Chapter One

December 12th, 1944

It was the last day before the holidays were to begin, and the Great Hall looked especially splendid, decked out fantastically for the coming Yuletide. At the noisy Gryffindor table smiling and raven-hared sixth year Minerva McGonagall twisted around in her seat to swap holiday plans with her friends Agatha Sprout, who was a fourth year Hufflepuff, and with Poppy Pomfrey, a third year Gryffindor. Daniel Vector, another sixth year Gryffindor, leaned across the table to hear.

"I'm hoping to see my younger brothers again." laughed Poppy. "They start next year. Linus is going to be sorted into Gryffindor for sure, but Linden might just be in Hufflepuff like mum was." she said, nodding to Agatha as she spoke.

"And I can't wait to spend the holidays with my family for a change! It's going to be wonderful." chuckled Agatha. Her eyes lit up at the very thought. "What about you, Minerva?"

Minerva gave a wry smile and answered, "I'm staying here, like always, but I don't mind. My parents are Aurors and they have responsibilities ..."

"Now, Minerva, you don't have to make their excuses." chided Daniel.

"But with the war on the continent and ..."

"It's their affair, not ours, not anymore than that muggle war is our concern." he told her reprovingly.

"Speak for yourself!" said Poppy. "I have an uncle in the RAF."


"They say that war is almost over." said Agatha, holding up a copy of The Daily Prophet for them to see.

"The muggle war, you mean?" questioned Minerva.

"Certainly not the wizarding one." Vector scoffed, reaching for the newspaper.

"They say that wizarding Europe has nearly been laid waste ..." said Poppy quietly.

"Grindelwald." Agatha sighed bitterly.

Her friends shuddered and all glanced toward the Slytherin table where several young men and women were gathered over a newspaper of their own, reading with apparent glee and relish, pointing to the pictures and talking rather animatedly. It could not be more obvious what side they were on, despite England's neutrality in the wizarding affairs of Europe. Their parents were allies with or at least approved of the Dark Wizard Grindelwald.

"It's bad luck to say his name." muttered Daniel as he read.

"If you ask me, something should be done." said Minerva, looking at the horrible headline: Countless wizards and witches slain by Grindelwald and his followers in Germany, France, and Poland.

There were pictures of the corpses on the snowy ground. French Aurors and English volunteers were sorting out the mess. She squinted, looking at the face of one of the volunteers. Minerva gasped sharply when she realized that it was their transfigurations' professor, Albus Dumbledore. She glanced from the picture where the man was standing in the snow, covering his eyes with one hand, to the head table where Dumbledore sat at the right hand of Headmaster Dippet. He looked quite sad and perhaps tired too. While his colleagues obviously considered the massacres on the continent none of their affair, Dumbledore took a different opinion.

She could hear snatches of the two professors' conversation even above the chatter around her.

"Still playing at being a mediwizard in France, Albus?"

"Hardly a mediwizard. Everyone I've seen has been dead."

"Mortician then?" questioned the young professor at Dippet's other elbow: Reynard Krohn, potions' master and the head of Slytherin house. He was a sullen looking man with blond hair that fell over his face, obscuring his hawk-like hazel eyes. There was a twisted sort of grimace on his face.

Minerva saw Professor Dumbledore's eyes flash at the tactless barb.

"I think of myself only as a volunteer and do what I can for those people ..." said the auburn-and-gray-hared professor, his voice growing so low that Minerva could not catch his words, which drew a dry, coughing laugh from Krohn and a rather ugly smirk from Dippet.

"Try not to get too involved. Those people will most likely be dead in a year." advised Dippet, patting Dumbledore's arm in a paternal manner. The headmaster was aged and considered anyone under one hundred and twenty-five a mere child, though he unfortunately accorded rather callow Professor Krohn an unusual amount of respect.

"Armando, if the Ministry holds with that attitude, no doubt they will be." he answered.

"I should be making my announcement soon, about the muggle war and so forth." said Dippet, perhaps choosing to ignore his colleague.

"I still think the muggle world is heading toward annihilation." said Krohn, who had imparted the opinion repeatedly to his muggle-born students and with a smile as though he was only telling them about a possible snowstorm or the results of a Quidditch match. He cared nothing for muggles or the things of their world.

"Then they will take us with them." said Dumbledore. "Our communities may often be separate, but our destinies are not."

Krohn merely looked at him with vague superiority and said, "But my family is pureblooded, Albus. We have no need of muggle breeding stock."

"That's right. Your father married his first cousin, didn't he, Reynard?" asked Dumbledore.

Krohn stiffened and threw his napkin down upon his plate before rising and leaving the table with an angry look upon his normally impassive face. Dumbledore disguised a chuckle with a cough.

"You really shouldn't have said that, Albus. The boy is terribly sensitive about his parentage, and his family in general ..." said Dippet. "Now for that announcement."

The headmaster rose from his seat and called for the attention of the students, who were nearly finished with their breakfasts. Minerva and Agatha, both of whom had been attending to the conversation at the head table while Poppy and Daniel sniped at each other over the newspaper, exchanged nervous glances. If Dippet had an announcement, then it could not be good. They had had precious little good news during their years at the school.

"Despite our earlier intentions to see all the students who wish to do so go back to their homes for the holidays this year, the faculty has decided that it is too risky for those dwelling near urban areas or in the southern portion of England to return to their homes. Arrangements have been made for the effected students to remain at Hogwarts for the holiday season, where, with any luck we shall all have a very merry Christmas." said Dippet.

Groans went up from all the tables. Minerva patted Poppy's shoulder comfortingly. She was actually crying, but she had good reason. She had only seen her brothers twice in almost three years because the school had remained open for the summer too because of the bombings and threat of invasion. It was the only place that parents felt their children would be safe. Agatha was pale with anguish. The light had left her eyes. Even Daniel seemed mournful as he folded up the newspaper and slumped his shoulders.

"At least we'll all be together for the holidays." Minerva told them quietly.