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Chapter 11: Home for Christmas.
By the time the results of the some of the Christmas tests were given back, it was so close to the holidays that James was one of the few students that took any notice of them whatsoever.
Alice was one of those who had come to the conclusion that exams and results really weren’t worth bothering about.
“Ah, forget about them,” she told James, as he examined the Transfiguration paper that Professor Leaming had just handed him back. “We’ve only two days left until the Christmas holidays. Aren’t you looking forward to going home?”
“Yeah, of course I am,” he replied. “But I don’t particularly want to have to tell my parents I failed everything either.”
“But you didn’t,” Alice pointed out. “I suppose I’m lucky though, in that way. My parents have no idea what standard of magic is good, so I can tell them I did really well on everything. On the other hand, your parents know what Snape is like. I don’t think I’ll ever manage to convince them just how bad he is. I don’t think I’ll manage to convince them about a lot of things about Hogwarts, actually.”
Alice was particularly excited about going home, as it would be her first chance to explain in person just what life at Hogwarts was like.
“It will be like a bedtime story to Selina and Tommy,” she declared. Her younger sister and brother were seven and five respectively, and the idea that their sister was a witch was a matter of great excitement to them. They’d found it a lot easier to accept than her parents had, she’d told James once. The only problem was trying to prevent them from announcing it to everyone they met. Not that it mattered too much. Who was likely to believe a five or a seven year old who informed them that their sister was a witch?
Alice knew from her mother’s letters that the two younger children were really looking forward to Alice coming home with stories about life at Hogwarts.
Rose was apparently equally impatient to hear about Hogwarts from James, though there were rather different reasons for that. The magical world naturally held no surprises for her, but she was already bored with Muggle school and wanted to hear more about the, hopefully more interesting, school, which she would attend in a few more years.
The last few days before the holidays were, unsurprisingly, more relaxed than was usual at Hogwarts. Most of the students were busy preparing to go home, and were anyway far too excited to concentrate on their lessons.
Most of the students were busy preparing Christmas presents for their parents and brothers and sisters. It was a pity that first years weren’t allowed into Hogsmeade, was the complaint of a number of James’ friends. He said nothing, as Hermione had promised to take him and Harriet shopping in Hogsmeade on the first day of the holidays, before he headed home. He was not the only student who would get a chance to do his shopping there, as a number of students who were being collected by their parents would stop off there on the way home, but the majority of the students were going home on the Hogwarts’ Express and would not have time to go into the town.
For this reason, James did not bother looking at any of the items which older students had created by magic and were selling as Christmas presents. He wasn’t going to think about Christmas shopping until they went into Hogsmeade.
It was a decision he was glad he made. Hogsmeade was, as ever, a veritable Aladdin’s cave of treats. The only difficulty was in decided what a person would like most. Looking through Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, which was run by his two uncles, Fred and George, James was convinced that Rose would like to receive everything in the shop. He eventually made the choice on the grounds of which item she would be least likely to torture him with. He knew too that his parents would love to receive sweets from Honeydukes. They often talked about how much they loved getting sweets from there when they were at school and how it was a pity they couldn’t get sweets like that anywhere else.
Harriet was less impressed by the town. Living there, it held little excitement for her, and she would have preferred to go shopping in the Muggle world where she could have bought “really unusual” presents. James however would have stayed there forever, and despite the fact that he was really looking forward to seeing his family again, was quite disappointed when Hermione declared that it was time for them to go home.
They returned to Hermione and Ron’s home, where Ron tried to convince Hermione that James should be invited to stay for a while.
“You only want to try and find out what Christmas present he has for you!” Hermione declared. “It’s been months since his parents have seen him and you know they’re looking forward to it. Take the Floo powder down from the mantelpiece there, Harriet, and give some to your cousin. Happy Christmas James, and we’ll see you Boxing Day.”
“Happy Christmas, Hermione, Ron, Harriet. Tell the boys I said Happy Christmas too,” James said as he took a pinch of the Floo powder and stepped into the fire, arriving almost immediately in his own front room.
“Hello, James dear,” his mum said, hugging. “I’m surprised you’re home so soon. I thought my brother would hang onto you to try and find out what we were all getting him for Christmas.”
“He tried,” James laughed. “But Hermione wouldn’t let him.”
“Tell me all about Hogwarts,” Rose demanded, ignoring the rest of the conversation.
“Well, one thing I can tell you,” he began, “is that Snape is quite as bad as Mum and Dad always said he was. Wait until you hear what he said at Halloween..”
The next hour or two was spent with James telling his family stories about his time at Hogwarts; stories that, for the most part, he had either forgotten or hadn’t had time to tell when he sent his letters home by owl post or visited the Visual Contact room.
Rose and his parents laughed as he described incidents such as Alice’s reaction when she first saw the ghosts float into the Great Hall during the start-of-term banquet or Snape’s fury when one of the class had played a joke in Potions class and he couldn’t prove who had done it.
It was nice to be the centre of all the attention for a while, but still James felt uncomfortable, aware that he was almost automatically censoring the stories that he told. He didn’t mention how he had managed to make a ‘Flu Formula when he had been trying to make a Laughing Potion or the fact that he had received one of the lowest marks in the class on his Potions exam. Nor did he refer to his fear that many of his friends were only interested in him because he was Harry Potter’s son. He didn’t even tell of his exam results, until his mother mentioned them.
“You haven’t said anything about your exams, dear,” she inquired gently. “Did they go ok?”
“Yeah, pretty much. I got 86% in flying.”
“That’s my boy,” Harry announced. “We’ll make a Quidditch player out of you yet.”
James knew that his father meant to be complimentary and that he was really only joking about the Quidditch player bit. Harry knew that James wasn’t really pushed about the game. Nonetheless, he found it a bit depressing. He was referring to one of the few things he was good at, at Hogwarts and his father had to bring up one of what James believed to be his weaknesses-his fear of the dangers of Quidditch.
His other marks, which Ginny eventually got him to tell them, didn’t make all that good a story.
“Well, you got a really good mark in Defence Against the Dark Arts,” she commented.
“The rest of his marks aren’t very good,” Rose commented. “My lowest mark in my Christmas tests was 6 out of 10.”
“Yeah, well you only do easy subjects like reading and adding and subtracting,” James replied defensively. “And your teacher isn’t like Snape. He takes marks off you if you even spell a word wrong or forget one ingredient.”
“Children, children,” Ginny scolded. “We don’t want to waste your first day home arguing, James. And, like I’ve told you before Rose, stop showing off! James’ lessons are much harder than yours. He got very good marks too when he was in second class. And his marks are still pretty good, apart from Potions and Charms. And nobody can be good at everything.”
“Nobody can be good at Potions, more like,” Harry put in. “Not with Snape as a teacher anyway. You don’t have to tell me what he’s like James. I had to put up with him for seven years. And so did your mother. I just hope he decides to retire soon. I really hope you don’t have him for the full seven years. And I hope you don’t have him at all, Rose. He is far too prejudiced against this family.”
Despite the stress of having to tell his family of his test results and the embarrassment of watching Rose somehow manage to make the doll she got from Santa grow to the size of a real baby, James did have a pretty good Christmas. It was fun to watch Harry making the house magically light up with Christmas lights and Ginny creating a delicious Christmas dinner by magic.
Both James and Rose also received the most marvellous Christmas presents. Some of those, like Rose’s doll, were the same as Muggle children would play with. Others, like the Sneak-O-Scope which James received, were particular to the magic world. Both types of present were equally welcome, and the children had a very enjoyable Christmas day.
Perhaps the best part, however, was the knowledge, as they went to bed that night, that there were still more presents to come, at Ron and Hermione’s Christmas party, the next day.
Author's Note: I think there will only be one more chapter after this one. But then, I thought this would be the last chapter too, and then I realised that if I put the rest of the story into this chapter, it would be significantly longer than any of the others.