Ghosts of Christmas Past

By Chris S.

Word Count: 2338

Rating: PG

Summary: Lily’s ghost appears to Snape and shows him the error in his treatment of Harry.

Image Credit: Elentori on DeviantArt

It was Christmas Eve, and all Severus could think about was retreating to his potions lab. He had convinced Dumbledore to send every last child home for the holidays, which meant that for a few weeks he wouldn’t have to worry about any students, and he especially wouldn’t have to worry about Dumbledore’s golden boy, Harry Potter.


Severus knew Harry would be pampered and spoiled when he got home. To think, the brat had come by earlier that day to ask about staying at the castle. Of course, Potter wanted to receive special privileges, like his father. Severus had simply scowled at him, bitterly enjoying what was probably the brat’s first real taste of rejection. While he couldn’t understand why an eleven-year-old boy wanted to remain at the castle alone, it was easy to figure that the child had nothing good planned—like father, like son


Dismissing the thought, Severus made his way back to his lab to prepare potion ingredients for the post-holiday classes. He had just had supper with the staff, and tomorrow would be a nice, quiet Christmas dinner.


Severus was in the dungeon preparing flubber worms when he heard a voice that sent chills down his spine.


“Severus, what has happened to you?”


He glanced up from his potions to find the translucent ghost of Lily Evans standing in front of him. The ingredients on his work table lay forgotten as his mind went to mush. Years ago, she had stolen his heart, and she still looked as amazing as ever.

“Severus”, she spoke in a soft, sad voice. “It’s Christmas, and you’ve let hatred for my husband keep you from listening to what my son tried to communicate to you.”   

“He just wanted to stay here and cause trouble…” Severus started, but was cut off by one of Lily’s famous glares.


“And why would you think that?” she demanded. “Did you even bother to ask why he wanted to stay here for the holidays? Even after he knew there’d be no other students to keep him company? Does that sound normal to you?”


“The boy is spoiled. He wants to get his way, and for once in his life, someone isn’t bowing down to meet his every whim. I just can’t be bothered with him. I’m sorry, Lily.”


Lily sighed in a way that tore at him. “You think you have it all figured out, don’t you, Sev? My spoiled son simply wants to remain here for the holidays so he can cause trouble? Alright then, let me show you my son’s Christmas and you’ll see just how spoiled he is.”


Pulling something out of her pocket, she held it in front of his face for him to see. It was a gold chain with some type of charm…no, it was a time turner! How had Lily managed to get a time turner? Next, she drew out small potion bottle.


“Drink this, Severus. We’re going on a field trip,” she said, pressing the potion into Severus’ hand.


He never could say no to Lily. Warily, Severus drank the potion and stared at his hands as they slowly became transparent. Was he turning into a ghost? That wasn’t possible, was it?  Before he could question Lily about what was happening, she threw the time turner around his neck.


“Where are we going?” he barely managed to ask.  


“You’ll see,” was all Lily said before she began to turn the time turner.


Severus was utterly helpless as a feeling of being sucked down a long tube overwhelmed him.


All at once, Severus found himself standing in the snow beside Lily. The next thing that registered was the fact that he couldn’t feel the snow or the cold, even though he was only wearing trousers and a thin jumper. They were outside of a nice house with elaborate Christmas decorations. The windows were warmly lit and Severus could hear voices happily talking.


“Lily, what did you do to me?” Severus asked, staring at his hands once again, completely unnerved by the fact that he lacked a corporeal body. Had she killed him?


“Relax, Sev. It will reverse in a couple of hours. By then, we’ll be back,” Lily assured him. “We are one day in the future. Happy Christmas!” Tugging Severus toward the house, she urged, “Come on, this is where Harry lives. Let’s go inside.”


Together, they passed through the front door. It was a very tidy house, and it smelled of good food. Severus immediately spotted Petunia sitting in the living room with her husband and son; both Vernon and Dudley were remarkably fat and pink. They were shoving Christmas chocolates into their mouths.


Lily drew Severus behind a coat rack; the muggles wouldn’t be able to see them, but Harry might.


“Now, Duddykins, I know you didn’t like the present Aunt Marge got you, and we will get you a new one tomorrow,” Petunia muttered to Dudley.


Severus felt a smirk forming on his face as Dudley began pouting at the idea of waiting a whole day to get his new present. If this was their son, Severus could imagine just how spoiled the golden boy was.


“Vernon, the potatoes,” Petunia said as she heard a pot on the kitchen stove boiling over, causing a burnt smell in the air.


“Boy! Get your good-for-nothing arse down here!” Vernon called out, his voice filled unexpected anger.


It took everything Severus had to keep his expression neutral as Harry nervously made his way down the stairs and approached his uncle. The boy was dressed in oversized, ratty clothes and had bruises on his face.


“Yes, Uncle Vernon,” Harry said in an obedient tone.


Vernon didn’t speak, but instead smacked Harry across the face. “You trying to burn my house down, you freak? I promise, if you do, you’ll never return to that freak school of yours!” he sneered, looking at the boy with pure hatred. “Now fix those potatoes, you ungrateful bastard!”


Severus watched as Harry nervously attended to the cooking. Every once and a while Vernon would holler something about the food, or Petunia would demand a glass of tea, but neither Vernon nor Petunia stood up at any point to help prepare the meal.  


When dinner was ready, Harry put it on the table and set up three plates with food. Harry gazed at his work with pride before calling his relatives to the meal. Petunia sat quietly at a seat, but Vernon demanded salt because he didn’t trust Harry to flavour the meal properly. Dudley stomped on Harry’s foot before snickering and taking the seat next to his horse-faced mother.

Harry then brought the family drinks, and that’s when Severus realised that he had not set a place for himself.


Severus stared at the scene in horror as Vernon stood up and smacked Harry over the head. Before Severus could even ask himself why the boy was being struck now, Vernon dragged Harry out of the room.


“Get out, you freak! We don’t want to look at your ugly face while we eat,” Vernon shouted, throwing Harry into the living room with such force that the boy hit his face against the end table. “Now go clean the toilet. We’ll call you when we’re ready for you to clear the table, and don’t you dare take a single bite of our food, you little thief!”


Severus watched as Vernon went back into the dining room with a satisfied smirk on his face. Harry made his way up to the bathroom with tears streaming down his cheeks. Severus turned to face Lily who was watching her son with a look of devastation. He could scarcely grasp what he was seeing. Wasn’t Potter supposed to be spoiled rotten? But Harry was being treated worse than a house elf. Even the Malfoys treated their elves with kindness on Christmas, and they were always allowed to eat the leftovers.  


“Yes, I’m starting to see how spoiled Harry is,” Lily said pointedly to Severus. “We must return now. I think you’ve seen enough, and your potion is wearing off.”


Before Severus could object, he was sucked back into the time turner vortex.


When Severus and Lily arrived back at Hogwarts, Severus sat down with his face in his hands. He couldn’t believe what he’d learned about the ‘golden boy’. Not only was he not spoiled, he wasn’t even treated with basic human respect. Now Severus understood why Harry hadn’t wanted to go home for Christmas break.


After a time, he raised his head and said, “Lily, I’m sorry I treated your son so poorly. You asked me to protect him, and I failed.”


“But now you know, and it’s not too late to save him,” Lily gently replied.  “Severus, I have to go; I was only given a few hours to come back. My time is almost up, and I still need to go see Fudge to clarify a mistake regarding Sirius Black. He’s innocent, you know. Sirius wasn’t our secret keeper.” She drew a ghostly breath. “I hope that you’ll do what’s right for my boy. Tell Harry I love him. “


With those last words, Lily disappeared, leaving Severus alone with his thoughts.  


The following day, Severus arrived at the Dursleys’ door a little bit after five; it had taken time to figure out the best way to pay them back for ruining Harry’s Christmas and receive approval from Dumbledore and Fudge for the plan. Revenge on Harry’s behalf was going to be sweet.


Smirking, Severus opened the door and slipped into the house as quietly as he could. He waited until the Dursleys were seated at the dinner table before loudly barging into the room. Using different spells, he blew up the food and cast an instant karma spell on the whole Dursley family before turning to face Harry. The boy was staring at him with a look of shock.


“Come along, Mr. Potter. You will be spending the rest of the holiday at Hogwarts. Please hurry, we don’t want to be late for Christmas dinner,” Severus said in a new, kindly tone as Harry continued to process what was happening.


Harry gave a timid, uncertain smile, and followed Severus out the front door.


On the porch, Severus turned to the boy. “Harry, I’m sorry I didn’t listen when you asked to spend the holidays at school. I was so caught up in comparing you to your father that I never thought of you as an individual. Please accept my apology.”


Harry’s mouth gaped open in astonishment. Finally he said, “I…I do forgive you, and I understand. Professor McGonagall told me some of the things my father did to you, and I wouldn’t have liked me very much, either.”


Severus had not expected such a level of maturity from the boy. Clearing his throat, he said, “Yes, well, I think we had best get going, or we’ll be late for dinner.” He held out his arm for Harry to grab. “We’re going to apparate, so please hold on tightly.”


Harry hesitated, then gripped Severus’ arm. Once the initial shock to Harry’s body wore off, he looked around at all the amazing Christmas decorations in the castle.


“Your mother loved you very much, Harry. And from here on out, I will be keeping the promise I made when you were young,” Severus said, breaking the silence.


With a look of bewilderment, Harry turned from the Christmas decorations to Severus. “What was that promise, sir?”


“I promised to protect you, and it’s about time I start,” Severus explained, guiding Harry into the Great Hall. “But for now, let’s have Christmas dinner so you can go open your presents.”


“I got presents?” Harry asked, breaking into a grin.  


“Yes, Harry. We’ll start with my present to you, right now. I promise that you will never be going to the Dursleys ever again,” Severus said with a firm look on his face. Harry just stared at him. “And when you’re done opening presents, you’ll come to my quarters. It would be unfair for you to stay in your tower alone. You can use my guest room over breaks.”


Harry’s smile widened, for this was probably the most wonderful Christmas he’d ever had.


Weeks after Christmas, the story of Sirius Black’s release from Azkaban hit the wizarding community. Minister Fudge had received word from an anonymous source that Sirius was innocent and that a proper trial should be pushed through. Severus found it amusing when he learnt that Lily had appeared in Fudge’s bedroom in the middle of the night.


Once news of the true traitor—Peter Pettigrew in his animagus form—was released to the world, the Weasleys immediately made the connection to Percy’s rat and handed the vile creature over to the ministry. Mrs Weasley was very disturbed to have had such a vile man sharing beds with all of her children at one point or another. It took all of her restraint not to snap the rat’s neck with her bare hands instead of caging the creature and sending him off.


Sirius made his way back into Harry’s life, and after earning the trust of the young boy, gained custody of him.


Harry experienced a change in his relationship with the Slytherins. Once he told Severus about almost being sorted into that House, Harry was declared an honorary member. He forged a strong friendship with Draco Malfoy, and found the blond boy to be a powerful ally. Draco’s father even helped go after the Dursleys for stealing money from the fund meant for Harry’s care.  


Severus began working with Harry to bring up the boy’s marks, and they soon rivalled the Grangers’. By the time second year approached, Harry and Hermione were both at the top of their year.


And to think it all began on Christmas Eve.




One thought on “Ghosts of Christmas Past

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  1. Glad this happened, though I suspect that Dumbledore would have stepped in–he wanted Harry kept properly humble. Plus, even what Harry went through at the Dursleys was nothing compared to what Snape went through at his home, and did Lily care about that then? Harry also didn’t like to study with teachers who were nice to him, and resented Hermione trying to make him study. But it’s a nice Christmas story anyway.


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