An AU of a Sixth Year AU Story: What would have happened if two liberal American druids had taken Harry to America, before returning with him to Hogwarts? In this chapter, Yule arrives.
Harry was looking forward to the approaching holidays. He had always loved Yule, and their Old Believer household had made much of the entire season.
Harry had thought he would be spending the time at the house between Hogsmeade and the Castle. However, since Sirius Black was thought to be around somewhere, and had only managed to penetrate the castle that one, the feeling was that Harry might be safer in the castle than at the house. With the four Weasley brothers staying at school (their parents and little sister were visiting Charlie Weasley in Romania, where he worked with dragons), and the Dorffs having easy access to the castle, Harry was happy with the idea.
Snow came a week before the holidays, and Harry signed up to stay and then went out to join in the annual snowball fight between Gryffindor and Hufflepuff. This ended in a draw, as the entire group of combatants fell down laughing when the Weasley twins hexed a set of snowballs, which chased Professor Quirrell around the castle, bouncing off the back of his turban. Harry left the scene early, as his scar was hurting a bit, perhaps, he thought, from the cold.
All during the last Potions class of the term, Malfoy kept up a whispering of insults, mostly directed against Ron. While Snape could clearly hear what was going on, he said nothing and contented himself with making certain there was no retaliation in his class.
As they were cleaning up, Malfoy leaned his desk and hissed, "I do feel so sorry for all those people who have to stay at Hogwarts for Christmas because they're not wanted at home." Crabbe and Goyle chuckled.
"I feel sorry for those who will never understand the true meaning of the solstice holidays," Harry said back, seeing Snape was out of hearing. "Most Muggles understand the season better than certain so-called 'real magical families'."
Draco turned red and stumbled over Crabbe, trying to get at Harry. That attracted Snape's attention, but even he couldn't see a way to blame Harry or Ron. "Is there a problem, Mister Malfoy?"
Draco couldn't repeat the insult, and so said, "No sir. Just a slip."
"Very good. Class is dismissed.
As they left the dungeons after Potions, the quartet found a large fir tree blocking the corridor ahead. Two enormous feet sticking out at the bottom and a loud puffing sound told them that Hagrid was behind it.
"Hi, Hagrid! Want any help?" Ron asked, sticking his head through the branches.
"Nah, I'm all right, I am. Thanks, Ron."
"Would you mind moving out of the way?" the still angry Malfoy demanded from behind them. "Are you trying to earn some extra money, Weasley? Hoping to be a gamekeeper or something when you leave Hogwarts, I suppose. That hut of Hagrid's must seem like a palace compared to what your family's used to."
Ron dove at Malfoy just as Snape came up the stairs, before Crabbe or Goyle could attack Ron or Harry or Neville, could pull them apart.
"WEASLEY!" Ron let go of Draco's robes.
"He was provoked, Professor Snape," said Hagrid, sticking his huge hairy face out from behind the tree. "Malfoy was insultin' his family."
"Be that as it may, fighting is against Hogwarts rules, Hagrid," said Snape silkily. "Five points from Gryffindor, Weasley, and be glad it isn't more. Move along, all of you!" Draco and his two friends shoved roughly past the tree, causing needles to fall, while Snape moved off in a different direction.
"I'll get him yet," Ron said, looking in Draco's retreating direction.
"Now, none of that," Hagrid said before Harry could agree. "Come on, cheer up, it's nearly Christmas! Tell yeh what, come with me an' see the great hall. Looks a treat, it do."
The four friends agreed and followed Hagrid and his tree off to the great hall, where Professors McGonagall and Flitwick were busy with the decorations.
Flitwick smiled as he saw them. "Ah, Hagrid, the last tree -- put it in the far corner, would you?"
The students thought the hall looked spectacular as they followed Hagrid. Festoons of holly and mistletoe hung all around the walls, and no less than twelve towering Christmas trees now stood around the room, some sparkling with tiny icicles, some glittering with hundreds of candles.
"All ready to leave tomorrow are yer?" Hagrid asked Hermione and Neville as he set the tree up.
"Yes," Hermione said. "And that reminds me. We've got half an hour free, we should be in the library."
"Oh, yeah, right," Ron said, tearing his eyes away from Professor Flitwick, who had golden bubbles blossoming out of his wand and was trailing them over the branches of the new tree.
"The library?" Hagrid asked, following them out of the hall. "Just before the holidays? Bit keen, aren't yeh?"
"Oh, we're not doing school work," Neville said.
"Ever since you mentioned Nicolas Flamel, we've been trying to find out who he is," Harry put in.
"You what?" Hagrid demanded, looking shocked. "Listen here, I've told yeh, drop it! It's nothin' to you what that dog's guardin'"
"We just want to know who Nicolas Flamel is, that's all," Hermione assured Hagrid.
"Unless you'd like to tell us and save us the trouble," Harry added. "We must've been through hundreds of books already and we can't find him anywhere -- just give us a hint. I know I've read his name somewhere."
"I'm saying nothing'," Hagrid declared.
"Well, we'll just have to keep looking," Ron said.
As they were leaving, Neville grinned and said, "Look! We're under the mistletoe."
Ron leapt forward to get out of the way, making the other three laugh. Hermione turned and gave Harry a light kiss and then kissed Neville on the cheek. The three walked hand-in-hand to the library, Ron grumbling along behind.
Alas, their efforts that day were as unrewarding as their previous ones had been. While looking for any random title that might catch his eye, Harry edged a bit too close to the forbidden section, and was chased away by Madam Pince. Harry wondered if Flamel might be mentioned in one of those books.
Ron and Harry saw Hermione and Neville off for the vacation the next morning. A light snow had fallen the night before, and after leaving their friends at the train station, the twins took Ron and Harry to a place where they could do some magical sledding.
Ron and Harry were soon having too good a time to think much about Flamel. They had the dormitory to themselves and there were only Harry and Weasleys in the common room (the only two girls staying usually kept to themselves), so they could get the good armchairs by the fire. They sat there by the hour, eating anything they could spear on a toasting fork (some supplied by Fred and George, other supplied by Tabitha). The only thing Harry had to do before Christmas was to go to the sunrise service on the morning of the solstice and join his family at the foot of the Gryffindor table each night at dinner.
The boys also spent hours playing wizard chess. Both Harry and Hermione had thought they played rather well, until Ron had slaughtered them. Ron was trying to teach Harry some of the basic strategies.
Harry went to bed Christmas Eve glad he was with Ron, but a bit sorry he wouldn't see Sabrina and Henry opening their presents. Still, they would all be at Hogwarts before and during the feast.
When Harry woke up, he was surprised to see a pile of presents at the foot of his bed.
"'Bout time you're awake," Ron said sleepily.
"Shall we?" Harry asked, pointing at the presents.
"Yes, I think so," Ron replied with a grin.
Harry was quite happy with his haul of presents from his parents and siblings. His honorary uncles (Cadfael, Tudor, Tom, and Lloyd) and his step-father's family had all sent him books, food, and candy. Hermione had given him a box of Chocolate Frogs, and Neville some toffee. Harry was glad he'd remembered to send them small presents, too. Harry admired the rough beauty of a hand-carved flute from Hagrid. Harry was nearing the end of the pile when he came across a package that was both squishy and heavy.
Ron saw Harry eyeing it. "I think it's from Mum. Your folks gave me this really great Chuddley Cannon bath robe, so I'm afraid Mum sent you something, too."
Ron grimaced and held up a maroon jumper. "We always get these, and mine are always maroon."
Harry opened his, which indeed was an emerald green jumper and a small box of fudge. "That's really nice of her," Harry said. "Be glad my mom didn't crochet you an afghan." He pointed at his new one, in Gryffindor colors.
Ron grinned, and then said, "Aren't you done yet?"
"Just this last one." Harry picked up the very light, squishy package and frowned. "No name," Harry said. He unwrapped it, and something fluid and silvery gray went slithering from the package to the bed to the floor, where it lay in gleaming folds.
Ron gasped, dropping the box of Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans he had gotten from Hermione. "If that's what I think it is, they're really rare, and really valuable."
"Do you think it could be a real invisibility cloak?" Harry said, equally stunned.
"Well, one way to find out," Ron said. "Try it on!"
Harry slipped it on. It was many times too large, but Ron gasped as everything of Harry disappeared except his head. As Harry moved to look at himself in the mirror, Ron exclaimed, "Harry! A note fell on the floor."
Harry seized the letter and read it. There was no name and Harry had never seen any handwriting like it before. "/Your father left this in my possession before he died. It is time it was returned to you. Use it well. A Very Happy Christmas to you/," Harry read off.
"I'd give anything for one of those," Ron said, admiring the cloak. "Anything! What's the matter?"
"Nothing," Harry said. It was still odd for him to be reminded of his 'real' family. Hearing footsteps, Harry quickly hid the cloak. Fred and George burst in a few seconds later.
"Hey, look, Harry's got a Weasley jumper, too!"
Fred and George were wearing blue jumpers, one with a large yellow F, the other with a G, although Fred was wearing the G.
"Harry's is better than ours," Fred teased. "She obviously makes more of an effort if you're not family."
"Why aren't you wearing yours, Ron?" George demanded sternly. "Come on, get it on! They're lovely and warm."
"I hate maroon," Ron complained, pulling it on.
"You haven't got a letter on yours," George observed. "I suppose she thinks you don't forget your name. But we're not stupid. We know we're called Gred and Forge."
"What's all this noise?" Percy demanded, sticking his head through the door. Fred and George seized him, and Ron grabbed the half-opened jumper out of Percy's hands.
"P for prefect," George stated. "Put it on, Percy, come on! We're all wearing ours. Even Harry got one."
"And he's even wearing it!" Fred pointed out, wrestling with Percy.
"I don't. . . ." Percy tried to protest as the twins forced the jumper over his head (including his glasses).
"And you're not sitting with the other prefects or anything," George stated. "Christmas is for family."
Harry had thought he had seen large holiday dinners in Carantouan, but they paled before the dinner at Hogwarts. While he and the Weasleys were the only Gryffindor boys who had stayed over, there were a pair of Seventh year girls and about a fifth of the other Houses had stayed. About half the staff was there as well, plus Harry's extended family and even Cadfael and a few of the Hidden who were active in explaining the Old Faith were present. The Christmas trees and the greens decorating the hall made it look cheery.
While Harry had spent some joyous time with his family, he chose to sit with the Weasleys, while his family was sitting with their friends and the staff that afternoon as they had for dinner a few times that week. Dumbledore graciously suggested that the Dorffs and the druids join the mostly-empty Gryffindor table, and Harry and Percy both enjoyed playing the host.
"So Harry," Cadfael asked, "what are these things?"
"I'm not certain," Harry admitted.
"These?" George asked with an evil grin.
"These are Christmas Crackers," Fred continued.
After Tom Lawrence gave a brief explanation of the Muggle origin of the Christmas cracker, Percy launched into a five minute history of the magical version. The North Americans smiled at his enthusiasm, and the adults, at least, welcomed the information.
Dumbledore beamed brightly at the head table, and offered his cracker for McGonagall to pull, after which he helped McGonagall pop her cracker. Seeing this, the rest of the people in the great hall followed suit. Harry ended up with a set of chess pieces, a pack of non-exploding luminous balloons, and a Grow-Your-Own Warts kit (he traded warts kit to the twins for another packet of balloons, so he could his siblings each a pack), while he wore a lion's-head hat that actually roared. Once everyone had finished with their crackers, the hall was filled with the savory smells of roasted turkeys and geese, as the food piled onto the tables.
After stuffing himself, Harry turned to his family, but his parents shooed him off. Harry took Sabrina and Henry outside, where they happily joined in a general snowball fight. After his siblings were gone, Harry went up to the common room and warmed by the fire. Then he broke in his chess set against Ron. As usual, he lost, but he did give Ron a good run for his money, nearly forcing a draw in the endgame.
Perhaps it was the excitement of the day. Perhaps it was the turkey sandwich eating contest he had joined in late that evening (Ron won, although Fred nearly tied him). For whatever reason, Harry was unable to fall asleep.
The longer Harry laid in bed, the more his mind kept coming back to his invisibility cloak. His father's invisibility cloak.
For the first time since he had learned his real name, Harry thought of his biological father as his father. The cloak had made a connection.
Harry decided to try it out.
Harry felt wide-wake. The whole of Hogwarts was open to him in this cloak. He could go anywhere in this, and Filch would never know. Harry decided to go alone and let Ron sleep.
Harry crept out of the dormitory, down the stairs, across the common room, and climbed through the entrance.
"Who's there?" squawked the Fat Lady. Harry said nothing, and walked quickly down the corridor.
Where should he go? Harry decided to try the restricted section of the library.
When Harry arrived at the library, however, he was confronted by two teachers. Harry had forgotten that the teachers were still patrolling, in case Sirius Black should try again to gain entrance. Harry stopped to listen.
At first, because of the shadows, Harry wasn't certain who was there. In addition, both were wearing hooded cloaks. Then Snape spoke in a louder voice. "I would advise you to keep to your own patrol routes. The Headmaster may trust you, but I no longer do."
"Perhaps you should decide where your loyalties lay, Snape," came the voice of the other professor. Harry wasn't certain who it was.
"My loyalties at the moment are where yours should be, unless you can give me a good reason to change them," Snape hissed.
"Not at the moment," the other replied. "We shall continue to work for ourselves. Do not take me lightly, Severus."
"Believe me, I no longer do. I suppose you wouldn't care to trade information?"
"I would not," the other said. He turned to leave, and the hood fell back, showing Quirrell's turban. "Why don't you head towards Gryffindor and see if you can catch a Weasley or two."
"Good idea," Snape said. "Filch should be done checking the library soon."
That left Harry with one direction to go in, which would take him into territory he was unfamiliar with. Still, it was better than getting caught.
Harry was soon lost. As he wandered around unfamiliar territory, he suddenly heard footsteps approaching. Harry darted into what looked like an unused classroom and hoped for the best.
The footsteps paused for a moment, then continued on. Harry breathed a small sigh of relief, and decided to stay put. He glanced around the room. There were desks and chairs piled against the walls, and there was even an upturned wastepaper basket. Propped against the far wall, however, was something that certainly didn't look as if it belonged there. It was something that looked as if someone had just put it there to keep it out of the way.
It was a magnificent mirror, as high as the ceiling, with an ornate gold frame, standing on two clawed feet. Harry saw there was an inscription carved around the top of the frame: Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi.
Harry smiled, and whispered, "'I show not your face but your heart's desire'. I wonder what my heart's desire is?"
Harry took off the cloak and stepped in front of the mirror. He smiled. On the one side of his reflection was his adoptive family and closest friends: the Dorffs, Sabrina, Henry, Tom Lawrence, Lloyd Trowbridge, Tudor Myrddin, Hermione, Ron, Neville, the Weasley twins, and a few others. On the other side were Harry's birth parents and a large number of other people, most of whom, Harry guessed, seemed to be Potters. Both his families, and his friends, together.
"Yes," Harry said, satisfied. "That would be nice, but it can't happen, can it?" He looked at the inscription again. "No, we don't usually get our heart's desires, do we?" He looked into the mirror again. "Still, it is nice to know where one comes from."
Harry went and listened at the door. Hearing nothing, he donned the cloak again and cautiously went out, hoping to find his way back to Gryffindor without further incident.
When the door shut behind him, Dumbledore and Cadfael materialized to the side of the mirror. "A very wise young man," Cadfael said proudly.
"Indeed," Dumbledore agreed. "Would you care to try it?"
"Would you?" Cadfael retorted.
"When I placed the mirror here last night, I saw my self with a number of warm socks," Dumbledore stated. Seeing the look on the Hidden druid's face, he explained, "People will insist on giving me books for Christmas, even though I have so many, and have access to so many more."
"What do you think you'd see on other days of the year?"
"I would imagine I would see a young lady I loved and lost over a century ago," Dumbledore said sadly.
"And I would imagine I would see something similar. She chose another, and although I love my wife very much, a small part of me wishes things could have been different."
Dumbledore covered the mirror. "I don't believe Harry will be back, do you?"
"No," Cadfael agreed, "and if he tries, you can prevent him from finding this room, just as you made certain he found it tonight, right?"
"Correct. Shall we move it back together?"
"Happy to. I hope your plan continues to work."
Harry quickly found his way back to Gryffindor. When he softly said the password, however, he was unaware that a pair of keen ears were listening in the shadows.