(A/N – There are three things I wanted to mention: 1. Thanks to my beta
reader, Suburban House Elf. I trust your judgment, and your attention to detail
is greatly appreciated; 2. Apologies extended to the Beatles for shamelessly
stealing a line from the beginning of their movie, "Help!" and
placing it in the scene where Harry is trying to wake Ron; 3. I love the way C.
S. Lewis writes about food, among many other things, and how he makes it sound
so yummy, so I wanted to take a shot at it myself. Excuse me now while I go get
A GIFT AT CHRISTMAS
Chapter Two – In Sickness And In Health
Christmas Day at The Burrow dawned clear, cold and early. Harry awoke
feeling preoccupied as he heard voices calling "Happy Christmas" and
the sound of the twins pounding on bedroom doors to roust everyone up. There
was a stack of presents at the foot of each of their beds, and in a flash Ron
had thrown back his blankets and propelled himself over the small mound of
gifts in an effort to get to the door first. Harry bolted from his bed and was
at Ron's heels as they both reached the door, jostling each other and laughing
as they jockeyed to be the first one out.
The day began with a hearty breakfast around the table in the kitchen, with
everyone still in their pajamas and dressing gowns. Harry fit right in, with
everyone else's hair looking as rumpled and uncombed as his own. The kitchen was
warm with a heavenly baking scent and the thick aroma of bacon and toast. Molly
Weasley had definitely outdone herself, and Harry marveled that there was great
wealth here in this house in the midst of meager means. Fresh baked bread for
toast and scones and butter with marmalade and platters of eggs and bacon and
sausage covered the table. There was tea with plenty of milk and sugar and hot
chocolate, too. And then there were Christmas cookies and ginger snaps and
cinnamon buns in baskets lined with linen napkins sitting on the drain board
and kitchen counters. The fragrances of cinnamon, ginger and pine surrounded
them as they opened gifts in the parlor, where there was a warm fire crackling
in the grate. There was a small tree on a tabletop decorated with tinsel, paper
chains, red bows, small wooden toys that traded places with each other by Apparating
from branch to branch, and candles that seemed to float on the tips of the
needles. Afterwards Mr. Weasley played the piano and they all gathered round
and sang carols and a chorus of "God Rest Ye Merry, Hippogriffs",
making up silly verses as they went along, which Harry felt Sirius would have
When the parlor had been properly littered with Christmas wrappings all
undone and strewn about and everyone had had their fill of breakfast feasting
and carol singing, they either drifted off to read new books or play new games.
Mrs. Weasley returned to the kitchen to begin
preparing Christmas dinner. Harry wondered where he was going to find room for
more, being sufficiently stuffed from breakfast, but he figured he would be
ready when the time came. Harry
was glad to be engulfed in the bustle of it all because it helped hide the fact
that he didn't feel all there. He truly loved being with the Weasleys and being
treated like a member of the family, and he was glad they had invited him to
come stay with them for the holidays. But his mind was upstairs with the little
package he had re-wrapped and placed in his bag when Ron wasn't around. He kept
thinking about it, completely amazed that it had come to be in his possession,
and he felt anxious to return to Ron's room to check on it, which he did from
time to time. He wanted to hold it and make sure it was really real and really
Later that evening, after Ron and Harry had finished their last game of
Exploding Snap and each of them had battled their way (with differing degrees
of success) through a wizard chess tournament with George, Fred and Ginny, they
headed up to Ron's room. Molly appeared from the kitchen and approached Harry
at the foot of the stairs. “Harry dear,” she called after him. Harry turned as
Ron headed up the stairs. She had a look of earnestness in her eyes as she
placed a motherly hand on his shoulder. “Harry, I just wanted to tell you how
lovely it is to have you here with us for the holidays. I’m so glad you could
come. You’re welcome here any time, you know. Christmas just isn’t the same
now, without – “ She paused and bit her lower lip. “Well, you know, there’s
always been nine of us, and now with only six, and Bill not being able to get
away from Gringotts until later, and Charlie in Bulgaria, and Percy – “ Harry
hadn't heard her mention Percy in months. Her eyes were moist with emotion, and
she dabbed at them with the corner of her apron. Harry thought that six for
Christmas was more than plenty, let alone nine, but upon seeing Molly so upset
he leaned over and planted a quick kiss on her cheek, which he thought was the
least he could do. Molly blushed and covered the spot on her face with her
hand, exclaiming softly.
“Now you’ve done it,” moaned Ron from the top of the stairs. “There’ll be no
living with her for a week.”
Harry shrugged his shoulders as he slowly climbed the steps. “I dunno,” he
muttered, “she seemed to sort of need it.” Almost immediately, he had a strange
sensation of guilt creep over him, weighing him down, so that his steps slowed
even more. “Don’t worry Mum, I didn’t mean it,” he whispered. “I did it for
Mrs. Weasley, but she’ll never take your place.”
He had never spoken out loud to his mum in a conversational way like that
before. He’d never even thought about
doing it, but the words just sort of tumbled out of him instinctively, and it
felt reassuring somehow to treat her like she was close by and could hear him.
He reached the top of the stairs and saw Ron standing on the landing, looking
“Did you say something?” Ron asked.
“No – no, I was just thinking out loud. It’s nothing,” Harry said
“Well, keep your thoughts inside your head from now on, mate,” Ron said as
he continued up the next flight of stairs, two at a time. “Most people only do
that when they’ve gone barmy.”
Harry was awakened in the middle of the night by a soft buzzing sound. He
lifted his head and gazed groggily over at Ron, who was sound asleep.
"Ron!" he called in a hoarse whisper. "Ron – " He leaned
out of bed as far as he could without falling and tugged on Ron's blanket.
"Wha – " Ron stirred in his sleep, but was less than
"Ron! Is that you buzzing?" Harry asked. "Ron!" He
pulled on the blanket again, but to no avail.
"No tap dancing, no tap dancing . . . " Ron whimpered, and rolled
over to face the wall.
Harry settled back onto his pillow, but the buzzing persisted. The more
awake Harry became, the more it sounded as if the noise was coming from inside
his school bag. He pulled the bag up onto his bed and opened it, digging into
the contents to find the offending source. As he reached in further, he
realized that it was coming from the package from Aunt Petunia. He held the
brown paper parcel in his hand as it vibrated with a delicate hum. He opened
the tissue paper where he had re-wrapped the locket and held it in his open
palm. All at once the vibrating stopped. Harry picked up the locket between his
thumb and forefinger, and began to rub the flower design on the front, tracing
the etched design with his thumb. He felt soothed and at peace, and was oddly
grateful to his Aunt Petunia for deciding to send it to him. However, the
moment he placed it back in the tissue paper and folded it to return it to his
bag, it began to hum again. Puzzled, Harry shook it, tapped it, and even
whispered "Ssh!" at it, but it continued to make noise. He unwrapped
it and picked it up to take a closer look at it, and at once the humming
stopped. Bewildered, Harry stuffed the paper minus its contents back into his
bag, lowered the bag onto the floor, and then lay on his bed, dangling the
chain above him. "How can I keep you from making that noise so I can get
back to sleep?" he whispered. "You didn't hum last night," he
added, and placed the locket under his pillow. He let go of it and arranged the
pillow on top of it, then slowly lowered his head onto the pillow, wary lest
the buzzing should start again. He lay there for a minute or two waiting, and
when it had been silent for quite awhile, he felt confident he'd found the
solution. He knew the basic warnings and precautions regarding inanimate
objects that don't quite behave the way they should in the wizarding world, but
for now he was relieved that he had succeeded in quieting it, and eventually he
drifted off to sleep.
In the morning as he was dressing for breakfast, Harry wrestled with the
idea of what to do with the locket. He wasn't keen on anyone else knowing about
it, not just yet. He had one thing he wanted to check on when he got back to
Hogwarts, just to feel sure that it was what Petunia had said it was. It was
nobody else's business but his own that he had it, as far as he was concerned.
It was a guilty pleasure, and a link to his mum that made him feel secretive
and serious. He decided it was better, for now, not to tell anyone about it,
and he couldn't risk anyone coming in to Ron's room and hearing it make its
noise and discovering it, so he stuffed it into his jeans pocket just to be
safe and headed down the stairs.
As the days at The Burrow went by, Harry couldn't help noticing that people
were looking at him a little differently, especially Ginny and Ron. Over the
past several weeks at school he and Ginny had grown closer, discussing
Quidditch, their classes and even what career paths they should choose after
Hogwarts. Harry had felt conflicted, for the most part because he was having a
hard time deciding what Ginny should be – a friend or more than a friend? On
the one hand, he thought, she was the only student at Hogwarts, other than
himself, who really knew what it was like to have survived an encounter with
Voldemort. On the other hand, it was nice to
watch the way her nose crinkled when she laughed at his jokes, and sometimes he
had liked to hope this meant she was flirting with him.
But at The Burrow, Harry was keeping a nervous distance from Ginny,
partly because her parents were close by and partly because he was becoming
annoyed with her need for his attention. Now that he had his mum's necklace,
Ginny's presence seemed a betrayal and he began to feel pressured and
irritated. He definitely avoided the mistletoe hanging in the kitchen archway
like the plague whenever she was around. Her face when she looked at Harry
lately was full of hurt and concern.
Ron, on the other hand, only noticed that Harry seemed preoccupied and
unfocused. He commented that Harry was much easier to defeat these days when
they played wizard chess. "You're not even trying to beat me," he
complained one day after a particularly short game. "It's almost not fair.
Not that I mind, of course. But it's almost like you're letting me win. It's
pathetic, really. What's with you?" Harry shrugged it off and made some
remark about pressures at school. Ron sulked and gave Harry a skeptical glare.
Harry continued to feel Ron's watchful concern at different times throughout
the week, which only added to his growing discomfort. Whenever he felt this
unease, he would reach into his pocket for his mum's necklace, which he now
carried with him everywhere he went. He found that if he held it tightly,
sometimes squeezing it so hard that he could feel the chain digging into his
skin, it brought him comfort, like a security blanket for a troubled toddler.
During the afternoons they would bundle up and head outside to the field
behind The Burrow taking turns on each other's brooms, as there weren't enough
to go around, to keep up their Quidditch skills. It was fine weather for
flying, with clear skies and cold air that stung their faces as they soared
around makeshift goals, hurling Quaffles at one another. But Harry found that
he tired of this activity quickly, and was becoming sloppy with his dives and
catches. He was growing restless with the holidays and was anxious to return to
Hogwarts. By this time Bill had arrived from London, so their Quidditch playing
became even more spirited, and they came down hard on Harry if he made a wrong
move or appeared too sluggish while making a play.
"Come on, Harry!" Fred yelled exasperatedly after Harry had
allowed the Quaffle to streak past him.
"Halloooo, Harry Potter, anybody home?" George called as he flew
past Harry, cuffing him on the back of the head.
"Come off it you two, Harry's fine, he's just a little off, aren't you,
Harry?" Ron called hopefully. Harry waved and smiled a half-hearted smile
from his position twenty feet up in the air, but he felt disconnected. He
didn't like the fact that only a week before he could hardly wait to get to The
Burrow, and now he felt like he was marking time until it was time to leave.
On New Year's Eve, everyone gathered round in the kitchen and celebrated
together at midnight. They sang a rousing rendition of "Auld Lang
Syne" while Mr. Weasley played the piano, and afterwards they toasted the New
Year with mugs of hot cider. Bill held his mug high and led them all with, "Here's to the best mum and dad anyone
could have, and the best man on the job at the Ministry as well!"
"Here, here!" they all said, and a few of them said,
"Cheers!" as they clinked each other's mugs.
"Here's to the best shop on Diagon Alley and to a prosperous New
Year!" offered Fred.
Clink. Arthur's enthusiasm over Fred's toast was more noticeable than
"Here's to Gryffindor winning the Quidditch Cup!" said Ginny.
"And the House Cup!" added Ron.
"Here's to family, and being together at the holidays," said
Molly, as she looked around the circle meaningfully at each member, the last
one being Harry. She gave him a warm smile.
Finally, Arthur cleared his throat and raised his mug. "Here's to the
speedy capture and demise of You-Know-Who, and a swift resolution to the
war." He paused and set his face with a hopeful expression. "May this
circle be unbroken as we stand together next New Year's."
The room was silent for a moment before Harry said, "To
Bill said, "And Charlie."
They raised their mugs, but Molly stopped them with an upraised hand.
"And Percy," she added softly.
The mood changed considerably. Arthur was the first one to tap mugs in the
center of the circle. Ron seemed almost reluctant to join in.
Bill took a gulp of his cider and set his mug down on the kitchen table.
"Well then," he said, rubbing his hands together eagerly, "how
about a little music?" He approached the piano, slid onto the stool and
began to play what sounded like a cross between ragtime and heavy metal. His
playing style was to pound the piano boisterously, and he began to sing a
limerick song of rather questionable lyrics:
"There was a young lady from Hogsmeade – "
Molly gasped and grabbed Bill's ear above the dragon-tooth earring between
her thumb and forefinger, giving it a tug. "BILL WEASLEY, WHERE DID YOU
EVER LEARN A SONG LIKE THAT, NOT IN THIS HOUSE YOU DON'T!" she shrieked,
lacking only the appearance of a little red Howler envelope with steam rising
out of it.
"OW OW OW OW!" Bill cried as he recoiled from the tweaking.
"Okay Mum, okay! Let's see, what's something a little more appropriate –
" He began to play and sing a less offensive tune, and George, Fred and
Ginny stood behind him to join in. Harry yawned, stretched and headed for the
stairs. He turned before the first step and waved towards Ron, signaling
goodnight. Ginny followed and called to him from the bottom of the stairs.
"Harry – "
He turned and looked down at her.
"Are you – won't you stay a little longer? Maybe we'll play a game, or
He shook his head. "No, thanks, I'm tired. I think I'll just turn
"Harry?" Her voice was almost pleading. She seemed to flinch at
the annoyed look he gave her.
"Are you alright? You – you don't seem very happy lately."
"No, I'm fine. I'm just tired, that's all." Harry turned and
continued up the stairs, leaving Ginny standing there looking up at him. "She's
mad," he thought, "I'm the happiest I've been in a long time.
I've finally got something of my mum's, haven't I?" He wound his way
up the landings and flights of stairs until he reached Ron's room. He closed
the door behind him and leaned heavily against it. Reaching into his pocket, he
pulled out the gold chain and carried it to the bed, placing it under his pillow.
"I'm trying as hard as I can, mum. I'm trying to be happy, but they
just don't get it."
After breakfast the next morning, Ginny found Harry sitting outside on the
front steps bundled in a sweater and wool scarf. She sat down next to him and
they were silent for a while, watching their breath evaporate in the frosty
"You're ready to go back, aren't you?" she asked suddenly. He
looked at her, startled.
"Yeah, I guess. That is, not to be mean or anything, you've all been
great – "
"That's okay, I could tell."
Harry felt a little unnerved by her understanding. He stood to go back
"Wait, Harry - would you like to go for a walk?" Ginny rose to her
feet and beckoned him down the path.
"No, I – " Harry started an excuse, and then saw the look on
Ginny's face. "Oh well, mum, what could it hurt?" he thought.
"Alright," he said, "but not too far." He followed Ginny
down the stone walkway and through the rickety wooden gate to the dirt road
that wound past Mr. Weasley's shed. They walked for a bit without saying
anything, their hands stuffed in their pockets.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Ginny said after awhile.
"Talk about what?" Harry asked.
"About why you're so anxious to leave. About why you're not having a
"Who said I wasn't having a good time?" Harry said defensively.
"Well, you're not, are you? You don't seem to want to do much. You're
fussed with everybody about everything. And you hardly talk to me at all. Not
that I really want anything from you. I just hate seeing you looking so
Harry felt totally exposed. "I don't want to talk about it. There's
nothing to talk about. Really. And I'm not sad. I just have a lot on my mind
lately. And if I'm making you sad, maybe you should find someone happy to talk
to. Maybe you should just leave me alone." The words had no sooner slipped
out of Harry's mouth than Ginny's eyes brimmed with tears.
"Well, if that's the way you want it, fine!" she stammered.
"That IS the way I want it!" Harry said, his voice rising.
"FINE!" she yelled back, and turned on her heels, racing back up
the path towards the house.
"FINE!" Harry shouted to her retreating figure. He reached down
and picked up a stone and hurled it as far as he could down the road. "Fine,"
he thought, "she got me out here on this walk, and now she's run off
and I'm freezing. Help me, Mum. I don't seem to be able to do anything right
where Ginny is concerned."
There was an uncomfortable silence between Harry and Ginny that lasted all
the rest of the holiday and even after they had returned to Hogwarts. Ron tried
to broach the subject once or twice, but was met with avid resistance from
Harry. When Harry was finally back inside Hogwarts Castle, he seemed to be able
to breathe easier, and he could immerse himself in the crowd of fellow students
without feeling like his moods were constantly being watched and scrutinized.
On his first night back, after lights were out and he was sure his dormitory
mates were sleeping soundly, he slipped out onto the cold floor, tiptoed to the
trunk at the foot of his bed and lifted the heavy lid as noiselessly as
possible. He removed the photo album Hagrid had given him at the end of his
first year and crept back into bed, pulling the curtains of his canopy all the
way around him. He removed his wand from under his blankets and whispered, "Lumos!"
By the glow of the blue wand-light, he turned the pages of the album past
various pictures of his parents, until he came to the one he was looking for.
There on the page in front of him was his parents' wedding picture. It was a
group photo, with his mum and dad and the other three Marauders and several of
their friends, all in their wedding clothes. He squinted and looked closely at
the picture, but couldn't quite see the thing he was looking for well enough.
He took his wand in his hand and pressed the tip to where his mother's neck was
in the photograph, and whispered "Magnify." The picture
blurred and swirled and the images expanded outward and then contracted back
again, retaining their larger size. There was one lone area that had been transformed
the most, and that was the portion displaying Lily's shoulders. Draped around
Lily's neck Harry could barely make out a necklace of some sort. He tapped the
photo again and said "Magnify" once more, and there enlarged
before him was the image of the locket. Harry reached under his pillow and
pulled out the same locket from where he had hidden it earlier, placing them
side-by-side on the album page. "It's true, it's true!" he whispered
so softly that his lips were barely moving. He felt a lump rise in his throat,
so he squeezed the locket hard. The lump slowly faded, but he continued
clutching the little gold heart. He quickly opened the curtains and replaced
the album in the trunk, listening for any signs of stirring from the other
beds. He slid underneath the blankets and slipped the locket back into place,
giving it one last look before he rested his pillow on top of it. "Good
night, mum," he thought. "Everything's going to be okay