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19 Years by marauder5
Chapter 7: Year 1: Christmas at the Burrow
It had been a cold December, and a thick layer of light, glistening snow was covering Ottery St. Catchpole, lighting up the early winter morning and disrupting the sleep of late risers in the small town. Large snowflakes were falling from the skies and landing gently on the tree branches, making them sway slightly as they got dressed in its white winter coat. All over town, houses had been decorated with glittering strings of lights that twinkled in different colours, wreaths adorned every front door and reindeers made of grapevine wobbled under the weight of the snow.
In the outskirts of town, inside the large, unsteady house that had always fascinated the people of Ottery St. Catchpole, Ron had just woken up. He didn’t know what had awoken him – it couldn’t have been Harry, who was lying on the stomach over in his bed, sleeping quietly. Even when he listened carefully, Ron could not hear a sound coming from downstairs, which had to mean that even his mother was still asleep. And that meant that it was early. So, assuming that no sound had awoken him, Ron’s only guess was that it was a habit, imprinted in his body since childhood, to always wake up early on Christmas Eve. But despite it being so early, and despite the fact that Ron was about as much of a morning person as Hermione was a slob, he sat up, stuck his feet in his slippers and tiptoed out of the room. He crept down the stairs, carefully refraining from setting his foot down on the steps that he knew would creak. It wasn't until he had reached the last step that he heard the sound coming from the living room. For a brief moment he thought it was Hermione’s cat, Crookshanks, coughing up a hairball. Then he remembered that Hermione had followed his orders and left that monster at her parents’ house, so there had to be another explanation.
As he entered the living room, Ron realised that the sound did not come from a cat – no, it was the stifled sobs of a human being. George was sitting on the couch crying, squeezing something in one of his hands. Ron considered turning around and sneaking back upstairs, because he wasn’t the best person to handle any sort of emotional situation. Perhaps he could send Hermione down... But before Ron had the chance to do anything, George turned his head and jumped when he realized that someone had entered the room. His eyes widened, and he quickly wiped his cheeks before putting something in the chest pocket of his striped pyjama shirt.
George had arrived at the Burrow the day before to claim Bill’s old room before anyone else. He still refused to spend a single night alone in the room that he had shared with Fred, and he had known that the others would not arrive until Christmas Eve. Therefore, he had got there a day early to be able to choose where to sleep without having to explain himself to his brothers. Of course, Ron hadn’t figured out why George had done this, but Hermione had explained it to him the previous night, before kissing his cheek and heading up to Ginny’s room to go to bed.
“Ron!” said George. When he heard how thin and shaky his voice sounded, he cleared his throat and continued: “What are… how long have you been standing there?”
Without answering, Ron walked around the coffee table and sat down next to his brother.
“What was that?” he asked. “That thing that you hid in your pocket?”
George hesitated before reaching into his pocket again. He pulled something out and handed it to Ron. It was a photo of the twins, dressed up, with identical smiles, and Angelina Johnson standing in between them, wearing a wonderful, dark purple gown. Instead of wearing her hair in her usual sporty ponytail, her long, black curls danced around her shoulders as she laughed and flung an arm around Fred's neck; she was absolutely stunning. The photo was taken at the Yule Ball – Ron recognised the decorations in the background - during his fourth and their sixth year at Hogwarts. He was grabbed, instantly, by a strong feeling of sadness, and he couldn’t tear his eyes away from Fred’s smiling face. This was their first Christmas without him.
“I think he planned on marrying her,” George said, staring at his hands. “They never really dated once we left school, but I think he would have married her after the war. Did you know she used to visit the shop in London? Fred would show her our latest inventions and products, and if she wasn’t deeply impressed by them, he’d work some more on them to make them even cooler.”
Ron smiled. Fred had never been very self-conscious about his inventions, but perhaps George was right. Perhaps Angelina had been more special to him than he had let on.
George’s loud sob startled Ron, who lifted his head. He placed his hand on his brother’s shoulder. “George…,” he mumbled while trying to hold back his own tears.
“We kissed,” George said. Ron was just about to ask: “You and Fred?” when he added: “Angelina and I. I’ve betrayed him. That’s what he’d say if he were here now. ‘There are three billion girls in the world, George, three billion, and you kiss her!' She's just been so good to me, you know? I know losing him was just as horrible for all of you, but she really gets it, somehow... She's been over nearly every day since I moved back to London. Even on the days I can't get out of bed, she just sits in the bedroom with me and talks. So when we were exchanging Christmas presents the other day, it just sort of happened. Fred would kill me if he knew. He would hate me."
He hid his face in his hands. Ron took a deep breath.
“No,” he said. “He would never hate you, George. He would have said: ‘Well, what can you do? She couldn’t have me, so it’s only natural that she would go for my identical twin – the only person in the world who is as attractive as me!'”
To his surprise, George stared at him for a few moments before bursting out laughing. Ron was so astounded that he joined in, and they must have laughed for several minutes, until their stomachs ached and they had to gasp for air.
Both brothers looked up to see that Mrs Weasley had entered the living room, still in her dressing gown, with her hands on her hips as she stared at them in confusion. The sight of the incredulous look on her face only made Ron and George laugh even louder.
That afternoon, after several hours of hard work, the Burrow looked like a Christmas paradise. Stockings hung from the mantelpiece, on which several newly polished frames sat, holding photos of smiling people with fiery red hair. The cracking of the fire created a homey atmosphere, especially combined with the sound of the bells that hung from each doorframe and tinkled in the gust whenever someone passed through. The largest Christmas tree that they had managed to squeeze in through the front door had been placed in the corner of the living room, and garlands, wax candles and little golden broomsticks and cauldrons dangled from its branches. Miniature elves danced around the fruit bowl on the kitchen table, and the sound of Celestina Warbeck’s Magical Christmas reached into every corner of the house. Mrs Weasley, who was standing by the stove wearing a festive apron in red and green colours, hummed cheerfully to the melodies while stirring the bowls and pots that covered the entire kitchen counter. Every now and then she would bend down to check on the turkey, which gave off an appetizing, mouth-watering odour and made everyone's stomach count the hours until dinner.
Ginny was just rushing past her mother and out through the front door to greet Bill and Fleur, whom she had spotted through the window on their way across the front yard. Bill could not conceal his surprise when his sister ran straight past him to Fleur, reached out her arms and hugged her tightly. Ginny had never been supportive of his choice of spouse, even though she seemed to have warmed up to her a little more since the war had ended.
“Ginny!” Bill said when Fleur grimaced in her tight embrace. “Be careful! You’re aware of the fact that she’s pregnant, right?”
“Yes,” Ginny said with a goofy smile on her face. “I was just hoping… I mean… Have you felt her kick yet?”
“Her?” Bill said before Fleur could answer.
“Oh come on,” Ginny told him. “There has to be more than one female Weasley!”
Bill shook his head and Fleur laughed. “'He’s 'oping for a mini-Bill,” she said, smiling up at her husband. Then she turned to Ginny. “I promise to tell you if the baby starts kicking, okay?” She caressed her belly, which bulged out under her soft, champagne-coloured dress.
The three of them stepped inside and were greeted by Mrs Weasley, who was as excited as Ginny, though a bit more careful, when she pulled Fleur into her arms. Ginny continued into the living room, where Mr Weasley was just lighting the Christmas tree candles with a flick of his wand, creating an enchanting ambience. Hermione, Percy and Audrey were sitting at the coffee table chatting to each other while Ron and George appeared to be chasing Harry around, completely ignoring Mr Weasley’s calling:
“Don’t come running to me for mercy if your mother catches you breaking any of the decorations!”
“Have you heard from Charlie, Dad?” Ginny asked.
“Yes,” Mr Weasley called over his shoulder while leaping forward to catch a vase that was on the verge of tipping over – a result of Ron’s inability to control his arms while running. “A few of the other Dragonologists are staying in Romania over Christmas too, so he won’t be alone.”
Bill, Fleur and Mrs Weasley joined the others in the living room, which made Ron and George give up their chase. Harry took a breather and sat down on a chair while smiling at Ginny. She walked over to him, wrapped her arms around his neck and sat down on his lap.
“Do you want all your brothers to chase me?” Harry asked, making her grin.
“Look, Mrs Tonks and Teddy are here!” Percy announced, and everyone turned their heads to look out the window.
The old woman carried the baby on one arm, and the other held an impressing amount of beautifully wrapped gifts. The two of them were going to join the Weasleys for dinner before heading off to a few relatives in Scotland, where they would be spending Christmas Day.
A few hours later found Harry sitting at the table, watching as Bill, on Fleur’s order – “You can use ze practice, 'oney, even if you do 'ave many siblings!” – fed Teddy. It was a very messy and very sticky task, and every now and then he had to pause, pull out his wand and wash himself and Teddy clean of baby food. Harry could not help but feel guilty as he watched the little boy sitting across from him. Surely this was not what Lupin had had in mind when he had asked Harry to be godfather, and Harry felt like he had let his father’s best friend down. Teddy was almost a year old, and Harry was a complete stranger to him. He turned to Andromeda, who was sitting on his right.
“I should have seen him more,” he said and looked at the baby, who was now trying to bury both his hands in the bowl of baby food. “I’ll make sure to do that from now on.”
“Don’t feel like you have to," Andromeda answered. “We understand that you’re busy. But you’re always welcome, of course.”
“I want to,” Harry insisted. “Lupin… I mean Remus… He didn’t make me his godfather so that I’d see him on holidays and funer…” He interrupted himself and glanced over at Mrs Weasley, but she was too busy staring at her eldest son and his attempts to stop Teddy from covering himself in food to be able to hear him. “… on holidays and special occasions”, Harry continued. “I mean, he’s in the same position that I was, having lost both his parents. He could use a godfather."
Andromeda’s eyes filled with tears, and Harry fretted inwardly. How could he have forgotten that Mrs Weasley wasn’t the only one who had lost a child that day?
“He’ll appreciate having you to talk to in the future,” Andromeda agreed.
“I… er… I got him a present,” Harry said. “It’s under the tree. I didn’t know if he’d be able to open it, but I wrapped it anyway.”
“Why don’t you open it with him?” Andromeda suggested. “Once Bill is finished with him, that is.”
A little while – and a bath – later, Teddy was sitting on Harry’s lap in the couch. At first, Harry had protested when Andromeda had placed the baby in his arms, because he didn’t want to hurt him, but his protests had been silenced and he was now in the middle of unwrapping his own gift.
“Oh, Harry, is that…?” Hermione looked like she was about to cry when she saw the little stuffed animal that Teddy was now squeezing in his arms – it was a wolf cub. Andromeda placed a hand over her heart and sighed, as if it was the sweetest thing she had ever seen, and Ginny beamed at Harry.
“It should have had a pig snout, too”, George mused. “A little something from your mum, Teddy.” When Andromeda shot him a dark look, he flung out his arms and said: “What? I didn’t mean her real nose!”
Harry laughed, which made Teddy lift his head and look up at him. Then he leaned his head against his chest, yawned and hugged the cob tightly. While his little eyelids grew heavier, his hair colour, which had been turquoise the last half hour, darkened until it was as black as Harry’s.
“I think it means he likes you,” Mr Weasley said with a smile.
“He’s falling asleep in your arms!” Audrey said delightfully. “Isn’t that the cutest thing you’ve ever seen, Percy?”
Percy smiled, nodded and put his arm around her shoulder. Meanwhile, Andromeda checked her pocket watch, smiled and sat down next to Ron.
“I suppose we could stay a little longer.”
Something was touching Ginny’s cheek. And then her lips. Her neck. She giggled and opened her eyes hesitantly. Harry was kneeling down beside her bed, crouching over her while his lips made their way back to her mouth. She wrapped her arms around his neck and closed her eyes while she listened to her own heart, which seemed to be beating faster and harder in her chest every time he touched her. What a wonderful way to wake up, she thought as she opened her eyes again.
“Merry Christmas,” said Harry softly as a wide smile grew on his face.
“Merry Christmas,” Ginny said. She glanced over at Hermione’s bed, but it was empty. “I don’t think you’re supposed to be alone up here with me.”
“Well, I could go,” Harry said, but Ginny grabbed his arm.
“Don’t,” she told him and kissed him again.
“I wanted to give you your present,” Harry said. He pulled something out of his pocket and handed it to her.
Ginny fought the urge to tear the wrapping paper to pieces, just to get to see its content sooner. Instead she unwrapped it carefully. It was a small, navy-blue velvet box. She opened it, gasped and covered her mouth with her hand. It was the most beautiful bracelet she had ever seen – two thin, gold chains intertwined with each other, full of sparkling, red crystals. She met Harry’s eyes. He smiled at her.
“Do you want to put it on?”
“It’s such a shame that you have to go back to London, Hermione,” Mrs Weasley was saying while filling Ron’s plate with another portion of waffles down in the kitchen. “We really love having you here.”
“I love being here,” Hermione said. She rolled her eyes at Ron, who had already started to gobble down the food. “But it is Christmas. My parents would miss me.”
“You should bring them here next year,” Mrs Weasley said. “And I should probably go and wake the others up. Christmas Day is not a good day to sleep in!”
And with those words, she left the kitchen and gave Ron and Hermione a final moment of privacy before she would go back to her parents’ house.
Ron swallowed the last bite of his waffle, washed it down with a sip of water and grabbed Hermione’s hands. She ignored the fact that his fingers were greasy and just smiled at him.
“I didn’t know what to get you,” he said. “I mean, I wanted it to be something special…” He hesitated before he pulled out his wand and said: “Accio Hermione’s gift.” An oblong present, wrapped in crumpled, brown paper came soaring through the room. Ron caught it and handed it to Hermione.
She almost dropped it. “Wow, it’s heavy!”
“Watch it!” Ron said accusingly. “Don’t break it!”
Hermione smiled and began unwrapping her gift very carefully, which was a bit silly considering the wrapping paper was already torn at the edges. She was a bit nervous when she unfolded the paper.
It was a mirror, round with a silver frame that had a squiggly, intricate pattern – it was breath-taking.
“It’s goblin-made,” Ron explained.
Hermione held up the mirror to see her own reflection, but surprisingly, her own face did not stare back at her. Instead, she saw what appeared to be the underside of a bed. She turned her head to Ron.
“Is this what I think it is?”
“Seyrod taught me how to make one,” Ron said. “It took some effort, but it works okay. I thought you could bring yours to Hogwarts, and I’ll keep mine… and even though we won't actually be together, we’ll get to see each other and just talk every once in a while.”
Hermione put the mirror on the table – a little too hastily, Ron thought, but it didn’t break – leaned in and kissed him.
A/N: I know, this was basically just a fluffy family chapter, with very little action. But if it's action you are looking for I think you will enjoy the next couple of chapters. ;)
As always, thank you so much for reading and for leaving me reviews! I appreciate it so much, and it would make me really happy if you could give me some feedback on this chapter too :)