Adventures in Witchcraft and Wizardry
There and Back Again: A Witch's Tale

By Koinaka

Chapter Eight
Of Christmas Traditions

The weeks following up to Christmas were far too uneventful for Harri's tastes. However, now that the Christmas holidays were approaching, everyone, even the professors, had been whipped into a frenzy of good cheer. Professor McGonagall had even managed to give Harri a tight-lipped smile when she'd brought around the parchment so that those who wished to stay at Hogwarts over the holidays could sign up. Harri staying for the Christmas holidays had been a point of contention with Aunt Petunia for quite a while, but she'd finally managed to wheedle and cajole the needed permission. After all, she'd never experienced a Christmas in the magical world she now called home.

Not that she recalled at least. She couldn't rightly count her first, now could she?

Hagrid had been especially jolly as of late, his already ruddy face an alarming shade of puce due in part to drink and the wind that whipped around the castle chilling all of its inhabitants to the core. In fact, the temperature had become so frigid that scarcely any of the Gryffindors were brave enough to venture outside of their common room except when it was absolutely necessary.

However, despite the plummeting temperatures and the nagging letters from home, especially in regards to her behavior - which, her aunt was very quick to say, was most unbecoming of a young lady - Harri could not be any happier. Even the nasty comments made by Draco Malfoy weren't enough to quell her enthusiasm – especially when she'd heard the news that she was the only first year girl staying at Hogwarts over the hols.

When Harri entered the Great Hall to discover it fully decorated for Christmas, she hadn't been able to suppress the gasp she'd let out at the sight. It was, in a word, brilliant - a true winter wonderland such as she had never seen. The walls were lined with looming Christmas trees, each one - twelve in all - decorated uniquely. Some looked rather like one she'd seen once in front of Harrod's when she'd accompanied her aunt on their annual shopping trips into London. Others, however, were decorated by completely magical means. Harri's favorite was covered by dozens of glittering fairy lights made with tiny life-size fairies who flitted this way and that. A delighted trill of laughter had escaped the first time one of the fairies landed on her outstretched hands. The trees were not the only decoration, not by far. Leaves of holly as well as mistletoe also filled the room, giving the entire Great Hall a fragrant and festive atmosphere.

The only thing that had put a damper, however slight it may have been, on her cheery mood was the fact that they were no closer to discovering who Flamel was even after spending ages pouring through book after book in front of the fireplace in the Gryffindor common room. Nor had they discovered why Professor Quirrell had been caught twice in places that he ought not to have been.

The day before the students were to leave Hogwarts was turning out to be dreadfully worrisome. Gryffindor Tower had become the epicenter of a rather large scale panic as students hurried to and fro packing and, in the case of Neville, searching for missing items.

"Gran will murder me if I can't find my wand," lamented Neville. "It was my father's, you know." He sighed heavily. "Not that it works for me, really. Still..." He let the sentence hang loose, wringing his hands as he paced back and forth.

Harri gave her friend a sympathetic smile before shooting a glare at Hermione who was sitting opposite of her on Neville's bed. She'd promised Neville that she'd spend some time with him before he left, even if that meant enduring Hermione's obnoxious presence.

At Neville's lament, Hermione made a most disagreeable noise. "Really, Neville! Honestly," she huffed as she deftly pulled the discarded wand from its place underneath the bed. "You really ought to take better care of your belongings."

Neville let out a sigh of relief at the sight of the wand. "Thanks, Hermione, you're a life saver."

Hermione looked quite pleased with herself over Neville's praise. Harri scowled. A few minutes later, with Neville's belongings - all of them- packed neatly into his trunk, the three of them headed down to the common room. Harri made a bee-line over to where Ron, Seamus, and Dean were playing Exploding Snap, Neville and Hermione following behind her. She dropped to the floor beside Ron unceremoniously. While she and Ron would never be as close as she and the twins, the two had bonded over their mutual dislike of their Potions professor. Snape had been particularly nasty towards Harri in recent weeks even though her potion making had been perfectly satisfactory. Of course, her potion making skills, however rudimentary they may be, had no bearing on the house points he seemed to deduct for absolutely nothing.

The boys had just started a new game before their arrival so Harri settled back to watch. The twins weren't due to arrive for another hour as they were both serving detentions – detentions that had nothing to do with the idea that Harri had had the previous week to turn Snape's hair a festive shade of red. She hadn't forced the twins to try spiking the Potion Master's drink themselves, had she? Quite the opposite, in fact. Still, she did feel rather guilty that they had been caught. It was a testament to their friendship that they hadn't snitched her out as well.

"Say, Neville, what sort of things do you and your Gran do to celebrate Christmas?" Harri asked curiously.

Neville shrugged. "Oh, you know, just the normal things, really." He gave his friend a wry smile. "Gran's not much for merry-making, you know, but she makes a mean eggnog! Uncle Algie is very fond of it! He always drinks loads of it at dinner. Makes Auntie Enid mad as he becomes... well, more overbearing than usual when intoxicated! What sort of things does your family do? I can't believe you were able to convince your aunt to let you stay over the hols. I tried, but Gran wouldn't budge!"

"It was a very near thing," she said as she stretched out on the floor, her head resting on her folded arms. "We do all sorts of things. Some of it's for appearances only, though. Like attending the Christmas service at one of the parishes in Surrey and donating to the toy drives sponsored by Aunt Petunia's ladies club. Appearances are very important to Aunt Petunia. It wouldn't do for any of the neighbors to say that the Dursleys are uncharitable. Even if it is true," she added with a grin. "We always bake loads of Christmas goodies, too. Like gingerbread men decorated with candies and buttery sugar cookies covered in frosting and powdered sugar. Sometimes, I think Dudley would rather have the sweets than his presents! Just sometimes, mind you."

"Wow, that sounds brilliant," Ron interjected as his stomach gave an answering rumble.

"It is!" Harri agreed. "Then, on Christmas eve, Dudley and I always camp out in front of the telly watching all sorts of Christmas specials and eating sweets until we're fit to burst! It's the only time all year long that he's actually tolerable, I think!"

Her annual Christmas baking was the one thing she was going to miss. She chewed on her lower lip as Hermione began talking about what her family did to celebrate Christmas. She effectively blocked her out as a plan began to form in her mind.

Perhaps she could still do her baking here! The elves were quite fond of her and the twins. Whenever they came around, which was often, they would ply the three of them with far more food than any of them could eat in one sitting. And they had been kind enough to donate the pumpkins for them at Halloween.

"Mum bakes a lot, too," Ron said after a minute. "Fudge and rum balls, mostly, but cookies as well." His expression turned dreamy for a moment before he shook himself out of it, blushing furiously as he did so. "I reckon she'll send you some, Harri. She's rather taken with you, you know. Ginny's never had many girlfriends, so she's really keen on the two of you becoming the best of friends."

Ever since Halloween, Harri had been exchanging letters with the youngest Weasley, Ginny. Harri thought it was great fun to have a pen friend. She'd tried once or twice when she was younger, but it'd never really took. A letter from Ginny, however, was never boring. She told Harri all about what it was like growing up in a wizarding house - Rather like Muggles, I guess, only... well, you know, with magic - what it was like growing up with the twins - Don't eat anything they give you! - and her parents - Mum's alright, but Dad's barmy. He's right obsessed with Muggles. He collects all sorts of odd things, batteries and plugs mostly. In exchange, Harri would regale her with tales from Hogwarts and answer her questions about living in the muggle world. Not to mention, she'd send her the occasional spoil from their latest prank.

Harri and the other first year Gryffindors were involved in a rather heated debate over muggle Christmas tales and legends as opposed to wizarding ones when the twins finally returned from detention.

Harri's face brightened considerably at the sight of them.

The twins took one look at Harri and exchanged nervous glances.

"Don't trust that look," Fred muttered, shuffling back and forth.

George sighed exasperatedly at his twin as he rolled back onto the balls of his feet, a lazy grin spreading across his face. "Alright, let's have it. What sort of mayhem have you been contemplating in our absence?"

"The sort that earns us a fortnight of detention with Snape!" Fred grumbled, scowling fiercely.

Harri shot a glare at Fred before turning to George and widening her eyes innocently. "Who says I've been contemplating mayhem? I'll have you know that I'm doing nothing of the sort. Neville and Ron here were just telling me all about the differences between muggle and wizarding Christmas traditions."

The twins eyed her expectantly waiting for her to continue, or - more than likely - waiting for the other shoe to drop.

"And then I realized that since I'm staying here for the hols, I'll be missing some of my favorite traditions." She let out a gusty sigh, causing her hair to be in even more of a disarray.

"What sort of traditions?" asked George, his blue eyes bright with curiosity.

"Every year me and my aunt do loads of holiday baking. You know, gingerbread men and all that. It's a shame that I won't be able to do it this year. It's ever so much fun."

"Baking?" The twins asked simultaneously. Fred's brow was furrowed in confusion while George sported a small frown.

"Why would we need to bake when the house elves always have loads of sweets?" Fred asked.

Harri gave them an incredulous look. "What's the fun in that?"

"Eating it, I always thought," George said. "But if you're really so keen on baking, I bet the house elves wouldn't mind you borrowing a bit of the kitchen. They're always in such a state over you."

Fred puffed up and fell into such a low bow that his nose nearly reached the floor. "Anything for Mistress Potter!" he proclaimed in the perfect imitation of a house elf.

She ignored Fred thoroughly, clapping her hands together once. "Exactly! So, I was thinking that we should start early tomorrow but not too early. Wouldn't want to be in their way after breakfast. What do you say?"

"We don't bake!" the twins said at once.

"We eat," said George.

Fred nodded his head fervently. "But we don't bake."

Harri pretended she hadn't heard their protests. She knew just as well as they knew that they would give in eventually. "I wonder if they'll have all the things we'll need! I hope they do!" They spent the res of the evening lounging about in the common room. Fred and George joined in a game of Exploding Snap while Harri made a list of the ingredients they would need for in the morning as well as those Harri planned on sending treats too - namely Hagrid, Neville, and Ginny.

After seeing Neville and Lee off the next morning, Harri and the twins headed down to the kitchens. As the twins had said, they hadn't had any trouble getting the elves to agree to allow Harri to bake in a small corner of the rather large kitchen.

An hour later, the twins, covered nearly head to toe in flour, were more than a little disgruntled. Harri, on the other hand, was very pleased. While she hadn't been particularly keen to bake with magic, she had to admit that it save loads of time that she generally spent waiting anxiously.

They still had to wait but only for a short time for all of their gingerbread men and sugar cookies to finish cooking, but it would have taken the better part of an afternoon to bake all of those without magic – especially considering the dough often needed to set.

"How come you managed to not be covered in flour?" George asked trying – and failing – to wipe the flour off his face.

"I warned you not to get to close because I wasn't exactly sure how to use the charm, It's not my fault you didn't listen." Harri let out a happy little sigh as she turned to the candy the elves had gathered for them to decorate their cookies with. "Cheer up," she told them. "The next part is the best part of all."

"Eating them?" Fred asked hopefully.

"No, decorating them, of course!"

Just as Harri predicted, the twins like decorating much more than they liked baking. This was probably because they ate nearly as much of the candy as they used to decorate their gingerbread men with. By the time they left the kitchen carrying one basket full of the decorated cookies and another filled with sweets from the elves, the twins were in a much better mood.

When they returned to Gryffindor Tower they found an unhappy Ron playing chess by himself. His eyes narrowed when he caught sight of them. "Where've you lot been? You've been gone for ages."

"Baking, of course," Harri said.

"You could've invited me, you know."

"We could have," Fred agreed.

"But then you would've come – " George continued.

"And we definitely couldn't have that!" They both said in unison.

Harri shot them a look as Ron's ears turned red. "Whatever," he muttered angrily turning back to his chess game.

"Why don't you come with us now?" she asked. "Lee left his wireless here for the hols, so we're going to go up and listen to the Quidditch match. It's Puddlemere versus the Harpies."

"Alright," Ron said happily.

"It's sure to be an interesting one," George commented as they headed up the stairs to the third year's dorm.

Beside him, Fred scowled. "Yeah, it'd be a shame if that pretty boy Hiagle got his face bashed in with a bludger. Gwenog's vicious with a beater bat, you know. Bet you wouldn't fancy him, then, would you Harri?"

"You know what would be a shame?" Harri asked archly. "You spending Christmas Day in the Hospital Wing…."

"Hey now, none of this! It's Christmas Eve, it is," George reminded them. "Peace and joy and all that rot."

A stinging hex was Harri's only reply.