Harry grinned as Sirius walked by singing Christmas carols with a broad smile. He was glad that Sirius finally seemed to be letting himself have a little fun. He knew how awful it felt to be locked up, but he also knew how wonderful it felt when you were reunited with the people that you cared about.
"Come on, everyone!" yelled Mrs. Weasley from the kitchen. "Time for dinner–" There were two small explosions in succession before Mrs. Weasley screamed. "Fred! George! What have I told you a hundred times–"
"God rest ye merry hippogriffs," bellowed Sirius in his loud, baritone voice.
"Ron!" Ginny was yelling. "Your owl stole my quill!"
"Oh, no you don't! Fred, George, get back here this instant!"
"Mum, there's a pixie in the bathroom again!" shouted Ron from upstairs.
"Constant vigilance, Weasley!"
"Oh for heaven's sake, Mad-Eye," Tonks admonished.
"Let nothing you dismay," Sirius continued. "Remember… something something, I don't know the words!"
"Sirius," groaned Remus as he came down the stairs, "if you don't know the words, why are you singing?"
There was a loud crash and a "Tonks!" followed quickly by a flustered "Sorry, Molly."
"Hermione," called Ron, "Can you help me get rid of this pix- GAH! Blimey, Fred, George, I told you not to DO that!"
"We can handle this, Ickle-Ronniekins!"
"Mundungus, what on Earth are you bringing into this house!"
Harry smiled to himself at the ruckus of Grimmauld Place. Mr. Weasley was alive, Sirius was in a good mood, and it was almost Christmas. He was incredibly fond of all of them, everyone in the house.
By the time everyone had actually settled down at the table to eat, Mrs. Weasley had to use a charm to reheat the food.
Harry felt quite content as he ate a fair helping of everything offered. It was nice to just forget about things and simply be. He wasn't dwelling on Umbridge–though he was sure that his hand was wrapped inconspicuously, so as not to draw attention–he was trying his best not to dwell on Voldemort, and he was just thankful that Mr. Weasley was all right.
"The prat sought us out–with no provocation whatsoever–and began shooting curses at us!" George was saying.
"Well," Fred corrected, "maybe a little provocation."
"Well," George continued, "to be completely honest, we may have started it."
"But still, he came at us with his wand and we were shocked."
"Get on with it!" said Ginny with a roll of her eyes.
"So we stunned him," said George, shrugging.
"But then we saw students running around the corner," said Fred.
"They looked all scared, and as they ran by, we heard one of them say something about Umbridge," said George solemnly.
Harry tightened his grip around the fork in his hand reflexively.
"So, to hide, we went into this room with a 'keep out' sign on it."
"You what?" snapped Mrs. Weasley.
George waved his mother's concern away."The sign was just a suggestion, Mum."
"And guess what we found in there?" asked Fred excitedly.
"What?" asked Tonks, getting caught up in the story.
"It was the room Filch had been storing all the things that he confiscates from students!" said George in barely concealed glee.
"Obviously, there were many interesting things in that room and we decided to–"
"Boys!" Mrs. Weasley admonished, shaking her head.
As if just realizing that their mother was in the room, Fred quickly altered what he had been about to say. "–to leave everything right where it was," he finished lamely.
There was laughter and butterbeer, and as the night wore on, Harry grew drowsy as he sat and sipped his drink while the table buzzed with friendly conversation.
Hearing his name brought him suddenly back to Earth.
"So then Harry," gasps Ron through his laughter, "asks him if he and Umbridge are going steady, and Malfoy was confused. Blighter didn't even notice that Harry had turned his hair pink!"
The twins burst into laughter and Harry smiled before taking another sip of butterbeer. It had earned him a detention with Umbridge once she found out, but it had been worth it.
"And that, Harry," said Fred, still laughing hysterically, "is why we love you!"
Harry very promptly choked on his butterbeer. The laughter died as Sirius hit him repeatedly on the back in worry.
Once Harry could breathe again he just stared at Fred with a shocked look on his face.
"Are you all right, Harry, dear?" asked Mrs. Weasley.
Harry tore his eyes from Fred whose face suddenly looked troubled and nodded. "I- I'm fine," he said softly, and he cursed his voice for shaking. He stood up abruptly. "Sorry I–I should–I'll just be a minute." He turned to leave the room, but Sirius' hand on his shoulder stopped him. Harry saw the alarm in his godfather's face and could not make himself leave. He slowly lowered himself back into his chair.
"What was that all about, then?" asked Remus. "You're all right, aren't you, Harry?"
"Yeah, I'm fine." Harry looked away, feeling his face grow hot. "It's just, nobody's ever said that to me before. It caught me off guard, that's all."
There was a heavy, uncomfortable silence. Mrs. Weasley stood up and turned her back on them as she made her way to the sink. She began washing dishes without a word, the muggle way. Harry could see her shoulders shaking.
Harry frowned. He stood up and cautiously made his way towards her, trying to ignore the eyes that he felt on his back. "Er… Mrs. Weasley?" he asked.
With his back on the dinner table, he did not see the looks being exchanged by its occupants. Sirius had his head in his hands while Remus just stared straight ahead at nothing in shock. Ron and Hermione shared a look of grief. Fred just sat there, stunned at the reaction that those simple words had caused. And that, Harry, is why we love you. It seemed like the right thing to say; because of course they loved Harry. Harry had become a part of the family. All of the Weasleys knew this. Hell, Sirius and Remus considered him family too. Didn't Harry know that they all loved him? Hadn't they ever told him?
Nobody's ever said that to me before.
Fred felt anger beginning to grow at the implications of those words. He had never hated the Dursleys more.
"Mrs. Weasley?" Harry asked again, his words filled with hesitation and uncertainty, and that was what pulled Molly Weasley over the edge.
She turned and threw her arms around Harry in such an abrupt hug that she forgot to wipe the dishwater off her hands. Harry stood there in shock for a moment, hot water soaking through the back of his shirt. His eyes were wide and he was holding his arms out at his sides. He swallowed and slowly returned the hug.
"We love you, Harry, do you hear me?" she said shakily as she clutched him to her.
Harry started again at the unexpected words, as if he hadn't expected to hear them again. Mrs. Weasley pulled away and Harry was amazed to see that her eyes were wet. She took in his overwhelmed expression and it took everything that she had to keep herself from crying. She patted his cheek clumsily with a damp hand. "Of course we love you."
Harry unconsciously took a step back and opened his mouth to respond, but nothing came out.
Sirius stood up, then and moved swiftly over to his godson and placed his hands on his shoulders. "Oh, Harry…" he said, before pulling him into a hug as well. "We always have and we always will."
Harry had to wipe the back of his hand across his eyes, horrified at the moisture that he found there. He took a deep breath as he held tightly onto Sirius. Mrs. Weasley's hugs were always motherly, and wonderful, but this was different.
This was as if by a father.
Sirius pulled away, and Ron fidgeted in his discomfort. "You did know this already, didn't you?" he asked guiltily. "Surely you must have noticed–"
But then Harry was hugging him, and Hermione was there, and the twins, and Ginny. Sirius and Remus and Tonks. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley.
Of course he'd known.
He'd always known.
It was just nice to finally hear it.