Snow was falling lazily out of the sky. The winter holidays were almost here. Children were eagerly boarding the Hogwarts Express, impatient to get home and be with their families.
Hermione was looking out the window of her booth feeling melancholy. She wondered if she should just read a book when music was heard in the halls.
Suddenly Pinkie kicked down her door. She was wearing weird sunglasses and she had her beatbox on her shoulder blasting some loud contemporary music.
"Hermione!" She bellowed. "Meet the entourage!" She pointed at Millicent and Blaise and introduced him.
Hermione's little booth was suddenly crowded, though she didn't really mind. Shaking hands with Blaise, they watched Pinkie put her beatbox on the little table.
Pinkie plopped down next to Hermione. "So, whatcha gonna do for Christmas?"
"Oh, you know, just standard family stuff." Hermione was actually rather looking forward to meeting her parents again. She missed them a lot and she couldn't wait to tell them all about magic and her new friends. They would be so proud of her!
The whole troll adventure might not go over so well though...
Millicent butted her out of her musings by stating that her family didn't celebrate Christmas. Instead they we're going to celebrate a magical Yuletide.
Sniffing out something new to learn, Hermione eagerly requested an explanation.
Blaise, who ran in both circles as it were, explained that there really wasn't a lot of difference between the two. There was singing, sharing food and of course family meetings. What was different for the magicals were certain rituals. Like the virgin sacrifices and baby eating.
"Haha, you're hilarious." Millicent said sarcastically as she gave him a shove.
Pinkie started laughing at Hermione's expression. She was sure that for a second there, Hermione believed him.
"Don't worry Hermione." Pinkie said as she wrapped an arm around her. "I'm sure they only sacrifice the ugly ones."
Hermione smiled at the implied compliment.
Pinkie released the embrace and started humming deck the halls. Mostly because it referenced Yule.
The tune was quite infectious and Millicent started hitting her thigh on the beat. Pinkie smiled when she realized that someone was joining in. She didn't leave it at humming any more and started singing the lyrics as well.
"Lala la la laaa la la la la. 'Tis the season to be jolly."
Hermione wanted to join in so bad. She remembered when Harry just got up and danced on their last train ride and decided to throw caution in the wind.
"Don we now our gay apparel! La LA LA-"
Pinkie and Millicent slapped their hands on their ears. Their faces contorted in agony since they were closest to the onslaught.
Hermione, as it turns out, could not sing. It sounded a bit like someone was choking a crow... Off beat, off key and way too loud.
Everybody in the booth burst out in laughter, accept for Hermione of course. She shrank in her seat in embarrassment. Memories from her old school flooded her brain like a flashback. Bullying sure, but also the memories when she tried to sing for the first time.
The teacher asked her if maybe she wanted to rest her vocal cords for a moment as the entire class pointed and laughed at a small Hermione. How the same nervous teacher had her parents come over and politely requested of them that maybe they could instil in Hermione, that perhaps she should read a book during singing times? Maybe?
Hermione woke up from her fugue state by another hug from Pinkie. "It's okay Hermione." she said. "I suck at magic and Blaise sucks at... Actually I don't know what he sucks at."
Pinkie released Hermione from her hug. "Blaise, what do you suck at?"
"Nothing, I am perfect in every conceivable way. Humble as well." He said in the most deadpan way he could.
Millicent laughed and gave him a another shove. "He sucks at potions for one. I have to chop his ingredients for him most of the time."
"And I still say that slicing and dicing are the same thing."
This felt a little different to Hermione then the laughter during her old school days. It felt like these people were trying to cheer her up. It was actually kind of nice. She already knew that she couldn't sing. It was an old hurt that maybe, finally, got a little band-aid.
The rest of the train ride was filled with silly games and tomfoolery. Hermione would read to the others from her book.
It turned out she was really good at doing the voices of the evil characters.
Daphne was bored. She sat in a booth with Theo, Draco and Pansy and she was so very bored. They were talking about which of their servants could grovel the best. They loved a good grovelling.
Truth was Daphne used to love a good grovelling as well. Nowadays she just felt so… different from them. It just wasn't fun any more. She hated that she felt this way. Why couldn't she just get over things and accept that this was how the world is?
"Ugh Daphne, what's with you? You're being so weird lately."
"I don't know. I guess I need a holiday."
"Hear, hear." Theo said. "We all could use time with our families."
Daphne smiled wanly.
The rest of the train ride felt like a real slog.
When the train finally arrived at Kings Cross and all it's passengers oozed out onto the platforms, she spied Pinkie hugging and laughing with an entire troupe of people. She recognized the one who was probably Maddie patting her on her head.
Daphne felt strangely envious.
Pinkie woke up early to make breakfast. Boy, had she missed this! She raced downstairs quietly, like a true pink baking ninja should.
Her old trusty oven was waiting impatiently. Well, technically it was probably just sitting there, but really, who cares?
"Christmas breakfast is the most important breakfast of the year." She whispered to no one in particular.
She grabbed the flour. She grabbed the sugar. She grabbed some eggs. It was time to get to work.
Children ran down the stairs well before it was a sensible time to do so. The smell however, was irresistible.
It was a smell that was deeply missed in Happy Oaks. The smell of freshly baked breads, cakes and pies.
Some of the younger children ogled the fancy table set with all manner of Christmas paraphernalia.
Their were chocolate pine trees with coconut snow, a really big piece of stollen, which was a German holiday bread filled with raisins and marzipan, heavily dusted with powdered sugar to give it that Christmassy feel, and a simple orange pie.
Pinkie was just about done. She wiped her brow with the side of her oven mitts and placed the last piece, a simple round bread, on the table.
She was about to ask if someone wanted to call everyone downstairs but Macie was way ahead of her.
"Breakfast!" She yelled up the stairs.
A small earthquake rumbled once more through the little orphanage as countless feet big and small eagerly found their way to the dinner table.
"Surprise!" Pinkie shouted as she put the finishing touches on her work.
Maddie who was still quite sleepy was impressed. "You know, Christmas is usually celebrated with a dinner."
"Yes! But then it wouldn't be a surprise."
Maddie smiled and gave the girl a hug and kissed her on top of her head. "I'm glad you're back Pinkie."
The rest of the group looked at them expectantly.
Pinkie wrestled out of Maddie's loving embrace with a smile. "Let's eat!"
The children took their seats in chaotic fashion like usual and started feasting. Pinkie told them about all the new friends she's made and adventures she's had. Gracie told Pinkie about her terrarium which was really starting to look like something special. Rodger was a lucky newt.
Iris meanwhile was getting progressively better at reading due to the constant tutelage of Maddie and the older kids.
Duncan was allowed to try-out at the Manchester United junior football team. He had a real chance at going pro if he played his cards right.
Sophie and Alfie had become attached at the hip. At first Maddie was a little scared about how this would play out. Sophie at started to rain in her language instead of Alfie learning more bad words... He still learned some bad words though he was clever enough not to let Maddie hear them.
All the other kids told their stories as well. It was a lovely rowdy morning at Happy oaks. During all the excitement the children had completely forgotten that there were presents to unpack.
"Wake up Harry! We've got presents!"
Ron poked Harry on his side and ran away. Harry slowly rose. He never got any presents, he'd rather have another hour of sleep.
Rubbing his eyes, he made his way out of bed to follow Ron. His excitement was quite infectious though, and when Harry found his way to the tree he saw that he actually did have presents.
Overjoyed but also slightly confused, he wondered who could've sent him them to him. He grabbed one at random and tore open the package eagerly, like he'd seen Ron do.
It was a bright red sweater with a big H on it. When he turned to Ron he found him holding one as well. His had a big R on. Harry looked questioningly at him.
"They're from my mum." Ron said. "She must've sent you one when I said we were mates."
Harry looked at the sweater and was filled with warmth. He removed his pajamas and put the sweater on. It was a perfect fit. He wondered how she got his measurements.
'Magic.' He thought.
There were more presents underneath that tree and went for a small one this time. This one had Pinkie written all over it, what with the amount of glitter and stickers.
He unwrapped it just as quickly. A shower of confetti popped out of the little box. A similar pop was heard from Ron's direction. He got something from Pinkie as well.
Inside the little present was a small box of coloured pencils, paper and a note.
Some paper and some colours too
Use them in a quiet hour
I hope they'll be good to you
So you won't be dour
Happy Christmas Harry!
He never had his own art supplies before. This was really something! Sure, he had used some at school but they were never his. Time at the Dursleys would certainly be more bearable with this. He thanked Pinkie in his head.
He felt guilt ripple through him when he realized that he didn't give Pinkie anything.
"Hedwig, to me!"
The owl looked at him like he was an idiot.
"What? Didn't that sound cool?"
"You sounded like a pillock mate." Ron was holding his own art supplies: Watercolour paints and a brush. "What did you get?"
"Pencils and paper."
"Neat. I've never had muggle toys before. Wanna share?"
The other presents replaced the guilt for the moment. He would send something to Pinkie and the others tonight somehow.
He scratched Hedwig on her crown as she leaned into it.
Harry threw Ron another present with his other hand. This one from Hermione which meant that it was probably a book. He unpacked his own present. Yup, it was a book as well.
"Quidditch through the ages." He said aloud.
"The full unedited history of the Chudley Cannons." Ron echoed. "Oh that's cool!"
He started rifling through it's pages and smiled at the pictures. He'd read it later, for now there were more presents to unpack.
Harry grabbed another fluffy feeling one. Was it another sweater? He tore the paper apart. A strange silvery substance fell out of the package. It felt odd to the touch, like dry water.
Ron's attention switched to Harry when he saw he got something special.
"That's an invisibility cloak. They're really rare!"
Harry wrapped the cloak around himself and marvelled at his floating head.
"This is great! Here, you try it."
Harry draped the cloak around Ron's shoulders and laughed when he saw Ron's expression. He pointed at a little note on the remaining packaging.
Of course, Harry couldn't see that so he pointed with his head instead.
"It came with a note. I wonder who send it?"
Picking up the note, Harry began to read it aloud.
Your father left this in my possession before he died.
It is time it was returned to you.
Use it well.
It was confusion that set the stage of Harry's initial reaction. Who was this person? And how did they know his dad?
There were more questions coming and going inside his mind but before he could give them shape Ron snapped him out of his musings.
"That's it?" Ron asked as peered over Harry's shoulder.
"No idea who it's from?"
Harry had just finished his letters to the people who gave him gifts. He had sent a big box of chocolate frogs to Hermione. He was sure she could appreciate his little joke.
Pinkies present was a lot harder though. Candy wouldn't really work if your recipient could just make their own. Instead he had owl-ordered a bright green jump-rope and a squirt gun. She seemed like an active sort of girl. He hoped that she would like them.
"Are you done?" Ron asked impatiently. They were going to explore the castle underneath the invisibility cloak. There were probably loads of secret passages and rooms to discover.
"Yeah, let's get going!"
The halls of Hogwarts were a lot less welcoming in the dark. It was eerily quiet now that most of the students had left for the holidays. The occasional ghost floating through the walls would not reduce the sense of mystery in the air.
They first explored the restricted section in the library. There was no Madam Pince there tell them they couldn't.
Now that they were there though the place really wasn't all that exciting just more random books. Harry grabbed one at random from the shelf and it suddenly started screaming at him.
He was startled into dropping the blasted thing.
It was the voice of mister Filch, the school caretaker.
Harry grabbed the still screaming book and slammed it shut. It was still fighting back when Harry put it back where it came from. Ron grabbed the invisibility cloak from Harry's shoulder and draped them over them both.
Just in time. Mister Filch had rounded the corner. His heavy breathing seemed loud as he squinted through the darkness.
Harry and Ron held their breath. Mister Filch raised his lantern above his head.
"...Bloody ghosts. Come misses Norris."
"Mrr-ow." The cat meowed as it stared directly into their direction. The man walked off but the cat set there for a moment, before it too decided to go.
Harry exhaled from underneath the cloak "Fuckin' hell."
"That was wicked."
Harry turned around incredulously to find Ron smiling. The expression on each others face had them both laughing.
Later that night Harry just couldn't seem to get any sleep. There were still many questions about the cloak he would've liked answered.
Ron was snoring loudly again and Harry used a silencing charm almost without thought.
Hold on. If he'd cast a silencing charm on himself as he was wearing the invisibility cloak. He would be pretty much undetectable! Harry opened his eyes wide. Sleep would definitely not come now. He cast a silencing charm on himself and got out of bed.
He threw the cloak over his head and went down the stairs. When he looked outside the Gryffindor common room he saw snow falling softly on the school grounds.
It was really beautiful to see the snow over the forbidden forest in the night. He almost wanted to go outside and explore some more, but clearer heads prevailed.
Instead he decided to just roam around the castle. It was cold enough inside it, to go outside would be crazy.
He had a strange sort of sadness as he walked through the dark halls. Harry imagined that this must be what a ghost would feel like…. Thinking about the dead would inevitably lead to thoughts of his parents.
He wondered what sort of mischief his father would get into with an invisibility cloak. Would he peak on girls in the shower? Raid the kitchens perhaps? Honestly, Harry didn't understand what the appeal could be about watching people shower, but stealing food made a lot of sense to him.
He once again felt a sense of gratitude for whomever gave him the cloak and was about to turn back when he saw a light coming from an abandoned classroom. Carefully he opened the door and peered inside.
Headmaster Dumbledore appeared to be staring at his own reflection in a mirror mumbling something. It was strange to say the least and in that moment, too Harry, he seemed very old.
Making his way into the room trying not to disturb the air, Harry tried to see what made this mirror so special.
"That is a very impressive silencing charm Harry." Dumbledore said as he turned towards Harry's general direction. His eyes seemed to meet Harry's own but only for moment before they drifted off.
Harry gasped, though the charm prevented any sound from being heard. He lifted the cloak from his head. "How did you know it was me?" He asked as he lifted the spell and before he realized that it might have been rude to just question the headmaster like that.
Dumbledore smiled. "Well, when you give someone an invisibility cloak, no doubt they would want to give it a spin." He turned back towards the mirror.
"You sent it to me?"
"Hm-hmm. I meant to give it to you earlier in the year but… I'm afraid I was rather busy with other things and it has since slipped my mind. Christmas then, would make for a good excuse... I'd appreciate it if you could keep that between us Harry. Can't be seen giving away invisibility cloaks willy-nilly."
Harry laughed and tried to gather his thoughts. It didn't seem like he was in trouble. The headmaster seemed strangely contemplative and willing to answer his questions. He looked at the mirror.
"This is no ordinary mirror is it."
"Indeed not. It is called the mirror of Erised. Let me give you a hint to it's function." Dumbledore found himself in teaching mode and enjoying an interested audience. "The happiest man alive would gaze upon it's polished silver and see only himself."
Harry thought it through as he looked upon the lettering curving around it's top. The word Erised registered in his mind. When he saw the word on the mirror he made the connection.
"Desire... The mirror shows us what we want?"
"Ten points to Gryffindor. Our deepest, most desperate desire, laid bare."
Harry swallowed audibly. "Do… Do you think I could have a peak?"
The headmaster looked pained for a moment but then acquiesced. "I suppose with myself present it can't do much harm. Go on, look."
The mirror seemed to shimmer as Harry stepped in front of it. At first he saw only his reflection but then slowly he saw a scene starting to unravel. An older man who looked a lot like himself draped the invisibility cloak over Harry's shoulders and made the universal sign for silence.
A woman with red hair came down the stairs and got startled by a younger Harry. The woman reprimanded him with equal measure of annoyance and amusement to the absolute delight of the older man.
Harry touched the glass. "Are… Are these my parents?" He found it hard to look away from the homely images that the mirror was showing him.
"If that is what you see, they are."
"Powerful stuff is it not? To be confronted with what you always wanted?"
"Yeah… Why is it here? Is it yours?"
"No Harry, I borrowed it from a friend at the Department of Mysteries. Through lucky happenstance it is no longer needed and will be returned tomorrow."
A strange smile set on Dumbledore's features. "This is probably the last time I will ever see them."
"….Hmm? Oh right, of course, it… Let that be a lesson to you Harry. Never get too attached to an unattainable dream and forget to live."
The finality of Dumbledore's words stung Harry more then he thought they would. He knew he wouldn't ever meet his parents but to see them so alive and whole...
Harry let Dumbledore throw a cloth over the mirror. "Now, I feel it is time for us to catch our own forty-winks before dawn arrives."
"I'm not in trouble?"
"Far be it for me to punish a young man for his nighttime musings and wanderings. Especially on these auspicious days. Just try to keep them to a minimum. I would hate for Minerva to lose sleep over it."
Harry nodded at the headmaster, reapplied a silencing charm and returned to the Gryffindor dorms. His dreams were filled with simple and wondrous things.
When he awoke he found that he'd been crying.
Daphne was alone in her room plucking at her violin. The scene on the train station platform kept racing through her mind.
She felt lonely…
Such foolishness! Just because her family wasn't much for public displays of affection, or any kinds of affection really… That didn't mean that she should be feeling this way.
Twang! A string broke on her violin.
The house elf appeared with a wooden spoon in his hand and a chef's hat on. He looked a little annoyed as far as elves would look annoyed at their masters.
"Yes, young mistress?"
Daphne showed him the violin. Jibbles fixed it with a snap of his fingers and popped away.
No, Daphne would have the absolute best time tonight and she'd show everybody that she would be just fine without any such sentiments.
The dinner party was in full swing. A number of important people were present and enjoying the kitchen labours of Jibbles. The old elf could really cook up a storm.
As is tradition several offers were made to buy him and just like tradition those offers were politely rebuffed.
Daphne was wearing her blue dress and did her best to look pretty with the other children. They were supposed to be seen and not heard after all. Currently she was trying to hold a conversation with Theo.
But really, she was just feigning interest in his pontifications. Goodness the boy was dull. Very similar to his father in that way, he could put the most debilitated of insomniacs to sleep as well, what with his dull pompous drone.
As she took a sip from her mulberry juice, she took a look across the table towards her mother. She could tell that she was trying to impress their guests with her wit and charm. She was obviously succeeding.
Her father was talking with a small group of other men. No doubt about some business or other. People would always be in need of the services that their family provided. They held greenhouses with rare plants for potion ingredients and cooking supplies.
Daphne was actually quite certain that her family also dealt in some more shady things but her father always cut her off when she even implied it.
She sighed, guess the party wasn't going to be exciting after all.
Her mother caught her eye. "Daphne darling. Why don't you play something for us on your violin?"
Daphne felt some hope returning in her heart. Perhaps if she did good she might actually feel some of that Yule warmth she was craving.
Jibbles came and handed her the violin. She decided to play something happy and upbeat to try and get someone to dance. She could see some people starting to shake from side to side a little. But no one broke their composure.
The music finished, the moment passed and everything stayed the same.
It was terribly frustrating to want something that you can't even really describe from your parents and peers, and not getting it.
Her eyes landed on her sister. Her biggest rival…
Memories flashed through her mind of when they were younger. Astoria would always follow her around, trying to imitate Daphne, driving her completely spare.
Funny, how she now looks upon that quite fondly.
Their parents would always compliment Daphne and deride Astoria. It used to make her feel good to know that she was the best. She never questioned the logic, but know she felt a little like a puppet dancing to the tune of her parents.
Did they do it to make Daphne callous? Or to motivate Astoria?
She couldn't say that it didn't work. False modesty be damned, she was a very capable witch…
So... what if she'd change the rules a little? What if it the Greengrass daughters would team up?
The guests had left and Astoria had fled towards her room. She was tired and bored. All she did the entire party was sit in the corner.
Jibbles would try to cheer her up by smuggling her sweets underneath the table. It worked to some degree.
Still, she was a little angry as well. Why wasn't she allowed to play some music?
She knew the reason of course. It was because Daphne could play it better and they wanted to impress. Astoria wasn't stupid.
She sighed and grabbed a nearby comic book. She loved 'the adventures of Marty Miggs, the Mad Muggle'. Though she'd never met a muggle before.
Huh, maybe she should try and fi-
Someone knocked on her door. That was weird. Her parents would just walk in and she didn't know who else it could be.
The door opened and it was her sister. She was back from Hogwarts and she'd almost forgotten about her already. If she was truly honest with herself she didn't miss her much.
Her sister had grown aloof these last years, probably because of the pressures of being the heir, but that didn't dull the hurt any.
Daphne sat next to her on the bed. "The adventures of Marty Miggs, the Mad Muggle." She read the title from the cover. "Do you still like that drivel?"
"It's not drivel! It's funny!"
Astoria expected Daphne to sneer at her or something but instead she looked away.
"...I'm sorry... I didn't come here to fight."
They sat together on the bed awkwardly. Astoria, trying to figure out what her sister wanted and Daphne, trying to do the same thing.
"I thought that we could play together sometime." Daphne finally said. "Music, o-or maybe reading a book."
That came a little out of the blue for Astoria. "Why?"
"… I don't really know. Should I need a reason to want to spend time with my sister?"
"You do." Astoria said as she pointed in Daphne's direction.
Daphne's face went through quite a few expressions before settling on aloofness. "Fine." She stood up from the bed. "I guess I'll lea-"
"Wait... I suppose maybe tomorrow... We could try out new hairstyles or something?"
Daphne smiled. "Yes well, that sounds quite entertaining actually."
"Well, okay then."
Astoria stood from the bed as well. They hugged like two people who were very unaccustomed to hugging.
It was the best feeling ever.