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Chapter 46 : Year 5: A Christmas surprise
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Fresh, soft snow was piling up on the windowsills of Diagon Alley, on the steps leading up to the many shops – all of which were closed that day – and on the cobblestone street leading down to Knockturn Alley. It was still very early, and only two pairs of shoe soles had trampled the snow on the streets so far; a whole bunch of other footprints would soon join them, but Diagon Alley would, like every year, have a quiet Christmas day. Only the Leaky Cauldron would open later in the afternoon, once Tom the landlord returned from mass in church, and a few lonely witches and wizards might turn up throughout the night, intending to drown their loneliness in Firewhiskey and sing Christmas carols in minor until midnight, when they would let out a collective sigh of relief over the fact that they wouldn’t have to spend Christmas alone again until next year.
The two pairs of footprints – one large pair, and one smaller – appeared to have stopped in front of Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, just by the storefront where the newest products had been put on display in the beginning of December. Perhaps it was a child and his father, who had stopped there to admire them, and hoped to find something half as amazing under the tree when they got back home.
But the two people who had left their footprints in the snow were gone now, and not a soul was to be seen on the street anymore. Tom had gone to church early to pray before mass, Florean Fortescue’s sons, who had taken over the ice cream parlour after their father was murdered during the war, had left for the countryside over the holidays with their families, and Mrs Crowley across the street from Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes was just having her second cup of tea in silence, bracing herself for the sorrow of her first Christmas since her husband’s passing.
In the flat above the Weasley twins’ shop, Angelina had just woken up. Her toes had been poking out from under the cover, and she was now curled up into a little ball, trying to warm up her icy feet by rubbing them against each other. George was still snoring next to her; it was amazing, really, how acostumed she had become to his snoring. The first time she had stayed over in that same bed with him, she hadn’t got a minute of sleep because of it. Now, she had trouble falling asleep at all at night without that steady pattern filling her ears.
Angelina rolled the blinds up with her wand, still curled up in bed as a smile spread across her face. There were few things she liked better than white Christmases, and it was coming down from the sky in a blur of large, white flurries. Suddenly overcome with excitement, she rolled over and started shaking George, who murmured something in a very annoyed tone before opening up his eyes.
“Merry Christmas!” said Angelina happily, and he grunted and shook his head.
“You are too much of a morning person,” he sighed. “It’s awful.”
With a nervous flutter in her stomach, Angelina rolled closer to him. “I might know a way to get you in a good mood too,” she said, and George reached out a long arm and pulled her closer.
“Is that so?” he said, now grinning very widely. Then, suddenly, his smile died out, and he shrieked and pushed her away again. “By Merlin’s saggy underpants, Angie! Are those toes or bloody icecubes?”
Angelina laughed and stretched her leg to touch him again with her cold feet, and he jumped out of bed, suddenly fully awake. Angelina smiled as he started jumping up and down in an attempt to keep his feet off the cold floor.
“I was actually talking about your Christmas present,” she said. “I was hoping it would cheer you up a bit.”
“Speaking of Christmas presents,” said George. “I suppose that since I’m up, I might as well get yours. Although, I reckon you ought to give me mine first – you see, this thing I got you is going to be quite a tough act to follow.”
“No, go ahead,” Angelina insisted, her hands suddenly shaking at the thought of what George’s reaction to his present might be like. She hid them under the bedspread and continued: “Give me mine first.”
George caved and slipped out through the door. A short wait later, he returned with a parchment in his hands, which he presented to his wife with a very content look on his face. Angelina felt a rush of excitement as she accepted and unfolded it, the same feeling she had used to got when she had chased her brother Jonathan down the stairs on Christmas morning when she was younger.
The parchment was full of neat, tidy handwriting in French. Feeling slightly disappointed, kind of like that year that Jonathan had dragged her out of bed to go find their gifts under the tree only to come downstairs and realize that it was actually the day before Christmas, Angelina raised an eyebrow and looked over at George, who was leaning against the doorframe with a smug look on his face.
“A letter from Fleur?” Angelina guessed, and he let out a laugh and shook his head.
“No, it’s a booking comfirmation,” he explained. “For a Portkey to Paris. Where we’ll be going over New Year.”
Angelina felt her jaws drop. “We’re going to Paris for New Year?”
George nodded, looking even smugger as he watched her reaction. “We couldn’t go over Christmas, because Mum would have killed us both. But she’s not quite as fuzzy about New Year’s Eve. I've organised for Lee and Verity to look after the shop, and Ron said he’d help too if things get too busy. And I thought it would be nice to get away – Fleur says it’s a really nice place, and I–“
Angelina, who had jumped out of bed and skipped across the cold bedroom floor, silenced him by pressing her lips against his, and he wrapped her arms around her as he kissed her back. When they broke apart, he grinned and patted her shoulder with a compassionate sigh.
“I told you, you should have given me my present first.”
“I think you’ll still like this,” said Angelina, bending over to get the little package she had wrapped the night before and hidden under their bed. “Merry Christmas.”
George tore open the red wrapping paper and held up the piece of fabric that had lain folded inside it. A wrinkle formed on his forehead as his eyes flickered between his gift and Angelina, who bit her lip nervously as she waited for a response.
“A bit small, don’t you reckon?” George held the little jumper in front of his chest, and Angelina, anxious or not, couldn’t help but giggle.
“That’s because it’s not for you, silly.”
As the realization began to dawn upon George, he lowered his hands slowly, his eyes now turning from her face down towards her stomach, flat as ever under her cotton nightgown. Now, it was his jaws that dropped to the floor, and he opened his mouth and moved his lips, but no sound came out.
Angelina swallowed. “I’m pregnant,” she said.
George stared at her. “You’re pregnant,” he repeated.
Angelina’s brows furrowed as her head started to spin. It wasn’t exactly the overjoy she had imagined; what if he didn’t want a child? What if they weren’t ready for this?
“I know we didn’t plan it, or anything,” she began to ramble, “and I know we’ve got heaps of things on our plate with the shop and–“
“I love you,” George interrupted, pulling her into his arms again. His face was no longer blank and shocked – instead, it was bursting at the seams with happiness, his smile seemingly growing by the second as he kissed her, again and again. “We’re having a baby,” he whispered, as though it was a secret that would stop being true if he said it too loudly. “We’re having a baby.”
A few hours later, the pair walked through an almost completely empty Diagon Alley, save for Mrs Crowley, who was rushing towards the Leaky Cauldron where she’d meet her son and his wife, and Madame Malkin, who was walking her dog with her little granddaughter. The girl hummed cheerfully as she skipped past George and Angelina, proud that she got to hold the leash herself as her grandmother watched with an amused expression on her face.
Between wishing their neighbours a happy Christmas, George and Angelina squeezed each other’s hands through the warm mittens they were both wearing. It was snowing again now, and they caught each other’s eyes through the whirl of white flakes every other second, both of them smiling at the thought of the little secret that was growing inside Angelina.
At the Burrow, the festivity was flourishing, like every year. A grand fir tree stood in the living room, candles glowing on its every branch. Victoire and Dominique, dressed in matching outfits in red and silver, were dancing around it with a chuckling Mr Weasley in the middle. Out in the kitchen, Mrs Weasley was putting parsnips in a bowl, slicing potatoes and adding some extra seasoning to the turkey, all at once, while Harry stirred the cranberry sauce and Fleur heated up the mince pie using the tip of her wand. The Christmas pudding stood waiting on the table, decorated with a twig of holly on top.
Four and a half years earlier, when the Weasleys had returned to the Burrow for the first time after the Battle of Hogwarts, George had walked straight past his and Fred’s old room, and gone to lie on Percy’s bed. No one had ever asked, and as if by silent agreement, he had spent the next couple of years shifting between his brothers’ rooms whenever he stayed over, never once even entering the one he had used to share with his twin. Returning to their flat in London that summer had been bad enough; he had kept the door to Fred’s bedroom closed, and Angelina had gone in every couple of weeks to wave her wand and clear it of dust. It was nearly one year later that George had finally asked her to clean out the room; to give Fred’s old clothes away, and to split his belongings up between the family.
On the Christmas day that he learned he was going to be a father, however, something was different in George’s posture as he entered the Burrow. He walked up the winding staircase, past Percy’s room, his parents’ one, Charlie’s one… And then, as Angelina, who was walking a couple of steps behind him, watched, he reached out his hand, twisted the doorknob to the room he had slept in throughout his childhood, and stepped over the threshold.
It seemed the whole world had changed since Fred’s death, in ways other than the giant void in George’s life where his twin had always been before. The Weasley family had grown, increased in numbers after that one, shattering decrease, and spread out over a Wizarding Britan that looked nothing like it had used to. But even so, this little part of the world, the room that George had feared would make his heart stop beating if he stepped into it, was the same. There was the desk – there had only been room for one – where they had developed their very first Weasley products. The glass jar of Ton-Tongue Toffees, from which Fred had snatched a whole bunch that day they had gone to Harry’s house to pick him up before the Quidditch World cup, stood crammed between two cardboard boxes. Two sweets in bright wrapping paper lay untouched at the bottom of the jar.
A stack of Dungbombs were collecting dust at the shelf above the desk, next to the dirty old turban that Fred had insisted on buying for the little allowance they had got for their holiday in Egypt. One, lonely Extendable Ear hung off the shelf and almost touched the floor, which was full of dark spots and burn marks, caused by the many explosions that had come in the bargain with housing two such young and intentive, micheavious minds.
George took a deep breath as he let his fingertops trail Fred’s old bedframe, reminiscing the last time they had been in there together. Their parents had been forced to leave their house around Easter before the Battle of Hogwarts, and they had split up between Bill and Fleur's, and their great-aunt Muriel’s houses. Fred and George had, for the sake of their own safety and Muriel’s old heart, been put in Shell Cottage (much to Ginny’s dismay, who claimed she’d want to kill herself after one day alone with just Muriel and their parents). It was three months earlier, however, that Fred and George last entered their old bedroom together.
It had been at Christmas, and the family had, according to tradition, gathered at the Burrow. Well, at least some of them – Percy hadn’t been speaking to them at the time, Bill and Fleur had wanted to spend their first Christmas as married on their own (Fred and George spent the entire holiday making rude comments about what those two lovebirds might be doing to make time pass), and Ron had been on the run with Harry. Fred had insisted they should go back and sleep in London, and be ready to open the shop early on Boxing Day to welcome all the children who would surely be eager to spend their Christmas money. Mrs. Weasley, however, had not agreed, and the twins had ended up in their old bedroom, amongst their old things and inventions, suddenly feeling fifteen or sixteen again as they crept in under their sheets and whispered goodnight to their parents, who stuck their heads in on their way down to their own bedroom.
“It doesn’t quite feel like Christmas,” Fred had said once the house had gone quiet. “Not with just half the family here.”
“What do you think they’re doing?” George said. “I mean, besides Bill and Fleur…”
“I bet Percy’s waiting tables at Thicknesse’s house,” muttered Fred. Only George, who knew him better than anyone, would have picked up on the sadness in his voice, disguised as resentment and bitterness. “I bet that was the only way he could get himself invited to his Christmas party.”
George smiled at the mental image of their older brother, rushing between tables with stacks of dirty plates and glasses in his arms, his glasses all fogged up from the effort. Then, glancing over at the dark silhouette in the bed across the room, he added:
“Probably in a tent somewhere fantasizing about Hermione,” said Fred. Even in the dark, George knew he was smiling.
The next morning, Fred had been up by the time George woke, and they had rushed off to Diagon Alley with a sandwhich each in their hand, stuffed with leftover turkey from the Christmas dinner. They had never been alone together in their old bedroom again.
To George’s surprise, coming in there again wasn’t as bad as he had imagined. Sure, just the thought of Fred being gone still made him feel like something very heavy was pushing on his chest, making it hard to breathe; but in here, where they had lived together all those years, the living Fred – the one from the memories, rather than the cold body that lay in the ground down in the garden – seemed closer. In a way, George felt as though he was still there.
Turning around, he realized that Angelina stood in the doorway, her cheek pressed against the doorframe and one of her hands resting on her flat belly. She was smiling, but tears were rolling silently down her face.
“I thought he’d might be here,” George said. “And that he should be the first to know he’s going to be an uncle. Again,” he added as he remembered their two nieces.
“I’m sure he is,” mumbled Angelina.
“You know, I would have told him,” George said. “Even though you said we can’t tell our families yet, I would have told Fred. I couldn’t have not told him.”
“I know,” Angelina answered. “I know, George.”
Like that last Christmas before Fred’s death, some family was missing from the Burrow; Ron and Hermione were spending the holidays with Mr and Mrs Granger in London. Dinner was, of course, as chaotic and noisy even without them, with Victoire having a tantrum because Teddy had to leave with his grandmother just when the rest of the party sat down to eat, Fleur yelling loudly at her in French, Dominique seizing the moment to push the large bowl of cranberry sauce off the table, and Percy shrieking as his new dress robes got stained with the thick, red liquid.
With the help of Mrs Weasley’s steady hands, a stain-removing spell that George had learned in his years of inventing joke products, and Bill’s ability to cheer his oldest daughter up, even when her best friend had to go see his grandfather, things somehow calmed down enough for everyone to be able to enjoy the food.
“So, Andromeda and Lyall seem to be spending quite a bit of time together lately,” said Mrs Weasley as she passed the bowl of potatoes around the table. “Have a bit more, dear,” she said to Audrey, “that’s not going to keep you full.”
“I don’t think it’s like that, Mum,” said Ginny. “You know, Mr Lupin has lost his entire family too. I think they’re both just lonely. I mean, I guess Andie’s got Draco and Mrs Malfoy, but I’m not sure they count. Which makes Teddy the only family she’s got.”
“So she still keeps in touch with them? Draco and Mrs Malfoy?”
“Yes,” Harry confirmed. “She says it’s still a bit strange, but she still remembers what Mrs Malfoy was like when they were kids – before Lucius, and Voldemort, and all of that. I think she hopes that person is still in there. And Teddy loves them, apparently – Andie says he jumps up and down in excitement whenever she tells him that Draco is coming over.”
Ginny stroked his cheek. “Don’t worry,” she said. “He still likes you better.”
Harry smiled, but a wrinkle that had formed on his forehead stayed intact. “That’s not what I’m worried about,” he shrugged. “I mean, we all still remember what Malfoy said about Hermione, right? I just don’t like Teddy being around someone with those kind of thoughts…”
“Harry, my boy,” said Mr Weasley, who sat across from him at the table. “If anyone will influence that child, it’s going to be you. You will teach him what is right and juste, and tell him what his parents died for. Whatever lesser thoughts that may soil Draco Malfoy’s mind, they’ll have no power over Teddy’s.”
Harry straightened up, instantly feeling better. He shot his father-in-law a grateful look and smiled again, this time without a wrinkle of concern just above his brows.
As the night crept closer, the children were put to bed, Charlie fell asleep in the couch with his head on Ginny’s shoulder, and the rest of them gathered around the fire, dressed in their home-knitted sweaters and stuffed with food, according to tradition.
Bill and Fleur came back downstairs after struggling to get Victoire to fall asleep; she had been furious to hear that they expected her to go to bed, when the party was still going on downstairs! Her loud protests woke Charlie, but her little sister miraculously slept through it. At last, it semed Victoire’s stubbornness had had to succumb to her fatigue, and her parents could sneak downstairs and enjoy a couple of quiet hours with the rest of the family before Christmas would be over.
“Is she finally asleep?” asked Mrs Weasley as the pair sat down, and Fleur nodded.
“Yes, at last,” she said. “I can’t believe ‘ow stubborn zat child is. She must be getting eet from you, Bill.”
"Or rather my mother," sugessted Bill.
“I can’t believe how big she is,” Charlie intervened before Mrs Weasley could tell her eldest son off. “It doesn’t seem long ago that we were at St. Mungo’s, Bill, and you asked me to be her godfather. Before we know it, she’ll be off to Hogwarts.”
“I know,” Bill wailed, as if he couldn’t imagine anything worse. “And don’t get me started on Dom! How is her first birthday coming up? Wasn’t she just born?”
“That’s what being a parent is like,” said Mrs Weasley in a soft voice that indicated that she had forgotten that Bill had just insulted her. She reached out to pat his bearded cheek and tilted her head sideways. “It feels like yesterday we had you, dear. And now you have two little ones of your own, and a wife.”
“At least we did a good job with you,” mused her husband, beaming at his eldest son over the tip of his glasses. “All of you,” he added as his eyes swept over his children.
“Of course, you’ll always be my babies, no matter how grown up you are,” insisted MrsWeasley, and Ginny sniffed.
“You have two actual babies, Mum, isn’t that enough?”
“And maybe more, soon?” said Mrs Weasley hopefully, her eyes flicking between Ginny and Harry, forgetting about another couple, whose eyes met over the coffee table in that same second, both pairs glittering in the light of the candles floating above their heads. Angelina’s lips curled slightly, and George’s stretched into a grin; for now, it was a secret, and the family would have to wait to hear their good news. It was for just them to know yet that although it seemed like any other Christmas in many ways, it was the best one the two of them had ever had.
A/N: So I've been on an inspiration streak lately... and here's a new chapter again. I've always loved writing this story, from the very start. What makes writing it a thousand time better though, is all of you. Thank you so much for reading and reviewing - honestly, it does mean more to me than you know. I have a few crazy months still before my life will turn upside down again as I go back home and leave this life I've created on the other side of the world. Hopefully we'll get a little further down the road with this story before then. Thank you again for the patience and support you have shown me throughout this year.
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