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November crept by slowly, and Albus has barely thought about the upcoming holiday season until he woke up on morning, on the first of December, and he saw a wreath hanging on the dormitory door. More changes were evident as he walked down the stairs to the common room. There was a tree in the corner, and even a mistletoe by the fireplace. It seemed that the entire castle had been decorated overnight, probably by the house-elves.

Albus was eager to go back home this Christmas, since this year the Hogwarts students could go home. With the mess that Lord Zajecfer made last year, Albus hadn't been able to go home last year. He was glad that, so far, this seemed to be a mostly normal school year. Anything strange was occurring far away from Hogwarts, like that mess with the Dementor King. He hadn't thought about it recently, but the latest report was that the Dementor King was still making its way north from the Atlantic Ocean. It was still far from them. For the past few months, it remained in the middle of the ocean, not bothering anyone, not even muggle boats. It was strange.

“What are your holiday plans?” Albus asked Art and Rose during dinner that day. “Rose and I are going to Grandma Weasley’s place, the Burrow. What about you two?”

“Well, I’m going to my parents’s place,” Art said. “Mum is really happy I’ll be able to go there this year, instead of staying here.”

“What about you, David?” Albus asked. David looked up from stirring his soup.

“I think I’m probably staying here.”

“Wait- you’re staying at Hogwarts?” Albus said. He was on the verge of asking why David wouldn’t just go stay at his parents’ house, and then remembered that David probably didn’t want to talk about it. After their fight just a few months ago, Albus didn't want to spark anything up again. He had decided that he would just let David tell him when he was ready. He was sticking by that decision. “Hogwarts Christmases are really good,” David said. “Don’t you remember last year? The place was decorated like crazy. And the house-elves really outdid themselves this year." David motioned around to all the decorations in the Great Hall, from the lights to the magicked snow falling from the ceiling.

“But- you’ll be all alone. Without any friends. Or family," Albus protested.

“I’ll be fine, Albus.”

“You should come to the Burrow with us!” Albus said, the idea coming to him just now. He knew his cousins invited school friends to Christmas all the time, so why shouldn't he?

“I wouldn’t want to intrude on your family,” David said, as he started stirring his soup.

“It wouldn’t be a problem! A lot of the people there aren’t even family. Andromeda Tonks and Teddy Lupin spend the entire break with us, and then Hagrid is there, and the Longbottoms and Scamanders usually come around one of the days, and then I think Louis is already trying to get permission for Olivia to come over, and then I think John will be coming around for New Year’s… adding you won’t be a problem at all!”

“Look, Albus, I’ll be fine.”

“But why not?” Albus said. “Look, I get that you might not want to go home, but at least come to our place.”

“Albus, I’’ll be fine!” David shouted. “Look, just go have a fun Christmas with your wonderful, delightful happy family, and forget about me, okay!” David shouted. Albus stared at David. He rarely had outbursts like that. Could Albus’s family possibly have made him… jealous? “I’m not really hungry anymore,” David muttered, pushing his bowl of soup away. He stood up, and walked away. Albus stared after him, and sighed. He knew he shouldn't have pushed the topic… but he wanted David to have a good Christmas with them. Was that too much to ask?

“I’ll go talk to him,” Art said. “He’s still a bit cautious about the two of you,” Art said, gesturing to him and Rose.

“What’s wrong with us?” Albus said, looking at Rose once Art left.

“For once, I’m almost just as clueless as you are,” Rose said.

Albus sat in his chair, frustrated by all the secrets. It was making their lives confusing. He couldn't understand David's strange behavior. Albus watched Rose as she read her fiction book, and he wondered what Art and David were talking about. What was Art saying? Finally, unable to bear it any longer, Albus walked upstairs to the Gryffindor Common room, up to the dormitory, and listened at the door. He felt terrible about eavesdropping, but he was dying with curiosity.

“David, I understand you’re nervous,” Art was saying. “But you deserve a good Christmas. What, do you think they'll chuck you out into the snow? You're a good person, and Albus's friend. Look, I met Harry Potter this summer. He’s a really nice guy. You'll be fine.”

“Oh, alright,” David said. “I don’t really want to spend Christmas by myself. Last year was better, since everyone stayed so I didn’t look like the odd one out. But yes, I’ll take Albus’s offer. I’ll go. It does sound funner than mine would be.”

Albus opened the door, pretending that he just got there. “How’s it going?”

“Albus, I’ve made my decision: I’m coming to the Burrow with you for Christmas.”

“Excellent!” Albus exclaimed. He was so happy he hugged David tightly, and then hugged Art. “I don’t know what you did, but thank you,” Albus whispered into Art’s ear, soft enough so David couldn’t hear. It wasn't a complete lie: Albus was still sort of confused on how exactly Art had convinced David, one of the most stubborn people Albus knew, to come to the Burrow for Christmas. And he certainly was thankful.

“You’re welcome,” Art whispered back.

As December progressed, the cool temperatures of fall plunged down to the chilly ones of winter. The great lake was still as bits and pieces began to freeze to form a thin, glossy layer of ice less than an inch thick. It froze later than usual this year. Lindsay Jones said in Herbology class said that the weather was acting up because of something called “Global Warming”. Albus wasn’t sure what that meant, but it didn’t sound good.

One place remained hot, however: the greenhouses. Professor Longbottom needed it to stay warm for the plants, and boy, was it hot.

“I am so going to jump in the lake after class is over,” David said longingly, as his hot red face gazed longingly out the window.

“Don’t be silly, that’s freezing!” Rose said.

“Exactly, I’ll cool down,” David said.

“You’re insane, David!” Rose said. But no matter how much she tried to talk him out of it, David remained extremely stubborn: he was going to jump in the lake. No backing out.

“Isn’t it all frozen, anyway?” Albus asked.

“No, there’s a small patch that isn’t,” David argued.

“We’ll laugh at you later when you’re shivering,” Albus replied.

“Okay!” Once class finished, David ran out like the speed of lightning. Most of the class walked out into the refreshing cold air and stood, peacefully, but David was running.

“What is the point of jumping into the lake?” Rose said.

“He’s got it in his head that he has to, and he’s too stubborn to back out,” Art replied. “Let’s go after him, come on.” The three of them reluctantly jogged behind David, going at a much slower pace.

David stood at the edge of the lake, and waited a few moments as Albus, Art, and Rose caught up.

“David, is it really necessary?” Albus asked, panting slightly.

“It’ll be great, you’ll see. Cannonball!” David tucked his knees together and jumped.

The splash seemed to draw eyes from every student wandering the Hogwarts grounds. Who, they must be thinking, would be foolish enough to jump into the Great Lake at this time of year? They had a pretty good point, as a matter of fact. Only David, and maybe James, Fred, and Louis, would be foolish enough to do a thing like that.

David resurfaced a few seconds later, and seemingly rocketed out from the water, onto the grass at Albus’s feet. He was huddled into a tight ball, and was shivering.

“The w-w-water’s c-cold,” David said, his teeth chattering. Despite the situation, Albus laughed. Didn’t they say it would be cold?

“How foolish are you?” someone asked. It was Albus’s cousin, Molly.

“I think we established long ago that David is the definition of ‘foolish’,” Rose said to Molly. Probably to make herself look better in Molly’s eyes.

“Can you help him warm up?” Art asked.

“I suppose,” Molly said, who seemed to be thinking about how everyone in the world were idiots. She waved her wand, and a steady stream of warm air flowed out, warming up David. He sighed and stretched out a little bit, and then stood up. He was still shivering, but it wasn’t as bad.

“Thank you,” Albus said gratefully.

“Just don’t do it again!” Molly said threateningly, wagging her finger as she walked away.

As they slowly walked up back to the castle, with David muttering words like, “Blankets,” and “Hot chocolate,” Rose and Albus stepped behind as Art helped along a hobbling David.

“Fire and water. Or fire and ice? No, fire and water.”

“Huh?” Albus said, confused by Rose’s statement.

“You and David are like fire and water,” Rose said. “I’ve noticed, anyway. His favorite drink is water. Haven’t you noticed? And he likes swimming, I can tell. Even when he came out of the water shivering, he still looked joyful. And then you Albus- you performed that fire-breathing charm with ease. Once you mastered Incendio, you could have burned down the whole school if you wished. You're like fire. You and David are opposites, in that way.”

“Interesting,” Albus said. Yet it did seem to fit. He remembered that phoenix that came to him a while ago. That certainly represented fire. He wished it would come back; it was beautiful. As Albus thought of it, his eyes focused on a faint crimson dot in the sky. No… it couldn’t be… “Rose, I need to ask Professor Longbottom something really quick,” Albus said, as he ran away, not even looking to see Rose’s reaction. He ran all the way past the greenhouses, until he reached the gates of the Battle of Hogwarts Cemetery.

The phoenix made a graceful arc and landed on Albus’s shoulder. He stared at in awe. It came the moment he thought of it. Was there some sort of magic connecting them or something? Albus ruffled its feathers a little bit, and it broke into song. A beautiful song.

Crouched and hidden, behind the gates, no living human could see the phoenix except for him. But surely they all heard its song? How come, when Albus dared to peer out, they seemed completely oblivious? The song was beautiful, but loud. One girl passed only a few feet away in front of the gates, but she gave no sign of having heard anything. How? Was she deaf? Everyone on the grounds should be able to hear it, unless… unless…

Unless only he could hear it. Albus stared at the phoenix. Why was he special? He was the son of Harry Potter, but that was it… right? He killed Slytherin, but that had been a complete accident. He could use nonverbal magic, but that was just because he was weird. And somehow he had gotten a phoenix.

And, how come the phoenix came when he thought of it? Why? How did it know precisely when to come? Did it have a mental connection with him or something?

Well, Mr. Phoenix, if you can hear me now, I’d just like to think for a little bit, Albus thought, almost amused. To his great surprise, the phoenix fluttered away back into the sky. Albus stared at it. Wow. It could… it could actually read his mind. Crazy!

With these thoughts in his head, Albus walked back to the castle. He wasn’t going to call it back for a little while. He needed to think, long and hard. Weren’t phoenixes rare? They were. Really rare.

But so was a person by the name of Albus Potter.

“Anyone want to play a game of gobstones?” Art asked as the Hogwarts Express zoomed past the English countryside. Christmas break was nearly upon them: just a few more hours. The Hogwarts Express was crammed this year because so many students were going home for Christmas, so in addition to the four of them, Marc and Rob, the other Gryffindors in their year, were in their compartment as well.

“Gobstones? That’s boring. How about Exploding Snap?” David replied.

“I’m game for Exploding Snap,” Albus replied.

“I’ll play Exploding Snap,” Rob volunteered. In the end, Rose and Marc were reading, while the other four of them played an enthusiastic game of Exploding Snap. Art came in last, but David emerged victorious.

“I won! What’s my prize?” David asked.

“Clean oxygen to breathe,” Rob replied back. They all started laughing. Marc spoke up.

“Actually, that isn’t an adequate prize, as the air we currently breathe is only 21% oxygen.”

“Ha! You have to get me something of pure oxygen!” David exclaimed.

“I’ll just modify the prize. You can have air to breathe,” Rob said.

A few hours later, when they were almost at King’s Cross Station, Rob said, “I have to go check on my sister before we go. Marc, do you want to come with?”

“Sure,” Marc said, and the two of them left. Now Albus, Art, David, and Rose were alone. David’s leg started to jitter. His nervousness was showing.

“David, you’ll be fine,” Albus said.

“I’m beginning to regret this…” David muttered. “I mean, you’re a great friend and everything Albus, but I’m still insanely nervous.”

“Just be yourself, and everyone will love you,” Albus said.

“On the plus side, you can’t be worse that Dominique,” Rose pointed out. “She’s been extremely grouchy the past few years or so.”

“And you’ll blend right in,” Albus said. “There's going to be tons of people there, so hardly anyone is even going to notice you.”

"Thanks, Albus," David said, but his leg still jittered nervously.

"Rose, who's picking us up again?" Albus asked.

"I think it's Uncle Bill and Aunt Fleur. And then they're bringing all of us to the Burrow."

"That won't be too bad," David said, contemplative.

"And they'll be too busy getting to know Olivia, since she and Louis are dating now, and she's coming to the Burrow," Albus said.

"Hmm," David said.

"Do you want to play another game of exploding snap?" Art asked.

David's smile returned. "I am so going to beat you!" David said. As they set up the game. Albus merely watched, as Rose read some novel of some sort.

A few hours later, as a triumphant David watched a soot-covered Art, the train came to a screeching halt, throwing the pack of exploding snap all over the compartment. As the deck exploded, all of them were coughing in soot.

"We have to use the restroom real quick, to get all this off of us," Rose said. "C'mon." Leaving their stuff in the compartment, they dashed to the bathrooms as everyone else started getting off the train. They all crammed in the bathroom and started rubbing water onto their faces until the soot was all washed down the drain.

Once they finally got back to their compartment to get their things, they had to rush, because they were one of the last ones on the train.

"Goodbye, Art. Have a good Christmas break!" Albus said, as he gave Art a brief goodbye hug. The two of them walked their separate ways, and Albus re-joined David and Rose. Together they battled through the crowd of people, until they finally spotted Aunt Fleur and Uncle Bill. Dominque, Molly, Lucy, Fred, Louis, Olivia, Roxanne, James, and John were already there. Once Aunt Fleur saw the three of them arrive, they all started moving out of King’s Cross. It was incredibly difficult to keep everyone together, but they managed it, and at last walked into the fresh air outside the station.

“How are we getting there?” Molly asked Uncle Bill.

“We are going to walk to the Leaky Cauldron and use the Floo network. There’s too many of you to side-along apparate, even if we did multiple trips back and forth. Luckily for us, the Leaky Cauldron isn’t too far...” They walked several blocks, and after a while their talking ceased as they just put one foot in front of the other, bored. At last, they arrived in the black, beat-down pub. As they walked in, the inside was much more cheerful.

"Hi!" Rose said, hugging Hannah Longbottom, Leaky Cauldron's landlady and Professor Longbottom's wife.

“Hello!” Hannah said, hugging Rose back. She and Rose had always been particularly close, and Hugo was close with her as well. Hannah had babysat the two of them frequently when they were younger, before Hogwarts.

Hannah beckoned all of them to the fireplace once they all crammed inside. “I’m glad you’re all here in one piece! Neville and I will probably be over to see you all during Christmas. As for now, here’s some floo powder…

“You know how to floo, right?” Albus asked David. He knew David was raised by a wizarding family, but not all of them used the Floo network.

“Of course,” David replied.

Getting everyone flooed out of the Leaky Cauldron took awhile, since there were so many of them and they had to go one at a time. Finally, only Albus, Uncle Bill, and Aunt Fleur had yet to floo.

“Ready?” Hannah Longbottom asked.

“You bet,” Albus said. Standing in the fireplace, he threw the floo powder up into the air and shouted “The Burrow!” His last thought before he was consumed by green flames was how beautiful the floo powder looked as it sprinkled through the air like green snow. Christmas was upon them. 

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