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SIYE Time:13:11 on 12th July 2024
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A Harry Potter Christmas
By myenzie

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Category: Post-HBP
Characters:All
Genres: Action/Adventure
Warnings: Death
Story is Complete
Rating: PG
Reviews: 9
Summary: Spend a few magical days with Harry as he defeats a Dark Lord, saves a friend and nearly loses everything important to him.
Hitcount: Story Total: 4673



Disclaimer: Harry Potter Publishing Rights © J.K.R. Note the opinions in this story are my own and in no way represent the owners of this site. This story subject to copyright law under transformative use. No compensation is made for this work.





ChapterPrinter


A Harry Potter Christmas

Disclaimers: All things Potter belong to Ms. Rowling, whom I thank for allowing me to play in her sandbox. Other ideas and moods have been borrowed from Charles Dickens and Green Day.

oHoHoHoHoHoHoHoHo

The streets were deserted, which was not a surprise given that it was late on Christmas Eve. The few people and cars around hurried on their way, to home and hearth and family. These were all things that Harry knew that he didn't have as he reflected on life and the circumstances that had led him on his solitary meanderings through London that cold and bitter night, naught but his shadow and morose ponderings for company.

If you had asked Harry a scant two or three days ago what he thought his life might look like now, he would have told you something entirely different, of laughter and friendship gathered in front of a warm fire, a time of love and family. All seemingly lost to him now.

Two days ago and scarcely six months into the Horcrux Hunt, Hermione Granger had set off on a short break to visit with her family for a few days over the holidays. They'd already located and destroyed the Slytherin locket and the Hufflepuff cup and had a line on the Ravenclaw lyre they thought to be the last impediment to Harry's destiny with Voldemort. He had felt emboldened then; so much had gone so well for them.

Then, the day after Hermione had left, Harry had heard from Mundungus about the lyre. When he told Ron about it, they decided to retrieve it as soon as they could, lest it be lost again. An incognito visit to Knockturn Alley and not a little bit of gold to the merchant selling the lyre (no questions asked, of course, about how he came into possession of it), and they had it at last.

Harry and Ron had brought the thing to Grimmauld Place, excited that it would soon be destroyed and they would be that much closer to resuming their lives. Unfortunately, life had gone to hell in a hand-basket shortly thereafter.

oHoHoHoHoHoHoHoHo

Harry and Ron set the lyre on the coffee table in the ground floor lounge of 12 Grimmauld Place, formerly home of the Order of the Phoenix and Sirius Black, before Sirius' death had resulted in Harry coming into ownership of it. The grate was cold, half-filled with old ash, though fresh firewood was stacked next to the fireplace. The room was cold, dark and decrepit -- in other words, unchanged in all the time Harry had known it.

"Start the fire, will you, mate?" Harry asked Ron. "I'll fetch us some butterbeer from the kitchen and see if there's any food."

"OK," Ron replied, shuffling off toward the fireplace, wand already out to clean away the remnants of the last fire. Pointing the wand and waving it slightly, he said "Scourgify!" and the grate was magically cleaned.

Harry wandered out the door, leaving Ron to sort the rest of it out, and headed down the stairs to the basement kitchen, lighting the gas lighting fixtures as he went, remarking to himself mentally, yet again, that wizards were certainly backwards in some ways where muggles used simple electrical devices like electric lights using switches to ease their lives. At the bottom of the steps, he shoved open the door and walked over to the cold chest, where he knew he had previously stocked some butterbeer and cold cuts.

Harry pulled out the foodstuffs, and got out a tray and a couple of plates from the shelves overhead. Walking across the kitchen, he opened the breadbox, now thankful that magic could keep a loaf of bread fresh for days at a time. He cut several thick slices of the bread, stuffed the rest of the loaf into the box, and carried the slices back to the tray. Finally, he grabbed some eating utensils and napkins and nudged them onto a corner of the tray as well.

He picked the tray up and carried it across the kitchen, pushing the door open with his foot, mentally debating with himself whether to wait for Hermione to take on the destruction of the Horcrux or to attempt it with just Ron around. Although he had destroyed the two before, both Ron and Hermione had shielded the three of them from the magical backlash and so all had faired pretty well, though Harry had been a little tired by the time each had been magically disemboweled.

Climbing the steps, he had pretty much decided to wait for Hermione's return, and to take the thing on after Christmas. He felt that he, too, could use a break and looked forward to comfort and fun with his adoptive family, the Weasleys, and maybe even a little quiet time to try to pull things out of the fire with Ginny.

As he reached the top of the stairs, his thoughts were interrupted by a scream from the lounge -- Ron. Dropping the tray, he rushed to the door and saw Ron, wand out and pointed at the lyre, trying to contain the black cloud spewing out of it. Obviously, Ron had a different thought about when to take on the Horcrux and for some reason had moved to destroy it himself.

Pulling out his own wand, Harry performed the spell that Ron had apparently unsuccessfully attempted during his absence. With a cry of, "Animam Edere!" the black cloud shrunk back into the lyre and with a loud crack, the instrument shuddered and then snapped in half, extinguishing the soul remnant within. The backlash flung Harry back into the entry hall, where he landed with a "thud!" Winded, it took Harry a few moments to get his breath back, and then he pulled himself to his feet and hurried back into the lounge again.

Ron was lying on the floor next to the wall, which, judging by the cracked plaster, he had hit quite hard. He was unconscious and his legs were at an odd angle, making Harry think they were fractured. His face, arms and hands were bright red, showing signs of some sort of flash burn. Leaning over Ron, Harry felt his neck for a pulse and found it, though he thought it a little weak and thready. Ron's chest moved as he breathed, but there was a rattling sound to it that worried Harry greatly.

Though Ron was taller and generally larger than Harry, Harry didn't care. He picked his friend up and held him in his arms. Taking a deep breath, he focused clearly on the entry hall at St. Mungo's and willed himself to be there. A soft "pop" later and Harry and Ron were gone, leaving the lounge empty and the broken Horcrux still standing on the table.

oHoHoHoHoHoHoHoHo

At St. Mungo's, Harry appeared with the larger teen still suspended in his arms. He rushed forward and called for help. The matron behind the information desk rose and, seeing the desperation in his eyes and the unmoving body in his arms, asked, "Spell damage?"

Harry nodded in affirmation as he followed her through the crowd of people, shoving bystanders out of the way. At the lift, she pulled him in and pushed the button to carry them to the correct floor. To Harry, the lift seemed to move excruciatingly slowly, but finally it rattled to a stop and the door opened. Leaping out ahead of his escort, Harry called loudly for a Healer, and one quickly obliged. The Healer conjured a stretcher and helped Harry lower Ron onto it, and then walked rapidly toward a corridor opposite the lift, Harry in tow.

"I'm Healer Murphy," he said by way of introduction. "I know who you are, Mr. Potter, but who is this lad?"

"Ron Weasley."

"Is he of age or will I need parental consent for treatment? And can you fill me in on what happened?"

"Ron's seventeen, so he's of age. He was trying to destroy a magical artifact and it kind of exploded. It threw him across the room and into a wall."

"What kind of artifact?"

Harry answered, "I really can't say." He was, however, precluded from saying anymore as Ron started convulsing violently. The Healer directed Ron, stretcher and all, into a room on the right, saying to Harry, "Stay here." By this time, a mediwitch had appeared and was bustling into the room with the Healer, who said to her, "Code Blue." The mediwitch nodded as the door closed in Harry' face.

Unsure what else he could or should do, Harry settled into a plastic seat across the hall. A perverse thought flitted across his consciousness -- that of all things for wizards to appropriate from muggles, they had to choose tacky, uncomfortable plastic chairs that grace medical facilities and airports the world over. He soon turned to a slow churning of guilt, worry, despair and fear that his friend might not make it and that the Weasleys would be devastated.

The wait seemed interminable. Finally, the Healer exited from the room and crossed to Harry. "He's stabilized," the Healer stated. "But he is still in critical condition. He's burned over the majority of his body, his lungs were partially collapsed and his heart was bruised, his ribs were fractured and his legs broken, and be appears to have a severe concussion. And that's the part we know how to treat."

The Healer sighed and ran his hand through his hair. "He isn't responding to our efforts to revive him. From everything we know, he should have awakened by now from our treatments, but there's nothing there! There seems to be limited brain activity. Please, Mr. Potter, anything you can tell me -- anything at all -- will help."

Harry bent his head down, his hand rubbing at his scar. He truly wanted to say something, to explain, but anything he said might alert Voldemort. He wanted to help his best mate, a brother in all but name, but he knew he couldn't. If he could trade places, he would. "I'm sorry, Healer Murphy, but I really don't know anymore."

Healer Murphy looked entirely unconvinced, but nodded nevertheless. "Alright then, is there anyone we should notify, or will you?"

Harry's heart sunk into his stomach. This was Mrs. Weasley's greatest fear -- he'd seen it when she had found the Bogart. But this was one task, no matter how horrible, that he couldn't avoid. It was his sad duty to bring the news to Arthur and Molly Weasley.

"I'll do it," he said. "I'll fetch his parents. Will he be here?"

"Yes, Mr. Potter. This is a critical care room and I don't see him moving for some time."

Harry nodded, and thanked the Healer for his help. Turning on his heal, Harry walked back down the corridor to the lift, returning to the entrance hall. Once there, he found the public floo access and, after buying a small bag of floo powder from the volunteer, tossed a pinch into the fire, calling out, "The Burrow!" He shoved his head into the fire and saw Mr. Weasley sitting in the ragged armchair that was his favorite seat.

"Mr. Weasley, is it OK if I come through?" he asked.

Arthur Weasley looked up, startled, but seeing it was Harry smiled and responded affirmatively. A moment later, the fire flared again in a bright green and Harry stepped into the lounge at the Burrow.

Arthur took Harry's hand, beaming, and asked, "What brings you here tonight, Harry?"

Choosing not to answer the question, Harry answered with a question of his own, "Is Mrs. Weasley here, too?"

Arthur nodded, and turned toward the kitchen, gesturing that Harry should precede him. As Harry entered the warm and comfortable room, Molly Weasley turned to him and exclaimed, "Harry!" A moment later, Harry was engulfed in a tremendous hug.

Harry returned the hug briefly, before pushing himself back and disentangling himself from her arms. He knew he couldn't put it off any longer, so he steeled himself for what he had to say, and dove in head first, "I'm sorry to have to come here like this, but I just came from St. Mungo's."

The Weasleys' genial attitude faded faster than a puddle into the sand in the Sahara. Harry forged on with his sad news, "Ron was injured and isn't doing too well. I think maybe you ought to come see him."

Molly was visibly shaking as she leaned into Arthur's arms. Standing straight as he could, Arthur said to no one in particular, "Right. Need to go. Ought to get Ginny, can't leave her alone."

Harry offered to tell her what was going on, and escort her to hospital. He told them where Ron could be found, and helped Mrs. Weasley gather her bag and cloak for the journey. After they set off, Harry trudged up the stairs and knocked on the door to his ex-(and hopefully future) girlfriend's room. The voice he had missed so much called out, "Come in!" and Harry opened the door.

Ginny looked up and a smile lit her face like the sun on a spring afternoon. But, looking at Harry's expression, the smile faded. Harry stated simply, "Ron's been hurt. Your parents went to St. Mungo's and I told them I'd bring you."

Ginny's face fell, though she didn't cry. "Alright, let's go then." She grabbed Harry's hand, leading him to the fireplace. Once there, she threw floo powder in and, calling out, "St. Mungo's," she stepped in. Harry followed her through the floo, and once they were reunited at the hospital, he led her to the ward where Ron was.

"Ginny, I'm going to go down and floo the twins and Hermione, OK?" Harry asked. He didn't want to leave her, but knew the rest of the family should be told, and didn't think anyone else would think to do it. Ginny nodded and hugged him, and then walked into her father's arms, tears forming on her cheeks.

oHoHoHoHoHoHoHoHo

After Harry had firecalled the twins, he apparated to the Granger's house. If anything, he was dreading this even more than fetching the Weasleys' earlier. Knowing it had to be done, he walked up the front steps and knocked on the front door.

Mr. Granger answered the door and looked puzzled for a moment, but before Harry could introduce himself again, he said, "Aw, Harry! Didn't recognize you for a moment. Here to see Hermione, I wager." With that, he stepped aside and bid Harry enter the room. Harry followed him into a large library-looking room off the entry, and sat when Mr. Granger told him to be comfortable whilst he fetched his daughter.

Hermione entered the room shortly after, an anxious look on her face. Harry's look of concern unnerved her as Harry stood to great her. "What's wrong, Harry?" she asked, exhibiting the bluntness Harry knew (and was often aggravated by) so well.

"It's Ron," Harry said. "We found it and, well, he tried to take care of the problem himself. He's hurt, Hermione. Hurt bad, and he's in St. Mungo's."

Hermione's hand had come to her mouth, and tears leaked out of her eyes. Taking her hands, Harry told her he would take her to the hospital, and she nodded her agreement. After asking, she told him she had her wand and needed nothing else, so Harry sat her down and found his way into the kitchen to tell Mr. and Mrs. Granger where they were going and, in broad terms, why.

Only a few minutes later, Harry returned to the lounge and, gathering his second oldest friend into his arms, disapparated with a soft "pop."

oHoHoHoHoHoHoHoHo

At St. Mungo's, Harry led Hermione to the lift and then on to Ron's room. With a short nod from Charlie, she opened the door. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were missing, and Harry presumed in the room with Ron. Ginny was leaning against Bill, tears dripping from her eyes, studiously avoiding Harry's look. Bill looked very much not thrilled to see Harry, whilst the twins talked to each other and seemed to pretend he didn't exist. Percy, as usual, wasn't anywhere to be seen.

Sighing, Harry took a seat across the hall and down a little ways from the Weasleys, all of whom seemed involved in comforting each other.

After a wait that seemed to Harry to be hours long, a Healer bustled down the hall and into Ron's room. A few minutes later, Ron's parents and Hermione exited. The ladies were still tearful, Mr. Weasley supporting his wife and trying also to help Hermione, until seconds later the twins took her under their wings, one on each side.

Harry rose and moved closer to them slowly, feeling guilty over his best mate's predicament.

In times past, Hermione and the Weasleys had worked to assuage Harry's feelings of guilt, and he half expected them to this time as well. As he stood in front of Hermione, he looked into her eyes and spoke. "Hermione, I'm sorry . . ."

His voice drifted off and then, a moment later, the sound of her slap against his face echoed through the hallway. "How could you?" she cried. "I trusted you and you did this to him!"

She turned then, into George's arms and cried as she hadn't yet that day, as she never had before. Fred wrapped his arms around her and his brother, gently guiding them to a seat. Ginny looked away and leaned further into Bill's shoulder, and Bill gave Harry a look that would make a goblin shudder. Mrs. Weasley glared at him for a moment and turned to Arthur, who alone amongst the Weasleys gave Harry a look that wasn't filled with loathing or disgust.

Effectively cowed, Harry looked to the floor and turned, walking quietly and forlornly away from them.

oHoHoHoHoHoHoHoHo

Back at Grimmauld place, Harry appeared quietly in the ground floor lounge and sat on the sofa in front of the fire. He lowered his head into his hands and took a deep breathe, willing himself to not cry. The rejection he had felt over the years from the Dursleys was nothing compared to this. They had never been his family, but the Weasleys had always before been there for him, had been his safe harbor in heady storms, and now they were gone.

Dobby appeared a few minutes later, displaying his uncanny ability to show himself when Harry was least ready for him or desirous of his company. Nevertheless, Harry accepted his offer of food, not because he was hungry but because he knew both that Dobby wouldn't leave him alone otherwise and also that he would need the nourishment to carry him through his developing plan.

After eating, Harry went up to the room he'd used a few times over the last months and took a small vial out of a drawer. Lying on his bed, he sipped half the contents, and put the half-full container on the bed side table. Shortly, he fell into a troubled sleep that filled a physical though neither mental nor spiritual need.

oHoHoHoHoHoHoHoHo

Hours later, Dobby shook Harry awake. Rising, Harry went to the loo to refresh himself and then returned to the room to eat the large bowl of soup and crusty bread Harry had requested.

As soon as he was done, Harry disapparated again, appearing moments later in a dark alley in a low rent area of Muggle London. He rounded a corner and entered a derelict lobby, magicing himself past the locked door. Climbing a couple of flights up the staircase, he approached a door and listened there intently. Hearing nothing, he issued a short prayer and forced his way into the flat. Luckily, no one was there, so he closed the door and returned it to its original state.

As most police officers will attest, "stake outs" are mostly filled with boredom and punctuated with moments of adrenalin filled terror, and Harry would agree. After waiting for nearly an hour (Harry would have described it in terms of days and not minutes), the door opened and admitted a single, middle aged and thoroughly unremarkable man. As soon as the door closed, Harry pointed his wand at the man and stunned him wordlessly.

Moving swiftly across the floor, Harry swept his wand over the man. Finding no portkeys or cursed objects, he again pointed his wand at the prone man, whispering "Petrificus Totalis," and then "enervated" him.

Upon regaining his senses, the man's eyes bugged out and then swiveled around, slightly reminiscent of Mad Eye Moody's artificial eye. Seeing Harry, his eyes fixated on the scar and his eyebrows rose ever so slightly.

Harry looked him in the eye and said, "Ah, I see you recognize me? I know you, too, Jeffries. Most importantly, I know not only who, but what you are. I haven't time for the niceties, so I shall make this short. I need information and you are about to give it to me."

Looking into the man's eyes, Harry thought, "Legilmens." Sifting through the Jeffries' thoughts, Harry found what he needed. A portkey, hidden behind a false back in a drawer, together with the death eater robes and mask Harry needed. The knowledge that there would be a large gathering, but not for another five hours, to spread fear though the population on the Holiday night.

Exiting the man's thoughts, Harry stood and put enough spells on the man to keep him trussed up like a Christmas goose until at least the new year. He moved to the drawer from Jeffries' thoughts and, pulling out the cloak and mask, put them on. Finally, he grasped the portkey and activated it.

oHoHoHoHoHoHoHoHo

The room was dark and dismal, filled with an aroma of decay and an aura of evil. Harry looked around, noticing the solitary robed figure at the door. He moved forward, determined to end this tonight and not allow any avenue for the Death Eaters to discover him. He raised his wand surreptitiously and whispered, "Imperio," putting as much force into it as he could. The man's eyes glazed over and Harry, wand leveled, thought the instructions to cause the man to stun and hide future comers.

Moving through the door, Harry listened intently. Hearing nothing, he moved stealthily through the halls until he found a stairway down to the basement. There, in the kitchen, he moved to a doorway, lured by whispered thoughts he knew to come from Nagini, the next to last target he would search for that night. He opened the door and moved quietly down the corridor. The hissing words came to him, grew louder, as he moved forward, and then he paused. He raised his hand and the torches lit, their fires burning low and producing a shadowy light in the space.

The huge snake was before him, looking him in the eye. The final Horcrux. Nagini hissed, "Master will be pleased to find you. He has sought you and you deliver yourself to us. You are promised to me, and after he has had his fun with you, I shall feast!"

Before the snake could move, Harry aimed his wand and issued forth the single spell that would deal with the great, charmed snake before him: "Animam Edere!"

Harry hadn't the opportunity to provide himself an effective shield -- he had acted upon his feelings that with Nagini it wouldn?t be needed, and years after he would still think it amazing that for once his intuition about magic had been correct. Nagini couldn't even hiss, couldn't call for help. Instead, the spell engulfed the snake in a golden glow and then the black cloud enveloped the serpent, drawing life from it. Nagini shook, and then life seemed to be pulled from it. Finally, it lay upon the floor, emaciated, desiccated and lifeless. Harry knew the final Horcrux was gone and only one last task remained before he fulfilled his destiny, his life's calling.

Harry moved down the hall, passing the remains of Nagini while barely containing his disgust, and quietly climbed the steps the snake had only just descended. At the top, he found a landing with a door half shut, and heard Voldemort talking at one of his followers, clearly aggravated at something. Harry braced himself, uttering a silent prayer for strength, asking his parents and Sirius to see him through the next several minutes and asking they would grant him success in this meeting with his destiny.

Stepping out, Harry took three full strides into the room before Voldemort or any of the four Death Eaters there noticed him. Though the Death Eaters started to raise their wands, Voldemort shouted, "NO! He is mine! Do not move against him."

The Death Eaters lowered their wands, though one moved around behind Harry, seeking to cut off his escape down the stairs he had used to get there.

Harry moved a few more steps, looking only at Voldemort, his eyes fixed on him. "Tom, it's time to end this. To let one of us get on with our life."

Voldemort railed internally against this use of familiar address, a name he had left behind, but restrained himself and smiled evilly at the young man who stood in front of him, wand in the hand dangling at his side. He said, "Yes, Harry, it is time for you to join your parents and godfather."

Harry smiled, benignly, and countered, "I'm prepared for my next great adventure, to meet my Maker. Are you, Tom? Are you ready to face judgment for all you have done?"

"Harry, I hardly think I have anything to worry about, unlike you!" The Dark Lord looked into the young man's eyes, seeking to read his thoughts, and Harry pushed a select few forward, having expected this. The diary, pierced though by the basilisk fang. The ring, cracked stone, in Dumbledore's office. The locket, cup and lyre, all broken. Finally, Tom's familiar, dead and desiccated, only a floor below.

Voldemort screamed in rage. He thought not about the loss of his immortality but about the child in front of him whose defiance had cost so much, and pointed his wand.

"Avada Kadavra!" was met by Harry's "Animam Edera." The spells met, as they had in Harry's fourth year. Again, a golden dome formed about them. Voldemort was furious, yelling at those surrounding them to leave Harry to him. Harry, though, thought then about Dumbledore's words to him, that the power Voldemort didn't have was love.

Harry thought about those he loved. About his parents and Sirius, gone but not forgotten, and his hope to see them again, and to do them proud. He thought about Ron and Hermione, Ron's sacrifice to help in the defeat of the monster in front of him and Hermione's support over the years. His mind touched on the scene in the hospital and then moved past it, considering instead her steadfast help and support over the years.

His thoughts turned to the Weasleys, and he pushed aside the last meeting with them. He thought of the twin's jokes and humor, of Bill's love for Fleur and brotherly compassion, and even of Charlie's camaraderie talking of dragons and adventures and pranks from long ago. And he thought of their family and its love and the good times that would collapse if Harry failed.

Finally, Harry thought of Ginny. Of their first kiss, in the common room, in front of everyone. Of the conversation after, when they'd left to talk. Of the times after, talking of a future, a life. He realized that he had never told her that he loved her and wondered, then hoped he would have the opportunity.

Looking at the monstrosity before him, Harry shoved his wand aside, breaking the connection. Voldemort shook, then raised his wand to try another curse. The dome around them was collapsing as Voldemort took aim and shouted, "Crucio!"

Harry, meanwhile, dropped to the floor and aimed his wand slightly away from the red-eyed thing in front of him. He kept his thoughts in the forefront of his mind, and mingled them with the memories of Ginny in his arms, his love for her warming his heart. He pointed his wand to one side of Voldemort, so as not to cross spells again, and whispered, "Expecto Patronum!"

Voldemort's curse missed. Prongs' form, larger and brighter than ever, burst forth from Harry's wand. Voldemort's eyes opened wide, glaring red, and his lipless mouth quirked up. "Ha!!! . . . Aaaaaaargh!" he cried. First a laugh of disbelief, and then a cry of agony.

The absurdity of Prongs appearance had amused Voldemort, who was starting to laugh at Harry's decision to launch a patronus. His cry changed when the spectral form turned and buried its antlers in his chest, picking him up from the ground and then shoving him back into the wall. The glowing light from the patronus seemed to glow through the monster, though his eyes and expressed through his mouth.

The four surrounding Death Eaters dropped their wands and grasped their left forearms, shouting in agony as well. They collapsed to the floor, shrieking.

The body of Voldemort smoked, and then seemed to dehydrate. It collapsed to the floor, a huge flash of magic lighting the room, the building and for kilometers surrounding. Prongs stepped back and the Dark Lord's desiccated body fell to the floor, drained and withered. Prongs faded to nothing and Harry stood and stepped forward, wand pointed loosely at the thing lying in front of him, realizing that now that the prophecy was fulfilled, his destiny was complete.

As Harry stood, he heard multiple "pops" around him and, fearing the arrival of Death Eaters, disapparated.

oHoHoHoHoHoHoHoHo

Tonks had been in the on-duty room at the DMLE when the alarm about massive magical discharge had sounded. She, together with eleven other Aurors, had scrambled to the listing in the magical record book and then into the secure apparition room. The group apparated to the source of the discharge.

Tonks saw the young man, mussed hair and emerald eyes, standing over the remains of the Dark Lord, and recognized him immediately. Harry disappeared as Tonks said, questioningly, "Harry?"

Although Harry disappeared, Michaels also thought he recognized the "Chosen One" and heard Tonks. Turning, he gave her a questioning look, and she nodded her head in confirmation, saying, "Yes. That was Harry -- Harry Potter."

oHoHoHoHoHoHoHoHo

Word spread faster even than the last time the Dark Lord had fallen. This time there was a body. This time a witness to the young man standing over the fallen figure of the most feared dark lord in a century. This time there was the confirmation of a prophesied hero over the prone figure of a vanquished monster. And this time, at a holiday even bigger than the last time Harry Potter had defeated Voldemort.

All about Britain, and indeed around the world, people mingled celebration of Christmas with that of the defeat of darkness and triumph of light.

Word reached the Weasleys in their vigil over Ron soon. Oddly, Ron had suddenly shown remarkable and inexplicable improvement shortly before. Indeed, the Healer couldn't explain the earlier problem or the healing and so decided to keep him until the morning "just in case." Ron had agreed so long as he could go home the next morning to spend Christmas with his family. Hermione kept her worries in hand and held his hand, simply wanting time with her boyfriend and ecstatic over his remarkable recovery.

oHoHoHoHoHoHoHoHo

Harry had not known who had apparated into the room with Voldemort and had fled to safety at Grimmauld Place. Once there, he had gathered a few things and, bidding good-bye to Dobby, moved to the small muggle hostelry he had used once before when Ron and Hermione were visiting parents, telling them that the couple was dating seriously. Neither Ron nor Hermione knew of this place and so he felt safely alone.

Harry walked out of his shelter, seeking solitude for his thoughts.

oHoHoHoHoHoHoHoHo

Having relived the last couple of days and the events that led him to where he was now, Harry continued his perambulations around the older quarters of London. He thought again of the Weasleys and wished things could be different. He thought, though, of the way he had let them down, let Ron be hurt so badly, and of their enmity toward him.

Walking into a small lane wherein all the shops were closed and shuttered, he found and sat upon a stone bench. Harry thought that his friends should be shed of him for the hurt he had caused Ron, and his heart hurt for what he had done to them. Dursleyesque thoughts and doubts flooded him, and he decided that they would be best off without him. He yearned for his parents, and Sirius and Dumbledore, and his prayers turned to be remarkably similar to those of his youth. Years ago, before magic and Hagrid and Hogwarts, he had prayed for release, that he might be relieved of his life and allowed to join his parents in death. Tonight, Christmas Eve, he renewed a prayer forgotten and, in his mind, unanswered, asking that he might finally be allowed a release so that he could see again those he loved and missed.

Harry finally raised his head, thinking his prayer unanswered, and saw a specter, translucent and glowing, moving down the desolate street toward him. As it neared, he recognized the form as that of Sirius Black and cursed his own warped imagination, and maybe the couple of shots of whiskey he'd had earlier in the muggle pub.

Sirius stopped in front of Harry, and Harry noticed that, unlike a ghost, he seemed more solid and lifelike, his form retaining the coloring it had in life. Deciding to play along with the game, Harry said, "Evening, Sirius. You're looking good."

Sirius looked at Harry, surprised. "That's it, Harry? I'd have thought I might provoke a bigger reaction than that, returning from the dead and all."

Harry looked the sprit over before answering, "If I believed it was you, maybe. But since I must be mad, or drunk, or both, I think not."

"You aren't crazy Harry, and you aren't drunk. We heard you, you know, and you will be joining us."

At these words, Harry allowed himself to smile, to feel that it might be possible. "You mean it -- I can see you, and Mum and Dad again?" Harry stood, believing at last that this might be Sirius after all. He reached out and hugged the man, who was surprisingly there for a specter and surprisingly not. It felt like holding a warm patch of very dense air, but Harry didn't care. He felt Sirius and it was real.

"Yes Harry, and Dumbledore and your grandparents and family, people who know and love you and want to meet you and for you to meet them. You will join all of us, Harry. But not tonight."

Harry pulled back, frowning. "Why not?"

"It isn't your time, Harry. I'm not here to take you with me, but instead to offer a lesson you should have had years ago. One you should have learned and felt, but which has been denied you through the failures of so many people who care so much about you. You, Harry, have an incredible ability to love, but have had and felt little real love. Tonight, Harry, I've come back to show you that you are loved and that there is a reason to be here, for those who you care about and who care about you."

Harry looked at his godfather, and asked sarcastically, "And what are you? The ghost of Christmas past or present or future?"

Sirius laughed then, a short bark that belied his animagus form and reminded Harry sharply how much he had missed hearing that sound. "Yes Harry, all three." Sirius reached out and took hold of Harry's hand, and they were gone in a swirl of colors.

oHoHoHoHoHoHoHoHo

By the dim light around them, it appeared to be a little before dawn. Hagrid's hut was before them, and Sirius led Harry towards it. When he arrived at the door he walked through it, but Harry stopped and knocked. Or, rather, he tried to knock. Instead, his hand went through the solid door. Pulling his hand back, he looked quizzically at the wooden entry and moved to try knocking again, his hand instead contacting Sirius' forehead as Sirius looked through the door at him. "Ow!"

"Come on, Harry, we haven't got all day!" his godfather said, grabbing Harry's arm and pulling. Harry almost stumbled through the door, and found himself staring at Hagrid. The big man was sitting at his rough table, the giant boarhound Fang at his feet. He held a huge cup of tea in his hands, as much for warmth as for the liquid it held. A solitary tear slid down his cheek.

"Fang," he said. "Its over, but naught's right anyhow. Dumbledore's dead and Harry, Harry's gone missing. I miss 'im, ya know. Young 'un's done so much and seen so much, it ain't right. And now, he should be wit' family and no one knows where he is. It don't feel right, not at all!" Burying is great head in his arms, Hagrid sobbed then, rattling the windows.

Fang stirred and sat up; adding his pitiful howls to the reverberating room, and Harry moved to comfort him. As Harry tried to lay his hand on his friend's back, though, it passed through, unnoticed by the crying man.

Harry looked up at Sirius, a question on his face. Sirius answered, "To him, we aren't here Harry. We're mere shades in this world of shadows, things that will be unless you act to make them different."

Then Sirius tugged at Harry, and the two again disappeared in a flash of color.

oHoHoHoHoHoHoHoHo

In the Headmistress' office at Hogwarts, McGonagall sat at her desk, shuffling papers. Her lips were pressed together so tightly that one would be hard pressed to find a mouth on her face. Snow fluttered outside the window, and Fawkes empty perch still stood in the corner of the room, mute testimony to what the school and the wizarding world had lost with the death of Albus Dumbledore.

In the newest portrait on the wall, the likeness of Dumbledore stirred and woke from what had seemed a deep sleep. He spoke, addressing himself to the new Headmistress. "Is there no word, still, Minerva?"

The old lady rose from her seat and turned to face him, and Harry noticed that her shoulders seemed sloped, as though carrying a tremendous burden. "No, Albus. After Tonks saw him he vanished. He is nowhere to be found. We've looked everywhere, but . . .," her voice trailed off.

Albus' face looked sad, and the words he spoke rang hollow somehow, "I'm sure he is alright, Minerva. Harry has always managed to persevere, and I am certain this time shall not be the exception. You must not lose hope, dear lady."

Her eyes glistened, but she nodded, and said, "Yes, of course. I just wish he was here or somewhere safe, with those who care so much about him. He has done as his father and mother did -- I find myself caring more than I should for a student."

Albus shook his head, and comforted her, "No, Minerva. It is never a mistake to care for another as strongly as your heart will allow. Though it may sometimes lead to pain, it brings also the greatest of happiness, and that is what makes life worth living. My greatest regrets lie not in having cared, but in not having shared that I cared as I should have. Do not repeat my errors, reach out as much as your heart will allow."

A tear fell from McGonagall's eyes then, and she nodded. Her voice a little higher than usual and trembling, she said to him, "I have to go now, Albus. The students that have remained, and the faculty, will be starting breakfast and I should be there with them." Albus nodded, and the Headmistress headed to the door and through it. As she left, she said to herself so softly it could barely be heard, "Be safe Harry, and hurry back. We miss you."

Sirius turned then and looked Harry in the eye, and reiterated Dumbledore's words, "It's never a mistake to care as strongly as your heart will allow -- that is what makes life worth living." Then touching his godson, they were gone again in a twirl of color and light and shadow.

oHoHoHoHoHoHoHoHo

The snow falling at Hogwarts in northern Scotland didn't extend as far south as the small cottage they now stood in front of. The building was neither as large nor as ramshackle as the Burrow, but still had a feeling of warmth and comfort and being lived in that Harry found he yearned for.

Sirius had paused on the pathway that led to the front door, and just looked at it, a tear now in his eye. "Moony," he said, "it's been so long since I've been here. Merlin how I loved this place."

He turned to Harry and said, "This is Moony's place. He got it from his parents, and we came here after your fourth year for a few days, before we moved to Grimmauld Place. Come on, let's see how he's doing."

Sirius led Harry up the path and through the door. It was late morning and Remus was sitting on a couch in front of a warm fire, staring into it. Harry was surprised a little, though, when Nymphadora Tonks came through a door on the far side of the room, carrying a tea service. She put the tea things on the low table in front of the werewolf, and, sitting next to him on the sofa, leaned against him, wrapping an arm around his back and kissing his cheek.

"I'm sure he's OK, Remus," she whispered to him.

Moony leaned back against the young woman; he looked older and more tired than Harry had ever seen him before. "I hope so, Dora. He's been through so much, we all have, and I don't want to lose him now. I know it doesn't seem like we're that close, but he's all I have left of James and Sirius. He's the closest thing I have to family."

"Honestly, dear, he looked fine when we showed up, when he was standing over You Know Who. I don't know where he went or why, but I can't see him just disappearing and not coming back. If nothing else, he knows how much it would hurt you and all the others and he wouldn't do that."

He turned towards her, and answered, "Are you sure? There's only so much a man can take, and, well, as I think on it, I don't know that Harry really knows how much he means to any of us. I know I haven't really let him know, and for Merlin's sake, I don't even know why!"

"I'm sure he knows, Remus. I'm sure he does," Tonks said, and settled against his side.

Remus shifted a bit, wrapping an arm around her. He turned to the fire, and said, more to himself than anyone else, "I hope so." He stared into the fire.

Harry turned then, and walked out the door, Sirius trailing him. Harry looked at his godfather, and couldn't help but ask, "Does he really care that much?"

Sirius nodded, and so Harry continued, "But why? And why didn't he ever say anything? He's been nice to me, I know, and helped me out quite a bit when he was teaching, and some since. But he never said anything."

Sirius let a small but slightly sad smile slip onto his lips. "He often finds it hard to share with others. His parents loved him, I think, but really didn't know what to do after he was bitten. And then, between keeping his secret at school and being generally hated by any wizards who knew the truth about him, and the years of being alone, I think he just learned from experience to keep everything bottled up inside, to assume that other people didn't care."

Sirius had stopped walking by then, and Harry turned back to look at him. Sirius added, looking straight at Harry, "Just like someone else I know." Harry, looked down at the ground, but nodded. Sirius touched him again and they were off.

oHoHoHoHoHoHoHoHo

The Burrow looked exactly as it always had. The early afternoon sun shown brightly in the cloudless sky, a slight breeze rustling through the trees in the distance. Sirius headed up the path to the door, Harry in tow.

The first person they saw when they entered was Ron, and Harry's heart filled with joy. Ron was sitting at the large kitchen table, which was mostly filled with food. Molly was in her element, finishing off the last of the cooking. Moments later, Hermione came in, half dragging Ginny with her. Arthur followed right behind, and then the twins tumbled in after. Lastly, Bill and Charlie came through the door from the lounge, engrossed in some sort of conversation with Fleur. Everyone took their seats, Hermione close by Ron's side, and Ginny sat between her mother and Bill. Harry was unsurprised to see that Percy was still not in the picture.

Harry turned to Sirius, and asked about Ron. Sirius answered, "When you killed Voldemort, all the remnants of his evil were vanquished, including the remnants of that bit of his soul that scarred Ron. Ron woke up minutes after your victory -- you saved him."

Then Arthur rose, and all of the heads at the table turned to look at him. "I just want to say how wonderful it is to have our family gathered around today. It is wonderful to have you back here and so healthy Ron. To family!" He raised his glass and drank, as did the rest of the occupants of the table, though Harry noticed that Ginny seemed to take only the smallest of sips.

Everyone turned back to their plates, but were surprised when Ron rose next, looking just a little unsteady on his feet. "I think we should drink to a member of our family who isn't here but ought to be."

The twins looked murderous, and Charlie looked like he had eaten something that was far from right. Harry felt that he couldn't blame them, as he wouldn't have been happy to see Percy, either.

Ron's next words, though, surprised him; by the looks on their faces, it did the twins and Charlie, too. "To Harry, without whom our family wouldn't be whole."

Some at the table looked like they weren't sure what to make of this. Ginny, though, seemed to agree as she stood and said, "To Harry!" Harry was touched by the tears in her eyes and thought that maybe she had forgiven him, did still care for him. Arthur rose next, and then the rest, and they all drank to Harry in his absence.

oHoHoHoHoHoHoHoHo

Sirius brought Harry to see an older Ron, living in a small flat and married to a woman Harry had never seen before. Ron had told the children a story of his friend from many years ago, of his defeat of the darkest of dark lords and subsequent disappearance, unshed tears evident in his eyes even then, years later.

Harry had watched an older Hermione, no ring evident on her finger, working away in solitude in an office buried in books and piled with papers, doing something with her Christmas that had none of the warmth or happiness he would have willed for her.

And Ginny. His Ginny, she had seemed flat and lifeless, at that later Christmas gathering at the Burrow. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were older, the twins had dropped by, but Ginny seemed not to have anyone.

The future would not be kind to his friends, Harry learned, if he absented himself from their lives.

And so Harry Potter knew, finally, that he was loved and that family and friends are not things lightly lost or simply discarded. He would continue to have an effect on them whether he lived or not, whether he stayed in the wizarding world or not.

When Harry and Sirius finally returned to the small hotel room, Sirius stayed only long enough to say good-bye to his godson, and Harry hugged him and told him that he looked forward to seeing him, his parents and his old Headmaster again, but not too soon. With a heavy head and a much lighter heart, Harry fell asleep shortly after midnight on Christmas morning.

oHoHoHoHoHoHoHoHo

Harry woke early, just as dawn was starting to break. He had much to do that day, and many people to see. As he had paid for the room in advance, Harry gathered his things and apparated directly to Sirius' old home, where he bounded up the stairs and into "his" room. He left the bag on the bed, and pulled open the bottom drawer on his dresser. If he was to go calling, he would need to remember the gifts he'd gotten for his family and friends.

After shrinking the items and putting them into his pocket, Harry disapparated to the front gates of Hogwarts, where he veered off the main path and plowed through the snow to the gamekeepers hut. When he knocked on the door, he was met with Fang's loud barking, and he remembered how much he had missed that sound and his visits to his friend the last several months.

When the door opened, Hagrid looked at him for a few brief moments and then clutched Harry in a great bear hug, Harry's feet swaying in the air. A minute later, Harry was on the ground again, following his friend into his small abode for a cuppa and some conversation.

Three large cups of coffee and a loo break later, Hagrid and Harry hurried across the grounds to the massive main doors to the castle, snow now falling all around them. Hagrid's smile was the biggest Harry had ever seen it, and it warmed Harry's heart.

As they came into the Entrance Hall, they heard the chatter of a few students and the staff that had remained on site for the holiday coming from the Great Hall. Just coming down the steps was Harry's former Head of House, and Harry couldn't contain his pleasure at seeing her. He loped across the Hall and, just as she took notice of him, he reached her and swooped her up in his closest impression of Hagrid's earlier hug. "Professor, it's so good to see you!"

The normally stern-faced woman looked ill at ease for a moment, and then she grinned and hugged Harry back for all she was worth. She even called him by his first name, "Harry, I've been so worried! How are you? It's so wonderful to see you!"

With a last little squeeze, Harry let her go and said, "Wonderful! Never better! I am a bit hungry, though; do you think I might be able to invite myself in for a bite of breakfast?"

McGonagall laughed full out, and asked him to join them all for breakfast in the Great Hall.

As they entered, they noticed that conversation had stopped, and everyone had turned their attention to the doors to the Entrance Hall after hearing their Headmistress laugh so loudly.

Almost everyone in the room knew Harry Potter, though none closely. Everyone in the wizarding world, though, knew of the defeat of He Who Must Not Be Named at the hands of the boy hero, and knew as well that he hadn't been seen or heard from since. It was appropriate that his first appearance was here at Hogwarts.

The younger students listened to the discussions between Harry and the professors, and paid rapt attention to the stories Harry told of some of his adventures. When the rest of the students returned, these lucky few would be sought after for the story of the personal meeting with the Chosen One.

After breakfast, Harry bid farewell to McGonagall and Hagrid, promising to return later for more talk, and walked to the front gates of the school. He didn't know how he knew where Lupin lived, not from the visit last night with Sirius, but he did, and he apparated there.

oHoHoHoHoHoHoHoHo

Harry arrived with the tiniest of sounds and made his way to the front door. Remus answered the knock, and his look of surprise rivaled what Hagrid's had been a few hours before. Before Remus could so much as invite him in, Harry hugged the man hard, and felt the hug returned in full measure. Behind Remus, Harry found and hugged Tonks as well.

The visit was brief, but the companionship was wonderful, and Harry noted that Moony looked neither as old nor as tired as he had when he had seen him in his visit with Sirius. It made Harry happy to have added some joy to the man's life, and the look of peace and happiness on his face confirmed to Harry that Remus did care.

As he made ready to leave, Harry turned to say the thing he had been thinking about since his previous visit, "Moony, I know you miss my mum and dad and Sirius, and I do too. But we have each other, if you want. We can be family, if you'd let us be?"

Remus Lupin's heart had thawed when he and Tonks had started going out, but this suggestion struck him to the quick, and he realized that there was nothing he wanted more than to have Harry as part of his family and to be part of Harry's. He almost didn't trust himself to speak, so he just hugged Harry for all he was worth, and whispered into the young man's ear, "I'd like that Harry, more than you can know."

Once Remus had let go, Harry looked at him and said, "I do know. See you soon!" And he was off.

oHoHoHoHoHoHoHoHo

Harry both dreaded and anticipated the visit to the Burrow, but there was nothing for it but to get on with it. He knew how they'd gotten on with him gone but had no idea how they would react to his arrival.

Again, he knocked on the door, and in seconds was swept into a huge hug by Mrs. Weasley. The rest of the Weasleys gathered around, and though some were clearly happier to see him than others, he felt almost like a member of the family.

Ron had actually apologized to Harry for trying to "do that" without help, and Harry had apologized for not getting there sooner or not preventing it all outright. Harry's apology was flung back at him, though, as Ron determinedly told Harry, to a room full of people listening, that Harry had done nothing wrong, that it was Ron's fault, and that Harry had saved Ron despite Ron's stupidity. Harry had hugged Ron, which would have embarrassed each of them tremendously hadn't they both been so glad to see the other alive and well.

Harry had been invited to eat with the family, which didn't surprise him at all. Harry had heard Mr. Weasley's toast before, and so expected it. He hadn't expected Ron to issue a toast though, since he was already there. That Ron had thanked Harry for all Harry had done for the Weasleys, and that they had all drunk to him in turn, left a lump the size of a Quaffle in his throat and a warm feeling in his chest that he'd never felt before.

After everyone had eaten their share and a bit more for good measure, Harry had screwed up his courage and asked Ginny to speak with him in private. He was astounded by the fact that she accepted his apology for breaking up with her (after agreeing with her several times that he was an idiot and that she had the right to remove or curse certain valuable body parts if he tried anything half as stupid again). He was amazed by the smile she gave him after their discussion, and by the twinkling in her beautiful brown eyes. He was utterly undone by the passion in her kiss when they made up.

Indeed, when caught in the act of making up, Harry simply conjured what looked to be a small mistletoe bush over their heads, and they had kissed again. Mrs. Weasley finally had to ask Harry three weeks later to remove the mistletoe as it had resisted every effort she or anyone n the family had made to get rid of it.

oHoHoHoHoHoHoHoHo

Years later, it was still normal for the family to gather at the Burrow for Christmas, though magic was certainly needed to make it large enough to fit everyone. Bill and Fleur and children would come to Christmas lunch or dinner with their daughter, Remus and Dora Lupin would come with their two sons, Charlie with whatever witch he was dating, the twins and their wives and the seven children between them (For once they didn't do everything equally).

Ron and Hermione never missed a Christmas, always bringing their three daughters.

And Harry and Ginny Potter were a fixture, too, at each of the gatherings, with their sons James and Sirius, and their daughter Lilly, and even the great black dog that went everywhere with Harry.

Each year stories were told to the gathered children, stories of courage and valor and honor, each and everyone of them true and all featuring one amongst their midst, revered even then as the Chosen One, savior of their world, even though to them he was only Harry, or Uncle Harry, or dad. But Harry's favorite story was of a different sort of a Christmas miracle that taught him the meaning of family and love, and so it was a favorite to all of them as well.

And everyone who knew Harry always said that he truly knew how to keep Christmas in his heart.

Fins
Happy Holidays

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