Dumbledore sat down wearily. He removed his glasses and placed them carefully on top of his desk. He let out a sigh and rubbed his eyes, grimacing slightly when his blackened hand touched the skin of his face. These last few months had aged the headmaster considerably. The wrinkles in his face were deeper, and the twinkle in his eyes was almost gone.
Disregarding his glasses for the moment, Dumbledore leaned back in his chair and stared blankly out the window.
No matter how often he used his Pensieve, no matter how hard he tried to forget… The knowledge, the troubles, the memories, they were always there.
He had failed so often. So many lives had been cut short. For every accomplishment that could be pointed at, someone had fallen. How could he celebrate his trivial successes when he had witnessed tragedy after tragedy?
Right now his mind was on young Harry. Harry Potter, the Boy who Lived. Dumbledore shook his head, smiling slightly at the irony. Harry had survived more in the last five years than any average person would in their entire life; a basilisk, a dragon, several battles with Death Eaters. He’d even come face to face with Voldemort himself a handful of times and managed to come out alive each time, although not without injury.
And yet he’d been given that title for one incident, fifteen years ago. One simple accident, one last plea from his mother, and Harry had survived. Protected by an ancient magic no one could possibly have counted on.
His brow creased as he thought of that night. He’d always been wary of having Peter Pettigrew as the Potter’s secret-keeper, he’d never known why; something had always just seemed so odd about him. He had however, agreed to the arguments put forward by Lily and James. No one would suspect Peter, indeed. With all of James and Lily’s friends, who would imagine them trusting mousy little Peter Pettigrew with their lives? Why, when they could choose between the Sirius, Mad-Eye, the Longbottoms, and the Weasleys? Even Dumbledore himself, had offered to be their secret-keeper, and eventually thought he had succeeded in persuading them to pick someone other than Peter.
Dumbledore sometimes got a little angry when he remembered how guilty he had felt when Peter had been ‘killed’, and, shamefully he remembered how even though it was a terrible thing, a small weight had been lifted from his shoulders when he found out that Sirius had been wrongfully imprisoned, and that he had, after all, been right about Peter.
He closed his eyes to the blurry image of the night. What had happened was past. There was no changing it. There was plenty to think about in the present and future. First and foremost was Harry. He needed to be educated about Tom Riddle’s life. The clues needed to be gathered about the Horcruxes.
How could he help Harry be prepared if he spent all of his time regretting things from the past? There were the Potters, the Longbottoms, Sirius…. countless others.
A knock on the door pulled him abruptly from his thoughts, back to the present. At his call, the door opened revealing a house-elf carrying a large tray.
“Thank you, Knobbly,” he said as the tray was placed on the corner of his desk. The smell of hot cocoa and freshly baked biscuits quickly filled his office, and he smiled at the small house-elf.
“You is very welcome, sir!” the house-elf said cheerfully. “Knobbly also has presents for his Headmaster!” He rushed back to the door and lugged an extremely large bag into the room. He made quick work of unloading the wrapped gifts out of the bag, piling them high onto the center of Dumbledore’s desk.
“Thank you again,” Dumbledore said.
Sensing that Dumbledore wasn’t in much of a chatting mood, Knobbly bowed low, his nose lightly touching the floor. “Merry Christmas, sir,” he said and hurried out of the room.
Dumbledore picked his glasses up and placed them in their spot on the bridge of his nose. He reached out and picked up the closest box to him.
“To Albus, ~ Happy Christmas, Minerva”
He opened the box to find a first edition of a book he had loved as a child. He was only mildly surprised she’d remembered the off-handed remark. Minerva always did have an excellent memory.
“Headmaster – Severus”
A notebook filled with Snape’s memories of first joining the Death Eaters. This would indeed be helpful as he collected as many pieces of Voldemort as he could find.
“Headmaster Dumbledore ~ Regards, Sybil”
Sybil had given him a small pile of books all about fortune-telling and good luck, and how it related to battles and war in general. He put those aside with a slight grimace, reminding himself that she only meant well.
Ten minutes later and Dumbledore had a large collection of books. He paused to take a sip of his cocoa, and organised the books into three piles. One pile he would definitely read (Severus’ notebook placed directly on top). Another pile of books he would read if he ever found the time. The last pile, which was largest by far, was a stack of books he intended to shelve immediately and had little to no desire to open.
He turned back to the window and noticed it had started snowing again. An owl flew by, and Dumbledore took a moment to admire the scenery. The grounds at Hogwarts were rivaled by none. The Whomping Willow was outlined by the moonlight, and he could see the Giant Squid poking holes through the ice.
Going back to his presents, Dumbledore noted that all of them were square and rather heavy-looking. More books, he sighed to himself, and popped a biscuit in his mouth before reaching for the next gift.
Three more stacks of books later, Dumbledore noticed a rather bumpy, oddly-wrapped gift stuck in between two piles of more books. He reached out and grasped it with his good hand.
“Headmaster – I hope this year you get everything you desire. Harry”
Dumbledore felt his eyes moisten slightly at the thoughtfulness of the young boy. He rarely received gifts from students.
He squeezed the lumpy gift slightly and felt it give a little bit. His curiosity was peaked. What on earth would Harry give him? Despite his eagerness to open the gift, Dumbledore put it aside and finished opening up the rest of his presents. All books, just as he’d predicted.
“At last,” he murmured to himself as he picked up the gift from Harry. Memories flying around his mind, Dumbledore pictured every conversation he’d ever had with Harry.
His hands shook as he slowly tore the paper away from the present. He forced his gaze towards a portrait on the wall, not wanting to spoil the surprise until it was completely unwrapped.
Finally. He looked down and let out a little snort of laughter, even as tears filled his eyes. Somehow Harry still managed to keep his sense of humour even through all he’d been through. Sitting in Dumbledore’s lap were three pairs of thick, woolly socks.
~*~ A/N: This was my response to maskerade's "Be careful what you wish for" challenge.
Did you like it? Did you hate it? Do you get the reference at the end? Let me know. :)
I also must thank my wonderful Beta SkySong for helping me out! You're the best!
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