Chapter 1 : Prologue
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Disclaimer: I own nothing recognisable as one of Ms. Rowling's creations!
Warning: I don't forsee this story becoming offencive or "racy", but I would prefer not to offend anyone's religious sensibilities, and therefore I will post this extra little warning: this story is about Christmas because that is the winter holiday celebrated in the novels. It will not focus on the particular religious customs of the holiday (and many of them are not Christian to begin with) but rather on the social and, er, economic traditions that have grown up round the holiday over the years. Mostly its just a "get the Grinch" tale, so please, if you happen to be particularly pious or sensitive about your religion, read with an open mind!
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
1 minute till midnight…
In the dead of the night, limned in moonlight, the ancient castle was still. Perched on a knoll above the great Black Lake it stood like a sentinel, silent and patient. No candle glowed behind a window and not a single soul paced, sleepless, at the foot of a bed. Even the ghosts floated lazily on currents of chill air, resting up in order to go about their eternal rest on the morrow. Had one had the patience (or the prowess to check) one would have found even the mice curled up asleep in their beds. But the castle of Hogwarts is more than stone and mortar, more than classrooms and students and professors – binding it together is a magic older and deeper and more secretive than anyone has the time or the patience to puzzle out. In fact, those who live in it long enough come to believe that the castle has its own mannerisms, its own – dare it be said? – sense of humour. Like a benevolent mother it welcomes all and sundry of its children within its walls, but once they are there, well, it simply can’t resist meddling. And tonight, as the clock wound tight to strike the witching hour, it was as though the castle held its breath…
The clock, its face glittering with winter’s frost, began to chime, but the sleeping inhabitants of the school slept on, their heads filled with much more important (or at least much noisier) dreams. Not a single soul started awake, not a single lash flickered on a cheek, and all of the windows remained dark, as if in sleep….
Except for one tiny pane, not a window, but a lamp, ancient and abandoned, high in the beams of Gryffindor Tower…as the final BONG! sounded throughout the castle, moving only air, something shuddered inside that lamp. Just a faint stirring at first, and then a tiny stretch, followed by the littlest of yawns. Slowly, slowly a glow began to glimmer, dancing on the glass walls of the lamp, at first just a faint little glint that shivered and grew until the lamp was glowing, pure and white, like foxfire in a rotting log.
There was a tiny shake, accompanied by an almost imperceptible noise, like the far off jingling of silver bells, and then the glow flitted – yes, flitted – from one side of the lamp to the other, stretching delicate, filmy wings. Another yawn followed, this one much larger than the first, and the tiny creature shook itself, ridding pale, glimmering skin of a good many years of dust. Tiny hands brushed over tiny arms and elbows and knees, and tiny feet danced on the chill metal bottom of the lamp.
Niv had awoken.
As creatures went, Niv was neither male nor female, bad nor good, animal nor vegetable. In a word, it was Christmas. All of the cheer and joy and hope and love and scheming (yes, there is scheming in Christmas) bundled into a tiny mote of light that, if examined closely, proved to be the tiniest of beings, with wide pale eyes and a pert little nose and the narrowest of chins atop a mere slip of a body that, for all it wouldn’t fill the palm of a child’s hand, managed to be a gangling mass of arms and legs. After all, no one said Christmas had to be nice – looking. And really, Niv was never immobile long enough to be closely examined, not unless Her Most Noble, Kind, and Terrifying Majesty demanded it hold still and listen.
Niv was never still because it had a job to do – a job that wasn’t everyday, or everymonth, or everyyear. In fact, Niv spent most of its time sleeping (although it had had much more comfortable beds than this blasted lamp) because there was just so much Christmas compressed into its tiny frame that the world couldn’t handle it each and every holiday season. But if it was awake…well, this year must be a year then – a year that was in desperate danger of passing quietly by. At this thought (which was almost too large to fit into Niv’s head, but managed to squeeze in somehow), Niv stomped its tiny foot and let out an enraged jingle. Christmas was not supposed to pass quietly. And now that it was awake…
In a burst of shimmering white dust, Niv took to the air, shoving open the door to the lamp and zinging out into the room. Shimmering motes of white drifted down over the carpets, washed dull red in the moonlight, and glittered in the light thrown by the dying coals. Thrice Niv ringed the room, leaving a trail of glittering Christmas in its wake, before shooting off towards the sound of sleeping dreamers. Up a staircase, under the crack of the door, a squeeze (it should probably lay off of the holiday sweets this year…) a pop! and it was through -
Five beds, all curtained in scarlet, five boys sleeping gently, their snores barely stirring the air above their beds… Niv raced through the room, zooming up and down and criss and cross, trickling out laughter and happiness and joy and all the light and love and cheer of the holiday. It circled a blonde head and caught the edge of a dream – a boy, riding a broomstick – and sprinkled on a little extra just in case. The tiny sprite flew back to the door, a squeak and a squeeze and it was sweeping up the stairs to the next dormitory…and the next…in a blink it was in the topmost room where four beds sat crowded together, four boys – much older and larger than those in the first dormitory – lay sprawled out atop them. Niv wrinkled its tiny nose at the prevailing stench of unwashed socks, and, with two delicate fingers pinching its nostrils closed, proceeded about its business. The smallest boy, short and round, dreamt of holiday sweets piled high; beside him, a lanky boy with pale brown hair shivered and shook at the thought of a full moon. Niv shivered and shook over him, shaking out glittering white light until the boy calmed and dreamed of running through drifts of crisp white snow. Satisfied, Niv darted over the next two figures, jingling faintly and pleased to see that the first boy, only his mop of untidy black hair visible above his blankets, was already dreaming of Christmas – of an elf to be specific…an elf with long red hair, wearing a rather conspicuously small elf suit…
Niv let out an infuriated jingling tirade as the messyhaired boy – wearing a Santa suit in his dream - suggested the girl elf do something very un-Christmas-like. Still more of the glittering Christmas-dust was dispensed until the boy’s dream was no longer naughty, but perfectly nice. Once he was snoring peacefully, Niv turned to the last figure, sprawled elegantly across the bed, silky black hair in a spray round his pillow. He was not, as Niv hoped, dreaming of presents or sweets or snowball fights or sledding. In fact, he was not dreaming at all. This immediately had Niv swooping towards his head and hovering just by his ear. Unlike humans, who cannot see much aside from darkness and wax, faeries can see into ears, right through to thoughts and hopes and dreams. And while this boy wasn’t dreaming, there was something there. He carried a picture of the quiet sort of Christmas – a fire, a wreath, and pale white snow falling outside. Somewhere in this boy’s holiday there was someone laughing, and the feeling was of overwhelming happiness, just out of reach. If sprites could shed tears, Niv would have been wiping at its eyes. Instead, it settled for reaching into a small pouch at its waist and drawing forth a tiny glittering orb. Bending very close to the sleeping boy’s face, Niv held the orb to its lips, and blew.
White light, soft and iridescent, diffused in a glow over his eyes and Niv smiled. Happy Christmas it told the sleeping boy. May you finally have one of your own…
And then Niv was gone, zooming across the common room to the opposite set of stairs, spreading joy and cheer over the heads of sleeping girls, their lips stretched in smiles as they, too, dreamt of presents and parties and bright glittering snow. Up and up Niv circled until it reached the highest room in the tower where four girls slept in four beds, their heads resting sweetly on their pillows….save one. The first two dreamt of holiday parties, lovely dresses and mistletoe. Niv had barely any work to do there – only to plant in their minds the lyrics to several carols and a few expressions of holiday cheer to be used at every opportunity. The third girl was jittering, her mind whirring, not with thoughts of sweet snowy kisses or bright parties, but with calculations and schedules and essays and – Niv shook itself, its tiny head spinning. How did one person worry so much? Her long red hair lay in a curtain over her face, and a tiny freckled nose peeked out. Niv, balancing on the very tip of that little nose, reached into another pocket, and drew forth a glittering red star. With a flourishing gesture Niv tapped the tip of the sleeping girl’s nose, releasing a cloud of glittering red dust.
A tremor warned the sprite to take flight, and it fluttered up just as a great Achoo! burst from the girl, her mouth opening as she sneezed to inhale the red shimmer. Grinning, Niv nodded, a satisfied silvery jingling filling the air. It’s job finished there, the sprite looped a few loops as it darted toward the last girl, lying askew on her bed in a tangle of long pale hair washed white in the moonlight. With a shimmy and a shake Niv began to dispense a bit of Christmas, flitting along merrily until it slammed into an invisible wall.
Jerking back slightly, jingling as it let out a little huff of surprise, the tiny faerie shook itself and darted forward again, only to be stopped by a wall of resistance so thick it was positively real. Cocking one tiny ear towards the sleeping figure, Niv caught visions – not of dancing sugarplums – but of sharp glinting ice sickles and frozen white frost. Not one speck of cheer or Christmas spirit to be found, only unwavering opposition to the holiday season. This would never do! Niv swirled in a great loop, building speed, determined to break through and instill a proper amount of eagerness. There was very nearly a whine in the still night air as the sprite launched itself towards the invisible barrier, eyes slitted down, mouth set.
With a mighty jingle the sprite was thrown back, tumbling tail over tip until it collided with the far wall, expelling a cloud of shimmer and a loud squeak. The four girls slept on as the tiny creature slid down the wall to rest, stunned, on the floor. After a moment Niv, shaking its head to clear it, got to its diminutive feet. Something had to be done. A flittering of wings and the faerie was in the air again, darting about like a humming bird as thoughts tumbled in its tiny head. But what could be done? You couldn’t just make someone love Christmas…
Well, not precisely….
A tiny idea was rapidly growing, ticking away inside the tiny body until it was simply too large to be confined in the shimmering skin, and began to leak out in little puffs of glittering dust. It would, of course, rely on luck, and chance, and all those other things that are the special provenance of faeries. Luck and Chance Niv could supply in plenty, and the castle was full of willing souls… of course it would work.
If they couldn’t bring this girl to Christmas…well, Christmas would be brought to her!
Chuckling gleefully (see – there is scheming in Christmas) Niv darted out of the dormitory, back over the heads of the sleeping children, spreading not just joy and cheer but determination, and a desire to help, and a love of parties and glitter and gifts and all the other things that are offshoots of Christmas. Back over the messy-haired boy who was still dreaming of redhaired elves and the lonely boy who only wanted a real Christmas and the chubby little one who loved sweets…
And then out into the castle itself, zinging past portraits of witches and wizards drowsing in their frames, through ghosts who jerked and started and began to hum long-forgotten holiday songs, and through classrooms where frost formed on the windows and into a cheery room decorated in yellow and black, over more sleeping children who smiled and dreamt of snowy mornings and wreathes and trees and ornaments…over a girl with blonde curls who dreamt of dancing the night away wearing a crown of silvery snowflakes… Niv circled her head three times and darted down, whispering in her ear in a tiny, silvery voice and then darting away again as she rolled onto her back and smiled at the canopy above her bed, the seed of an idea planted and growing in the fertile soil of her mind…
Through more halls and then the kitchens, over tiny house elves just laid down from their chores, the white shimmer of Christmas settling into the folds of their tea towels, forming dreams of savoury dishes and decorations to be dusted… out into the Great Hall where the tiny sprite ringed the ceiling until the whole room glowed white. Then down, down into the dungeons where a room housed children dressed in green, their dreams laced with expensive gifts and, in the case of one skinny boy with black hair, of a perfect Christmas here at Hogwarts…
Once their beds were coated in pale white dust Niv soared into the luxurious quarters of a rotund professor, snoring powerfully, his mind full of bottles of brandy and candied fruits. Niv paused to whisper in his ear as well, grinning mischievously and giving an extra shake over the bushy mustache before flitting back up, up and up towards the towers again, flinging handfuls of holiday sparkle this way and that, detouring into another dormitory full of sleeping, studious minds resolutely ignoring the pull of presents and parties for more staid thoughts. When Niv was through, zinging back out under the crack in the door, they were happily dreaming of shining new potions sets and erudite fireside conversation.
And up still further to the tallest tower, shaking a fist at the stone gargoyle, who obligingly moved aside, around and round the stairs and once again a squeeze and a pop beneath the door into an office filled with slumbering portraits and little whirring silver machines, all quietly purring away into the night. Through beams of moonlight Niv flitted, flinging faerie dust over everything until it had slid right through a curtain and under another door and into the room of the great one, his silvery hair and beard gleaming brighter than the moonlight, a smile stretched across his mouth. Niv knew this man of old, had watched him grow and change and knew that here slept a soul as closely akin to its own as was possible in a human being. And so Niv wasted no time in whirling round the aged face and coming to rest – only briefly – atop the long, crooked nose. Hands on hips the tiny sprite began to speak, walking lightly over the man’s face, leaving tiny tracks of shimmering white as it spoke in that pure, silvery voice, talking and talking until it reached the ear. Bending and cupping its hands round its mouth, Niv called into that ear, and waited.
Moments later there was a heavy sigh, and the smiling lips parted. ‘Indeed,’ the man said in a slow, sleepy voice. ‘Yes…indeed…’
Niv danced out a little faerie jig and took to the air once more, zooming towards the window and, with a flick and push the window was open and Niv was in the chill wintry air. Up over the roofs of the castle it flew, tracing the pitched slate and diving down into each courtyard and circling every turret. Like a demented miniature star it swirled and whirled, trailing pure white light as it darted from moonbeam to moonbeam. Frost crept over windows and the scent of fir trees spiced the air. Inside the walls half a thousand minds dreamt of holiday festivities, of the lights and laughter and joy and cheer. Niv, grinning broadly, sang in its tiny silvery voice as it wreathed the castle in blinding white light, sparing not even the enormous gamekeeper’s hut in it’s circuits. And as it wound its way back to the tip top tower, it let out a high, piercing whistle. Clouds had been gathering on the horizons, and now they swept over the mountains, across the lake, great purple –black clouds that blotted out the moon and cast thick shadows over the world. As the last of the starlight died Niv tucked itself back through the open window, shutting the pane and darting up into the stones above the hearth, heaving a great yawn as it came to rest out of sight, its tiny body fatigued, its tiny mind whirring. Finding a comfortable seat on a particularly fluffy dust bunny, it plopped down, wings drooping, and reviewed its plan. The spirit was spread, the ideas were in place, the world was ready…oh yes, it was time…
With a gleeful giggle the tiny sprite leant back and crossed its arms behind its head. Outside, winter’s first snow began to fall...
A/N: this story was inspired by the incredibly early appearance of holiday sales, and my own rather less than cheerful attitude towards carolers. its going to be very silly (as i'm sure you've guessed) and will probably stray from cannon a bit and several characters may be slightly OOC. but, hopefully that won't stop you from reading! chapter 1 will follow quickly - i'm hoping to have the entire story published before Christmas (this may be optimistic as i've started a bit late...) which means that chapters will probably be quite long, so bear with any awkwardness of transition as i may not be able to break them up as I would like. thanks for reading, and happy holidays!
oh yes, and reviews are always appreciated!
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