War is Over
By Jedi Tess of Gryffindor
Summary: Tristan Potter and her god brother, Hayden Malfoy have been at odds for so long they can't remember where the fight began. But maybe that's not the point. A WE-universe Tristan/Hayden fic and CHRISTMAS FIC 2006.
A/N: This year's annual Christmas fic is in response to a number of my War's End fans request that I write a Tristan/Hayden piece. I have to say that this fic DOES take place in the War's End universe represented in the epilogue. Yes, Harry is alive and well. This is intentional. Read Bridging the Gap, when I get the final chapter up. Yes, Cedric and Tristan are twins. I feel that anyone can enjoy this piece, but really, if you've read War's End, it helps! This isn't necessarily the way I would have them pair up if I developed the universe further (another suggestion from some loyal and beloved fans), but it hopefully is a nice Christmas read. Hope you enjoy!
Disclaimer: All characters and situations pertaining to the Harry Potter canon universe belong to J.K. Rowling. All original characters are mine, to be used for no other purpose than profitless Christmas enjoyment. The song lyric at the end of the piece belongs to Bob Dylan and the timeless Sarah McLachlan, respectively.
Christmas Eve Morning
Tristan Potter groaned. It wasn't even nine in the morning and already she could hear the stamping of feet and voices downstairs. She rolled over, throwing her arms over her head and trying to block out the laughter and shouts below. She could hear the adults, the babies, the toddlers, all in full force in her mum's kitchen.
Why couldn't we have done Christmas at Aunt Gin's this year? she thought. She buried her head under her pillow, but that seemed to intensify the sounds coming through her floor. She tossed the pillow to the floor. Teach it to be a pillow.
The slap of boots on the stairs made her groan again and reach for her wand. The wireless on her wardrobe switched itself on, releasing a jazzy Christmas tune. She rolled over and sighed, sinking back into her mattress.
The next thing she knew, her bedroom was awash with sunlight and her blankets were on the floor.
"What the hell!" She sat bolt upright and reached for her wire-rim spectacles on the bedside table.
Tristan groaned again, flopping back on her bed and deciding not to bother with her specs. "Why you? Why did they have to send you? It could have been Charlie or Aunty Gin or Ian ..."
"Ian? Really?" the voice said, evidently amused.
"Maybe not, but still ..." Tristan winced, reflecting that the last time he'd been sent to wake her up she'd been forced to lock him in her wardrobe. When forced to release him, she'd discovered that he'd stolen a pair of her knickers. He wasn't her blood relative but Tristan often wished he were.
"Your mum made me and Ian's not even here yet."
Tristan cracked an eye and glared at the blurry outline of Hayden Malfoy. He gave an impressive sulk, slouching into her desk chair, as though this were somehow her fault. "Said I couldn't eat until I'd fetched you down. Couldn't even have my coffee. So hurry your lazy Slytherin arse, won't you?"
"Who's gonna pay me to?" Tristan said, turning a mocking wide-eyed look on him.
"Move, Potter!" he snapped.
"When I'm good and ready," she retorted, sitting up slowly and stretching her arms luxuriantly.
A pair of jeans hit her in the face.
"Steady on!" she cried, untangling herself with difficulty and shoving her specs on.
"Faster, Potter," Hayden said lazily, and a fluffy pink jumper with a silver "T" replaced the jeans.
"Ugh!" Tristan tossed the jumper to the floor and stalked to her loo, slamming the door against the tirade of clothes and Hayden's cackle.
"I know a spell, Potter, so don't fall back asleep in the bathtub," Hayden called through the door.
"Get stuffed, Malfoy," she shouted, splashing water on her face and gazing at her reflection. She frowned. Her long, black curls had been braided back by her mum the night before, but one side had bunched up and chunks of hair had come loose elsewhere. She had gone to sleep with makeup on and had dark smudges under her eyes. Her Manchester United nightshirt was on inside out and one leg of her pajamas was hiked up to her knee.
She really could have cared less, except she was never ready to face Hayden Malfoy unless she looked like the Slytherin Ice Queen she was reputed to be. She squeezed a thick potion into her hand from one of the bottles by the sink and scrubbed her face clean. When that was done, she took a brush to her hair and managed to clip it back from her face in a presentable fashion. Best not to try and braid it – she had never been good at putting it up. She straightened her pajamas and, after a quick survey of her improved appearance, she reentered her bedroom.
To her supreme annoyance, her god brother was still there.
"You mind?" she demanded, rummaging through her wardrobe and tossing pieces of potential daywear onto her rumpled bed. "I don't fancy wearing this to breakfast."
"Nobody cares what you're wearing," Hayden asked, in a bored tone. He smirked and added, "No one to impress here, Ice Queen."
"Get out of my room!" she snapped, hauling him out of her desk chair and shoving him toward the door.
"You'll go right back to sleep if I do," he retorted, shrugging her off. "And I don't eat till you turn up downstairs, Potter."
"I'll be out in five minutes, for Merlin's sake!" She slammed the bedroom door.
"Five minutes. And if you're not out," he added wickedly through the door, "I'd hate to explain to Uncle Harry why I had to carry you down to breakfast in your knickers."
"Don't you dare!" she shouted, throwing a charm at the door with her wand. He cackled and she heard a thump as he sat down with his back against the door.
"Bugger it all!" She yanked off her pajamas and threw on her jeans, and, after a moment's thought, her new cashmere jumper. She waved her wand and her room became a whirlwind of clothing and bedsheets. Her mother always scolded her for using magic trivially but sometimes Tristan wasn't in the mood for manual labor.
With a grunt of satisfaction, she tugged the door open and stepped over her god brother, who lay prone across the doorway.
"Oy!" he shouted, making a grab for her ankle. She danced out of reach and made for the stairs.
"Serves you, Gryffindork," she sing-songed, floating down the stairs with her fingers trailing along the banister. She didn't quite understand her power over him – the power to royally hack him off - but she knew it irritated him when she turned into the Ice Queen away from Hogwarts. She added a little swing of her hips for the hell of it.
"So clever," he muttered, following her down.
"Aren't I just?" she said with a heavy sigh. "It's a heavy burden."
He snorted. "Mold in the dungeons going to your head much?"
"High altitude up in that tower of yours killing off braincells?" she returned. She shook her head with a pitying look over her shoulder. "Not that you had many to spare."
"Given all the time you've spent up there with Longbottom recently," he shot back.
"Who says it's Ken I'm up there to see?" she said, turning to look up at him. She hadn't expected him to be quite so close but she carried on anyway. "So many jocks, so little time."
He sneered. "I'm one of those jocks."
"Not to me you're not," she said, sneering back with interest and turning before he could see her face flushing.
"She lives!" Blaise Zabini smiled from the stove where she was flipping Snitch-shaped pancakes.
"It's just nine now. It's not that late," Tristan grumbled, wishing the occupants of the kitchen weren't all grinning at her.
"It is for some of us," Uncle Draco, the one person not grinning, said darkly. He hitched eight-year-old Charles up on his lap and made an attempt to entice two-year-old Clara with porridge. Clara shrieked with laughter and shook her red head vigorously, clamping her mouth shut.
"Watching you is the best form of birth control," she told her uncle.
"If I'd known it were that easy, I'd be paying him to come by regularly, darling." Harry Potter gave her hug and hair ruffle. Oh, good; just when she'd sorted the mess out.
"Would you like me to braid that, love?" Aunt Ginny was sitting opposite Uncle Draco and their two youngest, blissfully enjoying four Snitches drowning in syrup and allowing Uncle Draco to suffer.
"Yes, please, and thank you!" Tristan threw herself into a chair beside her godmother and tilted her head back.
"Tris, if it bothers you, have it off." Her twin, Cedric, pulled his nose out of Quidditch Quarterly. "You're daft having long hair in Quidditch and you obviously hate it."
"I don't," she said, her lip puckering. "And you've seen it short. It does this flippy thing that went out about a hundred years ago."
"Tell that to Aunt Petunia," Harry mumbled into his coffee.
"I remember what you looked like when Aunt Blaise cut your hair off that one time," Hayden cackled, accepting a plate of pancakes from Tristan's mum and sitting down beside Cedric. He smiled blissfully. "Right porcupine, you were."
"How kind of you to say so," Tristan said brightly. "Let us all recall the time your hair was halfway down your back and all our friends' mums came round gushing about the beautiful Malfoy heiress."
"Leave it out," Cedric grumbled into his Quarterly. "Merlin's pants, it's only nine!"
"Agreed," Aunt Ginny said, tying off Tristan's braid. "There you are, Tristy."
"Thanks, Aunt Gin." She turned to her uncle, who was no closer to successfully feeding Clara than he had been five minutes ago.
"Charlie," she called to her eight-year-old god brother as her mum set a plate of pancakes in front of her. "Will you come help me eat these?" He hesitated, and for good measure Tristan poured half the pitcher of syrup over them. "Mmm … all these Snitches to myself. "
Charles clambered off Uncle Draco's lap and scurried around the table to Tristan. He crawled onto her knees and allowed her to pop every other bite of pancake into his mouth.
"What're we all up to today?" Harry asked, pouring himself more coffee and grinning an evil grin at Uncle Draco, who didn't have enough arms to feed Clara and pour himself more coffee at the same time.
"Sometime I'd like to each breakfast," Uncle Draco said pointedly, glaring at Harry.
"Cleaning, decorating, and present wrapping," Blaise said, flipping a final batch of pancakes with a single flick of her wrist and looking pleased when they all ended up back in the pan. "And food. Harry, be a love and help Draco."
"Yes, dear," Harry mumbled, relinquishing his cup to Uncle Draco, who smirked by way of thanks and downed half the contents in a gulp.
"Mum's got food well in hand," Aunt Ginny said.
"You sure?" Blaise looked doubtful. "Last year she nearly burnt down the kitchen with that Incendio."
"I'll keep an eye on her, or Draco can," Aunt Ginny assured her. "Not to worry. And you know she'll be devastated if she isn't allowed in the kitchen."
"I guess." Blaise bit her lip. "Fine. You lot," she waved at occupants of the table. "Where do you all want to do today?"
"Presents," Tristan and Hayden said simultaneously. They shared horrified looks and promptly said, "Never mind."
"Too late," Blaise said briskly. "You both are on present detail. Wrap them, label them, and be sure all of the stockings are laid out for Santa."
Tristan sulked as she fed the rest of her pancake to Charles. This was just what she needed – the rest of the day in closer proximity to her least favorite "relative".
"Ruin my holiday, won't you?" Hayden said loudly, glaring at Tristan as though her mother's sadist sense of humor were all her fault.
She bit her lip and gave Charles the last bite of pancake.
"Where'd you put the wrapping, Mum?"
Christmas Eve Day
Sometime later, Tristan found herself on the floor of her parents' study, surrounded by gifts. The presents comprised all of Aunt Ginny and Blaise's holiday shopping and gifts to everyone in the Malfoy/Weasley/Potter immediate family. Her mum had enchanted the presents for her and Hayden to become invisible if they saw them but it was fun knowing what everyone else was getting. Tristan usually loved this job. This year was different. With Hayden sitting across the room, the tottering piles looked endless.
"Potter, would you be offended if I spoke to you for a moment?"
Tristan started. They had been forcefully silent for so long that the sound was almost jarring.
She shrugged, biting back her temper. He hadn't even said anything mean yet. "Go ahead."
"Why do you hate me?"
"What?" Tristan stared at him across the presents.
"What did I ever do to make you hate me so much?" Hayden demanded, yanking some Spell-O-Tape over a large box and not looking at her.
She looked down at her hands. They had always fought, since they were old enough to talk. She couldn't think of his ever having said a kind word to her or them ever having got along.
"I don't hate you." The words were out of her mouth before she realized what she was saying. She winced, but she couldn't take it back. She might have spent a lot of time being furious with him, but when she thought about hate and what she knew about it, she was sure that she had never come close to hating him.
"You don't?" His voice was small and wavered across the room. Tristan hadn't heard that tone in it since they were little.
"Well, you're a absolute prat to me most of the time," she felt compelled to point out. "You've never said a kind word to me in my life and now your excuse is that I'm Slytherin, which we both know is rubbish because half our family comes from Slytherin. But, I mean," she finished, taking a deep breath. "I don't actually hate you, no."
"I – that's good." He looked suddenly offended. "It's not like you're exactly a ray of joy and sunshine. I don't think you've ever said anything nice to me. You never let me try out your new racing broom when we were seven."
Tristan blinked. "I don't remember that."
"We were seven," Hayden repeated. "And you got that Firebolt Trainer from Uncle Harry. And you went mad and flew all over the place and then you let Dorian and Cedric try it out and I never got to."
Tristan felt uncomfortable as the memory came back. "You were a right prat that day; just because you're few months older. The usual tripe about my specs." She scowled. "You made me cry."
"Well, sure, but we were always like that," Hayden said with a shrug. "But remember when we turned eleven and my dad built that pitch outback and said it was mine to train in?"
"You asked if you could fly with us and I was feeling really nice so I said yes." He stuck his chin out.
"That's true," she admitted. "You were a royal git about it after, though. Going on about how I couldn't fly and so on."
"I was teasing," he said as though it were supposed to be obvious.
"Didn't feel like teasing to me," Tristan said. She frowned, suddenly tired. "That's the problem."
"What, the teasing?"
"No." She folded wrapping paper around the gift at her feet, not meeting his eye. "We try to play it off like it's a joke, when really we actually knew we were being mean and we … well. Maybe we like it."
"Like being mean?" Hayden repeated.
"I know it's not on, but we've gone and on like this for so long," Tristan insisted. "And what's it ever really about? I mean, just this morning …" She cleared her throat and tucked away her pride. She wasn't a Gryffindor, after all! "Okay, so this morning in the kitchen, right. You were being a prat, but if I'd kept my temper we couldn't have ended the whole thing in a minute and got on with breakfast. Instead, we went on until we might have ruined it for everyone else."
She glanced up. Hayden's posture relaxed and he continued wrapping as he said, "You might be on to something there." He paused, looking troubled. "But look, I'm not a mean bloke. All our cousins like me. My housemates and the Quidditch team think I'm all right. Yeah, there're people who don't, but usually they're jealous of something I have." He grinned a cocky grin that would once have infuriated her, but which she now felt was more a show than a sincere gesture. "I have a lot to be jealous of."
"It's true," Tristan said, and when he looked at her in surprise, she went on innocently, "You've got rich parents; good parents. You come from a big family. You never want for anything. You're very lucky in your friends and your genetics gave you good Quidditch skills."
"Genetics!" He scowled at her. "I don't need genetics! I'm really good!"
"And your parents weren't?" Tristan took a deep breath, holding up a hand. "That's not my point. But see how that whole thing could have got completely carried away when all you did was tease?"
Hayden paused, wrinkling his brow. "Yeah. I can see that."
They sat in silence for a moment.
"Why do we fight so much?" Tristan said at last. "I mean, it's one thing to do it all the time when we were kids."
"It does get bloody old." Hayden bit his lip, came to a decision, and bit out, "I just want to stop."
"Do you?" Tristan couldn't quite surprise a smile. Something in her chest uncoiled, releasing a tired sigh. "I do, too! I mean, really, sometimes!"
"Oh." Hayden sat back. "Oh, good. So … what do we do now?"
Tristan hesitated. "Do you – I mean, did you ever … hate me?" She couldn't quite look at him.
"No, of course not," he said quickly. "I mean, you were so full of yourself sometimes and you flipped your hair around like 'I'm too good for you, Malfoy' and you never seemed to care what I said to you and it just made me so angry."
"Are you mad?" She looked up, eyes wide. "You don't know how many times you made me cry! I never thought I was too good for you! I was always trying to be good enough –" She broke off, biting her lip and twisting a bit of ribbon around her finger.
"Good enough for me?" He sounded a little breathless and when she risked a quick look, his eyes were as wide as hers had been.
"Well, at first for you and Ced and Ian," she said quickly. "I mean, I was the only girl, wasn't I? And I could hardly get on a broom because I was so tiny. But they accepted me and sort of took me as I was. I never felt quite good enough for … for you."
He didn't say anything. A second look showed him turning a small silver package over and over in his hands. In the silence, Tristan finished her stack of presents.
"I'm going to tell Mum we're done," she said quietly, hurrying to the door and vowing to avoid him like the plague for the rest of the holidays; possibly the rest of her life.
I'm such an idiot, she thought as she closed the study door and bolted down the stairs.
Christmas Eve Night
Tristan managed to keep away from him for the rest of the day. She suspected the effort was mutual. She stuck close to her mum, finding as many ways to be useful in the preparations as she could. Blaise kept giving her looks and mumbling about where had Hayden got to.
Christmas with the Potters was usually last-minute, so there was plenty to keep Tristan occupied. Harry and Blaise both worked and were too busy until a few days before Christmas to do any decorating, cooking, or wrapping (frankly, Tristan was impressed that they got to their shopping some years). They only had to host Christmas gatherings every fourth year (the rotation included the Malfoy's Red's Park, Uncle Ron and Aunt Mione's Hollow, and the Burrow), but every fourth year seemed to be particularly busy and this year was no exception.
By the end of the afternoon, Tristan was ready for a nice lie-down. In addition to present wrapping, she had helped her mum put fairy lights all over the house, inside and out, and helped prepare the massive dining room for the Christmas Eve feast. Then she had showered and prepared herself to help host. She had even helped Aunt Ginny with Clara and her pretty baby robes. It was a trying undertaking, even for the former Gryffindor.
By the time Tristan had nothing left to do, the guests had begun arriving. Although family gatherings were frequent and largely informal, Blaise had been brought up in an old-fashioned wizarding family and insisted on formality in the arrival of her guests, at least. So Tristan, who'd been given door duty with Cedric that evening, stood in her best holiday robes and tried very hard not to look at Hayden, who was just inside the entrance hall with his father and Blaise.
"Everything all right, Tris?" Cedric asked, after greeting Uncle Charlie, Aunt Clara, and the older twins, Alice and Daniel. "You've been edgy."
"I'm fine," she told him stiffly. "Just excited about tonight."
"Oh, excited, right," Cedric said, reaching across the doorway and nudging her shoulder. "I'm your twin, not Ian. What's up?"
"Please, if you love me, Ced, don't ask me now," she pleaded, pulling open the door for Uncle Ron's enormous family.
"If it isn't the gorgeous Slytherin Ice Queen!"
"Hey, Ian." Tristan allowed an artless, bone-crushing hug with a smile.
"All right?" he asked with an affable grin and a tweak of her nose.
"Oh, you know," she said vaguely, not quite meeting his eye.
"Christ, Tristy!" he said, rolling his eyes. "Who am I? Come on, what's happened?"
"For Merlin's sake!" she snapped, glaring up at him. "What is it with you people? I'm fine! Hello, Aunt Mione!" She shoved her way around her hulking cousin and gave her surprised aunt a big hug. When she pulled away, she saw Ian making his knowing way toward Hayden and she bit down a scowl. Damn. Cedric, not helping matters, gave her a look across the entryway that told her she had some explaining to do.
She couldn't tell what passed between Ian and Hayden because she couldn't see around Ian's family, nor could she easily detach fourteen-year-old Elisa from her waist. But she was sure that whatever interrogation Hayden was undergoing, she hadn't heard the end of it from Ian.
She lost track of time in the hugs and smiles from family she hadn't seen in mouths. Uncle Remus was there with his wife, Tonks. Uncle Sirius brought his elegant girlfriend, Hestia. Uncle Percy had brought his partner, Jaime, and their five-year-old son, Clarence. Aunt Mione's parents even appeared with Grandmum and Granddad Weasley, to the great delight of all their grandchildren.
"I think everyone's here," Blaise said a short while later, biting her lip. "We'll go in and I'll leave a charm by the door in case someone's missing I haven't thought of."
"Thank Merlin! Can I stop smiling now?" Cedric pushed away from the doorway and ran to catch up with Hayden and Ian, who were already heading into the living room with their families.
Tristan fell into step beside her mum.
"Would you be terribly upset if I ask what's wrong?" Blaise asked, putting an arm around Tristan's shoulders.
"As if I could be," Tristan said, leaning into her mother's side.
"Well, then …" Blaise looked down at her.
Tristan didn't look at her. "It's nothing, really. Just … something happened today and I don't know what to do."
"Something … in the spirit of Christmas?"
Tristan sighed, biting her lip. "I guess you could say that."
"And what words were had between you and your god brother?"
Tristan swore and her mum chuckled.
"I was once the Slytherin Ice Queen, you know, love." Blaise paused just outside the light of the lively living room, turning Tristan to face her. Tristan did know; she'd heard tales from Uncle Draco and her mum's best friend, Pansy. Blaise ran a hand over Tristan's hair, so kind and unlike any ice queen Tristan had ever known. "If you don't want to talk about it, I won't make you. I expect your brother and Ian are making a right nusance of themselves already." She gave Tristan a sharp look. "But if you need me, Tris –"
"I don't hate him, Mum." Tristan suddenly felt tears rise in her eyes. She blinked hard, looked at the ground. "I mean, I really don't hate him. And I told him. And … and he doesn't hate me, either." She swallowed a lump in her throat.
"Oh, Tristy-girl, of course he doesn't hate you," Blaise said gently, gathering Tristan into her strong arms. "Hate such a powerful thing. He knows, like you do, not to ever feel it if you can help."
Tristan smiled into her shoulder, a memory rising from her childhood. "I remember the only time Daddy every told me about the war. We talked about the Death Eaters and all of the work you and Aunt Ginny and Uncle Draco and Uncle Ron and everyone did, and all the trouble you got into. I asked him if he hated them - the people who made the trouble. And he gave me this look – he wasn't angry, but I've never seen him so serious. He said, 'I've only ever allowed myself to hate one thing. And it cost me. Hate made me misjudge, it drove me to places I never should have gone and made me do things I never should I have done. I was a child when I learned how to hate. It damaged me permanently. When you hate, it scars your soul. You can be angry, rightfully, over the cruel or thoughtless actions of others. That's your right. But don't allow yourself to hate unless you have to.' I asked him what made someone have to hate and he said, 'Someone who loves so deeply that they have to make a sacrifice for that love. My sacrifice, for my friends and your mum, was my love. I gave up my love and gave into my hate to end Voldemort'.'"
Tristan paused, pulling back from her mother. "Mum, I've tried since that day not to hate. It's hard – I mean, it's been really hard in Slytherin. People still don't always like that there's a Potter in Slytherin, and Hayden and Cedric aren't always nice about it. But I've never hated them, ever." She bowed her head, biting back the choky feeling in her throat and the dampness in her eyes. "Except that I always knew I loved Ced. I only just realized that I never hated Hayden at all. I still don't really know why we fight, but …" She broke off, swallowing.
"Don't you know, Tristy?"
"Not yet," Tristan insisted. "But everything's different now. I just don't know what to do."
"And you don't need to," Blaise assured her. "Just remember that it's Christmas." She winked. "It's a time for impressing Santa, yeah?"
Tristan grinned, wiping her eyes hastily on her sleeve. "I saw the pressies. Anyway, no one here needs Santa this Christmas." She nudged her mum. "I know who to suck up to."
"That's my little Slytherin," Blaise said, returning the nudge. "Now, go find your friends. I'm off to the kitchen to make sure Mrs. Weasley and Mrs. Hermione haven't burnt it down." She caressed Tristan's cheek, then departed.
Tristan went into the noisy sitting room, which was already in full swing with music and an unbelievable quantity of gifts bulging from beneath the tree. She hadn't remembered there being that many in the study.
Ian was waving her over to the crowded hearth rug. He, Cedric, and Hayden had wedged space between a sprawl of cousins. Tristan refused to look at Hayden, but taking a deep breath, she swam her way through Aunts, Uncles, conversations, and laughter. She was pleased to see that the boys had also secured a spread of food.
"Get lost?" Cedric asked around a mouthful of caramel corn.
"With Mum, yeah." Tristan stretched out on her stomach between Ian and her brother and stuck a licorice wand in her mouth.
"Anything interesting?" Ian prodded.
"Nothing that would hold your interest for more than two seconds," Tristan told him, thwacking him on the nose with the licorice. "But then, what does?"
"She got a pair point, mate." Cedric stuffed another handful of popcorn into his mouth. "Where's Mum now, Tris?"
"Kitchen-bound," Tristan said, grinning. "She fears incineration."
"And such a pyromaniac herself," Hayden murmured.
Tristan bit her lip. She felt a tug just behind her belly button when he spoke. "Yeah, but only magical fire," she pointed out.
Cedric laughed. "I will never forget the Easter we were ten."
Tristan snorted, drawing the attention of Alice and Uncle Draco, who sat nearby.
"Ever Blaise's daughter," Uncle Draco said.
"And proud of it!" Tristan returned, winking at him. Uncle Draco and Alice turned back to their conversation, laughing.
"So," Ian said, leaning toward them and grinning. "What mad hijinx are we getting up to this year?"
"Dunno," Hayden said with a shrug. "I doubt we could top last year."
"Yeah. Tristy's spaghetti routine was inspired!" Ian laughed.
"Not to be repeated," she murmured, turning red. It had seemed like a laugh then, when she was much the worse for alcoholic wear, thanks to several uncles.
"Oh, I don't know," Hayden said. "Maybe try real worms this year."
Tristan slowly met his eyes across the circle. His lip twitched, his eyes sparkled, and suddenly Tristan was laughing.
"Never again," she insisted, reaching for another licorcise wand. "Unless you're volunteering."
"Absolutely not," he said, offering the bowl of wands. "I'm content to be impressed and across the room from the spaghetti."
"What's with you two?" Cedric demanded, staring back and forth between them.
"What?" they both said, turning away and turning matching shades of red.
"Tris, he just insulted you," Cedric pointed out, looking back and forth between them. "Den, that was a lame-arse insult. Are you both ill? Do you have ten minutes to live?"
"Tristan, I'm still hungry," Ian said, jumping to his feet. "Let us adjourn to the buffet table."
"What're you on?" Tristan asked in surprise as he pulled her to her feet. "There's plenty of food here."
"We're out of stuffed mushrooms," he insisted, grabbing her arm and hauling her away.
"Ian, what the hell?" she demanded, tripping over Uncle Charlie's feet.
"I have to ask you stuff and Ced and Den aren't invited to join us," Ian told her. "Come on, behind the tree where we shan't be seen."
"Why?" she asked.
He didn't answer as they stepped behind the massive green bows and tried not to trip over the presents.
"Well?" Tristan demanded, planting her hands on her hips.
Ian grabbed her by the shoulders and kissed her hard. Tristan squeaked in surprise and made wild attempts to beat him off.
"Are you completely mental?" she raged when he let her go. She looked frantically around, trying to decide if anyone had seen them or not.
"No, just right, as usual." Ian had a look of mingled regret and satisfaction. "You didn't enjoy that?"
"Uh, yeah. What tipped you off, cousin?" she snapped, wiping her lips on her sleeve.
"Well, the look of revulsion's a bit of a giveaway," he said, completely unperturbed by her rising temper.
"And the point of that borderline incest was …?" She favored him with her very best Ice Queen look.
"So you think of me like a cousin," he prompted. "And … you're as comfortable with me as if we were actually related by blood?"
"You act like I haven't made this really, really clear to you," she retorted.
"To me, yes." Ian crossed his arms. "What about to other blokes who aren't really related to you?"
"You're about a subtle as the Killing Curse," she told him, shifting uncomfortably.
"Am I wrong?" he shot back. "Something's different about you and my cousin."
"And if it is …?" she prompted impatiently.
"If it is, let me conjure you some mistletoe!" Ian exploded, throwing his arms in the air. Tristan leaned back to avoid being clobbered. "Merlin's pants, Tristy, what are you waiting for?"
She spluttered, but couldn't think of a single thing to say.
He snorted, crossing his thick arms over his chest. "I love both you," he explained, lowering his voice. "I'd like some god children before I'm infirm."
Before she could kick him in the shins, he dodged back into the crowded room. Tristan stood very still, trying not hyperventilate.
"When did that happen?" she whispered, her cheeks burning. She peeked out from behind the tree. Even though the room was full of people, many of whom were taller than Tristan, she had no trouble finding Hayden in the crowd. She felt like her blush was developing a blush and thought seriously about kicking herself in the shins. She felt like her feet wanted to take her somewhere but she couldn't bear the thought of other people for a moment.
Plotting her course with care, she made for the door and slipped through into the empty entrance hall. She leaned against the door for a long moment. Gathering her breath, she went to sit on the staircase that swept up to the second level of the house. She put her head in her hands. She wasn't ready - she wasn't ready for Ian and his stupid theories. She didn't want an epiphany. Not hating Hayden was one thing …
"I was always trying to be good enough –"
"Good enough … for me?"
"Damn it!" she swore, pressing her fingers through her hair and trying to decide whether fleeing the grounds on Uncle Sirius's motorbike would get her expelled from Hogwarts or simply grounded for the rest of her natural life.
Tristan jumped and clapped a hand to her mouth to stifle a shout. She had been sure she was alone.
"You scare easily," Hayden said, moving slowly toward her.
"Do you always sneak up on people in dark stairwells?" she asked shakily, trying to think if she'd make it to the motorbike if she ran for it now.
"No, I usually leave that to Ian," he said. He paused, and Tristan had never seen him look so uncertain. The impulse to run lessened. "Mind if I sit down?" he asked after a moment's silence.
"Big staircase," she said, sliding over on her step just the same. He took the hint and sat down beside her.
"What's your excuse, then?" he asked at last.
"Hiding from the family." She could feel his eyes on her and felt her pale cheeks warm. She meant to say, "Just needed a bit of breathing room" but what came out instead was –
"Ian kissed me."
"What?" Hayden was definitely looking at her now. "He – what?"
"Yeah, I know." She stared down at her hands. She could probably keep herself safe with this. She could pretend to be surprised and touched. Ian was handsome and funny and –
"I'm still getting the taste of cousin off my face," she found herself confessing. "Ian's practically my best friend, apart from Ced. It was gross."
"Was it – I mean, why would Ian kiss you?"
Tristan glanced sideways and saw Hayden examining his own hands.
"I assume my incredible Veela-like charms were just too much for him," she ventured, unable to stop a small smile.
"That must be it."
She saw a bit of pink in his cheeks.
"I thought we were all right with teasing," she said slowly. "I didn't realize we'd moved on to compliments."
He surprised her again by meeting her eyes and smiling his slow, careful smile. She'd seen it dozens of times, but never before had it been directed at her. She felt a little breathless. Dreams of motoring away into the night slipped from her mind.
"I – I mean, everything's so different," he began, then paused. "It all feels so different now – to me."
"Me, too." Her voice was barely above a whisper. Gathering her voice up, she said in a normal tone, "I'm so glad you don't hate me."
"I wouldn't not hate just anyone," he said. "You're special –" He broke off, the pink deepening across his sharp cheekbones.
"I'm special?" Tristan blurted. She looked quickly down at her hands again.
"Of course you're special," Hayden huffed (Tristan thought he sounded disgruntled). "I mean, look how much trouble I went to to fight with you for so long. Clearly, I put a lot of time and effort into keep the dislike alive."
"And now?" Tristan gained a slippery hold on her courage, and hoped he wouldn't make a fuss, because she felt her grip already slipping. She wasn't a Gryffindor, after all.
"And now … I don't know," he said at last. "I – I guess we'll be friends."
"Friends … good." Tristan's stomach sank toward to toes. Her brain said, Oh, jolly good.
"Or – " He broke off but the word made Tristan's heart leap into her throat. When he met her eyes again, Tristan couldn't help herself. She slid across the stair and pressed her lips to his. She felt a gasp whistle passed her mouth and then his lips soften beneath hers. He wasn't quite returning the kiss, but he wasn't pushing her away, either. Slowly, she pulled back and tried very hard to hold his eye.
"Well?" she asked, an extremely unwelcome quaver in her voice.
"Well," he said, a little breathless. He looked away, then slowly back. She hadn't realized that it was possible to miss something she never knew she wanted, but she felt the look deep within her, filling some empty space. He smiled the slow smile and it was much, much wider. "I don't really want to be friends, either."
They both heard the door to the living room open and slid a respectful distance apart as Ian and Cedric came through.
"There you lot are!" Cedric glared at them. "At least you're taking your rubbish away from civilized folk."
"Yeah," Ian said, noticing too much at the wrong time, as usual. "Mistletoe-shaped rubbish."
"Don't start, mate." Hayden got to his feet and offered Tristan a hand up. Tristan saw her brother gape.
"Ced, close your mouth," she said coolly. "We were having a civilized discussion about …" She trailed off, biting her lip.
"We were talking about friendship," Hayden told him. "And how it's Christmas. That's all."
"Very spirited of you," Cedric said, clearly not believing either of them but also not quite sure he wanted to call their bluff.
"Are they going in to dinner yet?" Hayden asked, saving Cedric the trouble of making up his mind.
"No." Ian's eyes bounced between Tristan and Hayden. Tristan wasn't the only one turning red. "We're listening to 'War is Over' and opening our one present, and then we get fed. Grandmum says dinner's ready whenever Aunt Blaise and Uncle Harry are." He gave both Tristan and Hayden meaningful looks before nodding toward the living room. Tristan slugged him in the arm as she went by and he howled to Hayden about indignities and ungrateful women until they found seats with their backs against the old love seat. They pulled a stray throw over their laps.
It was a yearly tradition. The lights dimmed and, without ceremony, the room went quiet. Celestina Warbuck's dark lilt filled the air. They had done this every year since Tristan could remember. No one ever explained why but this year Tristan thought she understood a little better.
"You can't know how important our family is to us," Grandmum had once said to her. "And at Christmas, we get to celebrate you all being alive and well and happy. There is no more perfect time in our lives than this."
Tristan craned her neck to look around the room at the adults. She saw her father and mother leaning against the mantle. Harry's arm was around Blaise's shoulders and she leaned back into his embrace. Tristan saw that both their eyes were directed at her and Cedric. Across the room, she could see Aunt Gin leaning into Uncle Draco. Sleeping baby Clara was curled against Aunt Ginny's chest, and Charles cuddled into the crook of Uncle Draco's arm. Aunt Ginny met her eye and smiled gently.
Tristan smiled back, her chest warm and purring, and tugged the throw up, tucking her hands beneath it. She leaned back and closed her eyes, feeling rather than seeing the familiar faces around her. These people who had loved and raised her knew the price of anger, frustration, and hate, as well. They had come together once, to fight for the love that now brought them all here for Christmas. They sacrificed the comfort of their dislike for each other to become a team, and in becoming a team, they had also become this loving, madhouse family.
Tristan didn't realized she was crying until the tears dropped off her chin. She kept quiet and kept her eyes shut, smiling into the dark room. To her left, Cedric leaned his head against hers briefly, his straight hair mingling with her wild curls. Nothing complicated – the simplest thing in the world. She leaned back and then let him go.
She felt something tickle her right hand. As Cedric leaned over to say something to Ian, she glanced at Hayden on her other side. He met her gaze as his warm, dry hand wrapped around hers under the blanket.
"Cheer up, Tristy," he whispered, wiping a tear from her cheek with his free hand and grinning a teasing grin. "It's Christmas."
So this is Christmas
And what have you done?
Another year over
And a new one just begun
So this is Christmas
I hope you had fun
The near and the dear ones
The old and the young
Very merry Christmas
And a happy new year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear
ADDITIONAL AUTHOR'S NOTE: This evening, we all opened a couple presents from my cousin and his pregnant wife because they had to leave to spend Christmas Eve night and Christmas with his wife's family. Almost the whole family was there and we were all talking and laughing and having a grand old time when my aunt gave a shriek of epic proportions, because one of Nate and Elisa's presents to her and my uncle was the first ultrasound of their baby girl, who will be born in May. This will the first grandchild born to my aunt and uncle, and indeed, to any of their sisters and brothers; the first baby since my younger sister, 19 years ago. My aunt was laughing and hysterically declaring that she knew it would be a girl and she knew they'd been keeping something from her all week. I looked over at my uncle, who was finally getting a look at his first grandchild. He was crying. I have never seen him cry; ever. It was beautiful and moving and as we sat opening the last of the presents, I felt that profound peace of belonging to a family built on such tender, but infinite love.
I gave thanks to Santa, actually. He's too good to me.
I hope you all have a beautiful holiday, whatever you're celebrating and whomever your family is.