A/N: I know it's late, but here's a Christmas Chapter! Lots of fluff and seasonal cheer :)
Also, I'm in a bit of a developmental period as an author, so don't be surprised if my writing style changes a bit(or a lot) throughout this book. This is the first book that I've actually dedicated myself to finishing or even have an ending in mind for. Some of you seem to like it, and I thank you for motivating me to continue writing. I appreciate you!
This chapter is dedicated to one of you in particular:
Harry woke up on Christmas morning to a chorus of voices screaming "MERRY CHRISTMAS HARRY/ HARRY-KUN!" at the top of their lungs. Harry's returning yell was a lot less cheery and embarrassingly high-pitched. He lurched up off of his bed to see all of his friends at the foot of his bed. Surprisingly, this included Sirius, Remus, Ron, and Hermione.
They were all wearing Christmas-themed costumes. The group ranged from Hermione(just short of nun level) to Kurumu(if she moved, you could see her panties). His godfather was embarrassingly closer to Kurumu's end of the spectrum, and Moka was, unfortunately, closer to Hermione's. Harry looked away from the vampire before he could ponder that thought any further.
Kurumu had an outfit in her hand and a lecherous smirk on her face. Harry could tell immediately that the outfit was his and he was not going to like it.
"Get up and get into your Christmas outfit, Harry-kun!" Kurumu chirped.
Definitely not gonna like it.
With a sigh, Harry accepted the articles of clothing, noting their small size as he left the room to change. After a lot of wiggling to get into the jeans and straining to stretch his arms through the tight shirt, Harry managed to get into his new clothes. They were… better than he'd expected.
The shirt was skin tight and didn't come all the way down to his waistline. It looked like Santa's coat, but it had nowhere near as much coverage. The jeans were blood red and low-riding. They were also really tight in the back. The whole outfit was topped off with a regular floppy Santa hat.
Overall, Harry looked like Santa's stripper cousin. He really wished Kurumu could've laid off of the sexual antics with his family visiting. Why he expected anything else was beyond him. With a deep sigh, Harry opened the door to his room.
As he'd expected, Yukari was discussing magical theory with Hermione with stars in her eyes. The younger witch had clearly found a new idol. Hermione didn't seem to mind finally having a witch to match her intellect.
Moka and Kurumu were pestering Ron for stories of "little Harry." Ron tried to reconcile himself with the fact that these hot girls were talking to him and more unbelievably that they were talking to him because they were Harry's friends. Mizore stood nearly invisible behind Ron until she decided to pipe up with a question of her own, nearly giving Ron a heart attack.
Sirius and Remus were talking about canine stuff with Gin who seemed pretty happy to hang out with the two older men and get stories of baby Harry. Harry could tell that he would not live down whatever information they were giving him.
Hermione looked absolutely scandalized when she caught sight of Harry. Gin and Kurumu looked absolutely giddy- like two pervs in a strip club. Mizore eyed him predatorily. Moka blushed, sneaking peeks at him while pretending to look elsewhere. Ron laughed at him, and Remus looked embarrassed for him. Sirius had the gall to wolf whistle mockingly. Harry was mortified.
He glared at Ron as the redhead opened his mouth. "Not. A. Word."
He closed his mouth, but the snarky smirk on his face remained.
"Ya-hoo hoo! Do you like the outfit I made you, Harry-kun?"
"I do," Mizore spoke from behind Harry.
Harry jumped and whirled around. How had she even gotten there?
"You should let your girlfriend dress you more often, Harry!" Ron teased
"Wh- she's not-"
Kurumu slapped a hand over Harry's mouth and smiled proudly at Ron.
"He really should! In fact, I've got another outfit I'd like you to try after the party, dear~"
Judging by the lecherous smirk on her face, Harry could judge that this "outfit" showed a lot more skin than the Santa one. Before she could do anything else(most likely along the lines of "friendly suffocation"), her entire lower body was encased in ice.
"He's not your boyfriend, Tits. He's mine," Mizore stated blandly.
The snow woman ignored Kurumu's outraged cries and latched onto Harry, sliding her hand over his exposed abdomen. Harry shivered at the cold touch.
"No way! If anyone's Harry-kun's girlfriend, it's me!" Moka protested.
She shoved Mizore off of Harry and nuzzled his neck possessively. Her rosary glowed angrily. Somehow, Harry knew Inner Moka would murder him if he ever mentioned the show of emotion to her.
Kurumu managed to break out of Mizore's ice. The three girls were immediately at each others' throats. Harry attempted to calm them but was given a trifold scathing glare for his attempt that could freeze hell. Women were terrifying.
Harry slowly inched away from the fight and threw desperate looks to Gin for the werewolf to try his hand at breaking up the fighting females before they managed to tear up his room. With a slightly put-upon look, Gin stood up from his comfy seat next to Sirius and made his way over. Harry sighed, relieved.
Of course, nothing could go the way he wanted. That was absurd. Instead of going to the quarreling girls, Gin stopped beside Harry. Harry barely had time to shoot him a questioning look. The wolf lifted Harry bridal style and smirked victoriously at the trio.
"If he's gonna be anyone's boyfriend, he'll be mine."
By now, Harry's face was doing a wonderful impression of a tomato. Sirius, ever the arse, was giving Harry a thumbs up and wiggling his brows. Hermione looked like she'd swallowed a lemon or three. Ron looked at him like he was a god. Remus seemed content to just ignore the whole situation.
Damn, I was hoping he'd help.
"Gin, put me down!"
Gin pouted. "Whatever happened to Gin-senpai? You should have more respect for your upperclassman."
Harry was about to tell Gin just where he could shove his respect, but Hermione's voice interrupted.
"Sirius, why didn't you tell us Harry had a- a harem last floo call?!"
Though, with the handsome upperclassman holding him bridal style and everyone fighting over who Harry's girlfriend/boyfriend is… he can see how it might look a bit like a harem. Just a bit. It wasn't.
Hermione didn't seem too convinced. Neither did Ron or Sirius or anyone else in the room. Harry sputtered, trying desperately to assure them that no one was forming any harems and he was absolutely certain that if he were in a harem he'd be the first to notice. Gin gave him a flat look that said you're a complete idiot please shut up before everyone else figures that out. Harry wisely shut up.
Harry managed to squirm his way out of Gin's arms, but not without an "accidental" ass grab from Gin. Harry sent a stinging hex at the offending hand and sent him a look that dared him to complain about it. Gin wisely kept his mouth shut.
Sirius grinned proudly at his godson. "Like bees to honey, just like your Uncle Padfoot."
"Yeah, but I'm pretty sure Harry's not shagging all of them," Remus said, then added, "Probably."
Harry looked at Remus, betrayed. "No! There is no shagging going on."
"Unfortunately," Kurumu lamented.
Gin and Mizore nodded their agreement. Moka blushed.
"Can we please stop talking about Harry shagging his friends," Hermione begged with a cringe.
"Yes! Um, why don't we go to Grimmauld Place and eat! Then we can open presents!" Moka suggested, eager to get off the topic.
Harry had almost forgotten that they were spending Christmas weekend with Sirius. The group made their way through the floo in Harry's room one by one, the wizards helping the others with the process. Harry, miraculously, managed to get through without tripping. He was getting much better at magical travel.
Grimmauld Place was more vibrant than Harry had ever seen it. The portrait of Sirius's mum was covered with a heavy black curtain that was spelled with the strongest silencing charms Sirius could manage. Kreacher had been ordered to stay upstairs and away from people for the holiday. Harry doubted that he was too upset about it.
The old halls were fully decked with holly, and there was a large Christmas tree in the corner of the living room. There were Christmas lights all around. The air smelled of cinnamon and chestnut. In the kitchen, there was a full table of breakfast.
Sirius had gone all out to make Grimmauld Place feel welcoming. Harry wouldn't mention to him that his monster friends who felt at home in graveyards would've definitely loved the place even if he'd left it alone.
Breakfast was delicious. It was also peaceful, which Harry felt was a nice change. His friends spoke amicably. Kurumu, Yukari, and Mizore had been cleverly seated far away from each other to prevent any fighting. Harry sat between Sirius and Hermione to avoid any fighting on the basis of "picking favorites."
Harry had to admit, as annoying as it was, he'd never thought anyone would ever want to be around him that badly before. It was honestly a bit worrying that they fought over him, though. He cared about all of his friends, and no matter how fiercely he protested it, he was attracted to all of them. He just wouldn't- couldn't- choose between them. No matter who he chose, the others would be hurt, so he just refused the attraction entirely.
Deep down, it filled him with a sense of relief that none of them ditched him even if he didn't give them what they clearly wanted. That, and none of them had ever tried to force his decision. He really didn't think he deserved friends like them, romantic interests or not. They were all so talented and beautiful and he was just… Harry.
Guess I'll just have to get better then. No matter what, I'll protect them. And maybe one day, I'll be good enough to deserve their company.
Harry finished his breakfast around the same time as everyone else. When everyone was ready, they all migrated to the living room to exchange gifts.
Because of the size of the group, they decided to take turns. Moka went first. She gave their friends their gifts first. Surprisingly, she'd also gotten Harry's family presents.
She gave Hermione a pair of shoes from her and Yukari, who had charmed them to fit any size. She bought Ron a go board. Harry had let slip that he liked chess, and Moka thought go was an appropriate eastern equivalent.
For Remus, Moka had gotten a box of tea meant to calm nerves. She gave Sirius a muggle rock album. Apparently, Remus had mentioned he had a fondness for a band called Queen on one of his floo calls with Harry. Harry hadn't even remembered.
Moka was excited to give Harry his present, which turned out to be presents. They were two plants. One was a softly glowing blue plant while the other was tiny and purple.
They looked a lot like... "Are these the nogareru and hakkā plants?"
Moka blushed lightly. "I saw your notes a while back, and you seemed really interested in them."
Harry beamed at the vampiress. "Thank you, I'll make sure to fill you in on all of my experiments." Because it turned out that Potions is infinitely easier without an old grumpy bat hanging over your shoulder waiting for a single failure.
Next was Gin, who approached Harry with a shit-eating grin. Harry immediately knew that he was in for a prank gift. The wolf pulled a long parcel from behind his back, and Harry hoped for all he's worth that it was not a giant dildo because he would definitely die if it was. Harry eyed Gin's expression with suspicion as he opened the present very slow.
He peeked into the box, not daring to reveal whatever was inside without seeing it first. Thankfully, it was not, in fact, a dildo. It was a broomstick. Not a real(magical) broomstick of course. It was a regular muggle Halloween prop that Gin had carved Christmas trees and witch's hats into. The wood was still pretty sturdy, and if he wanted to, Harry could figure out how to spell it to fly. Maybe he would.
"Cute. I got you something similar."
Now Gin looked suspicious. "An' what's that?"
Harry smirked. "You'll just have to wait until it's my turn. Sit, boy."
Gin looked like he wanted to protest, but the fight would've drawn out the time until he could see his gift. With an indignant huff, the werewolf reclaimed his spot.
Kurumu was next. She gave her friends a few gag gifts of her own. She gifted Moka with a clove of garlic and Yukari with socks to stuff her bra. She got Gin a dog bone and Mizore a plush snowman.
She happily settled in Harry's lap to give him her present. She'd baked him a plate of cookies. This was far from the first time Kurumu had baked for him, but this plate was amazing. The moment the bite of cookie had hit his tongue, Harry was shoveling the rest of it into his mouth. They were so sweet and soft. It was like eating the food form of happiness.
"Holy- Merlin, what type of potion did you put in these, Kurumu?"
The succubus smirked proudly. "None. That's all me, hon. I put all my love into those cookies."
She gracefully removed herself from Harry's lap and sashayed back to her spot with a victorious smirk.
Hermione's turn was next.
Next to Harry, Yukari whispered into his ear. "She's so freaking cool. Why didn't you introduce us earlier?"
"I didn't think the world could handle it," he whispered back.
"That's no fair," Yukari whined. "You know how much I've wanted to make more witch friends."
"Well, now you've got one. Please try not to crumble the Academy with whatever you two make together."
Yukari smirked deviously. "No promises."
Hermione made her way around the circle to Harry and handed him her present. It was a stack of books. He'd kind of expected that. What he hadn't expected was the type of books.
"The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe", "Pride and Prejudice", "The Giver".
They were all muggle books. Ever since he'd met her, Hermione had fully invested herself in the Wizarding World. She never really talked about her muggle roots aside from a few offhand mentions. She was giving Harry a piece of herself that she had yet to share. A soft smile crept onto Harry's face as he read the descriptions on the well-loved book jackets.
"Before I knew that I was a witch, these books were my magic. I've read all of them at least three times. But when I started at Hogwarts, I had something even more amazing to devote my attention to. Since I haven't read them for so long, I thought you would enjoy them. Maybe you could use a little muggle magic."
Harry gave her a heartfelt thank you and a vow to keep them in good condition. He set them carefully behind him so he wouldn't lean on them. After Hermione sat down, Mizore was up.
The yuki-onna wasted no time handing Harry his present. She watched him unwrap it with an intense stare. Harry was pretty sure that was Mizore's way of showing excitement. The gift was a big fur coat. Mizore gestured for him to try it on.
Harry put on the coat. It was like wearing a furnace. Harry was sweating almost immediately. Before he could take it off again, Mizore slid into his space and embraced him. Her icy skin evened out the heat of the coat.
"I noticed that you get cold really quickly, but you're too nice to make me go away. Now I can touch you just as much as the others."
"Thank you, Mizore." Harry smiled down at the yuki-onna and hugged her back for a moment before slowly pulling away.
Mizore looked bummed at the separation, but she allowed it for today. Harry slid the coat off almost immediately after she let go. Without her cold skin, the coat was way too warm to be worn. Harry folded it and set it aside.
Yukari didn't have to move to get to Harry, so she gave him his present first. It was a pretty watch made of silver, but that wasn't its most important feature. Instead of hours, there were initials on the clock's face. Harry recognized them almost immediately. RL, YS, HG, MA, RW, GM, SB, KK, MS. They were the initials of his friends and family(the ones they'd met, anyway). This was a smaller version of the Weasley family clock. The hands said things like "injured", "badly injured", "sad", "scared", and "dead".
The last one sent a shiver down Harry's spine. As long as he was around, he'd never let the watch strike "dead" for anyone.
"I made it myself! You told me about it once when we were studying magical items, and I just knew I had to make one for you. All it took was a little blood from everybody. Now you won't have to worry about us when you're away," she chirped.
Harry smiled at the pride in her voice. "Thank you. Good job, Yukari. This is some complicated spellwork. I'm proud of you."
Yukari grinned at him, wide. It was really all she'd wanted to hear. No one appreciates a genius after a while. People get used to success. Praise stops coming because soon, success is what's expected. Harry always praised her for accomplishments, even if they were small. She was proud to call him a friend, even if she knew, deep down, that he would never like her like he did the others.
Yukari skipped away to give out more presents, pleased with Harry's acknowledgment. Harry looked around the circle at everyone. It was frankly amazing that both groups of friends managed to mix so well when they could hardly get along with each other on a normal day. Hermione and Ron were always bickering, and the girls always had something to fuss about. A little peace every now and then was appreciated.
Sirius was next. He gave Remus a box, telling him to open it later with a devious smirk. Harry… really didn't want to know. After that, Sirius sat down across from his godson and gave him his gift: a mirror.
Seeing his confusion, Sirius explained. "It's a two-way mirror. You use it to communicate. James and I used them when we were in separate detentions." Sirius smiled wistfully.
Sirius revealed his own mirror and looked into it. In Harry's mirror, he could see Sirius's face.
"Wow," Harry said. He held the mirror almost reverently. This had belonged to his father. He could feel the energy, the joyful memories attached to the mirror like a second skin. He could hear his father's laugh in the glass. The magic in the mirror was singing to him. He would cherish it, like he was sure the man who owned it did. Like Harry knew he'd cherish him if he'd had the chance.
"I only wish I'd given it to you before you left the first time."
Harry smiled, comforting. "If you had, I wouldn't have figured out a way to come back. We wouldn't all be having Christmas together. Thanks, Sirius."
Sirius accepted the reassurance, smiling brightly at his almost grown godson. This boy already in a harem and was getting targeted by dark lords. Damn, even James had waited until after Hogwarts to fight The Man. It was hard to look at this boy, who Sirius could still remember in nappies, and see the man that would save their way of life. But, he thought, I couldn't imagine a better man for the job.
Remus joined them shortly, having given his other gifts already. The werewolf sat down next to Sirius, leaning into him a bit. He handed Harry a thick leather-bound book. It was titled, All About Animagi by Trevor Transoma.
Why is the Wizarding World so obsessed with alliteration?
The pages were wrinkled, and there were a few stains on them. The bindings were intact but worn. A few pages were dog eared. The book had seen some heavy use over the years.
"This is the book that your father and Padfoot used to become animagi. We thought it would be a useful skill to have going forward." The in the war and in that colosseum you call a school were unspoken but clearly heard.
"Thanks, Uncle Moony. I have a gift for you too."
Remus carefully opened his gift, a book on eastern werewolves. When Harry saw that Gin could control his Shift at any time, even the full moon, he'd done a bit of research. It turned out that the ability was the product of a ritual.
Legend had it that the ritual was originally created by a powerful wizard who fell in love with a werewolf. He couldn't stand to see his husband in pain from his transformations, so he found a way to solve his furry little problem.
Whether or not the story was historically correct was unknown. The original ritual was also lost to time, but a modern version had been created a few years back. In the book, the author had written a detailed guide for performing the new ritual.
With it, Remus might not be able to instantly gain control of his inner wolf, but he would have the ability to. Knowing Remus, that was all he'd need. Harry had placed a bookmark on the page with the ritual and instructed Remus to read the book as soon as he could.
Remus, not yet knowing the value of the book in his hands, was overwhelmed with joy that Harry had gotten him a present. He honestly would've been satisfied with a "World's Most Okay Teacher" mug. If it was from Harry, he would treasure it.
Deep inside, Remus's inner Wolf was wagging its tail happily. His Pup called him a Family Name and gave him a present and introduced him to his new Pack! He longed to Scent the Pup, but the Man resisted. He longed to Howl, but the Man would not let him. The Wolf pawed at his mind, but like he always did, the Man pushed him further down. The Wolf longed for freedom.
Little did he know, he would soon have it.
"I have a gift for you too, Sirius. Well, It's kind of for both of you, I guess."
Harry handed Sirius a small picture. It was a little cottage, hidden away in a curtain of foliage.
"Guess where that is."
Sirius pursed his lips in thought. "Uhh. The woods."
Harry gave him a flat look. Sirius returned it with an unashamed smile.
"You're lucky you're pretty, Sirius. It's in the forest of the Academy. This way you don't have to travel back and forth from Grimmauld Place, and you don't have to live with the other teachers, either. Ms. Nekonome says the teachers' quarters are pretty small, and I figured you want Remus there with you."
Sirius's usual cocky grin softened out into an adoring smile. "Thank you, Pup."
Sirius pulled his godson into a hug and Remus beside him. The two semi-canine(and therefore tactile) men reveled in the contact with their Pup and each other. Their tiny Pack was so often split up. They rarely got to bask in the scent of family.
Remus indulged his Wolf just a bit, brushing his wrist over the back of Harry's neck. The only ones who would really notice the older werewolf's scent were Harry's new Pack. Somehow, Remus doubted that any of them would be opposed to the additional protection that his scent provided.
After a while, the older wizards released Harry to give out the rest of his presents. Harry hung back for a moment, staying even as they let go so they knew that he didn't mind the show of affection. He made a mental note to visit them in their cabin often.
Harry looked at the first present in his hand. Kurumu. Harry sought out the succubus, finally finding her in the kitchen. She was snacking on some of the pastries in the cupboard and teasing Yukari. The young witch was trying to get at some of the cookies in Kurumu's hand, but she was holding them high over Yukari's head. When Kurumu saw Harry nearing, she allowed Yukari to snatch the cookies from her.
Harry stopped Yukari before she could walk out. "Hey, I've got a gift for you."
Harry watched as Yukari opened her gift: a handwritten spellbook. It had all the spells that Harry had learned and all the tips he'd picked up to learn them quicker. It had taken Harry a while to organize it, but it was worth it for the look on Yukari's face as she flipped through her present.
Yukari's eyes were alight with wonder. She hugged the book to her chest, and for a moment, she looked exactly like the child she was. She bounced on the tips of her heels and allowed a glass-breaking squeal to escape her in her excitement.
"Thank you thank you thank you!" she squeaked.
She launched her small frame at Harry, almost managing to knock him off balance before he righted himself and squeezed the young witch. Harry smiled affectionately down at the little girl, his sister in all but blood. Even with her awkward crush on him and Moka(which he prayed every day she'd outgrow), she was the most lovable little devil alive.
Yukari released Harry and ran out of the kitchen, presumably to show her present off to Moka and Hermione.
Harry turned back to Kurumu. He caught her staring after Yukari with a fond smile. She immediately dropped it when she saw Harry looking, but it was too little too late. She'd been caught. Harry mercifully refrained from commenting, but his smirk said everything he didn't. Kurumu glared in warning. Harry gave her a thoroughly unconvincing innocent look.
"Merry Christmas, Kurumu."
Harry handed her two books. Both were recipe books, but one was from Europe and the other was Asian. There was a vast array of dishes from pastries to dinners. Kurumu took great pride in her culinary skills. Harry thought she'd appreciate the new challenge. He'd apparently thought right.
Kurumu beamed at him, bright as the sun. The honest emotion tugged at Harry's heart. Kurumu, even if she didn't show it, always kept a tight hold on what she allowed everyone else to see. Her genuine smiles were rare. Harry was honored that they were usually reserved for him.
Before he could brace himself, Harry had an armful of succubus. She thankfully refrained from suffocating him this time, but she planted a big kiss on his cheek. Harry sputtered, surprised. Kurumu merely pointed above them with a devilish grin. Harry looked up to see a sprig of mistletoe.
"Well played," Harry remarked.
Kurumu released Harry from her hold. "Always." Her cocky smirk was back, but it was softer, kinder than usual.
Kurumu allowed Harry to go and give out the rest of his presents, but she knew she'd have more time with him. No matter how exhausted or busy, Harry always made time for them. She had no reason to believe that he would do any differently today. Kurumu might be jealous in nature, but she knew, even with all the quarreling she did with the others, that she could trust Harry.
Kurumu picked out a pastry in one of her new recipe books and began to assemble the ingredients. By the time she was finished, she would have Harry in her arms once again, and she'd be surrounded by friends. Today, just for today, she'd allow them to see that she cared for them too.
Harry went back to the tree and collected another pile of gifts. He found Gin next. The werewolf was lounging on the couch, watching their friends as they cheerfully celebrated the holiday with tales and egg nog. Gin's content expression didn't change, but Harry could see the excitement in his eyes as he approached.
Harry handed Gin his gift and watched as the wolf opened it with just as much suspicion as Harry had. The gift was a bone-shaped dog collar with "Gin-senpai" written on a silver dog bone. On the back of it was, "Harry Potter's pet wolf."
"Oh, is that a smile? Come to think of it, you do seem to love being called Gin-senpai… What's up with that anyway? You have a thing for younger men?" Harry teased.
Gin tried to play vaguely amused, but the light blush on his cheeks gave him away. Harry cheered internally at the chance to finally make the perverted werewolf embarrassed.
"Oooo, is that a blush I see? What was it then, younger men, the dog collar, or that the back of the bone that says you're mine?"
Gin's blush grew with every accusation, and Harry was absolutely reveling in it. Maybe you could teach an old dog new tricks. Shame was something Harry hadn't ever seen on Gin's face, but he wore it well. Very rarely would Harry put "Gin" and "innocent" in the same paragraph with each other unless "not" was somewhere in between, but that was how he looked at the moment.
Harry decided to push his luck, which never went well for him. "It's the claiming then, is it? Does that mean Gin-senpai is a sub?"
Gin growled low in his throat and seized Harry by his shirt. Well, so much for pushing his luck. Harry had just gone and pushed it over a cliff.
Gin spoke right beside Harry's ear, voice pitched low and throaty in a way Harry hadn't heard from him before. "You keep teasin' me like this, Potter, an' I'm gonna show how dominant I can be."
It was spoken like a threat. Harry's breath caught in his throat, and his heart rate picked up, but he wasn't afraid. He wished he were. Afraid would be better than whatever weird feeling was curled up in Harry's gut at the moment. Anticipation? Desire? Whatever it was, Harry knew it was dangerous. Just like his feelings for the others, Harry forced this- whatever it was- down and put some distance between him and Gin.
"Yup, got it. No more teasing. Okay." Harry's voice was higher than usual, airy from his sudden inability to breathe. Before Gin could comment on the reaction, Harry shoved another present into his hands. "I didn't just get you a gag gift, so here."
Harry wanted to retreat while Gin was distracted with his real present, but the werewolf was unwilling to let him escape so easily. Instead, he handed him a second present of his own, not commenting on the fact that he'd been waiting until now to give it to him. They both opened their presents at the same time.
Harry's gift was a photo album, and Gin's was a magical camera.
The photo album had pictures of everyone in the Newspaper Club. Some were individual pictures, and others were group shots. Harry only remembered a few of them. The rest were mostly off-guard photos. Gin seemed to favor unaware subjects… well, that explained a lot.
The camera Harry had given Gin was a lot like a polaroid. It printed photos instantly. Gin took his first picture of Harry who waved at the camera despite Gin's confusion. When the picture came out, the little Harry in the picture waved up at them. Gin's jaw dropped.
"Holy shit, you got me a wizard camera! Thanks, Harry, this thing's amazing!"
All of the earlier tension faded as Gin darted around the room taking pictures of just about everything that moved. Harry chuckled at his club leader as he ran around like a kid in a candy store. Innocence. Christmas really did bring out the best in people.
Harry stashed the album and the rest of his gifts in his room upstairs. This way, none of them were at risk of getting stomped on or tripped over.
The next present in Harry's slowly shrinking pile was Mizore's. It was a little tricky to find her. Grimmauld Place was full of shadows and nooks to hide in. In the end, he didn't find her at all. She found him.
"You look lost, Harry-kun. I thought this was your house." Mizore's voice came from directly behind him.
Harry just barely managed not to jump but only because he was expecting a scare sometime during the search. This was Mizore, after all. Harry spun around to find Mizore hiding behind the Christmas tree. Harry smiled. She may have been hiding, but she was hiding near everyone else. Even though he'd known Mizore the shortest amount of time out of everyone, he noted the progress.
Harry handed Mizore her gift and watched anxiously as she opened it. He hadn't known her very long, so he'd taken the safe route of presents and got her a pack of lollipops.
They were exotic flavors(which he hadn't known existed in lollipops until he'd started his search for Mizore's gift), and Harry had cast a freezing charm on them, but he didn't know if she wanted something different.
Mizore took one of the lollipops out and replaced her own with it. Although her expression didn't change much, her eyes lit up the slightest bit. Harry took it as a good sign.
"Thank you," Mizore said, almost whispering.
She stepped forward and hugged Harry around his waist. Without the coat, it was freezing, but Harry held her back until he was visibly shivering. Mizore was a lonely person, even with all her new friends, and if Harry could ease that loneliness even a bit, a little chill was not going to stop him. She was one of his friends now. Weird, forcefully subdued crushes be damned, Harry would do anything to help his friends.
Mizore noticed Harry's shivering and reluctantly let go of him. Even in his affection, Harry was self-sacrificing. Mizore wanted to protect him. Her mother would tell her to freeze him solid, keep him hidden away from the dangers of the outside world. Hell, she kind of wanted to freeze him solid sometimes, but he would never accept that sort of life.
Harry was meant to be free. He may protest, but Mizore could see the fire in his eyes. He lived for the struggle, for the fights that punctuated their lives at Youkai Academy. He was, quite literally, born for it. Who was she to deny her future husband his life's calling? All she could do was make sure that his self-sacrificing loyalty would never be used against him for her sake.
Harry looked at the four remaining presents in his hands. He hooked his arm with Mizore's and brought her closer to the main group of people who had migrated to the kitchen some time while he had been talking to her. He didn't force her inside, but he did suggest that she try to socialize just a bit before going in to find his next recipients.
First, he found Ron and Hermione at the end of the table. Hermione was telling Ron something while he shoveled food into his mouth, giving little nods every now and then. Harry plopped down next to Hermione, across from Ron. Christmas was exhausting. He'd been on his feet all morning. Harry handed Hermione her presents: a book on Youkai species and a Japanese magic book.
The latter was mostly rituals and potions. Hermione had always had more interest in those subjects than Harry. As for the former, Hermione had a bit of a fixation on knowing everything about all possible threats, so she'd appreciate the monster encyclopedia.
Hermione thumbed through the pages of both books eagerly, hungry for new knowledge. "Thank you, Harry."
Hermione chose a book and stuck her head into it, an effective dismissal. Harry turned to Ron.
"Your present isn't here…" Harry took a deep breath, "because I'm giving you Hedwig."
Ron choked on his mouthful of Christmas ham. Hermione patted his back sympathetically and shot an unhappy look at Harry.
"You can't just spring that on him while he's got enough food in his mouth to choke a shark, Harry," Hermione scolded lightly.
Ron eventually composed himself, gulping down half a glass of water to clear his throat before giving Harry an incredulous look. "You're giving me Hedwig?"
Harry scratched the back of his neck, suddenly nervous. "Yeah. I mean, you've been taking care of her all this time, and I think Errol's flying days are over, don't you?"
Ron stared at him for a moment more, then blinked rapidly and looked away, clearing his throat once more. "Uh, yeah. I just. I mean, wow. Thanks, mate."
Harry smiled and moved around the table to hook an arm around his best friend's neck. "Great. Take good care of her, and… could you bring her around to visit next time you get a chance to come over?"
Ron nodded, completely serious. "I will, promise."
Harry sighed, relieved. "Alright, then."
Harry clapped a hand on Ron's shoulder and left to deliver his last two gifts. Luckily, there was only one person left. Moka.
Moka was buzzing around between the different mini-circles that had formed between the two groups. When she saw Harry watching her from the doorway of the kitchen, she quickly excused herself. She had yet to have a real conversation with Harry all day.
Harry slipped into the living room when he saw Moka approaching. He sat on one of the couches nearby. Moka left the kitchen shortly after and sat down beside him. Harry handed her the first of two presents in his hand.
The first gift was a box of red candies. Moka knew their scent the moment she opened the box. The candies were made with Harry's blood. There had to be at least half a pint's worth in the box. The smell was practically hypnotizing.
Moka popped one of the candies into her mouth. They were gummies with a pocket of pure blood in the center. The candy was mostly blood, but there was some sugar in it too. Nothing would ever be better than getting Harry's blood right from the source, but this was a good runner up.
Harry's blood was like a drug to her, the basilisk blood inside was balanced by the phoenix tears, giving it an almost spicy flavor. That spice coupled with the sweetness in the candy was absolutely magnificent.
"These are so yummy!" Moka declared.
Harry smiled, proud of his work. "Thanks, I made them myself… with myself. I'm glad you like them."
Moka nodded enthusiastically and popped about three more into her mouth.
"I got you one more present." Harry handed Moka a smaller box.
The vampiress stared at the box. It was a jewelry box. For just a moment, she entertained the thought that it was a ring. She knew better, but her heart fluttered anyway as she opened her present.
As expected, it wasn't a ring. It was a bracelet with a thin chain and a silver locket. Moka opened the locket slowly. Inside were two pictures.
On one side, there was a picture of the entire Newspaper Club. It was their first club picture. Gin was grinning at the camera. Kurumu was making faces at Yukari. Harry was trying to corral everyone into behaving. Mizore was lurking behind Yukari, just in sight. Moka was staring at all of her friends, a small, happy smile on her lips.
On the other side, there was a picture of just Harry and Moka. Harry gave the camera his biggest smile. He had his arm wrapped around Moka's shoulder. Moka had a small, confused smile. Harry had just randomly asked to take a picture with her one day. She hadn't known that it was for a locket.
Harry helped Moka put on the bracelet, watching her face for a reaction. Her brows slowly scrunched up, and the corner of her lip started to tremble lightly. Harry's heart skipped a beat, anxiety starting to seep into him. Was the gift not good enough? Had he done something wrong?
"Hey, it's alright. I- I can get you something else. What's wrong-? Oof!"
Moka suddenly turned and leaped at him. Harry caught her before he really saw her move. The force of it made him fall off the couch. Moka was squeezing him tightly around his midsection. Her face was planted on his chest. Harry didn't know how to react.
Moka lifted her head from his chest. A small line of tears was falling from her eye, but there was a big smile on her face.
"You're so dumb sometimes, Harry-kun. I love it."
Moka planted her face back into his chest, content to stay where she was for a little while longer. Harry wasn't going to tell her to move. He could still breathe, and she was crying. If this was how she was going to handle it, far be it from Harry to intervene. Instead, Harry rubbed small circles in her back, hoping to calm her down.
Someone clearing their throat from behind them made Harry look up from the small form in his arms. Moka didn't lift her head, but her shoulders tensed slightly.
Kurumu was looking down at them, a disapproving tilt on her lips and a tick mark over her brow. "So you thought you could just sneak off with Harry-kun on Christmas, right before dinner, and get away with it?!"
Moka finally lifted her head, pouting. "I didn't sneak away! Harry-kun was giving me my present."
Kurumu lifted a brow, unimpressed. "Then why are you still lying on him?"
Moka blushed and rolled off of Harry. "Thank you for your gifts, Harry-kun," Moka said, still flushed.
Kurumu rolled her eyes at the pair. "Dinner's ready. Get in the kitchen, you two."
Kurumu watched Harry walk into the kitchen and turned back to Moka. She glared at her rival and gave her an "I'm watching you" gesture before turning on her heel and following Harry in.
Most of the food at the table had been prepared by Kreacher beforehand, but Harry noticed a few dishes from the recipe book he'd given Kurumu among the spread. How she'd managed to make them so well on her first try was beyond him.
Everyone was seated already, leaving Harry with only one seat between Kurumu and Moka.
Harry took his seat and waited for everyone to serve themselves before putting food on his own plate. Kurumu directed him towards the foods she'd made. In the end, Harry had more food than he'd ever be able to finish on his own.
"- and then the swim club captain transformed!" Yukari's animated retelling came from the other end of the table. "We were all like "Oh no! She's gonna kill us!" and the recruits were all "Gaaah, I'm dying!" And then Harry came in and he was all "pew pew pew!" but all the dying guys were in the way so he couldn't get all the mermaids!
"-the suicidal idiot," Kurumu interrupts, glaring at Harry who was carefully avoiding eye contact.
Yukari nodded in agreement. "Yeah, Harry follows us into the pool to save the dying guys."
Harry could feel the weight of the glare he was receiving from Hermione. He carefully kept his eyes on his food.
"Did he now," Hermione said, tone flat.
A violent shiver went down Harry's spine. Shut up, Yukari. Stop talking. Please stop talking.
"Yeah! And then the mermaids all surrounded him cuz he smells so human."
Stop talking, Yukari. Please, I will get you all of the spell books and candy. Just. Stop. Talking.
"So then he launches Kurumu and me out of the water to keep us safe and the mermaids all start having an all you can eat Harry buffet, but then Moka-chan gets there!"
Harry had to fight off the urge to use his plate as a shield from the burning glare he was being subjected to.
"Moka can't go into water 'cause it's pure, and it weakens her. But she saw Harry-kun getting all murdered and everything, so she dived in to save him!"
Harry hunched his shoulders, trying to hide. He risked a peek at the other end of the table and immediately regretted it. Harry gulped. If looks could kill, he'd be dead, buried, and already in hell.
"Harry James Potter, I leave you alone for just a few months and you go and almost get yourself killed?!" Hermione finally hissed.
"Erm, well, in my defense… I almost got myself killed every couple of months at Hogwarts too."
Hermione raised a brow, her lips set in a tight scowl. "You are so lucky these girls were there. Honestly, you ought to wear a hazard badge on you or something. "Please look after me, or I'll go off and die.""
Harry opened his mouth to protest, but Hermione, as she tended to be, was right. Instead, he lowered his head once again and pouted.
"Oh, ease off, Hermione. It's not like he can help it. Most of the time, trouble just finds him, no help needed," Ron intervened.
Harry looked up at his best friend with a grateful smile.
"I mean, it doesn't really help that he can be really stupid sometimes…"
"Hey! I thought you were on my side!"
"There are no sides," Ron countered.
"You are a dirty traitor."
"Can't be a traitor if me and Hermione were friends too."
"Aha! So you admit you're on her side, traitor!"
Remus watched the exchange, amused by the familiar scene. It was all too easy to replace the kitchen with the Great Hall and the Golden Trio with the Marauders. They had had similar interactions. James, so much like his son, was often cowed by Remus's "mother henning" with Sirius being accused of picking sides and fiercely denying it.
Life tended to repeat itself, every generation acting exactly like the one before just with new trends and technologies. The whole thing was just one big game. The players changed, but the gameplay remained the same.
Seeing the Pup and his friends now, maybe that wasn't so bad.
The petty argument ended in a showy huff and crossed arms. The three managed to look away for about three seconds before they all burst into laughter. Dinner ended on a happy note.
Everyone assembled in the living room. They set out a layer of pillows and blankets on the floor and cuddled up in front of the fire.
Hermione sat with her back to the fire with Ron beside her. Sirius and Remus were huddled together with their backs to the tree.
On Harry's left, Gin leaned into him slightly, naturally tactile due to his werewolf nature. Yukari was already fast asleep on his right thigh. Moka rested her head on his shoulder, and Kurumu sprawled across everyone's legs. Mizore sprawled on the couch above them and ran cold fingers through Harry's hair.
Everyone had a plate of cookies- unfortunately not Kurumu's- and a glass of milk. They were exchanging happy childhood Christmas stories. Harry only had one pre-Hogwarts good Christmas to tell about.
"Well, there was this one time that the Dursleys went on vacation in the Bahamas…" Harry started.
Kurumu perked up. "Wow. What were the Bahamas like? I've always wanted to go. The sands, the ocean, the bikini attire..." she trailed off.
"Well, I wouldn't know. I stayed behind with Mrs. Figg."
Kurumu's face dropped. She had been told about the horrendous human family that had raised her Destined One, but she hadn't known they were awful enough to leave him behind out of spite.
"At first it kind of sucked because Mrs. Figg's house smells and she has a whole bunch of cats. But then her nephew came over for Christmas break. His name was Ryan. He was a few years older than me, but he said he had two younger brothers, so he was pretty good with kids." Harry recalled the older boy with kind eyes and boundless energy.
"He helped me decorate Mrs. Figg's Christmas tree and took me sledding. We spent the whole of Christmas Eve playing in the snow, and when we got tired, we went to town and got hot cocoa. Then, on Christmas morning I got my first Christmas present."
The room mellowed a bit at that. Harry didn't notice, too lost in the memory of Christmas past.
"It was a little toy robot and his name was Mr. Robot." Harry snickered. "I wasn't a very imaginative kid. I've kept him in my Hogwarts trunk for years, just to cheer me up every now and then."
Harry smiled fondly at the memory. The hands running through his hair paused for a moment, bringing Harry back to the living room of Grimmauld Place and out of his mind. He looked around to see everyone staring at him. Harry hunched in on himself slightly, sticking his gaze to his hands.
"Sooo… How about you guys? Any happy Christmas stories from you? Who hasn't gone yet?"
Gin shifted, subtly moving closer to Harry, and raised his hand lazily. "That'd be me."
Focus shifted off of Harry. He sighed silently, feeling like a real weight had been lifted off of him.
"Yeah, I musta been around nine. Pops was home for the holidays. He took me to this big Christmas party with the rest of the Pack." Gin smiled, small and genuine, at the memory. "The rest of the Pups were all wreaking havoc in the woods around the bonfire.
"We played this game called "ghosts in a graveyard" where the "ghosts" would look around the forest for the rest of the players. The first "ghost" to find someone would yell "boo" and we'd all scatter, running for base while the "ghosts" chased us.
"We played until the elders called us back to the bonfire. Then we all got into groups and hunted wild boar for the feast. I was paired up with Pops, and we were the perfect team. The boar we caught wasn't that big, but Pops looked so proud when I caught it…" Gin's smile stretched into a grin, his eyes glittering mirthfully. "We ate good an' slept better. It was perfect."
Pleasant smiles were all around the room.
"I'm gonna need some pictures of baby Gin," Harry commented, settling down onto the pillows.
"Remind me to hide 'em when you come over." Gin followed Harry's example, shifting a few pillows for support.
Yukari grumbled sleepily at all the extra movement, but she settled in as well. The others seemed to take that as their cue to hunker down for the night. Moka used his chest as a pillow, and Kurumu rested just between them, nuzzled into his side. The whole arrangement resulted in a mess of tangled limbs, but they were all too tired to care.
Someone, probably Remus, thought to get up and turn off the Christmas lights while they all settled in for the night. Harry thought he saw Sirius and Remus headed upstairs in the shadows, but who could tell? Ron and Hermione took the other couches, also too tired to make the long trek upstairs.
Harry, always the last to sleep, laid in the warmth of his friends' arms and felt, astoundingly, amazingly, impossibly... safe.
That night, Harry slept better than he ever had.