Disclaimer: Not mine.
Just a Typical Weasley Holiday
In-Laws and Christmas
The instructions were deceivingly easy. Put tab AAB into slot HHC, turn over and attach piece 48. What it did not say, however, was what part 48 looked like, what it was for, or how to attach it. That was what started the second row. The first had occurred upon opening the packing crate.
"George! Stop. They taped the diagram to the top. It's in that envelope. You're cutting it!"
"That's the invoice. Muggles always put the instructions inside." He picked up a scrap of paper seeing bits of a diagram and what appeared to be the middle of a list of parts. "Where's the tape?"
Hermione grabbed her wand from under the packing paper and repaired the directions, scowling at George and warning him to go over the list and lay everything out before he began. Wondering what had made her think to buy a Muggle dollhouse in the first place; she left him alone, muttering to himself about fools and their families as she began tea.
Deep down, however, she knew why she had chosen it. Her fondest memory of Christmases past was running down the winding staircase at home and seeing her own dollhouse sitting prettily under the tree. The perfect family, Mum, Dad, a sister and a brother were already inside and every room full of Victorian furniture. Lace had hung from the windows and even the tiny doorbell had really chimed. She had thought it the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.
She first had the idea to buy one for Amanda when she had seen it in a display window while shopping with Katie Smith (nee Bell). The cost alone had stopped her from purchasing it on the spot. It was an exorbitant amount, equal to a full month's mortgage payment on their already too small house. She kept wandering back to the window display and two weeks before the hols she had dragged George to see it.
He had scowled, shaking his head and gave her a list of reasons it was a bad idea before he had relented. Seeing how she chewed her lip before breaking into a wide smile, he had gone inside to talk to the salesperson. On the shopkeeper's suggestion that they perhaps buy a smaller model, or one without so much trim, or one without furniture, which could be added slowly over time, George had made his final decision. Hermione had actually squealed in delight when George came out carrying a slip of paper that was stamped paid in full and a heavy box he held balanced on his shoulder.
"We have to buy paint, wallpaper, stuff like that…it's not included," he had said meekly, handing her the receipt. "He's ordering them. Oh, and this one doesn't have real glass in the windows and no electricity. Not that it matters. We don't use it anyway."
"George,'' she giggled, wrapping her arms around his neck and laughing in delight as he fought not to drop the heavy package. "Wait until you see her on Christmas morning. She's going to love it."
George frowned and turned back to the display wondering what their eight year old would think of it. "We have to put it together."
"We what?" Hermione said, tearing her eyes off the receipt and looking up at the box.
"He said it should be easy."
"Should be?" She wrapped her arm around his and stared into the display window. "How hard can it be? It's a kid's toy for bloody sakes and we're both adults."
"I'll get her that broom just in case." George peered at the display closely, knowing from his own shop that things were seldom what they seemed.
"You will not! You just spent more than we should have on this and we still have two more to buy for plus all their cousins. Did you see Bill? He wanted our part of Mum and Dad's gift before the weekend."
"Yup," he said, turning back from the window display, grinning at her. "Saw him yesterday, it's all set."
They decided on a rocket kit for Fred, and purchased a bike for Gideon, despite George's warning that the boys wanted to ride brooms and not something destined to stay on the ground. Hermione insisted that if one received a Muggle toy it would be fun to give them all one. In addition, she told him, with the number of aunts, uncles, godparents and grandparents they had, the children would still receive magical gifts along with more than enough educational toys from Penelope.
Now, with George on his hands and knees fighting to fit tab CF7 into slot WK9 she was not sure it had been such a good idea. Thinking that perhaps another toy, a pair of skates or a nice kitchen play set, may have been a better choice, she kept her silence knowing this was not the time to bring it up.
Not that George cared about the price or the work involved. George never worried about prices or budgets. His shop was a testament to that. Hermione often thought if Ron and Lavender had not taken over the books and figured out that cash flow and profit was not the same thing, they would now be living at the Burrow, and she and George selling jokes from a stall in Diagon Alley.
"George…it says …with right sides together place piece 26 tab DD into slot WK on the back of piece 49. You have it wrong."
"Both sides look the same. How do you know which is the wrong side and which is the right?"
"Not that kind of right."
"Well, it doesn't have a bloody left and right."
"The right side is the side that shows," Hermione said, her voice tapering off in doubt.
"Shows from where? It's a bloody house. From the outside or the inside?"
"Floo your Dad. He puts things together all the time. Him or Harry."
"You'd like that wouldn't you?" He clenched his jaw together and grabbed a piece of wood. "You think I'm going to have him of all people laugh at me for not being able to put together a kid's toy? I make my living on toys and the like."
"Fine," she snipped. "Work on the bike while I finish putting tea on the table. We have to put this mess away before the kids come home."
"We have a week," George said, leaning back on his heels. "This'll be easier when I'm not so tired. Anyway, keep Dad away for it. You've seen what he's done to the stuff in the shed."
"Shite, he can't even fix his own glasses and did you see that kite he put together for Lily? A bloody kite and he buggered it up. I've never seen a kid try so hard to make anything fly. I'm surprised it got off the ground at all."
"I taught her a spell. Don't look at me like that! I didn't want Harry's feelings hurt."
George did well putting the bike's frame together. Since there was only one way a bike went together. Not like a house that could have rooms in any order and had a right side and a wrong side, a bike was logical. The handlebars bowed out ward, putting the grips within easy reach, the seat pointed forward and there was only one place for the wheels. Feeling rather proud of himself, he called Hermione in to see his progress.
"You've got the handle bars backwards."
"How? He couldn't reach them if I turned them around."
"Sure he can. That's how they're made now. The rider leans forward and …George? Where's the chain?"
"I'll put it on later."
"You can't. It has to go on first, you know… around the gears. You left off the gears? It …George…it has a hand brake that goes on too."
"I'll spell it," he shrugged and stared at the bike.
"Harry was raised Muggle and all Muggle boys know about bikes. Have him do it."
"Does he know about rockets?"
"Umm…I have no idea. It's a kit. Just wrap it. The fun is putting it together and setting it off."
"Setting it off?" George picked up the box and began to read the instructions printed on the back of the box. "It takes petro?"
"Fred's responsible. I'm sure he'll be able to do it. If not, you can help him on Christmas."
"Is Harry still coming?" George asked with a hint of hope in his voice. "He can fix it up if I … if I don't have time to finish it."
"Yes," Hermione sighed. "We are going to his place the night before but they all are coming over here on Christmas day."
Harry pulled Lily up on his lap and flipped the book open for the fourth time that day. Not that he minded if the truth were told, he rather enjoyed Christmases with the kids yelling in the background and the sounds of slamming pots and pans coming from the kitchen. It had came as a surprise to him that it was not just the Dursley family that got on each others nerves and argued at every holiday meal but seemed a universal holiday tradition.
As Lily wiggled closer and got comfortable, he glanced at the fireplace and hoped the Ginny's wards held until she finished in the kitchen. He now fully understood the old adage of too many cooks ruining the soup, and knew for a certainty that too many Weasley cooks meant no soup at all. He could smell the roast and did not want anything happening to it again.
"Okay, ready?" He leaned down and looked into Lily's face to make sure she was paying attention.
"Yep," she nodded.
"Okay, Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring not even a mouse. The…"
"Do all Muggles have mice in their houses?"
"Not all, but it is common. Now are you going to listen or keep interrupting?"
"Listen," she said, nodding vigorously. "I want a rat."
"For when I go to school. Mice are too small I want a big fat rat."
"I see. Now…do you or do you not want me to finish this?"
"Do you know their names?"
"Lily, it is a story. It doesn't give their names."
"Bet one is Jesus."
"Jesus?" He looked at her oddly, trying not to grin. "I think you have your stories mixed up. This one is just make believe. You know, like all the others we've never finished."
"Circe, Merlin and Jesus," she said, pointing to the pictures of the children in the storybook. "Uncle George says they're all holy. Holy Circe, Holy Merlin and Holy Jesus. He says it all the time."
"Umm, don't tell your Mum that. Deal?"
Lilly nodded and held her finger up to her lips, reaching out with the other hand and tapping the book.
"The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of sugar plums danced through their heads…" Harry read, trying not to laugh aloud.
"What's a sugar plum?"
Harry looked to the kitchen door and wished Ginny was in a better mood. "Some sort of sweet."
"I don't want sweets. Father Christmas better not just give me sweets."
"Oh? And what makes you think Father Christmas will come at all?"
"I've been good." Lily pouted and dropped her eyes back to the book.
"For the whole year?"
"Summer don't count."
"Not with Jay-Jay and Al home it don't. That wouldn't be fair."
Harry turned the page and pointed to the next picture. "I in my nightgown and mum in her cap, had just settled down for a long winter's nap. When out on the lawn there arose such a…"
"I want a different story," Lilly said with a sigh.
"We've never made it to the end," Harry muttered, laying the book down.
"Mum can read it to you if you don't know the end," Lily suggested.
"No, that's okay," he said, lowering her to the floor. "Just remember this in five minutes when you want me to read it again."
"Harry?" Ginny called out from the kitchen. "Would you make sure the boys are getting dressed?"
"They were ready an hour ago."
"Then make them put on something clean. I want them to look good. Make sure they change into their good clothes and while you are at it, it wouldn't hurt for you to put on a button down."
Harry looked down at his red t-shirt and frowned. He had bought it special for today and didn't understand why she wanted him to change. It was a perfectly good shirt. One he had read carefully so as not to revisit the problems of last year. Who would have thought that three little words before Santa's Ho-Ho-Ho would be a problem.
"Better do it," Lily whispered. "She'll tell on you if you don't"
"Umm, don't want that do we?" He couldn't help but grin. "Not if I want that present you've been hiding from me for a week now."
"Did Jay-Jay tell you?" she said, her eyes narrowing.
"Al? I'm going to …do you want to know what Al got you?"
"No, that wouldn't be fair."
"Fine," she grumbled. "I won't tell you what colour it is, but you already have one just like it."
"Lily? What did I say?" Harry said sternly.
"I didn't tell you it was an old scarf."
"That's enough young lady. How would you feel it they did the same thing to you?"
"What did I do?"
"Harry? Are you getting the boys ready?"
Harry started up stairs, giving Lily his best father does not think you are funny look, knowing she would run into the kitchen as soon as he disappeared and complain to her Mum. He found the boys pretending to examine the adverts in the newspaper for new brooms, their mum's copy of Weekly Witch hidden underneath. Taking it from them, he instructed them to change clothes, ignoring their pleas that this would be the third time in the same day. He tucked the magazine under his arm, but not before seeing the real advert they had been studying and wondered for a brief moment why Ginny never wore a thong.
Once Molly and Arthur arrived Harry knew quiet book reading and arguing about what colour shirt to wear would be over. Bill and Fleur would not be far behind, and would come with two children in tow, the third, the only brown haired and eye one in the bunch, lagging behind. Ron and Lavender's herd would follow on their heels, destroying any semblance of family harmony that still might be possible. Only Percy and Penelope could keep their brood quiet, all the while deriding George for not doing the same, until Hermione, not able to keep silent would give her least favourite brother–in-law a very large piece of her mind and drag her family home.
It was times like these that Harry almost envied Charlie. He would breeze in, half way through dinner, some willowy witch clinging to his arm almost as tightly as her dress clung to her bosom. If the past Christmas Eves were anything to go on, it would the one bright spot of the meal. He smiled and started down the stairs, thinking about the look on his son's faces if the witch Charlie brought this year was anything like what he had brought in the past. Shoving the magazine in his back pocket, he decided to study it later.
"Harry? Did you listen to a word I said? Hermione wants us all to go over to her house tomorrow. What is that all about?" Ginny stood in the doorway holding a letter in her hand. "Read this. The post just came."
"I was hoping George would talk her out of it," Harry said, reading the letter. "Listen, Gin. We take turns having the dinner here or at the Burrow. She never has."
"She doesn't have the room. Ron and Lavender don't either but you don't see them trying to change our traditions."
"I know. George says they used to go to her parents after the kids opened the presents…now…you know. With them gone, she just wants to do this. Just a morning brunch. She's setting it buffet style so they won't have to worry about seating."
"Great," she scowled. "Percy and his family just came. Why Penelope can't ever be last is beyond me. Just once she could be a couple of hours late."
In total fourteen adults and a dozen children fit around the main table and two side tables they had set up, two babies still in highchairs sat throwing food at the rest, finding it quite funny, and only one babe in arms slept through it all. Harry reached over Percy's shoulder and took the little girl, nestling her in the crook of his arm before returning to his seat at the head of the table.
"Ginny, it's time." He nodded to the senior Weasleys
She and her brothers all stood and circled their parent's chairs. Charlie reached into his breast pocket and pulled out an old piece of parchment, handing it to Arthur.
"We wanted to do this." Bill said as he leaned down and kissed the top of Molly's head.
"It's …Charlie, what is this?" Arthur sputtered standing up and leaning both hands on the table.
"The Burrow. It's yours now." George grinned. "Hermione said some Muggles even have formal mortgage burning parties, but with the group here we thought just giving it to you would be safer."
"We all figured you helped us enough. Now it's our turn," Ron said, beaming as his eyes kept wandering to Charlie's date.
"You kids can't afford this," Molly whispered, holding onto Arthur's arm. "Tell them, dear…tell them it's too much."
"Nonsense." George said, looking at Hermione's smiling face. "We all are doing well. Better than any of us thought we would. We don't want to see you struggle any longer."
"You deserve it, Mum," Ginny said.
"Just don't burn it down this time." Harry joked to the groans of the rest and a stern scowl from Percy. Swallowing hard, he stood, picked up his glass and held it in the air, giving a toast to the senior Weasley's debt free home.
The next morning, every Weasley and Potter household save one, broke into pandemonium as screaming children woke their parents to squeals of wonder that Father Christmas had come. Bill opened one eye and watched Fleur put on her robe, shooing the excited kids out of the room before leaning over the bed and kissing him good morning.
"Come here," he said through a yawn, reaching out for her. "I want my present now."
"No, you must get up…they will want their Papa. We must watch each other open the gifts."
"I don't think so. Not the present I have in mind." He smirked and waggled his eyebrows at her, earning a frown. "Fine, I'm up. Although I thought whatever Father Christmas left in my bed, I could have. It's an old English tradition I still need to teach you."
"That is for later." She winked at him and headed for the door. "Do you want to eat before we go? Or should I fix something for only the children?"
"Mum will take a dish." He sat on the edge of the bed and scrubbed his eyes. "Yeah, maybe I better. Have the kids wait…I'll be right down to watch."
Percy and Penelope were already in the kitchen. She putting breakfast on the table as Percy read the paper. The kids came running in and jumped up to the table, furiously shovelling food in their mouths their eyes locked on the door that lead to the sitting room.
"Slow down," Percy warned, peeking around the edge of the paper. "The tree will still be there when you are finished."
"He came," Timothy whispered. "You should see it. The tree is full. Almost half way up full."
"Yeah," his sister nodded. "Dad? I'm not hungry. Please? May I please be excused?"
"No," Penelope said. "You are eating at your Aunt Hermione's place later and you know you never like what she serves. It's a long time until tea."
"You will be polite," Percy scowled. "Sample everything, even if you don't like it and remember to say thank you for her present."
"If I promise to eat there can I open my gifts now?" Timothy asked with his mouth full. "Aunt Hermione only gives puzzles and stuff."
Percy looked at him and nodded, returning to his paper as they scampered off. Soon he heard his children's laughter followed by Penelope calling his name. With a sigh and a wistful look at his paper, he grabbed cup of tea and went out to the sitting room.
Charlie rolled over and reached his arm around Cassiopeia's waist, pulling her back into his chest as he nuzzled her neck.
"Happy Christmas, gorgeous."
"Happy Christmas. It that my present I feel?"
"You haven't even opened your eyes yet," he chuckled, rising up on one elbow to look at her face.
"Since when has that been a problem?"
"Look at me," he whispered, pulling her to her back as he leaned over her.
"Do I have to?" She laughed and opened her eyes finding his only inches away. "I love you. You do know that."
"I should hope so since you've been here every night for the past month."
"I said I love you."
Charlie frowned and traced her lips with the pad of his thumb. "If I have to say it I'm doing something wrong."
"No, just right I'd say." She reached her arms up, exposing her breasts as she pulled his mouth down to hers.
Charlie kissed her eyelids as his hand traced down her throat, coming to rest on an ample breast. "You know what you're in for today? Last night was just for practice."
"I think so. I must say your sister-in-law is rather…standoffish. I was surprised when she invited me at all."
"I told her I wouldn't go without my girl," he grinned. "I said I wanted to spend the day with all my loved ones."
"You can tell her but not me?" Cassiopeia smiled widely before swatting his arm. "What time do we have to leave? I want to be late and leave early."
"Now…don't talk like that. Hermione likes you. She's like that with anyone she doesn't know. Give her time," he leaned down and kissed her forehead. "I have to go if I am making my stop first. We'll finish this tonight."
"I set something out you can leave. In this weather, it won't last long but he needs something for Christmas. My offer still stands. If you want me to come I will."
"No, I always do this myself. Sort of my own Christmas tradition."
"I'll get ready while you're gone. I still have wrapping to do."
Charlie nodded and swung his legs over the edge of the bed, seeing a small spay of fresh rosemary and small purple flowers of the Forget-Me-Not laying on the nightstand. Picking it up he held it to his nose, smelling the fragrant bouquet, then read the small gold lettering she had spelled onto the ribbon that held it together.
"Happy Christmas, Fred."
Ron woke to a three stone wiggling weight on his chest and two small hands prying his eyes open. Instinctively he raised his knees and pushed his legs together, readying for the gleeful jumping that always followed.
"No," he groaned. "Dad left home. He's at the pub."
"Good. Tell him to put on a pot of tea and fix the spigot. It's still leaking."
"Wake your Mum."
"She won't get up. She said to make you."
Ron raised his head and looked at the clock. "Bloody hell, it's still last night!"
"Fabian said he'll make breakfast."
"I'm coming." Ron bolted up, slapping Lavender's arse. "Hurry up before he blows something up."
"What?" She yawned rolling over, trying to focus on his face.
"Your son is cooking."
"Sweet Merlin!" She gasped, jumping out of bed and thundering down the stairs.
"Now, Dad? Now?"
"Hand me my robe." He pointed to the foot of the bed, holding the blanket over his tented boxers.
"Hurry," she shouted back as she followed her mother down the stairs leaving her father to stumble after her.
Molly slid the casserole into the oven and started breakfast listening to Arthur's attempt to sing Christmas Carrols to the grandchildren using the floo. Smiling at his substitution of words, for those he did not know, she levitated plates and cutlery to the table.
"Ready," she called out. "I'm not keeping it warm. That should be the last of them."
"I was thinking," Arthur said as he entered the kitchen. "Now that the house is paid off and the kids all gone, it seems rather too big for just the two of us."
"Arthur Weasley! What does the house finally being paid off have to do with its size?"
"Emptier today than yesterday?" She joined him at the table and leaned into his side as he wrapped his arm around her shoulder.
"Why aren't we doing Christmas here? The little ones keep calling into the floo. What should I tell them? We don't want them? What kind of holiday is this?"
"Because, Hermione wants a turn. I told you that." She sighed and reached for the teapot, pouring two cups of the hot steaming brew. "Better drink up. She only serves that decaffeinated Muggle stuff."
"The boys may want to come back here to try out their new brooms," Arthur said, a hint of hope in his voice.
"The boys? My guess would be Lily. Why her father insists she likes those doll things is beyond me and just think of poor Amanda. She won't have anything to play outside with."
"Muggle presents," Arthur muttered. "Not even with elektrisity. Where's the fun in that?"
"And Percy's will be lucky if they have anything other than clothes and those awful books and games Penelope thinks expands their minds."
"Molly, I told you…whatever they get tell them it's wonderful even if Fleur only bought them clothes you tell them how nice they look."
"You do know…without the house payment…" she looked at him raising her eyebrow.
"Hurry," Arthur said, jumping up and grabbing his travelling robe from the hook. "The Emporium is opening for two hours today. We can nip back here and pick up the food on our way."
Hermione set plates of starters on the table and scattered bowls of nuts and fruit around the sitting room. Even with the furniture pushed against the walls, and extra seating room created from transfigured books it was obvious that not only the kids would be sitting on the floor but a few of the adults as well.
"I took some towels and made seat cushions for the floor," George said, walking into the kitchen. "You okay?"
"I am fine. Just fine." Hermione ground out. "Look at what your mother brought. Flesh. She brought flesh."
"Umm." George looked back to the kitchen door making sure it was still warded, before peering over Hermione's shoulder. "She meant well."
"Well?" Hermione turned on him, waving a spoon at his face. "If she meant well she wouldn't have asked what Amanda's doll house was. She wouldn't have laughed at the bike and she wouldn't have brought flesh into my house."
"Meat. Call it meat." George ogled the platter, a look of longing and anticipation not oft seen outside of the bedroom on his face. "It smells good and she didn't say anything about the rocket." He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply, a subtle moan emitting from somewhere deep in his chest.
"That's the problem. She didn't even say anything. Did you see how disappointed the kids were?" Her eyes welled with tears as George engulfed her in his arms, peeking over her shoulder at the flesh. "And what is she doing bringing all those presents? She gave them stuff yesterday. It's just another way of saying we can't do anything right. We can't even pick out proper toys." She sniffed back her tears and looked up into his eyes. "Put one finger on that sausage and I'll cut it off."
"It's Dad." He snapped his eyes back to hers knowing to respond to her threat would be an admission. "Trust me. No matter what she bought us he had to run out at the last minute and get something else."
"Here," George said, pushing her away and grabbing the salad and steamed vegetable plate. "Let me help set this out. They're wondering where every thing is."
"Happy Christmas," Hermione said as she levitated the rest of the food to the table. "Help yourself."
"Mum, look what Grams and Gramps gave me. Can I take it outside? Can I? Please, can I?" Amanda pleaded holding up the newest fad, a pink and purple tumble broom for girl cheerleaders.
"Why don't all you kids go out in the yard and let the grownups eat?" Percy suggested.
"Can we take our toys?" Timothy called out, already headed to the coat rack with five of his cousins.
"Sure. Why ever not?" Hermione said tersely as she turned on her heel and went back into the kitchen.
"Hermione?" Ginny peeked around the edge of the door. "Need any help?"
"Ah, Hermione, I know just how you feel," Ginny said, hugging her sister-in-law. "Everything looks wonderful. Don't let them bother you."
"I wanted us all to eat together," Hermione sniffed. "I thought it would be nice with all the kids here and…no one is eating are they."
"Yes they are. The sausage is almost gone and the casserole is delicious."
"Mum brought those."
"Oh, umm…well…the rice looks interesting and I am sure the kids may like that pasta stuff. I've never seen rice with such interesting ingredients."
"What is that?" Hermione turned towards the kitchen window as a loud noise rattled the glass.
"The kids … what the bloody hell?" Loud bangs and pops came from the back yard overridden by cheers and screams of terror.
Hermione ran to the window and peered out seeing seven children whizzing in a circle on their new brooms chasing a flying bike while one girl flipped arse over teacup to the applause of her cousins. "I'll kill him," Hermione said flatly, as Gideon landed the bike using only the back wheel. "He knows better."
"He's just a boy," Ginny said.
"I was talking about his father."
"What is that thing Timothy has?"
"It's a rocket. A kit really," she turned from the window and started a fresh pot of tea. "It runs on petro. It seems rather grown up for him but he is so good at mechanical things I thought he may enjoy it. That, and it will give him George something to do together. He's getting to that age he needs more attention from his father."
"It doesn't look like he needs much help. Aw, he's really a sweet kid. You know that? Not many boys that age would let Lily help."
Hermione snapped her head up and stared at the wall hoping she had misunderstood. "Your Lily is helping my Timothy with the rocket?"
"I…it looks like it. Hermione? That bike that Gideon has…what makes it fly? I thought George spelled it."
"George!" Hermione screamed as she raced for the door. "Hurry, bring Harry! Now!"
She opened the door and rushed into the yard as George raced by her, followed by all his bothers. Arthur stopped and pulled her to the side as Molly hurried to a screaming Ginny, shushing her and assuring her it would be fine, all the while looking around not understanding what was happening.
Lily sat perched on the handlebars of the bike, Gideon on the seat, his head craned to watch Timothy who was lighting the rocket that he had securely tied to the back rim.
"Woooo!" Lily yelled when the bike lurched forward shooting into the air, as Gideon's eyes grew large seeing his family that grew smaller at an alarming speed. "Woooo!"
Jumping on brooms, Harry and Ron took off at break neck speed. "Catch them when they come down," Harry yelled to Ron as they shot up higher, waving him off to watch one side of the cloud cover, while he made his way to the other.
"George!" Hermione reached out for her husband, fisting his shirt in her hands. "My baby's up there. My god, my baby! Do something! Get my baby down now!"
"It would be too dangerous to put more up there, deary," Molly purred. "They can't see a bloody thing."
"She's right. All we can do is hope Harry…where's my wand?" George raced into the house, returning with it and a handful of flannels. "Everyone….listen up. Start transfiguring cushions…the bigger the better! We can't hope to use levitating spells on moving targets."
Cassiopeia took off her cloak and started ripping it to sheds, then yanked Fleur's scarf away from her and did the same. Throwing the pieces on the ground the rest of the adults got busy creating cushions and over large pillows. At last, George lowered his wand and shepherded the anxious children in the house, asking Penelope to keep them away from the window. Swallowing hard, he returned to Hermione's side.
"Any sight of them yet?"
"No," she sighed, before stepping away from him, pointing to a small dot in the sky. "There…is that them? How can it stay up so long?"
"Should I fed the kids?" Lavender asked, silenced by Hermione's glare. "Okay…you're right, they should wait."
"She's nervous," George whispered.
"Nervous my arse, she's nuts," Hermione hissed. "She's an idiot. Her kids are all… it's the spell you put on the damned thing. That's what it is! That and the rocket together….it's your fault."
The bike seemed to be in a controlled free fall, twisting and spinning, but remaining upright as Gideon was clearly wrestling with the handlebars. Lily's laughter and encouragement could be heard above the sudden silence that descended on the ground. Harry and Ron, nowhere in sight.
"I can't watch," Hermione sobbed, burying her head into George's chest while Ginny's wail cut to her bone and sent shivers of fear down her spine.
The sound of splintering wood and scraping metal forced her to snap her head up and whirl around in time to see Gideon wrap his arms around Lily and roll to the side. They landed on the pile of cushions Charlie and Cassiopeia had managed to move just in time, the bike and still flaming rocket crashing into Amanda's dollhouse, setting it ablaze.
"That was neat!" Lily's voice rang out. "CanI have another go?"
"I want my turn," James yelled from the kitchen door.
"Lily Luna Potter!" Ginny screeched, having found her voice. "March yourself inside. Now. Right now. Do you hear me?"
"Gideon?" George said calmly, tapping his wand on his thigh. "Tell the guests goodnight."
Gideon scrambled to his feet, wanting to run into his mother's open arms, only the calmness of his father's voice holding him back. "What'd I do?"
Arthur's guffaw and Molly's soft chuckle chased away the tension as the adults reduced the landing pads back to their original purpose, chatting about what had happened and greeting Harry and Ron as they returned.
George grabbed Gideon by the short hairs on the back of his neck and leisurely strolled into the house, sweetly calling his other son to join them. One look and Hermione knew her presence was not wanted.
"Is it always like this?" Cassiopeia's soft laugh brought Hermione out of her thoughts.
"No. It's normally worse. This is the first time we haven't all made a trip to St. Mungos," Hermione smiled thinly. "Imagine this circus in hospital waiting room and you have an idea of a true Weasley Christmas."
"I see." Cassiopeia chuckled. "I want to thank you for everything. Charlie has to work tomorrow and wanted to make an early day of it."
"No," Hermione reached out and clutched Cassiopeia's wrist, shaking her head. "You can't leave me with them. You can't. You don't know what it's like when they're all together. Stay. Please, stay…don't leave me. You may be the only sane one left."
Gently prying Hermione's fingers off her arm, Cassiopeia slipped it around Hermione's waist and led her into the kitchen. "No one was hurt. It's going to be okay. We'll just sit here and have a nice cuppa."
"I shouldn't have let them go outside. I should have insisted they eat first. I should have…" She turned and grabbed Cassiopeia's shoulders, shaking her hard. "Don't marry him. Live with him. Don't listen to Molly. She won't die if you have sex with him before you're married. She won't. I know she won't. She's too crazy to die. They all are. Don't marry him. In-laws are terrible things. Terrible I tell you. Save yourself."
"Whoa," Charlie laughed, taking Hermione from Cassiopeia and sitting her at the table. "Everything is fine…well…other than the rocket. Ron's made sure that it's never going to work again. Dad and Bill are fixing the bike and Ginny and Mum are working on Amanda's house."
"How is George? Did he lock up the boys?"
"No, and he's fine. He and Percy are having a small disagreement on proper gifts, but …"
"Great," she sighed. "First no one wanted to come. Then, they don't eat a thing I made. I cooked for three days and not one person ate. Not one. Now everything I bought is wrong. And this…this fiasco. I just wanted a normal holiday. Just once. Just one day in the whole bloody year."
"No one has one of those," Arthur said, walking in the backdoor. "Maybe on that telle thing you watch, but we've never had one."
"Now, dear, she's still young. Let her have her dreams." Molly patted his arm and started to sort the kitchen.
"Next year she is my turn?" Fleur smiled. "I vill do it right. I know how to 'ave a Weasley Christmas. I tell every one to come late. After tea. I 'ave hot chocolate for the little ones and whiskey in pretty glasses."
"That's it? You plan on just…oh," Hermione sighed, twisting a lock of hair around her finger. "I should have had liquor. I can't imagine anything more fun than a house full of drunken Weasleys."
"Penelope will stay home," Molly cautioned. "Percy may stop by, but he will not let the children in a house that serves liquor."
"I should have had a lot of liquor."
"Lavender would like it," Charlie laughed and earned a swat on the back of the head.
"What doesn't she like? What ever it is, cost is no object." Hermione managed a weak smile at Cassiopeia. "This is awful. Listen to me. Just ignore me. But if you have any ideas let me know."
Later that night when the company had left and the children were asleep, George fixed two cups of hot chocolate and plunked a peppermint stick in each.
"Here, an old family cure."
"I'm sorry," she muttered, taking the cup and moving over in the chair, giving him enough room to squeeze in next to her. "I acted awful. I guess I wanted the same kind of Christmas I remember."
"I remember getting up and finding loads of toys, new clothes and all the relatives. Fred and I would play all day and eat until we nearly burst," he said, swirling his chocolate in his cup. "We remember what we want."
"They weren't always like this?" She asked, laying her head on his shoulder.
"Sure they were. We never had the money for new toys, Mum or Dad would make them, and the new clothes were wrapped up hand me downs. But I remember it as a kid would see it." He set his cup down and took hers, putting it on the table with his. "That's how the kids will remember today."
"The Christmas their toys got destroyed and they were almost killed?"
"No, the day their dad gave them a magic bike that really flew with a nifty rocket and Amanda will remember getting a play Burrow just like her Grams house."
"Gods, did you see that? We paid a fortune for it and your Mum put it back together …it doesn't matter, does it?"
"No," he chuckled.
"George?" Hermione looked up at him and squeezed his arm. "Go get the kids."
"We just got them settled down."
"I know," she sighed. "Your Mum was almost in tears when she left. I think she wants them at her place tonight. Christmas and all. It's how she remembers it too."
"Let me floo the others," George said softly as he leaned over and kissed her on the top of the head. "I know Ron would like to get rid of his tonight."
Later hat night Molly and Arthur tucked in the last of their grandchildren and bid their own kids goodnight, shooing them off with hugs and kisses. Molly happily put dough to rise for breakfast sweet rolls and Arthur admitted that the house no longer seemed too big for just the two of them after all.
Placing a candle on the mantle next to a picture of Fred, Molly cast a soft Lumos as Arthur's arm encircled her waist. He leaned down and kissed her gently on the cheek, then took her hand and led her to bed.
Happy Christmas to all…and to all a very non Weasley Christmas.