A Miserable Christmas by LaileeJane
Past Featured StorySummary: Harry thought having detention with Umbridge over his winter holidays were bad enough, but now his hand is infected, the other students and staff are getting far too deep into the Christmas spirit, and he really just wants to suffer alone.
Categories: Fic Fests > Winter fest 2021 Main Characters: .Snape and Harry (required)
Snape Flavour: None
Genres: None
Media Type: None
Tags: Injured!Harry
Takes Place: 5th Year
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 1 Completed: Yes Word count: 8278 Read: 5782 Published: 06 Jan 2022 Updated: 06 Jan 2022
Story Notes:
Yeah, it's January...didn't get this quite done in time for the holidays, haha. 
A Miserable Christmas by LaileeJane

21. 


That’s how many days in a row Harry had served detention with Umbridge. 21 nights of painful lines, irritated skin, and barely suppressed desire to pull out his wand and hex the toad. If it weren’t for the promise of an even more painful punishment, Harry would have probably not been able to control his temper or his cheek. Unfortunately, he had a gut feeling that if this was what she came up with for minor cheek, a serious infraction may make this look like a light punishment. As reckless as he could be, he had the good sense not to let her have the opportunity to do even more to him. 


For the last three weeks, he’d been writing line after line, so much so that the writing process was completely automatic. He didn’t need to think about what he was writing, he didn’t need to keep track of how many times he had written it or how much longer he’d have to go until he’d satisfied her twisted desire for discipline. A quick glance at his progress was enough to show he was still a long way from what she considered reformative, so dwelling on the words and their meaning, the pain and the bleeding, how much he hated her...none of that really mattered. Instead, he just needed to block all of it out and try not to think of the carving on his hand at all. 


Of course, that was easier said than done. 


“Mr. Potter…” Umbridge said in her fake sweet tone that drove Harry absolutely mad, “How long have we been having these meetings, now?”


“Three weeks, Professor.”


“You’ve had to miss out on spending the holidays with your friends and family because of these detentions, haven’t you?”


Harry forced himself to remain calm even though he felt inclined to shout, “Yes, Professor.” 


It was common knowledge that he had been meant to go to Headquarters with the Weasleys and Hermione. Dumbledore had tried to send him along with them on the night Mr. Weasley had been attacked, but somehow Umbridge had found out and refused to let him leave, as the Weasleys were not his family and he was not considered essential to a family emergency. He had then planned to leave the day before, travelling with Hermione, but the old toad had refused to let him leave then, as well, citing necessary disciplinary action that could not wait until the spring term. She’d even gotten the Minister of Magic himself to sign off on the paperwork forbidding him to leave the castle until he’d fulfilled his quota of detentions. 


Not that he’d ever fulfill them; as soon as he neared the end of her assigned torture sessions, she’d find another reason to hold him back and assign more. This 21 day streak of detentions had started off as 2 nights, and she’d continued to look for any and every reason to extend his sentence. 


If he behaved, though, and gave her absolutely no reason to assign another, he should be free from these nightly meetings just in time for Christmas. Wouldn’t that be the most wonderful gift ever?


“Is it worth it, Mr. Potter? Breaking the rules? Does whatever thrill you get from being disrespectful make it worth spending the holidays here at the castle? Without your family? Without your friends?”


“No, Professor.” 


He wanted to make a sarcastic comment about how he spent every year here, so it was no different than the previous four Christmasses. He wanted to snap that he’d rather be here than at home with his Aunt and Uncle. Instead, he clenched his teeth and kept writing, not wanting to give her the satisfaction of assigning even more nights of lines. 


“Then why do you do it? Why do you insist on making me punish you like this?” Umbridge asked in her syrupy voice, “Is it because you’re too impulsive or is it because you secretly like being punished, knowing you deserve it?”


How was he supposed to answer this? If he agreed, she would continue to assign detentions ad nauseum because she would feel like she was winning and had gained control. If he argued with her, she’d assign him more detentions for being disrespectful. 


“I’m not sure why I do it, Professor. I’m sorry.”


The words sounded just as fake as her voice did, though she didn’t seem to pick up on it. 


“Don’t you worry, dear, we will get to the bottom of your issues.” Umbridge cooed, “I think we’re making so much progress already; a few more weeks should do the trick.” 


His stomach sank. A few more weeks? That would mean he’d be spending every night with her until the new term started. He hadn’t even done anything!


It took every ounce of self control that he possessed not to lash out verbally and do something that would actually earn those detentions, but he managed to get through the rest of the detention without saying something that he’d later regret (or, if not regret, be punished for). While his hand stung felt like he’d gone three rounds with one of Hagrid’s feistiest beasts by the time he was released, he left the room feeling more than a little proud that he’d held his tongue so long.


~*~


The next morning came quickly and Harry winced at the tightness of the healing skin on his hand. He’d thought the thin white scars from his initials days of Umbridge’s quill were bad enough, but having to rip open the same wound each night meant that there was not much time for the skin to heal and therefore the back of his hand was nothing more than a giant scab that was continuously reopened. He’d consider himself lucky if it ever healed at the pace he was getting detained. 


Ever grateful for Hermione for leaving him a supply of murtlap, Harry wasn’t in too much pain and he was determined not to let the remaining sting in his hand interfere with having a good day, for once. 


He took care in wrapping his hand up with a bandage in hopes of hiding the mangled skin from anyone who might take notice of him; he doubted anyone would, as most of the students had left for the holidays, including all of his friends, but he didn’t want to take any chances. Once he was satisfied that his hand was properly concealed, Harry wasted no time in going down to breakfast. 


The house and staff tables had been replaced with one singular table for the duration of the winter hols and Harry was careful to sit on the opposite length of the table from Umbridge, putting as much distance as possible between them. He was amused to notice most of the other students and faculty had given the ministry appointee ample space as well.


“I think it would be fun!” 


The voice of a seventh year Hufflepuff broke Harry from his thoughts. He glanced in her direction, not recognizing the girl nor particularly interested in whatever she thought would be fun but curious about what could possibly be fun considering the odd assortment of students who hadn’t returned home this Christmas. 


“Potter!” she called out, leaning in front of the boy sitting beside her and waving her hand to get Harry’s attention, “What do you think? We can do a secret santa gift exchange for everyone who’s staying here over Christmas. Wouldn’t that be fun?”


“A what?” Harry asked, unsure of what she was talking about or even why she was talking to him to begin with when he had no clue who she even was. Even though it had been years since he learned he was famous in the wizarding world, it still made him uneasy that he was recognizable to so many strangers. “What’s that?”


“You’ve never heard of it?” the Hufflepuff continued, “Everyone puts their name in a box and then everyone draws a name. Then they get a gift for whoever’s name they pick. We can exchange gifts at dinner on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day. Maybe we can even have a little party or something. What do you think?”


Harry thought it sounded awful, but he couldn’t bring himself to say that to the clearly enthusiastic and hopeful girl. “Sounds great.” he managed, hoping someone else would discourage the idea. 


He didn’t know any of the other students who were staying - not only was there no one from his year staying for the holidays, but he was the only Gryffindor at all who had not gone home (or somewhere home-like)  for the break. If he had to pick a gift for one of the remaining students he wouldn’t even know where to begin. He’d checked out the list of students remaining after everyone had left for the holidays and had been disappointed that there were only five other students remaining, two of which were seventh year Hufflepuffs and the other three a group of second year Ravenclaws who had reminded Harry of he and his friends when he’d seen them whispering to each other animatedly at dinner the previous night. The thought of having to shop for a complete stranger sounded like the polar opposite of a fun time, much like the idea of a holiday party with the same group. 


“I think it’s a wonderful idea.” Professor Flitwick chimed in from his seat opposite of the Hufflepuff duo, “What a fun way to spread holiday cheer! We can even include the staff who have stayed for the holidays to make it fun for everyone.” 


Harry wondered if it would be rude to smack his head against the table in a visual demonstration of his feelings towards the idea of a holiday party with both these other students and the professors who had remained. 


He thought most of the professors were alright, of course, he had nothing against Flitwick at all…but just because he thought the small professor was a good, fair teacher didn’t mean that he wanted to socialise with him at a holiday party. 


Not to mention someone would have to draw Umbridge’s name. 


Of course, Harry would have no issues finding her a gift, he could just nick one of the many grotesque antique punishment devices that Filch always threatened them with from his office and give it to her, though then she’d just have another tool to use at her disposal during his next unfounded detention. 


He shuddered slightly at the thought, and turned his attention back to his meal. Hopefully if he just ignored the talk of the gift exchange and party he wouldn’t be obligated to participate. 


“I agree, that may be just what the school needs to bring merriment to this holiday season.” Dumbledore agreed from his spot next to Flitwick. Harry could hear the twinkle in his eye and idly wondered if the headmaster was the one who had given the Hufflepuff girl the idea to begin with. 


The Ravenclaw trio were excitedly talking about how much fun it would be to have a staff vs. student snowball fight at a holiday party while Snape and Umbridge looked as if they’d just bit into the most sour of lemons at the mere thought of both a gift exchange and holiday party. Harry was vaguely certain his own face mirrored theirs, which was as horrifying as having to buy a present for either of them. 


“I do believe we have a majority consensus.” Dumbledore said kindly, “Miss Merriweather, since this was your idea, would you like to organise the gift exchange game?”


“I’d love to, Professor Dumbledore!” the Hufflepuff beamed, “Is it just us who are staying for the holidays, or are any professors staying but just not here right now?”


Harry eyed the table carefully, hoping his opinions on the event weren’t too evident on his face. It was bad enough he wasn’t going to be with his friends as he’d planned, but then to add in nightly detentions with Umbridge and the awkwardness of a holiday party with just 6 students and 4 professors…this was probably the least enthusiastic he’d ever felt about the holiday, which was really remarkable since he spent many Christmases listening to his relatives carry on and have fun without him. 


“Can we plan the Christmas party?” one of the younger Ravenclaws asked, “Please Professor Flitwick, Headmaster?”


“Of course!” Flitwick replied happily, “If you need some assistance, I’m sure Miss Merriweather, Mr. Caprice, or Mr. Potter would be willing to give you a hand.”


It took all of Harry’s self-restraint not to blurt out that he wanted nothing to do with it. Honestly, he wouldn’t even know where to begin as he had approximately zero experience with Christmas parties.


He was quite certain that his own expression matched those of Umbridge and Snape as the Ravenclaws started chattering about snowball fights again, Christmas trees and decorations, and games they could play. It was quite possibly the first time he’d ever seen eye to eye with either of these professors - perhaps it was a Christmas miracle. 


Games. With the professors. Wasn’t the trees in the Great Hall already enough? Why on Earth would they need more? Harry jabbed a piece of egg with his fork, shovelling it in his mouth so he could say he was finished with breakfast and had somewhere else to be. 


Harry was just about to make a quiet exit when Merriweather clapped her hands twice for attention, “Since we’re all here, we may as well exchange names now so we have time to find the perfect gift before Christmas!”


“Wonderful idea, Miss Merriweather!” With a flick of his wand, Flitwick had produced a box and several small pieces of parchment, “Everyone put down your name and drop it into the box, then we will pass around the box so everyone can draw someone else’s name.” 


Harry quickly signed his name on a piece of parchment, unable to fake a smile as he watched everyone else do the same. He really didn’t want to be a part of this. Nothing about this year felt worth celebrating, he just wanted a few days of peace and quiet without detentions, visions and drama. Was that really too much to ask for?


The box came around a second time and he reached in, grabbing a parchment and saying a quick prayer to anyone listening that he wouldn’t draw Umbridge’s name. 


He looked down at the paper, recognizing the scrawl immediately, as many of his essays were usually covered in scathing remarks in the same handwriting. Snape. He looked up, glancing down the table where the potions master sat. He was surprised to see Snape looking at him with disdain - actually, he was used to seeing Snape look at him like that, he was just surprised that they happened to be glaring at each other at the same time. 


Harry sighed, wondering what he would possibly get for the unpleasant professor. He hardly knew anything about him other than he liked potions, hated children, and used to be a Death Eater. That really didn’t give him much to go on as far as gifts went; Harry didn’t know what a good potions-related gift would be, not to mention if it was something important Snape would probably already own it. He wasn’t about to go buy the man something Death Eater worthy, especially since he didn’t even know what would fit that category. Of all the people to choose from, why did it have to be Snape?


His eyes trailed to Umbridge, immediately thankful it hadn’t been her. Things definitely could have been worse, as far as gift giving partners had gone. 


With a small grin, Harry observed the rest of the table, trying to figure out who had gotten the pink toad, but no one seemed nearly as disgruntled about the whole ordeal as he felt, aside from the two professors he’d already analysed. He supposed it may be worth attending the holiday party just to see who’d been unlucky enough to draw her name and see what they’d gotten her. He hoped it was a box of dungbombs, personally. 


It wasn’t until Merriweather was halfway through explaining rules that he realised she’d started to talk, and he hurriedly diverted attention to her so he didn’t miss out on something potentially important. 


“I know we don’t all know each other, so it may be hard to decide what to get our giftees. You can’t directly tell someone you have their name, but you can ask their friends and/or coworkers for suggestions on potential gifts if you’d like. I think it’s a good idea if everyone writes down a thing or two that they may like on a list and we can post it just in case someone needs ideas. It doesn’t need to be an expensive gift, and it shouldn’t be! I won’t say there’s a price limit, but do remember that not everyone here is affluent so we are looking for small gifts with a smaller price tag.”


Harry nodded along - he wasn’t planning on spending a fortune, especially not on Snape!, but it was a good rule to have. He also liked the idea of having a list to choose from; if nothing else, it would give him a hint of what the professor may like so he wasn’t just blindly looking at owl-order catalogues. 


Once Merriweather was finished talking, everyone started to trickle out of the hall in search of something to fill their day. Harry had heard rumours that Flitwick was going to quardon off part of the lake to make an ice skating rink, and the buzzing excitement and winter gear of the young Ravenclaws indicated that they were more than ready to spend the rest of their morning outdoors on the ice. 


Harry, on the other hand, had zero plans to join them. He didn’t have any of the required winter clothing to be out on the ice on a snowy December day - Ron had given him a pair of gloves two years back, but they were worn and filled with holes now. Ron’s clothing was usually second or third hand clothing before it was passed along to Harry, though Harry never complained since well-worn gloves were better than no gloves at all. Ron had also given Harry a hat, but either Harry had lost it or someone had taken it between last winter and this, as Harry hadn’t been able to find it when the weather had taken a chilly turn weeks prior. He didn’t even have a proper coat - he alternated between the jumper Mrs. Weasley made him nearly every Christmas and a thin zip-up hoodie that had belonged to Dudley. If he had to be in the cold for longer than a few minutes, he sometimes wore both, though the wind still seemed to blow right through him when he was out on the grounds. 


Harry had made it halfway up the first staircase when he heard Umbridge clearing her throat loudly behind him. He slowly turned around, forcing a neutral expression on his face - it would do no good to give her any additional reasons to hate him beyond his sheer existence. 


“7:00 tonight, don’t be late.” 


“Yes, professor.” Harry replied in a forced polite tone, his fingernails digging into the palms of his hands through his tightly clenched fists. He took a deep breath, reminding himself not to give her any looks or say anything out of pocket that would have him serving even more time. 


“I would suggest you go outdoors today and spend some time in the sunshine. You’re looking a bit peaky.” She smiled brightly, as if she wasn’t planning to torture him some more in several hours’ time, “Besides, getting some of your youthful energy spent out on the grounds means you’ll have an easier time sitting to focus on what is destined to be many, many lines for you to complete during our nightly meeting tonight.” 


Harry wasn’t sure how to take her comment, and it hurt his brain to try and follow her logic on a good day, so he only nodded and said, “Yes Professor, I will.” 


“I’m glad to see you’re finally starting to listen to your superiors.” Umbridge tutted before walking away, her heels echoing through the corridors and stairwell as she departed. 


Harry watched her leave, wondering if he should add murtlap to his Christmas list. At the rate these detentions were going, he should start farming his own just to make sure he could keep up with his supply and demand. 


~*~


Harry stood in a fourth floor corridor, watching through the window as the other students skated on the ice. They were clearly having fun and despite Harry’s desire to stay away from any of them for fear he’d be included in more holiday festivities, he also wished he was down there having fun, as well. During term the idea of having some peace and quiet was nice and something he longed for, but now that he actually had that peace and quiet it felt lonely and isolating. 


He shivered slightly, the cold from outdoors radiating through the glass window panel and chilling him even though the hallway itself was relatively warm. Harry wondered for a moment if it would be worth freezing to the bone to go down there and have fun with the other students or if they’d even include him at all, being as how he wasn’t friends with any of them and didn’t know what they thought about him - were they fans of the Prophet? Did they believe he was a liar? Or were they on his side? He wasn’t sure if wanted to take the risk to find out. 


“Loitering in the hallways? Up to no good?”


Harry spun around at the sound of Snape’s voice, startled out of his thoughts. 


“Just looking out the window, sir.” Harry replied calmly, confident that he was doing nothing wrong and therefore could not get into trouble. He was allowed to be in the hallways, seeing as how it was only half three and now anywhere near curfew nor after. 


“Too important to play with the others?” Snape sneered, looking down at the students skating on the lake, “Or perhaps ice skating is too mugglish and common for you?”


Harry’s forehead wrinkled in confusion. What was Snape even accusing him of? 


“In case you’ve forgotten, I live with muggles and my best friend is muggle born. If you’re looking for people who are prejudiced against muggles and their activities, I’d suggest sending an owl to some of those in your house.” 


Harry’s words were a lot more confident than he actually felt. This happened a lot - especially this year. Sometimes the words were out of his mouth before his brain even registered their appearance, and it never ended well for him. 


“Arrogant and rude, just--”


“Just like my father, I know.” Harry finished, “I’ve heard.” 


“Detention tonight, 7:00, for your cheek.” Snape retorted angrily, “I’ve never had a student so insufferable and disrespectful.”


Harry had the common sense to bite back his sarcastic retort, and after a moment’s pause to control his own blossoming irritation, he replied, “I have a detention scheduled with Umbridge tonight at 7.” he paused before belatedly adding ‘sir’ to the end. 


“I do think you’ve surpassed your useless father and dogfather for the number of detentions earned. What an astonishing feat - I didn’t think it possible.” Snape retorted silkily, “I expect you in my office as soon as she releases you.”


Well, that couldn’t happen. Harry wasn’t stupid, he knew his hand would be bleeding everywhere and hurting terribly and he wasn’t about to go to Snape in that condition, not when he’d worked so hard to keep this a secret. 


“Sometimes her detentions can be very lengthy.” Harry replied, “Would it be possible to serve your detention prior to hers?”


“I don’t negotiate with my students, Potter.” Snape spat out, “I expect to see you no later than 10:00.”


Again, that would be an issue, considering that Umbridge had kept him until a quarter to eleven the previous night. With a heavy sigh, Harry nodded and turned back to the window. He really needed to stop talking back to his teachers - at this rate, he’d be in detention until summer hols. 


“Stop standing there, looking all pathetic, and go outside to play. Professor Flitwick didn’t organise a fun outdoors activity just so you could stand up here and mope.” Snape snapped with irritation, “I’m sure it’s not nearly as fun without your fan club trailing behind you to fawn over your every move, but you’ll manage without them.”


Harry frowned but bit back his response. See, he was capable of learning from his mistakes on occasion. With Snape patrolling the hallways, watching the others from the window was out as was doing anything else outside of Gryffindor tower. It was too cold to go outside, but the walls within Gryffindor tower felt confining, as if they were closing in on him, in the silence. Not for the first time, he wished everyone would just leave him alone and let him be. What did it matter to any of the professors whether he was inside or outside anyway? It wasn’t like he was doing anything wrong. 


As he trudged up the staircase towards his dormitory, Harry contemplated his Christmas gift to Snape - perhaps a book about minding his own business was in order. 


~*~


It was a quarter past ten when Harry knocked on Snape’s door. 


He could only imagine that Snape and Umbridge had talked about the conflicting detention schedules as Umbridge had let him leave early and Snape didn’t seem too upset that he was here past his 10:00 deadline. 


Without as much as a second glance, Snape motioned towards the sinks in the back of the classroom, “Those are the remainder of student cauldrons from the last week of classes. Wash them, without magic, and then be gone.” 


“Yes, sir.” Harry replied, staggering tiredly to the back of the room to begin his task. He was exhausted - having his hand sliced open and the pain that came from the experience usually left him completely drained. At least on other days he’d been able to go up to his dormitory and sleep away the pain. He wished, not for the first time, that he’d just kept his mouth shut earlier so he wouldn’t be in this situation. 


Harry turned on the water, wincing as the cut on his hand came in contact with the cold liquid. It was too late to put some sort of protection charm on his hand now, but he wished he had thought about it before coming down to the dungeons. If the water alone was causing such a sting, he could just imagine what the soap would feel like.


Bracing himself for the inevitable burning as chemicals mixed with his open wound, Harry decided the best plan of action would be to just push through it as quickly as possible so he could return to his dormitory and soak his hand in murtlap. He took a deep breath as he added soap and stuck his hand into the cauldron to begin scrubbing. 


The pain was instant and intense. His vision became spotty as it felt like his hand would rip completely open, and he quickly removed it from the suds and stuck it under the running faucet, sweat pooling on his face and neck as sensations other than pain began to filter through his conscious mind. He closed his eyes, swaying slightly before grabbing ahold of the basin of the sink with his good hand. There was no way he could do this. 


“Mr. Potter!” 


Snape had somehow materialised beside him when Harry forced his eyes open. The stern professor’s face held a mixture of frustration and confusion and Harry struggled to focus on the words coming from the professor’s mouth as the pain in his hand ebbed and flowed in conjunction with his heartbeat. 


“For Merlin’s sake, boy!” Snape chastised, pulling Harry’s hand from the running water to examine it, “What is all of this carrying on about?”


Harry could only shake his head. He didn’t want to spill the secrets of Umbridge’s detentions, though he wasn’t sure how he’d get out of it now since Snape could clearly see the marks. His hand still throbbed unmercifully with a stabbing, burning pain and Harry was suddenly aware that his throat was also sore. Had he screamed? 


“What happened to your hand?”


“I fell.” 


That was the standby excuse Harry had for any injury; he’d been using it since primary school. It wasn’t until the lie had slipped from his mouth that he realised how bad of an excuse it happened to be this time. 


“Onto someone’s quill, over and over, in the pattern of letters and words?”


“Must’ve been.” Harry replied with a grimace, yelping as Snape prodded at the wound, “Let go!”


Snape only held on tighter as Harry tried unsuccessfully to get away, pulling and squirming in hopes that he could make a run for it. He wasn’t sure what step two would be, but step one was solidly to get the hell out of the dungeons. 


“This is your handwriting.”


“Yes, it’s me. I did it to myself. Must have been a cry for attention. Can I go now?” Harry prattled off breathlessly, continuing to struggle against the professor. 


Snape’s gaze narrowed and he squeezed Harry’s wrist tighter at the boy’s attempt to get free, “First off, Potter, that’s not something to joke about. Second, you will explain what happened and you will do so immediately.”


“Nothing happened. Let me go!” Harry replied, his voice growing louder as he struggled against Snape’s grip, “Stop it!”


“Not until you tell me what I want to know.” 


Harry scowled, struggling without success for several more minutes before he was too exhausted and weary to continue to fight. With a heavy sigh, he admitted, “It was Umbridge, sir. She has a special quill that I use to write lines in detention.” 


Snape dropped Harry’s hand as if it were on fire and Harry wasted no time before turning and fleeing. He didn’t want to see Snape’s reaction, he didn’t want to answer any more questions, he didn’t want to think about this night any further. 


Harry made it to Gryffindor tower in record time, both his mind and heart racing as the portrait hole shut behind him. He’d told. Snape knew. He knew that soon Umbridge would know that he’d told Snape. Of course, no one had been able to get rid of Umbridge so far, if they could at all, so it was improbable that this would even make a difference. He roared in frustration, knocking a stack of books off of a nearby table as the impact of his actions really began to sink in…Umbridge was going to kill him. 


Some may think that to be an exaggeration, but Harry had been the target of many a professor before she had shown up and even a death eater in disguise hadn’t caused as much harm and pain to him as his particular ministry official. He had absolutely zero doubt that she would only continue to get more nasty, more creative until she eventually attempted to silence him forever. 


Panic and anger waged an internal battle and in the end, anger won. He picked a book up off the floor and flung it angrily at the wall, breathing hard as it made a satisfactory thud against the stone. Again and again he continued until he was breathless and exhausted, the anger melting away only to be replaced with a feeling of complete despair. Not only had he told the secret, he’d told it to the one person who wouldn’t give a damn about the consequences Harry suffered. 


Weary and completely exhausted, Harry flung himself onto the sofa in front of the fireplace, not even bothering to go up to his own dorm, his own bed to sleep. He’d never felt so alone in the castle. Tears stung his eyes, but he refused to let them fall. Umbridge wasn’t worth crying over. Snape wasn’t worth crying over. Crying wouldn’t help anything, anyway. 


And he still had to buy that greasy git a present. 


Could this holiday be any worse?


~*~


Harry woke up the following morning only to find out that yes, this holiday could be worse.


At first he thought his stiff joints and continued exhaustion were a byproduct of sleeping on a sofa and not in his bed, but the more he moved around Gryffindor tower, the worse he began to feel. It didn’t take a genius to come to the conclusion that he was coming down with something. 


Harry showered and changed into clean clothes, hoping it would leave him refreshed and ready to face the day, but as he sat on his bed to put his socks and shoes on, he decided he just didn’t have the energy to do so. Instead, he laid back against his pillow and closed his eyes, resting his injured hand against his abdomen and using his other arm to block the sun from his eyes. 


Nothing hurt, aside from his persistently aching hand, but he just felt completely rotten. It was hard to think clearly, every movement felt like he was dragging himself through water and it was taking more energy to do even the simplest of tasks. He had felt his own forehead, unsure if he’d be able to feel if he was feverish or not, and hadn’t felt particularly warm, though his clean clothes were soon damp with perspiration as he grew uncomfortably hot where his back was making contact with his bed. 


Thoroughly disgruntled about the way his holidays were taking place, Harry fell into a fitful sleep filled with strange dreams about snowballs, parties, and detentions. 


Several hours later he awoke with a gasp, pulling himself from a nightmare where Umbridge was figure skating on his hand, carving words into his skin. He was dismayed to find that, once fully awake, his hand throbbed painfully, every movement of his arm, wrist or fingers sending a jolt of pain from his hand to his shoulder. This was not good. 


He forced himself to look at the injury, though he wished he hadn’t as the sight made his stomach churn unpleasantly. 


His skin was dark pink and puffy around the wound, which was worrying enough, but the wound itself was nearly enough to propel Harry down to the hospital wing immediately for an antiseptic potion. It was oozing - not just blood, but other fluids as well. When Harry brought his hand closer to his face to investigate, he was met with an unpleasant odour as well. This was definitely not good. 


He wearily pulled himself into a sitting position, unhappy to realise he was more than just a bit woozy after the change from horizontal to vertical. He wished Hermione was here; the sensible and levelheaded witch would probably have insisted he get his hand looked at in case it was infected, but after he’d talked her out of that she would have begrudgingly found some sort of spell or potion that would have helped some. 


Unfortunately, he was no Hermione Granger and had no idea what spell he could use nor did he particularly feel like going to the library to find out. 


He thought for a moment, trying to make connections in his brain even though it felt like his head was packed with cotton, and eventually settled on a basic cleaning charm. Even if it didn’t help, it’s not like it would hurt anything. 


A yelp of pain and several swear words that would make even his dormmates with the most colourful of vocabularies blush later Harry had to amend his thought to clarify that the only thing it would hurt would be the actual wound itself. As he cradled his mangled hand against his body, rocking back and forth slightly as the pain started to recede, Harry vowed never to use a scourgify spell on a magical injury again. 


Harry supposed he had no choice; he’d either have to visit the library or the hospital wing to get his hand sorted out even though he had little desire to visit either location.If only he wasn’t so tired…


He fell back onto his pillow, vowing that he’d get it looked at after a quick nap to get rid of the tired, foggy feeling that was taking over his brain. 


~*~


Harry could hear voices. He couldn’t quite determine what they were saying, but he knew he wasn’t alone. He groaned, trying to force himself fully awake so he could figure out what was going on; he shouldn’t be hearing voices in his dormitory when everyone else had gone home for the holidays. 


The voices quieted and he felt a cool hand touch his arm. He struggled towards consciousness even harder, fighting to open his eyes though it was a lost cause. Without even realising he was drifting back to sleep, he had already gone under. 


~*~


Harry blinked open his eyes, though it was hard to see anything through his tired eyes without his glasses. He could see something, or someone, moving around him but couldn’t make out who or what it was. He instinctively wanted to ask who was there, but couldn’t find his voice. Once again, he was asleep before he had even fully had a chance to wake. 


~*~


“It’s been two days--”


“I, too, am capable of deciphering a calendar.”


“I’m just saying--”


“I know what you’re implying, but it continues to be a poorly thought out idea. He’s safe here.”


“He’s safe anywhere in this castle.”


“Obviously not.”


Harry blinked his eyes open slowly, recognizing the voices that were speaking though he struggled to place a name to the familiar tones. His eyes still felt heavy, but he overall felt much more coherent than he had at any other point in time since going to sleep. 


He wondered why there were people in his room and if they were talking about him or if he was even still in his own bed. There shouldn’t be anyone in the tower…he remembered having this thought before, but the memory felt hazy and detached. What had happened to him?


Harry let his eyes close, though he moved his hand across the bed he was laying on as he tried to discern if he was still in his dorm or if perhaps this was still a dream. That would definitely explain why he felt so confused and why everything seemed so hazy to him. 


“Mr. Potter?”


Harry was surprised to hear how weak and raspy his own voice sounded as he dumbly responded, “That’s me.”


The voice, who he’d now pieced together was Snape’s silky tone, didn’t respond immediately though Harry could feel the sneer in the air even without having his eyes open to see it. 


After a few moments, the professor spoke again, “Are you actually awake or are you going under once more?”


“Huh?” Harry asked, struggling once more to get through the mind fog and open his eyes, “Yeah, I’m awake.”


“Are you certain?” Snape replied, his tone implying this was not the first time they’d had this chat.


“No.” Harry retorted, though he finally managed to force his eyes open a crack. The light streaming in from the windows was bright and he brought a hand to shield his sensitive eyes from their assault. He barely managed to speak through his dry throat, “What happened?”


Neither adult in the room responded for a moment, and Harry used that time to try and push himself up into a sitting position, though the effort was futile as his good hand did not have the strength to do so and his injured hand was apparently charmed not to move - at least he hoped that was the case and not something worse, all he knew was that he’d been unsuccessful at forcing it to cooperate. 


“No, lay back down.” Snape instructed, seeing Harry’s struggle. He put a hand on Harry’s shoulder to push him back against the mattress, “The last thing we need is you reverting back to your impression of a delicate Victorian lady.”


“Huh?”


“He’s worried you will lose consciousness again, Harry.” the other voice said, much kinder than Snape’s authoritarian voice had yet been. 


“Professor Flitwick?”


Harry had known there were two adults present, but it just occurred to him who the second one was. He reached for his glasses, pressing them against his face so he could see if there was anything else he was missing. His head still felt heavy and confused, but he was relieved to feel like he was slowly coming out of the fog that had blanketed his mind. 


“How are you feeling, Mr. Potter?” Flitwick asked kindly, placing a cool hand against Harry’s forehead, “You gave us quite a scare. You’ve been extremely ill.”

“I have?”


Snape interrupted before Flitwick could respond, “Did you expect the infection in the…wound…on your hand to miraculously heal simply because you’re the boy who lived? Do you think yourself above consequences of ignoring a magical injury?”


“Uh, no?” Harry replied to the potions professor, pulling a face at the accusation, “I didn’t know it was infected.”


Of course he’d known something was wrong with it - and he’d pieced together that it was likely becoming infected, but what was he supposed to do about it anyway? It’s not like he could just walk down to the hospital wing and out Umbridge there; who knows what sort of torture she’d move on to next? As far as thinking himself above the consequences of his actions, Harry was well aware of Snape’s stance on his fame and his perceived notions that Harry was an imbecile. No surprise there. Sometimes Harry even felt compelled to agree with the man, though this was not one of those moments. 


“The pus weeping from the wound and the pungent odour didn’t give it away?”


Harry gagged reflexively, remembering the oozing wound, remembering the smell. It had been awful. His mind drifted to the painful cleaning spell and he gagged again, nearly able to feel the pain even though that moment was over. He was hoisted into a sitting position with rough arms to his right, a conjured basin appearing on his lap. 


“Easy, Potter.” Flitwick’s calm voice appeared on his left, a small hand on his back, “You’re okay.”


The teen shuddered, his body still trying to purge his system though there was nothing to get out, and after a few moments of agonising dry heaving he slumped forward, exhausted and in pain. He frowned as a splitting headache and sore throat accompanied his throbbing hand. This was definitely not how he’d imagined spending his winter holidays. He squeezed his eyes shut, embarrassed and in pain. 


“Drink.”


Harry cracked open an eye, shakily reaching for the offered vials with his good hand. “What is it?”


Snape’s response fell somewhere on the border between bored and annoyed, “5 years of potions and numerous quidditch injuries and you don’t recognize these?”


Harry squinted at the vials, still drawing a blank. He couldn’t think of the name of any specific potion, but he knew that they’d brewed more than a few that had turned out to be the same colour as the one being offered. Instead of a verbal response, he just stared at the professor and waited for the scathing remark about his lack of intelligence that was sure to follow.


“Nothing?” Snape sneered, clearly not impressed by Harry’s complete lack of recall, “These will help with your pain and settle your stomach. The larger one is to combat the raging infection in your hand.”


“Oh.” Harry replied lamely. That made sense. Now that Snape had clarified, he was able to recognize which potion was which. 


He wanted to ask if Snape had something that would remove the cobwebs and cotton stuffing his brain so he could think more clearly, but was hesitant to push his luck when Snape was being only half the git he usually was. 


Harry took the potions without complaint, barely even pulling a face at the taste. He felt like he’d been run over by a herd of hippogriffs and wanted nothing more than to go back to sleep for a year. 


After a few moments, probably waiting to make sure Harry wasn’t actually going to heave up the potions he’d been fed, Flitwick banished the basin on Harry’s lap and both professors worked together to gently lay the boy back against his pillows. 


“Sleep.” Flitwick said softly, “Let the potions do their job and rest. You’ll feel a lot better when you wake.”


Harry didn’t need to be told twice and within moments he was already drifting off. The professors were talking to each other, but Harry couldn’t hold on to awareness long enough to make sense of their words or tones. 


~*~


When Harry awoke once more, he was pleased to find that he felt wonderful and well-rested. His hand was no longer bound to his body and it no longer throbbed miserably. His head felt clear and he was easily able to sit without feeling dizzy and disoriented. 


He glanced at his hand, no longer bandaged, and was pleased to see just a light scar instead of a grotesque wound. He checked the time, seeing that it was nearly time for lunch to be served, and scrambled to his feet so he could take a shower before going down to join everyone for the midday meal. He was absolutely ravenous and couldn’t wait to get something in his system. 


Once showered and dressed he felt even more refreshed, and for the first time in a long while he felt like this may actually be a good day. 


He was surprised to find a parcel on his bed once he’d reentered his dormitory from the showers. He picked it up, pulling the piece of twine and removing the outer packaging to reveal a note that simply said, “Happy Christmas. S.S.” 


Beneath the note was the Daily Prophet with a front page showing Umbridge being escorted from the Hogwarts grounds by aurors. No way. Harry wasted no time reading the article, which laid out Umbridge’s barbaric detention techniques, and was pleased to see his name wasn’t mentioned at all. Had Snape done this? How? 


Relief washed through Harry and he had to sit down as his legs began to tremble. It was over. No more detentions, no more quill, no more slicing open his hand nightly. This had really been one of the best Christmas gifts he could have received in this particular moment of his life. He felt an unfamiliar and overwhelming flood of appreciation towards Snape, knowing it had to be him who had set this into action - after all, he was the only one Harry had told. 


Snape. 


Harry deflated a bit, realising belatedly that today was Christmas and he’d neglected to buy a gift for the professor.He’d have to think of something; especially after all Snape had done for him. 


By the time he’d made it down to the great hall, Harry had started to feel apprehensive about being with everyone else. Would they know about Umbridge? Would they be able to look at his pale face, remember his absence, and then piece together that he was the student being forced to use the quill that got her fired? He wasn’t really sure he felt ready to be under the scrutiny of anyone just yet. 


But he was a hungry, growing teenage boy and his desire to make up for his missed meals won out, so he put on a brave face and entered the hall, looking down towards the ground as he took a seat away from the others. He was hungry, but he still didn’t want to socialise. 


He was surprised when Snape picked up his plate and moved down the table to sit across from him. 


“Feeling better?” the professor asked, not even bothering to hide the way he was studying the teenager. 


Harry nodded, swallowing the bite he had been chewing before responding, “Loads.” there was a slight pause before he added hesitantly, “Thank you for everything you did for me.”


“I was merely fulfilling my duty to protect my students.” Snape replied, though he continued to look at Harry. If Harry was being completely honest, it was making him feel uneasy. He couldn’t figure out the look on the potions professor’s face - it may have been concern, but it also felt like Snape was really seeing him, Harry, for the first time. Either way, it was weird and unexpected and Harry felt like a specimen in one of the professor’s jars. 


Harry took a sip of his juice, combating the awkward silence by filling it with words, “I got your present, Professor. Thank you. It was the best gift I could have received.” 


Snape’s lip curled in what was nearly a smile for a moment before responding, “I did endeavour to find a gift that was something you needed rather than something you wanted, though I believe this fell into the category of both.”


“Yes, thank you, sir.” Harry replied with a slight smile of his own. Removing Umbridge was definitely something he both wanted and needed. “I apologise, though…I drew your name for the exchange and didn’t have an opportunity to buy you anything.”


“I believe that you and I both had similar desires for Christmas, I assure you that giving me the information and ammunition to have that beast removed from our school was a gift within itself.”


“It’s still not really a gift, though.” Harry countered, “I mean, you did all of the work there.” 


“For which you paid the price, no?” Snape replied smoothly. He placed his fork and napkin atop his plate, causing it to vanish, then stood, “Happy Christmas, Mr. Potter. I am happy to see you survived.”


“Happy Christmas, Professor.” Harry echoed, watching as the man’s black robes billowed behind him as he strode towards the door. The exchange had been short, though not unpleasant. Actually, it was probably the first civil conversation the two had shared in the entirety of Harry’s time at school. As he finished his sandwich, Harry couldn’t help but realise he didn’t feel as alone in the castle as he had before. How odd. 


This was the strangest Christmas ever.

The End.


This story archived at http://www.potionsandsnitches.org/fanfiction/viewstory.php?sid=3752