Chapter 1 : Last Christmas
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A cry from the other room alerted Andromeda to the fact that Teddy had woken up from his afternoon nap. She put down the photo, hurried into his room and scooped him up into her arms. The dull brown of his hair from when he was sleeping had turned into it's usual bright blue as his round eyes caught sight of his grandma. He hardly ever fussed and was such a good sleeper, which is exactly what Dora had done as a baby.
Andromeda remembered with a slight smile how Remus and Dora had always argued over who the baby resembled more. Andromeda had always been in favor of Remus, saying that Teddy could have been his twin, but as time went on, her opinion changed. It was almost as if Teddy had an equal amount of both his parents in him; every time she saw him, she was reminded of them both. Doras round face, small nose and ever-changing appearance mingled with Remus' great smile and brown eyes made for a beautiful little boy.
She knew that the first Christmas of her new life would be nothing like the last one, but she was ready to face it. Although she missed her husband, daughter, and son-in-law with all her heart, the world was still spinning and she knew that sitting around the house solemnly would do her no good. Dora would want her to enjoy her life, live it to the fullest every day, just like she had done when she was alive.
Sure, this Christmas would be different, but perhaps not as badly as she had first imagined it to be. So Andromeda got ready as well, preparing herself both physically and mentally for a big step of recovery in her new life.
Ginny giggled for what felt like the hundredth time as Harry slipped and fell yet again onto the cold ice beneath them. She skated gracefully over to him and pulled him to his feet, still smiling.
You really need to start practicing more if you want to be able to keep up with me," Ginny grinned mischievously.
"Well, to be fair, you've been practicing for a lot longer than I have," Harry said, rubbing his sore elbow that he had fallen back on. This was true, Ginny thought to herself. She had been coming to skate on this pond for years, sometimes with her brothers, sometimes on her own. It was hidden in the trees behind the Burrow and had become her place to think whenever she needed to get away from the world. It was Christmas Eve, and she had decided today that she would share her favorite winter escape with the boy she had loved for many years.
They had been forced to spend last christmas apart due to the fact that Harry had been out hunting horcruxes with Hermione and Ron, but this year she was making sure that their first Christmas as a couple was a memorable one.
"What are you thinking?" Harry asked her, tucking a loose strand of red hair behind her cold ear.
"I was just remembering last year, how we spent the holidays apart, how worried I was about you... "
"Ginny Weasley," Harry said solemnly, "I promise that we will never spend another Christmas apart ever again."
She smiled and kissed him softly, "Sounds good to me." He took her hand and the two began skating around again.
"Do you think this Christmas is going to be hard to get through? I mean, so much has changed..." she asked. Harry seemed to seriously ponder the question before replying.
"Maybe, maybe not. I know that everyone misses Tonks, Lupin and Fred but at the same time, we all still have each other, and I think that will get us through, just like it has since the war."
She smiled up at him, "Very true."
"Do you think we should be getting back soon?" he asked. The sun was already setting in the afternoon light and Mrs. Weasley would probably be looking for them soon.
"Sure," she smiled. They kicked off their skates and began trekking back to the Burrow, hand in hand.
"So...do you think that everyone will be okay tonight? Even George?" Ginny asked again.
"I think so," Harry replied. "We are all here to help and even if he doesn't want to talk to us, he has Kayla; I know she will take care of him. We all have each other to lean on if things get tough, and that should be enough to keep us going. I think we are all going to be fine."
She knew that Harry wasn't talking about only Christmas, but all the times that would follow it. The pain that death had left was still fresh in them all, but being together on Christmas gave Ginny hope, hope that things would start looking up. She held tight to Harry's arm as the Burrow came into view and smiled to herself; yes, tonight would turn out alright.
Draco sat on the cold floor of his bedroom, staring out at the snow falling softly onto his family's large estate; his mind was reeling over how much things had changed over the years. Normally he wasn't one for reminiscing, but the Christmas following the biggest war of the century had provoked many thoughts in his troubled mind.
He couldn't believe that it had been a mere seven years since he had first been enrolled into Hogwarts, becoming a proud Slytherin and thinking he owned the world.
Oh, how much things had changed since those arrogant, carefree days.
When he was young, Draco had received anything and everything that he ever wanted; being the only son of two proud, rich pure bloods had certainly had its perks. But slowly, over many years, things got worse, turned darker, forcing Draco to grow up faster than anyone should have to.
It was incredible to him that things could change so much in one year. Last Christmas, he had been living fearfully with Voldemort and his Death Eaters, not to mention three prisoners. Something as non-essential as a Muggle holiday had of course been overlooked by Voldemort, and Draco had found himself craving the safety and security of Hogwarts, with it's twelve large, decorated trees and Peeves wreaking plenty of Christmas havoc. Now, this year, he sat alone in his bedroom on Christmas Eve, his father and mother out desperately searching for work, but Draco knew that their efforts would be fruitless. After all, who would hire two of Voldemort's main supporters? Draco knew how unwilling they had been to follow him after a certain point but were given no choice; of course, no one else knew that and certainly wouldn't believe the Malfoys if they tried to explain it.
So there Draco sat on Christmas Eve, alone, wondering how his situation could have changed so drastically in eight years and desperately craving the days when he hadn't had a care in the world.
He honestly didn't know how this had come to happen, considering that these memories were often painful to recollect. Every time a picture of Fred came up, the group would laugh a little tearfully or smile fondly, remembering their brother, son or friend who was now gone. Ron admittedly almost got teary eyes himself when the picture of the twins holding their new brooms at age ten came up.
He was beginning to wonder why they were doing this in the first place; perhaps it was because everyone needed to remember a little bit of the peaceful past to help them get through this Christmas, which was so different from all the ones before it.
Ginny and Harry came through the door at that moment, cheeks rosy red from the cold but identical happy smiles on both of their faces.
"'Zey are so in love," Ron heard Fleur whisper to Kayla; he attempted not to gag over this being said about his sister and best friend. Harry and Ginny joined in on the reminiscing as the smell of potatoes and ham filled the house, thanks to his mother's great cooking. Ginny was fondly recalling a memory of the twins taking her around on their brooms as a child when George suddenly pushed away from the table with a loud screech of his chair. He hurried upstairs and was gone within seconds, leaving the room in an awkward silence. Mrs. Weasley made to follow her son but Kayla politely interrupted the woman who had become like a mother to her.
"I'll talk to him," she said before ascending the staircase after him. The group dispersed after that, the open photo album laying forgotten on the table. Ron, though worried about George, still had something big on his mind; he had been dating Hermione for more than half a year now and truly believed he loved her, but had no idea how to tell her. She had helped him get through the pain of losing his brother and had been there for him as long as he could remember; he was more happy with her than he had ever been in his life. How was he supposed to tell her that?
Just then, one of Mrs. Weasely's favourite Christmas songs by none other than Celestina Warbeck began playing on the WWN, causing much excitement. Arthur pulled his wife away from her cooking, swinging her in a circle before pulling her close and swaying slowly to the music. It was the first time Ron had seen both of his parents look this content since the war; they weren't stressed or worried, just enjoying the moment.
Bill immediately jumped up from the couch and pulled his wife into a dance as well. Somehow, even though she was around six months pregnant with quite a large belly, Fleur still managed to look graceful as she danced slowly with Bill. Soon enough, Harry and Ginny joined in as well, making Ron feel a little pressured. He had never been one for dancing but for some reason, when Hermione looked up at him with her gorgeous, questioning brown eyes, the need to dance with her was immediate and overwhelming.
He took her hand and led her into the living room to join the other dancing couples. They began swaying slowly on the spot, Hermione laying her head on his chest as they moved. Celestina was leading the song into it's last chorus when Hermione locked her eyes with Ron's and spoke to him softly.
"I'm really glad we get to spend this Christmas together," she smiled. "I missed you last year."
"I missed you too," he whispered. Suddenly, he couldn't hold the words back any longer as he stared down upon his beautiful, loving girlfriend; he had envisioned so many better ways of saying this, but the time just seemed too right. He bent lower so that his mouth was beside her ear and whispered so that only she could hear, "I love you Hermione."
"I love you too Ron." She placed her palm against his cheek and kissed him deeply.
The song ended and the two stopped swaying but still held each other in their arms, unable to break eye contact. Ron looked down at Hermione with a smile, truly believing that they would never have to spend another Christmas apart again.
He retreated to the upstairs bathroom, sitting on the edge of the bathtub and holding his head in his hands.
How would he be able to get through this? Everywhere he looked, he saw things that reminded him of Christmases spent with Fred. The homemade ornaments that hung on the tree and the cards made by the twins that stood on the hearth caused a small heartache every time George laid eyes on them. There were certain things lacking too, including the twins' annual search for the hiding place bearing their presents.
All of these things seemed to come crashing down on George as he sat alone in the bathroom, hot tears making long tracks down his face as he silently cried out his pain, feeling helplessly alone.
Once the tears had stopped, he rose to go to his room when he caught sight of his reflection in the mirror, something he had avoided doing for the past six months. For the briefest of seconds, George would see Fred staring back, but then his mind would register that the sad face with the red, swollen eyes looking back at him wasn't his twin's. He felt a fresh wave of pain wash over him and he clutched onto the sink to hold himself upright, bowing his head in despair.
All of a sudden, though, he wasn't alone. He felt a small hand rest on his arm and when he lifted his head to look in the mirror, Kayla's small figure was standing there beside his. George sniffed and hastily wiped his nose on his sleeve, though Kayla had certainly seen him crying. She didn't speak, just gently took his hand and led him back downstairs. He pulled back in immediate protest, not wanting his family to see him in such a state, but Kayla just shook her head.
"Everyone went outside to greet Andromeda and Teddy. It'll be a few minutes before they're back."
George nodded mechanically and went along with her, allowing himself to be towed to the kitchen and handed a glass of water.
"I know this is hard for you," Kayla said sadly.
George took a sip from his glass and sighed. "I see him everywhere. It's just not the same."
"I know," she stared down at her feet. "I still think I'm seeing him too. I honestly thought this was going to be the worst Christmas I'd ever had."
"How isn't this the worst one yet? Fred is...I mean, he's...our family isn't whole this year." George fought hard to get the words out at all, his throat constantly catching.
"I know that it's hard with him gone, but at the same time, I can't help but be proud of everyone. We've made it through half a year without the people we loved and lost. I'd say we're doing okay." She gave George a sort of half smile, but he wasn't sure how to react.
"How are we okay?" he asked incredulously. "Do I honestly look okay to you?"
Kayla paused for a brief second before answering. "No, you don't," she said truthfully. "But you look a hell of a lot better than you did the night the war ended. You've made it this far George and now it's Christmas, a time to celebrate life! Last Christmas, I didn't believe I would live to see another but here I am. With you. I can't help but feel that things are turning out alright."
George was surprised by the depth and meaning of her words and couldn't help but nod his head in agreement.
"Don't get me wrong," Kayla continued softy. "I miss Fred every day. I wish so badly that he was here right now to celebrate with us, but since he isn't, we just have to keep him with us in spirit."
George nodded again, overcome by Kayla's powerful words. It was obvious that she missed her best friend as much as he did, she just held it together a lot better than he could. Still, he saw a tear escape her eye as she finished what she was saying. He stepped closer and hugged her, trying to comfort her just like she had for him in these past six months.
It was true, life wasn't the same without Fred, but he still had something to live for, people to live with; the sudden revelation came to him that one of the most important people in his life was right here in his arms. He thought back to what Kayla had just said; 'Here I am. With you."
All of a sudden, George experienced a rush of affection that he hadn't felt before through the grief. He had always thought of Kayla as his best friend and sister but lately, she had been so much more to him. She was always a shoulder to cry on, an ear to hear him vent, a rock to steady him when he didn't know if he could stand alone. She had even helped him reopen his shop, something he surely wouldn't have been able to do alone.
He pulled back far enough to see her face and for the first time in months, George live a little. He bent down and gently brushed his lips across hers, giving the first spark he had felt for a long time full control of his actions. She was inevitably quite surprised but when he pulled away, she was smiling.
"What was that about?" she asked shyly.
"It was my way of saying thank you," he said simply. "I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for you." He watched as her cheeks were flushed with red and that little spark flared up inside him again. He had never realized how pretty Kayla really was, with the sandy blond hair and soft brown eyes set into her heart-shaped face. He leaned forward once more, though slower than before.
She nodded and pulled herself up against him, pressing her soft lips to his. George held her tightly, bringing her even closer to him so that there was hardly any space between their bodies. Their kiss was certainly not passionate, love-at-first-sight or anything like that; it was simple, sweet and gentle. The two understood each other and through the pain, they had somehow found a new part of themselves that linked perfectly to the other.
George held Kayla by the waist as he moved back to see her, smiling down at the girl he was seeing in a whole new light. She smiled back, that fierce emotion that he was filled with mirrored in her eyes. A part of him still ached for his brother, but he realized that he was never alone, that he never had been, and that he would never have to be.
Molly had certainly been surprised when she had entered the Burrow with Andromeda to find George and Kayla waiting for them in the kitchen. His red eyes indicated that he had been crying, but the genuine happy smile he bore led Molly to believe that he wasn't upset anymore. She smiled to herself, glad that he was alright, but wondering what Kayla had said to make him so much happier than he had been minutes before.
Once everyone was inside and settled down, she laid out the large and elaborate dinner she had spent all day preparing. It was a tight fit around the dining table but everyone smiled, ate and chatted happily throughout dinner. Molly was keeping a wary eye on her children, hoping that something said wouldn't set them off, but they all appeared to be happy; happier, in fact, than they had been in months. Molly found herself laughing throughout the whole meal, talking animatedly with her husband and Andromeda while watching Teddy play in his high chair.
The general high feelings of Christmas seemed to lift everyone out of their sadness; Molly knew that these good feelings couldn't last forever, but she enjoyed herself as much as was possible without one of her sons.
Once the meal had ended, everyone filed slowly into the living room, squeezing together onto couches and chairs or else sitting on the floor. The stories of Christmases past came up, which Molly had thought were inevitable but was still worried about. Andromeda was talking about how she had spent last year with Nymphadora and Remus, which brought a sad silence over the room. However, when she started recounting the happier nature of the story, everyone lightened up and the floodgates seemed to open. Everyone talked and laughed about funny Christmas memories; Harry mentioned many celebrated in his cupboard with the spiders; Kayla spoke of one where she had ended up in the hospital with a broken arm; Bill told everyone about how he could remember Fred and George almost lighting the tree on fire.
Molly eyed George warily during this, noticing how he squeezed his eyes shut and how his entire frame trembled. She was the only one watching him; it seemed that everyone else was looking anywhere but the spot on the couch where he sat. She searched her mind desperately for something to say to ease the pain when suddenly, his whole demeanor changed. He stared down at his hands, which were were clenched into tight fists, and Molly followed his gaze to where Kayla's hand rested on top of his. The two exchanged a long look; George didn't see his mother staring as he intertwined his fingers with Kayla's before turning his attention back to Bill.
The stories went on well into the night, everyone laughing together in the living room until half of them were as sound asleep as Teddy.
Andromeda excused herself just before midnight, promising to return in the morning, and carried a sleeping Teddy towards the door. Molly's children, all of whom were staying at the Burrow for the duration of the holidays, began waking up and trudging to their rooms while bidding Andromeda sleepy goodbyes. Arthur and Molly walked her to the door, waving goodbye until she had Apparated out of sight.
The two parents were heading back upstairs when they noticed that the living room hadn't emptied yet. Ginny had a finger pressed to her smiling lips as she pointed to the couch. Molly could see that Kayla and George were curled up together under a blanket, both of them fast asleep. Kayla was tucked underneath George's arm and he was holding her close, his head tilted sideways so that it rested on top of hers.
"Since when...?" Arthur said, sounding almost dazed.
"Don't look at me," Ginny grinned. "I have no idea."
Molly just kept smiling, "Do you think they're...together?"
Ginny shrugged. "Maybe. Let's leave them though."
Molly nodded her agreement; George hadn't been sleeping well since the war and Molly felt her son deserved some rest. Feeling at peace for the first time in a long time, her and Arthur walked Ginny to her room, then went into their own. Cuddling under the covers together, Molly felt herself dozing off in her husband's arms. She couldn't remember a time that things had felt so normal since the war. The large Weasley Christmas Dinner had brought a sense of normality that she hadn't felt in a long time and it made her happy to know that maybe the family was finally recovering. She sighed happily and whispered to the man she loved "Merry Christmas."
"Merry Christmas Molly. Here's to many more."