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Beta-reader: Vaughn 7. Snow Is Falling A/N: This chapter is a tiny bit darker, but not that it would require an R-Rating. ':-:' 21st December 1996 This last Saturday in December was the first – and, most likely, the last – that Harry didn't have any additional DADA lessons. He, Ron and Hermione were outside of Hogwarts, waiting for Tonks to pick them up. They were travelling per Portkey to London, where they'd spend the weekend with Remus. Harry was going to return to Hogwarts afterwards – more additional DADA lessons to even out the ones he'd miss this day –, Ron and Hermione would spend the rest of the Christmas holidays at the Burrow, and Tonks would be staying at Black Manor to keep Remus company. "I hope Remus is doing all right," Hermione said, pulling her scarf tighter around herself. It was getting pretty cold, gentle snowdrops falling down to earth and covering the ground in innocent whiteness. "He didn't say much in his last letter." "He's doing a lot of research," Ron said, flicking her concern off. "That doesn't mean he's fine, though," Hermione countered. Harry wasn't really listening to them. He rather observed Malfoy and Parkinson leave Hogwarts and make their way over to a waiting carriage. Normally, the carriages only brought the students to Hogsmeade station on Friday, not on Saturday as well. They had probably made an exception for the two Slytherins. Hermione and Ron watched them, too, now. "They always have their own laws," Ron said bitterly. Hermione burst out laughing at the reference, but the boys didn't get it. "Draco and Parkinson," she giggled. "Isn't 'Parkinson' a disease? Or Parkinsons?" Harry asked with a frown. "Makes your muscles shiver and such?" Hermione nodded. "Then Malfoy must've caught it, right?" Ron said, barely concealing his smirk. "Twitchy little ferret that he is..." He laughed, and even Hermione cracked a small smile. ':-:' Remus wasn't looking all that good, Harry decided, surreptitiously looking his almost-godfather up and down. He had lost some weight, there were heavy bags under his eyes, and the lines marring his face were more prominent than ever. Harry didn't wait another second, and just hugged Remus. He didn't care how it looked to his friends, and he didn't even care if Remus didn't like it. Over the last months, all he did was learn, train and learn some more, getting prepared for the final battle with Voldemort. Somewhere along the way Harry had forgotten that there were other people, friends of his, with their own problems, as well. "How are you?" Harry whispered, wanting to right some of his wrongs immediately. Remus glanced over Harry's shoulder at Tonks, Ron and Hermione. "Let's get you settled in first, shall we?" He tried to gently pry Harry's hands off, but the boy wouldn't be moved. Hermione, getting the hint, said, "Come on, Ron. I'm hungry. Let's look what we've got in the kitchen." She dragged the redhead with her, Tonks following. "How are you?" Harry asked again once his friends were out of earshot. "Your letters were always quite formal and not saying anything." Remus sighed. "You can be more persistent than Severus, you know?" he asked lightly, referring to the time when Snape had locked him in place in order to get him to eat something. All on Dumbledore's orders, of course. "I'm all right – okay, I'm better." He smiled slightly, wrapping his arm around Harry's shoulder. "Come, let's get something to eat." "You could do with a bit more to eat," Harry said, feeling Remus stiffen beside him. "I'm concerned, that's all." Remus sighed, relaxing again. "I appreciate that concern, really, but there's nothing to worry you about, Harry. I'm fine, or at least I'm going to be. It's just a stressful time now. Voldemort has been keeping a low profile after – well, Trelawney – I'm afraid he's planning something big." Harry nodded. For once he knew exactly what Remus was talking about, because he was up-to-date to the on-goings in the Order. They prepared some dinner together – Tonks managing to nearly cut her own finger off -, and Harry kept an eye on Remus so the werewolf had no other choice but eat everything on his plate like a good boy. "Tonks, you should have someone have a look at that," Hermione said queasily, pointing to the bandaged finger, where blood started dripping down again. "I don't think merely 'wrapping it up' will do the trick." Frowning, Tonks looked at her finger. Then she shrugged and said, "Okay." Remus grimaced, beckoned Tonks to stand, and led her out of the kitchen. "Let's see what Benu can do for you..." he said quietly. Ten minutes later, they were back and Tonks' finger was healed. ':-:' 22nd September 1996 The second and last day of their stay at Black Manor, Harry and the others exchanged their Christmas presents. There wasn't anything big, just small things. Hermione gave Remus a tiny Knarl ("Her name is Carroty – no, that's not a joke.") she had bought to keep him company, even after Tonks left. Buckbeak had been moved to Hungary after Sirius' death, and she thought it would be a good idea. Harry mostly received practical items. From Remus, though, he got something else. "Here," Remus said, leading Harry into the library. The large mahogany desk was empty save one circular object made of stone. "I wasn't sure whether it's such a good idea, but I gathered – well, I'm not entirely sure you'll like it. I hope so." "A Pensieve?" Harry asked, stepping closer to the table. "No, a memory," Remus corrected softly. Harry's eyes grew wide, glancing from the Pensieve to Remus and back again. He could see the silvery swirling on the surface now, announcing that a memory was trapped inside, beckoning Harry closer. "May I?" he asked very softly. "Of course," Remus smiled. "It's your present. I hope you'll like it..." Harry didn't wait for another second. He stepped forward, leant down, and pressed his face into the shiny surface of the Pensieve. One second he was surefooted in the middle of Sirius' old library, and the next Harry was falling head first into a whirlwind, transporting him back in time. When Harry landed on his feet, he was in the middle of the Gryffindor common room. There were red and golden decorations, even more than usual, showing for all and sundry that it was Christmas time. The fire was crackling peacefully, throwing dancing shadows across the almost empty room. There were only a few students left, and on one couch, Harry recognised his parents, Sirius, Remus and Peter Pettigrew. Harry swallowed, deciding to ignore the rat, and walked over to them. It was something entirely different, he thought, awed, looking at a magical picture and seeing them in a real life memory. His mother was beautiful, and for the first time Harry could say he really saw that he inherited his eyes from her. They were sparkling with laughter at something Harry's father had said. This had to be their seventh year, then. Harry sat down in front of the couch, intent on absorbing every second of the memory, because he didn't exactly know how long it would take. He didn't really listen to what they were saying, only getting the general drift. He was lulled by the voice of his mother – this time not screaming at Voldemort -, so soft and gentle. His father put an arm around his future wife, and she leant into him, kissing his cheek. Sirius was rolling his eyes at Remus, who smiled indulgently. Harry could honestly say that this was his best Christmas present ever. Even Hagrid's photo album hadn't given him as much pleasure as this memory. Just as he felt the memory coming to an end, though, Harry's scar started burning furiously. The pain spiked quickly, white flashing behind Harry's closed eyelids. Then Harry was on his back, floating back out of the Pensieve, and at the same time he was still in the Gryffindor common room, although there was anther scene playing before his eyes. Remus was sitting alone at one of the desks, writing some kind of list. Peter was leaning over, asking eagerly, "What are you doing?" Remus looked at the other boy with a blank expression, holding the parchment so Peter couldn't see it. "Homework." Peter frowned for a second, but then he shrugged and ran off to Sirius as the black-haired boy entered the room through the portrait. Harry read the list Remus had composed since it was held in his direction. Monk. Virgin. Grindelwald. When Harry landed on his feet in the library again, he had forgotten about the second memory. ':-:' "Thank you," Harry said emphatically, embracing Remus almost violently. "That was my best present ever." Remus laughed quietly. "You're welcome. I was not sure..." "It's perfect." Harry closed his eyes, just enjoying the moment. He had never felt more connected, so near to his parents. Ron and Hermione didn't disturb them, and Harry was thankful for that. He needed the comfort now, after months, after years of pent-up emotions. He cried silently, Remus holding him, not saying anything, because words weren't needed. It was almost twenty minutes later when Harry left the library again. He didn't see the phoenix in the back, sleeping fitfully, and he didn't feel how his wand warmed in sympathy. ':-:' 25th December 1996 Severus Snape was not a man known to take pleasure in the joyful atmosphere of Christmas, nor was he likely to ever develop said feeling. This Christmas, though, was slightly different. He was hoping for a wonder. Ever since the beginning of the holidays, he was more strained than ever, taking points en masse, giving out detentions like there was no tomorrow. And maybe there wasn't, Snape wasn't sure. ':-:' Harry Potter was feeling far more festive. Added to his best present ever, it was Wednesday, which meant he wouldn't have to suffer Snape's surly presence. Snape was more uptight than Harry had ever seen him, lashing out at everything that moved, even if it turned out to be one of his Slytherins. Snape wasn't making a difference. Harry thought back, wondering whether Snape had ever acted that rash in previous Christmas holidays, but he came up blank. He couldn't remember. Harry sat in the middle of Neville and Tonks, still in her Phasky-disguise. The House as well as the Head Table were not in the Great Hall, but melded together in the middle, where the staff and all students spending their holidays at Hogwarts sat together. After the boisterous breakfast was finished, the owl post arrived. Harry received a short note from Remus, wishing him Merry Christmas once more. Harry smiled, deciding to write him back before he met with Hagrid for his training. A large eagle owl sailed down then, catching everyone's attention. It flew directly towards Dumbledore, who held out one hand for the bird to land on. Harry thought he recognised the owl as the Malfoy's, but he wasn't entirely sure. Dumbledore frowned while he read the letter that had been attached to the owl's leg. Then he moved to stand, excused himself and left the Great Hall. Just as Dumbledore had walked through the doors, another owl flew down towards the table. It looked nothing like the aristocratic eagle owl, though, but rather like a tattered rag. The owl landed next to Snape's goblet and the Potions master, though frowning, fed it a large peace of bacon from Dumbledore's abandoned plate. Then Snape untied the small piece of paper – Harry looked again, but yes, it was paper, not parchment – and read it quickly, before stuffing it into his robe pocket. Harry didn't think that this would be so important. He didn't hear Snape's sigh of relief, and he didn't realise that the Potions master was now 'relaxed.' As Harry made to stand, already formulating his reply to Remus in his mind, the last post arrived at the table. It was a brown barn owl, carrying a large, red envelope and depositing it directly in front of Cho Chang, the Ravenclaw's Seeker. Chang frowned, obviously not sure why she would receive a Howler on Christmas morning. She was about to leave the hall to open the letter in peace. Then it exploded into her face. Literally. Action followed immediately. Screaming students were leaping to their feet, teachers were trying to hold them back, and Pomfrey raced to the fallen girl's side. And all the time Harry was rooted to his place, gazing with a horrified fascination at the bloody mess that used to be such a pretty face. ':-:' Harry sat with his head bowed in front of the Headmaster's desk. It was eerily quiet, and Harry forced himself not to fidget. He hadn't done anything to warrant nervousness, he knew, but the atmosphere was just unbearable. Harry had seen death before, he wasn't new to it. But this had been different. Cedric had died by a spell, killing him on the spot. Sirius had gone through the veil. There hadn't been any blood, there hadn't been screams or tears. There had only been silence. "Was it Voldemort?" Harry asked quietly, feeling Dumbledore's gaze burning on the top of his head. "Did he – kill her?" "That's what we suppose," the Headmaster said, his chair creaking. "We can't be sure. Professor Snape will try to surreptitiously find out more, but it's unlikely that he will be able to gather any information..." "Professor?" Harry said, formulating his next question. "How was it even possible that a bomb got through Hogwarts' wards? Aren't they supposed to keep Dark Magic and curses out? I don't understand how that owl could pass without causing any disruption." Dumbledore sighed at that. "I'm looking into that matter, currently," he said. "We can't rule out any possibilities at the moment, but it seems unlikely that the letter managed to break the wards without – help." Harry started at the implications. "Someone helped?" he asked, faces of potential undercover Death Eaters flashing through his mind. He didn't like that feeling. "But who?" "As I said, we can't be sure as of now," Dumbledore said. "However, the possibility remains." "Could it be the – well, the letter you got just before the Howler arrived," Harry said. "Could it be that this letter should distract you, sir?" "No, Harry," Dumbledore said. "This letter had nothing to do with the attack. Although the author does have his connections with Voldemort, this letter was of personal nature, very personal indeed." ':-:' 11th February 1997 It was a cold night in London. Rain sizzled down, letting the roads glister. There were footsteps splattering water in various directions. Loud music blared out of one of the houses, but it was ignored for the time being. A black clad figure headed to a house with the number eleven, but didn't approach the door. Suddenly, the house shrunk to the side, revealing another shabby house. The door handle was a twisted snake, and if you looked close enough, you could see that it was hissing dangerously. And then Lord Voldemort made his way up the steps to number twelve, Grimmauld Place. ':-:' A/Ns: Draco's law states when you're going to be executed. Parkinson's law is a term out of economy. The idea for the memory-as-present has been borrowed from Lady Arrogance.

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