Hi! I promised I'd update sooner, so I hope this is soon enough and not too soon that the chapter is crap :) Basically I based Remus's family on my sister's family (she's half-Italian) – we went to stay with them a couple of summers ago and they're pretty strong characters! Also, I'm sorry if Peter seems a little out of character for, well, Peter. It struck me while I was writing him, so I'm trying to reign him back in a bit. Thank you for reading again!
"What are you doing here?"
Benjamin shuffled awkwardly under Peter's unyielding glare. "I came to see you and Mum."
They were sitting at the table in the kitchen, Peter glowering at his older brother, who was looking as if he wanted the ground to open and swallow him whole, pressing an ice pack to his chin. Mrs Pettigrew had shrieked at Peter for attacking Benjamin, and Peter had pretended to apologise before seeing her into her bed and settling her down, before returning to hear what his brother had to say for himself. It would obviously be very interesting.
"That's bullshit," snapped Peter, folding his arms crossly. "Why are you really here? You obviously need something."
Benjamin shook his head, biting his lip, before sighing heavily. Peter wasn't going to stand for it. "Things... didn't work out in Africa. India and I... well, things didn't go as smoothly as we'd planned."
"And your sprog?" Peter asked, his voice sounding several times harsher than he had intended it to be. Benjamin winced.
"Destiny is to stay with her mother for the time being."
Destiny. Peter wrinkled his nose at the name. "I thought she was called Africa?"
Ben smiled slightly. "We named her Destiny after we found the hospital she was born in. It's funny, we were wandering around one afternoon in the lazy African heat, and we stumbled upon this beautiful hospital – you should have seen it, it was a magical hospital, we weren't sure that there had been one in Cape Town, but there was, and there it was, looking resplendent in the sunshine, and it was just as we gazed upon it that India went into labour..."
"Well, whoopdedoo," Peter muttered, standing up and pushing his chair back. "Forgive me if I'm not excited to see you."
"Pete," Benjamin called after him, and Peter bit his tongue, turning around. "I'm here to help you with Mum, I swear. I regret leaving you, I know you hate me, and I shouldn't have made as huge of a mistake as I did, but I'm trying to make up for it, I swear. What can I do to say I'm sorry?"
"Peter, don't be like this..."
Peter's fist clenched. "Okay, so you're sorry. Sure. Great. And you're back, like the prodigal son, and we're all very happy. But how long are you back for? How long are you going to help us before you leave again to start your life once more? What about your wife and daughter, Benjamin? Are you just going to abandon them? Abandoning them just like you abandoned us."
"Don't you dare accuse me of being harsh," Peter hissed, and Benjamin stopped, staring at him. "You run away from everything. Me? I stay and I face up to my responsibilities. But you? You vanish at the first sight of a struggle, just like Dad. And you know what? You're a coward. You're a great big stinking coward."
"Oh, and you stick it out til the end?" Benjamin snapped, and Peter halted, turning back to face him slowly. "Just you wait, Pete. When you see a bit more of the world, you won't call me a coward. You'll understand my reasoning."
"Okay," Peter replied, forcing civility into his voice. "Okay. But until that day, you'll still be a great yellow bastard in my eyes."
Despite his best intentions, however, Peter couldn't shake his brother's words, instead allowing them to loom at the back of his mind like a cloud tinting his thoughts.
"Buon Natale, Nonna," Remus said as his grandmother kissed him on both cheeks, before squeezing him into one of the biggest hugs he'd ever received. Maria Carmela Aluffo was one of the most enthusiastic huggers he'd ever met in his life, and was possibly the best.
"You've got thinner, tesoro," she commented in her thick Italian accent, frowning as she pushed him back to examine him. "Has that school not been feeding you enough? Vera always came back scrawnier by the year. Honestly, why you don't complain John is beyond my understanding..."
Remus grinned as John pretended to agree. "I'm working on a letter as we speak, Signora."
Maria smiled and reached out, stroking John's chin fondly, before turning to her daughter, ready to pass her judgement. "Your hair doesn't suit that colour," she said decidedly, and Vera raised her eyebrows slightly.
"I like this colour, Mamma," she said, tugging on a strand of her dyed blonde hair, and Maria shrugged.
"It draws the colour from your face," she replied, gesturing to John for support. "You had such a lovely hair colour before, didn't it improve her skin tone, don't you think?"
"John likes it, don't you, John?"
Remus smirked as he glanced at his father, who seemed to be having difficulty forming a diplomatic response to appease the two women, when the door opened again, and a tired looking man in a bright green turtle neck jumper and a paper Christmas hat emerged into the hallway.
"Papà!" Vera greeted, beaming, and she moved to kiss and hug her father, almost instantly forgetting her previous conversation.
"Ciao, dolcezza," replied Michele Vaccina, before turning to look at the two boys. "Who of you two will put the kettle on then? I'm old and you know where it is."
Unlike his wife, Michele's accent wasn't so much Italian as one of Scunthorpe, where he had grown up, meeting Maria only when he returned to Italy as part of his university degree. They had moved back to Italy once Vera had completed her education at Hogwarts, and so Remus had barely seen them, excluding the annual visit, which Vera loved, but John found mildly irritating due to the lack of magic what with her parents being Muggles, and the lack of tea what with the awful cups Italian water seemed to produce.
"I think Remus should, what with him being young and able," John said quickly, and Remus sighed. "Milk, no sugar please, son."
By this time the two women were speaking in rapid Italian, and John was starting to get the glazed look he often had of incomprehension when at his in-laws' house. Remus smirked, before heading off to the kitchen.
"Hey, Nonno, when's Zia Rosa coming?"
Zia Rosa was infamous. Maria's fierce elder sister, Rosa was a tiny little woman with a loud, high-pitched voice that sounded vaguely reminiscent of a machine-gun, and a great enjoyment for terrorising John by ordering him to "Mangia la banana!" each time she saw him. Even as he mentioned her name, Remus saw John roll his eyes slightly, and Michele laughed. "We aren't notified of these things. She'll come when she wishes to come."
"We don't get a warning?"
"Where would be the fun in that?"
Christmas morning came fast, and the Potter household was up early, Dorea and Sirius cooking a huge roast dinner ("You're such a girl," James told him) as Charlus and James began making a pile of every Gryffindor thing they owned, ready to wear them at the table. All the while, Sirius couldn't swallow the feeling of excitement at the fact that this was to be the best Christmas he had ever had, what with not having to attend any family meal or show his face as heir to the Black family fortune.
"I'm so hungry right now," James said, and Charlus agreed with a nod as he tied a Gryffindor scarf round the waist of his Christmas jumper. "Mum, when's it gonna be ready?"
"When it's time for it to be ready," replied Dorea as she flicked her wand, conducting the knives to cut the carrots. "Are you in Gryffindor or something James? And there was me thinking you were a Hufflepuff."
"That's not a thing you joke about, Mother," James replied as Charlus tutted loudly. "The mere thought is enough to make me feel ill."
"Mind you," Charlus said, nudging James in the ribs, "better Hufflepuff than Slytherin. Only the very worst of society end up there."
"Do they now?" Dorea asked, raising her eyebrows as she wiped up a couple of glasses with her tea towel. "Just remember who's got control of the cooker. You don't want burnt food or mulled arsenic for a drink now, do you?"
"See what I mean?" Charlus stage-whispered and James gasped dramatically.
"I do believe that was blackmail, good sir!"
"You buffoons," Dorea laughed, before turning to Sirius. "Honestly, I don't know how I put up with them every year. I just get a constant torrent of abuse."
"Come on guys, lay off," Sirius said, smirking. "She can't help being a Slytherin. It's not nice to take the mick out of people's faults."
"I can burn your turkey too, young man," Dorea threatened, and Sirius grinned.
"Well that's decided," James said, folding his arms. "I think you're being prejudiced against Gryffindor house, Mother. All three of us rather dashing young men of the house of Godric feel mortally offended by your blatant dislike of our courageousness." He sighed. "Honestly, Mother, I find your attitude quite simply appalling. I think-"
He was cut off when the tea towel hit him in the head.
(Insert line here - dedicated to Sigga who pointed out that I forgot to tidy up my fic.)
"So, Remus, tell me," Maria said as they sat at the dinner table, mountainous bowls of pasta set before all of them, "do you have any love interests yet?"
Remus almost choked on his wine. "Sorry, Nonna?"
"You know," Maria continued, a mischievous smile spreading across her face, "any lady-friends at all?"
"Yes, Remus, any lady-friends?" John asked with equal curiosity, and Maria giggled as Remus flushed in the face slightly.
"Do you really think this is an appropriate subject for Christmas Dinner?"
"Well, I need to know if I can expect any more grandchildren before I die," pitched in Michele, and there was a titter of agreement. Remus hated the smirk John had on his face. Continue laughing, you git. Zia Rosa will be here soon. Then you'll be sorry.
It was as if his thoughts were psychically linked to the doorbell, which rang at that moment. Remus, beaming, turned to look at his father, whose face contorted into despair. "Oooh! Is that Zia Rosa, do we think?"
"Remus," chided Vera softly, though she was smirking too. "Do you want to go and let your aunt in? I have to go find some bananas."
"Delish, Ma, delish," James said, dabbing at his face theatrically with his napkin, before pulling a sly grin. "And thank you very much for not letting Dad cook. I'll take my year of prolonged life and treat it with the greatest respect."
"Cheeky sod," Charlus replied, clouting his son affectionately and ruffling his hair. "I'll have you know my chicken casserole was infamous."
"That's not exactly encouraging, Mr P," Sirius interjected, and James cackled, offering his hand for a high-five.
"Just you wait, Sirius Black, I'll make you a bowl especially," Charlus told him, smirking. "You won't know when it's coming, but it is coming. Be on your guard, kid, be on your guard."
"Charlus, could you please refrain from threatening our guests?" Dorea asked in an amused voice.
"He's not a guest, he's family," Charlus replied, waving his wife off, and Sirius stopped for a moment, before beaming.
James cleared his throat. "However, as much as I would love to keep paying compliments to the chef, I can't help but notice that everyone has finished eating and there is an overwhelmingly large pile of gifts under that tree just waiting to be opened."
"You've really understood the true spirit of Christmas, James Potter."
James sighed and put a hand to his chest. "I can't help but feel this is what the good lord would have wanted, Mother."
It had come to the time of which the ceremonial present opening was to begin, and Dorea, James and Charlus moved to the living room, Sirius following in their wake, watching as James raced his father towards the huge pile of papered items.
"I love this bit," James admitted as he started to sort the presents into piles. "I love the opening the presents more than I actually like the presents themselves."
"Charming," Dorea said, raising her eyebrows as she smirked at him. "So next year I'll just wrap some shoe boxes."
"I actually wouldn't mind, to be honest," James replied, before he turned to look at Sirius. "Come on, misery guts, hurry up. We're all waiting on you."
"What do you mean?" Sirius asked, and James pulled a face, dropping his jaw.
"Well, I can't very well finish opening my presents before you three," he replied, jarring his thumb at a fourth stack of presents, and Sirius's mouth opened slightly. "That would defeat the whole object of making you guys jealous of my overwhelming popularity when I've still got a crapload left."
"I don't know whether I need to remind you of language or modesty," Dorea sighed, and James beamed, before frowning at Sirius.
"What's wrong with you, Pads?" he asked, for Sirius had not moved since he'd pointed out the presents. "You're looking like even more of a deprived emotional wreck than usual. You okay?"
"There's just..." Sirius couldn't find the words. "Are they actually for me?"
"No, they're for the other boy who lives in our house," James replied, before grinning. "Course they are, you muppet. You didn't think we wouldn't get you anything, did you?"
Sirius couldn't quite believe it. Of course, he always got a present from James, Peter and Remus, but his parents were old-fashioned and didn't believe so much in awarding people with presents rather than holding parties to revel in self-importance. Any presents he had ever received had been to prove horrible life lessons or mere information, perhaps being informed of more inheritance that he now would never receive. Hence the huge stack of presents that were organised into a neat pile for him caused a slight clogging in his throat that he would never admit to having. "I..."
Dorea smiled at him warmly, before putting an arm around his shoulders and guided him towards the rest of the family. "Alright?"
"Thank you," Sirius said, nodding, and James cleared his throat.
"I know this is a very sentimental moment and everything," he said in a sombre voice, "but I suggest we start with the great present opening before we all start bawling our eyes out."
"Here, let me do that-"
"No, thanks. I've got it."
Benjamin sighed heavily, before leaning on the heels of his hands. "You don't trust me any more."
"Don't I?" Peter flicked his tea towel over the cup and bit his bottom lip slightly. "What makes you think that?"
"Okay, I guess I don't deserve your trust."
"Too right you don't."
"But I am going to try to be a better brother, a better son, this time," Benjamin finished firmly, and Peter snorted. "What do I have to do to make you see that, Pete?"
"You don't. I believe you." Peter's tone blatantly contradicted his sentence, and Ben took a deep breath in.
"You don't have to be a sulky teenager, Pete," he snapped, folding his arms. "If you were older you'd understa-"
"A sulky teenager?" Peter spluttered, turning round to face his brother, feeling a sense of fury bubbling in his stomach. "You're calling me a sulky teenager? Because of you leaving, Ben, I haven't been able to be a sulky teenager. I've looked after Mum, I've put up with the bullshit you've spewed the past few months and on top of that, I've kept up with my schoolwork, and I've had it up to here with everything, so don't you dare."
But Peter had had enough. "I don't want to talk to you any more, Ben, so save your breath. You claim you've changed, but you obviously haven't. You're the same shitty person, you're just being shit to someone else instead of us. And it's probably even more shit that you've abandoned your wife and daughter than it is for us. Well, good for you, Ben." He threw the tea towel at his brother and shrugged. "Knock yourself out. I'm going to go and sulk in my room for a bit like the sullen teenager I am."
Ugh it's too short to be acceptable, isn't it? To be honest, I don't think the next chapter will be up anywhere near as quickly, but I'll try to get it up a lot quicker than the half a year gap or whatever it was from before! Sorry about that, and thanks for sticking with me! :D