18. White Christmas
The professor and I talked long into the night. Remus and James had stayed mostly silent, but having them there holding my hand or patting my back helped a lot. The professor had asked me if what he had seen had been a memory or a worry and I had told him the truth. My father had beat me rather badly before I had come to Hogwarts. He still beat me on occasion. He had asked if I wanted the authorities involved and I had told him that I didn't. He'd offered his own home to me if I wanted and I refused. By the time midnight rolled around, the professor sent me off to bed with a permission slip to sleep in the Gryffindor Dormitory on the couch. He'd been very understanding and helpful, and he had promised to leave the Headmaster out of it unless he saw any more signs of abuse.
When I woke up the next day, Remus was waiting to walk me to breakfast and Lily loaned me some clothes to wear for the day so I wouldn't have to face the Slytherin's questions quite yet. I ate in silence at the Gryffindor table and not one of the Gryffindors said a word about what had happened the day before.
At the end of breakfast when the owls brought everyone's mail every owl was crashing around and delivering their mail to the wrong person. The whole great hall laughed, even the few Slytherins who had come out of hiding. It was as if every owl was confounded, and after seeing Sirius's triumphant smile, I realized that they had been somehow.
"Think of it as a friend's way of helping you feel a little better." Sirius had assured me when I had asked him about it. "Laugher is the best medicine I can legally give you."
After the owl incident, my life returned mostly to normal. A few days later, Remus headed home for a few days to take care of his mother, who was evidently rather ill and I snuck out to the Astronomy Tower to draw the full moon alone since Remus was gone. After that, I spent my days with the marauders and my evenings with Severus and sometimes Lily. Remus and I would study together for a few hours every day. Sometimes we'd go for a walk afterwards, others we'd sit together in the library or the room of requirement and read for hours. Severus and I would plan out study dates together where we'd discuss theories or new potions. Sometimes we'd even brew a few in the spare potions rooms for extra credit. The Marauders and I would plan our pranks together and when Remus got sick for a few days, James and Sirius went go out of their way to keep me occupied. November bled into December this way and soon it was Christmas time. Lily and Severus both went home for Christmas break, but the Marauders and I remained.
The night of Christmas Eve the boys snuck me into the Gryffindor Common Room and we stayed up all night playing exploding snap and singing Christmas carols together. We all fell asleep sometime late in the night all strewn across the Gryffindor common room.
When the bright afternoon sun woke us, we all passed around our gifts for one another and smiled. I had gotten small things from the boys and it was obvious none of them had known what to get for me. James provided me with acid pops and shock-o-chocs to last me a year. Sirius had gotten me stink pellets and dung bombs. Peter tentatively gave me a care package of chocolate frogs, sugar quills, and Bertie Bott's every flavour beans. Remus had bypassed the idea of candies or prank devices and provided me with a copy of a muggle book titled 'Grimm's Fairy Tales'.
I smiled and thanked each of them before urging them to open my gifts. I had gotten Peter a new broom as his was a dusty old relic that even the school brooms put to shame some days. He grinned and hugged me. He wasn't on the quidditch team, but he did like to fool around with James and Sirius sometimes and his new broom would give him a definitive edge on them. Remus had gotten a collection of first edition DADA books that were on the curriculum for students moving on to secondary schooling. James and Sirius had gotten a joint present to both of their indignation. When they had finally tore it free from its packaging they both gave me rather strange looks and each pulled out a hand mirror.
"I thought we agreed on no gag gifts, Dez" Sirius complained.
I rolled my eyes and held my hand out for his mirror. "You two share that one for a second." I ordered. When they both looked into the mirror, I held the second one up to my own face. "James. Sirius." I said to the mirror and suddenly I could see the two of them in my mirror with their faces hovering inches from each other's and grins plastered on their faces.
"Dez, we can see you in our mirror." The boys said, their voices echoing from the mirror in my hand just a moment after they left their mouths.
"I can see you too, dorks. These mirrors will project faces and voices for miles, but only if the other person is touching their mirror too." I grinned at the way my voice echoed slightly. "I figured you two could use them for detentions and summer vacations."
I handed the mirror back to Sirius and laughed as he ran up to his dorm room to test the connection.
"James." Sirius's voice said from the mirror in James's hand. "Can you still hear me?"
"She said it worked for miles." James confirmed into the mirror.
"It could work indefinitely for all I know." I shrugged. "I only tested it with Lucius while he was at the manor and I was in Knockturn Alley."
"Why were you in Knockturn Alley?" Sirius asked through the mirror and I could hear his footsteps on the stairs.
"I was buying Severus's Christmas present." I laughed. "I got him the best potions set that money and mysterious connections could buy."
"When did you get all this?" James raised an eyebrow.
"I took a trip via floo powder last time there was a Hogsmeade weekend. Lucius met me in Knockturn Alley and agreed to apparate home to test the connection before we went to dinner there." I played with my hair laughing.
"Cool. Dinner in Knockturn Alley!" Peter cooed excitedly.
"Yeah, if you don't mind sitting in a dusty, old restaurant with spiders and bugs on most of the tables." I rolled my eyes at his childlike enthusiasm. He really was an overgrown kid sometimes, but it wasn't so bad, I supposed. I thought of him like the little brother I'd never particularly wanted.
We spent most of the day lounging in the Gryffindor Common Room until one of the prefects started asking me questions about why I was there. After that we all migrated outside and had a snowball fight until dinner time. The Great Hall was decorated extravagantly for Christmas, as it was every year and all the remaining students and staff sat together at one huge table, teachers drinking firewhiskey and telling the students of their own Hogwarts years. I imagined it would have been fun to be a student back then, though I wouldn't give up my friends for a moment if I'd ever had the chance to find out.
When I returned to my dorm I was greeted by a shabby, pigmy owl and a small package wrapped in iridescent silver and emerald green. I smiled and gave the owl some treats before sending it back to Severus. I opened the gift carefully and found a strange, naked doll with a plume of purple hair. A note written in Severus's untidy scrawl read, "I promised you a troll doll, so here you are. Unfortunately, it's nowhere near as nice as my new potion set, but thank you." There was also an unwrapped parcel by the window that had to be from Lucius. I opened it and found a brand new muggle art set. A fancy , leather-bound sketch pad, several pens and pencils, and a digital camera that worked despite the magic stared up from the box with a note saying only, "I love you, Kitten." I set my new troll on my shelf and Lucius's gift in the closet and went to bed.
The five of us were nearly inseparable throughout the holidays, only parting ways when it came time for me to return to the dungeons at the end of the night. My dormitory seemed awfully lonely after my night spent in the Gryffindor common room on Christmas Eve, but meeting up with the marauders at breakfast every day made up for the loss.
We spent most of our days outside with thermoses of hot chocolate from the house elves and each other for company. Remus and I would sit on blankets with our picnic baskets and books. James, Sirius and Peter would zoom around above us playing with old quaffles and the snitch James had nicked sometime in years past. The castle always felt quiet and empty when we would return frostbitten in the evenings.
When the students filed back to school after the best holiday break of my life, I wasn't the only one saddened by the realization that classes would resume soon. The five of us all seemed rather reluctant to part with each other after having grown so close after the last few weeks. Sitting with Severus in the common room seemed strange in the evenings when he first returned and I felt myself missing the boys and their playful teasing even more when I was with him. He seemed to feel the same way as we sat in awkward silence. Soon neither of us could stand it and we both stood at the same time to head to our beds.