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together through the night

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“Snake!” 

Harry shrieked and jumped ten feet off his bed as Sirius catapulted onto it. 

“Snake wake up! It’s Christmas morning!” 

Harry fumbled his glasses onto his face, grinning. In addition to his candy cane-striped stocking cap, Sirius was bedecked in a robe that glittered and sparkled with golden sequins. Harry was instantly jealous.

“Have some cocoa,” Sirius said, passing him a mug that had miraculously not spilled all over his bed. “And come on! Everyone’s waiting! What kind of kid isn’t up first thing in the morning on Christmas?” 

“Is that what I was supposed to do?” Harry asked, pulling on a dressing gown Sirius had lent him and braiding his hair back quickly. “Get up early?” 

“Well, I was up early,” Sirius said. “But Moony wasn’t very happy about it, so maybe you were right to sleep in.” 

Harry was ushered down to the sitting room where Remus and the elves were gathered, everyone festively dressed. There was a piano in the corner, and one of the elves was playing it. Eggnog and cocoa and tea and coffee were already being liberally consumed. 

“Happy Christmas, Harry!” said August, coming to greet them both with a smile. 

“Happy Christmas, August, Happy Christmas, everyone!” 

Remus came and gave him a hug; he wore a garishly decorated sweater and a pair of reindeer horns on a headband. “Breakfast, Harry?” 

“Alright.” He followed Remus to the kitchen, sipping his cocoa. He could definitely get used to cocoa in bed. 

Kreacher was in the kitchen, slowly wiping a cloth back and forth over the table. “Happy Christmas, Kreacher,” Harry said. 

Kreacher looked up at him, eyes wide and disoriented. “Happy Christmas, Harry Potter.” 

“Would you like some cocoa?” Harry asked. 

Kreacher looked down at the table and continued to wipe it.

“Come, Harry,” Remus said. “Let him be.” He quickly served Harry a plate of bacon and eggs and toast, and they sat at the end of the table together to eat—not the end Kreacher was repeatedly wiping.

“I love Christmas,” Remus said, smiling. “My parents used to take me to church on Christmas mornings when I was young. I don't go anymore, but I still have fond memories of it. I liked the singing."

“I’ve never been to a church,” Harry mumbled around his bacon, “but I’ve been to sanctuary on holidays.”

Remus clasped his hands under his chin and leaned forward, eyes twinkling. “Harry, I admit I find myself incredibly curious as to your life outside Hogwarts. Neither I nor Sirius have a clue where you live or what you get up to.” 

“Well,” Harry said, “I can’t tell you, is the thing. Because the more people know, the more danger my family’s in. And the more people know, the more they can try to stop me.” 

“You can see how that’s a bit worrying,” said Remus.

Harry shrugged. “It shouldn’t be.” 

“But your family—they are kind? Not cruel? They don’t hurt you?” 

“Hurt me?” Harry asked in astonishment. “Of course not! They love me!” 

Remus looked relieved. “Well, good. Would you tell us if something was wrong? If you needed to live somewhere else?” 

“Well, I suppose,” Harry said. “But I have a lot of homes, actually. If something happened, I would go to one of them.”

“Well … add this one to the list, then, alright?” 

Harry smiled at him. “Yeah, alright. When’s Draco and Tonks getting here?” 

“Oh, sometime this morning,” said Remus. “Done with breakfast? Want to play chess?” 

Harry groaned. “Chess? Do you have backgammon?” 

“I believe so, if Sirius can deign to dig up the board.” 

Harry washed his plate quickly, and then, before Remus could say anything, filled a small mug with cocoa and set it gently next to Kreacher, still wiping the same spot of table. “That’s for you,” he said. “Just so you knows.” 

Kreacher said nothing, and Harry and Remus went to rejoin the festivities.

blue branch tipped wth hearts

There was a knock on the door just as Harry won his first game of backgammon against Remus—out of seven. 

“Draco!” Harry exclaimed, exploding from his chair.

“Harry, wait!” snapped Sirius. “There’s a procedure. This is a safe house. Come with me, but quietly.” 

Harry skulked behind Sirius as he ventured to the front door, peering out of the peephole. “Here,” said Sirius. “Get on my back and peek through.” 

Harry raised an eyebrow. Sirius was not a tall man. 

“Come on,” Sirius egged.

Harry sighed and clambered onto his shoulders, allowing Sirius to hoist him into the air. He put his eye to the peephole as Sirius tipped alarmingly from side to side. It was not Draco on the stoop, but someone just as good: Tonks, ensconced between a man and woman Harry didn’t know. 

“The peephole is spelled,” Sirius said quietly. “What color are they?” 

“Um … the adults look orange-ish. But Tonks doesn’t have a color.”

“If they were using any sort of disguise potion or spell, they would appear blue. Tonks has always been the exception—she breaks the spell. That’s how we can tell it’s actually her.” He let Harry down. “Alright, it’s them!” 

Harry flung open the door. “Tonks!” 

“Snake!” she exclaimed, giving him a huge hug, lifting him into the air. “Long time no see, little ghost!” 

“Your hair’s brilliant today,” he said. She had striped it gold and white for the occasion. 

“Hello, Andy, hello, Ted,” said Sirius warmly, pressing their hands. “This is my godson, Harry. Harry, this is my cousin Andromeda and her husband Ted.” 

“Nice to meet you,” Harry said. Tonks set him down so he could shake their hands. Andromeda strongly resembled Sirius in hair and eyes, but lacked his hollowness of gaze. Ted was a short man with salt and pepper hair, glasses, and a friendly smile. 

“Let’s go in, before Remus fears the worst and evacuates everyone,” said Sirius. “As you step over the threshold, please state aloud your intent to not reveal the inhabitants of this house to anyone else.”

“What happens if I don’t?” asked Ted curiously.

“Well, if you don’t say it, or you don’t mean it, you will simply be unable to cross the threshold.” 

“Oh, well,” Ted said. “Nothing interesting like instant death.” 

“Afraid not.” 

One by one they promised to hold the secret and crossed into the hall, leaving coats and hats on an ugly coat stand that Tonks nearly brained herself on.

“This way to the festivities!” Sirius declared, leading them back to the sitting room.

“I’ve missed you, Snake,” said Tonks, briefly flashing his own face at him. “Bathroom breaks are so dull now.”

Harry giggled. “I can imagine. Want some cocoa?” 

“I’ll take eggnog, if it’s all the same to you.” Harry went and got her a glass, and they squashed together on a loveseat and watched Sirius and Remus chat with Andromeda and Ted. 

“Brace yourself, Snake, because today could easily be a disaster,” said Tonks grimly. Between one moment and the next, she changed, and Harry was sitting next to a young man. “Oops,” he said, blinking down at himself. “Huh. I was a girl when I woke up this morning.” 

“That’s alright,” Harry said. “What does it matter?” 

“But I’m wearing a dress,” he protested.

“What’s wrong with that? I got a dress as a gift this year.” 

Tonks cocked his head at him. “You did?” 

“Yeah, my best friend made it for me.” 

“Well … alright, then.” He stretched his legs out. “Yeah, it’s going to be tense, so ready yourself. My mum hasn’t been in the same room with more than one of her blood relatives in ... well, close to twenty years now. I don’t think she, Narcissa, and Sirius have been in a room together for far longer.” 

Harry frowned. “Why?” 

“Well, when mum married a muggle—my dad’s a muggle, see—the Blacks disowned her.” 

“That’s horrid.” 

Tonks shrugged. “Honestly, we were better off without them. But now that Narcissa divorced Lucius … well, they’re trying again.” 

“Hmm. Well … do you know how to play backgammon?” 

“Er, sort of.” 

“Oh, good, maybe I can win a game.” 

They moved to a little table near the tree and set up the board. Across the room, Ted was in deep conversation with August, Sirius and Andromeda were laughing uproariously at a photo album, and Remus was playing a slow, light song on the piano. 

“How’s the aurors?” Harry asked, skipping a piece forward. 

“I quit,” said Tonks bluntly.

Harry looked up at him in surprise. “But—it’s your dream!” 

Tonks shook his head. “Not anymore. Not—not the aurors now. I thought it was possible to change things from the inside. Instead I just earned demerit after demerit for asking too many questions. When they refused to respond to the safe house raid, I begged to be able to go and take statements, to investigate—they shut me down again, and I quit on the spot. Even Kingsley’s having a hard time, but I just couldn’t take it anymore. Their attitude towards elves plus the shit about my gender ….” He shook his head.

Harry frowned deeply. “That’s horrible! You would’ve been the best auror ever, it’s their loss!” 

“Thanks, Snake.” 

“So, what are you doing instead?”

Tonks hesitated. “Er … sort of nothing. I haven’t been able to find a job outside the ministry yet. I’m living with mum and dad which is alright … they’re getting better at understanding things.” He gestured vaguely to his body. “I’d prefer to be employed, obviously, but I’m not going to compromise on my morals, or how I’m treated. I’m lucky enough to be able to take that stand.” 

Harry skipped two pieces into his court. Tonks grumbled. “I bet I could get you a job,” Harry said. “Want to work in Gringotts? Or under the lake? Ooh, I know—Borgin and Burke’s?” 

Tonks laughed at him. “Snake, why on earth do you have job connections for me? Nah, I’ll find something that suits me. But thanks. You’re a good friend.” 

Further knocking came from down the hall, and Harry almost overturned the board. “Draco!” 

Sirius levered himself up. “Here we go.”

“Sirius,” chided Remus from the piano. “Grace and patience.” 

“Grace and patience,” grumbled Sirius as he and Harry left the room, Harry practically skipping. “Like he’s ever had any grace and patience in his life. I’ll check the colors this time. You may have been right about getting on my back earlier. Don’t tell Remus.” 

Harry rolled his eyes as Sirius peeked out, and then opened the door.

“Harry!” cried Draco, flinging himself forward. He was rebuffed by an invisible barrier, bumping back into Narcissa. “Hey!” 

“There’s a password,” Harry said, grinning. “You have to say you promise not to reveal the inhabitants of the house.” 

“I, Draco Black, swear on my honor as a Black not to reveal the inhabitants of this house!” Draco declared, stepping forward. 

“You changed your name!” 

Draco grinned blindingly. “Last week! What do you think!” 

“Brilliant. Hello, Professor Narcissa—er, Professor Black.” 

“Hello, Harry,” said Narcissa, smiling with perfect burgundy lips. She wore a resplendent white fur coat, hands tucked into an equally luxurious muff. “You may call me Narcissa today.” 

“Okay! Draco, come on, Tonks is here already.” 

“Oh—cousin Nymphadora?” 

Don’t call him that,” Harry said darkly, pulling him along. Draco was dressed up too, in a green robe with pale rose accents that matched his hair, which had been carefully styled to one side. “You alright? Having a good holiday?” 

“Yes, we’ve been in France again,” said Draco grandly. “All your gifts are French, this Christmas.” 

“Oh, thank goodness. I was worried.”

Draco swatted him on the shoulder, breaking from him the minute they entered the room and beelining for Remus. “Remus!” 

Remus turned from the piano and swept him into a hug, their pink hair smushing together. “Draco, you’re looking very well,” he said, putting his hands on Draco’s shoulders. “Cup of tea and a chat later?” 

Draco nodded vigorously. “Here, this is for you.” He slammed a present into Remus’ chest, who took it with an amused huff. 

“Why, thank you. Do you mind terribly if I wait to open it with the others?” 

Draco shook his head. “No, that’s fine! Um, I like your sweater.” 

“Draco!” Harry hollered. “Come here!”

Draco headed over to them, zeroing in on Tonks and his dress. “Hello,” he said. “I like your dress.” 

Tonks grinned at him. “Yeah? Thanks. I like your hair. Very similar to certain other hair in the room.” 

Draco put a hand to it, blushing. “Yes, well …” 

Tonks put a hand up. “Hang on. Two’s company, three’s a party.” And his hair shifted from white- and red-striped to pink and asymmetrical. 

“Oh, brilliant,” Draco said, eyes wide. 

“Hello, Andromeda.”

“Hello, Narcissa.” 

Heavy silence filled the air. Harry, Draco, and Tonks craned their heads to watch the Black sisters evaluate each other. They couldn’t have looked more different—Narcissa porcelain-pale and posture-perfect in an emerald robe, Andromeda in a scruffy bun and muggle jeans and Christmas sweater. But in facial expression their sisterhood shone through: identically hesitant, identically guarded.

And then Narcissa reached out a tentative hand. “It’s good to see you, Andy.” 

Andromeda clasped her hand between both of hers. “You too, Cissy. Now come meet my husband. You’re several decades late, and it’s unbelievably uncouth to be late to things.” 

With a graceful smile, Narcissa followed where she led.

Draco and Tonks let out twin sighs of relief. “Thank Merlin,” said Draco. 

“You’re telling me. Now, boys, how about a game of threes? I have a new pack of definitely not rigged playing cards.” 

blue branch tipped wth hearts

“Snake? I have one last present for you, if you can manage to sit up.” 

Groaning, Harry levered himself upwards. He was so full from Christmas dinner he could barely move from the couch in front of the fireplace. The sitting room was littered with opened presents and discarded wrapping which Sirius had forbidden to be cleaned up until tomorrow, to preserve the sense of festivity. 

“I think I fell asleep,” Harry yawned. 

“I think so too.” Sirius grinned at him, cheeks flushed and eyes sparkling. “Here, sit with me for a moment and listen.” 

Curious, Harry leaned into his side, listening to the house at night. Everyone had left, and the elves had gone to have a celebration of their own. The only sounds were the gentle creak of the old house around them, the crackle of the fire, and their breaths.

“This was always my favorite time to be in this house,” Sirius said softly. “Christmas night, when I was the only one still awake. I’d come and sit in front of the fire and pretend it was just me and that I was warm and safe. Sometimes my brother would sit with me.” 

“Your brother?” 

Sirius nodded. “Regulus. He was a death eater, but he died betraying Voldemort. He was a brave kid.” 

“Sorry.” 

“Me too.” 

They sat and breathed and listened to the empty house. Harry could almost pretend he was Sirius, creeping down here to snatch a moment of solitude. 

“Here.” Sirius placed a bundle wrapped in a cloth on his lap. “One last present for you. And for Star.” 

“For Star?” Harry said curiously. “What do you mean?” 

“Open them.” 

Gently, Harry unfolded the cloth to reveal two silver mirrors. “They’re pretty,” he said, flipping them over to see the backs. They were decorated with complimentary designs: a unicorn on one, a lion on the other. 

“These are very rare,” Sirius said softly. “Family artifacts—some of the only ones that aren’t irreparably dark. James and I used them, before I ran away.” He traced the outline of the unicorn’s horn. “They are two-way mirrors.” 

Harry’s heart stuttered. “Two-way mirrors?” 

Gently, Sirius took one of the mirrors. “Harry Potter,” he said softly. 

The mirror in Harry’s hands shuddered and shone with a faint golden light. He turned it over to see Sirius’ face looking at him from within, creased into a soft, sad smile.

“Whoever has one mirror need only speak the name of the owner of the other,” said Sirius’ reflection. “And if the other has it on them, they will know and answer.” 

To his utter astonishment, there were tears landing on the mirror in his lap. Not Sirius’. Sirius’ face vanished from the mirror at once, and he pulled Harry close. “Oh, Snake, what’s wrong?” 

Harry tried to get ahold of himself, but the basilisk hissed in the back of his mind, reminding him that crying was alright. He let himself rock in the waves of emotion flooding through him. “I just—I just—you don’t know how much this means to me. To us.” 

Sirius stroked his hair. “I think I have a bit of an idea.” 

Harry pulled away from him, and Sirius wiped the tears from his cheeks with his glittery sleeve. “Seriously, though, Sirius—this has to be the last Christmas present. I’m not going to be able to carry everything home.” 

Sirius winced. “I’m afraid that’s not possible, Snake. I haven’t even given you Limmy’s presents to take back yet.”

blue branch tipped wth hearts

The day after Christmas, Harry was smacked promptly in the face at seven am by the paper. Snorting with laughter, he fumbled for his glasses and peered at the headlines. 

The crimson header blared out like a siren. His heart sank straight down to his toes.

THE DEMIGUISE

THE PREMIER INTER-BEING NEWS SOURCE

EDITION 64 ✩ 26 Dec 1993

CONTENTS:
MINISTRY DECLARES “LIBERATED ELVES” ANTI-GOVERNMENT TERRORIST GROUP
by The Demiguise Collective
FUDGE SLASHES HOGWARTS FUNDING
by Humdinger
THORFINN ROWLE RELEASED
by Loupe
INTERNATIONAL UPROAR OVER MINISTRY ACTIONS
by Superlative