Snow began to fall as the term was drawing to a close. Baubles hung from every inch of the castle and tinsel draped the walls of every classroom and along the corridors. The air smelled like pine and cinnamon as the Christmas holidays peaked around the corner. We all had breakfast in the Great Hall beneath the giant Christmas tree that towered over us, glittering with silver ornaments and thousands of twinkling lights and candles.
I had not had a decent Christmas holiday since my grandmother died my third year. The house was always warm and cozy year-round, but during the holidays, it seemed even more so. A pie was always baking in the oven, it seemed, filling the whole house with a spicy scent. We decorated the Christmas tree together each year, and each decoration had a story of its own. One of my particular favorite ornaments was a hippogriff with a Santa hat perched sloppily on its head, its wings with teeth marks bore in them. It was given to me on my third Christmas, and I loved it so much I carried it around in my mouth instead of putting it on the tree. Presents were never in short supply either. I nearly always got loads of candies and sweets: Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans, Chocolate Frogs, Fizzing Whizbees, Pumpkin Pasties. My grandmother would sit by the fire on Christmas night, reading a book and sharing the sweets that Santa had brought. It was the happiest time of my life.
An owl flew in through one of the arched windows which barely began to show any sunlight peeking through. It was a small pygmy owl, which landed on the table in front of me and shook the snow from its feathers, then stuck out its foot to hand me a small bit of rolled up parchment. He tweeted and nibbled my finger before flying away out the window and back into the snowy, grey morning. The boys looked interested as I unrolled the paper and began to read silently.
'Miss Horsefeather, I would like to have a word with you in my office, eight o'clock sharp. The password is pepper imp. Dumbledore.'
I looked at my watch and noticed it was ten minutes until eight. I shoveled a last heaping spoonful of egg into my mouth and pecked Sirius on the cheek. "I have to go see Dumbledore," I said as I stood from the table.
"What for?" called Sirius. I just shrugged, not knowing what Dumbledore had wanted, since his note did not give any detail whatsoever. I waved and scurried out of the Great Hall, running right through a group of caroling ghosts.
"Watch it, there, girl!" One of them said, sounding offended that I had interrupted their rendition of 'Oh Rest, Ye Merry Gentlemen.' I reached the moving staircase which was blocked by a giant stone gargoyle. I looked at my watch again. One minute until eight. I said the password and the gargoyle began to turn, revealing a swirling staircase.
"You wished to see me, Professor?" I said meekly as I entered his office. He was seated behind his desk with his hands clasped together, rolling something around in his mouth that I believed to be a sweet from his gold tin. He nodded at me to sit across from him in a chair that had just procured itself in front of him. He swallowed the candy and smiled at me.
"Good morning, Miss Horsefeather," he said calmly. "I hope I am finding you well." He had a certain twinkle in his eye. I hummed in acknowledgement and waited for him to continue speaking.
"It has come to my attention, that a couple of weeks ago, you gave Mister Remus Lupin a Wolfsbane Potion. Is that correct?" I nodded slowly, wondering how he ever found out. He gave a small chuckle. "I assure you, Miss Horsefeather, that I did not call you to my office to discuss petty rule breaking," he said, noticing that I was holding my breath. I sighed in relief. "In fact, I wish to congratulate you on succeeding in making that potion. As I understand, it is very tricky to brew. I know this, because just three days ago I was invited to a ceremony as a certain potioneer was being awarded the Order of Merlin for discovering that potion." I put my head down, not knowing where Dumbledore was going with his speech. "That being said, it is clear that I can no longer ignore the fact that you possess knowledge that not a soul in this time could ever hope to possess." He lowered his head and a serious expression came to his face. "Our world is becoming restless. Dark magic is becoming commonplace and I fear that it will only get much worse. People have been vanishing, found dead, tortured for information. We have made some headway, stopping attacks here and there, but with your intelligence, we could save more lives, keep the worst from happening." Dumbledore placed his hands one on top of the other gently on his desk and examined my face as I took it all in.
"But that will change everything," I said, trying to wrap my head around what he had just said to me, much like I did the first time I entered his office like this. I thought of all of the things I had heard of about the First Wizarding War, how many innocent people were killed or tortured. I thought about Harry Potter, and how You-Know-Who returned just the year before. Then I thought of my parents and all of the wicked things they did as they carried out his orders. My face started to burn with fury.
"I know this may be hard. But whatever happened in your time, you can help stop it from happening in this time. Make a better life for those who are unborn," Dumbledore said gently.
"But what will happen to me? I may not even be born if I tell you the things that I know," I said, knowing that changing the past can drastically change the future, even if it's not intended.
"You are here, in this time. The child that will be born in your place will be a different person, raised in a different time, molded by a different world." I thought for a moment about this, and then said to myself 'I feel sorry for that kid.' I thought about my previous years at Hogwarts, and how something dark always happened. My first year, my DADA teacher had You-Know-Who attached to the back of his skull, like a parasite too weak to live on its own. My second year, students all over the school became petrified due to a basilisk living in the pipes. My third year, a prisoner escaped from Azkaban. I felt like I just got hit across the face. Sirius Black escaped from Azkaban my third year, a vicious killer, a dangerous man. He was reported dead in the Daily Prophet my fifth year, as they then claimed he was innocent all along. I gasped in near horror. I knew what I had to do to keep Sirius alive.
"I'll tell you everything, Professor," I said, determined to stop all of it from happening. Dumbledore smiled thinly as he popped another sweet into his mouth.
"Thank you, Miss Horsefeather. Your help will do an immense amount of good in this fight. Now, as for your winter holidays, you will be spending them with the Potters. They have sent me an owl this morning saying they would be delighted to keep you this Christmas."
"But sir," I said, confused as to why these people would want me at their house.
"It seems that both James and Sirius have been writing a good deal about you." I began to blush. "Knowing full well your situation, the Potters have insisted you stay with them over Christmas. I suggest you pack your things, as the train from Hogsmeade will leave at three o'clock sharp." I said 'Thank you' and stood up from my chair and headed out of his office, hopeful that this Christmas would be the best in years.
We exited the train at Kings Cross Station. Remus was the first to find his parents, a tall man with a strong face accompanied by a petite, beautiful looking woman, whose face was pallid and wan, but still smiling. He waved at us and disappeared into the sea of people. "Mom! Dad!" James shouted as he darted toward a couple standing a few yards away, peering over the heads in the crowd.
"Oh, sweetheart!" his mother took him into her arms. "It's so good to see you!" She kissed him on both cheeks, and then extended her hug to Sirius. "And Sirius, if I hadn't known any better, I'd say you grew a foot since summer!" Sirius laughed lightly and shook Mr. Potter's hand. Mrs. Potter then turned her eyes to me as I watched their happy reunion. "And you must be Marilyn!" She said with a smile as she took my hands in hers. "Sirius, she's much prettier than you let on in your letters!" Sirius began to blush. She then wrapped her arms around me and brought me into a hug. She smelled like lilacs. "It's so good to meet you, dear." She released me and introduced me to James's father. He looked just like James, except older and with less hair.
"It's very nice to meet you, Marilyn," he said as I shook his hand. "Well, we better get going then! James and Sirius, you'll go with me. Marilyn, you will go with Mrs. Potter." He looked around on all sides, making sure nobody was watching them. "Alright, see you at the house!" He said, and he, Sirius and James vanished with a quick pop. Then suddenly, I felt a jerk at my navel and it felt like my body was twisting in all sorts of directions. I couldn't tell which way was up until I could feel the ground beneath my feet once more. Apparating made me quite dizzy.
"Here we are, dear. The Potters' lovely home!" Mrs. Potter said as we strode up a cobblestone walk towards a large villa that was already glowing bright with lights strung around the windows and trees surrounding it. It was a beautiful house. A Christmas tree was visible through one of the giant windows at the front of the house. It looked to be at least ten feet tall, decorated all around with strings of lights and glass baubles of all colors. We walked through the front door and a familiar smell wafted into my nose. It reminded me of Christmas at my grandmothers. "Alright, your room is up the stairs and to the left. Once you're settled we will be having dinner in the dining room," she said. The she rushed into the kitchen and grabbed an apron off of the door.
I walked into the guest room and noticed a large dog sitting on my bed, his ears erect and his tail wagging. I giggled as Sirius jumped up and met me, turning into a human again. He pressed his smile against my lips and ran his hands down my hips. I purred with content as he kissed my cheek and traveled down my neck. I loved the way he touched me.
"Sirius," I whispered, hardly wanting him to stop, He hummed in acknowledgement as he continued to brush his lips across my skin. "We need to go down for dinner." I pushed him gently away, my eyes still half closed. He kissed me and pulled me closer, still smiling.
"I guess I'll just have to have you for dessert then," he said slyly. I just shook my head playfully.
"No, because I smelled pie," I said, standing on my tiptoes to kiss him again. He chuckled and picked me up off the floor in a tight hug. "But I'm sure seconds wouldn't hurt your figure too much." James's mother called up the stairs for us to come down. Sirius smiled and gave me a wink as he grabbed my hand and pulled me out of the room. I was eager to taste my first home cooked meal in years, and finally have a Christmas worth remembering.