Disclaimer: Nothing in the Harry Potter universe belongs to me. Regretfully.
SURPRISE! I'm back. I actually didn't mean to be posting anything this soon, due heavily to the blisters on my thumbs, but I was wrapping presents and this just came to mind and, naturally, as some stories will, wouldn't let me rest until I'd written it. Thank God for band-aids, I tell you.
By the way, this story starts out on a really depressing note and you'll probably think I'm a heartless person who doesn't have a care in the world for poor little girls at Christmastime who are just looking for a bit of comfort. But it gets more cheerful. Really. I'm not completely heartless. :-)
The Truth About Mistletoe
Mistletoe is sort of like fruitcake, you know.
What I mean is, people either really like it, or they really don't.
I, personally, have always quite liked it. It's nice to see mistletoe decking the halls of Hogwarts during the holidays—despite the fact that certain greenery-dwelling creatures prefer to nest in it rather frequently. But I don't care about that. It reminds me of home.
It reminds me of her.
She loved mistletoe, you see. She always did, for as long as I can remember. And every year until I was nine, every single year, she would count down until ten days before Christmas, and then, on that tenth day, December 15th, she would begin "The Mistletoe Sagas." At least, that's what she always called them. It was a book with ten chapters; each chapter told a different story about mistletoe. There was one about a lonely orphan boy, one about a family of dogs, one about a wise Christmas tree, and so on. Our favourite, though, just mine and hers, was the story about a mother and daughter talking about what mistletoe meant to them.
"What does it mean?" I would ask her. "Why do people kiss under it?"
"It's a tradition," she would say. "A very old tradition."
"Well," I would reason, and this would be the same thingevery single year, "why do people follow it? Why hasn't anyone broken tradition?"
"Sometimes, sweetheart, people just follow things because they can't see life without them. They don't know any better."
"How are they supposed to know better if they don't try something new?"
She always smiled at me when I said that, even though it was the exact same statement I made every single year. "Well, that's a very good question, isn't it?"
We always put mistletoe up in our house. My dad never really liked it much, but he would let us hang it in the doorways. My mother loved to hang it right in the middle of the basement ceiling, where she could clearly see it, considering that she spent half the day in there with her experiments. And every time I was feeling particularly lonely or whenever I particularly missed her, I would go down into the basement and stand up on the table right under it, so that it just barely brushed the top of my head. And my mother would smile that amazing, beautiful smile of hers, and then she would set down whatever she was working on, come over to me, and plant a very large kiss on my forehead.
And I wouldn't feel so lonely anymore.
Then one year I had to do a report on a Christmas tradition for school. I was ten. I knew what I wanted to research right away, and when my teacher approved the idea I was delighted. I spent hours and hours on the project: looking up things in the library, reading through old magazines, cutting out pictures, decorating my presentation board. I was so proud of it when I was finished. It was perfect.
I remember perfectly going to the front of the classroom to give my presentation. I set up my board very professionally, careful not to ruin the little details I'd spent so much time and effort preparing. I could hear snickering and whispering behind my back as I set it up, but I wasn't bothered.
My classmates at Hogwarts weren't the first to consider me odd.
I began my presentation with a smile on my face. It went just as I had imagined and I was very proud of myself. I even had my book to show the class after I had finished; I explained each of the chapters and why the one about the mother and daughter was my favourite, and that's when more snickering began. My teacher was rather sick with a cold that day; she stepped out of the room for a moment to get tissues from the bathroom but told me to continue presenting until she returned. And that's when the questions began.
"Wasn't your mother the weird one?" one boy with a rather large nose asked me.
"No," I said simply. "My mother was never weird."
"Then where did you get it from?" the boy persisted, and the class began to laugh.
I glanced at my presentation board. "I'm not weird," I told him. "Does anyone want to know anything else about mistletoe?"
"I do," one seemingly innocent girl prompted. "I was just wondering … do you stand under it just so that boys will be forced to kiss you?"
"I don't stand under it at all," was my response. "Not anymore."
"Why not?" the girl smirked. "Is it because your mother isn't here to kiss you anymore?"
I didn't answer her. This wasn't how I had planned the presentation to go. Where was my teacher?
"Hey, guys, cut it out," one boy said, but he too was smirking. I hated that smirk, and I hated what he said next even more: "After all, wouldn't you be a bit loony too if your mum blew up?"
"She did not blow up!" I said hotly. "She didn't!"
"Maybe it was on purpose," the boy laughed, and the class was positively howling by then, "maybe she did it on purpose to get away from you!"
"Yeah, who would want to live around a nutcase like her?"
"It's probably why she locked herself in the basement everyday—it was the only place she wouldn't be tormented!"
"Maybe she was trying to invent a way to get rid of mistletoe! Then she'd never have to kiss a loony person like her daughter ever again!"
I have only ever once cried in public, and it was then. I started to cry very quietly—tears were rolling down my cheeks before I could stop them, and it was all I could do to pack up my presentation board and go back to my desk, trying to block out their voices and trying to remain composed when my teacher returned and asked what all of the commotion was about. I didn't tell her. I would tell my mother later. I still talked to her even though I wasn't sure she could still hear me.
It was much better at Hogwarts.
People still thought me odd, yes, but they didn't hate me for it. My first Christmas at Hogwarts was rather quiet and lonely, but so was everything else after she died. When everyone at school was busy packing to go back home or decorating their Common Rooms with the yuletide spirit, I was sitting quietly in my dormitory, by myself. There was a small bunch of mistletoe in my hand, and I was trying to find the perfect place to put it.
That's when one of my dorm mates walked in. Even after nearly four months of sharing a room I didn't know her name and I'm certain she didn't know mine. She would never talk to me. Not many people would really talk to me much.
But that night she did.
She watched me with a curious frown as I stood on my tiptoes to hang the mistletoe from a loose nail in the wall. I stepped back to admire my work, wrinkling my brow as I tried to decide whether or not it was a satisfactory place to hang mistletoe, when she said, "It's crooked, you know."
I looked at her. "I know. It looks rather strange there, anyway."
"Yes," she agreed. "You're the one they call Loony Lovegood."
I hardly noticed the irrelevance of her statement. I didn't say anything in response.
"Doesn't it bother you?"
"Not really," I shrugged. The blank space of wall above the desk seemed an excellent place for a piece of mistletoe. I stood on my toes again to remove it from where it was already sitting, quite out of place.
She sat down on her bed. "Is that mistletoe?"
"Yes," I replied. She was certainly asking a lot of questions. I was rather confused by the curiosity in her tone. She wasn't mocking me—that I had grown accustomed to. She was simply curious. Very curious.
"I've always liked mistletoe," she went on. "It's my favourite tradition."
I looked at her. "Really?"
"It's mine, too."
"Oh," she said. "Hey, did you try it by the window?"
My knees wobbled as I paused in mid-balance, glancing at the window from my perch on the desktop. I took the mistletoe down once again, hopped off the desk, and went over to hang it from the window.
"Why do you like it so much?" she asked me. "Why are you hanging it in here? It's all over the castle."
"It reminds me of my mother."
"Oh. You aren't going home this holiday to see her and your dad?"
"She died. She died when I was nine."
I was expecting some sort of scoffing. A laugh. A smirk. A glare. Anything besides what I received. "I'm sorry," she said, a look of sadness in her eyes. "That's really very sad. You must miss her."
"Yes," I said. She didn't know about the accident. She didn't think my mother was weird.
"I get it," the girl said, getting to her feet. "You aren't hanging that so that a boy will kiss you. You're hanging it so that your mother will."
I nodded. It was all I could do.
"Can I tell you something my mum told me?"
I nodded again.
"She said that the thing about mistletoe is, you can just look at it and feel good, no matter what else is going on around you. People kiss under mistletoe, good things happen under mistletoe. It's like a silent witness to all of the good that Christmas brings, she would say. I always liked that."
"I like it too," I said. "I like it very much. Your mother sounds lovely."
"She is," the girl told me.
I looked back at my mistletoe, feeling a sense of overwhelming comfort and pride.
"D'you want to come out and decorate the Common Room? I heard they've brought in the big tree."
I shook my head. "No thanks. I'm a bit tired."
She smiled. "Right then. I'll see you later."
"Goodbye," I agreed, smiling back at her as she left.
I sat in the windowsill that night, right under my mistletoe, looking out at the stars with a blanket wrapped tightly around me. Good things happen under mistletoe, the girl had said. I sat there and I remembered all of the times my mother had kissed me, and all of the times she'd read me each of the chapters in that book, and all of the times she'd smiled that beautiful smile of hers, and I felt very warm and content. I could hear a few night-owl students singing hushed carols in the Common Room and I could feel the warmth of the candle flickering on the wall next to me, and I could sense the mistletoe sitting right above my head, just brushing my hair.
And I could feel my mother all at once all around me—her soft lips on my forehead, her quiet laugh tickling my ear, her warm breath on my nose as she watched me sleep. And I remembered every story she'd ever read me and the things the girl had told me about her own mother and the way I'd felt when she'd told me she was sorry about my mum's death. The mistletoe rustled gently over my head, even though I was certain I didn't feel any wind. I smiled and rested my head on my knees, looking out at the bright stars and listening to the quiet murmuring of the carolers.
And, quite suddenly, I found I didn't feel so lonely anymore.
Merry Christmas to all of you I already know, those of you I've never met, and especially to anyone who may be feeling a bit lonely. :-)