A Christmas gift for Monica

This story is dedicated to Dead-Luthien. Merry Christmas! I hope Monica will like her gift.

The gang is out Christmas shopping in Diagon Alley. Monica and her owl D'Artagnan can be seen in Dead-Luthien's story Revenge. The rest of the characters belong to Rowling.

Snow was falling over Diagon ally, people moved in groups from shop to shop, talking, joking and laughing. The air was filled by the smells of Christmas. Under a street-lamp stood two boys, arguing with each other.

"Are you out of your mind?"

"Why, pygmy puffs are nice."

"Yeah, for nine-years-olds. Why would Monica want one of those?"

"Hey, it was just a thought. I didn't hear you come up with something better."

"Anything would be better."

"Yeah? Such as?"

"A moment of silence?"

The last voice speaking had been a new one, an older voice then the other two. Harry and Ron interrupted their quarrel and looked over their shoulders. Charlie stood behind them, shaking his head with an amused expression.

"Really... You have been here for what is it - twenty minutes - and you have already found something to quarrel about?"

"This is not a quarrel," Ron pointed out. "It's a discussion."

"Yes," Harry agreed. "We're thinking of getting a Christmas gift for Monica. You know, since we're going out battling evil together and stuff like that. Would only be fitting, don't you think?" Charlie laughed.

"Yeah, she'll like it, I'm sure. But a Pygmy Puff is a lousy idea, Ron."

"Told you so," Harry smirked. Ron stuck out his tongue at him.

"Well, what shall we get her then?"

Harry was about to answer, but Charlie interrupted.

"That's your problem, and I'm happy to leave you with it. I have my gift for her all sorted out already."

"What are you giving her?" the boys immediately asked in unison. The older boy only smiled and patted his pocket.

"Not telling. It will be a surprise for you as well. Have fun." And he turned, steering his steps towards his younger brother's joke-shop. Ron sadly shook his head.

"That is what help you get from older brothers. He has known the girl for years and still he can't produce a single hint. Git."

Harry nodded agree, their quarrel forgotten. They stood close to the seemingly solid wall leading to the Leaky Cauldron, watching as wizards and witches busily moved between the stores. The street was thick with people and the snow was heavy on every roof. There were even a few lost-looking robins in a corner, making the scenery look like a Christmas card.

"There is Hermione," Harry suddenly said as the brown haired girl with slight difficulty moved out from the bookstore. She was loaded with boxes.

"Blimey!" Ron exclaimed. "Didn't you leave a single book for the other people. Hermione, you cruel thing. What are all we other going to read?"

"Don't worry!" she answered brightly, giving one of the large bags to Harry. "Just wait until you open your gifts from me and you'll have enough to read for a year." She laughed as Ron's face fell considerably.

"I'm joking Ron... maybe." She and Harry laughed, and after a few moments Ron joined. Hermione gave Ron her other bag to carry, making him grumble a bit, but he didn't comment.

"Have you thought of anything?" she asked, wrapping her Gryffindor scarf around her to keep the cold out.

"Ron has an absolutely excellent idea," Harry smirked. The redhead frowned.

"All right, all right. Lousy idea. Drop it, will you?"

"No idea, then," Hermione concluded, her forehead slightly wrinkled as she thought.

"What about that book you got from Sirius and Remus, Harry, the one with defence-jinxes? I thought I saw a copy off it in Flourish..." She started to move towards the bookstore again, but Harry and Ron grabbed her sleeves and stopped her.

"No way!" Ron said firmly. "We're not loosing you in there one more time. Besides, you have seen the library at their mansion, haven't you? There isn't a book she needs that isn't in there."

"That library has not been updated since her parents lived there!" Hermione retorted, "and for your information, Ronald Weasley, one or two books have been written since that are worthwhile to read."

"Still, she doesn't need more dark-arts-stuff," Harry interrupted, a grim look in his eyes. "Let's use this chance to focus her thoughts away from the war just for once." The other two nodded, suddenly serious.

"If you say so," Hermione agreed. They stood in silence for a while. It was Harry who broke it.

"Does she by any chance play quidditch?"

"Not that I have heard of," Ron answered. "Wouldn't surprise me, though. She's quite out-doorish. Let's have a look in the broom shop!" And they walked over the street to the - now in Christmas times - very well visited shop. Hermione walked last, quite reluctantly, but the boys both had an eager glint in their eyes.

"Wow!" Harry sighed as they entered the shop. Gleaming, polished brooms were all around them. "This is enough for providing the whole school with brooms."

"Yeah," Ron agreed a bit hesitantly, "...but we can't buy her a broom. They cost a fortune."

"I suppose you're right. Maybe a repair kit then? Might come in handy if she goes out on mission or such and gets stuck."

"We don't even know if she has a broom," Hermione objected, "and we should give her something not relating to the missions".

"Hey! What about one of those?" Ron excitedly cried, pointing at the corner of the shop where non-quidditch sport equipment was featured. Harry and Hermione looked, seeing what looked slightly like a diver's helmet, but with a tight net in front of the face. In front of the helmet was a wand.

"What is it?" Hermione asked curiously.

"It's a wizard fencing kit," Ron answered enthusiastically, picking up the wand. "She's into swords and stuff, right? Well this wand makes sort of a poking charm. Like this! And he pointed the wand at Harry and stabbed in the air. Harry suddenly felt an invisible finger poke him in the stomach, and he retreated.

"The helmet is for protecting the face, should it get rough," Ron went on.

"Quite a lot like muggle sport fencing," Hermione agreed. She might like that, actually."

"No," Harry said flatly. Ron met his gaze slightly taken aback.

"Why not, Harry?"

"That thing reminds me far too much about the Snape-curse I used against Draco. I don't think it makes a very good toy." He smiled a bit apologizing. "Sorry guys, just doesn't feel right."

Ron quickly put back the wand in the display.

"Sure, mate. Not a very good present anyway. You need to be two for there to be a point... oh, sorry about the joke. It wasn't intended." Hermione laughed, relieved as the tension disappeared. She motioned towards the street.

"Nothing in here. Let's go on!"

Pushing their way through the crowd they went back to the street. Ron pointed at another shop a few doors away.

"A new pet perhaps? To keep that psychopathic bird she has company?"

"D'Artagnan doesn't really need any more company," Harry said with a meaning little smile. "He and Hedwig are going really well together."

"Ooooh!" Ron said with a slightly dirty grin. "Be careful, Harry. You'll be the one with an egg in your hat before you know it."

"I've had worse," Harry shrugged. "Another owl would actually make a pleasant diversion from the dragons and dementors and blast-ended skrewts I usually have to deal with."

"Take care of Pig for a week and tell me that again."

"Having lived in the same dorm as you for six years I would say I'm up to it."

"Boys..." Hermione said slowly, shaking her head at the immaturity of boys in general. "Let's go to the pet shop anyway. We might find something."

"Like another man-eating cat," Ron muttered, but so silently that only Harry heard him. They walked over to the pet-shop and almost run into an old friend in the door.

"Look where you are walking Neville," Ron gruffed, but Hermione had already given the startled boy a hug.

"Merry Christmas," she said brightly. "Doing your Christmas shopping?"

"Yeah," he muttered, his cheeks red. "Merry Christmas to you too."

"Kitty treats?" Hermione asked surprised, spotting the bag Neville held. "I tell you, these are really nice. Crookshanks just adore them. Is it your granny who owns a cat?"

"No," Neville muttered, still blushing. "It's a Christmas gift, sort of... What are you guys up to?" he quickly asked, changing the subject.

"We're looking for a gift for Monica," Harry answered. "Any suggestions?"

"Have you asked your brother," Neville inquired, looking at Ron. He frowned.

"Yeah, and a big fat use we had of him. Nope, we're on our own here."

"You could give her a remembrall," Neville suggested. "Can't have too many, you know. I have at least a dozen, only I seem to have forgotten where I put them..." And they all laughed.

"We'll think of that," Harry said. "Merry Christmas!"

"See you."

And waving good bye to Neville they went into the store. As usual the pet shop was a cacophony of hoots, meows, croaks, yells and any other sound imaginable (and a few not even possible to imagine). The ruckus was added to even more by all the holiday stressed Christmas shoppers that milled around. To top it all there seemed to be a wild fight going on between a crow and an owl in one corner, feathers flying all over the shop.

"OK!" screamed Ron to be heard over the noise. "Grab something and let's get out of here."

"Don't be silly!" Hermione replied as loud as she could without actually screaming. "It has to be something good."

"Whatever they feed the owl that's mauling that poor crow, lets not buy it for D'Artagnan," said Ron. "Ouch, did you see that peck in the wing? Bad style, feather duster."

"Come on," said Harry. "There's an opening by the counter."

Following Harry's lead they pushed forward until they reached a stressed shop assistant by the counter.

"No, we're out of toads," was the first thing he said. "I can't imagine why they are in fashion now all of sudden."

"We don't want a toad," shouted Harry to be heard above the noise. "We want something for an owl. Any suggestions?"

"Some nice owl treats perhaps?" the shop assistant said hopefully, demonstrating a bag.

"Nah," Harry answered. "He gets enough of treats as it is."

"Well, how about a mailbag in dragon skin, then? Useful for the big deliveries."

"He doesn't really seem to need it," Harry said thoughtfully.

"Perhaps a beak warmer and an owl-sized scarf? For the cold winter flights?"

"Hey, that could be something," Harry exclaimed. "What do you think?" he said, turning to his friends who were squeezed together just behind him by the pressure of the crowd.

"Sure, it works," said Ron, and Hermione nodded agree. "The Romanian mountains are cold, Charlie tells me."

"They are knitted in hundred percent wool from Scottish sheep. We have all the Hogwarts school colours, as well as the most popular quidditch team colours," said the shop assistant gallantly, demonstrating a black and yellow beak warmer.

"Suggestions?" Harry shouted to his friends.

"Chudley Cannons," said Ron.

"Gryffindor," said Hermione at the same time. They silenced for a second, glancing at each other.

"Gryffindor," agreed Ron in an uncharacteristically compliant manner. Harry shot him and the surprised Hermione a smile and turned to the shop assistant.

"Red and gold, then. Thank you, young sir. I'll throw in a couple of claw gloves as well. It will be three galleons, five sickles please."

"Thank you sir!" said Harry receiving the bag. "OK, let's see if we can get out of here."

"Do you think she'll like it?" Hermione asked as they wormed their way through the crowd.

"We can always hope. If it falls well out I'll buy Hedwig a set as well," said Harry.

"Don't spoil her," Ron warned. "Then Pig'll be the next one whining for beak warmers."

"Nah, they don't make them in his size."

"You really think that will matter for him? If Hedwig has it, he wants it as well."

"I'll keep that in mind."

"Yeah… Let's go to the joke-shop and see how Fred and George are dealing with the Christmas shoppers."

And they did. Snow was falling over Diagon Alley and the three friends. It certainly felt like being inside a Christmas card.