Warnings: Teenagers doing wildly inappropriate things in inappropriate places
The Best Christmas Ever
A/N: Gift fic for karasu_hime, written for the Secret Santa Exchange on lupin_snape. Story and characterizations of Snape and Lupin inspired by Karasu's artwork in general, with scenes based on specific pieces.
Disclaimer: Characters aren't mine, but I'll take the liberty of giving them away anyway ;)
X: Loyalty Tested
The Friday before Christmas holidays began, the last thread snapped.
The students had been growing more restless all week as the holidays approached, and by lunchtime the Friday before the Hogwarts Express would bear away those students who were bound for home, the excitement had reached a head. A thick blanket of snow covered the ground, ankle-deep in the shallowest spots and knee-deep elsewhere, and the snow continued to fall.
Remus was making his way across the courtyard when a hand reached out from an alcove and snatched him against the wall. "What are you doing? We're going to be late for class!"
"We're not going to class," Sirius replied, glancing around the corner. "Early Christmas gift to ourselves."
"We can't just skive off Charms!" Remus said. "Flitwick's probably going to give us an essay over the holiday and—"
"Can't do an essay if we don't know about it, can we?" Sirius asked with a rakish grin.
"Filch!" James hissed, and Sirius grabbed Remus' cloak and pulled him to the ground.
"Where's Peter?" Sirius asked, looking at James as he settled back on his heels. "You told him, didn't you?"
"I told him to meet us here," James replied. "Not stupid enough to tell him why."
Remus had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. "Why do you say that?" he whispered.
"Because, he'd have gone blabbing it to someone," James said.
Remus frowned at James, then at Sirius, but neither seemed to be paying him any mind. "Look," he said, getting to his feet again, "I don't know what you two are up to, and I don't want to know, but I'm going to—"
"Get down!" Sirius hissed, and Remus hit the ground without thinking. McGonagall rounded the corner a moment later, the hem of her robe passing right under their noses, but she didn't seem to notice three Gryffindors crouched behind a snow-covered evergreen shrub.
"We're going to be late!" Remus protested again.
"I told you, we're not going to class," Sirius whispered.
"Oh, come on, Remus," James said, turning to face him again. "Who's going to know? No one."
"Flitwick?" Remus asked. "You think he's not going to notice if we're not in class?"
"Half the class isn't going to be in class," Sirius said. "No one wants to sit in a desk the last day before holidays."
"Right," Remus muttered, pulling his cloak tighter against the wind. "Sitting in the snow is much better."
"There he is," James said, pointing. Remus looked in the direction James was indicating, and sure enough, Peter was scurrying down the walkway, looking far too suspicious not to be up to something.
"Wormtail!" Sirius hissed, and Peter darted behind the bush, crouching with them.
"What are we doing?" he asked, his eyes big as they darted from James to Sirius and back.
"We're going to Hogsmeade," James replied.
"No," Remus said. "We'll get expelled!"
"Only if we get caught," Sirius said. "Come on."
"Aww, come on, Moony. We've only got the afternoon and then Peter and James and I are all leaving—"
"You sure you don't want to come with me and Sirius?" James interrupted suddenly. "I'm sure Mum wouldn't mind."
"I'm sure," Remus said. "I'll be fine here." He'd had this conversation half a dozen times already. The full moon was the day the holidays ended, and he didn't want to risk being stuck on the train when the moon rose. Besides, he'd discovered that Severus was staying over the holidays, too, and that made Christmas at Hogwarts seem much more appealing.
"Anyway, it's going to be two whole weeks before we see each other again," Sirius said. "We're not going to do anything. Just go into town and have a few butterbeers."
"Come on, Remus," James said. "We're not going to get in trouble."
"Everyone who doesn't have classes this afternoon is already going to Hogsmeade anyway," Sirius pointed out.
"You can just say you're seeing us off."
Remus sighed, knowing that he was about to give in. "But Flitwick..."
"We'll make something up," Sirius said.
"You think he's not going to put two and two together when he sees all of us missing?" Remus asked.
"We've got the whole vacation to think up a good excuse," James pointed out.
"Come on, Remus," Peter said. "It'll be fun!"
Remus shook his head.
"Please?" Sirius grinned at him, and Remus sighed again.
"He's in," James said. "Come on, let's get out of here."
Sirius tugged Remus to his feet and the four of them sprinted across the grounds to the Whomping Willow. The tree's limbs shuddered, as though preparing for their intrusion. James looked around. "It's clear!" he hissed, and Peter transformed himself and darted to the tree trunk, pressing on the knot that stayed the branches.
"We're not supposed to use this tunnel—" Remus began, but Sirius was already jerking him towards the hollow in the trunk.
"We're not even supposed to know about this tunnel," he said as he shoved Remus forward. Remus stumbled, but edged inside. Once the four of them were in, bent slightly to keep their heads from brushing the low earthen ceiling, James and Sirius drew their wands.
"Lumos," James said, casting a narrow beam of light into the darkness.
"Lumos," Sirius echoed, his own light adding to James' attempts at illumination.
Peter scrambled for his wand as well. "Lumos," he said, and the three wands cast a glow around them.
With another sigh, Remus drew his as well. "Lumos."
"All right!" Sirius said, clamping a hand on Remus' shoulder. "Come on."
They hurried through the tunnel and emerged into the Shrieking Shack, shivering and dusty, wands still drawn. They made their way downstairs and let themselves out, and as the icy wind hit blasted against them, Remus lifted his face.
"Ahh," Sirius said, appearing beside him. "Smell that?" he asked, draping an arm around Remus' shoulders.
James nudged his arm, and Remus took a deep breath. "Freedom," he said with a grin. The four of them laughed as they pocketed their wands and walked the rest of the way into town.
The Three Broomsticks was crowded, full of students having their last butterbeers before they boarded the train, and there turned out to be no empty chairs. Sirius suggested they forget about butterbeer so quickly that Remus suspected that he'd never intended them to linger in the Three Broomsticks, though he couldn't fathom what else they were doing in the village.
"So," James said as they walked along the crowded main street, "who is she, anyway?"
"Who?" Remus asked.
"The bird you're seeing," Sirius said. Remus' mouth dropped open, and Sirius grinned more widely than ever. "Come on, mate. You can tell us."
"It has to be someone from another house," James speculated. "No chance two Gryffindors could keep something like that from us."
"And no chance it's Slytherin," Sirius said. "Moony's got better taste than that."
"Is it that girl in Ravenclaw?" Peter asked.
"Which girl?" Remus asked, looking at Peter.
"You know. That one you talk to... what's her name?"
Remus gave him a blank look. "I don't know any girls in Ravenclaw."
"Sure you do," Sirius said. "We have classes—"
"I don't know any Ravenclaw girls well." He looked at Peter again. "What are you talking about?"
Peter grinned and shrugged. "I just thought maybe you'd tell us."
"Must be Hufflepuff then," Sirius said.
"I bet it's—"
They never found out who James was going to name. A snowball, big and wet, came hurling from somewhere behind them and hit Peter squarely on the back of the head. "Ow!" Peter said, whirling around. James and Sirius already had their wands drawn, and Remus wasn't far behind them.
Severus was staring at them, his eyes narrowed warily, and Evan Rosier stood beside him arms folded.
"What the hell was that for?" Sirius snapped, his eyes on Severus.
"Don't look at me," Severus said, tightening his grip on his wand.
"Yeah? I'm looking at you."
"There's nothing to see," said another voice. Viridius Avery came to stand at Severus' other side. "Stray snowball," he said, not sounding the least bit sorry.
"And we're supposed to believe that?" James asked.
"It's the truth," Julian Wilkes said, appearing behind Avery's shoulder.
"Shut up," Severus said.
Remus tightened his grip on his own wand. This was the first time he and Severus had been on opposite sides of a standoff all year.
"Come on," Remus said, reaching for Sirius' arm. "Walk away."
For a moment, he didn't think Sirius was going to walk away, but he finally pocketed his wand and turned on his heel. James followed him, then Peter. Remus spared one last glance for Severus before he did the same. After a few steps, Remus glanced over his shoulder to find the Slytherins walking away as well. He let loose a breath, relieved that the confrontation had ended so peacefully, but as he turned around again, a snowball ripped past his ear and he half-turned, watching in horror as it hit Rosier on the back of the head.
Where James, Sirius and he had made a show of solidarity, the Slytherins made a show of force, and as they turned around, the hexes were already flying.
"Wilkes! Get him!"
Shouted spells mingled with commands and curses, and sparks flew from wands as the Slytherins ducked behind crates and walls, hurling hexes as the Gryffindors stood their ground amidst the attack.
"You slimy little bastard!" Sirius shouted. "Stupe-- fuck!" His spell was interrupted as he was jerked into the air, dangling by his ankles over the street.
"Let him down!" James yelled, his wand trained on Severus.
Severus flicked his wand, and Sirius went higher, dangling upside down, his head nearly ten feet above the ground.
"What are you going to do to make me?" Severus snarled.
Remus' eyes darted from James to Severus and back. James was livid, his face turning red as he brandished his wand. "I'm warning you, Snape! Let him down or I'll—"
"What?" Severus taunted, sending Sirius soaring higher still. "You going to disarm me?"
"James, don't," Remus whispered.
"What the hell do you mean, don't?" Peter asked, looking at Remus as though he were a traitor for saying it.
James was lowering his wand, though. "Let him down," he repeated.
"Why?" Severus asked, looking at Rosier and jerking his head towards Sirius. Rosier disarmed Sirius, and Sirius' wand clattered to the ground.
"Come on, Severus, please?" Remus said. "He didn't do anything."
"James, do something!" Peter snapped.
"What the hell do you want me to do?" James asked. "If Snape drops him, he'll break his neck!"
"Severus, please..." Remus cast a pleading look to Severus, but Severus wasn't paying him any heed.
"Shit," James hissed suddenly. "McGonagall."
"What?" Remus whipped his head in the direction James was looking, and his eyes widened. "Shit." He looked at Severus again. "Put him down!" he snapped. "McGonagall's coming!"
"You don't think I'm going to fall for that."
Avery, however, turned around, and his eyes widened as well. McGonagall was closing in on them fast. "Uh," Avery said, leaning towards Severus, "she really is coming."
"Wha--?" Severus turned around, and his eyes widened as well. He directed his wand to the ground, but Sirius wasn't moving. As McGonagall drew up to them, Remus saw that she had her wand out already, pointing it at Sirius. Two wizards Remus had never seen before were close on her heels, their wands drawn as well.
Remus hastily pocketed his wand, though it was too late to do any good.
"You boys!" McGonagall snapped. "None of you move!" She directed Sirius to the ground again, turning him right side up, and he stumbled as his feet landed. He reached for his wand, shaking his head as though dizzy.
"We were just—"
"—not our fault—"
Avery, Wilkes and Rosier were all stumbling over themselves to cast blame elsewhere, but Remus, James, and Peter stood wide-eyed, their hands in their pockets. Sirius stumbled towards them, joining them. No Gryffindor thought he could talk his way out of McGonagall's wrath.
Professor McGonagall narrowed her eyes at the Slytherins. "Silence!" She turned to Severus, who had at least had the good sense not to try to deny his involvement, since he had been the one holding Sirius upside down in the air. "What is the meaning of this, Mr. Snape?"
Doubt flickered across Severus' eyes, but he squared his chin and gave her a look of such insolence that Remus was almost impressed. He sure as hell couldn't have pulled off such a look for McGonagall.
"I asked you a question, Mr. Snape!"
James cleared his throat. "Professor?"
She turned her gaze to him, and Remus squirmed on James' behalf. "What is it, Mr. Potter?"
"It was just a little inter-house rivalry that got out of hand," James said.
"Yeah," Sirius said. "Snowballs and stuff."
"That was not a snowball," McGonagall said stiffly.
"Like he said," Rosier chimed in, "it just got a little out of hand."
"No one's hurt," Severus pointed out.
"That is beside the point, Mr. Snape!" McGonagall gestured her wand at Remus, Sirius, Peter and James. "You four! Aren't you supposed to be in Charms?"
Remus squeezed his eyes shut.
"I am very disappointed in you! All of you! You especially, Mr. Lupin! A Prefect!"
Remus caught his lower lip between his teeth and ducked his head. Even if he thought it would do any good, he wouldn't tell her that he was trying to get everyone to put their wands away before she came. Besides, no amount of peacemaking changed the fact that he was skiving out of Charms.
"Congratulations, boys," McGonagall said. "I don't think I've ever seen students awarded detention so close to the holidays. Back to the school, immediately!"
"Are you going to write to our parents?" Peter asked.
"No, Mr. Pettigrew," McGonagall replied coolly. "You will be writing to your parents, explaining to them why you are so very fortunate not to be expelled. All four of you, go! Be in my office when I return, and if you know what's good for you, you had best already have your letters started. And twenty-five points from each of you, except you, Mr. Lupin. Fifty points from you. A Prefect."
Remus winced, but joined in the chorus of 'Yes, ma'am.' They were a few steps away when she said, "Oh, and I rather expect Professor Flitwick will want a word with you as well." Remus winced again.
"Not going to get caught," he muttered under his breath. "No one will ever know the difference. We're not going to do anything. We're not going to get in trouble..."
"Shut up, Moony," Sirius snapped.
"Twenty-five points each from Slytherin!" McGonagall was saying, her voice as shrill with the other four as it had been with them. "And you will also be serving detention with me, and I believe you will be writing to your own parents as well. Where are you boys supposed to be?"
Remus didn't hear the response as Sirius chose that moment to clamp a hand onto his shoulder. "Sorry, mate. McGonagall came down really hard on you."
Remus shrugged. "She's right," he said. "I'm a Prefect, and I should know better. I do know better."
"We all do," James said. The four of them walked in silence for a few minutes, not looking back to see if their Slytherin counterparts were following. As they reached the edge of town, James elbowed Sirius. "I bet my mum will let you stay with us the whole vacation," he said.
Remus looked at Sirius, frowning. The red had faded from Sirius' face, and he seemed a little more pale than usual. "Your mum's not going to take this very well, is she?" Remus asked.
Sirius swallowed, then grinned and shrugged. "She's probably going to come unglued on my arse," he said lightly. "She'll get over it." He picked up his pace and moved a few steps ahead of them. Remus and James exchanged glances.
Remus wasn't looking forward to writing his parents, and he knew that when he saw them again, they were going to be disappointed. In honesty, that disappointment was worse than any detention McGonagall could have meted out. James, he suspected, was going to be facing a similar experience, and he would have the added disadvantage of facing it during the holiday. Peter was probably facing a good week of being confined to his bedroom.
Sirius, however, would likely find himself on the receiving end of a solid beating, and no matter what sort of brave face he put on, Remus was certain that the prospect of returning to his own home for the last few days of the holiday held no appeal for him. Sirius often spent the first few days of school nursing bruises.
"Maybe if you talk to McGonagall," Remus began, but Sirius cut him off.
"And tell her what? That Mummy's not going to be pleased? That's the idea of writing home, remember?"
"She wouldn't want you—"
"I'll be fine," Sirius said. "It's just another year anyway, and then I can tell the old hag to bugger off. My mother—not McGonagall."
The rest of the walk to the school was silent, and they made their way to McGonagall's office, as she'd said. They were looking for a place to sit when the Slytherins came in. Wilkes kicked the door open and said, "McGonagall said to go to her classroom," then let the door slam shut behind him.
"You know," Sirius said, scowling at the door, "we could stay right here and claim that they didn't tell us."
Remus grabbed Sirius' elbow and shoved him towards the door. "We're in enough trouble," he said.
The Slytherins had already claimed the back left corner of the room, so Remus, Sirius, James and Peter took the back right corner. When McGonagall came in, they were pulling out their parchment and quills, as were the Slytherins.
"Mr. Snape, front row, please," McGonagall said, tapping her wand on a desk. "Mr. Potter." She indicated the next seat, and James picked up his things and moved. Remus gathered his things again as McGonagall directed Wilkes into the next seat, then Sirius, then Rosier, then Remus, then Avery, then Peter. Once they were spread out on the front row, each separated from all his own comrades, they had nothing to do but bend over parchment and begin working on their letters home.
Five minutes later, Severus still hadn't written anything but the date on his parchment, and he sat with his head propped on his hand, staring at the blank page.
He stole a glance at Potter's paper, which he could see clearly as they were sharing a table.
Dear Mum, Potter had written.
I hope you and Dad are doing well. I'm glad the holidays are coming. I'm ready to come home.
The reason I'm writing, even though I'm getting on the train in a couple of hours, is to inform you that I'm in trouble again. Professor McGonagall said that this time, we're all to write to our own parents to explain the situation...
Severus looked at his page again and tried to imagine what his mother would say if he opened a letter with 'Dear Mum.' He'd called her 'Mam' once, when he was very small. He'd never dared to do that again. Since that error in judgement, he'd always called her 'Mother', and there was nothing dear about her.
Of course, he knew logically that the 'dear' bit was just a formality, but he had a feeling it was one he was going to forego.
"Mr. Snape," McGonagall said, and Severus looked up at her. "You haven't written anything."
He looked down at his page again. "No, ma'am."
"Begin writing. Or do I need to dictate?"
"No, ma'am," he said, feeling a flush creep into his cheeks. He was acutely aware that James Potter was watching him, and that made him more self conscious than ever. With a scowl, he bent over his parchment, so close that his nose was almost touching the paper, shaking his head enough that his hair fell around his face and blocked Potter's view, and began to write.
I am writing to inform you that I am in trouble again.
He tapped his quill several times on the parchment. It was really no point beating around the bush—she'd said she was going to take him out of school if she had one more letter about him, and he had no doubt that she was serious. He didn't think there was much he could say that would change that at this point.
The door opened, and Severus glanced towards it. Professor Flitwick had come in, and there was a chorus of groans—all four of the Gryffindors were supposed to be in Charms, and both Rosier and Wilkes were as well.
"Ah, Professor Flitwick," McGonagall said. "I understand that some of these miscreants are supposed to be yours."
Severus watched with a slight smirk as Flitwick informed the six skivers that they were all scheduled for detention the day classes resumed, and that they could redo the lesson they'd missed for half credit, but that he would be sending progress reports to each of their parents, and, as they all had no credit for the day at the moment, he didn't think the progress reports would be very good.
The smirk faded from Severus' face as Slughorn came in as well, and he noticed that this time, it was Sirius who looked around in anticipation.
Slughorn and McGonagall spoke briefly, and Slughorn nodded, walking past the desk. He paused at Avery's desk, and Avery handed him his letter, which Slughorn read, then nodded and handed back. When he took Rosier's letter, Severus bent over his own, scrawling a rapid conclusion to it.
I was one of a group of Slytherins who were caught fighting with a group of Gryffindors. My involvement was particularly well-noted by the professor who caught us. I also regret to say that we were off school grounds at the time, though at least I wasn't supposed to be anywhere else specific, as many of my classmates were.
Professor McGonagall has assigned me detention, along with the other students involved, and she deducted points from Slytherin. It was her wish that I write to inform you of my involvement.
I realize that this is precisely the letter you had wished to avoid this year, but I have been trying. I've also done quite well in my classes. I was going to write to tell you that I have the second-highest mark in Potions and
He stared at the last paragraph, and caught his lower lip between his teeth. He wasn't supposed to be writing to tell her about his Potions mark, and he doubted it would placate her anyway. It was foolish to think she might be proud of him for being second best in one of his classes.
As Slughorn extended a meaty hand, Severus drew hasty, dark lines through the last paragraph and offered it up to him. Slughorn read over it, and shook his head, chuckling a bit. "Very direct approach, Severus," he said. "Though I don't know why I would have expected anything else." He handed the letter back and returned to the front of the classroom to stand with McGonagall and talk a bit more. Severus took out a clean piece of parchment and copied the letter over again, leaving off the last paragraph and signing it.
When he looked up again, Slughorn was nodding. "Well, boys, I believe Professor McGonagall has appropriately taken care of the situation, so I shan't deduct additional points. I must say, I am very disappointed in all of you, though, and the four of you will serve detention with me after the holidays."
With that, Slughorn was gone. McGonagall walked down the row, taking up the letters, reading over each before taking the next. When she had all of them, she held them up. "I shall be sending these to your parents this evening," she said. "All of you who are going home for the holidays, come up here and we will schedule your detentions to continue after the holidays. Mr. Lupin, you will serve yours this evening, and through the first part of next week. I believe you have another class right now?"
"No, Professor. Professor Kettleburn canceled class today."
"Mr. Snape? Are you not leaving for the holidays?"
"No, ma'am," Severus answered, not looking at the others, who were queueing up at her desk.
"You may serve your detentions with Mr. Lupin, then. In the mean time, both of you return to your common rooms, and stay there until I send for you."
Severus gathered his things and was out the door before McGonagall had a chance to say another word.