'twas the night before Christmas, and Harry Potter found himself questioning why he was doing what he was doing. He huffed and puffed as he slowly and carefully climbed the rickety old ladder perched against the tall brick wall. He gulped when he saw just how high up he was from the snowy ground and his cold, stiff fingers tightened their hold on the rungs. He shivered in the wind as the snow fell from the dark, starry sky.
It was quiet all around him - if one didn't count the creaks of the wooden ladder. Not a creature was stirring, except for the man slowly climbing up the side of the wall.
It wouldn't have been so bad if there hadn't been a freak snowstorm that had hit Britain just that morning. The worst of it had come and gone, but still, the chill remained in the air. It had given them a white Christmas, but it simply made his job harder.
He wished he had put on something warmer, but his current outfit was mandatory. Sure, he could have cast a heating charm before attempting this, but that time had come and gone, and Harry Potter felt determined to finish what he started, how he started it. At least the hat he wore kept his head somewhat warm, and the white beard also kept half his face shielded from the wind. Unfortunately, breathing – which he was doing a lot of – directed the air right up to his glasses causing them to fog up.
The sack strapped to his back didn't make his burden any lighter. Thankfully, it didn't take much longer for him to reach the roof. Carefully, he stepped onto it while avoiding the dangling icicles at its edge.
He breathed a sigh of relief (which caused his glasses to fog up again) grateful that his feet were finally on something firm. The wide, sloped rooftop was blanketed entirely with snow, so he cautiously made his way towards the chimney stack, walking slowly so as to not alert anyone of his presence.
He grinned triumphantly when he finally reached the large, wide chimney. He removed the sack from his back and lowered it onto the snow beside him. He grasped the crown of the chimney and peeked into its dark depths.
No smoke was coming through it (he had made sure of that, of course) though there was a metal grill within arm's reach to prevent any unwanted objects from entering from the outside. As much as he wanted to finish this the Muggle way, he had not brought a crowbar, so the only way to get past the grill was to do it magically.
After all, Harry Potter had a very good reason for breaking into this house at Christmas, and no bothersome bits of metal was going to stop him.
His gloved hand felt for his wand in the back pocket of his red suit. He pointed it towards the grill, leaning back a little as he did.
"Diffindo minima," he whispered, slashing his wand in the air.
What he expected was for a clean cut to be made so that he could pry the bars open with his hands.
What he did not expect was for the sound of alarms to ring through the air, breaking the tranquillity of the silent night. He froze when he heard multiple bangs of apparition around him and his jaw dropped when at least a dozen witches and wizards appeared on the snowy rooftop. In his peripheral vision, he saw dozens more materialize from thin air all around the home, completely surrounding the property.
"PUT YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR AND DROP YOUR WAND!" The closest Auror to him roared as they all pointed their wands at him.
Numbed by shock at what was happening, Harry followed their instructions and dropped his wand before raising both of his hands. Vaguely he saw his wand hit the sack at his feet before disappearing into the snow. Slowly and cautiously, the wizards on the rooftop started to approach him, tightening the circle. At the same time, half of the wizards on the ground entered the home, presumably to ensure that the occupants were safe and to conduct a sweep of the inside. The other half, meanwhile, kept their wands trained upwards and at him, ready to assist their colleagues should anything go awry.
"You are under arrest on suspicion of trespassing onto a Class S property. You are not obliged to say anything, but anything you do say will be noted and may be used in evidence…" the Auror said, as his hands were forced behind his back. The wizard retrieved magical shackles from within his pocket and it was only when the shackles were clamped onto his wrists did Harry hear a voice he recognized.
"Alert the Head of the DMLE that a strange wizard tried to break into the Minister's home... Yes, the man has already been apprehended but he looks… strange... Could be very dangerous... The Chief might want to interrogate the suspect himself... I'll send some Aurors to sweep the property but it looks like he acted alone," Head Auror Neville Longbottom said into a magical earpiece as he glared at the old man decked in red.
His friend's words were what broke him out of his shocked reverie. It was then that the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, Chief Harry Potter, realized that he had forgotten to disable the wards around his own home.
Minister for Magic Hermione Potter née Granger was not happy.
She was awakened very early on Christmas morning (the clock on her bedside said it was just past one) by shrill alarm bells reverberating throughout the house. Her heart beat rapidly in her chest as she grabbed her wand from underneath her pillow, before noticing that her husband was not beside her. She assumed that he had already been jolted awake and had rushed outside to check on what was amiss, so she ran straight to the children's wing to check on the kids.
She panicked when she saw that all five of them were not in their bedrooms and just about lost her mind until she saw them sitting on the spiral staircase in the middle of the house. All five were frozen in shock as they clutched the bannister, their eyes on the double doors of the grand entrance, which was opened into the cold of the night as a steady stream of Aurors hurried in and out with their wands drawn.
She gathered the children around her as the Aurors filed into the wide marble foyer. Some of them broke out into groups of two to check each room of the house. Her eyes scanned the ranks of the remaining Aurors in the foyer as she looked frantically for her husband. He was nowhere in sight. Fear gripped her heart and she silently tried to reassure herself that he was okay. He had to be okay.
"Minister Potter," Auror Captain Lukas Duponte greeted her with a nod. He was a stoic man who led the team of Aurors that was officially in charge of their protection. "A man tried to enter this home via the chimney. He used the severing charm to gain access past the metal bars, but the spell triggered the wards. He's been arrested and his wand has been confiscated," he reported. Hermione breathed a sigh of relief. It sounded, at least, like the situation was under control. Lukas' icy blue eyes scanned the surroundings confusedly and she saw him frown a little. "We'll be taking him back to the Ministry for questioning… is Chief Potter around?" he asked hesitantly. "I think he'd like to be involved."
"You mean he wasn't out there?" Hermione asked quietly. Her heart felt like it was being squeezed in a vice as she tried to keep herself calm in front of the children.
Lukas' frown deepened, and he was about to answer when his superior entered through the front door.
The sight of Neville Longbottom helped calm Hermione a little, even more so when she saw the unexpected smile on his face. His wand wasn't drawn either, nor were the wands of the entourage of Aurors behind him whom she figured were the ones who had carried out the arrest.
"Neville, where's Harry?" Hermione asked immediately.
She saw the man's smile widen which heightened her confusion. "He was outside," he answered.
Hermione frowned. Nothing was making sense. If Harry was outside, why would Lukas ask where he was? "Where is he then? Is he with the intruder?" She asked, confused.
Neville grinned. "You could say that."
Her nerves were being pushed to the limit. She was about to berate him for his cheeky reply when a movement at the door drew her attention. Three people stepped through the wide front entrance. The two Aurors who supported the man in between them tried to keep the grins off their faces, but to no avail. Meanwhile, the man in the middle, who was dressed in a red suit, hung his head in shame. The white pompom of his pointy red hat bounced pathetically in the air.
Hermione felt her jaw turn slack.
It was deafeningly quiet. The sea of Aurors in the foyer silently parted as the two Aurors delivered the man right up to the foot of the staircase. Hermione stared at the man in shock and could only blink when he raised his head.
The man looked at her sheepishly. His green eyes were already begging for forgiveness as his lips curved into a timid smile. The fake white beard had been tugged to below his chin, exposing his whole face, the top half of which was flushed due to the biting cold outside.
"Hey, love," his baritone voice greeted, breaking the silence. Harry Potter chuckled, embarrassed, and turned to the side a little bit to show his wife his still-shackled hands. "Mind doing the counterspell on these, please? They're the special ones that only the Minister and Head of the DMLE can remove and, um, yeah."
Hermione stood, motionless, as the puzzle pieces fell into place. Her eyes widened and she heard coughs break out all around them. She realized that the Aurors were trying to disguise their laughter.
Before she could say anything, her precious baby girl spoke up. Four-year-old Lilliana Potter gazed at her dad with a questioning look on her face. Her brown eyes were squinted and there was a cute little frown on her lips.
"Daddy, why're you dressed like Santa Claus?"
The assembled Aurors burst into laughter, Harry included, but Hermione? No, Minister for Magic Hermione Potter née Granger was not happy at all.
It took almost another hour for the Aurors to clear out of the house. Official statements had to be taken even if the intruder was the owner of the home. The youngest Potter also insisted on sharing some of the Christmas cookies she and her siblings had baked that afternoon with the Aurors. Winky, the house elf, then prepared a full spread for all of the witches and wizards who were awoken that night. The Ministry workers were more than appreciative of the spot of tea and Christmas cookies they were given before they apparated back to their own homes.
The house was mostly quiet again, and six of the Potters sat in front of the now-roaring fireplace in the family room. There was a huge balsam fir all decked out for the holidays which stood tall in one corner. There were no presents underneath it though, but a large and suspicious black sack was carelessly left in front of it. One could see through the opening that there were presents inside.
Teddy Lupin Potter sat on one of the couches in front of the crackling fireplace. Lilliana was beside him, munching on a sugar cookie shaped like a golden snitch. Her feet were swinging against the front of the couch as she combed her hand through the family dog's long fur. Snuffles dozed with his large head perched on Lilliana's knee. The twins, Sebastian and Corinne, were playing with a toy train set while Jamie was reading a book in the settee beside their mum.
Teddy looked at his mum and couldn't help but think that their dad was in a lot of trouble. Even though she was smiling at Jamie as they read the illustrated book together, her eyes kept darting to the direction of the front foyer. Dad was currently saying goodbye to Uncle Neville and Teddy heard them exchange holiday wishes. He next heard the sound of the door closing followed by footsteps which grew louder at every step.
Their dad appeared at the entrance and Teddy saw his mum's eyes narrow. He gulped, for those stern brown eyes held a promise that their dad was not getting out of trouble so easily. After all, he was still wearing the red suit which spoke of his crimes, though he lost the fake beard and the floppy hat some time ago.
His little sister saw their dad enter and she immediately smiled. She gave Teddy half of the cookie she was eating and skipped over to their father. "Daddy!" she cried, as she jumped into his arms. Her laughter followed as their dad tickled her sides.
The pair sat down with Lilly sitting on their dad's lap.
"I think it's time for the children to go back to bed, don't you think?" Mum's question rang loud and clear over the sound of their playing.
There were groans all around, even from Teddy.
"You've all had enough… excitement for tonight. Besides, it's already past two. It is far too late for you to be up," she continued.
"Mum's right," their dad said immediately, eagerly agreeing with his wife with a nod of his head. "It's time for bed!"
There were more groans, with the loudest coming from Lilly.
"But Daddy, we need to stay up for Santa Claus!" She protested emphatically. "We don't have presents yet! And… and you never said why you were dressed like him tonight!"
Her exclamation was met with silence. Teddy exchanged a wide-eyed look with Jamie. He noticed that even the twins, rowdy as they were at the age of ten, stopped tinkering with the train set and looked to their dad to see his reply.
The Potter children were coerced by their youngest sister to wake up after bedtime to wait for Santa Claus. She was insistent that he had to come that night, since there were still no presents underneath the Christmas tree. She had even prepared a plate of the prettiest Christmas cookies they baked, as well as a cup of milk, which she had placed on a small table right next to the fireplace.
Now, Teddy was already in his second year at Hogwarts. He knew years before that Father Christmas wasn't real. Jamie was a first-year while the twins would be joining them next September. They, too, were aware that the man didn't exist.
But not their baby sister. She was only four, and she still believed in the man in the red suit who supposedly delivered presents to children worldwide while riding a reindeer-drawn sleigh. Her siblings went along with this since they loved her a lot (and also because their mum would give them an earful if they spoiled her fantasy at such a young age).
Teddy had no idea that their dad planned this little show. He probably overheard Lilly whispering to them about catching Santa Claus in the act. So, Teddy and the rest of the older siblings wondered just how their dad was going to get out of this mess.
"Yes, darling, why don't you tell Lilly why you're dressed like that," their mum's voice said sarcastically. Teddy's head swivelled from looking at their dad to looking at his mum. Her eyebrow was raised in a typical Hermione Granger-Potter fashion.
The four older Potter siblings held their breaths.
Dad chuckled nervously, and even Teddy started to feel bad for him. He had no idea what his dad was going to say to preserve their baby sister's innocence when he was caught red-handed and literally apprehended by Aurors in the act of performing Santa Claus' task.
"Well, Lilly," their dad began, as he stroked Lilliana's curly black hair, "Santa Claus… Santa Claus sent a letter to mummy and I that he needed… help with delivering presents. He's running a little late, you see, because of the snowstorm this morning. And he would feel so bad if you didn't get your presents."
Teddy wondered if his sister was going to accept this non-answer to her question.
"Oh," Lilly replied with wide-eyed innocence. "Oh, I see… that's very nice of you, Daddy," she said with a small smile. Teddy saw his dad exhale in relief thinking that he was in the clear. "But why did you put on Santa's suit?"
Teddy bit his bottom lip to keep from giggling at their dad's look of distraught. He watched as dad turned to their mum for help and silently pleaded with his eyes. Meanwhile, his siblings watch the exchange with great interest, their heads swivelling back and forth as if they were watching a Quidditch match.
Hermione sighed. She stood up with a smile and walked across the carpet to where dad and Lilly were sitting. She sat down beside them and playfully leaned close to Lilly's ear like she had a secret to tell.
"Because it's magic," she said quietly, though everyone in the room still heard her. Lilly gasped and Hermione nodded knowingly. "Santa's suit is enchanted. It's what allows him to go down the chimneys, you see. But that means that Santa could only get help from magical parents. That's why daddy had to wear it."
"Wow," Lilly breathed in awe. She shuffled on their dad's lap until she was facing him. She ran a small hand down the front of the red suit in utter amazement, her fingers tracing around each of the black buttons. She looked up to her dad and grinned widely. "Daddy, you are so cool!"
There was a collective breath of relief from all of the Potters around her, though she continued to examine the suit in awe so she didn't notice. Their dad chuckled warmly and Teddy saw him mouth a thank you towards their mum from above Lilly's head. Teddy saw her playfully roll her eyes, though she smiled in return.
Teddy finally let out a giggle which earned him a wink from his dad. This was a Christmas they were going to remember for a very long time.
Ten minutes later saw all the kids tucked into their beds once again. Hermione was closing the door to Lilly's bedroom when she saw her husband standing outside in the hallway. He was still wearing that ridiculous costume as he approached her.
"Happy Christmas," he whispered. His hands wrapped around her waist and he lowered his head for a kiss.
Hermione turned her head slightly to dodge his lips. Harry looked at her, seemingly hurt, though she only narrowed her eyes and pursed her lips. "You're still in trouble, Mr. Potter," she said sternly. "You caused quite the mayhem tonight."
He pouted. "I know, I know, I'm sorry. I can't believe I forgot about the wards."
"Honestly! A whole Auror squadron showed up! You gave us all a fright!"
Harry cringed. He tightened his hold around her waist and drew her in for a hug, resting his chin on top of her shoulder. "I'm really sorry, Hermione."
She sighed, though she returned his embrace. She squeezed him tightly and nuzzled her cheek against his chest. "It's alright. Though next time you do something like this, make sure to tell me."
He withdrew from their embrace and looked at her with mischievous eyes. A lopsided grin graced his lips which caused her heartbeat to accelerate. "So I'm permitted to do something like this again?" he asked.
She snorted and playfully swatted his chest with her hand. "You're ridiculous."
He laughed softly and every tremor caused by his laughter drew a bigger smile on her face. "Ah, but yet you still love me, Minister Potter."
"Yes, I must be mad."
"I wouldn't have it any other way."
She laughed when he scooped her up in one swish. She clung to his neck as he walked towards their bedroom.
As the Potters fell back into slumber, a sense of tranquility settled over the entire household.
It was a silent night once again.