But Elizabeth didn’t keep her promise, in fact, she broke it the very next morning, for as soon as she woke up, her first thought went to Snape. Fortunately, she had also managed to remember that it was actually Christmas day, so she quickly pushed any inappropriate thoughts out of her mind, and forced herself to concentrate on looking forward to her presents instead. And sure enough, when, after taking care of all her morning activities, she arrived in the sunlit living room, she wasn’t only greeted by the sight of a beautifully decorated Christmas tree, which had already been there the evening before anyway, she just hadn’t paid it enough attention, but also by a stack of colourful packages arranged underneath it.
“Mum! Dad! Grandma!” she yelled at the top of her lungs. “Time for presents!”
It was only a matter of seconds before her relatives came rushing into the room, causing Elizabeth to strongly suspect them of hiding somewhere close by the whole time, patiently waiting for her to do exactly what she had done – discover the presents and proceed to yell her head off.
“Look how many there are!” her grandmother exclaimed. “Santa’s really outdone himself this year!”
Elizabeth snickered. She knew Santa didn’t exist, she’d found that out almost nine years ago, but every year, she played along with the game, pretending to still be the little girl who had no idea whatsoever that it wasn’t Santa who’d given her the presents; that really it was her family she was supposed to thank. And since her parents seemed to have developed an almost childish obsession with the game, Elizabeth didn’t have the heart to break the tradition. The result was, that she now had the appropriate expression glued to her face, hoping her answer: “Yes, I really think we should send him a thank you letter afterwards,” sounded as convincing as ever. And since Grandma was looking satisfied, Elizabeth decided it was finally time to dive into the present pile waiting under the Christmas tree.
Half an hour later, Elizabeth was comfortably seated in the middle of the living room, once more going over all her presents, which were now lying in a little heap at her feet, long since relieved of their colourful wrappings. And even though most of them didn’t come as a surprise to her, since it was the kind of stuff she was used to getting every year (books; quills; underwear – although this year, to Elizabeth’s great delight, it didn’t look like a five year old’s anymore, but, with a bit of imagination, more like something a grown-up woman would wear; T-shirts; a bag of golden Galleons from her grandmother...), there were still a few she hadn’t expected, mostly some very curious magical stationery. There was a bottle of ink that changed colour every now and then, several pieces of parchment able to reflect the writer’s state of mind (Elizabeth couldn’t resist and had to try it out straight away, and since at that particular moment she was feeling nothing but happiness, the parchment immediately became covered with little smiley faces), and also a box of pink envelopes which worked a bit like Howlers, only instead of yelling, they spoke quietly. The person to whom the letter was addressed also had to open it as soon as he touched it, otherwise it’d explode in his face, leaving behind a most unpleasant smell – something between rotten eggs and a decaying fish.
Apart from these few ‘very’ useful things, Elizabeth also got a make-up set, a book on how to charm one’s hair 101 different ways and a pair of black dancing shoes. But there was one present which, in Elizabeth’s opinion, stood way above the rest. It was a dress, the most beautiful one Elizabeth had ever seen, made of some black (a colour Elizabeth had become quite fond of lately) material, light as a feather, with semi-long sleeves and a V-shaped decolt that showed nearly as much as it was supposed to hide. Upon closer inspection, Elizabeth discovered that the dress wasn’t really just black; that it was also covered with thousands of tiny silver specks, making it resemble a starry night sky.
Elizabeth couldn’t wait to try it on, so as soon as she was sure that all the family members were busy with their own presents, she slipped out of the room, taking with her not only the dress, but also the shoes, the make-up set and the book on hair.
Half a minute later, she was already sitting in front of her dresser mirror, feverishly working on her new appearance, since she had decided that apart from trying on the dress, she could just as well do something nice to her face and hair to go with it.
She started with the make-up, and although she’d never had a make-up set of her own, she had borrowed Jane’s so many times that the procedure of making her face prettier had become almost like second nature to her. It didn’t take long and Elizabeth’s face had changed considerably; there were now black eyelines around her eyes, grey eye shadow, a little bit of pink added to her cheeks and, lastly, a trace of light lipstick highlighting her already full lips. Examining herself in the mirror, and feeling happy with the result (although normally she would’ve also used some liquid make-up to hide the few freckles around her nose she wasn’t particularly proud of, only there was no time for that now), Elizabeth proceeded to put on her new dress and shoes. She had never been the type to spend most of her time staring into the mirror, but now she couldn’t resist giving her figure a thorough inspection. Although she hadn’t grown much since her first year, at least her body had filled out in all the right places ... and the dress, unlike most of her other clothes, and especially her school robes, showed all her lovely curves to the fullest extent.
When she decided she’d given herself enough attention, Elizabeth picked up the book on hair and flipped through its pages, searching for some nice charm to use on her short hair. And even though most of the stuff in the book could only be used on hair longer than Elizabeth’s, Elizabeth had still managed to find a couple of charms that would work even with her boyish haircut.
After spending several minutes going through the pictures of various creations one could achieve with short hair once more, she finally picked one that she particularly liked, and then headed downstairs, taking the open book with her.
When she got back to the living room, everybody was still absorbed in their presents, so at first no one had noticed her reappear, but after ostentatiously leaning against the door frame for a while, her mother finally glanced up ... and let out a gasp of surprise.
“I was wondering where you’d gone,” she said when she was at last able to speak again. “And, well, you look ... wonderful.”
At this point, the other two occupants of the room had also raised their heads, and both remained gaping at her with looks of utter disbelief on their faces.
It was her grandmother who spoke first, although she still couldn’t take her eyes off her beautiful granddaughter.
“Well, looks like Santa had made the right decision when he bought you that dress. He must have overheard you complaining about the one you had to wear last year to the Yule Ball... Well, you certainly won’t be embarrassing yourself in this one, I wouldn’t be surprised if you became the star of the night at your next ball. Although ... I see you haven’t done anything to your hair yet, didn’t you find anything good in that book you got?”
“I did, look – this one,” Elizabeth said, crossing the living room and shoving the book under her grandmother’s nose. “But since I’m not of age yet, I can’t do the charm myself, so I thought maybe you could do it for me.”
“But of course!” her grandmother flared up and immediately pulled her wand out of her sleeve. “Just stand back a little, that’s right, and ... here we go!”
With these words, she pointed her wand at Elizabeth’s hair and then, without saying anything, although with an expression of utmost concentration on her face, performed a little flick of the wrist and a beam of white light shot out of the tip of her wand. Elizabeth didn’t feel anything, but when her grandmother lowered her wand and started inspecting her work with a look of thorough satisfaction, she came to the conclusion that the charm had most probably already been done.
“So?” she asked. “How do I look?”
“Beautiful,” said her mother. “I’m sure that at the next ball you have, all the boys are going to fight for a chance to dance with you.”
Elizabeth laughed and went to have a look at herself in the mirror in the hall. And she had to admit her mother was right, because with her hair now charmed to stick out in all directions (without looking greasy like it always did when she’d attempted to put gel in it), as well as to glitter like the surface of the Hogwarts lake, she really did look stunning. Though she was sure she didn’t particularly want boys to fight over her, come to think of it, she’d rather not dance at all than to have to endure a dance with one of those stupid, immature gits. But then, why would she bother to look beautiful when she had no intention of dancing anyway?
‘Because Snape might be there,’ said the all too familiar voice at the back of her head.
‘Snape’d never dance with me,’ Elizabeth argued. ‘Or anybody else, he never dances. And besides, didn’t I tell you to shup up about him last night? He’s probably gone forever, so there’s absolutely no point in keeping some false hopes. Now go away.’
And with that, she stormed out of the hall and back into the living room, because she was sure that while being with her family, she wouldn’t have time for stupid thoughts ... or conversations with annoying voices. Of course she knew the voice was right, she had been subconsciously thinking of Snape whilst putting on all the make-up, but she was determined to stop this silly crush or whatever it was before it got too far. That’s why she spent the rest of the day chatting with her relatives about anything that happened to come to her mind, just so she wouldn’t have any chance to think about Snape, although it didn’t take long for her to realize it didn’t have much effect. So as soon as she dared suggest going to bed without it looking too suspicious, she grabbed her pile of presents, wished everybody good night and disappeared upstairs.
When she got to her room, she threw the presents on her desk and then sat down in front of the mirror with the intention to take off her make-up. But at first she couldn’t resist, and had to give herself one last look before wiping all the make-up off her face. And automatically, she also started wondering whether Snape’d give her as much as a second look if he saw her like this. She got as far as imagining him asking her for a dance before she realized she was thinking about him again, and that’s when she decided she’d once and for all find out what her feelings for him were. She got up, found some ink, a quill and the enchanted parchment she’d tried out earlier that day, and then sat back down, clearing her mind of all thoughts except the ones concerning Snape. Then, with a deep breath, she touched the parchment with her quill. And to her not-so-big surprise, it immediately covered itself with tiny pink hearts.
‘I told you you love him,’ declared the ever-present voice. ‘But you wouldn’t listen.’
‘Okay, okay, yes, you were right,’ Elizabeth admitted resentfully. ‘Are you happy now?’
‘Sure. And since I’ve finally got my point across, I promise to leave you alone from now on. Unless you start denying your feelings again, then I would be back – stronger and more annoying than ever.’
‘Don’t worry, I’ll be careful not to do any such thing. Now, off you go.’And since the voice didn’t say anything, Elizabeth was left to finish taking off her make-up in peace, and even go to sleep half an hour later.