The fresh mistletoe dangled from the entrance archway into the family room, having witnessed no one kiss underneath it that Christmas. It was there merely as habitual decoration, along with the giant flocked blue spruce covered in shiny, colorful ornaments and white, sparkling lights.
Like the previous year, Maggie had done most of the decorating herself, still trying to keep her mother’s traditions alive. This time with the help of Harry, of course. He had learned how to properly place the ornaments on the tree to her liking this time around. Things had been awfully quiet since they'd put the Source to rest and agreed to take over the Elders’ duties.
It was almost a little too eerily calm in Hilltowne. If they didn't count the outdoor conditions. The weather had been pretty crummy, not lending itself for much that day. A days-long winter storm was still making its way through town and had kept them indoors most of the week.
The Charmed Ones and Harry had finished enjoying a bountiful Christmas Eve dinner and were now partaking in a quiet Christmas movie marathon, with glasses of delicious coquito and plates of scrumptious gingerbread cookies. A warm fire danced in the fireplace and the smell of cinnamon and sugar still lingered in the air from all the baking they’d done throughout the day. On the tv, a wintery scenery of what was supposed to be early 2000’s London played—though Harry had already pointed out on more than one occasion that the film had the geography all wrong.
The house was quiet with the exception of the movie. Maggie sighed, smiling as she took a bite out of her soft gingerbread man. Her attention on the screen lasted only a few minutes. Her ears perked up and her eyes disengaged from the TV for a quick second when she detected a faint stir above her.
“Did you guys hear that?” She asked, interrupting the silence and the dialogue of the actors on the screen. Her eyes flicked to the ceiling, sure that she had heard something out of the ordinary.
“Aw, Maggie, this is the best part!” Macy whined, shooting her a chastising glare.
“Sorry. I just thought…” She stopped for a moment, concentrating on the obvious rustling above them. “Sh. Listen.” She looked at her sisters and Harry. “What is that?”
Sure, there was a chance it could have been her empath powers playing tricks on her again, like the time she'd heard voices from beyond and thought she was going crazy. Maggie, however, was convinced this wasn’t that.
Mel joked. “It must be Santa. Did you remember to leave out milk and cookies?”
Macy giggled, sipping on her drink as she nestled into the couch and disappeared under the fleece blanket. Her eyes were back on the couple on the screen, she was clearly determined to ignore any further interruptions.
Maggie glanced over at Harry, the whitelighter shrugging and offering a comforting smile. She acknowledged him and then settled back into the recliner, complying with her sisters and intent on enjoying the rest of the night too. She reached for her coquito, a loud and startling clank materializing above them the moment she touched the handle of the glass cup.
She jumped out of her seat. “Guys, there it is again! It sounds like chains or something being dragged across the roof.” Maggie pointed to the ceiling, eyes wide and vigilant.
Mel could hear the noises too but she wasn’t quite buying into that interpretation. Her face scrunched up, making the assumption that it was just some mangled branches that had been carried over by the blizzard. That and Maggie might have just had too much to drink.
“So, it’s not Santa,” Mel said. “It’s the ghost of Jacob Marley! Boo!” After hearing this, Maggie grimaced and stuck out her tongue. Mel’s childish reply merited an equally childish reaction.
But the Vera sisters were given no time to disagree or argue. The quiet noises quickly turned into a clatter, rattling the narrow walls of the chimney and the metal rods that lined it. This time, they all stood up, fully alert. A smug look appeared on Maggie’s face as she eyed each of them. A big, fat I told you so was fully warranted, in her opinion.
All four of them surrounded the fireplace, disturbed by the strange phenomena happening before them.
Dust began falling over the flames, in little amounts at first and then so profusely that it extinguished the fire after a few seconds. Meanwhile, the raucous coming down the chimney got louder each time. Nobody wanted to say anything, afraid of making predictions and having them come true like a nightmarish Christmas wish gone wrong.
A draw-string bag made of leather plopped onto the smoky remains of the fire.
"What the hell." Mel muttered, crouching down to get a closer look.
"Don't touch it." Said Macy, her hand grasping Maggie's shoulder as she began to move towards it, eager to find out what it was.
The lights on the Christmas tree and the TV began to flicker, making a buzzing sound as if overwhelmed by too much electricity. It went on for what seemed like an eternity but in reality, it couldn't have been more than a couple seconds before they were all cloaked in darkness.
“Oh, this can’t be good." Harry said under his breath. His eyes began to get wider and wider as a ghost-like mass crawled down the chimney and released a deep and menacing bellow. Sounding like a riled up, hurt and angry beast.
It was difficult to see in the darkness but the figure looked part animal, part specter, not entirely solid. A monster whose most distinguishable features were the two massive and ominous horns on its head. They were wide and curved like those of a wild sheep. It seemed too preoccupied with the leather sack to notice them right away.
“What do we do?” Maggie said between gritted teeth.
They were all frozen in place, an unseen force leaving them paralyzed.
“Is it a demon?” Macy whispered.
“Looks more like Satan.” Mel muttered.
“Or Baphomet.” Harry suggested, his mouth barely moving.
“Actually.” Maggie said. “I think this might be my fault.” She admitted.
The others looked at her, waiting for her to elaborate.
“I found a box of old relics in the attic a few nights ago and was strangely drawn to a little jingle bell. I wanted to hang it on the tree.” Maggie’s neck was too stiff to look back at it. “I tried shaking it a few times but there was no sound. Figured it was broken and didn't think much of it.”
“You summoned a demon on Christmas?” Mel scolded her.
“It was an accident.”
The heavy breathing coming from the creature grew louder. This time it was facing them. Long claws slowly pulled open the drawstring bag to reveal an antique snow globe. It sat atop an elongated base made of gold, next to a small hourglass.
A blood-curdling guttural roar enlaced the creature's voice. “Secretum tua liberabit vos.” It said in pauses, and then it repeated it. One long fingernail traced the glass sphere before its pointy tip clinked against it three times.
“Secretum.” Harry muttered. “Secret.” He thought for a moment. “Liberabit. Liberate?”
“Freedom.” Macy said. “Your secret will set you free.”
The creature sneered, with one finger flicking the top of the hourglass and making it spin around. It let out a loud, ear-piercing screech. The Charmed Ones and Harry were finally able to move, released from the supernatural force that had kept them paralyzed. They dropped to the floor, covering their ears in agony.
Maggie started to scream, noticing that the floor beneath her was warping, moving around like an illusion in a funhouse. Her body felt wobbly and unbalanced. She tried to stand back up but couldn’t walk straight to save her life. It was like she was trapped in a liquifying house of mirrors that was quickly closing in on her.
Then all of a sudden, she was blinded by an incandescent white light, and noise stopped.
She blinked a few times, her vision adjusting to the daylight outside the window in front of her. A blanket of fresh snow was falling from the gloomy sky over the evergreen trees, a vast pine forest stretched out before her with no end in sight.
Maggie’s confusion only grew bigger when she turned around. It was her bedroom and everything was perfectly in place, just the way she’d left it right before she went downstairs the morning of Christmas Eve.
“This is not happening.” Maggie said to herself. “This has to be a dream. Yes, Maggie. You’re dreaming.” She tried to convince herself.
How else could she be standing in her bedroom and have a scenery matching that of an arctic wilderness right outside her window?
She stood in front of her vanity and stared at her reflection in the mirror, the way she’d done so many times before. Taking a deep breath, she talked herself into leaving the comfort and safety of the bedroom and investigate. For all she knew, her sisters and Harry could be there with her.
“Okay.” She said softly, cautiously opening the door.
A gentle Christmas melody reached her ears. Maggie wanted to believe she wasn’t alone in that twisted version of reality. She walked down the hallway, her hand gliding along the smooth railing of the staircase as her feet carefully moved down each step. Turning the corner into the foyer, she could see the lit Christmas tree in the family room. The air around her was warm and toasty, the smell of sugar cookies in the air. Over the archway hung the lone mistletoe, and as she got closer to the entrance of the family room, she caught sight of the flickering fire glowing in the fireplace.
Maggie made her way into the kitchen, her pace a little faster now, keen on finding out whether she was alone or not.
“You’re here too?” A voice came from behind her.
She screamed, jumping as she got caught off guard by Harry’s posed question. Her reaction had clearly startled him too.
“Jesus Christ, Harry!” Maggie put a hand over her chest. “You almost gave me a heart attack.”
Harry smiled sheepishly. “I apologize. I should have known better than to come at you from behind.”
Maggie furrowed her brow. “It’s fine. Are Mel and Macy here too?”
He shook his head. “I haven’t seen them. When I came to, I was standing in the library, staring at a shelf of books. I was just making my way through the house when I ran into you.”
“If it’s just us then…” Maggie wasn’t sure what she was going to say, she really had no idea what it meant.
“Must mean I'm your Secret Santa?” He said unsure of himself, eyebrows arched.
She laughed. “That is not how Secret Santa works, Har.”
“Your secret will set you free. That’s what the creature said.” Harry wondered. “What secret is that?” He cocked his head, prying and curious eyes locked on her.
Maggie pouted. “What makes you think it’s my secret and not yours? You're here too.” She put her hands on her hips. “And how do I even know that you're real and not some figment of my imagination? For all I know, this is all in my head.”
He pursed his lips. “Fair point. I suppose there’s very little I can do to prove I’m real, because if I am in your head then anything you’d say to yourself would make sense. Clever little horned creature knew exactly what it was doing.” Harry said.
“On second thought, I think you just proved to be yourself.” She said, “So as long as you don’t try anything weird or murdery, we should be okay.”
Harry sighed. “And as long as we are here—wherever here is—we should probably devise a plan of escape.” He concluded. “But not before I make us some hot tea.”
When the tea was ready, they walked together into the family room, settling in on the loveseat as they sipped from their hot mugs.
“Why me and you?” She muttered. “Why not you and,“ Maggie cleared her throat. “Why not you and Mel... or Macy?” Maggie said her sister's name like it was forbidden. She had done such a great job at avoiding talking about whatever weird thing happened between them. It wasn’t a topic she was particularly interested in nor one she wanted to delve into.
Harry crinkled his brow. “Why would I be here with Macy? As far as I’m aware, there isn't much secrecy left between us. We said our peace months ago.”
Maggie raised her eyebrows, brown doleful eyes peering at him from behind the steaming cup between her hands. She swallowed the sweet, rich tea. “Sorry, didn’t mean to bring it up.”
“Don't be. " A comforting smile spread across his face, seeing that Maggie wasn't entirely convinced by his nonchalance. "Really, Maggie. There's nothing going on between your sister and me. There never was." He added. "And there never will be."
Maggie nodded, a little smile forming on her full lips. "Fine. We'll leave it at that." She didn't want to press any further. The truth was, if she really wanted to know what Harry and Macy had been up to while in Source-land, she would’ve asked. That information had been unsought for a reason.
"Why don't we try going out, Harry?” She suggested. Harry’s eyes flicked to her with interest. "Of the house." Maggie almost choked on her tea. "Why don't we try going out of the house and see what's out there? There’s always the chance that Mel and Macy are here with us but just not in here.”
He puffed. “Are you sure about that? It must be freezing outside.”
“What else are we supposed to do? Play a round of truth or dare until no secrets remain between us?”
Harry heeded her suggestion with an inquisitive head tilt. She shook her head and smiled, “I was joking.”
“You’re right.” He said, “If your sisters are out there and need our help then we can’t just wait in here forever, now can we?"
They bundled up, arms slipping into big winter jackets, and hands sliding into warm gloves. Maggie tightened the laces of her boots and then wrapped a thick, knitted scarf around her neck.
"Here." Harry said, getting very close to her as his fingers slipped between the scarf and her skin to untuck the hair that had gotten stuck between the folds.
The gentle touch of his fingertips on her pulse, even through the fabric of the gloves, made Maggie tingle. "Thanks." She said, quickly putting on a beanie. "Ready?"
“Oh, no." She croaked, as the door swung open.
It hadn’t been just a mirage outside her bedroom window. Vera manor appeared to be sitting in the middle of a dense, coniferous forest. They walked down the steps of the porch, Harry tilting his head back as the little specks of snow fell over his face. It was a gentle snowfall but the biting temperature made them shiver, penetrating the layers of clothing they had on. Maggie stood next to him and looked up as well, the sky too opaqued by a cloud of white powder to make anything out.
"Hello!" Maggie screamed into the void.
Harry hurriedly shushed her, his body encompassing her as he covered her mouth with his hand. "What if that thing is here?" He whispered against her ear. “I’m beginning to think this isn’t a good idea, Maggie."
"So we're going back inside without even trying? What if I’m right and my sisters are out there.” Her words a mutter as he retracted his hand from her mouth.
They looked at each other in silence, Harry's track record proving that saying no to Maggie Vera was not his strong suit. He lifted up one finger. "One mile at most, no more than that. It's way too cold to travel any further."
And so they began their trek between the trees. Their feet sank into the snow, slowing down their pace as they went.
"You know," Maggie's breathing was already a bit strained after a little while, "In this podcast I listen to, they have this saying, stay out of the forest."
Harry hummed. “And why is that?"
“Um, because nothing good ever happens in forests. Think of all the fairytales, for instance."
“You mean like the one with the evil witch living in a house made of sweets?” He said, directing a coy smile her way.
Maggie chuckled, realizing there was only one witch in that forest at that exact moment. “Touché.”
The minutes passed, they were both tired. Boots wet and muddied as they walked with no apparent direction in mind.
Harry looked at his watch, estimating the time they'd left and putting them right about the 30-minute mark. Behind them, the trees seemed to have closed in on them, erasing any clear path for them to follow back.
"You didn't happen to leave some breadcrumbs along the way, did you?" He teased.
Maggie lifted up her wrist to look at her smartwatch, sure that it had tracked their path all the way up until that point. "Well, shit." She said, looking at the black screen. “It’s dead."
"Cold does drain the battery.” Harry explained. "That or it never worked to begin with."
Maggie groaned but before she could complain any further, Harry offered a ray of hope. He pointed up ahead, at a little clearing between the trees.
"Look, seems like there’s another house at the other end of this trail." His inquisitive eyes rested on her, wondering why Maggie wasn't jumping for joy.
She gave him a deadpan stare. "So we’re just going into a stranger's house in the middle of the forest, huh? After everything I just said about bad things happening in situations like this.”
Harry grimaced. “You wanted to try, remember? Besides, I highly doubt we're stuck in a fairytale, Maggie.” He reached for her hand and held it tight, helping her the rest of the way.
A few more minutes went by until they reached the clearing.
They both stood there awestricken, mouths open, cold noses and eyelashes collecting tiny flakes of snow as they stared at the house.
"This is a nightmare." Maggie said, squeezing Harry's hand which was still between hers.
In front of them was Vera manor, welcoming them back from their long hike to nowhere.
They argued over the logistics—maybe they got distracted and made a turn at some point during their walk, maybe they’d gotten disoriented and confused and that’s why they’d end up back at the house. Whatever they came up with seemed impossible, defying all logic. They’d both been pretty level headed to know that no matter how they’d ended up back home, it wasn’t due to anything they'd done wrong.
Harry brought his hands close to the fireplace, rubbing them together to create some additional heat. Maggie did the same, she was still shaking—partly from the cold but also from the uneasiness of the situation.
“Are you okay?” Harry asked, seeing how her body trembled. “Let me get you something warmer.”
He went into the small storage closet in the hallway and pulled out a blanket, not hesitating to throw it over her shoulders and wrap her up with it. Without trying, he pulled Maggie closer to him, their eyes remaining still on each other for a moment as he gently rubbed her arms and smiled.
Maggie didn’t like the way it made her feel, not because it didn’t feel good to be that close to him and to have all his attention for once, but because it felt too good. She thought she was over that, past feeling an inappropriate attraction for someone who was, for lack of a better word, unobtainable.
“I uh, I’m gonna need something more to warm me up. I think.” She broke the silence and their eye contact.
“Sure. You want tea? Coffee?” Harry suggested, watching her walk away without giving him an answer.
Maggie went straight for the top cupboard in the kitchen that was reserved for special occasions. After looking up at the bottle of amber liquid for a few seconds, she turned to him. Grinning she pointed to it. Harry smiled, walking over to reach for the bottle himself.
She gathered two glasses and poured a few ounces of whiskey into each, neat.
“Oh, I don’t know…” Harry said, but was interrupted before he finished his thought.
“Trust me Harry, anything else just won’t cut it right now.”
After a little while they returned to the couch, sipping their spirit slowly and feeling its warmth coat their throats and bellies.
“Do you think Mel and Macy are somewhere else like us? You think we’re dead?” Maggie asked, not giving him a chance to reply before she continued. “Maybe we’re in hell.”
Harry mused. “I don’t remember hell looking like this. If we were there, I think we’d know.”
“Fine, then maybe it’s purgatory.”
He pursed his lips but didn’t say anything. Maggie noticed he seemed a bit bothered by her guesses. “What?”
“You really think hell or purgatory are the only two places you’d be stuck in with me?” His earnest eyes looked a special kind of green in the low light, making him appear even more handsome than usual.
She rolled her eyes in a playful manner and lightly pushed on his shoulder. “You know that’s not what I meant by it. Of course not! You’re—“ She stopped. “Harry! The snow globe!” Maggie said abruptly, like a neon sign had gone off in her head. “The reason we can’t leave or go anywhere is because–“
“We’re trapped in the snow globe.” They said at the same time.
Harry took a bigger gulp of his drink, grimacing as he swallowed. Maggie was right, it was greatly needed. “The hourglass next to it, do you think it’s counting down to something.” He paused. “And if it is, what happens if we don’t get out of here in time?”
It was Maggie’s turn to take a drink this time. “You’re sure that there isn’t any other thing that you’re keeping from me or my sisters?” She asked. “The whole thing about secrets setting us free is starting to make a lot more sense now.”
The whitelighter shook his head. “Nothing I can think of. What about you?”
Maggie bit her lip, taking a long pause before answering. She seemed conflicted, maybe even mortified.
“I might have one. Maybe.” She said softly. “But I’m going to need another drink first.” Her hand rocked the empty whiskey glass back and forth as she came to her feet.
When she walked back from the kitchen, Harry was still seated on the sofa in front of the fireplace. He looked at her from a distance. He didn’t know why but a warm and nervous feeling spread over him. Probably caused by the fire or the strong drink, likely both. He kept his eyes on her. His forehead crinkled, studying her movements as she continued in his direction.
Maggie took a seat beside him, taking her time as she drank from her glass in complete silence and geared herself up to tell him the whole truth for the first time. She hadn’t even given thought to how she would begin. She really thought it would be a secret she’d take to the grave.
She laughed. “Oh, god. This is a lot more awkward than I thought it would be.” Harry was fascinated by her reaction—never really having seen her this flustered before in front of him. “It was so long ago, Har. Well, maybe not that long. I guess it depends on your definition of long.”
“Come on, Maggie. You have me on pins and needles here.” He said, his head moving to the side, searching for her big, brown eyes.
“Okay. Um… the truth is that before any of that insane Source crap went down, you and I had some really nice months, didn’t we?” She asked for reassurance.
Harry smiled. “Yes, of course we did.”
“You helped me practice my dance for that awful theater production at the University. We went on that road trip to Grand Rapids with Mel…”
Harry continued smiling. “It was nice to see you happy again after what happened to us last Christmas.”
“I liked you, Harry.” She blurted out. Then sighed, shutting her eyes for a moment. It had sounded better in her head. “I liked you and… you just saw right past me.” Her chest hurt, a reminder that memories faded but feelings were never forgotten.
“Let me finish. Please.” She took another gulp of her whiskey. “I chalked up the feelings to some kind of PTSD. You know how they say that people who go through something traumatic together form this type of bond that’s—I don’t know—different? Lifelong, I guess.”
He nodded, staring at her intently. His eyes shifting to her mouth every time she spoke. He knew very well what she was referring to.
“Well, I thought it was that.” She let out a little, timid giggle. “I thought it had to be that. Because I was already in love with someone else. There was no other explanation for what I was feeling. I even thought, maybe it was just gratitude for what you’d done for me. So I packed it all away somehow, along with those troublesome memories of Tartarus. Tucked it safely in my subconscious where it couldn’t bother me anymore.”
She finished off her drink. “There. That’s my secret.”
Harry didn’t know what to say. The way she felt had been obvious to him from the start. Her truth had come out already, whether she was aware of it or not. Those deep desires hadn’t been as hidden as Maggie thought. She had even fallen prey to Viralis because of it, and even admitted her love for him.. Yet, after those events, no one seemed inclined to mention any of it, and he certainly wasn’t going to be the first to bring it up.
“I guess this means it’s my turn to be honest?” He muttered.
Maggie looked at him, bottom lip moving nervously. Her heart began beating erratically all of a sudden.
“Maggie, you know my duties as whitelighter have always come first and foremost.” He let out a breath, trying to relax. “I would’ve never said anything or done anything that made you feel uncomfortable or scared. And showing any kind of preferential treatment would have been completely out of line. Let alone—” He stopped himself from saying more.
“What does that mean?”
“It means that it didn’t matter how you felt or how I felt at the time. Nothing could have come of it. You did the right thing and so did I—to leave those things unsaid and buried. You walked away from it and I chose to escape it too.”
Maggie got up from the couch, disbelief and confusion on her face. A bitter taste in her mouth, realizing that time had wasted away, that life had taken a turn soon after that because the truth had been left unspoken between them.
“You know how nice that would’ve been? To know that I wasn’t alone, Har?” She stared at the ornaments on the tree, the ones they’d picked together. "To know that it wasn't just in my head."
Harry approached her, his hands on her shoulders as he spoke softly. “You weren’t alone. You still had me, and you had your sisters.”
“I didn’t have you, Harry.” She said. “We had you. It could’ve been so different.”
“It wasn’t the right time.” He said.
“It wasn’t up to you to decide. If you had just told me…”
Harry looked at her bewildered. She was making it seem like it was entirely his fault. “This isn’t all on me, Maggie.”
She scoffed. “Really, Harry? You expected me to tell you how I felt? When was I supposed to do that? While you were tending to Macy’s every whim? Coddling her even though you knew her demon side couldn’t be trusted? That it was dangerous to get so close to her?”
“That’s not fair.” Harry countered. “There was a lot going on. Or did you forget that we were all on the precipice of death?”
“Yeah, I guess you were just too busy, huh?”
Harry smirked. “And where were you, Maggie? Trailing after the little demon boy? Tending to his every whim in hopes that he’d find redemption?”
Maggie flinched. He knew he’d hit a nerve.
He hated being the reason for her sadness. His eyes turned apologetic. “We both chose which road to take, Maggie. And we both decided not to take the same one.”
Maggie pursed her lips. “I should have known better. I admit it. I clung to him because he was familiar and he was—in my mind—the safe option. As crazy as that sounds. And look where that got me?” Her tone of voice was almost resentful. “What’s your excuse?”
“Why are you blaming me for something I never did? I told you time and time again, there never was and there never will be anything between me and Macy. Why don’t you believe me?”
He tipped the glass in his hand, clearly irritated, and swallowed the remaining whiskey. “There. That’s my secret.”
They both stood still, as if waiting for something to happen. Expecting the floor to begin shifting, waiting for a magical portal to open and take them back home.
“It didn’t work.” She whispered. “All it did was—“
Harry looked at her, eyes sorrowful. Telling the truth had ruptured sutures he didn’t know were there.
Maggie figured that sometime between the third glass of whiskey, they’d both fallen asleep, though she wasn’t exactly sure if they were living a new day or repeating the same one all over again. She remembered everything they’d said the night before, so maybe time was passing for them just the same.
She was standing in front of her window again, the time of the day identical to when she first appeared there. This time she only waited a few seconds before running down the stairs. It took her a couple rounds around the house before spotting Harry in the kitchen.
“This is insane!” Her displeasure more than justified.
Harry’s expression was practically unreadable. His eyes were fixed on her for a long moment before he spoke. “I’m sorry about last night.”
Maggie remained quiet.
“I’m sorry about everything. I know…” He said, “I know that things could have been so different had one single thing been different. But we can’t go back and change it, no matter how good that road not taken looks now.”
“I don’t want to fight with you.” She said. “You’re the only one I have here, and I really don’t want to spend my time digging up the past and being bitter over it. Okay? Plus, you’re right. I was blaming you for something you didn’t do and I also made the choice to run from it.” She sighed. “We could call it even?”
After a moment, Harry smiled. “We still need to figure out a way to get out of here.”
Maggie opened the fridge, her expression lightening up. She reached inside, pulling out a pitcher full of coquito. “We sure do! And until then, ‘tis the damn season, Harry.”
She grabbed two glasses and took the whole thing with her.
Between sips of the sweet drink, she listened to Harry ramble about possible solutions and theories. After a while her focus shifted from him to the familiar song that started playing in the room. Harry noticed she was distracted.
“I love that song.” She said. The softness of the lyrics making her smile. She looked so sad, it made Harry’s chest ache.
After a while, he extended his hand to her without saying a word, eyebrows perched.
She laughed. “You’re joking, right?”
He shook his head. “Come on, or did you forget what I taught you?”
Maggie chuckled but took his hand, finding a place to set her glass down. She rested one hand on his shoulder, watching as one of his hands wrapped around her small waist. The smell of him and his warmth, causing a stir in her belly.
“Why do you love this song so much?” He asked, guiding her across the floor. Pleased that she hadn’t forgotten how to follow his lead.
“I don’t know.” She looked at him, an ache flaring in her core. Having him at such close proximity really wasn’t aiding her predicament. Harry had no idea the effect he had on her still. “It’s a real bummer of a song, actually.” She managed to say.
Harry laughed, pulling her into him and then lightly pushing her away. Their bodies swaying beautifully and gracefully. He twirled her round and round, making Maggie beam. A wholehearted laugh erupting from her chest and heart beating faster every time he brought her back into him. Their chests meeting softly, faces so close their lips could have touched if they really wanted to.
They travelled all across the floor, and Maggie felt his hand glide from the small of her back higher up, his body slightly leaning into her as he masterfully lowered her into a dip. A piercing gaze reserved just for her, a frozen moment in time that she wished could last forever.
When he brought her back up, Maggie’s eyes flicked toward the ceiling. Harry looked up as well, seeing the mistletoe strung up over their heads.
There was a moment of trepidation as his eyes brushed over her face, concentrating on her lightly parted lips.
Maggie’s breathing hitched. “You do realize that if we do this, it means that you’ll forever lose any chance you might have with a certain person, right?”
Maggie was used to never being first. She was expecting Harry to back out and choose the prospect of a different relationship over her in that moment. But the whitelighter had made up his mind already, having consciously made the decision to not abide by the rules he’d set for himself, regardless of that possibility. He knew that deep down, in that heart of his, there had always been a space that was so uniquely hers. That would never change.
She closed her eyes, her whole body taking in the feeling of his lips as they touched hers for the first time. Her heart pumping in her chest, warmth spreading across her body. The taste of him instantly becoming her favorite.
They parted for just a few seconds, one kiss not being nearly enough to parch the thirst that had been building up in both of them. They knew they’d opened a pandora’s box and it would be impossible to put a lid on whatever they’d unleashed.
Harry kissed her again, his hands cupping her face this time. Her fingers caressing the back of his head, wet tongues touching gently, intensifying her craving for him. Without meaning to, she let out a little moan, igniting Harry’s normally cool composure.
They pulled away, foreheads pressed together.
“We could leave it at that…” He muttered, the way he looked at her screaming that he obviously didn’t wanting to.
“But we’re not going to, are we?” Maggie said, her warm breath was sweet against his lips. “If this is okay with you, it’s okay with me.”
He smiled, clinging to her lips again, more ardently each time. Maggie wrapped her arms around him a little tighter. Harry’s hands sliding down her back and over her rear as he picked her up, her legs enclosing his waist for just a couple minutes before he transported them into the confines of her bedroom.
Her hands wildly moved over him, bunching up the hem of his sweater and shirt as she pulled them over his head. His skin had only been a memory in her head, Maggie never thought she’d be lucky enough to touch him like this. She smiled, feeling his heartbeat on the palm of her hand as she ran her fingers over his chest.
She took a couple steps back. Her eyes were locked on him, hands unbuckling her belt and untucking her shirt as she undressed in his presence. She slowly rolled it up her stomach and over her chest, flinging it behind her.
Harry licked his lips, enchanted by her beauty. She unclipped her bra but didn’t take it off. Instead, she walked towards him again. Her hands becoming preoccupied with the button of his trousers, gliding the zipper down enough for her hand to slip in and cop a feel.
He stiffened. Lightly biting down on her lower lip as they kissed again. The straps of her bra slipped off her shoulders, her nakedness wounding him up further. Harry finished taking it off, kissing her neck as he revered her beauty.
“You’re absolutely breathtaking.”
Maggie moaned as his lips brushed along her collarbone and made their way down her chest. His searing tongue licking one delicate nipple, teasingly stroking it with its tip before he began sucking on it with fervor. Teeth gently gliding over her skin.
“Oh, god.” She uttered, arching her back as a rush of blood made her pussy ache and throb. Maggie could feel the wetness pooling in her center.
Harry couldn’t get enough of her, his mouth moving from one breast to the other, her whimpers only encouraging him more. Maggie was so aroused, her legs were starting to get shaky. Turning her to face the other way, he kissed the curvature of her neck, his hands knitting her peaks and exploring her upper body. His fingers splayed over her soft skin, fingertips trickling down in a path leading to the heat between her thighs.
Dipping his hand inside her unzipped jeans, he rubbed her clit over her underwear. Maggie writhed against his body, sensing the hardness of his cock against her ass as she swayed back and forth, rubbing herself on him.
When he twirled her to face him again, he slowly dropped to his knees, his hands pulling her jeans down to her ankles, helping her out of them carefully. He buried his face between her legs, his mouth nipping her underwear clad mound.
Maggie couldn’t take it anymore, she fell back into the bed, waiting for him to rip her underwear off and eat her out properly. After a little while, Harry did just that. His tongue ran along her silky folds, dipping into her sweet center and tasting every bit of her. She whimpered, uttering his name as he sucked on her delicate bud, engorged from the unraveling pleasure. Her center quivered, muscles tensing up as the sensation became overwhelming. A few seconds later, she let go, her body flailing in unabashed bliss.
Her cheeks were flushed, a smile spreading across her face as she steadied her breathing. Harry pulled himself back up, and hovered over her, enjoying the satisfied look on her face for a few moments.
“You’re really good at that.” She said, one finger tracing his lips. “What else are you good at?”
Harry chuckled but didn’t answer her question.
“I want you, Harry.” Her voice was full of yearning. “I should’ve never ignored the way I felt. I don’t want you just for a moment, or a day, or whatever this is.”
“Neither do I.” He admitted, wholeheartedly.
Maggie’s hands ran over his back, taut muscles clenching beneath her fingertips. She could still feel him, hard for her, wanting and needy. Her eyes coyly pleading for him to take her so much further, to that place of no return.
A light little nod was all it took. He slipped off the rest of his clothes. His warm nakedness blanketing her as he settled between her parted legs, eagerly spreading open for him.
He watched her face as she felt him fill her up little by little. Harry was so delicate, gaging her reaction for any sort of discomfort or objection. Maggie’s mouth dropped open, a satisfied moan leaving her lips. Her hips tilted toward him, welcoming more of him inside her. Soon, he began moving with more ease, pushing into her further each time as her body molded around him. Her wetness coating his length, helping him glide in and out of her a little faster.
Maggie bent her knees, bringing them into her body, allowing him to go deeper still. Harry bucked his hips, groaning and sighing at the feel of her moist pussy gripping tightly around him. He lasted in that position long enough for her to come undone once again.
Their entangled bodies rolled over on the bed until she was pinned beneath him, face down.
He cursed under his breath at the sight of her perfect backside pressed against him. Something that Maggie found vastly amusing, as he was always so proper and reserved. She turned slightly, looking back at him as he pushed into her again. His hands clutching her ass as he eagerly penetrated her depths.
Her hands clutched the pillow. “You feel so good.” She whimpered, body trembling, engulfed in pleasure as he hit her sweet spot over and over.
Harry could feel himself getting close. He’d known the moment he turned her around that he was a goner.
“Look at me.” He said, “I wanna see your face.”
She turned again, brown eyes locked on him, mouth open and moaning as he collided with her. In a moment, Harry lost all sense of control. His warm release coursed into her, and his moans joined the perfect sound of their connecting bodies and Maggie’s gratified cries.
Maggie still felt like she was on cloud nine as she stepped out of the bathroom and picked her clothes off the floor.
“I can deal with this place if it means doing that all over again.” She said, putting her clothes back on. “You know, it’s strange. I’ve felt this way about you for like split seconds at a time. But now, it’s like the floodgates have suddenly opened. Like a dam broke or something. Is that weird?”
Harry smiled but his expression went serious almost instantly.
“Har…” Maggie said, afraid that he was already regretting what they’d done.
He caught on right away. “It’s not what you think.” But his silence was worrisome to her. “Maggie, I know why you locked away your feelings for me.” He admitted.
“You wanted it that way. We both did.” He explained. “Not long after I returned from my trip with Mel and told you about my son. You had just broken things off with Parker again and I thought you were confused about your feelings.”
She soaked in his words. “Harry, what did you do?”
“I didn’t do anything. We talked about it. You were fully on board with fixing something you thought was broken. I promise you, Maggie. I didn’t make you do anything you didn’t want to do. I would never do that.”
“Then what did I do?”
He sighed. “You found a spell that would lock everything away, like you said. And it worked. For you. It obviously wasn’t forever lasting.” He paused. “That is the whole truth.”
“That’s your secret.” She whispered.
The words had barely left her lips when they both realized the magic that had trapped them there had been undone. It took only a few seconds this time for everything to shift around them, in the blink of an eye they were standing in front of Mel again.
Macy was halfway up the staircase, having stopped once she saw them reappear.
“What the hell was that?” Mel asked, panic in her voice.
It took Maggie a minute to make sense of things. “What do you mean? Weren’t you guys stuck inside a snow globe too?”
Mel shook her head.
From across the room, Macy yelled. “You two were gone and then you were just back. I didn’t even get a chance to check the Book of Shadows.”
They all stood around the Book, staring at the picture of the silent bell painted on its tattered pages. Maggie held the physical bell in her hand.
"That's it." She said quietly.
Mel read through the description. "It says here that it grants the holder one wish, though not always in the way the holder intended. The scripture engraved on it is the same phrase that demon goat said before you two got trapped inside."
"Did you wish for something at any point while it was in your possession?" Macy asked.
Harry cleared his throat and took a few steps back, feeling a bit of the tension emanating from Maggie as she contemplated her answer. "It wasn't really a wish, it was more of a thought about last year and how differently some things could have been."
Her brown eyes shot glances at Harry every now and then. His kind eyes were receptive, a little smile on his lips.
Mel and Macy were waiting for more. "And? You guys disappeared. What happened?” Mel asked.
"Well, we had to figure out what secret would break the spell that put us there." Maggie replied.
Mel looked at her and Harry, wondering what it was that they were hiding.
"And no, I'm not going to tell you what it was. Isn't that the whole point of a secret?" Maggie added.
Harry's eyes widened when the sisters looked at him for answers. “Don’t look at me. I’m not saying a word. Besides, if that thing would have wanted everyone to know them then it would've trapped all of us in there, don't you think?"
"He's right, Mel." Macy agreed. “Maybe we should all call it a night and get some rest, you two look exhausted.”
No one argued with that assessment. One by one, they headed out of the attic and into their respective bedrooms.
Maggie was finishing up her nightly beauty routine when she felt Harry's presence orb into her private space.
"You realize the time to come clean will be here sooner or later?" Harry said, trying to keep his voice down.
She smiled, turning to face him, and taking a few steps in his direction. "Maybe we should get rid of that bell so it won't be around next Christmas for anyone to ask."
He laughed. "It found it's way to you. Who's to say it won't find its way to your sisters?"
Maggie didn't hesitate with her actions, her arms stretched toward him. Her fingers interlocking as they rested on the nape of his neck. Harry couldn't help staying away from her any longer. He brushed her soft cheek with his hand, his thumb running along the curvature of her lower lip. Slowly, his face inched closer to her, lips pressing together in a sweet and tender kiss.
They both knew they couldn't keep things hidden forever. They knew that their secret would come back to haunt them, and it would likely happen soon. But they no longer had to hide it from each other, and that's all that mattered.
For now—for that moment—the season was right. What they had was just theirs, and it was everything Maggie had wished for.