A HOGWARTS CHRISTMAS CAROL

The snow was falling outside, and there was an air of excitement amongst the remaining students, who did not go home for the holidays. They were singing carols in the Great Hall. The house ghosts were going from room to room wishing all teachers and students good cheer.

Everyone was happy except for Harry Potter. He felt more alone than ever, and was thinking of his godfather, Sirius Black, who had died the previous spring. Harry did not want anything for Christmas except to hear Sirius laugh, and see his smiling face one more time. Harry was invited to spend Christmas with his friend Ron Weasley and his family at their home, but he had declined. As much as Harry cared for the Weasley family, he wanted to be alone with his thoughts. His friend Hermione Granger had gone home for the holiday too, as well as all the other sixth year Gryffindors. Harry had the dorm room to himself, and it suited him just fine. Following dinner in the Great Hall, he had gone upstairs, sat down in front of the window in the bedchamber, and watched the large white flakes as they drifted down from the sky.

Unbeknownst to Harry, events were being set in motion which would affect him for the rest of his life. Events that would make the difference in the war with Voldemort and help to turn the tide to the side of light, helping two broken souls to heal, and make a friend from someone he would never have anticipated...

Remus Lupin snuggled deeper into the bed at number 12 Grimmauld Place. He had decided to sleep in Sirius' bed that night. He did not know exactly why, but he felt the need to be near his lost friend. Remus missed him more this Christmas than he ever did when Sirius had been in Azkaban prison, and he felt an immediate pang of guilt. In his mind's eye, Remus envisioned the wanted posters that had been put up following Sirius' escape to freedom...

"How many cold and lonely Christmas' were you there that we had all but forgotten you? The cold breath of the Dementors pulling the joy from your spirit," Remus sobbed aloud, startled by the sound of his voice. "Now I can understand how alone you must have been old friend, and I'm sorry," he whispered to the empty room, the wind howling in the eaves...

The dungeon was cold tonight, but Severus Snape was used to the chill and the damp. He generally welcomed it, but not tonight. Tonight he was feeling a hollow chill in his bones and had lit a roaring fire in the grate. He did not know why, but he felt anxious, and sensed that something was amiss.

"If only it weren't so blasted damp! I must be getting a cold," he thought to himself, pulling a blanket across his lap, attempting to read his newest copy of Potions Master Monthly, while sipping a glass of wine...

Albus Dumbledore was waiting. The Headmaster of Hogwarts was sitting on the chaise in front of his hearth enjoying a cup of hot chocolate and listening to some chamber music while he stared into the fire. He had adjourned to his room early, following the Holiday Chorus presented by the students, and was aware that tonight was one of the most magical nights on earth. He could only hope that the events that were to take place would help to make a difference in the lives of the three persons he loved most on this earth, Harry Potter, Remus Lupin and Severus Snape...

As Dumbledore continued to watch the flames in his hearth Fawkes too had sensed that something important and special was about to happen. The great bird had come to perch on his master's shoulder and sat, eyes blinking, staring in the same direction as his master...

'What is that awful noise?' Harry's brain asked, as he heard a loud pounding coming from beneath his dorm in the Gryffindor common room. "Knock it off you stupid asses. Quit partying and let me sleep!" he muttered under his breath as he came awake. Harry had fallen asleep looking out of the window, and awoke shivering in the darkness. Looking around, he realized the noise had stopped, and the tower was quiet.

'Humph, I must have been dreaming,' he thought starting to climb up into his four-poster bed, when the noise began again. It sounded like someone playing with a drum and he could hear a girl's voice laughing and singing.

"Who the hell is that?" he said grumpily. "I am going to go and tell her to cut it out. She must be one of the fifth year girls that stayed behind."

Harry spoke to himself, pulling on his robe and descending the stairs from the tower, entering the common room. It was dark and the fire had long since gone out. He stood there confused, looking around in the darkness. "I must be imagining things," Harry shook his head and turned to return to bed, but he never made it. The fire in the hearth suddenly sprang to life, and he whirled around yelling angrily, "Stop playing games, you stupid idiots! I want to ..." Harry never completed his sentence. Instead, his jaw dropped in shock, as he stood staring at the person in front of him...

Remus Lupin woke with a start. He had been dreaming about the day he had met Harry on the Hogwarts express and the Dementors had attacked. He could still see the creature's half-rotted hand as it slid open the door to the compartment. Sitting up, he rubbed his eyes, and took a drink from the glass of water at his bedside. He wished at that moment it had been some fire whisky. All the lights were on and he had made sure they were off before turning in for the night. There was a fire burning in his grate, and he could hear someone humming Christmas carols from the chair by the fire. He hoped he was dreaming, and realized he was holding his breath. There was a figure sitting in the chair by the fire. The figure of a person whose voice he recognized...

The room had grown colder as the night wore on, and Severus Snape went to take another sip of his wine, only to find his glass was empty. Growling under his breath, he got up to get some more. Moving silently over to the table in his sitting room he noticed that the connecting door to his office was ajar, and there was a dim light coming from the other room.

'I know I closed and locked that door,' he thought suspiciously. 'No one should be able to break through my locking spells. Only Albus knows how, and he would have announced himself.' Snape deliberated, drawing his wand, as he advanced towards the other room without making a sound. He moved stealthily around the door and into his office. A man was sitting at his desk, and Severus moved to confront him, as the man looked up and smiled. Severus normally pale complexion blanched even more and the wand dropped from his hand...

Dumbledore stretched, and Fawkes gave a quite caw, as the scene in the flames unfolded before them. Taking a sip of his hot chocolate, he absently stroked the soft scarlet feathers on the great bird.
"So, Fawkes, as you can see, it has begun," Dumbledore remarked as if talking to another individual. "Let us hope that whatever powers are at work tonight are successful." Fawkes looked at him and blinked in agreement.

Harry was confronted by a young woman, not more than twenty-one, with beautiful dark red hair and sparkling green eyes. She was sitting and playing with a child's drum, a stuffed reindeer at her feet. She smiled, and held out her arms.

"Who...who are...you?" he asked shakily, afraid of what she would say.

"You already know the answer to that, son," she responded quietly, her voice like the soft tinkling of bells.

"Mum?" he questioned, moving slowly towards her, unsure if this was some trap of Lord Voldemort.

"Yes, Harry, it's me. I have been given this night to be with you," she said, reaching out to him again.

"But...but Nearly Headless Nick said..."

"That the dead don't come back?"

"Yes," he replied stopping in front of her, realizing that he could see through her. She was indeed a spirit.

"As a rule we don't, but I have been sent here to be with you on this night because you are in so much pain.
"Mum, Sirius...is he..."

"He's fine," she smiled warmly. "He is sorry he couldn't be here with you tonight, but he had me bring you this," she replied handing him the stuffed reindeer, "and your father sent you this drum. I know you don't remember, but they bought you these things for your first Christmas. You were too little for the drum," she indicated the small snare drum, "but James charmed it to play for you. You just sat there, in your infant seat, laughing and trying to grab the drumsticks."

"Why...are...you here? Where are Dad and Sirius?"

"They have other places to be tonight. We were each sent back and I wanted so much to see you that your father and Sirius insisted I come here."

"But where are they? You said they were sent back too."

"I can't tell you where they are, but I can tell you they are doing wonderful things," Lily Potter smiled knowingly. "I have only an hour to spend with you, so I want you to know that we all love you very much."

"Mum...I...you don't...know..."

"I do know, Harry. You see, I know what you will have to do. I know you can do it too, but right now, you feel hurt and betrayed. You lost your family and your godfather to an evil wizard. However, what you need to understand is that you didn't lose us. We will be with you all the way."

"Is that why you're here, to tell me that I have to go on? How can I? I feel so alone."

"We know," she answered sadly. "You asked why I'm here. I came to spend Christmas with my child. Have you ever read Dickens' A Christmas Carol?"

"Yes, it is a Christmas ghost story, but I hardly fit the role of Scrooge."

"No, that part is for another, tonight, as is the role of Bob Crachit," his mother's sweet voice chuckled. "You are our Tiny Tim."

"Oh? Will I be visited by two other spirits tonight too?" Harry asked amused.

"No, son, only by me. I am your ghost of Christmas past. I am here to show you that you were, and are, still loved by all of us."

"Why?"

"Because you have to stop grieving and go on with your life. You have a great destiny, but your distrust and hurt have cost you valuable time. You need to trust Albus Dumbledore and come to terms with your new family to be. However, before you can do that I want to take you back to that first Christmas. You need to learn to love again, and to reopen your heart, or all will be lost."

"I don't understand?"

"Has not Albus Dumbledore told you that it is the love inside of you that will ultimately defeat Voldemort?"

"Yes, Mum, but..."

"No buts, you have been grievously hurt and I know you feel used, but those around you do love you. I am merely here to remind you of that. I will take you back so that you can see how happy we all were. I will restore your faith in life, because if I can't I will have given mine in vain," Lily explained sadly, and putting her arms around Harry, he found himself enveloped in a white mist, as he traveled back through time...

Remus just stared at the figure in the chair as he sat humming to himself, before he turned abruptly, to look into Remus' hazel eyes.

"Well, don't just sit there gawking, Moony, it's not like you've never seen a ghost before."

"Sirius, is it really you?"

"Of course, it's me, who else would visit you unannounced on Christmas Eve?" Sirius laughed, brown eyes alight with mirth.

"Why are you here?" Remus questioned climbing out of bed and pulling on his bathrobe. "Padfoot, you should be with Harry. He just hasn't been the same since...well...you know." Remus lowered his eyes.

"Since I died," Sirius finished. "Yes, I know, Moony. That is one of the reasons I am here. The other is because you haven't been the same either. You and Harry are both still in pain, and it is keeping him from you. He's afraid he will only make your pain worse if he tries to talk with you."

"That's ridiculous," Remus protested.

"Is it, Moony? I don't think so. Harry is very perceptive and knows how close we were. He can sense your pain, and is afraid that by coming to you it will make him even more vulnerable. He doesn't understand that you both need to face your grief together."

"I have tried, Padfoot, but he keeps resisting me. He has put up a wall between us and refuses to let me in."

"I know, "Sirius sighed, "and I am here to fix that. "You are going to give him the one thing he really wants for Christmas."

"And what is that? I have already sent his gifts to Hogwarts, since he refused to come home here to Grimmauld for the holiday."

"He needs to know he is still loved and can talk to me when ever he has to."

"Then why are you here with me and not with him tonight? Padfoot, I fear for Harry's ability to stand against Lord Voldemort. He no longer cares if he lives or dies. I can sense a darkness creeping into his heart."

"Moony I am here because you need me too. The darkness in his heart is that part of him that Lord Voldemort put there the night Harry survived his curse. It is not for you to keep him from the darkness, that task will fall to the one who will be the other member of his new family."

"New family?" Remus questioned.

"Yes, and yours too," Sirius laughed, "but you will learn about that tomorrow. For tonight you can consider me the ghost of Christmas present."

"What are you talking about, Padfoot?"

"It comes from some Muggle book that Lily read as a child. She said Harry would understand."

"Lily? Is she here too? Will I get to see her?" Remus asked excitedly.

"Sorry, Moony. She is visiting with Harry tonight. We decided that she should be the one to bring him out of his funk and make him look to the future."

"We? Who's we?"

"James, of course, and before you ask, he won't be here either. He is busy with the third member of your little group." Sirius grinned wickedly.

"Who is that?"

"Ah, Moony, unfortunately you will not know that until tomorrow. Tonight we are going on a mission."

"We're going out? Do you have any idea what time it is?"

"Nope to both questions. You and I will spend a quiet Christmas together after we find my half of the two way mirror."

"Sirius, Harry broke his half of the mirror."

"I know that, but he won't need it. He can have my half," Sirius chuckled at Remus' mystified expression.

"But he can't contact you with it, let alone speak to someone in the afterlife!"

"Yes and no..."Sirius teased. "Let's just find the mirror and we can talk while you have a nice cup of hot tea," Sirius replied as the door to the bedroom blew open, and Remus found himself being whisked up the hallway...

Severus Snape could not believe his eyes. Sitting in his leather office chair was none other that the ghost of James Potter. Severus had never felt as vulnerable as he did at that moment. Even Lord Voldemort had not unnerved him as much as the sight of his former rival's rictus smile.

"Good evening, Snivellus, long time no see," James Potter greeted him, his smile never wavering. "I see you have quite a comfortable set up thanks to Dumbledore."

"What do you want, Potter?"

"I see you still haven't changed," James replied coolly, "always brief and to the point."

"I repeat, what do you want, Potter?" Snape asked picking up his wand, silently cursing himself for the show of weakness.

"Take a seat, Snivellus, and we will discuss my presence here," James said, as a chair came racing over behind Snape. He felt himself being lowered into it and then pushed up to sit opposite James Potter on the other side of his desk. How many times had he sat looking at some poor hapless student the way James was looking at him now?

"I take it there is some kind of purpose to your nocturnal visit?"

"How is Harry doing with his Potions?" James asked, ignoring Severus question.

"It is not his best forte," Severus responded, his dark eyes glittering furiously.

"Pity, I had hoped you would have been a better teacher to him. I hear you stopped his Occlumency lessons too," James remarked sarcastically.

"He refused to cooperate and lacked the necessary skill to concentrate enough to close off his mind."

"We both know that is not true, Snivellus..."

"Don't call me Snivellus! My name is Severus!" Snape gritted his teeth angrily, jumping up from his seat.

"I will call you what ever I wish," James yelled. "Now sit back down and listen to what I have to say!"

"Very well, but make it quick. It is late and I want to get some sleep."

"Oh, you'll get some sleep, but not before we come to terms with your treatment of my son."

"I was unaware I was treating him any different than any of my other students."

"Bullshit! You deliberately go out of your way to humiliate him! Grow up Snape, Harry is just a kid, and he needs you!"

"I hardly believe that. Your son is very much like his father...he does whatever he pleases, no matter the consequences."

"You're wrong, Severus, and you know it. The sooner you face the fact that you are taking out your past prejudices on Harry the sooner you will be able to redeem your soul."

"Hah!" Snape sneered, "My soul was damned years ago."

"No, Severus, it wasn't. Everyone could see the good in you except for yourself. It was that good that brought you back home to Albus Dumbledore. It is that good that will keep my son from the darkness which is threatening to overtake him."

"What are you saying?"

"I'm saying that Harry is at a turning point in his life. He is lost and confused, and the darkness that touched him as a toddler is now threatening to overtake him. He needs you in his life. Only you can show him how to fight the evil that is seeping into his soul."

"Indeed and why should I?"

"Because Snape, my son is not me. He would not do the things to another person that I allowed to happen to you. He has a good and noble heart...Lily's heart...and if you do not help him, the wizarding world will be under the thumb of an evil tyrant. A tyrant who will stop at nothing to control everything and everyone. A tyrant who will do more than torment you with childish harassments...a tyrant who will destroy our world and set us back into the Dark Ages. A tyrant who will take Hogwarts and Albus Dumbledore and turn them into a memory of what could have been..." James' voice trailed off.

"And how am I supposed to accomplish this miraculous feat?" Snape sneered, his voice dripping acid as his stomach twisted itself into knots. He knew what would happen if Voldemort gained access to Hogwarts.

"Ever read Dickens' A Christmas Carol?"

"I do not generally read Muggle literature, but I am familiar with the story."

"Then consider me your ghost of Christmas yet to come."

"Oh, and I suppose I am Ebenezer Scrooge and you will take me on some kind of journey into the future?" Snape asked sarcastically.

"As a matter of fact...yes," James smiled, looking over his glasses at Severus Snape, and with a wave of his hand they were enveloped in a thick gray fog. Snape felt himself being lifted from his chair and transported through time...

Albus Dumbledore awoke with a start. He had fallen asleep on his chaise lounge. He was disturbed, but was unsure of why. Fawkes was sitting on the back of the chaise looking down at him, dark eyes impassive.

"Incendio," Dumbledore pointed his wand at the now cold grate, watching as the flames sprang to life. "We will have our answer soon, Fawkes," he told the bird, looking out the window at the night sky, which had begun to quicken with the upcoming dawn...

Harry found himself in a warm and cozy parlor. There was a familiar black shaggy dog lying in front of the fire, his long body stretched out on the hearthrug. A dark-haired baby was sitting beside him, the dog's tail wrapped around the child's body to help support his unsteady balance. Apparently, the baby had only just learned to sit on his own, and needed the additional support to keep from falling over backwards. A man and a woman, whom Harry recognized as his parents, were sitting on the couch, laughing at the antics of the infant as the dog sighed with resignation as the baby pulled his tail for the umpteenth time. Harry looked at the spirit of his mother and she smiled and nodded.

"Yes, son, this was your first Christmas. You probably enjoyed pulling on poor Sirius' tail more than any of the toys we had bought you," she laughed as Harry continued to watch the scene unfold in front of him.

"Well Padfoot, I am glad to see you are taking Harry's mauling so calmly. He really loves that tail of yours," James beamed, amused.

"Well, he's certainly earned his Christmas dinner," Lily commented as the big dog gave a large sweep of his tail as Harry almost toppled over backwards again. "I'll just go and see how the ham is doing. It should be almost ready," she commented giving Padfoot a pat on his head, and Harry could swear his godfather's animagus form was smiling.

"Come on, Padfoot," James commented, as he picked Harry up off the floor,

"let's go and help Lily. Maybe we can scoff a few early samples," he said, winking conspiratorially as Sirius transformed.

"Good, I'm famished! Haven't had a descent home cooked meal in ages," Sirius responded in his barking laugh.

"Now, Padfoot, you know you had dinner with us just last week," James chided. "If anyone needs a good hot meal it's Moony."

"Isn't he late for dinner?"

"I told him to come at four, and it's just that now," Lily answered as they came into the kitchen. A moment later, the doorbell rang.

"I'll get it, Hon, it should be Moony. He's right on time," James called over his shoulder, going to the front door. Swinging it open, he was surprised to see two men standing there. One was Moony, who was smiling uncertainly, a gift for Harry under his arm. The other was Severus Snape. He was holding a large package in his hands. "Moony, come on in. You're welcome also, Snape, it is Christmas, after all."

"No thank you Potter. I am merely here to bring your son a present. I hope he will enjoy it," he said pushing a heavy package into James' hand. Then pulling up the collar of his cloak, he turned to leave.

"Severus, wait! Why don't you stay for dinner? We have more than enough and I promise Sirius will be on his best behavior."

"I doubt that even you can keep Black from his antics, but thank you anyway. I have already agreed to dine with Albus."

"Very well then, give Dumbledore our regards and wish him a Happy Christmas from all of us."

"I will," Snape shrugged as he moved back off up the street.

"He's an odd duck, that one," Moony remarked as James closed the door.

"James! You know better than to keep Harry in such a draft," Lily scolded, "he'll catch his death."

"Oh, he's just fine Lil, see how he's so happy to see Moony," James grinned as the infant reached out towards their friend, babbling with pleasure.

Harry looked at the spirit of his mother, as he watched the scene unfolding in front of him. He was fascinated, watching his parents and their friends, unaware of the devastation that was coming in less than a year, and wondered what it was that Snape had brought him.

"Mum, Remus, he looks...well..."

"Healthy?"

"Yeah," Harry agreed sheepishly. "I have never seen him without the lines in his face, or the sadness in his eyes."

"You can help him to look that way again, Harry. He needs you as much as you need him. Let me show you the rest. There are more surprises in store for you," she explained as they followed the group back into the kitchen.

"Sirius!" Lily yelled as she caught him sampling a piece of the ham. "That is all of our dinner."

"And you will be happy to know it is excellent, as always," Sirius grinned guiltily. "It's about time you got here Moony. I'm starving, and I had to work for my Christmas dinner. The pup damned near pulled my tail off," Sirius teased, taking Harry from James and holding him in the air over his head. Harry erupted into gales of laughter.

"If I were you, I would be careful, Padfoot. He might just spit up on you," Moony warned.

"Nah, he's made of tougher stuff than that, aren't you, little guy?" Sirius affirmed hugging baby Harry before giving him back to his mother. "Ah...Lily...I think he needs a change."

"Well, your his godfather, why don't you change him?" she grinned back at Sirius with an evil smile.

Harry couldn't help but laugh at the look on his godfather's face.

"Uh...me?"

"What's wrong, Padfoot?" Moony questioned innocently. "Afraid to face your responsibility as his principal godfather?"

"Humph, I am not. He just wiggles too much."

"Come on, you two," James shook his head, "I'll help both his godfathers so Lily can get us fed."

"Good," they chorused following him from the room and upstairs into the nursery.

"Hey James, what do you think Severus brought for Harry?"

"Snape, he was here?" Sirius asked darkly.

"He was at the door with Moony...,"James said holding the squirming baby while he taped the disposable diapers. "There, all done!" he smiled with pleasure, kissing his son before handing him to Remus.

"Well...what did Snivellus want?"

"Padfoot, keep your cool. He just brought Harry a present."

"Yeah, said he couldn't stay for dinner. He was dining with Albus," Moony remarked to see the expression on Sirius' face.

"Good, it would have been pure hell with him here!" Sirius snorted.

"Padfoot, I know you don't like him, but it is Christmas, try and be charitable. He did bring Harry a present," James chided.

"Probably something stupid," Sirius huffed, trying not to lose his temper.

"The let's go and find out," James grinned, as they headed back towards the heavenly aromas coming from the kitchen.

"Are you four guys ready for dinner?" Lily asked putting Harry into his high chair.

"You bet," Sirius answered taking a seat at the table opposite Remus, with James at the head of the table, and Lily facing him with the high chair beside her, so she could feed Harry.

"Lily, thank you for inviting me," Remus told her warmly, "can I help you to feed Harry?"

"Do you think you can handle it?" she asked amused and touched by his sensitivity.

"How hard can it be?"

"Ha! You'll find out," Sirius laughed.

Harry watched quietly as his parents, godfather, and his present guardian spent his first Christmas dinner together. He found himself laughing at Remus' attempts to feed his infant self, and he wasn't sure which of them was covered more in the food. Remus finally gave up, and Lily finished getting Harry to eat, grateful for the time Remus had taken with him so she could eat a hot meal. After cleaning him up, his father brought out the drum, and just as his mother had told him earlier, he had charmed it so that it would play. The adults laughed uproariously as Harry tried to grab at the floating drumsticks.

"Say, we never did find out what was in the package Severus brought Harry," James remarked when Harry started to tire.

"I could care less, what did Remus bring?" Sirius queried.

"Remus was practical," Lily smiled as she opened the package, "and bought Harry some new clothes and a blanket for his crib," she responded holding them all up for them to see. "I think it was very nice of Severus to bring Harry a present for his first Christmas."

"As I said before, he's an odd duck," Remus remarked, "you never know what he's thinking."

"I don't trust the greasy git myself. If I were you, James, I would check to make sure he didn't put a curse on that gift," Sirius shook his dark head in affirmation.

"Don't be idiots," Lily frowned. "Why, how thoughtful of him. It's a book of nursery rhymes and bedtime stories."

"Only nerds read books," Sirius snorted triumphantly. "As soon as he's old enough I will give him a broom."

"Ahem," Moony cleared his throat, "I happen to like reading."

"So do I," Lily chastised Sirius, as James just grinned and shook his head.

"Now you're in for it, Padfoot," he whispered to his friend with a chuckle.

"And that goes for you too. I don't know why you both dislike Severus so much. I think he's had a lot of pain in his life and you two have only made it worse. He is just shy and sad, like Remus."

"Lily! Please do not put Moony and that greasy git into the same category. Moony is kind and loving. Snivellus is just a nosy nasty heartless fool. It wouldn't surprise me if he is a Deatheater," Sirius defended himself.

"If he is, then it will be because of the likes of you and James tormenting him! I think underneath that hard exterior is a very kind and lonely man," Lily argued tossing her head, red hair flying angrily.

"Enough...call a truce! I will not have my wife and one of my best friends going at it on Christmas. Let's clean up and go sing some carols in the parlor. It may help to put Harry to sleep," James smiled at his son, who seemed far from sleepy.

Harry watched them with the ghost of his mother as the rest of the evening unfolded. The little group sang and toasted one another while baby Harry finally fell asleep on Remus' shoulder after Sirius had worn him out again playing puppy.

"You see, son, Remus loves you as much as Sirius, and of course, your father and I were so proud of you. We still are. Please open your heart again and let yourself love and trust those people who are trying so desperately to help you."

"Dumbledore only cares about his plan, and Snape hates me."

"No, Harry, Albus Dumbledore loves you very much. It is one of the reasons I am here. He is lost and troubled. He knows that unless your soul can heal, the darkness that touched you as a baby, will take control. You have the ability to be as great a wizard as he is...or as dark as Voldemort," she worried ominously

"I will never be like Voldemort!" Harry retorted emphatically. "He is the reason I am hurting so much."

"Yes, and he will use that hurt to gain control over you. Don't let it happen. Open your heart to Remus, forgive Dumbledore, and most of all, listen to Severus. He knows your pain, and understands it."

"Mum, what happened to make him so bitter and mean to me? Was it only the teasing Dad and Sirius did to him?"

"No, it goes way beyond that. Unfortunately, it is not my place to tell you. He will do so if he feels you should know. In the meantime, don't pry. He is more sensitive than you know, and he takes his place in the Order very seriously."

"There were other bad Christmases too..." Harry pondered thinking of his mother's sister and her husband.

"There were also good ones," she smiled, "Like when you got your father's cloak or when Sirius sent you the Firebolt."

"Yeah..."he replied as a tear threatened to slide down his cheek.

"It's all right to cry, Harry," Lily Potter soothed her son. "Sirius will always cherish his last Christmas with you, and even now he is doing something special to make you happy again, as is your father," she hinted as the white mist enshrouded them again...

"Deck the halls with boughs of holly..." Sirius sang as he dragged Remus up the hall. "I presume you packed away my things in the attic?"

"Actually, Tonks did. She said Harry and I could go through them when we were ready."

"Good, that means the mirror is still here."

"What are you going to do with it? You already agreed he would not be able to contact you with it. How is this going to help Harry?"

"Ah...that is the beauty of my plan," Sirius grinned wickedly with a toss of his thick black hair.

Remus was reminded of a younger Sirius, as he realized the pain and worry no longer marred his friend's handsome features. He was at peace with himself. 'If only it were so easy for me...' Remus thought.

"No, Moony, you are meant to see Harry through to the end," Sirius remarked quietly, as if reading Remus' mind, startling him. "I always could read you like a book," he smiled, answering Remus question, brown eyes warm with affection, as they reached the door to the attic.

"Damn, I forgot the key. I will have to go and get it," Remus turned to go back down the hall.

"Don't bother," Sirius said, stopping him as the door unlocked itself despite the wards on it. "Sometimes the afterlife has its advantages," he quipped, his barking laugh filling the hallway.

"Sirius, be quiet or you'll wake up Mundungus Fletcher. He's sleeping on the second floor tonight."

"He won't wake up. No one other than you can see or hear me," Sirius explained as he led the way up the narrow attic stairs.

Remus was amazed that he could see so well. No light was lit, and he did not have his wand, yet the stairs were filled with a pale white light. He then realized that it was coming from his dead friend.

"Sirius did you know that you are glowing?"

"Am I? Now that is interesting," he pursed his lips in amusement. "I wonder what my dear old mother would say to that!"

"I take it she isn't with you in the..."

"Afterlife?" Sirius interrupted finishing his friend's sentence. "No, she is elsewhere. I am with James and Lily, and all the other good people who are counting on Harry to succeed."

"I see. I don't suppose you can talk about it?"

"Sorry, Moony, those kinds of questions are taboo. I can tell you that James and Lily send their love though. I forgot to tell you before."

"Please tell them I miss them...and you too, Padfoot," Remus sighed reaching the attic landing.

"I know, Moony. We all miss you too. One day we will all be together again."

"I doubt they let werewolves in where you are," Remus shrugged.

"As a matter of fact, that is not in the criteria. One of our neighbors was a werewolf in life. The only other thing I can tell you is that you will be able to change at will, at least he can now, and there is no more pain involved."

"So it will be as if I am an animagus?" Remus questioned, amazed.

"Yeah, and then we can all go for a good run again, but don't ask me anything else. I have told you more than I should have all ready."

"You won't get into any trouble, will you?" Remus asked worriedly, as he shifted some of the boxes.

"No, if I say too much I will lose my voice," Sirius laughed, "everyone knows how impulsive I can be."

"Ah! Here's the box," Remus announced pulling a large cardboard carton out from beneath a stack of books, as a noise sounded in an old wardrobe nearby. "Uh oh, I think we have a Boggart. I will need to dispose of it as soon as possible. Maybe I should go and get my wand and do it now."

"Allow me," Sirius announced, pulling a wand out of nowhere, and with a swift motion of his hand, the wardrobe door sprung open. "Riddikulus!" he shouted, as the Boggart changed from the image of a Dementor to that of Mrs. Black, before it vanished.

"Now that is interesting. Your fears were almost identical to those of Neville Longbottom."

"What do you mean, Moony?"

"Well...when I had Neville in my Defense Against the Dark Arts class at Hogwarts, we studied Boggarts and I brought one to class so the kids could practice disposing of it."

"So? What is your point?"

"His Bogart started out as Severus Snape, but then it turned into his grandmother," Remus grinned. "Yours went from the Dementor to your mother."

"I see your point. If it had been up to me, I would have put Snivellus into the same category with the Dementors. I'm glad it wasn't my choice."

"What do you mean?"

"I know why Severus became a spy for Albus and left the Deatheaters."

"Why? What is it in Severus' past that caused him to become so angry and bitter?"

"Sorry, Moony, that is not for me to say. If he wants to tell you, he will. His soul has been scarred, but not lost beyond redemption," Sirius explained soberly. "Now let's get that mirror so we can spend the rest of the evening together before you have to go to Hogwarts tomorrow."

"Harry isn't expecting me to come to Hogwarts tomorrow," Remus answered rummaging around in the box.

"No, but you will be now. Besides, I have it on good authority that you weren't doing anything for Christmas dinner," Sirius rolled his eyes mischievously.

"Hey, look, here is our graduation picture from Hogwarts. The one Peter took."

"Yeah, I'm glad he wasn't in it. I want you to have it, Moony, and take the one of you and me sitting in the Astronomy Tower following the Yule Ball. I want Harry to have the one of me and James on the Quidditch pitch. He always liked that one," Sirius smiled wistfully.

Remus didn't reply immediately, but kept digging in the box, pulling out old school books, and other memorabilia, until he found the sought after mirror. He pulled it out with a triumphant howl.

"Here it is!" he said holding it up to reflect the light.

"Good, now bring it downstairs and I will do my best to make this a Happy Christmas after all."

"What are you going to do with it?" Remus queried as they returned downstairs to the warmth of Sirius' old room.

"Something wonderful..." Sirius smiled mysteriously, as he sat looking at the mirror, which reflected only the empty room, and Remus.

Remus sat quietly with Sirius for some time, each enjoying the other's company. Remus sipped a cup of tea from a pot that had appeared out of nowhere on the table. It was simply there when they came into the room. They talked about old times, Harry, and oddly enough, Severus Snape. Remus was happy for the first time in six months, and never wanted the night to end. His friend had come home, and now his life was complete. Sirius was at peace with himself, and Remus knew they would see one another again. He fell asleep in the chair facing the fire, feeling warm and content, for the first time in a long while, as Sirius stared into the vacant mirror...

When the gray fog cleared Severus Snape found himself still in the dungeon office he used at Hogwarts, but something was different. He looked around and saw that James Potter was still with him, standing by his side. Lucius Malfoy was sitting in the chair, which he had occupied behind the desk, and the bottles of potions ingredients, had been removed from the room.

"What is Lucius doing here, and where are all my potions ingredients?" Snape asked angrily, looking over to see Lucius expression. He was dumbfounded to see that Lucius was unaware of their presence.

"I thought you had read Dickens?" James jeered at him.

"I did. I suppose this is the future?"

"If things aren't set right it will be."

"What no graves in the cemetery?" Snape commented sarcastically.

"Don't worry, that comes later."

"Oh, so I'm supposed to see my own grave? I have news for you, I am not afraid to die."

"You aren't dead," James smiled coldly. "You will suffer a worse fate, as will Albus, Harry, and Remus Lupin."

"What do you mean?" Severus asked warily.

"Watch, and you will find out," James instructed as the office door opened and Peter Pettigrew entered.

"Well, are the prisoners ready for today's interrogation and to witness the execution?"

"McNair wanted more time, but I told him the Dark Lord wanted to be here to witness the execution and the final interrogations."

"Very well than let's go to the Great Hall. Lord Voldemort will be pleased," Lucius smiled evilly, the anticipation of a reward for his good service in his eyes.

James motioned for Severus to follow and they went up the stairs behind them. They could hear screams and the sounds of torture coming from some of the rooms, and few of the torches were lit. Severus could see his breath as they moved. Reaching the Great Hall, Severus could see that the once magnificent castle was now a ruin of it's former self. The enchanted ceiling held dark gray clouds, and occasionally a fork of lightening would pierce the gloomy sky. James noticed Severus looking at it.

"It was Dumbledore's last act before the castle fell. So far they have been unable to remove the spells."

"What do you mean, before the castle fell? Hogwarts is impregnable!"

"No, it is not. It is merely a safe haven, but circumstances will occur which will change that."

"Where is all the staff? What happened to the students?"

"Come, I will show you where the staff are," James said with a sweep of his arm. "I promised you a visit to the cemetery," he remarked caustically, as they appeared in the cemetery just outside of Hogsmeade. "Here are your colleagues," James Potter remarked bitterly, pointing out the graves of Minerva McGonagall, Filius Flitwick, Pomona Sprout, and a large mound, which proved to be that of Hagrid. "Many of the students are here too. If their parents defied Voldemort, he killed them too. The others are in the cells beneath the castle. It was their cries you heard," James replied, and with another wave of his hand, they found themselves back in the Great Hall.

"What about the Weasley children and Miss Granger?"

"Ron died in the battle, and the others were rounded up and executed. Hermione Granger was made to watch her parents die before she was given to Nott...I don't think I need tell you what happened..." James looked away, the pain evident in his eyes.

"You said I was still alive as are Harry, Lupin, and Albus. Are we the ones to be executed today?"

"Something like that. Watch, for this will be the future if things do not change."

"Bring out the prisoners," Pettigrew bellowed at a nod from Lucius.

Snape noticed that a tall black clad figure swiftly and silently entered the room. His hood was up, but Severus knew who the figure was...he would recognize the tall pale arrogant stance anywhere. He had knelt before it many times before...Voldemort!

"Come my son," Voldemort's icy voice intoned, "it is time for you to show your loyalty."

"Yes, My Lord," Harry Potter's voice answered automatically. Severus gasped, and noticed that the boy was older by about three years. He could also see that he was under the Dark Lord's complete control.

"He is under his control, he is not a willing participant," Snape whispered to James Potter.

"He was unable to keep Voldemort from taking over his mind. You failed to teach him how when you gave up his Occlumency lessons, but it gets worse...far worse..."

"The prisoners have arrived, My Lord," Harry said, his green eyes distant.

Snape watched as his doppelganger was led in and made to sit down in one of the witness boxes. His hands and feet were bound, and he could tell he had been tortured with the Cruciatus curse countless times, but his dark eyes remained bright with anger and pride.

"Hello, Snivellus, I hope you enjoy the show. You and I will play some more in a little while," Harry laughed hollowly, and both men were aware that it was Voldemort who was really laughing. "Bring the werewolf!"

Remus Lupin was placed in the front of the audience that had been assembled in the Great Hall. He looked tired and old, his hair now fully gray, and his face drawn in pain.

"Remus Lupin you have been charged with treason against the administration of Lord Voldemort and found guilty. Do you have any last words?" Harry asked coldly.

"Yes," Remus answered, and despite his appearance his voice was clear and strong, "I love and forgive you Harry. You did not fail, we did."

For one brief minute, Severus could see Harry try to struggle against Voldemort's will before he nodded to Pettigrew. Pettigrew moved to confront Lupin who had been placed on his back on one of the tables, and with a cold smile, he plunged his silver hand into his chest and pulled out his heart. The ceiling rolled with thunder and lightening. Lupin's body was then carried outside and unceremoniously dumped. There would be no burial for the werewolf.

"Now Snivellus, it is time for us to do our sacred duty so that the Prophecy can be fulfilled," Harry looked at Snape, green eyes bright with anticipation and ...regret? He pointed his wand at Severus and cried out, "Imperio!"

Severus could see his other self trying to fight Voldemort's will in vain. He was too weak and tired to do so. He was forced to walk over to where Harry was standing, and kneel in front of Lord Voldemort.

"Severus," Voldemort's voice oozed poisonously like a rotten wound, "you have been a very naughty boy. You should never have betrayed me. I warned you I would get my revenge on those who tried to stop me," he cupped Snape's chin in his skeletal hand, forcing him to look into his evil red eyes. "It is time to pay the piper," Voldemort laughed coldly. Clearly, he was enjoying punishing him. "Harry, you will carry out the next sentence with Severus."

"Yes, Lord," Harry winced in another unsuccessful attempt to resist Voldemort's will. "I will fulfill the prophecy." He turned to Snape, forcing him to stand, and placed a wand in his hand, as Voldemort continued to maintain control of them both. "Bring in Albus Dumbledore," Harry called, and even Voldemort could not stop his voice from cracking.

Dumbledore was led in; he was shackled and surrounded by guards. He was pale, and half naked, bruises evident on his gaunt body, but his blue eyes remained bright. Fawkes had apparently tried to help him, for the bird was in its infancy, sitting in a pile of ashes inside of a glass dome, that had been placed on the high table. The bird was to witness his master's final moments.

"Potter, I do not wish to see anymore," Snape whispered nervously to James.

"I'm sorry, Severus, but you must see it all."

"Snivellus, Albus Dumbledore has been found guilty of treason against the Dark Lord. It is your duty to carry out his sentence of death," Harry laughed, forcing Snape's other self to face his friend and associate. The only person who had truly believed in him. "Albus Dumbledore, do you have any last words?"

"Yes, I do. Severus, this is not your fault. I forgive you and love you as I would my own son. Harry, I'm sorry. I failed you too," he looked around, "I failed you all..."

"Carry out the sentence..." Harry's voice trailed off, and a lone tear slid down his cheek.

Severus wanted to turn away, but found he could not. He watched helplessly as his double was made to raise the wand, and utter, "Avadra Kedavra!"

Albus Dumbledore died as he had lived, with grace and dignity. Snape was crying as he looked at James Potter.

"Now my son," Voldemort approached Harry, "it is time for you to be reunited with your family," he smiled, taking the Phoenix wand from Harry. "You were a worthy opponent, but there could only be one winner, and I knew it would be me," he laughed cruelly. "Avadra Kedavra!" Harry Potter fell without a word. "Now, Severus, I will not be so lenient with you. No, you will not have the release of a natural death; you were a spy and a traitor. You are nothing more than fodder for my true allies, the Dementors," Voldemort's skeletal features glowered at him as he raised his hand and the rotten stench of death surrounded him as the Dementors fought for his kiss.

Severus Snape was screaming as the gray fog enshrouded him again, and he could vaguely hear James Potter telling him that the destiny of the wizarding world rested with his success or failure to do the right thing...

Dumbledore was dreaming that he was sitting with James and Lily Potter, and Sirius Black. James winked and smiled reassuringly, while Lily gave him an affectionate kiss on the cheek, causing the old man to blush. Sirius Black was laughing, and looking quite pleased with himself...

Harry woke with the bright sunlight bouncing off the newly fallen snow. He looked around confused. He had been dreaming about his mother. "Well no hurry to go down to breakfast, I'll just sleep some more," he considered as he rolled over and hit his head on something hard. Sitting up, his green eyes opened wide and he rubbed them twice to make sure he was seeing what he though he was seeing. Sitting on his pillow was a stuffed reindeer and a toy drum, the drumsticks floating in the air. For the first time in six months, Harry Potter smiled with happiness and scrambled out of bed to contact Remus. He didn't know why, but he had the feeling something extraordinary had happened last night and that he needed to tell Remus right away. He also had the strange desire to go down and visit with Professor Snape...

Remus stretched out in bed and lay looking at the ceiling. "I should know better than to drink an extra cup of tea and eat honey cakes before going to bed, "he muttered to himself. "That dream seemed almost real."

"What do you mean almost?" Sirius' familiar voice said from beside his pillow and Remus jerked his head around with a start. The mirror was sitting on his night table and Sirius was grinning down at him. "I charmed the mirror like you would do with a painting. You couldn't see the reflection since I was a ghost, but I put my essence in it and a little holiday magic, and here I am," Sirius barking laugh came back at him. "Well don't just sit there gawking, get dressed. You need to bring Harry his Christmas present! Just tell him all either of you need to do is to call my name and the reflection will appear."

"You sly dog! Harry will be so happy. Wait a minute...you said Lily was with him last night. I have to get going," Remus panted jumping out of bed and fumbling for his robes. "I have to hear what happened to him."

. "Oh and Remus wrap up the mirror. I think red and gold for the Gryffindor colors will do nicely, and before I forget to mention it, you might want to pay a little visit to the Potions Master. He had a terrible nightmare last night," Sirius reflection laughed wickedly as it disappeared from view.

"Pay a visit to the Potions Master? Of course, that's where James went. I have to get going. It is going to be one hell of a day..."

Severus Snape woke up shaking. He was still sitting in his chair, the empty wine glass on the table. "That was the worst nightmare I have ever had," he groaned stretching his sore muscles. "I should analyze the contents of that wine...what the hell...where did this book come from?" he muttered picking up the volume from the table. He glanced at the title and almost choked. It was a copy of Dickens, A Christmas Carol, with an inscription on the flyleaf that read, To my husband, James Potter, on our first Christmas together, Love Lily. Moving swiftly over to his book case, he put the book on one of the shelves and removed another one, titled, The fine art of Occlumency and Legilimens. "I think it is time I got to know Potter a little better. This book will make an excellent holiday gift for him. Perhaps Lupin will help me to get the boy to study what he needs to know. I have the feeling something happened to them both last night. After all, there were three ghosts in Dickens' novel..."

Albus Dumbledore woke up feeling happy and refreshed. Fawkes was staring at him, black eyes unblinking, trilling contentedly. "It is over Fawkes...I believe they have succeeded...It will be an interesting day..."

Fawkes blinked once as if to signify his agreement, and kept on trilling.

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