The Undiluted Truth @lorde_shadowz
Chapter 12

The Undiluted Truth, Chapter 12

Harry woke bright and early on Christmas morning, although that was mostly because all of his dorm mates had woken early too, (Merlin forbid that any of them would actually wake him up, but that was what Slytherins were like) and their rustling and tramping around shook him out of his sleep, as he had never been a heavy sleeper, nor a late one. It would have been hard to maintain such a decadent habit at the Dursleys, after all. Harry got up quickly- it was Christmas, after all, and people might start to wonder if he did not get up and rush down to look at any presents he might have, considering how spoiled everyone seemed to think he was. Not to mention that he was curious as to what Christmas was like (outside of preparing the roast and wrapping the presents and hanging holly and lights at age eight). He dressed easily, then, as he had been doing all the time lately, stuck his hand under his bed (where Jewel slept) and let her slither up his arm under his jacket and take her usual snug position around his neck.

~Happy Time-of-Lit-Treess-and-Ssshared-Prey~ Jewel told him, flicking his ear with her long black tongue. Harry giggled, garnering momentary looks of curiosity from the rest of his dorm mates who, while they were too well-bred to rush down to the common room 'like a pack of Hufflepuffs', were evidently still very excited about Yule, especially Draco (although he would have denied it had it been brought up; Malfoys don't do impatient excitement).

~Happy Chrisssstmass to you too,~ he responded out of the corner of his mouth, and reached up to surreptitiously stroke her little dark head. ~I got you a rat, but I had to have the plump kind one keep it for me, because I didn't want thossse of the Queensnake Nest to assk awkward quessstionss.~ Queensnake Nest meant, of course, Slytherin House.

~Thank you, Hethhi,~ Jewel responded, drawing out the word languidly, her black eyes slitting in pleasure (not that one could see them with her head nuzzled up against Harry's neck under his jacket). ~I will enjoy it. I would catch you ssssomething, but I know you don't eat small-prey. For some reason.~

Harry giggled again. He might have made some sort of response, but at that moment Draco Malfoy (who had ceased ignoring him but was still not all that pleasant) called "Hey Potter, your adoring public is waiting for you!" and Harry thought it prudent to finish dressing and go down to the common room, not wanting to seem nervous about experiencing the first real Christmas of his life.

He was actually shaking by the time he got to the door that led into the common room. Would anyone have given him gifts? Would they like his? Would Snape like what he had picked for him?

~You are trembling, Hethi,~ Jewel said, radiating concern from her cool little body. ~What isss wrong?~

~Do you think I'll have presentsss? Do you think that the tall dark one will like what I got him? Or the short frizzy one? Or the pretty dark skinned ones? Or...~

Jewel laid her tail across his mouth. ~You are a Bighood. You have emulatorss all over the magic territory, essspecially in this nest. You alsso have plenty of ssunsssiblings. Of course you are going to get pressentsss, Hethi. Asss for your sunsiblingsss, I'm sssure that they'll like whatever you got them.~


"Relax, Hethi.~ Jewel had taken to saying his name more, as if it were a nod to human culture. Harry just liked that someone was not calling him "Potter" or "boy; the name Hethi seemed all his own, something secret, something that only he and his familiar shared. Something that was his alone. ~Warm your ssscales and go down to the common cave; you're a messss,~ she went on.

~Thanksss, I think.~

~Welcome,~ was Jewel's smug reply. ~It'll be fine. At the very leassst, there'll be gorging-day-prey tonight, even if you don't get pressentsss, which I doubt.~

Harry straightened his spine, took a deep breath, and stepped out into the common room.

"Hi Harry, happy Christmas!" called Tracey as soon as he came in, and every head turned to look at him as he shifted uncomfortably in the doorway.

"Happy Christmas to you, too, Tracey," he responded, a little overwhelmed. What was one supposed to say on Christmas? What were the customs and traditions? Were gifts given out in the morning, or the evening, or what? What was one supposed to do besides eat and open presents and (slowly gathering terror) socialize? He might have stood there awkwardly for another ten minutes before he figured out what was permissible and appropriate to do and say, but at that moment, Blaise, as if sensing his awkwardness, saved him.

"Harry, are you going to get your presents? The house elves put them out..."

Harry froze for the merest of seconds. Presents. He actually had presents.


Harry abruptly snapped out of it. "Oh, yeah. I just-" Harry struggled with something- anything- to say that would not make him sound as though he had practically lived under a rock, even if it were true. On the instant, the words that he was going to say came to him, a comment that would both adequately explain his momentary spacing out and would also help him learn more about the world that he should have grown up in. "What are house elves?"

Blaise blinked. "You don't know what- ohh, right, muggle-raised. Yeah, they're...well...they're a magical race that serves wizards, sometimes as slaves and sometimes having a more equal relationship. It all depends. The point is that a lot of free house elves work for Hogwarts; they're what make the beds and magic the food onto the tables and such."

"Oh. I...oh," said Harry, who'd thought it had all been some sort of complex enchantment.

"I was surprised when I first learned that too," contributed Tracey Davis sympathetically, and Harry was reminded that she was a halfblood, and had had only a little more exposure to the magical world, since her parents had divorced over her magical abilities and she had spent most of her time with her muggle mother. "I thought everything was run by magic, you know, and then I learn about house elves and thestrals and-"


She blushed. "Yes. You know the horseless carriages that the second years all take up to Hogwarts?"

"No, to be honest. I was pretty overwhelmed."

"Yeah. I suppose I was too. I didn't really pay much attention, either, but I was reading a bit later and I came across a section on them. Apparently they're drawn by these bat-winged horse things that you can only see if you've seen death."

"Oh." Harry thought he would have remembered if he had seen bat-winged demonic horses drawing the carriages. "Wait, I thought you said they were horseless?"

"It's because most people can't see the thestrals, you know."

Harry nodded, just the slightest bit lost. He would have to look up thestrals. "Yeah, I can get that," he said, because he did not have anything else to say.

"Oi Potter!"

Harry turned around, and Jewel muttered "well, well, well, what a lovely ssssurprisse. Here come Chunky, Ugly, and Ssslippery," under her breath against his neck, making him nearly choke trying not to let on that he was laughing. It was, of course, Malfoy and his goons. "What is it?" he asked, still trying not to laugh.

"Some wizards don't want to wait until the turn of the century to open their presents," he said. Harry smirked, but Tracey, on the other hand, was less amused.

"How in the Christmas spirit to interrupt two people having a nice conversation," she began, and Harry nearly stifled on the laughter threatening to bubble up in his throat. "You don't have to wait for Harry to open his, either. Just go for it, it's not like it's some sort of formal deal." She frowned. "Unless it is? Tell me there isn't some weird pureblood custom about letting the most famous wizard in the room open his presents first?"

Harry blushed a color that went far beyond pink, edging into garnet red, fervently hoping that that was not actually a thing.

"Sweet Merlin, Tracey!" Daphne broke in, trying to rescue her friend before she further screwed up the Slytherin hierarchy.

Draco Malfoy just fumed. "I wasn't aware it was socially unacceptable to expect the house to open Yule presents together..."

"Yes, but we don't have to be in a hurry, Mr. Malfoy, do we?" that was Lilian Moon.

"Whoa whoa whoa, calm down here," Blaise broke in. "Why can't we have breakfast together and then all open presents together Christmas stuff."

"Do Christmas stuff?" Draco said with a faint sneer that seemed not so much as to show anger but rather just a general mild disdain for whatever Blaise was referring to as "Christmas stuff". He followed that up by arching one silver eyebrow. "What, exactly do you have in mind?"

"I don't know! Have a snowball war and pummel the 'Claws and the Gryffs? Play some kind of maudlin Hufflepuffian game that we all secretly want to play but would never be so undignified as to do it except on Christmas?"

"That's the same thing," muttered an upper year from the corner, and laughs rippled quietly through the common room, dispelling the tension there rather quickly.

"Point being," Blaise emphasized, "It's bloody Christmas, let's make an attempt to at least try to be nice to each other for a few hours."

The others acted as reluctant as possible to listen, as though actually acting like it was Christmas was somehow some kind of weakness, while Harry watched, bemused. He apparently had a lot to learn.

It took about half an hour of chattering and talking and levitating chocolate frog wrappers at each other (in the case of the younger and more immature years) before they finally all got together in something resembling a line (though it was noticeably more messy than usual) behind the prefects, and headed down to lunch, while Harry mostly kept his mouth shut and watched, trying to get the hang of this whole Christmas thing, and Jewel made comments, sometimes quite amusing, in his ear. All Harry could think about was that he was finally going to learn exactly what Christmas was like when you were with people you cared for, and what he might have gotten for Christmas. In fact, for the first time since the beginning of the term, he was actually almost unable to finish his breakfast (although thankfully, this time it was because of excitement rather than having had very little food over the summer).

And then finally, after a long breakfast mostly consisting of things that were probably too sweet to be considered to be proper breakfast fare (not that it mattered on Christmas morning) everyone returned to the common room, more or less impatiently, to open their presents, although considering that Harry had seen some of the Gryffindors with holiday spoils, and the fact that Padma and Parvati made a point to come over and thank him for the shiny magical lip-balms and lotions and soaps he had gotten them, the Slytherin house had not been as impatient as some.

Harry could scarcely believe his haul. From a boy who had been accustomed to perhaps a pair of used socks if he were lucky, for as long as he could remember, the sheer number of gifts that he had received quite astounded him, as did the thoughtfulness of some of them. He received a note apparently from the entirety of Hufflepuff house to meet them in their common room that evening with any friends that he wanted to bring, for a Secret Santa (one of the muggleborns' ideas) a traditional Yule party (the purebloods had not wanted to be outdone) and a communal gift-unwrapping. Susan and Hannah had added their own notes (on matching tan and gold stationary with little black badgers in the corners and accompanied by miniature wrapped wizarding candies that supposedly glowed in one's mouth which had been stuck to the paper with mild sticking charms) to say that they would have sent their presents, but they had wanted to give them to him in person that night. He also got a book from Hermione Granger (which somewhat surprised him- not the book part, but the part that she had thought to give him a book and that she had chosen one that he might like and find useful: Wizarding Customs from Around the World), another book from Neville (now that had surprised him, as he had not thought that Neville was particularly bookish.) It turned out that the second book was about the upkeep of wizarding pets and familiars, everything from regular owls and toads to endangered white dream tigers, and Neville had written on the inside cover that he thought that Harry might be interesting in researching the familiar bond, on page 57. Harry had absent-mindedly dog-eared the page and moved on. Padma and Parvati had both pitched together to buy him an expensive broom servicing kit, while the Slytherins' gifts were more generic; chocolate frogs or such from those who wished to curry favor and a potion manual from Blaise, but Harry was deliriously happy that they had thought of him anyway, as he had only gotten gifts for his small circle of friends, as well as a bag of Wizarding candies for each of his two houses as a whole, to share among his housemates. At last he finished unwrapping everything, and then had to just stare at what he had received for a few minutes, much like a young dragon with his very first hoard.

"Wow, Potter, that's a lot of stuff!"

"Yeah," Harry responded noncommittally, not sure what Draco was angling for. "I suppose so." At that, he carefully began to fold the tissue paper, wrapping, and ribbon, stacking the empty cardboard boxes neatly next to the pile of spoils for the house elves to dispose of if his housemates didn't toss them in the fire first. Then he went back to his somewhat reverent fingering of the gifts.

"Dear Merlin, have you never had gifts before? Your eyes are the size of saucers!"

Harry stilled. Damn. Mustn't let the whole house know how much of a freak he was. He was frozen for only the briefest of seconds, after which Jewel brought him back to his senses with a gentle nip, without full fang extension and, of course, without venom, but enough to shock him back into motion. Nor had any of the other wizards noticed, except perhaps for Blaise, who was watching him with kind and non-judgemental black eyes. "What, must I beg your permission to look at my own gifts, your royal arse-ness?"

Several of the girls, including Tracey and Lilian, laughed or giggled behind handkerchiefs, while Daphne affected a falsely dramatic scandalized look and Draco flushed a deep red. "You watch it, Potter!"

"What, the gifts? That's what I was doing?"

That garnered a second round of giggles and groans, and Draco's entire face went a nice red, nearly the color of the Bloody Baron's gashes. Draco opened his mouth to say something that was no doubt even more offensive and biting, but Harry, who didn't want to deal with any more drama at the moment, announced that he was going up to put his gifts away, and made a swift get away, Blaise following.

It was as he was packing everything except a couple of chocolate frogs and the book Neville had gotten him away in his trunk (no sense making it easier for his dorm mates to poke their noses into his business) that he saw the squashy package on his pillow, wrapped in a paper so bright that it might have been able to cause temporary blindness. It was obviously a gift, and, judging by the name scrawled on the side with muggle marker, it was for him, but if it was, then why was it on his pillow, instead of with the other gifts? Why didn't whoever who had sent it to him want him to open it with other people around? Was it a trap?

~Well? Do you think it'sss a trap?~ Harry asked Jewel, nudging the package with his wand. Said wand released a shower of harmless orange sparks, but Harry knew that the one little detection spell he had learned would likely be no match for something powerful and complex, if there was even a harmful spell on it at all.

~It doesss not sssmell like rotten magic,~ Jewel responded, poking her head out of his collar for a better look. Harry was too absorbed in his contemplation of the mysterious package to hear Blaise's faint startled gasp at the parseltongue and at the venomous snake that it was addressed to. Ssstill, I do not know if it isss ssafe.~

Harry carefully cast a spell to unwrap it without touching it (one of the few useful charms that Flitwick had taught them about right before the holidays) and then stared. Because what came out of it, besides a note on a beautiful and personal imagery, was a cloak, silvery and ancient and powerful, like water woven into cloth. Blaise gasped again, this time louder, and Harry whirled around with a start, while Jewel hastily tucked her head down.

"Relax," Blaise said calmly, holding up his hands palm forward, despite the fact that he had not looked exactly relaxed for quite some time. "I'll keep your secrets. Even if you got a bloody invisibility cloak for Christmas."

Harry glanced down at the cloak with even more interest than before. "Is that what it is?"

"Yeah," Blaise replied, smiling a little. "They're really rare and really valuable, though; it's because of the complicated runes and potions that you have to use on the fabric to turn it into a real, honest-to-goodness invisibility cloak instead of just a demiguise-hair pullover. And...I think you'll need to get it checked out for traps, unless you know who sent it."

"Yeah, that's, uh, probably a good idea," Harry responded, still reeling from that fact that Blaise had stated that he would keep his secrets. "And no, I don't know who sent it," Harry went on, examining the paper that had fallen out of the cloak onto his bed. "I'll probably have to take it to Snape. Blaise, do you really mean that you'll keep my secrets?"

"When do I ever say anything I don't mean?" Blaise responded, without really answering the question. Then, at last: "I swear upon my magic not to tell as long as it is not something that will threaten your life or others. I'm not a Death Muncher, Harry, and I have mind shields up so telepaths can't read me."

"Then...maybe could I talk with you after I go down to talk to Snape to make sure the cloak is safe?"

"I'll do one better; I'll just come with," Blaise responded.

And so that was how it was that two wizards, one of them disillusioned in more ways than one (Blaise had once longed to join the Dark Lord, but the memory and eyewitness and secondary reports of the atrocities had been enough to prevent him from truly longing for it anymore) came to be waiting outside Professor Snape's office drawer, bracing themselves, for the talk to com.

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