Chapter 18 : Holiday Havoc
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I want to dedicate this chapter to my cousin, a sergeant in the United States Army National Guard, KIA in Afghanistan in October. Miss you, cuh. ~a
Ivy sighed, her chin in her hand, staring listlessly out the window. She absently twiddled her quill between her fingers.
“Oh, for Merlin’s sake–Ivy!” Alice lost her patience and barked when tiny flecks of ink off of Ivy’s quill splashed onto her essay on Wiggenbush Bark for Slughorn.
Ivy snapped to attention and stared wide-eyed at Alice, but before she could respond, Lily hand rounded on the blonde.
“Ssh! It’s bad enough that we’ve brought Ivy with us, you don’t have to call attention to her!” Lily hissed.
“I resent that,” Ivy perked up indignantly.
“Madam Pince is still plenty sore with you,” Amelia said as she continued to scrawl away on her own essay about the properties of Hazel in wand manufacturing.
“That wasn’t even my fault!” Ivy complained.
“Right! Ha!” Alice seized Ivy’s comment and pointed accusingly at Lily. “You’re dating James Potter of all people. You’ve been blacklisted as well, Miss Holier-Than-Thou!”
“What? Don’t be ridiculous,” Lily sputtered, but a blush crept up her neck. “I,” she paused to take a dignified sniff, “am Head Girl. Irma adores me.”
“James is Head Boy, and she still hates him. Face it, Lils. You’re dating below your goody-goody status,” she said with an equally dignified snort. “And you!” She turned on Ivy, “if you’re just going to sit around staring off like that, why don’t you go find your Puffer dream boat and leave us in peace already?”
“Don’t call him that,” Ivy scowled, but inwardly, she was glad that Alice and Amelia had returned to a state of quasi-normalcy, and they treated Ryden as cordially as they would anybody else.
“I will continue to do so until it no longer irritates you. Or I accidentally slip and call him that to his face,” Alice shrugged carelessly.
“Why aren’t you with said dream boat?” Amelia asked thoughtfully. “You two have been attached at the hip lately.”
“Quidditch practice,” Ivy sighed, instantly annoyed by the (literally) most magical sport she’d ever watched. “He says that if he doesn’t have a practice every once in a while, the team will think that I’m only with him to sabotage their team and help ours win the cup.”
“Hmm,” Alice said, pensively tapping her quill on her chin. “I would say that they have a point, but they’re Puffers.”
“Alice,” Lily frowned.
“What? If Ivy really wanted our team to win, she’d be dating a Ravenclaw,” Alice said, purposefully misinterpreting Lily’s disapproval.
“But Slytherin is our closest rival,” Amelia pointed out.
“Yes, but not even Ivy is depraved enough to date a Slytherin for quidditch. I bet the whole team has a very catching case of fungal rot. It’s why Slytherins all end up in arranged marriages. They’d have you think that it’s because they want to keep all their gold, but really, it’s to hide the fungus,” Alice nodded sagely, as if she was speaking fact.
“You’re barmy on two accounts. The fungus goes without saying, but I bet Ivy would do it,” Amelia insisted.
“Blasphemer!” Alice shouted with a disgusted look. “Ivy would never do such a thing!”
“Prove it,” Amelia shot back.
“Excuse me, but could we please stop talking about me and what I wouldn’t do for a stupid cup?” Ivy interrupted.
Alice gasped at the suggestion that the quidditch cup was stupid, but before she could start on Ivy, someone else did.
“Miss Marcell!” Madam Pince shrieked. “How did I know I’d find you in the middle of today’s library disturbance? Have you no concept of the sanctity of these walls? This is a place of learning…”
Ivy put her head down on the desk and Madam Pince continued her lecture.
“Eff my life,” she groaned, and the other three tried to stifle their giggles.
Ivy was trying to shove her Charms text into her bag as she exited the classroom when she bumped into someone.
“Sorry,” she apologized absently.
“Hey, took you long enough,” Ryden smiled cheerfully as he steadied her with a firm grip on her shoulders. She smiled back at him contentedly. Typically, reliably, sweet Ryden.
“I had to talk with Flitwick about my term essay. My notes are a bit messy, and I got mixed up somewhere. I ended up writing that Gladrigold was a type of wand core. Turns out she was a famous goblin opera singer from the 17th century.”
“I hope he’s letting you redo it,” Ryden said once he’d finished laughing.
“Oh, it was fine. Flitwick got a kick out of reading that Gladrigold had a pine scent and prickly barbs. Apparently, it might even be historically accurate,” she grinned. “What are you doing all the way up here in the Charms-Transfig corridor?”
“Free period. Since this is the one time a week that our free hours synch, I thought we could go for a walk. It’s not snowing yet, so at least we won’t get damp.”
“That sounds perfect,” Ivy replied, pushing her Potions essay to the back of her mind.
She had been doing that a lot lately, now that she thought about it. Except for the one class they shared, their schedules were completely incompatible. As a result, she had to snag bits and pieces of time when she knew Ryden was busy in order to get her homework done. And whenever the debate of ‘Ryden Vs. Homework’ came up, Ryden invariably won. Dating Ryden was turning out to be more complicated than she anticipated. Not that she was having second thoughts or anything. Wouldn’t that be funny.
It was then that Ivy realized a distinct silence that was growing to be indecent as Ryden’s grin became forced at her lack of response.
“Sorry,” she grimaced. “My mind went off on a tangent.”
“S’okay,” he was quick to reassure her. “I just asked what your plans for the holidays are.”
“Oh,” Ivy said, momentarily baffled by the question. Those were coming up, weren’t they? “Uh, it depends on my parents’ schedules. I’m still waiting to hear from them,” she shrugged as if the whole thing wasn’t a big deal.
“Oh,” Ryden said, his turn to be surprised. Well, if Ivy wasn’t bothered by the way her Christmas appeared to be shaping up, then he wouldn’t let it bother him either. Even if it did sound peculiar.
“I don’t get it,” Alice said blankly. Amelia and Lily were staring at Ivy with similar expressions of disbelief.
“They’re really busy,” Ivy shrugged.
“But it’s Christmas,” Alice said.
“I know, but this is just the way the Marcells do it,” Ivy tried to explain patiently. But she knew she was full of complete shit. If she had been sitting on the other end of this conversation, she wouldn’t have believed her either.
She had finally drummed up the determination to tell her friends that she would not, like them, be leaving school and heading for warm and fuzzy familial surroundings for the Winter Holiday. The fact was that Dumbledore had scarcely been around to tell her what was going on. And even if he had been, Ivy was too proud to go to him and ask him how she was spending her Christmas. If Harry Potter could spend his Christmas at school, then so could she, damnit. Unfortunately, that argument wouldn’t be very effective on the girls. The problem of having to tell Lily that her son would be an orphan wasn’t, believe it or not, the biggest issue with that plan.
“Would you like to come stay with my family?” Amelia asked genuinely. “I really don’t like you alone for the Hols, not if I can help it.”
Ivy smiled gratefully, but she knew that she had to say no. Maybe Dumbledore had some plan for her over the holidays, something to do towards her ‘mission.’ Fingers crossed that he hadn’t completely forgotten about her.
“Thanks, but it’s not every year that I get to spend Christmas in the most famous wizarding school in the world. It might be fun!” She tried, valiantly, to remain upbeat. Their lack of agreement was much more of a downer than she expected.
“But it’s Christmas,” Alice intoned once more.
“Yes, and I’ve never had a conservative Christmas before anyway. Not with my parents,” Ivy lied, but it quickly became apparent that this was the wrong angle from which to pursue the subject.
“Well then you have to come home with me!” Amelia insisted. “My mum always insists on an old fashioned Christmas.”
“I’d invite you over but my sister Petunia is rather trying,” Lily grimaced. “She’s just got this new boyfriend. She thinks he’s the one. I think he’s incredibly dull.”
“It’s the thought that counts,” Ivy smiled. Despite everything that Petunia put her through, it was clear that Lily really did love her sister. The thought of sisters only made Ivy think of Ilene and Ilana. Godric, what is it about this Christmas?! I never get soppy around this time of year! Oh wow. Did I just say ‘Godric?’
“Please, Ive?” Amelia pouted.
“Really, I can’t. My parents are incredibly unreliable. They might even show up for an hour on Christmas Day, expecting me to be here.”
“So send them an owl.”
“In this weather, all the way to America? The poor thing would die, and I’m not going to ask to use the Headmaster’s floo either. Really, I’ll be fine.”
Amelia mulled it over in her head, and Lily seemed resigned.
“If you’re certain…” the other brunette said slowly.
“Absolutely. Just write to me every hour,” Ivy teased.
“But it’s Christmas!”
“Shut up, Alice,” they all groaned.
Ivy wandered into the common room before curfew from her evening stroll with Ryden to find it deserted, save for one lone figure by the fire.
“Finally,” he muttered to himself before standing up and briskly heading for the boys’ staircase.
“Remus, wait,” she hurried after him. He stopped, but didn’t turn. Ivy took his silence to mean that he was listening.
“I don’t know exactly why you’re angry with me, but maybe if you told me, I could fix it,” she said, trying not to sound too pathetic, and failing dismally.
She really missed him, especially on patrol nights. Now that Remus was no longer willing to go on prefect rounds with her, she was reduced to dragging one of the girls with her for company, even if neither Amelia nor Alice could enforce rules. Although, Alice was admittedly very good at being intimidating; most students often didn’t realize that she didn’t actually have any more authority than them.
Remus slowly turned to look at her.
“Trust me. You can’t,” he said venomously.
Momentarily surprised by the sneer on his face, Ivy stood dumbstruck as he continued his assent up the staircase. He was almost around the corner before she found her voice again.
“Remus Lupin! I know you didn’t want for me to come back to the tower just so you could not talk to me,” she shouted.
“I did it for the girls,” he replied coldly without stopping. “They’d gone to bed early, and wanted to make sure you made it back.”
Ivy swallowed as he disappeared from view and refused to allow the tears in her eyes to fall. Swiping at them angrily, she rushed up the girls’ stairs. Why do I care so much about Remus and his stupid opinion anyway?
“You shouldn’t be seen with me. He’ll be furious with you as well.”
Peter pursed his lips and frowned at Ivy as they walked to Magical Creature Anatomy.
It had been four days since the night in the common room and Ivy was still upset, but she had thrown a layer of melodramatic melancholy over it, reminiscent of Eeyore (not that Peter would get the reference). That was, unless Ryden was around. In those cases, a solar eclipse couldn’t dampen her smile. But Ryden could see that something was wrong. Whenever there was a slight silence, Ivy would spot the uncertainty in his eyes and he would take a breath that she came to recognize as his ‘serious moment’ inhalation. That was her cue to summon up some random triviality of conversation. Ryden would usually sigh then go along with it, like the good guy he was, and Ivy would be left wondering what the hell he was doing with her crazy ass.
But there was no reason for a cover with Peter, because Peter knew all.
“Bollocks on Remus,” he finally declared.
Ivy turned a raised eyebrow on his uncharacteristic bravado.
“You know what I mean. He’s one of my best mates, but I don’t think the sun shines out his arse. And he’s being a pretty big arse right now.”
“See? This thing’s even affecting you, Pete! You used to be such a nice kid,” Ivy shook her head sadly, but Peter remained unamused.
“Drop the drama, Ivy, and talk to me,” he demanded.
“Not if you’re gonna be so mean about it,” she reproached.
Peter held back a sigh. Moments like these, he knew he had the patience of a saint. He waited, knowing that Ivy would talk, rather than succumb to the dreaded silence.
“I just don’t know what he wants from me,” she eventually admitted softly.
“Now we’re getting somewhere,” he nodded his head approvingly as he opened the door to the MCA classroom.
“I’m tiiiiiired. Why can’t it just be Christmas already? I wanna go hoooome,” Alice moaned into her elbow as she attempted to finish an assignment for McGonagall.
“Alice,” Amelia hissed with a not-so-subtle head jerk towards Ivy.
“Oh right. Sorry Ives,” Amelia straightened up to attention. “I love it here at school. I never want to leave. Christmas? That’s for pansies,” she said, sounding like an automated recording.
“Real smooth, guys. I totally believed that performance,” she said with a roll of her eyes. “Seriously? Stop acting like I’m going to bust into tears every time one of you talks about going home for Christmas. I’m fine.”
Even if part of me is lying, she thought.
“Hey,” Ivy grinned as she hurried up to Peter and Amelia outside of Honeydukes’, having left Ryden under the pretense of buying his Christmas present. Actually, it wasn’t a pretense as she really did need to buy him a gift, but she was thankful for the space that the excuse afforded her. Ryden was getting to be a fulltime job.
“Hiya,” Peter returned the smile as he stamped his feet in place to keep warm. Amelia’s greeting was muffled by her scarf. All three of them were bundled up against the elements on the last Hogsmeade Saturday before the Winter Hols. It also happened to be the first snow of the season. Ivy, coming from a clime where snow was a theory rather than an actuality, always pictured the first snow to be something a bit docile and harmless. The fact was that it was mean and bitter.
“Shall we start here or Scrivenshaft’s?” Peter asked.
“Who’s the most difficult to please?” Ivy asked.
The three of them looked at one another with raised eyebrows, sighed, and nodded in unison.
Four hours later, Ivy had found a set of magical make-up brushes at the Hairdressing Salon that self-cleaned and sang to the user while she primped, for Alice of course; a set of decorative stationary from Scrivenshaft’s that could be spelled to automatically correct the writer’s most misspelled words for Lily; and the latest Bluebeard record from Dominic Maestro’s for Sirius, as well as a refurbished record player from Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment. Now she was at Dervish and Banges trying to find Peter a gift (at Amelia’s suggestion) while he was at Spintwitches, finding Ivy a gift for James. They figured that between the three of them, they would be able to get each other gifts as well as gifts for everyone else, provided they worked together and promised not to peek.
Ivy found a shelf of magical limbs and stared with grotesque fascination. She unconsciously leaned towards the shelf, watching a familiar glass eye swivel back and forth when a wooden foot suddenly twitched. Of course she screamed and backed into another display.
“Watch it, Dearie,” the old proprietor of the shop warned as he stopped the display rack from toppling over with his wand. Then he got a look at what scared her and smiled good-naturedly. “You wouldn’t happen to want to buy a nose, would you?”
“No thanks,” Ivy smiled, heart rate returning to normal. “I need something for my friend–nothing scary,” she added quickly.
“Let’s have a looksie,” he beckoned her further into the shop.
Dervish and Banges turned out to be a goldmine for Ivy. She found a dragon scale watch, which were apparently lucky, for Peter; and black spinel cufflinks that screamed whenever they were separated or fell out of the wearer’s sleeve for Ryden. She quickly nipped over to Gladrags and snagged the last set of purple scarf and gloves that changed to suit the wearer’s needs for Amelia. She was in Tomes and Scrolls when Peter and Amelia finally caught up to her.
“Here,” Peter said as he pushed a wrapped parcel with James’ name on it at Ivy. “It’s a personalized quaffle,” he said in reply to her questioning glance.
“Thanks,” she grinned. “One last gift,” she said softly, looking at the rows and rows of books.
She and Remus may not be on speaking terms, but she’d be damned if she didn’t get him anything. Especially if he didn’t get her anything; it would serve him right.
Amelia picked up a few books and read out the summaries in an attempt to be helpful, but the true expert in Remus amongst them was Peter, and he was letting Ivy give it an honest go before suggesting things. She finally gave up, sighing.
“I wish I knew what he liked to read,” she said tiredly, dropping down onto a low footstool. Then she perked back up again. “Hey Pete, what’s that book he always carries around–the really old one.”
Peter chewed his bottom lip, clearly torn between telling her and knowing that Remus wouldn’t like it if he did.
“Okay, okay,” Ivy took pity on him. “Don’t tell me; just help me find something similar.”
Peter didn’t look any happier.
“I don’t think that would be a good idea. But we’ll find something. Promise.”
Ivy was laughing at something that James said when she happened to glance up at the staff table. She did a double-take when she saw that Dumbledore was actually in his seat, as he truly had seemed to have disappeared as of late. His head slowly turned as he surveyed the students having dinner until his eyes landed on her. They twinkled for a moment before he lifted a hand to beckon her towards the staff table. She quietly excused herself and hurried up the aisle, feeling hundreds of eyes discretely following her. She remembered to curtsy at the base of the steps.
“Good evening, Headmaster,” she smiled, trying not to betray her relief at him summoning her.
“Good evening, my dear,” Dumbledore beamed back. “I received a letter today from your aunt and uncle.”
“My…aunt and uncle?” Ivy replied uncertainly.
“Yes, the ones in Ottery St. Catchpole,” he clarified.
Ivy smiled but couldn’t remember for the life of her what Ottery St. Catchpole was, or who lived there.
“They informed me of your parents’ business trip over the holidays,” he said with a pronounced glimmer of amusement. The old man really didn’t miss a thing. “They have asked me to send you to them via portkey because they cannot come for you at King’s Cross. That is, if you would like to see your aunt and uncle?”
Ivy still couldn’t place the name of the town, but she didn’t care.
“Of course I would love to see them,” she grinned giddily, and was one hundred percent genuine. No matter where she ended up spending Christmas, at least she wouldn’t be alone.
The next morning, breakfast at the Gryffindor table was severely disrupted by a wayward post owl, as opposed to their resident American whacko. The poor creature got off on the wrong claw with most of Gryffindor house when it landed in the scrambled eggs, splattering everyone within a meter radius.
“It’s not even time for post yet!”
People up and down the table were either complaining or laughing at the poor thing when Amelia marched right into the middle of the whole mess and scooped up the bird, with no regard to the mess of eggs on her robes.
“People can be so mean,” she glared and carried it back to her seat.
“Ames, is that yours?” Ivy asked incredulously.
“No, but it certainly doesn’t deserve to be laughed at,” she pouted.
Ivy realized that she was being completely serious and elbowed Alice, who was still chortling at the egg covered animal. Alice tried to cover up her amusement by taking a sip of orange juice, but failed miserably when she spat it out all over her pancakes.
“That is disgusting,” Amelia said, looking every bit as nauseated as she sounded.
“Shut up, bird lover,” Alice shot back with a giggle.
“There’s a note tied to that bird’s ankle,” Peter said before an all-out war could break out between the girls.
Amelia untied it and brushed it off with her napkin, squinting to read the print. “It’s for you!” Her eyes widened as she handed it to Ivy.
“Oh damn. Of course it is. Who else would have post delivered to them by a demented owl?” Ivy scowled but wiped it off her face when Amelia glared at her, shielding the owl protectively from her harsh words. The owl, in all honesty, still looked a bit dazed. Ivy unrolled the parchment.
Are you looking forward to the holidays? The boys can’t wait to see you! Dumbledore did tell you, didn’t he? Arthur and I agreed; we simply could not have you alone for Christmas. Seeing as you were brought here when you arrived, we’ve thought of you as an adoptive sister. So we’re pretty much family anyway! Must dash, Percy needs a change.
P.S. Arthur finally got off his backside and got us an owl. His name is Errol. He’s brilliant, isn’t he?
“Ottery St. Catchpole. Of course,” Ivy muttered to herself, and then looked at the bewildered bird in Amelia’s arms. “So you’re Errol. Nice to meet you.”
“What?” Peter asked.
“It’s from my aunt and uncle. Looks like I’ll be spending Christmas with them,” she smiled.
“We wish you a Merry Christmas, we wish you a Merry Christmas…” Alice was singing joyfully as she rushed around the room, packing her trunk.
“Can you please refrain from doing that?” Ivy mumbled from beneath her covers. After her last class on Friday, she had crawled into bed and passed out, and now it was Saturday morning, the first day of Winter Holiday. It also happened to be when everyone was taking the Hogwarts Express back to King’s Cross. Everyone except Ivy.
“No,” Alice sang happily.
“Have you packed, Ivy?” Amelia asked, coming out of the bathroom with dozens of suspicious looking products.
“Yes and no. Mostly no.”
“You’re really determined to not leave this castle for break, aren’t you?” Amelia said disapprovingly.
“No, I’m just languishing in the fact that I get to take a portkey. Or haven’t you heard? I get to take a portkey to my aunt and uncle’s house,” Ivy said with exaggerated nonchalance. When everyone first teased her about getting special attention and the use of a portkey just to get to Ottery St. Catchpole of all places, Ivy was annoyed. But in a matter of hours, she managed to turn it around and rub it in all their faces that she wouldn’t have to rush for the morning train, or spend hours cramped in it. “You know, I’ll probably just take the portkey right into the kitchen. Won’t even have to step foot outside in this ghastly weather.”
“Sod off, you,” Alice glowered, mood instantly darkened. Ivy grinned back like the Cheshire Cat.
An hour later, Ivy was at the castle doors seeing everybody off cheerily (still mostly unpacked), smiling in stark contrast with the ever-dour Filch.
“Be sure to write!” Lily shouted.
“Oh calm down, Lils. Of course she’ll write,” Alice rolled her eyes. “We’ll need to schedule our gift exchange,” she reminded Ivy.
“Sure, it’ll be fun,” Ivy replied.
Amelia grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her aside.
“Did you get a gift for…you know…?” She asked with an odd twitch of her head, but Ivy got the message.
“Not yet. Thanks for reminding me. Maybe I’ll find something in a shop near Ottery,” Ivy chewed her bottom lip again.
“I’m working on it,” Peter suddenly walked by with a confident grin. He waved good-bye in passing.
“Cheers Pete,” Ivy allowed herself to relax.
She spun around and knocked right into Ryden, who was rushing up to her. Ivy nodded a last good-bye to Amelia as Ryden pulled her to a more secluded corner.
“Since I’ll be locked away in Ireland with my terror of a cousin, I won’t be able to see you over the break, and I’ll have to give this to you now,” Ryden said in a rush, pulling a long slim box out of his pocket.
Ivy’s stomach plummeted. Oh shit. Ohshitohshitohshitohshit. We’re giving serious gifts?! Why didn’t anyone tell me we’re giving serious relationship gifts?! Wait. What did I get him again? Cufflinks. Right. Perfect. Ohshitohshitohshitohshitoshit. This is a serious relationship?! But she quickly pasted a smile over her nerves and pulled Ryden’s gift out of her own robes pocket.
“I thought so, so here’s your gift,” she smiled.
They both quickly unwrapped their gifts as Filch gave one last warning shout to stragglers. As Ivy suspected, a beautifully delicate bracelet sat on a bed of velvet, held in place by invisible bands so that she could fully appreciate each uniquely designed link.
“D’you like it?” Ryden asked tentatively.
“Of course,” Ivy smiled. “But I really can’t–”
“You can, and you will,” he said firmly, taking it out of the box and clasping it around her wrist.
Ivy felt like she suddenly had the weight of the world pulling on her arm.
“What about your gift? Watch this,” she began, smoothing over her misgivings about accepting the bracelet, and took the cufflinks out of the box. She put one carefully on the floor, and put the other in her pocket. As advertised, they began emitting a loud shriek that made Ivy hastily reunite them.
“Brilliant,” Ryden grinned. “I knew they wouldn’t be ordinary cufflinks. Not from you.”
“And if they had been?” Ivy asked with a raised eyebrow.
“I would have liked them even more,” he replied, pulling her close and placing a soft kiss on her lips. True, the first few times Ryden had kissed her, Ivy’s initial reaction had been to run away, but she really was getting good at staying put. And besides, they were nice kisses.
“Good answer,” she smiled. “Now get, before you miss the train.”
“Alright, alright,” Ryden said with a last gentle squeeze on her waist. Ivy watched him sprint out the castle doors and into the especially bitter semi-blizzard that was brewing turbulently outside.
Ivy jumped to attention.
“I suppose you’re all packed, Miss Marcell?” McGonagall asked, suddenly appearing at her side.
“Uh…mostly?” Ivy lied, not particularly well since she knew that McGonagall already knew the true answer.
“For heaven’s sake, Miss Marcell,” McGonagall simply shook her head and tutted.
“Hello, Ivy,” Dumbledore smiled from his desk when she finally dragged her haphazardly packed trunk up the spiral staircase to his office several hours later, having fallen asleep in front of the hearth. There were only two young Gryffindor boys staying at the castle, so the common room was blissfully silent and she couldn’t resist.
“Hey professor,” she replied cheerfully.
“There is your portkey,” he said, pointing to a gnarled clothes pin on a table. She almost picked it up to look at it, but remembered what would happen, and snatched her hand back.
“Uh, I’m not entirely sure that I’d know when to let go, sir,” she admitted.
“Not to worry, I thought about that and I think counting to ten at a medium-slow pace ought to do the trick.”
“Huh?” Ivy asked dumbly.
“You ought to be going; don’t want to miss dinner, you know,” Dumbledore said with a smile.
Ivy gulped and touched one tremulous finger to the clothes pin.
The spinning of floo travel didn’t compare to the pull behind her navel and spinning sensation of portkey travel. Fuck. I’m supposed to be counting! 1-2-3-4-5-6-5-6-7-8-9-10! Wait. What the fuck does medium-slow mean? Oh crap!
Ivy had the wind knocked out of her as she slammed into the ice.
“Spectacular! Tell me, do you travel upside down by portkey often? Do you find that beneficial?” A voice asked from somewhere above her head. Ivy opened her eyes and squinted against the light. It wasn’t storming like it had been back at the school, and the sun glinted off of every surface covered in snow. Everything looked like a peaceful winter wonderland and Ivy would have loved it if she was sure that she hadn’t broken her back.
“What?” She asked. Just then a blinding head of hair silhouetted itself against the sun.
“Hello. I saw your landing,” the voice said ethereally.
“Where am I?”
“Above a pond. You would be in it, you see, except for it has frozen over with the cold weather. Happens every year this time.”
“Right. So I’m alive,” Ivy clarified. I suppose the pain would be a good indicator of that, wouldn’t it?
“Oh, as much as I am,” the voice sounded satisfied.
“I’m sorry, but who are you?” Ivy asked, lifting a hand to shield her eyes.
“Xenophilius Lovegood. You can call me Xeno. Everybody does.”
Dear God. I’ve broken my back, I’m lying on a frozen pond, and the only person for miles around believes in Crumple-Horned Snorkacks. What have I done to deserve this?!
“Well, you can call me Ivy,” she said resignedly.
“And does everybody call you that?” He inquired.
“Yes. At least the ones that like me do,” she added as an afterthought.
“I can’t imagine that you like it down there.”
“No, Xeno. I do not.”
“You’ve injured yourself, haven’t you.” It wasn’t a question.
“Well spotted, Xeno.”
“Does this happen to you often?”
“The injuries. I mean, you must have sustained them before, using portkeys the way you do.”
“I DIDN’T MEAN TO–ahem,” Ivy caught herself before she offended Xenophilius by shouting like a madwoman. As irritating as he was, he was her only hope at the moment. “I got disoriented in transit,” she said tersely.
When Xenophilius didn’t seem inclined to help say anything else or help her, Ivy cleared her throat again.
“…Do you mind–”
“Oh, of course, of course.” And with that, Ivy was on her feet before she realized that Xenophilius had grabbed both of her hands and hauled her upwards. Without the sun in her eyes, she finally got a good look at Xeno, who looked to be in his mid to late twenties, and was dressed in as house robe.
“You’re not from around here, are you?” He asked as she waited for the rush of internal bleeding to commence.
“No, I’m visiting the Weasleys,” she said once she was sure that she was more or less alright. She took a few hesitant steps on the ice while Xeno began skating circles around her in his house slippers. “What happened to your shoes?” Ivy asked bewilderedly.
“I spotted a Brinpalow outside my window and simply didn’t have time to put them on,” he said serenely.
“Right. You wouldn’t by any chance have seen my trunk?”
“No, I don’t believe so,” he replied. “Lucky thing you lost it.”
“What?” Ivy blinked at him.
“Imagine if it had crushed you,” Xenophilius said, obviously not distressed by the idea.
“Oh. Yeah, I guess so,” she smiled slightly. Not so mad, after all.
“We should get you to the Burrow.”
“I’d appreciate it.”
“Good. There are Dimmalopes wandering about. Storm’s coming,” Xenophilius said plainly and set off without another word.
“But what does a Brinpalow do?”
“What’s their function?”
“They do whatever they like, I suppose,” Xenophilius replied after some thought.
It turned out that Ivy had somehow managed to ride the portkey just to the wrong side of Ottery St. Catchpole, two miles outside of town. It didn’t occur to Xenophilius to apparate her to the Burrow, and Ivy was enjoying the conversation far too much to ask him to, despite the biting cold.
“What–like Crumple-Horned Snorkacks?”
“Like what?” Xeno turned to her with a genuinely confused expression.
“You mean Crumple-Horned Snorkacks aren’t a thing yet?” Ivy asked before she could check herself.
“That sounds like a curious creature. I would love to know more–”
Ivy turned her head so quickly that she experienced a searing pain at the base of her neck; she may not be dead, but she wasn’t entirely unscathed from her failed portkey travel. Arthur came jogging towards her and Xenophilius.
“Thank Godric! Your trunk smashed down in the bog next to the house, but you were nowhere in sight. I was about to floo Dumbledore,” he said breathlessly.
“She landed on Knowltry Pond,” Xeno said conversationally.
“Cheers for retrieving my, erm, cousin, Xeno,” Arthur said, only just realizing that Ivy was not alone.
“Ah, so you’re a Weasley as well?” Xeno asked her.
“Very distant. From the non-redhead side,” she nodded.
“Ah. I didn’t know those existed.”
A few awkward moments passed in stilted silence. Well, awkward for Arthur and Ivy; Xeno couldn’t be bothered.
“Well, we’ll be going,” Arthur said loudly. “Molly’s dying to see Cousin Ivy.”
“Yes, you shouldn’t stay if you haven’t anything else to say,” Xeno nodded with a faint smile.
“Right. See you at the annual Christmas do,” Arthur said quickly before grabbing Ivy by the arm and apparating her straight to the outside of the Burrow’s perimeter.
“You’ve found her!” Molly came rushing out of the house in nothing but her house-jumper and day dress.
“Yes, I’m afraid Xeno retrieved her from Knowltry Pond,” Arthur said, relaxing once they were within the silenced confines of the Burrow’s limits.
“Oh, you must be shaken,” Molly gave her a sisterly hug. “Portkey. Honestly,” she shook her head as she led them into the house. “I’ll make some tea. Sit by the fire.”
Ivy nodded gratefully and sat in a worn but comfortable seat. She had barely shucked off her coat before she heard two sets of steps tramping down the stairs.
She and the two little redheads at the base of the staircase exchanged grins before they leapt onto her lap, climbing over one another to get situated and began speaking a mile a minute.
“You behave with Ivy,” Molly scolded from the kitchen but looked on indulgently. Arthur took the armchair opposite Ivy with a sigh.
“How was term?” He asked with a weary smile.
“Exhausting. But I think this holiday is just what I’ve been needing,” Ivy smiled widely.
The shrieking was the first thing Ivy heard the next morning. The second thing was the stomping of little but heavy feet on the landing above her bedroom.
“I didn’t do it!” Billy’s falcetto sounded through the house.
Ivy smirked groggily and buried her head into her pillow. It was almost like being home again.
“Morning,” Ivy yawned when she finally managed to leave the haven of her bed and wandered into the kitchen.
“You mean afternoon,” Molly said absently, making faces at Percy as she attempted to feed him his carrots. Billy and Charlie were seated at the table, happily munching away on their own lunches.
“Is it really that late?” Ivy glanced at the clock. Then she did a double-take. “Your clock,” she pointed and stared.
“What?” Molly asked, wiping Percy’s cheek. When Ivy didn’t reply, she looked up. “What’s the matter?” She turned to the clock. “Is the time wrong?”
“Your clock tells time?”
“Do they not do that in the muggle world?” Molly’s forehead creased bewilderedly.
Ivy came to her senses.
“Of course they do. Nevermind,” she shook her head quickly. “Any chance there’s still some breakfast?”
“Sure,” Molly said uncertainly.
Hope your Hols are going well. Listen, we were thinking of getting together on New Year’s Eve; exchange gifts, get sloshed, you know. Write me!
Good will and all the like,
How’s your family? I bet they missed you; I know I do. Just checking in.
I’ve found your gift for Remus. See page 394 in the Charms text!
My house, New Year’s Eve, you’re coming (and so’s Moony, so ditch the square. I mean Puff.)
Brilliant idea–you’re a genius! But do you think I can pull it off? More importantly, would it be weird?
Forever in your debt,
You’re weird. I fail to see the problem.
Ivy grimaced at her reflection in the filmy green dressrobes that hadn’t seen the light of day since she and Molly purchased them in August.
Luckily Ryden’s bracelet didn’t match the fabric, so she couldn’t wear it. The damn thing felt like it weighed fifteen pounds. She quickly undid the clasp and put it in a jewelry pouch, dropping it into the depths of her trunk. Ivy made a mental note not to forget to put it back on before she went back to school.
Just then there was a knock on her bedroom door, and Molly poked her head into the room.
“You look lovely,” she smiled.
“Urgh,” was the only response Ivy could come up with.
“Don’t be such a grubby goose,” Molly pursed her lips and shut the door behind herself. She raised her wand at Ivy. “We’ll just add a dash of color to your face and get your hair out of the way–”
“Are you sure I have to come? I mean, I could always save Mrs. Figg the trip and watch the boys while you and Arthur go to the local Christmas party,” she suggested before Molly could begin her beautification.
“You’re coming,” Molly said flatly, waving her wand a tad aggressively and Ivy felt a cool sensation ripple over her face. Her hair deftly lifted itself into a simple knot at the base of her neck. Molly gave her wand a tiny flick and a bit of hair pulled itself out of the bun and curled to fall softly against her clavicle. “There,” her face softened as she turned Ivy back to the mirror.
“Well, you know your glamour charms, I’ll give you that,” she muttered.
“I’ll take it,” Molly said blithely.
“Hello there Ivy!”
“Hi Xeno,” Ivy smiled weakly. “Merry Christmas,” she nodded. She was standing in the corner of someone’s living room, attempting to call as little attention to herself as possible. In one hand, she was holding a glass of eggnog, and in the other she clutched Arthur’s watch. He promised her that he would apparate her home at 10 if she didn’t find anybody to talk to by then. It looked like everybody else was avoiding Xeno, human oddity that he was, so she probably just found her conversation partner for the night.
“Merry Christmas!” He said loudly to no one in particular.
“Yes…” Ivy sighed.
After making the rounds upon arrive and allowing Molly to introduce her to several strangers (including a man who didn’t appear to have a face, only an impressive handlebar mustache protruding from beneath his bowler hat), Ivy begged off a game of WizBridge with some elderly women who wanted to talk about “boys.” Ivy was about to make some excuse to Xeno as well, as it was almost 9:30; she didn’t want Arthur to come looking for her and find her deep in conversation about Gabumbers or some other such nonsense, but Xeno suddenly made a strange gurgling noise at that precise moment.
Ivy turned to find him staring transfixed at something across the room. She followed his eye line to land on a beautifully serene young woman, maybe two or three years older than herself. Her dirty blonde hair hung in simple waves down her back, and she was dressed in a pearlescent blue dress which complimented her eyes perfectly. Ohmigawd. Is that Luna’s mom?!
“Xeno?” Ivy asked, waving a hand in front of his face. He didn’t bat an eyelash. “Are you okay?”
“That is Odele Frostbrough, the most beautiful woman I have ever seen,” Xeno said reverently.
“You should go talk to her,” Ivy nudged him, breaking his trance.
“I couldn’t,” he shook his head vehemently.
“One good reason why not. I just want one.”
“Her parents are wealthy and she’s an advanced Charms pupil in Norway. I’m not even good at Charms,” Xeno replied blankly. Ivy mentally slapped her forehead. Trust Xeno to have thoroughly analyzed the situation and come up with the simplest answer.
“Well, what are you good at? I’m sure she’d find you interesting,” she tried to reassure him.
“I like animals.”
“Give me something to work with here, man!” Ivy said through gritted teeth.
“‘Work with?’ What in Ravenclaw’s Diadem are you talking about?” Xeno asked her bewilderedly.
“She’s coming!” Ivy whispered frantically. “Just smile and let me do the talking.”
“Hello Xenophilius,” Odele said with a soft smile.
“H-Hello Odele,” he stuttered, turning a faint shade of pink.
“How is your family?”
Ivy gave Xeno a ‘WTF, dude?!’ look before looking at Odele and thrusting her hand forward for the blonde to shake.
“Hi! I’m Ivy!” She said brightly.
“Oh,” Odele said with a slightly perplexed look, as if she had just realized that Ivy was standing there. “You’re very beautiful.”
“Not as beautiful as you,” Ivy smiled. “I love your hair.”
“Thank you. All the same, Xenophilius is so lucky to have you,” Odele said, inclining her head towards a speechless Xeno.
“Oh, no, we’re not dating,” Ivy hurried to correct her.
“No?” Odele asked, interest snagged. If Ivy weren’t so conniving, she would never have caught to glint of hopefulness in Odele's eyes.
“No, but I wish,” Ivy said fervently. “Xeno is so interesting.”
Out of the corner of her eye, Ivy could see Xeno looking at her, completely confused. She prayed he would keep his mouth shut.
“Did you know that he’s the world’s foremost expert on the…the Crumple-Horned Snorkack?” Ivy asked Odele with wide-eyed awe.
“Really?” She replied, looking at Xeno with something akin to admiration.
“Yes,” Ivy nodded, then turned to Xeno, whose mouth was hanging wide open. “You should tell Odele all about them,” she said pointedly. “The gardens would be the perfect place to discuss such an…such a distinguished creature.”
“Oh I would enjoy that,” Odele said shyly, smiling at Xeno.
“I-I, erm, would you…?” Xeno stuttered hopelessly. “Please,” he gestured before him for Odele to lead the way to the garden, and turned to Ivy with desperation written all over his face. “I don’t know anything about the Crumple-Horned Snorkack,” he whispered behind Odele’s back.
“Just make it up,” she hissed. “Go!”
Ivy pushed Xeno stumbling after Odele.
“Enjoying yourself? Was that Xeno Lovegood?” Arthur wandered over, slightly pink in the face, a glass of wine in one hand.
“Yes. He’s off to talk with Odele Frost…something,” Ivy said absently, watching Xeno open the door to the garden for a coy Odele. “Can I go home now?” She asked, giving Arthur her full attention.
“Are you sure? I thought you might have begun enjoying yourself,” he said with a hopeful smile.
“Nope. My work here is done,” Ivy said, grin slightly manic.
Severus crumpled to the ground, jaw clenched against the pain, but it was futile. The searing torment coursed through his body and grew stronger until he unwittingly emitted a high pitched keen that sent a tremor of fear through the other shrouded figures that surrounded him. Their blood ran cold as they watched with horror and tried not to shy away from their fallen associate, lest they incur the Dark Lord’s wrath.
When the ringing of his own screams died away, Severus realized that the pain had long since subsided.
“Bring me information, or next time you won’t be so lucky,” the cold voice hissed.
“Oof,” Ivy grunted when something heavy landed on her stomach. She flipped the duvet off her head to find both Billy and Charlie grinning down on her as they sat on her. “What? Did the house burn down?” She asked groggily.
“No,” they giggled. “It’s Christmas. PRESENTS!” They yelled together, as if it was some sort of war cry.
“Okay, go open them then,” Ivy pulled the blanket back over her head, waving them away.
“But you have to come! Mummy said so!” Charlie said, on the verge of ‘an incident’ as Molly had begun terming the tantrums he had become prone to as of late.
“Okay,” she groaned, playfully swatting blindly at the boys until they scrambled off the bed. “Christmas, huh?” She looked at them blearily through one squinty eye.
They nodded angelically in tandem.
“G’morning,” Ivy said when she entered the kitchen, being dragged by both hands. Molly waved to her from a skillet of sausages.
“I beg to differ,” Arthur mumbled into his mug of tea, head on the table.
“Is somebody hung over?” Ivy chuckled, instantly more awake.
“Maybe,” Arthur glared at her sideways, cheek still on the table.
“I see you still spend your Christmases acting as if you’re newlyweds. It’s about time that you two grew up and started using real furniture in this ramshackle establishment,” somebody’s voice rang clearly from the front door, whose upper half was open.
“Aunt Muriel!” Molly and Arther said loudly, immediately straightening their backs.
“Merry Christmas to you too, you ingrates! Are you going to make me stand out here all day? I’m nearly one-hundred, you know!”
“Of course not! Please come in, Aunt Muriel,” Molly bustled over to the door and pulled the lower half open. The old woman looked shrewdly up at Molly’s face as she peeled off her gloves and scarf.
“You look like death. Are you getting enough sleep, Molly?”
“Y-yes Aunt–” she stammered as Muriel threw her heavy winter coat over Molly’s head.
“Are you? Because it wouldn’t surprise me, the way you and that husband of yours have begun having children so soon and so quickly. Merlin forbid you end up with more than the three you’ve already got,” she looked disdainfully at Arthur as if he couldn’t hear her.
“Hello Aunt Muriel,” Arthur gritted out between his teeth, blushing to the tips of his already fiery hair.
“Hello Wesley,” she said dismissively as she tottered by him on her tiny little feet and made a beeline for the comfiest seat by the fire.
“Aunt Muriel, our last name is Weasley, and you know Arthur,” Molly said with forced patience.
Ivy smiled amusedly, watching the whole scene unfold from her seat at the breakfast table.
“Yes, yes, I know that, I’m not that old, you know!” Muriel said with a glare.
Ivy barely smothered a snicker.
“And you!” Muriel’s beady little eyes finally landed on her. Ivy sat up instantly. “Who are you? Some charity case my niece and her useless husband have taken in for the holidays, I suppose? You ought to get yourself a job!”
“Aunt Muriel!” Molly said in a highly appalled voice. “Ivy is Arthur’s cousin. She’s at Hogwarts this year and her parents are busy this Christmas.”
“Busy? Is that a euphemism for “uninterested in their spawn?” That’s outrageously irresponsible!” Muriel said self righteously. “I may not like Wembley over there, but I visit you two on Christmas anyway, don’t I?”
“Actually, Aunt Muriel, my father’s a businessman, and he just doesn’t have the time to spare most Christmases. Mother doesn’t like to travel without him,” Ivy tried to say politely. Muriel narrowed her eyes at Ivy, quickly assessing her unbrushed brown hair and bathrobe.
“I’m not your Aunt Muriel, girl!” She barked. “And what are you, American? What’s with that ridiculous accent?”
Ivy exchanged a helpless look with Arthur, who shrugged dejectedly.
“Come sit by your Great-Aunt Muriel, Billy,” Muriel ordered as everyone settled down by the fire with the tree and colorfully wrapped parcels. Billy, who had learned early on in life that Great-Aunt Muriel liked him the best and therefore gave him the best gifts, was only too happy to oblige the cranky old woman. She turned to Arthur with a half-glare. The cooking sherry that they steadily plied her with throughout Christmas dinner had lessened her cantankerous nature considerably. “Don’t just stand there, Arnold, pass out the presents. The children have been waiting all day.”
“Yes Aunt Muriel,” Arthur sighed and did as he was told. It’s almost over. It’s almost over. It’s almost over, he chanted in his head.
Ivy sat on the floor and pulled Charlie, who was sticking his tongue out at Billy for being Great-Aunt Muriel’s favorite, down to sit in the crook of her arm before Muriel could catch him and think he was making impertinent faces at her.
“That large one in the corner is for you and Abner, Molly. It’s rather nice, actually,” Muriel pointed at an oddly shaped package, and then turned to Ivy. “I didn’t know you’d be here Fern, so I didn’t get you anything. It’s not my fault you didn’t write.”
Ivy cringed back at her in lieu of a smile. After listening to Aunt Muriel call her Daffodil, Peony, and Cauliflower all afternoon, Fern was a definite improvement.
Molly handed Percy to Ivy and reached for the gift Arthur handed to her. She unwrapped the package slowly, almost as if she was afraid of what Aunt Muriel deemed a “nice” gift.
“Ah, a clock, that’s lovely, Aunt Muriel,” she smiled, relieved.
“Not just any clock, look at the face,” Muriel pointed with a finger, crooked by age.
“Oh, erm,” Molly looked closer at the clock, tilting her head to read the words. “Home, Work, Mortal Peril–Mortal Peril! Aunt Muriel, what is this?”
Ivy’s eyes widened with excitement and she leaned over Molly’s shoulder to get a closer look at the clock.
“That’ll tell you where every member of your family is!” She said breathlessly. “Look, see!” Ivy pointed at the arms, all four of which had their names and were pointed at Home.
“Yes,” Aunt Muriel said slowly, eying Ivy. “How did you know that? I had it custom made. It’s supposed to be one of a kind.”
“Oh,” Ivy said, now wide eyed for an entirely different reason. “Uh, one of my friend’s parents got a similar one…from Belgium! They’re quite rare…and expensive! You must have paid a fortune for that, Aunt Muriel!” She said with false rapture.
Mollified, Muriel sat back in her seat. “Yes it was. But we mustn’t speak of money. Haven’t you any class, Geranium? Arturo and Molly are hard-up, you know.”
Ivy let out a silent sigh of relief, not noticing Molly staring at her out of the corner of her eye.
Ivy dashed into the kitchen and grabbed a slice of toast with one hand while wrapping her scarf around her neck with the other.
“Iby!” Charlie greeted her, mouth full of pancakes, spitting out large bits in the process.
“Charles Weasley!” Molly reprimanded half-heartedly as she gave Percy his bottle.
“Hey Charlie,” Ivy smirked, ruffling his hair. “Billy,” she nodded at the eldest Weasley child, who was also engrossed in his breakfast. He grinned back with a slice of orange rind over his teeth.
“Where are you off to?” Molly asked as Ivy pulled on her boots.
“Diagon Alley. Meeting some friends, then heading to another friend’s house.”
“Any of these friends boys?” Molly asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Maybe,” Ivy stuck out her tongue.
“Now listen here, girlie,” Molly wagged a stern finger. “New Year’s Eve is a rowdy night, you know. I don’t want you getting into trouble, and I’m not sending you back to your family in any other condition than the one you came to me in.”
“Urgh,” Ivy made a face. “Mind out of the gutter, Molls.”
“Have fun!” Molly smirked as the door banged behind her.
“Seriously. I owe you, Peter,” Ivy sighed, dropping into a seat at the Leaky Cauldron’s bar.
“Don’t mention it,” he replied, motioning for two flasks of butterbeer.
“What time should we be at James’?” She asked after taking a large gulp. She kept the small mokeskin pouch containing Remus’ wrapped gift on the table within immediate reach. After all the trouble she went through on the enchantments and getting it bound by cranky old Mr. Krendall at Whizz Hard Books, she wasn’t about to let it out of her sight.
“We’re just waiting for Amelia and Alice. We’ll floo over as soon as they get here,” Peter shrugged.
Suddenly there was a loud shout accompanied by a furious gust of wind as the door to the pub slammed open. Ivy and Peter, along with the other pub patrons, jumped to attention, hands automatically in cloak pockets for wands.
“What are you looking at?” Alice scoffed at the nearest wizard.
“Sorry,” Amelia had the presence of mind to look embarrassed. “Tripped on the stoop.”
The volume in the pub slowly returned to normal as they made their way to Ivy and Peter.
“Wotcher you two,” Alice said cheekily.
“Let’s go before you two cause another scene,” Peter shook his head and headed toward the fire.
“–the rug, don’t scatter ashes all about,” Lily was already lecturing Alice by the time Ivy stopped spinning and tripped out of the fire disorientedly. She grabbed onto the mantel before her face crashed into it.
“Ivy, your boots are muddy!” Lily complained.
“Sorry,” she mumbled, wishing she hadn’t had a butterbeer before flooing.
“Easy Lils. You aren’t the lady of the manor yet,” Alice said snidely.
“I never said–” Lily sputtered, rapidly blushing.
Ivy gradually gained her bearings and snorted with laughter as Amelia popped out of the fire behind her. Seeing Alice and Ivy’s glee, clearly at Lily’s amusement, she began to whinge.
“What did you say?” She pouted at being left out.
“What’s so funny?” Sirius asked, walking into the room.
“Thinking of baby names,” Ivy quipped.
“Who’s preggers?!” He blanched.
“What’s goin’ on mate,” Peter stumbled out of the hearth just as the doorbell rang.
“Got it!” James shouted from elsewhere in the house.
“Lily, you naughty girl,” Alice slid the redhead a sideways look.
“Lily?! You’re–you’re pregnant?” Sirius whispered loudly.
“What?!” Peter shouted.
“No! I–of course I’m not–” Lily choked.
“Where are the bridal mags?” Ivy asked, jumping up and down excitedly.
Amelia smothered her laughter in her scarf as Sirius and Peter gaped, not knowing exactly what to think about the whole situation.
“You can’t wear cream. You’ll look like death warmed over,” Alice said bossily.
“And you mustn’t carry lilies. So cliché,” Ivy added.
“Excuse me,” Lily said through her teeth, finally having found her voice, “I would look lovely in cream, and I’ll carry whatever I like! But that doesn’t matter because I’m. Not. Getting. Married!”
Catching on, Peter pretended to sigh sadly. “But Lily, think of the child. James isn’t perfect, but I think little Kevin or Sarah deserves to know their father.”
“Lily Evans, you listen to me,” Alice said sternly. “My cousin is making your wedding cake, and that’s final.”
Just then James and Remus walked into the room.
“Prongs, mate,” Sirius said gravely, swinging an arm around James’ neck, “If I have to, I’ll confund her into any color dress these broads pick out. I will be a god-father.”
“What?” James asked, his mouth hanging open lopsidedly, as everyone else, Lily excluded, dissolved into laughter.
“And then–and then–” Ivy gasped with laughter, a glass of CentauRum held precariously in one hand.
“Oh Merlin, please stop, I think I’ve wet myself,” Amelia cried, laughing through her tears as she held her glass out to Peter, who was holding a bottle of wine in one hand and a bottle of gin in his other hand. “Can I get more wine?”
Peter looked blearily at the words on the labels. “Godric, I can’t tell which is which anymore, Ames,” he guffawed apologetically.
“Who cares?” Alice demanded, taking a swig from a decanter of mulled mead. “Drunk Ames is so much better than…not drunk Ames. Give her a bit of both,” she giggled.
“You have to let me finish the story,” Ivy shook her head, chuckling.
“Go on then,” Sirius urged. “Amelia’s pants be damned!”
This proclamation was greeted by another solid round of laughter. Seeing as the bottles were charmed to disappear to the garbage, they lost track of how much they’d had long ago.
“So there we were,” Ivy finally gathered enough of her wits to continue, “sitting in the car in the middle of the road, when Mike’s finally decided that he had enough. Charlotte’s at the wheel, flipping out because Michelle’s hanging out the window. Michelle and I are totally drunk–”
“Hang on. Why the muggle car again?” Peter asked.
“Charlotte’s muggleborn,” Remus supplied easily. Ivy smiled back at him, too drunk to remember that they weren’t speaking. Part of her was thankful that he remembered the answer (she was approaching Too Drunk status), but most of her was just glad that he wasn’t ignoring her anymore. She briefly noticed that while he was drinking as much as the other guys, he was staying away from the hard liquor, opting for beer.
“Anyway, Mike gets out into the pouring rain, and starts dancing around the car, and Charlotte can’t figure out who to deal with: the drunks or the crazy, but we made up her mind for her. Michelle and I jump out, and start dancing with Mike–keep in mind that Michelle hasn’t got a shirt anymore. Charlotte comes after us, screaming bloody murder about her curfew, and that’s when Mike strips down completely and lobs his clothes into a tree, and Michelle takes off down the street.”
“Ohmygod,” Lily gasped. “What did Charlotte do?”
“She went after Michelle, the crazy bitch. Mike realizes that his twin might get lost, and goes off to help Charlotte, but somehow forgets that he’s completely naked. So it’s starkers Mike chasing screaming Charlotte, chasing topless and drunk Michelle, down Mainstreet in the middle of a storm.”
“Where were you?” Amelia asked.
“I’m a groggy drunk, so I climbed onto the roof of the car and fell asleep. I was the only one left when the muggle police showed up,” Ivy laughed.
“Muggle police?” James asked incredulously.
“Yep. We all got busted. Me for underage drinking, Michelle for underage drinking and public indecency, Mike for public indecency, and all four of us for disturbing the peace. Luckily, Mike and Michelle’s mom works for the mayor, and none of us got charged. But our parents were called out of bed at 3am, came down to the police station to pick us up, and yelled at us through the prison bars for two hours.”
“Merlin, you’re even crazier than you let on, Marcell,” Sirius said with awe.
“I used to be,” she clarified. “But we all went straight after that. Mostly because Charlotte’s parents forbade her from being our friend and it just about killed that uptight little asian girl,” Ivy smiled fondly.
“Hey!” Alice suddenly jumped up from her seat. Everyone looked at her inquiringly. “Let’s play a game,” she said, eyes alight with mischief.
“Greet me, Graveyard Ghoulie,” Ivy intoned tiredly as she rested her forehead against a wall. She didn’t know where the hell she was, completely lost in within James’ mansion with only a candle to light her way.
It turned out that Alice’s “game” involved walking around in the dark, looking for the so-called “Graveyard Ghoulie,” who apparently looked a lot like a shadow with glowing red eyes. Amelia and Peter had only conceded to play after James swore up and down that there were no real ghosts in his house, and Sirius swore not to jump out at anyone.
So there they were, all wandering around in the dark individually, with nothing but candles, matches, and ground lacewing flies. If the Graveyard Ghoulie snuck up on you, he would snuff out your candle and if you couldn’t relight it, you had to swallow the lacewing flies to become invisible to him, or he’d steal your soul.
The game in and of itself wasn’t too bad, but combining it with intoxication and no wand turned it into a psychological battle of wits.
Ivy heard a floorboard creak somewhere in the hallway outside of the drawing room she was currently attempting to navigate through. If she was being perfectly honest, she had already been seeing double with the lights on, and now the candlelight was playing tricks with her eyes. Focusing on anything smaller than a barstool was difficult, to say the least.
“This is fucking brilliant,” she muttered as she bumped into a low table.
Just then, another creak sounded just beside her. If she had been sober, she would have realized that it was her own foot. But Ivy Shelton was not sober, was she?
She jumped violently, flinging her candle over her shoulder. She heard it thud softly on a rug, probably upside down because it immediately went out, and she was plunged into total darkness. Ivy quickly fumbled for her matches but opened the box wrong side up, scattering them all over the floor. She dropped to her knees, trying to feel for one, but she was too panicked to find the right end to strike on the box. The sound of her own panicked breathing was becoming louder and more labored, accompanied by the pounding of her heart, and the darkness seemed to be closing in on her
Fuck the lacewing flies.
Remus was sitting against a tapestry on the second floor, waiting for someone to declare the game over. He was full of beer and knew better than to wander around the Potters’ manse drunkenly with a candle. He sighed, accidentally blowing out his candle for the 5th time.
“Fuck’s sake,” he muttered and decided to leave it out, just in case he fell asleep.
Just then, the silence was cut apart by a blood curdling scream unlike any other the human ear had ever heard. In his haste to pull his matchbox out of his pocket, the little thing went flying out into the darkness. The scream was getting closer, and Remus couldn’t determine what direction it was coming from. He searched his pockets futilely for his wand, already knowing that he wouldn’t find it. He finally realized that the scream was coming from behind him. He turned around, still on the floor, and scrambled awkwardly backwards, eyes wild and searching for the unholy specter about to bear down upon him.
Ivy ran like she had never run before in her life, crashing into furniture and walls. She was either completely aware of the inhuman sound her mouth was producing, or simply didn’t give a fuck anymore. Why should she? She had lost her dignity long ago.
Leaving a trail of broken curios in her wake, she desperately searched for a way away from whatever (she was positive) was chasing her. Then her foot caught something on the floor and she went sprawling on the floor. Whatever she landed on expelled a loud grunt, only heightening her fear.
Remus blinked his eyes against the suddenly blinding light, recognizing James’ voice and the thundering of feet on the stairs.
“Ivy! Ivy!” He shouted and rolled them over to pin her down and stop her thrashing. “It’s me! Remus! It’s me!”
When recognition and relief flared in Ivy’s eyes, she suddenly went completely limp in his arms, and Remus rolled back onto his back, pulling Ivy with him. She put her head down on his shoulder and he unconsciously ran a hand soothingly through her hair. Remus could feel her shallow breaths on his collarbone as she pressed her face into his sweater in an attempt to stop herself from shaking.
“What happened?” James demanded when he caught sight of them on the floor, the others right behind him.
“No clue. But we are never playing this fucking game again,” Remus said calmly, still stroking Ivy’s hair.
“I think we ought to sober up,” Lily said quietly and everyone else nodded their agreement.
“You’ll find everything you need in the kitchen. I’ll just see about the furniture,” James said as he surveyed the damage.
Remus stood up with Ivy in his arms and followed the others back downstairs, where Lily set about brewing the sobriety potion, and Alice put on the kettle. He set her down at the kitchen table, and slid into the seat across from her.
“I feel like such an ass,” Ivy shook her head once she finally trusted herself to speak.
“Don’t,” Amelia said sympathetically. “I would have done the same.”
Peter, who took the seat beside Ivy, briefly squeezed her shoulder encouragingly.
Ivy sighed and gave a ghost of a smile to Alice, who set down a steaming mug in front of her. She immediately wrapped her fingers around it, seeking its warmth. Then she looked across the table at Remus. “I’m so sorry. Are you sure you’re alright?”
“I’m fine,” he said hoarsely and wordlessly thanked Alice as she poured hot water over a teabag in his own cup.
“Right, everything’s fixed,” James said, walking into the room.
“And I’ve smashed all the bottles. You’re parents’ll never know how completely trashed we got,” Sirius grinned, coming in from the backyard, where he Confringo-ed all of the alcohol bottles.
“If there’s anything you couldn’t fix, I swear I’ll repay you for it if I can’t replace it,” Ivy rushed to say.
“Don’t worry about it,” James smirked. “Most exciting New Year’s Eve ever, if you ask me.”
Ivey smiled tremulously.
“I should get going,” Peter said slowly, eyeing the clock.
“Me too,” Lily bit her lip. “Luckily the potion’s done,” she added and quickly doled everyone a cupful.
“It is getting late, isn’t it?” Amelia said reluctantly. “And we totally forgot to exchange gifts.”
“We’ll have to do it as everyone heads out the door,” Sirius said, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, gagging at the aftertaste of the potion.
They all downed their sobriety potion and began heading for the coat hangers. As they bundled themselves into their coats, gifts exchanged hands.
Ivy swayed unsteadily as she pulled her coat on, but Remus caught her with a hand on her elbow.
“I’ll apparate you home,” he said.
“No, I’m fine–”
“No, you’re not. If you floo, who knows where you end up,” he said gruffly, wrapping her scarf around her neck for her.
If Ivy hadn’t been suffering from the aftershock of the earlier “excitement,” she would have resisted harder. Or not. It was nice to have someone taking care of her. Even if it was Remus.
Really? Who are you trying to kid?
Especially if it was Remus.
Just then, the fireplace flared green and Mr. and Mrs. Potter came stumbling happily out in their dress robes.
“Fun night, everyone?” Mr. Potter asked.
Everyone mumbled their assent. Mr. Potter clapped James on the shoulder and Mrs. Potter kissed him on the forehead before they sleepily went upstairs to bed.
Amelia jumped into the fireplace first.
“See you lot back at school,” she smiled before she disappeared.
Peter followed suit, but Alice and Lily followed Ivy and Remus to the front door. Alice spun in place on the yard after one last cheeky flutter of her fingers and a “secret” wink aimed at Ivy, who rolled her eyes. Sirius bad them goodnight from over James’ shoulder, making faces as James and Lily snogged goodbye.
“Ottery St. Catchpole, right?” Remus asked as he offered Ivy his arm.
“Yeah,” she nodded and looped her arm tightly around his.
The uncomfortability of squeezing and spinning that came with apparition was faint in comparison to the sudden trepidation Ivy felt at being alone with Remus. Ivy’s feet hit the ground before she could fully appreciate her first apparition.
“Thanks,” she said softly, stepping away from him.
“Which one is your aunt and uncle’s?” Remus asked, looking around the small town at all of the dark houses.
“They’re a bit outside of town,” Ivy admitted.
“Well, like I said, I’ll see you home,” Remus insisted.
“Alright,” she nodded, thankful for the company.
They walked in silence along the country road to the Burrow. As they crested the hill, Ivy saw that a light was burning in the kitchen, and she sighed happily at Arthur and Molly’s thoughtfulness.
“I see you’re in good hands. Perhaps I needn’t have worried,” Remus said formally.
Ivy quirked one of her odd smiles as they approached the gate.
“Don’t become a stranger now, Moose,” she said, nudging him lightly in the shoulder.
Ivy turned to face him in time to see a slight smile crossed his face.
“Go on. Inside with you,” he nodded at the house.
Ivy paused, gloved hand on the gate latch. She put a hand inside of her pocket and pulled out the mokeskin pouch.
“Your gift,” she shrugged, no very good at such gestures.
Remus accepted it automatically.
“Erm, did you want me to open it?” He asked once he realized that she had given him a present.
“Sure,” Ivy smiled.
He took off his gloves, shoving them into his coat to keep them warm for the time being, and quickly opened the pouch and shook the gift out. He turned the small volume over in his hands to see his name embossed on the cover. He flipped through the pages, all of which were blank.
“You gave me a…journal?” He asked uncertainly.
“No,” Ivy chuckled as she shook her head. “I’ve enchanted the pages.”
“To do what exactly?” Remus smiled suspiciously at her as he continued to riffle through the pages.
“Calm down, it’s perfectly harmless,” Ivy said ruefully. “It’ll tell you any story you want to read.”
Remus looked at her disbelievingly.
“Any story,” he said skeptically.
“Any story,” Ivy repeated.
“Well, what if I make one up?” He challenged.
“It’ll tell it to you.”
“What if it’s one I’ve heard but I don’t like the ending?” He asked, expression becoming serious.
Ivy looked at the book in his gentle but capable hands, and then met his penetratingly hazel gaze.
“It’ll change the ending, just for you,” she said softly.
Remus held her stare for a long moment before he replied, “It’s brilliant. Thank you.”
Ivy smiled softly and opened the gate.
“Ive. Wait,” he stopped her and she turned back to him.
He thrust his hand into his coat and pulled out a wrapped package.
“You didn’t think I wouldn’t get you something, did you?”
“Lately? I don’t know what to think,” she replied honestly but stepped forward, hand outstretched.
“Open it once you’re inside,” Remus said as he placed it in her gloved fingers.
“Okay,” Ivy whispered.
He pulled out his wand and turned to leave, quickly heading down the road to apparate but Ivy grabbed his coat before he could get far.
“Whatever it is, I’m sure I’ll love it,” she whispered and placed a warm kiss on Remus’ cheek, lingering just long enough so that he knew she meant it. Lips burning, she hurried down the front walkway and into the house, closing the door with a quiet click, leaving a speechless boy in the snow.
Ivy pulled off her gloves quickly and grabbed the candle that Arthur and Molly had left burning, using it to light her way up the stairs to her room. She placed it on her bedside table and sat on her duvet, staring down at the small parcel in her hands. Fingers shaking, she unwrapped it and immediately recognized it for the tattered hardcover that Remus always carried around. As always, the cover was unmarked, and upon opening it, she found an inscription.
I couldn’t think of anybody else that would appreciate this like I do.
I hope you’ll think of me when you read it.
Holding her breath, Ivy turned the page. She made out the title on the yellowed pages through blurry eyes, just a moment before the first tear fell and splashed against the parchment. She hastily wiped it away, relieved to see that she hadn’t smudged the bold-faced type.
Remus Lupin’s favorite book was The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Disclaimers: The Greet Me Ghoulie game was inspired by a game I read of online, called the Midnight Man. I do not own anything except for Ivy, and even then, I can hardly control her. So maybe I ought to consider her as more of an associate than a possession.
Hello everybody, long time no update, and I’m terribly sorry for that. It’s just been a difficult past few months; writer’s block truly is a notion conceived by the devil. XP
In an effort to make up for the lengthy absence, I give you this GINORMOUS chapter. (Don’t get used to it, you whippersnappers.) I hope you enjoyed it, or at least weren’t completely disappointed.
Please leave me a review if you’ve got the time. I do so love hearing from you all.
P.S. My MTA page is awfully lonely. It’s tired of hearing from me, and I think you guys would be good friends for it. ;)