Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters in this fanfiction. It all rightfully belongs to J. K. Rowling.
Author's Note: Since everyone is getting into the yuletide spirit writing Harry Potter Christmas fics, I figure I might as well join in and contribute. I know, I know, Christmas was yesterday. I was going to post it on Christmas, but I got sick, causing some delay, I'm really sorry. This is basically about Harry when he's six years old. He still doesn't know he's a wizard, he's still treated horribly by the Dursleys, and he doesn't know about his parents. On one Christmas Eve, he wonders what it'd be like to have a mother. Since Christmas is the holiday for giving, he is given a special gift, or rather a visitor. No matter you all may think, this story does not have anything to do with my previous fic, "Ghost". This may seem like a sappy fic that may be a tad bit on the religious side, but hey, everybody liked "Guardian Angel" (another one of my previous fics).
P.S. If by some miracle you like this fic, please check out my work in progress, "Dear Sami, Dear Harry" if you have any time. Okay, okay, I'm shutting up now.
A Special Gift by Gogirl
"Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse...."
Six year old Harry Potter sat in the darkness of his cupboard, trying to listen to his Aunt Petunia read to Dudley from upstairs. Like the story, it was indeed the night before Christmas, and unlike most children, Harry wasn't really looking forward to it. He didn't have much of a reason to; he never got anything for Christmas or any other holiday.
Any day with the Dursleys weren't very fun at all for him. He'd lived with them for five years because his parents had died in a car crash when he was a baby. He wondered if the Christmas he might have had with his parents would have been better than the ones he'd been used to having. Harry didn't know anything about his parents at all; he couldn't remember them, there were no pictures of them in the house, and his aunt and uncle never talked about them, neither did they let him ask anything about them.
"The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in the hopes that St. Nick would soon be there..."
It must be nice, Harry thought, listening to Aunt Petunia read with both envy and sadness. Having a mummy that loves you. Of course, he wasn't sure that he'd like to have a mother who would spoil him to be as big of a bully as Dudley, but still...
"Wonder what she was like," he murmured softly to himself so that his uncle wouldn't hear. He wasn't sure that he was downstairs, but he wasn't about to take any chances. Every time his uncle caught him doing something that seemed the least bit out of the ordinary to him, Harry would get an earful of yelling and a week without meals.
Most of the children at his school teased him for not looking forward to any holiday. They never knew what it was like. They had families to spend Christmas with. He didn't.
He didn't expect anything for Christmas, and that was all right with him. What he really wanted was at least one memory of his mother... But that was out of reach. His parents were dead, he wouldn't remember them because he was very young when they died, and it was stupid of him to even think of that.
"Oh come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant..."
The young woman watched the carolers sing merrily down the downtown street. She didn't know why she went out tonight, she was supposed to be at her sister's house with her son. Yet she had been drawn by who-knows-what to see the town all decked out for Christmas.
It was freezing out here, snow was scattering onto the ground, but it didn't matter to the woman. The weather didn't bother her now, it hadn't for about five years. That was how long she had been dead now; she was a ghost. She had stayed on Earth after she had died because of her son living with her elder sister. Her sister hated her and everything to do with her, and was currently taking it out on her son, making his life miserable. It was painful to watch.
Even more painful was the fact that she couldn't talk to her own son. He would never know her, never really remember her, and there wasn't a thing she could do about it.
She had grown up in this town and looking around at the decorations, she felt an odd feeling of nostalgia. She had almost forgotten how lovely it was here at Christmas time. As a girl, she and her father always drove around the entire town just to look at all the houses lit up. It always made her happy to see the decorations. That was when she was alive. Now the sight of it made her sad, knowing she could never go back to those days....
She was about to go back to her sister's house when a voice in her right ear spoke, "Hello."
Startled, she whirled around. There was a man right next to her, sitting on a bench. He had thin, gray hair, warm hazel eyes, and a benign smile on his face that reminded her strongly of Albus Dumbledore.
"Can-- Can you see me?" she asked uncertainly.
"Of course I can, Lily," the man replied.
"Oh, so you're dead too, aren't you? Sort of a bad time to be dead when this time of the year is supposed to be-- hey, wait a minute.... how do you know my name?"
"I know everything about you," the man said, smiling. "It's part of my job."
Lily gaped at the man. He didn't seem to notice. He simply looked around and said, "Lovely time of year, this is. A time for families to be together..."
"Not all of them are that lucky," Lily said sadly.
The man nodded his head. "I'm afraid that is very true. Which is why I'm here."
"What are you here for?" she inquired.
The man turned to face her. "I'm here to give you a gift. A very rare one."
Lily found herself going red. "You don't have to. I don't need anything for Christmas..."
"...Except to spend one moment with your son?"
That got Lily's attention. "How do you know about my son?"
"I told you before, I know everything about you. I'm an angel."
"An angel?" she repeated faintly. She believed in angels, yes, but this man didn't really look anything like what she pictured to be an angel. Then again, appearances were very deceiving.
"Yes, an angel. Tell me, how much do you want to be able to speak with your son?"
"More than anything," Lily whispered.
"I thought so. Listen carefully: tomorrow, you will be able to spend the entire day with your son. Nobody will see you or hear you but him. You only have that one day together. The day after Christmas, you will return to your current state. However, you can't tell him who you are."
"Why not?" Lily asked.
"Because he won't know about what you were in life until it's time for him to learn. You can't interfere with what's about to happen in the future. I know it seems unfair," he added gently, seeing the crestfallen look on her face. "but that's the way things work."
"He won't know who I am. How will that be able to help him?"
Lily was about to say she couldn't see how that could be possible, but the angel had vanished without a trace.
Harry woke very early on Christmas morning, though he kept his eyes shut tight. He had been having the nicest dream about someone being there with him in his cupboard... someone who he couldn't see, but who kept caressing his cheek in a lovely way. It felt as though wind was blowing softly in his face....
With a thrill of horror, he realized that it wasn't a dream; he opened his eyes and saw the shadowy figure of someone bending over him.
Harry let out a yell and the stranger jumped back. He groped in the darkness for his glasses. As soon as he put them on, he could make out the figure clearer.
"I'm sorry," whispered the stranger. "I didn't mean to frighten you."
Judging by the sound of the stranger's voice, it seemed to be a young woman. Her voice was soft and gentle, but Harry was still afraid.
"W-Who are you?" he asked.
Before she could answer, he heard someone banging on the door and the familiar sound of Aunt Petunia shrieking, "Get up, you good-for-nothing boy!"
Harry got up quickly, opening the cupboard door. The sunlight shone brightly through the windows by the house door, revealing a pretty woman with dark red hair and eyes the same color as Harry's.
"Keep your voice down, unless you want your aunt and uncle to think you're talking to yourself," said the woman. "Nobody can see me or hear me but you."
"You're a ghost then?" Harry asked curiously.
"You could say that," said the woman casually.
"Move it!" snarled his aunt, storming towards him and (to Harry's shock) going straight through the woman next to him, giving him a shove.
Not wishing to make his aunt angrier, Harry quickly moved to the kitchen stove to make breakfast, which was something he was used to doing. The woman followed him closely.
"What's your name?" he muttered out of the corner of his mouth.
The woman looked as though she wanted tell him something, but she held herself in and replied, "Lily." She stared at Harry, who was cracking eggs into the frying pan. "Do you always have to make breakfast for everyone here?"
"Pretty much. Do you haunt this house?"
"Excuse me? Do I haunt this-- no, no, no, not really. Well, I did used to live in this house when I was a girl, until I went to Hog-- I mean boarding school. I moved out after I finished."
The sounds of Dudley ripping open his Christmas presents were audible in the living room. The ghost peered into that room and came back with a look of disgust on her face. "There must be over thirty presents under the Christmas tree," she said. "And they're all for that boy?"
"Shouldn't you be in there opening *your* presents?"
"I don't get any."
"You don't?" asked the woman, although she didn't sound very surprised. "That's not fair."
"I put up with it," replied Harry. Being careful not to burn the eggs, he added, "It takes hours for him just to unwrap the big presents he gets."
"Hurry up, boy!" snapped Uncle Vernon as he walked into the kitchen. "And when you're done, get my tea!"
"Yes, sir," Harry mumbled.
The woman glared at his uncle and shook her head. "They treat you so badly. I don't know how they get away with it."
Dudley entered the kitchen with his mother whining, "I wanted Mega-Mutilation Part 2, not Mega-Mutilation Part 3!"
"Now, now, sweetums," said Aunt Petunia, clearly trying to placate him before he could throw one of his famous tantrums. "I'm sure Father Christmas will bring you that game next year."
"I don't want it next year, I want it *now*!"
"Well, maybe if you're a good little boy, your daddy and I will get it for you next week..."
Lily rolled her eyes and pretended to throw up in the kitchen sink. Harry couldn't help laughing softly. Unfortunately, it wasn't soft enough for his aunt not to hear.
"What was that?" she snapped.
"Nothing," Harry tried to say in an innocent tone. He backed towards the stove, meaning to go back to fixing breakfast, when he accidently bumped the frying pan, making the fried egg splatter all over the floor.
"I just cleaned the floor last night!" shrieked Aunt Petunia. "You stupid boy!" She reached out-- Lily tried to block Harry from her hand, but the hand went right through her, striking Harry.
"Go on, go to your cupboard!" Uncle Vernon dragged Harry by the scruff of his neck to his cupboard and threw him inside, slamming the door.
Minutes later, the ghost woman entered by passing through the door. Even though this was the third time he had seen it happen, Harry still found it shocking.
"Are you all right?" she asked gently.
He nodded numbly. "They do it all the time." A red spot was branded on his cheek where his aunt hit him. "Did this house seem so bad when you lived here?"
"No. It wasn't bad..." her voice sounded distant, almost as though she was remembering something that happened a century ago. "It wasn't perfect; I had very few friends in this neighborhood, that is, before I went to boarding school. My sister wasn't exactly the nicest person in the world... but my parents cared about me. I don't I really appreciated it until they died..."
"Must have been nice," Harry said slowly. "to have had parents. Mine in a car crash. I don't even remember them."
"You don't." It wasn't a question. "Not even a bit?"
"Well...." Harry thought really hard. "Sometimes I can remember a load of green light and I can feel some sort of pain on my forehead. My aunt and uncle said that's when I got this." He pulled back his black bangs to reveal a scar on his head, oddly shaped like a lighting bolt.
"They died in a car crash?" she repeated faintly, a look of skepticism on her face. "Are you sure?"
"That's what my aunt and uncle told me. But if that was the crash, then were did all the green light come from?"
She opened her mouth to say something, but obviously thought better of it. Instead, she looked around the cupboard and asked, "Is this how you usually spend Christmas? By being locked in this tiny place?"
"Depends if I mess something up or not. If I keep my mouth shut and don't do anything stupid, I might get through the day without being hit." He sighed and rested his head on his knees. "I know this may sound stupid, but do you think there's a better place than this? Not exactly a perfect place, but a place that's better than this?"
He inched back a space because the woman was staring at him intently. "There might be," she said cryptically. "I can't tell you for sure, but if you're going to find that place, you'll have to find it by yourself."
"I can't do that. I have to say here."
"Well, not right now anyway, you'll have to find it when you're older."
Harry couldn't see how that could possibly happen.
Time seemed to pass after that. Since he didn't own a watch, Harry had no idea what time it was.
"How long are you going to be here?" Lily asked.
"Probably the whole day. Sometimes they either want to leave me in there or they just forget about me."
"What do you while you're in here?"
"Mostly play with those," he pointed towards a corner in the cupboard where a couple of plastic action figures were. They were all knights riding on horses. Nobody had bought it for him; they were the kind of toys that you get in a fast-food kid's meal (which they did come from, in fact. The Dursleys had only taken him to the restaurant on those occasions since they couldn't find anyone to watch him). Those were practically the only things he owned, aside from Dudley's overlarge, hand-me down clothes.
"They're very nice," the woman commented. "Are they the Knights of the Round Table?"
"Who?" Harry asked bewilderedly.
"The Knights of the Round Table. You know, from King Arthur's court? Haven't you ever heard of that story?"
Harry shook his head. "They never let me read anything that's made up. Uncle Vernon says never to believe in anything you can't see or there's no physical evidence of."
"That's just utter nonsense. We can't see God, but we know He exists, don't we?
"Yes, that's true."
Lily glanced at the door. "Would you like me to see what time it is for you?"
"All right then."
She passed through the door again. A few minutes later, she looked a bit sad. "Four o' clock. My, time sure flies when you have someone to talk to."
"Yeah, usually it seems longer in here. How long are you going to stay?"
"As long as I can," she said simply.
"That would be nice," Harry said, smiling a little. "It's nice having company around here."
She smiled back, a bright, lovely smile that he could see even through the dark. He vaguely seemed to remember that kind of smile, though he didn't know where.
"So, can I play with you then?" she asked, pointing towards the figurines.
"Sure!" said Harry. "Which knight do you want to be?"
"The one with the black horse..."
They spent the next period of time playing with the little figurines, making up their own stories about the knight's quest... It was turning into the best Christmas Harry had so far... it was almost a shame when she stuck out her head outside and informed him, "It's time for you to go to bed now."
"Oh, all right," said Harry, putting the knights back into their corner, then crawled onto his bed. "Goodnight."
"Goodnight," she replied. Harry fell asleep before he could hear her whisper, "Sleep tight."
A while later, Lily could hear the clock in the living room strike midnight. Sure enough, the angel from the previous night appeared in the cupboard. "It's time to go now, Lily," he said.
"Can't I stay?" Lily asked despondently. "This was the first time I could speak to him in years..."
"I'm sorry," said the angel. "But this is the way things are. Say your goodbyes now."
Lily sighed and looked down at Harry, who was fast asleep. "Goodbye, Harry," she whispered, though Harry probably didn't even hear her. "I love you so much. I'll see you again... somehow..." She kissed his cheek tenderly and stood up. "Thank you for this day," she said. "I'm ready."
And they vanished.
The usual screeches of Aunt Petunia woke Harry more effectively than cold water in his face. He sat up and reached for his glasses... but stopped when he saw that the woman was there.
"Lily?" he called out quietly, looking around the cupboard. "Lily? Are you here? Lily?"
She was nowhere in sight. So that was it, he thought miserably. She had gone.
"GET UP RIGHT NOW OR I'LL BEAT YOU UNTIL YOU CAN'T WALK, YOU LAZY BOY!" his aunt shouted.
Harry sighed and looked around one more time before he gave up his newfound friend and the previous Christmas day for lost.
Almost ten years later...
"Look at the decorations!" exclaimed Hermione as she, Ron, and Harry entered the Great Hall for Christmas dinner. The decorations for Christmas at Hogwarts kept exceeding the limits of magnificent every year.
"Did you see what they had done with the armored knights in the corridors?" Ron asked the two of them. "Filch must have polished the armor very throughly this time. It's so shiny it almost looks white instead of silver."
"Yes, I saw," said Hermione as the three sat down at a table. "They kind of reminded me of the Knights of the Round Table, from that fable of King Arthur..."
"Knights of the Round Table...?" Harry wondered aloud. Something stirred within his memory... something about a Christmas long ago... He stared at the decorations as though fascinated by them... it seemed to give him a glazed look.
"Harry?" asked Ron, staring at him. "You all right?"
Something about plastic knights... not having to believe by seeing... and a woman... a ghost...
For a brief second, he remembered, yet the memory didn't make much sense...
"Harry?" Hermione asked uncertainly.
Harry shook himself. "It's nothing," he said to them. "Nothing you need to worry about...."
Okay, I'm sorry if this fic was the least bit fluffy, it's the first time I've really attempted to do a Christmas type of fanfic that wasn't part of a chaptered story. One thing I'd like to add is that I kind of got inspired for the plastic knight thing by from the movie, when Vernon Dursley was burning the letters while Harry was in his cupboard, playing with little plastic knight figurines (at least that's what they looked like) rather dejectedly *sniffle*. So I offer disclaimer on that as well.