Sorry this was delayed so long; it was supposed to be time-relevant, but things caught up with me. Plus, when January rolled around, I got really sucked into my work now that I'm in a graduate program.
Also, it's hard to get into the Christmas spirit when it's not Christmas anymore. Hope you all can enjoy Christmas in June (as I felt it would be unfair to make you all wait for July).
I also have a response to someone who said Susan couldn't have qualified for the prophecy if she was born the day after Harry. The prophecy states: "As the seventh month dies." Depending how you look at the word "dies" it could mean anything; the day after the final day of a month could be the moment at which that month "dies." If you count Neville for being born the day before Harry (and, until we got the specific date of Neville's birth, many people thought he was born the day after Harry), you have to count Susan for being born the day after him, too.
My Grownup Christmas List
Harry watched the snow fall, contemplating a series of incredibly deep thoughts that crossed his mind. Despite what much of his past behavior would suggest, Harry had a very ponderous side. He'd had to develop it during the long days he spent locked up in the cupboard at Privet Drive. He would come up with truly brilliant insights into life, faith, ethics, and the dichotomy of Good and Evil. He never shared these thoughts, obviously, and they seemed to vanish whenever he tried to write them out, or else the words would become confused and his ideas would lose much of their original meanings.
Much like trying to answer questions on a History of Magic exam.
As he idly sipped the cup of tea in his hand, he thought on all that had happened and he realized something. Things were shaping up to be the best Christmas that he had ever had.
For the first time ever, he got to properly experience something like a real family. He had his somewhat mentally unstable godfather, his sort of adopted werewolf uncle, he had the boisterous Weasley family, and he would be going on a few little holiday outings with his group of friends/co-conspirators. On top of that, he had a budding romance with Tracey and had received an invitation to a party at her house on New Year's Eve (at which, Tracey informed him, there would be several 'persons of interest' in attendance).
Life was starting to look up, all because Harry took to committing horrifically violent crimes for the sake of justice.
Of course, a few days before Christmas, Voldemort decided that he was going to ruin the holidays for everyone by breaking his followers out of Azkaban. When Voldemort and his strike team got there, however, they found that not one of the imprisoned Death Eaters was there. Every cell supposed to contain a Death Eater was completely empty.
"Where the fuck is everyone?!" Voldemort shouted, right before the prison siren was set off. "Bugger!"
"Deck the halls with blood and entrails, falalalala lalalala," Luna sang as she, Daphne, and Tracey strung up their captives in the dungeon underneath Tracey's house.
Why Tracey's family had a dungeon, complete with medieval torture devices, was a testament to a darker aspect of their history that they tried desperately to keep hidden. In the past, the Davis family served as 'interrogators' during the Second Witch Hunt. It was their responsibility to find pureblood witches and wizards suspected of selling out unprotected muggle-borns to the witch hunters and 'persuade' them, by one means or another, to confess. The reason why it was purebloods being targeted for interrogation was due to the extreme anti-pureblood attitude that tended to spring up during witch hunts.
One would mistakenly assume that it would be muggle-borns who were most distrusted, as their connections to the muggle world would probably cause them to grow up with superstitious fears of witches and make them more likely to tell witch hunters where to find them in order to avoid being persecuted themselves. However, the overwhelming majority of ordinary wizards and witches were either muggle-born or half-blood, who were often victims of the prejudice spewed by the more diehard purebloods. The muggle-borns, especially, felt targeted and deeply resented how they were put in danger because certain purebloods delighted in cursing muggles, which, at the time, they could do with impunity. The muggle-borns and half-bloods, therefore, realized that they would be blamed for the actions of the purebloods and decided, as the majority of the magical population, to take matters into their own hands.
The Davises were one of the few pureblood families that the muggle-borns and half-bloods knew they could trust. While they were an old family, they had ties to the muggle world, occasionally serving as the royal family's liaisons in the magical world. The Davises had also been subtly pushing through bills to help support muggle-borns and half-bloods. But, above all else, the Davises were businesspeople and knew how to recognize a good deal.
Now, of course, save for Davises still being talented businesspeople and still subtly supporting muggle-born rights, that was all in the past. Well, until Tracey decided the dungeons needed airing and figured it was as good a time as any to get back into an old family tradition.
"Hope Harry doesn't have any trouble getting away," said Tracey. "He so wanted to be involved in this."
"Filthy blood-traitors!" one of the captives screamed. "The Dark Lord will have his revenge! You are dead! Your whole families are dead!"
Luna responded to the interruption by picking up a large mallet and bashing it hard into the fellow's kneecaps.
There were about one hundred prisoners in total. Possibly a few less than that, actually. After all, Voldemort's forces were made up a handful of entitled, bigoted, sadistic, and frequently insane members of the social elite. While the wizarding world, at large, was not particularly logical or independent-minded, most regular witches and wizards just wanted to live life in peace and happiness and were usually decent folks. In fact, the Death Eaters probably made up only about one percent of the magical population of Britain; a percentage that had been decreasing rather sharply in the last few months, for some as yet indeterminable reason.
Imprisoning them all in the Davis dungeon wasn't that difficult as the place was designed to hold five hundred comfortably; and a thousand if the Davises (or whoever was in charge) didn't care about whether their prisoners were comfortable or not.
"Should we go ahead and start?" Tracey asked, holding up a saw.
"I thought you were using drills first," said Daphne.
"Got ya covered," said Harry, appearing at the top of the staircase, a bag full of battery-powered drills in his hand.
"Harry," the three girls said together.
"Did you have any trouble getting away?" said Tracey, giving him a kiss on the cheek once he'd joined them.
"Not really," said Harry. "Everyone at the hideout is asleep by now and Hermione's with her family. The only difficulty I had getting here was after I'd arrived. Say, Tracey, is there a reason why your mother was so insistent I try some of her suet pudding?"
"Oh, Lord," she muttered, burying her face in her hands out of embarrassment. "Not again. How many times did she offer it to you?"
"About six or so."
"Well, she's cutting back, at least."
"WHEN WE GET OUT OF HERE, YOU BLOOD-TRAITOR BASTARDS ARE DEAD!" screamed the Death Eater from before.
"Harry, may I have one of those drills, please?" said Tracey, holding up her hand and giving Harry a flirtatious smile.
"Of course," Harry said, placing a drill into her hand. "You know how to use a muggle drill?"
"There's a button that says 'On.' It's not too difficult to figure out."
"If I'd handed one to Ron or Malfoy, that still wouldn't have been enough."
"Fair enough. Of course, my family doesn't look for spouses at family reunions."
"I defer to your logic."
The ominous whirring sound of the drill filled the dungeon, and the particular set of Death Eaters they were focusing their attention on, who were strung up on the walls with manacles, watched in horror and morbid fascination as Tracey began her work on their loud-mouthed compatriot. The sight of that drill being slowly pushed through his left eye, causing blood and goo to gush out, and Tracey's complete disregard for the man's agonized screams filled them with a sense of dread they never thought possible.
"Now that we have your attention," said Tracey. "We can move on to the real torture."
"Wait, wait," one of the other Death Eaters pleaded. "We'll tell you anything you want to know."
"Know?" said Harry with a curious expression. "You lot have been in Azkaban for over a decade. I doubt you know anything we'd be interested in. We're just doing this to thin Voldemort's forces. And because it's fun." He turned to the girls. "What do you think, ladies?"
"It couldn't hurt to ask," said Daphne.
"Us," Luna clarified. "It couldn't hurt us to ask. It will very much hurt those who are as impolite as this fellow." She waved her hand dismissively at the still-screaming Death Eater that Tracey was menacing with the drill.
"Well, this is all getting a bit gory for my taste," said Daphne. "If anyone needs me, I'll be doing research on spells that turn people inside-out."
"Oh, little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie," that chilling voice chimed through the dungeon.
Rodolphus Lestrange curled into the corner of his dark, dank, little cell, desperately wishing he was still in Azkaban. He wasn't sure how long they had all been imprisoned here, only that the sound of the monster child approaching meant that another group of his former comrades would be led away and that their screams would echo through those grim halls for hours and hours, only to be silenced.
"Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by…"
In Azkaban, at least, there was a routine, a certainty. You knew when the dementors would glide by and that you would simply have to relive your worst memories. Rodolphus had never had much in the way of bad memories, aside from a few embarrassing childhood experiences. He'd had doting parents that had given him everything he asked for and he'd lived up to their expectations as a proper heir to a pureblood house. He found himself a respectable pureblood wife who was quite attractive and clever. He had plenty of money at his disposal. He was a member of the Dark Lord's inner circle, torturing and killing the mudblood scum without a care in the world. Indeed, the only truly awful thing that had happened to him was getting arrested and sent to Azkaban.
"Yet, in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light…"
Until now, that is.
"The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight."
'Twas the night before Christmas,
And, in a dark cell,
Three really bad Death Eaters
Would soon be in hell.
Rodolphus, Rabastan, and Bellatrix Lestrange were designated specifically for that night. Harry and Tracey and Luna and dear Sally-Anne worked with a festive cheer within the dark basement of Tracey's house. This was a special session. This was not done for information or admissions of guilt. This was done purely for fun and to provide a classmate with a Christmas present he could cherish forever.
"You know something I've been rather curious about?" said Harry. "I've been wondering what it would be like to stick pushpins into a person's face."
"What are pushpins?" said Luna.
Harry held up a plastic container filled with brightly-colored pushpins. Their metal points glinting wickedly in the dim light. The girls' faces lit up with malicious glee. Harry opened the container and pulled out a red pin and contemplatively rolled it between his fingers.
"Now, who would like to help me try it out?" he said to the three Lestranges. "Anyone?"
"You're too weak, you filthy half-blood," hissed Bellatrix. "You don't have the guts to do anything to the Dark Lord's most faithful."
Rodolphus and Rabastan were less confident and tried to shrink back against the wall behind them.
"Thank you for volunteering, Mrs. Lestrange," said Harry. Harry held up the box of pushpins. "Now, what's your favorite color?"
Neville Longbottom made his way down the stairs early on Christmas morning, tiredly rubbing his eyes against the long sleeve of his bathrobe. To be perfectly honest, he'd seldom felt much in the way of joy around the Christmas season. He often had to spend it surrounded by a plethora of older relatives, none of whom had children his own age that he could talk to (of the few who even had children, at all), who were all content to drink and gossip and go on and on about how he wasn't measuring up to the standard his father had set and how it was anyone's guess why he was even accepted to Hogwarts considering his mediocre magical ability.
It was insult to injury, salt in the wound of all that he'd lost as a child.
Still, he would enjoy the few hours he had to himself by getting up early. He would sit by the fireplace, in his grandfather's old armchair by the large window that overlooked the snow-blanketed grounds. He could sit there and, for a little while, pretend that he was a normal child whose mum and dad hadn't woken up yet and would be coming downstairs for their morning cuppa any moment.
Yet, as the morning light broke through the murky grey sky, the quiet bitterness of fourteen years of loneliness crept over the shy Gryffindor. The silent rage that bubbled in his heart towards the monsters that had robbed him of his mother and father in a way that was probably more painful than if they had died; to have them alive and so far beyond reach, present and absent all at once, was like a knife in the boy's heart every time he thought of them, which meant he suffered most every moment of his day and late into the night until his nightmares consumed him.
"Good morning, Neville," his grandmother said as she wobbled into the room, already dressed up in her favorite set of Christmas robes. "Why aren't you dressed?"
"It's Christmas, Gran," he said, fighting back a tired sigh. "I don't see the point until the family starts to arrive."
"Oh, very well." They had this small conversation every year. Always the same. "Well, go on and open your presents."
Neville opened his presents with a dispassion one would never expect from, well, anyone on Christmas morning. His presents were much the same as usual every year. Practical things from his relatives. Books that were intended to help him be a better wizard; in other words, poorly-concealed insults towards his abilities. He didn't bother to get his hopes up for a gift from his friends; it wasn't like he had any friends, after all.
Then, something caught his eye. A large parcel wrapped in light blue paper and orange ribbon. None of his relatives ever wrapped their presents like that. Plus, he'd already received gifts from every relative that bothered to send him anything. He shot a questioning look at his gran, who looked just as confused as he was.
He opened that vibrant card, the outside of which had a moving watercolor picture of Saint Nick in his sleigh that was decorated with a fair amount of glitter. The odd thing was, though, that Saint Nick looked somewhat younger and thinner than normal, with the beard clearly being fake as the man struggled to keep the imaginary wind from blowing it off his face. There was a cheery little house elf in a typical green and red outfit seated next to Saint Nick; the elf was merrily waving a saw. The reindeer, too, seemed different on closer inspection; Neville realized they were a team of witches in costumes and masks (one 'reindeer' with long, blonde hair and bright, aqua blue eyes blew him a kiss).
Neville opened the card to find the message: We hope you enjoy your gift as much as we enjoyed acquiring it. Wishing you all the best for a happy Christmas.
In place of signatures, there was a set of symbols. An overlapped 'S' and 'L,' an Athenian owl, a smiley face, a sunflower, a lilac flower, and a snowflake.
His curiosity now extremely peaked, Neville gently undid the ribbon and carefully pulled off the wrapping paper. Beneath the wrapping was an equally gaudy box, patterned with tie-dye designs. Neville slowly raised the lid of the box…and practically flung it away in shock.
"Neville, what is it?" his grandmother demanded, wand shooting into her hand in response to a potential threat.
The contents of the box took a moment to register and, slowly, Neville picked the box back up into his trembling hands. Three faces, faces he'd long since become familiar with from scouring articles in the newspapers, three faces that had haunted his nightmares with cruel, merciless laughs, stared back at him, twisted in agony and fear. As his mind processed the sight of the severed heads of the Lestranges, the people who had robbed him of his parents, all twisted up and freshly bloody, as though they had only just been allowed to die, something in Neville Longbottom snapped.
Augusta Longbottom had seen many strange things in her life. But the sight of her timid and gentle grandson rolling about on the floor and laughing maniacally was not something she'd ever expected. She, too, took a look at the gift that had caused such unusual behavior and, after overcoming her initial shock, collapsed into a nearby chair as she, like her grandson, was swept up in a fit of vindictive elation.
Theodore Nott awoke on Christmas morning and was, for the first time in his life, happy that he was in his own house.
The grim pall of his father's menacing presence was finally lifted from Nott Manor and Theo was finally able to notice the fragrant smells of pine, cocoa, and the distinctive air of a winter morning. It was as though a thick mask that had been welded to his face to keep him insensate to the small joys of the world around him had been suddenly ripped off (and, at that thought, he was almost disappointed that Harry Potter wasn't here so he could describe the rather violent thought and give his - friend? associate? deliverer? - some ideas).
He was disturbed from his musings as a ball of brown-haired energy landed with a crash onto his bed.
"Theo! Theo! It's Christmas! It's Christmas!"
Theo smiled, genuinely happy to see his baby sister Eleanor so full of life, free from the cruelty of their father. As he looked up, he saw his older sister, Francine, standing in the doorway, the barest hints of a smile, almost undetectable, playing about the corners of her mouth. She had had a much more difficult time dealing with all the pain and misery their father had inflicted, she was still seeing a mind-healer and would probably have to continue her treatment for years, but, with her chains finally broken, her recovery was progressing and she was finally starting to open up to her loved ones.
The reunited family made their way down to the Christmas tree. Theo reveled in the opportunity to finally give his sisters things they actually wanted and deserved; not the least of these things were the love, kindness, and respect they had so long been denied. At Christmas, in the past, their father had made a pretense of gift-giving to them, usually providing Francine with clothes and jewelry (which he would later order her to wear to 'social functions' with his 'business associates') and giving Eleanor a tatty doll or some little thing that he had gotten for cheap as he couldn't be bothered to waste his galleons on her. Theo never received toys, other than a child's broomstick (which his father only got him because Lucius Malfoy kept boasting about how skilled a flyer young Draco was and the elder Nott was fiercely competitive), as his father tried to give him more mature gifts that a respectable heir should appreciate.
This was, without doubt, the first true Christmas that the Nott siblings had ever actually experienced.
Theo was content to sit and watch as Eleanor practically dived into the pile of presents he'd gotten her and Francine opening her gifts at a more sedate pace. He then noticed a pile of presents that hadn't been there last night; closer inspection revealed that they were for him and he smiled when he saw the symbols that represented the team's codenames printed on the cards (Theo had his own emblem, a Celtic knot, which he had marked on the cards of his own gifts that he'd sent to the other team members). Although he hadn't been seriously involved in the team's activities of late, they still considered him to be one of them.
Theo was more like Daphne in terms of the team's mission. He was an information provider and strategist, not really interested in getting his hands dirty (not because he didn't think the bastards deserved what they got, but more because of personal squeamishness). He was also willing to give support to team in other ways, like helping them free prisoners or giving alibis. Harry didn't mind Theo's reluctance to engage in the violence; unlike Voldemort, Harry would never force his, for lack of a better word, followers to do things they were uncomfortable with.
Theo opened a large, brightly-wrapped parcel that could only be from Luna, even had the sunflower signature not given it away, and was astounded by what he saw. Two beautiful paintings of the only loved ones who couldn't be there to share Christmas with them. Theo's mother, kindly and rose-cheeked, smiled loving back at him, all decked out in fine white and silver robes. The other portrait showed his brother, Daniel, whole and happy; the portrait-Daniel grinned toothily over at the portrait of their mother before turning back to Theo. These portraits couldn't speak, as they were done posthumously and hadn't been imbued with the memories of the people they represented, but Luna had obviously pushed enough magic into them to give them a basic understanding of who they were supposed to be.
At dinner that evening, Theo sat at the head of the table with his sisters seated to his right. The portraits were set over two chairs to his left that he had decided to leave open in memory of the dearly departed. Leaving the two vacant chairs would be a tradition in the Nott household for as long as Theo lived; and, after his death, his son would insist on leaving at least one chair always unoccupied at Christmas in honor of any loved ones who were absent.
Harry was content to sit on the sofa with a warm cup of cocoa as he watched the Weasleys eagerly exchanging gifts. The epitome of peace and innocence, they had no idea that the tired-eyed boy in the background of their Christmas card-like cheer had stayed up late into the night brutally torturing and murdering three people. They couldn't possibly imagine that the hands into which they shoved gifts of a hand-knitted sweater, candy, pranking supplies, and so forth had been stained in an ocean of blood and entrails.
If only they knew the dark, cruel, and savage things he had done, they would turn away from him in disgust and horror. They'd run screaming if they saw him. They'd call him the Darkest wizard to ever live.
"Let's sing some carols, Harry!"
"Open this present next, Harry!"
"Hey, Harry, Sirius turned the staircase into a perfect slide to do some sledding. Want to join us?"
"Harry dear, could you hold the door while I bring out supper?"
"Happy Christmas, Harry!"
If only they knew.
Author's Note: I had originally intended for Luna to be singing "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," as that is way creepier, but, as that song is not in the public domain, I changed to "Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem" to avoid any potential unpleasantness from the Fanfiction administrators. Also, "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" just seems more of an American song, and, as Harry Potter is set in Britain, a traditional carol seemed more appropriate, too.