Chapter 1 : Cold
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I’m cold. Really cold. And all I want to be doing right now is sitting in front of the fireplace in the living room wrapped in multitudes of hand-knitted afghans and fleece blankets reading, but that’s too much to ask, isn’t it? I’m quite pissed at my brother for sending me up to the attic to find the stupid Christmas bows. Mum would pick the last week before Christmas to get herself sick and leave us to wrap all the presents. And then Daddy’s got to go to work, leaving James and Al in charge of them. So then James ditches us to go snog his latest bimbo, Blondie-What’s-Her-Nostril, and Al’s taken it upon himself to wrap them. I think I’m supposed to help, but, like I said, I’m cold. And I make sure to make my displeasure known all the way up the stairs.
“If you’d just move your lazy arse like any half-decent human being, Albie, I wouldn’t be so pissed at you, you sod!”
There’s a hoarse call from Mum’s bedroom: “Language, Lily!”
“What’s that?” I snap irritably. “I can’t understand you!”
I’m pretty sure she replies, “Fuck off,” but I can’t be sure.
“And it’s cold up here!” I continue, opening the door to the attic stairs. “I’m getting frostbite!”
“Shut up, Lily!”
“You shut up, Al!”
“You shut up!”
“No, you shut up!”
“I think you should shut up!”
“How about you both shut up before you get yourselves grounded for the remainder of your lives!” Mum threatens in her scratchy-I’m-sick voice.
I’ve got to give the woman credit. She’s good.
I climb the stairs, slamming the door shut behind me. I think Mum yells at me for it, but I’m in a far too bitchy mood to care. “You’d think I was a slave!” I demand to the attic at large. The obnoxious talking mirror that’s been there for ages laughs at me.
“You are, dear. What do you think children are f—hey!”
I throw an old coat over it and continue my search.
“Why did we run out of our regular supply of bows today? I mean really. We haven’t had to dip into the wonky attic stash in years. Of course it’s the day Mum’s sick, Daddy’s at work, and Jamesie decides to go near-shag his girlfriend. ‘Still a virgin’.” I snort.
A pointed cough comes from somewhere behind my position in the attic’s corner, digging through a box. I jump, heart hammering.
“What the hell?” I say in frustration, assuming it was the mirror. But when I turn around, it still has the coat on over its gilded frame, and I know it can’t talk with that over it. “I’m going insane,” I mutter, turning back to the mess that is hiding the Christmas bows. “It must be because I’m so cold. If Al made his lazy self useful and did something for once—ew.” I look at the spider that crawled onto my hand. “You’re ugly. I’m going to call you Albus. Die, Albus.” I squash Albus and toss him to the floor.
I bend over to open a cardboard box and cough at the dust that flies out at me. “I don’t get paid enough for this job,” I grumble. “I should get a raise in my chore money. I’ll make Daddy some cookies and ask him later.”
“She’s talking to herself an alarming amount, don’t you think?”
I straighten up so quickly that my head hurts. “What the hell?” I repeat, eyes scouring the attic for any sign of . . . anyone. “Albus,” I say, though the voice didn’t sound like him. “You are not amusing. I’m doing you a favor, even though I’m cold, and you think it’s funny to come up here and try to freak me out? You’re such a bloody arse, you know that?”
“That language is not appropriate for a young lady,” says another male voice in mock decorum.
“Your face is not appropriate for a young lady,” comes the first voice.
The second one replies sardonically, “Oh, good one, Padfoot.”
“All right then!” I yell. “I’m losing my mind! Fantastic! It’s probably because I’m so cold!” I climb over the nearest box. “I am done with this. Al can come get his own damn box!”
“Oh, the profanity!” one of the male voices cries.
“Your language is never any better,” says a new one, a woman’s.
“St. Mungo’s, here I come!” I shout, starting to believe that I actually might be losing my marbles. I’m clamoring over another box when I trip and spectacularly wipe out onto my face. As I sit up, spluttering and brushing filth off my pajamas, the woman speaks again.
“That sounded painful.”
I scream as it resonates right by my ear. I look to my left and see an old trunk, completely covered in dust and seemingly unopened in my lifetime.
“She can’t be a Gryffindor, as easily spooked as that,” mutters the first voice.
I yank the lid up on the trunk in a rush of aggravation at having my Gryffindor-ity questioned. Just because the hat considered Ravenclaw . . .
Inside, there are stacks and stacks of old papers, the type of thing my father finds fascinating but that can easily put me to sleep. “All right, trunkie, who’s talking?” I demand. “Come on, I’ll find you!”
Someone in the trunk laughs.
“I hate magic!” I shout in anger, beginning to ransack the chest. My best friend Jacob always says I have anger issues. I usually punch him and carry on my merry way. “Keep talking, crazy voices! I’ve got to find you so I can prove I’m not taking the mickey!”
The two male voices begin singing “A Holly Jolly Christmas” loudly. The woman and another male voice groan. “Lovely job,” says the new male voice.
“Aha!” I cry triumphantly as I clear away the last of the papers to reveal a large picture facedown. I pull it up with my hands and turn it to face me. “I told James I wasn’t a nutter!”
The frame holds an old photo of people I instantly recognize: the slightly haggard form of Teddy’s father, Remus; a handsome young man who was my father’s godfather, who has his arm slung around a clone of my older brother, both singing; and a tall beauty with dark red hair, looking exasperated.
“Aha!” I cry again. “Aha! Aha! Aha! Picture!” I raise my voice even more, and something in the back of my mind wonders whether the air in the attic is messing with me. “It’s a talking picture!”
“I think she’s as mental as Ginny,” says Sirius.
“Ginny is not mental, Sirius,” says Remus. “She’s a very levelheaded woman.”
“She’s got a temper,” Sirius says. “Remember when she and Ron got into that fistfight, and he was laid up in bed for the rest of the night to let his injuries heal?”
“There’s a talking picture of dead people in my attic!” I shout. I don’t know why I keep shouting. I must be losing my mind.
“We’ve been here for quite some time,” says Lily.
“Since your parents moved in,” adds Remus.
“See?!” I shout, holding the picture out toward the covered mirror. “It’s the people in the picture! Ha! I tri—oops.”
The picture drops onto my lap.
“Nice pajamas,” comments Sirius. “Duckies and . . . are those muffins?”
“Yes, they are,” I say primly. “The duckies are eating the muffins.”
“That’s odd,” remarks my grandfather.
“No,” I argue. “These are the best pajamas in the history of ever. And you,” I add, pointing at Remus, who looks at me with mild alarm, “your son chopped off all my hair last weekend while I was asleep as a Welcome-Home-for-the-Holidays treat. Chopped it all off. Up to my ears.”
Sirius points, “But it’s all grown back now.”
“Well, obviously,” I agree, pulling my waist-length curls back from my face. “Mum made me a Hair Regrowth potion. Nasty thing, too.” I prop the photo up against the side of the trunk and lie down, folding my arms behind my head. “So, how’d you end up here in the attic? It seems like Daddy wouldn’t keep a talking picture like this up here with so many Albuses.” I squash another spider.
“See, that’s my fault,” Sirius says. “When the Order’s headquarters moved into my old place—you do know what they Order of the Phoenix was, don’t you?”
“Yes, I do. Defense Against the Dark Arts, History of Magic, Granddad, Daddy. I’ve got it down, thanks.”
“Right. Well, anyway, I put this photo in this trunk one night because Peter Pettigrew—you know him? Wormtail?”
“I do.” I rolled over onto my stomach, burrowing my head into my arms.
“He was originally in the photo, and we had to keep him out, you know. Spy issues and all that. I put us in the trunk—such a shame to hide my handsome face—and left us there. After I died, no one knew it was here. And when we were moved into the attic, Lily wouldn’t let us talk for some reason or another.”
“Ginny was eight months pregnant with James,” Lily responded, frustrated. “And she was supervising the attic. It would have sent her into early labor, I’m sure, and that would be good for no one.”
“James is mental anyway,” I say. “Wouldn’t’ve made a difference.”
“Gets that from his grandfather,” mutters Remus.
“You not talking sounds like a great plan,” James tells him.
“Can you, like, hear us?” I ask curiously. “During the day?”
“When you yell,” answers Remus.
I grin. “We do that a lot. We’re a loud family.”
“Rarely hear Harry, though,” Sirius informs me.
“Yeah, he’s the quietest of the bunch. Usually the one keeping Mum from flying off the handle.”
The attic door is suddenly thrown open, and I hear heavy footfalls stomping up the stairs. In a split second decision, I whisper to the inhabitants of the old photo to keep quiet and turn their frame over.
“Lily,” Al yells, “where the hell are you?”
“Oops,” I breathe, pulling myself to my feet.
His bright green eyes spot me and narrow. “What the hell have you been doing?”
“I was lying on the floor.”
He gestures to my dirty clothes. “I can see that, you idiot. What for?”
“I got tired of looking for the bows.”
“Lily!” he yells in frustration. “Oh my god! How hard is it to help out? I’m wrapping the bloody things! All you had to do was get the bows!”
“You suck at wrapping!”
He throws a roll of tape at me, so I punch him.
“Shit!” he cries, wiping the blood from his nose. “You’re such a—”
“What are you two doing?”
“Oh,” I say brightly, stepping away from Albus and pulling my father into a hug to soften him up before he gets really pissed at me for being such a bitch today. PMS messes with a girl’s mind, you know? “Hi, Daddy. I love you.”
“Did you punch your brother?”
“He threw the tape at me,” I defend, faltering slightly under his unusually stern glare.
“Lily,” he says, like he’s really tired of dealing with me when I’m being a bitch.
“Sorry,” I whisper, feeling rotten in the way only he can make me feel when I’ve done something wrong. “Really, Daddy. I am.”
“Don’t apologize to me, Lily,” he tells me. “Apologize to Al.”
He keeps one arm around me as I turn to look at Al, who’s watching me grumpily, blood on his face.
“I’m sorry, Al,” I say. “I should’ve just helped you. I was cold. I’ll try not to be a bitch for the whole rest of the day.”
Daddy clears his throat pointedly and glares at me.
“Apology accepted,” Al says gruffly; he’s clearly still pissed at me.
“Let’s go,” Daddy says, flicking his wand so the bows soar out from the opposite corner than I’d been looking in. “I’ll finish the presents. Al, you can go over to Cole’s like I promised.” His eyes fall on me. “You, Lily, will stay with me, though. I think you need to simmer down today.”
He holds up a scarred hand. “I don’t want to know, Princess. Just come with me.”
I know the trouble’s passed now that he’s calling me pet names again, which he only does when he’s not considering grounding me.
“Lilybud, what’s that on the floor?” Daddy asks suddenly, pointing to the back of the picture frame.
“Nothing, Daddy,” I say, pushing him toward the door and coughing loudly to cover the indignant cry from Sirius.
We’re all sitting around the tree at the Burrow on Christmas morning, piles of opened presents and mounds of paper surrounding us. Mum, a box of tissues sitting next to her, is admiring the sweater I bought for her and thanking me as my knee bounces in anticipation.
“Your turn, Daddy,” I say impatiently when Mum finally refolds the sweater and adds it to her stack.
He picks up the last present, a thin, flat, rectangular parcel wrapped in duckies (because I love Sirius like that, you know). “Are you sure it’s okay to open it now, Lilybud?” he teases, commenting on the command I’d given on saving mine till last.
“Yes. It’s completely acceptable, I promise.”
He pulls back the paper to see the back of the frame. Mum leans over to look at it as he flips it around and inhales loudly when she sees it.
“Oh,” I say, pushing some presents off my lap and moving over to the pair of them “Watch this. They’ll talk if egged on. Sirius, you’re ugly.”
“Oh, no, you did not,” Sirius responds instantly, flipping his hair.
Mum’s hands cover her mouth, and Daddy’s eyes begin to mist over.
“I found it in the attic that day Al made me go look for bows,” I explain. The whole rest of the family is trying to see what’s going on, and as people close in around us, they start whispering about it. “Those two—” I point to Sirius and James. “—are quite obnoxious and can’t carry a tune to save their lives. Oh, was that tactless to say?”
Mum laughs, smiling at me, but Daddy ignores my comment and pulls me into a hug.
“Lilybud,” he says, “thank you so much. So much. It’s perfect.” He kisses my forehead, brushing the hair away. “I love you, Princess.”
“You know what’s perfect?” asks Sirius to the room at large, few of whom are actually paying attention to Daddy and me.
“You,” Mum guesses flatly, rolling her eyes.
“Spot on, Ginny. And you can hang us up in your living room. Ooh, no!” He grins wickedly. “How about your bedroom?”
Mum drops a used tissue over his face. “Take that, pretty boy,” she jeers, though the menace is rather feeble because of her still-recovering voice.
“You know what, Lilybud?” Daddy says.
“You found this in the attic, yeah?”
He grins at me. “You can clean it out when we get home then. You know, as punishment for punching your brother.”
I reply acerbically, “Thanks, Daddy.”
“No problem, Angel.”
A/N: I even worked Jacob in there for some of you! Please review!
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