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Chapter 1: A Very Gryffie Holiday: Romanian Holiday
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Dear Mum, Dad, and everyone else,
I’m afraid I won’t be able to make it home for Christmas this year. There’s too much work to be done and I have to stay here in Romania to take care of it. Hope you have a great holiday, even though the best kid in the family won’t be there.
P.S. Don’t eat the peppermint sweets Fred and George give you. They’ve confided in me some unpleasant results of their consumption.
Charlie sighed as he plopped down onto the comfiest chair in his room in Romania. He lived in a building with all the other people he worked with and they all had their own rooms. His room wasn’t what you’d call big, but Charlie liked it for its simplicity. It contained only two armchairs, a coffee table, a dresser, and a bed. It was all he needed since he was almost always working outdoors with dragons.
In fact, he had just returned from a long day’s work. He had thought he would possibly be able to get out of working Christmas day, but alas, he had ended up putting in ten hours of hard labor.
He leaned his head back and let his eyes close shut. He thought back to all the Christmases he had passed at the Burrow; how wonderful they had been. Charlie had always cherished his family but it was only then as he sat alone on Christmas that he realized how truly lucky he was to have them.
Being alone on a day meant for spending time with family was hard for him and he wished more than anything that he was able to be back at home, teasing Ron or helping Fred and George pull a prank on Percy.
He wasn’t sure how long he was lost in these thoughts, but they were interrupted by a knock on his door. Surprised, he got up to answer it. He hadn’t an idea who would be coming to see him, especially on Christmas.
Pulling the door open, he saw Elizabeth Harper, a girl a year or two younger than him who had come to Romania a few months before to help deal with some of the financial tasks for the business Charlie was a part of.
“Hello,” she greeted, a nervous edge apparent in her tinkling voice.
“Hello, Liz,” he replied, trying to hide the surprise he felt at seeing her there.
She blushed and glanced down momentarily before speaking up again. “I umm… I brought cocoa,” she stated, lifting her arms gently to show the two mugs of steaming cocoa she was carrying. She handed one of them over to Charlie’s awaiting hands.
“Thank you,” he responded, grateful for the warmth the drink provided. “Do y—do you want to come in?” he offered.
She grinned widely and nodded. “Yes, that’d be great.”
Liz followed him inside and followed his suit by placing her cocoa down on the coffee table. He stared at her, though not meaning to. She had shiny brown hair that had perhaps once been shorter but hadn’t been cut in a long while and had grown far past her shoulders and striking blue eyes that stood out against her fair skin. She was gazing back at him with those eyes, causing him to flush and glance away.
He hadn’t ever admitted it to anyone and had never even entertained thoughts of his desire becoming reality, but he had always fancied Liz in a way that made his pulse race and his skin feel like it was burning.
“I’m sorry to barge in on you, especially on Christmas, but I knew you were spending the holiday alone and so was I and I just thought it’d be nice to… spend it with you,” she admitted.
“Don’t be sorry,” he told her in a voice hardly more than a whisper. He didn’t want to speak any louder for fear of his voice cracking because of the awkward timidity he felt in her presence. “I’m glad you came,” he managed to get out smoothly.
She blushed again and covered her face with her hands to hide her embarrassment. “Merlin, I’m so hopeless,” she said with a tone of defeated exasperation. “It’s just… Well. I really like you, Charlie. And to be honest, it’s driving my crazy. I stood outside your door for about ten minutes, debating whether to just walk away or to risk making a fool out of myself by coming in here and – well, anyway, it seems like I’ve succeeded in making a fool out of myself.”
Charlie couldn’t help the small smirk that appeared upon his lips. She was flustered and a bit embarrassed, but she had never been more beautiful to him and he had never felt so attracted or drawn to her as he did right then.
“Oh, don’t smile, Charlie,” she pleaded, though she didn’t sound truly mad. “I’m humiliated enough as it is.”
“You shouldn’t be humiliated, that’s why I’m smiling,” he told her, the grin growing bigger on his face.
She cocked her head to the side curiously, wondering what he had meant by that. She didn’t have to wonder long because in a flash, Charlie was closing the space between them and gently planting his lips on hers in a tender kiss. His hands moved up into her hair and he pulled away after a few blissful moments.
“Happy Christmas, Liz.”
“Happy Christmas, Charlie,” she whispered, her eyes fluttering shut as she leaned in to capture his lips again.
Chapter 2: A Very Gryffie Holiday: Coming to Terms
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VioletBlade did an amazing job beta-ing!
Coming to terms
Lily Evans’s Christmas break, sixth year, Christmas 1976
Everything outside was covered in a layer of pure white. The usually drab houses of the neighbourhood appeared to be out of fairy-tale books, and even the depressing outline of Spinner’s End was looking less miserable. The trees of the nearby park were dusted with white floury powder, and the snowflakes seemed to be dancing in the darkening sky.
It was not yet dark, but soon, the lights and decorations in the windows would be switched on, adding a festive air to the picturesque picture.
Two figures, wrapped up in warm cloaks and scarves and caps, made their way through the park. One was tall; a few wisps of blond hair were visible under her cap and fell down on her angular face. The other girl had red hair, two long bunches formed into pigtails spilled out from under her white cap. Her emerald eyes sparkled as she drew ahead of her sister.
“You’re going to drop it,” her sister’s voice invaded the redhead’s joyous haze. It was snowing, how could she not? Dancing with the snowflakes and relishing in their pureness was what made winter Lily’s favourite season. Petunia was only a couple of years older than her, but did she have to act so … old?
“There’s a possibility I won’t,” she replied, turning in circles with the shopping net in one hand.
“You’re acting childish, Lily. Let’s just head home. I don’t particularly want to be seen with you blowing something up and I don’t know why we had to go both. I have things to do.”
“Oh Tuney, screw those things! Come on, it’s not going to kill you!” Choosing to ignore the first part of Petunia’s statement, Lily took her sister’s shopping bags from her, and dumped them onto the bench in the rain shelter they had just passed.
She dragged Petunia with her; her sister was only slightly struggling now. “Mum doesn’t expect us back yet anyway. Look,” she pointed to the sky, her head tilted upwards, and she felt the snow crystals melt on her skin.
“It’s so pretty,” Petunia couldn’t help that her voice had become soft.
“It is,” Lily agreed. A mischievous glimmer flitted over her eyes and she turned abruptly to grab her older sister’s hands, spinning them both around.
Lily could see the struggle on Petunia’s face. Should she enjoy her sister’s childish antics or block them out? Lily laughed at Tuney’s face, then changed her tune into a reel.
“We can be responsible adults later, Tuney. Do it with me, just this once,” she did not know why she felt the need to convince her sister to do this, maybe for their childhood’s sake, wanting to feel close to her sister once more, during this time of the year.
Petunia’s stiff posture relaxed a bit, as she matched her steps to Lily’s, although she rolled her eyes for show.
They grinned at each other, Lily remembering their adventures before she had learned what she was. She hoped Tuney would remember as well.
Petunia changed their rhythm again, and Lily started choking out the lyrics of ‘Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree’ between her giggles.
She could not help her exuberant mood; she and Tuney had drifted apart in the years gone by, and were both on the verge to adulthood now. She hoped there would still be moments like this though. They were rare but even more precious between their usual fights. Perhaps one day, they’d remember only the good times.
Lily sent her Christmas wish up to the stars, hoping that whoever was up there would grant her that.
“Craazyy, that’s what you are!” Petunia told her, but in contrast to so many other times, she had said it in a teasing tone.
Lily responded with a grin and by picking up speed.
They were whirling around, marking the formerly blank canvas of snow with their footprints, all the while singing off key, until they sunk down into the snow.
“I don’t want to grow up, Tuney. How long until we can’t just be young again like this, if only for a short time?” Lily mused aloud, wanting to hold on to that magical moment. And yet, while she thought that, the tune of the popular Muggle Christmas song mixed with some off-key rendition of ‘O Ye Merry Hippogriff’ in her mind. She dared not think who those voices belonged to.
“Sooner than we’d like,” Petunia replied. Lily tried to decipher her tone, holding onto the thought that she had heard a trace of sadness in her sister’s voice.
They went home in silence, each lost in their own thoughts.
Lily and Petunia rounded the corner and turned into their street. As their house came into view, Lily could see a grey Ford Anglia parked in front of it. Lily’s face contorted into a frown, while Petunia seemed to have a whole different reaction. Her relaxed posture straightened, and she started fussing with the jacket and cap, miraculously looking prim and proper with only a few movements of her hand.
As Petunia hurried up to greet her boyfriend, Lily could see her sister take the back seat, to be replaced again with the girl who looked down condescendingly on her for being a witch.
At New Years, fireworks illuminated the sky, glowing in the dark night sky and casting colourful lights on the white snow.
Lily had caught up with some of the neighbour kids who she used to play with and spend some time with during holidays. Now she was back in front of her own house, watching the display with her family.
Her father was trying to set up a rocket of his own, which was made even more difficult by Vernon’s interventions. While Lily and her mother tried to stifle their laughs, Petunia looked on with a frown on her face and her hands neatly clasped in front of her.
“No, Harold, put it in the other way! I’ve been doing it this way for years, my father instructed me early on in things like this,” Vernon insisted.
Vernon, Petunia’s boyfriend, had spent New Year’s Eve with them, to ‘get to know the marvellous family of his wonderful Petunia’. Ugh, Lily could not believe her sister would go out with someone as pompous and smug, not to mention as … blustering as Vernon Dursley. Yes, Tuney was uptight, but she got even worse whenever that man was around.
Lily hoped the relationship would not last, as nasty as she felt about it, but Tuney definitely deserved someone better.
“Daddy? It’s almost 12 o’clock, do you think you’ll manage it in this year?” she teased her father. It was a well-known fact that her father, an office worker and gifted with two left hands when it came to practical things, was always excited about putting on the perfect fireworks display for his three little flowers, as he called them. But he always managed to end it in a mess somehow.
“Harold, this is going to end in a complete disaster, let me do it.” Lily hated that that inconsiderate man had to butt in like that. Did he have to be that self-righteous?
Her father stepped back to stand beside Lily and his wife Iris, a disheartened expression on his face. “Right, Vernon, I know I probably shouldn’t …”
“Too right, Harold, seeing one’s failures is the first step to improvement,” Vernon answered, oblivious to Lily’s furious, Iris’s agitated, and Harold’s perplexed expression. Lily would have liked nothing more than to throttle Vernon Dursley, but kept herself in check and hugged her father around the waist instead. Lily could see that Petunia was standing a few feet away, between Vernon and the rest of her family, with her head bowed.
The chiming of the church bells saved them from further discussing fireworks and her mother distributed the glasses with sparkling wine. They clinked glasses, whishing each other a happy New Years. The mood seemed a little awkward but the only one who did not seem to notice was Vernon, and Petunia pretended that everything was fine.
If Lily thought her mood had reached a new low, she was mistaken.
The others had already turned around to go back inside, when she caught a glimpse of a tall, lanky figure with a curtain of greasy black hair. She heard him call her name, but that only made her rush to the safety of the house faster. She did not need this on top of everything else to start off her year.
They wrapped up the evening pretty fast after that, none of them in the mood for a social gathering. Lily was glad her sister’s boyfriend had finally left. Petunia had retreated to her room, and Lily left her parents after some loving words to their tête-à-tête.
In her room, she flopped down on her bed. What a year, she mused to herself. She had aced her OWLs. She did not want to admit it, but she had definitely grown apart from her family. Not so much from her parents, perhaps, but definitely from her sister. She had lost her childhood friend, the one who had shown her magic. And yet she told herself this was only normal when growing up.
On her dresser, she still had Severus’s Christmas present, a new potion kit and a letter. Against her better judgement, she had opened it. It contained an apology and pleas for her to understand and forgive him. He asked her to meet him. But could she do it? Should she do it? Right next to his letter was a copy of the Daily Prophet. On the front page were a picture and a report about the newest attack of those so-called Death Eaters on a family. The parents had both been Muggle-born. Mudbloods. The word still sounded in her ears, and for Severus to use it so readily, she guessed it was not the first time he had said it.
No, she realised, Tuney had already chosen her path, and so had Severus. They’d had a past, but it too had gone like the old year. She hoped they would at some point get past their current problems, she really did, but that time was not now.
She sighed once more, and resolutely got up to throw his letter away. No use in keeping it. In the bin, there was another letter. She had thrown it in unopened, instantly recognising the messy scrawl and the owl that had delivered it.
She took it out and turned it around in her hands. It was from James Potter, the bane of her existence since first year. He seemed to go out of his way to infuriate her. Maybe she should just read it; after all, her mood could not get any worse.
As she ripped the envelope open, a dried white lily fell out. It was far too big to have fitted into that tiny envelope, she thought as she picked it up, but scolded herself immediately. Of course James had used magic, even if he was underage.
I hope you opened my letter. Did you open my letter? On the off-chance that you did, I wish you a very happy Christmas! I would have got you more than that lily, but I did not know what you wanted. Let me know if you want something, yeah?
Sirius thinks the lily thing is corny, but I’m currently ignoring him anyway. He’s in the kitchen right now, bothering Mum and our houseelf for biscuits. So that should give me some time to write to you. Fantastic, isn’t it?
Remus and Peter are coming over as well in a few days, Mum says she needs to restock before that. I do not understand her. Just because we have a healthy appetite doesn’t mean she needs to buy out Diagon Alley.
So, there’s a party here on New Year’s Eve. You can be my date, ok? It will be totally awesome! Send me a quick reply when you want me to pick you up, since you haven’t been here before, ok? Great!
Crud, he’s coming back. He’ll probably think I’m obses – uh, I mean, that I’m trying to charm you again.
See you at the party!
PS: Send back your reply with my owl. Or you can also use yours to deliver the letter. Send it to Godric’s Hollow, Potter Mansion. Got that? Ok, waiting for your answer!
Arrogant little prick. Always asking her out. Thank goodness she hadn’t opened it until after New Years was over. Although, the party with James could not have been worse than that evening with Vernon. She smiled involuntarily at the thought of pitching them together. Maybe she should grant Potter that one date if he hexed Vernon to Timbuktu for her. On second thought, it probably still wouldn’t be worth the sacrifice.
Silly Potter. That letter was so typically him. She went to sleep that night, the thoughts of Vernon Dursley and the regrets about Petunia and Severus forgotten. She was planning a certain someone’s painful demise.
The day she was scheduled to get back to Hogwarts, she woke up really early. Everything was packed, including Potter’s letter. For some reason she could not – or would not – throw it away. Sev’s, no, she corrected herself, Snape’s potion kit was not packed, but she would no longer feel guilty about that.
When she heard the first noises from her family, she went down to enjoy breakfast in the warm, cosy kitchen.
Yes, she loved how her parents fussed over her, yet she was also feeling excited at the thought of going back to Hogwarts, and the Wizarding World in general. It was where she really belonged.
Soon enough, she was following her father who was pushing the luggage trolley through the crowd at King’s Cross.
“Bye Mum, bye Dad. Bye Petunia,” she hated saying goodbye; so she hugged them all extra tightly.
Lily took hold of the trolley handle, and pushed through the barrier to platform 9 ¾. Immediately, she could sense the wonder and excitement she still felt after more than five years grip her.
She was roused from her thoughts by an, all too familiar, voice. “Hey Evans, dreaming about me again? How was your break? Had a good Christmas? You missed the best party ever. I guess you didn’t get my letter, then? No matter, do you want to start off the new year with a new boyfriend?” James Potter greeted her, never letting her get a word in edgewise.
“Potter, there’s only one of us who seems to be dreaming or rather having delusions Don’t make me say it again.”
Lily turned on her heel, but not before flicking him over the head. To a barking laugh - of course she should have known Black would be there as well - she flounced off towards the train.
Some things, at least, had not changed at all.
Happy holiday everyone!
Chapter 3: A Very Gryffie Holiday: Lumos Kedavra
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AN: This tale takes place in a reality just to the left of the Crusadiverse; a world in which Fred survived the Battle of Hogwarts. It is betaed by and dedicated to the Mighty Farmgirl. Merry Christmas Little Sis!
And a very Harry Christmas to you all from theelderwand!
(The toys belong to JKR; she just lets us play with them.)
Ron Weasley pulled the collar of his travelling cloak up around his neck to try and shut out the bone-chilling night air, as the snow whisked around him. Off in the distance he heard carolers singing “Carol of the Bells.”
Song always gave me the willies, Ron thought with a shiver and tried to force it from his mind. He had other more pressing matters to deal with.
Ginny’s Patronus-message had been short and ominous: It’s happened again! Come quick!
He’d dropped everything at work, left Seamus in charge of the Auror Office and flew out of the Ministry as fast as his long legs would carry him. Once shut of the Ministry, he’d Apparated to Grimmauld Place, a block from Number 12, where Harry and Ginny had lived for the past year and a half. He didn’t dare use the floo; he’d done that the last time this had happened, with disastrous results. Instead, he made for the back door.
Mounting the stairs to the back porch, he steeled himself before reaching for the doorknob. Steady, Weasley. You can do this.
He’d hardly touched it when the door flew open and a disheveled Ginny threw herself at him. “Ron!”
Despite his large frame, the force of his sister crashing into him made him rock backwards. “Easy, sis. It’s okay. I’m here now.”
She broke her embrace, looking up at her brother. “Ron, you don’t understand. It’s bad. Really bad.”
Ron let out a breath. “It can’t be worse than last year.”
Ginny glared at her brother with such incredulous rage, the tall redhead nearly backed up a step. When she cocked her head and placed her hands on her hips, Ron braced himself for the truly terrifying sight of his baby sister transfiguring into their mother.
“Ronald Bilius Weasley, don’t even try to belittle this. You have absolutely no idea what it’s been like here for the past ten hours!”
At that, Ron did retreat a step. “Alright! I’m sorry. It’s just…”
She cut across him. “You know how he gets! Ever since the last time…” She shook her head and visibly slumped. “I’m sorry, Ron. I shouldn’t have vented at you like that. It’s just…I don’t know what to do with him when he gets like this.”
The tall redhead nodded slowly as he again approached his sister, giving her another hug. “I know. It’s not your fault.”
She smiled, weakly up at him. “Come in before you catch your death.”
The two walked into the kitchen. Ron stamped the snow from his Auror boots as he took off his travelling cloak. Immediately he heard shouting and swearing from the front of the house. “Oh, bugger.”
“Yes. He’s been like that for hours, now.”
“How long’s it been since he’s had anything to eat or drink?”
“Breakfast this morning. It’s like he’s obsessed. At first, I just humored him, hoping it would pass.” Ginny’s face fell. “But then he started murmuring, ‘It’s like a vendetta, now! A vendetta!’ It only got worse from there.”
Ron let out a sigh. “He’s in the sitting room?”
“Alright. Don’t come in there unless I call for you.” He looked firmly at his sister. She only stared back at him, frowning. “I’m serious, Gin!”
Letting out a breath, she nodded again.
“Good.” Bucking up his courage, Ron headed off toward the sounds of swearing, which got steadily louder with each step. Can’t risk startling him. “Harry?”
“Vendetta! They’ll pay. OH! They’ll pay!”
It’s worse than I thought. “Harry, mate?”
“Hours of my life. Hours! I’ll show them. They think Riddle got it bad? Evil twins, I swear…”
“Harry? Brother, you okay?” Ron asked gently.
Harry’s head snapped around. “Ron! What are you doing here?!”
Gotta move slowly, don’t want him to feel threatened. Ron eased himself into a chair near the fireplace. “Just dropped by, mate. Spreading the holiday cheer and all that.”
“Holiday cheer…” Harry let loose a diabolical laugh that curdled Ron’s blood.
The redhead tried to measure his words. “We fixed it before. We can do it again. It’s okay.”
“OKAY?” Harry exploded. “LOOK AT THIS!”
Ron took in the scene. On the sofa, on the settee, on the coffee tables, the stairs and every piece of furniture were strings and strings of Magical Christmas Lights, hundreds, maybe thousands of them.
None of them were lit.
Just to Harry’s right were piles of empty boxes from Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, with the caption: “Triple W’s Magical, No Hassle, No Tassel, Christmas Lights! Just cast Lumos! Guaranteed to light up your Holiday!”
The words were out of Ron’s mouth before he could stop himself. “Did you cast Lumos?”
If looks could kill, Hermione Granger would be living alone.
The tall redhead blanched.
Then Harry sighed, laughing slightly as he made some room on the sofa to sit. He shot Ron a tired smile. “Ginny Patronused you, didn’t she?”
“You could say she thought you were about to pull a Peeves, yeah.”
“Sorry, mate…Wait a minute… You had the duty this Saturday; so who’s running the Auror Office?”
“Don’t worry, boss. I left Seamus in charge. I only had an hour left on my shift anyway.” Ron looked again at the piles of lights. “Besides, seems to me that my partner needs me here more than he needs me minding the store.”
Harry began to fume again. “Ron, I swear I’m about to Lumos Kedavra the whole bloody batch! I’ve been at it for hours. They’ll light up for a split second and then go out. So then I change some of the bulbs, try again and….” Harry buried his head in his hands. “Fred and George deserve Azkaban for this.”
Ron stood and began to roll up his sleeves. “Any clue what spell we used last year to get the bloody things to work?”
Harry’s jaw clenched. “Ronald, if I remembered the bloody spell…”
“Right,” Ron said quietly.
Harry let out a breath. “Apologies, again.”
“No worries. How ‘bout we try Lumos from both ends?”
“Tried it with Ginny. No luck.”
“Levitate and shake?”
“Repeatedly for the past nine hours.”
“Repeatedly for the past eight.”
“For the past seven.”
“Crucio?” Ron asked with a smirk.
Harry’s face fell.
“I’m sorry, alright!” Harry shouted defensively. “It’s just an inanimate object, okay? I…I…Oh, bugger!” He covered his face with his hands.
Ron could only shake his head. “Only a matter of time and we’ll get them to light. So let’s get to it.”
Four hours later…
“Yes!” Harry shouted, diabolically. “Again!”
“Crucio!” Ron screamed with savage glee.
From the kitchen, Ginny could only shake her head as she muttered to herself, “Christmas spirit is definitely lacking this season…What was I thinking? Calling Ron to help is like casting Engorgio on Devil’s Snare.”
She was just about to send a Patronus off to fetch Hermione when a whoosh of green flame exploded from the fireplace.
“A Merry Christmas to all!” Fred announced as he ducked under the mantle and stepped into the sitting room.
“And to all a good night!” George finished as he followed behind his twin.
“Good night?” Ron seethed. “I’ll show you two menaces a good night!”
His wand was out in a flash, stopped only by a slightly less addle-brained Harry. “NO! Don’t kill them yet! See if they can help first; if they can’t, then we feed them to a Horntail!”
“You’re too bloody forgiving, mate!” Ron hissed.
Fred and George both threw their hands up in mock surrender. Then Fred spoke first. “Easy. We’re family. Can’t kill us.”
Ron was shaking with rage. “So’s Aunt Muriel. You really want to use that argument?”
“He’s got a point, George,” Fred added with a smirk.
“True. But do you really think we deserve such a tragic end?” George asked.
“With our dashing charm? Definitely not,” Fred responded.
Harry took three calming breaths. “This really isn’t the time for jokes. Where have you two been? We sent you a Patronus two hours ago! And these bloody lights…”
George rested a calming hand on Harry’s shoulder. “Easy, mate. These are the Unicorn Series; we always had trouble with them. Fred’s fault.”
“My fault? How’s it my fault? You’re the one that was doing the quality testing!”
“Enough!” Harry let out another breath. “Triple W’s still guarantees its products, doesn’t it?”
George looked offended. “Of course.”
“Then help us make these buggers work!” Harry demanded.
Fred and George took off their cloaks, draping them across one of the new wing backed chairs Ginny had only recently purchased during her never ending redecorating of Grimmauld Place. “What’ve you tried so far?”
Ron sighed. “What haven’t we tried?”
“Lumos from both ends?” George asked.
“Do you want to Crucio him or should I?” Ron asked.
Harry crossed his arms over his chest. “You’ve earned the right. Go ahead.”
Fred ignored the banter. “Levitate and shake?”
Harry looked at Ron; Ron looked at Harry. “Amazed you didn’t kill them growing up.”
“I came close. Several times,” Ron responded.
“Lumos Maximus?” George asked.
“Okay,” Fred slowly responded. “We can refund your money; get you a new set…”
“NO!!” Harry and Ron both shouted.
“Then what…”George asked.
Harry cut across him. “I don’t want new ones. These bloody things WILL LIGHT!”
Fred looked sheepishly at Harry. “Mate?”
“What?” Harry snapped.
“There’s a slight problem…” Fred cast his eyes at the floor.
Ron was gob smacked. “You don’t have a clue how to fix these blasted things, do you?”
George raised his hands in a pleading gesture. “Well, we didn’t say that! It’s just…”
“We don’t have a clue how to fix the blasted things,” Fred finished.
Harry stood stock still as every eye turned to him. Everyone was waiting for the room to explode with unintentional magic. But when Harry finally broke the silence, his tone was devoid of emotion. “Roll up your sleeves, gentlemen. We’ve got work to do.”
Three hours later…
“Crucio!” George shrilled.
“Again!” Fred shouted with sadistic glee.
In the kitchen, Ginny let out an exasperated sigh. She set a cup of tea in front of Hermione and then collapsed, wearily into a chair across the table from her.
“You should’ve Patronused me earlier.” Hermione lifted her tea and blew on it.
“Don’t start,” Gin responded, curtly.
“How long now?”
“Since this morning.”
“You mean ‘yesterday morning,’” the brown-haired witch corrected, motioning to the clock that had only just struck One.
Ginny frowned and brushed her frazzled hair from her face. “Seventeen hours, now.”
Hermione’s tea splashed out of the cup as she roughly set it on the table. “That long? Ginevra!”
“What was I supposed to do?!” Ginny pleaded. “You know how Harry gets with this kind of thing. He’s completely mental, obsessive even. And gods forbid I call in female help. Men!”
Hermione sighed. Then her attention was drawn back to the sitting room as more shouting and cursing erupted in a heated burst. “Merlin’s blue streak.”
Ginny shot an imploring look across the table at her best friend. “I’m at wits end here. Please, you’ve got to help.”
“Without them knowing?”
Ginny sighed. “That would be preferable. This has really gotten out of hand.”
Hermione stared off in the distance. “Merlin, Gin, I dunno…”
Ginny was desperate. “Hermione, in thirty-eight hours the whole family will be here for the Christmas Eve party. You have to do something!”
Hermione furrowed her brow, cocked her head and then said with conviction, “Bat Bogey Hex.”
“Fine. Which one first? I’d be happy to curse the lot of them at this point.”
Hermione laughed. “Not those gits.”
“Then who?” Gin asked, incredulously.
“The lights, Gin. I’ll need your help on this. You’ve never taught me how to cast it.”
“I Bat Bogey the lights?” Ginny was starting to worry that she was the only sane person left at Grimmauld Place.
Hermione nodded. “I’ll Confund the boys. You hit the lights with the Hex and then we pretend they managed to fix them on their own.”
Ginny let out an exhausted laugh. “Hermione, those idiots have been Crucioing the bloody things for hours with no luck. So, how in Merlin’s name will a simple Bat Bogey Hex fix them?”
Hermione launched into lecture mode. “Crucio is designed to over stimulate the nervous system. Believe it or not, it might actually work if the lights were Muggle-made, as it would send a charge through the wire. But it’s ineffective on magical ones, not that it matters to those geniuses at this point.” Hermione rolled her eyes and then continued. “The Bat Bogey, unless I miss my guess, is based on transfiguration. Somewhere in that cursed strand of lights is a spell that’s, well, ‘disfigured’ is the best word I can come up with. A transfiguration hex should correct it. But it has to be a powerful one. Your signature hex is the only one I can think of that might work.”
Slowly, a relieved smile spread across Ginny’s careworn face. “Hermione, I owe you one. No doubt.”
The brown-haired witch smiled back. “Remember that at the party and keep my glass of wassail full.”
Ginny chortled. “My pleasure.”
Twenty minutes later…
“…and that, lovely ladies, is what the concerted effort of four highly skilled wizards can accomplish.” Fred puffed out his chest and hefted his butterbeer.
They had all gathered in the sitting room. With an aire of smug superiority, the four wizards admired the brilliant glow of the Triple W’s Magical Christmas Lights that were elegantly draped over the fireplace, the banister and the massive twelve-foot tree that adorned the room.
“Really?” Ginny asked. “It wasn’t just a Christmas miracle?”
“Humbug!” Ron shouted and tinked his butterbeer against Harry’s. The wizards shared a hearty laugh at Ron’s joke, as Hermione and Ginny shot knowing glances at each other. “It really is a beautiful tree, mate. Even better than last year’s,” Ron finished.
“That it is.” Harry grinned and wrapped an arm around Ginny’s shoulders. “But not as beautiful as you, love.” He gave her a peck on the cheek.
She melted into his shoulder as she gazed at the lights, welcoming the warm embrace.
Hermione leaned into Ron as she took in the beautiful glow of the decorations. “I never doubted you.”
Ron smiled. Then he shot her a cockeyed grin. “And it was that support that carried me through my time of trouble. The love of a good woman; no substitute for that. Except maybe for my brilliant wand work.”
Fred and George shared a look. Then Fred batted his eyelashes at George. George feigned a swoon. Then Fred summoned up the worst falsetto he could muster. “Oh George! How could I ever exist without your stunning brilliance? Hold me!”
Despite himself, Harry started laughing.
Ron turned bright red, well, redder than normal, at his brothers’ mocking. “Oi! Knock it off. You two are lucky you’re still invited to the party tomorrow.”
Harry smiled at the twins. “He’s got a point. I was ready to hex you two into the New Year.”
“Now, what fun would the party be without us?” Fred asked.
“Honestly,” George added. “We definitely put the ‘Happy’ in ‘Happy Christmas.’”
Ginny eyed her best friend and whispered, “Men.”
Chapter 4: A Very Gryffie Holiday: It's All About Family
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He glided through the castle, going through walls, ceilings and floors as he pleased, all the while trying to avoid the boisterous exuberance of the students. They were louder, more energetic than usual, and even though the snow was falling outside and they were stuck indoors during breaks, he knew their enthusiasm would only increase. It was that time of year. It was Christmas.
Nick hated Christmas. Way back when he’d had a life to look forward to, he had loved it, with all its pomp and glamour. Christmas in the de Mimsy-Porpington household had been a significant occasion, with his nanny going all out to decorate the nursery. What his parents had thought Nick had no idea, as he’d barely known his parents before their untimely death, but his nanny and governess had certainly promoted the Christmas spirit. Yes, way back then, Nick had loved Christmas.
It all changed when he’d been seventeen. Almost a man then, he had graduated from the nursery and private schooling and was being taught in the ways of the world by the men of his estate. They had procured a gun for his sporting use, trained him in swordplay for demonstrations and jousting, and found a servant girl for his bed. He had even been invited to the main table for mealtimes, a recognition by his parents that he was nearly ready for his responsibilities, his role as eldest son.
That winter, he had come home from a hunting expedition with some other young men from neighbouring estates, only to find the household staff and local mayor waiting for him. There had been a terrible accident, he was told. His parents’ carriage had overturned, and as the horses panicked they had stampeded over the wreckage, killing both occupants and the coachman in the process.
It was Christmas Eve.
Lord of the house, Nick had gone inside and ordered that all Christmas decorations be removed. There would be no celebration of the season this year, he determined, nor any other year. As far as he was concerned, Christmas had been cancelled for good.
He wasn’t sure if that was when he had turned away from doing the right thing, if it had led to the circumstances that had ended in his death, but things were never the same after that day. And Nick had never once celebrated the festive season since then. What, he reasoned, was festive about it? Just a silly excuse for people to get together and drink too much, usually resulting in family rows and shouting matches and more than one person getting injured from wayward curses. It was a cynical view, he realised, but he didn’t care. There would be no more Christmases for him.
When he had moved to Hogwarts Castle he had generally taken to the dungeons during December. The Bloody Baron tolerated his presence without embracing it, and he was able to avoid the decorations, the carol singing and the excitement of the students. The arrangement suited everyone, because he was well aware that no one in the castle above would welcome his sullen moods.
This year would be no different, Nick thought. Why would it? Just another month of keeping to himself and wallowing in self-pity. He was good at self-pity and it was an indulgence to wallow in some every now and then, and it wasn’t like anyone would miss him.
Or so he’d thought. He came across some suits of armour that had been enchanted to sing carols and dipped down a floor to avoid them, keeping a keen eye out for anything that might vaguely resemble mistletoe or any other sort of decorations. What he hadn’t counted on, though, was the students refusing to leave him be.
“Nick!” He heard his name being called and opted to ignore it, gliding through the nearest wall away from the voice. Its owner, however, seemed unperturbed. “NICK!!”
Nick was still doing his best to get away but this student sounded persistent. “NICK!!!”
Or maybe it was two students. Nick thought he recognised the voices … oh, no, it was the Weasley twins. This could only end in tears.
Sure enough, he soon found himself face to face with both Fred and George Weasley, who clearly knew about the secret passage that led here on the second floor. Nick hadn’t thought that any students had known about that one since the group of boys known as the Marauders some twenty years earlier. Then again, there was some resemblance between the Weasley twins and that other group – the penchant for trouble, the eternal optimism, the good nature of it all. They were good eggs, he thought, even if he wasn’t really in the mood for them just at that moment.
“There you are, Nick,” Fred said with a grin. Or was it George? They were so alike Nick had awful trouble telling them apart.
“Why so glum?” asked the other. He had a bit more of a cowlick, Nick realised, though he still had no idea which twin it was.
“I was just making my way downstairs,” Nick said stiffly, raising himself to his full height, which was rather higher than these two second-years could reach. “So if you’ll kindly excuse me …”
“Not so fast, Nick,” the first one said, still smiling. “We know what you’re up to.”
“Avoiding everyone,” the other continued, “sulking away in the dungeons.”
“Even the Bloody Baron is getting tired of your bad mood,” the first one told him. “Avoiding Christmas, of all things. What’s got into you?”
“If you please,” Nick said, “I do believe that is none of your business.”
“Too right it’s our business,” the second twin said. “You’re the Gryffindor ghost, and you’re bringing the whole House down.”
“So George and I,” the first twin said, “thought we’d try to instil some of the Christmas spirit in you!”
Well, that sorted out one thing, at least, thought Nick – he now knew which twin was which. For this conversation, anyway. However, he objected to their mission.
“How I choose to spend my time is not your concern,” he repeated in his most formal manner. Really, these young upstarts really did need to learn their place. He’d have to have a word to the Baron about that, he thought.
The twins, however, were not to be dissuaded. “Come with us, Nick,” Fred said confidently. “You might be surprised.”
Sighing, Nick decided that it would be easier to just do what they asked. He had a feeling that he’d just be pestered and pestered until he did, so he might as well get it over with.
The boys led him all the way up to the seventh floor and the Gryffindor common room. “We heard you don’t like Christmas much,” Fred said as they paused by the portrait-hole, “so we thought we’d try to win you over.”
“Show you the season from our point of view,” George went on. “Cos it’s all about family, you know?”
“Well,” Nick said delicately, “I do recall that my family are not available to be called on.”
“We know that,” George said, giving him a sympathetic smile. “But you’re the Gryffindor ghost, aren’t you? So that means that all of Gryffindor is your family now.”
“Mistletoe,” Fred told the Fat Lady. That must have been that week’s password, because she grinned and opened obediently.
Nick gasped. The whole of Gryffindor House was encamped in the common room, clearly waiting for him. There was a banner on the far wall that boldly proclaimed this to be Nearly Headless Nick’s Christmas Party, and the room was ablaze with light and sound and colour.
“This is for you, Nick,” George said with a smile.
For the first time in several years, Nick was unable to speak. The idea that the students would band together to throw him a party like this was almost overwhelming.
Charlie Weasley, seventh-year prefect and elder brother of the twins, took control. “We thought you needed cheering up,” he said above the cheer of the other students, “so we threw this for you. You might want to take particular notice of the wall hangings …”
Nick glided over and looked where Charlie was gesturing. In place of the usual scarlet and gold silk hangings, the students had attached parchment to the walls, each sheet telling a story of that person’s favourite thing about Nick – things he had done for them, perhaps, or jokes he had told, or words of comfort in a time of need. Looking around, he realised there were far more than just seventy tales affixed to the wall … some students must have written more than one. Or maybe …
“We wrote to some past students and asked for their stories, too,” Charlie explained. “People from Bill’s class, for example, or even as far back as Mum and Dad’s time. Everyone we knew who’d been a Gryffindor.”
Nick was astonished. Even Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall had contributed to the collection. Every wall was completely covered with stories, anecdotes and general praise. If he could have blushed, he would have.
“You see, Nick,” said Heathcote Barbary, a fifth year Nick often saw playing around with various musical instruments, “while nothing can really replace your real family, sometimes an adopted family can make a decent substitute.”
Fred Weasley bobbed back into view. “So we’re your family now,” he said, grinning broadly. “The Gryffindor family. And we wouldn’t be what we are without you.”
Nick was, once more, speechless. He did, however, put a hand to his eye to wipe away where a tear would have formed were he still able to form one. Finally, with seventy beaming faces watching him, he found his voice.
“Thank you,” he said hoarsely. It wasn’t much, but it was absolutely heartfelt. And, from the looks on the students’ faces, he was sure they understood.
Chapter 5: A Very Gryffie Holiday: The Best Present of All
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I sat in the small, comfortable kitchen drinking a cup of hot chocolate and watching the falling snow outside. Christmas was finally over, and Hermione had a lot planned for everyone to do tomorrow. It was around eleven when I noticed that someone was outside. Sitting my drink down on the table, I stood up and headed for the door.
The snow was steadily getting heavier and making it harder to see where I was going. It seemed as though the person was sitting on a bench near the small pond that Hermione had Ron build. The closer I got the more I began to have my suspicions as to who it was sitting over there. When I reached the bench, my suspicions were confirmed. I sat down on the cold, wooden bench and faced her.
“Victoire, what are you doing out here in the snow? At eleven o’clock, too!” She sighed, and I watched as her breath showed how cold it was out here. Snow fell from her hair as she turned towards me. Her beautiful looked drawn, and she seemed more tired than normal. I shook my head confused.
“You’re obviously tired and need some rest. Why don’t you come back into the house?” Glancing down at her hands that were resting on her lap, she shook her head.
“I can’t go back into that house, Teddy. I know you may think I’m being a brat, but my family just wears me out. Sometimes I wish it was smaller,” Victoire mumbled.
Sighing, I took her hands in mine, and she looked back up at me surprised.
“I don’t think you’re being a brat, Victoire. I don’t exactly understand why you would want a smaller family, but I have my reasons for that, and I think you know what they are. I haven’t had a chance to spend holidays with my family, get to know them, or even get worn out and annoyed by them. As much as you may wish for your family to be not be quite so large, I also want you to understand how lucky you are to have them with you,” I told her sincerely. Tears were slowing rolling down her red cheeks. I lifted my hand to her face and wiped them away with a finger. We had this conversation almost every time she went to a family get together. They stressed her out, but I always managed to bring her back down by mentioning my family.
“Oh, Teddy! I’m so sorry!” Victoire cried. She suddenly hugged me. Hugging her back, I shook my head and chuckled. After releasing me from the hug, Victoire laid her head on my shoulder. Her breathing slowed after a little while, and I looked down at her. She was out cold.
I picked her up bridal style and started off towards the house. Once we were inside, I noticed that she was just in sweats and a baggy t-shirt. I slipped her snow boots off and carried her upstairs to her room.
Once she was laying on the bed with a good amount of covers over her, I headed for the door. As the door knob turned in my grasp, there was a small noise behind me. I turned my head and saw Victoire sitting up. Shaking my head, I went back over to her bed and sat down on the edge. She was looking around. Then she finally saw me and smiled.
“Thank you so much, Teddy,” Victoire whispered. She leaned over towards me and kissed me full on the lips. Just as this happened, the clock downstairs struck midnight, and I thought about how this must be the best Christmas present of all.
Chapter 6: A Very Gryffie Holiday: Crash and Kiss
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In a little cottage in Totnes, Devon, two teen girls were getting outfitted in winter clothes. The first girl had unruly, copper hair and big green eyes. She was putting on a puffy, hunter green coat on over her yellow turtle neck and a matching hunter green hat, scarf, and gloves sat on the table ready to be put on also. The second girl had straight, light blonde hair that was tied in pigtails and covered by a red hat with ear flaps; she was putting on the matching scarf and gloves over her beige coat. Molly and Lucy Weasley were getting ready to shield down the hill that was a very near their house.
“Are you ready Luce?” Molly asked, slipping on her black snow boots.
Lucy pulled on her brown boots and said, “Yep!” Lucy’s favorite thing to do when it snowed was to shield with her elder sister. Both girls were a little old for shielding since they were sixteen and fourteen respectively but it was a tradition that they loved.
Molly stood up and opened the door, allowing Lucy to go first, and yelling at their parents to tell them they had left. When Molly stepped outside Lucy had already pulled the pink and green shields from the shed.
“I call green!” Molly yelled, firing a snow ball at her sister.
“You always get green, Molls, it’s my turn!” Lucy whined.
Molly laughed and pulled the shield away from Lucy. “Don’t be a baby, you are fourteen,” she scolded, before walking towards the hill.
Lucy pouted as she pulled the pink shield, following her sister.
“Race you!” Lucy yelled running and jumping on her shield before Molly could register it.
“Not fair!” Molly cried, launching her shield.
“Don’t whine, M….” Lucy said, just as she went crashing into a tree.
Molly screamed, jumping off the shield and running to her sister. “LUCY!”
Lucy had blood running down her forehead, from where she cracked her head on the frozen trunk and she was clearly unconscious.
Molly started to cry, when a strong hand rested on her shoulder. She looked up to see a very cute boy with curly brown hair and blue eyes smiling at her sadly.
“What happened?” Mystery Boy asked, bending down and touching Lucy’s forehead.
“We were racing and she swerved wrong, I think, and collided with this tree,” Molly said, swallowing hard as she tried not to cry.
The boy looked concerned. “We should get her to a doctor.”
“Our mum’s a heal…doctor, we live just over the hill,” Molly said proudly.
“Ok, I will carry her and you support her head…um...”
“Molly…Molly Weasley,” she said, standing up and brushing off the snow.
“Jack Grover, nice to meet you.” He smiled, picking up Lucy and walking over the hill with Molly holding her head.
Once they reached the house, Molly opened the door and yelled for her mum.
“Molly what is the…oh...Lucy…what happened?” Audrey Weasley asked on the brink of tears.
“We were racing down the hill and she swerved the wrong way and was not watching where she was going and crashed, can you fix her,” Molly said crying.
“Percy, come take Lucy to her room,” Mum said as Dad ran in, took Lucy from Jack and headed up the stairs to her room. He was very calm about it but Molly knew Mum could heal Lucy all up.
“Young man, thank you for carrying our daughter here,” Mum said hugging him before running up to take care of Lucy.
“Molly, will she be alright?” Jack asked timidly.
“Of course, our Mum can heal everyone!” Molly smiled.
“Well, I better get going, I don’t want to intrude anymore in your home,” he said, turning around.
Before Molly knew what she was doing, she grabbed Jack’s arm, spun him around and kissed him right on the lips, before pulling back and saying, “Thanks Jack!”
Jack smiled, turned red, and said “You’re are welcome, Molly.” He then pulled her in for one more kiss before heading back out the door, looking regretful. Molly Weasley might have just fallen in love with her sister’s savior!
Chapter 7: A Very Gryffie Holiday: It Snowed the Day I was Framed
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I was not framed until 1957 and on that day it snowed.
Until then, I was a painting upon a canvas, but a painting without a frame.
There was no use to a painting without a frame, paintings without frames were homeless, magic-less and practically lifeless. They could tumble from the canvas on which they were painted at any moment. To me, being frameless was just another reminder of my worth; to me it represented not only my value when living, but my value in death; I was nothing when I was frameless.
Until 1960, I was a painting without a name; I was not given a place sit, nor was I given glory or fame. I did not have a job, as most paintings did, nor did I have a place upon anyone’s wall. No, in 1960 I was sitting upon the ground in a dusty corner of the store, covered in a drab, lifeless piece of cloth passed by every day by customers and store keepers alike. There was no room to display me, I had been told, but this was a lie.
Who would want a painting of a woman barely anyone knew, anyway?
I remember the day I was painted. A woman asked the artist who I was and he told her I was just some woman he had seen in the street wearing a large pink dress. Such lies that man told! How he was ashamed of his own Mother was almost appalling, and the treatment I’d suffered at his hands was ghastly; I spent years upon a flat table top beneath the piles of those who’d been repainted into existence with far greater status than myself.
I often wondered why he painted me in this dress; it was not his favourite, but it was mine. I wondered this almost as much as I wondered why he would even bothered painting me into existence in the first place. It seemed like a waste of valuable paint to me, I was stuck here, doomed to rot about in the corner of stores, and beneath piles of other paintings, for no reason at all. There was only one of me, after all.
My son was a foolish man, even I knew that. He’d paid very little attention to me whilst I was living; I thought it strange that he’d pay so much attention to me in death. Perhaps it changed him; he did die shortly after I had, three years to be precise, on Christmas Day, and, that year, it did not snow. He lived such a short life, I was sad when they cleared out his studio, removing those paint covered easels and handprint-smeared art smocks he loved so dearly. He may not have loved me, but he had loved his art.
They carefully carried me out of the store, and just down the street into another store. It was here that I was framed, finally I was given purpose. The joy was of course short lived, as I was covered and placed in the corner of the store where I would remain for four years, where a rather unlikely fellow would find me. I first noticed the strange number of buckles on his boots, it was all I could see from beneath the large cotton cloth. As it transpired, he was also wearing rather unconventional midnight blue robes adorned with small golden stars; the overall affect was quite startling.
The cloth was suddenly lifted from my frame, light flooded into my eyes, blinding me momentarily. Upon opening my eyes I was greeted by two twinkling blue eyes. This man with his long white hair and beard looked friendly enough, despite his clothing giving off a slightly eccentric air that vanished with a simple look into his eyes. He was smiling, as though he’d found something he’d been looking for, something it’d had taken quite some time to find.
‘I’ll take this one,’ he said politely to the storekeeper. ‘She will be perfect.’
‘Perfect?’ I asked. ‘For what?’
‘Forgive me, I’m Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Due to an unfortunate and unforseen incident we find ourselves in need of a new guardian of the Gryffindor Tower. Would you be interested in the position?’
‘You’re offering me a job?’ I asked, stunned.
‘Indeed I am,’ he replied with a chuckle. ‘I think you’ll find the students to be a delightful group of youngsters. Bear that in mind when selecting your passwords to enter the tower.’
‘Then I shall take you up on your offer, I imagine it is better than sitting on the floor of this place all day.’
‘I imagine the conditions will be far better,’ he said, picking up my frame. ‘Plus, you’ll have some room to move.’
‘That sounds delightful,’ I replied. ‘When can I expect to begin?’
There was a sparkle in his eyes, ‘As of now.’
There was the light tap of a wand upon the top of my frame, I blinked by instinct and when I opened my eyes I was greeted by a large group of students surveying me with distinct curiosity. There was a strange glimmer of hope in their eyes, as if they too were hoping for the best, their gold and maroon ties hung limply around their necks, creating a bright contrast against their black cloaks. Many were smiling and cheering, I noticed small melting snowflakes on their shoulders. It had been many years since I had seen snow, in fact, the last time I had seen it was the day I was framed.
I noticed another crawling into my frame, it was not a student but another woman like myself.
‘Why hello there!’ she said joining me in my frame.
I was rather taken aback at this behaviour, was I supposed to have invited her in?
‘Hello,’ I replied, unsure of anything else to respond with.
‘I’m Violet, I reside in the Great Hall, welcome to Hogwarts!’ She seemed to cram far too many statements into her sentences; they were awfully difficult to follow but her friendly charm and bright smile won me over.
‘I’m…’ But before I could introduce myself she cut me off again.
‘Would you like a wine?’ she asked, waving several bottles of wine she held in her left hand at me.
I smiled, it had been a long while since anyone had offered me a drink.
‘That would be lovely,’
‘I’m beginning to like you already, my dear Fat Lady.’
‘I’m beginning to like it here already,’ I replied.
Suddenly I remembered the students were waiting for a password to be set.
‘The password you need to gain access to the Tower is “Snow”,’ I called to the students.
With a loud cheer the students begun to move forward, each stating the new password needed to gain access to their Common Room. They passed through with a cheer and smile, something I had not had the pleasure of seeing for some time. They did not know my name, they politely greeted me as “The Fat Lady” and who was I to correct them among all this celebration? I had been given a name and a home all on the same day, I realised smiling proudly to myself, and it was here amid those bright happy smiles and festive cheer that I came to the conclusion - Christmas truly was, the most wonderful time of the year.
A/N: This was written as a sort of AU response as to how the Fat Lady came to guard Gryffindor Tower, I hope you enjoy this small insight and a big Seasons Greetings to all who read this!
Many thanks to blueirony who beta-ed this for me so brilliantly!
Chapter 8: A Very Gryffie Holiday: Silent Night
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By Georgia Weasley
His breath hung in the frosty night air and the snow had begun to seep through his shoes, but still he stood in the garden staring into the night sky. Christmas Eve. He used to love this holiday more than any other, with the exception of April Fool’s Day. Now, it was just another reminder that he was the one left behind. George found it difficult to be merry when he felt so empty. Not that Angelina wasn’t a wonderful wife, but no one could ever fill the spot left vacant with Fred’s death. At least Angie got that.
After dumping a foot of snow that afternoon the clouds had finally blown over, leaving a black velvet sky full of cold, sharp diamonds. He wondered if Fred was up there somewhere, looking down on him now. It felt so far away. There were moments, like this one, when he would give anything for that distance to be erased and to hear that laugh once more. Even if it meant dying for it to happen.
Behind him, the door opened and clicked shut softly. The shuffle of feet approached, and Angelina’s arms wrapped around his waist from behind. She smelled of gingerbread and sugar, and he melted into her warmth, wishing it was enough to soothe the ache in his soul. They stood there in the frigid air, Angelina clinging to him as if trying to hold him there on earth with her. She felt the longing in him; saw the distance in his eyes.
There had been a time when Christmas filled George with glee. Although his family didn’t have much, there always seemed to be enough to get a few presents for the holiday. Beyond the yearly jumper from their mother, the twins had received their first joke items and charms kits under the Weasley family tree. It had been a Christmas gift that started the entire idea for Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. George remembered it so clearly, it might have happened yesterday.
“Georgie, you think Father Christmas is real?” Fred whispered as they crept down the stairs, trying desperately not to wake their mother.
“Well, who else would give us those things? Mum isn’t too keen on noisy toys, you know. I don’t think she’d have got us those Tweaking Tulips from Zonko’s, either.”
Remembering the previous year’s gift dangling from Percy’s nose, Fred snorted. That had been pretty funny, regardless of what their uptight brother thought.
“I guess you’re right,” Fred admitted. Silently, they snuck down to the tree where the presents lay in a pile. Pulling their wands from the pockets sewn into their pajama pants, they cast a spell to check for wards placed on the gifts. Sure enough, the soft glow announced the fact their parents did not trust them.
The ten-year-old boys grinned and nodded to each other, waved their wands in the pattern they’d seen in Percy’s school book, and broke the protective spells without a hitch. If all magic was this easy, Hogwarts would be a breeze next year.
“What’ve you got, Freddie? I think these are Mum’s jumpers,” George asked, tossing two soft, lumpy packages over to the side as he searched for his name.
“Ah, this is what we’re looking for!” Fred announced, holding two boxes up triumphantly. Another quick spell from the books, and the paper lay neatly opened, ready to be resealed when the peeking was through.
Pulling the Magic Ears from their cartons, the boys put them on and listened, sure they’d hear everything in the house from the ticking of their mother’s clock to Percy’s whistling snore three floors above them. Instead, they heard…nothing. Identical frowns marred their faces.
“They’re junk!” Fred groused. “I knew it! Why can’t anyone invent a decent eavesdropping device?”
George took off the offending item and replaced it in the box. “It can’t be that hard, can it? We could probably do a better job than this rubbish.”
At that moment, they looked at each other with fiery eyes. Without a word, they knew the other was thinking the exact same thing. The rewrapped the gifts, placed them back under the tree, and recast the wards over them. The next morning they feigned surprise and elation, and then disappeared to their room with their haul. Over the next few months, the Magic Ears were studied and adapted. Their first product had been invented. Extendable Ears. There was no turning back.
Now, a few hundred inventions and a lifetime later, George found himself facing the prospect of running the business on his own. The thought created a lump that burned in his throat. Without Fred, he felt adrift, untethered to the world. It would be so easy to just step off the surface and float away.
As if feeling him falling away from her, Angelina pulled him a little tighter against her body. Placing a kiss on the side of his neck, she sighed and stared up at the alien stars.
“I love you, you know.”
George watched a star shoot across the night sky, streaking toward the opposite horizon.
Pressing her cheek against his back, Angelina listened to her husband’s breathing. She felt like she was losing him to an enemy she couldn’t fight. His grief seemed to coil around him tighter each day, suffocating the boy she once knew. She thought of her gift for him this Christmas, and wondered if it would be enough to bring him back.
“George?” she whispered, almost as if she weren’t sure he was still with her.
“Hmmm?” he replied, still lost among the stars.
Taking a deep breath, Angelina closed her eyes. If this didn’t wake him up and help him see how much life was left for them to live, there was nothing else to do. That knowledge scared her. Feeling her courage wavering, she plunged ahead before she lost it.
“I have a Christmas gift for you.”
Turning around to face her, George forced a smile to his face. It fooled no one, but she loved him all the more for the effort.
“I’m afraid you’ll have to wait for it, though. It won’t be ready for a while yet. Probably not until mid-June.”
Raising an eyebrow, George searched her face. “What in Merlin’s name could you have gotten me that takes that long to…” he trailed off as realization dawned on him.
“Are you? Really?” he stammered, glancing from her wary expression to her hands folded protectively over her flat belly.
With the positive nod of her head, George felt as if a firm hand had reached out and grabbed hold of him. No longer slipping away from the world, he found himself tangibly bound to it through one simple sentence.
“George, you’re going to be a daddy.”
Suddenly, the dark night sky filled with silver streaks as shooting stars trailed their tails across the heavens. In his heart, George had no doubt that Fred sent his congratulations. Taking Angelina in his arms, he pressed his lips to hers, tasting her tears as his own began to fall.
“Merry Christmas, Angie.”
“Merry Christmas, George.”
Chapter 9: A Very Gryffie Holiday: A Spot of Christmas Cheer, part I
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Author’s Note: First of all, thanks to my wonderful beta and big bro, theelderwand, for his help with this tale. Couldn’t do it without you! Secondly, this is a loose sequel to my story “Yes, Ginevra, There is a Santa Claus.” It takes place during the Christmas one year later, but you don’t need to read that story to understand this one. Finally, while this is fiction and based on the Harry Potter world, there are elements of truth to this story. I’ll leave it up to you to decide which ones.
Disclaimer: They’re all JKR’s. I’m just reveling in the fact she lets us borrow them.
“ – and you should have seen the size of the Horntail they had, Mum! It was totally wicked! And Professor Kettleburn got permission for us to go right in the pen with the Welsh! I mean, we were only three feet away from her. If she would have spit fire right then we all would have been toast! How cool is that?”
Knitting completely forgotten in her hands, Molly Weasley listened in horror as her second eldest son described in vivid detail the “completely wicked” field trip he had just returned from. Professor Kettleburn had arranged for some of the more dedicated Care of Magical Creatures students to visit the Dragon Reservation in Northern Scotland on the first day of Christmas Holidays and, not surprisingly, Charlie had been the first to sign up. Always interested in providing her children with as many educational opportunities as possible, Molly had heartily given her permission. Had she known at the onset the details about this trip as she was learning them now, however, she would have thought twice about it.
“In the pen!” she cried, clutching at her heart. Despite the warm fire dancing in the hearth, the room suddenly felt chilled. “Completely unprotected!”
“Yeah!” Charlie replied, his eyes alight with enthusiasm as he totally missed the terror in his mum’s voice. “Awesome, isn’t it! And we got to watch a nest of Firetails hatch! They came out spitting fire like you wouldn’t believe!”
“I can’t believe Professor Kettleburn would allow that! I thought he would have more sense! I will have to owl the school first thing in the morning,” said Molly firmly, setting down her knitting and rising from her rocking chair to write herself a note.
“Muuuum!” Charlie wailed, jumping off the couch to follow her as he finally realized how his tale was affecting her. “No, don’t, please! It was the best class I’ve ever had! Don’t ruin it!”
Molly paused, a brightly colored square of Pastyparch in her fingers, and turned to look at her son. She had to admit, the normally rather reluctant scholar was extremely excited. He usually only exhibited this level of enthusiasm when talking about Quidditch, but right now his bright blue eyes were begging her to just once leave it alone.
Molly sighed. “Oh, all right, Charlie. I won’t owl the school. But I am thoroughly investigating any future class trips.”
Breaking into a huge grin, Charlie gave her a hearty kiss on the cheek. “Thank you, Mum! You’re the best!”
Unable to resist her sixteen-year-old’s charm, Molly smiled back at him as she shook her head. “Now, off to bed with you! It’s well past midnight. The others have been asleep for hours.” Which she knew was probably completely untrue. The whole lot of his brothers, plus Ginny, were probably waiting up in Charlie and Bill’s room for the gruesome and terrifying details of the dragon trip, but she wasn’t going to tell him that she knew that. There were some secrets a mother just knew when to keep.
“Sure thing, Mum,” said Charlie, still grinning from ear to ear as he scratched absently at his arm. “And maybe tomorrow I’ll tell you about how the Firetail almost ate Kenny.”
“Charles!” she cried, swiping at him with a handy dish towel as he winked cheekily and ran up the stairs. Dropping the towel on the counter, she replaced the pad of Pastyparch next to the pot of Floo power and shook her head again. “They’re going to be the death of me,” she muttered, smiling slightly. “The lot of them.”
“Rise and shine, Weasleys! Breakfast time – now or never!”
Arthur Weasley watched his wife bellow up the stairs at their sleeping children and couldn’t help smiling at the muffled responses that floated back. It was, after all, bright and early on only the second day of Christmas Holidays. One by one, their brood stumbled down the stairs in nightclothes and various stages of bed-head, eyes half open.
“Mum, do you realize how early it is?” asked Bill, running a hand through his longish hair.
“Yeah, and we were up for – OW!” Ron started to complain grumpily, but broke off when one of his brothers stomped on his foot. Arthur sipped his tea to hide a laugh as his nine-year-old hopped on one foot, rubbing his toes. Molly and he were fully aware their seven children had stayed up much of the night talking in Bill and Charlie’s room. Bill was back from his first few months of training with Gringotts to be a Curse Breaker, Fred and George had started Hogwarts for the first time this year, and there was of course Charlie’s adventure at the Dragon Reservation. They’d had a lot of catching up to do.
“Of course, dear,” Molly answered Bill’s question as she bustled around the kitchen, completely in her element. Arthur secretly wondered if this early breakfast wasn’t her little payback for the giggles and whispers that had filtered into their room until the wee hours of the morning. “But we have far too much to do to lie in bed all day and this food won’t be hot for long.”
“Mum!” whined most of the children.
“You are an evil, evil woman,” grumbled Fred as he shuffled to his chair, George trailing half-asleep behind him.
“Thank you, love,” his wife replied, kissing the eleven-year-old’s cheek as she set the plate of toast on the table.
“Ew, Mum!” cried Fred, pulling away from Molly as his face turned red.
“Don’t you have to work today, Dad?” asked Charlie through a giant yawn as he scratched absently at the neck of his pajamas.
“Yes,” he answered his son, reveling in this time when they were all here, together, as a family. “But your Mother wants to go into the Alley to do some shopping and so I’ll be dropping the lot of you off at The Leaky Caldron on my way.”
“We’ll be driving there?” Percy spoke for the first time, a slightly disapproving tone to his voice. “Why can’t we just Floo in?”
“Running low on powder,” answered Arthur. He didn’t say it was also an excuse for him to proudly pile his rather large family into the slightly used Ford Anglia he’d purchased a few months ago. He’d been waiting for them all to come home so they could try it out, and he had to admit the thought of driving through the streets of London like a Muggle rather thrilled him. And maybe he could try out a few of those “enhancements” he’d been working on. Of course, he wasn’t going to say any of that out loud; Molly was suspicious enough as it was.
“Not to mention the last time we Flooed to the Alley with all of you, Fred and George managed to make Ron exit the network in Naughty Nettie’s Necessities,” said Molly, throwing a glare at their twin sons. Ron blushed bright scarlet at the mention of the incident and tried to disappear into his chair.
“That was wicked,” said Fred fondly, lost in the memory and securely out of Molly’s reach.
George didn’t say anything. He was still sitting at the table with only one eye open, his food untouched.
“Well, hurry up then, everyone!” Molly urged, gesturing for the family to eat. “We’ve got a busy day ahead of us!”
“Mummy, can we stop by Madam Malkin’s and look at the Christmas robes, just for fun?” asked Ginny hopefully. “The advertisement in the Daily Prophet said they even have some that light up!”
“I suppose, if we have time,” his wife said, smiling at their only daughter, and this time he really couldn’t help laughing out loud at the groans that rose from all the boys – well, all accept George who apparently still wasn’t awake.
“That was exhausting!” cried Fred, flopping down on his back in the snow.
“And humiliating!” added George, copying his twin.
“Why do mothers have to take so long shopping anyway?” grumbled Ron as he leaned against the side of the shed. They’d been gone all morning and had visited more shops and stores than he’d even known existed before she’d finally agreed it was time to Floo home. Not that his Mum had bought much, given they weren’t the wealthiest family. That was probably most of the problem – she’d wanted to make sure she was getting the best deal before she’d bought anything, which meant more running around. Ron couldn’t recall his feet ever being this sore before.
“I think the real question here is why did she feel the need to take all of us along?” Charlie chimed in, plopping down in the snow next to the twins.
“Because she obviously doesn’t trust the lot of you at home alone,” finished Bill rather superiorly.
“The lot of us?” asked Fred, head cocked slightly.
“Too good to be counted among us now, Mr. Curse Breaker?” added George, crossing his arms.
“You know, if memory serves, you were dragged along with us,” said Percy suddenly, stepping forward from where he’d been standing next to the shed wall, just listening to his brothers.
Bill’s jaw dropped and Ron hid his head in his arms so Bill and the twins wouldn’t see him laughing as he secretly cheered Percy on. His bookish older brother and roommate might be a bit of a snob, but he was still a Weasley. Sometimes even Percy could nail you where you stood.
“Well, that was…I could have stayed home…” Bill stammered, still staring in shock at Percy as the rest of them broke into hearty laughs, the twins even rolling around in the snow in glee.
Suddenly, a snowball nailed Charlie right in the ear.
“Hey!” he cried, glaring at Ron.
“It wasn’t me!” Ron denied quickly. “It came from – ” He broke off as another one pelted him in the back of the head. “Ouch!”
“Where’s my wand?” asked Bill suddenly, grabbing at his pocket. He immediately turned to glare at the twins.
“Hey!” they cried as one, holding up their hands.
“We’ve got our own wands now,” said George.
“So we don’t need to steal yours anymore!” finished Fred.
Another snowball raced through the air from nowhere and this one caught Percy square in the chest. It was followed by the unmistakable sound of girlish laughter.
All six of them shared a glance and then turned and bellowed, “GINNY!” as they jumped to their feet. Instantly, the giggling turned into a half-delighted, half-terrified shriek accompanied by the sound of racing footsteps.
And just like that, the biggest snowball fight in Weasley family history was on.
“All right, all of you stop right there!”
Water and melting snow dripping off heads and boots and bedraggled red hair, Fred froze in the kitchen doorway with all six of his siblings at the sound of his mum’s voice.
“Do you realize I just mopped this floor?”
“But, Mum, we’re wet…” whined Fred in his most pathetic voice, scratching harshly at the spot on his back that had been bothering him all afternoon.
“…and cold,” added George, throwing in the wounded puppy look for good measure. Fred noticed he seemed to be afflicted with an attack of the itches as well as he rubbed his foot against the opposite knee.
“And no one is moving one step further into this house until all those wet clothes have been blasted dry, which won’t happen while you’re wearing them so strip.” His mum folded her arms.
“Mum!” they all whined.
“I mean it.”
And Fred knew instantly that she did, as did all his brothers and his sister. Grumbling and groaning, they started pulling off boots and hats and sopping wet jackets and socks before throwing them into a huge pile on the floor. He was struggling to extract his head and arms, which seemed to be stuck, from the confines of his soggy jumper when he felt a hand clamp gently onto his shoulder and drag him away from the others.
“Fred, what’s this?” his mother’s muffled voice drifted in through the jumper still wrapped around his head. His t-shirt had become tangled in the jumper and ridden up his back as he tried to pull it off, leaving his skin exposed., which he could feel her fingers gently examining.
“No idea, Mum,” he said thickly through a mouthful of blue wool. “A little help?” he asked, wiggling his arms that were sticking straight up over his head to make his point. Suddenly, the wet, itchy mess was pulled off his head and he was free again.
“Oh, fresh air!” he cried dramatically. “How I’ve missed you!”
“Hush, Fred, and hold still,” his mother chided gently, her voice distracted as she continued to examine his back.
“You’ve got green spots on your back, Fred!” said Ginny in an awestruck voice as she came up behind him.
“Oh, I’ve got some of those, too,” George added proudly, pulling up the leg of his jeans to show the place he’d been scratching earlier.
Fred watched his mother’s eyes widen as a frown settled on her face. “Come here, George,” she ordered at once, and George looked rather crestfallen.
“It’s just a little spot or two,” he grumbled as he walked over.
“Yeah,” added Fred, feeling like they were about to get in trouble for something they really didn’t do this time. Seriously, why would they purposefully make green spots appear on each other? “You should see the ones on Charlie’s back,” he threw out, crossing his arms as he turned around to look at his mother.
“They’re all over,” agreed George, nodding fervently.
“We noticed them when we were stuffing snowballs down his shirt,” finished Fred.
“That was you two?” cried Charlie, narrowing his eyes at Fred and George. “I’m gonna…!”
Fred never found out what Charlie was going to do to them as his mum crossed the room and spun him around, pulling the back of his t-shirt up hastily.
“Oooooh,” chorused everyone in the room, eyes going wide or jaws dropping. Charlie’s back and shoulders were completely covered in a rash of raised, green dots.
“Sitting room, please,” his mum said, and Fred thought her voice sounded rather faint. “Everyone. Sit there and don’t move. I’ve got to make a Floo call.”
“DRAGON POX*?” Molly Weasley cried loudly. George cringed just a little at his Mum’s tone of voice as he sat there in a shirtless row with his brothers on the sofa, little green spots dotting skin here and there. The grandfatherly Healer, however, took it right in stride.
“I’m afraid so, Molly,” Healer Winkworth said as he repacked his magical bag.
“All of them?” she asked again, clearly in denial.
“Well, you said none of them have had it before, and that they’ve spent the last two days in each others’ company, so I would say they’ve all been exposed. Young Charles must have somehow been infected while on his school trip to the Dragon Reservation and it just spread from there.”
Charlie tried to disappear into the couch as all five of his brothers glared at him while Ginny just whimpered from the old armchair she was curled in, already dressed in her nightgown and hugging the rag doll she’d received for Christmas last year.
“Are we all gonna die?” Ronnie asked from where he sat beside George, sounding much younger than nine and terrified.
The Healer laughed. “Of course not, son,” he said, tapping Ron’s nose. “Dragon Pox is rarely fatal these days, and even then it’s only the old and infirm that need to worry. You are all strong, healthy lads and a lovely young lass. In two or three weeks you’ll be back to normal.”
Two or three weeks! George thought, sharing a horrified look with Fred. They were going to be sick for the whole holiday! The only news more dismal than that would have been learning Snape was coming to stay as well.
“Now, Molly, you know I’ll have to cast the Quarantine Spell before I leave. It will remain open until Arthur arrives home, but then it will seal itself. You’ll be able to send and receive messages and goods through the Floo, but no one without a Healer’s mark will be able to come or go and no one will be allowed to leave the house until the disease has run its course.”
“What?” cried George, unable to stop himself. He was joined by explosions of outrage and disbelief from his siblings.
“That’s not fair!”
“Mum, he can’t do that!” cried Bill desperately. “I was supposed to have a date this Friday!”
“And Dad promised to take us all to the lighting of the Christmas Tree at the Ministry this weekend!” added Fred furiously. “It’s the first year he’s been able to get tickets!”
“And we don’t even have our own Christmas tree yet,” little Ginny added, her lip quivering as she tried to hold back the huge tears that were filling her eyes.
“You can’t do this!” raged George, anger filling him as he glared at the Healer, especially since the man was making Ginny cry. “You can’t lock us in here! That can’t be legal!”
“All right, everyone, that’s enough!” his mum finally bellowed, cutting through all their protests. “I’m sorry, Healer Winkworth. Of course you’ll have to set the spell, I understand completely. And I can’t thank you enough for coming on such short notice.”
“I do believe I’m becoming rather used to that with your family,” the old man said with another laugh. “I’ll send the potions and skin tonics through the Floo in about an hour, Molly. Until then, I suggest pajamas for the lot of them and a big pot of hot broth.”
More depressed than he’d ever felt in his young life, George let himself flop back into the couch as he watched the Healer disappear through the fireplace. This was going to be the worst Christmas ever.
Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore was building snowmen when the owl came. He liked to do that on occasion; he found it very therapeutic, and with most of the students home for the holidays, he had first claim on the snow.
He was just putting the finishing touches on one that bore a remarkable resemblance to the Potions professor, complete with hooked carrot nose, when the ball of grey feathers crashed right into its head.
Stooping, he gathered up the exhausted owl before fixing his snow creation with a flick of his wand. “Bringing me post already, Errol,” he said as he gently tucked the elderly little bird into one of his many pockets after relieving him of a letter. “And only the second day of Holidays,” he added with a chuckle. “What’s that delightful family of yours up to now?”
He tore open the envelope and pulled out a letter, instantly recognizing Molly Weasley’s neat writing on the parchment.
I’m writing to let you know that the children may be late returning for Winter Term. The children, all seven of them, have come down with Dragon Pox and our family has been quarantined until the disease has run its course. I will keep you posted.
P.S. Could you send Errol right back as Arthur will be needing to alert the Ministry of his absence for the next few weeks.
Smiling slightly, Dumbledore shook his head. “Dragon Pox,” he said to Snow Snape. “Seven in one blow. Well, now, I believe I need to have a chat with Fawkes about a change in our holiday plans,” he added conversationally as he wrapped the scarf warmly around Snow Snape’s neck. He patted its head affectionately, then turned and headed back up to the castle.
“Did you manage to get them all into bed?” asked Arthur as his wife came down the stairs and into the kitchen.
“Yes, although I almost had to use sticking charms on Fred and George to make them stay. They insist they’re fine even though they’re both running a temperature of about a hundred and one now. In fact all of them except Percy and Ron have started on the fever.” Molly shook her head, sinking wearily into a chair and summoning a cup of tea. “Did you finish the letter?” she asked.
Arthur sighed. “Yes, although I doubt it will make much difference. They wouldn’t grant me leave with pay last year after being injured on the job; why would they grant it now when I’m simply quarantined at home and not ill but unable to leave?”
Molly felt the now all too familiar stab of anger that surfaced whenever her husband was treated so callously by his superiors, but she schooled her face not to show it, knowing it wouldn’t help anything at the moment. “Maybe they will be reasonable, given that it’s the holidays and all?” she said as hopefully as she could.
“Maybe,” he muttered, completely unconvinced. Molly sighed. They were just starting to recover financially from the previous year; two or three weeks without pay again could set them back to square one.
“We’ll be fine, Arthur,” she said firmly. “We’ll make do again, just like we do every year, and things will work out.”
“Of course you’re right, dear,” replied Arthur with an attempt at a smile. He picked up his finished letter and walked over to the window. Errol, who had just returned completely exhausted, cringed slightly at the sight of another envelope, but dutifully, if somewhat lethargically, took it in his beak. “We’ll make it work,” he said, watching as the wobbly owl took off into the night before turning back to his wife and the warm kitchen. He sat back at the table and Molly busied herself fetching him a warm cup of tea and reheating the dinner leftovers she had saved. Consequently, neither one noticed when Errol was joined in flight by a bird the color of flame who escorted the elderly owl off in a direction quite opposite from that of London.
“This is stinky,” grumbled Fred from his bed, arms crossed grumpily as he stared at the ceiling.
“Completely,” agreed George, glaring furiously at the closed door as he lay in his own bed across the room.
“I don’t understand why we can’t get out of bed!” added Fred hotly. “As if moving about the room would make the spots any worse.”
“Because she said so,” replied George in a sing-song-voice.
“Napoleonic power-monger,” muttered Fred darkly.
“Yeah, ‘cause lying here all day really helps take our minds off how hot it is…!” George yelled to the closed door.
“…and how awful we feel…!” echoed Fred.
“….and how much these bloody spots itch!” they finished together.
“Gah, I can’t stand it anymore!” Fred cried, ripping the blankets off and sitting up in bed, scratching desperately. George immediately copied the actions of his twin.
Suddenly, a muffled pop filled the room and both boys found their hands incased in bright purple mittens, stuck firmly to their wrists.
“I warned you boys to stop scratching those spots,” their mother’s tired voice floated up to them from downstairs. “And watch your language!”
“Muuuum!” the twins whined in unison, flopping back on their beds.
“Nice going, Fred,” said George angrily.
Fred’s only response was to clumsily chuck his pillow at his twin’s head, which he instantly regretted, because now not only was he sick and miserable and itchy and had his twin mad at him, but he also didn’t have a pillow.
Molly sprang out of bed at the sound of her thirteen-year-old’s terrified screams, wand already in hand as she rushed up the stairs, Arthur right behind her.
“MUM, I CAN’T MAKE IT STOP!”
Arriving at the landing of the fifth floor, Molly pushed harshly past her two eldest sons who were frozen in the doorway of Percy and Ron’s room and right into a nightmare.
Because the attic bedroom was completely on fire.
Percy, panic showing clearly, was holding a sobbing Ron tightly with one arm and trying in vain to put out the flames that danced all around the room with the wand in his other. But as soon as he’d get one doused, Ron succumbed to another bout of sneezing, spitting sparks in every direction. It was all the older boy could to do just to keep his brother from setting himself on fire.
As her husband instantly stepped into the room, water already spraying from his wand, Molly turned to Charlie and Bill. “Go get the potions Healer Winkworth left now!” she ordered them, before starting to help douse the flames.
They were back in record time, the rest of their siblings trailing behind them this time with wide, frightened eyes. Swiftly, she took the bottles of potions Bill offered her and selected the right one.
“Shh, Ronnie, it’s okay,” she soothed, brushing the terrified nine-year-old’s hair gently as she eased him away from his brother. “Just drink this and the sneezing will stop. You’ll be just fine.”
Crying so hard he was literally gulping for air, Ron choked down the potion as tears poured down his green spotted face. He sneezed once or twice more, sending out small flames that Arthur instantly doused, but finally all that escaped was a small tuft of smoke. Then he crumbled into her arms, sobbing. She held him tightly, rocking him back and forth just like she had when he’d been much smaller.
Suddenly, Percy sank onto the smoking remains of his bed, pale and shaky. Still rocking Ron, Molly watched Arthur go over to him, handing him his undamaged glasses before placing a firm hand on the teenager’s shoulder. “You did really good, son,” he said gently. “Kept your brother from getting burned at all. I’m proud of you.”
Gulping, Percy nodded, but was apparently still in too much shock to speak.
After a while, Molly became aware that Ron was mumbling something through his tears and she pulled back from his slightly. “What was that, dear?”
“I…I…ruined the room! Sorry…sorry…! Burned everything…! Sorry!”
The words came out in jumbles between gulps for air as he tried to calm his sobs and regain control.
“Oh, Ron, don’t worry about that,” she said quickly, holding him tightly once more. “Your father and I can fix the most important things. Besides, weren’t you trying to convince me the other day it was about time for an update on your room? Something about some wonderful Quidditch team you admire?”
He pulled back again, still shaking but this time looking up with slightly hopeful eyes. “The Chudley Canons?” he whispered.
“We’ll have to go shopping once you are all better,” she assured him with a nod and a gentle smile, and for the first time a small one of his broke through his tears.
“Yeah, ‘cause you’ve just proved that orange is a smashing look for this place,” said Fred quietly from the doorway, voice still more frightened than teasing.
“I dunno, it’s gotta beat charcoal brown,” added George, looking around with wide eyes.
“Are we all gonna start burning down our rooms?” asked Charlie, green spots standing out vividly on his pale face.
“Of course not,” said Molly, getting back to business now that Ron was pulling himself back together. “Healer Winkworth left fire retardant potions for all of you to take when the fire sneezing started, which I think it’s safe to assume has. So, if you’d all please line up…”
She’d never seen them all line up so quickly for a potion, but then again, the smoking walls and charred furniture of Percy and Ron’s room did make for rather excellent motivation.
“What is it, Ginny?” asked Molly tiredly, stepping into her daughter’s room. The Dragon Pox had been running strong in her house for the last week. They’d passed the “annoyingly itchy but I really don’t feel sick” phase, and the “sneezing fire” stage, and were now right in the heart of the “everyone just feels miserable and lousy stage.” No one felt good, tempers were short, and everyone seemed to want her attention at once; it was taking a toll on her.
“I don’t feel good,” Ginny whispered, her little voice harsh and dry from coughing.
Molly sighed. She hated seeing her children sick, more than almost anything in the world.
“I know, sweetheart. I know,” she said gently, sitting down on the edge of Ginny’s bed.
“Will you tell me a story?”
Molly smiled. “I supposed there’s time for one story before I need to go check on your brothers. What story would you like?”
“The one about Harry Potter.”
“But you know that story by heart! You always ask for that one. How about a different one this time?”
“Oh, Mummy, please? It’s my favorite one,” Ginny begged, her eyes pleading and of course Molly relented.
Sliding closer to the little girl, Molly tucked Ginny and her doll in more securely. She smoothed a hand over her daughter’s splotchy forehead.
“Once upon a time, not so long ago, there was an Evil Wizard who’s name we do not say. He did many, many bad things and hurt many people…”
Speaking softly, Molly told the well rehearsed tale, lowering her voice after a while as she watched her daughter’s eyes growing heavier. When she finally reached the end of the tale, Ginny’s eyes were completely closed. She flicked the lamp out with her wand, leaving only the windows of the magical dollhouse Ginny had received last year for Christmas, a mystery Molly still couldn’t explain, glowing to act as a nightlight. She was just turning to leave the room when a small voice stopped her.
“What happened to him?” Ginny whispered.
“What, Ginny?” Molly asked, startled that Ginny was still listening and still awake.
“What happened to Harry Potter? After he defeated the Evil Wizard and made everything good again?”
Molly paused. She’d never really thought about that. “I don’t know, love,” she answered honestly. “I suppose he went to live with his relatives.”
“And do you think they love him?”
“I’m sure they do, Ginny. They’re his family after all.”
“That’s good,” Ginny replied sleepily. “Everyone needs a family.”
Molly smiled. “Yes, dear, they do. Now you need to sleep.”
Ginny’s reply was mumble as the small girl was already on her way there, but Molly could just make out the words, “Goodnight, Harry Potter.”
Arthur glanced up from his paperwork as he heard his wife coming down the stairs. In the almost week-and-a-half they had been stuck at the Burrow he had heard nothing from the office. It was really starting to worry him, but he also wasn’t sure what to do about it. Inquiring about the letter he had sent off was just as likely to cause more problems than not. And then there was the growing stack of bills that wouldn’t get paid anytime soon on the mantle, and the sparse Christmas presents he and Molly had managed to pull together before the Quarantine had been set. He also knew his children were extremely disappointed about missing the lighting of the Ministry Christmas Tree on Friday night, not to mention the fact they didn’t even have a tree of their own to help lift their spirits.
He sighed deeply. He hated this. Hated this worry, and the fact that year after year his children were left wanting.
“Are they all asleep?” he asked quietly as Molly entered the kitchen and sank wearily into one of the other chairs.
“Finally,” she said with a nod, dark circles under her eyes. “I really think today was the worse of it. Hopefully, they’ve all turned a corner now and they will start feeling better instead of worse.”
“Which means we will get to see the return of the short tempers, the awful attitudes, and the bored-out-of-their-skulls whining.”
His wife just nodded, letting her head sink onto her arms on the table. “Who’s idea was seven of them anyway?” she mumbled through her dressing gown.
“Well, if I recall right, I think it was kind of a mutual decision,” Arthur replied, unable to stop a rather cheeky wink.
“We must have been drunk,” mumbled Molly again, not lifting her head. “And this just might have to go down as the worst Weasley Christmas in history…”
Arthur shook his head, chuckling slightly. He glanced up at the family clock that sat on the mantle, all nine hands pointing firmly at home. And suddenly, something struck him, as though with the force of a blow. He stood up.
It was only one day until Christmas Eve, and he was Quarantined with a house full of sick, cranky children, but… He had seven wonderful children, and the most wonderful wife in the world, and they were all home, with him and there was no where else he would rather be.
He glanced at the clock one more time, reading every single name in gold lettering, and suddenly that stack of bills sitting next to it on the mantle didn’t seem nearly as important. Nor the lack of a Christmas tree or presents.
And now he knew exactly what to do to prove it.
“I don’t know, Molly,” he answered, some of the twinkle back in his voice. “Let’s not count Christmas out just quite yet.”
Can Arthur manage to save Christmas for his family? Check back after the queue reopens for part two and find out.
And in the meantime, a very Merry Christmas to everyone!
* I have taken some liberties with my portrayal of Dragon Pox for two reasons. One, I needed it to fit the story in my head so I shamelessly used what I wanted and left out what I didn’t. Two, the information out there about this magical disease is rather contradictory and confusing, so I figured I couldn’t make it any worse, right?
Chapter 10: A Very Gryffie Holiday: Somewhere to Belong
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For the first time in his life, James Potter would not be spending the holidays at home.
Christmas had always been a special time in the Potter household. His mother would go all out, and his father would have to race to keep up with all her demands. Mr. Potter took it all in good spirit, though. He said more than once that he found her antics quite endearing.
Early this year, however, Mrs. Potter had passed away. Having already lost his father two summers previous, James no longer had a home to go to, and he wasn’t sure how he felt about it. Bitter wasn’t the right word, or angry. He just felt… out of place.
He wasn’t used to not having somewhere to belong.
With nothing better to do, he decided to take a walk around the castle. He found himself doing that a lot lately, just wandering around the castle late at night. It helped him clear his head a bit.
He strolled aimlessly, counting the numerous paintings that adored the walls. It wasn’t until sometime later that a muffled sob brought him back to reality.
He searched for the source of the noise, shocked to find that it was none other than Lily Evans.
The two of them had a very tentative friendship, if you could even call it that. They would chat, she would laugh, and he would think everything was going great. Then the next day she would be cold and distant, or mad at him for some absurd reason.
There were many things in the world that he didn’t understand, and Lily Potter definitely on the list. She was probably number one.
He decided, however, that he should at least talk to her. Maybe even cheer her up.
There was just one little problem…
James Potter handled crying girls the same way goblins handled being called short.
It wasn’t because he was mean, or because didn’t want to help. He was just completely lost when it came to comforting beings of the female persuasion.
But he couldn’t ignore the ache he felt when he started to hear the soft cry of that certain redhead. Something inside him said it would be wrong to walk away.
“Lily, is that you?” he said cautiously to the weeping girl in the windowsill, knowing full that it was.
His voice echoed in the empty hall, piercing the silence. It was late, and the moon was high in the sky, casting an iridescent glow on the girl’s face.
She turned towards him, chocking back sobs as she replied, “Yes, who’s asking?”
It was long past curfew, and hardly anyone stayed at the castle over Christmas holidays anyway. So naturally, she had assumed that she would be able to cry in peace. She was known for her calm demeanor, she always had her act together. Someone witnessing her breakdown was not an option.
“It’s me,” James replied, nervously ruffling the back of his hair.
The moonlight didn’t quite reach James, leaving his facial features indiscernible from her point of view.
“Thanks,” she spat venomously back at him, “That really cleared things up.”
She whipped her head back towards the window, resuming her watch of the snowflakes as they fell to the ground. She hoped that if she ignored the boy, he would disappear. Maybe he’d go back to his dorm, where he belonged.
Taking a deep breath, James stepped into the light and took the seat next to her. “It’s me, James,” he said, putting extra emphasis on his name.
“Oh,” she said, the surprise evident in her voice.
For the majority of her time at Hogwarts, Lily had viewed him as an arrogant git. But something in him had changed over that summer before sixth year, and she noticed. Just as she also began to notice that his eyes were a rather nice shade of hazel, and that her heart skipped a beat when he smiled. Of course, none of this needed to be public knowledge.
Unsure of what to say next, she snapped her mouth shut and let the silence linger.
When she didn’t continue, James began to get annoyed with himself. Here he was sitting with his dream girl on Christmas Eve, basking in the moon light, and he had no idea what to say.
“So… why are you crying?” He finally said after two and a half minutes of agonizing silence (not that he was counting or anything).
“That,” she said angrily, trying to wipe away any stray tears, “is none of your business.”
He recoiled, caught off guard by her sharp tone. “Sorry,” he said, putting a sarcastic emphasis on the word sorry. “I was just trying to be considerate.”
Her cheeks began to flush with anger. “Well, don’t be. I don’t need you pretending like you care.”
She wasn’t sure why she said it, or if she even meant what she was saying, but she said it nonetheless. Besides, being mean to James Potter was basically her job, even if he had nice eyes.
“Pretend?” he said, irritation increasing by the second. “Who said I was pretending! Why would I be sitting in freezing corridor in the middle of the bloody night on Christmas Eve if I didn’t actually care?”
She shot him a venomous glare and stood up from her seat, deciding she’d had enough.
“Now, wait one blasted minute! Where do you think you’re going?” he said.
He stood up and started after her, he wasn’t ready to be done arguing. It was so like her to say something like that and not elaborate. He was tired of her making him out to be some villain. What had he even done to deserve it?
"Lily!" he yelled one more time as his teeth began to chatter.
For some mental reason she had decided to walk straight out the front door and into the freezing cold night, and he was mental enough to follow her.
The staff had held their annual Christmas party, and it seemed that Filch consumed one Firewhiskey too many, otherwise the doors would have all been locked up.
Outside, the snow continued to fall, she continued to ignore him, and he was livid.
“In the name of Merlin, Evans, what are you doing?” he finally snapped.
Lily halted, crossing the ten feet separating them in several large strides until she was right up in his face.
“For your information, James, I’m storming off. It doesn’t really work if you come with me.”
He rolled his eyes, “You’re always so dramatic! "
“Me?” she asked, incredulous. “If anyway is dramatic here, it’s you! Chasing after me as if I’m some damsel in distress. What are you playing at, Potter? Hoping that maybe I’ll give you a snog for being so nice to be in my time of need?”
“You would think that, wouldn’t you?” he said, a sort of sadness replacing the anger in his tone. “In case you haven’t noticed, Lily, I’m not that kind of guy. Maybe when I was younger I tried to play it of like I was, but believe it or not I’m actually a decent human being.”
“I…I don’t…” she had begun to say, but trailed off.
Of all the things he could have said, that was not at all what she was expecting to hear. For the first time, Lily Evans was stunned to silence.
“Forget it, Lily,” he whispered, deciding that it would be best for him to just go back inside. She obviously didn’t want anything to do with him.
Her heart begun to sink as she watched him walk away. She knew that he had every right, after all she was being downright nasty, but it still hurt.
“Oh, I almost forgot,” he said, turning back towards her, “Merry Christmas, Lily.”
The hurt in his voice was so evident, and she was disappointed to realize that she was the one to cause it. She really did care about him, even though she had a completely awful way of showing it.
“James, wait!” she yelled, bring him to an abrupt halt. “You’re right.”
“I am?” he said, eyebrow raised. In all the time they’d spent together, Lily had never admitted to him being right about anything. To say he was shocked would be an understatement.
“Yes, you are. I was wrong to say those things about you. I know I don’t act like it, but I have noticed the change in you. I noticing everything about you now and it scares me,” she said, her voice barely audible. “I don’t like the way I feel around you, I become so vulnerable. The only way I know how to compensate for that is to shut you out. It’s the only way I can keep myself from getting hurt.”
“That last thing I’d ever want to do is hurt you. You, along with the entire student body, are aware of how I feel about you. I love you, for Merlin’s sake.”
He knew the words were true as soon as they left his mouth. He had never used the ‘L’ to describe his feelings for her before, but he was glad he said it. At least that way everything would be out in the open.
“Please don’t hate me for saying this, but that’s the way I liked it. You liking me and me feeling nothing but annoyance towards you. That way, I could never be the one getting hurt. But now, I think I love you too, and that makes everything more complicated.“
Hearing her say that was the best Christmas gift he ever could have received. So what if they were fighting in the middle of the night in the freezing snow? She loved him! That was all that mattered.
“Lily, it’s okay to be afraid.” he said with a small smirk.
She looked down at her feet, “You’re never afraid.”
“Are you kidding me? All those years that I acted like a prat to you was because I was scared. Sure, it was a partially because I was immature, but also because I thought if I could make it all seem like a joke, it wouldn’t hurt as bad when you said no. Then one day I decided that the risk was worth it.”
She looked up from the ground and their gazes locked.
“A chance with you was worth it,” he finished with a sincere smile.
The next thing James knew, her mouth was on his. He made a mental correction; now this was definitely the best Christmas present he could ever have.
The kiss wasn’t urgent or rushed, it was sweet and perfect, just the way Lily imagined it might be.
They walked back into the castle, hand in hand, taking in the beauty of the grounds.
“So, you ever going to say why were crying?” he asked, breaking the comfortable silence.
She let out a tiny laugh, “I feel silly now for being so over the top. I guess I was just upset by the idea of spending Christmas alone.”
“That, Lily Evans, is something you’ll never have to worry about again. I’ll always be here to keep you company, if you want.” he said, giving her hand a squeeze.
“I want,” she said with a nod, giving him a peck on the cheek.
Even though this wasn’t the type of Christmas James was used too, he couldn’t ask for a better night. He finally had a new place to belong.
It was with Lily.
A/N: The “I’m storming off and it doesn’t work if you come with me” line is credited to the show Buffy the Vampire Slayer (:
Chapter 11: A Very Gryffie Holiday: Another Christmas Without You
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The fire in the grate cracked happily, shooting from its depths, sparks and smoke, issuing its warmth to the world.
Though Remus Lupin did not feel its warmth. He only felt cold and desolate as he sat before the enveloping flames, sipping a firewhisky absentmindedly.
Why, he thought to himself, am I such a coward? Why did I leave the only woman left on this godforsaken planet that meant anything to me?
Tonks was perfection. She was always happy, never doubting. He loved the way she tripped over every standing object. He loved the way that she always smiled when she saw him. He loved her brilliant ever changing hair.
He, Remus, didn't deserve her. He deserved no one. What he did deserve was to rot in Hell. Yes, that would satisfy him.
He was so broken.
The child would never forgive him. He would go on to grow up without a father. Remus couldn't bare to ever confront him.
But what the trio had told him rang in his ears like a never ending tape recorder.
What child would be ashamed of you?
I don't know, Hermione, I would be pretty ashamed of him.
It was a slap in the face. Something he didn't believe until he heard it from another’s mouth. But it was all true. All of it.
Somewhere in the distance, the church bells rang twelve times signaling the new day. Signaling to Remus that he would be spending yet another Christmas without her.
And that's when it hit him.
He had to go. He had to find her. He needed her. She needed him.
Nymphadora Tonks did not deserve to be alone on Christmas.
"Tonks," a voice carried huskily from outside the front door, a voice which she hadn't heard for more then a month. She froze from her place on the couch and looked up reluctantly. Remus was here. Here for Christmas? Please stay, Remus, she thought. I need you.
She rose and leaned against the door ever so slightly so she could hear him. His breath was coming unsteadily and his voice sounded hoarse.
"Tonks, it's me, Remus. Please let me in," he pleaded.
She pondered over this matter before looking down at herbelly which was more round then when the pregnancy started. He had left us. Remus had left her and their unborn child. It was all his fault.
"Go away Lupin," she hollered, making sure to use his surname which she did when she was cross with him.
"Please Tonks," he begged. It was strange hearing the urgency in his voice. Remus was usually calm and cool headed but now he sounded wild and deranged. "I have seen the error of my ways."
She scowled and replied, "I’m not letting you in, werewolf." As soon as the words had left her mouth, she wanted to take them back. Remus was silent on the other side of the door.
Finally he said firmly, "I’m coming in." She of course realized that that was a stupid idea. They had put so many enchantments on our little house that it would be quiet impossible and the intruder would undergo excruciating pain.
But never-the-less, Remus's hand foolishly seized the door knob and pulled. The silent night was soon filled with shrieks and hollers from Remus as the Cruciatus Curse that he had put up did its worst.
She sighed and exited the house and made her way to where her husband was wringing in the snow. He looked frail in the moonlight, more grey hair, more scars, but to her, he was just Remus.
The man who she had fallen in love with. The man who she had married. The man whose child she would soon bear. The man who had left them to rot.
He looked up into her face and even though he was still suffering from the curse, he smiled.
She reluctantly muttered the counter curse, but then turned her back on him and started towards the house.
"Tonks!" he shouted, sprinting to catch up with her. "Dora, I'm sorry! I've been an arrogant git. Please forgive me. I deserved that curse as much as any person but I beg you to please let me say why,"
She stared sadly up into his face.
"Why did you leave, Remus?" she whispered.
He placed his hands on my waist and looked me in the eyes.
"Because I was scared. I didn’t want to accept my responsibility. I had let down every one, you, your parents, my child, my self-" But before he could finish she cut him off.
"Remus, don't you DARE think that you ever disappointed me. I was over the moon about it! I have loved you from the moment I first clamped eyes on you, and I always will love you. As for my parents, they're just going to have to deal with disappointment. I don't give a wand what they think of us. Our child will not care at all what you are! It will love its father and probably even respect you more for what you are! And Remus...please don't be disappointed at yourself. It's very normal to have a child," she smiled up at him.
He beamed down at her and kissed her forehead, then her nose, then her cheek, her neck, finally finding her lips and they stood there in the still of night, their lips moving passionately over each other’s.
"Merry Christmas Tonks,"
"Merry Christmas Lupin."
"So does this mean I can come back?" he asked after they were finished.
"You may, but tonight you'll be sleeping on the couch, not with me."
"I wouldn't have it any other way."
Text in bold was taken from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, page 176 UK paperback edition.
I stared at myself. I was still young, handsome (yes I found myself to be a dashing lad!) and strangely enough though today was one of the few days I felt empty.
The holidays were coming up. When I was a child holidays were my favorites but now, you could say I didn't like them very much. I was currently twenty one years old sitting in my flat playing with an old set of wizards cards.
A year ago I lost my best mates. Fred and George Weasley.
Fred died in the war, he went down fighting like a hero.
George lived but disappeared into hiding. His brother Ron and I had taken care of the shop since he refused to set a foot inside after he only owled me even when I begged him to go out to the Leaky Cauldron, heck even just sit in my flat and play wizards chess for old time sake, but he refused.
I looked up and found myself with the window, it was snowing outside. I didn't look but I could see the children running around with snowballs, witches and wizards holding on to their cloaks, and I could see us back in our school days.
When there was no threats of death.
When anything could be solved with a simple flick of our wands.
When the lot of us still laughed at the stupid things.
“Are you sure we won't get into trouble?” I asked; still an innocent first year I obviously cared about what my professors thought of me.
“Of course not” said the red haired boy that stood to my right; he wore a cheeky smile while his twin went and picked up some snow.
“Who cares?!” said the boy with the snow in his hand. “It's fun!”
I smiled and that day we threw snowballs at whoever passed by us, regardless of their position. I hadn't gotten my first detention that day with Professor Snape.
I glared at the twins as we began to scrape the ice from the stone walls. I could hear them muttering nasty words under their breaths. Wait 'til my parents got word of this...
“Would you lot shut up?!” I yelled angrily throwing a piece of ice at the two boys. They turned, the ice barely missing the one closest to me. “I can't believe I'm even here!” I added, sliding down against the wall on to the floor.
“Well you can always just act like it's a dream,” said one of them. The other smiled.
“Or your worst nightmare!”
I was living my worst nightmare. Christmas Eve and I was home alone. No family (that I didn't mind) no friends (that hurt.)
I missed Fred, sure, but I missed George just as bad. Angelina tried to get through to him and even she couldn't.
I knew she hurt too after all she and Fred had some sort of thing right before the war started. George and I would joke about that was before the bloke lost his spark.
Standing, I walked over to the window deciding to take a look, maybe that'd keep me away from my thoughts.
The streets were empty at least to my eyes but in my mind I could see myself running out into the snow jumping around like a child, laughing and wrestling with Fred and George...
My eyes had begun to sting even if I promised myself months ago I'd stop crying I couldn't help it. I felt empty, discarded like a piece of rubbish no one needed anymore.
The hot tears ran down my cheeks as I laid my head against the window. With my fingers I begun to trace lines on my window.
Merry Christmas Lee.
Merry effing Christmas.
I couldn't find the will to stop my tears, even at Fred's funeral I hadn't cried like this. I knew he'd probably be angry with me if I did. I simply sat there beside George.
Ha! He was probably laughing wherever he was.
I heard a loud knock on my door. I ignored it until they knocked a fourth time and after came a voice.
“Er...Lee. Lee are you there?”
I frowned turning around: that voice, though it lacked its usual laughter...
I laughed my tears taking over once again. I ran towards the door hoping that I hadn't suddenly gone mad.
“Lee if you don't-”
“You prat!” I yelled excited almost losing my foot to my lonely table. The cards went flying as I cursed. Outside the door I heard George call out worried.
“Lee are you alright?”
I cursed loudly suddenly laughing as I scrambled up onto my feet.
It was him! My best mate!
I felt my hand shake as I twisted the handle taking a deep breath I pulled the door open.
George stood there wearing a shy smile, his hair was long and messy covering up his only ear. His brown eyes stared at me bloodshot and glass-like. Giving me a small wave George walked in right past me.
“So...er still collecting cards?” I nodded shutting the door slowly. It felt like I was floating, my heart was beating with excitement but on the other side I felt angry.
It had been a year, a whole year and all this idiot could day to me was
“So...er still collecting cards?”
I turned towards him he was sitting on my couch his hands on his knees and his eyes all over the place.
“After a year,.” I whispered he turned to me as I reached into my robes, “after a whole year George Weasley!” My voice had begun to raise, sure I noticed but right now I could care less if that stupid old woman that lived next to me woke up. I'd hex her too!
He stood up backing away from me “Lee, I'm sorry mate I really am-” he began as I walked towards him each step louder then the last.
“I sent you letter after letter! I went to your house! Heck I've been running your shop!” I was now screaming my hand was shaking as my eyes began to sting again.
“Not even a hello Lee! Or heck even a howler would've been nice!” I saw him blink twice then George suddenly broke into a sob and so did I.
Great I made him cry, and myself mind you.
I dropped my wand and without thinking pulled George into a hug. He stood there frozen, the anger had faded and suddenly I felt an empty pit in my stomach.
Ladies and gentleman....I was embarrassed...
Not of George...but the fact that I had suddenly jumped at him like that. If Fred was watching he was probably howling with laughter.
“I missed you,” I said before he could get a word out of his mouth though he wasn't speaking. George bit his lip, his eyes lighting up.
George burst out in laughter, in fact he fell onto MY couch laughing. I smiled as I watched him try to catch his breath.
Once I saw him crying with laughter I couldn't help but join him.
I suddenly stopped laughing getting a good look at George. He looked thinner than ever, his clothes looked dirty and it looked like he hadn't shaved in a couple of weeks.
“George what the heck happened to you?” I blurted out he smiled cheekily running his hands through his hair.
“I just got 'lost' you could say...”
“Well then...welcome home” I said taking a hold of his shoulder. He smiled at me.
And to me that was the best Christmas present anyone could have given me.
Chapter 13: A Very Gryffie Holiday: Secrets Revealed
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When Roxanne was six years old she had come upon a cave that was covered with weeds and some rocks had caved in that was by The Burrow. This was the perfect place to have somewhere of her own. She would sneak to The Cave when she needed to get away from her family and think. Now that she was fifteen she had a lot to think of, thanks to her new best friend Hormones.
Roxanne put on her teal peacoat, mustard yellow scarf, gloves, and hat and headed out of the door, saying to Gram and Gramps that she was going out. She let out a breath and watched the steam dance out of her mouth, then . walked towards her special place where she hoped Annabelle would also be. The snow crunched under her fuzzy, brown boots as she proceeded. She could make out a red coat and white winter accessories on a tall girl as she got closer to her destination. She smiled as Annabelle Zabini turned around and smiled her heartbreaking smile.
“You are here,” Roxanne said softly, going into The Cave.
“Of course, did you think I would abandon you?” Annabelle asked, taking off her hat and shaking out her caramel curls.
“No, I am just glad you are here,” Roxanne said getting closer to Annabelle and putting her mocha hands onto Annabelle’s milk chocolate cheek.
“Anne,” Annabelle breathed running her hands through the others chestnut curls.
“Belle,” Roxanne replied softly kissing Annabelle’s soft lips. This is one reason she wanted no one to find her secret hideout. She had to keep the fact that she liked girls and the fact that she was dating Annabelle Zabini, away from everyone.
“You taste like Butterbeer,” Annabelle said smiling.
“And you taste like blueberry pie, my new favorite pie,” Roxanne smirked, running her hands though her loves hair.
“Have you told your family about us, Anne?” Annabelle said, looking into Roxanne’s hunter green eyes.
Roxanne hesitated a bit and said, “Only James.”
Annabelle looked hurt and a little angry. “He already knew, so you have told no one, are you embarrassed of me?”
“No, I would never be embarrassed of you darling,” Roxanne replied, looking down.,“I am just embarrassed of myself.”
Annabelle turned Roxanne’s chin up so their eyes met and said, “There is no need to hate who you are, embrace it, plus they will not judge you. Your family is the most understanding, James was totally fine with it and the rest will be too.”
Roxanne kissed her girlfriend and said, “I bet you are right.”
“I am always right Anne,” Annabelle smirked, “Go tell them, it is Christmas so everyone is there, owl me later and tell me how it went.”
Roxanne walked back to the Burrow and went into the kitchen that had been magically enhanced to fit the huge family.
“Roxi, you are just in time for dinner,” Gram Molly said beaming.
“I have something to say before we eat,” Roxanne said shyly.
James beamed; he knew what she was going to say and said, “Go on Rox!”
“I….um…like girls,” She said waiting for the anger and crying.
“Zat is great, Roxanne,” Aunt Fleur said beaming; she was the last person Roxanne expected to be ok.
“Of course, why would we think any different?” Uncle Charlie said.
“I don’t know,” Roxanne said.
“The only thing that matters is who your girlfriend is,” Fred asked.
“It’s Annabelle Zabini.”
“She’s hot, you better invite her over,” Fred replied.
Roxanne smiled, she was glad her family was ok with her being different.
Chapter 14: A Very Gryffie Holiday: Last Minute Surprises
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Albus Potter’s nose was pressed up against the glass of Quality Quidditch Supplies.
Green eyes wide, his breath frosted up the recently-polished glass as he stared at the one thing that every young aspiring Quidditch player wanted for Christmas; the Stardust 1500.
“Uncle George!” His gaze only left the broomstick for a moment as he called the red-haired man standing beside him. “Do you see that broomstick?”
George’s nose was pressed to the glass in a similar manner that his nephew’s was. “Funnily enough, I don’t think that I do.”
“Well you better see it, that thing’s incredible!” The young boy exclaimed, clearly not understanding the sarcasm at his seven years of age. “It’s even the broom that the whole Irish Quidditch team bought for themselves!”
It was Christmas Eve, and George Weasley had taken Albus out for a bit of last minute window shopping and errands, with clear instructions from Harry and Ginny that he was not to buy him sweets.
However, those weren’t the only instructions given; Harry, the procrastinator, had neglected to buy a Christmas present for Al because he had no idea what he liked. Seeing how this was George’s department, it was with a slightly-weary sigh that the redhead had agreed to help the desperate father.
None of this was clear to Albus now, standing outside the store and nearly bouncing up and down from the excitement. “It’s got rapid acceleration and can do hairpin turns in mere seconds!” He called out, reciting what George was sure had been memorized word-for-word from an advertisement in a magazine.
“I think that’s enough for now. Come on, Al,” George told his nephew, though he had to admit that even he wanted to stay a bit longer to marvel at the broomstick. “Besides,” He continued, unfolding a list from his pocket. “We’ve got a whole list of errands to do.”
Even though it had been folded in half when taken from the redhead’s pocket, the young boy watched in horror as it unfolded itself into what looked to be a list nearly the size of him.
“Fine,” He sighed, pulling away from the window, though he did give the broom just one last peek before joining George.
Dragging Albus along to all the different stores with him wasn’t exactly the top of George’s ‘favorite things to do’ list, especially when some errands included buying presents for other members of the Weasley-Potter household. He had made sure the younger boy swore to keep it secret for just one more day.
Laden with bags, the pair finally emerged outside once the sun had gone down. Even little Albus was struggling to hold a few bags of his own. “Can we go home now?” he pleaded. Even though he usually enjoyed going somewhere with his fun-loving uncle, he was getting a bit tired of walking around in the bustling Diagon Alley all day.
“Yes, I think we’re just about done.” George consulted his list once more before nodding to confirm his words. “Besides, we’ve got to get home quickly,” He said before adding, “Grandmum’s making dinner tonight.”
Al grinned. “Now we won’t have to suffer through Aunt Angelina’s cooking.”
George scowled good-naturedly. “You lay off on my wife.” He paused before adding slyly, “But we are spared from Aunt Audrey’s vegetable surprise.”
Laughter from both family members echoed down the emptying streets as they continued on their way home.
“Ron, eat slowly, no one’s going to take that plate away from you!” Molly Weasley’s voice rang out as she reprimanded her son’s horrible eating habits.
“That’s what you think,” He replied with a guilty look at Hermione before he continued eating in the same fashion that he had just moments before.
As Albus was eating at the other end of the table and keeping up a steady conversation with Rose, Harry decided it safe enough to talk to his brother-in-law.
“George?” Harry interrupted the man’s conversation with his son. “Can I talk to you for a minute?”
Once he had gotten the older man’s attention, he said in a low voice, “See anything that Al liked?”
George hesitated but nodded slowly.
“What is it?”
“You know that new broom, the Stardust 1500?” He nodded unsteadily. “I’m pretty sure he wants it; I mean, would you spend a good portion of an hour just standing outside and staring at something you didn’t want?”
Harry nodded. “I see…” He looked uncomfortable. “Right then.” He nodded thankfully at George before turning back to his own plate which he picked at as he thought.
Back at the other end of the table, Albus was describing the broom to his other Quidditch-loving cousins.
“…it’s got built-in braking, and can even be left outside in the rain without the wood getting moldy because it’s been polished with this special type of wood polish,” He was saying to his avid listeners.
“The Tutshill Tornadoes are going to be so jealous of Ireland!” James exclaimed.
“But I heard that the Chudley Cannons will get a few of them too,” Rose said.
“No,” Fred rolled his eyes in that annoying way all eleven-year-olds do. “That’s Pride of Portree you’re talking about.”
“No, I’m pretty sure it’s Chudley,” Rose protested.
A brief argument ensued before Albus began describing the broom again. “The only thing with it, though, is that it’s kind of expensive,” He said regretfully.
Harry had been listening to this conversation for the past while. “How much?” He asked a bit nervously.
Albus gulped. “Eight hundred and fifty galleons.”
A sort of shocked silence fell over the table in which George gave Harry an apologetic shrug, indicating that it was Albus that had chosen it and not him. As soon as conversation slowly started to make the table loud again, Albus glanced at Rose uncertainly. “Do you think Dad would get the broom for me if I asked?”
Rose smiled. “Don’t be silly. Uncle Harry’s not that bad of a procrastinator.”
Two hours later, ‘Uncle-Harry-the-not-procrastinator’ was standing outside of Quality Quidditch Supplies, his breath making little puffs of steam in the frosty air as he glanced through the window at the broom on display.
He made his decision.
Christmas morning dawned bright, but the peaceful morning was broken as soon as Albus Potter opened his eyes.
Hopping out of bed, the messy-haired boy immediately tackled his brother and cousin, sleeping in sleeping bags on the floor. “Wake up, it’s Christmas!”
Soon the message had spread throughout the packed Burrow, and everyone was making their way downstairs to the Christmas tree and all the presents piled around it, wrapped with such care. Soon enough, though, everyone knew the wrapping would be carelessly torn off and the ground covered in scraps of wrapping paper.
Albus immediately rushed to the front of the tree to pick up a box. “This one’s yours, Lily,” He said, throwing the present at his younger sister before digging through the rest of the pile.
Albus was happy to find his section of presents towards the back of the tree. Dragging out a large box, he hesitated as he fingered the wrappings.
Rose was by his side in an instant. “Do you think that that’s it?” She whispered to her cousin, in awe of the large rectangular box.
He bit his lip. “Let’s see,” He replied as he pulled the green and red wrapping paper off from the box. Underneath was now a simple, unmarked box that had been stripped clean of all paper.
Fingers reached for the edge of the lid slowly before Rose Weasley got annoyed. “For Merlin’s sake, Al.” Without waiting for him to open it himself, she pulled off the cover of the box.
“Dad!” Albus jumped up in triumph. “You came through!”
“Actually, it was your Uncle’s idea,” Harry laughed happily at his son’s joy.
Albus glanced around in confusion at all his older male relatives before realizing which uncle Harry was talking about. “Uncle George!” He ran to go give him a hug.
Unfortunately, George- who was helping his daughter turn on her present, didn’t see his nephew coming until he collided with him. “Oof!” His expression changed. “I mean, you’re welcome, Albus.”
“Come on, show us the gift already!” Dominique exclaimed impatiently.
It was with another moment of sheer triumph that Albus Potter reached into his box and pulled out what he had really wanted; the gleaming Stardust 1500, its handle almost as bright as his smile.
“Merry Christmas, Albus,” Harry called from the other side of the room.
Albus glanced up, flashing rarely-seen dimples at his father. “Merry Christmas, Dad.”
Chapter 15: A Very Gryffie Holiday: Into the Lion's Den
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The house seemed quiet and deserted. The redhead let his eyes sweep over the familiar kitchen. The room itself still reminded him of the Burrow of his childhood, but the furniture and everything that had to be left behind had to be replaced after the war.
“Come in, no one’s here yet,” he said over his shoulder.
“Are you sure?” a female voice asked. A young woman hesitantly followed him in. She had brown hair, currently drawn back in a high ponytail, and her brown eyes took in her surroundings curiously, then she sought those of her companion.
“This is where you grew up?”
“It is,” he answered her. He turned around and hollered up the stairs.
“Mum? Dad? Anyone?”
“Percy!” The short, plump figure of his mother appeared in the doorway to the living room. Her eyes were treacherously moist; he suspected she had been reminiscing over old photos again. Percy felt himself enveloped in a huge bear hug. He patted his mother on the back, drawing back a little.
“So where is anyone?”
“I expect your brothers for dinner. I have already prepared little Victoire’s presents. Harry and Ginny are bringing Teddy, and Harry wanted to try and persuade Andromeda to come. She should really not be alone on a day like this. No, no one should.”
A little thump could be heard from the doorway, and Percy and his mother turned their heads toward it. Percy freed himself from the embrace, and stood straight again.
“Mum, this is Audrey, my …”
Molly Weasley needed to hear no more. She advanced on the young woman, and pulled her in for a hug, too.
“Welcome, Audrey! This is the first time Percy brought someone home! Come with me, I want to know everything! Percy, go outside and make sure your father is not in that shed again!”
Percy did as he was told, going through the events of the past days again.
He had woken up in his bed, alone. This would not have been unusual only some months ago, but now, Audrey was part of his life. That reminded him he would have to introduce her into the madhouse that was his family soon.
He caught a muffled sob from the direction of the bathroom in his tiny apartment.
Percy jumped up to look what was going on. Cursing, as he had almost collided with his desk and send his latest report on wizard demographics flying and hit his foot on the chair instead, he hobbled on one foot toward the bathroom.
And yes, he could hear her inside. He would have liked nothing better than to go back and pretend he hadn’t heard, but this was Audrey.
“Hey, what’s wrong?”
“Go away!” she told him between sobs.
“Audrey, I’m coming in.”
He did, and found her with tears in her eyes. When he learned what had happened he took her into his arms, promising her everything would be alright.
“Are you sure about this?” the brown-haired girl asked. She had only a short white dress on, kept warm by a heating charm.
“Yes of course! If I’ve ever felt like being spontaneous, it’s now!”
“Okay, okay,” the girl answered him, now longer struggling to suppress her nervousness and excitement. “It’s so unlike you, but I’m certainly not complaining. Let’s go through with this.”
“Let’s,” he told her, before nicking a kiss, an open and happy smile on his face as he led her into the building.
Percy stopped short as he caught sight of his father, but Arthur Weasley was not inside the shed puttering away on some Muggle appliances, he was on his way back to the Burrow, his arms stacked high with presents.
“Hey Dad, Merry Christmas. Why didn’t you just levitate or banish them to the living room?” Percy greeted, turning on his heel to go beside his father. He quickly moved his wand, and the presents disappeared into thin air.
Arthur had an amused expression on his face. “Percy, the fact that I can use magic, is not reason enough to use it all the time. Besides, this is more fun.”
Percy rolled his eyes, but decided to let it slide for now. “Dad, could I just talk to …”
“Dad, Percy! Hurry up! Mum’s said we’re going to exchange gifts now!” Ron hollered from the backdoor, still in his coat and his hair covered in soot.
“And a Merry Christmas to you too, Ron,” Arthur chuckled to himself.
The next hours were filled with so much noise and talking and laughing that Percy found no opportunity to tell his great news.
Percy did not know whether to be annoyed at his siblings’ teasing, or just take it in stride. Bill had told him that he must have jinxed Audrey for her to give him the time of day. Even George had cracked some clever jokes.
As he looked around, Percy was struck with how much had changed in a few short years. It had been another Christmas, years ago, from what now seemed like another life, where he had stood there, arrogant and haughty, feeling so superior to this simple home and positive that he was doing the right thing.
He searched for a particular pair of eyes. Audrey seemed to connect well with everyone; he had no trouble imagining her as a part of it all. Victoire, a mere toddler, was sitting on her lap and telling stories only she could understand.
Audrey had the sweetest little girl on her lap; Victoire talked a mile per hour, and Audrey tried to follow what she said. She felt a pair of eyes on her. If she had known all those years ago that she would end up with him of all people …
It had been her first year. She had been to the library to look up some facts, without paying attention to the time. When finally Madam Pince shooed everyone out, she had been the only Hufflepuff left, and that meant she had to find back her way to the common room alone. Despite the fact that she had been at Hogwarts for three months already, she felt safer in company of others.
She was strolling along the corridor, recalling her schedule for the next day while at the same time keeping an eye out for her surroundings. Suddenly, she could not move anymore. Her bag and wand went flying and clattered noisily to the floor, and she would have fallen herself, but something kept her from hitting the ground. She just sank to the ground, as if sliding down a wall. By the dim light in this hall, she could not make out much, but as she was still in the middle of the hall, and no one else was around, she could not think of a reason. She tried to crawl over to where her things were scattered, but invisible bounds seemed to hold her in place.
“What the …?” she wondered aloud, her head swinging around as she tried to determine the reason for this.
She doubted anyone would come her way anytime soon, safe for maybe one of the professors. Or the ghosts. Finally, her eyes locked on something above her head. There, inconspicuous and innocent, hung a bunch of mistletoe. She blinked up at it. Of course she knew what supposedly broke a mistletoe’s spell, the girls of her house had gone on about that endlessly, while the boys had either scoffed about the whole deal or bragged about their ‘conquests’. But she didn’t want to kiss anyone. And who knew who would come along, and when.
She once again strained against the invisible bonds, trying to reach her wand. She gave up soon, for even if she had it back, she did not know a spell that could help.
She pricked her ears. Were those footsteps? Someone came in her direction.
“Don’t come closer,” she tried to warn whoever it was.
“Who’s there? It’s already past curfew!” a stiff voice answered her.
“Stop, you’re going to … get stuck.” She had tried to warn the stranger, but too late. A boy with short curly red hair was now close enough so she could see him. He also seemed to receive a shock, and patted himself to see what had caused it.
“What’s this? What did you do?” he accused her.
Audrey spluttered a little, indignant. Instead, she only pointed upwards.
“Uhuh,” his words mirrored her thoughts.
An awkward silence spread between them.
Finally, the boy, who she had seen around and whose badge indicated him as a Gryffindor, spoke again.
“Do you know what that means?” he asked stiffly. Audrey thought she could detect a hint of embarrassment, but she couldn’t be sure.
Audrey shuffled around a bit. Of course she did, but she didn’t especially feel eager. He was tall and spindly, and had a lot of freckles on his face. He looked flustered at the moment.
“Let’s just get this over with,” she rolled her eyes, stood on her tiptoes and gave him a peck on the cheek.
She turned to scoop up her things, and heard the boy stutter something about it being way after curfew, and then hurried footsteps that moved away from her.
She did not stop to wonder what he had done out after curfew for he was no older than a second year herself, and decided to put that awkward moment out of her mind. For the following years, she did just that, and made a point to stay away from who she found out was Percy Weasley.
She could still see that boy in him now, but he had certainly grown up. She smiled at him, missing Molly Weasley’s sharp eyes that went between her son and his companion.
But Percy noticed. He motioned for Audrey to come with him; she excused herself and joined him at the back window, from where they could overlook the snow-covered orchard.
“Are you ok? Sorry for them, that’s just how they are.”
“It’s ok. I wouldn’t expect anything less. When do you want to tell them?”
Percy started to reply, but he was cut off.
“Tell us what?” Ginny slipped in between them, and looked demandingly at her brother.
“Tell … uh, Ginny, how’s your training going? I wanted to take Audrey to one of your next games.
“You are trying to distract me,” Ginny said accusingly, but turned to Audrey to invite to her to the next Holyhead Harpies game.
Percy felt an arm drape over his head, and found himself in a headlock. “So, Percy, you can come clean now. How did you land that girl?” Charlie’s voice sounded muffled in his ears, but he could clearly hear Bill’s laughter.
They dragged him off outside, and while he struggled to free himself, the door opened and closed again.
“Did he confess already? I wanted to try out some new ideas!”
As much as Percy appreciated that George’s eyes held a resemblance to their old mischievousness, he would have preferred to get rid of the arm that strangled him.
“No he hasn’t,” Charlie answered his brother.
“Maybe you should let loose a little, give him the opportunity to answer,” Bill interjected, dryly.
Percy hastily gurgled his agreement, and gasped for air as he felt fresh air fill his lungs.
“So, how come you bring home a girl? And don’t think we didn’t hear Ginny just now!” Charlie nettled on.
“Yes, what did you want to tell us? Did you get promoted to big-head again?”
“William, Charles and George! Don’t annoy your brother! And now come in and wash your hands, dinner’s ready!” Molly called from the house.
Percy made a beeline for the door, still throwing glances over his shoulder to make sure he was not ambushed again. But he needn’t have worried, George packed his things up again and they skulked back to the Burrow on the trail through the snow.
Percy straightened his clothes and hair before he entered.
“What did you find out?” he heard Ron question his brothers. Ron was already sitting at the table, directing Harry and Ginny, who had just finished setting it up.
“Ron!” Ginny hissed.
Harry and Ron exchanged a look, but both of them looked expectantly behind him.
Percy rolled his eyes, flustered again. Would they ever change?
Audrey, Angelina and Hermione entered with Arthur Weasley in tow.
Dinner was lively and Percy was spared from any more pestering questions. Though, the teasing continued, as did the subtle and not so subtle questions and looks from his mother.
Finally, they had finished dessert.
Percy reached for Audrey’s hand, and felt her squeeze his hand.
He cleared his throat. “Mum, Dad, everyone. We need to tell you something.”
“We guessed as much. What is it, Percy?” his father asked.
“I – we … we’re married.”
Audrey averted her eyes, but took out her wand to disillusion the wedding band on her finger.
They were met with a round of surprised faces; that was definitely not what they had expected.
George audibly closed his mouth, reached over to lay a hand on Percy’s brow. “Seems normal. So no delusions there.”
“George!” Molly exclaimed. “You are married? What is that supposed to mean? You married, and no one was even there? Did I not raise you better?”
“Molly, let him explain. I’m sure he has his reasons. Don’t you, Percy?” Percy had to draw a breath to carry on. His father had talked sensibly with his mother, but the last question had a steely undertone he had come to fear. He opened his mouth to answer the question, but was interrupted.
“Why? Ouch!” Ron asked stupidly, then scowled at Hermione who was watching everything like a tennis match.
Percy felt his cheeks grow red. He looked to Audrey, but her eyes only told him that this was his job. He gulped once, then answered the question, that was not actually a question.
“Because you’re going to be aunts and uncles, and grandparents.”
This was met with yet another round of “What?”
Charlie composed himself first. “That’s classic! Percy would be the one to get a girl pregnant!”
Molly blew her nose. “Oh Percy! Why didn’t you … We would have come! Oh Audrey, welcome to the family!” Molly seemed to be torn between joy and offence, but hurried to hug her new daughter-in-law nonetheless. Percy let out a sigh of relief as his new wife was squeezed by his overzealous mother. Though he had been worried, he should have known better – Molly Weasley was never one to turn down one of her own.
Chapter 16: A Very Gryffie Holiday: Breaking Even
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Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, nor anything affiliated or associated with it. No copyright infringement is intended.
A/N: Though it’s a bit late, Merry Happy Christmas and New Year, everyone!
Bill was being very stubborn when I wrote this. Sorry to any Bill/Fleur fans out there but I soon realised that if I wanted to finish this some time in the next century, I would have to write Bill as a teenager.
- Joop (blueirony)
“Families are like fudge – mostly sweet with a few nuts.” – Author Unknown
“I’m sorry, you want me to what?”
In any other situation, he would have cringed at the high-pitched squeak that his voice had just resembled, but all seventeen-year-old Bill Weasley could do was stare at his mother in dismay as she buttoned her thick winter coat. It was a joke. It had to be a joke. His mother, the woman who cried more than she laughed at the comedy programmes she listened to on the Wizarding Wireless, ”The poor dear. She has no mother! Oh, her poor father!”, had suddenly discovered her sense of humour overnight because there was no way, no way she was taking her father and leaving him alone.
Alone. On Christmas Eve. In a house full of younger siblings.
No. This was a joke.
“Oh, don’t look at me that way, darling,” Molly said as she pulled on her gloves. “It’s just for one night and your father and I will be back tomorrow morning in time for breakfast.”
“But... it’s Christmas Eve,” Bill protested. “And I had plans! You can’t just leave!”
“And what plans would those be?” asked his mother.
A pair of dark brown eyes and a crooked smile flashed across his mind but Bill kept his mouth closed as he thought furiously of a bargaining chip he could play.
“Just... plans,” he said, lamely.
But it appeared that Molly was not listening as she rummaged around in the old wooden closet for her scarf.
“Yes, dear. That’s nice. Now, where is your father?” Molly drew her head out of the closet to face the stairs. “Arthur! Come now, we’re going to be late!”
The sound of footsteps sounded through the hall and Bill turned around to see his dishevelled father appear in the doorway and Bill felt a flicker of hope. He had confessed to his father that this night was the night, the night he had been hoping for ever since Mary O’Sullivan smiled at him across the hallway all those months ago. Surely his father would understand.
“I’m here, Molly,” said Arthur as he pulled on his coat that Molly offered him.
“Dad, I-” began Bill but Molly cut him off.
“Now,” she said, turning to her eldest son. “Remember that there is a bottle of milk in the cellar and a bowl of fresh fruit next to the sink. Dinner is ready, you just have to reheat it. You remember the heating charm, I taught you, don’t you? If you need to floo us, there is extra floo powder in the cupboard, help yourself to it. And I’ve left the sack of presents next to the Christmas tree, though you should probably wait until everyone is asleep. And do keep an eye on Fred and George, they gave your poor father a dreadful fright last year when they-” Molly continued her tale but Bill stopped listening as horror washed over him.
“Wait a second, what’s this about presents?” he asked, his gaze flickering between his parents as they stood in the cramped hallway that led to the front door.
Arthur suddenly busied himself with tying the belt around his waist and avoided his son’s eyes.
“The presents, dear,” said Molly, staring at her son with a furrowed brow.
Bill fought the urge to roll his eyes, instead closed them briefly and exhaled.
“No, no, I know what the presents are, but what am I supposed to do with them?” he asked.
Bill suddenly had a feeling that he knew where this was going but was praying that his mother would prove him wrong.
“Why, wrap them and place them under the tree. And do remember the charm that I taught you, won’t you, dear? Ginny was awfully upset last year when her presents weren’t on her bed and I couldn’t bear it if-”
Bill shook his head and cut his mother off mid-sentence.
“You want me to play Santa?” he asked incredulously.
What happened to this being a joke? Where was the punch line?
His mother looked affronted for a moment before she spoke once more.
“Well, I suppose when you put it like that, you-”
Bill tuned his mother out once again and appealed to his father.
“Dad, are you hearing this? You can’t be serious! You and Mum are going out when you know I had a date. And I’m stuck at home wrapping gifts? This is so unfair, I can’t believe that-”
Bill’s voice trailed off as his mother let out a gasp.
“Oh, darling, you had a date? How wonderful!” She reached out a hand and cupped his cheek. “Do bring her to dinner one day, won’t you? I’m sure she is a lovely girl. Now, remember to cast the locking charm before you go to bed and your father and I will see you in the morning.”
As she turned to the door, Bill made a sound of disbelief and looked at his father once more. Arthur shrugged apologetically at his son before reaching for Molly’s hand and opening the front door.
“Hold on just a second, but what about...” Bill’s words were drowned out as the door slammed shut in front of him.
He stood there for a few seconds, stunned at what had just happened, before a tiny voice broke the silence of the hallway.
“Bill?” He turned and saw his tiny sister padding towards him in her worn slippers holding a doll that looked like it may need a few more charms cast on it (Bill was still struggling to understand how the twins had managed to turn it into a lizard).
“Bill, will you play with me?” she asked sweetly, leaning her head far back so she could look into the eyes of her towering older brother.
Though he fought it (he knew that Ginny’s sweetness was all an act ever since she had discovered around the age of three that there was very little she could not get in her male-dominated family if she acted cute enough), Bill felt the anger at his parents melting away at the sight of his sister’s smiling face. He adored his sister (a fact that he went to great lengths to hide from his friends) and he was well aware that she had him wrapped around her little finger (a fact that the other Weasley boys, too denied). Sighing, he knelt down so he could look her in the eye.
“Not now, sweetheart,” he said, gently. Ginny’s face fell and, knowing that she was liable to sic one of the twins on him for turning her down, he quickly continued. “But why don’t you ask Charlie? I’m sure that he’d love to.”
A grin spread across her face as she turned and ran back down the hallway calling out for her brother.
Bill smirked as he stood up. Though he knew he would to deal with a furious Charlie Weasley later, he figured that it was only fair he wasn’t the only one in misery that night.
An hour later, Bill stared at the ceiling from where he lay on his bed, repeatedly catching and throwing an old tennis ball leftover from when Charlie had gone through a muggle sports craze a few years earlier. The part of him that insisted that he was an adult and needed to man up tried its best to fight it, but the part of him that was crushed at his failed plans for that night won out. Usually confident around girls, it was unfamiliar for Bill to lay so much weight in one date. But Mary O’Sullivan was different from the other girls. She was the only girl he knew who could speak without laughing after every third word. And that was not to mention that feeling he got in his stomach when she smiled at him.
“Dear Diary,” a mocking voice interrupted his thoughts.
Bill glanced to the right and inwardly groaned as he was met with the sight of Charlie leaning against the door, his arms crossed.
“Dear Diary,” Charlie repeated, his voice high-pitched and obviously mimicking one of a girl’s. “I’m so upset!” Glancing over at Bill, Charlie sighed dramatically as he stepped into the room. “Today, I was going to go out with this girl who makes my knees weak but I can’t! Oh, diary, what if she doesn’t like me anymore? What if I never see her again?” said Charlie, raising a hand to his brow before letting out a loud sniff and dabbing at his eyes. “I don’t know if I could stand it if she ever-”
Bill caught the tennis ball one last time and hurled it at his younger brother who caught it with ease.
“Come on, that the best you got?” asked Charlie, grinning at him. “First rule of throwing something at a seeker. Don’t expect it to hit anywhere that hurts. Of course, I could throw it back at you where it hurts,” he continued, lightly tossing the ball up and catching it. “Not like little Bill’s going to need a workout soon, eh?” he said cheerfully and dodged the pillow that Bill threw at him.
“Do you want something?” asked Bill, not amused by his brother’s antics.
“Not really,” said Charlie, throwing himself onto his bed on the other side of the room. “Just wanted to pay you out.”
Bill looked at his brother in confusion.
Charlie stared at him.
“For having my shins bruised by a seven-year-old’s feet, no thanks to you. You know, most girls just want to play dress up. Ours convinces me to take her up on my broom and then kicks me and calls me a coward because I’m not going fast enough. Bloody hell, Bill,” Charlie said, rolling his eyes, “why couldn’t we have had a sister who just wants to have tea parties, eh?”
“What, is the star seeker scared of a little girl?” asked Bill, smirking.
Charlie looked at him for a moment before shaking his head.
“You know, you should leave the insults to the pros. Yours just make you sound pathetic,” said Charlie, throwing the tennis ball out the open bedroom door, only to have it collide with the head of an unsuspecting Percy as he walked past the hallway. Bill winced as the ball made a resounding thunk on the side of Percy’s face.
“Oops, sorry, Perce!” yelled Charlie as Percy stuck his head inside the door to glare at him, sporting a red spot on his cheek.
“Charlie, you should know to keep your... toys to yourself,” looking at the tennis ball in his hand with distaste. “Don’t throw things around the house, you’re setting a bad example,” said Percy, stiffly, before continuing down the hallway.
Charlie made a rude gesture with his hands at his retreating back.
“Future Minister, that one,” Charlie muttered, turning to Bill.
But Bill wasn’t listening. He was busy straining his ears at the unmistakable whooshing sound of a floo call.
“Charlie,” he said, slowly. “Did you hear that-”
Bill was cut off by a giggle that floated up the stairs followed by the sound a voice that Bill recognised. But... why would she of all people... that couldn’t be possible, because surely...
“Do you love Bill?” came the innocent voice of Ginny (an innocence that Bill didn’t believe for a second).
Apparently it could be possible.
“Is that...” Bill’s voice trailed off as he tried to process the fact that the girl who made his hands sweaty was in the fireplace downstairs.
“Your future wife, yes,” said Charlie. “Go on,” he continued, jerking his head towards the door, “you don’t want her to tell you to sleep on the couch tonight, do you?”
Rolling his eyes and throwing the nearest object within his reach, an old Transfiguration textbook, in the general direction of Charlie, Bill leapt of his bed and down the stairs, ignoring both Charlie’s cry of, “Oi, Bill, that one hurt! Since when did you stop throwing like a girl?” and the thuds and muffled yell that came from behind the twins’ closed bedroom door.
Skidding to a stop in the doorway of the living room, Bill was greeted by the sight of Ginny kneeling in front of the fire. Looking past the small form of his sister, Bill could make out the dark hair of Mary O’Sullivan and resisted the urge to bolt out of the room. What was it about this girl that made him act like he was thirteen years old again?
“Ginny, why don’t you go upstairs?”
“But Mary was just-” protested Ginny.
Bill’s stern tone left no room for argument and Ginny sighed loudly before walking out of the room, making sure to step on Bill’s toes on the way out. But Bill paid no heed. His eyes were fixed on the face of the girl in front of him. Discreetly running his and through his hair and trying to act composed, Bill slowly made his way to the fire and kneeled down.
“Hi,” she said, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. Bill stared, transfixed, for a moment before remembering that he had to answer.
“Erm... hi,” he said, inwardly cursing himself for his voice showing his nervousness.
“I got your letter,” she said.
“Yeah, about that,” Bill shifted uncomfortably as he spoke. “I’m really sorry to cancel but my parents are out, our neighbour is sick and they need someone to take care of the kids and even though my mum could have gone by herself, my dad is a bit of a pushover and he went too and I’m really sorry because I know we had a date but my siblings are...” Bill realised he was rambling and forced himself to calm down. “And... I’m really sorry,” he said, softly.
“No, it’s fine, I completely understand,” she said.
A brief moment of silence descended upon the two and Bill steeled his nerve and tried his best to clear the awkward air between them.
“So, not that I’m not glad to see you, but...” Bill paused for a moment as the logical part of his brain tried to figure out whether his use of a double negative was accurate. 'Now is not the time, Weasley, snap out of it!’ “But did you have something to ask me?” he asked, praying that the answer to his question was in the affirmative.
Mary brightened at his question.
“Yes, I did! I had this crazy idea. See, I was thinking. Instead of us going out next week, why don’t I just come over tonight? My parents are going out after dinner, too, so it’s not like I have to be at home or anything,” she said.
Bill’s heart thundered in his chest. She, the girl around whom he was likely to forget his name, wanted to come over? To his house? On Christmas Eve?
Mary obviously must have sensed his hesitation, because she quickly added, “That is, if-if you want me to... I mean, I don’t have to, I just... thought it might be nice.”
Bill blinked a few times and stared at the fire for a few moments. Of course he would love her to come over, but ten minutes with the twins would be enough to drive anyone away. For that matter, ten seconds with the twins would be enough to drive anyway. And Bill had been hearing some suspicious noises from their bedroom throughout the holiday (where two ten-year-olds had managed to get their hands on wands, Bill didn’t know – nor was he sure he particularly wanted to know) and did not trust them to be well behaved at the breakfast table, let alone in front of a girl that he liked.
Mary watched him closely before furrowing her brow.
“You don’t have to. I mean, if you don’t want me to, that’s okay, I’ll just take you up on your offer of going out next week. But I’m warning you,” she added with a grin, “you’re paying.”
Her carefully composed tone did little to hide the obvious disappointment in her eyes. Bill allowed himself a few seconds of triumph that she was upset at not spending time with him before he realised that she had taken his moments of silence to mean he did not want her to come over.
“No!” His voice came out a little louder than he had intended and Bill cringed before continuing, “no, of course I want you to, I just...” Bill did not know how to continue. What he wanted to say was, ‘I’d love you to come over but I’m genuinely scared that Charlie will make you realise I’m a total knob, Percy may interrogate you and start taking notes as you talk once he discovers you’re a prefect, the twins might accidentally kill you and claim they were just trying to turn you into a hippogriff, Ron might steal your wand to try and hex Ginny to which Ginny will throw her dinner at him and start The Great Weasley Family Food Fight of 1987. Somewhere in the middle of this, you’ll realise that you hate me, dump me in front of my family even though we never really went out in the first place and go back to school and start dating Gregory Stuart, despite the fact that he’s a total wanker. And then he’ll be really happy because, let’s face it, you’re the most gorgeous girl in the school, so his Quidditch will improve and Ravenclaw will win. And he’ll hold it against me for the rest of my life and I may not ever be able to look at a broomstick ever again which would not go well with the family because I’m a Weasley and we’re sort of Quidditch-crazy. Once I’m disowned from the family, I’ll have to drop out of school so that I don’t end up living in a shoebox on Diagon Alley, selling fake talisman gems. So I won’t get my N.E.W.Ts and I’ll have to become the conductor of the Knight Bus because no one would want to hire someone as pathetic as me. And because I will never stay in a place for too long, I won’t be able to meet anyone so I won’t get married. And then I’ll have to die alone as an old man surrounded by my twenty cats. And even though I know that it’s normally the women who get a billion cats when they go senile, I wouldn’t put it past myself to buck tradition and do something stupid like that.’
Bill decided to settle on something a little more subtle.
“Are you sure you want to?” he asked.
Mary looked briefly surprised.
“Of course I do,” she said.
“It’s just that... I have six siblings,” he said, unsurely. “Six younger, annoying siblings. And we can’t really do much and my parents are sort of... counting on me playing Santa this year.” Bill said the last bit in a rush, praying that she wouldn’t laugh at him and never talk to him.
To his surprise, Mary grinned and the sight of it made Bill’s stomach turn over pleasantly.
“It’s okay!” she said, laughing slightly at the look of disbelief on Bill’s face. “Really, it is! I have a little sister and had to do the same thing last year. Trust me, it sounds like fun.”
Bill looked at her doubtfully. Somehow, he was sure that Mary’s sister was more of the will-you-help-me-tie-the-hair-ribbon-on-my-doll? type rather than the what-do-you-mean-I-can’t-come-with-you-because-I’m-a-girl?-Muuuuuum! type. And that was not to mention five boys that had Bill convinced that only one sane male Weasley can be born in every generation. Bill was, by no means, ashamed of his family but he knew how overbearing the Weasley family could be at the best of times. Coupling that with the fact that Christmas was just hours away, Bill knew that he had his work cut out for him that night and was not sure he wanted to subject Mary to that just yet.
“You’re sure about this?”
She sighed and rolled her eyes playfully.
“Yes, I’m sure. What’s the worst that could happen?”
Bill didn’t know how to answer her question without terrifying her. Sighing once more, Mary looked at him in the eye.
“Look. I know it’s not what we originally planned, but trust me. I want to come over. I really do.”
Bill could see the sincerity in her eyes and nodded slowly.
“Okay,” he said, fighting very hard to keep from smiling like an idiot. “Well, do you want to come by after dinner, then? Say eight o’clock or so?”
“Sure, sounds great,” she said, beaming at him.
The two smiled at each other before Bill cleared his throat and moved to stand up.
“Great, so I’ll see you eight, then,” he said.
“Yeah,” Mary said, nodding. “See you then.”
With another quick smile and a whoosh, the fireplace swirled and Bill was left kneeling in front of it, staring at the grate. Resisting the urge to jump up and let out a yell of joy, he stood up and brushed some soot of his knees.
Softly smiling to himself, Bill didn’t realise that Charlie was leaning against the wall of the living room with a smirk on his face until he almost tripped over him. Looking into the grinning face of Charlie, Bill sighed and prayed that his younger brother had missed most of the conversation with Mary.
“Not one word,” Bill warned.
Charlie held his hands up in mock surrender.
“I didn’t say anything,” he said. He waited a few moments before quickly saying, “so does this mean that little Bill might get a workout? Because I can always give you tips on how to...”
Bill let the slamming of the door drown out the last of Charlie’s laughter.
Torture. Pure, raw and unadulterated torture. His siblings had been put on this Earth for the simple act of torturing him until he had finished school and was old enough to get the hell out of there and let Charlie handle the tiresome task of being in charge of the Weasley siblings.
Bill had a newfound appreciation for his mother. He had no idea how she had managed to deal with this for years.
It was now almost seven o’clock, Mary was due in an hour and Bill was seriously contemplating flinging himself out of the attic window.
Pinching the bridge of his nose, Bill tried to get the attention of his siblings once more. Ever since dinner and washing up had finished half an hour earlier (Bill had been genuinely surprised as to how smoothly it had gone; he had been expecting a lot more food and broken dishes on the floor), all of his siblings had been lost in their own worlds, and had all but ignored that Bill was even in the room.
“Guys, can you listen to me for just a sec... ow! Ron! What the bloody hell is your...”
Bill looked under the table and chose to not attempt to identify the questionable object under the table that he had seen Ron with earlier that day.
“Okay, this is ridiculous,” he muttered to himself.
“Oi, you lot! SHUT-THE-BLOODY-HELL-UP!”
Not used to hearing his voice that loud, all of his siblings stopped what they were doing and turned to face him, wide-eyed. All of his siblings, that was, except for Charlie, the tosser, whose face was still twisted in the smirk that had not left his face since he caught Bill running Sleakeasy’s Hair Potion through his hair earlier that evening.
Letting out a sigh of relief that they had listened this time, Bill mentally prepared himself for the onslaught of questions that would no doubt follow what he was about to say.
“Okay, I know it’s Christmas Eve and I know that Mum and Dad aren’t home but I need you all to please, please just work with me, okay?” Looking around to make sure they were all listening to him, he was pleased to note that even Percy had lowered the volume to the nightly programme he listened to on the Wizarding Wireless.
Opening his mouth to continue his plea that they all not embarrass him, Bill hesitated before glancing around.
“Wait a second,” he said, frowning. “Where are Fred and George?”
Bill turned at a noise behind him to see the twins walk through the kitchen door, hands in pockets and looking a little bit too pleased with themselves.
“Why, Bill, old boy, how nice of you to notice we had gone!” said George.
“Yeah, Mum will be so proud of you,” added Fred.
“You’re really living up to your role of a big brother-”
“A person to look up to-”
“An upstanding citizen of the Weasley family-”
“A real ol’-”
Bill, running low on patience, narrowed his eyes at them both and cut off what could easily turn into an hour-long worth of them trading adjectives (adjectives he was sure that no normal ten-year-old would use in everyday conversation, but he had long since given up on trying to figure the twins out).
“Where were you?” asked Bill.
Fred placed a hand on his heart and gasped dramatically. “Do you not trust us?” he asked as George stared at him open-mouthed, blinking owlishly.
“No,” said Bill, tersely.
“Right you are, Bill,” said George, thoughtfully. “Well, we could tell him, couldn’t we, Gred?” he asked, turning to his twin.
“That we could, Forge-”
“Only, we’d have to kill him-”
“Mum wouldn’t like that-”
“Not to mention Dad-”
“-so we won’t!” The two of them finished in unison before grinning and heading through the kitchen towards the stairs. But before they could get very far, Bill’s sharp voice cut through the air.
“Hold it, you two.”
The twins, sensing that he was not in the mood to be teased with, turned around and glanced at Ron who only shrugged in turn. Sighing for what seemed like the umpteenth time that night and swearing to give his dad hell for not defending him in front of his mother and leading to this situation, Bill faced his siblings once more.
“Look. As I was saying, I know it’s Christmas Eve but I...” Mentally rolling his eyes at how pathetic he was about to sound, Bill ploughed on. “I need you guys to please stay upstairs for the rest of the night.”
Prepared for the volley of protests, Bill raised a hand but it was no use.
“But my programme doesn’t finish for another hour!”
“It’s Christmas tomorrow!”
“Geez, Bill. Throwing your weight around a bit, aren’t you?”
“But you said that you would help me with my present for Daddy!”
“Gred, are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
“Of course I am, Forge, but where can we get a baby penguin on such short notice?”
Bill rolled his eyes.
“Merlin help me... blimey, will you just... ugh, will you lot please calm the sodding hell down?”
Silence fell upon the small kitchen.
“Look. It’s just for one night, I have a friend coming over and I really, really like her and I will not have you lot ruining it.” Bill decided that desperate times called for desperate measures and chose to leave his dignity behind as he all but pleaded with his siblings. “So, will you all please just do this for me? Please?”
Looking around at the raised eyebrows and slightly murderous looks, Bill realised that none of his siblings were having none of it.
“Okay, okay, how about...” Bill thought furiously before closing his eyes briefly as he thought of the one thing that would be sure to bring his siblings over to his side. Carefully stowed away in the back of his sock drawer was a small box containing six hard-earned galleons that Bill had saved from the odd jobs he had managed to procure over the last week and in the previous summer. Bill had been eyeing a multipurpose knife that a store window in Diagon Alley had boasted could open any lock. It came with its own beautiful dragon leather case and cost exactly six galleons. Knowing that it was a little over his parents’ budget, Bill knew that it was unlikely it would be in one of his parcels tomorrow.
Heart sinking and mentally saying goodbye to the knife, Bill nodded once before asking, “How about a galleon each?”
Eyes popped open and jaws dropped. The Weasley children had become used to carefully counting every knut they spent and the thought of an entire galleon to themselves was almost overwhelming.
“You’ve been holding out on us,” said Charlie, letting out a low whistle.
“One galleon is a lot, isn’t it?” asked Ron, uncertainly. “How many more Chocolate Frog cards d’you reckon I could buy with that?”
“So do we have a deal?” asked Bill, ignoring Charlie as he answered Ron’s question. “One galleon and you lot stay upstairs, out of trouble and out of sight?”
The younger Weasley children looked around at one another and a silent agreement passed through them all.
“Bill,” said Fred, standing up, his voice taking on an insufferable tone. “On behalf of us young’uns, I would like to accept this gracious offer of yours. Thanks to you, we can now-”
Bill rolled his eyes.
“Just get upstairs! She’ll be here soon,” said Bill.
“Oh, so it is a fair maiden, is it? I thought you said that before just to get us to agree with you,” said George. “Well. In that case, have you considered that-”
The rest of his words were cut off as Bill physically pushed him through the door and looked expectantly at his other siblings. Grumbling slightly under the breath, one by one, they packed up their things and slowly made their way through the doorway.
As he watched Charlie playfully shove Percy into the wall at the bottom of the stairs, Bill allowed himself a few seconds of guilt at essentially buying his siblings out for a night of peace with a girl he hoped would be his girlfriend in the near future.
He turned to see Ginny smiling at him from the foot of the stairs.
“Yes?” he asked.
“Have fun tonight. You can help me with Daddy’s present tomorrow,” she said before smiling an impish smile and running up the stairs.
Bill let out a laugh and his guilt eased slightly as he watched his sister’s retreating form. But all thoughts flew out his head as he glanced at the clock on the wall and realised that he had less than an hour before Mary would arrive.
At five minutes to eight o’clock, Bill was sitting on the couch in front of the fireplace, nervously fiddling with the dress shirt that he had pulled from the back of the closet he shared with Charlie (never one to have a problem with lying to himself, he was telling himself that his beating heart was from excitement, not nerves).
Resisting the urge to look at his watch for the fifth time in as many minutes, he busied himself with admiring the Christmas tree that stood in one corner of the room. Slightly lopsided, overflowing with decorations that horribly clashed with one another and so sparkly that it was almost blinding, Bill thought that it represented the Weasley family perfectly. A little rough around the edges, but very loving and warm the same. He only hoped the Mary would have a chance to experience that warmth tonight. The Burrow at Christmastime had always seemed magical to Bill ever since he could remember and he always found it difficult to describe in words the feeling he got in his chest every year, but it was easy enough for someone to understand when they stood in the much worn but much loved living room of The Burrow.
A soft whoosh came from the fireplace and Bill immediately straightened up and waited a few tense seconds before the slim form of Mary O’Sullivan materialised in front of him. She came to a stop with a stumble and, sensing that she was about to fall, Bill jumped up and strode toward her, holding out a hand. She grabbed it, but it was too late and she stumbled into him. Not expecting it, Bill found himself falling backwards and the two fell onto the floor with Mary on top of him with a small shriek.
Bill hastily untangled himself from her (though he did allow a second or two of bliss as he felt her body pressed up against his) and rolled out from her. Jumping up and holding out a hand to her, she took it and hauled herself up, giggling.
“Well, that was graceful,” she said, still laughing and brushing soot from her clothes. “Sorry about that,” she said, her eyes twinkling at him. “I must have missed my calling in life as a dancer.”
Bill laughed and watched as she took her scarf off. He held out a hand and she gave it to him with a smile.
“It’s okay, I never manage to stay standing after coming out of one of those things,” he said, as he placed her scarf on the hatstand that levitated in the corner of the room.
He turned around and found her curiously taking in The Burrow. For a split second, he was terrified that she might think it too humble (much as he loved The Burrow, even he was not blind to the well worn furniture and mismatching curtains), but his fears were alleviated when she turned to him with a look of wonder on her face.
“This place is... I love it,” she said.
“Yeah, it’s not much but it’s... home,” he said, as he took a moment to take a good look at her. She was not conventionally beautiful and was certainly not one of the busty blondes that his friends sought after but, to Bill, she was gorgeous. It was her aura, her persona. It drew him in and when she smiled, it was like the whole world smiled. Her simple attire of dark jeans and a cream jumper (which Bill had not failed to notice hugged her figure perfectly) made her all the more attractive to her. Not wanting to be caught staring, Bill moved to stand beside her, his shoulder lightly bumping into hers.
Bill turned his head to the right and caught her eye. The two looked at each other for a second or two before Bill cleared his throat and thought of something to say before awkwardness settled in.
“So...” ‘“So?” That’s the best you could do, Weasley? Say something, quickly! Think!’
“Where are your siblings?” Mary asked, thankfully saving him from more uhming and ahhing.
“They’re... around,” Bill said. ‘And they had better stay where they are if they know what’s good for them,’ he added, silently.
Mary gave him a knowing look.
“What?” he asked, a smile creeping on his face.
“You convinced them to stay out of sight, didn’t you?”
Bill opened his mouth in mock horror.
“Are you accusing me of doing something like that?” he asked, grinning.
Mary narrowed her eyes at him playfully.
“So how’d you do it?” she asked.
“What do you mean?” asked Bill, confused.
“Well there are six of them, right?” She looked at him for confirmation and continued when he nodded. “Well, you can’t just expect them to stay upstairs. You had to have done something.”
“They’re good kids.”
“Angels, I’m telling you, absolute angels, they are-”
“Okay, so some money may have exchanged hands...” he let the sentence trail off as he took in her thoughtful face.
“Huh,” was all she said.
Mary looked at him for a second before trotting across the room to the door that led to the kitchen.
“Wait, where are you going?” asked Bill, quickly following her.
“It’s Christmas Eve. What’s Christmas Eve without a mug of hot chocolate?” she asked, wrinkling her nose at him. “Kitchen, right?” she asked, pointing at the door in front of her.
When Bill nodded, she opened the door and walked through.
“Come on, Bill. You don’t expect me to bring you a cup out there, do you? Get your arse in here if you want some,” she called over her shoulder.
An hour and a few mishaps in the kitchen later (he probably could have paid more attention that day the previous summer when his mother had taught him cooking charms), the two of them were back in the living room, sitting together on the couch.
Bill was surprised at how easy it was to talk to Mary. In the past, he had always approached first dates with trepidation. They were normally filled with awkwardness and stilted silences as he struggled to keep the conversation flowing. But with Mary, it was like he had been friends with her for years, not at all like he had only talked to her for the first time a few weeks ago.
“And then Snape gave us three weeks detention,” she said, curling her legs up beneath her. “Can’t say I blame him, though. He may be a greasy git but even he deserves his privacy, I guess.”
Bill shook his head and looked at her in frank admiration.
“I can’t believe that you were the ones who managed to get into his study and cast the Transparency Charm,” he said. “You know we spent ages trying to work out who did that? I don’t think I’ve ever seen Snape look that pissed when he realised how much we all got to see.”
Mary looked at him and raised an eyebrow.
“Impressed, actually,” he said, raising an eyebrow of his own.
“So, what about you?” she asked, taking a sip of her hot chocolate.
“What about me?”
“What do you mean ‘what about me’? I’ve just spent the last hour talking about the many reasons why Hogwarts should have expelled me and I’ve gotten nothing from you. So, come on,” Mary said, waggling her eyebrows. “Out with it.”
Bill thought for a moment. In reality, his stories about his time at Hogwarts could probably see hers and raise them one. His teachers and parents thought he was the epitome of the model student but there was much that the halls at Hogwarts could spill about him, were they able to talk.
“Okay,” he began, after a moment or two. “Now I’m going to ease you in, O’Sullivan,” he teased. “I don’t want to scare you from the start.”
Mary rolled her eyes.
“Seriously? You’re talking to the girl who tried to stick Filch’s cat to the ceiling in second year. If at all, I should be the one teaching you, Grasshopper.”
“Grasshopper?” Bill asked as he raised an eyebrow.
“Grasshopper,” she said, nodding.
Mary looked at him as though she expected him to understand. When all she received was a blank look from Bill, she sighed exasperatedly.
“Grasshopper! You know, like you’re learning from me, you’re the student, I’m the master and... you have no idea what I’m talking about, do you?”
Bill shook his head and Mary laughed.
“Okay, we’ll leave that lesson for another time. In the meantime, however, I believe you owe me a story. Or ten of them. Shoot.”
“All right. Now you have to realise that I took an oath about this so I can’t give away too many details... but do you remember that time in fourth year when that chimaera got loose in the Forbidden Forest and everyone thought that Hagrid had brought him into the forest?”
Bill looked at her and saw the now familiar gleam of mischief in her eyes as she nodded and allowed himself a smirk.
“Well, let’s just say that, while Hagrid was probably the most obvious suspect, he may not have been the most accurate.”
Mary’s jaw dropped open.
Bill laughed at her.
“I didn’t do what?”
“You didn’t let that in? How did you do it anyway? Merlin, how did you get your hands on one?”
“See, O’Sullivan, that’s where you’re wrong,” Bill said. “I never said I did anything. I just said that it would be a horrible misjudgement to place the blame on someone who was innocent, which,” he paused to take a gulp out of his mug, “I never said happened.”
Mary looked at him for a second or two before nodding.
“I’m impressed. The shoo-in for Head Boy next year has skeletons in his closet. I like it,” she said.
“Please, that’s nothing compared with what you’ve done over the years. You have a talent for trouble,” said Bill.
“I have a lot of talents, Weasley. You just don’t know what they are, yet. But if you’re good, you can stick around and you may just learn a few of them,” she said, batting her eyelashes at him and leaning close to him.
Bill looked at her and gulped as she leaned in very close to him. She held the position for a few seconds, gazing at him coyly and Bill felt the temperature in the room skyrocket and he closed his eyes, breathless with anticipation. He could feel her warm breath on his face and his pulse quickened. A burst of laughter broke the moment and he opened his eyes wildly to see Mary leaning back against the cushions, laughing.
“Oh, you are so easy to tease, I almost feel sorry for you,” she said, laughing.
Bill shook his head.
“You are something else,” he said, shaking his head.
A small part of him was annoyed with her for what she had just pulled but it melted away at the sight of her slightly mischievous smile.
“You don’t know the half of it,” she said, winking at him.
Some time later, Bill found himself struggling with a box, a sheet of wrapping paper and a roll of Spellotape that seemed to have a mind of its own. Determined to not look a stereotypical guy who could not wrap gifts (and vehemently disregarding the incident the previous Christmas where the Spellotape had attacked him and mummified him as a fluke), Bill continued to struggle to hold the paper down while Mary sat on the other side of the table, watching with interest and amusement.
Bill knew that she could easily have offered her help, but he couldn’t help but think that her silence and lack of help was a test of sorts.
A test that he was failing miserably.
Exhaling sharply, Bill tried once more. He placed the box in the centre of the paper, folded it over with one hand, pulled the Spellotape out with his teeth and tried to use his other hand to tear it before a pair of small hands entered his vision, taking the roll away from him.
“Okay, stop, stop. I can’t watch this anymore,” said Mary.
Letting out a loud sigh that Bill knew was fake from the twinkle in her eyes, she stood up, leaned over the table and heaved the remaining pile of gifts and paper to her side of the table.
“I can’t believe how bad you are at this,” she remarked after some time, tossing the seventh gift onto the neat pile next to her (Bill had no idea how she had wrapped the first six so quickly).
“Hey, I’m not that bad!” he protested.
Mary paused for a moment before raising her eyebrows.
“Bill, that box there looks like it belongs in the trash,” she said, nodding to the crumpled mess on the floor next to him.
Bill sighed and decided to concede defeat.
“Okay, so maybe I am that bad.”
“Hey, I’ll try not to hold it against you,” she said. “But, haven’t you done this before?”
She looked up and Bill shook his head. She nodded thoughtfully.
“Hmm, maybe it’s a girl thing,” she mused, continuing to wrap gifts at breakneck speed. “I’ve been wrapping Annie’s gifts ever since she was born. Me and my Mum normally do them together a few days before Christmas, it’s sort of a tradition between us.”
“How old is your sister?”
“She’s six. Little scamp. Always tries to get me in trouble and, of course, Dad takes her side because he can’t resist her and her cuteness,” said Mary, shaking her head.
Bill laughed at that.
“Sounds like my sister,” he said.
Mary looked up, surprised.
“You have a sister?”
“Yeah, Ginny. She’s seven and uses every situation to her advantage. Can’t blame her, though. Must be hard for her with six older brothers. But I’ll be the first to say that she can hold her own with the rest of us.”
“Huh, I thought you just had brothers.” Mary said, taking another unwrapped gift and placing it in front of her. “So that’s where it comes from,” she said, almost speaking to herself.
“Where what comes from?” asked Bill, curiously.
“Oh, nothing, it’s just that... it makes sense that you have a sister,” she said.
“O... kay?” he said, uncertainly, not understanding what she meant.
The sentence came out more like a question and Mary laughed.
“No, it’s not a bad thing or anything,” she said.
“So then it’s a good thing?” he asked.
Mary looked up at him and Bill was delighted to see a blush forming across her cheeks for the first time that night.
“It might be,” she said and the two locked eyes for a moment or two before she bit her lip and looked down at the last few remaining gifts left to be wrapped.
“Come on, Santa, let’s get these finished,” she said, a small smile returning to her face.
As she turned her attention back to the task in front of her, Bill was amused to see that the blush did not leave her face for several minutes.
“You and I make a good team, you know that, Weasley?” she said, patting his leg as they sat on the couch once more.
Night had settled in and the two were enjoying the last warmth of the fire and the lights that reflected off the Christmas tree and danced around the room as the firelight flickered and swayed. Bill had bravely rested his arm on the back of the couch behind her and, after a moment or two, she had slid across to close the gap between them and rested her head on his shoulder. They had sat in this position for a while now, and Bill was perfectly happy to stay with his arm wrapped around her shoulder forever.
“And why’s that?” he asked, his voice soft.
“Well. With your horrible kitchen skills, pathetic attempts at gift-wrapping and near death experience when you tried to put more wood on the fire, we’re still here and we didn’t die,” she said, matter-of-factly.
“So, in other words, you’re just saying that I have a lot to learn and if you weren’t here, I’d probably be dead?” he affirmed.
“See, Grasshopper. You’re learning already,” she said, grinning and turning to face him.
The two stared at each other as their smiles dropped from their faces and the moment turned serious.
“It’s getting late,” said Bill, softly, his voice husky as he leaned in close to her.
The firelight danced off her face and he reached up with his left hand to brush a stray strand off her face and tuck it behind her ear.
“Yeah, I should probably getting home,” she said, her voice just as quiet, and leaning in so that her nose brushed against his.
Looking into her eyes, Bill detected the slightest hint of a challenge in them and he couldn’t help but smile before he leaned in the rest of the way, closed his eyes and let his lips brush gently across hers. He lingered there for a few moments before she sighed and allowed him to press his lips more firmly against hers. Her arms came up to wrap around his neck and his hands gently slid across her back. Bill fell back against the couch and Mary followed him willingly, gently resting her weight on top of him.
He didn’t know how long they lay there, but when Bill slowly pulled away from her, his mind hazy, the fire had completely died and the room was bathed in darkness.
Glancing down at the girl lying on top of him, he couldn’t resist kissing her softly once more before leaning back and smiling at her. He opened his mouth to speak but stopped when she placed the tip of her index finger on his mouth.
“On Monday,” she began quietly, “you’re going to wake up and, after having spent the entire weekend thinking of me,” she said, grinning, “you’re going to write to me and ask me out for dinner.”
Bill smiled at her and let a finger run down her cheek.
“And what are you going to say?”
She leaned in close to him so her lips touched his with every word she spoke.
“Well, I can’t tell you now. That would ruin the fun,” she said, before tilting her head and kissing him once more.
After a few moments, Mary pulled back and Bill, not expecting her to, followed her lips as she sat back up and she laughed softly.
“Come on,” she said. “You can’t walk me to the door, but you can walk me to the fireplace, hey?”
She stood up and Bill followed. He glanced at the hatstand but before he could move to get her scarf, Mary spoke.
“Keep it,” she said, winking. “Give it back to me next week.”
“So that means you’re going to say yes?” he asked, reaching for her hand.
“Oh, very good, Grasshopper. Soon I’ll have to promote you,” said Mary, grinning.
“I’ll look forward to it.”
The two smiled at each other before Mary glanced down and Bill smirked to himself at the blush that graced her cheeks for the second time that night.
“Happy Christmas, Bill,” she said, softly.
“Happy Christmas, Mary,” he replied, his voice equally soft.
With a last smile and squeeze of his hand, she turned, reached for the floo powder and was gone in a flash of light.
Three days later, Bill ran down the stairs, entered the kitchen, kissed his mother good morning on the cheek and slid into his seat next to a bleary-eyed Charlie.
“Good morning, everyone,” he said, cheerfully, reaching for a piece of toast.
Charlie took one look at him and whimpered before letting his head hit the table with a thud.
“Look, I know that you’re in the honeymoon period and you’re probably planning the wedding and all that but, for the love of Merlin, it is not normal to be that happy this early on a Monday morning,” came Charlie’s groggy voice, muffled by the table.
Bill rolled his eyes and chose not to answer but busied himself with spreading jam on his toast. A sound of hurried footsteps came bounding down the stairs and the kitchen door flew open to reveal an excited Ginny who flew at Bill. He just had time to place his toast back on his plate before he intercepted the red blur that flew towards him.
“Did you like it, Bill?” Ginny asked, her eyes shining. “Did you, did you, did you?”
Her eyes were shining but Bill was confused.
“Did I like... what?” he asked.
Ginny looked around and saw Fred shaking his head slightly at her before she jumped off Bill and slid into the seat next to him.
“Nothing,” she said, unconvincingly.
Bill narrowed his eyes at her. He had been witness to too many lies of hers to know when she was up to something. But before he could ask her, a tapping at the window behind him distracted him. He looked up and saw a large brown owl at the window, holding a package wrapped in brown paper. Assuming it was for his father, Bill stood up and let the owl in but was surprised when the owl did not drop the package in front of his father but followed him to his own plate. The owl gently dropped the package to the left of his plate, ruffled its feathers importantly before letting out a hoot and flying back through the window.
Someone closed the window but Bill did not notice. He stared at the package in confusion. What could it possibly be?
“Um, Bill? It’s not going to start singing the Dyxie,” said George from across the table.
“Yeah,” Fred chimed in, “Go on and open it.”
Looking around the table and seeing the carefully nonchalant expressions on his siblings’ faces, Bill hesitantly tore the package open, half expecting something to jump out at him. Peeling the paper off, Bill nearly dropped the package when he realised what was inside.
The carving in the handle of the knife was exactly how it had been in the shop when he had seen it months ago and when Bill ran his fingers over the dragon leather, it was every bit as soft as he had imagined it to be.
Bill looked up and saw a beaming Ron and Ginny looking at him. Even Percy was glancing sideways at him with a half-smile on his face.
“Did you... did you do this?” he asked, unable to believe that his siblings had done this for him.
“Don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Fred, with a wink.
“Must be a belated gift from Santa... though I’m not sure why it’s so late,” said George.
“Maybe he got lost,” said Fred.
“We do live in the middle of nowhere-”
“I knew you should have written directions in that letter to him-”
“Me? You wrote the second half, you should have done it!”
“Really, Bill, maybe all the fumes from the inkpot that you were staring at this morning got to your head,” said Percy with a grin.
Bill was still too shocked to tease Percy about making a joke and ran his fingers over the lettering on the case.
“And even if we wanted to do something nice, why would we do it for a poor sod like you?” asked Charlie, punching him on the shoulder.
Bill slowly looked from his siblings to the knife he held in his hands and back to his siblings.
“I can’t believe that-”
“Bill,” cut in Charlie with a roll of his eyes. “Stop sounding like such a girl and do your gushing somewhere else. If you’ve finished with breakfast, you and me, outside, Quidditch. Now that you have started throwing like a man, maybe I can actually get some decent practice in,” he said, standing up.
When Charlie reached the door, he turned around and grinned at Bill.
“Of course, I’m probably doing you a favour. Now that you’re probably going to be getting workout very soon, you probably need to get your fitness up, old man,” he said, waggling his eyebrows.
Charlie ran out the door, laughing, before the empty jug that Bill threw at him could reach him.
Chapter 17: A Very Gryffie Holiday: Great So Far
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Love. It's a four letter word that everyone interprets differently. My sister seems to think love is the easiest feeling to feel along with her boyfriend. In their case though, I'm inclined to believe it in their case. I'm actually not entirely sure what love is. So many people around me use the word frivolously, but that doesn't explain what it is. My parents are in love, and my sister and her boyfriend. Oh my' and how could I forget the Potter boys?! They are in love with their girlfriends, too. The thing is, though they all act differently towards each other.
My mum and dad are like equals, but my mum adores taking care of dad and making him happy, and he's pleased if she is happy. James and Lila are really into PDA and announcing everything about their relationship while Albus treats Lizzie like his best friend. Finally it comes down to my sister, Victoire, and her boyfriend, Teddy. they are perfect for each other. They always get along, are never too openly public with displays of affection, know each other better than they know themselves, and well just fit together. If I'm going to get idea of love from somewhere, then it will be them.
"Dom! Domi, honey!" Oh, great. My annoying boyfriend. Honestly, how annoying, self-absorbed, and clueless can one person be?! He just is totally and utterly hopeless. And to be honest, I can't even remember why I agreed to date him. It's not like I ever fancied him or anything.
"Yes, Mick?" I knew that he knew that I really didn't care by the look he got on his face. Try imagining the look in the face of a wet cat, and someone who is constipated mixed up into one. Not a pretty picture, huh?
"Could you ever, I dunno, try and put some effort into our relationship?!" He questioned me. I could feel my face twist into a look that was probably a mix between disappointment and boredom.
"Mick, hun, to put it plain and simple: no. If it isn't working, then that doesn't mean it's my fault. It just simply doesn't work," I replied in the same bored tone as before. Mick sighed, and I knew what was coming. This was the exact reason I couldn't bring myself to believe in love. Because for me, relationships always turned out the same. In insults and hurt.
"You know what, Dom! Everyone says that your sister is the cold hearted one, but at least she can treat her boyfriend with respect. You're the ice queen, aren't you? The one who will never find love! The one who will eventually be all alone on the holidays, just like now, and it will be no one's fault, but yours! I hope you're happy alone, Dominique Weasley! Because we're over!" He shouted at me with many arm gestures. I sighed as he turned and walked away. For some reason his words hit me harder than any of the ones before them. Looking into the den I realized why. Mick was completely right. Even in a family the size of mine, I was totally alone. Three days before Christmas, I am now single, and feeling utterly alone. This holiday isn't going great so far.