Both Harry and Neville set down their pencils and turned to their friend with matching dropped jaws. Had Hermione just called a school assignment stupid? She never complained about class work being stupid—boring or easy perhaps—but never stupid. Usually she spent a good deal of her time admonishing them for doing so, or for skiving off when they were supposed to be working.
“No really!” she insisted, whispering so that only her friends could hear, “Father Christmas is just a myth invented by parents to scare us into being good, and perpetuated by the media to increase consumer spending.”
Neville’s eyes met Harry’s as he shook his head in exasperation. Why did she have to use such big words? All he’d understood was that she didn’t believe in Father Christmas. He opened his mouth to contradict her but she wasn’t finished…
“Seriously!? Letters to Father Christmas!? I almost wrote one when I was four—I thought maybe Santa could send me a baby sister since my last one died before she could be born—but Mother explained all about how letters addressed to Santa’s Grotto are actually answered by the staff at Royal Mail. So, I really don’t understand why Miss Karen is wasting—”
“Of course Father Christmas is real!” Harry interrupted, louder than intended, then checking to see that no one was listening—Miss Karen was across the room helping another student and everyone else was engrossed in their letter-writing—he added, “He’s a wizard,” his voice dropping to a barely audible whisper.
Hermione shook her own head, still unconvinced, and would have objected if the teacher—having noticed the brewing argument but not its content— had not chosen that exact moment to appear by her desk, smiling kindly as she asked, “How’s your letter coming along, dear?”
Unwilling, despite her earlier rant, to complain directly to her teacher, Hermione picked up her pencil and bowed her head, feigning concentration, “Fine, Miss.”
If Miss Karen in any way suspected her insincerity, she gave no indication, offering a final smile to her best student before moving on.
Though Hermione turned her concentration back to completing her letter, and didn’t say another word regarding the existence of Father Christmas, Harry’s words echoed in her mind. Could her mother be wrong? Was Father Christmas actually a wizard? Or was that just another lie…?
When the bell finally rang, signalling recess, she, uncharacteristically, jumped out of her seat and practically dragged her two best friends out onto the playground, barely giving them time to pull on their jackets.
Then, the moment they were out of ear-shot of the other children, she rounded on them, “What did you mean about Father Christmas being a wizard?”
“Of course he’s a wizard,” said Neville, siding with Harry. “How else would he be able to make his reindeer fly?”
“But reindeer can’t fly,” Hermione objected.
“Sure they can,” Harry insisted. “Anything can fly if you enchant it proper.”
“Properly,” Hermione corrected him automatically. Then seeming to realize what she’d inadvertently agreed to, she argued, “No one man, even a wizard, could possibly visit all the children in the world in just one night, even allowing for different time zones and non-observance of Christmas in some areas.”
“Of course he can, if he uses a Time-Turner,” Neville responded, not bothering to ask what time zones were, or what ‘no-obsevans’ meant—no need to give her more of an excuse to enter lecture mode…
“So you honestly believe that a fat old wizard uses magic to enchant reindeer to fly then turns time to squeeze himself down millions of chimneys in one night to deliver toys to good little boys and girls?” Hermione huffed, arms crossed.
Harry shook his head. “Nuhuh, Sirius says he uses Floo powder to get into people’s fireplaces, ‘cause his fat ass wouldn’t fit in a chimney. And he uses magic to make fireplaces in homes that don’t have any, but ‘most everyone has a fireplace ‘else they can’t use the Floo.”
“Seriously! Of all the nonsensical…” Hermione threw up her arm in frustration. “And it has never occurred to you that they might all be lying?”
“Lily never lies,” Neville insisted his own shaking head mirroring Harry’s. “You can ask her yourself if you don’t believe us.”
Surely if she explained rationally to Mrs Potter about her scepticism, the older witch would come clean about her duplicity… “I believe I might just do that.” Hermione nodded, so caught up in her thoughts that she missed her friends’ twin sighs of relief.
Hermione wasted no time making good on her promise.
The very next time she was invited over to the Potters’ she brushed off the boys’ suggestion that she join them and Colin in making a snowman in the yard. Instead, she tracked down Lily in the kitchen and plopped herself down at the kitchen counter. Not giving the older witch a chance to ask why she wasn’t outside with the boys, she launched straight into voicing her grievances, “The boys and I had a bit of a disagreement the other day at school, that I was hoping to settle with you, woman to woman.”
Lily smiled indulgently, amused at her precociousness. “I’m not sure how I can help you with an argument you had with the boys. Merlin knows I can’t control what comes out of their mouths, much as I might try. Why, even James can’t, ‘else I wouldn’t know half the mishaps he tries to keep secret, and he shares their gender.”
Hermione shook her head, then leaning forward, elbows on the counter, continued, “No, I’m quite certain that you can help with this, seeing as you’re the primary propagator of the falsehood…”
Lily stood up straight, and dropped one of the biscuits she’d been rolling. She wasn’t so much surprised at the vocabulary coming from the six-year-old—that she’d come to expect—but to hear her straight out accuse her, the mother of a friend, of lying…
Hands at her hips, her indulgent smile faded instantly, “Now see here—”
Hermione didn’t let Lily complete her reprimand. “My parents and I have discussed the subject of Father Christmas extensively,” she began, launching into a veritable diatribe which included just about every possible argument for why Father Christmas couldn’t possibly exist. “So, of course, there’s no such thing as Father Christmas, but Harry and Neville won’t believe me because they claim that you told them that he was real and a wizard.”
Lily smiled, all trace of anger replaced with amusement. She’d given up on trying to interrupt the six-year-old after the second minute of speech with barely any pause for breath. Now rather than try to counter—or even remember—half the arguments presented, she answered simply, “Those are all very good Muggle arguments but, given what you know about magic, do any of them prove anything?”
Hermione huffed. Time to try a different tact…
“Now I know that the boys can sometimes be naughty,” she began. “So I can understand why you might feel the need to lie to them, to scare them into being good. But I’m already good; surely you can be honest with me.”
Lily shook her head in amusement, but refused to be drawn in, “What makes you think the boys are naughtier than you?”
“Well, they’re hardly particularly studious,” Hermione scoffed, “and they are often skiving off and playing pranks.”
Lily laughed. “Now, now, dear, much as I would like the boys to apply themselves more at school, the fact that they don’t study as hard as you, or that they can be devious and sneaky—especially when they spend a little too much time with James and his friends—doesn’t make them bad boys.”
Hermione opened her mouth to object, but Lily cut her off, her voice stern, “And I don’t suggest repeating such comments to them if you want them to continue being friends with you. No one likes someone who acts superior to them. Now why don’t you run along and play with the boys before your parents show up; that is why you came over, isn’t it?”
As Hermione found herself shooed out of the kitchen, she was left with the sinking feeling that she’d been outmanoeuvred. Lily had neither overtly stated that Father Christmas was real nor had she admitted that he was a fabrication…
A/N: My sincere apologies for how long it took to get this chapter out; the rest of the story is mostly written so future chapters should be coming more quickly. Many thanks to my beta, Arnel, for her work on this chapter and for sticking around despite my repeated long dry spells, and who did all of the legwork to get this chapter up on PhoenixSong.