Wrapped In Red
Chapter 1: Christmas Cheer
Hermione Granger adored the holiday season. She loved the snow that fell softly over the castle. She loved the twelve Christmas trees that Hagrid dragged into the Great Hall every year, all decked with sparkling baubles and tinsel. She adored the way mistletoe so often sprouted above unsuspecting victims.
There was just something about the time of year that made her heart light. There was nothing nicer, at least in Hermione's opinion, than to be able to snuggle into a nice hat with a matching scarf and gloves. Nothing toastier than wrapping her hands around a lovely cup of hot chocolate to the sound of softly sung Christmas carols. Even the music made her happy. She adored the many different renditions of timeless carols begin sung throughout the castle.
"I want to do something really special this year," Ginny announced, flouncing over to where Hermione was sitting at the Gryffindor table in the Great Hall. She'd been sipping her hot chocolate and looking on fondly as Professor Flitwick levitated boughs of holly and more tinsel than she'd ever seen in her life about the hall, decorating every spare surface for the occasion. Hermione adored the way the Professor got so into it, humming jaunty carols to himself as though he hadn't a care in the world.
"For Christmas?" Hermione asked, smiling at the younger girl in greeting.
"Yes, I want to make it special," Ginny said, "I love the traditions we've begun building, but I want to really go all out. We might not have another chance to do Christmas with as much happiness and innocence. We might not even all be able to be together for Christmas again. Let's make it special."
"What did you have in mind?" Hermione asked, smiling at the very idea.
"I'm thinking of implementing a Secret Santa idea amongst us all, to really spread the cheer," Ginny said honestly, "There are people in our lives we might not usually go to the trouble of buying for and I think it's a shame. I want to make sure everyone has a wonderful holiday season this year."
"Ginny that's a lovely idea," Hermione said, perking up even more at the very idea. Her mind had begun to race with the thought.
"Do you think we should ask around? See who's interested?"
"I've got an even better idea," Hermione said, "Let's speak to Professor Dumbledore and instigate a school-wide Secret Santa. If some of the students don't celebrate the season they don't have to participate, and if there are people not interested in the idea they won't have to join in, but I think it's a marvellous way of initiating inter-house communication. If we're all given a person from a different house, we'll have to get to know them a little to find out what they might need or want for a gift. We could cap the price bracket on it in case some people can't afford a certain amount and so that others don't buy incredibly lavish gifts. It will be a fantastic way to create student interaction as we all try to find out who our Secret Santa is."
"You're a genius, Hermione," Ginny announced, "Can we ask him now?"
"Let's," Hermione nodded, getting to her feet and walking with Ginny towards where Professor Dumbledore was sitting at the teacher's table, overlooking the Great Hall with merriment in his blue eyes.
"Good Afternoon Miss Granger; Miss Weasley," he greeted them when they reached him.
"Hello Professor Dumbledore," Hermione greeted the headmaster with a smile, "We have a request we'd like to put to you."
"Indeed?" he asked, smiling at them curiously over his half-moon spectacles.
"Yes, you see Ginny just mentioned she'd like to do something special to celebrate the Yuletide season and I thought it might be good for inter-house unity and student relations if we instigated a school-wide Secret Santa for the students and staff."
Professor Dumbledore looked intrigued.
"It's just that with things the way they are, this may very well be the last Christmas we can all spend simply enjoying the season in all it's glory, sir," Ginny piped up, "The hype of the event will bring students together."
"What of those who don't celebrate Christmas or who can't afford to participate?" Professor Dumbledore asked seriously.
"Well I was thinking about that sir," Hermione began, "I've found that most people, even if they don't celebrate Christmas for religious or moral reasons, generally still like to be given gifts. We could call it the Seasonal Hogwarts Gift Exchange, or something to that effect if everyone is terribly opposed to calling it a Secret Santa. We could also cap the pricing for the gifts between five and twenty sickles. It's not much. No more than one might pay for a simple sweet from Honeydukes."
"What of those who can't afford that much?" Dumbledore asked, "It wouldn't do to exclude students from the fun if they couldn't afford it."
"With all honesty sir," Ginny said, her ears turning red, "I'm pretty sure Ron and I are the poorest students in the school. And I can afford that much."
Professor Dumbledore looked thoughtful.
"We could note that if people really can't afford to buy a gift, they are encouraged to create one. It would be good to help people think outside the box to turn something ordinary into a gift for someone else," Hermione suggested.
"How do you propose to have everyone choose a gift recipient?" Dumbledore asked.
"To encourage inter-house unity we were thinking we could collect together the names of everyone who wants to participate based on house. Then have each house choose from the other three houses. It will mean lots of sorting, but if say all the names of students from Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff were put into a sack for all Gryffindor students to choose from, that would ensure we Gryffindors picked from other houses. Then the names can be sorted and mixed with those from the other house when the next group chooses."
"I will speak to the other teachers to discuss the matter," Professor Dumbledore assured them when he seemed to have run out of questions, "You'll have an answer by tomorrow."
Hermione smiled widely.
The banner went up in the house common rooms overnight. Hermione smiled when she saw that the Secret Santa idea had been initiated. Students who wished to participate were to submit their names to their head of house by the end of the week. Anyone wishing to participate could spend between five and twenty sickles on their gift, or could make one from scratch if they chose. Anyone who didn't ordinarily celebrate Christmas was also welcome to join in the fun simply for the joy of exchanging a gift with someone.
Students were also reminded that if they wished to, they were more than welcome to stay at Hogwarts over the Christmas holidays. The poster warned that signing up to participate in the Secret Santa would bind students to keeping their assigned gift recipient a secret until after the gifts had been exchanged, which would be on Christmas day, in the proper spirit. Each participant would only be able to discuss the name of the person they'd been given with their head of house.
"This is going to be wonderful," Ginny said, clapping her hands excitedly as she rushed over to Hermione, beaming about the news, "I can't wait to find out who I get. I hope it's someone good."
"Good?" Hermione laughed, "That's not the point of the endeavour Ginny. It's supposed to be about subtly getting to know someone you don't usually associate with for the purpose of buying them a gift. I just hope that whoever gets me actually puts some thought into the gift and doesn't just do something generic like buying sweets."
"You won't even mind if you get someone you don't like and would never ordinarily buy a gift for? Imagine if you picked Parkinson or someone," Ginny said, wrinkling her nose distastefully.
"I suppose that who we're given will dictate what we buy and how much we spend. I know if I got Parkinson I'd be more likely to buy her something of less value than I would if I got someone I like, like Luna," Hermione admitted, though she felt bad for thinking it.
"It will still be fun though," Ginny grinned, "Let's go and see McGonagall and tell her we want to participate. Waiting until the end of the week to be able to choose is going to be torture."
"It's going to be worse not being able to tell each other who we get," Hermione disagreed, "And it will make subterfuge harder too."