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Chapter 1 : A Potter Family Christmas
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This year, however, things were going to be different! He would be spending the holiday with his best mate, James Potter and his family. He was going to the only place that he truly ever had been able to call home in his life and he couldn’t be happier.
“Hey man, are you done packing yet?” James hollered from downstairs in the common room. “We’re going to miss the carriages!”
Smiling, Sirius slammed his trunk and hurried down to meet his friend.
Soon the pair was occupying a cabin with their friends Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew. They laughed and goofed together in their usual way, but Sirius found himself beginning to feel an uncomfortable ache in his stomach as feelings of uncertainty and fear crept into his mind.
He realized that he knew nothing about how his friend or his family celebrated the holidays. Would he have to endure uncomfortable holiday parties where the visiting guests would view him as some troublesome leech sucking the kindness out of his friend and his family? Or worse, would he pitied as one would expect a penniless outcast would be? Would his presence make his friend uncomfortable as the Potters proceed through their family traditions knowing that he didn’t belong there with them?
These thoughts and many more began to scream in his head louder and louder as the train sped along towards their destination. By the time they had arrived and students began to push through the cars towards the exists and their awaiting families, Sirius wanted to do nothing but hide away on the train allowing it to bring him right back to the safety of the school. Unfortunately, however his friend would not allow this.
“Come on Padfoot! I can’t wait for you to see the house! My mother does the most amazing decorating,” James exclaimed excitedly as he nudged Sirius along and out of the cabin.
Gulping down his many intruding insecurities, Sirius shuffled along to the platform and began helping his friend locate his parents.
“There they are,” James cried out. “Come on!”
Sirius hurried along behind his friend as the the knot in his stomach tightened further. He braced himself and forced, what he hope looked like, a happy smile onto his face.
When he caught sight of Mrs. Potter he was shocked when she made a beeline towards him and engulfed him in a warm and sweet smelling hug. “We're so glad that you are joining us this year, Sirius,” she said sincerely.
As she pulled away and turned to embrace her son Mr. Potter reached out a hand to shake Sirius’s and pulled him in to a one armed hug as he said, “Sirius, my boy! I hope you’ve brought your appetite! Dorea hasn’t left the kitchen in nearly two days.”
Sirius nodded as he felt the knot in his stomach being replaced by an unfamiliar warmth. He had been greeted by these people as if he was he was their own son rather the intruding outsider that he was. He knew that he should have exepected nothing less since he was always welcome at the Potters', but it still felt incredibly foreign to him. He felt strangely disconnected and out of place like he was watching the scene from somewhere other than his own body.
Taking a deep breath, he pulled himself out of his musings, as he prepared for the side-along apparition to Godric’s Hollow. He watched James & his mother disappear with a pop, leaving him standing alone with Mr. Potter.
“So…do you want to give it a go?” he asked with a grin as he looked at Sirius with a mischievous grin.
Confused Sirius looked up and said, “Give what a go, sir?”
“Apparating of course!” Mr. Potter replied with a laugh. “I’ve been working with James for a while now trying to get him ready for when he can get his license, unbeknownst to his mother, of course.”
“Oh,” Sirius said as his shoulders dropped in embarrassment. “I’m afraid I don’t know how yet, sir.”
Mr. Potter threw an arm around his shoulder and said excitedly, “Jolly good! Then you can join in with our lessons. To tell you the truth, James could probably use the support. He hasn’t managed a successful jump without getting splinched yet!” he finished in a whisper.
Sirius chuckled despite himself just before he felt the vaguely familiar feeling of the world pressing in on him as they disappeared together off the train platform.
Christmas at the Potter household was so different from anything that Sirius had been accustomed to from his own home that he felt as he would imagine a small child would feel as they celebrated their first Christmas..
The Potter house truly did have quite the impressive display of decorations. The outside of the house was so expertly decorated with colorful lights, that one could very well believe, was typical of a muggle residence. Of course for those that knew what they were looking at, it was blatantly obvious that this was no ordinary light display. The most telling sign was the absence of any wires or plugs on the house. The lights themselves were all individually standing alone without being affixed to the house in any way. The lights also were not limited to flashing just one color. The lights changed throughout the night and flashed a rainbow of colors in a synchronized fashion that can be altered by a simple flick of a wand.
The inside of the house was nothing short of amazing to Sirius. There were dozens of candles placed throughout the house each one burning with different brightly colored flames. A charmed snowman built fresh by James & Sirius danced merrily in a corner. There was fresh smelling garland with an endless supply of candied edible berries, and mistletoe that Mr. Potter charmed to follow Mrs. Potter around the house allowing him to steal kisses whenever he wanted.
The Christmas tree was probably the most amazing thing to Sirius. It stood easily over ten feet tall (the ceiling had been magically enhanced to allow for room) and was decorated with such a variety of beautiful items that Sirius kept discovering new things every time he looked at it. There were Christmas roses that kept bursting into bloom on a string of gold and silver garland, real toy soldiers marching around the base of the tree, gingerbread people decorated to look like Sirius, James & his parents posed in various poses and a star on top of the tree that displayed a continuous mini fireworks show.
None of these, however, were as near as amazing to Sirius as the brightly colored glass baubles that dominated the tree. Each of these ornaments had displayed a different family memory playing in each of them and reminded Sirius of the crystal balls from divination class back at school. There were a variety of ones with visions of James at various ages including one of him playing in the bathtub, that Sirius filed away for future torment of his friend. There were several of of Mr. & Mrs. Potter at their wedding, several that showed images of people whom he could only guess were family members and even several that had images of Sirius, James and their friends at school. Sirius had found one that could only have been from this past summer when he had first come to the Potter house that showed all of them sitting around the dinner table laughing. It had been such a happy scene that Sirius almost found himself tearing up.
Over the next three days, there were so many wonderful things to eat, that Sirius gave himself an upset stomach on more than one occasion. There was a near constant supply of a delightful combination of wizarding and muggle candies, freshly made fruitcake, several Yule logs, plum pudding, mince pies and lots of mulled wine.
When Sirius awoke on Christmas Eve, he was so sure that he was dreaming that he refused to open his eyes, until he heard James burst into his room.
“Come on, man! You need to get out of bed already!” James said impatiently. “We need to get ready for the party.”
Opening one eye hesitantly he asked, “Party? What party?”
“The ‘Muggle Sweater Party’!” he said excitedly. “Mom and dad do it every year. All of the wizards in Godric’s Hollow come and even some from out of the village. It has become the social event of the year!”
Sirius gulped. This is what he had been most afraid of. Despite the extraordinarily warm welcome that he has received from the Potters, he knew that he was not likely to receive the same from others in the wizarding world, especially from anyone that could possibly have any connection to his mother and her social circles.
“Are you ok?” James asked.
“Huh?” Sirius replied shaking his head. “Yea. I’m cool. What is a ‘Muggle Sweater Party’?
James laughed. “Only the greatest thing ever! You see, for some reason in the muggle world they feel the need to wear the most hideous looking sweaters with Christmas themes and images. So, mom and dad starting hosting this party every year where they have to show up wearing a muggle sweater and at the end of the night everyone votes on which sweater is the most hideous or ridiculous. It’s such fun!”
“But I don’t have a sweater,” Sirius proclaimed nervously.
“Don’t even worry about it. You can wear one of mine!” James said. “We probably won’t be allowed to stick around long enough for the judging anyway. Mom normally sends me to bed when they start running out of eggnog. But I don’t mind. We need to get to bed early anyway if we want Father Christmas to come.”
Raising an eyebrow Sirius said, “Father Christmas? Really? James, you are sixteen.”
“Awe I know, but my mom really gets into it all. You’ll see. It’s too much, but it makes her so happy,” he replied in a whisper.
“All right,” resigned Sirius. “What do we have to do to get ready for this party.”
As James jumped into a list of things that needed to be done Sirius found himself only half listening as he began to imagine a variety of places that he could hide if he needed to escape this party.
The party was just beginning to wind down as Sirius and James finally made their way to their prospective bedrooms. Sirius was feeling enormously happy and found that he was not able to wipe the grin from his face.
The “Muggle Sweater Party” was indeed, as James had described it, “The Greatest Thing Ever”. There had been representatives from several prominent wizarding families in attendance, including Bathilda Bagshot, the Longbottoms and their son Frank who was a classmate of James & Sirius, the Abbotts and even several of Sirius’s relatives from the Black family, although he quickly learned that they were nothing like those that his mother would associate with.
He actually had quite the scare when he had been re-introduced to his cousin Andromeda who was nearly a splitting image of her sisters, Bellatrix and Narcissa Black. It had been several years since he had last seen her and was quite relieved to know that she had done everything she could since graduating from Hogwart’s only five years ago, to disassociate herself from the entire Black family. It hadn’t taken Sirius long at all to proclaim that she was, by far, his most favorite relative.
Everyone that Sirius had met and spoken to had treated him just as warmly and friendly as the Potters. There was constant laughter, an enormous amount of food and as his friend had said, the most disgusting array of ridiculous sweaters he had ever seen. He was quite unsure why so many of them seemed to revolve around cats, but he had so much fun traversing through the guests and looking at all of different sweaters.
The judging ceremony was the best part of the night for Sirius. Everyone had made up a narrative to explain or justify their sweater and why it deserved to be the worst sweater of the night. Gerald Longbottom wore the winning sweater, even though everyone was sure that he had used magic on the sweater to make it so horrible. The sweater looked like it should have been red, but under most lights looked like a rusty orange color. It had a corduroy patchwork fireplace with the jolly man himself backing out onto the hearth. Naturally Father Christmas’s pants were just a bit loose this year and kept sliding down to reveal his rosy bum. Gerald had insisted that the sweater was not animated by magic, despite his wife Augusta hinting otherwise, but no one really cared. It was such a great sweater that the vote to declare him winner was practically undisputed.
As Sirius laid in bed waiting to be overtaken by sleep replaying the events of the night, he could not help but think that he had never had a better holiday. He had never laughed so hard, smiled so much and felt so welcome than he had the previous four days. For the first time since he had started school at Hogwart’s, he was not looking forward to the end of the holidays. What a great feeling, he thought to himself, as he drifted off into a contented sleep.
He was awoken way too early by the sweet smell of freshly baked sticky buns. He got up from his bed and slipped out of his room heading straight down to the kitchen. When he got there he found Mrs. Potter drinking a cup of tea and reading “The Daily Prophet”.
As he approached the table Mrs. Potter rose to meet him and give him an affectionate hug.
“Merry Christmas, dear,” she said. “Would you like some breakfast? I usually make sticky buns on Christmas morning, but if there is something else that you are accustomed to I will gladly make if for you.”
“Merry Christmas,” he replied as he sat himself down at the table. “Sticky buns sound great. Thank you so much.”
He watched as Mrs. Potter scurried around the kitchen getting him his sticky bun along with a cold glass of milk. She set the plate down in front of him and sat down at the table but did not pick the newspaper back up. She instead looked at Sirius smiling as he began to eat.
“Charlus & I have really enjoyed having you here with us this year,” she started softly. “I hope you have been enjoying yourself.”
Sirius nodded as he swallowed his bite of food, “Everything has been great. Thank you for everything.”
“Well I hope that you know that if there is anything that you are accustomed to doing in your celebrations you only need to ask and we will be more than happy to make it happen for you,” she said kindly.
“In all honesty,” Sirius began carefully, “I want to forget about everything associated with my past holidays. Everything here has been greater than I could have ever hoped for. I don’t need anything else.”
“Well that sure is disappointing,” Mr. Potter said as he entered the kitchen. “I suppose we can have the gifts taken back then.”
Sirius looked at Mr. Potter in shock. “Gifts? What gifts?”
“You don’t think we would only get one of our boys gifts do you?” Mr. Potter said with a laugh. “That would be like saying that Dorea would only make enough turkey dinner for just her to eat!”
Sirius began to try to protest when James burst into the kitchen in a manner much more like an eager six year-old than a nearly grown sixteen year old.
“What is everyone doing hiding in the kitchen?! There are presents waiting to be opened!” he declared impatiently.
As everyone moved into the front sitting room, Sirius felt himself lagging behind. He had never expected any of this. Surely he had done nothing to deserve this amazing holiday or these people who seemed to genuinely care for him.
“Hey Padfoot! This is your pile!,” James said excitedly pointing to a small mountain of gifts. “It looks like it is even bigger than mine!”
“That is only because there were several last minutes gifts that were owled in this morning for you, Sirius,” Mrs. Potter said. “Looks like something from your brother, a rather large one from your Uncle Alphard and somehow your cousin Andromeda even managed to find the time between last night and this morning to send you something as well. Two more gifts came for you yesterday, but I couldn’t tell you who they were from.”
“I am going to guess they are from some of your admirers, Sirius,” James proclaimed with a grin. “This one here is covered with hand drawn hearts and this one just has a kissy mark in the 'from' space.”
Even Sirius could not help but laugh at this. He was not unaware of the gaggle of admirers that he had acquired over his years at school. James always told him that he encouraged them by not telling them to get lost, but Sirius usually just tried to ignore them and hope that they would get the hint.
Focusing on the daunting pile of gifts once more Sirius could only shake his head. “This is too much. I can’t accept this from you all. You have already given me so much just letting me live here and then allowing me to share your holiday with you,” he said in a pained whisper. “I will never be able to repay you for everything.”
A collective gasp from the three Potter’s caused him to snap his head up in alarm. Mrs. Potter got up from her seat by the fire and approached Sirius with tears in her eyes.
“Surely you can’t think that we would expect you to reimburse us for anything?” she asked with a quiver in her voice.
Sirius couldn’t speak. He shrugged his shoulders and stared at the floor anxious to avoid the tear-filled eyes of the kind woman.
Interpreting his nonverbal as a sign of affirmation Mrs. Potter grabbed Sirius by the shoulders and pulled him in a hug.
From across the room Mr. Potter spoke up, “Son, I do believe I am insulted. If you honestly think that we expect you to pay for room and board as if you were a mere vagabond we found on the side of the road, then you are seriously mistaken.”
Pulling away from Mrs. Potter in alarm Sirius stammered, “I – I – I never meant to insult you! I just don’t know what I did to deserve this. There is nothing that I could ever do to make this up to you all or even tell you how touched I am.”
“You can start with putting an end to all this drama stuff and come open gifts with me,” James chimed in.
Ignoring her son, Mrs Potter said quietly, “Hon, we don’t need or want you to make anything up to us. Despite what you may have been led to believe by your family, you do deserve this and so much more. All we are doing is loving you as you should have been loved your whole life. We had accepted you as a part of our family practically since your first year at Hogwart’s when you first came to visit James.”
“Actually, sweetheart, I believe it was when we first learned about how Sirius had somehow managed to talk Minerva out of expelling the both of them after their little adventure in the dungeons,” Mr. Potter cut in.
“Ha Ha!!” James laughed. “You mean when we charmed the Slytherin trophy case to shout insults at the snakes whenever they walked passed it?”
“No. I believe he is talking about the time you brought the Crup with the unsevered tail into the dungeon and somehow managed to convince it that Slytherins were all muggles. You were lucky that no one killed,” Mrs. Potter scolded.
Sirius fought back a smile and tried to look innocent as James shrugged and smiled mischievously at his parents.
“Regardless, and getting back to the point,” Mrs. Potter said, “We love you. As far as we are concerned you are an extremely valued member of this family and nothing will ever change that.”
“Exactly. So let’s put aside all of this talk about owing and paying back, and get to tackling these gifts,” Mr. Potter said with a warm smile.
Sirius, afraid that his heart was about to burst, could say nothing. He turned to Mrs. Potter and hugged her tightly, stepped up to Mr. Potter and shook his hand firmly but still displaying the greatest admiration and shot his best friend a look that he hoped conveyed the depth of his gratitude and affection.
Finally, he sat down in front of the pile of presents that he had been told was his, exchanged a childish grin with James. With a nod they both attacked the gifts and let loose a shower of colorful paper and bows.
Author's note of thanks:
Lots of thank yous to the awesome people who were kind enough to answer my silly & questions about British Christmas traditions and customs: BeaJerry, Patronus_Charm, Elfwynn, MiloMinderBinder, Nott Theodore & Potterfan310. While I may not have used all of your advice I think I made a pretty good attempt to merge American & British traditions and then scramble them all up to un-muggletize them!
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