Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter (disappointingly), JK Rowling does!
Christmas was coming. One morning in mid-December, Hogwarts woke to find itself covered in several feet of snow. The lake froze solid and the Weasley twins, along with Alex, were punished for bewitching several snowballs so that they followed Quirrell around, bouncing off the back of his turban. The few owls that managed to battle their way through the stormy sky to deliver mail had to be nursed back to health by Hagrid before they could fly off again.
No one could wait for the holidays to start. While the Gryffindor common room and the Great Hall had roaring fires, the drafty corridors had become icy and a bitter wind rattled the windows in the classrooms. Worst of all were Professor Snape's classes down in the dungeons, where their breath rose in a mist before them and they kept as close as possible to their hot cauldrons.
"I do feel so sorry," said Draco Malfoy, one Potions class, "for all those people who have to stay at Hogwarts for Christmas because they're not wanted at home." He was looking over at Harry as he spoke. Crabbe and Goyle chuckled. Harry, who was measuring out powdered spine of lionfish, ignored them. Alex, however, secretly sent a quick shoelace- tying spell his way, and he fell down, and for the rest of the day, his shoelace kept coming undone unexpectedly.
Harry and Ron snickered, while Hermione shot a slightly disapproving look at her, but Alex shrugged and added in her ingredients for her potions, and nonchalantly said, "I thought it wasn't a secret that I didn't like him." Even Harry had to hold back a chuckle when he heard that. Malfoy had been even more unpleasant than usual since the Quidditch match.
Disgusted that the Slytherins had lost, he had tried to get everyone laughing at how a wide-mouthed tree frog would be replacing Harry as Seeker next. Then he'd realized that nobody found this funny, because they were all so impressed at the way Harry had managed to stay on his bucking broomstick.
So Malfoy, jealous and angry, had gone back to taunting Harry about having no proper family. It was true that Harry wasn't going back to Privet Drive for Christmas. Professor McGonagall had come around the week before, making a list of students who would be staying for the holidays, and Harry had signed up at once. He didn't feel sorry for himself at all; this would probably be the best Christmas he'd ever had. Ron and his brothers were staying, too, because Mr. And Mrs. Weasley were going to Romania to visit Charlie.
Alex had wanted to stay, but she claimed her dad forced her to continue wizards' training. Also, she just wanted to gloat to her brother about how 'awesome Hogwarts was', as she described. Harry secretly thought that she missed her family, but was too proud to admit it.
When they left the dungeons at the end of Potions, they found a large fir tree blocking the corridor ahead. Two enormous feet sticking out at the bottom and a loud puffing sound told them that Hagrid was behind it. "Hi, Hagrid, want any help?" Ron asked, sticking his head through the branches. "Nah, I'm all righ', thanks, Ron." "Would you mind moving out of the way?" came Malfoy's cold drawl from behind them.
"Are you trying to earn some extra money, Weasley? Hoping to be gamekeeper yourself when you leave Hogwarts, I suppose - that hut of Hagrid's must seem like a palace compared to what your family's used to." Ron dived at Malfoy just as Snape came up the stairs. "WEASLEY!" Ron let go of the front of Malfoy's robes. "He was provoked, Professor Snape," said Hagrid, sticking his huge hairy face out from behind the tree. "Malfoy was insultin' his family."
"Be that as it may, fighting is against Hogwarts rules, Hagrid," said Snape silkily. "Five points from Gryffindor, Weasley, and be grateful it isn't more. Move along, all of you." Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle pushed roughly past the tree, scattering needles everywhere and smirking, except when Malfoy stopped to give a not-so-subtle wink to Alex, and she dramatically shivered and shouted, "I think I just felt a cold draft of NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN, MALFOY," down the corridor.
She heard a faint yell, "You'll give in one of these days! And you'll be glad you did, Alex!" She shuddered and looked at Hermione, saying, "See, this is one of the few downsides of being irresistible." Ron sniggered and opened his mouth, but Alex turned to him, and said, "Say something stupid, and you can forget about your present." He shut his mouth at that, but still shot Malfoy a glare, clearly remembering his encounter with Malfoy.
"I'll get him," said Ron, grinding his teeth at Malfoy's back, "one of these days, I'll get him - - " "I hate them both," said Harry, "Malfoy and Snape." "Come on, cheer up, it's nearly Christmas," said Hagrid. "Tell yeh what, come with me an' see the Great Hall, looks a treat."
So the three of them followed Hagrid and his tree off to the Great Hall, where Professor McGonagall and Professor Flitwick were busy with the Christmas decorations. "Ah, Hagrid, the last tree - put it in the far corner, would you?" The hall looked spectacular. Festoons of holly and mistletoe hung all around the walls, and no less than twelve towering Christmas trees stood around the room, some sparkling with tiny icicles, some glittering with hundreds of candles.
"How many days you got left until yer holidays?" Hagrid asked. "Just one," said Hermione. "And that reminds me -Harry, Ron, Alex, we've got half an hour before lunch, we should be in the library." "Oh yeah, you're right," said Ron, tearing his eyes away from Professor Flitwick, who had golden bubbles blossoming out of his wand and was trailing them over the branches of the new tree.
"The library?" said Hagrid, following them out of the hall. "Just before the holidays? Bit keen, aren't yeh?" "Oh, we're not working," Harry told him brightly. Alex gave a snort at that, and Harry continued. "Ever since you mentioned Nicolas Flamel we've been trying to find out who he is." Alex smacked him on the head again, and whispered in his ear, "You'll get his guard up! Stop telling him what we're doing! No we have a lesser chance of Hagrid slipping up and telling us!"
"You what?" Hagrid looked shocked. "Listen here - I've told yeh - drop it. It's nothin' to you what that dog's guardin'." "We just want to know who Nicolas Flamel is, that's all," said Hermione. "Unless you'd like to tell us and save us the trouble?" Ron added.
"We must've been through hundreds of books already and we can't find him anywhere - just give us a hint - I know I've read his name somewhere." "I'm sayin' nothin," said Hagrid flatly. "Just have to find out for ourselves, then," said Ron, and they left Hagrid looking disgruntled and hurried off to the library. Alex just slapped her forehead and muttered, "Amateurs."
They had indeed been searching books for Flamel's name ever since Hagrid had let it slip, because how else were they going to find out what Snape was trying to steal? The trouble was, it was very hard to know where to begin, not knowing what Flamel might have done to get himself into a book. He wasn't in Great Wizards of the Twentieth Century, or Notable Magical Names of Our Time; he was missing, too, from Important Modern Magical Discoveries, and A Study of Recent Developments in Wizardry.
And then, of course, there was the sheer size of the library; tens of thousands of books; thousands of shelves; hundreds of narrow rows. Hermione took out a list of subjects and titles she had decided to search while Ron strode off down a row of books and started pulling them off the shelves at random, while he and Alex were whispering about something.
Harry wandered over to the Restricted Section. He had been wondering for a while if Flamel was somewhere in there. Unfortunately, you needed a specially signed note from one of the teachers to look in any of the restricted books, and he knew he'd never get one. These were the books containing powerful Dark Magic never taught at Hogwarts, and only read by older students studying advanced Defense Against the Dark Arts. "What are you looking for, boy?"
"Nothing," said Harry. Madam Pince the librarian brandished a feather duster at him. "You'd better get out, then. Go on - out!" Wishing Alex could've been there to help him think of an excuse, Harry left the library. He, Ron, Hermione and Alex had already agreed they'd better not ask Madam Pince where they could find Flamel.
They were sure she'd be able to tell them, but they couldn't risk Snape hearing what they were up to. Harry waited outside in the corridor to see if the other three had found anything, but he wasn't very hopeful. They had been looking for two weeks, after all, but as they only had odd moments between lessons it wasn't surprising they'd found nothing.
What they really needed was a nice long search without Madam Pince breathing down their necks. Five minutes later, Ron, Hermione and Alex joined him, shaking their heads. They went off to lunch. "You will keep looking while we're away, won't you?" said Hermione. "And send me an owl if you find anything."
"And you could ask your parents if they know who Flamel is," said Ron. "It'd be safe to ask them." "Very safe, as they're both dentists," said Hermione. Alex just said she'd try to ask Justin, but he probably wouldn't know. Soon after, they bid farewell, and Alex and Hermione just boarded the Hogwarts Express, and Alex was, for once, excited to be home for Christmas.