It was almost eleven o'clock when I arrived in front of my mother's house, or more precisely her villa. I was almost scared to walk along the path leading to the front door, in case I would leave any dirt on it, from my shoes. I rang the door bell and my sweet mother opened it, dressed in an apricot floral dress, with pearls around her neck and an apron around her waist. She looked and acted the role of a perfect house-wife.
“Candice, how,” she hovered for a second, “lovely that you could make it.”
It looked like I was her old assistant, not her daughter.
“Merry Christmas to you too mum,” I said giving her a sarcastic smile.
“Come in,” she waved me and then looked around the neighbourhood in suspicion, probably worrying that somebody saw me coming here. I mean, what would the neighbours think of the fact that she has another daughter that nobody knows about?
She led me to the kitchen where my step-father Peter was sitting, feeding my two-year old step-brother Matthew. Peter was the complete opposite of my dad. He was basically the add for a perfect husband. He even looked the part: muscular body, sandy blond hair, blue eyes and a dazzling smile.
“Hello Cece,” he nodded at me.
I couldn't say that I hated Peter, he was alright plus he called me Cece which always gets you bonus points.
“Hi Peter,” I said, stroking Matthew's head, “Merry Christmas.”
“To you too,” he said in his deep voice.
Of course, like everything in this house the kitchen/dinning room was spotless. Everything was in it's place and there was a big breakfast prepared on the table.
I helped myself to some waffles and put on some whipped cream. Don't get me wrong, this was probably the last place on earth where I felt at home, but I just wanted to spite my mother a bit. It annoyed her just to have me here, you can't imagine the inner battle she must have faced when I just sat down here like I was still a part of her family. Not that I wanted that anyway.
“So how is school?” she said icily.
Both of my parents are muggles and as far as my mother goes I was as good as out of this family when I received my letter from Hogwarts.
“You know, same old same old. We're learning how to torture humans so that wizards can take over the world,” I shrugged nonchalantly and my mum's body froze in place, but Peter laughed. He's a good lad.
“That is not funny darling,” mother lectured me.
“Well ok, but I do know how to turn anyone into a frog,” I told her dead-seriously this time, and I think she took it as a threat. I don't think she remembered I am not supposed to do magic outside of Hogwarts, not that it's going to matter for such a long time. I'm going to be seventeen in March.
“I saw dad.”
Talking about adding salt to the wound. She had this twisted expression on her face and I knew she wanted so bad to keep her perfect picture image.
“And how is he?” she asked, trying to act kind.
“You know what dear, I have a pedicure appointment today, but it was nice of you to stop by,” she suddenly said getting up.
My mum then walked across the room and grabbed a twenty pound note from her purse, “Here you go, buy yourself something nice,” she squeezed it into my hand and before I knew what was happening I was standing with a closed door in front of my face. This was a new record. During the summer she at least had the curtsy to cook me lunch and then give me the money and throw me out.
Well at least I'm done with the family visits for this year. Now it's just a matter of question how I'm going to get to the Weasley's. As soon as they heard about my family's little situation they said I could come and stay with them whenever I wanted, and offer which I took on quite a few times.
Now that I was standing on the street there was only one smart option that came to mind. I raised my arm and in a second the big purple bus was waiting for me.
I wondered, if I have a death wish, because this is the second time in three days I was getting in a vehicle, that was not the most pleasant or safest way of transport.
“Welcome to the knight bus, I am your conductor for this evening, where is your destination?” A guy in a matching purple suit asked.
“Godric's Hollow,” I said, dragging my trunk aboard the bus.
“That will be coming up in just a second, for now please stay seated,” he told me and gave me my ticket.
There was only one other person on the bus and even that was a surprise, since it was Christmas morning. I wondered what his story might be. Was it just me or did the journey seem calmer then usual, maybe I was just used to old ladies driving like twenty-year-olds with porches.
“Here we go: Godric's Hollow!”
I got up and thanked both the driver and the conductor, then I walked those few streets that separated me from Rose's house and rung the bell. Hermione opened it.
“Oh Cece! How nice of you to join us!” she gave me a big hug and I felt more at home then at any of my two parents.
“Merry Christmas Mrs. Weasley.”
“Please, I have told you a million times to call me Hermione,” she rolled her eyes, “You are like a part of our family.”
“Thank you, it means a lot.”
“Come in dear, we're just about to open the presents, knowing James he couldn't wait and has already opened his long ago,” she sighed at the thought of her eldest, but then gave me another warm smile. We came in to the living room where the entire Weasley and Potter family were seated.
“Cece!” Rose yelled, giving me a big hug and pulling me to the floor down next to her. Everybody else just nodded or smiled, not wanting to get up with their cups of hot-chocolate in hand. I looked around to meet a pair of sparkling green eyes and Al gave me a big smile and mouthed: merry Christmas.
“Hot chocolate, dear?” Ginny handed me a cup.
“Thank you Mrs. Potter.”
“She will never get it, will she?” Ginny exchanged a look of despair with Hermione, “I am not Mrs. Potter, it makes me sound so old, you have to start calling me Ginny.”
“Ok, thank you Ginny,” I said, smiling.
“That's better dear, you are almost like a daughter,” she stroked my head.
Then you would have nothing against me marrying your son? I didn't say that out loud of course.
“So Cece, this is something from the Potter family to you,” Harry handed me a parcel.
“For me?” I asked in shock.
“Of course,” Ginny shrugged.
“Was I supposed to get them something?” I whispered to Rose, when no-one was looking.
“No, the kids never get the adults anything,” she shook her head.
I opened my parcel and found new Quidditch robes and a big packet of chocolate frogs.
“James told us he found a new talent in you,” Harry chuckled.
“Thank you so much, I really appreciate it,” I told them sincerely.
I almost started crying, after the horrible run in with my mum and the state my dad was in, to see how much my friend's family cared about me, it was just too much.
“Thank you,” I said again, hoping they would really see it came from my heart.
“We also got you a little something,” Ron seemed a little bit embarrassed when he handed me the parcel, “Hermione picked it out.”
Inside I found a really beautiful velvet dress in the colour of red wine. It was the most stunning thing I had ever seen and I realized it must have cost them a fortune.
“This is too much,” I said.
“Nonsense, just enjoy wearing it and we'll be happy,” Hermione said.
“It's so beautiful,” I told her and stood up to give her a hug, “Thank you so much.”
I also gave a hug to Ginny and thanked her again.
“Now that everyone's happy, why don't you two girls get settled in your bedroom,” Hermione told Rose. With multiple efforts we dragged my trunk into her room and then I started searching for Rose's present in my trunk. I finally found it.
“I'm sorry, it isn't wrapped, but merry Christmas nevertheless,” I handed her the book I knew she'd wanted to buy for a long time.
“Oh, thank you Cece!” she yelled, giving me a hug and then handing me a carefully wrapped present, “This is for you.”
“But I already got the dress!” I said in protest.
“That was from my parents and Hugo, though to be honest he had little to do with it, but you haven't gotten anything from me,” she said, pushing the packet towards me.
Inside was a really nice handbag that fitted with the dress.
“Me and mum worked together,” Rose smiled, “Plus I put an undetectable extension charm on it.”
“Thank you so much Rose! This is all too much!” I felt like I robot that could only repeat that sentence.
“You could wear the dress to the New Year's party, it will look superb on you.”
“That's a good idea, I will do that,” I agreed.
“Rose! Can you come down here for a second!” Hermione's voice called from the kitchen.
“I'll be back soon,” Rose said, skipping down the stairs.
I flunked myself on the bed and thought about how lucky I was. Sure, my biological family wasn't one you could ask for, but you could never find better people, then the ones who were currently residing under this roof.
“Knock knock,” a male voice said, behind the half-closed door.
“Come in,” I said.
“Hey Cece,” it was Albus.
“Hi Al,” I said, trying to ignore the fact that we were alone and that hadn't happened for a very long time now. He sat down on the bed and his smell washed over me like a wave. It was the best smell I have ever come across and, if he'd let me, I'd drown myself in it.
“So,” he fiddled with his hands, “I got you something for Christmas.”
“Oh Al, you didn't have to!”
“I just saw it in my uncle Bill's jewellery shop and it reminded me of you.”
I didn't know what to say except: this is all too much, so I just stayed quiet. He handed me a small box covered with black velvet and I opened it. Inside was a silver bracelet with little charms on it.
“I picked out the charms according to what you like, look...” he took the bracelet into his palm, “Here's the weird sister's sign, here's a unicorn, because on our first class of magical creatures this year we were learning about unicorns, here's a chocolate covered strawberry,” he laughed at the little strawberry that really did look like it was dipped in chocolate, “And here's Santa’s hat. I know that last one is a muggle tradition, but I just thought it'd be appropriate,” he shrugged.
“Al, I love it,” I said sincerely and he tied the bracelet around my wrist.
“Thank you,” I said and then we hugged. I don't know, if it just seemed like that to me or were we really hugging for such a long time. Eventually we broke apart and my cheeks were slightly red so I tried to hide them behind my hair.
“So see you around Cece,” he said, getting up and leaving the room.
I sat there for about ten minutes and then quietly followed him down stairs, since Rose hadn't returned yet. I found them both in the dinning room, setting the table for lunch, since it was past one already.
“Why didn't you call me to help?” I asked.
“We just thought you needed a rest,” Rose shrugged.
I took a pile of napkins and started placing them around the table.
“Why is it set for so many people?” I asked.
“The Delacour/Weasleys are coming for lunch,” Al said.
That means Louis is coming. I couldn't help getting a feeling in my stomach. I couldn't say, if it was positive or negative, but it was most definitely a feeling.
“What's for lunch?” James came in asking.
“I don't know, but you are definitely not getting any, if you don't help out,” Rose told him and he slowly started taking the glasses out of the cupboard. At that moment Ginny and Hermione walked in.
“Ah, it's good that you're all here, we have something we need to talk about.”
That tone is never good. It's the one mothers use when you're in trouble.
“It wasn't me, it was Al,” James said immediately.
“James, we haven't accused anyone of anything yet,” Ginny said, “This is about New Year's Eve. We know we let you have a little party, but James everything has to stay in check, ok? Do you understand that?”
I think both Ginny and Hermione knew that James invited a few more people then they agreed upon, but the were willing to let it go, if the house was still in one piece, when they got back.
“And I hope you didn't buy any illegal substances,” Hermione said strictly to which James did not respond.
“Hermione, they are teenagers, I just hope none of them end up in the emergency room,” Ginny sighed, “Maybe this was a mistake altogether.”
“No, no, no! It wasn't!”
“Everything will be alright, I swear mum!”
“Yes, don't worry, I'll be there, I'll take care of them!”
James, Al and Rose all started saying at the same time.
“Ok, then,” Hermione laughed slightly.
“They'll be fine,” Ginny gave in and started preparing the last touches of the lunch on the counter.
“Was that the doorbell?” James asked.
“It must be Fleur and the others,” Ginny nodded, “James, be a dear and go open the door.”
We all went along and greeted them at the entrance.
“Cece,” Louis gave me a big hug and a kiss.
“How are you?” I asked.
“Good, now that I see you. How are you?” he smiled brightly.
“Good,” I said, “Merry Christmas.”
“To you too.”
We walked into the living room and sat down on the couch, Louis playing with my fingers, when the bracelet on my wrist caught his attention.
“Where did you get this from?”
I found myself in an awkward position and I somehow didn't want to admit to Louis that Al gave me the bracelet.
“The Potters got it for me for Christmas,” I told him.
“It's pretty,” he said, “It looks like something my dad made.”
“I think it's from his shop,” I smiled.
After the war Bill gave up working at Gringgot's and opened a jewellery store in Diagon Alley.
“Lunch is ready,” Ginny called and we all sat down around the table, I had Louis on one side and Rose on the other. The table was full of sandwiches, salads and other cold dishes. I made myself a turkey, cheese, lettuce and tomato sandwich and bit into it hungrily. The only thing I had eaten up till then was the waffle I took at my mother's.
“How was your dad?” Rose asked me quietly.
“Like always, even a bit worse,” I shrugged.
“I'm sorry,” Rose said sympathetically, “And your mum?”
“She kicked me out even sooner then usual.”
“Well at least that means you can stay with us,” she looked on the bright side.
We spent the next few days just lounging around the house, James, Al and Lily joining us daily. We played some wizard chess and tried to teach sign language to James's pet monkey that he got for Christmas. I personally think Harry and Ginny went mad, when they bought him Ludwig-as he called it- and I have no idea how this newly acquired pet will behave once we get back to Hogwarts.
“Do you know what I forgot to tell you?” Rose asked me one afternoon.
“What?” I looked up from the Quidditch magazines that I was going through briefly.
“My fish died.”
Oh-oh. Cece, this is the big moment. You were preparing for this. Do not let the lie be visible on your face. Like a samurai, you are trained in the art of deception. I looked up slowly.
“Yes and I don't even know when. My mum said it just disappeared.”
“That's peculiar,” I said, trying very hard to keep my voice at a steady level.
Why is she looking at me like that? It wasn't me, I swear! Well, it was, but I'm not going to tell her that. Stop pestering me with your judging stare woman! Look away! Nothing to see here.
Finally Rose looked back to the book she was reading and the fish was never to be mentioned again. Success!
A/N: The Christmas special was brought to you by fish entertainment tonight. No fish were harmed in the making of this production.