If you have opened this file in the hopes of reading a happy and uplifting tale of seasonal joy, with humour, romance and steaming hot cups of cocoa delivered by happy elves, then you are facing tragic disappointment. If you take my advice, you'll click 'back' right away, and find something that will leave you warm inside.
This story, I fear, will only leave you feeling cold, slightly empty, and overwhelmed by a vague existential angst (a word which here refers to a sense that all purpose in life is meaningless and the only true emotion is that which is portrayed in a work of Draco/Lucius smut). So, reader, if you value your sense of wellbeing, you will turn away now.
Still here? It is a curious fact that fandom never knows what's good for it. A fact which is doubly true (as is so often the situation) in the case of Harry Potter fandom.
This tale opens on a bleak night. It is December, 1997. Hogwarts stands tall and proud, but the cries of students are muted, and there is no joy within these walls. Night comes early these days. Voldemort has won the war.
(What? you may cry, but what about the Horcruxes, and the quest, and the inevitable vast battle that takes place at Hogwarts in June and ends with Harry Potter standing over the body of his enemy, wand in hand and victory in his face?)
Well, yes, that's one way the story can go.
It is, as I said, December. Snow is falling. And in the village of Hogsmeade, three fugitives are hiding in the basement of Honeydukes.
"This," says one, "is the worst Christmas ever."
"It's not Christmas at all," says another. "It's--"
"Don't say it," says the third.
"Don't say it. Every time you say it," light reflects off a pair of glasses, "it becomes more real."
This is Harry Potter, saviour of the wizarding world. These are his friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. This is not their victory.
"If you ask me," says Ron, "we should go into the castle. Stir up a bit of rebellion--"
"Get killed," Hermione finishes for him.
"Nobody's getting killed," says Harry.
"See?" says Ron. "Harry says we're not getting killed."
"Because," Harry adds, "nobody's going anywhere."
Hermione says, "Are there any more of those sugar mice?"
"Thought you said they'd rot our teeth," Ron says, but he hands her the box.
"It's Christmas," Hermione says. This is a direct contradiction of her previous statement, but no one dare s to say anything. "Voldemort may have cancelled Christmas," she continues, "but we're not on his side, are we?"
For the first time this month, Harry smiles.. He leans forward and raises a sugar mouse in a confectionary toast.
"Merry Christmas," he says.
It is not Christmas. It is the twenty-fourth of December.
It is the night before Voldemas. And all through the castle, not a creature is stirring except for a--
There is, of course, no answer. Snape stalks forward into the Great Hall, brushing a strand of oily hair out of his face and muttering curses under his breath. Greenery withers as he passes. Lights flicker and fade.
A voice behind him says, "That's a pity."
He turns and sees Luna Lovegood. Sitting on a table in her Marvin the Mad Muggle pyjamas, winding a piece of holly into her hair.
"I thought it was lovely," she says. "Illegal, of course, but so many good things are."
"I beg your pardon?" says Snape.
"Like exploding margarita lollipops, and writing about the wrong sort of thing, and tying a balloon to a cripple-nosed wombat's tail and letting it fly away, and being in Gryffindor." She shrugs. "Think of what we're missing out on."
"Miss Lovegood. Ten points from Ravenclaw for making inappropriate political remarks."
"Oh well," she says evenly, "that's only eighty this week."
"Another twenty points for making them to me."
"But, Headmaster," Luna blinks, "I know you're not going to report me."
"And clean up that mess," Snape adds over his shoulder, walking away.
Alone, Luna retrieves a banner from the pile of dead leaves and shattered decorations.
Merry Christmas, it says.
She folds it up and tucks it under her pyjama shirt, and smiles.
Diagon Alley was busy until late into the night. The government may fall, but commerce goes on forever. But now, in the early hours of the morning, it's quiet.
"Jingle bells, Potter smells, Hogwarts up in flames ... no ... no, doesn't scan."
"Orright, try this one. 'Away in an orphanage, the Dark Lord was born. Surrounded by Muggles--"
"That doesn't scan either."
"Your poetry's going to get us arrested."
"Got no soul, you don't. That's what you are, Remus. Soulless."
"I won't after I've been snogged by a Dementor, no."
It's not that Lupin and Mundungus are drunk. They're merely ... merry. Filled with seasonal cheer and slightly less coherent for it.
"Got no holiday spirit, neither."
"What've you got?" Remus mades a grab for Mundungus's pockets. "I knew it. Half a dozen wallets."
"All empty," Mundungus says sadly. "It's the economy these days. No chance for the honest businessman. And if the honest ones suffer, I suffer." He broods. "I blame the government," he adds.
"Watch that," says Remus. "That can be dangerous these days."
"What's this?" Out of one wallet, Remus retrieves a curious little amulet. A simple charm worked in beads, designed to keep the bearer safe. It glistens in the moonlight. "Can I have it?" he asks.
"Be my ... thingie. Guest." Mundungus grins. "I won't tell Tonks if you won't."
"Good man," says Remus. "Good man."
And now, it is Voldemas Day, and not everyone is suffering at the hands of an oppressive government.
Well, for a given value of suffering.
"You're not going to wear that, are you?"
"We can't afford to offend the Dark Lord, Draco. We can't even afford to slightly irritate him. If you go downstairs looking like that, he'll kill you before your mouth is open."
Draco looks in the mirror again. Black robes. Plain black robes. Plain, black, inoffensive robes. With a subtle design (black) worked into the collar and cuffs.
"Mistletoe," he says, "is a magically powerful plant."
"Yes," his mother says, "and the Dark Lord has forbidden it from his sight."
"Remember when I tried to do that with broccoli, and Father--"
"Not. Now. Draco."
This was the tone of voice Narcissa used when she was at the end of her tether, there were thirty Death Eaters downstairs expecting to be fed, she had spent the last of the family's galleons on a feast and even borrowed a couple of House Elves from Hogwarts to do it, and now her son is going to get himself killed using Herbology as a political statement.
Draco gives her a winning smile and kisses her on the cheek.
"I'll go and change," he says, and leaves her alone to gather herself.
"Well," says Molly, "I'm afraid it wasn't the nicest Christmas we've ever had."
"But on the bright side," says Ginny, "it's the best Voldemas ever." She has just about finished packing her trunk, ready for the return to school. Very carefully, she puts the twins' gift on top. It is, they've warned, rather prone to exploding.
Ginny smiles. "God bless us, every one."