D/C: Let me say it in simple English: me no own Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling does. It's as simple as that.
Upon their delayed arrival, the kitchens became a bustle of clattering dishes, clinking beakers, and a hubbub of merry activity. The fact that they had arrived late for the Halloween festivities didn't seem to faze their friends the House elves at all. Not even Twitchy, the matronly head of the Hogwarts kitchens, seemed to spare their tardiness anything more than a frown and a cursory shrug. Whether it was because the elves were accustomed to students and their tendency for delays, or whether the elves simply had no wish to intrude, Harry Potter and Susan Bones weren't all that sure. In any case, the stalwart duo were quite grateful and glad when potentially awkward questions were left unasked.
By all appearances it didn't seem as if the elves were even aware (or were much less informed) of the troll that had lumbered into the castle just a half hour before, as Twitchy and her cohorts were roaming about the kitchens in their usual high spirits. Having no heart to ruin their friends' festive moods, Harry and Susan had silently agreed to forego any mention of the events that'd occurred earlier that night.
Dinner progressed as orderly (or perhaps as disorderly) as one would expect from the all too excitable elves, although little was actually achieved in regards of the Halloween feast, as neither one of the Young masters had as yet reclaimed their appetites. Instead of requesting a feast fit for a king and queen, Harry and Susan settled for a simple platter of doughnuts, biscuits, and pie to go along with a pitcher of iced raspberry tea. To make it up to their crestfallen friends, Harry broke out his deck of playing cards and proceeded to shuffle it in a meaningful way. None of the elves mistook the invitation for what it was, and judging by the gleeful looks on their faces it didn't appear as if any of them were apt to decline.
Never the ones to disappoint, Harry and Susan set to dinner with a will while dealing out hands for the game. In no time at all everyone lost track of the time as round after round of Old Maid, Blackjack, and Poker were played (the elves were surprisingly determined to make it an even game.) Just when they thought they were reaching the climax of a tiebreaker, the wall mounted mantle clock rang several times, signaling the five minute bell before the start of curfew. Ten minutes passed, then twenty, and then thirty, and despite the knowledge of the hour the elves held their own. Ultimately, at nearly half past eleven, the first years finally folded their hands and conceded their friends the game.
The pair promptly departed the kitchens with an exchange of knowing looks and smiles, congratulating the dumbstruck elves whom barely remembered to bow the yearlings out in return.
"So...How are you feeling, Harry?" Susan tentatively asked once they were well on their way back to their dorms.
Stealing the redhead trudging at his side with a veiled look, Harry felt through his pockets for his hemlock wand. Grasping it gently by the handle, the soothing tingle of his magic flared in response to his touch. The delirious sensations immersed him briefly in its thrall, subtle but stronger than it'd been only hours before.
"Better," He admitted, breaking off from the dream-like haze. "I feel a lot better, as a matter of fact."
"Wouldn't have guessed from the way you played your cards tonight," The jovial girl teased. "You didn't look as if you were paying attention half the time. Really, declaring a Full House in the middle of Old Maid...For what it's worth, Harry, I'm really sorry I laughed," Amended the girl with an unconvincing grin. "It was just so funny at the time."
"I'm glad you found my performance so amusing," Harry carelessly replied, belying the truth of his words as he blatantly refused to meet her gaze. "Contrary to what your smile might suggest, Susan, I am not losing my touch. I just had a little difficulty focusing on the game."
"That much I could see," She conceded seriously. "Would you like to...Talk about it...?"
"...You can ask me outright, you know," The boy amicably replied. "It's always better for you to be clear than to leave me to interpret things on my own - It's not like I'd bite, after all."
"O-of course I know," Stammered the girl, flushing prettily while ducking her head. "It's just - I thought it might be rude to force the issue and ask."
"You worry too much," The boy intoned, although in truth he truly did appreciate the Hufflepuff's concern. "It's not like anything that transpired tonight is anything taboo, it's just..."
"Just what?" Curiosity compelled her to ask.
"...Complicated, I guess."
Struggling visibly for words, the boy tore his gaze down to his hands, staring intently as if they held all the answers there. Perhaps they had; she just didn't know - but in that moment it seemed he'd found what he was looking for, as he flexed all his fingers with a nod of his head.
"Hey, Susan?" Harry ventured, breaking the silence and halting the redhead in her steps.
"Mhmm?" She hummed. Twirling adorably around on the soles of her heels, Susan rounded expectantly upon the stalwart Slytherin, inadvertently forcing him to take a step back as the girl leaned close to peer at his face.
"I know it's getting late," He tentatively resumed, "And I know you're just curious to know about tonight and all, but before we get to all that...Would you like to see a magic trick?"
The redhead couldn't help but stare incredulously (if not amusedly) into the calm green eyes of her eccentric confidante.
Deciding not to ask whether he'd landed on his head at some point, Susan asked, "As in a muggle magic trick?"
"Can't say," Came his evasive reply. "It would be telling if I gave it away now, don't you think?"
Susan's eyes shifted nervously on their own accord.
"You wouldn't happen to be thinking of pranking li'l old me...Would you?"
Harry peered speculatively from over his glass's circular frames.
"And what makes you think that...?"
The redhead toyed with a loose strand of her hair, looking both bashful and coy all at once.
"It's nothing, really; just something I ask out of old habit. During their more colorful childhood years, Ernie and Zack used to pull 'practical jokes' on any unwitting soul who just happened to be around. They used to ask us the same question in such an innocent tone just before they roped us into one of their infernal pranks. Hannah and I learned our lesson after the first time they had us hanging by our heels, but all the other kids in our neighborhood weren't so quick to catch on..."
"Not so fond memories, I take it?" The Slytherin gently said.
"Uh-uh," The girl in turn vehemently shook her head.
"Oh," Said the boy, gazing up at the ceiling at bit of a loss. "I...Well...Don't suppose you'd be too willing to play along if I asked you to close your eyes, then, would you? Just for a moment?"
The redhead considered him for what felt like an eternity before her lips limned into an affable curve.
"Only because I trust you, Harry." She finally agreed.
Susan obediently closed her eyes and kept them closed even as she felt her dainty little hands become enveloped in his.
"You're not going through all this trouble just to hold hands, are you?" She said in a teasing tone.
Harry breathed a long suffering sigh and shook his head even as he felt the burning flush of color suffusing his cheeks. Recovering swiftly from the unfamiliar emotions (taking care to store them for safekeeping in the back of his mind,) he began to focus his attention upon an imaginary point just above the redhead's hands instead. The boy pausing briefly to catch a calming breath before he began the process of willing his magic to life. Much to the young Slytherin's relief, what little he'd recovered of his reserves flared obediently (albeit sluggishly) in response to his unspoken command. With a tug and a faint icy tingle like a cool Autumn breeze a budding snowdrop began to swirl into form. Glimmering brightly under the hall's ensconced lights, the tiny globule of dew wobbled into existence just over the surface of Susan's palm, dissolving and solidifying before it coalesced into a perfect six sided star. Feather light and invigoratingly cool to the touch, the tiny snowflake spun lazy circles in the center of her hands, weaving a trail of shimmering blue mist wherever it came into contact with her skin.
"Cut that out," The girl chuckled, batting blindly (and ineffectually) at what she thought were the boy's offending hands, "I thought this was supposed to be a magic trick, not a tickling spree..."
"Oh, Susan, Susan, you of little faith," Harry gently mocked, weaving past her flailing arms to retrieve the snowflake drifting in the air. "You really ought to know how committed I feel about keeping to my word. Do you doubt me still? Why not open your eyes, and have a look for yourself?"
"Don't mind if I do..."
With that said, Susan cracked opened her eyes...
And found herself speechless, irrevocably enthralled with the strange aurora lit glow emanating through his fingers like a heavenly blue light. Upon her first glance the redhead assumed that Harry had performed a simple (and admittedly brilliant) muggle illusionist's trick using a sliver of refractive glass, but as the mirrored surface continued to spin round and around on its axis the girl grew less and less sure. Glass didn't shimmer under the torch lights as if enshrouded in a thin layer of mist, nor did it possess such a cold blue exterior that wept softly like ice. Wonder slowly gave way to dawning comprehension, uncertainty, disbelief and intrigue, and it was all she could do to keep herself breathing even as her heart seemed to beat in the back of her throat.
"You like it? It's a pastime of mine I've been experimenting with for the past couple of months," He imparted, twirling the snowflake about his fingers with a fond and faraway look. "A little something I spent a good many hours practicing behind closed doors," The boy added with a pleased smirk. "Just to be clear, I don't intend to make this publicly known; it's not like anyone else ought to know, at any rate. So like all the misadventures we've had thus far-"
"It'll be our secret, just between ourselves," Susan solemnly pledged.
Admirably enough, the redhead barely betrayed any of the tell tale signs of shock. She was even trying her level best to appear unaffected and calm, although her hands were quite suspect as they fluttered to and fro, reminding him of moths dancing round a candle's flame. It was abundantly clear from the roving digits of her fingers (juxtaposed with the furtive movements of her eyes) that Susan wanted nothing more than to reach for the snowflake floating in the palm of his hands.
"Go right ahead," The boy coaxed, tempting her with his palms, "Feel free to have at it, if that's what you'd like."
As he had expected, the redhead needed no second bidding as she eagerly thrust her hands out to comply. With a bit of persuasion on Harry's part (by the way of pokes and prods) the snowflake bridged the gap between their fingers before it settled in the palms of her hands. Like a flower petal in the breeze the snowflake spun in lazy arcs, unhurried and at ease, appearing at once natural and unnatural as it swayed on its own, roaming wherever it pleased.
"Merlin," Susan breathed at long last.
"Oh no, no, no; there's no Merlin here," The young Slytherin said as they resumed their walk. "Perhaps," His stoic features split forth into a feral grin, "You must have mistaken me for someone else?"
"Prat," The Hufflepuff snickered with much of the fire of her usual self.
"What's that? I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch that...Prat, was it? No; talented, you must have said."
"And arrogant, too," The girl mockingly pronounced.
"Channeling Snape, are we?" He lazily drawled, bright green eyes flickering under the firelights.
"You are intolerable," Susan rebuffed, or at least she tried to while repressing back a laugh. "But seriously, all kidding and jokes aside, this truly is an impressive bit of spell work, Harry. It actually feels like I've got a little piece of winter right here in the palm of my hands! Guess your knowledge of getting around in Hogwarts hasn't been the only thing you've striven to learn outside of class." Susan's knowing grin lingered for several beats before it furrowed into a concerned frown. "You haven't been visiting the Restricted Section of the Library, have you?"
"...Honestly?" The boy asked, tilting his head.
"No, lie to me," The redhead sarcastically cajoled. "Tell me a story of make believe, or dazzle me with fairytales..."
"Fairytales, eh?" Harry sounded distinctly (and yet detachedly) amused as Susan tucked the snowflake snugly behind her ear. "Well I must confess, I do have a story to tell - and it begins not long ago in the sleepy suburbs of an any-burg in the heart of Surrey, where a little boy lived in a cupboard; wondering, always wondering, why he felt like he didn't belong..."
The wee hours of All-Hallows-Eve passed on without further incident, and in that time Harry recounted his story to an enrapt audience of one. All told it was a startling new experience for him to reveal so much about his past, his relatives, and the true extent of his magical talents; but from start to finish the boy felt truly (and oddly) glad that he chose to tell her as much as he did. Disclosing everything he'd held in from the very beginning and confiding it all upon a trusted friend was a relief unlike any he'd ever felt - and no matter how much his narrative seemed to stretch the fine line between fantasy and reality, Susan clung to his every word as he described the hard life he had once led with the Dursleys; the manner in which he had toppled the intruding mountain troll; and the discreet (yet not quite discreet) things he often did to the Weasleys, or Malfoy's gang, or anyone else who chanced to harass them in the hall. Suffice it to say Harry talked about many things. The words just seemed to pour right out of his own mouth.
It was unexpected and overwhelming (and sometimes funny but mostly sad) to hear all the things her friend wanted to say. Not once did it occur to the redhead to interrupt him while Harry spoke. About halfway through Susan realized she couldn't well disbelieve. She was an open minded girl and proud of it, and she had only to reach for the snowflake nestled behind her ear to confirm the truth of his words. By the time his tale concluded Susan had a deeper understanding of what it might actually have been like to walk in her companion's shoes.
"So," The boy had awkwardly said afterwards. "How much of my story...Do you actually believe?"
Harry needn't have had any last minute worries, as Susan replied with five concise words.
"All of it, of course."
Knowing she meant those reassuring words Harry's guarded expression visibly melted and relaxed. It was as if a stack of bricks had been lifted from his shoulders and his heart. He certainly looked the part when they finally bade each other goodnight at the archway branching off in the directions of their respective dorms. Despite the lateness of the hour (and the overpowering urge to simply throw herself into bed) Susan hesitated briefly at the junction separating the two halls. She listened carefully into the stillness...
Then smiled faintly as the soft cadence of a whistle drifted down from the heart of the Slytherin dorms.
Before settling down to bed, Susan placed the snowflake atop her pink and white bedside dresser, sadly lamenting the fact that the fragile little thing probably wouldn't last the following November morn. She stole one rueful glance at it from beneath the sheets and fell asleep thinking it would be her last.
Susan woke in the early hours of dawn to see the tiny snowflake trailing a halo of stardust right above her head.
"How odd," The Slytherin commented first thing when she'd shown him later that very same morn. "Well, this is something you don't see every day. I didn't suspect such a thing was even possible. And to think I have been lax with my practices lately...You really ought to keep it, you know," Said the boy with one of his oddly detached but amused looks. "Perhaps I'm just imagining things, but it already seems rather attached to you."
With the twinkling fairy light darting through her hair the redhead found that very easy to believe.
Like a stubborn but adorable child, the snowflake never seemed to stray away from the young witch's side. It made Susan wonder whether the tiny thing didn't have a life of its own. Perhaps it did; it floated freely about her person whenever she hung out with Harry or whenever she had time alone. Whenever her housemates were present or whenever she strode through the bustling halls the snowflake would settle and grow still, a pretty hair ornament hidden behind her ear.
From the very first week of November on the redhead was rarely seen without the icy hued glint in her vibrant red locks. Most students presumed it was simply a fancy hairclip in passing. That presumption alone didn't even stop her peers from the older years from turning back to get a closer look, though thankfully enough for her the attention was short lived.
Which was admittedly a relief for the odd Slytherin and the affable Heiress of Bones...
...But not so much so for the young Gyffindor Granger, who suddenly found herself at wit's (and sanity's) end once the spotlight of attention hung over her head like an ominous dark cloud. Once she'd been cleared from the hospital wing the heckled first year had looked as if she'd wanted nothing more to do than to stash the memory of Halloween night into a lock box, launch it straight down a bottomless river, and never dwell on it ever again. Despite her wishes, none of her Housemates proved all that willing to comply. It was clear from the get go though (at least to Harry and Susan) that the poor Gryffindor truly didn't know all that much that had transpired that very night, other than the obvious - the girl had fainted during her ordeal after all. The fact that the members of the school staff neither acknowledged nor denied involvement in ridding the school of the mountain troll told the Young Masters all that they needed to know.
The Professors were just as baffled and at a loss as their students. The only difference was that the faculty hid their uncertainty well. No doubt the adults were wondering how they could've let this travesty happen. Harry and Susan had certainly been on the same page. Of course they had their own ideas; neither could discount the unusual happenstance of Professor Snape sneaking off to the forbidden corridor. Whatever business he had had there had not been concluded; or so the pair had come to believe. If it was any indication, the Potions Master had become even more volatile than he'd been ever before, and he had begun to walk with a noticeable limp. So Snape had tried to get past the three headed dog...
But what exactly had his Head of House been after, and what was it that the Cerberus was left to guard? There was something niggling at the back of his mind, some memory just begging to be released. Something someone had once said...
He would later be glad that Susan was such a Quidditch buff that she'd brought him along to join her and her blonde best friend, because it was there during the season's opening game that Harry caught sight of Hagrid cheering from the Gryffindors stands, and upon seeing his giant friend once again the many pieces of the puzzle had started to click in his mind.
"Ah, here we are. Gringotts, Wizarding Bank!...There's no place more secure in our world than Gringotts...Ceptin' Hogwarts, of course."
"Er...Sorry Mr. Hornswaggle, but I've got a letter here from Professor Dumbledore...It's about...," Shifting under Harry's guarded glance, he mumbled, "Vault seven hundred thirteen."
"...Prolly best yeh speak o' this to no one, eh, Harry?"
Recalling those tidbits of information had immediately set the young lad into thinking. If what Hagrid said was true, whatever the grubby little package was had to be valuable if it'd been removed from the safekeeping of Gringotts, and if it actually was what he thought it was being guarded in the school, then the seemingly innocuous little object had to be a thing of particular importance. The fact that a respected Head of House was willing to risk it all to steal from underneath the 'Great Professor' Dumbledore's nose unsettled the Slytherin even more. Hogwarts was definitely not as secure as they'd been led to believe...
But that was neither Harry nor Susan's immediate concern (they were students, not teachers; and they weren't supposed to perform the Professors' jobs after all), and a good thing too since the disturbing news did nothing to spoil their spirits during the weeks leading up to Christmas. Winter met them halfway past December with a flurry of ice and snow, which the redhead took full advantage of by dragging the boy out to play in the cold. Hannah Abbott (who'd finally had had it with her Hufflepuff cohorts in class) had eagerly invited herself along, curious to get to know her childhood friend's friend.
"Hullo Harry, I'm sure you remember me," The blonde had greeted the boy that day with her usual infectious cheer. "My name's Hannah Abbott, and it's nice that we finally meet. Susan's told me a whole lot about you, but I'm still very curious to know several really important things..."
"Oh? Is that so?" The boy had asked, raising an inquiring brow, "And what might I ask is it that you would really like to know?"
"Well, for starters..."
Producing a length of parchment from somewhere within her robes, Hannah decided to start off slowly, so as not to drive up the boy up the bend.
"Let's start off easy; what's your favorite color, and what are your feelings for my best friend?"
The blonde had waited patiently as the boy just stared and stared. It'd almost been an hour before the boy had looked Hannah in the eye again...
For the Young Master that day had marked the most peculiar start of an unusual sort of friendship. Though clearly unsettled by his first encounter with the perky spitfire blonde, Harry eventually got into the swing of things as the girls introduced him to the simple joys of snow angels, snowball fights, and mugs of hot chocolate as they laid back around a fire, lounging amidst the falling snow. He never did reveal his thoughts on the blonde, but despite what he may or may not have felt about the girl, Harry took the effort to welcome Hannah into their fold, and that alone touched Susan more than he would ever know.
Three weeks passed the trio by in surprisingly short order, and before they knew it the end of the school term had come to pass. Christmas cheer could be seen and felt wherever one happened to be in the school, with Christmas trees in the common rooms, and tinseled streamers hanging along the corridors. Professors Flitwick and McGonagall (with the help of Hagrid and a small band of the Hogwarts' elves) spent many hours sprucing up the Great Hall with mistletoes, and candles, and ornaments of every sort. It was only too bad that few people were sticking around to see the show, as only a handful of students were staying behind for the holidays.
Between Hogwarts and the Dursleys, Harry's mind had already been made. Hannah and Susan had packed their bags and were ready to go, yet Susan chose to linger behind on the platform, whispering words to Hannah who grinned and nodded, winking roguishly at Harry as she boarded the train. Just as the other students were stepping in the redhead lingered and took hold of the boy's hands, smiling as he returned the gesture with a subtle but responsive squeeze.
"Happy Christmas, Harry."
"And merry Christmas to you too, Susan," The boy politely said, pausing as he felt the edges of a tiny pink object falling into the palm of his hand. "Hello, and what's this little thing...?"
"What's it look like?" The redhead beamed.
Uncertain whether it was a good idea to try and shake it, Harry honestly replied, "...It looks like a postage stamp to me."
"Oops," Susan giggled. "Dopey me. Hold a moment; totally forgot I had shrunk it. Engorgio."
The Young Master stared as the little pink square trembled in his hands, rocking back and forth as if it were a firecracker about to explode. The redhead winked and mouthed a sly, "Wait for it," just as the tiny pink object began to shape and reform. In the blink of an eye Harry was holding a thin cloth wrapped parcel topped with an adorable red bow.
"I-impressive," He remarked, voice cracking despite his emotional control. "And...," He paused, intrigued by the odd but familiar fluttering sensation of lightness he felt, "Thank you."
"You're very welcome, Harry," Susan beamed.
Cocking his head curiously (even now he had trouble believing it was his gift) Harry asked, "For me?"
"Nooo, it's for Malfoy." The girl tapped him lightly on the head. "You don't see me handing out gifts to anyone else, do you? Come on, this is for you. Go right ahead; open it. It's only fair; after all," She grinned, stroking the snowflake in her hair, "I got my present early."
Skillfully untying the ribbon (it was a faded silk hair tie, old and worn, but for whatever reason he had already decided to keep it) Harry removed the contents of the bag to reveal a leather bound book. The embroidered cover had no title to speak off but flipping the first page open told him all.
The redhead felt slightly apprehensive as the boy stared, silently enrapt with the tome.
"It's nothing special," Susan admitted, fidgeting with the ends of her cloak, "Nothing you won't learn next year or the year after that; but I thought you might like a head start, and a little more variety with our games in the thicket. But if you'd like, I could stop by Diagon Alley and-"
"Like I said once before, you worry too much," Harry calmly enthused, preventing further protests with a finger pressed to her lips, "And the offer is appreciated, if unnecessary. I'm sorry I made you worry; I just couldn't help but like what I was seeing. So many different spells, and from the handwriting I'd say you wrote every word. Not to knock on your House, Susan, but did the Sorting Hat ever peg you for Ravenclaw?" Harry hid a smile, no longer concerned as to why it pleased him so much to see his companion blush. "You wrote this all from...?"
"Good memory," She purred, pleased with the turn of events. "Aunt Amelia taught me well."
"And so she did," The boy said, fondly flashing back to Ron Weasley and the opening feast. "Hmm, looks like someone's been holding back during Wizarding tag..."
"Oh, that's rich," The redhead said, quirking her lips. "Pot? This is teakettle. You're black."
"Right, good memory indeed," He cajoled. "Last I checked, that's supposed to go the other way around."
Whatever retort the girl was about to make was drowned out by the train's whistle, signaling its final departure for anyone still left on the platform to hear. Harry helped Susan on to the Hogwarts Express and followed sedately along the tracks as she reappeared from a back window.
"Before I forget, send your Aunt my regards," The Slytherin said, quickening his pace as the train began to chug. "As for your troublesome best friend you can tell her I said behave!"
"No, better not. Knowing her, Little Miss Mischief might take that as a challenge," The redhead laughed. Fighting to be heard over the wind, she cried, "Happy holidays, Harry!"
"Take care Susan, and thank you. Enjoy yourself for the both of us," He called over the din of the rushing engine.
Harry returned the wave from his closest companion as the Hogwarts Express started to take off with a gradually increasing speed. He hung back by the rails as he watched the train go, and stayed long after the recognizable red engine was lost from sight. He finally came to when he realized the snow had once again begun to fall, but he only smiled as he set off for the castle, losing himself along the way in Susan's book.
"I'll see again you in two weeks," Harry said, relaxing amidst the flurry of Mid-Winter's snow.
Once the holidays had truly begun the Young Master delighted in the prospect of having the entire Slytherin dorm (and possibly the castle) all to himself. He had seen virtually every member of his House packing their bags and heading for home just the day before, and, thinking no one else had business to come around to his side, decided to get a head start on his latest avenue of study. The boy knew it was unlikely for him to master all the materials in Susan's spell book before the end of two weeks, but that didn't necessarily mean he wasn't excited enough not to try.
Naturally, with those thought in mind Harry ended up a bit distracted. The Young Master was so enthralled with the success of shrinking and expanding his trunk (and doing it over and over again) that he missed the light padding of soft footfalls approaching his bed.
"Reducio, engorgio! Reducio, engorgio!"
A single elegant brow arched visibly as the raven haired wizard practiced gleefully with his wand.
"So, even someone like you can be a child at heart," Her cool voice denoted, a hint of wry amusement belied in her tone. "Nice spell work, by the way. Been learning from Bones?"
"Good morning, Greengrass," The boy greeted, hardly missing a beat. Of all the people he knew Daphne Greengrass was the one person he least understood. She regularly mingled with the sort of people he despised, and she shared their pride and arrogance and conceit; and yet somehow she was so dissimilar from the likes of Nott, Parkinson, and Malfoy, all of whom benefited from their families' fortunes and name. Harry still wasn't sure how someone who could put him on edge could almost be considered a friend. "Aren't you up early today?"
"For good reason, Potter," She said, casually tossing aside the flowing locks of her straight blonde hair. "And it's not early; it's ten in the morning, and you seem to be the only one in bed. Don't tell me you forgot what day it is today?"
"And what makes you think I did?" He said, fingering the embroidered edges of the leather bound book.
Daphne shrugged noncommittally, not that he could see the gesture with his back still turned.
"Oh, in that case, I suppose you won't mind if I snuck a peek at your presents for you," Said the hawk-eyed blonde, stalking off.
"Good," He called out after her, "If the Weasley Twins sent me something, you'll be the first to know!"
Harry carefully stowed Susan's gift into the confines of his robes before heading downstairs to the Slytherin common room, where he found Daphne crouched right next to the Christmas tree, rummaging through a small pile of presents. Seeing the unwrapped pile on the sofa, the Young Master realized with some resignation that the willful girl had already blazed through her gifts and had taken the liberty to start on his own.
"I should probably be getting angry about now," Harry said, favoring her with a jaundiced eye.
"You're not going to, though, because you as good as invited me. Besides, it's not my fault you decided to take your own bloody time," Said the upright Slytherin with an unrepentant smirk. "Now let's see...Ah, saved this one especially for you."
The Young Master stared doubtfully as Daphne dragged a rather long thin parcel from under the tree. It was wrapped immaculately with vibrant silver gift wrappings with a flowing green ribbon looped around each end. Harry had a sinking feeling he knew exactly what it was...
"Mine? How do you know it's not yours?" He evenly said. "This one doesn't have name tags on it."
"Really?" Daphne frowned, inspecting it's length. "Well that's annoying. It's yours, anyway; a little something from me."
An awkward minute of stillness ensued as she watched the boy carefully unwrapping her gift. Once unraveled, the boy whistled softly and bit his lip in a decidedly uncomfortable manner.
"You really shouldn't have...," He quietly said, revealing the length of a broom.
"Oh, you mustn't think like that," She said, breathing on her nails and buffing them against her sleeve. "You don't fly all that much, but from what little I've seen you are natural in the air. Besides, you have a habit of staring up at the sky; why not be one with it?"
"My memories can sometimes get a little hazy, but I do remember hearing us first years aren't supposed to be carrying around our own brooms..."
"So don't. Just shrink it for now and stow it in your trunk; it's what I would do. I was going to volunteer to teach you the charm myself, but you already seem to have a handle on things."
"...There is no way I could convince you to take this back, is there?" The Young Master said, breathing a sigh.
"Not unless you intend to insult me," Daphne answered seriously. "You wouldn't have given Bones' little gift back, would you?"
Harry shifted imperceptibly, puzzled as to how his Housemate always seemed to know so much. He deigned not to ask nor did he show how much her words had actually offended him.
"Well in any case...," He said, trying to smile instead, "Thank you kindly, Greengrass. Out of simple curiosity, how did you manage to bring this into school? You'd have been in trouble if someone had found out."
"It isn't that hard when you have the right contacts," The blonde Slytherin dismissively said. "Especially when you've got help from the older years. Like it? It's a Moontrimmer. Fine broom, not the sleekest or the fastest, but it's said to be the easiest to handle, even in the worst weather conditions. They're closing down that particular line; be a rarity by third year."
"Could be dead useful though..."
"Don't mind me," Harry said, his mask firmly set in place. "Just thinking a few things over in my head."
"What? You're not suddenly offended that I'm keeping my thoughts to myself, are you?"
Daphne shook her head, but somehow he doubted she'd heard a word of what he'd just said. She was staring avidly at what he thought was one of her gifts, a rather odd looking cloak. It shone in gleaming folds, dappled brown on the inside and silver gray on the out, and it flowed through her fingers as easily as it might have her own silky hair. Harry touched it gently, and frowned. It felt so much like water that had been woven into silk.
"Are you just going to stand there, or are you going to try that on?"
The blonde Slytherin blinked as if she'd forgotten that the boy had ever been there.
"It's not mine," She admitted in an oddly subdued tone. "It's one of yours...Came with this note."
Harry didn't hesitate to examine the letter, which was written on an inconspicuous little note card in an unfamiliar looping script.
"Your father left this in my possession before he died." The Young Master bit back a frown and an inward wince. "It is time it was returned to you. Use it well. A very Merry Christmas to you...?"
Frowning, Harry held his hands out to receive the cloak. Daphne obliged, tossing it into his arms. They both visibly started in shock as his hands vanished into the soft material. Withdrawing his hands hastily away, Harry was relieved when his fingers came out still whole.
"Ooh, someone's going all out to spoil you," The normally taciturn ice princess murmured, expression locked in a daze. "I can't imagine who would just give away such a thing, but anyone with a proper magical upbringing would know that those things are extremely rare. Never imagined I'd be seeing an invisibility cloak up close, and so soon." Childish wonder flickered in her arctic blue eyes. "Wish I had one of those..."
Puzzlement flitted across Daphne's pallid features when the boy made no move to try the cloak on. Her intrigue turned to disbelief as her Housemate placed the cloak back into her hands.
Noting the bewildered widening of her eyes, Harry clarified, "I can guess what you're thinking, Greengrass, and before you jump to conclusions just listen; I am not simply handing this invisibility cloak to you. Susan and I might not have any real use for this sort of thing, but I feel it would be an insult and a pity if I just left something so precious to collect dust at the bottom my trunk. Since you seem to appreciate it so much, I'm willing to entrust my father's cloak to you. My only conditions are that you keep that safe and secret to yourself, and give it back should either Susan or I ask for it in a time of need. Having said that, I won't tell you how you should or shouldn't use it; I'll leave that up to you. Just try not to get yourself into trouble."
The Young Master had already collected his pile of presents when Daphne regained the ability to speak.
"Potter, this is...," She stopped, just catching herself. "Not to sound unthankful, but why...?"
"I get the feeling you've always dreamed about what it would be like to go wherever you pleased, unnoticed and undisturbed; invisible," He said, heading straight for the stairs. "Luckily for me, I've already had the chance to live that particular dream."
"Merry Christmas, Greengrass."
Slinging his new broom over his shoulder, Harry retired to enjoy his gifts in the comfort of his dorm.
A/N: What a hectic couple of months to end (and begin) a hectic year! So many headaches (literally; felt like a balloon was stuck in my head)...But thank you for your patience. Hope this was worth the wait! Believe me when I say I didn't intend to take FOREVAH to complete this chapter. I have had an incredible twenty complete versions of this particular chapter alone, and each one began and ended differently. Just because I was trying to decide how Harry should react to all the situations in this particular chapter. Between Versions 9.1 to 9.20 (and between the ones I lost to writer's block, faulty computer equipment/internet connection, and my worst enemy during the hottest of months, rolling blackouts), I felt this edit called to me best. It wasn't an easy choice; hope you like what I eventually chose.
It's late, but I might as well say it. Thank you all for sticking around, and have a happy late new year. ^-^
-Moontrimmer was mentioned somewhere in one of the Harry Potter books, or at least that's what I've been told. Said to be something mentioned by Madam Hooch, so obviously it isn't my original idea.
-The deal with the tiny snowflake (I think) is my own original idea; it won't be just a portent of what Harry will be able to do later on...
-I did not choose Hemlock necessarily because of it's fame as a plant poison; that didn't even occur to me at first, because there's another property to that particular type of wood.
-I guess I don't have to spell out for you what the most important developments in this chapter might mean for the future...For now, I'll leave that to the imagination of you. ^-^