Harry Potter and the Cracked Reservoir
Chapter 42: Noel
By Musings of Apathy
Chapter 42: Noel
Thank you to my Betas; Sparky40sw and Cateagle.
As sometimes happens, Arthur Weasley made it down from the bed he shared with his wife before she did. It was a work day for the redhead patriarch and he had a great deal of work to be done if he were to be home in time for the traditional Christmas Eve feast that Molly always managed to put on. He was sure that it would be special this year, as this afternoon all of the significant others of his sons were due. Bill and Charlie were going to spend a good part of the day on wizard space expansions to accommodate the five women in their cozy house. To appease Molly’s sensibilities, no matter what the domestic situations were away from the holidays and away from their mother’s home, none of the boys would be sharing a room, much less a bed, with any of the girls. The only coeducational cohabitation under this roof would between husband and wife. Arthur held no illusion that most of his boys were virgins, but there are just some things that didn’t happen directly under Molly Weasley’s nose.
Arthur came down the stairs silently, missing all of the noisier parts of the old house, drawing on the experience of more than three decades of traversing the stairwell. Entering the kitchen, Arthur waved his wand to start the morning tea. Molly would have her kitchen invaded for no more than tea making if she was around to have a say. The only times that Arthur’s limited kitchen abilities had been tested was during the final weeks of each of her pregnancies, and even then his mother-in-law, while she lived, had stationed herself in their home to aid her daughter. A strong woman, not unlike his wife, his mother-in-law only gave her respect to him in the last trimester of Molly’s first pregnancy; some time after labor started and before the midwife slapped William’s bum to start the babies first breath, followed closely by his first screaming cry. It was a respect that he held dear while Mrs. Prewett lived, due mostly to the years of toil that being granted it had required. Two years he had dated Molly under the woman’s eagle eye before their year of engagement and then a year between their marriage and Bill’s birth waiting for that day. At the time, it seemed to be never-ending.
Arthur rounded out of the kitchen to retrieve his briefcase from the living room, noting the sounds from their first floor bedroom, signaling that he had just minutes until Molly came down to start breakfast. Arthur walked in his normal quiet, unprepossessing manner to his chair where his briefcase rested, waiting to start another day at the ministry. He sat and pulled the valise into his lap. A rustle from the direction of the couch drew his attention. The occupants of the couch almost drew a gasp from the aging father.
What he saw was his youngest child, his only daughter, in the arms of the man that she had loved secretly for years. Their arms were tangled tightly around each other, as he supposed that their legs were as well, somewhere under the heavy blanket that protected them from the cool ground floor of the house. The fire had gone out some time in the night, as it always did from lack of fuel after it burned all of the split logs that had warmed them late after the sun had gone down the night before.
The silent testament to his daughter’s happiness, in the smile he could see from the corner of her mouth that wasn’t pushed deeply into Harry’s neck, warmed Arthur’s heart. That genuine smile of pure contentment had been absent since she had left home for her first year in school. It had pained him privately over the years that she had had such a traumatic entrance into her schooling and magic life, a pain compounded by his inability to succor her malaise.
Arthur rose, once again leaving his briefcase beside his chair, muttering under his breath, "Can’t have them catching a cold."
He levitated several hefty logs silently into the fireplace and ignited them with a vigorous, silent incendiary spell. His mind satisfied that the fire would have this half of the house toasty warm shortly; Arthur did the same to the fire in the kitchen. His fatherly protection to his family’s health taken care of, he settled himself into his chair once again, his only purpose to enjoy watching his daughter’s happy existence.
Arthur was startled out of his musings as he watched his daughter when he heard what must be his wife descending the stairs to start the day. If he knew her, she would react before she gave herself time to assimilate what was really happening. Arthur truly didn’t have the heart to let his wife wake Ginny and Harry and rant at them for the â€˜indecency’ of sleeping together. He shook his head to clear the cobwebs and cast a privacy bubble around the couch to prevent their disturbance.
Molly bypassed the living room just as Arthur had, entering the kitchen directly. She poured herself a cup of the hot tea that her husband had brewed minutes before as he watched her from the doorway between the living room and the kitchen.
"Good morning, Arthur," Molly said when she noticed him watching her. "Let me get some eggs and rashers of bacon ready so you can go to work."
"Thanks, Honey," Arthur said to his wife. "First, though, there’s something that you should see."
She brought her tea with her as she followed him to the living room. What she saw caused an immediate reaction, luckily at a hushed volume.
"What in the world!" Molly ranted to her husband in a thankfully hushed tone. "Arthur? Why didn’t you put a stop to this? They’re…they’re…sleeping together!"
"Molly, dear," Arthur said to his wife, "calm down. As you can see, they are fully clothed, their hands are not in inappropriate places and your daughter is smiling. I have not seen Ginevra smile like that since she left for Hogwarts five years ago."
"But…well, yes it is nice to see Ginevra happy," Molly affirmed, "but how can we approve of this behavior?"
Arthur smiled to Molly. "Harry and Bill didn’t get in until midnight, and so Ginny was worrying about him for several hours. There was no way that she would have been satisfied with a simple kiss goodnight. They both needed comfort and they were best at giving it to each other. As I told you last night when I came to bed, Harry had to deal with a domestic disturbance instead of Death Eaters last night. He had to deal with a father hitting his wife and son, and I believe that it was a little close to home for Harry. They both needed this," he said firmly. "When I get back from work, I’ll take them aside and tell them that this is not to be a normal occurrence."
Molly sighed deeply. "I guess you’re right," she conceded. "We can’t watch them when they’re at school, but I worry."
"They’re responsible and we should trust them," he said. "I don’t think they’ll betray our trust."
Molly changed gears, turning back to the kitchen and tying the string to her apron. "Arthur," she said, "come in here and have some breakfast. You can have some tea while I cook. Stop staring at them."
Arthur smiled and obeyed his wife.
Gathered around the couch was the entire younger set of Weasley males. Bill, Charlie, Percy, Fred, George and Ron stared at the couple snuggled on the couch, oblivious to the world outside their embrace.
"Well, isn’t this cute," Bill said with a half smile.
"It’s disgraceful," Percy said. "They’re not married and are still in school. They shouldn’t be sleeping together, much less in mum’s living room."
"Percy," Charlie said, "I know full well what you were doing at Ginny’s age. You were not quite the perfect prefect that everyone thought."
Fred and George turned sharply to their older brother with their mouths open in surprise.
"What!" they chorused.
"…snuck some nooky?"
Percy started to protest, but Ron spoke up before he could. "Yeah, you said something about Ginny catching you in your fifth year with Penelope Clearwater," Ron remembered. "Is she the significant other that we are going to see later?"
"I did not do anything disgraceful," Percy finally protested. "And yes, Penelope will be here later with the other guests."
"Very good," Bill said. "I liked her when I met her before. She’s good for you."
"Yes, well," Percy started, derailed from his defensive stance, "thank you. I like her too."
"George," Charlie said, "Go get my camera from my bag. This is too cute to miss."
George saluted his older brother and took off up the stairs. George was back shortly, handing the camera to Charlie. Fred and George shared a devious look and both drew their wands.
Charlie brought the camera to his eye, signaling Fred and George to level their wands for some action in the upcoming photo.
"Fred, George," Bill said, "What are you doing?"
"Just adding some flare to the photo," they answered.
Quicker than they could see, Ginny’s arm flashed up from Harry’s back under the blanket and pointed behind her back.
"Bates Mocus, Bates Mocus, Bates Mocus," she shot in rapid succession, her voice muffled against Harry’s neck.
Fred and George were caught unaware and dropped their wands as they clawed at the slimy bats dripping from their noses. Bill, however, managed to dive out of the way from the sickly yellow hex, causing it to hit the fireplace rock behind his head.
"Guess that really was a wand in his pocket," George mumbled after he and Fred had managed to dispel the hex. They had gotten good at dealing with the Bat-Bogey Hex over the years, with as much as practice opportunities at they had.
"Ginny," Percy said bravely, "You shouldn’t be sleeping with Harry. It’s unseemly!"
"Go’way," Ginny said into the crook of Harry’s neck. "M’comftrble."
"Ginny," Bill said, dusting himself off from his foray on the floor, avoiding the hex. "Get up. It’s time for breakfast."
"M’fine here," Ginny slurred. "Go’way."
Harry stirred in Ginny’s arms, waking up. He momentarily tightened his grip on Ginny’s back before he made it to a half dazed consciousness.
"What’s go’in on, Gin?" Harry asked.
"My brothers are watching us," Ginny answered.
Harry’s eyes snapped open, presenting him with the sideways view of the Brothers’ Weasley through his girlfriend’s sleep tousled hair.
Harry panicked and in one swift move was over Ginny and on his feet, bare chested, standing in front of the couch, facing his girlfriend’s brothers.
"I can explain," Harry defended. "We didn’t do anything!"
Harry was reaching for his discarded shirt while he explained himself to the Brothers.
"Shut up, Harry," Ginny said. "We didn’t do anything to defend ourselves to them for."
"But…" Harry said.
"What’s going on?" a voice, Hermione’s, said from kitchen door.
"We found Ginny and Harry sleeping together in the living room when we came down this morning," Ron explained with just a hint of ire in his voice.
"What!" Hermione exclaimed. "They were sleeping together in the living room!?! And you…wait," she said, looking around and assessing the situation. "Why are they both dressed if you caught them sleeping together?"
"Harry just put on his shirt," Ron explained.
"Yeah, but they’re both fully dressed," Hermione reasoned. "If they were sleeping together when you found them, why is Ginny fully dressed? Wouldn’t they be…you know…"
"Starkers?" Ginny supplied. "That is what I was trying to tell them. We slept in each other’s arms, but we were fully dressed. We didn’t do anything."
"Oh," Hermione said, collapsing to the couch beside Ginny. "I thought when they said that they found you two sleeping together that you were…"
"No," Ginny said. "Just sleeping. It was nice until these prats woke us up. They just wouldn’t go away, so I hexed them."
"You hexed them?" Hermione asked. "You’ll get a warning from the Improper Use of Magic Office. You aren’t supposed to do magic away from school."
"I’ve been hexing this lot for years," Ginny said. "Hopkirk can’t tell who’s doing the hexing in an all magic house, so no warnings go out to purebloods. I started to do the Bat-Bogey Hex long before going to Hogwarts. Seems like this bunch would have learned by now," she finished with a glare.
"Yeah," Fred agreed, "she is right deadly with that hex of hers. Been doing that to us since before we were sorted."
"Makes you proud," George added.
"Well," Hermione said, "Hardly seems fair that purebloods get to practice magic when the rest of us can’t."
"It’s practical," Bill said. "If magic happens in an all magic house, who is to see? But if you are casting around Muggles it’ll create problems."
"Still isn’t fair," Harry said for Hermione and himself.
"Well, right," Hermione switched track, "it’s breakfast time."
Everyone dutifully let the subject drop and went in search of the promised breakfast.
Where breakfast on Christmas Eve had been a quiet one, especially after Ginny had finished threatening parts off her brothers, by dinnertime, the Burrow was a sea of activity. After lunch, Mr. Weasley had arrived just before his son’s girlfriends. Harry was awash with introductions and greetings. Somehow he managed to remember enough to have polite conversation with the ladies, but tried to not use their names unnecessarily, so he could minimize the chances of getting a name wrong.
By the late afternoon, all of the women had disappeared to the kitchen, much to Hermione’s horror.
"Ginny," Hermione pulled her friend aside, "What do I do? Is this a test? She called all of us in there like we are supposed to be able to help her in there. I don’t know much about cooking and absolutely nothing about witch cooking!" Hermione exclaimed in a frantic whisper. That she was being tested in a branch of knowledge that she was lacking in terrified her.
"Don’t worry," Ginny reassured her. "Sure, Mum wants to see that these women have what it takes to care for her sons, but don’t forget, that includes me. She’s testing me, too. She wants to make sure that I can take care of Harry, if it comes time for that. Funny thing is," Ginny giggled, "Harry is probably the second best cook in this house. He cooked for his relatives so often that he knows his way around a kitchen rather well."
"But Ginny," Hermione growled, taking the girl’s shoulder in her hand firmly, "I can’t cook. The best I could do is help my mom cut the vegetables for the stuffing for our Christmas goose. I’ve never, you know," Hermione waved her hands franticly, "cooked a meal before."
Ginny laughed lightly under her breath. "And you won’t tonight. Hermione," Ginny told her, "there will be seven other women in the kitchen with you. You can’t honestly expect to be doing much of anything in there."
"But…" Hermione started.
"Relax," Ginny advised, "if you want to give Mum the best impression of your ability to take care of Ron," Ginny said, adding under her breath, "though I’d have no idea why," she continued, "just do the best that you can in there; follow instructions, ask questions and wash your hands before each task. If you want to have Mum ready to throw a wedding this summer, help her with a meal a day for the rest of the holiday and try to learn just as if it were a potions class, only infinitely more pleasant."
Hermione shot Ginny an evil eye. "Ron is just fine, but I’m not ready for that yet," Hermione proclaimed. "I mean, I’m not going to get married this summer or soon. But I would like to learn to cook. You know how important food is to Ron. Maybe I should learn something from your Mum."
"Just…" Ginny hesitated. "Just don’t be too…I don’t want to have to go through the guilt Mum’ll heave on me for not continuing the household training that she’s been putting me through for half my life. I don’t need more practice on my cooking or cleaning, thank you very much."
With a set of giggles, they abandoned their place outside the doors to the kitchen and joined the rest of the women in the kitchen. By the time the dishes were served, Molly felt that each of her boys’ choices for romance showed potential, however Hermione was convinced, privately, that she did, indeed, need to gain some knowledge from Mrs. Weasley’s experience.
NaÃ¯vely, Harry decided to forgo his normal exercise routine for a second morning in a row, in favor of sleeping in until the call for breakfast. The first morning, his excuse had been ensconced in his arms on the living room couch. This morning, he decided that he wanted to spend his early Christmas morning with his head buried in feather soft pillows in the toasty room at the very top of the Burrow’s height. This morning, his naÃ¯vetÃ© was borne out in his going from warm and comfortable, floating on the clouds of dreamland, to on his feet, wand in hand, and a puddle rapidly forming from the cold water dripping from his skin and hair.
He quickly realized that what he was hearing was his Weasley roommates laughing raucously. They thought that this was funny. Harry rapid-fired several Bates Mocus at random blurs topped with red around the room that he could safely assume were Weasley males. He fired three at shapes within the room and one through the doorway where he could see a brown blur and a red blur.
After he righted himself and replaced his glasses in a more usable position than on the nightstand, the room revealed itself. Fred and George were sitting on the floor, laughing without a care in the world at their two brothers, Ron and Percy, who were batting mucus bats from their faces. In the doorway, where he had fired the last of the hexes, he saw Hermione helping Ginny from the floor, where she had obviously avoided the hex in the first place. Harry scrambled forward, trying to save face after the fact.
"Ginny, Ginny," Harry called franticly. "Are you alright?"
"Well that was a fine Happy Christmas," Ginny said with a huff, in which Harry missed the twinkle in her eyes and the upturn of the corner of her mouth that showed that she was joking. "What happened?"
"Harry," Hermione started, "You know you’re…"
But Ginny cut her off, "Hermione, let him talk," before she could remind Harry that he slept in just his silk boxers. She was enjoying this too much, in sight and humor, to curtail, "Please."
"I don’t know," Harry claimed, pulling on the back of his neck. "I was asleep, quite happy mind you, and then I was cold and wet and couldn’t see."
"Harry," Hermione started again, "Don’t you think that you should…"
But Ginny cut her off before Hermione could send him off to get dressed, "Harry, I would say that it was the twins that decided that you needed a Christmas wake-up call, as they didn’t sleep in here last night."
Harry looked around and had to agree with her that the evidence did point to the Twin Terrors.
"So," Ginny continued, "I think that you hexed the wrong pair of my brothers."
"Harry," was all Hermione got out before she was cut off this time by an elbow in her ribs, albeit lightly from the fiery woman at her side.
"Yeah," Harry agreed, canceling the hex on both Ron and Percy. "You’re right."
Harry quickly cast the hex twice more at the previously hysterical twins. Unfortunately for Harry’s revenge, they had their wands at the ready and managed to cancel the hex in seconds. They had way too much practice with the Bat Bogey Hex for anyone’s good.
Ginny smiled at him and said, "Okay, now you may get dressed and come down for breakfast." Ginny turned and left the room with her chin held high and Hermione in tow. As a final shot, she called over her shoulder, "By the way, Harry, I like that pair of boxers."
Harry looked down and noticed his lack of clothes. He looked back at the doorway quickly, but Ginny and Hermione were already out of sight down the staircase. He could only groan before doing as his girlfriend instructed, showing as little embarrassment as he could manage.
After breakfast was served and consumed, the greatly expanded family moved into the also expanded living room and took positions on the furniture, both conjured and original.
"Okay," Mr. Weasley started, "I think this year we need to be a bit more organized for our guests. Ron, Ginny; you two get all of the presents distributed so that we can start unwrapping."
Ron’s token protest died with a smile from his girlfriend, while Ginny moved to comply without even that little bit of protest. They quickly distributed the gifts, leaving a considerable pile of gifts that were addressed to people that were not present. Those gifts were slated to leave with the young couples as they went to other houses for Christmas dinner.
Harry, while familiar with the Weasley present unwrapping traditions, was astounded at the unbridled abandon with which the presents were torn into. He looked around and took stock of the rest of the celebrants.
Hermione sat beside Ron, who was, of course, ripping the paper to shreds on his boxes. She, however, was removing the paper in a calm fashion, prying the Spellotape from each fold, removing each bow and ribbon, and placing the wrappings in a neat pile to her left. She was not as prim as Percy across the living room, but still seemed to try not to rip her paper. Once opened, she examined each gift and seemed to take a second to glance at each of the givers and smile, noting who gave what in her organized mind for later thanks.
Angelina and Alicia wore huge smiles on their faces and their eyes sparked as they tore at their presents at opposite sides of the twins on the long couch. They were reasonably more civilized than their boyfriends, avoiding flinging scraps of wrapping parchment at all angles. Their wrappings ended up wadded and thrown under the coffee table, but in a pile so that it could be collected and binned later. Alicia squealed at the trinkets and bobbles that she receive, while Angelina was thumbing through The Compendium of the Historical Holyhead Harpies, given to her by Hermione, of course.
Charlie’s girlfriend, Harry remembered her name as Sarah or Sally or something, seemed to dance on her chair through the unwrapping of her gifts. When she got to the necklace from Harry, she got an inquisitive look on her face. She examined the pendant and then skimmed the instruction pamphlet. After a couple of blinks, she aimed a smile at Harry that would have had him unsteady on his knees if he had not been sitting. He had not met her before last night and all he knew of her was that she came from the same dragon preserve as Charlie, but had grown up and schooled in the Colonies, what they now called â€˜New England’, Harry recalled with a snicker. Harry gave her a nod in acknowledgement of the silent â€˜thank you’.
Harry moved his gaze to Percy’s girlfriend, Penelope Clearwater, whom Harry knew was in the same class as Percy, only from Ravenclaw. Harry was emboldened that the pair was still together, considering their graduation and the stresses that must have been at work on their lives since they started to go out four years ago. She seemed to be more vivacious than her boyfriend, but was not messy in the least in her unwrapping technique. A pile was forming behind her chair of the wrapping parchment, but the bows and ribbons were carefully saved for later in a gift bag that had contained the first present that she had opened.
Harry shouldn’t have been surprised to be re-introduced to Fleur Delacour by her boyfriend Bill the day before. Apparently the English lessons that Bill had been giving her at Gringotts were paying off in some collateral ways that were easily predicted. From the way she leaned against his side and touched his leg, Bill and Fleur had a serious relationship that had everything to do with love. Harry had not felt one brush of her veela powers since he had seen her last night, although he had seen Ron look at her and blink rapidly a few times this morning, so Harry assumed that they were still there, if muted. Fleur surprised him with her relaxed tempo with which she peeled her presents, but without concern for the condition of the parchment after the unwrapping, the way that she seemed to take pleasure in each and every gift was enchanting.
In the end, Harry had a good take of shirts, books and sweets, with, of course, the traditional Weasley Jumper. Special to him, Ginny had given him a set of sixteen inks and quills. The variety of colors would make his illustrations for his Animagus transformations easier. Before he had charmed his ink to the necessary colors.
Harry had given everyone present a DA pendant on a fine Portkey chain for their safety. To each of the Weasley’s and Hermione, he gave another, more personal gift. Most were selected in Hogsmeade during one of the outings, but Charlie’s present was special. The black onyx dragon from the fire experiment in the Chamber sat on the coffee table looking around at the activity in the room. Every so often it would blow a smoke ring from its nostril or blow a gout of fire harmlessly into the air. Charlie seemed fascinated with it, as was his girlfriend. Who knew what the odds of Charlie finding a woman that shared his interests so thoroughly were?
"Is this a replica of the Hungarian Horntail that you faced in the tournament, Harry?" Charlie asked.
"As close as I can remember," Harry responded. "Professor Flitwick helped with the behavior animation spells. It won’t burn anything with its fire unless you tell it to. I made it from some scrap shards of natural Onyx that I melted and formed it in a fire spell that I was practicing."
"Well, thank you," Charlie said sincerely. "It’s fantastic. I think that I’ll put it on our mantle at home."
"You’re welcome," Harry returned.
By the afternoon, the activity and crowding in the Burrow had died down, leaving Harry and Ginny alone with her parents. Her brothers had for Christmas visits to their girlfriends’ parent’s houses for the rest of the day. The house was pleasantly quiet, save for the comfortable conversation in the living room and the occasional rattle and knock from the ghoul in the attic.
Molly perked up in her seat as she felt a tingle on her shoulder.
"Someone’s just arriving, dear," Mrs. Weasley said to her husband after feeling a notice from the Burrow’s wards. "Would you go see who it is?"
Before Arthur could move, Harry was half way to the door, closely followed by Ginny. When Arthur arrived in the kitchen, he saw that both Harry and his daughter had taken up guarding positions to the door from the yard, where he could hear multiple footsteps approaching. Arthur’s heart rate elevated as he realized that it would be just like that sick megalomaniac He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named to attack his family on Christmas day. At once, Arthur both cursed that the house had no one to defend it besides he, his wife, their underage daughter and her emancipated minor boyfriend, and was glad that his sons had left before lunch to be with the families of their respective girlfriends. They would be spared the agony of battle. Still, their wands would be missed.
"We are expecting Remus and Tonks this afternoon," Arthur reminded the defensive minded youngsters, "sometime about now."
With this reminder not to make any holes in whoever was approaching, Arthur opened the door and prepared to greet possible guests.
"Oh, come on, dear," Remus pleaded with his girlfriend in the living room where they all congregated with fresh tea and biscuits, "you had to be scared, too. I’m sure that I wasn’t alone out there."
Tonks laughed at her ferocious werewolf boyfriend. "Remus, dear, you forget that I’ve had class with Harry for the whole of the first term, including attending some of his extracurricular training and his little club," she reminded him. "I’ve seen him â€˜powered up’ and with that look in his eye before."
The others looked on in amusement, glad that there had been no threat. Harry and Ginny had truly been set for a major battle to pour through the kitchen door when the wards showed a breach. Good as they were, Remus didn’t always trust them to differentiate between friend and foe, and in these times, caution was something that could not be had after the fact.
"Yeah," Remus responded, "that I don’t understand. That look on Harry’s face, not to mention Ginny’s, when they’re pointing their wand at you for the first second, is not something I will ever get used to and push off. That’s just terrifying, especially when Harry starts to glow like that. Curdle the milk, that’s what he’s going to do."
"And I’ve had training that you haven’t had," Tonks said. "All that Auror stuff was good for something, and I count not flinching away from Harry as a good thing."
"So do I," Harry chipped in.
"And," Tonks continued, "I’ve seen Harry’s reactions. I knew that he wouldn’t fire on a friendly."
Harry smiled in thanks.
"Oh, hey," Remus grasped for any chance to change the subject about how he had reacted with Harry and Ginny ready to take â€˜the intruders’ out if they were any threat. "Do we have time before dinner, Molly? Harry, I thought that we could go over that estate business while we had a free moment."
"You finished the survey?" Harry asked. "Do I have a home this summer?"
"Oh yeah. I found some great houses in your portfolio," Remus gushed. "Tonks and I visited this great place that belonged to your great-great aunt on your father’s mother’s side last week. It was an old farm cottage straight out of a fairy tale. Sort of reminded me of the Burrow."
Harry smiled at the effusive werewolf. With all of his best friends dead or better off dead, Remus was in short supply of happy smiling moments.
"And you, Professor Tonks," Harry inquired, "how did you like this fairy tale cottage?"
Harry looked in her sparkling eyes as she responded, "It was perfect."