Here before you is the reason none of my other stories have gotten updated in the past week or so. Yes, I started another one. There is good news though. This story is ready to be posted, one chapter per day for twelve days plus a special thirteenth. But there's a catch. Turns out I'm going to be going out of town for a few days and I'm not sure what my internet access will be like. I will try to stick to my original plan, but should that fail I will post when I can. Merry Christmas!
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter or the song The Twelve Days of Christmas. I'll get over it.
It was Christmas Day, but Harry couldn't bring himself to enjoy it as the others who had stayed behind at Hogwarts for the holidays so obviously were. Oh sure he had gotten up and opened Christmas present with the rest of them, including the obligatory Weasley sweater, but the one person he had most wanted to receive a gift from hadn't sent him anything. But then what had he expected when they were currently fighting, each of them trying to wound the other with scathing written letters because Harry had chosen to remain at Hogwarts over the winter break to avoid arousing suspicion. I didn't make the lack of a Christmas gift hurt any less though, especially since he had sent his gift with Hedwig just the night before so that it would arrive as a sort of peace offering.
"Come on Harry," Ron's excited voice turned him away from staring out the window at Hogwart's snow covered grounds. "It's breakfast time. Bring your cloak, the twins are coming up from Hogsmeade to have a snowball fight after we eat."
Harry forced a smile to his face as he wandlessly summoned his cloak from the dorms. "I'm ready."
"Bloody showoff," Ron's voice was good natured though Harry could still hear the underlying jealousy. "Can't you just walk up to the dorms like a normal person?"
Harry shrugged. "I would have gotten yours if you had asked."
Hermione joined them with a handful of others as if sensing an impending fight, "we're ready too. Let's go have breakfast."
Together the Gryffindors trooped down to the Great Hall, meeting up with a few Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws along the way and Ron invited them to join in the after-meal snowball fight. Harry, in a perverse mood because of the near confrontation with Ron when he was already upset, invited the Slytherins he saw at breakfast and caused an uproar among the other houses.
"What the hell, Harry!" Ron's last bite of egg spewed from his mouth in a masticated glob when Harry called out to invite the Slytherins to join them. "They're not invited!"
"They are now," Harry countered back. "I'll even be on their team to show it's not a trick. It's not fair to leave them out."
"We accept," Blaise Zabini spoke up for the gathered Slytherins after glancing around and receiving nods in answer to his look, "but no magic during the fight."
"What?" Ron looked aghast.
"Come on Weasley," Blaise goaded. "You already have us slightly outnumbered, so what could it hurt. The only magic allowed will be in the first ten minutes to build a fort consisting only of snow and for any personal charms on clothing. We stick to the lake side of the castle, but can range freely about there. Buildings are off-limits, but it's free game to take the other team's fort. What do you say?"
Harry smirked privately at Blaise while everyone's attention was on Ron's red face, Blaise had just pulled their plan off perfectly and had ensured Harry some quality time with his Slytherin friend on Christmas Day—it also gave Harry the perfect chance to plant a snowball on Ron's face.
"Alright," Ron was determined now, "but the first time you cheat all bets are off. We won't take it easy on you even though you're a Gryffindor Harry. Come on guys, let's get our fort started."
Blaise smirked back at Harry when only a few of the Slytherins were left in the Great Hall, the rest having gone to start on the fort; all the professors except for Snape had quickly disappeared to their offices or private chambers at the mentions of a snowball fight.
"You sure know how to play Weasley, Harry. Your plan was perfect."
"Indeed," Severus had joined them, briefly placing a comforting hand on the Gryffindor's shoulder. "Very Slytherin of you Harry."
"Thank you Professor," Harry actually smiled at the 'greasy git'. "And thank you for the present."
Harry stopped and hesitated for a moment, "is he—?"
Severus shook his head. "I do not know."
A dejected look passed over Harry's face, disappearing as quickly as it had come.
"Let's go Blaise," Harry rallied and headed for the door, "we need to help the others with the fort."
"Harry," Severus' voice had Harry pausing for a brief instant. "Thank you for my gift as well."
Harry smiled and continued outside into the crisp air brought on by the new snow, his charmed boots allowing him to run quickly across the snow without sinking into the deep drifts. As he went he mentally shoved his unhappiness into the back of his mind, not wanting to ruin the fun ahead for his friends because he was having relationship issues.
Voldemort watched from the dark shadows that enclosed the Forbidden Forest, observing as Harry and Blaise joined the others out on the snowy grounds to help work on the fort. It was not yet time to put his plans into action, not when he was being given this chance to watch Harry like this. Harry was a natural leader, pulling the fractured Slytherins together to work as a team, guiding them with strategy while still making sure it was fun. The other three houses might have the Slytherin's outnumbered, but their sloppy fort and disorganization would lead them to defeat.
Voldemort turned away from watching Harry when the snowballs started to fly and the children began to range about on the grounds, the Slytherins having changed their cloaks to white so that they could better hide in the pristine snow. It was hard to resist the temptation to make either the Granger girl or one of the youngest two Weasley's disappear, but it was time for him to begin what he had come for and such a distraction would ruin everything. With a precise flick of his wand a limp bundle lifted from the ground to obediently follow behind him, a second flick concealing him from the sight of anyone who might happen to look his way. It wouldn't do for anyone to interrupt him, not this early in the game.
Harry threw the snowball with an unerring accuracy that would have seen him become a Chaser if he wasn't already such a damn good Seeker and watched with satisfaction as the snow splashed across Ron's face.
"Dammit," Ron sputtered as he wiped the powdery snow off his face so he could see again, "who threw that? Fred! George! Where are you? I'll get you for that!"
Harry smirked silently from where he hid behind a snow drift packing together another snowball. Ginny was next.
"Oy, wicked shot there Harry." Fred and George had flopped down to join him as Ron scampered off. "Glad we're not fighting against you, but did you have to get us blamed for your dirty work?"
Harry grinned at his two friends, they had secretly followed him over to Voldemort's side the year before after learning some interesting information at Order meetings that was being kept from Harry, "you're the ones that decided to defect to my team so that you could clobber Ron with snowballs. It's not my fault I'm hitting him more than you are."
"Ah well," George sighed, "we shall just have to console ourselves that as an honorary Weasley you are doing your sibling duty."
"Yes of course" Fred chimed in, "but when carrying out said sibling duties remember that we prank you nowhere near as often as we do Ron and Ginny and be lenient on us."
"You just don't want to get on my bad side and have Tom upset with you for pissing me off."
Harry grinned back at the twins, daring them to retort when an odd sound had him holding up a hand to shut them up. It came again. "Do you guys hear that?"
The twins sobered and listened. "It almost sounds like someone screaming, but it's odd and distorted."
Harry nodded in agreement, "it's coming from the direction of the Whomping Willow. Run back and send Blaise to me, but be discreet. I don't want any of the others to get curious."
The twins bowed their heads and took off, following Harry's orders without question. Cautiously Harry followed the thread of sounds in the direction of the Whomping Willow, drawing his wand and keeping to cover as much as possible. As he got closer to the destructive tree though he realized that the screaming sounds were coming from a person hanging onto the wildly thrashing branches. Quickly he broke into a run and sent a spell hurtling at the secret knot that would immobilize the Whomping Willow, but he wasn't quick enough to keep the person from being smacked with a meaty thud between two branches one last time.
With seeming reluctance the Whomping Willow stopped tossing itself around and Harry realized that the trees latest victim had finally stopped screaming, most likely from that last blow. Moving nearer to the tree now that it was safe, Harry examined the situation a bit closer. What he saw made him gasp with laughter. It was Peter Pettigrew. Someone had tied the rat to a large branch of the tree with a length of black ribbon sporting festive green dark marks and a Merry Christmas sign before letting the Whomping Willow have some quality play time with its new friend.
"Harry!" Blaise was slightly out of breath as he and the twins arrived on the scene, "is everything alright?"
"It is now," Harry grinned at the other three. "Tom didn't forget my present after all."
The twins glanced at each other and then back at the bound Peter Pettigrew, "so that's what he wanted the ribbon for. What are you going to do with him?"
Harry sighed as he looked longingly over at the bruised and bloody man, Wormtail looked as if someone had run him through a meat tenderizer, "I'd hate to have to turn my present over to Dumbledore before I get a chance to play with him. Do you think the two of you can take Peter back to Tom for me so that I can take care of him later?"
Meanwhile Blaise walked closer and poked the now unconscious man before pulling off the Merry Christmas sign, "it looks like our Lord left you a message Harry. It says 'Day One' and is signed by True Love. What does that mean?"
Harry thought a moment before smirking in sudden understanding. "It means he's trying to make up to me. There's a muggle song about the Twelve Days of Christmas where each day the True Love gives a number of gifts corresponding with the day of Christmas. This is Day One."
Blaise just shook his head in confusion as the twins untied Pettigrew and smuggled him beneath the Whomping Willow's branches and away to the Shrieking Shack so that they could apperate to Voldemort.
"Come on Harry, let's get back to the game. I'm sure there's still plenty of time to clobber Weasley. You can moon over your gift later."
Scooping up a handful of snow, Harry lobbed it at Blaise and sent the other boy playfully running away. "I was not mooning. I was planning how to best put my gift to use."
"Uh huh," Blaise was skeptical, but smiled to show he was only teasing. "I'll race you back to the fort."
Together the two took off, Harry in much better spirits than he had been all day.
On the First Day of Christmas the Dark Lord gave to me:
Peter Pettigrew tied to the Whomping Willow Tree…
Posted On: December 25, 2007