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Chapter 11 : Christmas!
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Albus turns around slowly. He reaches for his wand but remembers he dropped it some time ago. Idiot! Now he’s defenceless, vulnerable to the creature’s attacks.
What was that?
Albus twists around, listening hard. He can hear his heart, the breath rattling in his throat, but – where has the sound of the monster gone?
Albus swallows. Not only is he defenceless, he can no longer hear the monster.
Albus does a full turn, looking out for the creature. He picks up a long stick, planning to use it against the thing. He hears a rustling from the undergrowth to his right. Albus moves towards it slowly, branch at the ready, taking deep breathgs, steeling himself to attack-
Something crashes into him from behind, pushing him forwards and onto the ground. The branch flies out of his hand and lands far away, too far away to be of any use. Albus twists and sees a flash of grey fur, a gleaming yellow eye, and finally a pair of fangs. The creature has its mouth open wide, preparing to bite, preparing to kill.
In wolf-form, Daegan Black bites down on his friend’s throat.
Christmas, d’you hear? Al, it’s Christmas Day! Presents! Cake! Snow! Quidditch!
Wake. Up. Albus. Remus. Potter. For. Merlin’s. Sake. Open. Your. Eyes. It. Is. Christmas. Day.
Albus’s eyes fluttered open and at once they narrowed again. Someone was shining a bright light into his eyes. The same person, he suspected, who was invading his thoughts and forcing him awake at some ungodly hour.
Wait a minute.
Albus shoved the light away and jumped out of bed. “Did you say Christmas?” he shouted. “Christmas! Sev, it’s Christmas!”
“Yes, because I haven’t just been telling you that for the last five minutes,” Severus grinned and rolled his eyes at Albus.
“But you haven’t.”
Albus whirled around and saw Rose and Dillon standing in the doorway. Rose had spoken, and both of them were frowning. “You haven’t been talking at all. You were just shaking him.”
Albus glanced at Severus. “Well…”
“Like you said last night, Al, we’re tired of secrets and lies,” Dillon said. She had a wary look in her eyes. “What’s going on?”
Albus opened his mouth to speak and Severus blurted out, “We’re telepathic.”
Severus grinned. “Al’s just told me he thinks that was a bit too blunt.”
Rose and Dillon had been staring at the twins in disbelief, but now Rose stepped forward into the room. “You mean – you mean you can talk to each other inside your heads?”
“That’s the definition of ‘telepathic’,” said Albus, grinning, “at least I think it is.”
Dillon shook her head. “That’s so cool.”
“Sometimes I can hear other people’s thoughts too,” Albus admitted. “Last night at dinner, when you said you’d been researching magical creatures, I saw your thoughts. I knew you were meant werewolves because I say pictures of them in your head, and I knew you thought Daegan was one because you were thinking about him.”
Rose stared for a minute. “In the future, I’d prefer it if you didn’t invade my head, thank you very much.”
“I didn’t do it on purpose!” Albus exclaimed, shrugging his shoulders. “I don’t know, it was like you suddenly started thinking louder or something. I can’t hear other people’s thoughts all the time, just sometimes.”
“Well, don’t.” Rose turned around and left the room. After a moment, Dillon followed.
What was that nightmare you were having? Severus asked. Was that Daegan?
Yeah. Albus shivered at the memory. I guess my brain was just thinking too hard about it.
“No kidding,” said Severus. It’s a pretty scary thing to think about though.
Yup. Albus shook his head and said, “Anyway, let’s go open some presents!
Severus nodded and the twins turned to the piles of presents at the feet of their beds. Albus picked up the first present, which was from Aunt Hermione. He felt the sharp corners and figured it must be a book. Albus didn’t mind reading, as long as the book was interesting, so he tore open the wrapping with curiosity.
Inside was a thin red book entitled Magical Animal Trivia by Rolf Scamander. He flicked through it and saw that it was full of random facts on pretty much every magical animal Albus could think of, and some new ones he hadn’t heard of before. Without hesitation he found the page entitled Whos and Whats of Werewolves. He would read it later, to see if anything linked with Daegan.
His other presents included a lot of sweets and Weasley’s products, and also the standard family jumper. Albus could tell that this one had been made by Victoire and not Molly as the head hole was too big. (Victoire had only just started learning to knit, so Albus couldn’t blame her for any mistakes.) The design was a scarlet background with a golden owl on front, obviously meant to be Septimus. Albus twisted around to get a glimpse of his owl. Septimus was still asleep in his cage, glowing softly. Albus pulled the jumped on over his head and opened the rest of his presents.
From Rose he got a Spell-Checking Quill, which he took as a hint to use a dictionary more often. From Dillon he got a spell to change the colour of his hair, which Albus found incredibly funny. The incantation was written down on a bit of parchment along with the instructions.
Merry Christmas! I remember how you and Sev changed your hair colour for the Quidditch match, so I got Victoire to show me the spell. Here it is:
Mutus capillos colorem. Circle your wand around your head and think very hard on what colour you want. The counter-charm is Northmanni capillus coloris. Have fun!
PS I expect a different hair-colour next time I see you!
Albus did as the letter instructed and thought very hard about the colour of Ginny’s hair. He felt a tingle on his scalp and pulled a bit of hair down in front of his eyes. It was now a bright, flaming red. “Hey, Sev, do I look like James now?”
Severus did a double-take. “Whoah! From far away, yes, but close-up I can still see your eyes are green. Did you get the spell from Dillon?”
“Yeah, did you get it?”
“No, I got an eye one.” Severus pointed his wand at Albus’s eyes and said, “Hold still. One minute.” He read a bit of parchment and said, “Oculus colore mutato!”
Albus’s vision grew fuzzy and then suddenly it cleared. He blinked a few times and said, “What colour are they now?”
“Brown, like James’s,” Severus told him. “You’re like him in miniature, kind of.”
“Do you think we could fool anyone?” asked Albus. He cut off Severus's reply with another question. "Hey, where are Fred and Robert?” He had suddenly realised his two cousins were missing.
“They went downstairs ages ago,” said Severus. “You do know it’s nearly lunchtime?”
“What?” asked Albus loudly. He hadn’t realised how much time had passed. His nightmare must have been going on for longer than he thought.
Albus flicked away the thought of the nightmare like he would flick away an irritating bug. It was just his imagination going overboard, he told himself. Daegan would never bite him, even if he was a werewolf. Albus suddenly got an image of non-werewolf Daegan trying to bite a chunk out of Albus’s arm and laughed. Severus laughed too, having seen the image at the same time that Albus thought of it. That was a bit creepy, he had to admit.
Albus found the present from his parents and picked it up. It was obviously some article of clothing, quite large in size. He turned to Severus. You found Mum and Dad’s present yet?
No, wait – here! Severus held it up to show Albus. Three, he thought.
Two, thought Albus.
“One!” they said together, and without further ado Albus ripped into his present. It was only when he got rid of the wrapping completely did he realise what he was holding.
“Oh my God…”
Albus ran his hands through the folds of the cloak. It felt like liquid, like he was running his hands through a wave of water. He tilted the cloak, and as it caught the light it shimmered in a weird, incandescent way. His heart pounded as he slowly put it over himself. He looked down to confirm his suspicions: he couldn’t see his body. He was invisible.
Harry had given him the Cloak of Invisibility.
Albus jumped up and down invisibly. He was so excited, so happy, so, so…he couldn’t find the right words. He looked around for Severus, and froze.
Where was his twin brother?
Albus wracked his brains, trying to remember everything Harry had ever said about the Cloak. He vividly remembered Harry mentioning watching Snape from under the Cloak, which meant that from under the Cloak you could still see people on the outside. “Sev?” called out Albus. “Are you there?”
There was no answer, so Albus tried searching with his mind. Sev? Again there was no answer. Albus tried something he hadn’t done before. He reached out mentally, searched for other mind besides his own. He combed the whole room, going methodically from corner to corner.
He was at the window when he heard the door creak open.
Albus turned around to see Rose standing in the doorway clutching two parcels. She frowned for a second, took in the mess on the floor, and shrugged. “They're probably in the kitchen,” Rose muttered to herself. “Al must be starving.”
She left the room.
Albus, acting on a whim, silently crept out after her, shadowing her footsteps. More than once on the long staircase Rose stopped and looked around seeming confused, but she just kept going. Finally she entered the kitchen and before Albus followed her, he had another brilliant idea.
He whipped off the Cloak and carefully stored it in his pocket. He took off his glasses and tried to focus on where things were vaguely so he wouldn’t trip on something. He fixated his thoughts on Quidditch and sauntered into the kitchen. As he came in he grabbed a bit of toast from the table and started eating it.
“Hey Rose,” he said in his best James-impression.
“Hi James,” she said. Albus had always been taller than her, and now it came as an advantage. “Do you know where Al and Sev are?”
“Sev, no idea, but I think I saw Al in the garden. What’s in the parcels?” Albus asked her.
“Presents from Daegan,” said Rose. “He said in his letter they’re Muggle things but we should like them. He gave me a book on understanding the Muggle legal system. It’s quite fascinating actually.”
Albus let his jaw drop, knowing that James wouldn’t bother hiding such a thing. “You think the legal system is fascinating? Are you nuts?”
Rose narrowed her eyes. “No, actually, I’m not. I just like reading about things that interest me, that’s all. I could call you nuts for spending all your time on Quidditch, but I won’t because I actually have an idea of how to behave around people.” Rose spun around and marched out into the garden. Albus immediately felt bad.
“Northmanni capillus coloris,” he said, pointing his wand at his hair. He felt it change and then realised that anyone could walk into the kitchen at any moment. He whipped out the Cloak, hid himself under it, and realised he didn’t know the reverse for the eye-spell. He could always try though. The original spell had been oculus colore mutato. Albus pointed at his eyes, desperately hoping he was right, and whispered, “Northmanni oculus coloris.”
His vision went fuzzier than it was without the glasses, so that everything was blurry and colours ran and Albus couldn't make out any shapes at all. For an awful heartbeat, Albus thought he had got it wrong, that he’d be completely, uncurably blind forever, but then his vision cleared to the standard no-glasses fuzziness. He hoped his eyes were their usual green.
Albus stuck his glasses back on, grateful to be able to see properly again, and took off the Cloak. He then walked out into the garden, making sure no gnomes got into the kitchen as he did so. “Hey Rose!” he called, waving an arm at her.
She turned round and smiled at him. “Did you just come from the shed? James said you were out here.”
Albus hesitated, wondering if he should tell her about Dillon’s present to him.
“Yeah, I was just looking at Grandpa’s stuff.” Why had he lied? He didn’t remember making the decision.
“What did you find?” asked Rose, sitting down on the grass and kicking a gnome out of the way.
“Oh, er, nothing particular,” he said and changed the subject. “What’s in the parcels?”
“Dunno, they’re from Daegan,” she said as she handed him one. “There was a letter too, here-”
Rose gave him a slip of extremely white stuff that looked a bit like parchment but was a lot thinner and whiter. “What is this stuff?” Albus asked Rose. She would know, she knew everything.
“It’s a Muggle invention, it’s called ‘paper’,” laughed Rose. “They copied our idea of parchment and this is what they use.”
“Huh,” said Albus. He lowered his head and began to read.
Dear Al, Sev, Rose and Dillon-
Merry Christmas! You have no idea how hard it was finding an owl delivery service here. Luckily I overheard a wizard talking to a witch about Quidditch and I asked them for directions. Anyway, I hope you like my presents. They are Muggle things as I don’t have access to a wizarding shop, but they should interest you guys, at least I think they should.
Albus turned his attention to the parcel. He tore off the brown wrapping and pulled out two things. The first was a tube with Fruit Pastilles written on the side in bubble-writing, and the second was a large book entitled A Study in Scarlet – Abridged Version by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Another piece of ‘paper’ was stuck to the front with what looked like Spellotape. Al, you may think you’re a great detective but you really have no clue until you’ve read this. As this was written by a Muggle, I’m assuming you haven’t. Also, the sweets are nothing like Puking Pastilles. These ones are only harmful to your teeth. –D
Albus unfolded the silver foil at the top of the Pastilles tube and took out the first one. At once he saw why Daegan had written ‘only harmful to your teeth’ – the round purple sweet was covered in sugar. Albus stuck it in his mouth and picked up A Study in Scarlet. He read the blurb as he began to chew.
“What book is that?” Rose asked as she peered over his shoulder.
“A Study in Scarlet,” said Albus thickly. “It’s a murder-mystery.”
“That’ll keep you happy,” said Rose, grinning.
“Al, you’re up! Come inside and have something to eat!”
Albus turned around to see his father standing in the kitchen doorway. Albus jumped up and, carrying his presents and the wrapping, ran into the house, Rose hot on his heels. They both sat down at the kitchen table and Harry put a bowl of soup in front of Albus. “Would you like some, Rose?”
“Yes please, Uncle Harry,” said Rose. Harry put a bowl down in front of her.
“Where is everyone else?” asked Albus confusedly. “I’ve only seen you two, Sev and Dillon today.”
“Everyone’s in the living room,” said Harry. “We were trying not to wake you.”
After finishing their soup, Albus beckoned to Rose and she followed him up to his room. Albus dug around in his pile of presents. “I got this-” he held up the red book “-from Aunt Hermione. I think it’ll give us loads of info on werewolves.” He opened to the pages on werewolves and showed Rose.
She took the book from him and skimmed a few lines. “Yeah, this should do it. I’ll see if there’s anything at home on werewolves I haven’t read yet and bring that to school after the holidays.”
“Is there anything at your house you haven’t read yet full stop?” asked Albus.
“Yeah! Mum and Dad have a huge library on stuff to do with the Ministry and law and previous cases and the war, of course, and there’re loads of cookbooks I haven’t read and some of Mum’s Muggle books on Muggle wars and-”
“Whoah!” Albus put his hands out in front of him and made a ‘calm’ gesture. “Rose, it’s okay. I wasn’t trying to annoy you or anything. I was just joking.”
“Okay,” said Rose. Her head jerked forwards and she put a hand to the back of it. “Ow! What was that?” She turned around and Albus jumped up from his position on the floor. Rose bent down and as she did so Albus felt something bounce off his cheek.
Rose picked up the missile for Albus as well as her own and held them up for Albus to see. Two round sweets, one green and one purple, each completely crusted with sugar.
“Those’re my Fruit Pastilles,” said Albus in surprise. “I left them in the kitchen.” He turned towards the doorway and called, “Who’s there and why are you throwing hard sweets at us?”
There was no answer, but Albus heard something hit the wall and assumed the assailant had just missed them. “Hey!” he said angrily. “Stop it!”
Albus marched out of the room, Rose behind him, and looked around the hallway. There was no one there. He walked out a little bit to see if anyone was hiding in the direction of Uncle Bill and Aunt Fleur’s room and could hear Rose checking in the other direction. Finding no one, he turned around and walked back into the bedroom.
And nearly jumped a foot in the air.
“Sev!” yelled Albus. “Where have you been? Was it you throwing sweets at us?”
Severus dangled the tube of Fruit Pastilles at Albus tauntingly. “You didn’t even see me.”
“About that…” Albus crossed the room and snatched the Fruit Pastilles back. “Where did you go?”
“Well, little bro,” said Severus smugly, annoying Albus because Severus was only four minutes older, “it’s all down to Dad’s present here.” With a flourish, Severus pulled something silvery, shiny and distinctly Cloak-like.
“You stole my Cloak!” accused Albus. “Give it back!”
Severus leaned back and held the Cloak away from Albus. “Didn’t. This is what Dad gave me for Christmas.”
Albus felt inside his pocket. His own Cloak was still there. He pulled it out and put it on so that only his head was visible. He heard Rose gasp behind him but what mattered was the look of fury on Severus’s face. “This is what dad gave me for Christmas. The question is which one is the real Cloak?”
Severus stood and put on his own cloak. They stood across from each other, two floating heads in the bedroom, and Albus had a sudden urge to take off his glasses so they would be mirror-images.
Severus strode towards Albus, breaking the silence, and Albus could see tiny ripples in the air when he moved. So his cloak wasn’t perfect, then. Albus fought to keep a smug look off his face.
“You know what I think?” said Severus quietly.
“What’s that then?” asked Albus, his voice equally low.
“I think Dad gave neither of us the real cloak. I think he gave both of us fakes so that we wouldn’t fight. I’m not going to fight. I’m going down to the living room, and I don’t care who has the real cloak.” Severus became visible and left the room. Albus gave a low whistle.
“He’s just jealous,” he told Rose.
Rose muttered something that sounded like “Boys” and started to walk out the room. “Should we start looking for werewolf stuff in Nana’s library?”
“Yeah, sure,” said Albus. He took off his Cloak and stuffed it in his pocket for safekeeping.
The rest of the day was spent half wishing people Merry Christmas and eating and listening to stories, and half researching werewolves. Albus went to bed feeling tired and worried about Daegan. He had learned some horrible stuff that day. If Daegan really was a werewolf, he would be dealing with things that were a lot worse than just the prejudice. Albus hoped he wasn’t.
But it was a very small hope.
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