Disclaimer: I own nothing of the Harry Potter characters.
Chapter Seventeen: Santa Claus is comin to town
Out of the darkness came light. Normally one would welcome such a change, but in this instance they were anything but relieved.
Years they'd spent trapped, wandering in never ending twilight and desolation. Madness was ever at the periphery of their vision, but just before the darkness would claim them; he would return bringing with him hope.
It was a hope that was always dashed as quickly as it arrived.
It was the hope that was the worst. They could stand the isolation-almost. They could persevere over the gnawing hunger, well, at least she could. That more than anything was slowly driving him insane.
They could even endure the never ending wandering in futile search of an escape.
What they could not bear is his presence, or more appropriately what his presence meant... hope.
Just when their spirits were at an all time low of self loathing and revulsion...he would come.
It was always the same question on his lips and every time he'd asked it... they'd gotten the answer wrong.
They knew this because he would immediately leave them as he'd found them... near broken and beyond desperate.
They'd been sniping at each other all morning. Whether it was morning or no was completely irrelevant. It seemed as morning only because they'd just woken from the weariness of unceasing wandering and the hopelessness it brought.
Their argument was interrupted by a voice commenting... "Now, this seems like old times." Harry chuckled at the memory of Ron and Hermione's constant bickering throughout their youth.
"Harry...?!" Ron gasped, his voice begging with renewed hope despite the many times Harry had dashed said hopes like a wave upon a rocky shore.
"Don't beg , Ron" his wife snapped at him. "The bastard enjoys it, don't you, Harry?" she drawled distastefully.
"Ah, shrewish as ever, 'Mione." Harry commented wistfully, enjoying the way the use of her nickname both gladdened and made her shudder in dread anticipation of what was to come. He planted himself on a rocky outcropping that overlooked the two like a judge staring down upon the accused.
The truth being exactly that; They were becoming near perfect representations of what he once was ; accused, vilified, humiliated, but at least they were not betrayed.
The only difference in his eyes was that he was innocent of what they accused and undeserving of what they'd done to him.
They were not.
They thought hopelessness was the worst, but they were so wrong. It was the betrayal that was the worst.
Hope could be salvaged, but betrayal was forever. There was no taking it back. There could be forgiveness, but that too was fleeting as one could never forget the betrayal in one's own heart.
Dirty; their clothes hung in tatters, spirits all but broken as their hopes hung by a thread for some reprieve that was never coming. Yes,... they were very near perfect representations of what he'd once had thrust upon him.
The difference was not only that he'd been innocent, but that he had been self sacrificing. They were only interested in sacrificing for their own benefit.
They would learn.
"And what have we learned?" Harry asked knowingly, looking down on them with an infuriatingly impassive expression on his face.
Ron was about to blurt the first of many supplications, but Hermione held him back with a warning grab to his arm.
"Don't shame yourself- he enjoys it." she growled, eyeing her once friend with a look of utter loathing.
"Actually,.. I find it boring." He contradicted. "It is an utter waste of time. I can tell you from experience that begging or threatening from a position of helplessness is sheer folly. Many were the times I called out into the dark of my cold cell... begging my friends to find me, to save me. Such a waste of time," he lamented disappointedly, adding.. "but then again; how was I to know that it was they who had betrayed me in the first place?"
They winced at that, eyes lowered to the ground as the shame covered them like a shroud of doom.
Even Hermione's legendary defiance broke at that. It broke shortly after each time he'd arrived with no more than a mere word or two in reminder, and each time it renewed in his absence.
Though in truth; each time more and more of what she once was showed through ever so slightly.
She knew she'd both believed and done wrong by him. Her pride would not let her accept it, however.
It was a defense mechanism, one that he intended to shatter.
Today was that day. It had to be as he didn't want to waste another moment on either of them, nor did he want for their children to know what it was to spend Christmas without their parents as he did.
The silence lapsed until Hermione's impatience won out and she asked."What do you want from us, Harry,... an apology? There can be no forgiveness for what we did. You yourself have said that and many times. If you want us dead, then kill us and be done with it. We're powerless in this place, not that we could harm you even if we were in our own element with wands in hand. Is this to be our eternal punishment? Banished here to this place, this never ending gloom and desolation?"
"Ah..." Harry sighed as he nodded in acknowledgement. "We come to it at last." he prompted vaguely.
Hermione perked up at that thinking she'd hit upon some crack that would lead to her eventual pardon, or at least a possible escape.
"What is this place?" he asked pointedly. His voice was such that they knew instinctively that this was important and that answering, or even just understanding this point could be the means of their salvation.
This was the question that he had continually put to them and continually been disappointed by their answers.
They both shared a questioning look with one another, Hermione was about to take the lead, but Ron beat her to it.
"I-It's your home ,... isn't it?" he half asked, half stated uncertainly but with a hint of hope in his near broken voice.
"Go on" Harry prompted him to extrapolate.
This marked the first time he had showed any interest in their answer other than just wordlessly leaving in disappointment, oblivious to their pleas of mercy.
They shared another look before Hermione took the next leg of the journey.
"I..It's not so much another world, well it is,.. but it's another dimension? It's sort of a parallel world to our own?"
"There are many worlds in many dimensions both parallel and, or, polar opposite of each other.
One of light and life and one of shadow and hopelessness. One thrives the other merely exists.
One renews and flourishes, the other withers, but never dies... that or is dead already. My question still stands, however,... what is this place?"
They shared another look before shrugging helplessly, resigned to their continued fate, one brought on by their ongoing ignorance.
With a look of utter disappointment,.. Harry explained. "You are close in your summation, but your stubborn pride will not let you see the forest for the trees. You call it my home, but it is not. It is or was as much my prison as it is now yours."
Both heads snapped up at that, but it was Hermione that gasped out first in dread understanding.
"OMIGOD... we did this.. didn't we?" her voice fell at her own revelation. "T-This is where you went when you left... this is what we left you to... this desolation."
Harry nodded. "At last a light at the end of the tunnel." There was a smile at the corner of his mouth, but it wasn't one of appreciation at their revelation as it was a relief that this torment was near at end... for all of them.
It was a long minute as he considered his next words before he continued. "I am now called a shadow mage, but what is a shadow mage? They are not born as we were, but are made. What you now dwell in is that which I was made into... this is my depression and despair incarnate."
Ron's head snapped back in horror whilst Hermione began weeping softly into her hands beginning to grasp the concept he was imparting.
The magnitude of their betrayal and what it had portended from the 'other side of the looking glass' was finally beginning to sink in.
"This is what happens when one is betrayed through no fault of his own save that of trying to do well by others. Some claim that the ninth level of hell is reserved for betrayers, but what is hell? They say we make our own hell in life. Perhaps that is the key? Perhaps we make our own happiness and along that line.. we are capable of creating our own hell? All I know is that after months of grief and self destruction I awoke to find myself here. And here I would have remained had I not learned to master myself and thereby master this place. In so doing I have mastered the realm of shadow and become, as a result, a shadow mage."
His once vibrant and soulful green eyes now glowed with foreboding power as they bored into their very being, laying their souls bare to his scrutiny.
"If your actions have caused this than one could extrapolate that you have made me and in so doing you have made your own hell.
Our lives have come full circle... have they not?" he asked in a tone that showed he was anything but appreciative of the irony.
Hermione was trembling violently as she sobbed great wracking sobs of pain and despair only now it wasn't solely for herself, but from having been the instrument of his suffering.
She'd done this. She'd brought this on him and now was suffering the same fate. It was one that she now knew she truly deserved.
They had taken life... his life. For that,.. the penalty of their own society was life. Whether in prison or the veil depending upon the heinousness of the crime
Ron was a wreck.
He knew he'd betrayed his own friend and had doomed his own soul as that friend could never, would never, forgive him. Now he knew why that was so... and it was well deserved.
This,.. this horrific never ending nightmare of emptiness is what they'd left him to.
They deserved worse.
"Now you see. Now at last you understand. Should I leave you in this place or should I pardon you to live out your lives as you have,... such as you have?"
Hermione was crying too hard to answer, but she shook her head half in denial, but half in acceptance that this is what she deserved.
Ron merely nodded his agreement, adding... "Leave us,.. it's been years already...might as well end things here. It's no more than we deserve. Maybe,.. in the greater scheme of things... maybe we'll earn a reprieve when we die. We don't deserve it, but maybe...?" he added desolately, holding little hope for his fate.
Harry smirked triumphantly. "Again you choose to take the easy way, rather than doing what is right?" he asked poignantly.
"W-What would you have us d-do?" Hermione hiccoughed through her tears. "We can never make up for what we did. Y-You can't forgive us for this... I c-couldn't in your p-place."
Ron nodded his agreement unable to spew the words out himself.
Harry smirked, only this time it was with real amusement etched within his features.
He opened a portal, only instead of an exit, it was like looking through a window into the world they'd left behind.
It was the view that was the reason for his current amusement:
Ron and Hermione's children were playing hide and seek, throughout the Burrow, as their grandmother found them and tickled them into surrender; their voices a chorus of delighted squeals and pleas for "more".
The Burrow itself was decorated to the rafters in celebration of the impending holiday season.
Harry turned from the view and was at least pleased to see that his two former friends were riveted on their children like a starving person to the sight of food.
"One last question before I decide your fate." he informed them. Their eyes only drifted toward him briefly before returning to that of their children who were now happily helping their grandmother make Christmas cookies. Their cherub faces were smudged with flour and their hands caked with sticky dough as they nudged and taunted each other whilst they decorated the cookies, each trying to sabotage the other's work.
"What do you see?" he asked pointedly.
Ron answered without hesitation. "Our children,.. as happy, or maybe even more so than I've ever seen them."
Harry nodded, though Ron was unaware of the gesture as he'd turned his attention back toward his children.
"Hermione?" he asked for her input now.
"T-They're a mess. Wasting their time with sweets and games when they could be studying... and.. loving every.. minute ... of.. it... Oh?"
Hermione's face fell in understanding as her words died in her throat.
Harry smirked again at the irony.
"They are children... it is their right to play and be happy. It's Christmas, after all."
At seeing he had their full attention, he explained the point that they were finally beginning to understand that they'd failed to understand previously.
"This is what we fought for!" he waved his hand toward the view. "This is what we bled and suffered for. This is what you betrayed for." he snapped in outrage and contempt. "I could forgive you that, had you not let your own children pay for your own mistakes.
"We were denied our childhood because of Voldemort, but you deny your children theirs because of your own condemnation.
Have you learned nothing? I chose to not let this place become my prison and thereby not to let your betrayal of our friendship dictate the rest of my life."
He pointed a finger down accusatorially at the two. "You, on the other hand, have chosen to let your own guilty conscious bleed through. You did nothing to make amends, but so much more the worse; you let your children pay the piper for your own short comings. They are children; innocence and happiness are their birthright, not a privilege to be earned by eating their leafy greens or having to read a book and write a report on the material."
Harry shook his head dolefully at his profound disappointment. "I have chosen to let the past remain the past and not dictate my future and yes,.. I have a future." He pronounced, curling his lip in disgust at the notion of them sharing the same world as he.
"It is your future we are here to decide." Harry swept his hand toward the portal screen . "Your mother is a wise woman, Ronald."
Ron's head snapped up at that, more so because Harry had used the formal in his name as he had never done so before.
It was like a slap to the face... one that clearly had awakened him.
"Your future..." he sighed in reminder. "Your children are your future. Their happiness should be your legacy. Leave the worries and dangers of our world to those of us adults who are equipped to deal with them. Let the children enjoy their childhood whilst they may. In this Dumbledore was correct though he never practiced what he preached." he left off in bitter disappointment for what was.
"W-Why... Haven't they aged?" Hermione gasped curiously, daring to hope.
Harry grinned. "You perceive correctly, Mrs. Weasley." Again he addressed with cool formality.
"Time passes here differently than in the world of light. Ten years has passed here, but only ten days from whence you came."
"Ten years..?" Hermione sighed at first in wonder as she ran her hands expectantly over her face and found herself surprised that her skin, whilst dirty, was still smooth. She began trembling when she extrapolated that she hadn't aged physically and turned haunted eyes toward her captor, knowing what that meant for him.
Harry nodded. "You begin to understand even more so now, I think?"
Hermione nodded asking in a near whisper..."H-How long... How old...?" she found herself too overwhelmed to even form a complete sentence.
"I was here four months before I mastered this realm and the abilities inherent to it before I won free and returned to our own world. Four months by the light world's measure. " he corrected, to which both their heads snapped back in shocked disbelief at having made the calculations.
It was inconceivable that he had been trapped here a hundred and twenty years alone with naught but the pain they'd left him in.
Ron fell to his knees sobbing his despair, his wife clutching desperately to him lest her overwhelming grief snap her tenuous hold on sanity.
He let them cry, spending his time enjoying the sight of their children happily spending the afternoon with their grandmother, silently wishing he had such memories of his own to cherish.
When their wracking sobs at last diminished to forlorn sniffles, he asked... "Are you ready to return and salvage your futures?"
He nodded toward the window into their world. "Make it for them all that you once wanted for yourselves. Teach them to fly and play quidditch, Ron. Show them how to prank and laugh. You , of all of us, had the keenest sense of humor."
Ron nodded his head with renewed strength and determination.
Harry turned his attention to Hermione. "Teach them the wonder of the world around them as they discover and explore. Do not ram facts and figures into their conscious brains but allow them to discover along with you."
"I..I will. I promise." Hermione vowed as she rubbed the tear tracks from her dirty cheeks.
"Then I pardon you. He granted solemnly. "I cannot forgive, nor forget,.. but I choose to let you go,.. to let this go." He motioned between the three of them.
They both shared a hopeful look that they turned toward him expectantly.
Harry shook his head with a sneer of revulsion. "No,.. we are not friends, get that notion out of your heads. I crave your company as much as I would Malfoy if he were alive. Let us pass each other in the street with no more than an accepting nod... that is the best you can hope for. I choose to make Britain my home for the time being. We only share common friends and acquaintances. In that we are the same... no more than acquaintances,... leave it at that."
There was no mistaking the warning in his tone and by the look on their faces there was no need to.
They would never trouble him and his again. Not for anything, not for any reason.
Harry looked at them long and hard, his mind drifting over memories of better times. When he finally spoke it was with a note of finality that was unmistakable.
"I loved you both, upon a time. I would have gladly sacrificed myself in your stead...then. I grieve that this same time has long since passed. I grieve for what was. Our lives were filled with danger, but for all of that... there was love."
Harry hand drifted towards the corner of his eye. They both took a half step forward, wanting to comfort him, but he waved them off as one would an unwanted virus.
Without a word, he opened the portal, into the Burrow, wide enough to step through.
He motioned for them to leave with a last mournful acknowledgement. "For what was,.. Merry Christmas."
That said, he disappeared leaving them their lives to return to with the expectation that they would no longer squander the opportunity as they once had.
Whether or no,.. he was finished with them. It was both a blessing and a recrimination. It was one that they would forever be both grateful for and ashamed of.
They'd thrown away a true friend's love.
Children ran out into the snow squealing and pointing into the night sky as treats rained down gently upon them. Their own parents had followed on their heels; their intended scolding had died on their lips. They gazed in wonder, awash in their own youthful memories as they watched spellbound as a giant sleigh and enormous reindeer pulled what could only be Santa , across the evening sky.
He waved and chuckled merrily as children ran hither and dither collecting treats and small toys from the snow. Their parents alternating between waving back towards Santa as he rode out of sight and watching their children's delighted antics.
"Whoa...Whoa up there you lot..."
"HO-HO-HO.. Merry Chris...Whoa...Whoa!... Awe-NOOOO...!" Santa's voice went from cheerful to worried to panicked and settled on resignation in the space of his trademark greeting as he sleigh slid across the Hogwart's lawn and plummeted right into Black lake.
"Awe for the love of all that's holy..." he groused as he pulled his sodden shivering form out of the churning waters, watching morosely as his sleigh sunk into the murky depths of the Hogwart's lake.
Warily he watched the family, he'd thought to entertain at what should have been his final stop for the night, come running across the snow covered lawns, hastily pulling on their winter jackets and gloves as they came.
He rounded on his enormous reindeer as the milled sheepishly along the shoreline. He shook a single pathetic sleigh bell at the sorry lot; it was all that he could manage to salvage from his lost sled.
"Damn it all... when I say whoa... I mean Whoa! " He scolded, adding in lament. "That sled cost me a thousand galleons. Custom made oak with built in seat warmers, an in dash stereo that totally rocked and last but not least: a hot chocolate tap with sugar cookie dispenser,.. not that I even got a taste since Donner over there nicked every last one, ya great sponge!" The object of his ire cringed beneath his angry glare as he threw his long beard over one shoulder to more easily berate the rest.
"As for you... Comet.. you just had to gorge yourself on a fifty galleon drum of Hormel chili before we left, didn't ya? I swear that cloud bank you left over Seattle is gonna hang there for five damn years. They'll have to declare it a 'no fly' zone, not that it'll do that flock of seagulls any good... the poor devils never had a chance. Oh,.. and while we're on the subject , which one of you slobs left that pile on top the Ministry building? In case you forgot-I own the joint!"
Prancer sheepishly slunk away at that.
"Figures..." Santa groused as he watched the object of his ire beat a hasty retreat. "Let's see how "merry" you feel next year when I fit you with one of those astronaut diapers before we leave?" He called after.
The chiming of church bells in Hogsmeade distracted him from taking the rest to task..."Oh, very nice?" he grumbled checking his watch. "That little detour we took over San Juan for takeout made me late for Midnight mass.. and they were gonna let me sing in the choir and everything this year." he groused dejectedly.
"W-What in the world?" Gail gasped, coming up short in abject wonder at the spectacle of a sodden Santa Claus berating his reindeer on the shoreline of Black lake.. a gigantic hole in the ice gave silent testimony to the fate of his legendary sleigh.
He hastily pulled his beard back into place and offered an embarrassed. "er...Merry Christmas."
"S-Santa?" Jeff stuttered in gob smacked disbelief.
It was their daughter's giggles that brought things into perspective. "So this is what you snuck off to do?" she'd managed to get out before she broke down into side splitting laughter at his pathetic appearance.
""Wha,.. but the reindeer and.. and.?." Gail still stammered pointing at the reindeer milling about and the sleigh tracks disappearing into the broken ice.
Julia just laughed all the harder as Santa shot her a disgruntled glare and waved his hand to cancel the glamours over his eight reindeer that morphed into dragons as he explained.. "That would be this lot's fault... can't even land properly... you should see what they did to that apartment building roof in Sydney?" he grumbled.
"H-Harry?" Jeff asked bewildered.
"No.. it's the Great Pumpkin you wanker." he groused back sarcastically.
"But what're you...?" Gail continued, still staring and pointing.
Ignoring Julia renewed guffaws at his expense, he grumbled out ..."Spreading Christmas cheer and a heck of a lot dragon manure too... wait' till you see the corn they come up with in the Midwest this year? he added sportingly.
Jeff roared in laughter, joining his daughter, at that.
Harry curled his lip in distaste at the two as he stomped off for the castle with his "reindeer" in tow, grumbling something or other about "no appreciation" as his boots squished with each step he took.
An hour later, by the family room fire, over a warm cup of holiday cider...
..."Now let me get this straight?" Gail tried to put things in perspective as she shot a withering glare toward her snorting and giggling daughter and husband.
"You had a sleigh built and used a bunch of dragons glamored to look like reindeer to pull your costumed arse around England playing Santa Claus for the British public as some juvenile holiday prank?"
"Hardly" Harry groused folding his arms over his chest and turning his gaze to the side with a huff.
"Well what part of that isn't accurate?" Gail returned condescendingly.
He kept his gaze averted to show his displeasure as he answered facetiously... "The part about England and pranking and "playing Santa Claus" hf huffed indignantly.
Gail shot him a look of withering patience as she waggled her finger knowingly and ventured... "I'm to believe this wasn't some grand prank, then?"
"Yes, no.. well,.. it was a prank, sort of... but not really?" he struggled to explain, but only served to increase the volume of laughter from his fiancé and future father in-law's direction.
"What do you mean "sort of" a prank?" Gail asked pointedly, tapping her foot as she made quotation marks in the air.
"How do you do all that at the same time?" he asked her curiously.
"Answer the question?" Gail snapped having lost all patience with the fool sitting before her as she lamented to her chortling child.. "Are you sure that you still want to marry the village idiot?"
Harry rolled his eyes at that as Julia fell from her precarious perch on the coach and Jeff Taylor spilled his drink, but was laughing too hard to care.
Harry pulled a face. "That's a fine way to talk and at Christmas too? Not sure I want to marry into the "Grinch" family." he scoffed in a hurt tone that only served to make the others laugh harder.
"It was fun.." he finally decided to explain. "but it wasn't a prank. Heath Cliff and company provided the reindeer power and,...despite a few mishaps.. the evening was a success."
Gail rolled her eyes.. "How was crashing into the lake in anyway a "success"?" she growled sarcastically.
"Well if you must now.. that was only after we completed our mission and the lads were probably getting pretty tired by then. Despite that last they did a pretty fair job of it.. suppose I should treat them with a crate or three of Honeydukes for a bonus..? Maybe some of those jumbo peppermint candy canes too?" he mused absently.
Gail threw up her hands at that, but she was far from done as she demanded he explain everything from the start.
"At this hour.. we'd miss Christmas day and I've got big things planned?" he protested.
"Summarize?" Gail barked.
"Fine." He spat. "we all know Santa was a wizard.. right?"
"Well,... it occurred to me that even a Merlin class wizard couldn't traverse the world in a single night delivering gifts and such,.. but a shadow mage with the right help..?" he conjectured.
Gail's mouth fell open and the laughing from the others abruptly died.
"Y-You don't mean...?" Jeff gasped.
"N-Not all over the world? You didn't really...?"Julia gapped next to her astounded father.
"Nah,.. only about seventy-five to eighty percent of it. We started in Australia and worked our way back through the time zones. Using the Dragon's natural speed and a whole bunch of twilight portals to cover the distance more quickly we were able to put a good dent in the whole "Night before Christmas" thing before we ran outta starlight. We must of went thru and good ten tons of sweets and small toys and such, but you shoulda seen people's faces?" he smiled wistfully, obviously pleased with the whole venture.
Oblivious to his friend's stunned to speechless state, he continued to muse out loud that... "My first real Christmas was here. It was the first time I had any Christmas presents or anyone who wanted to even celebrate Christmas, with me, for that matter. It seems fitting that this is where the night to celebrate anew both began and ended. It maybe wasn't a complete success, but with a little more planning I think we can get it right next year?"
He closed with a deep yawn and a good stretch. "Well, I'm beat...gonna hit the hay so I can get up early... got a few more surprises planned...Night everybody." He waved sleepily and plodded off without waiting for their return.
He would have waited a long time as it was several minutes before the shocked group came out of their stupor.
"He didn't really fly around the world delivering presents, ...did he?" Gail half asked, knowing already that it was not only possible, but most likely- probable.
Jeff, ever the cautious, thinking commander that he was, decided a bit of reconnaissance was in order and flipped on the wireless.
It's absolutely astounding people... if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes I'd of never believed it... Yes, Virginia,..Santa Claus does exist. This reporter saw him fly overhead not two hours ago. My own children are playing with some of the toys he'd delivered as I speak. ...
Reindeer, I tell you.. Big reindeer, but reindeer just the same flew over our town wishing those lucky enough to gaze into the holiday sky a "Merry Christmas" as toys and treats rained gently down overhead...
Jeff continuedflipping through the stations, pausing in astonishment as report after report came in of 'Santa' sightings. The last was an overseas broadcast from the States.
There was no laughter now between the Taylors. Gasps of wonder-certainly.
Complete shock, but no longer in disbelief, but of wonder and awe- definitely.
Unfathomable love and appreciation... growing exponentially by the second-distinctly.
Jeff snapped off the radio, he didn't need to speak a dozen languages to know that he would find the same news being telecast on foreign stations.
He turned to his wife and daughter and decided simply that.. "Santa Claus has come to town."
Julia was still gapping, that and wiping at her too moist eyes.
"M-My God,.. Jeff?" Gail stammered as she tried to wrap her head around the scope of such an endeavor. "It...It's absolutely shattering. Can you imagine the scope of such a thing let alone the cost? It's..It's.."
"Wonderful" he daughter finished for her mother, sniffling softly as her gaze drifted in the direction of her fiancé's departure. "It's something that not only could he do, but only he would do."
"And we almost drove him from our world?" Gail conjectured in disgust over what Light Strike and the public in general had unthinkingly done to such a person.
Jeff, despite the extreme circumstances, knew exactly what to do. He poured the three of them a small sherry and proposed a toast.
He raised his glass in his daughter's honor and cheerily exclaimed: "To the future Mrs. Santa Claus."
Up early, he made sure everything was perfect for his return. He probably should have waited for the others, but he wanted this Christmas to be special. Heck, he wanted all of their Christmases to be special from now on and planned to see that they were.
There was a lot of work to be done in the coming months and years, but for now,.. there was Christmas with his family.
His family. He'd never tire of the concept, relishing it more and more with each new day.
Harry paused on his way through the family room to add a few extra, very special, gifts under the tree, treading carefully as the floor was nearly completely covered with brightly wrapped gifts already.
Setting to work; he set scones to baking, started the coffee and prepared a variety of fruits to finish off a light breakfast figuring they'd have plenty later what with the succulent turkeys that were slowly roasting in the oven along with a multitude of other foods.
Merlin, he loved turkey, almost as much as he did Julia and could never get enough of either one.
Julia, his family, presents and turkey... it couldn't get any better than this.
Actually, it could. With this in mind he set off to pay his respects.
"Who could possibly be calling this early?" the mother of the house wondered as she begrudging left her hot breakfast to answer the door, leaving the rest of the surprised family to finish their own meal undisturbed.
She peered through the peep hole in the door, catching a glimpse of a uniformed soldier of some sort holding a large bag that was so full that many wrapped gifts were toppling over the rim.
She sighed wearily believing the man collecting gifts for orphans and such.
Why can't solicitors leave one alone, especially at Christmas?
With a disgruntled sigh she pulled her purse off the coat hook and fished out a few coins to send the nuisance on his way so that she could return to her waiting meal in peace.
"Who's at the door pet?" Vernon called out as she reached for the knob.
"Just some solicitor collecting toys, Vernon dear." She called back.
"Indecent it is, spoiling Christmas for hard working honest folk." Her husband groused. "Ignore him, he'll leave soon enough." Vernon suggested his voice steady despite the massive amounts of food he was shoveling down his throat.
Only with frequent and intense glutinous practice could one perform such a feat.
Petunia Dursley was about to pull her hand back from the door knob when instead of a knock the bell was rung several noisy times.
"Oh, bother.." she sighed, deciding it was best just to press a few coins on the wretch and be done with it.
"Yes, Yes, a minute... it's Christmas you know?" she complained as she pulled open the door.
A tall, powerfully built soldier in a uniform heavily laden with ribbons and medal turned expectantly.
Amused, green eyes looked up into startled brown. Her eyes went out of focus for a moment as she contemplated the familiarity of the face.
The eyes...? Where have I ...?
Brown eyes went wide in the beginnings of recognition as she took in her hated sister's green eyes and looked up expectantly to the tell tale scar on his forehead...
"You...!?" she hissed not bothering to mask her utter revulsion that his presence elicited.
"Merry Christmas , dear aunt." Harry chimed with a cheerful smile.
"How did you find..?" she gasped nearly panicked, her eyes searching the surrounding area in expectation of their neighbors noticing.
"Easily, I just placed a call to my solicitor and viola!" Harry cut off, brushing past her without waiting for an invitation.
"Sorry, I can't stay long and catch up, but I've got quite a few stops to make. " he apologized acting as if they'd be disappointed that couldn't enjoy the day with them,.. as if?
"I just wanted to leave a few gifts and wish everyone well." He proceeded to deposit his heavily laden gift bag in their living room, one that was far more cluttered than his own with an abundance of gifts that was far beyond the pale for so small a gathering.
The Dursley's had moved away from Private Drive for a larger two story, thinking to leave their "troubles" and unwanted memories behind them. That and avoid any legal unpleasantness as a result of Dudley's rapidly deteriorating behavior around their former neighborhood.
"What's keeping you, pet?" Vernon half bellowed from the kitchen area.
Harry clapped his hands together winningly and made for the direction of his dear Uncle's voice, leaving his aunt still gapping appallingly at his presence within her pristinely hygienic home.
"Ah, Uncles, and Dudders, not in prison I see, good- good. How goes it old man?" Harry's voice rang out cheerfully from the kitchen.
"What're you doing here?" Vernon bellowed out after a startled pause.
"Why greeting my favorite uncle and cousin for Christmas, obviously." Harry's voice came back affably.
Petunia sighed and closed her front door. The cool breeze she'd cut off had apparently been the only thing to ward off the migraine she'd felt coming on thus far.
"W-We'll have none of your freakishness here, boy." Vernon bellowed, but Harry continued talking and greeting others as if it were the most natural thing and expected of a welcome guest.
"Dudders, whose this lovely lady, your wife?"
Truthfully, she was as 'big boned' as his cousin. No doubt it explains the attraction to one another, probably met over a buffet somewhere.
"Um,... ah... Priscilla... .." Dudley stuttered out half heartedly in trepidation.
"Charmed, absolutely charmed. Welcome to the family and Merry Christmas, Priscilla."
Petunia entered her kitchen to find her husband stuttering and stammering in near apocalyptic fury whilst her son looked ready to bolt for the nearest exit, without a thought for leaving his wife behind, whilst Harry kissed her daughter in-law's hand charmingly and the girl giggled appreciatively.
"N-Now listen you, we'll have none of your shenanigan's and what.. just what are you doing in an officer's uniform with all those decorations? What're you playing at?" His uncle sneered suspiciously.
"You'll have to forgive my appearing in dress uniform. Since I've just retired from the service of late I've had little chance to have a new wardrobe tailored. Though, I must confess, I thought you'd like to see that I've made something of myself since I struck out on my own. It's pretentious, I know, but there you are. I'm sure Dudley has done himself well, haven't you 'old bean'?" Harry chortled expectantly.
"Y-You mean you were an officer and w-won all those medals." Dudley's wife stammered out in an awed tone.
"Yes, yes,.. It's all rather boring." Harry waved a hand dismissively over his uniform and looked expectantly toward his cousin.
"Dudley works at Grunnings with me, if you must know." His uncle grumbled out, beaming at his son who was fidgeting nearly to the point of a seizure under Harry's scrutiny.
"Excellent. I'm sure the two of you practically run the place yourselves? I knew you'd be a successful chap, just like your father, Duds." Harry complimented beaming at his cousin and uncle.
"Er,.. um, yes, well,... it's a pity we had no word of your coming else we'd have made another place and..." His uncle half heartedly apologized for the lack of preparation, casting a wary eye in his daughter in-law's direction least she become suspicious.
"A generous offer, but I've already eaten and I'm afraid I must push on, lots to do." Harry apologized for his impending departure. "I've left a few gifts in the other room; please accept them as tokens for my heartfelt gratitude over having taken me in as you did."
"P-Presents..?" Dudley asked half hopefully, half fearfully.
Following his son's wary train of thought, Vernon added... "Not anything foreign, I hope?" he asked pointedly.
"Ah, uncle.." Harry sighed appreciatively 'Still mindful of supporting our country's commerce. You're a true patriot. But, alas,.. I'm afraid the gifts were things I've picked up abroad: an Omega watch befitting a successful man such as yourself. A Cartier necklace for my dear aunt and the like? My apologies, if you'd like I could exchange them for something more domestic?"
It was all his uncle could do to keep from gagging on his greed as his moustache twitched wildly.
"N-No..!" he nearly barked, catching himself with a glance toward his unassuming daughter in-law. "That is no,.. I'd not like you to go to any trouble. I'm sure it's all quite lovely, thank you." The man sounded like he might choke on having expressed anything remotely like gratitude toward his hated nephew, but his greed got the better of his personal feelings in the matter.
With a slight bow and a heartfelt goodbye,Harry left as quickly as he'd come. Offering in parting..
"I've acquired a castle in Scotland,.. you know the one?" He smiled at his family's wary nods of recognition. "Anyway, I've.. er, renovated the place. Do stop in for a visit when you can." With a pleasant wave he saw himself out.
He's no sooner closed the door and fell back against the frame expectantly. Not more than a few scant seconds passed before he heard the muffled sounds, of what sounded a stampede for gifts, from within.
Just as greedy and shallowly self serving as ever, eh? So much the better! With a happy smile he departed, saying... "Mischief Managed"
It was just going nine a.m. Christmas morning when Julia stirred awake. Not bothering to change, she hurriedly pulled on her dressing gown and padded quickly toward Harry's room just down the hall from her own.
Why he insisted on separate rooms she couldn't fathom. Sometimes the adorable man's sense of honor and propriety was absolutely aggravating. It's not like they weren't engaged after all.
With no answer to her gentle rapping which she did partly for stealth so as not to alarm her slumbering parents in the room across, but more so because she hoped not to wake him, hoping for that particular pleasure while lying next to him.
Satisfied that she'd knocked the requisite amount of times to be able to truthfully vouch having done so; Julia ran her fingers quickly through her sleep mussed tresses and loosened the tie of her robe to give a hint of the night gown she wore beneath.
It was Christmas red as befitted the future 'Mrs. Claus'.
Have I got a gift for you, Santa! She mused smiling in a very merry, but definitely not Christmas- like fashion.
She disappointedly found his bed empty and sheets already cold indicating he'd left some time ago.
Urgg.. didn't the man realize it's Christmas? Today's the day Santa gets to rest and , Merlin willing, get a gift for himself.
Not that she wouldn't benefit, of course.
Frustrated and knowing she'd never get back to sleep, not in the , er,.. mood she was in, she decided to head to the ..Kitchen?.. of course!
The smells of brewing coffee and baking scones delighted her in not only his never ending thoughtfulness, but that he was nearby and- available!
Julia hurried for the stairs.
Harry emerged from a twilight portal just as she came down the stairs. She was as radiant as ever, an absolute vision.
That is, if one had the stomach for the other side of the coin.
"What're you doing here?" Ginny Malfoy-Weasley hissed both in outrage and alarm.
Harry smiled a smile that was anything but wistful at having seen her after so long an absence.
"I've come to wish you and yours a Merry Christmas, Ginevra." He was at least pleased to see that by the way her eyes narrowed to slits that she still detested the use of her full name.
"Well, you've said it, now GET-OUT!" she nearly shouted, catching herself so as not to wake and startle her children.
Harry clucked his tongue admonishingly. "As charming as ever, I see. That and obviously wealth agrees with you, Ginevra. I've never seen you look so radiant ,.. in a shallow, pretentious sort of way." Ginny fumed at that, her hand drifting toward the pocket of her dressing gown where undoubtedly she kept her wand.
He smirked hopefully at that as he continued his musings.
"All this...", at this Harry stretched his arms out wide indicating the mansion around them. "...is just too much, isn't it? Why this joint's nearly the size of Hogwarts?" he feigned an awed sense of surprise, envy even.
"Yes,... it's much too much for a humble widow and her two spoilt children to maintain. What with a second mortgage lean on it and all? A shame that,.. I suppose dear departed Draco must have squandered his inheritance, gambling, other women and the like?" he conjectured pityingly.
Ginny whipped out her wand with an angry snarl of... "Mucosa Chiroptera!"
The brown light of her infamous "bat boogey" hex streak toward his face. Harry merely waved his hand airily and the curse disappeared through a twilight portal that snapped shut so quickly after that Ginny thought the spell had disappeared in thin air.
"That temper of yours hasn't improved a lick I see, and on Christmas yet? Here I am bringing a little relief to brighten your holidays and all you can think to do is fling hexes about?" Harry shook his head sadly in disappointment as he half lamented/ half bated... "Out of the goodness of my heart, over our past affiliation, I convinced the goblins to transfer your mortgage to me to keep a humble roof over yours and your children's heads lest you end up on the streets,... and this is my thanks?"
"O-Our mortgage,... you..?" Ginny stammered in surprise.
"Yes, yes,.." Harry acknowledged off handily. "Course , you were behind a few payments,.. naughty that." He waggled a finger her way to which she had the grace to look a titch ashamed, though she brightened considerably when he informed her that... "They were satisfied with a donation or two in lieu of payment once I convinced them there would be no profit in merely foreclosing on this fine manse, especially as there's no viable customers in Europe that could readily afford such an opulent dwelling, well, except for yours truly, but.. I've already got a castle and a few outlying buildings... ?"
"Y-You... did that for m-me?" Ginny gasped pointing to herself.
"Course I did, and don't worry; with me holding the lien on this mansion you'll always have a roof over your head." he promised, smiling brightly.
"Tha-Thank you." Ginny stammered gratefully.
"Merry Christmas, Ginny." With a wave, Harry disappeared before Ginny could respond.
He sat in the twilight realm opening a window into the mansion's apparent 'family room', if that's what one could call a roughly two thousand square foot lavish suite complete with a fireplace big enough to roast a dragon in.
The twenty foot tall Christmas tree was breathtaking,... a shame about the gifts though.
Ginny and her two brats nearly streaked into the room, expecting to tear into their many gifts bought with money based on the false pretense that the Malfoy name was still a wealthy one.
They found instead a festive tree adorned not with fairy lights and ornaments, but with a single Christmas card addressed to:
As I said, a few donations were in order to appease the goblins. I took the liberty of liquidating several of the mansions paintings, tapestries and the like.
It took a bit of haggling , but the antique ornaments adorning the tree settled the matter of your overdue mortgage payments, though I'm afraid that you still owed on the outstanding interest... so I relieved you of your elves on staff as you won't be needing them any longer due to other arrangements I've made for your benefit.
As I indicated.. you'll always have a "roof" over your heads, and with this in mind I've found a suitable, if humble, dwelling in need of a little TLC.
I purchased the former.. 'Gaunt' family cottage. It's been vacant for some time so I was able to get it for a good price. It seems that there was a spot of trouble with the nearby neighbors in the 'Riddle Manor' , but the situation resolved itself when the owner died unexpectedly.
Sorry about the gifts. Seems your creditors demanded their return, but in the Christmas spirit I was able to absorb the cost owed at a discount provided that I donate said gifts to charity.
I donated your things to a woman's shelter and your children's things to an orphanage.
I've enclosed the charitable receipts so that you can at least submit them for tax purposes. Hopefully you don't owe any back taxes, but if this is not the case; do contact me and I'll do my best to broker the debt in your behalf.
In fond remembrance of our past,... Merry Christmas...Harry.
Ah, the music of Christmas carols sung with heart. He lamented fondly.
The sounds of spoiled children crying for gifts reminded him of Christmas' past as Dudley used to do when he was always unsatisfied with the hoard he'd received.
Ginny screaming in furious outrage reminded him of his dear uncle; when Harry would ask from under the door jamb of his locked cupboard, if they'd gotten him anything for Christmas?
He wiped a finger under his moist eyes relishing the memories, only now from another point of view as he wondered just how appreciative his once relatives might be when they discovered the uniqueness of his gifts in the New Year.
Sadly, he closed the portal into the Malfoy's happy lives and left to make another quick stop to finalize his plans for the holiday enjoyment of his family.
Some minutes later...
"Is everything set?"
"We just need to pack a few things and get dressed, dear."
Dear,... he liked the sound of that and couldn't help but blush a smile because of it.
"One o'clock sharp and dress smartly." He reminded.
"It means formally, dear." The woman of the house translated.
"Oh, right formal- definitely formal." Her husband agreed.
The woman rolled her eyes at him.
"Sorry, but I've gotta run...lots to do . See ya at one."
"At one dear,.. we can hardly wait."
He was about to leave when the woman grabbed him up in a hug and whispered..."Don't suppose you'd know anything about Santa Claus stopping here last night?"
The way he stiffened in her arms was all the answer she needed despite him admonishing.. "There's no such thing, you know that."
The woman pulled back, taking a moment to admire his poker face as she replied gratefully..."I use to believe that but present circumstances beg otherwise."
With a last squeeze of their joined hands and a nod toward her husband, he left.
Julia was just coming down the stairs as Harry poked his head out from behind the door with the painting of the fruit bowl.
"Bout time you got up? Get mum and dad, the scones are just coming out of the oven and they're always best fresh out of the oven."
Julia was about to suggest they let them go stone cold in lieu of him unwrapping her gift, but the flour smudge on his nose and his childlike smile he wore had her giggling as she ran off to collect her parents.
They ate a light, but satisfying brunch,(as it was already going eleven) , talking leisurely between bites. Harry listened with rapt attention as Gail and Jeff reminisced over past Christmas' with the children, pausing now and again to lament the absence of Jenny and Max. Though they knew their grandparents were happily spoiling them rotten, it still wasn't the same as seeing their faces as they tore into their gifts.
The talk of gifts had them leaving their dishes where they lie as they drifted off to their cozy, fire in the family room to enjoy their own gifts and hopefully raise their spirits from dwelling on the children's absence this year.
Before someone could suggest who should start, Harry cleared his throat uncomfortably and suggested...
"I..I'd like to start things off with a gift for Julia?" he shyly pulled a large rectangular box, wrapped in silver foil and decorated with a golden lace, from behind one of the room's overstuffed chairs.
"I-I picked out something for , um...er,.. our wedding night?" he stammered blushing a deep red.
Jeff, father that he is, cleared his throat in an intimidating fashion, glaring at his former-future son in-law.
"Harry James Potter...!" Gail gasped in outrage. "You don't go buying something like that for Christmas, and you certainly don't advertise the fact in front of the girl's parents if you do!"
Harry was fidgeting so badly as he stared ashamedly at his feet. He looked either ready to start crying our run away and never return.
"Of all the asinine, thoughtless, 'male of the species' antics...?"at this Gail shared her outrage glaring back and forth between her own husband and the 'village idiot' that her daughter intended to marry.
Julia fingered the package's bow asking curiously as she ignored her mother.."Really?"
Harry nodded, unable to raise his head, but his ears were practically glowing red at this point.
With a delighted squeal, Julia ran off with her package intent to open it in the privacy of her room.
"Julia Taylor...?!" her mother's scolding voice called after as she ran giggling up the stairs like she just nicked an entire jar of cookies.
The sound of her door slamming shut had the rest of the family moving.
"You're up, mum." Harry cheered, smiling excitedly. All evidence of his discomfort from a moment ago suddenly evaporated.
Mum,.. she liked the sound of that. Gail winked and flew out of the room on her daughter's trail.
Jeff was chuckling appreciatively as he stepped up... "Something for your wedding night... I thought Gail was gonna choke on her tongue for a minute there? Ha-Ha!"
"I did actually." Harry acknowledged innocently, gazing longingly in the direction his fiancé had left.
Jeff immediately sobered, asking for clarification. "You did what?"
"Got her something for our wedding night." Harry answered, oblivious to his friend's darkening face.
"You bought my daughter a night gown for Christmas?' he hissed warningly.
Harry gesticulated with his hands as he clarified that.."Well it wasn't so much a night gown as it was one of these sheer little numbers with the lace and –OWE!"
"Idiot!" Jeff grumbled rubbing his fist from punching his young friend on the side of the head. Just short of being hard enough to knock him out, but sufficient in that he was definitely seeing stars.
"What was that for?" Harry groaned rubbing the side of his head as he stumbled to a nearby chair.
"You really are the 'village idiot'. Getting something like that for your girl in front of her parents? Jeff growled, rolling his eyes in disappointment at his daughter's suspect taste in men.
"I wasn't going to give her it for Christmas, but as a present on our wedding day." Harry defended, still rubbing his head.
"Oh,... sorry." Jeff grumbled uncomfortably having overreacted.
"Nice" Harry complained shooting his friend a filthy glare.
Jeff shrugged indifferently before suggesting... "We better get ready?"
"You go,.. I'm a little dizzy just now. Must've been something I ate?"
Jeff chuckled at that and left to get dressed.
Upstairs in Julia's room
Gail arrived just in time to slip in quietly, her arrival unnoticed as her daughter tore off the last vestiges of wrapping paper and opened the box with a sharp finger nail severing the scotch tape.
"W-What .. in.. the...world..?" Julia gasped lifting the satiny gown from its box and holding it out admiringly.
"It was his mothers." Gail announced her presence, startling her daughter slightly before she turned a surprised expression to her mother and then back to the breath taking wedding gown in her hands.
"I-It's .. so beautiful.." Julia gasped in a near whisper, holding the gown reverently in her hands.
Gail nodded her agreement, adding... "He wasn't sure it would do you justice. Many are the times he came to me needing reassurance that you would like the gown."
Julia turned wide eyes that were rapidly filling with tears toward her mother.
"For someone who professes himself so out of his depth, he certainly seems to earn himself an "A" for effort." She added proudly, regarding her future son in-law.
Julia clutched the dress possessively to her breast as tears fell in earnest. "Oh, mom... I don't deserve..."
"Hush..." Gail admonished gently, pulling her daughter into her arms. "You deserve each other."
She pulled back and wiped the tears from her daughter's cheeks with the pads of her thumbs, smiling reassuringly. "No tears now, we need to get ready."
Julia's face turned puzzled to which her mother answered, "You're groom's waiting and the wedding's set for one."
That statement had barely registered when the clock outside chimed the noon hour.
Julia gasped in both excitement and worry.
"Don't worry, dear." Her mother cooed. "The bride's always fashionably late."
Excited squeals filled the room as both women scrambled to get ready after that.
Julia sat watching her husband sleep,.. her husband. God, but that sounded wonderful.
He never looked so peaceful, so blissfully unaware, so... gorgeous.
Christmas had seemed a dream, one that she hoped she'd never awaken from.
To surprise her with his mother's wedding gown custom tailored to fit her, was beyond thoughtful, then to surprise with a romantic Christmas wedding was ,.. it was... Wow!"
Harry had thought of everything.
She emerged from her room to find her father waiting for her, beaming up proudly from the foot of the stair. He wore immaculate formal robes, his ribbons and medals adorning his chest as was expected in formal functions. Her brother Max was serving as an usher, also in formal attire that matched his father's. Max was proudly escorting the 'mother of the bride' to their seats.
Her mother looked happier then the day she'd delivered her siblings; she was practically glowing. Gail's smiling gaze drifting from one to the next of her family with a mother's pride, sharing her own unique brand of love and happiness that was imbued in every member of the Taylor household.
Her youngest sister was dressed in an adorable gown- her flower girl. Jenny was all but squealing in delight as he sister floated down the stairs toward them.
"You looked stunning, daughter." Her father had complimented.
"Oh, daddy..." she gasped ecstatically, taking her father's arm with a trembling hand.
Jenny led the way spreading rose petals before them.
The wedding march began. Her heart was beating so forcefully she'd thought it would burst right from her chest.
Her father patted her hand reassuringly where it rested on his arm. "He's waiting..." her father whispered, sending a thrill of expectation through every fiber of her being.
They entered the Great Hall of Hogwart's castle and her breath caught in her throat.
The place was lined with chairs and decorated spectacularly.
Her family was waiting; Grandparents, cousins, close family friends, everyone she cared about in the world. All eyes turning expectantly toward her as her father's back went stiff and his head held high, such was his pride in his eldest child.
Harry's side of the gathering was so very sparse by comparison. No family was there as he had no real family left to him save for an abusive and uncaring Dursley family.
There was a graying, middle aged wizard in formal robes with a woman and two children adjoining him, occupying the seats reserved for the groom's immediate family along with three empty chairs which held a white rose each. These were for Harry's parents and Godfather she realized, her heart nearly broke with the knowledge.
The honorarium led to the certain knowledge that the wizard next to them could only be the last of the famous marauders- Remus Lupin and his family.
The blonde witch from their arrival at Hogwarts; Luna, came next with her family. The tall handsome wizard at her side who must be Neville Longbottom- her husband.
After that was a dark haired wizard with a mischievous smile and a blonde witch on his arm. They sat with a black wizard and his family. They were obviously friends the way the wizard and witches beamed at her and shifted their smiling faces back and forth between her and Harry.
And,... Harry? Her knees went week when her future husband stepped forward awaiting his bride.
Merlin,.. he was so handsome.
His formal attire matched her father's except for his ribbons and medals? The entire left side of Harry's chest was covered in ribbons denoting the magical world's highest honors and those many times over.
She'd never seen him in full dress uniform before as he never attended any of the formals during his tenure at Light Strike. It was a disappointing oddity that was readily accepted once you knew the man on a personal level.
Harry loathed the attention such honorariums elicited though she wished he hadn't as she could well imagine how he must've looked in full dress uniform as he was utterly breathtaking now.
Julia's breath caught in her throat as her father passed her hand to Harry's, planting a soft kiss to each of their cheeks in heartfelt approval of their joining.
Slowly , tremulously she looked up into his expressive green eyes finding such a depth of love and gratitude within that she thought she'd faint from the overwhelming joy she was feeling.
"Merry Christmas to us both, Julia." He wished them gently.
That had done it. The tears came as she wept in joy, pulling his hands to her lips and kissing them reverently as she murmured her happiness and appreciation.
He planted a soft kiss to her lips of reassurance that might have worked had her father not scolded with a chuckle... "That's for after you two."
They approached the pastor waiting patiently, beaming down at the two of them. She could tell, at the time, by the fond looks he cast Harry's way that he was familiar with her intended and couldn't be happier for him.
It turned out that he was the priest that had christened Harry and had knew and cared deeply for Harry's parents.
He mentioned them fondly during the service; calling on them to bear witness to the joining of their beloved son.
Harry had a pair of red headed twins as his best men. The famous Weasley twins, it turned out. Their reputation as perpetual delinquents and notorious pranksters paled notably as the two had cried shamelessly throughout the service.
Her best friend: Rebecca Hastings was her matron of honor and she along with the twins spent the majority of the service wiping happy tears away.
Only in Rebecca's case it was both in happiness and with a broken heart as she too had harbored a crush for Harry Potter since she was a little girl. It had been their common ground that had been the precursor of their long friendship.
To say that Rebecca was both shocked and envious was the understatement of the century.
Two mousy haired fellows buzzed around the proceeding snapping off pictures of both the wedding party and guests. She would learn later that these were also infamous Hogwart's alumni: the Creavey brothers known for badgering their fellows endlessly with cameras in hand.
Their wedding had ended, as all weddings do, with a kiss. A searing kiss of deepest longing, desire and unfathomable love that had her seeing stars as he toes curled so tightly they felt as if they'd pop right out of her shoes.
Rebecca growled appreciatively as the Weasley twins gapped muttering something about ..
Later, on the dance floor, he'd confessed that he wasn't sure she would appreciate the gesture of his surprise as it was a bride's right to plan her own wedding the way she wanted, but that he just didn't want to wait any longer to spend the rest of his life with her.
She couldn't believe he'd felt that way after the unbelievable fantasy he'd just fulfilled and ... she told him so.
Tender kisses they'd shared throughout the day, one's with the promise of desire to be sated later.
The wedding feast had been a sumptuous affair of both traditional foods and delicacies from around the world.
Apparently the groom loved turkey.
Much laughter and many toasts were shared. The most profound of which coming from that of Father Timothy.
"My friends,..", he'd began, calling for the guest attention.
"Some thirty odd years ago a young couple came before me with a wee child clutched possessively in his mother's arms. He was nothing out of the ordinary, save for his eyes? They were a vibrant green that mimicked his mother's; odd that, for even in the magical world babies are born with blue eyes that change over time.
As it is with all parents; they beamed with love and pride for their child. I couldn't have known then as I do now that in this instance... such admiration was well founded.
The father was surrounded by his closest friends; the child's intended godfather among them. His godfather looked fit to crow and if memory serves he did after." He paused as Harry blushed and the crowd chuckled, except for Remus Lupin who wiped at his eye as he nodded his head in affirmation of Sirius Black's response that day.
Father Timothy continued. "His godmother shined with no less love than that of his paternal mother."
Many there were and although they had collectively lost many friends and family throughout the days of that first war with the dark one, they had gathered in love and friendship to welcome this precious new life amongst us.
Sadly, only Remus Lupin still remains of that party, the last of the Marauders."
"Thank Merlin!" The Weasley twins chorused, toasting Remus .
Father Timothy too saluted over the rim of his champagne glass. Remus nodding his thanks as many rose around the room toasting Remus, Harry among them.
"Yes,.." Father Timothy sighed wistfully we have lost much but we are grateful for what and who we still have."
"The child too survived. Survived and championed the light's cause both here and abroad. For that,... especially for that... we are most humbly grateful. Join me my friends along with those we've lost and cherished who stand amongst us today. Join me in one hope filled voice of gratitude: LONG LIVE HOUSE POTTER!"
"LONG LIVE HOUSE POTTER!" The reception roared in echoing Father Timothy.
Harry had broken at that and was crying openly, his new wife beaming adoringly as she gently comforted her new husband, promising both to him and to herself that there would be many Potters coming down the road.
Her husband... Julia drifted from her musing as she drank in the sight of him. Would she ever tire of it? Had her mother before her? She doubted it.
Harry, ever the generous host, provided their wedding quests with their own leather wrapped photo album of the day, compliments of the Creavey brothers; that along with a generous assortment of heartfelt gifts to commemorate the holiday. No one among their many family members and new friends was forgotten.
They'd drifted among them presenting gifts and words of gratitude for sharing this day with them.
What Harry had given Remus Lupin had the poor man sobbing in joy? It seems that James Potter had gifted the Marauders with pocket watches upon their graduation from Hogwart's. All the Marauders had matching silver watches except that Remus's had been gold as he was understandably allergic to silver.
Some years later Remus had been forced to sell that watch to sustain his meager existence. It was perhaps the single most profound regret of a life that was filled with them. Sirius had, upon a time, offered to replace the gift, but Remus would have none of it. Though he had appreciated the offer, it was the original that held all sentiment to him.
With trembling hands, Remus dared to open the watch and found the inscription he knew by heart.
To Remus: The truest Marauder and best of us all. All my love always- James.
Harry had found his watch. How and where he couldn't begin to fathom as he had searched himself many times over the years since Sirius' death when his friend had left him the means to do so, but had never been successful.
Remus had already been gasping and sobbing at that point, but it was the added sentiment that had him dissolve in a puddle of tears.
P.S. My friend, uncle and godfather in spirit, now and always- Harry.
The two had held each other weeping happily whilst their friends and family's hovered around at a loss to know what to do other than to finally applaud in shared happiness for the two of them.
Many such personal, heartfelt gifts they'd given that night, but none more so than the gift that her husband had given her in this surprise Christmas wedding of her dreams.
Naked and unashamed she'd come to their wedding bed that night. If he had been disappointed, in that she hadn't worn the night gown he'd gifted her, he showed not a hint of it as his eyes drank her in as readily as she did him in return.
They made love gently at first with increasing need and desire, each awakening sensations in the other that deepened their passion and bond of love.
Finally, deliciously spent, their strength waning, they drifted off to sleep in one another's arms.
Julia's hand ghosted through her husband's hair as he smiled peacefully in dreams of her.
Her love, her life... her husband.