The Ghost of Christmas Past by Mutt N Feathers
Summary: *** Winner of Best Overall, Best Drama, and The Peopleâ€™s Choice Award in the Night Time Challenge ***
It's a pretty awful holiday at Grimmauld Place in 1995 when Hermione suggests that Harry take a potion to improve his eyesight. Hoping for any relief from the melancholy of the house, he does to rather awful affects. What happens though when Ginny takes it and is mistaken for an apparition from the past?
Categories: Night Time Challenge (2010-6), Night Time Challenge (2010-6)
The Ghost of Christmas Past by Mutt N Feathers
Chapter 1: The Ghost of Christmas PastAuthor's Notes:
The Ghost of Christmas Past
December 30, 1995
Grimmauld Place, London
“Hermione, I told you, I do not want to take your potion,” Harry grumbled at her while they lounged in his and Ron’s bedroom at Grimmauld Place. “I don’t care what it’s supposed to do, or how well you think you brewed it, I am not taking it. Period. My eyesight is fine.”
“But, Harry, if you could get rid of those silly glasses...”
“They’re not silly,” Harry groused, “and I don’t want to get rid of them. They don’t bother me.” Harry hadn’t been in the best of moods since their rather brusk arrival. Their visit to St. Mungo’s on Christmas hadn’t made things any better, and even a week later, Harry couldn’t shake the malaise that had settled upon him after the visit. It didn’t help that Sirius had distanced himself from Harry, instead choosing to spend long hours alone on the top floor of the dingy old house; a hippogriff, some old photo albums and a record player his only company. He’d asked Remus about it, but the only answer Harry received was that Sirius was ‘fighting the ghosts of Christmas past’. He and Hermione had needed to explain the reference to Ron and Ginny, who had never heard the classic story before.
“Think of how much easier Quidditch will be if you don’t have to worry about your lenses getting fogged up,” Hermione continued on.
“Don’t even go there, Hermione,” Harry warned her. “You don’t know a darn thing about Quidditch. I’m not interested in getting rid of my glasses.” Harry sulked out of the room, not wanting to tell her the truth. He’d love to be without the offensive frames, be able to see when he awoke in the morning without groping for his spectacles; but his frames were the same as the ones his father had worn. Harry had no desire to be rid of them. Apart from the invisibility cloak, the dark mop on his head, these glasses were the only tie he had to James Potter. It wasn’t something that he’d willingly give up.
He’d been thinking about his Mum and Dad more than usual lately. Sirius had pictures of them that he kept in his room. Pictures of James and Sirius together at the beach when they were boys. Others of the Marauders together at school, even a few with Lily and two other girls as well as the guys. They all seemed to be close from the way they were laughing and smiling in the pictures. There was a whole album of his parents’ wedding that Remus had salvaged and held onto all these years. There were also piles of pictures of Harry as a baby with his parents, but these had never been organized into albums, they were just collected into a box.
He knew that it was a silly reason for not wanting to have his eyes fixed, attempting to keep this last tie to his long dead father, but Harry needed it. Convinced that something horrible was happening to him, Harry held even tighter to the memories of his parents as war heroes and martyrs in the fight against Voldemort. He couldn’t be all bad if his parents had been so good, right?
He didn’t hear Ginny come up and sit down on the step next to him until she was there, her head resting on his shoulder. He couldn’t quite place why, but her mere proximity gave him more comfort than either Ron or Hermione could as of late. Maybe it was because her expectations of his interactions were lower, maybe it was just because she was far more gentle about things than either of his best mates were. Maybe it was her personal understanding of how destructive having had Voldemort possess you caused you to feel. No amount of scrubbing was making Harry feel clean these days. Ginny had explained to him that she felt the same way after the incident in the Chamber of Secrets years ago. She also promised that someday it would go away.
“You know she’s just trying to be helpful, right?” Ginny asked and Harry nodded.
“Yeah, I just...not right now, okay?”
“Hey, I wouldn’t push you into it, but Hermione doesn’t always see the whole picture. She’s more interested in completing a perfect section than making sure that he whole painting makes sense.” Ginny put into words what he couldn’t. It was something he appreciated that about her. “Your head okay?” Her fingers brushed along his scar as she asked and his skin tingled where she touched it.
“Yeah, hasn’t hurt since the night when...anyway. Thanks for coming out here...” they fell into a silence that wasn’t uncomfortable, just sitting there on the step, listening to the noises of the old house. He appreciated that Ginny never felt the need to fill quiet with meaningless statements, instead she just let things be.
Mrs. Weasley’s sounds of cooking were wafting up from the basement kitchen, punctuated by a rattling snore of Mr. Weasley napping in the makeshift bedroom they created in the dining room. Meanwhile odd noises were emanating from under the door to the room that the twins shared. There was a bit of a crash, followed by a rather loud curse and then nothing -- as if someone had erected a silencing charm.
“I don’t even want to imagine what my brothers are up to in there,” Ginny muttered and Harry nodded.
A new sound joined the muted chorus, the strummed chords from a guitar could be heard wafting down from the top floor. Harry knew that Sirius had a record player up there with him, but he was surprised at the source of the song.
“That sounds familiar,” Ginny mentioned, cocking her head to the side as if trying to place it, looking much like a robin listening for worms in the ground.
“It’s the Beatles,” Harry told her. “They were a Muggle band back in the sixties and early seventies. I’m surprised that Sirius knew who they were. It’s not like he would have been listening to Muggle stuff then, he was only a kid. I don’t think that Mrs. Black would have allowed such things in her house. I doubted that she embraced Muggle music happily.”
“Oh, but she’s just so pleasant now,” Ginny groused, her eyes drifting down as if she could see through the floorboards to where the wildly offensive portrait of the woman was attached to the walls.
“Pleasantly awful,” Harry retorted and they both laughed. As their chortles died down they could hear the floorboards below them creek and groan in protest to being walked on. A couple was standing outside the drawing room on the first floor, speaking to one another in what they thought was the empty hallway. They couldn’t have known that Harry and Ginny were sitting a floor above.
“That’s not good,” Remus voice said. “I think he’s purposefully torturing himself up there.”
“Is there any Firewhiskey in the house?” Tonks asked.
“I always think not, and then he ends up drunk, so I’ve stopped assuming. It’s an old house and he knows all the secrets this place holds. For all I know he’s mixing potions to give himself,” Remus sighed.
“You can’t stop him if he doesn’t want to be stopped.”
“No, but I thought if we got through the early part of November he’d be okay. It’s almost worse now than it was then. He seems to forget that I lost her too.”
“I know,” Tonks told him softly and Harry could have sworn that he heard a hand rubbing along the course weave of Remus’ sweater. “Sirius has lots ghosts that haunt him, but there won’t ever be one as insidious as hers.” There was quiet for a minute and then another song started, this one an old Christmas carol that Harry recognized from listening to the BBC with the Dursley’s when he was a child.
“That song...she always sang it...I can’t listen anymore. I’m going out for a while,” Remus hastily said before retreating footsteps were heard on the stairs. Moments later the front door opened and shut again, followed a few heartbeats later by Tonks cheerfully greeting Mrs. Weasley in the kitchen.
“Any idea who they’re talking about?” Ginny asked Harry but he shook his head. Harry felt his stomach clench into knots, knowing that there was something else that was being kept from him, something that was clearly important to both Remus and Sirius. The sounds of bickering from his bedroom interrupted the pair and he put his hands onto the stair tread to push off.
“Come on, lets go back in there,” Harry told Ginny. “I can hear Hermione pestering Ron about homework. There’s no need to start it yet. Let’s go save him. Maybe I’ll take her potion just to give her something else to contemplate for a while,” he mused and Ginny gave him a friendly clap on the back as she stood.
“Great way to take one for the team.”
“Ha ha,” Harry said emotionlessly. Ron and Hermione were standing toe to toe, their useless Defense textbook held between them.
“Here, study this, Hermione. She’s about the only teacher who doesn’t think that you’re the brightest witch in the school,” Ron teased. Harry’s stomach did another lurch at the mere thought of Umbridge. He couldn’t believe how much he despised her.
“What’s the point,” she bellyached, “it’s not like we’ll use any magic in her class anyway. How in the world we’ll be ready for our O.W.L.’s...”
“They are months away, ‘Mione,” Ron reminded her, “Professor Dumbledore might be able to change things by then.” Hermione didn’t look impressed and turned and sulked over to the chair next to his bed and slouched down in it. Ron looked at Harry and Ginny expectantly, hoping that they’d help him with their bushy haired friend, but Ginny just cocked an eyebrow at her brother and shook her head. They talked for a while about school, things with the D.A. and how they thought the Quidditch team would fare in their match against Hufflepuff without Harry and the twins. Unfortunately, they ran out of subjects to talk about. Finally, Harry rolled his eyes and took a deep breath.
“So, this potion stuff you made,” he changed the subject, sounding rather detached from the experiment, “it’s supposed to make my eyesight better?”
“That’s what the book said,” Hermione answered, seeing through Harry’s attempt to placate her. “It wouldn’t be in a book in the library if it didn’t do what it said.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure about that,” Ron muttered under his breath, not sharing Hermione’s blind faith in the written word.
“Give it here,” Harry said, holding out his hand. “I suppose you’re right, it might be nice to not have to worry about losing my specs when I’m flying; if I ever get my broom back.” He took the purple phial from her and uncorked it, giving the liquid a sniff. He could only smell cinnamon, which was rather appetizing.
“I think it will work best if we put it into some tea,” Hermione explained. “It says that the taste can be rather overwhelming otherwise.”
“Fine,” Harry said as he rose. “I’m certain the kettle is on downstairs, Mrs. Weasley likes her afternoon tea.” He corked the phial and put it in the pocket of his sweatshirt and headed out the door, making his way down the narrow staircase. When they reached the first floor landing, Harry could again hear angry voices coming from inside the Sitting Room.
“You’ve got to stop doing this to yourself,” Remus complained. “If she knew this is what you were doing...if she saw you this way...”
“Yeah, she can’t now can she,” Sirius yelled back, his words slightly slurred. “Just leave me alone.” He seethed the last words.
“No, Sirius, I won’t,” Remus retorted, his voice getting as angry as his mates. “She loved you more than life. I’m sorry that she was killed, but do I need to remind you that it wasn’t just you that lost her? My best friend died that day, too.” The floor groaned as someone walked across it, and then the quartet heard the old sofa protest as it was sat on.
“A few more days, if we’d just made it a few more days, she would have been my wife,” Sirius mumbled so quietly it was hard to hear from in the hall. Harry staggered backwards. Whoever it was, this nameless woman was supposed to be Sirius’ wife. She would have been his godmother. She might have even raised him. Ginny, sensing that Harry was deeply affected by the news took Harry’s hand and gave it a squeeze.
“We’ll go get your tea,” Hermione whispered as she gave Ron a shove to get him moving. The floorboards squeaked and yelped at being walked on and the ability of the quartet to eavesdrop was lost. Since they weren’t going to hear any more, Ginny decided to make the best of an awkward situation and pulled Harry toward the Sitting Room door.
“Bring up enough for all of us,” she suggested and Hermione nodded, figuring that maybe some tea could not only sober Sirius up, but improve his mood as well. “Come on, Harry,” she said loudly. “We’ll wait for them in the Sitting Room.” Harry cocked an eyebrow at her, but allowed himself to be tugged along.
Sirius was staring at the floor when they entered, but the pair could see that there were pictures strewn across the carpet, many of them appearing to be of the same person. One of her and his mother caught his attention and he lifted it. His Mum was in her wedding dress and the girl was standing next to her, giving her a bouquet of flowers.
“Who is she?” Harry absentmindedly asked. Sirius sighed loudly and Remus exhaled but neither started to speak; finally his godfather did, his eyes never lifting from the pile of pictures at his feet.
“Her name was Anwen. She was your Mum’s best friend and she was my ... fiancée. She was murdered the day after your parents, while I was out hunting Peter.” He spoke no louder than a whisper.
“She was an uncommonly talented witch,” Remus took over speaking, walking the few steps to where Sirius was still slouched. He put a hand on his best mate’s shoulder and gave a squeeze. “She and your Mother were best friends, and your dad and I thought of her as the little sister we’d never had. For as skilled as she was, she was an even more exceptional human being.”
A strangled sound left Sirius’ throat and he got up and sulked out of the room without another word. Ginny felt tears sting her eyes and Harry’s heart constricted at the pain his godfather was going through.
“How did she?” Ginny asked.
“Bellatrix and the Lestrange brothers murdered her. She’d been away on Order business and had flown back into the country as a Muggle. They ambushed her outside Heathrow. There wasn’t much for me to identify...” Remus trailed off, his eyes showing unspeakable horror.
“Why was she flying on an airplane?” Harry asked on instinct, rather than thinking about what words were leaving his mouth.
“She was Muggle-born, and it was safer for the Order work she was doing to travel as one. She was an Auror, Alice Longbottom’s partner actually,” Remus explained. “I wish you’d have known her,” he said with a reflective timbre. “She was a force of nature and about the only person who could really keep Padfoot in line. She was fearless, too. The first day she met us all she told both your Dad and Sirius where to put their cocky attitudes.”
“Sirius loved her?” Ginny asked. Ron and Hermione returned with a tray holding the tea pot and some biscuits. Realizing that something important was being discussed Hermione stuffed a biscuit in Ron’s mouth and pointed him toward a seat while she poured the tea and passed out the cups.
“More than anything. She was the perfect yin to his yang and the only one could temper his,” Remus paused, a sad smile crossing his lips, “enthusiasm for life.”
“What do you mean?” Ginny enquired.
“Anwen carried the weight of the world on her shoulders, even when she was eleven. Sirius helped her relax and enjoy life, she helped him grow up. Without her I doubt your parents would have made him your godfather.”
“She was close to my parents? I mean, I guess she was, but she was close enough that she would have known me when I was little?” Harry asked, sipping his tea and forgetting all about the potion he was going to take.
“You knew her, called her your ‘ninny’, short for Winnie, which your Mum and Dad called her. She doted on you something fierce. In fact, you went to sleep every night to her singing lullabies to you. When you were born, she’d charmed this box thing and when you opened the lid you could touch a ball of light with a wand to make it start. Flowers and stars and shapes would spin across the ceiling and then you’d hear Anwen’s voice singing. She’d studied Opera before she came to Hogwarts and had the most amazing voice. I bet if you heard it now you might remember.”
Remus sat and went through the pictures with the teens, telling them about their exploits while at school and about how this Anwen interacted with each of the Marauders and Lily. It wasn’t until Mrs. Weasley called them all for supper that they realized they’d wasted the entire afternoon, and Harry still hadn’t taken his potion.
Sirius joined them for the evening meal, although he said little and thankfully no one attempted to engage him in conversation. When they were done Harry desperately wanted to return to the sitting room and stare at the pictures some more and listen to more stories about his parents and Anwen and the Marauders, but Mrs. Weasley insisted that he, Ron, Hermione and Ginny stay behind and clean up after supper, washing all the dishes by hand. By the time they were finished the door to the Sitting Room was closed and when Harry pressed his eye to the crack between the French doors, he could have sworn that he saw Sirius holding a picture and a bottle while the fire reflected on his damp cheeks. Intruding on that wasn’t something that Harry had any desire to do. The others traveled up the next flight of stairs to the boys' room, leaving Harry alone on the risers to digest what he’d just seen. He didn’t hear Remus come up and sit down next to him.
“Why is so hard on him right now? I mean, she’s been gone for years?” Harry asked.
“Christmas was Anwen’s favorite time of the year. She...it’s a long story, but she had to perform at the hols, singing and such, even when she was a little girl. None of us can really separate Christmas from memories of Anwen. Even your professors were discussing it earlier today.”
“And McGonagall,” Remus added. “They remember watching her sing... leave him be tonight. When he passes out I’ll get him back upstairs to his room and then clean up the mess in there. I’ll pull a few of the pictures out for you to have before I hide the rest. He doesn’t need a physical reminder of what’s gone, but it might be easier on him if it wasn’t around.” With that Remus stood and walked down the stairs, again leaving Harry alone. After a long pause he stood and jammed his hands into his pockets, his fingers brushing the phial that he’d placed there and then forgotten.
Determined to do something to take his mind off the pain his godfather was in, he jogged down to the kitchen and grabbed a glass and some pumpkin juice before making his way back upstairs to his room. Hermione, Ron and Ginny were all reading when he entered.
“Okay, Hermione, I’m going to take this,” he told her before setting the glass down on the small table between the beds. He slipped the phial from his pocket, uncorked it and poured the potion into the glass. He swirled the concoction around in the glass, providing a good mixing before lifting it and drinking down about half. He set the glass back down and then sat on his bed.
Harry could feel a slight burning in his throat just before his stomach clenched and his head began to swoon. He closed his eyes and fell back onto his bed, his head clipping the edge of the headboard as he went down.
“Oof,” he muttered as he contacted with the wood and instinctively brought his right hand up to massage the spot on his crown.
“Anything?” Ron asked.
“A sore head,” Harry answered in an irritated voice. “Hold on, I’m still a little dizzy here,” he continued and the other three simply sat and watched him.
A minute passed.
Ron, finally frustrated from just watching Harry began to talk. “Harry, mate, open your eyes. Tell us if it worked.”
Harry opened his eyes, but instead of things being clearer, the world had taken on a sort of purple, fuzzy haze. As he tried to focus in on Ron’s face he could feel the juice and potion rolling around in his stomach. He reached for the rubbish bin that was under the bedside table and was rapidly sick into it.
“Oh bugger,” Ron said loudly. Ginny, not wanting their mother alerted to Harry’s distress, stood and quickly moved to shut the door to the room. Harry had tried to follow her with his eyes and the movement caused another round of retching to begin.
“Thanks, Hermione,” he sputtered out before he was sick again. Ron excused himself, saying something about having to ask the twins a question and hastily exited. Ginny just shook her head at her brother and then more slowly went to the loo on the floor and wetted a flannel and brought it back to the room to pat Harry’s brow.
An hour later both Ron and Hermione had left and Harry was drowsing, his body cleansed of the potion as well as his dinner. Ginny had snuck down to the kitchen and brought him up some cool water and a few saltines, hoping that when he awoke he’d be able to keep them down. She knew if he was sick much longer she’d have to tell her Mum that he’d been ill, which would cause her to overreact and separate them for the remainder of their holiday so that whatever it was that Harry had wouldn’t be catching. She’d also brought herself a slice of leftover pie and a glass of juice.
She was on Ron’s bed, flipping through a “Quidditch Monthly” when Harry awoke. His eyes fluttered open and he was somewhat defeated when he realized that he needed to reach for his glasses to see anything.
“Learning anything interesting?” Harry asked her and Ginny looked up at him. He pointed at the magazine and she shook her head.
“The Cannons are at the bottom of the standings.”
“You already knew that,” he reminded her.
“Yeah, but I found this in one of the bedrooms upstairs. They were doing poorly in 1977. So, I guess that since you put your glasses on, it didn’t work?”
“You would be assuming correctly,” Harry said sadly. “All that puking and it didn’t even do anything.”
“Sorry about that,” Ginny commiserated.
“Eh, it’s okay,” Harry confessed. “Wasn’t really sure that I wanted to lose the specs anyway.” She set down her reading material and looked at him.
“It’s stupid, Gin.”
“Probably not,” she urged him.
“My Dad wore the same ones. I like that we have that in common. Stupid huh, clinging to my glasses because they remind me of him.” She got up and off Ron’s bed, kneeling down between them, her face only inches from Harry’s.
“It’s not stupid to want to be tied to him. They’re your parents, and you miss them. I think that it’s sweet, Harry. Come on, have a few sips of water and if you’re feeling up to it, there are some crackers here for you.” She lifted the glass and handed it to him, and he did drink.
“You didn’t have to take care of me,” Harry began to protest but she shrugged him off.
“Better me than Ron,” she quipped. “Anyway, I made Hermione wash out the rubbish bin. I was better at deflecting Mum’s questions anyway. Tonks knows that you’re not feeling well, but she won’t tell anyone.” Ginny reached over, intending to grab her glass, but unbeknownst to either of them, she grabbed the half full one that contained Harry’s potion. She emptied the glass, surprised at how warm and heavily spiced the juice tasted.
It only took a moment for her stomach to lurch once she’d swallowed it, and a second longer for her to realize that it was the wrong glass.
“Shite,” she swore which caused Harry to bolt up in his bed and look at her. He couldn’t recall Ginny ever swearing.
“What’s wrong?” He asked, alarmed.
“I told Ron to dump out your glass, but apparently he didn’t and...” her stomach lurched again accompanied by her vision going blurry and then snapping back into place. It caused her to loll as she sat. “...I drank it down. I really hate puking,” she complained.
“Lie back, Gin, I’ll take care of you,” Harry told her. “Turn about and all.”
“Thanks, Harry,” she said as she laid her head on Ron’s pillows. “I’m going to hex my brother into next week.”
“I’ll be there to watch,” he joked, which made her smile. They sat for five minutes, and when nothing happened, Ginny got a puzzled look on her face.
“Why am I not sick?”
“I don’t know.”
They sat for a few more minutes before Ginny decided to open her eyes.
“Whoa...” she said, surprised by what she could see. The room was lit by only one small lantern, but Ginny could see everything, even better than she could in the daytime.
“What? What’s wrong Gin?”
“Uh, I can see.”
“No, I mean I can see everything. There are seven dust particles piled up on the mirror over there, and there’s a little tiny spider up in the corner over there,” she said, pointing into the dark across the room. “Oh, and your quill has rolled under the trunk by the window.” She pointed in that direction too, but Harry couldn’t even make out that the trunk was there in the dark.
“So not fair,” he complained. “Not only are you not sick, but you get superhero vision out of it.”
“What’s a superhero?” Harry shook his head, remembering that he couldn’t bring up Muggle stuff with her.
“It’s a Muggle with special powers. They’d probably think our ability to do magic is a superpower, but mostly it’s stuff like flying or good hearing...”
“...or being able to see in the dark?”
“Exactly,” Harry dejectedly confirmed. “Today has certainly been one craptastic festival of a day. Sirius is drunk and ornery. I find out that he was engaged to this woman who’d been murdered and she apparently loved me and sang to me but I can’t find any more out about her because it causes everyone too much pain to talk about her. I take a damn potion that just makes me ill and now you get to see in the dark. And here I thought that having the Dark Lord playing in my brain was bad.”
“I can’t fix the rest of your day, but maybe we can find more out about Anwen?” Ginny suggested, swinging her legs over and dangling off the bed. “I bet that those pictures and stuff are still in the sitting room. I haven’t heard anyone down there in a while.”
“Probably, but it’s not like I can go in there and ask him. You heard Remus, the reminders of her are making him worse,” Harry said glumly.
“Look, given how drunk he was this afternoon, he’s probably passed out by now. I’ll just slip in, take a look around and find some stuff and slip back out. He’ll never be the wiser and we might as well put this ‘superpower’ of mine to some use. No idea how long it’ll last.” Ginny grinned brightly and Harry was nearly convinced by her enthusiasm.
“Wouldn’t you rather use it to prank your brothers?” She tipped her head to the right and looked skyward while tapping her chin.
“Normally, I’d say yes. Pranking my brothers is usually high on my list of things to do, but, if I prank them, Mum will find out. If Mum finds out, she’s going to get upset. Tonks is trying to convince my Mum to let Hermione and me go into Muggle London with her to do some clothes shopping. I prank my brothers and she finds out, any hope I have of her letting me go will be out the window. Anyway, I’d much rather see you happy. Come on, let’s go see what we can find out about this Anwen girl,” she explained and Harry just smiled at her. He looked at the clock and was surprised to see that it was after two in the morning.
Ron had fallen asleep on Ginny’s bed, in his clothes, on top of the blankets, the door to the room remained open. He guessed that since Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were staying in the Dining Room on the first floor that she had no idea about this minor swap for the night. He was also sure that if Tonks or Remus found out, they wouldn’t say anything. Harry had to stifle a chuckle as they passed by the redhead, sprawled on his back and snoring loudly.
“Can’t believe that you guys can sleep with him,” Ginny mused, “or how he’s not keeping Hermione awake now. Bill has to charm his door so that the noise Ron makes at home doesn’t bother him.”
“Your family is very...” Harry started, this thought of the Weasley’s made him smile.
“...interesting.” Ginny finished the thought.
The pair made their way to the five story hallway that was at the center of the house; the only noises that greeted them were the muffled sounds of snores, sleepy mumbles and heavy breathing. The chandelier had been dimmed so that it provided the minimum of light to any who would need to get up and use the loo at night while not disturbing the slumber of the rest. They looked down the stairs, to the landing on the ground floor that lead to the basement kitchen. Someone was awake down there, whatever Order member was covering the night watch Harry assumed.
Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were on the first floor, sleeping in what was usually the Dining Room to keep Mr. Weasley from having to climb too many stairs. There was a loo across the hall from the room and the dumbwaiter allowed food to be sent up from the kitchen.
Harry looked up and saw no lights on the two floors above them, looking back down, he could see the gentle flickers from what he guessed was firelight in the Sitting Room. The French doors were cracked open and the pale orange light danced across the floor, the spindles of the railing and into the vast open spaces. It made the already rather hideous Black family matriarch and patriarch portraits look even worse. A shiver ran down Ginny’s spine as she stared at the slumbering folks in the portraits, glad that she didn’t have to endure their stares of disdain.
“Come on, let’s go down to the Sitting Room and see what’s left there,” Ginny suggested and Harry nodded in agreement. They deftly moved through the dark, Ginny leading Harry with the gentlest of handholds. She pointed out the third from the bottom step between the first and second floors, the one that squeaked when you stepped on it, and they both skipped over it.
Rounding the corner the pair came to the doors to the Sitting Room. The pictures remained strewn across the floor, Harry’s parents’ happy faces dancing in the waning light of the fire. He could clearly see a picture of Sirius dancing with Anwen, he guessed that it was at his parents’ wedding by the dress she was wearing. It was the same pale gold of the one she had on when she was handing his Mum her flowers. The way they spun and twirled showed just how in love they were, and his heart clenched at the sight.
“I’ll go in and see what I can gather,” Ginny suggested. “Stay here and keep a look out, okay?”
Harry nodded and Ginny pulled on the door to the right to give herself a little more room to ease in. The fireplace in this room was on the same wall as the door and the flickering flames illuminated the sleeping face of Sirius. In his slumber he looked far less tortured than he had earlier in the day, and it was something Ginny was quite thankful for. She took the few steps into the room and knelt down in front of the fire, scooping up some pictures of Harry’s parents and their friends, making sure to grab ones that were different and would provide Harry with as much information as possible.
Suddenly Sirius stirred, his eyes flying open and staring right at her. Ginny froze, unsure of what she was going to do. She really didn’t want to be taking his things, it was evident how much pain he’d been in and the last thing she wanted was to cause any more. It took her a minute to realize that his eyes were unfocused, as if he wasn’t really awake. She didn’t know if it was a result of his still being asleep, or a side effect of his heavy drinking or perhaps a combination of them both.
“Anwen,” he whispered, his voice filled with both hope and desperation. “Oh, my little one, is that you?”
Ginny wasn’t sure what possessed her, but something took hold of her and she nodded. Backlit as she was, she knew that Sirius wouldn’t have been able to make out her facial features, and she was sure that her small form, hunched over, her hair draped over her face as it was, she probably did seem as an apparition from the past.
“I miss you so much,” he confessed, every word laced with deep emotion. “It’s so hard without you.” Ginny had never heard so few words say so very much. This poor man had lead a horribly difficult life from what little she knew, and while he could be jovial and energetic, something in her told her that perhaps this was really what was going on inside of him all the time. She understood all to well what it was like to carry pain that no one else understood, all the while having to make those around you believe that you were happy and enjoying life. She’d done it more days than she could count since that horrible night in the Chamber. Her young heart broke for this old man and a single tear ran down her cheek.
“I miss you too,” she whispered back.
“I can’t do this without you. Living is so hard,” Sirius bared his soul.
“It is, but you have to live. Harry needs you.” Sirius nodded at this. It gave her another idea. “You have to stop hurting yourself like this. It’s not good for you.”
“I know,” he sighed, closing his eyes, cheeks getting damp. “It hurts to remember...”
“Harry needs you to be strong,” she stressed, “and it hurts me to see you this way.” These words she spoke from her own heart; it really did bother her to see this man she barely knew self-destruct. She was certain that she felt this way because she could suss what it was doing to Harry. “For me, for Harry, please.”
“For you...” he promised. There was silence for a minute, his eyes were still closed and he inhaled deeply. “I want to be with you.”
“Someday. I’m waiting for you. Live until then, Sirius. You must live, better than you have been,” Ginny told him, then she looked down and saw a picture of the Anwen. She was young, younger than Ginny was now, and she was flying on her broom, her head thrown back as she grinned and laughed. “Please, remember me laughing.”
“I will,” Sirius slurred, sleep again capturing the man. She stood and took the last few steps to be standing near him. His breathing had become slow and even, and Ginny knew that he was deep in slumber again. “Dream, Sirius, dream of her,” she whispered, “and she’ll meet you there.” Something then drew her to brush aside his fringe and ghost her lips over his forehead, much like her father had done when she was little and he was checking on her at night.
Ginny turned, gathered some more pictures, a photo album and another book that seemed to have some letters stuffed into it and slipped back into the hall. She was surprised by the look on Harry’s face when he greeted her. The only word she could find to describe it was awe. He said nothing as he bent down and put his lips to her cheek.
“You’re a remarkable woman, Ginevra Molly Weasley,” he whispered in her ear. Ginny’s breath caught in her lungs and her heart fluttered at his closeness and words. This time Harry took her hand and lead her back to his room. They stayed awake through the night, looking at the pictures, reading letters that Anwen had sent home while still at Hogwarts, once the Marauders had moved on, and putting together the bits of her life that they could.
Slowly the enhanced vision that Ginny had gained had slipped away, and as the first light of morning filtered through the windows in the Sitting Room, she used what remained of the potion’s gift to put everything back. Harry had fallen asleep in her absence, and she crept to her room, woke her brother and kicked him out of her bed and back to his own.
A few hours later the teens dragged their still very sleepy selves down to the kitchen for breakfast. They were surprised to be greeted by a wide awake, showered and shaved Sirius, sipping on his morning tea. He looked better, happier and healthier than any of them had seen him in the whole time they’d been at Grimmauld on this trip.
“Good morning, you four,” he greeted them. “Gave Molly the morning off from the kitchen duties,” he explained. “Bangers in the pan and toast inside the oven. The kettle is hot as well.”
“Thanks,” Harry said as he grabbed a plate and then handed one to Ginny, then Hermione and finally Ron.
“Eat up you four, tonight is New Year’s Eve and I thought it might be fun if we were to have a little party. What do you say? We’ll decorate the ballroom, play some music and have some dancing? Maybe even get Kreacher to make us some snacks? I think it’s about time that we live a little around here.”
Harry couldn’t help the wide smile that erupted on his face. When he looked at Ginny he was pleased to see that she had a matching one. “I think that sounds amazing, Sirius.” His godfather matched his grin.
“Get your food and sit down, I want to tell you about someone who was very special to me, Harry, and to your Mum and Dad.”
Harry filled his plate and got some tea and sat down at the table. Listening to his godfather tell him about his one true love made Harry smile, and he couldn’t help but think of that old Muggle Christmas story, the one with all the ghosts that Remus had alluded to yesterday. Perhaps the Ghost of Christmas Past gave Sirius the ability to see the beauty of Christmas present. He reached under the table and gave Ginny’s hand a squeeze, his way of thanking her for what she’d done. Harry was surprised when he felt a shock go through him at Ginny’s touch. That was something new.
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