CHAPTER 28- Christmas
Christmas was right around the corner and Molly was beside herself. She had talked all morning with Arthur, trying to convince him to let Percy out so he could be with family. Arthur was adamant, Percy would not be set free until Arthur could sense a change in his behavior or he requested to be separate from the family. So far, although Arthur had purposely left parchments and a quill in the cell with him, no communication had been written or communication requested.
As Severus watched the family struggle with their son's problem he thought back to when they had first seen Percy in the cell. Severus, wanting to make sure it was really Percy, had used Legilimency on him and what he saw disturbed him.
Percy felt totally detached from his family and harbored dark thoughts as to how to regain some of his self respect. He still wore Bill and Charley's hand-me-downs, and allowance was a very uncommon occurrence in the Weasley family. No matter how hard he worked at being the responsible one, making great grades in school, achieving leadership positions in school, it still felt like he was invisible in his family, almost like he wasn't there. Percy felt like he was lost in a crowd.
Dealing with these feelings of loneliness led him to wonder if he might be able to rise above it all and make a name for himself and his family that would be respected in the wizarding world.
Perhaps, just perhaps the Dark Lord had a few good ideas. Everyone respected him and his followers, at least they gave them pretty much what they wanted and a very wide berth. It was crazy thinking, but when you feel downtrodden and lost you start thinking crazy thoughts, anything to take away the pain.
From Percy's perspective his father garnered no respect from the Ministry, and was treated like a minion.
Severus saw all this and decided to arrange a bit of a movie show for Percy. He made copies of memories that showed exactly what it meant to be a Death Eater, the corruption, the murder, torture, and exactly how insignificant each Death Eater was to the Dark Lord. There were also memories showing how much the Dark Lord feared the Weasley's and memories of conversations from respected officials talking about how much they respected Arthur and his family for walking in the light even though it put them in horrible danger. He included memories that explained why Arthur was kept in lower paying jobs, that they feared him having any authority or in a position where he might sway opinions. He then ordered the House Elves to show some of these memories. Using advanced magic, Severus caused the images to be reflected on the cell wall each night after dinner.
Severus didn't act independently; he would never put someone's child through that without permission. He talked with Arthur and after hearing about the thoughts running amuck in Percy's mind Arthur agreed that this action was necessary.
Percy was feeling horrible. Many of the memories made him so sick that he lost many dinners over the past week, but it was the mental pain that hurt the most.
To think that he had given even a shadow of a thought to working for that monster made him feel dirty. He had no idea just how much strength, dedication and guts his Father had. To stand up to the constant threat of losing one's family, yet still be able to continue doing what was right rather than what was easy took true bravery. Why had he not seen it before? His Father, no matter the cost to himself, was trying to keep his family out of the hands of this monster. Through the conversations with other respected leaders he learned that his Father was kept low in the pecking order because they were fearful of allowing him any power. His Father deserved respect and not the contempt that Percy had been showing him.
The problem was that now Percy was wallowing in so much self contempt that he was at a standstill. How could he undo what he had done, how could he make this right? Then he looked at the parchment and quill lying on the metal shelf and decided that he needed to quit thinking like Percy and start thinking like Arthur. Arthur, his Father, would find a way, he always found a way.
Percy began writing, not new thoughts or answers, but questions, the same questions he had just asked himself. He ended it with ……"Dad, I don't know how to fix this, please help me."
Arthur was just finishing lunch when one of the House Elves brought him Percy's note. Everyone was perplexed and a bit worried when they witnessed tears in Arthur's eyes as he excused himself.
This is what he had been waiting for and he would not keep his son waiting. He realized it had to be hard for Percy to write this note and he had to let his Son know on all levels that he was still loved very much.
When Arthur walked into Percy's cell and pulled him into a hug, Percy finally lost it all and let the tears flow. Over the next couple of hours Percy shared how he felt left out and that he realized that while his solution was nuts he still didn't know where he fit in the family. He felt like it just didn't matter what he did, it never seemed to be good enough.
"Oh Percy", said Arthur, "I am so sorry! I guess this is what happens when people assume things without communicating. We thought you were OK, your grades were great, you were really heading in the right direction and taking every opportunity to better yourself. We thought everything was going well for you and thought we could spend more of our time with some of the kids who still had real problems. We just didn't know, because we didn't ask."
Arthur pulled Percy into another hug then said, "We can change that Percy. You need to know that you are loved very much and we are proud of you. I could make more money if I was willing to compromise my beliefs but I wanted to teach you all that respect and sense of worth come from a conviction that 'good' is the right path to take, even if it is the most difficult at times. I am sorry that it has been so painful for you but you need to know that with your behavior and actions in school that you have helped me so much in my task. You stood as an example to the other kids that you can achieve things no matter how nice your clothes might be or how much allowance you might receive. You showed them that hard work pays off. Even though they might not want to hear it they couldn't argue the fact since you were standing there with your great grades and a prefect badge. You created a world for yourself where you would have choices when you reached adulthood. You can be anything you desire to be when you grow up Percy and for that I feel eternally grateful and very proud."
"You are caught in that age where you are no longer a child, yet, you are not yet an adult. It is a hard age but perhaps your Mother and I can help you a bit. We can show the other kids how much we appreciate what you have accomplished by allowing you to stay in your own room while we are here, and not putting someone up in your room at home without talking it over with you first. While your main job is still getting a good education I feel we can take some time to start explaining our family situation and the struggles we have to go through. We have often tried to protect you from knowing just how hard it has been at times, but I feel you are old enough to deal with it and you might even have some good ideas on how to deal with it better. Things will change Percy, and I promise to have a Father and Son talk with you more frequently, and telling you the whole truth, or as much as I am able."
Arthur looked at his son who had tears freely flowing down his cheeks. He remembered a little toddler, running around the house, trying to read every book he could get his hands on. He remembered how Percy was probably the most infrequent visitor in the study when the paddle was necessary and he thought about how polite his son was from an early age. He was so together, so different, who would have known he was in such lonely pain. He would never let this happen again.
"Can you ever forgive me Dad?" asked Percy.
"I will forgive you Percy if you will forgive me" replied Arthur.
They decided that Percy would stay in the cell for another couple hours or until Arthur could call everyone together and let them know he was returning.
Percy was afraid to face the family and Arthur wanted to make sure they knew that all was well and that no one would give him a bad time or if they did they would answer to Arthur.
Arthur called Dobby and asked him to gather the family in the living room. Alice and Severus were already there and it would make it easier to everyone to join with them. Ten minutes later every chair was occupied and Arthur begin to explain to them that Percy would join them soon. "This has been a very hard time for Percy and I. The blame for what happened lies equally on each of our shoulders and will stay between Percy and myself. I am sure that the adults understand why and one day when each of you have your own children you will also understand. If anyone wants to ask any questions then ask me because I don't want Percy to be made to feel uncomfortable. Each of you in your lifetime will go through some rough spots and I am sure you wouldn't want the whole world to know all the intricate details. Let's just be happy he is back with us and let him set the pace and talk about it as he is comfortable. It is enough to know that Molly and I are very proud of what Percy has accomplished with his life and you should be also. We all have a misstep here and there but it does not take away from the good that has been accomplished. Now I have talked to Severus and he agreed that Percy is old enough to not have to share a room so he will move into the room I have been using and I will be moving back in with my wife, with her consent of course."
Molly turned bright red and said, "Of course dear, it will be nice to have you back."
Everyone started laughing and each took off for parts unknown around the house and grounds.
Dinner that night was a joyous affair. Percy joined them and leisurely ate his dinner knowing that it wouldn't disappear in thirty minutes. The next day was Christmas and everyone was thinking hard on last minute preparations.
Alice tapped her water glass with her spoon, getting everyone's attention. "I want to announce another Christmas Tradition that we will be following this year. Tomorrow morning we will all gather at the tree and the kids gifts to each other and their gifts to us will be the only ones we are allowed to open. The Parents and friends have ensured that each of you will have twelve more gifts for the Christmas holidays but you can only open one each morning for twelve days. The Twelve-Days-of-Christmas will come alive for us. I have always thought that the day after Christmas morning was such a let- down. We get together, rip open all the gifts then it seems like it's over. I want to spread it out and make the whole holiday season full of wonder and joy. Therefore one of your gifts from your parents and the adults will be under the tree each morning and you can't open them until everyone arrives."
The adults already knew about this announcement and even thought it was great. The kids sat there looking at her like she had lost her marbles. But the look on Severus' face changed their looks to smiles and comments on how wonderful and innovative her idea was.
Cassy looked at her Mother and said, "Does that mean I get a present everyday for twelve whole days?"
"Yes, dear" replied Alice.
"COOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLLLLL" replied Cassy who very much liked the idea of Christmas every morning. Then her face went from a smile to a worried look quickly. "Did you let Father Christmas know about this Momma?" asked Cassy, "He won't forget will he?"
"Yes, I let him know" answered her Mother, "And he said it will not be a problem."
"Well, I hope all the other families don't hear about it or poor Father Christmas will be pooped out" said Cassy.
After that everyone just laughed and got on with the program. Before they left Alice reminded them about the Christmas Dinner gifts and they all assured her that they remembered.
Christmas Eve found all the families sitting in the large family room, the lights were very dim and a large fire was burning in the fire place. Outside was witness to soft snow flakes falling from the sky further covering the branches of the trees and adding another inch of snow to the pristine ground. Tomorrow would be a lovely day.
The extended family and friends had just endured an hour of Celestina Warbeck on the Wizarding Wireless Network. It was the favorite musical time for Molly and they knew that it was going to be one hour of pain verses many hours of torturous comments if they didn't let her listen and more importantly, let her think that they enjoyed listening to it with her.
Cassy had to be bribed by her Father. He could have just threatened her but then she would have sat through the program with a long face which would not make Molly happy. With the bribe of an extended bed time she remained happy through the whole show and Molly felt she had won a convert.
Now, thank goodness, it was over and more importantly, Molly would be happy for another year. Dobby had waited for the music of that awful singer to end before bringing in Christmas cookies and hot cocoa for all.
Conversations broke out, along with games and many, many picture albums. As Harry looked around he felt his heart burst. This was the first ever Christmas where he felt like he was a part of the celebrations and a first Christmas he could ever remember with real family and friends. Hermione was sitting beside him and when he looked at her he saw that she had tears in her eyes. Then it dawned on him, this was the first Christmas she would spend without her family and that must be painful indeed.
"I'm sorry Hermione" said Harry, "This must be really hard for you."
"It is in a way" said Hermione. "If I share something with you do you promise not to laugh at me?"
"I would never laugh at you Hermione, only with you" replied Harry.
"I miss that they are dead," said Hermione, "And that I will never get to be with them again, that is for sure. There will always be a hole in my heart where they used to be that can never be filled. The other side of the coin is that I never had parents or a family like this, even though, I always dreamed of having one. My parents never planned on having kids, I just happened. Don't misunderstand me, they loved me very much and took very good care of me. Our home life was always adult centered. My folks always went to party on Christmas Eve and we didn't open gifts until after lunch on Christmas because they got in so late. We would never go to church or put up lights as they just didn't feel the need to do so. When I was old enough I finally got them to put up a tree, but we never sat in front of it as family to just listen to music and watch the lights."
Hermione sighed then continued, "We would take many vacations, as they could afford to do so, but they were adult type destinations, they would never think to go to Disneyworld. I have always wanted to go to Disneyworld and someday I will."
Hermione looked him in the eye and said, "I loved them Harry, but my Mother was my best friend and my Father was the money pit and only a disciplinarian if he was forced into it by my Mother. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't that family of your dreams, know what I mean? And when I look around now that is all that I see, the family of my dreams and I feel really happy yet really guilty about feeling that way."
"Yeh", replied Harry, "I know what you mean. I sometimes love all this so much that I feel like I'm turning my back on my original family. Lupin once told me though that my parents loved me and that if they couldn't be with me they would want me to be happy. He said that being happy was honoring them and that they would want me to live each good day I could experience and never look back. Eventually, he said, I would see them again but until then they wouldn't want me to be miserable every day missing them. They are in my heart and when I am happy they are happy. That always helps me now when I find myself feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. "
"You know" said Harry, "Not everyone gets a chance to live out their fantasy life and we do, so I think we should just give into it and enjoy every moment. The kids in our family, of all people, certainly know what that means. It doesn't mean that we loved our original parents any less it just means that this experience is different and we can love it too."
"You're right Harry" said Hermione, "They would want me to be happy, they always wanted me to be happy and tried as best they could to make it so."
Unbeknownst to Harry and Hermione, Severus, while not looking at them, was definitely listening. He had seen the tears and was worried. After listening to the conversation the only thing he was going to worry about was getting a very special present for Lupin and making sure that he took his family to Disney World some day.
Christmas morning found Cassy running from one bedroom to the next making sure that her contagious Christmas Spirit was inflicted on the occupants of each room. On her third trip through the rooms they all gave up and started to slowly and sleepily make their way to the Christmas Tree.
The House Elves provided coffee, tea and breakfast cakes to curb the morning hunger pains as everyone began to gather around. Since Cassy was the youngest , she was the designated present elf and began to distribute all the gifts. Alice would not allow anyone to open their gifts until she was through sorting the piles of gifts then all together they began to tear into the gifts.
Since these were all gifts to each other and to their parents none of them were overly large. They were all very special and some very unique.
Cassy loved the black outfit with matching 'billowing' cape that Harry gave her. "I can look just like Daddy now" she yelled in joy.
Severus provided his best smirk but inside he was always tickled that she wanted to be so much like him. It was a new and unique experience and he loved every minute of it.
Hermione's favorite gift that morning was the music box from Harry. It played the song that her first Mother would sing to her and Hermione in turn would hum when she felt lonely. It was a beautiful porcelain box with an owl on the top that spread its wings and appeared to fly when the music was playing.
She also received numerous pairs of earrings from each of the guys; Ron, Draco, Percy, Neville, Blane. Fred and George gave her a bracelet with little charms of everyone's animagus on it. On the card from both the earrings and bracelet was a clear thank you for all that she had done to help them with their studies and other intellectual pursuits. She knew what they were saying and smiled.
All the guys joined together and bought Harry a real leather jacket that he had admired numerous times. It had a picture of a Snow Owl tooled on the back and it was beautiful. The Girls joined together and bought him a pair of original Levi Blue jeans. He had never owned a pair and for some silly reason he had always wanted to own some. He couldn't figure out the why of it, but the desire was there and these jeans were beautiful to him.
And that set the tone for many of the gifts. Instead of a bunch of candy or study books, the kids really watched and listened to each other. Everyone received a very special gift. It usually required that all the other kids join in the purchase but that made it even more special.
There were other gifts of course, from those who were acquaintances, and friends. All in all it was a very special Christmas Morning and they all had to agree with Alice it was wonderful to think that this would happen for another twelve days.
Once they were finished, and the paper mess was cleaned up, Dobby called them to breakfast. It was after breakfast, while they were finishing up with tea or coffee, that Severus called in all the House Elves.
He then proceeded to thank them for all their hard work and told them just how special they all were to the family. After that he handed out a Christmas Gift to each of them by name. Some of them liked crafts so they received art kits or stained glass kits. Some like to knit and they received balls of yarn. Some, like Dobby, who were free, liked clothing. Dobby of course received many, many pairs of mismatched socks and was as happy as a House Elf can be. A small House Elf, who worked in the barn, loved boots. Severus had a tiny pair of Dragon Skin boots made for him and you would have thought Severus had given him the world by the way he carried on. All in all they were very surprised and very , very, happy. The Potters had been kind to them but this was different, this was family and they were not real sure how to take it but they knew it was a good thing. One thing was sure, Snape Manor was the place to be no matter if you were a human or a House Elf.