'Twas a week before Christmas, and all through the house, only one creature was stirring, an eight year old boy, creeping furtively out from under a door in the staircase. He held in his hand a piece of paper, containing a list of Christmas presents he wished he could have. The boy had waited until his family was upstairs, before sneaking into the sitting room and tossing the paper into the lit fireplace. He stood, hands clasped, and watched as the paper slowly burned and flew up the chimney. A sudden noise coming from the top of the staircase sent the young boy scurrying back to the door underneath it. He fell asleep, dreaming of perhaps finally getting a Christmas present worth being excited about.
A woman, minding her own business, flying through the air with her hand holding tightly to her umbrella, and a carpetbag set firmly in the crook of her other arm, was startled to see a large piece of smouldering paper tumbling through the air, glowing in the darkness. Curiosity got the best of her, and she steered her way towards it. She reached out with her free hand, and quietly landed on top of the house from whence the paper had come. The edges were burned, but the contents of the letter were clearly legible:
Dear Father Christmas,
If you please, I would like a bicycle to ride, like my cousin Dudley. And please, make my family be kind to me.
The woman's heart went out to the boy who lived with his cousin, and seemed to not feel loved. She had always had a soft spot in her heart for children in need, and families who wanted fixing. "You've got that look in your eye again, Mary," her umbrella, with a carved wooden parrot's head, spoke to her as she frowned and weighed her options.
"Yes, yes, I know," Mary replied, with a sigh of resignation. "But I can't ignore a child in need…"
"Of course not," the umbrella said. "So we'll be popping by in the morning to offer our services?"
"Yes, I expect so," Mary replied. "But first, let us retire for the night. We have just enough time for a late supper at the Leaky Cauldron, then a refreshing night's sleep is in order."
Mary's kicked off the roof and her umbrella flew her back to London as soon as you can say "spit spot".
Mary seated herself at a booth in the Leaky Cauldron after ordering her supper, and sat back to relax by the fire. She was lost in thought about the poor suffering child who would soon be her next charge, when somebody sat down in the bench across from her. "Well, well, Mary Poppins…It's been a long time," a man's voice said in greeting.
Mary looked up, startled out of her thoughts, to see an old man, with a white beard and red conical hat looking at her. He had aged quite a bit since she had seen him last. Life sometimes had a way of doing that to people. "Albus Dumbledore," she said with a sad smile, "It's been too long."
Albus nodded his head. "So much has happened since you left us at Godric's Hollow…"
"For both of us, I dare say."
"You've had many more charges since then. And run-ins with the aurors, no doubt?"
"We don't see eye-to-eye on the use of magic amongst Muggles," Mary replied. "It's never had a negative consequence so far."
A waiter brought Mary's supper just then, so conversation ceased while they waited to be alone once again. She had taken a bite of her steak and kidney pie when Albus spoke up again. "So, I assume you are enjoying a night off from your latest charge?"
Mary nodded and carefully swallowed her bite before speaking. One never spoke with food in one's mouth. "Of a sort," she replied. "I have just come across a family in desperate need of my help and intend to introduce myself to them tomorrow." She fished the burned letter out of her carpetbag and handed it to Albus.
Albus read the burned letter to Father Christmas, and pursed his lips. He took a sharp breath and crumpled the letter in his hand. "You may not go to this boy," he declared firmly.
"I may not? And why not?" Mary asked, frowning and setting down her fork.
"I know this boy and I can assure you he is in perfect health and wellbeing. You needn't worry yourself over him," Albus said, even more firmly.
Mary folded her arms and narrowed her eyes. "And how do you know this boy? He lives in the Muggle world. In Surrey."
"You've clearly missed some important events during your time caring for Muggle children and running from the law," Albus replied. "You remember He Who Shall Not Be Named, no doubt?"
"Yes, of course I do." Mary furrowed her brow. What did that monster have to do with anything?
"Well, that boy, is The Boy Who Lived." Albus looked as though it should all be clear to her now.
"The Boy Who Lived? And now he lives in the Muggle World? In Surrey? With what sounds to be a family desperately in need of fixing?"
"And you are fine with him living with a family who is apparently cruel to him?" Mary's furrowed brow turned into a look of disbelief.
"I have my reasons for placing him there, and I'll thank you not to interfere," Albus said tersely.
Mary was quiet for nearly a full minute. Her arms remained folded and her eyes narrowed. Albus wouldn't meet her gaze. What was going on in that man's head? "I'm sure they are wonderful and terribly important reasons, as were all your reasons for your actions when you were younger, but I simply cannot sit back and allow a child to continue living in cruel conditions when I could help." Her need to protect children and care for them had always been her guiding thought in life. She wouldn't abandon it now.
"Mary, I absolutely forbid it!" Albus hissed. "You will ruin everything!"
"Surely whatever it is you need done, can be done without subjecting an innocent child to cruelty. Don't think that allowing somebody else to inflict the cruelty absolves you from it. You might as well be abusing that child yourself.!"
Albus flushed to hear such words aimed at him. He clenched his fist, the one containing the crumpled letter, and quickly rose to his feet. "I see we shall not be coming to an agreement on this issue," he replied. "We clearly have nothing else to say to one another, so I shall take my leave." With that, he began walking away, carefully taking his wand out from his sleeve as he went.
Mary was upset at the conversation and how badly it had gone. More so, she was disheartened to see to which lengths Albus would go to enact his plans. It was terribly disappointing. After a few moments, however, all her worries disappeared, and all she felt was hungry. She ate at her leisure, knowing a warm bed awaited her upstairs. It didn't matter if it was a late evening, for it wasn't as though she had any plans for the following day. Her parrot head umbrella blinked docilely at her as she ate. He too seemed very relaxed.
"What shall we do tomorrow, Mary?" he asked later as they walked up the stairs to her room.
"Oh, let us decide when the morning arrives," Mary said as she opened the door and set him down next to her bed. "I'm sure we'll find something interesting to do. We always do, after all."