A smile lit up her face as she gazed around. The village was beautiful and reminded her so much of her home. Snow was falling softly, covering everything with a blanket of white. Candles hung on the trees, glowing brightly, and made the village seem like a warm, cozy place. The windows of the stores were frosted over from the warmth of the inside meeting the cold glass. People milled around, looking in the windows and smiling merrily as they recognized friends. Walking down the street, Serena saw an intriguing looking shop. As soon as she entered, a wiry old wizard appeared in front of her and offered her a toothy smile.
“May I help you miss?” he wheezed.
Serena smiled politely. “No, thank you, sir. I am looking for a gift for a friend. I’m unsure what exactly he wants or needs, so I think I’ll just look around.”
He nodded and replied, “If you need anything, just holler. I’ll be in the back.” With that he disappeared to what she assumed was the back of the store.
Glancing around, she walked down the aisle near the door. She looked over mounds of seemingly random items. There was no order to the merchandise. It was just as though the owner had unpacked his orders and placed them on whatever shelf or table was the closest. Slowly making her way around the store, she dug through gigantic piles and found nothing that Severus would like. Looking forlornly around the cluttered store, she realized that she was getting nowhere. She rubbed her neck and glanced at the clock on the wall by the door. She had been here for almost an hour and she was only halfway through the store. About to give up, she turned to leave when something shiny caught her eye. Pushing aside a pile of cloaks and shirts, she found something that she was sure Severus could use. Smiling in relief, she looked around for the old wizard.
Not seeing him, she called out, “Excuse me, sir?”
He popped up in front of her. “Yes?” he coughed.
Serena smiled and handed him the gift. “I’ll take this. Would you wrap it as well?”
His eyes twinkled. “No problem, little missy.” With that, he disappeared again, only to return moments later with the gift, wrapped and placed in a bag. Paying the man, she left the store, a burden lifted from her shoulders. She made her way back to Hogwarts, sure that Severus would be pleased with the gift she had chosen.
The week went by quickly. Most of the students had left and the castle was strangely quiet. A few remained, unable to return to their homes for a variety of reasons, but they kept to their dorms or common rooms. Serena enjoyed the lazy pace of the break, which she spent resting and getting to know her fellow teachers better. She had spent some time with Professor Sprout in the greenhouse, helping her pot some of the plants she would be using when the students returned. Professor McGonagall had asked Serena to accompany her to Hogsmeade to search for a gift for Dumbledore. Minerva was not as stern and stiff as she had first appeared, and Serena found she enjoyed the older witch’s sense of humor. She was secretly amused watching Minerva search every shop in the village for the perfect gift, finally settling on some sweet treats from Honeydukes and a book that Minerva claimed Albus was anxious to read. She was curious as to the relationship between the Headmaster and Minerva, but wisely kept her questions to herself. Professor Flitwick had asked her to help him finish grading his Charms midterms, but just as she was about to agree, he made a joke about her punctuality. She groaned inwardly and told him that she was sorry, but she had a previous engagement. Walking away quickly, Serena made her way to the infirmary and helped Madam Pomfrey inventory her supplies, learning more than she had cared to about the various injuries that had been treated there. Serena enjoyed spending time with each of the teachers and found herself growing fond of each one’s personality and peculiarities. Hogwarts was beginning to feel like home.
Now she stood in the middle of her room and looked at the gift lying on her table. She was supposed to meet Severus in a few moments and she was suddenly very anxious. The gift she had deemed perfect just one week before now seemed to mock her. What if he hated it? Shaking her head, she picked up the brightly colored gift and made her way down to the dungeons. Taking a deep breath, she knocked on the familiar door. Severus opened the door and smiled slightly.
“I see you made it on time.”
She gave him a withering glare. “Please, no more jokes about my punctuality. I was late one time. One time! Don’t you people let anything go?”
He smirked at her. “I take it you saw Flitwick recently.”
Serena just closed her eyes and shook her head, smiling in spite of herself. “I really do not want to talk about it.” Opening her eyes, she walked past Snape and took a seat by the fire. Laying the gift on her lap, she waited until Severus was seated across from her.
She smiled at him and held the gift out. He looked at it suspiciously. “What is that?”
“It’s a Christmas gift, you dolt.” She pushed the gift at him. He took it out of her hands, handling it as though it may explode at any moment.
“Happy Christmas,” she said softly.
Severus looked at her, his expression unreadable. He slowly unwrapped the present, tossing the paper on the floor. He caressed the cover of the journal. It was covered in black velvet and had a silver snake embossed on the front. He looked up at Serena, her large green eyes glowing with excitement and a huge smile on her face.
“I thought this way you could take detailed notes of all of our meetings,” she giggled.
A smile flitted across Severus’ lips. “Yes, well, I wouldn’t want to forget one moment of our time spent together.”
Serena looked at the plush green carpet under her feet. “Me either,” she said quietly.
Severus studied the woman in front of him. What exactly did that mean? She lifted her head and met his eyes. “Did you read the inscription?”
“What?” he asked, startled from his reverie.
“I wrote an inscription to you on the first page.” She tilted her head and smiled softly.
Opening the book, he read the inscription written in her feminine hand.
I know that we have not always gotten along, but the time that we have spent together has been precious to me. You are one of my few true friends and I hope that we will have many other opportunities to discuss (and argue) the benefits of various potions.
Severus glanced up at her. She was still smiling, but she appeared tense, as though unsure of his reaction. Truth be told, he was unsure of his reaction.
“Thank you,” he said. “This was very thoughtful.”
Serena’s shoulders relaxed and her smile became genuine. “You were a hard one to shop for, but I’m glad you like it.”
Placing the journal on the table in front of him, he stood up and walked toward the fireplace. Removing a package from the mantle, he held it out to Serena. Looking up at him, she took the gift and just stared at it. She truly did not expect a gift from Severus. He did not seem the type to give gifts. She touched the large red ribbon on top and felt tears prick her eyes. Blinking quickly, she silently ordered herself not to cry. Pulling off the ribbon, she unwrapped the gift and gasped.
Turning her startled eyes toward him, she stuttered, “Severus, I-I cannot except this. It is too expensive and unique.” Her fingertips traced the title of the tome: Potions for the Modern Age by Herbert Mullins.
“Nonsense. Anyone who can appreciate Mullins’ work deserves to own a copy.”
Shaking her head in wonder, she opened the book and flipped carefully through the aged pages. She raised her excited eyes up to his and said, “We’ll have to start this one after we finish Raulbia’s book.”
Severus laughed and took his seat across from her. Her joy was contagious and he found himself being filled with a sense of contentment- something he had never really felt before. Leaning back in his chair, he placed his elbow on the arm of the chair and leaned his head against his hand. He watched the expressions flit across her face as she continued to look through the book, her red hair glowing in the firelight. He could get used to this.
Serena looked up and caught Severus’ gaze. “Thank you. I will treasure this forever.”
“I know you will, or I wouldn’t have given it to you.”
She smiled at his honesty. The man would never cease to amaze her. Suddenly, she heard the clock chime. Glancing sadly behind her, she saw that it was 10:00. Where had the time gone? She stood reluctantly, clutching the book to her chest.
“I guess it is time for me to go.”
“I guess so,” he replied, his voice even. He stood and walked her to the door. Opening the door, she started to leave, and then hesitated. She turned back towards Severus and took a step closer to him. He held his breath, unsure of what was about to happen. She wrapped her arms around him and pulled him close. Tilting her mouth up towards his ear, she whispered, “Thank you again, Severus. It means more than you know.” He felt his arms slide around her and draw her even closer to him. He breathed in her lavender scent, which had become so familiar to him. He whispered back, “You’re welcome.”
She pulled out of the embrace and left. He remained there for a moment feeling a sudden emptiness. Suddenly, he realized he was standing there with the door wide open. Scowling, he slammed the door and marched to his chair. What was wrong with him? He was turning into some love struck schoolboy. His eyes fell on the journal lying on the table. Picking it up, he opened it and reread her inscription. His eyes, however, only focused on two words. Love always. Leaning his head back against the chair, he pondered exactly what those two words implied.
Serena sat on her bed and looked at the book in her hands. She couldn’t believe that Severus had given it to her. She opened the book and saw something she had missed upon her first inspection. On the inside cover was an inscription.
To Serena Daniels
From Severus Snape
She laughed and hugged the book to her chest, not really sure what this all meant, but looked forward to finding out.
A few days before the students were due to return to the castle, Dumbedore summoned Snape to his office. Snape hated being summoned by anyone, especially Dumbledore, because it usually meant he was about to ask Severus for a favor. He stalked into the office and glared at the cheerful Headmaster. Sitting down, he crossed his arms across his chest waiting impatiently for Dumbledore to tell him why he was here.
Albus looked at the snarling man in front of him and smiled. “How was your holiday, Severus? I haven’t seen you in a while.”
Severus eyed the man suspiciously. What exactly was the man referring to? “It was tolerable.”
“I haven’t seen Professor Daniels around. How is she doing?”
Now Snape was sure that Albus was aware of what was going on, but he wasn’t about to admit anything to the nosy man. “How would I know?” he ground out.
Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled. “Oh, my mistake. I was under the assumption you two were spending quite a bit of time together.”
Snape glared at him. “Exactly, why am I here, Albus? I’m sure it is not to discuss my personal life.”
Dumbledore raised his eyebrows. Maybe things were more serious than he had originally thought. Smiling at the angry man, he decided it would be wise not to push.
“I have a favor to ask, Severus.”
Snape rolled his eyes. “I assumed as much. What exactly do you want now?”
“As you know, Professor Lupin has been attempting to make contact with a powerful werewolf clan in the Andes. He has recently owled me to tell me he is bringing back their leader to discuss an alliance against Voldemort.”
“So, Lupin is returning and bringing a stray with him,” Snape said sarcastically. “What exactly does that have to do with me?”
Dumbledore sighed. This was going to be more difficult than he had planned.
“They will be here for a fortnight. Unfortunately, the full moon happens to be during that time. I need you to prepare the Wolfsbane potion for Remus and his guest, so that their transformation will be less painful for all involved.”
Severus just glared at Albus. He was asking him to make a difficult potion for a man who once tried to kill him. Not only that, but now he was required to make it for all his little friends. Severus just looked away and asked bitterly, “Is that all?”
“Yes,” Dumbledore replied quietly. Severus stood stiffly and made to leave the room. Before he left, Dumbledore said, “Thank you, Severus. They will be here on the fifteenth. The potion will need to be ready by then.”
Severus just nodded and stalked out of the office, feeling used by the Headmaster, as he did so often. Bitterly, Snape wondered if he was anything but a Potions Master to Dumbledore. Albus never hesitated to “request” that Severus make the necessary potions for whatever problem was at hand. He may not have minded if Albus had asked for, rather than required, Snape’s assistance. As he got closer to the dungeons, he felt the anger begin to dissipate as he realized that Serena would be appearing soon. Perhaps she would be willing to assist him as he brewed the potion. He smiled to himself and started preparing for her arrival. Placing the journal, quill, and Raulbia’s book neatly on the table, he called for a house-elf to bring the tea he had ordered earlier. When everything was ready, he sat down and waited for Serena to arrive and remove the feeling of insignificance that Dumbledore had unintentionally instilled once again.