The Undiluted Truth @lorde_shadowz
Chapter 11

The Undiluted Truth, Chapter 11

Christmas was in the air, and Harry could smell the spice and pine. Blaise, Hannah, and Harry studied ever so much harder, so as to be ready for the pre-break exams, and the castle began to ready itself for Christmas. Well, to be more specific, the people and house elves began to ready themselves. The Weasley twins took to hanging mistletoe charmed to stick whoever walked under them to the nearest wall until they were kissed; cheek kisses were ok for anyone under 3rd year, two people were related, or if someone was a teacher, but you had to actually kiss on the lips, which was the cause of a good deal of embarrassment among the various students. (These were finally taken down due to the fact that because Argus Filch was the caretaker and not a teacher, he was stuck to the wall for twenty-four hours, until Filius Flitwick managed to break the difficult charm work, and the twins were given detention with said incensed caretaker. Not that it subdued them enough that they stopped their special brand of holiday cheer; they just diverted it to other projects which had not yet been explicitly forbidden, like teaching Peeves inappropriate lyrics to the usual Christmas songs and charming the angel on the top of one of the trees that Hagrid had dragged into the Great Hall to stick a finger up her nose.) The children began to talk about the holidays, too: who would stay and who was going home to their family, and what everyone wanted for Christmas.

Harry was just glad that he was not going to be at the Dursleys' for the holiday. Just being able to have a lie-in and maybe Christmas dinner would be an improvement, and the first time that one of the Hufflepuffs asked him what he was hoping for (of course it was a Hufflepuff; Slytherins would not do something so crass as to ask what someone wanted for Christmas) and he'd just said "Oh, I don't know. My family doesn't do much for Christmas." Well, not for him. Said Hufflepuff had squeaked in total horror, and Harry guessed that they were all planning something, judging by furtive looks and the rapid crinkle of paper being carefully and lovingly fitted around packages that were swiftly hustled out of sight.

Today, however, he was thinking about his own contribution. He knew enough about how normal families and friends worked to know that it was considered polite to give gifts if you wanted to recieve them, but he obviously didn't have anything with him and he was not so good at complex spells that could potentially be used to make a gift that someone might actually want. And, while he was astounding at gift-wrapping (having to wrap twenty or more boxes for Dudley on every possible gift-giving occasion had given him almost preternatural skills in that department) he was not so good at figuring out what to get for anyone, considering that he had never had anyone to give anything to, or resources to get or make something to give. He didn't know what to do, but at last he decided to ask for help, since, upon making a comment to Jewel (whose limited understanding of human culture did not stretch to Christmas traditions) said only that he should get them all prey (which, considering that there was going to be a Christmas feast, would likely end up being both odd and unnecessary).

Harry stewed all through defense, (which, since he had a horrible headache on top of Malfoy trying out the new cutting curse they were learning, lascero, on him definitely qualified as torture) before at last deciding to go seek out Nymphadora Tonks, a clumsy, humorous seventh year whom he felt he knew well enough to confide in but not enough that she would feel sorry for him and make the next few years awkward, considering that she would be graduating soon. He didn't have to tell her everything, either.

"Uh, Tonks?" Everyone knew better than to call her Nymphadora, either to her face or even anywhere where her extra-sharp hearing could pick it up. He didn't know her that well, anyway.

"Oh, hi Harry," the seventh year replied distractedly, messing up a pile of papers about runes and hieroglyphs and basic cursebreaking for aurors, and Harry said "Sorry" and was about to help gather them up when she flicked her wand and all the papers flew back to order in an instant. Harry's eyes widened. "You can do that?"

Her only response was a boisterous laugh. "When you drop your homework on the classroom floor on a regular basis, yeah, you learn," she told him, and Harry felt better.

"Can you teach me?" Harry asked, totally forgetting what he had been about to ask her.

She hesitated. "Sure, I guess," she said at last. "I don't know if you'll have enough power and concentration to pull it off, though, so don't be disappointed if it doesn't work. The incantation is consistuitese, and you have to move your wand like this." She demonstrated. "It takes a lot of practice, though."

Harry tried it on a couple of sheets of paper, but nothing happened even after Tonks had corrected his technique, so at last he gave it up, a little angry with his lack of success. Tonks told him that it was a sixth year spell and not to worry, but Harry was still frustrated even if he knew that technically it was a spell that he wouldn't be required to know for years. In the end, he just picked up the papers and gave them back to Tonks by hand.

Tonks just grinned and took them. "You'll learn them soon enough," she told him. "Anyway, paper organising charms aside, was there anything else you wanted to talk about? Only, I'm kind of studying for the midterm for Runes..."

"Oh, sorry!" Harry replied. "Uh, it's not really that important."

"Oh, I don't mind. I mean, I do have to study at some point, but I'd also rather not, if you know what I mean."

Harry did, of course. He leaned ever so slightly closer, trying to cover his vulnerability, and then finally said: "Um, I just...I need some gift-giving advice, if you've got time. I just don't know what to get people or what's appropriate in the Wizarding World or whatever."

Tonks looked a little surprised, and the tips of her hair tinted turquoise at the ends, but then she just started nodding. "Ok. Well, if you don't know someone that well, like a housemate who's not in your year or whatever, just get them candy or a trick quill or something. Otherwise, I'd say you just watch someone to see what they're like, or ask them. Or you can ask their friends, if you don't want to telegraph that you're getting them a present."

Harry could probably have figured all that out, given time, but it was helpful to have all that laid out in front of him like that. "Thanks, Tonks," he said, and was about to say goodbye and leave her to the tender mercies of her Runes study guide, but then something else occurred to him.

"Wait, how can I buy gifts if I can't leave the castle?"

"Oh, right, you can't just go to Hogsmeade," Tonks exclaimed, as if she had only just thought of that. Granted it was probably true..."Well, I could pick whatever you wanted up for you, and you could pay me back later," she suggested, "And then there are owl-order catalogues, of course."

"Owl-order catalogues?"

"Yeah, they're basically for when you want to send away for something. You just circle whatever you want to buy, tap the order form with your wand, and put your Gringotts code, and then they'll owl you whatever you sent away for. Here," she added impulsively, handing him a thick catalogue. "I'm finished with it anyway, and I think there are still a few forms in it."

Harry took it and stared at it, then started to flip through it. This might actually be the answer to his problems! This would be perfect, except that he wasn't sure where his Gringotts code was, and that he knew that he could likely find without any problems. "Oh, yeah I see. Thank you!"

"Oh, no problem! Is there anything else I can help you with?"

"No, I don't think so." Harry did not want to keep her from her studying, especially now that he had the catalogue to look through.

"Right then. See you around, Harry?"

"Yeah, sure!"

Tonks' grin was blinding and her hair was oscillating between pink and purple as Harry left, or, to be more specific, left that part of the library. However, as soon as they were out of hearing distance, Jewel popped up from under Harry's collar. ~I don't understand,~ she commented finally. ~This human ritual is absurd.~

Harry, on the other hand, thought that Christmas, now that he was going to actually be allowed to take part, was probably going to be great. ~Oh, I don't know about that. I think that this is going to be fun.~

~Hethi,~ she began, and Harry straightened up at once- she did not often use the parseltongue bastardization of his name, since snakes usually referred to each other in terms of the relationships they had with one another: sunbrother, sunsister, nestmate, mate, seed-giver, egg-layer, competitors, predators, or prey.

~What isss it?~

~Your enemiesss~ (she used the word meaning predator here, meaning an enemy which would actively hurt him rather than just taking food and mates away from him) ~might ussse thiss Time-of-Lit-Trees-and-Ssshared-Prey to give you presssentss with food-venom.~

Harry blinked, trying to parse the snake language. Time-of-Lit-Trees-and-Shared-Prey obviously meant Christmas, but... ~Oh, you mean ssomeone might poissson me?~

~Poisssson?~ Jewel flickered out her tongue as if to taste the new word. ~If you mean venom that comesss from insssectss that ssssting and plantss that are no good to eat, then yesss. I alssso worry that ssomeone might try to put p-p- oh, Ishtar, I mean food venom in your gorging-day prey.~

~Gorging-day prey?~

~The prey they give out when it is a sspecial day...what wasss the human word?~

~Feasst,~ Harry told her, and she dutifully repeated the word.

~Feasst. Right. In any cassse, you shhould probably be on your guard.~

~I sssuppose that would be ssafessst,~ Harry said reluctantly. He did not want to mistrust his friends, but being poisoned with a magic poison did not exactly appeal to him either, for obvious reasons. ~But asside from that, what on earth sshould I get my friends as presentsss?~

~I don't know. Didn't know the lassst time you asssked me, either,~ she went on, and Harry blushed. ~The plump kind one [Neville] likesss plantss, sso that isss probably a good ssstart, and the short frizzy one [Hermione] likess talking-leaf-stacksss, sso you could probably get her one on anything and shhhe would read it. I think the pretty dark-skinned ones [Padma and Parvati] like shiny rock-powder and flower-scent, so you could probably get them that, but maybe talk to the happy one and the chatty one [Susan and Hannah] ssssince they know what human femalesss like better than I do. Ssspeaking of the happy one and the chatty one, they would probably like just about anything, but I don't know them too well, sso I sssay sstick to sssweet-prey and fancy dark-water-feathersss. I don't know what the tall dark boy would want, though.~

Harry grinned at her. ~All of those are good ideas.~ He paused. ~But...but what should I get for my ssseed-giver?~

~I don't know your sseed-giver that well,~ Jewel responded. ~And...I don't know much about Time-of-Lit-Trees-and-Ssshared-Prey, but I think it ssshould be from you.~

~But I don't know what to get him. What if he doessssn't like it? What if he laughsss? What if he'sss angry?~

~Don't tell him who it'sss from. Just send it without a note, or with a note that'ss been magic-written sso that he doesssn't know it'sss you. Then if he likesss it, he likess it, and if he doesssn't, you'll never know.~

~But-~

~I think if you didn't get him anything, you would be upssset with yourssself. Just get him sssomething nice like some soft-sweet-food or some dizzy-drink or something for hisss stinking-water-mixes.~

Harry took a moment to translate that. ~Yeah, I guesss. But-~

~No butss. Finish reading the commerce leaf-stack and then go get your presssentss. And maybe talk to the other humanss, too- they probably know what iss good. I'm a ssnake, after all. All I want is a nice plump mouse, or maybe a gerbil.~

Harry filed that last away in his mind for future reference and left the nook in the library for his dorm, still reading the catalogue.

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