Christmas Eve at Diagon Alley
~ by Healer Pomfrey ~
I wrote this story in the summer, when I was in Christmas mood for some reason...
This story gave me the idea for my Advent's Calendar story - in case you're surprised that they are a bit similar.
I'm not a native speaker of English. Please excuse my mistakes or help me to correct them.
All recognizable characters belong to J. K. Rowling, and I am not earning anything by writing this story.
For Milliefluff and JB5391 - I hope you'll both feel better soon!
Harry sighed in relief as he finished the last dish for the Dursleys' Christmas meals. Two days before the beginning of the winter holidays in his third year at Hogwarts, a heavy thunderstorm had destroyed the roofs of some of the castle's towers, and Dumbledore had decided to close the school completely over the holidays, so that the people working on the repair could do so without being disturbed by nosy students and teachers.
Considering that Sirius Black was still on the leave, Dumbledore had insisted that Harry should stay within the Dursleys' house, pointing out that Sirius Black might be able to find him wherever he went.
While Uncle Vernon had thrown a temper tantrum about Harry's presence over the holidays and had decided to lock him into his cupboard once more, Aunt Petunia seemed to be glad to have her personal house-elf back and made Harry prepare all the meals the Dursleys would need over Christmas.
Unfortunately, when Harry woke up to Petunia's knocking and shouting in the morning of Christmas Eve, his throat felt slightly sore and he sensed a dull ache behind his temples. 'Oh no, don't let me get sick right now. I'm going to be alone in my cupboard for the next few days,' he mused as he hurried into the kitchen to make breakfast for the Dursleys and continue with his cooking.
By the time he finished all the meals, it was three o'clock in the afternoon, and Harry was feeling lightheaded and miserable. His throat was so sore that he could hardly swallow, and the slight ache behind his temples had turned into a splitting headache. 'I need to get away from here, before they lock me in,' he decided. 'I feel sick and feverish, and it's not likely to get better by itself while I'm stuck in my cupboard.' He thought about the matter for a few minutes and resolved to leave immediately, while the Dursleys were still in London for their last minute Christmas shopping.
Dragging his trunk outside, he called the Knight Bus, sighing in relief when the bus arrived after a few minutes.
"Oh, Harry Potter," Stan Shumpike greeted him, causing Harry to glance around in panic.
"Shh," he advised the wizard, who gently helped bringing his trunk upstairs. "To Diagon Alley please. Stan, I'm sorry to bother you, but could you please shrink my trunk, so it'll be easier to get around?" he asked hesitantly. "And I'd love a hot chocolate." 'Maybe that'll calm my sore throat a bit,' he thought, letting himself sink into a comfortable looking seat.
"Of course," Stan agreed, looking at Harry curiously.
The bus was very crowded, and it took nearly an hour until they reached the Leaky Cauldron. Harry was relieved when he stepped out into the fresh, cold air, noticing that it had begun to snow in the meantime. He smiled as he looked upwards, trying to catch a few snowflakes that melt immediately on his tongue and felt cold and soothing in his mouth. 'I wonder what Christmas Eve is like at Diagon Alley. A white Christmas sounds good in any case, and everything is likely to be better than Christmas at the Dursleys',' he thought contentedly. Realising that he was the only one remaining behind the pub, he quickly entered the Leaky Cauldron and stepped into Diagon Alley, glad that no one seemed to have noticed him.
'Maybe I should ask Tom for a room right away,' he mused but decided to head to Gringotts and get some money first. 'It's important that I get to the apothecary, before they close,' he thought, realising that he was feeling worse by the hour. On his way to the bank, he glanced at the door of the apothecary, seeing in relief that the plate at the door stated it would be open until eight o'clock in the evening.
'I hope no one will recognise me,' he thought as he hurried to Gringotts without looking left or right, glad when he didn't meet anyone. However, as soon as he stepped back into the alley, a soft voice calling his name penetrated the fog around his mind.
Glancing around, terrified, Harry recognised Luna, who was standing there with a few small shopping bags in her hand, clothed in blue robes that looked beautiful to her blond hair.
"Hello Harry, are you doing last minute Christmas shopping?" the girl asked friendly, throwing Harry a dreamy look.
"Err...yes. I just... um... went to Gringotts to get some money," Harry quickly explained, noticing horrified that his voice was beginning to become hoarse.
"Harry, you're ill, aren't you?" Luna asked softly, piercingly looking into his face. "Your eyes; they're not their usual beautiful selves; they are glassy, making you look very sick," she stated.
"No, it's all right; I'm fine," Harry said hurriedly, "I'm just a bit tired because I spent the last two days cooking all the Christmas meals for my relatives."
"Are you feeling up to accompanying me looking at the Christmas decorations? They are absolutely beautiful," Luna said dreamily, causing Harry to nod.
"Sure, why not?" he agreed and obediently followed the girl along Diagon Alley.
The two students spent an hour looking at the windows of the shops that were wonderfully decorated with Christmas trees, stars and reindeers travelling on brooms, before they spent quite some time standing in front of the huge Christmas tree right in front of Flourish and Blotts that looked absolutely stunning as it was covered in fresh snow. Apparently noticing that Harry was shivering violently, Luna finally coaxed him into the bookshop, where they spent another hour, looking for interesting books.
"I'd love to become an Animagus," Luna suddenly spoke up, causing Harry to throw her an amazed look.
"Oh right, like McGonagall," he said thoughtfully. "I'd like to learn that as well. Let's see if we can find something about it. Maybe we can study together when we're back at Hogwarts."
"That would be wonderful," Luna said, smiling, before she looked at her wrist watch. "Oh, it's already seven o'clock. I need to meet my father at Gringotts. Happy Christmas, Harry."
"Thank you, Luna. Same to you," Harry replied, suddenly remembering that he had to go to the apothecary before it closed.
"Feel better soon," Luna said softly and disappeared towards the cash desk.
Knowing that he had much time to read before school was going to begin, Harry chose a small pile of books, glad when the shop owner kindly shrank the pile for him, reassuring that he merely had to tap them with his wand to enlarge them.
Putting the now small pile of books into his robe pocket, Harry dragged himself to the apothecary, suddenly realising that Diagon Alley looked much less romantic but was colder and darker than when he had been together with Luna. Trying hard to keep his teeth from chattering, he entered the Apothecary.
"How can I help you?" the apothecary asked in a friendly voice, causing Harry to inwardly sigh in relief. So far, he had only come here to buy potions ingredients and not potions as medicine for himself.
"I'd like to have a Pepperup potion," he croaked, uncertainly averting his eyes to the floor.
He missed the sharp look the older man threw him and was startled when he queried, "For yourself or for someone else?"
"Err... for a friend," Harry replied hesitantly.
"And who might that friend be? In case it is for you, you better take a pneumonia potion," a sharp voice suddenly spoke from his side, causing Harry to flinch back badly at the tone of the other man's voice.
Harry slowly turned his eyes to the side, looking straight into two onyx eyes belonging to a tall man completely dressed in black, who was standing right next to him.
"Potter, what are you doing here anyway? Did it not penetrate your mind that a mass murder is looking for you, or that the Headmaster ordered you to remain at home all the time?"
"Hogwarts is my home, but he threw me out," Harry croaked, once more averting his eyes to the floor, before he looked up startled at the cold touch when the teacher's slender hand suddenly found its way to his forehead. "I'm fine," he croaked, slapping the hand away.
"Shall I get your ingredients ready, and you take the boy where he belongs, Severus?" the apothecary asked gently. "He seems to be very ill."
"Yes please," Snape replied in a soft voice, before he turned to Harry. "Let's go, Potter."
"No!" Harry shouted in panic, trying to get away from the teacher's grip in vain.
"Potter, do you want to make a scene here?" Snape hissed in a dangerously quiet voice. "You will accompany me; do you understand me?"
Harry mumbled something incoherent but gave up resisting and followed the professor out of the apothecary. "Sir, please don't take me back to the Dursleys'," he began to plead as soon as they stepped into Diagon Alley.
"Don't worry, I don't know exactly where they live, so I can't apparate us there, and you're in no condition to travel with Muggle means tonight," Snape sneered and led the boy into the Leaky Cauldron. "We need a room for the night," he told Tom, before he motioned Harry to follow the man upstairs.
A few minutes later, Harry found himself on a relatively comfortable bed, sighing in relief when his achy head came to lie on the pillow. "I shall go to Hogwarts and retrieve a few potions for you," the professor told him in a strangely friendly voice that did not hold any malice. "Stay put and rest."
Harry obediently closed his eyes and was about to drift off to sleep, when he suddenly thought, 'No. Why should I remain here and wait for Snape, who is going to take me back to the Dursleys' in the morning?' With that he scrambled out of the bed, ignoring the cold that crept through his body at the loss of the warmth of the blankets, and traipsed out of the Leaky Cauldron back into Diagon Alley. The cold air felt like sharp sheets of ice painfully hitting his body. 'I love the snow, but it's so cold,' Harry thought, shivering as he slowly made his way back to the beautiful Christmas tree in front of Flourish and Blotts. Suddenly feeling very dizzy, he sat on the steps in front of the bookshop, completely getting away with watching the details of the enormous tree. There were cauldrons sitting on the branches with ingredients flying into them, causing them to explode and finally take on their form again. Harry also saw reindeers flying on brooms around the tree like he had already seen in several windows. Many small animals were playfully chasing each other over the branches with their eyes twinkling like small lights all over the tree.
Harry was so engrossed in his observations that he completely forgot his surroundings. He neither noticed that his teeth were chattering because of the cold, nor did he remember that he had to hide from Professor Snape. He just sat on the steps, enjoying the magnificent tree. 'Christmas at Hogwarts was always great,' Harry thought sadly, when he suddenly noticed snowy white owls sitting on the tree, holding bells in their feet that they were ringing slowly. 'I wonder if they're real,' Harry mused as he unconsciously leaned his back against the wall next to the entrance door and drifted off into a fever induced slumber. Images of exploding cauldrons on the Christmas tree, the snow and the owls that were ringing the bells began to flash up in front of his eyes.
Harry didn't notice that many witches and wizards walked in and out of the bookshop, eyeing him curiously; however, he was shaken out of his dreams abruptly when someone shook his shoulder and said sternly, "Potter, what do you think you're doing!"
'Oh no,' he groaned inwardly as he slowly opened his achy eyes just a little bit. "I'm fine, Professor; just leave me in peace," he mumbled hoarsely as the teacher proceeded to holding his arms in a firm grip, pulling him off the steps.
Feeling too bad to resist, Harry let himself being dragged back to the Leaky Cauldron. "Sit on your bed, but don't lie down yet. I want to check on you first," the professor ordered him, fetching a small green bag from the night table.
Before Harry knew what happened, a thermometer was stuck in his mouth and the teacher held his wrist in a light grip, apparently feeling his pulse. Suddenly, Harry felt very hot and his surroundings became even foggier than they had been before. "I gon' beel gook," he mumbled around the glassy stick in his mouth, before he collapsed on the bed. Like from far away, he registered faintly that the teacher pulled the thermometer back from his lips when it beeped, before he forced a few potions down his achy throat, making him swallow by massaging his throat. Barely noticing the effects of the potions, Harry was pulled into fever induced nightmares.
Severus sighed in relief as he replaced the last phial on the night table. 'Why can't this dunderhead listen to an adult even once?' he thought in annoyance, recalling how he had found him in a half-conscious state in front of the bookshop. 'Anyway, I'll have to stay awake and check on him on an hourly basis as long as his fever is so high,' he decided, longingly looking at the second bed in the room.
Suddenly, the boy's hoarse mumbling caught his attention. "No, Uncle, please don't! I promise I'll be good and do all my chores. No, I won't disturb you for Christmas; I'll stay in my cupboard like all the other years, but please don't hurt me." Harry's tirade continued for at least five minutes, before he ended up in a coughing fit.
'What was that about?' Severus mused as he gently helped the boy to lie down and carefully adjusted a cold cloth to his burning forehead. 'He can't have meant what he said, now can he?'
A few hours later, however, Severus was fairly sure that the boy indeed meant it when he begged his uncle not to beat him, lock him in or starve him for the umpteenth time. 'He is abused, and I thought he was a pampered brat,' he realised, terrified. 'Let's confirm that right away,' he decided, pulling a tiny phial out of his robe pocket that he always carried around just in case. He mixed three drops into half a glass of water, which he made the boy drink when he administered his potions in the morning.
When Harry's mind slowly drifted towards awareness, he noticed immediately that he still felt absolutely horrible. While the professor took his temperature, Harry listened into his own body, realising that the pain in his throat had receded some, while his chest was now very sore, and it was difficult to breathe. He still felt hot and cold at the same time and had a terrible headache.
"You still have a fever of forty degrees," Snape informed him, before he pressed one phial after the other against his lips.
Harry obediently swallowed, feeling too miserable to fight against anything, let alone against the tall Potions Master, who was so much stronger than himself.
"Mr. Potter, I'd like to ask you a few questions concerning the information you gave me during your dreams," Snape spoke up, raising an eyebrow as Harry threw him a frightened look. "Please answer honestly. I promise that I won't use anything you tell me against you."
"Okay," Harry mumbled dazedly.
"What do you mean with 'my cupboard'?"
"The cupboard under the stairs, which was my room until I came to Hogwarts," Harry heard himself reply like from far away.
"Was your uncle going to lock you into the cupboard again, if you hadn't run away?"
"Yes. I ran away, before he came home, because I realised that I needed medical help."
"Couldn't you ask your aunt for medicine?"
"No, I wasn't allowed medicine, and I had to keep quiet about my problems."
"Did your uncle hurt you sometimes?"
"Stop it!" Harry croaked angrily. "Did you give me a potion that makes me spill all this nonsense to you?"
The professor smirked. "Yes, I gave you a few drops of Veritaserum to confirm my suspicion that you were abused and neglected by your so-called family. Here is the antidote." He made Harry drink another glass of water, laced with a few drops of the antidote to the Veritaserum.
"So, are you happy now?" Harry croaked, before he ended up in a coughing fit, while tears began to run down his cheeks. "So you can tell Malfoy, and he'll inform the whole school to laugh about me."
"Mr. Potter, calm down instantly," Snape said sternly. "I will not do such a thing. However, I was about to take you back to your caring relatives this morning, had I not witnessed your delirious talking to your uncle during the night. Since taking you anywhere else but to your relatives goes clearly against the Headmaster's instructions, I had to make sure I had a valid reason to do so."
"What?" Harry asked in confusion.
The professor sighed. "Do you want to go back to your relatives?"
"See? That's why I needed to make sure I can't take you back there. I'm going to take you with me for the time being."
"Oh please don't take me back to the Dursleys'," Harry begged, making the teacher realise that his foggy mind hadn't completely comprehended the professor's words.
"I'm going to take you to Hogwarts, against the Headmaster's clear instructions," Snape replied grimly and called his house-elf.
To Harry's confusion, a house-elf that was a bit taller than Dobby popped up, bowing to the teacher. "Good morning and Happy Christmas, Master Severus, what can I do for you?"
"This is Cicero, my personal house-elf. This is Harry Potter," Snape introduced them, before he continued, "Mr. Potter is very ill, and I need to take him to Hogwarts. However, since the Headmaster has disabled the Floo network, I'd like to ask you to pop him with you. Straight into my rooms, please. I'll apparate to Hogsmeade and follow you as fast as possible."
"Master Severus, I can pop both of you to your quarters, sir," Cicero replied eagerly.
"Professor," Harry threw in pleadingly, seeing that the teacher agreed to Cicero's plan, "I'd love to return to Diagon Alley and watch the Christmas tree. It's the first tree I've ever seen except for that in the Great Hall, but it is absolutely gorgeous."
Snape sighed in exasperation. "Mr. Potter, you're in no condition to gallivant through Diagon Alley, let alone in the snow."
"You can return to Hogwarts, sir. I'll be fine on my own."
"You will need Master Severus' help, Mr. Harry Potter," Cicero said sternly, taking the wind out of Snape's sails, knowing that the professor would have replied much more snidely. He took Harry by the hand, held his other hand out for the professor and popped them straight into the living room of his Master's private quarters.
"You may stay in my guest room for the time being," Snape decided and led Harry into a small room that was kept in several shades of blue and white. "What are you talking about, Potter?" he queried, noticing that Harry was mumbling incoherently to himself.
However, the only clear words he could understand out of Harry's hoarse talking were "Christmas tree."
"Lie down and try to rest for a moment," he instructed the boy firmly. 'Believe me, the Christmas tree will be the least of our problems, after the Headmaster gets to know that you're here,' he mused as he tucked the boy in and headed to the fireplace in the living room to call Minerva and Poppy. Motioning his two colleagues and best friends to take a seat, he told them everything that had happened since he found Harry at the apothecary the previous day. "I'm sorry, but I just couldn't take him back to his abusive relatives. Do you think Albus will agree to let him stay here?"
"Of course he will agree," McGonagall reassured him, "especially if it's you who ask for it. He knows how much you dislike the boy."
"Severus, don't worry. I will give him a detailed examination. If he is abused as you say, it'll show up in my results, and then the Headmaster has to allow him to stay here, because I have to report any kind of child abuse to the Ministry. He wouldn't want to be accused of permitting child abuse."
Snape slowly exhaled the air he hadn't even noticed he had been holding and led the two witches into his guest room. Harry was asleep, but he was turning and tossing around, hoarsely mumbling something about a Christmas tree. The Potions Master groaned in annoyance and filled his colleagues in about the Christmas tree the boy had admired in front of Flourish and Blotts.
McGonagall chuckled and sat on the edge of Harry's bed. "Harry, can you tell me what the tree looked like?"
"Pfessor?" Harry asked, recognising his Head of House. He spent the next five minutes feverishly explaining to the teacher all the details of the tree he could remember.
"Very well, sweetie; I'll see what I can do," McGonagall replied softly and stood up. While she instructed Snape to help her conjure, transfigure and charm parts to make a similar Christmas tree right next to the desk in the small guest room, Madam Pomfrey proceeded to waving her wand over the child, casting several diagnostic spells.
Everything around him seemed to be a blur. Harry had understood that Snape and his house-elf had taken him to Hogwarts, and he was glad to be at Hogwarts, but he badly wanted to visit the beautiful Christmas tree at Diagon Alley once more.
Suddenly, his Head of House appeared in his dream asking him about the tree, and Harry told her every little detail he could remember. When the professor stepped away, Madam Pomfrey came and checked on him, muttering to herself as usual. "Let's see if we can make you better, Harry," the Healer's voice suddenly penetrated the fog around his mind.
Seconds later, Harry felt much better and realised that Pomfrey seemed to be real and must have spelled a potion straight into his system. The blur cleared up a bit, and he was finally able to open his eyes just a little bit as the pain receded.
'Oh no, I must still be delirious,' he mused as his eyes took in the beautiful Christmas tree mere two metres away from his bed. It looked very similar to the one at Diagon Alley, and it was equally gorgeous. "This is beautiful," he croaked in amazement, causing the three adults to smile down at the excited child.
Harry had to spend Christmas day in bed, but he didn't mind at all. He was neither locked in nor alone; Snape, McGonagall and Pomfrey came into his room looking after him every now and then, and he occupied himself watching the gorgeous tree all day. 'It's even better than the one at Diagon Alley,' he realised, smiling when a small voice at the back of his mind told him, 'that's because the teachers made it especially for you.'
"Thank you so much for everything," he told the teachers when they had Christmas dinner together in Professor Snape's living room, looking gratefully at Snape, McGonagall, Pomfrey and the Headmaster.
"You're welcome, Mr. Potter," Snape was the first to reply.
Pomfrey threw him a stern look. "Now please take your eyes from the tree and eat your dinner, Harry."
"I'm glad you like the tree, Harry," McGonagall said, smiling at him.
"I'm sorry, Harry," Dumbledore said sadly, "I only meant well."
"This was my best Christmas ever," Harry informed them as he glanced at the huge Christmas tree through the open door to the guest room, taking in that the snowy owls were chanting, "Merry Christmas, Harry, and welcome back to Hogwarts."