The Sugar Quill
Author: Suburban House Elf (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: A Visit From Saint Nicholas  Chapter: Default
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A Visit from Saint Nicholas


(To my Dad, who read all the Harry Potter books with only one functioning eye, yet clearly saw  that Snape is the key to the puzzle.)


T’was the night before Christmas, when all through Snape’s house,

Not a creature was stirring – except for a mouse,

Which had partnered Wormtail to a Dark Rodents’ Knees-up,

And sat wearily eating the rest of the cheese up.

But although he stirred not, Snape was hardly abed.  He

Crouched ‘neath the chimney, his wand at the ready.

Like a Basilisk’s prey Snape kept perfectly still.

No stockings were hung were he kept his vigil.


No visions of sugar plums danced in Snape’s fancies.

He was tense as a wound spring, all nervous and antsy.

At last, Snape thought grimly, the truth will be told!

I’ll corner my quarry, so bearded and old.

He’s too fat and ungainly to put up a fight.

I’ll subdue him and make him reveal all tonight.

For the might of my wand he can never resist.

I’ll catch Santa and force him to give me The List.


But then in Spinner’s End there arose such a clatter,

That the mouse ceased her nibbling and squeaked, “What’s the matter?”

To mousie’s cry, Snape did not pay any heed,

As he lifted his wand with great vigour and speed.

“Incarcerous,” Snape yelled up the dark, sooty flue.

Then the room exploded in a hullabaloo,

When a hogtied gent fell from the sitting room chimney,

Onto the hearth rug (which was threadbare and dingy).


“What the -?” choked Father Christmas, red-faced and dismayed -

A sad lack of jollity truly displayed,

By the way that he kicked at the rickety chairs,

And filled the dim room with formidable swears.

“Desist!” Snape commanded.  “Be quiet this minute!

Or I’ll brew up a potion and put your beard in it.

You’re my captive until you can meet my fair price,

By telling me this: Am I naughty or nice?”


Saint Nick stopped protesting, his huge, heaving belly,

Shook, when he gasped, like a great bowl of jelly.

“You want me to tell you?” asked Santa, perplexed.

“Yes,” answered Snape, “unless you want to be hexed.”

“Don’t you know?” Santa wondered.  “One gen’rally finds,

That wizards of your age all know their own minds.

And review of their consciences tends to suffice,

To tell them whether they’ve been naughty or nice.”


Snape sullenly slumped in a sitting room chair,

And his bony hands tore at his lank, greasy hair.

“I’ve already tried that,” he told Santa, pleading.

“But my conscience,” Snape went on, “makes curious reading.”

Blue eyes twinkled and then, “How so?” Santa spoke,

Reminding Snape of another bearded bloke.

Snape hung his head, hiding his eyes from Saint Nick.

“My history’s long - it’s full six volumes thick,”


Snape gravely explained. “Each time I’ve gone amiss,

It is matched by a time when I’ve strived for justice.

First I sold out the Potters to Voldemort’s force,

Then I spied for the Order, because my remorse,

Was sincere (or at least, it convinced the Headmaster),

Next I guarded Flamel’s stone, preventing disaster.

I was mauled by a Cerberus just to thwart Quirrell,

But at the same time, I bullied each pupil,


“Who provoked my ire in my dungeon classroom,

Yet – remember – I saved Harry from that jinxed broom!”

Santa’s white eyebrows knitted together, bemused.

He agreed, “I can see how you must be confused.”

Snape spluttered, “Confusion!  I’ve hardly begun!

Hear now of my actions since Harry’s year one!

In year two my misdeeds betrayed a mean heart,

When I duelled with and bettered that moron, Lockhart,


“But I usually managed to act with restraint,

(Flying cars were a reason for valid complaint.)

In Harry’s year three, my motives were sound,

After all, a murderer was running around!

Or at least, we all thought so, and there’s no disputin’

That Black once attempted to feed me to Lupin.

I provided that werewolf with potions he needed,

And in capturing Black I quite nearly succeeded,


“But at day’s end, no Dementor sucked out Black’s soul,

And I never turned Trevor into a tadpole!”

Then Santa conceded, “It does appear true,

You behaved almost well in years one, three and two.”

Snape swore under his breath and his hawk-like eyes burned.

“It was easy,” he growled, “ere the Dark Lord returned.

But in year four my arm itched - I had to decide,

If I ought to return to my old Master’s side.


“At Hogwarts I stayed till Albus gave his leave,

Then, once more a spy, I set out to deceive.

But I didn’t wish,” Snape snarled, suppressing a cough,

“To end up like Regulus or Karkaroff.

So I’ve executed such deft ducking and swerving,

That even I can’t say whose side I’m now serving.”

“You taught Occlumency,” Santa said with a pout.

“That was nice-ish… until you kicked young Harry out.”


“And I warned them,” Snape sneered, “about the M.O.M.

I told Black to stay put!  So I’m scarcely to blame,

If the idiot chose to go get himself killed.

Black was just too hot-headed and brash and strong-willed.”

Santa eyed his host keenly.  “So could you perchance,

Reveal if you grassed on poor Emmeline Vance?”

Snape brushed off this query by raising his hands.

“A good spy can never divulge where he stands,”

Snape said, looking smug as he lifted his brows.


“A good man avoids all Unbreakable Vows,”

Santa butted in hotly, his face flushed and florid.

“And a good man won’t kill – that was craven and horrid.”

“Yes, I did take the life,” Snape replied, his voice cold,

“Of a man who was lethally poisoned and old.

I helped Draco that night, and my own freedom bought.

Two lives saved, and one old man’s agony cut short.”

Snape rose from his seat; to his topic he warmed.

“Yet,” Snape said, “through it all I left Potter unharmed.


“I performed as a righteous man bound by that vow would.

So watch yourself, tubby!  Don’t call me a coward!

Stop chastising me in a manner so haughty,

And tell me at once: Am I nice? Am I naughty?”

To Snape’s amazement Santa started to glow,

And Saint Nick’s chains dissolved (for he’s magic, you know).

He stood and he winked in a way that was droll,

And from Santa’s coat pocket he drew a long scroll.


“Nice or naughty?” mused Santa.  “Well, if you insist,

I suppose I’ll permit you to peek at The List.”

Snape snatched at the scroll and unrolled it avidly,

His eyes darted down all the names quite rapidly.

“Everybody is there,” Santa said, “I’ve checked twice.

I’ve brought coal for old Wormtail and cheese for the mice.”

Santa pulled both these meagre gifts out of his sack,

And asked, “Could you kindly now give The List back?”


Snape froze like a statue, his mouth fell agape.

On The List he had reached the name SEVERUS SNAPE.

No cross or tick stood next to Snape’s appellation,

There was no mark of censure, yet no commendation.

Instead, next to Snape’s name three stark words were shown.

He read, “Severus Snape has status unknown.”


“This cannot be!” Snape hissed. Said Santa, imperious,

“Serves you right for being so dark and mysterious.

As far as I know, your intent may be pure,

But your method’s so foul it is hard to endure.

What was I to do?  You’re a model of vice!

Even if you are good, you will never be nice.”

Santa tapped a finger on the side of his nose,

And taking The List, up the chimney he rose.


He then cried with joy as his sleigh rose to heaven,



Snape kicked at the fireguard. He groaned and he growled.

“May misfortune befall J.K. Rowling!” he howled.

“It was she who gave me ethics so complicated,

That my allegiances are etern’ly debated.

But - consider my lot!  How can it be pleasant,

To wait each year and receive no Christmas present?”

Snape sighed.  Then he ate all the cheese for the mice,

‘Cause, though he might be good, he will never be nice.




(Author’s Note: Thank you to J.K. Rowling for creating many of the characters and scenes referred to in this story.  I’d also like to acknowledge Clement Clark Moore, whose poem, “A Visit From Saint Nicholas,” was my inspiration.


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