Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Friendship’s Price :: 14 :: Holiday Cheer

14 • Holiday Cheer

“There was something else, you said?”

“Yes, this house. How come we still have it? I didn’t think to ask before now.”

“Sirius inherited the house when his mother died. Being in Azkaban didn’t prevent that. And, as he did leave a will, there’s no worry that we’d have to give it up. If he hadn’t, it would have gone to Andromeda, most likely, as the eldest cousin. Of course, the Ministry doesn’t officially know that Sirius is gone, so. . . .” He shrugged. “That’s definitely one thing you don’t need to worry about. You won’t get settled in here only to find out you have to move again.”

“All right.” Harry didn’t bother to ask who it had been left to. If they wanted him to know, they’d tell him sooner or later. “Will you help me bring those presents back to my room? I think it’s safe to go in there now.” Once that was accomplished Harry went to find his friends and tell them he was going to bed early as he was a bit tired.

The next morning he awoke to find a package resting just inside his door with his name on it. Confused, he picked it up warily, suspecting some kind of joke by the twins. On shaking it gently, though, he heard a distinctly metallic clink. Taking a chance on being humiliated, Harry carried the package back to his bed and opened it. Inside was a stack of gleaming silver, rectangular plates; the topmost one read, “Peacock Room.”

Grinning, Harry checked the next one. It read, “Cardinal Room.” The one below it read, “Phoenix Room.” One of them, though, was different. At the very bottom of the stack was a door plate that was etched, not with words, but with a picture. A judge was depicted banging a gavel, his mouth forming an O shape; he was clearly calling for order. Harry assumed that the plate was intended for the Order’s meeting room door. However, he had clearly deliberated over them for too long, as someone—Ron by the sound of it—began banging on his door.

Harry called out, “Come in!” and lined the plates up in neat rows on his duvet. The door opened and Ron wandered in, coming to stand next to him and stare at the plates.

“Where’d those come from?” he asked sleepily.

“No idea. But maybe your mum knows, or Remus.”

Ron grunted. “Mum sent me up. You’d best get dressed before she comes after you herself. Time for breakfast.” He yawned and turned, shuffling slowly back out of sight. Harry quickly got ready after nudging his door shut, getting in a quick wash before he dressed, then headed down to the kitchen with one of the plates in his hand.

He passed it around once seated, asking Mrs Weasley if she knew anything. She told him that Professor Dumbledore had stopped by rather late the previous evening, so it could have been him who had left them. Remus just shook his head, so Harry took it as given that the headmaster had been the one. Upstairs a short time later, they attached one to Harry’s door, then picked out the next room to be worked on.

That room, at the head of the stairs on the fourth floor, was intended for Mr and Mrs Weasley. They spent half the morning preparing the room, then took a short break before moving to the third floor and another room, this one intended for Ron and Neville. After lunch they prepared two more rooms on the third floor, broke for dinner, then spent the evening playing games. When Harry retired for the evening he found a collection of bags on his bed and delayed going to sleep for an hour so he could amuse himself by trying on his new clothing.

The next day was much the same except that they spent their time painting and rearranging furniture. When Christmas Eve day arrived, the only work anyone did was to haul their belongings to a new, freshly decorated room—or in the case of Mrs Weasley, cook. Mr Weasley arrived in time for lunch along with Bill, who cheerfully greeted everyone. That had the effect of reminding Harry that he hadn’t given those presents to Mrs Weasley, so it was extremely likely that Charlie would get his very late indeed.

A sour note intruded on their frivolity when Tonks arrived early that afternoon, though it was not her that was at issue. Behind her stalked in a scowling Professor Snape. He immediately made his way over to Remus and handed him an opaque flask, then turned on his heel and stalked off again with a sneer. Remus uncorked the flask with a faint look of distaste and downed it silently, though it took him several gulps. A grimace was etched across his face for the next few minutes.

Unfortunately, it dimmed the mood of everyone by a degree, and things were a bit less lively after that. Remus eventually took himself off quietly. Harry followed him with his eyes until he disappeared, but had no idea where Moony would be spending the night. He was on his way up to bed when disaster nearly struck. Luckily Harry was able to grab hold of the banister and use it to guide himself down onto the steps as the pain in his forehead blossomed and caused his vision to grey.

Dimly he heard babbling break out around him and tried to shut out the noise, concentrating fiercely on rejecting the pain and the visions that would come with it. As he came back to his surroundings his friends were pushed out of the way; Arthur and Bill hauled him to his feet and hustled him up to his room with Molly charging in behind them. In a matter of moments Harry’s shoes and jeans had been removed and he was tucked into bed with a nicely fluffed pillow behind his head.

“Arthur,” said Mrs Weasley in a shrill voice, “you go tell Albus what’s happening right this second.” Harry blinked a few times and tried to focus properly. “And bring pain potion!” she called after his retreating form, then turned back to murmur an apology for speaking so loudly. She placed a cool hand against his forehead briefly and Harry closed his eyes. Was this what it was like to have a mother?

He started to feel like he might be better when he was hit a second time, stiffening under the covers, and one hand flying up automatically in protest. He could hear the low rumble of Bill’s voice and feel the cool sensation of that hand again on his forehead, and strangely, they helped to keep him focused. He felt himself being lifted and someone sliding in behind him, wrapping their arms loosely around him and taking hold of his hands.

Harry could tell by the strength of the form that it had to be male, probably Bill, and relaxed, finding the sound and sensation of someone else’s heartbeat to be obscurely comforting. He didn’t bother trying to open his eyes again, or protest when someone removed his glasses. He just laid there and tried to match his breathing to the steady rise and fall of Bill’s chest.

Footsteps sounded, then the headmaster’s soft voice. “How many times?”

“Twice so far,” supplied Mrs Weasley.

“He’s stayed with you?”

“Yes—I think so,” she said uncertainly.

“Have,” Harry was moved to mumble. “Saw nuffin.”

“That is very good, Harry. Molly, Bill, you look to have things here well in hand. Stay with him. Arthur and I need to alert the others.” Then came the sound of glass against wood. “We will be back as soon as we can.”

Footsteps receded, then Harry felt something pressed to his lips. “Come now, Harry, take a sip. It will help.” So he did, grimacing at the taste. “Bill, I’m just going to run downstairs and make us some tea. I will be right back.”

“Sure, mum. I know what to do.”

As soon as her footsteps could no longer be heard, Harry said quite distinctly, “This sucks.” In retrospect it was a mistake, as Bill immediately began snickering. Harry was jostled uncomfortably for a short time—which did nothing for his head—before Bill got himself under control.

“I’m sorry, Harry,” he apologized softly. “It’s a good thing you waited ‘til mum left, though. She’d have probably screeched.”

Harry grunted and shifted position so he could use Bill’s chest as a pillow. He just hoped that if another attack came, it didn’t strike as Mrs Weasley came back in. He didn’t think he’d appreciate scalding hot tea on top of the pain Voldemort caused him if she reacted badly. And it did come, though she had returned by the time it happened. Together they gave him a physical anchor he hadn’t known would help until then. Eventually—he hadn’t bothered to keep track of things—the intrusions ended and Harry drifted off to sleep after another sip of potion.

When he did wake up, something was pressing insistently against the small of his back. Several moments of muzzy thought brought him to the realization that there was a warm body curled around his. He fell back to sleep with a faint smile. The next time he woke up he was alone, which made him feel slightly bereft. He had liked that feeling of safety, even if it was mostly illusional. Then again, maybe he had imagined it.

He lay there for a while, totally disinclined to move, and seriously considering falling asleep again, when the door opened and someone came in. He heard the door close again and furrowed his brow, finally thinking about reaching for his glasses.

“You’re awake, good.” It was Bill. “Up for some breakfast? Though, it’s closer to lunch, I’m afraid.”

Harry cautiously cracked open his eyes and fumbled off to the side for his glasses. When Bill came into focus Harry could see that he was holding a tray, though the light was mercifully dim. He hauled himself up and yawned hugely, then gave Bill a small smile and nodded.

“Great.” Bill hooked a chair over with his foot and swung it into place, then sat down, placing the tray carefully across Harry’s lap. “That’s mine, also, so don’t get too greedy.”

Harry grabbed a piece of buttered toast and nibbled thoughtfully on a corner, then turned to Bill in mild confusion. “You stayed with me last night?”

Bill nodded. “Things seemed to be over, but mum and I thought it best if someone was here just in case.”

“Oh. Okay. Didn’t imagine it then.” Harry nibbled at his toast again, eyeing the pile of fluffy eggs on the tray with growing enthusiasm.

“You didn’t mind, did you?” Bill sounded more curious than worried.

“Hm?” Harry glanced over and shook his head. “Felt nice. Safe.” He shrugged and reached for a fork, making a brave stab at the eggs and bringing a bite to his mouth. Then he decided to get really daring and put some eggs on his toast and bit into that so he could have both at once.

Bill chuckled and said, “Are you always this off in the clouds after something like this happens?”

Harry furrowed his brow again and chewed thoughtfully. Finally he said, “Dunno. Tired.”

“I think after you finish eating and have a go at the bathroom, it’s time for a nap.”

Harry nodded agreeably as he added bacon to his odd little open-faced sandwich. That obviously amused Bill, though he said nothing further. When Harry finally dropped his hands away from the tray, Bill swung it off his lap and placed it by the door. And after moving the chair out of the way, he helped Harry to the bathroom, then back into bed.

Once Harry’s glasses were safely on the bedside table again, Bill said, “Just rest, okay?”

“Mmmm.” Harry rolled over and drifted off immediately. The next time he woke up, Bill was sitting off next to the window reading a book. He looked up when Harry fumbled on his glasses, then marked his place and came to sit on the edge of the bed.

“Feeling any better?”

Harry blinked a few times and said, “Still tired. What time is it?”

“Just gone four.”

Harry yawned and stretched, then let out a sigh as he sat up. “This really sucks.”

Bill grinned. “Yeah, I expect so. And from what the others say, you’ll be like this all day, and probably tomorrow as well. Mum’s given strict orders for you to be left alone, by the way, and has appointed me your door keeper to make sure nobody tries to sneak in.”

Harry bit his lip and nodded. “Did everyone get my presents?” he asked suddenly.

“They did. The ones for you are all up here in case you feel like opening them. And, by the way, thank you very much.” Bill turned his head long enough to reveal he was wearing the hair clasp Harry had bought him. “I think it’s fabulous.” Harry brightened. “Mum had a fit, of course, but that’s normal.” He made a dismissive gesture with his hand and smiled. “What do you want first? Food, presents, or another trip to the loo?”

Harry dimmed. “I’m sorry.”

“For what?”

“You’re stuck in here with me.”

“Harry, you’re worn out, and you have every reason to be feeling cranky right now. Don’t worry about it. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t want to be. And just think—it could be worse. You could have Fred and George in here keeping an eye on things.”

Harry grinned despite himself. “All right. I am kind of hungry.”

Bill got up and fetched a tray that had been waiting, bringing it over to place across Harry’s lap. “It’s spelled to stay fresh, so if you don’t eat everything, that’s fine. And if you do, I can always get more.”

Harry tucked in, feeling a bit better about things, and managed to eat four sandwiches and drink down a glass of pumpkin juice before he was full. Bill removed the tray again and helped him to the bathroom, and waited to assist him back into his bed. “Want a go at your presents, or do you want to sleep again first?”

Harry took stock, then said, “Presents.”

“Brilliant.” Bill whipped out his wand and levitated a stack onto Harry’s bed, then levitated a bin over to rest beside. “Everyone loved what you got them.” He paused to grin, then said, “Dad and the twins were having raptures, actually, and after they showed me what you got for them I could see why.”

Harry grinned back and reached for the first gift on the pile; it was from Martin. Inside was a huge book on martial arts for him to use, complete with illustrations and photographs. Harry thought that was fine, and finally understood why Martin had been so slow about naming anything. As Harry finished unwrapping each present, Bill chucked the paper into the bin for him.

Hermione had got him a book on medimagic; obviously she’d been talking to Madam Pomfrey. Ron had picked out his usual selection of sweets and from Mrs Weasley was the usual knitted jumper and some mince pies. Ginny had got him a chess strategy guide—Harry wondered if she was tired of watching him lose so often—and Neville had gifted him with a book on animagi. He was starting to feel drowsy again, but gamely continued to open the brightly wrapped presents.

Bill gave him a smart set of black gloves that fit like a second skin and would always keep your hands warm—he was thanked immediately—and Remus had bought him a book on Legilimency. Maybe now Harry would have a good grasp on just exactly what it was. Tonks had sent along a book on advanced meditation techniques. Harry was almost afraid to open Hagrid’s gift, but it turned out to be rather tame in the end. He’d sent a hand-carved figurine of what Harry assumed was Norbert. Dobby sent socks, and Seamus sent a pen and pencil set. Harry felt a bit bad about that until he read the included note.

And the headmaster—he didn’t send a present, per se. He sent a note which read, “Things are no longer what they once were. I hope you enjoyed picking out your new clothes.” After a minute of fuzzy thinking, Harry took that to mean the headmaster had not used Harry’s funds at all, but his own. He mentally shuddered at what the cost must have been, knowing that he had actually received more than he had expected. He also had the sneaking suspicion that the headmaster was at least partially funding their renovation activities.

He blinked and shook his head when Bill gave him a gentle nudge. “Sorry. My mind wandered.”

“I think, perhaps, it’s time for you to rest again. Don’t think I haven’t noticed you slowing down.” When Harry nodded Bill began moving his new things to a neat pile off to one side. He had just finished when a gentle knock sounded at the door. He arched a brow and went to answer it, then admitted the headmaster. “I’ll just be over there,” he said tactfully, retreating to his reading spot and taking up his book.

Dumbledore came to sit on the edge of the bed and give Harry a searching look. Harry felt bad when he yawned right in the man’s face, but he couldn’t help himself—he did at least cover his mouth. Dumbledore chuckled. “I see that you have been able to open your presents. I hope you had a pleasant time of it.”

“Yes, sir. But. . . .”

The headmaster peered at him over the rims of his spectacles. “I hope you are not going to ask about—”

“No,” said Harry quickly.

“I see I was mistaken. What is it, then, Harry?”

“But there was something I wanted that I didn’t get, and something I wanted to give I wasn’t able to.” Dumbledore raised his brows questioningly. Now, Harry had been feeling a bit childish all day—when he was awake—so what he did next seemed perfectly reasonable to him and required no explanation in his mind. He extended his arms and waited, his chin down slightly so that he was looking up more so than usual.

Had he been thinking, he would have realized it would have taken a harder heart to refuse the picture he presented than Dumbledore laid claim to. Several moments later, the headmaster hugged him, just like he wanted. And, not so strangely perhaps, the old man smelled faintly of lemons. A minute later he was gently pushed back—he had yawned again—and Dumbledore said, “I think, Harry, that you’re due for another nap.”

“Mm,” said Harry agreeably and slipped off his glasses, placing them on the bedside table and wriggling down under the covers. He wrapped one arm around his pillow as the headmaster’s weight left the bed and closed his eyes. Before he drifted off he heard a soft chuckle and two voices murmuring.

He woke up the next morning feeling much more mentally alert, though he was still lethargic. He had a warm body curled up against him again. Unfortunately, he couldn’t see what time it was without his glasses, and he couldn’t get at those without disturbing who he assumed was Bill again. So he dozed for a while, until his companion showed signs of waking, then cautiously shifted.

The immediate effect was for the arm draped over him to tighten reflexively and pull him closer. Harry decided that getting out of bed just then was not an option. Several minutes later he felt warm breath on his neck, and opened his eyes long enough to roll them around in mute response. Bill was not going to be pleased if he woke up in his current condition and realized Harry was already awake and aware.

Harry was also starting to entertain thoughts he probably shouldn’t be having, about a man he should be thinking of as a brother, and who was probably only experiencing a very natural morning reaction, never mind that he was probably dreaming of someone like Fleur. After a very stern chat with himself, he fell back into a light doze and was jolted out of it when Bill sat up and stretched languidly, then slipped out from under the covers.

By the time he returned from the bathroom, Harry was sitting up in bed with his glasses on, casting a longing gaze at his new books. Bill grabbed the topmost one in passing and handed it to Harry, then got dressed. “Since you’re awake, I’ll go get us breakfast.” Harry nodded vaguely and flipped open the book. The second he was alone Harry dropped the book and made a dash for the bathroom, feeling only slightly wobbly. When Bill returned Harry was tucked back into bed, reading.