Disclaimer – J. K. Rowling owns Harry Potter
A/N – I originally wanted to have this out before Christmas, but a few things got in the way and this ended up getting delayed. As usual, I'm ignoring the epilogue, and this takes place around the Christmas after Deathly Hallows. I'm also going to warn you up front, I've been told it gets a bit fluffy. So if that's not your thing, turn back now. Thanks to Thoth for her editing and fixing my grammar as always.
As an eerie quiet calm engulfed the Castle, Harry was slowly making his way back to the Castle from the Platform. The Hogwarts Express had just pulled out from Hogsmeade, returning students for the Holiday break. Though invited to spend the break at the Burrow, and even with the Grangers, he had politely declined; wanting instead, to enjoy a bit of his new found freedom. He did however have to compromise to spending Christmas and Boxing Days with the Weasleys. I think I can live with that, he remembered telling Mrs. Weasley, while fighting off a sarcastic grin.
Seeing his friends off, he was going to enjoy having the run of the place, so to speak. Almost the entire student population was gone, along with the majority of the professors.
With the previous year being an unmitigated disaster, and ultimately cut short, the Board of Governors, back by the new Ministry, had decreed that last year be wiped from the books and student should repeat the year, at no penalty to themselves. One problem of this, it caused the first year to double in size with the addition of the new students combining with the returning First Years. In need of space for housing the increase, Hermione and Harry had suggested using the Room of Requirement, slightly modifying what Neville had done the previous year. They simply asked the Room to provide them with a dormitory large enough to house the returning Seventh Year students, fortunately and unfortunately, the smallest class of them all.
As he returned to the Castle, Harry shook his head as he thought back on the living situation of the first half of the year. While there were a few squabbles, usually the Slytherins complaining about something or the other, things had gone relatively smoothly. The Room of Requirement had divided itself in to three sections, two sections were divided in to four large bedrooms, one in each section decorated in the colors of the occupants' house, and the third section was a massive common room with couches, chairs, tables, and fireplaces spread about it. That was a big thing Harry was looking forward to, having that large dormitory all to himself and being able to do what he wanted.
"I see our Head Boy as returned after seeing the rest of the students off," Professor McGonagall's voice said as he entered through the large main doors.
"The Express departed on time, with everyone accounted for," Harry toll the Headmistress. While Hermione had turned down the position of Head Girl, giving it to the school's Number Two student, Padma Patil, there had been no choice for Harry. He had been selected by overwhelming opinion, and almost no one would accept it being anyone other then him. "There are three students staying behind. Two in Gryffindor, including myself, and one in Ravenclaw."
When the Headmistress shook her head, Harry frowned, What?
"I'm sorry, but not everyone is accounted for," she told him. "Your calculations are off by one."
"A young Hufflepuff as apparently decided to stay behind at the last moment, why don't you go see them. She is in the Great Hall now," McGonagall told him, and gestured to the Hall entrance nearby. "When you are done, come see me, I have an early Christmas present for you. A few memories I wish to share with you."
Giving a small smile and nod to her, Harry headed towards the Great Hall. While still the strict, by the rules teacher, when it came to Harry, she had become almost Grandmotherly to him this year. A strict, by the rules Grandmother, but one none the less. Having lost his blood family, he was slowly finding himself surround by a surrogate one. Parents, a Grandmother, and even a bossy, bushy haired, older sister. He snickered to himself at the last thought of Hermione, he loved her but she could be a pain in the arse at times.
Slipping into the Great Hall through the crack between the hall's large doors, Harry slowly looked around the room and quickly spotted the student in question. Sitting at Hufflepuff table, in the Seventh Year section, was a small blonde, just sitting there with her head resting against her palm, and staring at the unlit Christmas tree that stood next to the enormous fireplace.
"It's even more amazing when it's lit," Harry said aloud, announcing his presence as he walked towards her. He grinned a little, as the girl practically shrieked in surprise, jumped, and spun towards him. "Hi," he said sarcastically at her started expression.
Taking deep breaths as she tried to calm herself, "You need a bell or something."
"When people have been trying to kill me all this time, you learn to sneak around quietly," he fired back, taking his usually seat at the Gryffindor table, which laid between the Hufflepuff table and the Christmas tree. Facing towards her, he propped his feet up on the Hufflepuff bench across from him. "So why isn't Hannah Abbott on her way home for Holiday? I was surprised when McGonagall told me there was another student staying behind."
Calming down, Hannah simply shrugged, "I could ask you the same thing, all mighty Harry Potter. I'd imagine you'd have all sorts of invitations for spending Christmas."
Hannah watched Harry say nothing, but tilt his head slightly, studying her closely with those blast green eyes. Sighing softly, Hannah returned to her original position. "I'm sorry. I'm just… I'd like to be alone right now."
"Sure," Harry said, standing up. Regarding her one last time, Harry glanced back at the Christmas tree. Drawing his wand, he quickly cast the spell for the tree to light up, and then slowly retreated from the Hall. "I'll see you back in the Room."
Keeping her eyes on now lit tree, she listened to him leave. Once his footsteps started echoing outside the hall, a small smile appeared on her lips as she continued to stare at the Christmas tree. He's right. It is prettier all lit up.
The next morning found Harry sitting on one of the couches in the common room, leaning over a Wizard Chess board, watching as the pieces moved about as if of this own accord. Harry had cast a recording charm on his last game with Ron, and was now reviewing it, studying every movement each piece made. Ever since Ron had started playing the Ravenclaws, he had gotten that much better. As to be something I'm missing, he thought as he watched Ron's knight checkmate his king.
Hearing the door that lead to the girls' dormitory open and shut, Harry glanced up and watched Hannah walk in to the room. He had a feeling that something was wrong with the blonde, but part of him felt that it wasn't any of his business. He didn't want anyone prying in his business, so why should he pry in to hers. Problem was there was another part of him that wanted to help, and his conscious nagging him that he did feel a little better after getting it off his chest.
After a brief nod of good morning, Harry waved his wand over the board, canceling the spell and putting the pieces away. "Going to breakfast?" Harry asked as he stood up after the last piece was away.
After another head nod, Harry tried not to smirk. "Mind if I join you?" he asked, and when she shrugged, he followed her out the door.
Walking through the halls, neither spoke. While Harry tended to enjoy the lack of conversation, the nagging voice was back. I should say something, but what? We're not really friends. Heck, outside of the D.A. and classes, I've never spent any time with her.
Walking in to the Great Hall, they found the four large House tables removed, replaced by a large circular table in the middle of the Hall. Already sitting were the two students, along with Professors McGonagall and Sprout.
"How are you feeling this morning?" Professor McGonagall asked as they approached the table. Hannah glanced at Harry as she sat down but said nothing, while most would take the question at face value, when it came to Harry, odds are that it ran deeper.
"Fine," Harry answered softly, trying to brush it off.
"Ah, Mr. Potter," Professor Flitwick said as he entered the hall. "Just the man I wanted to see. If you're still interested, I have some time this afternoon for a bit of practice."
"Practice?" Hannah found herself asking before she could stop herself. Of anyone she could think of, Harry was one of the few she'd assume didn't have to practice, it came naturally.
Harry gave a sheepish, slightly embarrassed smile. "I can banish a Dark Lord, but I'm hopeless when it comes to a simple cleaning charm."
"I thought that was just a boy thing," Hannah teased before beginning to fill her plate.
Harry gave her a playful glare, while Professor Spout snickered softly. "Watch yourself, Abbott, or you just may find you pigtails dyed different colors." As the two younger students laughed under their breath, Hannah pretended to ignore him as she brushed her hair over a shoulder.
As breakfast went on, Professor McGonagall began asking them all what they had planned for the day. While the two young students gave the politically correct answer of studying and going to the library, and Hannah answered that she wasn't sure, Harry had simply shrugged. "I was thinking of maybe a walk to Hogsmeade. I could use a few things."
Curiosity got that better of Hannah, again. "How come you're not staying with Ron?" she asked suddenly. Well, he asked me, she told herself, trying to rationalize being so blunt, especially when everyone's attention turned to her.
"I'm gonna spend Christmas with the Weasleys, but for the first time in my life, I finally have some freedom. As much as I love Mrs. Weasley, almost like a mother, she's a bit smothering at times. With no one really out to kill me this year, I thought I enjoy the freedom a little bit. I can come and go as I please." When Professor McGonagall cleared her throat, Harry glanced up at her and grinned a little. "Within reason, of course."
"Of course," Professor McGonagall said back, not believing him for a moment.
"When will be the last time I have this much free time, without any huge responsibilities. I plan to finally, enjoy myself and do what I want to do."
As breakfast wrapped up, the students took off to parts unknown and the professors to their offices, Harry leaned back in his chair. Pausing from pushing the last bit of eggs around her plate, Hannah looked up to find Harry watching her.
"What?" she asked, almost immediately becoming self conscious. Letting her fork fall to the plate, she reached up and touched her face, feeling about for anything out of the ordinary.
"Nothing," Harry said with a chuckle. "Feel like a walk? I'll buy you a Sugar Quill, or maybe a Chocolate Frog?" Harry could see the internal debate, she really wanted to be alone, but the chance to hit up Honeydukes was too tempting.
"Alright," Hannah finally relented. "But I'm only going because I want some candy."
"Whatever you say," Harry told her with a grin.
After a brief stop back at the Seventh Year dorm, Harry dragged the reluctant Hannah out in to the morning flurries, and headed for Hogsmeade.
Having walked for a few minutes in silence, just enjoying being outdoors, Harry looked over at Hannah. He cracked a smile as he took in her appearance. She was bundled up in a thick gray coat with the hood drawn over her head, a yellow and bronze scarf wrapped around her neck and face, and a pair of black mittens finished the outfit. She looks all set for an expedition to the artic, and I have a simple jumper with gloves on.
"What?" came a muffled question, making him realize he had been looking too long.
"Nothing," Harry told her, "I just like the outfit." Even hidden behind her scarf, Harry knew she had just stuck her tongue out at him.
"Some of us have the common sense to dress warmly," Hannah told him.
"Common sense, eh? According to some, never had any," he joked, and grinned when he heard Hannah's giggle, a familiar sound and something he expected from the bubbly Hufflepuff. For the rest of the walk to town, they bantered about school; classes, homework, their upcoming N.E.W.T.s.
Reaching Honeydukes, after grabbing a few candies, Harry found Hannah browsing through the Chocolate Frogs. "Still collect the cards?" Harry asked as he picked one up.
"Well… No, not really," Hannah stuttered as she tried to put the one in her hand back. "They come with the chocolate."
Harry chuckled, knowing she was trying to cover. "Ernie told me the other day that you got a gold Morgana card." Harry laughed harder when he heard Hannah muttered about Ernie's big mouth under her breath. "Ron got the gold Merlin a few months ago. I always seem to end up with Dumbledore," he half joked, and smiled when Hannah giggled again.
"What's the most valuable card?" Harry asked as he grabbed another box. When Harry found Hannah looking back at him with a half grin, he groaned softly. "Let me guess, when I was a baby," he said sarcastically.
"Not really. In fact that particular card is very common," Hannah told him. "If I had to guess, I'd probably say your most recent card is the most valuable, The Slayer of Voldemort card."
"The what?" Harry asked in disbelief. "I just can't win," he muttered, melodramatically. Hannah just smiled, and followed him to the counter to pay for the purchases.
Walking back, Harry was working on a Licorice Wand. After awhile, he noticed that Hannah had fallen quiet again. Swallowing a mouthful, he then asked, "What's wrong?"
"Uh?" Hannah asked surprised, the question pulling her from her stupor.
"You seem sad about something?"
"It's nothing," Hannah told him, getting defensive again.
"But if-" Harry started but was cut off.
"Look, I appreciate the candy, but would you butt out," she snapped at him. "Nothing is wrong!" Hannah than repositioned her scarf over her lower face and stormed ahead in to the incoming wind.
Sighing softly, Harry took another bite out of his Licorice Wand. "Sorry," he muttered, but his words were lost on the wind.
Over the next few days leading up to Christmas Eve, Hannah barely saw Harry, though she had the unusual feeling that she was being watched. Either way, she felt bad for snapping at Harry.
She didn't mean to take it out on Harry, but the last thing she wanted to do was talk about it. Unfortunately, the result of her action had pushed Harry away, and while she thought she had wanted to be left alone, the reality was not that appealing.
Sitting in one of Hogwarts' Greenhouses, she grabbed her knife and began to work on preparing the Aconite in front of her. She had promised Professor Sprout to help her preparing the plant for the various potions it was an ingredient in.
As she was cutting, the blade caught and when Hannah tried to jerk it free, she nicked a finger. "Blast it," she grumbled through gritted teeth. Instinctively, she brought the finger towards her lips. Just as it was before her face, a hand shot out of no where and grabbing her wrist, stopped her hand.
Letting out a loud, surprised scream and jumped out off of her stool, the hand let go and over the pounding of her heart, she heard footsteps quickly stumbling away from her.
"It's me," Harry's voice called out.
"Harry?" Hannah asked cautiously, her pulse and breath still racing. She jumped again when Harry seemed to appear out of nowhere.
"Sorry," he said sheepishly. "But Merlin, you're loud."
"What are you doing?"
"At the moment, stopping you from poisoning yourself," he said and then motioned to her bleeding finger. "Wash it off, and why aren't you wearing gloves? Especially when working with Aconite."
With Harry following, Hannah walked to the Greenhouse's sink. "I forgot," she answered hotly, a combination from her own stupid mistake and Harry catching her. "How did you know it was poisonous?" I don't remember Harry being in to Herbology. That was Neville's specialty.
"I… kind of, over heard Professor Sprout," he said, stumbling over his words.
Turning to face him, she put her wet hands on her hips and glared at him. "Have you been following me?"
He gave her his best smile, "Well, you have to admit, you're far more interesting than the little maggots or the Professors. You're prettier, too."
Hannah didn't know how to take the comment and the best she could do was give a tired sigh. "Why?" she asked softly.
Harry bowed his head a little. "I was worried," Harry told her. "You're never this quiet."
"Oh, so I have a big mouth?" Hannah asked him, and tired not to smile when Harry's face changed three colors and his mouth opened and shut like a fish. Letting a small smile creep across her lips, "I'm teasing."
Harry set his jaw and tried to look annoyed. "Funny."
Hannah giggled softly, and Harry titled his head. "Give me a hand?" she asked before he could say anything. After he shrugged, she tossed him a pair of gloves and they headed back to the table.
With Harry's help, the task barely took any time at all, even if she had to re-cut a few of Harry's pieces. Once the pieces of Aconite were gathered and stored for Professor Sprout to use later, they bundled up and headed outside. It was the first sunny day after a two day blizzard had blown through.
Once again, Harry cracked a smile as looked at Hannah all bundled up. Hannah playfully glared back at him. "I don't know how you play Quidditch when it's this cold?"
"Lots of Warming Charms," Harry replied.
"Or a warm body afterwards?" Hannah asked him sarcastically. Where the hell did that come from?
Harry looked over at her in shock for a moment, before a teasing grin emerged on his face. "You offering?"
Hannah quickly bowed her head and shuffled her feet, but Harry could still see the blush tainting her cheeks, and it wasn't because it was cold out.
Nearing a low stone wall that circled a small outdoor garden patch, Harry brushed off part of it, and hoped up. After thinking about it for a moment, Hannah sat next to him.
"About what I said a few days ago," Hannah started.
"About butting out?"
Hannah nodded. "I'm kind of glad you didn't listen." Harry snickered, which made Hannah smile a little. "It… just gets hard around the holidays," Hannah said softly, and then winced a little when she realized who she was talking to. "I'm sorry."
"It's alright," Harry told her, and then placed his gloved hand over her mitten one. "I wish I could say it goes away, but it does get a little easier after awhile. It was your Mom, right?"
Hannah gave a small nod, not trusting her voice. Gently wrapping his fingers around her hand, he gave it a small squeeze, to which Hannah quickly closed her hand around his. "My dad wanted me to come home over break."
"That's a good thing, right?" Harry asked, and then was puzzled why she shook her head no.
"He wanted me to meet someone," she said, and used the back of her free hand to wipe the corner of her eyes. Harry tried not to stiffen or pull away, but he was worried that Hannah was either going to get really angry or really upset, and he wasn't sure how to handle either. "She hasn't even been gone two years and he's already replacing her," Hannah said giving an angry, part sobbing, shout.
Slipping his hand from her grasp, Harry wrapped his arm around her shoulders and drew her in to his side as Hannah was starting to hiccup from trying to stop herself from crying.
"Hannah," Harry started very quietly. "Your dad isn't trying to replace your mum. In fact, he probably misses her just as much as you do." As Hannah curled up in to his side, Harry lowered his arm and wrapped it securely around her waist. He couldn't help himself, and grinned when he felt Hannah hiccup. "He's probably just lonely. You spend most of the year here, and now, with your mom gone, he's by himself. He's just looking for someone to make him happy again, is that wrong?"
Harry knew Hannah wouldn't answer, so he continued on. "I figure you'll always be the most important one to him, and think of it this way, if he wants you to meet her, than it must be serious."
Stupid Harry, Hannah thought as what he said made sense to her. It was easier to simply hold a grudge, no thought behind it, she simply hated her. But Harry forced her to look deeper, and think about her father, and not just her. Now, she was conflicted.
"Besides, the most important thing, it's Christmas. With everything that's happened over the past three years, you should be with your dad."
Sighing softly, without thinking she rested her head against Harry's shoulder. For a brief moment, she felt very at easy and comfortable, then, her mind register where and how she was sitting. Practically leaping off the stone wall, she landed hard on her feet and almost slipped in to the snow.
Turning, she saw Harry giving her a puzzled look. "My butt's cold," she said lamely, and then cringed as soon as the words left her lips and Harry laughed.
Hopping off the wall, Harry walked over to her. "Well then, we better get you warm."
Hannah swallowed nervously, but didn't look away. Inside her, a little girl was squealing with delight. She didn't want to jinx it by saying anything or scarring him off, but she was almost positive that Harry was sort of flirting with her lately, and maybe she was flirting back. Whatever the case, butterflies crashed her stomach, as Harry took her mitten hand again and they walked back towards the castle.
Two days later was Christmas Eve, and Harry was preparing to leave for the Burrow to spend the holiday. Having finished packing and checking for a third time that he had everything, Harry shrunk his trunk and slipped it in to the pocket of his coat.
Leaving the Room of Requirement, Harry hadn't made a few yards before he spotted Peeves heading towards him. "Potty!" the poltergeist bellowed, and Harry gave him a warning glare. Peeves just smiled back at him, and as Harry continued on his way, he floated behind him, giggling madly about something.
As he neared Professor McGonagall's office, he was going to use her Floo connection to get to the Burrow, he found Hannah coming the opposite way. "Harry," Hannah called out, a large smile on her face. Holding what looked like a silver colored album in her arms, she rushed up to him.
While Hannah came towards him, from the corner of his eye, he saw Peeves float higher, settling above them. Glancing up, he watched Peeves produce a sprig of mistletoe. Bastard.
"Harry- I- You didn't- I mean-" Hannah tried to say but her words fell all over each other. Finally, she stopped, took a deep breath, and Harry thought she looked upwards. Then, she smiled, and quickly leaned in and kissed him. Blushing madly, she held the album tighter to her chest. "Thank you… for the present. You didn't have to."
Harry tried to keep the small grin on his face, and fight off the cheesy smile he knew was threatening to break out. Glancing up, he could see Peeves trying hard not to burst out laughing, as he was rolling back and forth in mid-air hold his sides.
"How did you get this?" Hannah's voice redrew his attention. "It's at least several Gallons."
"They gave it to me when they did the first run," Harry told her. "I'd figure you'd enjoy it more than I would. It's supposed to have the first edition of every Wizarding Card they made of me."
Hannah nodded, "And that'd be a collectors item with just that, but the fact you autographed it!" Realizing she was practically squealing like a fan girl, she stopped talking again, and took a deep breath.
"I'm glad you liked it," Harry told her, and admitted to himself that he was more than just glad that Hannah liked it. Noticing that she was all bundled up again, "Where are you off to?"
"Professor Sprout's office. I'm… going to see my dad. I figure, I'll at least meet her before hating her guts." Hannah grinned when Harry laughed at her statement. "But you're right. I should be with my dad."
Wary of Peeves, Harry nervously glancing up again, and found him taunting him with the mistletoe. "Umm, you really didn't have to kiss me. I mean, Peeves is just trying to rile me up."
"Uh?" Hannah asked confused. "Peeves?"
"The mistletoe," he answered and pointed up at the poltergeist floating above them.
"Oh, mistletoe," Hannah said as she spotted Peeves dangling the plant above them. Briefly, a mischievous smile crossed her lips, and then she leaned in again, and kissed Harry again, this time letting her lips linger a little longer against his.
As she drew back, she whispered softly to him, "Merry Christmas, Harry."
Harry stood there for a moment, like a statue. So the first kiss, wasn't because of the damn mistletoe? Then, why… Unless.
Stepping back, she smiled at Harry. She tried not to laugh as she could almost see the wheels spinning in his head. "I'll see you after break," she said with a little laugh, and with that she took back off down the hall.
By the time Harry recovered and was able to do more than just watch her walk away, Peeves was howling with laughter and Hannah was rounding the corner at the end of the hall. "Hannah, wait!" Harry called out too late.
"Peeves," came Professor McGonagall's familiar voice. "I believe the Bloody Baron was looking for you."
The laughter stopped, and Peeves immediately looked scared before taking off through the nearest wall.
Professor McGonagall tried to hide a small smirk as she watched Harry about to go sprinting down the hall. "Your dalliance can wait Mr. Potter; you have a Floo to catch. Mrs. Weasley is expecting you at eleven sharp, and we do not want to keep her waiting."
"Yes, ma'am," Harry mumbled, feeling a little defeated.
Professor McGonagall expertly hid a smile behind her façade as she led him in to her office. "Cheer up, Mr. Potter. You're going to see your friends, and then after Winter Break, I'm sure the two of you will see plenty of each other."
With almost a guilty smile, "Yes, ma'am," he teased as he took a pinch of Floo powder.
"And, Harry." When Professor McGonagall spoke using his first name instead of the traditional Mr. Potter, Harry took notice. Professor McGonagall gave him a warm smile. "Enjoy yourself. Hopefully, this will be the first of many happy times you'll finally be able to have."
"Thanks," Harry said, unsure what to say next. "I guess I'll see you in a few days." The two nodded goodbye to each other before Harry tossed the Floo powder and disappeared in a green haze and a loud bang.
As Professor McGonagall move to her desk, to finish grading some papers, her smile remained. A Hufflepuff and Gryffindor seem to make a nice match for each other, and I think the two could get along rather well. Sitting at her desk, she pulled the first paper in front of her, and while she graded, she couldn't help but daydream a little at what she hoped was in the future of one of her favorite students.