mirror in plain sight – in an old classroom where any idiot could find it. And any idiot had, as he had told Dumbledore with some asperity. On Boxing Day Potter had returned – as Snape knew he would – with the Weasley boy.

Snape had fetched Mrs Norris, with whom he had a reasonably affectionate relationship, and she had taken care of the little problem soon enough. Once the boys had spotted her, they had run for their lives. Snape hadn't seen them leave, of course, but he had stood around the corner and listened to their hurried footsteps. Afterwards, he had gone to Dumbledore and had told him in no uncertain terms that the Mirror would have to go elsewhere.

He had taken the opportunity to slip in a comment about the need for Potter to see his parents. Dumbledore had been truly shocked to learn that the boy had never seen Lily's picture. Snape wouldn't be surprised at all if Dumbledore (anonymously, of course) would give Potter a wizarding picture of his parents for his next Christmas, now that the thought was planted in his head. That was how Dumbledore did his Christmas gifts, after all. Picking up stray hints.

Lily would want her son to have her picture. That was the only reason he had mentioned it to Dumbledore. The brat would like it too, of course – there was a downside to every well-laid plain. But the smile Snape had seen on his face as he saw Lily in the mirror had made him look slightly less like his father, and therefore slightly more human.

On the 27th, he had finally delivered his gift at Minerva's office. He had stopped at the classroom that had contained the Mirror, and he had heard Potter's voice ask a question and Dumbledore's deep rumble in answer. Something about how no-one gave him – Dumbledore – socks. And how much he wanted them.

He had had a point. Snape had often wanted to tell him to put a sock in it, but he had never thought to make a present of them. And now Dumbledore expressed this wish? To Potter? Snape had found it odd at first, and then he realized that Potter had actually dared ask Headmaster Albus Dumbledore what he saw in the Mirror of Erised.

The sheer impudence of the brat was breath-taking.

Obviously, Dumbledore had hidden whatever his personal and highly private truth was, and had told Potter he wanted socks.

Not his heart's desire.

But something he would like to receive, or it wouldn't have been the first thing that sprang to mind when he needed to think of something he wanted.

Snape would remember it. If he ever ran into a pair of socks in a colour and design vivid enough to please his sartorially-challenged Headmaster, he would overcome his natural reluctance and buy the horrors. Dumbledore would like the gift. As much as Minerva had liked hers, perhaps.

For when Minerva had found his gift, she had been truly pleased. She had recognised his handwriting on the gift card and had thanked him most warmly. So warmly, in fact, that Snape had completely forgotten to mention the annual tartan handkerchiefs. They had been in a rather Slytherin-looking pattern this year, although Slytherin didn't have a tartan – this was some clan called Abercrombie, according to Minerva. Clearly, some effort had been made, once again. But not much, as he had planned to point out.

But it didn't matter that he had forgotten his jibe about tartans. He had still experienced fun, he supposed. Or at least a rather pleasant, tinkling sensation.

A bit like a warming spell, only better.

And Minerva had even invited him for drinks in her rooms. For this very evening.

He had accepted the invitation.

The Unholy Innocents were safe from Erised's lures; Dumbledore had seen to that. The Stone was safe in the Mirror. His Slytherins still spoke of their Christmas cake.

So it was with an easy conscience that Snape could enjoy Minerva's company and the discussion on Scrooge he was looking forward to. Besides, Minerva knew how to keep a good whisky, if any woman alive possessed the knowledge, and she knew when to serve it, too.

Snape thought of the excellent drinks ahead, and, briefly, of Ebenezer Scrooge, who wanted to have no further intercourse with Spirits, but would live on the Total Abstinence Principle ever afterwards.

More fool him.

Snape got up from behind his desk, extinguished the candles in his office, and locked up. The Seasonal Misery was well and truly past, and an evening with his old sparring partner lay ahead.

Delivering her gift had been a far more complicated affair than he had bargained for, but the evening ahead would be – dare he use the doomed word one more time, or would Fate interfere and once again scatter the collected inmates of Hogwarts on his path to prevent him from reaching the pleasures of Minerva's rooms?

No. Minerva and he had planned an evening together, and he would like to see the witch, wizard, or ghost who would stand in their way.

The evening ahead would be fun.

All the rest was humbug.

*The End*