A/N: Here's the full chapter. Yes,it's been ages. I suck. I'm still carrying on with this story, even though it doesn't make sense with HBP, but i will adapt it as best I can. Thank you for all your lovely reviews, or perhaps your not so lovely reviews, i can't bring myself to read them. I feel too guilty about taking so long to update. But still, thank you! MA x
Chapter 41: Merry Christmas, Erin
A strong ray of winter sunshine shone through Harry's window, and woke him from his unsettled slumber. The ruffled boy stirred a little, rolling over to hide the light, before something hit him.
It was Christmas day.
Harry rammed on his warmest slippers, grabbed his red flannel dressing gown, and headed straight to Erin's room.
The little redhead was sleeping tangled on top of her duvet; her body was shaken and clammy. Her hair fell in thick blood red bangs over her face, and her fairy sleeved pyjamas laid smoothly over her body.
She mumbled darkly in her sleep, and squinted her eyes a little as Harry entered.
'Take me away…Please, I'm scared...'
The Potter brother took a seat on the edge of the bed, and wiped her hair away.
'Wake up, Erin.' He smiled. 'It's morning. They've all gone...'
The little girl wrestled in her dreams for a moment, kicking in her shiny black quidditch boots. Harry laughed. She always seemed to be wearing those.
'W-what? Harry?' Erin said, wiping her eyes. 'Why are you laughing?'
'Do you always sleep in your boots?' Harry asked, ignoring her question.
'Oh.' Erin smiled, looking admiringly at her feet. 'No, but I think I might do in future. They have kept my feet nice and warm…'
Harry hit Erin round the head with a pillow, as she sat wiggling, Harry would imagine, her toes.
'I bet you wore those under your dress robes, didn't you?' Harry mocked, as feathers flew over head.
'As a matter of fact, I did.' Erin replied indignantly. 'Now would you mind telling me why you're bothering me at this unearthly hour?'
'First of all, it's not an unearthly hour, it's past noon.' Harry explained. 'And secondly, It's Christmas day, so I thought you'd like to-'
'Christmas!' Erin squealed, leaping out of her nest. 'Where are my slippers? We need to get downstairs! Why in Hogwarts did I sleep in today? I'm usually up bright and early…'
Erin hopped across her room, untying the laces on her shoes, before something dawned on her, and her face dropped.
'Where are Mum and Dad?' She ordered, her complexion paling. 'Are they ok?'
'I think so.' Harry said, sitting his immobile sister down, and tending to her boots. 'I heard them come in last night, so they must be well enough, otherwise they'd be at St Mungo's, I guess…'
Neither sibling spoke for a moment. Harry slipped fluffy rabbit slippers onto Erin's feet, and she sat motionless. Harry had never seen her to be so still; he wondered if she was even breathing.
'Do you…do you know what they are?' Erin asked unsteadily, not meeting her brothers eyes.
'Death Eaters.' She knelled. 'Is it another name for dementors? It did feel cold when the lights went out…'
'No.' Harry chimed, climbing uncomfortably to his feet. 'Dementors weren't coming last night. Not Dementors.'
'And who is Bellatrix?'
Harry stood, startled that she'd remembered the name.
'She's… Draco Malfoy's aunt.'
Harry was expecting another string of questions as Erin wobbled to her feet, but they didn't come. She seemed to except Harry's answer, and began gliding towards the door.
'Come on, then!' Erin said finally, turning with a smile as she reached for the doorknob. 'We need to get Mum and Dad up; we've got presents to open!'
Within minutes Harry was shoved into his parents large suite.
Lily and James slept soundlessly, peacefully. Harry had hardly seen a scene so tranquil before. Their room was a warm peach colour, somewhat matching Erin's pyjamas; they slept in the largest, most comfortable looking bed, James with his arms warmly around his wife.
'Wake up!' Erin yelled like a child, climbing onto their cocoon. 'Wake up, it's Christmas day!'
James smiled sleepily.
'Get up Dad, Mum!' She pleaded again, before turning to her brother. 'Come on Harry, I need your help!'
Harry hesitated before kneeling on the end of the bed, looking wistfully at his parents. This would be a Christmas he'd never forget; the only Christmas he'd ever have with his family.
'Come on, Harry.' Erin smiled, feigning defeat. 'They can meet us downstairs.'
Within an hour all the Potter children's presents had been opened, which Harry found almost impossible to comprehend, as they'd gotten so many.
Harry had received new red dress robes, muggle attire, books, red and gold quidditch robes with 'Potter' on the back, Quidditch shirts and shoes, socks with wiggly broomsticks, masses of hair gel, and a shiny red practise snitch, among other things. Erin opened identical quidditch robes to Harry, a pot of glittery purple ink, a fancy quill, a new crystal ball, a whole quidditch ensemble, (including a pleated skirt, vest top and PE knickers) and some extra squeaky shoe polish for her boots.
Of course, their favourite presents were their broomsticks. Harry was greatly surprised when he unwrapped the spangled lemon paper to reveal a handsome new Phoenix 500. It was top of the range, Erin had told him, along with her Raven 260.
'Would you mind if me and Harry go for a fly?' Erin asked, as Harry slipped a chocolate frog into his mouth.
'Of course not.' Lily smiled motherly. 'Just be back in time for dinner.'
Harry and Erin looked wickedly at each other, before starting an unspoken race for the door.
The winter air was chilling against their faces, and made their skin crawl. The sky was a crispy grey, and the sun a mismatching yellow; it looked like a dandelion misplaced in a black and white movie. It was an accident; a mistake. The rest of the garden took on a fresh but unpleasant graveness, which made Harry glad to get up in the air.
Harry and Erin flew for what seemed like an eternity; neither took responsibility for the time. Everything was easier up in the air, so free. Erin was a great partner for flying; it was like her second nature. She flew so gallantly, so gladly and so sure. Harry could only think of one other girl who flew as well as Erin, and that was Ginny. With Ginny it was different though; she always looked so carefree, like she wasn't even trying. Harry figured she probably wasn't.
The children took rough landings after a race around the tree tops, and flopped onto the garden bench.
'Well that was brilliant.' Erin grinned, reminding Harry somewhat of Ron.
'Definitely.' Harry replied, running his fingers down the spine of his new racing broom. It wasn't half bad, though he did prefer the control of his Firebolt.
'Should we head back in?' Erin asked, squelching her soggy slippers. 'I got a cool new chess set I'd like to try out…'
'Yeah, but in a minute.' Harry replied.
With a flick of his wand, and the murmur of an overused spell, the Potter boy summoned a small roughly wrapped package. It floated meekly out of the nearest bedroom window, and straight into Harry's hands.
'For you.' He smiled, presenting it to Erin.
She ripped off the paper with skill and produced a shiny gold necklace. The chain was thin and delicate, and upon the chain was a locket; on the locket a bolt of lightening.
'Don't you think you should be giving this kind of thing to Ginny?' Erin asked, raising an eyebrow. 'I mean, it's beautiful…so beautiful…'
'I bought it for you.' Harry said simply. 'I never had a sister until a few weeks ago, and I guess that makes me see how special you are. Merry Christmas, Erin.'
The redhead hugged her brother tightly.
'Thank you.' She sighed, opening the locket to see a picture of the two of them.
'That's not all.' Harry continued. 'I placed a charm on this locket, a safety charm, so you can contact me anytime you're in danger. All you have to do is tap it with your wand and say 'obscura,' then my necklace will heat up, and I'll know.'
Erin looked up at her brother with an unreadable expression.
'There are going to be times when I'll need this necklace, aren't there?' She asked seriously, suddenly looking cold and frail. 'You've not bought this just incase.'
'No.' Harry replied, looking straight ahead, not being able to meet her eyes. 'I've bought this for when, not if. I'm leaving one for your other brother too…Come on, it's getting cold. Let's go inside…'
After changing for dinner into a clean shirt and trousers, Harry took an invisible seat in the Potter kitchen. Lily stewed over pots and trays, sounding more exasperated by the moment, before James lent a helping hand.
'Let me do this.' He insisted, leaning over her to stir the gravy. 'Why don't you go and have a rest. Go have a bath with that smelly stuff I got you. Lady behind the counter at Bonnie's bounty bubbles said it's fantastic. The foam changes colour and everything…'
Lily smiled gratefully at her husband, before slipping from his grasp and exiting the kitchen.
'So how has your Christmas been so far, Harry?' James asked broadly, tending to the feast. 'Do you like your new broom?'
'Oh, err…yeah.' Harry stuttered, having not been sure his father had noticed him there. 'It's great. Really fast.'
'A step up from your old Firebolt, eh?' James joked. 'When you wrote to me saying you didn't want a new broom, I thought you'd turned ill! I was wondering who you were and what you'd done with my son!'
'I'm not just all about broomsticks, Dad.' Harry snapped . 'There is more to me then that…more to me then flying and fun.'
James Potter turned to face his son with wide hazel eyes.
'I know that.' He said. 'I've always known. From the moment you were born I knew there was something special about you. Already you've made me more proud then I ever thought I'd be, and you're only 17 years old. You've got so much ahead of you.'
'17 years is a long time.' Harry argued. 'A lot can happen in 17 years. 17 years can be a lifetime. What if I don't have the world ahead of me?'
'Then I'll always be proud of what you've achieved.' James smiled, honestly. 'You're Quidditch captain, you made Seeker in your first year, your grades are some of the highest in Hogwarts. You fought off a Basilisk, Harry. I hear you're an Animagus too, though I dare ask you to transform while your mothers around; she'd kill me. She never liked the idea of you learning...'
Before Harry could notice, James had returned to his cooking again.
'Dad?' He croaked in the back of his throat.
His father stopped still.
Erin appeared in a flurry of excitement only minutes later, soon followed by Lily. They both wore tartan pleated skirts, warm woolly tights and cardigans. Harry had always thought that Erin and Lily were near on identical, but putting them side by side, Harry noticed that Erin looked more like their father. She shared Harry and James' nose, only a smaller version; it was mainly her sleek red hair which made her look so much like Lily.
'Merry Christmas all!' A jolly voice barked from the hallway.
Erin ran and gave the grinning man a large bear hug.
'And how is my favourite goddaughter? He asked, with a rather charming grin.
'Sirius,' Erin said, with her hands on her hips. 'I'm your only goddaughter.'
'So much like her mother.' Sirius commented to James, who smiled.
Both men joined in a festive embrace, then Sirius hugged Lily too.
'Food smells great, Lils.' He said, taking a seat. 'Been out flying yet, Harry?'
'Yeah. Just been.' He replied.
'So how does the Phoenix go? I've heard it's pretty slick-'
Lily hugged the new arrival, who smiled at her gently. James joined them.
'How are you, Moony?' The Potter grinned, leading him to the table. 'You look pretty rough.'
'Well after last night,' Lupin replied. 'I guess it's to be expected.'
Two pairs of young eyes stuck blankly on Remus, and silence filled the room.
'Harry, Erin.' James began, wearily. 'Maybe you should go to…'
His voice led off as he looked at the serious expressions on his children's faces.
'James.' Lily said, somewhat worriedly. 'How about you and the boys go to the front room. Dinners nearly ready…go on, Harry…'
Harry followed the men, who situated themselves around the table in the largest room of the house. Sirius solemnly sparked up the fire.
'So have you heard anything else?' James asked Remus and Sirius.
'Not yet.' Lupin sighed. 'Apparently Death eaters do celebrate Christmas.'
'Doubtful.' Sirius barked, picking at the table cloth. 'I at least know some of them don't.'
A thick silence fell over the Marauders, none bearing to meet the others eyes.
'What happened last night?' asked Harry.
Just at that moment, Lily chose to enter the front room levitating steaming pots and trays.
'Everything's ready!' The red headed woman smiled, setting down the food expertly. 'Erin's bringing in the plates…Harry, dear, would you fetch the crackers? They're on top of the cabinet.'
Harry looked mistily around the room for a moment, before he spiked up his wand.
'Accido Christmas Crackers!'
12 crimson ribbon tied treats flew from across the room, and rocketed into Harry's arms.
'Resourceful. Always been a clever one.' Sirius remarked, looking at Harry with the fondest grin.
'And always a lazy one too.' James added, as his son scrambled to pick up the crackers which had darted into the gravy pitcher.
Lily and Erin took seats either side of Harry, and the glasses before them simultaneously filled with what looked suspiciously like wine.
'I'd like to make a toast.' Said James, raising his drink. 'To family and friends; the people that mean the most to us. Lets make the most of our company, as dark times may lie ahead. Let us never forget what it is to live carefree, and remember not to be so carefree that we forget to live.'
'To love and life.' Sirius concluded, following James.
'To love and life.' They chorused.
Each companion drunk to their hearts content, before breaking into hearty conversation. Sirius bellowed a joke about a warlock and a Hinkeypunk; Remus and Lily pulled a cracker of fluttering stars. James put a Kings crown lopsidedly into his head, wiping a bout of magenta glitter onto the floor, jousting at Erin as she tried to catch a yellow pigmy puff in her bare hands. Harry felt oddly dispensed from the group, picking at his food with a cold knife. Each jolly voice swam into another, and as the family filled their plates with sweet meats and jam, Harry felt oddly cold without his Weasley jumper.
After the desserts had been cleaned away, Erin excused her from the table, insisting that she needed some time to try out her new crystal ball.
'The ones at school are so dirty.' She'd exclaimed. 'It's a miracle that I manage to see anything in them at all!'
'I reckon it's a miracle that anyone sees anything in those glass balls.' James had replied, as she'd left. 'I don't see the fun in them.'
A short, but fairly interesting conversation had followed Erin's departure. James and Lily had taken great pride in recalling all the times Erin had made correct premonitions, before moving onto Harry's flying talents. This was when Harry had excused himself too.
After asking his mother if she needed any help cleaning up, ('Oh don't be silly!') Harry had taken a seat at the far end of the living room, in a rather comfortable arm chair. After a moments careful consideration, he extracted a royal blue diary from his pocket.
I've only been back at school for a month, and it somehow feels like a lifetime, Harry read in Lily's voice. I have a feeling that my final year at Hogwarts is going to fly by. It's a shame, as I'm enjoying myself more then ever. The Marauders have tamed down somewhat, and I think it's mainly due to James. He's changed somehow, yet I can't really place it. He's still himself, but I can't seem to find anything to be mad at him for. I think he's turned over a new leaf. Oh Merlin, I really shouldn't speak too soon. I bet I'll end up eating my words now. I hope he stays this way, though, but I wont keep my hopes up. We've only been at school a month; there's still plenty of time for him to disappoint me…
Harry took a digesting breath, as he turned over the page, and found the next entry to be written in a slanted scrawl which wasn't his mothers.
Don't worry, Lily, I won't disappoint you. That is, if you don't count me reading your diary as disappointing you. It's not my fault, after all, as you have left it in the middle of the common room. You ought to be more careful, Lils. You never know who could come across it (Snivellus!) and tell all your secrets about how gorgeous you think I am ;) And don't roll your eyes at me, Miss Evans: It's rude. But on a serious note, don't worry about this year Lily, it's going to be the best one yet. Padfoot says hi. Love always, James.
Harry chuckled a little, as he ran his index finger down the margin, wondering what on earth his mother would have had to say about that. Harry couldn't imagine what Ginny would do if she found that Harry had etched a lengthy entry in her diary; it would but bad though, as diary's were obviously a sore point with Ginny.
James Potter! I appreciate the sentiment, I assure you, but reading my private property was…It was…It made me feel…comforted. Oh my... I was just about to give you a piece of my mind (in my diary of all places!) but now I'm not so sure that I'm mad at you. I should be, you know that right? The thing is, I'm suddenly not… How do you know that this years going to be the best one yet? I have an odd feeling about this year-perhaps I'm just at ill ease over your sudden kindness-have you noticed anything? I just have this gut feeling that something isn't right. Oh, and Potter, you'll find no love notes and poems about yourself in here. If you want to read a diary from a girl who's pining over you-try Marlene McKinnon. I believe she refers to you as 'that brown eyed angel.' You wouldn't believe the amount of times I've had to tell her your eyes are hazel.
Harry smiled as he closed the slightly rumpled pages of Lily's diary, and inclined his head to the other side of the front room. Only Sirius, James and Remus remained at the table; Lily had since disappeared and Erin had made no reappearance.
There was only a candle's dim hue of light living in the room, which hovered around the men like it was attracted to their heat, and skimmed the butter beer with a clean shine. There was no clock on the mantle or the wall, but Harry was sure it was late in the evening, as he made his way over to the gathering.
'And I told Prewett,' Sirius laughed. 'I told him that they were off the back of a broomstick, that Mundungus had done a dirty deal. I warned him they were inbred with Kneazles.'
'Well, what did he say?' James asked, chucking at his mince pie.
'He said,' Sirius continued. 'That it didn't bother him one bit. A Puffskein's a Punskein and his niece wouldn't know the difference. It was only a week later when the creature ate her pyjamas that he decided to take it back.'
The three Marauders drunk to their mirth as Harry pulled out a seat beside them, smiling at half a joke. The secluded cold feeling he'd felt earlier had some how elapsed, and a seldom feeling of warmth now filled his stomach.
'He's such a simple man,' Lupin said fondly. 'But I've always liked Gideon Prewett.'
The warmth died away in an instant. Harry looked from beaming face to beaming face, longing for a sign of sadness, or anything similar. He groped for something he could relate to. Gideon Prewett was dead.
'So what brings up to our table, Son?' James asked, with a ruddy face.
'Erm…the Butterbeer, mostly.' Harry said, masked. 'But also your fine hospitality.'
'Good answer.' Sirius replied, conjuring an opener. 'Reckon he can have a bottle, right?'
'A whole bottle?' Remus joked. 'Now you've been known for your generosity…'
'He can drink what he wants, if you don't mind sharing.' James told Sirius. 'He is of age, after all.'
'I keep forgetting.' Sirius admitted, clipping off a cap. 'It seems like only yesterday you were just starting Hogwarts…'
'Oh, shut up Sirius.' Harry barked, ice melting again.
'Well It's true.' Sirius grinned, handing him his drink. 'And now you're in your last year, you're an animagus-'
'Merlin!' James cut in, slapping his forehead so his spectacles jumped. 'I never asked you, Harry. What is your animagus form?'
'A stag.' He grinned shyly, as his fathers face lit up like a Christmas tree.
'Is it really?' James asked, looking from Harry to Remus.
'It is.' Lupin replied grandly. 'He's a true Prongs. And he picked the other Marauders well, too. Your Padfoot, Ron Weasley, his Patronus is a dog, isn't it?'
'Yeah.' Harry said. 'Yeah, it is.'
'Well there you have it.' Sirius barked, taking a hearty swig. 'I say we have another toast.'
The other scrambled for their bottles fiercely, and raised them.
'To the Marauders: Past and present.' Sirius cheered. 'To Prongs,' Harry and James grinned. 'Mooney,' Remus nodded. 'Padfoot and Wormtail, who is no longer with us.'
'May Wormtail rest in peace.' Lupin added sensitively.
'Yes.' James added strongly. 'To Peter Pettigrew. May he be happy wherever his mischief has taken him.'
Harry lowered his bottle before the toast could be made, feeling poisoned by how fondly they had spoken of such a traitor. He was hurt at how pure his fathers voice had sounded as he had whispered Peter's name. If only they knew. The only comfort Harry had was that the slimy man was dead; he drank to that.
The sour feeling Harry had on the inside must have leaked through onto his face, for at that moment Remus turned almost sullenly to him.
'Is something wrong, Harry?'
The boy froze.
'No.' He replied. 'I just…I was just thinking.'
Lupin obviously saw this as a dangerous lead, for he turned to Sirius swiftly.
'We should probably go now.' Lupin said, rising from the table. 'Nymph will be wondering where I've gotten to, and I'm sure Marlene would like her husband back at some point.'
'You're right.' He said, putting his beer down. 'Marey should be back form her parents house by now, so I should go and see the Missis.'
Harry almost missed his mouth as he tried to take another sip of his drink, the idea of Sirius married jammed into his head. Why did it seem such an odd idea?
'Are you leaving?' Lily asked perfectly, as she poked her head around the door. Harry found her timing uncanny.
'Yeah, Sorry Lils.' Sirius said, pulling a winter fleece over his head. 'The old ball and chain beckons.'
'That's alright.' Lily smiled, joining her husband by the arm. 'Tell Marlene I'll see her at lunch next week. And Remus, send Nymphadora my love.'
'I will, Lily.' Lupin smiled.
The four adults drew healthily towards the fireplace, a jolly ending threatening to prevail, before a silver face snapped into the fireplace.
'Good evening.' Dumbledore said, his tone serious. 'I hate to interrupt your festivities, but I'm afraid your party must end here. There has been another attack. We need you now.'
A panicked graveness swept over the pack, as they all jolted into action. James shot robes out of the closet, Sirius and Remus grabbed their wands and Lily fastened her hair back.
'Where's the outburst?' James growled, tossing clothes.
'Just outside Hogsmeade.'
'And the women?'
Sirius and Remus froze half dressed.
'Mrs Black and Mrs Lupin are on their way there.' Dumbledore said. 'They will meet with you and the others by Hogsmeade station.'
'What about the children, Albus?' Lily asked, throwing on her cloak.
'Harry and Erin will need to leave now; Godric's Hollow is no longer safe.' Dumbledore knelled. 'They must take leave away from here. Perhaps at Mr and Mrs Weasley's house? You will find the Longbottom's are not home.'
Harry rose carefully from his chair as the others rushed around, his eyes never leaving Dumbledore's face.
'Is he here?' Harry asked, unnoticed. 'I mean, there?'
Dumbledore looked though his half moon spectacles, and surveyed Harry with mild interest.
'He is here, Harry.' The old man replied, before Lily pulled Harry out of the room.
The Potter boy ran madly up the old staircase, and took a left before jogging away to Erin's bedroom.
He opened the door swiftly, knocking an ink bottle to the ground, before turning to his sister who stood stiffly in the centre of her bedroom, eyes hollow, crystal ball forgotten.
'Erin, you'd better grab a jacket, we've got to go to-'
Erin calmly scooped up a neat pile of pyjamas off her dresser, before leaving the room without a word. She was wearing winter robes, her wand a arms length, and Harry found it odd that she'd reached the door before he'd finished his sentence.