A/N: Written for ThoughtBubbler98's Christmas Prompt Competition. My prompt was "Christmas songs." Multiple pairings, all canon. Thanks to vancabreuniter for betaing!
The "sequel" to this story is now up: "The Story I Must Tell."
Christmas at the Burrow 1999
I watched as Fleur descended the remaining steps to the ground floor and decided a stop in the bathroom was as good an excuse as any to delay my return with my wife. I turned around and frowned. The door was still closed, and I had seen Ginny go in there when Fleur and I came upstairs several minutes ago. I banged on the door with my fist.
″I don't care if you are a girl, Ginny, nobody needs nearly half an hour in the bathroom in the middle of a party!″
There were a few movement-type noises, but when the door remained closed and my sister remained silent, I rattled the knob. ″If you're not out here in five seconds—″
″William Arthur Weasley, if you open that door, you will be sorry!″
I stopped in the middle of drawing out my wand. That was not my sister's voice, but the voice of my eventual sister-in-law, Hermione. Before I could apologize, she spoke again, quieter but still easily audible.
So, she wasn't alone. I grinned as my youngest brother's voice drifted through the door in normal volume.
″What's the point of telling me to hush if you're going to say my name?″
″Because if you keep hopping on one leg like that, you're going to—″
There was a soft thump, followed by a much louder one that I assumed to be Ron hitting the floor, accompanied by a screech of metal, a loud echoing clang that sounded like the shower rod rattling into the bath, and much swearing.
″Fall over,″ Hermione finished. ″Just a minute, Bill. Your prat of a brother hasn't figured out how to put his trousers on without waking the dead. I can't believe I let you talk me out of a Silencing Charm.″
I didn't really need to use the bathroom, and enough time had passed since Fleur's return that everyone could pretend the two of us hadn't been upstairs together (why it mattered when we were already married, I do not understand), but this was loads more interesting than sitting round the wireless trying to negotiate my wife and mother's competition over who had the best Christmas traditions.
″I didn't 'talk' you out of anything.″ Ron's smirk was obvious just from his voice. ″Kind of hard without a wand, anyway.″
″I could have managed something if you had given me five seconds to concentrate.″ Hermione's voice was huffy. Godric, those two could— and did— argue about anything.
″Is that an official complaint, or are you just saving face for Bill?″ A soft jingle accompanied Ron's words, and I heard the click of the shower rod into its bracket.
″That's a statement of fact.″ The door opened and my brother's girlfriend appeared, looking thoroughly un- shagged, if a bit flushed. With most witches, you could tell when they'd had a quick shag by the hair, but Hermione's hair always looked like that.
Ron was giving me the evil eye, warning me not to tease her, but I had learned from Charlie's experience that first summer Ron and Hermione were going out. She ignored my presence, which was quite impressive considering I was standing two feet from her.
″Do you want to go first or should I?″ Ron asked her.
″Oh, you should go first, definitely. George won't say a word about Bill and me coming downstairs together.″
Her voice sounded so dangerous, I actually backed away as much as the tiny landing permitted before I remembered Ron had said she didn't have her wand.
But Ron grinned at her, the same grin I use with Mum or Fleur when I know I'm going to get away with something. ″How do you expect me to think clearly after—″ he waved his hand at the bathroom— ″that?″
Hermione made a scoffing noise in her throat, but she looked pleased. I winked at Ron over her head.
I heard footsteps and turned around. Ginny and Harry were descending the stairs hand- in- hand. Every older- brother cell in my body (and with six younger siblings, there's quite a lot of them) screamed in protest. Yes, I know she's eighteen. I can't help it. I'm hoping it will wear off by the time she gets married.
″So, it was you in my room, was it?″ Ginny surveyed me, hands on her hips and looking alarmingly like Mum. ″Next time, I'll thank you to keep your business out of my bed.″
″We weren't on the bed,″ I said in automatic defense, and it wasn't until Ron and Harry laughed that I realized my mistake. Ginny was muttering about Scourgifying her entire room, and by the look on her face, I guessed she was picturing an eye- for- an- eye revenge. I made a mental note to thoroughly ward my and Fleur's bedroom before my sister's next visit, then remembered Harry was almost finished with Auror training. I wonder, how long can I avoid having them over before Fleur or Mum notices and gives me a hard time for being rude?
″What are you all doing up here, anyway?″ Hermione said.
A brief silence, then Ginny said, ″Harry wanted to show me something.″
Ron and I glared at her deliberate innuendo as Harry gave her a not- so- subtle elbow in the ribs.
″No, I meant, what are you all doing here at the same time?″
″It's the Christmas songs,″ Ron said, making no effort to move from his slouch against the wall. ″Mum loves Christmas music. She'll never notice we're gone.″
″She will if half of us are missing,″ I said, realizing how long I had been absent from the festivities.
Hermione sighed. ″Must I do everything?″ Without waiting for an answer, she started down the stairs. Ginny followed her.
Ah, well, I'd been gone this long. . . . I copied Ron's stance, back against the wall, one ankle crossed over the other, and waited to see how the best friends would handle the revelation that Harry and Ginny had been together in Ron's room.
Ron's foot was twitching. ″Six bedrooms in this house, and you had to pick mine?″
So, Ron wasn't taking an issue with Harry sleeping with her, just that he had done so in Ron's room. Perhaps the older- brother cells were not as vocal when the age difference was measured in months rather than a decade.
Harry jerked his thumb in my direction. ″Blame your brother, here. Ginny's room was already taken.″
Ron scowled at me so fiercely that I actually started to feel guilty until I remembered I was the only married man on this landing. I was not going to allow my kid brother to dictate when and where I slept with my wife, and I told him so. Ron flushed and studied his trainers, and I wondered if Hermione, like Mum, had been hinting for a ring. The silence dragged on.
Harry cracked first. ″Would it help if I told you—″
″No.″ Ron cut him off, but it was too late.
Sprouting from the seeds of my own confession mere minutes before, the suggestion of my baby sister and wall sex was now firmly planted in my mind. It took no small amount of self- control to resist the older- brother cells' demands to strangle the wizard on my left. I did stick my foot out as he walked by, but the specky git caught himself on the bannister. Bloody Seeker reflexes.
Ron was looking as annoyed at Harry's athleticism as I felt. What we needed was a distraction.
″So, whose idea was the bathroom?″
Ron jerked his attention from Harry's disappearing form back to me. ″My room is another four flights up.″
″I hear you.″
″But Ginny's room? Our baby sister?″
It always cracked me up to hear him call her that; Ron had still been a baby when Ginny was born. I shrugged. ″It's on the first floor.″
″You're the one who's married.″
″You couldn't have done it before you came? Or, I dunno, waited until you got home?″
″Couldn't you?″ Hermione had her own flat, but not even Mum was deluded into thinking she always slept in it alone. ″You think you would want Hermione any less if she had a ring on her finger?"
″But Fleur's—″ Ron broke off, looking embarrassed.
Fleur was five months pregnant, she was. I'd been saying it for months, and it still amazed me. My wife was pregnant. With our baby. I was going to be a father!
But still, why couldn't Charlie get the awkward older brother jobs every once in a while? Talking about sex was one thing when my brothers were first coming of age and I was at Hogwarts, then in Egypt, when most of the witches I dated they never met. It was another thing altogether when they knew exactly whom I was referring to and had dinner with her every Sunday. I decided to play it cool and hope Ron had the sense to never, ever, ever breathe a word— or even a hint— to Fleur.
I gave my youngest brother my ″I know everything, and you're just a kid″ look. ″You do know how babies are made, right, Ron?″
He reddened further. ″Of course I know— that's not the— just forget it.″
″She's pregnant, not an invalid.″ Fleur had been telling me this for months, and now seemed like a good time to agree with her. ″With all the changes in her body and the morning sickness gone, the sex is fantastic. You just wait.″ What I wanted to say was that she was nearly insatiable right now (we had made love before leaving for the Burrow), but two years of marriage had taught me better self- preservation skills than that.
″But don't go getting ideas,″ I added, picturing an out- of- wedlock Hermione round with child, and Ron telling Mum I had suggested it. I doubted any of us would live through that. Well, maybe the baby and Hermione (at least until he was born). Mum was thrilled about grandchildren.
″We're being careful.″
Knowing Hermione, I had no doubt that was true. Ron still looked like he thought I might be taking the mickey, but I knew how to shut down this conversation. I clapped a hand on my brother's shoulder and steered him towards the stairs. ″If you don't believe me, ask Dad.″
Sunday, December 10, 2000
Fleur and I, along with Ron and Hermione, Ginny and Harry, and Percy and his girlfriend Audrey, were gathered round the kitchen table after one of Mum's excellent meals. George was busy with Christmas sales at the shop, and Hermione had shooed my parents out, saying we needed to discuss their Christmas gift. She had even cast privacy charms around the room. I read the parchment Hermione was passing around the table. It was a list of the eight of us, each with a different Christmas song after his or her name.
″Most of you know—″ She shot Ron, Harry, and me significant looks— ″that there was a bit of an issue when multiple people decided to head upstairs during the Christmas songs time on Christmas Eve last year. I decided we needed a plan, so Molly doesn't get suspicious when half her family suddenly goes missing.″
″You scheduled sex?″ I sent Ron a sympathetic glance.
″It's a random schedule. You could get multiple chances, or you might get none. I got the statistics from the Wizarding Wireless Network on the names and frequency of the carols played on Christmas Eve between eight p.m. and midnight over the last five years, and I chose the eight— well, I chose more than that, since with Charlie and George there could be twelve of us at some point, but eight for now. Percy and Audrey have a two point eight percent increased chance, and Bill and Fleur three point four percent less, but it's as even as I could make it.″
And people accused me of being a swot.
Hermione turned to Percy and Audrey, who were determinedly not looking at each other. ″I started not to include you two, because I didn't want to assume, and then I realized that was an assumption in itself, so. . . .″
In the awkward silence that ensued as everyone else stared at the newest couple in the family (this was only Audrey's second family dinner), I looked for Ginny's and Harry's songs. ″Let It Snow″ and ″White Christmas.″ Easy enough. If either of those songs came on the wireless, I would change the station. If it was ″Carol of the Bells″ or ″The Christmas Song,″ I'd leave the room. Excellent.
″What about George and Angelina?″ Ron said, and my brothers and I (including a red- eared Percy) exchanged smirks.
George and Angelina had been close since the end of the war, but something had changed in their relationship around the first of August. Both Ron and I had tried to talk to George about it (I thought it was great. George smiled more around Angelina than anyone else, and she had been the one who finally convinced him to take a day off from the shop more than a year after Fred's death), but he was still insisting they were just friends.
″If he admits they're seeing each other, I'm happy to include them,″ Hermione said. ″Although—″
″We shouldn't let him see the whole list,″ Harry said, and everyone, even Audrey, nodded in agreement.
I might harass my baby sister, but I wouldn't put it past George, with his love of pranks and thousands of galleons, to bribe the WWN broadcaster not to play any of our songs. Or to play one song repeatedly. Or some other variation I wasn't devious enough to think of.
″What about Mum and Dad's Christmas gift?″ Percy said. ″They're going to expect some kind of group gift after this.″
″Ginny and Fleur and I have already taken care of it,″ Hermione said.
I have to admit, even with the extra fussing and clucking and complexity, there were advantages to having more witches in the family.
″I think we should make it a rule that each couple has access to that particular Weasley's bedroom and no one else's.″
Ginny was still sore about last year. I suppose the situation hadn't been helped by what I called the Anti- Other- Ginger charm, which caused the hair of any ginger- haired person (other than myself, obviously) to turn a sickly shade of puke green the moment they crossed the threshold of my and Fleur's bedroom. What did I care if the counter- charm turned the victim's fingernails neon green instead, and that there was no fix for that except to wait for the nails to grow out again? It had taken Hermione four hilarious days to find the counter- charm for the hair, and after Ginny's last match in November, George had been teasing her that her part- green, part- pink fingernails were perfect for Christmas. And Ginny had been in our room to see Fleur and the baby just a few days after Victoire was born. In early May.
What? I didn't earn twelve O.W.L.s and seven N.E.W.T.s for nothing. (And no, that doesn't make me a swot. Shut it.)
″Easy for you to say,″ Ron said to Ginny. ″Your room is on the first floor.″
She ignored him and looked at Hermione instead.
″Done,″ Hermione said. She and Fleur doubled the number of witches in the family, and I was learning that their ability to have complicated, silent conversations was not limited to mothers and daughters. I found it a bit creepy, to be honest.
″Any other questions?″ Hermione asked.
″I have one,″ Ron said. ″Do we have to wait for Christmas Eve?″
Christmas at the Burrow 2000
Mum had left the radio on during dinner, intending on some background music to set the mood, but the result was actually the quietest meal the Burrow had seen since the first weeks after the war. All of Mum's attempts at conversation fell flat within an exchange or two since no one wanted to miss hearing their song. The meal was over in record time, but none of us wizards could hear anything over the noise of washing up. Apparently even sex wasn't as tantalizing for Fleur, Hermione, Ginny, and Audrey as an opportunity to gossip.
Speaking of whom, it was Audrey who stole the show. Mum was showing her the family photos on the mantel when ″Jingle Bells″ came on the wireless. I was on the other side of the room, and it was Percy who tipped me off. He did an excellent imitation of an owl as his head swiveled a full 180 degrees to see Audrey's reaction.
″Thank you so much for showing me these, Mrs. Weasley,″ Audrey said, setting Percy's first birthday photo back between Charlie's and Fred's. ″If you'll excuse me?″ And without waiting for an answer, she turned away from Mum and disappeared down the hallway to the stairs.
Percy looked like he could have swallowed a puffskein whole, his mouth was open so wide. Ron abandoned his conversation with Harry and George (who had not brought Angelina along) and surveyed the chessboard between Dad and Percy.
″Blimey, Percy. You've stuffed this up so badly I'm not sure even I can recover it, but get up and give me a chance.″ Ron interlaced his fingers and flexed them. ″I could use a challenge.″
Percy closed his mouth but he didn't move. That answered that question; he and Audrey weren't sleeping together yet. George owed me five galleons. But the Weird Sisters were into the second verse, and I had no desire to lose another brother, especially over something as stupid as propriety.
″Budge up, Perce."
Percy obeyed me immediately— I loved being the oldest— but he went no farther. He looked at me helplessly. ″But— but— but—″
Dad was sitting right behind him, so I simply jerked my head towards the stairs. Percy shook his from side to side. I frowned and jerked again. I can appreciate that the middle of your parents' Christmas party is not the best place to make love with a witch for the first time, but this was getting ridiculous. Ginny materialized, slipping her arm around Percy's waist and walking him across the room. Ron had Dad involved in the chess match again, so I followed, nicking a handful of biscuits from a side table as I listened in.
″Audrey is going to be wondering where you are. Get upstairs,″ Ginny said, giving Percy an ineffectual shove.
″But— but— she— we—″
I hadn't decided what I thought of Audrey yet, but her ability to reduce my most articulate, eloquent brother into a stuttering moron was a definite plus.
″Look, Percy, you don't have to sleep with her, but you do have to go upstairs right now.″
I agreed with Ginny. The Weird Sisters were starting the chorus for the third time in a row. If Percy didn't hurry, he would be walking into a hexing.
″But—″ Percy looked from Mum to Dad to the grandfather clock in the corner. While far from articulate, at least he was understandable.
″I'll make sure you have as much time as you need,″ Ginny said. ″No interruptions or embarrassing questions, I promise. Now go!″
Percy took the stairs three at a time. Ginny and I were sharing an exasperated eye- roll when I felt Fleur's hand trail across my shoulders. The music had shifted from the exuberant monotony of sleigh bells to the rhythmic melody of handbells.
I didn't know it then, but I owed the birth of my second daughter to the Weasley Christmas Song List.
a/n: Guess what I want for Christmas? Reviews! How often do you get to give someone a Christmas gift for free?
Merry Christmas to all!