Part of the SAC-2003
It started in Harry’s second year.
He was shopping in Diagon Alley with Professor McGonagall for presents for his friends and extended family, namely the Weasleys, when he saw a tiny and very ancient book of potions. Without thinking of the how and the why, he bought it, willingly dishing out the galleons required for such a rarity. Professor McGonagall had quirked an eyebrow but said nothing.
That night, after everyone had gone to sleep, Harry closed the draperies around his bed, muttered a lumos spell, and with some wrapping paper and spello-tape quickly wrapped the present. It wasn’t the best wrapping job, but he did it by hand, and while he didn’t put a nametag on, he knew exactly whom it was for.
Nor did he put his own name on the package. This wasn’t about claiming ownership. This was about understanding. For Harry remembered five years of neglect and existing without even the most basic of human kindnesses while his obese cousin was showered with presents and more love than even he required.
Harry understood loneliness. He understood the need for recognition, even just one small thing that made you sit up and say ‘yes, the world knows I exist.’ A person could be completely forgotten and wither from neglect, or he could be showered with gifts, but if those gifts were just tools to put you in your place, they could make you just as lonely as if you’d never been acknowledged at all.
And that was what this present was about. Recognition that another person existed and had an impact on life. That despite the animosity that he, Harry, felt for this person during the rest of the year and in spite of the hatred directed towards him, this person brought something to Harry’s life, and that needed to be recognized, at least as far as he was concerned.
And so it continued. Some years Harry was early with his gift, some years late, but he always remembered to buy it, and he never forgot the giving. Even in his fifth year when Arthur Weasley was attacked and Harry lived through the nightmare of seeing the attack and the guilt of thinking that perhaps he was the weapon that Voldemort intended to use, he saw to it that the gift was delivered, that year by Dobby, his faithful house elf friend.
In sixth year the emotion behind the gifts changed indefinably. They were both survivors, the last of their families and had no one left, not really. Oh, Harry had the Weasleys, but they weren’t really his, not the way Sirius had been. He was truly alone in sixth year, and it gave him a new understanding and appreciation of the person to whom he felt this connection.
Harry was sure they would never be friends, not in any sense of the word. There was too much bad blood, too much history and hate, but... he admired his Kris Kringle, a muggle word but it fit.
Harry admired his strength of spirit, his ability to survive whatever life threw at him, and while it had left him often times bowed and bloody, it had never truly broken him. Even their animosity changed and evolved.
Harry was no longer hated for what he was or whom he came from or that damned silly title. He was hated for being himself. There was something elegant and pure about the fact that he had become his own man in the other person’s eyes, a beloved enemy perhaps or a reluctant ally, but either way he’d become his own person and no longer one of the ghosts of the past that haunted this man.
Seventh year Christmas came and went and along with it the final present he’d deliver. The war was over; he was moving on; Voldemort was finally dead. But did he reveal his six years of gifts and the motive behind them, or did he just let it slip by the wayside?
Graduation day dawned, N.E.W.T.s survived, and their wizarding caps were tossed in the air. Trunks were packed and futures were about to be embarked upon.
Just as he was about to leave Hogwarts for the very last time, an ice-cold hand clamped down on his arm. "A moment of your time, Potter," came the imperious sneer.
Harry motioned his friends on with a slight wave, knowing they’d wait for him outside. "Yes, sir?" he replied respectfully.
A small but brightly wrapped present was thrust into his hands. "I expect you to use this wisely and well. Happy Christmas, Potter." And with billowing robes Severus Snape disappeared down a corridor and out of Harry’s life forever.
Shrugging his shoulders, the hero of the wizarding world quickly unwrapped the gift he’d received from the crotchety potions professor. Parchment and a quill with a note on top.
I expect to hear from you at least once a month, Potter. Don’t disappoint me.
It was an unexpected present, to be sure, but then again he probably should have known that nothing ever escaped Snape’s eagle eyes. Harry suspected that Snape had known from the very first gift who had been the giver but had not said a word. Snape had, however, kept track and in a typically baffling Snape sort of way had waited until the very last minute of his very last day at Hogwarts to call him up on it.
Harry broke into a huge smile. It was truly the best Christmas present he’d ever received. A second chance.
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