Chapter 1 : Not a Creature was Stirring... If Only.
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Several creatures were stirring.
And it was driving Harry insane.
“No! No James! PUT THAT DOWN! Tinsel remains ON the tree! ON IT! DO YOU HEAR ME?”
James dropped the tinsel and ran from the room, just as Lily was able to breathe again. She rubbed her throat and had stopped her gradual descent into the colour purple. He came running back in again, pulling a bemused Ginny by the hand; she had been bullied into wearing a Santa hat, and her hands were covered in pastry dough, evidently having being interrupted in the midst of mince-pie making.
“What is it James?” she asked him, holding her hands away from her body, and looking sorely disappointed that she couldn’t put her hands on her hips as she usually did when she wanted to enforce her authority.
“Dad is being mean!” James accused, pointing a finger at Harry.
“James tried to kill Lily!”
James spluttered indignantly, his body quivering from the tip of his black hair to the several inches of exposed ankle beneath his pyjama bottoms.
“I most certainly did not!”
“You did!” Lily spoke from the corner, standing on a chair, positioning herself out of James’ reach, “You tried to suffocate me with that tinsel!”
She pointed at the floor, where a single length of golden tinsel lay there like a very festive snake.
Ginny closed her eyes and shook her head.
“This is such a ridiculous problem,” she muttered, “I can’t be dealing with this. I’m going to make some pies.”
She then walked out the room, muttering about “ridiculous problems”, and “happens every year.”
“HAHA I didn’t get into trouble!” James boasted to Lily, dancing in front of her, whilst she stared down at him angrily from her position on the chair, “HAHA! You fail! I didn’t get into trouble…”
“You haven’t been dealt with by me yet!” Harry said crossly, advancing on James.
“Oh come on Dad!” Lily said, smiling, “We all know you’re not the disciplining parent! You can’t even tell Al off. And he’s the good one.”
Harry stopped, mid way across the lounge. He knew he didn’t inspire the same sort of fear that Ginny did when it came to telling the children off, but he still thought he was a force to be reckoned with. After all, he did kill Lord Voldemort, and here were his children, telling him they didn’t even take him seriously…
“I can tell Albus off!” Harry retorted, “I’ve told you two off loads of times.”
He pointed at Lily and James, who smiled at him pityingly.
“You may have told us off Dad, but whether we actually took notice is another matter.”
“Well,” Harry spluttered again, “It’s not my fault you’re so stubborn!”
“It is actually,” Albus quietly pointed out; he had been poking the presents under the tree, “It’s an inherited trait from you and Mum.”
Harry realised he wasn’t going to win, so he sank into a sofa, and watched as James helping Lily get off her chair, and they went to join Albus in their annual activity of “Present Prodding”. Every year Ginny and Harry told them not to, but every year they were not listened to. However, this year they had a plan.
The theory was, that when people are insistently poking and prodded they tend to get a bit irritated. If you poked and prodded Harry too much, he would probably tell you to “Stop it!” in an irritated voice, depending on what mood he was in. If you poked and prodded Ron too much, he would probably leap up brandishing his wand, telling you “GET AWAY FROM ME IF YOU KNOW WHAT’S GOOD FOR YOU!”
And this, was valuable inspiration…
“This is obviously Grandma’s jumper… she makes us all one every year…”
“… but what’s that hard bit? Do you reckon it’s some fudge from Hagrid?”
“This one feels alive! It’s not another Pygmy Puff from Uncle Ron again… I thought he’d learnt his lesson about those…”
Whispers were fluttering up to Harry from the bottom of the tree, where all he could see were three pyjamaed backsides poking out from beneath the branches. Any minute…
“I wish I could get a broom for Christmas…”
“You suck at flying!”
“I do NOT!”
“You do! You crash all the – OW!”
Lily had brought a parcel down on James’ head, and at the point of collision the parcel emitted a loud screech; “GET YOUR BLOODY HANDS OFF ME, YOU HORRIBLE CHILDREN!”
Three screams followed, and James, Lily and Albus all flew out from under the tree and landed in a heap on top of each other. Harry was in hysterics. He thought he couldn’t breathe. Ginny came into the room, still wearing pastry gloves, except now some had been transferred to her hair. She looked confused, but then comprehension dawned in the shape of a knowing smile.
“Ah ha!” she pronounced, “This year you won’t be poking any presents at all!”
James, Lily and Albus looked at their parents mutinously, breathing deeply from fright, and then shuffled away.
“That was a good one,” Harry said to Ginny.
“It really was…” she said dreamily.
“Are you excited about tomorrow?” Harry asked her. Ginny shook her head.
“Not yet,” she replied, “There’s still so much to do! Like ice the cake and make the pies and cook dinner and …”
Harry just stared at her amusedly all through her to-do list.
“I’ll help you. I’m not a complete waste of time in a kitchen.”
“I know you’re not,” Ginny sighed, “It’s just Hermione’s managed to get all this stuff done in advance, and I’ve just left it all to the last minute!”
“Yeah well, Hermione’s weirdly organized. No one could compete with her,” Harry reasoned, “And how did she cook tomorrow’s dinner in advance?”
Ginny threw her hands into the air, so that small pieces of pastry landed on the carpet, which Cobbles – the cat – immediately tried to eat. This was to signify her exasperation that she’d never be as organized as Hermione. Not that she really wanted to be… but competition was a dormant trait in Ginny, and it sometimes sprang up at unexpected things.
“I dunno, some sort of charm.” Ginny concluded, “She’s mental.”
Just then the fairy from the top of their tree took flight, and Ginny had to grab it before it made another attempt at escape. This had happened well over ten times, and it kept sprinkling glitter on everything in the house, which everyone hated except Lily. She had managed to befriend the Christmas fairy, so that it could be kept in her room all year, instead of being shut in the attic. Which according to Lily, the fairy didn’t like at all. Consequently, Lily’s room always looked as though it were painting silver.
Ginny placed the fairy back on the top of the tree. It glared at Ginny. Ginny glared right back. Harry heard a squeak that sounded like the Christmas fairy was using quite bad profanity in order to insult Ginny.
“Excuse me! You stroppy cow!” Ginny said to the fairy.
“You’re the cow in this house! I’m surprised you don’t have udders!”
“At least I don’t have a useless wand!”
“I don’t think I’m the one with the useless wand in this house…”
Harry felt uncomfortable; why did he think the fairy was looking at him as she said this?
Ginny turned away from the fairy, in what she thought to be in a dignified way; the effect ruined by the fact that she had just argued with a fairy.
“You know,” Ginny called over her shoulder, “Muggle fairies are supposed to be nice!”
An indignant squeak followed, but Ginny chose to ignore it.
“YOU WERE BEING MEAN TO FLUFF AGAIN!” Lily stormed into the room.
“Fluff?” said Harry.
“That’s the fairy’s name! Fluff!” said Lily, pointing at Fluff the Fairy.
Harry sniggered. Then stopped at the look that Lily gave him.
“Time for bed,” Harry said.
“WHAT!?” Lily shouted in horror, “NO!”
“Yes! If you don’t go to bed Santa won’t come,” Ginny tried to explain, but Lily had pressed herself against a wall, and looked terrified.
“He wouldn’t miss me out would he?” she whispered, her brown eyes wide with shock.
“Yes!” said James triumphantly, as he too entered the room, followed by Albus.
“Don’t you sound so cocky James,” Harry said, “You’re going to bed too.”
He said this all very sternly, trying to prove that he could enforce authority in the house without the need of magic.
“But I’m older! Why do I have to go to bed?”
“You’re only ten! You’re not that old yet,” Harry told him, “Me and Mum are going up to bed too, and we’re over triple your age!”
“The sooner you go to sleep the sooner it’ll be Christmas…” Ginny tried to wheedle.
“I LOVE CHRISTMAS!” shouted Albus, “Come on guys! If we hurry we’ll get to sleep and then we’ll wake up and Santa will have been!”
“That’s the spirit!” said Fluff.
“You shut up,” Ginny said warningly.
James nearly looked convinced, but he wasn’t sure which of the two major arguments running around his head he should follow; obey his parents, something which he’d tried so hard not to do since the age of two. Or, have Christmas seemingly come round sooner, because time goes so much more inhumanely quickly when you’re asleep. It was a tough one; you could almost see the gears going in James’ head underneath his nest of messy black hair.
Harry took advantage of James’ dilemma.
“Come on! We’ll go up to bed first,” Harry said, trying to shoo James out the room, “You can be a good older brother and set an example.”
“I know you don’t believe that…” James whispered to Harry, “You’re just trying to be bossy, so that we’ll always behave. But we know Dad… we know that you’ll never have control over us.”
“Oh shut up,” said Harry yawning, “See? I’m tired. I might go to bed too.”
“You will not!” Ginny suddenly said, “You have to help me first!”
Harry sighed internally. He had been looking forward to going to sleep, on this cold Christmas eve, watching the snow swill outside the window… listening to the fire crackling in the grate.
His disappointment must’ve shown in his face because Ginny shooed Harry away from James into the kitchen, extenuating the tasks that she expected of Harry. She then went to deal with the problem of getting the three children into bed; she was a lot better at it than Harry, because Harry was more likely to get distracted by “please may I have story/ drink of water/ last cuddle/ pack of Pepper Imps?” type scenarios. Of course, it was all the sign of a good parent to do all these things (except maybe the idea of giving a child sweets before bed; that’s just silly), but Harry never knew when to stop. First it would be one story, and then Lily would clamber into his lap and put her arms around him saying she wanted another. Harry would do anything for Lily when she did that. And she knew this.
So, whilst Ginny did this Harry began to complete the hundreds of mince pies that Ginny had started. All he really had to do was put a teaspoon of mincemeat into the little pastry things. It wasn’t that hard, and Harry thought he’d gotten off rather lightly. The kitchen was quite dark, so he bewitched some candles to float in the air, lighting them with a flick of his wand. This illuminated delicate sparklings of frost starting to appear inside the windows, and cast deep flickering shadows everywhere. Harry thought it made the small room look rather beautiful. Once he’d put the pies in the oven, they sent out smells that can only come with Christmas, and the smells of spices mingled with the glowing atmosphere and made Harry feel entirely at peace. Indeed, as he sat himself at the table he almost began to drop off, and was jerked back to consciousness by an arrival of a flowery smell.
“Just got them into bed,” Ginny spoke quietly; she too seemed to feel the calm of the room, and didn’t want to shatter it, “I had to read them a story… something about Santa being waylaid by Goblins…”
“Mmm…” Harry replied, putting his head in his arms, on the table.
“Don’t go to sleep!” Ginny said, half laughing. She pulled slightly at his hair, trying to rouse him. All it did was make Harry reach out and grab Ginny’s hair, pulling it down so that she had to put her head on the table too.
“Ow!” She giggled, “That was mean, pulling my hair…”
“You pulled mine first,” Harry mumbled into his arms, wanting nothing more than to drop off.
“But we have to go to bed,” Ginny whined, “I’m sleepy…”
She sat up, and started tugging fruitlessly on his arms, but he still wouldn’t sit up.
“My glasses are squashed into my nose…” Harry complained.
“Well, you ought to sit up then, and then carry me upstairs, because I don’t want to walk anywhere…”
Ginny then followed suit and put her head on the table in her arms, facing Harry. His face was hidden in his arms, and Ginny pulled his ear to make him look at her.
“Stop pulling at parts of my body!” Harry told her, but he obliged and turned to face her. He smiled vacantly, his green eyes reflecting the gold of the candles, hidden behind the reflections of light in his glasses.
“You’re so pretty,” he murmured, his eyelids drooping, “let’s just stay here all night…”
He reached to stroke her face, and he felt it slide underneath his fingers, warm and soft like a peach. He liked peaches…
“I think the light in here… is almost the colour of a peach,” Harry mused to himself, completely unaware of what he was saying.
“Yes…” Ginny agreed, “Just like a peach…”
They were both gradually falling asleep, their eyes dropping, suddenly feeling ridiculously tired and peaceful, almost as though they’d just drunk a sleeping potion. Harry wished he could just sleep here, but he knew his neck wouldn’t thank him for it in the morning… but he didn’t care for now. Ginny’s warm hand was at the back of his neck, pulling him towards her, so that she could put her cheek against his and burrow into him, trying to get cosy, readying herself for a long winter’s nap…
Harry’s breath was rustling her hair, and tickling her ear. His hand was still against her face, and her hand was twiddling with his hair. He would’ve given any amount of gold, just so that they could sit like this forever, in this warm cocoon of peacefulness, and spicy smells, protecting them from the snowy gale outside.
The table wasn’t very comfy for him, so he shifted slightly, and doing so he found that his slightly open mouth met contact with Ginny’s lips. He cradled their softness between his own, and shut his eyes entirely, believing that he’d never been so happy, or content. The warmth flushed through him, awaking him slightly, so he could kiss her properly. Her hands removed his glasses, so that they wouldn’t get pushed into his nose, and she placed a hand on his shoulder and held his other hand with her own.
Naturally, they moved closer together, and held each other, whilst they kissed each other softly. Again Harry was put in mind of peaches, and apricots too… He tried to pull Ginny onto his chair, so she could sit on him. She wrapped one arm around his neck whilst he enveloped her in his arms so she wouldn’t fall off his knee.
Ginny stroked a finger down his neck, which sent sudden tingles through Harry’s every single nerve –
Harry was brought back down to earth with a very unpleasant crash. The calmness was shattered like a pane of glass, the suddenness caused a momentary moment of pure shock, where everything stood still… waiting for the results of the destruction to show themselves.
A surge of red blush was imminent. He could almost feel Ginny’s life willing to escape… willing to evaporate… just…. “Why James? Why now?” was all Harry could think.
Ginny then hastily slid off Harry and brushed herself down, for some reason. People always seem to do this when they’re caught doing something they shouldn’t be. She also tucked her hair behind her ears. They do this too.
“You’re – you’re meant to be in bed James,” Ginny said, trying to sound stern. She put hands on her hips and attempted to look disciplining and authoritative, but couldn’t quite manage it.
“I was in bed, but I couldn’t sleep because I can hear Lily talking to Fluff through the wall and Albus wanted to see my train but I said that he couldn’t because it’s mine and were you snogging?”
Ginny tried to pretend she hadn’t heard this by putting her hand of James’ back and gently leading him from the room, but unfortunately he asked again, showing tenaciousness that was, again, quite obviously inherited.
“Were you snogging Dad?”
“Mmm… married people are allowed you know,” Ginny said, willing the flush of red creeping up her body to stop at her neck… just so that it wouldn’t reach her face.
“But I saw Teddy doing it with Victoire too,” James said, “They’re not married, but they were doing it. And you’ve gone bright red.”
“Yes, you have.”
“Mmm…” said Ginny again, shepherding James up the stairs.
“Do you always do it when you think we’re not there?”
“Not always, James, no,” Ginny frowned, thinking that James was being a little too inquisitive now, “We do have other things to be doing.”
They were now in the hall…
“I think it looks disgusting…” James confided, “I don’t ever want to do it.”
“You’re only ten James,” Ginny explained, “I suspect one day you’ll feel very differently, now go to bed.”
She pointed into his room, but James wouldn’t move. Evidently, this episode had awoken a great deal of “questions” in James, which Ginny hadn’t expected for at least another two years. Least of all, on Christmas Eve…
“I highly doubt it,” James said, “I bet it’s all wet and slimy.”
Ginny almost screwed her face up with embarrassment; this was not the right time to have these sorts of talks with an immature ten-year-old son.
“Look, go to sleep James,” Ginny urged him, pushing open his bedroom door and gesturing to his recently vacated bed, “If you don’t go now, Santa won’t visit. It’s nearly midnight… he’s probably circling around above our house, waiting for that horrible James Potter boy to go to sleep.”
“But I’m not sleepy,” James said brightly, “And I’m not horrible either!” he added, crossly.
“You will be sleepy once you lie down in your warm bed,” Ginny soothed him, picking him up under the arms and sitting him on it. She stroked his hair away from his face, trying to calm him down into a state of sleepiness.
“Do you snog Dad in bed?” James asked, obviously not falling for Ginny’s delaying tactics. This question went too far in Ginny’s opinion.
“Yes, every night I say “Goodnight Harry,” and I kiss his cheek, and he says “Goodnight Ginny,” and he’ll kiss my cheek, and then we’ll go to sleep, and that’ll be that,” Ginny said in a hurry, “Happy?”
“But that’s not snogging is it?” James asked shrewdly, “You kiss Uncle Ron on the cheek, but you don’t snog him.”
Ginny shuddered. She couldn’t help herself. The idea was honestly, quite repulsive.
“James, one day you’ll understand the differences,” she implored, “If you have any more questions ask your father.”
Ginny felt very mean for inflicting this on poor Harry, who was completely unawares of adolescent times to come, and what sort of embarrassing horrors they would bring.
“OK,” James said, and he actually pulled his duvet up around his neck, smiling at Ginny brightly, “Night night Mum!”
He then held his arms out, and Ginny was confused for a while. Then she realised he actually wanted a hug… She obliged willingly, for James was often reluctant to wield his hugs to people.
“Sleep tight James,” she whispered, and she stroked his cheek, turning off his light as she left the room.
Ginny tiptoed past the other doors, desperately trying to convince herself that their occupants were asleep, and she went downstairs to find Harry still at the table, and looking as though he wished he was dead.
“You’re going to have a lot of questions tomorrow,” Ginny forwarned him, sitting next to him, looking quite grim, but also with a slight side of amusement.
“Oh no…” Harry groaned, “Why couldn’t you answer them?”
“Because I have to do Lily’s.”
“But that means I have to do two sets!” Harry said, clearly in pain, “Can’t we just sit them all down at the same time and go over the … the basics and then they can find out the rest from their friends?”
Ginny’s look answered that question quite well, without the need for words.
“I never had that discussion! And I turned out fine…” Harry said, “Can’t we just leave them to it?”
It was a tempting thought, but Ginny knew better.
“No Harry, we can’t, as lovely as that would be.”
“Let’s talk about Christmas or something,” Harry said, “Like… when shall we put the presents from Santa under the tree?”
So they extracted the presents from a cupboard that Ginny had jinxed shut, to ensure that no small little searching hands found them. They put them under the tree.
“Shall we go to sleep now?” Harry asked.
“Good plan,” Ginny agreed.
The evening had been so festive up to that … unfortunate point, until they got the sneak preview of all the awkward, horrible questions and events that would happen through the next ten or so years. First with James, then with Albus, and then with Lily… it was going to be awful. How would she and Harry cope??
“Oh my God what are we going to do?!!” Ginny flung her arms around Harry in despair, pretending to cry into his shoulder.
“I don’t know… I really don’t know,” Harry patted her on the head, looking equally anguished, “We could go to sleep?”
“Yeah… maybe that’s the best thing we could do for now. And then we’ll wake up and remember everything.”
“But at least it’ll be really, really early in the morning, so the horribleness of it will be muffled by sleep deprivation.”
“Sounds good to me.”
“Yes, off we go then.”
They extinguished all the remaining candles downstairs, and made their way to their bedroom, avoiding the creaking stair, desperate to keep their children asleep.
As they got into bed, they felt cosy and content again. The fire had been lit, and as the only light source currently in the room it gave a similar golden glow, reminiscent of the kitchen downstairs. The curtains were drawn over a jet sky, which was bedecked with falling flurries of snow. The sea washed against the beach, creating a soothing shushing sound. How could they ever have felt worried? Not now, when they felt so at peace with everything.
Ginny snuggled into Harry, wanting to keep warm. They were both smiling vacantly again. They felt so happy.
“Oh I love you,” Ginny said, “You’re honestly the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
Harry didn’t say anything; he had fallen asleep. His arms were still draped around Ginny, so Ginny couldn’t move. Instead she just put her head on his chest and fell asleep too.
Everything was just so lovely… and neither of them noticed Fluff the fairy flutter in and declare: “Happy Christmas to all! And to all a good night!”