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The first of December of 2011 Narcissa asked to meet with Harry and Molly.  They met at the same restaurant where Molly and Narcissa first met, in a little private room.

 

After their usual greetings Narcissa said, “I think we are being oppressed by Dementors.”

 

Harry replied, “We have been getting reports that Dementors are around Malfoy Mansion.”

 

“Astoria and Godiva say it is because we are not letting tutors teach the children, and we are not using the text books they want us to use.  The text books they want us to use are horrible!”

 

Harry asked, “What about your mother, Druella?  Is she taking a stand?”

 

“Mum does not seem to care a lot about the education.  She just keeps saying Cleo is ugly, and refuses to talk to her.  She is livid about Cleo not even being a full three quarters Pure Blood, just a little less.  Blood purity is everything to her.  If Cleo was a full three quarters then any grandchildren would be seven-eighths, which in her sight is just acceptable.  I am so sick of all this Pure Blood nonsense.  I almost wish Scorpius would marry a Muggle and get this Pure Blood nonsense finished with.”

 

“Is anyone paying any attention to what Scorpius and Cleo want?” asked Molly.

 

“I am,” Narcissa said.  “Draco and that demented husband of mine cannot force me or the children to become vile, evil people.  I am not sure what Draco even wants, except to do the impossible, and please Lucius.”

 

“Can you cast a Patronus?” Harry asked.  “That will drive Dementors away.”

 

“No,” Narcissa said.  “Will you teach me?”

 

So Harry did.

 

A week later Harry, Molly and Narcissa met again

 

“Did you cast a Patronus, and drive away Dementors?” asked Harry. 
 

“I cast a rabbit, and I feel like a little rabbit surrounded by predators who are waiting to tear me apart,” Narcissa said.  “It works, but only for a while.  I cannot stay awake casting Patronus all hours of the day and night.”

 

Harry promised he would see how they could keep Dementors away from Malfoy Manor.

 

 

Two days after Teddy came home from Hogwarts for Christmas break he asked to talk to Harry privately.  They went down to the sub-basement where everything was well shielded. Harry asked Teddy, “What do you need to talk about, Teddy?”

 

Teddy asked, “Can I teach Albus how to use a wand, Dad?”

 

Harry said, “I do not know.  Do you know enough to teach him?”

 

Teddy said, “Well, I did well with wand work in all my classes, so I guess I sort of know how.”

 

Harry didn’t say anything.

 

“So,” Teddy said, “It is fine if I teach Albus to use a wand?  I have your permission?”

 

“You are never going to get my permission to teach Albus,” Harry said.

 

“You don’t want me to teach Albus?” Teddy asked.

 

“That is not EXACTLY what I said,” Harry said.  “I said I could not give you PERMISSSION to teach Albus.”

 

Teddy looked at Harry, and he back at Teddy.  Finally Teddy said, “Thank you.  I think I understand.” 

 

Harry smiled, and said, “I don’t ever want to CATCH you teaching Albus to use a wand.”

 

“Yes sir!” Teddy replied.

 

Harry fretted. Albus was obviously learning how to use a wand, and he was only five years old.  He and Rose were far ahead of where they needed to be, learning subject matter usually taught to eight or nine or ten year olds.  Jean said Albus did not seem to have to work as hard at it as Rose.  How could you tell Al he could not learn?

 

Besides, Albus had saved all of their lives with his magic when he was only three.  Still, allowing Albus to learn magic secretly was, strictly speaking, not proper.  Good but not exactly legal?  Too close to what Harry and his friends did when they broke the law to fight Riddle?  Harry fretted, and prayed, and worried.  

 

 

Two thousand and eleven was the first Christmas at Potters New Burrow as well as grandma and grandpa’s New Burrow.  This year Boxing Day was on a Monday, so WWW was going to be open in the afternoon.  Fred was going to work with his parents; he really did like the retail business.  He was getting better grades partly because he was told that unless he graduated he was not going to be able to be a partner in the business. 

 

Harry was on the Hogwarts board, and one of the advantages of being on the board was meeting all the professors and getting a good insight into all the students from his expanded family and friends.

 

Teddy was thirteen and a half, and in his third year, one of the best students in the class. He was a hard worker, and a popular student. Fred was holding his own, getting acceptable grades and really learning a lot of magic. 

 

This year both little Molly II and Victoire were at Hogwarts, both in Gryffindor but in different dorm rooms, there being enough students for two rooms with four girls each.

 

Rich Hudson had also started this year.  He and Molly had sort of known each other, because they were the same age, but had not really played much together at the pond.  However they gravitated towards each other at Hogwarts, each of them being a friendly face when they were both a little shy, Molly more than Rich. 

 

Victoire was a head turner, and lots of boys wanted to talk to her.  The idea that she was a pretty face with naught behind was quickly dispelled once she got into the classroom, however.  Her mother had been Tri-Wizard Champion, and she was a ferocious competitor in the classroom.   She was not really satisfied if she had any less than the best grades in the class.  She was generally kind to everybody, and had used her beauty and the ease she had in attracting the attention of the opposite sex as a way of helping some of her classmates who could not meet a boy so easily meet someone they wanted to meet, gaining the friendship of girls as well as boys.

 

Older boys who were condescending, however, or tried to move in on her, would be put down brutally.

 

Lots of people were trying to figure out what the relationship was between Teddy and Victoire.  They were cousins, sort of.  Sometimes they were more like boyfriend and girlfriend, and at other times they were like brother and sister.  Teddy and Victoire delighted in keeping people guessing, including the staff.  Of course the staff asked Harry, and Harry answered that he was as much in the dark as they were. Teddy did talk to both Molly and Ginny about relationships sometimes, and they shared what they had said with Harry.  Harry also talked to Bill about Victoire.  The general conclusion was the reason that no one could figure out quite what the relationship between Teddy and Victoire was had a lot to do with Teddy and Victoire not really being sure what their relationship was. 

 

Roxanne was eager to go to Hogwarts.  She felt that in some ways she was pressed into working at WWW instead of Fred because he was away at school, and sometimes she was right.

 

Lucy was getting to be a very good student.  She was never in the shadow of her older sister, but she was not having any problem being the only child in the house.  Dominique, a year younger, was by far the least studious of Bill and Fleur’s three children.  The contrast between Dominique and Louis could not be any greater.  Louis had a stated goal of becoming head boy, and he was working hard at his studies to earn it.

 

Then you had the children of Harry and Ginny, Ron and Hermione, bringing up the rear. 

 

James was seven, and adequate student of everything but Quidditch, and a fanatic student of Quidditch.  Harry could not complain; James was a good boy.

 

Rose was just the same Rose as always, impossibly bright and sort of a clone of Hermione.

 

Albus was as much of a puzzle as ever.  Good and evil worried him.  Maybe it was because of his run-ins with the Department for the Control of Underage Magic, but Albus was very concerned about the difference between being good and following the law.  He had learned that Jesus had been crucified for violating laws of the Jews or of the Romans, but at least according to the Christian Church, Jesus was the good guy.  His dad had broken laws fighting Riddle.  Albus was continuing to try and understand everything his father did, and why. Harry and Ginny also knew that Al spent a lot of time practicing magic with Draco’s wand, but that Albus felt pretty guilty that he was doing something forbidden. 

 

Hugo was very much the same, not a bad student and someone you could work with, fascinated with WWW and games and jokes and puzzles.  Sometimes you just had to give Hugo a reason to study, and point out how he might need it at the store or to develop a magic game, to have him work hard at it.

 

Lily was Lily; very affectionate and loving even to her mother and certainly to her father, when she was not driving both of them crazy.  “I think Lily is going to spend more time in ‘time out’ than all eleven of the other cousins combined,” said Ginny one day.  “She will deserve every minute of it too.” 

 

“Someday somebody is going to fall in love with that wild red head,” said Harry.  He thought of Ginny’s temper.  Harry had married his own sometimes wild red head.

 

“Merlin help him,” said Ginny, giving Harry a snarky smile.  

 

The combination of the New Burrow and Potters New Burrow worked as well for Christmas as it had for the summer, and by the time the holiday was over and everybody was back home Harry and Ginny were very glad they had built the place.

 

One of the advantages of having more room was that, for the first time Charlie came to Christmas with somebody, two somebodies actually.  One was a man about his age, Stribog Romanoff.  “Many of the Dragon keepers work in pairs,” Charlie said, “and Stribog is my partner in work, plus we live together.  Normally if you are very close emotionally to someone it is easier watching out for them.  Dragon keeping is a very dangerous business, but fewer partners are killed than Dragon keepers who do not work with a partner they know intimately.

 

“The little girl is our adopted daughter, Ivana Romanoff, who has just turned four.  Her parents were the exception; they were both killed in one horrible incident.  Stribog is her uncle, but we both have adopted her.”

 

Turning to his parents Charlie explained, “Dragon keepers with children are usually safer than ones without children.  If one half of a partner is seriously hurt or worse both partners retire from the dangerous business of Dragon keeping and take up much safer work, and Stribog and I will quit Dragon keeping if one of us is hurt.”

 

Molly’s clock showed Charlie in some danger every time he was at work, and this revelation was not all that reassuring. The clock was a lot bigger than before, because Molly had all the spouses and grandchildren to put on it.  She decided it was big enough for her son’s partner and child, and that Christmas Stribog and Ivana went on the clock. 

 

Harry noticed Stribog and Ivana on the clock, and pointed it out to Ginny.  He said, “Your mum’s heart is as big as the names on the clock.  She just keeps adding people to love.”

 

Ginny said, “One day our children will marry, and we will have grandchildren, and I expect they will all be on the clock.  I love you, and I love this big, wild, loving family.”

 

There were Christmas stockings with names on them for everybody.  The Christmas stockings did not contain much, a couple of packs of Chocolate Frog Cards, some small gift from Weasleys Wizarding Wheezes, for the adults sometimes a very small booklet or pamphlet with some magic spell.  It was the symbolism of having a stocking more than what it contained that showed you were part of the family.  Harry and Ginny noticed stockings for Stribog and Ivana alongside Charley’s, as well as jumpers.  There was something in the Charlie and Stribog’s jumpers that subtly indicated that they were a couple. 

 

Ginny asked Stribog, “Do you and Ivana have other relatives to visit this Christmas?”

 

Stribog looked around to see if any of the children were close.  When he could see that he and Ginny could have a private conversation he began.  “My sister-in-law was a Muggle, and her family thought that a witch was an evil person, in league with the devil.  When they found out she was a witch they wanted her to renounce anything to do with magic and spend the rest of her life in a convent repenting.  If not they were willing to have her burned at the stake, something that has not been done for centuries in our part of the world.  They do not even know Ivana exists.

 

“My parents are very traditional Pure Bloods.  They never accepted Ivana’s mother, and never accepted her as a grandchild.  We would visit occasionally, but never at Christmas because the other grandchildren would get presents and Ivana would not.  When my brother was killed they made it very clear that they did not want Ivana. 

 

“I also learned never to talk about Charlie when I went home.  So when Charley and I adopted Ivana, and it was clear that I was Charlie’s partner, I was told ‘never to darken their doorstep again.’ 

 

“So right now the only grandparents Ivana has are your parents.  We explained that to them a couple of months ago when they came over to visit.  Actually Ginny, the closest thing to parents I have right now are your parents.  Arthur and Molly are the most accepting, fantastic people.  I look at how Teddy and Andromeda are just part of their family, and how they have accepted us, and I’m amazed and grateful.”

 

“That’s Mum,” Ginny said.  “I hope I can be as good as Mum when my children bring home partners.  Welcome to the family.” 

 

 

Christmas day Molly got an owl that said, “Floo, two AM.  Narcissa.”  So Molly set an alarm and got up at quarter to two, and went to her floo.  Right at two AM Narcissa’s head appeared.  Narcissa said, “Can we meet tomorrow afternoon, three in the afternoon, at the Hogs Head.  I will reserve the room so we do not have to be seen talking.  I have to vent.”

 

“Not a good Christmas?” Molly asked.

 

“I’m ready to kill my daughter-in-law, except then Draco would be in charge of raising the children.”

 

So Molly agreed.  When they were alone the next day Narcissa said, “Astoria volunteered to get Christmas presents for the children this year.  She does so little I really felt I needed to take her up on her offer. 

 

“What a mistake!

 

“When the children went down Christmas morning there was a large Christmas stocking, gaily decorated, with his name on it, for Scorpius with all kinds of candy and small toys.  There was an old sock with Cleopatra’s name on a piece of paper pinned to it, and inside was a pair of socks and a pair of knickers, both in a kind of disgusting gray. 

 

“There was what seemed like boxes of books and games for Scorpius around the tree.  There was one present for Cleopatra, a dress, one of the most unflattering dresses.  Molly, I have a hard time shopping for Cleo.  She is just shaped so differently from all of us, with that round bum and hips, but I don’t buy dresses that ugly. 

 

“Scorpius was furious.  He immediately gave Cleopatra half of his candy and half of the rest of the stuff that was in his stocking.  He announced that all the books were going to be shared books, and she could pick out which ones she wanted to read first. 

 

“Cleopatra was so stunned her emotions left her. She just stared at the scene before her.  She thanked Scorpe for what he was trying to do.  When she saw Astoria coming down the stairs she could not stand it, and she ran up to her room, nothing in her hand. When I saw her run upstairs I ran up after her, and knocked on her door.  I heard her bawling, but she said, ‘Stay away.  Everybody hates me, except Scorpius.  I know when I’m not wanted, when most of the house hates me.’

 

“She came down for dinner that night.  I found out later that the elves had given her some sort of present, and she had watched some sort of play or something on it.  I don’t understand what it was, but later I heard her singing, ‘The Sun will come out, Tomorrow,’ some song about tomorrow being a better day.  I cannot say she was happy, but it was better.

 

“Late in the evening I went to Cleo in her bedroom and said, ‘I was worried about what Scorpius’s mother would do, Cleo, but I wanted to give her the chance to be kind to you.  I made a terrible mistake, and I’m sorry.  It will never happen like this again, I promise you!  Is there anything I can do right now?

 

Cleo and I looked at each other for a long time, and finally she said, “I want a hug.”

 

Narcissa started to bawl.  It took a long time for her to regain her composure.  Finally she said, “I don’t know why I hadn’t hugged that lonely little girl before.  I said, ‘Please come here and sit in my lap.’  She came over and sat in my lap and I held onto her and she started to cry.  Eventually we were both bawling.  I think the crying did us both some good, and I kissed her good night before I left.

 

“Molly, I’m going to hug and kiss that girl every night and Scorpius too.”

 

Molly said, “I bet you need a hug too.”  The two women hugged and cried for some time.

 

“I feel a little better,” Narcissa said before they parted.

 

 

A few weeks earlier, Harry and Ginny were in the Harry Potter Estates offices going over some of the charitable work the foundation was doing.  One old elf who had become very involved in the distribution of gifts to children said, “We have a five year old girl who is going to get only a couple of pieces of ugly clothes for Christmas, and the boy living in the house is going to get lavish gifts.  It will not make the boy happy.  We still want to give the girl something from the elves.”

 

“Please,” said Harry, remembering his childhood at the Dursley’s. “Anything the elves want to give, within reason.”

 

“But it is very expensive,” said the elf. “We have never been able to use Muggle recordings since they became electrical.  We destroy tapes and magnetic things.  But Compact Disks are totally mechanical. They just have lots and lots of very very tiny dots on them.  The goblins have been working hard for years, and finally have a somewhat reasonably priced player.  It is only,” and the elf gulped, “only … only seven thousand five hundred Galleons.”

 

“Seven thousand five hundred Galleons?!!” said Harry and Ginny together. That was half as much as her broom. Ginny still remembered when she first told her Harpies team mates, and one of them had screamed, “$100,000 for a broom!”

 

“It will be cheaper next year, and probably cheaper the year after that,” said the elf.

 

“Does this little girl really need this?” asked Harry.

 

“She needs hope,” said the elf, “and the movies we are going to be giving her are to give her hope. Christmas is going to be a very hopeless time for her. Three ugly presents that are worse than no present at all.”

 

The elves showed them the magical CD player, with three movies, Annie, The Sound of Music, and Cinderella.

 

“I can think of times I thought things were hopeless,” said Harry, looking at Ginny with the kind of somber look he got when he was remembering the hardest of the hard times he had been forced to endure. “I remember years of Christmas’s with Dudley getting lots of presents and me getting nothing.”

 

“I can remember times when I thought things were hopeless,” said Ginny, as she began to tear up. She remembered when, at the Battle of Hogwarts, she thought Harry was dead. For some reason this little girl touched their heart.  “Seven thousand five hundred Galleons is a lot of money for a toy, but not very much money for hope,” she said.  “Of course you can buy this device.” 

 

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