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The best laid plans

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Chapter 26 - It's Christmas

Harry slipped out of bed, being careful not to make a sound. The last thing he wanted was to wake anyone right now. He slipped over to his trunk, and, as quietly as he could, popped the lid on one of the compartments and withdraw three packages, each wrapped in brightly coloured paper. The largest he carried across the room and placed on Hermione's bedside cabinet, where there was a good chance it would be the first thing she saw when she woke up.

That was the easy part. Now came the tricky one; he slipped out of the room, carrying two more extensively colourful packages. As he crept down the upstairs hall, he wondered if he was being silly. He had walked this hall a few times in the middle of the night without worrying so much about being quiet. He’d lived here for almost exactly a month before he had gone to Hogwarts. In that time, he had gotten up in the middle of the night a few times, mostly to visit the bathroom, and he had done that without disturbing anyone, yet now, all he could think about was being as quiet as he could while he played Santa.

 

He reached Emma and Dan's door and hesitated. He had never been in there before. It wasn't as if he hadn't seen inside though, hell, one of the first things he had done when he had first awoken here was to try every door as he tried to figure out where he was. And Hermione's parents often left the door wide open when the room was empty or they weren't in need of privacy.

But Harry wasn't going into the room. At least, not entirely. There was a table right next to the door that he could leave the presents on. As quietly as he could, he slipped open the door and went to place the presents on the table, when he saw two more presents already there, both of them bearing the type of wrapping that, like his own, was far more common in the magical world than the Muggle.

 

Hermione had obviously shared the same idea as him. He put his packages down next to the ones that were already there, before slowly closing the door. He wondered how Hermione had managed to slip out of the room before him, he was sure that he had lain awake listening for everyone to be asleep, so how she had managed to deliver her parents their presents first was baffling to him. If it wasn't for the fact that it was illegal for them to cast spells outside of school, he would have suspected a silencing charm.

 

Harry crept back down the hall to the room he was currently sharing with Hermione. That fact frustrated him immensely; being so close to Hermione was getting him a little worked up, and, unfortunately, sharing a room with her had meant that any kind of relief was just not happening.

He slipped into the room and back over to his bed, and promptly froze. Next to his bed, in an almost exact mirror of how he’d placed Hermione's, was a present, waiting for him to open later in the morning. How had he missed that when he had gotten up? He must have been so focused on delivering his own presents that he missed it.

He climbed back into his bed and settled in, taking off his glasses and placing them on his trunk, next to the present Hermione had gotten him, before he rolled over and went to sleep.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Ron woke up when a pillow hit him in the face. The sudden jolt to wakefulness left him more than a little dazed and confused. He thrashed around for a few seconds as he waited for his brain to catch up, then he looked around to see his little sister standing there, laughing at him, “Wake up bro. It's Yule."

"Yule?"

"Yes, you know, Yule . Held at the start of winter. Lots of food and presents... "

"Presents?" Right then, his brain finally clocked on, "Presents!"

 

 He looked to the foot of his head and saw, with wide eyes, the fairly large stack of neatly wrapped parcels that were his gifts. Then, Ginny pulled the case off the pillow she had thrown at him, and proceeded to stuff all Ron's presents into it.

"Hey”, he all but shouted, “Those are mine! What gives!?"

Ginny looked at him, giving him that same look his mum always gave him, “You, me, Fred, George and Percy are going to open our gifts together. As a family .” Ron decided to let her; sometimes it was just easier to give in.

 

"Now get your clothes on", She threw a clean set of his clothes at him, then walked out with his presents.

He quickly got dressed into his clothes; The top was just a thin, worn t-shirt, and he considered going in his trunk for a jumper* but decided against it. His mum always made them each a jumper that they all wore for the day. It was a tradition he had expected to be dropped at Hogwarts, but his brothers were always insistent that the tradition continues.

He climbed down the stairs to the common room, and found that his sister and brothers where all sat on the floor by the fire, each with a red Gryffindor pillow case in front of them, all stuffed with gifts. His own bag was in a space left for him between Ginny and Percy.

He took his place on the floor with his family and began tearing into his presents along with the rest of them.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

An hour later, Ron found himself with a new Weasley jumper in maroon from his parents. Or, from his mum, as he knew she was the one who made them, as his dad couldn’t sew to save his life.

He also got a box of Hagrid's home-made rock cakes, two boxes of chocolate frogs, one each from Bill and Charlie, a new quill from Percy, a selection box of Honeydukes sweets from Fred and George, a hat and gloves from Ginny, who had apparently, and unfortunately, been learning knitting charms from their mum.

Hermione had sent each of them a homework organiser that said motivational phrases every time someone opened it, and Harry had sent them all a selection of Muggle chocolate from a company called Cadburys*.

All in all, he’d gotten a pretty good haul this year. Now, he just had to find Scabbers; that rat loved Hagrid's rock cakes.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Tracy woke up when she felt her mattress suddenly indent, only to find that Daphne had collapsed onto the bed beside her.

"Uh, what's got you all excited this morning?" Tracy asked as she rubbed the sleep from her eyes. 

“I get to spend Yule with you, instead of sitting through another lecture from my uptight mother. Now, get up, I’m waiting on you before opening any presents, and it seems we each got an interesting one that is driving me crazy”, she held up two almost identically wrapped squares of green paper, about a foot on each side.

 

“I see...so you only want me up, so you can open up your presents?” she grinned at her friend, who she knew all too well.

Of course , why else would I care?” her tone equally frivolous as she draped herself across her friend.

Tracy snatched one of the green presents from Daphne, hoping she had taken hers. Luck was on her side; a tag on one corner of the wrapping holding the  words 'To Tracy, Merry Christmas' . The handwriting was familiar, but she couldn't quite place it. So, instead of pontificating over who could have sent her the gift, something her Slytherin parents always told her to do, as the present could be “dangerous”, she just opened it straight away.

 

Inside was an item and a letter. She recognised the item as a Muggle vinyl record, having seen a couple that the muggleborns of the school kept. Seeing this, she gained a heavy suspicion on who the presents were from. She opened the letter and gave it a read;

 

Hey Tracy,

Thanks again to you and Daphne for helping me just before Christmas. I went ahead and got Hermione the gift I had planned. After all your talk about music, I thought you might like to try listening to some Muggle types. So I got you a record that has as some of the more popular music.

Merry Christmas,

From Harry

 

After a swift examination, the record seemed to be a certain ‘Queen's greatest hits’ .

As Tracy opened her present, Daphne did the same on the other side of Tracy’s bed, and once they had both finished reading their own letters and looked at their own records, they switched gifts to see the other’s.

Daphne's letter was almost identical to hers, and the only real difference in their presents was that Daphne have been given a record by an artist called ‘Madonna’.

 

"Well, that seems friendly enough, don't you think?" Tracy asked Daphne.

"Yeah it's friendly. Doubt the music will be any good though."

"You can be such a magical snob sometimes Daph." 

Daphne recoiled from her friend, "I'm no blood snob; you should know me better than that!" She was glad Parkinson, Bulstrode and the other Slytherin girls in their dorm had gone home for Christmas. If they hadn't, there was no way she could say that so freely.

 

"Calm down, Daph, I didn't say you are a blood purist. I know you better than that”, Daphne relaxed, thankful that she had such a good friend in Tracy.

"But…” said friend continued, “you have to admit that you seem to be of the opinion that something is only worthwhile if a magical person did it."

That comment hit a little close to the mark for Daphne. She did believe that witches and wizards could do things better than Muggles, it made sense, didn’t it?

People who are able to do magic can accomplish things muggles could only dream of, so surely if muggles did something, there is no way it could be as good as if, say, she or Tracy did?

 

Tracy wasn’t done, however, "You know, that may be true for a lot of things, but art is different. Magic can only help us create what is already in our heads. But that... spark , the one that makes a book bring you to tears, or makes a bit of music catchy...that is only magic in a poetic sense. Muggles may have to work longer to bring that spark out to the world, but they love music just as much as any of us magical folk do."

Daphne sat there listening to her friend, who was right of course. It disturbed her, just how easily she had fallen in to thinking like that . The problem was...she wasn't sure she was wrong . At least, not completely. She didn't hate Muggles, but how fulfilled could their lives be, when they were constantly struggling to survive without magic?

"Anyway, let's stop this depressing debate. Let’s go pop these in to your Gramophone. You go get it, and I’ll go get dressed."

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Harry woke up feeling great. He tried to rub the sleep from his eyes, only to find he couldn’t move his arm. It was this inability to move that woke him up quickly, albeit in a slightly panicked state, drawing his attention to the weight pressing down onto his side, with a lighter weight draped tight across his stomach, pinning his other arm down.

It was a warm, soft weight, that smelled of apple shampoo, with a faint hint of fresh parchment.

Hermione was snuggled up next to him.

 

She must’ve felt Harry try to detach his arm from her vice-like grip, as he felt her shift slightly next to him.

“Merry christmas Harry.”

“Morning ‘Mione. Merry Christmas. Say, by any chance, could you let me have my arm back?” She blushed as she realised how tightly she was holding him, and quickly released her arm from across him, with a quick muttered “Sorry”.

He didn’t let her move too far away, as he shifted his arm from its position on his right side and wrapped it round her, in the same fashion that she had earlier, pulling her closer once again, " Please tell me that we can stay like this all day."

 

She leaned into him and gave him a quick chaste kiss, "Nope. But, mum and dad like to sleep in on Christmas. It started a while ago, when I was younger, cause they used to stay up all night so they could pretend Santa brought the gifts. So, we can stay like this for a good while."

"Speaking of your parents, didn't we promise that we wouldn't do stuff like this?"

"Nope."

"But-"

"We promised not to do anything that we wouldn't do in front of them. We’ve cuddled together on the sofa, and fallen asleep in front of them at least twice. This is no different. Hell, I'm even technically wearing more now than I was then."

 

Harry thought on that for a few seconds, happy to mentally visualize Hermione in her thick winter pajamas, as well as what she’d worn over the summer when combating the heat.

He had to agree, though he hadn’t really wanted to disagree in the first place. What she was wearing right now was far more modest.

"Ok, you win."

"Oh, and what do I win?"

 

Harry was a little stumped  at her forwardness, and was desperately trying to come up with something he could reply with.

In the end he just asked, "What do you want?"

"I think I already have what I want." And then she leaned in and kissed him again, only this one was a lot less restrained than the first, and Harry found himself a more active participant.

 

They laid together on the small fold-out bed for almost an hour, relaxing and doing nothing, before, and then, by some unperceivable motive, Hermione jumped up and exclaimed, “time to open our magical presents! You first!" She passed him the present that he had seen on his trunk the night before.

 Harry sat up in bed and removed the paper from around the present, revealing a wooden box, not unlike the broomstick servicing kit she had gotten him for his birthday. In fact, the box was so similar that for a second, he thought she’d gotten him a second broomstick servicing kit. That was until his brain caught up with what he was seeing.

 

There was no way Hermione would be absent minded enough to give him the same gift twice. At least, not this close together. But then, what could this be?

"You know, you need to open the box to know what it is", Hermione grinned, watching anxiously as Harry just seemed to stare at the box. This sky-rocketed her worry, as she started to think that Harry didn’t like or want his gift.

He did as she said, and found inside the box a tray of quills. Not regular feather quills that they used in class, not even like the nice glass quill he had gotten himself in the summer.

 

Rather, they had wooden handles, with lots of different metal tips.

Confused, he picked up the tray to see what was under it, as the box was clearly deeper than just the top tray. The next tray rose up to underneath the top tray, and was filled with small chisels that looked super sharp.

Another tray down showed him the third tray, which shouldn't have fit in the box. It had a bunch of tools he didn't recognize.

After the fourth and fifth trays, both of which again held tools he was unfamiliar with, there, at the very bottom, was a book;

 

Rune carving guide

Parchment, wood, clay, stone and metal

 

With the title of the book, he was able to put together what his present was; a rune crafting kit.

Harry hadn't considered how Runes were carved out of things like wood. He had assumed that you would just transfigure the Runes into the object, but now that Harry thought about it, the residual magic from the transfiguration could easily interfere with the Rune effects in more complicated or delicate arrays.

"Wow ‘Mione, this is amazing . I love it." With just those few words, all of Hermione’s worries flew away, "Well, you really seemed to like Runes, and I thought it would help you with your project."

 

"You are amazing Hermione. I hadn't even thought about how to carve the Runes yet."

In class, they had only worked on parchment so far, and his project had only worked with cloth, which needed the Runes sewn into it. The wand project though would definitely need carved runes.

"What would I do without you?" He pulled her into a side hug as he repacked the kit carefully. While he would love to play with it now, he would have to wait till he got back to Hogwarts, as there were other things to do, and a girlfriend to spend time with.

 

After unwrapping Harry’s gift, they relocated to Hermione's bed, with Harry watching nervously as she unwrapped hers. Similar to Harry's gift, an unwrapping of the paper revealed a wooden box. However, Hermione’s box containing her present wasn't nearly as plain as the one Harry had received, and instead was adorned in music symbols and notes, and that weird swirly symbol that was always at the beginning of the line on a musical sheet.

Hermione opened the box, gasping as it revealed a gramophone record player, which grew from the box that seemed far too small to hold it.

 

"I noticed that you’d been using to Room of Requirement to listen to music as you read. That reminded me of the summer, when you would put on a CD if you were reading. So...I thought you could use a player, which you could use in the dorms or common room."

"Harry, it’s amazing , I love it! Thank you. But I don't have any magical records to play on it."

"I did some research, and apparently, there is no such thing as a magical record. Not really."

"Of course there are Harry; magical artists like the Weird Sisters and Celestina Walbeck-"

 

"-Are magical artists who make records. The records themselves are no different than Muggle ones, except for two things; the material they make the records from, as it seems as if a large section of wizarding Britain has no clue what plastic is, and that magical records have unbreakable and have copyright charms on them, keeping them from being damaged and stopping people from duplicating a record without paying for it. The upside is that muggle records will play on your magical gramophone just as well."

 

"Oh, then I can swipe some of my favourites from mum and dad's vinyl collection."

"And I'm pretty sure that Hedwig can easily carry a few LP's, if you want to switch them out every week when you send home a letter. If you can get your parents to agree to letting you take them, that is.”

Hermione tackled Harry onto the bed, pinning him down with a surprising amount of strength for her size. She wrapped her arms around him and gave him one of those hugs. That kind of Hermione hug, which always seemed to threaten to crack ribs, squeezing the breath out of whoever she administered them too.

Harry didn’t mind though. In fact, he absolutely loved and cherished them, loving how affectionate and expressive Hermione was, especially around him.

 

After about ten minutes, Hermione released him from captivity. He laid there for a moment, catching his breath, before they started opening the other presents that had somehow, at some point in the night, made it to Hermione's room. They were presents from the Weasleys, Neville and Hagrid.

Harry suspected that one of the Hogwarts elves probably delivered them in the night. He had a sneaking suspicion that it was Dobby who delivered them, as both Harry and Hermione knew how smitten the elf was on Harry.

He smiled at the idea of the house elves playing Santa's elves for the night, wondering if they did it for every student who went home for the holidays.

 

It looked to Harry and Hermione that they would have to get used to receiving joint presents if they were going to remain a couple, as both Hagrid and Neville had both sent the two of them presents, that were meant to be opened together between the two.

Hagrid had sent them some of his homemade treacle fudge, that neither of them were willing to try until it had been softened; they loved Hagrid, but by Merlin, the man just couldn't cook. Harry was fairly certain that, as dentists, Dan and Emma would faint if they saw the half-giant’s rock cakes, cakes that could easily break, and had broken, teeth if you weren’t careful.

Meanwhile, Neville had sent them a plant that held a different fragrance to each individual person who smelt it. Hermione said she could smell something vaguely minty, whereas Harry could smell something floral that he couldn't place.

 

They each had three presents from the Weasleys, or, more accurately, one from the Weasleys as a family, and two more that came from individual Weasleys.

Mrs Weasley, on behalf of the family, had sent Harry another classic Weasley jumper, this time a nice green colour which was almost exactly like his eyes. Hermione, who had only ever met Mrs Weasley in passing, was surprised to receive anything, and smiled as she unwrapped a homemade Christmas cake, along with a nice note wishing her a happy Yuletide.

 

Harry pulled on his jumper. Mrs weasley really was an expert when it came to knitting, and her jumpers where always incredibly comfortable.

Ron's gift to each of them showed much more thought than normal. Instead of getting them sweets that he liked, he seemed to have gone out of his way to find something for each of them. They both unwrapped their gifts from him, revealing books, which was a surprise to the two of them, as they knew first-hand how Ron avoided books, especially study-books, like they were diseased.

They weren't new books, it looked like Ron had picked them up second hand in Hogsmeade, but Harry presumed that Ron didn’t have much money he could really spend on gifts, so he was happy that at least his friend had given them a meaningful gift.

Harry had gotten a copy of Quidditch through the Ages. There was a note with it that said;

 

I know you’ve read this one, but you seemed to like it, so I thought you would like a copy of your own.

 

It wasn’t the most heartfelt of notes, but from Ron, it was a lot.

Hermione's book was equally used, by the looks of its slightly peeling cover and tinted colours. The title was famous Muggle Borns of the 20th century.

Harry idly wondered if his mother was listed, but quickly decided that he didn't want to know.

At least, not today.

The twins had sent Harry a box with six vials of potions. Each one different, the note that came with them explained what each potion did and how it could be used to prank people. According to the twins, the son of Prongs has a ‘duty’ to start pranking to live up to his father's legacy as a Marauder. Harry was so distracted by the idea of living up to his father's legacy that he completely missed what the twins had given Hermione.



--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Christmas at the Grangers’ was different from any other Christmas Harry had ever seen.

At the Dursleys’, Harry was kept in his cupboard until after everyone else had opened their presents. He was then released, only to make breakfast, and once that was done, he helped his aunt in the kitchen making Christmas dinner. Normally, Harry did most of the cooking himself, but at Christmas and with other important meals, his aunt seemed to think he would purposely wreck the dinner just to get back at them.

 

At Hogwarts, the day started off with presents, though after that, apart from the big Christmas feast, the only real difference between Christmas and any other day without class was that the library was closed and there were decorations in the more commonly traveled parts of the castle.

At the Grangers’, breakfast came before presents. Hermione explained that that had started when her nan had still lived in London, they would try and prepare breakfast in time, so that it would be ready when Ms Richards arrived. Then, they would eat breakfast together before getting to the presents.

Even though Ms Richards now was staying in the same house as them over Christmas, they had gotten used to doing Christmas that way, and it had become standard practice in the Granger household.

 

Harry kind of liked it. It really emphasized the message that Christmas was supposed to be about family, rather than presents, which many people he knew focused on. Not just people like his cousin, but even Ron and and the rest of the horde of Weasleys, though he was certain that the twins cared more that they were allowed to get away with their pranks more at Christmas more than any other time.

The next little tradition the Grangers had was that they would draw candy canes (obviously sugar-free ones) to see who got to hand out the presents. Harry had been a little surprised that he was expected to draw one too, but didn’t particularly mind that his candy cane was intact, meaning he didn't need to be the one who handed out the gifts under the tree.

 

They all waited until Dan, who’d gotten the broken candy cane, handed out all the presents, before starting to open them.

Harry was surprised at the size of his pile. He had expected three, possibly four, gifts under the tree, depending on if Dan and Emma bought him separate gifts, or just one joint gift from the both of them.

Instead, there were quite a number of packages addressed to him 'from the Granger's'.

 

There was a nice bottle of cologne from Ms Richards. It was the type of gift you got for someone when you really didn’t know them or know what to get them, but Harry appreciated that Ms Richards had gotten him anything at all.

He had gotten her something similar, a hamper of what Harry thought of as 'girly bath stuff'. Hermione and the shop clerk had agreed on it as a suitable gift, when they had ran around London shopping earlier in the week.

 

Dan had gotten both Harry and Hermione a windup pocket watch each. Harry thought it was brilliant, but he couldn't say much as to why with Ms Richards there. Analog wrist watches were simple enough electronically, meaning that they worked, mostly, at Hogwarts.

The more complicated the technology, the less it would work around magic; so something simple, like a flashlight, worked fine. However, items a little more complicated, like a wrist watch, worked, but you would need to reset the time on it every few days. Anything more complicated than that, like a radio, wouldn’t work at all, and in some cases, there had even been times when muggle electronics had burst into flames from the contact with magic.

 

Hermione got Harry a nice looking leather wallet. Upon opening the wallet, he found two things in it; a fifty pence piece*, and small hand written note. The note said that once they’d gone back to school, Hermione was going to put some rune work on the wallet for him. He smiled at that. 

Hermione gasped as she unwrapped the gift from Harry, revealing what was clearly a box containing jewelry inside. For a mundane gift that could be given to Hermione in front of her Nan, Harry had gotten his girlfriend a gold heart-shaped locket with the letter H engraved on the front.

 

The next thing Harry knew, he had a faceful of bushy hair in his face as Hermione jumped into his lap from where he sat on the floor, her arms around him, "Thank you Harry, I love it."

Harry had originally intended to get Hermione a few records to go with her gramophone, but when it came to the time to buy them, he realised that he had not a single clue about what records the Grangers’ already had.

 

Dan had tried to tease them, asking if the H stood for Harry or Hermione, but Harry had just said that it stood for whatever Hermione wanted it to stand for. And Hermione told her father in a playful tone that if he didn't stop with his teasing it may just stand for a hex.

Ms richards looked at hermione with a confused expression on her face. It was then that everyone realised that hermione had used a magical term in front of someone who wasn’t supposed to know about magic. Emma pulled it back amazingly.

“Oh? And how will you do that? This Is real life not  that fantasy book you have been reading recently.”

Harry jumped on that line of thought. “I think its cute the last few weekes before school let out she kept threatening to put a spell on me when ever i did something she found annoying. But then christmas is a time of magic maybe we shouldn’t tempt fate.” harry put a load of over the top dramatic emphasis on the part about tempting fate, emma, dan and hermione laughed but as ms richards didn’t laugh harry assumed that the laugh was at least a little forced. 

 

The rest of the presents Harry received were clothes; mostly jumpers and shirts, but the one thing that stood out to him was a thick winter coat.

Something Harry had never had before.

The Dursleys had only ever gotten him cheap, thin, waterproof jackets that were on sale, or had just given him Dudley’s old or damaged jackets, which often had gaping holes or were so thoroughly used, that they were little more than scraps of fabric. The only reason they had done that must have been because Dudley was so rough with his jackets that there was no way he was able to wear them.

But, of course, they were perfectly fine for Harry.

 

Once Harry had gone to Hogwarts, he hadn't had much need for a winter coat. He had a thick winter cloak that he wore at school, which he could now lace with warming charms if needed. Harry tended to use warming charms a lot, as being small and skinny meant that he lost body heat quickly.

When Professor Flitwick had taught them the warming charm about a month ago, Harry had wanted to both throttle him for not teaching them this earlier, and hug him for giving Harry a way to keep warm, rather than wearing multiple layers of clothing that could become very uncomfortable sometimes.

The weather at Hogwarts was unforgiving, due to where it was, and even as Harry was glad of the charm, he really wished the professor had covered them sooner; maybe they should be taught in first-year, so that students could keep themselves warm.

 

Both Dan and Emma were a little surprised to have another gift from Harry, after they had received one from him that morning. Luckily, Ms Richards did notice the looks they shot Harry as she opened her own gift from him.

Harry had gotten Dan a selection of Whiskeys, while for Emma he had gotten a bottle of wine that Hermione said her mum drank. Ms Richards had helped him buy the drinks when they had gone shopping, as he was obviously under-age and unable to buy alcohol, and even after they’d gotten the gifts, Ms Richards had insisted that she hold on to them until Christmas Eve, rather than leave the alcohol with two teenagers.

 

The gifts weren't that great, but they were only cover gifts anyway, as the magical gifts that they had opened that morning were the actual presents.

For Emma, Harry had gotten an enchanted bath robe. While it didn't sound like much, the list of charms on it was impressive, even to Harry.

It was charmed to be warming, fast drying, extra absorbing, and probably most importantly, softer and fluffier.

Harry had considered getting Dan a matching robe, but had found a delux wizarding chess set in one of the catalogues Ron had picked up for him in hogsmeade. Dan had been interested when Harry described wizarding chess to him over the summer so Harry got him one of his own.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

After they had finished with their presents and packed them away, Emma and Ms Richards commandeered the kitchen so that they could start dinner. Harry had offered to help, but there wasn't much to do. All the work had been done the day before; vegetables chopped and peeled, the turkey stuffed, prepared and set in the fridge, and even the sausages wrapped in bacon, ready to be put in the oven when it was time.

In fact, the only reason the job took two of them was so that Emma wasn't left in the kitchen on her own.

 

This left Hermione and Harry alone with Dan, who was flicking through a stack of tapes, looking for a good Christmas film to watch, "Harry, do you happen to have a favourite Christmas film?" 

Harry looked over to the stack of tapes Dan had surrounded himself with, before his eye caught onto one that had been put to the side, along with a few others, "I’ve always liked Die Hard."

 

Hermione jumped in, "But that's not a Christmas film."

"It takes place at a Christmas party . So, technically, it is a Christmas film”, Harry defended.

"It's a film about shooting people. Christmas films are supposed to make you feel warm and fuzzy", Hermione protested.

"What about the scene at the end. The guy goes through everything the bad guys threw at him, and in the end he and his wife are back together all happy and relieved. You’re saying that doesn't give you a warm fuzzy feeling?" Dan chipped in.

 

"It's not the same and you know it. Can't we stick to tradition and watch 'the snowman*' first?"

Harry wanted to joke around a little more, but Dan folded and put on the film Hermione requested. Harry hadn't seen the film before and was surprised that it was just music and a cartoon without any dialogue.

He was more surprised by how much he enjoyed it.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Harry was sat on the bench in the Grangers’ backyard, wanting to just be alone in the early evening. Hermione had fallen asleep on the sofa, giving Harry the chance to get out of the way and clear his head.

Christmas at the Grangers’ had been amazing. Not a fairy tale Christmas, like from a book, but a real Christmas, one that had not just the presents and dinner with over the top music in the background. But also lots of smaller things that must have developed over the Christmasses they had before, like the old crystal decanter that was on the table, full of ice water. It didn't match any of the rest of the plates or serving utensils, but the way Hermione reacted when it had almost been left in the kitchen said that there was a story behind it.

 

Someone came out the back door into the yard. Harry couldn't really see their features, but by the shape of their silhouette, it could only be Ms Richards. She came over and sat on the bench next to him, "It's a cold night", She stated. 

Harry wasn't sure she needed an answer to that, but he gave one anyway, "Yeah, but not as cold as Scotland."

"True. But it's warmer inside."

"I’ll probably head in soon."

"So, you don't plan on staying out here and moping all night then?"

"I prefer to think of it as brooding. Like...a wizard in Lord of the Rings. Just feels better than calling it moping."

 

"Do you want to talk about it?"

Harry shrugged his shoulders in indifference, "Won't really change anything. I just need to learn to live with it."

"Talking can help. And it costs nothing to try. Go on. Give it a shot."

"It'll sound stupid."

"Emotions often do."

 

Harry hesitated a few seconds; Ms Richards was leaving tomorrow and he wouldn't have to put up with that familiar look of pity, one that he knew was coming, for very long,

“This is probably one of the best Christmases I ever had.

No, this is the best Christmas I ever had. It really showed me something about family. Not just being there for each other. That I get. But there is more.

Family, it’s also like, a shared story. Little things that only family would understand, things that are all these little traditions. And every single one has a history, a reason.

 

And, it got me thinking.

What traditions and stories would I have had with my parents if they were still around? Would we have been a presents before or after breakfast family?

What kind of TV would we watch, or what games would we play?

What little trinkets would we have that it didn't feel like Christmas without?

It's just one more thing that I never realized I lost...It seems so insignificant, but..." Harry struggled to find the words to explain what he was feeling at that moment, and what he had felt ever since he learned of how his parents truly died,

“It’s like those insignificant, little things, they are what really makes a family, y’know, a family. It’s not just feeling unconditional love, and trust, and care for each other.

Rather, it’s knowing that you can feel that way, knowing your family, and that feeling where you know your family truly knows you.”

 

Ms Richards looked at him for a few moments before she spoke, "I know what you mean. In some ways, the holidays are always the hardest. They’re the times that always make you think about your family."

Harry waited for her to continue as she took a moment, it seemed, to compose herself, "You may, or may not, have noticed that no-one mentions Emma's father. That's because Emma never knew him.

 

My Russell was a good man. A bit too working class for my parents, but he was a hard worker.

We both worked for the same medical firm. It made some of those items that hospitals need, but only have one usage, such as syringes and specimen cups. I worked in the office mostly, working on billing and the such, but I also helped with payroll.

It was good work for a girl fresh out of college, especially in those days. Russell worked for dispatch; he was a van driver. We were planning on getting married; we had the church booked and everything.

 

But then he was to deliver a shipment to Ireland. There was a lot of tension back then. Not the bombings of the IRA, that would come later, but it wasn't uncommon for a riot and violence to break out.

My Russell, he never made it back. I still wonder how things would have been if he had. He would have absolutely loved Emma and would have doted on Hermione.

And, of course, I wonder what Christmas, Easter or even Halloween would have been like with him there-” Harry winced slightly at the mention of Halloween, “-are you OK?”

"I'm fine, I just don't really like Halloween. I-it's the night my parents died…”

 

Silence hung between them as the minutes slipped by, both trying to picture what might have been. It was Ms Richards who broke the silence, catching a reminiscent Harry off-guard,

"Can I ask what happened to your parents?"

Harry considered what he was able to say. He didn’t answer right away, but continued to stare blindly in front of him, and Ms Richards was just about to give up on him answering when he quietly spoke.

 

"They were murdered”, Ms Richards gasped in shock, but Harry continued on with his fabricated tale, "My dad was working with the police. He was on a team investigating an organisation that was pretty bad.

Then, on Halloween night, in 1981, the guy who ran the group came to our house. He murdered my parents."

Silence once again hung heavy in the air as the two fell into quietness, Ms Richards digesting what Harry had told her. He deliberately left out that he had watched his mother die, and that the “bad guy” had tried to kill him as well.

 

"What happened to the guy? Is he in prison?"

Harry considered how to answer; how would you describe a bodiless wrath to a Muggle who doesn't know about magic?

He had already missed out a few details in his story, but he wanted Ms Richards to feel some semblance of justice done. Unfortunately, he couldn’t tell her that said “bad guy” was currently without a body, "Missing, presumed dead. But, I don't believe he is dead."

That was as true as he could be. Thank goodness for all the cop shows Dudley used to watch, while Harry was in his cupboard with nothing to do but listen.

 

"That's a lot for anyone to deal with", Ms Richards offered understanding instead of sympathy, for which Harry was grateful, "Sometimes", he agreed. 

"I’m going to head back into the warm, are you coming?"

"I will be, I'm just gonna stay out here a bit longer. No need to spoil everyone's good time with my brooding."

Those words from her granddaughter flooded through Ms Richards head; ' if Harry thinks that someone will be hurt by something he will try and keep them from being hurt even if he is hurt instead.'

It may seem insignificant that he would sit out here in the cold, just so their good mood wasn't put on the line, but the gesture of it meant alot, "Don't stay out here too long. I don't think any of us would be happy if you got sick."

 

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