Wheezes for Christmas
The twelve Christmas trees in the Great Hall gleamed with floating golden bubbles and brilliant red garlands of glittering tinsel. Ginny smiled as tinkling music fluttered through the air.
She turned. Hermione, Harry, Ron, Neville, and Luna were gathered at the Gryffindor table, all wearing homemade violet sweaters. Hermione waved her over. “Come on, we’ve got gifts!”
No…Ginny had to go to the Room of Requirement, to prepare for the next D.A. lesson…she waved goodbye to the others, and left the Great Hall. But when she did, everything changed. The music that had been lacing through the air vanished, and the warm glow dissipated as a chilly wind blew past her. The castle was dark, no torches in sight…but no, it was worse than that, much worse… She looked down and realized that she stood on a pile of rubble in the middle of the entrance hall, gazing up the remains of the sweeping marble staircase. The roof overhead was gone, and clouds of dust and snow swirled and settled onto the ruins of the stone walls all around her.
She tried to shout out, but couldn’t make any noise. Her heart began to race. What was going on? A faint hissing noise made her turn. The doors of the Great Hall were hanging off their hinges, creaking ominously in the wind. As Ginny approached, the hissing grew louder, more familiar…it was horrible…she clapped her hands over her ears, but ran into the Great Hall.
Harry lay on the staff table, directly in front of Professor Dumbledore’s golden chair, plainly dead. A trickle of blood oozed from the corner of his mouth, and his brilliant green eyes were blank and staring up at the ceiling. Ginny screamed, but again, it made no sound…the basilisk’s hissing was deafening, it scraped in her ears and set her teeth on edge…she began to run, heading straight for Harry, silently screaming his name… And as she ran, she saw more dead bodies piled on the tables, their eyes wide, blank, and staring… Parvati… Professor McGonagall… Hermione… Luna… Neville… Seamus… Dean… Ron…
Her stomach gave a horrible lurch, and she reached out, trying to run fast enough to reach Harry…but everything was slowing down around her…she couldn’t move, her legs were too heavy to lift, and the Great Hall was expanding, Harry’s body was being pulled away from her outstretched fingers…
“Someone’s been very bad,” said a horrible voice. Unable to stop herself, Ginny turned to see Tom Riddle. His eyes were a burning, dark red, and his skin was white as chalk. “You’ve brought this on yourself, Ginny…it’s all your fault…the Mudbloods are dying because of you…it’s all your fault…you brought this on yourself…”
And suddenly, he began to laugh, terribly, an evil cackle that filled Ginny’s heart with ice. Harry’s body appeared at her feet, motionless and staring blankly overhead, blood trickling from his mouth. Ginny screamed, louder and louder, but she could not hear herself, she could not make any noise. She began to sob, but that made no sound, either, and she couldn’t help but start to scream Harry’s name again. She dropped to her knees and shook him by his shoulders, screaming for him to awaken…and then he became Luna, her face viciously savaged and bloody as Bill’s had been, her large eyes lifeless and unblinking…
“NO! LUNA, NO!”
“Ginny, stop it!”
Someone was holding down her arms, preventing her from moving, and Ginny was aware that she was safe…she was in her own bedroom…it was the middle of the night. She blinked, squinting through the darkness. “Tonks?” But Tonks was already halfway out the door; a moment later, Ginny heard her being horribly sick in the bathroom. Ginny curled up in a ball beneath her blankets, shaking and sweating as she clutched a pillow. Every image of her dream was burned ferociously into her mind. Dead Harry…dead Luna…
Suddenly, a weight sank onto the bed beside her, and a gentle hand was smoothing her hair back. “Come here,” Tonks said quietly, resting herself against Ginny’s headboard and opening her arms. She pulled Ginny, still curled in her tight ball, close against her belly and rubbed her back in gentle circles. “You’re all right…you know you are…you’re all right…”
It was a lie, but it was enough, for now.
“Is she alive?”
“You know, she’s not so dangerous when she’s in a little ball like that…”
“Downright cuddly, if you ask me.”
Someone poked Ginny in the middle of her forehead, and she started awake. She blinked, and a familiar freckled face swam into view.
“Freddie,” she mumbled, smiling.
“I’m George, you prat,” said the face indignantly.
“You’ve got two ears, toadstool,” she answered, reaching out and tugging on one of them. “I haven’t been gone that long. Oof—hi, Georgie,” she wheezed, for George had just seated himself on top of her stomach.
He pinched her cheek, beaming. “How are you, popkin?”
“Get off me,” Ginny groaned, trying to shove him.
“Hey, it’s Christmas Eve,” Fred admonished. “Buck up! Yuletide spirit and all that! Come on, Mum’s got breakfast waiting for you downstairs, Tonks and Remus are here, and Dad’s taken the day off to sort his spark plugs, so you know it’s serious holiday time.”
“Charlie here?” Ginny asked, sitting up and sliding out of bed (George was good enough to release her).
“You’ll have to come down and see for yourself,” Fred answered, already halfway out the door.
“See you in a minute, popkin!” George called, waving.
“Call me that again and I’ll jinx you, Christmas or not!” Ginny yelled after him, though she was smiling as she shut the door and scrambled to put on her clothes. Arnold was rolling about excitedly in his cage, so she lifted him onto her shoulder, where he promptly buried himself in her hair. Her mother’s cocoa had done the trick, Ginny realized, as she hurried downstairs; her back barely twinged at all. Well, that would please Mum, she thought.
The decorations in the living room looked even more glorious in the morning sunlight streaming through the sitting room windows, and the overwhelming Christmas excitement was thick in the air inside the jam-packed kitchen. Tonks sat at one end of the table, dabbing a green ointment onto several long scrapes on Lupin’s cheek with a handkerchief. He had returned from his transformation looking quite drained, but pleased to be home. Tonks’s hair was a vibrant shade of festive gold as she laughed at something George had just said. Charlie and Fred were arguing about Quidditch fouls and the prospects of the Chudley Cannons, who were currently at the bottom of the league. Mum was at the sink, trying to peel potatoes with great difficulty. She couldn’t stop giggling (in an extremely un-Mum-like fashion) because Dad kept sneaking up behind her and whispering something in her ear. Ginny wasn’t at all sure she cared to know what it was, and so chose a seat facing away from her parents, beside Tonks.
“Morning, Ginny!” Charlie said happily, spotting her. He gave her a tight hug. “Happy Christmas.”
“Good morning, sweetheart,” trilled Mum, who was very pink in the cheeks as she brought a bowl of porridge to Ginny. The house was so starkly different from how it had been just yesterday, from how Ginny had felt ever since she had left Neville’s house, that she couldn’t help but smile and join in with George, who was providing helpful suggestions for the naming of Tonks and Lupin’s baby.
“Now, seriously, Remus, have you considered George?”
“And if it’s a girl?” Lupin asked, looking amused.
“That’s the best part, it works for both,” George insisted, as Tonks and Ginny roared with laughter.
“We’ll add it to the list, then,” Tonks promised, still giggling. She caught Fred’s eye and nodded. “Although Fred’s already put his name in, as well. Oh, Mum—there you are—”
A woman had just walked in from the sitting room, and Ginny’s heart gave a tiny spasm of fear—but then she realized that Bellatrix Lestrange would hardly be walking through her mother’s kitchen, wearing a lovely set of lilac robes.
“This is Ginny,” Tonks was saying over the din of chatter. She put a hand on Ginny’s shoulder. “Ginny, this is my mother, Andromeda.”
Mrs. Tonks was a smiling, careworn woman who, though she greatly resembled her sister in bearing, her disposition could not have been more different. She extended one hand regally and took Ginny’s. “It’s so nice to meet you, Ginny. I’ve heard a lot about you from Nymphadora,” she said warmly. “Your parents were very kind to invite us here.” It was rather like being around a younger version of Neville’s grandmother, Ginny thought with a small giggle, as Tonks rolled her eyes and George began trying to persuade Mrs. Tonks that naming the baby after him was really the best option available.
The rest of the day passed in this same, cheery mood. Ginny, George, Fred, and Charlie hurried outside to play a game of two-a-side Quidditch during a break in the snow, and returned to earth windswept and pink-cheeked from the cold. Around teatime, there was a knock at the door, and Bill came in, delivering his Christmas presents with a smile and a hug for everyone. Ginny kept trying to corner him to say hello, but he seemed hurried and unwilling to stay long enough to talk to anyone alone. At long last, Mum gave up trying to convince him to change his mind and come to Christmas dinner, and they all said their goodbyes as Bill rushed out into the snow again, claiming that he really needed to return to Fleur.
“Give her a kiss for us!” Fred shouted through the back door.
“A really good one—oi!” George rubbed his head ruefully where Mum had swatted him.
“Behave yourselves,” she admonished, heading back into the kitchen, although Ginny did not miss her sidelong, covert wink at Dad, who, a moment later, made a feeble excuse to Mrs. Tonks and hurried into the kitchen after her, grinning foolishly. Ginny rolled her eyes.
After dinner that evening, everyone was cozily tucked into the sitting room. Ginny and Tonks were putting ornaments on the Christmas tree, while Fred and George played a particularly violent game of chess in the corner, as it involved Exploding Snap cards and Gobstones in addition to the chessmen. Mum was knitting, frowning through her spectacles as she counted stitches and chatted with Mrs. Tonks, and Dad was dozing in his armchair with a box full of batteries in his lap. Lupin and Charlie were listening to the Wizarding Wireless quietly near the window.
“It’s an appalling book, Andromeda, don’t even go near it,” Mum was saying firmly.
Tonks and Ginny looked around. “Are you talking about Rita Skeeter’s Dumbledore bilge, Molly?” Tonks asked contemptuously. “Did you hear what the big secret is?”
Mum pursed her lips. “As though it matters…Someone as good as Dumbledore was…honestly…” she made a noise of irritation not unlike one that Arnold often made when Ginny was late with his dinner, and shook herself, focusing on her knitting.
Mrs. Tonks, who was rolling a ball of yarn, shook her head. “I’m sure it all boils down to some one-time meeting in the street that she’s completely blown out of proportion. Before Rita Skeeter finally got into the Prophet’s good graces after that sudden leave she took, she was clawing through a positive dung heap of gossip magazines, those ones that run things like, ‘How to Tell When Your Neighbor is A Death Eater in Disguise’ and all that rot.”
“She found out about…well, about our nearest and dearest,” Tonks explained darkly, hooking an ornament onto a branch and rubbing her belly. “And ran an awful article about me, and Mum, and Dad.”
“She never did,” Mum said, sounding shocked. “I never saw that!”
Mrs. Tonks looked rather haughty. “You’re a woman of taste, Molly. You don’t read her garbage.”
“She’s a nasty old cow,” Tonks said firmly, lowering herself into a chair beside her mother with a sigh. “But people want to know about Dumbledore, and she’s the only one that’s put anything out in this climate, because everyone who’d write something nice about him is too scared. Of course they’ll believe what she says, even when we know it’s not true.” She closed her eyes and sighed, massaging her stomach.
“So what’s the secret?” Ginny asked, looking between the three of them. She sat down on the hearth. “What’s everyone so upset about?”
“She’s saying that Dumbledore was friends with Gellert Grindelwald, and got cold feet before they could hatch a dastardly plot to enslave the Wizarding and Muggle worlds,” Tonks answered with biting sarcasm. “Cow.”
“Grindelwald?” Ginny repeated. “But—”
“Now, Ginny, don’t you believe a word of it,” Mum said sharply, and she looked rather upset. “Not a word. That book is an outright lie.”
“Not to mention it casts aspersions on many prominent and well-liked members of the Wizarding community who considered themselves friends of Dumbledore,” Mrs. Tonks said in a low voice. “If nothing else, it’s practically handed the Death Eaters a list of names that is proving quite useful in their attempts to locate his supporters.”
Ginny frowned, still deeply troubled by the idea of Professor Dumbledore being anything less than the wizard she had known. Certainly, she never imagined that she knew very much about his past, but in her mind, Dumbledore could never be anything but the teacher who took one look at her, shaking and frightened from her ordeal in the Chamber of Secrets, and promised that she would not be expelled from Hogwarts. And claiming that he once had ambitions to enslave Muggles just like Voldemort was an awfully big lie to tell, even by Rita Skeeter’s standards. There was a nasty little voice in the back of Ginny’s mind, telling her that somehow, there was a grain of truth in what Tonks had just said. The idea sickened her.
“She’s included a positively cruel chapter on Harry, as well,” Tonks said, for she seemed to have guessed at Ginny’s moody expression. “The book is nothing but lies, and if there is an ounce of truth in it, it hardly matters, because it all happened a hundred years ago.”
Ginny shifted uncomfortably. “Well, Tom Riddle only happened fifty years ago, but he’s still causing a few problems today,” she muttered. “Excuse me.” Quickly, she got up and hurried into the kitchen, hunching over the sink. Far from believing that Rita Skeeter’s story was anything more than rumor and overblown hearsay, she had just been overtaken with a sudden wave of anxiety. Perhaps it was the mention of Harry, but the back of her mind had been hovering around him, Ron, and Hermione all day long, and now she simply couldn’t shake her inexplicable nerves.
“So, our little sister’s following in our footsteps,” said a cheerful voice just behind her. She turned. Fred and George were grinning at her arms folded. They had cornered her against the sink.
She stood on her tiptoes and looked into the sitting room, where her mother was chatting with Mrs. Tonks. “I haven’t the faintest idea what you’re talking about,” she said coolly.
“It’s the D.A., right?” Fred asked eagerly.
“Shh,” Ginny implored. She looked around again, and gestured for the twins to follow her into the scullery, where she shut the door and cast a Muffliato charm on it. When she turned back again, Fred and George had perched themselves atop a laundry tub and were looking at her expectantly. Ginny rolled her eyes. “Yes.”
George gave a triumphant gesture that nearly knocked Fred out cold and leapt to his feet again. “I knew it! I knew you’d never let it go!”
“‘Course not,” Ginny said easily. Somehow, she had forgotten that while her parents might disapprove, she could still confide in Fred and George. “I mean, there aren’t many of us, but…”
“You still using those coins?” George demanded.
“You still have yours?” Ginny asked incredulously.
“Of course we do,” Fred told her. “That’s a genius bit of magic, that is, we’ve been trying to copy it for the last two years, but we’ve decided we just have to swallow our pride and ask Hermione to do it for us.”
“Why?” asked George.
“You can pass news to us!” Ginny cried. “You can—Merlin’s pants—and if Katie, and Angelina…do Alicia and Lee have theirs?”
“Dunno,” answered Fred with a shrug. “Probably…”
“If I give you instructions for a spell, can you work it on the coins?” Ginny asked.
“Good.” Ginny sat down on another washtub opposite them. “Luna’s dad was our only means of getting news, and I’m betting he’s not so keen on helping us anymore. Lupin can’t come anywhere near the school, so I’m counting on you two. You’re going to relay any news you get of the Order, or of…disappearances, or of Harry, to us—”
“Whoa,” George interrupted.
“Not that we don’t love seeing our little Ginny like this,” Fred laughed, “But we may have a better way to do that.”
Ginny frowned. “What?”
“Potterwatch,” said George.
She blinked. “Pardon me? What was that?”
“Potterwatch,” Fred repeated. “We’ve got our own news program. It’s like a bit of Dumbledore’s Army and the Order of the Phoenix together. We’re coded on the Wizarding Wireless, and you can’t find us unless you get the password from the newscast.”
“That’s brilliant,” said Ginny, thoroughly startled by this proclamation. “When do you do it?”
“Saturday nights at midnight,” George told her. “Unless we can’t find a safe place.”
“Well, as Kingsley’s on the show, it’s not exactly the best idea to have it in our flat, is it?” George interrupted.
Ginny laughed. “This is amazing! This is a million times better than what we’ve been doing—Neville’s going to go mad!”
“I think I’d still like that spell, though,” Fred said, looking closely at her. “That way, you can let us know you’re okay. Mum’s right, you look ill.”
“I’m not ill,” Ginny snapped, a bit of her good mood dissipating at the thought of her mother talking to each of her brothers in turn about her health. “I’ll give you the stupid spell, all right?”
“Vandalism, eh?” George asked after a minute or two. “Been using any of our products?”
“Decoy Detonators, Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder, and Indelible Ink,” she rattled off, counting on her fingers.
“Bless them,” Fred said, putting one hand over his heart. Ginny snorted.
George stood up, dusting his hands on his trousers, and walked to the scullery door. “I think you’ll like your Christmas present, Ginny.”
“Don’t worry,” said Fred enigmatically, stopping on the threshold. “We’ll help pack it.”
Though Ginny’s sleep was once again troubled and broken by nightmares, many of which involved Harry, Ron, and Hermione be attacked by a flying book while Luna screamed for help from distant rooms within Hogwarts, it was with a light heart that she awoke on Christmas morning to a positive blizzard outside the Burrow. There was a small pile of Christmas presents waiting at the end of her bed, into which she dove eagerly. Her mother had made her a lovely blue sweater bearing the image of an owl, as well as two tins of mince pies and homemade fudge. Her father apparently felt that the time was ripe for Ginny’s bedroom to be spruced up, for he had gotten her a brand-new Holyhead Harpies poster. Tonks and Lupin had purchased a lovely new cage for Arnold which, the label read, could prevent escapes and had an enchantment on it that would help any pet inside fall asleep easily and quietly.
She received a truly lovely pair of earrings that could change color in order to match her outfit from Bill and Fleur, and Charlie had made her a tiny model of an Antipodean Opaleye dragon, which roared and tottered around her bedside table. Smiling, Ginny set all of these aside, and turned to her last gift, a sealed scroll. She picked it up and slit it open to see four words in Fred’s handwriting.
Look under the bed.
Confused, Ginny slowly leaned over the side of her bed, lifting the quilt aside, and gasped. Three large boxes emblazoned with the Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes logo sat crammed together in the tiny space. Even without opening them, she knew that they contained everything that she and the rest of Dumbledore’s Army could possibly want for the coming term. “Wow,” she whispered, pulling one box towards her. She lifted the lid to see a pile of various Shield Garments and several large bags of Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder.
With a yelp, she tumbled out of bed, landing directly at Tonks’s feet.
“Very smooth,” Tonks laughed, offering her a hand. “Come on, your mum’s got breakfast going. Ah—make sure you hide that,” she added, pointing at the box of Fred and George’s products.
Ginny grinned sheepishly and toed it under that bed. “Don’t tell Mum?”
“I didn’t see a thing,” Tonks said, already halfway out of the room.
Ginny chuckled and shut the door behind her, dressing hurriedly. The Christmas spirit was thick in the air inside the crammed Burrow. They were almost completely snowbound for the entire day, and everyone made up for it by gorging themselves on Mum’s mince pies, fudge, and treacle tarts.
After dinner, Fred and George presented Mum with a beautiful new set of dark blue dress robes, which Mrs. Tonks greatly admired, even going so far as to compliment the twins on their good taste. Ginny wasn’t really listening, however; she was too hysterical with laughter at her father’s elation over his own gift from Fred and George, which was an old-fashioned Muggle camera. Predictably, he had only a rough idea of how it might work.
“No, Dad—come on, you can’t see anything through that one, can you?” Ginny asked, reaching for it and cleaning off the lens, through which her father had been trying to peer. “Here—my friend Colin had one just like this…” And, ignoring the tiny pang in her heart at the memory of Colin Creevey and his omnipresent camera, she showed her father how it worked.
“Oh, I see,” he said after a quarter of an hour, twiddling a knob. “That’s for how much light you need…and that changes the focus…”
“No, the other way round, Dad,” Ginny laughed. “Here, look,” she said patiently, taking the camera from him again and fixing the focus. Dad was nothing short of a menace from that point onward. Everyone cursed Ginny and the twins as they had unflattering, candid portraits taken when they were caught off guard.
“Arthur, take one more picture of me in this kitchen and you’ll sleep in the shed!” Mum shrieked. Charlie, Ginny, Fred, and George roared with laughter as Dad came scampering out of the kitchen, a soupspoon flying just behind him and landing with a clatter on the hearth. They turned back to their game of Exploding Snap-Gobstone-chess, which, Ginny was quickly learning, was a test of agility more than anything else.
“Eurgh…how old are these Gobstones? That Stink Serum is rotten,” Charlie groaned, flicking his wand so that the mess disappeared from his new Christmas sweater.
“Here, Dad, let me see,” Ginny said, slipping out of her chair and taking the camera.
He grinned and pointed over at the couch. “Tonks, Remus,” he called, and Ginny looked around. “Smile!” Tonks was stretched out lazily on the sofa with her legs in Lupin’s lap, one arm bent behind her head and the other hand holding his. They both smiled, and Tonks gave a little wave. With a small pang of envy, Ginny snapped perhaps the only salvageable photograph of the evening.
When Mum and Mrs. Tonks came in bearing two large trays laden with cakes and desserts, Fred and George turned on the wireless, and for the first time in two days, Ginny was forcibly reminded that there were, in fact, terrible things happening in the world outside the Burrow’s walls. The first statement was about the reward available for information on the whereabouts of Harry Potter. Ginny stiffened in her seat, but they made no further mention of Harry.
The newscaster then announced the list of names of Muggle-borns who had failed to appear before the Ministry of Magic for interrogation, and it was with an unpleasant jolt that Ginny heard Hermione’s name. Mum seemed to tighten her hold on her knitting needles, and Dad accidentally knocked over several chessmen. Ginny shared a glance with Tonks, who looked deeply troubled. The room grew quieter and quieter as the list went on. With more sickening jolts of her stomach, Ginny heard Colin and Dennis Creevey’s names, as well as Dean Thomas’s, and, a short while later, Ted Tonks. At that moment, her mother flicked her wand at the radio, changing the channel to a rerun of a Celestina Warbeck Christmas Special. Mrs. Tonks, who had been sitting tensely in her seat, stood suddenly and hurried up the stairs. Tonks, who was still on the couch, sighed heavily.
“I’d better go up,” she said quietly to Lupin, who nodded, and they both got to their feet. “G’night, all…Happy Christmas.” There was a murmured reply, and Tonks and Lupin disappeared up the rickety staircase. Dad leaned over and switched off the radio. There were several long moments of silence. Mum had stopped knitting, and was staring down at the scarf clutched tightly in her hands.
When she did not speak, Dad cleared his throat. “I think it’s time you all were in bed,” he said quietly. No one argued. With mumbled “good nights” and “Happy Christmases,” Ginny followed Charlie and the twins upstairs.