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Advent Drabbles: Dec. 8 The After-Christmas Tree

Advent Drabbles: Dec. 8 The After-Christmas Tree

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Spinner's End
December 8, 2009
Title: The After-Christmas Tree
Fandom: Harry Potter
Pairing/Characters: Severus
Rating: G
Words: 974 (yeah, this is not technically a drabble. It seemed a simple little story, but it needed more words.)
Warning: Too much angst.
Prompt: Christmas Tree

Not every house has a Christmas tree. Not every house has Father Christmas and stockings, plum pudding and a roast turkey. Not every family snaps crackers and recites their mottos in their paper hats. Not every family goes to the pantomime, or to church. Not every family welcomes the carollers and makes warm drinks for themselves and their friends.

There was a small house in Spinner's End, down at the end of the street near the river that had none of these. They had no alternate traditions or celebrations. It was not poverty, though they were very poor. The church that provided clothes to the strange young boy would have gladly given them a turkey and offered age and gender-appropriate presents, for they aided many in the parish.

No, there was simply no Christmas.

The mother answered any incidence of holiday cheer with pinched angry lips and defiant eyes. The father drank more than usual and accepted sugar cookies from the wives of his mates, which he hid in his pockets.

And the boy. They boy walked to school and back, trailing a stick against the fence, pointing it at this and that. He did not sing in music class with the others, though they taunted him for it afterwards. "I'm not allowed," he said. His lips pinched like his mother's. He was furtive as his father. He looked at the lights, at the trees with their many heart-warming bulbs, and televisions shining blue in other family's windows

Christmas came and went, as did New Years.

At New Years there was no chorus of Auld Lang Syne at midnight, no clasped crossed hands, no resolutions, no laughter or kisses. The house at the end of the street was dark.

The boy returned to school for the Spring term. "Maybe we could all write a little story. What did you get for Christmas?" Maybe this boy was... what were people? Jewish? He stared at her with those blank dark eyes. But his mind was not blank. His work was impeccable. "Maybe you could write a little story about the way you celebrated Christmas, then. Or... your holiday. How do you celebrate your holidays, in winter?"

He didn't say anything but dropped his head so his black hair hid his black eyes. She had a whole class of students after all and was not going to waste her time with this uncooperative child. Impatiently she dismissed him. "Oh, just write anything, then. Winter! Everyone has winter, even you."

When it came time to read the stories aloud to the rest of the class, the clamour was immediate. "How come he doesn't have to do the same thing as the rest of us? Yeah, what makes him think he's so special?" His nose was bleeding as he walked home from school. It was large and curved in a hook, apparently an attractive target. He knew he couldn't go home yet and packed it with snow, using his bare icy burning fingers. He didn't want to get blood on his mittens.

Christmas was over and many families were taking down their trees, leaving them for the dustmen to take away. Needles littered the packed snow of the sidewalk and all week, as he walked home, the boy had been smelling the tang of pine sap.

Now he looked at one of the trees near where he had stopped. He looked up the street, and down. There was no one outdoors. The tree was perfectly shaped, abandoned. It was no good to anyone now. There was a small plank nailed to the bottom, so it would stand upright and it trailed strings of tinsel. There were even a few twists of white pipe-cleaner and a small red round ornament that had been forgotten. There was only a little of the thin glass missing so that he could see the silver shining inside. The dustmen would come the next day. He stood and pushed it upright. It was not too tall, and though it wavered, he set it evenly into the snow and it stood.

The boy looked around again. There was no one there. As he held his nose tight with one hand, he fetched thin handfuls of tinsel from other abandoned trees with the other. His knuckles were numb and red now, and he scraped them on the rough sharpness as he tugged some of the tangled strands. He could not feel the pain anyway. The very snow seemed icy sharp as he worked.

He took a deep breath and looked one more time. Then he spoke the small spell, secret and private, and the tree rose, or at least lightened, and followed him down to the end of the street. He left the tree standing just inside his own fence. He didn't dare decorate it further, or situate it more solidly. He certainly didn't dare bring it inside, like a real Christmas tree.

There were recriminations when he arrived back late, but he was not bloody any more, just his grazed hands, and that was nothing. When he stopped and turned at the landing he looked out the window. There stood his tree. His tree, his real tree. The tinsel and the little ornament reflected the streetlights and glittered to him. He waved his fingers back with a tiny smile.

The next morning his parents were arguing about the neighbourhood hooligans and brats, who just left trees in the first yard they saw. It had missed the dustmen, so he would have it another week. It was outside the fence now, and he didn't dare move it back, but he still hugged himself a little when he looked at it. His after-Christmas tree. He would have liked to make his coloured radiant little lights and set them among its branches. But he didn't dare do that, either.
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