Chapter 11 : An Orderly Christmas
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Out in the countryside, sat a little cottage covered in a blanket of snow, looking as though it had plopped right off a Christmas card. Within the living room of this particular cottage, sat a laughing couple, one of whom was currently tossing multiple unwrapped, empty present boxes at the other.
“Frank Alfred Longbottom, did you get a single gift that was not baby related?” Alice said with a mock glare and another chuckle. Frank dodged the latest box tossed at his head and dove at his wife, grabbing her lightly around the middle and hauling her away from the countless baby items he had purchased. It wasn’t his fault, he was just incredibly excited about being a father.
“But Alice,” Frank whined, setting her down on the couch, “those presents are for the baby.” Alice rolled her eyes.
“I know dear, but next year she’ll actually be here,” Alice said shaking her head, though a smile was still clear in her eyes. “You can buy her loads of presents then.” Frank ignored her comment and pulled a long thin box, wrapped in silver.
“Those presents are for the baby,” he repeated. “This one is for you.” Alice bit back a smile of embarrassment, and took the box gently from his hands. She glanced between him and the box a few times, before flipping the top off and examining its contents. Inside, was a long delicate silver chain, on the end of which were two charms: a tiny crescent moon, encrusted with three even tinier diamonds, and a small clock, a very extraordinary clock.
“It’s gorgeous Frank,” Alice whispered, covering her mouth with her free hand. “Are those the diamonds from my engagement ring?” Frank smiled widely and pulled the necklace from the box, moving to clasp it around Alice’s neck.
“That they are,” Frank said quietly. “You never get to wear that ring because of work, so I thought it would be better for it to be on a charm around your neck.” He gave her a single soft kiss on the back of her neck, and clipped the ends of the necklace together. “The moon is shaped exactly as it was the night I asked you to marry me, right after graduation.”
“I remember,” Alice said with a small smile, leaning back into Frank’s chest. “I’ve never seen you more nervous in your life.” Frank chuckled and shook his head.
“You would remember that part out of everything that happened,” Frank said with a laugh. He reached around her, looking over her shoulder and holding the small clock between two of his fingers. “You see how this clock has three hands?” Alice squinted her eyes and took the charm into her own hands.
“My name’s on one of them,” she whispered. Frank nodded.
“And mine is on the second one,” Frank continued. “Once our baby girl is born, her name will be on the third one. Wherever we are, home, work, travelling: our hands will flip to them. That way, you won’t have to worry so much about whether or not I’m okay. And you’ll always know how our baby is.” Alice smiled widely.
“I like the sound of that,” Alice said simply, summoning over two steaming cups of hot cocoa and curling up with her surprisingly romantic husband.
“Sirius quit fidgeting,” Maggie hissed, before rapping her knuckles lightly on the door before them. Sirius ran a finger along his collar one last time.
“I can’t help it,” Sirius retorted. “I feel like I’m meeting your parents, only it’s a professor who has known me for years and knows almost everything about me. Which is hardly less intimidating.” Maggie rolled her eyes.
“You are ridiculous Sirius,” she sighed. Sirius half-smirked and pecked her on the cheek.
“But you love me,” Sirius said cheekily. Maggie sighed again, this time biting back a smile.
“No idea why,” she said under her breath, glancing at him as the door swung open. “Happy Christmas Aunt Minnie!” The two women hugged briefly, pulling away as Sirius paled slightly.
“Happy Christmas, er… Professor,” Sirius said nervously, holding out a hand. Minerva laughed and shook it, more to humor him than anything else.
“Sirius, you’re no longer my student,” she said kindly. “You can call me Minerva now.” Sirius only nodded curtly, following the two into the small town home.
“Anything yet?” Maggie asked coyly, hanging up her coat and pointedly avoiding her aunt’s gaze. Sirius frowned in confusion, but didn’t say anything. Minerva sighed deeply.
“Margaret, you know the answer to that already,” she said sadly, continuing into the kitchen. “It’s been ten years. Why would he make any kind of contact now?” Sirius looked between the two in confusion.
“What’s going on?” he asked suddenly, shocking them both out of their glaring contest. Minerva opened her mouth to speak, but Maggie beat her to it.
“My mum died when I was born, so my dad raised me on his own, with Aunt Minnie’s help,” Maggie explained quickly. “My dad was doing a lot of dangerous work putting away Death Eaters when I was younger, and when I was eight, he began receiving threats. Our house was even set on fire.” Minerva shuddered noticeably at this, but she did not interrupt her niece.
“So, to keep me safe, my dad left me here with Aunt Minnie, and said he was going to have to disappear for a while. And once he knew it was safe to contact me, he would send just a blank piece of parchment on Christmas. Now that Voldemort’s gone, I expect we’ll hear from him.” Minerva shook her head in frustration and retreated to the teapot sitting on the stove, pouring the three of them cups. Maggie rolled her eyes.
“Aunt Minnie is not particularly hopeful that her baby brother will be returning,” Maggie said harshly. “I am though. But enough of that. Let’s eat.”
They were interrupted by a sudden tapping on the window. All three heads in the room whipped in that direction, only to see a regal looking grey owl tapping its beak against the glass. Minerva’s eyes widened considerably, in both surprise and shock, as she moved to the window quickly and snapped it open, letting in a cool wind. She took the letter from the owl with shaking hands, and closed the window once more, meanwhile reading the addressee stated on the parchment. She frowned.
“Sirius,” Minerva started, looking over to him, “it’s addressed to you.” The two women looked at him oddly, as he stepped forward and took the letter in his hands. He could feel his chest tighten. Had James woken up? Had he let go? It was neither, as Sirius recognized the handwriting instantly, though it belonged to someone he had not expected. He slid his finger beneath the emerald wax seal, releasing it from the parchment, and opened the letter.
I know it has been a long time, and that I do not deserve a minute of your time. But, I found it necessary to contact you this Christmas day. You see, I have left home. I have left school. I have left the Death Eaters. I’m on the run at the moment, doing things that I am unable to describe in a letter that could easily be intercepted. I needed you to know that there’s nothing I want more than reconciliation with you, though after all these years I can understand why you would refuse one. I just needed you to know that I was always with you brother, I was always in the light with you, as unclear as that may have seemed in the past. I wish you a happy Christmas, and hope you stay well and safe.
The letter was not signed. The look on Sirius’ face must’ve been one of shock, of confusion, of hurt, of anger, because Maggie took a concerned step forward and placed a comforting hand on his.
“Who is it from Sirius?” she asked tentatively. Sirius swallowed thickly and met her troubled gazed.
“Regulus,” he said hoarsely, looking back down at the letter in his hands. The brother he never wanted, but all the same, needed so desperately. Especially with James gone.
“MUMMY!!!!” Charlie roared, running into the dining room of the burrow, his face the same color of his hair with tears streaming down his cheeks. Molly sighed deeply.
“Oh goodness,” she said under her breath, giving the adults at the table an apologetic look before turning to her second eldest son. “What’s wrong dear?” Charlie hiccupped while attempting to speak.
“Percy took daddy’s wand when he wasn’t looking and scorched my arm,” he wailed. Molly shook her head with yet another sigh and handed Charlie his stuffed dragon before stalking off to find her other boys, shouting Arthur’s name on top of it all. Fabian and Gideon burst into stifled laughs, glancing over at their twin nephews both staring at them with interest through the bars of their playpen. Mary smacked the older two of the four on their arms before pulling her tea closer to her.
“You two are thick you know that?” she said with a light chuckle. “She’s under a great deal of stress at the moment, with five boys, a brother getting married and so on. Not to mention the party tonight at the Leaky Cauldron.” Fabian rested his chin in his hand and looked at the other two.
“Whose idea was it to have a combined party anyway?” he asked curiously. “What happened to separate bachelor and bachelorette parties?” Mary shrugged and Gideon chuckled.
“What would be the point brother?” Gideon said simply. “We’re all friends. Might as well all celebrate together.” Fabian nodded.
“Good point, good point,” he agreed. Mary frowned suddenly.
“Have either of you heard from Lily today?” she asked, seemingly out of the blue. “I almost forgot that I wrote her yesterday, inviting her to come to my parents’ with me, but I never got a response.” The other two shrugged. “I just feel awful that she’s alone today you know? First holiday without her parents. And James of course.” Gideon nodded and grasped her hand tightly.
“Why don’t you stop by her flat before you go?” he suggested quietly. “Check in on her love. It’ll make you feel better.” Mary nodded with a small smile.
“Why are you so wonderful?” she asked her soon-to-be husband. Fabian made a retching noise as the two kissed quickly, earning him a glare from both of them.
“Sorry, sorry,” Fabian said sarcastically, closing his eyes and raising his hands in surrender. “Note to self: get used to constant PDA from twin and future sister-in-law.” Mary shook her head, rolling her eyes as Gideon laughed loudly at this. She stood quickly and gave him a peck on the forehead.
“I’m going to head to mum and dad’s,” she said with a smile, grabbing her coat. “I’ll check up on Lily first. Try and convince her to come with me.” She sighed deeply and giggled as Gideon stood to give her a large warm hug.
“See you at the Leaky Cauldron love,” Gideon whispered before she kissed him one last time and disapparated from the burrow, and to Lily’s flat. But, she would not find her there, as she was long gone to a little muggle town called Little Whinging.
Why does every house look the same? Honestly, you’d think people could be a bit more creative.
Lily made her way down the small street called Privet Drive, reading each house number, counting down. 10. 8. 6. And finally 4. The house was small, quaint. The yard was covered in a foot of snow. The walkway was expertly cleared. Lily gulped fearfully and swung open the small gate leading into the yard. She took ten long strides before she reached the front door.
It had been months upon months since she had seen her sister. But in this time of loneliness, this time without her family, without James, Lily had never needed her sister more. She hesitated in this thought, before knocking on the door lightly, silently praying that her brother-in-law wasn’t the one to answer the door. Today must’ve been her lucky day.
“I’ve got it Vernon darling,” Petunia called in a falsely cheery voice as she pulled open the door, still looking back into the house, not facing the woman before her just yet. Lily could tell something was wrong with her older sister, just by the tone of her voice, even after all the time they grew apart. Petunia finally turned and faced her visitor. She froze.
“Tuney?” Lily said quietly, a pleading tone in her voice. It may have been her red rimmed eyes, or the bags beneath them, or the overall state of her, but Petunia’s expression actually softened.
“Who is it Petunia?” Vernon’s harsh voice sounded through the hall. Lily watched Petunia’s internal struggle.
“Tuney please,” Lily pleaded, her eyes watering slightly at the sight of her older sister. Petunia gathered herself suddenly and flickered her glazed over eyes.
“It’s Mrs. Catterpole from down the street dear,” she shouted, reaching to her left and grabbing her coat. “She wants me to come look at her new china. I’ll be back in a bit.” Vernon only grumbled a reply, which was cut off as Petunia snapped the door shut behind her and stepped outside in front of her sister. She led the way down the walkway back out onto the sidewalk. Lily followed her silently, unsure of what to say.
“What brings you to Surrey Lily?” Petunia began, once again in a cheery voice that was so clearly false. Lily looked at her longingly before returning her gaze to the ground, as they strolled down the street.
“Petunia please,” Lily said helplessly. “I miss mum and dad. I miss you.” Petunia snorted angrily and stopped before a bench, sitting haughtily.
“It’s your fault they’re dead Lily,” she hissed, not meeting her gaze. “You and your magic and secret society and school for freaks. You did this to them. If you were just… normal, they would still be alive.” Lily sat beside her and nodded as tears streamed down her face.
“It is my fault,” Lily whispered sadly. Petunia looked at her, surprised at her admission. “I would give up everything. I would go back and not go to Hogwarts. Not be a witch. Not join the Order. Never need to know what Death Eaters are and who Voldemort was. I would do anything if it meant that they would still be alive.”
“I didn’t keep them safe when I should have,” Lily continued, wiping at her eyes furiously. “I have to live with that every bleeding day of my pathetic life Petunia. You don’t need to remind me, because believe me, I am fully aware of how much it is my fault.” Petunia looked at her younger sister, for the first time in eight years, feeling quite sympathetic towards her. She couldn’t help what she was. Who she was. How could she continue to punish her when they were both in so much pain?
“I’m sorry,” Petunia finally said, earning her a shocked look. “Oh don’t look at me like that Lily. I can’t possibly hate you, you’re my only sister. My only family left really.” Lily frowned at this but was interrupted by Petunia’s dismissive hand.
“Marriage is not at all that it’s cracked up to be Lily,” Petunia said simply, looking down at her booted feet. “Vernon is a very demanding man. I can’t work. I can’t have real friends. I just have to stay home all day, waiting for him to come home so I can make him dinner.” Lily put a comforting hand and her sister’s.
“Tuney, if you’re unhappy—” Petunia shook her head roughly.
“I can’t divorce him,” she said quickly. “He’d never allow it.” Lily gripped her hand tightly.
“It’s not his choice, it’s yours,” Lily said reassuringly. “You’d always have a place to stay with me. Don’t you dare stay with him out of fear. You’re far better than that.” Petunia looked to her, a pondering look in her eyes.
“Maybe…” she said quietly, though instantly switching subjects. “What about you Lily? Has that Potter stopped bothering you now that you two are out of school?” Petunia could clearly see the change in Lily’s eyes. They now filled with immense amounts of grief. “Lily what’s wrong?” She shook her head quickly, biting back tears.
“He’s been in a coma for a month,” Lily whimpered. “We were on a mission, and Snape, the bastard, attacked him with this horrible hex. He still hasn’t recovered from it, and… and I don’t know that he will.” Her voice cracked as she spoke, stray tears streaming down her face.
Petunia listened patiently, as her troubled sister recounted the last six months of her life. The pain, the sorrow, and the occasional laughs. The two previously estranged sisters bonded, remembering finally, why they had been so close so many years ago.
Diagon Alley was unusually empty Christmas night. At this current moment in time, only one couple willingly faced the harsh cool winter winds, stepping out of their building and shielding their faces with thick scarves and hoods.
“That has got to be the best Christmas I’ve ever had,” Augustus said suggestively, wrapping his arm around the small-framed woman beside him. She shoved him playfully and rolled her golden eyes, the only thing visible as the rest of her face was covered by a thick black scarf.
“You’re a git you know that?” Dorcas retorted with a chuckle. “But I did have fun.” Augustus laughed.
“Ah-hah!” Augustus exclaimed. “Caught in the act!” Dorcas shook her head with a smile at his nonsense as they walked down the empty Alley in silence for a few minutes.
“You know what I’ve noticed?” Augustus said finally, earning him a curious look from Dorcas. “You’re a bit, unconventional.” Dorcas snorted.
“Gee, thanks,” she said sarcastically. Augustus shook his head.
“I didn’t mean it as an insult,” he said quickly. “I love that about you.” Dorcas stopped as they reached the Leaky Cauldron’s entrance, and turned so she was facing him, crossing her arms.
“And what exactly makes me unconventional Gus?” she asked, lifting down her scarf and taking a step closer to him. “Is it my startling good looks? My charm? My tremendous amounts of talent in the bedroom?” They stared at each other for a good half of a minute before bursting into laughter simultaneously.
“Well yes,” Augustus breathed out between laughs, “spending all of Christmas day laying in bed with you is incredibly enjoyable, it’s more than that.” He finally gathered his breath and looked at her seriously. “You’re unconventional because you’re you. You’re stubborn and high-strung and beautiful, and I love every bit of it.” Dorcas smiled slightly and tilted her head.
“Augustus Rookwood, are you trying to say that you love me?” she asked playfully, shaking her head. Augustus looked up, as though in thought, and leaned down and kissed her.
“Yeah,” he said with a grin, nodding his head and leading Dorcas into the Leaky Cauldron. Dorcas couldn’t erase the shocked look in her eyes and follow him into the bar.
They were met with several hoots and hollers in greeting, and plenty of loud music. Fabian had rented out the entire bar for the night for Mary and Gideon, inviting the entire wedding party, and plenty of friends. It was incredibly lucky that the wedding wouldn’t be until the late afternoon Boxing Day, because the boys were definitely partying hard. Benjy was quite noticeably absent, for obvious reasons.
“SShhhhots all around!!” Fabian slurred out loudly, slamming his hand on the bar repeatedly. He threw his arm drunkenly around his twin’s shoulders as a new song came on.
“We all live in a yellow submarine!” they shouted as they swayed back and forth. “Yellow submarine! Yellow submarine! And our friends are all aboard. Many more of them, live next door!” Mary and several of the women sat at a large table nearby, laughing at the ridiculousness of the men.
“Alice how can you not be drinking? It’s like a bachelorette party, but with guys!” Maggie shouted banging her open hand against the table before her, causing a bit of her red wine to spill over. Alice paled slightly, and glanced over at Frank. He shrugged with a smile. She turned back to Maggie.
“Apparently firewhiskey isn’t good for the baby,” Alice retorted coyly, smiling as she sipped her sparkling water. Dorcas splurted out a bit of her butterbeer as she had just joined the table.
“You’re pregnant?!” she, Mary, and Molly squealed all at once. Alice blushed furiously, slightly in a panic. The room got a bit quiet as Maggie stood up on her chair, drink in hand.
“Oi! Everyone!” she bellowed over the music, which instantly cut out after she spoke. “Phew. That’s much better. I’m pleeeased to announce that a certain lovely couple is expecting a baby! First one since the end of the dreaded war! Get your butt up Alice!”
Alice allowed herself to be pulled up onto the chair, mainly to make sure her drunken friend didn’t topple over. She couldn’t help but blush as most of the guys in the room whistled and patted Frank on the back. He moved towards her quickly and pulled her down from the chair that had been her pedestal, and set her on the ground. He gave her a light peck on the forehead.
“You’re lovely you know,” he whispered in her ear. She smiled widely, but noticed the room had gotten particularly quiet, as a red-headed woman was standing in the doorway, her face pale. Mary got up quickly and gave her a tight hug.
“Happy Christmas Lily, how are you?” Mary sputtered out quickly, hoping to divert attention away from the somber looking redhead. Lily was still looking over her shoulder, glassy eyed, at the happy couple. Why won’t this pain stop? She swallowed thickly and pasted a small smile across her lips.
“I’m good,” she said quietly before adding, “really.” Mary’s face still showed a bit of doubt, but Lily waved it away. “I was just stopping in for a bit before heading to St. Mu—.. my flat, I mean, for the evening.” Mary nodded understandingly, not retorting her clear fib.
“I’ll see you first thing in the morning to help set up everything,” Lily reassured. “Don’t you worry about a thing alright? I have everything handled.” Mary nodded again and gave her friend one last hug before she left quickly.
“Everything alright love?” a voice whispered in her ear, just as two arms twined themselves around her. Mary sighed deeply before turning around to face the mysterious man.
“Will be when I marry you,” she said with a wide smile, looking into the drunkenly glazed over eyes of her almost husband.
She reappeared in the lobby of St. Mungo’s, startling the receptionist greatly, before heading for the lift. Every single day that she took this journey, seemed longer and longer. She was so terrified that one day, in the distant future, she would give up. Stop visiting him. Her greatest fear was losing him. The last person she seemed to think she had left.
Every step would become heavier than the first. Every breath would be harder to take. Nothing was ever the same since James had made his sacrifice.
Lily slid open the doors to his private ward, and moved slowly over to his bedside. She took her usual seat and sighed deeply.
“I saw Petunia today,” Lily whispered, taking in the upsetting look of James’ state. He appeared more withdrawn every day. The thought alone was enough to spring fresh tears to her eyes.
“I just… I was just sitting there in our flat, and there was a knock at the door,” Lily said hastily, her bottom lip trembling threateningly. “And this man was just there to drop off your suit. I don’t know what happened, I just lost it. And I apparated to the only person who I thought I could talk to at that moment.” She sighed again, looking to her lap.
“I don’t know if I’ll be able to see you tomorrow,” Lily continued quietly. “Because of the wedding and all. I promise I’ll try to visit after though. I really do promise.” She looked back up to him hopefully, as she did nearly everytime she visited, hoping he would stir. Laugh. Sit up and tell her it was just another prank of his. But she knew he wouldn’t. And she knew it wasn’t.
“I should probably go…” she said, wiping at her eyes. “But I want you to know… I love you James Potter. You and your pranks and your Quidditch obsession and your terrible taste in furniture. I love your stupid smirk and your ridiculously messy hair.” She swallowed thickly and continued. This was as good as her goodbye.
“I wanted you to know that I love you, and should have told you every day for the past year. I should’ve told you the day this happened, but I didn’t.” She chuckled bitterly at the memory of his words. “And I will spend every day of the rest of my pathetic life telling you so, proving it to you, making it up to you.” As expected, he still did not stir.
“I just needed you to know, in case something happens, that I really do love you,” she said, standing to leave. “And I would’ve married you yesterday if I’d had the chance.” Lily gave him one last kiss on the forehead before leaving almost as quickly as she had come.
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