Chapter 16 : Christmas
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James glanced around the graveyard. As well as his grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, there was the Scamander and Longbottom families, Hayley’s parents, grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins, Hagrid, a few people he vaguely recognised as Harry’s old friends from Hogwarts and a man who said he was called Dudley and James realised he was his father’s muggle cousin. Dudley brought with him a wife, but no children and James remembered his father telling him that Dudley’s parents had passed away. To say it was a sad day would be an understatement, more than that a dishonour. James had never left so angry and helpless in his life.
Lily shifted beside him and James glanced down at his little sister. She hadn’t left his side since the incident. James had moved back into his old room at the Potters’ house and Lily crawled into bed with him at night, sobbing endlessly about how much she missed her dad; she had regressed into a scared little girl that needed her father. But that was understandable and any animosity that had existed between Lily and Rose had vanished, as the news had shell-shocked the whole clan. His mother had been quiet, unnervingly so and James knew she’d been broken by the news. As much as she never showed much outward emotion towards the death of her husband, she was clearly torn up inside and her quiet, reclusive attitude towards everyone was barely chipped by anyone. As much as her family tried their best to help her, it was clear that they too, could not quite grasp the gravity of the situation. The worst hit of anyone apart from possibly Lily was Ron, who was beside himself, completely ripped to his core by the events at the Ministry.
What had actually happened had quickly became apparent as it transpired that Malfoy, still harbouring the grudge that he had his entire life, had been driven to insanity in his years in Azkaban and had sworn that he would once and for all, kill Harry Potter. The fact that the first thing he had done having been released was to kill Harry was largely down to the fact that the Ministry guards thought Malfoy was going to thank Harry for helping him see the light of day again. Instead, he had Avada Kedavra’d Harry, stunned Ron and escaped quietly, nobody realising what had happened until Ron came to and shouted for help. By then, Malfoy had gone and the alarming collapse in security had sparked internal investigations within the Ministry. But the fact remained that Malfoy had killed Harry and escaped.
Ron refused to forgive himself for what had happened and even Hermione could not bring him out of the subsequent drunken stupor he drank himself into. James had had words with him, as had George and as a result, he had remained sober for the funeral, but he had been gingerly admiring a bottle of firewhiskey beforehand, unaware that James had replaced it with water.
As much as everyone around him was in shock and pain, James himself found he was surprisingly numb, save for an all-encompassing anger that filled his veins and kept him standing upright, with his sister clinging to him. James felt a cool hand on his shoulder and he glanced back to see Hayley standing behind him, a sad smile on her face. He hadn’t seen much of her since it had happened, with Lily and his mum seemingly taking all his time and only now, with his father being levitated into his grave and her by his side, did James finally feel the raw shreds of emotion. Pain tore through him like an animal and as he sobbed, Hayley rested herself against him, giving him strength he never knew he had. It looked for all the world like his dad was finally going to be laid to rest when there was a faint crack behind James that he immediately associated with apparation. James turned and his anger found new torrents as Scorpius Malfoy strolled over, with James’ own brother a few paces behind, looking as sombre as anyone else.
“Hold her,” James whispered to Hayley, edging Lily towards her before storming over to where the two were approaching. “What the fuck are you doing here? Malfoy?” he growled, spitting the final word like it was poison.
“I invited him here,” Albus said quietly. “I want him here while I mourn our father.”
“You want him here?” James’ voice was intangible, the ferocity and contempt in it shocking Albus. “Well tough shit Al. You don’t get to make today about you. Now fuck off Malfoy.”
Scorpius stood between the two brothers, their voices, though hushed attracting attention. Rose was already moving towards them as James clenched his fists, seemingly ready to explode.
“What are you going to do Potter?” Malfoy smirked, his voice oozing contempt to match James’ and as Rose broke into a light run and more heads turned their way, James pulled back his arm and punched Malfoy with all his might, all his Quidditch muscle exploding into Malfoy’s cheek, sending the young blonde flying backwards. Albus stepped forward furiously and James had no time to react before Al had his wand pointed at James’ chest, only for it to go whizzing out of his hand as Rose disarmed him. More heads turned as James stepped back, grabbed Albus and shoved him backwards, so he tumbled over Scorpius. Rose rushed to James’ side and Albus stumbled to his feet.
“Why are you doing this James? Rose?” he hissed. “I have as much right to be here as you.”
“You brought Malfoy to your dad’s funeral?” Rose whispered frantically. “Do even give a shit about anyone except yourself Al? Do you think about what impact your actions have on others?”
“If I want Scorp here, then you have no right to say he shouldn’t be,” Al growled defiantly as behind him, Scorpius was also getting to his feet. He had never seen his brother so angry, James looked as though he was going to blow his top and only soothing words from Hayley, who was entering the scene stopped him from reaching for his wand. Lily looked at Albus and shook her head, more tears descending as she grabbed James and buried her head in his jacket. James found his composure and Rose stepped forward, past the siblings so she was less than a few inches from Al’s face.
“Albus Severus Potter,” she said quietly. “You got expelled from Hogwarts, ran away from home without so much as a word, ignored your family for two whole years, gallivanting off on some round the world tour with Scorpius and now you just turn up at your dad’s funeral, a family event, with the son of the man who murdered him without so much an apology or a thought and not only want but expect us to welcome you back with open arms. Who the fuck do you think you are, you arrogant, self-absorbed, ignorant little shit? I suggest if you have so much as a shred of decency left that you leave right now.”
“Cool it Weasley,” Malfoy snapped at her.
“Malfoy, fuck off, or I will really make you regret the day you made friends with my cousin,” Rose swore, her voice low and dangerous.
“Come on Al,” Malfoy shook his head and grabbed Al’s arm as the raven-haired boy glared at her with contempt.
“What the fuck happened to him?” Rose asked James quietly, trying to avoid her own tears as James watched the two disapparate.
“Malfoy happened to him,” James spat, as Hayley and Rose put their hands on each of his shoulders and Lily clung to him. He glanced across at his mother, who hadn’t taken her eyes of her husband’s corpse as it descended and as it finally settled, she burst into an uncontrollable wail that filled the air and sent another pang of uncontrollable pain through James’ heart…
Christmas had never felt less Christmassy. Ginny hadn’t spoken to anyone since she’d returned from the funeral and Lily had only stopped sobbing around half an hour before midnight. James watched as the clock hit midnight, signalling Christmas Day. Hayley was lying across him, the two having put Lily to sleep with a sleeping potion and hoping she didn’t wake up. Ginny had long since gone to bed. The fire was crackling gently and James absent-mindedly toyed with Hayley’s hair, still staring at the clock as the minutes ticked on. She didn’t say anything; there was nothing that could be said, nothing that needed to be said. There was a knock at the door and James didn’t want to move. He couldn’t believe that on Christmas morning, at this time, someone was knocking on his front door.
“James!” Albus said as he walked through the door and James’ head snapped round, his eyes narrowing on his brother. “I didn’t come here to argue with you.”
“Is Malfoy with you?”
“Scorpius is with his mother. He owes her an apology for leaving her. As I owe you one. You and Lily and mum. I should never have gone when I did, how I did. I’m sorry I was a shit brother to you James but I want to make it up to all of you. Starting now. I found Malfoy.”
“You what?” James hissed. “How? Where?”
“Scorpius mentioned somewhere his dad used to take him when he was a kid. He called it their secret. I went to check it out and sure enough, he’s camped there. We can go and get him, you and me.”
“Teddy,” James said as Hayley opened her mouth to say something. “Go and get Teddy. I’ll find Uncle Ron. We’re not doing this on our own. Don’t try and stop me Hayls,” he added, looking at her.
“I couldn’t if I wanted to,” she replied quietly with a look of understanding. “This is something you have to do James, just make sure that you don’t lose who you are chasing him. And stay safe. I love you.”
Within a matter of minutes, Albus, James, Teddy and Ron were all skulking in the woods nearby where Malfoy had made camp. It was an old, abandoned house not too far from Malfoy Manor, but far enough away that it attracted no attention. Albus had apparated them all there after they had met at the Potters’ house. They all had wands and no real plan. If they were all honest, none of them were thinking straight, overcome by anger and their only thoughts were of Malfoy and revenge. James stepped out of the shadows first, with Scorpius and Teddy flanking him, Ron behind. Ron quickly took the lead, his Auror experience kicking in as he ushered Albus behind him and he and Teddy edged closer to James. They could now hear the crackling of Malfoy’s fire and James whipped on the invisibility cloak he had silently pinched out of Lily’s room when she wasn’t looking. In truth, he missed it, but he would never use it during Quidditch and Lily’s needs were greater than his. James crept out into the clearing where Malfoy was perched, invisible to the naked eye as he approached, hardly daring to breathe, his wand raised. Malfoy’s wand lay beside him and he was lying facing upwards, staring at the stars. James got as close as he could, then in a single, swerving motion, he kicked away Malfoy’s wand, roaring “Incarcerous!”
Malfoy had time to cry before he was bound by thick ropes that held him in place, as Albus, Ron and Teddy jumped out of hiding into the clearing. Malfoy’s eyes widened and he struggled fiercely, but the ropes held him in place as all four descended on him.
“We should kill the bastard for what he’s done!” Albus whispered, glancing at Teddy and Ron briefly before turning to James.
“We should.” James couldn’t believe the words coming out of his mouth.
“We have to,” Teddy murmured.
“What?” Albus looked shocked and James turned to look at his Uncle Ron, who, for the first time since his best mate’s death, looked almost normal. Ron stood back and looked at the sky, sighing and gulping in fresh air.
“We can’t kill Malfoy, that would make us just as bad as him,” Ron said, sounding like himself again. “Harry wouldn’t want us to. He’d never let us kill Malfoy. Whatever happened. We saved his life twice during the Battle of Hogwarts even after he tried to kill us. He wouldn’t be okay with this. We have to take him in.”
James nodded, grabbing Malfoy as the other three all touched him and they were about to disapparate when Teddy gasped and James looked up, only for his own jaw to drop. Albus swore as his body changed. Because he wasn’t really Albus. As the remnants of his polyjuice potion wore off, it became clear that who they had thought was Albus was in fact Scorpius Malfoy, who as soon as the potion wore off, let go of his father, who looked pleadingly and shocked at his son, who had just been in favour of killing him.
“Sorry dad,” Scorpius whispered, before disapparating.
“So it’s really a good news, bad news situation,” Josh muttered as he, James and Fred sat in the Leaky Cauldron, sipping butterbeers on Christmas morning. “Good news: Malfoy’s back in Azkaban. Bad news: Al’s still an unbelievable prick and Scorpius only did it to show he wasn’t his father.”
“Pretty much,” James sighed. “Rose tried speaking to Al again, but he’s refusing to change his stance on the whole thing and he and Scorp are back off travelling tomorrow. At least he had the decency to let us know this time.”
“Yeah,” Fred agreed. “You’re better off without him James: you, your mum and Lily. He’s been nothing but trouble ever since he became friends with Malfoy. If he’s willing to put you all through hell and not even care, then let him fuck off. Anyway, are you meeting Ciara today Josh?”
“Yep,” Josh sounded smug. “I’m meeting her for lunch in about 20 minutes; before she heads off to see her family. We’re going well by the way Fred; you might owe me those 20 galleons sooner than you think. What are you two doing today?”
“I’d better get back to Lily and mum,” James muttered. “They’re both struggling, as you’d expect. Hayley will be over later, maybe see Teddy and Victoire unless they want to spend their first married Christmas alone.”
“And I’ve not got much on,” Fred replied. “Just family and crap; Roxy’s probably going to invite that twerp Jake over. No offence to Hayley but I don’t like her brother.”
“Because he helped Roxy prank you,” James pointed out, shaking his head. “I’d better be off. Later lads. Cheers Mrs Longbottom, tell Prof Nev I said hi.”
“For the last time James Potter, it’s Hannah!” Hannah called after him as he stuck a hand in the air and disapparated. “Another round boys?”
“No thanks,” Fred turned her down. “I guess I’d better get home. See you later Josh, have fun with Ciara.”
Fred disapparated to outside the Cauldron then squatted in a dark alley and waited. As he had expected, Josh wasn’t going to apparate to his date of Ciara, but instead, he strolled out the pub and headed off down the street. No doubt the restaurant was within walking distance. Fred didn’t even magic to follow Josh without being spotted, the busy London streets did that for him. Fred had taken to keeping an eye on Josh and Ciara whenever he could, desperate for anything that could give him an edge in their competition. So far, all he had gathered was that they weren’t shagging, but that was evidently still down to her crush on the mysterious bloke she wouldn’t say anything about. This particular date was as uneventful as most, ending with a reluctant peck on the cheek and Josh said something, then followed her out.
“I’m sorry Ciara,” he said, as Fred dived for cover. “But I just need to know. Is there any sort of future here for us? Are we going anywhere? Because I’ve been getting mixed signals off you. I like you, but every time I try to move forwards, you make sure you take a step back. Can you be straight with me?”
“Josh,” Ciara said quietly, stepping into him. “I like you, I do. But as much as I want to take things another step, I just can’t let myself. The truth is I like someone else. But there’s nothing I can do about it because they’re with something else. And I want to move on with my life, because I hate being hung up on them when there’s never to be any gain from it, so I’m trying to be with you. But at the moment, I can’t. And I’m saying this because I like you.”
“Who?” Josh’s voice was cold and he looked despondent.
“Josh, I’m really sorry…” Ciara was saying.
“Who is it?”
“Josh, it’s James.”
A/N: Sorry for those of you out there who were hoping for a miracle, Harry really is dead and buried. So what did we all think of Albus' return and the person he has now become? And what of that reveal from Ciara? Leave me a review and let me know :)
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