Chapter 8 : Christmas Cracker (Part Two)
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Still day 249
Once we had done all the presents to each other, Mum and Dad headed into the kitchen to start the traditional Christmas breakfast (muffins, which just needed heating but came in the flavours of blueberry, raspberry and white chocolate, milk chocolate chip, or orange and lemon. They were small enough that we could gobble piles of Nana Molly's Christmas dinner later), and us three siblings stayed in the living room to play with our presents.
We didn’t even mind not being able to mess around with our new brooms; James tried to start a mini-argument with me about it not being fair that I got the same broom as him when I didn’t even play quidditch, but I refused to take the bait and just chucked a few of the mini quidditch players at him instead.
We ended up munching the muffins as fast as we could, before throwing on quidditch jerseys and tracksuit trousers before sprinting outside with our brooms. Mum shouted out to us that we had to come in when she called us, though, so we had enough time to get ready.
We didn’t process it. The experience of The Storm-Surfer was too exhilarating to notice anything but the wild adrenaline triggered by the blurring countryside as we wheeled through the sky. I had thought I flew wildly before; I now saw that what I used to do was completely tame compared to this standard of broom!
It seemed like only moments later, Mum was shouting for us and using a weaker version of her ankle-lasso spell, so that we were dragged down out of the sky on our brooms, and not smashed to the ground, in front of her.
We all started to moan and complain, but after Mum pushed a mirror in front of us, we could see exactly why we needed to get ready, and change into more suitable clothes. The phrases ‘wind-tossed’ and ‘dragged through a hedge backwards’ have never been more accurate than when they were being used to describe us right then – we were flushed from the freezing air and painfully biting wind, and I was sure my hair was never going to come out of its humungous knot!
For the next forty minutes, I was alternately wrenching a brush through my hair and laughing at Al and James as Mum forced them to change each new outfit they put on. “How bloody hard is it to put on some jeans and a nice shirt?!” she ended up shouting at them, in between trying to get dressed up nicely too.
They were complaining about this so much, you’d have thought that Mum was telling them to snap their new Storm-Surfers. I, on the other hand, was being forced into a horrendous dress; I suppose that the colour and cut were ok (dark green and non-frilly, thank goodness) but it was all silky.
I couldn’t believe Mum at first, but when she told me to wear leggings underneath it with a straight face, I had to face the facts that she wasn’t joking. Not that I went and put it on without a long and annoyed rant, but it didn’t make a difference to Mum. She said that I had to look nice on this one day of the year, at least. I huffed, but then Dad beamed and said I looked gorgeous, and I didn’t want to disappoint him by kicking up more of a fuss.
I’m a Daddy’s Girl and proud!
After that, we grabbed our brooms – not asking permission, but James was sure it would be fine – and flooed to The Burrow to meet everyone. We didn’t even get stuck in it because other clan members were coming through, which is what has happened for several Christmases now.
Christmas Day at the Burrow was more mad and lovely than anyone could have dreamed of. With lots of the women and some of the men in the kitchen, all of the kids running around everywhere, and absolutely everyone feeling squashed but loved, it was the best Christmas experience anyone could have.
However, Dad always said that it did also show Nana Molly that she was right to stop all of her children and grandchildren actually staying for the holidays, since she cancelled it the year Al and Rose were born. “Too much trouble and crying for this old girl,” she had pronounced, affectionately gazing around the Burrow. (Well, according to the adults. I obviously wasn’t there.)
Mum always said she was a saint for keeping the old tradition of ‘everyone pile in!’ going for as long as she did. But then, everyone always said Nana Molly was a saint raising all the kids that she did!
Immediately upon our arrival, Aunts Audrey and Angelina, Uncle Ron, Fred, Rose, and Hugo all leapt upon us with shouts of “Merry Christmas!” and “You’re late!” and “Oi, come over here!” and “Get peeling, NOW.”
I quickly disappeared with Hugo to go upstairs, though Mum tried to shout to us to come back and help in the kitchen. Yeah, like we’d actually do that – if she even managed to get one of us in there, we’d peel potatoes and moan for ten minutes, get reprimanded for doing it the wrong way, and an aunt would just take over. It kept everyone happier to just do it by magic.
“Hey, have you thought any more about what we should do to the Finnigans?” I asked a little breathlessly as we shoved into Mum’s old room. Hugo rolled his eyes, and made a grab for my broom that I was holding away from him. I didn’t want to go into that right now.
At the Christmas Eve party we had held with the Weasley-Grangers the night before, I had pulled Hugo into a corner and explained the situation to him.
“Hughie, you know how the woods haven’t felt right for a while? Well, I’ve found out why.”
His eyes went wide, the worrisome news forcing him to disregard my use of the much-hated nickname. “What’s happened?”
“Well, I found a hiding place under this tree yesterday, after we got back from the train station. I ended up poking around, and I can confirm: the Finnigans are creating their own secret stock of supplies for Hogwarts! And… I think they’re inventing stuff too. They had an experiment going on down there!” I announced impressively.
Hugo’s eyes widened then narrowed to dangerous slits. “What are they doing the experiments on?”
I shrugged. “I’m not sure. It looked like a random pile of junk, but parts of it were changing colour and oozing slime.”
“Are you sure that’s not just rotting fruit?”
“It could be, I s’pose, but I don’t think it is. It felt just as magical as the other parts of our wood.”
“Well then,” Hugo said determinedly, “we need to show them what we do when they invade our wood, don’t we?”
“Yep. But this time, we’re not going to get anyone hurt.”
Now, Hugo sighed. “Lily, it’s Christmas Day. Please can we just have fun for a few hours, and wait til everyone’s snoozing this afternoon before we start planning?”
It sounded reasonable enough; I needed Hugo properly on board before I could do anything, anyway. And I really wanted to show him my Storm-Surfer too…
So I rolled my eyes and held it out in front of me, waiting for Hugo to make a grab for it before dashing back out the door and down the stairs. “Catch me if you can!” I shouted behind me, causing Hugo to curse and stampede after me. We ended up doing several circuits of the entire Burrow, getting in the way of absolutely everybody, before eventually flopping exhaustedly onto the sofa.
Hugo turned his head to look at me questioningly, his face resembling a beetroot, and I just dumped my broom on his legs without saying anything. Hugo immediately started examining it, although he told it to hover above his head so he didn’t have to use his arms. We were both far too out of breath to say anything.
However, that didn’t stop me jumping up with as much enthusiasm as I could muster when Aunt Angelina bellowed, “PRESENT TIME!”
Rose and Al appeared immediately and flopped down on the sofa next to Hugo, and I sat down again beside them, chatting excitedly about what we’d gotten so far. From the rest of the house, a strange rumbling could be heard; all of my huge family was re-appearing from all the rooms they’d stashed themselves in and hurtling (at least, in the case of the younger generation) towards the large sitting room.
Even though the room had expanded a lot over the years, what with all the new family members to squeeze into the Burrow, you still often had to sit on someone else’s lap with somebody else sitting on you. Because I was small, I never had people on top of me and got to squish whomever I felt like.
Today, James was my chosen victim, and I flung myself on top of him with far much more force than was needed. He groaned, poking me in the ribs, but I just poked him back before ignoring him as Nana Molly bustled in, hovering everyone’s presents in front of her.
It was going to be a long and lovely morning.
It was four ‘o’clock and it was starting to get quite dull outside when I dragged Al, Rose and Hugo up from their comfortable positions of lying on the floor and playing with their mini-figures sets that I’d got them.
The presents session had been the same brilliant ritual as usual – long, chaotic, and full of laughter. Absolutely everyone had been given a Weasley jumper from Nana Molly, who eventually owned up to the fact that she had been knitting them all year. She somehow managed to make a different colour for everyone, which I still couldn’t believe; I had no idea there were so many different varieties of wool!
Most of the Hogwarts lot handed out presents of the Honeydukes and Wheezes variety, as per usual, and most of the adults had bought more useful things for their nieces and nephews. The usual, really – but still brilliant and memory-worthy.
Christmas has a funny way of being like that, doesn’t it?
After a break, in which we all excitedly ran around with our new presents (including the adults), Nana Molly announced at about two’o’clock that Christmas lunch was served. As ever, it was the most gorgeous-tasting thing you could wish for. I ate turkey, stuffing, broccoli, roast potatoes, goose, pigs-in-blankets, and everything else that Nana served, until my stomach felt like it might burst.
Fred very nearly was sick with everything he’d eaten, but managed to keep it down by James putting him to sleep with some new trick sweets that Fred himself had bought James.
For a while after lunch, everyone was very quiet. We were all scattered around the room, snoozing in various corners with party hats (courtesy of the crackers) askew wherever I looked. For a while, I played with some of the Wheezes things I’d been given… but it didn’t take long before I was bored.
I couldn’t stop staring at my Storm-Surfer. Everywhere I looked, trying to put it out of mind, I could see the varnished wood glinting away in the corner of my eye… it was so mesmerising and tempting!
In the end, I had run out of excuses to prevent me from rounding everyone up. I didn’t care if it accidentally woke anyone – I wanted a game of Quidditch to test out my broom.
First, it was Hugo, Al and Rose, all of whom were hanging around doing very little. Then we each dispatched to the rest of our cousins, slowly gathering the other twelve (Teddy was with his Gran for Christmas) all together.
However, not everyone was very enthusiastic at being gathered on the patio on a freezing winter’s day. They were all moaning as I tried to shush them, going on about how the sky was all thick and white and they were freezing and wanted to go back to have a sleep.
It really wasn’t very Weasley-ish. I had thought we were meant to be hardy and fun-loving! Yet here we were, the next generation of world-savers, and they were complaining about wanting to have a sleep, on the day of giving.
That really wouldn’t do.
So, catching Hugo’s eye, I swung my leg over my broom and pushed off the ground, swooping into the sky at rocket speed without warning to the others.
Suffice to say that when our enthusiastic game ended hours later, due to darkness and snow – as well as a snowball fight at half-time that Dominique had started – I was more than satisfied with my cousins’ performance.
After all, providing a challenge has always been something Weasleys always take the bait of.
I couldn’t quite believe that I’d ended up coming to the Finnigans’ New Years’ Eve party. Sure, they held them every few years or so, and Hugo and I were meant to be friends with Reagan and Sean and Fergal now… but that didn’t mean that we had forgotten about the intrusion on our woods that I had discovered.
Our policy on that particular sore spot was to keep silent and bring it out as ammunition when they pointed the finger at us for something else. It was Hugo’s idea, and I was getting accustomed to it now, although it had been a little disappointing at the time.
However, I was already glad that I was coming to this party, hosted by enemies or not (well, not enemies – but no longer friends, though they didn’t know it yet).
The Finnigans hadn't skimped on expenses, that much I could say for them. In fact, I couldn't stop my jaw from dropping for a moment when we walked up to the house. Rose leaned over to snap it shut for me, though, so at least none of the offending hosts or hostesses caught sight of me looking gormless.
The simple red-brick farmhouse was bright from the multi-coloured swirling lights inside; the windows were thrown open, even though all the party-goers seemed to be in just as strappy, posh clothing as we had been forced into.
Outside, the hedges and new flutterby bushes had been decorated with fairies that seemed to be having a New Years' party of their own. The little fluttery things didn't seem to mind the loud music pumping from the house; a weird combination of beats occurred as the old Weird Sisters faded into a ballad from the even older Celestina Warbeck.
I could see through the window that most of Godric's Hollow was apparently packed into this relatively small space.
Al and Rose had to tow Hugo and I into the house as we stared incredulously. In fact, I only snapped out of my disbelieving reverie when, upon walking inside the hallway, Fergal and Reagan smiled graciously and asked if they could take our coats.
I smiled a perfect, princess smile and handed Fergal my coat equally graciously, before ignoring them and walking further on in. I wanted to show them that I still held a lot of power, which would maybe make them a little bit worried – petty, I know, but I couldn’t resist, mostly because I felt like I was in debt to them because it was their house I was at for this exceedingly awesome party.
I couldn’t quite believe that they’d managed to throw this. It was amazing, with loud music I wouldn’t have expected, although not obnoxiously so. There was a casual air that was charged with excitement, and as I expertly wove my way through the crowd to the buffet, I couldn’t help wondering why they’d gone so all-out.
I suppose you don’t really need a reason – to make the party a decent one, I suppose.
I spent the evening picking at the vol-au-vents and other nibbles in the buffet, lamenting with Hugo about how there were no decent pies (except for one that had been displayed at the very beginning and had now disappeared, leaving just a sleeping hamster in the pie dish) and how nobody was talking about anything interesting.
We had been ‘circulating’, as forced by our parents, although we were pretty used to big bashes. It was nice for one to not either be complete chaos or extremely posh with huge implications if I so much as threw a cocktail sausage. ‘Circulating’ had become second nature in a crowd of vaguely recognisable faces where I was stuffed into an uncomfortable dress.
Other than alternating my hours between the increasingly chilly and beautiful garden, and the increasingly steamy and stuffy house, I watched James and Rose try to sneak some of the champagne and glared at the smaller Finnigans running around. I hadn’t been bothered to memorise all their funny-sounding names before, and I wasn’t about to try either. Unfortunately, nothing was picking up in the right sort of way – the adults were just getting a bit giggly, and that was it.
As it neared midnight, I started to hunch under the buffet table, because I had a stinking headache and my eyes were itching a lot. Past feeling pathetic and more angsty than anything else, I sourly thought about how friendly I’d been to Reagan in the past month. The entire time, she’d probably been laughing to her siblings as they strolled in and out of mine and Hugo’s wood, while we didn’t even notice it.
In fact, I was so wrapped up in it all that I didn’t even pay attention as the count-down began. Everyone was laughing and stumbling around, but the lights were just hurting my brain. I scowled, shifting closer to Hugo who was half-asleep against the table leg.
All of a sudden, the bright strip of light visible from below the tabletop was blocked out as a figure moved in front of it, shoving themselves under the table as the countdown neared its end. From the electrocuted-looking coal-black hair, I could tell straight away that it was James.
My scowl didn’t unfreeze and I ignored him grumpily as he slung an arm around my neck, sloppily pulling me against his side. However, as everyone cheered for the New Year and James gave me a slobbery kiss on my cheek with a grin and a squeeze, I couldn’t help grinning back and rolling my eyes.
However much I might have to alternately ‘circulate’ and hide at large gatherings, I always had those that knew me best to fall back on. And they weren’t going to let me fall, either.
A/N: Argh! It’s been a while, I know… although pretty much nothing has been updated for three weeks. I’ve just had major problems writing this chapter because of the filler-ness of it; I always seem to have issues writing chapters with no significant action in them. Thank goodness this wasn’t tacked onto the other half of “Christmas Cracker”, though.
Anyway, kudos to the wonderful Ariellem to making me stop my huge procrastination and write the flipping thing. She also gave me the idea that got it started after several weeks of being untouched too.
Erg… I promise – actually, I DESPERATELY HOPE, not promising anything – that next chapter will be infinitely more satisfying, provided much sooner, and will bring up a large issue that was briefly touched upon in, ooh, chapter 2 or 3… although there will be a bit of filler, it won’t be filler of this level. Just keep reading, please?
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