AUTHOR'S NOTES: Whoo, boy! I wasn't sure I'd ever get my muse back to working on this story! Hopefully y'all enjoy the chapter!
Waking up around 9am on Christmas morning, Kelly stretched a bit before sitting up in bed. Seeing her father standing in the doorway, she gave him a warm smile. "Merry Christmas, Dad."
"Merry Christmas," Gibbs replied, going over to the window and looking out at the snow for a moment before turning back to his daughter. "Need any help?"
Kelly shook her head. "No, I'm… I'm just going to hit the bathroom and get dressed. I'll meet you in Gryffindor Tower in about an hour."
Gibbs nodded, silently, and went to check on Harry, leaving Kelly alone.
Throwing back the blankets, Kelly moved her legs over the edge of the bed before moving her wheelchair into position. Lifting herself and getting settled in the wheelchair, she looked down at her legs and let out a long sigh before moving the useless limbs onto the footrests. She wheeled into the bathroom and after using the toilet and checking for any pressure sores, she went back to her bedroom and grabbed her favorite jeans, sweater, and sneakers and started getting dressed.
Getting out of her pajamas was always the easy part, Kelly thought as she pulled off her tank top and knit pajama bottoms. Putting stuff on was the hard part… well, pants and underwear at least.
After pulling on her bra and sweater, Kelly wheeled back over to the bed and grabbed her jeans, pulling them on up to her knees. Alternating lifting herself on the left and right side, she managed to wiggle her jeans up over her hips.
That just left her socks and shoes. Moving back onto the bed, her right leg folded and her left hanging over the edge, Kelly pulled on her sock and shoe before twisting around so that her left leg was up on the bed and her right leg was over the edge of the bed.
Once back in her wheelchair, Kelly grabbed her hair scrunchy from her desk and pulled her hair back in a ponytail before heading out the door.
It was just turning 10 o'clock when Harry woke up. Hearing a knock on the door of his suite, he yawned as he said, "Come in."
Gibbs came in, grinning as he went over to his nephew. "Sleep well?"
Harry nodded as he put on his glasses and sat up, throwing back the covers on his bed. Before his uncle could ask if he needed any help, Harry grabbed his leg brace from the chair next to the bed and started to strap it on over the leg of his flannel pajama bottoms. Once his leg was braced, Harry grabbed his prosthetic along with the protective sheath and sock.
Gibbs said nothing as he watched Harry pull the sock onto his stump before pulling on the sheath, making sure the peg at the bottom was in the correct position before easing what was left of his leg into the socket of the prosthetic. "Ready?" Gibbs asked, after Harry had his shoes on and had carefully inserted his prosthetic eye.
Harry nodded, slowly getting to his feet, favoring his right leg as he did so. Taking his crutches from Gibbs, he slid his arms through the cuffs at the top and gripped the handles, steadying himself before he said, "Let's go." Leading the way out of the suite, Harry headed down the hallway and towards the stairs, taking his time as he and Gibbs headed for Gryffindor Tower.
The Gryffindor common room was even more beautiful than Harry remembered it as he and Gibbs joined the others near the tree set up near the fireplace.
"Come join us, Harry!" Fred and George said from the sofa, each wearing a brand-new Molly Weasley-made sweater and…
Harry's voice caught in his throat and he choked back a sob as he saw that Fred, George, Ginny, Ron, Hermione, and Neville each sported a newly bald head. He tried not to cry but failed when he saw that even Abby's dark hair was gone.
"Merry Christmas, Harry," Abby said, brightly, giving the teenager a huge hug before helping him over to the sofa.
"Y-you guys d-didn't have to do—do th-this," Harry said, crying as he spoke. Looking at Abby, he added, "Especially you, Abby. Y-your pigtails…"
Abby hugged Harry again as she shook her head. "It's just hair, Harry." Pulling away a bit, she had a resolute expression as she added, "We are not getting our hair back till you get yours back."
Harry couldn't reply, but he nodded, smiling through the tears in his good eye.
Ron beamed at his best friend and explained, "At first it was just going to be Neville and me. But when everyone else saw you looking down about your lack of hair last night, Hermione, Ginny, and the twins insisted on joining in."
"We know how self-conscious you feel about missing your hair," Hermione added, giving Harry the biggest smile she could. "And we wanted you to know that we're with you, no matter what."
After sniffling for another minute or two, Harry looked at his friends and gave a short laugh. "I don't know how I would have gotten through all this again if it wasn't for you guys."
"We're just glad you're here with us, Harry," Ginny replied, warmly.
"You've always been a great friend to me, Harry," Neville said, beaming. "Sometimes, I think you're one of the few people who thinks I'm actually worth being friends with. I-I know I'm not as smart as Hermione or as brave as you… b-but I want to be. I hope someday, Harry, I can be half as good as you."
Words failed Harry, and he could only give everyone a wide smile as he wiped away his tears as the entrance to Gryffindor Tower opened once more.
"How about some presents?" Kelly said, brightly, as she came into the common room, followed by Lupin, Sirius, and Dwayne Pride. If the four were surprised by Hermione, Abby, Neville, and the Weasleys' new look, they didn't show it.
"Oh, yes! Absolutely!" Abby exclaimed as she beamed and jumped off the sofa, going to the huge mountain of wrapped gifts and passing them around to their intended recipients.
As everyone opened presents, showing off what they received, Hermione waited until the last package had been opened before turning to Kelly. "I was doing some research on your muscle disorder and… I think I found something."
Everyone went silent and focused their attentions on Hermione and Kelly, eager to hear what Hogwarts' best student had discovered.
Kelly, though, was skeptical as she knew that information about her condition was rare enough and no one had ever been cured of the muscle disorder. "Hermione, I appreciate the research but trust me—I've read everything there is about this disorder. Progressive muscle weakness and no way to reverse it. That's as much as anyone has ever found—no known cause, no prevention, no cure."
But Hermione wasn't about to be deterred. Reaching below her chair, she pulled out her research and handed it to Kelly as she explained. "I know all that. But magical healing works differently than muggle medicine, and it looks like no one has ever tried to use magic to cure the disorder. And since it only affects the muscles, I… I think there may be a way to reverse your condition—a-at least, partially."
Kelly looked at Hermione's notes, looking up sharply as she read the proposed plan. "You're serious about this?' Seeing that her father and Harry wanted to know what was going on, Kelly had a nervous feeling in her gut as she explained. "Uh… basically, Hermione thinks the way to fix me would be to remove and then regrow the muscles in my legs."
"Come again?" Harry said, looking both curious and horrified. Realizing just what the plan was, he looked at Hermione, stunned. "So you want to do to Kelly what Lockhart did to me only with her muscles instead of her bones?"
"Would that even work?" Ziva asked, looking from Hermione to Kelly.
Kelly wasn't sure how to respond to the news. If it worked, she would be happy to have full use of her legs again, but before she could work up any kind of enthusiasm, she needed to know something first. "If we do this… and if it works, what's to stop the muscle disorder from coming back?"
Hermione shrugged lightly. "Since I couldn't find anything about a cause, I don't know about that part. But if this works, there are new potions out there to help with muscle strength, so if the disorder does start developing again, maybe you can hold it off… at least until magic and muggle science and medicine come up with a permanent solution."
Gibbs gave Kelly a look, not sure of what she would decide to do. When he received a questioning look in return, Gibbs just gave a light shrug. "It's your choice, honey," he said, a warm smile on his face. "Whatever you decide to do, I'll be here for you."
Nodding eagerly, Kelly looked at Hermione and said, "What have I got to lose, right?"
At brunch a short while later, Hermione, Kelly, and Gibbs discussed the potential treatment for Kelly's muscle disorder while Neville and the Weasleys told Harry about their new looks.
"Fred and George talked to the rest of the Gryffindor quidditch team before the start of the holidays and they're doing the bald head thing as well when they get back," Ginny said as she helped herself to corned beef hash, beignets, scrambled eggs, and fruit salad. "Same for a handful of Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw students, including the quidditch players."
"You guys really don't know how much this means to me," Harry said as he ate. "I just feel like… Like I'm all alone in this. Everyone stares at me, weather they do it intentionally or not."
"Well now they can stare at all of us," Neville said, proudly.
"Oh, dear…" Draco Malfoy said as he strode up to the Gryffindor table, sneering at Harry's family and friends. "Don't tell me Potter's condition is contagious." Looking at Hermione, he laughed. "At you finally managed to do something with that ugly hair of yours, Granger."
Before anyone else could respond, Harry got to his feet, leaning on his crutches as he spoke. "You know what, Malfoy? You don't know how easy you have it. Because as much as I don't like you, I still pray you never have to go through what I have. I wouldn't wish my life on anyone, not even you." Seeing that Malfoy was taken aback by that statement, Harry actually smiled. "You know what else? If our positions were reversed, and you had cancer and lost all your hair… I wouldn't make fun of you." Gesturing to his friends, Harry went on. "I'd do what they did and shave my head so you wouldn't have to feel alone. Because I know that being a good person and a good friend is something that no amount of money could ever buy." Sitting back down, he added, "Try being a decent person for once. Who knows? You might just find that you like the results."
The excitement and energy of the morning had sapped Harry of his energy so while most of the castle occupants prepared for the big snowball fight that afternoon, Harry went up to his suite to rest up for the Christmas feast that evening.
Not wanting Harry to be alone, Hermione accompanied him, sitting on the edge of Harry's bed and helping him remove his shoes, the prosthetic, and the leg brace before propping up his left leg.
"You don't have to stay with me, Hermione," Harry insisted as he got comfortable. Leaning back against his pillows, he sighed. "I was just feeling a little wiped out. I needed to lie down for a while."
Hermione raised an eyebrow at Harry, not sure if he was being honest or hiding how tired he really was. "Truth be told," she admitted. "I also just wanted to get you alone," she added with a smirk.
"What, to make out with me?" Harry joked.
"If you wanted to," Hermione replied, sincerely. When Harry saw that she was serious, he immediately sat up more. "Harry, I've had this crush on you for a couple years now. I just… I-I wasn't sure if you felt the same way about me."
With no warning, Harry reached up, gently putting his hands on either side of Hermione's face and slowly pulled her close, kissing her on the lips. For a second, he was afraid she would pull away or try to push him off, but when Hermione kissed him back, Harry carefully moved over on the bed so she had more room before kissing her again.
Hermione wound her arms around Harry's neck, trying to avoid the IV catheter still inserted in Harry's chest. Being with him felt wonderful, but the sensible side of her paused the kiss, pulling away a bit. "Harry, we… I'm not ready to…"
Harry nodded, totally understanding. Stroking the side of Hermione's head, he smiled. "I'd never make you cross that line if you didn't want to." He wanted to say something charming and romantic, but instead let out a deep yawn.
Hermione kissed Harry's forehead, right next to the lightning scar, and said, "Get some rest, Harry. I'll be here when you wake up."
Harry nodded, unable to stifle the second yawn. Laying back against his pillows, he closed both eyes and soon fell asleep.
Outside on the grounds, massive snow forts had been magically erected, each side with its own flag waving. For the teachers, there was a book, quill, and a scroll of parchment.
The students' flag was a picture of a golden snitch atop a pile of candy.
Opting to referee instead of participate directly, Professor McGonagall stood in the middle of the 'battlefield', her wand held aloft. "When I give the signal, you may commence," she said, loudly, so as to be heard by everyone. Stepping aside, she fired a shower of green sparks into the air.
Gibbs and Hetty launched the first snowballs, catching the Weasley twins off-guard.
Ziva and Ginny attacked next, hitting Snape and Hagrid dead on.
Soon, it was all-out mayhem as students and teachers—Dumbledore included—pelted one another with snowballs. The only main rule was that no magic was allowed.
Hit in the neck by a snowball thrown by Gibbs, Ziva gave a gasp of shock as the melted snow trickled down the inside of her coat. Reaching down, she packed a fresh projectile and firing it at her boss. She missed, but still felt a sense of satisfaction when the snowball managed to get Snape in the back of the head.
From the safely of the snow fort, several first and second year students made as many snowballs as possible, handing them to their compatriots.
The Weasley twins fired simultaneous snowballs at Gibbs, high-fiving each other when both missiles hit their target. A second later, however, the twins were knocked flat by the snow 'boulder' hurled at them by Hagrid.
Seeing another shower of red sparks, signally a break in the battle, everyone looked over at McGonagall who was looking… well, 'peeved' would be putting it mildly. The deputy headmistress was looking down at Delores Umbridge who had a disapproving glare on her face.
"This is incredibly unprofessional behavior, Minerva," Umbridge snapped, sternly as she looked out at the crowd of people. "It is hardly professional for you and the other teachers to be fraternizing with students in such a manner!"
Everyone had their eyes fixed on the two women, no doubt wondering how McGonagall would react to Umbridge's reprimand.
Several long seconds passed as the deputy headmistress considered her options. She could give in the senior undersecretary's demands, of course. Or she could propose some sort of compromise. But McGonagall had, quite frankly, lost her patience with Delores Umbridge and decided to tell her off. "Delores," McGonagall said, her stern expression never wavering, "Please remove the wand from your arse and learn to have a little fun."
Across the 'battlefield', Dumbledore caught the subtle hand signal from the transfiguration professor, and picked up the nearest snowball, handing it to Hetty, a twinkle in his eye. "Professor Lange… would you like the honors?"
"I thought you would never ask, Albus," Hetty replied, cordially.
"Henrietta Lange, don't you even dare—" But Umbridge's words were cut off as she was hit by multiple snowballs from both students and adults. When the barrage ceased, Umbridge was livid as she stared at the others. "The Ministry of Magic will hear about this!" she vowed, angrily.
"Well, to be fair, Delores," Dumbledore said with a smile. "You were the one who interrupted a snowball fight. Friendly fire is hardly unexpected in that case."
When Umbridge stormed off back into the castle, McGonagall looked at the adults and students present. "You should all head inside and warm up. The Christmas feast will begin at 6pm."
As people started to make their way inside, Abby frowned as she, Gibbs, Pride, Ziva, and the Weasleys joined each other on the sidelines. "What a buzzkill!" Abby said, annoyed. "What does she have against a snowball fight?"
Pride grinned at Gibbs as he said, "Remember when Franks busted our asses for having a snowball fight when we were working that case in the mountains? Middle of nowhere in the dead of winter, 5 inches of snow on the ground…"
Gibbs grinned back as he nodded, thinking back on the day in question. "I ducked a shot and you hit Mike in the face as he was coming up the trail."
Ziva and Abby exchanged looks, surprised at hearing about how laid back their boss used to be.
Christmas dinner in the Hogwarts Great Hall was like nothing Kelly had ever seen. Decorated trees lined the walls of the room. Streamers and twinkling lights were wrapped around the torches on the wall. The ceiling was charmed to look like the sky outside and magical snow was falling, vanishing before it reached the people below.
As Harry, his family, and his friends gathered at the Gryffindor Table, they were surprised when Draco Malfoy walked over to the table, looking somewhat nervous.
Expecting to be immediately told off, Malfoy was surprised when everyone just looked at him, warily. Biting the bullet, he said, "I really thought about what you said, Potter."
Harry nodded once. "Good." Glancing at the others and only seeing hesitation from Ginny and Ron, Harry asked, "Did you want to join us?"
Malfoy felt like a wounded animal being invited into the lion's den, but he accepted the invitation, sitting at the end of the table next to Ginny who immediately moved a little further down the table, causing everyone else on her side to move down as well.
When the platters of food arrived, Malfoy was surprised that there were dishes outside the normal holiday fare. In addition to the roast turkeys, mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and rolls, there were large tureens of thick stews with pieces of sausage and a myriad of different seafood. There were platters with slices of roast lamb and prime ribs, bowls of some sort of cooked greens with bits of ham or bacon, and some sort of large rolls that were hollow on the inside that reminded Malfoy of the Yorkshire pudding that was traditional for Christmas.
Everyone dug in, although Malfoy was wary about trying everything. He'd never had most of the food before, although he thought everything smelled delicious.
"So what made you change your mind about all of us?" Neville asked, not bothering to beat around the bush. After so many years of teasing and ridicule, he wondered what would cause Draco Malfoy to want to make friends with anyone other than his fellow Slytherin students.
Malfoy wasn't quite sure what had made him start questioning things, but he shrugged as he filled his plate with food. "I don't actually have friends," he admitted, finally. "Crabbe and Goyle… they hang around me because… Well, I don't really know why. They kind of just… latched onto me, I suppose."
"So now you want to be friends with us, do you?" Ron asked, suspiciously. "Just like that?"
"Yeah, I guess so," Malfoy replied, nodding. He knew he was going to have to eat crow for his past actions and while part of him wanted to just leave, he knew he had to stay. "I don't know what it's like having friends. And I sure as bloody Hell know nothing about being someone's friend… but I'm hoping maybe you lot can help me with that."
Willing to give Malfoy a second chance—albeit, cautiously—Harry smiled and gestured at the food. "Well, dig in. The more the merrier."
Malfoy did so, asking about each of the new dishes as he tried them. The gumbos were interesting with a spice that was unlike anything he'd ever had before. The lamb and roast beef were tender and perfectly medium rare, and the simmered greens were hearty and flavorful. "That was incredible," Malfoy exclaimed as he used his last piece of popover to wipe the remaining traces of juice and sauce from his plate.
But just as everyone was letting their dinner's settle, the dinner dishes vanished to be replaced by the desserts.
There was bananas foster cheesecake, a pear and brown butter tart, pecan pie, apple and berry crumble, decadent looking tiramisu torte, and a magnificent croquembouche.
As everyone else talked, laughed, and shared bites of the various sweet offerings, Malfoy felt himself genuinely smiling for the first time since… Acutally, the more he thought about it, he couldn't ever remember feeling this way. He found that hearing Fred and George Weasley talking about their prospective joke shop or Abby Scuito and Ziva David talking about cases they had worked for NCIS made for a far more enjoyable evening as opposed to hearing his fellow Slytherins talk about themselves or complaining about the muggleborns students or blah, blah, blah.
At this table, Malfoy heard fun stories, touching memories, and instead of people expecting him to join in or have an opinion, everyone seemed just fine when he didn't have any thoughts on a topic of conversation. That wasn't to say that no one tried to make sure Malfoy was engaging, providing subtle coaxing when needed.
When the last dishes were cleared, Malfoy found himself genuinely disappointed that the meal was over. "I-I guess I should head back to the Slytherin dormitory," he said as the clock in the entry hall chimed 8pm. Looking at Harry, Hermione, the Weasleys, Neville, and the others, Malfoy smiled as he stood up from the table. "Thanks for letting me join you."
Years of ridicule and insults were running around in Ron's mind as he saw Draco Malfoy turn and head for the door, but for the first time, Ron also saw that a lot of that was what he'd picked up from his father. "Hey, Malfoy!" Ron said, just as the Slytherin student was heading out the door. When Malfoy turned around, Ron asked, "You play chess?"
"Yeah," Malfoy replied, grinning as he turned back around, heading back towards the Gryffindor table. "You want to play? With me?"
Ron nodded as he stood up from the table. "I've got a chess set upstairs in my trunk. Meet me in the library."
That night, as everyone started to turn in for the night, Harry found himself sitting in a quiet alcove with Hermione. "Good Christmas?" Hermione asked after giving her boyfriend a slow and tender kiss.
"It's always a good day when you're around, Hermione," Harry replied, returning the kiss. "But yeah… this was a good Christmas. I'm excited for Kelly. She said she talked to Madame Pomfrey and Neely and they can try doing the vanishing and regrowing procedure on Monday."
"Even if it works," Hermione said, thoughtfully. "—she'll still likely have to get used to walking again."
Harry nodded in agreement, but he was still optimistic. He knew what it was like to have your legs betray you and was grateful that there was a chance Kelly could have a recovery of her own.