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'Twas The Day Before Christmas by apAidan
Chapter 2 : Chapter Two - Decked in the Hall
 
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As the door closed, Hermione stood still for several moments to allow her eyes to adjust to the gloom inside the house. None of the lights were lit; the normal charms that should have activated when someone entered the house weren’t functioning, suppressed by the will of the Master of the House. Shivering slightly at the chill inside the house, Hermione shook her head and began to look around. Seeing a diminutive figure sitting on the stairs, she quietly walked over to where she could see him, deftly avoiding the troll’s foot umbrella stand.

“Morning Kreacher. Sorry it took me so long to get here.”

Looking up, Kreacher sighed. “I didn’t think she’d tell you right away. I was certain of it when Master Ron tried to enter the house a couple of hours later.” Standing, the old house elf drew himself up to his full height. “May I welcome you back to Grimmauld Place, Mistress Hermione? Master Harry is…indisposed at the moment.”

Looking worried, Hermione nodded. “How bad?”

Shaking his head, Kreacher looked lost. “Worse than I’ve ever seen, even worse than after the death of Master Sirius.”

Hermione was shocked; Kreacher never mentioned Sirius’s death because of his role in what happened that night at the Ministry. “Kreacher, where is he?”

Nodding up the stairs, Kreacher shrugged. “The Blue Room”

Nodding, Hermione thought for a second. Looking up at the elf, she smiled. “We’ll make this right. Why didn’t you come get me, yourself?”

“Master Harry forbad it. I was stretching my instructions to the limit to give Miss Ginevra a message for you. Your instructions that I was to try to keep things civil between them when they quarreled allowed me to bend his instructions that much, since talking to you would be a civilized thing to do.”

Looking a bit confused, Hermione thought for a second. Looking up, she nodded. “Kreacher, the next time Harry does anything this extreme, or if he’s in a mood that worries you, you’re to get word to me at the first available opportunity regardless of his expressed wishes, unless he specifically countermands this order. Understand?”

Nodding and smiling, Kreacher bowed to her. “It will be as you instruct, Mistress. Kreacher will inform you whenever Master Harry is troubled.”

Placing her hand on the elf’s shoulder, Hermione smiled. “You’re a good friend to both of us.” Nodding at the emotions she could see in the aged elf’s eyes, she looked down the hallway towards the rest of the house. “The entire house?”

Nodding, Kreacher looked around with distaste. “He sealed the house, turned out the lights and fires, and shrouded the entire place in shadow with one wave of his hand.”

Sighing, Hermione closed her eyes and concentrated. The gloom in the entranceway lifted a bit, and a glimmer of light appeared in both of the magical lanterns that marked doorways further down the hall. Opening her eyes, she released the breath she had been holding. “I hope I don’t have to fight him every step of the way.”

Looking at Kreacher, she nodded. “Kreacher, what happened last evening?”

Looking disgusted, Kreacher shook his head. “She arrived late yesterday evening after dinner. Master Harry had arranged for Master Teddy to spend a couple of days staying with Mistress Andi so the two of them could spend time together during the holidays.” Shrugging, Kreacher looked at Hermione before continuing.

“Things were the usual until she found the box of memories and the small pensieve in the Library.” Watching Hermione, Kreacher nodded at the expression on her face.

Shaking her head, Hermione sighed. “Totally my fault, I should have put all that away. What in Merlin’s name was she doing in the library?”

Scowling, Kreacher turned his head for a second. Hermione chuckled at the impression that if he had been human, he would have spit. As it was, he kept looking away from her as he answered. “She had dragged Master Harry down the see the Blue Room, she was determined to redecorate it and turn it into an office for her use when she was here. He wouldn’t hear of it, as usual. That’s when she noticed the library door was ajar and went in to see what had been going on in there.”

Nodding, Hermione waited for the elf to turn back to her. “And that’s when she found my journal and the memories that Harry and I had been working from?”

Nodding, Kreacher grimaced. “She was a bit distressed that she couldn’t open any of the vials or read the journal.”

Snorting, Hermione shook her head slowly. “I can imagine that you’ve just put yourself in the running for the ‘Understatement of the Year’ award.

Nodding, Kreacher sighed. “But she could read the handwritten notes Master Harry had about what he wanted to go over. When she saw the notes over things that happened to the two of you, Miss Ginevra started screaming and throwing things. Master Harry moved everything you two were working on into the Blue Room and sealed the door.’

Shaking her head, Hermione imagined Ginny’s reaction to that. “That’s when things got ugly.”

Nodding, Kreacher looked away again. “Very ugly. Miss Ginevra never thinks when she’s angry; she’s more like a troll than a witch, really. She was accusing Master Harry of all kinds of things when he told her that he wasn’t ready to talk to her about the War, but he would talk to her about those things when the two of you had sorted them out.”

Shaking her head, Hermione grimaced. “Well, that certainly added paraffin to the fire, didn’t it?”

Nodding, Kreacher finally looked back at her. “That’s when she told him she was through with him, that the two of them were through. She said that his muggle relatives had damaged him so badly that he’d never be able to love her or any other witch and he might was well ‘rot in this mausoleum with the memory of your Godfather and wait for some muggle slag to rescue you’.”

While slowly counting to twenty in gobbledegook, Hermione deliberately placed her wand behind her ear in order to avoid the temptation to hex something, anything, in lieu of hexing the absent Ginevra Molly Weasley.

Shaking her head, Hermione blinked a few tears out of her eyes as she imagined Harry going though that confrontation with Ginny. “What did he do?”

Kreacher shrugged. “He watched her storm out the door, and then he closed his eyes and sealed the house. He asked me to pack all of her belongings into one of those bottomless trunks you use for going to estate and library sales. I did that, took the trunk to Holyhead and left it in her sitting room, and then returned to the front of the house where I told her where her belongings were and asked her to contact you. Then I returned to the house. By that time he had retreated to the Blue Room.” Looking up the stairs, Kreacher shook his head. “He’s been sitting on the floor, up against your desk, ever since.”

Hermione was silent for several seconds. Twice she put her foot on the first step of the staircase, and twice she stopped herself. Finally, she shook her head and looked down the hall at the feebly glowing lights she had managed to call into existence earlier.

Taking a deep breath, Hermione retrieved her wand from where she had parked it behind her ear, and focused on an open spot on the floor of the landing before the stairwell, determined to call her patronus to aid with this. “Happy thoughts. I need happy thoughts to do this.”

Closing her eyes, she began to relax and allow her mind to focus on times when she was happy. “After the first task, when I saw Harry had survived that dragon. Last Christmas Eve in Godric’s Hollow when we visited his parent’s graves before going to the Burrow. That day in the library when we promised to always be there for each other. The look on Harry’s face when my mother remembered who I was…”

Hermione’s eyes snapped open; her mouth flew open as she inhaled deeply, and her knees buckled a bit forcing her to grab the railing of the stairs for support. “Merlin,” she swore softly as the realization virtually every memory where she was truly and sincerely happy was centered on Harry. On Harry and her. Sinking slowly onto the steps beside Kreacher, she cradled her head in her hands as her mind raced in circles.

Smiling softly, Kreacher stood and watched her closely. “Mistress Hermione, would you care for a cup of tea?”

Looking up from her hands, Hermione watched Kreacher as he stood there, waiting patiently for her to express herself, a strange light in his eyes as he nodded at her. “What?”

Nodding patiently, Kreacher smiled. “Tea. You usually find it soothing.”

Looking over her shoulder up the steps, Hermione shook her head. “I really need to go up and talk to him. I need to concentrate to undo what she did.”

Shaking his head, Kreacher looked at her for several seconds before responding. “You need to just be yourself, for that is what he needs. You’ve always been what he needs.”

Still looking up the steps, Hermione sighed. “Kreacher, give me twenty minutes, and then could you please bring up tea and something to eat for both of us.”

Shaking his head, Kreacher patted her gently on the shoulder before starting down the steps. “Thirty minutes, the ovens are cold. If you want fresh scones this morning, then I’ll need thirty.”

Shaking her head in disbelief, Hermione watched the diminutive elf head down the hall towards the door to the lower kitchen. Standing, she brushed a bit of dust from her jeans, and slowly climbed the steps to the second floor.

The second floor was shrouded in gloom and darkness, reminiscent of days gone by. Shaking her head, Hermione half expected a spectral Moody to appear out of the gloom. Closing her eyes, Hermione concentrated on the atmosphere of the hallway. The gloom lessened, the shadows retreated, and the lights outside the bedroom doors began to glow faintly.

Walking towards the middle of the hall, Hermione paused and looked through the open library door before turning around and placing her hand on the knob of the door straight across from it.

The tension that pervaded the house was centralized here, in this room. Lightly holding the knob, Hermione gently tightened her grip and turned it slowly. Feeling the catch release, she pushed a bit and allowed the door to swing inward as it always did.

The faint light from the hallway streamed through the doorway, illuminating a room that was decorated in shades of blue. Shaking her head, Hermione looked around until she found Harry sitting in the gloom, his back against her desk, staring at the room’s fireplace, which was cold and empty.

Stepping into the room, Hermione glanced over at the drapes covering the window. The delicate draperies were translucent, but there was no light for them to filter as the sealing of the house blocked the windows with an impenetrable barrier. Walking cautiously, she approached Harry slowly. Looking down she noticed his glasses were setting against the edge of the hearth, broken, where they had apparently been thrown earlier. Silently summoning them to her, she repaired and cleaned them with a single flick of her wand before sitting gracefully next to him on the floor, her back to the desk.

As she settled in, Harry flinched beside her, a bit, and pulled slightly away. Ignoring his attempt to distance himself from her, she slowly leaned against him, resting her head on his shoulder. Keeping his glasses in her hand with her wand she let the other hand brush gently against him. Gently placing her hand over his as it rested on his thigh, she squeezed gently.

The silence of the house enfolded them for several minutes. Hermione snuggled against him, and listened as his heartbeat slowed and synchronized with her own. Nudging his shoulder with her head several times, Harry finally drew his arm up and laid it across her shoulders, and she scooted closer in response.

Waiting until they were comfortable again, Hermione sighed. “Harry, I’m here.”

She could feel him nod in the gloom of the room. Taking that as a good sign she smiled and squeezed his hand again. “Breakfast is going to be up here in a bit. Kreacher doesn’t need any light to see, but I’d rather see what I’m eating. May I?”

Feeling him nod again, she squeezed his hand with hers and closed her eyes. Reaching out to the swirling currents of magic that permeated the old house, she noted the changes Harry had made when he sealed the house. Slowly, she reversed them, one by one. Withdrawing the magical shutters from the windows, she could sense the gloom lessening in the room they were sitting in. Withdrawing the shrouding shadows that filled the house, Hermione could feel the atmosphere begin to return to normal. Opening her eyes, she saw that the lights were gently glowing in the room. Smiling, she stared at the fireplace for a few seconds until a small fire began to crackle merrily.

His voice halting, Harry broke the silence. “She’s right, you know.”

Looking up at him for a few seconds, Hermione squeezed his hand gently. “Harry, Ginny couldn’t be more wrong if she tried. Do you trust me?”

Turning his head, he looked down into her eyes. He could see the tears glistening in her warm brown eyes as she gazed up at him, “Always, but I don’t see how you can fix this, fix me.”

Her eyes narrowed for a second, then they darkened, and all of her compassion and love for him was shining through. “Harry, we’ve known each other since we were eleven. You’ve been my best friend since that night you came storming into the girl’s lavatory and rescued me from a twelve-foot troll. Listen to me when I tell you this, there’s nothing wrong with you that’s not wrong with any twenty-one year old bloke.”

Reaching up, she placed her hand on the back of his neck and pulled his face towards hers. Gently kissing him on the cheek, and then his scar, and finally lightly on his lips, she smiled at the astonished look in his eyes.

Starting to shake his head, Harry stared into her eyes and stopped. “Hermione, you don’t need to…” The rest of his response was cut off when she gently pressed her finger against his lips.

“Harry, there are many things I need to do. I need to be with you, have you in my life. I’m afraid that I’m very guilty of taking our relationship for granted. You’ve been a part of my life for so long, that I’ve frankly forgotten what life was like before I knew you.”

Smiling at the look on his face, she nodded. “And, since I’m in the confessing mood, I’ll admit that I have no intention of finding out what life would be like without you in it, so we’re just going to have to honor those promises we made that we’d be there for each other.” Sighing, she looked down as she hooked her pinky finger around his. “A promise is a promise, Harry. I have no intention of breaking mine. How about you?”

Chuckling, Harry shook his head and brushed his cheek against the top of her head. “I suppose not, but that doesn’t mean you need settle for taking care of me just because I can’t seem to move my life forward.”

Squeezing his hand, Hermione made a disgusted sound in the back of her throat. Looking up, she was about to respond when she saw Kreacher waiting patiently in the doorway with a tray in his hands and another floating in mid-air behind him.

Straightening up, she smiled at him. “It appears our breakfast has arrived, so we need to make a couple of adjustments so we can eat and talk.” Nodding to Kreacher, Hermione smiled as she took her wand and conjured up a low table that sat beside them on the floor. Scooting herself to one side of the table, but keeping her hold on Harry’s hand, she moved the table between them as Kreacher came over and gently placed the trays on the table. Smiling impishly, she took Harry’s glasses and put them on him, giggling a bit as he blinked several times.

Shaking his head, Harry smiled. “Thank you Kreacher, but I don’t know how much of an appetite I’ll have after last night.” Harry’s stomach picked that moment to express its displeasure at having been ignored for so long, which elicited a chuckle from Hermione and a knowing smile from Kreacher.

“Harry, I think the indications are that you’ll be able to do justice to Kreacher’s breakfast, never fear.” Hermione smiled at the sheepish look on Harry’s face. “Kreacher, I think you’re a bit ahead of your timetable, not that I’m complaining.”

Smiling, Kreacher shrugged slightly. “Mistress Hermione, things work out occasionally for the good. Scones, porridge, bangers, and fruit.” Looking at Harry, he nodded. “She’s concerned about your diet; the bangers are tied to the fruit. Eat some fruit, have some bangers.” Turning around he headed towards the door before Harry could respond.

Shaking his head slowly, Harry looked at Hermione with a suspicious look. “My diet?”

Shrugging, Hermione smiled. “What can I say? I mentioned to Kreacher last month that I hoped you weren’t still eating like you did from the house tables back in school. I suppose he must have listened.”

Smiling smugly, Harry reached over with a fork and speared one of the bangers on the serving plate. When the sausage refused to come free from the plate, Harry glared at Hermione.

Pretending to not notice, Hermione applied a generous supply of butter and honey to a scone. “Have some fruit, it’s good for you,” she helpfully suggested.

Scowling, Harry placed a couple of pineapple rings and several orange slices on his plate, and then reached over and attempted to spear his selected sausage once again. Again, the banger stuck to the serving tray without budging.

Smiling coyly, Hermione took a spoonful of porridge before commenting. “Maybe it would help if you actually ate some of the fruit?” Reaching over, she neatly speared Harry’s selected banger on the end of her fork and moved it to her plate.

Shaking his head, Harry ate a couple of orange slices before slicing the pineapple into sections and adding it to his porridge. “I don’t see any fruit on your plate, Miss Keeper of Harry’s diet.”

Slicing the banger into sections, Hermione smiled as she ate a portion of it. “Try it now, Harry; I think you’ve earned yourself one.”

Muttering quietly to himself, Harry reached out and removed a banger from the serving plate. Looking up at her, he shook his head. “Thank you.”

Smiling, Hermione looked up and watched him for a few seconds. “For?”

Shrugging, Harry smiled sadly before looking away. “Caring enough to come over here on Christmas Eve.”

Sighing, she carefully put down her fork and reached over to squeeze his hand. “Harry, I realized a couple of things this morning, one of which was just where my priorities in life were.” Looking a bit sheepish as Harry looked up at her, she nodded. “The other was that I need to talk to my landlord about subletting my flat after next month. I think I’m going to move home in time for New Years.”

Studying her face for a few seconds, Harry nodded. “Moving back to Oxford? Finally made up your mind about University I take it.”

Smiling, Hermione shook her head. “Don’t be silly. I do love my parents, but living with them again would drive me spare in a matter of months.” Seeing the look on his face, she laughed. “I know Helen has you fooled, but my Mum is not the angelic paragon of perfection you think she is. Harry when I said I was moving ‘home’, I meant here, back to Grimmauld Place.”

Shaking his head, Harry frowned. “Hermione, that’s not necessary. I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself. What happened to you and Ron getting out and discovering what you needed to take your relationship to the next step?”

Smiling sadly, Hermione shrugged. “We did. Or at least I did this morning.” Leaving it at that, Hermione smiled as Harry’s head dipped a bit as he was trying to eat. “You didn’t sleep any last night, did you?”

Yawning, Harry shook his head. “Not really. I just sat here and thought until you came in.” Nodding, at the half bowl of porridge in front of him, Harry sighed. “I just don’t feel like going back down to that room and trying to sleep.”

Nodding in understanding, Hermione picked up her wand and banished the entire breakfast setting, table and all, to the kitchen. “Well, fortunately we can do something about that. In the mean time, you’ll kip here in my room until I come back.”

Standing up, she reached out her hand and helped him to his feet and turned him towards the bed. A quick flick of her wand and the bed was turned down. “I’ll speak to Kreacher downstairs; you get ready and go to sleep.”

Looking at her dubiously, and then at the bed, Harry shrugged. “I’ll try, but I don’t fancy the nightmares that are going to come if I try to sleep.”

Smiling warmly, Hermione wrapped her arms around him and hugged him to her. “Harry, you never have nightmares if I’m sitting with you, correct?” she whispered in his ear.

She could feel him nod as he relaxed against her. “I think I can solve your problem.” Releasing him slowly, she went over to the wardrobe standing in the corner of her room and opened it. Reaching inside, she pulled out a red and gold quidditch jersey.

Smiling, Harry shook his head. “I wondered where my old quidditch jersey went.”

Nodding, she shrugged. “What can I say; it’s comfortable to sleep in.” Blushing a bit, she smiled at him. “And hopefully, it will be comfortable for you to sleep with.” Taking the jersey with ‘Potter’ emblazoned on the back over to the bed, she stripped the covering from one of the pillows and replaced it with the jersey. She then slipped the flannel case over the jersey.

Tossing him the pillow underhand, she smiled as he snagged it out of the air one handed. “I slept in that often enough when I was here, it should keep you company and keep the nightmares at bay until I get back.” Blushing again, she nodded as he held the pillow up and looked at it.

Seeing the look on his face, she smiled. “Everything will be fine, Harry. I’ll be back in a couple of hours. Remember, it’s Christmas Eve, so we’ll be leaving here about six.”

Shaking his head, Harry grimaced. “I’m certainly not looking forward to this evening. Between Ginny’s cold shoulder and hexes and the rest of the Weasleys trying to find out what happened, it’s going to make for a very long evening.”

Smiling mysteriously, Hermione shook her head. “You just leave all that to me. Trust me; this will be a very special Christmas Eve.” Kissing him gently on the forehead, she nodded towards the bed as she waved her wand and the lights in the room dimmed a bit. “Sleep, Harry. Leave the rest of it to me; I’ll be back in a couple of hours.”

Slipping out into the hallway, she gently pulled the door closed. Looking down the hallway, she could see Kreacher standing near the top of the stairs, waiting for her. Walking towards him, she smiled.

“He’s going to sleep for a while. I’ve got a few errands to run, but I’ll be back by early afternoon at the latest.”

Nodding, Kreacher smiled. “Any instructions, Mistress?”

Shaking her head, Hermione nodded towards the end of the hall that contained the master suite and the bedroom that Ginny had ‘used’ as hers for propriety’s sake. “I want both of those rooms emptied of everything. We’ll repaint, repaper and totally remake them both. I don’t want there to be a hint that she had ever set foot in either room, much less anything else. We can’t do anything major until after the holidays, but I want them emptied before he goes in there next.”

Nodding, Kreacher smiled. “Very good. Something along your original thoughts for that room?”

“Kreacher,” Hermione’s voice was very subdued as she looked to the house elf. “I’ve never had the nerve to ask, exactly how far will you and the house let me go with respect to changes here at Grimmauld Place?” Watching the older elf carefully, Hermione was gratified to see a faint smile begin to play across his face.

“Mistress Hermione, you have been the Mistress of the house since Master Harry inherited Grimmauld Place.” Kreacher looked as if he was choosing his words carefully as he watched Hermione in turn. “At one time, both myself and the house resisted that, but that September, you proved yourself a worthy choice, as did he. Strictly speaking, Master Harry’s wishes would override yours, but since it’s never been in his heart to gainsay you, he would have to expressly contradict you to keep your will from being realized.”

Nodding, Hermione smiled. “That’s what I thought.” Looking at the elf, who was waiting patiently for her to speak, Hermione shook her head. “Someday, you and I are going to have a long talk about things, but for now, I want you to know you have both of our thanks for your service and friendship.”

Smiling, Kreacher shrugged. “Would Mistress Hermione care for me to go to her flat and retrieve her clothes?”

Nodding, Hermione chuckled. “I’m willing to wager that you remember where everything goes from last time. Please, if you can do so without waking him, I’d appreciate it.”

As she started down the steps, Hermione stopped and looked back for a second. “And Kreacher, let’s keep the traffic down in the house until I get back. Set the floos to allow only Ministry emergency traffic and myself, and keep the doors locked. We don’t need Harry getting woken up until he’s had some sleep.” Seeing Kreacher’s nod, Hermione headed out to take care of some long overdue business.


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