A/N This story was originally written for the Yule Balls fest over at LJ. The recipient wanted a Hogwarts setting for Dickens, the fest demands an M rating. The problem with Dickens is ... also, the options for femmeslash in the Carol are ... Well, this is the result, with heartfelt thanks to my betas Kelly Chambliss and Tetleybag.

The Ghost of Christmas Past

Professor McGonagall's office, December 19th, 1985

Dear Molly,

Thank you for your Christmas invitation. You really managed to outdo yourself in delicious triteness.

We want to share our warmth with all our dear, lonely Order friends, … Why would we all want to spend Christmas at your place, thinking back to that ghastly time while you bring up endless memories, then tell us to be cheerful because that's what everyone would have wanted? Would Alice and Frank want us to drink to their empty shells before a brisk round of charades, or would they rather have us rage against the dying of their light?

... for no-one should be lonely at Christmas … Well, my dear, I can assure you that I won't be. I've invited quite a number of gentlemen friends: vigorous Mr. Nickleby, smouldering Mr. Darcy, the deliciously wicked Vicomte de Valmont and some more… One of them will probably end up in my bed. I haven't quite decided who, but then, I don't have to limit myself to one, do I?

So you'll understand that I will have to forego the pleasure of meeting that very kind and good-tempered Mr. Thicknesse – whose nephew has just started at Arthur's department – such a very sweet man and still quite strong for his age […] If I remember correctly, I did meet him at one of your dinner parties – or kitchen sups, as you insist on calling them. (Actually, darling, that term is usually employed by people who really do have a dining room.) Would the aptly-named Thicknesse be the very fat octogenarian with a wart on his nose and a long beard with enough soup leftovers in it to feed all of Hogwarts? Oh, dear … I was so looking forward to meeting him again …

Alas, it is not to be. I have to remain at Hogwarts over Christmas, and after that I'm otherwise engaged until term starts.

Yours despisingly,

Professor McGonagall carefully reread the entire letter from start to finish, nodding approvingly. Then, with a rather exaggerated flourish (but it was a Christmas letter) she signed: Minerva and, for good measure, added a few festive touches of red to the capital M. Perhaps some green, too? she thought. But red being the readily available colour on a teacher's desk and restraint an admirable quality, she decided to leave it as it was.

She took one last look at it and rolled the parchment. So soothing and therapeutic to write an angry letter.

With a satisfied smile, she set fire to the roll. Of course, she thought, it's sheer lunacy to send them. It's hurtful, cheap, and worse, ineffective. The writing, however …

She took up a second sheet of parchment and wrote a pleasant, if somewhat bland, refusal to Molly Weasley's annual Christmas invitation.

As she rolled and sealed it, she looked longingly at the pile of books next to her desk. This year's shopping spree had been more than satisfactory. Much has been accomplished today, as Austen's priceless Mrs Bennet was wont to say, she thought.

School business brought her to London now and then, and in the first term she usually planned things so that the London shops were well into Seasonal displays when she had to go. This year too, after settling her affairs quickly and efficiently, she had taken time to enjoy the Charing Cross Road book shops. And then, silently blessing the chance to Apparate and thus avoid public transport, she had made her way towards Harrods.

All purchases would be packed and ready on the morning of the 27th. Christmas and Boxing Day at Hogwarts, yes. She usually stayed, not so much to 'support Hogwarts and me', as Albus called it, but because she really didn't care much one way or another. In Scotland, most people could take Christmas or leave it alone.

Hogmanay, that was different. That was a day for pleasure alone. And 'pleasure alone' was just what she was going to have. Six days of blessed solitude in her cottage: a cheerful fire, music, piles of books, some good wine, tea, and Harrods's delicacies…

In the meantime, she planned to enjoy herself in any way she could. And right now, that meant pouring herself a glass of port and settling down for the annual rereading of A Christmas Carol.

Duty was done; she had dealt with her own Ghost of Christmas Past. If only Molly would forget about the Order days, or at least stop organising 'warm' reunions! Definitely more of gravy than of grave about our Molls, McGonagall thought morosely – and a rather glutinous gravy, too.

She reached for the well-worn book and settled back for a spell among Bob Cratchit, Fred, Tiny Tim and, above all, Marley and his sole administrator, his sole assign, his sole residuary legatee, his sole friend, and sole mourner, the highly entertaining Mr. Scrooge.

a/n update next weekend!