Chapter 15 : Gifts and Games.
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As usual, Teddy visited the Potters on Christmas Eve for an early Christmas celebration.
Albus’s grandparents would have willingly welcomed him at the Burrow, but it was generally agreed it’d be unfair to expect his own grandmother to share him with the entire Weasley clan on Christmas day. He was, after all, her only remaining family member.
Teddy’d never minded. It just meant he got two Christmases each year.
“I bet he’ll have great presents for us this year,” Lily speculated. “Now that he’s working with Aunt Hermione.”
The door opened and she ran to open it, followed more sedately by James and Albus.
“Do you have presents for us?” she demanded.
Their mother followed them into the hallway and glared at her.
“It’s all right, Ginny. It’s Christmas. She’s allowed to be excited.”
He took out a number of parcels and handed them around.
“Thanks Teddy.” Albus grinned to see a new wizard’s chess set.
“Yeah, thanks Teddy.” James held up his broomstick servicing kit. “This was exactly what I needed.”
Lily put on her new earrings and twirled around excitedly.
“Have they turned purple?”
They were apparently supposed to match whatever you were wearing.
“They certainly have,” Teddy assured her.
“I’ve something for you too, Teddy,” Albus shouted and raced upstairs to get his present.
“Thanks Albus. This will come in so handy. My quills are always running out of ink.”
“I thought it’d be useful,” Albus said quietly. “What’s it like working for Aunt Hermione anyway?”
Teddy laughed. “Honestly? It’s a revelation. There’s been so much inequality in our world. I always knew that, of course, but until I started working in the Ministry, I never realised just how much opposition to change there is out there. Hermione’s really been up against it. That she’s achieved so much already is just amazing. She’s drawn up a whole code as to how house-elves should be treated.”
Albus’s father nodded. “As Kreacher’s official ‘master’, I had to sign a contract, guaranteeing him those rights. Even though he works at Hogwarts, I’m still legally responsible.”
“The code is great, but it’s still largely ignored by some of the old pureblood families, the ones that stick to the old ideals.” He sighed. “It’s hard. We can’t go around to the houses of everybody who owns a house elf to ensure they’re treating them correctly so we’re dependent on the house elves themselves filing complaints and for the most part, they don’t. They’re too loyal to their families. And of course, there are those even within the Ministry who’d rather they weren’t even aware of their right to do so.”
“Change can be a long time coming,” Albus’s father admitted. “But it’s definitely a very different world from the one I grew up in.”
“I know that. I think we are very lucky to be growing up today. I just wish my dad had lived to see it.”
“So do I.”
Albus shifted uncomfortably. Even now, the events of the past could still draw a shadow over the warmest gatherings. Rose was right. They really did need to find out who it was that seemed to want to draw them back into those days.
“Teddy?” he began.
“Yes.” Teddy turned to give him his full attention.
“I don’t think I told you this – maybe Dad did – but, somebody’s been writing stuff about the past on the walls at Hogwarts.”
“WHAT?” His mother spun around to stare at him. “You never told me that. What were they writing?”
“Oh, just stuff about Voldemort,” Albus said uncomfortably, remembering he wasn’t supposed to remind her of the Chamber of Secrets. “That he was about to come back and stuff.”
“He can’t,” his mother and Teddy said in unison.
“Yeah, I know, but it sounded like the person writing it wished he could.”
His mother frowned. “You should have told me about this.”
“That was my fault,” his father interrupted. “Albus mentioned it to me, but I was in the middle of one of our usual crises at the Ministry and I must have forgotten to pass it on. Albus probably assumed I’d told you.” He winked at his son.
“I’d say there are some people who’d like to return to the days of Voldemort’s reign,” Teddy said slowly. “Some of the families who lost their money and position in the aftermath, for a start.”
“I really don’t think this is the time to be discussing this,” Albus’s father said. “We’re trying to celebrate Christmas, after all. And Ginny’s gone to a lot of trouble over the meal. Albus, Lily and I decorated the biscuits.”
“The easy part, you’ll notice,” his mother said, smiling.
They never had turkey Christmas Eve, since there’d be plenty of that the following day, so they sat down to salmon, followed by ice-cream and mince-pies.
“You’re a fantastic cook, Ginny,” Teddy said appreciatively.
“Thank you, Teddy. If only everybody else was as polite.” She glanced around the table.
Albus got up and kissed her. “Thanks Mum.”
“Yeah, thanks, Mum.” Lily came over to kiss her as well.
“You’re absolutely wonderful, the best wife in the world and I promise to do more next year.”
“Oh well, you got the tree organised and I know how busy you are at work.”
“You’re busy too; don’t think I don’t consider your career important.”
“I don’t have the same pressures you do, though. Being Head Auror must be about the most stressful job there is.”
“It’s not as bad now as it was when I started. I pity Robarts. He had a difficult time of it.”
“The reason it’s easier now is because you’re doing such an amazing job. There are still Dark Wizards out there. You’re just keeping on top of them.”
“Long may we continue to do so.”
The conversation continued into the night. It was after eleven before Teddy finally left. Lily was already asleep on the couch and Albus’s own eyes were beginning to close.
Their father took Lily in his arms and carried her up the stairs.
“It’s time you two were getting to bed too,” their mother said. “Or Father Christmas won’t come to you.”
“Right Mum.” James rolled his eyes, but got to his feet anyway.
Despite getting to bed so late, Albus woke early the next morning.
He rushed downstairs, where Lily was already tearing at one of her parcels.
“Shouldn’t we wait for James and Mum and Dad?” he said.
She sighed. “I suppose so.”
She tried to glance in through the small tear she’d made.
“I’ll go and call them.”
James staggered down the stairs looking sleepy.
“Is it morning already?”
“Aren’t you excited to open your presents?” Lily asked.
“I already know what I’m getting, remember?”
Their father got out his camera, as Albus and Lily finally tore into their presents.
Albus got books, clothes, a working model of the solar system and a small Quidditch game that worked in a similar way to wizard’s chess, with miniature players you had to direct. Since Albus loved both Quidditch and wizard’s chess, he couldn’t wait to try it out and he and James immediately set it up to play a game.
The difficulty immediately became clear. It was virtually impossible to direct your Seeker to find the Snitch without alerting your opponent, but that only made the game more hilarious.
“It’s over there, by the third hoop. Our one. Go and get it.”
“You heard him. Get after it.”
Lily shoved the dolls from her Healer’s set aside.
“I’m playing next!”
“OK, winner plays Lily,” James declared. “For Merlin’s sake, GET THAT SNITCH!”
James finally won the game and the players returned to their starting places so he could play Lily. He beat her easily and punched the air in excitement.
“I am the champion!”
She sulked a little.
“Come on, Lil, it’s Christmas.” Albus reached out to tickle her.
“Stop it,” she said, giggling.
“Hey, don’t your Mum and I get a game?” their father asked. “The winner plays James. All right?”
“Yeah, great,” Albus said vaguely. He’d just realised he’d forgotten all about the presents he had for his family.
While his parents set up the game again, he ran up to his room to get the presents and brought them down. He passed James his book and Lily the notes. He’d keep his parents’ presents until they could focus their full attention on opening them.
“Oh!” Lily jumped up and ran out to get her presents also.
James opened his present.
“Wow, thanks Albus. This’ll be a great help.”
“Open these!” Lily placed parcels beside each of her brothers, then turned to open the notes. “These are fantastic.” She lowered her voice. “Hugo and I will be able to pass each other all kinds of messages when Grandma is boring.”
James and Albus unwrapped wonky looking scarves, one in the red of Gryffindor for James and the other the blue of Ravenclaw for Albus.
“I made them myself.”
James and Albus exchanged looks, trying not to laugh. It was perfectly clear she’d made them.
“We’ll wear them to the Burrow this afternoon,” Albus said.
James glared at him.
Their mother finally beat their father at the Quidditch game and they both stopped to open their presents from their children.
“I need a break before I play James anyway.”
James tisked. “See, you’re out of practice. You haven’t a hope against me.”
“Out of practice, I may be, but don’t forget I played professionally. You won’t have it all your own way.”
He didn’t. She beat him, two hundred and ninety points to sixty.
Albus and Lily laughed.
“Come on. Let’s play again. I’ll beat you this time.”
“We haven’t got time,” their mother said gently. “We need to be heading for the Burrow soon.”
“Oh, do we have to?” James collapsed back down on the couch. “It’s so boring. I’d rather stay here.”
“I don’t really care what you’d rather,” she replied. “We’re going and that’s that. Your grandparents would be really disappointed if we didn’t.”
“It’s not fair. There’s nobody my age there, except Lucy and Louis.” He scowled, emphasising what he thought of them.
“You’re only two years older than me and Rose,” Albus said. “You could hang around with us.”
He didn’t see what James was complaining about. There wasn’t anybody his age at home either.
James wrinkled his nose. “Yeah, right, little bro. Two years is a lot when you’re only eleven.”
“That’s enough. Don’t speak like that to your brother, James and get up off that couch.” Their mother reached out to straighten the creases in his clothes.
He got up reluctantly. “Oh, all right, but don’t expect me to enjoy it.”
“Fair enough, but I do expect you to behave with some courtesy. Being bored is no excuse for being rude.”
“Can I bring my dolls, Mum?” Lily gestured to the Healer’s set.
“I don’t see why not. But hurry up. We don’t want to be late.”
James shrugged. “What does it matter? You know Uncle George won’t be there for at least another couple of hours.”
“That isn’t the point. Your Grandma might need some help with dinner. I don’t know what’s got into you, James. You were playing perfectly happily a hour ago.”
“Playing!” he said disgustedly. “Anyway, isn’t it obvious? I was enjoying myself until you decided it was time to go!”
Their father glared at him. “I’ve had enough of this, James. Apologise to your mother.”
For a moment, it looked as if he was going to refuse, but one glance at their father’s face and he seemed to think better of it.
“Apology accepted.” She took down the Floo Powder and handed it around.
Lily struggled with it, trying to hold both dolls and the case of bandages, medicines and other accoutrements that came with them.
“Here, give one of those dolls to me,” Albus said.
James had gone ahead of him and laughed as he stepped out of the Burrow’s fireplace holding the doll.
“Oh, I wish I had a camera.”
At least his good mood seemed to have been somewhat restored.
Their Grandma rushed forward to greet them.
“I’ve got a present for you here, Grandma,” Albus said. “Where’s Grandpa?”
“Did I hear somebody taking my name in vain?” He appeared behind her.
“This is for you, Grandpa.”
Albus handed them both their presents.
“And this is from me and Harry and this is from James,” their mother said.
“Sorry, I left your present at home,” Lily said.
“Oh, don’t worry. It looks like you had enough to carry,” said their grandmother. “And we’ll see you again before the holidays, I’m sure.”
Rose and Hugo ran into the room, followed at a more sedate pace by their Uncle Charlie, who was carrying a pile of parcels.
Uncle Charlie always gave fantastic presents. He’d no children of his own, so he tended to spoil his nieces and nephews. Uncle George gave brilliant presents too, because of his joke shop. Their other uncles and aunts gave smaller gifts as they’d their own children to buy for and didn’t have shops full of items to give away.
Albus glanced at him hopefully for a moment, before turning to Rose and handing her her gift.
She tore the paper off them.
“These’ll come in handy.” She winked at him.
Both their grandmother and Uncle Charlie handed them their gifts. Albus knew what his grandmother would give him – a Weasley sweater. It was a family tradition at this stage.
This year, both his and Rose’s were navy blue, for Ravenclaw.
From Charlie he received a book on dragons and a small toy egg.
He glanced at the latter in confusion.
“Place it in fire and a toy baby dragon will fly out of it,” Charlie explained. “If you care for it, it’ll grow and eventually be able to fly. You’ll be able to direct it with your hands.”
“Aw, cool,” Albus said.
“I’ve got one too.” Lily lifted it up to show him.
In Albus’s opinion, James got the best present of all, a Snitch signed by the Romanian Keeper.
“Wow,” he breathed.
“His cousin worked with us for a few months, so I asked if he could get him to sign it for you. Sorry guys.” He glanced around at the rest of the kids. “I couldn’t really ask him to sign twelve of them, so I just got them for James and Dominique, as they’re currently playing for their houses.”
“Did I hear you mention my daughter?” Bill stepped out of the fireplace.
“Oh, I’ve just got a pretty special present for her,” Charlie said.
It was now only George’s family who’d yet to arrive and as James had predicted, there was still no sign of them almost an hour later.
Their grandmother was not happy.
“The turkey will be burnt if they don’t arrive soon.”
Their grandfather slipped an arm around her. “It’ll be fine.”
“It won’t be fine. Every year, he does this to me. Believe me, he’s getting a piece of my mind when he finally does arrive.”
Albus and Rose slipped out of the room. Their grandmother could fuss for England when she put her mind to it.
“You know who we should talk to when we get back to school?” Rose began.
“There you are!” Lily raced into the room, followed by Hugo and they both plonked themselves down before their older siblings. “You could have told us where you were going, instead of leaving us to listen to Grandma complaining about Uncle George.”
“Did it occur to you that maybe we wanted some privacy?” Rose sounded irritated.
“You sound like James now.” Lily frowned.
“It’s OK,” Albus said. “Of course we don’t mind you joining us.”
“I wanted to show you what you can do with the Healer’s set,” Lily said. “Me and Hugo tried it earlier.”
She waved the toy wand at one of the dolls.
The doll sprang to life and clutched it’s stomach. “Oooh, I feel ill. I’ve a pain in my tummy.”
Lily removed the jar entitled “Pepper-Up Potion.
“That’s wrong, Lily,” Albus said. “That’s for…”
She shook her head and placed the jar to the doll’s mouth.
“Oooh, that’s not right,” the doll moaned. “I feel even worse now. I’ll need lots and lots of medicine.”
“Well, you’re not getting it.” Lily giggled and closed the Healer’s set.
The doll continued to moan. A greenish tinge crept across its face.
“I feel so sick.”
Albus couldn’t bear it. He knew it was only a doll and couldn’t really feel anything, but leaving it moaning in pain seemed cruel.
He grabbed the Healer’s set, extracted the correct medicine and placed it to the doll’s lips.
“Thank you, but I still feel sick. I think I need some more medicine.”
“That’s because I gave it wrong stuff the first time,” Lily said. “If you give them the wrong medicine, it makes them more ill and you have to give them the right one twice.”
Hugo started to laugh. “The other doll had a cold a few moments ago and we gave it the wrong medicine and it started sneezing over and over again. It was like this: ‘achoo…I feel worse now…achoo, achoo…please, can I have…achoo…some medicine...achoo, achoo, achoo.”
Albus gave the doll its medicine again.
“Thank you. I feel much better now. Do you want to play again?”
“I wanted to see if it’d throw up if you left it long enough with a tummy ache,” Lily complained. “Maybe if I gave it the wrong medicine twice.”
“You’re sadistic,” Rose said.
“What else can be wrong with them?” Albus asked. “Apart from colds and stomach aches.”
Lily thought for a moment. “Broken bones, burns, dragon pox, flu, fevers, spattergoit. I think that’s everything.”
Their grandmother’s voice interrupted their conversation. “ALBUS! ROSE! LILY! HUGO! Where are you?” She sounded irritated.
“Uh oh,” said Albus.
“We’re coming,” Rose called.
They returned to the kitchen, where George, Angelina and their children were removing their coats.
Their grandmother was fussing with the turkey.
“I’m sure it’ll be dry.”
“I’ll tell you what happened, Mum,” George began. “Fred got a new train set for Christmas and we’d the devil of a time getting him away from it.”
Angelina rolled her eyes. “What actually happened is that somebody set off some kind of a firework under it to derail the train and we spent the next half hour reassuring Fred his precious train wasn’t broken. And Roxanne started screaming because the noise terrified her.” She glared at her husband.
“It wasn’t a real firework, Angie. Not one that’d do any harm. It’s a new product from the shop. All the noise of a firework without the sparks.”
“It did enough harm to derail his train!”
“The train was fine, though, wasn’t it?.”
“George Weasley!” his mother began in scandalised tones. “Are you seriously telling me that the reason you’ve kept us all waiting and caused the dinner to be absolutely ruined is because you were busy tormenting that poor misfortunate boy of yours.”
Far from looking in any way misfortunate, Fred seemed to be thoroughly enjoyed the drama he’d helped cause.
“Hey.” George glanced around at his nieces and nephews. “Am I a horrible, cruel father?”
“NO,” Hugo replied. “You’re the coolest uncle, and father ever.”
Mrs. Weasley sighed and continued to pass around the food, which was far from ruined. His grandma was the best cook Albus knew. Even better than his mother.
“Honestly, George,” Percy began. “You could have more consideration. You know how much trouble Mum goes to for Christmas and it really is awfully good of her to have us all, you know.”
Their grandfather raised a hand. “That’s enough. We won’t say any more about it. The dinner is absolutely delicious, Molly.”
“Absolutely,” Bill and Charlie agreed.
Their grandmother waved the praise aside, but she looked pleased.
“You know how much I love having you all here. And your children too. We don’t get the whole family together nearly as much as I’d like. And who knows where Victoire and Dominique will be in a few years time.” She sighed.
“I’m sure you’re studying hard for your N.E.W.T.S, aren’t you Victoire?” Percy put in. “Lucy’s already thinking about her O.W.L.S., aren’t you dear?”
“I’m sure nobody wants to hear about that now, Dad,” Lucy muttered.
“I certainly don’t,” James whispered to Albus.
Albus looked down at his plate, trying not to laugh.
“Of course they do,” Percy said. “Everybody’s very proud of you, my dear. Two hundred and ninety-five percent she got in her last Arithmancy test, you know.”
If Percy wasn’t boasting about his career, it was Lucy’s stellar performance at school. He rarely mentioned Molly.
Albus wasn’t sure which he’d hate more – having his father constantly boasting about him or having his father constantly boast about a sibling and ignore him. Thankfully, his father did neither.
When everybody was finally full, all the cousins gathered around George, anxious to see what he’d brought thim.
“Hmm, you know, I think we’ve forgotten the presents. Did we Angelina?”
He continued the jest for a while, pretending to search in his pockets and under the chairs before finally taking pity on them and handing around the packages.
“A decoy detonator,” squealed James, finally forgetting to be a moody teenager. “I’ll get plenty of use out of this.”
“A reusable hangman.” Rose grinned. “This should be fun.”
Albus got Extendable Ears and a Headless Hat. He put it on and his head disappeared.
He pulled it off.
“What did you get, Lily?”
“Some supplies for Penelope Purple.” She turned to Hugo. “Did I tell you I got a Pygmy Puff as an early Christmas present?”
“And she called it Penelope Purple,” James scoffed.
“Because she’s purple,” Lily explained. “And I think Penelope is such a lovely name.”
James rolled his eyes.
“Isn’t it a nice name, Victoire?” Lily pleaded.
“Of course it is, honey. Don’t mind your brother. He loves to tease.”
People began to move out of the kitchen. At Molly’s insistence, they managed to squeeze around the magically enlarged kitchen table to eat, but once the meal was over, they spread out, giving themselves more comfort to chat and relax. None of the rooms were really big enough to hold the entire family.
It was late in the evening and Albus was sitting in the living room with George, Angelina, Rose, Victoire, Dominique, Lucy, Molly and Ron, when James rushed in.
“Aunt Angelina, I think Roxie’s ill.”
A grin crossed Albus’s face as he guessed what his brother was doing. At least he hoped so; he hoped she wasn’t really ill.
“She’s crying,” James continued seriously, “and she says her tummy really hurts.”
Angelina tutted. “That’s all the chocolates she’s eaten since dinner. Come on, where is she?”
Albus and Rose jumped up and followed James and their aunt and uncle up to what used to be Albus’s mother’s bedroom.
“Oooh, I feel awful. I think I’m going to be sick.”
Inside, Roxanne was cradling one of Lily’s dolls in her arms and grinning broadly. Albus wasn’t sure how much of the joke she really understood, but she loved to be included.
“Oh!” Angelina glanced around in irritation.
George left out a massive guffaw and clapped James on the back. “Well done. That was a brilliant joke. And without even the use of a Puking Pastille. You’re carrying on the tradition, all right. Where’s Fred? This is what I want him to live up to.”
The doll was still clutching its stomach and moaning.
Albus picked up the case that was lying on the floor and gave it the correct medicine.
“Thank you. I feel much better now. Do you want to play again?”
“It took me a while to get the right complaint,” James told his uncle. “It first started complaining about a broken arm and then dragon pox or something and then it had a fever. I thought it’d never get it right.”
“It was worth it though. You really got us good.” He glanced around at his daughter and niece and nephews. “A good joke often takes work. It’s worth putting in the time.”
Albus and Rose exchanged glances. He made it sound like a military campaign or something. Then again, he had made a career out of jokes, so maybe it wasn’t as frivolous an enterprise as it seemed.
Mrs. Weasley bustled into the room.
“Is this where you all are? Percy and his family are leaving. I’ve been looking all over, trying to find everybody to say goodbye.”
“We’re just coming,” Angelina assured her.
Uncle Percy and his family were almost always the first to leave.
“I’m awfully sorry everybody,” he said, when they reached the sitting room. “But it’s almost this young lady’s bedtime.”
He indicated Molly, who was the same age as Lily.
Lily certainly wouldn’t be going to bed for some time, but Percy was always a stickler for the rules and even Christmas wasn’t allowed to interfere with them.
He tossed the Floo Powder into the fire and stepped into it, followed by Molly, Lucy and Aunt Audrey.
With their departure, the evening began to draw to a close and people began leaving in dribs and drabs.
“I suppose it’s time we went too,” Albus’s mother said finally. She got up to kiss both her parents. “Thank you very much for having us. You must call and see us in the New Year.”
“We certainly will.”
Albus was looking forward to it.
Hope all my readers had a wonderful Christmas.
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