Note: This was originally written for the All I Want for Christmas Challenge through the Reviews Lounge here at Check out my profile for more info, and be sure to read the rest of the collaboration! It is my Christmas gift to you. Merry Christmas!
Note the Second: A few people have been mentioning this when they comment, and I thought I'd made it clear within the story, but I will clarify here, too. Yes, I know Fred the twin died in DH. The Fred Weasley mentioned here is Fred Jr, George's son with Angelina (yes, it's canon. Go check out her site!). I imagine that he and little James Potter Jr are quite the terrors together, and really do all they can to live up to their namesakes.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own Harry or his family. I think they're adorable, really, but I thnk James would be quite more than I could handle.
A Picture's Worth
Al Potter wants a picture frame.
"A picture frame?" Harry Potter leaned against the counter in his kitchen, trying to wrap his mind around what his wife had just told him.
"Yep," she said, continuing to wave her wand at the dishes in the sink.
"Really, Gin? A picture frame?"
"A picture frame."
"That's it." Harry rubbed his hands over his face and sighed. With just one week until Christmas, Ginny had asked the kids for their wish lists today, and while their oldest and youngest children had presented nice, long lists, the list of their middle child had contained just one item. A picture frame.
Nearly nine years ago, Albus Severus Potter had been born just before midnight on December 23rd, and that was what appeared to be causing the problems now.
"But, his birthday list–" Harry started.
"His birthday list was the usual length," Ginny told him, now levitating dishes over his head into their cupboards. "It's just his Christmas list that's been shortened." Harry frowned.
"I don't suppose we could just . . . shift some?" he ventured, but Ginny shook her head.
"No. I don't know where he gets it, but that boy is very particular, fastidious, to use Hermione's word. Birthday presents are for his birthday while Christmas presents are for Christmas." She turned then, and leaned against the kitchen table, mimicking Harry's stance as she faced him. "And I was told as much when I tried to talk to him about it." When Harry frowned again, she came over to him and put her arms around him. He returned the embrace distractedly.
"He didn't give you any reasons –" he started, but was silenced by Ginny's hand on his arm.
"Harry, we may have to accept the fact that this really is all he wants for Christmas," she said gently. Harry shook his head.
"There has to be a reason," he told her. "I'm going to go talk to him."
"I doubt it will do any good," Ginny warned.
"I'm going to go talk to him," Harry repeated.
"He's in bed," Ginny pointed out. Harry smiled, remembering the light he'd seen shining from under Al's door several nights.
"He won't be asleep," he said with confidence, kissing her quickly.
"Well, good luck, then. I hope you get farther than I did!" she called as he headed for the stairs.
At the second floor landing, he turned and gently opened the door to his youngest son's room. Poking his head inside, he smiled, amused. "Al," he said softly, "if you want people to think you're asleep, you can't squint your eyes shut." The boy who looked so like him opened his eyes and grinned sheepishly, pushing himself up on his elbows as Harry came in and sat on the edge of his bed.
"Is there something you need, Dad?" Al asked him.
"Oh . . . just to talk," Harry said, trying to sound offhand. "So, did you give Mum your Christmas list today?"
"Dad," Al said, straightforward as he ever was, "you and Mum forgot to Silencio the kitchen. I know why you're up here." Harry smiled sheepishly and gave a small nod to Al, acknowledging the pretense.
"Okay, you caught me," he admitted. Then he paused. "Why, Al?" he finally asked.
"I can't tell you that," Al said slowly, looking down. Harry's eyebrows shot up in mild surprise.
"You can't tell me?" he repeated. Al shook his head, still refusing to look at him. "Al?" Harry said, and waited for the boy to meet his eyes. After a long moment, he did. "If you can't tell me why you want a picture frame, can you tell me why there's only one thing on your list?" he asked, trying a different approach.
Al was quiet for a long time before he answered. "Because I get so many presents for my birthday. It isn't fair for me to get twice as many as everyone else."
Harry almost smiled in relief. Maybe this whole thing would be easier to resolve than he had thought.
"But you don't, Al, not really," he said, trying to explain. "James and Lily get those extra presents, too, just at a different time of year."
"And if my birthday was at a different time, I'd probably ask for more for Christmas," Al said. "But I don't need so much all at once." Harry considered that, then switched gears again.
"We could split up your birthday list–" his father started, but Al shook his head emphatically.
"No. Those are birthday gifts. I don't want them for Christmas," he said firmly, and Harry had to give a silent nod to Hermione. Fastidious really had been a good word for Al. It was only in instances like this that his normally passive son showed his Weasley and Potter stubbornness. "Besides," Al said, continuing, "Christmas is about giving to other people, isn't it, Dad?" Harry smiled softly at the statement.
"Yes, it is, Al," he agreed. "As your mother and I want to do for you." Al looked up at him.
"Well, you have my list," he said simply. Harry looked away. Somehow, he had known it would come to this. One couldn't argue with an eight-year-old, who would always and forever be unshakeable in the belief that his or her logic was irrefutable. Maybe Ginny was right, he thought as he sat there. Maybe, hard as it would be, he would simply have to accept this quirk his son had suddenly developed.
"What kind of picture frame?" he finally asked. Al grinned.
"A big one," he said. "But just a plain one, like the Muggles have."
"All right, then," Harry said with a smile, standing. "G'night, Al," he said, leaning down to kiss Al's forehead.
"Night, Dad." Harry walked out, shutting the door softly behind him, then headed back downstairs where Ginny was waiting for him.
"Well?" she asked. Harry sighed and shrugged.
"Do you even know where we can buy a picture frame?" he asked his wife. She laughed softly.
"Told you so," she said.
Three days later, Ginny took Lily to finish up the Christmas shopping, leaving Harry and the boys alone at home. The last time Harry had checked, James and Al had been coexisting peacefully in the sitting room down the hall from his study. With a little more than ten years of parenting behind him, Harry knew this was unlikely to last long. He had fallen into the habit of periodically setting aside his work to listen for an appropriate noise level – not loud enough that he had to go break anything up, but not quiet enough to be suspicious. Satisfied with the commotion James seemed to be making with whatever had been in the package his cousin had sent him this morning, Harry returned to the addressing of the family Christmas cards, a task that was, he mused, really somewhat easier the Muggle way, magic or not.
A few moments later, however, he put down his quill as a shout echoed through the house.
"Give it back, James!" Sighing, Harry pushed his chair away from the desk and headed for the sitting room. When Al's shouts turned into a small explosion and an incoherent cry of rage, he began to hurry.
Upon entering the sitting room, Harry froze in momentary shock at the scene before him. Al, his youngest son, his quietest child, his passive peacemaker, had knocked his brother to the ground and was now pummeling every inch of the older boy that he could reach with both his fists, screaming and sobbing while a small book smoldered on the ground beside them.
Harry crossed the room in three strides and pulled Al bodily off of James. "What is going on?" he demanded, fixing each of his sons with an angry gaze. He expected Al to quiet and explain himself. He was not at all prepared for the response he got. Al barely seemed to notice that his father had entered the room.
"I hate you!" he screamed at James, who was still on the ground, looking dazed and bewildered. His lip was bleeding and one eye had already begun to swell. "You always ruin everything and now you've ruined Christmas! I hate you! I hate you! I wish I'd never even had a brother!" And with another strangled sob, he grabbed the ruined book and ran from the room. Not even Harry's angry shout of "Albus Severus!" brought him back.
Frowning at the implications of what he'd just witnessed, Harry knelt beside his older son and pulled out his wand. "Hold still," he said.
"He hit me," James said in disbelief.
"Yes, he did," Harry said, still frowning as he performed two simple healing charms before handing his son the pair of glasses that had gone flying as the fight had begun. "Would you like to tell me why?" he asked, frowning at his son.
James stared up at his father in open-mouthed shock for a moment before his eyes narrowed and his face hardened as he shoved his glasses roughly back onto his face. "If I'd hit Al, I'd be locked in my room from now until New Year's, but he hits me and I'm still the one getting punished?" he accused belligerently.
If Harry was phased by the accusation, he didn't show it. Continuing to frown down at James, he calmly said, "I don't recall punishing you, James. I do recall asking what happened, a question I would like you to answer."
"It wasn't my fault!" he shouted defensively. "I didn't know it would do that! And anyway, he overreacted. It was just a stupid book!"
"James," Harry said, his tone warning. "I am losing my patience. The story. Now." His son met his eyes defiantly for a moment before looking away.
"It was just some stuff that Fred sent me," he said defensively. "He said there was a cool effect on the wand, and I tried it out, that's all! I didn't know it would catch Al's book on fire!"
"I see," Harry said, looking sternly at his son. "And, tell me, James. Did Al volunteer his book for your experiment, or did you, perhaps, commandeer it without permission?" The red tinge on James' face was more than answer enough. "So," Harry said, sitting back on his heels. "Let me tell you what is going to happen now." James glanced up at him sullenly. "You are going to give me everything your cousin sent you this morning. All of it. You may get it back after Christmas, you may not. I don't know. Then, you are going to go upstairs where you will do one of two things. Your first option is apologizing to your brother for stealing and ruining his book. Your second option is not apologizing to him and spending time in your room until you rethink that decision. And if your brother's book was damaged beyond repair, you will replace it."
"Dad, that's totally unfair!" James yelled. "Al hit me!"
"Yes," Harry said. "And he and I will be having a talk about that. But you took something that wasn't yours and you destroyed it. I will not allow theft or senseless destruction in this family anymore than I will allow violence. Al was in the wrong, yes. But so were you. And you will apologize to your brother or you will stay in your room until you have decided to do so. Do you understand me?" James glared sullenly at his father and did not reply. Harry held James' gaze. "I said, do you understand me, James?" he repeated, his voice dangerously soft.
"Fine, whatever!" James said, kicking a box toward Harry before storming upstairs into his bedroom, slamming the door behind him.
Harry sighed and stood. He would worry about the prank package later. He would also, he thought ruefully, have to have a little chat with his brother-in-law about adding "cool effects" to his fake wands and then letting them fall into the hands of mischievous nine-year-old boys. But at the moment, he had a much larger problem to worry about.
Upstairs in his room, Al sat hunched in the corner of his bed, knees pulled to his chest, angry tears still streaming down his face. The moment Harry had pushed open the door and called his son's name softly, Al released an angry torrent of words that left him breathless and gulping for air.
"I won't!" he said through his tears. "I don't care what you say to me, and I don't care what you do to me! I won't forgive him and I won't apologize to him because I'm not sorry! I'm not!"
"Then we have a problem," Harry said quietly, coming to sit on the edge of Al's bed. "Because I can't just excuse your behavior, Al. You hit your brother. You hurt him."
"I don't care!" Al choked out wildly. "I don't care! And I wish we didn't have magic, either, so he'd just have to live with it!"
"Al!" Harry said sharply, shocked at his son's uncharacteristic behavior. "Look at me," he said sternly. "Look at me," he repeated when Al refused to meet his gaze. Slowly, sullenly, Al's green eyes found his. "There is nothing, nothing, that anyone can do or say to you that justifies an attack. Nothing. I cannot and will not excuse physical violence. Do you understand me?" Al's eyes shone with tears and defiance.
"He deserved it," he whispered fiercely, his chin quivering. Harry beheld his son with a hard and unyielding gaze until Al finally looked away.
"You will apologize to your brother," Harry said in a voice that left no room for argument. "I know that you will, because you will not leave this room until you have, even if that means spending your birthday in here and Christmas day as well. Make no mistake about this, Al." He looked at his son, who would not return that gaze, but instead stared straight ahead, stubbornly trying to ignore fresh tears. In his hands he held what remained of a small leather book, one now-smudged finger unconsciously tracing the charred edge, as if the action might make it whole again. Harry softened at the sight. "Al," he said more gently, reaching across the bed to touch his son's shoulder. "Let's have done with this. Make amends and put it behind us." Al wrenched away, the tears he couldn't overcome falling down his cheeks.
"No," he whispered fiercely. "I won't."
Harry sighed and stood. Though he knew what had to be done now, it still pained him to say. "I had hoped you would be the better person in this argument," he said, his voice hardening. "But it appears that my trust was misplaced." At the threshold of the room, he paused, then forced himself to make one last remark. "I really am very disappointed in what I have seen from you today."
And then he left, after casting the two spells to keep his sons in their rooms.
That night, Harry sat on the edge of his bed, elbows braced against his knees, chin resting on his hands, staring into his open closet. There, leaning against the back wall, stood a large, handsome oak picture frame. Harry stared at it, lost in thought. This, this frame, this was all Al wanted for Christmas.
His thoughts wandered to the book that had been destroyed that afternoon. If only he knew what was in it that was so important to his youngest son! He had a feeling that the picture and the book were tied somehow, that Al's Christmas wish and his behavior today were linked together, in some kind of indecipherable riddle. And Harry had never been one for riddles.
But his middle child was one. There had been times when he and Ginny had stared at one another, wondering whose he could possibly be, because there was no way he was theirs. If he hadn't looked so much like Harry . . .
Harry sighed and ran a hand over his face, trying to make sense of things in his mind. My youngest son asked for a picture frame for Christmas, and today he attacked his brother over a small, mysterious book. He's turned suddenly secretive and defiant. And I haven't the first clue as to why.
Caught up in his musings, he barely registered that his wife had entered the room until she was beside him, her hand in his own.
"Any luck?" he asked.
"None," she said, shaking her head. Harry sighed more heavily. Al was still refusing to apologize to his brother. He had chosen to forego supper rather than utter that apology, though the threat of missing a meal had humbled James enough to make the apology.
"And he will not tell you why?"
"No," Ginny said. "The only thing I got out of him was an item to add to his Christmas list."
"Oh?" Harry asked, intrigued, hoping that this might shed some light on the mystery Al had become.
"Yes," she said with a hint of a smile. "One less brother. A request I made often enough as a child."
"And what did you tell him?" Harry asked.
"The same thing my mother always told me," she said, the smile coming out in full force now. "'I was gifted with seven beautiful children, and if you were to have one less brother, then I would lose one of those children, and you'd not put your mother through that, would you?'" Ginny's smile faltered for just a moment before she went determinedly on. "I of course said three instead of seven, but the basic message was the same."
Harry nodded and looked away, the unanswered questions gnawing at him. A moment later, he felt a sharp pain on his shoulder. "Ow!" he said, whirling to glare at his wife, who had just punched him and was showing no remorse for it.
"You were brooding," she said. "Stop it." Rubbing his shoulder, Harry gave her a wry look. She put her arms around him, embracing him from behind, and kissed his neck. "What's bothering you, Harry?" she asked in a gentler tone.
Harry sat silently for a moment, trying to put it all into words. "I'm concerned about how I handled things this afternoon," he admitted.
"Whatever for?" Ginny asked, pulling back slightly to peer at her husband. "I thought you handled it all brilliantly."
"Do you think I was too hard on Al? Not hard enough on James? James accused me of always punishing him more, and Al is the one who hit him." Ginny smiled softly at him.
"Harry," she said, sitting so she could look him in the eye. "James may not have found your punishment fair, but you and I both know better. For James, nothing could have been worse than losing his trinkets, his new pranks. But Al? Al faces his father's censure and disappointment, both of which will affect him far more than loss of privilege or possession. My guess is, come morning, he'll be more than ready to apologize. Your son adores you, Harry, and he still thinks you hung the stars." Harry smiled without humor and looked away.
"Yes. And I sent him to bed without supper," he said quietly. Ginny frowned, touched him arm, and forced him to look at her.
"One missed meal won't hurt him, Harry, or make him feel that you love him any less." When Harry tried to look away again, she reached for his face and turned it back to her own. "It doesn't make you like them," she said softly, and Harry stared at her in momentary surprise, then relaxed into a smile.
"How is it you know me so well?" he asked her softly, taking his wife's hand. She smiled mischievously at him.
"Oh, Mr. Potter," she said. "I'll have you know that I had quite the crush on you when I was younger, and I made everyone I met tell me any and every little thing they knew about you. I am quite an expert." Harry smiled.
"I knew I was being stalked," he joked.
"Quite right," she agreed, and kissed him. "Besides, I think today's events will eventually be quite beneficial."
"Oh, you do, do you?" Harry asked.
"Yes, I do. First of all, Al has proven to his brother that there is a line, and that he can defend himself if that line is crossed. You can bet James won't be making that mistake again." Harry considered this, then nodded, and she went on. "Secondly, once he gets over the embarrassing fact that his little brother beat him in a fight, James will respect the fact that his little brother beat him in a fight." She smiled, then said, "Oh, yes, Harry. I shouldn't be at all surprised if today's events lead to a new alliance. And with James' penchant for mischief and Al's clever creativity . . ."
Harry let out a groan as Ginny's point was realized. "We're creating monsters," he moaned. Ginny laughed.
"Too right! And there's not a thing you can do to stop it, either."
"They'll be terrors," Harry said, raising his eyes heavenward. "No place will be safe."
"Yes, and it's all your fault," Ginny said, kissing him on the cheek. "You're the one who chose to marry me and combine Marauder genes with Weasley genes."
Harry grinned. "You're right; that was my mistake," he said before kissing her. "Why a picture frame, do you think?" he asked her then, for probably the fiftieth time. She threw her hands up in an exaggerated shrug.
"Who can say? Your son is a mystery. Now come to bed, love."
"In a while, perhaps," he said, standing even as she stretched across the bed. "I have some work to finish up first."
"Fine," she said. "I'll just languish up here, all alone." She looked up at him coyly.
"Don't tempt me," he said with a smile, pulling the door closed as he left the room. His smile disappeared as he passed Al's door, through which small, hurt sniffles still filtered. With a pained sigh, Harry continued down to his study, where he hoped without much expectation for his thoughts to be diverted from what his son wanted for Christmas and all that had happened that day.
True to Ginny's prediction, midway through the next morning, there was a knock on Harry's study door. He looked up from Dudley's Christmas card to see his wife's head poked through the doorway. "Your son has something he'd like to say to you," she said before raising her eyebrows at him, as if to add a silent, See?
A much humbled Al was ushered into the room, where he hung by the door, staring at the carpet and refusing to come any closer. Ginny leaned down and whispered something in his ear, then shut the door softly behind her.
"I apologized to James," Al said, so softly that Harry could hardly hear him.
"So I see," Harry said. Then silence descended on the room as Harry wondered what on earth he could say. But it was Al who spoke next.
"Are you terribly angry with me still?" he asked, and Harry could hear the tears in his voice.
"Please come here, Al," Harry said gently, holding out his hand. After a long pause, Al crossed to his father gingerly. When his son stood before him, Harry placed one hand under his hin and raised the boy's face to his own. "I am not angry with you in the slightest, Al," he said softly. "You have done what I asked you to do."
Harry expected these words to comfort his son, but they didn't. Instead, Al looked away, tears filling his eyes.
"No, I didn't," he whispered. "I apologized to him, but I – I didn't forgive him," he said, then risked a glance at his father. "I can't," he whispered fiercely. "I can't." Harry held back a sigh.
"Forgiving people who have hurt you is difficult," he said. "It will be enough for me if you promise that you will try."
Harry watched Al's thought process flicker across his face before he finally answered, "I promise."
"Thank you," Harry said. "Al, will you not tell me what was so important about that book?" Al's face betrayed his distress. He closed his eyes and shook his head, as if he couldn't bear to lie to his father, but also couldn't bear to see more disappointment from him. "Al, I might be able to fix it," Harry said softly, and watched Al's eyes fly open, "but I have to know what was inside," he finished, warning. Al's face fell.
"I can't," he whispered.
"It's okay," Harry said in reassurance. "It's okay, Al. Now, one more thing before you go. Is there anything else you'd like to add to your Christmas list?" Al's head snapped up, his eyes betraying momentary panic. This reaction puzzled Harry, who clarified his question. "Like a replacement for your book."
"Oh," Al said, calming visibly. "No. You can't replace it," he said. Harry frowned.
"What do you mean, Al?"
"It was just a . . . just a blank book," Al said with a heavy sigh. "Aunt Hermione gave it to me. You can't replace what was in it."
Understanding dawned for Harry. If Al had lost something of his creation . . . well, it didn't justify his behavior, but it did serve to explain it. "So there's nothing?" Harry asked again. Al hesitated.
"No," he finally said. "Just the frame."
"Okay." And his son turned and headed for the door. On the threshold, however, he paused and turned back.
"Dad?" he said quietly. Harry looked up.
"I'm sorry," he said, and he was Al again, not the impassioned stranger Harry had seen the past day.
"I accept your apology," Harry said with a smile. Al nodded and headed out.
Good, Harry thought, with a heavy mental sigh. That's done with. If only I knew why he wanted that frame . . .
The rest of the day leading up to Al's birthday passed without incident, as did the majority of his birthday itself. There had been little commotion between the boys and Harry noted with a resigned eye that the respect Ginny had predicted did indeed seem to be forming.
This was especially evident when, at the end of Al's gift opening, James shuffled forward with a poorly wrapped package in his hands. "Here," he mumbled. "This is for you, Al." Meticulous as ever, Al opened the wrappings. Then, before anyone had a chance to see what was inside, he had given a happy shout and thrown his arms around his brother. James pushed him away with a grimace, but Harry could tell it was a half-hearted attempt at best.
"Is it all here?" he asked as Harry moved forward to see what was nestled in the paper.
It was a small book, singed around the edges, but decidedly and rather impressively, considering its state a few days ago, whole.
"Should be," James said, looking at the ground as Al thumbed through the pages, all grins.
"James, how did you . . ." he asked in wonder.
"Yes, James," Harry said. "How did you?"
"Took it to Uncle George, and he knew how to set it right," James muttered, still looking at the floor as a blush crept around his neck. "Fred's right miffed at me, though. His dad didn't know he'd nicked that stuff." Harry couldn't help smiling.
Then Teddy had appeared, and his arrival was greeted with immense enthusiasm from both Harry's sons. The three boys had escaped immediately into Al's room, engaged in some activity that was quite secret, but, as Harry was assured by his godson, nothing at all to worry about. Harry was less sure, but as this didn't seem likely to dissolve into another fistfight, he was willing to let it be.
Although he couldn't help but wonder if Al's secret activity had anything at all to do with the picture frame currently in his closet, waiting to be wrapped.
Christmas Day dawned bright and clear and much as it had for the past six years or so in the Potter house. Lily was the first to awaken and run down the upstairs hallway, pounding on everyone's doors and insisting that they get up for Christmas. Al and James pretended to grumble, all the while being secretly glad that someone was going about the business of making sure presents were opened at a reasonably early hour.
Harry and Ginny took great delight in getting ready for the day with deliberate slowness, making their children wait as long as they could, met as usual with happy shrieks and complaints of, "Da-ad!" after Harry suggested that maybe, this year, presents should wait until after breakfast.
It was as if all the antipathy in the house that week had been well and truly forgotten. Harry and Ginny watched, smiling, as their children exclaimed happily over the candy, fruit, and Christmas crackers that Father Christmas had left in their stockings.
Then Harry began to pass out the gifts under the tree, only just that moment noting that there was no "To Dad, From Al" package there. Determined not to let his puzzlement show, he reached for the large package leaning against the wall.
"Happy Christmas, Al," he said as he handed over the wrapped frame. Al's face lit up as he tore into the paper with much more wild enthusiasm than usual. He grinned when he saw the frame.
"Perfect," he said, and then he stood and tore out of the room.
"Al!" both his parents called after him, but they were met with, "I'll be right back! Don't wait for me!"
And, true to his word, a few minutes later, he returned, breathing hard and carrying with him a hastily wrapped gift that looked suspiciously similar to the gift he had just unwrapped. "Happy Christmas, Dad," he said, holding out the gift. Harry took it, but did not open it. He stared at his son, comprehension dawning as all the clues of the past week began to fall into place. He couldn't believe it. Surely, surely, his son wasn't about to . . .
"Al . . ." he started, but his son didn't let him get far.
"Open it," he insisted. Slowly, Harry removed the wrapping paper and turned over the frame he had just presented to his son.
Inside it was a painting, done by a capable, if inexperienced, hand. Harry felt tears prick at the corners of his eyes as he looked down at the portrait of his family, who all waved up at him, smiling, framed by the one thing his son had asked for for Christmas. "Al," he whispered, but found that he didn't know what to say. He swallowed and tried again. "Al, did you do this?" he asked.
Al nodded. "Yes. Well, Teddy put the charm on it. And James helped paint the background yesterday. But I drew it. Do . . . do you like it, Dad?" he asked, suddenly shy and uncertain.
"Yes," Harry whispered, handing the painting to Ginny and pulling his son to him in a hug. "Yes, I like it very much." Then he pulled away and looked at his son. "I didn't know you liked to draw, Al. How didn't I know that?" Al shrugged, embarrassed.
"I don't know. It's just something I . . . like to do. It's fun. And Aunt Hermione said I was pretty good."
"Aunt Hermione knows?" Harry repeated. Al nodded.
"I told you; she gave me the book." Harry nodded, making a decision right then and there.
When the painting had been hung over the fireplace and the paper had all been cleared from the sitting room and the kids were settled at the table for Christmas breakfast, Harry grabbed his cloak and headed for the door, passing Ginny on the way out.
"Harry Potter, where do you think you're going?" she demanded, hands on hips.
"I have something urgent I have to do," he said.
"On Christmas?" she asked, incredulously.
"I'm calling in a few favors," he said, coming over and kissing her on the cheek. "The kids still have to pack. I'll meet you at the Burrow." Ginny sighed and rolled her eyes, but relented, knowing her husband would be good to his word.
With a pop, Harry Apparated into the front yard of the Burrow, a small brown-paper-wrapped parcel in his hand, just as his family began to mount the steps to the house.
"Al," he called, beckoning his youngest son over to him. "We'll be in in a minute," he called to Ginny, who nodded and took Lily and James inside. Al trotted over and looked up at his father, curious and waiting.
"Yeah?" he asked.
"Can you tell me why now?" he said, kneeling on the cold ground so he was of a level with his son. "Why you gave back to me the one thing you asked for for Christmas?"
Al looked down, scuffing the ground with his foot. "I couldn't get the frame by myself. I didn't have enough, but I wanted it to be framed."
"All right, but . . . why the picture? And why only ask for the frame?"
"Because," Al said, and Harry could see he was having trouble putting it into words. "I overheard you talking to Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione a few weeks ago. When they asked you what you wanted for Christmas. I shouldn't have listened, but I didn't know what to get you, and I thought you might give me some ideas." He glanced to his father for forgiveness of this small transgression before continuing. "You said you already had what you wanted most. You had us, and a family, and that that was what was most important. And I thought of all the things I was going to ask for, and I felt guilty."
Harry smiled softly. "My comment wasn't meant to make anyone feel guilty," he murmured.
"I know," Al said. "But I started to think that I didn't really need all the stuff I was going to ask for, and that I should focus Christmas more on what's really important. Family, and the people who love us. That's when I decided to paint the picture. That's what was in the book," he said, and, true to Weasley fashion, his ears grew pink as he looked down, somewhat ashamed. "When I saw it catch fire . . . I just got so mad at James, because I'd worked so hard on those drawings, and I couldn't do them over in just five days, and I was so afraid I wouldn't have anything to give you on Christmas." Harry nodded, finally understanding. "But anyway," Al said, continuing. "That's why I only asked for the frame. It was the only thing I needed to give you your gift."
"Well, I have something for you," Harry said, holding out the small parcel.
"But, Dad–" Al started to protest, but Harry raised a hand.
"Just open it," he said. Al did. When the small book was unwrapped, Al turned it over and flipped through the blank pages, smiling. "I saw that yours was getting kind of full," Harry said. "Not to mention a bit black around the edges. So I thought you could use a new one. Do you like it?" he asked, watching his son's face carefully. Then Al grinned and threw his arms around his dad.
"Yeah. I like it very much," he said. "Thank you, Dad."
"Thank you, Al," Harry said. "Shall we go in?" he asked, gesturing to the house. Smiling, Al nodded, and Harry and his son headed for the front door of the Burrow, where Mrs. Weasley stood waiting.
"There you are!" she called, waving. "Come in, come in out of the cold!" She enveloped Al in a hug. "Good to see you, love! Did you get what you wanted for Christmas?"
"Yeah," Al said, looking back at his father with a smile. "I got exactly what I wanted."
Please review! It's Christmas!