07. Grim and Badger
The week flew by and I was suddenly imposed with the formidable task of packing for the Christmas holidays. Hugo and I had managed to stay on top of our work despite having to plot the downfall of three particularly dim-witted Slytherins – the Lestrange brothers and Gregor Mulciber. This proved to be rather difficult with Professor McGonagall constantly watching us, but we were successful nevertheless. With all the teachers congratulating us on our improved performances in classes and timely submission of assignments, we were becoming quite the team.
Operation: Transformation was smoothly sailing, and twenty rounds around the pitch seemed less and less brutal with every passing day. Before long, I was doing thirty instead of twenty, and sprouts had become my official break time snack – bless Bluebell, that elf could make Hugo’s socks taste great.
“Are you going away for the Christmas hols, then?” Sylvie asked me when we were playing chess in the Great Hall.
“Yup,” I confirmed. “I’m going to Hugo’s place, and then we’re going for a holiday with my lot.”
“Ooh, where to?” she asked, her large eyes gleaming.
“Somewhere in the south of France,” I shrugged and she giggled.
“That’s awfully romantic.”
“I don’t know why people associate romance to France. I associate it with cheese, wine and pointed noses.”
“So you’re meeting his family then?” she enquired and I nodded. “That’s real serious.”
“No, Sylvie,” I said with a sigh. “It’s just for a week, and he’s got loads of family members flitting in and out of the house apparently.”
“You’ll be staying under the same roof though!” she cried. “Why do you think he asked you?”
“Asked me what? To his Christmas dinner?” I asked and she nodded, looking perplexed. “I don’t know. He knows I don’t have plans for Christmas normally. And we’re just friends, honestly, what’s the harm ...” I drifted off and she shook her head.
“I bet he fancies you,” she whispered and I glared at her.
“Sylvie, it’s just been two weeks, but I know Hugo alright? If he fancied me, he would have told me by now! He’s got no hang ups. That’s what I like about him,” I said stiffly. “Now hurry up and make a move, I’ve got to finish packing.”
It turned out that I only finished packing the morning we had to leave. In seven years, I had never been on the Hogwarts Express during the winter. Hugo and I got into an empty compartment and began a game of Exploding Snap.
“This is how it all started,” he said with a nostalgic grin.
“You know – the Roger Davies Incident,” he said, sitting back in his seat and letting the grin on his face spread. “You were beating him at Exploding Snap and he couldn’t take it.”
“Oh right,” I said, the memory still fresh in my mind. It had just been two weeks, after all. “You never quite told me why you punched him.”
“He’s had that coming for years now,” he answered and I shook my head, not convinced.
“Nobody else reacted! And we didn’t even know each other back then.”
“I just felt like I had to do it, you know?” he said finally, running a hand through his hair. “Davies had always been a prat, but it seriously had to stop somewhere, yeah? I always told myself I’d do it – give him a piece of my mind. But it didn’t turn out the way I expected I guess. I’m not really the violent sort, I dunno what happened.”
“Well, I’m glad you did it. I mean, look where we are now,” I said with a wink and Hugo snorted.
“Hogwarts is at our mercy!” he said, followed by his well-practiced evil laugh. “I think we should make names for each other. Like in Muggle comic books people give their alter egos names.”
“We don’t have alter egos,” I said with a chuckle. “What’s your patronus?” I asked him.
I wrinkled my nose. “Can’t make anything fancy out of that, can you?”
“The Gregarious Grim!” he cried and I rolled my eyes.
“You’re far from gregarious,” I said and he looked offended.
“It sounds good. What other adjectives are there with G? Gallant, gorgeous, greedy, ghoulish, ghastly, garish, good looking – ”
,” I interrupted before he could carry on.
“What’s yours, then?” he asked, not appreciating being interrupted.
“A badger,” I said meekly, pretending to be interested in my hair.
“You heard me,” I snapped and Hugo started laughing.
“I think you were meant to be a ‘Puff,” he said and I rolled my eyes at him. “Hmmm. Let’s see. The Boisterous Badger? What else goes with B? We’ve got barmy, ballistics, brave – ha, as if
.” I scowled at him. “Broody, bumbling, berserk – damn, you’ve got some good adjectives, Audrey!”
I threw a chocolate frog at him and he chortled away. “The Gregarious Grim and Boisterous Badger! When we set up that agency, we can call it – ”
“Grim and Badger,” I said with a small grin.
“Sounds fancy, doesn’t it?” Hugo looked rather pleased with his imagination. “Alright then, Badger, let’s see if I can break your winning streak.”
As we got down to playing, I realized how different my life was just two weeks back. The last time I played Exploding Snap I was a nomad being challenged by the (alleged) fittest bloke in Hogwarts. And two weeks later, I had a friend, I had avenged all those people who had been made to feel like rubbish in some way or another, and I was actually going to celebrate Christmas.
The Weasleys were ridiculous.
And I mean this in the best way possible. The first one I met was Hugo’s father Ron, who I was beyond excited to meet, having read about him in the updated versions of A History of Magic
. In more ways than one, I was certain that Hugo took after his father. They both had the same mental sense of humour, seemed like they were underappreciated (Hugo was for sure, but I couldn’t be certain about Ron) and were both too much fun to be around. The first thing Ron did when he saw Hugo was make an inappropriate joke about how I was his girlfriend, before progressing to tell me that I was a lot less round than he expected. Hugo, of course, was positively embarrassed and asked his father to stay quiet for the rest of the journey. Which he didn’t.
The next person I met was Rose Weasley, alarmingly snotty but with some endearing qualities. I realized that both Weasley offspring were exact replicas of their parents – Hugo was a lankier, more bashful version of his father, and Rose was the splitting image of her mother Hermione (who I was introduced to after Rose), only with red hair instead of manic brown curls. The house itself was warm and comforting, but with a tinge of craziness I deemed unique to the Weasley household.
“There’s a spare bedroom between Rose and Hugo’s,” Hermione said with a smile, but also with an urgency in her voice that I assumed never left. “I’ve cleaned it up a bit to make it more habitable. Sometimes the Albus and James stay there, and you know what a mess they’re capable of!” she cried, shaking her head and laughing. “I’m afraid they’ve called me back to the Ministry, so Ronald will be here to see if you need anything. Isn’t that right?” she asked, looking at her husband who nodded.
Dear Ronald Weasley, the perfect feminist husband. I was turning into a bigger fangirl with every passing moment.
Some time passed and I was safely settled into the room between Rose and Hugo’s. Hugo’s room was an absolute mess – it had Quidditch posters all over the walls and there were things strewn all over the place. “Your mum’ll make sure you do something about that while you’re here,” Ron had said when they were giving me a tour of the house. About an hour later, I was in the kitchen with Rose and Ron helping out with dinner while Hugo had gone to shower. The bell rang and Ron went to get it, leaving me along with the beady eyed, slightly unfriendly ginger sister.
“Are you Hugo’s girlfriend then?” she asked, her chin in the air and eyes searching me.
“Err no, we’re just friends,” I said, chopping up the carrots vigorously.
“Hugo doesn’t have friends!” Rose clearly didn’t believe me and I chuckled.
“Neither did I. But that was before we met each other.”
“You’ve been in the same school for seven years
,” she cried, looking at me like I was an idiot.
“We moved in different circles,” I tried to explain to her, but she wasn’t having any of it.
“I can’t believe Hugo’s got a girlfriend
,” she sounded utterly repulsed.
I gave up and resumed chopping up carrots as Hermione entered the kitchen and looked outraged.
“Ronald! You can’t make our guests
make dinner!” she cried, ushering me out of the kitchen even though I assured her it was no problem and that I was happy to help. She continued reprimanding her husband for burdening me with the task of cooking for six people even though all I was doing was peeling potatoes and cutting carrots, and Hugo descended down the stairs.
“Are the others coming soon?” he asked. “Or are we going to the Burrow?”
“Teddy’s coming tonight and he’ll be staying with us for the week,” Ron said, unhappily making his way back to the kitchen.
“But we’ll be at the Burrow for Christmas,” Hermione finished.
“Where will Teddy sleep?” I asked, feeling uncomfortable.
“Oh don’t worry about it, dear. Rose can sleep with us or Teddy can share with Hugo. You’d better clean your room while you’re here, Hugo. You know I can’t stand the mess you make!” Ron poked his head out of the kitchen to give Hugo an I-bloody-told-you-so look before returning to the carrots.
I was then introduced to Teddy Lupin in the middle of dinner, as he barged in through the front door showered everybody with hugs and handshakes. He sat down and began talking about his exploits in Bulgaria, spewing words with so much intensity and dramatics I wondered if he ever had a dull moment in his life. It was decided that Rose would sleep with her parents (on the floor of their bedroom – she was not pleased) and Teddy would occupy her room.
“How come we’ve never heard of you before this then, Audrey?” Teddy asked, curiously eyeing me over his plate of food. I looked at Hugo, who looked embarrassed.
“Hugo and I never really hung out or talked before ... well, two weeks back,” I said with an uncomfortable laugh.
“Ah, two loitering, desperate souls, waiting to find something to anchor onto! It’s a good thing you found each other – Hugo’s not complaining about how everybody at Hogwarts are a bunch of twats every second of the day,” Teddy said dramatically and Hermione nodded.
“What’s a twat?” Rose enquired, flicking some peas from her plate onto Hugo’s.
“It’s a type of sock,” Ron said lamely, before telling her to eat her peas (good for the bones, apparently).
I was absolutely besotted by the Weasleys and Teddy Lupin by the end of dinner. There were no awkward silences on account of my presence, and everybody was being their usual selves. Rose went to bed at nine thirty and Teddy and Mr and Mrs Weasley at eleven, which left me and Hugo sitting on the enormous and ridiculously comfortable couch feeling well fed and watered.
Hugo let out a sigh. “A bit off, aren’t they?” he said with an embarrassed smile.
“Nah, they’re awesome!” I said honestly. “Your dad’s pretty cool. Reminds me of mine, but he’s got an actual sense of humour.”
Hugo chuckled. “Wait till you meet the rest of them. James owled me to say he’d be coming over tomorrow with Albus and Lily. The Potters are a bit normal, though. Once you meet Grandmum and Uncle George and Charlie, you’ll have had enough of all of us.”
I laughed and let out a yawn. “Thanks for inviting me over, Grim.” I said slowly and he nodded.
“Thanks for coming, Badger.”
In a matter of days, I was used to waking up to the sound of the kettle screaming. By the time I made myself look presentable and got downstairs, the adults would be leaving for work and Teddy would be hunched over a script shouting things like “Parting is such a sweet sorrow!”. James, Albus and Lily Potter made frequent visits during the day, particularly the boys, and always insisted I join in whenever they play Quidditch, despite my abysmal set of skills for the game – this was a problem, because even though it was nearly freezing outside, the boys played Quidditch all the time
. Lily stayed inside with Teddy and Rose, alternating between playing chess (a game she was notoriously good at) and talking about her woeful days at Auror training.
James and Albus looked remarkably alike, both with astoundingly messy hair and sharp, intelligent features. Except Albus had his father’s eyes – deep and green. Lily took after her mother a great deal, except for the fact that she was easily much better looking, and had obviously not inherited Ginny’s Quidditch playing abilities. Days ambled by and I established that none of them really disliked me (except for Rose, who was certain I was dating her brother and glared at me whenever we were near each other). James, Albus, Hugo and I ended up attempting to clean Hugo’s room, buying and decorating a tree, writing down addresses on Christmas cards and even tackling the unhealthy amounts of soot in the chimney. On Christmas eve we left for the Burrow
“I’m a bit nervous,” I said honestly to Hugo as we made our way up the hill leading to the large cottage.
“I would be too,” he said with a chuckle. “Don’t worry. They might bombard you with questions, but they’ll calm down eventually. I’ll make sure you’re not stuck between uncle Percy and George. They always end up trying to kill each other.” He said mirthfully and I gulped.
The Burrow seemed like the perfect escape from the icy winds outside. It was warm and well lit, and bustling with people of all shapes and sizes. There was Molly and Arthur Weasley, both a bit past middle-age and looking round and happy and welcoming. There was Bill and Fleur, and their daughters Dominique (who hugged me like we had been friends for a thousand years and told me ‘I vos shaping up kvite vell’) and Victoire, who both looked like petite, porcelain dolls. I gushed a bit when I was introduced to Harry and Ginny Potter, almost stumbling into George Weasley in the process, who greeted me with a ‘wotcher’ and thumped Hugo on the back. Percy Weasley and his wife were already seated at the table, levitating plates and glasses to their respective positions and waving to me. Molly II and the Roxanne sat huddles in a couch far away from everybody else, clutching onto a rather ugly looking ginger cat and gossiping away. Angelina Johnson came in through the door some time later, and some time after that, a manic looking Charlie Weasley breezed in. Everybody was talking and laughing away, some of them arguing over who deserved the bigger piece of chicken (George and Percy) and some claiming that being in the theatre business was far more profitable than breeding dragons (Teddy to Charlie).
“Nobody even goes to your plays, Ted,” Charlie scoffed, scooping food into his mouth.
“That’s rubbish! I read Audrey and Hugo my new script and they agreed that it was good!” he cried, and Hugo and I nodded to make him feel better. “Besides, no girl wants to marry a bloke who spends his time sifting through dragon hide! Right, Gran?”
Molly Weasley chuckled and served everybody more food. “Charlie likes being by himself. I’ve tried to get him to settle down but he refuses! He likes dragons better than girls, he says.”
” groaned an embarrassed Charlie and everybody laughed.
“Albus, at least eat
like a grown man! That chicken’s not going to run away,” said Ginny, glaring at Albus the same way Hermione glared at Hugo.
“Oi, I’ve barely eaten anything decent since training!” said the outraged Potter. “Just you wait, in a few years, Lily’ll be eating like me as well.” Lily scrunched up her nose in disgust and continued to eat in a dignified manner.
“What are your plans for after Hogwarts, Hugo and Audrey?” Arthur Weasley said and it was Hugo’s turn to groan.
“Come on, Pop, can’t we just eat dinner in peace for once without talking about my future plans?”
“Basically, he hasn’t got any plans,” James interjected before his grandfather could object. “What about you, Audrey?”
“I haven’t got much of a clue either,” I said with a shrug. “I’m thinking I might write.”
“If you want to work at the Prophet, I can get you an internship,” said Percy. “Pull a few strings, here and there.”
“That would be incredible!”
“It’s a lot of work,” George said. “Hugo, you can help me out at the shop if you haven’t got a clue what to do with yourself after Hogwarts. I could always use the extra hand. All Roxie does is complain.”
“I do not!” cried Roxanne, glaring at her father who blew her a kiss.
“Is everybody finished? Shall we have dessert?” Molly asked and after a loud cry of ‘yes please’, our empty plates were refilled with pudding, a slice of pie, and a blob of jelly.
There weren’t enough rooms to accommodate everybody so some of the inmates helped set up a tent outside the house. Hugo stayed by my side most of the time, probably aware that his extended family, though good-natured and overall very charming, could be a bit overwhelming at times. We laid our mattresses together and plonked down onto them, amazed at the amount of food we had consumed in the last forty-eight hours.
“I think we’re going to have to abandon Operation: Transformation,” I said with a lazy grin and Hugo chuckled.
“Nah. You said your old pants had gone loose, right? We’re on track!” he said. “Can you believe we’ve only got a few months of Hogwarts left?”
“It’s scary, right?” I said with a sigh. “It’s going to be good though.” I assured him and he nodded.
Somewhere in the distance, the personalized Weasley clock chimed twelve times. I turned to Hugo who gave me a wide smile.
“Merry Christmas, Audrey.”
“Merry Christmas, Hugo.”
THERE YOU GO. A wonderful, pointless Christmasy chapter as promised. Leave me to weep at my inability to keep up with self-made deadlines and write semi-decent fanfiction.
Thanks for the reviews and favourites so far! <3