Written for: primeideal
Length : 1265
Character(s): The seventh-year DA, Professor Snape, Professor Slughorn
Author's Note: Yes, I know that many others have used this title or variants of it – probably because it’s too apt to resist. And Alan Rickman fans will know that the opening line is also not entirely mine.
For the non-British among you, Christmas crackers are described here
Primeideal – I hope you have a great holiday and that you enjoy this too!
“That’s it!” Snape snarled, wiping the remains of a particularly gloopy Bat Bogey from his cheek. “Cancel all cakes and sweets for pranksters and rebels! No more lenient detentions! And call off Christmas!”
* * * * *
"He can't cancel Christmas," said Luna, as the DA gathered to discuss this latest pronouncement.
Seamus poured Murtlap Essence into a bowl. "He can't cancel Christmas," he echoed. “It’s the only thing I’ve been looking forward to in this bleedin’ place.”
Ginny laughed; there was little humour in it. "Oh, so he can send us out into the Forbidden Forest, let Filch chain up first-years and ignore the Carrows torturing us, but he can't cancel Christmas?"
"No, he can't," said Luna. "It's not up to him – it's up to Hogwarts."
Neville and Ginny exchanged a look.
There was a kerfuffle by the door; Anthony limped in, supported by Ernie. Padma ran over with the bottle of Murtlap Essence; the impending non-Christmas was temporarily forgotten.
"What do you think she meant?" asked Ginny, as they were making their way back to the common room.
"No idea," said Neville. "But she's right about one thing: it's not up to him. It's up to us."
* * * * *
"You can't cancel Christmas, Severus" said Horace Slughorn, sinking into the one almost-comfortable chair in the Headmaster's office.
"Oh, can't I?" Snape slammed a drawer closed. "They've got to learn sometime!"
"Of course. But most of the children are innocent, and who's going to give me my crystallised pineapple if we don't even give them a Christmas tree?"
Snape glared at him. "I don't care about your crystallised pineapple! If they carry on as they are, one of them is going to be-"
Slughorn got up. "Anyone would think you cared."
Snape jerked open another drawer. "I need to control the school. If the Slytherins aren't happy about it, do something in the common room. But Hogwarts will not celebrate Christmas!"
* * * * *
"We need a tree," said Seamus at the first meeting of Operation Christmas Cracker.
"And how do you plan on getting it inside without being seen?" asked Lavender.
"Pity Harry and his invisibility cloak aren't here," said Ernie.
"Yeah," said Michael. "I wonder where he's got to?"
"Wish I knew," said Neville, rubbing at a scar on his leg. "Keeping it on at all times, if he's got any sense."
"Snap out of it, Nev," said Terry, glancing at Ginny, who was staring at the floor and blinking rapidly. "Harry's okay – he's got Hermione with him, and we all know she's brilliant."
Michael nodded. "He's safe. We'd have heard all right if he wasn't. And the best way to help him is to keep everybody's spirits up."
"Right," Ginny said fiercely. "Let's make this a Christmas they'll never forget."
"How are we going to get a Christmas tree inside, though?" asked Padma.
"Hagrid would help," said Ginny.
"He probably would, but I'd rather not ask," said Neville. "We don't want to get him into trouble."
"We don’t have to," said Terry. "I have an idea…"
* * * * *
The last two weeks of term passed quickly. Terry spent every spare minute in the Potions section of the library, Ginny took full advantage of her Slug Club membership to wheedle some obscure ingredients out of Professor Slughorn, Neville talked Professor Sprout into letting him have a 'research' plot in Greenhouse Two, and Padma, Parvati, Lavender and Ernie delighted Professor Flitwick by asking for an extra lesson to brush up their Charms. In a stroke of luck, Professor Slughorn took his seventh-year class foraging at the edge of the forest, and failed to notice that some of their bags contained more holly than hellebore. Not even Alecto Carrow's Muggle Studies ‘lesson’ on Why Christmas Is A Muggle Abomination That Has No Place in A Proper Wizard Society could put a dampener on the preparations.
At last came the last day of term, and the leaving feast. As the students filed in, the Great Hall was bare of all decoration save the house banners. Professor Snape stood and gave a gloomy speech about how students would be safe if they followed the rules.
And as he sat down, ten wands moved in unison. Ten Disillusionment Charms were removed; ten pots swelled in size; ten bottles dripped ten drops of Kwik-Grow Solution onto ten tiny trees. And ten magnificent firs soared to the rafters as hundreds of glittery baubles swooped in to find their places in the branches.
The cheering that erupted from the student tables drowned out the pop of arriving food: platters of turkey and sausages and perfect roast potatoes and all the trimmings. And beside each plate, a shiny Christmas cracker.
“Brilliant!” Seamus whispered to Neville. “You never mentioned fixing the feast too!”
“That wasn’t me,” said Neville, nudging the cracker as if afraid it would blow up.
“Yeah,” said Ginny. “If we’d changed the menu, there’s no way we’d have included sprouts.”
“HO HO HO, SEVERUS!” Professor Slughorn’s voice boomed through the hall.
Up on the top table, Professor Snape and the Carrows were looking furious, while the other teachers hid surreptitious smiles – all except for Professor Slughorn, who was slapping Professor Snape on the back and holding out a cracker for him to pull. “Knew you’d plan a proper send-off in the end!”
Professor Snape whipped out his wand, but Professor Slughorn put his hand on his wrist, leaned over and spoke a few words that were inaudible to anyone but the two of them. Professor Snape snarled something in response; Professor Slughorn spoke again. Finally, Professor Snape shrugged off his hand and stood up.
“Very well, then. Eat up before it all gets cold. And… Merry Christmas.”
He made it sound like a curse – though the only casualty was the orange paper hat that flew out of his cracker and was reduced to ash before it could settle on his head.
“Great,” muttered Ernie. “So Snape gets all the credit.”
“Better Snape gets the credit than someone else gets the blame,” said Susan.
‘Eat up’ being the first instruction from Professor Snape the DA had actually wanted to follow, they piled their plates high and tucked in.
As the slow eaters and the fast eaters on their third helpings were finishing their pudding, a familiar voice floated through the Great Hall.
God Rest Ye, Merry Hufflepuffs, let nothing you dismay,
for loyalty and friendship will drive the Dark away…
Michael nudged Anthony and pointed upwards.
Perched on one of the rafters, fraying mouth open, was the Sorting Hat.
So do not fear the Dark Lord’s power
Let hope live day by day.
And suddenly the Hall was filled with ghosts, swelling the chorus:
OH TIDINGS OF COMFORT AND JOY
COMFORT AND JOY
OH TIDINGS OF COMFORT AND JOY!
Professor Slughorn and Professor Hagrid joined in loudly, waving tankards in the air.
The students listened, as they had so many times before, as the Hat sang the virtues of truth and determination and courage. At every chorus more students joined their voices to the ghosts’ until by the end almost everyone was standing – even the Slytherins.
Or, Luna thought, especially the Slytherins, who were more in need of hope than anyone.
She looked up at the top table. Professor Snape was looking uncomfortable but no longer murderous.
“Merry Christmas, Professor Snape,” she said quiety.
Terry turned to her. “You’re wishing him a Merry Christmas?”
“Everybody deserves a happy Christmas,” she replied. “Even Professor Snape.”
And Hogwarts would always provide one.