December 29th, 2004 - Christmas
Albus has finally allowed me some moments of respite from the "joyful season". Thank goodness for I was about to totally lose my temper if I was requested to assist in any more social gatherings until New Year's Eve.
Not that Christmas was horrible or any such things. No, rather that I had met too many people in such a short time coupled with my being extremely tired. Just like animal hair in Polyjuice, something not to combine together unless you want to end up in a disaster. I was able to hold my character in check, miraculous in many cases, so I would have to say this has been the best holiday season so far in ... many years.
The frenzy started out on the 23rd after most of the student body was finally home for the holidays. That sounds contradictory but it is not I assure you. Before the departure of the little pricks, nothing was different from my routine. But when they were finally off to their distastefully over-pampering parents, there started the real annoyance: small scale social gatherings. I recent them each year because I always end up in a bout of anger at one point and cannot seem to recover before my mood is irreversibly darker and brooding. I hate when it happens for losing control over my emotions is what I loath the most about myself. Even worst, not being able to calm down and enjoy myself like everyone else is even more humiliating. People believe I do not long for the same hilarity that is epidemic around the holiday season, but I do in my own way. I do wish I could enjoy a happy time once in a while without bursting out like Longbottom's cauldrons... Makes me even more brooding each passing year when I cannot achieve it, even since the Dark Lord's defeat.
However, of all things possible, it seems this year was different, especially on Christmas when the staff held their annual "staff party" after the Christmas dinner. Unless Albus slipped me a "happiness pill" which I would surely have noticed, it was a miracle this night went so well. At least, on a comparing point of view it was while any stranger might have thought I was ruining the party.
We were to meet and exchange gifts in the staff room at 8pm. Students had been requested to stay in their dormitories for the night, the ghosts are in charge on such occasions. It lasted until one in the morning this year. Not that I ever witnessed the end because I always am bored out of my skull way before that time, but Minerva is so found on making accounts of it on the next day that it is always as though I had been there. Hasn't the foolish woman understood yet that if I leave before the end it is because I was not interested in it! Yet, she keeps on retelling the evening and those gossips she collected... oh my! Albus does not allow me to remain locked in my rooms on Christmas morning either, it's a dead end before and after the party thereof.
On Christmas morning, I got up as late as possible though not enough to miss breakfast since having Albus down in my rooms and dragging me out would have ruined my peace. I rather prefer to go upstairs on my own thank you. Everyone was tired, that much could be said without asking any questions. I was, too, I had woken up at 7. I cannot seem to be able to sleep so well on Christmas eve. Maybe because I still am awaiting the moment I will be able to unwrap my gifts. How pathetic is that! Just like my silent love for Christmas trees, I seem to enjoy that moment more each passing year. I was surprised my pile of gifts was a bit bigger this year round. Made me feeling unusually appreciated because those were certainly no bribes from the time when Death Eaters were among my "friends". We would always exchange polite gifts which I always called bribes. As for my gifts, I got a fine new cloak from Albus which is surprisingly to my taste rather than his, for which I am immensely grateful, and a good Potions book from Minerva. I also got some exclusive books from my friend who lives abroad. I wish he was nearer so we wouldn't have to correspond through owls all the time. I would not exchange him for all the world, but I do wish we could live more closely to one another. I enjoy our correspondence immensely... Oh! And of course the werewolf had to give me something this year, once again... A very good Italian wine. It is delicious. Last year he also sent me a gift but I had nothing for him so I invited him over for tea. Even I am not impolite enough to not return a favor however much I did not like him last year, not to mention I did not want Lupin to have the advantage over me. A Slytherin till I die, he said. However this year, I got him a present beforehand, a nice artifact I found for his Dark Arts collection. He was thrilled, that is the least I can say about his reaction. I tried to look uninterested but it was hard when he showed such genuine feelings the moment he saw me that morning. He made a special trip to my rooms even though his health is not very good at the moment. The new moon. As for myself, I gave my cat, Corvus, some fancy food which he liked though not adored. I will have to find something else next year. He rather enjoyed the wrappings however. It was his first Christmas and I believe he has already grown a liking to them. Fir tree water seems better than any other bowl of water in the world if I judge by the sound of his lapping off the tree stand.
Anyhow, as for the evening, it was tolerable and even funny if I might say so myself. I got plenty of opportunities to sneer and laugh at other fellow teachers along with many of my legendary sarcastic replies and comments thrown in there for good measure. Maybe it shocked many of them because I have to admit they lacked their usually acidness and bitterness. The wine must have done a good job for once. But not only that, no. There was something else I cannot put my finger on. It was as though I was just content being there. Not ecstatic or such nonsense, but I was grateful to be there. Is it that I am finally warming up after years of cold abhorrence of human company?! Maybe Albus did slip me a pill...
I found the company tolerable, the food was good, there was enough wine, a warm fire, I got a nice Potions piece of equipment from our gift exchange (each year we provide a list of what could be suitable.) and gossipers stayed away from me. Maybe the whole combination helped me make it through the evening unharmed. Well, almost. At one point, someone had the bad idea of charming musical instruments into motion with some horrible music. How distasteful. Christmas should be about traditional music, not any kind of music you play every other day of the year. It took me a lot of will power not to charm those instruments back into playing something else. Fortunately, it lasted only 30 minutes after which I would have hexed the instruments myself. Maybe Albus got the message through my murderous look and stopped the ear massacre.
Then I found myself in a much better mood. We began eating and drinking while everybody chatted away. The food was good, at least it was traditional contrary to the music. So I found myself a quiet corner and a lovely chair, my chair which I accioed to where I was standing. I relaxed and enjoyed my wine while listening to the other staff members gossiping and chit-chatting away their lives, far enough for me not to hear anything I could not turn a deaf ear to. Boring but bearable. Lupin came up to me and sat in the chair facing me. I tried to ignore him so he would not try his goody-two-shoes tricks on me, but then to my surprise, he began talking about an interesting subject: dark arts through history. Finally some common sense and no gossip. I could have kissed him on the spot for not bringing up any other boring subjects. I could see he wanted to talk about different and more personal subjects, but I would always go back to facts instead of opening up more. He caught that at least and stopped trying to get me into the "open yourself" spirit. Not that he felt any better himself, the 26th was the full moon after all, so he was not in the best of shape. We chatted like this for a while, he brought me back some wine, then I returned the favour later on. We ate and ignored the others.
At one point I felt a pang inside when I realised: I liked monopolizing his attention for myself alone. To think that the happy-Gryffindor, friends of all, would wish to spend time with me on such a night instead of going around and talking to all the others was... flattering... and weird. Is that's how you feel when someone actually listens to you and ignores your sarcasm... That was the strangest of feelings for me. Where were you when I needed someone to talk about subjects that mattered, you old foolish werewolf? Ah! With James Potter of course, and in Gryffindor. Why does he tag along now? Is this a kind of hidden reward for my harsh days? Has he seen the light as he put it the other day? Being a Slytherin, I cannot bring myself to believe he is doing it on a free basis and not out of pity. But then again, he is a Gryffindor so he is certainly not doing it out of self-profit. Even Slytherins don't like to do it for self-profit when I am involved. People do not understand me most of the time because of my ideas and the way I love to analyse things from a scientific point of view all the time, so they do interact with me only when really necessary. Hence, I was left alone all of my life and kept alone as well. I told you that before. But now Lupin is not giving up on me... I thought that after some months he would prove tired and give up. Sure, he is not always there when I have my bouts of anger, but at the same time, he also knows I have them and doesn't seem to mind.
Anyhow, I was very happy he was there to distract me this year. I laughed a couple of times even whether because of him or by observing people in the room. Well, laugh from my point of view which could seem like nothing more than a sneer for others. Strangely, I spent two hours there talking with him until I realised it was 10 o'clock for Albus announced the gift exchange would be held then. During the exchange, we all open our presents one at a time. Makes it more personal as the old fool likes to say. I must admit that it is interesting to see how people react to each other, it's quite interesting how some are hopelessly trying to hide their feelings while others can hide them so well. I like watching people doing that from my Slytherin perspective. And also to know what they asked for. You can learn a lot from someone's hidden secrets by the gifts he receives from friends. I wish I could see each staff member's wish list instead of the only one I have to pick each year.
This year I had to give Madam Pomfrey a present. In her case, I did not need her list, I knew what she would enjoy. Last year when my muscles were cramped from too much potions research I had carried on non-stop for days apart from meals, she had to give me a massage. There are unfortunately no effective charms for that or I would know it by now. Also, she is next to the only person I would allow to do that to me, seeing how vulnerable I feel when being massaged. I remembered how she scolded at me for being stubborn and reckless, the normal rambling, until I tried to bride her into silence by complimenting her massaging skills... I'm too Slytherin for my own good at times, but it worked like a charm and provided me with vital information on her wish to be herself on the receiving end of such care one day. Hence, I gave her a week's worth of massage in a therapy house not so far from here. She deserves it. I had contemplate giving her something special for a long time, she has helped me so often in the past for you know what. Still, I must say I had not planned on being kissed so thoroughly by her in a public place... or any other place actually. That got everyone's attention as you can easily surmise. I told her to get a grip and get off me in my most biting voice, but it would not do. Madam Pomfrey knows how to deal with my cynism if nothing else... Albus saved me for once, for the first time in his life, his timing was perfect as he handed me the staff-intended Christmas present he gives everyone each year. I was too happy to get her off me before I began to show embarrassment at being cuddled up like a kid. I hate having everyone's eyes on me. I feel so exposed. Still, inside, I was quite proud of my choice for the medi-witch. Very proud.
And so gifts were exchanged, more wine bottles and beers were drank, and everyone rejoiced far from our students. Me included though, as I mentioned before, an outside spectator would not have been so easily convinced. My co-workers on the other hand were surprised I didn't comment much in my usual depreciative fashion. Has my heart warmed up? I wonder still. I was not so tired that night at least, I am sure it did part of the job . When I am tired, I am as equally arrogant and easily enraged. I was tired by midnight so I retired for the night leaving my other peers to their drinks and gossips. It was a record: 4 hours with no bouts of anger. It could certainly serve as the most memorable and enjoyable staff party in a long time.
After the 25th, I found myself quite exhausted. I have been under the weather the week before Christmas and it showed. However, there were still other social gatherings to attend until today. Those got on my nerves though I was at least capable of restraining myself or flee to the dungeons before I exploded. It is as though I ran out of patience after Christmas night and didn't want to see anyone anymore. I was quite nervous and would easily feel my temper rising inside when in the company of others. So bless be this day where I have nothing to do and no one to meet. No pretending I am somewhat enjoying other people's company! Thank Merlin for that! There were parties on each day since the 25th. Being so involved at Hogwarts, I cannot walk out of them. I just wish less twits would attend those parties and that I would be allowed to bring a book along in order to have a decent evening. No wonder I often talk and mutter to myself for it is the only way to have a minimally intelligent conversation! Makes me look weird at times, but then, who does not believe I am anyway?!
Oh yes, well I forgot to tell about the Christmas dinner at Hogwarts. It was rather like every year though for once I was lucky with the cracker: I got an elegant black hat with a white feather on top which stood at the exact opposite of the one with the vulture feather I once got a couple of years ago. The "joke" included in the cracker was however distasteful and unwitty. Could have made Lockhart die of laugher however. Dinner was not as enjoyable as the following staff party, but then again, it is always so for me. I recent having to eat and enjoy myself in front of students. Again, I feel this compelling feeling that I am being observed and that their being there exposes me. Albus knows that of course, he's omnipotent in that field, so he always makes sure I drink enough to loosen up a bit. Since the fall of the Dark Load, I am more relaxed however. Even to the point of laughing and enjoying myself a bit though not too much. We wouldn't want to reveal too much of my human side to students now, would we! I believe I can appreciate Christmas dinners more and more. This year I was sitting next to Lupin and Albus. I do not talk a lot while eating, I concentrate on the taste which is why my skills are so much better than your average Potions Master surely. Senses are so important, I wouldn't want to miss out on the experiences they provide us with. Hence, you will not often see me chatting at the dinner table or any table unless the company is phenomenally not moronic, but that rarely happens. I do make exceptions for dunderheads sometimes however because if I do not say anything while they spread about lies and incoherences of all sorts, they will go on forever and I will not likely be able to enjoy any food at all without my stomach wanting to turn up!
I guess this is enough for now. See you back next year after the New Year party. Oh gosh, I wish I could get out of it. Potter-the-bane-of-my-life is going to attend with his foolish jester the weasle and his bookish Know-it-All. There have been worst time, that is the only thought that gives me hope!