Stories from Sixth (and Seventh) Year
The stockings were hung
I'm baaaack! For those of you who are just discovering this archive and this story - Stories from Sixth Year is a sequel to a much longer story, The Letters of Summer which is archived here
and a few other places. This story will not make much sense if you try to pick it up without reading The Letters of Summer.
Everything had changed in Harry’s life, but when he returned to number four Privet Drive, nothing had changed. Oh, there were a few things that were different: the magazines in the bathroom were current, the arrangement on the mantle of the non-functional fireplace was decorated for Christmas rather than summer, and the floor of Harry’s bedroom (still referred to as â€˜Dudley’s second bedroom’) had a few new cast-off, broken things, but on the whole, nothing had changed. Tonks and Lupin had met him at King’s Cross Station, bundled his things into the boot of Moony’s car and drove away on York Road. Tonks monopolized the conversation with details of her upcoming wedding. She claimed that her mum was driving her mad with the details, but when Moony offered to elope instead, she gave him a cold, withering glare. As they drove into the estate, a hush fell over the car.
"We’ll pick you up on Christmas Day, you know," Tonks said apologetically. "It’s just a week."
Harry smiled and nodded. It promised to be a long week.
Wednesday, 18 December 1996
Not a lot has changed here — when I walked in the house Uncle Vernon hid behind his newspaper, pretending that I hadn’t arrived. Dudley tried to take a swing at me while I was taking my things to my room. Ducking, of course, allowed me to watch as his fist smacked into the wall. I smoothed the dent in the wall with a bit of wandless magic, smiled, and closed my door. I haven’t heard a peep out of ol’ Dudders since then.
So, enough about Azkaban South — I’ve started work on an essay in Transfiguration tonight and I’m going to see if I can break out the old bicycle tomorrow, weather be hanged. What’s Christmas like at The Burrow? I’ve spent most of my Christmases at Hogwarts — I figure last year’s holiday didn’t count because a) it was at Grimmauld Place and b) the encounter your dad had with Nagini kind of overshadowed things. Rowena assigned an interesting bit of reading — it’s a journal from a Wizard named Narwad who lived in the 1800’s — he served as a guide to Richard Burton, the explorer, but according to the journal, like Lockhart, many of the things that Burton said that he did were not his own exploits. Narwad was also of the opinion that Burton was a bit of a pervert, but he was too polite to come out and say it in plain words. How, you might ask, does she know about books that were written centuries after she died? Simple — she talks to the library. The school has a level of sentience — including the library. I don’t really want to tell Hermione that — ever.
Mm’lau doesn’t like being here — she’d been providing a running commentary on the doings of the Dursleys until I let her know that the less I knew of them, the happier I’d be.
I miss you. I don’t know how I’m going to sleep this week, but I’ll have to muddle through, I guess.
Thursday, 19 December, 1996
Merlin’s beard! I miss you so.
Hermione is safely home — I popped over for lunch today — having a Floo connection in her house is wonderful. She’ll be skiing this weekend with her mum and dad, but she’ll be back in time to drop by Christmas Day.
You asked about Christmas at The Burrow. We do all the normal things, of course, a Christmas tree, stockings by the mantle, crackers with Christmas dinner, etc. I guess it shouldn’t shock you that the thing that stands out the most about how Weasleys celebrate Christmas is the food (I wouldn’t be a Weasley if I couldn’t carry on about food, could I?).
We get a Clementine orange in our stockings, and on years when we’re particularly flush, there’s a big bowl of Clementines on top of the bread box. In case you aren’t familiar with this, it’s a small orange, not much bigger than a Snitch, with a loose skin that’s easy to peel. Most of them are pip-less, although I have found a pip or two over the years. They’re rather tart, but very satisfying. Mum will brew up cauldrons of wassail, which is kind of like mulled cider. I can’t really describe it, aside from the fact that this is the only way that I really like cloves. Then there’s the baking — we normally bake up hundreds of biscuits as mum insists on making up biscuit platters for practically everyone she knows. When Bill comes in, he usually brings half-a-dozen panettone, usually from Milan. Panettone is sweet bread that looks like it was baked in a big flowerpot — it’s a big round loaf, golden yellow in colour and tastes more like cake than bread. It has raisins and bits of candied orange and lemon peel in it, and we often serve it for pudding or at tea. It goes well with the wassail, but when a bunch of adults are over, mum will sometimes break out the muscato, which is about the only wine that I care to drink.
Speaking of drinking, I spent most of last night talking to mum after we got home from King’s Cross. We weren’t drinking muscato — instead we were drinking that frilly herbal stuff that you introduced to her last summer. It seems that I wasn’t the only one to see Uncles Gideon and Fabian at my baptism. She asked why they were wearing white robes like mine, which led to some very interesting conversations.
Is Uncle Moony taking you to church this Sunday? If so, let him know that a certain red-haired miss would like to tag along. Are you certain that you have to stay at Azkaban South until Christmas Day? I don’t know if I can wait that long.
Well, I gotta run — mum’s calling for me to help her with another gigantic batch of biscuits. Although I think she does need the help, I think this is just a pretext for giving me a virginity pep talk.
Ever loving you,
Friday, 20 December 1996
It was a somewhat eventful day. I spent the morning doing the usual chores — okay, I spent an hour after breakfast doing chores with the assistance of discreet wandless magic. Then I finished my essay, simply because I don’t want to think about schoolwork any more. I gave the notion of Apparating to somewhere I could fly some long consideration, but concluded that my minders would go spare if I were to do that. By the way, I’ve figured out the borders of the Anti-Apparation ward that covers number four Privet Drive. Once I could sketch out what I was looking for to Mm’lau, she was quite helpful in mastering the techniques for detecting that bit of magic.
Because I find life with the Dursleys to be depressing, after lunch I decided that I would do anything to get out. I called Moey to see if I could set up a bicycle ride. Moey wasn’t available to serve as my minder, so it was Ms Laurel instead. She hasn’t changed a bit. Although there’s snow on the ground and it’s a bit nippy, the roads were clear and dry, so it was a very nice ride.
It got a little complicated on the return trip. Mm’lau pointed out that she could sense some Dark Magic, which turned out to be a minor ambush in Little Whinging. Ms Laurel called in backup and then we sat back from a safe distance and watched the ambushers get ambushed, nabbing two newly-minted Death Eaters. I didn’t know either of them, and they weren’t related to any of the Hogwarts students that we know. I’m not sure what’s going to happen with them, but I’m sure it’s not going to be pleasant. Scrimgeour, the head Auror, isn’t known for his sense of humour.
Ms Laurel was disappointed that she didn’t get to take part in the strike team, a sentiment shared by Mm’lau, who’s getting a bit ruthless in her old age. I thought Iâ€˜d be locked down after this, but the shopping trip I scheduled for tomorrow hasn’t been cancelled. We’ll see — I’m hoping for the best.
St. Simon’s doesn’t have a Saturday evening service like the chapel in Hooper, otherwise I’d suggest attending that, if for no other reason than I don’t want to wait until Sunday to see you. Moony says he’ll drop by to pick you up on Sunday morning, at the usual time.
Well, enough for now.
Almost Saturday, but according to the clock, still Friday, 20 December 1996 for twenty more minutes
This is my third go at writing this letter. When first I heard that you were almost ambushed I started going into a fit that would have done Hermione proud, but upon reflection, I’m gratified to see that you didn’t go out with your wand ablaze to round up a couple of DE losers. Thank you, thank you, thank you! It’s definitely okay with me that you didn’t go rushing into the fight. When next you go rushing into danger, I’m supposed to be by your side, remember?
Well, here at The Burrow we’ve been cranking out biscuits like Goblins minting Knuts. I stopped counting at thirty-five dozen — you don’t want to know how many eggs and how much butter we’ve gone through. Enclosed with this missive you’ll find a plate of ginger newts, which I seem to recall that you liked. I made these, but they’re mum’s recipe.
Tonks came by for a last minute fit and alteration of her gown — it’s lovely. I won’t bother to describe the dress because you wouldn’t appreciate the sewing details beyond the fact that it’s long with a small train and ivory in colour. Tonks looks gorgeous in it, of course. The veil is a light half-veil that uses a variation on the same charm that she put on my scarf the first time I went to St. Simon’s. When she first puts it on it’s ivory coloured like the dress, then it goes through a rainbow of colours and then it changes back to ivory — very appropriate for a Metamorphmagus bride. Unlike some of the tacky gowns I saw in the book at the bridal shop, it’s not one of these no-visible-means-of-support dresses that threaten to fall off when the bride tosses the bouquet.
I’m fighting very hard against the fantasies of wearing a dress like Tonks’ myself. That will come, some day, but old Lizard Lips needs to be room temperature before that’s going to happen, I’m sure.
Changing the subject, mum did launch into the virginity pep talk when we were both up to our elbows in biscuit dough. I assured her that you are a virtue-filled gentleman who wants a virgin bride, which was some comfort to dear old mum, and then I let loose the fact that I’ve been sleeping with you in my Animagus form. To my great surprise, she didn’t burst an aneurism on the spot.
When I explained the reason behind it, giving a very condensed version of our spat in October (omitting what happened and didn’t happen in Sirius’ cave over Hogsmeade), she concluded that she heartily approved of the arrangement and wouldn’t oppose it continuing at the Burrow.
Well, I need to press my face against my pillow if I hope to be of any use to anyone tomorrow.
Ever loving you,
22 December 1996
It was nice to be back at St. Simon’s today and even nicer to go forward for Holy Communion with Harry. ;-)
Father Harper is a nice guy and a good preacher, but Father Martin still blows me away when he steps into the pulpit. Daphne was there and after the service introduced me to her parents, who greeted me warmly. Evidently a number of other people saw Uncles Gideon and Fabian last weekend.
In four more days Tonks will become Dora Lupin — yippee! We had a girl-to-girl chat today and she filled me in on the details — when she signs the paperwork after her wedding, she’s going to change her given name, which is a very minor bonus as far as she’s concerned. She’s been brewing Wolfsbane Potion for him since October with good results. The full moon arrives on Tuesday, Christmas Eve, which was part of their planning. I hope that Moony is fully recovered by Boxing Day!
After church we went out to brunch at a new place, a Thai-Vietnamese restaurant. One nice thing about the place is that all the staff were my size, which was novel indeed. I had a slimy noodle dish which tasted far better than it looked. The only ingredients I recognized were the bits of mushroom and a handful of very tasty shrimp. Tonks said the dish was called Pad Thai. After brunch we took off with Moony and Tonks and hit the cinema for a matinee. I, of course, didn’t mind snuggling into Harry while watching a Muggle film. We went for a long walk after that and then had a bite to eat before Flooing home from Grimmauld Place. Tonks and Moony conveniently disappeared before I had to leave, giving us some time together. Thank you Tonks, wherever you are.
Fred and George are back for a visit. They have a flat over their shop on Diagon Alley, but they come back from time to time. If they stay over the holiday Harry will have to room with Ron again, which will be okay, but it will put a bit of a kink in some of my plans.
DamnationDarn, George just confirmed that they’ll be staying over the hols. Ever the perceptive one, he asked if that was going to interrupt my plans. That’s when I showed him my newest talent. He was quite impressed, although he did make a few rude jokes about Harry and his fondness for scarlet coloured felines — I’m not going to repeat them here. He then proposed a most audacious prank, solemnly vowing to carry his part out with fidelity; if it blows up, I’m going to be grounded until I’m thirty, but if it works — well, who knows?
On the morning of Christmas Eve, Harry had already packed and repacked his trunk. Tonks and Moony were going to pick him up before breakfast on Christmas Day, so with any luck; he’d be gone before the Dursleys were out of bed. In what he characterized as either a bit of moral development or psychological warfare, he’d bought presents for the Dursleys — he’d slip them under the tree before he left. The presents were entirely Muggle, not hexed or otherwise booby trapped. If it made them wonder what he was thinking, he’d consider it to be an entirely successful operation. He’d mailed off dozens of Christmas cards and letters to a number of friends, notwithstanding that he’d seen some of them less than two weeks ago.
After dinner he received a terse note in the Passbox from Ginny, which read:
Standby for a post from me at 11:00 p.m.
Given the fact that she was normally out like a light by 10:00 p.m., (except for the rare evening that he’d tempt her to join him on prowls through the castle) this piqued his curiosity, but he couldn’t figure out what scheme she was working, so he spent the time reading the last few chapters of Narwad’s journal. In the penultimate chapter Narwad described a type magical manipulation that sounded amazingly like some of the magic he practiced with the spiders, which is why, he supposed, that Rowena asked him to read it. He wrote down a page of notes, questions and observations mostly, looking up as the face of Dudley’s cast-off clock-radio turned to 11:00.
The faintest of noises preceded the lighting of the knob on the Weasley door. He heard a humorous rumbling throaty noise from Mm’lau, but still he hesitated a moment, remembering that this was a Weasley he was dealing with, after all, before carefully opening the door.
Nothing exploded; there was no flash of light, no smells, shards of lightning or infernal devices. As he opened the door wide a deep ginger-coloured tabby cat came out of the Passbox, pausing to stretch before jumping into his lap. An instant later he sank down into the bed as the weight in his lap grew more than tenfold. Instead of a blinking cat, a warm and wonderful girl was now ensconced in his lap, dressed in a thin nightdress and slippers. Looking down at her attire she flushed briefly before looking into his eyes.
"What’s the matter? Cat got your tongue? Happy Christmas, Harry," she said before joining her lips to his.
Maybe there was magic to Christmas Eve after all.
Copyright © 2006 J.E. Cornell — all rights reserved.
Kokopelli20878@yahoo.com — write to me, I write back.
Author’s note: This was written in three sittings, unlike the prior chapter of SFSY, which was written in a stop and start fashion over a period that probably spanned six months or more. The juices are flowing for SYSY again - yipee. Work and real life, however, are not very conducive to writing, so I have to catch the opportunity when I can. Thanks to Runsamok for the wonderful edits as the fastest Beta east of the Mississippi, and for Art’s insightful comments. I write fan-fiction in part because of the interaction — with my wise readers (the pre-betas who tell me when I’m striking out — you know who you are), my regular readers, my betas, etc.