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Chapter 75 : Year 8: Silent Night
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It was an unusually mild winter in Little Whinging. There had been snow for a week or so in the beginning of December, but by Christmas Day it was long gone, and the morning was grey, bland, and frankly a little depressing. Most of the residents of Privet Drive had already glanced out their windows and sighed over the weather, but no one in number 4 had had time yet. Dudley Dursley had woken everyone up not long ago by shouting joyfully and jumping on each step of the staircase on his way down to the living room. His cousin Harry, who had been sleeping in the cupboard under the stairs, had snuck out of his little den a couple of minutes after the brutal wakening. Now he was leaning against the doorframe to the living room, quietly watching the Dursleys.
Dudley had not waited to open his gifts; already, there was a large pile of colourful toys next to him that he had tossed aside, and pieces of crumbled up wrapping paper all over the rug. Dudley himself had stuck his head back in under the tall Christmas tree to reach one of the larger presents in the back, and all Harry could see from where he was standing was a large butt sticking out from between the lower branches, dressed in green-striped pyjama bottoms. Harry’s uncle Vernon and aunt Petunia were sitting next to each other on the puffy couch, beaming at their son’s behind as if it was the most beautiful thing they had ever seen.
No one noticed Harry in a long time, during which Dudley had time to unwrap a new Game Boy console (Uncle Vernon had bought him one a few months ago when it was first released, but Dudley had wrecked it after a few days and told his parents it was Harry’s fault), a bright orange tape cassette player, several plastic action figures, and a snow cone machine. It was Dudley who spotted Harry while he was in the middle of tearing a neat, red bow off of yet another gift. He paused, lifted a chubby finger and grinned.
“Look at his face!” he exclaimed. “You know, you can pout all you want Harry, but I’m not letting you play with any of these toys!”
Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia both turned their heads towards Harry. He lowered his eyes; he probably did look very jealous, and he scolded himself inwardly for letting them see it. Petunia tossed him three pairs of new socks that she hadn’t bothered to wrap, said a half-hearted “Merry Christmas, Harry,” and sent him into the kitchen to start breakfast. It was while he was setting the table that Harry looked out the window for the first time that morning.
He paused for a moment and just stared at the raindrops dripping down the windowsill and creating puddles at the end of the Dursleys’ driveway. There had been a time when he would have worried about whether Father Christmas would be able to make it to everyone’s house when there was no snow on Christmas Day—although the last eight Christmases had brought him to the conclusion tha Father Christmas must not like him very much anyway. But he had learned in the past year that there was no Father Christmas. There were only Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia, and Harry wasn’t too bothered about them giving Dudley more toys than probably all the children of Little Whinging combined. It was something else that was bothering him, something he would have liked much more than a Game Boy. He wanted so desperately for someone to look at him the way Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia always looked at Dudley.
It wasn’t just Father Christmas; nobody liked Harry much. Not his relatives, or his teachers, or even old Mrs Figgs across the street. He was sure that his parents would have liked him, though, if they hadn’t been dead. Sighing, he took a few steps closer to the kitchen window and raised an eyebrow as a cat crossing the street paused to look him straight in the eyes. It didn’t blink, and Harry smiled and waved at it.
“Merry Christmas, kitty,” he whispered. “I hope you’re having a better day than I am.”
Christmas Day, 2005
Sixteen years older, Harry was once again woken by a scream and then the sound of footsteps on wooden floor. This time it wasn’t coming from his cousin Dudley, however, and Harry didn’t frown and bury his pillow but sat up in bed almost at the same time as Ginny did next to him. She was a little perkier than him and got up on her feet to head into the nursery and grab little Albus, who didn’t sound like he was very happy about waking up. Just as Ginny left the bedroom, James appeared in the doorway, and Harry smiled, chuckled and bent down to lift his older son up onto the bed.
“We really need to get you a new bed, don’t we?” he said, kissing the top of James’ messy, jet black hair. “You climb out of that cot far too easily.”
“Yeah,” James grinned. “Good boy.”
“You are a good boy,” Harry agreed, lying back down on his back and smiling as James curled up next to him and buried his face into his neck. “And that’s good, because today is Christmas, and do you know what good boys get on Christmas if they’re lucky? Presents!”
James giggled delightfully just as Ginny came back into the room, carrying Albus in her arms. She laid down next to Harry and James and pulled down her nightgown to be able to breastfeed. Harry watched as James reached up a small, chubby hand to place it on his little brother’s arm.
“Al is hungry,” he told Harry, who smiled and nodded.
“Very hungry, by the looks of it.”
“Al a good boy?” James wanted to know, and Ginny tilted her head to the side and ruffled his hair, leaving it even messier than before.
“What do you think, buddy? He has been pretty good, hasn’t he?”
“I think there may be a few presents for him under the tree too,” Harry said. “But he’s so little, he might need your help opening them. Do you think you can do that?”
James nodded proudly, and then rolled over and wrapped both his arms around his father’s neck. Harry closed his eyes. Back when he had been only nine, all he had wanted for Christmas was someone who cared about him. Now he was twenty-five, and Hamish Burke was going to take over as Minister for Magic in one week and nothing was perfect. But when he closed his eyes that morning, all Harry could feel was James’ wet kiss on his cheek, Ginny’s hair tickling his shoulder when she moved her head, and Albus’ tiny foot brushing against his arm, and he couldn’t have asked for anything else that Christmas.
Andromeda brought Teddy over to the Potters for breakfast, and they all left for the Burrow together around lunch time. There were, as always, more people than should have been able to fit around the table, and more food than anyone should eat in just one day. Hermione pointed out that she was eating for two before grabbing a third serving of turkey, and her father was beaming with joy next to her as he passed her the gravy. Bill and Percy talked Mrs Weasley into letting them clean up the kitchen, and she spent the rest of the evening on the living room floor, playing with her grandchildren.
Molly and Arthur left a few days after Christmas to visit Charlie while the rest of the Weasley siblings gathered at Shell Cottage to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Bill and Fleur had moved their Christmas tree outside and decorated it with silver stars that glistened with frost that afternoon, and Fleur’s little sister Gabrielle had come to visit and taken charge of cooking a beautiful three-course meal that made everyone’s mouths water as soon as they stepped through the front door and smelled it.
Victoire and Dominique had decided that they wanted to set up a nativity play with their cousins before dinner, which quickly proved to be more difficult than they had anticipated. Because Albus was napping, they had been forced to cast Louis as baby Jesus, but he refused to lay still, and Dominique ended up pinning him to the floor until he cried, bit her hand hard, and Fleur stepped in and put and end to the show.
So instead of being entertained, everyone sat down to eat. Ginny hated herself for being possessive but was still quite relieved when Gabrielle ended up sitting at the opposite end of the table from Harry. Not that Ginny was worried—but she had heard the tone change in Gabrielle’s voice when she had kissed his cheek and said, “’Arry. Eet is so lovely to see you again.” Ginny also wasn’t blind, and Gabrielle had just turned nineteen and was, if possible, even more stunning than her older sister in a blue dress with silver broidery and perfect, porcelain skin.
Bill poured wine for the adults while Gabrielle served the first course, which was a shellfish cocktail that made Ginny forgive the girl for everything after her first bite. Just as she was about to say that to Angelina, who was sitting across from her, she noticed something odd, and the thought slipped her mind. She continued watching her sister-in-law, and the next time it happened, she was sure. Eyes glowing, she leaned forwards and said, low enough that no one else could hear:
Angelina nearly dropped her wine glass over her food; she had just been in the middle of placing it back on the table after only pretending to take a sip, and now she stared at Ginny in shock whilst trying to bite back a smile.
“How do you…?”
“It’s not like you to turn down alcohol,” Ginny grinned, and Angelina laughed. “How far along are you?”
“I’m due in August,” Angelina said, “so it’s very early. That’s why we haven’t told anyone yet. You have to keep it a secret, Ginny, you can’t even tell Harry!”
Ginny sighed theatrically. “But he can read me so well! He’ll know instantly,” she joked, and Angelina laughed again. “Seriously, though,” Ginny said. “You don’t think it can get any better, but it does. Watching James and Albus together is the most wonderful thing in the world.”
Ron, who was sitting next to Angelina, was too busy enjoying his food to pay attention to what the girls were talking about. He was utterly convinced that Gabrielle’s shellfish cocktail was the most wonderful thing in the world—at least until she brought in the main course. Then again, his baby was still a few months away from being born, and he didn’t know it yet, but that was going to be better than any food he had ever tasted.
After dessert, everyone stepped outside, George carrying the two big suitcases packed with fireworks that he had brought to the party. It was still far from midnight, but the children were all going to be asleep by then, and George at least claimed that it was them he was doing it for. While het set up the large firework sets by the edge of the cliff stooping down to the ocean, Ginny helped Victoire and Dominique build a seat out of snow, and soon enough, both the girls, Freddie, and James were sitting on it, their heads lifted towards the sky as the first set of sparks shot up over the ocean, painting the sky in green and gold before they scattered across the water, like little diamonds falling from the skies. The children clapped their hands, Fleur leaned her head against Louis, who was sitting on Bill’s shoulders, and Ron slipped an arm around Hermione’s waist. It really was beautiful.
Everyone gasped and pointed as George aimed his wand at one of the larger firework pieces, and it shot up into the air and exploded. At first, it was a clutter of beautiful colours, and then a shape began to take form; within a few seconds, a giant, luminous version of Victoire’s face was smiling down on them from the sky.
“That’s me!” shouted Victoire excitedly. “Maman, did you see me?”
“Of course, ma chérie!” replied Fleur from behind, and next to her, Hermione smiled as Ron’s grip around her tightened and Victoire’s face faded from the sky, only to be replaced by Dominique’s.
Next year, Hermione thought, there was going to be another face in the sky with the Weasley cousins. Finally, after months of agony and worrying and dreading the worst, she was letting herself believe that things were going well this time. She was pregnant—very pregnant—and her baby was almost fully grown in there. She only had another few months left before she would hold it in her arms, and press her nose against its forehead and just breathe in its scent, but she was quite sure now that it was really going to happen.
While the last sparks fell from the skies and sizzled as they hit the oceantop below, everyone retired back inside to escape the cold. Everyone, that was, but George, who had to gather up his things and put them back in his suitcases, and Harry, who decided to stay and help.
“That was quite the success, wasn’t it?” said George smugly as he bent down to pick up the ashy remains of one of the larger fireworks.
“It was brilliant!” Harry exclaimed. “Are you going to start making custom-made fireworks now?”
“I was planning to,” George said, “but they take ages to make. It will just be a special treat for the kiddos. I’m already dreading having to make a couple of more next year…”
Harry raised an eyebrow. “A couple more, huh?”
Even in the dark, he could see George’s cheek take a slightly darker shade. “Well,” he said loudly, “with the speed our family is reproducing at, I can’t imagine Hermione will be the only one with a new baby this time next year…”
“So, Angelina too then?” Harry grinned, ignoring George’s attempt to talk himself out of the situation.
“All right,” George admitted, “she’s pregnant again. But you can’t tell anyone, because she’s made me swear to keep it a secret! Not even Ginny can know, Harry, I’m serious.”
“Well, it will be on you if she ever finds out I knew before her and decides to kill me,” Harry said, “but as long as you are okay with that…”
New Years Day, 2006
Just after midnight on the first day of the year, the Potter and Weasley children were asleep in different beds and sofas in Shell Cottage while the adults talked in subdued voices and sipped on their drinks. Some hours away, in London, things were a bit noisier still; a few late fireworks were still shooting across the sky, and on streets and squares and rooftops below them, people were toasting and kissing and wishing each other a happy new year. But even further down, below ground, in the biggest office of the Ministry of Magic, there was a man seated at a desk, and he was in no mood to drink champagne nor celebrate. He had been sitting in the silver chair for seven and a half years, ever since the end of the war. And in a few hours, once the sun was up, he was going to stand up, and Hamish Burke was going to take his place.
Kingsley Shacklebolt had been so sure that it was the right time to leave. He had never thought about going into politics until that chaotic time after the Battle of Hogwarts, when Professor McGonagall had begged him to shoulder the burden. And now, seven and a half years later, the chaos seemed to have subsided, Gawain Robards was talking about retiring, and the idea of returning to the Auror Office had seemed much more tempting than staying on the Minister post.
And in a few hours he would have to leave this office, knowing that he was responsible for leaving the country in the hands of Hamish Burke.
Kingsley couldn’t stop thinking about Topher Fernsby. The boy had spent the holidays at St. Mungo’s, where the Healers had examined him and taken tests and begun discussing the word ‘obscurial.’ Topher didn’t know what it meant, but he didn’t like the sound of it, and was released when he overheard one Healer say that what he had was similar, but not quite the same. Obscurials are children who are being forced to surpress their magic, he had said, but Topher is the opposite of that, isn’t he?
Most of all, Topher wanted to go back to how things were before. He had thought that magic was the one thing he wanted most in the world, but now that he had it, he missed Muggle school. He missed his teacher, Mr Quarishi, and his classmates. He missed racing to the school cafeteria with them, and playing football—he even missed doing his homework. But his father had told him he had to stay at the hospital for now.
And so Topher was sound asleep in his bed at St. Mungo’s when the new Minister for Magic showed up to his new office, and Kingsley stood up and shook the older man’s hand before walking out. The corridors of the Ministry were empty, as was the lift bringing him up to ground level, and only once he stepped out into the Muggle world did he see another living soul. A few teenagers who looked a little too young to drink wobbled past him—one of the spotty lads stopped raised a bottle for a toast before hurrying after his friends—and just behind them, a middle-aged couple were walking hand in hand, both of their hair full of glittering confetti. They smiled and nodded at Kingsley on their way by, and then, suddenly, he was alone again.
He wished he could look into the future and see the year ahead, but he had never been much of a Seer, nor did he have much faith in those who claimed to be. As he wrapped his wool scarf tightly around his neck and began walking, not entirely sure where he was heading now, he decided it was better not to know. Whatever was coming, he was quite sure he had seen worse. If the world hadn’t ended then, chances were it wasn’t going to end now either.
Maman = Mum
Ma chérie = My darling
A/N: Thank you a million times for reading this story. Even after all this time, the fact that there are people who read, and actually like, something that I've written, makes me so incredibly happy. Thank you also to those who take the time to leave a review afterwards- I absolutely love hearing your thoughts on the story.
I am also glad that lots of you liked the alluision to current world events in these last chapters. I feel like we've been going backwards instead of forwards in a few places in the world lately, but I do believe that openess and love and acceptance will win in the end xxx
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