Spare a Thought for the Slytherin
A short Christmas story by Ada Kensington
It was Christmas Eve, and, once again, concerned glances were being cast at the dark and cheerless stairway that led to the dungeons, the Slytherin Common Room and Severus Snape’s quarters. The annual staff Christmas get-together was about to begin and Severus had not yet put in an appearance, despite the fact that he had stated, somewhat forcibly, that he would meet them in the Great Hall at quarter to seven. Severus was, after all, usually so very punctual. In fact, he prided himself on that particular virtue. Understandably, Professors McGonagall, Flitwick and Sprout were growing increasingly anxious.
Over the past few months, Severus had been growing steadily more withdrawn and increasingly prickly about any inquiries of a personal nature, even those born out of friendly concern. Of course, Severus had always been, and would continue to be, or so his colleagues surmised, an intensely private individual and they respected and understood the reasons for this and his need to have the occasional moment to himself. However, tonight was different. It was Christmas Eve, and no one, they felt, should have to spend Christmas alone - least of all someone like Severus Snape, who, they felt unanimously, would benefit from some quiet company.
Faces grimly set, as one, the three Heads of Houses Gryffindor, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff turned to one another. No words were necessary, as each gaze conveyed their collective intention explicitly enough. With curt nod from Professor McGonagall, the three respectively marched, trotted and bustled off down the dark and cheerless staircase that lead to their colleague’s quarters, in order to try and coax him out of his subterranean lair and into the light, warmth and merriment of a traditional, Hogwartian Christmas.
Down below, Severus Snape was, in fact, holed up in his dungeon quarters. However, his quarters were not the archetypal dank, dismal dungeon - though dungeon they were and dungeon they will remain - but were comparatively well-lit, warm and dry. The furnishings were neither Spartan, nor grandiose: a rather faded green rug stretched from corner to corner over the flagstone floor, occupying a large chunk of the rug was a well-polished mahogany desk and chair, on which piles of parchment - neatly and tightly bound with a string of black ribbon - teetered precariously, and as far as Slytherinity was concerned, the only signs of the occupant’s devotion to his house were the serpents elegantly carved into the pillars of the stone fireplace - their forked tongues appearing to flicker and flutter in the shadows cast by the dancing flames.
However, what truly characterised the quarters of Severus Snape were the bookshelfs - rows upon rows of which lined the walls, stretching from floor to ceiling, making room only for the doors (one leading outside and the other to his bedchamber) and the fireplace. It really was a rather impressive private collection, with titles ranging from Olde and Forgotten Bewitchments and Curses, An Appraisal of Magical Education in Europe and an old copy of Hogwarts: A History through to the less savoury titles of Nature’s Nobility: A Wizarding Genealogy, Summoning of the Shadow, The Rise of the Dark Arts and a banned copy of The Coming of Grindlewald.
Presently, there was a sizeable gap where his own battered copy of Most Potente Potions (well thumbed through) had been plucked carefully from its shelf.
Severus Snape himself, was sitting, cross-legged and quite content, in one of two deep, high-backed, winged and incredibly comfortable bottle-green, velvet armchairs, both of which faced the huge, crackling log fire, in his stockings and nightshirt with a mug of mulled wine and engrossed in Moste Potente Potions.
Re-reading Moste Potente Potions was, perhaps, his own personal Christmas tradition, for nothing instilled within him a greater sense of peace on Earth (though not so much goodwill toward all men), than picking it up and devouring the author’s lucid, eloquent prose and the magnificently detailed illustration.
His black eyes darted from word to word with a deep satisfaction, a small smile would fleetingly part his thin lips as he happened upon some of the more questionable concoctions, a stray tendril of dark hair falling over his sallow face was swept automatically behind an ear, and pale, slender fingers deftly turned the thick pages of yellowing parchment.
For hours he had sat, pouring over tomes and ingredients and instruments and measurements, and in consequence, his muscles were beginning to yammer in protest. Inserting his bookmark at the tenth chapter (Maleformationes of the Bodye), he shut the book with a soft thud and set it down on the table in front of the fireplace and took up his mug of mulled wine with a pair of white hands. With a sigh, he stretched out his aching legs, closed his eyes and breathed in the smell of the hot, syrupy wine and the sweet, cinnamon spice with just a hint of tangy orange zest.
Contrary to popular belief, he actually rather enjoyed the Christmas period. It was a common misconception, one which had caused him much consternation in the past and one which actually deeply irritated him. He was not in the least bothered by the students marking him down as ‘Ebenezer Snape’ or by the painfully unoriginal sniggerings of ‘bah… humbug!’ when they thought he was safely out of earshot, no. What actually bothered him was the misplaced concern of those who believed they knew him. Severus took a sip of his mulled wine and smiled wryly as he realised that, admittedly, most of these people were Gryffindors, although he could think of a couple of offending Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs.
They had somehow gotten it into their heads that he felt depressed, lonely or, dare he say it, unloved, during the festive season. Nothing could be further from the truth. He was a solitary person who naturally enjoyed spending time in his own company. His colleagues normally respected this and even tended to do it themselves fairly frequently. However, this particular personality trait of his seemed to clash most violently with the ideals of Christmas, and it was around this time of year that those he was acquainted with seemed to take it up as their solemn duty to badger him into doing things he did not want to do and to be something he was not and could not ever be.
Last week, after yet another meeting, Molly Weasley had pulled him aside and had invited him to Christmas Dinner because she ‘thought that it would be fun’ and that he was ‘just far too thin to be healthy’ and that he looked as though he ‘needed cheering up.’ Cheering up? What? Having to bear the company of those he neither knew nor particularly liked and who were ‘not really very sure of him anyway,’ was supposed to appeal to him? Although mainly, the idea of spending Christmas with, and in the house of Sirius Black made him want to curse the woman for being so typically Gryffindorian and ridiculous as to suggest the idea to him in the first place.
Naturally, he refused, though he did so in as polite a manner as was possible when one was sneering inside.
At Hogwarts, he was surrounded by reputedly sensible and intelligent people who, consequently, did the much the same thing as Molly Weasley although with more subtlety and a little more art. Albus Dumbledore was always the worst for it, though Minerva McGonagall seemed to be aiming to outdo the Headmaster this year. With every little hint, every implication and insinuation only served to insult his intelligence and cause him to withdraw even further from the whole mentality of Christmas. Severus sighed, exasperatedly, and took another sip from his mug. They were so deeply entrenched in their particular interpretations of Christmas they just could not understand what Christmas meant to him.
For him, Christmas was a time when he could sit in peace, to read, to write. It was a time when he did not feel obligated to give in to the increasing demands of his Professorship and everything that it entailed. Severus craned his neck and squinted round a wing of his armchair, frowning at the towering piles of parchment atop his desk and stacked on his chair. At least all the marking had been done, thank Merlin!
It was also a time when he could be himself for two weeks during the middle of the school year. Most of the time, he was in an almost constant state of anxiety in trying to balance his performance on behalf of both sides - needing to convince one half of his allegiance to the Dark Lord and to discourage the as yet undecided from joining. It was an exhausting, frustrating, divisive and demoralising process - especially when he lost students - but he persevered because it seemed to be the only way forward. Therefore, it shouldn’t have been surprising that he relished the time when he did not have to walk on eggshells around the students of his own house.
But mainly the Christmas period was a time when he could reflect on what was past and what was yet to come. There weren’t always particularly fond recollections nor were his predictions ever very optimistic. Quite often, and even more so recently, he felt… well… all over the place, really. More than anything, he desperately craved a chance to clear his thoughts, and the peace and quiet of the festive fortnight gave him this much-needed time.
Suddenly, there was a knock on the door and the familiar stern voice of Minerva McGonagall snapped him out of his reverie.
“Severus, it’s six o’clock. Are you coming or not?”
They really did take no prisoners. Rolling his eyes resignedly, Severus put down his almost empty mug and hauled himself out of his armchair. Padding across the green rug in his black stockings and his long, grey nightshirt, he pulled out his wand and removed the charms (and curses) that protected his quarters and kept his door tightly and unfailingly locked.
Simply, he just wished that they would understand his need to be alone for a time at Christmas…
Spare but a thought for the Slytherin at Christmas, but please, I beg you, nothing more!
Opening the door a crack, he saw the faces of Professors McGonagall, Flitwick and Sprout peering in at him, in their gazes was a mixture of determination, concern and the very sort of forced cheerfulness that he loathed. He smirked.
“Are you coming Severus?” piped Flitwick.
“Yes, but you’ll have to wait a few mintes. I’m afraid I’m not decent,” he replied coolly, pushing the door shut once more.
While he was dressing, he realised there was another reason why he liked to spend Christmas alone. If he wasn’t being called out by either side, then he could spend all day in his bedclothes with a mug of mulled wine and a good book…
“Severus, are you ready yet?” the good-naturedly bossy voice of the Head of Hufflepuff House echoed through his quarters from outside.
Severus was already striding toward the door and he threw it open and looked at each of them appraisingly before replying that he was, indeed, ready, and that they had merely caught him off his guard.
“Good. Well, let’s be off, then,” Minerva McGonagall said briskly, before marching away down the corridor with Flitwick and Sprout chattering behind her.
With a flick of his wand, Snape extinguished the fire and his quarters descended into darkness. For a few seconds, Severus looked up at the ceiling and shook his head rather half-heartedly before sweeping down the dark and cheerless dungeon corridor after his colleagues.
AN: You may have noticed that I have coined a few new terms here and there, namely Hogwartian, Slytherinity and Gryffindorian. If you are not a rabid Harry Potter fan, then you will, in all probability, not have the faintest clue as to what I’m on about - but then, if you are not, then it begs the question as to why you are reading this…
Anyway, I know that it’s not another chapter of ‘What Would You See?’ but I really wanted to do a Christmas fic and seeing as Severus is my favourite character (well it’s bloody obvious to anyone who has read my stuff) I thought I’d butcher his character just in time for Christmas Day.
As it is Christmas (the spirit of goodwill and all that jazz) I’d be much obliged if you’d leave a review. Just a short: ‘Excellent work, Ada’ would be nice if you liked it. If you didn’t, then throw in the insult of your choice - just as long as it’s constructive (and festive - ‘tis the season, after all.)
So, God rest ye merry ladies and gentlemen! Away to your mangers upon your little donkeys toward the little town of Bethlehem in the bleak midwinter! Have an O Holy Night and may all your Christmases be white!
- Ada K.