Chapter 10 : Christmas at the Burrow
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Christmas at the Burrow
It was rather unfortunate that the snow was still coming down heavily, even after three weeks. It was rather reflecting Hermione's mood: unchanged and melancholy. Yes, melancholy. She had finally come up with a suitable word that was both neutral and becoming. She had ruled out depressed and pessimistic, and even apathetic. Harry Potter did not make her apathetic.
The “snowball training” had been going on vigorously as well throughout those few weeks and each time Hermione found herself becoming more and more easier to anger. One could only take so much of Harry and Ginny. Harry and Ginny and their… touching. Really, why did couples insist on having to touch each other every single moment they were within a foot of each other? Didn't they enjoy even a little bit of elbow room once in awhile? Did they have to do it in public? Honestly, there were at least twenty broom cupboards throughout Hogwarts that weren't put there for just storage and they should do well to take advantage of that!
She tried her best not to avoid him altogether, save herself from feeling anything whatsoever towards him. But, of course, that nagging voice in the back of her head telling her that if she did that the mission would be ruined overpowered her greater judgment. So, after a rather tiring internal battle, she forced herself to be his friend, despite what he was doing to her. It took a lot of her self control not to scream from the tension she was creating between them. But, she figured, it would all go away… eventually. It always went away after a while.
It was December 20, the day they were scheduled to leave for The Burrow. Hermione was finishing up packing the last of her clothing with a wave of her wand and after they were finished folding themselves into her trunk, it shut with a quiet click. Sighing, she picked up the handle and let the small wheels pop out, allowing her to lug it down the stairs into the common room, where they had all agreed to meet before boarding the train.
She sat down on the sofa and propped her trunk next to her, staring into the flames with vague interest. She was still iffy about going there, nervous about meeting the Weasley family. Hermione didn't consider herself to be a people person; she was more of an “I'll-be-civil-to-you-only-up-until-I-kill-you” person. Being raised with limited social access had many disadvantages that the average person wouldn't think twice about, especially when you were raised by Death Eaters. But hey, it was who she was, and she couldn't change that.
Consumed in her thoughts, she failed to hear someone approach her. Only when they spoke up did she comprehend their presence. “Are you nervous?”
She looked over at the familiar voice slowly, “A little, but I'm not the most social person around so it's nothing new.”
Harry nodded, “Well I'm sure you'll be fine.”
“Tell that to my stomach. I feel like I'm going to regurgitate breakfast.” She said, letting her face contort to accentuate her statement.
“Don't they have potions for that?” He asked, somewhat amused.
She pursed her lips, “Yes, well we're leaving soon and I'm sure that we don't have time for a quick trip to the hospital wing.”
“Never stopped me”
“Yes, well you're you and I'm lazy.” She said with a small smile, “I'd rather sit here on this comfy couch, soaking up the heat then brave the chilled hallways.”
“The hallways may be chilled but we could always run.” He said in a sing-song voice.
She raised an eyebrow at him, “Not the best way to win the agreement of a sloth.”
He shrugged his shoulders, “Never said I was smooth.”
She smiled and turned back to the fire, thankful that the nausea was wearing off. The Burrow had better be worth it if she was going to have to deal with this.
Harry remained silent beside her but she could sense—how, she didn't know—that he wanted to say something. She prepared herself for another smart comment, or even a humorous icebreaker, trying to come up with a response to anything she thought he might say. But, her attempts and his chance at breaking the silence were squashed when footsteps bounded down the stone stair behind them. They both turned around quickly and saw Ron looking at them with a wolfish grin.
“So, who's ready to go to the train?”
Hermione was about to say that they still had to wait for Ginny when she bounced up from behind him. She found that their timing rather made her uncomfortable than amused. Harry and Hermione both nodded after a moment and the four of them made their journey to Hogsmeade Station.
The train was already filling with students by the time they arrived. The snow was blowing fast past their faces and Hermione felt her eyes moisten and breathing constrict. People who enjoyed this must have a medical condition or else they'd be dead by now. If that was true, the whole population of Hogwarts students going home must have some sort of contagious disease because every last one of them was smiling and acting as though it was 80 degrees out.
Hermione stepped onto the train as the wind picked up even more and took a long gasp of clean air when felt the waft of a warm breeze blow onto her face. No one seemed to notice her reaction and for that she was thankful. The last thing she needed was another group effort to try and get her to warm up to the snow.
They eventually found a compartment and each took a seat on the cushy benches. Harry had elected to sit next to Ginny and Hermione was left to sit next to Ron. It was odd, not to have Harry close to her, as they had been for the past few weeks. She couldn't decide if it was a good thing or a bad thing. But, as Harry's arm rose to wrap around Ginny's petit waist, it was decided. It was a very bad thing. And the worst part was that they were right in front of her, so she had a first row seat to the Harry and Ginny Show. Perfect. There was only one way to make this all go away, even for a little while. She shut her eyes. It was childish, but effective. If they asked, she didn't get much sleep last night.
The conversations that she picked up were all of building excitement and Ron yelling at Harry and Ginny to get a room. Hermione was thankful that her eyes were closed or else she might have glared the two of them into an early grave. Oh, how she detested train rides.
The next thing she knew, she was being shaken in consciousness by a strong hand. Her eyes drifted open lazily and she let her vision adjust to the dim lighting of the compartment, the blurred images coming into focus slowly. She tilted her head to the side to see Ron looking at her with a smile. Holding back a groan she lifted herself up to a sitting position and yawned. She chanced a glance out the window to see the train coming to a stop in front of the familiar platform.
Hermione thought that she would only see this place once more and be done with it. Too many families, too small of a stomach. But, under the promising circumstances, she figured that two more times couldn't be so bad. After all, it was her first Christmas away from a dingy mansion, she should be happy for a change of scenery.
She felt an odd sensation in the back of her head and tensed up; someone was watching her. Twisting her neck a few inches to the side she saw the familiar bright green orbs come into contact with hers and she felt her stomach twist up. In all actuality, she was rather surprised she hadn't becoming numb to this feeling by now. Back when she and Draco had first begun to… mature… there had been a small aching in her lower region every time she thought about him. But, after time, it went away, she got used to it. Why wasn't this feeling any different? What did he have that Draco didn't already have? Draco already had that bad boy persona down, so that couldn't be it. They were both charming, had piercing eyes… so what was it that made Harry so damn different?!
Her thoughts were run short as the train came to a stop. Hermione and Harry's eyes quickly averted each other as they grabbed their trunks and made their way to the platform. Hermione didn't know what to look for, as she had only seen Mrs. Weasley once before. But, it wasn't hard to spot the fiery red hair among the crowd once Ron and Ginny went sprinting to their mother. Harry smiled at the two of them and Hermione stared in fascination as the older woman enveloped her children in a warm embrace. Her trance was put away, though, as the woman looked at her and smiled.
“You must be Hermione; it's wonderful to meet you, dear.” She said kindly, reaching out and giving her a loose hug. Hermione was in shock for a moment, but tried her best to return the hug. Pulling back Hermione smiled at the older woman and stepped back a few feet. “I can't tell you how anxious I've been to finally meet you! Ron and Ginny have told me so much about you, and I'm sure you'll enjoy your holiday at The Burrow.”
“I look forward to it.” Hermione said genuinely.
Mrs. Weasley nodded and caught sight of Harry. The woman practically knocked him over with the force of her hug, letting a single statement of “Harry, dear!” emit from her lips. Hermione didn't know whether to be amused or concerned. But, when she let him go, Hermione let out a breath and a small chuckle out of her throat.
They all walked to a secluded corner towards the back of the station as Mrs. Weasley pulled an old record out of her knitted bag. Hermione glanced at the label and saw “Celestina Warbeck: A Cauldron of Hot, Strong Love” printed in bold letters. She had never heard of the singer before and was curious as to why Mrs. Weasley pulled out one of her records out of her bag. But, her questions were put to rest as Ron, Ginny, and Harry all put their hands onto the record. Hermione quickly placed her hand atop it as well and in a few moments felt the familiar tug of a Portkey in her stomach.
In what felt like a second they all landed in a heap and Hermione felt the snow begin to melt on her face. Her jaw clenched as she got up and brushed the snow from off of her jacket and pants. Glancing upward, her hands stopped at she caught sight of a building that looked as though it was about to tip over. The only way it could remain standing was if it was held up by magic. It was covered in blinking Christmas lights and wreaths, all hung at random angles. Popcorn and what looked to be old boots painted red green, and silver aligned the trees. There seemed to be a chicken coop to one side of the house and odd items scattered around the lawn, all covered by the large blanket of snow. In front of it all was a lopsided sign that read “The Burrow”.
The others were already making their way inside and Hermione had to take long strides to keep up with them. Thankful to be out of the snow, she entered the house quickly and found herself in the kitchen, where pots and pans were washing themselves in the sink. It wasn't anything she hadn't seen before, but she certainly hadn't seen such a cluttered kitchen. It was small and looked as though it was going to burst with the amount of clutter that was inside of it. Harry and Ron had disappeared and the three women were left in the kitchen alone. Mrs. Weasley smiled again and turned to face Hermione. “My home is your home. Please, let Ginny show you to her room. You'll be sharing, if that's alright?”
“Oh, of course” Hermione lied.
Mrs. Weasley smiled and she followed Ginny up a single flight of stairs. There seemed to be three rooms on this floor and Ginny led her to the first door. When she entered the room she looked around in interest. It was a small room, big enough for Ginny's bed and a small mattress on the floor she assumed was for her. Pressed against the wall was a desk in front of a window and a small closed that looked to be erupting with clothes. The walls were brightly painted with pink, yellow, and orange and aligned with posters of popular wizard bands and newspaper clippings from what Hermione assumed to be Witch Weekly. Next to Ginny's bed was a small table covered with photographs and various pieces of jewelry that looked to be very expensive.
Hermione tossed her trunk next to her mattress on the floor and turned to where Ginny was sitting on her bed, fondling one of her pillows. “Where's the bathroom?”
Ginny nodded to the door, “Second door to the left.”
Hermione followed her instructions and entered a small bathroom, various items scattered throughout the counter and any space that was capable of holding something. Hermione sensed a pattern and assumed that the whole house was like this: small and cluttered. She had never been claustrophobic but felt that these were the types of things that could set someone who was off. Sighing, she lifted the seat of the toilet and took a seat, burying her face in her hands. This was going to be a very interesting holiday. Sharing a room with Ginny, being in such close proximity with Harry, the bloody snow… this was shaping up to be her most miserable Christmas yet, and they haven't even hosted a party yet.
A knock at the door interrupted the silence and Hermione called “Occupied!”
“Mum wants me to tell you dinner's ready in five minutes.” Ginny's voice sounded from the other side of the door.
Hermione quickly flushed the toilet and washed her hands, accidently knocking down a bottle of Sleekeazy's Hair Potion. She promptly put it back and stepped out of the bathroom, unconsciously drying her hands on her trousers. Looking both ways down the narrow hallway, she noticed that Ginny didn't wait up for her like she normally did and sighed. At least she wasn't the only one who felt that the situation was awkward.
She made her way down the stairs at a brisk pace and entered the kitchen again to see everyone already sitting down at one side of the table in a bundle. She took a seat next to Ron and smiled politely at everyone. As soon as she adjusted her position, the waft of food come into her nostrils and she moaned inwardly, remembering what Harry had said about Mrs. Weasley's cooking. The food floated onto the middle of the table and her mouth watered at the sight of mashed potatoes, chicken, peas, carrots, bread and marmalade, and salad. It was like she was cooking for an army!
Loading her plate with a little bit of everything, she tried to control herself from stuffing her face. Starting with the mashed potatoes, she braced herself and her eyes widened as she let the food soak into her taste buds. It was unlike anything she had ever eaten. Harry was right, it was way better than Hogwarts's food! She chanced a glance over at him to see him smiling at her with an “I-told-you-so” look on his face.
“Fred and George will be arriving tomorrow,” Mrs. Weasley spoke up. “Bill and Fleur in a week and Charlie along with them. The whole family, can you remember the last time that happened?”
“The wedding?” Ron asked.
“Yes, that must be it, over a year ago!” Mrs. Weasley mused.
Hermione looked questioningly at Harry and he whispered, “Bill got married last year.”
Hermione nodded in understanding and turned back to Mrs. Weasley, who was in a conversation with Ron about Fred and George's latest escapades. Hermione remembered Harry telling her about how they owned a joke shop in Diagon Ally and listened intently to their conversation, eager to hear the description of one of their products.
“They told me that they invented some weird mistletoe thing in spirit of the holidays and were going to bring it here to test out.” Ron explained.
Mrs. Weasley looked concerned, “And what exactly does this mistletoe do?”
“Well… Fred told me that it works like the Muggle one, but then George added that it won't let you escape until you kiss. But, they both said that it only affects people who are soul mates. Don't quite know what that means but it sounds wicked!” Ron said with wide grin on his face.
“A soul mate is someone who was meant only for you, Ron, like you were both destined to be with each other. Remember that whole speech Trelawney gave us in sixth year during Divination?” Harry said, answering Ron's hidden question.
“Oh yeah… so that was what she was on about? I thought she was talking about becoming friends with ghosts…”
Everyone at the table laughed, Mrs. Weasley included. Hermione rather liked this invention of Fred and George's, as it wouldn't affect her in the least. She was positive that soul mates didn't exist. Besides, it wasn't as if she would be caught dead under one of those things! She had more common sense than that.
“That' so romantic!” Ginny gushed, clinging onto Harry's arm.
Hermione glared over at Ginny and spit, “It's pointless”
Ginny looked over at Hermione with a surprised look on her face, turning to one of annoyance. “What's pointless?”
“Soul mates” Hermione said simply, “They don't exist.”
The room went silent and Hermione couldn't help but feel uncomfortable. Then, much to everyone's surprise, Harry spoke up, “You don't believe in soul mates?”
Hermione looked over at him with a numb look on her face, “No”
"Well what about true love?” he asked with a raised eyebrow.
“What's true love?” Hermione asked incredulously.
Harry looked at her oddly, his face softening. “True love is the soul's recognition of its counterpoint in another.”
She was floored. Harry stared at her, not anticipating an answer, but making Hermione feel as if he was bearing into her soul. Could someone do that with just a look?
Mrs. Weasley looked at Harry fondly, “That was beautiful, Harry.”
He smiled at her, breaking their gaze from each other. Hermione excused herself and made her way into the living room, feeling faint. What the hell was he doing to her?! He was turning into a pile of slop, that's what he was doing! The bloody prat was messing with her emotions and making her… she didn't even know how to describe it! All she knew is that she didn't like it, not one bit.
“Are you alright, dear?” Mrs. Weasley's kind voice said from beside her.
Hermione looked into the woman's warm eyes, “Yeah, I'm fine. Just feeling under the weather is all.”
“Well, I brought you some dessert. Pumpkin pie drizzled with whipped cream and cinnamon.” She handed her the plate and Hermione smiled in thanks.
“Dinner was amazing, Mrs. Weasley, really. Harry was right when he said you were the best cook he'd ever met.”
Mrs. Weasley blushed, “Oh hush dear, it's nothing. Please, eat your pie and feel better, alright? And if you need anything, anything at all, don't be hesitant to talk.”
Hermione nodded, “I won't”
She gave her a pat on the shoulder and got up, making her way back to the kitchen. Hermione looked down at the pie and was about to take a bite when she heard voices coming towards her. Deciding it would be better to eat up in Ginny's room, she quickly ascended the stairs and closed the door behind her. She walked up to Ginny's bed and sat on the plump mattress, letting her eyes flicker to the pictures that she noticed earlier.
Picking up one in a silver frame, she saw Ginny and two other girls in her year by the greenhouses waving and smiling. Putting that one down she picked up another, this one in a golden wired frame, it was of Ginny, Harry, and Ron. They looked no older than twelve in the picture and were all outside of the Hogwarts express. She noticed that the clothes on Harry's back seemed to be at least five sizes too big for him and wondered vaguely how that was even possible for such a skinny young boy. Ginny looked so innocent, with her long wavy red hair, pale skin covered in freckles, and knobby knees. Ron still looked the same, slightly taller than Harry and too lanky for his own good.
The last frame, a pink one covered in red hearts was one of Harry and Ginny on the common room sofa, arms wrapped around each other and smiling widely. Hermione felt an angry tug in her chest and whipped the picture across the room, shattering the glass and cracking the wooden frame. Breathing heavily, Hermione looked down at the picture and went over to pick it up, muttering “Repairo” tensely under her breath to fix it. The couple in the photograph was looking up at her with fear and Hermione frowned at them. She had forgotten that some photographs could feel when they were being shaken up. She put the picture back on the bedside table and sighed, running her fingers through her hair. If only there was an answer to her problems that was easy to access.
She glanced back down and took a bite of her pumpkin pie, relishing in its sweet taste. For now, pumpkin pie would be her answer. Lots and lots of pumpkin pie.
A/N: Sorry for the wait! Your reviews have been so amazingly awesome and I've been putting off updating for wayyyyyy to long. I hope you forgive me =/ I'll try to be quicker next time.
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