It Must Be A Joke
Professor Dumbledore looked across the table at his staff of teachers. "I have sad news," he said solemnly. Everyone sat a little straighter. "The wizard who was making some very special and required potions and gadgets has died." A small shockwave went through the room. "It falls to me to name the successor for each task." He smiled at his staff. "This is a great thing, and will probably make many people happy all over the world. Though I know some of you would rather believe that this was a myth, it is real I assure you." He laid two scrolls on the table. "One of these is for our esteemed potions master," he said, pointing at the one on the right. "The other I still have to decide who to give it to." He looked at the eager faces, knowing that some of them had figured it out already. "Who among you are mechanically inclined enough to take on this sacred duty?" A few hands went up. "Then I will leave it among you to decide who is going to look at the device this year. Remember, it does work, though it seems to slip a cog every now and again." He smiled and sat down. "That is all."
Professor Snape took the parchment for him, unrolling it slowly. "What is this?"
"It's flying sugar," Dumbledore said with a small smile.
Snape gave him a disbelieving look. "You can't be serious." Dumbledore's smile got bigger. "He's *real*?"
Dumbledore nodded. "Very real and quite a nice older gentleman as well. We've shared quite a few cups of tea over the years." He stood up. "I suspect that you'll be wanting your students' help as that's a rather large batch to make. Remember, the potion must be *exact*. Too little power and they'll get tired before the night is through. Too much...." He nearly grinned. "Well, the last time someone got it too strong the reindeer didn't come down for two weeks." He walked away, leaving the potions master with his consternation.
"This must be some elaborate joke," Snape called after him.
"It's not, I assure you," Professor McGonagall told him. "I've met the man myself." She looked at the technical diagram. "I see where the problem is," she announced to her group. "This must be the slipping cog."
Snape stood up and walked out in a huff. He knew that they were making fun of him. Well, he would prove them to be wrong. He would make the potion his finest ever and then they would see who was laughing at whom. He looked at the scroll again, wincing when he saw some of the units of measure. He decided a small trip to the library would be for the best. He walked in and headed right to the restricted section. He had placed a few of his ancient tomes in here for safe keeping, just in case someone blew up the potions dungeon again. He found the one he was looking for and pulled it down, going to make notes. He knew what they were, but it was better to be sure than wrong. As he sat there making notes, a little voice in the back of his head reminded him that there had been presents that his parents had always denied buying for him until he had been about six. That was the year he had learned that his uncle had bought all those presents and had been the one who had put them under the tree. He snorted, shaking away his thoughts, and went back to his studies.
Professor Snape stared down at his favorite, yet most dreaded class. "We will be working on a *necessary* potion, something that Professor Dumbledore has asked us to make." He sneered down at the students on the Gryffindor side. "You will not talk about this potion outside of this class." He put his hands behind his back and paced between the tables. "This potion must be *exact*. There is no room for error in this potion. There is not a grade attached to it, but any potion that is not perfect can not and will not be accepted." He stopped to look at a particular group of 'good children'. "Mr. Longbottom, you are allowed to leave. Please write a two-scroll paper on the potion of your choice." Neville blushed but gathered up his things and left quickly. He considered the rest of the class, but he supposed they could do this competently. They were fifth years after all and had had him for five years. They should be up to the base of the potion. He turned and paced back to the front of the class. "As part of this spell is in archaic measures, I have set out sets of weights for you to use during this exercise." He pointed at the boxes on his desk. "Each of you will take one and will strive not to mess them up." He stopped and looked at the class. "I will not let you do the harder parts of the potion since none of you are ready for it. You are supposedly suitable to make the base though." He got out of the way. "Get a measure, sit down and I'll hand out sacks of components." The students filed up to grab their boxes then went back to their seats, looking at their new toys. As soon as the last student was sitting, he put sacks of sugar, herbs, and a special liquid on each table. Then he handed out the recipe to each table. "You will strive for excellence." He sat down to work on the finishing liquid to mix into the sugar compound. It was very intricate. So when someone dropped a scale, he looked up and made sure that no more of the fluid could pour into the flagon. "Granger!" he snapped.
"Not us, Professor Snape," she said quickly, patting the scale in front of her. She looked at the Slytherin side. "I think it was one of them since it's still on the floor." She finished measuring out the components for her table-mates, handing over the papers full of sugar first. "Sir, if I may ask," she said.
"No, you may not," he told her and got back to work. "You do not need to know, just do the work to my satisfaction." He added another two drops of the liquid from the vial in his hand.
Draco looked at the recipe and shoved everything aside. His table would make enough for him, they could double the recipe no problem. He looked at the careful measuring Hermione was doing. "Trying to earn points?" he asked snidely. "You'll never make it."
"Do shut up," Snape called. He looked up. "Malfoy, why aren't you working?"
"Sorry, sir, just stretching." He pulled everything back to him and added two handfuls of the herbs to the bowl in front of him. That looked about right.
Hermione shook her head and went back to her careful measuring. When she got to the last ingredient, she frowned. "Professor, which one of these is an arch-tepi? I've never heard of that one before."
He stood up and walked back to her set of weights, looking over them. "Where was the large white one?"
She found it under some of the parchment she had been using to weigh the ingredients out onto. "Here, sir. Is that it?"
"No, the arch-tepi is the white one and the blue one together, along with the smallest gold one." He put it onto the scale, watching as it balanced out.
"May I add another of the small brass ones for paper compensation?"
He looked down his nose at her. "Why would you need to?"
She gave him a serious look. "Because I'm better at measuring. I'm measuring out everyone's and they're mixing their own."
He nodded. "Good idea, though they should learn this themselves."
"Yes, sir, but I'm the most accurate."
"Good point," he said, nearly not sneering. He walked away, standing in front of his desk. "As Ms. Granger just pointed out, you'll be using a measure called the arch-tepi. That is the large white weight, the blue weight, and the smallest gold one together." Everyone nodded and made notes on their scrolls. "Good. Continue." He watched the class work for a moment, shaking his head at some of the student's attempts. "You three," he said, pointing at the table in front of Draco. "Give up and join Mr. Longbottom doing the paper." They left, leaving everything there. Everyone else looked like they were doing it correctly so he left them alone and went back to his own portion of the potion.
Professor Snape looked at all the bowls in front of him, shaking his head at how many of them had gotten it wrong. How hard was it to measure and mix? He marked the ones that got it so very wrong, frowning when he noticed how many of them were in his house. Fortunately, a few of them had gotten it right. He moved onto the Gryffindor house, testing each one carefully. He was unsurprised when all of Ms. Granger's table got it correct, she had obviously done more than measure for them. All told, he got six absolutely correct bowls. He put the list aside and threw out the incorrect ones. The others went into the large basin. They had to make quite a lot more of this. And he was going to have many papers to grade.
Professor Snape looked at the six students sitting in front of him. "It is amazing how many of your fellow students cannot figure out how to weigh materials." He straightened up. "Since they botched up so very well, you six will be making more of the base today and your next class." Everyone nodded. "You will continue the high standard you showed last class, or you will be joining your classmates in their papers." He turned back to the basin and his part of the potion. It lacked one last ingredient, which he did not have. Fortunately, he could floo over later and acquire it in Diagon Alley, he had called ahead to the herbal shop there so they would have it waiting. He heard a ding and walked over to the fireplace. "Yes?" he asked.
"Professor Snape, I'm Herbert at the herb store. We're not sure about the measure you gave us. Could you come over now and weigh it out yourself?"
Professor Snape looked back at the classroom. These ones could probably be trusted to work on their own. He nodded. "I'll be right there." He grabbed his personal weight set and looked at the class. "I will be right back. Continue mixing." He tossed some floo powder into the fire and stepped in. "Diagon Alley," he said in his trademark hiss. He disappeared.
Two of the students looked at the bowls in front of them. "Think we can double it?" one asked.
The other considered it, then nodded. "If we're careful and make sure that the weights equal." They started piling weights onto the scale, working out equivilants so they could double the portions.
"You probably shouldn't do that," Hermione told them, turning to look at them. She swore when she realized that she had tipped one of the herbs into the sugar, but tossed it away. "We don't know what the base measurement was. Even weighing them out might not work right."
"Whatever," the second student told her. "We'll be done sooner if you do it too."
"Or you could mess up rather badly and we could all have to do your parts," Harry pointed out. He was all for their plan, but Professor Snape had said that this had to be exact so he wouldn't do it unless it was cleared first, preferably by someone else.
"Hey, we'll get done sooner," the two girls said, working on their measures. "You can stay and work all night for all we care."
Hermione shook her head and remeasured the sugar she had botched. She handed it to Ron then made sure that the botched batch was carefully out of the way and couldn't be mixed back in. She weighed out her own portion and started on the next ingredient for Harry's bowl.
Professor Snape sighed when he saw that two of his remaining students had managed to mess up rather badly. "What did you do?" he called out.
Everyone sat up straighter. "Professor, we doubled it using a mathematical progression of weight," the first girl said. He stared at them in shock. "We weighed out a second set of weights against the first until they were even, then combined them.
He groaned. "Get out of my sight," he said calmly. They scrambled to leave before he could start yelling.
Hermione, Ron, and Harry sat in their seats, waiting while he checked theirs. She smiled when he relaxed. "Sir, was it all right?"
He looked up at them. "Yes, it was fine. You'll be making even more tomorrow."
"If I could have more bowls, Professor, I could measure a long line of them at once and let everyone else mix."
He leaned back, considering it. Then he nodded slowly. "That will be fine. Report here tomorrow after breakfast. I'll clear it with your other teachers. Now leave." They ran out of the room, the extra Gryffindor following them. He smiled. "At least I won't be the only one being laughed at," he told himself, measuring out the last quantity. Now if they had enough of the base, they could make this damnable joke go away.
Fred looked at the scroll on his Transfiguration teacher's desk, whistling when he saw how complicated it was. She looked up at him sharply. "Sorry, ma'am, but that looks a lot like that time thingy that Dad and Mum were discussing the other day, the one that turns back time." She nodded for him to go on. "Well, if I'm reading this right, then this here," he pointed at a shaded portion of the diagram, "is coming loose. Have you tried glueing it to the shaft?"
"It has to turn, Mr. Weasley."
He nodded. "I know, ma'am, but it could be done if the shaft turns instead of the cog." He motioned his brother up, George was much more mechanical than he was. "What do you make of that?"
George leaned over to look at the diagram. "Well, I'd say that you couldn't turn the shaft because those are supposed to be still," he pointed at a set of cogs behind the problematic one. "But I think that there's a way. Does it turn continuously or just back and forth?"
"Back and forth," MacGonnagal told him. "It does alter time."
George smiled at his brother. "Brilliant work." He went back to it. "I think I have something that would stick it, but let it move. It's very elastic, but you might end up adjusting something else because of the snap principle." He looked up. "We've used it before."
She frowned. "Yes, I remember the student who could only get a foot out of his chair before snapping back. As I remember, he ended up taking off his pants and had to run back to his house without them."
Fred smiled. "But it worked and the git left us alone after that," he pointed out.
She nodded. "Indeed." She stood up. "I'll look over that idea later. Please make some up and we'll test it on a model." The boys smiled and headed back to their seats.
Fred looked up at her. "Professor, if I may ask, what is that device for?"
"For slowing time down," she told them with a smile. The rest of the class looked up from their exercises, looking interested. "You've never noticed that certain nights are longer than others?"
One female nodded, smiling happily. "Christmas Eve is always the longest, but I thought that was anticipation."
MacGonnagal smiled back at her. "Not quite. Technically, Christmas Eve lasts three night's worth of hours." She checked the time. "Please start cleaning up." She looked at the troublesome twins. "Meet me after dinner in here. The committee will decide if your idea has merit." They nodded and quickly cleaned up, running up to their rooms as soon as the bell rang.
Everything was ready, the potion was perfect, the glue would work for a week and then would harden and could be peeled off so it could be applied fresh the next year. Professor Snape carried the buckets of flying sugar out to the ministry car, putting it securely behind the back seat, next to where he would be sitting. He looked back, waiting on Dumbledore to finish giving instructions for his absence. He saw his helpers waiting and waved them over. "You may not talk about this," he reminded them. "Ever."
Hermione smiled up at him. "It is flying sugar then?" He glared at her, but she didn't quit smiling. "I knew he was real, my parents can't lie that well." She looked at her friends, then back at her professor. "Tell him I'll gladly help again next year if he needs it. It's an honor to help such a great man." Then she, Harry, and Ron all went back into the school.
Snape sighed. "Irritating children," he hissed as he forced himself into the back seat. Dumbledore walked out and got into the front passenger's seat. The ministry was sending a driver with them so neither of them would have to worry about getting lost. The car started and took off, heading north. It was a long trip, quite a few hours actually, and he managed to sleep for part of it. When he woke up, everything was blindingly white and cold. The car landed in front of a small shack and the doors opened. He climbed out, hefting out the flying sugar. Now they would see who would be laughing.
So, when the old man walked out, Snape was justifiably cautious. The rotund old man walked over to him, smiling and happy. "So, you're my new flying sugar maker?" he asked, taking the bucket like it weighed nothing. He stared at the potions master. "I bet you don't remember that chemistry set I got you when you were seven," he said with a smile. "But I'm glad I included it now." He winked and walked away.
"You're real?" Snape asked loudly.
Santa laughed and nodded. "Of course I am. I'll be seeing you next year, Severus." He headed into the shack with Dumbledore. But he stuck his head back out. "Watch for me this year, lad, I'll bring you something nice." He disappeared again and the door shut.
Snape leaned against the car. "Oh, my," he whispered. "It wasn't my uncle after all." He shook himself and crawled back into the car. Hopefully, he would think this was a dream tomorrow.
Severus Snape walked into the Great Hall on Christmas morning and found a small present on his plate. He frowned at the others sitting around watching him, but sat down and opened it. Inside was a small vial of an unknown oil. He unfolded the note and his mouth fell open. "Everlasting oil?" he whispered, looking up.
Dumbledore smiled at him. "I told you he was real, Severus. You have to have faith sometimes." He smiled and passed the eggs. "Play with your toy later, eat now, my boy."
Snape, too shocked to say anything, took the eggs without remark. He would rationalize this later, when his mind wasn't clouded with juvenile fantasies.