The Boxing Day party at Ron and Hermione’s was only attended by Weasley relatives and friends. Compared to her husband, Hermione had a small family, and, even though they were very fond of Ron and got on well with his family, they preferred not to attend parties where they would be part of a very small minority that wasn’t related to most of the other guests. Therefore Ron, Hermione and the children would visit, or by visited by, her family some day before Christmas each year and the Weasley family had their party on the day after Christmas.
The Weasley family Christmas parties were usually worth waiting for, particularly for the children in the family. With so many aunts and uncles, as well as their grandparents, there were always plenty of presents to be opened and, with Fred and George around, plenty of fun to be had.
Quite ridiculously, in their children’s views, the older generation of the Weasley family tended to be slightly disapproving of the presents which those two uncles were likely to bestow on their nieces and nephews. Percy and Hermione were particularly fussy about these. James and Rose were glad that their parents, despite joining in with the general condemnation, usually seemed more amused than otherwise by the items they received and certainly never took the presents away from their children as they had seen Percy do when Albert was younger.
He had then strongly criticised his brothers for giving such an unsuitable gift to a young child. Naturally Albert had received and even more “unsuitable” gift the following year. That was just how Fred and George operated.
Percy was the one blight on all Weasley celebrations. He spent most of his time boasting about his achievements in the Ministry of Magic and his son’s achievements at school and criticising the behaviour of all the other children in the family.
At this party, he was naturally boasting of Albert’s marvellous results in his Christmas tests and predicting that his son was going to achieve excellent results when he did his O.W.Ls in two years time.
“Takes after his father, he does,” he declared proudly. “If you remember, I got twelve O.W.Ls myself. I’m expecting you to do the same, Albert. You’ve no excuse not to. Your mother did quite well at school too.”
Typical Percy! He would declare his own grades to anybody who would listen, but his wife’s were brushed off with a simple declaration that she “did quite well.”
Not that James really cared. He was far more bothered by Percy’s next comments.
“Ah Harry, we don’t see half enough of you,” he greeted James’ father insincerely. “I was just commenting on how well Albert had done on his Christmas tests. I’m hoping he’ll match my achievements on the O.W.Ls. Of course, James has just had his first tests at Hogwarts, hasn’t he? How did he do? Will he make the Weasley family proud of him?”
“I can’t speak for the entire family,” Harry replied stiffly. “All I can say is that his mother and I are extremely proud of him.”
James was not enjoying this party as much as he usually did. Percy and Albert had a lot to do with that, as they continued to boast about Albert’s excellent results, with Percy even trying to compare Albert’s results with Harriet’s. “to see who is the genius of the family.” (“It’s not a competition,” Hermione replied.)
But it wasn’t only Percy. Fred and George were getting on his nerves too. Admittedly, they didn’t mean to draw attention to his poor results the way Percy did, or would have if he knew exactly what James results were. However, they were doing their usual teasing of all the younger generation, and looking for someone to “take over” their position as the bane of the Hogwarts’ teachers’ lives.
“No point in worrying about all those O.W.Ls and N.E.W.Ts as Percy does,” they pointed out. “We never even took our N.E.W.Ts and who’s richer now-us or him?”
Well, that was all very well, but they had talents that James knew he lacked. It wasn’t inability to do magic that had caused them to underachieve at school, but lack of interest; they could have received good marks had they bothered to do any work. James, on the other hand worked extremely hard, and still received poor marks.
He knew that Fred and George would be highly impressed if they heard that he had failed Potions and Charms, particularly Potions. Anything that annoyed Snape was good in their opinion. They had been very disappointed when he had been appointed Deputy Headmaster, on Dumbledore’s retirement.
The problem was that James didn’t want to impress people by doing badly. He wanted to be impressive, as his father was. He wanted to do something that would make people say “That’s James Potter,” instead of “that’s Harry Potter’s son.”
Eventually he had enough of the discussions about Albert and Harriet’s results, the questions about how he liked Hogwarts and how he was doing in his classes, Fred and George’s jokes. He was just fed up with everything about the party and he headed outside to his cousins’ tree-house, where he doubted anybody was likely to look for him.
He didn’t really think anybody would notice his absence, anyway. Everybody was having far too good a time at the party to pay much attention as to whether he was there or not.
He was wrong on both counts, however. Wrong to assume that nobody would notice his absence and wrong to assume that they would never think of looking in the tree-house.
He had been sitting there about half an hour, when he heard footsteps heading across the garden and looked down to see his uncle Ron climbing the ladder up to join him.
Even if he had expected anybody to come looking for him, it wouldn’t have been Ron. You could usually depend on Ron not to bother you if you didn’t want him to.
“People are wondering where you are,” he mentioned casually, as he stepped into the tree-house. “Got tired of the party, did you?”
“Yeah,” James replied. “I didn’t think anybody would miss me anyway.”
“Can’t say I blame you for getting bored with it,” Ron replied. “You’re not missing much. Percy is still blathering on in there. Thinks he’s going to be Minister for Magic one day. Or else Albert is.”
“I hope he won’t,” James replied, amused, despite himself. “You’d make a much better minister.”
“Not much hope of that,” Ron laughed. “I’m not the successful kind.”
“Nor am I,” James muttered. “Not like Dad.”
“You’re not worrying about not being as good as your dad, are you?” Ron asked.
James was sort of surprised that his uncle had caught on so quickly. Ok maybe he hadn’t made it all that difficult with his own comment about his father, but Ron didn’t even sound surprised. He sounded… not as if he’d been expecting it; it wasn’t that. He just sounded as if it was a completely natural thing to think, which James supposed it was when you were so much less than your father- less brave, less intelligent, less interesting, less everything.
But Ron was waiting for an answer, and to his own surprise, James didn’t find it all that difficult to give him one.
“I just…..get so sick of being compared to him,” he replied. “Everybody thinks I’m going to be this brave, heroic wizard, just because I’m Dad’s son. And I feel as if I’m disappointing them, because I’m not. When I got put in Hufflepuff, the whole school made a really big deal of it. Like ‘he’s Harry Potter’s son, and he’s not in Gryffindor. Imagine.’ And people like Snape, and Cassandra Goyle in my class-well, she’s in my year, but she’s in Slytherin- act like it’s great that a son of Dad’s is so stupid whenever I get something wrong.”
Ron’s response surprised James. He made no reference to anything his nephew had said, and to James it appeared as though he was changing the subject completely.
“I suppose your dad had told you about when he was in the Triwizard Tournament,” he said.
“Eh, well, yes, of course he did,” James answered in confusion.
“Did he ever tell you how I reacted when I heard his name had come out.”
“We had a bit of a fight, actually, me and your dad,” Ron told him. “We didn’t speak for ages. It was my fault. I kept asking him why he wouldn’t tell us how he got his name in there, and I just wouldn’t listen when he said he hadn’t put it in.”
“You didn’t believe him? But why?” James was amazed. His father might have his faults (and despite what others might think, James knew he did), but nobody could accuse him of being dishonest to his friends. Surely, even at the age of fourteen, Ron knew him well enough to know that!
“It wasn’t that I didn’t believe him, exactly. It was more that I was jealous.”
“Jealous!” James couldn’t understand his uncle’s point of view. “Why would you be jealous of that? He could have been killed!”
“And he could have been killed fighting Voldemort. Or any of the other Dark Wizards he battles in his work as an Auror. But I bet your friends at school don’t see it that way, do they? I bet they want to be just like him when they grow up. They won’t want a nice safe job like mine.”
James had to admit he was right.
“You see,” Ron continued. “I had all these older brothers. Bill and Percy had both been Head Boy, Charlie had been Captain of Quidditch, and he had this really exciting job in Romania. And Fred and George, well, you know what they’re like. Everybody in the whole school knew who they were and thought they were really cool. But nobody really knew who I was. It was just ‘that’s the youngest Weasley boy,’ or ‘that’s Percy’s brother’ or Bill’s or Charlie’s or Fred and George’s.”
“Like me with Dad,” James put in.
“Exactly,” Ron replied. “And then your dad and I became friends, and it became ‘That’s Ron Weasley. He’s friends with Harry Potter, you know.’ I think your mum felt it too.”
“Sort of left out, I guess. As if she wasn’t important enough. She had a crush on your dad, you know, when she was your age. Her first Valentine’s day at Hogwarts, she sent him a singing Valentine.”
“Poor dad,” James laughed.
“Exactly. He had no interest in her at all, in any girls, at that stage. And I think she felt she’d never be interesting enough for him to go out with.”
It was a shock for James to hear all of this. He found it hard to imagine his mother and uncle as kids at school, trying to impress people and be cool, just like he was now.
“I guess what I’m trying to say,” Ron continued, “is that, in a way we were right. None of us were quite like your dad. I certainly haven’t had as exciting a life as he had, and I don’t think I’m ever likely to be famous, except as the friend who helped him out when he defeated You-Know-Who. Your dad would make anybody feel inadequate. But I think we’ve done ok for ourselves. And I think you’re doing ok for yourself too. You remind me of your mum sometimes, and your gran.”
James didn’t know whether to be pleased or insulted by this. The main characteristic he associated with his mother and grandmother was their habit of fussing about everything their children and grandchildren did.
“I can see why you’re in Hufflepuff,” Ron continued. “You know their characteristics. The are loyal, and helpful, and kind to others and they always try their best. You are all of those things. Your dad and I never did much work at school. We were always messing about and goofing off, in our early years at Hogwarts. Hermione was the one who worked hard, and she LIKED schoolwork. You work hard even when you don’t like what you are doing.”
James had to admit that this was an accurate description of him. It was just that he had never thought of any of those things as being remotely important. Being loyal and friendly and trying hard weren’t half as exciting as being courageous or so intelligent that you nearly always got the highest marks in your year. He wasn’t sure if he could ever be really proud of himself for those things.
And yet he had to admit that while he hadn’t gained any points for Hufflepuff, he hadn’t lost any either. And from his own stories, it sounded as if his dad lost points for Gryffindor almost as often as he gained them. And Ron was right. There was only one Harry Potter, and maybe it was a bit ridiculous to feel like a failure, just because you weren’t as successful as one of the most famous living wizards.
The more he thought about it, the more he liked what Ron was saying. And he though that maybe he could believe what his uncle had said. Maybe he had some things to be proud of. He was going to have to think about it some more. But not right now. Now there was a party to be enjoyed.
“Let’s go back inside,” he said to Ron.
Author's Note: Well, this is the end of the story. I'm sorry if the last couple of lines aren't all that great. I never know how to finish a story up. I'm kind of sorry it's over actually, because that means I can't write any more of it.
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